Dear comrades of the Gruppe für revolutionäre arbeiterinnenpolitik,
On February 16th, the GRA sent a letter to the Collective Permanent Revolution, most of which is devoted to the August 2003 Call to an international conference. Beforehand you sent us your theses on the 4th International. Please apologize the slow progress of our reply. It has to do both with the extreme weakness of the Collective apparatus and with our linguistic inadequacy.
The 21 points of 2003 are not the final word of the Collective
As you already know, our international gathering occurred with the Argentinian revolutionary crisis. It results from a rapprochement by groups from three different traditions: the International Committee of the 1953 Trotskyist 4th International (GB France), the Pabloist revisionist SIQI – same period – through its Morenoist branch (GOI-CI Chile, LOI-CI Argentina), and the LICR created in 1989 from the international work of a British group, extricating itself from the the Cliffist revisionism (CWG New Zealand, LM Peru). Such a common work led to a statement on Irak (january 2003) and to a Call to the principled Trotskyists and to the revolutionary workers’ organisations (August 2003).
As soon as the Collective appeared on the political stage, the Munzer-Novak leadership of the LOI, its most important component, tried to destroy the Peruvian group, called Polpotists, and to eliminate the Collective itself. The LOI led its subordinates in Chile and Brazil, as well as the CWG, in a “Liaison Committee” who gave up the 21 points. It was constituted without a program and with groups from Brazil, Argentina and France, and he defended the Anti-Imperialist United Front (which was explicitly denied in the Call). It recently disappeared, as we expected as soon as it was constituted.
With the implemetation of a “Buenos Aires board” against the Collective, with the adaptation to panlatino nationalism and to Morenoist slanders, we could get some lessons for the vanguard: argument between LM and LOI-CI on the perspective of intentionally centrist Zimmerwald-kind gatherings, thesis by the GG about the workers’ aristocracy and the workers’ bureaucracy, reply by the GB to the POR Argentina and to the FT Brazil on the Liaison Committee without a program.
The Collective survived that first crisis. First, he got more precisely delimited (charter of Permanent Revolution), he produced documents on various aspects of the world class struggle: London attacks, emergence of Soviet forms in Bolivia, riots in poor areas in France, proliferation of States in Europe and attempt to give the EU a constitution, defence of Iran against the threats for an armed intervention… All the groups within the Collective intervened, as far as they could, within the class struggle on the local scale. Finally, it kept in touch with Greek revolutionary militants, which will hopefully result in an intervention of the Collective in that country.
The debates between the LOI-CI and the GB that led to the adoption of the 21 points and to their preamble are instructive, we leave them to history. The Grupo Germinal (Spanish state), coming from the International Committee of the 4th International launched by James Cannon, Marcel Bleibtreu, Gerry Healy and Peng Shuzhi (and afterwards the struggle of Stéphane Just). Three years after its adoption, all the elements in the Collective have critically analysed the Call. Therefore, the political board of the Collective claims that the 2003 Call and its 21 points for delimitation are partly out of date. However we wishfully allow a discussion with the GRA, in order to establish a principled basis for a common fight in the same revolutionary and democratic organization.
For that reason, we first reply the issue you judge the most important, on the program (I), before discussing our disagreements on the period (II) and then the issues on strategy and tactics (III).
The program of communism and the program of the communists
You wonder if the program of the Collective is its 2003 Call or the 1938 program:
You always evoke “your program”… If “our program” means the 1938 Transitional Program, that is a problem for us, and we should discuss it seriously. If it means your 21 theses, we also have a problem, but it is probably a question of terminology. For us, those “programmatic agreements” do not meet the requirements of a program.
We ignore what the leadership of the LOI-CI meant by “our program”; as far as the Collective is concerned, when talking about “our program”, we mean the historical program of the proletariat, not only the 21 points of 2003, not only 1938 The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International.
Distinguishing the historical program and the formal policy documents will make our discussion easier
Through its dialectical method, Marx often used concepts in a flexible way. Indeed, he used relations from a contradiction to another, according to his object of study, and to the progresse of his analysis. Such is the case for most of the categories he used: mode of production, productive forces, class, party, program… For instance, when talking about the party, Marx may take it either in the historical sense, or as a specific organization at a given time. Also the program may mean something larger than a program.
The communist theory, commonly known as “Marxism”, is itself ruled by the laws of dialectics. It is not invariant; it did not immediately appear under its perfect and definitive form, as Aphrodite did. The communist theory is born with the modern class struggle. It has developed with the numerical strengthening of the proletariat and with the topicality of the socialist revolution, itself resulting from the historical decline of capitalism. It will disappear with the end of classes. The communist program has a unity all along time, but the formal proram of the 3rd International was better advanced than the one of the 2nd International, and the program of the 4th International is an improvement. Scientific socialism, Marxism, work in a contradictory way. They use scientific items from outside, they use items that were forgotten or misunderstood, and they always fight against those who want to revise it.
Even if you grasp the problem, when you note that the program is uncomplete and must be updated, you tend to reduce it to the model of the Transitional Program, which was adopted at the conference which founded the 4th International. Keeping the “method”, that is the transition, would be enough:
For us, the transitional logics developed in the Transitional Program is the crucial method for the constitution of a new revolutionary program.
The Collective does not deny that working out a program of demands is an improvement for moving from the objective situation of the proletariat in the declining capitalism to the necessity that it takes the power. He does not deny that, 70 years after its adoption, it is necessary to update it. Still, unlike what is largely spread in the “Trotskyist movement”, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, known as the Transitional Program, was not the program of the 4th International.
The program of the former 4th International (1933-1953) was not only the “Transitional Program”
The 4th International had a program before 1938. In 1935, after the Bolsheviks-Leninists were expelled from the PS-SFIO, despite the decision of the majority of the French section and against the International Secretariat of the LCI, a part of the GBL organized “revolutionary action groups” around a so-called “mass paper”, La Commune, on a minimal platform (see Nicolle Braun, L’Organe de masse, 1935, reproduced in Les Cahiers du CERMTRI n° 53). It happened that Raymond Molinier and Pierre Frank abandoned the program, refused to defend it as a whole, in order to get rapid gains, and such a kind of action was often reproduced by “Trotskyists”. In an argument with the secessionists, Trotsky explained:
Do we ever concern ourselves with « organisational domination » ? For us, the important thing is a program that corresponds to the objective situation. If another organisation, more significant than ours, accepts this program –not in words but in deeds- we are ready to merge with it without the least pretension to the organizational domination. Look at the US and the Holland. But in P. Frank’s letter, in all his thinking, there is no mention whatsoever of program, and not without reason: program constitutes a serious obstacle to the general fraternisation with the petty bourgeoisie, with intellectuals, pessimists, sceptics and adventurists… (Leon Trotsky, Letter to the Groupe bolchevik-léniniste, 1935)
In his letter, Trotsky mentions “the program”, but it is not the Transitional Program, which was adopted three years later; when he says “the program determines everything”, we think that he evokes the program in the broad sense, that is the historical program, the substance of all the policy documents adopted by the International Left Opposition and then by the LCI (BL). For instance, it is written in the 1940 Manifesto of the 4th International, that the program consists with various documents:
Our program is formulated in a series of documents accessible to everyone. (Imperialist war and world proletarian revolution, 1940)
We think that these documents include, together with the Transitional Program, the other resolutions adopted during the founding conference of the 4th International in 1938 (Manifesto to the workers of the whole world, Resolution about the class struggle and the war in the Far East, Call for the Spanish working class…), and also the texts previously adopted. Not mentioning the Russian Left Opposition, the texts of the international meeting of the International Left Opposition in 1930, the 1933 Declaration of the 4 (OGI, SAP, RSP et OSP) and the 1935 Open Letter, the documents adopted by the 1936 conference, by the youth international conference in 1938, and by the 1940 conference.
Finally, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, known as Transitional Program, is not even a real program… if we refer to what Trotsky himself wrote:
It is not yet the program of the 4th International. The text contains neither the theoretical aspect, i.e. the analysis of the capitalist society and of its imperialist phase, nor the program of the socialist revolution itself… The true program of the 4t International should be worked out by a special subcommittee created by the conference. (Leon Trotsky, Letter to Rudolf Klement, 1938)
The 1940 manifesto was better adapted to the new situation because he was presenting a program for the World War, linked with the historical program of the proletariat. Another of its strengths is to summarize the program in just a few words:
Our program is formulated in a series of documents accessible to everyone. One can summarize its substance in two words: dictatorship of the proletariat. (Imperialist war and world proletarian revolution, 1940)
To conceal their revision of the program and their opportunism, the « Trotskyists » have often quoted some parts of the 1938 program; they almost never referred to the last policy document adopted by the 4th International with Trotsky still alive.
No revolutionary communist International can rise out from the antiglobalisation movememnt
We agree on a crucial point: the 4th International is dead. Yet, in your letter, you point two problems which we think are misunderstadings. One problem is about a fragment of the charter of Permanent Revolution.
We do not understand well what you mean by the following sentence in the charter: “whatever will be its name, it will be the fifth Workers’ International.”
The Collective agrees with you that the best formulation is currently “revolutionary workers’ International” and not “5th International”, for at least two reasons: Trotsky was not satisfied by the name “4th International” (he advocated “World party of the socialist revolution”), the Collective claims that what will be the constituting parts of the revolutionary workers’ International is an open question.
The function of the remark in the Charter is to assert the legacy and the filiation of the Collective, as a way to differentiate from Anarchism, from Social-democracy and from Stalinism. Our main criticism to Workers Power (GB) and to the former LICR is not that they to claim their wish to create a “5th International”, but that they regress to Cliffism and to maintain confusion and opportunism when they pretend to found the new workers’ international on… the Social Forum!
Vast mobilisations against international financial institutions, continental counter-summits, Social Forums of scores of thousands, cross-border actions and joint days of action – all these have changed the shape of the class struggle. (L5I, Forward to the Fifth International! 2003)
The L5I turned completely ridiculous in explaining that the solution to the Basque issue is not a revolutionary party and soviets, but the Social Forum… presented as a new workers’ organization:
New organisations of the working class and anti-capitalist youth are necessary so that the national, democratic and social struggle scan be brought together. Such organisations are already being built across Europe, and within Spain, they are the social forums. (Fifth International n 2, p. 70)
Despite a different label, the L5I is consonant with the Mandel-kind Pabloist 4th International. It shares a vindication of a kind of Anti-Imperialist United Front, the “World Social Forum”. It is a noisy and powerless coalition between the Castroist bureaucracy, the reformist parties and unions from Latin America, Asia and Europe on the one hand, and the Green parties, the catholic church and NGO funded by imperialist States on the other hand. This led WP (GB) to sign, together with the LCR (France), the SWP (GB) and the PRC (Italy), a call to the European imperialist governments:
To all citizens of Europe and to all their representatives… Those who show solidarity with the people of Iraq have no hearing in the White House. But we do have the chance to influence European governments – many of whom have opposed the war. We call on all the European heads of state to publicly stand against this war, whether it has UN backing or not, and to demand that George Bush abandon his war plans. (Weekly Worker September 12 2002)
Like the reformists, WP calls to “citizens” and claims that its main enemy s not in its own country. Here is what differentiates the Collective Permanent Revolution from the “Ligue for the 5th International”.
The prospect of a 5th International on the grounds of the WSF has just ended pitifully by the collapse of WP (B) and of its international tendency. The Collective tries to discuss to the minority which tries to escape from this trap in the aim to help the militants to understand the roots of this failure ant to join the Bolsheviks.
: the connection maintained by the latter with the counter-revolutionary apparatuses of the workers’ movement.
The other problem you raise has to do with two fragments of the 2003 Call.
Incomprehensible for us is the Call formulation: “the regrouping of the healthy forces of the labour movement and particularly of those which assert the continuity of the Trotskyism and of 4th International is essential”. We also find in the 21 theses a similar formulation: “We reaffirm the relevance of Leninism and Trotskyism, of the program of the 4th International which is the prolongation and actualization of that of the 3rd International of Lenin and Trotsky, this school of revolutionary strategy”
In a sense, the first sentence, which is in the preamble, is indeed wrong. For the Collective, there is no organizational continuation with the 4th International: it is dead as an international centre, and no section survived to the adoption of revisionist positions by its leadership Pablo-Mandel in 1951 and to the consequential break-up in 1952-1953.
Yet, we have nothing to oppose to the second sentence, from the point 16 (Révolution Socialiste, September 2003, p. 3). The phrase “school of revolutionary strategy” is – for us still consistent – from Trotsky. “Leninism” and “Trotskyism” are vague terms; by the way, the current Collective claims to be precisely a follower of the “Ligue of the communists”, of the “Marx party” in the 1st International, of the left wing of the 2nd International, of the first four congresses and of the International Left Opposition of the 3rd International, and of the 4th International from 1933 to 1940 (2005 charter). For us, the program of the 4th International includes the 1940 manifesto as much as the Transitional Program.
The task is to build, on the basis of a communist theory, a platform that can assess current tasks and events.
Our program originates in the decay of capitalism
You ask for a clarification:
The theses very often, and in an undifferentiated way, mention the crisis of capitalism. Which kind of crisis is it?
Together with that question, you wonder if the Collective acknowledges the development of productive forces.
However we do not find in any place an indication whether the productive forces kept on developing after 1945 – against Trotsky’s expectations – in the post-war imperialist conditions. Conversely it often evokes the crisis and a position is suggested: as Trotsky was considering in the Transitional Program, capitalism always goes towards its final crisis since the period between the wars, and it is absolutely unable to keep on developing the productive forces. We do not share that position, Trotsky’s expectation on that point proved to be wrong.
The CRI France denounces “the myths and fantaisies on the decay of capitalism”
On that issue, you refer to texts in French:
An argument between the Groupe Bolchevik and the French group CRI awakened some of us’ attention.
Serious political discussions either set a programmatic foundation for a common work and a merging, or demonstrate to the vanguard that the centrists, due to their dependency with nationalistic trends or with the workers’ bureaucracies, refuse to work with the Bolsheviks. The GB France tried to merge with the CRI France on the basis of the 21 points. The latter refused, not on the “productive forces”, but because of its own business in unions, because of its links with the Stalinists and, in the last instance, with the bourgeois state.
Despite (or because of) its entirely petit-bourgeois composition, the CRI is a pretentious small group. Some students in history and in philosophy, in one of the French “grandes écoles” (ENS), entered, in the late Nineties, the right wing of the French so-called “Trotskyist movement”, which is not known as attracting many young people searching the way to revolution. Within the CCI-PT, those young intellectuals never fought against reformism and social-patriotism, against the adaptation to the FO bureaucracy and against the connections with bourgeois parties, namely alliances with the MRC, not mentioning even more dubious relations (Alexandre Hébert, a founding member of the PT, gave an interview in a paper of the Front National). They broke with the CCI and with the PT on the right, with an academic argument on… the productive forces.
When it appeared on the political stage, the CRI took seemingly radical postures, on the left of the Lambertist motherhouse. It is the reason why the GB was extremely flexible with the CRI. In 2003, the GB invited the CRI at his 2nd conference, and it allowed that group, who had a narrowly national life, to keep in touch with the militants from LM Peru and from LOI Argentina, who were taking part to the conference.
But the CRI refused to work together with the GB on the catchword of united front in the movement against the reduction of retirement pensions (as in Austria and Germany at the same time), which started just after the conference, in May and June 2003. The CRI refused to sign the 21 points Call, with arguments from all kind of revisionisms, including postures from Burnham-Shachtman in the American section (against whom Trotsky had his last political fight). You isolate one aspect of the argument of the GB, which was a defence of the program against this centrist trend.
On the international level, the CRI joined the Liaison Committee implemented by the LOI against the Collective. After havng broken with the POR Bolivia, it now has relations only with the POR Argentina, a Lorist group, and it still defends the opportunism of this variant of Pabloism (Anti-Imperialist United Front, cops unionism…).
Trotsky explained Sneevliet’s centrism with the subsidies that the Dutch state was giving to the “red” union it led. CRI’s mistakes are not only ideological, they also have union and financial roots, and the GB only found them gradually. It appeared, in retrospect, that the refusal by the CRI to work with the Collective and with the French group is due to the fact that it should have broken other connections, to which it was much more tied, namely a part of the PCF and, beyond, the state apparatus. At the time when the French component of the Collective allowed it in its conference, the CRI was preparing the constitution of an additional student union, without keep the Group bolchevik or the other components of the Collective informed. This small union, the Fédération syndicale étudiante (FSE), was announced in September 2003, as a result of a coalition between the CRI and the part of the UEC and of the PCF which refused to join the UNEF, the traditional student union controlled by the PS. The FSE is subsidized by the 5th Republic, as all other student unions are (UNEF, SUD Etudiants, Confédération étudiante), thanks to their taking part in the university co-management organs.
For the Groupe bolchevik, this explains why the CRI made an enthusiastic campaign, together with the PCF, for the vote No at the referendum in 2005; for the Collective, this explains the fantasy of the CRI for a development of the productive forces in “gigantic proportions”, as for the PCF, leading to the legend of an eternal youth of capitalism:
It is essential, for everyone who wants to progress in the construction of the Marxist party, to break definitively with the myths and the phantasms on the “decay of capitalism” (CRI, Contribution, 2003, 2.A.a)
Your letter asks many questions. Let us ask one: what do you think of the real analysis of the CRI, namely the denial of any capitalist decay?
If the previous development of the productive forces makes socialism possible, their contradiction with the current relations of production makes it necessary
The central cell of the GB removed from the first point in the Call the following: “the productive forces ceased to grow”. It replaced it with the point you approve in your letter. The point 1 in the 2003 Call denounced the social-democrat, Stalinist and centrist ideologists who pretend that the capitalist state is able to regulate the economy.
The predecessors of the CRI (Max Shachtman and Felix Morrow, Tony Cliff and Michael Kidron, Ernest Mandel and Henri Weber…) revised Marxism in one of its essential features.
The contradictions of use-value and exchange-value, commodity and money, capital and wage-labour, etc. assume ever greater dimensions as productive powers develop. (Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, 1861-1863, vol. 3)
If the relations of production are the relations between human beings for producing what they need (they are class relations since prehistoric time), and if productive forces are the relation of the humanity to the nature (the level of their development shows the possibility to satisfy the needs), they are themselve interrelated, since they are two parts of the social work. Productive forces and relations of production of a social formation are neither separate nor arbitrary. They interact, sometimes in conjunction, in correspondence, sometimes in contradiction, in opposition.
In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. (Karl Marx, Preface, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859)
Before the capitalist rule on the world, who broke the traditional social relations which correspond to a weak level of development of the productive forces, brought the big industry into general use (allowing mass production) and implemented the world market (which for the first time related all parts of humanity), communism only could be utopia. Now communism is possible thanks to the development and the internationalization of productive forces allowed by capitalism.
Yet, for forces to develop until abundancy, for social needs to be satisfied, capitalist relations of production, which impede, reduce and destroy them periodically – through wars and economic crises – must be abandoned. The working class, a product of the capitalist rule, must lead the revolution, abolish the national boarders and open the communist perspective.
Both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established by it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place, a revolution which will put an end to all class distinctions. (Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, 1877, Part II)
The decay of capitalism announces the topicality of socialism:
Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental characteristics of capitalism in general. But capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites, when the features of the epoch of transition from capitalism to a higher social and economic system had taken shape and revealed themselves in all spheres. (V. I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916, ch. 7)
The task to achieve the revolution, to abolish the national boarders and to open the perspective of communsim, is to be implemented by a product of the domination of the capitalist mode of production, namely the working class.
A political forecast cannot be as accurate as an astronomical one
You point Trotsky’s responsibility in the mistakes of the 4th International in the appreciation of the economy after the Second World War.
Everywhere, wisdom is necessary after the events. In general, it does come as a surprise that the revolutionaries are optimistic on the occurrence of the revolution, and pessimistic on the near future of capitalism. For symmetrical reasons, the opportunists are as much optimistic on the short and middle term future of capitalism. Marx and Engels waited for the economic crisis during all the 1850s. Lenin only accepted in December 1907 the backward of the 1905 revolution.
The forecasts of Engels are always optimistic. It is not rare that they precede the walk of the events. Can one conceive, however, a historical forecast which, according to the French expression, does not burn some intermediate stages? (Leon Trotsky, Diary of Exile, 1934-1935)
For the communists, slogans are useful, as a summary of a political line, but no slogan may replace the collective reflection, the development of an orientation based on a clear sight of the economic and political conjoncture. Thus, some organizations, including the Club-SLL-WRP and the PCI-OCI-PCI, who resisted the destruction of the 4th International and of its sections by Pablo and Mandel, Moreno and Hansen, dogmatically defended a passage in the beginning of the program adopted in 1938:
The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be reached under capitalism. Mankind’s productive forces stagnate. (Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, 1938)
The evil of dogmatism is that the leadership is neither able to move forwards when it is time to go on the offensive, nor able to retreat when it is time to defend. It can turn the organization into a sect, being tempted to take short cuts, being impatient with the events going too slow. In the mid-1970s, Gerry Healy became corrupt with Kadhafi and Hussein for funding his paper, and in the mid-1980s, Pierre Lambert turned the organization he was controlling into the service of the FO bureaucracy, resulting from the cold war. As a result, both parties disappeared.
Nobody knows how Trotsky would have analyzed the economic recovery and the long expansion afterwards. What we are sure is that he did not have to conceal tricks with an appearance of radicalism, like Lambert, Healy, Moreno, Grant did.
On the one hand, he acknowledged that the formulations on the capitalist economy were basic.
The first chapter is only a hint and not a complete expression. (Leon Trotsky, Discussions on the Transitional Program, 1938)
On the other hand, neither Lenin nor Trotsky thought that crises could not be overcome by capitalism, even if its survival is expensive for the masses.
We have now come to the question of the revolutionary crisis as the basis of our revolutionary action. And here we must first of all note two widespread errors. On the one hand, bourgeois economists depict this crisis simply as “unrest”, to use the elegant expression of the British. On the other hand, revolutionaries sometimes try to prove that the crisis is absolutely insoluble. This is a mistake. There is no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation. (V.I. Lenin, Report on the International Situation and the Fundamental Tasks of the Communist International, 1920)
Will the bourgeoisie be able to secure for itself a new epoch of capitalist growth and power? Merely to deny such a possibility, counting on the “hopeless position” in which capitalism finds itself would be mere revolutionary verbiage. (Leon Trotsky, The Third International after Lenin, The Draft Program of the Communist International, 1928)
As well as we must distinguish historical party and formal political organization, program of communism and formal policy documents, we must distinguish the historical decline of capitalism (the structural crisis) and its frequent economic and financial crises (conjonctural crises), even if both merge during big economic crises (1929, 1973) and during world wars (1914, 1939).
The features of decay during the previous stage of economic growth
The period a relative prosperity for capitalism from the late 1940s to the early 1970s was conditioned by the huge destruction of productive forces during the economic crisis and then the interimperialist war.
The end of the progressive role of the bourgeoisie has an ideological counterpart: the 18th century rationalism and the 19th scientism have gradually been replaced by pessimism and obscurantism. Its academics and politicians tend to degenerate in post-modernist philosophy and in neoclassical economics, to rejuvenate Malthusianism (through ecologism) and to retreat into religions (even in astrology for Reagan and Mitterrand).
True, capitalism enjoyed a historical retrieval, because of retreats and slaughters of the proletariat with fascism and war and, most of all, because of betrayals of the world revolutionary wave started in 1943 by the Kremlin bureaucracy, by its international machinery and by the social-democracy. It resulted into a new phase of accumulation of capital, including a real development of the productive forces, including the numerical and geographical increase of the proletariat. Yet the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production still exists, but on a higher level, as Trotskyists like Gérard Bloch, Cliff Slaughter, Stéphane Just or Tom Kemp demonstrated. In particular, the production and improvement of techniques has more and more corresponded to real destructive forces, the scientific research being more and more turned to military objectives and to the production of weapons on a large scale. Marx intuited it
In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being, which, under the existing relationships, only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces. (Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1845, Part I)
During the period named afterwards “30 Glorieuses” by the economists, the features of “putrefaction” (Lenin) of the beginning of the imperialist stage increased: underdevelopment, expenditure on weapons, unproductive social layers, advertisement, separation between shareholders and “managers”…
In accordance with Gérard Bloch, Shane Mage, Paul Mattick and Geoff Pilling’s analyses, the laws of the capitalist mode of production were still at work and they led to a new fall in the rate of profit as soon as the 1960s, and then to a world economic crisis in 1973.
Rate of profit in the United States
Source: Fred Moseley, Capital & Class, Spring 1999
Since it did not take the power during the 1960s-1970s crisis, the proletariat retreated and allowed the continuation of the accumuation of capital
The international revolutionary wave during the 1960s-1970s was the social and political expression of the world economic contradictions of the declining capitalism. Such a revolutionary wave was again held by the old bureaucracies of the workers’ movement, by the bourgeois nationalism in its classical way (ANC South Africa…), and in a more and more reactionary way (Islamism in Iran…), by the petit-bourgeois nationalism (Castroist guerillas, BPP, ETA, IRA…), by the new centrism (Maoists, “Trotskyists”…).
The new extra time obtained by the bourgeoisie allowed it to adapt its class domination, whose precursors were Thatcher and Reagan, to a counter-offensive both inside (defeat of the British miners’ strike and of the American air-traffic controllers, dismantling of the European steel industry…) and outside (support to the Islamists in Afghanistan, to the contras in Nicaragua, direct American intervention in Granada, reconquest of the Falklands by the British army, increasing military pressure on the USSR…). Because it was unable to take the power, the proletariat saw its former conquests destroyed and the rate of exploitation increased. The capitalist class dismantled the centres of resistance of the proletariat with privatizations, restructurings and reductions in the size of the production sites (despite the increase of the groups with fusions and acquisitions), relocations in the country (to the South of the US) or abroad, reorganizations in the production process (automation, just-in-time methods…).
Source: Angus Maddison, L’Economie mondiale, OCDE, 2001
Despite the 1973 crisis, a new wave of revisionists promised a nice and long future to capitalism, with concepts both from Capital and from Walras, Kondratiev or/and Keynes: Regulation (Aglietta, Boyer…), Social Structure of Accumulation (Weisskopf, Bowles…), Analytical “Marxism” (Roemer, Wright, Elster…) and, for fifteen years, financial and neoliberal globalization (Negri, Chesnais, Duménil, Harvey, Desai…). Movements that are founded in the workers’ aristocracy and connected to the corrupt workers’ bureaucracies are full of illusions for a new long-lasting expansion that would allow them to practice their small business as usual: election campaigns, union ploys, support to the World Social Forum… They are wrong. The 1973 world crisis and the local crises since then, the proliferation of military interventions and the increase of imperialist rivalries since the 1990s announce that, if the proletariat does not grasp its next opportunities, if the contemporary communists prove unable to build real parties, the productive forces will be destroyed on a high scale in a big crisis or in a new large conflict.
It is true that the rate of profit increased during the 1980s and that new countries received capital. However, the relative (and sometimes absolute) decrease of the value of the labour power restricts the prospects for capitalist commodities. The overall computerization and the boom of telecommunications create new vulnerability for the big capitalist groups (and for the armed forces). Invest in means of transport, in machine tools, in robots, in computers, in networks… corresponds to an increase in the share of constant capital and contributes to the increase in the organic composition of capital. Besides, the US, other imperialist countries and the IMF use palliatives for containing and overcoming recurrent local crises (including the 2001 stock market crisis within the core of imperialism). This fuels American deficits and the world speculation that increase the mass of capital which wants a part of the surplus value. Yet the latter does not increase on the same rate, since it is based on a decreasing share of the variable capital, that is the living labour that creates all the additional value. Inevitably, the rate of profit will soon decrease again…
Since you do not take into acount the whole movement of capital, which is more contradictory than ever, your one-sided focus on the development of productive forces might be apologetic. In your fight for class independence and for permanent revolution in Venezuela, what do you present in the forefront? The achievements of Chavez-kind populism or rather its limits and its reactionary features? The Collective deals with the contemporary capitalism without isolating the “productive forces” as a specific issue.
Do you think that the Marxists’ task is to claim, as the Stalinists do, that capitalism allows a wonderful “scientific and technical revolution” or the increase, “in gigantic proportions” (CRI), of the productive forces? Moreover, since 1973, except in China, the accumulation of capital slowed down, together with the development of the productive forces. The production of social commodities is characterized with the outdated and reactionary character of contemporary capitalism: prominence of passive leisure and massive consumption of psychoactive substance, persistance of mass unemployment and of misery for a large part of the world population, speculation and financial overdevelopment, proliferation of boarders and the renewed tensions between imperialist powers, resurgence of clericalism and of xenophobia and spreading of Mafia networks, inter-ethnic conflicts and imperialist armed interventions, worsening of the human species environment and shameless waste of natural resources…
The restoration of capitalism in the workers’ States is a defeat for the world proletariat
In the “programmatic agreement”, we read that you judge North Korea, Cuba and China as still bureaucratic workers’ States. We would be interested to know how you justify such a posture.
If you mean that North Korea, Cuba and China were workers’ States, when did they cease to be as such?
The CWG New Zealand pretends that the country in which it intervenes is under domination. It is questionable, but we did not have time to discuss it, since he chose to follow the LOI-Argetina in the Liaison Committee and in the FLT. It swallowed the slanders on its comrades of the CEMICOR Peru (called “Polpotists”), it concealed its Latino nationalism and it left aside its own hostility to the opportunist prospect of reviving the dead 4th International. For the leadership of the LOI, on the one hand, Turkey is an imperialist country, and on the other hand, the whole Latin America is under domination; it did not explain to us the difference between Turkey and Brazil. For the leadership of the LOI, capitalism is restored in China but not in Cuba, but we ignore the justification.
In China, capital exploits again millions of young workers. The restoration of capitalism has been implemented for long, since Mao died, under the banner of “market socialism” (sic): special areas, reintegration of Hongkong, delivery of the land to the peasants, end of the plan, closing of state-owned firms… Yet, it is doubtful that the Chinese bureaucracy will end what survives from the workers’ state (public industrial firms, fixing of the exchange rate, independence of the banking system from profit motivations…) without exploding, since the unity of the country, which only ensured by the 1949 revolution, is threatened. Some militants in the Collective think that the process is completed, given the membership of China in the WTO, and the features mentioned above are only state capitalism. For all us, China will neither be the mover of a long-lasting wave of expansion of capitalism, nor be the rival of the United States.
The Cuban bureaucracy, economically squeezed since the dislocation of the USSR, gradually comes to capitalism, with the help of the EU imperialisms (especially Spain) against the US grip, which is stronger than ever. Besides, the Social Forum, defended by most of the pseudo-Trotskyists, is a coalition between the Cuban bureaucracy and some branchs of the European bureaucracy, as a Castroist way towards the restoration of capitalism. North Korea recently started to follow the Chinese way of “market socialism”, in allowing free zones.
The American imperialism attempts to enjoy the benefits of the destruction of the USSR
The reactionary counter-offensive, which started against the British proletariat, which was victorious in GDR and in USSR, also included an attempt to strengthen the domination on ruled countries.
We are interested to know if you think that imperialism intends a neocolonial strategy in general or – this is what we think – if it intends a policy of colonial occupation in some strategic States, mainly around oilfields in Middle East, in Caucasus and for military-strategic positions (Afghanistan, Caucasus).
We think that “imperialism” does not exist as such as a deciding core. Imperialism is rather an imperialist stage or a stage of decline of capitalism in which the most powerful branches of capital, namely the imperialist bourgeoisies, rely on their state in order to exploit above their national boarders. In general, those States agree for dominating any regime which threatens their collective rule, but they also are rival – in a more or less concealed way – for protecting their own bourgeoisie and their multinational firms against the competition of other firms and against the wishes of other powers. Beyond its recent targets (Afghanistan, Iraq), the American militarism is intended to its allies. Without openly challenging it, the French imperialism preserved some military autonomy, the Japanese and German imperialisms rearm. The war in former Yugoslavia displays rivalries between France and Germany; the second war against Iraq shows tensions between Germany, France, Russia on the one hand, and US, Spain, Italy, Poland… on the other hand.
No imperialist state intends to definitely occupy a distant big country. The American imperialism contents itself with having some military bases and regimes under its will. Yet, the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie on the world scale, between ruling bourgeoisies and landlord classes in ruled countries, between national branches of the imperialist bourgeoisie can be mastered neither by any state, even the most powerful, nor by any international body which arises from a deal between bourgeois States. The US funded, armed and instructed Ben Laden and its networks, which turned against him. They made most of the effort for the capitulation of the Kremlin bureaucracy and they only enjoy a part of it, whereas their German rival and, on a lower scale, the French imperialism, rebuild their positions in central Europe, under the protection of the EU. They got bogged down in Iraq and, undoubtedly, in Afghanistan, as well as the French imperialism knows relative difficulties in Ivory Coast.
Reformist bureaucracies, both in unions and in parties, support their own imperialism, since it feeds them.
Is reformism a psychological phenomenon in the workers’ minds or mainly the political practice of the workers’ bureaucracies at the imperialist stage?
Our starting point is that a reformist consciousness got deep-rooted in the working class in the imperialist countries during the economic expansion. In some countries like Austria, there has hardly been a workers’ movement for years and there are just some isolated working class militants. The mass of the workers lost the habit of searching information, political and union meetings – unfortunately – disappeared from their political scene. Except in 2003, there were few strikes in the last decades. In other countries, like France, there is a workers’ movement but also a deep-rooted reformist consciousness and some reactionary trends (racism, chauvinism) in the mass of the working class. Those objective facts are not taken into consideration in your document.
The restoration of capitalism in the only country where the proletarait had the power contributed to bewilder the world proletariat. Most of the reformist parties, who never had the dicattorship of the proletariat as an objective (Labour and socialist parties), and of those who gave up for long (the former Stalinist parties) gave up any reference to socialism. Many former guerilla movements laid down arms. The organizations which were conspicuously revolutionary during the 1960s and the 1970s either disappeared or rapidly moved to right-wing centrism, closer and closer to reformism, especially in Europe. Working class consciouness has never been so low.
You present a “fact” which would be a “deep-rooted reformist consciousness”. But what do you mean by “reformist consciousness”? Is it similar to the racism you mention at the end of the same paragraph? If the reasons of this “reformist consciousness” are in the “economic expansion”, how this “reformist consciousness” could be “deep-rooted” whereas the workers have faced the economic slowdown and its consequences for years: end of the growth of the purchasing power, redundancy threats, intensification of labour, deskilling of the youth, precariousness?
If you mean that, alone with its spontaneity, the proletariat cannot reach, as a mass, the awareness of its historical interests, we agree with you. The Collective vigorously rejects the Pabloist “objectivism”, for which the revolution can succeed without the patient building of a party. The Morenoism, including its left-wing, the LOI Argentina, is a model of such a spontaneist idiocy, for which any mass movement has a revolutionary character, and all the masses in movement, including petit-bourgeois ones, have a revolutionary consciousness.
The party is not the class. The communists must take seriously the strength of the capitalist class, which ideas are the ruling ideas, because they are instilled by the state machinery and by the religious apparatuses, they are spread by the large means of communication, themselves owned by large capitalist groups.
Any domination by a minority is socially organized in a manner which concentrates the dominant class, makes it suited to a unified action and, by the way, disorganizes and disperse the oppressed classes. (Georg Lukács, Lenin, 1924)
At the imperialist stage, the disorganization and the dispersion of the class consciousness relies more and more on the agents of the bourgeoisie who control the organizations formed by the working class in the previous period: mutual benefit societies, cooperatives, unions, parties… in a word “reformism”:
The cornerstone of reformism is the solidarity of the ‘reformist-socialists’ with the bourgeoisies of their ‘own’ countries. (Fourth Congress of the Communist International, Theses On The United Front, 1922, th. 7)
Whereas the reformists blame the masses for the responsibility of the defeats, the communists denounce the betrayal of the bureaucracies which currently control the workers’ organizations; whereas the centrists take reformism as mistakes, the communists judge it as the result of the corruption of the bureaucracies in the workers movement.
For your demonstration, you take two countries, Austria and France. For France, you mention “the reactionary trends in the mass of the working class”. And so? Were they absent in 1880? However, the program written jointly by Marx, Engels and Guesde (Programme du Havre, in Georges Lefranc, Le Mouvement socialiste sous la 3e République, 1977, Payot, t. 2, p. 399-400) does not take them into consideration. Were they absent in 1934? The program written on the proposal of Trotsky, which was used for preparing the Transitional Program, is not much interested in backward people:
The revolutionary regrouping of the proletariat will be carried out by the delimitation of a consequent class platform, fusions and splits. Such a development of the revolutionary party of the proletariat depends enormously on the own action of its most conscious elements… (Pierre Naville, Program of Action of the Communist League, 1934)
It is true that in contemporary France, Le Pen, the candidate of the Front national had 16.8 % of the votes in the first round of the presidential election, plus 2.3 % for his fascist rival Mégret of the MNR. Demagogue and xenophobic parties, like the FN or the FPÖ, succeed in searching scapegoats for the problems of the national economy. They use the demoralization of the petit-bourgeois classes and, in a lesser extent, of some workers and employees confronted with the unability of the governments implemented by the reformists to improve their situation.
It is true that some workers are infected by racism. However, three years after, many pupils, teachers and parents were mobilized in defence of foreign pupils and students “sans papiers”, that is without stay authorization. For instance, in June 2006, in a popular district in Nantes area, a petition received 215 signatures by parents in a four classes-nursery school, for the right of a family from Turkey with a child in it to stay in France
In Austria, in the first third of the 20th century, against the fascist threat, the proletariat was blocked by its social-democrat leadership. After the victory of fascism in Germany, a counter-offensive of the Austrian proletariat could have changed the course of history.
While immediately beginning on the way of active defence, the Austrian proletariat, supported by that of all the countries of Europe, could, by developing its offensive in a consequent and courageous way, to tear off the capacity of the hands of its enemies: the ratio of the forces inside guarantees its victory. Red Austria would immediately become a point of support for the German workers. All the situation would change brutally in favour of the revolution. The proletariat of Europe would feel that it represents an invincible force. And it misses only this conscience to crush all its enemies. (Leon Trotsky, Draft of declaration of the delegates belonging to the Left Opposition for the Congress of Struggle against Fascism, 1933)
But after having contained its troops in 1927 and 1929, the SPO kept trusting the bourgeois democracy, the so-called democrat bourgeois politicians. Is the deep-rooted reformist consciouness in the minds of the working class responsible? Or, despite the intentions of conscious workers, was it a criminal policy by the bureaucracy of the reformist party, corrupt by the parliamentarism, by the bourgeois state, by the capitalism?
Whereas the Italian and the German proletariats were defeated without a fight, the artillery was necessary to defeat the spontaneous resistance of the workers of Linz and of Vienna, who armed themselves in February 1934 against the fascist Heimwehern, who was supported by the police. That demonstrates that the masses must not be confused with the leadership: the leaders of the Austrian workers’ movement proved powerless and cowardly; though they were militarily defeated, the Austrian workers kept their honour safe and wrote a glorious page of the history of the world proletariat.
More recently, weren’t there strikes in Austria against the privatization of railway transportation and against the reform of pensions? Isn’t there any relation between the creation of your group in late 2003 and this renewal of the mass working class activity the months before?
The Permanent Revolution today
Whereas you do not show the practical consequences that you draw from the theory of the “deep-rooted reformist consciousness”, you wonder about the implementation of the program in the early 21st century: on the Anti-Imperialist United Front, on the constituent assembly in Bolivia, on the revolutionary social forces in Palestine, on the activism in unions.
13. There is no revolutionary policy without a fight to death against the conservative bureaucracies and their centrist flank guards
Within the unions, we fight for a revolutionary fraction in order to give them both a revolutionary leadership and a revolutionary program. We rely on the method of Minority movement in the British unions at Lenin times. Do you see it that way?
We agree with such a perspective. As far as we could, we have practiced that way in the recent years, everywhere it was possible (SUTEP in Peru, CGT, FO and FSU in France). If we blame sectarian movememnts (like the leftists of International Revolution, like the WSWS “4th International”…) which give up the fight in unions, we also are opposed to the centrists who create their own union besides the incumbent ones, in particular if they participate or comanage like reformist unions, as the LCR France does with the unions SUD and the confederation Solidaires, and the CRI France with its tiny FSE. Such division unions participate and comanage like reformist unions do. It must be added that such unions cannot replace the construction of the revolutionary party, and of comunist cores in the unions, like Lambert often did with doubtful allies. Most of all, we differentiate with the centrists who refuse to fight the corrupt bureaucracies, and even enter them.
The sections of the Fourth International should always strive not only to renew the top leadership of the trade unions, boldly and resolutely in critical moments advancing new militant leaders in place of routine functionaries and careerists, but also to create in all possible instances independent militant organizations corresponding more closely to the tasks of mass struggle against bourgeois society; and, if necessary, not flinching even in the face of a direct break with the conservative apparatus of the trade unions. (The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
For the unions and for the construction of the party, which political and organizational conclusions do you draw from the “deep-rooted reformist consciouness in the minds of the working class”? How to “take into consideration” those “objective facts, for revolutionaries”? We only know two ways, none of which leads to a “workers’ policy”: either we build a society only devoted to study and propaganda, in the wait for better days, or we turn to a “large” party which corresponds to the workers’ backwardness, whether it is an incumbent reformist or nationalist party, or we participate to its creation.
On the one hand, in focusing on the development of the productive forces at a time when it slows down, and in discovering in the early 21st century a “reformist consciouness” resulting from the “economic expansion” corresponding to the bygone post-war years, you seem to be a period late. On the other hand, you praise the “method” of the Transitional Program, but you do not see that it is devoted to answer a problem that you raise in a separate way.
Revolutionaries bet on the unavoidable fight between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and they work, in the most difficult circumstances, for the construction of the necessary party. Actually, this is what you do in practice: if no Austrian worker is interested in class struggle, in revolution and in communism, why discussing with Bolshevik cores in other countries, why having arguments with centrists in your own state about a distant country, why publishing a paper, why constituting a “group for a workers’ revolutionary policy” in Austria?
As dialecticians, you have to expect contradictions, sudden reversals; communists know that the workers’ consciousness is differentiated and uneven.
The victory is not at all the ripe fruit of the “maturity” of the proletariat. The victory is a strategic task. It is necessary to use the favourable conditions of a revolutionary crisis in order to mobilize the masses; by taking as starting point the level given of their “maturity”, it is necessary to push them to go ahead, to learn them to realize that the enemy is absolutely not omnipotent, that it is torn of contradictions, who panic reigns behind his imposing frontage. If the Bolshevik Party had not succeeded in concluding its work, one could not even speak about proletarian revolution. The Soviets would have been crushed by the counter-revolution, and the small wise advisers of all the countries would have written articles or books whose leitmotiv would have been that only unrepentant visionaries could dream in Russia of the dictatorship of a so weak proletariat numerically and if not very ripe. (Leon Trotsky, Class, party and direction: why the Spanish proletariat was overcome? 1939)
Our 2003 document has many flaws. In any case, if he does not “take into consideration” the backwardness of the workers, it is in good company. Few policy documents do. For instance, the Communist Manifesto does not really blame the workers who go to religious ceremonies, who make their children work or who drink too much alcohol. In your letter, you praise the Transitional Program, but it seems that you pay no attention to the advices given by Trotsky to his comrades of the American branch, the SWP:
The program must express the objective tasks of the working class rather than their political backwardness. (Leon Trotsky, Discussions on the Transitional Program, 1938)
All is the leadership, the construction of a new party and of a new International.
The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership. (The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
For an alliance between the proletariat, the other workers and the youth in the process of education
You are perfectly right to note that a correct position on Bolivia requires an answer to the issue of the land. The issue of the alliance with the peasantry is still crucial, especially in countries like Peru or Bolivia.
We must promote a “united front” with the students organisations and peasants ones. (Leon Trotsky, Discussions on China, 1935)
On the world scale, the accumulation of capital leads to question the main contradiction of our period on a higher level, more capital against more proletariat. On the world scale, one of the most important consequences is the numerical lowering of the traditional petite-bourgeoisie (especially the peasants), and the numerical strenghtening of the working class (workers, employees, technicians…). In advanced countries, the need for exploitation and for social cohesion, as well as the pressures by intermediate layers and by the working class for instruction and for qualification lead to a new situation: most of the youth gets educated instead of being immediately exploited.
However, in the early 21st century, the social forms bear marks of the decline of capitalism: huge reserve army of the economy (unemployed) and decline of the industrial workforce in the imperiailst countries, proliferation of professionals in repression bodies (army, police, prison officers, private militias…) and of some petit-bourgeois layers (liberal professions and mainly executives in advances countries, independent workers in cities of countries under domination).
The artificial preservation of antiquated petty-bourgeois strata in no way mitigates the social contradictions, but, on the contrary, invests them with a special malignancy, and together with the permanent army of the unemployed constitutes the most malevolent expression of the decay of capitalism. (Leon Trotsky, Ninety Years of the Communist Manifesto, 1937)
The communists must find catchwords to answer that situation: Popular and workers’ alliance? Alliance of all the workers (wage-earners, self-employed, in formation)? In any case, the catchword of workers’ and peasant government has no meaning anymore in countries of Europe, North America, Oceania and Asia, where there are more students, and even more engineers and doctors than working peasants.
There is only one oppressed people in Palestine
We think that it is absolutely necessary to add that we advocate full rights for Israeli-Jewish workers and that Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian workers must fight together against their reactionary regimes and against the world imperialism.
Unless translation problem, such a symmetry between Palestinian and Jewish workers who are supposed to fight against their respective reactionary regime is false. The ones have all rights, the others have none. It leads to the solution of the “two States” proposed by the UN and the imperialist powers.
The Collective admits that transitional, or even democratic, catchwords, will have a function in the mobilization of the masses under the rule of the proletariat. That is precisely the reason why we do not put on the same plan an oppressive state (Israel) and an oppressed people (the Arabs from Palestine). No Palestinian tank has ever entered Israel territory, whereas the Zionist army drones all Palestine, frightens Arabs, destroys their cultivations, their infrastructures and their housings. If only the proletariat of the Middle-East can solve the national issue, the Jewish workers from Israel can play their part only if they succeed in breaking up with Jewish nationalism, whereas the Palestinian workers must lead the struggle against the national oppression against the Arabs from Palestine (living in Israel or the Territories) and the Palestinian refugees. The Collective does not conceal that it is in favour of the destruction of the colonial state, which is representative of the American imperialism in the region, as a preliminary condition for a Palestine in which atheistic or Israelite Jewishs will be allowed to live as well as atheistic, Muslim or Christian Arabs, within a socialist federation of the Middle-East.
The Permanent Revolution Collective upholds that only the unity of the workers of all the area around the oppressed Palestinians in Israel, the Territories and the refugee camps will open the possibility of a Palestine as well for the Jews as the Arabs, secular, democratic and socialist, who will be viable only within the Socialist Federation of the Middle East. (Release the militants of the FPLP! 2006)
The Collective rejects all adaptation to the imperialist bourgeoisies and to their UN, which leads to the justification of the colonial state of Israel. It denies any adaptation to the reactionary Islamism under the pretext of Anti-Imperialist United Front with the Palestinian bourgeoisie and with the Arabic (or Persian) regimes in the neighbourood.
The Constituent Assembly may turn into a slipknot under the neck of the proletariat
For us, the issue of the constituent assembly corresponds to the issue of the working class consciousnness. We naturally reject it as a strategy but in some situations we think that it is good and necessary as a tactics. You rejected it in Bolivia, seemingly because, as a starting point, you assumed that most of the Bolivian masses had already broken with reformism and that the demand for a constituent assembly only could send them away from the fight for power. Some comrades in the GRA do not share that view. They think that, even if oppressed and exploited masses in Bolivia, which are isolated and extremely disorganized, have shown revolutionary energy, they have not broken with crucial reformist illusions yet. For these comrades, the tactics of the revolutionary constituant would have been a way for clearing masses from such reformist illusions.
Reformists and centrists often recall that Luxemburg criticized the dissolution of the National Assembly by the Bolshevik Party. What they forget is that, soon before her assassination by the social-democrat government, as she faced the democratic slipknot gripped by the leaders of the SPD around the neck of the German proletariat and of the workers’ councils, she wrote the following:
The French National Assembly is an out of date heritage of the bourgeois revolutions, an empty thimble, a residue of the time of the middle-class illusions on the “single people”, on “freedom, equality, fraternity” of the bourgeois state. Who, today, resort the national assembly, that one wants, consciously or unconsciously, to bring back the revolution until the historical stage of the bourgeois revolutions; it is a camouflaged agent of the bourgeoisie… (Rosa Luxemburg, The National Assembly, 1918)
The temporary catchword of a Constituent or a National Assembly is meaningful only when the masses, especially the majority of the petit-bourgeoisie, are denied the right to influence the official policy, by a foreign oppressor, or by domestic authoritarian regime.
The slogan for a National (or Constituent) Assembly preserves its full force for such countries as China or India. (Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
Socialism does not result from the bourgeois democracy, as Ted Grant and Peter Taaffe wrote, but from the power of the soviets.
At a certain stage in the mobilization of the masses under the slogans of revolutionary democracy, soviets can and should arise. Their historical role in each given period, particularly their relation to the National Assembly, will be determined by the political level of the proletariat, the bond between them and the peasantry, and the character of the proletarian party policies. Sooner or later, the soviets should overthrow bourgeois democracy. Only they are capable of bringing the democratic revolution to a conclusion and likewise opening an era of socialist revolution. (Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
The government of the MAS used the Constituent Assembly in order to prevent the emergence of Soviet organs, like the indigenous popular Assembly in El Alto and the Coordination of Cochamba in June 2005.
The « Trotskyists » follow the bourgeois and reformist nationalists, who turn democratic catchwords, which only can be conjunctural, into slipknots around the proletariat like in France in 1945, in Brazil in 1985 and in Bolivia in 2006. For instance, the LCR France, who openly rejected the dictatorship of the proletariat, who voted Chirac in 2002, who advocated the No in the European Union referendum, with the PCF and the chauvinistic party MRC, approves the Constituent Assembly.
Evo Morales election victory results from Bolivian popular mobilizations for the nationalization of hydrocarbons and of natural resources, for the defence and the industrialization of the production of coca leaves, for a sovereign economic policy to the US and European imperialisms, for a democratic society founded by a new Constituent Assembly. (LCR, Communiqué, 2005 December 19th)
The PT France, a social-chauvinist sect which does not defend the right to entry for immigrant workers, which had a campaign with the MRC against the European Constitution, favours the Constituent Assembly, in France as in Bolivia:
Bolivia: No early elections, no succession. Sovereign Constituent Assembly, nationalization of oil and of gaz! (Informations Ouvrières, 2005 June 23th)
All the same, the SWP Britain, which organized the European Social Forum in London in October 2004 with the social-democrat mayor Ken Livingstone, and which takes part in the implementation of a Popular Front (Respect) in its own country, supports the Constituent Assembly of the bourgeois government in Bolivia.
MAS must now convert its proposals into reality, promoting growth and keeping its promises — nationalisation of the country’s vast hydrocarbon reserves, land reform, the elimination of corruption, increased investment in education and culture, and the organisation of a constituent assembly, planned for August 2006. (Socialist Worker, 7 January 2006)
WP Britain follows its motherhouse:
A Constitutional Assembly can be a powerful tool in sweeping away privileges, corruption, an undemocratic constitution and so on. (Workers Power, May 2006)
The LCR and the PT, the SWP and the WP give so many advantages to a simple change in the appearance of the bourgeois state! In a country where the democratic rights have been recovered since 1982, where the masses drove an elected president away and attempted to organize Soviet organs, the Constituent Assembly is nothing else than an attempt by the bourgeois government to create a diversion.
It is true that the Collective rejected the catchword for a Constituent Assembly in Argentina in 2001, in Bolivia in 2003 and 2005, in Ecuador in 2005, but not because it had judged that the masses “had broken with reformism”! We have tried to assess the concrete situation, the real mobilization of the masses. On the one hand, democratic freedoms, including the right to vote for deputies, to enter political parties, have existed for years in those three countries. On the other hand, the revolutionary mobilization of the proletarian and petit-bourgeois masses did not confront with a fascist regime or with an absolute monarchy, but with the bourgeois democracy, with organs resulting from universal suffrage, in chasing away the elected president.
The party must remember that, compared to its principal objective (the conquest of the capacity weapons to the hand), the democratic watchwords are only one secondary, provisional, momentary, episodical. (Leon Trotsky, The Chinese Question after the 6th congress of the Communist International, 1928)
But the formulae of democracy (freedom of press, the right to unionize, etc.) mean for us only incidental or episodic slogans in the independent movement of the proletariat and not a democratic noose fastened to the neck of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie’s agents (Spain!) (Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
The capitulation of the “Trotskyists” on the Constitutional Assembly in Bolivia is connected to their perspective to support sectors of the bourgeoisie.
Why keeping a formulation which has resulted into disasters for more than eighty years?
We find it curious that, whereas you insist on the necessity to amend the outmoded character of the 1938 formula on the productive forces, you show respect for a formula dating at least from 1922. It proved to be outmoded even at the time of the 3rd International, and it has been used to conceal the worst mistakes of the “Troskyists” afterwards. It was also decisive in the destruction of the 4th International.
We share your opinion that, with reference to the Lenin’s Anti-Imperialist United Front tactics, the 4th International and its epigons made many unprincipled alliances with national bourgeois parties in the imperialist world. However, this does not prove for us that this tactics is absolutely wrong. We found no passage, after 1927, in which Trotsky had a positive or a negative attitude to it. Whether it took a wrong path since the beginning and should then be retrospectivelty rejected, or it is basically correct even if its achievement is very unlikely and will be more and more unlikely, is still an open quetion to us.
The 3rd International was unsure on the strategy in backward countries, especially on class alliances; this was discussed during the 2nd Congress of the 3rd International (1920), during the 1st Congress of the peoples of the Orient (1920) and during the 4th Congress of the 3rd International (1922), resulting into the slogan “Anti-Imperialist United Front”.
Including the revolutionary character of the popular movement in colonies and in other dominated countries, under Lenin’s insistence, the 3rd International spreads the victorious strategy of the Bolshevik Party in Russia on the world scale, as an alliance of the proletariat from Europe with the peasants from Asia.
It is particularly significant to support the peasants movement of the backward countries against the small landed proprietors, against the large landed property, against all the expressions or survivals of feudalism. It is necessary to try to give the peasants movement the most revolutionary character, while linking everywhere where that is possible the peasants and all exploited in Soviets, and consequently carrying out the narrowest possible union between the communist proletariat of Western Europe and the revolutionary movement of the peasants in the East… (Theses on the National and Colonial Questions, 2nd CI Congress, 1920)
However, the question of the orientation within the dominated countries is still open. In the debates in the 3rd International, Lenin defends a different strategy than the one he advocated more and more clearly in Russia from 1903: the democratic revolution will be led by a coalition between the working class and the peasantry, any alliance with the Russian “liberal” bourgeoisie must be denied. Lenin’s starting point is the weakness of the communist cores and the deficiency of the proletariat in those countries.
We have here a lot of representatives of the revolutionary movement of the advanced capitalist countries and backward countries too. It is only one small beginning, but it is a beginning. Union of the revolutionary proletarians of the advanced capitalist countries with the revolutionary masses of the countries where there is not or almost not proletariat… (Vladimir Lenin, Report on the World Situation and Tasks of the CI, 2nd congress of the IC, 1920)
Lenin’s conclusion is the necessity of an alliance with the national bourgeoisie.
The Communist International must conclude a temporary alliance with the bourgeois democrats of the colonies and the backward countries… (Vladimir Lenin, Outline of theses on the national question, 1920)
He clashes with Manabendra Nath Roy (India) who tells:
The gap in the colonial countries between the bourgeois democratic movement led by the bourgeoisie and the movement of the workers and poor peasants worsens unceasingly. The former tries to control the later. The CI must oppose to this control…
The outcome of the debate is rather confused. Some of the most doubtful parts in Lenin’s project for theses are mitigated. As a result, they are unanimously adopted by the 2nd Congress, together with the “complementary theses” by Roy, which are contradictory rather than complementary, under a proposal by Henk Sneevliet (Indonesia). Lenin’s positions rapidly proved to be wrong in Turkey when, in 1921, the bourgeois nationalist movement kills Mustapha Saphi, the delegate in the 1st Congress, and all the leadership of the young Communist Party.
Between the 3rd and the 4th Congress, the KPD and the leadership of the 3rd International adopted the “workers’ united front” tactics on the basis of the German experience (and of the Russian Revolution). By definition, the workers’ united front rejects any alliance with the bourgeoisie:
The precise task of the CI and its sections will be to reveal to the masses the hypocrisy of the workers leaders who prefer the union with the bourgeoisie… By unity of the proletarian front, it is necessary to understand the unity of all the workers wishing to fight capitalism… (Thesis on the Unity of thePproletarianFront, 1922)
The 4th Congress adopts ambiguous theses for countries under domination. Together with all kinds of correct claims, it is asserted the bourgeoisie may play a progressive role in Asia, and alliances between the bourgeoisie and the workers’ party are made possible, under the name of “Anti-Imperialist United Front”.
The fundamental task, commune with all the national revolutionary movements, consists in carrying out the national unity and the political autonomy. The real and logical solution of this task depends on the importance of the working masses that any national movement will be able to involve in its course, after having broken all relations with the feudal elements and reactionaries… Just as the slogan of the proletarian united front has contributed and still contributes in Occident to uncover the treason, by the social democrats, of the interests of the proletariat, the slogan of the anti-imperialist united front wiill contribute to uncover the hesitations and uncertainties of the various groups of bourgeois nationalism. (General Theses on the Orient Question, 1922)
If the Anti-Imperialist United Front in backward countries corresponds to the workers’ united front in the advanced countries and if the superior form of the workers’ united front (as Trotsky said later) is the Soviet, what is the superior form of the Anti-Imperialist United Front?
The Anti-Imperialist United Front is the proposal by the communsit parties for a political coalition with the bourgeois nationalism in dominated countries. The reporter of the Commission on the issue of Orient, Karl Radek, addresses explicitly the 4th Congress:
The 2nd Congress had decided to support the bourgeois nationalist movement in the colonies: it was a right decision and it is necessary to continue to conform to it, in spite of the “treason” of Kemal Pasha in Turkey, which represents an episode of the class struggle. In the East, the revolution is not close and we should not be over-estimated the revolutionary forces…
In China, the “bourgeois nationalism” was the Guomindang. The Chinese communists entered the Guomindang in 1923. In 1926, Boukharin and Stalin advise them not to create Soviets, to slow the workers down, not to oppose the Guomindang. In 1927, the 3rd International founds an “anti-imperialist Alliance” on the world scale with the Guomindang; Jiang Jieshi, leader of the Guomindang, is appointed as honour member of the 3rd International.
The crushing of the proletarian revolution in China in 1927 and the slander of militants of the CCP by the Guomindang led to the necessity to amend the program developed by a part of the Opposition.
In adopting the strategy of the permanent revolution, the 4th International clears an ambiguity of the 3rd International
Since 1922, there has been a revolution and a counter-revolution in China. You have to assess it, since it marked the birth of the International Left Opposition.
There was the Russian Revolution. It is a test. Then the Chinese Revolution – it is by there that we started. (Leon Trotsky, Discussion on a possible fusion with lovestonists, 1938)
When Stalin and Boukharin made up the “socialism in one country”, when they forgot Lenin’s advices and betrayed the guarantees of the first four congresses of the 3rd International, when they regressed back to Menchevism and fell into the alliance with the Guomindang, Trotsky often warned against the submission to the nationalist leadership, asked for leaving the Guomindang and for breaking up with the anti-imperialist Alliance, and he drew essential lessons, which are crucial for the drama of the Chinese revolution.
The Chinese revolution has a bourgeois national content… Whatever the relative importance of the “feudal” elements, they can be swept only by the revolutionary way, so by the fight against the bourgeoisie and not in alliance with it. (Leon Trotsky, the Chinese Revolution and theses of Stalin, 1927)
If you agree with that, what is left from the “Anti-Imperialist United Front”?
Each decision of the 3rd International was not infallible. The first four congresses were insufficiently focused on the democracy within the party, on fascism, on the analysis of the capitalist economy, on class alliances in countries under domination… The revolutionary executives had to rapidly grasp problems for which Marx and Engels gave no precise direction. 80 years after, you should consider the Anti-Imperialist United Front as a confused, anachronous and dangerous slogan, as it testifies a past stage of our history, but certainly not as a catchchword for now.
As with the policy documents from 1930 to 1940 which were adopted by the 4th International, the way the Collective refers to the first four congresses of the 3rd Internaional concerns is basic strategy, not every sentence, and not the tactics of the Anti-Imperialist United Front which history proved wrong.
Equally formalistic is your statement that you find unacceptable the statutes of the French Ligue communiste which solidarize with the first four congresses of the CI. In all likehood, there is not French comrade who holds that everything in the decisions of the first four congresses is infallible and immutable. It is for them a question of the basic strategic line. (Leon Trotsky, To the Editorial Board of Prometeo, 1930)
After what the 3rd International experimented in the countries under domination, the Left Opposition extended and systematized the strategy of the permanent revolution, which was conceived by Trotsky for the tsarist Russia, and entirely established by 1917. Even if the renouncement to the wrong theses of the 3rd International is not explicit, for evident reasons, at a time when the Stalinists slander the Bolsheviks-Leninists and set Trotsky against Lenin, the Left Opposition never refer to the Anti-Imperialist United Front. For every careful reader, it is clear that Trotsky has dropped it. The Groupe Bolchevik asked the POR Argentina to find a reference to it in the 4th International papers with Trotsky still alive. It still waits for the answer.
One of the most decisive contribution of Trotsky is that the working class must lead the whole revolution, even in backward countries where it is socially a minority.
Not only the agrarian, but also the national question assigns to the peasantry—the overwhelming majority of the population in backward countries—an exceptional place in the democratic revolution. Without an alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry the tasks of the democratic revolution cannot be solved, nor even seriously posed. But the alliance of these two classes can be realized in no other way than through an irreconcilable struggle against the influence of the national-liberal bourgeoisie. (Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution, 1931)
The 4th International clearly advises an alliance of wage earners with the independent workers and with youth in formation, under the rule of the proletariat.
It is necessary to distinguish the united front from common actions… A common action, in particular a short-term action, is a thing. But the capitulation in front of the bourgeoisie, a plain permanent front as the French Popular Front is another thing. It is completely different… We must promote a united front with the peasants organisations ant students organisations. (Leon Trotsky, Discussions on China, 1935)
Until 1927, Radek advocated the membership of the CCP in the Guomindang and he kept justifying afterwards. From 1934, the leadership of the 3rd International and the communist parties in the imperialist countries fell into patriotism, equalizing Stalinism and social-democracy and proving the analysis of the 1933 Left Opposition right: the 3rd International is dead as a revolutionary organization. The bureaucracy of the USSR, as the social force which controls the 3rd International and which turned it into its own instrument, extends the Anti-Imperialist United Front even to the advanced coutries, including those who had a bourgeois revolution, under the name of Popular Front. In the countries under domination, submitting the proletariat to the national bourgeoisie led to many defeats: Greece in 1944, Iran in 1953, Iraq in 1958, Indonesia in 1965, Jordan in 1970, Chile in 1973…
The 1938 program not only brought transitional demands. Beyond, it falsifies the Popular Front for backward countries (and then the Anti-Imperialist United Front) as well as for advanced countries, and it updates and improves the strategy of the world revolution in including the issue of the degenerate workers’ state (political revolution) and in clarifying the class character of the revolution in backward countries (permanent revolution).
The relative weight of the individual democratic and transitional demands in the proletariat’s struggle, their mutual ties and their order of presentation, is determined by the peculiarities and specific conditions of each backward country and to a considerable extent by the degree of its backwardness. Nevertheless, the general trend of revolutionary development in all backward countries can be determined by the formula of the permanent revolution. (Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
All the same, the 1940 manifesto rejects Radek’s Anti-Imperialist United Front and any political coalition with the bourgeoisie:
The fight for the national independence of the colonies is, from the point of view of the revolutionary proletariat, a transitory stage on the road which will plunge the backward countries into the international socialist revolution. The 4th International does not draw up a wall between backward countries and advanced ones, between democratic and socialist revolutions. It combines them and subordinates them to the world struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors. Just as the only authentically revolutionary force of our time is the international proletariat, in the same way the only true program for the liquidation of any oppression, social or national, is that of the permanent revolution. (Leon Trotsky, The Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution, 1940)
In 1922, the Anti-Imperialist United Front was a mistake; in 1951, it is a crime
In 1951, at the 3rd Congress, the leadership of the 4th International itself revised the program. With the ejection of the French branch, which opposed its deviations before the 3rd Congress, and with the support of the International Secretariat to pro-Stalinist segments in the British and the American branchs, it turned to the destruction of the International.
The Pablo-Mandel-Maitan-Frank-Posadas International Secretariat considered that the Stalinist bureaucracy, or at least a crucial part of it, was able to change and to adopt “Trotskyism”, and therefore it was useless to build Bolshevik-kind workers’ revolutionary parties. In countries where the bureaucracy had stolen the power of the working class (Yugoslavia, China, Eastern Europe and USSR), the political revolution, the perspective of defeating the bureaucracy by the working class was actually abandoned. In countries under the rule of the Stalinist party the International Secretariat charged the branchs to join it. In dominated countries, especially in Latin America where there were branches, that meant the adaptation to the policy of the Stalinists, to the Popular Fronts.
At the 3rd Congress of the 4th International in 1951, its leaders Pablo and Mandel regressed into the “Anti-Imperialist United Front”, that is the alliance with branchs of the national bourgeoisie, against the strategy of the permanent revolution, which was the explicit programmatic basis of the Bolshevik-Leninist International. As Pablo could not openly act at that stage, he mixed – in a hesitant or concealed way – orthodox sentences with an orientation that led him to become the advicer of an Algerian bourgeois government. Such was the operation:
Pablo called for temporary alliances with anti-imperialist movements of the petite-bourgeoisie, which is actually possible, even necessary, in certain circumstances:
The proletariat and its party could be brought to lead momentary alliances with one or another such movement of the petty bourgeoisie for limited and precise goals of common action. (Resolution on the Latin America, 1951)
Then he fraudulently presented bourgeois nationalist movements (APRA, MNR) as petit-bourgeois.
Which distinguishes us from the past, which makes the quality of our current movement and which constitutes the surest pledge of our future victories, is our increasing capacity to understand, to appreciate the movement of the masses such as it exists… and to seek to find our place in this movement… It is the case for example in Latin America where the mass anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement often takes confused forms, under a petty bourgeois leadership, as in Peru with the APRA, as in Bolivia with the MNR, or even bourgeois as in Brazil with Vargas, as in Argentina with Perón. (Michel Pablo, Report to the 3rd Congress, 1951)
This allowed the introduction, eleven years after the murder of Trotsky, of the alliance with the bourgeoisie, the Popular Front against which the 4th International was founded, under the more acceptable banner of “anti-imperialist unted front”.
In Bolivia, our section… will try to influence the left wing of the MNR… It will recommend a tactic of anti-imperialist united front towards the whole of the MNR… (Resolution on the Latin America, 1951)
One of the weakest points of the International Committee of the 4th International, the fraction founded in 1953 by the branches which resisted Pabloism, was its unability to question this 1951 revision and to draw lessons from its application in Bolivia in 1952. Under the leadership of Pierre Lambert, the PCI France adopted it with nationalist movement in Algeria (MNA) in the second half of the 1950s. Under the leadership of Gerry Healey, the WRP GB applied it with the bourgeois nationalist regimes in the Middle East in the mid-1970s. Today, almost all the movements who claim to represent the 4th International and Trotskyism advocate the “Anti-Imperialist United Front”, including the CRI France and the L5I (former LICR).
Yet, such a smuggling introduction of the Popular Front under the hypocritical banner of Anti-Imperialist United Front was used to conceal real betrayals of the proletariat under the banner of the 4th International. In Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Sri Lanka, Algeria… Pabloism reproduced the policy of social-democracy and of Stalinism. During the Bolivian revolutions in 1952 and 1971, such a programmatic revision and historical regression resulted into the submission of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, like in Stalinist politics.
The Anti-Imperialist United Front in pratice is still the Popular Front
Actually, Pablo and Mandel’s line went beyond “temporary alliances for limited and precise goals”, both in the object and in time, and it rapidly extended to nationalisms that were judged bourgeois by the 1951 resolution, like the “Justicialist” movement in Argentina. Two Argentinian groups took part to the 3rd Congress, the branch recognized by the International secretariat, the GCI led by Posadas, and the POR led by Moreno. The delegation of the POR, including Moreno, criticizes itelf:
Two POR delegates make a self-criticism: the direction of our party was against the slogan of anti-imperialist united front … (Declaration of the Argentinean POR at the Latin-American Commission, 1951)
Under the inspiration of the Congress, the POR got disciplined under the banner of the bourgeois nationalism of the general Perón. During his entire career, Moreno was to build “large parties” in Argentina.
The 1953 general strike in East Germany and the 1956 revolution in Hungary, like the 1952 revolution in Bolivia rapidly proved the failure of Pabloism. The POR Bolivia had a working class basis, with a tradition and an influence. A revolution led by the Bolshevik-Leninist party was accessible in Bolivia. It would have changed the situation in all Latin America, it would have reinstated the 4th International on the way of the program and it would have been a boost in the whole world… Conversely, against all the lessons of Bolshevism, against the permanent revolution, the POR supported the MNR bourgeois government in Paz, the POR aligned with Lechín’s “left-wing” in the bourgeois nationalist party which controlled the new workers’ union, the COB – he was a minister in the bourgeois government.
A Bolivian government which will obey the will of the Bolivians and not of the Yanks… The petty bourgeois government, owing to the force of political circumstances, has the possibility of being transformed and changed into a phase of the Workers and Peasants government (Lucha Obrera, POR, May 25, 1952, quoted byr José Villa, La Revolución de 1952, Poder Obrero, 1992)
The POR will support the left wing of the MNR in its fights against the line of the party… (Lucha Obrera, November 11, 1952)
The working class must actively intervene in the formation of the new government. (Lucha Obrera, November 11, 1952)
The whole fight is centred on the slogan: control total of the state by the left wing of the MNR. (POR, June 23, 1953)
Therefore, thanks to the MNR, to its left wing and to the POR, the Bolivian bourgeoisie could control the situation, rebuild its army and reestablish the order. The POR split from 1953 to 1956, some of its executives joined the MNR. In 1971, the remainder of the POR bet on generals to arm the proletariat. After the working class was crushed, Guillermo Lora, the hopelessly defender of the Anti-Imperialist United Front, entered a political coalition with the Stalinists and the bourgeois nationalists who opposed the Banzer dictatorship, like a Popular Front.
In 1956, the POR Peru supported, together with the Stalinist party, the candidacy of Belaúnde by National front of young democrats which founds the bourgeois party Acción popular. He will be president twice. As far as the POR is concerned, it became a Castroist follower of the peasant guerilla, under the name of FIR. In 1985, the fellow organization of the LCR dissolved in the PUM, who called for voting the reactionary Fujimori in 1990.
In Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the LSSP, with a significant working class basis, also implemented the Anti-Imperialist United Front. In 1956, the LSSP critically supported the bourgeois SLFP when the latter took the power. In 1960, the LSSP supported the SLFP again during the elections. In 1964, the LSSP entered the bourgeois government. The most important branch in Asia was destroyed.
The alliance with the bourgeoisies in Asia advocated by Lenin in the 2nd Congress of the 3rd International in 1920 for the countries without a real working class, which was named “Anti-Imperialist United Front” in 1922 by Radek, proved to be a historical dead end: the bourgeoisies in countries under domination have no more revolutionary function than the bourgeoisie had in Russia in 1905 and in 1917. Besides the development of the productive forces that you evoke numerically strengthened the proletariat in many former colonies or semi-colonies: South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea…
Late Nahuel Moreno finally questioned the permanent revolution, like late Tony Cliff did before. In practice, the Cliffist SWP supported, more than once, the Muslim reaction in countries under domination. In its country, it takes part to a petit-bourgeois nationalist party (SSP) in Scotland and it implemented a Popular Front coalition (Respect) in England with a Muslim organization (MAB) and a reformist leader who favours a control of the immigrants and is against abortion (Galloway).
The adoption by the LICR of the “Anti-Imperialist United Front” led WP and its L5I to flatter he Social Forum, like the SWP and its TSI, and to make pressure on the ruling Popular Front in Brazil:
The Brazilian working class, poor landless peasants and small farmers must be welded into an unstoppable power to force the Lula government off the path of enslavement to the IMF and its domestic backers and onto the road of confrontation with Brazilian capitalism. (Fifth International n 2, p. 91)
The L5I ridiculously wishes that the government PT-PSDB-PDT-PRB will “confront capitalism”.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is candidate for his own succession… Mr. Lula da Silva will be accompanied by the same vice-president, José Alencar, of the Brazilian Republican Party, been dependent on the Evangelists. (Le Monde, June 26, 2006)
For the L5I, the perspective for the working class is to pressurize a bourgeois government, like for the GR, the POUM, the LSSP, the MIR and many others whose the false 4th International has a minister within the Lula-Alencar government. At the test of the Popular Front, the L5I proves to be a variation on centrism and revisionism. Its line of a “fighting Popular Front” (Marceau–Pivert) is contradictory with the program, which advocates the break up with the bourgeoisie.
The central task of the Fourth International consists in freeing the proletariat from the old leadership, whose conservatism is in complete contradiction to the catastrophic eruptions of disintegrating capitalism and represents the chief obstacle to historical progress. The chief accusation which the Fourth International advances against the traditional organizations of the proletariat is the fact that they do not wish to tear themselves away from the political semi-corpse of the bourgeoisie… Of all parties and organizations which base themselves on the workers and peasants and speak in their name, we demand that they break politically from the bourgeoisie and enter upon the road of struggle for the workers’ and farmers’ government. On this road we promise them full support against capitalist reaction. At the same time, we indefatigably develop agitation around those transitional demands which should in our opinion form the program of the “workers’ and farmers’ government.”(Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)
Comrades of the GRA, if you are faithful to the program, if you reject the Popular Front, put an en to the legacy of destructors of the 4th International, with a catchword that justifies coalitions with the bourgeoisie! The proletariat from Venezuela and from Bolivia need a clear program, neither regression nor confusion.
Propositions for a common work and for a principled reassembling
We see, as the main objective of a flexible international movement, the gradual construction of policy documents, as the basis for an increasing political homogeneization. Current resolutions and common policies would be second-handed. For us, a small group which was recently created, this means that, in the international discussion with you, we want to clarify programmatic issues, and that we would draw up political resolutions on the basis of some political agreement.
You have a positive attitude. However, your opposition between “policy documents” and “current and political resolutions” is formalist and artificial.
A platform or a program is something that comes as a result of extensive experiences from joint activities on the basis of a certain number of common ideas and methods. (Leon Trotsky, To the Editorial Board of Prometeo, 1930)
Policy documents are not reducible to history and theory. It is true that they refer to history and theory, but in order to draw lessons from current and recent issues in the world class struggle, in order to formalize the agreement on today events and tasks. Besides, the GRA gets currently differentiated with the Grantists and with other opportunistic pseudo-Trotskyists movements on a current political problem, class struggle in Venezuela.
What is the party? In what does the cohesion consist? This cohesion is a common understanding of the events, of the tasks, and this common understanding-that is the program of the party. (Léon Trotsky, Discussions on the Transitional Program, 1938)
We frankly replied your letter. As a summary:
The program is a common attitude of the revolutionaries on the main issues in the world class struggle.
The current period is the period of decay of the capitalist mode of production, which can include stages of expansion. The world socialist revolution is necessary for the development of humanity, which is impeded by the capitalist relations of production and by outdated boarders.
Since the bourgeoisie completed its revolutionary function for long, the program of the communists in the 21st century must reject the anti-imperialist united front and any perspective of alliance with that class, in accordance with the lessons of the class struggle for one century.
The main barrier to the socialist revolution is in the current leadership of masses, not in the subjective backwardness of classes. The task for the communists is to build a new leadership.
Democratic demands are sometimes useful, transitional demands are essential, but the objective is to take the power, they are subjected to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
If you agree with those points, our approaches are close enough for working in a common international framework, towards the construction of a revolutionary workers’ international. Both of us have an important responsibility after a period of objective and subjective retreat.
The restoration of capitalism in Russia in 1991 is a huge defeat for the proletariat, whose vanguard also suffers the consequences. It is very likely that, for some years, only small groups and fractions will turn to the program. In difficult circumstances, our ability to gather the communist will be crucial for giving a framework to the new generation who did not suffer such defeats and who fights everywhere against the exploitation and against the oppression: the movement of Latino workers in the US, the massive protests in Western Europe against the imperialist attack inIraq, the popular uprisings in many countries in South America, the mobilization in Spain against Aznar and against the premises of the PP, the recent students’ movements in Italy, France, Chile and Greece announce the next revolutionary wave.
Despite linguistic barriers, the Collective is ready to meet you, as you propose, soon and where you would like to, for discussing the following texts:
The Theses of the GRA on the 4th International,
The Manifesto for the Socialist United States of Europe, by the Collective,
The letter of the GRA to the Collective,
The above answer by the Political Board.
Besides, we propose that:
The leadership of the GRA prepares with the Political Board of the Collective the next statements on the main international events;
The groups in the Collective are invited to the next conference of the GRA and the groups in the Collective invite the GRA to their conference;
The Theses on the International are a basis for a six months open discussion, so that each group (Austria, Spanish state, Peru, Greece, France) and each member of a national leadership can contribute freely;
The leadership of the GRA and the political bureau of the Collective ask the GG to rewrite the 21 points in order to open a discussion between the Collective and the GRA in order to achieve a common platform in less than one year.
In that way, we will satisfy the conditions for a participation of the Bolshevik-Leninists from Austria to an elaboration (including a serious analysis on the economic world situation) and to a common struggle in an international framework which will be democratic and revolutionary.
Though our forces are small, whether the GRA joins the Collective would be a long stride both for the Collective and for the GRA.
The Political Bureau of the Collective