RESOLUTION ON WORLD RELATIONS
RESOLUTION ON WORLD RELATIONS
DSM NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING OCTOBER 11-12, 2014
The period between the last National Committee meeting and the present period have seen serious developments on the global scale with the attendant implications on the development of the class struggle with impact on the consciousness of the working masses.
Lanre Arogundade intervening on discussion on world relations, photo by DSM
Hong Kong: Which Way Forward For the Mass Movement For Democracy?
The magnificent mass movement that has broken out in Hong Kong is very important as it is ultimately a bold and firm challenge against the dictators in power in China. Mass popular resistance on the streets, by night and day, witnessed mass gatherings of 100,000 and up to 180,000, spearheaded by the youth and a weeklong student strike, has forced the unelected Hong Kong government and thousands of heavily armed riot police to beat a retreat. While this phase of the movement seems to be receding, as tiredness sets in given the lack of any clear strategy for victory, it is clear that this was just the beginning of a new period of struggle in Hong Kong, which will also have had a profound effect on the working class in mainland China. The working class has not played an independent role in the movement at this stage, which has a ‘democratic character’. Nonetheless, there are some features of a pre-revolutionary situation, with government in deep crisis having suffered a loss of control and authority. The state institutions â€“ especially the police â€“ are now widely distrusted and despised. The territory’s tenuous ‘autonomy’ as a special region of China is now distrusted or rejected as a fake by a majority of Hong Kong people. Yet this movement is almost entirely without organisations, programme or leadership, replicating a pattern we have seen in similar mass protest movements around the world. The movement was widely dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” on social media due to the inverted umbrellas used by protesters as protection against tear gas and especially pepper spray.
On Sunday, September 28, the police launched wave after wave of tear gas attacks â€“ 87 times according to their own statement â€“ in an attempt to clear the protests around the government headquarters in Admiralty. Not since 1967, then under British colonial rule, has tear gas been used against Hong Kong demonstrators (it was used by police in 2005 at the anti-WTO protests, but these were largely ‘international’ in composition). The first stirring of the working class, which has up to now not made an entrance as a distinct, organised and independent force within the democracy movement, is for socialists the most significant of all developments. While response to the call for strike action has been mixed, reflecting the numerical weakness of the unions in Hong Kong over a long historical period, still some important groups stopped work in anger at the police crackdown. These included around 200 workers at Coca Cola factory in Sha Tin, water workers, bus drivers, some bank employees and schoolteachers.
There is presently little doubt that the government is orchestrating the anti-occupation violence of recent days in the mass movement to try to break the mass democracy protests. The police stand back and allow attacks, or stage fake arrests only to release the criminals! Front groups have emerged like ‘Caring Hong Kong Power’ and the new ‘blue ribbons’ which are funded and created by the CCP. The decentralisation of the occupations into three or four sites was a response to the vicious police offensive of September 28-29 that aimed to break the current movement. This was a brilliant and wholly improvised tactical response from the protesters that wrong-footed police commanders. The police strategy for crushing the occupation movement had been based on the notion of ‘Occupy Central’ (a protest idea that was delayed so often it never actually materialised) â€“ i.e. for just one site, which is easier for the police to attack and defeat.
Pressure is also emerging within the ‘Umbrella Movement’ from sections of its leadership to call off the movement or make concessions to the government in the name of “keeping public support” â€“ concessions that would weaken the movement and make it harder to win. The ‘moderate’ pan democrats have always dreaded mass struggle, which they know can be radicalised and slip beyond their control. The current violent attacks against the mass movement are part of a government strategy, to increase the pressure on the ‘moderate’ pan democrats and groups like ‘Occupy Central’ (OC) to seek a way out through ‘compromise’. But any compromise with CY Leung and the CCP can only involve peripheral concessions. This is not a strategy to win ‘full democracy’ as demanded by the masses. Too many times in Hong Kong, a mass protest movement has been left empty-handed because the leaders are not under democratic control and, while there are thousands of single-issue NGOs, there are no genuinely mass organisations, especially workers’ organisations, that can hold these leaders to account. Too often the pan democratic leaders have walked into the trap of fake dialogue with CCP dictatorship or its local minions â€“ dialogue that only has one purpose: to get people off the streets without offering any real or meaningful change. Some voices among the ‘moderates’ are signalling the movement should now step back. For them, “talks” are the way out. This would be disastrous. This would mean throwing away the enormous momentum of the mass struggle and letting the scheming government off the hook!
The successes of any struggle, especially such a historic movement, have to be measured by concrete gains, not empty promises. This means nothing less than the downfall of CY Leung’s cruel and corrupt government, and a refusal to accept any successor other than through a genuinely democratic election, without the CCP’s Big Business-dominated nomination committee. There must be no restrictions on which candidates can stand. This also means the replacement of the current rubber stamp legislature with a genuine people’s assembly, with its members fully elected, subject to popular recall, and paid only a skilled workers’ wage. The struggle for democracy must be linked to the need to fight capitalism, which raises the need for a new mass workers’ party to coalesce from among the working class and left layers of this movement. This is needed to challenge the dictatorial economic power of Hong Kong’s tycoon families and build support for a socialist alternative with democratic public control over the banks and property companies as the only way to relieve the unbearable burden of housing costs â€“ officially the ‘most unaffordable’ in the world â€“ as well as the scourge of poverty, stagnating real wages and privatisation of public services.
The struggle must also be spread to the mainland, by supporting illegal workers’ struggles in China’s sweatshops and the fight against state repression. This is the only viable strategy to defeat the CCP dictatorship, which today constitutes a seemingly insurmountable ‘roadblock’ for democracy in Hong Kong, as well of course as China itself. The ‘umbrella’ must be passed from Hong Kong to China and the sooner the better. But this requires a programme based on the interests of the working class and the poor, in China and Hong Kong. The mass democracy protests must be organised on democratic lines, with elected action committees open to all participating groups to run the occupations, coordinate with striking workers and students, and to take all major decisions on the future tactics, including what attitude to take towards eventual concessions or offers of talks from the government. The struggle needs action committees in every occupation, to coordinate mobilisation and especially to organise self-defence, with similar democratic bodies established in schools and workplaces to build the strike movement. These committees must decide tactics and which political responses are needed through open and democratic discussions. Only a fully democratic movement is capable of defeating the government.
Socialist Action (CWI Hong Kong) has been active throughout this movement and is playing an important role in organising strikes among secondary school students through the Citywide School Strike Campaign. Socialist Action explains that genuine democracy can only be achieved by linking mass protests in Hong Kong with the coming revolutionary upheavals in China, where the gigantic working class is the most important force to change society and defeat the dictatorship. The struggle for real democracy cannot be won within the confines of capitalism, which everywhere including the ‘Western democracies’ favoured by pan democratic leaders, means the control of politics by unelected billionaires and big corporations. Capitalism means dictatorship, either by authoritarian regimes or by financial markets. Our alternative is a socialist society and democratically-run and planned economy that can eliminate rising poverty levels, housing misery, unemployment and low-paid contract labour. Within the current mass protests Socialist Action stands for the creation of a mass workers’ party in Hong Kong and also in China, that links revolutionary democratic demands with the need for a clear socialist alternative.
Scotland Referendum: The “Yes” Revolt
The referendum on independence in Scotland sprung up a working class revolt-with over 1.6 million people voting YES though the NO vote won. The Yes campaign became a mass mobilisation of working-class communities: against austerity and rotten establishment politics, and for a positive future. The independence referendum in Scotland was remarkable: there was huge politicisation and class polarisation, combined with the beginning of mass intervention in politics, particularly by the most oppressed sections of the working class, shaping their own destiny. This was hitherto seen as the preserve of the self-appointed, stifling elites who dominate what passes for political discourse in Britain. One of its most striking results was the effect that it had internationally.
The basis for the fear of the imperialists is to be found in the opposite yet equally powerful response that events in Scotland have enthusiastically evoked among the masses in Europe and elsewhere, with many countries facing their own explosive national question. The Spanish ruling class dreaded the impact of the Scottish referendum with the use of the language of ‘Balkanisation’ (their word) of Spain, the right of self-determination and independence for the Catalan people and, following them, the Basques. The Catalan movement was given a big boost by virtue of the fact that the Scottish referendum was taking place. The Catalan movement has encouraged the Catalans and other nationalities to demand their own referendum â€“ bitterly resisted by Madrid. Meanwhile, in Italy, there exists a simmering mood in the Alto Adige, the largely German-speaking region, demanding similar rights as the Scots for a say in their future, while the right-wing Northern League is making similar demands for northern Italy.
The onset of a world economic crisis has resurrected the national question in regions and countries where it seemed previously to have been settled. Genuine socialists in grappling with this issue must avoid falling into the pit of opportunism, of accommodating to bourgeois, capitalist nationalism or of adopting an empty, abstract, propagandist approach which can never succeed in connecting with the real movement of the working class, particularly its oppressed layers. While the forces of genuine Marxism in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) defended the right of self-determination for the Scottish people, we did not favour the Balkanisation of countries composed of different national groups. It is absurd to imagine that any country, particularly a small country, can prosper and solve their problems in isolation. In a globalised world, it is not possible to go it alone. The striving for ‘unity’ of the European capitalists, enshrined in the EU, is an expression of the need for the productive forces â€“ science, technique and the organisation of labour â€“ to be organised on a continental and even a world scale. But the capitalists can never fully overcome the limits of private ownership or the nation state. Only the working class acting together can, through a democratic socialist united states of Europe, achieve this task.
Therefore, the CWI, while fighting for an independent socialist Scotland, link this to a socialist confederation in the first instance of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, as well as a socialist Europe. There were occasions in the past when the CWI argued against independence for Scotland as an immediate demand, particularly as a slogan. This was because independence did not enjoy the support of significant sections of the population. In these circumstances, to advocate ‘self-determination’, and particularly independence, that is separation, could be interpreted by many Scottish workers as expressing a wish that we, the majority, do not want to live with them in a common state. However, once the idea of independence had gripped the minds of the masses, the support of a majority or a significant and growing minority, the CWI faced a changed situation. The direction of travel has been clear in Scotland for a long time. The election of the Scottish National Party (SNP) as a majority in the Scottish parliament was seen as a staging post on the way to ‘independence’, particularly for the most energetic and dynamic sections of the working class who have come to the fore in the referendum campaign. A significant section â€“ oscillating between 40-50% â€“ of young people in particular had already embraced this idea, long before the referendum was agreed. The task of Marxists was to give support generally but seek to give it a socialist content. This was and is combined with warnings about the inadequacies, to say the least, of the SNP’s resolve to remain within the framework of capitalism, which would mean that few of the social demands driving the Yes campaign could be realised. On the contrary, savage austerity would have been the future for Scotland unless workers were able to use victory in the referendum to press for a break with capitalism.
The forces of the CWI that participated in the Scottish referendum did not fall into the trap of bolstering the SNP. While energetically supporting the Yes campaign in general, the Socialist Party Scotland collaborated in a splendid independent, working-class orientated and effective campaign, which drew in hundreds and thousands of enthusiastic Scottish workers alongside Tommy Sheridan and prominent SPS members. Even Rupert Murdoch, in a backhanded compliment, recognised this when he complained that too many “lefties” were prominent in the Yes campaign. Moreover, our case was spelt out in some programmatic detail and contrasted with the false perspectives of those nationalists who painted a rosy future for Scotland on a capitalist basis. All the previous capitalist models that the SNP invoked in the past â€“ Ireland, Iceland, and Scandinavia as a whole â€“ are now clearly tarnished as a result of the devastating world economic crisis. The referendum showed a massive rejection of austerity, whether imposed from Westminster or Edinburgh. The demographic breakdown of voting patterns showed that it was the working class, particularly its most deprived and oppressed sections in the areas that voted Yes, in Glasgow, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire, alongside the majority of the 16-17 year-olds, who massively opted for independence.
A new fighting working class political alternative is urgently needed in Scotland drawing together the socialist forces behind the Hope Not Fear Campaign including Solidarity, Socialist Party Scotland and trade unions like the Railway and Maritime Transport Union (RMT).Such a working class political alternative must embrace a federal structure that would enable organisations to maintain their identities and work within the structure and to which trade unions can affiliate. This would rapidly gain wide acceptance among the working people in Scotland finding a way out of the capitalist crisis than the proposals of some on the Scottish left like Tommy Sheridan advocating a vote for the SNP at the next May’s general election. The SNP is currently attracting new membership which illustrates the illusions among the broad mass on the basis of the role of the SNP in the Independence campaign. The role of genuine socialists particularly in the CWI is to build an independent socialist campaign that can lay the basis for a fighting new working people’s political alternative. The genie is out of the bottle and the demand for an independent, socialist Scotland will grow in intensity as the crisis of capitalism worsens and provokes a mass revolt.
United States: Upsurge Of Fresh Mass Movements
The United States is currently witnessing mass movements on significant scale. The latest of such is the hundreds of workers and youth that participated in the People’s Climate March on 24th September, 2014. According to confirmed reports, over 400,000 people participated in the march. It surpassed organizers’ original estimate of a 100,000 person turnout. There was also significant presence of the trade unions including the SEIU, CWA, Teamsters, IBEW, AFESME, UAW, NYSNA and the TWU. The calls for system change at the People’s Climate March clearly indicate a real understanding among a broad swath of people of the need not just to reform the current capitalist system but to actually break with the system altogether. However, there is still a great deal of confusion about how to go about this or the next steps to be taken. The hunger for answers was reflected in the overwhelmingly positive response Socialist Alternative (CWI US) got at the march. What is clear from all of this is a growing anti-corporate and anti-capitalist consciousness, spurred not only by the threat to the environment but also by the other products of capitalism: inequality, racism, sexism and war. Capitalism destroys more than just the environment and it is the genuine task of genuine Marxist forces in the Socialist Alternative (CWI-US) to connect the struggle against human-caused climate change to the myriad of other injustices and degradations wrought by capitalism.
This has been pre-dated by the mass revolt that trailed the killing of Michael Brown, an African-American youth in Ferguson. An entire community in the world’s richest country took up the exploitative and racist capitalist system. There is equally widespread anger against the failure of the Obama regime to live up to the expectations to bridge racial and class inequality. The repression of the mass movement with armoured trucks shows the fear of the entire capitalist ruling elite in the United States of the effect of the Ferguson revolt. This cannot be removed from the fact that the events in Ferguson have a resonating effect with nationwide protests springing up.
Perhaps nothing further stands as indicators of the change taking place in the United States than the election of Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative (CWI-US) to the Seattle City Council. The stunning election victory of Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s first explicitly socialist councillor in 100 years, has generated surprise and a barrage of similarly bemused comments from capitalist spokespersons in the US and elsewhere. And yet rocket science is not needed to explain Kshama’s victory, which in turn led to the magnificent ’15 Now’ campaign in Seattle and the enactment of the highest minimum wage in the US. The infectious enthusiasm which this has generated amongst workers, particularly amongst young people, was on full display at the recent tremendous National Convention of Socialist Alternative, attended by a record number of delegates, observers and friends from all corners of the US. There were intense discussions on world perspectives, on the issue of further electoral challenges from the left to the two main parties in the US, as well as the very favourable situation for Socialist Alternative and socialist ideas to grow in the US. This was reflected in the huge $43,000 collection. A doubling of membership of the Socialist Alternative already this year â€“ with further substantial increases on the horizon â€“ was also a theme of the Convention.
Without the seething discontent of the American workers at the plunge in their living standards against the background of eye-watering inequality in the richest country in the world, Kshama’s and Socialist Alternative’s victory would not have been possible. There have also been a number of opinion polls that show significant support for socialism among young people across the US. Yet words alone, a wringing of hands at the ‘unacceptable’ conditions of the working class which is the refrain of many ‘left’ organisations and passive trade union leaders in the US, were as effective as a drop of water on a hot stove. Action, the audacious decision to challenge the bosses and their representatives electorally â€“ the ‘propaganda of the deed’ â€“ linked to the demand for $15, was absolutely necessary. Only Socialist Alternative understood that this would strike a powerful chord amongst the army of low paid in Seattle and throughout the US.
This has resulted in huge benefits to the low-paid, up to now kept in the dirt by capitalism, but who are now rising to their feet to demand a living wage and denounce the massive ‘wage theft’ of the bosses. Throughout the US a forest fire, which ultimately threatens to turn into a prairie fire, of 15 Now campaigns is raging, with similar victories gained in other cities. Without the example of Seattle this would probably not be taking place, at least at this time. Seattle has energised the working class, particularly the low-paid throughout the US. Witness the fast food workers strike on 4 September in more than 100 US cities, including Chicago, New York and Detroit, accompanied by marches, sit-ins at fast-food outlets and offices, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC. Police arrested more than 400 people.
Obama’s minimal proposals for an increase in the minimum wage were bitterly resisted in Congress by the Republicans. This demonstrates that the US working class will receive very little in the current situation unless it maximises its power both on the industrial and the political plane. This means a serious electoral challenge to the Democrats in particular, who do not represent the US working class, as shown by the example of Obama in power as well as the little Obamas at state and citywide level. The renovation of the trade unions is also absolutely necessary. Too many of the trade union leaders go through the motions, lacking any conviction that they can defeat the bosses. One prominent trade union leader in Seattle asked skeptically: “You don’t actually believe that you can defeat big business?” They substitute the idea of action by the working class with the mobilisation of ‘staffers’, paid trade union organisers, rather than the mass involvement of workers.
Kshama’s campaign has opened a new chapter in mass involvement from below of working people fighting to change their lives. So has that of Jess Spear, who received almost 20% of the vote, a splendid result, when she challenged the Democrat Frank Chopp in August’s primary election for the state assembly. The capitalist establishment is taking Socialist Alternative’s emergence as the second political party in Seattle (Republicans are virtually non-existent in this city) very seriously. The challenge to Chopp is seen by both Socialist Alternative and the capitalists as the first round in the battle to re-elect Kshama in 2015. And it is not just the working class but also the intermediate layers of society â€“ those who previously enjoyed middle-class living standards â€“ who are being affected
There are important straws in the wind of the possibilities of serious challenges by the left to capitalist incumbents. Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist senator for Vermont, is being pressed by Socialist Alternative and others on the left to challenge the Democrats in the presidential elections. In addition, Karen Lewis, the black teachers’ union leader in Chicago, whose members clashed with the city’s brutal anti-union current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has indicated a preparedness to stand against him as a ‘non-partisan’ candidate looking towards the labour movement, in next year’s elections. The nature of Lewis’s campaign, the demands she will raise in her campaign manifesto, remains to be seen. A lot depends on whether the mass of the working class and the trade union rank-and-file take on her campaign. Things are changing dramatically in the US, although the imprint of the previous period on consciousness of the working class, resulting in low levels of class struggle, still exists. However this is not the full picture, as the events of Seattle and elsewhere indicate. Moreover, the world situation, particularly if there is terrorist attack on the US, could have an effect in throwing back consciousness. But even such a horrific prospect will not undermine a resurgence of the American working class over time. Seattle is an anticipation of future mighty events which will see the emergence of a powerful force for socialist change in the US.
What does the emergence of the ISIS represent?
This is already being displayed in the mood of questioning and resistance against Obama’s launch of attacks on the ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). The ISIS represents the bewildering monster created by US imperialism through the crimes of the war in the Middle East. The beheadings by ISIS have shocked the world. They have brought home to millions of workers the catastrophic realities of the vicious cycle of war in the Middle East and the terror that ISIS and other forces have inflicted on the region’s population. The Iraqi government installed by the U.S. has been unable to firmly establish itself, even with huge U.S. assistance. The lack of social support of this regime was clearly reflected in the absence of any will to fight among the Iraqi army. ISIS was able to take huge chunks of land, with the Iraqi military melting away before them â€“ leaving only the U.S.-supplied military hardware.
The brutal acts of ISIS, condemned by socialists, have also forced President Obama’s hand, and the U.S. and other Western powers have hastily drawn up a three-year plan to yet again carry out military actions in Iraq. But the growth of ISIS directly flows from the bloody history of U.S. intervention. In attempting to create stable, friendly regimes, U.S. imperialism has conjured up a nightmare for the people of the region and created new monsters it canÂ´t control. The Arab Spring showed the anger of workers and poor people in the region about oppression and social misery. However, with the lack of a clear alternative, the movements’ successes were stolen from their hands. New dictatorships were set up â€“ like the Egyptian military taking over again â€“ with U.S. backing. All elements of a peopleÂ´s uprising in Syria against the brutal dictator Assad are now dragged into a battle between different reactionary, anti-democratic and, in the end, pro-capitalist forces.
The present inability of the working class and the poor masses in the region to form their own organizations and develop a program to overthrow the reactionary, often Western backed, regimes like Saudi Arabia is the background for a temporary domination of reactionary powers. Saudi Arabia, for example, sanctioned at least eight beheadings in the month of August â€“ in reality, as shocking as the ISIS killings. The ISIS continues to make territorial gains, controlling much of Western Iraq along the border with Syria. The Sunni jihadist force has seized a border crossing into Jordan – a key ally of the United States – and captured Iraq’s largest oil refinery outside Baij. Iraq’s army, riddled with corruption and reviled as a sectarian Shia force by Sunnis, ignominiously fled in the face of the better-armed and disciplined Isis-led forces. Isis was lavishly funded and armed by the reactionary Sunni Gulf states in its fight against the Assad regime in neighbouring Syria. Now, the Frankenstein’s Monster, which began life in Iraq during the western occupation, has surged back into Iraq, exploiting the hatred of Sunnis for the sectarian, corrupt and oppressive Maliki regime in Baghdad. Isis’s initial force of around 6,000 has been bolstered with new recruits, including foreign fighters arriving from Syria and hundreds of freed prisoners.
It’s when workers and poor people organize that a real challenge to war and exploitation can develop. At the moment, these forces are more hidden and pushed back. However, the Arab Spring with its repercussions worldwide, the close interactions of young people and workers around the globe within Occupy, the “enraged” and “Indignados” in Europe â€“ all of this shows how quickly an inspiring movement can change events. And, in the Middle East, despite the decline into civil wars and bloody divisions, this setback for the masses is temporary and new uprisings are being prepared by the lack of any alternative capitalism and imperialism have to offer. To end oppression, exploitation, and war, we need to end the rule of big business. It is our duty to fight capitalism and war here in the U.S., in the heart of imperialism. The success of socialist Kshama Sawant in SeattleÂ´s city council race last year encouraged activists all around the globe. Movements in the U.S. have huge repercussions and will help to rebuild the resistance of workers and young people internationally. The fight for a socialist America in a socialist world, to stop the capitalist war machine and to fight to end exploitation and oppression â€“ that’s the contribution we can offer to end the history of slaughter and begin to build a new era of international solidarity.
South Africa: What Role For Wasp In The Rise Of Working Class Radicalisation?
It should be recalled that against the background of Marikana massacre which further underscore the imperative of a mass working class party as an alternative to pro-big business, anti-poor ANC, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) (CWI South Africa) along with the representatives of six mineworkers’ strike committees, took the historic decision to found the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) in December 2012. It should also be recalled that members of DSM played significant roles in organizing mineworkers in a spirited fight-back after the massacre. Indeed, the DSM had been working among the mineworkers before the massacre. Shortly after the formation of WASP, the National Strike Committee, which at its height represented over 150,000 mineworkers, gave its backing to the part In December 2013 the National Transport Movement, a 50,000-strong split from the Cosatu affiliated transport union, affiliated to WASP.
In light of the Cosatu leadership’s objection to a call for a special congress, and the recognition of the changed political situation post-Marikana, the Numsa leadership convened its own special congress at the end of 2013. Among other things, the leadership sought mandate to support its recommendation that the union should withdraw support for the ANC. The anger and sense of betrayal that delegates felt for the ANC and SACP leaderships was on full display throughout the conference. At no point did a single delegate make any serious argument for continuing to support the ANC. In the minds of Numsa members the reality is clear: the ANC and SACP are parties of the capitalist class. The decision not to support the ANC was easily won. Numsa decided to withhold the R2 million donations it would otherwise have made to the ANC’s election war-chest. In addition, Numsa has ended all ties with the SACP. Numsa is positioning itself to be at the heart of working-class struggle in the next period and provide the leadership that the Cosatu right-wing has abdicated.
Unfortunately, there were weaknesses in the positions adopted by Numsa in regard to the 2014 general election. It held back from taking a decision to support an alternative party in the general elections. It simply reiterated the right of Numsa members to vote as individuals according to their convictions. Instead of taking a clear position on 2014, it decided to launch a ‘united front’, modelled on the United Democratic Front of the 1980s, to unite the struggles of workers and communities while simultaneously helping to bring into being a ‘movement for socialism’. In the run up to its special congress, Numsa was invited to “take its place in the leadership of WASP”. WASP’s democratic and federal structure would allow Numsa to use the WASP umbrella to stand its own candidates, selected by its own procedures. Numsa could take its opposition to the NDP into the national parliament as an ancillary to the struggles that will be waged in the workplaces and communities. At Numsa’s special congress the leadership laid down the criteria that any political party would have to meet in order to warrant political support. These criteria were endorsed by the delegates in the adoption of the secretariat’s report. WASP clearly meets these criteria.
WASP was born out of the struggles of the mineworkers and bases itself on the working class. WASP stands for the nationalisation of the mines, banks, commercial farms, factories and other big business on the basis of workers’ control as part of the struggle for a socialist society. WASP is a thoroughly democratic organisation. As part of the adoption of its new political strategy, the Numsa leadership was given a mandate to “be alert” to a “party committed to socialism standing for elections in future”. WASP repeatedly called for Numsa to take its place in the leadership of WASP and support and stand candidates under the WASP umbrella in 2014, as a crucial part of building the new movement for socialism.
The 2014 general elections in South Africa held amidst deep anger against the ANC with the Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF) led by Julius Malema making serious gains .The Workers and Socialist Party stood in the elections, almost alone on the “left” and received a little over 8,000 votes(0.08%). This low vote could be traced on the one hand to the blackout by the bourgeois media but also largely to the failure of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa to take a clear position in form of calling on its rank-and-file to vote the WASP. However, the correctness of the position of WASP in intervening in the elections has been affirmed with the important foundations laid for the development of a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme.
The events after the general elections has affirmed all the perspectives of the DSM(CWI South Africa) with class struggle intensifying at the outbreak of the metal workers’ general strike led by NUMSA and the outbreak of township protests. WASP is playing a leading role in the struggles breaking out in the communities such as Ga-Nchabeleng in the Fetakgomo municipality of Limpopo.WASP led a community-wide strike. Despite heavy repression through deployment of the Special Police, the struggle won important victory under the leadership of WASP. Hundreds of Fetakagomo residents are joining the WASP and new branches are springing up. The 2016 local government elections in South Africa will provide WASP the opportunity to make electoral gains from the community struggle interventions.
Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Some 3,400 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak with most of the deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There have been nearly 7,500 confirmed Ebola infections worldwide, with officials saying the figure is likely to be much higher in reality. What the outbreak of Ebola in the West Africa has further underscored is the total failure of capitalism as a system based on profit and not the need of humanity. This explains why the virus which has been discovered has not got cure or vaccine. On the basis of capitalism, it is unwise for big pharmaceutical companies which exist to make super profit to invest in research for its vaccine or treatment. It is a disease that does not only occur sporadically but also used to record in most outbreaks less than one hundred of infections and deaths. Besides, the outbreaks used to be restricted to the rural areas in poor African countries. In other words, there are no huge markets for super profit.
It is clear that without massive funding from governments and international agencies the multinational pharmaceuticals will not produce the vaccine or treatment for Ebola even if all the trials are successful. What this has called for is massive public spending on health care under a democratic control of workers especially in neo-colonial countries. This is more imperative as evidence has shown that a strong health system, along with provision of safe water and sanitation, can reduce significantly the fatality and incidence of Ebola and other infectious diseases. This has also put onto today’s agenda the call for public ownership of big pharmaceutical companies so that research and production of any medicine will be on the basis of the needs of humanity and not profit of a few. But all this will not be possible without a mass movement and struggle for a socialist change.
Latin America: Any Prospect For Genuine Democratic Socialist Ideas?
The economic crisis arrived late in Latin America when compared with Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, the full force of the crisis, and its effects in the social and political arena is now beginning to be felt deeply across the continent. Dilma Rouseff’s government in Brazil, as well as the regime of Kirchner in Argentina, were both described as ‘rapidly running out of steam’. Both the export of primary products â€“ one of the main factors behind Latin America’s growth â€“ and credit based consumption have come up against their limits in recent years. This has helped to provoke crises and splits among the main capitalist parties and has precipitated political realignments, both on the right and the left.
In Brazil, the legacy of 2013’s enormous June demonstrations is still crucial to understanding the movements developing today. The CWI in Brazil (LSR) proudly took part in these protests and called for the trade unions to intervene decisively â€“ not just by supporting the movement in words but by organising mass strikes. While the unions did organise short work stoppages that coincided with the protests this was largely ‘too little too late’, and it meant that the workers’ movement was unable to decisively put its stamp on this crucial mass movement. Similarly PSOL, the broad left formation within which the CWI participates, failed to properly intervene within this movement, perhaps fearing some of the ‘anti-party mood’ which understandably existed due to the betrayals of the PT. The increasing authoritarianism and bureaucratisation in the leadership of PSOL must be fought if it is to be able to play a full role in helping to develop a new mass workers’ party within the country. Despite these problems, however, PSOL is still able to act as a magnet for some of the most advanced layers of workers. LSR is fighting within PSOL to fight for democratic organisation and a radical left socialist programme. The LSR will stand candidates on their list during the set of elections which have already commenced with presidential election.
In Argentina, the crisis is particularly pronounced. The country was on the verge of a (now realised) debt default. This is set to have profound consequences for the Kirchner government, particularly as the Kirchner dynasty had been widely credited with helping Argentina to escape its 2002 debt crisis. The country is now on the verge of economic collapse. Inflation has sky-rocketed â€“ despite Kirchner’s attempts to paper over the problem by the producing fraudulent figures. Average rents increased by more than 36% over the last year. A huge rise in poverty is leading to a social crisis, made particularly acute given that Argentina at one stage had living standards comparable with those of workers in Europe.
This has led to increasingly large numbers of workers to make a political break with the government. This is most clearly shown in the in the industrial field, where factions representing more than 40% of trade union members have now formally split from the Kirchner government. Recent strikes including a police strike, have caused economic paralysis within the country. In this context, we have seen very significant gains made by Argentina’s left in the last elections. The FIT alliance, made up of a coalition of Trotskyist currents, was able to gain a very substantial vote â€“ over 1.2 million. This gave the alliance 3 national MPs and provincial MPs in 7 regions. This stands as clear evidence of the huge possibilities for wining support to the left of the Kirchner government. The CWI has pointed out the urgent need for the FIT to play a role in developing a new mass force of a broader nature, allowing for its development into an organisation with a genuinely mass character in the future.
In Venezuala, Maduro’s election has opened up a new situation in the country. The death of Chavez has given confidence to and strengthened the right wing. The country is currently facing big economic problems, including capital flight and inflation. ‘Chavismo’ without Chavez is proving problematic, and has provoked tensions within his party. All this means that the gains made by workers and the poor under Chavez are in danger of being lost â€“ with struggle the only way to defend them. It may also be necessary to struggle against reformism and counter-revolution carried out under Chavismo’s banner. With this in mind, our most pressing task is developing a revolutionary block within Venezuala, work which our small section within the country is beginning.
In Chile, the newly elected Bachelet government is currently tasked with containing an explosive political situation. Mass struggles have taken place, including a big student movement. Overall there is a radicalisation taking place within Chilean society. This is in part reflected by promises made by all main political parties to reform the old Pinochet constitution. Bachelet has also introduced some limited tax reforms and proposed a limited form of free third level education, but students are demanding an end to all profiteering within education.
Across the continent of Latin America, the most urgent task is the building of genuine Marxist forces, which can take full advantage of the huge opportunities presented, and intervene decisively in the developing mass struggles. Latin America provides an example of the rapid changes in the rhythm of struggle that can take place. Like in 2000-2002, Latin America is once again to the fore in developing workers’ struggles. It is a continent rich in working class tradition and ripe for socialist change. The CWI continues to work tirelessly to help build a movement that will be capable of achieving it.
Europe in Crisis: Where Now For The Working People?
It is six years from the most devastating economic crisis in the post-World War Two period, it has left in its wake the crisis brought panic among Europe’s ruling class. They feared the economic devastation would lead to the break-up of the EU, their pet project designed to coordinate the exploitation of Europe’s working class. Billions were poured into the banks. But it also led to the most vicious austerity measures in decades.
In country after country across Europe the working class came onto the streets in heroic struggle in response, attempting to defend the working and living conditions. But across the continent their leaders failed them and they lacked the democratic structures or mass working class organisations, both trade unions and mass workers’ parties, to pressurize or remove and replace them. But these were not movements without consequences. Since the start of the euro-crisis, twelve governments have been pushed aside in an expression of the anger and opposition to their austerity measures.
The support for traditional parties has eroded dramatically, with former social democratic parties who support and implement austerity particularly affected. Pasok in Greece is now virtually a ‘non-party’, the Irish Labour Party was almost wiped out in May’s European and local elections, and support for French President Hollande is collapsing in the polls to historic lows. The crisis of legitimacy engulfing Europe’s capitalist parties is only added to by the moral decay and unprecedented level of corruption. For workers and the poor, eye-watering changes have been wrought on living conditions, with features of Latin America now in evidence. In Spain and Greece more than half of the young people there cannot get a job. There is no word for the growing gap between rich and poor other than grotesque. But this crisis has not singled out only the lowest paid and most vulnerable. Its effects are lapping enthusiastically at the feet of the middle classes.
A hatred of parties developed with the 2008-9 crisis. So far, this has not yet ripened into mass participation in the building of working class political alternatives. This was due to the experience of what had gone before, particularly the collapse of the Soviet Union and the idea that capitalism had triumphed over the planned economy that came to the fore in the 1990s. This has been coupled with the treacherous role of the trade union bureaucracies in most countries.
While the road to developing a mature new mass workers’ party is neither short nor straight, it does not mean that the ruling classes across Europe can be complacent. In Ireland, for example, a Dublin West by-election coincided with the European and local elections, which saw the Socialist Party’s Ruth Coppinger TD (member of parliament) elected. There is growing competition to be seen as the anti-austerity party. And it isn’t only some of the right-wing populists who seek to grab this mantle in an attempt to win electoral support. In Ireland Sinn Fein presented itself as the main anti-austerity party. Unlike the Socialist Party (CWI-Ireland), they have no confidence in working class people to struggle so they don’t put forward clear strategies based on mass resistance to the austerity measures raining down.
CWI and Struggles for Socialist Alternative
The CWI concurs with capitalist economic experts that their system has failed. Even in the advanced capitalist countries there is mass unemployment, unparalleled inequality and poverty. Fortunately, the acceptance of the continuation of capitalism for the next 50 years is unlikely. The longevity of the system will depend on the preparedness of the working class, to mobilise, organise, seize the opportunity and take power. This means the building of an organisation, a party capable of politically arming the working class with a programme for the transformation of society on a national and international scale.
Capitalist economists accept that the ‘new normal’ is stagnation. They concur agree with the points the CWI made, that the supposed ‘productivity miracle’ of information technology was overestimated and any lasting benefits have already been achieved. Automation and robotics have the potential to liberate humankind yet under capitalism they will be jobs killers. 47% of jobs in the US are threatened by new technology. One thing is certain: capitalism will be challenged again and again by unparalleled mass movements, a taster of which we have been given in the last five years. These struggles will not just embrace the working class but also the increasingly impoverished middle layers. The New York Times wrote that the US middle-class is falling behind its Canadian and European counterparts. If not them, their sons and daughters will be drawn behind mass movements we, the working class, organise for change.
The epicentre of the world movement against capitalism at the moment is in the Americas, north and south. Europe is suffering a mild reaction, arising from workers’ frustration that colossal mass movements have battered the foundations of capitalism but for the moment have been contained by the capitalists. This is largely due to the lack of leadership, with no alternative on offer and, in some cases, outright sabotage from the ‘leaders’ of the mass organisations both on the political and trade union field. This will change in the next period. The Socialist Alternative(CWI-US) has made important gains in the United States with the victory of Kshama Sawant in Seattle and the build-up of a strong electoral challenge against Frank Chop, the sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives by a Socialist Alternative candidate, Jess Spear. Sections of the CWI in Latin America are equally influencing new layers entering into struggle with genuine democratic socialist ideas.
Debt levels in advanced countries, under the impact of the world capitalist crisis are higher than before 2008. The process of debt accumulation includes China, with debt levels rising from 130% of GDP in 2008 to 220% in 2013. If the brakes are applied, there will be an economic slowdown with massive consequences. In this sense, the ongoing Hong Kong mass uprising in which the Socialist Action (CWI-HongKong) is participating IS highly significant with the admirable determination of youth, eagerly participating against their parents’ wishes. Despite the pleadings of their bosses, workers also took part, which upset the Beijing regime. It has responded in a heavy-handed way, thereby raising the need to organise democratic defence committees to repel attacks and kick out CY Leung’s government!
Yet the CWI has not restrained from advocating formations of a new workers’ parties, where the traditional workers’ parties have failed. In South Africa, the big idea of a new party has been taken up by the metalworkers’ union, NUMSA. This will become the main theme of the workers’ movement in South Africa as it develops. Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI-South Africa) has played a major role in initiating the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) which intervened in the 2014 general elections and currently provides leadership to community struggles. While the last-held elections did not resolve a single problem for the pro-capitalist parties with the ANC only getting 34% of votes from urban areas, the gloomy picture of the defeat of ANC in 5 out of 6 major metropolitan areas raises huge prospect for WASP in looming 2016 council elections in South Africa. The Nigerian Section, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria) is equally playing a leading role in the formation of the Socialist Party of Nigeria with the collapse of the Labour Party, which is trailing behind the main ruling People’s Democratic Party. A serious legal and political battle has opened up for the registration of the party with the refusal of the government agency responsible for party registration in Nigeria to register the party.
The tactics employed vis-Å•-vis the new political formations are based on the concrete conditions that exist in a given country at a given time. In this period, where political flux dominates, there is a need for flexibility in tactics while maintaining the ideas and organisations of the CWI. In Greece, the CWI won three councillors in recent elections in Greece, standing on three different lists. The CWI takes enormous pride in our party in Greece. One of the crucial factors that has allowed them to maintain their forces while the rest of the left faces crises, splits and depression, has been the ability to bring forward a programme that gives an honest and open analysis of the situation at each conjuncture. That means explaining when there is a defeat but also providing a programme to rebuild and develop the movement.
The job of the CWI is also to prepare for sharp changes in the situation. We must build our forces in size and quality, seizing opportunities, creating opportunities and paying attention to the arming of our organisations with a deep understanding of the processes afoot. This will allow the CWI to be better positioned to provide the struggling masses with the ideas necessary to once and for all rid themselves of the exploitative, divisive, miserable capitalist system and to replace it with one where cooperation, on the basis of a democratic planned economy can allow a democratic socialist world can to start to exist.