Notes on the Capitalist Crisis Underway and the Rebuilding of the Fourth International
14/03/2009 Estrategia Internacional No 25
Over the past few years, the Trotskyist Faction-Fourth International (FT-CI) has developed an increasing intervention into the countries where it operates and has insisted on defending Marxist theory against the kinds of revisions which mean a step backwards from the advances made in this field, because, as Trotsky asserted, a time of ideological reaction makes the defense of theoretical gains of Marxism and the workers movement based on previous revolutionary experiences, into a central task. At the same time, we have proposed as criteria for unification with other tendencies who have declared themselves to be revolutionary Marxists, some common assessments of important expressions of the class struggle, understanding these not from the point of view of the economic and even political struggles of the proletariat, but rather (and fundamentally) from the point of view of the wars or the revolutionary events and uprisings which have taken place (albeit in a very limited form) in different parts of the world. However, in the face of the eruption of a capitalist crisis of historic proportions, which even the bourgeois analysts are forced to compare to the Great Depression of the 1930’s, revolutionary Marxists must change our parameters and rethink the hierarchy of our tasks, and understand that questions of program, strategy and revolutionary tactics are central when it comes to the task of building revolutionary parties in each country and a revolutionary Marxist international, as the crisis will open the door to huge moments in the class struggle and the consequent changes in the subjectivity of the workers and the oppressed.
How we Prepare for the Crisis
In July of last year, we held the 5th International Conference of our organization where, in three important documents, we discussed:
a.) The economic crisis which a year ago was developing without great pace but was advancing surely enough. Related to this, we predicted the increase of geopolitical tensions and the probable influence of the class struggle.
b.) The dynamics of the working class’ subjectivity and the crisis of revolutionary Marxism in recent decades.
c.) Being a tendency with our strongest influence in Latin America, we analyzed in a detailed fashion the situation in our subcontinent and, particularly, the political processes (governments with bourgeois-nationalist tinges or popular fronts etc.) which arose as responses to processes of mass unrest in various countries.
In the first document (“Thesis on the Situation of the Economy and Interstate Relations on a Global Level”), we defined the crisis shaking the globe, and primarily the most important imperialist countries, as the product of the inability of the bourgeoisie to sustain a high rate of capital accumulation in the long term. Although the neo-liberal offensive had achieved resounding victories against the working class, restoring the rate of profit (after the falloff of the end of the postwar boom), this was not enough to give the capitalists faith in their own system and therefore to reinvest the majority of their profits in the production and distribution of commodities and services. We argued that this was all the more notorious for the fact that capitalism had managed to re-conquer large areas of the planet which, since the Second World War - and even since before - had been outside of the circuit of capital valorization, like the ex-USSR, Eastern Europe and China. The capitalist restoration in these countries, although it allowed for the lowering of the price of labor power on an international scale and for the formation of profitable niches for capitalist exploitation in the past two decades, was not enough to re-launch a broad and durable process of capital accumulation. Superficial analysts try to locate the cause of the current debacle in the deregulation of finance capital and of bubbles like real estate. A serious Marxist analysis should begin by stating that, although it may appear paradoxical, it was the very same ability of the imperialist bourgeoisie to push through the crises which occurred since the end of the postwar boom, without a strong write-off of excess capital or inter-imperialist flare-ups, which led to a persistent over accumulation of capital and the need to create a fantastical mountain of fictitious capital in order to keep the system working, in the process of which accumulating contradictions which today are beginning to explode.
A central aspect of Marxist theory is being proved: senile capitalism, in its imperialist phase, can only achieve a period of relatively strong development (the “glorious thirty” of the postwar years) after a monstrous liquidation of infrastructure, fixed capital, all kinds of surplus commodities and even “surplus” population (the two world wars and the Great Depression).
If the capitalists thought that by attacking the working class, including wiping out their historic gains (like the former workers states which were outside of capitalist accumulation) they could return to the “joy of youth”, the current crisis reminds them that the massive destruction of capital and, in the final analysis, war, is the “law” of capitalist development in this decadent epoch.
To say that we are in a situation with tendencies to depression is not to say little, as the 1930’s brought the rise of fascism in Germany, the Spanish Civil War and many other large phenomena, which were only put to rest with the victory of the Allies in the Second World War, which imposed the US hegemony which in the past few decades has been weakening and which this crisis seriously questions.
After the Conference, we were already seeing incipient expressions of interstate tensions, like the war between Russia and Georgia (over which the allies of the latter, the USA and the EU, took different stances), or the tensions between India and Pakistan (which degenerated after the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai) which indicate the dynamic of the current situation.
In the last weeks and months student struggles have developed in the Spanish State, Italy and above all in Greece, where protests over the murder by police of a 15 year old boy transformed into a nationwide youth revolt. The emergence of today’s youth (like in ‘68) is predictably a sign of coming workers intervention into struggle.
The symbolic fact that, for the first time since the 1930’s workers in these countries have occupied factories, one in Chicago (USA) and another in the north of Germany, thereby following a method applied in Latin America in the last years, tells us that, with the effects of the crisis just beginning to be felt, the classes will begin to re-evaluate all their methods of struggle, as we signaled in the Theses.
In the document “The Working Class, Subjectivity and Marxism” we made a case for the involution of working class subjectivity in the face of the continuous attacks of capital and the final capitulation of the Stalinist bureaucracies under the double pressure of imperialism and the danger that the processes of political revolution may develop and triumph.
The survival of capitalism since the 1980’s and above all since the restoration process (in the ex soviet block) (1990’s), included a new global division of labor which weakened in relative terms the industrial workers of the central countries (which were transformed into economies more heavily based on services), while transplanting an important part of industry to Southeast Asia (especially China), Mexico, Brazil and Eastern Europe, whilst most semi colonial states remained essentially as producers of raw materials. This produced a new leap in combined and uneven development, with the emergence of newly relatively industrialized countries like China and India. In the past 5 years (2002-2007), the high growth rates of the global economy led to a low level of unemployment and numerous economic struggles of workers on all continents in search of regaining some of that which was lost during the neoliberalism offensive. The proletariat which, led by social-democratic bureaucracies, Stalinists or bourgeois nationalists, had lost much of the gains of the postwar period, managed to make in these past years some advances in regaining some lost ground in terms of redistribution of national wealth (in particular in the unionized sectors), but without managing to overcome the enormous chasm between permanent workers, precarious workers and the unemployed, which had developed into a new “common sense”.
While the Middle East remained a persistently convulsive part of the planet, with the Palestinian resistance in the face of the oppression of the Zionist state of Israel, the Gulf War in 1991, etc.; in the central countries, after a period of re-composition of the working class marked by turning points like the French public sector workers general strike of 1995 or the “workers wars” of South Korea in 1996-97, the youth based “no global” movement emerged, with a left anti-capitalist wing, branching out from Seattle in 1999 to various European countries. With the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 a strong anti-war movement developed, with massive marches but which was unable to halt the imperialist war machine. All these different expressions of class struggle were unable to revert the general tilt of the power relations of the time, but were experiences whose relevance is being reasserted (Greece) in the face of this crisis.
The long political and ideological offensive of capital did not only lead to the transformation of the social democratic parties in “normal” bourgeois parties and to the Stalinists following the same path or disappearing, but also lead to a polarization of what remained of the revolutionary Marxist movement (Trotskyism). At one pole, those who had renounced the strategy of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the most important example being the French LCR which is currently dissolving its organization and founding a “New Anticapitalist Party” (with reformists, autonomists, anarchists, etc., without differentiation of class or of revolutionary strategy). There are cases of more open class collaboration, like PSOL in Brazil. Others, like the SWP, formally acknowledge the need to build revolutionary parties but their strategy is to form class collaborationist blocks with reformist caudillos (Galloway) and bourgeois sectors of the Muslim community. The RESPECT coalition exploded a year ago with virulent mutual accusations. At the other pole, a multitude of sects (in the literal sense of the word) reciting a dead program without even a minimum influence over sectors of the workers movement or youth.
Between these poles are groups like Lutte Ouvriere in France, who historically have not dedicated major efforts towards the construction of an international tendency, and who in actuality have followed, lamentably, an even more opportunistic policy than the LCR, forming alliances with the “plural left” (PS, PC, Greens) to win some offices at municipal level.
At the same time, there are other groups, like LIT-CI, proposed by the Brazilian PSTU, and the CRCI, proposed by the Argentine PO. The PSTU has gained a certain amount of trade union influence (via Conlutas, a grouping of a sector of the Brazilian trade union left), but maintains a permanent electoral agreement with PSOL despite the latter’s continuing turn to open class collaboration. The PO was one of the main forces behind the piquetero movement in Argentina since the year 2000.
Our tendency, FT-CI, has fought to recuperate the theory and program of Trotskyism, the only expression of revolutionary Marxism since the Stalinist degeneration of the Third International, and has gone through some significant experiences in the most advanced workers struggles (a leading role in the occupied factories put to work under workers control in Argentina, especially Zanon and Brukman, as well as in processes of workers reorganization in various factories and companies; participation in the struggles of the miners of Huanani in Bolivia and in the semi-insurrection in El Alto, contributing afterwards to the trade union reorganization in this locality, and participation in the struggles of the workers of SIDOR and Sanitarios Maracay in Venezuela).
As a synthesis, we could say that the current crisis finds the proletariat in a process of partial recuperation in terms of its struggles and consciousness (fundamentally in Latin America and Europe) and that, although in these last years there has been a relatively high level of employment, it went through a universal phenomenon of labor liberalization which has already made sure that the most precarious sectors of the working class have become the first victims of the crisis.
Marxism, from the point of view of theory, practically disappeared from the workers movement and remained a recluse (at best) in university circles, at the same time transforming into an academic Marxism strongly subordinated to the various revisionist fads, “specializing in economics” or other academic disciplines, contributing to the generation amongst professors and students of a strong aversion and hostility towards the idea of fusion with the workers movement and a mortal opposition to the construction of revolutionary parties. The greater part of this academic Marxism contributed to the dominant ideology of the last few decades which turned Leninism (and Trotskyism) into the “real enemy”, considering Stalinist totalitarianism to be not the counterrevolutionary negation of these but their highest expression. At this stage, we should ask ourselves why the three principal tendencies who uphold the need for the reconstruction or refoundation of the 4th International and who try to increase influence in the class struggle, are fundamentally based in Latin America (LIT, CRCI, FT-CI). In the first place, there are historic reasons: Trotskyism, for more than 50 years, has been a tendency with weight in various Latin American countries. Secondly, our subcontinent underwent a kind of “dress rehearsal” for the current global crisis at the beginning of the current decade, and this brings us to the third document discussed at the 5th Conference (“Key Points on the Latin American Situation“). We witnessed large uprisings of the masses, including revolutionary windows and attempted counterrevolutionary coups in countries as diverse as Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Although these processes were slowed and eventually derailed by the growth cycle of the global economy 2002-2007, Latin America is the only region of the world which in the past years saw miners and peasants together armed with dynamite to overthrow a government (Bolivia), uprisings of the poor masses to oppose a counterrevolutionary coup and the important experiences of workers control undergone in two large refineries by Venezuelan workers in struggle against the imperialist sabotage-strike in the oil industry (Venezuela) or the unity (albeit circumstantial) in the streets of the piquetero unemployed and “popular assemblies” of sectors of the middle classes, together with a process of occupation and workers control of factories (Argentina). Furthermore, all bourgeois and leftist theory has written huge amounts about the new “populist” regimes of the region.
Taking the whole of Latin America and not only the southern part of the continent, we also witnessed a very novel phenomenon in Mexico, with the emergence of the Commune of Oaxaca, led by APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) which, as well as creating a kind of “pre-soviet” organization, implied the occupation for a number of weeks of mass means of communication (radio and television) which began to transmit day and night the events of the struggle as well as documentaries and reports on the history of revolutionary movements. This is a forerunner, at the level of a Mexican state, of some of the forms which will be taken by the revolutionary events of the 21st century.
The strength of the processes in Latin America is that they produced, in a relatively short space of time (2000-2007), multiple and varied forms of struggle. Their weakness was that the most concentrated sectors of the working class did not play a leading role, with the vanguard sectors being the eventual allies of the working class (peasants and the urban middle class) or the most vulnerable circles of the working class (the unemployed). A small but highly symbolic phenomenon like Zanon, where the unity of the workers of the factory, alongside the unemployed, impacted upon the most important part of the province’s workers movement in union terms (grouped in the CTA) and generated the sympathy of broad sectors of the population, even achieving a general strike in the face of the threat of removal (April 2003), shows the potential that these united fronts of the exploited would have had if the working class had been at the head.
In Argentina, the key sectors of the working class did not intervene, at first, in the most revolutionary moments, because they were decimated by unemployment and because of the weight on their shoulders of the trade union bureaucracy, and later, when the catastrophic element of the economic crisis was over, the workers returning to the factories and businesses were confronted by reconstituted political regimes, which meant that ensuing struggles took on only an economic character.
The overall process in the region, with its strengths and great weaknesses (including the demagogic agitation on Chavez’s part of slogans like “21st Century Socialism” alongside appeals to Marx and even to Trotsky), permitted Marxism, from the theoretical and political point of view, to come out a bit from the academia and begin to impact upon sectors of the workers and students vanguard. Over the course of the last year, 2008, our tendency managed to push forward a broad process of debate not only in Argentina but also in Brazil, Mexico and even in Bolivia, overcoming academic cliques and adherences to particular tendencies.
What Program and Strategy to Raise in the Face of the Crisis
As is known, in the Transitional Program Leon Trotsky formulated a set of programmatic demands which allowed for a bridge between the backwards consciousness of the proletariat and its necessity to struggle to avoid being disintegrated by a crisis similar to the current one.
Explicitly, Trotsky declared that this set of demands should lead to only one conclusion: the proletariat taking power. This means that the aim of the program is not to achieve reforms - structural of circumstantial - as all kinds of reformists or centrists claim today, but rather that it is linked to a clear strategy for working class power.
In discussions over the Program, Trotsky himself insisted that sectarians would see demands like the expropriation of one or another particular group of capitalists as too minimal, and the opportunists would see blocking firings and imposing via direct action the dividing up of the working week at the cost of capitalists profits as too “red”.
Both sectors, sectarians and opportunists, retain one part of the program but do not see that the overall objective was to develop the mobilization and consciousness of the workers so that these approach ever more the only correct strategic conclusion: to prepare for victory. Any attempt at the construction of a revolutionary party today cannot limit itself to proposing simply a series of correct but isolated slogans like the division of the working week, nationalization of the banks and foreign commerce, defense of salaries etc. In order to direct this process in a revolutionary sense, Marxist strategy proposes three central questions: a.) the strictest independence of the class in opposition to any program of political or social “agreement” at the cost of the workers, b.) the most audacious of policies encouraging the democratic self-organization of the workers; c.) the building of a revolutionary workers party to lead the struggle to victory.
In the first place, it is necessary to try to stop the workers falling into the politics which their class collaborationist leaderships will try to lead them into. This may be done openly, by supporting popular front parties (for example Evo Morales’ MAS in Bolivia) or bourgeois nationalists (like Chavez’s PSUV), or more commonly by giving in to the policies of the bosses and governments who propose frauds like “protecting jobs as long as the workers accept a devaluation of the currency” (which leads to a fall in workers real wages).
In the initial moments of that crisis, like the one we are living through today, all kinds of “social pacts” were the order of the day, proposed by bosses and governments and implemented by workers bureaucracies. Proposals like “maintaining jobs” by giving up salaries, accepting the firing of subcontracted or other precarious workers to save permanent workers jobs, accepting suspensions of reductions in working hours with corresponding wage cuts, etc., all form part of the frauds which, apart from being totally impotent when it comes to lessening the crisis as a whole, produce (when not consciously resisted by the working class and revolutionary Marxists) the wearing out of the proletariat, and on the basis of this decomposition, the advance of bonapartist governments which openly attack workers freedom to organize and democratic rights as a whole. For this reason workers must struggle under the slogan that “the capitalists must pay for the crisis” and when these claim that they are going to make a loss, we should respond like Trotsky: if you cannot maintain your wage-slaves, then there is no other choice but to expropriate you. This argument, which will seem to “radical” to many comrades who for decades have not witnessed a crisis of this magnitude, is scrupulously adjusted to the dynamic of class struggle and to the psychology of the working class.
The workers of Zanon in Argentina, up until two years before the start of the crisis, had very little experience of being on strike, and the factory was full of supervisors who closely controlled everything that happened. However, once it began to become clear that the boss did not want to come to any agreements and that eh was leaning ever more to leaving only a tiny group of workers in place or even closing the factory, more and workers began to become convinced, first of the need to block these plans, and in time that that there was no other choice but to take the factory and put it to work themselves, fighting also for its expropriation and nationalization under workers control. However, the logic of their actions did not end there, as to increase their social base, the workers needed to align themselves with the province’s principal unemployed movement, and later with the totality of movements of the unemployed, to whom they offered jobs in the factory. This gave rise to a new “workers’ power” in the province of Neuquén which impacted upon, and won as allies despite their leadership, the state employees and teachers. The ceramics workers union (SOECN) called for Coordinating Body of the workers, students and human rights organizations of the province, which lasted for nearly a year. After Kirchner’s triumph and the defusing of the situation by the bourgeoisie, many of the groups which participated in the Coordinating Body of Alto Valle took their leave and asset stripped it. If the crisis had lasted longer, it is probable that SOECN’s policy that the Coordinating Body must not be only leaders and organizations but that it must also have rank and file mandates could have been generalized and could have given rise to something like a workers council in the city of Neuquén.
In this long example, however small, can be seen the inseparable relationship between the struggle for the independence of the working class against all the bosses “alternatives” and “solutions”, and a broad policy of self-organization directed not only at the whole of the working class but rather at the whole of the exploited and oppressed sectors. Only this combination of these two key aspects of strategy which we have pointed out, is adequately adjusted to the revolutionary politics necessary to prevent the crisis from decomposing the proletariat and, in contrast, strengthens it as a class. When we say that Latin America went through a dress rehearsal for the current crisis, we also mean to say that the Transitional Program showed itself to be not an old relic, but the only adequate weapon with which to face up to a ruinous crisis like this one.
We said above that the third vital element of a revolutionary strategy is the party. Trotsky argues that the revolutionary party plays for the proletariat the same centralizing role with regards to its experiences as the universities played in the bourgeois revolutionary movements. At the same time, he does not confuse the party with the workers counsels or soviets. He says that, although the forces which led the soviets were infinitely larger than the Bolshevik Party, without the firm and shrewd/perceptive direction of the latter, the soviets, under a conciliatory leadership, would have capitulated to the bourgeoisie (and this way to the allied front First World War) and, in this way, ruined the chances of the revolution.
No other instrument in the history of the exploited has proved more effective than an internationalist revolutionary workers party molded in the most important struggles of its own proletariat and which in the decisive moments does not cede, as Trotsky said, neither to counterrevolutionary terror nor to the “siren’s song” of the popular front.
Gramsci, for his part, maintains that the importance of a party - being part of the class struggle - is measured by what it contributes to its class. It is for this reason that, at the beginning of this crisis, we have to bring to the forefront once again not only the Transitional Program but also learn from the experience of the Left Opposition and the Fourth International during the life of Trotsky and also from the best experiences of the Trotskyist movement in the postwar period which, although as a whole became centrist, did contribute some important moments (threads of historical continuity) to the development of the working class in the past 70 years.
This question leads us to the central issue of why to fight for the re-foundation of the Fourth International and its national parties: because there is no organization, “new” or old, which has a superior strategy tot hat of Marxist revolutionaries. The anarchists became ministers - with only a small minority opposing - and helped to liquidate the great Spanish Revolution, before disappearing as an international workers tendency. The autonomists, who are a variation of anarchism, demonstrated their total impotence in Mexico (and their brutal sectarianism in the face of the countries most advanced struggle, the commune of Oaxaca). Triumphant Stalinists like Mao, or guerrilla leaders like Castro, adopted the strategy of “socialism in one country” and formed bureaucratic states which prohibited any tendency towards the self-organization of the masses and persecuted Trotskyists, finally ceding to imperialist pressure by implementing the most brutal capitalist restoration as in China, or opening the path to this process as in Cuba.
Only the Bolshevik Party triumphed on the basis of leading the soviets, and in order to defeat this they had to liquidate almost the entire leadership of the revolution in order to try to make this set of revolutionary experiences disappear not only in the USSR but also across the whole world. Neither in Cuba, nor china, nor Vietnam, did tendencies like the International Left Opposition emerge, which was to be bloodily repressed in the USSR and brutally isolated and persecuted on an international scale. In this sense, Trotskyism is direct heir to a tradition of more than 150 years of theory, experience and struggle of the workers movement. Unlike the majority of postwar Trotskyists who capitulated to different apparatuses which at certain times held the leadership of the workers or mass movement, what this really means is the need to build parties to develop its tactics (the “carrying out of isolated operations”, in the words of Trotsky) with the strategic perspective of directing as a fine art the armed insurrection of the proletariat and its allies, against a bourgeoisie which will not hesitate to try to crush them with the methods of counterrevolution, once it has used up its last resort, the popular front. To paraphrase Trotsky, our method is proletarian revolution, our objective is the rule of the workers based counsels of workers, peasants and the poor masses.
If we do not re-found the Fourth International, based on these methods and with these objectives, we are only left with sectarian impotence of opportunist capitulation.
On a Central Aspect of Revolutionary Tactics
As the crisis breaks, we find a proletariat organized in unions (industry, services and public sector) which at best group together 20-25% of the working class, and in the majority of cases, including in central countries like France - which has a long history of struggle - they do not organize more than 10% of the workforce. This fact needs to be expanded upon in two senses. Firstly, the most negative phenomenon is that, in the last 30 years of neoliberal offensive, a subclass of precarious workers and the permanently unemployed with no kind of organization. Exceptional cases like the “piquetero movement” emerges outside of (and against) the unions, which had left the unemployed to their fate. From the point of view of the potential of the unions as instruments of struggle, it should be said that in many countries there exist within the workers movement workplace organization which tend in many cases to go beyond divisions imposed by particular agreements of by unionization and which allow for unified workers action within the factories or establishments.
A key principle of Marxist’s approach to the workers movement is to recognize the existence of these organizations which, despite their immense limitations, are the broadest which the working class, as an international class, has. The approach of Leon Trotsky in the Transitional Program was to consider incompatible with the Fourth International any organization which did not have the policy of participating in trade union life. This is as correct today as it was then. However, this policy must be carried out in the real context that it was intended, as a means of struggle to fight for the broadest front of workers possible to resist the capitalist onslaught which is today expressed in thousands and thousands of layoffs and suspensions. Participation in the trade unions therefore must be carried out with a perspective of struggle to overcome the routine practices, the divisionism and the political and ideological dependence on the unions’ respective bourgeois states, of the bureaucracies in charge: in other words, a revolutionary perspective. In times of crisis like this one, the policies of the bureaucracy are more criminal than ever, as they content themselves with trying to soften the blows of the crisis by changing firings for wage cuts and the surrender of workers gains leading, at best, to struggles only of their own affiliates, opposing the unity of the ranks of the workers (permanent, precarious, unemployed) and much less proposing an overall program representing the interests of the ruined middle classes of the city and countryside, and which transforms the workers into a genuine alternative in the face of the decadence of the bourgeoisie and its governments.
In all of the revolutionary waves of the 20th century, including revolutionary processes which ended up defeated like Argentina and Chile in the 1970’s, there tend to emerge organizations which become offensive united front organisms which overcome the tight and routine forms of organization of the unions (soviets in Russia in 1917, workers’ councils in Germany in 1918 and in Hungary in 1956 and other countries, industrial cordons in Chile, inter-factory coordinating bodies in Argentina and the Popular Assembly in Bolivia in the 1970’s, etc.). To take as our starting base the existing trade union organizations - at the same time as attempting with a united front policy to force the emergence of broader mass organizations which organize workers and the poor by region, city, province or even country - is one of the principal lessons on the relationship between revolutionary program and tactics left to us by the first four congresses on the Third International. Routine trade unionism on the one hand, and the “red” trade unions or abstract counsel communism on the other, are two dangers which any mature revolutionary tendency must avoid, instead basing itself on the real organizations of the workers and, by fighting for real united fronts, attempting to surpass them, creating organizations worthy not only of answering the minimum needs of the workers, but also to prepare the insurrection which will lead to the workers taking power. We believe that if this crisis develops over many years, as the signs today appear to indicate, pre-revolutionary and revolutionary situations will arise in many countries, and the link between revolutionary strategy and tactics will be the order of the day.
Let’s Advance Towards the Reconstruction of the Fourth International
From the point of view of organizations which claim to be revolutionary Marxist, as we said above, the “dress rehearsal” of the first years of this century in Latin America has allowed for the existence, with some vitality, of three tendencies which aim to be international and who have some influence over the real movement, but with the proletariat not being the fundamental actor of the uprisings of the decade now drawing to a close, there has been a pressure to adapt opportunistically to existing regimes and at the same time, to try to grow by numerical additions in a sectarian manner, as tendencies, without trying to cross barriers of ideological origin (in the case of the LIT, which essentially groups together the “morenoites”) or avoiding agreements with important “competing” groups in the same country (in the case of the negative response by the PO/CRCI to a process of serious discussion with the PTS and FT).
For our part, we take seriously the fact that the process which began at the beginning of this century in our region opened up revolutionary perspectives. Our group in Brazil, LER-QI, proposed discussions to the PTSU, while in Argentina the PTS proposed to the PO and other tendencies discussions over the political and programmatic basis of a common party, basing ourselves on the tactic of “unity of the communists” which Leon Trotsky upheld in 1931 in the face of the unleashing of the Spanish Revolution. The lack of a response (despite meeting the leaders and signaling our interest to them) implies that the weaknesses left by the past (long periods living in non-revolutionary situations) and caused by recent circumstances (ascendancy of the masses but not the proletariat) held back until now the initiation of a process of unification which could overcome the tight limits of “the life of leftist circles” (Lenin) and “pure” or “non-competitive” tendencies. None of the tendencies described above, of course including ourselves, are exempt from degenerating into centrism or reformism. For this reason discussion of questions of strategy, tactics and program are becoming an ever greater imperative to avoid both sectarian impotence and opportunist deviation.
For years we have argued the need to rebuild the Fourth International, directing this the Trotskyist tendencies with whom we have the most agreement, based on drawing the programmatic and strategic lessons of the principal expressions of the class struggle, which we called “acid tests” (the restoration of capitalism in the ex workers states, the war in the Balkans, the Gulf War, etc.). The objective was to seek fusions with a high level of theoretical and political homogeneity, as the non-revolutionary (sometimes simply reactionary) political situation implied that the principal preparatory task for the rebuilding of the Fourth International was revolutionary propaganda.
Over the past years, as a sub product of the convulsions which our subcontinent went through, we put forward more concrete initiatives for unification like those pointed out above in Argentina and Brazil, based on searching for programmatic and strategic agreement to face existing situations. This implies that we were not convinced (nor are we today) of the worth of looking for agreement on four or 20 general and abstract points (defense of the dictatorship of the proletariat, fight against the popular front, etc.) as the CRCI and the LIT proposed in these years.
As part of the struggle to establish revolutionary parties of the workers, at a national and international level, we have dedicated an important effort not only into action in the class struggle and in more general political struggle, but also into the ideological debate against all the theoretical “fashions” which seek to legitimize the system of exploitation and oppression and show “scientifically” the impossibility of the workers revolution (or its “inexorable” degeneration into Stalinist totalitarianism). The ideological struggle, as Engels would point out and Lenin would reconfirm, is essential in order for Marxism to be a guide to action, for the creation effective and relevant political programs, and for the molding of the leaders, cadres and conscious militants which the working class needs. For these reasons the 5th Conference of the FT-CI reaffirms the importance of this aspect of the activity of revolutionaries. But the acceleration of the crisis poses to us today the question of putting to use all of this theoretical accumulation and struggle in a bold political intervention.
In the past few years, FT-CI in general and the PTS in particular, made a bold turn in its activism to inserting itself qualitatively in the workers movement. We did this “swimming against the tide” (a populist one) which prioritized work amongst other sectors of the exploited or oppressed (peasantry, neighborhood organizations, the unemployed), and also fighting against trade unionist tendencies who argued that we had ahead of us a long period of “peaceful” accumulation of force of the working class. Sadly we have been somewhat alone in this struggle, especially when it comes to implantation amongst the industrial proletariat. The crisis will bring great dangers and at the same time a great opportunity for revolutionaries, as workers do not evolve only through conflicts (“schools of war” as Lenin called them) but, as we said above, will be “educated” by the great sufferings which will come with the crisis. Today revolutionaries must understand the need to concentrate ourselves more than ever on the working class, on its struggles, and be part of its victories and defeats. Only through this fusion can a genuine revolutionary party emerge.
If in the past years we tended towards proposing concrete discussions at a national level on the construction of revolutionary parties along with other organizations who declare for revolutionary Marxism, the task now is to generalize on an international scale the method with which we will formulate these proposals: any process of fusion must raise as its banner the Transitional Program, which is to say, a common understanding of the tasks which will allow us to confront the crisis and the eventual pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situations in each country, intervening in the political processes which will be generated as a result. In Europe, for example, the French LCR and British SWP place their hopes on the construction of a set of European “anticapitalist parties”. It is imperative to have a policy towards the groupings, because they can be, simultaneously, a centrist obstacle to the revolutionary development of the most combative sectors of the working class and youth, as well as an opportunity for at least part of this militancy to evolve towards principled leftwing positions, under the twin blows of class struggle and the actions of revolutionaries. As we can see, although circumstantially, for the reasons detailed above, there may in Latin America be a bigger “critical mass” available to us to initiate the task of the rebuilding of the Fourth International, in the face of a global crisis we do not want to build a revolutionary Latin American tendency but rather a truly international grouping.
We believe that this method will be the most effective in the search for a principled unification not only of the tendencies with their origins in Trotskyism, but in all those sectors and organizations of the workers and youth which will adopt a course towards revolutionary positions in response to the catastrophe which threatens us and the great political and social convulsions which we will see in the coming years.