From Fourth International, vol.6 No.8, August 1945, pp.230-235.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
After mankind’s gigantic forward leap, after the great victory of the Russian proletariat in October 1917, a wave of reaction set in. The, Leadership of the working class fell to the Social Democrats and the Stalinists. Defeat after defeat was the price of their policies: The most crushing set-back of all, prior to the outbreak of the second imperialist holocaust, came in Germany when Hitler assumed power. Neither the Stalinist nor Social Democratic leaders lifted a finger in militant struggle against the Nazis.
The German experience of 1929-33 gave proof that the Communist International, founded under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky in March 1919, had succumbed, within a decade of Lenin’s death, to the disease of revisionism and opportunism in its Stalinist form.
Upon this catastrophe in Germany, Leon Trotsky pronounced the Third International dead and resolutely set about to organize new revolutionary parties throughout the world, as sections of the new Marxist International.
For a decade – from 1923 to 1933 – Trotsky and his co-thinkers had carried on their work as a faction of the Comintern. At its inception in the USSR in 1923, the Russian Left Opposition posed as its task, the reform and regeneration of the Russian Bolshevik Party and of the Comintern by means of Marxist criticism and internal faction activity. This basic policy remained in force after the formation of the first international Trotskyist organization – the International Communist League (Left Opposition) – in the spring of 1930 “on a foundation which was still weak and unstable” (Trotsky).
This was the gestation period of the movement. It is hardly possible to exaggerate its importance in the evolution of Trotskyism. Within the limits of this brief historical review, however, we can touch only upon a few of the main aspects.
First, how is one to appraise this basic line of “reform,” applied up to 1933? From a superficial standpoint, such a policy appears to have been the policy of “failure” inasmuch as the evolution of the CI proceeded not along the variant of regeneration but, on the contrary, that of decomposition. Such an approach seeks to apply to the historic process the primitive foot-rule of a pragmatist who arrives at judgments on the basis of episodic successes or failures. An altogether different gauge is required for processes that occur in nature, society or the mind. Moreover, one must take not an isolated segment of our epoch but the entire zigzag curve, at least since October 1917. Only from this higher and correct vantage ground can the Trotskyist policy be correctly appraised. Here is Trotsky’s own estimate:
“The course towards ‘reform,’ taken in its entirety, was, however, not incorrect: it represented a necessary stage in the evolution of the Marxist wing of the Communist International; it gave us the opportunity to educate the cadres of the Bolshevik-Leninists and was not without influence on the labor movement in its entirety. At all times the policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy was subjected to the pressure of the Left Opposition. The progressive measures of the USSR, which have held back the coming of Thermidor, were only partial and belated borrowings from the Left Opposition ... To this we must add, that the degree of degeneration, generally speaking, cannot be measured in advance, merely with the help of its symptoms. The living verification of events is indispensable.”
It ought to be stressed that the early work of the Left Opposition likewise assured the primacy and continuity of revolutionary thought and training, without which no real selection of cadres is possible. No other tendency in the world labor movement, least of all the legion of pompous petty-bourgeois critics and challengers of Trotskyism, proved capable of accomplishing this. On the contrary, every one of the many groupings from the Brandlerites-Lovestonites through the German SAP’ists to all the Burnhams ended up by deserting to the camp of the bourgeoisie. The Trotskyist alone have made it possible for the revolutionary vanguard to telescope within far briefer intervals (than would have been otherwise needed) the transitions to new beginnings and the repetitions of old experiences and trials.
Suffice it at this writing to cite Trotsky’s own succinct summation of this formative period:
“The brief history of the work of the Leninists was, at the same time, the history of an internal ideological struggle. A whole number of individuals and groups seeking a haven among us from the vicissitudes of life, have succeeded, fortunately, in leaving our ranks. At this very moment [in 1935] the Belgian section is passing through an acute crisis. Undoubtedly, there will be crises in the future, too. Philistine and snobs, who are ignorant of how a revolutionary organization takes shape, shrugged their shoulders ironically over our ‘splits’ and ‘cleavages.’ Yet, upon the whole, our organization has grown numerically, it has established sections in most countries, it has become steeled ideologically, and it has matured politically ... The viability of our international organization, its capacity for development, its readiness to surmount its own weaknesses and ills have been proved to the hilt.”
Events have corroborated this analysis. When history posed for the fourth time the task of building anew the Marxist International, the Trotskyist alone were prepared. This task was unpostponable. The need itself is inherent in the objective situation. In conditions of world economy, world trade, world politics, the proletariat cannot get along without a world party. From the subjective side, no serious struggle against imperialist wars and for the revolution can even be contemplated without the International As Trotsky tirelessly repeated, without the International the proletariat would be crushed – and with it our whole civilization. Further:
“Without a Marxist International, national organizations, even the most advanced, are doomed to narrowness, vacillation and helplessness; the advanced workers are forced to feed upon surrogates of internationalism. To proclaim ‘purely theoretical,’ i.e., needless, the building of the Fourth International, is cravenly to renounce the basic task of our epoch.”
The greatest single obstacle in the way of expediting this basic task of our epoch is the unawareness of the masses, lulled, deceived and betrayed by the monstrous machines of Stalinism and Social Democracy, which have been so long synchronized with the state machinery of the world bourgeoisie. There exist other agencies, too, that supplement the operation of these “prime movers,” namely, the Centrist cheats, vacillators, fainthearts, and their spiritual kin.
Only one way obtains of bridging this gap between the needs of the objective situation and the subjective backwardness of the masses: to overcome their mental lag it is necessary to raise “the consciousness of the masses closer to the understanding of the historical necessity – in simpler terms: to explain to the masses their own interests, which they do not yet understand” (Trotsky). The International is the sole means by which this can be accomplished.
What is the International? Formalistic thinkers either reduce the question to “pure theory” or like the empiricist leaders of the British Independent Labor Party (Brockway, Maxton and the like) view it simply as an “organizational form.” Nothing could be falser. First and foremost, the International is a system of ideas – theoretical, political, organizational, etc. The International – that means a world-wide selection and ideological fusion of individuals through this system of ideas. Or, as Trotsky phrased it:
“The International is first of all a program, and a system of strategic, tactical and organizational methods that flow from it.”
For this reason, the Trotskyist declared from the outset that collaboration in building the Fourth International required agreement not on partial or second-rate questions but on the fundamental ones. Thus, the International Plenum of the ICL flatly stated, September 13, 1933:
“There cannot even be talk, of course, that the new International can be built by organizations which proceed from profoundly different and even antagonistic bases.”
To gloss over differences of program, instead of clarifying them, meant – and must always mean – to sabotage the work of further building the International. To the end of his life, Trotsky mercilessly fought every attempt, no matter what its source, to undermine the International at its very roots, namely: its programmatic principle of theory, politics, strategy, tactics, organization, and so on. Above all, he fought the denigrators and opponents of the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of Trotskyism, its dialectic method – the Marxist guide to action – in reaching political, strategical or tactical conclusions.
Supremely conscious of the decisiveness of the International, Trotsky devoted all his energies primarily to this task of tasks. From 1933 on, the constant refrain in his writings is the impermissibility of postponing even for a single hour the work of further building the Fourth International. This does not mean to say that Trotsky and his co-thinkers rushed to mechanically create the World Party of the Socialist Revolution. They neither artificially constituted Themselves as the new International nor did they proclaim the ICL sections, in each country, as the new parties. On the contrary, they engaged in an irreconcilable war against sectarians (like the Oehlerites in this country) who were the real proponents of this false course. In 1933 the ICL issued a special proclamation declaring:
“The course towards the new international is dictated by the entire course of development. This does not mean to say, however, that we propose to proclaim the new International immediately ... The creation of the new International depends not only upon the objective course of events, but also upon our own efforts.”
“Our own efforts”! This formula remains incomprehensible to Centrists who operate, in the last analysis, with the formulas of prostration, pessimism and fatalism. This usually finds expression in constant and vague references to the “historical process,” and pious sighs that “somehow, sometime the work will be accomplished and the working class movement renovated” (Trotsky).
Throughout 1933-35 the world Trotskyist movement kept reiterating the objective set forth in its original proclamation, namely: not the need to establish the new International immediately but rather the need to engage at once in the struggle for its creation. In practice this meant that the various national Trotskyist sections sought everywhere to approach all leftward moving groups, all those who indicated readiness to build the new International The touchstone of this readiness was not an empty pledge but rather the complete break with reformism in both its classic Social-Democratic and latter-day Stalinist forms. Nor was this all. It was in addition necessary to break with all Centrist moods and currents. Thus, in this initial period of the struggle for the Fourth International, Trotsky and his co-thinkers had to wage warfare simultaneously on two fronts: against sectarianism and against Centrism.
The rich experience and lessons of these struggles will bring their biggest dividends in the days ahead. But at that time, too, important successes were achieved. By 1935, the French section executed a very bold organizational maneuver (entry into the French Socialist Party); the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland adhered to the ICL and presently merged with the Dutch OSP (Independent Socialist Party of Holland). Across the Atlantic, the American section effected the fusion with the Musteites (AWP) on “rigidly principled bases” (Trotsky); and later successfully carried out the entry into the American Socialist Party, out of which the Socialist Workers Party was to emerge.
The first important step toward the founding of the Fourth International was the joint declaration, August 1933, of four parties, known as the “Pact of Four” (see The Militant, September 23, 1933). The signatories to this “Pact,” calling for the building of the new International, were: the International Left Opposition (ICL); the Socialist Labor Party of Germany (SAP); the Independent Socialist Party of Holland (OSP); and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland (RSP). The signatories affirmed that “in full realization of the great historical responsibility which devolves upon them, the undersigned ... obligate themselves to direct all their forces to the formation in the shortest possible time of the [Fourth] International on the firm foundations of the theoretic and strategic principles of Marx and Lenin.”
This first great step toward the organization of the revolutionary vanguard in a new world party was at the same time the signal for a long and bitter struggle. The leaders of the SAP (later to be followed by the Dutch signatories), without openly withdrawing their signatures from the joint declaration, opened an undercover, devious and disloyal struggle against the very idea of the Fourth International. Like all typical Centrists, the SAP leaders (Walcher, Froelich, et al.) never were able to grasp the decisiveness of class-conscious revolutionary activity in the “historical process.” Being, in essence, one of the varieties of opportunism, Centrism, as an ideological tendency, shares with the latter an organic hatred of Bolshevism. Most of all they hate its energy, its will to struggle, its will to action. The internationalism of Centrists remains platonic. From slothful procrastination they easily pass into savage opposition. In action, they attacked – and still attack – the “Trotskyist” idea of the Fourth International.
The Trotskyist movement, on the other hand, had become by 1933 thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of the decisiveness of cadres and the importance of “our own efforts” in determining the destinies of the proletariat. Those who really went to the school of Trotsky learned that what really determined the existing world situation was the crisis of the proletarian leadership. How could this crisis be overcome?
The only way, the way of Trotsky, reads:
“The crisis of the proletarian leadership cannot, of course, be overcome by means of an abstract formula. It is a question of an extremely humdrum process. But not of a purely ‘historical’ process, that is, of the objective premises of conscious activity, but of an uninterrupted chain of ideological, political and organizational measures for the purpose of fusing together the best, the most conscious elements of the world proletariat beneath a spotless banner, elements whose number and self-confidence must be constantly strengthened, whose connections with the broader sections of the proletariat must be developed and deepened – in a word: to restore to the proletariat, under new and highly difficult and onerous conditions, its historical leadership.”
This was Lenin’s way, too.
In Trotsky’s eyes it was a heinous and deliberate crime:
“To sing a monotonous song about indefinite future actions in this situation, in contrast to the purposeful selection of the cadres of a new International, means to carry on a thoroughly reactionary work:” wrote Trotsky in July 1935.
Beginning with the fall of 1933, the struggle for the Fourth International was to proceed despite and against the Centrists of the SAP, ILP and other members of the Centrist “world organization,” the notorious “London Bureau.” A critical stage in this struggle was marked by the Manifesto of the five parties, in the summer of 1935, which called for the formation of the Fourth. This historic document was first published in the Bulletin of the Russian Opposition, No.44, July 1935. It appeared in English in The Militant, August 3, 1935. The text which appears in this issue has been checked against the Russian original and minor revisions made wherever necessary.
The formal launching of the Fourth International was to be delayed for three more years, until September 3, 1938, when the Founding Conference was held “somewhere in Europe.” Documents and articles pertaining to this stage will appear in subsequent issues of our magazine.
Hitler’s assumption of power, which did not meet with the slightest resistance on the part of the two “mighty” working class parties – one of them, moreover, basing itself upon the USSR – has exposed decisively the internal putrefaction of the Second and Third Internationals. In August, 1933, four organizations [International Communist League (Bolshevik-Leninists), Revolutionary Socialist Party, Independent Socialist Party – both of Holland, and the Socialist Workers Party (SAP) of Germany] formulated for the first time in a programmatic document the new historic task: the creation of the Fourth International. The events transpiring since that time have brought irrefutable confirmation that there is no other road.
The annihilation of the Austrian proletariat has demonstrated that victory cannot be gained by issuing a last minute call for insurrection to the masses, disoriented and drained by opportunism – after the party had been driven into a blind alley. It is necessary to prepare systematically for victory by means of revolutionary policies in every sphere of the working class movement.
The very same lesson immutably flows from the annihilation of the Spanish proletariat. Under all conditions, especially during a revolution, It is impermissible to turn one’s back upon the toilers for the sake of a bloc with the bourgeoisie. It is impossible to expect and demand that the duped and disillusioned masses will fly to arms upon the belated call of a party in which they have lost confidence. The proletarian revolution is not improvised by orders of a bankrupt leadership. The revolution must be prepared through incessant and irreconcilable class struggle which gains for the leadership the invincible confidence of the party, fuses the vanguard with the entire class, and transforms the proletariat into the leader of all the exploited in the city and country.
Following the ignominious downfall of the principal section of reformism – the completely corroded German Social Democracy – the “left wing” of the Second International went down in ruins in Austria and Spain. But these fearful lessons passed by without leaving a trace: the leading cadres of reformism within the party and in the trade unions had degenerated to the marrow of their bones. Their personal interests and their patriotic views bind them to the bourgeoisie and they are utterly incapable of resorting to the road of the class struggle.
The parties of the Second International calmly reconcile themselves to the fact that their Belgian president, at the very first beck of finance capital, joined hands with the Catholic and liberal middle-men to salvage the banks at the expense of the toiling masses. In the wake of Vandervelde there followed de Man, the vainglorious critic of Karl Marx, the originator of the de Man “Plan”: nor did the “left” centrist Spaak fail to betray the socialist opposition in return for the livery of a minister.
Mindful neither of lessons nor warnings, the French Socialist Party continues vainly to clutch. at the coattails of the “Republican” bourgeoisie, and it pins greater hopes upon the friendship of the Radicals than upon the revolutionary might of the proletariat. In all other countries, in every part of the world, in Holland, Scandinavia, Switzerland, the Social Democracy despite the decay of capitalism, continues to remain the agency of the bourgeoisie within the working class and reveals its utter inability to mobilize the masses in its own defense against fascism.
Should the electoral successes of the Labour Party raise it once again to power, the consequence would not be a peaceful socialist transformation of Great Britain, but the consolidation of imperialist reaction, that is to say, an epoch of civil war, in face of which the leadership of the Labour Party will inevitably reveal its complete bankruptcy. The parliamentarian and trade unionist morons have yet to be convinced that the threat of fascism in England is no less real than on the continent.
The turbulent development of the crisis in the United States, the unending chain of strike struggles and the growth of working class organizations, against the background of the possibilities provided by the demagogy of the Roosevelt “plan,” run up against profoundly conservative and bourgeois forces within the working class movement. As for the Stalinist party, it is hogtied by the solemn declarations of Litvinov, who in return for the recognition of the USSR by Yankee imperialism, publicly renounced the American Communists. This party, corrupted by a decade of unprincipled maneuvers and liquidationist experiments with parties (Farmer-Labor Party) which have nothing in common with proletarian parties either in their composition or program – this Stalinist party, upon orders from Moscow confines itself to the role of a radical-intellectual movement which functions in the United States as the valet of Stalinist diplomacy. But the deep-going crisis of American capitalism is awakening broad layers of workers from their semi-provincial slumbers, gradually dispelling bourgeois and petty bourgeois illusions, impelling the proletariat towards large scale class actions (Toledo, Minneapolis, San Francisco) and creates for the revolutionary Marxist party the possibility of gaining a widespread and profound influence upon the development and organization of the American working class. The historic role which accrues to the Fourth International and its American section not only within the confines of the Western hemisphere but on the world arena as well is of exceptional importance (since the smashing of American imperialism is of extreme significance for the world proletariat).
In the meantime the Third International does nothing except squander the remaining shreds of influence and authority acquired during the first five years of its existence. In Austria and Spain, the Communist International, despite extremely favorable circumstances, failed not only to create an organization in the least influential, but systematically compromised in the eyes of the workers the very idea of the revolutionary party. The Saar plebiscite is evidence that the German proletariat has lost every vestige of confidence not only in the Social Democracy but in the Communist Party as well – the party that so ingloriously capitulated to Hitler. In Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Scandinavia, on both American continents and in the Orient the sections of the Communist International, burdened by twelve years of fatal policies, are unable to emerge from their obscurity.
True, after the German debacle, the Communist International substituted the capitulatory policy of the united front at any price for the adventuristic policy of the “Third Period.” However, the experience in France, where this latest turn has attained its greatest development, demonstrates that the Communist International, with all its contradictions and zigzags, manages to retain its functions of serving as a brake upon the proletarian revolution. Rejecting the creation of a workers’ militia in face of the immediate fascist danger and substituting its program of immediate demands and a policy of parliamentarianism for the struggle for power, the Communist International is the sower of the worst illusions of reformism and pacifism, gives actual support to the Right Wing in the Socialist Party against the Left, demoralizes the proletarian vanguard, and clears the road for a fascist overturn.
Finally, the founder of the Communist International, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has been completely crushed during the last few years by the uncontrolled bureaucracy which has turned the dictatorship of the proletariat into the conservative absolutism of Stalin. By means of persecutions, falsifications, amalgams and bloody repressions the ruling clique strives to nip in the bud every manifestation of Marxist thought. Nowhere in the world is genuine Leninism hounded so bestially as in the USSR!
The most recent opportunistic somersault of the Communist International is intimately linked with the Soviet turn in foreign policy towards the League of Nations and the military alliance with French imperialism. The ruling bureaucracy of the USSR has definitely arrived at the conclusion that the Communist International is impotent to afford it any assistance whatsoever against the war danger and at the same time, it hinders the work of Soviet diplomacy. The humiliating and truly servile dependency of the Communist International upon the Soviet uppercrust is expressed in a particularly glaring light in connection with the recent declaration of Stalin, approving the national defense of French imperialism.
Through the medium of an imperialist minister the leader of the Communist International has issued the order to the French Communist Party to conclude a patriotic truce today with the French bourgeoisie. Thus the Third International, whose congresses have not been convoked for almost seven years, has now officially gone over from the internationalist position to that of the most outright and servile social-patriotism. Whether or not the Seventh Congress, so continually postponed, convenes – the Third International will not be resuscitated. The Stalin-Laval communique is its death warrant.
Meanwhile, the destructive forces of capitalism continue their hellish work. The disintegration of world economy, the unemployment of tens of millions, the ruination of the peasantry imperiously place on the order of the day the task of the socialist revolution. The toilers, embittered and aroused, are seeking a way out. The prostration, collapse and putrefaction of the Second and Third International leave the proletariat without revolutionary leadership and impel the petty bourgeois masses on the road of despair. The bankrupt leaders seek to shift the responsibility for the triumph of fascism on the “passivity” of the proletariat; thus political betrayal is supplemented with calumny.
Threshing in the grip of insoluble contradictions, capitalism is preparing to plunge the peoples into a new slaughter. Ministers and dictators openly speculate whether the outbreak of the war will come in one or in three years from now. All the governments, vying with one another, are preparing the most destructive instruments, and thereby from every side they are hastening the explosion which may be immeasurably more frightful than the war of 1914-1918.
The leaders of the so-called working class parties and the trade unions sing loud the praises of the beauties of peace, they babble about “disarmament,” exhort their governments to make peace among themselves, arouse the hopes of the working masses in the League of Nations, and at the same time swear fealty to the cause of “national defense,” i.e., the defense of bourgeois rule with its inevitable wars.
Under cover of the “united front” and even of “organizational unity” Soviet diplomacy is preparing, behind the backs of the class-conscious workers, class peace between the sections of the two Internationals and the bourgeoisie of those countries which are in military alliance with the Soviet state. Thus the outbreak of a new war must lead to a new betrayal which will eclipse that of August 4, 1914.
* * *
The betrayal of the cause of the international revolution by the Soviet bureaucracy has thrust the world proletariat far back. The difficulties that face the revolutionary vanguard are incredible. Nevertheless its position at the present time is incomparably more favorable than on the eve of the last war. At that time capitalism appeared to be all-powerful, almost invincible. The patriotic downfall of the International came utterly as a surprise even to Lenin. Everywhere the revolutionary elements were caught unprepared. The first international conference – very small numerically and its majority indecisive – took place more than a year after the outbreak of the war. The formation of revolutionary cadres proceeded slowly. The possibility of proletarian revolution was rejected even by the majority of the “Zimrnerwaldists.” Only the October victory in Russia in the fortieth month of the war produced a change in the situation, providing a mighty impulse for the formation of the Third International.
Today the internal weakness and corrosion of capitalism are so evident that they even serve as the main theme for fascist demagogy. In the colossal crisis in the United States, in the no less colossal unemployment, in the economic adventurism of Roosevelt, in the sweep of the strike struggles, in the ferment within all working class organizations there are being lodged for the first time the conditions for a mighty development of the revolutionary movement in North America. The example of the first victorious proletarian revolution lives in the memory of the masses. The experience of the great events of the last twenty years have been burned into the consciousness of the best militants. Genuinely revolutionary organizations, or at least groups, exist in all countries. They are closely bound together ideologically, and in part also organizationally. Even at present they represent a force incomparably more influential, homogeneous and steeled than the “Zimmerwald Left” which in the fall of 1915 took the initiative in preparing for the Third International.
Within the reformist parties and trade unions, opposition groupings are emerging and growing stronger. Some of these assume the form of independent organizations. Within the sections of the Communist International, as a consequence of the prison regime, the opposition assumes a more mute and masked character, but it is developing here as well. Even in the USSR the need for ever new purges and repressions is proof of the fact that the bureaucracy is unable to root out the spirit of Marxist criticism which is so hateful to it.
The oppositionist moods and tendencies bear today a predominantly centrist character, that is, intermediate between social patriotism and revolution. Under conditions when the traditional mass organizations are in process of collapse and decomposition, centrism represents in many cases an inevitable transitional stage even for progressive working class groupings. Marxists must be able to find access to all such tendencies, in order by example and propaganda to speed their passage to the revolutionary road. In this, the condition for success is irreconcilable criticism of the centrist leadership, exposure of the attempts to create the Two-and-a-Half International, and a ceaseless explanation of the fact that the revolutionary tasks of our epoch doom beforehand to ignominious bankruptcy those unifications which are hybrid and amorphous.
The slogan of “unity” of all working class organizations regardless of their program and tactic is being zealously propagated at present by the centrists, and is being ably exploited by the reformists who are more farsighted, and who fear, with good cause, being thrown overboard. The centrists often substitute the idea of merging the two old Internationals ‘for the idea of a New International. In reality, unity with reformists and social-patriots of the Social Democratic or Stalinist variety signifies in the last analysis unity with the national bourgeoisie, and, consequently, the inevitable split of the proletariat, internationally as well as nationally, especially in the event of war. Genuine unity of the International and of its national sections can be assured only upon the revolutionary Marxist foundation, which in its turn can be created only by breaking with the social-patriots. To remain silent about the principled conditions and guarantees of proletarian unity is to join in the chorus for broadcasting illusions, duping the workers and preparing new catastrophes.
The humiliating and hopeless position of the two old Internationals is adequately characterized by the fact that the President of one became the humble Minister of His King, while the real master of the other uses the world proletarian organization as so much small change in diplomatic deals. Regardless of what unification maneuvers the two equally depraved bureaucracies may undertake, it is not they who will create the unity of the proletariat, and it is not for them to point the way out. The efforts of the centrists to reconcile the irreconcilable and to save by means of patching the pieces what is fated to be destroyed, are foredoomed. The new epoch requires a New International. The primary condition for success on this road is the close consolidation nationally and internationally of the genuine proletarian revolutionists, the disciples of Marx and Lenin, on a common program, and under a common banner.
Any attempt to prescribe an identical course for all countries would be fatal. Depending upon national conditions, upon the degree of the decomposition of the old working class organizations and, finally, upon the state of their own forces at a given moment, the Marxists (the revolutionary socialists, the internationalists, the Bolshevik-Leninists) can come forward, now in the form of an independent organization, now in the guise of a faction in one of the old parties, or trade unions. Assuredly, no matter what the time or the arena may be, this factional work serves only as a stage on the road of creating the new parties of the Fourth International, parties which may be created either through the regroupment of the revolutionary elements of the old organizations, or through the agency of independent organizations. But on whatever arena, and whatever the methods of functioning, they are bound to speak in the name of unqualified principles and clear revolutionary slogans. They do not play hide and seek with the working class; they do not conceal their aims; they do not substitute diplomacy and combinations for a principled struggle. Marxists at all times and under all conditions openly say what is.
* * *
The war danger which is a life and death question for the people is the supreme test for all the groupings and tendencies within the working class. “The struggle for peace,” “the struggles against war,“ “war on war” and similar slogans are hollow and fraudulent phrases, if unaccompanied by the propaganda and the application of revolutionary methods of struggle. The only method to put an end to war is to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The only method to overthrow the bourgeoisie is by a revolutionary assault.
As against the reactionary lie of “national defense” it is necessary to advance the slogan of the revolutionary destruction of the national state. To the madhouse of capitalist Europe it is necessary to counterpoise the program of The Socialist United States of Europe, as a stage toward the United States of the World.
Marxists irreconcilably reject the pacifist slogans of “disarmament,” “arbitration,” and “amity between peoples” (i.e., between capitalist governments) etc., as opium for the popular masses. The combinations between working class organizations and petty bourgeois pacifists (the Amsterdam-Pleyel Committee, and similar undertakings) render the best service to imperialism by distracting the attention of the working class from reality with its grave struggles, and beguiling them instead with impotent parades.
The struggle against war and imperialism cannot be the job of any sort of special “committees.” The struggle against war is the preparation for revolution, that is to say, the job of working class parties and of the International. The Marxists pose this great task before the proletarian vanguard, without any frills. To the enervating slogan of “disarmament” they counterpoise the slogan of Winning the Army and Arming the Workers. Precisely in this is one of the most important lines of demarcation between Marxism and centrism drawn. He will never find the courage to solve the revolutionary tasks who dares not utter them aloud.
During the year and a half that has elapsed since the publication of the first program of the Fourth International, the struggle for its principles and ideas has not abated for a single day; the revolutionary national sections and groups have grown in number; some of them extended their ranks and influence, others attained to a greater homogeneity and cohesion; organizations within the same country have united (Holland, USA); a number of programmatic and tactical documents have been elaborated. All this labor will indubitably proceed much better if correlated and unified on a world scale under the banner of the Fourth International. The impending war danger does not brook a delay in this task for even a single day.
The new parties and the New International must be built upon a new foundation: that is the key with which to solve all other tasks. The tempo and the time of the new revolutionary upbuilding and its consummation depend, obviously, upon the general course of the class struggle, the future victories and defeats of the proletariat. The Marxists, however, are no fatalists. They do not unload upon the “historical process” those very tasks which the historical process has posed before them. The initiative of a conscious minority, the scientific program, the bold and ceaseless agitation in the name of clearly formulated aims, the merciless criticism of all ambiguity – that is one of the most important factors for the victory of the proletariat. Without a fused and steeled revolutionary party a socialist revolution is inconceivable.
The conditions are difficult; the obstacles are great; the tasks are colossal, but there is no reason whatever to become pessimistic, or to lose courage. Despite all the defeats of the proletariat, the position of the class enemy remains a hopeless one. Capitalism is doomed. Only in the socialist revolution is there salvation for mankind.
The very sequence of the Internationals has its own internal logic which coincides with the historic rise of the proletariat. The First International advanced the scientific program of the proletarian revolution, but it fell victim because it lacked a mass base. The Second International dragged from the darkness, educated and mobilized millions of workers; but in the decisive hour it found itself betrayed by the parliamentary and the trade union bureaucracy depraved by rising capitalism. The Third International set for the first time the example of the victorious proletarian revolution, but it found itself ground between the millstones of the bureaucracy in the isolated Soviet State and the reformist bureaucracy of the West. Today, under the conditions of decisive capitalist collapse, the Fourth International standing upon the shoulders of its predecessors, enriched by the experience of their victories and defeats, will mobilize the toilers of the Occident and the Orient for the victorious assault upon the strongholds of world capital.
Workers of the World, Unite!
* * *
We herewith append the Declaration of Four [See The Militant, September 1933] on the Fourth International. Not a single line of this manifesto has become antiquated. The present letter is only a restatement of the Declaration of Four in the light of the experience of the last year and a half. We call upon all parties, organizations, factions, both within the old parties as well as the trade unions, all revolutionary working class associations and groupings who are in agreement with us upon the fundamental principles and upon the great task we have posed – the preparation for and the building of the Fourth International – to send us their signatures to the present Open Letter, together with any proposal or criticisms they may have. Individual comrades who have not been connected with our work up to now, if they seriously intend to henceforth join the common ranks should get in touch with us.
The initiating organizations who are signatories to the Open Letter have resolved to create a Provisional Contact Committee between those parties and groups which stand upon the position of the Fourth International. The Provisional Committee is to be entrusted with the issuance of an information bulletin. In the immediate future the Committee is to assure the regular and collective working out of the fundamental programmatic and tactical documents of the Fourth International.
The question of preparing an International Conference will be decided on the basis of replies received and the general course of the preparatory work.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008