Ernest Mandel

The Reasons for Founding the Fourth International

II. The basic contradictions of our epoch

The need to found the Fourth International derives from the fundamental contradictions which have determined the history of the 20th century. To be summarised in the following points:

The basic crises produced by decaying capitalism/imperialism can only be solved in a positive way through the working class conquering power, destroying the bourgeois repressive apparatus and building a workers’ state. In imperialist countries this implies the radical elimination of capitalist property relations, and in the less developed countries at least the beginning of such elimination.

But contrary to all previous social revolutions in history, a socialist revolution can only achieve its goals consciously. So the outcome of the successive waves of explosive mass struggles does not depend only on the objective social relationship of forces between the capitalists and wage earners. It also depends on the relative level of proletarian class consciousness and the revolutionary quality of its leadership.

These have proved to be inadequate in most cases. Therefore most 20th century revolutions have ended in partial or total defeat: “The crisis of humankind is the crisis of proletarian-revolutionary leadership.” The 20th century thus unfolds as a century of crises and wars, revolutions and counterrevolutions.

While the USSR’s modernisation and industrialisation led to spectacular successes, progress towards building a classless society was by and large stopped and actually reversed. The political counter-revolution triumphed in the USSR through Stalinism, resulting in a monopoly of political power being held by a bureaucratic caste. This led to a growing social inequality. Workers have lost all control over their working conditions and the appropriation of their production. These conditions create the material basis for a mass rebellion against Stalinism, for a new anti-bureaucratic political revolution. This revolution is part and parcel of the world socialist revolution.

Just as “national-communism” is the organisational consequence of “socialism in one country” theory, so the building of a new International is the consequence of the theoretical understanding of the world character of the struggle in the imperialist epoch. Without the international organisation of the proletariat, national workers’ organisations will sink even more easily into the morass of national-reformism and national-communism. Without the international organisation of the proletariat, the co-ordination and indeed the understanding of the international process of class struggle and the revolution will be infinitely more difficult, the defeats more heavy, the victories more costly and more often immediately put into question.

We are convinced these five key problems of the 20th century show the necessity for the Fourth International, for a new revolutionary International of the proletariat. Finding a solution to these five problems is just as crucial today as it was fifty years ago.


Last updated on 22.7.2004