We as socialists do not take a middle class petti-bourgeois attitude to class struggles we take a internationalist outlook of events. As we know full well that capitalism a global system based on exploitation and greed is a global system that any challenge to this system needs to be met with a international global response.
Many of the great revolutionaries realised this with Karl Marx and Frederic Engels forming the 1st International in the 19th century. In the time since then there has been several attempts to bring together a new international with a common theme and all speaking the language of revolutionary socialism .
Today the socialist party of England and Wales formally Militant is part of the CWI the Committee for workers international one of the few if not the only ral organised internationals still going today with any serious marxist and class analysis.
The CWI was founded at a meeting of 46 comrades from 12 countries in April 1974. This was not the beginning of international work by supporters of the British Militant (now Socialist Party), who were the main initiators for the founding of the CWI. Many efforts were undertaken in the previous ten years to extend the influence of the ideas of the British Militant internationally. Even without a single international contact, Militant always proceeded from an international standpoint. An international is, first of all, ideas, a programme and a perspective. The general ideas are the linchpin of any organisation. From this alone flows the type of organisation that is required. Therefore, the history of the CWI, as with the British Militant, is a history of the ideas of this body, in contrast to the ideas advanced by other rival Marxist organisations.
The need for an international organisation flows from the very development of capitalism itself. The great historical merit of capitalism is that it developed the productive forces, of which the working class is the most important, and bound individual nations together through the world market. Internationalism, as Marx pointed out, flowed from the very situation created by capitalism, i.e. the creation of the world market and the world working class. This idea is even more important today in the period of globalisation. The linking together of companies, continents and different national economies on a world scale has been taken to an extent never even imagined by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.
The first attempt to set up an international was, of course, undertaken by Marx and Engels with the founding of the First International. Marx attempted to bring together in one international organisation the most advanced sections of the working class: French radicals, British trade unionists, and even the Russian anarchists. Great work was undertaken by the First International, culminating in the heroic Paris Commune. Engels pointed out that the International was "intellectually" responsible for the Commune although it had not "lifted a finger" to create it.
This first great attempt of the working class to establish their own state made the bourgeois tremble. They drowned the Commune in blood and conducted a witch-hunt against those who they held responsible, above all the leaders and adherents to the First International. But the defeat of the Paris Commune also coincided with an upturn in capitalism and a serious crisis within the First International especially because of the role of the anarchists, led by Bakunin. Marx and Engels led a successful struggle against the ideas of anarchism but, alongside the disruptive activities of the anarchists, the upswing of world capitalism created reformist illusions in those like the British trade union leaders, which led to splits and divisions within the First International. Marx and Engels then drew the conclusion that the First International had done its job, had established the idea of internationalism and of an International in the consciousness of the working class. But they also concluded that, having exhausted this historical mission, it should be wound up after moving its offices to New York.
Second and Third Internationals
The period which followed saw the creation of mass parties of the working class. These parties were mostly influenced by the ideas of Marx and Engels. This process culminated in the foundation of the Second International in 1889. This organisation developed in a generally progressive phase of capitalism. Tens of thousands of working-class people were mobilised by these parties, attracted to the ideas of socialism and given a basic class education. But because of the objective conditions - the steady progress of capitalism in developing the productive forces - this led the leaders of the parties who adhered to the Second International to collaborate with the capitalists, seeking compromises, which became a way of life. In effect, a stratum rose above the working class, with catastrophic consequences, once capitalism’s progressive phase had exhausted itself. This was clearly shown in the onset of the first world war. The overwhelming majority of the leaders of the parties of the Second International supported their own bourgeois in the bloody slaughter of the war.
The adherents to genuine internationalism were reduced to a handful. Some who may feel that the genuine internationalists today have been enormously weakened by the collapse of Stalinism and the ideological offensive of the bourgeoisie, should ponder the situation of Lenin, Trotsky, Connolly, MacLean, Liebknecht, Luxemburg and other genuine Marxists, in the first world war. At the Zimmerwald conference, which gathered together those who were opposed to the first world war, the old joke went that the delegates could have fitted into two stagecoaches! Yet two years later the Russian revolution exploded, and within nine months of this, the Bolsheviks were in power and the first genuine workers’ state had been established. This set in train the ten days that shook the world.
Out of the Russian revolution came the creation, in 1919, of the Third International. If anyone has any doubts of the effects of the Russian revolution, read John Dos Pasos’s USA. He gives many headlines from the US press about the Russian revolution. Not just the yellow press, whose editors dipped their pens in mad-dog saliva, but also the so-called "responsible and informed" journals of capitalism, like the New York Times, which carried headlines such as, "Lenin Assassinates Trotsky", or "Trotsky Kills Lenin". Even more lurid was the edition which claimed, "Trotsky Kills Lenin in Drunken Brawl". The Hungarian workers attempted to follow their Russian brothers and sisters, as did the German and Italian workers. In fact, the whole of the European working class was striving in this direction. It is not possible to go into detail on the causes of the Third International’s degeneration. Trotsky traces this out in detail. The main causes were the isolation of the Russian revolution and the development of a privileged strata which usurped political power. The defeat of the German revolution and the later betrayal of the German working class with the coming to power of Hitler consolidated the political counter-revolution carried out by the Stalinist elite.
The question is how to build such a mass International. We have a vital role to play in this process. We have in the past, as I described, sent comrades to different countries and continents throughout the world to establish the first forces of genuine Marxists. If necessary we will continue to do this. But a new mass International will not develop in a linear fashion. The process will involve fusions, splits and the reassembling of genuine revolutionary forces on an international and national plane.
We have been very successful in this regard. From the beginning we managed to absorb into our ranks organisations that did not agree with everything that the CWI stood for. In Cyprus, for instance, the group mentioned earlier that eventually joined us, after quite lengthy discussions, was somewhat heterogeneous. Many of those who remained with the CWI and who played a key role in building a very important section in Cyprus were, from the outset, committed to the general perspectives and programme of the CWI. But there were others who could be described as occupying a left centrist position, vacillating between the ideas of the CWI and centrist ideas. Some of them dropped by the wayside as the group became more serious, while others evolved into genuine revolutionaries
The development of the British section has always run alongside the growth of the CWI. But it would be a mistake to see the CWI as a mere adjunct of the work that we did in Britain. The CWI has a separate identity. It was impossible to replicate exactly the experience of the British Marxists in every country even in Western Europe. Painstaking discussions ensued with comrades in different countries in elaborating different and varying strategies and tactics to enhance the profile, numbers and effectiveness of the supporters and members of the CWI. As explained above, even when we were restricted to the small island of Britain, we always had an international outlook. We never took a purely British position but always proceeded from an international analysis, only then examining how the situation in Britain fitted in with this. We were always on the lookout for international contacts. Many of the international contacts that we made appeared to be purely "accidental". But these "accidents" were related to the changes in the objective situation which was affecting the working class and their organisations.
It is key in the upcoming period that we continue to take a international outlook on struggles of workers and look to interveen where we can. Workers across the world will be looking for ideas out of this crisis and we will look to be there ready and looking for them.
(pieces taken from the history of the CWI by Peter Taaffee on www.socialist world website www.socialistworld.org.uk)