The International Work of the DSP

The Activist – Volume 7, Number 3, 1997
By John Percy

[The general line of this report was adopted by the 17th DSP National Conference, held January 3-8, 1997.]

As revolutionary Marxists, our internationalist outlook is fundamental. It’s not just being aware of international events and struggles, but totally identifying with the oppressed of the world, and willing to be part of their struggle.

The successful struggle for socialism will be international, although each country’s revolution will be waged against its own bourgeoisie. We know we can’t build socialism in an isolated country. We need the collaboration of the working classes of at least the most developed countries, both to defend the initial bastions of workers’ power, and to take the first steps in constructing a socialist economy.

Capitalists will put aside their national interests, to collaborate against any threat to their rule in one part of the globe. The working class must develop a comparable level of consciousness, solidarity, unity, and collaboration if we’re to succeed.

We can’t even make that first breach, overthrowing the capitalist class in our own country, without an internationalist outlook. We need international collaboration in helping to build strong revolutionary parties and leaderships, which will learn from others and think for themselves. Similar political questions are being raised and tackled in other countries, and looking at those debates and developments can help us better understand our situation here and chart a clearer way forward.

Our internationalist outlook is absolutely essential for training comrades here, in Australia, in this period of limited class struggle – for steeling, inspiring, and educating a new generation of socialist militants.

What sort of international revolutionary organisation will be needed in the future? What sort of international revolutionary organisation can be built today? The draft perspectives resolution clearly states the position we’ve developed on the need for an International, and what’s possible at the moment:

The DSP has always sought to develop collaboration with class-conscious workers in other countries. Our long-term goal is to rebuild a mass revolutionary International. However, we recognise that major progress toward this goal depends on new victories in the class struggle that draw together the proletarian vanguard forces throughout the world. In the meantime, the development of international collaboration between socialists can best be advanced through internationally co-ordinated solidarity actions and through internationally co-ordinated discussions of views and experiences.

Our conceptions now and in the foreseeable future are not along the lines of “one world party”. We know we don’t need clones, but independent parties, thinking for themselves, able to build their own organisation. The degree of centralisation of the early Comintern is not the way to go. The resources – financial and political – available to the Bolsheviks and the early Comintern enabled a centralisation. But the Stalin-style Cominternism was disastrous for the independent development of Communist parties, even apart from the disastrous policies imposed. Communist parties that decided to attach themselves to “Mao Zedong Thought” suffered similar disasters. For the many Trotskyist currents that adopted a Comintern-style centralisation it’s been disastrous and pathetic – Pablo and the FI, Barnes after the SWP degeneration, other Trotskyist sects such as the Healyites, Morenoites, Robertsonites, etc.

An international organisation must be organised differently from a national party. This flows from the different tasks that an international has. The task of each national revolutionary party is to organise the class struggle of the working class of its country along a line of march that leads to the seizure of state power. The task of an international is to help develop strong, self-confident national revolutionary parties in every country, by facilitating collaboration between the leadership teams of such parties. Building an international is fundamentally a process of developing such international collaboration. This is the framework in which we approach our international work.

A turning point in our international work

A significant expansion of our international work has taken place in the last few years. There are so many new contacts, new possible projects, opportunities, tasks, and needs, and the role we can play is becoming increasingly important. As well as the expansion of our contacts, and the growth of our information and understanding, there’s also been a progression in the process of international socialist renewal itself.

In a sense we can say we’re at a new stage, with the political changes and clarifications happening around the world. We’re at somewhat of a turning point in our international work. Many of the most important left parties are involved in interesting debates and reassessments.

And at a more mundane level, some of our long-term Green Left correspondents are coming home. Steve O’Brien is here. Renfrey Clarke will be back in a few months. And although Sam W will be in France for another six months (at a very exciting time for the workers’ movement and the left), soon we’ll be in the situation of no long-term Green Left correspondents stationed overseas, unlike the last six years.

We’re also at an important turning point in our international work in Asia. Especially with the growth of the PRD in Indonesia, and the continuing strength of the MR forces in the Philippines, there’s great potential for expansion of our collaboration and solidarity. Our ASIET [Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor] work and East Timor solidarity work has broadened our contacts throughout the region.

And we’re also at a turning point with Links. Links magazine has proved an invaluable vehicle for our international work. It was established on the basis of our broad range of international contacts, but there’s been an expansion of our contacts as a result of it in the last two years.

What direction do we hope our international collaboration will go in? Which are the links we value and respect the most? Which are the parties that will develop best out of this period of recomposition and renewal? The last few years have provided some indications, and already Links magazine has greatly helped the process of political clarification.

We value the Marxists, revolutionaries. We’ll develop and maintain fraternal relations with everyone on the left, including those moving to the right, and still hope to influence them, and work with them where possible. But we’re also realistic about the directions in which some parties are heading, and what politics are needed for a successful socialist renewal. Broad milieus, such as the Sao Paulo Foro and other broad international gatherings are needed, but we also need greater political clarification now. So the political role of Links is even more important.

Two processes are going on simultaneously with this project:

Firstly, there’s the process of broad reachout and regroupment, the networking, breaking down old barriers. This has been an undoubted success, in some ways unique on the international left, drawing together parties from different origins and traditions.

Secondly, there’s a process of political clarification – initially often just exchange of experiences, but also drawing the lessons, steering the discussion, the movement, in the right directions. (Do we know the right directions? Not completely, but enough to begin, if not a complete map.)

The second process is now starting to become a bit more important. The reachout is still happening also, but a change in the relative weight of the two processes is developing. This dual process did not begin with Links, of course, but was a feature of our international work since we broke out of a semi-sectarian mould in the early ‘80s.

So at such a turning point it’s appropriate for a brief reminder of the history of our international work.

I want to sketch the evolution of our international relations and hopes, trying to show its interconnection with the development of our party-building perspectives here – both the points of parallel development, and the areas of difference, what is possible on a national level, and not applicable internationally.

Evolution of our international work

The late 1960s was a time of immense international upheavals – the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement, the worker-student revolt in May-June 1968 in France, huge student protests in Mexico – but our organisation, just beginning, was unclear politically, disorganised, and our international connections were almost non-existent. Resistance was founded in 1967, but it was a few years more before a party group was firmly established, and not until January 1972 did we hold the founding conference of the DSP (then called the Socialist Workers League). We had few international contacts, but we were internationalists, and along with many other young people in countries like Australia we were awakened by inspiring struggles around the globe.

Our first actual international contact was in 1969. Ironically, it was through someone who’s a guest at our conference today, Barry Sheppard. After the 1969 World Congress of the Fourth International, he travelled back to the United States via Australia to see what existed here. (The FI had sent us literature, but had received about a letter per year from us).

Barry landed in the middle of a faction fight – our current pushing for building a Leninist party, Bob Gould pushing a looser, more anarchistic approach. Each side sought support from the international visitor, wanted affirmation, advice on what to do. He irritatingly refused to take sides, or give instructions. We later appreciated the wisdom of this approach. (Barry later confided that it wasn’t just correct policy by him and other US SWP leaders at that time not to interfere – it was also hard to figure out what each side was on about, we were a little raw and weird in those early days!)

After the split with Gould, and the formation of the party, we dived wholeheartedly into the Fourth International, into an active international political activity. We took it very seriously. If we thought the FI was the necessary international organisation, we were going to help as much as we could.

Throughout the ‘70s we committed ourselves thoroughly, to the maximum of our resources. For a small party, we had a high internationalist commitment and consciousness. I spent a year and a half in New York working on the FI’s weekly newsmagazine, Intercontinental Press, in 1974-75. Jim Percy, Nita Keig and Doug Lorimer each spent a couple of years in Paris at the end of the ‘70s working in the FI Bureau. Most of our international work in the ‘70s was within the framework of the FI – delegations to the congresses and meetings of its executive committee and secretariat, visits by FI leaders, visits helping other groups where we could.

It was the best outfit to be associated with – the role of the US comrades in the leadership of the antiwar movement, the role of the French comrades in the 1968 events, for example. But the ‘70s was marked by a sharp faction fight in the Fourth International, between the Leninist Trotskyist Faction, led by the US SWP, and the International Majority Tendency, led by Ernest Mandel and the European sections such as the LCR in France. This produced a split here in August 1972, with about a quarter of our members breaking away to found a rival group – the Communist League – aligned with the IMT. We were a victim of that faction fight in the FI.

But there was also a positive legacy of the FI and that factional struggle: political education, discussion, taking politics and theory seriously. We did make some gains from it. The negatives included the permanent factionalism, manoeuvring, petty numbers games and squabbling.

The FI’s conception of an international, and its structure, distorted the debate, and forced a stance and vote on each major development in the class struggle around the world. It led to farcical situations, and encouraged splits. The FI was not as bad as other Trotskyist organisations of course, where the line gets handed down by the parent party, or where there was no debate.

But we ourselves made an important advance in that period – our achievement in overcoming the 1972 split, in advance of the main factional centres resolving their differences, in spite of them. It irked both sides somewhat. We had built a self-confident, independent team. (We were helped a little by our geographical isolation!)

In the early ‘80s, we made a political break with Trotskyism. Under the impact of the Nicaraguan revolution, we made a closer examination of the Cuban revolutionaries, and studied Lenin more closely. We set up our own full-time school, our “Lenin School”, in 1981, and from then to 1992, had hundreds of our own comrades go through, mostly for four-month sessions, and international guests from a number of countries – Indonesia, 2; Sri Lanka, 2; Hong Kong, 2; PNG, 2; Philippines, 1.

We also broke with the US SWP in the early ‘80s. In spite of the lip service paid by Barnes to James P. Cannon’s view of internationalism – against Cominternism, against clones – outright attempts at interference in our party’s affairs began. They consolidated a small group of supporters inside our party, loyal to their wrecking operation. In 1983, we put an end to this and broke off relations with the US SWP.

What caused the degeneration of the party we had learned such a lot from and respected so much? A new cult, a new clone-type outfit had arisen. The false projections of the turn to basic industry, and persisting in those political mistakes when events had proved the conjunctural foundations false, propelled the degeneration of the US SWP. Here the Barnes leadership broke with another crucial Cannonist tradition – that you decide your tactical orientation not on the basis of what you estimate, or hope, might happen in the class struggle in the future, but on what’s actually happening in the class struggle.

We left the Fourth International in 1985. Our reasons for this decision are spelt out in our 1985 pamphlet The Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International. Our attitude to the FI after 1985 was that we wished to maintain friendly relations, and to collaborate with the serious parties and leaders in it.

Regroupment attempts

After our break with the US SWP we set about rebuilding our international links. Peter Camejo, who had been expelled from the US SWP in 1982, was our initial collaborator, plus a small number of comrades in the Mexican section of the FI who had expressed agreement with the views we put forward in the lead-up to the 1985 World Congress of the FI.

We attempted to build closer relations with the revolutionaries in Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador, partly through CISLAC, but also directly. We made some international trips, to Libya, to international conferences there, to seek out any anti-imperialist collaborators. In 1987 Dave Holmes went to Europe as Direct Action correspondent. In 1989 we attempted to build a relationship with New Left Review, to distribute their books and magazine.

In the second half of the ‘80s, we had hopes for a residual positive component in some of the Stalinist parties, internationally and in Australia. We grabbed at the possibility that glasnost and perestroika might open up a dialogue with the Moscow-aligned parties internationally and in Australia. We attempted regroupments with the CPA, and later the SPA. These parties were tested and found wanting yet again. The right-wing, bankrupt character of Stalinism here and in the Soviet Union was demonstrated once more. The CPA baulked at forming a broad left party with us; unity with the SPA foundered on their support for the Chinese bureaucracy’s brutal suppression of the Tiananmen student protests in 1989. Were we wrong to try these attempts at regroupment? No. We were wrong about where they would head, but not wrong to try.

Our attempts to develop contacts with Communist parties around the world paralleled, facilitated, our unity attempts here. We despatched Renfrey Clarke to Moscow in 1990, to gather information, and send back reports and articles. We were hoping for a positive outcome to the struggle there, but the process was already heading downhill.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, we had hopes in the Greens, in green-left formations internationally and here. Unfortunately, their general evolution has also been to the right, toward becoming bourgeois electoralist outfits. The US Greens might get better organised as a result of the Nader candidacy, but mostly the political direction in this milieu is to the right. Were we wrong to try to influence the Greens in a leftward direction, here and overseas, to break out of an electoralist framework? No. Again we were “wrong”, but not wrong to try.

A turn back to building our party

So at the beginning of the ‘90s we had to make a turn back to directly building our own party, following the failure of all our efforts at regroupment here. Partly this was a response to a financial crisis, and the lack of commitment and misunderstandings that developed as we adjusted norms and tried to make ready for the possibility of regroupment with other forces.

At our June 1990 NC I reported on “the need for the party to reaffirm, re-educate about, and remobilise around our basic party-building norms and lessons, at the same time as continuing to do everything we can to reach out to, and regroup with, broader forces” [Party Forum No. 10, July 1990], while still doing work in the Greens, preparing the Socialist Scholars Conference, and preparing to launch Green Left Weekly. In October 1990 the National Executive reintroduced provisional membership, and introduced a membership rule for attendance at branch meetings.

We still had some hopes for regroupment here in 1990. But by the next NC meeting, in April 1991, we had less, and we stressed the direct party-building side of our work even further. “A change in our direction that should be dramatised by seeing it as a turn“ [The Activist, Vol. 1, 2. p. 3.] Green Left, launched in 1991, was a “regroupment” tool following this turn, a regroupment tool in the absence of any likely partner.

The turn to concentrating on directly building our own party kept us afloat, even having successes, with retreats by organisations and individuals around us. Without that turn we’d be a lot smaller, weaker. We wouldn’t have a paper like Green Left. And we wouldn’t have been able to do the international work we’ve been able to do in the last six years. Did we miss an opportunity for regroupment, for broader, more rapid growth as a result of this turn? Absolutely not! Did we miss an opportunity for making links with broader forces internationally as a result of this turn? Absolutely not!

That turn to directly building our own party and reaffirmation of our revolutionary socialist perspective might have come at the same time as we changed our name to Democratic Socialist Party, and launched Green Left Weekly, and organised broad reachout initiatives and conferences here, and expanded the range of our international contacts. But it’s important not to mistake these steps as a weakening of our commitment to a perspective of building a Marxist cadre organisation, a Leninist-type party. A few of our former members did make this mistake, or tried to write their own tiredness and weakening of commitment on to the party as a whole.

The tactical adjustments we made in the second half of the ‘80s in no way implied a repudiation of our Leninist political perspectives. And there’s been no change on this score in recent years either – our perspectives are set down in our program, the basics of which we adopted in 1990. This is what we’ve been educating comrades in at our school throughout the ‘80s, in our classes, in all our documents. It’s nothing new!

We established our Prague and Moscow offices after the January 1990 conference as a response to glasnost and perestroika, but they saw the arse end of it (which was demoralising for comrades in Prague, but Renfrey survived!). It meant a significant broadening out of our international work. These were followed by Frank Noakes and Catherine Brown in London, Steve O’Brien in Managua, and Terry Townsend in Johannesburg.

Green Left Weekly has been primarily an Australian project but it also served as an international tool, for our correspondents to travel and report, to gather other international correspondents, to have an impact on other currents through our impressive coverage on international questions, and our non-sectarian approach to local issues. It’s become an international news magazine. (Green Left Weekly is a bit like Intercontinental Press in its healthy days.) There are so many countries where our exclusive coverage is unsurpassed.

Green Left prepared the ground for the International Green Left Conference in 1994, and launching our specific international initiative, Links magazine. That’s been our most ambitious international project.

In the ‘90s, two major developments occurred in the Asian region:

  1. The Philippines CP split and an anti-Stalinist current developed with a mass base in the Manila-Rizal region, and we were able to establish close relations with them.
  2. The left movement revived in Indonesia, and from the start we were able to develop close collaboration with the comrades there.

Expanded contacts in recent years

During the last two years our international contacts have expanded further. Comrades’ trips to the Philippines and Indonesia have been invaluable. Graham Matthews and Karen Fletcher attended the PRD founding conference last year. Dick Nichols attended the Philippines Slam APEC conference in November organised by the BMP, the socialist workers’ centre.

Reihana Mohideen was based in Manila for most of last year, and was also able to visit Japan and make direct contact with the small group in Japan that supports Links, as well as other left groups.

We made contact with important parties on the Indian sub-continent, in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh through visits by Sujatha F and Michael T. Especially important has been our contact with the CPI(ML)[Liberation]. Sujatha worked with them for all of last year.

We developed a much bigger range of contacts in Latin America, through Steve O’Brien, and Dick Nichols’s trip, attending the Sao Paulo Foro. Steve attended the conference in the Dominican Republic that formed FR (Revolutionary Force), a fusion of four parties. It’s an interesting regroupment for us to follow, and they’ve sent greetings to our conference.

Chris Sp, Trish C, Neville S and Sandra W attended the Zapatista conference in Mexico. Comrades have attended the Fourth International World Congress and IEC [International Executive Committee] as observers, and developed closer contact with some of the better parties in the FI.

We developed contact with Militant Labour in England and Scotland, which we hope to be able to develop further. Lynn Walsh, one of their leaders, is now on the Links editorial board, and hopefully they’ll distribute the magazine seriously too.

Last year we got to know the German PDS better, and they got to learn about us, especially through the attendance of Andre Brie at our January educational conference, and collaboration on Indonesian solidarity work.

We also expanded our contacts through the East Timor conference we organised in Sydney in June, meeting other activists from different countries in Asia.

We’ve renewed our contacts with the Trotskyist groups in Hong Kong, and one of their comrades had initially planned to make it to this conference. We made contact with the recently regrouped ODP in Turkey, one of their leaders visited Australia.

Maurice S was able to attend the Committees of Correspondence convention in July. He also made contact with the Canadian distributors of Links in Toronto, the former CPers there, who operate through the Cecil Ross Society. Chris Sp and Trish C attended the Solidarity convention and summer school this year.

We’ve maintained our contacts with the New Zealand NewLabour Party and Alliance. I attended their conferences last Easter.

Sam W was able to attend the French LCR congress last November. We also received an invitation to the French CP congress held last December, and Sam was able to attend that also.

Comrades have made follow up visits to South Africa, Latin America, Europe.

That’s a wide range of contacts, and I haven’t exhausted the list. We’re working with both large parties, with much more mass influence and strength than us, as well as smaller organisations and individuals. There were invitations to congresses we were unable to attend, such as the PRC in Italy, and the Portuguese CP. And there’s a big range of greetings to this conference.

The 1990s have been the period of our most intense, and fruitful, international work.

Prospects for socialism

But what are the prospects for socialists, half a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Capitalism’s contradictions continue as before, it’s not solved its problems, despite the hype about “globalisation” and the end of history. The gap is widening between rich and poor on a world scale, and within the imperialist countries themselves. Crisis is not off the agenda, the bourgeois economists themselves know that, they’re edgy, and you can read their frank assessments in the financial pages when they talk to their masters.

The report and discussion on the international situation this morning clearly demonstrated this [see “_’Globalisation’, Neo-Liberalism and the Capitalist Austerity Drive,” by Doug Lorimer, The Activist, Vol. 7, No. 1]. Imperialism is on the rampage with its neoliberal offensive in country after country. But it still seems a sorry scene for the organised left.

Many of the traditional Communist parties have collapsed, many others are disoriented, many move further to the right, becoming liberal bourgeois parties, social-democratic outfits.

The neoliberal ideological offensive has taken its toll on the left intellectuals and activists in the social movements. New Left Review has drifted to the right, orienting to its main market – left-liberal US academics. Even Socialist Register this year seems to have retreated into detail, avoiding the big questions.

The sad state of the international socialist movement predates the collapse of the Soviet Union of course. But have things got to the stage where we should reconsider the “Circle the Wagons” option, keep the flame alive and hope for better times? No. We still maintain our perspective of reaching out to broad left forces, our revolutionary optimism, seeing the possibilities for struggles and growth, both propaganda for socialism, and engaging in struggle. And we can see some positive trends, on top of the reality of the fundamental contradictions of capitalism.

Positive trends

Firstly, the workers’ movement in the imperialist countries is by no means dead, in spite of the ossification of the official trade unions, bureaucratised and losing members. The strike wave in France at the end of 1995, and again with the magnificent truck drivers’ victory recently, is enough to show that. It’s especially encouraging since the struggles were waged and victory won despite the lack of clear leadership, or perhaps because of the absence of the traditional leaderships.

But other parts of Europe have also demonstrated amazing popular combativity:

  • In Greece, many sectors have struck, and a huge farmers’ blockade paralyses the country.
  • In Italy, seven million participated in a 24-hour strike recently.
  • In Belgium in October there was a general strike for a shorter working week without loss of pay.
  • In Germany in October there was a strike of 400,000 workers.
  • In Spain 150,000-200,000 demonstrated in Madrid on November 23 against the government austerity program, and a general strike took place on December 12.
  • In Canada a general strike shut down Toronto last October.

Secondly, the workers’ movement in the semi-colonial countries is very much on the move. There’s been a massive growth of the working class in Asia particularly, and mostly it’s not yet shackled by conservative leaderships as most trade unions in the advanced capitalist countries are. South Korean workers have demonstrated tremendous courage and organisation in recent years, including in the magnificent struggle and enormous strike wave that began on December 27. Workers in the Philippines, India, and more recently in Indonesia, are also standing up.

And the guerrilla struggles of oppressed people hasn’t been totally repressed, breaking out in Mexico with the Zapatistas, and other groups, and now in Peru, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement has grabbed the stage (thankfully dimming Shining Path’s light).

Thirdly, the radicalisation of young people that began in the advanced capitalist countries in the 1960s shows no sign of being snuffed out, in spite of the wishes and premature burials by the ruling classes and their spin doctors.

At past conferences we’ve noted the 1993 Honi Soit survey of students at Sydney University, which recorded the continuing, higher level of left consciousness on politics than in the ‘60s. We thought it would be similar in other advanced capitalist countries, and I recently came across an article originally from the US Nation which confirmed this. A poll based on questionnaires to 296,000 first year university students in the US in 1990 revealed the following encouraging political outlooks:

  • 86% thought the government wasn’t doing enough to control pollution;
  • 68% said the government wasn’t doing enough to promote disarmament;
  • 65% supported abortion rights;
  • and 37% reported they “participated in organised demonstrations” the previous year, more than double the figure reported in the late ‘60s by the same survey.

I haven’t seen the results of more recent surveys. But it confirms our experience here, that there is a continuing process of radicalisation among a layer of young people and they will mobilise on a broad range of social issues.

The capitalist system continues to decay and inflict new miseries on the majority of people around the world. The possibility and the need for a socialist solution still exists. There’s a growing willingness within the working class in many countries to fight, particularly where it has leaderships that are willing to lead a fight. And young people, the mainstay of all past revolutionary struggles, and the future, can be won to socialism.

The lack, so far, is that revolutionary socialist party able to build from that objective situation, to win workers and students to a revolutionary socialist perspective, engage the bourgeoisie in ideological struggles and chart a course toward a struggle for power. As the article by Raghu Krishnan in the last issue of Links explained:

On the one hand, there is an impressive willingness to fight back among broad layers of the French population. On the other, there is no credible mass organisational force both willing and able to steer a path towards the defeat of the government and a radical change in economic and social policy in the midst of a deep economic crisis This is the great dilemma and the great challenge faced by critical-minded forces in France today.

Regroupment and renewal

What stage are we at internationally in overcoming this crisis of leadership?

Firstly, does the situation now lend itself more to regroupment or to renewal? Which is the main priority, resurrecting the “old” left, and drawing the lessons, versus recruiting a new left, winning the youth? Regroupment, reviving former leftists, might still be the main game in some countries, but in others, including Australia, the priority will be winning new forces to socialism. Rounding up the tired, demoralised forces of a past generation of radicalised young people – the former student radicals of the ‘60s and ‘70s – for yet another go can be an unproductive use of resources. Today’s radical youth can be won to socialism. The radicalisation’s not turned back, but the accepted wisdom.

But having said that, we know that renewal, recruitment, growth, takes place through parties, at the national level. On the international level, the process of regroupment, developing new links and networks, continues.

So how are the different international currents developing, contending and shaking out? All the existing so-called “Internationals” are organisationally and politically irrelevant as a basis for a new genuine international, but currents and networks do exist:

  • The Socialist International. It’s there, but hardly relevant from a socialist viewpoint. It’s a loose association of liberal bourgeois parties.
  • There’s the multitude of Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist international sects.
  • There are the fragments of the former “international Communist movement”, often Stalinist sects, the shadows of the old official gathering circuits.
  • There’s the hard Maoist line-up, with its Belgium meeting, embracing Shining Path and Sison.

Some new networks and meeting points have appeared recently. For example:

  • The Sao Paulo Foro set a good example in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and provided a meeting place for practically the whole Latin American left, but seems a bit too oriented to parties relying on the parliamentary arena. It’s been useful for us, to make contact with groups and learn more about the politics of the region. The Foro will be held in Brazil in 1997.
  • The New European Left Forum, grouping the left parties in the European parliament, CPs, former CPs, Eurocommunist parties, left reformist parties and alliances.

Such broad ecumenical forums are useful gatherings. They help break down the isolation and fragmentation of the left. They can be even more useful if they can agree to coordinate some minimal anti-imperialist solidarity work. (The EZLN conference provided another dimension of “broadness”, but little political clarity.)

But perhaps we need more defined gatherings of revolutionary Marxists too. (The hint from the Cubans in 1995 of a possible gathering in Cuba hasn’t come to fruition.)

The three counter-conferences in Manila during the APEC conference provided an illustration of the international problem, the persistence of different international currents, if not internationals. It was also encouraging, given the success of the MR comrades’ conferences. Firstly, the revolutionary current, the BMP comrades, who mobilised by far the most impressive conferences and actions. Secondly, there was the old style Stalinist, Sisonite conference. (There might have been some left rhetoric, but they’re not revolutionary, especially note some of the international guests, such as Peter Murphy, a totally reformist ex-CPAer.) And thirdly there was the third force, liberal-reformist, NGOs conference, offering the movement up for co-option.

How can we, and the Links project, both relate to any of the healthy developments in the different trends, and also help to push the debate in the right direction – a revolutionary, non-reformist, non-Stalinist, but also, non-sectarian direction?

Reform or revolution

The question of reform or revolution is still a fundamental political divide, a basic question for the workers’ movement to get right.

Social-democratic governments have universally been unmitigated disasters, often just as repressive and pro-capitalist as outright Tories. Blair is making absolutely clear the nature of the Labour Party, something clarified earlier in Australia.

But this question is even posed for parties claiming adherence to Marxism, and posed in debates, and divisions, in many of the Marxist parties we’ve been following or collaborating with: debates in the FSLN, the FMLN, in the PRC in Italy, in the Brazilian PT, in the SACP.

In New Zealand the break from Labour of the NewLabour Party started to address the problem of trying to insist on defence of the social gains and reforms won in the past within the capitalist system. It was a left social-democratic break from an increasingly rightward moving Labour Party. Through the formation of an alliance with other electoral formations that opposed the neoliberal policies of Labour and the Nationals, it won a broad hearing among New Zealand working people. The Alliance has 13 MPs now, after the October elections, with 10% of the vote, dropping from 18% last time. Naturally there was some disappointment. The Alliance lost ground to Labour, and allowed them to grab more of the left space on a range of social issues.

Where now for the Alliance? What now for socialists in New Zealand? Within the Alliance, there has been no discussion of moving beyond an electoralist framework. The Alliance, and the parties within it, have increasingly followed the path that we have seen here with the Greens. There are also tensions over questions of democratic functioning and the peculiar constraint of an alliance structure. There’s a danger of demoralisation for the left activists in NewLabour. One way forward might be to look at what contribution can the comrades there make to international solidarity work, especially now with increased parliamentary resources? The next NewLabour conference will be on the Anzac weekend, and the Alliance conference sometime in August-September.

We’ll still try to draw in, engage in debate in Links, those parties and currents which reject a revolutionary Marxist perspective. But, of course, on the condition that revolutionary Marxist views are accepted as part of the debate (too often non-Marxists are exclusionary, insist on unity or even discussions only on a minimalist position – theirs).

Anti-Stalinism and Stalinophobia

We’ll also continue to reach out to the milieu of former CPs, and other broader forces internationally, and make new contacts, bring more groups into the Links project. There are many other groups, for example in Greece, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and elsewhere, that we could interest in Links. There’s still a process of unravelling of ex-CPs going on.

A clarification on Stalinism is still taking place. Some currents are hardening up in their old dogmas, they yearn for the security of the “glorious” past of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and reaffirm the class-collaborationist policies of Stalinism. Others are carrying out revolutionary policies in practice, drawing their lessons from Lenin’s time. Many parties from the Stalinist tradition, however, are continuing with their right-wing, class collaborationist policies while distancing themselves from past association with the Soviet Union, and becoming little different from the social-democratic parties.

At our educational conference last January we emphasised those important political “dividing lines”, Stalinism and social-democracy. It’s not a question of origins, of course. Some revolutionaries, some revolutionary parties of the future will come from a Stalinist background. Some that we are working closely with today have those origins, and it’s a tribute to our ability to think politically, and not scholastically, that we’ve been able to make those links, unlike dogmatic sects who can’t see change, who think in terms of labels and timeless categories, mistaking form and content.

But it is a relevant issue/dividing line, because parties that can renew the socialist project need to be clear on both the problems of Stalinist politics and practices implemented today, and also on historical questions, especially the ‘20s and ‘30s. That’s important, because a future revolutionary party can only succeed in opposition to that disastrous tradition – firstly, to be able to win over, convince, the mass of the working class, and secondly, not to repeat the mistakes, the crimes, of Stalinism.

But we’ve also seen the dangers of an emotional rejection of Stalinism, without a proper Marxist understanding of the phenomenon. Some focus on the organisational aspect of Stalinism, the repression, the bureaucratic centralism, and ignore the class-collaborationist nature of Stalinist politics. This can lead to a rejection of Leninism, the rejection of a revolutionary perspective, of the possibility for socialism. The Committees of Correspondence in the USA looks like it’s going down this road (unfortunately they’ve also retained most of the CP’s political line, supporting the Democrats, for example). The unfortunate demise of Line of March/Crossroads seems partly due to this too, at least Irwin Silber’s book was a bad case of it.

The retreat to the right of former Marxists, in the name of rejecting sectarianism or Stalinism, or reviving the line that Leninism leads to Stalinism, even gives a little breathing space for Stalinist throwbacks.


A rejection of sectarianism can also easily slide into a rejection of a revolutionary socialist perspective, as people get cast off from sectarian Trotskyist groups, or these groups harden up in their sectarianism. Some fragments of the Healyite implosion went in this direction, for example Tim Wohlforth.

This seems to be partly the case with a number of the ISO/SWP splits around the world – Socialist Alternative here, the New Socialist Group [NSG] in Canada, and splits in South Africa and Britain etc. The new groups seem to have both left and right characteristics, but in reaction to the bureaucratic regime of the ISO/SWP, an anti-Leninism is getting entrenched.

Comrades met some of the NSG people, and might have more information and a more favourable impression, but some of their stuff on the internet, an ex ISO/SWP discussion list is not very encouraging. For example, David Camfield of the NSG dismisses our party as “Barnesites with a human face”. Hopefully, that’s not an entrenched position, because there are reports that the NSG has many good features.

Although the groups which cut loose from a sectarian international current might possibly become more open to discussion and collaboration, sometimes they can be just as sectarian as the group they broke from. Certainly that’s the case here, with Socialist Alternative just as arrogant and sectarian as the ISO.

Also, some comrades involved in the regroupment processes around the world have had the misconception that renewal and regroupment must mean a shift to the right, certainly a rejection of Leninism, but also often of revolutionary Marxism and an accommodation to reformism.

In the USA a few discussions have taken place between Solidarity, the Committees of Correspondence [CoC], the Democratic Socialists of America, the Freedom Road Organising Committee, and the Socialist Party. There’s good comrades and good intentions involved in all of these groups no doubt, but sometimes I’ve seen their self-characterisation as “the anti-Leninist left” and the “non-sectarian left”. They equate the two – Leninism and sectarianism. The discussions are unlikely to amount to much because on the key question of relating to the Democratic Party, there are irreconcilable differences. But no doubt they could get agreement on a vague support for socialism. But opposition to “Leninism” would entrench an opposition to a revolutionary Marxist perspective.

There’s a danger of groups making a break from a sectarian dogmatic tradition – some of the groups coming from a CP background, the CoC from the CPUSA, for example; the groups splitting from the IS current internationally – to reject their past for some of the wrong reasons. They reject bureaucratic centralism, but equate it with democratic centralism, and reject both; they conclude that Leninism leads to Stalinism, rejecting Leninism; some from a Trotskyist tradition conclude that “Cannonism leads to Barnesism”, rejecting the whole history of the US SWP.

In Solidarity, a reaction to the success of the ISO in the United States is sometimes to steer clear of the ISO’s strengths – their ability to recruit youth (what they educate them in is another matter); their activism, their paper selling, their “vanguardism”. Pointing it out even gets derided as “ISO-envy” apparently. It’s a self-defeating approach if you want to build a serious revolutionary organisation.

Why do most of Solidarity’s leadership oppose having a national paper? It’s not just a question of resources, of enough committed members, although that’s a factor (in fact a consequence of the political basis they’re built on). But perhaps a national newspaper which took positions on major national and international questions might put a strain on Solidarity’s broad structure embracing different traditions.

Moreover, an organisation the size of Solidarity – which is a little bigger than our own party – couldn’t produce and sustain a national weekly paper without having a perspective of building a democratic centralist cadre party. But many of Solidarity’s leaders equate such a perspective with “Barnesism”, with “sectarianism”.

The defeats suffered by the old left have given rise to sentiments for an all-inclusive type of party, where the orientation is to regroup the existing socialists, rather than recognising that the majority of active cadres will be recruited from among the radicalising youth.

Within this framework the discussions between the DSA, SP, CoC, etc., are actually logical, although entrenched organisational loyalties probably mean they won’t go very far. But the basis could certainly be a “back to Marx” position, because that allows all the questions of the Russian Revolution, of Leninism, of Stalinism to be brushed under the carpet.

We could be in such a regroupment for a time, as well as in new left social-democratic formations such as the fledgling US Labor Party founded last year, provided your cadre are trained in the understanding that that’s not all that’s needed!

Similarly with the populist alliance in the US in which Peter Camejo is involved. A founding conference in November formed Alliance for Democracy (some wanted it a bit more to the left, to include some actual reference to populism in the name).

The problem of populism as a strategy for socialists is that you’ll never recruit people to socialism, only populism. A solid group might make a temporary manoeuvre, and make some short term gains, but individual socialists won’t be seen as any different from the rest, apart from nostalgic recollections of a distant past, which are likely to get less and less nostalgic, and increasingly bitter.


The fragmentation of the myriad Trotskyist sects is even worse than when we made our reassessment of Trotskyism in the early ‘80s and relinquished our membership of the FI in 1985:

  • The ISO-SWP current has undergone many more splits (I read that there’s five fragments of the ISO current in Germany).
  • There was the Healyite implosion, and some new schemas from the fragments.
  • The Moreno current split many ways.
  • The Spartacists have split, expelling the editor of their paper and their Brazilian group.
  • There have been splits of splits of splits, creating new “Internationals” of a few dozen people!

With the growth of the internet it’s easy for a tiny group to scatter its words of wisdom to the world. In recent weeks we received several such new manifestos. One long document from a new set of initials – the LCMCRI – had theoreticised its schemas on splits, entry, “hosts”, “parasites” (their actual words), new acronyms, “CTOs” (Centrist Trotskyist Organisations, I figured out.)

This approach of striving for international doctrinal purity, monolithic little propaganda groups in each country, leads to a multitude of sects and clone “Internationals”. The revolutionary vanguard gets divided into little groups, each with their particular nostrums and shibboleths.

Nevertheless, while despairing at their sectarianism, tactical rigidity, counterproductive style, etc., we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Trotskyists are revolutionaries, have positive intentions, are often dedicated and persistent. We should have our attitude toward them clear – they’re not in the same camp as the Laborites, left-liberals, and hardened reformists.

But we can repeat today the characterisations of the Trotskyist currents we made in the early ‘80s: They can be fetishists of the written program. Though having a correct critique of Stalinism, too often “rivers of blood” Stalinophobia has hindered them from relating creatively to leftward moving developments coming out the Stalinist forces. Though partly victims of the isolation of revolutionary-minded forces in the imperialist countries, the majority of Trotskyist groups have been super-sectarians. Too frequently, blinded by rigid, doctrinaire schemas, they let real revolutionary developments pass them by. Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” theory prevented many Trotskyist groups from responding to the Cuban Revolution, to the Nicaraguan Revolution, and today to the developments in Indonesia.

Though let’s also repeat our attitude stated in the ‘80s, that we want to work with serious parties and organisations from the Trotskyist tradition.

The Fourth International

Foremost among these is the Fourth International itself, which is still the best of the international Trotskyist currents, and these comrades have our respect. In the FI there are some strong parties.

The French LCR is still the largest FI group in Europe, and although it has only recently begun to renew its ranks, is able to make an impact on the French left still. The French CP in its desire to open up somewhat invited Alain Krivine as one of the four speakers for a big symposium on the left in Paris a few months ago, and according to Sam W, he stole the show. Sam attended the LCR’s congress last November, and apparently it was the best they’ve had for many years, with the leadership faction getting a clear majority for their perspectives (which is not normal).

The Sri Lankan NSSP is the other main FI group we’ve collaborated most with in recent years. It’s taken a principled stand on the Tamil question, and is the strongest left force in Sri Lanka. They’ve been the target of government repression, and might need our solidarity again in the future. A number of their comrades have been able to visit Australia, and we hope to be able to collaborate with them on future projects in the Asian region.

In Senegal there’s also a very interesting party, PADS, the African Party for Democracy and Socialism, in which FI comrades, Maoists and others came together to build a socialist organisation with extensive and growing mass support. Yesterday we received a letter from Scott L, who’ll be there for a few years studying drumming, and he’s now getting more involved in the political scene. He writes that PADS have printed 100,000 membership forms – either wildly over-ambitious or indicative of very rapid growth.

Most FI groups have not prospered in the last few decades. Many have shrunk. Most find it hard to recruit and keep youth. One exception is the Portuguese PSR, which has renewed a young leadership and membership.

But there’s a worrying dissipation of FI organisations on the national level. The Mexican PRT split, and now one part is dissolving into the FZLN. There was a lack of cohesion of comrades in some countries where fusions were attempted with other forces. Perhaps the most disastrous of these fusions was that between the Spanish LCR and the Maoist Movementio Comunista – it led to the disintegration of the organisation in Spain. Many of these problems can be traced to the semi-spontaneist approach the comrades in the FI have toward the question of party building, to their rejection of the Cannonist tradition.

This is combined with still retaining the rigidity of the FI as an international “democratic centralist” organisation as the supposed embryo of the “world party of socialist revolution”. This might be more a ritual – it’s not implemented – nevertheless, the FI is still dogged by the limitations and political narrowness we identified in 1985. This is at the core of the problem perhaps – what’s really needed is a looser network between parties, and more cohesion in building the party at a national level.

Militant Labour

Another healthy party from the Trotskyist tradition is Militant Labour in Britain. They’ve not only been able to lead important struggles in recent years, but also been able to make a positive reassessment of many past positions (although they’re still stuck in a backward, economistic position on Ireland).

Their international work still has two sides to it: opening up to parties outside their current – the FI, ourselves, large parties such as the PDS, the PRC – but then putting their main emphasis on the fostering of little clone groups as part of their Committee for a Workers’ International in as many countries as they can, often groups with only a few dozen members, while cutting themselves off from much larger revolutionary parties.

Recently they held a special conference, and voted to change their name to the Socialist Party. It was preceded by an extensive written debate. A minority opposing the change received 10% of the delegates. It seemed to be a healthy discussion, with no victimisation of the minority. As for the arguments, there’s probably much we could learn from both sides, and if we could condense the documents down to a manageable size it would probably be worth reprinting in The Activist.

We’ll see what the repercussions of their current discussion there are, and what fallout there is from Militant here breaking off discussions with us. The Socialist Party’s general secretary, Peter Taaffe, will be attending Militant’s national conference here in February, and we hope to be able to arrange some meetings.

Our focus on the Asian region

But of the many positive developments in the socialist renewal process around the world, the most important have been in the Asian region. In Indonesia, the re-emergence of a socialist current in the largest country in our region is an extremely exciting and encouraging development. The comrades are young, but have displayed a very mature political sense, grabbed openings, and managed to insert themselves much more centrally in Indonesian politics in the lead-up to and aftermath of the July 27 events. Solidarity with the PRD will be a central priority for our work, and the report on the Indonesian political situation tomorrow morning will cover this thoroughly.

In the Philippines, the comrades in MR are reorganising, and maintaining, even expanding their mass base in the Manila region. They’ve still not succeeded in uniting with splits from the CPP in other regions, and still working on the organisational and political questions involved in making the transition. These comrades are important close collaborators for us, and we need to cement and build more ties. Sonny Melencio will be here for this year, doing a lot of the Manila comrades’ international work, and preparation of documents.

We hope to develop closer links with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)[Liberation]. They have Maoist origins, and still have those trappings, but don’t have a Stalinist, class-collaborationist program. They’re a dynamic party, with a big and expanding mass base, and open to discussion on revolutionary strategy. (Their English language magazine has carried interesting discussions, for example on the national question, on Trotsky, and Gramsci.) There are interesting developments also in Nepal and Bangladesh, and of course there’s the NSSP comrades in Sri Lanka.

The next Links, Number 8, will feature developments on the Asian left.

Potential of our close collaboration with BMP and PRD

The close collaboration between the Philippines and Indonesian comrades and ourselves has the potential to help further the development of revolutionary socialist parties in the Asian region. We need to cement such a triangular alliance.

It could be very mutually beneficial. With our different strengths and experiences, we can learn much from each other. We can also help each other with international solidarity and defence campaigns. Our common interventions could be stepped up in forums such as the Asian Students Association. Our different international contacts could open different doors. And we could start to send a message to other parties, who might also have different origins, and different situations, but common revolutionary perspectives.

Max Lane has sent a letter on behalf of the DSP National Executive to MR leader Popoy Lagman, outlining the strong reasons for intensifying this collaboration, and presenting specific proposals. Max will be travelling to the Philippines shortly after the conference, for discussions with the comrades there.

We have very close collaboration with the Indonesian comrades. Communication is on a daily basis. We’ve conveyed the proposals for expanding collaboration with the Philippines comrades and ourselves to them also, and they seem keen.

Comrade Nico W will be based here functioning as the international centre for the PRD. Comrade Robbie H will be here, attending our two-week school together with Nico after the conference, and then travelling to Europe to further organise PRD international solidarity campaigns. There’ll be numerous visits by our comrades to Indonesia this year.

International solidarity

Greater international collaboration on solidarity campaigns needs to occur. The PRD defence campaign has had some resonance so far, but needs to be stepped up.

There are many dimensions to the solidarity work we do with Indonesia and East Timor through ASIET, or with Latin America through CISLAC. (And we might need to find ways to increase our solidarity with Cuba in 1997.)

Firstly, of course there’s our basic duty of solidarity with our comrades in struggle or facing repression. Secondly, it’s also useful for us here, building the party, and training and educating and inspiring comrades here. But also, it broadens our international links, helps build the international movement, especially if it is solidarity with comrades we have confidence in. The solidarity campaign with the PRD now could be one such useful rallying point, so that’s another reason for us to go flat out on it.

It provides an arena of joint international action for all who claim to be revolutionary socialists. And it also puts both liberals and sectarians on the spot here and internationally, over solidarity with the struggle in Indonesia, and specifically the defence of the PRD comrades.

Asia-Pacific Institute

Another project which could succeed through the close collaboration of our three parties is an Asia-Pacific Institute, which we’re investigating setting up. Such an institute could be an agency for some aspects of our joint international work. It could be a more respectable cover, for funding applications, or publishing projects, or international travel, and to break into the games of the NGO bureaucracies. We would see it as an activists‘ think tank.

The base of it has to be the collaboration between ourselves and the comrades in Indonesia and the Philippines. But it’s also essential to involve others. Firstly, our other contacts and supporters in the region – the NSSP, CPI(ML), Fretilin, Malaysian People’s Party… But also we’d hope to involve comrades in the FI in Spain and Belgium who have very useful experiences in this area. The FI is weak in the Asian region, and hopefully would be keen to participate in such a project. We’ll formally approach them.

Such an institute would have to have a Third World character, not the appearance of an Australian organisation. We’d set up an impressive structure, with prominent patrons from the region and here, some of us, some of our collaborators and supporters in Australia. It would bring together intellectuals, academics, plus grassroots activists and NGOs.

It could begin with some modest initial projects:

  • Publishing documents from the Slam APEC conference;
  • Financing the travel of Asian comrades;
  • Republishing a collection of Links articles.

We could call an initial council meeting for mid-1997, get established, then explore further uses and directions for the institute.

Asia-Pacific anti-imperialist conference

The most important project we want to propose to further our international work is a major conference in Sydney in 1998, at Easter, April 10-13 – an Asia-Pacific anti-imperialist conference. It would target imperialism’s global institutions and alliances.

To succeed we would need a high level of collaboration between ourselves and the Indonesian and Philippines comrades. But we’d also draw in all the progressive anti-imperialist groups from the region. We’d involve the Portuguese support for East Timor, and connect up with the organisers of the Madrid conference against the World Bank.

In Australia, it would be initiated, organised and guaranteed by ourselves, with a special role for ASIET, but draw in the progressive currents in the different migrant communities: Indonesians, East Timorese, Bougainvilleans, Sri Lankans, Tamils, Burmese, Koreans, Turkish, Kurdish, other leftists from the Middle East, Latin Americans. It could also involve CISLAC. It would force the attention of the rest of the left, similar to our Socialist Scholars or International Green Left conference.

An agenda for the conference could include: exchange of experiences from different countries; co-ordination of solidarity where needed; political discussion and debates on the main issues facing the struggle against imperialism. If the class struggle continues on the rise in Indonesia, and given the instability of the Suharto regime, it might have a special focus in support of the struggle there.


Links has been great so far, but from this conference we should resolve to put it on a sounder footing, and make full use of it here and internationally.

Firstly, we should strive to make it regular from now on. Get it out on time, so there’s more possibility of using surface mail or surface air lifted for some international distribution.

We should also work to make it pay for itself, or at least reduce our subsidy of it a bit. ($7,500 up to now.) We could increase the international sub rates, so it covers the postage at least. We also need to follow up the bundle payments from different parties.

Let’s make proper use of it for us too. Expand the subscriptions and sales in Australia, promote it more in all our political work, get it on our stalls, more bundles in bookshops and movement centres.

Internationally, we can do a lot more promotion: exchange ads, sample copies sent to parties that haven’t seen it yet, posting information on appropriate sites on the internet. We’ll try to organise international distribution better through the main nodes: San Francisco, Toronto, Berlin, Johannesburg, Paris, and hopefully increased British circulation.

And we have to ensure we have our own contributions to the discussion.

Green Left Weekly

Green Left Weekly will continue to be an important part of our international work, both for the essential information it provides for our own comrades, and for the increasing information service it provides for individuals and parties elsewhere.

We have a large complimentary subscription list, and an encouraging number of paid international subs. There have also been many requests from comrades in the Philippines, the US, Indonesia, New Zealand, elsewhere, for large bundles (50, 100, 200), which they are confident would find a market. The only obstacle to such a significant expansion of our international circulation is the prohibitive postage costs. (If we could only find a way around them – perhaps some comrades should apply for jobs as airline stewards)

We want to maintain our unsurpassed international coverage, from our range of resources:

  • Our own special Green Left correspondents;
  • Green Left correspondents from among our political collaborators and contacts;
  • Our occasional Green Left correspondents, our comrades on overseas trips;
  • Our comrades specialising here, both on staff, and in the branches.
  • We can’t cover everything, but apart from the major international developments that we can’t avoid, we’ll continue Green Left‘s specialisation on:
  • The Asian region as a whole, and especially Indonesia, East Timor, the Philippines;
  • Countries with similar political situations to ours, where we might draw lessons, for example countries with Labor parties, social-democratic parties;
  • Countries from which a significant migrant community has settled here;
  • Countries where we’re developing closer political collaboration with left parties.

It will be less comprehensive for other areas of the world (although that covers a lot!).

But with a minimum of seven, up to ten or twelve, specifically international pages, not counting the reviews pages and the issues of general interest to socialists anywhere, it is playing the role of an excellent international news magazine – one of the many roles of our combination paper.

World Wide Web

An increasingly important tool for our international work is the internet. All of Green Left Weekly has been available electronically on the Pegasus/APC international network for several years, and particular articles get reposted in a range of forums, and for more than a year we’ve had our own Green Left web page. We know this has expanded our international readership by many hundreds in many countries around the world.

But given the comprehensive nature of Green Left‘s international coverage – it’s the best on the left – we could probably be expanding this many times, reaching many new readers. (There’s no immediate financial returns, although it does generate subscriptions from readers who want a hard copy.)

Green Left on the web is on the verge of taking on the role of an international news service, one of the proposals we were testing out around the world almost four years ago at the same time as the Links magazine idea. Our idea of a few years ago has been overtaken by the World Wide Web. So we need to catch up, to make better use of it, to have the best, most comprehensive web pages, to showcase Green Left, as well as the rest of our political projects. We’re in the process of redesigning and expanding the pages, getting better organised and comprehensive links, and hopefully providing a search engine for the Green Left archives.

Similarly, we want to improve the Links web page too. But we are also planning a major improvement on the DSP and Resistance pages. This would give a projection of DSP, Resistance, and our political views not just in Australia, but internationally. We’ll put our major programmatic documents, our pamphlets, press releases, study guides, history on our web pages. And these will all be interlinked to the ASIET page, the CISLAC page, DSEL, and the Resistance Bookshop page.

The recognition of our greater possibilities and responsibilities to present our views internationally reaffirms the need to step up serious Marxist education in our own party, and getting more of our views in print as books and pamphlets. We could investigate joint printing efforts with other parties, and joint distribution projects for our publications and the Marxist classics. This recognition also keeps on the agenda our need to reinstitute our party school as it functioned in the 1980s.

International trips, events in ‘97, ‘98

What tours and international events might be possible here this year? Certainly we’ll have more tours by Indonesian comrades, and there’ll be an ASIET conference in August.

We want to investigate the possibility of a CISLAC tour, possibly of James Petras. There might be a Cuban tour, perhaps an exchange program, allowing us to send a delegate to Havana in July-August for the World Youth Festival also.

Ocean Press will possibly tour Juan Antonio Blanco, they’re publishing his book later this year, and we might collaborate on this. There’s also the chance of Jeremy Cronin visiting for Ocean Press at the end of the year.

In January 1998 we’ll have our educational conference, and start publicising its theme, “150 years since the Communist Manifesto“, and we’ll try to get some international guest speakers.

In 1997 there are a range of conferences around the world that we hope to get to:

  • In Belgium, on January 25, there’s a CADTM conference. Sam W and Zanny B will hopefully get to that, as well as the FI International Executive Committee meeting at the end of January.
  • In the US there’s the Labor Notes conference in April.
  • In Manila, there’s the anti-neoliberalism trade union conference just before May Day and May Day itself.
  • In Amsterdam, in June, there’s the culmination of an Alternative Europe campaign against unemployment.
  • Left Alternative in Hungary has called an international conference, with the theme of 30 years since the death of Che Guevara.
  • The CPI (ML) has flagged an international seminar on the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution, which we should try to attend.
  • There’s the FI youth camp in Europe, in July. Given our successful experiences with youth work throughout our history, Resistance comrades’ role in international work has been invaluable, with useful trips, attending conferences, explaining our politics and our experiences with Resistance.

We’ll be continuing the direct role of Resistance in international youth forums – WFDY (although Sujatha got a disappointing meeting), the Asian Students Association, the Havana World Youth Festival, and establishing direct relations with other youth organisations.

A note of caution on comrades’ overseas trips. These informal delegations have helped with our international work a lot. It doesn’t cost the party directly, it reduces the international travel part of our budget if we don’t have to finance a delegate. But it costs us more if comrades think, OK, no pledge, or just a token pledge this year, so I can pay for my overseas trip. Then next year… that was fun, let’s go again, so no pledge next year as well!

Our international political contribution

Even though we’re a very small party, our role today is not just watching events happen, but what we’re doing internationally can help. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders with the tasks and responsibilities we’ve taken on for solidarity activity, for disseminating information via Green Left and the World Wide Web, for providing a forum for discussion and political clarification via Links, for making and renewing political contacts around the world.

Our resources are limited. We’re a small party here, with limited finances, and limited cadre power. But there are so many openings, so many useful things we could do. But there’s so much we’ve already done. It’s been an international effort, carried out in a non-factional way, we can be very proud of.

Are some of the contacts we’ve made in our international work in recent years likely to take a more stand-offish, less collaborative approach to us as we step up the presentation of our views internationally? As debates move beyond areas of common agreement, and get into sharper clarifications? Perhaps those currents that are more on the right of the spectrum?

I don’t think so. They know our views, they’re not hidden. They’ve seen our program, our conferences are open to them, many of them receive The Activist.

Also, we’ve been promoting relations between parties in this period that encourage the honest presentation of views, that discourage factionalism, uncomradely polemics. The movement needs debates and more political clarity, but not interference, and not factionalism, going behind the backs of leaderships. We want to maintain the broadest relations possible, even if sharp political disagreements exist. Links has set an excellent example so far in this area.

Many of our international collaborators mightn’t be initially convinced of our “return to Lenin” perspective. Fine. We’ll see. That’s what we’re building the DSP on. That also guides our international work. But we will continue working with comrades and parties with a wide range of views on this. We’re hoping to convince by our arguments, expressed in a comradely way, and pedagogically hoping also to convince by our practice – what we can achieve with this method – Green Left, Links themselves.

Impact on our work here

Any progress in socialist renewal internationally does have an impact on our Australian party-building perspectives. The more healthy parties that develop that we have contact with, the better it is for us here. It inspires comrades, eases our isolation. Encouraging developments in the Asian region have been especially useful in this regard. The international debates broaden our horizons, give us pointers, warnings of possible pitfalls, helpful ideas to follow up.

In Australia at the moment our main perspective is not one of regrouping the old forces. The potential for workers’ struggles, the potential for recruiting youth, the potential for winning new forces to socialism, is the main prospect. In other countries, the possibilities might still be there for serious regroupment efforts, potential for seeing revolutionary currents develop in other parties, for getting a nucleus together.

Internationally, our perspective is regroupment, renewal, political debate and clarification to develop an international network of revolutionary parties. We’re looking to and supporting currents moving to the left, reaffirming a commitment to revolutionary Marxism, and hope that the tremendous possibilities of deeper collaboration in the Asian region, especially with our Indonesian and Philippine comrades, will take us forward in the year ahead.

The Activist was as the internal discussion bulletin of the Democratic Socialist Party