As we have stated in other articles of the series on the foundation of the Fourth International, since 1953 there has been no world organization to unite Trotskyists. On the contrary, the division has deepened. Today, thousands of activists claim Trotskyism (or vindicate this origin) but are grouped in several national or international organizations without perspective or world regrouping.
By Alejandro Iturbe.
Therefore, many workers and fighters who saw with sympathy the basic Trotskyist ideas ask if the regrouping of those who vindicate the Fourth and its foundational programmatic bases is not necessary (this would exclude many USEC currents who have explicitly abandoned them). Besides, many believe that sectarianism and self-proclamation of the currents stop this. This last part also leaves this process of small organizations or “Trotskyist sects” (national or international) whose main activity is not developing their building in the mass movement, but live off other currents as parasites taking some members from them.
Since its founding and the adoption of its 1982 statutes, the IWL never self-proclaimed to be “the Fourth International”, and always set its own development in service of the rebuilding of the Fourth. Among other things, this implies permanently seeking to approach and regroup other Trotskyist organizations. Some of these were successful, and many others failed, but not due to our sectarianism.
The problem is that between the organizations that vindicate the “foundational bases of the Fourth International” there are deep differences in theoretical elaborations, analysis and characterizations before revolutionary and struggle processes taking place around the globe, and in the policy that should be applied in these processes. For example, the IWL Brazilian section (the PSTU) remained completely alone in its policy before the PT and Lula, with an opposed standing to other currents who claim Trotskyism (this deepened with Lula’s imprisonment). In this context, to propose a possible regrouping would be mistaken and irresponsible.
The origin of the PTS and the Trotskyist Fraction
The differences with the Trotskyist Faction (FT) emerged since the very origin of the Party of Socialist Workers’ (PTS), a break with the Argentinian MAS and the IWL-FI, in 1988, which begun the building of the FT, with sections in Latin America and some groups in Europe.
The thread of continuity of the break was their definition of “Yalta and Potsdam Trotskyism”. The Post- WWII Trotskyism had separated from the foundational bases of the Fourth (elaborated by Trotsky), synthesized in the Theses of the Permanent Revolution, written in 1930 (1). From here, influenced by Stalinism, it ended capitulating. In this context, there was “an opposition within the opposition” (Nahuel Moreno’s current), which played a progressive role but did not break the general framework. The PTS/FT affirmed that because of this, since the end of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Morenism turned more towards the “Yalta and Potsdam Trotskyism”.
This was expressed in their contributions and critique regarding the formulation of the Theses of the Permanent Revolution and, specifically, their works on the “democratic revolution”. The application of these elaborations led to the building of centrists organizations (like the old Argentinian MAS). Therefore, the conclusion was the need to break with Morenism (as a way to complete the break with the “Yalta and Potsdam Trotskyism”), and from there retake the building of “Trotsky’s true Trotskyism” from the seed of the PTS, its only true representative.
The definition of the “Yalta and Potsdam Trotskyism” parts from the central nucleus that assumed the leadership of the Fourth after Trotsky’s death and the end of World War II (the Greek Michel Pablo and the Belgian Ernst Mandel). They yielded to Stalinist pressures, which had strengthened after the defeat of Nazism and the extension of its influence to new worker states in Europe and China.
Nonetheless, it is completely mistaken to state that Nahuel Moreno and the current he built were part of the “Potsdam and Yalta Trotskyism”, or that they ended up joining it. Nahuel Moreno (along with other Trotskyist cadres of the time) fought with all their strength Pablo and Mandel’s revisionism. Moreno continued doing so throughout his life (2). Many documents, books and writings are the proof of this (the founder of the PTS/FT were part of this fight until 1988 when they broke with the IWL).
A Brief Synthesis of the Development of the Theory of the Permanent Revolution
To understand the mistaken character of the critique of the PTS/FT to Moreno, one must do a previous consideration. The first is that Marxism, in its study and characterization of reality to modify it is a living science. It must permanently verify its theoretical constructions in reality, and from there, improve and/or modify them completely or partially. Nahuel Moreno did so with his critiques and contributions to the Theses of 1930. On the contrary, it would stop being a living science to become a rigid “religious” dogma.
One must also see the history of Trotsky’s development of this theory. The first formulation was done in 1905, as a differenced standing from Mensheviks and Bolsheviks (Lenin), since they both considered that what was posed in Russia was a “democratic revolution” and not a “socialist” (in other words, limited to the historic tasks that the bourgeoisie had granted in other countries but that were still pending in Russia). Both factions had a “stage” conception of the revolutionary process, but they had harsh confrontations on the role of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in this revolution.
Trotsky agreed with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. The working class was to be the leader of the revolution. However, he considered that once it had overthrown the Monarchy and taken office, the proletariat should go beyond the democratic tasks and begin developing its own tasks (transition to socialism). In other words, the revolution would acquire a “permanent rhythm” in tasks originated in different historical moments that would combine in a single socialist revolutionary process.
With the “April Theses” in 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks changed their standing and actually adopted Trotsky’s standing and orientation for the revolution (that same year, Trotsky and his organization entered the party). The Permanent Revolution went on to be the official theoretical standing, and so it was presented after seizing power.
During these years, Trotsky developed the theory in its more complex formulation (the “three aspects”): a) its internal class dynamic and the combination of tasks (which we have already referred to); b) the permanent character of the revolution would continue after seizing power; and c) the revolution only began at a national level, it extended and developed in an international level, and only finished when imperialist capitalism was defeated worldwide.
From the process of bureaucratization of the USSR and the party, Stalinism and its allies began to attack the theory in all aspects. On one hand, they changed the international character of the revolution for the theory of the “building of socialism in a single country”. On the other, they retook the concept of “revolution by stages” for the colonial and semi-colonial countries, where the main task was to build an alliance and a front with the national bourgeoisie. Years later, with other considerations, this policy would extend to imperialist countries.
The Discussion on China 1923-1928
These two opposite conceptions were tested in the Chinese Revolution between 1923 and 1928. Stalinism oriented the young and growing Chinese CP not to subordinate politically to the national bourgeois party (the Kuomintang), but to enter it and dissolve in it. This policy led to disaster. The Kuomintang massacred the Chinese Communist militants and the workers of Shanghai and Canton.
This revolution generated in Trotsky a “theoretical crisis” since it was very hard to fit in the model of the October Revolution: the factory working class was practically inexistent in a practically agrarian country. In the context of this theoretical reflection, he exchanged letters in a very interesting discussion with Yevgueni Preobazhensky (4).
In one of these letters, Preobazhensky made a sharp observation of the problem that Trotsky did not manage to solve, “Your main mistake lies in the fact you determine the character of a revolution based on who does it, what class. In other words, the effective subject, as you give a secondary importance to the objective social content of the process” (5). Trotsky’s answer is very keen. “There may be another social subject that is not the proletariat; the center is that to guarantee the democratic tasks, one must do the socialist revolution”. In a way, “distilled” dialectically the essential content of the Theory of the Permanent Revolution and, at the same time, opened the possibility that it could express differently than in Russia.
The 1930 Formulation and the “Highly Unlikely Hypothesis” of the Transitional Program
However, Trotsky did not deepen this line of analysis. On the contrary, in 1930, after the defeat of the Chinese revolution, he wrote the book “The Permanent Revolution” (his most complete work on the subject). At the end of the book, he included the famous Theses, which he presented as a “summary” of his Theory. Here, Trotsky abandoned the dialectic hypothesis expressed in his critical answer to Preobazhensky. He set as a condition for the triumph of the democratic revolution, “the political leadership of the proletarian vanguard organized in the Communist Party”.
In 1938, he wrote the “Transitional Program” for the founding of the Fourth International. In one of the chapters, he referred to the Workers and Peasant Government (understood as a government of reformist and/or bureaucratic organizations that broke with the bourgeoisie). There he stated that all historical experience confirmed that, “even in the most favorable conditions, the parties of petty-bourgeois democracy (socialist revolutionaries, social democrats, Stalinists, anarchists) are incapable of creating a worker and peasant government. In other words, a government independent of the bourgeoisie.” However, he adds, “Is it possible to create the worker and peasant government through traditional worker organizations? The experience of the past shows as we have said before that at the very least this is unlikely. However, it is not possible to categorically deny a priori the theoretical possibility that under the influence of a very exceptional combination (war, defeat, financial crack, masses’ revolutionary offensive, etc.) the petty bourgeois parties without exception for Stalinists, may go beyond their wishes in breaking with the bourgeoisie. In any case, one thing is discarded: even in the case of this unlikely variation, will there be a ‘peasant and worker government’ (in the sense stated above), it would only represent a short period in the path of the true dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Here, Trotsky retakes the dialectic analysis of the answer to Preobazhensky and applies it to another aspect of the revolution (the political subject or leadership): under specific exceptional conditions, there could be processes that force the non-revolutionary and petty-bourgeois leaderships to go “beyond”. At the same time, he retakes the essence of the theory: it would be a step towards the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Critiques of Moreno’s contributions
The issue is that post-WWII, none of the revolutions that advanced beyond the democratic tasks and built new worker states went by the “Russian model” or the 1930 Theses, whether by the political subject (non-revolutionary leaderships), by the social subject, or both. It was the case of the European East, China, North Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba. The “highly unlikely hypothesis” not only stopped being unlikely, but it was generalized.
In verifying this reality and having to provide a theoretical answer, Nahuel Moreno criticized this formulation of the Theses, due to being schematic and proposed two elements to enrich the theory. He did so in the framework of a vindication of the essence of the permanent revolution: either revolutions advance towards socialism in a national and international level, or revolutions are defeated and setback. In this sense, just as Trotsky verified, the tasks of the democratic revolution are part of the socialist revolution and may only be guaranteed historically through them. However, they may be guaranteed by other social and political subjects, different from those Trotsky foresaw.
At the same time, Moreno clearly understood the difference between these revolutions and the October Revolution (led by the proletariat and the revolutionary party), and called the “February revolutions that expropriated” (6) because their leaderships had been forced to “go beyond” their intentions of stopping the dynamic of the revolution in its democratic and national stages.
At the same time, he understood that both aspects (political and social subject) originated a different type of state than October; therefore, he named them “degenerated worker States” from their birth. Consequently, although their genesis was different, the tasks Trotsky designed for the USSR bureaucratized by Stalinism also applied: to build revolutionary Trotskyist parties to lead a political revolution that would oust the bureaucracy from power, but would maintain the economic-social bases of the Worker State.
Moreno acted as a true Marxist: he studies reality, verified the contradictions with theory, and criticized and corrected the theoretical aspects that he considered mistaken. In terms of dialectic logic, he “denied affirming”: he “denied” the aspects he considered a mistake and “affirmed” the totality of the theory, which he enriched.
For the PTS/FT, Moreno not only did not contribute with Marxism, but “Moreno’s ‘Trotskyism’ was based on a theory of the revolution ‘adapted’ to the model of the ’43-’48 revolutions”(7). A theory that capitulated to these “models” (just as the “Yalta and Potsdam Trotskyism”) and that begun the break with “Trotsky’s Trotskyism”.
For the PTS, there was no divergence between reality and theory (even if only aspects of it). Everything had been foreseen in the “highly unlikely hypothesis” of the Transitional Program and there was nothing to worry about, on what to reflect or correct. The birth of the PTS was closely related to this method that transformed Marxism into a “biblical dogma”. A method that took them, years later, to deny that capitalism was already restored in China (then they changed without any explanation), and that still denies that restoration is complete in Cuba.
Works on “Democratic Revolution”
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were great struggle processes against the dictatorial regimes in several countries of Latin America. A few years later, most of these regimes did not exist anymore. In some of these processes, “revolutionary crises” had taken place and the struggle overthrew them, whether by arms (Nicaragua, 1979) or urban insurrection (Argentina 1982). Because of this fact, completely different [bourgeois] regimes emerged. There was a break in continuity due to the masses’ struggle.
In other cases, like in Chile, a political regime emerged with democratic freedoms, unlike the Pinochet dictatorship. However, the change took place through a planned and controlled transition from office (guaranteed by the betrayal of the PC and the SP) and with elements of continuity with the previous regime. It was similar to Spain after Franco. Moreno qualified these processes as “senile Bismarckists”. (8)
Returning to Argentina in 1982, and other countries: had they been revolutions? Was the content of the process similar in essence to Nicaragua 1979, although with different methods and deepness? Deep down, the discussion was: are the processes that overthrow political regimes through mass action revolutions?
In this discussion, Moreno retook the Mexican Revolution that begun in 1910 as a popular struggle against the Porfirio Diaz regime (although it also incorporated other points like the agrarian reform) and saw that the revolutionary process in Spain in the 1930s had had the same starting point. He considered the differences between Argentina and Chile and proposed that, in the first case, it had to be considered as a “triumphant democratic revolution”. In this framework, Moreno warned that these revolutions against the regimes had a different degree of deepness. A central evaluation element was whether they had destroyed the armed forces of the previous regime. This had taken place in Nicaragua and Mexico, but not in Argentina (although they remained with a deep crisis). This is an essential difference, thus Moreno considered they were two different types of democratic revolutions.
He said he did not want to discuss “labels”, “It may be incorrect to call ‘revolution’ a phenomenon like the Argentinian… We may name it differently, as long as we say it is completely different from the reformist, gradual process of democratic-bourgeois concessions controlled, like Spain and Brazil. The democratic-bourgeois freedoms in Argentina have resulted from the general crisis of the military regime and the bourgeoisie, and the colossal mass movement ascent. They were not planned nor controlled by the bourgeoisie and the military regime…”. (9)
The Program to intervene in these Revolutionary Processes
In this context, the issue regarding which program we use to intervene in each moment of the process is posed (before and after the overthrowing of the dictatorship). It is not a general program for the entire historical stage opened since WW I, which has the axis of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the program with which one acts in a specific situation.
For Moreno, in the period of struggle against the dictatorship, the slogans are organized around this main axis. Regarding Argentina, he said, “From the 1976 coup d’état and the opening of a counterrevolutionary stage, it becomes evident that the main slogan of the revolutionary program becomes down with the dictatorship. There are other important slogans… but these slogans were partial aspects that worked around a central slogan” (10). In other words, even in revolutionary processes to overthrow the dictatorship, we raise slogans that go beyond democratic tasks and point towards transitional tasks. What Moreno incorporated is the organizations of these slogans around one axis: down with the dictatorship.
After the fall of the dictatorship, the axis changes. It becomes the struggle to prepare the socialist revolution. “All mobilizations after Bignone have this character: they denounce and fight the scourge of the capitalist system as a whole. Its immediate objectives appear to be the same, but before they were against a political regime and they now question the entire semi-colonial capitalist system. The working class and the people are not yet aware… [They] prepare the socialist revolution” (11). In short, “In the counterrevolutionary stage, our slogan is negative… because before anything, to open the path towards the socialist revolution, we had to destroy the counterrevolutionary regime”. After the fall of the old regime, the axis changes: “If we used to call the workers to focus their strength in overthrowing the dictatorship, now we call them to focus in liquidating the imperialist capitalist system.”
The Critiques of PTS/FT
Moreno revalued the revolutions that began by the struggle against the dictatorial or Bonapartist regimes. He considered that the “episodes” of the permanent revolution have, in a way, autonomy. These works and the orientation derived from them were very important to intervene in the mentioned processes. In the Argentinian case, they allowed the MAS to become, in its time, the greatest Trotskyist party in the world.
On their part, the PTS/FT considered that these works meant a complete break of Moreno with “Trotsky’s Trotskyism” and the passage of Morenism to “a new model of the revolution” of a “stage character”, which “separates the democratic revolution from the socialist one”. With this, “they renounced to struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat” in the “first stage” and postponed it for the “second stage” (after the fall of dictatorial regimes). This would be a clear capitulation to bourgeois sectors that face these regimes, and a renunciation to fight for the leadership of this “first stage”. Furthermore, “a type of class conciliation” (12) completely unrelated to Trotskyism.
This critique of Moreno’s work sought support in Trotsky’s articles from the same epoch of the Thesis of the Permanent Revolution. Referring to the struggle against the Fascist regime in Italy, Trotsky analyzed the possibility of this regime being changed to a “parliamentarian democratic republic”: “This possibility is not excluded. But it will not be the triumph of a bourgeois revolution, but the abortion of an insufficiently mature and premature proletarian revolution” (13). The conclusion of the PTS/FT is Moreno’s works were wrong as a whole and they were “the theoretical-political causes of the current IWL crisis” (14).
In posterior works, the FT softened the tone of the critiques. “Nahuel Moreno revised the theory of the permanent revolution although he attempted to combine its elements… The IWL-FI does not deny the ‘permanent revolution’ in general, but it grossly misrepresents it because they share Moreno’s conception that criticized Trotsky […] Therefore, a semi-pro stage theory is developed that separates the first phase of change in political regime (the overthrow of the dictatorships and the conquest of bourgeois democracy) that would serve as a prelude for the posterior second phase where the social-economic tasks of the [socialist] revolution would be fulfilled” (15). The tone is softer, but the content is the same.
A stage conception?
Before entering the center of the debate with the FT (and in a way with Trotsky’s formulation in this article), one must take into account the more general framework of Moreno, his works and contributions. Just as Lenin and Trotsky, he considered WWI and the Russian Revolution had opened the epoch of the international socialist revolution. With this began the struggle to the death between revolution and counterrevolution around the globe.
“The epoch of worker or socialist revolutions begins, which is also the epoch of bourgeois counterrevolutions. The first triumphant worker revolution that inaugurates this new epoch is the Russian in 1917. With it begins the international socialist revolution. This means that for the first time in history, it is not about a sum of revolutions, but one single process of confrontation of revolution and counterrevolution around the globe. National revolutions are important episodes of this world confrontation” (16).
In other words, for Moreno, revolutionary processes with the axis and starting point of a change in the regime are just “episodes” in the permanent socialist revolution in a national and international level, not stages or half-stages. However, one may question if, by proposing different programs to intervene at each moment he did not fall in a stage conception.
As in any debate of theoretical problems with political consequences, one must part from study then go on to reality. Are there revolutions that develop in a previous stage around a struggle to overthrow the dictatorial regime? Evidently, yes. In these processes, are there bourgeois sectors that, for different reasons, are in favor of overthrowing these regimes? This is also evident and is verified by the Syrian 2011 process and Nicaragua today.
We are discussing how to intervene in them to better develop the dynamic of the permanent revolution. Moreno poses not a stage conception, but an understanding of how these processes have taken place in reality, thus an order of the tasks in our intervention program. Moreno does not renounce slogans of the workers’ movement (“there are other slogans of great importance…). He poses that “these slogans… work around the main slogan [Down with the dictatorship]” to carry it out and develop a better dynamic of the permanent revolution.
Moreno agrees with Trotsky in the main aspect of the permanent revolution. Democratic tasks may only be “completely” fulfilled with the socialist revolution. This is Trotsky’s historical approach.
However, the FT is mistaken in several points. The first is that it omits the fact that the masses face this struggle and mobilize in the first place to overthrow dictatorships and make revolutions for this. This reality combines two aspects. One is objective and correct: it is necessary to overthrow the old regimes to better advance and continue the struggle against capitalism. The other contains an element of illusion: “it suffices to achieve democratic freedoms to solve these structural problems”. The revolutionary policy must answer to both aspects: the concrete and immediate that generates mass mobilization and the most strategic.
Moreno and Morenism do not say that other slogans are abandoned. They hold that in the phase of struggle against the dictatorship, there is an organizing axis of the mobilization and struggle proposals (down with the dictatorship). For the FT, this is a stage conception. Before this critique, there can only be one conclusion: the intervention axis must always be the dictatorship of the proletariat because only this answers to the “complete” resolution of all democratic tasks.
The Abandonment of the Transitional Program Method
The theoretical scheme of the FT leads to abandon and deny what Trotskyist call the “method” of the Transitional Program, formulated by Trotsky to develop the proposals of the workers and the masses. For him, “it is necessary to help the mass, in the struggle process, to find the bridge between their current vindications and the program of the socialist revolution. This bridge must consist on a system of transitory vindications that, parting from the current conditions and consciousness of broad strata of the working class, leads them to one and only conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat”.
In other words, for Trotsky (and for Moreno) there is a historic program of the socialist revolution with the axis of the conquest of power by the proletariat. But it is necessary to establish a “bridge” of slogans and vindications that part from the “current conditions and consciousness of the masses” and for which they are willing to mobilize. Because it will precisely the mobilization that will allow them to do their experience and cross the bridge.
Therefore, Trotskyism permanently raises and agitates some slogans and slogan systems in search of promoting the mobilization of the masses, instead of the program as a whole. This does not mean to set aside the strategy of the program. Without every losing it from sight, we must express it in concrete elements to generate mobilization. Some slogans appear lesser by themselves, defensive or economicism (like “wage increase”, “no more dismissals” or “democratic freedoms”), become colossal mobilization levers and the “bridge” that develops the advance of the revolution, and consequently, the advance towards superior slogans.
Based on this method by Trotsky in the Transitional Program, Morenism organizes the intervention program of the struggle against dictatorships. The FT proposes the contrary. A method and program that does not take into account “the current conditions and consciousness of the masses”, and dissolves the specific tasks that the masses are willing to mobilize for into the historic program.
This becomes a completely propagandistic formulation. It does not approach us to the masses, nor does it help to promote their mobilization. On the other hand, by refusing to organize the intervention program in the struggle against the dictatorial regimes on the “down with the dictatorship”, because it “capitulates to the bourgeoisie”, and ends by not disputing with the bourgeois sectors that intervene in the leadership of this democratic anti-dictatorial struggle (a way of capitulating to them on the negative).
Trotsky’s formulation in the already quoted article on Fascist Italy is too “rigid” to understand how many processes actually took place. This is closely related to the excessive “rigidness” of the formulation of the Thesis Moreno criticized. However, unlike the PTS, Trotsky was not sectarian with the policy to fight fascism. To develop it, Trotsky stated, “in the fight against the devil” (Fascism) there could and should be “practical agreements with the mother of the devil” (bourgeois sectors that let it grow but are now opposed to it) (17). The sole condition was the complete political independence of the proletariat and the organizations of the Fourth International. Does the FT believe that Trotsky “gave in to the bourgeoisie”?
The discussion on the program to fight dictatorial regimes comes hand in hand with the FT’s critique of Moreno’s statement: mass mobilization in revolutionary processes has an “unconsciously socialist” character.
Regarding this, the FT expresses, “Besides, assigning an ‘unconsciously anti-capitalist’ character to the process is deeply objectivist and diminished the importance of subjective elements (leaderships, programs, ideas). Consequently, the fight against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships would not hold the crucial importance it does, and neither is fighting their counterrevolutionary action decisive. The XX century did not show the ‘unconsciously anti-capitalist’ character of revolutionary processes turning secondary the issue of mass consciousness and the leaderships. The contrary is true. It ratified its importance because… tenths of revolutionary situations were frustrated, with a high price for the masses…”. (18).
As always, the FT mixes the concepts again. On one hand, the existing contradiction between the action and consciousness of the masses in their mobilization (particularly revolutionary processes). On the other, the fight for the leadership and consciousness in these processes, and how this is important for the development of these revolutions.
The essential content of the definition “unconsciously socialist” regards the objectively socialist content of the masses’ action in revolutionary processes (of struggle against capitalism), due to its demands, enemies, and the tasks it begins to take on to solve their claims and needs. The masses even carry out revolutions without clear consciousness that they walk towards socialism. If the revolution advances, in their consciousness, the positive formulations of what they must due to achieve their vindications mix with growing rejection to what they want to destroy. For example, in the Russian Revolution, it was clear that they needed to overthrow the Provisional government and give all power to the Soviets to achieve, “Peace, Bread and Land”, and for this, they had to abandon the old left parties like Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries, and join the Bolshevik proposal.
The vanguard (the revolutionary party and activists around it) carries out the actions and develops its policy with strategic clarity and “patiently explaining”. But they will only be able to carry it out if they support on this “unconsciously socialist” character of the aspirations and actions of the masses. From there, with a correct, specific and adequate policy for each situation and turn in the process, they become a leadership alternative.
Opposite to the FT’s opinion, the characterization of the “unconsciously socialist” character of the process and the trust in the masses learning from their action and experience does not imply that “the fight against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships would not hold the crucial importance it does, and neither is fighting their counterrevolutionary action decisive.” (19)
On the contrary, this is the necessary objective base to carry out the fight. This does not imply “objectivism”. Reality alone does not solve the dispute for the consciousness of the masses and the leadership of struggles. It does not diminish the importance of this fight but arms us to strengthen it and turn it triumphant with the correct policy. We are fully aware that in this fight for the leadership against the bourgeois and pro-bourgeois currents lies the destiny of these revolutions.
Whether to overthrow a dictatorship with a fight is a mass triumph or not
Now, we will approach the critique this current does on the IWL-FI for qualifying as “triumphs of the democratic revolution” in the revolutionary overthrow of dictatorial regimes and the consequent change in a political regime with democratic freedoms.
Regarding the revolution process in the Arab world and the overthrow of regimes through a revolutionary way, the FT said, “To qualify this as a triumph of the democratic revolution only helps to confuse the situation and embellish the traps of the imperialist ‘transition’”.
This approach mixes processes and moments of these processes, which must be separated to understand and act in reality. First, they confuse and equal the processes where the change in regime took place due to mass action, and those where it took place through reformist or Bismarkist ways. Since both would lead to the misleading “democratic transition” promoted by the bourgeoisie and imperialism.
However, the change in regime in one way or another leads to a completely different situation. For example, Argentina after 1982 and Chile after the outing of Pinochet. In the first case, the acute crisis in the military regime and mass mobilization led to the downfall of the dictatorship. In the second, the old regime never lost control of the process and recycled with the help of traitor leaderships.
This difference changes what happens afterwards, the solidity of the regime and disposal of the masses (for example, the attitude towards repressor armed forces). This is only explained because, in one of the cases, masses obtained a triumph. They achieved an objective through their revolutionary mobilization and they feel more confident, in better conditions to continue their struggle. The regime that emerged was weaker than the previous dictatorship and weaker than if a controlled transition would have taken place. Democratic freedoms were achieved in struggle. This changes everything.
One may speak of a first triumph or a partial triumph of the democratic revolutions because all the other tasks are pending (like agrarian reform or break with imperialism). However, we will only be able to take a standing in the process and have a correct policy if we understand it was a great and important triumph. In this, we stand by Lenin and Trotsky. They defined the overthrow of Czarism in February 1917 as a triumph of the “February revolution”. To not acknowledge this would mean great sectarianism with the masses since it is not a “complete” process.
This does not mean “objectivism” nor “triumphalism” before the posterior battles. Since due to the backwardness in mass consciousness and illusions in bourgeois democracy, combined with the crisis of revolutionary leadership, the bourgeoisie and imperialism will attempt to maneuver with democratic institutions (universal vote and parliament) to stop and defeat the process, or at least delay it.
Reality combines two elements. On one hand, democratic freedoms were achieved by the masses. They are understood as a better basis to obtain other deeper vindications (wage, jobs, education, etc.). On the other hand, the bourgeoisie identifies them with bourgeois democracy to attempt to draw the masses from the streets and convince them, as Alfonsin in Argentina 1983 said, that, “with democracy one may eat, heal and educate”.
This is the main battle of the phase: to promote the masses to continue mobilizing and for them to become more conscious of the need to advance towards the conquest of power to achieve their vindications, and for this, to build the revolutionary party. It is a very hard battle. The bourgeoisie, supported on the crisis of revolutionary leadership, has obtained important triumphs, delaying for years or decades the socialist revolution. However, objective conditions leave, each time, less margin to convince the masses of the “virtues” of bourgeois democracy for long periods, and experiences take less time. This increases the importance of overthrowing dictatorships to accelerate these processes.
On the revolution in the Arab world
This theoretical-political discussion took expression in the revolutionary process of the Arab world. In 2010, the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was overthrown, and the process extended to Egypt, Libya and Syria.
The FT refuse to name this process revolution. They named it “uprisings” or “rebellions”. They were not “open revolutions” because the revolutionary leadership was delayed or directly absent. An impressive mass ascent was taking place in a strategic region for imperialism and it was achieving the first triumphs! However, for the FT, this was not enough to define it as a revolutionary process.
They forgot that Trotsky qualified as revolutions processes, like Spain after the fall of the monarchy in 1930 and France after the 1936 General Strike. In the prologue of the History of the Russian Revolution, he wrote, “For us, it does not suffice to take facts as their objective development presents them. The history of the revolutions for us is above all, the history of the violent irruption of the mass in the ruling of their own destinies.”
The FT went deeper with the analysis and characterization of civil wars taking place in several countries and the complex combinations in the “military field” of struggle against dictatorial regimes. They ended with a completely mistaken and negative policy before the processes.
In Libya, the imperialist air attacks against the Kaddafi regime led the FT to understand the overthrow of this dictator as an “imperialist triumph” and “a point of inflection with reactionary effects” (therefore, a mass defeat). Consequently, rebel fighter had become “imperialist land troops”.
In Syria, the complex composition of the military arena fighting the Assad regime (from which bourgeois sectors participated, some clearly pro-imperialist) led them to propose the policy of “Neither Assad, nor imperialism” (as they had previously said, “Neither Kaddafi, not imperialism”) and the refusal to act within this military arena. Contrary to Trotsky, who in his policy for revolution and the Spanish civil war said, “We participate in the fight against Franco with the best soldiers…” (20; our translation). Besides, let us remember that for him, “in the fight against the devil” there could and should be “practical agreements with the mother of the devil”.
The current reality in Libya shows us the country is objectively divided into two regions controlled by different bourgeois sectors. Syrian reality is even more complex and divided into regions under bourgeois and imperialist control. In this sense, revolutionary processes have been stopped or even defeated or “aborted”, as Trotsky used to say (and the PTS likes to add). This is the high cost of the lack of a revolutionary leadership alternative.
The FT could tell us “I warned you” because they considered this was the unavoidable course of these processes. However, this is not the attitude of a revolutionary Trotskyist current. As Trotsky said, when there is “a violent irruption of the masses in ruling their own destiny” and a revolution bursts, “it does not suffice to take facts as their objective development presents them.”
We must act on this “objective development” that appears in revolutionary processes, which is not as we wish it to be. We must do so with a correct policy that considers all its specificities, to develop the positive elements and neutralize the negative. The triumph of this fight is not ensured. On the contrary, the crisis of revolutionary leadership and the weakness of the forces with which we intervene would make many of these revolutions are completely or partially frustrated. However, the only truly revolutionary attitude is necessary to carry out this fight.
On the contrary, the FT/PTS has actually renounced to it because before an “objective development” they do not like, they diminish the struggles of the masses and only repeat this propagandistically their general formulas valid for any situation, but that does not serve to intervene in a specific situation and modify it. In this aspect, they are opposite to Trotsky.
Until now, the FT criticized us from the “left” and “Trotskyist extreme orthodoxy”. However, in the most recent debates, the FT continues to criticize us as before, but now shockingly, we see them to our “right”, using previously unthinkable arguments. We will continue on this in the second part of this article.
Translation: Alejandra Rodriguez
(1) See: https://www.marxists.org/espanol/trotsky/revperm/rp10.htm
(2) For a better understanding see: https://litci.org/en/the-fourth-international-80-years-part-i/ and https://litci.org/en/in-defense-of-the-fourth-international-part-ii/ .
(3) For this orientation, Stalinism could have supported in the “General Theses on the East Matter” adopter by the IV Congress of the Third International (1922). Nevertheless, they went beyond entering the Kuomintang and the dissolution of the CP. In his posterior works, Trotsky clearly broke with the content of this Thesis.
(4) Bolshevik leader that came from the same current as Trotsky, very close to him.
(5) Trotsky, León. “La segunda revolución china” [Notas y Escritos de 1919 a 1938]. Colombia: Editorial Puma, 1976, p. 45. Our translation.
(6) Reference to the February 1917 revolution that overthrew the Czarist monarchy.
(7) ROMANO, Manolo. Polémica con la LIT y el legado teórico de Nahuel Moreno, capítulo “Las causas teórico-políticas de la crisis de la LIT”, Revista Estrategia Internacional n.o 3 (diciembre 1993-dnero 1994). Our translation.
(8) Reference to Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor. The “architect” of national unity of Germany from 1871. He built a new regime that incorporated the institutions of bourgeois democracy (like universal vote and parliament), but sustained the emperor as the main institution.
(9) MORENO, Nahuel. 1982: comienza la revolución. Disponible en : http://www.nahuelmoreno.org/escritos/1982-comienza-la-revolucion-1983.pdf. Our translation.
(12) Manolo Romano, already quoted.
(13) TROTSKY, Leon. “Problemas de la revolución italiana”, Escritos, 1930. Quotation taken from Manolo Romano’s article. Our translation.
(15) MOLINA, Eduardo e ISHIBASHI, Simone. “A un año y medio de la ‘Primavera Árabe’”, Revista Estrategia Internacional, 28/9/2012. Our translation.
(16) MORENO, Nahuel. “Las Revoluciones del Siglo XX”. Cuadernos de Formación del MAS, Buenos Aires, 1986. Our translation.
(17) TROTSKY, León. “¿Y ahora? Problemas vitales del proletariado alemán”, 25/1/1932. Taken from http://www.ceipleontrotsky.org/Y-ahora. Our translation.
(18) “A un año y medio de la Primavera Árabe”, already quoted.
(20) TROTSKY, León. “La lucha contra el derrotismo en España”, Escritos, 14/9/1937. Our translation.