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10 years after 1989

1st December 1999 Socialist Action 0

First published: December 1999

Ten years after 1989, the consequences of the re-introduction of capitalism into Eastern Europe are clear and acknowledged even by some of the international agencies which sponsored the process.

The World Bank reports in its 1999 World Development Indicators: ‘In 1989 about 14 million people in the transition economies were living under a poverty line of $4 a day. By the mid-1990s that number was about 147 million, one person in three. The distribution of income in the communist period was relatively egalitarian, primarily because of a relatively flat wage distribution, but also because of the virtual absence of income from property and the redistribution of income through social transfers… Today, some eight years later, income distribution has worsened sharply, particularly in the former Soviet Union… the stress is showing in the declining or stagnating life expectancy and sharply worsening adult mortality. Today, for example, the probability that a 15-year-old Ukrainian male will survive until his sixtieth birthday is a mere 65 per cent, down from 72 per cent in 1980. The Europe and Central Asia region is the only part of the developing world with rising adult mortality rates. Even Sub-Saharan Africa, with its AIDS epidemic, is seeing a reduction in adult mortality.’

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The impact of the Gulf war

1st April 1991 Socialist Action 0

First published: April 1991

The Gulf War was an overwhelming military victory for the United States. But what relation of international class forces did it create? And what conclusions flow for the coming class struggles?

On the military level the Gulf War was an overwhelming victory for the United States. In one sense this was inevitable. That the superior armed force of the imperialism, above all US imperialism, cannot be defeated by purely conventional military confrontation was a standard point made during the heyday of the colonial liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s – it was the backbone of the military ideas of Mao-Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, the African liberation movements against the Portuguese empire or in the struggle against Ian Smith’s ‘Rhodesia’. The original idea was that the imperialist enemy could not be defeated on the purely military level but had to be ground down by prolonged social mobilisation to which military action was subordinate – it was no accident that the NLF’s major military offensives during the Vietnam war coincided with US presidential election years. Only at the final stage, when the imperialist enemy had been ground down by political and social mobilisation, and localised armed action on that basis, could relatively conventional military struggle be engaged with a chance of success.

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1989 – A turning point in world history

1st May 1990 Socialist Action 0

First published: May 1990

The importance of the events in Eastern Europe in 1989 are equalled only by those of 1914, 1917, 1933, and 1943 – the key turning points in the history of the working class movement in the twentieth century. The events of 1989 will recompose the international working class movement from its top to its foundations. They place on the agenda the most fundamental question of socialism itself – that is the relation of the struggle of the working class against capitalism to the future of the whole of humanity.

The fundamental starting point of Marxism is that the future of humanity, and today probably the survival of its previous civilisation, rests on the advancement of the working class movement and its struggle for socialism. If capitalism continues its development this will not lead to a peaceful and liberal order, slowly progressing into a better world, but to rapacious violence and the destruction of the achievements of human civilisation.