Founding Conference of the

Fourth International



In 1933, after the seizure of power in Germany by the fascists, the International Communist League, composed primarily of those revolutionists expelled from the Third International for “Trotskyism”, raised the slogan: For the organization of a new, a Fourth International! For the organization of new communist parties in all countries!

Up to that time, the I.C.L. had followed the policy of working to reform the Communist International. The new slogan marked the abandonment of this policy. The cowardly capitulation of the German Communist party marked the collapse of the Comintern as definitely as the collapse of the Second International had been marked by its open support of the imperialist war on August 1, 1914. The unreserved endorsement of the policy and conduct of the German C. P. which the Executive Committee of the Third International made mandatory upon all its sections, only confirmed the transformation of the International into a reactionary force in the labor movement.

The five years since 1933 have witnessed tremendous changes in the international labor movement. One catastrophe after another—the Saar, Austria, Ethiopia, Russia, Spain, China, France have emphasized the bankruptcy of the two old Internationals. The growing rapprochement between the social democrats and Stalinists has not served the aim of proletarian unity and victory, but of subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeoisie and, as a consequence, adding to a long list of disgraceful defeats. The Second International is nothing but an instrument for preserving the social dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in its decaying democratic form. The Third International is nothing but an instrument for preserving the political dictatorship of the anti-Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy.

In the same period, however, the movement launched by the I.C.L. has moved with difficulty but determination towards its goal the founding of the Fourth International. Without serious consequences in its own ranks, it overcame the internal difficulties created by a whole series of ultra leftist and dilettante tendencies which manifested themselves in its midst and which, after breaking with it, condemned themselves to impotence and nationalist decay. Without affecting its revolutionary principles, it succeeded in fusing with whole sections of militants who broke away from the Second International and joined the new movement in Holland, France, Belgium, Austria, England and the United States.

At the same time, it proved to be the only movement capable of surviving the rigorous test to which events subject principles and tactics, and which expanded its program to embrace the lessons of these events. This was made possible not only by the revolutionary Marxian principles, it has always taken as its point of departure, but by the rigidly followed regime of democratic centralism in its ranks—essential condition for the free and fruitful exchange of opinions.

The significance of this consolidation is enhanced by the contrast offered in the evolution of the various centrist groupings. Entirely illusory have proved all hopes of maintaining an independent revolutionary position in between the Second and Third Internationals, on the one side, and the Fourth International on the other. This is demonstrated by the development of the two main centrist currents.

The first is the Brandler Lovestone “International’’. Its physical disintegration is in itself sufficient commentary on the disdainful sneer at “Trotskyist sectarianism” which constituted one of its main “principles”. Its political disintegration confirms our original analysis of this movement as a bridge leading back to social democracy. Its Czech section went over to the Czech branch of the Second International. Its Swedish and French friends are, essentially, the same camp. In Alsace, its group has successfully replaced right wing communism with petty bourgeois nationalism. In India, its representative, Roy, is a Stalinist in every respect save official recognition by Moscow. Nothing is left of this “International”but the inconsequential German emigre group and the Lovestoneites in the U.S.A. The latter have sunk to the level of endorsing bourgeois party candidates in the election in the trade unions, their policy is based on the boots of labor bureaucrats and, through their pacifist “united front’’, they have recently been committed to national defense under capitalism. The decay of Brandlerism is symbolized by its recent adherence to.

The second current: the London Bureau. Its evolution, too, has been in the direction of the Second International. Its largest section, the Norwegian Labor party, has actually joined the L.S.I. and now runs the government for the bourgeoisie of Norway. Its next largest section, the P.O.U.M. of Spain, abandoned the most elementary principles of Marxism in entering a coalition government of the bourgeois state. Its third largest section, the I.L.P. of Great Britain, not only condoned the crimes of its associates—in general, all the affiliates of the London Bureau are ever so tolerant towards each other!—but continues to tolerate as its real and decisive party leadership the Parliamentary spokesmen of the party who contemptuously flout its verbal radicalism with impunity. Its fourth largest section, the SAP. of Germany, openly supports People’s Frontism, flirts with the Stalinists, and beseeches Wels, Stampfer, Deutsch and Co. for admission into a “reconstituted”All German social democracy. Its other affiliates are worthy of their compeers.

The contrast is not accidental. Serenely unaffected by the jeers and jibes of our opportunist adversaries who have always been convinced that they can keep or gain the support of big masses if only they are not too particular about the principles they advocate, we, on the contrary, have proceeded on the tested assumption that, while there are periods when the revolutionists must have the tenacity to hold together even as a small group, they can blossom into an influential party of the masses only by sticking doggedly to the principles of Marxism. Throughout the vicissitudes of the past 10-15 years, that has been the course we followed. There is no reason to regret it. It made possible the crowning of the first decade of our struggle with the founding of the Fourth International (World Party of the Socialist Revolution).

Our founding conference could not take place in a public hall. The bourgeoisie, and its Stalinist and social democratic sergeants at arms, forced the revolutionary internationalists to assemble secretly, and under the difficulties that attend such assembly. Yet, despite this handicap and the handicap of ever-strained finances, thirty delegates met “Switzerland” [the FI was actually founded in Périgny, France—at A. Rosmer’s house) on September 3, 1938, to found the Fourth International, to approve its program of action and to adopt the other resolutions which are printed in this brochure. The delegates represented directly eleven countries the United States, France, Great Britain (England and Scotland), Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy, Latin America, Poland, Belgium, Holland and Greece. In addition to the organizations in these countries, there were quite a number of others which, for a variety of legal and physical reasons, were unable to send delegates but which are nevertheless wholeheartedly pledged to the Fourth International: Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Chile, China, Indo-China, Union of South Africa, Australia, Spain, Norway, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, where sections exist, as well as small nuclei which, many of them for reasons of illegality, do not even have a regular press: Lithuania, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, Palestine, India, etc.

The banner of the Fourth International—neither the First nor the Second were ever able to say this; not even the Third could say it at its founding congress—is thus already planted on every continent of the globe, and in virtually every important country.

The Fourth International is proud of the fact that during the dramatic Munich week, when Europe seemed to be hurtling headlong towards a new imperialist slaughter, when the traditional parties of the proletariat were rallying to the flag of the bourgeoisie and the centrists were paralyzed by their internal contradictions—our world conference, meeting at the same time, issued the only clear cut, flaming call to the proletariat to unite on resolute internationalist struggle against imperialists, its war and its lackeys.

The Fourth International is proud of the fact that at a time when the masses are being disoriented and demoralized by the hollow cries about “democracy” and “peace" and “People’s Fronts”, clamorous devices for covering up treachery, it has adopted a transitional program of concrete demands which reflect the needs and longings of the masses throughout the world, which gives an unambiguous, realistic and practical answer to the burning problems of the workers, the poor farmers and peasants, and the colonial peoples.

The Fourth International is proud of the fact that its traditions and ideas are so deep rooted and irrepressible that its popular name—“Trotskyism”—is applied to those thousands of heroic revolutionary’ pioneers and old fighters who represent the resurgent forces of proletarian democracy which the reactionary, anti Soviet bureaucracy of the Kremlin is attempting so cruelly to drown in a sea of blood. The Fourth International is proud of its heroes and martyrs, who so fearlessly gave their lives or freedom in the struggle against capitalist and Stalinist reaction in Germany, Austria, Greece, Latin America, China, Indo China, Spain, France, and the Soviet Union. They are the heralds and the exemplars of the new movement.

Calumny, isolation, frame-ups, persecution, imprisonment and murder—the Fourth international has met them all from its enemies. It has survived, just as it shall survive all its enemies all, all. Today it is armed mainly with its program, with its noble ideals, with its unflagging confidence in the cause it fights for. Tomorrow its strength will be the strength of the millions, for whom its program offers the only way out of the abominations and sufferings of an outlived social order. And the millions, the masses, will conquer. At the head of their triumphal march will be the banner of the Fourth International, the World Party of the Socialist Revolution.

M. S.
January 1, 1939

Last updated on 2.25.2006