Building the cwi in 2003 in the US
cwi international conference.
This is the final report 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
The last year in the U.S. has been an eventful, volatile year where a number of major events have developed at a quick pace. Bush’s war drive provoked one of the largest social movements in the U.S. in a generation. The economic situation has not improved for most workers, and Bush’s public support has rapidly fallen to pre-9/11 levels, now at the lowest levels since he stole the White House.
The AFL-CIO’s “immigrant workers freedom ride” rallies culminated in an unprecedented, historic rally of 100,000 immigrants in New York City. Growing anger among workers has been reflected in a number of militant, high profile strikes, such as the strike of 70,000 grocery workers in California (along with another 12,000 grocery workers in the Midwest) and the Los Angeles transit workers’ strike.
In September and October 2003, at the start of the school year, the CWI organized a recruitment campaign among college students. As part of this campaign, we had a national speaking tour of comrade Bart from Belgium who spoke about the war in Iraq and the case for socialism.
Branches also organized public meetings on fighting back against Bush. In total, we held 20 meetings in seven cities, with 735 people attending in total (an average of 36 per meeting). 487 came to the meetings with Bart speaking (an average of 49 per meeting).
We had our largest public meeting in Minneapolis, where 90 people showed up to hear Bart. Comrades in Boston arranged for Bart to speak to several classes (120 students) at a high school where we have a member, and also had a public meeting of 86 people.
In New York we have some openings at Stony Brook. The branch has also been involved in a campaign to defend a leading New York student activist, Miguel Malo, who is threatened with jail for holding up a sign at a protest. One of our Boston branches is playing a leading role in defending a prominent professor who was physically attacked by military recruiters and police officers and is threatened with jail for defending a student who was handing out anti-war material.
The movement against the war in Iraq was the largest anti-war movement in the US since the Vietnam War, and it developed at a far faster speed than in Vietnam. There were regular national demonstrations ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 people in New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
Besides our political contribution, our organization’s primary impact was organizing very successful student walk-outs on Day X: 3,000 students in Seattle, 3,000 in Minneapolis, 1,000 in Oberlin, 275 in Boston, and a small walk-out in New York City. Some of these walk-outs were the largest campaigns our organization has led since the organization was founded in 1986.
Our trade union comrades contributed to the development of the formation of an important anti-war current within the labour movement, ‘U.S. Labor Against the War’. The Seattle comrades passed a strong anti-war resolution in the bus workers’ union.
The movement against the Iraq war subsided when Bush declared victory. However, the recent October 25, 2003 demonstration of 40-50,000 people in Washington. D.C was a turning a point, a revival of the anti-war movement, which is now re-emerging as a movement against the occupation. With 15 comrades (from New York, Boston and Oberlin) at the October 25th protest we sold 325 papers.
Given the worsening situation in Iraq, the anti-occupation movement will only grow. The next major day of protest against the occupation seems to be March 20, which also looks like it will be a major day of protest internationally.
The organization has on-going work in a number of unions in different branches. Comrades are working on moving anti-occupation resolutions and trying to build an anti-occupation movement in the unions where we have members. We have regularly intervened at trade union rallies against budget cuts and layoffs.
The organization in Boston is leading a campaign against layoffs at Harvard University (where we have several long-standing members of the union with an important influence in the union, and also now a group of students). In Minneapolis, our comrades played a key role in organizing a students’ sit-in and student solidarity with a strike of 1800 clerical workers at the University of Minnesota. In Chicago, our comrades are in the leadership of a public sector union local. In New York we have elected union positions in the mail handlers and graduate student employee unions.
The Seattle branch is leading a campaign to unionize nine Pizza Hut restaurants. The Seattle comrades are also building links with the Teamsters union, as well as the bus workers union, where we have members (as we also do in Minneapolis) with plans to do monthly paper sales, circulate leaflets, and try and build a caucus to fight for a better contract next year.
We have members in the many areas of the country, including the following: Seattle, Washington, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chicago, Illinois, Oberlin, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York, New York, Boston and national members.
The newspaper is published 5 times a year. We have sold approximately 4,000 copies of the September-October issue.
The organization had a national campaign to build up the subscriptions to the paper. We reached 72% of our target, which was for every member to win one subscription. The campaign helped raise comrade’s consciousness about regularly asking for subscriptions, resulting in our subscription base continuing to grow after the campaign was concluded.