Jose G. Perez
Philip L Ferguson
PLF13 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Sep 26 18:22:22 MDT 1999
I find it almost unbelievable that you see no difference in calling for an
imperilaist government to intervene in a Third World country and calling on
such a government to uphold its own laws in its own territory.
As someone else pointed out, the question at this level is one of sovereignty.
I might add that related to this is the division of the world into
oppressor and oppressed nations, a distinction which Lenin argued was
critical in the imperialist epoch.
If the CNRT leadership has made the mistake of calling for an imperialist
institution to effectively take over the running of East Timor, that is one
thing; for Marxists in an oppressor nation to call for their government to
intervene is entirely another.
What next? If the Kurds or the 'Marsh Arabs' came under renewed attack
from Baghdad and called on the UN to send a military force to do over
Saddam Hussein, should we support this? If Belize was threatened by
Guatemala and called for US troops to go in to save them, should you as a
Marxist in the US leap in and demand intervention from Washington?
My answer to these questions would be a resounding 'no'.
Moreover, the call for Australian and NZ troops to go in totally cuts
across independent working class politics in Australia and NZ. When the
masses are united with the ruling classes in supporting military
intervention by Canberra and Wellington, that weakens the ability of the
masses to fight for ANYTHING. It is a major blow against independent, ie
The Australian and NZ ruling classes have been able to rerieve the moral
high ground through their intervention as well. The 24 years of
collaboration with the Indonesian junta and its repression of the Timorese
are being wiped out and instead of suffering a political price for their
past positions, Canberra and Wellington are gaining kudos for 'saving' the
East Timorese, the poor 'victims' who could not save themselves. So we
have a new pc version of 'the white man's burden', in which imperialist
intervention is necessary to save some people in the Third World from other
people in the Third World.
Let's also be clear about the UN and an intervention. I was reading a copy
of the August issue of the Australian left-wing journal 'Socialist
Alternative' at the weekend. It didn't have anything about Timor, coming
out before the latest stuff, but there was an article that made the
interesting point that a lot of Marxists can see that their own government
represents the interests of the ruling class and yet become completely
mystified when a whole lot of capitlaist governments get together, as in
the UN; then there are Marxists who suddenly think that this 'world
government' stands above class interests.
So let me make it clear, yet again: the UN represents the interests of
'capital in general' at the global level. It has always done this. Today,
it is more stark than ever, because the demise of the Soviet bloc means
there are no checks whatsoever on the Western powers who control the UN.
Moreover, UN intervention is always a farce. It is always really
intervention by a specific imperialist power. Usually the US. But in the
case of East Timor, it is Australia and New Zealand, the little Prussias of
the South Pacific.
This is, most decidely, an Australian imperialist intervention, and a very
major one. It marks a departure for the Australian ruling class, because
this is the first time they have actually provided imperialist leadership
in the region. So it is a new era of Aussie imperialism. And if they can
get away with this, there will be more interventions in the future.
The last Labour government in NZ, in the 1980s, stepped up NZ military
involvement in the Pacific to levels not seen since WW2. At the same time,
they banned US warships from NZ waters. This confused most of the 'peace
movement' here, who are anti-American and pro-NZ imperialism. In fact the
ban on US warships was part of achieving a nationalist-populist consensus
in the country behind Labour - it was a very popular move - and then using
this popularity to launch the most savage attacks on the NZ working class
since the Depression of the 1930s.
The struggle against illusions that people in NZ and Australia have in our
ruling classes and their interests in exploiting the working class at home
and oppressing people in the Asia-Pacific region, is a crucial part of the
tasks of Marxists in our two countries.
That is not a 'popular' position but, as Owen Jones pointed out, the job of
Marxists is not to start with what is popular, but what is necessary. It
is to win people to the politics necessary to make a revolution, not for us
to move to wherever 'popular opinion' happens to be at any one point in
(By the way, great post, Owen!)
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