When the first issue of Green Left Weekly appeared, US President George Bush senior's war on Iraq was raging; 500 issues later, President George Bush junior is planning another massive invasion of sanction-crippled Iraq, as imperial wars rage in Palestine and Afghanistan.
When the first issue of GLW appeared, the world was still reeling from the ominous warning by the world's top scientists that catastrophic climate change would occur unless governments reduced greenhouse gas emissions; 500 issues later, the Rio+10 summit in Johannesburg is about to register the failure of the world's governments to address the ecological crisis.
It's not all bad news for green and left activists. The global rulers of the world face a serious legitimacy crisis. The "free market" rhetoric that justified a decade of corporate plunder and social-environmental destruction has worn thin. Millions of people see it for what it is: an excuse for unbridled corporate greed. In recent years, millions have taken to the streets against corporate globalisation and war.
At the head of the global empire of corporate greed, Bush junior has declared a crusade against "evil" after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Billions of dollars have been committed to an open-ended war against all enemies of the US. "You are either for us or against us", said Bush in a black and white moral ultimatum to the world.
Yet, amidst the unprecedent revelations of multi-billion-dollar corporate frauds, Bush excused his own insider trading activities with the remarkable words: "In the corporate world, sometimes things aren't exactly black and white when it comes to accounting procedures."
There is no such excuse for the mass murder being unleashed by Bush in the name of the "war on terrorism". Just ask the grief-stricken grandparents of the Afghan children "mistakenly" massacred by Washington's state-of-the-art killing machines. Just ask the photographers who captured on film children being shot by Israeli troops in occupied Palestine. Just ask the parents of the 400 children who, according to the UN, die each month because of the 11-year-long economic blockade of Iraq.
While Bush is unambiguous about the perpetrators of terrorist attacks against civilians in the US and Israel — they are "pure evil", he intones — those in the US and Israeli governments and military who order the deaths of thousands of innocents enjoy a permanent amnesty. So too do the corporations and governments responsible for the daily human and ecological toll of big business greed.
This gross double standard is what characterises capitalist politics. And the global rulers' brazen assertions of imperial impunity — from the nuclear first-strike policy to the rejection of the International Criminal Court — only deepens its legitimacy crisis.
The world today is a more dangerous place but global corporate tyranny and aggression is meeting growing resistance. GLW is an important hub of this resistance in Australia. This is the fundamental reason why GLW has come this far. But it doesn't explain how we have survived.
GLW was launched at a moment of extreme capitalist triumphalism. Socialism was seen by most people to have failed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The left around the world went into retreat. Many left parties collapsed or were dissolved. Many left activists dropped out of activity through demoralisation or opted for a less radical politics. Some in Australia became part of the problem and joined Australia's alternate party of the corporate rich, the ALP. Others settled for the safer and more respectable road of Green parliamentarism.
The initiators of GLW — the members of the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance, and a range of independent activists — opted for a different path. We decided to produce a paper that would be a voice for the "left of the greens and the greens of the left". They recognised that the ecological crisis was part of the crisis of capitalism and that there was no fundamental solution to it in a society which places capitalist profit above social and environmental survival.
We have a lot of people to thank for GLW's success, especially the many people who have written articles, drawn cartoons, taken photographs, donated money and helped distribute the paper. But two groups have been crucial to GLW's survival: the members of the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance, who have done some of the hardest — and at times tedious — work to ensure that the last 500 issues were produced and distributed. If there was any doubt about the value of green and left activists continuing to organise in a serious and professional way, GLW's 500th issue should banish it.
Green and left activists are getting organised around new structures. For example, the Socialist Alliance, which was formed just last year, has attracted nearly 2000 members and has obtained electoral registration federally, and in NSW and Tasmania. GLW has championed the Socialist Alliance. It is one more step in our struggle to build a movement that can abolish capitalism and build a just, cooperative and sustainable future.
From Green Left Weekly, July 17, 2002.
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