Events since the last issue of Fifth International appeared in May have more than confirmed our perspective of a world in deepening social crisis. As we go to press, huge demonstrations led by Buddhist monks are taking place in Myanmar (Burma). Simon Hardy reports on how Bangladesh has joined Pakistan in the growing list of countries convulsed by mass demonstrations with great revolutionary potentialities. South Asia is rapidly catching up with Latin America, which has, since the prolonged revolutionary situation in Argentina at the beginning of the decade, been the continent with the highest levels of class struggle.
In the last months we have seen intensified confrontations between left and right in Bolivia, whilst in Venezuela Hugo Chavez is not only founding a new party, several millions strong, to promote the “transition to socialism” but is calling for a new International to be founded in 2008. One does not have to take any of these claims at face value to realise that putting questions, such as socialist revolution, the party and the International, on the agenda of millions is a radical change compared with the decade that followed the downfall of “communism” in 1989-91.
In Europe too, there have been important developments. The League for the Fifth International intervened into the successful anti-G8 mobilisations in Rostock in June, where the militant forces of the youth, the racially oppressed and the trade union rank and file took on the forces of the German state, and significantly outnumbered those attracted to the reformist counter-conference convened by Attac and Die Linke.
Now the election of Nicolas Sarkozy signals a concerted attempt by the French bourgeoisie to break the resistance of the most militant working class in Europe. In this issue, Marc Lasalle looks at the struggles ahead and asks whether the French working class can form a new party capable of defeating the “French Thatcher”.
In Britain meanwhile, against the background of a surge of popularity for the new Labour leader Gordon Brown, Respect the populist coalition set up by George Galloway MP and the Socialist Workers Party is in deep trouble, with the latter accusing Galloway of muslim communalism. Luke Cooper and Dave Stockton show that these contradictions were built into the project from the outset and that the British section of the League for the Fifth International warned repeatedly of this.
We have several times observed that the upheavals of the last few years have been taking place despite the background being that of mid-decade cyclical boom. In this issue Richard Brenner looks at the mid-summer credit crunch, which put British and French banks into trouble, and forced the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England to precipitately abandon their counter-inflationary policy, cut interest rates and pour money into the banking system. The Pollyanna optimism of the financial journalists has given way to dark speculations as to whether the subprime mortgage crisis will trigger a recession in the USA, and what effects this will have in Europe and the east Asia.
Indeed, for the last seventeen years or so, two cycles of recession and recovery, the USA and Britain in particular have been cushioned by massive deficit spending underpinned by the effects of the restoration of capitalism in China. In this issue Peter Main looks at how the Chinese Communist Party – whilst maintaining its iron dictatorship – brought back the bourgeoisie. He shows too that as ever capitalism is assembling its gravedigger, a new millions-strong working class, alongside an angry expropriated peasantry. Sooner rather than later this will lead to an explosive political and economic crisis. The question is whether and to what degree a recession, whether starting in America or China, sharply reverses the “virtuous circle”, which has hitherto fuelled the soar away boom in China, and ensured a “soft landing” for the last US recession. If “vicious” replaces “virtuous”, then we could be facing a general crisis of globalisation, with all its attendant revolutionary possibilities.
This issue also contains a major analysis by Jeremy Dewar of the period when Marxism and Anarchism became competing influences in the international movement of the working class. He shows that the debates between Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin still have enormous relevance for today, where questions, such as whether to take power, whether political parties are necessary, whether democratically centralised planning or small scale cooperatives and communes are the answer to market madness, are still being discussed in the anticapitalist movement and the popular uprisings in Latin America and beyond.
This issue also takes up various aspects of the struggle for women’s liberation. In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Natalie Sedley recounts the inspiring history and achievements of women before, during and after October 1917, and draws lessons for today. Also Joy Macready reviews Material Girls by SWP leader Lindsey German, showing how her party’s economism leads to an inadequate programme for women’s’ liberation. She point to a serious flaw in German’s attitude to black, Asian and immigrant women, due to her near exclusive focus on, and indeed adaptation to, “the muslim community” leaders, rather than to muslim women fighting back against their oppression as well as racism. She shows too that the SWP fails to build the types of organisation, particularly a working class women’s movement, needed to fight, alongside a revolutionary party, for women’s liberation.