In 1995 and 1996 we have seen an escalation of the fight-back in many European countries against the ruling elites’ continuing assault on popular living standards.
France was shaken to its core by the November-December 1995 mass movement, centered mainly around public sector workers. Germany has been swept by mass demonstrations and brief warning strikes against the government’s April DM70 billion cuts package. Most recently there has been a one-day general strike in Belgium called by the socialist FGTB union federation. Many, not all, of these movements have been spearheaded by public sector workers. In September 1996 there was the first national strike action by 1,600,000 Italian metal workers for 6 years, followed by spontaneous strikes of German metal workers in defense of 100% sick pay.
These movements have occurred at the same time as most of the leaders of the official labor have continued to move to the right politically and, most clearly in the case of Britain, speed up the process of transforming the old traditional workers’ parties into purely bourgeois formations.
When in office they do not implement any significant reforms. In Italy the new Prodi government, the first in nearly 50 years to include the PDS (the former “Communist” Party) began implementing cuts almost as soon as it came into office.
One of the most common justifications for this is “globalization”. Different governments argue that there is no alternative to each country, company and indeed each worker competing against each other in the world market. They say that the collapse of the USSR “proved” there is no alternative to the market economy.
Certainly the pressure of the world economy on individual nations has increased. While under the impact of great events like social or economic upheavals, individual governments may attempt to insulate themselves from world market forces, This can at best bring only temporary relief.
Because of this the question which is being increasingly asked is whether there is an alternative to the imperialist-dominated world economy? The growing numbers of working people fighting against this assault on living standards are preparing the ground for a fundamental questioning of the market system, capitalism.
In mid-1996 over 200 activists from 16 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean attended a European school to discuss these issues organized by the committee foe a Workers’ International (CWI) in Belgium.
The CWI was founded in 1974 to fight, in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, to build an international organization fighting for socialist democracy.
The socialist movement has always seen the need, not only for international solidarity but also for a movement that would cut across the national boundaries of capitalism. From its earliest days, the labor movement sought to organize on an international basis.
Today the CWI is made up of sections and groups in 30 countries, with individual members in other countries. In a number of countries the CWI members have already played important roles in workers’, youth and community struggles.
This pamphlet brings together articles based on the introductions and conclusions to the main political discussions at the 1996 School. They are not formal documents, but reflect the general line of our thinking.
The CWI’s 1996 European School discussed not only the subjects included here. There were also sessions on the trade unions, propaganda work and organizations issues raised in the course of the recent struggles.
We publish this pamphlet as a contribution to discussion within the workers movement and welcome comments. For more details contact the CWI at:
P.O. Box 3688