The Current Situation and Tasks for the C.W.I.
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Committee for a Workers'
International

The Current Situation and Tasks for the C.W.I.

Contents

The character of the period

A New Wave of Struggles.

Perspectives Since the World Congress.

The Former Workers' Parties and New Formations.

The Vacuum Which Exists.

France and Belgium - What Lessons?

Industrial Struggles in Germany.

A Question of Consciousness And Socialism.

The CWI.

Building The Forces Of The CWI.


The character of the period.

1. This IEC recognises the analysis of the CWI, that capitalism is passing through an historical phase of a depressionary character has been vindicated. The sluggish performance of the world economy, during the last few years does not negate our characterisation of this period which followed the mid 1970s. This analysis has been confirmed by the clear emergence of the following trends internationally: i)The development of structural mass unemployment in both the industrialised imperialist countries and in former colonial nations. ii) Growing social polarisation within the industrialised capitalist nations. iii) Increased exploitation/domination of the former colonial countries by the major imperialist countries. iv) Increased social polarisation within the countries of the former colonial world.

2. This analysis was decisive in enabling our organisation to answer the propaganda of the bourgeois and its representatives in the workers movement who, after the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in 1989/90, put forward a perspective of renewed capitalist development and expansion. This idea has been proved to be false. A detailed analysis of the current conjuncture in the economic cycle will be presented verbally and provided in other written material following this meeting of the IEC. Capitalism is in a period of organic crisis marked by economic turbulence and social upheaval. This must be the starting point for our analysis of the current situation and the tasks we have to fulfil.

A New Wave of Struggles.

3. The character of the historical period has been illustrated by the massive protests, strikes and uprisings which have rocked Latin America since 1993 in opposition to the effects of "neo-liberal" policies which have been implemented by each government. It has also been reflected in the strikes against privatisation by bus workers in India, electrical workers in Sri Lanka and health workers in Pakistan are a further indication of the mood which is developing amongst big layers of workers. The demonstration of 350,000 in Canada against cuts in public expenditure (Toronto in October 1996) was one of the biggest demonstrations in Canada since the end of the second world war. The recent movements of workers, youth and other layers in Europe, especially those in Germany, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy are a further indication of the upheavals pending in the short term in various countries.

Perspectives Since the World Congress.

4. In these areas, and some others, there has been an evident entry into the arena of struggle by important sections of workers and youth. These revivals in the struggles of the masses illustrate a certain point of departure in the post 1989 situation. They enable us to deepen our perspective and understanding of the exact nature of the tasks we have in this historical period. The broad perspectives we outlined at the world congress in 1993, of the character of the period and inevitable social upheavals and conflict, have generally been confirmed. At the same time all perspectives are a working hypothesis which need to be added to and amended In the light of events and experience. Since the international congress the world situation has changed and some processes have developed further than at that time. This has enabled us to add to our analysis and assess the necessary tactics and tasks.

5. The collapse of the former Stalinist regimes has had a decisive effect for all classes in society. All of the exact consequences of this turning point in world history could not have been foreseen in detail at the time of the world congress. It has therefore been necessary to add to our initial prognosis in the light of events and during the living experience of the class struggle. This was particularly necessary on issues relating to the traditional workers parties and their class character, and the perspective for the emergence of new workers' formations. Related to these two issues is also the effect of the consequences of the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes on the consciousness of the proletariat. This question is one of the central issues confronting our international organisation at the present moment.

6. The CWI needs great care when discussing such issues. It is a mistake to rush to draw too hasty generalised conclusions which can be applied to all countries in exactly the same way. There are important differences in the tradition and rhythm of events in each country. It is also important to remember that the experiences of workers in one country can also assist workers in other countries to draw more advanced conclusions. However, there have been important trends, which whilst only being present in outline at the time of the world congress, have since developed much further.

7. Our international has gained precious experience from the audacious initiatives we have taken since 1992. (This has especially been the case with the launching of the YRE and open independent organisations). This has presented a clearer picture of the panorama before us and the new tasks confronting the working class and our own organisation. The IEC and all our sections need to compile a balance sheet of the political situation which has emerged since 1989 in order to answer the question Through which stage are we passing and what tasks do we have?

The Former Workers' Parties and New Formations.

8. The process of the bourgeoisification of the former traditional parties of the proletariat has developed rapidly since our last world congress. The swing to the right

by the leadership of these parties and the change in the attitude of the proletariat towards them has reached the point where the class character of these formations has been transformed. They have become, or possibly in some cases are in the process of rapidly becoming, bourgeois parties. In many sections this has had a direct bearing on our slogans, tactics and some aspects of our programme.

9. In this context, many of our sections have raised the demand as a general slogan for the establishment of new workers' parties. This has been correct and should be maintained as a part of our programme. In raising this demand it was also correct for us to emphasise the question of building our own revolutionary organisation. However, we also need to distinguish between the demands we put forward and the question of perspectives.

10. The formation of new broad parties of the working class has proved to be a complicated and, in most countries, a protracted process. There are vast differences which exist between the different new formations which have recently been established in various countries. We must avoid making false international generalisations where they do not apply. However, those which have been formed have shifted rapidly to the right. With the exception of the RC in Italy, they fail to present even a reformist policy. They have tended to be associated with defending public services and opposing the "neo-liberal" measures which have been implemented. However, they have failed to oppose capitalism and support or champion the alternative of socialism. This has been clearly seen in the New Labour Party (NLP) in New Zealand and Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) in Greece. (The latter split from PASOK. Whilst being identified as standing to the "left" of PASOK it has largely put forward a policy of Greek nationalism). This swing to the right has also taken place in those already existing parties on the left with a Stalinist/CP history or base such as the Left Party in Sweden, the PDS in Germany and the Izquierda Unida (I) in Spain.

11. The internationalisation of the world economy and the crisis within capitalism has meant that there is no room for reformism at this stage. As we have explained in other material the demands of the world economic situation which have prevented the adoption of reformist policies in individual countries. For this reason all governments in the recent period have adopted a neoliberal programme. This process is reflected by the failure of these new formations in the main to adopt even "left" or reformist ideas. Only the adoption of a programme tor the socialist transformation of society can break the domination of the world economy and the policies that it currently demands from all national governments. The leaderships of these newer formations have not been prepared to do this.

12. This situation is a feature of the current conjuncture and can change during a different world economic and political situation. For example during a world slump, different policies can be adopted, especially under the pressure of a mass movement by the working class. Temporary concessions can be given to the masses which will then rapidly be taken away again. New political formations of the working class will develop at a certain stage which will put forward reformist ideas. These can win massive support and for a period illusions will exist in them. However, there is no prospect of a return to a prolonged period of reforms which capitalism could afford and conceded for decades following the second world war.

13. The failure of the recently formed parties to offer a clear, combative alternative to capitalism has meant that they have had an extremely fragile basis. Whilst some, such as the NLP, initially attracted important layers of workers and youth around them, they have failed to consolidate it into active party membership. In Britain the SLP has failed to attract more than a handful of members because of the Stalinist and sectarian methods used by its leader, Scargill. These usually are former members of the Labour or Communist Parties and in some cases supporters of various revolutionary organisations.

14. Despite this, some of these parties have attracted a certain electoral support in recent elections. Where such formations do attract an important layer of workers and youth we must be ready to orientate towards them. At the same time we must also raise our own independent banner. Those that have been formed so far have been extremely unstable and lack an assured future existence. The RC in Italy is an exceptional case at this stage. It may still develop further by presenting a more combative programme and organising mass mobilisations. However, should it not build in this way and fails to distance itself from policies of the Prodi government it could also begin to see its base eroded.

15. This same process has also been manifested in some countries of the former colonial world. For example, the PRD in Mexico has remained as a bourgeois formation and increasingly adopted a more right-wing policy.

The Vacuum Which Exists.

16. These developments have highlighted a striking feature of the international situation. There exists a massive political vacuum. There is an accumulating opposition and hatred towards the existing political parties and institutions. This attitude has developed amongst workers and important sections of the middle class to the bourgeois parties. It is increasingly also the attitude adopted towards the former workers' parties, especially when they have recently been in government. At the same time new political formations have not generally been formed which have the trust, confidence and active participation of the working class. (With the exception of the RC).

17. The alternative of socialism is not being presented anywhere to workers and youth at the moment. In some countries this vacuum has been filled by an electoral growth of the extreme right-wing formations such as the FPO in Austria. Here, like the FN in France, they have demagogically concentrated their propaganda against the EU, highlighting the social issues of poverty and unemployment and attacking the established political parties both "right" and "left".

18. The existence of this political vacuum has been evident in all the major mass mobilisations which have taken place recently. They have also shown the dual character of the consciousness which exists amongst the mass of the working class and youth. Firstly, there exists a tremendous bitterness and hatred towards the ruling class and the institutions of the "establishment". In general there is no trust or confidence in the existing parties' leaders and policies which are being pursued by them. Secondly, an alternative programme and/or system is not present in the consciousness of the masses who have participated in these movements. In general, on a world scale, a broad socialist consciousness is not present at the moment.

France and Belgium - What Lessons?

19. The absence of a broad socialist consciousness has been reflected in the recent upheaval which rocked Belgian society. This movement reflected the overwhelming opposition to the establishment and disgust with the present system. The slogan of our Belgian section, "The system is rotten to the bone" received a very enthusiastic reception for this reason. An important feature of this movement was the decisive role played by the industrial working class which, as indicated by the first strike at a Volkswagen factory, initiated the mass movement which erupted.

20. At the same time the national demonstration (20th October 1996) against the government took place under a cluster of white balloons rather than red flags and banners There was no alternative which was presented by either the former workers' parties or trade union leaders. In the past although these organisation offered no real alternative they were perceived as doing so by the mass of workers. In the recent movement in Belgium there was no organised opposition through which the movement could be channelled in a directly political manner.

21. The sanitation of this revolt was further facilitated by the nature of the issues involved - corruption and child abuse - which was used by the government, political and trade union leaders to derail the movement and prevent it developing onto broader social and political questions. Our section intervened well and presented an alternative but it encountered some difficulties in the interventions and in winning concrete support.

22. However, this movement did emphasise the underlying opposition to the government and even the existing system. It can now open the way for further mobilisations and struggles on the broader social and class issues especially against the social cuts being proposed by the government. This was reflected by the very successful one day general strike against cuts called by the FGTB.

22. This type of movement offers us big opportunities which we must seize hold of. At the same time the absence of an alternative will create limitations as to how far such movements will develop in the short to medium term. This was evident during the French events in 1995/ 1996. This movement acquired tremendous breadth and scope. In some of the regions the demonstrations were bigger than during 1968. It had very important repercussions internationally in raising the confidence of workers. But it did not go as far as events did in 1968.

23. Firstly, the leadership was able to hold back a movement of the industrial workers in the private sector. Secondly, the consciousness of the masses, and even of some of the activists, was not as developed as it was in the general strike of 1968. This was the case terms of a broad socialist understanding. It also applied to the question of state power. In 1995/6 it was generally not seen to be posed. It is true that a layer did sing the 'Internationale' and a revolutionary minority existed. However, the complications of the present period are reflected by the failure of any of the left/revolutionary organisation to grow substantially as a direct result of the events of 1995/6.

24. The absence of the subjective factor was clearly decisive in this movement. The masses did not even look towards the formation of a PSF/ PC government as an alternative. This reflects the change in attitude towards the old workers parties, especially the PSF, by the working class and youth. It demonstrates the need for a new party of the working class to be built. It also meant that during this movement an alternative to the existing right-wing government was not seen to be present.

25. It is essential that we emphasise that this wave of struggle has opened up a new situation which has already resulted in an increase in the number of activists in and around the trade unions. A broader layer of workers and youth have also been stimulated to begin to look for an alternative. This first crucial round of struggle represents the beginning of a revival of the workers' movement.

Industrial Struggles in Germany.

26. In Germany, the outbreak of strikes since 1992 in both the public and private sector has marked a decisive entry of the powerful German working class into the arena of struggle. This, we emphasised in discussions at the world congress in 1993, would be one of the features of the decade of the 1990s. These strikes have been characterised by a wave of industrial militancy, anger and bitterness against both the employers and the government. There is a markedly different consciousness in Eastern and Western Germany. In the East, socialism is present in the consciousness of workers to a greater extent, although, it is probably more associated with the provision of jobs and social services rather than with the idea of a planned economy. In Western Germany it is largely absent at this moment from the consciousness of the mass of workers.

27. In pointing out these features of the period, the ISI EC is not drawing pessimistic conclusions or loosing confidence in the decisive role of the working class. Neither is the CWI underestimating the prospects building genuine revolutionary forces in this period. The working class is beginning to reassert itself after a period of disorientation and confusion. There are big opportunities opening up to win support for Marxist ideas and our programme. In order to realise these possibilities it is necessary for the CWI accurately to assess the real situation. ]f this is not done then it will not be possible to develop the right tactics, slogans and methods necessary to build genuine revolutionary group/ parties in this new historical period which has unfolded since the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes.

A Question of Consciousness And Socialism.

28. During the period which followed the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes, internationally the consciousness of the working class, including its active layer, has been disorientated and thrown back. This is seen to be the case if the situation is compared with the preceding decades of the 1 970s and early 1 980s. These recent movements represent the first stages in struggles which, together with the intervention of conscious Marxists, will eventually allow a broad socialist consciousness to be reconquered. This current complication in the situation in the longer term will mean more favourable conditions for the working class in the sense that former obstacles e.g. the ideas and organisations of Stalinism and traditional Social Democracy - have been removed or at least fundamentally weakened.

29. The evolution of the alternative ideas of socialism amongst the mass of workers will inevitably pass through a series of stages and numerous struggles. It is important that we do not underestimate the decisive role that the intervention of conscious Marxists can and will have in this process. The exact rhythm this process will assume will be different in different countries.

30. The recent battles which have unfolded have largely been against the effects of the "neo-liberal" policies implemented by the ruling class. In some countries this has gone alongside demands for greater "democracy" and/ or "justice". This has even been the case in Latin America where the wave of struggle since 1993 has been on of the most combative and extensive internationally. The consciousness of workers is likely to be initially directed against government policies and then become more overtly anti-capitalist before it assumes a clearly pro-socialist character. The emergence of a clearer socialist consciousness is likely to be a factor in the creation of new political formations of the working class. This is particularly the case in countries like France, Spain and Greece because of the traditions of the working class. In other countries new formations can be established at a certain stage which do not immediately assume a socialist character.

31. The idea of socialism as an alternative to capitalism will develop more rapidly as the international experiences of the working class are accumulated. As the CWI has emphasised, one of the features of this period has been the heightened international consciousness which has developed. This can apply to the political conclusions workers draw from their experiences as well as the practical lessons of their struggles.

32. The CWI has a decisive role to play in assisting in the process of reconquering the idea of socialism as an alternative system to capitalism. When taken together with the vacuum which exists and the social upheavals that are developing, fulfilling this task will offer us big opportunities to build powerful groups and small parties. To do this the sections of the CWI must find a road to those workers and youth who are moving into struggle and looking for an alternative.

The CWI.

33. There are many differences between all the continents and, within them, the various countries. The exact scale of the opportunities presented varies with the concrete objective and subjective conditions which exist. Some countries such as Sweden are passing through a particularly favourable conjuncture. There is a radicalisation in that society which, for the first time in the post second world war period, has been affected by a serious structural crisis in capitalism. Our Swedish section has been able to capitalise on this situation by taking bold initiatives and conducting a campaign to build the party.

34. A favourable development has also opened up for our section in Ireland (South) which has enabled it to take important steps forward even in the short time since the relaunching of our organisation under the new name 'The Socialist Party'. This has reflected a radicalisation amongst an important layer. It has followed the tremendous struggle we led in opposition to the imposition of water charges. Our marvellous result in the Dublin West bye-election and the prospect of an electoral victory in the forthcoming general election have been important factors which have enabled our comrades to increase our support and membership in recent months.

35. In Southern Ireland we have been able partially to fill the vacuum which has opened up. This opportunity will present itself to us in numerous countries during the next few years. An indication of this has also been shown in the dramatic growth of our section in Pakistan in the last two years. Our comrades have been able to act as a pole of attraction to important sections of the working class such as the railway workers. We have also been able to reach thousands of peasants with our ideas and programme. Here, we have the perspective of developing into a party of a few thousand in the short term. During such a period our sections will also have to overcome complexities in the objective situation which can arise. This is indicated in Pakistan where we have to confront such issues as Islamic Fundamentalism.

36. In some countries of the former colonial world, especially in Africa, there has even been a tendency towards the disintegration of society. This has included a heightening of sectarian, ethnic and/or religious conflicts. These developments represent the extreme crisis of capitalism in these regions and the general absence of the subjective factor. In the industrially developed countries these features are not generally as pronounced at this stage. However, the growth of racism and/or ethnic, religious and other conflicts can also be reflected in these countries at certain stages in the situation such as after setback for the working class.

37. The short term perspective for the building of the CWI varies enormously from country to country. Some sections have recently had to confront a more complex and difficult objective situation than others. This has resulted in our overall forces in these countries being static or even being pushed back. The British section has confronted a particularly complicated objective situation which has been "out of joint" with the general revival of struggle by workers in many European countries.

38. This situation will change with the probable defeat of the government at the forthcoming general election. The election of a Labour government will open the perspective of big social explosions. The social conditions which have developed in British society during the last 15 years have prepared the terrain for a big backlash by the working class and oppressed layers after a series of defeats at the hands of the Tories. The British section is thus positioning and preparing itself for this change in the situation. As with other sections, with the opening of a more favourable situation if we prepare our forces correctly we can more than make up the losses of recent years.

39. Other sections, such as Sri Lanka, Nigeria or Chile have also had to confront more complicated and difficult objective conditions. This has undoubtedly been a factor which has impaired our ability to make more progress in building our forces. In recognising these difficulties we must guard against seeking refuge in the objective situation and rationalising the situation. Our task in all situations is to strive to gain the maximum that is possible and in doing so ensure that we prepare our forces for a more favourable objective conjuncture. Even in these countries it is possible to build and strengthen our forces. The reputation and influence we have already conquered in Nigeria, Sri Lanka and other countries will provide us with a good basis to seize the new opportunities as they present themselves.

Building The Forces Of The CWI.

40. Every section needs to examine its methods of recruitment. Experience of the recent period has shown that is our political initiatives, campaigns and interventions in the struggle which gives us the basis for new recruits. Fresh layers and fighters will be convinced of to join us on the basis of our campaigns and local initiatives. We should be constantly testing the water through direct and bold recruitment of these layers. There is no contradiction between building alliances in broad campaigns and building and promoting our own party/organisation. Each campaign needs clear targets and objectives. These must be broken down so that all members are included in the struggle to achieve them and they need to begin with clear targets being set for the leading bodies and members of each section.

41. The IEC agrees that the CWI sections in Europe support the initiative of calling European demonstrations against unemployment which will culminate in a march on June 14th in Amsterdam. The sections of the CWI in countries where demonstrations are being organised are urged to build support this initiative and ensure that through it the influence and forces of the CWI are strengthened.

42. In many countries, such as Greece, it has been necessary to work alongside young people and organise a series of lengthy discussions with them before they have been prepared to agree to join. This undoubtedly reflects the scepticism which exists towards all political groups/ parties. It can even be demonstrated in the initial attitude this new generation adopts towards Marxist organisations. Under such conditions there is no alternative but to win the confidence and trust of the contacts involved before they are prepared to commit themselves to membership.

43. This process can especially affect the smaller sections of the CWI at this stage. Convincing young contacts to join a small group of 10/20 or even 50/100 requires determined work and patient explanation of our ideas. In part this reflects the issue of the consciousness which exists in many countries at the moment. They are entering the struggle against the effects of capitalist society Ol1 particular issues without an idea of what the alternative is. They can consequently be very hesitant about committing themselves to join an organisation, especially if is very small and does not immediately appear as a viable vehicle through which a struggle can be conducted. For our larger parties/groups this can be less of an obstacle because of our ability to be seen as a viable force through which struggles can be channelled. Our interventions are more widespread and effective.

44. Some sections have found it easier to recruit as a more favourable situation has developed. However, because of the basis on which new members have joined, it is necessary to ensure that basic political education is planned out over quite a lengthy period. It is of decisive importance that we devote more attention to the education of newer members. In particular it is important that emphasis is given to educating comrades in the basic history, methods and ideas of the working class and Marxism. Special measures are also needed which will include the production of new and basic material explaining for example, "What is Socialism", "How Capitalism Works" and the history of the workers movement in different countries.

45. The generalised absence of a socialist consciousness does not mean that we cannot recruit and build. On the contrary, the IS/IEC emphasises that with the vacuum which exists in some countries we can build substantial forces and parties in the next few years. However, many, or even the majority of, new recruits will come into our ranks as "fighters" and not as conscious Marxists or even socialists. This has already been the experience of some sections e.g. in southern Ireland, Sweden and elsewhere.

47. The concrete steps we take in each section will vary depending on the specific situation - both objective and subjective - which we face. If we build correctly in this way it will not mean that there is an ideological watering down of our organisation. We must ensure that the cadre of our sections is maintained, developed and strengthened. At the same time there will inevitably be a layer who come into our ranks which initially lacks the same political and organisational commitment. We must take every step possible to develop within this new layer a thirst for our political understanding and to give them a grasp of our organisational methods.

4X. We must strive to build upon an initial level of commitment through raising the political understanding about our ideas and programme. Whilst accepting a lower level of commitment in many cases, we must strive to select the most promising of these new members and strengthen their commitment and activity: To begin with layers of these new members may only be prepared to pay a sub, take the paper and attend meetings fortnightly or monthly.

49. The sections working in the former colonial world encounter different problems which require specific discussion on questions relating to the organisation of our forces. In developed industrialised countries when confronting this situation our sections must ensure that the branches continue to meet weekly, even if it is the more active and/or developed comrades which attend. We must ensure that the initially lower level of commitment of the newer members does not become the norm for the more active and developed comrades.

50. The recent period has required each section to develop new tactics and initiatives. Many sections have seen the membership transformed. The older layer has largely been worn out and/or unable to come to terms with the demands of the new situation and the tasks which flow from them. Many sections have a relatively new and very young membership. Under such conditions important and necessary aspects of our tradition, both politically and organisationally, can be lost. It is essential that we ensure the new layers we recruit are trained in our methods of organisation. The IS urges the leadership of the national sections to examine if it is necessary to "tighten up" on basic organisational issues of finance and party building. Without this being attended to we will not integrate and develop the new generation to which we must now turn.

51. The CWI and its sections have a decisive role to play in the coming years. We must ensure that we are prepared politically and organisationally to fulfil the tasks and responsibilities we have.

This statement is adopted by the International Executive Committee in November 1996.

CWI,
PO Box 3688,
London,
E9 SQX.
E/Mail: inter@dircon.co.uk
Tel: 00 44 181 5330201
Fax: 00 44 181 985 0757

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