Reformism

Revolution in the Revolution

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For the last four years Venezuela has been the political centre of the radicalisation of Latin America. Now those who started a revolutionary process are debating how to take the process further. Chris Harman reports from Caracas.

Venezuela is a country where people have suffered enormously at the hands of the world system over the last 30 years. But it is also a country where millions now have faith in their ability to change things for the better.

Not that long ago, Venezuela was a richer country than most others in Latin America. The mass of the population had better living standards, and its wealth made it a magnet for south European migrants in the 1950s.

Revolution in the Air

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Chris Harman analyses critical choices facing the Latin American left.

'The US has lost the plot in Latin America.' So said at least one commentator during last month's Summit of the Americas in the Argentinian city of Mar del Plata. Not only was Bush faced with a big and militant demonstration outside led by former football star Diego Maradona, but his plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas got the thumbs-down from the government leaders assembled inside.

It was symptomatic of a swing to the left throughout South America in the last five years. But how deep is this swing, and where is it going?

Chain Reaction

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Watching the televised congress of Italy's biggest far left party, Rifondazione Comunista, last month brought to mind a statement by its general secretary, Bertinotti, when he spoke at the SWP's Marxism two years ago.

The old debate between reform and revolution, he said, is no longer relevant at a time when reformists cannot deliver reforms and revolutionaries cannot bring about revolution.

It is an argument frequently heard in the global movement of the last five years. We can all see that neoliberalism and war are causing immense damage, it is argued, and we have to forget our differences in order to oppose them.

South America's New Revolt

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Che Guevara's vision of continental revolution is being revived, argues Chris Harman, but political leadership remains essential.

Nearly four decades after the murder of Che Guevara, a new ferment of revolt is beginning to spread across South America. Three governments have been driven out in three years - in Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia - by spontaneous uprisings. In Peru the Toledo government that took office after the fall of the Fujimori near-dictatorship is being shaken by recurrent rebellion against its economic policies. In Brazil discontent with the policies of the Workers Party government of Lula elected just 20 months ago is giving birth to new left currents.

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'.

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.

State of Discontent

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A mass movement's strategy towards the state is vital to its success.

The huge wave of anti-war protests on 15 February were an astonishing demonstration of just how formidable a movement of resistance to imperialism is now developing around the world. But we should have no illusions about the power of our enemies. Politically, Tony Blair has never been weaker. But he still presides over a state that has formidable coercive power.

The Fight for Revolution

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How do working people win improvements in their lives, and how do they hold on to them?

This is one of the biggest questions facing socialists today. Take the defence of the National Health Service, which concerns millions of people. The NHS is a very good example of a past reform. It did not exist until 1948. Its introduction was vigorously opposed by conservative forces. It was very much in the interests of the great mass of the people, and especially of working class people. It was also, from the beginning, something of a compromise, but a compromise more in our favour than otherwise. Of course, not everything described as a reform is anything of the kind.

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