East Timor (reply to Jose)

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Sep 20 17:03:03 MDT 1999

Jose Perez writes:
>if the troops are there at all, it is
>because the independence movement in East Timor asked for them. Kofi Annan
>himself said only a day or two before Indonesia's "invitation" that it was a
>diplomatic nicety, nothing more. By voting to send the peacekeeping force,
>the UN recognized the right of the independence movement to speak for the
>people of East Timor, and made a commitment to help the people of East Timor
>to achieve their independence.

Jose, what drugs did you do in the 60s, man?  That you are still
hallucinating thirty years later suggests they were mighty powerful.

Certainly, your view that the UN is there solely because the Timorese want
them there is on the same planet as Jack Barnes' idea that the West lost
the Cold War and the 'East German workers state' still exists.

The imperialist troops are there because the imperialists want them there.
No other reason!  The imperialists are rather more powerful - and have
rather more say in how, where and when their troops are deployed - than the
East Timorese independence movement.

What this whole discussion has revealed is that some people - most notably
the DSP leaders and those who support their line - have little
understanding of imperialism.  When it comes in the form of organising
military coups and napalming villages, these leftists can recognise it;
when it comes in humanitarian guise, they are thrown into confusion and
support it.

I'm also amused by the way that people like yourself and Warwick Fry keep
talking of this is a 'UN intervention' while also implying that the UN is
not an imperialist institution.

I think Louis' post yesterday showed quite clearly what the UN was designed
for and what it has always been.  How odd then, that at the very time that
the imperilaists are even MORE in control of the UN than ever (due to he
demise of the Soviet bloc), some people on this list are adopting the view
that the UN stands above class conflicts and represents some higher,
neutral position.

Secondly, this is a "UN intervention" in the same way that the Gulf War
was, ie the Gulf War was American imperialism masquerading under the moral
fig-leaf of UN statutes or whatever; East Timor is Australian and NZ
imperialism using the UN flag of convenience, while being very well aware
that if their soldiers run into any heavy opposition Clinton will send US
troops and bombers to bail them out.

This morning a new poll came out on the popularity of Jenny Shipley, NZ's
Tory prime minister.  She has rocketed up six points in the opinion polls
and is now the most popular poltician in NZ - all in the week or ten days
since committing NZ armed forces to East Timor.

The New Zealand government is also now talking about upgrading this
country's armed forces, arguing that opposition parties have blocked the
armed forces from getting the best and most effective equipment for
fighting in such conditions.  So it has also allowed the ruling class to
advance the other, and totally necessary, side of their 'humanitarian'
imperialism - modernising and expanding the hardware of their troops.

Since the 'opposition' are the people who have been calling loudest for NZ
forces to be sent to East Timor, they are now in no position to resist the
upscaling of the NZ armed forces.

In the early 1900s NZ was known as the 'little Prussia of the Pacific'.
Although this is only a puny country, and at the turn of the centuiry only
had about a million people, our ruling class has always had big ambitions
in the Pacific.  Even in the 1860s, before the Maoris were beaten, the
white ruling class was talking about a 'Pacific Empire' centred on New

Due to competition with France and Germany and the US, the NZ ruling class
didn't get much, but they managed to grab a few Pacific Islands, most
notably Samoa, which they invaded and captured from a few German soldiers
in 1914.  It took the Samoans fifty years to get independence.  In the late
1920s, when confronted with a powerful independence movement (the Mau), NZ
responded with repression.  One Friday, I think it was about 1927 or '28,
they shot dead about a dozen unarmed peaceful independence marchers in
Apia, the capital.

After WW2, NZ vigorously opposed independence movements in the Pacific,
including the movements in Kanaky (New Caledonia) and French Polynesia
(Tahiti etc).  But the end of the Cold War has meant a sea-change in the
stance of the NZ ruling class.  They now tend to support independence and
have been very vocal in attacking stuff like French nuclear testing at
Muroroa.  In fact in 1995 National Party PM, Jim Bolger, ponced around the
world denouncing the French tests and challenging the French leader to
publicly debate the issue in Europe.  Bolger and his party's popularity
shot up in the polls and they sustained it thorugh to the 1996 elections
which they won.

So the NZ ruling class have taken like ducks to water with the new
'humanitarian' and 'anti-colonial' ideology of imperialism.  It allows them
to play a substantially expanded role in the Pacific and elsewhere while
totally politically disarming the bulk of the old left or leftish

And it seems while the old social democrats, like Labour in Australia and
new Zealand, have transformed into basically bourgeois-liberal parties, a
chunk of the old 'Marxist' left (the DSP) might be developing into social

On the far left, we've all made mistakes.  I doubt there is anyone among
those of us who oppose imperialist intervention in Timor who look back on
our own pasts and don't cringe at some of our positions in days gone by.
But I doubt if any of us has made such a serious error as supporting an
imperialist intervention whose effect will be to create a new neo-colony,
legitimate further intervention, legitimate increased arms spending, and
provide a great deal of moral kudos for our own ruling class.

Philip Ferguson

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