International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International (1987): Documents of the Third Plenum of the ICFI


For an International Conference in 1987 for the Re-Organisation of the Fourth International

This statement was published by the British reengages of the Workers Revolutionary Party, the ICFI’s former British section, as it moved toward a fusion with the Moreonite Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) in Argentina, under the banner of the “reorganization” of the Fourth International. It is the subject of a reply, published in this volume of Fourth International, entitled, “No to Stalinism and the Popular Front! Build the Fourth International!”

The Workers Revolutionary Party proposes to all Trotskyists an international conference to discuss the responsibilities of Trotskyist organisations in resolving the continuing crisis of the Fourth International. The resolution of the crisis is an inescapable necessity and responsibility in the face of the decisive changes which have begun in the relationship of class forces on the world arena, changes embracing the political revolution in the degenerated and deformed workers’ states as well as the struggles of the working class and oppressed masses against imperialism in the advanced capitalist countries and in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.

It is these great changes which have both exposed clearly the nature of the crisis in the Fourth International and created the conditions for overcoming that same crisis.

The WRP does not in any way consider itself to be in any ‘privileged’ position in initiating the preparation of the International Conference. We make this call as the result of joint work and discussion with Trotskyists in a number of countries. In 1985 and 1986 the WRP experienced the practical and theoretical results of political degeneration and revisionism in the Fourth International in an extreme form. In rejecting the opportunist politics of Healy, Banda and the North fragment of the old International Committee, the WRP has been compelled to recognise the necessity of a return to fundamentals, to the continuity of the struggle of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, Bolshevism, the October Revolution, the Left Opposition, and the founding of the Fourth International. The explosion in the WRP was part of the historical crisis of working-class revolutionary leadership of the Fourth International. The crisis can be overcome only in that framework.

But the same mighty class forces which lay behind the explosion in the WRP dominate the development of all those organisations deriving from the Fourth International. The challenge is to overcome the isolation of the Trotskyist movement from the working class, as the working class now comes directly into conflict with the capitalist state, and with the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR and the deformed workers’ states. As it enters this stage of the world revolution, with the new generation of youth to the fore in both the capitalist countries and the degenerated and deformed workers’ states, the working class is forced to tackle the question of breaking from its treacherous reformist and Stalinist leaderships. Already these leaderships are undergoing profound crises and splits. Either they are successfully broken in these new and favourable conditions or they will once again viciously betray.

The split in the WRP concerned the most profound abuse of party members, the abandonment of political principles even to the point of betrayal, and the degeneration of Marxist ‘theory’ into a crude pragmatic apology for these practices. What became clear in a year of internal struggle on these principled questions was that the shell containing the internal corrosion and corruption of the WRP and the International Committee had been shattered totally by the demands of the miners’ strike of 1984-1985, the demands of the working class for revolutionary leadership as a new phase of the world revolution found its expression in Britain.

This is an indispensable lesson. The miners, in their unprecedented year-long strike, confronted directly the capitalist state. They were forced to return to work by the betrayals of the reformist bureaucracy and the Stalinists. Trade unionism had clearly reached its utmost limits. Revolutionary tasks were posed. Those who characterise the miners’ strike as a defeat for the working class, one of many such defeats, are wrong. The WRP was forced, in the struggle against Healy, Banda and North, to recognise that this upsurge of the working class in a situation with no way out except proletarian revolution and the successful struggle for revolutionary leadership, was the root of the WRP crisis; and that only by a revolutionary turn to these class forces, international forces, could our theory and practice be developed to overcome the crisis exposed by the struggle of the working class. This meant breaking with every vestige of ‘national Trotskyism’ and turning to the struggle to resolve the crisis of the Fourth International, at the level of international experience, past and present.

This dialectic is essentially international. We can find the resources to overcome the crisis only at the international level, through a cadre trained at the level of the struggle of all the forces now coming forward from fifty years of experience of the fight to build the Fourth International, against the Stalinist attempt to exterminate it and against the revisionist capitulations to that same Stalinism, capitulations which have always sought to liquidate the Fourth International.

In the advanced capitalist countries, the strike movement in France is a powerful continuation of the struggle taken up by the British miners. As soon as the French railway workers strike, they provoke a government crisis and a crisis for the Stalinist and reformist bureaucracy. The mass student demonstrations had already threatened the government, forced a retreat, and heralded a series of mass struggles in which the question of revolutionary leadership is the central one.

But these lightning flashes of revolutionary struggle come together with the new upsurge of the political revolution in Poland, the USSR, China and all countries in which the state power of the working class has been usurped by the Stalinist bureaucracy. There too it is the task of constructing an alternative revolutionary leadership to the Stalinists which predominates.

The workers of South Africa are facing the same necessity of the building of revolutionary proletarian leadership and breaking from the treacherous Stalinist and petty-bourgeois leaderships. In all Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, India and all south-east Asia, the limits of purely ‘national’ struggles for independence, balancing between imperialism and the reactionary Soviet bureaucracy, have now become thoroughly exposed in bitter experience.

It is because the working class is, in these struggles, at the first stage of a new rise of the world revolution, that the WRP crisis must now take its place as part of the struggle to overcome the long-drawn-out crisis of the Fourth International. The working class, characterised by revisionists and centrists as being quiescent or in retreat, is in fact out in front of the conscious struggle to rebuild the Fourth International. This poses urgently to all Trotskyists the historic responsibility of overcoming the crisis of the Fourth International. This requires an intensive struggle to clarify the present tasks of Trotskyism, the nature of the objective situation, and the balance-sheet of our past experiences in the material context of the international class struggle in its development. This is the basis of the necessary development of the theoretical positions of our movement. We propose an International Conference as a necessary step in that process, from which the urgent task of re-organisation of the Fourth International can go forward on a principled foundation. This is the process which was begun by the International Committee in 1953.

We consider that the political fight for this reorganisation starts from the following principles, and these we will fight to defend and develop before and during the Conference.

1. The resolutions and theses of the first four Congresses of the Third (Communist) International in all its essential strategic principles, in relation to: imperialism, the bourgeois state, democracy and reformism; problems of the taking of power and the dictatorship of the proletariat; the leading role of the proletariat in relation to the peasantry and struggles of the oppressed masses; soviets; work in trade unions; parliamentarism; united front policy.

2. The Transitional Programme and the Founding Conference of the Fourth International, based on the development of Bolshevik organisation and programme, made necessary by the ‘definitive passage of Stalinism to the side of the bourgeois order.’ We reaffirm on this basis the necessity of building the Fourth International, in opposition to all those who pronounce the Fourth International dead and proclaim the need for a ‘Fifth’ or ‘new’ International. The continuity of the Fourth International has been a contradictory process, but it consists in the struggle for the continuity of Bolshevism against Stalinism, and against the liquidationist revisionism which has transmitted this Stalinist pressure into the Trotskyist movement. The same struggle has been necessary against liquidationism into social-democracy and petty-bourgeois national movements. Social democracy has only retained any force in the working-class movement because of the destruction of the Communist International by Stalinism.

3. The theory of permanent revolution, with the hegemony of the proletariat as its essential content. This means the leadership of the working class in the revolution in countries where revolutionary-democratic tasks are posed, as well as in the advanced capitalist countries and the degenerated and deformed workers’ states. It means that the democratic revolution ‘grows over’ into the socialist revolution under proletarian leadership. It means the recognition that the taking of working-class power in any country is the basis of a social formation which is transitional to socialism, a transition which requires the victory of the socialist revolution in a number of advanced capitalist countries. It means leadership of the working class by Bolshevik-type parties. It means rejection of revisionist theories which give priority to the national revolutionary struggles in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, or which have a perspective of different ‘epicentres’ of the world revolution—‘sectors’ of the world revolution with separate programmes.

4. Defence of the conquests of the 1917 October revolution. Defence of the USSR and defence of the states of Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, etc., against imperialism and capitalist restoration. Definition of the USSR as a degenerated workers’ state and of the Eastern European states, China and Vietnam as deformed workers’ states. (The WRP’s position on Cuba to be urgently reviewed). These states are not identified in their class nature with the Stalinist bureaucracy. This bureaucracy has no ‘dual nature’ but is parasitic on the workers’ state and is ‘counter-revolutionary through and through.’