DRAFT RESOLUTION ON CAPITALIST EUROPE AND OUR PARTY-BUILDING TASKS
Presented by the
Comrades Who Signed the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Left Tendency in
the Fourth International for the XIII World Congress"
The following resolution is a draft which we submit to the comrades of the Fourth International for their consideration and vote in the discussion for the World Congress. It is an initial draft for two reasons. First, the document, written by two Italian comrades, has not yet been discussed by all the signers of the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Left Tendency in the Fourth International." Second, to comply with the terms established by the National Committee of the Fourth International Association (AQI, Italy), the text is only a rough draft, with many analyses and proposals indicated but not fully developed.
However, the text does express, although in a necessarily schematic form, the general evaluation and proposals of the Tendency, based on its programmatic declaration and the discussion developed among its members. For that reason, we submit it to the judgement and vote of the comrades.
10 December 1990
The State of Relations among the Classes.
Since the mid-1970s the European social and political situation has entered a completely new phase. The process of mass radicalization, unmistakable in many countries from 1968 on, and the working-class and student upsurge of those years have encountered a decisive obstacle in the leaderships of the workers' movement, more even than in the independent power of the bourgeoisie. The "historic compromise" in Italy, the Labour government of Callaghan in Britain, the collaboration of the Communist Party with the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) in Portugal, have all -- in different forms and circumstances -- arrested and contradicted the mass ascent, undermined expectations and demands, and paved the way for the ebb.
In this framework, from the mid-1970s to today, we have witnessed a progressive stabilization of bourgeois power. On the political level, there have been and still are elements of contradiction. But these mainly have to do with superstructural events. The crisis of bourgeois leadership, which is always a direct or indirect byproduct of the class struggle and social pressure, has been largely overcome for a time, against the background of a real and profound change in the relationship of forces among the classes. The contradictions among the political parties can develop for a time with relative tranquility, precisely because of the bourgeoisie's sense of safety from the class struggle and the framework of basic stability.
The bourgeoisie during the 1980s carried out a largely successful process of restructuring, which has caused disorientation in the working class, a real retreat in its social position (especially on the front of job security), and a net reduction in its structural strength. At the same time, the bourgeoisie itself has avoided, in a certain sense, in the majority of cases, a real drive in its own offensive: first, for fear of social reactions capable of putting in question the favorable framework of relative social peace (reactions which, moreover, occurred several times during the early 1980s, in an episodic but radical and concentrated form, in several European countries). Second, because an excessive reduction of the consumption levels of the working class and the popular masses was in conflict with the need to raise production and profits.
The principal victory for the bourgeoisie and the principal defeat for the working class was, then, consummated primarily on the political level. Against the background of the restructuring and a relative social retreat, there has been a real decline in the levels of combativity and consciousness of the proletariat. The fall in strike hours in Europe in the second half of the 1980s is one of the most indicative measures of the great reduction in social struggle, which has tallied with the frequent outpouring of an individualistic social psychology, produced by the loss of confidence in mobilization and struggle. And even when there were important episodic manifestations of mobilization in the trade-union arena, as among railroad workers and nurses in France and teachers in Italy, the lack of a comprehensive role of the working class has encouraged their fragmented character and the development of strong sectoralist and even corporatist tendencies.
The loss of confidence in the trade-union and political apparatuses, ever more profound, is expressed primarily in phenomena of retreat, abandonment and disengagement, as demonstrated by the drop in the rate of trade-union membership in many countries. At the same time, the great events in the East and the fall of Stalinism there have caused confusion in ideology and consciousness, with profoundly disorienting effects, even in the proletarian vanguard. Another measure of the political retreat of the proletariat is the decline in the levels of polarization of and working-class hegemony over the petty-bourgeois sectors and youth, with a consequent revival of bourgeois models and values. This has meant that even important student mobilizations, which have arisen several times in some countries (France, Spain, Italy), despite their apparent radicalism, have rapidly ebbed. The difference from the situation 20 years ago is that today there is no working-class hegemony, which alone can give continuity and consciousness to the struggle of the other social sectors.
It is important to understand, moreover, the processes of change in the composition of the proletariat that have often interacted with the political factors and provided them with a certain base of support and nourishment. First, there has been a quantitative reduction of the working class in large-scale industry as a result of the capitalist restructuring, with the relative social weakening of the traditional proletarian vanguard. Second, and above all, there has been a consistent process of employing new strata of the proletariat in industry, combined with a major reinforcement of the service sector, which has significantly altered the landscape of wage labor. Third, immigrant workers from outside the European Community have been entering and continue to enter the proletariat -- in different forms and numbers, but with a constant general progression.
In the present situation of a political ebb of the proletariat, these social phenomena do not find political soil for a unifying recomposition of the workers' movement, but are used cynically by the bureaucracy as justification for a boss-loving policy of division and, therefore, end up acting, in fact, as an additional factor of difficulty and weakness.
The totality of the social and political factors described above marks the effective end of the period opened with 1968. The working-class generations that furnished its protagonists are today largely worn out and dispersed, and it is improbable that they will be able to renew themselves in the next period. The movement of social resistance and reaction at the beginning of the 1980s (with concentrated, very radical explosions, as in Belgium in 1981 and 1986, Italy in 1983, and Denmark in 1985), which still found its reference and support in the old workers' movement, signified, not by chance, the passage to the next phase.
Prospects for renewal of the class struggle in Europe depend, therefore, on the capacity of the vanguard sectors which survive from the old processes of radicalization to fuse and recompose with the new, emerging working-class strata, thus outlining the formation of a new mass vanguard of the proletariat able to pull along and revitalize the bulk of the workers' movement, old and new.
Generational and social interaction has already occurred, moreover, although in different measure from country to country and sector to sector, and its positive effect on the dynamics of struggle, still partial and circumscribed, is already observable in some way at some moments of struggle (the central role of immigrant workers in various struggles in French industry during the 1980s and the general strike in Spain in December 1988). The revolutionary Marxist forces must try to become fully implanted and rooted in this slow recomposition of the workers' movement.
The Situation in the Workers' Movement.
The past few years have seen a further deepening of the institutional role of the social-democratic parties. This is shown particularly in Mediterranean Europe. This situation has not led to a general modification of the nature of the social-democratic parties, which remains contradictory (worker-bourgeois), but has accentuated still further their bourgeois characteristics, with deeper changes in some cases.
Thus, in Italy, Craxi's PSI has undergone a change of nature between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, which has eliminated its contradictory character, transforming it into a bourgeois party, although not linked to the traditional fundamental sectors of Italian capitalism. In Spain, the PSOE is increasingly identified with the state structure and the most modern and dynamic sectors of the bourgeoisie. As opposed to the Italian PSI, the PSOE still remains a party of the social-democratic type, because of its organic links with fundamental sectors of the trade-union movement and its leading bureaucracy, but if these were broken -- as was proposed recently -- the PSOE would be transformed definitively into the liberal-bourgeois party which is already embryonic in its contradictory nature.
The world agony of Stalinism is reflected in the Communist Parties of Western Europe, which are all going through a deep crisis. The importance of this phenomenon obviously varies with the relative strength of the Communist Parties in each country, but is generalized. In some situations, this has led to a change in the political nature of the local Communist Party, with the completing of its transformation into a social-democratic party. This is the case, first of all, with the principal Communist Party of the West, that of Italy. After having been the standardbearer of Eurocommunism, it is preparing today for a more radical rupture with its own past, changing its name and directly, openly appealing not only to the social-democratic tradition but also to that of the liberals, finally reaching the fantasy of referring to the Democratic Party of the US as a model.
Other Communist Parties, first of all, those of France and Portugal, respond to the difficulties by building a fortress around their own Stalinist tradition and with an apparently greater radicalism, without being able to block or contain the process of crisis.
This situation is contradictory. On the one hand, it expresses a process of crisis without apparent working-class alternatives, which feeds frustration and demoralization, particularly among the relatively more advanced mass sectors of the workers' movement. On the other hand, possibilities are opened for the development of a new revolutionary Marxist leadership of the proletarian vanguard, liberated from the control of what has been the principal factor containing the revolutionary potential.
In relation to the process of retreat of the workers' movement, we have witnessed for some time a profound crisis of the centrist organizations, whether of the Maoist or spontaneist type or of the more classical type (such as the PSU in France or the VS in Denmark). This fact reflects the generally negative character of the objective situation, yet at the same time enlarges the space for building the revolutionary Marxist forces. In any case, the crisis reflects, in the final analysis, the essentially transitory character of centrism, confirmed by the whole history of the workers' movement.
In contrast, it is symptomatic that the great majority of the Trotskyist organizations or those referring to Trotskyism are preserving or even increasing their strength. It is not by chance that this is true especially for the organizations that are built on the basis of a strong counterposition to the other forces, centrist and reformist.
The Building of Revolutionary Parties in Europe.
The situation in Europe with regard to the struggle to build revolutionary Marxist parties is extremely contradictory. On the one hand, the situation is negative, because of the balance of forces among the classes. On the other hand, the crisis of Stalinism and, to various degrees, of the Maoist and centrist far left present new openings and opportunities. We must seek to take advantage of this and to gain from it, strongly emphasizing our political and organizational proposals and our program.
It obviously is not possible to think of a universally valid tactic for party-building. Social conditions, the internal dynamics of the workers' movement, and the composition of our sections are too diverse. Revolutionary Marxists must know how to move with the necessary flexibility in this area. In the majority of countries (in the first place, France), the axis of party-building is organizational independence. In other countries, however, it is logical to work as a political tendency inside other forces of the workers' movement or in processes of regroupment of the vanguard: open entrism of the type developed particularly during the 1930s. On the other hand, rapid changes in the situation are always possible, and, therefore, a revolutionary organization, especially if it is small, must be ready to change its tactics and political orientation quickly.
In any case, a judgement of the various choices does not derive abstractly from the ideological and theoretical positions of this or that centrist or reformist force -- positions obviously all irreconcilable with ours -- but from the nature and consistency of the political dynamics of the rank-and-file militants inside them in the course of their radicalization and, consequently, of the possible winning of these sectors to revolutionary Marxism. As Trotsky affirmed:
A Marxist party naturally should strive for full independence and the greatest homogeneity. But during the process of its formation, a Marxist party sometimes must act as a faction of a centrist or even a reformist party.
The problem is to understand the unique character of our program and the fact that the Trotskyist organizations, in their programmatic profile, represent the initial nuclei of the future revolutionary parties, and that this conception must be the basis of all our tactical decisions. On this condition, for example, work inside Democrazia Proletaria (DP) in Italy or, in a different framework, inside the British Labour Party is a correct and opportune choice. On the other hand, the process of unification of the section in the Spanish state with the Movimiento Comunista (MC), as currently planned, constitutes a liquidation of revolutionary Marxism.
One of the central tasks of the sections of the Fourth International today is to intervene in the crisis of the Communist Parties. In this area, too, recent experience underlines the need to avoid any adaptation to the leading groups of the left or "antibureaucratic" splits from the various Communist Parties.
Another important area of activity is relations with other Trotskyist organizations, with which we should seek united fronts, exchanges of views, and even political battle, to test the space and conditions for regroupment of the revolutionary Marxist forces.
The tactical flexibility required at the national level underlines still more the necessity of an effective leading role -- both political and organizational -- of the international structures of our movement. While leaving the particular tactical choices to be determined by the individual sections, the general political orientation should again become the responsibility of the leadership of the International, which also has the duty to follow the political evolution of the sections in each country and to intervene to promote their development. From this standpoint, we consider it opportune to constitute an Executive at the European level, which would function as a coordinating structure for the activities of the different sections.
In general, in the framework of a situation which for more than ten years has been characterized by the ebb in the class struggle, the task of Trotskyists is to build their own organizations, marching against the dynamic of political retreat of the workers' movement. This is really possible, since there is not a direct and unequivocal relationship between the social retreat and space for building the revolutionary Marxist forces. The absence of a process of general mass mobilization and comprehensive radicalization, of course, certainly makes difficult a qualitative leap toward the building of a mass revolutionary party. But it does not prevent processes of reflection in the vanguard of the workers' movement on the causes of the defeats and the political perspectives necessary for a renewal able to initiate a dynamic of recomposition of sectors of the vanguard around the revolutionary Marxist program.
Building Sections of the Fourth International as Fighting Propaganda Groups and the Method of Transitional Demands.
The necessary condition for winning the vanguard sectors of the workers' movement and the oppressed strata is that the sections of our movement -- in the first place, those that are independent, but also those working inside other parties -- develop systematic activity as "fighting propaganda groups." They must know how to combine a deep and active implantation in the mass movement with a high general political profile, as organizations or factions endowed with a single program counterposed to that of the reformists and centrists, a program that puts forward the perspective of socialist revolution as the only solution to the political and social crisis, and which, as such, are groups in a position to respond to the questions that the crisis of the workers' movement raises among vanguard militants.
For this, we must leave behind the minimalistic view of organizations purely "at the service of the movements" and "for defending gains," which we have generally tended to offer. In this, it is absolutely necessary to reappropriate fully and to utilize creatively the method of the Transitional Program, developing, along with immediate demands and an intransigent defense of all the gains of the workers' movement and the oppressed, not only agitational activity -- wherever the objective situation and the state of our forces make it possible -- but also, and in any case, propaganda around transitional demands.
The transitional theme should become a constant area of reflection for our sections, as an instrument for trying to create a bridge between the current levels of consciousness and mobilization and the perspective of socialist revolution.
On a general level, we should counterpose the perspective of the "Socialist United States of Europe" to the process of European integration and to the demagoguery of the bourgeoisie and the reformists.
Although in the current period this slogan may appear to the broad masses more abstract than in other moments, it is absolutely necessary as a framework in which we place all our demands, transitional and even immediate. Obviously, we must give content to this general slogan, linking it not only to the interests of the workers and the other socially oppressed sectors, but also to those of the national minorities, whose right to self-determination in no way contradicts the perspective of the socialist unity of Europe. Furthermore, we should raise the perspective of the Socialist United States as a response to the crisis of Stalinist rule in Eastern Europe and the USSR. For us, Europe does not end at the Oder and Neisse rivers. Today, unlike the past, the conditions exist to propose a global socialist alternative to the Europe of the capitalists and the chaos of late Stalinism.
Obviously, it is impossible to indicate in a general text on Europe all the areas in which revolutionary Marxists should develop their propaganda and agitation with the transitional method, with emphases necessarily different in individual countries. It is, however, possible to indicate some of the fundamental areas in which the activity of our sections must develop in the whole of Europe. These include 1) the question of the state and the perspective of power; 2) the struggle against the consequences of the economic crisis, in particular, in the area of industrial restructuring; and 3) the struggle against racism.
In the area of state institutions, the sections of the Fourth International should utilize every possibility to denounce the bourgeois character of the state apparatus (for example, utilizing opportunities such as that created by the "discovery" of the Gladio organization). We must advance demands such as:
Dissolution of the repressive bodies of the state (possibly centering the campaign around sectors whose particularly reactionary and antiworker role seems most immediate, such as the Guardia Civil in the Spanish state or the Carbinieri in Italy).
Dissolution of the secret service.
Abolition of state secrets and secret diplomacy.
The demand for a workers' government as an alternative to classical or social-democratic bourgeois governments should be given space in our propaganda, even if in most countries necessarily in an algebraic form.
One area in which a radical change of attitude is necessary is on the question of formulating slogans that pose the problem of an alternative state, the workers' state, in counterposition to the present bourgeois state. This does not mean developing an abstract call for the construction of soviets, although propaganda activity around the "state based on councils" and "workers' democracy" should be a constant for our sections. The central problem is, rather, to know how to put forward the council theme starting from the concrete experiences of the mass struggles. In any significant struggle, we not only should put forward the perspective of united, democratic forms of self-organization through rank-and-file assemblies, the election of delegates, and their coordination up to the national level. We should also try to explain -- first, to the most advanced sectors and then to the whole of the movements -- the more general potential of the forms of self-organization. Thus, in a student struggle coordinated in delegate structures, we should put forward the perspective of control of the whole of education through such bodies, together with representatives of workers and teachers. Similarly, in a process of self-organization of sectors of the working class, we should indicate the perspective of workers' control. We should also develop the fight for self-organization in committees, councils of action, etc., in social struggles, such as, for example, the effort against the poll tax in Britain.
In the area of the struggle against the crisis and its effects -- restructuring and unemployment -- we should propagandize and agitate around slogans such as:
The sliding scales of hours and wages.
Opening the books of firms "in crisis" to the control of committees elected by the workers.
The development of a plan of public works under workers' control, financed by taxes on profits and rent.
The nationalization under workers' control of firms "in crisis."
At the same time, we should link the fight for the defense of the interests of the workers and our demands to the theme of self-organization through councils. We should develop the fight for these positions inside the class-struggle components of the trade-union movement. Indeed, we should try to build trade-union oppositions organized not simply around a program of minimal defense of the interests of the workers, but also around an anticapitalist program of transitional demands.
Racism today represents a central question in the class conflict on a European scale. The whole bourgeoisie utilizes racist prejudices to divide the proletariat and divert towards immigrant workers the frustrations and dissatisfactions of the petty bourgeoisie and backward sectors of the urban proletariat. The more reactionary forces in bourgeois politics build their fortunes on racism and increasingly threaten the workers' movement, the oppressed strata, and their gains.
Our sections should develop a propaganda campaign to expose the character of racism in the eyes of the workers and the oppressed, not only at the theoretical level but also with the development of immediate and transitional demands that can unite the whole working class, native and immigrant. Thus, for example, in the area of unemployment we should call for a sliding scale of hours with no reduction in pay. In the area of housing, the requisition of vacant buildings under the control of committees of workers, tenants and immigrants. Whenever racist demagoguery blames bad conditions on immigrants, we must, in short, find a way to indicate concretely the real responsibility of capitalism and the road to a progressive solution. In the area of the struggle against racist and fascist forces, we should propose and realize, where possible, integrated self-defense squads.
The sections of the Fourth International, of course, oppose any limitation on the free entry of non-EEC citizens and demand full equality between immigrants and European citizens in all areas of political and social rights. In this framework, we must give great importance to organizing immigrant workers inside the trade unions and to building antiracist organizations and associations of non-EEC nationals, struggling for them to adopt an anticapitalist program. Winning the ranks and vanguard sectors of immigrants to the sections of the Fourth International is one of our central tasks and a condition for successfully developing antiracist work and for unifying the forces of the working class and the oppressed.