Chechnya - a far off country

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Nov 6 00:17:05 PST 1999

At 06:57 06/11/99 +0200, Russell Grinker wrote:

>Chris Burford wrote
>>Yes, if I remember correctly, unlike the South African Communist Party, and
>>Chomsky, you were not in favour of the west interfering financially to
>>support the people of East Timor.
>Sorry, I'll check out the general line next time before I comment.

I thought you had criticised the call by Blade Nzimande for action to support the people of East Timor, or associated yourself with that position. Certainly your current position seems consistent with that view. (see your post of 9 Sept below)

>>You think the people of East Timor should be left to be crushed, like the
>>people of Chechnya.
>No, but I don't think the West will play any positive role there either and
>nor (for what it's worth) should we give it carte blanche to interfere.

This is muddling up two things. No one on this list is arguing for carte blanche for the west to interfere anywhere. But how can you justify the statement that the west had no positive role to play in East Timor? Noam Chomsky, (with the support of the moderator of the marxism list at called on the president of the USA to impose economic sanctions; the IMF obliged, and the Indonesian army was withdrawn from East Timor and a peace keeping force went in.

Is your position that there was nothing positive in this, or that it came about by magic quite independently of the pressure of the IMF?

>However, the role of the lapsed left in providing cover for
>new-style Western "humanitarian" intervention around the world is
>unfortunately quite real.

The concept of the "lapsed left" makes left wing politics sound a sort of sectarian identity parade: it does not matter how ineffectual your stance so long as it is pure and you can identify the one in a hundred people who are special like you and different from all the rest.

IMO this is not a marxist position. The Communist Manifesto argued of Communists "They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not seek to set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement." But you do not necessarily appear to be interested in moulding anything, except to remain pure while massive national oppression occurs.

Certainly there is much to criticise in western interventions, but let me ask you about your own continent: do you not think the decision to send a UN peace keeping force to Sierra Leone is progressive or is that country just as far away from you as Chechnya?

Chris Burford



From: "Russell Grinker" <grinker at> To: <lbo-talk at> Subject: Re: South African CP on East TImor Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 19:39:43 +0200 X-MSMail-Priority: Normal X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 4.72.3110.1 X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.72.3110.3 Sender: owner-lbo-talk at Reply-To: lbo-talk at

Subject: Re: South African CP on East Timor

Chris Burford wrote:

>It is also an organisation that knows the need to appeal to international
bodies, while understanding of course that international bodies are dominated by the representatives of - surprise surprise - bourgeois governments. But if the SACP had not campaigned to the UN and to international public opinion, along with others in the mass liberation struggle, blacks would still be in South Africa without the bourgeois democratic right to a vote.<

Yeah Chris, maybe the appeals at the UN and to a variety of international luminaries did achieve a bit. Funny really, I always had the idea that it was the struggles of ordinary people in South Africa that really made the continuation of apartheid a less sustainable option. But then the so-called solidarity movements overseas always did have a rather exaggerated opinion of themselves and their contribution to changes here.


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