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

The Third Congress of the ICFI

157. In April 1966, the International Committee held its Third World Congress with the aim of consolidating the existing forces of Trotskyism and laying the foundations for constructing parties throughout the world. But the congress itself became an arena of struggle against two tendencies that had been invited to attend, in order to determine whether principled political collaboration with them was possible—Voix Ouvrière from France and Robertson’s Spartacist tendency. Both groups rejected the significance the International Committee placed on the struggle against Pabloism, with Robertson dismissing what he insisted was a dispute between small groups, with no real consequence for the working class. Against this, the International Committee insisted in the aftermath of the congress:

“The first prerequisite is to grasp that the fight against Pabloism was a fight to develop Marxism and at the same time to defend every past conquest of Marxist theory…. The 1966 Conference of the IC expressed this clearly in insisting that the IC, through its struggle inside the FI, represented the continuity of the movement. Against Voix Ouvrière and Robertson, we insisted that only in the fight against Pabloism had Marxists preserved and developed the theory of the revolutionary party, of Bolshevism.”[1]

158. The congress revealed that positions similar to Robertson’s were emerging within the International Committee, evincing a political scepticism in the viability of the Fourth International following the break with the Pabloites. The French section, the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste (OCI), had supported the SLL against Robertson and Voix Ouvrière, but argued that the Fourth International had to be “reconstructed.” By 1967, it was to press for the International Committee to concentrate its energies on forging “united fronts” with other left forces. In response, the SLL issued a prescient warning to the OCI leadership:

“Now the radicalisation of the workers in Western Europe is proceeding rapidly, particularly in France.… There is always a danger at such a stage of development that a revolutionary party responds to the situation in the working class not in a revolutionary way, but by adaptation to the level of struggle to which the workers are restricted by their own experience under the old leaderships, i.e., to the inevitable initial confusion. Such revisions of the fight for the independent Party and the Transitional Programme are usually dressed up in the disguise of getting closer to the working class, unity with all those in struggle, not posing ultimatums, abandoning dogmatism, etc.”[2]

159. This warning went unheeded. Instead, the demand for the “Reconstruction of the Fourth International” became the means through which the OCI distanced itself from the International Committee. Flowing from the revolutionary events of the May-June 1968 General Strike, the OCI experienced a period of growth for the first time in decades. It responded to the opportunities presented, however, with a deepening orientation to reformist and Pabloite forces. During the strike, the OCI pursued an essentially syndicalist line, failing to conduct a political struggle against the French Communist Party and the trade union bureaucracy. It never called for the bringing down of the Gaullist government and the establishment of a workers’ government pledged to socialist policies. From 1968, it was involved in manoeuvres with future president Francois Mitterrand to establish the French Socialist Party. Amongst those working to facilitate this alliance was the future prime minister, Lionel Jospin.


Trotskyism Versus Revisionism (1975), New Park Publications, Volume 5, p. 111.


ibid. pp. 113-114.