When the first issue of Green Left Weekly came out on February 18, 1991, it was a dark time for the left.
The collapse of Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had capitalism’s mouthpieces loudly proclaiming the “end of history”.
But GLW saw it very differently. It was launched by members of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP — which has now merged into the Socialist Alliance) to help regroup progressive forces to keep pushing for a pro-people alternative.
GLW believed that, behind the triumphalism, the capitalist system was deeply unjust and unstable. It was threatening humanity with extinction through environmental destruction — especially global warming.
GLW believed that any movement that sought to challenge corporate domination would have to put the environment at its centre.
GLW believed that resistance to the crimes of the system was inevitable and it was important to give that resistance, in Australia and globally, a voice.
Two decades on, the premises on which GLW were founded remain true.
Capitalism is wracked by a deep economic crisis, mired in prolonged wars, and has revealed itself incapable of tackling climate change.
And resistance has risen. Powerful revolutionary movements are challenging corporate domination in Latin America. In Venezuela, the government of President Hugo Chavez is promoting “socialism for the 21st century” — a democratic, humanist socialism rather than the Stalinist distortion.
This year, heroic uprisings have broken out in the Arab world by ordinary people terrorised by dictatorships and impoverished by capitalism. Two US-imposed tyrants have been tossed out so far.
Many of the arguments GLW has put forward about the true nature of US imperialism — behind its democratic mask — have been confirmed by the secret cables published by WikiLeaks.
One of the most heartening things for the many people — overwhelmingly volunteers — who help produce GLW is the recognition of the value of GLW for others struggling for a better world.
In greetings for our 20th anniversary issue, independent journalist and film maker John Pilger said: “WikiLeaks is a new creation, but Green Left Weekly has been a pathfinder for 20 years, no less.”
John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review and a leading Marxist economist and ecologist, wrote: “Over the course of the last twenty years, Green Left Weekly has emerged as a focal point of the world green left movement, its leading weekly guide to theory and practice.”
Luis Bilbao, who edits America XXI and has worked as an advisor to Chavez, said: “Perhaps the best message we can pass on … is that, often, the articles in your newspaper are either reprinted or utilised as a source of information and interpretation for the work of our collaborators here.”
In Australia, members of the Tamil community, refugee rights activists, trade unionists and those involved in many other campaigns have emphasised the value of GLW in reporting their struggles.
We are proud to have played a positive role, however modest, in assisting the struggles of ordinary people.
When we say GLW is an independent newspaper, we mean more than not being corporate or government-funded. For us, being independent is about class independence.
GLW is a project that is politically independent from the capitalist class — the tiny corporate elite that dominates the economy, the media and politics.
But real independence from this layer of parasites cannot just be declared, it must be practised. For us, independence means seeking to challenge the capitalist class, to actively oppose its injustices and promote the struggles against its crimes.
And it means supporting the building of a political vehicle — built out of the struggles of ordinary people — to oppose capitalist parties and governments.
This was the thinking of those DSP activists who launched GLW 20 years ago. And it is the thinking today of the Socialist Alliance, which takes much of the organisational responsibility for producing GLW.
GLW is very deliberately not a “party paper”. Its pages are open for those involved in struggles and campaigns to get the word out.
It aims to be a network between struggles. And the information and arguments in our articles seek to strengthen active opposition to the system.
Most of the people who write for GLW are “amateurs”. Anyone who wishes to contribute to the project is encouraged to do so.
We don’t believe the political vehicle needed to challenge this system can be built simply by a small group that believes it has the “right line” and simply repeats that line over and over until everyone else realises the “truth”.
It can only be built out of the struggles of ordinary people themselves.
This has been GLW’s guiding principle for 20 years — and will remain so until we have ended this insane system.
[Stuart Munckton is co-editor of Green Left Weekly and a member of the Socialist Alliance National Council.]