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After the splits the splinters, 1961-1983

Since the early 1960s various splits from the IC and USFI have attempted to found international tendencies. The slogans of each tendency with regard to the Fourth International differed, but all shared a fundamental error. The calls to “reconstruct”, “reunify” or even “for the rebirth of” the Fourth International, were all based on the premise that the continuity of Trotskyism had been safeguarded by one of the two sides in the 1953 split. Thus, each tendency inevitably defended the tradition that they had emerged from up to the point at which they broke from it.

None were prepared to radically re-evaluate these traditions. Calls for “reconstruction” etc., therefore, were calls for a return to one or other post-1953 tradition. Yet those who will not learn from the errors of the past are condemned to repeat them, often in the manner of Marx’s famous dictum. Without tracing the errors of the epigones to their roots in the post-war programmatic collapse, no basis for a lasting break with “Pabloism” and “Healyism” existed.

Thus all attempts to “reconstruct” or “reunify” the Fourth International were calls on the existing degenerate fragments to return to their practice prior to the emergence of the particular tendency in question. Even the apparently more far-reaching call for “the rebirth of the FI” put forward by the Spartacist League (US), was an appeal for the reincarnation of an already degenerate (post-l 951) FI.

Not surprisingly, despite making valuable contributions on specific questions and despite offering valid, if partial, criticisms of the IC and USFI, all of the tendencies to emerge since the sixties have failed in their attempts at “reconstruction”.

All of them have been hamstrung by their failure to understand the nature of the programmatic tasks that face authentic Trotskyists in the struggle for a new International. In this section we will deal with the main splits from the IC and the USFI. The purpose of examining these tendencies is to demonstrate why the failure to take on the key task of re-elaborating the Trotskyist Programme as the basis of a refounded Trotskyist International has meant that these tendencies have been unable to transcend the centrism of their parent organisations. We cannot here deal with every grouping that claims to be Trotskyist. However, in dealing with the principal splits we will demonstrate the failures that need to be avoided in the construction of an international tendency.

The earliest major split from the IC was the group later to become the international Spartacist tendency. Originating in the SWP(US) as the Revolutionary Tendency (R T) in 1961, the Spartacist grouping saw itself initially as the defender of IC orthodoxy inside the SWP.

The group centred on a number of ex-Shachtmanite youth around lames Robertson, Shane Mage and Tim Wohlforth. It emerged in opposition to the Dobbs-Hansen SWP leadership over the question of the Cuban Revolution. While it recoiled in horror from the SWP’s liquidationist positions on Cuba, the RT did not develop a coherent alternative to them. Wohlforth, the author of the “Theory of Structural Assimilation” – the only serious attempt to look at the pre-1951 FI positions critically – was later to join Healy in regarding Cuba as state capitalist. Robertson and the Spartacists insisted, in an idealist fashion, that the Cuban workers’ state had been ushered in by a “petit bourgeois government” (the Castroites) who, from 1959-60 presided over a state, the class character of which was indeterminate. Such a standpoint in Cuba would have left Trotskyists without an operative programme (for soviets and a workers’ militia) in this period.

The RT grouping itself was soon to split under the impact of Hansen’s bureaucratic onslaught on it. Robertson linked the SWP’s positions on Cuba to a series of errors the party was committing. He argued that it was necessary to characterise the SWP as centrist ,and did so in the document “The Centrism of the SWP and the Tasks of the Minority.” This produced a rupture with Wohlforth and Healy. Hitherto Healy had seen the RT as a means of exercising pressure on the SWP leadership, thus preventing it from decamping to the IS. As such Healy could not tolerate the Robertson group characterising the party he wanted to keep in the IC, as centrist. Healy’s loyal agent Wohlforth therefore split with the RT and even supported its bureaucratic expulsion. The document on the reorganisation by Healy of the Tendency in 1963 argued:

“The tendency must recognise that the SWP is the main instrument for the realisation of socialism in the US….The tendency must not make premature characterisations of the leadership of the SWP, except those, such as Weiss and Swabeck, who have clearly revealed their Pabloism in theory and practice “…..The tendency shall dissolve and shall re-establish itself on the basis of the preceding points.” 92

Wohlforth himself was, thereafter, to find himself outside the SWP after the 1963 split in the IC.

Clearly the Robertson group were correct to characterise the politics of the SWP as centrist, though they were over ten years late in their dating of this collapse. Hansen’s line on Cuba represented a centrist capitulation par excellence but it was entirely of a piece with the 1948 capitulation to Tito.

Healy absolutely refused to make even such a belated characterisation. The political questions involved were, as always, entirely subordinated to factional manoeuvres. The claim by Wohlforth that to characterise the SWP as centrist was to abandon its “proletarian kernel” was pure demagogy. Latter day attempts such as that by John Lister in his “Spartacist Truth Kit” 9 3 to suggest that this concern for the workers was at the heart of Healy and Wohlforth’s attitude to the SWP, tell us more about Lister’s unbroken links with Healyism than about the history of the events in question.

Apart from the fact that the SWP had almost entirely lost its worker base, was a much depleted organisation whose only left elements were youth won from the petit bourgeois radical milieu, political characterisation is not an optional extra made or withheld for diplomatic purposes. Trotsky had a thousand times more reason for seeking to win the proletarian kernel of the Russian CP and the sections of the Comintern. It did not prevent him from clearly characterising the Stalin-Bukharin leadership as centrist.

Healist position (and Lister’s defence of it) is entirely consistent with the USFI’s current practice. “Centrism” is the forbidden word – utter it and all discussion stops. Thus these gentlemen confirm Trotsky’s observation “centrism does not like to be called by its name.” The centrist “views with hatred the revolutionary principle: state what is. He is inclined to substitute for a principled policy personal manoeuvring and petty organisational diplomacy” .94

However correct the Robertson group were in relation to their characterisation of the SWP they were profoundly wrong in their attitude to the IC. The Robertson group, which became the Spartacist League in 1964, saw its place as being within the “orthodox”, and increasingly sectarian, SLL-dominated IC. Thus it failed, not only on Cuba but also on the question of the IC, to develop a fully rounded programmatic alternative to the degenerate fragments of Trotskyism.

Its call for the “rebirth” of the Fourth International was thus founded upon an acceptance of the political method of the SLL and the QCI as good coin. The Spartacists were not completely uncritical of the SLL and I but their criticisms were premised on the belief that there was a qualitative difference between the IC and the IS. Thus Robertson’s remarks to the IC conference in April 1966 stated: “We are present at this conference on the basis of our fundamental agreement with the International Resolution of the IC; moreover, the report of Comrade Slaughter was for us solidly communist, unified throughout by revolutionary determination.” 95

This sycophancy to Healy’s chief intellectual hack availed them little. The conference ended with Healy expelling the SL from the IC, in essence because of the polite criticisms of the IC raised by Robertson.

The failure to go beyond a negative response to “Pabloism” over Cuba, and their loyalty to the IC, prevented the Spartacists from developing towards revolutionary communism. Their errors became codified into a bad method, marked henceforth by a rabid and increasingly rightwing sectarianism. The Spartacist conception of a “fighting propaganda group” is passive and propagandist in nature and therefore sectarian. It is most precisely expressed as follows: “We recognise that a currently embryonic party organisation must necessarily constitute itself in the form of a ‘fighting propaganda group’ in order by destroying ostensibly revolutionary organisations, to initiate and for drive forward a regroupment process in order thereby to build up one’s own organisation.” Combined with the demolition squad approach to rival tendencies is the most utter abstention from the class struggle or the organisations of the labour movement. The fig-leaf of a little “exemplary” work is maintained but even here it is stressed that this is not real leadership of real struggles.

“In doing so the character of this work must always be regarded as exemplary, rejecting out of hand any voluntaristic notion of intervening as a propaganda group into all the daily struggles of the working class inasmuch as this would lead to dissipating one’s own forces and to liquidating the programme.” 96

There are two distortions of the concept of a fighting propaganda group here. First, the fighting propaganda group is portrayed as a stage during which the main task is to “destroy” other groups. Note the choice of words. The Spartacists seek not to win leftward moving centrists to communism, but to destroy them. This perspective leads characteristically to politically disloyal manoeuvres and provocations. In place of political debate, political combat and the destruction of opponents’ political arguments, Spartacist groups have engaged in a vicious circle of disruptions, physical confrontations, occupations of meeting rooms and pickets of other tendencies’ events. The iSt has consequently developed from a sect into a bizarre cult, well on the road to auto destruction.

Integrally linked to this mission to “destroy” all other tendencies is their adamant refusal to get involved in what they consider to be “minor” struggles of the working class. Their tasks are conceived of in rigid stages; first destroy the left groups, then and only then, turn to the class.

Thus, although as an organisation they do intervene in strikes they consider to be of national importance, .individual members (unless they are carrying out exemplary work) abstain from any union activity at work. During the Health Strike in Britain in 1982 their members in the NHS studiously refused to get involved in any activity around the strike. This story is repeated in many other instances. The Spartacists’ notion of a fighting propaganda group is a thoroughly abstentionist one. The fighting is only with left groups, not with the class enemy and its agents in the mass organisations of the working class, and the propaganda bears no relation to the key struggles of the proletariat.

The fighting propaganda group is not, for the Spartacists, a vehicle for programmatic re-elaboration (they do not do any), a vehicle for carrying focussed propaganda into the working class (they de-prioritise such propaganda) or a painful but necessary step which communists strive to outgrow (they revel in remaining a propaganda group). The Spartacist conception of a fighting propaganda group is not ours. Ours is rooted in the methods of Lenin and Trotsky 97. Their conception is alien to the communist tradition.

The content of the Spartacists’ propaganda is, as we have said, mainly abuse. Where they do have distinct positions the Spartacists show a complete lack of understanding of the basic tenets of the Marxist programme.

The Spartacists have developed scandalously right-wing positions on the national question in backward countries. They reject Lenin’s theory of imperialism (tacitly) and its understanding of oppressed and oppressor nations. In its place they have put concepts such as states consisting of “interpenetrated peoples”. The national rights of all “interpenetrated peoples” weigh equally for the Spartacists. Thus in Northern Ireland the Protestant community are “interpenetrated” with the Catholics.

Their “national” rights have to be carefully protected. The Spartacists are therefore unsparing in their criticisms of the Republicans’ “sectarian” violence. Attacks in which civilians are killed, such as the Ballykelly pub bombing, are described as “indefensible.” 98 This position ignores the fact that one section of these “interpenetrated peoples” – the Catholics -have been imprisoned in a pro-imperialist, artificially imposed statelet. They are subjected to pro-imperialist rule with the complicity of the other people – the Protestants. The national rights of the whole of the Irish people have been subverted by the creation of the Northern statelet. Those fighting to smash that state – the Republicans – despite the inadequacies of their programme, should be supported unconditionally, though critically, by Marxists in Britain. They cannot be equated with the agents of imperialism in the North, the Protestants, as just another side of the same sectarian coin.

The concept of “interpenetrated peoples” is little more than a gloss for the Spartacists ‘ abstentionism in the conflict between the oppressed and their imperialist oppressors. The Spartacists, not surprisingly, apply this method to Israel. The Zionist state becomes a case of “interpenetrated peoples” – the Hebrew masses and the Palestinians – whose national rights have to be respected. The blacks and the Boer Afrikaaners in South Africa are another case in point.

In all cases they ignore or minimise the role of imperialism and refuse to adopt Lenin’s fundamental standpoint of the difference between oppressed and oppressor nations. In-‘ deed their great sensitivity to the “national” rights of the Zionist colonists, Protestant bigots land; Afrikaaner racists contrasts sharply with their venomous attacks on the latters’ victims. Underlying all of these positions is a metropolitan chauvinism and an aversion to petit-bourgeois led nationalist movements and an identification with labour aristocrats and privileged strata of the proletariat – Protestants in Northern Ireland, Jews in Israel, whites in South Africa.

These positions led to the most pronounced case of abstentionism in the Iranian revolution of 1978/9. Here the mullah-led movement was equated with the Shah in the self-confessedly inoperable slogan “Down with the Shah! Down with the Mullahs! “. The Spartacists completely abandoned the tactic of the anti-imperialist united front, which they also reject in theory, stigmatising it as a “Popular Front”. Here again they revealed an inability to distinguish between imperialist countries and their semi-colonial victims. In its place they argued for a strategy of ideological combat against the religious ideas of the Iranian masses.

They ended up, once again, holding an abstentionist position in the test of revolution, and justified it with rationalist, idealist arguments that owed more to Voltaire than Marx and Lenin.

A refusal to identify with the struggles of the oppressed also results in a reactionary identification with the bosses’ attempts to keep immigrants out of the metropolitan countries. The Spartacists advocate a racist position on immigration controls: “However, on a sufficiently large scale, immigration plans could wipe out the national identity of the recipient country….If, for example, there were unlimited immigration into Northern Europe, the population influx from the Mediterranean basin would tend to dissolve the continued identity of small countries like Holland and Belgium.” 99 The job of Leninists is to protect this national identity according to the Spartacists!

As well as scab positions on the national question, the other distinctive feature of the Spartacists is their Stalinophilia. Starting from the anti-Trotskyist position that Stalinism has a dual nature – a good side and a bad side – the Spartacists see their role as encouraging the good side which has increasingly come to the fore. In Afghanistan this meant “Hailing the Red Army”, as the agents of revolution for this backward country – the masses of which get treated to a tirade of chauvinist abuse from the Spartacists.

The political revolutionary situation in Poland in 1980/81 was also not to the liking of the Spartacists. Fearing Catholic restorationism, they decided that the best outcome to the crisis was a Soviet invasion to crush the Polish working class. When this didn’t materialise they were more than ready to applaud the bloody Jaruzelski coup and the clampdown on the Polish workers’ organisations that came with it.

They argued: “If the present crackdown restores something like the tenuous social equilibrium which existed in Poland before the Gdansk strikes last August, a tacit understanding that if the people left the government alone, the government would leave the people alone – conditions will be opened again for the crystallisation of a Leninist-Trotskyist party.,,100 What a confession of bankruptcy. Stalinist “social equilibrium” is preferred by the iSt to a political revolutionary crisis, as the best conditions for building a party.

The iSt are a Stalinophilic right-sectarian cult. They have reproduced in a bizarre parody Pablo’s Stalinophile positions of 1949-51, a living proof that they never understood “the roots of Pabloism.” The Spartacists, as a neo-Bordigist sect, reject transitional demands such as nationalisation under workers control in favour of calls to”‘seize and sell” bankrupt firms. In Chrysler they argued that the sale of stocks and plant should be shared out as redundancy pay. The alibi offered for this unheard of reactionary petit-bourgeois utopia was the backwardness of the American workers!

The Spartacists are totally incapable of developing action programmes and tactics for the present period of crisis and intensified class battles. However, they occasionally seize upon and fetishize one tactic to beat the detested rivals over the head. Under the apparently innocuous (and for communists, banal), slogan “Picket lines mean don’t cross” they “elevated” the picket-line to a principle.

Thus they attack workers (or more probably members of the groups they wish to destroy) for “crossing picket lines” where only pickets of supplies are mounted or where the picket is aimed at a different section of the workforce. Their venom against “scabs” and their posing as defenders of picket lines rings rather hollow given their systematic abstentionism from most workers’ struggles and their restriction of their “activities” to so-called exemplary cases (Le. situations where they can directly attack rival groups). Thus, their class struggle activity turns out, on insl’1ection, to be merely a sub-category of their demolition job aimed at ostensibly Trotskyist organisations. They totally reject the united front tactic. In practice they are incapable of advocating any tactics based on it, apart from clownish ultimatums to rival groupings to join their demonstrations and pickets.

They reject all applications and extensions of it; critical electoral support of workers’ parties, where they pose as a prerequisite areas of programmatic agreement; work within the proletarian organisations involved in a popular front to achieve a “break with the bourgeoisie”; the workers’ government, which they treat as a pseudonym for the proletarian dictatorship; the Labor Party slogan which they present as an ultimatum (“Dump the bureaucrats!”) and use as a pseudonym for the revolutionary party. In all these cases sectarian intransigence covers gross opportunist appetites. Thus whilst they refused critical support to Labour in 1979 and 1982 they found Benn on the right side of a “class struggle line” on the question of Soviet defencism! All this represents a complete break from the Transitional Programme, and the Comintern and ILO heritage on which it was founded.

The degenerating sections of the iSt are little more than branches of the SL/US – a reversal of the situation pertaining in the Healyite IC but in essence the same. The iSt is manifestly a dead sect totally incapable of furthering (and increasingly incapable of hindering) the fight for a new International.

In. March 1976 a number of organisations to the left of the USFI launched the Necessary International Initiative. These groups saw the USFI as qualitatively better than the IC or OCRFI and saw their initiative as an attempt to orient towards the USFI. These groups were the FMR (whose main organisation was the La Classe group led by Roberto Massari in Italy), the Spartacusbund (BRD), and two Austrian groups who were later to become the IKL. In September 1976 the British I-CL joined the NIL.

The NII was based on a common assessment of the defects of the major international “Trotskyist” tendencies on the Portugese revolution of 1974/5. It was not, however, based on a positive and fully defined programmatic position on that revolution. The NII was in fact in agreement only on a series of negative positions. It never had any common programmatic positions beyond very general state” ments about Portugal. It was also marked by an adaptationist attitude to the USFI which it characterised as “centrism sui generis.” The main inspirers of this position, Roberto Massari’s FMR, maintained that of all the fragments of the Fourth International the USFI was the healthiest and the one that could- through external pressure rather than internal reform – find its way back to revolutionary Marxism, while it could never, in its present state, pass over to reformism. The FMR’s self-critical balance sheet of the NIl made this clear when it argued:

“In particular we didn’t keep in account that the programmatic declarations of the FMR states very clear that the best energies which pledge allegiance to trotskyism are today those inside the USec…101

The substance of “centrism sui generis” (with which the British I-CL made known their disagreement while they were in the NII) was that formal adherence to Trotskyism prevented the USFI from going the way of previous centrists such as Kautsky -i.e. into reformism. In other words here was a species of centrism which, unlike any other, did not vacillate between reform and revolution with the consequent possibility of its going over definitively to reformism. Such an analysis is based on a shallow interpretation of the FI’s post-war history. There have been cases of sections going over to reformism – the LSSP in Ceylon. Under Pablo the IS went very near to complete capitulation to Stalinism and petit-bourgeois nationalism.

Today it is declared that no section of the USFI is needed in Nicaragua. All of these experiences clearly indicate that the possibility of the USFI as a whole passing into the camp of social democracy, Stalinism or petit-bourgeois nationalism does exist and will be decided by the march of events. The only real difference between t~e USFI and a centrist like Kautsky is that since the USFI , unlike the SPD and the Second International, does not lead mass forces it has not et been put .to a decisive test. This has allowed its international leadership 0 enjoy a prolonged existence as a vacillating centrist organisation.

While the CL held back from describing the USFI as “centrism sui generis” the nevertheless maintained an equivocal position that it was the “mainstream” Trotskyist current. That is, they refused to characterise it clearly as centrist or indeed to give it any political characterisation. Sean Matgamna of the I-CL wrote in 1976 that: “The I-CL continues to believe that the USFI is the mainstream that has emerged from the communist tendency personified by Leon Trotsky.” 102

The real weakness of this position – its potential accommodation to the USFI- was offset in the fusion document between Workers’ Fight and Workers Power which argued clearly that the USFI was: “a centrist obstacle to the building of such an International.” 103

However, even this document contained the flaw built into the “mainstream” position which we would now criticise. We emphatically reject the view that the USFI represented a qualitatively better tradition than that of the IC. Any choice between these two tendencies reflects a failure to analyse their common origin in centrist degeneration and prepares a repetition of their chronic errors.

Lacking any common programmatic positions as a basis for their Initiative, the tendencies in the NII descended into manoeuvres against one another followed by fragmentation. The I-CL and IKL formed a bloc to resist the FMR’s utilisation of the NII as a vehicle for recruitment to itself. Having plundered the Spartacusbund and IKL for recruits the FMR left the NII complaining that discussion was impossible because the I-CL and IKL had failed to produce an internal bulletin.

After a period of independent existence the FMR, which still had as its aim a return to the USFI set its course firmly towards liquidationism.

The Italian section disappeared into Democrazia Proletaria, a group emerging from the break up of the semi-Maoist tradition in Italy with the expressed popular frontist aim of building a “broad democratic opposition” in Italy.

The I-CL became increasingly an Anglo-centric sect burying itself ever deeper in the Labour Party (until later it ended up in the TILC via its fusion with the WSL – an indication of how seriously it takes international regroupment is that it now belongs to a body that it had previously sharply criticised e.g. at the TILC summer 1980 rally.)104 The IKL/Spartacusbund maintained the fiction of an international tendency without having established a programmatic basis or an international leadership.

The unreality of this tendency’s existence was cruelly exposed when, in late 1980, it was thrown into disarray by the desertion of key leaders within the IKL. These leaders left because they claimed that the tendency was not capable of developing politically. The remainder of the IKL has continued to exist since the split and, on the question of the basis for an international tendency, does recognise that programmatic clarity and agreement has to come first. The Spartacusbund, savaged by a series of splits (to the FMR, the iSt’) were unable to maintain the tendency under their leadership, being basically immobilised by adherence to a collection of established positions (e.g. on Social Democracy) that they were unable to develop or apply tactically in the BRD.

Consequently the organisation dissolved in the course of 1981 into a discussion grouping in Berlin and a group which established itself in May 1982 as the Gruppe Arbeitermacht.

The lesson of the NII experience is clear. Any international regroupment has to be based on far more than just a series of appraisals about what the centrists are doing wrong. We are convinced that it has to be based on a clear statement of common goals and a firm intention to re-elaborate the programme.

The Fourth Internationalist Tendency (FIT) has its origins within the Lambertist OCRFI. The two principal organisations within the FIT, Politica Obrera (PO) of Argentina, and the Partido Obrero Revolutionario (POR) of Bolivia, were amongst the founding organisations of the OCRFI.

The POR joined the International Committee during the factional struggle between Healy and Lambert. It was the first time the PObR, led y Guillermo Lora, had established even the semblance of real international links since the 1952 revolution in Bolivia. For Lambert the POR were a valuable weapon in the struggle against Healy. Thus, while some criticisms of the POR’s positions in the 1971 revolutionary turmoil were made at the OCRFI’s founding conference, the debacle of 1952 was not examined. Furthermore, the criticisms of the POR’s role in 1971 were made within a context of overall agreement with its policy in 1971: “The organisations present affirm first of all their total agreement with the policy carried out by the POR in the course of the Bolivian revolution of 1970-71”.105 The criticisms of the POR centred on the distinction that it made between the “national bourgeoisie” and the “imperialist bourgeoisie”.

They did not deal with the programmatic and practical consequences of this distinction. Lora’s policies in the 1970-71 revolutionary crisis in Bolivia represented a continuation of the same fatal opportunist positions he had developed in 1952. Once again, he gave critical support to a left nationalist government, used the united front tactic in an opportunist manner and, as a result, failed to organise the workers and peasants to seize power.

This time there could be no excuse about the influence of the “Pabloites”. The Bolivian supporters of the USFI had formed their own separate organisation, POR (Gonzales), which was pursuing an equally disastrous policy for the Bolivian working class, through its concentration on guerrilla struggle as a road to socialist revolution.

The revolutionary situation opened in October 1970 when Regelio Miranda’s military coup against General Ovando’s government was thwarted by a massive general strike called by the Bolivian Trade Union Centre (COB). Armed workers controlled the capital, La Paz, and a “Comando Politico” was formed by the trade unions and various left political parties.

Both the Bolivian Communist Party (PCB) and the POR(Lora) were important forces within this command. At the same time the “leftist” General Juan Jose Torres declared himself in rebellion against both Miranda and Ovando.

What should a revolutionary party have done in a situation where the army was so divided and fearful of the masses that it was forced to put forward its most “leftist” figure at the head of the struggle’? Within the Political Command it would have argued for the workers and peasant~ to take the power. As a result it would have fought for a call for every factory, mine and workplace to elect delegates to local soviets and to a national soviet, convened by the Political Command. It would have called on the workers to form their own committees and (or the formation of soldiers’ committees in the army, these to send delegates to the soviets. It would have fought for a workers’ and peasants’ government directly accountable to the soviets, in order to open the road to the formation of a proletarian state.

Recognising the strength of the nationalist parties and groups, the overwhelming weight of the peasantry in Bolivia, and the history of suppression of democratic rights, it would have been in favour of the convening of a Constituent Assembly under the most democratic conditions.

Measured against these tasks the POR (Lora) miserably failed its second test. In discussions between the Political Command and Torres, POR supported the entry of “worker ministers” into the Torres government. Lora makes this clear in his own description of events:

“But the opportunist tendency was brought under control since the Comando Politico was persuaded (by the POR? . Eds) to attach such conditions for accepting the ministries that they would have been effectively removed from the control of the President. Thus the ministers would be appointed by the Comando, which would mandate them and could recall them at any time; a political advisor would work alongside each minister etc. However this experiment was never put to the test, since Torres withdrew his offer'” 06, This interesting “experiment” as Lora chooses to call it, was nothing new at all. It was no more than an agreement to enter a bourgeois government and was no different from the Menshevik entry into the Russian Provisional Government; and this after the experience of “worker ministers” in 1952!

The Political Command effectively ceded power after the aborted negotiations on “power sharing”. POR posed no alternative to this. In fact there is evidence that the POR did little to challenge the illusions of the Bolivian masses in the left Bonapartist Torres. As in 1952, the POR confused the defence of a government against the threat of a right wing coup, with giving political support to such a government, through the creation of worker ministers.

Lora expected the “force of events” to compel Torres to arm the workers. This he makes clear when he declares “Everyone (including the POR? Eds) supposed that Torres, a friend of Ovando, would in view of the difficult situation he confronted have no alternative but to arm the people, as the only way to strengthen his own position. But as time passed the hope grew fainter and fainter that a clash between opposing sectors of the military would enable the masses to arm themselves”.’ 7

Instead of fighting for a workers’ and peasants’ government based on soviets, the POR showed a fatal reliance on left Bonapartism. As the quote above shows, Lora and the POR were waiting for a clash in the army between “progressive” and “reactionary” forces, rather than raising slogans for the arming of the workers and the organisation of the soldiers for a sharp clash with Torres. By the time the POR came to the conclusion that Torres was not going to fight or arm the workers, it was too late.

In January 1971, the right wing struck back and attempted to overthrow Torres. The move deepened the revolutionary crisis in Bolivia.

The plot was discovered and massive mobilisations culminated in miners, armed with dynamite, virtually occupying La Pal.

In the face of the right wing threat, the “Popular Assembly” was formed on the initiative of Comando Politico. The Assembly was a hybrid body. It was a proto-soviet which could have been transformed, under the correct political leadership, into a real leading soviet based on La Pal. A majority of its delegates represented workers’ organisations (132, or 60%). A further 23 came from the Independent Peasants Confederation. A large block of delegates (53) were allocated to petit bourgeois elements such as professionals, teachers, students, etc.

As the name “Popular Assembly” implies, the forces of the Bolivian left saw the Assembly as representative of an anti-imperialist united front. The Stalinist PCB wanted to build it as a popular front on the Chilean model in order to mobilise support for Torres. The POR(Lora) saw it as part of a “Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Front”, but at the same time declared it an organ of “dual power and soviet type organisation, which has made for the predominance of the proletariat in the revolutionary process”.’ 0 Whether the Popular Assembly actually became a “soviet type” body depended on how the revolutionary forces within it fought to build it.

Again there is no evidence that Lora’s POR fought to turn the Assembly into a leading soviet in Bolivia. At the same time, their line on the Torres regime remained the same, with the POR even opposing the slogan “All Power to the Popular Assembly”.

Revolutionaries would have fought for the Assembly to be transformed into a real soviet, and for all delegates to be elected by rank and file factory and workplace committees (many delegates were elected by the trade union leaderships). They would have called for the construction of soldiers’ committees, and for them to send delegates to the workers’ ‘councils. They would have supported all land seizures and occupations, and called for the building of committees of poor peasants. They would have raised the slogan “All Power to the Popular Assembly” and counterposed the call for a “Workers’ and Peasants’ Government” to the Bonapartist regime of Torres. Above all, they would have fought for the arming of the workers, and the formation of a workers’ militia.

This was not the perspective of the POR(Lora). On the 19th August the army struck back, led by General Banzer and backed by the Brazilian government. As late as the 23rd August, the Comando Politico and the POR were still pleading for arms from Torres: “That night discussions in the Comando Politico revolved entirely around the problems of arms. Torres and his ministers had promised time and again that they would, if the need arose give arms to the people…the Comando resolved to send one last commission composed of Lechin, myself (Lora -Eds), Mercado, Lopez, Reyes and led to the Presidential palace.

We were to inform the President that if he failed to keep his promise and hand over the arms, the Popular Assembly would take action into its own hands”.109 This with the rightist forces already in control of several centres!

The results were predictable. Torres refused to give arms on the ground that it would split the army, and troops moved on La Pal. Despite heroic resistance from poorly armed workers and students in La Pal, the military crushed all resistance, ushering in a period of black reaction in Bolivia.

As a leading force within the Bolivian working class, the POR (Lora) has to bear a major responsibility for the crushing defeat inflicted on the Bolivian masses. Lora has yet to make one self-criticism of the policies pursued in 1970/71. Worse still, having learned nothing after the coup, the POR proceeded to form in exile another of their “Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Fronts” (the FRA). This popular front included not only the pro-Moscow and pro-Chinese CPs, and both the PORs, but also the MIR (a petit-bourgeois guerrillaist group) and General Torres.

The FRA, which within its ranks bound all organisations to the “fundamental line of the founding documents”, declared in its Manifesto:

“the need is undeniably to build a fighting unity of all the revolutionary, democratic, and progressive forces so that the great battle can be begun in conditions offering a real perspective for a popular and national government”. 110

The FIT has never examined, let alone criticised, the opportunist record of the POR. Neither has it carried out a proper critical evaluation of its own past in the OCRFI. They regard the OCRFI (and before it the IC) as the guardian of the Trotskyist programme up until the end of 1978/beginning of 1979, when Politica Obrera was expelled from the OCRFI. The founding document of the FIT, issued after the founding conference in April 1979, makes this loyalty to the OCRFI clear.

Denouncing the fusion manoeuvres between the OCRFI and the USFI the FIT say of the OCRFI: “We denounce this as a shameful capitulation on the part of those who, up until yesterday were raising the banner of struggle against revisionist Pabloism.” 11. This banner was, in fact, a tattered and centrist one. The OCRFI was founded in July 1972 on a federalist, revisionist basis. In the Stalinist states and the imperialised countries the OCRFI advocated a purely democratic rather than a clear transitional programme. This liquidation was, and is, covered up by endless references to the correctness of the theory of Permanent Revolution. According to the OCRFI the national bourgeoisie and the Stalinist bureaucracies were incapable under all circumstances, of establishing or co-existing with bourgeois democracy.

For the OCRFI therefore the fight for Permanent Revolution is reduced to a fight for bourgeois democracy against the bourgeoisie and bureaucracy. This twaddle is a travesty of Trotsky’s theory which advocates democratic demands within the context of a clear programme for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The OCRFI, and it would seem the FIT, advance a democratic programme as their goal.

Thus on Palestine, the founding documents of the OCRFI advanced not the call for a Workers’ Republic of Palestine but merely argue that a ‘Constituent Assembly of Palestine is a necessary condition for the struggle against reactionary Zionism and the no less reactionary concept of the Arab nation.” 112

This position is in fact still held by the FIT, through its Palestinian group the Workers’ League of Palestine, who advocate a “democratic and secular state in Palestine”. Thus they set in advance a democratic outcome for revolutionary struggle in Palestine as a “stage” on the road to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The corollary of the OCRFI’s democratism was its strategic view of the united front. This manifests itself in the FIT in their strategic conception of the anti-imperialist united front, evidenced particularly in the politics of the POR.

The FIT does claim to have waged a struggle within the OCRFI against Lambert’s OCI. Certainly there was a dispute in 1978 over work in the Argentinian unions. Politica Obrera were correct, against Lambert, in recognising that despite Videla’s coup, these unions remained workers’ organisations and not fascist unions. Indeed this was the issue that led to the split in the OCRFI. However apart from this issue we have, as yet, come across no evidence to support the view that the FIT groupings had advanced a revolutionary critique of the OCRFI. To this day they have not renounced the revisionist founding documents of the OCRFI. Indeed many of their positions represent a political continuity with this tradition. Furthermore like the OCRFI, the FIT appears to adhere to a non-democratic centralist and federalist basis for their international tendency.

The FIT do, correctly, reject the term “world Trotskyist movement” as a meaningful political label. However, in its place they have erected a theory that the USFI is, in fact, counter-revolutionary. Their founding document states: “If the OCRFI has ceased to be the channel by which the party of world revolution may be constructed, the ill-named United Secretariat has already moved over to the camp of the class enemy and has abandoned the Trotskyist programme.” 113

Like all of the other fragments, the FIT shy away from calling things by their right name. Yes, the USFI have abandoned the Trotskyist programme. Yes, indeed, the sections of the USFI, as the case of the LSSP showed, can go over to the camp of the class enemy. However to classify the USFI as a world organisation as “counter-revolutionary” is to totally misunderstand its nature. The USFI remains centrist and capable of vacillations to both left and right.

To characterise it as counter-revolutionary is to say in advance that in all revolutionary crises and class struggle situations it will as a whole side with the class enemy against the working class. This puts it in the same camp as the Stalinists and reformists and says in advance that they will act as the Social Democrats in Germany did in 1918/19 or as the Stalinists did in Spain in 1936/7. To say as we do, that the centrist vacillations and programme of the USFI help to disarm the working class and can in periods of revolutionary crisis therefore objectively aid the counterrevolution is one thing. But to label the USFI as counter-revolutionary is quite another. It might make FIT militants feel better or be used as a block to any section moving too close to the USFI but it is politically incorrect and will tactically disarm FIT militants in relation to centrism.

In common with all of the major currents that we have discussed the FIT militants do not have a dialectical grasp of the character and meaning of centrism.

While our assessments of the FIT’s positions have necessarily a provisional character we believe the FIT have adopted a number of centrist positions which we think flow from their failure to break from the politics of the OCRFI.

On the Nicaraguan revolution the FIT was clear that the FSLN did not represent the proletariat’s own revolutionary party. They castigated the USFI, quite rightly, for its liquidationism and capitulation to the FSLN. They raised the call on the workers’ organisations to break with the bourgeoisie and for a workers’ and peasants’ government. However in their July 1979 statement on Nicaragua, at a time when the revolution was nearing its climax, the FIT lapsed into the democratism that had characterised the OCRFI. Thus, their central slogan was: “Against the tendency of the bourgeois leadership to build a government for reconstructing the state and to put off indefinitely the expression of popular sovereignty, the FIT calls for the convocation of a sovereign and democratic constituent assembly as being the form of the further development of political democratic aspirations and, in the end to expose the democratic demagogy of the bourgeoisie. For the FIT it is a question of a policy of. transition which is part of the strategy of proletarian revolution.” 114

The problem with this formulation is twofold. The idea that the Constituent Assembly is a “policy of transition” implies that it is a necessary stage for the Nicaraguan revolution to pass through. While we would have agreed with the call for a Constituent Assembly we would not (and did not) pose it as a necessary, transitional stage. This points to the second problem in the FIT’s slogan and its use. Who do they address their call for an Assembly to? There is no mention in their statement of the need to build soviets of workers and peasants, as the only force that could guarantee the convocation of an assembly. There is no mention of the fact that such soviets could supercede the democracy of an Assembly and be the only force that could lay the basis for the transition to a proletarian state.

This omission also leaves the FIT’s call for a workers’ and peasants’ government abstract. What is such a government to be based on, soviets or the Constituent Assembly? We do not propose counterposing the call for soviets to the call for an Assembly. In the context of the crumbling Somoza regime and the Sandinista revolution this would amount to equally abstract ultimatism. We do argue, however, that it was necessary to make clear how the struggle for soviets could be combined with the struggle around democratic demands thus making concrete the strategy of Permanent Revolution.

The failure to pose the question of the Constituent Assembly and soviets in this fashion was, in our view, to follow the dangerous path of turning the tactical slogan of the Constituent Assembly into a strategy.

It appeared to address only the FSLN and not the masses. It failed to warn that without soviets there could be no guarantee of an Assembly being convoked. Indeed this has been proven by the course of the Nicaraguan revolution.

On the whole question of soviets and what they are, the FIT is in our view, confused. This was apparent in their position on Poland and Jaruzelski’s coup d’etat. The FIT argued that the trade union Solidarnosc was a developing soviet: “By its own organic law of development, the movement which erupted in August 1980, has broken all possibility of national accord. The FIT has shown how Solidarity has more and more taken on the character of a soviet.

Starting from immediate demands, the workers’ organisations were transformed into a veritable independent power, opposed to the state power and with a growing influence in other strata of the population.” 115

The logic of this position expressed itself in the FIT’s call for “Solidarnosc to Power.” This position is wrong, and the characterisation of Solidarnosc as a soviet-type body is at odds with reality. The inter-factory strike committees (MKS) that were thrown up in August 1980 were the potential embryos of soviets. They were replaced by Solidarnosc which was clearly a trade union, not a soviet, organisation. Solidarnosc’s structure and methods of decision making, local organisations etc., were not of the soviet type. Therefore to call for “Solidarnosc to Power” is in no way analogous to “All power to the Soviets”.

Worse, the call for “Solidarnosc to Power” is premised on an incorrect estimate of the leadership of Solidarnosc. If the fault of the iSt was that it equated the movement with the leadership, then the fault of the FIT was that it equated the leadership with the movement. It failed to recognise that the dominant factions within the leadership advocated programmes that were either directly or indirectly restorationist.

The call for “Solidarnosc to Power” must mean the call for the implementation of its leadership’s programme. But, if implemented, the programme of the Solidarnosc leadership would have strengthened the forces of capitalist restoration in Poland. We do not advocate that restorationists take the political power from the Stalinists or that the working class should struggle to make this possible. The introduction of the programme of Walesa, Kuron etc., would not represent a gain for the proletariat but would have meant the implementation of measures directly counterposed to the programme of political revolution and the transition to socialism. In our view, therefore, the FIT’s advocacy of such a slogan ~represents a serious error on the part of that tendency.

The unrepudiated legacy of the OCRFI, the centrist record of Lora’s POR, the federalist conception of an international tendency and the positions on Nicaragua and Poland lead us to regard the FIT as no alternative to the principal tendencies of the degenerated Trotskyist movement.

An international tendency based on such a record and such politics is unlikely to be able to grapple with the programmatic questions that need to be resolved in the struggle to rebuild an International. Whether or not constituent organisations within the FIT, such as Politica Obrera of Argentina, can be won away from the FIT’s methods remains to be seen. Certainly their willingness to debate serious issues of programme with other tendencies, including ourselves, makes this a possibility. But such discussions, if they are to move forward, must eschew the diplomacy and manoeuvring that characterised, for example, the Parity Commission ‘discussions., For our part we intend to press for such honest political discussions with groupings within the FIT such as Politica Obrera.

Not long after the formation of the FIT the OCRFI was busy playing master of ceremonies in yet another unprincipled attempt to “reconstruct” the Fourth International. The USFI’s blatant liquidation of party and programme in Nicaragua in 1979 and its connivance in having the “Trotskyist” Simon Bolivar Brigade expelled from Nicaragua, was a dramatic confirmation of the lengths to which these centrists will go in their accommodation to petit-bourgeois nationalist groupings. Their positions conflicted with those of the Bolshevik Faction which, together with the L TT, split from the USFI on the eve of the 1979 World Congress. This split, which was led by the BF’s major party, the Argentinian PST led by Nahuel Moreno, undermined the USFI’s ludicrous claim to represent the Fourth International. Immediately following their split the BF and the L TT majority joined forces with Pierre Lambert’s Organising Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International.

Having won such a prize Lambert unceremoniously wound up the unity discussions that he had been having with the USFI – without of course providing any political accounting of his move! Together Moreno and Lambert launched the Parity Committee (Commission). Its expressed aim was to call an open conference of “the world Trotskyist movement” aimed at “rooting out revisionism” through a “democratically organised and exhaustive discussion”. In the event no open conference took place. Workers Power, the Irish Workers Group and other tendencies that applied to attend this mythical conference were effectively barred from what became a “unity” congress between the Morenoites and Lambertists in December 1980. This conference produced yet another misbegotten parody of Trotsky’s FI – the Fourth International (International Committee.)

It was precisely in such a period of flux and disorientation amongst (subjectively) revolutionary militants that it was necessary for communists to be absolutely clear about the nature of the split and the history and direction of the component parts of the Parity Committee.

To do otherwise, despite the apparent left criticism of the USFI by the Morenoites, would have sown illusions in the Committee and its constituent organisations.

Workers Power and the Irish Workers Group pointed to the record of the two major groups – the OCRFI and the Morenoites. We catalogued the deeply opportunist politics of Moreno and his organisations their history of adaptation to Peronism, Castroism and even Maoism.

We pointed to the fact that the OCRFI offered only a stagist democratic programme for the Nicaraguan masses, in line with their constant refusal to distinguish between democratic and socialist demands. We were clear that such an amalgam forming an international tendency with the declared aim of reconstructing the Fourth International could “have no common programme which can be applied in a revolutionary situation.” 116 Having done this we did not ignore the proposed “open conference”, but applied to attend it in order to argue our positions at it. Needless to say these many-times-over opportunists were not interested in the prospect of such an honest and searching discussion.

The sorry history of the Parity Committee/Fourth International (IC) demonstrated that our criticisms of the forces involved retained all their validity. The Parity Committee itself was marked by the Stalinophobic views of the OCRFI, hailing the imperialist-backed Islamic rebels in Afghanistan as vanguard fighters in “the development of the proletarian revolution in the whole area.” 117

The declarations of the Committee centred exclusively on areas of general agreement between the participants, brushing under the table former slight disagreements (such as over the class character of Cuba). Not surprisingly when declarations were made on key issues of the class struggle they remained general, vague and entirely insufficient as guides to action.

This exercise reached its peak with the formation of the FI(IC). The OCRFI who had formerly claimed criticism of Moreno for his adaptation to Peronism was an “indispensible task” for Trotskyists, brushed this reservation aside when the leader of its largest section (the French OCT) Pierre Lambert, declared of the formation of the FI(IC): “The only comparable advance in the history of the world’s workers’ movement is the one that led to the formation of the Third International after the victory of the Russian Revolution.” 118

This bombast could not long conceal the politically flimsy basis of the FI(IC). The”Forty Theses” of the FI(IC) were marked by centrist evasions or generalities. They did not in any way account for or explain the differences on Peronism, Cuba and Portugal that had formerly divided Moreno and Lambert. They destroyed the possibility of agreement over perspectives by substituting windy generalisations about the imminence of revolution and the continuity of the world revolution since 1945. The depth of opportunism to which the FI(IC) was prepared to sink was revealed by the Theses’ attitude to trade unions in Argentina.

While the OCI’s characterisation of the Argentinian unions as “fascist” was important enough to use as a pretext to expel Politica Obrera from the OCRFI in 1978, the accommodation by the Morenoites to work in these very same unions was swallowed with consummate ease: “But the discussion whether we can transform these organisations or have to create others is a wasted discussion which will be solved by history.” 119 At the time of its foundation we argued that such an unprincipled basis for the fusion would inevitably produce new splits and further disorientation of subjectively revolutionary militants trapped in these bankrupt groups: “The formation of the FI(IC) merely lays the basis for new splits in the future.” 120 Within a year we were proved right.

In the summer of 1981 Moreno suddenly “discovered” that on the question of the Mitterrand Government “We have differences of 180 degrees.” 121 Moreno claimed that he wrote to Lambert on July 13th describing the French Section’s orientation towards the Mitterrand Government as being one of “critical support” for a Popular Front:

“The leadership of the OCI(u) does not dare to put a name to its policy but it accords uncritical and almost total support to a popular front government.” 122

A reading of the OCI(u)’s paper “Informations Ouvrieres” from May to September 1981 reveals that this is a justified criticism. But nothing in the OCI’s past record of adaptation to social democracy could have led one to expect any other response. Since serious programmatic differences had not been discussed openly before the FI(IC) was founded it was unlikely that Lambert would do so after fusion had been achieved.

Doubtless Moreno, a seasoned and cynical factionalist, knew this very well. Indeed, Moreno’s supporters within the OCI(u) had supported Lambert’s adaptation to social democracy, which existed before the May 1981 Presidential election. This took the form, for example, of the OCI(u) refusing to stand its own candidate (in case it took votes away from Mitterriand) and calling for a vote for Mitterrand (in preference to the Stalinist candidate, Marchais) from round one of this (two round) election.

When on September 22nd 1981 Moreno submitted a long article attacking the OCI’s position on Mitterrand, for publication in Correspondence Internationale, it was tantamount to a declaration of a split. Events thereafter took on a familiar ring to those who have experienced or studied the splits and fusions of the “Fourth Internationals” since 1953.

Lambert began to level accusations at supporters of Moreno in France that they were involved in a Stalinist, LCR, fascist, Morenoite provocation against the OCI Napuri, a leader of the Peruvian tendency that had been part of the OCRFI, the POMR, was expelled and denounced as a bourgeois agent- because he opposed the expulsions of the Morenoites. This method of denunciation is an old tactic. Enemies are bourgeois agents.

They need to be dealt with organisationally not politically. As a result of these moves the Morenoites boycotted a General Council of the FI(IC) in the Autumn of 1981 whereupon Lambert declared that they had therefore split. Moreno then decamped to form the International Workers League, having achieved a foothold in Europe.

We confidently predict that this organisation will tread the opportunist path already pioneered by its leader. For Lambert the exercise was not too rewarding. However despite a steady loss of members the OCI have changed their name to the PCI – Parti Communiste Internationaliste declaring themselves a party. They have continued their adaptationist approach to Mitterrand and in Poland put forward a purely democratic programme for political revolution. At a meeting on 21-23 December 1981 with the rump of the OCRFI this farce was continued with the declaration of the “Fourth International – International Centre of Reconstruction” !

The whole episode reveals the degenerate nature of both elements in the split. They are both led by centrists who continue to constitute road blocks to the building of a revolutionary International and the reelaboration of a revolutionary programme.

The Trotskyist International Liason Committee (TILC) formed at the end of 1979 represents an attempt by the WSL (Workers Socialist League) in Britain and various other groups in Italy, the USA and Denmark to form an international tendency aiming to “reconstruct the Fourth International”. Workers Power and the Irish Workers Group attended the international pre-conference of the TILC in December 1979 as observers. At that meeting our groupings expressed disagreement with the basis and method on which the TILC was initiated. The WSL, the largest organisation and the main political influence within the TILC, originated out of a factional struggle in the Healyite Workers Revolutionary Party, British section of the International Committee. Crystallised around the evident gap between the WRP’s perspectives – economic collapse and imminent military coup – and the real state of the class struggle the central theme of the opposition was the call for a “return to the transitional programme.” 123

In the formative period during and immediately after the split in the WRP, the leaders of the WSL were considerably influenced by the OC!.

In particular they adopted the OCI’s fetishistic use of the Transitional Programme as the highest possible and entirely sufficient formulation of communist principles. They added to this a home grown view of the “fight for the transitional programme” which was largely posed in terms of resolutions on the sliding scale of wages to trade union conferences.

Thus the WSL conducted propaganda for those transitional demands which were closest to the current wage struggle.

On the Labour Party they adopted wholesale the old methods and slogans of the Socialist Labour League including a version of Healy’s “Make the left MPs fight”, cut down to “Make the Lefts fight”. This slogan presented itself as a sharply polemical exposure of the lefts with calls on them to kick out the right-wing leaders. It had however beneath its “left” appearance a right adaptationist essence. Was this an inevitable stage; first the left reformists, then our turn? Was there a fundamental difference between the “left” and “right” social democratic leaders? The WSL privately said “no” and that this was “proved” by the MP’s refusal to fight. But what if the left leaders did “fight”? What if they even moved to kick out Healy and the right wing? In 198081 Benn and a small nucleus of left MPs put themselves at the head of the Labour Party Democracy movement. The WSL criticism of them weakened and collapsed. Simultaneously they fused their organisation with the ever more opportunist I-CL. The old slogan has not been raised by the new organisation despite the retreat of Benn and Co and their manifest failure to carry their “fight” to a decisive conclusion. 54. Whilst the WSL rejected the WRP’s early’70s sectarianism it returned to all the fundamentals that had led it in that direction. Their work was conducted in the old 1960s Healy style.

As the “alternative leadership” the WSL was built as a miniature version of a future mass party (mini-mass party). The WSL indignantly rejected the role and tasks of a fighting propaganda group. Consequently it developed all the classic faults of 1960s Healyism – a rapid turnover of members, a low level of cadre training and development, and inflated expectations that led to demoralisation and collapse. Raided twice by the Spartacist sectarians who took off their “left” elements the demoralised WSL collapsed into a fusion with the right-centrist I-CL in 1981.

The WSL’s sponsorship and foundation of TILC was a product of its declining years. In essence the WSL failed to break from the IC’s fetishisation of the Transitional Programme and their turning of it into abstract principles – i.e. dogma. This approach necessarily separates programmatic principles from tactics, and directs attention away from the tasks of programmatic re-elaboration. This in effect denies both the programmatic degeneration of the FI and its collapse into centrism.

Thus the WSL argued in March 1978 that the route to building a principled basis for a reconstructed FI lay not in: “the arithmetical piecing together of the existing splintered fragments, but as a process of reaffirming both in theory and practice the fundamental principles on which the Fourth International was founded.” 124 All groupings which claim to stand on the “principles” of the Transitional Programme are therefore part of a “world Trotskyist Movement” and simply have to be won back to an existing fundamentally correct programme.

The WSL’s original conception of the Transitional Programme as “valid today” has done nothing to prevent it from sinking into an opportunist quagmire on its own national terrain. Small wonder that this understanding of programme is incapable of guiding the creation of an international tendency.

The collapse of the Fourth International is seen simply as a period of “prolonged disorientation.” 125Here the WSL has recourse to some crude sociology. The leaders of the post-war FI were unfortunately petit-bourgeois and therefore incapable of defending the revolutionary programme. This is most clearly expressed in the WSL’s submission to the XI World Congress of the USFI, “The Poisoned Well”. It describes “Pabloism” thus: “It reflects the ideological approach of the petit bourgeoisie,” 126

Fair enough. But then it continues: “The danger of such a method emerging remains acute whenever (and for whatever reasons) Trotskyism becomes dependent for its existence upon middle class intellectual forces with little experience and few links to the working class- forced to contemplate the class struggle from the outside, and more than ever dependent upon an analysis which finds it difficult to penetrate beneath the surface of events,” 127

Now while it is true that a revolutionary organisation needs to become in class composition as well as in political character, a party of the proletarian vanguard, it is not true that the failure to do this was decisive in the FI’s collapse. Whilst Pablo and Mandel were the principal theorists, the “proletarian” leaders Healy and Cannon were equally complicit in its practice. One group that blocked with Pablo, the Cochran Clarke faction, had a large proletarian base. The real problem with this one-sided sociological analysis is that it leads the WSL to defend the IC tradition. It does this on the spurious grounds that the IC maintained a working class orientation. But then so did the LSSP in Ceylon, yet it joined a popular front. So did Lora in Bolivia, yet in two revolutionary situations he took a Menshevik not a Bolshevik position. To make a fundamental distinction between the IS and the IC on the basis of a supposed working class rather than a petit-bourgeois orientation, is at bottom an apolitical way of viewing the split in the FI and the nature of the IC.

We reject the WSL’s view, built into the founding document of the TILC that: “We critically defend these forces – initially in the International committee – that took, however partially and inadequately, a stand in defence of the primacy of the task of constructing independent Trotskyist parties as the sole guarantor of the political independence of the working class.” 128 Neither politically nor organisationally is it true that the IC groups maintained “independence”. Was Healy’s anonymous club selling Tribune defending proletarian independence? The TILC was founded on the notion: today we have “The Programme” – the task is to win the Trotskyist movement back to it. This approach leads to a false conception of the operative basis for unity, regroupment and. fusion, both nationally and internationally.

he basis for unity becomes generalised abstract principles rather than agreement on programme, tactics, strategy and perspectives. This approach was mirrored in the positions of the GBL(now LOR) of Italy. In their “Theses on the Crisis of the Fourth International and the tasks of the Bolshevik Leninists” (Nov.1979) and drawn up for the TILC pre-conference, the GBL put forward a similar view of the “world trotskyist movement” . Thus they argue: “The FI is not dead, nor was it destroyed. It underwent a political degeneration process, leading to organisational scattering. Today it lives in its different factions.” 129

The GBL proceeds to define why the tradition of the FI still “lives” in this world Trostkyist movement: “Firstly they do cluster the most conscious portion of (the) world proletarian vanguard. The politics is generally centrist in nature but with special features. Actually it still does not reflect a complete break from the programmatic basis of Bolshevism – even less does it constitute a direct reflection of social forces foreign to the proletariat (worker aristocracy, Stalinist parasitic bureaucracy, petit-bourgeois intelligentsia and so on) unlike Stalinist, social democratic and partly also centrist politics.” 130

As well as talking of centrism “with special features”, the document also frequently characterises the FI fragments as “centrist type” organisations. In fact the GBL (LOR)’s position is just a repetition of Roberto Masari’s “centrism sui generis” – a form of centrism which is somehow incapable of going over to reformism. Firstly, there is no evidence to support this rosy prediction. Indeed the GBL itself excludes the LSSP and the Posadists from the “world Trotskyist movement” because they “definitively entered the counter-revolutionary camp”. What is to stop other centrist fragments following? Secondly, it is a mistake to argue that the centrism of the FI fragments is “special” because it does not “constitute a direct reflection of social forces foreign to the proletariat”.

All centrism precisely reflects the social weight of the petit-bourgeoisie, a stratum which vacillates between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Since the labour aristocracy in the imperialist countries has, due to its sharing in the feast of super profits, the life conditions of a comfortable petit-bourgeois, such consciousness is not (as the WSL theoreticians like to think) limited to shop-keepers or people with a college education.

The history of the FI after 1948 is the history of capitulation to these forces, either to the petit-bourgeois utopian programmes of the Stalinists – e.g. the Chinese and Vietnamese Communist Parties, or to petit-bourgeois nationalists – e.g. Algeria, Nicaragua. The suggestion that these antics and betrayals do not represent a “complete break from the programme of Bolshevism” is to besmirch the programme of Lenin and Trotsky.

From this misunderstanding of centrism, the LOR and WSL have developed a set of tactics to relate to the “world Trotskyist movement” through “regenerating” it, all of which are fundamentally wrong. TILC is seen as relating to this world movement in the manner of an “orthodox” international faction of it. An analogy is made with the struggle of the International Left Opposition: “It is necessary instead to engage (in) a struggle for regeneration and Bolshevik reorganising of the FI, similar to the struggle of the Left Opposition 1929-33”.131

This analogy is a false one. Trotsky and the ILO related to the Communist International in this way because it represented the mass vanguard party of the proletariat. In no sense do any of the fragments of the FI represent this. They are not mass organisations anywhere in the world, neither do they encompass the proletarian vanguard in the obvious sense that the CI did between 1923-33. Of course, important numbers of subjectively revolutionary militants are attracted by these groups (as they are to other centrist groups defined by the WSL as outside the “Trotskyist movement” – the PRP in Portugal, Avanguardia Operaia and Lotta Continua in Italy in the mid 1970s, and the SWP in Britain, for example). This may make an orientation to such groups essential. This necessitates polemic, theoretical debate, united action etc.

However, to be principled it must be on the basis of a clear recognition of their centrist character. In contrast the -TILC sees itself as a faction of this “movement”, sometimes inside it, sometimes outside it, desperately trying to bring it together in “open conferences” and willing to diplomatically tailor its criticisms to do so.

Two conditions govern a communist approach to centrist organisations. Firstly, in what direction is a centrist current moving – to the left or the right? Trotsky was absolutely clear about this in his advice to the British section of the ILO to enter the leftward moving centrist Independent Labour Party: “Centrism as we have said more than once, is a general name for the most varied tendencies and groupings spread out between reformism and Marxism. In front of each centrist grouping it is necessary to place an arrow indicating the direction of its development; from right to left or from left to right”.132

Of course communists would orient to, even enter, leftward moving centrist groups, attempting to bring them to a fully communist position as Trotsky did with the Block of Four. But this method does not inform the TILC method of relating to the FI fragments. The TILC prefers to relate to the “whole movement” and proceeds to do so either on the basis that it is not centrist (WSL), or that it is centrism with “special features” (GBL LOR).

The second condition which determines a communist organisation’s ability to relate to centrism is a firm grasp of, and determination to fight for, its own programme. Without a clearly worked-out programme which guides strategy and tactics in a democratic centralist fashion, an international tendency is disarmed in the face of centrism. Again, when Trotsky was discussing the question with the British LO, he emphasised that the ILO criticised the Walcher-Frolich group not for entering the left centrist SAP, but “because they had entered it without a complete programme and without an organ of their own…The great advantage of the Left Opposition lies in the fact that it has a theoretically elaborated programme, international experience and international control”.133

The great “disadvantage” of the TILC is that it has none of these things, but could still found itself on the perspective of entering centrist organisations. In these circumstances this was nothing short of a liquidationists’ charter. In fact its founding “programme” was inadequate even to guide or hold its own tendency together, let alone enter combat with much larger centrist formations.

The founding document of the TILC – “The Transitional Programme in Today’s Class Struggle” explicitly confines itself to “revolutionary principles”, leaving the tactical application of these principles by the


For the TILC, what crucially separates these tendencies from centrism is their formal adherence to the Transitional Programme. The TILC declaration of intent speaks of this world movement “oscillating around the Trotskyist programme’ 137 . In saying this the TILC is in fact covering over the real nature of these organisations and their leaderships. They are failing in the elementary Marxist duty hammered home by Trotsky in his struggle against the centrists “to say what is”.

Motivated by a healthy desire to relate to the “militants who aspire to be, and regard themselves as revolutionary Marxists” the TILC will end by making concession after concession to the unhealthy desire to be involved in discussions of the “world movement” at the cost of putting aside their criticisms. We know of course that the only basis that the gentlemen who lead the USFI, the FI(ICR) and the IWL etc., will allow discussion to take place is the precondition of not calling them centrists.

The dangers of this method were shown by the TILC’s attitude to the Moreno Lambert Parity Committee and Open Conference. Clear characterisations of the nature of these tendencies – as inveterate centrists and misleaders of the working class – was replaced by a refusal to be drawn on the political nature of these currents. Instead the TILC’s major criticism of these professional tricksters was over their failure to live up to their promises of calling an “open conference”.

In this way TILC sacrificed its political criticisms, and along with them the necessity of issuing warnings to militants following the Parity Committee down the same old centrist cul-de-sac, in the interests of holding a “discussion” with part of the “world movement.” These developments in the short life span of the TILC have confirmed the criticisms made by the IWG and Workers Power at the TILC preconference in 1979. The TILC, founded on a wrong method and without having established real programmatic unity, has proved incapable of surmounting its first major international test – an imperialist war against a semi-colony.

It remains to be seen whether the sections of the TILC will draw the necessary conclusions from this debacle and break from this fundamentally centrist method. For our part we will continue to debate issues with the TILC, try to help its sections to break from that method, but we will do so by keeping to the forefront our criticisms and disagreements. We do this not out of a fanatical desire to disagree but out of a desire to achieve the sort of ‘programmatic clarity that is absolutely necessary for the building of a genuinely democratic centralist Trotskyist international tendency.


91. ibid., Vol. 6, p. 54.

92. ibid., Vol. 4, pp. 154-5.

93. J. Lister,Spartacist Truth Kit (London, 1982).

94. L. Trotsky, Writings 1933-34 (New York, 1975), p.233.

95. Marxist Bulletin (New York, n.d.) No. 9, p.5.

96. Quoted in Lister, op.cit., p.12.

97. This question is dealt with at greater length in the final section of this book.

98. Spartacist Britain No. 47.

99. Spartacist Britain No. 1. 100. Workers Vanguard No. 295.

101. FMR, Self Critical Balance Sheet of the NIl (Frankfurt, 1977), 102. The I-CL and the Fourth International (London 1976), p.6.

103. ibid., p. 8.

104. See section on the TlLC for a fuller discussion of this fusion.

105. Documents of the Founding Conference of the OCRFI (Dublin, n.d.) p. 11.

106. G. Lora, History of the Bolivian Labour Movement (Cambridge, 1977) p. 363.

107. ibid., p. 362.

108. G. Lora;Programmatic Basis of the POR (English Translation by the Socialist Labour Group, n.d.) p.57.

109. G. Lora, History of the Bolivian Labour Movement op. cit. p. 368.

110. “Manifesto of Bolivian Front Against the Dictatorship” in Intercontinental Press (New York, December 6th 1971) p. 1078.

111. Declaration of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency (Lima, 1979) (Our translation).

112. Documents of the Founding Conference of the OCRFI op. cit., p. 17.

113. Declaration of the FIT op. cit.

114. Declaration of the FIT on Nicaragua (La Paz, 1979) (Our translation).

115. Pour la Defense et le Soutien du Proletariat Polonais!! (Paris, 1’981) – this was published by European based militants of the FIT. (Our translation).

116. Workers Power No. 17 and Class Struggle No.7.

117. International Correspondence No. 1.

118. Quoted in International Marxist Review (London, Spring 1982), p.54.

119. Draft Theses for the Reorganisation (Reconstruction) of the Fourth International, Thesis 31.

120. For a more detailed critique of the “Forty Theses” see Workers Power No.22.

121. Correspondance Internationale, No. 14 p.l0.

122. ibid., p. 11.

123. Workers Socialist League, The Battle for Trotskyism, (London, 1979)

124. Trotskyism Today No.2 p.1. 125. Trotskyism Today No.3 p.28.

126. Workers Socialist League The Poisoned Well (London), p.3.

121. ibid.

128. Workers Socialist League The Transitional Programme in Today’s Class Srtuggle (London, 1919) ~.21 119. G L, Theses on the Crisis of the Fourth International and the tasks of the Bolshevik Leninists (Genoa, 1979).

130. ibid.

131. ibid.

132. L. Trotsky, Writings on Britain (London 1974) Vol. 3, p. 87.

133. ibi.r, p. 87.

134. Workers Socialist League, The Transitional Programme in Today’s Class Struggle op. cit., p.8.

135. L. Trotsky, Writings 1937-38 (New York, 1976), p. 90.

136. Workers Socialist League The Transitional Programme in Today’s Class Struggle op. cit., p. 18.

137. TILC International Discussion Bulletin (London, 1980) No.2, p. 16.

138. L. Trotsky, Writings 1930 (New York, 1975), pp. 236-7.

139. L. Trotsky, Writings 1934-35 (New York, 1974) p.278.

140. ibid., p. 274.


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