Issue 26: Editor's introduction

This issue adds new material, viewpoints and discussion to a frequent theme in Links: the type or types of parties that can contribute to socialist revolution, and the methods by which it is possible to build them. It opens with a contribution from the Cuban magazine Tricontinental by Celia Hart. She examines the issue of "socialism in one country" in relation to the survival of the Cuban Revolution.

Why is it, she asks, that Cuba's socialist revolution has survived while the Soviet Union, with all its military and economic power, collapsed? Calling for study of Trotsky's writings on the subject, especially The Revolution Betrayed, she points to Cuba's unwavering internationalism and anti-imperialism. By contrast, when the Soviet Union "stopped being a revolution", its end was inevitable.

While internationalism and anti-imperialism are consciously fostered and strengthened by the Cuban revolutionaries, Hart notes that they have a long tradition in Cuba, going back into the country's independence struggle in the nineteenth century. The revolutionary process now unfolding in Venezuela is, similarly, based on the particular social and political features of that country. The striking fact, Coral Wynter writes in her analysis, is that Venezuela's "armed forces ... have been the engine of the revolutionary process in the last ten years".

The Bolivarian revolution led by President Huge Chávez, she writes, has created "an embryonic workers and peasants state", incidentally shattering "any preconceived schema of the revolutionary process" in the Third World. Whether the process will continue moving forward or be forced back by local reaction and imperialism will in part be determined by the degree of support from socialists everywhere.

In Australia, efforts to bring about greater unity among the many small socialist organisations led to the founding of the Socialist Alliance three years ago. The Alliance has been able not only to unite a number of existing organisations in electoral and other action but to win significant numbers of new members who were not members of any of the component groups. In December 2003, the Democratic Socialist Party, the largest of the participating groups, decided to transform itself into an internal tendency of the Socialist Alliance. We print here the resolution explaining this decision and what it means for the dsp.

Building a revolutionary party is also the theme of the resolution from the February 2004 convention of the United States International Socialist Organization. Among other things, this examines the question of regroupment of left forces from the standpoint of the political environment in which regroupment is or is not likely to succeed. It argues that the "growth of the global justice movement, the reemergence of class struggle (albeit defensive) and the adaptation of the main reformist parties in Europe to the neoliberal model have created a political space on the left to bring together old and new forces into new political formations ..."

In the imperialist countries, a major obstacle to the building of revolutionary parties is reformist or labourist parties that are able to hold the allegiance of major segments of the working class. Following on from his article "Engels and the theory of the labour aristocracy" in the previous issue of Links, Jonathan Strauss takes up debates about the nature of the "bribe" which the labour aristocracy receives for its services to capital.

Murray Smith, from the Scottish Socialist Party, continues a discussion of the nature of democracy in Lenin's Bolshevik Party, commenting on some of the points raised by Doug Lorimer in Links 24. He concludes that the idea that a revolutionary party conducts its debates only internally cannot be maintained once the party becomes a mass organisation embedded in the working class.

In "The rise and malaise of postmodernism", Jeremy Smith analyses the decline of a theory that claimed to have superseded Marxism but that no longer "generate[s] the excitement in universities it used to". Describing postmodernism as essentially a "re-enactment of Nietzsche's views", Smith contrasts postmodernism's one-sided Romantic critique of the Enlightenment with Marxism's rich dialectical surpassing of both schools. He concludes that "there is little in the lineage of postmodernism for a political vision of emancipation that is so sorely needed today".

The issue concludes with "Four years of Putin", Boris Kagarlitsky's analysis of Russian politics and the changing understanding of contending class forces. He discerns the rise of a new layer of young activists comparable to the anti-globalisation activists in the West. At the same time, he writes, the Russian middle class is growing increasingly alienated from the capitalist system that it once regarded as its own. "The authorities are having to grapple with an increasing number of problems", he observes. "The administration is like a skilled juggler, keeping a growing number of balls spinning in the air: just one mistake, and everything will fall on the juggler's head."