For the Independence of East Timor from Indonesia!

For Armed Self-Defence of the East Timorese Communities!

For a Socialist Federation of South East Asia!


International Secretariat

International Trotskyist Opposition

Revised 16 November 1999


The invasion of East Timor by imperialist troops under UN cover must be opposed by all socialists. This is not "UN peacekeeping", it is an imperialist invasion. The UN is purely a cover. Imperialism is occupying East Timor as surely as NATO is occupying Kosova, and it is necessary to be absolutely clear about this and discuss this issue in these terms. It is necessary to call things by their proper names. Imperialism is trying to tighten its grip on the entire Indonesian archipelago, now that its man Suharto is out and the Indonesian military is weakened. Taking direct control of East Timor is part of this.           

East Timor is an oppressed nation, oppressed both by Indonesia and imperialism. The people of East Timor have suffered vicious repression from the Indonesian state for many years. This was the same regime that murdered a million Indonesians in 1965. The Maubere people had to defend themselves against murderous attacks by Indonesian troops and militia. And the arming of the East Timor resistance continues to be a crucial task of the international East Timor solidarity movement.

However, the imperialist invasion simply replaces one form of oppression and violence against the workers and peasants of East Timor by another. The situation is reminiscent of Ireland in 1969. Pogroms by Orange thugs against the Catholic ghettos resulted in British troops being sent to Ireland on the pretext of "ending the violence". The troops were openly welcomed by Catholics in the streets, who even offered refreshments and gifts to them. The newspaper of the International Socialists (forerunner of the British Socialist Workers Party) supported the sending of the troops at the time, essentially on the same basis. Over the past two decades, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can now see the results of the British occupation of Ireland. British imperialism was hardly a solution to the problems of the Catholic population.

It is with this hindsight that we must now view the spectacle of the people of East Timor welcoming the imperialist troops into their country (and also that of the people of Kosova welcoming NATO into their country). It is with this hindsight also that we must view the equally sorry spectacle of sections of the left either supporting the imperialist invasion of East Timor (Solidarity/US, AWL/Britain, DSP/Australia) or failing to call for the withdrawal of the imperialist forces (Socialist Outlook/Britain and other USFI sections).

Imperialism has always sought to legitimise its military interventions into the Third World, and the Eastern bloc also, on the basis of its "democratic" pretensions. It has always sought to play opportunistically, and hypocritically, upon the internal tensions and contradictions within the semicolonies for its own ends. National tensions are one example of this. While promoting such tensions it also pretends to play the role of neutral arbitrator, stepping in militarily to "end the violence" which it has helped to create. In this way, Anglo-American imperialism has established bridgeheads in various parts of the world over the past decade: the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, and now East Timor. Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosova are now effectively colonies of Anglo-American imperialism. East Timor is becoming one. The violence and repression of the Indonesian militia will be replaced by the rifle butt of imperialist troops wearing the UN uniform.

A mass Trotskyist party in East Timor, supported by a reconstructed Fourth International, would have organised the working class vanguard for the self-defence of communities attacked by the Indonesian militia. It would have established strong links with the workers of neighbouring countries, including the vanguard of the Indonesian workers' movement, in order to promote the kind of solidarity needed to resist Indonesian repression.

The toppling of Suharto by the Indonesian masses was, in fact, a key factor in forcing Indonesia out of East Timor, since it weakened the Indonesian regime and gave the East Timorese population the confidence to vote for independence in the referendum. It is necessary to emphasise strongly the fact that East Timor's "independence" from Indonesia was won by Indonesian students, workers, and urban poor in the streets last year, not by Australian troops this fall.

East Timor "independence" is a fiction while imperialist troops control the towns and villages of this small nation. True independence can come only through expelling both the Indonesian oppressors and the imperialist troops operating under cover of the UN. And even true independence would not solve the problems that come with being a small country in a big world. Only a genuinely voluntary association of socialist republics, a Socialist Federation of South East Asia, would provide the necessary economic and political framework to liberate the people of East Timor from oppression and impoverishment.