Toward the Rebirth of the Fourth International!
Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency
(statement formally initiating the international Spartacist tendency)
Adopted July 1974; published in Spartacist, No. 23, Spring 1977
1. The Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand and the Spartacist League of the United States declare themselves to be the nucleus for the early crystallization of an international Trotskyist tendency based upon the 1966 Declaration of Principles and dedicated to the rebirth of the Fourth International.
2. In a half dozen other countries parties, groups and committees have expressed their general or specific sympathy or support for the international Spartacist tendency, as have scattered supporters or sympathizers from a number of additional countries. Among these groups and individuals are comrades, in both Europe and Asia, possessing many years or even decades of experience as cadres of the Trotskyist movement.
3. The Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency, a small Marxist wing of the “United Secretariat,” centered on the United States and with supporters in Australia and elsewhere, has seen its spokesmen expelled from their national sections and parties for seeking to express their views within the United Secretariat, that deeply factionally divided and unprincipled conglomeration of reformists and revisionists, latter-day Kautskys, Bukharins and Pablos. If the main contenders in the “United Secretariat” are united in their common and not-so-veiled class collaborationist appetites, they are deeply divided between the electoralism and placid neo-populism of, e.g., the American Socialist Workers Party and the guerrilla-terrorist enthusing of, e.g., the French ex-Ligue Communiste. These differences reflect far more the differing national milieus and resulting opportunist appetites than they do any questions of principle. The recently concluded “Tenth World Congress” of the United Secretariat refused to hear or even acknowledge the appeal of RIT comrades against their expulsion. The RIT forces are now making common cause with the Spartacist tendency. They are but a vanguard of those who will struggle out of the revisionist swamp and toward revolutionary Marxism. Already in France an oppositional Central Committee member of the former Ligue Communiste has broken from the Front Communiste Révolutionnaire (recently formed by Rouge) in solidarity with the views of the RIT.
4. In Germany senior elements from the centrist and now fragmented left split from the United Secretariat in 1969 are being won to the Spartacist tendency. They are regrouping around the publication Kommunistische Korrespondenz. In Germany three inextricable tasks are posed for Leninists: to programmatically win over subjectively revolutionary elements from among the thousands of young left social democrats, centrists, revisionists and Maoists; to fuse together intellectual and proletarian elements, above all through the development and struggle of communist industrial fractions; to inwardly assimilate some thirty years of Marxist experience and analysis from which the long break in continuity has left the new generation of German revolutionary Marxists still partially isolated.
5. In Austria, Israel, Canada and elsewhere similar splits, followed by revolutionary regroupment and growth, are occurring. In Austria the initial nucleus came from youth of the United Secretariat section. The “Vanguard” group of Israel is the last still united section of the old “International Committee” which split in 1971 between the British Socialist Labour League’s wing led by Gerry Healy (with which the American Workers League of Wohlforth is still united despite friction) and the French Organisation Communiste Internationaliste led by Pierre Lambert which subsequently lost most of its international support–i.e., with the Bolivian Partido Obrero Revolucionario of G. Lora and the European groupings around the Hungarian, Varga, both breaking away. If the “Vanguard” group amid this welter of disintegration is still unable to choose between the counterposed claims of Healy and Lambert, it did produce and promptly expel a principled and valiant counter-tendency to both. In Canada youth from the Revolutionary Marxist Group’s Red Circles are being drawn to Trotskyism. Everywhere unprincipled formations are subjected to the hammer blows of sharpened capitalist crisis and upsurge in the class struggle.
6. In Ceylon where the historical consequences of Pabloist revisionism have been most fully revealed, only the Revolutionary Workers Party, led by the veteran Trotskyist, Edmund Samarakkody, has emerged with integrity from the welter of betrayals perpetrated by the old LSSP and which were aided and abetted by the United Secretariat, its unspeakable agent on the island, Bala Tampoe, and the craven Healyite “International Committee.” The RWP has been compelled to seek to generalize the revolutionary Marxist program anew from Marxist class-struggle principles.
7. The Spartacist tendency is now actively working for the immediate convening of an international conference to politically and geographically extend the tendency and to further formalize and consolidate it. The tendency organizing nucleus will seek to work in the closest collaboration with sympathizing groups, particularly in continuing and assuring a broadly-based and full written and verbal discussion process leading to this international conference.
In the pre-conference interim the tendency organizing nucleus assumes political and organizational responsibility for the prior international resolutions, declarations, open letters and agreements for common work of its present constituent groups. These documents notably include: “Toward Rebirth of the Fourth International,” 14 June 1963; Statement to the 3rd Conference of the International Committee, 6 April 1966; Letter to the OCRFI and French OCI, 15 January 1973; Letter to Samarakkody, 27 October 1973; the historical analyses: “Genesis of Pabloism,” “Development of the Spartacist League [of New Zealand],” and “The Struggle for Trotskyism in Ceylon”; and the agreements endorsed at the interim international conference held in Germany in January 1974, printed in Workers Vanguard No. 39, 1 March 1974.
8. Both the present “United Secretariat” and the former “International Committee” despite their respective pretensions “to be” the Fourth International, as a necessary condition for their fake “unities,” have chronically mocked the principles of internationalism and of Bolshevik democratic centralism as their different national groups or nationally-based factions have gone their own way–ultimately in response to the pressures of their own ruling classes. Thus until the English and French components of the ex-“International Committee” blew apart, the International Committee operated explicitly on the proposition that “the only method of arriving at decisions that remains possible at present is the principle of unanimity” (decision at the 1966 London International Committee Conference). Since then the Healyites have substituted the naked Gauleiter/Führer principle as their mockery of democratic centralism. The other, OCI-led wing of the ex-IC retained the contradiction of launching the Organizing Committee for Reconstruction of the Fourth International which was supposed to initiate political discussion on the basis of the 1938 Transitional Program, while simultaneously seeking to build new national sections. Both such hypothetical sections and the Organizing Committee itself therefore labored under a basic ambiguity from the outset, but the Organizing Committee’s disintegration into sharply counterposed elements all of whom swear by the 1938 Program, has left its practice stillborn. Today, following the just concluded “Tenth Congress” of the United Secretariat, its American supporters, being themselves in the Minority internationally, threaten their own national minority, the Internationalist Tendency (which belongs to the international Majority), by declaring:
“The Socialist Workers Party proclaims its fraternal solidarity with the Fourth International but is prevented by reactionary legislation from affiliating to it. All political activities of members of the SWP are decided upon by the democratically elected national leadership bodies of the SWP and by the local and branch units of the party. Unconditional acceptance of the authority of these SWP bodies is a prerequisite of membership. There are no other bodies whose decisions are binding on the SWP or its members.” [our emphasis]
—SWP Internal Informational Bulletin No. 4, April 1974, from Introductory Note, 17 April 1974
9. This apparently naked assertion of national independence by or toward organizations in the United States is not unique and has a specific history. Thus the American Healyite publicist, Wohlforth, declares in his pamphlet, “Revisionism in Crisis”:
“With the passing of the Voorhis Act in 1940 the SWP was barred from membership in the Fourth International by law. Ever since that time the SWP has not been able to be an affiliate of the Fourth International. So today its relationship to the United Secretariat is one of political solidarity just as the Workers’ League stands in political solidarity with the International Committee.”
The “Voorhis Act” passed by the American Congress in 1940 has been used as a convenient excuse for revisionists to more openly display their concrete anti-internationalism than is convenient for their co-thinkers elsewhere.
This act, while ostensibly aimed centrally at domestic military conspiracies directed by foreign powers, was actually intended, as was the overlapping “Smith Act,” to harass the American Communist Party, then supporting the Hitler-Stalin Pact. A key provision states: “An organization is subject to foreign control if… its policies or any of them are determined by or at the suggestion of… an international political organization” (political activity being defined as that aimed at the forcible control or overthrow of the government). Such organizations were to be subject to such massive and repetitive “registration” requirements as to paralyze them, quite aside from the impermissible nature of many of the disclosures demanded. Thus it was similar to the later “Communist Control Act” which was successfully fought by the American CP. But the “Voorhis Act” with its patently unconstitutional and contradictory provisions has never been used by the government–only the revisionists.
10. Today the United Secretariat Majority makes loud cries in favor of international unity and discipline i.e., against the SWP’s views and conduct, but it was not always so. When the forerunner of the Spartacist League tried to appeal its expulsion from the SWP to the United Secretariat, Pierre Frank wrote for the United Secretariat on 28 May 1965 that:
“In reply to your letter of May 18 we call your attention first of all to the fact that the Fourth International has no organizational connection with the Socialist Workers party and consequently has no jurisdiction in a problem such as you raise: namely; the application of democratic centralism as it affects the organization either as a whole or in individual instances.”
After Frank gave the Spartacists his answer, Healy publicly expressed sympathy for the Spartacists’ plight, charging in his Newsletter of 16 June 1965 that Frank “ducks behind a legal formula for cover.” But when Healy’s own ox was gored by the SWP’s publication of the embarrassing pamphlet “Healy ‘Reconstructs’ the Fourth International,” Healy’s SLL threatened violence and/or legal action (“Political Committee Statement,” 20 August 1966 Newsletter) against any who circulated the pamphlet in his England. Shortly he used both–the Tate affair! Healy claimed as the basis for his threats the self-same fear of the Voorhis Act on behalf of Wohlforth and the Spartacists. But the Spartacists then replied:
“We for our part reject the SLL’s solicitousness on our behalf. The Voorhis Act is a paper tiger— never used against anyone and patently unconstitutional. For the Justice Department to start proceedings against a small group like ours or the smaller and less threatening [Wohlforthite] ACFI would make the government a laughing stock, and Healy knows this. He is aware that for years the SWP has hidden behind this very act to defend its own federalist idea of an International.”
—Spartacist No. 7, September-October 1966
11. More currently, however, as in the United Secretariat Majority’s “Again and Always, the Question of the International” (by Alain Krivine and the self-same Pierre Frank, 10 June 1971, SWP International Information Bulletin No. 5, July 1971) they attack the public formulation by Jack Barnes, SWP National Secretary, that “the principal condition for international organization” is “collaboration between leaderships… in every country.” To this idea Krivine and Frank counterpose “the International, a world party based on democratic centralism.” And later the Majority Tendency (in IIDB Volume X, No. 20, October 1973) notes that the Minority, in flagrant contradiction to Barnes’ and Hansen’s previously expressed views, declares, “we will do our utmost to construct a strong [international] center,” and the Majority concludes that “actual practice leaves no doubt: the [Minority] faction would be for a ‘strong center’ if it were able to have a majority in it.” And most recently the same United Secretariat Majority asserts that behind the acts of the SWP-based Minority “lies a federalist conception of the International which contradicts the statutes and the line adopted by the [Tenth] World Congress” (17 March 1974, IIDB Volume XI, No. 5, April 1974). The United Secretariat Majority ought to know. They made this accusation in commenting on a Tenth Congress joint Minority-Majority agreement so flagrant in mutually amnestying every sort of indiscipline, public attack and disavowal, organizational chicanery, walkout and expulsion that the Majority also had to offer the feeble disclaimer that these “compromises adopted at this World Congress should in no way be taken as precedents” and that “the exceptional character of these measures is demonstrated, moreover, by the unanimous adoption of our new statutes” (which formally contradict the real practice!). Yes indeed, for opportunists and revisionists basic organizational principles are not of centralized, comradely, evenhanded and consistent practice but just boil down to the simple matter of whose ox is gored. This is the organizational aspect of Pabloism.
If today the United Secretariat promises to back up its own friends in the SWP should action be taken against them, the point to be made is not the United Secretariat’s dishonesty and hypocrisy per se, but rather the shattering of the United Secretariat’s pretensions (like those of the International Committee) to be the Fourth International. They both trim their avowed organizational principles through expediency for petty advantage just as and because they do the same with their political principles and program.
12. The international Spartacist tendency is just that, a tendency in the process of consolidation. But from its international outset it declares its continuing fidelity already tested for a decade in national confines to Marxist-Leninist principle and Trotskyist program–Revolutionary, Internationalist and Proletarian.
The struggle for the rebirth of the Fourth International promises to be difficult, long, and, above all, uneven. But it is an indispensable and central task facing those who would win proletarian power and thus open the road to the achievement of socialism for humanity. The struggle begun by L.D. Trotsky in 1929 to constitute an International Left Opposition must be studied. Both despite and because of the differing objective and subjective particulars and with ultimately common basis then and now there is much to be learned especially as to the testing and selection of cadres in the course of the vicissitudes of social and internal struggles.
The giant figure of Trotsky attracted around itself all sorts of personally and programmatically unstable elements repelled by the degenerating Comintern. This led, together with demoralization from the succession of working-class defeats culminating in the second World War, to a prolonged and not always successful sorting out process. It is a small compensation for the lack of a Trotsky that the Spartacist tendency has little extraneous, symbolic drawing power at the outset. But a decade of largely localized experience shows no lack of weak or accidental elements drawn temporarily to the tendency. The only real test is in hard-driving, all-sided involvement in living class struggle.
As L.D. Trotsky noted in “At the Fresh Grave of Kote Tsintsadze,” 7 January 1931:
“It took altogether extraordinary conditions like czarism, illegality, prison, and deportation, many years of struggle against the Mensheviks, and especially the experience of three revolutions to produce fighters like Kote Tsintsadze….
“The Communist parties in the West have not yet brought up fighters of Tsintsadze’s type. This is their besetting weakness, determined by historical reasons but nonetheless a weakness. The Left Opposition in the Western countries is not an exception in this respect and it must well take note of it.”
Central Committee, SL/ANZ
Central Committee, SL/U.S.
[This draft agreed to by the Political Bureau of the SL/ U.S. and a representative of the Central Committee of the SL/ANZ, 22 May 1974; accepted by the Central Committee, SL/ANZ, 7 June 1974; declared to be in force, following concurrence with it at the European summer camp of the international Spartacist tendency, 6 July 1974.]