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Toward a History of the Fourth International

Declaration of the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency

[From the International Internal Discussion Bulletin Volume X Number 3, March of 1973. Published as a fraternal courtesy to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International by the US Socialist Workers Party.]

In the document “Argentina and Bolivia the Balance Sheet,” which was submitted to the International Executive Committee at its plenum in December, 1972, the authors ended the section dealing with the current crisis in the Fourth International by proposing that an international tendency be organized to seek reversal of the guerrilla orientation adopted at the Third World Congress Since Reunification (Ninth World Congress).

Some of the leaders of the Fourth International met in Santiago, Chile, March 5 8 to consider this suggestion concretely. After discussing the various problems that have arisen because of the crisis, they decided to undertake the responsibility of organizing such a tendency. They agreed on the following platform as a basis for appealing to the ranks of the Fourth International to intervene in an organized way in the struggle that has been conducted up to now on a leadership level among the sections.

Platform of the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency

1. For approval of the general line of the document “Argentina and Bolivia the Balance Sheet.&38221;

2. For reversal of the Latin American guerrilla war orientation adopted at the Third World Congress Since Reunification (Ninth World Congress).

3. For reversal of the projections of this turn in various fields as it became extended both geographically and programmatically following the congress.

4. For resumption by the leading bodies of the Fourth International of the method outlined in the Transitional Program to solve the problems we face in bidding for leadership of the proletariat in the class struggle.

5. For reaffirming the basic program, tradition, and practices of the Fourth International as they stood up to the time of the Third World Congress Since Reunification (Ninth World Congress), that is, specifically, of commitment to the Leninist strategy of building a combat party. The more revolutionary the situation, the more decisive becomes the role of such a party.

6. For democratic organization of the coming world congress. In addition to representation, this means specifically the translation and distribution of the documents in at least French, Spanish, German, and English as well in advance of the congress so that the membership of the Fourth International can have adequate time to study, debate, and decide on them.

7. Against any moves that endanger the authority of the coming congress and the unity of the Fourth International such as undemocratic selection of delegates, curtailment of discussion, or failure to issue, translate, and distribute resolutions and other documents on schedule.

Membership Requirements

The basis for membership in the Leninist Trotskyist tendency is agreement with the seven points of the above platform. Membership in the tendency is open to anyone in agreement with the platform who is a member in good standing of a section or sympathizing group of the Fourth International. In accordance with the tradition of our movement, all those who join must take an open stand, informing the leadership of their section of their action.

Assessment of Crisis in Fourth International

Besides the platform, those present at the Santiago conference agreed on the following summary of the internal situation now facing the Fourth International:

At the plenum of the International Executive Committee held in December 1972, the comrades responsible for the guerrilla orientation adopted at the Third World Congress Since Reunification (Ninth World Congress) made it clear that they do not intend to rectify this erroneous course. Instead, even after hearing a detailed presentation by two leading Latin American comrades of the lessons of the past three years’ experience in Argentina and Bolivia, they reaffirmed their course, making it one of the planks in their call for formation of an international tendency to defend their views.

Although this decision was anticipated, it is to be regretted. It marked a further deepening of the crisis over orientation and leadership that has been developing in our movement, and it recorded both the failure of these comrades to recognize the lessons of the events in Argentina and Bolivia and their intention to fight for approval of their course at the coming congress. They played down the disastrous consequences suffered by the official sections of the Fourth International in those countries. In place of backing away from the guerrilla orientation, they hailed it and deepened it. Now they propose to continue as if the test of events had validated their line. Should they succeed, this would mean assuring the political and organizational disintegration of other sections just as surely as it did in cases of Argentina and Bolivia.

It clear that the Fourth International now stands at a turning point.

On the broadest analyses made by our movement of the world situation as a whole over the past decade, both sides have found themselves in agreement in the main (with some significant differences in particular sectors and on particular issues). Yet a growing disparity has appeared in the conclusions the two sides have drawn on how the Fourth International should orient itself in certain concrete situations of key importance (Argentina, Britain, Spain, for instance). That is, in general, mounting differences have developed over how the International should handle its own forces concretely so as to expand and strengthen them organizationally and ideologically, exert the greatest possible influence in the class struggle, and advance the cause of the socialist revolution most effectively.

To explain and account for this growing gap between the broad analyses of world trends and the conclusions to be drawn from them in practice in party building is now of crucial importance. Two major tendencies have crystallized in the Fourth International. They stand in opposition on a series of important questions. It is evident from this that one of them must have departed from the methods advanced by Lenin in his works and practice and summarized by Trotsky in the Transitional Program. Such a departure cannot help but more and more deeply affect the concrete political assessments made by the tendency at fault, thus opening the way to political deviations of either an ultraleft or opportunist nature or a combination of both. Differences as fundamental as this must be brought out so that the proper rectification can be made.

It is the existence of conflicting concepts on the methodological level (which includes party building methods) that explains not only the development of opposing positions on the guerrilla orientation, but to a large degree the development of differences of varying sharpness on various other important questions, such as the nature and role of the Maoist variety of Stalinism, party building orientation not only for the sections in Latin America and Europe but elsewhere, construction of Marxist youth organizations, the historical balance sheet on “entryism sui generis,” policies in the antiwar movement, and now the assessment of the Vietnam agreement and the nature and role of Stalinism in Vietnam.

The Fourth International cannot overcome its current crisis without bringing the differences involving methodology into the open and clearing them up.

The crisis of orientation and leadership in the Fourth International has been compounded by the insistence of some of the comrades of the Maitan Mandel Frank tendency that the discussion must be terminated at this point, that we must proceed to a world congress without further delay even if all the documents already submitted and the important ones to come (including resolutions!) have not been made available in translations, that we must resolve the differences if only temporarily by organizational measures; that is, by imposing greater international centralization on our movement at this juncture. Instead of ending the crisis, this “solution” would assure its becoming explosive, for it would signify staging an undemocratic congress lacking any real authority.

A preferable course would be to postpone the congress until the nature of the crisis we face has been more clearly defined, the issues at the bottom of the dispute have been fully clarified, the documents have been published, translated, and disseminated, and the ranks have had full opportunity to discuss them and make their own contributions.

One of the immediate objectives of the Leninist Trotskyist tendency, besides doing everything possible to facilitate the preparations for the coming congress, will be to mobilize rank and file sentiment in favor of this wiser alternative.

The initial signers of this document are given below. Others are urged to add their names.



Last updated on 11.19.2005