[The general line of this report was adopted unanimously by the DSP National Committee (NC) meeting October 5-7, 2002.]
Bush’s manifesto for total world domination
Bush’s National Security Strategy document – his “manifesto” for imperialism – justifies aggression on a world scale, pre-emptive strikes, “regime change”, unilateral action. “We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively.” It demands – asserts – total rule of the globe by US imperialism.
The document has been likened by the Moscow Times to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and described by the New York Times as Bush’s “how I’ll rule the world” blueprint.
James Laxer, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, September 24, 2002: “For the past decade, analysts have been debating the question of whether the US would follow the course of former powerful states such as Britain and Rome and proclaim itself an empire. In George W. Bush’s National Security Strategy, submitted to the US Congress on September 20, the White House espouses a doctrine that is explicitly imperialist.”
Bush has brazenly spelt out Washington’s imperialist policies and its readiness to use its two principal weapons in pursuit of those policies – military and economic power. It’s an escalation of imperialist arrogance. The administration of former US President Bill Clinton and others before had the same aims and objectives on behalf of the US ruling class, but had not been so blatant.
It sets a precedent for pre-emptive strikes against states or regimes they do not like or countenance. In the document’s own words: “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the US.” Not current adversaries, mind you – potential adversaries (Perhaps they have China in mind). They claim a right to monopoly of weapons of mass destruction, and any state’s military would be subject to their control.
Might becomes right; international law is trashed. As Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque pointed out, “the concept of pre-emptive war…the Charter of the UN would be left without any meaning at all.” “It doesn’t authorise any pre-emptive action. That concept is nonexistent in international law”.
It’s clear the doctrine is not just about Washington’s desire to rule the world, using the spectre of terrorism and the S11 attack on the World Trade Centre as justification, but more about US imperialism imposing free markets and free trade on those parts of the world that have, until now, managed to live outside its sphere of influence. In this, the newly articulated strategy is hardly a radical break, but a continuation of an American foreign policy which has always sought to aggressively open up American economic opportunities abroad.
The difference – not of kind – but degree, is an adaptation to a new set of circumstances, or more specifically, to the falling away of constraints: the absence of any rival power capable of preventing Washington from pursuing its long-standing ambition of easing the way for foreign markets, labour and resources to be exploited by US corporations. “We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world”, the doctrine asserts.
Even tax policies of other governments that imperialism disapproves of will be cause for imperial intervention. “We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty”. But nations which “can choose”, must choose a certain type of “liberty”, which includes low tax rates, “free trade”, “sound fiscal policies” and so on. Nations which do not choose this type of liberty will not, of course, be truly “free”…and if a country isn’t free, why then, it must be a rogue nation run by evildoers of evil, and its people must be “liberated”.
And they won’t allow any restrictions or submit to any international regulation: To quote the document again: “We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept”.
“In the new world we have entered,” the Bush regime warns, “the only path to peace and security is the path of action.” And so, by this doctrine, they must wage constant war, because without war there can be no peace.
The Australian government was quick to endorse Washington’s strategy. Although Defence Minister Robert Hill had yet to read it, he told parliament on September 23 he believed it fell within the principles of international law because it could be seen as “self-defence”. “What’s being sought of the Congress is simply the authority for President Bush to take military action if he determines that it’s desirable”.
The language of “freedom” and “democracy” sprinkled through the document is totally bizarre – everyone can read the real aims, which are absolutely explicit. Imperialism’s manifesto asserts increasingly blatant imperial rule, a blueprint for Washington and Wall Street’s domination of the world, a declaration of war on the world’s working class and all oppressed, the codification of US imperialist military strategy in the post-Cold War, unipolar world.
Phil Hearse wrote in the first issue of Socialist Resistance:
At one stroke the US has overturned the whole notion of sovereignty, which has – in theory – governed international relations since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. Now national sovereignty is, especially in the Third World, conditional on US approval. Do as we say or your license to govern is terminated, if necessary with extreme prejudice.
In fact the “conditional sovereignty” idea is a consequence of the changed international position since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This enabled the Western powers to deepen the global neoliberal offensive and especially to launch a new offensive against the South.
While the European states accept the notion of limited sovereignty, they object to the sole licensing agency being the US government.
The international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Bank have been the focus of the protests against neoliberal globalisation, and they assist the US ruling class in maintaining its power and control.
But they’re not the primary way US imperialism maintains its power. That’s still through the basic mechanisms of its economic might, exploitation and control, reinforced by its political, cultural and ideological dominance, and backed up by its overwhelming military might which they have never been bashful about using.
This manifesto clarifies the issues, and ups the ante for the movement against neoliberal globalisation, and all those who have been protesting, dissenting. US imperialism has declared a war on the world, asserting its economic and strategic interests will be imposed by force, and the declaration makes it clear that they’re prepared to escalate their war against US workers too.
For the workers’ movement and dissenters, it’s clear any middle ground has been blown away.
Imperialism’s drive to war
The US is determined to attack Iraq. This is not to downplay the aggression of the last decade, when they’ve been bombing Iraq regularly, and killing hundreds of thousands through their economic blockade. But the Bush gang clearly now wants all-out war, with or without an excuse.
Saddam Hussein’s acceptance of weapons inspectors was a minor embarrassment for Bush, and might delay his plans for a short period. But already Washington is insisting on imposing their own new conditions, hopeful that a refusal will provide a flimsy cover for their war, displaying their basic refusal to abide by anything the UN decides that they disagree with. They’re threatening to “thwart” the UN weapons inspectors (if I was a UN weapons inspector I’d be wondering if that meant bombs, or a bullet – cheaper as they explain).
However, nothing that the UN or its other imperialist allies do to back down will halt Washington’s aggression. Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control says the US wants “a regime change in Baghdad, and that policy will not be altered whether inspectors go in or not”.
No proof has been presented that Hussein was a threat to America or anyone else. No proof has been presented that Hussein possesses “prohibited” weapons technology. No proof has been presented to support Bush administration claims that Hussein has connections to al Qaeda.
France, Russia and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and others are adopting the basic framework set by the US, and will go along if military action results.
The US government’s relentless drive towards war is a blatant push for control of the whole Middle East, and control of Iraqi oil, even offering up part of the loot in advance to France and Russia if they play ball. However, although getting control of Middle East oil has always been a major US objective, that is only a part of the story. American imperialism is mainly fighting to extend and deepen its global political and economic dominance.
The manifesto means that dissent anywhere will be targeted. There’s an ominous clampdown on civil liberties and democratic rights in the US. The Bush regime has decided that the best possible way to “defend freedom” was to restrict it as much as possible. The PATRIOT Anti-Terror Act was drafted – the original version carried a provision from Attorney-General Ashcroft to suspend habeas corpus indefinitely, but was deleted by the Senate – but it still contained a swathe of new repressive measures. Americans could be detained without access to attorney or trial for an indefinite period. Access to attorneys would be monitored and recorded. Searches of private homes could be performed without notification. Religious and political groups could be put under surveillance with no justification. Ashcroft proclaimed to Congress in public testimony in December 2001 that anyone who disagreed with these new policies was aiding terrorism, or were terrorists themselves.
The Australian lapdogs of course are trotting behind, putting up legislation to widen Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation’s powers.
The Israeli regime is using the opportunity, after S11, Afghanistan, and now the looming attack on Iraq, to further squeeze the life out the Palestinian Bantustans, with systematic killings, bulldozing of houses, and clampdown on movement between villages. As Tariq Ali pointed out in The Clash of Fundamentalisms: “Since September 2001 over 100,000 Palestinian refugees have fled to Jordan. [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon does not even try and conceal the fact that his aim is a major ethnic cleansing (“transfer”) of the Palestinians from the West Bank”. Israel has now seized military control of six of the eight major Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, imposing curfews on hundreds of thousands of people.
If they succeed in Iraq, they won’t stop there of course. They need permanent war. Peace is inimical to their interests and ideological offensive. The war is also being expanded in countries like the Philippines, with Washington now including the Communist Party of Philippines and the New People’s Army in the list of foreign terrorist organisations; in Colombia, with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) being prime targets. It’s a war on the working class worldwide.
The Centre for Research on Globalisation website has an ironic suggestion:
Rather than adopting the suggested regime change in Iraq through military force, the UN must instead consider an entirely different course of action. This new course is based upon the facts alone, rather than political pressure. A regime change is indeed necessary, but not in Iraq. The primary regime which needs to be changed, is the one found in Washington DC. The greatest tyrant and true threat to world peace who needs to be ousted, is George W. Bush. The facts which clearly show the need for such a resolution against the US are self-evident… they demonstrate a “clear and present danger” to the world community. America is clearly a nation which aspires to global domination, through the use of the most expensive and high tech military the world has ever known.
Hopefully more and more people around the world will see this as not just a macabre joke, but a realistic and necessary objective, and not just for a regime change, but a system change.
World capitalist economic crisis
But this war comes at a time of prolonged and widespread capitalist economic crisis. They haven’t solved their problems of overproduction of course – that’s inherent in capitalism – so they’ll always have crises and recessions. But in spite of their long-term neoliberal onslaught against the working class since the mid-’70s, they still haven’t hauled in the declining rate of profit.
The “New Economy” hoax has been exposed by facts and crashing companies. No one mentions it now, but back in the heady days of the 1990s “boom”, it was strongly backed by both White House and the Federal Reserve and dutifully parroted by the bourgeois media. It raised new illusions among some people about the ability of capitalism to reinvent itself.
But their dot.com bubble burst spectacularly, a trillion dollars of telecom investment was trashed. The US economy was officially declared to have gone into recession from March 2000. In spite of all the talking up and predictions, it still hasn’t recovered.
The Japanese economy still hasn’t climbed out of its long-term slump. Last week their stock market hit a 19-year low. When the Japanese bubble economy burst, Japanese banks were left with a gigantic pile of bad debts, non-performing loans, and they’re still sitting there, the banks effectively bankrupt. Is that sort of fate ahead for the US economy? Some economists are getting worried.
The Enron collapse hit the US stock market hard; further catastrophes followed – WorldCom, Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, the shredders of Enron documents at Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Bush’s failed energy company, Harken Oil, and many other companies were forced to “readjust” their profit reports and accept prosecution.
These bankruptcies have revealed the ugly face of crony capitalism in the Mecca of free market economy, with the US President and top officials of his administration colluding with business barons to plunder large sections of small investors and the working class.
The more blatant corporate crooks have been getting exposed at a great rate, in the US and in Australia – Enron, to OneTel and HIH. But increasingly people are realising they’re all crooks, it’s not just one bad apple. The disguise is slipping, more and more people are able to see behind the mask.
Former Vice-President Al Gore delivered his election warnings about the US economy last Wednesday, politically partisan, but reflecting real worries in sections of the US ruling class:
Business investment has declined every single quarter of the Bush Administration. In fact, over the last two years it has dropped more sharply than at any point in the past half century. Not since the Great Depression has our stock market declined so dramatically. In less than two years, we have lost $4.5 trillion of stock market wealth – more than a quarter of our total wealth.
War and the economy
What will war bring? Profits for arms corporations of course. Profits for the oil giants, cynically carving up Iraq’s oil even before war begins. But their edifice is shaky, unstable. Bush’s overarching reach for total power and permanent war could trigger a major economic disaster, dwarfing anything seen before.
Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 2 cautioned against false hopes that Bush’s war on Iraq might somehow haul the world economy out of recession, as World War II war production and post-war reconstruction – “military Keynesianism” – decisively ended the 1930s Depression.
He pointed to the danger of a big leap in the world oil price, and warned:
So here’s the global bottom line. At a time when share prices are still falling around the world, when the recovery in the US economy is tentative, when Europe’s economy is weak and Japan’s is cactus, even just the continuing possibility of war in the Middle East could be sufficient to tip America and the world back into recession.
Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times on October 1 pointed to Japan’s burst bubble economy and warned:
Bad as Japan’s policy has been, it’s possible that the US will do even worse.
I don’t need to tell you about the stock market. Economic indicators strongly suggest that the economy is either sliding into a double-dip, “W-shaped” recession…or close enough as makes no difference. Bond markets are clearly predicting that the Federal Reserve will have to cut interest rates again. What if the Fed, like the Bank of Japan, goes all the way to zero and finds that it still hasn’t turned the economy around?
Our political leadership cannot make a rational response to economic problems. Where economists saw danger, the White House and its Congressional allies saw opportunity – an opportunity to ram through more tax cuts for corporations and the affluent, measures that suited their political agenda but had almost no relevance to the economy’s problems.
Of course, the worst thing of all would be if our leadership decides that economics is not its thing, if it simply tries to distract the public from rising unemployment and plunging stocks by going off and invading someone. But we don’t have to worry about that, do we?
War will further expand the millions of people desperate to escape imperialism’s disaster zones. And our disgusting, shameless leaders will raise the barriers against refugees, scapegoating these victims of their wars and exploitation, and whip up racist prejudice, even so low as to scuttle the boats, it now transpires.
The widening gap
The gap between rich and poor is still widening, internationally, and within imperialist countries.
The world’s richest 20% now receive 86% of the world’s gross domestic product while the poorest 20% receive only 1%. In 1998-99, with the world gross output per capita growing at the rate of 1.5-1.8%, more than 80 countries had lower per capita incomes than they had a decade or more ago, and at least 55 countries have consistently declining per capita incomes.
The US Census Bureau recently announced on September 24, that the proportion of adults and children living in poverty “rose significantly last year” to 11.7% of the population. Simultaneously, for the first time since the end of the previous recession of 1991, middle-income families also suffered a decline in earnings. The gap between the wealthiest 1% of American households (which control nearly 40% of the nation’s total wealth) and the “bottom” 80% (which control 17%) reached a record high by the end of 2001.
The number of Americans who lack health coverage has begun to increase again after a two-year decline, according to federal figures just released, which suggest that the faltering economy propelled another 1.4 million people last year into the ranks of the uninsured. Experts predicted that the erosion of coverage in 2001 foreshadows a more dramatic drop-off this year and, perhaps, next. Fully one-third of Latinos lacked coverage.
The widening gaps between rich and poor worldwide, and even within the imperialist countries, heightens the crisis. The real level of world inequality and environmental degradation is far worse than official estimates, according to a leaked document prepared for the world’s richest countries (OECD) before the Johannesburg Earth Summit. It includes new estimates that the world lost almost 10% of its forests in the past 10 years, that carbon dioxide emissions leading to global warming are expected to rise by 33% in rich countries and 100% in the rest of the world in the next 18 years and that more than 30% more fresh water will be needed by 2020.
Imperialist rulers’ arrogant disregard for the looming environmental disasters confirmed that capitalism has no regard for the Earth or its people, only profits.
Latin American laboratory
Latin American has been a laboratory for Washington’s economic prescriptions and its war on the world, in “its own backyard”. Imposition of their neoliberal economic recipes has resulted in disaster for working people and for whole countries.
However, these laboratories also show the future, the mass resistance, and the way forward. Amidst worldwide anti-globalisation protests, Latin America has emerged as the most explosive theatre of action. Indeed, most of the Latin American countries have a long history of powerful mass resistance.
In Argentina people can see their future, the example, if imperialism and their agencies get their way. Formerly a wealthy country in Latin America – even by world standards – Argentina has faced total disaster, the bankruptcy of a country and the immiseration of a whole population. Neoliberal policies, pushed to their extreme by Washington and its international institutions, have brought about the collapse of the Argentinean economy (and society). Argentina has witnessed repeated mass upheavals and the situation continues to remain turbulent.
In Venezuela the US-backed attempt to overthrow President Hugo Chavez’s government through a reactionary coup was quickly foiled by mass mobilisations of the Bolivarian Circles who came out on the streets in large numbers.
In Colombia, using the fig leaf of a war on drugs (though US clients have been the world’s biggest drug dealers), Washington is funding a war against dissent and against the FARC and ELN.
In countries like Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua and El Salvador, left-wing resistance and opposition to imperialist imposed neoliberal measures – privatisation of water and other basic necessities – is gathering momentum.
Neoliberal economic policies have taken their worst toll in this region and there has been a drastic decline in living standards of the working people. The demand for reversal of these disastrous economic policies and opposition to US imperialism are common rallying points in this entire region.
There is also great indignation against the US-led embargo on Cuba and tremendous moral support for the heroic resistance being put up by the Cuban people. In Mexico, most people still look up to Cuba, while the country’s new president, Vicente Fox, is doing all he can to undermine and attack Cuba.
As in the whole of the Third World, Washington’s policies in Latin America have generated a massive polarisation and anger directed at imperialism.
In Mexico, one poll recorded 98% opposed to Bush’s war drive. We’ve seen the huge attendances at the World Social Forums in Porto Alegre. In country after country there have been big mobilisations, growing instability. In the US’s “own backyard”, are sections in danger of slipping out of control while war is waged on the rest of the world?
Bush’s manifesto and his war raise the stakes further, in the Middle East and Central Asia. Africa is a continental disaster already, a victim of colonial subjugation and imperialist exploitation for centuries. Countries like Indonesia face a further descent into misery and bloody inter-ethnic conflict.
Imperialism is squeezing the world, waging war for “free trade”, but erecting higher fences to keep out the victims. It’s one-way “free trade”, with the benefits just for them, with a 30% steel tariff, and protection for US agribusiness.
Clash of ideologies, clash of classes
Bush and his gang have used S11 for all it’s worth, but has their ideological offensive been effective, or long lasting? How far has the Vietnam Syndrome been overturned?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War and red scare tactics, the US capitalist leaders lacked an overall framework and a visible, demonisable enemy. Now with the “war on terrorism” they have it.
Even before S11, the Bush administration had adopted a policy of aggressive unilateralism in international relations, marking a shift from the Clinton-era policy of using the UN and other multilateral institutions as a cover to pursue its own imperialist interests. The unilateral US move to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the former Soviet Union, the arrogant resumption of the aggressive National Missile Defense Program targeted particularly against China and unprecedented hikes in the US defence budget had already signalled an unmistakable intensification of Washington’s drive towards a unipolar world.
S11 gave them the opportunity to declare the “war on terrorism” as a new organising principle for world capitalist politics. The key political step was Bush’s January 11 State of the Union speech, which launched the “Axis of Evil” – a proclamation of the right of the US to “pre-emptive” strikes against any regime of which it disapproves – Iraq, Iran and North Korea being specifically named. Now the National Security Strategy document has spelled it out even more clearly.
The US ruling class has immense power, military and economic. They also have weapons of mass propaganda: Hollywood, Disney, the monopolised media networks (they also want total control of the internet, which to them has serious faults, allows too much freedom, and is hard to lock a cash register onto).
However, even with all this, their grand blueprint for world domination is coming unstuck. Opinion in the US has shifted dramatically in the year since S11. Their own coalition of the world’s ruling classes has not held together, beset by their own inter-imperialist contradictions. And the world’s people are also fighting back.
Political isolation of Bush
S11 hasn’t provided the permanent excuse to act, and a permanent imposition of fear on the American people and allies, that they’d hoped for. A year after, already the almost automatic blank check has been withdrawn.
New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote on October 2: “It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, in the wake of 9/11, the French newspaper Le Monde carried the headline ‘We are all Americans now’. What a difference a year makes. Today, I figured, that headline would probably read: ‘We are all anti-Americans now.’“
Polls in the US are showing declining support for war, even at this early stage, before the assault and before casualties. On some questions there’s even a majority against – on unilateral action, or if US casualties are high, or if Iraqi civilian casualties are high.
The latest Zogby America Poll (taken late September) reveals that a majority of US people oppose a war with Iraq if it were waged without significant UN or international support (40% support, 52% oppose), if it were only comprised of bombing the country (36% support, 52% oppose), and if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties (38% support, 52% oppose). When the prospect of both US and Iraqi causalities is considered, the slight majority support for the war turns into majority opposition.
Pollster John Zogby stated:
There does not appear to be a national consensus for war as things stand today. Probing more deeply into what Americans are thinking, we find a split over supporting a war involving casualties on both sides, a willingness to send a son or daughter, and the use of ground troops. A nation that was split down the middle in the 2000 election, then was unified after the events of September 11, seems to be split evenly again as we enter the final swing of campaign 2002.
In Ireland a recent poll shows people decisively oppose military action against Iraq on the UN Security Council (Ireland is currently a member) even if Iraq fails to comply with UN resolutions on arms inspection. Some 59% say Ireland should vote against authorising military action if Iraq fails to comply with UN resolutions, 29% are in favour. There is a more than three to one margin of opposition to military action if carried out by the US without UN approval. Just 22% say Ireland should support such US action, 68% say Ireland should oppose it.
Compare how the majority support for the Vietnam War had to be whittled away over many years, and through many huge antiwar demonstrations, and through the realisation of 50,000 US casualties. Even before the start of this escalation, the US ruling class is isolated. The Vietnam Syndrome hasn’t been overcome – the September 11 effect was only temporary.
The initial American retaliation after September 11 had the support of most governments across the world. In many countries while the people took to the streets in massive protests, their respective governments sided blatantly with the war efforts. However, once the Taliban regime had been toppled and a new regime installed in Kabul, most Western powers with the sole exception of Britain gradually began distancing themselves from the US-led war campaign.
US-Europe relations are marked by a growing European opposition to Washington’s “might is right” doctrine and where the world’s only superpower arrogates to itself the right to break treaties, go back on its word and overrule its allies. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s opportunist strong stand against a renewed American war on Iraq proved to be key to his close victory in the recent German elections.
Even Bush’s most craven ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his “New Labour”, are under pressure, although at last week’s British Labour Party conference, the majority of delegates wouldn’t even oppose a war without a UN mandate let alone a war with one. Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Simon Crean and the ALP leadership have pathetically tried to differ on the “UN backing” question, but desperately want a basic bipartisan position on foreign policy issues, as on refugees etc. Even in the US Congress, some opposition to Bush’s war plans has emerged.
The bourgeoisie internationally and in the US are split about the war. The far right is in control, and may be stupid, brutal, crude and clumsy about it, but the liberals in the end will follow Bush.
Thus it’s our top political priority now to build an enormous antiwar movement, demanding: “No war on Iraq”, “No Australian support for Bush’s war”. And we must oppose completely the right of imperialism to issue ultimatums and orders, or use military and economic force to get its way. The demand for “No War on Iraq” is central, but the demonstrations can also inject the issues of Palestine and refugees.
Massive demonstrations are needed. We’re building on majority opposition to Bush’s war already, but need more agitation and propaganda, in GLW, and through the antiwar coalitions, letters to the press, and petitions and stalls. However, most important is action in the streets, the biggest numbers, so we make the stakes highest. Their war will alienate and educate a new generation to the role of imperialism, and the need for fundamental social change.
And what a truly inspiring enormous demonstration in London on September 28, and big demonstrations in other cities around the world, even before Bush and Blair and John Howard can launch their planned onslaught. 400,000 people marched through the streets of London.
The British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) played a good role it seems, and hopefully the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) here will learn from it, and draw back from some of the less than helpful decisions they’ve taken that have hindered the possible mobilisation of the maximum numbers in the streets here.
The role of the left will be important in building this movement, but given the level of antiwar sentiment and cynicism about Bush and Howard’s motives, the deepening of the radicalisation could be strong, the layer of people disillusioned with the capitalist system altogether, large.
Compared with the 1960s and the movement against the Vietnam War, the antiwar movement today starts from a much higher level. In the coming years it will have enormous potential to politically undermine Washington’s permanent war project, expose the imperialist character of “globalisation” and powerfully contribute to the rebuilding of the international left, especially among hundreds of thousands of young people becoming politically active for the first time.
Thus it gives urgency to our task of building stronger socialist parties, workers’ parties, and gives urgency to the process of strengthening left unity.
Anti-globalisation movement today
The tremendous wave of protests against neoliberal globalisation in the last few years in countries throughout the world, especially in Europe and Latin America, is the backdrop to Bush’s war on the world, and the potential for left renewal and regroupment.
The movement against neoliberal globalisation burst dramatically on the scene at Seattle. The failure of the Seattle WTO summit, after the abandonment of the projected Multilateral Agreement on Investment, was an important victory for our side. It moved through Prague, Melbourne, Genoa and many other cities.
The plotters in the White House might be arrogant, and have a front man that acts like a clown, but they’re not stupid. They would have been observing the new movement, worrying. It’s not the central concern and motivation of their imperialist strategy – that’s money and control – but they would have been observing, even from behind the curtains in the White House, and wanting a way to silence their critics. They thought they had the framework from S11.
But it hasn’t worked out. There were some temporary setbacks to the movement, it stalled for a while, but quickly picked up pace again, and emerged even bigger and stronger. Brussels last December showed the movement was still alive and vibrant. Then Rome and Barcelona were absolutely enormous, overwhelming.
A new generation of young people are moving into action, an increasingly anti-capitalist, radical layer. And many veterans from earlier struggles are getting a new burst of enthusiasm, getting inspiration to return to the struggle. Porto Alegre second World Social Forum was further indication of the ferment, the potential of the new movement.
However, this new movement still has limited organisational form. In some countries, Italy, for example, it’s more advanced. But the need for stronger parties is urgent. We desperately need greater left unity, collaboration, and socialist renewal.
Nevertheless we see before us the possibilities to partly resolve the crisis in leadership, and recognise our responsibilities.
All these developments condition the timing for our next moves towards socialist unity. And our experiences indicate the sort of regroupment we’ll favour – socialist parties, rather than “social forums”, non-structured bodies, downplaying parties, which while decrying manipulation can be thoroughly manipulated. Of course we’ll continue our involvement in such forums, and see the role for different structures for different purposes.
War, economic crisis, and the anti-neoliberal globalisation movements give greater urgency and greater possibilities for rebuilding workers’ parties, for socialist renewal and regroupment.
The collapse of the Soviet Union gave added impetus, and greater possibilities, for renewal. The very real negative impact could be seen as final payment for a disaster and crime carried through half a century earlier. However, our analysis of Stalinism and the bureaucratised regime in the Soviet Union had always influenced our analysis of the type of party needed, so the need for new socialist parties is posed again.
The further very stark betrayals by social democracy around the world supplied extra stimulus. In the UK, Labour’s social contract, and in Australia the ALP-Australian Council of Trade Unions Accord, were yet more definitive illustrations of social democracy and Laborism today as a pro-capitalist current, capitalist parties wanting to run the system “better”. The possibilities grew of class struggle socialist formations breaking with reformism, breaking with the old betrayers, the other party of capitalism.
However, in the new movements there’s still confusion and prejudices, against organisation, against parties, which are relics of those previous negative experiences. We’re still suffering from the impact of Stalinism and social democracy, the betrayals and bureaucracy associated with that past. Newly radicalising young people too often still identify them with parties.
These prejudices are consciously manipulated by not just the bourgeoisie and its media, but by the more right-wing, liberal elements in the movements, non-government organisations. They foster the anti-party sentiment, stoke it in the movements, and at Porto Alegre, for example, for their own right-wing political ends, which are bureaucratic, and frequently associated with one or another party of the existing order.
Nevertheless, revolutionary parties are absolutely essential to assist in bringing into existence that possible “another world.” That’s still the biggest task we face.
There’s lots of debate about that, and no simple recipe. There are very specific conditions in each country, different objective situations and social conditions, different movements and political histories, different subjective forces, the parties and political forces and currents on the ground.
Dick Nichols’ report to the June National Committee meeting on The International Left and our International Work outlined the varied experiences of the regroupments and alliances in Europe, with positive experiences in Denmark, Portugal, Italy, France and Scotland. He stressed the different tactical problems faced in each, but noted that generally the parties and alliances grouped in the European anti-capitalist left (at whose meetings we’ve usually had an observer), were moving to adopt a platform that has a basically anti-capitalist platform. Their Madrid conference in June adopted such a platform and it’s reprinted in the latest issue of Links magazine.
The Fourth International (FI) often plays an important role in many of those encouraging regroupment processes in Europe. There’s been considerable debate and rethinking in the FI, the last World Congress in 1995 adopting a perspective of “mutation” of the FI and its parties, which while somewhat fuzzy, and still not overcoming all the features of the narrow Trotskyist International, allowed for positive work of many FI groups. While there are still narrow and sectarian elements and groups in the FI, we’ve maintained and want to develop our real collaboration with the healthy wing, those building or involved in real parties. The documents for the FI World Congress next February are now available for reprinting, and will be in the next Activist, though still missing some sections.
Developments in the SWP/IST
Dick Nichols’ report also referred to the problems in the European scene, and in the European Anti-capitalist Left, presented by the UK SWP, pushing for “a broader formation within which they might play the role of dazzling revolutionary pole”. They were very keen to engage with the dynamic developments in Latin Europe, where their tendency’s base is tiny, but the contradictions in their position stood out – still presenting themselves as the one true revolutionary party, and an alliance that they described as a “united front”, even if of a “special type”.
Thus their approach to the Socialist Alliance (SA) in Britain, and the ISO’s approach here – wanting it restricted to an “old Labor” type of formation.
Given our proposal regarding the SA, and given that the ISO is the main other affiliate in the Alliance, we need to pay special attention to their views and conception of left regroupment and alliances. We’ve reprinted in The Activist anything that has come our way.
The SWP underwent some positive changes in the last few years. They ditched their two-decade long rejection of electoral activity, and they reversed their practice of not uniting with or collaborating with other left forces. In Britain they made a turn towards participation in the British SA, which gave us cause for hope here, so at the start of 2001, we proposed to the ISO that we establish a SA in Australia.
The SWP/International Socialist Tendency (IST) practice in different countries regarding alliances and left regroupment has actually varied widely. This is certainly a correct recognition of the reality of the different objective and subjective political circumstances from country to country.
However, it does highlight the contradictions in their position when they try to argue from fixed abstract principles for a particular course they take in one country. For example here, their initial objections to our proposal have been based on what they present as generally applicable schemas.
In Scotland, SWP members have joined the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP, and function as a platform, but there have still been quite a few problems. They’ve tried to get round the agreement that SSP’s newspaper, the Scottish Socialist Voice (SSV), would be the only paper distributed by SSP members by having their English newspaper distributed in news agencies. The SWP full timer working on the Voice recently resigned, as has the student organiser. The SSP is still owed a large sum of money from London – the SWP comrades in the SSP have had some arrangement where they pay their subs/dues to London, and they are supposed to be forwarded onto the SSP ((See Sarah P’s article on the SSP in The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 11).
In France, the IST group is joining the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR), might have already done so. Comrades know that the LCR has launched a proposal to build a broader party, and have already grown, not just receiving thousands of membership applications after the presidential elections and the huge mobilisations against extreme right-wing presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, but also winning over groups and sections from the Communist Party and the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvriere.
In Holland the IST group proposed unity with the FI group, but that hasn’t come off.
In the SA in England, the SWP is by far the largest constituent group, and build it, but have been holding back from taking it further. The SA there has only about 1600 members, while the SWP itself has several thousand, so only a small proportion of SWP comrades would have joined. And the SWP is strongly resisting the push by some in the SA, including the Communist Party of Great Britain, Alliance for Workers Liberty, and some independents, to have the SA move more towards a party, or at least produce a SA paper.
The SWP invited the FI section, the International Socialist Group (ISG), to join them. This offer has been declined (see the ISG document reprinted in The Activist, Vol. 11, No. 12). The ISG has now converted its paper Socialist Outlook into a less frequent magazine, and jointly with the Socialist Solidarity Group, led by Phil Hearse and John Bulaitis, which has regrouped people from Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party (Militant) and the ISG, have now launched a new paper, Socialist Resistance (They’re welcome to borrow the name, but by coincidence they’ve also used a very similar masthead font that we used when we started a separate Resistance magazine in 1979!). Two good articles for their first issue are now on the web, and we’ll reprint them in the next Activist.
Therefore, the actual practice of IST supporters does vary from country to country, but overall they are responding to the new situation and the need for unity and regroupment. The IST’s first International Discussion Bulletin, most of which we reprinted in The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 8, is a useful initiative, and has been seen as a fairly public bulletin. The SWP has had direct discussions with the LCR, and the IST leadership recently met with the FI leadership (no specific outcome).
There are serious contradictions still in their positions, both in their practice, and in articles, such as those by SWP leader Alex Callinicos, for example, his Regroupment, Realignment, and the Revolutionary Left, explaining their stance. But further changes, as well as the overall development of the movements and social forces, give us cause for hope that in proposing this further step for the SA, the ISO, as well as their overseas connections, will see the logic and the potential of the course we’re proposing.
The SSP has certainly provided a big inspiration for us, as well as for left forces in Britain and other countries. Their high profile, the election of Tommy Sheridan to the Scottish Parliament, and the 8% they’re regularly scoring in polls now does show the potential for building a socialist left alternative today. Moreover, the International Socialist Movement (ISM) leadership of the SSP would be among our close collaborators and co-thinkers today. We see eye to eye on many things, on internationalism and “Internationals” for example. Analytical articles in their magazine Frontline are useful for us, especially in countering some of the misconceptions from the SWP. For example, articles by LCR member Murray Smith, including on Where is the SWP Going? (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 9), and Nick McKerrill’s article on the United Front (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 12).
Scotland is probably the situation closest to our situation, and to our conceptions. We’ve talked since the formation of the SA here whether “the Scottish road” would be a possible option down the track. They’re looking closely to us also.
However, we should be conscious also that Scotland is not a strict model. There are differences between their situation and ours, a different balance of forces on the left, and other social and political differences. And because of that there’ll sometimes be different political approaches and language as we talk about the process of building towards a mass revolutionary party.
Our ‘80s break with schemas
Our motivation for the SA, and for this recent bold move for the DSP to move further into the SA, to operate as a tendency, is based on the real political developments in Australia and internationally.
However, it’s not something out of the blue, not a “turn” in our fundamental perspectives. It’s predicated on our previous thinking, rethinking, breaking with old schemas, that was such a feature of the party, then the Socialist Workers Party, in the 1980s.
That was another time of challenge, requiring tactical boldness. We’d completed the turn to industry, and had developed a small but confident team of cadres, a dedicated, committed party of activists. We’d broken with a lot of the Trotskyist dogmas and sectarianism, on permanent revolution for example.
Most importantly, we’d broken with the wrong line regarding the ALP, ditched the view common to so many of the Trotskyist groups that it was not a bourgeois party, but a “two-class party”, a bourgeois workers’ party. It required the further evidence of the Accord, and the prompting of the Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP) experience. But it also required us to rectify our theory, our analysis of the ALP, ditch the “bourgeois workers’ party” schema. Face facts.
In addition, we’d broken with the conception that “the one true program,” often based on past battles, was the only basis of forming a party to respond to today’s needs. As our document The Struggle for Socialism in the Imperialist Epoch, written in 1984 and adopted by our January 1985 Conference, put it:
The objective need of the proletariat and its allies is the maximum possible unity of revolutionary forces to provide leadership in the struggles against capitalism and imperialism. This need is a pressing one and cannot be made hostage to organisational sectarianism or past programmatic disputes with little or no relevance for today’s tasks. Marxists therefore seek to unite in action with all those forces that in practice seek to implement the specific measures that would lead the proletariat and its allies forward on the revolutionary path. Whether such unity consists of temporary united fronts, longer-term alliances or organisational merger will often be determined by circumstances outside our control, but the goal is the highest degree of unity to advance working-class struggles.
Our program can be a source of the necessary revolutionary solutions. But this can happen only if two conditions are met: The program must be a living one, constantly being checked and enriched by experience; it must be taken to workers and others in struggle by an active, interventionist party. These two conditions are of course closely linked, since much of experience depends on interventions.”
We were looking to learn from other revolutionaries, more connected with the mass struggles and more able to test and learn from their experiences than we were – the Cuban revolutionaries and those looking at their experiences, in Central America, for example.
We became a more non-sectarian, but no less revolutionary, party.
We were also looking for new forms, all possibilities for regroupment, or unity with other left parties: We had the exciting NDP experience; We had small fusions with Revolutionary Path, Socialist Fight, the Rosebery miners; We had the experience of the New Left Party, attempting to regroup with the old Communist Party of Australia (CPA); We attempted to unite with the Socialist Party of Australia (now renamed the CPA), and ran SA election campaigns; We made various efforts to link up with left greens.
Looking back we can note the very right-wing nature of the NLP independent components that the CPA courted. The background was CPA complicity in the Accord, then in early 1986, a small move to the left by them, embarrassed by the disastrous results and the criticism. We grabbed the opening. But the CPA didn’t move very far to the left, and the NLP project was both a timid reach-out project for the CPA, and an early step to their eventual self-liquidation.
When we compare the situation today with that of 15 years ago, and the nature of the components we’re reaching out to, we can feel confident that today’s prospects are brighter.
We tried those many regroupment efforts, and exhausted the possibilities. We ran out of possible partners, so changed our name to DSP, and launched GLW. We also took steps to tighten up our norms after the looseness, some drifting, and some comrades jumping ship as we tried all the moves.
Those efforts in the 1980s were predicated on our political reassessments, breaking with schemas. Don’t convert tactics into strategies. Don’t get stuck with permanent tactics. Get clarity on the ALP, the big schema. It’s worth re-reading our documents from that period – our 1986 document on the ALP, and Jim Percy’s 1984 report on the NDP and elections, printed as a pamphlet, and there’s still a few in stock.
This development, the SA 18 months ago, and our new proposals for strengthening it, should not be seen as a surprise, a break. They are in the framework we developed in the 1980s.
And we shouldn’t conceive of it as our old party “dissolving”. As Jim Percy put it in his report to our October 1987 NC meeting (reprinted as the pamphlet Building the Revolutionary Party): Our party-building strategy is not a break with our past. The biggest political error we could make is to think that our party-building perspective is outdated – “without the old party, there won’t be a new party.”
What sort of regroupment, what sort of party?
What sort of regroupment, and what sort of party, do we hope to help build? This will be taken up in more depth in Dick Nichols’ and Peter Boyle’s reports later in the NC, but some observations about our methodology and the history of our thinking on our party-building perspectives.
Firstly, any new regroupment, any new party, should be a socialist party. And, although it shouldn’t need to be said, after all that’s happened, it needs to be a party outside, built as an alternative, to the ALP here, and labour or social democratic formations around the world.
There are many issues to be discussed and debated, but that will be a debate within a socialist framework, a framework of building an alternative, well put by Jose Perez in a debate on the Marxism List to explain why ALP member and Sydney book-seller Bob Gould and his tactic/strategy is absolutely irrelevant:
“…all revolutionary socialists would agree that the ALP is, all bullshit aside, a pliant tool of the Australian bourgeoisie, and with whatever combination of weapons from our armory, its influence among working people MUST BE FOUGHT.
“A discussion on whether the DSP is being overly rigid or sectarian in its tactics really only makes sense in that context – as a discussion among the working class enemies of this key component of the bourgeois two-party system – and it isn’t clear to me from his post that Gould actually shares the premise”.
Well put. New alliances and regroupments are building not only on positive experiences, and the potential seen in the new movements, but also on the basis of negative experiences, failures. Here we’ve seen the failure of the Progressive Labor Party, and other purely “real Labor” attempts. In the New Zealand Alliance, there were major non-socialist components, and the issue of socialism wasn’t pushed. They were also weighed down with a purely electoralist perspective, and although some wanted it to go further, they never succeeded in developing that.
Secondly, we’re also for a revolutionary organisation. We are still for, most emphatically, “the building of a mass revolutionary socialist party in the Bolshevik tradition as a prerequisite for a successful seizure of power by the working class”, as the ISO letter to the DSP affirms. It’s easy to agree with the ISO on that. Our proposal is not a retreat by us in any way.
But how to build that party? What is the best way to get there? It’s not an even, simple, linear process. It requires flexibility, and we can expect leaps, and have to grasp opportunities when they come, they don’t stay forever. Even in Alex Callinicos’s article Regroupment, Realignment, and the Revolutionary Left, he recognises this.
The ISO letter insists that the SA “is not, and should not, be transformed into a revolutionary party”. Certainly we’re proposing no declaration, and certainly there’ll be no attempt to adopt the program of any of the revolutionary groups that came together initially to form the Alliance. But at the same time, there is sufficient agreement, among the groups, and most of the members of the SA, for a stronger vision statement, a step forward from the specific platform of demands and policy positions we already have. We would be opposed to any affirmation that the SA is just a reformist, left Labor party. It is socialist, a Socialist Alliance. And we should not declare it doesn‘t have a revolutionary outlook.
A key advance would be for the other affiliated groups, especially the ISO, to recognise openly that we all have a revolutionary perspective, as we have done in regard to them, even though there are political differences.
Thirdly, the SA is not just an “electoral united front”. There was agreement at the initial meetings, from all comrades, that building and intervening in the campaigns and the struggles was also part of the Alliance’s role. There’s also agreement I’m sure that the SA should educate, proselytise for socialism, recruit people to the SA.
Furthermore, we’re not just looking to win those disillusioned with the ALP. From the start there was full agreement that a key part of our potential constituency were the newly radicalising young people active in the movement against neoliberal globalisation, and now in the refugees and antiwar campaigns. The best of “old Labor” values, was not enough, and would be seen as not enough. We’re building a left alternative to the ALP, but a socialist alternative to Labor, and the Greens as well.
Fourthly, while insisting on the necessity of a socialist alternative, we also have to learn a popular, effective way to present our ideas, a way of convincing people in today’s movements, use a language that doesn’t exclude new activists.
We have to learn to use common events and experiences to explain deeper truths about the running of capitalism, avoiding jargon and rigid sounding explanations. However, it should not be a dumbing down so that we vacate the space of fundamental social change, feel embarrassed for presenting a socialist perspective, while the greens, reformists and utopians of all stripes aggressively spout nonsense as though it’s something new, or sensible. We need a clear alternative, both in the SA and our regroupment efforts, as well as when we participate in gatherings such as the Social Forums.
We take it for granted of course that any party we are in, and certainly a revolutionary party, an anti-capitalist party, would respect the right of tendency, for different views to organise and argue for their positions. That’s the case as it is now in the SA.
Leninism – our method
Finally, we know that for fundamental social change, to overthrow the capitalist state, a revolutionary party is necessary, and to develop such a party the Leninist method can be decisive. But the real Leninist method, not the caricature of Leninism implemented by Stalinism and by so many of the Trotskyist groups.
We’ve quoted and others have quoted Lenin’s astute comments on “How is the discipline of the revolutionary party maintained, tested, reinforced?”
What does Lenin put first in answer to his question? Dedication and commitment. Lenin: “Firstly, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard, and by its devotion to the revolution, by its perseverance, self-sacrifice and heroism”. So many of those who have rejected Leninism, whether from confusing it with Stalinism, or for other reasons, leave this essential ingredient out of their practice, and of course build nothing.
The next element relates to the necessary flexibility and testing of political perspectives through involvement with mass struggles: Lenin: “Secondly, by its ability to link itself with…to merge with the broadest masses of the working people”, including non-proletarian labouring masses.
Finally, Lenin: “Thirdly, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics”. Demonstrated in practice, through the vanguard‘s own experience. Discussing to act (which is democratic centralism, after all) and testing in practice.
Our proposals – and our timing – are based on our appreciation of the real political and social situation in Australia and internationally. We observe whether people are breaking from the establishment parties, we look at the situation with other forces such as the Greens and we test our perspectives.
We don’t begin from abstract projections, or crude sectarian schemas. We’re not sucking out our tactics from abstract formulae, a method endemic to so many Trotskyist currents. We broke with that way of doing things 20 years ago.
We relate the facts, the actual conditions, to our tactics, and continually check our theory through engagement with the movement.
That’s our method, the Leninist method. We begin from the facts, international and local, the balance of class forces, what sections of the class are in motion, the real possibilities. Too often the tendency of the small revolutionary groups, the Trotskyist movement in particular (also narrow Maoist groups that the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) so creatively broke from) get enmeshed in schemas (such as the entry schema).
This method is characterised by a tendency to erect a rigid all-encompassing schema, based on a generalisation about “the working class” as a whole, not looking at the many differentiations in the working class, trying to regroup or mobilise the sections, the vanguard, that are actually moving into motion. On the basis of the initial regroupment and step forward with part of the working class, we can use this advance to reach out to and mobilise and educate further layers, pull others along the road further.
The SWP, while commendably taking big steps forward – working with others, coming in behind the SA, breaking with their two-decade refusal to stand in elections – are still hampered by a schematic approach. They seem unwilling to see the complexity of the class, and the variety of sections of the working class and allies in motion.
It’s black and white – “the working class allegiance is to a reformist party, the ALP, therefore…the entry tactic”. Or, “the working class allegiance is to a reformist party, the ALP, therefore…a new alliance needs old Labor politics”.
Or, they are the revolutionaries, and all others who claim to be are just centrists, (or worse…Stalinist), if they don’t agree with their unique programmatic positions. That’s also the view of Socialist Alternative. On the panel at the Resistance Conference Corey Oakley argued for revolutionary regroupment, between the “two revolutionary organisations”…them and the ISO.
However, Callinicos and the SWP don’t apply this consistently any more, having excommunicated the US ISO and justified it politically having developed another false schema, their “anti-capitalism”, and spreading a distortion about the actual practice of the US ISO.
Nevertheless, Callinicos writes that now “The position that a particular organisation took on the question of Stalinism is not a reliable guide to its orientation toward the new movement” (he should follow through on this more thoroughly, and perhaps we’ll get an apology for his characterisation of us as “Stalinist”?).
But they’re still stuck in a narrow framework, that they are the only true revolutionaries, based on their unique program, their particular shibboleths (it’s the old problem, why there are 20 different organisations in Britain, mostly tiny, who all claim they’re the only true revolutionaries).
Thus the contradiction of Callinicos and the SWP, and the difficult task of trying to describe the SA, and other organisations that are starting to embody the developing political unity and regroupment – Scotland, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, France…? As a “united front?” As “centrists?”
Callinicos and the SWP have gone part of the way in breaking with sectarian methods. While still raising his flag for state capitalist theory, he states: “For all that, it would be mad now, when the Stalinist states have largely been swept into the dustbin of history…to insist on dividing revolutionary socialists on the basis of their different interpretations of Stalinism”. But he then brings up permanent revolution and the DSP.
Responsibilities and possibilities
For two decades our current has had a politically leading role for championing socialist renewal and breaking from sectarianism – our 1980s experiences with unity and regroupment, our 1990s initiatives with GLW and Links, our ambitious conferences, recently the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conferences.
However, our party has not had enough weight in Australia to follow up comprehensively, and make the gains here and internationally. With the SA proposals, and the new possibilities, we can catch up. We now have the responsibility to grab the possibilities that are before us.
The increased debate in SA, and increased consciousness about left unity, will highlight our internationalist credentials even more.
An internationalist perspective is absolutely essential for revolutionaries in an imperialist country like Australia – to educate our ranks and inoculate ourselves against the nationalist and racist poison dished out by our own ruling class. Of course, our primary political task is to make a revolution against our own ruling class, but that revolution will be aided by the solidarity we organise with people oppressed by imperialism.
Our real internationalism, real solidarity, and real fraternal links with other revolutionary parties in other countries, does stand out compared with the internationalism practiced by most of the other left groups. Too often they substitute membership of their narrow – usually tiny – “International” for actual international work, and unfortunately too often it has such dire results for their own organisation too, in terms of building an organisation able to stand on its own feet without interference from the mother party.
Certainly within the SA we’ll respect the links that other currents have with their international organisations, the IST, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International, the FI, the AWL, the Freedom Socialist Party and so on. But even within those Internationals we note the problems, and we’ll want to continue our contacts with the US ISO, for example. And within the FI, we’ll naturally prioritise our contact with the healthier, stronger organisations like the LCR, or the FI comrades working in larger organisations and alliances in Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Denmark for example, rather than the narrower, more sectarian groups.
But our real internationalism can best be seen in the wide range of collaborative links we’ve developed with other parties, parties coming from a variety of political traditions, especially in the Asian region. And these examples comprehensively refute the misguided practice of narrow internationals. Imagine, would the world revolution, or the Indonesian revolution, be served if the People’s Democratic Party split into a dozen separate groups, carved up by the various Trotskyist “Internationals”? Or the Labour Party Pakistan? Or the CPI-ML, or the Timorese Socialist Party in East Timor, or the Power of the Working Class in South Korea, or the newly reunited Philippines Workers Party (PMP) in the Philippines? Just to pose the question for those countries exposes the fallacy of the approach.
Our international work in next period
With Bush’s war drive, and the increasingly interesting developments in the left renewal process around the world, our international work and tasks become all the more important.
The Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) Congress is in Lahore November 9-10, and the DSP will be represented by Doug Lorimer, who’ll be staying a few days longer to give some talks and classes. The LPP has had an eventful and busy year, leading important struggles and linking up with forces in motion. It will be useful to update ourselves on the strength of the party now.
Then the CPI-ML Congress takes place in Patna in Bihar, November 25-29, and Doug Lorimer will attend and present greetings from the DSP. Jill H will also be representing the DSP and she and John R will be collaborating with Satya Sivaraman producing videos.
The CPI-ML initiated the Hyderabad march and convention on September 28 against the saffron communalist frenzy assembled a broad left support and sponsorship. We sent greetings, and note that ML Update, their weekly printed and email newsletter, reported on the international greetings and quoted from ours at the top of the list. We value highly the collaboration with these comrades. Their draft international report for their congress ends with:
Communist parties and communist-led trade unions and other mass organisations are playing a key role in the worldwide anti-globalisation anti-imperialist movement along with a host of other anti-capitalist tendencies. We stand for developing wider links and closer co-operation with all positive forces of the international communist and anti-imperialist movement on the principled basis of proletarian internationalism and anti-imperialist solidarity.
With US imperialism rapidly increasing its intervention in the Third World in general and Asia in particular, the anti-imperialist task of our revolution has now become more important than ever. In this context, we must pay special attention to developing closer ties with Left organisations in our neighbouring countries and with progressive sections of the South Asian Diaspora.
The third World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, January 23-28, will again be huge. We’ll continue to engage with this process constructively, at the same time as looking for opportunities to reverse their negative prescriptions on participation by left parties. Fred Fuentes from Resistance will definitely be attending, and perhaps other comrades. The Asian Social Forum will be in Hyderabad, India, on January 2-7. We don’t know of any comrades planning to attend yet, and it’s a little difficult, coming immediately after our Congress. We will have a good representation at the European Social Forum in Florence, November 7-10, with DSP members Sarah P, Jill H, and John R. Those comrades will also be attending the SSP Socialism 2002 conference in Glasgow October 25-27.
The Fourth International World Congress will take place in Belgium February 9-15. We will send a delegation. Other currents and parties are likely to be invited as observers also: the SWP/IST, the SSP/ISM, the Party of Communist Refoundation, probably a range from France and the LPP (there might be more interesting discussions outside the closed sessions than inside!).
The Manila conference projected for November 2003 depends on the comrades up there, but has a stronger chance of success following the successful fusion of the PMP which has reunited the bulk of the Manila forces of the old Communist Party of the Philippines. Comrade Max Lane recently attended the Solidarity of Filipino Workers congress and perhaps in the discussion can fill us in on the situation there now and the shape of the united party.
Let’s hope the Manila conference can provide a successful forum for assembling our network and consolidating it. The Sydney conferences are one formula we’ve developed, overcoming the limitations of resources, enabling us to get together, and the Jakarta conference last year began to broaden out. But there’s still not a lot of reality to our Asian network of developing parties. Certainly Asia is so diverse there’s no easy common campaigns, and the distances and the lack of resources make it difficult to meet often. And many parties are still almost completely immersed and overwhelmed by their national struggles, giving hardly any attention to international work.
Our proposal is raising a lot of interest on the left. We’ve received lots of encouragement from well wishers, both within the SA and without. The Workers Liberty article we reprinted in The Activist is headed The Australian SA is Abuzz.
Internationally, there’s a bit of a buzz too. International Viewpoint carried our proposal. SSV carried an interview in their last issue, which would have been the issue sold on the big London antiwar demo. There’s been a lot of discussion on the Marxism List (though it also sparked off interventions by a strident individual desperate to deter the construction and strengthening of an alternative to the ALP).
The international discussion will be important, and already we have important contributions to make, and useful experiences to refer to. The websites, for GLW, DSP/DST, and SA are important for the Australian left, but also attract a large number of international visitors – probably well over half of the more than 3,500 visitors a day (still rising, possibly because of interest in our proposals, plus the Iraq War). We must strengthen the sites, expand them, and include more of our pamphlets, books, and documents, highlighting our extensive publication and education program.
Links magazine’s next issue will be devoted to “Left Unity and Regroupment” and we hope to have the issue out by the time of our Congress – as a complement to the discussion in GLW, The Activist, and SA’s internal bulletin. It will certainly include articles on the DSP’s perspectives for the SA here, and some of the discussion.
But we’d also want to cover both specific developments relating to left unity in different countries, as well as general questions – perhaps articles on the SSP, the SA in England, the French LCR’s steps to build a broader party, other left unity developments in Europe, and the fusion of left parties in the Philippines. Alex Callinicos has already agreed to write an article.
The projected new framework won’t mean any restriction on our international work. If anything it will mean an increase, as we will not just represent our tendency, but increasingly a stronger, bigger SA.
Our party has won respect from the international left both for the serious non-sectarian party we’ve built over the decades, for our exemplary publications, and for the solidarity work and Asian left network we’ve developed. Pierre Rousset’s article The Asia-Pacific: birth of a new internationalism, which appeared in Rouge and International Viewpoint (see The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 9) was very positive about our work and the network – perhaps even flattering. With these proposals for the SA, we have the possibility of building a stronger, more effective socialist movement here that will justify and extend that respect, and help build stronger collaboration among the left in Asia. Our success here will have important consequences in inspiring and assisting left renewal around the world.
– The Activist was as the internal discussion bulletin of the Democratic Socialist Party