Committee for a Workers’ International rally
A taste of the electrifying and explosive events and mass movements around the world came to London on 30 July at the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) rally, with the theme of what is the socialist way out of the global crises.
Speakers from across Europe and the world told the 150 in attendance about the struggles that the sister parties and co-thinkers of the Socialist Party are involved in and the situation confronting the working class.
It was the first CWI event of its kind since before the pandemic which, as chair René Arnsburg of Sozialistische Organisation Solidarität in Germany said, “ripped across the globe”. And it was fantastic to be back in a room with socialists from around the world, listening to the speakers in front of us, even if some of the speakers were still forced to speak via video because of visa problems.
Prasad Hemakumara of the United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka was speaking literally from the frontline in the struggle, visibly tired from coming straight from the continuous protests and occupations taking place there. The ‘Aragalaya’ movement has led to the overthrow of numerous politicians, but especially the hated president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He was forced to flee after the iconic events of 9 July, images of which spread around the world like wildfire, as a million people descended on the capital, confronting armed guards and barricades, sweeping them aside to storm the presidential palace.
TU Senan, a member of the International Secretariat of the CWI, explained to the rally: “Sri Lanka is the best example of the unimaginable misery capitalism is creating in the world, and also the uprisings it can cause. Sri Lanka is a country that just ran out of food and fuel, and the ruling class is saying worse is to come!” But not for them, as the speakers pointed out. More interested in making money than providing the basics, the ruling class is now doing its best to ensure that their profits are not harmed.
In the face of increased repression, the movement is now demanding that all politicians follow Gota out of the door. And the CWI is fighting for the alternative that can sweep aside them all and end the crisis – a socialist alternative.
This was a key theme throughout the rally, particularly the need to build new mass workers’ parties as part of the struggle to achieve socialism.
They are needed to give a political voice to the trade union and workplace struggles, so that workers are not fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. Rob Williams, Socialist Party England and Wales, spoke about the hundreds of thousands of workers on strike this summer, set to be joined by more in the autumn. These workers, he said, are drawing the same conclusions as the Coventry bin workers who have won a massive victory after seven months of struggle against a Labour council (see page 7). The Socialist Party is playing a key role in raising the need for a new party that is 100% on the side of striking workers and our class, against the Tories and their new anti-union leader, whoever that may be, and Keir Starmer who sacks his shadow cabinet members for standing on picket lines.
In the US, a strike wave has also taken place, followed now by a union recognition wave, as workers at companies and in industries previously unorganised build unions, most notably Amazon and Starbucks, as Claire Bayler from the Independent Socialist Group (ISG) in the US explained. “Winning union recognition is just the first step,” she said. “We need to build a party of the working class too. And there is an appetite for socialism as people are fed up with both corporate parties.”
The ISG is also intervening in social movements such as the protests against the overturning of Roe v Wade and the right to abortion. Hundreds have been attracted to ISG. These movements also need a new party having been betrayed by the “graveyard of these movements”, the Democrats.
In France, the three-way struggle in recent elections between the president of the rich Emmanuel Macron, the far-right National Rally under Marine Le Pen and the left movement La France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon was described by Gauche Révolutionnaire’s Lucie Mendes. She said: “Many strikes are taking place but Macron only serves the interests of the rich in attacking workers and youth. There is a lot of anger and the far right filled a void”. France Insoumise achieved a more than fourfold increase in its number of seats in parliament but could have countered the far right better if its main slogan hadn’t been simply ‘Mélenchon for prime minister’. But Gauche Révolutionnaire “led our own campaign”, as well as participating in France Insoumise, because a “socialist programme is needed to fight the capitalist system. The working class needs a party of their own, not just a movement like France Insoumise.”
The workers and masses in Africa are also crying out for an alternative to the corrupt ruling classes in all parts of the continent. Weizmann Hamilton, speaking on behalf of the Marxist Workers’ Party in South Africa, said: “Thunderclouds gathering above will have the effect of creating turmoil for capitalism, which is flying through these thunderclouds blind. A repeat of what happened in Sri Lanka will happen several times over.”
Weizmann described the battle for a workers’ party in South Africa and the role the trade unions must play in that. It was inspirational to hear how CWI members in South Africa have ensured that the idea of a new workers’ party “has never been buried” and are playing a pivotal role in the process to build one.
Speaking via video from Nigeria, Soweto of the Democratic Socialist Movement echoed this, explaining the part we are playing in building a mass workers’ party with a socialist programme in a country that “is the poster boy for capitalist failure, with corruption and wealth for the elite and misery for the rest of us.”
The process towards such parties is not straightforward, and pretenders exist such as in Latin America where a new ‘pink wave’ is spreading. In Chile, a mass movement against the right-wing government in the last few years has seen a new ‘left’ president elected. But as Pamela Andrea Meza Lobos of Socialismo Revolucionario in Chile told the rally: “Gabriel Boric came to power on the back of the movement but has not fulfilled a single demand of the movement despite promising everyone.”
This betrayal has taken place at a rate of knots, and is keenly felt by the workers and youth who were “brutally repressed during the uprising with 400 people blinded by police and similar methods to dictator Pinochet used.” Given the rightwards shift of Boric, “the need for a political alternative for workers and youth is huge and we fight every day to create this alternative.” As Pamela also pointed out, “Latin America has seen multiple convulsions” and the entire region will see similar movements and the need for new parties of the working class and poor.
Examples of what can be achieved by our forces and the working class fighting on the political plane were given by Peter Taaffe, the political secretary of the Socialist Party, who pointed to the struggles of Liverpool City Council in the 1980s when, led by Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party, the council mobilised the working class to fight for the return of funding cut by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government, creating jobs, building homes and much more.
Thatcher was then ultimately toppled by the 18 million-strong non-payment movement against the poll tax, again led by our forces, resulting in the so-called ‘Iron Lady’ being reduced to iron filings. As Peter said: “These victories will be achieved once more as capitalism finds itself in a historic cul-de-sac. You could stick a pin in a map of the world and not find anywhere where there is stability for capitalism. Socialism or barbarism is the choice facing the working class and, on a world scale, a movement is coming.”
The atmosphere at the rally was summed up by Tony Saunois, secretary of the CWI, who closed the event. He said: “Being back in a room collectively discussing allows us to best sharpen our ideas with which to intervene in struggles.” Struggles which are on their way despite “the capitalist class claiming victory in 1992. All it has brought is war, misery, and poverty.”
Tony pointed out that the ruling class is now preparing for the coming class battles which its system has thrown up and “we need to prepare. To put this system in the dock. The general strike is back on the agenda. Class battles are back on the agenda. The working class is driving events. Revolution and socialism are back on the agenda.”