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Socialist Voice (Canada)

50 years after: The tragedy of China’s `Great Leap Forward'

By John Riddell

April 21, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- On October 1, the People’s Republic of China will mark the 60th anniversary of its foundation. This will be an occasion to celebrate one of the most influential victories of popular struggle in our era.

This great uprising forged a united and independent Chinese state, freed the country from foreign domination and capitalist rule, ended landlordism, provided broad access to education and health care, and set in motion popular energies that modernised and industrialised its economy. The revolutionary triumph of 1949 laid the foundation for China’s present dynamism and influence, as well as providing an enormous impetus to anti-colonial revolution worldwide.

Yet despite these gains, the socialist movement and ideology that headed the revolution, identified with Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, disappeared from China soon after his death in 1976. The revolution’s central leader is still revered, but his doctrines have been set aside. The country’s present leadership has promoted private capitalist accumulation, not socialist planning, as China’s chief engine of growth. Its policies have aroused much popular protest, but not a revived Maoist movement.

Left activists discuss solutions at World at a Crossroads international socialism conference

Photos by Alex Bainbridge. Individual pictures can be viewed here.

By Simon Butler

Sydney -- April 18, 2009 -- Green Left Weekly -- Several participants at the World at a Crossroads conference, held in Sydney on April 10-12, remarked that the conference could not have been better named.

As the world economy lurches into a deep recession, and the looming climate emergency reaches a crisis point, the world truly is at a crossroads. The future will be decided in the conflict between the greedy capitalist elites and those around the world fighting for a far better world — a world free of racism, war and environmental plunder.

Canadian socialists: `The goals that unite us are vastly more important than our differences'

Ian Angus addresses the World at a Crossroads conference. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

By Ian Angus

[Ian Angus is an associate editor of Socialist Voice (Canada). He was a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective and Resistance, and held in Sydney, Australia, April 10-12, 2009. Below is Ian Angus' speech to the final session of the conference: ``World at a Crossroads -- Fighting for our future''.]

Audio: Capitalism and Climate Change -- Ian Angus

Left Click -- Ian Angus is the editor of climateandcapitalism.com and a founder of the Eco-socialist International Network. He is also associate editor of Canada's Socialist Voice and the director of the Socialist History Project. Ian toured Australia (Perth poster, left) in the run up to the World at a Crossroads conference held in Sydney on April 10-12, 2009, which was organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective.

Sydney, April 10-12, 2009: `World at a Crossroads' 21st century socialism conference day-by-day agenda

 

World at a Crossroads: Fighting for socialism in the 21st Century
Easter 2009, April 10-12, Sydney

Venue: Sydney Girls High School

World At A Crossroads is a conference that brings together hundreds of socialists, progressive activists and Marxist thinkers from around Australia, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and North America in dozens of panel presentations and workshops dealing with the urgent questions that confront us all: war, imperialism, food security, racism, workers' rights, sexism, the media and culture. Feature sessions and streams will include:

Charles Darwin and materialist science; Darwin the reluctant revolutionary

Two articles by Canadian Marxist Ian Angus discuss the important legacy of Charles Darwin in the 200th year since his birth and the 150th anniversary year of the publication of On the Origin of Species. This first article appeared in Canada's Socialist Voice, and the second in the Britain's Socialist Resistance. Ian Angus will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit http://www.worldATACrossroads.org for full agenda and to book your tickets.

Darwin and materialist science

By Ian Angus

Socialist Voice -- February 12, 2009 is Darwin Day, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. His masterwork, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago, in November 1859, initiating a revolution in science that continues to this day.

Although Darwin’s political views were far from radical, his insights became the central weapons in the battle to establish materialist science as the basis for our understanding of the world, and contributed to the development of Marxism.

The capitalist crash and the challenges facing socialists in Canada

By Roger Annis and John Riddell

[Roger Annis will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit http://www.worldATACrossroads.org for full agenda and to book your tickets.]

The first casualty of the financial collapse has been the claim that “there is no alternative” to unrestricted free market capitalism. The imperialist governments are bankrolling imperilled banks and industrial conglomerates with immense bailouts — an estimated $5.1 trillion in the US alone by November 2008 — while preparing “stimulus” packages aimed at restoring financial markets.[1]

The “stimulus” includes potentially useful projects along with many that are far more dubious. But urgently needed social investment, such as housing or a national daycare program, receives scant consideration. The spending is shaped to restore corporate profitability, not to sustain workers’ livelihoods. Thus, the US government’s auto industry bailout is conditional on wages and working conditions in union-organised plants being cut to match non-union operations, and Canada’s federal government has set similar conditions.

Challenges facing Québec solidaire following breakthrough in Quebec election

Québec solidaire's Amir Khadir (left) has been elected to the Québec National Assembly.

By Richard Fidler

December 15, 2008 -- In the December 8 Québec general election, the Liberal government headed by Jean Charest was re-elected with 66 seats, turning its minority status before the election into a thin majority of seats in the National Assembly. The sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), benefiting from a late surge in the polls, was elected in 51 seats and replaced the right-wing Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) as official parliamentary opposition. The ADQ elected only seven members.

Canada: Political crisis exposes national, class divisions; left debates Liberal-NDP coalition

Rally in favour of a Liberal-NDP coalition, Toronto, December 6, 2008.

By Richard Fidler

OTTAWA -– December 8, 2008 -– In a classic 19th century work, English journalist Walter Bagehot divided the constitution into two parts. The “efficient” part — the executive (cabinet) and legislative — were responsible for the business of government. The “dignified” part, the Queen, was to put a human face on the capitalist state. Bagehot noted, however, that the Queen also had “a hundred” powers called prerogatives, adding: “There is no authentic explicit information as to what the Queen can do….”[1]

Proceedings of Fourth Congress of the Communist International to be published

In October, John Riddell, co-editor of Socialist Voice, completed a draft translation of the proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. This ambitious effort (more than 500,000 words) will make all of the resolutions, speeches, and debates from that important 1922 meeting, together with full explanatory annotation, available in English for the first time. The work, which Riddell is preparing in collaboration with the London-based journal Historical Materialism, is planned for publication in 2010.

The British newspaper Socialist Worker interviewed John Riddell (below) about this project for its November 22, 2008, issue.

*  *  *

By Ken Olende

In 1922 socialists from around the world travelled to Russia to discuss and debate the future of the workers’ movement.

Canadian election: Left and labour movement discuss way forward

A selection of articles from Canadian socialists discussing the October 14 federal election and the debates and discussions in the Canadian and Quebec left and labour movements on electoral tactics.

Canada’s elections: What’s the alternative to the Tories?

By Roger Annis

October 1, 2008 -- Canada’s minority Conservative Party government has called a federal election for October 14. Serious issues confront voters  war in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the economic downturn that that will grow out of the US financial crisis, and climate change that endangers human life on our planet. But four of the five parties in the federal parliament are avoiding serious debate on these issues.

The fifth, the labour-based New Democratic Party (NDP), has a platform that responds to many working class needs, but it is evading vital issues. Only action by trade unions and social justice movements can place working-class concerns at the centre of the electoral spectacle.

The Liberal Party lesser evil?

Obama raises hopes but pledges more war

By Barry Sheppard

September 14, 2008 -- Socialist Voice -- The nomination of Barack Obama as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party is historic. He is the first African American presidential candidate of one of the two major capitalist parties. He may win the election and become the first black president, something inconceivable only two years ago. That a black man might become head of government in a society still marked by ingrained racism puts race at the centre of the election campaign — more on this below.

Obama gave his acceptance speech at the end of the Democratic Party convention to some 84,000 people. Such a turnout for a presidential candidate is itself unprecedented. During the Democratic Party primary campaign Obama regularly spoke to audiences of thousands. He has raised hopes in a nation weary of war and which is in a worsening economic downturn hitting workers and the middle class hard.

Cuba supporters in Canada launch hurricane relief fund

Introduction by Robert Johnson

September 14, 2008 (Socialist Voice) -- Cuba has been assaulted in quick succession by three powerful hurricanes. Gustav, Hanna and Ike left a trail of massive destruction, the worst that Cuba has experienced in more than four decades. This was a cruel blow to the Cuban people, who have set an example to the world of selfless generosity despite their limited material resources. Under the leadership of their workers and farmers government, Cubans have now set to work to repair the damage.

Why Washington hates Iran - free pamphlet download

The following is the introduction to Why Washington Hates Iran: A Political Memoir of the Revolution That Shook the Middle East, a new Socialist Voice pamphlet published by South Branch Publications. The entire pamphlet is available for free download from http://readingfromtheleft.com/PDF/WhyWashingtonHatesIran.pdf.

The author, Barry Sheppard, was a member of the US Socialist Workers Party for 28 years, and a central leader of the party for most of that time. In 2005, Resistance Books published the first volume of his political memoir, The Party: The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988. The new pamphlet is a chapter from the second volume, now in preparation.

* * *

By Barry Sheppard

Debunking the `Tragedy of the Commons'

By Ian Angus

August 24, 2008 -- Will shared resources always be misused and overused? Is community ownership of land, forests and fisheries a guaranteed road to ecological disaster? Is privatisation the only way to protect the environment and end Third World poverty? Most economists and development planners will answer “yes” — and for proof they will point to the most influential article ever written on those important questions.

Since its publication in Science in December 1968, “The Tragedy of the Commons” has been anthologised in at least 111 books, making it one of the most-reprinted articles ever to appear in any scientific journal. It is also one of the most quoted: a recent Google search found “about 302,000” results for the phrase “tragedy of the commons”.

For 40 years it has been, in the words of a World Bank discussion paper, “the dominant paradigm within which social scientists assess natural resource issues” (Bromley and Cernea 1989: 6). It has been used time and again to justify stealing indigenous peoples’ lands, privatising health care and other social services, giving corporations ``tradable permits'' to pollute the air and water, and much more.

If socialism fails: the spectre of 21st century barbarism

By Ian Angus

July 27, 2008 -- From the first day it appeared online, Climate and Capitalism’s masthead has carried the slogan “Ecosocialism or Barbarism: there is no third way.” We’ve been quite clear that ecosocialism is not a new theory or brand of socialism — it is socialism with Marx’s important insights on ecology restored, socialism committed to the fight against ecological destruction. But why do we say that the alternative to ecosocialism is barbarism?

Marxists have used the word “barbarism” in various ways, but most often to describe actions or social conditions that are grossly inhumane, brutal, and violent. It is not a word we use lightly, because it implies not just bad behaviour but violations of the most important norms of human solidarity and civilised life. [1]

The slogan “Socialism or Barbarism” originated with the great German revolutionary socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, who repeatedly raised it during World War I. It was a profound concept, one that has become ever more relevant as the years have passed.

Canada: Saying `sorry' with a forked tongue

By Mike Krebs

“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill” — Duncan Campbell Scott, head of the Department of Indian Affairs and founder of the residential school system, 1920.

July 1, 2008 -- On June 11, 2008, Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party, issued an “apology” for the residential school system that more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced through. The hype before and after the statement was enormous, with extensive coverage in all major media.

From Marx to Morales: Indigenous socialism and the Latin Americanisation of Marxism

By John Riddell

June 16, 2008 -- Over the past decade, a new rise of mass struggles in Latin America has sparked an encounter between revolutionists of that region and many of those based in the imperialist countries. In many of these struggles, as in Bolivia under the presidency of Evo Morales, Indigenous peoples are in the lead.

Latin American revolutionists are enriching Marxism in the field of theory as well as of action. This article offers some introductory comments indicating ways in which their ideas are linking up with and drawing attention to important but little-known aspects of Marxist thought.

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