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a socialistworld is possible: the history of the cwi by peter taaffe
new introduction

First stages of global revolt

The movement against capitalist globalisation represents the first stages of this international revolt against the world capitalist system.

Its great merit is that it has mobilised millions of people, particularly young people, into action for the first time. Not all of those participating in the movement consciously opposed capitalism; they were initially in revolt against the effects of capitalism on living standards, the environment, increased militarisation, the drive to war and the monstrous future which this system has conjured up for humankind.

Up to now, where the labour movement and the working class have participated in the anti-capitalist movement, it has usually been in a subordinate position, not coming out as an independent force or with its own political banners. This is largely because of the role of the right-wing trade union leaders, supported, of course, by the leaders of the ex-workers’ parties in Europe and elsewhere, who are now bulwarks of world capitalism. Nevertheless, it is not possible to overestimate this movement, in its scope as an anticipation of future mass movements of the working class. A mass movement of the workers will be more conscious of capitalism being the barrier to further progress and will instinctively pose class demands as a solution to the problems of the world.

The anti-capitalist movement has concentrated on opposition to many of the institutions of world capitalism, such as the IMF and World Bank. This flows from the policy of many of the leaders of the movement. They do not believe it is possible to direct a frontal attack on capitalism and, therefore, wish to channel it merely into a critique of aspects of modern capitalism. Some, like George Monbiot, are searing in their criticisms of the World Bank, the IMF and even the United Nations. Monbiot also shows in detail the futility of imagining that serious “reforms” of these institutions are possible, as some others in the anticapitalist movement have suggested. But having gone far in his criticism, Monbiot draws back and, in effect, seeks solutions within the confines of the system.

The millions-fold movement from below, however, is crossing over the threshold which Monbiot and other leaders of the movement baulk at. In the future it will go much further. Its activists are searching for a programme and ideas which can create a real alternative “new world”. This cannot be a renovated capitalist programme but must be socialist in content. The mass movement against the war in Iraq has resulted in a profound change in consciousness of all layers in society but particularly amongst young people. Marxists have always pointed out that war is the midwife of revolution. For instance, the 1905 Russian Revolution was ushered in by the Russo-Japanese War and the 1917 Russian Revolution by the First World War. The Iraq War has not yet led to a revolution, apart from the mass resistance in Iraq to occupation, which is potentially the beginning of a revolution. But it has led to a revolution, or the beginning of revolution, in the outlook of millions who have been radicalised by these convulsive events. In the minds of many, the need for an alternative has been posed, with some embracing socialism.

How to realise this “new world” demanded by increasing sections of the movement is a key question. History, including recent history, has shown that this will not be achieved either ‘spontaneously’ or ‘semi-spontaneously’. The twentieth century was marked by heroic movements of the working class, revolutionary upsurges, which reached out to take power from the capitalists. In some cases power slipped from the hands of the working class. This was the case in Spain, 1936-37, where initially four-fifths of the country was under the control of the working class. In Chile, under Allende in 1973, 40 per cent of land and industry was taken out of private hands, while in Portugal, in 1975, a mass movement from below compelled the government to nationalise the banks and, through them, 70 per cent of industry. The failure of the working class to hold onto power arose not at all from its political ‘immaturity’, but entirely because their own organisations, in particular, their leaders, at the head of mass socialist and communist parties, proved a barrier. In almost every case these leaders handed power back to the capitalists, rather than seek a solution to the workers’ needs and demands through revolution.