The final session of the very successful CWI summer school in Belgium, held last week, with over 400 in attendence, discussed building CWI sections in a period of global economic and political crisis.
The session began with a video montage of recent protest movements, on all continents, at which the CWI were either organisers or had active participants. Niall Mulholland, from the International Secretariat of the CWI, then introduced the discussion, summing up the experiences of the various CWI sections over the past year; the breakthroughs but also the challenges faced.
Most CWI sections have recorded growth in their numbers over the past year. Despite the scale of the crisis and the clear need for a political alternative for workers, Niall pointed out that it would be a mistake to make an automatic link between the onset of a recession and working people and youth responding with an immediate drawing of radical socialist conclusions. Political consciousness tends to lag behind events, in general. The past period of dominant neo-liberal ideology, the practical obstacles of a right wing trade union leadership and an absence of a mass left political alternative – all serve to hold back a more militant active response from workers and youth. That said, events are clearly pushing many youth and workers into opposing this system and there exists a growing radicalised layer that are looking to the ideas of socialism and the CWI.
All sections of the CWI have experienced a pick up in the pace of activity over the last months, as there is no shortage of issues to campaign and fight on. The last year has also seen renewed activity by the CWI in places like Spain, Portugal and Taiwan. The ControCorrent in Italy has now become part of the CWI. The Mouvement pour le Parti Socialiste is campaigning to build the CWI in Quebec.
Niall paid particular attention to the development of the CWI outside of Europe, over the last year. The CWI is active in countries as varied as Malaysia and Bolivia. In Brazil, the CWI section successfully merged with another left group to form Liberty Socialism and Revolution. Discussions and collaboration with other left groups takes place in various countries, including Turkey.
Socialists facing difficult situations
Niall reported that in parts of the world, such as Sri Lanka and Nigeria, the current situation facing socialists is very difficult due to wars, national oppression, generalised extremes of poverty and a dip in mass struggles. The CWI sections in Sri Lanka, the United Socialist Party, and Nigeria, the Democratic Socialist Movement, have achieved wonders holding their forces, built up over years, and developing their policies and programme – all of which places them in a good position for bigger growth in more favourable conditions that will unfold.
One of the most startling developments has been that of the CWI in Pakistan, the Socialist Movement Pakistan, which recently held a national cadre school with 100s in attendance. Given Pakistan’s grinding poverty and poor infrastructure, building a socialist organisation is no mean logistical feat. This section has also seen the trade union federation it has launched, The Progressive Workers Federation of Pakistan, grow to 500,000 members
Niall touched up the various areas of work the European sections of the CWI have been engaged in, which were then taken up in more detail in the discussion. The practical role, which an international organisation like the CWI can play, was demonstrated by the week of solidarity action and protest initiated by Joe Higgins MEP, and agreed to by the GUE/NGL MEPs in June, in response to the austerity attacks on the Greek working class. This resulted in CWI sections, along with other left parties, organise protests, pickets and rallies across Europe.
With the numerical growth of CWI sections comes the challenge of expanding and developing politically and organisationally experienced comrades to participate and lead struggles in their community, workplace or college.
In the discussion that followed, comrade Brett from the US reported on a range of interventions Socialist Alternative (CWI US) have made into recent struggles. These include a nurses’ strike in Philidelphia, the anti-war movement which is campaigning against Obama’s troops ‘surge’ in Afghanistan and the Grassroots Education Movement, which has been set up in response to the drive to privitise that sector.
Christel from ControCorrente (CWI Italy) reported on the work with postal workers fighting privatisation. On the initiative of one young comrade in the small town of Abruzzo, a protest against the far right Forza Novo was held.
Gary reported on the work of the Socialist Party in Northern Ireland, where the ongoing problem of sectarianism significantly complicates the work of the comrades. Nevertheless the effects of the social cuts are being felt and the party recently initiated a successful protest in Belfast, with the support of a number of unions. This sort of work created the basis for new SP branches.
Kyriakos from Xekenima (CWI Greece) described the comrades’ work as part of the left alliance, Syriza, and also our other work particularly among the youth. Xekenima has gone through a period of rapid growth in recent years and now is making new efforts to develop more cadres.
Greg from the Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales), provided figures showing the increased rate of new people joining the party in recent months, which has been particularly noticeable among trade unionists. A new influx has allowed the party to re-establish branches in various towns and cities. The Socialism 2010 event in November is a key focus for the party in the next months, as well as all the anti-cuts campaigning in the unions and in the local communities.
Ioshe, from Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel), reported on CWI members’ participation in the protest movement in response to the IDF’s attack on the flotilla of aid ships to Gaza, as well as protests against settlements in the West Bank. The comrades have also won new supporters following their participation in LGBT rights campaigning work in Israel.
Fighting for socialism in India, France and Belgium
Vishwa, from New Socialist Alternative (CWI India), spoke of the work of the comrades against the activities of mining companies who have been gifted the India’s natural resources by the government and which extract profits from the huge exploitation of workers and the environment. The CWI’s popular book, Marxism in Today’s World, has now been translated into its fourth language in India, giving socialist ideas an even greater profile in the sub continent.
Alex from Gauche Revolutionaire (CWI France) described how the French CWI participates in the broad Nouvelle Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), where comrades campaign for it to adopt a socialist programme. The CWI in France is also conducting anti-racist work and campaigning for students’ rights in the colleges.
Bart from the Linkse Socialistiche Partij/Parti Socialist de Lutte (CWI Belgium) described how the CWI section is developing the socialist education of members following a period of significant party growth. While there has not been generalized struggle in Belgium for a period, there have been some important movements of youth and individual industrial battles to which the CWI supporters give support.
Summing up the 2010 CWI Summer School, Tony Sanois from the International Secretariat highlighted that this was the largest CWI School in over 20 years, which is another indication of the progress made by the CWI over the last year. With growth comes the challenge of forming party cadres – which can be greatly accelerated in the context of the economic crisis and by the increase in the tempo of the class struggle, whereby new CWI supporters can quickly acquire, in a relatively short amount of time, vital experience.
Tony highlighted the European Trade Union Congresses call for Europe-wide action on 29 September against the social cuts and austerity packages. Also on that date, a general strike takes place in Spain. The CWI across Europe will participate in strikes and demonstrations on that day or take initiatives, where possible
The CWI School ended with the singing of the Internationale, in over a dozen languages, as participants prepared themselves for the struggle ahead.