“This has been the biggest school the CWI has ever organised”, said Peter Taaffe from the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), when opening (together with Juan Ignacio Ramos, general secretary of Izquierda Revolucionaria in the Spanish state) the special unification congress which finished a historic week for the CWI and Izquierda Revolucionaria. It was not only in numbers attending where the impact of this extremely confident gathering was reflected, but also in the political level of the discussions and the electric atmosphere which ran throughout the event.
Over 400 revolutionary socialists from 31 countries attended the week-long school, in some cases reflecting the strides forward which the CWI has taken in the recent period. A large and vibrant delegation from Socialist Alternative in the USA, which has seen transformative growth in recent years on the back of the successful battle for $15 in a number of key cities, and the historic election and re-election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council, made its clear mark on the event.
The school opened with a plenary discussion on the situation in Europe, introduced by Peter Taaffe and replied to by Tony Saunois. The themes which were developed in this discussion – the unresolved and structural nature of capitalism’s ongoing crisis, the rise of new mass Left formations in a number of key countries and the importance of principled socialist leadership both in the struggle in communities and workplaces against austerity and in offering a Marxist alternative to reformist leaderships in mass movements of workers and youth – were central to all discussions during the week.
The school heard examples of how CWI and Izquierda Revolucionaria in Britain, the Spanish state, Germany, Brazil, France and elsewhere, approached the mass movements around new Left parties and leaders, from Corbyn to PSOL (Party of Socialism and Liberty - Brazil). Our unique approach - of positive engagement to build these movements into powerful mass parties of the working class, combined with an honest criticism of the limits of reformism and defence of a socialist, internationalist programme – has allowed our forces to become increasingly significant factors within and around these developments.
Comrades from South Africa, Greece and other countries explained how, even in the absence of such mass forces at this stage, Marxists can play a leading role in attempts to gather the forces from the ranks of the movement for the building of mass political alternatives which can undergo rapid growth and development.
Plenary sessions were also held on World Perspectives (introduced by Hannah Sell and replied to by Robert Bechert), Socialist Feminism (introduced and replied to by Judy Beishon) and Building the CWI (introduced by Clare Doyle). Over 20 commissions were organised throughout the week which looked in greater depth key political and theoretical questions and at perspectives and the work of the CWI in various countries and regions.
Building a revolutionary leadership for victories
The school took place in the immediate aftermath of the acquittal of the Jobstown defendants in Ireland, including Paul Murphy and two other Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) members. This campaign, in which the CWI mobilised support internationally, was a great victory. Alongside Socialist Party members’ leading role in the mass struggle in Ireland against the troika-imposed water charges, when a mass boycott led to the charges being scrapped, this victory underlines the importance of steadfast principled socialist leadership for the waging of successful class battles.
The same can be said for the victories achieved in the US under the leadership of Socialist Alternative, where the election of Kshama Sawant in 2013 to Seattle City Council, as the first openly socialist public representative in that city for 100 years, put the CWI firmly on the map in the ‘belly of the beast’. Socialist Alternative’s leading role ensured that Seattle became the first major city to win a $15 minimum wage, propelling a mass movement spreading throughout the country. Just before the school, Minneapolis became the latest major city to win $15, again spearheaded by Socialist Alternative, including Ginger Jentzen, SA candidate in council elections this coming November. Along with our Irish comrades’ example, Socialist Alternative in the USA shows how to use elected positions in capitalist institutions: not to subordinate or sell out the struggle on the streets and in workplaces, but to magnify and strengthen struggles.
The leadership provided by Izquierda Revolucionaria members in the Sindicato de Estudiantes (students’ union) - through repeated mass mobilisations and general strikes - was also fundamental to the recent defeat of the PP government’s Francoist-inspired “revalidation” exams.
Compare these victories and principled mass struggles with the shameful policy of demobilisation and class collaboration implemented by the majority of the world’s major trade union leaders. The school’s discussions and the historic unification with IR, will be important milestones in building the CWI during the coming class battles internationally.
The energy, confidence and enthusiasm which has reverberated throughout the ranks of the CWI as a result of these victories, and of the historic re-unification of our forces with Izquierda Revolucionaria in Spain, Mexico and Venezueula, set the tone for this unforgettable school.
600-strong rally in defence of October in Barcelona
During the course of the school, which took place outside Barcelona, the CWI and IR took the bold initiative of holding a public rally in the centre of Barcelona to celebrate the centenary of the 1917 October socialist revolution. Over 600 people attended the event in the searing July heat of Barcelona, to hear Ana Garcia, Paul Murphy, Juan Ignacio Ramos, Peter Taaffe and Kshama Sawant.
Unification - strengthening our forces for the future
The participation of comrades from IR enriched the course of the whole School, with key contributions on Europe, the national question, trade union and youth work, and the rise of new Left formations, among many others.
A special unification congress was organised on the last day of the school. Delegates elected from the democratic bodies of the CWI national sections and the IR, voted on a document outlining the political basis for the unification, and elected leading members of IR onto the CWI’s International Executive Committee.
The unification congress was opened and closed by Peter Taaffe and Juan Ignacio Ramos. Comrades young and old, from the Spanish state, Mexico, Venezuela, Britain, Germany, Greece, Belgium and the US spoke in a joyful but serious meeting. After 25 years of separation, this congress was not one of sentimental nostalgia but one of strength and confidence for the future.
The “homecoming” as it was repeatedly described, of IR back into the CWI, is far more than the righting of an historic wrong, and far more than the adding of IR’s hundreds of members to the CWI’s militant ranks. It represents a qualitative strengthening of the CWI and its ability to intervene and influence events in the next period.
It is a unification brought about by the capitalist crisis, which has tested all revolutionary tendencies, and the revolutionary winds which are blowing around the world. Amid the crises, splits and pessimism which is the lot of others on the Left in this period, this principled and enthusiastic unification of our forces will be noticed by workers, youth and revolutionaries around the world searching for a powerful socialist alternative. We invite them all to contact, discuss and fight with us for the building of a mass world party of socialist revolution.