Future not capitalism
What is the alternative to capitalism and how to achieve it were central issues at this year’s extremely successive "Socialism Days" (Sozialismustage) held over the Easter weekend in Berlin.
Nearly 400 participated in the series of discussions and debates organised by the Socialist Alternative (SAV, the CWI in Germany) over three days. While most participants came from Germany the event had a strong internationalist flavour with groups of activists present from Austria, Czech Republic and Poland alongside speakers from Belgium, Brazil, England and France.
There was a wide range of speakers at the event. There were more than 250 present at the opening rally, "Resisting Social Cuts and the struggle for Socialism in the 21st century". This was the biggest ever and reflected the strong internationalist theme of the "Socialism Days". The issues facing the WASG in Germany were examined in relation to recent international experiences of the development of new parties. Andre Ferrari, a member of both the CWI and the executive of Brazil’s newly-formed Party for Socialism and Liberty (P-SOL), spoke on Latin America’s "left shift". He explained how that party is gaining support as a result of the pro-capitalist policies of the Lula government and the political issues it now faces.
Peter Taaffe, the General Secretary of the Socialist Party of England and Wales, was also a main speaker at the opening rally. He explained capitalism’s latest developments, including the meaning of China’s development; the threat of new imperialist wars and developments in the class struggle in Britain, Italy and other countries. He pointed to the big changes in Europe as indicated by the colossal events in France and said that it was appropriate that the head of the mafia had been arrested on the day that Berlusconi was defeated in Italy!
The rally was addressed by activists who included hospital workers fighting cuts in Berlin and Kassel; Nico Weinmann, an SAV member who has just been elected as a Left city councillor in Kassel, Michael Prütz from the Berlin WASG regional committee and Angela Bankert, an SAV member recently elected to the WASG Party Council.
There was an enthusiast response from the rally when leading members from the Berlin WASG, who were not SAV members, expressed their determination to ensure that the Berlin WASG will stand in the September elections.
At the closing rally, Leila Messaoudi from France gave a gripping account of the recent mass strikes and demonstrations that have forced the Chirac government to retreat. The former member of the Bundestag, Winfried Wolf, a well-known activist in Germany, also spoke at the event. Florek Nowicki from the CWI in Poland reported on recent developments in the rebuilding of the workers’ movement in Poland and other former Stalinist countries of central and Eastern Europe. The session on Latina America, addressed by André Ferrari, was attended by 60 comrades while there were 70 at the discussion on China introduced by Peter Taaffe. A similar number heard Leila Messaoudi on France.
"Socialism Days" had an extensive agenda of German and international topics but the key debates centred around the immediate issues facing the left in Germany, These included the question of what next for the WASG (Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice) both in Berlin itself and nationally.
The ongoing national controversy over whether the Berlin WASG should either run independently or stand jointly with the PDS in next September’s city elections was a theme through the weekend.
A highpoint was the packed session that debated the issues with representatives of different wings of the WASG speaking. Lucy Redler, a leading member of the Berlin WASG executive and a SAV member, Sascha Stanicic, the SAV’s spokesperson and a candidate for the WASG’s national committee, argued in favour of the Berlin WASG’s standing separately from the pro-cuts PDS while Uwe Hiksch from the minority "Initiative Rixdorf" and Thiess Gleiss from the WASG national committee argued against.
Lucy Redler and Sascha Stanic received enthusiastic support and applause for their arguments that WASG should stand in Berlin. There were almost 30 speakers from the floor in this intense debate.
This dialogue was not simply over election tactics. It also covered the questions of how to fight the cuts, an issue also discussion in a special session that heard Peter Taaffe explain how the then Marxist led Liverpool City Council mobilised tens of thousands in the 1980s in its struggle against cuts.
Andre also spoke in a wider discussion on Latin America’s rejection of neo-liberalism and its turn towards the left. The developments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador were central points with discussion on the lessons that could be learnt from the mass movements in those countries and the questions of exactly what socialist policies were needed if there was to be a permanent break with capitalism and imperialism.
New members joined SAV at the weekend and more agreed to join later. This includes a socialist youth group from a small city near Berlin and a group of Turkish socialists. Through its leading role in the struggle for a principled position of the Berlin WASG the comrades from SAV received national media coverage like never before. This has already led to activists in areas where the organisation does not exist yet to read and discuss SAV’s material and to start discussions with SAV. A first success was the launch of a new branch in Germany’s third biggest city, Munich, at the beginning of the year.
This year’s "Socialism Days" attracted a wide layer of activists, particularly form Berlin, and was a living example of how the SAV is attracting support as it fights to help build a principled new workers’ party that can finally achieve the historic socialist objectives of the German workers’ movement.