The need to fight against the spectre of rising unemployment and worsening living conditions as the capitalist crisis unfolds together with the struggle for an end to the present nightmare on the Balkans are the main themes on May Day this year.
It was the first Congress of the Socialist (Second) International in July 1889, that took the historic decision, to organise "a great international demonstration such a manner that the workers in all countries and in all cities shall on a specified day simultaneously address to the public authorities a demand to fix the workday for eight hours". The Congress’ decision was inspired by the demonstrations on May Day, in favour of an eight-hour working day, that has already started in the US.
Ever since the first international May Day demonstrations in 1890 millions of workers and youth have taken to the streets to raise the red flag of struggle, solidarity, socialism.
The socialist pioneers insisted that May Day should act as a means "to show the determined will of the working class to destroy class distinction through social change and thus enter the road of peace for all peoples, to international peace", (the Socialist International stated in 1893). In short, that May Day should become more than an annual demonstration or simply just another holiday.
However, the policy pursued by the present leadership of the workers movement has nothing in common with the policies and methods adopted by the socialist pioneers. An unbridgeable gulf separates the two. Most of the leaders have completely broken with the old tradition of struggle and internationalism, at the very time when the need for the working class to come together on an international plane is more important than ever before. A socialist revival is needed and the workers’ movement has to be re-organised on socialist lines in order to fight back against the bosses.
The CWI is fighting to build an international socialist organisation. Workers unity and an universal struggle for international socialism will make it possible for humanity to enter a road to peace.
THE FIGHT AGAINST WAR AND NATIONAL OPPRESSION
One of the reasons behind the formation of international socialist mass organisations was to organise the struggle against war and nationalist oppression. The First International, set up in 1864, had already declared: "If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal concurrence, how are they to fulfil that great mission with a foreign policy in pursuit of criminal designs, playing upon national prejudices, and squandering in piratical wars the people’s blood and treasure". The Second International promised, if a war broke out, "to use the economic and political crisis created by the war to arouse the masses politically and hasten the overthrow of capitalist rule". But when the First World War started in 1914, most of the Social Democratic leaders did the opposite and gave support to their "own" imperialist power. This betrayal marked the end of the Second International. A new socialist or Communist International was then formed in 1919 in the aftermath of the October revolution in 1917. The example set by workers in Russia and the support the October revolution got from workers abroad meant that the imperialist powers could not sustain their military aggression against the revolution. They were defeated by the workers in Russia and the revolutionary ferment at home.
The Stalinist degeneration of the October revolution, due to the fact that the revolution remained isolated to the an underdeveloped Russia, paved the way for the degeneration and the ultimate fall of the Third International. The terrible defeat suffered by the workers in the 1930s gave rise to Hitler and the barbaric Second World War. It was up to Trotsky and his supporters to try to lay the political and ideological foundation for a new mass International. The CWI is part of that tradition, of genuine Marxism.
STOP NATO’S WAR IN EUROPE
In 1999, Social Democrats, like Blair in Britain, Schröder in Germany and Jospin in France have given themselves a licence to kill innocent civilians in Milosevic’s Yugoslavia.
The brutal attacks against the Kosovars and the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Serbian regime of Milosevic has undoubtedly shocked many people. But NATO bombs and missiles will not assist the struggle to overthrow Milosevic and to defend the democratic rights of the Kosovars.
NATO’s war in the Balkans is led by so-called centre-left governments in Europe and US imperialism. The war has allegedly been waged in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosova. But as NATO’s bombs fell the human tragedy in Kosova reached a scale that can hardly be dressed in words; nearly one third of all the ethnic Albanians in Kosova have become refugees in poor neighbouring countries and many others have been displaced inside Kosova. On 14 April NATO even bombed the very same people - the refugees - it was suppose to protect. This is the single biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War and the suffering will continue for years. NATO’s war in the Balkans has aggravated all the national and ethnic tensions in the region. The missiles sent and the bombs dropped have struck a blow against all the attempts made to build up independent working class organisations in the former Yugoslavia. It has played into the hands of chauvinists and all the bourgeois nationalist governments which combine oppression at home with the willingness to expand their power at the expense of other nationalities.
We defend the democratic and national rights of all minorities. The Kosovars, and we defend the democratic rights of all oppressed minorities, have a right to self-determination and the right to form an independent state. But NATO never went to war to protect the Kosovars or to support their right to self-determination. In the course of the war it became obvious that it was NATO’s credibility that was at stake, not the fate of the Kosovars or other peoples in the region.
The war sparked off protests in many countries, particular in Europe. The CWI has been part of the anti-war movement. In Rostock, Germany, for example, we initiated protests against NATO’s war. Joe Higgins, a socialist and a CWI-member in the Irish parliament, immediately raise his voice of protest in the parliament when the war broke out.
All the peoples of the region live under the authoritarian rule of war-mongering gangster capitalist states; most of these regimes would not survive without the support given by Western imperialism. Bosnia has become a protectorate ruled by NATO while regional warlords or corrupt politicians are robbing the people. Very few of those displaced during the war in Bosnia have been able to return home.
A united struggle is needed to overthrow these regimes and set the Balkans free from imperialist stranglehold. The problem cannot be solved on the basis of capitalism, only a Socialist Confederation of Balkan states, on a free and equal basis, offer an end to the present nightmare of ethnic cleansing, terror and lives in constant fear.
The war in the Balkans and the support given to NATO by the leaders of social democracy shows the complete capitalist character of these parties.
New mass socialist parties have to be built, based on the best traditions from the past and a programme for a socialist future. New parties will be formed, on the basis of experience and under the impact of the living struggle, though no one can predict exactly when and how. But the impending crisis of capitalism together with the experience from the 1990s will give rise to an anti-capitalist mood and militant struggle, which will in turn pose the question of new workers’ parties much more concretely.
The CWI and its sections, however, are striving to build revolutionary workers’ parties and a new International.
A COMMON FIGHT BACK AGAINST GLOBAL CAPITALISM
Capitalism is a global system controlled by big multinational companies. Multinationals now account for more than one-third of world output and two-thirds of world trade.
The world has become a global casino where money-grabbers are playing, 24 hours a day, with working peoples jobs and livelihoods.
International solidarity and working class unity is absolute vital in the present epoch of globalisation and capitalist decay.
World capitalism is on the eve of a new severe crisis. Half the world is already in crisis. In the words of recent statement produced by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU): "Poverty is rising particularly rapidly at the present time… Those who have borne the brunt are working people, the poor and in particular women. In Asia and Russia the living standard has collapsed and unemployment has surged… Latin America and Africa are already experiencing a fall in growth. The global economy is inter-linked and falling trade and dangerously volatile stock markets threaten to trigger a truly global recession with falling demand and output and a devastating impact on employment and poverty".
A HORROR WITHOUT END
Contrast the present situation with that promised by the ruling class when George Bush, the then US president, in 1991 proclaimed the birth of a New World Order. The New World Order was going to provide progress, prosperity and peace. Some bourgeois commentators even said that this was the "End of History". But far from being the "End of History", the 1990s have been riven by class and ethnic tensions fuelled by poverty, mass unemployment and a widening gap between rich and poor.
It is now ten years since the Berlin Wall came down and the old world order fall to pieces. However, the peoples in the former USSR and Eastern Europe have experienced "the greatest deterioration in the past decade. Income poverty has spread from a small part of their population to about a third - 120 million people below the poverty line of US$ 4 a day", according to the United Nations Human Development Report 1997. Russia’s economy has collapsed. The economy of Ukraine - and the incomes of its 50 million people - is now barely one-third of the size that it was in 1989.
The so-called free market has meant a horror without end for the oppressed masses, which in turn is given rise to social explosions and the eruptions of mass struggle throughout the world.
General strikes have swept trough countries like Zimbabwe, Ecuador and Israel, while South Korea came close to a general strike in mid-April. Greece was rocked by the biggest and most militant school student movement at the end of last year and the beginning of this.
The beginning of the Indonesian revolution (a process of social revolution begins when the old order crumbles and the masses enter the arena of struggle in order to rule over their own destiny) toppled one of the world’s oldest dictatorship last year. The fall of the Suharto dictatorship showed what can be achieved if the masses take to the road of struggle.. But a revolutionary process, particularly in the absence of a clear programme, strategy and mass socialist organisations, will be a drown out process that inevitably will include periods of set-backs.
The struggle in Indonesia reached a temporary stalemate at the end of last year, which has paved the way for ethnic divisions and even horrific pogroms on some of the most isolated islands. However, this is not the final stage in the unfolding Indonesian revolution, the whip of counter-revolution and disintegration can provoke a new upsurge in the struggle.
FOR WORKERS UNITY AND WORLD SOCIALISM
The world is not lacking resources or wealth, but never in history have the so few been in control of the wealth produced. The gap between rich and poor has reached an unprecedented level. The 225 richest people in the world have a combined wealth of more than US$ 1,000 billion - equal to the annual income of the poorest 47 per cent of the earth’s population, 2.5 billion people!
For every hour over the past year, Bill Gates, the richest man on the planet, has made about US$ 4.5 million. Bill Gates personal wealth is US$ 92 billion. Less than half of that sum would provide: "basic education for all people in the world, basic health for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and safe water for all", according to the United Nations.
Capitalism is a system based on production for profit and consequently on exploitation. The recent profit bonanza at the expense of the workers and poor has meant that there is a shrinking market for the goods produced, and at the end of the day capitalists have to sell their products in order to make profits. The result of this contradiction, inherent in the system, is that in the grotesque world of capitalism there seems to be too much of everything at the same time as one fifth of the world’s population is starving and more than 1,000 million people are either unemployed or underemployed. The anarchy of the market has created a "glut economy", industries stand idle, new innovations are not implemented because the crisis expresses itself in over-capacity and over-production. This perversion is throwing more and more people out of work and living in poverty.
The only way to overcome the present, and increasingly acute crisis facing mankind is through decisive struggle with the aim of abolishing capitalism and landlordism. The task of the socialist revolution is to bring the big monopolies, the banks and financial institutions into public ownership and on that basis start to work out a democratic plan for the production and redistribution of wealth on a national scale. A planned economy, run and controlled by democratically elected assemblies, will make it possible to develop the productive forces in harmony with nature and the environment. Only a socialist organisation of production and distribution can assure humanity - all humanity - a decent standard of life and end all kind of oppression and violence.