CWI: 2008 – A historic year

New opportunities open up for socialist struggle and the building of the Committee for a Workers’ International

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) extends warm New Year greetings to the members of its sections and groups worldwide and to supporters and readers of

2008 was an extraordinary year, as memorable in a different way as 1968 – the ’Year of Revolution’ whose fortieth anniversary we have been commemorating in the past twelve months, along with the ninetieth anniversary of the German Revolution. The year will be remembered as marking the end of a period for socialists in most countries of political doldrums. With the collapse of the bureaucratically stultified, state-owned planned economies of the USSR and Eastern Europe, two decades ago, and the apparent triumph of capitalism, workers of the world were told there was no alternative to it. Most trade union and workers’ party leaders alike peddled the lie that cooperation with the bosses rather than struggle was the only course to take.

In spite of the warnings of Marxists, whose ideas were seen as ‘antiquated’, capitalism seemed to promise unending growth. It was based on unprecedented levels of public and personal debt and accompanied by wars and civil wars, mass poverty, at one end of society, and obscene wealth and corruption, at the other. The gap between rich and poor on a national and international scale must have superseded even the appalling levels described by Marx and Engels, 150 years ago. The degradation and destruction of the planet’s ecological system, carried through by the twin juggernauts of capitalism and Stalinism, had neared a point of no return.

Now, with the dramatic and helter-skelter collapse of major financial institutions and the housing market, followed inexorably by a crippling down-turn in the real economy, there is a grudging acceptance amongst capitalist analysts that Marx was right and a growing interest old in what he had to say. Socialist writings are gaining popularity as bankers and capitalist politicians have earned the ire of workers and young people.

Genuine socialists

If nationalisation and Keynesianism are back in vogue, as the only way to ‘save’ capitalism, then the job of genuine socialists and communists, like those in the CWI, is to elaborate demands for genuine socialist measures. Groups and sections of the CWI have energetically campaigned for nationalisation to be fully in the interests of workers – no business secrets, no redundancies, no pay cuts, share the work and establish a system of elected committees of workers’ representatives at local and national level to control and manage the economy and society.

As hundreds of thousands of car-workers are laid off and millions face the twin evils of joblessness and homelessness, a fight against the system itself has to be on the order of the day. CWI members everywhere are involved in campaigning to build genuine mass workers’ parties of struggle. The CWI itself has proved an invaluable tool for drawing on the experiences of new parties that have developed in Europe and in Latin America, as was illustrated by the animated discussions, reported on, at the November 2008 CWI International Executive Committee meeting.

Right up to the end of this year, CWI members have been involved in the tumultuous events in Greece and in France, where the youth in schools and universities represent the heat-lightning of mass struggle to come. In Italy too, the anger of workers at the prospects for 2009 is gathering steam. Explosions of class struggle are inevitable. Their timing, extent and outcome are not predictable, but those of us who aim to give maximum time and effort to develop those struggles must be prepared and ready!

A short period of rest is welcome during the New Year holiday, where it is possible. But as is clear from the recent articles carried on this site, in some countries – like Pakistan, Kazakhstan, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria – there is no let-up in the daily political and economic battles.

As the class struggle intensifies, more energy and dedication will be required and more forces will be recruited to the cause of the socialist revolution. The papers and websites of the CWI, gaining in popularity as the recession bites, demand human and financial resources which must be found. (Special New Year donations for the CWI can be paid through this web-site by clicking on the ’donate’ icon!)

Hopes and aspirations

The dramatic events around the US elections, have also marked a turning point. Obama’s victory has raised the hopes and expectations of millions in the US and many of the down-trodden and exploited around the globe. Working people hope the new administration will make a difference – in relation to Iraq, Cuba, and even the Middle East. But Obama’s new cabinet clearly does not represent a break from the rule of big business. The war in Afghanistan will continue and, under capitalism, unfortunately, all the reforms and ‘protection’ Obama can muster will not guarantee a secure future for the American working class, potentially the strongest in the world, let alone the masses around the world. The massive toiling population of China is also finding out the hard way that capitalism is not the answer, as the apparently unstoppable economy slows.

Huge explosions impend world-wide; revolutionary waves can develop fast in a number of countries. The task of CWI members is to understand, to explain, to organise and to act in consonance with the desires and needs of the working class and poor people. Nothing is automatic. But, after 20 hard years and more, the time has come for the ideas of socialism to take on flesh and new mass movements and mass parties of struggle to be built.

The mood in the sections and groups of the CWI, and at the CWI centre, in London, is one of heightened confidence and excitement. Our ideas and approach are correct. Our numbers will multiply in the heat of events. We thank all those who have given assistance – large and small – to the CWI over the past year and look forward to the challenges of 2009. We call on all readers of to join us in the fight for a socialist world.

Due to seasonal holidays, the activity on this site will be somewhat reduced. It will be fully resumed early in 2009, including with an analysis by Peter Taaffe (General Secretary, Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales)) of the events of the past year and the perspectives for the workers’ movement in 2009.

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December 2008