The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

League of Socialist Workers (BSA) Affirms Principles of Trotskyism

February 2, 1986

1. The Central Committee of the League of Socialist Workers, the German section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, supports the letter of the Central Committee of the Workers League of January 27.

2. We adhere to the view that the content of the two resolutions passed by the Central Committee of the WRP on January 26 is incompatible with membership in the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Not only does the majority of the CC of the WRP reject the authority and discipline of the IC, it also breaks with all the historical and political gains won in the struggle against Pabloism and the revisionism of the SWP and the OCI.

Hence, the acceptance or any kind of compromise with these two resolutions can only mean the destruction of the IC and its sections and signify a historic betrayal of the working class.

We urgently call upon every member of the WRP to repudiate these resolutions and warn that anything else will inevitably lead to split.

The League of Socialist Workers is not prepared to take the path of betrayal and allow the heritage of generations of revolutionary fighters to be sacrificed on the eve of the greatest revolutionary class confrontations.

What We Defend and What We Stand For

3. The Fourth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution, exists and struggles today in the form of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Outside the cadres of the International Committee of the Fourth International—as Trotsky stressed in The Transitional Program—“there does not exist a single revolutionary current on this planet really meriting the name.” (The Transitional Program, Labor Publications, 1981, p.42)

The strength of the Fourth International, declared Trotsky in 1938, consists in “its doctrine, program, tradition, in the incomparable tempering of its cadres” (Ibid.). If the IC today can lay claim to embodying the leadership of the Fourth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution, it is precisely because only it has defended this doctrine, this program, this tradition against all those who have betrayed revolutionary Marxism and crossed over to the camp of the class enemy.

Can the fact that the most prominent leaders of the struggle against revisionism in the 1950s and 1960s have degenerated in any way diminish the historical significance of the struggles they waged in the past? To assert this is itself a rejection of Marxism, which understands political struggles always as an expression of the class struggle. Consequently, these struggles always have an objective class content, which exists independently of the individuals fighting them out.

Did Lenin, when some of the most outstanding Marxists of his time, such as Plekhanov or Kautsky, whom he respected and admired as teachers, betrayed their own principles, conclude that it was necessary to place a question mark over Marxism itself? Or to conduct a “public discussion” with those who had previously betrayed Marxism?

On the contrary, he counterposed their honorable past to their present disgraceful renegacy and intensified the struggle against all renegacy, and on this foundation trained the cadre which was to lead the October Revolution to victory and was to construct the Communist International as the revolutionary world party, winning millions to its banner.

In the same way, the IC can today defend past conquests only in struggle and turn its cadre to overcoming the damage which the nationalist degeneration of the WRP leadership has wrought among its ranks and take a decisive step toward educating its cadre to lead the enormous class battles now before us.

Those who are not ready to defend the gains of the past will never be able to conquer the future.

Far from engaging in “discussions” with “all those who are for The Transitional Program,” that is, with all the revisionists who have long since betrayed in theory and practice and are in part direct agents of the imperialist state, the task before us is to take up the struggle against revisionism with renewed energy.

In fact, it was precisely their abandonment of this struggle that led Healy, Slaughter and Banda to capitulate to the same class forces that Pablo did at the end of the ‘40s, Cannon in the ‘50s and Lambert in the ‘60s.

Contrary to the contention of those who betrayed the principles for which they once fought, their betrayal was not capable of destroying the International Committee of the Fourth International.

In its present form the IC embodies the enormous theoretical heritage which generations of revolutionaries—all the way back to Marx and Engels—have handed down in a lifetime of struggle. Nothing shows more clearly the extent of the degeneration of Banda and Slaughter than their scorn for the tens of thousands who have given their lives in the battle for Trotskyism.

Today we stand on the shoulders of these generations and that gives us confidence that we shall resolve the historical crisis of proletarian leadership and assurance in the victory of the world socialist revolution.

What Are the Principles Which We Defend?

4. In a sharp struggle against the various schools of petty-bourgeois socialism Marx and Engels worked out the theory and tactics of revolutionary proletarian socialism in 1840s. In February 1848 they presented the new world outlook in the Communist Manifesto:

“With the clarity and brilliance of genius, this work outlines a new world-conception, consistent materialism, which also embraces the realm of social life; dialectics, as the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development; the theory of the class struggle and of the world-historic revolutionary role of the proletariat—the creator of a new, communist society, “as Lenin summed up its content in the article “Karl Marx.” (Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 21, Progress Publishers, p.48)

The Manifesto had only just been printed when it experienced its baptism of fire. The Revolution of 1848-49 swept over Europe and Marx and Engels decisively participated in it through the establishment and issuance of the daily Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Their theory was brilliantly confirmed by the course of events.

By a concrete analysis of the lessons of the Revolution of 1848-49 Marx was in a position to determine the task of the working class with respect to the capitalist state apparatus far more precisely than was possible in the Communist Manifesto. The working class can not conquer or take over this state. It must smash it and erect its own state, the dictatorship of the proletariat: “all previous revolutions perfected the state machine, whereas it must be broken, smashed,”

was Lenin’s summary of Marx’s conclusion in State and Revolution. (Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 25, Progress Publishers p.406)

5. Based on the revival of new class struggles in Europe the First International was founded in 1864. Its head and soul was Karl Marx. The great achievement of this period was Marx’s theoretical and practical unmasking of all pre-Marxist and nonproletarian socialist currents—the anarchism of Bakunin, the state socialism of Lassalle. the Utopian socialism of Proudhon and English liberal trade unionism. In this way the foundation for the construction of social democratic mass parties, firmly anchored in Marxism, was created.

The high point of the period of the First International was the Paris Commune, the first purely proletarian revolution in history. Its historical significance, despite the final defeat and slaughter of thousands of revolutionaries, cannot be overestimated.

Without the innumerable lessons of the Paris Commune the victory of the October Revolution would have been inconceivable. The Paris Commune not only confirmed Marx’s theory that the proletariat must smash the bourgeois state and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, it also showed for the first time under what form this must happen:

“The Commune is the form ‘at last discovered’ by the proletarian revolution, under which the economic emancipation of labor can take place.

“The Commune is the first attempt by a proletarian revolution to smash the bourgeois state machine; and it is the political form ‘at last discovered’, by which the smashed state machine can and must be replaced.” (Lenin, State and Revolution, Collected Works Vol. 25, Progress Publishers, p.432)

6. Lenin based himself in 1902 on the totality of the achievements of Marxism when, in a new epoch, the epoch of imperialism, of the death agony of capitalism, he laid the foundations for the Bolshevik Party.

The parasitic character of imperialism created the material prerequisites for the formation of a small but privileged labor aristocracy and the complete passage of the opportunists in the labor movement into the camp of the bourgeoisie. Hence, Lenin in What is to be Done? insisted on the sharpest ideological and organizational demarcation against opportunism.

He stressed the existence of but two ideologies—bourgeois and socialist—standing in irreconcilable antagonism to one another. He determined the task of the revolutionary party to be the “struggle against spontaneity,” against “the spontaneous development of the working-class movement” which “leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology ...” (Lenin What is to be Done? Collected Works Vol. 5, Progress Publishers, p.384)

He insisted that—in the words of Kautsky—“socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without...” (Ibid.) and not something that can spontaneously arise from within it.

Upon this basis he developed the plan of a centralized cadre party, which carries out its democratically arrived-at decisions in a disciplined manner, and of a Marxist paper as the collective propagandist, agitator, and organizer of the party.

At the second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party Lenin split with all those who were not prepared to submit to a centralized party which was built “from the top down.”

The victory of the October Revolution of 1917 was a brilliant confirmation of the correctness of Lenin’s struggle. All those who rejected Bolshevism finally wound up on the other side of the barricades.

Since then every revisionist tendency has been forced to attack the foundations of the Leninist party concept; and the renegades of the WRP have already shown in practice that they are no exception to this law.

7. The Third, the Communist International, accepted into its ranks only those parties constructed according to the principle of democratic centralism. The 21 “Conditions for Admission to the Communist International” passed at its Second Congress of the Comintern, basing itself on the lessons of the October Revolution, established the requirements for a genuine communist party in full detail.

The first four Congresses of the Communist International elaborated extremely rich material on strategy and tactics of the communist parties, based on the experiences of the heroic struggles of hundreds of thousands of revolutionary workers in Germany and many other countries.

8. When in the first workers’ state of the world a bureaucratic degeneration set in as a result of the pressure and isolation imposed by imperialism, which also had its effect on the leadership of the Communist International, the International Left Opposition led by Trotsky undertook the task of defending and developing this heritage.

Against the fundamental nationalist revision of Marxism in Stalin’s theory of building “socialism in one country,” Trotsky defended and developed the perspectives, strategy and tactics of the socialist world revolution in his theory of the Permanent Revolution.

At the same time he made a Marxist analysis of the degeneration of the first workers’ state and developed the perspective of the political revolution and overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy by the working class. The Soviet Union, according to Trotsky, is a degenerated workers’ state, which must be defended against imperialism by the working class of the entire world.

However, this defense of the Soviet Union is inseparable from the struggle for the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy and for the socialist world revolution.

From the defeat of the German working class in 1933, for which the Stalinist KPD (German Communist Party) was responsible, and the inability of the Communist International to draw any lessons from it, Trotsky drew the conclusion that the Third International, as in 1914 the Second International, had gone over completely into the camp of counterrevolution, and he began the struggle for the Fourth International.

In this struggle Trotsky had especially to confront the centrists, who like Deutscher (and today Slaughter and Banda) claim that the founding of the Fourth International was premature because it had not arisen from great battles of the working class. Trotsky answered them in The Transitional Program.

“Skeptics ask: But has the moment for the creation of the Fourth International yet arrived? It is impossible, they say, to create an International ‘artificially’; it can arise only out of great events, etc., etc. All these objections merely show that skeptics are no good for the building of a new International. They are good for scarcely anything at all.

“The Fourth International has already arisen out of great events: the greatest defeats of the proletariat in history. The cause for these defeats is to be found in the degeneration and perfidy of the old leadership. The class struggle does not tolerate an interruption. The Third International, following the Second, is dead for purposes of revolution. Long live the Fourth International!” (The Transitional Program, p.42)

9. The founding program of the Fourth International, The Transitional Program, is permeated with the spirit of irreconcilability to reformism, Stalinism, opportunism and centrism. Far from being a mere recitation of demands—as it is treated by the revisionists, who are “in favor of the Transitional Program”—it places at the very center the resolution of the “historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat,” that is, the selection and training of a tempered Marxist cadre.

10. The International Committee of the Fourth International was founded in 1953 to defend the Fourth International against the revisionism of Pablo.

Pablo abandoned the conception of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky concerning the decisive role of the subjective factor, of the revolutionary party, in the proletarian revolution, in favor of a vulgar, mechanical theory of the relationship between the material base of society and its superstructure.

While on the one side he transformed the class struggle into a series of “objective processes” in which Trotskyist leadership played not the slightest role, and spoke of “a process of the socialist revolution that could not be reversed”—on the other hand, he developed the perspective of “centuries of degenerated workers’ states,” which expressed his pessimism in the revolutionary role of the working class.

On the basis of his mechanical conception, Pablo declared that under the pressure of the masses the Stalinist bureaucracy would reform itself and finally, flowing from this, denied any justification for any further independent existence of the Trotskyist movement.

While a section of his supporters drew practical consequences from this liquidationist perspective and deserted to the Stalinist parties, for the rest of the Pabloite revisionists it became the starting point for finding among students and intellectuals and later petty-bourgeois nationalists a substitute for the revolutionary role of the working class.

The break with Pabloite revisionism through the “Open Letter” on November 16, 1953 was a decisive step in defending the Fourth International against its destruction. In their “Open Letter” the SWP summarized “the fundamental principles upon which the world Trotskyist movement is built” once again:

“1. The death agony of the capitalist system threatens the destruction of civilization through worsening depressions, world wars and barbaric manifestations like fascism. The development of atomic weapons today underlines the danger in the gravest possible way.

“2. The descent into the abyss can be avoided only by replacing capitalism with the planned economy of socialism on a world scale and thus resuming the spiral of progress opened up by capitalism in its early days.

“3. This can be accomplished only under the leadership of the working class in society. But the working class itself faces a crisis in leadership although the world relationship of social forces was never so favorable as today for the workers to take the road to power.

“4. To organize itself for carrying out this world-historic aim, the working class in each country must construct a revolutionary socialist party in the pattern developed by Lenin; that is, a combat party capable of dialectically combining democracy and centralism—democracy in arriving at decisions, centralism in carrying them out; a leadership controlled by the ranks, ranks able to carry forward under fire in disciplined fashion.

“5. The main obstacle to this is Stalinism, which attracts workers through exploiting the prestige of the October 1917 Revolution in Russia, only later, as it betrays their confidence, to hurl them either into the arms of the Social Democracy, into apathy or back into illusions in capitalism. The penalty for these betrayals is paid by the working people in the form of consolidation of fascist or monarchist forces, and new outbreaks of war fostered and prepared by capitalism. From its inception, the Fourth International set as one of its major tasks the revolutionary overthrow of Stalinism inside and outside the USSR.

“6. The need for flexible tactics facing many sections of the Fourth International, and parties or groups sympathetic to its program, makes it all the more imperative that they know how to fight imperialism and all its petty-bourgeois agencies (such as nationalist formations or trade union bureaucracies) without capitulation to Stalinism; and, conversely, know how to fight Stalinism (which in the final analysis is a petty-bourgeois agency of imperialism) without capitulating to imperialism.” ( Trotskyism versus Revisionism—A Documentary History, Vol. 1, New Park Publications, pp. 299-300)

11. Soon after the split with the Pabloites the leadership of the SWP began to surrender to the same class pressure to which Pablo had capitulated. In the struggle against an unprincipled reunification with the Pabloites, today’s renegades of the WRP made some of their most important contributions to building the Fourth International.

In a letter of the National Committee of the SLL (Socialist Labour League of Britain) to the National Committee of the SWP, Cliff Slaughter wrote on January 2, 1961:

“It is because of the magnitude of the opportunities opening up before Trotskyism, and therefore the necessity for political and theoretical clarity, that we urgently require a drawing of the lines against revisionism in all its forms. It is time to draw to a close the period in which Pabloite revisionism was regarded as a trend within Trotskyism.Unless this is done we cannot prepare for the revolutionary struggles now beginning.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. 3, p.49)

In another letter of May 8, 1961 the SLL warns the SWP of the increasing Pabloite tendencies within its ranks: “All along it is the conscious role of the revolutionary party—the vital aspect that is omitted.” (Ibid., p. 64)

In the same letter the SLL criticizes the increasing adaptation of the SWP to the petty-bourgeois leadership of Fidel Castro in Cuba. As regards the position of Trotskyists to such petty-bourgeois nationalists it writes:

“Following Marx, we say: support the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties insofar as they help strike common blows against our enemy, oppose them on every issue in which they want to stabilize their own conditions of existence and their own rule. ... It is not the job of Trotskyists to boost the role of such nationalist leaders.

“But, for us, in every case the vital question is one of the working class in these countries gaining political independence through a Marxist party, leading the poor peasantry to the building of Soviets, and recognizing the necessary connections with the international socialist revolution. In no case, in our opinion, should Trotskyists substitute for that the hope that the nationalist leadership should become socialists. “(Ibid., pp. 64-65)

The document “Problems of the Fourth International and the Next Steps,” which the Political Committee of the SWP adopted in June 1962 marks its final capitulation to Pabloism. The SLL answered:

“The connection between the revisionism of the Pabloites and of the SWP leadership on the one hand, and the fight to build revolutionary parties, is not an abstract one; this revisionism represents a definite offensive against revolutionary Marxism, in line with the interests of imperialism, which needs above all to prevent the new upsurge of the working class from finding a conscious expression and leadership. “{Ibid., p. 239)

The revisionism of the SWP had devastating consequences. It led to the liquidation of the once strongest section of the Fourth International, with deep roots in the working class, into the petty-bourgeois milieu of protest and opened the door to a flood of state agents into its leadership. (See Security and the Fourth International.)

The Workers League came into being in the US in a struggle against this betrayal by the SWP.

The SLL emerged strengthened from this struggle, won over the youth organization of the Labour Party and thus laid the cornerstone for the publication of the first Trotskyist daily newspaper.

The reunification of the SWP with the Pabloites in 1963 exacted an exorbitant price: in Ceylon the Pabloite LSSP in 1964 entered into the bourgeois coalition government of Mrs. Bandaranaike. For the first time in history a party which called itself Trotskyist had placed ministers into a bourgeois government.

The International Committee of the Fourth International on July 5, 1964 declared:

“The entry of the LSSP members into the Bandaranaike coalition marks the end of a whole epoch of the evolution of the Fourth International. It is in direct service to imperialism, in the preparation of a defeat for the working class that revisionism in the world Trotskyist movement has found its expression.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. 4, p.255)

The responsibility for this is borne by the revisionist United Secretariat and the SWP, who had covered up the class betrayal in Ceylon by their unprincipled reunification. This betrayal opened the road for the bloody suppression of the JVP uprising of youth, causing the death of thousands of revolutionary young people.

12. The third world congress of the International Committee of the Fourth International in April 1966 turned into a violent battle against a new version of Pabloite liquidationism. This was expressed by two groups who had been invited to the conference as observers: the French Voix Ouvriere and the American Robertson (Spartacist) group.

Both of them were ready for “unity” with the IC, but only under condition that the IC make a prior declaration that Pablo had destroyed the Fourth International, that is, that it write off its entire history. When this was declined both groups left the conference. They represented a thoroughly petty bourgeois anti-internationalist tendency which rejected a centralized International and was only prepared to accept a centrist International lacking any inner discipline.

13. The principal struggle at the third world conference of the IC against the petty bourgeois, nationalist position of the French Voix Ouvriere and the Robertson group was to prepare all sections of the IC for the new tasks facing them in the class struggle.

The growing strike movement in all industrial nations along with the anti-Vietnam war movement in the US and in other countries, the radicalization of big layers of petty-bourgeois youth at the universities and the intensifying, ever more powerful resistance against the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Eastern European workers’ states, all these created everywhere extremely favorable conditions for the building of the IC.

Instead of intervening on a principled basis in this movement and training a cadre, the leadership of the French OCI adapted to the radicalized moods of the petty bourgeois youth and attacked the Marxist principles of the IC in a sectarian manner.

The OCI declared that the Fourth International was destroyed by Pablo as the World Party of Socialist Revolution and had to be “rebuilt.” It transformed the Marxist tactic of the United Front into a “strategy of the united class front,” in order to conclude a centrist alliance with all so-called natural Marxists or “revolutionary organizers of the class” and rejected the centralist, that is the Bolshevik character of the world party.

In June 1967, scarcely a year before the general strike of the French working class, the central committee of the SLL warned the leadership of the OCI that an abandonment of the revolutionary principles of the IC and a return to Pabloite revisionism could only lead to the betrayal of the working class.

Under the heading “The Fourth International Is Not Dead” the declaration of the SLL states:

“Having insisted ... on the continuity of the Fourth International, rejecting the formula ‘The Fourth International is dead’ as a middle-class, pessimistic rejection of the revolutionary role of the working class and of revolutionary consciousness, we went on to formulate in the Commission on the tasks of the International Committee, the central principles of the type of Party we build, a Bolshevik Party.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. 5, p.l13)

Further down the SLL described the rapid radicalization of the working class in Western Europe, especially in France, and stressed:

“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.” (Ibid., pp. 113-114)

The OCI leadership rejected this principled criticism and during the general strike in May-June 1968 adapted completely to the spontaneous movement, refused to struggle for transitional demands in the working class, and thus covered up the betrayal of the Stalinists and Socialists.

Afterwards the degeneration of the OCI developed at a rapid tempo. In the summer of 1971, acting on the initiative of the OCI, the IC organized a youth assembly in Essen, at which the French openly allied themselves with all the revisionists and centrists against the SLL-YS (British section of the IC and its youth organization).

It voted against an amendment to the Essen Resolution brought in by the SLL-YS, in which it was stressed, “There could be no revolutionary party without revolutionary theory” and that “Revolutionary youth everywhere must devote themselves above all to the task of developing Marxist theory through the struggle against bourgeois ideology in all the forms it takes in the workers’ movement.” [Ibid., p. 194)

The OCI then split from the IC.

14. At the center of the renegacy of the WRP leadership is the abandonment of precisely those principles for which it had fought for decades. In its practice and perspectives there appeared increasingly since the middle of the 1970s those Pabloite positions which it had in the past so energetically fought.

In July 1962 the SLL had attacked the SWP because it had characterized the Evian Agreement as “a major victory for the Arab revolution” and declared:

‘No attempt whatever is made at any general evaluation of this new animal, the ‘Arab revolution’. Instead of a concrete analysis of the Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi experiences, we have acceptance at face value of the claims of the Arab leaders themselves. Meanwhile their jails remain full of communists and militant workers.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. 3, pp. 250-251)

Fourteen years later, in April 1976 the WRP leadership concluded a secret and completely unprincipled alliance with the Libyan government, which was the start of an unprincipled relationship, lasting for years, with the Arab colonial bourgeoisie, in which the task of building Trotskyist parties in the Arab countries was absolutely given up and the Arab working class was betrayed.

At the 8th World Congress of the IC in January 1980 the IC was degraded by G. Healy to a “nucleus” of the World Party of Socialist Revolution. That reflected the growing nationalism of the WRP leadership and its increasing concentration on nonproletarian forces outside the IC.

In Great Britain it capitulated to centrists and left-reformists like Scargill, Livingstone and Knight, while its nationalist practice led to severe obstruction or even destruction of entire sections of the International Committee.

Especially since the victory of the bourgeois Iranian Revolution there appeared in the perspective documents of the WRP and of the IC ever more clearly Pabloite perspectives about “objective processes.”

This found its high point in the perspectives document with its metaphysical schema of a worldwide, homogeneous revolutionary situation, which the WRP dictated to the 10th World Congress. In this document there was not even an attempt made to analyze the concrete situation in individual countries and give an actual orientation for the building of sections.

At its session of October 25, 1985 the IC decisively rejected this degeneration, expelled the most prominent leader, G. Healy, for misuse of his authority, and made clear that it would no longer tolerate the nationalism of the WRP. Only those who subordinate themselves to the IC of the FI and its authority can remain members of the IC and its sections.

All those who agreed to the resolutions of the CC of the WRP of January 26, 1986 and rejected the authority of the IC have thereby made it clear that they want to take the road of Pabloite degeneration and of betrayal of the working class and have placed themselves outside the IC.