Workers Vanguard No. 1049
11 July 2014
From the Archives of Spartacist
International Communist League Launched
Spartacist No. 43-44, Summer 1989
To mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), we reprint the following article from the organ of the ICL’s International Executive Committee.
It is with pride tempered by a sober assessment of our responsibilities that we announce the founding of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), previously the international Spartacist tendency. The International Executive Committee took this step on 13 May 1989.
Fifty years ago, Leon Trotsky, Lenin’s companion in arms and founder of the Red Army, proclaimed the creation of a new International to carry forward the authentic Leninist program abandoned and besmirched by the Communist International under the sway of J.V. Stalin and his anti-revolutionary bureaucratic clique. The ICL today fights to reforge the Fourth International.
In the shadow of the approaching second imperialist world war, Trotsky observed with increasing urgency that the objective preconditions for world proletarian revolution were overripe, but what was lacking to uproot decadent capitalism on the world scale and establish a socialist world order was an authentic revolutionary leadership at the head of the proletariat. The spread of the barbarism of fascism and the oncoming world war were not the only deadly dangers confronting the workers of the world at that crucial moment; posed also was the question of the very survival of the Soviet Union and the remaining gains of October.
Today once again, those who struggle against capitalist oppression and exploitation in what is unquestionably a period preparatory to war still confront that same excruciating crisis of leadership, but in a different situation. The contradictions of Soviet society and the problems of the Chinese revolutionary struggle, both brilliantly analyzed by Trotsky, have exploded with pent-up force. In the capitalist countries, the working class certainly lacks the level of socialist consciousness and organization it possessed in the 1920s and 1930s. The legacy of Stalin’s reign of terror inside the Soviet Union, and of the repetitive betrayals of crucial revolutionary opportunities, has been the massacre of pro-Communist militants from China to Spain to Greece to Chile to Iran. Stalinism has created millions of anti-Communists and the general level of identification of human progress with the idea of communism stands at a relative low point. Yet as the workings of capitalist imperialism create millions of new subjective communists across the globe, the absence of genuinely communist leadership is acutely felt by many and the program of Leninist internationalism can be put forward with great impact.
The Homeland of October
Is in Grave Danger—
All Power to Workers Soviets!
Under Gorbachev we have witnessed an attempt to “restructure” the Soviet economy in the direction of encouraging powerful forces toward capitalist restoration, combined with a “diplomacy” of apparently limitless appeasement of imperialism which is being paid for in blood in Afghanistan (although the mujahedin siege of Jalalabad has evidently been thrown back, much to the dismay of American policymakers and the Pakistani annexationists), and which has devastating implications as well for the working people from Nicaragua to Southern Africa to Indochina. Now within the USSR, national antagonisms—spurred by the recent “reforms” termed “market socialism” which encourage the richer republics to seek greater autonomy from their poorer neighbors, but also nourished by decades of the bureaucracy’s Great Russian chauvinism—threaten to dismember the homeland of the October Revolution. The slogan of “free elections” and the agitation for “national independence,” particularly in the Baltic states, in this context can be nothing but a transparent cover for the program of capitalist restoration. Should nationalist unrest spread to the Ukraine, this would be extremely ominous. The anti-Semites of the Russian nativist “Pamyat” fascists have grown dangerously, protected by elements of the bureaucracy. Today, the continued existence of the bureaucratic caste, the heirs of Stalin, constitutes a more immediate and direct threat to the conquests of October than ever before: what is posed is nothing less than civil war. Only through the return to the working people of their state, through the rule of soviets (councils of workers and soldiers), can the egalitarian consciousness (the idea that nobody should live off the exploitation of the labor of others) which remains deeply ingrained in sections of the Soviet working masses be mobilized in decisive struggle to uphold the gains of October.
The effects of what is termed “market socialism” are clearly shown in Eastern Europe. In Poland, the Stalinist bureaucracy’s gross economic mismanagement and heavy-handed repressiveness opened the road for workers’ grievances to be channeled into a reactionary-clericalist company union on behalf of the “free trade union” CIA along with the Western bankers and the Vatican. Every leader of Solidarność is and has been since 1981 a traitor to the working class on behalf of NATO imperialism. Today the Polish regime and Solidarność are selling the country to the IMF and are prepared to allow the historic centers of the proletariat—the Lenin Shipyard workers, the miners of Upper Silesia—to be dismembered. The Stalinist schema of “national autarky” has come home to roost—Down with the Stalinist nationalists in Moscow and East Berlin who allow the imperialist world market to regulate the terms of trade between “fraternal socialist” trading partners; reforge the historic link between the German and Polish proletariats through proletarian political revolution!
In China, the mass outpouring of defiance in early June heralded the Chinese proletarian political revolution against the corrupt and despised Stalinist bureaucracy. What began as a student upheaval around vague demands for greater democracy was embraced by the working people of Beijing who came out into the streets seeking by their massive numbers to block the unleashing of troops against the demonstrators. Some units fraternized with the crowds, other units were brought in to shoot down the people. For the moment the Deng regime has arrested the momentum of the Beijing spring with a wave of repression which has struck first and hardest at the working class. But tremendous resentment has built up among the salaried people against the beneficiaries of “building socialism with capitalist methods”—a full-fledged NEP [New Economic Policy]. The decrepit bureaucratic caste which has opened the doors of China to massive capitalist encroachment and shamelessly allied itself with U.S. imperialism can be shattered. The urgent task which stands before the Chinese workers is the forging of an authentic communist party, an internationalist vanguard, which can lead the struggle for the unity of China under workers leadership.
Stalin and Mao and all the pygmy Stalins and Maos have done everything they could to make “communism” a code word for murdering your own people and trying to get little concessions from imperialism by being its cat’s paw, as the Chinese have been America’s agent militarily against Vietnam. In part, illusions in “Western democracy” among the Chinese students stem from the misidentification of militant communism with Maoism—i.e., economic primitivism and “barracks socialism,” the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, the student protesters are singing the Internationale.
Decadent Imperialism Has Been Given a Breathing Space
Today the capitalist world remains marked by the decomposition of the short-lived “American Century”: having emerged as the dominant capitalist power after the devastation of Europe and Japan in World War II, Washington’s “new world order” quickly unraveled, beginning with the Chinese Revolution and America’s consequent embrace of its former enemy, Japan, as a bulwark against the spread of revolution in Asia, continuing with the Cuban Revolution and underlined by the dirty, losing war against the peasants and workers of Vietnam. Now beset by sharp trade rivalry with Japan and the demands of resurgent German imperialism to assume its “rightful” place as the leader of capitalist Europe, American capitalism has become the world’s biggest debtor nation; its essential industrial plant decays while its exports increasingly center on raw materials and agricultural products. At the same time this wounded capitalist colossus maintains its ambition to police the world from Latin America to the Persian Gulf, while possessing a nuclear arsenal which could destroy the world a hundred times over.
The resurgent bourgeois anti-Sovietism of the 1980s, inaugurated by Jimmy Carter’s hypocritical “human rights” crusade and escalated under the unashamed Cold Warriors of Reagan/Bush/Thatcher, highlighted the timidity and demoralization of the “left.” Also standing out sharply are the criminal passivity of the trade-union “leaders” who, confronted by sharp attacks on the workers’ living standards and working conditions, continue seeking to eschew the traditions of mass militant struggle which built the unions; the craven subservience of the “black elected officials” to the racist ruling-class establishment whose only program for jobless black youth, welfare mothers, the homeless amounts to genocide; and the bankruptcy of the “liberals” who have largely abandoned the pretense of concern for the workers and poor. Today the communists, whose aim is the proletarian conquest of state power and the reconstruction of society on a new basis, are at the same time the most consistent defenders of the ideals of the Enlightenment and the gains of bourgeois revolution: the right to bear arms; the separation of church and state—against the imposition of religious fundamentalism as a political program; against censorship, whether by “creationists” seeking to ban the teaching of evolution or “anti-pornography” feminists or the burning of Salman Rushdie’s “blasphemous” novel; against the racist death penalty; for the liberation of women. In Britain, where the bourgeois revolution was early and uncompleted, we say: Down with the monarchy, the aristocracy, the established churches—For a voluntary association of workers republics in the British Isles! In Japan, where the bourgeois revolution came late and from the top down, we demand the abolition of the emperor system—For a Japanese workers republic!
War and Revolution
Lenin, in his work on imperialism as the epoch of capitalist decay, showed that the system of class relations had now become (as Marx had analyzed) a barrier to the development of the productive forces, leading to interimperialist rivalry and war to redivide the world’s spoils. The first imperialist world war brought unprecedented suffering and mass slaughter of the working people and revealed most of the Socialists of the Second International to be cowardly chauvinist tails on the imperialist ambitions of their “own” ruling classes. But defeat in war can be the mother of revolution, and Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who had built up a hard revolutionary party and broken sharply from the social-patriots, were able to transcend their own inadequate theoretical formulas (which had denied the possibility of proletarian revolution in backward Russia) and thereby to lead the small but militant Russian working class to the taking of state power, on the basis of an internationalist program. This historic conquest on behalf of the workers of the world led straight to the foundation of the Third (Communist) International, which was able to expose the “socialist” pretensions of the respectable reformist gentlemen of the Second International and win the allegiance of advanced workers and subjectively revolutionary militants on every continent.
But the international revolutionary wave which swept up the working masses from Germany to Bulgaria receded and was thrown back; the failure to extend the Russian Revolution, particularly the failure of revolution in Germany with its powerful working class, left the young Soviet workers state isolated. Trotsky summed up the causes and future implications of the playing out of that cycle of revolutionary struggle in his Lessons of October.
In the USSR, under conditions of extreme poverty and demoralization, with the working class decimated and exhausted by the Civil War, the way was open for a conservative bureaucracy to arise as a parasitic excrescence upon the working class. By 1924, this bureaucratic caste had acquired self-consciousness and a program: the self-contradictory dogma of “Socialism in One Country”—the antithesis of the Leninist outlook of internationalism which had animated the revolution. Predicated on the illusion that it was possible for an isolated Soviet workers state to survive and coexist with capitalist imperialism over an extended period, this program in Stalin’s hands meant the destruction of the Communist International as an instrument of revolution and ultimately led straight to the murder of all the leaders of the Bolshevik Party. In place of soviet democracy was created a monstrous apparatus of bureaucratic control: first by the Stalinized party, then by the Stalin faction, and finally by Stalin backed up by a small handful of cronies, after the purge trials wiping out all the Bolshevik Old Guard.
Beginning with Khrushchev’s 1956 “secret speech” and carried forward with new momentum under Gorbachev’s glasnost, the heirs of Stalin in the Kremlin have been forced increasingly to acknowledge the crimes of Stalin: the brutality of forced collectivization, the deportations and executions of oppositionists, the purge of the Red Army on the eve of World War II. In part a reflection of the emergence of a new generation of Soviet leaders lacking personal responsibility for Stalin’s dirty deeds, and of the growth of a new layer of Soviet academics and bureaucrats embarrassed by the transparent mendacity of official Soviet history, Gorbachev’s glasnost is mainly a response to the intractable problems of the Soviet economy. The call for “openness” in political discussion is centrally intended as an adjunct to perestroika, or “restructuring” of the economy in line with market forces, and much of the debate has as its not-so-secret agenda the refurbishing of the reputation of Nikolai Bukharin and the economic program of the Right Opposition.
Yet the Gorbachevites have been unable to prevent the raising in the discussion of the archetypical “blank space” of Soviet history: the figure of Leon Trotsky. Even as Stalin’s heirs seek to replace their discredited lies with new and different distortions, the question of Trotsky is potentially explosive, for—unlike Bukharin, Stalin’s bloc partner until 1929—Trotsky led a fight against Stalin and the epigones, aimed at restoring the domestic and international policies pursued by Soviet Russia to a Leninist course. The policies which Trotsky fought for from 1923 until his murder by Stalin’s assassin represented the Leninist alternative to Stalin, the “gravedigger of revolution.” Today Trotsky’s road is the only means for the survival of the Soviet Union.
Beginning in 1923, Trotsky and his supporters of the Left opposition sought to address the problems of the devastated Soviet economy through policies aimed at reconstituting an industrial proletariat and overcoming the divisions between city and countryside through a perspective of industrial growth. They predicted that Bukharin’s program of “socialism at a snail’s pace,” implemented by Stalin, would enormously strengthen forces toward capitalist restoration, eventually compelling the ruling clique to adopt measures proposed by the Left. This is what happened, but instead of the Left’s policy (voluntary collectivization with the incentive of mechanization of agriculture), Stalin’s version was the now-infamous brutal forced collectivization.
It is unquestionable that, even under bureaucratic leadership, the Soviet planned economy made tremendous progress and a modern country was forged in formerly backward Russia. Nonetheless, even after 50 years Trotsky’s brilliant analysis of the Soviet economy and society in The Revolution Betrayed (1936) remains the touchstone for understanding Russia today. Only the Trotskyist perspective of proletarian political revolution to reverse the political dispossession of the working class by the privileged bureaucratic caste can unleash the creativity and productivity of the Soviet working people and regulate the problems (e.g., heavy industrial investment vs. consumer goods, egalitarianism vs. “material incentives,” centralized planning vs. local control, and the problem of quality) which have bedeviled the Soviet economy recurringly and have re-emerged in sharpened form today.
Rejecting the suicidal dogma of “Socialism in One Country,” the Left oppositionists in the 1920s struggled to reassert the perspective of international extension of the revolution as the only effective answer to the isolation and capitalist encirclement of the first workers state. Events in China, where Stalin’s opportunistic subordination of the Communists to the treacherous bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek led to the beheading of a powerful revolutionary struggle, confirmed Trotsky’s warnings. But while some of Trotsky’s cothinkers believed this vindication would lead to gains for the Left, Trotsky observed that whereas a successful Chinese revolution would have increased the class consciousness and confidence of the Russian and international proletariat, the setback of revolutionary struggle would only strengthen Stalin’s hold.
The International Left Opposition, constituted in 1930, after Trotsky had been exiled from the USSR, considered itself a forcibly externalized faction fighting to return the Third International to a revolutionary course. But when Hitler’s Nazis were coming to power in Germany in 1933—based on the bourgeoisie’s fear of revolution by the powerful, pro-socialist German working class—the Stalinists refused to fight. Nor did this disaster precipitate any fundamental struggle within the Communist Parties internationally. The Trotskyists declared that the Third International could not be reformed. Especially with the promulgation in 1935 of the “People’s Front” policy—the systematic perspective of an alliance with the parties of so-called “democratic” imperialism—the conclusion was inescapable: there was no place for revolutionists in the Stalinist Communist Parties. In place of Lenin’s revolutionary International had been consolidated a powerful anti-revolutionary apparatus as a new obstacle to revolution, more disciplined and effective than the old Social Democracy. The false identification of Stalinism with Bolshevism provided Stalin with dedicated political agents throughout the world; only Stalin and perhaps a half-dozen cronies (who these were changed over time) knew what it was all about. Millions who loyally carried out his dictates, up to and including the murder of Trotskyists, believed all the while that they were fighting for socialism.
In 1933, the Trotskyists constituted themselves as the International Communist League (Bolshevik-Leninist) in recognition of the imperative need for an authentically communist new International, the Fourth International. Trotsky rightly foresaw that the menace of German fascism would lead in a straight line to war against the Soviet Union. As the interimperialist rivalries and alignments of the upcoming war took shape, the Trotskyists struggled against time to break the Stalinists’ hold over the advanced workers. The Fourth International was founded in 1938 on the basis of the document, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (the Transitional Program), and the perspective put forward in “War and the Fourth International” (1934) of uncompromising revolutionary defeatism toward all imperialist combatants, including those aligned with the USSR, combined with revolutionary defensism of the Soviet degenerated workers state.
The launching of the Fourth International was opposed by some, like Isaac Deutscher, who argued it was premature. Trotsky insisted that, on the contrary, the second imperialist world war would, like the first, provoke social convulsion throughout the capitalist world and a new wave of international revolutionary struggles. And he predicted that the brittle system of Stalinist rule in the USSR, which had arisen as an accommodation to the breathing space for the imperialist world order secured by the failure of the post-WWI revolutionary wave, would itself crack under the impact of the new world war or soon thereafter.
The validity of Trotsky’s predictions was in fact confirmed by the Red Army’s initial collapse in the face of Hitler’s invasion, as well as by the turbulent social conditions in Western Europe at the war’s end. In Italy and Greece, naked treachery by the Stalinists was needed to militarily and politically disarm the leftist Resistance forces and hand power back to the capitalist class (however, Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia refused to commit suicide—they led a peasant-based indigenous revolution to victory and established a bureaucratically deformed workers state). In France the Stalinists endorsed “national reconstruction” to re-establish a stable bourgeois regime. Trotsky’s insistence on the need for revolutionary leadership was tragically confirmed by the results of its absence: the Stalinists, who emerged stronger than before in Italy and France based on their resistance to the Nazis, were successful in deflecting revolutionary struggle.
Central to that outcome was Stalin’s success in putting over the lie that World War II in the Allied imperialist nations was a struggle of liberation—that it was a great battle against fascism and for a better world. In the context of the mass popular revulsion against fascism, Stalin’s policy of the Popular Front—the alliance with “democratic” imperialism—prevented the growth of mass antiwar sentiment paralleling the massive radicalization of World War I. The lie was successful; a war fought so that U.S. imperialism could emerge as the predominant imperialist power, the capitalist “world policeman” which rained death down on Vietnam for two decades after Dien Bien Phu, was popularly accepted as a war of the people against fascism.
Nonetheless the victory of the Anglo-American imperialist bloc was conditional. It was the Red Army which had smashed Hitler’s Wehrmacht; moreover, Hitler’s East European puppets had all made a mad dash for the nearest American headquarters, leaving behind a power vacuum which the occupying Soviet army quickly filled. The victorious imperialists had to divide Europe with Stalin.
The war devastated the small forces of the Fourth International—having geared up for battle against fascism and war, they were in effect militarily defeated. The physical obliteration of the Left Opposition in the USSR was completed by the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico by a Stalinist agent in 1940. Large numbers of Trotskyist cadre in Europe and Asia were wiped out by war and repression. The decimation of the most promising young Trotskyist leaders was a factor in the emergence of a revisionist current within the FI in the early 1950s. So was the passivity of the American Socialist Workers Party, a relatively strong party nourished by close collaboration with Trotsky, and located in a country insulated from the real carnage of the world war.
The revisionist current, led by the impressionist Michel Pablo, abandoned the perspective of workers revolutions in order to become for a time entrists into and political tails of the CPs. Worshipping the accomplished fact of Stalinism’s continued existence, they had decided it would endure perhaps for “centuries” and they therefore decided that a “new world reality” would compel it to play a “roughly revolutionary” role, obviating the need for Trotskyist parties. Within a couple of years, Russian tanks were crushing the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Today it is very clear that the CPs play no such revolutionary role in the world, while the bureaucratic caste of Stalin and his heirs has brought the Soviet Union itself to the threat of civil war, and an incipient political revolution was provoked in China. Trotsky’s expectation of a terminal crisis of Stalinism is as alive as today’s headlines.
Today the representatives of the revisionist current—having passed through a period of vicarious guerrillaist/pro-Stalinist enthusiasm which included hailing the massacre of the Vietnamese Trotskyists, then having gone for “Eurocommunism” and Soviet dissidents, and in a big way for the Solidarność devotees of Marshal Pilsudski (the bonapartist founder of modern capitalist Poland)—are in a position to do some harm as vociferous apologists of those demanding “national liberation” for the Baltic republics. In their mouth, “Trotskyism” is made out to be some kind of latter-day left social democracy.
The bourgeoisie is celebrating in anticipation of the “end of Communism.” The Stalinist bureaucracies have indeed reached the point of terminal crisis. But their crisis is because they are opposed to everything communism stands for. The national antagonisms in the Soviet Union, the revolt in China, arise in response to “market socialist” policies that are counterposed to centralized socialist planning. The bureaucratic stranglehold over political and cultural life, the appeasement that has emboldened imperialism—these are not communism, but its antithesis.
An International Program Mandates International Organization
“By its very nature opportunism is nationalistic, since it rests on the local and temporary needs of the proletariat and not on its historical tasks. Opportunists find international control intolerable and they reduce their international ties as much as possible to harmless formalities...on the proviso that each group does not hinder the others from conducting an opportunist policy to its own national taste.... International unity is not a decorative facade for us, but the very axis of our theoretical views and our policy” (Leon Trotsky, “Defense of the Soviet Republic and the Opposition,” 7 September 1929).
From the time of our tendency’s inception as a left opposition within the Socialist Workers Party of the United States in the early 1960s, we have recognized that national isolation must in short order destroy any subjectively revolutionary formation, not least one subjected to the pressures of operating in the heartland of world imperialism, the United States. We stand proudly on our record of 25 years of struggle for authentic Trotskyism and are working on documenting it archivally and historically. In January 1974 an interim Conference centered on European work and perspectives, with participation of comrades from seven countries, was held in Germany. The document which formed the programmatic basis for the Conference accepted the “responsibility to struggle actively for the constitution as soon as possible of a democratic-centralist international Spartacist tendency.”
In July 1974 the “Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency” announced the constitution of a nucleus for the early crystallization of the international Spartacist tendency, to be governed under the principle of international democratic centralism. The document sharply attacked the federalist practices of competitors claiming the mantle of Trotskyism, noting that Pablo’s political heirs of the “United Secretariat” and the Healyite “International Committee” “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.”
and the Voorhis Act
In particular the “Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency” noted the revisionists’ invocation of the U.S. government’s Voorhis Act as a convenient excuse for anti-internationalism. The Voorhis Act, passed in 1940, sought to massively inhibit international political affiliation through “registration” requirements intended to paralyze political organizations. Already in 1953, when the SWP was still adhering to “orthodox Trotskyism” but shrinking from waging an aggressive international fight against Pablo, they cited the Voorhis Act to justify their passivity in the international arena which had facilitated the rise of impatient young impressionists like Pablo: in his May 1953 speech, “Internationalism and the SWP,” the party’s leader, James P. Cannon, said that after 1940 “We no longer belonged to the Fourth International because the Voorhis law outlawed international connections. Our role, therefore, could only be advisory and consultative” (Speeches to the Party).
Our 1974 “Declaration” charged: “The ‘Voorhis Act’ with its patently unconstitutional and contradictory provisions has never been used by the government—only the revisionists.” We cited the United Secretariat’s evasion of our appeal against expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party: the USec’s Pierre Frank replied to us on 28 May 1965: “...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.”
Our 1974 “Declaration” also quoted, from a 1974 SWP internal bulletin, a particularly explicit SWP formula for nationally limited political responsibility:
“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.... There are no other bodies whose decisions are binding on the SWP or its members.”
Our document cited as well the assertion of national autonomy by the sinister “International Committee” of Gerry Healy, whose American publicist, Tim Wohlforth, wrote in his 1972 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.”
And we quoted our response to Healy in 1966 when he sought to suppress an opponent’s pamphlet by claiming it would render his U.S. supporters as well as ourselves vulnerable to the Voorhis Act:
“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...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.”
The first delegated international conference of the international Spartacist tendency was held in Britain in 1979. Over the following decade, the development of the sections, particularly in Europe, and their cohering of leaderships has become an increasingly important component in shaping the international tendency. Now looking back at the pressures to which a decade of Reaganite bourgeois reaction has subjected our American organization, we must believe that if our tendency had not achieved significant international extension, the SL/U.S. would have become an eccentric and disintegrating American sect.
For Revolutionary Regroupments—
For Lenin’s Communism!
Today, our small forces confront very high stakes. The achievements of the international Spartacist tendency, now the ICL, are modest: our militant labor/black mobilizations against fascist provocations in the United States—an expression of our consistent understanding that the fight against racial oppression is key to the American workers revolution—have been warmly greeted, as have other legal and social defense initiatives of the Partisan Defense Committee and cothinkers internationally; we have protested every move by U.S. imperialism against the Latin American masses, and raised funds for Nicaragua; among some layers of the Communist movement in West Europe we have become known as “the Trotskyists who defend the Soviet Union”; our forthright championing of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, under the slogan, “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan—Extend Social Gains of October to Afghan Peoples,” was grudgingly admired by elements of the Western CPs which were seeking to resist the “Eurocommunist” drift toward greater social-democratic accommodation with one’s “own” ruling class. Recently, our offer of an international brigade to fight the CIA’s mujahedin “holy warriors” after Gorbachev’s cowardly withdrawal and, when that offer was declined, our publicity and fund-raising campaign for the civilian victims of Jalalabad met with surprising support from women and from Muslim immigrants and other minorities in many countries, as well as among Stalinist milieus. Our defense of the program of “permanent revolution” for those vast areas of the world deformed by imperialist domination—i.e., that the proletariat, independent of the weak and cowardly bourgeoisie and counterposing a vision of social emancipation to the ideologies of nationalism (particularly the nationalism of the majority), must take power to achieve even those democratic tasks formerly associated with bourgeois revolutions—has won us a hearing among oppressed national minorities.
Revolutionary regroupments on the program of Leninist internationalism are the means to resolve the disproportion between our small forces and our task. The heirs of Stalin manifestly lack the capacity to defend the Soviet power, of which they have been simultaneously the parasitic defender and the counterrevolutionary disorganizer for 65 years. Yet to the same measure that they have brought “communism” into disrepute thanks to the crimes they have committed in its name, they have also reduced their ability to manipulate the allegiance of dedicated pro-Communist workers throughout the world. No longer can a Stalin and his half-dozen conscious accomplices wield “monolithic” parties as instruments of class-collaborationist treason in the name of “building socialism.”
We take our stand on the authentic communist tradition of the Bolsheviks who made the Russian Revolution. We choose the communism that had Lenin as its greatest teacher in the imperialist epoch. We choose the communism of Lenin’s comrade Trotsky, who beginning as early as 1923 understood the main lines of what needed to be done. We choose the communism that Stalin utterly betrayed as he deliberately destroyed the Third International. We choose the communism of a new Fourth International that will do away once and for all with the exploitation of man by man and establish a socialist society based on a new vision of the continual expansion of human freedom in all spheres: in politics, economics, culture and in every aspect of personal life.
We must believe that, failing sudden working-class upsurge against the conditions of capitalist decay, the reforging of a communist Fourth International, built of authentic communist parties on every continent, will be arduous and often dangerous. But this is the only road forward for all of humanity. Yet as we seek to bring this program to bear among the world’s workers and oppressed, we must recognize that the possession of the technology of nuclear holocaust by an irrational imperialist ruling class foreshortens the possibilities: we probably do not have much time.
But experience, not least bitter negative experience, can also be a powerful and accelerating teacher. We had better follow the precepts and practices of such comrades as Lenin and Trotsky. Thus we could cut short by months or years the time required for the necessary rearmament of the communist movement.