By Ann Orr (Irish delegate)
The Twelfth World Congress of the international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated took place in January 2020. It was attended by delegates and visitors from 27 countries. The Congress followed the splitting away of a minority who demonstrated a staid, conservative and dogmatic approach to tackling the challenges and seizing the opportunities of this period of radicalisation.
Along with numerous other resolutions, the decision was taken by the Congress to change the name of the organisation to International Socialist Alternative (ISA). It was formerly known as the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). This change has since been accompanied by the launching of a new website: www.internationalsocialist.net. ISA has sections and members in over 30 countries.
Mass movements sweep the globe
The discussions reflected, analysed and drew lessons from the movements that occurred internationally in 2019. Beginning with movements in Sudan and Algeria, protest movements and mass struggle also erupted in Hong Kong and countries across Latin America. These movements have shown a glimpse of the power of the working class. In Chile, a mass movement erupted following a proposed 3% increase in public transport fares. The movement spread and gathered momentum and has forced the political establishment to accept the movement’s demand for a referendum on the constitution. In Hong Kong, the movement won concessions against the so-called Chinese Communist Party dictatorship.
In many places, these mass movements have been met by significant state repression. In Hong Kong, over 7,000 arrests have happened, with 40% of those arrested being secondary school students. Yet these moves by the establishment have tended to only increase support and participation in opposition movements. A recurring feature is that young people and women are often at the forefront of these struggles and are also currently the most open to socilaist ideas. In country after country, members of ISA have engaged in the mass movements and have argued for the need for socialist change.
A new downturn
The capitalist establishment has been incapable of offering an alternative to political, economic and social crisis. 2019 saw a sharpening and further exposure of the massive inequalities that exist as a result of the capitalist system. The destruction of the environment by this system in the interest of short-term profit is only sharpening these crises – already, we have seen mass migration as a result of climate change and competition for scarce resources, made more acute by the environmental crisis. Tensions between nation states or imperialist powers can also develop further, with the discovery of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean and the ongoing trade war between the USA and China, despite the agreement of phase 1 of a trade deal.
Further economic shocks, fundamentally connected to the contradictions of the capitalist system, are widely expected. While many economies are stagnating or entering recession, we cannot say with certainty when another global economic downturn is going to occur. It is clear that, on a global scale, it is unlikely to have the same stunning effect as the financial crisis of 2007/7, as workers and young people have drawn lessons from the past decade of austerity and are more likely to move into struggle to defend their interests against the bosses and capitalist politicians.
A socialist world is possible
The role of socialists is to continue to demonstrate the inability of capitalism to overcome its contradictions or provide a decent future for the vast majority of people. This must be linked to demonstrating the necessity for a socialist transformation of society by the working-class. The Congress also highlighted important successes won by sections and supporters of ISA, including the re-election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle Seattle council, defeating the corporate campaign to unseat her which received donations of $4.5million from big business.
Overall, the meeting reflected ISA as a global, fighting organisation of workers, young people and the oppressed. While we have come through a gruelling international debate and split, the World Congress demonstrated an organisation continuing to fight to advance a working-class alternative around the world to capitalism, imperialism, exploitation and oppression and for a socialist world.