Widening aggression against semicolonial peoples, question on Indonesia

Peter Boyle peterb at dsp.org.au
Tue Jul 8 17:57:29 MDT 2003

(Forwarded from Max Lane)

I would like to make some further comments on the two
exchanges below.



>>Despite our disagreements I have great respect for Max
Lane's knowledge of Indonesian affairs. He writes (my

>>1. I think that the US has very little confidence in the
current TNI leadership... 2. The TNI is, in fact, quite
small, with an even smaller well-armed and trained
component… 3. I think that US imperialism's concern
is that current TNI policy is actually SPREADING

>I would respond:

>1. Maybe, but who else are they going to look to?
Australia, in any case, is closer to them than the
Americans. 2. It's relative. What other organised force
could possibly match the TNI? Plus it has many proxies. 3.
Both can be and are true: this is the perenniel dilemma of
relying on armed force. The American forces in Iraq are also
"spreading instability", but what other means does
Washington have of trying to establish control?> >>


The primary issue here is that the TNI leadership is not
only repressive but also incompetent, corrupt and
politically - inept even from the point of view of
imperialist interests. This means that we cannot rule out
the US and Australia (together) attempting to play a bigger
and more direct role in shoring up the Indonesian state at
some future point.

"What other organised force could possibly match the TNI?"
The answer to this question depends on what you are
expecting the TNI to do. Throughout most of Indonesia at the
moment there is no mass movement challenge to the ruling
class. The most pressing "security" issue for the Indonesian
and imperialist borgeoisies outside Aceh and West Papua is
the possibility of social solidarity breakdowns resulting in
"law and order" breakdowns. This problem is not necessarily
something that the imperialists and Indonesian bourgeoise
always things the TNI can handle best. Sometimes they prefer
the police; sometimes they prefer money politics solutions.

In Aceh, the imperialists’ preferred mix of carrot and stick
– with more carrot, i.e. money, has been undermined by
current TNI policy.

In other words, in some circumstances other sections of the
state and ruling class apparatus may be the preferred
instrument for maintaining (their) "order". The TNI won the
upper hand in Aceh (so far) by playing one faction of the
Indonesian elite off against the other. No one faction or
figure wants to be the first to make an enemy of the TNI in
the lead up to the April 2004 elections.

The destabilising dynamic unleashed by the activities of the
TNI are also if a different nature to what Tom lays at the
feet of the US military in Iraq (which should actually be
laid at the POLITICAL fact of occupation). In any case, with
the TNI there are the points that, first of all, (a) it
DELIBERATELY stirs up conflict to try to slow down its
declining role; (b) the direct role of its officers in
corrupt business activities exacerbates this impact further.

Further comments by Max on a second exchange -



>>Max Lane writes that:
>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".

>>Max’s logic here is that even though we know the
imperialists are bad, we should demand that they do good
things. If we can build a mass campaign, maybe we can even
force them to do good things; if not, at least the people
around us will learn lessons about the imperialists. The
flaw in this logic is simple: if Australia comes in and
brokers negotiations in Aceh, THIS WILL NOT BE A GOOD THING.
Because: a. it will establish the TNI-dominated Jakarta
government as a legitimate party to any settlement. Whereas
in fact they are the oppressors and should be kicked out,
full stop .b. the imperialists will use the negotiations
exactly as they have used negotiations in Palestine –
to incorporate the leadership of the resistance, and thereby
strangle the movement. Do I think "mass campaigning" is
impossible? Not at all, I remember the movement against the
Vietnam war. In that movement, there were those who wanted
us to campaign for "negotiations", but I think we were right
tostick to "Troops Out Now".> >>


I do not understand the relevance here of some of Tom’s

 1.Who is demanding that Australia "comes in and brokers
negotiations in Aceh"? The demands made by the ASAP
statement (issued before the Megawati government’s current
military operations began) on the Australian government

 "* demand the Howard government end all military and
security ties with Indonesia, including abandoning plans to
resume ties with the discredited Kopassus, and * initiate a
special humanitarian assistance program directed to the
people of Aceh."

 2.The ASAP statement demands that the Indonesian

 "pull back from all-out war in Aceh, withdraw the troops
and institute real negotiations and dialogue with the full
spectrum of Acehnese political groups." This is the totally
correct demand and is supported by all the progressive
political forces in Aceh. Any negotiations and dialogue
should happen after troops are withdrawn.

 3.It is also important to note the character and policies
of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the complications that
its positions cause.

 a.GAM, being the only armed resistance in Aceh and the
organisation with which Jakarta has negotiated, has become
the symbol of the resistance. b.HOWEVER, it is not the only
pro-self-determination group, and many Acehnese do not agree
with its methods or longer term policies. (Apart from the
question of genuine divisions in Acehnese society on the
question of independence itself.) c.GAM does not seriously
campaign for a referendum or any other act of
self-determination but rather demands negotiations for the
transfer of sovereignty to the Sultanate of Aceh, which it
says it established as an independent state in 1976. This is
why many social, community and political groups in Aceh
demand some process that allows broad participation in
deciding the future of Aceh. This is what people here
(outside GAM) are demanding when they use the word
"dialogue". d.It appears that GAM’s strategy is simply to
hold out militarily and to wait for the disintegration of
Indonesia as a whole - which is what its top leadership is
inevitable in the short term.

 1.The government in Jakarta is certainly an oppressor
government in Aceh (and in one way or another throughout
Indonesia.) (Although whether it is accurate to say it is a
TNI-dominated government is debatable.) It is, of course,
ridiculous to hold a position that political groups leading
and organising political opposition or resistance should
never negotiate with oppressor forces. This is not a
question of legitimacy but of the balance of forces at any
one time. Whether the imperialists succeed in any tactic "to
incorporate the leadership of the resistance, and thereby
strangle the movement" through negotiations depends on how
that leadership approaches those negotiations and what other
forms of struggle it uses in combination.
2.As regards mass campaigning against imperialist
interventions overseas, Tom says: "Do I think "mass
campaigning" is impossible? Not at all, I remember the
movement against the Vietnam war. In that movement, there
were those who wanted us to campaign for "negotiations", but
I think we were right to stick to "Troops Out Now".

But this seems to contrast with the cynicism of his earlier
comments, namely: "If we can build a mass campaign, maybe we
can even force them to do good things." During the US
occupation of southern Vietnam, the mass campaign did force
the most powerful country in the world to do a "good thing",
i.e. leave Vietnam. The mass campaigning in Australia in
September 1999 forced the Australian and US governments to
apply enormous pressure on Jakarta to accelerate the TNI’s
departure from East Timor and halt the worst of its rampage.
In principle, there is no reason why a mass campaign calling
for Australia to end to all military ties with Jakarta could
not also succeed. This is a question of the state and
politics of the movement in Australia, Indonesia and Aceh.
In any case, any movement in this direction in Australia
will help campaigns in Indonesia, including Aceh, which
demand the withdrawal of TNI troops from Aceh.

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