Between August 12 and 16, the majority of the International Executive Committee (IEC), elected at the last World Congress of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) in 2016, met to discuss the split of the CWI, initiated by the international minority faction (IDWCTCWI) in the period after the November 2018 IEC. It discussed the tasks that stem from the split for the majority and how to continue, politically and organizationally, to build the forces of Marxism. We aim to build a mass revolutionary international party, which is the absolutely required for the working class to successfully rid society of the capitalist system and building a new, socialist society.
Between July 22 and July 25, a small minority of the IEC held an international meeting in London at which it decided to “reconstitute the CWI”, keeping the name, the website and the resources of the international organization. In other words, the minority “expelled” the majority! This is an unprecedented development in any political formation that claims to abide by basic democratic procedures, never mind a revolutionary socialist formation that is supposed to accept democratic centralism as one of its founding premises.
The international faction, arrogantly calling itself “In Defense of a Working Class and Trotskyist CWI” (IDWCTCWI) had, before splitting, support of the majority of leaderships in only 9 sections/groups of the CWI (England & Wales, Scotland, Germany, France, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Chile). However, the majority of the membership of the sections in Germany and South Africa support the IEC Majority. Thus, the international minority has the support of the majority of the members in only 7 sections of the entire CWI. The IEC Majority has the full or majority support of sections or groups of the CWI in the following 25 countries: US, Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, Greece, Brazil, Austria, Israel-Palestine, Russia, Australia, Cyprus, Norway, Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic, Rumania, Italy, Canada, Quebec, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Tunisia, Sudan. Also, the IEC Majority has the support of the majority of the membership in Germany and South Africa, has significant support in Britain and, also, a presence in Mexico, Spain, Portugal and Finland. In some sections, e.g. Nigeria, the picture is yet undefined. The total number of countries in which the CWI Majority is present is around 35. The only country in which the international faction has sizeable forces is Britain.
The faction was launched by the majority of the International Secretarial itself (with two alternate IS members in opposition) and this is unprecedented in the context of a democratic centralist organization. The faction was formed by the majority of the IS against the majority of the IEC, which elects the IS and to which the IS is accountable. This, in itself, is an indication of their intention to cause a split in the International from the very beginning – from the moment they met strong opposition in the IEC.
The fact that the outcome of the faction fight has been the devastation of support for the IS-faction in the ranks of the CWI is a clear indication that they had no real contact or understanding of the organization that they were supposed to provide leadership to on a day to day basis. This goes hand in hand with their insufficient understanding of developments and processes in the objective situation and the realities of present-day class struggle and consciousness, which lie at the root of the split of the CWI.
The other side of the fact that the majority of both the IEC and the CWI opposed the IS majority (which represented the historical leadership of the organization) and is advancing forward, is that this is indicative of the high political level of the vast majority of the cadre and membership of the international organization.
Political roots of the crisis
The crisis started with the hostile approach by the IS majority to differences with the leadership of the Irish section. This was a serious violation of our principles. However, the roots of the crisis are, as always, much deeper and political. Fundamentally, the crisis reflects the contradictions in the objective situation and the political limitations of the IS majority (and the leadership of the England and Wales section) and its inability to understand these processes in depth. Two of the political issues which dominated the debate were the movements around women’s liberation and the environment. The emphasis given by the sections supporting the Majority to these and similar kinds of movements were used by the minority faction to accuse the Majority of abandoning the working class and therefore Trotskyism, capitulating to petit bourgeois pressures and opportunism. Nothing is further from the truth. In reality the old leadership of the CWI had a low theoretical understanding of women’s’ oppression – and the same holds true for the issue of the environment.
One of the central characteristics of the present period is that the working class and the toiling masses face the onslaught of the capitalist class on a global scale but have not been able to put a brake on the attacks and go on the counteroffensive. Despite mass and determined resistance by the working class in many countries (eg Southern Europe and particularly Greece in the first half of the 2010s); mass social movements (like the Occupy movement globally, the Umbrella movement in Hong Kong, women’s movements, youth mobilizations against climate change, etc); revolutions (eg in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 and again in the first half of 2019 in Sudan and Algeria as well as the recent social explosion in Hong Kong); and the partial development of class, anticapitalist and to a certain extend socialist consciousness in parts of the world (eg in the US where the majority of the youth support socialism against capitalism in all the polls in the last few years) there is a feeling of retreat and defeat in large sections of the mass of the population in countries around the globe.
This is reflected on the political level with the retreat of the appeal of many parties of the Left (old and new) and the increase of support for the far right and right wing populism, as was seen in the Euro-elections in May of this year and the rise of Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Modi, etc in the past few years.
The capitulation of SYRIZA in Greece reflects the limits of the mild reformism of the New Left Formations (NLF) in the present epoch. In turn, this retreat effected other NLF and on big sections of the toiling masses. Most of the NLF that came into being in the previous period have either capitulated or are in crisis and retreat. Some have disappeared altogether or play an insignificant role – e.g. the Italian Rifondazione, the SSP in Scotland, the NPA in France, etc. Similar contradictions hold for new left “phenomena” like Corbyn in Britain. Developments in the US, around Sanders and the DSA are on a different trajectory, in the present conjuncture, essentially because they have not yet been tested. The general picture is that for millions of working-class people and youth globally there is no Left political alternative to turn to.
The crisis of the capitalist system also drastically reduces the room for maneuver available to the leaders of the Trade Unions who refuse to challenge capitalism. Therefore, generally they sabotage and betray the working class and its struggles. This factor, which of course is not new (as Trotsky describes in many articles, and in particular his “Trade Unions in the epoch of imperialist decay” of 1940), pushes large sections of the working class to take initiatives ”from below” i.e. outside the control and against the will of the traditional leaderships. Having said this, there are of course important differences from country to country, in the role of TU leaders, the way the TUs are organized and structured, and the consciousness of the working class towards them, which should be taken into consideration. It goes without saying that understanding the role of the TU leaderships in no way means or implies that we should ignore or abandon work in the TUs. But it does mean that the way we approach the work, and the slogans and demands we use, must take this factor into consideration, as has been shown in the material produced by the IEC majority and the sections supporting it in the previous period.
The development, form and character of the movements against women’s oppression and against climate change, particularly by the youth, in the recent years, which became central in the debate with the minority, reflect the above mentioned processes. They reflect a process of radicalization on a massive scale, particularly of the new generation, which largely takes place outside the traditional and mass organizations.
These movements are an extremely important and fertile ground for the forces of revolutionary socialism to intervene and build. This intervention goes hand in hand with learning to “listen” to the needs and to understand the level of consciousness of those people that are on the move. The transitional program that is necessary to build a bridge between our socialist program and the greater audiences in the working class is always, as Trotsky emphatically stressed, a dialogue with the masses.
The orientation of the Irish and other sections to the women’s and environmental movements was used by the minority to accuse the Majority of abandoning the Trade Unions and through them the working class as a whole in order to turn to petit bourgeois layers! This allegation was entirely unfounded. It also led the level of the political debate to an all-time low. The minority entered on an “irrational” course, selecting this word here and that phrase there, to create artificial differences and blow them out of all proportion. It resorted to personal attacks on individual comrades, poisoning the political atmosphere. As a result of all these and despite the initial high respect that the IS majority enjoyed, it ended up convincing only a small minority of the sections of the International.
Without underestimating the importance of the differences that exist, the fact remains that a split in the CWI was neither necessary nor unavoidable. What led to the split was the refusal of the IS to seriously take into consideration the criticisms made by the majority of the IEC and make the necessary corrections; their belief that only they could understand and analyze correctly the period and the tasks; and that only they represented present day Marxism. The objective factor that contributed to this idea was that the leading comrades in the IS had played a historical role in helping the CWI develop from a small force in the 1960s and ‘70s to the largest Trotskyist international in the 2010s. They however failed to understand that strong sections and strong political leaderships had developed in a number of countries, who could and did make significant new contributions to the development of the International both on a theoretical political and a tactical-organizational level. Their inflexibility was most clearly expressed in their attitude to the women’s movements in the last few years and most glaringly in their opposition to the work of the Irish section through “Rosa”.
The problems due to the IS’s weaknesses and limitations have existed over the previous period. However, it seemed that these failings could be overcome through the collective effort of the International leadership, i.e. with the contribution of the leaders from the national sections in the IEC, which had developed into a body with “independent” thinking and critical perceptions. Seeing that the CWI was able to develop and grow, despite the relative limitations of the IS, no members of the IEC had raised the issue of changes in the IS membership. What nobody expected is that the IS majority would not stop at anything – not even at destroying the work of decades – rather than accept they made a serious mistake when they found themselves in a minority in the IEC.
The IDWCTCWI faction elevated every real or imaginary difference into a difference of “crucial” and “fundamental” character, accusing the Majority of having abandoned revolutionary socialism and Trotskyism. Their main allegation against the Majority was that it had capitulated to opportunism and petit bourgeois ideas and pressures. It remains a “mystery” which they never tried to explain, of course, how did opportunism suddenly capture the vast majority of the CWI without the members of the IS, responsible for following the work of these same sections, having realized anything in all the past years!
The unmistakable truth is that the IS majority and its supporters in the leadership of the minority faction entered on a course of bureaucratic degeneration. They not only provocatively ignored the statutes of the CWI and the IEC, elected by the World Congress, they also trampled over every sense of party democracy. They refused to provide a statement on the finances or to allow a financial inspection, officially demanded by many sections and required by the statues of the CWI. They did not have the honesty to accept their minority position and leave the CWI once they decided on the split. Instead they chose to hijack the name, the website, the funds and the reserves of the International (investing in new premises worth more than £1 million in England). They ended up “expelling” the majority, ridiculously justifying this by their pretension to be the only true representatives of Marxism in our days! This attitude, these methods and practices by the Minority will inevitably lead them against a brick wall in the future.
Tasks of the CWI Majority
The global capitalist system is in the grip of one of the deepest economic crises in its history. The crisis which was set off by the housing crisis in the US in 2007 and developed into an international banking and sovereign debt crisis was the worse since the 1929 Wall Street crash. Despite the heavy intervention through the mass injection of cash by the ruling classes globally to contain the crisis, none of the fundamental problems of the capitalist economy have been solved. The contradictions remain and they are extremely intense. The global economy is on the verge of another very serious downturn after the last one of 2008-9. At the same time the tools in the hands of the ruling class to tackle the effects of the new downturn are much more limited than in 2007-8, with sovereign debt at historically high levels, high budget deficits in many “developed” countries, powerful economies like that of Italy on the verge of the cliff, and interest rates at extremely low levels, often around zero and even negative in some cases (eg Europe and Japan). The blind alley in which the capitalist system finds itself globally, is also manifested in the rise of nationalist protectionist governments and sharp inter-imperialist conflicts particularly the trade war between the US and China.
Marxism is the only analytical tool that can explain the crisis and the contradictions of the system, that can provide a way forward and help prepare for the future. The working class is the only force that can change society, not through the road of “parliamentary cretinism”, to site Marx’s expression, but by means of a social revolution to capture power and build a socialist society on a continental and global basis. The victory of the social revolution, under the leadership of the working class, can only be successful if it is led by a mass revolutionary party, on the lines and method of the Bolsheviks who led the Russian revolution in October 1917.
Despite limitations and weaknesses of the CWI over the past years and decades, the methods used by the CWI to build the forces of Marxism are fundamentally correct and this has been proven over time. Starting from a small force in the 1960s it was able to develop, over a period of about half a century, into the biggest revolutionary international. The split initiated by the Minority is a serious setback. But the fact that the big majority of the CWI brushed aside its historical leadership, once that leadership showed that it had lost its ability to provide able leadership, proves that the struggle to build the forces of revolution can continue successfully.
The forces of the Majority of have fought consistently against the split of the CWI but the split is today a fact, after the decisions of the IDWCTCWI July conference. The Majority therefore has the duty to constitute itself as a separate international force, and proceed to the World Congress, which was decided unanimously at the November 2018 IEC (only to be ignored by the Minority). We will provisionally organize the renewed international organization with the name “CWI – Majority”. The issue of the name will be discussed extensively in the period leading to the congress and final decisions will be taken at the congress itself.
The best traditions of the CWI will be saved, they will not disappear together with the blindfolded Minority. These traditions will be preserved by the Majority which will continue to base itself on the Marxist analysis of our epoch and on the ideas and methods of Lenin and Trotsky. The Majority will maintain and deepen its organic relationship to the working class, not as an outside force orientating to it but as an integral part of it. It will struggle to build the TU movement and to transform the TUs into democratic and fighting organizations and will assist attempts to build new mass left formations, armed with a socialist program. At the same time, it will orientate to new movements and phenomena, closely follow developments in mass consciousness, and aim to link them to the working class and the struggle for the socialist revolution.
For the Majority, theory and perspectives are crucial and will be developed in depth and be used as a guide to action, i.e. as a guide among other things to orient to new movements, currents and phenomena, in order to build the forces of revolution.
The transitional program and transitional method will remain indispensable tools in this struggle.
Democratic centralism is a fundamental principle in building our forces both on a national and an international level. Open, free, democratic discussion, with the freedom to question the correctness of the party’s program, tactics and actions and the leadership, is the completely necessary other side of centralism – the need to act in unity to achieve our aim. The Majority stands firm on the conviction that there are no “messiahs” and that correct ideas and method are always the result of collective effort. The international center can be effective as an international leadership only through a collective and comradely effort between the elected bodies of the international organization (the IS and the IEC) and between them and the leaderships of the national sections. The leadership should always be accountable and criticism should be made easy and free on all levels. The Majority will discuss, in the immediate period ahead, initiatives aiming to create an atmosphere of greater openness and freedom of criticism in the international organization. It will also discuss practical measures to enable greater control and check of the elected leadership and measures to enhance the accountability of the elected leading bodies.
But, of course, even the best democratic structures, traditions and statutes cannot prevent the organization entering crisis under specific circumstances. Internal differences and debates are inevitable in the period we live through – actually, in any period. An international organization that has a fully democratic and open approach concerning these debates, without ceasing to be an organization for action in the class struggle, is best equipped to make advances and fulfill its role in the next period. But what the crisis of the CWI confirms once again, is that once a section of the leadership loses its ability to further develop, provide able leadership, listen to criticism and accept different ideas with an open mind, then it can degenerate with extremely fast speed. The membership of the International must be aware that no leadership is immune to these dangers. No statutes or agreed procedures can, in themselves, protect an organization against these dangers, however necessary they are. The existence of a high political level in the membership of the organization is the only possible real defense, the absolutely indispensable tool, not to entirely avoid a crisis, but to minimize its repercussions.
In a certain sense, one of the most important outcomes of the faction fight has been that the big majority of the CWI has stood up to the historical leadership, opposed its wrong ideas and methods, and forced it into the position of a small minority. This reflects the high political level and the strong democratic traditions conquered by the membership and cadre of the CWI. The forces of the Majority have also proven in the past period their ability to innovate, to be flexible, to take bold initiatives, to make sacrifices, to conquer new grounds and to build. The CWI Majority will build in the working-class masses but it will also restore the traditions of the CWI of building in the youth. Based on these strengths, the CWI Majority is here to stay, to look to the future with confidence and optimism, and make decisive steps in the direction of a revolutionary alternative on a global scale.
Reposted from worldsocialist.net