100 attend inspiring meetings to refound CWI in England and Wales

100 attend inspiring meetings to refound CWI in England and Wales

24-07-2019 \\ England and Wales

Tom Barker

Around 100 socialists attended an historic rally and meeting over two days on 21 and 22 July to refound the England and Wales section of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).

The Sunday rally brought a flavour of the international strength of the CWI, with speakers from Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, the US, and Ireland.

Becci Heagney, former national committee member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales, chaired the rally. Fittingly, the first speaker was a founder member of the CWI: Per Ake, from Sweden, who declared “the international is dead. Long live the international!”

The rally also heard from Jaco who described the excellent and dynamic interventions by Socialist Action (CWI China/Hong Kong/Taiwan) members into the explosive mass democracy movement in Hong Kong, which has paralysed the Carrie Lam regime with demonstrations of up to 2 million (1 in 4 people).

Socialist Action members are working in exceptionally difficult circumstances and are helping to popularise the idea of a one-day political strike to smash the new extradition laws. They are calling for the movement to spread to mainland China in order to topple the world’s biggest dictatorship.

Jeanine from Germany brought solidarity from the Faction for Revolutionary Internationalism there, which is fighting its own battle in solidarity with the CWI majority. 

Keely gave an account of Socialist Alternative’s (CWI US) campaign work around the Stop and Shop Strike, where 31,000 shop workers went on strike across New England. The dispute demonstrated the importance of a flexible approach to tactics when taking part in and supporting trade union disputes, even those where our members do not already have a base.

Keely explained how the innovative approach of Socialist Alternative helped to win an important layer to the ideas of revolutionary socialism through this dispute.

Joe Higgins, a founder member of the Irish section of the CWI, described the recent successful Repeal referendum in Ireland in which our comrades, including our three elected TDs, played an absolutely central role. This was a spectacular defeat for the reactionary Irish Catholic Church, as well for the state and builds on the fighting record of Socialist Party Ireland in leading the anti-water charges movement.

The meeting also received a warm message of solidarity from Seattle’s Socialist Alternative City Council member Kshama Sawant, who is currently battling to be elected for a third term to continue the fight against the world’s richest person: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Mike from Huddersfield ended the rally affirming: “what we have today on this platform is the strength of our international” and summarised the mood of the room that though angry at the result of the dispute, we are enthused by what will be possible going forward with our sister parties by our side. 

This enthusiasm was indicated by the fantastic financial appeal, introduced by Nof from Coventry, which raised £15,000 on the night, with thousands more gathered since. 

The next day around 80 now ex-Socialist Party members met to discuss the way forward following our expulsions, to continue building the CWI in England and Wales. 

While the meeting was aimed at drawing out the lessons of the dispute, including the political roots of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Socialist Party leadership, the discussions were very forward-looking.

Leading trade unionists from around the country spoke on the need to develop a serious approach to building within the trade union movement, including among the increasingly militant workers in the gig economy.

The critical importance of trade union bulletins was also raised by a number of speakers. Revolutionaries need to be steeled to navigate the sharp twists and turns in the trade union movement, especially when up against hostile bureaucratic elements. Open and honest discussion among members, including drawing upon the wealth of experience across the international, will be essential in ensuring these lessons are learned and recorded for the future.

CWI members raised the need for energetic interventions into the growing movement around climate change, which has seen young people begin to move into active political struggle – partially explaining the Green surge in the recent elections.

With a looming global climate catastrophe, the socialist transformation of society has never been more urgent. It is paramount, therefore, that socialists intervene positively and creatively into this movement, winning young people to the banner of revolutionary socialism.

Others issues discussed were how socialists intervene into movements around special oppressions, such as women and LGBTQ+ issues. While recognising that many of these movements are cross-class in nature, socialists have a duty to intervene to fight against divisive ideas such as identity politics, which is typically used to play one group off against another.

The leading role played by CWI members in Ireland, Belgium and the US in movements against special oppressions are rich in lessons for socialists. We must go forward and debate these achievements in an open and honest fashion, including drawing out how mistakes, when they are inevitably made, can be corrected. As Keely stated: “In the past, the CWI did not act to help address challenges our sections are facing. We need to share in collective triumph and collective mistakes.”

The best way to maintain a healthy, democratic socialist organisation is to develop a “critical membership”. An informed approach to our work, nationally and internationally, will be essential in achieving this.

“He who has the youth”, to quote Lenin, “has the future”. And the meeting was certainly young. But there was also no shortage of experience – with some comrades claiming membership as long as 40 years. Every speaker clearly represented the best and most dynamic traditions of the CWI.

The CWI remains the most powerful and effective Trotskyist international in the world. And while its numbers are yet still small, the work we do on the ground in more than 30 countries enriches our perspectives about the world situation.

Ultimately, it is this combination of youth, experience and internationalism that will enable the refounded England and Wales section of the CWI, armed with a clear Marxist programme, to build the forces of socialist revolution into the future.