This is a“situation of war” – said Greek Prime Minister, Papandreou, in presenting the case for cuts, in an attempt to prepare the Greek population for his government’s draconian measures. But this is a war – not only in Greece – which the bosses and their governments have declared, faced with the economic downturn, as the crisis continues, despite the limited recovery the economy is showing at the moment in a number of countries. It is a social war of rich against poor, bosses against workers, the rulers of the richer countries against the poor countries. The situation has also seen the continuation of bloody wars and occupations around the globe, with death-tolls mounting in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. This year’s May Day celebrations can mark a step forward in the development of an international struggle of working people.
Greek trade unions have called a general strike on 5 May, in opposition to the cuts being imposed by the Papandreou government and international capitalism, through the EU and IMF. It is clear that this agenda – vicious austerity and attacks in the name of assuaging the international markets – will be replicated in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and other countries, not only in Europe, over which the vultures of capitalism and the IMF are currently hovering, demanding to save the profits of big business at the expense of working people. It is also clear that governments in stronger powers, such as Germany and other countries, which presently are attempting to force through an assault on the Greek and Portugese working classes, have the same menu of attacks planned for the working class and youth at home.
This situation poses in a sharp way the need for international resistance in opposition to the slash and burn agenda of capitalism internationally, and the dictatorship of the “market” and the IMF. As Greek workers lead the way into battle on 5 May, an important opportunity is presented for a European-wide day of action. This call must be taken up by trade unions and the left across Europe. The CWI will enthusiastically campaign for this objective, to unite the resistance and cut across the poisonous, divisive attempts at nationalist division by the capitalists and their governments.
Such a united day of action would give trade unions and the left the opportunity to forcefully fight for the following demands:
- No to cuts and privatisations! Make the bosses pay for their crisis!
- No payment of debts to the capitalist vultures in the banks, EU and IMF! No to the dictatorship of the financial markets, credit ratings’ institutions and the IMF! Close down the financial casinos: nationalise the banks and financial sector under the democratic control and management of working people!
- No to mass unemployment! Share out the work with no loss of pay! For massive state investment in public works programmes to create socially useful work for the unemployed millions!
- No to a Europe of the bosses! For a Europe of working people’s solidarity and struggle!
The struggle against mass unemployment is a key question, which 1 May was used for in the history of the workers’ movement. The struggle for the 8 hour working day was an international demand which featured on this day, more than 100 years ago. Today again, employers are trying to extend the hours of the working day well beyond this. At the same time, they create mass unemployment - a “reserve army”. They try to use this as a tool to lower wages and blackmail all workers. So again, the need to struggle for a shortening of the hours of the working week is a central response to mass unemployment and the effects of the capitalist crisis today.
The CWI links these demands to the struggle for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, under workers’ control and management, to develop a socialist plan of production to end the crisis and to develop the economy, in the interests of workers, consistent with the needs of the environment. The only sustainable, viable solution to the current crisis is the socialist transformation of society internationally. We oppose narrow nationalism. The present crisis illustrates the impossibility of a national solution for one particular country. The CWI stands against the Europe of the bosses, and in favour of a voluntary socialist federation, in Europe and internationally, which would plan and integrate the European and world economy on a democratic basis.
Increasing instability and suffering in the “neo-colonial” world
As the crisis deepens, inter-imperialist conflicts are increasing, as shown by the proxy wars between the big capitalist powers over resources in Africa. A whole continent, which was already suffering during capitalism’s ‘boom’ times, is now reduced to the role of providing cheap resources, while the mass of its population languishes in poverty.
CWI supporters in Israel / Palestine
The imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan continue, creating new horrors and deaths daily. The increasing instability in the Middle East brings new dangers of conflicts and wars. Members and sections of the CWI are directly involved in the rebuilding of the workers’ movement in the region, especially in Israel/Palestine and Lebanon. The CWI fights against national oppression and sectarianism, and supports the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation. The struggle to put forward a Marxist analysis and programme to the social and national questions which are posed is a crucial task in stopping the threat of new wars. The wave of workers’ struggles which have developed in Egypt show the way forward.
In Pakistan, a new hope for the workers has developed, as the new “Progressive Workers’ Federation of Pakistan” was launched, as an officially recognised trade union federation. Members of the CWI (in Socialist Movement Pakistan) have played a crucial role in building this force (almost half a million strong) in a situation of a de-facto failed state, increasing nationalism and religious fundamentalism. In India, where millions live below the poverty line, mass struggle needs a voice. Socialist Alternative (CWI in India) is reaching into new areas of the country. Only the working class can lead the struggle for a real solution in these countries, where the capitalists have completely failed.
Huge anger has built up against the bankers, the capitalist politicians and the institutions of capitalism. The outrage of workers was seen in the mass demonstrations in Spain, at which a general strike against the plans of the government to cut €55 billion in public spending was widely demanded. In a referendum in Iceland, 93% said ‘No’ to a bail-out for investors. In Italy, the latest general strike began when the government again tried to attack provisions which protect jobs - and wants to liberalise redundancies. The will to fight back can be seen in the example of the Greek workers, who went on 5 general strikes in the last 6 months against attacks on public services, pensions and living conditions. “We can’t do this, we have children, family. The banks and the rich must pay for this crisis!”, one worker was quoted as saying against the cuts proposed by the government.
Protest in Germany: "We won’t pay for your crisis!"
However, this crisis did not stop at the margins of the advanced capitalist states, it hit the heart of imperialism itself. California state is almost bankrupt. The governor is trying to terminate its public sector, the education system, health care etc. But workers and students are fighting back. Teachers, university workers and students took a wave of joint action at the beginning of March.
The other big player of the last boom, China, seems to be less affected by the crisis, so far. But there also, workers are moving into action to defend their jobs and living conditions – under horrible conditions and a brutal regime.
General strikes: fighting unions needed!
The attacks of the bosses and their governments are generalised. So too should be the response. Workers in many countries have used already the weapon of one day general strikes to protest against those measures and to demonstrate the power of the working class.
Given the anger and the alienation of workers against all the capitalist institutions, a fighting, combative leadership of the trade unions in many countries could organise a determined struggle to end these attacks. But the union leaders have often backed off and ended up in compromises and “deals”, which only encouraged the bosses to make further attacks.
Protest of Tekel workers in Turkey
When the Tekel tobacco workers in Turkey, hit by the consequences of privatisation and threatened with job losses and cuts, forced the trade union leaders to announce a general strike for 4 February, this was an expression of the wide support they had received from workers around the country. But after the announcement, made by the six biggest union confederations, nothing happened to really mobilise and build the movement!
When in Italy, workers went on a general strike on 12 March against the attacks on job protection and the liberalisation of redundancies, the CGIL leadership mainly confined itself to demanding tax reductions for workers and was not prepared to confront the hated Berlusconi government.
These union leaders are not prepared to go beyond the limits of the capitalist system to defend workers’ rights and living standards. In the conditions of the ongoing crisis, this failure to challenge capitalism represents an acceptance of declining living standards and a loss in real wages.
The CWI stands for fighting and democratic trade unions and workers’ self organisation!.
For union representatives elected by their members and subject to recall, to live on an average workers’ wage!
When struggles develop, committees of action are needed to democratically organise workers and youth!
‘Generation Crisis’ fights back!
Young people and young workers are often hit hardest by the crisis. Rising unemployment is destroying their chances to find a decent job. In Spain, the official rate of unemployment has reached nearly 20%, but for those between 16 and 25, around 44% are without work. Education is also under attack. Young people also have a clear understanding that it is their future that is being destroyed by global warming, nuclear waste and pollution.
In many countries, young people have been to the forefront of the fightback. In countries like Austria, Britain, Germany and Spain, movements against cuts in education, with occupations of schools and universities, have taken place. Masses of people have protested against global warming and the destruction of the environment. The affiliated organisations and parties of the CWI have taken the initiative in organising the resistance to youth unemployment, as with the “Youth Fight for Jobs” campaign in Britain, or the “Generation Crisis fights back” campaign in Germany.
Many young people are not attracted by trade unions because of the policy of their current leaders: Young people see no need to organise to make “deals” about losing wages, worsening working conditions and cuts. We need May Day demonstrations and celebrations which attract young workers and help to organise them. This is only possible with a radical change in the strategies of unions and left parties.
Protest in Britain: Youth Fight for Jobs
The CWI stands for the defence of education, apprenticeship and jobs for all.
Free education from kindergarten to university.
No to all education fees.
Guaranteed jobs, for all, after university or apprenticeships.
Fight unemployment: reduce the hours of the working week, with full pay.
New workers’ parties
The collapse of Stalinism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe 1989/91 was a decisive change in the world situtaion, which represented a setback for the working class, and triggered a huge offensive form capitalism against the idea of a socialist alternative. The capitalists celebrated their “victory”. What an empty phrase, given the disaster they have now caused, as the world economy in the last year has shrunk, with increasing poverty and unemployment globally.
After the experience of Stalinism and the restoration of capitalism, in parts of Eastern Europe, the ideas of nationalisation are coming back onto the agenda. For example, workers in the gas industry and striking workers at a wagon factory in Kazakhstan raised this idea, linked to workers’ control and management. With the CWI in Kazakhstan playing a cruical role within it, the oppositional force “Kazakhstan 2012” is being built to challenge the Kazakh dictatorship and the capitalist system in the run up to the elections in 2012.
But still, the question of an alternative to capitalism in the eyes of many workers is more complicated than in the past. Through the confusion after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the organisations of the workers – parties and trade unions - were weakened, or lost to the workers’ cause. Former workers’ parties like the Labour Party in Britain or the Social democratic parties in Europe went so far to the right that they no longer stand as an instrument for workers which they did, in a distorted way before 1989. This left workers unarmed in the face of the propaganda of capitalism in the 1990s and beginning of this century which had further effects.
But these limitations of organisation and consciousness can be overcome in the coming period. Socialists have to play a crucial role in this process of rearming the working class with strong organisations and defending the genuine ideas of Marxism.
Despite all setbacks, the need for mass resistance forces workers back into struggle. This includes on a political level, where the first steps to form new workers’ parties are being taken.
Even in the US, a socialist candidate recently received 16% of the vote in an election in California. Different trade unions have started the debate about standing with independent candidates in this autumn’s Mid-term elections and the public sector union, SEIU, in North Carolina, has started to form a new party to break with the Democrats.
New formations have already developed in countries like France (the NPA), Germany (Die Linke) and Brazil (PSOL). Despite their limitations, the sections of the CWI energetically intervene to build these forces and to arm them with a socialist programme.
However, without a clear link to workers’ struggles and without a socialist programme, these formations are in danger of shifting to the right and being lost as tools for workers to defend their interests. After participation in coalitions with pro-capitalist parties, the PRC (Party of “Communist Refoundation”)in Italy has almost been wound up. This leaves the Italian working class with the task of rebuilding a force of workers on the political plane. The NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party) in France is in a precarious position, threatening to waste the chance of building a strong force, after the manoeuvring of the leadership towards working together with the pro-capitalist “Socialist Party” in some areas during the regional elections. “Die LINKE”(the Left Party) in Germany has moved to the left in its draft for a new programme, but is at the same time wavering and offering new coalitions with the Social Democracy which – as proven at federal state level – ends up in cuts and redundancies.
The CWI is involved in the struggle to build these left parties and to arm them with an adequate programme. The Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) was involved in the launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Britain to offer workers an alternative to the three main parties of capitalism, which all only offer cuts and privatisations. The Brazilian section of the CWI (Socialismo Revolutionario) is defending a combatative and socialist programme and policy inside P-SOL, to build it as a real force for Brasilian workers.
The CWI argues for the building of new workers’ parties where they do not exist, to bring together workers and youth.
If new mass left parties are not built, there is a danger of the far right gaining from the situation, as we have seen in Austria, where the CWI is involved in the struggle against such forces.
These parties must link themselves to workers in struggle. They need a socialist programme to overcome the limitations of capitalism and not to fall into the trap of running the business of the bosses as a “lesser evil”, which in the end is just another evil for workers and youth.
To allow them to develop they need a democratic structure, overcoming the traditions of Social Democratic and Stalinist parties in the past.
Fight for democratic rights and workers’ rights
USP (CWI in Sri Lanka) campaign against assault of Tamil prisoners
Workers internationally are still confronted with suppression of their democratic rights.
Again this year, Turkish workers will have to fight the attempts of the state to suppress their May Day celebrations. On 1 April, the Tekel workers were brutally attacked by the police. But 1 May, last year, saw the first demonstration on Taksim Place in Istanbul since 1977. This year, the militant traditions of the Turkish workers, inspired by the joint struggle of Turkish and Kurdish workers together at Tekel, will help to bring socialists and workers together again on the streets.
The Iranian workers are forbidden from forming their independent trade unions. But the revolutionary movement of the last 12 month inspired not only Iranian workers but workers internationally to struggle for their rights. Reports of an increase in workers’ struggles over the last month are a sign of the reawakening of the workers’ movement with its rich history in Iran.
In Russia, the CWI participates in the fight for full democratic rights in opposition to the increasingly authoritarian regime. The Putin/Medvedev regime is fast losing its social base of support, as economic crisis hits all parts of the population, except the hated oligarchs, preparing the way for huge social explosions and mass workers resistance.
In Sri Lanka, where May Day is “celebrated” by all parties, workers are confronted with the re-election of Rajapaksa, who now increasingly behaves like a dictator. After the slaughter of the Tamil people there is no “peace dividend” and the workers’ movement is under enormous pressure. The fight against nationalism and racism, and for democratic and workers’ rights, as championed by the United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) is crucial to defend the working class.
While Latin America was the first continent where the demand for socialism reappeared on a wider basis after the collapse of Stalinism, the struggle today is more complicated. The “Bolivarian Revolution” of Chavez in Venezuela, while offering some reforms for the mass of the population, and raising the idea of socialism, unfortunately has not led to a break with capitalism. Because of this and the development of bureaucratism, the situation has now reached an impasse. A new “Boli-(varian) Bourgeoisie” has developed: As well as the most down-trodden in society, a new – and often not very new – privileged bureaucracy and a certain part of Venezuelan capitalism has gained from the half-hearted measures to limit the worst effects of capitalism on the population. Workers’ activists and trade unionists are becoming increasingly persecuted. Democratic and union rights are vital for the whole future of the movement in Venezuela – but workers’ have to fight for them today.
Also, in the advanced capitalist countries, workers and youth have to fight for their democratic rights. The British anti-trade-union laws are being used to block workers from fighting back. General strikes are declared as ‘illegal’ in Turkey, as well as in Germany. With court decisions the French ruling class have tried to act against boss-nappings.
The CWI fights to defend all democratic and workers’ rights against the attempts of the capitalists and their politicians to disarm workers and youth moving into struggle.
However, despite these attempts, the first steps of fight back in a new decade are being made.
In the words of Rosa Luxemburg: “As long as the struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and the ruling class continues, as long as all demands are not met, May Day will be the yearly expression of these demands. And, when better days dawn, when the working class of the world has won its deliverance, then too humanity will probably celebrate May Day, in honour of the bitter struggles and the many sufferings of the past.”
In this spirit of a joint struggle and of the fight to end capitalism and its crisis, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) sends warm May Day greetings to workers, youth and the oppressed all around the globe. Capitalism is organised along international lines, and so too should be the fight back. The current situation demands the organisation of workers on an international basis, but also the international organisation of revolutionary socialists fighting to end the nightmare of capitalism and imperialism. We appeal to all workers and youth who wish to get active in this struggle to join the CWI today!