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From: The Socialist issue 709, 15 March 2012: Resist Cameron's cold cruelty

Search site for keywords: Capitalism - Socialist - Working class - Greece - EU - CWI

A Socialist Party 2012 congress report

World developments show - capitalism is crisis

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge

"When the present devastating world crisis of capitalism broke, the Socialist Party and the CWI drew bold far-reaching conclusions: that this time there would be no quick or easy way out for capitalism and that arising from this we would see a period of revolution and counter-revolution". With these words Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, opened the first session of the Socialist Party 2012 national congress.

This sums up the backdrop of world events - from the struggles taking place against Con-Dem cuts in Britain; to the more than 15 general strikes in Greece; to the revolutionary movements in the Middle East and North Africa, which face reaction but are far from over; to the unravelling of the eurozone and more.

Increasing numbers of people recognise capitalism as a system in crisis. Even China, that has been the powerhouse of the world economy, is seeing its growth drop off. This could have enormous implications for the development of mass struggle by the Chinese working class.

Peter highlighted developments in the Middle East and the US, where, despite mass unemployment, Obama could win the presidential election given the state of the Republican candidates. A second Obama term could provide the working class and youth with confidence to start to build their own party.

But Europe is still at the epicentre of the crisis - and Greece is in the 'eye of the storm'. The Greek economy has suffered a slump with a 17% drop in GDP in the last five years. No Greek could have believed what would come to pass had it been suggested five years ago - school students are too underfed to do sports and wages have been slashed by 40% on average.

Workers have fought austerity and the Papademos bankers' government (installed by the Troika of the EU, ECB and IMF) through general strike action, occupations and demonstrations. Peter described the situation as a "war without guns".

Workers' organisations

He explained that the central task in Greece and internationally is the building of new mass organisations of the working class. The capitalists have proven that in their hands the future is unbearable. Workers are drawing conclusions from this reflected in electoral support for the large left parties of over 30%.

The Socialist Party's sister organisation in the CWI, Xekinima, calls for the formation of a workers' government. Unfortunately the big left parties themselves fail to make this call and have not given a lead on the programme necessary to defeat austerity. Xekinima calls for non-payment of the debt, nationalisation of the banks, breaking with the euro on a working class basis of international solidarity with all workers in Europe struggling against austerity and democratic socialist planning.

The situation in Spain, with more than half of young people out of work, is desperate. Even Mariano Rajoy, the new prime minister, says that the rapid cuts demanded by the EU are not possible - warning they would provoke a general strike. This too points to the inevitability of the break-up of the eurozone in some way.

Far-right threat

In pre-election France Nicolas Sarkozy is attempting to steal the racist ideas of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to challenge the ex-social democratic Socialist Party. Le Pen's support among blue-collar workers, in the absence of a mass party of socialism and struggle, should be a warning to the labour movement internationally. In Greece too the far right has shown its ugly face - and in other countries.

The recent left political formation in France, the NPA, has failed to develop and, with populist measures such as taxing the rich, the Socialist Party candidate François Hollande could win the presidential election.

In Ireland the merging of two potentially genuinely mass campaigns could lead to significant steps being taken with regard to working class organisation. The campaign of non-payment of the punitive household tax and the left 'No' campaign in the referendum on EU fiscal control are led by the Socialist Party in Ireland which has two TDs (MPs) and a Member of the European Parliament.

The international speakers developed some of these points but so too did members from England and Wales who follow these crucial events. Socialists are internationalists and now more than ever understanding of world events is vital preparation for the further development of struggle in Britain. The Socialist Party also takes very seriously the necessity of international solidarity action in defence of socialists and workers in struggle across the world who face vicious regimes - such as in Kazakhstan (see page 11) and elsewhere.

Among the very good contributions were Alec Thraves from Wales on both the possibilities and limitations of new workers' political formations; Robin Clapp on the character of the crisis and Iain Dalton, among other issues, on perspectives for China.

Lynn Walsh, editor of Socialism Today, replied to the discussion. He decisively answered those economic commentators who compare Greece to the Argentinian crisis of 2001-2, saying it 'recovered'.

Today the Greek tragedy is set against a backdrop of systemic capitalist crisis, but as in Argentina it will be the working class and middle class who are expected to pay the price.

Lynn explained how all the fundamental contradictions of capitalism are coming to bear in this crisis, showing the absolute necessity to fight for for socialist change.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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