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

The Second World Congress of the Fourth International

Article by the Editors of Fourth International magazine on the Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1948

Written: December 1948 and January 1949.
First Published: 1948-49
Source: Fourth International, New YorkVolume IX, No. 5, July 1948, pages 142-143.
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.

By The Editors

Two years after the International Conference of April 1946, delegates of 22 organizations of the Fourth International coming from all continents gathered to discuss the problems of the revolutionary workers’ movement and to work out together the line of the Fourth International for the immediate future.

For the first time since the birth of the international Trotskyist movement there were actually present direct representatives of a world movement, built and developed in the course of a fierce and unceasing struggle against the most powerful enemy forces and currents and based on solidarity in fundamental political ideas and a common program. This program concretizes the ideas of revolutionary Marxism in our epoch.

The delegates of the Second World Congress of the Fourth International took note of the fact that they were meeting on the hundredth anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, the first programmatic declaration of revolutionary Marxism and of the world labor movement which it inspired.

The balance sheet of these hundred years of struggle of the world proletariat and of the colonial peoples for their emancipation from the yoke of capitalist exploitation and oppression, to bring humanity forward from the stage of barbaric prehistory into that of socialist civilization—at present appears to some rather meager and doubtful. The death agony of capitalism continues to toss humanity from economic crises into wars, into dictatorial and fascist regimes, that mark the devastating totalitarian decomposition of present-day society. The situation is darkened even more by the monstrous degeneration of the USSR under the rule of the Soviet bureaucracy. The bureaucracy has disfigured socialism and added to capitalist barbarism a phenomenon which, although different in its historic origin and in its social essence, is symmetrical to it.

Hardly three years after the end of the second imperialist war, which ravaged the planet and brought all the contradictions of capitalism to fever heat, humanity once again faces a chain of calamities inherent in the very nature of this system: the perspectives of a new world economic crisis, the threat of dictatorship and fascism, the danger of an atomic third world war.

The delegates at the Second World Congress of the Fourth International were acutely conscious of these dangers. They took note that, benefiting from the betrayal of the labor movement by the reformists and Stalinists during and after the war, the world bourgeoisie headed by American imperialism has launched a general economic and political offensive against the standard of living and the civil rights of the working class and of the colonial peoples. They issued in the name of the World Congress a rousing appeal to all the exploited to forge their class front against the offensive of capitalism.

This is the principal task at present. However, the working class cannot attain any real success by remaining on the defensive. It must pursue the struggle to its ultimate consequences, the seizure of power and the overthrow of capitalism.

The internal economic contradictions of capitalism inexorably drive it toward the establishment of new Bonapartist and fascist dictatorships throughout the world, and toward a new atomic war. The danger of reaction is becoming clearer in France and in Italy, in the United States, in the countries of Latin America and even in India—which has only just obtained the first “national” government of its native bourgeoisie.

The war preparations in the United States and elsewhere are becoming ever more ominous. Capitalism is seeking to postpone the threatening economic crisis and to survive, above all, by developing its war economy.

That is why the appeal of the World Congress stresses the need for an immediate united front of the oppressed within the more general perspective of preparing for a revolutionary solution, in order to avoid a new wave of fascism and war. How can such a solution succeed? The Soviet bureaucracy, which arose from the society established by the October Revolution as an uncontrollable, autocratic privileged caste, thinks only of increasing its privileges at the expense of the masses inside the USSR and in the countries which it controls. With this aim in mind, it has created an authoritarian and bureaucratic political regime in the USSR never before equaled in history. The Stalinist bureaucracy can only discredit socialism everywhere by its barbaric police and bureaucratic measures that throw the masses into passivity or into the hands of reaction.

All over the world the Stalinist parties, pliant instruments in the exclusive service of the Soviet bureaucracy against imperialism, have derailed and disoriented the masses by their policy of “national unity” with the “democratic” bourgeoisie. They are incapable of gathering the masses into a common front against the offensive of capitalism and of reaction, even when they attempt to utilize mobilizations of the masses (as is actually the case ever since the “turn” of the Cominform at Belgrade) not for the overthrow of capitalism everywhere, but as a means of pressure on imperialism for a compromise with the Kremlin. The Stalinist leadership is historically doomed. To the extent that it maintains its hold on broad masses, it can only prepare new defeats and new disasters.

The delegates at the Second World Congress of the Fourth international therefore call upon the workers and all the exploited of the world to consider the underlying meaning of the crisis of humanity—which is the crisis of the revolutionary leadership of the labor movement—and to build a new leadership under the banner of the Fourth International.

But the World Congress was not merely a stock-taking by a gathering of revolutionary militants who are keeping alive in the midst of disorientation the flame of revolutionary Marxist thought, of the present reality, of its problems and perspectives. It was more than that. It as an expression of the unshakable determination of our movement to penetrate ever deeper into the mass struggles, it was an expression of the boundless confidence of our movement that the final decision, after a tragic, sanguinary experience—long when measured on the scale of a human life-span and grandiose when seen in the mirror of history—belongs to the masses who are preparing the socialist future of mankind.

The strength of the Fourth International lies in the revolutionary action of the masses. Marx declared a hundred years ago in the immortal pages of the Communist Manifesto: The communists have no interests separate and apart from those of the rest of the working class and are distinguished only by their clearer understanding of the conditions, the road and the general aims of the movement. The Fourth International is the conscious communist movement of our day. Its program expresses the immediate as well as the historic interests of the working class. When the masses, aided by the experience of the decisive events inevitably before us, begin to shake off the hold of their old leaderships, they will recognize in the Fourth International their own class conscience raised to the level of their historic mission.

The World Congress rejected with contempt all the wailings, the jeremiads and the doubts of the disillusioned, of the skeptics, of petty bourgeois critics of every stripe who have lost all faith in the working class. It rejected just as strongly the so-called “theoretical” justifications of those who accept a “necessary” detour the replacement of the socialist revolution—which can result only from the conscious work of the democratically organized masses as the ruling class—by the totalitarian caricature of Stalinism.

The Fourth International acclaims as its own the struggles of the workers, the colonial peoples, the exploited of all countries who deeply aspire to cut themselves loose from the putrefying domination of two historically reactionary forces, imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy. Together with the masses, the Fourth International will fight to lay the bases of a humane free society of equals, made possible for the first time in history by the prodigious conquests of man over nature.

The confidence of the Fourth International in its future is confidence in the victorious future of the revolutionary workers’ movement and of socialism. The Manifesto addressed by the Second World Congress of the Fourth international to the exploited of the entire world declares:

“Today Bolshevism lives anew on five continents. Its ideas are spreading. Its organizations are gaining strength. ”

“After surviving the terror of Stalin as well as that of Hitler, the Fourth International is sure of its future. For within it lives all of Marxism in our epoch and the whole indomitable will to liberation of the world working class. ”

“On the scale of a human life, its progress may seem slow. On the scale of history, its victory is already certain.”


Last updated on 11.19.2005