Forwarded from D. Apin Tasripin (reply to Nestor)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Mar 12 11:14:36 MST 2003

Dear Comrade,

I read your forwarding of Nestor's entry on the East Timorese question
on the Marxmail archive. I wish to respond as someone who's followed the
rise of the students in Indonesia, and would appreciate the chance to be
heard on the Marxmail list, which I cannot subscribe to simply because
of the high-volume of the list.

Nestor writes: "As to languages, well, Anon Anon answers Bob on this. 90
percent of the young Timorese (that is, the future of Timor) speak the
same language as their neighboring Indonesian populations..."

In response: It would be ignorant to state this and fail to mention why
Bahasa Indonesian is spoken to begin with. It was a display of national
chauvinism that was partly due to the invading Indonesian military's
efforts to build "facts on the ground" (to borrow the Israeli term.)
Schools, institutions, etc. were given Bahasa Indonesian in order to
make them more receptive to the settlers Indonesian was setting up; it
wasn't an attempt to lift the East Timorese out of poverty, for this
would mean that the invaders actually cared about the East Timorese,
something that doesn't hold much sway when you remember that the
Indonesian military attempted to sterilize the East Timorese. The
parallel here is white South African and Israeli attempts to assert
language supremacy in order to advance an imperial agenda. Language was
just as much a weapon in the eyes of the Indonesian New Order government
as the guns provided to the Indonesian settlers.

As for national self-determination and national anti-imperialism, one
should note that the Indonesian independence movement claimed only those
areas colonized by the Dutch as being within the borders of the new
Indonesian nation-state. Portugese colonies, West Papua, and the already
independent Aceh fail that definition. Further, their concept of
"Greater Indonesia" simply meant an Indonesia whose political class went
beyond simply the Javanese landed gentry and whose further development
would benefit all Indonesia and not just a mostly Javanese elite. It
represented the first class struggle of Indonesia, of bourgeois
interests versus those of sultanates and the like; of course, Sukarno's
embrace of "guided democracy" and the subsequent coup by Suharto
complicated things, but these are well within the Marx and Lenin's

It is Lenin that I call your attention to here, because both the
historical and theoretical assertions of the Bolsheviks should be on
everyone's minds here with regard to the East Timor question. It was the
defeat of the Czarist Russian military by another imperial power that
hastened the working class cause; chiefly, because it represented the
defeat of the aristocracy, which allows for the bourgeois and
proletariat to begin their own class struggle. Similarly, the Indonesian
diplomatic defeat by Australia should be regarded as hastening the
demise of the New Order aristocracy, and the beginnings of class
struggle between the national bourgeoisie and proletariat. In fact, this
is what is going on in modern day Indonesia; with the defeat of the New
Order aristocracy's imperial ambitions in East Timor and with further
headway made in Aceh and West Papua independence movements, the working
class cause can now gain steam with the FNPBI unions, the PRD/PDS
parties beginning to make some headway in their organizing, etc. As for
East Timor itself, they have an altogether different class struggle
going on. It will take some time and quite a bit of development before
East Timorese and Indonesian workers will have interests similar enough
to advance a cause in common again, as was the case with the
student-organized unions in Indonesia and the East Timorese independence
cause having a common hatred of the TNI. For now, though, it is best
that the two remain respectful of each other's sovereignty.

- D. Apin Tasripin


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