The International Significance of the SL/U.S. Conference
The following report was given by I.S. Secretary G. Perrault to the SL/U.S. National Conference.
For the comrades who have been working day and night to make this conference happen, the process has necessarily had a narrowing effect; comrades’ attention has rightly been focused on the U.S. and reforging a section in this country. On the other hand, there has been no narrowing of horizon for the comrades who have come to this conference and in three years have not taken a stand against the programmatic degeneration of the SL/U.S. and ICL. In this case, we find a permanent state of national narrowness. For some, political attention has barely crossed state borders. Whichever category comrades find themselves in, it is useful to start this conference having in mind our place in the world and the broader situation in the party.
This conference is not taking place in a vacuum but in a rapidly changing world. In fact, it is because of the rapidly changing world that this conference is taking place.
The period of relative stability which has marked the last 30 years has come to an end. We are no longer talking about the occasional outbreak of a world crisis but of a confluence of crises, each reinforcing the other. The pandemic, the Ukraine war, inflation, economic crisis, climate catastrophes, social upheavals. We are likely only at a beginning of this cycle, which can all be tied back to the gradual weakening and breakdown of the post-Soviet order.
This political and social turmoil has particular significance for the SL/U.S. Although the U.S. has not so far been in the eye of the storm to the extent Europe has been, it will play a decisive role in the outcome of future events. Whether it is for barbarism or socialism, the fate of the U.S. will determine that of the world. The presence of a Leninist vanguard party in the United States will be the qualitative factor that will determine which of these outcomes prevails.
When it comes to forging such a party, we are far behind the curve. The SL/U.S. was tested by the course of world events and was shattered to pieces. Now we must pick up the pieces and forge a real instrument of struggle. I want to insist on the point I made earlier: it is because of world events that this conference is taking place and the ICL is rearming. The global context leaves no room for half measures and half-revolutionary parties. Either we get serious and fight or together with the rest of the pseudo-socialist left we will be thrown into the dustbin of history. We have wasted enough time as it is.
The tasks facing the SL/U.S. are not different or separate from those facing the International as a whole. Analogous to the impact the U.S. will have in the world, the fate of the SL/U.S. will have a disproportionate impact on the fate of our International. If this conference is a success, we will come out of it with a greatly reinforced international cadre. If it fails or if we waver, we will be thrown backward once again, facing a much steeper road ahead. Crucially, by the end of this conference there needs to be a leadership in this section which has shown in practice that it will fight for a fundamental reorientation.
The historical importance and numerical weight of the SL/U.S. explains in large part why the I.S. has devoted so much of its attention to the SL/U.S. in the last six months. It is self-interest on our part: we expect SL/U.S. cadre to return many times over our efforts by joining us in rebuilding the International. Toward this, we have proceeded along the lines outlined in my report to the IEC [International Executive Committee] two years ago. On the one hand, programmatic firmness. We have made our political stance clear and have not conceded our principled position to maintain a fake formal unity. On the other, we have been extremely patient, and in the best Leninist practice we have pursued the struggle among the most conscious cadre of the section, seeking to win the cadre of the future SL/U.S. among those of the old organization. We will do everything we possibly can to rally every comrade who wants to rally to our banner, but it will be on our terms. Experience and past contributions do not guarantee a free pass. As comrades can undoubtedly observe, our approach has already had formidable results in the SL/U.S. and in the International. The proceedings of the next two days must confirm this.
In this spirit I want to quote the following from Trotsky’s “A Fresh Lesson” (1938):
In the last year, we have slowly but surely rallied a layer of cadre internationally. Not to a slightly more leftist version of the previous program but to a qualitatively higher plane. This is clear from the recent work of many sections. In particular, I want to attract comrades’ attention to the recent leaflet of the TOE [the Trotskyist Group of Greece], which not only is a highly effective interventionist tool but represents a programmatic refounding of the section, laying the basis for authentic Trotskyism in Greece [see article, page 12]. Also of great significance is our line on China, which recent events have completely vindicated.
In terms of the SL/U.S., the results of this conference have the potential to be far better than we expected when coming here. Many of the documents speak for themselves and show the rapid political motion of some comrades. To be successful, the upcoming proceedings must confirm and deepen this process. This will be the first of many tests confronting the emerging SL/U.S. leadership.
No matter the outcome of the next two days, or next few months, we can confidently state that the program we have put forward in the last year has already shown its force and effectiveness. We must forge ahead with supreme confidence that the Trotskyist program, applied in the struggles of the hour, will determine the outcome of the class struggle in this country and in the world.
Forward to a rearmed SL/U.S.!
Forward to a rearmed ICL!
Forward to the reforged Fourth International!