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The Declaration of Four

On the Necessity and Principles of a New International

(August 1933)

Written: 26 August 1933
Published: Joint Declaration for New Internat’l, The Militant, Vol. VI No. 44, 23 September 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Republished: For the Fourth International, The Militant, Vol. VII No 17, 21 April 1934, p. 4.

In full realization of the great historic responsibility that devolved upon them, the undersigned organizations have unanimously decided to combine their forces for joint work for the regeneration of the revolutionary proletarian movement on an international scale. As the basis for their activity, they lay down the following principles:

1. The mortal crisis of imperialist capitalism, which has taken the props out from under reformism (Social Democracy, the Second International, the bureaucracy of the International Federation of Trade Unions, poses imperatively the question of the break with reformist policy and of the revolutionary struggle for the conquest of power and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship as the only means for the transformation of capitalist society into a socialist society.

2. The problem of the proletarian revolution bears, by its very nature, an international character. The proletariat can build a complete socialist society only on the basis of the world division of labor and world cooperation. The undersigned categorically reject, therefore, the theory of “socialism in one country,” which undermines the very foundation of proletarian internationalism.

3. No less energetically must be rejected the theory of the Austro-Marxists, centrists and left reformists who, under the pretext of the international character of the socialist revolution, advocate an expectant passivity with regard to their own country, thereby in reality delivering the proletariat into the hands of fascism. A proletarian party that evades the seizure of power under the present historic conditions commits the worst of betrayals. The victorious proletariat of one country must strengthen its national dictatorship by socialist construction, which remains of necessity incomplete and contradictory until the working class seizes political power in at least a few advanced capitalist countries. Simultaneously, the victorious working class of one country must direct all its efforts to the extension of the socialist revolution to other countries. The contradiction between the national character of the seizure of power and the international character of socialist society can be resolved only by courageous revolutionary action. 

4. The Third International, which grew out of the October Revolution, laid down the principles of proletarian policy in the epoch of imperialism and gave the world proletariat the first lessons in the revolutionary struggle for power, fell victim to a chain of historical contradictions. The treacherous role of the Social Democracy and the immaturity and inexperience of the Communist Parties led to the breakdown of the postwar revolutionary movements in the East and in the West. The isolated position of the proletarian dictatorship in a backward country gave an extraordinary power to the ever-more-conservative and nationally limited Soviet bureaucracy. The slavish dependence of the sections of the Comintern on the Soviet leadership led, in its turn, to a new series of grave defeats, to bureaucratic degeneration of the theory and practice of the Communist Parties and to their organizational weakening. More than that, the Comintern proved not only incapable of fulfilling its historic role but also became more and more of an obstacle in the way of the revolutionary movement. 

5. The advance of fascism in Germany put the organizations of the working class to a decisive test. The Social Democracy once more confirmed the designation given to it by Rosa Luxemburg and revealed itself for the second time as “the stinking corpse.” The overcoming of the organizations, ideas and methods of reformism is the necessary prerequisite for the victory of the working class over capitalism.

6. The German events revealed with no less force the collapse of the Third International. Despite its fourteen-year existence, despite the experience gained in gigantic battles, despite the moral support of the Soviet state and the plentiful means for propaganda, the Communist Party of Germany revealed under conditions of a grave economic, social and political crisis, conditions exceptionally favorable for a revolutionary party, an absolute revolutionary incapacity. It thereby showed conclusively that despite the heroism of many of its members it had become totally incapable of fulfilling its historic role.

7. The position of world capitalism; the frightful crisis that plunged the working masses into unheard-of misery; the revolutionary movement of the oppressed colonial masses; the world danger of fascism; the perspective of a new cycle of wars which threatens to destroy the whole human culture – these are the conditions that imperatively demand the welding together of the proletarian vanguard into a new (Fourth) International. The undersigned obligate themselves to direct all their forces to the formation of this International in the shortest possible time on the firm foundation of the theoretical and strategic principles laid down by Marx and Lenin.

8. While ready to cooperate with all the organizations, groups and factions that are actually developing from reformism or bureaucratic centrism (Stalinism) towards revolutionary Marxist policy, the undersigned, at the same time, declare that the new International cannot tolerate any conciliation towards reformism or centrism. The necessary unity of the working-class movement can be attained not by the blurring of reformist and revolutionary conceptions nor by adaptation to the Stalinist policy but only by combating the policies of both bankrupt Internationals. To remain equal to its task, the new International must not permit any deviation from revolutionary principles in the questions of insurrection, proletarian dictatorship, soviet form of the state, etc.

9. By its class basis, by its social foundations, by the incontestably prevailing forms of property, the USSR remains even today a workers’ state, that is, an instrument for the building of a socialist society. The new International will inscribe on its banner as one of its most important tasks the defense of the Soviet state from imperialism and internal counterrevolution. Precisely the revolutionary defense of the USSR places upon us the imperative task of freeing the revolutionary forces of the entire world from the corrupting influence of the Stalinist Comintern and of building a new International. Only under the condition of complete independence of the international proletarian organizations from the Soviet bureaucracy and the tireless unmasking of its false methods before the working masses is a successful defense of the Soviet Union possible.

10. Party democracy is a necessary prerequisite for the healthy development of revolutionary proletarian parties on a national as well as an international scale. Without freedom of criticism, without the election of functionaries from top to bottom, without the control of the apparatus by the rank and file, no truly revolutionary party is possible.

The need for secrecy under conditions of illegality changes completely the forms of the internal life of a revolutionary party and makes wide discussions and elections difficult, if not altogether impossible. But even under the most difficult conditions and circumstances, the basic demands of a healthy party regime retain their full force: honest information about the party, freedom of criticism and a real inner unity between the leadership and the party majority. Having suppressed and crushed the will of the revolutionary workers, the reformist bureaucracy turned the Social Democracy and the trade unions into impotent bodies despite their memberships numbering in the millions. Having stifled inner democracy, the Stalinist bureaucracy also stifled the Comintern. The new International, as well as the parties adhering thereto, must build their entire inner life on the basis of democratic centralism.

11. The undersigned created a permanent commission of delegated representatives and assigned the following to it:



E. Bauer – International Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninist)

J. Schwab – SAP (Socialist Workers Party of Germany)

P.J. Schmidt – OSP (Independent Socialist Party of Holland)

K. Sneevliet – RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland)


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