International workers' movement news

Socialist Party of Timor congress

The Socialist Party of Timor (PST) held its first national congress on February 10-11 in Dili. Some 250 delegates from across East Timor discussed and debated the way forward for the party.

Opening remarks were made by the party president, Pedro da Costa. Because he had operated underground during the Indonesian occupation, da Costa’s identity was unknown to most members until the congress.

PST secretary-general Avelino da Silva also spoke. Greetings were presented by the PST representative in Portugal, Azancot de Menezes, and from a representative of Australia’s Democratic Socialist Party.

Drafts of the party’s constitution, manifesto and resolution were circulated amongst the delegates, who divided into three commissions, each discussing one of the drafts. A report from each commission was then presented, followed by an all-delegates discussion of modifications.

The resolution on the transitional period reaffirmed the PST’s commitment to struggling for the greatest amount of “democratic freedom”. The party considers this vital to ensure increased political awareness before elections.

Delegates elected sixty-two members to an expanded central committee, and a 15-member political bureau was also approved.

The PST office in Dili receives ten to twenty applications for membership each day. A similar situation develops wherever PST regional committees are established. Integrating and educating new members is, therefore, a big challenge for the party.

Top of pageSão Pãolo Forum looks to strengthen work

The ninth meeting of the São Pãolo Forum took place in Managua, Nicaragua, February 19-21, preceded by two days of workshops and meetings of smaller groupings.

The meeting took place against a complicated backdrop in Latin American politics. How well had the Forum intervened in support of progressive movements and against imperialist plans? There was considerable criticism, encapsulated in such phrases as “very weak implementation of policies agreed”, “an electoralist and institutionalist approach at the expense of other forms of struggle”, “a predominance of the big organisations over the smaller ones”. Some speakers even spoke of a “crisis” of the organisation.

The meeting adopted a series of measures aimed at strengthening the Forum’s work in a period of heightened struggles:

  • The Working Group, which directs the Forum between meetings, was strengthened by the addition of the Mexican Party of Labour (PT) and Puerto Rican organisations.
  • The Salvadoran Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) offered to make resources available to help the work of the Forum secretariat.
  • The final plenary directed the secretariat to prepare a concrete plan for boosting the work of the Forum, to be presented to the next meeting of the Working Group.

The meeting also adopted resolutions and expressions of support, including a letter of support from various member organisations and individuals to the fledgling Social and Political Front (FSP) in Colombia; a letter to the US Congress warning of the consequences of boosted US military aid to the Colombian government of Andrés Pastrana; a message of solidarity with the 100,000-strong demonstration of the Puerto Rican people against the US military base on Vieques; and a resolution expressing support for the right of independence of the French “overseas territories” Martinique and Dominica.

Top of pageNew magazine in the Philippines

The Revolutionary Workers Party of the Philippines (RPMP) has launched its new magazine, the Revolutionary Workers Journal.

The RPMP is composed of a current that broke from the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1993, and has strong bases in Mindanao and the Visayas. It has an armed wing and is still underground, but on December 26 opened peace negotiations with the government. The party is convinced that, in current conditions, the Philippines revolution is best served by open mass work.

The first issue contains articles on the framework of the peace negotiations, the national question, the agrarian question, the significance of the October Revolution, the RPMP’s strategic perspectives and internationalism. Copies can be obtained by contacting

Top of pageCuban Marxism conference tackles big issues

“Marxism Today: a Renewed Left View” was the title of a conference held in Havana, February 17-19, featuring many well-known Marxist intellectuals from the English-speaking world, especially from Canada. The conference was co-sponsored by a range of Cuban academic institutions, including the magazine Marx Ahora.

Nearly all the main debates traversing Marxism found expression. Does the Zapatista movement represent a new way of “doing revolution” that provides a way of transforming the state piece by piece? John Holloway, of the Autonomous University of Puebla, was an emphatic champion of this thesis, while French economist Gérard Duménil noted that even the most democratic capitalist states have their “bodies of armed men” in case matters get out of hand.

Are the “new social movements” and non-government organisations today’s main hope for a counter-hegemonic movement? Canadian academics William Carroll and R.S. Ratner used a particular reading of Gramsci to justify this viewpoint, but John Holst (Northern Illinois University) reaffirmed the “classical” Leninist thesis that such movements are transitory, unstable and always battlegrounds of all trends. Holst was also sharply critical of counterposing Gramsci to Lenin.

Globalisation made its inevitable appearance. “I reject the term”, said Italian political economist Guglielmo Carchedi, “and abide by the correct usage—imperialism”. Others, like Duménil and Leo Panitch, editor of Socialist Register, affirmed that the term didn’t matter so long as it didn’t interfere with the essential debate around real trends in the world economy.

Other papers stressed the impossibility of a new long wave of capitalist expansion without a massive destruction of existing productive capacity (Derek Hrynshyn of Canada’s York University) and the material basis for the rise of neo-liberalism (John King of La Trobe University, Australia, and Michael Howard of Canada’s University of Waterloo).

Top of pageCuba hosts Globalisation and Problems of Development

The second meeting on Globalisation and Problems of Development took place in Havana, January 24-28, attended by 800 economists from 58 countries.

The conference, an initiative of Cuban President Fidel Castro, opened with a presentation from Ignacio Ramonet, the editor in chief of Le Monde Diplomatique. For Ramonet, globalisation represents a new phase in the world economy dominated by multinational firms that have killed the national market.

Ramonet’s thesis produced sharp reactions, ranging from those who stressed that globalisation should be seen as a cultural phenomenon to others who suggested that there is little in recent international trade, foreign investment and even the concentration of capital that hasn’t been equalled in previous periods.

However, most Marxist analysts present accepted that a qualitative change in world economy has taken place over the past 15 years, even while stressing different aspects. For some, like Francisco Soberón Valdés, the governor of the Central Bank of Cuba, the main feature was the ballooning of global financial transactions and their threat to world economic stability. For others, like Daniel Hernández, from Venezuela’s Institute of Communications Research, the central problem is that “when discussion gets centred on the financial problem, one leaves aside the restructuring of the world productive apparatus”.

The non-Marxist economists present viewed globalisation as a progressive integration of national markets into increasingly uniform global markets.

The second main debate concerned the costs and benefits of globalisation. Patricio Meller from Chile used that country’s “model” to argue that opening up national economies to global competition would produce a “virtuous circle” of development driven by increased exports. Arturo Huerta (National Autonomous University of Mexico) counterattacked on the basis of the Mexican experience—exposure to globalisation had produced the 1994 “tequila crisis” and increased the country’s dependence on short-term capital inflows.

The conference ended with a two-hour address by Fidel Castro. The third meeting will be held next January in Cuba; an e-mail network of interested researchers is being set up. For further information for English speakers, contact

Top of pageVideos of Korean workers’ struggles

Since the South Korean workers’ December 1996-January 1997 general strike, Korean activists have sought to make information about their struggle more accessible to militants outside South Korea. Two videos, From the Crisis of Capital to the Hope of Labour and Our Four Seasons, help to do this.

The first is produced by Labor News Productions and the other by that organisation and the Sammi Specialty Steel Co. Labour Union. Workers in other countries resisting the onslaught of their bosses will not miss the essential similarities with the Korean struggles.

Comrades from the South Korean group Power of the Working Class, who introduced these films to the Marxism 2000 conference in Sydney, explained that the struggle of the Sammi workers continues against tremendous odds after more than 1100 days. To give the Sammi workers urgently needed international support, send protest letters to Kim Dae-Jung, President of South Korea and Yoo Sang-Boo, Posco chairperson, 1 Koedong-dong, Nam-ku, Pohang City, Kyongsangbuk-do, 790-600, South Korea. Fax 82 562 200 6000.

The videos cost $50 for institutions or $30 for individuals. Order through the Democratic Socialist Party, PO Box 515, Broadway 2007, Australia; or Labor News Productions.

Top of pageUpcoming international conferences

June 7-9
The State of Social and Economic Thought: Marxist, Third World and Feminist Perspectives. Havana, Cuba.
July 1-2
Global Capital and Global Struggles: Strategies, Alliances, Alternatives. Conference of Socialist Economists. London, UK.
July 22-28
Fourth International Youth Camp. Portugal.
August 4-10
Solidarity Conference and Summer School, Detroit, USA.
September 21-24
Rethinking Marxism magazine. Boston, USA.
November 5-10
Socialism-21: A Journey to Justice, Freedom and Peace. Kathmandu, Nepal. Initiated by CPN (UML).
November 11-14
International Solidarity with Cuba. Havana, Cuba.
April 17-23, 2001
Peoples’ Summit of the Americas. Quebec, Canada.
April 2001
São Pãolo Forum, Guatemala City, Guatemala.
May/June 2001
Peoples’ Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference. Jakarta, Indonesia. Initiated by People’s Democratic Party.