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Remaking British politics

1st October 1991 Socialist Action 0

First published: Summer 1991

A potential change of government from one party to another is a fairly routine matter in British politics. But what underlies the decline of the present Tory government, and the evident inability of the Labour Party to present any convincing alternative, is something more fundamental. Britain is approaching one of those great turning points in political history which have so far occurred roughly only once a century, which imply a shift in the entire party political system, that is in the form of bourgeois political hegemony.

Since the English bourgeois revolution of 1642–49 there have been only four crises of equivalent scale – 1688 with the ‘Glorious Revolution’, 1783 with the turning point after the American War of Independence, 1832 and the passing of the first Reform Act, and 1886 with the fatal split in the Liberal Party over Irish Home rule. In order to grasp the scale and nature of what is unfolding in British politics today it is therefore valuable to step back from immediate issues and consider the general course of British political history.

No Picture

The new age of imperialism

1st April 1991 Socialist Action 0

First published: April 1991

The Gulf War, the largest military offensive waged by imperialism since Vietnam, is one of those events which is so great in its impact that it clarifies not only immediate events but the entire historical course of which it is a part. The Gulf War both confirmed the analysis of world politics presented by Socialist Action in the last years – the new phase of imperialism, the new era of North-South wars, and the emboldening of imperialism due to the events in Eastern Europe – and at the same time, as with every major event, has deepened and extended that analysis. Socialist Action was able to play a role in the fight against the war out of all proportion to its circulation because it was prepared for it, and the course of world politics of which it is a part.

No Picture

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.

No Picture

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.

No Picture

The US assault on Latin America

1st May 1990 Socialist Action 0

First published: May 1990

The return of the ballot box in several key Latin American countries (a rarity in the last ten years) has been hailed as the return of democracy in the continent.

This is less than half the truth. While some of the most vicious dictatorships have gone, in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and others have either been severely weakened or thrown into total disarray as in Paraguay and Haiti, this ‘democratic’ wave has not touched the decisive countries in Central America such as Guatemala and El Salvador, and the policies of the new civilian governments are determined by strict limitations imposed by the outgoing military and the utterly capitulating character of the parties coming to office. Besides, the ‘democracy’ that has been introduced is severely faulty, to put it mildly.

No Picture

Sexual abuse and the family

1st May 1989 Socialist Action 0

First published: May 1989

‘Despite the revulsion incest has provoked, it opens a frightening but vital line of questioning about ordinary family relations. It identifies tensions between family solidarity and individual autonomy and children’s’rights, between women’s status as victims and their responsibility as parents, tensions that one should not expect to resolve easily. It shows that many feminine virtues, not only those one might want to reject – obedience, quietness, obligingness – but also those one might want to preserve – discipline, responsibility, loyalty – can support victimisation’.

Linda Gordon, Heroes of Their Own Lives, Virago 1989