world social forum, Mumbai: Mass struggle to overthrow imperialism and capitalism

A socialist world is possible and necessary

Text of cwi leaflet distributed in Mumbai.

Mass struggle to overthrow imperialism and capitalism

Capitalism and imperialism are showing their true face. The US hyperpower has already militarily attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and threatens to do the same to Iran and North Korea. Trade liberalisation and capitalist globalisation are being used to increase the super-exploitation of poor countries.

The globalisation hawks – the IMF, World Bank and WTO – have forced through privatisations, deregulation and the slaughter of welfare. Governments of the neo-colonial countries have generally shown their incapacity to resist while local capitalists have actually acted as agents for these policies. This has resulted in the ruin of whole swathes of the working class and poor peasantry in many countries and even the pauperisation of whole countries. Clearly, on a capitalist basis, any substantial upturn in the world economy, let alone any improvement in the lot of most of the world’s population cannot be expected.

However capitalist globalisation and neo-liberalism are creating a movement of resistance. 50 million workers participated in the general strike against privatisations and ‘labour reform’ in India on 21 May, 2003. 30 million people globally demonstrated against Bush and Blair’s war on 15 February, 2003. Mass movements overthrew neo-liberal governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina.

These movements, and the organised working class in particular, need a leadership which sets out the goal of transforming society along socialist lines to achieve lasting victory. Despite their crises, capitalism and imperialism will not disappear by themselves. A workers’ movement with a clear socialist programme is needed. Our international socialist organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), plays a key role in developing the necessary mass workers’ parties, the revolutionary leadership and the international organisation required to achieve a truly socialist society.

The result of neo-liberalism

In the 1990s, US imperialism implemented its ‘free market’ programme in most countries. In the US, there was talk about a ‘new economy’, immune to crisis.

But, at best, what did capitalism achieve?

By the end of the ‘90s the three richest men in the world owned more than the poorest countries with a combined population of 600 million. Capitalism is more parasitic than ever.

One billion children live in poverty (Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund).

54 countries are poorer than 10 years ago (World Bank).

In 21 countries, the number of people suffering from hunger has increased in the last ten years (UNDP Human Development Report).

Double standards over subsidies

Imperialism means capitalist powers invading poorer countries, by economic or military means. The western powers, acting for the transnational companies, have no intention of ‘developing’ the world; their aim is power and profits.

In the US and the EU, farmers get a subsidy of $2.70 a day for each cow they rear. This is more than the daily income of half of the people alive in the world today.

Subsidies to US cotton farmers are higher than total US aid to Africa. 10 million cotton farmers in West Africa are poor and starving.

One third of all those living under the subsistence level are in India. There, a few fabulously rich families own conglomerates which dominate the economy.

Pressure on India

Most governments in Asia, Africa and Latin America, however, are not fighting for the working class and poor masses. They are in the pockets of imperialism and the transnationals, slavishly following IMF and World Bank decrees.

In India, the BJP government has adopted neo-liberal policies and ‘opened up’ the economy to foreign trade and exploitation, despite the party’s recent commitment to ‘Swadeshi’ or self-sufficiency. Millions of jobs have been destroyed in manufacturing – especially the garment industry and pharmaceuticals – and in agriculture. Mass privatisations and worsening conditions for workers and poor peasants have been carried through.

Impressive growth figures hide the lack of a rounded out, stable development of the economy and society in India. The working class has to build on the experience of general strikes and mass struggle and organise independently of the state and the ruling parties, in fighting trade unions and mass parties, in order to change the course of history in India.

Warning: ‘Divide and Rule’

‘Divide and Rule’ has, since colonial times, been one of the capitalist ruling class’s main weapons in the so-called ‘third world’. In Sri Lanka, capitalism’s incapacity to uphold the rights of the Tamil-speaking people in the north and east, combined with the communalist venom spewed out over decades by reactionary Sinhalese organisations, has led to a long, devastating civil war. In India, communalist attacks against Muslims, most notoriously in Gujarat, benefited the reactionary Hindu BJP, giving it election victories there and elsewhere.

Nevertheless workers, young people and the poor from different ethnic or religious backgrounds have a common interest in struggle against the capitalist exploiters and politicians. Common struggle and a programme for guaranteed national and minority rights are the means to overcome divisions, conflicts and tensions.

Are there other alternatives?

The working and poor masses of Brazil had high hopes in the new ‘Left’ president, Lula da Silva, but many of the previous government’s policies were maintained. IMF-dictated policies have cut pensions and put a brake on crucial land reform etc. Unemployment has increased by a further one million since Lula came to power in January 2003. All this stems from the fact that Lula has not fundamentally challenged the rule of capital.

This is what will happen, whatever the good intentions, with any government not prepared to break with capitalism, landlordism and imperialism. The idea that you can first establish some kind of ‘authentic’ democracy and economic stability in the neo-colonial world and then move towards a socialist alternative, is an illusion. Nor should any idea of alliances or coalitions with capitalist parties be seen as a short-cut to tackling the vast problems besetting these countries.

What about China?

China’s economy, moving rapidly towards full-blown capitalism while hiding behind the banner of a fake socialism, continues grow spectacularly. An alliance has been forged between the Western transnational companies and the dictatorship of the ‘Communist’ party bureaucracy, many of whose members are enriching themselves as capitalist ‘entrepreneurs’. This success is underpinned by the still huge involvement of the state in the economy – the opposite of what neo-liberals put forward everywhere else. For the multinationals, China offers the unique combination of the lowest wages, a huge supply of labour and the brutal state repression of any attempt to build independent trade unions or parties.

This is far from a stable development. An economic crisis in China can be triggered by several different factors, from a collapse in trade or major bank failures. Politically, the regime will be challenged by growing discontent from workers and by the development of splits within the ruling layer.

What went wrong in Soviet Russia?

As Marxists, we regard the Russian Revolution in 1917 as the most important event in world history. Workers took power and abolished capitalism – the capitalist world was shaken and workers internationally wanted to follow the same road.

But Russia was isolated when other revolutions failed (Germany, Italy, China). After Lenin’s death, a conservative bureaucracy under Stalin established a brutal dictatorship through the use of horrific police methods and widespread bloody purges. Bolshevik Party members who carried through the revolution were physically eliminated. Even though the regime retained a planned economy which, for a long period enormously developed the economy and society, this was not socialism. All elements of workers’ democracy – control and management by elected representatives – were crushed.

When Stalinism finally collapsed, many of the former ‘communist’ bosses in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe became capitalists – some of them exceedingly rich. The ‘communist’ leaders in the neo-colonial world, who based themselves on the Stalinist model, swiftly adopted pro-capitalist policies and abandoned socialism even as a final aim.

The Marxist and co-leader with Lenin of the October revolution in Russia, Leon Trotsky, had already in the 1930s insisted that a genuine socialist regime must establish workers’ democracy, without any privileges for the functionaries, and must be international or it cannot succeed.

Rebuilding the workers’ movement

The collapse of the Stalinist planned economies of the USSR and Eastern Europe and the further degeneration of the old social democracy in Europe weakened the organised workers’ movement globally in the 1990s. Renewed workers’ struggles in the last few years have given the opportunity to start rebuilding. General strikes have shaken India, Bolivia, Italy, Spain, Greece and other countries in 2002-2003.

Mass movements against the war and against privatisations constitute another source of the forces to form new parties. Among layers of young people there is a revolt against economic injustice, corruption, dictatorship – a new anti-capitalist mood is developing. This has been exploited by Non Governmental Organisations and the movement’s ‘leaders’, who deny the need for parties to channel the energies and anger of young people and workers against the system of capitalism itself.

The CWI stands for the building of parties with fighting programmes which gain mass support of the working class, young people and the poor and for fighting, democratic trade unions. Armed with a Marxist leadership and a socialist programme, the mass workers’ parties can abolish capitalism worldwide and establish a truly socialist society.

Join the CWI – a fighting, socialist International

The Committee for a Workers’ International combines Marxist analysis with bold initiatives and support for the struggles of workers and young people.

The CWI in Nigeria – the Democratic Socialist Movement – is the second largest section of the CWI. It is prominent in the New Conscience Party, fighting electoral fraud and creeping dictatorship. It also played a key role in mobilising for last year’s general strikes.

The CWI in Australia – the Socialist Party – has been to the fore in the anti-war, anti-globalisation demonstrations and is conducting a vigorous campaign against low pay employers.

The CWI in Sri Lanka – the United Socialist Party – has fought for the rights of the working class and poor peasantry and also of all oppressed minorities. It has vigorously championed the rights of the Tamil-speaking people to self-determination.

The CWI in Germany – the Sozialistische Alternative – led strikes involving up to 200,000 students and school students against the US war in Iraq. In Austria, Britain, Sweden and Ireland, the CWI was also involved in mobilising tens of thousands who participated in similar youth strikes. We also campaigned for the trade unions to organise strikes in protest against the war.

The CWI in Brazil – Socialismo Revolucionario – initiated the MSE (the movement of youth without education), which has occupied universities in defence of working class students’ rights.

The CWI in Ireland – the Socialist Party (SP) – has a member of parliament, Joe Higgins who takes no more pay than the average skilled worker and donates the rest of his parliamentary salary to the workers’ movement. This autumn, together with an SP councillor, he was sentenced to prison for one month because of the leading role they have played in a mass campaign against new local taxes on workers.

The CWI initiated Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) which organised the first all-European demonstration against racism of 50,000 protesters in Brussels in 1992.

The CWI has parties and groups in 40 countries, including in South Asia. For more details, look up our web-site:

Join us here at the WSF. We will be holding meetings every day at our stand – No. 295. Send a message to us via e-mail:

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February 2004