In defense of the demand for troops
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Sat Sep 18 09:13:17 MDT 1999
>>What I mean is that
there can not exist an East Timorese "national question"
unless backed by imperialist troops. The "National
question" there is the Malay national question, and the
horrid fate of the East Timorese (on which I cry bitter
tears, you can believe me!) is one of the most terrible
outcomes of the unfinished struggle of the Malay peoples
for their unification. <<
I have in a couple of posts tried to suggest that opposition to the East
Timorese demand for "blue helmets" was a sectarian mistake. Unfortunately as
positions have firmed, a tendency has emerged that de-legitimizes the
independence movement or considers it to have been born with the original
sin of smallness, and thus doomed to become a cat's paw for imperialism
(unless, of course, it were "born again" by being immersed in a regional,
I'm not sure if he realizes it, but I believe Nestor's position, which I
quote above, is, in reality, the traditional position of many Latin American
leftists vis-a-vis the nationalities their OWN ruling classes are
oppressing, i.e., the native peoples and the descendants of the Black
slaves. The essence of the position is that Blacks and the Indians should
WAIT (preferably out of sight) for the white "revolutionary" proletariat of
the "great" nation to rise up, lest imperialism make use of these struggles
to divide "our" country.
I think it may have been Russell Means who pointed out that, in essence,
this position is no different from the attitude of the Church, which offers
heaven in the hereafter in exchange for passivity and submission in this
life while counseling the rulers to be gentle with the lash, lest the
indians and the colored rise up. Which does not, of course, stop the priests
from expressing the most heart felt sympathy to victims of the whippings
even as they counsel their "sheep" to rejoice at their oppression for all
the greater will be their heavenly reward.
I am sorry that these words I am writing may be wounding, but I feel it is
my obligation, including to the comrades expressing these views, to point
out that as I see it, this is great nation chauvinism, pure and simple.
It is an attitude that permeates the societies in which we live and I don't
believe that any of us on this list, or on the left, can honestly say that
they are morally entitled to cast the first stone. But these attitudes must
be fought, because they have contributed to setbacks to revolutionary
processes, including in Nicaragua, where the Sandinista's insensitive policy
towards the Miskitu people handed on a platter to the US-sponsored contra
their first social base. The FSLN leadership, much to its credit, reversed
course in the middle of the war, recognizing the legitimacy of the national
aspirations of oppressed peoples within Nicaragua through the institution of
autonomy in the Atlantic Coast region of the country. But this change came
only after imperialism has succeeded in manipulating the Miskitus and doing
significant damage to the revolution, and after the revolution had
irremediably alienated the big majority of the costeño population.
One way these attitudes are reflected is in analyzing which "national
questions" are really solvable. There is a grain of truth in this, that in
reality, under capitalism there is no way to "solve" one national question
without doing it at the expense of many others. However, the socialist
revolution has NO
NEED for the brutal, genocide methods through which various capitalist
nation-states solved their "national questions"
during the rise of capitalism, never mind today. The working class does not
NEED to solve the "East Timorese" national question, nor the "Malay"
national question nor the "Spanish Latin American" national question, in the
sense of creating stable, independent nation-states, creating a home market
and similar ideas which, by and large, are today as impossible in
small,weak, and, when all is said and done, relatively insignificant places
like, say Cuba, Peru or Argentina, never mind in a microscopic one like East
Timor. In the age
of imperialism, unresolved national questions are fundamentally
unresolvable. There's no need to carve out a special category of
second-class national struggles who deserve, certainly, our fullest
sympathy, but in reality must be subordinated to the needs of the "national
questions" which are more important because they are "solvable." There's no
need for this category because ALL national questions under capitalism can
no longer be "solved" in the framework of the world capitalist system.
Capitalism has been there, its done that, its moved on to its highest stage,
imperialism. That's why all profound national revolutions in our epoch must
either grow into socialist revolutions or be thrown back. There are no other
changes to be made. It's either socialist revolution, or a caricature of
revolution. That is, if I remember right, how the Cuban Revolution expressed
it in the second declaration of Havana.
It is not the task of socialism, however, to retrace the steps through
which capitalism developed. Socialism isn't about consolidating the home
market, but about the elimination of production for the market altogether.
It will be built as a WORLD system, or not at all. It will NOT "solve" the
national questions left pending from the rise of capitalism as a world
system, not in the bourgeois sense, it will go beyond them.
What then, is the interest of the working class in the national liberation
movements? We need them as part of the world movement to overthrow the rule
of the capitalists. And such an alliance is possible because capitalism
today IS imperialism. We DO NEED the revolutionary energy of the people of
East Timor, of the Quechua, of the Miskitus, of the Blacks throughout the
Caribbean struggling AGAINST
their national OPPRESSION, and, yes, of the "European" Latin Americans
struggling against semi-colonialism -- should certain white Latin American
workers ever stop aping the complete backwardness of so many white workers
in the United States who, under the ideological domination of imperialism,
look down at Blacks, "spics" (that's you and me, Nestor!), Indians, Asians
on. The Latin American counterparts are proud they are not "gentuza," they
don't have to "hide their grandmother," that they have "good" hair, that
daughter is "improving the race" (by marrying someone more light-skinned)
and so on and so forth. Because insofar as the relatively privileged white
(and in some societies, mestizo and mulato) workers fail to place themselves
on the side of the most oppressed and the most exploited, they are thereby
placing themselves on the OTHER side. The national policy of the workers
then becomes a bourgeois national policy, tied firmly to that of their OWN
bourgeoisie, the junior partners of imperialism.
It does no good to complain that this nationality and and that ethnic group
are being "manipulated" by imperialism against the interests of the
"nation." Sure they're being manipulated, because often the bourgeois
misleaders of the working class movement make it irresistibly easy.
If the workers instead treat these peoples as brothers, and not with
speeches but with actions, it would stop. We have to tell them we want to
build a new society which is a FREE union of all the peoples, and PROVE it
by guaranteeing to them all, even to the smallest ethnic group, that it will
be their own decision whether they'll be part of this new union or will
strike out on their own.
Instead of having as our starting point solidarity with the struggle of the
most oppressed, the Timorese, some people here are engaging in doctrinaire
deconstruction of what are essentially diplomatic statements under very
Don't say nice things about Clinton! Snarl every time Albright's name
crosses your lips! Tell the imperialists you want their investments today in
order to expropriate them tomorrow!
To the extent this represents a policy, it is absolute, ultraleft lunacy.
Should the Timorese declare war on any and all imperialists immediately and
at once? Should they reject a priori the idea of any foreign investment in
an independent East Timor? Shouldn't they make their TOP priority driving
out the intervention of the cartel of the big imperialist powers, the United
Nations? Isn't world imperialism headed by the United States and acting
through the United Nations the main enemy of the people of the world, and
therefore our main fire should be directed against them? Shouldn't the
Timorese seek an alliance with the Indonesian army and militias to drive out
the direct intervention by imperialism? And --really-- since war is the
continuation of policy by other means and it is as clear as can be that the
UN intervention is the continuation of the referendum policy, shouldn't we
have denounced the bourgeois-imperialist "referendum" as a Trojan Horse for
the direct military occupation of East Timor by the major imperialist
powers? Even if it wasn't clear a few weeks ago, isn't it clear NOW that
this is, objectively, the role it played?
Comrades will complain that I am attributing to them positions they do not
hold, and then making a caricature of them. But if comrades do not hold
these positions, it is only because they have failed to think through to the
end the implications of their stance against a U.N. bourgeois imperialist
peace-keeping force. That force represents a continuation of a certain
policy by other means, and at the center of the
policy is the referendum held under bourgeois imperialist auspices.
Instead of a concrete analysis of what the actual parties involved are
really doing, we are subjected instead to all manner of speculations about
what the imperialists are really up to and so forth so on. First, this is
all terribly schematic, but more importantly, it is absolutely irrelevant to
the strategic interests of the proletariat in its struggle to overthrow
capitalism. OUR strategic interests do not flow from, and are not changed by
maneuver the capitalists carry out, or imagine they are carrying out.
That strategic interest lies in uniting the workers, peasants, other
working people, and all oppressed people, AGAINST the source of
oppression and exploitation in the world today, which is the world
imperialist system. That's why the working class must learn to champion the
struggles of ALL the exploited and ALL the oppressed. It is an illusion to
think the black, mulato and native peoples of Brazil aren't going to notice
or aren't going to care if the working class movement makes THEM all sorts
of promises that it REFUSES to make to the Blacks in Belice, who are instead
expected to subordinate their own national aspirations to those of
Guatemala, or to be more precise, the Guatemalan bourgeoisie.
The working class cannot lead such an alliance until it purges itself, and
most especially until its vanguard purges itself, of the chauvinist
sentiments that make workers of various countries tail after their "own"
bourgeoisies, whether these be bourgeoisies of the "great" imperialist
nations or of semi-colonial countries.
On this list, we've even seen the spectacle of people arguing that
Guatemala's recognition of the right of the people of Belice to their OWN
country was somehow a setback for the revolutionary movement. Why? What is
the meaning of this? We are identifying and subordinating the proletariat's
interest in defeating imperialist oppression and exploitation with the
Guatemalan bourgeoisie's desire for a somewhat larger market and natural
resource base. And what are the native peoples of Guatemala to think of
Marxists who are perfectly willing to sacrifice the aspirations of
English-speaking Blacks for the greater glory of Spanish Guatemala?
Despite many misgivings about how these comrades have formulated their
demands, it must be recognized that the Australian DSP is, in the most
essential matter, correct. They are supporting the just struggle of the
people of East
Timor for self-determination an independence. Right now part of that
the fight for an international imperialist peace-keeping force, just as a
month ago part of it was the fight for an imperialist-organized referendum,
and the DSP is triply right in not abstaining from these battles. The
workers' fundamental interests lie neither in a "larger" nor "smaller"
Indonesia or Malaysia, neither in the preservation nor in the dismantling of
small or large third world or first world states created under imperialism,
but in the revolutionary unity of the proletariat and all of the exploited
and oppressed against their oppressors.
It is not the "fault" of the people of East Timor that, thanks to the blood
of millions of martyrs the world over, international imperialist
institutions such as the UN have been forced to recognize, at least
formally, the right of oppressed nations to self-determination. It is not a
"betrayal" for the people of East Timor to use this formal concession as a
lever to pry out the Indonesian invaders from their homeland. It is not
"treason" to demand that these imperialist world bodies BACK UP their
hypocritical "respect" for the right of the East Timorese to
self-determination and independence with something more weighty than
resolutions and crocodile tears.
To denounce their demand for blue helmets
is just as ultraleft as the position of sectarians in the United States who
denounce Black community demands that the "bourgeois imperialist" police
forces and if it comes to it the "bourgeois imperialist" army, yes the SAME
bourgeois imperialist army that raped Vietnam and put down the ghetto
rebellions in 1968, and that just pulverized Belgrade, be deployed to
protect the Black community against racist thuggery and terror. The
Australian DSP is absolutely right in supporting this demand of the
independence movement, just as the U.S. SWP was absolutely right when it
supported Black community demands that federal troops be sent to Boston in
Those who criticize them on the basis of "principle" need to explain why the
same principle does not prevent them from demanding "armed intervention" and
"the use of force" against racist thugs within their own states.
Indeed, one wonders why the demand is made that the imperialist-trained,
armed and financed goon squad of the Indonesian bourgeois state put a stop
to the killings, and protect the people of East Timor, while the demand that
some other imperialist goon squad do it instead is viewed as treason.
Would we feel differently if instead of Australian troops, those being sent
were Chilean and Argentine "gorillas"? How about if the force were
restricted to states where capitalism has been overthrown, a blue helmet
force of Cubans, Chinese and Vietnamese? Would the Chinese and Cubans
volunteering for the mission change the character of the United Nations as
an imperialist den of thieves? And if NOT done under UN auspices, does it
change things? If Cuba had gotten the security council's blessing to kick
apartheid's ass, would this have changed the nature of the Cuban military
effort in southern
Africa? If the Chinese volunteers who drove the American Imperialists out
from half of the Korean peninsula had gotten UN approval, would that have
made their campaign reactionary? And was their campaign progressive only
because the Americans had succeeded in hijacking the UN's flag to use as
cover for their intervention?
The point is, it is not enough to simply look up in a Marxoid check list
whether or not Australia or the United States are imperialist countries, and
if they are, we must knee-jerk reject any calls on them to implement
concessions they have been forced to grant on paper if it involves the use
of force. For the very distilled essence of the state, any state, all
states, is force, armed force. ANY demand that one or another imperialist
state, or the supra-national imperialist institutions these states have
created, I repeat ANY demand whatsoever that they do ANYTHING whatsoever is
in essence a demand that this particular armed gang of imperialist thugs, or
this collection of thugs from various imperialist states, do whatever it is
To denounce as a betrayal under these circumstances the demand for an
international peace keeping force to put a stop to the Indonesian pogrom,
because that blue helmet contingent is drawn from imperialist armed forces,
or is sponsored by the imperialist United Nations, seems to me sterile,
ultraleftism. It dissolves all concrete political questions into abstract
categories. The implication is that, on the morning after a landing,
the Australians and the rest will simply pick up where the Indonesian army
left off, continuing the pogroms, the burning, the looting. Does anyone
seriously anticipate THAT is what is going to happen? Of course not.
Moreover, it is pretty clear that what we're seeing here in some cases is a
conscious "Albanian polemic." The fire is all directed at some poor
formulations by the Australian DSP. But the truth is that the accusation of
treason lies most
heavily against the main force demanding blue helmets, the national
liberation movement of East Timor.
The UN imperialist political intervention in Indonesia
and East Timor in pressuring Jakarta to accept a referendum is a concession
to world anticolonial sentiment, to the long, bloody, world-wide struggle,
against colonialism, including and especially the tenacious resistance of
the people of East Timor.
War is the continuation of politics by other means. A blue
helmet force would be a continuation of THIS policy. And this policy, true,
a completely imperialist policy, is a policy of an organized retreat, of a
limited concession. To REJECT a concession because the imperialists are
going to try to use it to their advantage is totally idiotic. Should
revolutionary workers everywhere and at all times REJECT union contracts
because these embody (at least sometimes) concessions that the bourgeoisie
is making, in order to return their factories to bourgeois normalcy and
thereby continue the extraction of surplus value? If we say the problem is
the wages system, aren't we traitors to accept higher wages?
Instead of recognizing what's really going on and what is really at stake,
we get all this silly prattle about how, really, East Timor is part of an
imperialist plot, that the real national question here isn't this one, and
so on and forth. What is Argentina, what is Bolivia, what is Chile, what is
Peru, what is Panama, what are just about ALL the countries of the third
world, if not expressions and byproducts of various and sundry imperialist
and colonialist plots and their consequences?
That's why Fidel is a million times right, even though the native Cubans
were wiped out the last person, to trace the origins of Cuba's revolutionary
heritage, NOT to the 19th century rebels against Spanish colonialism but to
the Indian leader Hatuey, of the first years of Spanish occupation. When
asked to repent as he was being tied to the stake to be burnt, Hatuey
refused to do so. He told the Spanish and their priests that if the Spanish
went to heaven, then he wanted to go to hell. Even knowing that Hatuey and
his people were wiped out to the last man, woman and child, revolutionaries
don't say, "they shouldn't have risen up," "the time wasn't right," and
similar pious nonsense. Revolutionists keep alive the example, the
rebelliousness the dignity of those who died bound hand and foot because
they would not live as slaves.
Do the imperialists have ulterior motives in how they are responding to the
struggle of the people of East Timor? Of course they do. So, too, did the
imperialists have ulterior motives, and quite similar ones in many respects,
in enforcing an end to desegregation in some institutions in the deep south
of the United States through federal intervention and even the actual
deployment of federal troops. So do the capitalists have ulterior motives
when they grant wage increases, or make any other concession. How could they
NOT have ulterior motives? Has anyone EVER found a capitalist class moved to
action by sentiments of justice, kindness and human solidarity?
In every case where the imperialists make a concession,
they do so for a reason -- to cut their losses, to retreat a little bit to
try to stabilize a new defensive line. Portugal having been forced to give
up its own direct colonial domination, the imperialists got Indonesia to
take over. Now that this has clearly failed, they're trying to re-stabilize
situation with East Timor as a semi-colony. They've completely legitimized
the independence of East Timor and the long struggle waged by the
independentists by holding a referendum that was, at any rate, free enough
to allow the people of East Timor to register their will. It is, on the face
of it, hardly the policy one would expect from Imperialism until you
consider the alternative, which was indefinitely continuing a war and a
struggle with a significant ongoing political and economic cost and
tremendous destabilizing potential in the long run.
Whether or not this imperialist "plot," their retreat, will succeed (at
least for a time) will be decided in struggle. And that's why the
imperialists have been so reticent to act in defense of their own
referendum, and now that they feel compelled to act, they are taking their
own sweet time about it.
Does ANYONE seriously think that Clinton REALLY believed the charade about
the Indonesian military trying to stop the militias? Of course not! From the
point of view of American imperialism (and does anyone seriously believe
that Australia is calling the shots here?), the whole point of the exercise
to let the Indonesians do as much damage as possible, weaken the people of
East Timor as much as possible, weaken the independence and national
liberation movement as much as possible. It may not have been "plotted" this
way from the outset in Washington, but once the militias started to act, it
didn't take a genius to figure out that the U.S. "had no real strategic
interests" in East Timor --as Washington mouthpieces were insisting--
meaning, of course, that the U.S. had a strategic interest in letting the
Indonesian goons beat the people of East Timor to a bloody pulp.
Could American Imperialism have stopped the pogrom at the outset? Of course!
As Yugoslavia showed, American imperialism has the technical military
capacity to have made clear to Jakarta in no uncertain terms that Washington
did not approve of its rampage in East Timor within 24 hours of the
announcement of the vote. They could have quite easily bombed the general
staff headquarters, the presidential palace and any number of other targets
in Jakarta back to the stone age and the American pilots would have been
home safe in Ohio by lunchtime the next day.
The truth is American imperialism would just as soon have preferred waiting
another two, four, six or eight MORE weeks before stopping the slaughter.
That's what the Pentagon and the state department and all the other briefers
were trying to prepare politically until Clinton decided, just before going
to the APEC summit, that indefinite continuation of the slaughter was
becoming politically untenable. At that point the Americans told the
Indonesians, okay, time to invite the blue helmets. And to make sure they
understood they had Kofi Annan get up before the security council the next
day and tell the Indonesian authorities bluntly that the invitation was a
diplomatic nicety, but the blue helmets were going in, one way or another.
And, of course, Indonesia said, please, send the troops.
Even so, the imperialists have gone through the charade of a prolonged UN
discussion, terms of reference for the force, authorizations under this but
not that article of the Charter, and even following the discussion and vote
several more days "preparing" the force, to buy the Indonesian army and
militias a little more time to continue the pogrom. The truth is the US
could have, if it had wanted to, disembarked what would be in essence a
heavy cavalry brigade within minutes of Clinton's pre-ASET speech. By now
the U.S. could
have deployed two divsions with overwhelming advanmtage in firepower,
intelligence and mobility, and utterly destroyed every last Indonesian
military unit in East Timor. American Imperialism CHOSE not to do so, they
didn't WANT to do so. (Needless to say, the American rulers prefer that, if
any blood is to be spilled, it be Australian.)
Why go through all this rigmarole and role playing and debating when anyone
with an ounce of brains can tell you Washington could have FORCED an
Indonesian government capitulation within hours? Quite simply, because the
politics of the situation are such that a blue helmet force COULD NOT be
used to do
what the Indonesian army and militia are doing. The blue helmets are going
in as the "good cops" (as slowly as possible) to stop the pogrom and enforce
the outcome of the referendum (as feebly and with as much delay as possible)
but they're stuck with that policy for now.
Likewise, the independence movement and its supporters around the world
can't have it both ways -- supporting the referendum, the recognition of the
right of the people to self determination and independence, but opposing the
use of blue helmets as a matter of principle. (The tactical question is a
different matter but one mostly for the independence movement itself, not
for us.) By taking a positive stance towards the referendum we have ALREADY
legitimized, ALREADY associated with this imperialist political
intervention, of which the blue helmet deployment is simply an extension.
It is a betrayal to support the demand of the independence movement for
peacekeeping troops under these concrete circumstances?
Well, should revolutionists have supported the struggle against Jim Crow,
American apartheid, only insofar as it did not require the open intervention
of armed agents of the bourgeois state? When Bull Connor's dogs and water
cannon were ripping into civil rights marchers, should we have listened to
Rev. King's demands for federal intervention and gone, tsk, tsk., naughty
naughty this shows your movement's aims aren't really possible unless the
working class is mobilized, so please, Black marchers, go home and when the
proletariat is ready, so that you don't have to call for federal armed
intervention, we'll let you know?
Is that what American revolutionists should tell the Lakota people today,
stop demanding justice for the sons of your nation murdered by white thugs?
Don't you realize you're creating illusions in bourgeois imperialist
justice? Are the Native Peoples wrong to seek to reinstitute their treaty
rights through the U.S. federal courts, which in reality have no power on
their own, and whose "majestic authority" resides entirely in the fact that
the outfit they work for has a monopoly of violence hereabouts? Are the
mothers and the grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo creating "illusions" in
bourgeois justice, in a legal system which has authority only insofar as it
is backed up by "bodies or armed men," namely and to wit the very same
murderous military institution being put in the dock?
"Hands off East Timor" is an excellent, revolutionary slogan -- in
Indonesia, just as "out now" was an excellent revolutionary slogan in the
fight against the Vietnam War.
But hands off East Timor is NOT a revolutionary slogan in Australia, nor in
the United States, nor at the UN security council today, not when the people
of East Timor have lodged
decidedly different demands, JUST AS "out now" wasn't the slogan of
revolutionaries directed at the sending of federal troops to Mississippi,
but was instead the slogan of the racists.
The initial, instinctive, "knee jerk" opposition of comrades to the idea of
demanding that imperialist troops be sent "against" a "third world" country
is, of course, absolutely correct. But it is clear in THIS case that can
only be the starting point of an analysis, because of all the political
cross-currents and forces involved.
It is clear, for example, that what
Indonesia has done in East Timor is to follow an imperialist policy, in
their bloody occupation they have acted as agents of and for the benefit of
imperialism. All this double talk about how the U.S. didn't want to
alienate the Indonesian government EVEN THOUGH the American rulers didn't
like the occupation is nonsense. The LAST thing the U.S. rulers wanted in
the mid-70s was ANOTHER revolutionary nationalist movement coming to power
in a world where the U.S. had just been defeated in Vietnam, making the
socialist bloc all the more attractive. The nightmare of East Timor becoming
another Cuba or Vietnam is what drove the imperialist policy which the
Indonesian government carried out.
Given the changed world circumstances,
the danger of socialist revolution is now greatly reduced, at least as
Washington sees it. And the economic and political price to be paid for a
policy of brutal repression is fairly steep, and tends to go up over time.
Perhaps if Indonesia's generals had shown at least some promise of being
able to defeat the rebels things might have been different. But since they
had not, Washington decided to cut its losses.
This took the form of initiatives towards having a referendum under UN
auspices to settle the future of East Timor. The independence movement
leaped at the chance of using imperialist "international law" and
"international institutions" to advance towards independence -- just as
workers on strike would be idiots NOT to to use the legal system to defend
their right to freedom of speech, to picket and so on. In the negotiations
they could not get everything they wanted (and especially the withdrawal of
the Indonesian army prior to the vote, as even formal, bourgeois democracy
would dictate under these circumstances). Were those who negotiated the
accord wrong to not make that a deal breaker? Before answering yes, it is
useful to remember that all cease-fire accords, which this one was, in
many ways, by and large reflect the actual military situation on the ground.
Typically, you can get at the negotiating table whatever you were able to
take by force in combat -- and nothing more.
In the end, the deal was for a vote under UN control, but the UN mission
would be a strictly civilian one. The independence movement, of course,
wanted a peacekeeping presence even if Indonesia did not withdraw. The
reason why is obvious from the situation. The Indonesian state did not want
this referendum, but it was forced upon them by their masters. Given this,
the greater the counterweight of the UN presence to that of the recalcitrant
Indonesian forces, the better. But they could not get it.
Now, a true-blue super-revolutionary would say that the independence
movement should have insisted on holding the referendum under its own
auspices and control, and with the Indonesians out. Of course, that state of
affairs --de facto independence-- almost makes the vote moot, from the point
of view of revolutionaries. But to get that at the negotiating table would
imply a well-nigh total defeat of Indonesia's army on the ground, or a
decision by Indonesia to give up. The liberation forces had not been able to
The point is, inherent in the very logic of the situation and the deal
that was struck was the extremely likely deployment of UN peacekeepers
sooner or later. And if it is impermissible for revolutionaries in the
imperialist countries to support the demand of the independence movement
that the force be deployed now, it must be equally impermissible for the
independentists to demand it to begin with. But the holding of this kind of
referendum -- a UN sponsored and controlled vote, with the UN assigned the
role of "honest neutral" -- and under these circumstances inherently carries
with it opening the door wide to "peacekeepers." As for the political
essence of the matter, things change not one bit if all of the UN personnel
sent for the vote were dressed as civilians, or if there was also an armed
wearing blue helmets.
The posts and comments on the list would make sense only if the comrades
recognized that the referendum itself should have been condemned simply an
imperialist Trojan horse, "cover" for troops of the imperialist powers (as
opposed to surrogates) to continue the colonial occupation and the war.
Indeed, some posts say that this is the only possible role a "peacekeeping"
imperialist force could play, it's just in their nature. But the whole point
of Lenin's struggle against the social chauvinists and social imperialists
in the second international is that war changes NOTHING about the
reactionary nature and policies of those involved. If the blue helmets can
ONLY be instruments of direct imperialist colonization and occupation, the
SAME must be true of the U.N. functionaries who organized and carried out
Others imply that since the whole point of this from the imperialists point
of view is to stabilize East Timor in a semicolonial status, we should
oppose the deployment. Either way, however, we should have been denouncing
the holding of the referendum. You can't separate the "civilian" actions of
imperialist states or the international institutions they have set up from
their military actions.
If it was a good thing that the struggle of the East Timor people was able
to force the imperialists to come in and hold a referendum where they could
express and win formal, international acceptance of their right to
independence, THEN it is a good thing if the imperialists can also be forced
to defend and implement the results of that vote.
I know this is a very long screed and quite sharp in places. However, I
think it is necessary to point out that the false position on peacekeepers
that comrades have taken --even if out of 100% revolutionary instincts-- had
led comrades to adopt arguments and positions that can only be considered
chauvinist. It is not my intention, however, to demonize anyone or imply
that someone who has taken this mistaken position is a traitor or a Kautsky
or some such nonsense.
From: Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky <nestor at sisurb.filo.uba.ar>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Monday, September 13, 1999 9:28 PM
Subject: Re: Chomsky et al miss the point re: East Timor
>El 13 Sep 99 a las 2:32, Jo|o Paulo Monteiro nos dice(n):
>> Dear Nestor,
>> As I've said, I'm not very enthusiastic of east-timorese
>> nationalism. But, you certainly cannot reduce it to an
>> imperialist plot.
>If this is what perspired my posting, then my command of
>English is still worse than I thought! I have not reduced
>it to any kind of plot. I understand that there is an
>actual (and most probably worth supporting) East Timorese
>"nationalism", as you properly say. What I mean is that
>there can not exist an East Timorese "national question"
>unless backed by imperialist troops. The "National
>question" there is the Malay national question, and the
>horrid fate of the East Timorese (on which I cry bitter
>tears, you can believe me!) is one of the most terrible
>outcomes of the unfinished struggle of the Malay peoples
>for their unification. I am not speaking in racial terms.
>A national question is the DIALECTIC SUPERATION of
>ethnicity, in many senses. I have already explained that
>when I think of a unified Malay federation I imagine a
>great nation (a socialist one, by the way: I still cannot
>imagine a succesful national struggle in our times without
>a socialist outcome). This does not mean the brutal
>imposition of one culture on others (such as seems to have
>been necessary for the French, nevertheless), this may and
>should mean an inclusive, broad construction where
>different "ethnic splinters" and "nationalities" build a
>common economic and cultural ground to expel imperialists,
>etc. But at the same time, one should expect these
>fractions to understand that the largest group will give
>its own imprint to the whole. This is what I meant with my
>"Suriname in Latin America" example.
>On the same line:
>I do perfectly know that imperialism does cross the racial
>or skin-color gate (let me see, was this Colin Powell a tall,
>bright blue eyed Caucasian with long eyelashes and snow
>white skin?). I also know, however, that it is the Whole
>that imparts meaning on the parts, and not the other way
>round. I am not waging an anti-Western crusade (in
>fact, being an Argentinian this would amount to committing
>suicide. Some French said once that Latin America was the
>Extreme West, which I find very intelligent an observation:
>Finisterre, you see, is here, not in the Iberian
>Peninsula). But across East Timor run bloody and murderous
>fields of power where, on the one side, you have the
>imperialists, and on the other side you have the
>Indonesians. And I stick to my idea that no matter how
>heroic and admirable the struggle of the East Timorese may
>have been for all these years,
>(I am thinking of your moving description of proud
>self-reliant fighters of the kind I like:
>> These people have been fighting for 24
>> years completely on their own. Not a rifle, not a pair of
>> boots, not a canteen full of water has arrived to them
>> courtesy of any western nation, least of all Australia who
>> has been training KOPASSUS counter-insurgency units,
>> selling weapons and having joint military exercises with
>> the indonesians for decades.),
>no matter that, I repeat that we should be careful not to
>foster Australian intervention there. It would amount to,
>say fostering French invasion of Colombia because this may
>help the FARC in their anti-USA struggle. The example is
>not the best one, since what the FARC are facing is
>American imperialism directly while the East Timorese are
>confronting with -I share Jared Israel's definition- the
>new victim of imperialist balkanizing policies. This would
>prove worse remedy than illness.
>> The vast majority of the east-timorese wants independence
>> badly and have nothing but absolute revulsion for
>> indonesian brutal occupation.
>The inhabitants of the Malvinas or those in Belize do also
>want independence badly and have nothing but absolute
>revulsion for the attempts at "occupation" (which I am sure
>you would not term this way, would you Joao?) by Guatemala
>and Argentina. This is not the best proof of your point.
>What interests here is where may this point to in the
>current world scenario.
>> In these circonstances,
>> though I would much prefer that their political
>> development would be done in under an indonesian
>> federation (rather than as a client statelet of
>> Australia), I think that, at this point, we have no other
>> option than to, in leninist spirit, support their right to
>> self-determination. Independence now, free association
>> later. The key word here is consent.
>The problem is, "independence now" will mean more massacres
>tomorrow. I believe that while things change in Indonesia,
>a UN mission _without a single soldier from imperialist
>countries_ would be the best solution. Guess what? This is
>not possible, is it? Maybe, but that is the only guarantee
>for both Indonesians of Malay and Portuguese origin.
>> I don't think the indonesian state will be badly crippled
>> by east-timorese secession.
>Nor does the Malvinas "secession" badly cripple the
>Argentinian state (let aside the fact that thanks to the
>Malvinas fishing policies we are running out of hake in the
>once teeming Argentinian Sea). But the question is not
>whether the state is crippled or not. You can listen to
>kelpers saying "You have so much land there, why do you
>want these islands too?". Well, to begin with I would
>answer that all our land here is theirs if they decide to
>join us. And, secondly but MOSTLY IMPORTANT: the Malvinas
>are a colonial outpost PRIMARILY DESIGNED to foster
>imperialist interests against Argentina, and to control the
>alternative passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
>Watch Timor's strategic situation as regards sea routes, by
>> As for secessionist disease
>> spreading, I don't see any separatist movement in the
>> archipelago nearly as relentless and articulate as the
>Certainly so. But imperialism has lots of barrels of
>gasoline ready. You need a Milosevic to keep such a disease
>from spreading, and watch the cost!
>> Furthermore, I'm not sure the timorese (and
>> that goes to the whole island, east and west) righly
>> belong to the malay family. Their features seem to be more
>> of polynesian stock. That (and not only the cultural
>> legacy of portuguese colonialism) is certainly a big
>> factor explaining their resentment of javanese military
>This I explained above. I am speaking on national, not
>racial, terms. Look, Joao, I am the son of a Polish-born
>Jewess and an Argentine-born Jew whose parents came from
>Ukraine. My wife is the daughter of Dolly Chianalino, pure
>Piamontese with Italian grandparents, and Emilio Sanchez,
>son to a Creole father from Catamarca and a Creole mother
>from Santa Fe. Not a few drops of Amerindian and Negro
>blood ran through his veins. But we all belong to the
>Argentinian nation (in a provisional way) and to the Latin
>American nation (in a far-flung way). And, as to the
>following, I am shocked to see you confusing Javanese
>(Javanese only?) will to keep a fraction of a nation
>unified with imperialism. It would be the same to confuse
>the will of the Serbs to reunify Yugoslavia and the will of
>the imperialists to put the splinters under their heavy
>> You know, there is imperialism besides the
>> white men's. The problem is not on the "races", but on the
>> social structures. To fight only white imperialism is just
>> a form of negative euro-centrism.
>I absolutely agree with you, Joao. I am completely
>convinced that Japan, the always oil-thirsty capitalist
>center, is also at work in Indonesia. But the fact is that
>here we are facing white, rosy cheeked, round eyed, English speaking
>invasion of a dark, lank, oblique eyed, Malay speaking
>(Javanese speaking) people. And that should be the basic
>point of departure of any analysis.
>I am not saying that the East Timorese are a "rogue nation"
>of sorts, nothing like that. I am only observing that now
>they became a tragic pawn in the imperialist game.
>> BTW, the
>> east-timorese nationalist movement still have a sizeable
>> marxist current within it and they are fully supported by
>> the indonesian PRD, the inheritor of the late PKI,
>> decimated during Suharto's takeover.
>This is an important point that you are making, and that
>may probably modify some very harsh comments I made. But
>while Australians are lurking there, I will still go on
>shouting "Beware the shark!".
>Con todo mi respeto, como ya lo sabes,
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