MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1948 2nd Congress of the FI

Resolution on the Workers Party

Resolution Adopted by the Second Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1948

Adopted: April 26, 1948.
First Published: 1948-49.
Source: Fourth International, Vol.IX, No.7, September 1948, pages 219-220.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, November 2005.
Proofread/Edited: Scott Wilson, 2006.
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.

When the petty-bourgeois opposition within the Socialist Workers Party constituted itself in 1940 into an independent formation (the Workers Party), it thereby split away not only from the SWP but also from the Fourth International itself. This was inevitable not only because the SWP, at the time, constituted the section of the FI in the USA but also, and much more, because the political and organizational differences which underlay the split were fundamental to the political and organizational concepts of the FI. In other words, it was a principled split although it took place in an unprincipled way.

Splits (even more than faction struggles) have their own logic and momentum. Just as, on the one hand, splits without principle, if persisted in, beget principled differences on which to perpetuate themselves, even so, principled splits, if persisted in, can end up only in the counterposition of program to program in every field of politics and the class struggle. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Workers Party.

The faction struggle in the Socialist Workers Party preceding the split was found in the very course of its development to turn not on the meager concept of “bureaucratic conservatism” but on the more substantial questions of the nature of the proletarian party and the fundamental principles from which its program flows. In demanding that as a minority tendency within the party it be given the right to appear before the masses with its own specific programmatic and policy concepts and proposals, the minority faction in fact challenged the concept of democratic centralism at the very root and sought to substitute for it an organizational concept which abandoned all centralism in favor of a petty-bourgeois anarchist brand of democracy. By their attitude to Marxist philosophy and to the Marxist conception of the state, they similarly struck at the very root of the Marxist method. It was thus apparent already before the split that the minority faction represented nothing else than a petty-bourgeois current within the SWP.

Those who walk out of the proletarian party not only walk out on their colleagues but also into another and an alien environment. The proletarian party is a developing collective body which, driving as it does toward a definite objective by definite means, also provides a specific milieu in which the revolutionary cadre is formed and hardened. Even a petty-bourgeois opposition which remains within the party has therefore the opportunity not only of setting itself right politically but also of proletarianizing itself effectively. The party assists in protecting them from the influences of the alien class milieu in which they otherwise move. By walking out of the party, therefore, they bring themselves under the full blast of alien class influences.

This was also the case with the petty-bourgeois opposition when it walked out of the SWP and the FI; and although its subjective desire might have been to remain on the ground of the proletarian revolutionary movement, the intensified pressure of bourgeois influence attendant upon an imperialist war which was neither interrupted by nor followed by successful revolution has tended steadily to push the WP off the ground on which it sought to stand, in the direction of, if not wholly onto alien class ground. Nothing less than this is the meaning, for example, of its theory of bureaucratic collectivism, its views on the so-called national question, and indeed, its whole perspective of pessimism in regard to the proletarian revolution (e.g., the theory of retrogression); for all these theoretical positions, and in particular the practical actions resulting from them in war and peace, constitute nothing but capitulation to bourgeois pressure in the sense of adaptation to the bourgeois program.

It is precisely in this sense that the present program of the WP can be characterized as petty-bourgeois and revisionist; for revisionism is the program of the adaptation of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie; and the petty-bourgeois, whether individually or in an organized grouping, who fails organically to assimilate the program of and to integrate himself into the proletarian revolutionary movement becomes, thereby, the transmitting mechanism of bourgeois influences in the proletarian movement despite every subjective desire to the contrary. The WP has become the consistent banner-bearer of petty-bourgeois revisionism.

A split casts upon the party obligations radically different from those which are cast upon it by a faction struggle. In the case of a factional struggle the task of the party is to provide an adequate arena for the proper discussion and democratic decision on the points at issue. In the case of a split, on the other hand, the first task of every party member is to defend the party. This task, the SWP, and with it the International, correctly understood. They have successfully repelled the successive attacks which the WP organized both nationally and on an international scale during the last eight years.

The first of these attacks was the attempt to organize a rival International in the guise of a Committee for the Fourth International. For to call for a Fourth International was, in the first place, to deny the reality and the validity of the Fourth International that was already there. This attempt petered out. Not a single Fourth Internationalist formation could be found by the WP to support this committee despite a world-wide search by its agents. The next attack came in the form of an unprincipled bloc with the AK of the IKD, with which the WP entered into a broad agreement to struggle against the FI on both the political and organizational field. This bloc, like the previous committee, also petered out.

This sustained effort to compete organizationally with the FI, an effort which covered the duration of the second imperialist war and its immediate aftermath, thus failed.

The WP has furthermore failed in its effort to establish itself as a viable party in opposition to the SWP. The rest of the postwar period has therefore seen the WP engaged in a sustained effort to gain legitimacy in the movement via some form of fusion with the SWP. “Unity” with the SWP has been the slogan of the WP since 1945.

It is to be stressed that this “unity” campaign has been conducted within the framework of a steady continuance of the sustained hostility which the WP has shown, ever since its inception, both to the FI program and, especially to the Fl organization. However, the fact that the WP sought “unity” with the SWP without abandoning any of its theoretical positions would not of itself exclude unity if its announced intention of observing party discipline as a minority within the SWP was for the purpose of constructing the revolutionary party under the leadership of the existing majority. But this was not the case with the WP. Its conception of unity proceeded, as it still proceeds, from the idea of transforming the SWP and the movement into an arena for continuing the factional struggle which it has manifestly failed to conduct successfully from without. In other words, it was and is only seeking to execute in relation to the SWP and the movement, a form of the entrist tactic, with the object of capturing the organization or splitting it at an opportune moment.

The first major indication of the real meaning of this conception for the WP came in the fact that its first “unity drive” proved to be nothing else than an effort to link up with a minority faction within the SWP. The SWP’s defense of itself against this attempt was successful, though it entailed the split of the Goldman faction.

The next major indication of the meaning of “unity” to the WP came with the unity negotiations which were initiated by Smith in February 1947. The WP purported to be ready to accept discipline in the case of a fusion with the SWP. It was on this basis that it undertook to accept in advance the decisions of the EPC.

The joint statement of the SWP and the WP committing the two organizations to unity was consequently signed in February 1947. Its sequel, however, was not a growing rapprochement between the two parties, but rather a sharpening of the struggle between them; a situation which was characterized by a series of violations by the WP of the spirit and conditions of the very agreement they had signed. The November 1947 Plenum resolution of the WP, explicitly repudiating the joint statement of February 1947, was only an open announcement of a situation previously existing. The WP had already long ago ceased to act in any way in terms of the agreement.

In the resulting situation the Johnson-Forest tendency, drawing the necessary conclusions from this “unity” experience, broke away from the WP and joined the SWP. As for the SWP itself, it registered the collapse of the “unity” at a Plenum of February 1948, and defined its attitude to the WP as follows:

“The rejection of the road-to unity confronts the members of the WP either with the prospect of a revisionist future without perspective or a return to the doctrines of revolutionary Marxism and the Movement. Those who wish to build a genuine revolutionary workers’ party in the country along Trotskyist lines have no choice but to quit this bankrupt petty-bourgeois group and join the ranks of the SWP.”

That the SWP correctly analyzed its experience in the above resolution has since been made crystal clear by a declaration of the National Chairman of the WP. This statement was to the effect that, in case the movement followed its present policy in relation to the Soviet Union involved in war with an imperialist power, then, despite every present announcement of readiness to abide by majority decisions, he and his supporters would unhesitatingly split away again from the SWP and the movement.

By the above statement, the WP representative acknowledged not so much that the WP conception of discipline varied in peace and war, as that it would split the SWP again in wartime if it could not succeed in capturing it for the WP tendency or program in peacetime. In other words, they sought re-entry into the SWP without any genuine loyalty to the movement.

It is thus clear beyond all cavil that the “unity” drive of the WP constitutes not a change in the WP’s policy of sustained and uncompromising hostility to our program and organization but only a change in the form of application of that policy. Having failed to bludgeon the movement from without, the WP has turned to an effort to capture it or split it from within.

It is impermissible and impossible; from any point of view, for the movement to permit itself to become the victim of such a policy. Although we permit the widest differences, political and theoretical, within our ranks, the only basis on which we can and do contain these differences is that of thoroughgoing loyalty to the organization. Without this, even lesser differences than those prevailing at present could not be contained within the organization without gravely hampering its activities if not paralyzing the organization entirely.

What then is our task? The balance sheet of eight years’ experience points inexorably to one conclusion. The WP is at the present stage a politically hostile formation to the SWP and the International, and the impossibility of unity flows above all from the magnitude of the political differences. Not “unity” with the WP but its removal from the path of the proletarian party’s progress is the task. Let this be understood not only by every section and member of our organization and movement, but also by those within the WP itself who wish to remain loyal to the movement. The SWP alone provides the framework for the further organized development of the Trotskyist movement in America.


Last updated on 11 April 2009