Poland: Why we joined CWI

The struggle for socialism has to be coordinated on an international scale. That is the fundamental purpose of a revolutionary Workers’ International.

Only by building mass revolutionary parties throughout the world joined together in a revolutionary Workers’ International will it be possible to ensure the victory of the revolution and the creation of a new social order in the interests of working people. When the workers of many countries are engaged in future struggles, international working class solidarity will be essential. Sharing of information between revolutionaries concerning their experiences – leading to improvements in the methods of fighting capitalism – will also be necessary.

These were the considerations that led us to begin discussions with representatives of various international Trotskyist tendencies. These contacts started while we were involved in founding an organisation called Anti-capitalist Offensive (OA). We continued them as GPR after the collapse of OA, but then only with representatives of CWI. The discussions which began at the OA Summer Camp in 2002 resulted in GPR being accepted as a sympathising section of CWI in February 2004. The experience of working together since then with comrades from other sections of CWI has fully confirmed that we made the right decision.

But why CWI? An important factor was the honest approach of the CWI comrades who in their discussions with us did not avoid difficult subjects, honestly looking to discover areas both of political difference between us and areas of agreement. They were also able to admit mistakes that they had made in the past, which is not very common in the world of international Trotskyist tendencies. It soon became clear to us that CWI’s priority was not just to recruit a small group of supporters. CWI was interested in the building and strengthening of an organisation of conscious Marxists in Poland who were genuinely working for the development of the Polish workers’ movement.

The basic issue which brings GPR and CWI together, is CWI’s orientation on the working class as the decisive factor in the revolution and the building of a socialist society – and this is not just in words but also in definite activities and campaigns which different sections of CWI have initiated. "In our opinion, the working class was, is, and will be the decisive revolutionary force" – these words of Peter Taaffe one of the founders of CWI and secretary of the Socialist Party (the CWI section in England and Wales) are in complete agreement with the position of GPR. This position not only distinguishes GPR from many other groups on the radical left in Poland, but it also distinguishes CWI from many other Trotskyist tendencies.

CWI is a tendency that really does intervene in the worldwide workers’ movement. This is confirmed for example by the role that Militant (as the Socialist Party was formerly called) played in the enormous class struggles that took place in Britain in the 1980s. And at present members of CWI are involved in class struggles taking place throughout the world in the 40 countries in which CWI affiliated organisations exist. In some of these countries – such as Britain, Germany, and Nigeria – comrades from CWI play a key role in strikes and workers’ protests. In other countries – such as Brazil – they are actively involved in founding new workers’ parties. Not just in its declarations but also in its activities and organisational principles, CWI draws on the revolutionary traditions of the first four congresses of the 3rd International.

Although all Trostskyists appeal to these traditions, many international tendencies are departing (or long ago departed) from the basic organisational principles of the 3rd International, such as democratic centralism on a national and international level. Many Trotskyist tendencies reject in theory and in practice the decisive role of a workers’, revolutionary, democratic centralist cadre party in the fight against capitalism – and they regress back from Lenin to the 1st International. Some Trotskyists view an international as a loose network of activists camouflaged in various social movements – without any common strategy capable of rebuilding revolutionary leadership on a worldwide scale.

CWI does not reject involvement in workers’ parties struggling for workers’ interests even if these parties have no defined position concerning the ultimate goal (reforms or revolution?). In such parties it is possible to work towards raising the consciousness of the working class – strengthening the influence of revolutionary ideas on the workers’ movement and building the base of a future revolutionary workers’ party. At the same time CWI rightly opposes attempts to liquidate active revolutionary groups into reformist "socialist parties" such as the Scottish Socialist Party since this can only take the workers’ movement backwards.

The CWI has maintained Leninist principles not just in relation to how to build a party or the International but also relating to other issues, for example the national question. Where there are conflicts between nations, CWI always stresses the priority of the political unity of workers from the oppressed nation and the oppressor nation. Marxists should defend the right of every nation to self-determination, which includes, of course, the right to independence and the creation of a nation state. But the defence of this right does not automatically mean that Marxists should campaign for the independence of every nation that does not have its own state. Whether or not Marxists in a given situation put forward the demand for independence should always be subordinated to the development of a joint struggle by the working classes of the nations in conflict and their consciousness at that time.

Most Trotskyist tendencies artificially separate the struggle for national liberation from the class struggle and they absolutise the demand for national liberation while deferring the class struggle to a future time. These tendencies do not believe that the workers of nations in conflict can fight together for their own class interests. The radical national demands of such tendencies, which make no mention of the class struggle, can only have the effect of lowering the consciousness of workers. CWI does not make this mistake and fights for the political unity of workers in regions where there is national oppression (Sri Lanka, Israel etc.) recognising this as its main political task.

GPR is also in solidarity with the tactic used by CWI in regard to parliamentary elections. Like the Bolshevik party, CWI does not reject participation in elections but treats them as a platform for political struggle. It considers parliament to be a tool for propagating a revolutionary program and developing ongoing class struggles. An excellent example of this is the activity of Joe Higgins, CWI’s member of the Irish Parliament, who has used his function to mount blistering criticisms of capitalism and to publicise the struggles of the Irish working class. He himself has taken an active part in these struggles which earned him a prison sentence. When it takes part in elections, CWI does not allow its ranks to be poisoned by parliamentarianism and opportunism. The principled approach of CWI in this area is seen in the excellent slogan: "A workers’ MP on a workers’ wage" which is implemented by CWI’s elected representatives. CWI has no illusions as to the role of parliament, which it regards as an organ of the bourgeois state. CWI argues for the replacement of parliamentary "democracy" by the rule of workers’ councils.

The history of CWI from the moment of its formation to the present, through its participation in various class struggles, as well as the principled breaks with Ted Grant and what was to become the Scottish Socialist Party, has been a history of the continual development of its ideas and political theories. Since the end of the 1990s which was a tragic decade for the workers’ movement, with the awakening and radicalisation of the working masses throughout the world, CWI has also seen dynamic organisational growth. Today CWI is not just the only international Trotskyist tendency which maintains and implements the principles of Marxism-Leninism, but it is also an energetic, active organisation taking part in the class struggles of the proletariat in more than 40 countries, thereby contributing to the development of the international workers’ movement. CWI realistically evaluates its strength – it understands that it is not yet an International (in the way that the 3rd International was in its day). Nevertheless, the activities of CWI are creating favourable conditions for the future rebuilding of an international workers’ party.

GPR’s decision to join CWI was the result of our desire to be a part of the development and struggle of the workers’ movement until capitalism is overthrown throughout the world.

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November 2004