By Andy Moxley, Socialist Alternative, USA
The recent meeting of the CWI’s International Executive Committee came on the heels of a 7-month internal debate, and following the departure from the CWI of a minority led by most of the organization’s former International Secretariat. All in all, the meeting was a demonstration of the political strength of the CWI, the overwhelming majority of which has chosen to stay in our ranks. It was the first full IEC meeting since November 2018, as the rapidly degenerated former leadership had refused to convene a meeting of the international leadership when they lost the confidence of the majority of the CWI.
Throughout the week, CWI leaders from 25 countries, with apologies from comrades from Nigeria and Sudan due to visa problems, discussed a range of topics facing Marxists including perspectives for the revolutionary movement in the chaotic world situation, and issues of special importance such as socialist feminism and the environmental movement. There was also a long overdue debate on our work in trade unions and on the orientation and work of the CWI in order to seize the opportunities to build the forces of socialism and the workers’ movement – all essential aspects of our strategy for the building of a world socialist revolutionary party.
Even before the meeting, it was clear that there was a marked change compared to recent IEC meetings, with an air of freedom of comradely debate having been reintroduced. An inclusive and collaborative approach was on display throughout, seeking to draw on the skills, input, initiative and ability of all comrades.
The World Perspectives discussion was framed by several documents jointly developed by groups of IEC members: including one on the world economy and another on the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East.
This important discussion was introduced by two comrades, emphasizing different important features of the world situation. Cedric Gerome, (an IEC member and one of the minority comrades on the former International Secretariat), spoke on the general situation facing the forces of Marxism, featuring the bankruptcy of the capitalist political establishment on a world scale, environmental degradation and the presence of right populism and the far-right. He gave emphasis to the wave of explosive social and even revolutionary movements underway around the world, particularly in North Africa, and the general rise in class struggle and the popularity of socialism.
Vincent Kolo, an IEC member from the China-Hong Kong-Taiwan section, spoke about the significance of the US-China conflict in shaping the current world situation. More than just a simple trade war, he emphasized the features of the conflict being a type of ‘cold war’, not as before between competing social systems, but between two rival imperialist powers about who will dominate the world stage in the next historical epoch. A number of comrades from across the world came in during the discussion, which lasted over a day, to develop the key themes and help generalize them into an international scope.
Following the discussion on perspectives, there was a short but significant session on the Seattle Kshama Sawant re-election campaign. The session was a genuine exchange of experiences – with sharp questions and sharp answers. US comrades drew out the socialist program of the campaign and how despite over $300,000 being spent by big business against us, the results in the primary election, where we came in first place with over 36% of the vote, demonstrated the incredible strength and appeal of our campaign especially to large layers of youth. The importance of the re-election of the only Marxist elected to public office in the US, in what is a clear class battle with the billionaire class (especially Amazon) underlined repeatedly as was the dramatic role we could play over the next period if we maintain the seat.
Working-class, socialist feminism
As Jane, IEC member from Brazil, put it in her contribution in the session which took place on Socialist Feminism, “this discussion is one we’ve been waiting for for 14 years” – a symbol of the type of political revolution that the meeting signified. Laura Fitzgerald from Ireland gave a sharp introduction emphasizing not just the importance of the womens’ movement but also the integral role of women workers and their impact on the overall class struggle.
The two, she said, cannot be artificially separated. A powerful example was drawn out in the slogan of the Irish NASRA ambulance workers who adopted the slogan ‘our union, our choice’ in clear reference to the massive victory on the right to abortion in Ireland late last year. Comrades also brought out that while there are clear dangers in terms of divisive bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas gaining a hold in the movement it will not be enough to just battle them ideologically.
Though there is no one-size-fits-all solution, bold initiatives must be developed by socialists to interact with and channel the radical mood on this issue into a positive class struggle and socialist direction with initiatives like ROSA in Ireland and Belgium. There was an agreement to engage in bold united international action around International Women’s Day (March 8) and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th. In addition, the IEC took the decision to establish an interim International Women’s Bureau to further develop material and coordinate such actions until the 2020 World Congress in January.
Climate movement an international priority
Similarly on the environment, the youth climate strikes and their significance was also weighed up against the incredible ecological crisis capitalism has imposed on the planet. Several comrades talked about the incredible opening that the climate crisis gives for the explanation of a democratically planned, worker controlled economy and global socialist solution.
The environment cannot be labelled a “middle-class issue” (as was the approach of some of our recently departed comrades) but a burning question for billions of workers and youth. And though it was well underlined what’s at stake, the underlying thread was not a fatalistic ‘the world will burn’ one. Although urgent action is needed, we still have time to decide what kind of society we want to live in before climate change fundamentally changes the material reality for billions of people including driving a significant increase in mass migration caused by its effects, which capitalist states will be incapable of dealing with.
Different sections of the CWI are preparing for the week of climate strikes and protests taking place between September 20 and 27, as well as a joint intervention at the Paris climate protest on September 21st by multiple European sections of the CWI. Such an intervention has not happened since the anti-globalization movement of the late 90s/early 2000s, or since the very successful Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) initiative which led to the powerful growth of many CWI sections. The meeting was full of determination to return to the traditions of the CWI as a dynamic world fighting force which strikes together in international initiatives.
Discussing the roots and lessons of CWI internal crisis
While much of the meeting was focused on the future, in order to know where we’re going we need to know where we’ve been. All day Wednesday was focused on discussing the roots of the crisis in the CWI and the lessons to be drawn for the future. Discussion on this theme was not confined to this session, and in reality was a clear thread running through all of the week’s discussions. Danny Byrne, IEC member and former IS minority, and Andre Ferrari, IEC member from Liberdade, Socialismo e Revolucao (CWI in Brazil), introduced the discussion.
The central theme of the discussion, and its primary conclusion, was on the need to kick off a thorough process of discussion and debate throughout the CWI, among all its members and not just its leadership, on the roots and lessons of the crisis we have emerged from. In this, we will face a dual challenge: changing what we must change to avoid future problems, while at the same time, not “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” (which became something of a mantra in the discussion!).
It was critical to acknowledge and analyze the extremely positive role which our departed leadership had played over a historical epoch – playing a part in founding the CWI, involvement in leading mass battles in Britain in the 1970s and 80s and perhaps most importantly – quickly recognizing and responding to the collapse of Stalinism and the challenges it posed for Marxists in the 90s and early 00s.
However, the opening of the current period after the 2007/08 financial crisis exposed some problems in the leadership. These were relatively minor at first and the comrades who recognized them had hoped the change in the situation and movements of the class would resolve them.
It was only when the former IS initiated the crisis late last year, attempting to bulldoze through a nonsensical and disastrous split with our Irish organization, that the depths of degeneration in the former IS and Socialist Party of England and Wales leadership became fully exposed. The lack of renewal of the leadership by younger cadre – an absolutely essential feature of a healthy Marxist leadership – and basing the international increasingly on just the experience of one national section in one period (Britain in the 1980s) had disastrous political and organizational consequences.
These were only really fully exposed during the ensuing dispute. In reality, these comrades began to put forward a one-sided and pessimistic perspective towards the current movements. They sought an exact repeat of the processes of the post-war period in the tumultuous events of the last ten years, and when this clashed with reality, adopted an increasingly stale and sectarian attitude.
This was reflected in the lack of dynamic initiatives and meaningful discussions on the most important issues on an international level and resulted in national leaderships having to develop these exclusively on their own initiative. At the same time, the former IS increasingly became a routinist body and saw the work of national sections in a ‘black and white’ light – either they were to be held up as ‘jewels in the crown’ or to be denounced wholesale – an approach which led dramatically to their initiation of the crisis.
Many comrades reasserted the need for the reestablishment of the best practices of the CWI. – This includes the need for more democratic debate and discussion but also powerful unity in action which, ironically given their bureaucratic centralism, had been undermined by the approach of the former IS which in practice encouraged federalist tendencies. Ultimately though, the problems of the past period were rooted in politics, and though we fight for the best and most accountable structures possible, as Stephen Boyd from Ireland pointed out in his reply to the discussion on the roots and lessons of the crisis, the only solid protection against future degeneration is the political level of the membership. Indeed, this was the main thing that protected the integrity of the overwhelming majority of the CWI during this crisis.
For the first time in several years, there was a significant discussion on building the revolutionary party. It was reasserted that unlike other so-called ‘internationals’ which operate as a loose club or federation of national groups, the CWI is one world revolutionary party with national sections in the traditions of the healthy periods of the 3rd and 4th internationals. This was an open and honest discussion of sections’ and the international’s progress and challenges at an international level.
Comrades in the US drew out their explosive growth over the last several years but also outlined the challenges of consolidating an organization on a continental scale and the ideological battle which is necessary to educate a new generation of revolutionary socialists in the heart of imperialism. The Irish comrades expanded on their progress among youth, women and LGBTQ youth in particular, and the current historic role that comrades in Belfast were playing in the Harland and Wolff shipyard occupation. Both the US and Irish comrades emphasized the complications and pressures that leading mass struggles can place on a revolutionary organization, but also its incredible value in steeling cadres in the concrete experience of class struggle.
Comrades from China-Hong Kong-Taiwan spoke of the incredible experience of building a vibrant and strong multinational section in harsh conditions. Members of the new section of members in England, Wales and Scotland also outlined the challenges of building an entirely new section from scratch out of the ashes of the old, albeit with the healthiest elements of the former organization. A number of comrades from smaller groups and sections also commented on the importance of such discussions on party building to develop larger groups in places like Mexico and Tunisia. Another key theme was the need for section leaderships to really build a cohesive and active international leadership and for investment in the international structures and political life of the CWI by every comrade in every section.
An international rally on Thursday night featured several speakers including Ruth Coppinger TD (Ireland), Eleni Mitsou (Greece), Kelly Bellin (USA), Jane Barros (Brazil), Elin Gauffin (Sweden), Sarah Wrack (Britain), Pasha (Hong Kong) and Eric Byl (Belgium), with a message read out from a Sudanese comrade who was unable to attend. This inspiring rally was not just presented to a packed room of the IEC and scores of comrades from throughout Belgium, but was live-streamed to groups of CWI members around the world who hosted watch parties in their branches. The financial appeal reflected the enthusiasm and confidence of comrades around the world in the renewed life of the CWI raising over €40,000!
The week ended on an exhausted but resilient note. Friday saw in-depth discussions on trade union work, something that had not happened at recent international meetings of the CWI, as well as commissions on international finances and publications. Notably, these were not just reports but were discussions based on action – plans were drawn up to increase financial accountability and strength as well as plans for the production of international written material and bulletins. At the end of the day, unanimous decisions were taken to adopt the perspectives documents, a number of initiatives and elect a new Provisional Committee of 19 comrades from different sections across the globe to help lead and coordinate the work of the international until the World Congress, in lieu of the former IS, which was officially deselected by unanimous vote from their leadership position in the international.
The August 2019 meeting of the CWI IEC will be looked back on in the future within the CWI and beyond as a particular turning point. It was an important stepping stone towards the World Congress in January 2020 which will effectively be the culmination of the rebirth of a politically strengthened CWI. The theme of it all was preparing the forces of Marxism for the challenges but also the big opportunities for a mass impact in the 2020s. We have a world to win and socialists are ready to fight for that future!