Links 14: Editor's introduction

East Timor: The left and military intervention

Much in this issue continues the topic "socialism and nationalism", which was the theme of Links number 13, where we expressed the hope that the discussion would be ongoing in future issues. The topic is still, of course, far from exhausted.

In the recent past, the most dramatic eruption of the national issue into world politics occurred in regard to East Timor, the referendum on independence or autonomy, and the violent aftermath. In this Links, we carry two articles directly concerned with East Timor.

The first, by Terry Townsend of the Democratic Socialist Party in Australia, deals with the attitude of the left to the UN-authorised international military intervention in East Timor. As is well known, the leading role in this force (Interfet) was taken by Australian troops, and it was in Australia that some of the largest demonstrations occurred in solidarity with East Timor immediately after the referendum. The DSP, which helped to organise these demonstrations, supported their demand on the UN and Australian government to provide troops to stop the Indonesian army and militia attacks on the independence movement, a position criticised by some on the left in Australia and internationally. Townsend analyses and rejects their arguments, as well as surveying some of the discussion that has taken place on the internet.

During the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, it was difficult for the outside world to get a clear view of political developments within the country. The existence of the Timorese Socialist Party, let alone its program and activities, was almost unknown. Here Max Lane provides a brief introduction and excerpts from PST documents.

Half way around the world, the national question and socialism is a topical issue in Scotland. Alan McCombes, of the Scottish Socialist Party, outlines the importance of the question in current politics and the struggle to win supporters of independence to a socialist perspective rather than a capitalist one.

One of the aims of Links since its foundation has been to promote discussion amongst revolutionaries where there are differences of analysis or program. In that spirit, Malik Miah, a member of the Links Editorial Board and the US socialist organisation Solidarity, outlines a criticism of the article on Marxism and the national question by Norm Dixon in our previous issue.

Pat Brewer’s "On the origins of women’s oppression" examines Engels’ views on this question in the light of later discoveries about the sequence of humankind’s development of productive activities in prehistory. While some of the specifics of Engels’ analysis have been contradicted by later anthropological evidence, Brewer finds that it confirms the importance of changes in labour, and specifically women’s labour, in the transition to class society.

Russian Marxist Boris Kagarlitsky examines "the historically unprecedented decline of the socialist movement" and the paradox "that capitalism has not grown appreciably stronger as a result of the decline of the socialist forces".

Latin America is a region where the ongoing crisis of capitalism is producing a considerable political ferment. Phil Hearse provides a guide to the proliferating organisations of the left in Mexico, and discusses some of the key issues with which they are trying to deal.

This issue concludes with a succinct look at the Hungarian "post-Marxist" philosophers. László Andor concludes: "The authors who thought their philosophy to be more authentically socialist than Marxism have become leading ideologues of a capitalist regime, including some authoritarian tendencies within that. Hegel was right: history is full of irony."