The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) organises in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In terms of global reach the CWI is the largest international revolutionary organisation, represented on every continent, with members in 50 countries. We base ourselves on the method and analysis of Marxism, to politically re-arm and organise the working class in the fight for a socialist world.
The CWI opposes the billionaire-dominated CCP dictatorship, which has made China the ‘Sweatshop of the World’ with one of the most extreme wealth gaps on the planet. We stand for the creation of fighting independent trade unions to organise workers in the fight against capitalist exploitation: for an 8-hour working day, huge increases in wages, universal pension cover, and secure jobs instead of irregular, outsourced, and agency labour.
We link this to the fight for immediate and full democratic rights, while rejecting the squeamish ‘gradual’ approach of China’s liberals who fear revolutionary change while also swallowing the myth that democracy and capitalist economics are inseparable. China’s experience in the past 30 years disproves this false theory. As the American journalist James Mann points out, “The business communities of China and the United States do not harbour these dreams of democracy. Both profit from a Chinese system that permits no political opposition.” [The China Fantasy: Why Capitalism Will Not Bring Democracy to China, by James Mann]
Fighting against dictatorship
CWI members are active in many campaigns against state repression and to defend the rights of political dissidents including several of our own comrades who have been persecuted by the Chinese state. Zhang Shujie from Chongqing, for example, a CWI activist and regular contributor to our underground magazine ‘Socialist’ (社会主义者), was arrested in 2011 and accused of links with a “hostile organisation”. Zhang escaped from China with the help of CWI comrades and other labour movement activists, and was given asylum in Sweden.
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Our campaigns against state repression, harassment, and censorship, are not confined to China and Hong Kong, but also apply in Western capitalist ‘democracies’ where the reality of the ‘Big Brother’ state has been exposed by the Snowden and Manning affairs, alongside increasing attacks on political and civil rights in these countries. Socialists point out that democratic rights such as the right to organise and strike, freedom of speech and assembly, the right to vote and contest elections, and political representation for the oppressed, have historically only been won through mass struggle. The CWI upholds this true democratic tradition, emphasising the decisive role of the organised working class in the struggle for democratic rights and linking this to the need to overthrow capitalism, which rather than a facilitator is a gigantic barrier to achieving democratic rights.
We point to the recent social upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Brazil and Turkey, and the wave of anti-government strikes across the crisis countries of southern Europe, as living proof that mass struggle is the key to real change. But the CWI, which has actively engaged in these struggles, also underlines the need for fighting working class organisations, leadership, and a socialist programme as a prerequisite for success.
The CWI in Hong Kong, whose supporters organise as Socialist Action, calls for the undemocratic ‘CY’ administration to be driven from office. Socialist Action plays an active part in many struggles – workers’ strikes, environmental protests and campaigns for migrants’ rights. We stand for the building of a democratic grassroots-controlled mass movement – organising occupations, strikes, and popular committees in schools and workplaces – as the only way to overcome the resistance of the CCP dictatorship and achieve real democratic change.
This is in stark contrast to the ‘moderate’ pan democratic leaders who oppose ‘radicalism’ and advocate a compromise strategy for partial democratic reforms from the CCP dictatorship. They completely underestimate the hostility, subterfuge, and preparedness to use repression, of both the CCP and the capitalists. They seek in vain to reassure Hong Kong’s tycoons and multinational corporations who rightly fear that democratic elections pose a threat to their super profits. By bending to the pressure of the capitalists and the CCP, and refusing to link the democracy struggle in Hong Kong with the struggle against dictatorship in China, the pan democratic leaders act as a brake on the movement.
Support workers’ struggle
More recently, also in Taiwan, the CWI has begun to build support among youth for socialist ideas. We stand for the creation of a new working class and grassroots political force, completely independent of the nationalist pan-blue and pan-green blocs, to present a real alternative to the corrupt and decrepit Ma government and billionaire elite.
In China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the CWI campaigns for the rights of working class people, giving practical assistance, solidarity, and tactical proposals to workers’ struggles. In the 40-day strike of Hong Kong dockworkers in 2013 against Li Ka-Shing’s business empire, Socialist Action collected 36,000 Hong Kong dollars for the strikers. While other organisations raised similar amounts, we were alone in proposing specific actions – through our leaflets and magazine – to strengthen the strike’s effectiveness and go beyond the limited, largely media-centred concept of struggle favoured by union officials.
The CWI has organised support and solidarity actions in Hong Kong and internationally for striking workers in China. In 2004, the CWI’s elected member of the Irish Parliament, Joe Higgins, made a very effective intervention on behalf of ten Dongguan strikers (from the Stella International Footwear Company) who were sentenced to many years in prison. This was part of an international campaign which successfully saw all the convictions overturned!
Fight racism, imperialism and destruction of our planet
CWI comrades have actively campaigned against militarism, racism, and attacks on migrants. Asian countries now spend more on armaments than Europe, for the first time in modern history. This represents an absurd misuse of public money when hundreds of millions lack safe drinking water, decent housing, free education and healthcare. It also raises the danger of military clashes between the rival ruling elites and an accompanying orgy of nationalist propaganda. In Taiwan, CWI members protested outside the Labour Department in Taipei to protest racist discrimination of Filipino migrants after the killing of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng in May 2013. In Hong Kong, Socialist Action initiated the Youth Against Racism campaign, with marches and mass leafleting to defend Asian migrant workers and protest anti-mainlander chauvinism. Everywhere, racism is being whipped up by ruling elites and pro-establishment parties seeking to scapegoat ethnic minorities for the catastrophic social effects of the capitalist economic crisis.
The CWI organises struggle against environmental destruction. Capitalism’s high-polluting chase after short-term profit has raised greenhouse gases, which are the main cause of global warming, to critical levels – higher than at any time since human life emerged on the planet. Rival capitalist governments cannot reach a solution and their yearly climate summits are little more than a ‘blame game’ to win economic and political advantages at each other’s expense. We fight for democratic public ownership and control of energy, transport and utility companies as part of a wider socialist plan to reposition the economy upon renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar power.
In Taiwan and Hong Kong the CWI has taken part in numerous anti-nuclear protests especially in the aftermath of the world’s second worst nuclear disaster – at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. Our website’s reports from China have highlighted the crucial role of mass anti-pollution struggles from Kunming to Chengdu to Dalian. The nuclearisation of Asia is racing ahead despite widespread public opposition – including a massive 200,000-strong protest in Taiwan in March 2013, and even bigger protests in Japan. China accounts for almost half (28) of the world’s (69) nuclear plants under construction. Given endemic problems of poor oversight, corruption, and lack of even minimal public scrutiny in China, this raises a nightmare scenario of unsafe nuclear plants, toxic waste, and ‘tofu dreg’ construction.
The CWI plays a key role in women’s struggles and protests against sexism and homophobia. In Hong Kong we campaign to raise awareness among young women and migrants through campaigns like ‘Slutwalk Hong Kong’, and our yearly socialist celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8). We connect the struggle against sexual oppression and violence against women to the worsening problems facing women workers – job discrimination, low pay and sexual harassment ¬– and the need to overthrow capitalism.
Capitalism: a diseased system
Since 2008 the capitalist system has been thrown into its most serious global crisis since the 1930s. Unemployment and poverty have exploded even in the rich world – with 26.6 million jobless in the EU compared to 16 million in 2008. The crisis has cost US capitalism alone more than US$22 trillion over five years, according to a study by the US government, with US$4 trillion spent by the central bank on printing money through its ‘quantitative easing’ programme, a disguised form of ‘life support’ for the banks and big corporations. Despite this massive monetary stimulus the US and world economies may yet tip over into a depression of 1930s proportions.
The CWI has provided a clear analysis of the capitalist crisis; an organic crisis for which no capitalist government has a solution, other than to step up their attacks on the poor and prepare for civil war measures against the working class. In China, the unprecedented stimulus package of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, an attempt to escape the gravitational pull of the global downturn, produced a debt crisis of Japanese proportions. The Chinese regime has been wrong footed at every stage of the crisis, falsely believing it was a temporary storm from which capitalism – and the Chinese economy – would return to its former ways.
The latest ‘solution’ of the CCP leaders echoes their Western counterparts: stepped up attacks on the working class and the public sector. The programme of ‘Likonomics’, which hopes to break the Chinese economy’s addiction to debt, is a programme of ‘pain’ as Premier Li readily admits. If fully implemented, this will mean shrinking government payrolls, privatisation, factory closures and fiercer wage competition (‘flexible labour markets’). Savage neo-liberal policies – outsourcing, privatisation and underfunded public services – are also being heaped upon the masses in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The CWI plays an active part in anti-privatisation struggles and campaigns for increased investment in schools, hospitals, and a big expansion of public housing. We stand for democratic public ownership and control of economic resources, construction and finance, to enable a democratically planned expansion of the economy geared to people’s needs not profit.
A new mass workers’ party
The CWI points to the need for new mass working class parties on a world scale, as the political vehicles needed to organise successful mass struggle and win support for a socialist programme against capitalism and dictatorship. At the same time we are cognisant of the complex and contradictory political moods running through all layers of society at the present time. This is a legacy of the political confusion caused by the collapse of the Stalinist one-party states that falsely claimed to be ‘socialist’, and the metamorphosis of the old social democratic parties, which have lost their former working class roots to become outright capitalist parties.
This political vacuum on the left is felt everywhere. There is widespread distrust and hatred of the establishment politicians, but given the absence of a clear alternative this can translate, especially when mass struggles erupt for the first time, into an ‘anti-party’ mood: against all parties, their flags, symbols and publications. An unintended result of this is to make it easier for the same hated establishment politicians (echoed shamefully by some left groups who have succumbed to ‘anti-partyism’) to contain these mass struggles and prevent them from evolving into a clearer threat to the capitalist system. For this task, we emphasise, a party of the working class is essential.
The CWI has shown that with clear socialist ideas and imaginative tactics, socialists can make big strides forward in the struggle-rich period we live in. The CWI in the USA, Socialist Alternative, has blazed a pioneering trail using electoral campaigns to challenge the capitalist political system and popularise socialist ideas. This has met with staggering successes for example in Seattle, where our comrade Kshama Sawant won an election victory that has shaken the national US political establishment and gained international media attention. This political earthquake in the US builds upon the experience and successes of the CWI section in Ireland, gaining two parliamentary seats upon a clear socialist and Marxist platform. In South Africa, after the infamous police slaying of 34 mineworkers at Marikana in 2012, the CWI section played the leading role in mass strikes of more than 100,000 workers. In 2013, the CWI in South Africa was instrumental in launching a new mass workers’ party, the Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP). These examples show the possibilities for Marxist ideas to conquer new ground and mass support.
To be successful, the struggle against capitalism and dictatorship requires ideas, a Marxist programme and methods, and an organisation that is able to unite workers and oppressed people across the globe. The CWI aims to build such an organisation by intervening in today’s struggles, engaging in dialogue with fighting layers of workers and youth, and gaining a wider audience for our socialist alternative.
If you want to join the international struggle for socialism and become a member of the CWI or you have read about our activities and want to find out more then fill out this form. Welcome to the struggle!