BUILDING THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL AND MASS TROTSKYIST PARTIES IN EVERY COUNTRY
Submitted by Chris Edwards and Alex Acheson (Britain), Jette Kromann and Inge Sorensen (Denmark) To the Discussion for the XIV World Congress 14 February 1995
Following is an alternative draft to the International Executive Committee (IEC) majority document "Building the International Today". The draft is submitted to the discussion for the XIV World Congress by four leading comrades of the Fourth International. Chris Edwards is a member of the Central Committee of the International Socialist Group (ISG/Britain). Alex Acheson is a veteran Trotskyist, a founding member of the British section of the Fourth International (1938), and a former National Treasurer of the International Marxist Group (IMG, a predecessor of the ISG). Jette Kromann and Inge Sorensen are members of the Socialist Workers Party (SAP/Denmark). Comrade Kromann is a former member of the SAP Central Committee and was a signer of the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Left Tendency in the Fourth International for the XIII World Congress", and comrade Sorensen is a current member of the Editorial Board of the SAP magazine Socialist Information. The document would have been signed by two other leading comrades of the Fourth International, Marco Ferrando and Franco Grisolia, except that the crisis of the Italian section has placed them in a situation where their membership in the FI has been referred to the XIV World Congress.
Comrades Ferrando and Grisolia are former members of the Political Bureau of the Fourth International Association (AQI/Italy) and were signers of the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Left Tendency in the Fourth International for the XIII World Congress". Comrade Ferrando is the most prominent Trotskyist in the Party for a Communist Refounding (PRC) and a member of its National Directorate. Comrade Grisolia is also a member of the PRC National Directorate and the only Trotskyist member of the National Directorate of the General Confederation of Italian Labour (CGIL). Comrade Grisolia was elected to the FI IEC at the XIII World Congress and submitted the present document to the December 1994 IEC meeting, where he was deemed an observer pending the decision of the XIV World Congress.
The crisis of the Italian section results from sharp differences over policy for intervention in the PRC. Comrades Ferrando and Grisolia were part of a minority in the AQI who proposed an active Trotskyist intervention into the PRC. They helped launch the magazine Proposta and form a faction in the PRC around it on the basis of an openly Trotskyist platform. The AQI majority refused to intervene in the PRC on an openly Trotskyist basis or to confront the PRC leadership, and declared that the minority had quit the AQI by implementing its activist policy. The minority comrades still regard themselves as members of the FI and the AQI, but the December 1994 IEC meeting ruled that they had left the AQI and referred the question of recognising them as a separate FI organisation to the XIV World Congress. The present draft is divided into six main parts:
1. The Change in the World Situation and the Tasks of Trotskyists
2. No "New International" -- Build the Fourth International!
3. The World Trotskyist Movement and the Fourth International
4. Program, Method, and Organisation
5. Tactics -- Method and Examples
6. Conclusion We invite comrades who want to discuss this document or who agree with its general line and want to join a tendency based on it to write to: Chris Edwards, Department 88, 1 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1HW, BRITAIN.
1. The Change in the World Situation and the Tasks of Trotskyists
The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the process of transformation in the nature of the states dominated by these regimes is central to the change in the world situation. The most dramatic element in the retreat of the working class since the late 1970s, the collapse means not only a crisis of the Stalinist movement but also a change in the relationship of class forces internationally. The world has not entered a new historical epoch, since the same class contradictions continue to exist, but it has entered a new historical period. Five key elements in the balance of class forces in the post-World War II order have changed:
1. The Russian Revolution. When the Russian working class took power in October 1917, it challenged world capitalism concretely with its own rule in an important part of the world, a single country but a big one. The Russian Revolution remains valid, not only in the sense that social ownership of the means of production was established in Russia, but also in the sense that the Russian Revolution is still the most important element in the class struggle on an international scale.
2. The degeneration of the Russian Revolution. The triumph of Stalinism in the Soviet Union meant that, despite the positive importance of the continuing existence of the first workers' state, its bureaucratic leadership refused to develop the international proletarian socialist revolution. The challenge to capitalism posed by the Soviet Union was no longer direct, but rather mediated by a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy.
3. The expansion of the bureaucratically deformed workers' states. After World War II capitalism was overthrown in Eastern Europe and China, not by victorious workers' revolutions but by military action of the Soviet army or partisans or armies of Stalinist parties dependent on the Soviet Union. The Stalinist regime of the Soviet Union was extended to the other bureaucratically deformed workers' states.
4. The Soviet bloc and imperialist unity. The continued existence of the Soviet Union and expansion of the Soviet bloc after World War II compelled the imperialists to unite. To what degree the Stalinist threat to imperialism was real, to what degree it was imagined, and to what degree it was pretended varied with events and, even more, with the political needs and policies of the imperialist leadership. But overall, the existence of the Soviet bloc limited interimperialist rivalry and forced the imperialists to cooperate.
5. The opening for bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists. The existence of the Soviet Union and its allies allowed bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist forces to balance to one degree or another between the Soviet bloc and the imperialist bloc. Bourgeois nationalist forces took advantage of this to achieve decolonisation in Asia and Africa, and radical petty-bourgeois nationalist forces took advantage of it to create a deformed workers' state in Cuba and radical nationalist regimes -- but not workers' states -- in Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, and elsewhere.
The bureaucratically deformed workers' states were an essential aspect of the post-World War II order. They contributed to instability by helping to keep the Russian Revolution alive in the consciousness of the workers and the oppressed, by aiding anticapitalist and anti-imperialist struggles to a limited extent, and by restricting the scope for capitalist exploitation. But they also contributed to the political equilibrium that underlay the capitalist economic expansion and relative social stability of the 1950s and 1960s. Since the goal of their Stalinist leaderships was not to spread socialist revolution all over the world but to strike a deal for "peaceful coexistence" with imperialism, they generally blocked revolutions and dampened the class struggle.
The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe changes the relationship of class forces internationally. In immediate terms, it represents a big defeat for the working class, not only materially -- the process of capitalist restoration in the East -- but also in the consciousness of the working class. This must be seen not just in a trade-union sense but in the Leninist sense of class-consciousness. The socialist alternative to capitalism -- not only the revolutionary alternative but even the reformist one -- seems impossible to many workers. The level of consciousness of the working class has been lowered everywhere. This is most obvious in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, where capitalist-restorationist governments have been in power for three to five years. In none of these countries has the working class risen to defend collectivised property or even to defend its living standards in any consistent way.
The reason for this is not hard to find: first the Stalinist regimes undermined the workers' belief in the socialist alternative to capitalism, and then the collapse of the Stalinist regimes undermined their belief in any alternative to capitalism. In the advanced capitalist countries, the workers who supported the Communist Parties, for example, in Italy, France and Spain, generally had a trade-unionist, reformist consciousness. But even this consciousness has been challenged, since the "defeat of socialism" seems to call into question the possibility of obtaining any substantial reforms under capitalism.
The workers who supported the Social Democracy have reacted to the events in the East by feeling confirmed in their belief that capitalism, however bad, is the only viable economic system. In the semicolonies, the working class is also in political turmoil, not only the workers who followed the Stalinist parties but also the workers under the leadership of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist parties. The nationalist movements, seconded by the Stalinists, attempted to balance between imperialism and Stalinism to find a reformist "third way". The collapse of the Soviet bloc has driven these movements, still seconded by the remnants of the Stalinist parties, into the arms of the International Monetary Fund, leaving the workers who followed them feeling betrayed and hopeless. The pattern is general all over the world: following more than a decade of capitalist offensive and working-class retreat, the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has caused the mass of workers to doubt their capacity to change anything -- not just to take power, but to change the situation in any positive terms.
This pessimistic mood also affects the broad vanguard of the working class, the workers who have a broadly revolutionary consciousness, that is, an understanding of the capitalist system and a will to challenge it. While the mass of workers tend to say that the failure in the East shows that radical change is impossible, the vanguard tends to say that radical change is not possible now: "I am willing, but the others are not". In a sense, they are right. So long as the vanguard militants individually choose not to act, the vanguard collectively fails to act, and so does the working class. While confusion is still the dominant element in the consciousness of the international working class, the collapse of Stalinism has resolved nothing for capitalism in historical terms: the capitalist crisis continues and will get worse.
In fact, in some ways the contradictions of capitalism are deepened by the collapse, since the Stalinists are no longer able to help restrain the workers and contain their struggle. The capitalists' victory is highly contradictory and unstable. Under these historical conditions, the collapse of Stalinism in some ways offers more possibilities for Trotskyists to win sections of the proletarian vanguard. The weakening of the old Stalinist leadership creates space for new leadership, including revolutionary Marxist leadership. More generally, the crisis of leadership of the workers' movement is so deep relative to the desperate situation that extraordinary possibilities are opened for even a tiny vanguard force like the Trotskyist movement. The Trotskyist movement must be more audacious and more pedagogical today than ever before. We confront a more open workers' movement but also a working class with a consciousness, especially in its younger generations, in some ways similar to the consciousness of the working class 100 years ago.
We must show and explain the reality of capitalist economic and political power. This is not just an ideological task, nor simply a matter of "being in the struggle". Avoiding both abstract sectarianism and movementism, we must educate the working class, linking the education to the real class struggle. In the changed world situation, an element of the crisis of the workers' movement is that there is less common ground internationally than there used to be. Stalinism and Social Democracy represented an element of coherence for the workers' movement internationally, as did the existence of the Soviet Union. This coherence was never absolute and began to break down toward the end of the Cold War, as the various Stalinist parties began to make their own way, according to their national situations. But now the coherence is gone, and the dominant element is the national experience. Trotskyists must intervene flexibly according to the national situation, always pursuing our strategic goal of building mass revolutionary parties as sections of the Fourth International in every country. Flexibility means that in some countries a group of even ten comrades may have to proclaim an independent organisation, unfurl its banner, and say "Come with us!" In other countries, a much larger group may have to be more cautious and intervene in another party. Generally, it is more logical for ten people to make an entry and 1,000 people to proclaim a party.
But the question is political, not organisational. We must start from the situation in the workers' movement, recognising that building a mass Trotskyist party means winning the majority of the working-class vanguard to the revolutionary Marxist program. In a particular situation -- for example, a militant but politically inexperienced working class with no consolidated bureaucratic leadership -- it may be possible to win the majority of the vanguard by building an independent party immediately, even starting from a tiny group. China in the 1920s is an example. The Chinese Communist Party started out as 52 and became 50,000 in five years. The workers and peasants saw and understood what was happening in Russia and responded to the Chinese Communists' call. In another situation -- for example, a highly developed workers' movement with a consolidated leadership -- it might be mistake to proclaim an independent organisation immediately. Brazil is an example. If our Brazilian section, Socialist Democracy (DS), split from the Workers Party (PT) today, it would have the numerical size to put out a weekly paper, but for DS to quit the PT now would be a political mistake, since it would tend to isolate the comrades from the broad working-class vanguard.
The question is political. We must do whatever is necessary to build a mass revolutionary party, that is, to win the majority of the working-class vanguard to the Trotskyist program. The development of a new revolutionary leadership will involve a deepening of the capitalist crisis, an upsurge in the class struggle, and a radicalisation of the working-class vanguard, as well as a regroupment of the revolutionary forces into mass parties and the Fourth International. But there is no mechanical link between the objective situation and party-building. Trotskyists can and must take steps toward building mass revolutionary parties as sections of the Fourth International, even before the objective situation improves significantly. We are in a situation of transition between the old workers' movement and a new one, which means opportunities, as well as difficulties, in both directions. The old workers' movement is not simply dead, and many rank-and-file members and even leaders are rethinking their positions.
In some countries, Trotskyists have opportunities to intervene in the old movement, which includes important mass parties like the Brazilian PT and the Party for a Communist Refounding (PRC) in Italy. The new workers' movement is not formed, but it is in the process of formation. Everywhere, thoughtful young people are looking for explanations for the Stalinist collapse and solutions to the capitalist crisis. In many countries the process of reflection has gone far enough to provide Trotskyists with important new arenas for intervention. We must link our interventions in the old workers' movement with our interventions in the developments among youth that foreshadow the new workers' movement. In some countries we must put more emphasis on the former, in other countries on the latter. We must find the right balance. But to put off taking organisational steps to the distant future would be wrong. We do not have to overcome the defeats and the political confusion in the working class before we can take steps toward building mass Trotskyist parties and the Fourth International. That way of thinking is false and part of an attempt to find some other -- in reality, illusory -- force to solve the problem of party-building for us. We face a contradictory situation. Despite the political disorientation in the working class, including the vanguard, Trotskyists have possibilities to build substantial vanguard organisations.
We will not win the majority of the vanguard yet, but there is enough struggle and enough reflection in the vanguard to allow us to advance.
2. No "New International" -- Build the Fourth International!
A debate has developed in our International over the role of our organisation in the new situation created by the collapse of Stalinism and the continuing capitalist crisis. The central question in the debate is whether our perspective should be to build the Fourth International or to build a "new mass International". Derivative questions include the relationship of our International to other Trotskyist tendencies and to parties and movements of a centrist or reformist character. The two perspectives of building the Fourth International or building a "new mass International" are counterposed sharply by the political choices we face in different countries, particularly in France, Brazil, and Mexico. In France, for example, the central question is not how we evaluate our recent experiences with Juquin, the renovateurs, etc., or how we solve the organisational problems of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), but what program and perspective we put forward. Is the revolutionary Marxist program still valid? Is the perspective of building a Leninist party valid? Can Trotskyists, applying the method of the Transitional Program, win the majority of the vanguard and after that the working class to the perspective of socialist revolution?
The LCR's tactical and organisational problems flow from its wrong or ambiguous answers to these questions. In Brazil, the central question is not whether to split from the PT today, how to deal with the PT's internal counterreforms, or even how to build our Brazilian section in organisational terms. The central question is whether we recognise that the PT is a reformist party and will implement a counterrevolutionary policy, if it takes parliamentary power. Confusion on this central political question leads to the denial of the need for a Leninist party in Brazil and the tactical adaptation to the reformist line of the Lula leadership. Having achieved clarity on the strategic questions -- the impossibility of the PT's leading the socialist revolution and the need for a mass Leninist party -- we need to answer the tactical and organisational questions involved in building such a party. The general direction is clear: build a faction in the PT on the basis of the Transitional Program and attempt to win the majority of the party to its perspective and leadership, recognising that as the revolutionaries gain influence a split with Lula and the other reformist leaders is inevitable. But many essential details need to be worked out for the revolutionaries to emerge with qualitatively more forces than they had when they entered. The key questions for our International and its sections are political, not organisational. Our organisational problems flow from our political ones. Our essential problem is not that we lack organisational capacity but that we fail to consistently defend and develop the revolutionary program. We attempt to substitute -- "at least for a period" -- a radical democratic line for the line of socialist revolution. Without clarifying this point, we cannot agree on a line for building the International and its sections or our relationship to other forces in the workers' movement. Political confusion about the unique importance of the Trotskyist program and the need to struggle for the political independence and hegemony of the revolutionary party, despite any tactical maneuvers, inevitable leads to disaster.
A recent example of this is Peru. Our comrades there did not understand the need to build a revolutionary party on the basis of our unique program in a struggle for hegemony against the other so-called "revolutionary" -- really, centrist -- currents in the vanguard. Because of this, they began with leadership of a mass united front and ended with nothing. Political clarity does not solve all organisational problems. But lack of political clarity guarantees organisational failure. Trotskyists must take as our starting point our uniquely correct program and perspective and fight for the development of our organisational forces in a struggle for hegemony in the working-class vanguard. This is not a new discussion in our movement, although the collapse of Stalinism gives it a new urgency. The comrades who issued the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Left Tendency in the Fourth International for the XIII World Congress" argued in the pre-Congress discussion and at the XIII World Congress that our perspective should be to build a mass Fourth International by intervening in the struggles of the workers and the oppressed with the Trotskyist program and fighting for political clarification and organisational unification in the world Trotskyist movement. Now the discussion is sharper, since some comrades are openly questioning the concept of building the Fourth International. Given the new world situation, they ask, isn't it time to admit that the Fourth International has been overcome by events and has failed, and that we must build a new International? Our International organisation must reject this view. The Fourth International exists. It was established in 1938. True, it was built with the expectation of revolutionary developments during and after World War II which did not occur or, rather, occurred not in a thorough and complete way under Trotskyist leadership but in a deformed and incomplete way under Stalinist leadership. This historical development was the material basis for the political crisis and organisational fragmentation of the Fourth International in the 1950s. Nevertheless, we must continue to affirm Trotsky's reply in the Transitional Program to the skeptics who asked if now was the time to proclaim the Fourth International:
"The Fourth International, we answer, has no need of being "proclaimed". It exists, and it fights. Is it weak? Yes, its ranks are not numerous...They are as yet chiefly cadres. But these cadres are pledges for the future. Outside of these cadres, there does not exist a single revolutionary current on this planet really meriting the name."
"Outside of these cadres, there does not exist a single revolutionary current on this planet really meriting the name". In this sense, the proclamation of the Fourth International and its building from 1938 to the present were absolutely correct and made it possible to maintain an historical link with the revolutionary program and tradition of Marx and Lenin.
The validity of the Fourth International -- despite all the difficulties and the weaknesses and failings of the Trotskyist movement -- is determined by history, including now the collapse of Stalinism. Some sectarians may object to this. The Fourth International is dispersed, they say, and has fallen prey to revisionism and opportunism, etc. These are real problems, and as an International we must analyze our history and draw a balance sheet on the splits and the political deviations, so that we can correct the past mistakes and avoid similar mistakes in the future. Despite these weaknesses, however, only the world Trotskyist movement has the capacity to pull together even a limited vanguard of the working class and to struggle against capitalism, its agents in the workers' movement, and the remaining Stalinist regimes worldwide. Apart from the Trotskyist movement -- the organisations that claim the heritage of the Fourth International -- there is no other working-class International, let alone a revolutionary Marxist one. Nor is there any other political tendency not currently organised internationally -- for example, a split from Stalinism or Social Democracy -- that is capable of evolving into a revolutionary Marxist International.
The perspective of a "new International", in both its sectarian Fifth International versions and its opportunist Second or Third International versions, is out of touch with reality. In some countries there are limited possibilities for revolutionary regroupment, as distinct from Trotskyist regroupment, on a national scale. But this is not the case on an international scale or in most national situations. The project of a "new International", if taken seriously, is either a fantasy or a cover for revising our revolutionary Marxist program, substituting a program that mixes Marxism and reformism, and building a centrist organisation on that basis. We oppose the project of a "new International", because it means not just an organisational rejection of the experience of the Fourth International but also a break with the program of the Fourth International, the program of revolutionary Marxism. The need for a revolutionary International can be posed in two ways. First, an organisation is an instrument for a task. All historical experience confirms that the only solution to the crisis of contemporary society is world revolution. The need for world revolution implies the need for a world party. Second, only a world party with an international outlook and leadership can overcome the limitations of a purely national experience. The class struggle is international in essence and national in form. Correspondingly, the tasks of revolutionaries are internationally common in essence and nationally differentiated in form. The general strategy for building a party and making a revolution is the same in every country, but different national situations require different tactics.
The only way to guarantee the common revolutionary international essence despite the different national forms is to have international discussion and an international organisation and leadership. Again, the problem is mainly political, not organisational. The goal is not "to share national experiences", useful as that may be, but to develop the general strategy in the framework of Marxist theory and analysis of the world, and to review national tactics in general terms, to identify and struggle against national deviations as they develop.
3. The World Trotskyist Movement and the Fourth International
The world Trotskyist movement has a special strategic importance in building the Fourth International and mass Trotskyist parties in every country. It has a special importance in achieving the "critical mass" needed to intervene effectively in the workers' movement and win the vanguard. Thus, it requires special attention. The working class and its vanguard are politically disoriented, demobilised and atomised, especially since the events in the East. Even the Trotskyists, overall the most advanced sector of the vanguard, are theoretically confused and organisationally dispersed.
The disorientation and fragmentation of the Trotskyist movement has increased markedly since the collapse of Stalinism. Trotskyist regroupment requires both political clarification and organisational unification. It is not possible to say simply, "Political clarity first, organisational unity second". However tidy and attractive that formula may sound, it fails to understand the real problem and oversimplifies the solution. Political clarity must be won in the course of a struggle for organisational unity, as organisational unity must be won in the course of a struggle for political clarity. In his 5 May 1875 letter to W. Bracke, Marx wrote: "Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programs". This observation is used by opportunists to justify their abandonment of the revolutionary program, but its real meaning is that there is an indissoluble connection between achieving theoretical clarity and building the revolutionary movement, a dialectical unity of opposites. Theoretical clarification not linked to building a revolutionary party is an unimportant exercise. Under today's conditions, with the current state of the crisis of revolutionary leadership, the struggle for Trotskyist regroupment is the best and, in truth, the only adequate framework for theoretical clarification. In the struggle for regroupment, theoretical positions can be confronted with each other polemically and tested in practice. Theory can become real and not just ideological thinking. The special strategic importance of the world Trotskyist movement derives from the character of the Trotskyist organisations and their members.
Most members of Trotskyist organisations consider themselves and in part are revolutionary militants who maintain their link with the Trotskyist program. This common ground provides a basis for clarifying agreements and disagreements and winning the comrades to consistently Trotskyist positions. For real and lasting regroupment, it is not enough to say that all Trotskyists are "good" -- full stop. We need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all those who consider themselves Trotskyist, find a way to help them clarify their political positions without formalism or ultimatums on our part, and move toward Trotskyist regroupment. The reason for seeking Trotskyist regroupment is not some moral obligation to comrades with whom we share a certain tradition. The reason is that Trotskyists need to achieve a critical mass to be effective. A small group has great difficulty intervening in the mass workers' movement or even in the vanguard. No abstract program, however good, can solve that problem. But unifying the forces that claim to adhere to the Transitional Program, or even some of them, would both increase our ability to influence the vanguard and allow us to struggle through our political differences more effectively. In France, for example, the division of the Trotskyist movement means that there is no single pole of attraction for those interested in or open to Trotskyism. The division is due partly to political differences, but also to organisational dispersion for other reasons, including careerism, petty bureaucratism, personality conflicts, feuds, factionalism, small-group chauvinism, and political differences blown out of proportion or no longer relevant. Under such circumstances, the struggle for organisational unification is a necessary part of the struggle to build a revolutionary leadership.
The unification of all or most of the Trotskyists in France would create a hegemonic Trotskyist organisation large enough to be a reference point for the members of the crisis-ridden Stalinist party. The division of the Trotskyist forces over the past few years exacerbated the effect of their political disorientation and meant that they largely missed the opportunity they would have had, if they had been politically clearer and more unified. The political disorientation of the French Trotskyists is related to their organisational fragmentation. Lacking the critical mass to intervene effectively in the vanguard, lead real struggles, and test their political lines, they have no way to resolve their political differences or to correct their political mistakes except through purely ideological struggle, which is seldom effective, and polemics which only the authors read. Despite all the differences that exist in the world Trotskyist movement, there is common ground.
As the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Left Tendency in the Fourth International for the XIII World Congress" explained:
"Our organisation must recognise the existence of an acute crisis of the Fourth International. Beginning in the early 1950s with the victory of Pabloite revisionism at the Third World Congress and the following split, the crisis has developed during the decades since.
The most obvious result of this crisis is the situation of division that afflicts the forces calling themselves Trotskyist.
In many countries, in fact, organisations outside our International are more significant, sometimes much more significant, than our sections. In some cases -- as in Argentina, for example -- important Trotskyist organisations exist, while our International is virtually absent.
The reality is that our organisation, although it is the biggest, only assembles in its ranks a minority of the vanguard militants who call themselves Trotskyist.
In reality, no international organisation, including ours, can pretend today to be the Fourth International. We must take account of a situation of organisational fragmentation of the Fourth International, linked to a proof the development and consolidation of revisionist positions inside it.
We must develop a clear course of action to put an end to this situation and arrive at an organisational reconstruction of the Fourth International, which cannot be separated from its political regeneration.
It is, therefore, necessary that our international organisation develop a policy of revolutionary Trotskyist regroupment with regard to the most important international Trotskyist currents, indicating clear proposals for reunification with the other forces."
There are some features, for example, internal democracy, that characterise our International more than the some of the other organisations. But even this apparent superiority is contradictory, since our democracy slides over into federalism and general looseness, leaving our organisation more open to mistakes and revisionism than tighter organisations. On balance, there is no qualitative difference between our organisation and the other parts of the Fourth International. Despite all the mistakes and errors of the various components of the world Trotskyist movement, the unification of the Trotskyist forces into a single organisation would be a very positive development. It would give Trotskyists an instrument with which to challenge the existing leaderships of the working class and become a reference point for the confused and dispersed vanguard and the working class itself.
A unification of the Trotskyist forces would not create the Fourth International that we want, either politically or organisationally. But it would create more favorable conditions for building the Fourth International we want, since it would create an organisation strong enough to be present in many, even most countries and to begin to offer an alternative leadership to the working-class vanguard all over the world. Our International should take the lead in the struggle for Trotskyist regroupment. Despite our weaknesses, we are the largest and organisationally strongest part of the Fourth International, we are the most genuinely international Trotskyist organisation, and we have the most formal continuity with Trotsky's Fourth International. Our International should propose to the rest of the world Trotskyist movement a process of political discussion leading to the rapid reunification of the Fourth International.
4. Program, Method, and Organisation
A party is essentially its program -- in the case of the Fourth International, the Transitional Program and the development and elaboration of the Transitional Program according to its method. The essence of the Transitional Program is the political independence of the working class, the transformation of the proletariat from a class in itself to a class for itself. This transformation from political unconsciousness to consciousness -- consciousness of its role in history -- is essential for the working class to take power and transform society.
The key to winning the working class to political consciousness is winning its most conscious elements to the Trotskyist program and party. To build the party in our various arenas of work, we must combine propaganda, agitation, and action. As James P. Cannon, the founding leader of American Trotskyism, put it:
Organisation and propaganda, actions and maneuvers, must be united in an organic whole. Without the ability to maneuver, there is no capacity for action and no real Communist Party. The paralyzing dogma "no maneuvers" must be eliminated from our conception at all costs. The great leaders and teachers of Leninism are constantly pressing this idea as a life-and-death struggle to the Communist Parties. ("Cannon Replies to Henry Askeli", 1925, in James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism: Selected Writings and Speeches, 1920-1928, New York: Prometheus Research Library, 1992, p. 336)
The transitional method does not mean just to have the most radical trade-union demands, but to link the most radical trade-union demands to the need for the working class to build organs of dual power to overthrow the capitalist state and establish its own rule. It is the method for winning the vanguard and through it the working class to the perspective of taking power.
Take, for example, the problem of unemployment. In this period, full employment under capitalism is impossible on a national scale, not to speak of an international scale. Revolutionaries must support demands by the trade unions and the other mass organisations of the working class for a 35-hour week at full pay, but in our propaganda and agitation we must link this demand to the only effective struggle against unemployment: the struggle for the sliding scales of wages and hours, massive public works, nationalisation of bankrupt companies, and workers' control of production. These demands put on the agenda a new social order and the need for workers to organise and take power. Revolutionary Marxists must generalise this method to all our interventions, starting from the concrete problems perceived by the workers and the oppressed, but not limiting ourselves to "single issues", however important or popular they may be. Ending the Vietnam War, winning abortion rights, or achieving the 35-hour week may be all that a particular mass movement is willing to fight for at a particular time. We should participate in the movement on that basis and try to lead it, but we should also put forward a full set of transitional demands indicating the perspective of socialist transformation and the necessity for working-class self-organisation and political power. We must find ways to link our transitional demands to the real struggle by presenting them both inside mass organisations and directly to the working masses. Sometimes as propaganda, sometimes as agitation, and sometimes as calls to action, according to the situation and our resources, we must constantly explain to the masses the nature of capitalism and the need to overthrow it to solve any important social problem. In our International, as in the other major organisations of the Trotskyist movement, there is a tendency to deny the importance of propaganda, that is, the importance of raising the political consciousness of the vanguard and winning its majority to our full program.
There are situations in which even tiny Trotskyist groups have big opportunities in the class struggle and must function not only as propaganda groups but as agitational groups. There are other situations in which even relatively large Trotskyist groups are isolated from the mass workers' movement or have significant regroupment opportunities in the vanguard and must be more propagandistic. In one country, a group of ten people may have the possibility to influence large numbers of workers through agitation. In another country, a group that size may have to be more propagandistic. The balance of propaganda, agitation, and action depends on the situation. Democratic centralism is necessary for an organisation to make decisions and to act. International democratic centralism means a common discussion of the general tasks and overall control of the sections by the International. It means not a federation but a real international party with a role and tasks distinct from those of the national sections. It does not mean that every section does the same thing on the same day, since the tasks are not the same everywhere. Nor does it mean a top leadership that says "Do this here, here and here", without regard for national discussions and views. International democratic centralism, even more than national democratic centralism, must be flexible and concrete, not rigid and abstract.
It would be wrong to say that the International leadership must have its majority view implemented every time, or that the International leadership should defer to the majority view of the national section every time. If the International majority thinks one course of action would be better for a section but the section majority thinks another course would be better, the International majority could defer and let the section go through the experience of making its own decision and seeing the result. The International could also insist that its decision be implemented. It depends on the importance of the question.
5. Tactics -- Method and Examples
Our International must be flexible in its tactics in the next period. While our International generally has been too loose, there have been occasions in the past, for example, at the end of the 1960s and the end of the 1970s, when the International leadership abused its power and tried to impose a mechanical extension of one or several national experiences on the whole International.
This was wrong not only because the line the International leadership attempted to impose was wrong, but also because the method of leadership was wrong. Such methods would be doubly wrong today, when the unstable world situation and the extremely sharp crisis of the workers' movement mean that the weight of the national experience on the consciousness and organisations of the working class and its vanguard is greater than ever. The situation calls for the utmost tactical flexibility, including around the question of whether to build an independent organisation or to intervene in existing organisations of the working class. The only condition is that we be clear about our goal: to win the majority of the vanguard and then to win the majority of the working class. Winning the majority of the vanguard means winning it to the Trotskyist program and regrouping it into a Leninist party, a section of the Fourth International. We must reject any idea of "exceptionalism" -- that in some situations it is possible to use some other instrument in place of a Leninist party, a section of the Fourth International, to lead the working class to power. The need for a Leninist party is a strategic and even a programmatic question for Trotskyists. This is true even in situations where we decide tactically to enter a mass reformist party, such as the Brazilian PT or the Italian PRC, or a reformist or centrist organisation that is not truly a mass party but is significant for us, given our size and circumstances. It is also true in situations where we decide tactically to work indefinitely inside an electoral party or a broad united front in the form of a party, such as the British Labour Party. In a reformist or centrist party,
Trotskyists should put forward their program and perspective and attempt to win leadership on that basis. If they won the majority to their positions -- generally unlikely -- the right wing would split, and the party would become effectively a mass revolutionary party. If they failed to win the majority, sooner or later the right wing would expel them, or they would be forced to quit rather than take responsibility for a popular-front government or some other crime the leadership was about to commit. They would then organise independently, hopefully with significantly more forces than they had before. In a mass electoral front, Trotskyists should work much as they would in a trade union. Again, they should put forward their positions and perspectives and attempt to win leadership on that basis. If they won hegemony in a mass united-front party, such as the British Labour Party, the party under their leadership would become an important auxiliary instrument of the socialist revolution, as the trade unions would, if the Trotskyists won hegemony there. Entries are maneuvers by which revolutionary Marxists attempt to win the vanguard elements in another party to their positions, their faction, and their organisation. Entries are not necessarily short-term or long-term: their length is determined by the results. The moment of the break should be when we gain the largest possible section of the vanguard, or when we are expelled or our way to the vanguard is blocked by the party bureaucracy.
We should approach the question of maintaining or ending our entry in a transitional way. Our criterion is what helps us most to build a Leninist party and win hegemony in the vanguard and the working class.
Our International faces a highly contradictory situation. On the one hand, the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, following more than a decade of generally successful capitalist offensive against the working class worldwide, has caused enormous political confusion in the workers' movement. The disorientation affects the whole working class, including the vanguard, and makes our work more difficult. On the other hand, the deepening capitalist crisis, the struggle that will inevitably develop against its consequences, and even the depth of the crisis of leadership of the working class offer new possibilities for Trotskyists. To make use of these possibilities, our International must be clear about our program and strategy. We have lost too many opportunities in the past, because we have not had a consistently revolutionary approach to events. Our lack of a clear Trotskyist perspective prevented us from building anything in the former Soviet Union and limited what we could build in the rest of Eastern Europe.
In Western Europe, we face a crisis for the same reason. In Latin America, we have lost nearly everything in Peru and are now threatened with the same in Mexico and soon, if we do not change our policy, in Brazil. The IEC majority document "Building the International Today" offers only more of the political disorientation that has brought our International to the brink of disaster. The document dwells on how bad the situation is, without sufficiently recognising the contradictions that allow us to move forward on a revolutionary Marxist basis even now. Its premise: "Defeat, defeat defeat!" Its conclusions: a combination of apolitical organisational proposals and an opportunist and utopian fantasy of "other revolutionary currents" with which we might someday form a "new mass International".
The real message of the majority document is hopeless objectivism: "a new accumulation of mass experiences, partial victories, and radicalisation of a new generation is needed to bring together all the conditions of a new leap forward in building vanguard organisations that will be both revolutionary and internationalist". Meanwhile, we wait and do nothing. If our International follows this course, it faces a real danger of collapse. It may not exist for the next mass upsurge to revive. Our International needs a political reorientation. We can and must be flexible on tactical and organisational questions, recognising that the mass organisations initially benefiting from the next upsurge of the workers and the oppressed will tend to be reformist or at best centrist, with leaderships which are non-Trotskyist or anti-Trotskyist -- Stalinists, social democrats, petty-bourgeois nationalists, syndicalists, movementists, etc.
The process of winning political hegemony for revolutionary Marxism in the upsurge will involve a range of tactics and organisational forms. But we must be clear on our goal: to build revolutionary Marxist, that is, mass Trotskyist parties in every country as sections of the Fourth International. One important aspect of the struggle to build the Fourth International is attempting to unify the world Trotskyist movement -- the political forces that affirm the Transitional Program and identify with the Trotskyist tradition. If we achieved this, we could qualitatively increase our impact in the workers' movement and clarify and resolve our differences in the framework of international democratic centralism. Our International needs to promote a process of political clarification and organisational reunification of the world Trotskyist movement. To build the Fourth International as a real World Party of Socialist Revolution -- this is the core of the problem we face. To take advantage of the contradictions in the present, undeniably difficult situation to advance the struggle to build the Fourth International -- this is the decision we must make.