False conclusion

Ian Hamilton (Letters, August 26) attacks the KLA as being simply Nato’s “eyes and ears” in the recent war, for having a manipulative and undemocratic internal regime, and for coopting reactionaries like Agin Ceku onto its leadership. He correctly condemns the recent attacks by ethnic Albanians on the Serb and Roma minorities in Kosova, but he falsely concludes that there was no democratic content whatsoever to their fight against Serb rule, that they were in fact simply “fighting for a Nato protectorate”.

Attacks on the Serbs and Roma in Kosova are anti-democratic. They are crimes against the interests of the working class and are to be condemned. But they do not negate the democratic content of the struggle of the Albanian majority in Kosova to throw off Serb rule, and to defeat Milosevic’s attempt to drive the Albanians out wholesale. A struggle against the oppression of Roma is a strategic requirement of Marxists in the whole of eastern Europe and beyond, and it is indeed criminal that Albanian nationalists are using the opportunity of the post-war dislocation to attack them. But that no more negates the progressive character of the Albanian struggle than the oppression of travellers in Ireland negates the progressive character of the struggle against British oppression in that country.

Hamilton counterposes to the Albanian national struggle “a multi-ethnic socialist federation, without Milosevic, Nato and the KLA”. This is completely abstract and, in equating Milosevic with the KLA, baldly equates the nationalism of the oppressed with that of the oppressor. To tell the oppressed to wait until the oppressor nation is ready for the socialist revolution is in reality to act against such a revolution, since revolutionary consciousness is completely incompatible with even tacit support for the kind of savagely oppressive status quo that prevailed in Kosova under Serb rule.

Hamilton states that he has “problems” with the IBT’s call for the “military victory” of the Serbs over the “pro-imperialist” KLA. Indeed he should have. One of the most basic maxims of socialism and democracy is that “a nation that oppresses another cannot itself be free”. But he shares much of their reasoning. In this period of negligible class consciousness and a ‘unipolar’, US-dominated world, the pro-Nato illusions epitomised by the KLA are the norm in terms of the spontaneous consciousness of oppressed peoples. A refusal to fight against oppression out of fear of being ‘tainted’ by this consciousness does not combat imperialism. It consolidates the view that only the ‘great power’ can help the oppressed.

Far from really acting in opposition to Nato, Hamilton’s position renders it political aid.

Ian Donovan

Satpal assaulted again

On Thursday August 19 Satpal Ram was yet again assaulted by prison officers in the segregation unit at Frankland prison.

This latest attack began when Satpal went to go on exercise and was jostled around by screws as he left the shower area and put his jumper on to go outside. When he returned from exercise, five or six screws came to his cell and subjected him to a torrent of verbal (particularly racial) and physical abuse, resulting in numerous injuries - pulled ligaments, tendons and internal bruising.

Satpal has been in the segregation unit continuously, apart from one day, since June 29, when he declined to have his photograph taken. He had been photographed just a few months earlier and his appearance had not changed since, so there was no justification for the demand. Satpal had already had his stereo confiscated and his legal paperwork rifled through a week earlier, so just saw this as further harassment. He was then ordered to go to the segregation unit to be adjudicated on for refusing a direct order. When he refused this order as well, he was taken to the segregation by the ‘control and restraint’ squad.

Satpal has contacted Durham police and reported the prison staff for assault. He will be taking legal advice regarding a civil action for damages. Incident 1, Wednesday June 16: Satpal’s cell was trashed by prison warders. Incident 2, Wednesday June 30: Satpal taken from his cell, dragged down to the block, stripped naked and tossed into a segregation cell. 

Free Satpal Ram Campaign


Long before the overwhelming vote for independence on August 30, the explosion of violence in East Timor was totally predictable. Ever since the leaders of Fretilin were forced to abandon the armed struggle for the peaceful process of a UN-negotiated solution, it was clear Indonesia would not give up without a fight. The Golkar regime has made no secret of its purpose in bringing in migrants and arming paramilitaries. It wants to hang on to East Timor because it is has rich resources. Its illegal occupation has been backed by the US, Australia and New Zealand for 24 years.

In the face of this reality, to believe that it was possible to make a peaceful transition to independence was a criminal betrayal of the people of East Timor. The only course possible from the start has been for armed struggle to defend the independent state of East Timor declared by Fretilin in 1975. In the crisis today, workers around the world must call for the right to self-defence of the East Timorese, for a total ban on any military and political support for the Indonesian regime, and demand the immediate withdrawal of all Indonesian and paramilitary forces!

The overwhelming vote for independence has not set off massive celebrations among the 78.5% who survived 24 years of repression to vote for separation. Instead it has sparked off a mounting campaign of terror by the pro-Jakarta armed thugs. They are being allowed free reign to terrorise and murder pro-independence supporters. Their purpose is to act as stooges for the Indonesian regime to destabilise the process of secession in order to keep control of at least the territories with the richest resources.

This crisis is the result of 24 years of Indonesian occupation and resettlement of East Timor. After many years of military campaigns to destroy Fretilin, the downfall of Suharto brought the fate of East Timor to a head. Habibie only agreed to a referendum under pressure from the US which wants to pose as the champion of ‘human rights’. No doubt Habibie expected that the years of brutal repression and the policy of deliberate resettling migrants in East Timor would have ensured a majority for integration with Indonesia. Now that the result is such a resounding victory for independence, Jakarta is attempting to once more hang onto the territory by force. It will take the Jakarta regime until November to ratify the vote. Only then will it agree to the UN implementing the transition to independence. This gives the pro-Jakarta forces over two months in which to occupy the key regions they want to retain and to politically cleanse these regions of Independencias. When the UN finally gets into gear it will be too late to undo the genocide.

Can the west intervene unilaterally? Yes, it can. The US sidestepped the UN last year over Iraq, and more recently in unleashing the Nato bombing of Kosovo. But will it and ought it to intervene? The peacenik left in the west was softened up to the point of giving back-handed support to the US in Kosovo. While opposing Nato’s bombing in principle, it blamed Milosevic’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kosovo for the intervention. The effect was to qualify its opposition to Nato by calling for Nato to turn itself into a ‘peacekeeping’ force in a sovereign territory in the name of ‘human rights’.

The same with East Timor. While preferring a UN solution, most of the left are calling for immediate action by the US to defend the ‘human rights’ of the people of East Timor. This is like calling on the tiger to make the tea. The US was the main backer of Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in the first place. It is total hypocrisy or naivety at least to suppose that the biggest enemy of the declaration of independence in 1975 can now turn around and be the defender of ‘human rights’.

For revolutionaries there was always only one course of action against Indonesian occupation - that of armed struggle. As the students in Jakarta have shown over the last two years mass, direct action comes up against the state forces. The insurgents in Aceh have learned the same lesson. But this bloody lesson has been part of the education of the East Timorese for 24 years. It has cost the lives of more than 300,000 innocent people. Now thousands of more lives are to be sacrificed to the altar of peaceful negotiation. There can be no better demonstration of the necessity of armed struggle than the fight of the East Timorese for their independence.

For workers around the world there are a number of actions that can be taken to build international solidarity with the independence struggle.

First, all workers must champion the right of the masses in East Timor to defend themselves against the paramilitary terror. No faith in US intervention or UN safe havens! For material aid to the East Timor resistance! For the formation of self-defence committees! Second, international workers’ action to blockade Indonesia’s armed forces must be taken. Third, we must call on the workers, students and poor peasants of Indonesia to demand that Habibie and Sukanoputrie remove all Indonesian military and paramilitary forces from East Timor. For the convocation of a Constituent Assembly! For workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils and militia. Fourth, we must call on Indonesian workers and students to immediately recognise and demand the right to self-determination of East Timor and all other independence movements that have popular backing.

Only by doing so will those secessionist movements be able to choose freely to secede or stay as ‘autonomous’ regions of Indonesia. For a Federation of Socialist Republics of Indonesia!

Communist Workers Group
New Zealand