Axes of Marxist internationalism

By Murray Smith

Murray Smith is an international officer of the Scottish Socialist Party and a leader of the International Socialist Movement, a Marxist current within it. This paper has been adopted by the ISM.

The fact that the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is not part of any international organisation makes it all the more important to have an international perspective. The three axes of the party's international work are participation in the movement against capitalist globalisation, solidarity with workers and oppressed peoples and developing the party's international links, in Europe and beyond. Just as the International Socialist Movement (ISM) has no interests other than those of the SSP, so it has no hidden international agenda. But as with other questions, the ISM has a specific role to play as a Marxist platform. In international terms this means not only playing an active role in developing all aspects of the party's international work. It also means deepening our analysis of international events and taking an active part in the debates that involve all those across the world who are working to build new parties and new international links.


Our starting point has to be an appreciation of what period we are in, what are the dominant trends in world economy and politics, what is the relationship of forces between the classes—in other words, under what conditions we are intervening.

The twentieth century saw three major turning points, sea changes which initiated new periods, marked by a change in the international political and economic framework, in the relations between countries and in the relations between the classes. These turning points occurred in the years 1914-17, 1944-47 and 1989-91. None of them was the simple product of economic forces; all of them were also decisively determined by politics and by the class struggle, by wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions. The way history unfolded was therefore not preordained, but the result of human action, and could have turned out differently. Nor do these historical periods simply coincide with long waves of economic development. For example, the world economy has been in a long wave of depression since 1974, but the basic architecture of the world as it appeared after 1945 did not decisively alter until 1989.

The first of these turning points was initiated by the explosion of inter-imperialist contradictions in the outbreak of the first world war. The only thing that could have prevented this war would have been successful socialist revolutions in one or several of the belligerent countries.

Nevertheless, the war accelerated the creation of the conditions for such revolutions. The fact that there was one victorious socialist revolution in Russia modified the nature of the following period. Had it been followed by revolutions in the more advanced countries of Europe, subsequent history would have been radically different. As it was, the next thirty years were marked by an endemic economic crisis with only temporary upturns, by the inter-imperialist contradictions which culminated in the second world war and by a class polarisation, with, on the one hand, the growth of fascism and, on the other, a real perspective of socialist revolution in Europe. The reasons for the defeat of the revolutionary waves of 1917-23, 1934-37 and 1944-47 were eminently political, and lie in the role played by the social democratic and, increasingly, by the Stalinist, parties.

The failure of revolution in western Europe set the scene for the post-1945 period. This was marked by the postwar economic boom, the division of the world at Yalta-Potsdam, the development of the "socialist camp", the Cold War and the colonial revolution. In the advanced capitalist countries of western Europe, the postwar consensus between the classes was made necessary by the need to make concessions to the working class and made possible by the prolonged period of expansion of the world economy. It involved substantial reforms: the welfare state, advances in health care and education, expansion of the public sector and development of public services. These gains made after the second world war and the growth of trade union power in a situation of virtually full employment during the postwar boom led to a considerable strengthening of the position of the working class.

Towards the end of the boom, in the 1960s, there was a worldwide youth radicalisation, strongly influenced by international events such as the revolution in Vietnam, "socialism with a human face" during the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia and the rise of the black movement in the USA. It was marked by a general questioning of bourgeois values. It was in this period that the modern women's and gay liberation movements developed. In the period 1968-75 there was an upsurge of working-class struggle in several key European countries and in Latin America. In western Europe, for the first time in over twenty years, there were revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations (France 1968, Italy 1969 and 1975-76, Spain 1975-76, Portugal 1974-75). In Britain the Conservative government was defeated over the anti-union laws in 1972 and brought down in 1974.

After the economic crisis that began with the recession of 1974-75, from the late 1970s the capitalist class went on the offensive. The cutting edge of this offensive, which aimed to take back the concessions made to the working class during the postwar period, was the neo-conservative counter-revolution of Reagan and Thatcher. This combined aggressive class warfare with an ideological offensive against socialism which neither the social democracy nor the Stalinists were capable of replying to. It is impossible to understand the ability of ruling classes which several years previously had been assailed by workers' mobilisations and youth rebellions to go on the offensive without seeing the role played by the traditional workers' parties. They played a decisive role along with the trade union leaderships in halting the post-1968 working-class offensive through strategies of class collaboration: the "historic compromise" in Italy, the Moncloa Pact in Spain, the democratic counter-revolution in Portugal, the Union of the Left and its break-up in France, the social contract in Britain. The end result was that although not everywhere were there defeats as serious as in Britain, everywhere the working class and the left lost the initiative and were pushed onto the defensive.

The third turning point came with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eastern European bloc. Half a century earlier, Trotsky had warned that the future of the Soviet Union would be either capitalist restoration or political revolution. In the postwar period, most of his followers de facto excluded the first hypothesis and worked on the assumption that sooner or later there would be political revolution. They were reinforced in this idea by the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Prague Spring in 1968 and the movements in Poland in 1956 and 1971. The dynamic of these movements was indeed towards socialist democracy. This was still largely true in Poland in 1980-81, although tendencies towards capitalist restoration were already in evidence.

The fact that the embryonic tendencies towards political revolution in 1989 were swamped by the victorious capitalist restoration is to be explained by the intersection of the long-term effects of Stalinism on the working class in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, the economic crisis in those countries and the international conjuncture. Decades of Stalinism had atomised and depoliticised the working class (especially in the Soviet Union) and decisively weakened the idea that the nationalised economy was theirs and should be defended. Secondly, (particularly in the more advanced countries of the Soviet bloc, such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the GDR), the people were increasingly aware that, whatever their gains of an earlier period, the workers of the capitalist West not only had democratic rights but had a higher standard of living (in particular, access to quality consumer goods which the bureaucracy had been unable to deliver). Lastly, faced with the crisis of their system, the bulk of the bureaucracy chose to preserve their privileges by supporting capitalist restoration and becoming a key component of the emerging bourgeoisies and capitalist state apparatuses.

Internationally, the working class was everywhere on the defensive. The workers' movement in the principal Latin American countries had been crushed by a series of military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas lost power in 1990. The parties in the West that had traditionally defended the working class were increasingly abandoning their references to socialism and adapting themselves to become adequate instruments of the capitalist offensive. For the working classes of eastern Europe, these developments increased the feeling that their only future lay in accepting the market economy, with illusions that were to be cruelly shattered. Thus, within a very short space of time, what had seemed ten years earlier to be a powerful bloc disintegrated, completely shattering the equilibrium of international relations.


What were the effects of 1989-91?

1) In the Soviet Union (particularly) and eastern Europe, contrary to popular expectations, there was a social and economic regression with few precedents in modern history, though it was less severe in the more advanced countries of eastern Europe. The working class was hit by a drastic fall in its standard of living, disorganised by the collapse of the state-owned economy and ideologically and politically disarmed. It was not capable of acting as an independent force. This was true even in countries where working-class resistance to the bureaucracy had been strong in the 1980s, such as Poland and Yugoslavia, in which country ten years of wars ensued without the working class being able to play any political role.

2) The collapse of Stalinism without political revolution and the triumph of capitalist restoration handed imperialism a major and frankly unexpected victory. It was not so much a material victory—the opening up of these countries to capitalism has created, up to now, as many problems as it has opportunities. But it was an ideological victory that opened the way to a vast capitalist ideological offensive on the theme of the failure of socialism, the end of the class struggle, indeed the "end of history" as the US bourgeois ideologue Francis Fukuyama put it in 1992. Capitalism was presented as the summit of human achievement. This offensive had a considerable impact on the workers' movement. All those political forces that had considered the Soviet Union as in some way socialist were thrown into deep crisis. But it did not stop there. Even those socialist forces, particularly the Trotskyist movement, which had always opposed Stalinism were shaken by the victorious capitalist restoration, which none of them had anticipated, and especially by the failure of the working class to prevent it. In this situation the ruling class went on the offensive and transformed the partial defeats inflicted on the working class since the late 1970s and the points already marked by the ideological offensive of Reagan-Thatcher into an onslaught which threw the working class well and truly on to the defensive on a world scale.

3) The workers' movement was therefore confronted with an ideological crisis of perspectives and with large-scale material attacks. This coincided with the destruction or severe weakening in the 1980s of the traditional sectors of heavy industry which had been the bastions of the workers' movement. The crisis was further accentuated by the accelerating rightward evolution of the traditional workers' parties. The seeming strength and invincibility of capitalism removed the last obstacles to the bourgeoisification of social democracy. In fact, since the beginning of the capitalist offensive in the late 1970s, the social democrats had not only failed to organise any serious resistance: when they were in power, they duly applied the policies demanded by big capital. One need think only of the Callaghan government from 1976 to 1979, the French Socialist Party after the right turn of 1982-83 or the PSOE [Spanish Socialist Workers Party] governments in Spain from 1982 to 1996. But in the 1990s these parties, one after the other, explicitly abandoned any reference to socialism and embraced the market economy in theory as well as in practice. The remaining Communist parties either also moved to the right (spectacularly so in the case of the Italian party), disappeared completely or remained as sterile and gradually declining Stalinist anachronisms.

4) The US emerged as the only super-power. It reaffirmed its hegemony, militarily, economically and politically. This was not only in relation to the Third World or the new capitalist states of the East. It also involved the assertion of its economic hegemony over Japan, which had been a threatening competitor in the 1980s, and over the European Union.

Inter-imperialist contradictions did not disappear. But as the French Marxist economist François Chesnais put it in 1999, they now occur "in a framework where the USA and the American financial bourgeoisie are at the centre of the system and where, in spite of tensions and frictions, all the other bourgeoisies are integrated in a subordinate way to American imperialism". In spite of the plans for a European army, the military dominance of US imperialism is complete. Its leadership of NATO is unchallengeable, in spite of periodic mutterings from the French ruling class in particular. And the technological advance of its defence industry is incontestable and increasing.

5) The 1990s saw a redoubled capitalist neo-liberal offensive in the framework of what became known as globalisation. The essence of globalisation is that imperialist capital in all its forms should be free to move across the globe, speculating, investing (or disinvesting), exporting. This implied the dismantling of all the barriers to the free penetration of imperialist capital and commodities. Everywhere neo-liberal globalisation implied the dismantling of regulations over markets and workers' rights, and privatisation of the public sector. The dominance of finance capital and the removal of all controls on its freedom to act led to the growth of new forms of parasitical and speculative activity and made the world financial system extremely volatile. In the European Union, the Single Act of 1986 was concretised by the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam, pushing forward privatisation, deregulation and flexibility.

Institutions like the World Bank and the IMF came to have quasi-governmental powers, imposing structural adjustment plans as a condition for loans, much of which goes to service the constantly increasing debt that the countries of the South and the East owe to Western financial institutions. Since its creation in 1995, the WTO has sought to enforce a regime of "free" trade which favours the dominant imperialist powers.

6) In the aftermath of the Cold War, imperialism became more, not less, militarised. The decade of the 1990s began with the Gulf War and ended with the NATO bombing of Serbia. Under cover of the "war against drugs", Plan Colombia aims to keep Latin America safe for US imperialism and represents potentially the biggest American military operation since the Vietnam War. Bush's projected national missile defence ("son of Star Wars") has little or nothing to do with "rogue states". To a certain extent, it is directed against Russia and China. But its real purpose is to guarantee US imperialism the military monopoly of space, to be used as a springboard to attack any target on the planet. The increasing militarisation of imperialism is the clearest indication that Bush Senior's vaunted "new world order" is much more accurately described as a new world disorder. The post-1989 world order is in fact much less stable than the one based on the conflictual collaboration between imperialism and the Soviet Union after 1945. And as growing inequality and injustice lead to revolt, imperialism is preparing to defend its vital interests by force.

7) At the high point of "new world order" optimism, American imperialism thought it would be able to impose solutions to potentially dangerous conflicts. There were some successes. The dismantling of apartheid was carried out in a capitalist framework. The guerrilla movements in Central America were brought to a negotiated end. In Korea the United States is seeking, with no guarantee of success, to neutralise the potentially destabilising effects on South Korea of a collapse of the regime in the North.

But other conflicts, such as in Ireland, the Middle East or Kashmir, are proving more intractable. And ten years of imperialist intervention in the Balkans have failed to stabilise the region.

8) As its name does not suggest, globalisation implies the marginalisation of large parts of the globe. Capitalism is essentially concerned with the imperialist triad (North America, western Europe, Japan) and the handful of emerging countries, mainly in Latin America, east and south-east Asia and eastern Europe. The less developed regions and countries are being progressively marginalised. This is true of sub-Saharan Africa in particular, with the exception of South Africa. Large areas of the continent are being allowed to descend into civil war and barbarism because they are neither economically vital for imperialism nor situated in strategically sensitive areas like the Balkans and the Middle East.

9) On the ideological plane, even among those who refused to rally to the capitalist new world order, the 1990s witnessed a widespread retreat on the left. This was marked by a retreat from class politics and from the defence of socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

The role of the working class disappeared behind concepts like "civil society" and "citizens' control".

However, despite the rhetoric about the end of history, history did not stop. Despite the claims that the class struggle was over, it continued. And despite intellectually lightweight and superficial claims that capitalism had overcome its basic contradictions, some commentators going so far as to claim that the business cycle had been abolished, capitalism was still capitalism with all its contradictions. And as outlined above, the world is in fact a much less stable place than it was before 1989.

(1) On the economic level, capitalism in the 1990s was much less stable than it claimed to be. There was a recession in the USA and Europe in 1990-93. Japan slid into stagnation and has remained there throughout the decade. The 1997 crisis spread from south-east Asia to the "tigers" of north-east Asia which had hitherto been hailed as the big success stories of capitalism, then to Russia and Latin America, taking forty per cent of the world economy into recession. In the autumn of 1998, there was nearly a financial crash.

Nevertheless, the long American boom from 1993 onwards, largely fuelled by credit and sucking in capital from the rest of the world, kept the world economy afloat.

(2) There were upsurges of working class resistance in Europe, particularly during the 1990-93 recession. There was a working-class mobilisation against the first Berlusconi government in 1994, which contributed to its fall after only seven months in power. And in November-December 1995, in response to government attacks on social security and pension systems, there was the biggest strike movement in France since 1968. In fact, the rise in industrial militancy of the French working class had begun in the autumn of 1993 and has remained at a relatively high level since. There were big class battles in South Korea after the economic crisis hit the country in 1997, and the following year the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia was overthrown. In 1997 there was a huge revolt in Albania against the results of capitalist restoration. But in a sense this revolt underlined the impasse that the working class was in internationally in the 1990s. It had all the ingredients of a revolutionary situation (including self-organisation and arming of the population) except one—the insurgents did not have an alternative to capitalism. That absence of alternative is what marked most movements of resistance all over the world after 1989.

(3) Many workers remained, to say the least, sceptical about the free-market discourse, which was imposed more by default and by incessant propaganda than by conviction. But what was missing were political parties, trade unions and intellectuals to articulate this, to organise opposition and to offer a positive perspective. The traditional workers' parties were galloping to the right at full speed, followed and sometimes preceded by the trade union leaderships. The main intellectual trend was abandonment of socialism and acceptance and justification of capitalism.


Over the last two years, there has been a perceptible change in the political and social climate—not enough to cancel out the negative effects of the 1980s and 1990s, but enough to modify the situation in a sense more favourable to the working class. The capitalist offensive continues. The working class internationally is still on the defensive, but resistance is rising and the system is being increasingly challenged and questioned. The counter-tendencies that existed in the 1990s have begun to crystallise and create a new situation. In fact, the very triumphalism of capitalism has rebounded on it. As the direct experience of people all over the world gives the lie to their claims, it is the capitalists themselves who have helped to identify their own system as the enemy.

1) The movement against capitalist globalisation burst onto the world stage at the WTO meeting in Seattle in November 1999. But Seattle did not drop out of the blue. It had been preceded by things like the Euromarches against unemployment and mobilisations against Third World debt. The ATTAC anti-globalisation movement in France was founded in 1998. An international conference in June 1999 in Paris brought together ATTAC and anti-globalisation movements in other countries. But Seattle was important because it brought together many forces—organised labour, environmentalists, pacifists, anti-debt campaigners etc. And for the first time, it seriously disrupted a major summit. Seattle was the start of a series of demonstrations that continued through Millau, Prague, Nice, Davos, Gothenburg, Barcelona and Genoa. And the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre in January 2001 was a huge success.

2) But the big international demonstrations are only the tip of the iceberg. Globalisation is also being challenged on the ground, and in many parts of the world. Ecuador has been repeatedly destabilised by mass protests against the effects of the dollarisation of the economy, spearheaded by the indigenous Indian peasant population. Bolivia has seen mass protests against privatisation of water. Alongside the guerrilla war, Colombia has seen big protests in the cities against IMF-imposed austerity policies. Several general strikes have taken place in Argentina against those same policies. France has seen big demonstrations against attempts to raise the age of retirement. In Greece similar attempts provoked the biggest trade union demonstrations in many years. All of these are manifestations of resistance to the policies of neo-liberal globalisation. There is a rise of struggle on a global scale, most notably in Europe and in Latin America. In October 2000 the Serbian working class played the decisive role in the mass movement that overthrew Milosevic. The massive nature of the demonstrations in Genoa was the product of the mobilisation of Italian workers and youth in a context marked by strikes and resistance to the Berlusconi government. If it was the anti-globalisation movement and the Genoa Social Forum that set the scene for Genoa, it was the Italian working class that occupied it. It is particularly important not to look at what is happening in the world through narrowly British spectacles, as socialist organisations in Britain have sometimes done in the past. To do that today would lead us to underestimate the rise in the class struggle internationally and the strength and significance of the anti-globalisation movement.

Britain is starting from further back than any other country in western Europe, but the same factors are at work here. The change in the international climate has a positive effect on struggles everywhere. Plan Colombia will be harder to implement today than it would have been five or ten years ago, because of the situation in Latin America and internationally. The Palestinian uprising will receive more international support and solidarity today than would have been the case some years ago. The recent visit to the Occupied Territories of French peasant leader and anti-globalisation campaigner José Bové was symbolic in this regard.

3) There is a shift of opinion taking place. Workers have now considerable direct experience of privatisation, deregulation, flexible working and increasing job insecurity. The reality of poverty, insecurity and inequality is breaking through the hype. All over the world, people are realising that globalisation is not good for everyone, indeed that it is very bad for the vast majority of people. Russian workers are massively disillusioned with the market. Young people are radicalising against globalisation. The intellectual trend today is towards a questioning of the system and a denunciation of its injustices.

4) There is a growing realisation that the reformists have abandoned the working class. This has been reinforced by the experience of left governments in power over the last period in the four biggest countries of the EU. The questioning of the links between the Labour Party and the unions in this country has its equivalent in other countries. There is a growing distance between the bourgeoisified traditional workers' parties and their working class base. The first manifestation of this was the still continuing and indeed growing phenomenon of mass abstention at elections. And over the last several years, we have seen in country after country growing support for (mostly new) political forces to the left of the official Left.

5) It is now becoming clear that European and North American capitalism merely received a suspended sentence in 1997-98. The extension of the economic crisis to the imperialist heartlands was then widely expected both by Marxists and bourgeois commentators.

That did not happen immediately, but it is now increasingly clear that we are on the verge of a world recession. However, we should avoid falling into catastrophist analyses on two levels. First of all, although the recession looks serious, we cannot predict its exact evolution; in particular, there is no certainty that it will lead to a financial crash of 1929 proportions. Secondly, there is no automatic, linear connection between recession and working-class radicalisation and combativity; sometimes the onset of recession actually has in the first instance a demobilising effect, but that depends on the depth and speed of the recession and also on the concrete political situation in each country. However, what is certain is that the onset of recession will lead more people to question the system.

The above points indicate a more favourable context on a world scale for the working class and for the struggle against capitalism. They do not cancel out the effects of the past period, but they do describe a situation where the working class can regain lost ground.

Today comparisons are being made with 1968, or more precisely with the period preceding 1968. Rather than simply saying that we are in a different period, it is worth looking at what are the similarities and the differences.

What there is in common between now and the 1960s is a radicalisation of workers and youth which has an international character, obviously at different levels in different countries. There is also, as there was then, a growing feeling of being part of an international movement.

But practically everything else is different. In 1968 we were nearing the end of the postwar boom. Workers were in a strong position. They were not in the main, with the partial exception of Britain, defending themselves against capitalist attacks. They were seeking to make further gains.

Politically, socialism was an automatic reference for millions of workers. Youth were rejecting the affluent society and its values while solidarising with the Third World, with the black movement and with workers' struggles.

So on the positive side, workers and youth were aggressive, confident and saw an alternative to capitalism, however they saw that coming about. But this was combined with confidence and illusions in the traditional workers' parties on the part of the mass of the working class. That was the Achilles heel that enabled the ruling class to turn the situation around and go on the offensive. The reformist parties disposed of considerable authority as guarantors of the postwar consensus, and this enabled them to defuse the revolutionary potential of working-class struggles.

Today things are very different. We are not at the end of the boom but have lived through more than twenty years of material and ideological capitalist offensive. The working class has not been crushed, but it has suffered defeats and been weakened, not only in set-piece battles as in Britain or at Fiat in Italy in 1980, but by the creeping effects of neo-liberalism and the destruction of previous bastions.

Trade unions have been significantly weakened. Despite widespread rejection of the free market, radicalisation and the rise of the anti-globalisation movement, socialism is not seen on a mass level as an automatic and credible alternative to capitalism. All that means that the battle will be more difficult. But the traditional workers' parties can no longer serve as obstacles in the way they did after 1968. In place of confidence built up during twenty years of the postwar boom, there is growing hostility and alienation born of their present role.

As far as the former Stalinist parties are concerned, there is a particularly dramatic change. The collapse of Stalinism was a contradictory phenomenon. The restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe was a defeat for the international working class. The disappearance of the Stalinist bureaucracy and the mortal wounding of the parties linked to it was not. The defeats for which Stalinism was responsible over more than half a century would be too long to list here. Along with social democracy, it played a key role in blocking the working-class upsurge of 1968-75. Today it can no longer play this role. In France, the Communist Party saved capitalism on three occasions in the twentieth century—in 1936, 1944 and 1968. That it can no longer play that role is hugely important. However, the weakening of the traditional parties is a step forward on one condition: that new parties are built which challenge capitalism. But this is possible now in a way that it was not after 1968.

Our tasks

(1) The anti-globalisation movement.

The movement against capitalist globalisation is a major development that we have to first of all understand and then relate to. It is misleading to simply describe this movement as anti-capitalist. It has grown up in response to the multiple manifestations of neo-liberal globalisation. It is now crystallising into a consciousness that it is a whole world system that is in question. But many participants in the movement do not have the consciousness of fighting against capitalism, but against neo-liberalism or corporate power. And there are political trends which have more or less worked out projects of reforming and humanising the system. Even among the more advanced elements, the development of anti-capitalist consciousness is hindered by the continuing crisis of credibility of socialism as an alternative. Nevertheless the scope and the dynamic of the movement bring it objectively into conflict with capitalism.

There is no excuse for conservatism in relation to this movement. Neither its present political limits nor its relative weakness here compared to other countries can justify an attitude of scepticism and passivity. We have to go into this movement and build it and in the process link up with the socialist and Marxist forces within it. The first thing is to be clear about our political objectives.

It is not possible to oppose capitalist globalisation simply with the aim of controlling it. Demands such as the Tobin tax (a tax on speculative movements of capital) may be useful as a starting point. It is certainly possible to fight on limited demands with those who do not share all our political objectives. But it is not possible to fight consistently against neo-liberal globalisation without understanding that this is the present phase of capitalism.

The idea that we can go back to a phase of more civilised capitalism is an illusion. That means that we have to tackle the question of the ownership of the means of production head-on. As the radical wing of ATTAC puts it, it must no longer be a taboo question. The capitalists themselves are extremely preoccupied by the question of ownership. Not only do they fiercely resist any attempt to take it off them or to limit their prerogatives over it, but they consciously seek to extend their property via privatisation of sectors such as education, health and culture. In the same way, the workers' movement and the anti-globalisation movement should not only fight to defend public services from privatisation but challenge private ownership of the means of production.

In relation to organisations like the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank, there are currents within the anti-globalisation movement who argue that they can be democratised and controlled. We have to argue for the dissolution of these organisations, which are the spearhead of capitalist globalisation. We also have to defend class politics, to explain the decisive role of the working class—something that is easier after Genoa.

What does building the anti-globalisation movement mean in Scotland? Our geographical position means that we are unlikely to be able to participate massively in demonstrations in Europe. But we should send delegations. In Scotland there are two things we can do. First of all, we can organise meetings and conferences around different themes relating to globalisation. That will mean getting involved in Globalise Resistance, which has up to now taken some very good initiatives. Secondly, we can continue the campaign around Faslane and build a movement against the national missile defence project, which in effect means developing a campaign against the military dimension of globalisation.

(2) International links

The launching and building of the SSP corresponds to our analysis of the kind of party we need today, an analysis which we have largely developed in a whole series of documents and articles. The kind of international alliance we want to take part in building should aim to regroup parties which share our broad approach. First of all, parties that are clearly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist.

Secondly, parties that are pluralist, that allow the free expression of different ideas and different currents of opinion and work out their policies through democratic debate. Thirdly, parties that have roots in their national reality, that are not just branch offices of an international centre. In any case, the kind of international that we seek to build would be organised much more on a horizontal than on a vertical basis. This conception of an international is counterposed to two others. The first is of an ideologically defined Trotskyist international such as the ones that already exist. That would not enable us to unite all those forces which are fighting for socialism, not all of which would consider themselves Trotskyist. The other is the idea that the anti-globalisation movement is in itself the new international. That would also be a mistake.

Part of the strength of the anti-globalisation movement is precisely its loose, open nature, with room for all sorts of campaigns and movements as well as unions and parties. In fact, the whole workers' movement internationally is in flux.

Those forces which are fighting really existing capitalism are quite heterogeneous: they include old unions, new unions, single issue campaigns, movements and associations. Within that broad framework there is a need to build parties posing a clear socialist alternative, and for those parties to link up internationally.

Sometimes a distinction is made between the "revolutionary left" and the "radical left". Those who make this distinction would probably classify the SSP in the second category. Some might even go so far as to call it centrist.

These sort of categories can only lead to a sterile debate.

What makes a party revolutionary or not is not doctrinal purity but whether, in a concrete situation, it is capable of assembling those forces in the working class and the youth which are ready to fight for a socialist alternative and of sinking roots. That is why the SSP is a step forward compared to SML [Scottish Militant Labour] and not a step back.

(3) Renewal of Marxism

Within the framework of building a new international, Marxists have a specific role to play. It is not just a question of defending the Marxist program, as if there were such a thing, immutable, outside of time and space.

Marxism has to be in constant development. A Marxist program is not something to be preserved and handed down to future generations. It has to develop through addressing new realities, or it becomes rigid and ossified. That does not mean that we just throw overboard the heritage of the past. It means that we have to constantly judge what is still valid, how old concepts can be applied to new realities, when new concepts have to be developed. There are plenty of new economic, social and political phenomena to analyse. And at this point, when we are trying to define what socialism can mean in the twenty-first century and what kind of party we need, it would not be an idle or superfluous intellectual exercise to take a fresh look at the history of the Communist and Trotskyist movements in the twentieth century to see what lessons we can learn.

Those Marxist political currents which have not become ossified sects and which have a contribution to make to rebuilding the workers' movement, those with whom we want to establish a political dialogue, will come from diverse origins, not all Trotskyist. They will also come from different national traditions. And if Marxism evolves over the course of time, it is also not quite the same in each country. The Brazilian/French Marxist Michael Löwy once explained that Marxism was the opposite of Coca-Cola, a standardised product which always has the same colour and the same taste, whatever country you drink it in. On the contrary, he said, Marxism is like a rice-based dish, which with the same basic ingredients, is made according to the taste and the style of each nation. Any new international will bring together parties from different countries which have made the effort, as we have sought to do, to apply Marxism creatively to their own national realities.