Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal
No 2 July-Sept 1994
Published by New Course Publications Sydney 128 pp., $6.50
Reviewed by Jim McIlroy
If you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the international left and revolutionary movement, you must read Links, the new international journal of socialist renewal.
Issue number two maintains the excellent standard of the first edition; it covers many of the key areas of political crisis and struggle in the world today and bridges the too-common gap between theory and practice and commentary and involvement.
As the editorial states: "We introduced ourselves in the first issue as a magazine for the post-Cold War left; a determinedly socialist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist magazine that rejects the Stalinist distortion of the socialist project, a magazine that takes into account ecological, feminist, and anti-racist questions, a magazine that is taking steps to unify and bring together the forces for socialism in the world today, a magazine that aspires to unite Marxists from different political traditions because it discusses openly and constructively".
We can all certainly agree that this is no small undertaking, given the widespread disarray and demoralisation which besets the left in the wake of collapse of the Soviet bloc.
Nevertheless, even a quick glance at the breadth and diversity of the political currents represented on the Links editorial board, and listed as contributing editors, shows the seriousness of this new project. These include: managing editor Peter Boyle and others from the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia; Jeremy Cronin and Langa Zita from the South African Communist Party; Sonny Melencio and Francisco Nemenzo from the Philippines revolutionary left; Boris Kagarlitsky from Russia; Matt McCarten from the NZ NewLabour Party; Carl Bloice, Peter Camejo, Malik Miah and Joanna Misnik from the US Marxist left; Dulce Maria Pereira from the Brazilian Workers Party; Alain Krivine and Ernest Mandel from the Fourth International and many others.
The first article in this issue appropriately highlights the complex challenge now facing the revolutionary movement at the frontline of the world class struggle today. In "South Africa's transition: A mass-driven transformation", Jeremy Cronin analyses the stormy process leading up the ANC-led victory in the 1994 elections, and points to the opportunities and problems facing the liberation movement there.
"The very substantial victory of the ANC-led alliance in South Africa at the end of April was an important moment in a complex transition process", Cronin notes. "But it was, clearly, neither the beginning nor the end of that process. Many struggles to overcome the legacy of apartheid and a particularly brutal brand of capitalism still lie ahead. To wage those struggles it is important to understand what has happened over the last four years. This is particularly important for the South African left and democratic forces, because, despite the euphoria of the election victory, there is simultaneously in the ranks of hundreds of thousands of militants a substantial disorientation.
"Our real successes as a liberation movement are obscured by the fact that the way in which they have been won does not square with our traditional Marxist-Leninist (insurrectionary) and national liberation (handing over of power) paradigms. As a result, overstatement of our achievements coexists with considerable scepticism. Unless we analyse analytically and strategically what we have actually done, we are liable not to understand how to carry the struggle forward", Cronin states.
He proceeds to give a comprehensive account of the struggle leading up to the election win, emphasising both the role of mass mobilisation and negotiations with the De Klerk regime in this process.
Cronin concludes: "In the past we tended to conceptualise change as a struggle to capture the commanding heights, as a struggle to nationalise ownership and control. We will be more faithful to the fundamentals of our national liberation and socialist heritage, and more useful to the actual tasks at hand, if we begin to think, as the Reconstruction and Development Program starts to think, of the main task as being a process of democratising power. All power."
One must admit this formulation of the way ahead raises rather more questions than it answers.
In light of the wave of strikes currently sweeping South Africa, and increasing debate over the direction of the new "government of national unity", we can only look forward to an ongoing discussion of left strategy for this most crucial of international arenas.
In "Winning democracy in Indonesia: new stage for the progressive movement", Max Lane outlines the gradual awakening of a sleeping giant, the democratic and working class forces of Indonesia.
Since the brutal crushing of the Indonesian Communist Party and the entire progressive movement by the Suharto regime in 1965-66, it has been a long, slow haul for democratic rights there.
Lane gives a fascinating account of the rise o a new pro-democracy movement, the role of the youth and students, the increase in strikes and other working-class struggles and the development of different organisations within the democracy movement over recent years.
As the crisis of the Suharto regime deepens, the momentum for democracy is accelerating. Lane provides an insight into the coming confrontation which will bring this dictatorship crashing down.
Nicaraguan Alejandro Bendana's contribution, "The New World Order: neither new, global nor orderly", is a tour de force, a passionate denunciation of the oppression and inhumanity of a world dominated by a handful of wealthy imperialist nations.
Specifically, Bendana argues against any view that the United States has been displaced from its former dominant position in the imperialist pecking order by Japan or Europe in the wake of the end of the Cold War.
Agree or not with all of his arguments, we can only applaud the brilliance of Bendana's case for unity and struggle of the oppressed peoples of the Third World.
Boris Kagarlitsky, an activist in the Russian Party of Labour, provides a scathing account of the neo-liberal project of Yeltsin and Co, arguing that the attempt to drive through capitalist restoration in Russia has had disastrous consequences for the Russian people. "Russia will neither be part of the Western world, nor a banana republic", Kagarlitsky says. "[A]ny attempt to force Russia into the framework of the global Western project will sooner or later rebound on those in the West who have fed such illusions."
For Barbara Einhorn, addressing the question of "Gender and citizenship in East Central Europe", the upheavals in Eastern Europe have had contradictory effects for women.
While women have generally welcomed the end of the old bureaucratic socialist regimes, they have tended to suffer the brunt of unemployment and new restrictions on the right to abortion.
It will take time for a new feminism to arise to challenge the new status of eastern European women as essentially "home makers", Einhorn believes.
Tamas Krausz analyses the recent trend to elect ex-Communist, now social-democratic parties to power in some eastern European countries, and the meaning of these new developments.
In a wide-ranging interview, Francisco Nemenzo welcomes the resurgence of the Filipino left which have emerged from recent splits in the Communist Party of the Philippines, and calls for a non-sectarian discussion and united action.
NZ NewLabour Party leader Keith Locke outlines the unique experience of the New Zealand Alliance, in which NewLabour (a left split from the Labour Party), the Greens, the Maori Mana Motuhake party, and others have united to form a powerful, progressive new force in NZ politics, which threatens to beat the official Labour Party in the next national elections.
Finally, Stephen Marks reports on some interesting debates which took place at the special FSLN congress in May in Nicaragua, and considers the prospects for the popular struggle there.
Issue number two of Links concludes with a number of lively book reviews and a section entitled "International workers' movement news".
Links is available from PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or from your local Resistance Bookshop. Don't miss it!