An action in support of the
East Timorese freedom struggle

by Frank, Seattle
(from Communist Voice #11, Dec. 15, 1996)


. December 7 was the 21st anniversary of the Indonesian militarists' invasion of East Timor.From this date in 1975 the East Timorese people have lived under the most brutal of fascist occupations. Scores of thousands of people have simply been mowed down by the US-supplied and supported Indonesian armed forces. Scores of thousands more have died (and continue to die) of the disease and hunger which are consciously built-in components of the genocidal policies of the racist Jakarta government. In fact "respectable" (i.e. non-communist or non-leftist) sources put the number of East Timorese murdered in these or other ways during the past 21 years as high as 200,000--one third of the population.

. But the East Timorese people haven't just been passively dying victims which we should weep over. They've fought like tigers against the occupation forces in every corner of the country. Really large political actions have been organized and many, many armed battles against the occupation army planned and carried out. No one can say that the people of East Timor haven't more than earned the right to decide their own fate (except the Indonesian fascists and their friends around the world of course). But this is not all. The past two decades of struggle by the people of East Timor is filled with inspiring moments and important lessons (or potential lessons) for future battles. While it's true enough that their resistance has been choked off and driven underground by the very well equipped Indonesian death machine it's also true that it has never been stamped out. It remains a live ember, continuing to emit heat. In certain "atmospheric" conditions it flares up (as in June of this year in Baucau), and under just the right conditions it can turn into a raging firestorm. Lastly, the struggle of the East Timorese for liberation from the jackboot of the Indonesian militarists has won support among workers and other oppressed people around the world. It deserves this support, and more of it. We want to do our part in building an inferno which will fry the Indonesian fascists, their supporters and brethren in the United States, our common exploiters and oppressors.

. This brings us to the December 7 action in Seattle.

. On this anniversary date several dozen people participated in a spirited event at a downtown mall which was organized by the East Timor Action Network. Leaflets were distributed, guerrilla theater enacted (which included sharp political commentary by the narrator), and "Free East Timor!" vigorously shouted over and over despite the rain and cold. Most of the participants then marched several blocks to the new "Niketown" and there denounced the Nike Corporation's vicious exploitation of the Indonesian workers, including its employment of child labor.

. This writer believes that there was much positive about this action which should be upheld. This includes the following:

. (1) The spirit of denouncing not only the crimes of the Indonesian fascists but also the US imperialist government's role in them.

. (2) The fact that the guerrilla theater drew out the point that both the Republicans and Democrats have always been in bed with the Indonesian militarists--and particularly the mocking attack on the utterly sham nature of Jimmy Carter's "human rights" verbiage. (Remember that Mr. Human Rights did absolutely nothing to defend the rights of the East Timorese when the Indonesian government launched its invasion and war.)

. (3) The general spirit to go out and do something to educate and mobilize the masses.

. (4) The fact that although the action was relatively small (scores of people rather than hundreds) it was made up of sincere and energetic people (most of whom were quite young) and therefore shouldn't be scoffed at in the slightest.

. The old and tired and discouraged former radicals and former Marxist revolutionaries from the '60s and '70s today whimper about the gloominess of the political situation, belittle the present left-wing demonstrations, sneer about the size of the Communist Voice Organization, and so on. Their subjective despair blinds them to the existence of the new forces entering the movement and seeking ways to push it forward. These new forces provide the living basis for changing the situation (within certain historically evolved parameters) and are the hope for the future. And being someone who is old enough to remember, I should add that even in the '60s and '70s there were times when actions which were not widely promoted (and this one was not) were as small or even much smaller than this one was.

. But besides just isolating some of the positive things about the Dec. 7 action it may be even more important to consider a couple things about the general agitational approach used in the short leaflets and articles which were produced that actually cut against the building of the kind of movement in support of the East Timorese people which can in the long run really assist them.

. First of all, those who came to the event generally understood that both the Democrats and Republicans have supported Suharto and the Indonesian establishment since the mid-60s, they generally recognized that these ladies and gentlemen are representing the economic and political interests of US capitalism when they do this (i.e., it's not a question of their shipping arms and aircraft to Indonesia and having no idea of what they're used for), yet the organizers of the event handed them leaflets to pass out which contained appeals like "call your (?!) congressman and tell them not to sell F-16's to Indonesia" and "please contact your (?!) senators". True enough, the latter people may change their rhetoric, shift about, maneuver, may even vote for different policies (although still policies which serve the exploitative aims of capitalism) if a really mass and militant movement develops on some issue. But contacting or calling those who formulate the policies we oppose in the interest of a very definite social class (the class whose political representatives they really are, i.e., the US monopoly capitalist class) does not build such a movement. (Better that we spend our time writing or contacting our fellow workers and fellow students.) Worse, it undermines building it by propping up the naive illusion that the governing politicians really will represent the desires of the masses once they understand what those desires are. (And in this regard one could point out that these politicians understand well enough that the majority of the workers and poor people in the United States--the majority of the people--oppose the vicious round of attacks which were first launched on them in the late 1970s and which continue today. That doesn't prevent Congress from launching new and ever-worsening attacks with each session however. No, for there to be a change in this situation the workers and poor must take matters into their own hands by building up resistance struggles. And the more that hopes that some congressperson somewhere is going to do something are cast aside the more rapidly and successfully will this occur.)

. Secondly, the same leaflets made a point of the fact that the Indonesian government's invasion of East Timor was in violation of UN resolutions. The implied premise of this agitational approach is that UN resolutions are formulated out some "universal" sense of goodness, justice, etc., (and therefore should be supported) rather than the cold economic and political calculations of capitalism--especially the calculations of the big imperialist powers which dominate the UN. Moreover, this approach leaves aside the question of why it was that the resolutions regarding East Timor remained toothless scraps of paper. (And the issue that other UN resolutions, such as resolutions on Korea or Iraq, have been backed up--backed up by the launching of brutal and reactionary wars---is conveniently forgotten about.) Finally, the facts that UN resolutions supported the Indonesian government's coercive annexation of West Papua and the UN has since been silent about the Indonesian government's vicious war against the freedom movement there, silent about the Indonesian government's racist and genocidal policies toward the Melanesian population, and so on, is forgotten about too (if it's known about).

. God help us if we place our future in the hands of the UN! And God help us too if we guide the masses of people toward placing their trust in the activities of "our" senators and congresspeople!

. In summation: The December 7 action was an encouraging and in some ways exciting event. The participants whole-heartedly supported "freedom for East Timor", "popular democracy for Indonesia", "stop US support for the dictatorship in Indonesia" (and similar slogans raised on a leaflet), and struggled to win others to these positions. But the literature they were given to pass out (which a good number of people did distribute) contained a harmful political orientation which should be actively opposed.

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