Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

The foundation of the IV International is a historic victory of the working class

Copyright: Romerito Pontes

This article was first published on the IWL-FI’s theoretical magazine, Marxism Alive n. 19, in 2009.

Seventy years after the IV International was founded, the debate as to whether it was or was not a wise decision is still as vivid as before. Not only because after all those years it has not yet turned into a massive International as Trotsky envisaged taking the II World War into consideration, but mainly so because even today many organizations use similar arguments against its reconstruction.

The objective of the International Left Opposition (tear the banner of Bolchevism out of the hands of the usurping bureaucracy and to bring back the Communist International to the principles of Marx and Lenin)[1] by means of building factions inside the communist parties in order to reform them, has turned into a reactionary utopia after the Hitler’s victory in Germany in 1933 and the lack of any struggle by the German CP and the Communist International to reverse the situation in that country.

This fact was expressed in Trotsky’s thesis to build a new International, where he said:

“Everything that has taken place since March 5: the resolution of the presidium of the ECCI on the situation in Germany; the silent submission of all the sections to this shameful resolution; the anti-fascist congress in Paris; the official line of the émigré Central Committee of the German Communist Party; the fate of the Austrian Communist Party; the fate of the Bulgarian Communist Party, etc. – all this testifies incontestably that the fate of not only the German Communist Party but also the entire Comintern was decided in Germany.”[2]

Another fact was the proximity of the war that might repeat the revolutionary possibilities of the First World War. “The struggle against war presupposes a revolutionary instrument of struggle, that is, a party. There is none now either on a national or on an international scale. A revolutionary party must be built on the basis of the entire experience of the past, including the experiences of the Second and Third Internationals.”[3] And he completed saying that even if imperialism might rush into the war before the preparation for new proletarian revolutions had advanced, it would “in no case relieves us of the duty of building the new International immediately.

In spite of all this clear reasoning, the centrist organizations that approached the Left Opposition to build the first embryo of the new International – the Bloc of the Four – preferred to step aside. According to these organizations, there were no great events that could justify such enterprise. Even at its founding Conference, the Polish representatives, influenced by Isaac Deutscher and the minority of the French party stood against its immediate foundation. The Polish representative said, “The III was created after the victory of the Russian revolution and with a high number of communist parties already working. Although the Left of Zimmerwald was much stronger than we are now, the Spartacists were against the proclamation of the III International. We do not have numerous organizations and they do not have mass influence, above all in trade unions.”[4] This speech summed up the main arguments used in those days: there were not great victories of the toiling masses; and the movement for the Fourth had not numerous parties with mass influence.

However, even if they were backed by a concrete fact, the foundation of the III International in 1919, after the Russian Revolution, those arguments disregarded history. They took this single event and turned it absolute in relation to the genesis and development of the struggle, practically isolated, for a new International by Lenin, whose first statement for the III was in 1914, with exactly the same reasoning that Trotsky would follow later on for the IV: the betrayal of the II International, the impossibility to reform it and the war. In a letter to Shlyapnikov, Lenin says, “it is false to set up the slogan of a “simple” restoration of the International,”[5] and in October that same year he repeated “The proletarian International has not gone under and will not go under. Notwithstanding all obstacles, the masses of the workers will create a new International. Opportunism’s present triumph will be short-lived. The greater the sacrifices imposed by the war the clearer will it become to the mass of the workers that the opportunists have betrayed the workers’ cause and that the weapons must be turned against the government and the bourgeoisie of each country. … Long live a proletarian International, freed from opportunism!”[6]

The September 1915 Zimmerwald conference provided an impulse. Lenin considered the formation of the I.S.C. (International Socialist Committee) as the organization of “a practically new International Socialist Bureau, against the wishes of the old one, and on the basis of a manifesto that openly condemns the tactics of the latter.”[7] When the I.S.C. capitulated to the II International, Lenin defended the split of its Left Wing and the immediate foundation of the III.

This position gave him a firm background to say, in February 1616: “There are now actually two parties all over the world. There are in fact already two Internationals. And if the Zimmerwald majority are afraid to recognise this, if they dream of unity with the social-chauvinists, and declare their readiness to have such unity, these ‘pious hopes’ in practice remain nothing but hopes, expressive of inconsistency and timidity of thought. Consciousness lags behind reality.”[8]

As we can see, there was none of those criteria in Lenin referring to the construction and foundation of a new International of the kind that adversaries of the IV would use afterwards. The left-wing parties in Zimmerwald were not massive, not even the Bolsheviks were at that time; neither were they many, nor there was any great event like the October Revolution foreseeable in the nearest future. We might say that the contrary was true; the situation was calamitous for the working class: their main parties had betrayed them and the war was dragging millions of them to death without a chance to react. The demand of the social-democracy was to defend their own bourgeoisie and the internationalist Left Wing present at Zimmerwald could be counted on one’s fingers, eight representatives as Trotsky stated.

Lenin’s criterion was not linked to abstract reasoning or to numbers but to the historic need for the world revolution. That is why, in April 1917, in a summons to his own party he says:

“It is we who must found, and right now, without delay, a new, revolutionary, proletarian International, or rather, we must not fear to acknowledge publicly that this new International is already established and operating… And if socialists of that type are few, let every Russian worker ask himself whether there were many really class-conscious revolutionaries in Russia on the eve of the February-March revolution of 1917. It is not a question of numbers, but of giving correct expression to the ideas and policies of the truly revolutionary proletariat. The thing is not to ‘proclaim’ internationalism, but to be able to be an internationalist in deed, even when times are most trying.”[9]

The fact that the III International was not founded until 1919 was not because they waited for a more favourable moment or for the cropping up of massive parties, but due to the hesitations of Lenin’s allies, who were hesitant about founding it at a “difficult moment”. For the same reasons, we can understand why Trotsky kicked up such a fuss and wanted to found the IV at the 1936 International Conference but was not followed by his allies, who only accepted building a Movement Pro Fourth International. As he says in a letter written in 1938:

“I found this name pedantic, inadequate and slightly ridiculous two years ago when it was first adopted… The fact that our class enemies as well as ample circles of workers referred to us as the Fourth International proves that they trust this “brand name” much more than the sceptics or half-sceptics among our own rank and file do.”[10]

The IV already existed in 1936 and history proved the correctness of its foundation.

IV International in Trotsky’s lifetime

But this does not mean that its historic mission has been fulfilled. Its existence was dictated by its need and rationality, but the events of class struggle that took place afterwards could not be determined a priori. The first one that affected its rank and file was the tremendous weight of the policy of Stalinists, usurpers of October traditions, on the working class. The first manifestation of this influence occurred in 1939, in the American SWP, through the emergence of the “anti-defencist” faction, which received this name because they refused to defend the USSR if under an imperialist attack. This refusal was the outcome of a formal way of reasoning by making the Soviet Union appear as the same as the fascist Germany due to the pact signed by Hitler and Stalin, refusing to see that behind the counterrevolutionary policy of the Soviet bureaucracy there was the conflicting class character between the Soviet state (workers’ state) and the German one (capitalist).

Even after Trotsky’s direct intervention in the discussion, when he characterised the faction as petty bourgeois, 1/3 of the SWP militants and most of its youth split away to form the Workers Party. This crisis also affected France, where the newly constructed party after the dissolution of the POI once again had an anti-defencist faction led by Yvan Craipeau.

In 1940, an Emergency Conference was summoned to discuss the crisis caused by the antidefencists, where a month was given for the militants to abide by the programme passed by the Founding Conference while the discussion would be deepened by the summoning of a congress; it also dissolved the resident IEC [11] who had a factional attitude during the crisis in the SWP.

The Conference also passed a manifesto on the war in which it was correctly assessed that it was an interimperialist war, the immediate cause of which was “the rivalry between the old wealthy colonial empires, Great Britain and France, and the belated imperialist plunderers, Germany and Italy.” The battle against the war was to be fought on the grounds of a programme “against the reactionary slogan of ‘national defence’” which would advance the slogan “of the revolutionary destruction of the national state” and “of the Socialist United States of Europe as a stage on the road to the Socialist United States of the World.”[12]

It was the same conception that Lenin posed in 1914 in defence of revolutionary defeatism. That is why he relentless exposed the war for democracy against fascism, for the ruling classes of the democratic countries would be ready to give up democracy for the sake of their privileges and he asserted that “only the hopelessly blind are capable of believing that the British and French generals and admirals are waging a war against fascism!”

At the same time, and in spite of the Hitler-Stalin pact, he insisted on the unconditional defence of the USSR against any imperialist aggression while engaging in a uninterrupted battle against the “Kremlin oligarchy” because the “episodic agreements between the bourgeoisie and the USSR do not alter the fact that, taken on a historic scale the antagonism between the world imperialism and the Soviet Union is infinitely deeper  than the antagonisms that set individual capitalist countries in opposition to each other.”[13]

However, the mobilisation of the masses of the world against fascism gave the war a much more sharp democratic character than what was foreseen in the Manifesto and turned the confrontation between the fascist and bourgeois democratic regimes into the main ingredient, in detriment of the policy of revolutionary defeatism. This mobilisation continued after the defeat of Hitler and led to a world revolutionary situation where Stalinism was the undeniable leadership of the working class in imperialist countries and of the toiling masses in the colonial countries.  Hitler’s defeat on Soviet territory and the occupation of Berlin by the Red Army transformed Stalin into “the father of the peoples” and the “champion of the struggle for democracy.” His counterrevolutionary policy previous and during the war fell into oblivion and the Communist Parties re-emerged in all the imperialist countries as the guarantor of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements.

The expropriation of the bourgeoisie in a third of mankind was not capitalised by the IV International but by Stalinism. The prognosis of the Manifesto of the Fourth that in a revolutionary epoch the construction of massive revolutionary parties would be on the agenda because the “the Fourth International in numbers and especially in preparation possesses infinite advantages over its predecessors at the beginning of the last war” did not come true.

The policy of transforming the “imperialist war into a war of the workers against the capitalists, on the overthrow of the ruling classes of all countries, on the world socialist revolution” under the leadership of the IV International was replaced by the construction of new deformed workers’ states in Eastern Europe and in China, led from the beginning by bureaucracies that had either Stalinist or petty bourgeois origins. These were tactical victories of the proletariat within a framework of a strategic defeat: the crisis of the leadership of mankind has not been solved.

A combination of factors leads to revisionism within the IV

The death of Trotsky, murdered with a Stalinist ice axe on August 20, 1940, prevented him from correcting this policy while an unyielding persecution of Trotskyists by Stalinism as well as by fascism and essentially the immense political authority gained by the soviet bureaucracy in the eyes of the working class caused the isolation and marginalization of the IV International.  After the war, it was a young and inexperienced leadership who was in charge of its reorganisation.

Among them, the Greek representative to the Founding Congress of the IV, Michel “Pablo” Raptis, featured as an outstanding leader due to his dynamic nature and organising skills. The combination of the revolutionary uprising in the early 50s and the strength of Stalinism led him to devise revisionist theses of Marxism, which were passed in 1951 at the Third Congress of the weak International.

The Korean War, the first one driven by a capitalist nation against a Communist party-led country, starts. The Chinese revolution begins in 1949; its bourgeoisie would be expropriated two years later. In 1952, revolutions burst out in Egypt and Bolivia. At the same time, a crisis takes roots in the very Stalinist apparatus, between USSR and Yugoslavia bureaucracies, where Tito sought to have a policy independent of the Kremlin.

From this explosive situation, Pablo works out the document “Where are we going?” and leaps to the conclusion that “objective social reality consists mainly of the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world” and that “transformation [of capitalist society into socialism, author’s note] will probably take an entire historical period of several centuries.”[14] The theses passed at the Congress foresee a third world war, that would have the character of “war-revolution” during which, communist parties, pressed by facts, would take the “Stalinist camp” to victory over imperialism. Consequently, the role of the revolutionaries would be to join the “progressive camp”. This is supposed to be done by means of the policy of “entrism”[15] into communist parties which, unlike the tactic recommended by Trotsky in the 30s, would endure an undetermined period of time, for transition from capitalism to socialism was to last for centuries.

For the first time Trotskyism had an essentially non-Marxist interpretation of reality dividing the world in “camps” and not in social classes. Another tactical error stemmed out of this error of principles and caused political disasters: entrism into CPs that dragged Trotskyism into crisis in every country where it was put in practice. In France, for example, the party officially affiliated to the IV only ended entrism after over 14 years in 1965, with barely 30 militants.

The worst outcome of this policy was in Bolivia. In 1952, there was an uprising of miners who, together with workers from La Paz, annihilated the bourgeois army and made great headway in the construction of the COB, Bolivian Workers’ Centre. The POR (Revolutionary Workers’ Party), the Fourth’s section in Bolivia, co-led the workers militia and the COB. But the IV’s International Secretariat, accordingly to its concept of “progressive camp”, oriented them to grant “critical support” to the MNR, a bourgeois nationalist party, which had taken office and to practice entrism in that party. In June 1953, the POR stated that “at present, our tactic is to unite forces, merging the proletariat and the peasantry into a single block to defend a government that is not ours and to which we apply our right to criticism, facing the imminent threat of the big landowners and imperialism reaction.”[16] In the Bolivian case, imperialism never threatened the MNR administration, on the contrary, gave it full support from the very beginning and consequently the “defence of a government that is not ours” is not justified; even tactically. The POR’s capitulation to the MNR was accomplished and an extraordinary revolutionary opportunity was lost.

From revisionism to liquidationism

In 1953, the IS issued a document, “The Rise and Decline of Stalinism,” in which Pablo takes on directly liquidationist attitudes, leading towards a split of the majority of Trotskyist forces and to the formation of the International Committee. After analysing that the fundamental conditions for the existence of the Soviet bureaucracy (the ebb of the revolution, the isolation of the Soviet Union and the backward condition of its economy) had disappeared, the document asserts: “Events unfolding in the Soviet Union since Stalin’s death considerably modify the world situation… The first cracks in the Bonapartist dictatorship place on the order of the day the struggle for the socialist regeneration of the Soviet Union”[17] and forecast the disintegration of Stalinism all over the world.

Foreseeing the socialist regeneration of the USSR by Stalinism, who due to their own contradictions would be split into bureaucratic and regenerated trends under the pressure of the masses, meant granting a revolutionary character to the bureaucracy. That is why Pablo abandoned the policy of building Trotskyist parties in both capitalist countries and workers’ states. Because “The role of the Fourth International, which was created to assure the continuity of the revolutionary Marxist programme and organization in order to build a new revolutionary leadership for the proletariat, has the task of intervening in this disintegration in order to rally around its banner the healthy communist forces influenced up until now by Stalinism.” That means that Trotskyism would lose its character of an independent organisation and become an annex to Stalinism waiting for the victory of its revolutionary wing.

In consequence with this policy, in 1953, when the masses of the Eastern Berlin played the leading role in the first political revolution, just the way the Transitional Programme had forecast, the IS of the IV declared:

“The Soviet leaders and those of the various ‘People’s Democracies’ and the Communist Parties could no longer falsify or ignore the profound meaning of these events. They have been obliged to continue along the road of still more ample and genuine concessions to avoid risking alienating themselves forever from support by the masses and from provoking still stronger explosions. From now on they will not be able to stop halfway. They will be obliged to dole out concessions to avoid more serious explosions in the immediate future and if possible to effect a transition ‘in a cold fashion’ from the present situation to a situation more tolerable for the masses.”[18]

The more tolerable situation was the invasion of the soviet army to drown the rebellion in blood wielding against the rebels accusations of being “fascists” and “agents of imperialism.”

The IS statement did not demand the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and the construction of a Trotskyist party but merely the “democratisation of the CP”.

There is a point in common for all Pabloist analyses: The overrating of the “objective factor” that would solve by their own internal forces the crisis of the “subjective factor” (lack of revolutionary leadership). This method leads him to fail to differentiate between the movement and its leadership and regard as revolutionary any leadership who could, under pressure from the masses, assume progressive positions (which was never the case of the Stalinist bureaucracy). This leads to the abandonment of the construction of Trotskyist parties.

Resistance inside the IV leads to the formation of the International Committee

In order to ensure the accomplishment of its policy, the IS adopts directly Stalinist methods. In France, most of the PCI (Internationalist Communist Party) was against entrism into the CPF – and they become the target of all kinds of bureaucratic measures taken by the Pabloist leadership. The documents of the VIII Congress of the PCI held in July 1952 were not distributed to the remaining sections and were not submitted to the vote of the III World Congress, which passed a motion of intervention of the IS in that party so that a leadership composed only of minority leaders would be appointed. In this way, the majority of the French CC is suspended and entrism is imposed and complied with the IS orders by about 30 militants under the leadership of Pierre Frank. The majority of the party, about 100 militants did not abide by the determination and were expelled. [19]

In 1953, the principal party of the IV, the American SWP, gave up their abstentionism on the battle of the French and Latin American Trotskyists and, on November 16, they issued an “A Letter to the Trotskyists throughout the world”, by which they call for the removal of Pablo from the international leadership, because they discovered a secret faction that Pablo was building in the SWP.

On November 23, the American, English, French and Swiss sections proclaimed the formation of the International Committee. Most of the Latin American sections split with Pablo and joined the International Committee, which started gathering the most important sections and about 80% of Trotskyist militants. “However, the IC acted like a defensive united front and didn’t acquire the offensive nature of a centralised organisation. It did not manage to defeat the revisionist positions of Pablo, which, therefore kept on thriving. Ever since the 1953 split, the process of dispersion of the IV International began. In 1963, there was another merger hinging round the support for the Cuban Revolution but important Trotskyist forces remained out of it, such as the French and most of the English forces,”[20] who did not see the importance of the Cuban process and the transformation of that country in a deformed workers’ state.

The continuity of the abstentionist policy of the SWP – whose leaders were undergoing a strong national-Trotskyist deviation and were mainly concerned of solving their own crisis – allowed the permanence of revisionist conceptions in the IV International, with the formation of a United Secretariat (USec) under the leadership of Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank.

The guerrilla phenomenon led to a new capitulation

In 1969, during the ninth congress of the reunified IV, the majority of the leadership of the USec presented a document “The new rise of the world revolution” where they propose the transformation of Trotskyist parties in guerrilla organisations, inspired in Che Guevara’s ‘guerrilla warfare’: The proposal was not only for Latin America but also for Asia, Middle East and Africa. Even two European countries – Greece and Spain – could not elude this new strategy. [21] According to Gonzalez Moscoso, from the Bolivian POR, “In the prevailing conditions in Latin America, the results achieved by the guerrillas in Cuba can be realized in any country. Therefore, I say that guerrilla warfare is incontrovertibly the road which revolutionaries must take to liberate their peoples from capitalist and imperialist exploitation.”[22] If under Pablo, the CPs were “the road” to the revolution, under Mandel, it was the guerrilla. The building of Trotskyist parties rooted in the working class was forgotten in the name of the promise of the “revolutionary paradise” offered by the guerrilla world.

The result was an absolute failure. Entire sections disappeared under the enemy fire. Ephemeral victories that resulted from heroic deeds of the militants had no practical results in the organization of the working class. Reality itself belied the efficacy of such vanguardist movement when massive actions erupted, such as the Cordobazo in 1969 in Argentina or the Portuguese revolution in 1974.

The FLT (Leninist Trotskyist Fraction) was formed at the following congress between the SWP and the Morenoist trend [23] in order to draw a tough balance sheet of the past. The leadership refused to admit their errors but even so, the position of the fraction reached 45% of the votes of the X Congress. In 1973, as part of this discussion, Moreno wrote “A scandalous document” (known as the “Morenazo”) where he asserts that “the conception that at this stage, our central task is the construction of these “revolutionary armies” in Latin America modifies our entire Transitional Programme and our Marxist conception because it means that our central task is no longer the building of revolutionary Bolshevik-Trotskyist parties.” [24]

Nicaragua: crossing the class lines

The USec’s guerrilla-warfare conceptions reached the acme with the victory of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in Nicaragua, which toppled the pro imperialist dictator, Anastasio Somoza on July 19, 1979, destroyed the bourgeois army and carried out the agrarian reform on the lands belonging to the former dictator while leaving untouchable the land belonging to the oppositionist bourgeoisie.

Immediately Mandel and the SWP declared their unconditional support to the FSLN. In November 1979, at the XI Congress they presented resolutions against the building of independent Trotskyist parties in Nicaragua. Revolutionaries were to join the FSLN individually and loyally comply with all the decisions of its leadership, regarded as “revolutionary.”

Apart from a political capitulation, they also carried out a serious attack on revolutionary morals for they refused to defend the Trotskyists of the Simon Bolivar Brigade. This Brigade was created by the Colombian PST and the Bolshevik Faction [25] to fight arm in arm with the FSLN against Somoza. Their most outstanding action was the liberation of Bluefields, the country’s most important port on the Atlantic. After the FSLN victory, its members began to organize trade unions. To prevent this process from getting out of control, the FSLN arrested the brigade fighters and expelled them out of the country and handed them over to the Panama police where they were tortured before finally being released.

Nahuel Moreno reported: “Then we requested from the International to make a campaign in defence of the combatants. The USec not only refused to do so, but also important leaders of the Mandelist trend and the SWP supported the expulsion. That made us split away from the USec considering that morals and principles issues were harmed.”[26] The political coexistence in the same international organisation was no longer possible, but the reconstruction of the IV was still the historic task and, in 1982, this was what drove the parties of the Bolshevik Faction to found the IWL-FI.

The USec, on the other hand, kept on committing errors of judgment after eleven consecutive years of Sandinista administrations, which applied capitalist plans of “currency devaluation, rise in inflation, sacking of thousands of workers, or announcement of austerity plans,”[27] that Nicaragua was a “workers’ state, even after Violeta Chamorro [bourgeois opposition to the FSLN] won the presidential elections in 1990. This was the path towards a total abandonment of Marxist principles, a course that became deeper with the tremendous events in Eastern Europe.

Dream mongers

As for the party building, they call for the construction of “anti-capitalist” parties where revolutionaries get together with “honest reformists” in order to “accumulate forces”, where the defence of the need to seize power through the revolutionary method is postponed to an indefinite future.

All the sections of the USec are working to turn electoral blocs into “anti-capitalist parties”, such as the Left Bloc in Portugal, the green-red alliance in Denmark, the WASG in Germany, and the SSP in Scotland. At their congress held in February 2008, the French LCR, main section of the USec, passed its own dissolution and the construction of an anti-capitalist party in France.

In Italy, the Sinistra Critica became part of the Communist Re-foundation, which in turn was part of Prodi’s support in the Parliament. Their representatives voted all the unpopular measures of the government, including racist laws against immigrants and only when, according to USec, Prodi began to adopt “a neoliberal posture”, its section joined the opposition, making it clear that anti-capitalism is, at most, a kind of anti-neoliberalism badly disguised. Only early this year, after the electoral disaster and Berlusconi’s victory, did Sinistra Critica resolve to state that “the cycle is closed, the Communist Re-foundation is worn out” and to announce the construction of a “new left.”

Participation in bourgeois governments was nothing new for them.  The USec approved the presence of DS, their former Brazilian section [28], in the Lula’s administration through Miguel Rossetto as minister of Land Reform, saying: “the question of participation in the government should be subordinated to a judgement of the government’s orientations.” [29] Thus, the principle of class independence becomes a merely tactical issue depending on the orientation of the bourgeois government.

And finally the withdrawal of any mention of the “dictatorship of proletariat” from the statutes of the LCR and the USec. In his article “The Return of Strategy”, Daniel Bensaid explains that at present the expression “dictatorship of proletariat” has a negative connotation, stemming out of military and bureaucratic dictatorship and that this would justify its substitution by such words as commune, soviets, council or self-government, for they would be better understood. So, it would all be about semantics and not programmes. In the above mentioned Emergency Manifesto we can read, “Our programme is formulated in a series of documents accessible to all. Its essence can be summed up in three words: dictatorship of proletariat.”[30] When they abandoned this essence, so dear to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, the USec stopped being a Marxist International and became a usurper of the name of the IV International.

Transitional programme verified by history

The degenerative process of the main world Trotskyist trend and the fragmentation of Trotskyism into diverse trends since 1953 leave a negative balance sheet of the construction of the IV from the organisational point of view. Today, there is no one Fourth International with the contents given to it by Trotsky: a world party of the socialist revolution. This party has to be reconstructed.

During those 70 years of crisis of the leadership of mankind, many alternatives have been surfaced and, at different moments, they promised to lead the proletariat to their definite victory. Castro-Guevarism and the guerrilla warfare, Maoism and the prolonged popular warfare, Sandinismo as a variant of the former, but all of them proved their programmatic bankruptcy in the different ways of capitulating to the bourgeoisie. The 21st century brought new promises, the resurfacing of anarchism in different cloaks, the broad organisations that “want to govern without seizing power”, a la Holloway, as the Zapatistas or the nationalist and popular front administrations with their “participative democracies.”

The programmes of these movements and governments do nothing but to repeat the same old betrayals of the reformists, Stalinist and popular fronts of the past. Zapatistas are in alliance with the PRD, a bourgeois party that is working hard to save the capitalist regime in Mexico. Evo Morales, one of the exponents of the “socialism of the 21st century” has just arrived at an agreement with the fascist bourgeoisie of the Bolivian Half Moon granting them most of their main demands; the great marches against the war did not create solid organisations for an anti-imperialist struggle: the World Social Forum and its NGOs are moving headlong to a blind alley, with the repetition of worn out formulae such as the “Tobin rate” in the middle of a world financial crisis. Far from being “broad anti-capitalist spaces”, they are not more than meeting places for   people disenchanted with the tragic lessons of history who try to negate the past instead of learning from it.

On the other hand, the Transitional Programme proved to be “immune” to time in its main aspects and passed the test of facts.  Capitalist restoration, the roots of which are in the bureaucratisation of the workers’ states and the usurpation of power by an almighty parasitic caste, confirms in a negative way the forecast of the Transitional Programme, “either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.”[31] The bureaucracy, who accused Trotskyism of being “agents of imperialism” was the one who acted as agent of restoration and their policy of building “various socialist countries” isolated one from another while preventing the extension of the revolution in the name of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism “constitutes the most convincing refutation – not only theoretically, but this time, practically – of the theory of socialism in one country.” Stalinism paid a high price for such betrayal: the masses pulled down their restoring dictatorship in most of the former workers’ states; this, however, was not enough to avoid the return of capitalism.

Another aspect is the actuality of revolution. Faced with the proximity of another world war and Stalin’s disastrous policies in the face of Nazism, different sectors abandoned revolutionary perspectives. On the other hand, the Transitional Programme asserted that “the objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”; they have begun to get somewhat rotten.” This assertion proved essentially correct with the post-war revolutions and the emergence of new workers’ states during the last century, and can be seen as totally correct today, with the powerful rise in Latin America and the Iraq war, the occupation of Haiti and the approximation of a new economic depression. The bourgeois policies of Chavez, Evo Morales, Lula and the remaining nationalist and Popular Front governments on this subcontinent can only lead the toiling masses to new defeats. Only a Transitional Programme, which does not sow illusions in these leaders and are eager to build a bridge between “the current demands and the socialist programme of the revolution”, helping to overcome the crisis between the maturity of the objective conditions and the immaturity of the proletariat, may lead to the conquest of power by the working class and its allies.

There are no possible shortcuts along this road; the only way to overcome the crisis of the leadership of mankind is the construction of solid revolutionary parties under the banner of a fighting IV International, built on the regime of democratic centralism and revolutionary morals. According to the Transitional Programme, “All methods are good which raise the class consciousness of the workers, their trust in their own forces, their readiness for self-sacrifice in the struggle.” Inadmissible are those methods that foster fear and submission to oppressors. This assessment has also passed the test of facts. All the parties and organisations that adopted moral postures contrary to the revolutionary strategy sooner or later degenerated. The behaviour of most of the world left in the trade unions, administering them as if they were property of their parties, party corruption, trade union elections transformed into gang warfare, lies and slanders which very often become normal to the eyes of the vanguard, can only build demoralisation and mistrust in the revolutionary process. It is fundamental to take up again the revolutionary morals, the way it is proposed in the Transitional Programme, is a fundamental part of the reconstruction of the IV International.

Even if it is true that it is necessary to update some aspects of the Programme, such as the restoration of capitalism, the ecologic disaster, the new forms of organisation of labour and exploitation, the phenomenon the outsourcing, etc., it is no less true that this programme proved to be the only one that preserved the thread of continuity of Marxism during the long Stalinist winter.

Reconstruction of the IV is an unresolved task

The programme of the IV International is still alive and is at present being taken up by thousands and thousands of new fighters, even if unconsciously. But a revolutionary programme is much more than just a historic document; it only gains this character when it is carried into the battle by real organisations, who will struggle to spread it to the masses and make it concrete.

Among these organisations there is the IWL-FI, which exists since 1953, when the Argentine Party under the leadership of Nahuel Moreno (Palabra Obrera), joined the International Committee in a battle against the Pabloist revisionism. The SLATO (Latin American Secretariat of Orthodox Trotskyism) was formed within the framework of the IC to organise their parties in the struggle against Latin American Pabloism, whose main leader was J. Posadas. [32]

The 1963 reunification, even if not all the Trotskyist trends joined in, opened a new possibility of reconstruction of the IV. However the maintenance of the revisionist policy regarding building Trotskyist parties prevented this leap in the direction of giving the International a massive character. There was a class motivation for that: the leadership of the IV was in non-proletarian hands, based on the European intelligentsia that drifted further and further away from the working class after every impressionist turn they used to give. Moreno expressed it his way, “Unlike Pablo, Mandel has always been very honest: from the point of view of organisation and morals, he has always been an extraordinary comrade. But from the point of view of policies and methods, he persisted on the same old errors, capitulating to Stalinist or petty bourgeois leaders heading revolutionary processes or massive mobilisations.”[33] Prevailing internal democracy left room for a 16-year old coexistence in the same organisation in spite of deep political differences; but there was a qualitative change when the USec crossed the class line and granted unconditional support to FSLN and stood for the expulsion of the Simon Bolivar Brigade. A common party framework was no longer possible, but the reconstruction of the IV remained as a task to be done and in 1982, this was what led to the building of the IWL-FI.

After the restoration of capitalism in the former workers’ states and the “opportunist gale” which affected the entire left in varying degrees, few revolutionary organisations could claim the credit of swimming upstream maintaining the thread of historic continuity of Marxism. The collapse of Stalinism (the greatest counterrevolutionary apparatus in history) opens immense perspectives to fulfil the essence of the IV International and our programme as from the construction of parties with massive influence that may lead workers to the seizure of power and to the dictatorship of proletariat as a transitional stage towards the conquest of communism on the entire planet.

The IWL-FI is enrolled in this tradition, that is why at our last congress we voted to place our organisation, cadres and militancy in the service of the reconstruction of the IV, understanding that this is a “task for all revolutionaries, not only for Trotskyists” and that it will “group revolutionaries grown up in different traditions of Marxism making them rally round an agreement as to a revolutionary programme.”[34]


[1] – Leon Trotsky, International pre-conference of the Left Opposition presents thesis, The Militant, Vol. VI, n. 17, March 8, 1933, www.marxists.org.

[2] – Leon Trotsky, It’s necessary to build Communist Parties and an International anew, July 1933, www.marxists.org

[3] – Leon Trotsky, War and the Fourth International, June 10, 1934, www.marxixts.org

[4] – Les congrès de la quatrième internationale” v1, Rodolphe Prager, org., editions La Breche, 1978 (author’s translation)

[5] – Lenin, Letter to A. G. Shlyapnikov, Collected Works, 17/10/14, www.marxists.org

[6] – Lenin, The War and Russian Social-Democracy, Collected Works, October 1914, www.marxists.org

[7] – Lenin, The first step, Collected Works, October 11, 1915, www.marxists.org

[8] – Lenin, Split or decay?, Collected Works, February/April 1916, www.marxists.org

[9] – Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution, Collected Works, April 10, 1917, www.marxists.org

[10] – Leon Trotsky, ¿“Pro” Cuarta Internacional? ¡No! !La Cuarta Internacional!, May 31, 1938, Escritos, Tomo IX, v2, Editorial Pluma (author’s translation)

[11] – The resident IEC was not an organism voted by the Congress but only the members that lived in the USA and for this reason they were in charge of everyday tasks. Shatchman, Anton, C.L.R. James and M. Pedrosa formed the resident IEC. They all adhered to the antidefencist positions. Trotsky, James Cannon, Vincent Dunne and the administrative secretary of the IEC, Sam Gordon were among the members of the IEC who stood for the dissolution of the resident IEC.

[12] – Leon Trotsky, The Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution (Manifesto of the Fourth International), 1940, www.marxists.org

[13] – Leon, Trotsky, Idem.

[14] – Michel Pablo, quoted by Daniel Bensaid, Trotskismos, Ed. El Viejo Topo.

[15] – Entrism or entry, tactic defended by Trotsky in the mid-30s in order to give an impulse to the building of Trotskyist parties: militants were to join socialist parties where progressive trends were growing and likely to split towards the left. Such tactic was meant to be short-lived and without any loss of political independence by the Trotskyists who had to express their positions publicly.

[16] – Alicia Sagra Historia de las Internacionales Socialistas, Ed. Sundermann 2005. [author’s translation]

[17] – Michel Pablo, The Rise and Fall of Stalinism, 1953, www.marxists.org

[18] – Quoted by the National Committee of the SWP, A Letter to Trotskyists throughout the World, 16/11/53, www.marxists.org.

[19] – Jean –Jacques Marie, Os primeiros anos da Cuarta Internacional, Palabra Editora, 1978

[20] – Alicia Sagra, Historia de las Internacionales Socialistas, Ed. Sundermann, 2005. Lack of space for this article prevents going into details about further developments of the organizations that did not join the reunification, mainly Lambertism and the English Trotskyism. [author’s translation]

[21] – Peng Shuzi, Return to the Road of Trotskyism, www.marxists.org

[22] – Hugo Gonzalez Moscoso, Lessons of the Cuban Revolution, International Socialist Review (March-April 1968, page 11, quoted by Peng Shuzi.

[23] – Morenoism, name given to  the political trend led by Nahuel Moreno (1924-1987) originated in Argentina and centered in Latin America that later became IWL-FI

[24] – Nahuel Moreno, O partido e a revolução, Ed. Sundermann, 2008 [author’s translation]

[25] – The Bolshevik Faction was formed after the dissolution of the FLT due to political differences between the Morenoist Trend and the SWP on the Portuguese revolution and Angola.

[26] – Nahuel Moreno, O partido e a revolução, Ed. Sundermann, 2008, foreword.

[27] – Latin America: The strategic challenge for the revolutionary left, www.internationalviewpoint.org

[28] – In April that year, the International Committee of the USec informed that “a high price was paid in Brazil” due to political errors committed that resulted in a split with DS.

[29] – International Committee, Letter from FI leaders to Brazilian DS, www.internacionalviewpoint.org

[30] – For criticism of this conception, read Bernardo Cerdeira, Reformist Trotskyism crosses the class line, Marxism Alive nª 17, 2008

[31] – Trotsky, The Transitional programme, www.marxists.org

[32] – Juan Posadas (Homero Cristalli): leader of the Internationalist Communist Group of Argentina acknowledged as the official section at the III Congress (1971). At that Congress, the construction of a Latin American secretariat was voted under his leadership and a resolution was passed demanding individual admission of members of remaining Argentine groups to Posadas’ party. He split away from the IV in 1959 and started dedicating himself to building his own International.

[33] – Nahuel Moreno, O partido e a revolução, Ed. Sundermann, 2008 [author’s translation]

[34] – Bernardo Cerdeira, The IWL’s strategic task is the reconstruction of the Fourth International, Marxism Alive nª 17, 2008

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles