Building the cwi in 2003 in Scotland, South Africa and Sweden
cwi international conference.
This report is taken from written contributions from cwi sections that were presented to the 21-26 November meeting of the International Executive Committee (IEC) of the cwi, held in Belgium. socialistworld.net cwi online.
Anti-war and anti-capitalism
Since the world congress at the end of 2002 the Scottish section has grown. The level of activity of the section, including our work in the Scottish Socialist Party, has paid dividends this year.
Anti -war campaign
The anti-war campaign gave us an important opportunity to intervene in the mass movement in February. The February 15th demonstration in Glasgow of 100,000 saw over 200 copies of our paper sold and over 5,000 leaflets distributed. We produced a leaflet in our own name – International Socialists – and a YAW/ISR leaflet calling for school and college strikes on Day X. The idea of a schools walk-out was taken up by a number of school students who had joined the YAW campaign on February 15th. Comrades in Dundee played a leading role in a 500 strong schools walk-out on the day after the war on Iraq began. We also had platform speakers at the anti-war demos in Dundee where we have a strong base.
The May 1st election saw the SSP win 6% of the national vote and increase its parliamentary representation to six MSP’s in the Scottish parliament – partly as a result of the favourable electoral system.
Our work in the SSP has begun to yield some important gains. The election campaign saw Tommy Sheridan come out in favour of a "mixed economy". We took up these ideas at the first national council meeting of the SSP after the election. Our resolution was passed by a two-thirds majority.
However we have made an even bigger impact over the discussion on the national question. The SSP leadership proposed to launch an "independence convention" – uniting all those in favour of independence in Scotland. The SSP EC’s document put forward a position which emphasises the ‘progressive’ nature of independence on a capitalist basis.
We produced a statement which defended a class and socialist approach to the national question and have taken up the SSP leadership’s ideas at a series of branches, Socialism 2003 and at the national council of the party. Although the SSP EC’s position was agreed, there is a growing minority who are listening to what we are saying. The CWI is widely seen as the main opposition to the leadership of the SSP on an increasing number of political issues.
It has been the debates on the need for a socialist planned economy and the national question that has begun to open up "clear red water" between ourselves and the SSP leadership.
We have won new members in Aberdeen and Arbroath and a new member in Edinburgh.
We have a strong base in UNISON in Scotland and also comrades in the teachers union, the PCS civil service union and the postal workers union. The ongoing nursery nurses’ strike has seen some of our comrades play important roles as leaders in some local areas.
We have produced six issues of the paper so far this year. The average sale is around 250-300 per issue at present. We also launched a website this year which can be found at www.cwiscotland.org.
The South African (SA) section, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), concluded the year 2002 in an optimistic mood. We played a small but important role in community, student and trade union struggles. With others on the left, we initiated the formation of the Anti-Privatisation Forum, playing a significant role in shaping its platform, strategies and tactics. The APF has earned a prominent place on the left of the political spectrum, and is regarded as a serious threat by the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance (of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and South African Communist Party).
We have also played a pioneering role in the student movement through the establishment of branches, at two well-known universities, of a new student organisation, the Socialist Student Movement (SSM). We also established our own independent trade union. We have branches throughout the country, including in the most important provinces, Gauteng, Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN), Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
Our weekend schools have been organised as joint regional projects by Gauteng and Kwa Zulu Natal, with the latter sending ever larger delegations to Johannesburg where all the schools have taken place so far. Their frequency has now been increased from 6-weekly to monthly events.
Trade Union Work
An independent trade union we helped to set up, is well on course towards the target of 1,000 members by the end of the year. It has offices in Cape Town, and now also in Durban, and will open offices in Johannesburg in January 2004.
2003 has been a year of revolt in Sweden, and our party, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna – RS (CWI Sweden) – has met the challenges.
In the anti-war movement we initiated a broad network and organised 20,000 school students in strikes against the war. During the council workers’ (Kommunal) strike in May, RS was the only party advocating a way to win and explaining the role of the union leadership. We sold thousands of copies of our paper and won 200 paper subscriptions with strikers. In the campaign in the run up to the EMU referendum (14 September) we presented the only socialist ‘No’ campaign. In recent weeks, the worst cuts ever are being proposed in councils and health care. The RS is intervening, everywhere possible, with a fighting programme. These developments – the drastically changed political situation and the role of our party – were the theme of our Congress 31 Oct – 2 Nov in Umeå.
Intervening in struggle and selling the paper, we have reached the best results ever this year.
From January to June, we sold 14 397 papers, excluding an average of 2,160 subscribers per week. In total, that means more than 65,000 sold papers in the first half of 2004.
This year, we have had no problem in finding new members. In general, they want more discussions and contact with the party before joining. .
In Stockholm we have gone from two to four branches.
The coming biggest cuts ever in Luleå and Umeå give us enormous possibilities as the only party in real opposition. The social democracy and the Left Party (formerly the Communist Party) run both councils. The reaction from the Establishment has been slanderous attacks directed against us (“brain-washing”, “financial fraud” etc). In Umeå we answered with a leaflet delivered to 17,000 households within two days after the attacks.