MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: World War II: Emergency Conference: 1940

Emergency Conference Of The Fourth International

Forward: Adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International
May 19-26, 1940

Adopted: May 19-26, 1940
First Published: June, July and August, 1940
Source: Socialist Appeal, New York, June 29, 1940.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: David Walters, December, 2005
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line, 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the address of this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

The Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, attended by mandated delegates of ten national sections, has been successfully concluded!

Called on the initiative of its United States, Mexican, and Canadian sections, the conference addressed the working class of the world in a resounding manifesto urging the toilers of all lands to put an end to the imperialist war by initiating the world socialist revolution.

The mandated delegates to the conference represented sections of the Fourth International in the United States, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, the Argentine, Puerto Rico, and Chile. Fraternal delegates were seated from the Australian and Chinese sections and from the editorial board of the Bulletinof the Russian Bolshevik Leninist Opposition. Organizations affiliated with the Fourth International in England, France, China, Switzerland, and Bulgaria, unable to send representatives or mandates because of conditions of illegality and other adverse factors, sent declarations of solidarity. The ravages of war and of ruthless internal suppression made it impossible for the affiliates of the Fourth International in Holland, a, Scandinavia, Palestine, Lithuania, Rumania, Indochina, South Africa, and Brazil to be contacted in time to obtain representation.

The World Emergency Conference met in strictest secrecy, due to the conditions engendered by the war, “somewhere in the Western Hemisphere” on May 19 26. Gathering in the tense atmosphere of the engulfing war, the conference constituted the genuine voice of proletarian internationalism.

Neither the decrepit Second International nor the perfidious Third International, nor the international federation of centrist squeezed lemons known as the “International Workers Front” have made themselves heard by as much as a whisper in this gravest hour in the history of the working class, when, for the second time within a generation, the monstrous tanks of militarism and a thousand new horrors of war sweep over the battlefields, crushing the bodies of millions of workers in uniform, and scattering millions of others in civil life to the four winds in search of refuge.

Only the Fourth International, gathered in a world conference has raised its voice to explain to the workers everywhere in the clearest terms the situation confronting them; to show them the revolutionary way out of the crushing disaster that is overtaking society disorganized by capitalism; to speak out to them in the voice of courage and hope which is the voice of the coming world socialist revolution.

Meeting two years after the founding of the World Party of Socialist Revolution on September 3, 1938, at Geneva, Switzerland, the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International drew the balance sheet of the intervening period of war preparations and the outbreak of war itself. It was able to establish the gratifying fact that the overwhelming majority of its sections and members throughout the world had withstood the test of these trying times in exemplary fashion. The conference unanimously reaffirmed the principles adopted at the first World Congress and elaborated for fifteen years preceding it within the “Trotskyist” movement.

While the organizations of the opportunist Internationals were everywhere showing signs of deep going disintegration and complete paralysis, the conference was presented with evidence that the Fourth International not only held its own, but could register a distinct increase in numbers and activity in the two years past, despite the illegalization of several of our sections since the conclusion of the Munich Pact.

Particularly heartening was the organizational report, which recorded considerable growth of our movement in Latin America, where our Chilean comrades, after a process of unification with large groups of proletarians breaking with the reformist Socialist Party, are rapidly building a mass organization.

A new section has been constituted in Bolivia. In the Argentine and in Cuba our sections are developing their influence in the mass movement and striking roots in the trade unions. In other South American countries new groups have been formed or are in the process of formation. In Australia our young Communist League has made particularly gratifying headway in winning over a whole leading cadre of militants from the Stalinist party.

In France, despite the 0tbreak of the war, our section has been reinforced by the adherence to it of the bulk of the active members in the left wing f the centrist PSOP (Workers and Peasants Socialist Party).

In England, our section obtained such significant successes in the labor party that the reformist bureaucracy felt impelled to ban our members from affiliation even before the war had entered its critical stage and brought with it governmental repressive measures.

In Ireland, the organization report indicated a substantial group has been formed, requesting affiliation with the Fourth International. Similar developments are reported in numerous other countries with which e Fourth International previously had no contact.

In general, the organization report presented a picture of a live international party glowing despite tremendous obstacles and functioning as a sing1 unit, a veritable organized vanguard preparing to lead into battle the millions of toilers everywhere whose backs are evei now straightening up from under the heel of capitalism.

The chief work of the conference was the preparation of a manifesto to the world working class. After considerable discussion, the draft proposed by the Executive Committee was adopted with only minor amendments. This document is a unique revolutionary achievement. It comprises an all sided panorama of the world in the throes of war; an analysis of the factors making for the transformation of this war into a civil war for a Socialist United States of Europe on the road to a World Federation of Socialist Republics; as well as a call to action which contains strategic and tactical directives.

The conference met in the shadow of the dastardly GPU’s attempt upon the life of the outstanding leader of the Fourth International, the foremost proletarian revolutionist in the world today, Leon Trotsky. In a resolution adopted by acclamation, the conference congratulated Comrade Trotsky on his miraculous escape from the hands of the Kremlin’s assassins. It greeted Comrade Trotsky and his companion, Natalia Sedova, in heartfelt wards which expressed the profound appreciation of revolutionists the world over for their devotion to the cause of the world working class and anxiety for their continued welfare and safety.

Recalling the great name of such martyrs in the struggle of the Fourth International as Leon Sedov, Rudolph Klement, Erwin Wolf, and Ignace Reiss, heroes felled by the hand of Cain Stalin’s gunmen and killers, the conference paused to send greetings to the stouthearted and fearless militants of the Fourth International now languishing in the concentration camps and prisons of Hitler’s Germany; to comrades Rigal, Steve, Weitz, and their friends in the jails of French imperialism; to the heroic soldiers of the Fourth International imprisoned by Vargas’ Brazil, Metaxas’ Greece, Franco’s Spain; to our brothers in the British colonies, clamped into dungeons by Churchill’s England; to the dauntless Bolshevik Leninists tortured but unyielding, in the grip of the Kremlin oligarchy; to our brave comrades placed behind prison walls in Minnesota by Roosevelt’s FBI, and to the class war prisoners everywhere whose name is legion.

Meeting in the main to arm the Fourth International for the coming great battles against capitalism, in its hideous fascist as well as illusory “democratic” imperialist armor, and for the struggle to win the world working class over to this great, relentless, and exacting cause against the lackeys of the bourgeoisie in the Second International and the tools of imperialism in the Third International, the emergency conference also had another task: to pass judgment upon those weak kneed petty bourgeois elements formerly in our ranks who at the first test of the unfolding war run for cover. It had to deal with those who deserted under the pretext of proposing a “concrete” revision of our program on the question of unconditional defense of the USSR, which developed into an open surrender of Marxist theory and the principles and traditions of Bolshevism, upon whose foundations the International had been constructed.

The conference unanimously condemned this revisionist, petty bourgeois tendency as represented by Burnham and Shachtman in the Socialist Workers Party of the United States and by Lebrun, Johnson, Trent, and Anton in the International Executive Committee. It charged them with betraying the trust placed in them by the organizations of the Fourth International. The conference denounced their futile effort to split the international organization as contemptible treachery. It called upon the Socialist Workers Party of the United States to set a time limit of one month, within which all those suspended for participating in the split action are to signify their acceptance of the decisions of the SWP convention or else suffer unconditional expulsion from the party.

Taking note of an extensive report from the French section of the Fourth International, the emergency conference condemned the political line of the Gilbert tendency in that organization—a tendency which holds a defeatist view in regard to the USSR—similar to that of the Shachtman Burnham minority of the SWP, as contrary to the program and policy of the Fourth International. But while warning against the centrist character of this group, the conference commended the Gilbert tendency for its organizational loyalty in condemning the announced split of Shachtman and Burnham and in declaring themselves categorically for “respect in action for majority discipline and democratic centralism.”

The decisions of the conference, representing the will of every active section able to send delegates or mandates, were declared in a resolution as implementing the program and principles of the First World Congress and consequently binding for all sections. The conference noted that every section and group which had taken a decision in the matter and communicated with the Executive had already unreservedly declared themselves for the maintenance of the slogan of the unconditional defense of the USSR and against all attempts to revise the program of the Fourth International, undertaken by the petty bourgeois opposition.

Based upon this authority, the emergency conference decided to elect an International Executive Committee with representatives from all sections, charged with executing the program and policies of the Fourth International in the course of the war, and with the calling of a full world congress as soon as conditions make such a step feasible. With the presentation of the reports on activity from the sections and the election of the incoming International Executive Committee the Emergency Conference of the World Party of Socialist Revolution closed its sessions, firm in the conviction that it had successfully accomplished the work of consolidating the international organization, of providing it with a functioning and authoritative leadership, and of arming it with a line of action which alone can initiate the workers’ own emancipation from the toils of horrifying war and ruthless exploitation.

Last updated on 12.5.2005