DEBATE CULTURE POLITICS IDEAS
As we enter the 21st century big challenges face the international working-class movement. Since the end of the post-war boom in the mid-1970s capitalism has been unable to find a way out of its contradictions. The capitalist response to this has been the process known as globalisation. This is fundamentally a vast, world-wide offensive aiming to lower the cost of labour and increase profits. It seeks to free capital from all the constraints imposed upon it in the post-war period and to attack the hard-fought gains of the working class and the peoples of the world. Its watchwords are free markets, privatisation, deregulation, flexibility, downsizing.
The profits that flow from intensified exploitation of fewer workers are less and less ploughed back into productive investment. Capitalism in its old age is dominated by finance and speculation. Financial markets are increasingly volatile, as vast sums of money move round the globe seeking the maximum return on investment. Through bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank, multinational capital is plundering the countries of the Third World, ruining their agriculture, destroying their environment and bleeding them dry through debt. The restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has brought economic and social regression on a scale which has few parallels in human history.
These are the fundamental tendencies of the present phase of capitalism. They can be alleviated by conjunctural upswings such as we have seen in the 1990s and exacerbated by recession and slump. But even in its periods of relative prosperity capitalism is marked by a growing gap between rich and poor, within countries and between countries. Even in the rich countries, there is poverty, unemployment and homelessness on a scale not seen for over fifty years.
The mass parties which claimed to represent the working class have run up the white flag. The international communist movement has been plunged into terminal crisis by the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Europe the social democratic and communist parties whose role was to negotiate concessions from the capitalists not only no longer offer reforms but vie with the parties of the Right to take back what the working class had won in the preceding period. Social democracy has become historically obsolete.
But socialism has not. It is the only alternative to the obscenity of capitalism. That is why we have to resist the bourgeois ideological offensive which claims that socialism has failed, that there is no alternative, that the working class no longer exists. The changes in capitalism over the last thirty years have made the working class more heterogeneous than ever before. The old bastions of heavy industry have largely disappeared. But the working class still exists and it will be the motor force of the transformation of society.
Over the last several years, spectacularly at Seattle in 1999, we have seen the emergence of a movement which challenges the ravages of globalisation - Third World debt, environmental destruction, superexploitation of men, women and even children. The first world-wide meeting to bring together all these forces has just been held at Porto Alegre in Brazil. The organisers expected 3,000 participants and 15,000 came. This growing movement, involving unions, associations and campaigns, is heterogeneous. It includes socialists who see the need to replace capitalism and people who think the system can be cleansed of its worst excesses. But it is a vehicle for action and debate, and it is immensely positive.
But it is not enough. We do not only need mass movements and campaigns on specific issues. We need political parties which can offer a global alternative to this rotting society. The Scottish Socialist Party is one such party and it is part of an international process of the emergence of new parties who are prepared to fight for socialism while defending the working class in its day to day struggles. The SSP is already playing a role in the regroupment of socialist forces in Europe and similar processes are taking place on other continents. We will cover these developments in future issues of Frontline.
Members of the International Socialist Movement, along with other members of the SSP, are in the front line in every battle against poverty, exploitation, oppression and war. But we also have to be in the front line of what the great Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci called the battle of ideas. We have to fight the dominant ideas in society which are those of the ruling class and which are constantly relayed by the media and the education system. But there is also the battle to clarify our own ideas, to better understand the world we live in order to change it. In the aftermath of the bankruptcy of Soviet-style communism and social democracy we have to redefine what we mean by socialism, analyse new developments in the economy, in politics and in all fields of social life and adapt our tactics to new realities. We do not seek to preserve the Marxist programme. A really revolutionary programme cant just be preserved, it must develop through tackling new realities, otherwise it becomes ossified and sterile.
The ISM is proud of the role its members have played in building the SSP and we will continue to do so. We do not set ourselves up as the revolutionary party. To paraphrase the Communist Manifesto, we have no interests other than those of the movement as a whole. We seek to develop the influence of Marxism in the SSP in order to make the party into a more effective instrument in the fight for an independent socialist Scotland, and we hope that Frontline will contribute to that. And because we are profoundly convinced that socialism can only be definitively won on a world scale we will always seek to situate our struggle here in an international context. editorial New century, new challenges We do not set ourselves up as the revolutionary party. To paraphrase the Communist Manifesto, we have no interests other than those of the movement as a whole. We seek to develop the influence of Marxism in the SSP in order to make the party into a more effective instrument in the fight for an independent, socialist Scotland.