Socialist Equality Party (Australia)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Australia)

The World Perspectives of the ICFI

257. The publication of the ICFI’s Perspectives Resolution in August 1988 marked a critical turning point in the development of the ICFI as a unified world party. Grounded on the assimilation of the political lessons of the split of 1985–86 and on an analysis of the objective significance of changes in the structure of the world capitalist economy—above all the globalisation of production—it became the foundation for the development of perspectives resolutions in all the sections of the ICFI.

258. The resolution emphasised that “the revolutionary internationalism that constitutes the foundation of the International Committee’s perspective proceeds from a scientific appreciation of the international nature of the capitalist mode of production, the world dimensions of the capitalist crisis, and, above all, the nature of the proletariat itself as an international class.” It explained that the unity of the international working class was being strengthened by profound objective processes. The days when production was carried out within the framework of a given nation-state had passed. Every production process now combined the labour of workers in many different countries and regions. This, and the global mobility of capital, meant that all nationalist programs had become obsolete and reactionary. The old leaderships of the working class were repudiating “even the elementary conceptions that the proletariat exists as a distinct class in society and that it must defend its independent interests against capitalist exploitation”—giving rise to a universal phenomenon of “renunciationism”. The national programs of the labour bureaucracies were now aimed at the systematic lowering of workers’ living standards in order to strengthen the position of “their” capitalist country in the world market. The global character of production had sharpened the objective contradiction between the world economy and the nation-state system and had brought to the forefront sharp antagonisms between the imperialist powers.

259. “For these fundamental reasons,” the resolution continued, “no struggle against the ruling class in any country can produce enduring advances for the working class, let alone prepare its final emancipation, unless it is based on an international strategy aimed at the worldwide mobilization of the proletariat against the capitalist system. This necessary unification of the working class can only be achieved through the construction of a genuine international proletarian, i.e., revolutionary, party. Only one such party, the product of decades of unrelenting political and ideological struggle, exists. It is the Fourth International, founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938, and led today by the International Committee.”

260. In a section entitled “The International Committee and the Struggle for Marxism”, the resolution summed up the lessons of the struggle waged in the aftermath of the 1985–86 split to overcome the legacy of the WRP’s degeneration: “Revolutionary internationalism is the political antipode of opportunism. In one form or another, opportunism expresses a definite adaptation to the so-called realities of political life within a given national environment. Opportunism, forever in search of shortcuts, elevates one or other national tactic above the fundamental program of the world socialist revolution. Considering the program of ‘world socialist revolution’ too abstract, the opportunist hankers after supposedly more concrete tactical initiatives. Not only does the opportunist choose to ‘forget’ the international character of the working class. He also ‘overlooks’ the fact that the crisis in each country, having its essential origin in global contradictions, can only be resolved on the basis of an internationalist program. No national tactic, however significant its role in the political arsenal of the party (e.g., the Workers League’s call for the formation of a Labor Party, or the placing of demands on the Labor ‘lefts’ by the Socialist Labour League in Australia), can preserve its revolutionary content if it is elevated above or, what amounts to the same thing, detached from, the world strategy of the International Committee. Thus, the central historic contribution which the sections of the International Committee make to the workers’ movement in the countries in which they operate is the collective and unified struggle for the perspective of world socialist revolution.”[1]

261. In May 1989, at its first congress following the split, the SLL adopted a new perspectives resolution, Build the Fourth International. The most comprehensive document in the party’s 17-year history, it was grounded on the discussion in the International Committee during the preceding three years. The primary significance of the resolution was that it identified the central task of the Socialist Labour League as the fight for internationalism: to win Australian workers to the program and perspective of the International Committee, the program of world socialist revolution. The document incorporated the IC’s analysis of the intensification of the fundamental contradictions of capitalism and of the re-emergence of inter-imperialist antagonisms, and applied it to an historical assessment of the deepening crisis of Australian imperialism and its fundamental strategic dilemma—military and geo-political dependence on the US post-war alliance, on the one hand, and the new political obligations arising from the rapid development of its trade in Asia, on the other. The resolution made a thoroughgoing review of the experiences of the Australian working class with Laborism, Stalinism, trade unionism and their petty-bourgeois “left” defenders throughout the previous century, and emphasised the significance of the most recent experiences of workers under the Hawke-Keating Labor government. The SLL document advanced a political line, oriented to the working class, which provided a lever for mobilising it against the Laborites, on the basis of the fight for a workers’ government and a revolutionary socialist program, and for educating the most advanced layers of workers and young people in the treacherous role of the trade union and Labor “lefts”.


The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, Perspectives Resolution of the International Committee of the Fourth International, Labor Publications, Detroit, 1988, pp. 70-71.