How and why oppose Australian military ties with Indonesia

Peter Boyle peterb at
Mon Jul 7 19:55:18 MDT 2003

(Forwarded from Max Lane)

Tom O’Lincoln sent a response to an email by Nick Fredman
that appeared on this mailing list. The exchange relates to
a statementissued by the solidarity organisation, Action in
Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific (ASAP). The exchange is

One part of the exchange reads:

“It calls on the Australian state to "Press the Indonesian
government to end the military operations in Aceh and to
resolve the conflict by means of peaceful dialogue." 
. It
plays into the general imperialist mentality that "we" the
western democratic good guys should apply pressure on
benighted third world states to do the right thing.”

This comment is illogical. First of all, a demand or
campaign demanding that an imperialist state stop doing
something it is already doing, i.e. helping not a
“benighted” state but a repressive state carry out its
repression and instead reverse its policy and hinder such
repression actually serves to explain and educate and
emphasise to people that the so-called “western democratic
good guys” are NOT “democratic good guys”.

In fact, it helps undermine and weaken the “mentality” that
western states apply pressure “to do the right thing”.

Additionally, such campaigns and demands do not “reflect the
fact that the forces fighting against oppression have
illusions in imperialism, and hope the west will bail them
out.” It reflects the fact that some of the forces fighting
for feeedom believe that the peoples (i.e. the working
class) of western (imperialist) states can force their
governments to reverse policy through mass campaigning– as
happened with US and Australian policy on Vietnam in the 70s
and Australian policy on East Timor in 1999. A constant
theme in Tom O’Lincoln’s writings appears to be that such
campaigns cannot be successful.

In fact, it is a bigger problem that many sections of Third
World peoples have lost faith in the willingness of ordinary
people in the imperialist countries to struggle to constrain
their states in supporting dictatorships ruling over them in
defence of imperialist economic interests.

We should not reinforce this attitude and instead struggle
to meet the expectations of people fighting for freedom.

His comments read further: “Further, it encourages the
illusion that "dialogue" is the solution (really? look at
Palestine!)-- when in fact the solution is to get the troops
out.” This is a banality. As the problem is ‘the troops
being in’, then obviously getting them out is the ultimate
solution. The issue is always what tactics can prise open
more space for the movement at any particular stage of the
struggle, with the particular balance of forces at the time.
What tactic can also win support, at that point of time, in
Indonesia is also a factor.

O’Lincoln also tries to make the point that calling for the
Australian government to pressure the Indonesian government
to change its policy creates a situation where: “From here
it is not so far to "humanitarian" intervention.”
Imperialist governments indeed are trying to appeal to
peoples’ sentiments that there should be help, solidarity
and support to peoples enveloped in chaotic, repressive or
other conditions of suffering. We know that these appeals by
imperialist state are dishonest and serve only imperialism’s
own narrow interests. Chaos, war, hunger, and other
suffering in the Third World are now daily items on TV and
in the newspapers. There is a natural and proper desire for
ordinary people in the imperialist to want to help in this
situation. There is no easy way for Leftists to respond to
this situation. We must give a case-by-case explanation of
the specific conditions and explain what kind of help and
solidarity is most useful. We must expose and oppose cases
where imperialism attempts to manipulate this sentiment to
gain support for interventions that are being made purely to
defend its own narrow interests against the interests of the
mass of the people concerned.

We CANNOT and MUST NOT adopt a stance demanding abstention
by existing governments in imperialist countries as some
kind of absolute principle. Of course, it is harder and more
complicated to go through the case by case method. But the
world is increasingly hard and complicated. It is childish
response to try to hide away from these complications.

Max Lane

More information about the Marxism mailing list