The Stakes of the 8th World Congress of the Fourth International
The significance of the 8th World Congress lies in the necessity for the Fourth International to respond to a world situation marked by the development of revolution and counter-revolution through the building of its sections. It is a world situation that fully confirms Lenin’s characterisation of imperialism as the epoch of wars and revolutions. In the wake of the proletarian revolution in Tunisia and its reverberations in Egypt (confirming the theory of permanent revolution), the threat of revolutionary events destabilising the world order has led imperialism to respond with a counter-revolutionary war in Libya, to prevent the uprising of the peoples. Immediately after that, imperialism and its agents went on to kindle civil war in Syria, and are today threatening Iran. And two weeks were sufficient for breaking up Mali, threatening the fragmentation of this whole region of Africa.
Imperialism’s counter-revolutionary agenda is threatening to break up all peoples, all working classes and all nations. War is an expression of this agenda, but it cannot do the job alone. Imperialism needs support from parties and bureaucratic misleaderships to contain the masses’ revolutionary uprisings. Confronted with the revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt, in the name of “democracy”, imperialism has mapped out a “democratic transition”. The guideline establishes a partnership between yesterday’s foes, the Islamist parties and the parties of the Socialist International, in order to institute national-consensus governments whose primary task is to preserve the subordination of these countries to imperialism’s dictates. To do so, those governments are attacking the labor movement. In Tunisia, the government is assailing the historic trade union of the working class. In Egypt, it is seeking to preserve the official trade union bureaucracy against independent trade unions.
In every country, under various forms, preserving imperialist domination necessarily means resorting to the co-optation of workers’ organizations. The revolutionary developments that erupted in Tunisia are knocking at Europe’s door. The Greek people and workers have been standing up against the drastic austerity programs. In this movement they have collided both with PASOK, the party that claims to speak on their behalf, and with the leadership of the unions linked to that party, whose calls for repeated one-day “general strikes”, were aimed at containing the movement of the working class and preventing a genuine general strike that would have rolled back the Troika’s plans. This is a specific illustration of the more general problem of the obstacle set up by the policies of the apparatus and the absence of a revolutionary party, however limited its membership.
It is a key issue of the revolutionary fight of the Fourth International which Trotsky summarized in this way: “The active intervention of the masses in historical events is in fact the most indispensable element of a revolution (…) The uprising of the masses must lead to the overthrow of the domination of one class and to the establishment of the domination of another (…) In order to sweep away the outlived social order, the progressive class must understand that its hour has struck and set before itself the task of conquering power. Here opens the field of conscious revolutionary action, where foresight and calculation combine with will and courage. In other words: here opens the field of action of the Party.” And Trotsky specifies, “Without a Party which is able to orient itself in its environment, appreciate the progress and rhythm of events and early win the confidence of the masses, the victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible. These are the reciprocal relations between the objective and the subjective factors of insurrection and revolution.” (1)
The objective of the 8th World Congress is to orient the activity of the sections on the basis of this assessment of the world situation towards going a step further in the party-building process, thus responding to what the Transitional Program characterizes in the phrase: “the world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by the historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat”. We know: the leading revolutionary party will not be built prior to the revolutionary crisis. But to make sure it can actually be built during the revolutionary crisis, a Fourth International section is needed; it needs to follow a united front line aiming at helping the masses progress towards the solution of the question of power through their revolutionary mobilization on transitional demands.
1 – A total and general crisis of imperialist domination founded on the private ownership of the means of production.
a) It is a total and general crisis of domination of the most powerful imperialism, the imperialism which is in charge of ensuring the “global order” of the decaying system founded on the private ownership of the means of production: American imperialism. And this has political, economic and military consequences, on every continent. This total and general crisis — which is social, political and institutional — is pushing the oppressed and exploited masses to resist. This, in turn, is becoming an aggravating factor of the crisis. As for American imperialism, it is the focal point of all the contradictions of the world situation: it must impose its world order, but it is no super-imperialism; it would need a strong power (of the fascist kind) but the necessary conditions have not been fulfilled, not on the national nor on the international levels (see below).
b) The successive parasitic devices which decaying capitalism has resorted to since 1929 have only pushed back the day of reckoning and prepared the conditions for a deeper, more general and more all-inclusive crisis. The phase that was opened with the so-called sub-prime crisis in 2008 gave these developments an unprecedented dimension and has made the trend towards the transformation of the productive forces into destructive forces a major driving force. The Marxist analysis, updated by Lenin in “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism” and continued by the programme of the Fourth International, is here confirmed as fully relevant. Imperialism has reached such a state of total decay that it not only has become incapable of developing the productive forces but also needs to massively destroy them. Resorting to the array of parasitic and artificial mechanisms — such as the arms-industry, the stock exchange, and currency deregulation – have fueled the formation of huge speculative bubbles which have burst one after the other. The one which burst in 2008 dealt a sledgehammer blow to the banking system and brought entire national economies to their knees. Through the “debt economy” we see an attempt at instituting a new type of relationship on the international level within the capitalist class (between the various bourgeoisies) and within each national bourgeoisie (between their various sectors). The mantra now is that, in order to avoid the general collapse of the system, the loss of value of the debt has to be avoided – or limited – at any price. The debt is used as a weapon to impose the brutal and massive reduction of labor costs. But despite the trillions of dollars funnelled into the economy to bail out the banks and major speculative groups, the spectre of recession is looming over every country.
The imperialist destruction of nations has led to the massive forced migration of millions of young people and workers to imperialist centers where they face systematic discrimination as they attempt to work, survive, and resist under the most precarious conditions. Throughout the world the hardest hit by the capitalist crisis are those whom Trotsky called in The Transitional Program the “most oppressed” layers of working people — the youth, working-class women, migrants, and the oppressed nationalities.
c) The crisis of domination of the entire capitalist system is concentrated right at the core of American imperialism. Its domination over the entire world is gaining momentum, but in crisis conditions that are constantly worsening. The root cause is the impasse of the regime founded on the private ownership of the means of production. The fall of the Stalinist bureaucracy deeply destabilised the world order. From now on, it is up to American imperialism – now compelled to intervene in every financial, economic and military operation – to maintain this global order. That is why it constantly seeks to lay part of the burden on the shoulders of competing imperialisms. But it also permanently needs to put increasing pressure on competing imperialisms, to try and force its way into markets, to gain increased influence in Africa, for instance, by getting rid of what is left of French imperialism. In the same way, it needs to increase pressure – aimed at carving up the nation – on China, in order to get better returns on investments. The return on investments today in China remains restricted because social ownership, a planned economy and the monopoly over foreign trade are still in existence, in the framework of the political monopoly of the Communist Party.
d) On the domestic level: with a ballooning debt which is suffocating the economy, U.S. financial capital is under an obligation to widen the profit margins in order to ease market pressure. This is what, even inside the ruling class, increases the weight of the proto-fascist Tea Party wing, which openly demands that the government commit itself to ending all labor rights and guarantees and to engage in a brutal offensive against the working class. But even if that offensive has scored considerable gains – the termination of collective guarantees in the automotive industry, the adoption of incredibly brutal union-busting laws in several states, combined with an economic collapse unprecedented since the 1929 crisis, causing 50 million to 60 million to live below the poverty level and millions of people to lose their homes – it has come up against class resistance. From the point of view of the American bourgeoisie, the worst threat is what happened in Wisconsin and Ohio: the youth and working class, along with labor organizations, attacked the very heart of political power and thus wrote new pages in the history of direct class struggle in the United States.
e) This is what explains the split in the American bourgeoisie between the fascist-style wing which seeks to confront the working class and youth, and another wing embodied by Obama (which, at the present time, seems to be supported by important sectors of financial capital) that, with the same objective in mind, prefers the policies of co-optation. The continued subordination of the trade unions by their leadership to the Democratic Party — including in Wisconsin where the unions were eventually sucked into the trap of the “Recall” campaign against Governor Walker — created a political context which favored the emergence of the “Occupy” movement. Seeing no visible political alternative to the twin parties of Capital, millions of young people (and workers) turned to the “Occupy” movement in which they saw the means to express their anger at the capitalists, the bailouts, and the budget cuts. Yet this healthy wave of resistance from below was from day one in contradiction with the overall politics of “Occupy” (marked by a refusal to place demands against the State) and its organizational forms (consensus, encampments, etc.) promoted by all the political misleaderships. While Occupy formations in some schools and cities were able to break with this model by organizing — on the basis of majority vote and in conjunction with the trade unions — mass actions around demands on the State (no cuts to education, solidarity with the Longview ILWU, etc.), in most areas the Occupy movement was within a few months largely dispersed, mostly into the dead-end of the Democratic Party and “Black Bloc” confrontations with the police.
All of that has only been made possible through the support that the AFL-CIO leaders persist in giving to Obama. But such support is increasingly viewed with suspicion by entire sectors of the labor movement because of the anti-labor, anti-people and union-busting character of Obama’s first term. (see further)
f) The crisis of U.S. financial capital remains a major one. The “upturn” is the upturn of Wall Street share prices which, in these first weeks of 2012 have “miraculously” recovered their pre-subprime crisis levels. The U.S. economy is propelled essentially by its domestic market. This has been its strength for a century and a half; today it is its Achilles heel. The impoverishment that has hit the American working class has diminished much of its spending capacity and thwarted any genuine possibility to kick-start the American economy which has – for the time being – exhausted the resources that the parasitic driving wheels of the arms-industry and speculation have provided it with. This has brought about the crisis that is tearing the top circles apart and reverberating through every aspect of American imperialist policies. This is the root of the increasing pressure by U.S. imperialism on Europe, and particularly on Germany, to make the European states go as far as possible in assuming the burden of capitalism’s crisis.
The fact remains that the resistance of the American working class remains at the center of this crisis. This raises the need for the American section to redefine the forms and means of the fight for the independence of the labor movement at its next congress: defense of the organizations of the labor movement against any form of co-optation and struggle for the political independence of the labor movement, which raises the issue of a Labor Party based on the break of the trade unions with the Democratic Party. This also raises the issue of linking up with the organizations of the oppressed. This also raises the issue of an independent Black Party linked to the fight for a Labor Party. It is a fight for political independence which is part and parcel of the processes that are at work within the workers’ organizations, some of which are engaged in class actions against the budget cuts and have themselves articulated the contradiction between these actions against the policies of Obama and the support for the Democratic Party and Obama’s re-election that is being demanded of them by the leadership of the union apparatus.
g) The crisis of the U.S. financial capital has extended to the whole world. It is on this scale that Marx’s statement, “The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself”, is fully confirmed. The totally reactionary nature of imperialism as defined by Lenin is expressed not only in the drive to massively destroy the productive forces but also in the trend to endlessly multiply wars of aggression against the peoples of the world. The war in Libya in 2011 marks the opening of a new phase, after the two successive wars on Iraq, NATO’s military intervention in Kosovo, the wars in Afghanistan, the military occupation of Haiti and the array of so-called regional conflicts – notably in Africa – kindled by imperialism. The war in Libya is the direct counter-revolutionary response to the revolutionary drive of the masses which started more than a year ago in Tunisia. It is also the implementation of a policy that, everywhere, tends to break up nations, carve them up, and split them apart. Capitalism in its death throes has no other resource than to engage in war against workers and peoples the world over — a social and military war aimed at dismantling nations and human civilisation. It is a policy of war that, at the time of this writing, is threatening to engulf Syria and Iran. The declaration of the Fourth International “Imperialist war and revolution” published in La Vérité/The Truth N°73, clearly indicates what our position is on the significance of war.
h) This is no short-term, cyclical economic crisis: it expresses the impasse of the capitalist regime founded on the private ownership of the means of production which offers humankind no other perspective than decay, destruction and devastation. All the national or international institutions of the capitalist class are undergoing a crisis of decomposition. The single recourse available for the bourgeoisie is to get support from the policies of the bureaucratic apparatuses for the carving up of nations and — first and foremost — the carving up of the working class. The ruling idea is to “bring down labor costs”. Everything that has been gained through class struggle for 60 years (and in fact for 200 years) has to be undone. Never since the Second World War has the need for proletarian revolution – not only as a historic necessity but as an immediate need – been so pressing in the face of a system that can no longer give even the shadow of an appearance of being capable of overcoming its own contradictions. But the contradiction between the depth of revolutionary processes and the weakness of the subjective factor remains a major fact. At the heart of this world situation marked by wars and revolutions, the activity of the sections of the Fourth International can rapidly become a determining factor in the resolution of the situation.
i) Contrary to the more flexible image that had been announced, Obama’s first term is ending on more rigid political relations — in terms of diplomatic, military and economic policies — with the rest of the continent (the coup d’état in Honduras, Paraguay, more intensive intervention in Haiti, implanting 7 new military sites, and so on); an offensive against the peoples of the continent which is linked to the domestic offensive against the popular masses. In this offensive, the Obama administration has used the support given by the AFL-CIO and its links with the region’s trade unions in the framework of the American Trade Union Confederation and International Trade Union Confederation to preserve its interests (not without contradictions if one takes into account the joint declaration of the AFL-CIO trade union federation of Colombia against a free trade agreement between the two countries) and to impose the framework of “governance”, which is aimed at channeling the workers’ increased resistance into “social dialogue”. Contradictorily, the relations are becoming increasingly stiffer faced with the resistance of the masses. The result is a worsening of the crisis of domination of imperialism as is shown by the fiasco of the Cartagena summit in April, which several governments boycotted or left. The crisis is continued in the Organization of the American States, shaken and de facto opposed to the UNASUR (Union of the South American Nations). This threatens the whole system established at the end of the second world war as the expression of the political, diplomatic and military hegemony of the United States: some countries have denounced the IART (the 1947 Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance); other countries that had military dictatorships have left the School of the Americas (a military school in Panama which trained and supervised several generations of troops).
2 – On the meaning of the Tunisian Revolution
a) In this context of the generalized world crisis of the capitalist system based on the private ownership of the means of production, the outburst of the proletarian revolution in Tunisia came as a sharp reminder of reality to all those who (like the USec) claimed that the page of October 1917 had been turned for good. The first steps of this revolution vindicated the general law that all the proletarian revolutions have in common: the masses first turn towards their old organizations, in this case, the UGTT federation, which is the organic product of the historical class struggle of the Tunisian proletariat. The UGTT had, by and large, been co-opted by the corrupt regime and it was, in a way, revived by the eruption of the masses (integrating the participation of intermediary cadres). Acting as a de facto political representation of the Tunisian proletariat, the UGTT took the lead of the nation asserting its sovereignty, with the demand of breaking the links of submission to imperialism. It expressed the place that the proletariat and its organizations occupy when it comes to solving the issues of independence and sovereignty in dominated countries. This was also expressed when the UGTT staged a demonstration against the meeting of the so-called Conference of the Friends of Syria and declared: “We will not have our sovereignty threatened”. This first phase of the Tunisian revolution has also confirmed the fact that masses tend to go beyond the existing organizations, building their own committees for the defense of the revolution, connecting them to the existence of the UGTT. It has confirmed the full relevance of the theory of permanent revolution. The Tunisian revolution had and still has a democratic content (it toppled the dictatorship and instituted free parties and free speech) and a social content (both coming together in the slogan “water; bread; Ben Ali out”). Beyond that, it has also taken on a national character by challenging the subjection of Tunisia to the imperialist powers that plunder the nation and over-exploit its low-cost labor-power through deregulation and their off-shoring agendas. The specific place of the European Union should be underlined. It played and still wishes to play a major role in subjecting the Tunisian nation to imperialist demands via so-called partnership agreements. It is significant that the pledges demanded from the new Tunisian government by imperialism focus on keeping the so-called partnership agreements.
b) In its development, the Tunisian revolution puts the very conditions of achieving authentic democracy on the agenda, combining the issue of its political, organizational and institutional forms and its national and social content. This was the demand for a sovereign Constituent Assembly; the regime attempted to counter that demand, but eventually had to cave in, yet doing all it could to strip the assembly, elected in autumn, of any genuinely constituent character. In La Vérité/The Truth, we analyzed how imperialism led its offensive by using so-called moderate Islamism as a tool to contain and push back the revolutionary tide and to maintain the partnership agreements with the European Union as well as the bulk of the global imperialist super-structures. Thus the perfectly well-understood interests of the corporate multinationals were preserved. The combining of this agenda with the pressure exerted by the imperialist military presence and intervention in Libya has served as a lever to try to turn back all the revolutionary processes on the world level.
c) The Fourth International is the only political current which rejected and combated the reactionary notion of an “Arab revolution”, the function of which was to mask the social and national content of the revolutionary process which had started in Tunisia. Although the second link in the chain of the alleged Arab revolution – but genuine proletarian revolutionary process – was the revolutionary development in Egypt, the third one was the process in Greece, which has neither a common language nor culture with the two others, but who does have the same social content: the uprising of working classes and peoples against imperialism, which is driving them towards barbarism and is determined to stamp out any form of democracy and sovereignty.
d) The Tunisian revolution has entered a new phase. The stakes are centered on the ability of what today is the working class’s de facto political representation, i.e. the UGTT, which remained firmly anchored in the bedrock of demands, to resist any form of allegiance and subjection to the regime. In Tunisia, just as worldwide, the core issue is the crisis of the leadership of the proletariat. In this first phase of the revolution, what was missing was a revolutionary party or nucleus, sufficiently rooted in the working class, capable of mapping guidelines for the fight towards the sovereign Constituent Assembly (including within the UGTT) against the restoration of imperialist domination. Yet, the process is not over. The masses have not been defeated. The trade union center itself has kept its fighting stance for demands and refused to obey the new power’s orders.
Building a political nucleus around the Sawt al Oumal bulletin has provided a point of leverage, though modest, for the activity of the Fourth International within the movement through which the class and its organizations are trying to win on their objectives, which, since the very beginning, have been those of the revolution as a whole. The Fourth International has correctly refused to equate the authentic proletarian revolutionary process that developed in Tunisia and, although in a different way, in Egypt, to the events in Libya or still more recently in Syria. In this last case, the undeniable uprising of a layer of the people against a cruel dictatorship was seized upon by imperialism, using the opportunity to aim to control the situation, to push through a counter-revolutionary policy of dismantling states and nations. (That is why the declaration of the Fourth International on the events in Syria published in March 2012 should be attached to this report.)
3 – On the political significance and the means of fighting for the independence of the labor movement against the march towards corporatism
a) What gives the world situation its unprecedented character is that neither of the fundamental social classes have been able to make their interests fully prevail in the short term. From the point of view of the working class, the maturing revolutionary process has put the worldwide proletarian revolution on the agenda, but this has come up against the failure to solve the problem of the leadership. (That is why we insist that this issue be the central point of the 8th World Congress). As for the capitalist class, a way out could only emerge for it on the condition that the productive forces be destroyed on an unprecedented scale. Again, such an objective would require that it be able to impose — in the major capitalist countries at least — a fascist-type regime capable of breaking any form of working class organization and political democracy. In no country today do the conditions exist for such an objective even if, in the case of the United States, fascist trends within the ruling class are openly emerging.
b) That is why working towards corporatist co-optation is the cornerstone of the capitalist class on the international level. The working class is a class for itself only in so far as it is organized and, through its organization, aware of its specific interests, of its capacity to make them prevail. Back in the 1930s, Trotsky explained that the general trend of capitalism in its decaying phase is to shun the “classic” forms of political democracy (i.e. bourgeois democracy, a specificity of the ascending phase of capitalism) and turn towards Bonapartism, which cannot be separated from the trend towards the cooptation of workers’ organizations. Today this trend has taken on unprecedented forms. For instance the L20 (Labor 20) which, together with Business 20, has connected up with the G20 of the planet’s most powerful governments. This agenda aimed at integration into capital’s international institutions appears at all levels. It takes the form, for example, of the offensive meant to turn the ILO into an instrument that is part and parcel of global governance. But, as far as ILO is concerned — as well as the bulk of institutions where labor organizations are active — the process is yet to be completed. It is the task of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples to map out the fightback in defense of the ILO conventions and therefore to defend the prerogatives of labor organizations that – of course, within the framework of class collaboration — are recognized in their role as defenders of the specific interests of the working class.
c) Fighting against corporatism and for the independence of the labor movement is a major political axis of the activity of all the Fourth International sections. Financial capital demands that the leading bureaucratic apparatuses go all the way in the process of co-optation by accepting agreements and pacts that annihilate collective guarantees. The capitalist class knows it has no chance whatever of taking a single step towards this goal — which its own crisis makes necessary — of pulverizing the class, unless it associates the labor organizations. The fight against corporatist co-optation and for the independence of the workers’ movement in every form is a core task of the sections of the Fourth International. They can fight only if they are attentive to the contradictory movements at work within the working class, which turns towards its old organizations, giving them the mandate of defending its demands (and, thus, the existence of the class as a class for itself). This is happening at a moment when the leaders of these organizations are more and more openly aligning themselves along corporatist lines, which threatens the destruction of the class and its organizations. A broad layer of intermediary cadres and labor activists are seeking to resist this co-optation drive, without necessarily breaking with the policies of the leadership. In this respect, even in a contradictory way, they act as representatives of the determination of the working class to preserve the independence of the organizations. The elements of the resolutions of the 14th, 17th and 18th Congresses of the French section relating to the issue of transition in party-building — which mark a moment in the struggle for the reconstruction of the Fourth International — are essential for formulating such a political policy.
d) A correct united front policy will constantly seek to regroup on the basis of the defense of the workers’ demands, the withdrawal of all destructive plans, and therefore the independence of the workers’ organizations. Without, at this stage, joining the Fourth International, or even joining the transitional forms that it promotes, broad strata of workers and activists, against the backdrop of open crisis fraying the fabric of all the organizations, are available and ready to participate in this conscious political fight to help mobilize the class, which, on the basis of its demands, will go beyond the framework of the corporatist co-optation aiming to subjugate labor organizations. To carry out such a policy, Fourth International activists should be open to seizing upon any contradictory element of the world situation.
The offensive of capital everywhere is aimed at fragmenting the class, reducing it to a collection of individuals by challenging the collective character of its gains (collective bargaining agreements, labor rights, and so on) and the very existence of its organizations. To achieve this, aided by the misleaderships, it manipulates movements of the “Indignados”/”Occupy” type. Besides, it is one thing to keep in mind the wholly counter-revolutionary policy of the apparatuses at the head of the labor movement, and another to understand that these apparatuses themselves – without their nature being changed – are pressured by contradictory forces. On one hand, the bourgeoisie demands unprecedented capitulation and, on the other, the class, and the rank and file activists and intermediary cadres, wish to preserve the class character of their organizations. The result is a situation that may seem paradoxical. In the course of a very short lapse of time, the very same organizations are capable of accepting agreements that are self-destructive for the working class (for instance the AFL-CIO, in the scrapping of collective guarantees in the auto-making industry), endorse openly corporatist agreements that require trade union co-optation and that destroy working class gains (as for instance the social pact endorsed by the CCOO and the UGT in Spain), or yet again let themselves be largely co-opted into the regime (as was seen with the UGTT). Then they may, shortly later, find themselves being compelled to fight for the defense of the independence of the organization, as for instance against the attempted imposition of union-busting laws in Ohio, or to call to strike against the policies of the new Rajoy administration in Spain against the reform of labor, or in the revolutionary process in Tunisia.
Of course, it is impossible to guess how long these resistance movements will last. This resistance — — necessarily limited in time — does not change the nature of the apparatuses that, by their very nature, have sided with the bourgeois order. But a revolutionary agenda is not based on guess-work. It is based on the line of development. This line of development makes it possible to understand that the Fourth International has a part to play to help the practical movement by which the class seeks to preserve the class character of its organizations, gains and institutions in order to secure the best conditions for its struggle. The Fourth International sections are part and parcel of these processes, and they therefore may come to play a determining role in the movement, advancing towards the formation of an independent political pole. Nevertheless, the two essential tendencies — corporatist integration vs. the defense of workers’ demands and the independence of their organizations — cannot be reconciled. A correct united front policy that seeks to realize a transitional policy in an adapted way, within the framework of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, means being aware of the movement by which the class itself seeks to make use of these organizations and preserve their independence and helping the class oppose the policies imposed by the bureaucratic apparatus.
Today, this is a core task that links the political solution and the fight for democracy and sovereignty. These are transitional forms that are necessary in the fight to expropriate capital and for the dictatorship of the proletariat. These processes are at work within the organizations (which, for example, have led to the fact that even the creation of the ITUC has not been sufficient to wholly change the class character of the affiliated national organizations, even though the framework is not neutral) cannot be understood without coming back to the theoretical hypothesis of the Transitional Program: we cannot categorically rule out the possibility that, in completely exceptional circumstances, the apparatuses may go further than they wish along the road to a break with the bourgeoisie and, along this road, we pledge that we will unconditionally support them, all the while developing permanent propaganda on what an authentically independent working class agenda and a genuine workers’ and peasants’ government should be. It is on this united front line that the Fourth International sections permanently act within the labor movement, refusing the temptation of a policy of sterile denunciation and working towards helping the class step by step to find the elements of its own independent action, in trade unions as well as on the political level.
e) The major accusation leveled by the Fourth International at the old organizations resulting from Stalinism or from the Social Democracy is — to quote The Transitional Program — the refusal to break with the political half corpse of the bourgeoisie. In the era of decaying and rotting imperialism, which is pushing mankind along the road to barbarism, refusing to break the ties with the political semi-corpse of the bourgeoisie, making these parties not only accompany the policy of destruction but also obliges them to implement them and demand they be accepted. The first expression of this is the role that the leaders of these parties occupy in the governments that deal the most murderous blows against the workers and peoples (Papandreou, Socrates, Zapatero). It is also manifest in the role they play in the implementation of the corporatist mechanisms of governance. In Germany, Sommer, the Social Democrat trade union leader “demanded” the implementation of the so-called bailout for Greece, the content of which is well-known. Nevertheless, the practical movement of the class has no other choice than to make use of its old organizations. That is valid, as we have seen, for the trade unions. On the political level, the long decaying process of the parties resulting from the Second International has not qualitatively altered the place of these apparatuses that remain the major axis of corporatist integration. These parties remain bourgeois labor parties in a configuration that differs with the 1930s, but that the masses try to put to use (especially during elections) in the face of truly bourgeois parties. It is around these apparatuses that the parties or the currents resulting from the explosion of the international apparatus of Stalinism – and also forces coming out of Pabloism – assemble. The qualitative modification, which occurred in the labor movement after the break-up of the USSR and the collapse of the Stalinist apparatus on the international level, must be taken into account. Nobody can fill the void left by Stalinism and yet the world imperialist order badly needs that void to be filled. It is worth noting that it was back in 1995, at the Copenhagen conference, that the Social Forums were first floated. Meanwhile, the USec decided at its congress that “the page of October had been turned and that the objective no longer was expropriating capital but sharing the wealth”. It is in this framework that the apparatuses have done everything possible to impose and spread their reactionary politics of atomizing the working class (NGOs, Social Forums, etc.), making use of the phenomenon of the “Indignados” in the same sense.
f) National situations vary from one country to the other. On the same axis, tactics should be differentiated. But common rules exist. First: the Fourth International sections cannot fight unless they clearly and distinctly help clarify the counter-revolutionary nature of apparatus in the eyes of the masses. Second: we help the movement by which the masses by themselves instinctively seek to articulate the political question of the need for these parties to break with imperialism. Third: it is our task to translate this agenda both into formulations that raise the issue of power (in an adapted form: the fight for the workers’ and farmers’ government) but also and first of all, into direct class struggle on the ground, helping the class movement to overcome the counter-revolutionary obstacles set up by the apparatuses. This must be done while seeking to avoid a double pitfall: on the one hand bending to the political policies of the apparatus, which would mean failing to explain to the working class the content of their policies; on the other, a policy consisting of denunciation, which would ignore the genuine movement that, despite the apparatuses, seeks to find a solution in the concrete arena of the class struggle.
4 – On Europe and America, Again
a) “Of course, it is not possible for America to succeed in organizing the chaos of the world market and thus to ensure the stability of capitalism over a period of years and years, let alone forever. On the contrary, by pushing the European countries into narrower and narrower sectors, America is preparing an unprecedented worsening of international relations, of its relations with Europe and of Europe’s internal relations”, (2) wrote Trotsky in 1925. Undoubtedly, the assertion that the dominant imperialism does not have the power to stabilize the situation remains true today. But quantity has changed into quality. For decades, the offensive waged by American imperialism to oust competing imperialisms from all their positions has grown continuously greater, whether it be the capturing of markets, the controlling of colonies – then of the ex-colonies – or the sharing of zones of influence. This is no longer enough. Now North-American financial capital is no longer content to just command the rest of the world (and particularly competing imperialisms), to carry a growing burden in the crisis of the imperialist order; today it is cutting directly into the flesh of the major imperialist nations.
b) Twenty years after Maastricht, the institutions of the European Union have been shattered. Of course, “building Europe” was encouraged from the very beginning by American imperialism which, far from worrying about the emergence of an improbable rival power, saw it as a means for keeping the control over the situation in Europe, particularly through its supranational institutions. The European bourgeoisies, by accepting the Maastricht Treaty and its single currency, abdicated whole sections of their sovereignty. At the time, they reckoned that they had no choice; under the increasing pressure of American imperialism’s iron heel, confronted with the resistance of their respective working classes, they saw it as a means that would enable them to protect the essential. But nothing has been protected! The treaties that are in the process of being ratified today – the European Stability Mechanism (the ESM) and the Treaty on the Stability, the Coordination of Policies and Governance (the TSCG) will, if they are finally and completely applied, result in liquidating any and all forms – even in appearance – of democracy and sovereignty for the major imperialist countries. They establish a veritable European IMF (part of the IMF itself), equipped with all the supranational powers and led by a council of governors whose mission is to ensure that the conditionality of loans enable the “saving” of the holdings of the capitalists and the speculators. It is a council authorized to sending relays on the spot, in charge of ordering the application of the anti-worker plans. The fate in store for all the countries of Europe is like — or worse than — the fate of the people of Greece. But these plans are inapplicable. The very heart of the TSCG Treaty can be summarized as follow: “We herein reiterate all the objectives of the Maastricht Treaty. None has been achieved. All have been shattered by the blows of the general crisis of capitalism and the resistance of the working class. We mean to equip ourselves with the exceptional means necessary for establishing a veritable dictatorship enabling us to break that resistance and to impose this offensive against the working class”. This wording reflects the scale of the workers’ resistance. But, at the same time, Merkel and Sarkozy have been ordered by American imperialism to implement a policy that drains the resources of the old continent to protect the needs of North-American capital, and to break a new barrier in the offensive against their own working class. In countries like France or Spain, the application of the TSCG Treaty would demand that, as of 2013, public spending be cut by 30 to 40% in relation to 2012!
c) No offensive against the working class can achieve that result. Everyone knows that. But it is an indication of the brutality and the violence that will need to be unleashed against the threat of a revolutionary wave engulfing the continent. La Folha of Sao Paulo has written: “The ‘rescue plan’ is reducing Greece to the status of a colony: no currency, no budgetary independence, no credit, no nothing. (Š) Obviously, no one has in mind the least interest for Greece and even less for the common Greek person. What the European elite are aiming to do is to gain time (Š), to protect the banks and the European governments from an ‘accident’ in Greece (a revolution, for example”. In Greece itself, the head of the far-right LAOS party, Georges Karatzaferis declared, before committing to implement the new Troika memorandum that “this was liable to contribute to the explosion of a revolution, which might then to spread to all of Europe”.
d) Each bourgeoisie, each government of Europe is trapped in a contradiction: the necessity of dealing the most brutal blows to the working class (thus ratifying the treaties) and the impossibility of implementing these measures all the way without precipitating the explosion. There is also a contradiction between the need for supranational shackles that enable them to justify the most violent of attacks against the peoples of Europe, and the hesitation at having to sacrifice their specific interests. This explains the crisis that is once again shaking Europe around the setting up of the EMS and the ratification of the TSCG. There is a crisis between American and German imperialism over the amount of financing required for setting up the EMS, whilst a dozen other governments, led by Great Britain and Italy, are contesting the framework of the treaty.
All the European governments agree on the fact that they have no other choice than to hit the working class with unprecedented brutality, challenging all the rights and guarantees; all are ready to comply with the demand of the rating agencies when they say “the cost of labor is too high”. But they are not all convinced of being able to go all the way in the brutal confrontation with the working class. Of course, the leaders of the different European bourgeoisies know that they can count on the support of the apparatuses, which not only refuse to break but are more directly engaging in the service of corporatist policy. Yet they also know that that support is not unfailing. They know that the resistance of the masses themselves tends to hinder the disposition of the leaders to go all the way through with corporatist integration. They all know from experience that any European government of the left can be replaced by a government of the right and vice versa – or by combinations of national union, which all comply to the application of the policies of the European Union.
However, they also know that the masses do not accept the future of poverty and social disintegration that they mean to force upon them. And they know that, in spite of the blows that have been dealt and the betrayals, the masses are seeking to find the means to resist, to advance their class struggle. The developments happening in Spain illustrate the whole situation. Rajoy, in continuity with Zapatero, is attempting to faithfully apply the demands of financial capital. In order to avoid an uncontrolled explosion, the heads of the UGT and the CCOO (the Workers Commissions) were constrained and forced to call for a day of general strike on March 29th, against the Employment Law reform, and they were forced to face the mass eruption of the working class. But Rajoy, caught in a stranglehold, got the deadly TSCG budget passed, with the union leaders granting the government a little more time – four weeks, until May 1st – to try to push back the class movement. From this flows the necessity for the sections of the Fourth International to implement a united front policy on a line that centers on the defense and the winning back of all the rights, the guarantees and the independence of the workers’ organizations, and therefore of the winning back of all the segments of democracy and sovereignty that today have been dismantled.
e) These political tasks cannot be approached from a strictly national point of view, or as an addition of national tasks. It is necessary to come back to the same terms in which Trotsky posed the question: “To the toiling masses of Europe it is becoming ever clearer that the bourgeoisie is incapable of solving the basic problems of restoring Europe’s economic life. The slogan ‘A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government’ is designed to meet the growing attempts of the workers to find a way out by their own efforts. (Š) But we are now concerned not with the future socialist economy of the world, but with finding a way out of the present European impasse. We have to offer a solution to the workers and peasants of torn and ruined Europe, quite independently of how the revolution develops in America, Australia, Asia or Africa. Looked at from this point of view, the slogan of ‘The United States of Europe’ has its place on the same historical plane with the slogan ‘A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government'; it is a transitional slogan, indicating a way out, a prospect of salvation, and furnishing at the same time a revolutionary impulse for the toiling masses. (Š) ‘The United States of Europe’ is a slogan in every respect corresponding with the slogan ‘A Workers (or ‘Workers and Peasants’) Government’. Is the realization of a ‘Workers’ Government’ possible without the dictatorship of the proletariat? Only a conditional reply can be given to this question. In any case, we regard the ‘Workers’ Government’ as a stage toward the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Trotsky specifies, “Of course, if we advance ‘The United States of Europe’ as an independent program, as a panacea for achieving pacification and reconstruction, and if we isolate this slogan from slogans of ‘A Workers’ Government’, of the united front, and from the class struggle, we shall certainly end in democratized Wilsonism, i.e. in Kautskyism, and even in something more degrading (assuming there is anything more degrading than Kautskyism).” (3)
In the months to come, the priority is to deploy a campaign, unified in all of Europe, against the ratification of the treaties. That is the immediate, practical link that concentrates the combat for the United States of Europe (or, as we have phrased it, the free union of free peoples and nations of Europe), in connection with the fight for a workers’ government. This brings us to the construction of the sections of the FI: “The danger is not that Europe can arrive at a stabilization, to a regeneration of the economic forces of Capital that would push back the revolution to a faraway and undetermined date. The danger is that we will be faced with a revolutionary situation in a period so soon that we will not have had enough time to have built a sufficiently strong Communist Party. This is the point upon which we should focus our attention.” (4) Trotsky wrote this in 1925. That is the point that the 8th World Congress must concentrate its attention on.
5 – On the fight against foreign interference, for the sovereignty of nations
a) The Emergency Conference called in Algiers in December 2011, by the Workers Party and the UGTA with the backing of the ILC, in the continuity of the Algiers Open World Conference end-2010, was an important milestone. It has charted the direction in which, on a united front basis, the combat for the sovereignty of nations can and must be organized. Twenty years after being launched by the Open World Conference of Barcelona which created the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, the slogan “Down with war, down with exploitation” has taken on its full meaning. The world crisis has pushed imperialism on the path to the generalization of wars on all the continents, using its agencies and national and international institutions – NATO, the UN, the IMF, the WTO and the European Union, but also the UAO, the Arab League, etc. – more and more openly to serve in the carving up of nations, direct pillage and “Somaliazation”.
Starting in North Africa, the destabilization and dislocation of states has gradually been hitting all of Sub-Sahara Africa, whilst in Central Africa, dislocating wars have started again. In continuity with the intervention in Libya, the partition/carving up of Mali is threatening Algeria and all the states of the region. The offensive being waged in the name of so-called moderate Islamism aims at aborting the revolutionary process and imposing splits along religious and ethnic lines. Egypt is also directly threatened. As the IVth International’s declaration on Syria states, it is an attempt to implement what the American administration named as “the Great Middle-East” several years ago. It is a master plan intended to break up the Middle East, to challenge the tariff barriers, to impose deregulation and privatization and to establish a military operation under American control. All the governments of the region have been ordered to commit to this course and to go further in the reforms demanded by the IMF. The responsibility that was jointly assumed by the Workers Party and the UGTA in convening and organizing this Emergency Conference is a manifestation of the place that these working class organizations occupy in the fight for national independence and sovereignty (and, concerning Algeria, in the continuity of the place that the trade union has had since the war of independence). Our responsibility, in the ILC, is to assume the tasks that derive from the Algiers Conference and to prepare the conditions for a continental-scale campaign for peace and sovereignty, in liaison with the combat for the canceling of the debt and against privatizations. This also implies, in the imperialist countries, putting the use of the Algiers Declaration on the agenda, along the line “The enemy is in our own country” – the motto of the sections in the imperialist countries.
b) It is up to the activists of the IVth International to put forward united front political initiatives at the center of which is the defense of the sovereignty of nations, the fight against war and for the cancellation of the debt, the refusal of any form of foreign interference, the right of the peoples to determine their future for themselves. This political combat which has been engaged as an international campaign by the Algiers Emergence Conference ties in to other questions: free elections without foreign “observers”, no right to interference from imperialist powers, the fight for a Constituent Assembly, the defense of nationalizations and the refusal of privatizations/pillage dictated by imperialism, the combat for the restoring of national control over resources, agrarian reform, etc. It is the expression of the thesis of permanent revolution, under today’s conditions, for all the oppressed countries.
c) In a context, where the imperialist offensive is worsening on the Latin-American continent, just as on every continent, the situation is marked by the fact that, in varying national situations and with many elements that make them different from each other, a number of governments have been elected or re-elected in relation to the activity of the masses, masses who are full of illusions that combine a progressive core (of anti-imperialist and social aspirations) and the reactionary layer – that is, the illusions in the bureaucratic apparatuses that are not grounded in class independence.
In the discussion preparing the 8th World congress, we will have to reassess the concrete situation, especially in regards to:
a/ the relations between imperialism and those different governments,
b/ the relations between the masses and those different governments,
c/ the concrete political measures taken by those different governments,
And, on this basis, we will have to point out to the concrete political consequences for the activity of the sections.
However, it cannot be excluded that, as a result of the resistance of the masses, on the terrain of the class struggle, new episodes may take place such as Christina Kirchner’s limited measures of partial-nationalizations in Argentina (Repsol) or those taken by Evo Morales in Bolivia (Rede) and even the extension of workers’ rights announced by Chavez in Venezuela.
This confirms the Bonapartist “sui generis” character of these governments that waver without breaking with imperialism, as Trotsky analyzed in the 1930s. The Fourth International considers that defending these measures of sovereignty is part of the specific demands of the working class, in an anti-imperialist united front policy to open the way to workers’ and peasants’ governments.
d) On the Haiti campaign. The evolution of the situation in Haiti illustrates the change between Bush and Obama, Obama having used the tragedy of the January 2010 earthquake as a pretext for a military intervention that involved twice as many troops as the MINUSTAH (under the command of Brazil). But Obama needed to go even further, doing without intermediaries. In this context, Cuba and Venezuela’s “humanitarian aid” to a country led by a ghost regime for the past eight years is an expression of a seeking of an agreement with imperialism in the region.
The resolution of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (January, 2012), states that “the campaign for the withdrawal of the MINUSTAH troops is an instrument in the fight against the submission of the governments of the continent to the policy of the United States, the consequences of which – for the greater masses – will be accentuated in the process of the global capitalist crisis, particularly for the self-proclaimed ‘nationalist’ governments backed by the labor and popular organizations who participate in the MINUSTAH or collaborate with the occupation”. On the continental level, this is possible, after the calling for the “June 1st Continental Day for the withdrawal of UN troops from Haiti”, launched by a continental rally in Sao Paolo (on November 5th, 2011) which constituted the Continental Committee, and adopted by the Caribbean Conference in Haiti (on the 18th of November) — initiatives that were sponsored by the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, with the support of the sections of the IVth International. On the continent, the campaign for the withdrawal of the MINUSTAH troops is an anti-imperialist united front campaign that challenges the role of governments that are called “progressive” but which are subordinate to imperialism and, directly or indirectly, collaborate against the occupation through their political intermediaries in the other countries of the continent. This campaign is a step on the road to the dismantling of the whole of imperialist domination, i.e. a combat that puts genuine workers’ and peasants’ governments on the agenda, embodied in the fight for the free union of sovereign nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, in collaboration with the oppressed and the exploited of Canada and the USA.
6 – On the connection between the class movement and democratic slogans in the imperialist countries
a) In conditions that are different from the situation in the dominated countries, these questions also are raised in imperialist countries. In the same strategic direction, in the period of imperialist decay and disintegration – which, as we have shown, is also the period of the looming imminence of the proletarian revolution – it is up to the sections of the IVth International to put forward political slogans adapted to the shape of each national situation. These slogans are ordered along a strategic line, which demands that the place of democratic slogans be understood. Over the past thirty years, the IVth International has clearly established the relevance of the line of democracy. In conditions which obviously differ (according to whether a country is imperialist or dominated), the offensive of putrefied imperialism has put into question the existence of nations and of all the labor and democratic gains that the bourgeoisie, in its ascendant phase, had been able to create and/or to concede. It is up to the working class to shoulder the combat for winning back political democracy and the independence and sovereignty of nations — at the center of which is the combat for the independence of the labor movement.
This is because, in the imperialist countries, the fight against the breaking up of nations must be fought in complete independence in relation to the sectors of the bourgeoisie who vaguely put forward “sovereigntist” forms of resistance. For us, the defense of the national structure in this case is the defense of the framework in which the class struggle has enabled the wresting and the enshrining of rights and guarantees. This defense is therefore inseparable from the defense of the independence of labor unions. Just as today it is impossible in the dominated countries to articulate a substantial policy of united anti-imperialist front without incorporating the dimension of the workers’ united front and the particular place of the working class; similarly, in the imperialist countries, the substantial implementing of the fight on the ground of the class struggle demands giving full dimension to the political combat for the independence of the labor movement, which itself is part of the combat for winning back democracy.
b) Against corporatism, the totalitarian system that, in order to break the back of the working class, needs to destroy all the democratic gains won in the framework of the nation and break up the nations themselves, the working class must raise the defense of the independence of its organizations and also the slogans in defense of and winning back political democracy, as well as means to achieve these demands (including in some cases the Constituent Assembly). Without all this the slogan of worker and peasant government would in large part lose its meaning. “Capitalism and imperialism can be over thrown only by economic revolution. They cannot by over thrown by democratic transformations, even the most ‘ideal'” wrote Lenin, who went on to specify, “But a proletariat not schooled in the struggle for democracy is incapable of performing an economic revolution (Š) The Marxist solution of the problem of democracy is for the proletariat to utilize all democratic institutions and aspirations in its class struggle against the bourgeoisie in order to prepare for its overthrow and assure its victory” (5) (Emphasis by Lenin)
Let us stress “to utilize all democratic institutions”. Articulating the democratic aspirations in both the imperialist countries as well as the dominated ones includes calling for free proportional elections with real content, allowing the possibility of representation to the aspirations of the largest masses. Democratic aspirations include the aspiration to trade union independence. Lenin’s assertion “For socialism is impossible without democracy because: (1) the proletariat cannot perform the socialist revolution unless it prepares for it by the struggle for democracy; (2) victorious socialism cannot consolidate its victory and bring humanity to the withering away of the state without implementing full democracy.” (6)
7 – On Committees and the building of the party
a) Thus the Tunisian revolution used the UGTT trade union confederation, re-establishing it as an expression of the class as a class for itself, in the same sweep, set up committees in defense of the revolution embracing the sectors the most engaged in defending and consolidating the first conquests of the revolution.
And yet, the emergence of such committees must not be seen as the solution of the crisis of the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat. The existence of committees, even workers’ councils (in Russian, soviets), can be the form by which the proletariat resolves the question of power, on condition that an organization (a party), genuinely positioned on the grounds of the proletarian revolution, be at their head. But the existence of committees or soviets is not in itself the solution. Headed or influenced by treacherous apparatuses, committees will end up collapsing or becoming institutions that are part of the very movement through which apparatus aims to push the revolutionary wave backwards. That is the lesson to be learnt from this situation, as from all other situations of this type. In Tunisia itself, the combination of committees and the UGTT trade union confederation underwent a change from the moment that the latter — while trying to preserve its independence — considered that it could not play an active role in the fight for the constituent assembly to be sovereign and that it should not run in the elections along those lines. Along with this came the withdrawing of the committees. This however does not mean that they may not be called upon to re-emerge in a new phase of the Tunisian revolution, which — let us repeat — is not dead, nor that they might not be, tomorrow, the instrument to be used by the working class and the people of Tunisia for resolving the question of power to their advantage. However, let it be said again, the existence of committees does not solve the question of the party that remains the central question of this whole period in history.
b) In the same way, the political action of the sections of the Fourth International to put forward a united front perspective through the establishing of committees (for united action) as political bodies fighting for a united front is an element that can sometimes in certain historic circumstances link up with the movement whereby the masses create their own committees. Nevertheless the two processes should not be confused in general: the one where the masses set up their committees, in which Fourth International sections intervene to help them position themselves along the lines of transitional demands, as a lever in the preparation for the seizure of power; and the other where committees arise strictly from the political combat of Fourth International sections for a united front.
8 – On Relations between China and the United States
a) A special contribution on developments of the situation in China will be submitted to discussion at the General Council. Two aspects need to be mentioned in this preparatory report. The first is that it would be a mistake to equate the situation of China with that of the ex-USSR. In the ex-USSR, social property has been dismantled, even if segments still subsist, upon which the class struggle can base itself. The opening up of the economy to capital has resulted in the expansion of a Mafiosi economy which is not only a source of gangrene leaving its mark on all the developments in the ex-USSR, but is also contaminating the whole of the world situation, confirming that at this stage of putrefaction, the capitalist system based on the private ownership of the means of production is no longer capable of conquering the “new markets” that appear to offer themselves up through the carving up of social property. Social property in China remains the dominant element of social relations. The restoration of capitalism has not been accomplished — no offence to all those currents (including the “far left”) who take pleasure in describing China as the new capitalist El Dorado.
b) What’s more, the main tendencies of the world situation cannot be understood without going back to relations between China and the United States.
China, which has been presented for years now as the potential number one world economic power, or at least as the life-saver of a threatened capitalist system, is in reality on the verge of exploding. The capacity of international finance capital to ensure its un-hoped for profit margins in the production of goods – in technology as well as in staples – only exists because the Chinese bureaucracy offers extraordinary conditions for the exploitation of a labor force deprived of all rights and forced into the most precarious living conditions. But the very conditions of this exploitation are nurturing a deep-rooted movement within the Chinese proletariat. Strikes — at first in companies belonging to foreign multinational firms — have led to the election of delegates whom representatives of the multinational companies and the state have been forced to negotiate with.
Later, strikes began affecting state companies as well. Wherever they break out, they put the organization of the Chinese working class as a class standing up for its collective rights on the agenda.
c) The Fourth International must constantly re-evaluate its fundamental assessment of the processes of the Chinese revolution in order to assimilate it and draw all its consequences. This revolution stemming from an authentic proletarian revolution led by a party that was not a revolutionary party but a party of the petty bourgeois, was led to “going further than it wanted towards breaking with imperialism” (which did not stop it, immediately once it got into power, from seeking an agreement with imperialism). Because the 1949 Chinese revolution did not immediately result in establishing a revolutionary power of workers’ and peasants’ councils, it was from the very beginning a confiscated revolution. The social relations that emerged from this were marked by the expropriation of capital. Social property/state property still constitutes a conquest today, a (deformed) expression of the proletarian dictatorship on a social and economic plane. And yet the Chinese proletariat has never politically led the country.
Since 1949 it has on the contrary suffered political expropriation. The slogans of the political revolution, concentrated in the defense of social property and all the conquests of the Chinese revolution cannot be disassociated from the combat to kick out the parasitical bureaucracy from power. This combat is that of an authentic revolution where the working class takes political power into its own hands, as it is the only way of preserving elements on a social and economic level that have emerged from the 1949 revolution. For the Fourth International, the completely reactionary and restorationist character of the Chinese bureaucracy cannot be questioned. From this evaluation stems a political line that corresponds to the needs of the class struggle at the Chinese level, as well as the international level, the axis of which is determined by the fact that only the Chinese proletariat through its independent organization can save the 1949 conquests and save China from unavoidable dislocation under the battering rams of imperialism.
d) Imperialism, even in crisis and because of it, exerts increasing pressure on China. All the speeches arguing that the global economy is at the mercy of the Chinese economy are nonsense. It is the contrary that is true. Forced to use its surplus for financing and stabilizing the enormous American debt, China is more and more dependant every day on imperialism, which increases its pressure for the lifting of the last barriers that preserve the Chinese markets from being totally precipitated into the arena of the global market, with all the dislocating consequences that this implies. The answer to this situation can only be given through the independent organization of the working class. Yes, the road leading to this independent organization may be long. Temporary and partial agreements are certainly possible and even necessary with this or that sector emerging from the crisis of the bureaucracy, as long as they take a stand, even partially, on the grounds of defending social property, or in any case of taking concrete action against its dismantlement. Obviously, the profound contradictions that exist must not be ignored, those that are developing and increasing within the bureaucracy, between the tendencies the most openly favor restoration (those that are already tending to set themselves up in the form of local potentates clamoring for a break from any links with central power and the Chinese Communist Party because they want separate agreements with this or that capitalist group), and other sectors that, because of their own survival as a parasitical strata, consider the country has gone too far in its opening up to Capital and that the rhythm of reform should at least be slowed, if an uncontrolled explosion is to be avoided.
On the grounds of defending social property, even limited agreements are part of a united front policy. However such partial and momentary agreements should not be mistaken for the path towards political revolution that demands, in forms that cannot be anticipated, the independent regrouping on the grounds of the Fourth International program. Great audacity is needed when it comes to defending China and its 1949 conquests against the threat of imperialism. It is necessary to be most audacious in our united front approach. But this is only possible if the reconstruction of the Chinese section of the Fourth International, with all respect for form and rhythm, is our guideline, continuing the historic combat of the Chinese Left Opposition of Chen Duxiu and all the Chinese Trotskyist comrades. Added to this it can be said that the margin offered to the bled-white financial capital by the opening up of the Chinese market is limited in time. The speculative bubble is today threatening to explode in China itself, dragging the country along into the global crisis. In China as in Europe or the rest of the world, in a different form, the pressure exerted by imperialism is towards dislocation.
9 – On the construction of sections, the class struggle and the transition
On the basis of the first elements included in this preparatory report to the General Council and other preparatory reports, it is up to the General Council to specify, in an elaboration that is both general and particularized, what the conditions for the construction of sections are. The following are a few first points to be discussed, although the list is not in any way comprehensive:
a) A Fourth International section cannot be built as a simple propaganda group. Even if its numbers are modest, it must combine propaganda for our program with direct intervention in the class struggle. The program of Marxism loses all meaning if it is not permanently verified in the class struggle through dialogue with the masses, enabling the adequate formulation of slogans. It is not only a question here of intervention in a class struggle protest, in the building of trade unions, in the drawing up of lists of demands, in helping class mobilization for its immediate demands. It is also, through this essential intervention in the class struggle, a question of helping the class politically, through its own movement, to apprehend the nature of the obstacles in its path and, within this framework, assemble the workers and activists who seek to overcome the obstacles put in their way by the policy of the apparatuses. There is no “recipe”: forms can change according to circumstances and epochs.
Referring to the difficulties facing the two French Trotskyist groups during the 1936 general strike, Pierre Lambert underlines that these two organizations “proved themselves powerless to formulate in concrete terms all the problems of the class struggle in that period and especially those linked to the direct intervention of revolutionaries within the class”. One of them took on “trade union work” and met with “relative success”. All the same: “Revolutionary action in unions, except partly in the CGT Technicians Federation, was only seen as “oppositionist” action. As for the other Trotskyist organization, it “did not see revolutionary work in trade unions as a means of supporting autonomous class action. In the PCI there was no work in the union struggle, though a certain amount of work for autonomous action was undertaken.”
On the whole: “The POI tended to consider work within unions as excluding work of an autonomous character and the PCI, to the contrary, opposed autonomous action to work within trade unions. These two approaches imply symmetrical mistakes. True revolutionary work must combine the two forms of intervention, which are complementary: the one (work within the unions) aims at preparing and nurturing the other (autonomous action) while in its turn autonomous action strengthens and raises work within the unions above trade union limits. The combination of these two forms pursued in relation to the concrete stages of the class struggle, aims at strengthening the vanguards’ potential for intervention: i.e. building the revolutionary party in view of the overall revolutionary struggle (for power)”. (7)
b) The slogans we advance in the class struggle can, at a given moment and in relation to the class movement, reflect the combat for a united front and for a political break. But this does not mean that everything can be summed up in one slogan that reflects the class action at a given moment. Even as a minority, the Fourth International has the vocation to address the whole class: i.e. to formulate political proposals that help it find the solutions, the proposals for political combat, on the basis of which the vanguard assembles.
c) As the analysis of the global situation has proven that, more than ever, the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership, it becomes obvious that the construction of sections implies that the Fourth International must has its own independent expression. That is the starting point for building the revolutionary party on the line of the transition, aimed at encouraging the transition towards Fourth International positions, whatever form or pace this may take. The building of sections also implies that we do not limit our policy to immediate slogans in the class struggle, which are essential but not sufficient. In all circumstances — because Fourth International activists and sections are grouped around a program with a set objective of helping mass mobilization on a program of transitional demands towards the seizure of power — we have to formulate the question of power and indicate how the class can progress towards this. This does not always necessarily result in an arithmetical formula of a workers’ and peasants’ government. There are many possibilities that can only result from a concrete appreciation of each national situation which includes the place of the democratic slogans, and the appropriate forms of combat for the united front, i.e. for the traditional parties to break with the political semi-corpse of the bourgeoisie.
d) The 8th World Congress will have to establish the terms and forms of a true turn towards youth, which implies apprehending and expressing the particular place of youth as it is confronted with this ultimate stage of decomposition of imperialism. It is true that “casualizing” the younger generation is a source of profits for capitalism and it is more efficient than scrapping the guarantees of the older generation. This has a political consequence: “youth jobs”, youth unemployment, sub-contracting, lowering qualifications, and several tiered retirement systems (after the counter-reforms) .
“The words of Trotsky in The Revolution Betrayed are more relevant than ever: “Every revolutionary party finds its chief support in the younger generation of the rising class.”
Assimilating the understanding that the majority of recruits to the Fourth International will come from the youth is an absolute necessity if our sections are to move towards a real and consistent intervention among young people. The weakness of our intervention among youth is one of the major problems facing the Fourth International. Youth work should not be something peripheral or secondary to our overall activities — it must become completely central to the construction of all our sections.
The axis of our intervention among young people must be the independent mobilization and organization of young people around their demands, in unity with the working class as a whole and its organizations.
In the context of the subordination of the traditional workers’ organizations to the capitalists, the bulk of youth struggles today (in which special attention must be given to the fights of students, especially in Chile, Quebec, Puerto Rico) take more autonomous forms than in the past and are sometimes led by reactionary forces (NGOs, alter-globalizers, etc.) that aim to divide the youth from the working class and manipulate these movements against the workers’ organizations.
The emergence of the Occupy, Indignados, and #YoSoy132, movements reflect these contradictory tendencies. In a national context where the mass of young people do not see the workers’ organizations as a political alternative (given their subordination via their leaderships), and where student unions are either non-existent or very weak, the spontaneous revolutionary resistance of the youth has been channelled into movements led and dominated by apparatuses who promote reactionary politics under the pretext of “rejecting politics”, “consensus”, “rejecting leadership,” etc.
While the dynamics and forms of youth struggles vary greatly from country to country and thus require a concrete analysis and approach, as a general rule the sections of the Fourth International must find every avenue to actively intervene in the struggles of young people, to promote an independent mass action orientation, to push for unity with the workers’ organizations, and to win the best layers to Marxism.
e) The place of the construction of Fourth International sections and its relation to the line of the transition cannot be correctly established if we do not go back over the political elaboration of the 14th, 17th and 28th congresses of the French Section on this movement of cadres and activists who, while not of course having broken from the leaderships of the workers’ organizations, still do not accept relaying the corporatist offensive. It is this contradiction which gives rise to the greatest possibilities of construction of the party on the transitional basis, at the national and international level. We must be precise here. Transitional forms at the international and national level are not identical.
The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples does not aim at crystallizing a sort of intermediate International, which would necessarily be a centrist obstacle to the building of the Fourth International. The International Liaison Committee can only exist as a large, flexible regrouping, based on campaigns without excessively formalized organization, enabling large sectors of the labor movement to act together on the grounds of union independence, according to the established formula of helping rebuild the labor movement on a new axis. In relation even to the global situation and the processes at work in organizations, the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, leaning on the support of the two Algiers Conferences in particular, and the existence of the International Coordination, has seen the largest possibilities of construction and strengthening opening up before it, calling for a constant expanding of the ILC and its campaigns.
At a national level, the situations are different. In particular, we need to distinguish between situations where we are engaged in the building of independent workers parties and situations where the relative weight of Fourth International sections, that of traditional organizations of the labor movement, the existing relations between the class and the traditional workers’ parties, between the class, the trade unions and its parties, and a whole series of other elements, leads us to consider that being immersed in the real class struggle means working within these traditional organizations. And that may possibly for over a long period. But in any case, whatever be the appropriate tactic, what guides us is that there is no role for the Fourth International apart from the real and concrete movement of the class struggle. There is no role for the Fourth International apart from a policy that, in all circumstances, seeks to identify the axis of combat for the united front from the concrete demands of the class. There is no place for the Fourth International apart from the line of the transition, which we repeat may take many different forms.
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1) Leon Trotsky “In Defense of October” , from a lecture given in Copenhagen in 1932 to the Students’ Association
2) Leon Trotsky, from a speech given on May 25, 1925 and printed in “Europe and America”
5) Lenin, Reply to Kievsky (V. Piatakov), August-September 1916
6) Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism, August-October 1916
7) Pierre Lambert Lessons of our History, pamphlet, 1979
(Document adopted by the July 1-3, 2012, Meeting of the General Council of the Fourth International. Adopted unanimously minus one abstention.)