Program First: IBT to ICL

25 January 2024

On 1 January 2024, we released our open letter, The Baby & the Bathwater: Reforge the international Spartacist tendency!, arguing for discussion and debate among organizations claiming the heritage of the international Spartacist tendency during its revolutionary period in the 1970s. The International Communist League's reply of 11 January is available on their website: Response of the ICL to IBT Open Letter. Following is our reply to that, sent to the ICL today.


Dear comrades,

Thank you for your 11 January response to our open letter. We appreciate your willingness to engage in a process of discussion.

To first address an apparent misunderstanding—discussion between the organizations that have emerged from the Spartacist tradition should of course be led by their elected leaderships, which represent the most crystalized form of the various political currents. It goes without saying that we propose no diminution of democratic centralism. However, given the number of organizations that may potentially be involved, the time that has passed, the bad blood and sub-political debates that have occurred (where discussion has occurred at all), we believe that it would be most beneficial to include those with a declared loyalty to the same tradition who are not currently organized as well as those who are under discipline of one or another organization. Details can and should be determined by the leaderships of the participating organizations.

The need for leadership is precisely why our proposal for a framework for programmatic discussion is in no way counterposed to “program first.” You have spent the past few years overthrowing many elements of your historical program and you indicate that this process is not yet complete. Of course we plan to respond in more detail—there is a lot to critique. Yet the basic lines are clear. You believe that “the Spartacist tendency's founding program on this question [permanent revolution] stood in contradiction to Lenin, to the early Comintern and to Trotsky himself.” We believe that founding program is the “baby” you are throwing out in an attempt to rid yourselves of the jagged zigzags and sectarianism that have characterized your organization for over 40 years.

Permanent revolution is a key theme of Spartacist #68, and the topic we proposed to your comrades in Australia as the basis for a debate. They accepted the debate, but suggested that it be held in New Zealand rather than Melbourne (a city with a much greater Trotskyist culture and history than is found in NZ). We replied in late November to say that we preferred Melbourne but would be happy to debate in both locations, and we have heard nothing since. We hope a debate or debates can occur as soon as possible, as a key part of the “serious response to the program put forward in Spartacist No. 68” that you are eager to see.

Our approach is not nostalgia, comrades. This “baby” is the fundamental root of our political practice. We refer you to the following key documents that represent our contributions in the past few years to applying the program of the Third and Fourth Internationals and the revolutionary international Spartacist tendency to the world we face today. Some mention your organization and some do not, but they all contribute to clarifying our differences on the role of a revolutionary organization in relation to the national question, the popular front, imperialist war, deformed and degenerated workers' states, liberalism and social democracy. As we say, we will be replying specifically to your latest program, but already these documents provide more developed discussion of these questions than you have produced in the same time period.

Inching towards WWIII: US imperialism targets Russia & China
Ukraine & the Left: Revolutionary defeatism & workers' internationalism
Imperialist Rivalries Escalate: Russia—capital export & global power
The Revolution Overthrown: How the Soviet Union was destroyed
Stop the Gaza Genocide! Marxism & the struggle for Palestinian liberation
Marxism & Indigenous Peoples: The Canadian struggle
Nationalism & Nagorno-Karabakh
Pink Tides & Popular Fronts: Revolutionary strategy in Latin America
Democrats in Power: ‘Woke’ Liberalism in the Service of Imperialism
Whither America? Class, Crisis & Imperial Decay
School Closures, Class Struggle & Covid-19
The Corbyn Project: A case study in social democracy
Marxism & Bourgeois Elections

Communist greetings
Josh Decker
for the IEC of the International Bolshevik Tendency