cwi summer school 2004:: Building the cwi

Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa…the growing influence of Trotskyism

This second report follows another article covering the main discussion on Latin America from the CWI Summer School that appeared recently on

The last main session of the Summer School concentrated on the organisational and political aspects of building the CWI and its sections. The CWI was founded 30 years ago, in 1974. The CWI is now represented by parties and groups in 36 countries, on every continent.

Clare Doyle opened the session and outlined the success the CWI has known in the last years, which was reflected in the marvellous attendance at this year’s school – over 350 people from 21 countries attended, making it the biggest school the CWI has organised for over 10 years. After the politically difficult 1990’s, we are starting to recruit a new generation of youth and workers on the basis of political clarity, active campaigning and participation in the unfolding class struggles. It was crystal clear in the discussion that the CWI is politically and organisationally healthy.

The contributions made by representatives of the CWI sections in Pakistan, Brazil and the CIS (Confederation of Independent States), and the reports from Nigeria, hammered home the point that the CWI has been able to continue very important work in the neo-colonial world and in the former Soviet Union. The CWI has sections in four countries of the Confederation of Independent States (CIS), in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

Khalid spoke for the Pakistani CWI. The main challenge is the development and integration of new comrades. We have developed important trade union work in Pakistan in the rail, post and telecommunications sectors.

An international of ideas, programme and perspectives

The CWI is, first and foremost, an international of ideas, programme and perspective shared by the sections of the CWI. In keeping up with developments, and formulating the answer to the question “What is the next step”, revolutionary socialists need national and local leaderships capable of using the method of Marxism to think, analyse and act independently. One of the key tasks for building the sections is the development of cadres who can lead successful campaigns, recruit new members, and educate them. This is of special significance in those countries where we have relative small or new forces.

In the Czech Republic our small forces are leading a campaign against the privatisation of council housing. The campaign has signed up and organised about a 1,000 residents. ‘Offensief’, our section in the Netherlands, while doing fruitful work in the broad left Socialist Party, is preparing to launch a national campaign against racism as a way to intervene practically and to connect with radicalising youth. In Austria, our anti-fascist campaign has helped to build ‘International Socialist Resistance’ and we are on our way to become a national organisation with branches in four cities.

While most of our members in France are based in Rouen the comrades have taken practical steps to build branches in three other cities, including in Paris. In the local elections we have been able to show that we are capable of translating our numerous interventions in local and national strikes into electoral support and growth.

Irrepressible enthusiasm

The irrepressible enthusiasm and optimism of the Belgian comrades was reflected at the School in over 100 attending and by their donating over 5,000 euros to the fighting fund collection. LSP/MAS, the Belgian section, stood in the European elections and succeeded for the first time to present itself in both Flanders and in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of the country. The electoral campaign was aimed at heightening the profile and publicising the party program of LSP/MAS. The successes we achieved in these elections were measured not so much by the total number of votes we won – although the 20,000 obtained are certainly an achievement – but by the numbers of people signing up to become members and by the creation of new branches. The Belgian comrades recruited 65 new members throughout the election campaign and strengthened their presence in the French-speaking region where there are now 60 comrades in 5 different cities. This is the result of recruitment linked to political clarity and the drive to put our programme into action. The party is initiating a ‘Youth March for Work’ which should go ahead in March. We have campaigned for this initiative through the two main trade union federations and it is our answer to the plans of the government who are proposing attacks on young workers and the unemployed by further deregulation of the labour market and scrapping of unemployment benefits. The latter would hit about 30,000 unemployed, at the time when unemployment has begun to rise again.

All over Europe the CWI has been successful on the electoral field. In Sweden, the CWI was able to build upon the big setbacks the Establishment suffered when they where beaten in a referendum on the Euro (56% of the population voted against). With our campaign in the referendum and our stand in the European elections we strengthened our organisation and succeeded in establishing branches in new regions. In Southern Ireland, Joe Higgins, a member of the Irish parliament, polled 5.3%, or 23,000 votes, across Dublin, in the June European elections, doubling his vote in comparison with 1999. The CWI stood candidates in 14 council seats across Ireland and managed to elect 4 councillors, doubling its previous representation. The results could have been even more impressive where it not for the fact that the party narrowly missed out on obtaining another 2 councillors by less that 100 votes each. The Socialist Party in England and Wales stood 48 candidates in the local elections this year and in a third of the areas the party’s candidates got more than 10% of the vote. In Coventry, all 3 SP councillors were up for re-election and two seats were secured. Unfortunately, one of the SP councillors, Rob Windsor, narrowly missed re-election.

Members of Socialist Alternative, the CWI’s US affiliate have played an important role taking part in the presidential election campaign of Ralph Nader, the populist anti-corporate and anti-war candidate. In Boston, Socialist Alternative candidates, organised a Nader rally with 800 people in attendance, selling 120 copies of their paper at the event. Two Socialist Alternative members addressed the meeting.

In Rostock, in East Germany, our German comrades from SAV got their first councillor elected. They won 4,000 votes, twice as much as received in the last election campaign in Rostock. This resulted in the first independently elected Trotskyist councillor in Germany since the 1930’s and it is the result of a long tradition of CWI activity in East Germany and the active involvement of SAV in the movement against Shröder’s ‘Agenda 2010’ package of cuts. In November, last year, it was SAV members who first initiated the November demonstration of 100,000 against the social cuts. This grass roots initiative pressurised the trade union bureaucracy into organising three national demonstrations in April. Half a million people took part in this massive protest against the attacks of the SPD and Green government on social benefits and workers’ rights. In the course of the campaigns against the attacks of the government and the attempts by the bosses to lengthen the working week, SAV members took initiatives that capture the mood and bring the struggle forward. In Kassel, for example, SAV comrades organised a joint protest strike of school students and young Volkswagen apprentices.

Unions decisive

Intervening in the class struggle and in the trade unions is a decisive area of work for the CWI sections. In England and Wales, the Socialist Party, through years of consistent work, has won 19 members on different national executives of different trade unions. Our members in the leadership of the main civil servants union, the PCS, are gearing up for a decisive battle with the Blair government that announced the intention to sack more than 100,000 civil servants on national and local levels. In Northern Ireland, the two main leaders of the Fire Brigades Union have joined the Socialist Party.

In Australia and the United States, CWI sections have also been involved in campaigns aimed at unionising and organising young workers. In Seattle we ran a unionisation campaign of Pizza Hut workers. In Australia, which has the second highest level of casual work worldwide after Spain, CWI comrades launched ‘UNITE’, a campaign for young workers’ rights. Beginning with a campaign of ‘naming and shaming’ bosses and retailers who paid below the minimum wage on a Melbourne high street, Unite grew into a fighting machine for young workers rights. The campaign was contacted by staff at ‘Borders Books’, a multinational book selling company, and after endless picketing and six demonstrations Borders Books accepted to go through arbitration. Sustained pressure from the campaign pushed the management of Borders Books into accepting to pay its staff overtime pay for the first time ever. For example, workers on Sunday night will go from around $14.50 to $42 an hour!

US members of the CWI have also played an important role mobilising opposition within the trade unions as well. At a recent AFSCME conference, one member and leading trade union activists got an amendment to an anti-war resolution passed which committed the union to the demand for the immediate withdrawal of US troops.

Many other lessons that could be learned from how to conduct and win a strike were mentioned in the report on the magnificent strike by Scotland’s nursery nurses. It was the longest all-out strike in Scotland since the miners’ strike in 1984. In Glasgow the last group of nursery nurses went only back to work after 14 weeks of all-out strike. Our comrades initiated parents’ support groups and worked day-to-day with the nursery nurses to build the strike, particularly in Dundee. 130 nursery nurses in Dundee succeeded in raising £27,000 in 9 weeks. This is the best example of how much support for this strike existed in society and how CWI comrades succeeded in organising the most of it.

“A real, living international’

The European School took place in the same week as a very successful summer camp organised by Xekinima, the CWI section in Greece. The Greek camp had an attendance of 240 mainly young people and testified to the success of the Greek section and its successful youth work and work in the immigrant community. Over the past two years we have doubled our membership in Greece. The Xekinima summer camp has also strengthened our work in Cyprus. Over the past three months the Greek section has helped strengthen the CWI in Cyprus.

The CWI is also developing in Italy where we now have a small group.

As one of this year’s participants said: “Being at the summer school made me feel part of a real living international and has given me a clearer idea of the work of the CWI and it’s sections, nothing can replace this experience”. To quote another: “I found the school one of the most inspiring, humbling and tiring weeks of my life and it has put a lot into perspective for me”.

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August 2004