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Links 18: Editor's introduction

Challenges for Asian Marxists

One of the aims when we set out to prepare this issue of Links was to provide readers with an indication of the exciting breadth and depth of Marxist political activity and theory in Asia. Of course, we had no illusions that it was possible to provide even an adequate outline in a single issue, and, as it happens, Asian Marxist parties that have contributed to previous issues of Links are absent from this issue.

Nevertheless, we are fortunate to have a selection of articles dealing with a range of topics that confront Marxist parties in the region.

Leading off, Max Lane provides an overview and analsis of the major political developments that have taken place in Indonesia in the three years since the forced retirement of Suharto. He outlines the preparations of the military and Golkar to attempt to return to power, and explains the inability of Abdurrahman Wahid and his supporters to confront this challenge. In this situation of potentially coinciding economic and political crises, the People's Democratic Party is in a rce against time, seeking to build a revolutionary party that can lead the struggle against capitalist reaction and neo-liberal austerity.

Struggles for national self-determination are part of the explosive mix of Indonesian politics, and they are important in many Asian countries. Sonny Melencio, from the Socialist Party of Labour in the Philippines, analyses the struggle of the Moro people from the standpoint of the Leninist view that a nation is "an objective historical entity encompassing... common territory, common language, common economic life, and common culture". He then traces the historical development of the Bangsamoro nation and explains the Marxist support for that nation's right of self-determination.

A key challenge for Marxists, in Asia and throughout the world, is to understand and fight against imperialism's many-sided oppression and exploitation of the peoples of the underdeveloped countries. In this issue, we reprint the resolution on Australian imperialism adopted by the Democratic Socialist Party at its congress in January. Basing itself on a wealth of factual material concerning the exploitation of countries in Asia and the Pacific, the resolution rejects the position—frequently met on the left in Australia—that Australia in some way constitutes an oppressed nation within the global imperialist system, rather than the Australian bourgeoisie being an integral participant in the plundering of the rest of the world.

Another challenge for Marxists attempting to develop their strategy within the complex reality of Asian politics is the rise of religious fundamentalism. At one point, the Links editorial board projected devoting an entire issue to religious fundamentalism in countries around the world. That project had to be postponed several times by the need to deal with topics that demanded more urgent attention. Therefore, in this issue we begin the topic in a more piecemeal fashion, which we hope will be expanded in coming issues.

Farooq Sulehria, from the Labour Party Pakistan, writes of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in that country, explaining it through the interaction of such factors as the decreased usefulness of religious reaction as an ally of imperialism after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ability of religious institutions to provide a partial substitute for the social-welfare measures that cannot be provided by the state.

From the other side of the world, Dianne Feeley, from the US socialist organisation Solidarity, provides a guide to Christian fundamentalism in the United States, tracing both its extensive influence and the limits on that influence within the politics of the Republican Party.

We are particularly pleased to be able to announce the addition to the Links editorial board of four comrades from the Scottish Socialist Party: Frances Curran, Allan Green, Alan McCombes and Murray Smith. In this issue, Murray Smith outlines his views on the way forward in establishing relations among socialist parties around the world—a topic that has appeared in several previous issues and will no doubt continue to do so. Readers who would like to learn more about the SSP are encouraged to respond to the advertisement on page 97 for Frontline, the new magazine of the International Socialist Movement in the SSP.

On a more historical note, Barry Sheppard examines what the collapse of the Soviet Union can teach us concerning the various theories that sought to explain the character of Soviet society. This is of more than historical interest, however, because Sheppard rgues that there are politically relevant conclusions for today, among them that "Historically speaking, the collapse of the USSR proves that there is no basic third alternative to capitalism or socialism".

In addition to the International Workers Movement News that normally rounds off each issue of Links, this issue includes two features on movement news: Dick Nichols' report on the inspiring World Social Forum held in Brazil in January, and the Call for the Second Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference, which will be held in Sydney, Australia March 29-April 1, 2002.

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