El Militante & CWI – Retying the Red Knot of our Common History

A political highlight for me of 2016 was the re-encounter and developing cooperation between Izquierda Revolucionaria (Formerly El Militante) and the Committee for a Workers International (CWI)

Original report published in Spanish in La Brecha here

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Representatives of Socialismo Revolucionario, Socialist Party and the CWI attended the XVIII Congress of the Sindicato de Estudiantes (SE) in Madrid. Delegates from schools and universities from all over Spain reported on the massive mobilisation in the General Strike of students on October 24th in the face of pressure from education authorities and the right wing Popular Party.

The SE is growing everywhere because young people want to struggle against brutal education cuts and for a future. The SE consider the changes made to the Education Law, LOMCE are purely cosmetic and so have called another strike in education on November 24th.* But SE is not just a union but an important political instrument which gives young people a platform to discuss and fight for socialist ideas.

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The SE was set up 30 years ago by El Militante which at the time was part of the CWI. In 1980s the SE led a mass movement with millions on the streets when they struggled for the right of university education for the children of the working class.

The Congress included a rally in which ex-leaders of the SE spoke on the lessons of 30 years of struggle of the youth movement for today, along with founders of El Militante, historic union leaders, workers in struggle today and comrades who had been imprisoned during the Franco dictatorship and during the Transition.

It was mentioned that the leaders of the the SE negotiated directly with the PSOE government of Felipe Gonzales at the time. The government actually tried to buy off the SE leaders during the negotiations by offering them money for offices if the SE became a tame union of course!

30 years later some of those same SE leaders are now leading Izquierda Revolucionaria. A former general secretary of the SE Bárbara Areal said that young people in Spain and workers have wanted to fight during the crisis but they have been met by the alliance union leaders and the old political parties repeating “NO SE PUEDE” – (No you can’t). That is why the SE strike of October was so important. IR and SE have shown we can struggle and win.

Bárbara reminded comrades that the SE had kept fighting during the difficult and hard 1990s when the ideas of socialism and struggle seemed to be in retreat. Now the bourgeois hate the youth. They insult the youth by calling them lazy and pretend they do not want to do anything to improve their lives. “They hate what they fear” ended Bárbara to thunderous applause and chants of “Si se puede.”

Coca Cola workers who are striking paid tribute to the support of SE and IR in their struggle and called for a boycott of Coca Cola products. A comrade who had been imprisoned by Franco over 40 years ago called on the youth to continue the task of regaining the historic memory of the working class.

There was a revolutionary situation in Spain in the 1970s after the death of Franco but capitalism managed to stay in power only with the help of the leaders of PSOE and the CP.

Today young people are told it was the Monarchy and the ‘responsibility’ of the leaders of the working class who managed to bring about the peaceful ‘transition’ from fascism to democracy. The comrade reminded everyone that thousands were jailed and during the transition workers were shot by the police. ”There was no transition, it was a transfer of power.” His advice to the youth was: “Always tell the truth to the working class and always take the struggle forward.

Xaquín García Sinde, trade unionist at Navantia Shipyards and spokesperson of GanemosCCOO, the rank and file union organisation set up to by IR which campaigns for fighting, combative unions commented that during the crisis union leaders are nowhere to be seen. “They are not lost in combat but rather in the offices of the Government & PP.” This has to change!

There was an electric mood at the rally. Numerous speakers were interrupted with chants and they may have been a world record for standing ovations!

Juan Ignacio Ramos, the General Secretary of Izquierda Revolucionaria / El Militante was the GS of SE in the 1980s when they led hundreds of thousands in strikes and demonstrations.

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He recounted an episode when the SE led a march of 100,000 to the education Minister’s office in 1986. They were invited up to negotiate with a Minister, Rubalcaba, who would later become PSOE leader. He asked the young people facing him, “Who the hell are you people? How have you organised this demo?” Juan Ignacio and the other SE leaders opened their folders which were covered in ‘I SUPPORT LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL STICKERS’ and answered, “We’re from the Militant!” Rubalcaba replied incredulously: “I thought we’d expelled you lot!”

Young members from various sections of the CWI came to the platform and a representative from Ireland also addressed the conference. Watch YouTube video here.

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Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party (England & Wales) was introduced as one of the founders of Militant, ‘the most successful Marxist organisation in the UK.’ Peter assured everyone that he had nothing to do with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) or Felipe Gonzales – “they want to prop up capitalism, we want to destroy it!”

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Peter gave a brief history of Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party. He underlined that the victories of Militant in Liverpool and in the Poll Tax battle were not achieved by reformist measures but through revolutionary struggle.

An important lesson for today is that only through determined revolutionary struggle will we even get reforms. “Say what needs to be done and do it!” Peter summed up with a warning to Donald Trump “the working class is coming” He ended by saying: “This generation has learned the lessons of the 20th century. This time we’re going to struggle. This time we’re going to win.”

Peter Taaffe’s speech here.

The weekend was inspiring as veterans of the struggle and new, young working class leaders of the SE saluted and learnt from past struggles, analysed the present tasks and dedicated themselves to future battles. A timely reminder of the common militant past of SE / Izquierda Revolucionaria and the CWI and the retying of the historical red knot of our common history.

*Students’ union beats PP government
Just days after the last general strike that was called by the Sindicato de Estudiantes against the “Revalidas Fanquistas” (introduction of matriculation), we have been proved correct in what we always said – struggle works.
Following a meeting between the Ministry of Education and the representatives of the Autonomous regions, the revalidas – proposed by Wert, the former education minister – have been abandoned. These reactionary matriculation exams were weighted to exclude working class students progressing to university.
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