cwi international conference: Fighting for socialist ideas world wide

Internationalism has stood at the heart of genuine socialist ideas since their inception.

The Socialist Party is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which organises in 36 countries on every continent. The International Executive Committee (IEC) is the democratically elected leadership of the CWI. In December, marxists from 24 countries came together in Belgium for a week of intensive formal and informal discussions. A political resolution was agreed, which is available on as are fuller reports on many aspects of the work of the different sections of the CWI. Hannah Sell reports.

Fighting for socialist ideas world wide

Today, however, when just 500 giant multinationals dominate the globe – employing 46 million people and controlling 45% of world production – the need for a global struggle against capitalism is more pressing than ever. Worldwide, the capitalist classes are raking in unimaginably large profits.

For a few at the top obscene amounts of wealth are on offer. Take the 3,000 investors and bankers in the city of London who each received bonuses of between one and ten million pounds this Christmas. Together, this tiny percentage of British society netted £3-£6 billion – for them modern global capitalism is a rip-roaring success.

The working class and oppressed worldwide, however, tell a different story. Fundamentally, the huge profits being raked in come from the driving down of the wages and living conditions of workers worldwide. Whole industries are ’outsourced’ to countries with cheaper labour and, where that isn’t possible, workers from countries where labour is cheaper are encouraged to move abroad to work in order to undermine existing wages.

The City of London Traders with their mega-bonuses are served by waiters and waitresses who, whether from Eastern Europe or the East End of London, are working for a pittance. Big business is using divide and rule to try and carry out a ’race to the bottom’ for the working class worldwide. The need for internationalism is clear – the only way to answer these attacks is for a united struggle of workers on a national and international level.

Role of the CWI

At this stage our forces are still modest – particularly in comparison to the tasks that we face. However, December’s meeting of the IEC showed the significant progress we have made and the important part we are already playing in taking the class struggle forward in a number of countries. Much was discussed, much resolved and much work mapped out for the building of the forces of marxism.

The role of the CWI was shown in Ireland where, with the assistance of the Socialist Party, Turkish immigrant workers – the Gama workers – who had had the bulk of their wages illegally withheld, were recently able to win thousands of euros in back pay, at the same time as revealing to the world a cesspit of similar scandals.

In the aftermath of the Gama strike the Irish Ferries dispute erupted, demanding decent pay for immigrant workers on the ferries. Initially when Socialist Party TD (MP), Joe Higgins, called for a one day general strike the trade union leaders responded with scorn, accusing Joe of wanting general strikes every day. Such was the pressure for action from their members however, they were forced to call a national half-day strike. 100,000 workers took part in the demonstrations.

The response of the Irish working class shows the other side of the globalised world in which we live. The need for class solidarity and internationalism is instinctively understood by growing sections of the working class and the wider population.

Basing ourselves on this we have been able to organise very successful campaigns against racism and the far-right. In Greece for example, we initiated and spearheaded a campaign which prevented the neo-Nazis organising a European summer camp there. We then went on to help organise a very successful anti-racist camp with 319 attending.


A year ago the tsunami provoked an outpouring of human solidarity and internationalism as ordinary people’s generosity worldwide shamed the puny donations of their governments.

The members of the CWI in Sri Lanka in the United Socialist Party (USP) immediately launched a campaign for all relief and rehabilitation to be kept out of the hands of bureaucrats, soldiers and self-seeking politicians. They demanded control by elected committees of affected people and of workers’ and poor people’s organisations.

In Sri Lanka, as the crises grew, they put forward the demand for the governments to resign. In the recent presidential election the USP candidate, Siritunga Jayasuriya, was able to win 35,000 votes. This cemented the USP’s reputation as a serious force for socialist change that argues for the honouring of democratic rights in all areas of Sri Lanka and has fought to defend the rights of Tamil-speaking people.

Worldwide, CWI members and supporters raised funds which enabled the United Socialist Party to help carry out important aid and campaigning activities. These included providing basic foodstuffs in the east around Pottuvil and in the south around Galle.

They also bought bicycles, sewing machines, pots and pans for affected families to enable them to begin to carry out basic tasks for themselves. Some of the money also assisted in the production of the paper Tsunami People’s Voice – produced in both Sinhala and Tamil, like the monthly newspaper of the USP.

Following the catastrophic earthquake in October, our sections in Pakistan and Kashmir ran similar campaigns. Our members have worked as part of the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP) to organise workers’ aid. So far TURCP has distributed aid to up to twenty thousand families and is campaigning to establish five trade union-organised schools in the earthquake zone.

Socialist ideas

The CWI bases itself on the best instincts of humanity, such as was shown in the wake of the tsunami. But we go further. Capitalism has enormously developed science and technique and created unimaginable wealth.

Despite this 1.2 billion people have no access to clean water and 841 million are seriously malnourished. At all stages, the CWI links the fight to defend and improve living conditions with the need for a fundamental socialist change in society. This is the only means to permanently improve the lives of the mass of people.

One of the key tasks facing the working class is the creation of new political parties that will act in its interests. It is widely recognised by working people that parties such as New Labour in Britain and the SPD in Germany no longer in any sense represent their interests – they are brutal neo-liberal parties.

The CWI fights for new mass workers’ parties to be founded. In a number of countries we are involved in campaigns for the establishment of new workers’ parties – including here in England and Wales and in Belgium.

In other countries at this stage we are concentrating on popularising socialist ideas working as independent parties – in Australia, for example, where we have succeeded in getting the first socialist councillor in the country elected. Elsewhere we are helping to build and develop new broad parties that have come into being.

New parties

In Germany we are part of a new party – the WASG. In the recent general election it stood together with the PDS (the former communist party of East Germany) and received 8.7% of the vote and got 54 MPs elected. This gives a clear glimpse of the possibility for a sizeable new workers’ party to be built in Germany.

However, when the WASG was set up last year the party agreed not to participate in any coalitions or governments that carried out social cuts and privatisations. But the leadership is now proposing a merger with the PDS, who have taken part in regional coalition governments with the SPD (the equivalent of New Labour) in Berlin and elsewhere which have carried out major attacks on the working class. The PDS in Berlin has already declared that it intends to continue in a coalition with the SPD.

Our section in Germany, SAV, has argued that a new left political force must have policies in the interests of the working class and therefore the Berlin WASG should stand independently of the PDS. Along with others we have been able to win majority support for this position in the Berlin WASG.

The SAV is playing an important role in fighting to ensure that the new party meets its potential and develops as an active and fighting force against social cuts and unemployment.

This article can only give a very brief glimpse of the work of the CWI. However, what is clear in every country is that the main trend is for an increased combativity and anger amongst the working class, and, amongst a significant minority, a searching for a means to transform the planet. The IEC gave us all renewed confidence that the CWI is capable of building a force which will play a critical role in the socialist transformation of society.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

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January 2006