Part I: A revisionist current in the leadership became the main obstacle to build the Fourth
Shortly after its foundation, the Fourth had to face violent pressures against its program and existence. Still, in Trotsky’s life, the struggle against the anti-defensist polarized the International’s life. The Fourth had barely been founded, when a struggle against revisionism took place, threatening its existence. Once the controversy ended within the SWP, prevailing the Marxist standing, problems continued. After WWII, different standings emerged, with chaotic consequences for the development of the Fourth, which led to its dispersion. Today, they continue to act against the Fourth.
The New Post WWII Processes and the Fourth International
The post-war begun with spectacular victories of world mass movement: the complete defeat of Nazi-Fascism, and a worker and popular ascent that did not expropriate the bourgeoisie in central countries like France and Italy only due to Stalin’s betrayals. He imposed on all CPs to pact with their bourgeoisies and return power to them. These betrayals stopped them from seizing power, which would have changed the world.
Imperialism sustained control over Western Europe thanks to the Yalta and Potsdam agreements between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. However, new bureaucratized worker states emerged in Eastern Europe, in 1949 in China and in Korea, despite the traitor policy of the CPs. Stalin decreed the dissolution of the III International in 1943, leaving the workers movement without international reference.
Trotsky’s murder in 1940 had beheaded the newly founded Fourth, a little before a revolutionary situation begun, leaving behind 20 years of defeats behind. The Nazi and Stalinist ascent had imposed general setback since 1924. No leader was even close to the founder of the Fourth regarding their experience. Contrary to Trotsky’s prognostic, the Fourth did not gain mass influence. The young leadership of the Fourth, after not acknowledging this reality of the new states with a sectarian standing, made a political turn against the objective of its own founding, the facing of bureaucratic apparatuses, as stated in the introduction of the Transitional Program.
In this period, the victory over Nazi-Fascism led to a strengthening of Stalinism. Due to the role of the Soviet masses in the resistance to Nazism and the role of the Red Army to defeat Hitler, the prestige of the CP grew immensely, despite Stalinism having used its prestige to betray the workers’ revolution in France, Italy, and Greece.
The emergence of Pabloism
The name Pabloism comes from the main leader of this current, the Greek Michel Pablo. The weak, inexperienced leadership of the Fourth was unable to answer to the new situation. Even worse, it yielded to the tremendous post-war pressure. It went on to abandon the main foundational bases of the Fourth: the fight against Stalinism and the advance in the building of the revolutionary national and international leadership.
In 1951, during the “cold war”, all international commentators stated the armed confrontation between the USA and the USSR was unavoidable. Pablo and Mandel, impressed by the bourgeois press analyses, reached a fatal conclusion for the international: World War III was unavoidable. They sustained that, before an imperialist attack, Communist parties, in their attempt to defend the USSR, would adopt violent methods to face the USA and this would lead to the struggle for power in different parts of the world. The same would happen with the nationalist bourgeois movements in dependent countries.
Based on this analysis, Pablo and Mandel proposed “sui generis entryism” in the Communist and nationalist bourgeois parties, which were to be accompanied without criticism, until the seizing of power. They saw an irreversible revolutionary process led by the bureaucratic and petty-bourgeois leadership of the mass movement and they did not set on to build new leadership that could defeat the traditional leadership in the movement, which is the actual reason of being of the Fourth International.
This standing abandoned the definition of the Stalinist bureaucracy as counterrevolutionary and abandoned the struggle against it. It was a complete revision of the essential points of the Trotskyist program, which parts from the definition of the crisis of humanity as the crisis of mass movement leadership. In other words, the main obstacle for the advancement of humanity towards socialism is that the masses are under the leadership of organizations opposed to revolution, like Stalinism, Social Democracy or bourgeois nationalism.
These definitions would have great consequences for the Fourth International in the revolt in East Berlin and the Bolivian revolution.
With this characterization, Pablo refused to demand the withdrawal of the Russian tanks that faced the workers uprising in Berlin in 1953, in other words, he actually supported the Soviet bureaucracy.
However, the most tragic consequence of this policy was the betrayal of the Bolivian revolution. In 1952, in Bolivia, a typical workers’ revolution took place. The workers organized militias, they imposed a military defeat on the police and army and the COB (Bolivian Worker Federation) emerged as a dual power body. The mines were nationalized and a peasant revolution began, which invaded the states and occupied the lands. Until 1954, the workers’ militias were the main armed force in Bolivia, led by the COB.
Since the 1940s, the Bolivian Trotskyist organization (POR) had been gaining influence in the workers’ movement. They had among their rank and files important mining, factory and peasant leaders. Their main leader, Guillermo Lora, was the writer of the Pulacay Theses, an adaptation of the transitional program to the new reality, adopted by the Miners’ Federation. Lora was elected senator by a front led by the Miners’ Federation in the 1946 elections. In the 1952 revolution, the POR co-led the militias and was a co-founder of the COB. It had mass influence in Bolivia.
Sadly, the POR followed the orientation of the International Secretariat of the Fourth led by Pablo. They did not raise the policy of the COB seizing power. On the contrary, they critically supported the bourgeois MNR government (a nationalist bourgeois movement). Without a revolutionary orientation, the mass movement was unarmed and demobilized, and the revolution was dismantled bit by bit. With the revolution betrayed, the Bolivian Trotskyism deteriorated and begun successive splits.
Along with this policy, the international leadership led by Pablo applied a fatal method. They intervened the French Party, ousted the leadership that did not agree with their policy and attempted to form a secret fraction in the North American SWP.
Rejecting Pablo’s “sui generis entryism” and the bureaucratic and disloyal methods, most French (led by Lambert) and English (led by Healy) Trotskyists, the SWP (USA) and the South American Trotskyists (excepting the Bolivian POR and Posada’s group in Argentina), broke with the International Secretariat (IS) led by Pablo, and created in 1953, the International Committee (IC).
Years of dispersion followed, despite a minority remaining with Pablo and Michel, the majority did not organize in a centralized manner to answer, mainly due to the SWP’s responsibility, which did not take on the main task of reorganizing and rebuilding the Fourth. Thus, since 53, the crisis has not been overcome and the task of rebuilding the Fourth International is still posed.
The Cuban Revolution promoted Reunification: the Birth of the USEC
In 1959, a new revolutionary process shook the world. Armed insurrection led by the Movement July 26 overthrew the Batista dictatorship in Cuba. A process that led to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie begun, despite the petty-bourgeois leadership. The acknowledgment and support of the Cuban revolution were the reunification bases for the Fourth International in 1963. Thus, the USEC was born (United Secretariat of the Fourth International), led by Mandel and the SWP (Pablo had left the Fourth and became the advisor of the Ben Bella bourgeois government in Algeria). All Trotskyist forces that characterized Cuba as a new worker state entered the USEC. Only the English and French remained separate, without acknowledging this meaning of the Cuban revolution. It was a point of advance to regroup the groups that vindicated Trotskyism and were dispersed. However, this unification was born with serious faults. They did not carry out a balance of the split and the serious problems of the previous period of Pablo and Mandel’s IS.
This was even more serious because this reunification was led by Mandel. It would become evident that this leadership, instead of revising and overcoming the method of following the bureaucratic leaderships of the mass movement, would only continue this path. This leadership did not do a balance of the serious mistakes of the previous period, it continued down the same impressionist lines and capitulated to all “progressive” phenomenon that appeared and influenced the “vanguard”. This begun to take expression with the Cuban leadership. Once again, mass movement and revolutions were confused with their leadership, seen as revolutionary.
Then came capitulation to Castroist leadership and Guerrilla movements, once again with fatal results for Trotskyism, which fed illusions and then lost precious militants to Guerrilla adventures. The reasoning was the same: before a prestige leadership as the Cuban one, the USEC subscribed the foco orientation and proposed a Guerrilla “foco” in all Latin America along with the Guevarists, and if necessary, alone. This led its groups to take on adventures separated from the worker and mass movement, like the Argentinian PRT-ERP and the POR© in Bolivia. Those who survived split from Trotskyism or relocated as part of the Castroist apparatus.
Adaptation to mass movement leadership, the Portuguese Revolution and Euro-Communism
A revolution shook the Portuguese Empire in 1974. As an expression of the deep crisis in the Armed Forces, forced to sustain the war in African colonies, there was an uprising of the army officials on April 25, who were tired of endless colonial war and a dictatorship forcing them to a war without future. Rebel sectors emerged among officials, including high officials, who formed the MFA (the Armed Forces Movement) and organized an uprising that ousted Caetano, the dictator.
However, the downfall of the dictatorship generated a deep worker and popular revolutionary process that generated dual power bodies. It was similar to the Russian Revolution. The successive waves of struggles led to bourgeois governments with growing influence of the MFA and the Communist Party, with a radical speech. In this process, activism, Maoist tendencies and the extreme left supported the Armed Forces Movement, a petty bourgeois pro-imperialist organization that claimed to be left wing. The MFA was actually a pillar sustaining the bourgeois state before the revolution. The organization that followed Mandel, the LCI, took the standings of the Maoists and extreme leftists, even supporting the MFA, which ruled or co-ruled the Portuguese Empire. Once again, they capitulated to mass movement leadership.
Further, the USEC followed “Euro-Communism”. It emerged in the Communist Parties of Western Europe, particularly in Italy and Spain in the 1970s. Euro-Communism was the expression of the integration of Western Communist Parties in bourgeois democracy, whether in Parliament or in Town Halls. Therefore, they passed on to depend economically on the bourgeoisie of their country, which weakened their traditional dependence on the USSR. This was only positive because it deepened the crisis of Stalinism as a world apparatus. In fact, it transformed these Communist Parties “from servants of the Kremlin to servants of imperialist bourgeoisie” (declaration of the Bolshevik Fraction, 1979; our translation). For this reason, it could not generate any progressive tendency, even less a revolutionary one. But Mandel attributed a progressive or semi-progressive character.
In their process of adaptation to bourgeois democracy, Euro-Communism rejected the expression “dictatorship of the proletariat”. They highlighted “democracy as a universal value” and actually defended bourgeois democracy, imperialist democracy, with arguments similar to Kautsky’s against the Bolsheviks in 1918-1920.
Mandel defended the expression “dictatorship of the proletariat” in a text entitled “Socialist Democracy and Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, further on adopted by the USEC congress. There, he claimed to defend it but actually yielded to Euro-Communist pressures. He ended by presenting a model of dictatorship of the proletariat that was a capitulation to Euro-Communism and Social Democracy. Once again, he adapted to the political phenomenon of the moment. Against this text, Moreno wrote, “Revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat”.
One must highlight that the USEC had now changed to whom they capitulated. Later on, it would become evident that the main pressures were from the European bourgeois democracy.
Nicaragua: Adaptation takes a leap and divides the USEC
A revolutionary process began in the late 1970s in Nicaragua and Central America. In 1979 in Nicaragua, a struggle process expanded within the country and in the cities. The Somoza dictatorship could not manage to resist the Sandinista Guerrilla, and the Armed Forces were dismissed. The FSLN entered Managua and seized power. Despite having power in their hands, the Sandinistas formed a government of “national unity” with Violeta Chamorro, Alfonso Robelo, etc., part of the bourgeois opposition.
The Morenist Current, then organized as FB within the USEC, organized the Simon Bolivar Brigade to fight in Nicaragua, with a public summoning by the Colombian PST that got to over 1000 enrollments. This brigade went to Nicaragua and participated in the armed struggle. After the defeat of the dictatorship, they established in the capital and defended the formation of independent unions, and criticized the participation of the bourgeoisie in the government.
On the other hand, the USEC supported the government, defending it as a “workers’ and peasants’ government”. Then, the FSLN arrested and expelled the members of the Simon Bolivar Brigade, turning them in to the Panama police that tortured them. The USEC sent a delegation to Nicaragua, which supported the government’s decision and did not defend the members of the Brigade. This was a qualitative element. Once again they supported petty-bourgeois leadership, classifying them as revolutionaries, but with two aggravations in principles and morals. In Nicaragua, they adopted the resolution not to build a Trotskyist organization in the country, nor in Cuba and El Salvador, because they claimed the existence of a revolutionary leadership. In moral grounds, they refused to defend the persecuted revolutionaries and supported their expulsion. Their shameful support to the FSLN reached this point.
Besides this moral and principle bankruptcy, they contradicted their own theses, “Socialist Democracy and Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. In less than a year, they rejected their theses about “socialist democracy” by supporting the decision of the FSLN to expel the revolutionary brigade because they wanted to intervene with a different policy in the Nicaraguan revolution. At this time, the FB split with the USEC.
There was a permanent trait in the path of capitulation. The Foundational Theses of the IWL defined, “In the course of this long march, each great event in class struggle (mainly each great revolutionary triumph of world dimensions) caused a tendency to adapt to the bureaucratic or nationalist leadership of the triumph in a sector of our movement.
The struggle for the building of an international revolutionary leadership implies the struggle for the destruction of all bureaucratic or nationalist leadership that compete with us in the heart of the masses. The process of building a revolutionary leadership means at the same time a ‘relentless war’ (as the Transitional Program rightly states) against all bureaucratic and/or petty bourgeois current in the mass movement.”
The Support of Gorbachev
Among the adaptation to leadership, not of revolutionary processes, but of reactionary ones, like restoration in the Soviet Union, Mandel and the USEC’s standing on the perestroika and Gorbachev’s glasnost stand out. Supposing that the bureaucracy could never restore capitalism, the USEC supported the pro-restoration wing, declaring it progressive because they were pro-democracy. Once again, they supported reactionary sectors in name of a supposed progressive wing. This time, it led to adapt to the new Kremlin leadership, which restored capitalism in the European East. They used democratic reaction and attracted the old left with Stalinist origin, which adapted worldwide.
From here on, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, the adaptation of the USEC increased more each time. No longer regarding the leadership of revolutionary processes but in accordance with the rest of the left, they adapted to the electoral phenomenon.