- The Guardian
- Issue #2079
THE BLACK ARMADA
I was very interested to read the recent article* about the MUA twilight commemoration event at Darling Harbour to remember the Black Armada.
This is a very important chapter of the history of Australian trade unions and international solidarity. The actions of several key unions assisted Indonesians to retain their independence after WW2 despite Dutch attempts to retake what they saw as the ‘Dutch East Indies.’
Readers may like to know that at the end of the war, Joris Ivens – a left wing Dutch filmmaker – in 1946 in cooperation with the Waterside Workers Confederation produced the film Indonesia Calling, which looks into this history. It is available on YouTube.
The film looks at a group of Indonesians who were inspired by the Russian Revolution and tried to overthrow Dutch colonialism in their country. They were kept in a political prison in West Papua until the beginning of the Pacific war in 1941.
Dutch authorities told the Australian government that they were prisoners of war and they were placed in the Cowra POW camp. When it was realised that they were political prisoners and opposed to fascism, there was a campaign for them to be released by the union movement which also ensured they were not underpaid by Australian employers.
After the war, these Indonesians worked with Australian unionists to place bans on the Dutch Black Armada which consisted of many ships in ports around Australia loading soldiers, provisions, ammunition, and arms to crush Indonesia’s independence movement.
Many of those ships never left Australia and rusted here.
The Dutch government of the day was furious and withdrew Ivens’ Dutch passport. It was not returned until 1985 when they gave him an award for his work to promote Indonesian independence.
There is also a book about this history The Black Armada by CPA member Rupert Lockwood.
Graham Smith, who was a teacher at my high school and a CPA member, fought on the Indonesian island of Morotai during WW2. Before his death, he told me how Australian soldiers fought alongside Indonesian partisans against the Japanese military using guerrilla tactics. The CPA members had a party branch on Morotai which assisted the Indonesian partisans who were working to promote independence after the Japanese were defeated.
This is history that Australians can be proud of unlike our history of being involved in unnecessary US wars or actions to destabilise democratic governments.
The story of the Black Armada shows that international solidarity can be very powerful!
Andrew (Andy) Alcock, Forestville SA , Kaurna Country
*Guardian Issue #2075, 23 October 2023
Gaza and Palestine
The present conflict between Israel and Palestine in Gaza didn’t begin on 7 October, this year, nor did the blatant brutality. It dates back to the late 1940s with ethnic cleansing, callous massacres of many thousands of people, and destruction of hundreds of villages by Zionist militias. This resulted in the dispossession, displacement and exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. It also left other Palestinians living inside the Israeli settler state and others in camps, villages and towns under brutal Israeli occupation.
Regarding the two-state solution, the PLO had officially accepted it in 1988, and Hamas in 2017, but the state was meant to be 22 per cent of Palestine and Israel in 2000 offered much less than that. This was often repeated. In a speech in Washington in May 2011, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said of a Palestinian state that there would be no to sharing Jerusalem, no to the return of Palestinian refugees, no to a return of the 1967 border lines, no to conceding major Israeli settlements, no to a Palestinian state without Israel controlling the border along the Jordan Valley, and no to negotiations with a Palestinian unity government. Basically it would be a Palestinian state in name only with Israel still dictating all facets of Palestinian life. This amounts to no change in the dire situation between the subjugated Palestinians and Israel.
The Palestinians have already lost over 78 per cent of historical Palestine to Israel. The remaining 22 per cent of Palestine consists of the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip and fragmented segments of the Israeli occupied West Bank, with Israeli settlements, forts, walls, fences, roads, and other infrastructure everywhere surrounding them and under the control of the Israeli army, settlers, and police. With this situation, what is left for the Palestinians to build a feasible state on, with Israel maintaining effective domination over the ‘Palestinian state?’ It seems the only issue to discuss at this stage in ‘peace’ talks is what small morsels of land Israel will allow the Palestinians to have restricted control over. Only when the Palestinians have a just resolution, with their rights restored and a genuine, viable state will there be real peace.
Steven Katsineris, Hurstbridge, Victoria