Don't Be Fooled by APEC Tears over East Timor
The current round of banqueting and high living associated with the APEC heads of government meeting in New Zealand takes place against the background of deepening turmoil in East Timor. Naturally no-one in NZ government circles wants the handiwork of the Jakarta-backed death squads to cloud their APEC parade. But the fires burning in Timor cannot fail to leave their stench hanging over the banqueteers.
Imperialist Hypocrisy Exposed
Compared with the hysteria whipped up against Yugoslavia over Serb policy in Kosovo, the demands by those self-same western pontificators--including NZ's own foreign minister--for the Indonesian regime to maintain control over its death squads in East Timor are muted indeed. Their difficulties with Indonesia have all the appearances of a family dispute between parents and a wayward teenager. But Jakarta is not about to be ejected from the family table. After all, the present Indonesian regime traces its ancestry to Suharto's imperialist-sponsored coup in 1965, which toppled the left-nationalist government of Sukarno, an event that led to the slaughter of at least half a million leftists. Those atrocities were committed with the connivance of the US, and Sukarno's overturn was right in line with Australian and New Zealand foreign policy.
And when 10 years later Indonesia moved into East Timor, it was given a virtual blank cheque to pursue whatever policies it wished to in the region. Indonesia was then a valuable ally in the fight to "contain communism"--in other words, to keep the region a pliable source of markets and raw materials for, in particular, US and Australasian capitalism.
No to UN Military Intervention!
Despite the appalling record of US and Australasian imperialism in turning a blind eye to the oppression of the East Timorese, and to that of leftists and other dissenters in Indonesia generally, many on the liberal-left in New Zealand and internationally have called for Jakarta's western sponsors to go in and "protect" the East Timorese. It seems that the imperialists would like to avoid open conflict with the Jakarta regime--but whatever the likelihood of such an intervention, assented to by Jakarta or not, socialists and defenders of the oppressed must oppose any kind of imperialist involvement.
The history of imperialist military interventions in the Third World have shown that they merely cement the structure of western-backed exploitation, oppression and misery--whether under the banners of NATO, or the supposedly "liberal-humanitarian" UN, or one-off coalitions of major powers. From Iraq, to Somalia, to Haiti, to Kosovo, imperialist "protection" means at the least the deliberate destruction by the imperialists of any capacity for independent self-defence. At worst it often means death for the protectees--witness the murder of millions of Iraqis by starvation and disease caused by the imperialists' embargo, designed of course to "save" them from Saddam Hussein.
The APEC Agenda
For the same reasons socialists don't try to set the agenda for what the capitalist rulers of the world discuss at Shipley's APEC extravaganza in Auckland. But many on the NZ liberal-left have demanded that Shipley place East Timor on the formal APEC agenda. Of course the absence of the issue from the APEC agenda does indicate something about the character of this talk-shop in particular, and the appetites of the imperialist powers in general--not only are they concerned to minimise interruptions of their discussions of how to further solidify exploitation and poverty in the Asia-Pacific, they are also massively embarrassed by the behaviour of their junior partners in Jakarta.
But calling for the big imperialist gangsters to "do something" simply raises illusions that the governments who have all actively or passively colluded in the butchery inflicted in East Timor can somehow now be the saviours of the oppressed.
What is in the interests of the East Timorese is for leftists and militant workers in NZ and the other imperialist countries to fight to mobilise the international union movement in defence of their lives and their democratic rights.
And the most crucial ally of the people of East Timor is the massive Indonesian working class: only the Indonesian workers have the necessary clout in the region to stop the Jakarta regime and its military in their tracks. Along with the Timorese, Indonesian workers must also construct their own militias to combat and disarm the death squads and their police protectors, as part of the necessary struggle to overthrow the rule of the brutal Indonesian capitalist class and its imperialist allies.
For a Union-Imposed Military Embargo
Australian and New Zealand workers have a duty to attempt to block any attempt at military intervention. The union movement must seek to embargo all military equipment and personnel going to Indonesia and obstruct all Australian/NZ military intervention.
To achieve the necessary solidarity of Indonesian workers with the Timorese people, it is imperative that we give no support to calls for an Australasian/US "humanitarian" intervention as in Kosovo.
Indonesian workers would understandably see such an intervention as an attack on their country's national sovereignty, and this would cut across the necessary struggles they must undertake against their own rulers. We have to be against "our" rulers too--in this case their hands may seem to be a little cleaner, but only because they know how to work from a distance.
Independence for East Timor!
Published by the New Zealand section of the International
Bolshevik Tendency (Permanent Revolution Group)