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Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal seeks to promote the exchange of information, experience of struggle, theoretical analysis and views of political strategy and tactics within the international left. It is a forum for open and constructive dialogue between active socialists from different political traditions. It seeks to bring together those in the international left who are opposed to neoliberal economic and social policies, and reject the bureaucratic model of "socialism" that arose in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.

Inspired by the unfolding socialist revolution in Venezuela, as well as the continuing example of socialist Cuba, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is a journal for "Socialism of the 21st century", and the discussions and debates flowing from that powerful example of socialist renewal.

Links is also proud to be the sister publication of Green Left Weekly, the world's leading red-green newspaper, and we urge readers to visit that site regularly.

Please explore Links and subscribe (click on "Subscribe to Links" or "Follow Links on Twitter" in the left menu). Links welcomes readers' constructive comments (but please read the "Comments policy" above).

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El Salvador: FMLN's Jorge Schafik Handal Vega discusses the 2009 election

May 24, 2008 -- Jorge Schafik Handal Vega --son of the legendary FMLN founder ``Comandante Simon''' Jorge Schafik Handal -- joined the militant left in El Salvador in 1968 as a student. He was a combatant commander throughout the people’s war in the 1970s and 1980s and, following the 1991 peace accords, was integral to the successful transition of the FMLN’s combatant structures into the political and civil institutions of El Salvador. He is currently a deputy for the FMLN in the Central American Parliament.

Handal Vega is toured Australia in May 2008 to build solidarity with the FMLN’s 2009 election campaign, a message that was enthusiastically received. All recent opinion polls in El Salvador indicate that the FMLN will win both the mayoral and presidential elections next year, wresting the last Central American country to be governed by the extreme right wing out of its control. Desperate to prevent this, the US-backed ruling Arena party has launched a massive campaign of bribery and intimidation, which is accompanied by a growing number of brutal attacks on, and murders of, FMLN leaders and activists.

The FMLN is expecting Arena to also use fraud to try to win the elections, and is urging Australian activists to travel to El Salvador in December-January to act as international observers of the election.

Bolivia: The letter of the law and the law of power

By Guillermo Almeyra, La Jornada, Mexico

May 18, 2008 -- The letter of the law is one thing, and quite another is the power that imposes it and makes it real. For this reason, it is absurd to fall for the fetish of the written legal text while forgetting the balance of power which gives it validity and allows its application. For if said balance is unfavourable, the legal or constitutional text is nothing more than a dead letter.

Photo essay: Silicon Valley janitors go on strike against Yahoo!, Cisco

Photos and text by David Bacon

Mountain View, California, May 20, 2008 -- Silicon Valley janitors, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, walked out of Cisco Systems and Yahoo buildings in the first day of a Bay Area-wide strike intended to force building service contractors to sign a new agreement with their union, Service Employees Local 1877.

Building trade union solidarity with Palestine

By Adam Hanieh

``International solidarity is fundamental to a progressive and fighting labour movement. It is not an optional part of labour activism or a form of charity. International solidarity goes to the heart of what it means to be a labour activist. It means seeing the struggle of our sisters and brothers in other countries as our own struggle. Their victories as our victories'' -- Canadian Union of Public Employees International Solidarity Committee: What We Stand For.

* * *

May 20, 2008 -- In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian organisations urged the world to adopt a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in the manner of [the campaign against] South Africa's apartheid regime. This call was signed by all the main Palestinian trade union federations, as well as refugee, women's and student organisations from across Palestine and the Arab world. It represented the broadest political statement in Palestinian history, precipitating a powerful global solidarity campaign that has grown dramatically over the last few years.

`Our struggle knows no borders!' -- South African left, unions respond to xenophobic attacks

STOP PRESS: Read the memorandum and pledge delivered by the thousands who marched against xenophobia in Johannesburg on May 24, and the statement of the Anti-Privatisation Forum following the successful march.

See also ``Xenophobia tears apart South Africa's working class'' by Thandokuhle Manzi and Patrick Bond.

Watch South Africa: The New Apartheid, on the South African government's treatment of migrant workers and refugees and the involvement of racist white farmers.

* * *

May 21, 2008 -- According to the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, as of May 19, 2008, the death toll in a wave of attacks targeting foreigners around South Africa's main city of Johannesburg has risen to at least 32, with an estimated 6000 people seeking shelter in police stations, churches and community halls. The violence has spread to Zandspruit, northwest of Johannesburg, and Tembisa, Primrose, Reiger Park and Thokoza, on the eastern perimeter of the city, as well as other working-class communities.

Myths answered: How the workers and peasants made the Cuban revolution

Review by Graham Matthews

Cuba: How the Workers & Peasants Made the Revolution

By Chris Slee

Resistance Books, 2008

55 pages, $6 (pb)

Available from <http://www.resistancebooks.com>

May 10, 2008 -- There is a myth perpetrated by some on the left, that there never really was a revolution in Cuba. The Cuban “revolution”, they claim, was just the result of the collapse of the brutal, US-backed Batista regime, followed by the filling of the political vacuum by the few hundred guerrillas that made up the July 26 Movement (J26M). These fighters simply marched down from the mountains to take power in Havana, installing the Castro brothers as virtual dictators.

Indonesia: Anti-communism in the age of reformasi: the case of Papernas

By Vannessa Hearman

May 20, 2008 -- In 2006, some long-term Indonesian activists in the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), such as Dita Sari and Agus ``Jabo’’ Priyono, reflected on how the post-1998 reformasi movement would respond to the 2009 general election. In June 2006, a number of activists and organisations, including eight national organisations such as the Indonesian Buddhist Students’ Association (HikmahBudhi), the National Students’ League for Democracy (LMND) and the Urban Poor Union (SRMK) met in Jakarta to agree to establish Papernas (the National Liberation Party of Unity). Around 40 local groups of farmers, workers, students and advocacy groups in Flores, Sumatra, Maluku, Java and Kalimantan also supported this initiative. PRD activists have made Papernas their key political project in the last few years, which also has created debates and splits inside the PRD over the question of electoral alliances in coming elections.

Timor Leste - Fretilin's comeback; literacy and governance

May 13, 2008 (Latin Radical) -- Estanislau Da Silva was a prime minister of Timor Leste (East Timor) when Fretilin was the party in government. Before that, he was the minister for agriculture. He was in Australia this week to attend the launching of a book by a Timorese man, Naldo Rei, who grew up in Indonesian-occupied Timor Leste, as a committed supporter of the Fretilin-led resistance movement.

Pakistan: Trade unions under attack -- `We have no option but to fight back!'

By Farooq Tariq

May 18, 2008 -- The announcement by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government lifting restrictions on trade union activities has brought a new wave of unionisation in many private industries. The bosses are not used to it. They have made tremendous profits under General Pervez Musharraf's eight years of dictatorship. Although he is still there as ``president'', there is some breathing space. Wherever workers have tried to form new unions, the bosses have tried their best to intimidate union activists with false legal cases, arrest, torture and kidnapping. The PPP government has yet to take any action against these bosses.

Along with several trade union leaders, I addressed a press conference today, May 18, at the Lahore Press Club to present eyewitness accounts to this torture.

Cuban VP: `Sustainable development requires a revolution in our values'

May 18, 2008

Address by José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of Cuba’s Council of State, at a session on ``Sustainable Development: the Environment, Climate Change and Energy'', during the 5th EU/LAC (European Union/Latin America and Caribbean) summit meeting in Lima, Peru, May 16-17.

Your Excellency:

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro 16 years ago, Fidel Castro issued a prophetic warning, stating that ``an important biological species is at risk of disappearing as a result of the rapid and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humanity''.

Time has proven him right.

Let us not mince our words: we won’t attain sustainable development, the negative impacts of climate change will not be halted or reversed, and the environment will not be preserved for future generations, if the irrational patterns of production, distribution and consumption imposed upon us by capitalism prevail. The globalisation of neoliberal policies has drastically exacerbated the crisis.

A brief socialist history of the automobile

By Rob Rooke

No single commercial product in the history of capitalism has had a greater effect on the economy and politics than the automobile. No other product has been such a lever to increase consumption and increase markets in the developed world. It could be argued that the car, more than any other product, was at the very heart of the 20th century’s economic expansion. In US society, for over a century, the car has been raised on a cultural pedestal worshipping individuality and defining big business’ vision of freedom.

Indonesia: Workers, poor reject petrol price rises imposed `on behalf of the poor’

May 15, 2008 -- ``Let’s seek the opportunity out of the world's crisis. In responding to the increase in global food prices, let us improve productivity. Amidst the oil crisis and price rises, let's be thrifty. Let's develop the energy resources.'' -- Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, May 1, 2008.

The poor will benefit from the increase in fuel prices rise, he said on May 7, 2008.

Meanwhile vice-president Yusuf Kalla said that so far the fuel subsidy has been benefiting the rich. He added ``The protesters who oppose this policy mean that they are helping the poor.''

Acting as if they are doing it ``on behalf of the poor'', the Indonesian government plans to impose a 30% rise on petroleum prices. It will be the third oil price rise under the Susilo Bambang Yudoyono government. To help the poor survive this unpopular policy, the government is granting direct cash transfers amounting 100,000 rupiah per month per family. The direct cash transfer ``gift'' was also implemented with the oil price rise in 2005.

Will this price rise benefit the poor?

Our history: John Reed’s `Ten days that shook the world’

Ten Days That Shook The World
By John Reed
Penguin Books 351 pages
Paperback

Review by Alex Miller

El movimiento obrero venezolano en la encrucijada

por Kiraz Janicke y Federico Fuentes
Rebelión

Primero vino la decisión del 9 de abril, cuando el presidente
venezolano Hugo Chávez, tras una larga lucha de los trabajadores,
renacionalizó la acería Sidor que un gobierno anterior había
privatizado en 1997.

Poco después la Fuerza Socialista Bolivariana de Trabajadores, una
fracción de la Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (central chavista) se
separó y lanzo una llamada a una nueva federación nacional.

A los dos días, el vicepresidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Roberto
Hernández (miembro del Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV,
que había formado parte del Partido Comunista de Venezuela, PCV)
reemplazó como Ministro de Trabajo a José Ramón Rivero, miembro de la
FSBT a quien los trabajadores de Sidor acusaban de oponerse a su
lucha.

Michael A. Lebowitz: Socialism is the future -- Build it now

By Michael A. Lebowitz

Ideas become a material force when they grasp the minds of masses. This is true not only of ideas which can support revolutionary change. It is also true of those ideas which prevent change. An obvious example is the concept of TINA -- the idea that there is no alternative, no alternative to neoliberalism, no alternative to capitalism.

Certainly we know that there have been significant changes in the terrain upon which the working class must struggle -- changes which are a challenge because of a new international division of labour and because of the role of states in delivering a passive, docile working class to international capital. It is not only changing material circumstances which affects the working class, however. It is also the loss of confidence of the working class that makes these material changes a deadly blow. Even the Korean working class that has demonstrated so clearly in the past its militancy in the struggle against capital has been affected.

Global food crisis: Capitalism, agribusiness and the food sovereignty alternative

By Ian Angus

[Second of two articles. Click here for part one.]

“Nowhere in the world, in no act of genocide, in no war, are so many people killed per minute, per hour and per day as those who are killed by hunger and poverty on our planet.” —Fidel Castro, 1998

May 11, 2008 -- When food riots broke out in Haiti last month, the first country to respond was Venezuela. Within days, planes were on their way from Caracas, carrying 364 tons of badly needed food.

The people of Haiti are “suffering from the attacks of the empire’s global capitalism,” Venezuela's President Hugo Chàvez said. “This calls for genuine and profound solidarity from all of us. It is the least we can do for Haiti.”

Venezuela’s action is in the finest tradition of human solidarity. When people are hungry, we should do our best to feed them. Venezuela’s example should be applauded and emulated.

But aid, however necessary, is only a stopgap. To truly address the problem of world hunger, we must understand and then change the system that causes it.

No shortage of food

The starting point for our analysis must be this: there is no shortage of food in the world today.

Videos: Cuba's green revolution

A clip from the BBC's Around the World in 80 Gardens (2008) introduces the urban organic food gardening revolution in Havana, Cuba. Click HERE for a three-part talk by Cuban permaculturist Roberto Perez that delves deeper into Cuba's green revolution, and an interview with the makers of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, the film in which Perez featured.

So there’s nothing to stop us from emulating the Cuban farming revolution.

Bolivia: Fraud, violence and mass resistance marks right-wing push

By Federico Fuentes
May 9, 2008 -- A day of violence, fraud and a “grand rebellion” against the Santa Cruz oligarchy.

This is how Bolivian president, Evo Morales Ayma, described the result of the unconstitutional May 4 “autonomy” referendum organised by the authorities in Santa Cruz — which many feared was aimed at dividing Bolivia.

* * *

Click here to watch and hear Bolivia expert Forrest Hylton discuss the background to the situation in Bolivia's Santa Cruz province

* * *

Barack Obama, Reverend Wright and Black liberation theology

By Malik Miah

The groundswell of broad support for Barack Obama (both among Blacks and whites) is a phenomenon that deserves a serious analysis and understanding. It cannot be downplayed by passing it through the lens of pure-and-simple lesser-evilism.

Some radicals dismiss the mass phenomenon, because Obama is a candidate of a ruling-class party. That simplistic rejection of Obama's campaign and its mass support is sectarian: The issue isn't whether to vote for a Democrat, but rather our response to a development that is having a wide-scale impact. How many times, in state after state, have we ever seen citizens of all races line up for hours to hear an African-American man talk about “hope'', on a platform that is fundamentally no different than his opponents?

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