Workers Vanguard No. 1126

26 January 2018


On the Need for a Workers Party

(Quote of the Week)

This January marks the anniversary of the 1938 founding conference of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which was the U.S. section of Leon Trotsky’s Fourth International. We reprint below excerpts from the SWP’s Declaration of Principles on the need for a Leninist vanguard party to lead the proletariat in the fight for socialist revolution. In the early 1960s, the founding cadres of the Spartacist League fought within the SWP to uphold this understanding. They were bureaucratically expelled for opposing the SWP’s deepening capitulation to non-working-class political forces—from Fidel Castro’s petty-bourgeois guerrilla fighters in Cuba to the misleaders of the black struggle in the U.S., particularly black nationalists. Today, the program of the International Communist League, including the fight to reforge the Fourth International, represents the Marxist continuity of the revolutionary SWP.

The working class, under capitalism and in the initial stages of the socialist revolution, is neither economically nor socially nor ideologically homogeneous. It is united in terms of fundamental historical class interest, and by the urgent needs of the daily class struggle. However, it still remains divided by different income levels and working conditions, by religion, nationality, culture, sex, age. Through the perverting influence of capitalist oppression and propaganda, it is further divided by conflicting ideologies, and weakened by the low cultural and educational level of many of its members. There are, moreover, the divisions between various sections of the working class and its potential allies in the revolutionary struggle. For these reasons, the working class cannot, as a whole or spontaneously, directly plan and guide its own struggle for power. For this, a directing staff, a conscious vanguard, arising out of the ranks of the proletariat and based upon it, participating actively in the day-by-day struggles of the workers and in all progressive struggles, and planning clear-sightedly the broader strategy of the longer-term struggle for state power and socialism, is indispensable. This staff and vanguard constitutes the revolutionary party....

The program of the revolutionary party rests upon the great principles of revolutionary Marxism expounded by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky, and representing the summation of experience of the working class in its struggle for power. These principles have been verified in particular in the experiences of the last world war and by the victory of the Russian proletarian revolution. They have been concretized in the basic documents of the first four congresses of the Communist International and the fundamental programmatic documents put forward by the movement for the Fourth International in the past fourteen years. The SWP stands upon the main line of principle developed in these documents.

— Declaration of Principles,” printed in The Founding of the Socialist Workers Party (Monad Press, 1982)