Links 20: Editor's introduction

Imperialism's unwinnable war

Imperialism has been quick to make use of the opportunity offered to it by the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Within weeks, the Bush administration had a "successful" war against Afghanistan under its belt and was raising the possibility of attacks on Iraq and other enemies.

But imperialism's gains so far are quite limited and very transient, because the aftermath of September 11 has not restored the system's political credibility, even in the imperialist centres. As Peter Boyle, of the Australian Democratic Socialist Party, points out in our opening article: "Some in the left worried that there might be a return to a situation in the imperialist countries like that in the 1950s, and that September 11 would provide public support for a 'new McCarthyism'. But the mass fear and hatred for the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks has yet to wipe out the widespread cynicism about imperialist governments and the dictatorships they have supported in the Third World."

Boyle writes that, because the "war on terrorism" is really a war against the oppressed masses of the Third World, imperialism cannot prosecute that war in the long run without the backing of the working class in the developed countries. And the growth of the movement against capitalist globalisation makes clear that politics internationally is moving in the opposite direction. James Vassilopoulos, who covered the July 2001 protests in Genoa for Green Left Weekly, analyses this high point in the movement for global justice. He notes that it already appears that this movement has not been seriously diverted by the post-September 11 ideological offensive of imperialism.

Two other articles in this issue come from the borders of Afghanistan and deal directly with questions related to the war and the politics of Islamic fundamentalism. Farooq Tariq, the general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, writes on the importance for the Pakistani left of not appearing to support the reactionary Taliban even while seeking to build a mass movement against imperialism's war. In "the rise and fall of political Islam", Mansoor Hekmat of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran explains why "political Islam" (a term he considers more accurate than "Islamic fundamentalism") in Iran "has become the prelude to an anti-Islamic and anti-religious cultural revolution in people's minds, particularly amongst the young generation, which will stun the world with an immense explosion and will proclaim the practical end of political Islam in the whole of the Middle East".

As Greg Harris notes in "Capitalism's internet dilemma", the internet's subversive potential was most recently displayed as it helped to undermine the propaganda with which imperialism prepared the war against Afghanistan. Harris explores the intriguing paradox of this capitalist technological innovation that persistently fails to produce capitalist profits.

In the first half of last year, the Philippines experienced two "Edsa" uprisings—one that culminated by replacing president "Erap" Estrada with his vice-president, Gloria Macapagal, and a second that attempted unsuccessfully to reinstate him. These events produced a wide range of responses from the Philippines left. Here, Sonny Melencio and Reihana Mohideen present the analysis of the Socialist Party of Labour. They conclude that the need today is to build a pole of attraction coutner to both pro-Estrada and pro-Macapagal forces.

The Nicaraguan presidential election in November resulted in the election of the Liberal Party candidate and the defeat of Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega. Alejandro Bendaña analyses the reasons for the setback. Writing that the September 11 events were "devastating" for Ortega's campaign because of the response they generated in Washington, Bendaña goes on to explain that Washington's stepped up hostility could crush the FSLN campaign primarily because the FSLN had already surrendered on the most important political questions.

Also in this issue we include two polemical reviews very relevant to the discussion of imperialist globalisation. James Petras debates the thesis of Empire, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, that imperialism has been superseded and power is now "everywhere and nowhere". David Bacon challenges New York Times correspondent Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which argues that there is no alternative to the globalised capitalist world order. "...his description of the world, on which he bases this conclusion", Bacon writes, "ignores the life experience of the great majority of the world's population". The alternative "will arise from that experience, and its voice will be theirs".

The issue concludes with our usual roundup of recent and coming events in the international workers movement. Because of a lack of space, we have not included a planned article from the International Socialist Movement of Scotland in our ongoing discussion on internationalism and internationals. We hope to include that article in the next Links.