By CWI reporters
Following a summer of protests against the actions of Russia’s authoritarian government, this year’s conference “Socialism 2019” in Moscow had the theme “Democracy – for the workers and all oppressed”. Organised by “Sotsialisticheskaya Alternativa” – the Russian section of the CWI on 2nd November, it was attended by 85 persons – a 30% increase on last year and the largest ever turn-out.
The day started with a video rounding up all the events of October – the protests in Barcelona and Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt with a few examples of the work of the CWI across the world. This video can be viewed here.
Protests in Russia
This was followed by a lively discussion on the situation in Russia and tactics for struggle. Denis Razumovski, editor of “Socialist News” analysed the summer’s protests, pointing out the need for socialists to energetically intervene. He pointed out that the tactics of the liberal opposition after their candidates had been barred from participating in the Moscow City election had failed. They had called for people to vote for the candidate in the best position to defeat the ruling party’s candidates. Most of those elected in that way were from the marionette “Communist Party” who then proceeded to vote for the ruling party’s proposals for council leader and the budget.
Far better, Denis explained, would have been to fight for an active boycott, using the election to build a movement with democratic structures to oppose the regime. Indeed, in one area, where we campaigned we had met new potential activists, some of whom attended the conference.
Apart from members and sympathisers of SA, most of those who attended were new to activity, some even said they had come to find out what being left wing means. A couple of communist fellow travelers turned up, justifying the actions of the communists on the city council. Their main argument however, was that issues such as the rights of women and the national question were irrelevant, instead they said we should just concentrate on economic questions.
Several speakers responded, pointing out it was our task in any struggle to help organize and unite the different wings of the movement in common struggle, and explain how these questions can be resolved only by fighting capitalism.
Opposing Right populism
Experience of the fight against right populism was shared during the next discussion. This was enriched by the participation of comrades from Poland and Turkey, as well as video speeches from Brazil, South Africa and Italy.
Some of the new people had argued during the first discussion that before we could get socialism in Russia, it was necessary to build “normal capitalism” without corruption. But what came through from the speeches of all these comrades is that capitalism and corruption are inseparable. Another comrade spoke about the situation in the US, about the important battle in Seattle between Kshama Savant and Socialist Alternative on the one side and Amazon and other big business organisations on the other.
A series of very interesting practical commissions took place. On the campaign “300 rubles per hour” there were reports about how the issue was being taken up in recent disputes of health workers and crane drivers, the latter were less modest – they demanded 500 rubles an hour.
In the commission run by the Student trade union “Comm-Unity”, the discussion centred around how the initial impulse to student protest on democratic rights and against political repression was now turning into a campaign for proper student grants and free education and for student involvement in running the universities.
Comrades from “SotsFemAlternativa” – our socialist-feminist campaign discussed the importance of our work against domestic violence in Russia, which, they explained could not be separated from our socialist programme. Victims of domestic violence can often not escape because they are financially dependent on their partners. It is necessary, they argued, for the campaign against domestic violence to be linked with the struggle for equal pay as well as to get state financing for crisis centres in every region.
In the discussion on the environment, our comrades explained how the ecology movement in Russia is being held back by the approach of the NGOs in the campaign who insist that the protests should be “non-political”. Any long term solution to the climate crisis they explained could only become possible if natural resources and big energy companies are in public ownership to allow for democratic planning.
And in the commission on building trade unions, our comrade, Joint President of the Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers gave examples of how the union was being built through open struggle. The leading role the union had played in the campaign to get the anti-corruption journalist Ivan Golunova freed from prison was outlined.
End of a good day
In the final session, we discussed lessons of the past – the history of the left opposition.
We ended a very fruitful day with the announcement that we had collected nearly 700 euros for our funds. Two people agreed to join on the day and a further ten want to attend our activities.