Last weekend, LSP/MAS (the Belgian affiliate of the cwi), held a national conference to discuss ’Political alternatives for the. With 134 participants from 17 branches this conference was the biggest ever in the history of the party in Belgium.
The presence of 30 French-speaking members reflected the growth of MAS in the Walloon area and in Brussels. Seven people agreed to join our ranks at the conference. We sold books and pamphlets worth 450 Euro and the financial appeal raised 7,750 Euro. National membership dues were increased impressively.
The idea behind this meeting was to prepare our party for the social and industrial movements to come and how we can overcome the lack of a fighting political instrument of the working class to intervene.
The conference was an indication of the positive developments the LSP/MAS has experienced in recent months. A record number of people attended the conference and the high political level was very good.
New mass workers’ parties
A pre-conference discussion document, circulated in the run up to the conference to members, starts with an analysis of the present economic situation on a world scale. It explains how and why globalisation arose and its limits.
The conference document explains the origins of Stalinism – the totalitarian regimes that formerly ruled in the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe – and its collapse. The document gives a detailed picture of the repercussions the collapse of Stalinism had in the former Soviet Union, the neo-colonial world (so-called, ’Third World’) and the major capitalist countries.
The conference document also goes into the history of the former mass workers’ parties and the development of reformist ideas. It also deals with the question of the Stalinist degeneration of parties and organisations.
These historic examples illustrate that the formation of mass workers’ parties is based on industrial and political developments and movements. We will be confronted with massive movements of the working class in the coming years. The need for a new workers’ party will be put on the agenda and will win ground amongst workers and youth.
However, the creation of a new workers’ party alone, will not be a guarantee to winning future struggles. Within a fairly short time, these new parties will have to decide whether they will follow the road of reformism or revolution. This is a fundamental difference compared to the period after the Second World War.
As a final point, the conference document states that a new workers’ party is not an end in itself. The point is to create a party for workers and youth that, through members’ education and practical experience, can reach revolutionary conclusions and struggle to change society.
’Political alternatives for the workers’ movement’ was discussed in all branches during the pre- conference run up and will remain an important means to discuss our ideas with members and sympathisers.
The document compares our analysis and programme to those of other left tendencies. This allowed us to point out and clarify the details of our programme.
The political analysis is, of course, always linked to organisational conclusions. We drew a balance sheet of our participation in the anti-globalisation movement, the anti-war movement, the fight against racism and Fascism, and of our election campaign. LSP/MAS has built a unique position amongst young people. Youth work will of course remain an important element of our work but we are also devoting more attention to our trade union work and in the workplaces.
The first steps in that direction have already been taken. Over the last few months, members of LSP/MAS have been very active in both the socialist union (ABVV/FGTB) and the Christian union (ACV/CSC). They have made special efforts to involve their colleagues in the trade union work. After all, a shop steward can only rely on an active membership.
In 2004 there will be social elections taking place (elections of shop stewards in the workplaces). A number of our members will stand and will promote an action programme and to campaign for democratic unions.
Finally, our conference discussed our role in the public sector union since it is obvious that the government will launch major attacks on the public and social services.
LSP/MAS used the quiet summer period to strengthen its structures. We managed to increase the number of members paying their subs regularly. There is now better follow-up to our financial campaigns. Sales of our monthly paper, ’Socialistisch Links’ (in Dutch) and ’Alternative Socialiste’ (in French), have increased.
Besides this, we set up ’reading groups’ to improve members’ education. In addition, we have set up regional committees to coordinate our work. This was because branches have recruited many new members in the past year and also because we set up branches in new regions.
LSP/MAS will take part in the European and regional elections in 2004. We are prepared to discuss working with broader initiatives if they represent real forces on the ground. If that is not the case, we will run our own lists in the Flanders area and possibly in the Walloon area as well. We are determined to build the forces of LSP/MAS through the election campaign/s and to establish new branches in areas where we are not present as yet.
LSP/MAS is part of an international socialist organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), which has sections in over 36 countries across the globe. A representative of the International Secretariat of the CWI spoke at the conference and gave a report of CWI work in countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, as well as in the US, Japan, and Australia and other places.
CWI sections, especially in Europe, have increased membership over the past year. This is due to the rising tide of the class struggle in those countries and due to our intervention into the anti-war movement.