[The following report was adopted the 20th Congress of the Democratic Socialist Party with one consultative vote against.]
Crisis of neoliberalism and the imperialist war drive
The political context for our international work is the heightened crisis and rising stakes resulting from firstly, the real capitalist crisis arising from the failure of their neoliberal panacea, and secondly, the ruling class strategy of aggressive war and domination abroad coupled with domestic repression.
The international report this morning set the scene, the campaigns report and discussion will refine our priority antiwar focus, the Socialist Alliance (SA) sessions and Party Building reports will develop our perspective of building a broader and stronger socialist movement in Australia.
This international work report will look at the subjective factor internationally – how other parties and currents are responding to the objective political situation, building greater unity and stronger organisation, how the process of collaboration between developing movements and parties is going, and what contribution we are making and can make in future to this renewal of the international socialist movement.
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. Comrades are well-informed of the details of these protests – we’ve covered them very thoroughly in GLW, Links, and The Activist. The movement in Southern Europe has been especially inspiring, explosive – Spain, France, Greece, and above all Italy.
Latin America has been the second region witnessing a qualitative rise in mass struggles and consciousness in the last few years. It has been a very visible failed laboratory for neoliberalism – with Argentina the most spectacular failure – and is now a seething cauldron of anger and struggle.
Marta Harnecker gave an interview on Venezuela on December 1: “I think we’re living in a new stage”, she said, “a stage when the struggle against neoliberalism is on the increase in the continent. Three years ago we couldn’t imagine what is happening today. At that time we began to see the triumph of an unknown military officer, Hugo Chavez, who won the presidential election in Venezuela. Recently, Lula triumphed in Brazil, and now I think that Lucio Gutierrez is going to win the election in Ecuador. [He did.] Next in line is the election in Uruguay, where it seems clear that Tabare Vasquez will win. All this is creating a possibility, perhaps for the first time since Bolivar, of a Latin American articulation different from the one that has existed until now.”
“…the neoliberal model has proved to be so incapable of satisfying the needs of our people that the people have rebelled and have elected candidates who represent the hope for a different world.”1
In addition to left election victories, there’s ongoing guerilla resistance struggles in Colombia; mass mobilisations that forced retreat on water privatisation in Bolivia, and the heightening polarisation and mass mobilisation in Venezuela.
The elite and imperialists are determined to stop the process, remove Chavez who’s not accepting orders, but actually reversing the neoliberal dictates. The defeat of the April coup was a big setback for Washington. The masses are more organised and aware, and the military is now more solidly behind Chavez. Future coups will be harder. The current struggle has raised the stakes, with PDVSA being thrown into the pot, and the economic power of the elite likely to be weakened.
The development of the global justice movement has been loudly heralded by the DSP and extensively publicised in our press. Comrades have also been kept well informed of the progress and discussions in the World Social Forum (WSF) in its various forms and locations, to compensate for our distance from the scene of much of the exciting action, in Latin America and Southern Europe. We’ve reprinted in The Activist the international work reports from our June and October National Committee (NC) meetings, and provided extensive extra documentation and assessments of the movement – Genoa, Porto Alegre WSF 2, the Barcelona demo and WSF International Committee meetings, the pivotal Italian Party of Communist Refoundation (PRC) congress, the French elections, and the movement in Argentina and Venezuela.
Such a tumultuous, exciting new movement raises many issues and important questions, but there have been a few we’ve been especially interested in observing the progress on. For example:
- How and when will the working class be drawn in and radicalised by this movement? (In Europe anyway; it’s not in question in Latin America, the working mass, the poor, have frequently mobilised in their millions.)
- What political issues and focus will come to the fore?
- How well will the movement be able to consistently mobilise into action around clear political demands?
- Will these new movements be able to speed the renewal of broad, stronger socialist parties, after the disasters suffered by the workers movement under the twin burdens of Stalinism and social democracy/liberalism over the last decades, and now thoroughly discredited?
- Issues in question within the WSF process itself, for example, have been:
- Is it just a “space” for discussion?
- Can it decide on and organise action?
- Do parties have a place in the process?
There’s huge fudging and obfuscation on all of these issues, in spite of the tremendous goodwill and mass involvement and expectations. The Barcelona WSF International Council endorsed the original Brazilian “rules” and conception. The meeting in Thessalonika went along with it, but the fact that the majority present belonged to parties made the façade a bit thin. The latest meeting in Paris highlights the contradictions further.
The fact is, the straitjacketed conception of the original right-wing non-government organisation (NGO) types put in control goes directly against the expectations and needs of the vast majority of participants – the need to campaign, to have coordinated action, to adopt positions, to work out directions. Secondly, still not widely understood by most of the participants, given the baggage brought in by parties from the past, is the need for the process to contribute to the building of stronger socialist parties. But not directly of course. Certainly it won’t substitute. It can facilitate, legitimise it, and rewin a new generation to the perspective of socialist revolution, and to the party that is needed to wrest power from the rulers. But both international political developments, and developments within the global justice movement itself, are contributing towards resolution, even if tentatively so far. Many of the questions outlined have been getting clarified over the last few years.
1. Many of the political issues have been clarified. For example, two years ago, a question still getting debated was, “Nix it or Fix it”? Could the imperialist international financial institutions of control and subjugation – the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation (WTO) – be reformed? The movement has moved on from there, you don’t see that argument raised much.
2. The role of NGOs is getting more widely understood. It’s not news for us. But popular left journals are telling the truth more often. For example, Gavin Keeney in CounterPunch (May 24, 2002) writes: “NGO’s were originally conceived as agencies to mediate between government and the individual, but oddly, today, 85% of NGOs are funded by governments”.
He concluded: “…the bulk of contemporary NGOs form a layer of intermediate fog between individuals and government making it well-nigh impossible to stop the wretched machinery of perpetual deal-making and self-aggrandisement. Given the source of much of their money, foundations and government, and given the uncomfortably similar corporate strangle-hold on funding, pimping and gilding today’s breed of neo-politician…, it is not rocket science to conclude that a landscape of NGOs, as far as the eye can see, is a very gloomy picture indeed”.
NGOs are still playing an active, and ambiguous, role in the whole WSF process of course, leading the attack against parties. At the Paris organising meeting for the next European Social Forum, the speaker from the Human Rights of Men group claimed that parties were of a “different nature” from “the movement”. The ultimate goal of parties was “to hold the reins of power”, he said. He was not against talking to them, but they should be kept out.
But their role is more transparent, harder to impose in Europe, Florence, compared to the Brazilian WSF.
3. The dynamic of imperialism’s war drive is focusing attention against imperialism, the state, the military, as well as the corporations and their financial institutions. The urgency of antiwar actions has been thoroughly grasped by the activists – Afghanistan; Iraq; what next? The whole Arab world? North Korea? Latin America?
So political targets and demands are clear; actions seem so necessary. Decisions have to be made for political action, rather than just provide a “space”. Organisation and a clear focus seem logical, more critical.
We’ve had some experience here on a modest scale: in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney with Social Forums trying to be squeezed into an outdated, preconceived format, dumbing down politics and stamping out any push for democratic structure or focus. And we can contrast Melbourne S11, where clear politics and organisation contributed to the success of the blockade of the World Economic Forum, and Sydney N14-15 actions against the WTO where kindergarten anarchist forms and politics were imposed.
Movements and parties
In the main healthy strongholds of the global justice movement around the world, the pressure for politics, for parties, is growing. It’s posing problems for those trying to hold the line just at “movements”.
At a certain point the anti-capitalist movement has to contribute to formation or strengthening of parties. The issues – debt, water privatisation, Tobin tax (ATTAC) and so on – drive the movement. But any resolution requires a “party” solution, and the analysis and perspective posed by Marxism.
Without a party solution, that can address the question of power, the rising tension between increasing repression and neoliberal crisis, and increasing anger and semi-spontaneous mobilisation, won’t be resolved. Moreover, if struggles continue without resolution, there’s always the danger of rightist “solutions”. The mass movement needs a coherent leadership body if there’s to be a resolution in our favour.
We know that the distrust of “parties” has real roots and is understandable.
Marta Harnecker puts it rather delicately: There’s “great skepticism towards politics and politicians. People no longer trust them, first, because the speeches from the Right and from the Left are so similar. The Right has appropriated the language of the Left, but at the same time, and unfortunately, some spokesmen for the Left who have achieved positions in government have a political practice not very different from the traditional parties.”
It’s actually very simple: Stalinism and social democracy have thoroughly betrayed the aspirations of the workers and oppressed, and are increasingly discredited.
But also in the early stages of any revolt and new radicalisation there’s a strong trend towards non-party and movementist attitudes and theories. Perhaps it’s an inevitable dynamic. Certainly looking at past experience we can see it’s nothing new, a phenomenon that had to be combated in Marx’s time, in Lenin’s time. It’s a position we had to contend with in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The attraction of groups like Students for a Democratic Society that had a high profile for a few years was that they initially posed as anti-party, as a “new movement”.
Nevertheless, latching on to this natural sentiment in the early stages of a movement, there are those also with a more conscious effort to restrict parties and institutionalise anti-party sentiments, by:
- The anarchist “party” (And we know how incredibly bureaucratic and manipulative in practice these frauds are.)
- The social democratic “party” (cf Bernard Cassen’s role in Tobin Tax to Assist the Citizen, the opportunistic Socialist Party pollies at the Porto Alegre WSF happy enough about the exclusion of parties – they were different, they were “parliamentarians”.)
- The NGO “party” – Individuals with a vested interest in staying within the system, living off the foundations and government handouts.
The outstanding success of the social forum process has meant many have wanted to get on board the bandwagon, but the small initiating group in Brazil wants to clamp down, keep it within their control and perspective, avoid any broad democratic process, and insist on the fiction of exclusion of parties.
The absence of parties is to a large extent a myth. Marta Harnecker perpetuates it: “The struggle of resistance to neoliberalism has often been waged without any coordination with the parties. In fact, the very initiative of the World Social Forum came from the social movements and the non-governmental organisations.” But the Workers’ Party left played a crucial role in Porto Alegre, without it, the WSF wouldn’t have happened. Similarly, in Florence, the PRC, and the left Democracia Socialista, provided the infrastructure.
There’s been an ongoing debate since the first WSF in Porto Alegre about the role of parties, and how the process would be controlled and continued outside of Brazil. The right-wing forces want to reaffirm the exclusion of parties, and insist that any conference using the social forum label be strictly along the lines of the Porto Alegre “Charter of Principles”.
An International Council was established from Porto Alegre 2, and we and other left parties in Asia were able to participate and be formally recognised, as the Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN) – a loose network of parties. It’s a thin disguise, but others were also just wearing different hats. It’s hypocrisy in some cases, and not so hidden camouflage in others. They’ve now closed the International Committee, but the issues of parties and structure etc will no doubt be raised at the WSF this January. Fred F will be attending for the DSP, but we hope other APSN comrades will be there also.
But Florence has shifted the focus to Europe, and the contradictions about political questions and structure and the bans on parties has emerged more starkly.
The European Social Forum in Florence, and the million-strong antiwar march on the final day, was such a phenomenal event, such a huge, enormous success. 60,000 attended the Forum, when 20,000 were expected. It’s the most recent experience of this still escalating movement, and can provide a number of lessons and pointers. Our comrades’ observations have been published, with a number of others. Everyone was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size – forums were attended by thousands, with little opportunity for debate; there were thousands of youth, but few were given a voice. But in spite of the crush and chaos, the political victories stand out:
- The focus of the march was so clearly against imperialist war. It was the biggest antiwar march yet, an enormous slap to Bush and Berlusconi.
- The positive impact of huge working class involvement was so clear. With a strong party, the PRC, behind everything, and mass workers’ participation, “black block” idiocy and attacks on “authoritarian marshals” seemed totally absent. Anarchist fetishisation of direct action proved not only irrelevant to the march success, but detrimental.
However, there were varied other assessments. In the weeks following Florence we noted less than 100% enthusiasm in some quarters, not the expected boosting, which indicated that it might have escaped beyond the bounds of some preconceptions.
In fact, in spite of the incredible success and impact, there’ve been some whinges of disappointment from quarters that felt marginalised by the masses. An article on Florence from Voice of the Turtle website, reprinted in the ATTAC newsletter, was positive but subdued, focusing on individuals, and complained: “Yet the tentative alliance of international anti-capitalism was diminished by certain absentees. There were fewer NGOs than I expected. Anarchists were represented around the cultural events, but not so much in the conference halls.”2
Also in the ATTAC newsletter, Peter Wahl, from Weed, a German NGO, agreed it was an outstanding event “…emerging from the shadow of violence, with masses of people mobilised…” and “The dominant, or even sole theme of the ESF was war. The rejection of the militarisation of foreign policy in general and of a war against Iraq in particular was unanimous”. But he thought this orientation carried some risks. For example, in the US he thinks it diverts attention, “where the pressure for patriotic conformity is so strong that not much of the spirit of Seattle remains”. He could say this after 200,000 demonstrated against the war in Washington, and 100,000 in San Francisco?
It appears that a political culture of dialogue, toleration of contradictions, and – except for some Trotskyist splinter groups – a conscious renunciation of avant-gardism and domination is developing.
This is seen most clearly with the Rifondazione Comunista. Although the party, with its 100,000 members, played a significant role in the preparation and realisation of the Forum and demonstrations, it did not attempt to force its position on others, neither in the internal preparations committee nor publicly. Apparently it has been realised that self-restriction and the renunciation of the party political instrumentalisation of social movements is a necessary condition for their success. The fact that the Rifondazione seems serious about leftist pluralism is also shown by its renunciation of one of the holy cows of Leninism, the requirement within its own ranks to vote according to the party line.
This attitude is fairly typical of many of the NGOs, and unfortunately adapted to by others. The PRC growth and political development has been extremely significant, but the side that attracts most praise from NGOs is a contradictory weakness, a tendency to adapt to false paths and fads, when political clarity is essential. Bertinotti declared: “Who speaks of Neoliberalism cannot remain silent about Capitalism”, opening the way for political clarification, but in speaking about capitalism, Marxists must show clear leadership.
Wahl thought that a weakness of Florence was that there was no development of “conceptual alternatives to neoliberalism”. But he’d ruled out certain roads: “What is needed are the innovative answers of a social critique which is current and which does not clothe itself in the costume of irretrievable past struggles.”
Abandoning the lessons of those past struggles will only mean past mistakes get repeated in weirder guise.
Francois Vercammen has an interesting article on Florence in the latest International Viewpoint, which we’ve reprinted in The Activist, but many comrades might not have read it yet.
Vercammen describes how he sees the class dynamic underway in the Florence events. “Speaking politically, Florence was the theater of a clash not seen since 1968, between the radical left and the social democratic left,” he writes.
The second meeting of the WSF in Porto Alegre (January 2002) had heralded the fact: social democracy could not continue to ignore “the movement”. The appearance of the political leaders of the Second International in Brazil was a first attempt at rapprochement with the aim of regaining credibility, notably among the young generation.
That’s true. But at the same time we always need to remind ourselves of the intentions, the motives of these bureaucrats. He continues:
Florence went further: the European trade union movement, the ETUC and several of its trade union organisations, “demanded” to participate. Thus, in accordance with the rules established by the ESF, they organised several spaces of discussion, participated in big debates with the currents of the trade union left, and sent delegations to the mass demonstration. It was the CGIL [General Confederation of Italian Labour], the main Italian organisation, which demanded to lead a contingent of 200,000 of its members in the demonstration, and contributed to its stewarding! The (main) French, Spanish, Greek, German, and Belgian leaders spoke and many of the cadres and activists were either sent by their leaderships, or came under their own steam. Moreover, the political wing of social democracy had asked to participate in the central debate (5000 participants) where “the representatives of the social movement question the political parties”, each European current being represented: Besancenot (LCR, France, anti-capitalist left), Elio di Rupo (PS, French speaking Belgium, social democratic), Rosy Bindy (Christian left), Bertinotti (PRC), a German deputy (Greens)… as well as Cassen (ATTAC), Nineman (“Globalise Resistance”) and so on.
Two remarks can be made. First, something unprecedented: the radical left (in the broadest sense of the term) has – in political debate and in the streets – imposed a “united front” on social democracy, still largely in the majority in the workers’ movement, itself very much in the majority inside the working class. It amounts to a real victory, contrary to what the ultra-left currents think (they wish to expel the social democrats from the ESF). Symbolically, first: these people did everything in their power to boycott and break our movement. When the social democrats dominated the governments and institutions of the EU, between 1998 and 2001, they attempted to stop European demonstrations. Jospin, D’Alema and others had blocked the frontiers. They allowed police to fire on demonstrators (Gothenburg); the European Council of Interior Ministers drew up a tactic to crush the movement in early 2001 (implemented in Naples, Gothenburg, Genoa…). In Florence, they came to “Canossa”,3 to make honourable amends! [Canossa was a humiliating submission of a King to Pope a Millennium ago]
“Honourable” is not the word I’d apply to their shift at all, if you remember their goals…Given their history and outlook, we’d have to be very careful, keep our eyes open going into any united front with social democrats and trade union bureaucrats, and particularly having a clear and principled alternative party pole to rally workers around. (The classical “marching together, striking separately” of the united front.) And this process was actually a feature of Seattle, the unions were forced to turn up, even if they kept a distance. And in Melbourne, at S11, remember our victory in pressuring the Trades Hall, and unions to be involved, and actually to cross the river. Vercammen continues:
More importantly for the future, in going themselves to the ESF the social democratic leaders (political and trade union) could no longer prevent “their” militants from getting involved also, and deeply; that goes for the trade union sectors, in the minority in their Confederation, and delegates and militants: the perspective of a “European trade union left” is thrown up.
Hence the battle between a radical left, strengthened, and a social liberal left with weakened hegemony, is put on the public agenda at a European level. It is fundamental. It is immediately pertinent. With the probable war against Iraq in the short term, an economic recession, with governments in Europe of the aggressive right and some weighty social liberals (Blair, Schröder, Sweden, Greece): political clarification will advance at a high velocity, including ‘in the street’. In such a conjuncture, and such a relation of forces, the fight to refound the workers’/social movement on an anti-capitalist basis is on the agenda.
The next European Social Forum will be held in Paris next November. The first organising meeting for it got under way quickly taking place in Paris in early December, attended by about 250 people. It provided an interesting registration of the stage of the tussle on political and organisation questions in the WSF, in Europe at least.
Some progress seems to have been made on the question of political parties, certainly more recognition of the reality. The dominant forces were from parties, or influenced by parties, or wearing their front hats.
However, there was no progress on the question of injecting some structural democracy into the social forum movement. The French mobilising committee – an alliance of ATTAC, a sprinkling of NGOs, the LCR, PCF and various environmental, anti-racist, gay and lesbian campaigns and so on – initially came with a proposal for more structure, setting up of an international steering committee of 100 to oversee the process, and a secretariat of around 20. On the face of it seemed logical, sensible. But was it a move by the right wing forces in the leadership of ATTAC to tighten up the process?
In the end the mobilising committee backed off completely from these proposals after they came under fierce attack. Revised proposals brought back the following day dropped any idea of a steering committee – it’s back to informal, behind the scenes consensus, decisions made by whoever can get there, but in effect a small de facto leadership grouping.
The PRC argued against any structures, saying they “didn’t need them”, it worked okay for Florence, why change? But as in Porto Alegre with the Workers Party (PT), everything was backed, organised and guaranteed by a strong party, in Italy by the PRC itself.
It seems the LCR was playing a key role at the Paris meeting – chairing the first session. They’d be the most dynamic force in the mobilising committee, while not having the overwhelming preponderance of the PT in Porto Alegre and the PRC in Florence. It would seem to be in their interests to construct a broad steering committee, representative of the forces in France, and in Europe.
Francois Vercammen’s article would have been written before the Paris meeting, and addresses these questions of organisation and parties, but is hampered by adapting still too much to the anti-organisation, anti-party trends in the movement. There’s a certain naiveté in that healthy wing of the Fourth International (FI). They have excellent involvement in the various movements, have played a central role in reviving the movements, but are weak on party building in most countries, and have illusions about the anti-party forces, and perhaps are a little naïve about social democrats/social liberals also? The PRC is an extremely positive development, but they aren’t always going to be right, and FI comrades seem to be adapting by taking the approach of the FI Italian comrades as the right setting.
Vercammen concludes his article:
For the radical (social and political) left, the first priority is deploying itself within European society, starting from the ESF: its campaigns, initiatives, networks, and coordinations. Besides the anti-war movement, a campaign for social rights is a priority (not the only one) for stopping the uninterrupted neoliberal offensive. It is a huge political issue, because such a campaign, waged in every EU country over several years opens a unifying field of social activity. The fight for rights directly draws in all the parties, singularly the social liberals and the governments, obliging them to take a position. That poses the question of the relationship with the EU, as state structure, and the obligation on the movement to define a programme that deals with all the questions of a European/internationalist alternative.
The EU has passed to a new imperialist-neoliberal offensive, very concentrated in time, from now until June 2004 (the date of the next European elections). That will lead to a convergence between the political parties and the social movement; more precisely, it will push this latter to concern itself with politics.
It is on the basis of these coordinates that the revolutionary left must conceive its construction. If this analysis is correct, the crisis of the social liberal program (which remains the line of European social democracy) should free the live forces until now dominated by the social democrats, the trade union bureaucracies and the associated left parties (some CPs and Greens). The “movement of movements” can be the spearhead, the pole of attraction and can strongly influence the political dynamic – firstly in the most advanced countries.
However we should not misjudge the stage we are in. It is an intermediary stage that requires intermediary solutions. If the revolutionary left seeks, legitimately, to strengthen itself, that should not cut across the potentialities which will open at another level. The first solution is to revive and structure the trade union/social left, immediately and internationally.
Secondly, to offer a political framework adapted to the “new” militants and affiliated to their consciousness, receptiveness, culture, behaviour – in short: a “political education” which is anti-capitalist and pluralist, where they occupy the centre of gravity.
Thirdly, faced with the aversion felt by the militant layers of the social movement towards the radical political parties, we must put forward proposals for electoral campaigns which guarantee an effective participation. That implies that the existing parties renounce any hegemonic pretence but on the contrary participate on a basis of equality in the organisational forms appropriate to common action – before, during and after.
We’d be in agreement – recognising it’s an intermediary stage that requires intermediary solutions. Flexible forms will be needed, sometimes parties won’t be called parties.
But what’s needed is a political education that doesn’t adapt as much to the existing consciousness of the movement, which is often a product of false ideologies. And where possible, counter the anti-party prejudices. And we shouldn’t downplay the need to build parties now, while still doing all we can to assist the development of any intermediate forms on the way to the mass revolutionary party that’s needed. There’s no contradiction in building the movements and building the party, together.
Vercammen represents the healthiest section of the FI, and we see eye to eye on many questions. But he still appears too defensive on the question of parties. We’ve differed for decades with that European wing of the FI that was too haphazard about the process of building parties, training cadres.
And it’s important to clarify the relationship between party and movement, what’s meant by “hegemony”. It seems they’re now making hegemony a swear word – even in the home of Gramsci! Francois Vercammen praised the PRC as “a party that positions itself in parity with the social movement, without seeking hegemony or manipulation”. As though hegemony and manipulation were on a par, equally to be shunned.
But winning hegemony in the movement is not something a revolutionary party doesn’t aim for, it’s not the same as Stalinist manipulation. Our current won hegemony in the movement against the Vietnam War, in the US, Europe, Australia, and just as well! The FI has done it, in the Amsterdam rally, although not building their parties enough. The LCR has done it in ATTAC, though I suspect that more recently the more right-wing forces like Casson have grabbed control to themselves, and that’s not useful.
Left unity and regroupment
Our general perspectives for renewal of the socialist movement, in Australia and internationally, have been outlined in reports and perspectives adopted by past congresses: the actual processes for left unity and regroupment, and the various conceptions, are quite varied.
The Social Forum process is new, and exciting, and drawing in tens of thousands. But is it a step towards new parties, or could it develop into a roadblock?
We’ll intervene, and monitor, but not put all our hopes on it, and be aware that the roadblock could be solidified. Especially in the volatile, changed situation in Latin America, depriving the movement of a party-type instrument can be disastrous.
Marta Harnecker’s formulation, “sort of parties”, “not against political instruments, because sometimes when one criticises parties, people think one is betting on the emergence of movements that will lead the struggle. Social movements are sectoral movements and require an instrument for articulation, call it party, sociopolitical movement, front, or whatever. But what’s needed are political instruments that articulate and raise a national proposal, that make an ideological proposal in today’s world.” A different political practice is needed “that is specially concerned with the poorest people and delegates power to the people…”
A formulation like that is fine, in line with the need for making the central concept palatable, in the wake of the discrediting of traditional left parties. And it’s also in line with the practice in Cuba for example, where Harnecker lives, with the July 26 movement making a successful revolution. In Brazil, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) functions in some ways as a party.
Whatever the label, more organisation, more self-organisation, is required, to build “political instruments that articulate and raise a national proposal”, or described from another angle, “some form of revolutionary cadre formation”.
At this 3rd WSF it will be interesting to see if more of the healthy political forces, including the MST, or the Socialist Democracy, the FI current in the PT, are getting frustrated at the imposed limitations of the WSF process and charter.
The Sao Paulo Foro was a positive step for Latin America, initiated by Fidel and Lula to counter the demoralisation and disorganisation following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it had limited aims, and did tend to become tame and ritualistic. In 2000 the Cuban comrades made a push to give it more reality, a firmer political project, and we published their statement as a Links article.4 We were hoping that the 2001 Foro, held in Havana, would take the process a step further. But the hopes, the promise, weren’t really fulfilled – in Havana the weight was still with old parties and governmental parties, and little progress seemed visible. This year’s Foro was in Guatemala, and we didn’t attend, but we haven’t heard that it made particular advances. (The report in the Communist Party’s Guardian made it sound rather stodgy, but the Guardian would make the revolution sound stodgy.)
In Europe a recent and more interesting process is the European Anti-Capitalist Left, meeting every six months. It was initiated by the FI, and groups the radical left in Europe, and apart from serving to break down the sectarian identifications of old “Internationals”, it has a real function of starting to build coordination against a real and strengthening capitalist European Union.
Alliances and parties attending have been: the Red Green Alliance (RGA, Denmark), the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), the SA (England), the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and sometimes the Socialist Party (Britain), the Socialist Party (SP, Netherlands – which has growing support, and good leftists joining), La Gauche (“The Left”, Luxembourg), the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR, Revolutionary Communist League, France), the Left Bloc (BdE, Portugal), Espacio Alternativo (“Left Space”, Spain), Rifondazione Comunista (“Party of Communist Refoundation”, Italy), Solidarité-S (Switzerland, Geneva), the ÖDP (“Party of Solidarity and Liberty”, Turkey), with Plataforma de Izquierda (“Left Platform”, Spain) attending as an observer.
Five meetings have been held, and we’ve often been able to attend as observers. Last year they adopted a statement which we printed in Links.
On the eve of the ESF in Florence, Italy’s PRC organised a two-day meeting (on November 5-6, 2002) that was a step towards a European left party. On the agenda: the European Union and the question of war, social and citizens’ rights, an economic perspective and a political alternative; and a proposal for a European political party. The PRC had put forward a document, Contribution of the PRC to the discussion on a European Alternative Left, which approached the problems under discussion in four chapters: “For a Europe of peace”, “For a Europe of economic, social and environmental rights”, “For a democratic Europe”, and “The alternative left for Europe”.
The main European organisations from the mainstream communist party tradition attended. Also present were a range of organisations from the radical left, many of those participating in the European Anti-Capitalist Left gatherings – the various left blocs and alliances, the SSP, the LCR, the SWP. The PRC saw its role as perhaps “a bridge”, as Francois Vercammen pointed out in the latest International Viewpoint: “For the first time in history, organisations from the CP tradition agreed to debate the radical left on the basis of a political text with the perspective of a new European party of the alternative left.”
The PRC proposed a “European Alternative Left” for the elections, and plan to draw the movements in support. Whether this framework remains more along the lines of a European Sao Paulo Foro, or whether the momentum from Florence and the international and European political situation can shake the traditional parties from their ties to the system, with illusions of being in a “centre left” government, remains to be seen.
The FI in Europe has been associated with many of the most interesting regroupment and left renewal projects. The LCR had a very successful election campaign, and mass mobilisation against National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, out of which they’ve grown, and gathered respect. FI views have been evolving. The last World Congress document talked about the possible “mutation” of the FI, although this was left algebraic.
They were also tossing up ideas of a “Fifth International”, perhaps along the lines of the First International. Four years ago the FI was projecting a very broad World Congress for 2000, even contemplating involving a majority outside the FI. The leadership was forced back from that perspective by the narrow factions in the FI at their February 1999 IEC meeting, postponing the congress yet again.
Some of the small groups and currents in the FI who uphold a “pure programmatism” – Socialist Action; the Indian group; Steve Bloom in Solidarity – formed a common tendency, “The IEC Collaboration”. One of their demands was that they wanted a public response to the DSP in International Viewpoint on permanent revolution, characterising us as “renegades from the Trotskyist movement”. The February 2000 IEC declined, and this current frothed about the “general lack of interest…by the majority of the present international leadership in an active defense of the FI’s historic programmatic legacy.”!
But the more sectarian trends were overtaken by events, the global justice movement, the European Anti-Capitalist Left, the whole WSF process. By the time of the IEC earlier this year the tasks documents for the World Congress were adopted unanimously.
The FI Tasks document (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 8) makes some good points, and although making a criticism of movementism and lack of serious attention to party building in many FI groups, it’s still not something campaigned for and understood. Recent political developments could divert the comrades again, immersed in the thick of big projects, big movements. Lacking clear party-building perspectives comrades can get swamped, and it will be interesting to observe the discussion at the World Congress, now in February in Belgium. Peter and I will attend.
It will also be useful to get a detailed assessment from all sides and viewpoints about what’s happened and might happen with the FI-International Socialist Tendency unity discussions. They had a discussion without any outcome, and I don’t think they’ll be going anywhere. The SWP will use them to parade themselves as the “real” revolutionaries while keeping their outreach phase going, to reach into Europe and the ESF process.
The SWP/IST is rather late on the broader, new movements scene, and the theoretical justifications for their approaches are quite crude. Alex Callinicos has expounded in various articles now their conception of a “united front of a special type” to cover the Socialist Alliances. Various comrades have pulled this concept apart, including Nicky McKerrill of the SSP, in an article we printed in The Activist, and might carry in the next Links.
We asked Callinicos for an article for the left unity issue of Links, and it’s come in. He claims there are three conceptions of left regroupment current on the left internationally: “The first is championed by Rifondazione in Italy, and reflects the PRC’s politically ambiguous evolution. The PRC leadership seems to be trying to bring together the main surviving communist parties in Europe, the leading organizations of the revolutionary left, and the non-party elements within the anti-capitalist movement.”
However, Callinicos states that: “the survivors of historical Stalinism are, on the whole, not useful partners. The PRC is therefore a special case among the European CPs. The second approach to regroupment is that championed by the ISM [International Socialist Movement] and its allies internationally. This offers the SSP as a model for party-building today.”
Callinicos has a difficult task dismissing this model, both because it’s been effective in Scotland, and his members in Scotland are working in the SSP at the moment so he can’t be too open in his criticism.
Nevertheless, he claims that the ISM perspective is faulty, firstly because it engenders “a sectarian attitude towards the Labour Party”, and “secondly, an underestimation of reformism can paradoxically lead to the attempt to fill the entire space that it has supposedly left. The SSP leadership appear to believe that the death of social democracy means that pressing bread-and-butter economic demands automatically has a radicalising dynamic. This can lead to a sort of parochial economism…”
“The third conception of regroupment” writes Callinicos, “ – that of revolutionary regroupment – is that defended by the SWP. [not too hot, not too cold…] Its aim is to bring together all those who identify with the revolutionary Marxist tradition as it was developed and defended by Marx and Engels, Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Trotsky and the Left Opposition and who want to build the movement today on a non-sectarian basis.”
Yes, just a narrow Trotskyist international regroupment perspective, with an essential plank “Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution and the critique of popular frontism”. And despite affirming that no current would insist that “its interpretation of the tradition” – such as Tony Cliff from the British SWP – would have to be the basis for unity, all indications are they’ll only ever trust their own narrow brand. Even with a group with 100% theoretical agreement, the US International Socialist Organisation (ISO), there seem to be “rivers of blood”, and not for the spurious charge of “missing” the global justice movement, or “sectarianism”.
We now have two years experience working with them more closely here in the SA, and some international contact, and studying their practice and writings quite closely, especially from England. We were able to tease out their arguments and thinking more clearly following our bold proposal put all our public campaigning through the SA. The discussions then, and observing the discussions, confusion, and flip-flops within their ranks, have been informative. It shows they haven’t fundamentally broken from a sect-building perspective.
They still see themselves as playing the role of true revolutionaries in “united fronts”, alliances and dumbed down Social Forums, in which they’ll shine, and from which they’ll recruit. They still see only themselves as really revolutionaries – some of the more disgruntled members let fly with “rivers of blood” and “Stalinist” epithets.
Thus the SWP/IST is fiercely opposed to building any intermediate political formation. So the left collaboration is very circumscribed, the actual “unity” is limited, as they’ll engage in sectarian and falsified attacks on rivals on the scene:
- The US ISO, a potential rival within their own international scene;
- The LCR, the rival blocking the door to Europe;
- The SSP, the barbarian rivals from north of the border. The biggest actual threat to their sectarianism.
The IST gathering is taking place in London in January. At least four from the local ISO are going – Brian Webb, Heidi, David Glanz, Judy McVey. Can we expect any line changes? Unlikely. But we should always keep an eye out for when they make an SP-type “turn” and circle the wagons again.
But for the moment they’ll keep on the line…united fronts, to recruit to the true revolutionaries. They want to get a foot in to continental Europe, southern Europe, via the ESF, so will continue to adapt, dumb down politically, adopt the worst anarchistic methods.
For Australia, though probably the outfit here’s not held in high regard, they’ll give the nod to Webb and Glanz, and won’t back the liquidationist Rintoul.
It will be interesting to learn if there’s any real debate, reflecting differences within the SWP leadership, which were reported earlier, Chris Harman having differences, or within the IST – surely they haven’t been able to squash all questioning relating to the excommunication of the US ISO, certainly not in Zimbabwe. There have been a number of splits in small groups.
The SA is an ongoing contradiction for the SWP. They have certainly hardened up their positions in relation to parties and united fronts, and in both England and Scotland are moving backwards. The SA in England is kept at a minimal level of activity, and the SWP has refused to allow a deepening of the project. Liz Davies’ resignation as SA chair brought out the political contradictions (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 19). There’s likely to be some lively debates at the March annual general meeting, and more frustration from SA independents.
In Scotland there have been many SWP provocations within the SSP stretching the terms of joining – distributing Socialist Worker, withholding funds from the SSP, which go via London; organising their own vehicles for interventions. The SWP action on the fire-fighters is the latest, intervening with their separate rank-and-file paper. We’ve printed the SSP protest from secretary Allan Green (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 21] and the SWP platform defiance and bluff (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 22]. Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers International has weighed in now with their own sectarian pontificating/preaching (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 23).
The SSP is not a simple model, but one that we can certainly look to and learn from. From their solid opinion polls, they’re likely to have a big election success on May 1, getting another six or seven Members of Scottish Parliament. This will have an even bigger impact on England, and I’m sure the comrades, having suffered from sectarian attacks from south of the border, will be keen to spread their example, with speaking tours by their newly elected parliamentarians.
We’ll put in a bid for us too! It would be fantastic if Frances Curran or another newly elected SSP comrade could be the special guest at the SA national conference in Melbourne May 10-11.
We want to collaborate with the ISM and SSP comrades wherever we can. We have similar non-sectarian approaches to building a broader, stronger socialist movement, and quite a lot of agreement already, on issues such as “internationals and internationalism”, and probably increasingly on other issues. Peter and I will also be able to attend their conference in February.
In the US the movement itself and discussion about left unity is further behind than in many other countries, though the 200,000 antiwar demonstration in Washington and 100,000 in San Francisco shows the potential.
For quite a few years now we’ve had comradely relations with Solidarity, a Trotskyist regroupment, that brought together three groups in 1985. We’ve made friendly criticisms of their refusal to take serious party-building steps, publishing a paper for example. At their last conference another small Trotskyist group joined. They’re also exploring possibilities of broader regroupment, but regroupment of the “pluralist” non-Leninist left – the Socialist Party, Freedom Road Socialist Party, Left Turn. We printed their conference resolution on regroupment (The Activist, Vol. 12, No. 9).
That’s fine, but they’re not facing the bigger question, the US ISO, the most successful socialist group in the US today. The ISO has been cut loose from London, to their benefit, and are doing a range of good political interventions. They still retain their state capitalist shibboleth – they say they would rejoin the IST if they could, if it is possible, though they admit it’s not going to happen.
But Solidarity often sneers at them for the wrong reasons – for being paper sellers, for having a paper; for coordinating their interventions into the mass movements, trying to give a lead.
The US ISO’s latest Socialist Worker (December 13, 2002) has an interesting roundtable discussion which key leader Ahmed Shawki concludes:
The fact that the parties of labor have made this shift [embracing neoliberalism completely] forces open the question of an alternative politics on a mass scale – of the creation of new mass working-class parties.
It raises the potential of creating a political alternative that can win workers, who right across the Western world are less committed to what were the traditional parties of labor.
But that’s still a potential, not a reality.
He’s right about the potential, he’s right about the challenge, and how left parties rise to that challenge, be ambitious and flexible is the test ahead.
In Europe, North America, Australia those from a Trotskyist tradition are still going, following the weakening or collapse of many of the other currents. So there are added responsibilities to overcome the traditional weaknesses of the Trotskyist movement, sectarian purity, following decades of keeping the flag aloft, in face of Stalinist repression and capitulations. But that doesn’t mean any regroupment must be a Trotskyist regroupment, let alone a regroupment around a narrow Trotskyist current, or particular shibboleth.
What sort of parties…
What sort of parties are possible, necessary today? And what sort of regroupments? Our conceptions have been set down many times and refined frequently in reports to our Congresses and NC meetings, most of which have been printed in The Activist. I found it useful and timely to recapitulate our conception of what sort of party in an article for the pre-congress discussion (The Activist, Vol. 12, No, 19).
Without the time to go into any detail, I just want to sketch the type of party needed by outlining some of the features, listing some of the subheads I used in that article.
- Firstly, a party, learning from the Russian Revolution, and “at this bend in the road” too [Lenin]. As Dick observed in his June NC report, “the organisations that are growing, or have a chance, are the ones that never abandoned the idea of building a revolutionary organisation.”
- A party that builds a base among the advanced workers, but also champions all the causes of the oppressed and downtrodden.
- A party that tests its perspectives in practice, again and again, and doesn’t ignore facts.
- A party with a Marxist program, that’s a living program, not treated as holy scripture.
- A party that wins the leading role in the mass movement, not assumes or proclaims it, that both builds the movement and recruits from it.
- A party that’s totally flexible about its tactics, and also totally flexible about its form, and doesn’t get bogged down in permanent tactics or schemas.
- A party that’s democratic and centralised, able to discuss, think and act.
- A party that’s inclusive, that ambitiously reaches out to include new layers in its ranks and leadership.
- And last but not least, a party based on 100% dedication and commitment.
In this period, it’s posed: who can rise to the challenge? Which parties, currents can break out of their sectarian existence, and grow, build a broader, stronger socialist movement, that the political situation demands, and opportunities present.
At the same time as making this attempt, who can withstand the pressures, not adapt too much, or relinquish the central goal – socialist revolution, or abandon the necessary tool, a revolutionary party? In the flight from Stalinism, we don’t need a rejection of Leninism, any conception of the “anti-Leninist left” guarantees failure.
And among parties rising to that challenge, what international relations are appropriate? We’ve set down clearly our views on Internationalism and Internationals. We’ve posited comradely collaboration, and an unstructured network, as the most appropriate way of relating internationally at this stage.
It’s been tossed up, do we need an “International Socialist Alliance” to complement the SAs that are being built in various countries? Fine if it’s just in the form of a network, but not if it’s an attempt to start a “new international” at this stage. And certainly not if the function is to go through the motions of votes, numbers…splits. And certainly not if it’s an attempt by small groups to substitute for real progress in building parties in their own countries, the function of small fake internationals which give themselves much grander and pretentious names than “alliance”.
We think the correctness of this perspective of a “network” has been confirmed by our very positive experience of building links and collaborating with revolutionary organisations – from the Asian region – with varied traditions and situations, but all firmly implanted in their own national reality.
Our relations with these parties are developing and expanding, and our “network” of comradely collaboration goes beyond the Asian region, but it’s here that it’s concentrated and most varied. So hopefully comrades with first hand experience can also intervene in the discussion.
Our international solidarity work will also be covered in the discussion on our campaigns, but this is an integral part of our international work so I just want to make a few quick points here.
Our main area of solidarity is with the struggles in our region, and especially with those people suffering directly the plundering of Australian imperialism. Thus Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific is the most important vehicle for our solidarity work, still very much with Indonesia and East Timor, but the Asian region as a whole.
There’s so much work that could and should be done. We’re very ambitious, but limited by our resources in cadres and funds. Down the track we will resolve this, assign more comrades to the work, raise money to support it, set up the solidarity centre we’ve talked about, respond properly to all the struggles and campaigns we should be. It’s a longer term necessity.
The second important area of solidarity is that with Latin America and the Caribbean, which we organise through Committee in Solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean. In line with the escalating crises and struggles on that continent, our solidarity work will have rising importance, and impact. If Washington intervenes more directly, in Venezuela for example, we can expect a qualitatively different level of struggle and consciousness compared to the situation in Afghanistan or Iraq, and a different level of solidarity would be needed.
Given the higher level of political consciousness among the Latin American masses, with widespread identification with the Cuban Revolution, with Che, the political issues often escalate more quickly and flow on to raising the revolutionary consciousness of those expressing solidarity here. Of course, any left currents with weird views of the Cuban Revolution will often have a distorted approach to solidarity as well, finding it difficult to relate to radicalising Latin American activists. Our role becomes more important.
A third area that requires our solidarity is in responding to particular acts of imperialist repression, on behalf of the party and any other forces we can mobilise. Some recent examples where we could have responded:
- Twenty Rifondazione Comunista activists in Italy were grabbed by Berlusconi’s police following Florence, using unrepealed fascist laws, “holding opinions against the state”.
- Roger Calero, the editor of the US SWP’s Spanish language magazine Perspectiva Mundial, was arrested by the US Immigration Service. He’s of Nicaraguan background, but had lived in the US for many years. He’s since been released, but there will be more such outrages.
- In Malaysia, the Malaysian Socialist Party has been battling for legal recognition and electoral registration against illegal government obstruction. They deserve wider support and publicity.
There are many examples every week, and we should be prepared to respond with messages of protest, and messages of solidarity, and sometimes modest propaganda actions.
A very successful part of our international work has been the big education and solidarity conferences that we’ve organised, enabling our comrades and supporters to be educated and inspired from meeting Marxist leaders from other countries, and enabling those comrades to meet and discuss with us and others from the region.
Since the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference in 1998, this has served to consolidate our network of left parties in the Asian region. The Marxism 2000 conference served a similar purpose, and the Jakarta Solidarity Conference in 2001 extended the process outside Australia, until it was prematurely cut short by the Indonesian police and their thugs. The Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference at Easter this year continued the successful formula.
This last conference adopted some perspectives for future collaboration and international work that leaders from some of the key left parties in the region agreed to present. These projections included:
1. Getting involved in the WSF process in the region, especially if the 2004 WSF was to be held in India.
2. Building the next international gathering in Manila, perhaps linking it in to the WSF process, but making sure it fitted the needs of the Philippine comrades, and providing an occasion for the Asian Marxist forces to meet, as we had in Sydney and Jakarta.
Although we’re at a disadvantage compared with NGOs such as Focus on the Global South who seem to have the funds for unlimited travel for themselves and their friends, we got involved in the WSF process in the region. Max Lane and comrades from the region had some discussions in Bali while the big NGO talk-fest was going on, preparing the ground for the Manila conference. Iggy K attended the WSF International Council meeting in Bangkok.
No DSP comrades will be attending the Hyderabad Asian Social Forum unfortunately, since it’s partly conflicting with our own Congress. Hyderabad will be an Indian meeting, with Indian concerns, though grabbing the Social Forum name. Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) involvement will be on “a limited scale”. Their NC comrade Srilata is on the Working Committee and is convenor of the women’s section. They’ll be presenting papers on struggles of women agricultural workers, violence against women and so on. Two comrades will be attending from the Philippines Workers Party (PMP), as well as Dita Sari from Indonesia, and Shoaib from the Labour Party Pakistan. They should be able to assert the presence of the Asia Pacific Solidarity Network.
The Andhra-based forum of left parties which includes the CPI-Marxist, the CPI and the CPI-ML will be holding a convention in Hyderabad January 5. It should be interesting, one way of posing the party question.
The “Oceania Social Forum” which was being promoted for Nelson in New Zealand next April 21-24 has now been put off. Bruce Dyer, an Ananda Margi, had grabbed the franchise after Porto Alegre, but most New Zealand left activists and groups were giving it a wide berth, not keen on going to Nelson anyway. It had a very narrow (four person!) national steering committee. An email arrived last week:
With 2 of the main speakers – Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke – advising that they will not be able to attend and with the lack of confirmed funding to get people from the Pacific, the Forum is being rescheduled (probably October/November) and relocated (probably Wellington). It will also allow for its support base to be broadened. A meeting will be held in Wellington in February to establish a national core group and finalise when and where the Forum will be held.
In New Zealand, as here, there was a certain fetishising of the WSF name, and form, in the absence of an actual social forum movement. Any conference and discussion is okay of course, but we shouldn’t expect miracles to happen by adopting the name or the structure. In the case of Sydney’s Social Forum it ended up as a dumbing down of politics, and a way to avoid addressing the real possibility for left unity, for example the SA.
So noting the real objective differences between the political situations in Southern Europe and Latin America, and countries like Australia and the Asian region, we’re not going to bank all on the Social Forum name, and certainly won’t lock ourselves into restrictions imposed by a few Brazilian NGOers.
Comrades in Manila are steadily pulling together an organising and sponsoring coalition for the conference there next year (as their greetings to this congress will explain). They are now planning it for September or November.
They will launch it formally at Porto Alegre WSF in January, and attempt to get recognition within the WSF framework, but their main considerations relate to what will best build the workers and left movement in the Philippines.
If all goes well we’ll want to get a good contingent of DSP comrades attending, and encourage and help organise the participation of as many of the Asian left parties as possible. It could be the next opportunity for a face to face meeting of many comrades from our network.
What should we be planning as the next big conference here, and when?
We certainly need our own conferences here in Australia, in the tradition of the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conferences, to continue to develop the Asian network, and expand it. They’re also important for the educational needs of our comrades and supporters, and as a counter to the Social Forum models which were political steps backwards.
Perhaps we should be pencilling in an Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference 3 for Easter 2004 in Sydney. We’d aim to get the maximum attendance here, through interesting topics and speakers, that would be useful, not waffly and academic, bringing real leaders of actual parties and movements in struggle.
The theme could be something along the lines of “Class, Race, and Gender in the Asia-Pacific”, with the usual kicker – Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference.
We could have one of the sub-themes on “Women, workers, and the fight for global justice”, allowing us a focus for our women’s liberation education and propaganda. With this sub-theme we could arrange to bring over a range of women leaders from Asian parties, and help develop their international profile, such as Srilata, Dita, or others from the PMP, Lindsey Collen from Lalit.
In addition to our blockbuster conferences, we now feel very confident about blockbuster individual speaking tours, following John Pilger’s packed-out Sydney Town Hall meeting, and later Tariq Ali’s big meeting.
We know we could build Town Hall meetings for both of them, in Sydney, Melbourne, and other cities, especially as Bush’s war drive will be continuing, even if they’ve smashed Iraq. We’ve asked John Pilger if he’s available for public meetings early this year, and are awaiting his response. We’ve also asked Tariq Ali to come for Town Hall-size meetings, as part of a trip he’s making to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur around April. We’re also hoping that Frances Curran or another SSP leaders will be able to tour in May for the SA (after she gets elected to the Scottish parliament). We should also keep as a possibility a speaking tour by a young Cuban comrade from the Union of Communist Youth.
Such ambitious public meetings build us here, raise our profile and prestige, as well as being financially successful. But they are also part of a useful international opening up process here, bringing the best-known speakers and political figures to a big audience in Australia, under the promotion of GLW.
We’d like to consolidate and extend the broad network of healthy, non-sectarian socialist parties, in Asia and around the world, find ways to collaborate more frequently. Given the real financial limitations, the web can play a bigger role.
We’ve frequently talked about developing an international news service – nearly 20 years ago in 1984, after the SWP and Intercontinental Press had gone down hill, we briefly printed our own fortnightly International News Service. Sending our correspondents to Moscow and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s was very useful for us, and was a service for the left around the world. We’ve talked about an email or web-based news service, at our congress six years ago, and four years ago. In a way, GLW is serving that role internationally already, with high recognition and respect.
Our sites have a very good international recognition already. On the Alexa list of sites, rated according to number of visits, GLW is one of the top rated Australian political sites – fifth, Crikey is top, and we’re not far behind labor, ACF, ALP, ahead of the Liberals, well ahead of the Greens, and the DSP and Resistance sites themselves are miles ahead of the ISO, democrats, Progressive Labour Party, Search Foundation, Young Labor, and most of the One Nation, right wing sites are right at the bottom.
In terms of visits, according to the service provider, GLW gets 3400 per day; DSP 400, Resistance nearly 200, ASAP nearly 100, CISLAC 60, SA more than 100 – a total of nearly 4500 visits per day. Other figures – one million “hits” per month across our sites in November; 7.5 gigabytes of information downloaded (though the volume gets a boost from Andy’s Resistance image archive). These figures indicate a three to four fold increase in the last 12 months.
But these good figures are reached without a lot of conscious effort on our part. We should be promoting our sites much more consciously, advertising them everywhere, getting more links, persuading other progressive sites to connect to us.
And we should be significantly improving our sites – the visits and expectations of our followers demand much more professional sites. We should retain all the archives, our extensive deep sites are an attraction, but update the sites much more regularly.
What’s posed is continuously updating our websites, on at least a daily basis. This will be elaborated further in the party building report.
The international impact of such an advance will be very significant. We build on already widespread respect and contact; we have many things to say and report on regularly; we’re non-sectarian, with very broad collaborative contacts around the world. It could be a service increasingly used by the left in Australia and around the world, and will expand our international links.
Thus GLW as an international news-magazine will be the core of the site, with direct links to all our other associated organisations here and our international collaborators. We can systematically organise our international contacts to provide more regular input and use the site, further boosting its appeal.
The importance of such a move was underlined a few weeks before the Congress, when the comrades in Hong Kong began a new website “The Proletarian” which has an ambitious plan of posting about a dozen items per day, Asian reprints or original articles from a Marxist perspective, Trotskyist and non-Trotskyist. Although it’s had problems, perhaps from Beijing, and has been intermittent, and seems closed since the 17th, it gives an idea of some of the extra coverage we could provide that would make our group of sites absolutely essential for everyone on the left around the world.
A related move will be to establish our own respected email discussion list, with our own politics and emphasis influencing it.
At the same time as stepping up our web and email projection, we want to ensure that Links magazine, the regular, serious print format international journal of socialist renewal continues, and has greater chance of fulfilling its potential.
It’s still worth subsidising, to make sure it continues to circulate in the Asian region and Third World countries. But we must make a greater effort to boost its circulation in Australia and other advanced capitalist countries. We have to encourage our collaborators to take greater responsibility for its content and distribution.
What’s possible, what’s needed
The accelerating international developments make the stakes higher and our tasks more urgent, but also increase the possibilities of making significant steps forward in resolving the international crisis of leadership and organisation.
We’re confident about the steps that need to be taken in beginning to renew the international socialist movement, and think we can make some small contributions. But our small size and limited resources restricts what we can do. We’d like to be able to do more – be more involved in international discussions and demonstrations, give more assistance and solidarity to comrades struggling in other countries; make our publications more widely available.
Our perspectives for our international work are clear and ambitious. But our international tasks for the coming year and our broader perspectives for the next few years are restrained by our size, and are dependent on successful advances and growth here, on the success of the SA project for example.
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.
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.
1. Marta Harnecker on Venezuela. Interview with Manuel Alberto Ramy, Progreso Weekly.
2. Dave Renton, <voiceoftheturtle.org>.
3. Canossa: A castle in Tuscany where in 1077 the Emperor Henry IV submitted to the penance and humiliation imposed on him by Pope Gregory VII.
4. “Contemporary capitalism and the debate over the alternative.” Links 16, Sept-Dec 2000, p.5.
– The Activist was as the internal discussion bulletin of the Democratic Socialist Party