BY JO ELLIS
CAIRUHI, East Timor — Australian solidarity activists have spent nearly two weeks here helping East Timorese counterparts begin an ambitious educational program which will involve local people in discussions about socialism and democracy.
The third solidarity brigade organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor travelled to East Timor from Darwin on September 28 and spent 11 days on the island.
Amongst their activities was participation in the Timorese Socialist Party's (PST) first pilot project to establish a socialist school.
The school site, just outside a village called Cairuhi, near Manatuto in the eastern part of the island, is near the site of the first Fretilin Marxist training school established during the 1970s.
Fifty activists from the PST and six from ASIET held political discussions and English classes and worked to build a permanent structure to house a PST office.
Discussions ranged from the history of socialism, imperialism, the role of social classes to the difference between capitalist and socialist democracy.
ASIET members also visited the primary school in Cairuhi and conducted English classes with the teachers and students.
The PST plans to use the Cairuhi site as a base for organising and assisting farmers in the district, including building a market for farmers to sell their produce and facilitate them growing vegetables to encourage self-sufficiency.
The education project, which the party hopes to keep running year-round, aims to provide the participants with skills and knowledge which they will take back and pass on in their own villages. In this way the PST hopes to encourage real participation in local, district and national decision-making.
Some party organisers will likely be sent from the school to other villages to conduct political discussions. In six months' time, the PST plans to establish a similar school in Aileu, in the western part of the island.