Socialist Alternative is in political solidarity with the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), which organizes in 35 countries on every continent. The International Executive Committee (IEC) is the democratically-elected leadership of the CWI.
In December, 65 members from CWI sections in 24 countries came together in Belgium for a week of intensive formal and informal discussions. A political resolution was agreed upon, which is available on www.socialistworld.net, as are fuller reports on many aspects of the work of the different sections of the CWI.
Internationalism has stood at the heart of genuine socialist ideas since their inception.
Today, however, 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.
Worldwide, the capitalist classes are raking in unimaginably large profits. Fundamentally, the huge profits come from driving down the wages and living conditions of workers worldwide. Whole industries are “outsourced” to countries with cheaper labor and, where that isn’t possible, workers from countries where labor is cheaper are encouraged to move abroad to work in order to undermine existing wages.
The need for internationalism is clear – the only way to answer these attacks is with a united struggle of workers on a national and international level.
Role of the CWI
At this stage, our forces are still modest – particularly in comparison to the tasks that we face. However, December’s meeting of the IEC showed the significant progress we have made and the important part we are already playing in taking the class struggle forward in a number of countries. Much was discussed, much resolved, and much work mapped out for the building of the forces of Marxism.
The role of the CWI was shown in Ireland where, with the assistance of the Socialist Party, the Gama workers – Turkish immigrants who had had the bulk of their wages illegally withheld – were recently able to win thousands of euros in back pay, while also revealing to the world a cesspit of similar scandals.
In the aftermath of the Gama strike, the Irish Ferries dispute erupted, demanding decent pay for immigrant workers on the ferries. Initially, when Socialist Party TD (member of Parliament) Joe Higgins called for a one-day general strike, the trade union leaders responded with scorn, accusing Joe of wanting general strikes every day. Such was the pressure for action from their members, however, that they were forced to call a national half-day strike. 100,000 workers took part in the demonstrations.
The response of the Irish working class shows the other side of the globalized world in which we live. The need for class solidarity and internationalism is instinctively understood by growing sections of the working class and the wider population.
Basing ourselves on this, we have been able to organize very successful campaigns against racism and the far right. For example, in Greece we initiated and spearheaded a campaign that prevented the neo-Nazis from organizing a European summer camp there. We then went on to help organize a very successful anti-racist camp, with 319 attending.
A year ago, the tsunami provoked an outpouring of human solidarity and internationalism, as ordinary people’s generosity worldwide shamed the puny donations of their governments.
The members of the CWI in Sri Lanka in the United Socialist Party (USP) immediately launched a campaign for all relief and rehabilitation to be kept out of the hands of bureaucrats, soldiers, and self-seeking politicians. They demanded control by elected committees of affected people and of workers’ and poor people’s organizations.
In Sri Lanka, as the crises grew, the USP put forward the demand for the government to resign. In the recent presidential election, the USP candidate, Siritunga Jayasuriya, was able to win 35,000 votes. This cemented the USP’s reputation as a serious force for socialist change that argues for the honoring of democratic rights in all areas of Sri Lanka, and has fought to defend the rights of Tamil-speaking people.
Worldwide, CWI members and supporters raised funds that enabled the United Socialist Party to help carry out important aid and campaigning activities. These included providing basic foodstuffs in the east around Pottuvil and in the south around Galle.
They also bought bicycles, sewing machines, and pots and pans for affected families to enable them to begin to carry out basic tasks for themselves. Some of the money also assisted in the production of the paper Tsunami People’s Voice – produced in both Sinhala and Tamil, as is the monthly newspaper of the USP.
Following the catastrophic south Asian earthquake in October, our sections in Pakistan and Kashmir ran similar campaigns. Our members have worked as part of the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP) to organize workers’ aid. So far, TURCP has distributed aid to up to 20,000 families and is campaigning to establish five trade union-organized schools in the earthquake zone.
The CWI bases itself on the best instincts of humanity, such as was shown in the wake of the tsunami. But we go further.
Capitalism has enormously developed science and technique and created unimaginable wealth. Despite this, 1.2 billion people have no access to clean water and 841 million are seriously malnourished. At all stages, the CWI links the fight to defend and improve living conditions with the need for a fundamental socialist change in society. This is the only means to permanently improve the lives of the mass of people.
One of the key tasks facing the working class is the creation of new political parties that will act in its interests. It is widely recognized by working people that parties such as New Labor in Britain and the Social Democratic Party in Germany (SPD) no longer in any sense represent their interests – they are now brutal neo-liberal parties.
The CWI fights for new mass workers’ parties to be founded. In a number of countries, we are involved in campaigns for the establishment of new workers’ parties – such as in England/Wales and in Belgium.
In other countries, at this stage we are concentrating on popularizing socialist ideas working as independent parties – in Australia, for example, where we have succeeded in getting the first socialist councilor in the country elected. Elsewhere, we are helping to build and develop new broad parties that have come into being.
In Germany, we are part of a new party: The Electoral Alternative – Work and Social Justice (WASG). In the recent general election, it stood together with the PDS (the former “communist” party of East Germany), receiving 8.7% of the vote and getting 54 MPs elected. This gives a clear glimpse of the possibility for a sizeable new workers’ party to be built in Germany.
However, when the WASG was set up last year, the party agreed not to participate in any coalitions or governments that carried out social cuts and privatizations. But the leadership is now proposing a merger with the PDS, which has taken part in regional coalition governments with the SPD in Berlin and elsewhere that have carried out major attacks on the working class. The PDS in Berlin has already declared that it intends to continue in a coalition with the SPD.
Our section in Germany, SAV, has argued that a new left political force must have policies in the interests of the working class, and that therefore the Berlin WASG should stand independently of the PDS. Along with others, we have been able to win majority support for this position in the Berlin WASG.
The SAV is playing an important role in fighting to ensure that the new party meets its potential and develops as an active and fighting force against social cuts and unemployment.
This article can only give a very brief glimpse of the work of the CWI. However, what is clear is that the main trend internationally is for an increased combativity and anger amongst the working class, and that a significant minority is searching for a means to transform the planet. The IEC gave us all renewed confidence that the CWI is capable of building a force that can play a critical role in the socialist transformation of society.