Widening aggression against semicolonial peoples, and a question about Indonesia

Peter Boyle peterb at dsp.org.au
Sun Jul 6 17:49:35 MDT 2003


A recent discussion thread on this list has been taken up on
the Green Left discussion list
(<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenLeft_discussion/>). I
have posted two comments on Fred Feldman's July 56 post by
Alan Bradley and Max Lane (not on this list but currently
doing research in Indonesia).

Peter Boyle

Subject: [GreenLeft_discussion] Imperialist aggressions and
Indonesia
Date: Sun, 06 Jul 2003 02:32:27 -0000
From: "alanb1000" <neilgodfrey at dodo.com.au

Fred Feldman, who was on this list a few months ago, and may
still be, has posted an interesting item on the Marxmail
list. It questions a demand raised in GLW, and addresses the
general context of the Solomons intervention, so I think it
is relevant here.

The article, "Widening aggression against semicolonial
peoples, and a question about Indonesia" can be found at:
<http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/msg32652.html>

I think Feldman's analysis, while correctly noting the
accelerated pace of imperialist "interventions", contains
significant errors.

A good example of them can be found in the following
excerpt: --- 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 key passage is: "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." There are, I
think, two major problems with this. (There is also the

minor point that Australian military aid to the Indonesian
military doesn't primarily take the form of "sending arms".)

First is the notion that a demand for ending military ties
is a demand for sanctions. This isn't true. The relationship
between the Australian and Indonesian states is an alliance
directed against the

oppressed classes and nationalities within Indonesia. A
demand for ending these ties is a demand for ending this
alliance, that is, that the Australian state ceases to
participate in oppressing the Indonesian workers, peasants
and oppressed nationalities. As such, it is not merely
correct to raise it, it is MANDATORY for Australian leftists
to do so.

Second is the idea that "Australian imperialist actions
against the oppressed nation of Indonesia ... are also in
preparation today". Well, at one level, of course they are.
They've always been "in preparation", and usually "in
practice" as well. But that isn't what

Feldman seems to be implying. What he seems to be suggesting
is that the Australian state is preparing to eventually
"intervene" in Indonesia, in something like the manner of
imperialist "interventions" in Iraq, the Solomons, Liberia
or wherever.

This is nonsense, but worse than that, it points up the
essential flaw in Feldman's analysis. Feldman appears to be
arguing that the current rash of imperialist aggressions are
indicative of a new turn to more

direct forms of subjugation of oppressed ("Third World")
nations. What this fails to account for is that this is
largely unnecessary.

The Solomon Islands state apparatus HAS "failed". That is,
it is no longer a viable mechanism for protecting the
interests of imperialist capital. The Indonesian state
HASN'T.

The Solomons adventure is about restoring the Solomons
state, even if some remnants of the "old" state are
destroyed in the process. A similar project in Indonesia
would require the Indonesian state to be destroyed first.
There is no reason for the Australian, or US, capitalist
classes, or the state apparatuses under their control, to

wish this. The Indonesian state already effectively works in
their interests. It's not broken, it hasn't "failed", so it
doesn't need to be repaired.

There is no need for imperialist aggression against
Indonesia, or, for that matter, a whole swathe of other
oppressed nations. As a result, it is rather unlikely that
such aggressions will occur. Of course, the current crusade
might take on a logic of its own, but that is when it will
start to run into problems far worse that what it is
currently facing.

It is possible to overgeneralise and exaggerate the current
wave of imperialist aggressions. This should be avoided,
precisely so we can  realistically understand how to combat
the serious enough problems that we actually are facing. I
think Fred Feldman has slipped into this trap.

Alan Bradley

Subject: Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] Imperialist aggressions
and Indonesia
Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 11:42:20 +1000
From: "Max Lane" <max_lane at bigpond.com

I would like to make a few comments on the points made by
Alan Bradley in relation to Fred Feldman's comments on the
Green Left Weekly demand that Australia break miitary ties
with Indonesia. (see below) I agree with the specific points
made by Alan regarding this demand and his conclusion. i,e.
that demand is in fact MANDATORY, given the use of the
military in Indonesia as a central mean sof oppression of
workers, peasants, students, intellectuals and oppressed
ethnic groups.

But I would like to add a note of caution regarding the
following comments:

What he seems to be suggesting is that the Australian state
is preparing to eventually "intervene" in Indonesia, in
something like the manner of imperialist "interventions" in
Iraq, the Solomons, Liberia or wherever.

This is nonsense, but worse than that, it points up the
essential flaw in Feldman's analysis. Feldman appears to be
arguing that the current rash of imperialist aggressions are
indicative of a new turn to more direct forms of subjugation
of oppressed ("Third World") nations. What this fails to
account for is that this is largely unnecessary. ....

The Solomon Islands state apparatus HAS "failed". That is,
it is no longer a viable mechanism for protecting the
interests of imperialist capital. The Indonesian state
HASN'T."

The Indonesian state has not YET failed. But the prospects
of it failing can not be ruled out. Indonesia is a society
whose scale and complexity dwarfs the Solomon Islands, of
course, and so any failure will be a much more complex
process. The fundamental erosion of the gains of the
Indonesian national revolution (1908-1965) by the Suharto
dictatorship (1965-1998) combined with the accelerated
exploitation by imperialism of the Indonesian economy,
people, natural resources and ecology (since 1997) is
unleashing very strong disintegrative processes. These are
located more in the realm of social solidarity and
rationality in the economy than in relation to territorial
boundaries. They will stretch the capacities of the corrupt,
generally incompetent ruling class, which is also so
alienated from the population it will have no legitimacy for
any emergency mobilisation of resources as problems
intensify. In addition, in Indonesia, there is also the
embryo of radical and left-wing leaderships for any process
of radicalisation of popular discontent as the situation
worsens. This is even the case in Aceh and Papua.

In these circumstances, it certainly cannot be ruled out
that, over the next decade - sooner or later, the current
ruling class and its state will not be able to handle the
situation to the satisfaction of the imperialist ruling
classes. In such circumstances the prospects of real
imperialist intervention also can not be ruled out.

This possibility, however, cannot deter us from currently
demanding the ending of military ties with Jakarta.

What it does mean is that the Left in Australia (and in all
imperialist countries, in fact everywhere) and the working
class as a whole must develop a level of political
understanding capable of dealing with a world that will be
increasingly in upheaval. Every individual case must be able
to be analysed on itys own merits. The Left and the working
class will need to have all the information possible and be
able to benefit from a discussion that can take everybody
beyond shallow generalisations or respone by formula.

Max Lane





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