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Last updated May 2003

The Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

    The Committee for a Workers International is a worldwide socialist organisation with sections and groups in over 35 countries. 

The CWI was launched in 1974, and held its founding Congress in April of that year. Four sections, Britain, Germany, Ireland and Sweden were represented at the Congress along with individuals from Belgium, India, Spain and Sri Lanka.

By the time of our Eighth World Congress, held in November 2002, there were delegates present from 25 countries, from all continents.

The roots of the CWI lie in Trotsky's struggle against the rise of Stalinism. The isolation of the former Soviet Union led to the rise of Stalinism; totalitarian rule in a non-market economy. The struggle of Trotsky and his supporters against this led to formation the Fourth International, a world-wide organisation fighting for workers' democracy and socialism.

Shortly after the Fourth International was founded in 1938 the Second World War broke out and either the Stalinists or fascists killed many of its activists, including Trotsky himself. 

In the aftermath of the War the remaining Fourth International leaders had extreme difficulties in coming to terms with the changed world situation. 

They could not understand, for example, the character of the post war economic boom in the West, the reasons behind the strengthening of Stalinism in Russia and Eastern Europe, the character of the revolution in the neo-colonial world or the decisive role of the working class in changing society. 

A series of political mistakes led to the collapse of the original Fourth International organisation into a number of differing organisations and groups.

The CWI's historical roots lie in those Trotskyists in Britain who avoided the traps of either ignoring new developments or of dumping overboard principles in order to find short cuts to success. 

But we were never merely analysts; we always sought to participate in workers' struggles and to win support for the ideas of genuine Marxism among working class people.

For a long time we were small, restricted to Britain, but always steadfastly remained internationalists in outlook and actions. From the late 1960s we were able to reach more and more activists in other countries, laying the basis for the CWI's formation and subsequent growth.

Liverpool and poll tax mass struggles

The CWI has a proud record of leading mass struggles of the working class. In the 1980s in Britain we led battles against Thatcher's neo-liberal government. 

In the mid-1980s our supporters, then organised under the 'Militant' banner, led the struggle of Liverpool City Council against spending cuts, a battle involving mass strike action and demonstrations. 

Later we initiated the successful battle against the Poll Tax that encouraged 18 million not to pay this unjust charge. The organisation of mass demonstrations of up to 250,000 led to both the ending of the tax and Thatcher's own removal.

All these battles were waged against the opposition of the British Labour Party leaders and most trade union leaders. In Liverpool these conservative forces were able to help the Tory government defeat the struggle, something they failed to do with the Poll Tax.

Our opposition and clashes with the pro-capitalist leaders in the workers' movement has been a feature throughout our development.

In many countries, such as Greece, Spain, South Africa and Sweden, these struggles have been very sharp. The established leaders were scared of a repeat of the successes we scored in Britain, where we led the Labour Party's youth section for over 15 years and three CWI comrades were elected to parliament during the 1980s, under the slogan, 'A workers' MP on a workers' wage'.

We have been involved in many different types of struggle. The range is enormous. Sometimes we have pioneered issues, such as campaigning against domestic violence. On other occasions we have taken important initiatives, like the launch of Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE) as an international anti-fascist organisation. 

The YRE organised a 40,000 strong European march in Brussels in October 1992. This was one of the first international anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrations to be organised.

Alongside campaigning in workplaces and communities, CWI members also stand in elections; always stressing that CWI elected representatives will be involved in struggles and live on the same wages as the workers who elected them. 

Currently there are CWI members elected to local councils in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden, and Joe Higgins is a member of the Irish national parliament in Dublin.

Fighting dictatorships and divisions amongst the working class

In other countries we have contributed to the struggle against dictatorships, such as our work to help to build fighting trade unions in South Africa during Apartheid rule. Other comrades were active in the underground struggle against the Pinochet regime in Chile. 

When the Nigerian generals annulled the 1993 Presidential elections the democratic opposition supported our Nigerian comrades' proposal for a general strike.

In some countries our comrades have been faced with particularly difficult situations. Faced with increasing religious or national divisions in both Northern Ireland and in Sri Lanka, for example, we have opposed state repression and stood for united workers' action. 

Alone on the Left we have put forward a principled and consistent position on the national question from the standpoint of the interests of the working class.

The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and elsewhere fundamentally changed the world situation and also had a huge effect on all of the Left. 

Many on the Left were completely disorientated and confused by events and many gave up the struggle for socialism or even capitulated to the ideology of the ruling class. 

For the CWI it was a question of coming to terms with the new situation, including US imperialism's strengthened international position and the very sharp turn to the right in many workers' organisations, and of explaining why socialism was the only viable alternative to capitalism.

We believe that the CWI was able to meet these new challenges. The CWI has deepened the Marxist understanding of events and processes since the 1990s. 

By doing so, unlike many on the Left, the CWI has not only maintained its forces internationally but has also won new supporters in different parts of the world. 

For example, by the time of Eighth World Congress in 2002, CWI members had won national leadership positions in trade unions in Britain, Ireland and Kazakhstan and important regional leadership positions in Australia and Nigeria. The CWI had also recently won new supporters in countries like New Zealand.

Join the CWI!

At the same time as building the forces of the CWI, we have sought to develop dialogue and, where possible, joint action with other groups. 

Where there is political agreement on a genuine and principled basis the CWI has joined with others from a different tradition. This has proved successful, for example, in Belgium, France and the Netherlands during the 1990s.

The CWI is open to all those that want to struggle for a better world, a socialist world, and to find out more about our ideas. 

We are always prepared to discuss with other groups or individuals who are seriously involved in the struggles of working class people and in building the socialist movement.

If you agree with the ideas and policies on the CWI site join us in the fight for a socialist society today!

For more a more detailed history of the CWI and explanation of our ideas see the online pamphlet History of the CWI.


Visit the CWI website for more information about the CWI in your area