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Fourth International

In 1938 Trotsky and his co-thinkers founded the Fourth International with the declaration that ‘‘The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.’’ The crisis of leadership remains a profound problem in this period of retreat for the international working class. Today the Fourth International exists only as a program and as a legacy of the struggle for revolutionary continuity after Lenin.

In brief, the Fourth International believed that the capitalist exploits the wage earner and uses the state as a means of repressing him; that capitalism must result in unemployment, war and other problems; and that these problems will become more intense with the passage of time. The Fourth International believes that a scientific (Marxist) analysis of history reveals that capitalism will be unable to solve these problems but that they can be solved by socialism, the inevitable and only valid alternative. Socialism contemplates elimination of private ownership of the means of production, replacing it with state ownership and control.

The Fourth International found that the obstacle to the flowering of socialism out of the "decay" of capitalism is the refusal of the capitalist class to give up its privileges; therefore, the Fourth International urges the vanguard of the workers to build a strong revolutionary party to seize power, overthrow capitalism, and replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat which will institute the forms of socialism. The Party believes that after the dictatorship has performed its function and all classes have been abolished, the dictatorship and the state itself will disappear.

The Fourth International believed that socialism cannot exist in one country alone, but that it must be established throughout the world. While the Fourth International follows the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, it was opposed to the Soviet Government insofar as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union exercised dictatorial control over the workers of the Soviet Union, instead of permitting theworkers themselves to exercise control, and insofar as the Communist Party of the USSK believed that socialism can exist in one country.

The early 1930's were favorable years for the growth of Trotskyism, the movement which eventually formulated the platform of the Fourth International. Leftist oppositionists adhering to it condemned Stalin's doctrine of "socialism in one country" as a betrayal of the ideal of world revolution as expounded by Trotsky. Disaffected communists everywhere formed new parties to follow Trotsky's theory and propaganda. By 1936, when he moved to Mexico, the movement in Europe was at its peak. The Trotskyites of the 1930's were predominantly former CP members, Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, leftist laborites, Spartacus Youth groups, and similar extreme radicals. Their unifying slogans focused on the negation of Stalinism, while with regard to their positive ideal, world revolution, their varied ideological backgrounds divided them in all efforts.

Soviet foreign espionage always had a domestic, state survival component. No outside group, no set of Royalist or Trotskyite (or neo-Trotskyite) exiles, could be too insignificant to attract the obsessive attention of Soviet leadership. Weinstein and Vassiliev reinforce the view that Soviet espionage took place not within a Western context that saw clear divisions between domestic and foreign affairs, but within a system that explicitly rejected such a division. One price of being a revolutionary regime was counterrevolutionary paranoia.

Within Russia, where Trotskyism never had a chance to evolve into abroad underground political organization, the movement was essentially imaginary, a provocation designed to serve the regime as a cardinal pretext for purges of real or potential opponents. The secret services were under orders to prove that the individuals and groups singled out for extinction were guilty of Trotskyism so that they could be accused as wreckers, saboteurs, spies, and assassins.

Public and underground party organs in France, Germany, England, the Low Countries, and elsewhere reproduced what Trotsky wrote. The Secretariat of the Fourth International, located in Paris, also received Trotsky's guidance. It was patterned upon the organization of Lenin's party before the October Revolution. It had its conferences and congresses, and it maintained ad hoc control committees to deal with organizational disputes anda ccusations of disloyalty. Unlike all other major Russian conspiratorial organizations, however, it never created a counter-intelligence department to watch over the security of the movement and to prevent hostile penetrations.

In the United States, the genesis of the Socialist Workers Party was in 1928 when the Communist Party of the United States expelled the supporters of Trotsky. These supporters of Trotsky undertook various attempts to find a vehicle of expression and action. In 1928, the Trotskyites formed the Communist League of America which merged in 1934 with the American Workers Party and became the Workers Party of the United States; in 1936, this Party joined the left wing of the Socialist Party which expelled it late in 1937 ; tiie Socialist Workers Party was then formed. After, formed the Party in 1938. The Party is committed to the theory of Marxism as laid down by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. Until 1940 it was a member of the "Fourth International", the inter-national organization compoused of parties in other countries which follow the same beliefs. The Party quit the international organization in 1940, because such membership was made unlawful, but was still one in spirit with it.

Members of the Socialist Workers Party disagreed with the use of terrorism, and argue that terrorism is alien and counterproductive to revolutionary organizations. The Party advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence or other unconstitutional means from January 1938 to at least February 1947. The Declaration of Principles and the Constitution of Party, adopted at its Foundation Convention in January 1938, in effect until December 1940, and regarded as the "letter of the law" for the Party, stated that it is "an illusion" to believe "that in such a country as the United States we live in a free, democratic society in which fundamental economic change can be effected by persuasion, by education, by legal and purely parliamentary methods." The document continues that "the possibilities for purely legal and constitutional change are therefore limited to those which fall within the frame-work of capitalist property and social relations." The same document contains the following statement, "While relying primarily on mass actions, propaganda and agitation as the means for furthering its revolutionary aim, the Party will also participate in electoral campaigns, though at all times contending against the fatal illusion that the masses can accomplish their emancipation through the ballot box."

German Propaganda Minister Paul Joseph Goebbels was reported to have personally launched an elaborate campaign against Leon Trotsky. The Doctor feared that the success of a Trotskyite revolution in Russia might cross all his schemes. Therefore he joined Stalin in the anti-Trotsky crusade. To Goebbels, Stalin was a "harmless fool" burdened with inhibitions but with hazy political perception. But Goebbels was said to have feared Trotsky's political cunning and revolutionary strategy, which he considered on a par with his own. Germany's anti-Trotsky propaganda was carried out in Russia as well as in other foreign countries. The sudden intensification of German propaganda in Mexico, reflected in demands for the Russian's expulsion, was an integral part of this scheme. The leaflets distributed in the Soviet Union outdid Stalin in anti-Trotsky virulence. Part of the GPU evidence against alleged Trotskyite plotters, revealed in the course of the spectacular Moscow trials, came from German secret files placed at Prosecutor Vishinsky's disposal. Goebbels was quite sincere in this campaign and provided plenty of evidence that Stalin appreciated.

It is generally agreed among students of the Soviet secret services that the principal aim of the OGPU and its sequel, the NKVD, through most of the 1930's was the destruction of Leon Trotsky, his family, his aides, and other promoters of the Fourth International. Abroad, where Trotsky's theories of opposition to Stalinism attracted enough of afollowing to develop his Fourth International, with factions of adherents in many Western countries, the purpose of Soviet teams and agents was to neutralize or discredit the movement and, above all, to kill the leader and his important assistants.

Trotsky was assassinated on 20 August 1940 at his refuge in Mexico, evidently by Stalinists.

Before the onset of the war, Trotsky and the Fourth international had believed that decaying capitalism and the rise of fascism removed the possibility for reformism and therefore for bourgeois-democratic illusions among the masses. Yet they could not but become increasingly aware that the revulsion of the working class against fascism and the threat of fascist occupation gave rise to social chauvinism and a renewal of confidence in the "democratic" bourgeoisie permeating the proletarian masses throughout Europe and the US.

The 65 French and German comrades who were shot by the Gestapo in July 1943 because of their revolutionary defeatist fraternization and the building of a Trotskyist cell in the German armed forces are a monument to the internationalist courage of a weak revolutionary movement fighting against insurmountable odds. The American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) entered the post-war period with buoyant optimism about the prospects for proletarian revolution. The 1946 SWP Convention and its resolution, "The Coming American Revolution," projected the indefinite continuation of successes for the SWP. The vulnerability of the European Trotskyist movement to revisionism hinged on the historic weaknesses of the European organizations combined with the thorough shattering of their continuity to the earlier period.

But the world after World War II was a very different place than Trotsky had projected. Trotskyit formations were socially isolated with an aging cadre under tremendous pressure from the domestic witchhunt. It was clearly badly disoriented by the postwar events and poorly equipped to understand or deal with them theoretically.

The kaleidoscopic splittings and reunifications among the Trotskyite groups defied description.

  1. Pabloism - The International Secretariat of the Fourth International (IS) was headed by Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel. The "new world reality" impressionism of Pablo led inexorably to the conclusion that many of the lessons of the "old Trotskyism" no longer applied. This was evidenced by the SWP’s support for the decisions of the 1951 Third World Congress. In the early 1950s a new and untested leadership of the international, headed by Michel Pablo, began pushing a very different kind of ‘‘entrism:’’ deep entrism, or ‘‘entrism sui generis.’’ Unlike the entrism of the 1930s, this new orientation was not a tactic to build an independent revolutionary vanguard, but rather a proposal to liquidate the precious Trotskyist cadres into the mass Stalinist and social-democratic reformist workers parties, as well as into petty-bourgeois nationalist movements. Pablo’s revisionist perspective was an impressionistic response to the seemingly inexplicable expansion of Stalinist state power in the period following the Second World War.
  2. Max Shachtman drew the conclusion that if a choice has to be made between Social Democratic Parties which support capitalism and Communist Parties – agents of Bureaucratic Collectivism – a socialist should side with the former against the latter. Shachtman wrote in September 1948: "Stalinism is a reactionary, totalitarian, anti-bourgeois and anti-proletarian current... "
  3. American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in this period showed consistent rightward motion, including the call on the US imperialist army to act as an instrument of struggle against racism.
  4. International Committee of the Fourth International (IC) was initiated by the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
  5. Spartacist - SWP’s Revolutionary Tendency (forerunner of the Spartacist League—SL). The RT opposed the reunification and defended the original split with the Pablo current as "essential to the preservation of a principled revolutionary movement." The RT was not replicated, to our knowledge, in any other ostensibly Trotskyist grouping internationally. The RT posed itself as the continuator of the struggle against Pabloism begun in 1953.

The 1950's brought a new wave of spontaneous working-class struggles in West and East Europe, but to the SWP they brought the onset of the Cold War witchhunt: the Smith Act prosecutions of CPers and former CPers; the deadening of every aspect of social and intellectual life; the relentless purge of known "reds" and militants from the union movement, severing the SWP's connection with the working-class movement which had taken years to build up; the dropping away of the whole layer of workers recruited to the SWP during the late 1940's.

Despite a considerable body of mythology to the contrary, both the PCI and SWP vacillated when revisionism manifested itself at the head of the Fourth International, balking only at applying it to their own sections. Both groups compromised themselves by uneasy acquiescence (combined in the case of the PCI with sporadic resistance) to Pablo’s policies. The 1963 "reunification" between the SWP and Pablo’s International Secretariat, which produced the United Secretariat (USec), was sealed by the expulsion of the Spartacists.

In its resolution on the world movement presented at the 1963 SWP Convention in counterposition to the majority’s document motivating ‘‘reunification’’ with the IS, the RT noted, ‘‘the disappearance of the Fourth International as a meaningful structure’’ while correctly arguing that reunification with the Pabloists was "a step away from, not toward, the genuine rebirth of the Fourth International." At the London Conference in 1966 the Spartacist group stated forthrightly that "Pabloism has been opposed within the movement by a bad ‘orthodoxy’..."

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Page last modified: 30-10-2017 10:47:47 ZULU