DSP and East Timor

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Mar 4 14:05:48 MST 2003

Alan Bradley has asked me to forward this to the list:

From: Philip Ferguson
> I just wish they were as critical in relation to the ET settlement
> and the role of Fretilin and international intervention as they were
> in relation to the same kind of forces in Ireland and South Africa.
> In this sense, I see their ET position as an anomaly.  It seems
> out-of-kilter with their other positions.  Which, again, is to their
> credit.

Alan's response:

The DSP position on East Timor is actually rather similar to their
approach to South Africa and Ireland. I'll use South Africa as an

Essentially, the DSP supported the liberation struggle there
wholeheartedly, and then started criticising the ANC and its allies once
they established a government and began implementing neoliberal
policies. That doesn't mean they weren't critical beforehand, but rather
that this criticism was subordinated to a basic context of solidarity
with the struggle.

Their approach to East Timor involved working with the liberation
movement there, warts and all. Fretilin _did_ move to the right. The UDT
(the other "original" ET party) was always a rightist bourgeois
Christian Democrat style party, who Fretilin actually fought a civil war
with in 1975. Jose Ramos Horta was, and is, a pompous Social Democrat,
who could always be expected to come out with stuff like his recent
comments. The DSP knew who these forces where, and still worked with
them as closely as possible.

The DSP also, however, established relations with genuine East Timorese
leftists - the Socialist Party of Timor (PST). They maintain these

Essentially, while the national liberation was in progress, the DSP was
prepared to work with the more reactionary elements of the movement. Now
that these forces are in power, the DSP has changed its position to one
of criticism. This is not a result of ignorance about the nature of
these forces, but rather of a change in the objective situation. Not
coincidentally, this has entailed closer work with the PST - the "Dale
McKinleys" of ET.

The exact same approach was applied in South Africa, and, for that
matter, in Ireland as well.

The DSP's position is entirely consistent in this regard.

Incidentally, the DSP has not been slow to criticise the actions of the
imperialist forces (particularly the Australian ones) in East Timor, or
to solidarise with the Timorese/UN attempts to ensure ET gets a bigger
cut of the Timor Gap oil revenues. In addition, of course, they have
engaged in solidarity with Timorese attempts to establish unions,
peasant cooperatives, progressive literacy programs, and so on - that
is, to engage in class struggle initiatives in the current situation.

Their solidarity with the _on-going_ Timorese struggle neither began nor
ended with the intervention. Nor should it have.

By the way, weren't there imperialist troops in Namibia while it was
becoming independent from South Africa? If so, wouldn't that be a useful

Alan Bradley

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