Links 17: Editor's introduction

The global campaign against corporate tyranny

The previous issue of Links noted the spread of opposition to capitalist globalisation and focused on alternatives to neo-liberalism. In this issue, we examine the new international movement that has been developing since the protests in Seattle in late 1999.

In "The politics of the new movement for global solidarity", Peter Boyle notes "a smell of panic in the ruling class" in the wake of the major demonstrations that have dogged the international neo-liberal institutions. Capital is alarmed by the new movement because "mighty class forces-the working class in the imperialist countries and the oppressed classes in the semi-colonial countries-are increasingly moving into dissent against actually existing capitalism".

However, Boyle continues, the struggle is at different stages in the developed and underdeveloped countries, and this difference is reflected in competing political programs: either global solidarity or protectionism, the attempt to preserve the relative privileges of the working classes in the First World.

Barry Sheppard, a member of the US socialist organisation Solidarity, examines the struggle between these two alternatives within the labour movement in the United States. There, the conservative leaders of the AFL-CIO union federation attempted to direct their members' anger at declining living standards into a campaign to prevent China's entry into the World Trade Organisation.

The protectionist campaign misrepresents the character of relationships between imperialism and the Third World, Sheppard points out. It attempts to convince us workers, for example, that they are the victims of "unfair" competition from China. But the reality is that world trade is structured to the permanent disadvantage of the underdeveloped countries, and it is crucial for the labour movement in imperialist countries to support Third World countries in their efforts to counter their imposed disadvantages.

From South Korea, Iggy Kim clarifies the sometimes murky politics that surrounded the October 20 protests against the third Asia-Europe Parliamentary Meeting (ASEM). There, an alliance developed between reformist union leaderships and liberal NGOs that had been coopted into "critical engagement" with ASEM. This alliance was able to divide the struggle against ASEM and deflect some of the traditional militancy of the South Korean working class. Kim points out that in a context of "unequivocal opposition to the globalisation of neo-liberalism, gaining strength with each confrontation against meetings of the international neo-liberal institutions", the "engagement" approach "amounts to nothing less than a de facto partnership with neo-liberal governments".

In "The lessons of Prague", Boris Kagarlitsky analyses issues that arose during and following the September protests against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, stressing the significance of the movement's taking root in Europe. "For the first time since the international brigades in Spain in the 1930s, people from different countries joined in resisting a common enemy, resisting it physically. Solidarity, from being a slogan and a symbol, was transformed into practical action." Pointing out that the agents of capitalist globalisation are seeking to divide the new movement, Kagarlitsky calls for the development of the elements of a socialist program that can both unite the existing movement and appeal to broader social forces. This should include greater clarity on the question of "violence", which the capitalist media attempted to make the exclusive focus of the Prague demonstrations.

One of the less publicised achievements of the movement against capitalist globalisation was its contribution to the failure of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Brunei in mid-November. Eva Cheng writes that the imperialist participants, especially the United States, were eager for the summit to initiate the new round of "free trade" negotiations that they had been unable to launch a year earlier in Seattle. Cheng outlines the reasons for the Brunei failure and the resulting shifts in trade strategy of countries in the region.

From the Philippines, Sonny Melencio and Reihana Mohideen provide a critique of the "politico-military strategy", which sections of the left have adopted as an alternative to the "protracted people's war strategy" of the Communist Party of the Philippines. They counterpose to it a strategy of mass struggle which clearly recognises that "the main form of struggle differs at each juncture and cannot be 'universalised' to fit all situations".

Both issues 15 and 16 of Links dealt with the question of international relations and forms of organisation of the revolutionary left. Continuing the discussion in this issue is the position adopted by the Scottish Socialist Party at its conference in February 2000.

Another continuation is a renewal of the debate on Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, which Phil Hearse and Doug Lorimer began in issue 16.

Finally, the section of international workers movement news focuses on important recent and upcoming conferences of the international left.