Widening aggression against semicolonial peoples, and a question about Indonesia

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sun Jul 6 14:03:50 MDT 2003


I think you make too much of a blanket assessment regarding calls for an
end to Australian military aid to Indonesia. You've turned a tactical
question into a general principle. What is the direction of movement of the
regime involved? Is it struggling against imperialism (I can't envision
imperialists providing military aid to regimes that oppose it, still it
might happen)? Is it using military aid provided by imperialism to repress
revolutionary forces? To destroy unions? Most importantly, what is the
state of political and social movement in the country concerned? What are
the desires of the movements and their leaders? You state, in the Haitian
example, that this is irrelevant. That, to my mind IS helping imperialism.
Should we have eschewed opposition to military aid to the Salvadoran
regime? Should we cease calls for elimination of the School of the
Americas? Moreover, demanding an end to military aid is NOT the same as an
economic embargo. The one aids struggle, the other punishes the people,
although at some point, it might represent the final push needed to assist
a popular movement (it occurs to me that As the FSLN drew close to victory,
the Group of Twelve called for an embargo against Somoza -- should we have
opposed that?). Also, how do you draw the line between right-wing movements
in power and those who seek power, such as UNITA, the contras, etc? Should
we, in retrospect, have allowed the U.S. to continue to arm the contras?


At 10:15 PM 7/5/2003 -0400, you wrote:
>Date: Sat, 5 Jul 2003 19:16:42 -0400
>From: "Fred Feldman" <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>
>Subject: Widening aggression against semicolonial peoples, and a question
>about Indonesia
>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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