Reforge the Fourth International!
Internationalist Group Founded
The following is the initial section of the founding statement of the Internationalist Group, approved on 24 August 1996 and finalized on 31 August 1996.
The purge of longtime leading cadres by the International Communist League on June 8 and its breaking of fraternal relations with the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil little over a week later, as the ICL fled from a struggle over the state (cops out of the union) which it had encouraged, signal a rightist departure for the organization which for more than three decades has represented the political continuity of revolutionary Trotskyism internationally. These two events are directly related: the bureaucratic expulsions were in part to get rid of an obstacle to the breaking of relations with the LQB and the flagrant desertion under fire in a key class battle that this represented. Taken together, they are an indication that the new leadership of the [ICL’s] International Secretariat is moving toward centrism, in glaring contradiction to the Marxist program the ICL still formally upholds.
The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union was a major defeat for the world proletariat. Yet the defeatist conclusions the ICL leadership has drawn from this are an echo of the bourgeoisie’s “death of communism” campaign. These erroneous conclusions are in line with the tendency of the “new I.S.” to retreat from the class struggle and adopt a policy of passive propagandism. As noted in our July 1996 bulletin, From a Drift Toward Abstentionism to Desertion from the Class Struggle, the present period is “marked by a bourgeois offensive against the working class, but is also a period of turbulent proletarian struggles that can pass from the defensive to the offensive. The key, as always, is the fight to forge a revolutionary leadership.”
In the course of carrying out its turn, the “new I.S.” has had to trample on the Spartacist norms of democratic centralism, even directly violating the statutes of the Spartacist League/U.S. (disregarding rules for party trials, introducing “committee discipline” for members of leading bodies, declaring null and void the confidentiality of private communication between comrades), while carrying out a deeply destructive purge over the false fights it waged in Germany and Mexico and its headlong flight from the class battle in Brazil. As explained in the documents of our bulletin, the ICL leadership has simultaneously begun to adopt openly revisionist positions on fundamental questions such as the nature of Stalinism and the character of the revolutionary party.
We have fought against this turn, and would be doing so today in the ranks of the ICL were it not for our expulsion, which had the character of a preemptive strike to forestall a factional struggle. (While cynically citing in ex post facto justification of the expulsions the fact that we did not form a faction, at the time the I.S. in fact took a series of steps to limit and cut off discussion of our documents.) As members and leaders of the ICL we clearly stated to the membership the extent of our agreements and disagreements, noting that we had not been allowed the time necessary for far-reaching discussions necessary to form a faction before being hit with, and having to fight against, the avalanche of organizational measures in the political purge. Since being peremptorily removed from the ranks of the party by bureaucratic fiat, and particularly following the I.S.’ dramatic fleeing from the class struggle in Brazil, we have analyzed the origins and meaning of this sharp turn to the right.
In addition to documenting and analyzing these fights and recording the degeneration that is well under way in the ICL leadership, it is necessary to undertake the struggle for a new leadership that continues the fight, begun by the Spartacist tendency, to reforge an authentically Trotskyist Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution. The central thesis of the 1938 Transitional Program of the FI fully retains its validity today: “The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.... the crisis of the proletarian leadership, having become the crisis in mankind’s culture, can be resolved only by the Fourth International.” It is our conclusion that the present leadership of the ICL has shown – by its erratic course, its cynical use of lies, slander and now agent-baiting, and by its abandonment of a key class battle in Brazil – that it is incapable of pursuing a coherent revolutionary policy, much less leading a proletarian revolution. As part of the fight to overcome the crisis of leadership by constructing the indispensable instrument for the workers’ victory in the class struggle, the Leninist party, we hereby form the Internationalist Group while seeking to cohere a Fourth Internationalist league with cothinkers in other countries.
The IG fights to cohere the nucleus of the revolutionary party which must be built as the leadership of the working class. This must be a party of professional revolutionaries, as defined by Lenin in What Is To Be Done? which seeks to fuse together the most advanced elements of the working class with declassed intellectuals. Fighting to build the communist leadership of the proletariat, it must act as the “tribune of the people,” the champion of all the oppressed against the capitalist-imperialist oppressors. A socialist fight against special oppression must include a concerted effort to win the best fighters from among the oppressed to the proletarian cause. In contrast with the new line of the ICL leadership, which sees “party-building” as a task to be pursued while self-consciously standing apart from and even withdrawing from the workers’ struggles – counseling the LQB to “pull our hands out of the boiling water” of the class struggle! – we hold with Lenin and Trotsky that this party must be built as the vanguard of the class. The I.S.’ conception that a group of experienced class-struggle militants such as the Brazilian LQB, “as former leaders of mass workers’ organizations at the local level,” could not possibly accept the ICL’s program testifies in fact to a profound loss of confidence in the Trotskyist program by key elements of the ICL leadership. The IG must combine theoretical struggle to defend and extend the Marxist program with fighting to provide leadership commensurate with its real capacities, seeking to “help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist program of the revolution” (Transitional Program).
We stand on the revolutionary heritage of the Marxist movement, from the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, to Lenin’s fight to build the Bolshevik vanguard party and his synthesis of the Marxist position on the state, in The State and Revolution, which provided the programmatic armament for the Russian October Revolution of 1917, the epochal event of modern history and the first successful workers revolution in history. We lay claim as well to the heritage of the first four congresses of the Communist International, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, and to the fight of the Russian and International Left Opposition leading to the foundation of the Fourth International in 1938 on the basis of the Transitional Program. We stand as well with Trotsky and James P. Cannon, the founder of U.S. Trotskyism, in the fight against the petty-bourgeois opposition led by Shachtman which abandoned the unconditional military defense of the USSR in 1939-40. A revolutionary party must be built in the best tradition of Cannonism.
Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution sums up the experience of the three Russian Revolutions and constitutes the program for new Octobers in the countries of belated capitalist development, where the unresolved tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution can be fulfilled only under the dictatorship of the proletariat, by means of the socialist revolution which must be extended to the centers of world capitalism. The program of international socialist revolution is bound up with the very nature of the imperialist epoch, in which we are still living and in which humanity is not only not progressing towards social emancipation but is experiencing wholesale social regression across the board. Rosa Luxemburg’s formula at the time of the first imperialist world war at the beginning of the century, “socialism or barbarism,” is even more valid today, as mankind stands before the alternative of socialism or nuclear annihilation. The positive resolution of this dilemma will not be through impotent pacifism but by victorious class war.
Reflecting the pressures of the anti-Soviet Cold War, the Fourth International was wracked by a crisis engendered by Pabloist revisionism, which denied the need for an independent Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard of the proletariat and instead chased after a variety of non-proletarian false leaderships, from Tito in the late 1940s to Castro and Mao in the ’60s. This led to the destruction of the Fourth International in 1951-53. We stand with the fight against Pabloism which was led by James P. Cannon, albeit in a belated and partial manner. This fight was continued by the Revolutionary Tendency in the early 1960s as it opposed the SWP’s embrace of Castroism, the existing black leadership (both liberal and nationalist), and the SWP’s re-unification with Pablo/Mandel. Of key importance in the U.S. is the perspective of revolutionary integrationism – for black liberation through socialist revolution – put forward by Richard Fraser and further developed by the Spartacist tendency. This methodology has also been crucial for work in Brazil. We continue to fight for the Spartacist program and heritage, which grew out of the RT, as we have over the last quarter century as members and leaders of the Spartacist League/U.S. and of the in-ternational Spartacist tendency/International Communist League.The collapse of the Stalinist bureaucracies and the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union dramatically confirms the correctness of the Trotskyists’ fight for unconditional military defense of the bureaucratically degenerated/deformed workers states against imperialism and internal counterrevolution and for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist caste whose bureaucratic rule and conservative nationalist program prepared the way for capitalist restoration. Against the bourgeois lie of a supposed “death of communism,” we proclaim that communism lives in the struggles of the working class and the program of its vanguard. Our central task is to forge the party that is the living embodiment and instrument of that program in leading the workers and oppressed to victory.
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