The early 1990s, after the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, were a time of capitalist triumphalism. Capital’s academic hirelings proclaimed ‘the end of history’, an absurdity nevertheless repeated in popular media. Really existing capitalism had been proven to be all that was possible, declared those who benefited from it. Socialism, along with the Soviet Union, was dead.
Books & Pamphlets
Volume 1 of this history, focusing on our tendency’s origins and the early years of Resistance and the founding of our party, was published in early 2005, and I had already drafted the outlines and taken some notes for Volumes 2 and 3. But shortly after publication, a major political struggle broke out in the Democratic Socialist Party. This is not the place to recount that struggle and its aftermath, except to mention that those of us in the minority in that struggle were expelled from the DSP and, in 2013, united with Socialist Alternative just before the opening of its Marxism conference in Melbourne.
The chapters of this pamphlet first appeared as individual articles in the newspaper Direct Action over a period of two and a half years, beginning with the paper’s first issue, in June 2008.
The aim of each article was to present an introductory explanation of some aspect of Marxism. In nearly every case, the space available was limited to 700 words, so there was no opportunity to go into great detail. Paradoxically, perhaps, this limitation had its advantages, limiting digressions and forcing a focus on the topic at hand.
Never before in world history has there been a social crisis like that of the capitalist system we live in today. Not even the bloodbath of the first and second world wars or the great Depression were as severe as the current crisis. As Venezuela’s socialist president puts it, the choice is stark: between socialism and barbarism. If we do not make the right choice, there may be no 22nd century – the devastating impact of capitalist industry on the world environment today threatens the very existence of human society.
The Democratic Socialist Party, formerly the Socialist Workers Party, has a rich history. The socialist youth organisation Resistance has a slightly longer history. This book – many years on my “must do” list – is an attempt to make that history of the DSP and Resistance accessible.
Since 1993 our party has held the position that the ruling Chinese bureaucracy has been presiding over the restoration of capitalism in China. However, our policy toward China has been ambiguous: while taking an oppositional stance in our public press toward the ruling bureaucracy’s restorationist course, we have left it unclear as to whether we continued to believe that China is still a bureaucratically ruled socialist state.
”The three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy [are] to prevent collusion and maintain security among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”. This statement was not made by an official in the ancient Roman imperial bureaucracy. It was made by Zbigniew Brzezinski, a central figure in the US foreign policy elite, national security adviser to us President Jimmy Carter and chief architect of Washington’s policy of creating a network of fanatically anti-communist Islamic terrorists to spearhead the counter-revolutionary war against the Afghan workers and peasants’ government in the late 1970s.
This pamphlet contains the text of two reports adopted by the DSP National Committee which provide an outline of some of the results of this process of rethinking.
The first is a report adopted by the DSP National Committee in October 1984, in which Jim Percy, then the national secretary of the party, outlines the DSP leadership’s criticisms of Trotskyism as a distinct ideological and political current in the international working-class movement. The second is a report adopted by the DSP National Committee in August 1985, in which Doug Lorimer motivated the decision to disaffiliate from the Fourth International.
Peter Taaffe’s pamphlet on Cuba (first published in 1978 and reprinted in 1982) consists of three articles taken from the paper of the British Militant organisation (now called the Socialist Party), of which he was, and still is, general secretary. The first article presents an analysis of the revolutionary struggle in Cuba up to the expropriation of capitalist property and the establishment of a planned economy. The second article analyses the character of the group which led the Cuban socialist revolution, the central conclusion of which is indicated by the article’s title: “Power in the Hands of [a] Bureaucratic Elite”. The third article is an attempt to substantiate this view in the light of the foreign and domestic policies of this leadership group.
The purpose of this book is to provide the reader with a general introduction to the fundamental ideas of historical materialism – the Marxist theory of human history and society.
For Marxists the study of human history is inseparable from the study of society.