Australasian Imperialism and East Timor

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Fri Sep 24 18:54:43 MDT 1999

Nestor writes:

>When the Argentinian last military
>dictatorship was finished, it was not a victory for
>Argentinians but for imperialists. These military had
>been the best ally of USA in Latin America, who believed to
>be fighting together with the Western (particularly Anglo)
>powers the Third World War (against Communism, which,
>according to Argentinian General Cristino Nicolaides dated
>back to the days of Plato --that is, preceded the First and
>Second ones!). But the experience of the Malvinas convinced
>the American and West European imperialists that it was
>good time to get rid of these dangerous military regimes.
>They thus bestowed on us Argentinians the colonial
>democracy that we suffer now. They do not kill us with
>bullets, simply with economic policies. The way the defeat
>of the Junta was processed turned it into a further defeat
>of the Argentinians. We were given democracy at the cost of
>losing our own country. A bargain.

Nice one, nestor.  Thanks for this.

It's funny how the comrades of the DSP completely fail to grasp the current
orientation of imperialism to disown and replace the old dictatorial
regimes with bourgeois democracies (or semi-bourgeois democracies, because
the people in the Third World aren't gettting the same bourgeois freedoms
we have in the First World).

It is interesting how the whole orientation of the DSP, which exists in an
imperilaist heartland, indeed the most important imperialist country in
this part of the world, think that their main job is demonising the
Indonesian regime rather than resisting the militarism of their own rulers.
In fact the DSP's criticism of Canberra is that it doesn't go far enough.

Still, given that the DSP thinks the Howard government is such a bunch of
wussers that it acts against its own interests when the DSP says 'boo!',
perhaps John Percy could ring up Howard and go 'Boo!' and Howard will hand
over the running of the intervention to the DSP political committee.

Didn't Lenin write quite a lot about this kind of stuff, and say it was
"social chauvinism - socialism in word, chauvinism in deed."

In relation to questions about whether Australian is imperialist.  Well,
both Australia and New Zealand are imperialist.  They are two very
highly-developed capitalist countries, with amongst the highest standards
of living in the world (although NZ has fallen quite a bit in recent

Unlike Latin America, the colonies here were established as white
settler-capitalist colonies from the very start (Spain was more feudal than
capitalist when it grabbed what is now Latin America).  So both Australia
and NZ inherited the bourgeois revolution from Britain - as Australian
historian Verity Burgmann once wrote, the bourgeois revolution came out
here on the ships with the first settlers.

In fact, not only did we have the bourgeois revolution from the start, but
these countries, like the USA, had more advanced bourgeois democracy than
Europe.  NZ was the first country where women got the vote - 1893, some 25
years before Britain, for instance.

The development of modern capitalism in this part of the world took place
free of any feudal impediments.  The obstacles were the people already here
- Aboriginals in Australia and Maori in NZ, and these were relatively
quickly dealt with and removed as barriers to capitalist development.

By the turn of the century both Australia and NZ were participating in
imperilaist military adventures, such as the Boer War.  Independent ruling
classes developed here and quickly gained control of the state apparatus.
By the late 1800s, both countries were effectively independent of Britain.
Moreover in both countries British capital had developed the economies,
whereas in Latin America Spain was so backward itself it could not develop
the economies there much, and British capital in Latin America served to
underdevelop them by creaming off super-profits.

Both Australia and NZ rapidly gained some colonies of their own - getting
hold of former German possessions, for instance, after WW1.

Over time, both countries also moved from being linked mainly with Britain
to developing stronger links with the US.  So both had troops not only in
Korea, but also in Vietnam.  Australia even introduced conscription to
increase its commitment to the war in Vietnam.

The ruling class in each country constitutes an independent ruling class in
possession of their own state apparatus, overseeing highly developed
economies.  Obviously as the bigger country, and with substantial mineral
resources, Australia is richer and more developed than NZ.

In both countries, however, nationalism and 'exceptionalism' are very
strong.  The dmoninant left-wing thinking in both has always been
left-nationalism, which was promoted by sections of the bourgeoisie, much
of the labour movement, and most of the Stalinists.  Australia bred a
particularly potent Mao-Stalinist movement whose Aussie nationalism was
extreme.  Later left-nationalism was challenged in both countries by
Trotskyists, and the demise of the Stalinists has weakened organised
left-nationalism, fortunately.  (In NZ, however, two small Trot groups,
Workers Power and the Communist Workers Group, argue NZ is a 'neocolony'!!!)

Peace campaigners, Timor solidarity activists and the by no means
inconsequential amorphous left in both countries is still largely
nationalistic.  This nationalism is now being reflected by the DSP and by
the amorphous left in NZ.  Left-nationalists have been the key people
calling for imperialist intervention and denying that such intervention is

One of the things this shows to me is the need for political clarity and
for keeping in mind that whoever Marxists may temporarily ally with in
various campaigns, there is a world of difference between Marxism and
left-liberalism and we should never delude ourselves that the liberals and
us are really on the same side.  As soon as a test like this comes up, you
can count on the liberals to be leading the charge for the ruling class.

Unfortunately, in this case, the DSP have stolen the liberals' fire and are
even more 'out there' in calling for imperialist intervention.

Philip Ferguson

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