marxism-digest V1 #1360

John Edmundson JWE21 at
Sat Sep 25 14:49:33 MDT 1999

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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