East Timor: Can we trust the United Nations ?

Early this morning, the United Nations force, Interfet, landed in East Timor. Reports indicate that revenge killings are going on until the last minute against pro-independence Timorese. There are reports that in just one day, 18th September, some 150 to 200 people were killed. The militias and the army are waging a "scorched earth" policy in their preparations to leave the country. A BBC journalist who visited Dili on Saturday 18th September described the capital as a "smouldering cauldron of its former self". The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, estimates that approximately 500,000 people have been displaced, on the move or hiding in the mountains. That's the greater part of the population. Food parcels have been dropped by the UN to avoid starvation of those who have been surviving on roots and plants. It seems that not all Indonesian troops will have left the island before the UN troops arrive. Militia leaders are also trying to form sanctuaries in the western part of East Timor, where they have concentrated some of their forces. Anti-Australian feelings are being whipped up in Indonesia. The operation is likely to be confrontational. Xanana Gusmao, leader of the Resistance movement declared that "we have many things to do. We will have to heal the wounds and the suffering of our people, of the widows and of the orphans. We will have to create the basic conditions for life". Great expectations are being placed in the intervention of the international military force. Not least in East Timor and Australia. This article analyses the role of the United Nations in East Timor and also the policies of the Timor Resistance movement and the left in Australia.

Events are moving rapidly on a world scale. After the war in Kosovo comes the catastrophe of East Timor. The situation in East Timor is a test for every tendency in the international labour movement.

After nearly a generation of the most terrible repression, the people of East Timor are determined to free themselves from Indonesian domination. But the granting of the referendum after many years of bloody struggle was the direct result of the revolution in Indonesia. Thus, the fate of the national liberation struggle in East Timor is intimately bound up with the fate of the Indonesian revolution itself.

Terrified of the revolutionary potential in the situation, the imperialists put pressure on Jakarta to grant the referendum. They imagined that this would provide them with a way out of the impasse. On the other hand, Habibie and his generals thought that they could hang on to the province by mobilising and arming the criminal scum of society in the so-called militias to intimidate the people into voting for autonomy, while remaining inside Indonesia.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the chauvinistic leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party, who probably will be Indonesia's next president in November, has also been humiliated by this result. During the recent election campaign she did not hesitate to defend the 1975 invasion and its forcible annexation as "legitimate, politically and constitutionally".

In the event, both these gambles failed. Even according to the official results, almost 80 per cent of the votes were cast for independence. In fact, if we take into account the massive intimidation which must have affected the result, probably more than 90 per cent is in favour of independence.

Under these circumstances, Marxists must defend the right of the people of East Timor to determine their own future. In this case, the desire for independence has been clearly expressed. However, things are not so simple as that. The Indonesian ruling clique has no intention of permitting the people of East Timor to exercise the right of self-determination because of the effect this would have on other oppressed peoples inside Indonesia.

The Indonesian regime, which under the banner of fake democracy, is continuing the old policy of exploitation and oppression of all workers, peasants, and national minorities, is determined to wreck the process of self-determination in East Timor. The Indonesian army, with the full support of the government, has organised and incited gangs of lumpen proletarians to murder, burn and destroy. If they cannot prevent East Timor from achieving independence, they intend to cause such havoc and destruction that nothing will be left. This is intended as a bloody lesson for those who would like to follow the same path as East Timor.

The hypocritical attempts of the regime and the army to distance themselves from the militias are laughable. Without the Indonesian army the militias are nothing. They are composed of human dust, the scum of the Indonesian society, who were earlier used against the students in Indonesia itself. They are only brave when faced with people who offer no resistance. If the people of East Timor had been armed and organised to deal with these thugs, they would have fled like rabbits.

Hypocrisy of imperialism

Unfortunately, the main leaders of the independence movement have tried to adopt the tactic of non-violence and disarmed the movement. This was a fatal mistake. The results can now be seen. Without any armed and organised resistance, the militias have had the field to themselves, murdering and burning while the so-called forces of law and order looked on or even participated in the mayhem.

Having failed to organise self defence, Gusmao and the other leaders of the independence movement have placed all their faith in the so-called United Nations, calling upon it to intervene to save the people of East Timor. But the United Nations, which is in reality completely subordinated to the United States, has already showed a cynical indifference to the fate of East Timor for a period of almost 24 years. To imagine that this imperialist forum can now change its spots is naive in the extreme.

In 1965 US imperialism actively supported the murder of one-and-a-half million Communists in Indonesia. Unseen by world public opinion, the monster Suharto was helped to power by the CIA, which handed over the names of left-wingers, trade unionists and students to the Indonesian butchers. Ever since then, the United States, Britain, and Australia have provided economic and military support to the Indonesian dictatorship and the United Nations has not lifted a finger to halt the barbarous repression of the Indonesian people.

10 years later, as a result of the Portuguese revolution, East Timor was on the verge of obtaining its independence. This was brutally stamped out by the Indonesian regime, with the active support and encouragement of the United States and Australia. The imperialists were terrified that East Timor would become a new Cuba in Asia, and that this would have revolutionary repercussions throughout the area.

For the whole of this period, the West turned a blind eye to the horrors that were taking place in East Timor. From time to time the so-called United Nations passed hypocritical resolutions condemning the Indonesian rape of East Timor. But this was merely a smoke screen behind which the occupation was allowed to continue. The USA, Australia and Britain continued to supply the Indonesian regime with money, investment and arms, all of which were used against the people of East Timor.

The hypocrisy of the imperialists now stands completely exposed. That fine exponent of Christian morals Tony Blair, who lost no opportunity to denounce the Serbs for real or imaginary atrocities in Kosovo, has fallen strangely silent about the horrors in East Timor. This is no accident. Britain has big investments in Indonesia and a lucrative arms trade. Like the Americans and Australians, the British ruling class does not want to do anything that would disturb its cosy relationship with Indonesia.

Only at the 11th hour, under the pressure of public opinion which has been revolted by the television pictures of Indonesian atrocities in East Timor, have these ladies and gentlemen been compelled, reluctantly, to distance themselves from the actions of Jakarta. Britain suspended the sale of Hawk jet fighters which were already to be sent to Indonesia, as the sending of these weapons of war at this moment in time would provoke a tremendous scandal. This was an empty gesture and does not alter the fact that for decades Britain, the United States and Australia have been arming the bloody dictatorship of Suharto with weapons that have been used against the people of East Timor. However, on 20th September news filtered out from the British Ministry of Defence that the Hawk jet fighters would be delivered anyway. This is typical of the stinking hypocrisy of the imperialists who try to present themselves as the defenders of democracy and the rights of small peoples, while at the same time they secretly continue to back the very same oppressors of those people.

Those who call upon the United Nations to intervene in East Timor are committing a serious mistake, despite their good intentions. The United Nations has repeatedly shown that it is not capable of solving any serious problem in the world where the fundamental interests of the imperialist powers are concerned. The first question which must be asked is what interests lie behind the policy of the powers which determine the actions of the (dis-) United Nations, in the first place, the United States.

The United States is the main force behind reaction in the world today. It has systematically supported every reactionary capitalist dictatorship and opposed revolutionary and progressive movements. To demand of US imperialism that it should play a progressive role in the world is to demand of the tiger that it should eat grass instead of meat. In the case of Indonesia, the interests of US imperialism are abundantly clear: to prop up the reactionary Habibie regime and to maintain the economic stranglehold of the United States on this key country in Asia.

It is true that America is embarrassed by the situation in East Timor. Whereas in 1965 the slaughter of one-and-a-half million human beings was concealed from the world by American machinations, the Indonesian atrocities in East Timor are now highly visible thanks to television coverage. This unfortunate fact has compelled Clinton to distance himself from his friends in Jakarta, for fear of American public opinion. Nevertheless, the main plank of US foreign policy in this area is support for the Indonesian regime. To expect anything different is the height of stupidity.

The role of Australia in all this is even worse. It is approximately the difference between the Lion and the Jackal. The Australian ruling class plays the role of a weak imperialist power in Asia, attempting to carve out markets and spheres of influence for itself. This is clearly shown in the case of East Timor, where the Australian government (shamefully, the Labour government of Gough Whitlam) actively encouraged the Indonesians to invade. Ever since then, Australia has consistently backed Indonesia over East Timor. Yet now the demand is put forward that the Australian army should intervene in East Timor, presumably to uphold the right of self-determination!

It is sufficient to pose the question concretely to realise that along this road no real solution is possible. The conduct of the so-called United Nations since the referendum has been revolting in the extreme. The presence of unarmed observers was a farce which merely played the role of fooling the East Timorese into a false sense of security and disarming them in the face of armed reaction. The United Nations did not protect the people of East Timor, but handed them over bound and gagged to their enemies.

Although it was evident to the whole world that the Indonesian regime was engaged in a genocidal policy of exterminating the people of East Timor and driving them out, the United Nations appeals to the Indonesian army to act against the militias! This is like appealing to Satan to act against the devil!

We stand for the right of the people of East Timor for self-determination and that now means independence. But who will guarantee this right? Certainly not the United Nations which delayed its intervention and withdrew its officials while the butchers continued their bloody work unimpeded. If they really wanted to, the Americans and Australians could put an end to this in 24 hours. But in practice their vested interests and support for the ruling clique in Jakarta weighs far more heavily on the scales than their concern for the fate of the East Timorese! To put one's hopes in the good faith of the very powers that are directly responsible for the crucifixion of East Timor is an entirely mistaken policy and one that can only lead to disaster.

Independent workers' action

The labour movement must trust only in itself. Already the organised workers in Australia have given a lead with strikes and boycotts of Indonesia. That is the way! The telecommunications workers and the dockers are actively involved in implementing economic sanctions. All postal delivery to Indonesian businesses and diplomatic representation has been stopped. No repairs of phone lines are being made. Building workers took the initiative to block the Garuda (Indonesian Airlines) flights from Australia in local airports. Mass demonstrations at lunch time gathered high school students and workers in their tens of thousands in different cities (Melbourne 40.000, Sydney 20.000).

There have been protest movements in other countries too - Portugal, Canada, the USA. On the West Coast of the States dockers are refusing to handle Indonesian cargoes. In Canada, the postal workers are taking the lead in stopping all delivery to Indonesian interests. "We have no doubt that the Indonesian government can turn the violence on and off at will," said CUPW President Dale Clark. "Our action, as well as the actions of other trade unions, are designed to pressure them to turn the tap off." The Canadian Labour Congress has called to refuse to handle the goods or services to or from Indonesia. If the world working class movement were mobilised behind such a boycott, the Indonesian regime would quickly be paralysed.

It is important to make sure that the workers movement does not leave the initiative of economic sanctions in the hands of the imperialists themselves. They would only use them to pursue their own interests, dent their political effectiveness and make sure their business collaborators and military ties in Indonesia would not feel the brunt of them. The United Nations sanctions against Iraq imposed in 1991 have increased dramatically the suffering of the masses, the children in particular and did not hurt the regime. Quite the contrary: the dictatorship uses those sanctions to cement the population in support around Saddam Hussein and black marketeers make huge profits from the scarcity of basic goods. Sanctions which hurt business, political and military interests in Indonesia can only be pursued by the labour movement. The international unions must elaborate those in conjunction with the growing independent unions in Indonesia.

The independence movement disarmed

Also the Timorese must rely only on their own strength. The leadership of all segments of the independence movement, even those most on the left, such as the Timor Socialist party, look towards the so-called "international community" to guarantee the implementation of independence. By doing this they become dependent on the manoeuvres and intrigues of competing imperialist interests in the area. The role of the masses is secondary for them. More dangerously, they have imbued the pro-independence fighters on the ground with faith in the ability of the United Nations to uphold the security and the national interests of their people.

This has proved fatal. Xanana Gusmao, leader of the Fretilin and the National Council of the Timorese Resistance (CNRT) has called his followers not to resort to initiatives to defend themselves from the brutal attacks of the Indonesian Army and the militias. For instance after the May 5th signing of the agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the UN, pro-independence youth wanted to organise against the attacks of the militias. Gusmao asked them to take no action:

"The RDTL group has just taken to the streets to demonstrate. Initiatives of this type only show lack of discipline, of political vision as well as a misperception of the current situation, a situation causing the population more suffering and forcing our leaders into hiding.

Those who think that demonstrating is a show of courage are mistaken. Demonstrating now is provoking and inciting the militias to continue to kill the population. This only shows that RDTL is not thinking of the interests of the population of Dili. RDTL and other groups are providing the militias with a pretext to keep killing the people. They are making a big mistake. Mistakes questioning discipline and organisation within the Resistance. Mistakes that show how each group is only pursuing its own interests and not thinking of the suffering of the people.

I am aware that the youths are trying to mobilise the population of Dili for a massive demonstration, this only shows that these youths are deprived of any sense of responsibility, in Indonesian "tidak bertanggung jawab". Who is left to cry when the population is killed? Who looks after the wounded?

I wish to remind everyone that the presence of the UN in East Timor does not mean that victory is on our side. The task of the UN is to organise the consultation of the people on August 8th. We thus must all contribute to this process, follow the orientations of the UN team. To this end, I reiterate my appeal to all to remain calm. I reiterate my appeal to the youths of Dili to obey orders and demand that they act responsibly and with discipline. Without discipline, we will be weak, and as long as we do not demand discipline from ourselves, we are in no position to demand it of others. We must always bear this in mind. " (CNRT Statement of the 10th May 1999).

At the height of the barbarous attacks of the pro-integration militias and the army, the same X. Gusmao did not hesitate to advise the guerrilla forces of the Falintil to take "no action that could be construed as starting a civil war" (declaration of 7th September 1999). In reality there was already a bloody one-sided civil war raging through all the cities and villages of East Timor.

Based on information received from CNRT leader Jose Ramos Horta, the Australian Financial Review reported on 14th September that the 3,000 guerrillas "who have spent the past 24 years evading Indonesian troops in East Timor's jungles, are now sitting still in a contained area - a condition of the May 5th United Nations agreement governing the independence ballot." Two thousand of them have remained "in cantonment in the Waimori Camp, four hours from Dili, and about another 1,000 in other parts of the territory." "It's incredible, an incredible sense of discipline," Horta remarked, adding that the guerrillas were "under the orders of Xanana Gusmao".

That's how the leaders of the Resistance movement disarmed politically and military the Timorese youth. Many of those who ill advisedly trusted the United Nations are now among those killed by the rampaging soldiers and militiamen. On Saturday, 19th September, Xanana Gusmao admitted on the BBC World Service that "we expected some killings and violence but not on this scale. This was huge and barbarous. We were not naive. We were prepared to face the hardship but not in these dimensions".

Our demand to arm the population to fight the militias, linked to an international labour movement campaign against Indonesian aggression was the only realistic and pragmatic one. The setting up of armed self defence groups based on elected neighbourhood/village/city committees of workers, peasants and youth was inherent in the situation. Some reports indicate that during the last few weeks young Timorese people followed that road but were strongly advised to abandon such initiatives.

We understand that, at this stage, the call for UN intervention is popular in Australia and has the support of the majority of the pro-independence people in East Timor. Nevertheless it is a mistake. The imperialists do not defend the interests of working people or small nations. The UN military contingent, Interfet, of 7000 soldiers preparing to land in East Timor, is pursuing imperialist interests. Australia, which is leading the force and which is also the United States closest partner in monitoring and managing tensions in Indonesia, has been increasing its political and military activity in Asia since the overthrow of the dictator Suharto. The Australian government is in great fear of a major break down of social stability and of national disintegration of the archipelago. The economic interests of oil and gas companies investing in the Timor gap and others are also at stake. East Timor will rapidly become a UN protectorate.

No trust in the United Nations!

Jon Land of Asiet, the Australia based Solidarity group, correctly states: "The real agenda of any armed foreign intervention in East Timor, whether it occurs before or after the Indonesian parliament meets to ratify the August 30 ballot, will be to ensure that the long-term interests of imperialist powers are maintained in East Timor and Indonesia. While the major capitalist powers have accepted that East Timor must become an independent state, they want this outcome achieved without radical changes within East Timor, and without any serious political humiliation or weakening of the Indonesian armed forces. The Indonesian military is already in a weakened position due to its failure to control the situation in Aceh. The severe crisis in Aceh, which has been overshadowed by recent events in East Timor, is a major concern for Western powers and the Indonesian military. The crisis there, along with the IMF and World Bank austerity measures imposed on Indonesia, is bound to contribute towards further social unrest during and after the election of Indonesia's next president. Such a scenario increases the likelihood of the West's greatest fear - a renewed mass struggle by students and workers for real democratic change" (Green Left Weekly, 8th September 1999).

The article goes on to explain that: "Such a force is certain to attempt to disarm Falintil guerrillas and the neighbourhood defence committees established by pro-independence youth and student activists. These local committees, which have become more active in recent weeks, are the only units confronting the heavily armed pro-integration militias. They are, in effect, the last line of defence for a terrorised people."

Despite this sober minded observation of the role of the so-called peace keeping force, Asiet and the overwhelming majority of the left in Australia does not hesitate to call and mobilise for a UN intervention. The Democratic Socialist Party even agitates for the immediate dispatch of Australian troops to East Timor! To them this seems to be the "only immediate solution" to "reduce the violence" and to protect the Timorese people from the genocide or deportation by the militiamen and the soldiers.

In answering its various critics, the Democratic Socialist Party even (mis)quotes Lenin. Dough Lorimer of the National Executive of the DSP quotes from Lenin's pamphlet 'Socialism and War' (July-August 1915) - (see Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 21):

"Having explained that the "present war", i.e., World War I, was a continuation (by violent means) of the imperialist policy of the "Great Powers" to plunder colonies and oppress other nations, Lenin went on to explain that it was not a war to defend the national sovereignty of any invaded country: "The favourite plea of the social-chauvinists of the Triple (now Quadruple) Entente [i.e., the war coalition of Britain, France, Russia and Italy - DL] ... is the case of Belgium. This instance, however, speaks against them. The German imperialists have brazenly violated the neutrality of Belgium, as belligerent states have done always and everywhere, trampling upon all treaties and obligations if necessary. Let us suppose that all states [i.e., including imperialist states - DL] interested in the observance of international treaties should declare war on Germany with the demand that Belgium be liberated and indemnified. In that case, the sympathies of socialists would, of course, be with Germany's opponents [i.e., with the states waging war against Germany's military occupation of Belgium - DL]. But the whole point is that the Triple (and Quadruple) Entente is waging war, not over Belgium: this is common knowledge and only hypocrites will disguise the fact. Britain is grabbing at Germany's colonies and Turkey; Russia is grabbing at Galicia and Turkey, France wants Alsace-Lorraine and even the left bank of the Rhine; a treaty has been concluded with Italy for the division of the spoils (Albania and Asia Minor), bargaining is going on with Bulgaria and Rumania, also for the division of the spoils. In the present war waged by the governments of today, it is impossible to help Belgium otherwise than by helping to throttle Austria or Turkey, etc! Where does 'defence of the fatherland' [i.e., defence of Belgium's national independence - DL] come in here? Herein lies the specific feature of imperialist war, a war between reactionary-bourgeois and historically outmoded governments, waged for the purpose of oppressing other nations. Whoever justifies participation in the present war is perpetrating the imperialist oppression of nations." ( 'Socialism and War' (July-August 1915) - (see Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 21)

"How can we apply this approach to the present situation in East Timor? Indonesia (a semi-colonial bourgeois state) has annexed the nation of East Timor violating the East Timorese nation's right to self-determination. The policy of the Australian imperialist ruling class toward East Timor has been to support Indonesia's annexation of East Timor and the Indonesian military's suppression of the East Timorese nation's struggle for national independence. The Australian government's policy of making the use of armed force to liberate East Timor from Indonesia's brutal military occupation (whose level of violence has now reached the point of genocide, of extermination of the East Timorese nation) conditional upon the agreement of the Indonesian government is a continuation of its decades-long policy of support for the reactionary-bourgeois military dictatorship in Indonesia against the democratic right of the East Timorese nation to self-determination.

"Our call for supporters of democracy (i.e., most working people) to mobilise to demand that the Australian government immediately send troops to East Timor to liberate the East Timorese people from the Indonesian military's genocidal occupation is a call for the working people to actively oppose the Australian imperialist government's reactionary alliance with the Indonesian military and for the Australian government to take immediate action to put a stop to the genocide bring carried out right now by the Indonesian military against the East Timorese nation.

"We are not in the midst of an inter-imperialist war. Australian imperialism is not seeking to annex East Timor, or use defence of East Timor's right to national independence to "grab at" some other state's territory. The situation is analogous to that outlined by Lenin in regard to a German military occupation of Belgium outside of the context of the World War I (an actual inter-imperialist war)."

This is an amazingly surrealistic logic! How can you imagine Lenin's historical analysis outside the context of inter-imperialist relations and rivalry? That is not the real world. Translated into present-day Asian politics Lenin's excellent quote is in reality arguing the case against support of an international intervention. How is it possible to pretend that no imperialist interests are at stake behind Australia's motives to lead the UN troops in East Timor? The role of imperialism does not fit into the narrow definition of "grabbing at others state territory" or annexing East Timor. An intervention does not cease to become imperialist if no annexation is involved. A US Congressman described East Timor's case as Australia's Haiti. Indeed here the US intervened and was greeted by the poor and oppressed masses as their saviours. The US did not annex little Haiti. But its intervention aimed at securing its political and economic interests on the island and in the Caribbean. We have already explained the imperialists' interest behind this intervention earlier. Of course we oppose the reactionary alliance between Australia and Indonesia but the break up of that alliance does not mean the end of Australia's interests in the area. Australia has been forced to pursue them with other means. This gives new substance to the old adage that "there are no permanent alliances, just permanent interests".

Some of those arguments are also like echoes of the reasons given by the Labour lefts, the Communist party, other left groups and the leaders of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland in 1969 when they called for the British troops to be sent in. The British troops were supposed to intervene to protect the Catholic workers from the brutal attacks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the vicious Protestant militias. The hope was that they would provide some security. And because of the urgency, such an intervention was supposed to allow some temporary breathing space for the Catholic community under attack. The British troops went in and have stayed there for the last 30 years! The British troops have proved themselves incapable of protecting the Catholic community from sectarian attacks and in reality have turned their arms on many occasions against unarmed Catholic demonstrations. Remember "Bloody Sunday" in 1972 when 13 demonstrators were killed by green beret paratroopers. The British army has never been neutral. It is an instrument of imperialist policies. British intervention was responsible for brutal repression and the continued division of Ireland. Those same lefts who hailed the arrival of the British troops were later to become the most vociferous advocates of their withdrawal.

The Kosovars are in the process of learning the same lesson with their support for Nato intervention in the area. Under no circumstances can we support the intervention of the so-called UN. We cannot have illusions in the role and character of imperialism. This shows the gulf that separates a genuine Marxist position from all the rest. In 1935 when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, Trotsky was implacably opposed to intervention by the League of Nations (the thieves' kitchen, Lenin correctly called it). This case is no different. Trotsky and Lenin always took a class point of view. In the case of Abyssinia Trotsky called for workers' sanctions. That is the only way forward. Not one atom of confidence must be placed in the imperialists, who will always defend their own selfish interests at the expense of the oppressed.

The Australian workers have shown the way. By contrast the DSP leadership calls for intervention by the imperialists. They are getting it! Pushed by public opinion the right winger Howard is now prepared to send Australian troops to East Timor, though with many a tear and many a sigh. But what will these troops do when they get there? What are the real interests of the Australian capitalist class and its government? Not to protect the lives or uphold the interests of the East Timorese, which they have trampled underfoot for the past twenty four years. It will only be to defend the selfish interests of Australian capitalism. Once they are in, they will not leave in a hurry. The people of East Timor will find that they have exchanged one foreign master for another. That is all.

As in the Balkans, the hypocritical talk about so-called humanitarian aid will merely be a smoke screen to cover the seizure of new spheres of influence by the imperialists. And behind weak Australian imperialism stands mighty US imperialism, always anxious to increase its power in Asia. And East Timor occupies a strategic position both economically and militarily.

The real policy of imperialism in East Timor

For years the American, British and Australian capitalists pretended not to see the horrific suffering of the people of East Timor. They actively supported the Indonesian butchers there. It has now emerged that the British government not only sold Hawk jet fighters to Indonesia, but actually subsidised the Indonesian government's arms purchases to the tune of £120 million. This monstrous arrangement was secretly maintained by Tony Blair and Robin Cook, despite their so-called ethical foreign policy, and has only now been unmasked. The other imperialists behaved no better. Yet now we are asked to believe that these ladies and gentlemen are going to defend the people of East Timor. What a monstrous idea! What a cruel deception!

Now after tens of thousands of people have already been slaughtered or driven out, under the pressure of public opinion, the UN has finally cobbled together a force that will be sent in. The imperialists have acted tardily and reluctantly, because if they did nothing the credibility of the UN would be completely destroyed, and this weapon is still useful for them as a fig-leaf to cover up their acts of aggression.

By the time the force is in East Timor it will be too late. The Jakarta regime has largely achieved its aim of reducing East Timor to a bloody pulp as a ghastly warning to any other part of Indonesia that wants to secede. All along the UN has been acting out a disgusting farce, pretending to intervene on behalf of the East Timorese, shedding crocodile tears and making hypocritical appeals to the Indonesian army to restore order, when everyone knew that this same army was behind the militias. And now this self-same UN wants to pose before the world as the saviours of East Timor! What disgusting hypocrisy!

Those who appealed to the UN (that is, to world imperialism) to intervene have done no favours to the people of East Timor. They whimper about violence, but do not see that weakness invites aggression. It was a serious mistake to disarm the East Timorese independence fighters and look to the UN for help. The UN cynically encouraged the East Timorese in this illusion, and then dragged its feet while the Indonesian army and its armed thugs massacred and burned to their heart's content. Only by arming and organising the people in their own defence could the jackals of the militia have been defeated and the slaughter prevented. World imperialism has all along backed Jakarta and is directly responsible for all these horrors. The people of East Timor cannot look to these people for salvation. Their only hope lies in their own strength and the active support and militant solidarity of the world labour movement which must be directed against the Indonesian regime.

To present the Dis-United Nations in the role of the saviour of small oppressed nations is a travesty and a lie. To propagate this lie is to miseducate and mislead the people. We must be absolutely firm on this question. Our position is: no support for the United Nations and no reliance whatsoever on the American, British and Australian imperialists. If we wish to defend the just cause of the people of East Timor, other means must be found.

In the longer term, the only solution for the people of East Timor lies in the success of the Indonesian revolution. On the basis of a free and voluntary union of a socialist federation, all the peoples of Indonesia can combine to develop the colossal wealth of the region for the benefit of all. But the prior condition for such a federation is the revolutionary overthrow of the reactionary landlord-capitalist regime in Jakarta whose hands are red with the blood of the workers and peasants. That is the central task without which no progress is possible.

In the meanwhile, all socialists and workers must defend the right of the East Timorese to decide their own future. In the given situation, this means defending their right to form an independent state, free from domination of external powers, whether Indonesian, Australian or American. The East Timorese have the right to live in peace and decide their own future. But the Indonesian occupation forces have reduced the island to ruins. This barbarous act has been perpetrated with the direct connivance of the imperialists under the flag of the UN. They are equally responsible, although they now hypocritically wring their hands before world public opinion. We demand full compensation for East Timor. Let the imperialists foot the bill for reconstruction and rebuild every stick and stone that has been pulled down. Indonesian workers must demand the confiscation of the property of the oligarchy and the nationalisation of the banks and monopolies and the property of the imperialists for the benefit of the workers, peasants and oppressed nationalities of Indonesia. Your enemy is not the people of East Timor but the Indonesian landlords and capitalists, the generals and politicians whose hands are soiled with the blood of the people, and their foreign backers in Washington, Canberra and London, the biggest criminals of all. Once the Indonesian workers and peasants have taken power, they can offer their hand in friendship to the people of East Timor. But how can the East Timorese ever trust a government of exploiters and murderers? On such a basis, no unity is possible, and the break-away of East Timor will be followed by further disintegration, bloodshed and chaos.

Ted Grant
Jean Duval
20th September, 1999

Read also Referendum in East Timor: Massive vote against Indonesian occupation challenged by militias and military (by Jean Duval, September 6th, 1999)

See also our web site Indonesia in revolt, for more news, analysis, material in Bahasa Indonesia, a Marxist library in Bahasa Indonesia, a picture gallery and links to other sites.

 

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