LInks 15: Editor's introduction

Internationalism in the new century

This issue of Links features Marxism 2000, the second Asia Pacific Solidarity and Education Conference, organised by the Democratic Socialist Party and held in Sydney in January. A full description of this conference is presented beginning on page 29. A major theme of the conference, and of this issue, is internationalism - not in the abstract, but in terms of both the real content and real forms that should reflect and enhance that content.

One of the keynote speeches on this topic was a plenary presentation by John Percy, the national secretary of the DSP. "We have to counterpose international working-class unity to the "national unity" that the bourgeoisie uses to divide the working class and to build false consciousness", he pointed out. This can be done most effectively at present through concrete acts of solidarity with those in struggle around the world.

Reviewing the experience of the first three internationals, and of subsequent attempts to create a successor, Percy pointed out that there could be no organisational guarantees against either political mistakes or political degeneration. Even during Lenin's lifetime, there were dangers inherent in this organisational form. The "Leninist international" as it was in 1920 should be viewed, not as a universally valid form of revolutionary internationalism, but as a specific response to a particular political situation and expected developments.

Conference participants were particularly pleased to hear an opening address by Maria Luisa Fernandez, the Cuban consul-general in Australia.

Contrary to those demoralised by the collapse of the Soviet bloc regimes, Fernández said: "Marxist and communist ideas have today, perhaps more than ever, the possibility of demonstrating their viability. The collapse will accelerate the anti-capitalist movement on a world scale in the medium and long term." This revolutionary optimism was shared by B. Sivaraman from the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). We include in this issue three contributions which he made to the conference. One was a response to John Percy's talk, just described, another a response to summary remarks from Max Lane of the DSP at the final plenary session, and the third part of a panel presentation on the Communist International.

"All trends are undergoing metamorphosis" in the present period, Sivaraman said. "Fixation with building 'international currents' and 'international centres' as well as dependence on centres had sapped the energy of communist parties and groups in no small measure. The Soviet collapse and the changes in China have cleared the deck for independent and self-reliant growth and assertion of national parties. Why reverse this trend?"

One of the groupings that has sought to construct a new "democratic centralist" international is the Committee for a Workers International, whose most prominent member organisation is the Socialist Party in Britain, formerly Militant. In the recent past, the CWI and the Socialist Party have reversed an earlier course towards broadening collaboration with other tendencies and have suffered a number of splits both internationally and in Britain. Phil Hearse, formerly a member of the Socialist Party/Militant, analyses the causes behind this reversal.

Unquestionably an international issue is the struggle for women's liberation. In a talk presented to Marxism 2000, Lisa Macdonald argues that the Marxist analysis of the oppression of women "was borne out throughout the 20th century, not only in the failure of the most economically advanced capitalist societies with the most complete bourgeois democracy to eradicate gender inequality, but also in the successes, and the failures, of building socialism "

"The idea that women can be liberated within the framework of capitalism and the idea that the socialist revolution will in itself liberate women have both been proven false."

The conference was also concerned with a range of struggles in particular social layers and in different countries around the region. One of several talks concerned with social and political developments in the Philippines is presented here. In it, Sonny Melencio analyses the waning popularity of President Joseph "Erap" Estrada and discusses the need for,and prospects of, left unity.
In issue #14 of Links, editorial board member Malik Miah took issue with an article by Norm Dixon in issue #13. The differences concerned Lenin's understanding of what constitutes a nation and Dixon's argument that groups such as black people in the United States and Aboriginal people in Australia are oppressed racial minorities, not oppressed nations. In this issue, Dixon replies to Miah's article.

Last but not least, with this issue our regular feature of international workers' movement news returns.