New Age for Aussie Imperialism?

Alan Bradley alanb at
Wed Sep 15 17:54:10 MDT 1999

> From: Philip L Ferguson
> The East Timorese don't have much of a future in a country whose social
> relations and political rule will be determined by Western imperialist
> agencies, and Canberra.  And for those of us on the left in Australia and
> NZ, the massive  cross-class and cross-political consensus in favour of
> intervention is a sign that independent working class politics has been
> dealt another lethal blow and scarcely exists any more.  This
> is a defeat, one which the liberal left is largely responsible for
> inflicting on us.

I think the proper models for what the future holds for East Timor are to
be found in the Pacific island statelets - Papua New Guinea (a former
Australian colony), the Solomon Islands (formerly British), Vanuatu
(British/French), and so on.

It is also quite likely that the war will continue for the forseeable
future, with the pro-Indonesian contras continuing to launch terrorist
attacks.  They may be able to use the refugees in West Timor as a mass base
to support their attacks, and give themselves a degree of legitimacy.

It is certainly the case that the Australian imperialist state will be
strengthened in the aftermath of the intervention - there will be increases
in military spending, and some bourgeois commentators are even calling for
the reintroduction of conscription, which I doubt will happen.

Having said that - the willingness of the Australian working class to
mobilise, and to apply union bans and similar tactics in this situation was
quite interesting.  There was no real conflict with capital in this
instance, but there is evidence that our class still possesses, and will
use, its strength when it's necessary.

I don't think that Indonesia is permanently out of favour with imperialism,
particularly its Australian branch.  I think that we will see a rapid and
concerted attempt to rebuild the 'relationship' between Australia and
Indonesia, as soon as this crisis is resolved.  (This will be the evidence
necessary to debunk the conspiracy theories, by the way.)

While I have reservations about the means by which East Timorese
independence will be achieved, I still regard it as a positive step.  This
is something for which the Left has long fought, and its achievement is a
victory.  That it's a pyrrhic victory is just life, and means that there
will be other battles to fight in the future.

The effect on Indonesian politics will be interesting, with secular
nationalism likely to make a comeback, but without any serious
anti-imperialist content.  This seems likely to be the form which the old
state, the generals and the Suharto cronies will use to ensure their
dominant place in the new situation.

Alan Bradley
alanb at

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