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Mary Bell

Support Indonesian Independence!

(8 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 41, 8 October 1945, pp. 4 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

No more graphic example exists of what the war was fought for than the struggles for independence from imperialist domination that have taken place in the last few weeks by the Annamese and Indo-Chinese nationalists centering in Saigon, Indochina, and Batavia, Java,

The brutal crushing of the colonial peoples who took the slogans of freedom used during the war too seriously demonstrates again that the war was fought not for the liberation of the oppressed, but as a contest between rival imperialists for the world market. Japan overran these areas to obtain their wealth of raw materials and to sell her products of industry, just as the French and Dutch had done before her. Her conquering of these territories was accomplished with perhaps less brutality than that of the French and Dutch, who took the colonies originally with gunboats and who “civilized” the people by shellfire.

The twenty-five millions of people in French Indo-China have had about three generations of French rule. The inhabitants, eighty per cent of whom are Annamese, were subdued in 1862 only after decades of tedious and costly warfare. There have been sporadic revolts ever since and the main expenditure in this area by the French has been for their naval and military budget.

French Exploitation

The French rule in Indo-China is a “model” of colonial exploitation. The natives work for ten to thirty cents a day. The literacy rate is only ten per cent. No unions are permitted. Left-wing nationalists have been jailed. The typical super-profits of imperialism are taken from the colony by imposition of high tariffs on rivals’ goods and the absence of tariffs on French goods.

Indo-China’s chief exports are the products so valuable to the industrialized countries, particularly the United States – rubber and tin, plus the major production of the world demand for rice and cereals, coal, iron ore, pepper, cattle, hides, corn and zinc.

When France became involved in the European war, she lost her hold on Indo-China and failed to arm her, despite the demands of the people for weapons to fight the Japanese. It was an easy matter for Indo-China to drift into the “yen bloc,” since her economy and that of Japan were complementary.

The Dutch

The Netherlands Indies, comprising the bulk of Malaysia, with a total population of over sixty million, is also aflame. Here, too, in the “Garden of the East,” the Dutch, displaced for a short time by the British, have been pirating and pilfering since the end of the sixteenth century. They first drained wealth through the Dutch East Indies Company, supported the native regents or princes (a native bureaucracy which at one time composed one-eighth of the entire population) to control the people and froze the feudal system in Java and the other islands which prevented the . development of these economies in the European fashion. In 1941–42 the military budget for the Netherlands East Indies was $250 million.

Here, too, the “wealth of the Indies” has been extracted by the Dutch in the form of rubber, tin, copra, petroleum, coffee, tea, cocoa, indigo, spices, chinchona and sugar.

When the defeated Japanese army granted Annamese independence last March, it was merely sowing dragon’s teeth for the oncoming Allies. But the Annamese grabbed at the opportunity to set up a republic through the Vietminh, a nationalist organization.

The action of the British in fighting the Annamese in the absence of the French, using 5,000 Japanese troops and at least one American garrison, 2,500 British and 2,000 French, was one of mixed altruism, the type of honor that exists among thieves. She realized the support and repercussions the independence move would have in the Dutch Empire, satellite to the British, and in her own Indian colony.

An Indonesian people’s republic has been proclaimed at Batavia. Its president has stated: “We don’t like Japanese oppression and we don’t want Dutch oppression either.” The police chief has admitted the Dutch rule is being maintained only by British and American arms.

Australian dockers and longshoremen have shown their solidarity with the movement for independence and freedom by refusing to send French, British and Dutch munition and supply ships to aid the Indonesian oppressors. Sympathy meetings in Australia have been broken up by police.

Every thinking American worker should support the heroic efforts of these peoples for independence.

The latter is supposedly what the 100 million casualties and the over one TRILLION dollars expended in this war were to have gone for.

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Last updated: 24 January 2018