Reply to Norm Dixon

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Sat Sep 25 23:17:17 MDT 1999

Norm Dixon (GLW) is long on emotional argument and short on Marxist analysis.

The idea here is to try emotional blackmail - those of us who oppose
Australian imperialist intervention 'don't care' about the East Timorese.
In contrast is the 'caring' DSP.

What has this got to do with serious Marxism?

Did Trotsky care any less for the people of Abyssinia when he opposed
League of Nations intervention?  Was he a wild-eyed, cold-hearted, armchair
revolutionary because of his position?  Or was it that he recongised that
imperialism on the rampage makes things WORSE, for MORE people.

The problem actually goes back before the latest round of militia killings,
to the strategy pursued by the East Timorese leadership and their
supporters in solidarity groups.  This movement began, some time ago, to
look increasingly to imperilaist institutions to solve the problem for
them, rather than to revolution throughout the archipelago.

Instead of warning of the political dangers of such an orientation, the DSP
went along with it - presumably in order to expand its influence among the
Timorese and with part of the Indonesian left.

When young people and other radical-minded people in East Timor wanted to
take to the streets against the militia, the CNRT leadership, such as
Guzmao, opposed this (see the Ted Grant article, and Ted Grant can hardly
be accused of being a wild-eyed ultraleft.).  In other words, the
leadership opposed the independent mobilisation of people in Timor to
tackle the militias.

Instead they carried on with their extremely dangerous strategy of placing
all their faith in imperialist institutions.  They did not want a
mobilisation of the Timorese, nor put emphasis on working clas solidarity
from outside Timor, because that owuld have gotten in the way of their
dealings with NGOs and the UN.  So, on the one hand, they pursued a course
which was bound to result in the militias letting loose, and on the other
hand, they failed to organise in advance to meet such a backlash.

This isn't new by the way.  In the six counties (Northern Ireland), a
sizeable section of civil rights protest leaders, mainly the ones
influenced by Stalinism/Irish and British CPs, challenged the six-county
state, while not in any way preparing for the loyalist backlash that this
would provoke.  So when the backlash came (and the loyalists were very much
like the militias) what did these people do - they called for imperialist
troops, from Britain, to go and save the nationalist people who were being
subject to pogroms.

Fortunately, a section of the nationalist population disagreed with this
disastrous strategy by civil rights leaders and its result - British troops
on the streets - and argued for self-defence of the nationalist ghettos.
Of course, the people who argued this (mainly the people who became the
Provos) were denounced as wild-eyed ultras as well, including by Jose
Perez's old party.  And, guess what happened; the people who called for the
troops to go in were pushed aside politically and the Provos became the
mass force in the working class nationalist ghettos.

A salutary lesson from this is that people who want to be revolutionaries,
have to actually LEAD.  Not tail-end.  People who want to be
revolutionaries have to OPPOSE imperialist troops going into other people's
countries, not call for their intervention.

What has happened in relation to East Timor is that the imperialists have
been able to turn a potentially very embarassing situation, and a possible
defeat, into a victory.  The imperialists have been allowed now to pose as
the defenders of the downtrodden.

Australian imperialism has been able to intervene abroad on a scale not
seen since Vietnam, in a region in which it has considerable
politico-economic interests.  And far from such an intervention being
opposed, it is massively publicly popular, putting Canberra in an
especially strong position.  Both Howard and (NZ prime minister) Shipley
have risen in the polls.  Shipley is now NZ's most popular politician,
although her party will probably lose the general election and we'll have
an even more gung-ho Labour government dispatching even more NZ troops

If the DSP imagines that imperialism has somehow been weakened by this,
that simply indicates that they are on another planet.  The strengthening
of imperilaism, which has occurred through this intervention, is bad news
for workers in our two countries, bad news for the Timorese and bad news
for people throughout the Third World.

Where will humanitarian intervention strike next?  Where will the DSP call
for Australian troops to be sent in next?

Issues like this are critical tests for the left and in particular for
independent politics in the interests of the working class.  When it came
to which class the DSP looked to in this situation the sorry fact is that
the DSP looked to the Australian ruling class.

Philip Ferguson

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