MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1946 Conference
Report on the Fourth International
Since the Outbreak of War, 1939-48
Written: December 1948 and January 1949.
First Published: 1948-49
Source: Fourth International, New York, Vol. IX, No. 8, December 1948, pp. 251-57, and Vol. X, No. 1, January 1949, pp. 28-31.
Author: Michel Pablo (according to Robert Alexander’s History).
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, November, 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 url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
1. FROM THE WAR TO THE APRIL 1946 CONFERENCE
A. How the International Withstood the Test of the War
Founded in 1938, the Fourth International was confronted with the difficult test of a global war before it was a year old. The leadership which emerged out of the Founding Congress was largely dispersed before it had the possibility to firmly establish itself as a representative body expressing politically and organizationally the collective will of the sections and enjoying their confidence. Communication with the sections and contact between them was rendered difficult and in most cases impossible.
All the sections of the international without exception were submitted to various degrees of persecution by all the warring powers. The Stalinist bureaucracy, the fascists, as well as the “democratic” imperialists, fearing the revolutionary consequences of the war, sought by various means to still the voice of revolutionary Marxism and to annihilate its cadres before they could sink deep roots within the working class,
Comrade Trotsky, the founder, leader and inspirer of the International, was among the first to be murdered by Stalin after the outbreak of the war. Later the Stalinist gangsters claimed other victims. In Greece they killed over one hundred Trotskyist, included among them the most qualified leaders of the movement. In Indochina they disposed of Tha-Tu-Thau and numerous others. They killed Blasco, the Italian Trotskyist leader who could have rendered inestimable service in the construction of the Italian party.
The Gestapo, wherever it had control, hounded the Trotskyist militants and submitted them to fierce torture and annihilation. Only a handful of the German Trotskyist survived the concentration camps. The Austrian Trotskyist lost some of their major cadres after they were placed on trial by the Nazis and condemned to death. The Czechoslovak Trotskyist lost about a dozen of their cadre elements. The Polish section was wiped out almost in its entirety. The French, Belgian, the Dutch organizations lost the most experienced leaders and many militants.
The Anglo-American imperialists who fought the war ostensibly in the name of democracy and against fascism did not feel in the least restrained in persecuting the Trotskyist. The leaders of the American Trotskyist were thrown into prison for over a year. The British Trotskyist suffered a similar fate. But they were especially ruthless in the colonial countries. The leaders and many members of the Indian party spent the war years in jail without indictment, trial or any definite term. The Chinese Trotskyist were submitted to the triple brutalities of the Japanese imperialists, Chiang Kai-shek’s hangmen and the Stalinists. Even Switzerland, the ideal country of bourgeois democracy, which remained neutral in the war, would not allow the Trotskyist to function freely and jailed its leading spokesmen. The seat of the International Secretariat and IEC was removed from the European Continent at the outbreak of the war and remained in the Western Hemisphere until 1944. But there the IEC and the IS could find a basis of support only in one party. This party, even though among the strongest and the oldest in the International, and one which distinguished itself by its political firmness, could not nevertheless substitute for a genuinely representative, collectively functioning International leadership. During this period the IS, fully cognizant of the limitations imposed on it by the situation, set itself the modest task of maintaining the thread of continuity of the International pending a turn in the objective situation which would permit the reestablishment of contact with the sections and the setting up of new representative leading organs.
Where the ties were not completely severed by the war, like Latin America, England, Australia and India, the IS rendered assistance to the sections materially and politically. It assisted the unification of the British movement; it helped bring about the unification of the Argentine groups. The latter did not prove lasting for reasons outside the control of the IS.
The IS was responsible also for the appearance of the international Bulletin and together with the IEC produced several documents expressing the policy of the International on the most immediate issues. The most important of these documents were as follows:
I. The Resolution on American Intervention in China (May 1941).
II. The Manifesto for the Defense of the USSR (October 1941).
III. The Manifesto for the Workers and Peasants of India (October 1942).
IV. The Manifesto on the Dissolution of the Comintern (July 1943).
These documents based themselves in their entirety on the programmatic positions elaborated within the international by Comrade Trotsky prior to the war as part of the political arming of the international for the imminence of war. It was this preparatory work which was primarily responsible for the fact that despite the severed ties, the sections of the International carried out a generally correct political line.
a) The International and all its sections fought tenaciously against the imperialist war. They all carried out faithfully the policy of revolutionary defeatism, that is, irreconcilable opposition to the capitalist governments and to the capitalist class as a whole.
b) The International maintained its position for the defense of the USSR as a degenerated workers’ state and of China as a semi-colonial country, both engaged in a war against imperialist powers seeking to enslave them.
c) Faced with the Nazi occupation of Europe and the reactions this occupation provoked among the masses, the International defended the principle of tying the struggle for “national independence” to the struggle for the socialist revolution and the Socialist United States of Europe. The International insisted on the need of safeguarding the organizational and political autonomy of the revolutionary party and the workers’ movement against all attempts aimed at dissolving into a “National People’s Front” of resistance organizations under bourgeois and Stalinist leadership.
d) Against the flood of chauvinist propaganda which inundated the entire world, the Trotskyists held high the banner of revolutionary internationalism. They advocated and they practiced the fraternization of all proletarians in uniform. Outstanding in this respect was the work conducted inside the German army and the publication of an organ for the German soldiers, Arbeiter und Soldat.
The record of the Fourth International during the war has few comparisons in the annals of the revolutionary movement. It is a record of tenacious devotion to principles, of uncompromising struggle against terrible odds and of costly sacrifices.
The balance sheet of the International during the war shows an array of powerful forces bent on the destruction and the annihilation of the International. These forces included the capitalist governments, their Socialist agents, the trade-union bureaucracy and the Stalinist gangsters. They failed in their objective only because of the indestructibility of the ideas on which the International was founded.
B. The Political Divergences in the International during the War
The balance sheet of the International during the war also shows its weaknesses which the hard test of the war underscored especially. The International and its sections were as yet only in the propaganda stage at the outbreak of the war. Not a single section could be classified as a party in the real sense of the word. Their ties with the masses were very slim. For this, there are profound historical reasons.
The degeneration of the first workers’ state carried in its train the degeneration of a whole generation of proletarian revolutionists whose political consciousness dates back to the Russian Revolution. Ever since the Russian Revolution the world proletariat has been subjected to a series of uninterrupted defeats. It found itself on the eve of the war betrayed by its traditional parties and leaders and demoralized by the march of fascist reaction.
The International in its propaganda stage attracted to its ranks many petty-bourgeois intellectuals who if they had continued to function in a workers’ milieu might have rendered valuable service to the revolutionary movement. But under the conditions of isolation imposed on the revolutionary vanguard, many of them succumbed in one way or another to the terrible pressure of the war. Some went over completely into the camp of the class enemy; others developed revisionist positions which they sought to impose on the International or to break the International when they met with no success.
The first of these revisionist groups to emerge with the outbreak of the war was that of Burnham, Schachtman and Abern in the United States, where the pressure of “democratic” imperialism was greatest. This group which Comrade Trotsky characterized as a petty-bourgeois opposition took the Stalin-Hitler pact in 1939 as the occasion for rejecting the position of the International on the defense of the Soviet Union. In the course of the polemic on this question in which Comrade Trotsky fully participated, it became clear that involved in the struggle was not merely the question of the defense of the USSR against imperialist attack but a petty-bourgeois rebellion against the Marxist method of analysis of the character of the state and of politics in general. It became clear furthermore that this group rejected the Bolshevik conception of the revolutionary party and its discipline.
Finding themselves in a minority in the American party, they refused to submit to the discipline of the majority and of the International. They split and formed their own organization, the Workers Party. Since that split in 1940 they have done all they could to extend the split into the International as a whole. This criminal split, in the midst of the war, necessitated the convocation of an Emergency International Conference which was held in May 1940. This conference was made necessary in addition in order to rearm the International on the questions posed by the outbreak of the war and its development. The Emergency conference reaffirmed its basic programmatic line as it applied specifically to the war. This was set down in the Manifesto entitled “Imperialist War and the Struggle for the Proletarian Revolution.” The Emergency Conference also elected a new leadership. This was made necessary because several members elected to the IEC by the Founding Congress betrayed the trust placed in them and sided with the splitters.
Another revisionist grouping emerged out of the emigré German group. Their views were first propounded in the document, “The Three Theses,” which appeared in October 1941. The conceptions propounded by this group diverged sharply from the programmatic positions on which the International was founded. The authors of “The Three Theses” have since then developed their revisionism even further. The resolution of the April 1946 Conference took cognizance of this fact when it summarized the political line of the IKD. This resolution stated that “...the leadership of the IKD has substituted for our transitional and socialist program corresponding to the historic character of our epoch, which remains fundamentally a period of socialist revolution, a national-democratic program based on the necessary detour via the democratic revolution and on the perspective of the next, great national-democratic war of all the oppressed peoples of Europe.”
The WP and the IKD have given extreme expression to the revisionism inside the International produced by the impact of the war and the inherent weaknesses within the organizations. But there were other less profound political divergences which developed within the International during the war. The general programmatic positions of the International could not in all cases supply concrete answers to all the complicated questions posed before the sections. The severance of the ties between the sections meant in effect that each one was compelled to determine its own policy and in most cases the International had no possibility to participate in the internal struggles within the sections.
The pressure of the war and the occupation of Europe by the Nazis at first disoriented completely the leadership of the prewar Trotskyist movement in France. Some deserted the organization and others abandoned political activity. Among the remaining leading comrades there were some who developed a position which represented in essence a complete retreat from the revolutionary positions of the Fourth International. They raised doubts about the need of the Fourth International and its strengthening and proposed instead the “...intervention in the different international and national regroupments.” (Report of Comrades M.H. and Y.C. of August 7, 1940 to the IEC.) This extreme position was subsequently, abandoned by the leadership of the French POI. New differences however, developed later on the “national question.”
In China a struggle developed within the section over the attitude toward the war against the Japanese imperialists. Our position, in support of China as a semi-colonial country fighting for its independence came up for re-examination once America entered the war. The Chinese section split over this issue. The majority basing itself on the positions of the International retained its defensist policy. A minority however, rejected this position, maintaining that the character of the war had changed with America’s entry and that China’s struggle had become subordinated to the general imperialist character of the war. This consideration of the minority was coupled with its conception that the Chinese bourgeoisie, and the colonial bourgeoisie in general, cannot play even a partially progressive role in the struggle against foreign imperialism.
In the European countries under German occupation, the sections were confronted with the need of concretizing their positions on the national question. We shall deal with this question here in greater detail since the divergences took place in Europe during the German occupation and the real issues were not fully known to the International as a whole.
C. The National Question during the War
The suppression of national independence and the oppression of the peoples by the occupying imperialists was much more extensive during the Second World War than during the First. The especially brutal character of the Nazi occupation provoked among the proletarian masses and the petty bourgeoisie of the European countries a spontaneous resistance which assumed various forms.
The native bourgeoisie, on the other hand, was preoccupied above all with the maintenance of the capitalist regime, with its participation in the exploitation of the masses, with the struggle against the resistance of the masses and the defense of that part of the world market which it seized for itself. It was divided into two sections, each closely collaborating with one of the two opposing imperialist blocs. But it maintained its solidarity as a class. Through its “resistance” section, it sought to exploit the “national” sentiment of the masses in behalf of its war aims and to ensure its continued domination in the eventuality of a German defeat.
It was the task of the revolutionary proletariat to direct the popular sentiment of the masses into the channel of the proletarian revolution and the Socialist United States of Europe. It was necessary to take advantage of the revolutionary dynamism inherent in the resistance of the masses to prevent the “Allied” bourgeoisie and the Soviet bureaucracy from utilizing it for their reactionary aims. For this reason, it was the task of the revolutionary vanguard to oppose the “unification” of the various forces claiming to belong to the “Resistance Movement” (all the way from de Gaulle and up to the workers’ formations). On the contrary, it was necessary to promote everywhere the differentiation between the workers and the capitalists. It was necessary to develop thoroughly the elements of civil war which existed in a veiled or open form throughout the struggle of the masses under the occupation.
Such a policy is entirely within the general framework of revolutionary defeatism and of proletarian internationalism which constitute the programmatic foundation of the Fourth International. It is merely a question of combining organically the national demands of the masses with the revolutionary and socialist program of the proletariat. The sections or tendencies which failed or hesitated to audaciously take the initiative in inscribing in their program the struggle for national demands, in organizing this struggle and in participating in the “national” movements of the masses (strikes, partisan armies, insurrections of the type which took place in Greece in December 1944), have committed grave sectarian mistakes which impeded their development (Greece). An analogous error was committed by the CCI in France. They refused to recognize the existence of the national question as it was imposed by the occupation. They practically ignored the justified reaction of the masses provoked by the occupation.
Equally false was the attitude of the sections or tendencies which conceived of the struggle for our combined socialist and revolutionary program, national demands included, as a struggle by stages: the first stage ”national” and democratic, which then opens the road to the second stage ”socialist and proletarian.” This was the thesis of the IKD. In the same category was the slogan of “national insurrection” advocated by the French POI. It favored cooperation and even political participation of our sections in the leading organism of the ‘Resistance Movement” which was dominated by the bourgeoisie and the class-collaborationist Stalinist bureaucracy, working jointly to stifle, for the benefit of the imperialist war, the real mass movement of opposition to the occupation. The same tendencies also favored the united front on a “national” and “democratic” platform with the “resistance” section of the bourgeoisie (policy of the French PCI, 1940-42).
The national oppression suffered under the Nazi occupation of Europe did not end with Germany’s defeat in the war. The victors in the war, the “Allied” imperialists and the Soviet bureaucracy practice their own specific forms of oppression against the conquered peoples and others.
This demonstrates once again that the struggle against national oppression and for the people’s right to self-determination is indissolubly linked with the struggle against the capitalist regime and for the Socialist United States of Europe and of the World. It was in this spirit that the European Conference of April 1946 endeavored to answer this question. There are those who, a posteriori, criticized the “non-comprehension” of the national question by the International and the non-participation in the resistance movements. They attribute to these “errors” the principal cause for the weakness of our European sections. Among other things, they ignore the fact that this question was posed practically for only two European sections: the French and the Greek. In Greece and here one should not exaggerate the likely results that might have been achieved by a policy different from that followed by the majority of the comrades. It is incontestable that the mistakes committed have handicapped considerably the subsequent development of our movement in that country. But in France, it was the “non-sectarian” tendency which led the organization until about the end of 1943. It has given no proof whatever of what it means in practice “to understand” and “to participate” in the “Resistance Movement.” Nor has it shown how it could have led to a decisive or even important development of the party.
The “Resistance Movement” in France, as elsewhere, existed in reality only in the following three forms:
1) As a diffused popular sentiment of opposition to the foreign imperialist masters and their native bourgeois accomplices.
2) As limited underground organizations led exclusively by the direct agents of the “Allied” bourgeoisie and the Soviet bureaucracy. They served the Allied General Staff and carried out military tasks auxiliary to the operations of the Allied armies.
3) As “ corps francs ” (special military formations for sabotage).
In France it was only after 1944 that the partisan movement assumed some amplitude. The revolutionary party responded to the popular “resistance” sentiments by including national demands in its revolutionary and socialist program, by organizing, participating, and wherever possible directing mass struggles opposed directly or indirectly to the occupation regime (strikes, demonstrations, insurrections). But the party opposed all collaboration with, and especially all political participation in, the leading organisms of the “Resistance Movement” which grouped the direct agents of the Allied General Staff and which had no organized popular base. On the contrary the party denounced the nationalist reactionary character of these formations.
The revolutionary party, on the other hand, advocated participation in the popular partisan armies, especially in those countries where they embraced important sections of the working class and the poor peasants (Balkan countries, Poland). It was necessary to penetrate these mass formations which offered an opportunity for advancing our revolutionary program. Elsewhere we advocated participation in all the organisms of the mass “resistance” such as the “Patriotic Militias,” “Liberation Committees,” etc. This policy was generally followed in France after the unification of the POI and the CCI, which constituted the present PCI. But even after the unification, a certain amount of confusion prevailed in the French organization due to the excesses committed by the extreme tendencies in the POI and the CCI and which prevented the party as a whole from applying such a policy with more clarity and firmness. But even more important is the fact that the party did not dispose of sufficient forces for effective work in the “national movements” ( Franc-Tireur, Patriotic Militias, Liberation Committees).
In addition to a correct policy, the party must dispose of sufficient experienced cadres capable of carrying the policy into the mass organizations and influencing them in a revolutionary direction. But the French party was in a very unhealthy state at the outbreak of the war. The unfavorable conditions under which the entry of the split PCI into the PSOP took place, the illegality following the outbreak of the war, the defection of the most prominent leaders, then the defeat and the occupation of the country, accentuating the demoralization of the workers’ movement all this had led to the virtual decomposition of the organization and the disorientation of its cadres. The young militants who were responsible for the subsequent regroupment of the Trotskyist forces under the most adverse conditions of the Nazi and Vichy terror, and who published an illegal press have done heroic work. But it would be too much to expect of them to have wrested the leadership of the “Resistance Movement” from the hands of the Stalinist apparatus and from the de Gaullists. It is necessary to guard the proper proportions when one speaks of the “mistakes” committed on the national question.
D. The Defense of the Soviet Union during the War
Just as the Nazi occupation of Europe confronted the International with the task of concretizing its position on the national question, so, too, the subsequent defeat of Germany and the advance of the Red Army outside the borders of the USSR necessitated the concretization of our position in defense of the Soviet Union and a shift in emphasis in the sight of the new situation. At that point in the war it became necessary to place the greatest emphasis on the exposure of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism. This question has been elaborated in the thesis on the USSR and Stalinism. It will suffice to summarize it here.
a) The International has been completely justified in stressing the unconditional defense bf the Soviet Union against imperialist attack. The international was furthermore justified in its stress on the revolutionary wave which would follow the Red Army victories. The events themselves have given clear confirmation of it.
b) The mistake made was in the failure to warn the masses clearly and insistently at the same time that the Red Army as the instrument of the Stalinist bureaucracy would do everything in its power to suppress the independent revo1utionary movement of the masses; that the social reforms the Stalinists would institute even when progressive in themselves, would be imposed bureaucratically and would be strictly limited by the interests of the Kremlin oligarchy.
c) We correctly warned the masses that the Anglo-American imperialists replacing the Nazi occupation forces in Europe would play a counter-revolutionary role. But we did not warn them sufficiently in advance of the counter-revolutionary role of the Stalinist occupation. This hesitation expressed itself even in the political resolution of the April 1946 Conference which failed to advance clearly the demand for the withdrawal of the Stalinist occupation forces.
E. Germany’s Role in the Revolutionary Crisis
Until 1944 and even some time after, the International in its entirety maintained the position that the German revolution was inevitable and that this would from the start give a powerful impetus to the whole revolutionary crisis in Europe following the war.
In this perspective we did not give sufficient consideration to a series of factors which proved powerful enough in their totality to prevent the outbreak of the German revolution.a) The material and human destruction in Germany;
b) the reactionary character of the Soviet and Allied occupation;
c) the extreme atomization of the German proletariat under fascism.
All these factors served to negate the premises for large-scale actions by the German masses.
This self-criticism was already made by the International at its Conference of April 1946.
F. The International Leadership from 1943 to the April 1946 Pre-Conference
We mentioned earlier the restricted functioning of the central organs of the International imposed by the conditions of the war and the lack of effective contact with the sections of the International, particularly with those of continental Europe, which were in the center of revolutionary developments in the final stage of the war. But such was the vitality of the International and the firmness of its ideological ties that a new continental leadership emerged in Europe right in the midst of the war. After several, at first only partially successful attempts during the year 1942 to establish a secretariat comprising representatives of the different European sections, a stable functioning European Secretariat was finally established in July 1943. It was composed of representatives of the Trotskyist organizations of France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Greece. The European Secretariat took charge of coordinating, guiding and extending the work of the sections. It undertook the publication of the Quatrième Internationale as a theoretical organ, as well as of an internal discussion bulletin. It undertook the task of preparing a European Conference which was held in February 1944. The political positions adopted at this Conference were set down in the theses “On the Liquidation of the Imperialist War.” This conference also brought about the unification of the POI and the CCI in France into the present PCI. It elected an enlarged European Executive Committee and a European Secretariat.
As the situation permitted, these bodies were gradually broadened to include representatives of other sections of the International. It was this European Executive Committee which was subsequently charged by the IS with the task of convoking an International Pre-Conference. This Conference was held in April l944 with mandated delegates from 12 sections.
The European Executive Committee marked the beginning of a new stage in the work of the international leadership. It represented for the first time since the foundation of the International a truly collective leadership composed of responsible representatives of functioning sections. The task of broadening the International leadership, of investing it with the authority of the responsible representatives from the greatest possible number of sections was given an even greater impetus by the April 1946 Pre-Conference.
In summarizing the report on the International during the war, it is correct to say that despite the fierce persecution it had to face and the heavy losses it suffered, it emerged out of the war stronger than before. The International gave an outstanding example of devotion to principles. It was the only functioning International during World War II. Despite some mistakes, the International and its parties have grown in experience, maturity and self-assurance in the face of the hard tasks imposed by the war. Many of its sections augmented their forces. New sections have come into existence (Italy, India, Poland, Peru, Egypt and Cyprus). The tendency toward the unification of all the form claiming adherence to the Fourth International into a single organization has been particularly marked in Europe.
2. FROM THE APRIL 1946 CONFERENCE TO THE WORLD CONGRESS
A. The April Conference
By the time of the April 1946 Conference, connections had been reestablished with most of the sections of the International on all the continents, and despite all the travel difficulties, twelve sections sent regular delegates to this first postwar world gathering. In determining its tasks, its role and its power, the Conference defined them as follows:
a) “To sit as a World Conference of the Fourth International and to responsibly make decisions on all the questions on the agenda, and
b) “To dissolve the IEC and the IS and to elect at this Conference a new IEC and IS having complete authority to act until the next World Congress.”
The April Conference accomplished a double task which greatly facilitated the subsequent development of the International as a centralized world party and which accelerated its political consolidation:
a) On the political plane, the Conference elaborated a series of documents among which were the resolution “On the New Imperialist Peace and the Construction of the Parties of the Fourth International” and the Manifesto, “Only the Victorious Socialist Revolution Can Prevent the Third World War.” These documents setting forth the political line of the International served to rearm the International and to facilitate the delimitation from all elements who have attempted to revise the fundamental program of our movement.
b) On the organizational plane, the Conference created new leading bodies, really representative, having closer contact with the sections and the life of the International than ever before.
The International Executive Committee which came out of the Conference has worked collectively in elaborating the political line of the International and in resolving the questions which have been posed by the day-to-day life of the sections. In the space of less than two years, the IEC held five Plenums where many problems facing the International came up for consideration and decision. The preparation of the World Congress, the organization of the broadest possible pre-Congress discussion, safeguarding the democratic rights of minorities, has been one of the major concerns of the IEC.
The IS is likewise constituted in its majority of representatives of the important sections and it functions under the control of the IEC. It has carried out its work regularly and intensively. It has taken a stand on the principal political events. It has established links with practically all the sections and organizations claiming adherence to the Fourth International. It has published the periodical, the Quatrième Internationale. It has issued the Internal Bulletin regularly in French, and on occasion in other languages. It has published a Newsletter which supplies the press of the International with information on the life of the sections. The IS has published a large number of documents submitted for the International discussion preparatory to the World Congress (in addition to those published in the regular internal bulletin). It has issued the pre-Congress discussion material in a volume and at a speed never known in the past history of our movement.
These achievements have served to establish firmly in the consciousness of the sections and its members that the International lives and functions as a centralized world party. This reflects in the last analysis our movement’s collective progress since the end of the war.
B. The Postwar Divergences in the International
Apart from the divergences arising over the question of the USSR, examined in the “Theses on the USSR and Stalinism.” as well as those which exist on the national question, there have been a number of other questions over which divergences arose inside the International and inside the sections.
At the time of the April Conference, the differences centered mainly around the question of the economic perspectives of European capitalism. The last two years have served to verify the basic prognoses of the Conference. Important as one may consider the economic advances achieved in the Western European countries in relation to the immediate postwar economic collapse, it is nevertheless clear that these countries are far from a relative economic stabilization. Production in the countries of Western Europe has reached a ceiling and can maintain and strengthen itself only to the extent that new aid from American imperialism is extended for a number of years. An objective examination of the developments since the April Conference should serve to liquidate the differences over this question. There were numerous questions confronting the International since the pre-Conference. Once the general political line was determined, the IEC and the IS concerned themselves more intimately with the tasks of the sections, with unifying the groups into single sections wherever that was possible, with the best tactics to be pursued by the sections in the struggle to break out of isolation and to find the road to the masses.
In these discussions differences of opinion arose. The International leadership thus found itself ill disagreement with the majority of the RCP (British section) over the tactics to be pursued in that country. This divergence was finally resolved through a compromise. This solution was approved by the IEC as a whole as well as by the majority and minority of the RCP. This final solution was a tribute to the growing maturity of the International in its ability to deal with complicated tactical problems. It also demonstrated a growing sense of responsibility on the part of the sections in maintaining the unity of the International.
Serious differences arose also between the International leadership and the majority of the leadership of the PCI (France) which won control of the party of its Third Congress (1946). These differences revolved principally around (a) the application of the Transitional Program to the existing conditions in France, and (b) the false policy of the leadership in relation to Stalinism. The International sought to correct the opportunist course of the PCI, its vulgarization of the party’s positions reducing the Transitional Program to a mere trade union level and its adaptation to Stalinism. The events which have shaken France since the Renault strike in April 1947, have demonstrated the correctness of the line pursued by the International. The subsequent Congress of the PCI (November 1947) repudiated the opportunist policy of the PCI leadership.
With the present leadership of the Italian section, the International is in profound disagreement. It rejects their sectarian political conceptions as well as the manner in which they envisage the party’s internal regime, substituting for our concept of democratic centralism, a conception of “revolutionary” centralism which stifles the internal life of the organization. The positions of the International on this question as well as on all the others were elaborated in resolutions adopted by the plenary meeting of the IEC.
With the Swiss and the Austrian comrades, the International leadership has differences over their opposition in principle to the entrist tactic. They have a completely sectarian approach to this question which was debated in the International and definitively settled in the early Thirties. These comrades, however, persist in attributing all the difficulties in the International to the “original sin” of the “French turn.”
With Comrade Munis and his associates, the International discussion has revealed two kinds of divergences,
(a) On the political plane these comrades have made a completely false evaluation of the USSR and Stalinism. But what is even worse, their conclusions are completely sectarian. Thus for example they reject the admissibility of the united front tactic in relation to the Stalinist party. They reject in addition certain vital parts of our Transitional Program (nationalization, government of the traditional workers’ parties).
(b) Proceeding from the same sectarian concepts, Comrade Munis has launched an attack against the whole policy of the International during the war, and particularly against the American and British Trotskyist. He interprets the “struggle against imperialist war and its transformation into a civil war” in a sectarian manner. What is a strategic line animating the activities of the party, in its revolutionary opposition to the war and the capitalist government, is to him the central agitation slogan.
(c) On the organizational plane they have launched a violent attack against the International’s regime, its methods of functioning, and especially against the procedure in preparation of the World Congress. Their conceptions of the organization question would destroy the centralist element of the International’s regime of democratic centralism and would lead to the political and organizational deformation of the International.
In the pre-Congress discussion the International leadership sought the participation of all sections and tendencies. Mindful of the long years of war, which made a normal life in the International impossible, it even went out of its way to make provisions for the participation of groups and tendencies which in the past broke with the International (Workers Party).
In summarizing the long intensive discussion, we see despite the various divergent tendencies, two main currents:
(a) The traditional Trotskyist current which forms the overwhelming majority of the functioning sections. This current retains its analysis of the fundamental crisis of capitalism in our epoch. This crisis has only been aggravated by the consequences of the war. It retains its perspectives of the socialist revolution, having confidence in the revolutionary capacities of the proletariat, in its ability to liberate itself from the grip of Stalinism. It places the main emphasis on the transformation of our organizations from propaganda groups into genuine mass parties, a transformation which is not only necessary, but for the first time also feasible.
(b) Opposed to this is the current which lays stress on the retreat of the socialist revolution, on the forces of historic retrogression, the sinking into barbarism, the incapacity of the proletariat, its degeneration, its profound contamination with Stalinism. They are impressed, on the contrary, by every “success” of capitalism, by its “stabilization.” They look with skepticism on the future of the International and they denigrate its work and achievements. This revisionist current is profoundly defeatist in relation to the perspectives of the proletarian revolution. This current embraces principally the KDI and the Workers Party.
The line of this tendency would sterilize and paralyze the struggle of the International to sink roots into the mass movement.
When they stress the role of the party, they do it in reality in order to negate the revolutionary capacities of the proletariat and its instinctive striving for a revolutionary solution. Yet it is precisely this which makes the construction of a revolutionary party possible.
This current would want to impose on the International a regime of perpetual discussion which respects no decisions arrived at by congresses and which never settles anything. Were the International to be influenced by this tendency, it would prevent the main activities of the International and its sections from being directed outward. With this tendency all questions must constantly come up for reconsideration. This means in reality that their type of discussion always remains in the realm of the historical and the abstract and is not tied to the questions posed by concrete political actions which demand decisions, so that the external actions of the International might have the maximum possible effectiveness. The decisive repudiation of this tendency by the World Congress is the necessary precondition for the future development of the International.
The balance sheet of the International since its foundation demonstrates marked progress in the growth of the sections and their influence; in the political maturity in the International and its sections; in the development of collective leadership; but it also demonstrates, on the other hand, the weakness of the International in relation both to the objective possibilities and the historic necessities.
The differences with those who minimize the International because none of its sections have as yet become mass parties, lies in the fact that while our critics draw defeatist conclusions, we proceed with the task of actually constructing such parties, full of confidence in the powerful forces that will aid us in this task. The construction of the mass party is made possible because the conditions of capitalism in its death agony must of necessity accelerate the socialist consciousness of the proletariat seeking a revolutionary solution.
But having said this, it nevertheless remains true that the future of the workers’ movement, its ability to liberate itself in time from the grip of the treacherous Social Democrats and Stalinists depends definitely on the capacity of the Fourth International to intervene in the workers’ struggles, to help raise their political level and thus construct the mass revolutionary party. In accomplishing this task, the International will be obliged to combat not only revisionism, but also the sectarian tendency which is a survival of the isolation of our movement. The past history has confined our movement largely to propaganda work within narrow circles. The habits of thinking and of work which have developed under such conditions can become a serious obstacle in the building of mass parties. Sectarianism in the International expresses itself in diverse forms: opposition in principle to the entrist tactic; rejection of the united front tactic in relation to the Stalinist parties; failure to understand the national question as it was posed by the war and as it is posed in the colonial countries; minimization or rejection of fraction work in the workers’ mass organizations and political parties; failure to take advantage of the legal possibilities and to function openly where conditions permit it.
These weaknesses can be corrected by a resolute orientation toward mass work, by an international discussion of the national experiences in this work, which can help educate the whole International, by the appropriate intervention of the international leadership.
Immediately following the imperialist war it was necessary at first to concentrate attention on the regroupment of all the forces claiming adherence to the Fourth International. It was necessary to assemble the forces dispersed and isolated during the war, establishing with them firm ideological and organizational links. This phase has now been completed.
To face up to the new tasks confronting it, the work of the International is to be reorganized taking into account the truly world character of the movement which extends to all the continents. Until now the International based itself largely on Europe and North America. But new possibilities have arisen in the meantime, particularly in Latin America, in the Middle East and in the countries of Asia. For the International leadership to effectively fulfill its role it must be reorganized so that it is tied more intimately with these new fields of activities, so that it could help the sections in these countries, help construct new sections, and in turn become enriched by the new experiences and the contributions from the sections that have heretofore not participated intimately enough in the life of the International.
Toward this end it is necessary to incorporate into the new IEC representatives from these regions. It is necessary furthermore to form subsecretariats: one of the Latin-American countries, one for the colonial and semi-colonial countries. These bodies are to work under the direction of the International Secretariat.
The central press of the International must correspond to these necessary divisions of work.
The main governing line of the International, once the general political line is determined by the Congress, remains that of transforming the sections into parties of mass action. In this task the International will concentrate its efforts on those countries which offer the best possible opportunities. This holds true for several countries of Latin America, for semi-colonial and colonial countries of the Far and Middle East, where the situation is characterized by a powerful awakening of the young workers’ movement and where Stalinism is not as formidable as in Europe.
In Europe special attention must he given to France, Italy, Germany and England. In all these countries, for reasons which are not the same, our movement is on the way to or has the possibility of developing more rapidly.
The World Congress, arming the International politically, settling the questions which have arisen in its internal life and broadening the international leadership, will mark the principal stage in our movement’s history. In 1938 at its foundation, the Fourth International was placed “in the presence of the tasks of a mass movement.” The World Congress of 1948 declares that the Fourth International is on the way to realizing these talks and by its decisions it will prepare the orientation of the entire International toward this path.
Last updated on 2.2.2006