Widening aggression against semicolonial peoples, and a question about Indonesia

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jul 5 17:16:42 MDT 2003

Today, I sent a series of articles to the list, accumulated over a
week or so, which highlighted for me the broadening pattern of
imperialist military operations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
This is not simply a broad pattern US aggression, and still less
"Bush" or rightist aggression, but imperialist aggression (although of
course the overwhelming predominance of the US militarily over all its
potential imperialist rivals assures it overwhelming predominance in
these operations as well).

This pattern, which is pointing to a very broad challenge to the
remaining conquests of the colonial revolution, has been given great
impetus by the US occupation of Iraq.

There are many examples not mentioned, such as the French operations
in Cote d'Ivoire and Congo, the very important French-German role in
the war in Afghanistan, and so on.

The pattern is not primarily one of interimperialist conflict, in
which pieces of the semicolonial world are seized by imperialist
powers FROM EACH OTHER, as tended to be posited by (not only by) Jack
Barnes, beginning with his "Opening Guns of World War III" in 1991.
following the first war in Iraq.

While interimperialist conflict is increasing and can only increase in
this process, the real losers are the peoples of the semicolonies, the
ruling classes of these countries, the sovereignty of nations that won
a significant degree of independence in past struggles, and the degree
of control that was won over their natural resources.  While the
imperialists strike blows to each other in this process,  they are not
primarily expropriating wealth from each other but from the oppressed
nations. It is the drive against the oppressed nations, not the drive
of the imperialists toward sharper conflict with each other, that is
dominating today.

Of course, if the imperialists were successful in redividing the world
in this way, the door would clearly open to an interimperialist World
War III (other forms of
world war, in which interimperialist conflict might not predominate,
are also possible however).

A number of factors made this vastly increased aggressiveness in the
semicolonial lands  possible and necessary for the various imperialist
powers, above all the United States.

One important factor, though not the primary one in my opinion, was
the disintegration of workers states in Eastern Europe, which by the
1980s had lost all capacity to win support from the working classes
and peasantry and which had no power of resistance at all to the
deepening world economic crisis that stems from the difficulties of
imperialism although it has been felt most savagely in other parts of
the world.
The disintegration of these states, which was primarily an internal
process and not imposed from the outside, registered that the
imperialists had won (primarily simply by outlasting its opponents)
the portion of the cold war that centered on the conflict between them
and the Soviet bloc states.

(This of course did not cancel out the big defeats the imperialists
had taken in Cuba, Vietnam, China, Korea, and elsewhere. These
victories were not minor skirmishes in a proxy war with the Soviet
Union, but real revolutionary struggles with major conquests that
confront the imperialists with major problems.  And there is little
likelihood that victory will simply fall into the imperialists lap as
happened as a consequence of the long process of decay in the European
workers states. The process of occupying Iraq has already met more
intense resistance than occurred anywhere in the Soviet bloc.)

A second factor is the deepening economic problems of the imperialist
powers, above all the United States, which faces the task of shoving
the costs onto its imperialist rivals and the oppressed and exploited
of the world.  The disintegration of the workers' states did not
produce vast new arenas of  investment or reverse the crisis.  They
were not conquered by Washington and Wall Street, but fell into hands
of weakened gangs of bureaucrats turned capitalist plunderers.  While
there are growing numbers of imperialist troops in the region, they
have not become primarily attractive investment opportunities, but
part of the vanguard of capitalist decay.  The economic crisis is
forcing all the imperialist powers to move outward aggressively,  the
United States most explosively.

Another factor has been the decay of the bourgeois nationalist regimes
that were brought to power across almost all the semi colonial
regions.  They have little popular support today and little or no
capacity to put up effective resistance to the devastating crisis that
imperialist decline has brought about in Africa.

I don't believe that World War III is the most likely outcome of this
situation, although it could be if all works out for the worst. I
think we should count on the emergence of new leaderships in the semi
colonial world, which will look to the masses of workers and peasants
as the force to defend these countries, their sovereignty and their
resources against imperialist domination and plunder. And I think the
massive international movement against the US war in Iraq, with the
involvement of millions of workers worldwide and hundreds of thousands
in the United States, shows the explosive anger and desire to resist
that is building up among the  oppressed and exploited in the
imperialist countries.

Now in this framework, I want to question a headline I saw recently in
Green Left Weekly.  This was the demand that Australia stop military
aid to Indonesia.  I completely support the fight for national rights
of the people of East Timor, Ache and other small nations.  As Lenin
said early in the century, there can be no real people's revolution in
today's world without uprisings of "small nation" (and I don't think
he meant just oppressed nations like China or India but really small
nations that might experience national oppression at the hands of
larger oppressed nations). How could a real national revolution take
place in Indonesia without such movements, including independence
movements in some cases?

However, I think that, despite intentions to the contrary, a demand
that Australia cease sending arms to Indonesia amounts in the current
world situation to a demand for economic and military sanctions
against the Indonesian government and helps prepare Australian
imperialist actions against the oppressed nation of Indonesia that are
also in preparation today.  I know of course that the arms shipments
serve imperialist interests, not the Indonesian people. It is not a
question of supporting them or calling for them but of not making
demands for economic or military sanctions against Indonesia or
imperialist pressure against Indonesia into a center of our demands on
Australia. I think this kind of demand can foster a Human Rights Watch
type approach toward demands on the imperialists, rather than the
working class, anti-imperialist, internationalist approach  that
starts with unconditional defense of the oppressed nations against
their imperialist oppressors.  And the oppressed nations include not
only East Timor, Ache, Bougainvillea, and other small nations, but
very importantly Indonesia (I think it is also wrong in general to
characterize oppressed nations as "oppressor nations"-- I don't know
whether Green Left does this -- even when the semi colonial states
carry out national oppression of small nations.

The issue is not the same when we discuss imposing imperialist
economic and diplomatic isolation on settler colonial states, which
are basically extensions and fortresses of the imperialist powers in
the semi colonial regions  (apartheid South Africa and Israel are the
primary examples).
In these cases, demands for international sanctions are wholly
appropriate and necessary.

I first had doubts about demands for imperialist sanctions on a semi
colonial country in the case of Haiti back in the 1980s called for
them against the military regime that had ousted Aristide in Haiti.
This was not some "Barn site" oddity but was a widely held demand on
the left that originated with the pro-Aristide opposition inside
Haiti.  I was troubled by the feeling that such demands were
inevitably part of imperialist preparations to impose their will on
Haiti.  In the end Washington occupied the country, and acceded
conditionally to the demand that Aristide return to office, but I
believe that the Haitian people ended up paying a high price in terms
of their freedom of action because of this method of accomplishing the
return of the popular Aristide.

I didn't press my concern because I feared I was being sectarian, but
subsequent developments have heightened my suspicion that the
imperialist sanctions on Haiti should have been opposed even though
they were favored by fighters inside the country -- fighters who were
counting on US imperialism to help them impose their will, which I
think was a mistaken orientation. So I am raising the issue now with
regard to Indonesia.

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