Chris Harman

How to Fight the System

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Coalitions can't substitute for revolutionary organisation but are a vital prerequisite.

A couple of years ago Paul Foot wrote an article in Socialist Worker arguing that people who were involved in the anti-war movement needed to belong to something more, a political organisation that took up other issues as well. We received two letters criticising his argument. They were from people who argued that they already had a wider organisation, the electoral united front the Socialist Alliance, and saw no reason to be in the Socialist Workers Party.

Will China Beat the US?

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China's embrace of the market is cited as evidence that this is the model for Third World countries. Chris Harman looks at the reality behind the hype.

China is suddenly at the centre of discussions over the development of the world economy. This is not surprising. It has been undergoing sustained economic growth for more than two decades, escaping the slump which hit the other 'newly industrialising' economies of East Asia in the late 1990s, and is now the world's biggest steel producer. Its exports have grown from about 1.2 percent of the world total in 1980 to about 5 percent today (about the same as Britain's).

Autonomism for the People?

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The demands of the movement require organisation.

'We need new ways of thinking and new ways of organising. We have to break with old ideological formulae of the old left.' You hear such talk repeatedly in the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements today. And for many people it represents a welcome attempt to break from the jaded parliamentarianism of New Labour and the manipulative methods of the Stalinism that collapsed in 1989.

Weak Foundation

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Review of 'The Myth of 1648' by Benno Teschke, Verso £25

This book sets out to attack the conventional view in the academic discipline of International Relations which sees there being an unchanging form of interaction between states from 1648 to the present day. Teschke quite rightly insists the whole approach is untenable, since the relations between states change with changes in the social relations of production within each, and he provides useful accounts of the relations during the medieval period, the period of absolutism and that of modern capitalism.

However, two things stymie his argument.

Faith of their Fathers

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Attempts to 'reclaim' Labour have always disappointed.

I wrote an article for Socialist Review shortly after the Labour election victory six years ago warning people how bad a Labour government could be. I did so because there were very large numbers of people on the left 'whose only experience has been of the 18 years of Tory government' and who felt that 'this is fantastic, things must get better, things must improve'.

Latin America: Continent of Discontent

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For the third time in three years a spontaneous uprising has forced a neoliberal president to flee from a presidential palace in South America.

First Jamil Mahuad in Ecuador in January 2000, then De La Rua in Argentina in December 2001, and now Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozado in Bolivia.

When miners armed with sticks of dynamite, clubs and rocks joined the crowds thronging the centre of the capital, La Paz, on 17 October they showed the extent to which the movement against corporate globalisation finds its sharpest practical expression on the streets of Latin America.

What's in a Word?

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Our definition of neoliberalism has profound effects on our solutions.

One concept will be much used at the European Social Forum in Paris next month - ‘neoliberalism‘. Some will use it as a synonym for the system of international capitalism, some for the present phase of that system (often also referred to as ’globalisation‘), and some for a particular economic arrangement chosen by governments.

Reformism without Reforms

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What happens when social democracy fails to deliver concessions?

There is strange idea going round much of the far left internationally. It is that because capitalism can no longer afford reforms that improve the life of the mass of people, reformism as a powerful ideology within the workers' movement is dead. From this it is said to follow that the old argument over reform or revolution is no longer relevant.

A Blast from the Past

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Correct revolutionary theory requires correct revolutionary practice.

One of the great things about the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements has been the refusal of people to take old certainties for granted. You cannot seriously contemplate changing the world unless you are prepared to critically examine every accepted dogma. If you try, you end up rather like those 17th century clerics who tried to cling onto the 2,000 year old Aristotelian notion that the earth was the centre of the solar system.

Crying Out for Leadership

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The recent election in Argentina teaches us lessons on how to organise.

No one likes to be proved wrong. But sometimes it is more painful to be proved right. At the end of January I took part in a debate with Michael Hardt, the co-author of Empire, over 'The working class or the multitude' at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Only a minority of those in the room agreed with what I had to say. Most agreed with contributors from the floor who came in again and again with the same refrain. Argentina, they said, showed how wrong 'Leninists' were to go on about 'vanguard parties' and 'industrial workers'.

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