BUILDING THE INTERNATIONAL TODAY?

WHAT INTERNATIONAL?

 

David (CC-LCR, France), Franco G.(IEC, Italy)

23 May 93

 

I.

 

The debate on building the Fourth International decided on at the Thirteenth World Congress has opened with the publication of the text entitled "Building the International Today", adopted by the United Secretariat in October 1992. The most cursory glance at the document in question makes it clear that the authors are not actually talking about building the Fourth International. Their perspective is of transforming our International into a component of a new International, which, of course, does not yet exist and probably never will. The result is that the document offers absolutely no line for building the FI.

The first thing we learn from this document, not chronologically but in order of importance, is that "we have rejected the pretension, born in other times, of being the 'World Party of Socialist Revolution'". This is of course a word for word rebuttal of Trotsky's definition of the FI. The whole framework of the document makes it clear that it is not simply a question of refusing to parade about with our meagre forces proclaiming ourselves "World Party of Socialist Revolution".

We ourselves would reject this kind of self-proclamation. But we would also insist on the fact that we are at least the programmatic nucleus, and as far as possible the organisational nucleus, of a future mass revolutionary International, which would indeed be the World Party of Socialist Revolution and which would be built on our programme. And in the meanwhile we must strive, as far as our forces permit, to act as a real International.

The document rejects this approach in favour of another: we are to be a "minor though specific and essential tributary of the world revolutionary movement, a framework for common thinking and political and militant coordination of national organisations". Here we find two ideas. In the first place, we are no longer a movement which seeks to intervene in the class struggle, lead, and recruit on its specific programme. Our raison d'Ítre is now to contribute to building the "world revolutionary movement": and we define our role in this process as being at once ideological, through our specific contribution, and practical, through our network of militants.

We think, on the contrary, that the FI has not just a contribution among others to make to the building of a "world revolutionary movement", but that because of our programme we have a decisive and irreplaceable role to play in the construction of a mass revolutionary International. Only theTrotskyists have a programme capable of taking up the challenge of our epoch, the epoch of imperialism, of wars and revolutions. We will, of course, in the process of building the International come together with many forces from different origins: from the crisis of the social-democratic and Stalinist parties, from populist and nationalist movements, etc. But leaving aside false modesty and diplomatic niceties:the process of building the International may and will involve new forces and their experiences, but what contribution will these forces make in terms of programme? For all the crisis and disarray provoked in the world Trotskyist movement by the huge change in world politics since 1989, only our programme offers the means of understanding and intervening in the new world situation.

The document refers constantly to the "world revolutionary movement". But it never actually defines what it means by this concept. Now there are two possible ways to define it: either by explaining what are the political criteria which characterise the different components of this "movement", which differentiate it from other forces, or by explaining what political forces are part of it. This the document does not at any point do. The very least we can expect is that the comrades apply political criteria: that they define an organisation or movement as revolutionary, first of all, in terms of the role it actually plays in fighting for the socialist revolution against imperialism and Stalinism, and secondly, in terms of its programme, not in terms of vague commonly held aspirations ("organisations...which maintain their revolutionary aims"). And it really would be interesting to know, considering the opportunism of the International leadership towards them over the years, if, for example, all or part of the FSLN, the FMLN, the Cuban Communist Party, or the Brazilian PT form part of this "world revolutionary movement".

The document does, however, make clear that we "do not identify with a so-called international 'Trotskyist movement', which would constitute a separate entity including the constellation of organisations labeling themselves as such. Therefore, we do not see as a priority the 'reunification of the Trotskyist movement'".

Now, of course, we agree that it is completely utopian to imagine that one can simply reunify the Trotskyist movement on the basis that all the forces comprising it claim to be based on the same programme. But it is equally absurd to adopt the ostrich-like attitude that "we are the Fourth International", the "only organic international grouping of revolutionary formations sharing a same general programmatic orientation" -- what incredible arrogance! In this vision of things, all the other Trotskyist forces in the world (who taken together largely outnumber us) are just varieties of sectarians and dogmatists. But in a number of key countries where thousands of militants consider themselves asTrotskyists, our forces are either virtually non-existent (Argentina), marginal (Britain), or simply one organisation among others (France, Brazil).

We do not think that the problematic of building the FI can be reduced to the regroupment of Trotskyist forces, either all of them, or certain of them pre-selected according to criteria of "orthodoxy". But we cannot either ignore the reality of Trotskyism in the world, and we have to have a specific approach to other forces who base themselves on the Trotskyist programme and engage the debate with them on this basis. From this starting point, fusions with Trotskyist forces should take place on the same basis as fusions with other forces, on the basis of programmatic and practical agreement.

What is striking in the document is, on the one hand, this vehement rejection of the "Trotskyist movement", the components of which at least have the merit of existing and generally defending class-struggle positions, with whatever errors, and, on the other hand, the adaptation to the so-called "world revolutionary movement", whose outlines are much less clear.

Another thing that is made clear in the document and which bodes ill for the future is that the authors implicitly draw a positive balance-sheet of the various experiences undertaken so far in line with the orientations adopted by the Eleventh and Twelfth World Congresses, including the German case, which split and decimated the section, and the Spanish, which has liquidated the LCR into a regroupment which it would probably be too kind to call centrist, and which seems to have less and less to do with the workers' movement.

It is true that a difference is made between on the one hand "regroup[ing] with other revolutionary forces on the basis of a convergence in struggles, combined with drawing closer politically and programmatically" and "joining class-struggle, ideologically unstable forces which have a mass influence and which can still generate some forms of radicalisation". Nevertheless, we also read: "In both cases -- unlike the purely 'entryist' intervention in the mass reformist parties -- we involve ourselves in the long-term building of a common organisation on the basis of a real militant experience".

In the first case, it is insufficient to simply baptise the German KPD or the Spanish MCE, or the organisations created by our fusion with them, as "revolutionary", without analysing their programme or the role they play in the class struggle. In the second case, the document also avoids characterising the forces involved. How do we define the Brazilian PT or the Italian PRC? Revolutionary? Centrist? Left-reformist? Or is all that irrelevant? Are the comrades still trying to pretend that the PT, which is more and more explicitly reformist, is "undefined"? And the differentiation made between a "purely 'entryist' intervention" and the intervention in the PT or PRC doesn't help clarify things.

Entryism can be of long or short duration and can quite well involve, indeed in most cases must involve, building the organisation in which we intervene. The problem is to know whether the object of the operation is to win the maximum forces (not excluding a majority of the party in question) to the task of building a revolutionary party on our programme, or whether it is to build "loyally" some other kind of party on another programme. It seems to us that it is the latter which is happening. And that this objective of building another kind of party on another programme is what unifies apparently different operations (for example, Germany and Brazil). Indeed, the logic of the course of the International leadership is actually to transform the FI itself into "another kind of party on another programme".

Quite logically, the document affirms that the International is not democratic-centralist. Behind smoke-screen phrases like "the Fourth International is not formed of local agencies in thrall to a 'centre'" (who could possibly want to be "in thrall"?) and "national organisations anchored in the real class struggle of their countries" (what use would an organisation be that wasn't anchored in the reality of the class struggle in its country?), we actually learn that there is no kind of democratic centralism at all. Nothing is binding, unless an organisation breaches "the limits of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, which would be tantamount to breaking with the International". At which point the International leadership would hasten to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted, as they did in Ceylon. Between the straw person of a bureaucratic-centralist International that the authors of the document set up as a diversion and the loose international coordination and discussion club that our International has increasingly become, there is room for a real democratic-centralist International.

Our conception is that the relations between the centre and the sections should be political, not administrative. And based on a political authority of the International leadership that has to be won, not assumed or proclaimed. Political differences can exist within the International, within its leadership, between a section and the leadership. They can be discussed democratically, without imposing monolithism or dictating tactics to national sections. But two points need stressing. In the first place, the International should undertake campaigns, which would be, yes, imperative for the sections unless there was a very good reason for not conducting one in a given country. And secondly, the leadership has a responsibility to follow the development of the national sections, to help them build, to establish new sections, and in this framework to discuss political problems in a fraternal way and not wait until the section splits, goes into crisis, or commits major political errors before intervening.

Finally, the document deigns to talk, on the last page, about the reality of the International. We learn that the International "has to be able to assert itself as a credible political force in the main imperialist countries. But at the present time, and not unrelated to the socio-economic changes in those countries over the last decade, the organisations of the International there are weak". Which is incontestable and has in our opinion much less to do with socio-economic changes than with political line: not only the openly liquidationist course on which the International has embarked since 1985, but the whole series of opportunist zigzags and get-rich-quick schemes that have characterised our history since the 1940s.

On this point the authors of the document seem to find nothing incongruous about invoking "socio-economic changes" to explain our own weakness and in the next breath to speak casually about our being largely "outstripped by two revolutionary organisations which are sectarian towards us" in Britain. But of course the two organisations in question, Militant and the SWP, have built organisations of thousands in exactly the same socio-economic conditions within which our own forces have dwindled. That doesn't necessarily vindicate everything these organisations do, but it tends to indicate that our own comrades are doing something wrong somewhere, and it certainly shows that invoking "objective conditions" to explain our own weakness won't wash.

We can also discover in the document, if we didn't know it already, that we have next to nothing in the ex-workers' states (which have passed, in the quaint terminology of the leadership, from being "post-capitalist" to being "post-Stalinist"). More to the point, we have very little prospect of having anything, except in Poland. In those countries, since there are no already existing sections to dissolve into loose centrist regroupments, the International leadership seems set on building such regroupments directly.

As for the "dominated countries": we learn that "it is still the dominated countries which are today the weakest links in the world imperialist system. It is still in these countries, at the present time, that there are the biggest possibilities for building revolutionary or potentially revolutionary mass parties. It is in the direction of the dominated countries that our International has directed the greatest share of resources, both material and human". The document is, however, very discreet about the return on these resources invested, and about how we are exploiting the possibilities which exist. And rightly so: because we are even weaker in these countries than in the imperialist countries. The Mexican section is split and in crisis. The Brazilians have a completely opportunist line in relation to the Lula leadership and have accepted party rules which limit their own democratic rights. The Algerian PST is in a state of semi-paralysis. The NSSP seems an impressive organisation, but its politics are open to debate. And elsewhere, apart from some possibilities in South Africa, our forces are weak or non-existent.

What we actually learn from this document, without it being clearly stated and without any attempt at analysing why, is that nowhere in the world does the International have large stable sections (not mass parties, just large stable sections) "anchored in the real class struggle in their countries". The document itself admits: "We cannot claim to exist as an International in the world today without a significant presence in the main industrialised countries". But we do make such a claim, although as the document itself admits, we do not have such a presence. And there is no reason at all for this state of affairs to change: to remedy our weakness, in these countries above all, would require political clarity, programmatic firmness, a clear political demarcation from all left-reformist and centrist currents, combined with tactical flexibility towards them, a clear line on party-building. Without that we will not build, and this document gives not the slightest reason to hope that that will change.

To break out of the situation of weakness, divisions, marginality in Germany, Japan, the USA and Britain, not to speak of the endemic and debilitating crisis of the French LCR (the whole depth of the crisis of the International is summed up in the fact that this organisation is probably once again the"strongest" section), means above all a change in line and a change in leadership at the International level.

 

II.

 

The document is obviously imbued with the vision of the International leadership on the objective situation and the possibilities for construction. In the first sentence we learn that "since our 13th World Congress in 1991, the balance of forces has continued deteriorating for the toiling masses". This absolutely static and unilateral assertion is designed to serve less as an analysis permitting the International to intervene in the class struggle than as an alibi to explain the impossibility of building a strong revolutionary International today. The same role is played by the definition of the "contradiction" of which we must "grasp the scope": "The current situation combines a crisis of the international workers' movement, which opens new perspectives of discussions and political recomposition in the medium term, and a social and ideological balance of power which blocks, for the time being, all possibilities of a qualitative growing-over in building a revolutionary vanguard on a world scale. This contradiction is what should guide our policy for building the International today".

Well, no, actually: what should guide our policy for building the International today is not a confused generality on the complexity of the situation, dressed up in pseudo-dialectical language, but a concrete analysis of the crisis of the workers' movement within the framework of an analysis of the main tendencies in world economy and politics and the prospects for the class struggle. We note that the resolution "does not develop on the world political situation, as another resolution is meant for that purpose". We therefore await this resolution (perhaps it would have been more logical to start with it before writing one on building the International?). But we remain more than skeptical that it will offer the necessary framework for building the International.

More fundamental even than the analysis of the international situation is the appreciation of the epoch. It is quite evident that the vacuum of perspective on the building of the International derives not only from a unilateral, wooden and objectivist analysis of the relationship of forces in the present period but from considerable confusion, to say the least, as to the epoch in which we live.

The document states: "Now the least one can say about the turmoil in the global situation since 1989 is that it has deeply changed the framework in which the problems of the revolution and thus previous differences were posed". This is either a meaningless banality or a the beginning of a dangerous slide. We have to say how events since 1989 have "deeply changed" the framework in which the problems of the revolution are posed. It is obvious that the collapse of the Stalinist states has modified the nature of the revolution in those countries and that this process, combined with the deepening capitalist crisis, has profoundly modified the international situation. But what does it mean to say "deeply changed the framework in which the problems of the revolution and thus previous differences were posed"? In what way is this true for France, Britain or Brazil?

We are still in the imperialist epoch, and the necessity of the revolution and of socialism is still posed in substantially the same way in the imperialist countries, as well as in the semi-colonies. 1989 marked not a new epoch but a new period, marked by enormous contradictions which can lead to new upsurges in the class struggle, in which the revolutionary Marxist vanguard can play a central role, on condition that it is prepared and conscious of its own tasks. The possibility therefore exists to overcome past defeats of the working-class and anti-imperialist forces.

Linked to this is the affirmation that "successive Internationals corresponded each time to new tasks linked to very big socio-political evolutions". To new tasks? Certainly. Socio-political evolutions? It depends what you put behind this woolly formula. Which Internationals are the comrades thinking of? We can certainly say that the creation of the Second International after the demise of the First corresponded to a "very big socio-political evolution": a qualitative expansion of the international working class and the appearance of a mass workers' movement in the main capitalist countries, along with the predominance of Marxism over anarchism and pre-Marxian socialism. But the creation of the Third and Fourth Internationals corresponded, above all, not simply to "very big socio-political evolutions" (although you could describe the bureaucratization of international Social-Democracy, and later of the Soviet state, by such a formula) but to political ruptures based on world-historical events (1914, 1933).

What is the function of the passage which explains that the "really existing world revolutionary movement" -- the vagueness of this concept is not dissipated by adding "really existing" -- "is marked by Stalinism and its decomposition" and that it is "less homogenous" than the Zimmerwald and Kienthal forces "all of whom came from the Second International and its tradition"?

The comrades continue: "So a long birth process will be required, with common debates and experiences allowing it to develop reciprocal confidence, before the conditions for a large regroupment of revolutionary forces mature, something that we very much want". If the comrades are trying to sell us a model of a slow organic recomposition of the workers' movement and the revolutionary forces -- and they obviously are -- then they are living in cloud cuckoo land. The "birth process" will be violent and agitated: new revolutionary parties and a mass International will come into existence in the fire of big struggles through differentiations, splits and fusions around decisive events. Not by a process of slow osmosis between the different components of this mythical "world revolutionary movement", but by parties splitting and new ones being created.

Another error is contained in the passage which says that the delimitation of the "Trotskyist" current is less relevant than before, with the collapse of the Stalinist states. This is extremely superficial. It reduces Trotskyism to Trotsky's analysis of Stalinism and the USSR, plus "splits and complex cracks within the communist movement in the 1930s [which] will become relative". But, of course, Trotskyism is much more than that: it is the continuation of the traditions not only of the Left Opposition and the Fourth International but of the Third International; and Trotsky's own contribution was not limited to his analysis of Stalinism or to "splits and complex cracks" in the 1930s.

Our programme includes also, in particular, our positions on permanent revolution, popular-frontism, the state and revolution, workers' democracy, the united front, fascism, etc. And it derives its coherence from the necessity to build parties to lead the struggle for power. All of this is more relevant than ever, because the socialist revolution is more relevant than ever and, therefore, so is the cleavage between reform and revolution. But this does not mean that we can simply, as the document tries to do, revalorise the classical and fundamental division between 'revolutionaries' and 'reformists', if not between social-democrats and anti-capitalists". There are not only "revolutionaries" and "anti-capitalists" in the world, there are also a lot of centrist forces. The document never calls them by that name, but it is exactly with them that the authors of the document want to build a new International. And the function of explaining that previous differences are less important now is to prepare to dissolve ourselves, without a political struggle, in new centrist or reformist regroupments on a minimum programme.

To conclude, we think that this document offers no help at all for the task of building revolutionary parties and an International on our programme. We think this programme needs to be modified and enriched to take account of new phenomena, such as the collapse of the Stalinist states. But what the International leadership proposes to do is to reduce our programme to the vague summary found in part 4 of their document, and even that they will happily dump in order to dissolve into centrist or reformist regroupments.

We will not develop here our analysis of the political context in which the International will be built. We refer comrades to our draft resolution on Europe, which is our first contribution on this question. But we would like to conclude by attempting to answer the question which, incredibly, this document supposedly consecrated to the building of the International doesn't even pose: where will the forces come from to build the International?

It is a generality to say that they will come out of the class struggle and its repercussions in the existing organisations of the working class. But the document does not even attain this level of generality. We have to start from the fact that there will be big struggles in the advanced capitalist countries, in the ex-workers' states, and in the semi-colonial world. There will be big struggles, because the deepening contradictions of capitalism push in that direction. They will not necessarily be victorious. In fact, there will be many defeats. This is inevitable, due to the nature of the traditional leaderships and the weakness of the class and revolutionary forces. But masses of workers and youth will be drawn into struggle, and the traditional parties, already largely discredited, will be thrown into even deeper crisis. All sorts of new formations will be thrown up and disappear again.

It is in this situation that we can build, through direct intervention in the class struggle and in the crisis of the existing workers' movement. The alternative document on building the FI that we will propose will deal with this in detail. But already we can see that the International must know how to turn towards the youth who are mobilising against racism, especially the immigrant youth, must be able to orient towards currents produced by the crisis of the Stalinist parties, and in some countries the social-democratic parties, learning to make the elementary distinction between leftward-moving and rightward-moving forces. A few small steps in this direction would be worth more than pages of meanderings about the "world revolutionary movement".