Theory & History

What is democracy?

By Allen Myers

If you conducted a random survey asking people what “democracy” means, probably the most frequent answer you would receive would be “government by the people” or “the people rule”. That’s not a bad answer; it’s the meaning of the Greek words from which “democracy” comes. Ancient Greece, particularly Athens, offers the best-known examples of early democracy. But in ancient Greek democracies, the people who ruled were certainly not all the people. Women were not allowed to vote, and neither were the large number of slaves. So ancient Greek democracy applied only to a rather small part of the people. It was decisively shaped by two social distinctions, gender and class.

What is the state?

By Allen Myers

Today the state is so all-pervasive in nearly everyone’s life that it can be difficult to imagine a society in which it didn’t exist. But there have been societies without a state, and Marxists expect that there will be another in the future. The state is an organisation that seems to stand above society and regulate its operations and mutual relations. But tribal societies regulated themselves by custom and group decision, without any need for a special organisation to force individuals within the society to obey its rules. Such societies might have had temporary or traditional leaders, but their authority rested on general acceptance by the society, not on compulsion from an organised body of enforcers. Even when such societies fought with each other, the fighting was done by the whole group, or all the male members of it, not by a specialised army.

What is nationalism?

By Allen Myers

Nationalism is the belief that the members of a nation share common interests that are different from the interests of other nations and different from the interests of the human race as a whole. Furthermore, it is usually thought by nationalists that these national interests are more significant than the competing interests that may exist between different members or groups who belong to the nation.

Thirty years on, Milk's life still as relevant today

Reviewed by Dani Barley
Milk
Runtime: 128 minutes
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Starring Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin

Jim Percy's selected talks

Reviewed by John Percy
Building the Revolutionary Party. Jim Percy Selected Writings 1980-87. Resistance Books, 2008
Traditions, Lessons and Socialist Perspectives. By Jim Percy. New Course Publications, 1994

Global economic slump pushes Australia toward recession

By Doug Lorimer

“Batten the hatches. This is not just a recession. This is the sharpest deceleration Australia’s economy has ever seen”, Australian economic forecaster Access Economics warned in its latest quarterly Business Outlook report, released on January 18. The Access report said that Australia’s economy shrank in the December quarter despite the Rudd Labor government’s $10.4 economic stimulus package and will shrink again in the current quarter. It predicted that the official number of unemployed workers would swell to 850,000 (7.5% of the workforce) by early 2010.

What is imperialism?

By Allen Myers

The winners of capitalist competition tend to become monopolies. Monopolies, in turn, reverse the character of capitalist investment. When there was widespread competition in an industry, there was great pressure on each company to reinvest its profits in order not to be left behind technologically and thus to lose out. But once an industry is a monopoly, or divided by agreement between a few large companies, there is a motive not to reinvest the resulting super-profits. A more efficient monopoly would tend to produce more goods, which reduces their relative scarcity and thus undermines monopoly super-profits.

Iran's February 1979 revolution

[The following are excerpts from a chapter of US socialist Barry Sheppard’s forthcoming second volume of a political memoir of his time as a central leader of the US Socialist Workers Party and earlier of its youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance. The full chapter can be read (in PDF format) at www.socialistvoice.ca. Sheppard was in Iran during the mass insurrection in February 1979 that overthrew the US-backed autocratic regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.]

Revolutionary Socialist Party: What we stand for

We stand for the transformation of human society, from its current basis of greed, exploitation, war, oppression and environmental destruction, to a commonwealth of social ownership, solidarity and human freedom, living in harmony with our planet’s ecosystems.

Soderbergh's Che biopic falls short of its subject

Reviewed by Dani Barley

Che: Part One (The Argentine)
Runtime: 126 minutes
Che: Part Two (Guerrilla)
Runtime: 131 minutes
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Peter Buchman, based on the writings of Che Guevara
Starring Benicio del Toro, Demian Bichir and Catalina Sandino Moreno
Australian release date unknown