For the Rebirth of the Fourth International!

Tonight people who consider themselves Trotskyists, i.e., supporters of social revolution, will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fourth International. Founded after the Stalinized Third International (the Comintern) betrayed the world revolution and led the proletariat to terrible defeats, especially in Germany in 1933, the Fourth International, based upon the Transitional Program, was and is the sole hope for a socialist future for humankind.

The Bolshevik Tendency also celebrates the founding of the Fourth International. Unfortunately the United Secretariat (USec), the organization being honored tonight, is not the Fourth International which was established at Perigny, France on September 3, 1938. In fact it is not even a poor imitation. Its cadre having been all but wiped out by the Nazis and the Stalinists during World War II, its inexperienced leadership unable to account theoretically for the appearance of socialized property forms outside the borders of the Soviet Union after the war, the post-war crisis of the Trotskyist movement resulted in a deep split in 1953. At issue were the "New World Reality" theories of one Michel Pablo. Pablo (Raptis) who, predicting a "generally irreversible prerevolutionary period" and the prospect of centuries of deformed workers’ states, urged a political accommodation to Stalinism. This was embodied in his strategy of deep entry ("entrism sui generis") in the Stalinist Communist Parties. The purpose of the entry was to push the thoroughly reformist CP’s to the left under the pressure of a supposedly impending "War/Revolution."

The French Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI) and the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S., led by James P. Cannon, undertook a flawed but principled and supportable struggle against Pablo’s new revisionism. This resulted in two international blocs: the International Secretariat (IS) under Pablo and the International Committee (IC), led by the SWP. In 1963 the Pabloist IS and the by-then thoroughly degenerated SWP reunited to form the USec on the basis of a shared political capitulation to the Castroist movement which had taken power in Cuba. The Revolutionary Tendency in the SWP fought this capitulation and after its expulsion formed the Spartacist League. The Bolshevik Tendency stands on the revolutionary struggles of the SWP and its once-Trotskyist successor, the Spartacist League, against the Pabloist revisionism which destroyed the Fourth International.

Despite its revolutionary pretensions the USec has a long history of betrayals which show it to be nothing more than an unprincipled, federative bloc with no confidence in the revolutionary capacity of the working class. In the 1960s, leaders of the European sections such as Ernest Mandel and Livio Maitan dumped the Leninist position that only the proletariat, led by its revolutionary vanguard party, can carry out a revolution which can open the road to socialism and instead glorified the peasant-guerrilla strategy for Third World countries. In 1965 Maitan even speculated that Nasser’s Egypt was on its way to becoming a workers state "in a cold way," i.e., without a revolution! At the same time the Socialist Workers Party, fearful of alienating its liberal and social-democratic allies in the anti-Vietnam war movement cloaked itself in the mantle of Trotskyist "orthodoxy" in arguing against this strategy.

In 1978-79 when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran following the overthrow of the bloody shah, the front page of the Militant, the paper of the SWP, proclaimed "VICTORY IN IRAN!" This headline deserves to be immortalized in the annals of class treachery and revisionist stupidity. The Iranian Socialist Workers Party (HKS), a USec affiliate, continued to support the Ayatollah and the mullahs, denying the reactionary character of the Islamic fundamentalist regime and praising their "anti-imperialism" until the Islamic fundamentalist fanatics started jailing and killing their own comrades. Today the HKS is no more—a victim of the Islamic revolution it once hailed.

One of the latest and more ludicrous examples of the Pabloite methodology in action is the courtship of Pierre Juquin by the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire (LCR), USec’s French section, in the 1988 presidential elections. Juquin, a career politician and Stalinist bureaucrat, made a rightward break from the Communist Party, yet the LCR saw fit to support him despite his demagogic and explicitly non-programmatic campaign. As far as the LCR was concerned the only thing that mattered was that Juquin was moving away from the CP.

In 1969 the Ninth World Congress of USec was obliged to convene a Commission on Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) to investigate charges against Bala Tampoe, leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Revolutionary) and head of the Ceylon Maritime Union (CMU). In addition to Tampoe’s conduct as a union leader, the Commission looked into his 1967 visit to the United States, which was paid for by the CIA-connected Asia Foundation, his private interview with American Secretary of "Defense" Robert McNamara and his attendance at small social gatherings with various imperialist diplomats. Among other things the Commission recommended that Tampoe step down either as head of the LSSP (R) or as leader of the CMU. Not only were the recommendations not carried out but USec spokesman Jaya Vithana later wrote that the Commission never existed. Unfortunately for this attempt at falsifying history, the proceedings of the Commission were published with the rest of the minutes of the Ninth World Congress in International Information Bulletin No. 9 July 1969.


Article VI of the Statutes of the Fourth International says, "In each country there can be but one single section of the Fourth International, i.e. only one single organization in each country can be regularly affiliated with the Fourth International". (Documents of the Fourth International, p.178.) In the United States there are four separate organizations which consider themselves affiliates of USec: Socialist Action, the Fourth International Tendency, the Fourth International Caucus inside Solidarity and the SWP. While maintaining formal affiliation with the USec the SWP has renounced Trotskyism altogether and has called for a new international! Comrades, if you are located in the same country and belong to the same "international," why are you not in the same national party?

In Portugal in 1975, during a period when there was a real chance for a workers’ revolution, USec had two affiliates which (naturally) found themselves on opposite sides of the barricades. The Revolutionary Workers’ Party (PRT), sympathizers of the USec minority (American SWP), tailed the CIA-financed Socialist Party and solidarized with a series of SP-led mass anti-communist mobilizations in August 1975 which attacked and burned some 50 offices of the CP and other left groups in Northern Portugal. The SWP and its Portuguese co-thinkers scandalously portrayed these attacks as a healthy rejection of Stalinist bureaucratism. While the Mandelite International Communist League (LCI) opposed the reactionary mobilizations which the PRT covered for, it joined a so-called "revolutionary united front" brokered by the bourgeois Armed Forces Movement, which explicitly supported the program of General Goncalves (at that point head of the bourgeois government)!


The cadres of Trotsky’s Fourth International were decimated by the hammer blows of fascism and Stalinism during World War II. The Fourth International was destroyed by Pabloite revisionism in the period which followed. It must be re-created. We call for the rebirth of the Fourth International as a disciplined, democratic-centralist world party whose sections fight for the Transitional Program in the proletariat. In that Fourth International there will be no room for capitulation to non-proletarian forces: whether Third-World guerrillas, American liberals, Social Democrats, Stalinists, Iranian theocrats or Polish clerical nationalists.

Comrades, we live in the epoch of war and revolution! In many parts of the world we see intensified struggle on the part of the toiling and oppressed masses: South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, the Middle East and Central America. Even in the imperialist heartland the potential for increased social struggle is evident. All the major imperialist nations have deep social contradictions which confirm that world capitalism has indeed exhausted its historic possibilities.

The Western European economies are plagued by persistently high rates of unemployment which is contributing to a resurgence of racist and neo-fascist activity. Humanity indeed faces two alternatives: socialism or barbarism. The United States, once the world’s leading imperialist power, is now the world’s largest debtor nation. With an eroded industrial base and a crumbling infrastructure, Reagan’s America is a land of growing poverty and homelessness, severely reduced living standards for the vast majority of its citizens and escalating racist violence. Bourgeois pundits brag about the long sustained "recovery" of the American economy. What this means is that capitalism can offer nothing better to the workers and the oppressed. The Democratic presidential team of technocrat Michael Dukakis and Dixiecrat Lloyd Bentsen underscores this reality.

At the same time, the dangerous market-oriented "reforms" in the degenerated and deformed workers states will doubtless result in desperate struggles by the proletariat against the Stalinist bureaucracy in defense of living and working standards. The strikes which have recently taken place in the Soviet Union, Poland and Yugoslavia are only harbingers of what is to come. The intervention of conscious, pro-socialist Trotskyist cadres in such struggles is vital to ensure that they remain committed to the defense of nationalized property and, unlike Polish Solidarnosc in 1981, do not become vehicles for capitalist restoration.

While the objective factors necessary for world socialist revolution are apparent, there is one missing component—a world Trotskyist party to lead the workers, peasants and oppressed masses to the complete conquest of power and the overthrow of capitalism in the West and Stalinism in the East. Trotskyism is revolutionary Marxism in our time. Comrades, if you are serious about making a revolution, contact the Bolshevik Tendency: read, study, discuss, work and debate with us, and let us join together in the struggle to reforge the Fourth International—World Party of Socialist Revolution!

September 1988

Posted: 19 December 2004