Archive Recent Editions 2003 Editions Jul 19, 2003
World conference hits war, capitalist crisis
Communist & Workers’ parties meet in Athens
Greece – Meeting in the wake of the U.S. military invasion and occupation
of Iraq, but bolstered by the unprecedented global peace upsurge that
resisted the war, representatives of some 60 Communist and Workers’
parties gathered here June 19-20 to exchange views and increase
Major themes of the meeting included
finding ways to curb the aggressive, warlike actions of the Bush
administration and to point the way out of a deepening world economic
As part of the weekend’s activities, the delegates boarded
buses to Thessaloniki where they hit the streets and participated in the
huge “People’s Counter EU Summit” demonstration for labor rights, social
justice and equality.
Such conferences have been held annually
since 1998 at the initiative of the Communist Party of Greece (CPG). This
year’s theme was “The movements against war and capitalist globalization,
and the role of Communists.”
Circumstances confronting the parties
vary. Some are ruling parties, as in socialist Vietnam and Cuba. Others
serve in coalition governments, like the Communist Party of Brazil, the
Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) of Cyprus (which is now the
leading party there), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the
states of Bengal and Tripura. Still others are struggling under
exceptionally difficult conditions, including those that remain outlawed
under repressive, right-wing regimes.
Some are relatively small,
and others are huge. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the
Communist Party of India have a combined membership of 1.5 million. The CP
of the Russian Federation numbers some 530,000. Some, like the CP of
Bohemia and Moravia, routinely get 20 percent or more of the vote.
Parties came from every continent, although most came from Europe.
A number were unable to attend due to financial difficulties or pressing
events at home. Delegates called for setting up a solidarity fund to help
fraternal parties attend future meetings.
The global peace upsurge
was widely hailed. Despite their inability to stop the war against Iraq,
the peace movements are alive and well, and many of them are joining with
social movements in response to the capitalist economic crisis. In the
U.S., for example, struggles to save health care, education, pensions, and
other social programs are overlapping with the peace movement’s demand to
cut the military budget and fund human needs. This is true elsewhere, too.
Even in European countries that refused to participate in the Iraq
war, huge demonstrations and strikes have taken place against cuts in
pensions and services, underscoring the systemic nature of capitalism’s
crisis and the broadening fightback.
As Raid Fahmi of the
Communist Party of Iraq (CPI) said, “The exceptional worldwide
mobilization against the war and its convergence with the movement against
capitalist globalization has been a remarkable expression of the level of
consciousness reached by people all over the world.”
The CPI, at
one time the largest Communist party in the Arab world, is once again
emerging as a powerful force as its formerly underground and exiled
members resume open political activity throughout the country. The CPI is
widely respected and has relationships with organizations across the Iraqi
Fahmi summed up the general concerns held by
most parties: “The world is going through one of its most critical periods
in recent history. The war has far-reaching implications, not only for
Iraq and the Middle East, but the whole world.”
excitement over the explosive growth of the U.S. peace movement. Because
it is based in the most powerful imperialist country, the U.S. movement is
watched closely by people worldwide. One participant told me that they
constantly watched CNN to see what demonstrations the Americans were
organizing. Millions around the world are counting on the U.S. working
class and people to defeat Bush in the upcoming elections.
the hallmarks of an international Communist gathering is hearing the many
different voices that make up the world Communist movement.
Makhoul, general secretary of the Communist Party of Israel, said the
peace movement can grow to become an even more powerful force: “We reject
the idea that there can only be a unipolar world. Millions are
demonstrating and creating a new pole.”
The CP of Israel is one of
the few organizations in Israel that unites Jews and Arabs in the same
organization and has consistently called for a two-state solution to the
Makhoul said that a growing number of Israelis are
rejecting Ariel Sharon’s policies. “The Israeli government cannot continue
to humiliate the Palestinians under Israeli occupation without humiliating
the poor, the unemployed and the workers of Israel at the same time,” he
said. “The chains of the Palestinians under occupation are the same chains
binding the hands of the Israeli working class.”
In her opening
address, Aleka Paparigha, general secretary of the Greek Communist Party,
said Communist and Workers’ parties everywhere had played a vital role in
the peace movement. This activity had given direction on “strategy and
tactics in dealing with imperialist aggressiveness and barbarism,”
particularly by promoting unity of all peace forces.
The CPG has
made impressive gains in recent years. They lead all sorts of movements,
including those that put the largest numbers of people in the streets
during the recent antiwar and anti-globalization protests. The Communist
Youth of Greece is also growing rapidly.
The main focus of the
meeting was on the Bush administration, and there was much agreement about
the danger posed by the Bush Doctrine. Many delegates stressed the new
danger of nuclear war and warned against a new arms race. Most saw U.S.
imperialism’s goal as the domination of all energy resources, particularly
But contrary to the belief that all Communists think alike, a
wide variety of opinions were expressed. While most urged greater unity of
action against the U.S. policy of preemptive war and unilateralism, there
were differing opinions on how best to build such unity.
Castro, representing the Communist Party of Cuba, said that aspects of the
Bush policy were “fascist” and called for a global anti-fascist front.
At the same time, Jose Reinaldo Carvalho of the Communist Party of
Brazil noted that the “struggle for peace calls for the creation of a
broad international front against imperialism … [that would] take on a
scale never witnessed in any other historical period.” Carvalho said this
front involves a variety of political and social movements, and includes
democratic and progressive governments as well.
representing the Communist Party USA, read a party statement that said in
part, “Greater unity of action of all Communist, working-class and
democratic forces in a global front for peace, democracy and economic
security is essential. This front includes mass movements, entire nations,
including socialist and many nonaligned and developing nations.”
Some parties view the Bush Doctrine as an extension of capitalist
globalization, the result of the crisis of capitalism and the need to
control limited world resources and markets among imperialist powers.
Navid Shomali, of the Tudeh Party of Iran, said, “The war against Iraq was
an integral part of the U.S. strategy to accelerate the process of
globalization and to consolidate the ‘New World Order’ first declared in
the early 1990s.”
Many parties, including the CPUSA, see the Bush
Doctrine as a radical new set of policies of the most reactionary sections
of U.S. monopoly capital, which bases itself on its overwhelming military
superiority. Implementation of these policies was made possible by the
Sept. 11 tragedy.
Fathi Mohamed of the Sudanese Communist Party
(SCP) said the Bush administration used the “war on terror” to force its
way back into the Sudanese oil market, which had been opened to China.
This is part of a plan by U.S. oil corporations, he said, to dominate
African oil resources in Chad and the African Great Lakes Region,
The Bush administration has suddenly taken a
keen interest in solving the 20-year civil war that has killed two million
Sudanese to make the southern region stable for oil exploration. The SCP
is part of a broad movement fighting to oust the current dictatorial
regime while fighting for national unity.
The Communist Party of
Vietnam described the difficulties it faces building socialism in a world
dominated by capitalist globalization. CPV representative Ta Minh Chau
said, “It is our view that participation in globalization has become a
long and complicated process of both cooperation and struggle.”
“The fight against ‘capitalist globalization’ has become an
important part of the national and class struggle in the present world,”
Chau said. “All countries and nations, on the one hand, cannot help
participating in the economic globalization as an objective economic
process, which closely is linked to the development of productive forces
of human society. On the other hand, they cannot help but struggle against
capitalist influence on this process,” he said.
parties expressed concern over the consolidation and expansion of the
European Union and plans for its militarization. Some parties have
concluded that because of EU consolidation, the nation-state will
disappear. They projected the creation of a European-wide Communist party.
But most parties didn’t share this view.
Robert Giffiths, the
general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain said, “We are opposed
to the creation of such a United States of Europe. We defend Britain’s
parliamentary democracy and sovereignty, however limited and distorted
“We reject the vision of an imperialist
military United States of Europe as a counter-weight to the United States
of America. It is a recipe for massive global warfare in the future,” he
said. The CPB is a leader of the British peace movement.
country, party and working class has its own particulars and alignment of
forces. For example, AKEL doesn’t oppose the EU. As part of a governing
coalition, it believes the acceptance of Cyprus into the EU will force an
end to Turkish occupation of 37 percent of the country, which began in
Regardless of the differences, there was much to agree on.
There was widespread agreement that U.S. unilateralism could be
reigned in by strengthening the UN, international law and treaties. Many
parties supported the petition being circulated by nongovernmental
organizations, which calls for a special session of the UN General
Assembly to remove the U.S. and Britain as occupying powers in Iraq and
allow the UN to oversee the transition to Iraqi rule and the distribution
of humanitarian assistance.
Many countries, including the new
Brazilian government, which is establishing a trade bloc among South
American countries and strategic partnerships with China, India, Russia
and South Africa, are taking multilateral steps to counter U.S.
domination. There are also efforts by the nonaligned movement, led by
South Africa, to develop an independent voice.
expressed with the Palestinian people in their struggle to end the Israeli
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and for an independent Palestinian
state. Specific solidarity campaigns were projected for both socialist
Cuba (see “Communists parties pledge Cuba solidarity,” June 28) and the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and for the Iranian people.
Just a few years ago capitalist ideologues were trumpeting the
victory of capitalism in the Cold War. But Communists everywhere spoke of
the tremendous crises faced by capitalism, including massive joblessness,
poverty, instability, disease, racism and repression. Many parties
reported membership growth and called for stepping-up the advocacy of
socialism as a necessary solution to the crises of capitalism. It seems,
to paraphrase Mark Twain when he read his own obituary, the reports of the
Communist movement’s death are highly exaggerated. The struggle continues!
John Bachtell, a member of the Communist Party’s national board
and its Illinois district organizer, represented the CPUSA in Athens. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org