Alan Bradley alanb at
Tue Jan 25 17:47:51 MST 2000

On Carrol's question:
> Is the United States now following a consistent policy of Balkanization
> in the Third World rather than a policy of supporting strong regimes
> (e.g., Indonesia) during the Cold War?

From: "Néstor M. Gorojovsky"
> I am a little short of news on the East Timorese situation now. But I
> have posted something on the issue when I commented on Ramos Horta's
> decission to establish the best relationship with Jakarta while giving
> the Ozzies a bad time. On that posting I openly stated that if this was
> the general direction that the East Timorese were beginning to take, then
> my forebodings might prove wrong (and I added that I would be happy if I
> was proved wrong).

Well, Comrades, I wasn't really going to contribute to this thread, but the
question of East Timor and Indonesia is a key test of the question posed by
Carrol.  In particular, we have seen positions stated by some of those who
would tend to answer "yes" that reject the legitimacy of the Timorese
struggle, a position that I believe is a gross sectarian blunder.

Nestor, I _would_ suggest that you do keep up with the events on East
Timor.  They're quite fascinating, and more or less along the lines that
were to be expected.  On one occasion, a crowd of unemployed East Timorese
started to throw stones at Interfet troops - and Ramos Horta apologised to
Interfet.  Well, we knew about Ramos Horta.  There has been other stuff
too:  China has agreed to open a consulate in Dili even before formal
independence.  (If only they would provide economic support for socialist

In other words, there is an intense class struggle bubbling away there, and
it is quite conceivable that the end result could be a socialist state, and
one not really more absurd than Sandinista Nicaragua, and less so than
Grenada.  (And no, Ramos Horta probably wouldn't be in the government.)  Or
it could just give rise to yet another neo-colony (and for some period of
time certainly will - and Ramos Horta will be in its government.)

Regardless of the outcome, it is an error to simply condemn the struggle as
pro-imperialist.  What that points to is that however the current world
situation is theorised, we need to keep open the possibility of
understanding that at least some "secessionist" struggles have a
anti-imperialist dynamic, or contain revolutionary potential.

Other examples of this include the struggle on Bougainville.  Comrades may
not be particularly familiar with this struggle, but essentially it began
as a movement to close down a copper mine, owned by a subsidiary of the
Australian based company, CRA, which in turn is something of a partnership
between Australian capital and good old Rio Tinto Zinc.  This movement
necessarily became a revolt against the state that protected this
imperialist corporation - Papua New Guinea.  And yes - the "secessionist"
movement crippled the Papua New Guinean economy, and made it even further
dependent on imperialism.  So if you fight against RTZ, are you acting in
an objectively pro-imperialist manner?  Of course this is a rhetorical

This is not a unique struggle, incidentally.  There have been other,
shorter lived, armed revolts against other imperialist owned "developments"
in PNG.  Furthermore, struggles against similar mines have been a major
feature of the "secessionist" movement in West Papua.  Revolts against
imperialist intrusions into the lives of ordinary workers and peasants in
the Asia-Pacific region still tend to become revolts against the states
that protect them.

Furthermore, on Indonesia itself:  the imperialist states seem to have
fallen back on their old policy of supporting the integrity of the
Indonesian state, now that it has been sanitised by the removal of the
unsightly blemish of East Timor.  The US government has been threatening
the Indonesian military not to think about overthrowing the government,
while at the same time "urging" the government to restore order in Aceh and
the Moluccas.  The Australian Foreign Minister, (the idiotic private
schoolboy Alexander Downer), has just been in Jakarta trying to mend fences
with the state that was for a long time Australia's closest diplomatic ally
in Asia.  In other words, the cosmetic surgery has been carried out, and
it's time to get back to the serious business of maintaining the
"stability" of profits.

Basically, whatever analysis we adopt, we need to avoid schematicism.  And
of course, schematicism has been rife throughout the last few "debates"
that have raged on the list - on all sides.

Alan Bradley
alanb at

More information about the Marxism mailing list