Links 21: Editor's introduction

Much has changed in international politics since September 11 and the United States invasion of Afghanistan. But these changes need to be understood in context, to be situated within what has not changed. Several articles in this issue analyse aspects of US imperialism's drive for a new version of the post-World War II "American century".

The first "American century", as Doug Lorimer points out in the opening article, "ran into a major obstacle the US rulers did not count on—an enormous wave of political rebellion and social insurgency" that was concentrated primarily in the colonies and semicolonies of imperialism. In the US itself, social "peace" was maintained for nearly a quarter-century by a combination of political repression of the left and gradually rising living standards for working people. Lorimer points out that a "central dilemma facing the us rulers as they again launch a bid to create an 'American century' is that they and their allies must wage war not only on recalcitrant forces in the Third World, but also against the living standards of their own working people".

Francisco Pascual, the executive director of the Resource Center for People's Development in Manila, debunks the view of globalisation as an inevitable economic/technological process by pointing out its dependence on military force. "The military might of the us and its allies is the most important factor that underpins globalisation" he writes, noting that, despite the end of the Cold War, the US is projecting more military force around the world than ever before.

"The world after September 11" is the text of a resolution adopted in January by the International Socialist Organization in the United States. It looks at the interaction between the government's war drive and the developing recession, and their likely effect on politics in general and socialist politics in particular.

Boris Kagarlitsky, who needs no introduction to Links readers, explains one of the more unsavoury features of current Russian society—corruption—by tracing its relationship with the process of capitalist restoration, or "political capitalism". Since corruption "has a systemic character", he writes, "the only reforms that can solve it are those which change the nature of the system, including above all the return to the state of at least part of the privatised property".

The other major project of capitalist restoration, in China, is analysed by Liu Yufan of Pioneer, a Hong Kong socialist organisation. He follows the economic and political changes that have marked the stages of the Chinese Communist Party's course toward the re-creation of a completely capitalist economy, and provides some indications of what this has already meant for China's workers and peasants.

"Islamic fundamentalism", along with "terrorism", has replaced "communism" as US imperialism's justification for its militarism. Lisa Macdonald looks at the history of what is perhaps more properly called "political Islam", outlining in particular its often changing relations with imperialism. "The current enmity between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism", she concludes, "will not necessarily be long lasting. As soon as a working-class movement begins to seriously threaten imperialism's interests, the old hypocritical anti-left alliance is likely to be re-established."

Murray Smith, of the Scottish Socialist Party and the International Socialist Movement, continues our ongoing discussion of internationalism and international relations in the socialist movement. He puts the question squarely in the context of the changes occurring in the international class struggle and the development of the international movement against capitalist globalisation: "Those forces which are fighting really existing capitalism are quite heterogeneous: they include old unions, new unions, single issue campaigns, movements and associations. Within that broad framework there is a need to build parties posing a clear socialist alternative, and for those parties to link up internationally."

As well, this issue includes documents from three different international left gatherings: the declaration of the tenth meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum, which was held in Havana in December; the call for "resistance to neo-liberalism, war and militarism" issued from the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January-February; and a statement issued by the third conference of the European Anti-Capitalist Left, which took place in Brussels in December.

"New Labour's cloak for neo-liberalism" is a review of Alex Callinicos' new book, Against the Third Way: an anti-capitalist critique. Reviewer Shane Hopkinson finds it a useful handbook for activists who want "something more than anti-corporate moralism", and particularly appreciates its "solid critique of New Labour as a neo-liberal shell".

Finally, readers should be careful not to flip past the list of upcoming conferences and activities that concludes this issue.