Today, January 25, it is the 30 anniversary of the Argentinian Trotskyist, Nahuel Moreno. In 1944 he founded, in Argentina, the political tendency that would later be known as Morenism, and in 1982 he founded the International Workers’ League – Fourth International (IWL-FI), of which he was the main leader until his decease. A compact march of 10,000 people including several international delegations walked to the Cemetery of Chacarita (Buenos Aires) during his burial.
By Alejandro Iturbe.
30 years after his death, Nahuel Moreno is still present in the political life of important sectors of Latin American and world leftists. Currently many political organizations of Latin America and Europe call themselves ‘Morenists’, while many other Trotskyist and left-wing organizations draw their political profile by criticizing (and sometimes falsifying) his positions.
This current political presence was built along almost 50 years of national and international militancy, and it will surely be commemorated in many countries of the world through events, seminars and written articles. In Argentina, the PSTU (national section of the IWL-FI) will perform a commemoration event in the Hotel Bauen, on February 4, and Marxism Alive Editions has recently launched a special re-issue of the book Conversations with Nahuel Moreno (1985). [Available in Spanish and soon in Portuguese – T.N]
In these events and publications, he will be remembered from the varied and broad aspects of his political activity. In this article we want to focus on what we consider one of the main legacies of his long militant trajectory and some of its central aspects, which from of our point of view give foundations to the so called ‘Morenism’ as a specific tendency among the left-wing in general and the Trotskyism in particular.
More Proletarian than Ever
This approach to an interpretation of Nahuel Moreno and Morenism refers to an advice he used to give to the organizations he oriented, especially in moments of crisis or doubts. He said we should try to be “more proletarian, more Marxist and internationalist than ever”. In this short phrase he summarized a true guide for the construction of those organizations.
Regarding being “more proletarian”, it was something he implemented since the beginning of his militant trajectory, around the 1940s, when he broke with the “bohemian cafeteria Trotskyism” and moved the small group of teenagers that conformed the GOM [Marxist Proletarian Group] to Villa Pobladora, town in the industrial heart of Argentina at the moment.
He affirmed Trotskyism and its program should be the political expression of the working class, specifically the more concentrated and exploited segments of it, stating it was the only possible class base for a workers’ revolutionary party to be built on and move forward towards its strategy.
To him, to construct the party among the working class (although they could and should take advantage of the situations to construct among other sectors, it was always to go back and take those forces to the working class) had two very root reasons. First one is even if other social segments might be more dynamic and explosive in struggle the working class (specifically the industrial proletariat) was much more solid and consequent regarding its struggle against capitalism. Thus, the party able to create strong roots among the working class would also be much more solid and consequent, much less subjected to the come-and-go of each situation and the changing “theoretical trends”.
The second reason is deeply strategic. He pointed out our model of Socialist Revolution could only be carried through the self-determined and permanent mobilization of the working class. Although it might take more time (“20 or 30 more years”, he said in Conversations), that is where we should build, and encourage such process. We cannot deceive History through shortcuts and build ourselves as a peasant or urban-plebeian tendency, because it would lead us inevitably to deep deviations from our strategy.
More Marxist than Ever
Regarding being “more Marxist” he meant, mainly, the necessity of studying deeply, on the base of theoretical tools of Marxism, the new phenomenon and processes that did not fit the known schemes and, if necessary, to correct such theoretical tools for them to serve responding the new reality posed. It is about combining the central elaborations of Marxism that are still current nowadays (not capitulating to the “theoretical trends” or the impatient skepticism) with an always critical and alert look regarding what was not yet verified, or has been surpassed, by reality. As he said in his article To be a Trotskyist Today: “This is the first thing, to be Trotskyist is to be critical, including of Trotskyism itself”.
This allowed Moreno to correctly characterize Peronism as a bourgeois government, what took his group to keep an independent posture regarding posterior nationalist bourgeois governments like Chavism, unlike the absolute majority of the Latin American left-wing.
Some of his best debate texts against Ernst Mandel postures emerged from this balance he always looked for between theoretical, strategic and principled affirmation, a critic look and the permanent preoccupation of intervening in real processes. One of them, The Party and the Revolution (1973; also known as The Morenazo), debates with the guerrilla, ultra-left-wing and ‘vanguardist’ deviations, popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Some chapters, like Leninist Party or Mandelist Party (which analyzes the relationship between action, experience and consciousness, the method to elaborate slogans and its relationship with the program) educated an entire generation of cadres.
Another important text is The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1978) that debates with a new deviation-trend of Mandel: an attempt to adapt the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat to the content of bourgeois democracy. Together with a precise systematization of what the dictatorship of the proletariat and its different variations mean, Moreno made a prognosis: if the Unified Secretariat (U.S.) continued on this path, it would end up abandoning the field of Trotskyism and the revolutionaries to become a reformist tendency. Sadly, the prognosis became true. As we will see further on, the U.S. was also followed by a great part of Trotskyism, including several tendencies that still claim to be Morenists today.
A School of Tactics
On the other hand, to be more Marxist is about deeply studying the situations in the world and in each country to, from there, elaborate correct policies and orientations. Moreno pointed out that revolutionary politics are made in the same way a good doctor only indicates treatment after doing the necessary tests and elaborate a careful diagnosis. Many times he criticized national leaders of his own tendency and qualified them as ‘healers’ because they did not follow these steps and worked only on the base of intuitions and at first glance, which inevitably left them subjected to pressures, trends or false appearances of reality.
On the base of rigorous analysis of the different situations in Argentina and other countries, the numerous tactics, the “possible and applicable ones”, are part as whole of a true catalog of revolutionary construction that goes from the participation in electoral processes and the use of legality to the clandestine activity and struggle against the dictatorships, going through the participation in labor struggles and organization of workers.
It would take too long to name them all, but we do want to highlight some moments in which the organizations oriented by Moreno were able to ‘break the siege’ of marginality and make part of important processes of class struggle.
Between 1956 and 1958, the small Argentinian POR [Revolutionary Workers’ Party] published, together with combative Peronist working activists, the newspaper Palabra Obrera [Workers’ Word], selling thousands. Its influence in the factories allowed the POR to have an important influence in the main strikes and co-lead the Peronist Resistance against the military dictatorship.
During the first years of the 1960s, Hugo Blanco (Peruvian student that entered the party in Argentina because of Moreno’s group) went back to Peru where he organized and led unions and the struggle of Cuzco peasants for agrarian reform. He became, like this, according to Moreno himself, “the most important Trotskyist leader of masses after Trotsky”.
In 1979, the Colombian PST [Socialist Workers’ Party] encouraged the foundation of the Simon Bolivar Brigade, which fought in Nicaragua against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, together with forces of the Sandinist National Liberation Front (FSLN). 3 of our soldiers were dead in combat, plus several injured ones. Militants and sympathizers of Trotskyism were proud of intervening directly in a major revolutionary process and the defeat of one of the bloodiest dictators of the Latin American continent.
Also in 1979, in Brazil, members of Convergencia Socialista [Socialist Convergence] made a call to build a workers’ party. In the IX Congress of Metal Workers of the State of São Paulo, José Maria de Almeida presented a manifest calling “all Brazilian workers to join the construction of his party, the Workers’ Party”. The motion was approved despite Lula’s posture (back then, to make part of the MDB –Democratic Brazilian Movement– a front of opposition together with the bourgeoisie). It was also Morenism that had the policy of building a new Federation, the CUT, taking down the old union bureaucracy. Thus, Morenists were vanguard in the proposal of building one of the biggest workers’ parties in the world, as much as a new federation – back then, one of the most dynamic and democratic federations of the world. Thanks to this Brazilian Morenists achieved a solid insertion in the working class. It is important to mention that Convergencia Socialista (name of the Morenist organization at the time) was the main left-wing opposition to Lula’s leadership of the PT. It never capitulated to it as sooner or later most part of the left tendencies did. Thus, it was expelled of the PT in 1992. Later, the opposition to the PT policy (already conformed as PSTU) became the intransigent class opposition through the left to the bourgeois governments led by the PT.
Since 1982, taking advantage of the condition of electoral legality, participation in workers’ struggles and intervention in anti-bureaucratic labor lists, the MAS [Movement towards Socialism], in Argentina, became the most important left-wing party of the country and the biggest Trotskyist party of the world.
Despite the further course of these experiences, they remain as important lessons that with a correct, bold policy, Trotskyism can make important leaps regarding its construction, even in apparently difficult moments.
An Each Time More Current Battle
During the 1950s, the political battles of Moreno within Trotskyism were essentially driven against the capitulation of sectors of the IV to Stalinism and nationalist bourgeois movements. During the decades of 1960s and 1970s, the battles were against the ultra-left-wing and guerrilla “fever”. By the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, he began a new battle that would last much longer than the previous ones: the one against opportunism and the capitulation to the bourgeois democracy and popular fronts. The date is not occasional: those were the years when the implementation of the bourgeois policy we have called “democratic reaction” began to stop the revolutions around the world.
In a certain way, the debate with Ernst Mandel on the content of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat anticipated the latest one. It was later made less theoretically and more concretely, after the capitulation of the OCI [Internationalist Communist Organization] -led by Pierre Lambert- to the bourgeois Popular Front government of François Mitterrand, since 1981.
In his work The OCI’s Betrayal (1982), Moreno exposed all fake arguments, reasoning and maneuvers used by Lambertism to camouflage its betrayal as Trotskyism. The content of the chapter Trotskyism and opportunism in face of popular front governments and the comparative analyses Moreno made can also be applied, more or less, to what happened in Brazil with Lula’s government, in Venezuela and Bolivia with Chávez and Evo Morales, in Greece with Syriza, etc., regarding the method used by most of the left to capitulate to these bourgeois governments.
The problem has deepened a lot since then, as in a true opportunist gale most of the left turned to the right abandoning the perspective of seizing power and the socialist revolution as the only real alternative to change the world, replacing it with the perspective of “humanizing capitalism” or “radicalizing democracy”. They ended up becoming the left –wing of a capitalist system in complete bankruptcy, and they limit their actions to the “resistance” through the inside of the democratic bourgeois regime.
Several organizations were not equally bold in papers so they kept the program formally – that is, the strategy of power and the revolution. Yet, using arguments like “an unfavorable relationship of forces”, “a setback in masses’ consciousness” and “a reactionary turn”, they end up joining the other tendencies by raising the same concrete policies of capitulation and, in many cases, building the same parties together.
More Internationalists than Ever
Regarding being “more internationalists”, in Conversations, Moreno states the main preoccupation of his extensive political activity was to intervene in several organizations he was part of. Like Trotsky, he considered there could not be Trotskyist national organization or activity if not as part of the construction of an international organization. And since 1948, when he was elected delegate by the POR to the II Congress of the IV International, we was faithful to this principle.
During long periods he was a minority in these organizations. It is the case of the Unified IV until 1953, the International Committee until 1963, and the U.S. between 1963 and 1969. He never abandoned international militancy nor stopped participating actively in the polemics and debates posed. In 1979 he began the construction of his own international tendency, first through the Bolshevik Faction (FB) and later, since 1982, through the International Workers’ League – Fourth International (IWL-FI).
At the same time, despite the fact that during the decade of 1980s the IWL-FI became the biggest and most dynamic international Trotskyist tendency of the world, he never fell in the temptation of self-proclamation as “The IV”. On the contrary, even in the statutes he always put such development to serve the task of re-building the IV International as an alternative of leadership for the masses.
We can say the IWL-FI is the objective legacy of Moreno. In times in which the trend is certainly not to build national revolutionary parties according to the Leninist model and even less a revolutionary international, the IWL-Fi continues to follow the model of the III and IV Internationals.
The IWL-FI also suffered the consequences of the opportunist gale, and after Moreno’s death it went through a deep crisis that almost led to its extinction; but following Moreno’s advices it overcame such crisis and moved forward. Today, in the frame of the worst international economic crisis since 1929 –fact that categorically denies the triumph or superiority of capitalism-, its sections and militants look to intervene actively in the real processes of class struggle, with presence of parties, organizations and groups in more than 25 countries in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Moreno’s legacy and his main construction are still standing and fighting as the embryo of the revolutionary leadership we need to change the world from its roots.
As he taught us, Marxism is not a religion, and nor is Moreno a prophet that made no mistakes. On the contrary, we embrace the deep capacity of self-criticism that characterized him along his militant life, defined by him as a trajectory of “many mistakes and some successes”.
We do not fall for self-proclamation regarding his main legacy (the IWL-FI): we put our construction to serve the reconstruction of the Fourth International and revolutionary leadership alternative for the masses, in moments in which this task becomes more and more necessary. This is the reason why to build the IWL-FI is indispensable
We said we are not “religious” of the revolution. Nevertheless, with the same enthusiasm and revolutionary conviction that characterized Moreno, we say with him:
“… I don’t think the triumph of socialism is inevitable. I believe the result depends on the class struggle, of which we are part. And thus, the indispensable is to struggle; struggle with enthusiasm to defeat. Because we can defeat. There is no God that established we cannot”.
Political method used to elaborate policies following the criteria of the political vanguard in detriment of mass processes, according to Moreno’s definition.
 In the VIII Congress of the IWL-Fi, we used this definition to explain the general dynamic after the fall of Berlin Wall of a massive programmatic and political turn to the right of most part of world left tendencies.
Translation: Sofia Ballack.