Representatives of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI – the Socialist International organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) recently met to discuss developments in the capitalist world economy, the political struggles of the working class, and the prospects for socialism. Per Ollson, of the CWI’s international secretariat, summarises the main issues and conclusions.
Fight Global Capitalism: For workers unity and world Socialism
A NEW pattern has been established over the last 15 years. An upturn, or recovery in the economy, no longer generates a general improvement in the living conditions of working people. Little of the new wealth enjoyed by the rich ‘trickles down’ to the poorest sections of the population.
In countries like Britain and the US people are working longer hours with increased stress. Low pay with minimal job security and workplace rights is increasingly the norm.
In addition, severe cuts in public spending on health, welfare services and pensions have generated widespread feelings of alienation, anxiety and uncertainty.
The established parties are becoming mere “election machines”, run by rich cliques and PR firms and slavishly pursuing a big business agenda. This has undermined the ‘democratic legitimacy’ of capitalist and governments and deepened the crisis in the political system.
With the economic boom bypassing a majority of workers and an unprecedented widening in the wealth gap, a new anti-corporate mood has developed.
In the US, a new generation of radical youth has started to become active in a struggle against ‘corporate America” and the effects of global capitalism, the multinational companies’ use of sweatshops and a rotten political system. The ‘Battle of Seattle’ in November 1999, involving organised labour and youth, was a turning point in that respect. And it was this anti-capitalist constituency that overwhelmingly supported the radical candidate Ralph Nader, who received 2.7 millions votes (3%) in the recent presidential election.
Towards a ‘hard landing’?
THE PRESENT level of industrial overcapacity, the speculative bubble in the US financial markets, combined with huge corporate and personal debts, all point towards a new and severe crisis of global capitalism.
US capitalism has acted as ‘a buyer of last resort’ and a safe haven for foreign capital but is now paying the ultimate price: a stock market that is heavily over-valued and an unsustainable consumer boom causing massive indebtedness.
The new hi-tech economy is going from dot.com to dot.bomb. In this meltdown, the Nasdaq (index of hi-tech shares) has lost 50% of its value since March.
The slowing of job growth, profit warnings, rising oil prices, stagnant factory output, and the beginning of a credit crunch (lending drying up) compelled the chief economist of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to issue the following warning: “Remain on maximum alert for a global hard landing in the first half of 2001”.
In November, Argentina came close to an economic collapse that could have caused a global financial meltdown. If the government goes ahead and implements the draconian spending cuts proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the country could be plunged into turmoil and mass upheavals, similar to what occurred in Ecuador and Bolivia earlier this year.
A race against time
THE STRUGGLE to defend the world’s ecosystems and stop environmental destruction is an essential part of our fight against the capitalist market.
Despite many conferences and warnings about global warming issued by scientists, little has been done to reduce the release of greenhouse gases causing global warming.
The recent fiasco in the Hague shows that the fate of the planet’s future can neither be left in the hands of the capitalist politicians and bureaucrats nor in the hands of international institutions controlled by the major imperialist powers.
No global task could be more pressing than to turn the current wasteful and polluting way of production into ecologically responsible, sustainable production. This task cannot be accomplished without the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a democratic socialist plan for the global economy.
CAPITALISM IS a global, class-based system of exploitation. International solidarity, joint actions and campaigns and, above all, building an international socialist organisation that can unite the working class and the oppressed people across the globe, are prerequisites for a successful struggle against the bosses and capitalist politicians.
Only the working class, united as a collective force and in alliance with other oppressed sections, can take society forward.
The establishment of a democratic socialist society is the first step towards a classless society that will lift humankind out of the realm of necessity and into the realm of freedom.
There is no lack of resources, wealth, knowledge or technology. As the United Nations concluded in 1998: “It is estimated that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and safe water and sanitation for all is roughly US $40 billion a year…This is the less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people.”
ARE THE CWI not old fashioned to talk about mass action, and the role of the working class in the era of computers and the Internet? When everything needed seems to be a “click” away, and you are linked up with the whole world. Even some on the Left have been lost in cyberspace’.
‘Virtual power’ can neither replace the active participation of workers and poor people in struggle, nor can a computer network act as a substitute for fighting, democratic socialist organisations.
Global capitalism has globalised the struggle. A small group of workers can bring a country’s economy to a halt, as the recent European-wide fuel tax protests showed by blockading oil and petrol supplies.
The ending of Milosevic’s regime in Yugoslavia was a graphic illustration of the decisive role of the working class in a revolutionary process. It was the miners strike at the Kolubara coal mine, Serbia’s biggest mine, together with strike action from other Serbian workers, which broke the police ranks. With the police going over to the workers and youth, Milosevic’s days were numbered.
THE MULTINATIONALS use new technology to try to calculate exactly how much the market can absorb. But this ‘planning’ is restricted to one company or one sector of the economy and the interests of its big shareholders.
It is planning to overcome the anarchy of the market, which, of course, is doomed to end in a failure, because the market and consumption (workers cannot buy back all the goods produced) always tends to fall behind the expansion of production in capitalism, causing recessions and slumps.
Nevertheless, if a multinational company can draw up a plan, in their interests, why could not a workers’ government draw up a plan that serves the needs of working people?
What is needed is to separate the means of production from their present parasitic owners and to organise society in accordance with a democratic, rational plan. Then it will be possible, in a relatively short period of time, to raise the standard of living for all people in the world. And with a drastic cut in working hours people can start to build a new society based on human solidarity.
The resources for the ending of poverty, inequality and social deprivation exist on an international plane, not in one country alone. A socialist victory in one country has to be spread to other countries; otherwise it would not be possible to move towards socialism.
That is why there is no more important task today than building a new mass socialist International.
The struggle against global capitalism will shape and decide the future of the new millennium, That is why the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) sums up its aims as: “Fight global capitalism – For workers’ unity and world socialism”.
Building the CWI
“The True Threat from globalisation”
WORKING CLASS People and youth lack a political voice. The task posed is therefore to rebuild the workers’ movement on socialist lines, to lay the basis for the formation of new mass parties of the working class and youth. At the same time, we are working to win members to our own parties and groups, and to win support for the ideas, programme and method of revolutionary socialism, i.e. Marxism. The two tasks are complementary.
The CWI brings together socialist activists from 35 different countries on all continents. The CWI is the international socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated.
Though still a small force, the CWI has a record of struggle. Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement, the CWI section in Nigeria, played an important role in the ten days of mass protest against fuel prices in June and were in the leadership in the general strike in Lagos, the capital. This strike, for the implementation of a minimum wage, spread to other parts of the country.
The republic of Ireland is the only country in the European Union that does not charge households for water. The Socialist Party, the Irish section of the CWI, was instrumental in organising the mass campaign that defeated the water charges in the late 1990s.
Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), formed by members of the CWI, are in the forefront in the fight against racism and fascism across Europe. In February this year, the YRE and others organised a 15,000-strong school strike against Haider and the right-wing government in Austria.
10,000 marched took part in a demonstration in October, initiated by the YRE and the Socialist Alternative (CWI), to close down the headquarters of the Nazis (NPD) in Berlin.
The Socialist Party (CWI) in Australia played a prominent role in the very successful S11 mobilisation against the World Economic Forum in Melbourne.
The party was able to organise a 500-strong high school strike against the gathering of representatives of global capitalism, and to involve trade unions, particularly construction workers, in the protests.
In grudging recognition, the pro-capitalist Australian Herald newspaper (28 August) described the CWI as “the true threat from globalisation.”