Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/373/6111
Committee for a Workers' International
Building the forces of socialism worldwide
THE INTERNATIONAL Executive Committee (IEC, the elected leadership of the Committee for a Workers' International - CWI) recently met to discuss the impending crisis in the world economy, the effect of Bush's re-election and the continuing bloody occupation of Iraq and Europe. (See note)
IEC member Hannah Sell, in this short report, touches on some of the highlights of the final session on building the CWI.
THE SOCIALIST Party is affiliated to the CWI which organises in 36 countries across the globe. Today, when just 500 giant multinationals dominate the globe - employing 46 million people and controlling 45% of world production - the need for a global struggle against capitalism is more pressing than ever.
Capitalism in the 21st century is a system of inequality, instability and turmoil. It is this which is leading a new generation to challenge the existing order and to begin to search for an alternative.
After a decade or more when the ideas of Marxism stood isolated, buffeted by a tidal wave of pro-capitalist propaganda, the tide of history has turned.
More than at any time in the last 15 years, the opportunity exists to build the forces of the CWI. Since our previous IEC, a year ago, our membership has increased by 10%. But in the coming year we need to grow far more significantly if we are to try and meet the tasks that are facing us.
Perhaps the most inspiring reports at the IEC were those from CWI sections in the neo-colonial world. For example, our section in Sri Lanka, that has recently contested elections in very dangerous conditions, caused by a dramatic rise in communal tensions. Our party received the highest vote of any on the left with 14,660 votes and was one of the only parties to stand in both the Tamil North and the Sinhalese areas. In the face of death threats, our section ran a very successful election campaign and has five new branches as a result.
Our section in Pakistan has also made important steps forward. It now exists in all four provinces and has produced the first four issues of our sister paper (also called the socialist) since May this year - which has been used to intervene in a number of campaigns and struggles - including a steel mill strike and a campaign against domestic violence.
In the last year, the South African ruling class have felt the fury of the working class, in the shape of the biggest public sector strike in the country's history. Our small section intervened energetically in the strike movement and, as a result, has two new branches.
BUT IT is perhaps in Nigeria - the second largest section of the CWI - that our members have been faced with the greatest challenges and possibilities. Over the last two years the country has been rocked by four general strikes over increases in fuel prices. The high international oil price means that the government has $4.7 billion more in oil revenue than was budgeted for.
Yet, in a country where petrol is essential for everything from electricity to cooking, the government has relentlessly attempted to drive the fuel prices up. They have been met with absolutely determined opposition from the working class and the poor masses. In response, the government has brought in new anti-labour laws.
Our party has played a leading role in the movement, particularly in Lagos where the general secretary - Segun Sango - was on an eight-person committee co-ordinating the strike.
Unfortunately, as well as opposing the government, they are also having to oppose the hesitancy of the majority of trade union leaders - who called off the most recent general strike without a significant victory being won.
It is not only in the neo-colonial world where we have taken steps forward, but also in the most powerful imperialist country on the planet - the USA. The gap between the rich and poor in the USA is the widest it has been for 75 years. A majority think the war on Iraq was wrong - and 40% support immediate withdrawal of the troops.
As Socialist Alternative, our section in the USA explained - Bush could not win the presidential election, but Kerry could lose it. A pro-war, big business politician, he was incapable of offering a real alternative for working class people. That's why, while they understood the 'anyone but Bush' feeling of many ordinary Americans, Socialist Alternative were the first on the left to support the candidacy of Ralph Nader, the anti-corporate candidate.
In Seattle, Minneapolis and Boston, Socialist Alternative speakers were on the platform of Nader's rallies of between 500 and 1,000 people.
THE SOCIALIST Party in England and Wales can learn a lot about party building from our sister sections in Europe. Two of them, Belgium and Greece, are currently the fastest-growing sections of the CWI.
In every country of Europe, the big business neo-liberal offensive is being stepped up. Countries that were previously held up to British workers as models of 'social partnership' and 'caring capitalism' are now, as a result of capitalism's crisis, facing an even more brutal version of Thatcherism.
In Germany, the supposedly social-democratic government are presiding over a savage assault on every aspect of workers' living standards. Eight million German workers are now employed in e1 an hour jobs. Millions are facing an overnight increase in the working week from 35 hours a week to 40, 45 or even 50.
Despite their baleful national trade union leadership, sections of the German working class have started to fight back. Our small section has played an important role. We helped to initiate the first national demonstration against the cuts, which was 100,000 strong, and showed the possibility for generalised strike action by leading a strike of young workers and students in Kassell.
Similarly, in Belgium, we proposed a 'national youth march for jobs' that has now been taken up by the youth sections of the two largest trade union federations.
The economic and social crisis in Europe is also leading to political radicalisation. In Germany, for example, ten years after the wall came down a government survey found that 51% of West Germans and 79% of East Germans believe that 'socialism was a good idea only badly implemented.'
This is not a result of new illusions in the old East Germany, which bore no resemblance to genuine socialism, but flows from German workers' experience of 21st century capitalism. As a result, our section has its first three councillors elected in Aachen, Cologne and Rostock.
Of course, the economic crisis also creates conditions where racist and reactionary ideas can grow, which, as recent events in the Netherlands demonstrate, can temporarily cut across class struggle. The need for a renewed campaign against racism was agreed at the IEC.
However, the main trend is for an increased combativity and anger amongst the working class, and, amongst a significant minority, a searching for a means to transform the planet. The IEC gave us all renewed confidence that the CWI is capable of building a force which will play a critical role in the socialist transformation of society.
Background documents outlining the main themes of those discussions can be found on the CWI's website - www.socialistworld.net. Shorter discussions were held on Venezuela, Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Germany. (back)
In The Socialist 4 December 2004:
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news