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

The Third Congress of the ICFI

In the aftermath of the reunification, the ICFI had to assess the lessons of the struggle against Pabloism and its objective significance. The International Committee held its Third World Congress in April 1966 to consolidate the forces of World Trotskyism and lay the foundations for constructing Trotskyist parties throughout the world. The Congress resolution pointed to the contradictions within world imperialism and the signs of a decline of the postwar boom. It noted:

Imperialism is in a deepening crisis. The development of the productive forces during and since World War Two, particularly the production of nuclear weapons and the introduction of automation, strains to breaking point the conflict between the productive forces and capitalist property relations. The struggles produced by this contradiction radicalize the working class youth. The parties of the Fourth International will be built through these struggles.

The Congress resolution emphasized the objective role of Pabloite revisionism in blocking the revolutionary upsurge of the working class:

Revisionism, which separates into distinct sectors the revolution in the advanced countries, the “colonial revolution,” and the political revolution in the workers’ states, is a most important cover for capitalist domination of the workers’ movement and for obstructing the construction of revolutionary parties. This revisionism is expressed particularly in the theory and practice of the self-styled Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International, which was formed without discussion of theoretical and political questions. The next phase in the building of the Fourth International must on the contrary be accompanied by a most serious theoretical discussion in all sections of the policies and theory of the movement, past and present.[1]

The International Committee stressed the necessity of basing the development of the Fourth International on the lessons of past struggles. It also insisted that the fight against Pabloite revisionism was a politically and theoretically decisive element of the history of the Fourth International—not a diversion from other, more important, tasks of party building. It was precisely in the persistent struggle against the revision of Marxism that the Trotskyist movement fought the ideological pressures exerted by the bourgeoisie and developed its revolutionary perspective. This conception of the historical and political implications of the struggle against revisionism was opposed by two tendencies that had been invited to the Third Congress, in order to determine whether principled political collaboration was possible—Voix Ouvrière and James Robertson’s Spartacist tendency. In both cases, it proved not to be possible.

According to these groups, the ICFI vastly overestimated the significance of Pabloism and the political struggles within the Fourth International. Robertson declared at the 1966 conference:

We take issue with the notion that the present crisis of capitalism is so sharp and deep that Trotskyist revisionism is needed to tame the workers, in a way comparable to the degeneration of the Second and Third Internationals. Such an erroneous estimation would have as its point of departure an enormous overestimation of our present significance, and would accordingly be disorienting.[2]

All that divides Marxism, theoretically and politically, from petty-bourgeois radicalism was summed up in this statement. In essence, Robertson denied the objective social and political significance of the conflict within the Fourth International. The lessons of Lenin’s struggle to build the Bolshevik Party in the struggle against revisionism, and, later, of Trotsky’s struggle against Stalinism and various forms of centrism, were ignored. The struggle against Pabloism within the Fourth International—so clearly connected to major political and social processes in the aftermath of World War II—was derided by Robertson as a subjectively-motivated squabble between various individuals. And Robertson’s evaluation came less than two years after the entry of the LSSP into a bourgeois coalition government!


“Resolution of the Third World Conference, April 8, 1966,” in: Trotskyism Versus Revisionism, Volume 5 (London: New Park Publications, 1975), pp. 25-27.


“Spartacist Statement to the International Conference,” Marxist Internet Archivehttp://www.marxistsfr.org/history/etol/document/icl-spartacists/1986/1966conf.html