We note that Jose Ramos-Horta, the ‘Mandela of East Timor’, has joined Tony Blair and John Howard as a cheerleader for George Bush’s war against Iraq. In an impassioned article for the New York Times, Ramos-Horta recently condemned the global anti-war movement as unconcerned with the plight of the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples. Like the ‘leaders of the Iraqi opposition’ today, the East Timorese 'begged a foreign power to free us from oppression, by force if necessary’, this former guerrilla leader claimed.
Ramos-Horta’s new job as PR man for ‘regime change’ in Iraq will no doubt come as a nasty shock to the social democrats, Greens and fake revolutionaries who helped him sell out the East Timorese people in their hour of need in 1999. We remember Ramos-Horta being treated like a rock star when he arrived in Auckland to (mis)lead an East Timor solidarity march at the time of the APEC conference in September 1999. As the Greens and social democrats wept and hugged each other, Ramos-Horta took the mike at the pre-march rally and urged APEC leaders like Bill Clinton and John Howardto invade East Timor and thereby ‘save’ it from the Indonesian forces they had armed and funded for decades.
With Indonesian-backed militia on the rampage in the aftermath of a phony referendum on independence, Ramos-Horta and his crony Xanana Gusmao had been busy keeping their mutinous Falintil troops in isolated rural cantonments, so that they would not be able to antagonise Clinton by intervening to protect their people. Ramos-Horta was in Auckland because he was also keen to stamp out the strikes and boycotts that workers in a number of APEC countries had launched to stop the Indonesian military machine in its tracks.
Instead of supporting armed struggle at home and workers’ action internationally, Ramos-Horta appealed to imperialist leaders like Clinton! Fortunately for Ramos-Horta, and unfortunately for the people of East Timor, Clinton and stooges like John Howard and Jenny Shipley saw the opportunity of setting East Timor up as a UN colony and grabbing control of its oil wealth for the West. When the East Timorese objected to this carve up, the UN invasion force crushed their protests in a series of confrontations that climaxed in the Dili riots of mid-January 2000. Today resistance to the colonisers is once again increasing, with three students being killed in riots at the end of last year.
For his part, Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta has since 1999 made a lucrative career for himself as an advocate for imperialism around the world. Before coming to Bush’s aid over Iraq, he had been busy attacking the Palestinian people for having the nerve to resist Israeli occupation with armed force. According to Ramos-Horta, the Palestinians should be opposing Sharon’s tanks and machine guns with civil disobedience and petitions to the UN. Yeah, right.
As the bankruptcy of Ramos-Horta’s regime and rhetoric becomes ever more obvious, his former lovers on the Western left will no doubt spurn him, much as the Labour Party liberals who once cheered the ‘African socialism’ of Robert Mugabe today demand sanctions against Zimbabwe. Like Mugabe, Ramos-Horta will have become ‘corrupted by power’ and ‘out of touch with the people’. Clichés like these will help the liberals and fake revolutionaries who supported Ramos-Horta in 1999 avoid taking responsibility for their own role in turning East Timor in to a UN colony.
As Marxists, we have no interest in explaining history with clichés. We see the continuity between Ramos-Horta’s betrayal of East Timor in 1999 and his betrayal of the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples in 2003. We see the continuity between Mugabe’s capitulation to British imperialism at Lancaster House in the late 70s and his present attempts to rein in the land occupation movement and break the trade unions.
We argue that the ‘betrayals’ of the likes of Ramos-Horta and Mugabe are the product of the impossibility of national liberation struggles in the Third World achieving their aims without going all the way to socialism. We argue that it is only by turning national liberation into ‘permanent revolution’ by abolishing the market and breaking out of the global economic grid of imperialism that nations like East Timor and Zimbabwe can escape from the economic and hence political domination of powers like the US. Bush’s man in Dili offers plenty of evidence for our argument.