History lessons

Issue 

History lessons

It seems only yesterday that we were told of the end of history: that for better or worse, things were the way they were and no more could be hoped for. We'd arrived. This message, universally proclaimed by government and media, had a life of its own.

The year just past has given the lie to such superficial theories.

In April, South Africans formalised the end of apartheid through the election of the first democratic government in that nation's turbulent history. The forces of political darkness around the world that for decades gave succour to the racist regime suffered defeat. On this new terrain, the working people now have new opportunities to struggle for their social interests.

For the first time, the Palestine Liberation Organisation has been able to establish a civil administration on part of the territory of Palestine. The struggle for full Palestinian national rights continues in the face of Israel's attempts to renege on important elements of the September 1973 peace accord.

In Ireland too, the 800-year struggle for freedom from English oppression has taken a new turn, throwing up new challenges and new opportunities.

The struggle for democratic rights is also making considerable headway in Indonesia. As well, the continuing fight for self-determination by the people of East Timor has won increased support around the world and is contributing to the crumbling of the Suharto dictatorship.

Here in Australia, as in the rest of the developed world, the past decade has seen the whittling away of working conditions and many rights, freedoms and expectations that a whole generation were raised on. The transfer of wealth from wages to profits is matched only by the removal of democratic decision making to ever more remote and unaccountable bodies of the world's bankers and bureaucrats.

At the same time, the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the so-called socialist states heralded the end of the Cold War. But the "new world order" was baptised almost immediately with a hot Gulf War, a war supported by the leaders of social democracy.

But such temporary "triumphs" of capitalism cannot long conceal the truth that people don't give up permanently. Around the world, ordinary people are refusing to play the role of long-suffering victims assigned to them by the powers that be. They are taking destiny in their own hands.

Here too. Opposition to the Grand Prix in Melbourne, to Sydney airport's third runway, hospital closures everywhere and the myriad of urban, as well as natural, environmental struggles have emerged or intensified in 1994. Students have launched a fight back in defence of free public education. Even a couple of the tightly manacled unions have slipped free, at least temporarily.

To say that governments around the world are extremely unpopular with their people is to repeat one of today's truisms. Mounting mass demonstrations from Russia to India to Italy and beyond say: no further without a fight.

We owe no ransom to the past. It is a time for action. It is time to join the struggle for a better future. The women's movement indicated how that can be done when it threw up the slogan, "Don't agonise — organise!"

The end of history? United in struggle — organised — we can begin history.

Green Left Weekly will be back in 1995 to play its part. See you next year.

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