Links highlights East Timor

January 26, 2000


Links highlights East Timor

Review by Jonathan Singer

Links #14
Available at all Resistance Bookshops (see listings on page 2) for $6.50
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The relationship between struggles for national liberation and socialism is a developing theme of the international journal of socialist renewal, Links. The January-April 2000 issue includes articles on East Timor, the movement for Scottish independence and a debate on Marxism and the national question.

The lead article, by Terry Townsend of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) in Australia, discusses the attitude of the left to the United Nations' military intervention in East Timor. The DSP supported the large demonstrations in Australia, immediately after the August independence referendum, which demanded that the UN and Australian government provide troops to stop the Indonesian army's terror campaign against East Timor's independence movement.

Townsend surveys and analyses left criticisms of the DSP and other far-left parties' call for UN military intervention. He argues that no demand other than for armed UN intervention would have immediately stopped the slaughter. Townsend contends that building a movement to force intervention by imperialist states exposed the hypocrisy of their "humanitarian" rhetoric, thus undermining illusions in "benign" imperialism.

The withdrawal of Indonesian troops will allow the East Timorese independence struggle to enter a new stage. One formation that will take advantage of the new freedom will be the Timorese Socialist Party (PST), which is now able to conduct political education, mass organising and protest actions. Max Lane provides a brief introduction to the party and some excerpts from its documents are reprinted.

Alan McCombes, editor of Scottish Socialist Voice, the newspaper of the Scottish Socialist Party, outlines how the national question is again important in the politics of Scotland. For socialists in Scotland, McCombes explains, the debate around independence is not between nationalism and internationalism, but about how best to advance the struggle for socialism in Scotland by winning supporters of independence away from a capitalist perspective.

Links editorial board member Malik Miah takes issue with a previous article on Marxism and the national question by Norm Dixon. Miah charges that Dixon applies the right of national self-determination schematically, "leav[ing] out oppressed people who are not yet constituted as such but could become nations".

Pat Brewer's "On the origins of women's oppression" examines Frederick Engels' views on the question in the light of later discoveries about the sequence of humankind's development of productive activities in prehistory. While some of Engels' analysis has been contradicted, Brewer finds that the latest evidence confirms the importance of changes in labour, especially women's labour, in the transition to class society.

Russian Marxist Boris Kagarlitsky writes that the international left must re-examine its concept of the left party. He opposes "an abstract ideological critique of Leninist centralism" and suggests that any critical analysis must take account of relevant experiences and involve practical participation.

The objective conditions and spontaneous capacity to struggle among the Mexican masses are not enough for the creation of a powerful mass militant socialist party without the will to take "the necessary steps to unify and politically clarify the very broad militant left forces", argues Phil Hearse in his article "Contours of the Mexican left".

Hearse has spent two years working in Mexico. He argues that the main obstacle to such a development is the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which dominates the left. Its radical nationalism is not anti-imperialist, nor is it based on mass struggles.

Laszlo Andor from Hungary takes a succinct look at the political trajectory of the post-Lukacsian philosophers of his country. He observes how, under the impact of political struggles, they abandoned first anti-capitalist economics and then anti-capitalist politics. He concludes: "The authors who thought their philosophy to be more authentically socialist than Marxism have become leading ideologues of a capitalist regime, including some authoritarian tendencies within it."

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