Thu Feb 22, 2024
February 22, 2024

40 years of Struggle for the International

The IWL-FI (International Workers League – Fourth International) was founded 40 years ago, although it is the continuation of a movement that was first built in Argentina in the 1940s.


By Martin Hernández


In fighting the battle for the International, those of us who form part of the IWL, with many weaknesses and mistakes, do nothing more than continue the main work of our teachers, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, who always prioritized building the International, above the national parties, as the only way to build those same national parties.


But not all Internationals were created under the same conditions. Lenin and Trotsky faced building the Third International after the greatest victory of the proletariat: the triumph of the Russian Revolution. On the other hand, Trotsky was forced to build the Fourth International after his major defeat, inflicted by fascism and Stalinism.

The Fourth International


Before he was assassinated, Trotsky predicted that the Fourth International would, in a few years, assemble millions. But, for objective reasons, that did not happen. Due to the role the USSR played in the defeat of Nazi fascism, and the expropriation of capitalism in various countries, Stalinism was strengthened in a way that prevented Trotsky’s prediction from coming true.


However, class struggle showed that Trotskyists’ predictions and program were being affirmed. This explains how, unlike what happened in Trotsky’s time, now tens of thousands of people around the world claim Trotskyism, while Stalinism has gone from one crisis to another and suffered a historic defeat due to the events in Eastern Europe.


But it’s also necessary to explain: why did the Fourth International, which also suffered one crisis after another, come to its complete destruction? How can we explain that today, although there are hundreds of parties, groups, and intellectuals that call themselves Trotskyists throughout the world, there is no Fourth International, with 15 or 20,000 militants?


As previously stated, the Fourth International was built in very unfavorable conditions, but it’s necessary to see the consequences of these conditions in the concrete process of building the Fourth International.


The hundreds of more experienced Trotskyist cadres who led the Russian Revolution could not integrate into the Fourth International because they were in Stalin’s concentration camps, where they were exterminated.


As part of the same process, a few months before the Founding Conference of the Fourth International, Trotsky’s “right-hand man”, his son León Sedov, was assassinated by Stalinism.

Trotsky and his son, León Sedov


Similarly, Rudolf Klement, who was responsible for the organization of the Conference, was also assassinated by Stalinists.


Because of these circumstances, the Founding Conference of the Fourth International was carried out in total secrecy, in a single day, and their main leader, Leon Trotsky, could also not participate, and was assassinated on Stalin’s orders two years later.
Also, during the Second World War, tens of Trotskyist leaders were killed by Nazism, while many others were assassinated by Stalinism during the war and revolutions in Spain, China, and Vietnam.


With these assassinations, especially Trotsky’s, Stalin decapitated the new International and it, therefore, suffered a historical defeat that it would never recover from. It is impossible to understand the almost permanent crisis and destruction of the Fourth International without understanding this tragedy.


After these assassinations and the Second World War, the Fourth International was left rather disorganized. But as the conflict ended, with many difficulties, it began to be reorganized. This task faced a serious contradiction. The new International had a very large programmatic accumulation, but it did not have leadership that lived up to that program and to the new challenges that the reality of the great post-war revolutionary upswing required since the reorganization was led, centrally, by a group of European leaders, among whom, Greek Michel Pablo, German/Belgian Ernest Mandel, and French Pierre Frank, stood out.

Michel Pablo

They were brave and talented leaders, but also young and inexperienced in class struggle and they proved unable to withstand the tremendous pressures (and succumbed to them) exerted on the International by the counterrevolutionary leadership, mainly Stalinism, that was at the forefront of the revolutionary upswing of the time.

Counterrevolutionary Pressures


Since its inception, the Fourth International has had to confront strong counterrevolutionary pressures. We have already seen how the role of fascism and Stalinism, with their policies of extermination, became a powerful obstacle to building Trotskyist parties. However, they were not the only pressures, nor even the most destructive. There were other ideological and political pressures from the counterrevolution and its agents that were much more destructive.


In the first stages of the Fourth International, Stalin’s crimes served as a pretext for the bourgeoisie and social democracy to carry out a tough campaign against the USSR. This greatly impacted the ranks of Trotskyism. Within the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) in the U.S., a tendency arose that believed they did not have to defend the USSR against the attacks of capitalism, because it was no longer a workers’ state, but a deformed one, as Trotsky argued.


Trotsky put himself at the head of the fight against this minority faction of the SWP, but the pressure from the bourgeoisie and social democracy were so great that he couldn’t stop 40% of SWP militants from breaking with the party and the Fourth International.


The fight against this revisionist sector, that Trotsky initiated, continued within the Fourth International until the Second Congress in 1948, when the “anti-defensists” were finally defeated. However, not long after, a new revisionist sector, “Pabloism”, would appear within the Fourth International, capitulating to counterrevolutionary leadership, and especially Stalinism.


The fight against this revisionist sector was much more difficult to take on than the previous one. Firstly, because it was not a minority but a majority of the Fourth International’s leadership, and secondly, because Trotsky was no longer there to deal with it. It was this situation that lead to the split of the Fourth International in the 50s and its destruction in the 70s.

The Capitulation to the Counterrevolutionary Leadership of the Mass Movement


The majority of the Fourth International’s leadership, among whom Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel were prominent, were unable to see that the counterrevolutionary agreement between imperialism and Soviet bureaucracy had prevailed at a global level, and so they came to the incorrect conclusion that World War III was coming. This was an inaccurate characterization, but that was not the most serious thing. What was the most serious were the conclusions that they drew: 1) That Stalinism would be forced to take charge of the war against imperialism; 2) That for this reason they would adopt a revolutionary posture; 3) That the Trotskyist organizations would have to join the communist parties to carry out “entryism sui generis.”


This was called “entryism sui generis” because, unlike entryism once proposed by Trotsky, it was not meant to destroy Stalinism from within but to accompany it in its supposed “revolutionary course.”


The essence of the politics of “Pabloism” arose from considering that the bureaucratic leadership, petty bourgeois or even bourgeois, who were at the forefront of the revolutionary process, or a revolution, would become revolutionaries, and therefore, they had to be supported.


Pablo and Mandel’s politics meant tragedy for the Fourth International: “This entryism sui generis lasted practically 18 years and turned European Trotskyism into small, ever weaker factions.”[1] But, these politics of Pabloism had even more serious consequences during the Bolivian Revolution of 1952. In this revolution, with the working class taking the lead, an organism of dual power (the COB [Bolivian Workers’ Center] and the armed militias), and the mass influence of Trotskyism, instead of defending COB’s power, Pabloism defended the critical support to bourgeois nationalism, which was the MNR [Revolutionary Nationalist Movement] government. “This was one of the most spectacular betrayals of the century.”[2] Therefore, the Fourth International’s leadership crisis prevented the Bolivian working class, led by Trotskyism, from taking power or, at the very least, disputing it–something which would have led to thousands of new militants joining the Fourth International.


This policy of capitulation to the counterrevolutionary leadership was combined with the introduction, within the International, of the methods of Stalinism. The French section decided not to join the Communist Party and, therefore, their leadership was controlled by the Secretariat of the Fourth International. Even their headquarters was invaded while Pabloism organized a secret faction within the U.S. SWP. This entire situation led to the split of the Fourth International in 1953.

The Role of the American SWP in the Crisis and Destruction of the Fourth International


The majority of branches of the Fourth International broke with Pabloism and formed the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). The break with Pabloism and the formation of the International Committee opened the possibility of defeating Pabloism and restoring the International to the Trotskyist program, therefore intervening in the powerful post-war upswing. This was possible because within the International Committee there was the majority of French, English, and Latin American Trotskyism and, most importantly, there was the SWP, which had the most proven leadership in the class struggle, had built the largest party of the Fourth with the important help of Trotsky, had James Cannon at the head, who had been a member of the Executive Committee of the Third International.


The U.S. SWP took a long time to confront Pabloism, but once it did, it showed that it was very clear about the revisionist and liquidating nature of the tendency. This is seen in the letter drafted by Cannon addressed “to Trotskyists everywhere” where, among other things, he noted: “Pablo considers Stalinism–or a crucial part of it–capable of changing under the pressure of the masses, even to the extent of accepting the ‘ideas’ and ‘program’ of Trotskyism…


It will be necessary to defeat Pabloism completely to save the Fourth International from internal corruption…


To summarize: the abyss that separates Pabloite revisionism from orthodox Trotskyism is so profound that there is no possible political or organizational compromise…”


However, since the formation of the International Committee, the behavior of SWP leadership was in contradiction with this very true statement by Cannon, which indicates that the SWP’s split with Pabloism was, at the very least, incomplete.
First, the International Committee did not become an alternative to Pabloism, which continued to act like the Fourth International, maintaining its organizational operation, with its congresses and publications, while the FI, despite gathering the majority of Trotskyism, did not become an International. In 10 years of its existence, it did not hold any Congress, thus allowing its survival and the growth of Pabloite revisionism, which acted alone as the Fourth International.


Worse still, at the beginning of the 1960s, in spite of Cannon having said that no “political or organic compromise” with Pabloism was possible, a process of rapprochement took place between the SWP and the neo-Pabloism (Pablo had distanced himself) of Mandel and Pierre Frank, which culminated in the so-called “reunification of 1963” that created the Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International.


The unification was made without any type of balance, despite the fact that neo-Pabloism continued with the same policies that led to the split of 1953, such as “entryism sui generis” in the Communist parties and the support of the petty bourgeois or bureaucratic leaderships that were at the head of the revolutions, as was the case of Maoism and Castroism.


To take that step, the SWP dissolved the FI and broke with most of its members, the English and French sections and the Argentinian party, which refused to unify with Pabloism without a prior assessment of the 1953 split.


That unification without an assessment was possible because in reality, faced with the main debate of the Cuban Revolution, the SWP agreed with Pabloism.
The English and French sections believed that Cuba was not a workers’ state. In contrast, both the SWP and Pabloism not only believed it was a workers’ state but unconditionally supported the Castro leadership. Moreover, the SWP, with the same criteria as Pabloism, thought that the petty-bourgeois Castroist leadership was transformed into a revolutionary one for having led the revolution. To make matters worse, they were of the opinion that it was with those leaders that we would have to try to build the parties and the Fourth International. That is what Cannon himself came to believe:


“Happily, the problem now under discussion is not academic. It is centered at this moment, on Cuba and the Cuban Revolution and the leaders of that revolution. In exceptional circumstances, these people changed Cuba and changed themselves. They accomplished a true socialist revolution…”


“If those people aren’t considered rightful participants in a discussion and possible collaborators in a new party and a new international, where will we find better candidates?”

The attitude towards Castro’s leadership divided the Trotskyist movement


In the 1970s, the Pabloists, impressed all the way from Europe with the various guerrilla and Guevarist groups that emerged in Latin America, came to the conclusion that the sections of the Fourth should be integrated into those groups or form their own.


The SWP did not go that far and, questioning that policy, joined the Argentine WSP [Worker’s Socialist Party], led by Moreno, to form the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (LTT) and later a faction (the LTF), against the majority’s politics. However, the SWP’s distancing from Pabloist concepts did not last long.


The Argentine SWP, as well as several Latin American and European sections, broke with the LTF around the debates on Angola and on the Portuguese Revolution to form the Bolshevik Tendency, while the SWP dissolved the LTF to unite with Mandel’s neo-Pablism once again, without any evaluation in between. Together, they went on to unconditionally support not only the LTF, but also the neo-Pablism of Mandel, the Cuban leadership, and also Sandinismo in Nicaragua and the Farabundo Martí Front of El Salvador, to such an extent that the new majority of the Fourth voted for a resolution prohibiting building Trotskyist parties in Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Finally, the Nicaraguan Revolution led to the explosion of the reunified Fourth International in 1963. The Bolshevik Faction (BF) built the Simon Bolivar Brigade which participated, together with Sandinismo, in the military struggle against Somoza. Once the war was over, Sandinismo formed a bourgeois government, while the Brigade was mainly dedicated to building trade unions and was persecuted and imprisoned by the Sandinista government and sent to Panama, where its members were tortured by the police.


The leadership of the Fourth International not only refused to defend the Simon Bolivar Brigade, but it also sent a delegation to Nicaragua to support government repression against the brigade, directed by the Trotskyists of the BF.


This situation led to the Bolshevik Faction to break with the United Secretariat which, in practice, meant the end of the Fourth International.


Nahuel Moreno in the Fourth International


The IWL-FI has existed as an international tendency since 1953, although it was founded as a small group in Argentina in 1944. The fact is that it only joined the IV International in its Second World Congress in 1948.


From that year on, the Argentine group began a very close yet troubled relationship with the SWP of the USA, mainly due to the resistance, by SWP leadership, to fight to the finish against “Pabloism”.


Thus, during the International Committee headed by the SWP, Moreno fought hard for the SWP to take the lead in the reorganization of the Fourth from the IC as the only way to advance in the construction of the parties and to finally defeat Pabloism.
But Moreno did not limit himself to criticizing his teachers. With his small organization, he carried out, at the regional level, what the American SWP should have done at a global level. In 1957 he promoted the construction of the Latin American Secretariat of Orthodox Trotskyism (SLATO), grouping the Trotskyists of Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay, which played a very important role in the revolutionary process of Peru headed by Hugo Blanco.


Because of this same issue–the struggle against Pabloism–a new conflict arose with the SWP when they dissolved the IC to carry out the so-called reunification of 1963 with Pabloism. Moreno, along with the French and English sections, demanded that prior to such a unification, an assessment of the 1953 rupture was necessary. However his claim, once again, was not heard, so he only entered the SU in 1964, without renouncing his criticisms, in order to avoid being isolated from the Trotskyist movement. He also agreed, unlike the French and English, that Cuba was a workers’ state and he defended and supported the Castroist leadership. This was a mistake that Moreno later criticized himself for, and he ended up fighting fiercely against the Castroist leadership and those who defended it from both within and outside of the Fourth International.


Moreno’s fight against Pabloism took different forms, was permanent, and also against the SWP. After capitulating to Pabloism, it dissolved within it.


What was the substance of this struggle? It was the struggle against the “Trotskyists” who in fact acted, most of the time, as a byproduct of Stalinism. It was the struggle to retake the Trotskyist program. It was the struggle to build a true International. It was the struggle to rebuild the Fourth International. That is why, when the Bolshevik Faction broke with the United Secretariat, that struggle continued in other ways.


First, it sought to rebuild the Fourth International together with CORCI [Committee of Reconstruction of the Fourth International], the international organization led by the Frenchman Pierre Lambert. This project failed because of Lambert’s methods, similar to those of Pablo, and because he supported Mitterrand’s government. Afterwards, the struggle continued to push for the construction of the IWL-FI, with the same objective as always: to rebuild the Fourth International.


We know that this is a difficult task because, in the context of the Trotskyist movement, we have not managed to defeat Pabloism or, to be more precise, we have not managed to defeat the harmful influence of Stalinism in the heart of the workers’ and popular vanguard. That is the basic reason why the Fourth International does not exist, and it is still undeveloped and weak.


We know that the rebuilding of the Fourth International is a very difficult task, but the exploited and oppressed have no other alternative because, without building the International it will not be possible to build revolutionary parties; without revolutionary parties, the working class will not be able to take power at a national scale; and therefore, both global revolution and socialism will be impossible.

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