MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: International Communist League/Spartacists—PRS 4

Appendix II

Workers Power:
New International, New Program, New World Reality

Written: 1993
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

In The Death Agony of the Fourth International, Workers Power snootily remarks, “The fighting propaganda group is not, for the Spartacists, a vehicle for programmatic re-elaboration (they do not do any)....”[1] Workers Power’s own “creative re-elaboration” of Trotskyism leads them quite far afield. Having pronounced the death of the Fourth International due to political degeneration and calling for a new, undefined “revolutionary communist international,” Workers Power has also rejected the program of Trotsky’s FI. In a 1988 article WP honcho Mark Hoskisson called for “re-elaborating the Transitional Programme” on the grounds that since it was written “much has occurred that Trotsky’s programme neither foresaw nor prepared for.”[2]

But this is no mere “updating.” Hoskisson’s article rejects the key premise of Trotsky’s strategy of world socialist revolution, which was also that of the Communist International in the days of Lenin, to wit:

The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be reached under capitalism. Mankind’s productive forces stagnate.[3]

Yet, claims Hoskisson, “in the metropolitan countries the second imperialist war was followed by an unprecedented economic boom for almost twenty years.” Judging that Trotsky “and the FI as a whole” had “an inadequate understanding” of political economy, this arrogant twit proclaims: “Now, with the reality of the post-war boom behind us, only an idiot, or perhaps a charlatan like Gerry Healy, would describe Trotsky’s categorical declaration as correct.”[4]

We demonstrated two decades ago that the “long postwar boom,” with its periodic crises, is a revisionist myth.[5] But the statement that the productive forces had ceased to grow was not a conjunctural prognosis, it was a characterization of the entire imperialist epoch and the basis for the Fourth International’s program for world socialist revolution. Trade unions “can no longer be reformist,” wrote Trotsky, “because the objective conditions leave no room for any serious and lasting reforms.”[6] WP, in contrast, claims that the alleged “boom created the conditions for the resurgence of social-democratic reformism.”[7] Trotsky argued that “the independence of the trade unions in the class sense, in their relations to the bourgeois state, can, in the present conditions, be assured only by a completely revolutionary leadership, that is, the leadership of the Fourth International.”[8] Workers Power calls instead for “developing the tactic of the rank and file movement” as “the united front in the unions.”[9]

The Hoskisson article solidarizes with Felix Morrow, who led a rightist social-democratic opposition in the SWP after World War II. While Morrow’s immediate economic prognosis turned out to be more accurate than Cannon’s prediction of imminent economic crisis, he derived from this a program of democratic demands. Similarly Hoskisson calls for a “strategic retreat” in the postwar period:

The failure to carry out a “strategic retreat” for the imperialist countries by formulating a policy for the unions was mirrored by the failure to re-elaborate the programme to deal with the resurgence of reformism....In place of the Transitional Programme’s general denunciation of reformism a programme of action utilising the tactics of the united front was required.[10]

Hoskissen then claims that the absence of such a program for a “united front with reformism” was the problem in the Belgian general strike of 1961 and in France 1968. But contrary to the WP myth of a “long boom” filling the sails of reformism and requiring a “strategic retreat” into united-front tactics, what was lacking in Brussels in 1961 and in Paris in 1968 was precisely a revolutionary program for the struggle for power!

Rejecting the Transitional Program’s central premise and its central conclusion, Workers Power launches a frontal assault on the founding document of the Fourth International as a program preparing the revolutionary struggle for power. In its stead WP elaborates a “method of transitional demands” leading to a “system of workers control”—that is, dual power in the factories—while relegating socialist revolution to the sweet by-and-by. “Transitional demands...could introduce a reformist led proletariat to the very need for revolution,” writes Hoskisson, and at some later date, when “the working class, or its vanguard, are fighting in this manner, the transitional programme will be transformed into the programme of soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat.”[11] Wrong. The Transitional Program is the program for the dictatorship of the proletariat. As Trotsky wrote, transitional demands are to organize the struggle of the proletariat leading it to the conquest of power: “It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist program of revolution.”[12]

Hoskisson’s article was the lead-up; The Trotskyist Manifesto, published in 1989 by Workers Power’s “League for a Revolutionary Communist International,” is the result. Declaring that “the FI was politically destroyed” in 1951 as the result of “the adoption of a systematic centrist method” whose “first and most dramatic example was that of Yugoslavia,” the WP/LRCI’s new program declares:

Trotsky, in the Transitional Programme, remarked that “Mankind’s productive forces stagnate.” This statement was part of a correct perspectival analysis of the 1930s, culminating in the cataclysm of the Second World War. However, no conjunctural or periodic characterisation holds good for an indefinite period....

In a number of major and minor imperialist powers “economic miracles” marked the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s....

During the long boom in the imperialist countries, a prolonged period of relative social peace reigned. This was based on rising real wages, near full employment and, in Europe at least, an unprecedented social welfare system. The Labour and Social Democratic bureaucracies tied the mass workers’ organisations to imperialism.[13]

Here you have the old New Left view of the bought-off working class and the new rise of reformism producing a prolonged social peace. Just to take the one example of France, this ignores the mammoth 1953 general strike, the miners strike and possibility of a working-class uprising against De Gaulle’s coup in 1958, extensive workers’ unrest over the Algerian War in the early ’60s, and the prerevolutionary situation of May 1968.

Rejection of Trotsky’s premise is followed by rejection of Trotsky’s revolutionary conclusion as well, writing it off as peculiar to the pre-WWII period. The WP/LRCI program states:

Trotsky’s Transitional Programme, written in these years, pronounced that the crisis of humanity was reduced to the crisis of leadership. However, today it would be wrong simply to repeat that all contemporary crises are “reduced to a crisis of leadership.”

The proletariat worldwide does not yet face the stark alternative of either taking power or seeing the destruction of all its past gains.[14]

Try telling that brazen lie to American unionists who have seen a massive onslaught against the unions, whose real wages have fallen steadily for the last two decades; tell it to ghetto black youth, an entire generation that capitalism has thrown on the scrap heap with no hope of ever getting jobs; tell it to British, French and West German workers who have suffered almost a decade of double-digit unemployment; tell it to the working people of east Germany, fully half (and even more among women) of whom have been thrown out of work as a result of the counterrevolution of capitalist reunification; tell it to the immigrant workers, who are the target of racist terror and suffer the sharpest blows of capitalist austerity; tell it to the masses of East Europe, reduced to starvation wages and soup kitchens; tell it to the interpenetrated peoples of Yugoslavia being ripped apart in bloody nationalist war; tell it to the masses of the “Third World,” including tens of millions of industrial workers producing for the imperialist markets, who are sinking ever deeper into immiseration! What profound confidence in capitalism Workers Power has.


1. Workers Power, Death Agony, 63-64.

2. Mark Hoskisson, “The Transitional Programme Fifty Years On,” Permanent Revolution No. 7, Spring 1988, 74.

3. Leon Trotsky, Transitional Program, 111.

4. Mark Hoskisson, op. cit., 74, 84.

5. See “Myth of Neo-Capitalism,” Revolutionary Communist Youth Newsletter No. 10, January-February 1972.

6. Leon Trotsky, “Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay” (August 1940), Leon Trotsky on the Trade Unions (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1969), 71.

7. Mark Hoskisson, op. cit., 74.

8. Leon Trotsky, “Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay,” 75.

9. Mark Hoskisson, op. cit., 97-98.

10. Ibid., 97.

11. Ibid., 90-91.

12. Leon Trotsky, Transitional Program, 114.

13. LRCI, The Trotskyist Manifesto, op. cit., 10-12.

14. Ibid., 19.