marxism-digest V1 #1360

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Sep 26 01:27:07 MDT 1999

>>But there is a difference between
demanding that one's own state protects the rights it purports to
extend to its citizens, such as the right to strike, protection from
goon squads etc, and calling for imperialist intervention in another
country. <<

I keep seeing this sort of idea asserted, but nobody seems willing to state
just what the difference is.

The Australian or American state is no less a bourgeois imperialist state
when acting at "home" than when acting "abroad." And it certainly has no
more "right" to intervene against, for example, Native peoples and the
Puerto Ricans (in the case of the Americans) than they do to act in East
Timor. So what is the "difference" exactly?

Certainly the American State is no more "ours" than the United Nations
belongs to the Timorese. Why is it wrong for the people of Timor to demand
that the UN  protect the rights it purports to extend to them, the right to
self-determination and independence, but right for us to demand that "our"
state protect the rights it purports to grant us?

Moreover, this is tending to get written at a very high level of
abstraction, but in the U.S., for example, it has been precisely oppressed
national minorities who have demanded that federal troops be sent. When
Blacks in the south raised this demand, they didn't even have the right to
vote, never mind eating lunch at the five and dime, and lynchings were just
going out of fashion. So reading the bit about "its citizens" makes me
cringe. It is a lie to say that American Blacks in the South were "citizens"
of the United States, not without a lot of heavy-duty explanation and

I keep trying to write this as carefully as I can but it seems to be going
over people's heads. What I was pointing to in the cases of the South and
Boston is NOT a demand that revolutionaries projected as their own, or urged
the working class to take up as its own, but rather a demand by the Black
community that revolutionaries supported and urged the working class as a
whole to support.

And certainly in the case of East Timor, everything I've seen and read
indicates that the independence movement demanded that a UN force be sent to
stop the pogrom and uphold the results of the referendum.

I know comrades are reacting to the DSP's position, which is fairly easy to
lampoon, but let's get real shall we? The big majority of the revolutionary
movement on a world scale is going to look at the Timorese demand for a UN
force and support, not the DSP's "Australia in now" campaign, but the demand
by the independence movement of East Timor. The idea of campaigning AGAINST
what the Timorese have been demanding is simply not an attractive one.




-----Original Message-----
From: John Edmundson <JWE21 at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Date: Saturday, September 25, 1999 7:11 AM
Subject: Re: marxism-digest V1 #1360

Jose asked:
If the capitalists hire a goon squad to try to break the
strike, would the workers be "out of their minds" to demand  that the
capitalist state, its police and army repress that illegal terrorist

Maybe they would be out of their minds to expect to get it. As
everyone on this list knows, the state would be extremely reluctant
to intervene in such a manner.But there is a difference between
demanding that one's own state protects the rights it purports to
extend to its citizens, such as the right to strike, protection from
goon squads etc, and calling for imperialist intervention in another
country. Only a year ago, the Australian government was crushing
the Australian Maritime Union. No sign of the pushover state then.
What I find hard to comprehend is the ease with which so many have
believed that the state could be so responsive to the left's demands
for a foreign intervention.

It seems to me that a number of points are clear.
The Australian state did not react as it did on account of the calls
of the DSP. The DSP may wish it were so influential but that is
self-delusion. Philip Ferguson's reference to "pushing at an open
door" is a perfect description of what was happening. The NZ
government volunteered troops without any popular pressure at all,
and has consistently upped the commitment ever since. They haven't
tried the "Let's bring back conscription" stunt yet. I think that
would be a serious misreading of public opinion here, but they are
now talking about a greater integration of the territorials -
(part-time soldiers, including quite a few students who do it as a
holiday job) -  so that the terries can be part of any such
operations in the future. they really are starting to get big ideas
it would seem.

Australia's interests have always been with Indonesia. This is
absolutely true. I don't think anybody here has any illusions
about the role the Australian state played during the last 24
years. It is their role now that is at issue. They supported
Indonesia but not because they have a particular penchant for
dictatorial regimes. During the cold war, administrations like
Suharto's were the only guarantee of keeping capitalism secure in
the third world. Backing dictators was an expedient. Since then, the
inefficiencies of these old systems can be eliminated by backing the
'democratic' opposition movements. Look at how even Mahatir Mohammed
was not immune when the Anwar Ibrahim case coincided with APEC in
Malasia. Australia had to make a quick about face on Indonesia
because it wants itsinterests there, including access to Timor Gap
oil, guaranteed. Changes of policy like this are often rapid, but
this does not mean they are the result of leftist pressure.
Furthermore, Australia will work hard to patch up its relationship
with Indonesia after the new president is decided there. They want to
get the best of both worlds, and it looks as though they might


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