The Fourth International

The Long March of the Trotskyists

Chapter I: Historical Continuity

The Trotskyist movement, born in 1923 at the onset of the Stalinist degeneration, has taken part ever since in all the great events of our age, thus assuring the continuity of revolutionary Marxism on a world scale. Between the Communist League and the First International, there was a lapse in time of a dozen years in the field of organisation -- although political continuity was assured by Marx and Engels personally. Between the First and Second International, there was also a gap of almost fifteen years -- the political continuity being assured by Engels, who established a kind of international centre by corresponding with leaders of parties in the most important countries. The years of World War I fell between the Second and the Third International. This time it was the Bolshevik Party and Zimmerwald that assured the maintenance of the Marxist movement.

Our movement was born within the Third International. From 1923 to 1933 we fought -- within its ranks or outside -- as a faction of the Communist International, trying to wrest its leadership from the hands of the centrists and place it once again on the path of revolutionary Marxism. When objective conditions no longer made it possible to pursue this aim, we proceeded directly to the building of new parties and a new revolutionary International, taking as our point of departure the first four congresses of the Communist International. There was no break, no gap in the continuity of the revolutionary movement, and that despite the enormous ebb in the labour movement starting in 1923, despite the degeneration of the October Revolution, despite the infamous role exercised by Stalinism within the working class.

Congresses and resolutions of a revolutionary organisation are not mere matters of form. They do a good deal more than define policy for the immediate period. They record, for the collectivity constituted by the party, its experience, its rules of action, the framework in which -- while renewing its membership with the passage of time -- it continues to evolve. Should the organisation cease to exist, all this remains as historical data that will certainly be used by those who, at some later date, will want to rebuild the revolutionary party. But only as historical data! They would inevitably have to grope about, sometimes for a very long time, to re-establish, to re-create, an adequate framework for the organisation. The degeneration of the Third International and the resulting dispersion of forces have enormously hindered the progress of our movement, which has experienced numerous crises. But it is enough to imagine for a moment what would have happened if the thread had been broken -- if there had no longer been, at a given moment , an international Marxist centre -- to realise by how much the difficulties would have been multiplied, to have an idea of the even greater obstacles revolutionists would have had to overcome in order to re-establish a firm political movement and to rebuild an international leadership.

History will not fail to point out that it was Trotsky, through the sum total of his works, who made the greatest contribution to this task of maintaining historical continuity. Although the names Communist-Internationalist and Bolshevik-Leninist have been borne by our various organisations, the name Trotskyist will most probably be -- and correctly so -- the one that history will give us.

Last updated on: 13.2.2005