Quebec: World Social Forum 2016

Tens of thousands of activists from around the world gather WSF in Montreal, 9-14 August

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in Montreal, Quebec, for the 2016 World Social Forum (WSF), being held between 9 and 14 August.

CWI members from Quebec, Canada, the US and several other countries are present throughout the event, holding a table and several meetings and workshops. Over 70 people participated to our first and very successful meeting, dedicated to the need for a political alternative to capitalism, drawing lessons from the recent experiences of new left forces in Greece, Spain, the US, Britain…

Below are a few first pictures of our intervention, followed by the text of the main leaflet distributed by the CWI at the WSF.

Capitalism is a system of poverty, terrorism, environmental destruction and war

Join us in the fight for a socialist world

“Even if things get better next year, it will still be what was thought very bad a few years ago”. That is how a mainstream economist recently summed up the state of the world economy, and what the future under this system looks like for the majority: a future of poverty wages, mass unemployment, endless austerity, degradation of public services and falling living standards.

The so-called economic “success stories” of Brazil, Turkey, South Africa or China have all turned sour. In China, the number of plant closures and job cuts is multiplying by the day, as are the chances of wider social explosions. There has been about eight workers’ strikes a day last year – twice as many as the year before. This year, the number is already up 20%, despite the increased repression by the Chinese state.

Across the globe, inequalities have reached historically unmatched proportions. Half the world’s wealth is now in the hands of just 1% of the population. Everywhere working class people are being squeezed at the expense of the super-rich, who shower themselves with unimaginable sums of non-invested cash.

In Iceland, the revelations of the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal provoked massive street mobilizations, that forced the Prime Minister to resign. But these scandals are not the result of the mismanagement by “a few bad apples” – they result from the logic of profit maximisation, inherent to the capitalist system, based on the private ownership of the means of production.

Political turmoil and the struggle for new workers’ parties

The vote for ‘Brexit’ in the 23 June referendum shocked the capitalist class in Britain and worldwide, and forced David Cameron to take the exit door. Almost everywhere, traditional capitalist parties are shaken by crisis, electoral losses, splits and divisions, as they attempt to unload the crisis facing their failing system onto the shoulders of the working class and youth, and pay the price for their allegiance to the corporate elite.

Anger at austerity and at the political establishment is running at an all-time high. New mass working class parties need to be built in order to harness this anger in a progressive direction.

The hundreds of thousands of people who have rallied behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as they look for a way to organise and fight for decent jobs, housing, healthcare, etc gives only a hint of what difference a clear fighting left-wing force could make to people’s lives.

Yet the battle to forge real fighting political instruments for the ‘99%’ has to draw the lessons from past experiences. The tragic experience from Syriza in Greece, which came to power on an anti-austerity programme but eventually implement draconian austerity on its own people, has demonstrated that it is impossible to control the capitalist powers.

The crisis-ridden state of the two-party system in the US shows that even in the “belly of the beast” capitalism will not be spared the growing political turmoil, as millions are looking for an alternative.

The recent Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was engulfed in controversy, tension, and protest. Daily marches took place outside of the Convention by thousands of people, many of whom had been awakened by Sanders’ campaign for a “political revolution against the billionaire class”, but who are enraged by what they correctly see as primaries rigged in favour of the establishment and at Bernie’s capitulation to Wall Street’s candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Socialist Alternative in the US, linked to the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), welcomed the anti-Wall Street campaign of Sanders, while pointing out from the start to the limitations of fighting within the boundaries of the pro-Wall Street Democratic Party. We highlighted the need to build a mass political party genuinely representing the 99% and their struggles. Concretely, right now this means building the broadest possible support for Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, whose campaign is the clearest continuation of a left-wing break from corporate America.

In Seattle, led by our council member Kshama Sawant, we helped to achieve a resounding victory on a $15 minimum wage in 2014, which has inspired many workers across the US, Québec and Canada.

Elected members of the CWI are everywhere working class fighters, elected on a worker’s wage, using their position to support people’s grassroots struggles. In Ireland, our sister organisation the Socialist Party won three seats in the Parliament through the “Anti-Austerity Alliance”, as a result of the systematic and long-term work to build a campaign of mass boycott of the unjust water charges. The mass pressure from below has forced the Irish government to suspend these charges.

The fight against the far-right

However, in the absence of fighting left organisations to represent the working class, right-wing populist or far right forces or politicians à la Donald Trump can make inroads, by exploiting the fears and anxieties that exist among all those left out by the crisis of capitalism.

Divide-and-rule has been the favourite weapon of the ruling classes since time immemorial. Building mass movements, as well as a political expression to represent them, are key to uniting and organising working people and the poor to defeat racist and divisive forces of all stripes. These right wingers aim to scapegoat minorities, refugees and immigrants, Muslims and LGBT, women, etc for society’s problems rather than challenge the “masters of the universe”, i.e. the capitalist 1% who control the economy,

In many countries across the world, the CWI has been at the forefront of the fight against racism and fascism, and in building solidarity with refugees and victims of war, misery and persecution. For example, the CWI group in Hong Kong, Socialist Action, has been instrumental in setting up a refugee union which has now 2,000 members. CWI members in South Africa have spearheaded the organisation of local community groups to resist xenophobic attacks against migrants.

But the struggle against right-wing forces cannot be separated from the struggle of the workers’ movement against neo-liberal policies, and from the promotion of a clear anti-capitalist alternative.

The big strike wave and mass protests that have swept across France against the reactionary labour law in the last few months has shown this clearly, as it temporarily pushed the far-right party National Front (FN) into a defensive position, exposing its contradictions as a party portraying itself as anti-establishment and defender of the poor, but with its leadership backing up pro-big business policies.

Yet, like in most countries, the bureaucratic leaders of the trade unions have not fully met the aspirations nor matched the combativeness of their rank-and-file; they should be advocating sustained and escalating strike actions until the law is withdrawn. The CWI actively campaigns for fighting and democratic trade unions fully controlled by their members, for them to give a real challenge to the bosses’ system, rather than to simply cushion the attacks against our class.

Violence, terror and chaos on the rise

The recent series of violent attacks and terror incidents against innocent people including in France, Germany and Orlando in the US have brought into the heart of the so-called developed world a sense of the daily horrors that take place in the Middle East. They graphically expose the abject failure of the “war on terror”, which has only brought more wars and more terror, and made the whole planet an increasingly insecure place to live in.

Racism and religious bigotry come from the rottenness of capitalist society, from the social despair among big sections of the youth, and from the lack of a positive alternative uniting ordinary working people against the power of the super wealthy.

ISIS and other right-wing fundamentalist groups are the by-products of the wars and military interventions by imperialist powers, and their support for dictatorships in the Middle East – long used as tools in order to plunder the region’s resources. As experience amply demonstrates, the current imperialist campaign of intensive bombing will only generate more bloodshed and new monsters- at least as long as an alternative based on the mass action of the working class, along the lines of the initial revolutionary uprisings that took place in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, is not built.

Every passing day, the chaos and crisis caused by world capitalism and imperialism becomes more obvious. The number of refugees and environmental catastrophes are soaring to levels unprecedented in human history. Against the background of a fiercer battle for markets and spheres of influence, points of military tensions between the big powers are also multiplying, from Syria to the South-China Sea.

At the same time, war is feeding the profits of a handful of giant corporations – as exemplified by the big weapons manufacturers, whose revenues and shares jump through the roof whenever news of terror attacks or military escalations make the headlines. Rather than investing in much needed schools, hospitals, jobs, infrastructure and renewable energies, tens of billions of dollars are being invested in means of war, death and destruction.

Meanwhile, through states of emergency, anti-terror laws and exceptional measures, governments increasingly use authoritarian moves to clamp down on democratic rights and political dissent. President Erdogan in Turkey is using the recent failed coup attempt as a pretext to arrest thousands and to brutally clamp down on democratic and workers’ rights, with the complicity of the so-called Western democracies.

Enough is enough! Join us in the struggle for socialism

Everywhere, the anger of the “99%” is brewing in the face of the calamitous consequences of the historical crisis of world capitalism. Only last month, in Chile one million workers, pensioners and young people came out onto the streets across the country to protest against the privatised pension system. In Zimbabwe, mass protests have shaken the 29-year-old regime of Mugabe to its core.

People’s anger is deep and wide. The crucial missing factor is a mass political alternative to organize the working class, the oppressed and poor internationally around a coherent program for the radical transformation of society. This is the alternative we are striving to build, in Québec and Canada, and around the world.

In our view, the only sustainable way-out of the increased capitalist chaos is by ensuring that the working class (who by its labour produces all the wealth that exists in society) takes over the commanding sectors of the economy, and through democratic public ownership and management plans production to meet the needs of all, in harmony with the environment. This cannot be achieved in one country only; capitalism is a world system, hence needs to be fought on the same scale.

We face a choice. Either the tiny parasitic minority continues to plunder the planet while growing ever richer on the back of ruining the lives of the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants. Or we win a democratic socialist society that would ensure that all resources, scientific knowledge and modern productive capacities would be put at the service of the whole society, and in respect of the environment.

Our international socialist organization, the Committee for a Workers’ International, fights tirelessly on the side of workers, youth and oppressed peoples around the world. We have sections, activists and supporters in over fifty countries on all continents, from Sri Lanka to Chile, from the US to Greece, from Turkey to Québec and Canada. Join us now!

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August 2016