New Links highlights crisis of neo-liberalism


By Richard Ingram

Issue number 12 of the socialist journal Links has just appeared. As is typical of Links, it ranges around the world, covering topics of importance to socialists and the labour movement in many countries.

The theme of this issue is "capitalist crisis, neo-liberal myths" — an examination of the political outlook in the wake of the "Asian" economic crisis and the impact of such events on neo-liberal "free market" ideology.

The economic factors at work in the crisis are examined by Allen Myers in a report that was adopted by the Democratic Socialist Party's (DSP) congress in January. This places the crisis in the context of the long-term period of relative stagnation of the world economy which set in in the early 1970s.

Myers writes that the attempts of capitalist governments to "manage" the long downturn in a way that protects their major firms only accumulates the contradictions that a capitalist economy normally resolves through a recession which destroys significant amounts of capital.

As the crisis intensifies, he predicts, there will be increasing talk of "re-regulation" of parts of the economy as a solution to economic problems. While superficially a retreat from neo-liberal ideology, such schemes would fit easily into a framework of further state intervention to benefit capitalists at the expense of working people.

James Petras, well known especially for his writings on Latin America, examines the aftermath of US imperialism's destabilisation campaigns against governments that it perceives as hostile to its interests. He contrasts Washington's willingness to spend huge sums in overthrowing such regimes with its not-at-all benign neglect of the countries concerned once it has achieved its immediate aims.

The article looks specifically at the experience of three countries in this regard: Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Russia.

In a short but sharp article, Canadian academic Michel Chossudovsky exposes the way in which international economic organisations like the World Bank deliberately misrepresent the extent of poverty, especially but not exclusively in the Third World.

"Declining levels of poverty, including forecasts of future trends", Chossudovsky writes, "are derived with a view to vindicating the 'free market' policies and upholding the 'Washington consensus' on macro-economic reform. The 'free market' system is presented as the 'solution', namely as an instrument of poverty alleviation. The impacts of macro-economic reform are denied."

Two documents from the Philippines analyse the context of the global economic crisis and the opportunities and challenges it is creating for socialists in the Philippines. The documents come from the Socialist Party of Labour, which was created late last year by a fusion of the Liga Sosyalista and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Proletaryo (Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat).

Two articles in this issue deal with the situation in Russia. Boris Kagarlitsky, in "The new periphery", explores the devastation of the economy since the disappearance of the Soviet Union. He analyses the forces that are transforming Russia into an underdeveloped country with a backward economy typical of Third World nations.

Green Left Weekly's Moscow correspondent, Renfrey Clarke, writes of the "failure of Russia's 'democrats'": "Ten years after Russia's liberals emerged from their late-night kitchen debates to play an important role in politics, the state of democracy and human rights in Russia is ... not much better than it was in the mid-1980s."

Clarke examines the reasons for this failure, which include both the character of the economy being created in Russia and the limited vision of the liberals.

The role of socialists in the Australian women's liberation movement is portrayed in a feature by Margaret Allan. This surveys the entire period of the second wave of feminism, beginning in the late 1960s.

Allan presents the major debates and campaigns that have featured in that history, and the positions and actions of the Communist Party of Australia, the Democratic Socialist Party and others on the left.

"Theses on the class nature of the People's Republic of China" is a resolution adopted by the recent DSP congress. This evaluates the evolution of the Chinese state in the light of both similarities and differences with the process of social counter-revolution in the Soviet Union. It concludes that the Chinese state can no longer in any sense be considered socialist: "It has become an instrument for the suppression of the resistance of the working class to the reintroduction and defence of capitalist property relations."

A brief round-up of international workers' movement news concludes this issue of the aptly named "journal of socialist renewal".