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The Internationalist
  May 2016


Back to Trotskyism!

By Giulia and Carlo
11 May 2016

We declare our political solidarity with the League for the Fourth International (LFI), which is the continuation of Spartacism before it degenerated, and want to struggle to help reforge the world party of socialist revolution, the Fourth International. With 21 and 27 years in the Spartacist tendency respectively, we were the recognized leaders of the Lega Trotskista d’Italia (LTd’I), Italian section of the International Communist League (ICL), from 1993-1999. This period included the Prodi/Rifondazione Comunista (RC) popular-front government, which fell with RC’s departure in October 1998 (due to the massive desertion of its angry base), as well as the imperialist massacre in Serbia which provoked large-scale protest and resistance in Italy. With the policy of proletarian political opposition to all popular fronts, based on the program of revolutionary Trotskyism the LTd’I doubled its size in two and a half years, set up a local in Naples, had contacts from Puglia to Switzerland, put the pseudo-Trotskyists on the defensive, and was successfully doing the concrete work to significantly enlarge the organization.

Then came the stab in the back from the ICL international leadership in 1999 which launched a two-year-long witch hunt against us, sent us to New York, liquidated the Naples local and completely sabotaged the work. The tremendous opportunity of significant growth was completely thrown away. The ICL reprimanded us for not bringing the understanding of the “new period” after the capitalist counterrevolutions in the Soviet Union and East European deformed workers states along with the new “qualitative historic regression in the political consciousness of the working class and left internationally” into the section. This was the ICL leadership’s version of the bourgeois myth of the “death of communism” that swept most of the left, and which we failed to understand. Since we were forced out, over the following 17 years the LTd’I has been a moribund organization, an empty shell of its former self, lately publishing an issue of Spartaco once a year or so consisting overwhelmingly of translations and making no intervention in the class struggle.

In 1999-2001 we were subjected to a political witch hunt culminating in an International Control Commission “investigation” involving grotesque accusations of faking illness (cancer), making false “charges” against the ICL leadership and hiding political differences. It was a hideous frame-up from start to finish. It is not just us saying this. A subsequent 2004 ICL “ICC Investigation Reopening October 2001 ICC Investigation” declared that “the findings of the October 2001 ICC were based on manipulated evidence and therefore cannot be considered valid.” It went further, concluding:

“In simplest terms, the question is whether Carlo and Giulia were subjected to a bureaucratic witchhunt. The answer is yes, with the consequences that these comrades were treated with contempt and hostility, marked by pulling them from their assignments in Italy…. The record demonstrates that Carlo and Giulia’s ‘crime’ was their refusal to agree to political conclusions and characterizations insisted on primarily by [the] then I.S. [International Secretariat] secretary, and backed up by other members of the I.S. and IEC [International Executive Committee], about their political views and the work of the LTd’I, which in key particulars were in fact gross exaggerations or outright falsifications.”

Yet while the evidence was laid out in painful detail, the report concluded that “the damage done to the ICL by the bureaucratic abuse documented in this ICC is irrevocable.” This might appear to be an honest coming to terms, but in fact it served to continue to cover up the abuse. Although this document was published in an internal bulletin over 11 years ago, we were never informed that the charges against us had been found to be false. It was only after we entered into contact with the LFI that we learned from them of the “reinvestigation of the investigation” and were able to read the incriminating bulletin. A striking fact is that the techniques used against us were so close to those used in the 1996-97 purge of ICL cadres who went on to found the Internationalist Group and LFI. But the most important thing to understand about the bureaucratic abuse and political cowardice is that it was the product of the latter-day ICL’s abandonment of the authentic Trotskyist revolutionary program that for decades we fought for, and for which we are again taking up the struggle today.

ICL Suffers a Qualitative Historic Regression of Consciousness

After three decades of upholding the revolutionary continuity of Trotskyism, the ICL drew defeatist conclusions from the world historic defeat that was the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union. While that certainly had an impact on workers’ consciousness, although unevenly, it is the ICL, as well as other opportunist leftists, that has experienced the qualitative historic regression of revolutionary consciousness it ascribes to the working class. Is it the working class that has decreed that its struggles are no longer related to the final goal of socialism? No, it is the International Communist League. For those willing to take the trouble, go back and read the International Executive Committee thesis of January 1996.

We were not the first ones to experience the consequences of this political degeneration of the ICL. We certainly knew that the organization had become bureaucratized, but for a time we had a hard time grappling with this. With time, the accumulation of programmatic revisions – with the ICL’s 2010 support for the U.S. imperialist invasion of Haiti being a big one – began to pull the pieces together. Meanwhile, the long-time cadres expelled by the ICL in 1996-97 went on to form the League for the Fourth International and have fought to build a vanguard in action of the proletariat. We are now joining with them, on the program all of us fought for. Over the years, although small, the LFI has grown with the class struggle, while the ICL has withdrawn from the class struggle and begun betraying ever more programmatic points of Trotskyism (not only in action or more often non-action, but also formally codified). The main line of the degeneration of the ICL has been capitulation to its own bourgeoisie and imperialist rulers:

–abandoning and betraying the fight to oust the police from the trade unions in Brazil (1996),
–dropping the fight against and even denying the existence of the popular front in Mexico (1997),
–the social colonialist position of dropping the call for independence for Puerto Rico (1998) and the French colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique (2009),
–dropping the call to defeat one’s own imperialism (post 9/11, 2001),
–dropping the call for hot-cargoing military goods in wartime (2002),
–dropping the call for workers strikes against the war because “it has no resonance in the working class” (culminating in 2008), and
–the ICL’s three-month-long support, which it vociferously defended, for the brutal U.S. imperialist invasion of Haiti (2010).

More recently, in Greece (2015), the ICL raised the call for an amorphous “government which will act in the interests of the working people and be subordinated to them.” This is the typical type of weaselly formulation used by a myriad of centrist and reformist groups to call for support of a bourgeois government, which led to bloody defeats in Chile 1973 and during the Spanish Civil War and was the position of the Mensheviks in 1917. The ICL’s de facto call for Grexit (Greek exit from the euro and the European Union) under bourgeois rule – even though Greece may be forced to undertake such a step – is hardly a revolutionary program, and could undercut the fight to unite European workers against capitalist austerity, to replace the Europe of bankers and militarists with a red Europe of workers councils, through socialist revolution continent-wide and beyond. Behind the ICL’s fixation on this is its belief that such revolution is impossible today. The LFI fights for workers revolution inside or outside the E.U.

In another key conflict of recent years, the LFI has correctly insisted that the main enemy in Syria and the region is imperialism, which must be defeated and driven out, while warning that any alliance with the U.S./NATO imperialists is suicidal. Any real blow struck against the imperialists, including by the utter reactionaries of the Islamic State, is in the interests of working people around the world. But the fundamental character of the fighting in Syria and Iraq continues to be a sectarian civil war in which Trotskyists oppose all sides. The victory of one side or another in that civil war means a bloodbath of the conquered people. While the ICL gives military support to the I.S. against imperialism “and its allies,” the immediate targets of the I.S.’ holy war are the Shiite, Yazidi, Christian and Kurdish populations of Syria and Iraq. To claim that a victory of the I.S. against the Kurds, with its inevitable bloodbath and return to 8th century oppressive social norms, would be a blow against U.S. imperialism is not only false but shows a callous indifference to the fate of neo-colonial peoples and women.

Internationalist communists fight for crushing all the Islamist armed gangs through workers action, looking centrally to the millions-strong Turkish, Kurdish and Egyptian proletariats. Militant sectors of the Italian working class engaging in sharp struggle against imperialist war can play a leading role in this respect by defending full citizenship rights for all immigrants and asylum for all refugees, to be won through workers action and the struggle for socialist revolution on both sides of the Mediterranean.

The ICL’s abandonment of the revolutionary program has had a direct effect on the Italian national terrain as well. The LTd’I now has the position that “after the collapse of the USSR, the working class did not conceive of any alternative to capitalist society,” and since a real general strike, not a four- or eight- or 24-hour stoppage plus a parade, would pose the question of which class rules, and since fake-leftists often call for general strikes as the antechamber to a popular front with sections of the bourgeoisie, it is wrong to call for general strikes. To call this scholasticism would be a polite understatement. But when the working masses want to struggle against attacks by capital and pressure is building from the ranks, and when that pressure is being resisted by the bureaucrats terrified of the consequences, revolutionaries should put forward a program for full-scale mobilization of the working class leading to socialist revolution while fighting against attempts to divert the anger into a popular front. Not to do so in these circumstances means aiding the reformist misleaders.

A general strike (which the revolutionary syndicalists idealized) and even factory occupations are not a panacea, as the tragic experience of Italy’s biennio rosso of 1919-20 showed. But they can be key steps to revolution. To prepare the working class to fight to win the battles already under way in these cases, it is necessary to put forward a transitional program of workers action leading to the formation of a workers government based on workers councils, the beginning of the socialist revolution. Revolutionaries call for workers defense guards, defense of immigrants, elected strike committees that could become workers councils, and an all-out general strike, along with other transitional demands. But the key to victory is building the indispensable revolutionary workers party, acting as a tribune of the oppressed, to lead the struggle forward.

Acting as a rearguard to the proletariat as workers are pushing forward to fight is not new to the ICL, but is typical of its overall retreat from the class struggle. One example really caught our attention. In December 2005 there was a crucial labor showdown in New York City, when the strategic and powerful TWU subway and transport union went on strike. The Spartacist League (U.S. section of the ICL) did not call for the strike before it happened and did not criticize the head union bureaucrat Toussaint during the strike in its leaflet directed to the union members. Later, when a critical reader questioned this policy in a letter published in Workers Vanguard No. 872 (June 2006) WV replied, “The leaflet did not directly attack Toussaint. Since we could not point to an alternative leadership of the strike, to do so would only have weakened the strike.”

So according to the ICL, to criticize the trade-union bureaucrats during a strike weakens the strike! This is the logic of opportunists everywhere. Yet that leadership sold out the strike which had paralyzed the center of world finance capital, leading to a defeat in which the ICL with its pro-bureaucratic abstentionism was in fact complicit. Furthermore, the TWU is one of the very few unions where the SL has supporters, yet it says it “could not point to an alternative leadership.” This is an admission that the ICL has renounced the fight for revolutionary leadership in the trade unions, a conscious policy. In contrast, every day of the strike the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the LFI, distributed on the picket lines thousands of its daily strike bulletins agitating for class-struggle action (see The Internationalist articles at http://www.internationalist.org/nyctransitstriketoc.html).

While the ICL betrayed the fight to remove the police from the unions in Brazil in 1996, stabbing the comrades in the back and siding with the forces of the popular front to slander the struggle, the LFI helped continue the fight and fused with the comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brazil.  While the ICL section in Mexico remained willfully passive during the historic UNAM university strike in 1999-2000, the tiny LFI group sparked the formation of workers defense guards to protect the occupation against police attack and grew significantly. After intervening in the revolt in southern Mexico (Oaxaca) in 2006 and other battles, the LFI’s Grupo Internacionalista/Mexico now has four locals in different cities while the ICL section remains stagnant.

While the LFI in the U.S. agitated and worked for five years to bring about the historic May Day 2008 West Coast port strike against the war, the ICL did nothing to build it, confining its efforts to sneering at it after the fact. The LFI later fused with a group of working-class militants in Portland in 2012 who had played a key role in a port shutdown there during the brief upsurge of the populist Occupy movement. While the office-bound SL in New York has negligible public presence (perhaps it’s too “busy” churning out internal bulletins about how youth cannot even imagine a socialist society today), the IG/LFI has been winning revolutionary cadres among immigrant workers organizing the unorganized, winning youth during mass protests against racist police murders, putting out a youth paper, and carrying out highly visible dynamic activity. The SL, in contrast, recently announced it was dissolving its youth commission and its Labor Black Leagues. But again, this all goes back to program.

A Program for Revolutionary Class Struggle

The ICL, which claims that Trotsky’s emphasis on the crisis of revolutionary leadership has become outdated, is incapable of providing such leadership today. Yet as sharp struggles break out in one country after another, from North Africa to Southern Europe, in Latin Amercia, Asia and even the United States, yet go down to defeat one after another, it is clear that the raw material for revolutionary struggle is there. As capitalism spirals downward into barbarism, the centrality of reforging an authentic Trotskyist Fourth International is as crucial as ever. We want to contribute to that effort.

There is a profound crisis of capitalism mired in world-wide depression, which is bitterly felt and in front of the eyes of all. In the case of Italy most youth have little present and less future under capitalism. With two-month and three-month contracts and the exploding use of “vouchers” where you are literally paid by the hour, a “permanent contract” is now for three years. Many work for free “to have something to put on their CVs” at an endless succession of degrading job interviews, where the few jobs are reserved for those with “friends in high places.” While a large and ever-increasing sector of pensioners now live in poverty, youth will have no pensions at all. While 10% of the population lives in absolute poverty, the South is abandoned to sink into ever greater immiseration, desperation and the deindustrialization of what little is left.

If life is hell for men, it’s doubly hell for women who are the real backbone of “welfare” in this country of the Vatican. Significantly lower pay and pensions, massive unemployment, absence of availability of abortion services due to the “conscientious objector” clause (permitting doctors to refuse to perform the procedure), practically forced to say in job interviews that they will never have children, together with daily degradation, are routine parts of life for the female majority. Unpayable childcare costs and having to take care of the old and infirm due to the progressive dismantling of the medical system weigh down heavily. And then the bourgeois rulers blame women for declining birth rates!

Thousands of desperate refugees drown in the Mediterranean, or are left to silently die of cold and disease, incarcerated and deported back to face likely death. Meanwhile, Italy and its imperialist allies gear up for another imperialist war in Libya and elsewhere, like the imperialist massacre in Libya in 2011. While seeking to accelerate deportation procedures with the fast-track “Dublin III” regulation, the European Union seeks to push out newly arriving immigrants (who threaten to throw themselves into the sea). Meanwhile, the E.U. is beefing up its Frontex paramilitary immigration police and expanding the lager, concentration camps for undocumented immigrants, not only the CIE (Centri di Identificazione ed Espulsione, the deportation camps) but also the CDAs and CARAs that supposedly are reception centers, but are beset by profiteers and racists.

Trotskyists fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. Amid the anti-immigrant frenzy whipped up by racist rightists, some opportunist “far left” groups, like the Partito Comunista dei Lavoritori (PCL – Communist Workers Party) of Marco Ferrando and Grisolia, limit their program to calling for permesso di soggiorno (temporary work permits) for immigrants (to be granted by the questura – the police – for limited periods of time) and an “end to racist laws,” although some local sections do raise the call for citizenship rights for all. The Partito di Alternativa Comunista (PDAC – Party of the Communist Alternative) of Francesco Ricci does raise this call in a list of reforms, but does not link this directly to revolutionary action by the working class. For the social democrats of the International Workers League (LIT, followers of the late Argentine pseudo-Trotsky Nahuel Moreno), to which the PDAC belongs, “bringing down capitalism and constructing a socialist economy” means nationalizations and other measures leaving the capitalist state intact. Yet the democratic demand for full citizenship rights for immigrants has only been realized by revolutionary means, in the French Revolution of 1789-92, in the Paris Commune of 1871 and in the Russian October Revolution of 1917.

At every turn, defensive workers struggles and struggles for democratic rights cannot be won under decaying capitalism. There are great reservoirs of hatred and bitterness towards this capitalist system, on both the European and African shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and many who hate it desire a revolution. The ultra-rightist racist Matteo Salvini is constantly hotly contested in all of Italy. The SI COBAS (the Rank and File Committees Intersectorial Union) has carried out numerous strikes of brutally exploited immigrant workers (who are also a human bridge for the fight for proletarian revolution in their countries of origin) and Italian workers and has won some partial victories in spite of victimizations, threats of deportations and all-sided repression. It organized a national general strike against imperialist war including war on working people and immigrants here on March 18. But still the working class groans under the straitjacket of a sellout trade-union bureaucracy, which tries to eliminate all internal dissent, from the CGIL led by pro-PD (Democratic Party) bureaucrats to the FIOM (metal workers) union of Maurizio Landini.

Public workers have had their wages frozen for over six years and are carrying out a series of strikes and protests. Education workers and students are fighting against the cuts in public education and the “reform” which gives the school directors dictatorial powers and attacks trade-union gains. There is anger among the ranks of health workers over successive cuts, privatizations and increasingly impossible working conditions. ILVA steel workers in Taranto are waging a key fight for their jobs and safety. Students and youth repeatedly demonstrate for affordable quality secular education. To unite these struggles, it is necessary to fight for communist leadership in the trade unions and workers movement.

To overcome the sabotage of the trade-union bureaucracy and the division of the working class in different unions it is necessary to fight for the formation of elected and recallable mass strike committees or similar organisms that unite different sectors of the working class in struggle. In 1984 the workers councils formed in the course of an enormous struggle had the potential to become soviets, the basis of workers power. But instead of waging hard-hitting working-class actions, the pro-capitalist PCI (Italian Communist Party), Democrazia Proletaria and others sold out the powerful movement for a meaningless popular referendum on the scala mobile (“sliding-scale” cost-of-living adjustment).

The historically politically advanced and militant proletariat in Italy has gone through two revolutionary situations and numerous powerful upheavals and revolts. But it has been constantly betrayed by its leadership. Following Italy’s defeat in World War I, in September 1920 at the culmination of a two-year virtual civil war, the proletariat occupied the factories, had control of much of the countryside and there were massive revolts in the army. The failure of any wing of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) to even try to take state power was paid for with over two decades of fascism.

Again at the end of World War II, proletarian revolt, centered in Turin, was decisive in bringing down the fascists. The PCI, with its Stalinist class-collaborationist theory of “socialism in one country” and popular-front program, sold out the revolutionary situation of 1943-48. With the svolta di Salerno (Salerno turn) executed by Palmiro Togliatti under direct orders of Stalin, the PCI disarmed the partisans and worked to prop up the Christian Democrats and Vatican.

Since then the PCI, Democrazia Proletaria, later Rifondazione Comunista, and their utterly fake “Trotskyist” tails (sometimes inside and sometimes outside of DP and RC), have constantly supported popular frontism, which subordinates the workers movement to the bourgeoisie. The present day PCL as well as the PDAC have pushed popular-frontist class collaborationist politics for decades. They only broke with RC in 2006 when it entered the Prodi government and Prodi demanded that Ferrando and Ricci not be candidates for the senate. These misleaders all supported anti-Soviet Polish Solidarność of the pope Wojtyla, Reagan and Thatcher; they deny that China is a deformed workers state that must be unconditionally defended against imperialism and the forces of counterrevolution, and they sided with the counterrevolutionary CIA-financed student occupation movement in Hong Kong in 2014.

While the PCL committed blatant class treason by supporting the bourgeois politicians Pisapia in Milan in 2011 and De Magistris in Naples, the PDAC calls China “the most barbaric capitalist country in the history of the world” and says “long live the revolution in East Europe, which overturned the Stalinist dictatorship” (and drove the population into desperate poverty and drastically shortened their lifespans). The PDAC supports the pro-imperialist Islamist “rebels” of the Free Syrian Army. These pseudo-Trotskyists are in fact apologists for counterrevolution, imperialism and Italian capitalism. For all those many who justifiably feel betrayed by this lot of fake proletarian leaders – not least of which is the ex-PCI, which has been totally transformed into a bourgeois party headed by the tax collector for the rapacious EU bankers, Renzi – it is necessary to draw the lessons. It is necessary to forge a Leninist party by engaging in and mobilizing for the class struggle. We fight for:

–Strikes against imperialist war. Bring down the imperialist E.U. and NATO through Europe-wide class struggle leading to socialist revolution!

–Hot-cargoing military goods, like Italian train workers and antiwar activists did outside of Vicenza in February 2002 when they stopped a NATO war train.

–Integrated workers defense guards to teach the racist lynch mobs a well-deserved lesson. Down with Racist Fortress Europe! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants and refugees!

–Organize the unorganized and fight for full trade-union wages for all, equal pay for equal work!

–Down with the “conscientious objector” clause! Free abortion on demand and free quality health care for all!

–Drastically reduce the work week at full pay to provide employment for all. Solidarity strikes across national borders are urgently needed.

–For a socialist united states of Europe! For the rebirth of the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution! 

Proletarian power will not come from bourgeois parliamentarism. The key question is revolutionary leadership. There is no “more human” capitalism. Either a Bolshevik party leads the proletariat to victory or we face complete barbarism that is already descending upon us. As Trotsky wrote at the founding of the Fourth International in 1938, “the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership.” This thesis, now declared outdated by the ICL although its validity is constantly confirmed, is the very reason the Fourth International was founded in a period of deep defeats for the working class, and why it must be forged anew as the world party of socialist revolution.

The present ICL is no place for a communist. For those in the ICL who may still want to be communists, we urge you to read and study the literature of the League for the Fourth International, as we did and in doing so recognized the genuinely Trotskyist program we were won to years ago. Politically, this is a life or death question for those who would be communist revolutionaries. Lenin once said that only idiots do not study both sides of a controversy. Don’t be an idiot. It is time to go forward with the LFI. ■