Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 21 March 1949


Jack Brad

Pros and Cons: A Discussion Corner

The Problems of Marxism in Asia


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 12, 21 March 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


I must refuse Magnus’ offer to take to opposite sides of the traditional barricade. Our differences on the stated questions are of emphasis, not kind. No one is getting ready to drop Tanmalaka and go over to the reprehensible (!) Indonesian bourgeoisie. On Tanmalaka, it is difficult to give acceptable guarantees since Magnus seems to think my coverage of the great Indonesian revolutionist to be in some unstated way inadequate, incomplete or somehow at fault. It is strange that he does not criticize my attitude toward Tanmalaka specifically.

The Republican leadership is supine, given to utmost compromise; will make the most destructive deals with Holland; will on occasion arrest socialist revolutionists; will be unable, like its counterparts elsewhere in Asia, to solve a single one of the desperate problems – such as social relations in agriculture, balanced and planned industrialization – without driving down living standards and keeping Indonesia out of either imperialist orbit.

These statements are not elicited for the first time by Magnus’ letters but are present, however indistinct and poorly, in all my articles. I cannot disagree with Magnus on this. Renville and Lingajatti are proof – even if not a single theoretical basis existed. (I must insist, though, that Indonesia requires special examination for its specific class character. It is much too simple and vulgar to talk about the “bourgeoisie.”) Since this seems to be the crux of the matter, the dispute should end here.

Matter of Emphasis

Perhaps Magnus is more enthusiastic about Tanmalaka than I have been, but I have done my best to make his opinions known. “Unconditional support” is further than anyone needs to go at this distance, but I do think we would find ourselves in Tanmalaka’s camp. What he is doing now, no one knows. If Magnus knows what social policy Tanmalaka is pursuing in guerrilla warfare, he should not hide such information. To my best knowledge, he is simply an officer in the regular REPUBLICAN ARMY.

The four-point program listed by Magnus is taken from the report he detested so much. My interest in Tanmalaka could not have been so utterly platonic if it made his program available (for the first time in the West) in whatever sketchy form.

We have a difference in emphasis. I think the Republicans will fight through to independence. The problem for socialists is what kind of independence and at what cost to Indonesia’s future. This is where Magnus’ sights are still on Trotsky’s 1927 level. He is manifestly wrong.

However, there are other matters which deserve more attention than the above relatively secondary ones: 1. how to explain the complete elimination of the Marxist movement in Asia and how to rebuild it; 2. how to explain the rise of mass social democracy and define our attitude toward it; 3. how to advance a program of socialist unity for Southeast Asia as a step toward union and an independent third camp. These matters deserve discussion. They are new problems, unexpected, not contained in traditional analysis. Even disputes on them might be fruitful.

Finally, my articles do not constitute any kind of “decision making.” I expressly stated that my approach was personal and not necessarily that held by the WP. If anyone is to write on Indonesia he must write from some viewpoint. My viewpoint has been discussed and generally approved by the editorial board of Labor Action, though, in the nature of analytical reporting, I have had to include certain views on my own responsibility.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 3 August 2019