The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Putting an End to the Crumbling of the Trotskyist Movement

Jan 21, 1976

Nearly forty years after the founding of the Fourth International, the Trotskyist movement is the only international movement to argue the necessity of an independent proletarian political line and organization. Only Trotskyism has the goal in its basic programmatic formulations to establish the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Other currents – the so-called state capitalist groups and their various offshoots – make explicit references to proletarian revolution. But they never structured themselves on an international scale and have abandoned the very idea. They were never able to elaborate a political line of their own. Most of them define themselves with respect to the Trotskyist movement, from which the majority of them come.

As for the so-called Maoist groups, though they exist in almost every country and even have a notable influence in some underdeveloped countries, they represent populist currents that aim to put the working class in the tow of bourgeois interests. When these organizations are able to develop, their explicit abandonment of the proletarian camp causes them to become organizations representing petty bourgeois interests.

The international Trotskyist movement has two important assets. First, it has maintained, at least in its program, the political continuity of the revolutionary movement: the International Workingmen’s Association of Marx and Engels; the Second International until World War I; the Communist International of the 1919-1923 period; and ultimately the Left Opposition and the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky. Second, it was the only movement to maintain this tradition during such difficulties as classical reformism, Stalinism, and the different varieties of “Third-Worldism” with their Marxist terminology.

Thanks to this maintenance of political continuity, today, after decades during which the revolutionary movement has had no real influence on the working class movement, new generations can be trained and educated as proletarian revolutionaries.

However, the Trotskyist movement has not been able to give itself a living, competent, and efficient international leadership, recognized as such by all the forces of the Trotskyist movement.

The emergence of an International, of a world party of revolution, recognized as a leadership by important fractions of the proletariat itself, is a problem which surpasses the mere will or competence of proletarian revolutionary organizations. The emergence of an International is not dependent only upon the ability of the organizations to measure up to the tasks, ideological or practical, of the hour.

Nevertheless, the organizations that make up the Trotksyist movement today have failed their responsibilities because there is no international leadership corresponding to the present possibilities of the movement and to its development. The inability to maintain the organizational unity of the movement and the inability to train an international leadership recognized by all the Trotskyist groups are, of course, two aspects of the same problem.

The scattering of the Trotskyist movement is shown by the number of rival international leaderships, each of which has a variable audience; by the existence of a great number of Trotskyist organizations belonging to none of the existing international bodies; and by the type of relationships existing within each of these international bodies, which are often formal or even fictitious relationships.

No responsible Trotksyist organization, one that really wants the Trotskyist movement to play the role it should, can accept this division, this scattering of groups which is not justified by programmatic differences.

Of course, part of the existing disagreements between Trotskyist groups rest on questions of vital importance. But the different analyses can be fruitfully discussed only inside a Trotskyist movement capable of doing away with sectarianism and ostracism and of allowing a large-scale confrontation of ideas.

Such a confrontation, about the present situation of the Trotskyist movement, about the analysis of the causes of its dispersion, with a critical balance-sheet of its evolution since Trotsky’s death, appears an urgent necessity.

No proclamation, address, or unilateral appeal will ever be able to solve these problems concerning the whole Trotskyist movement.

An international framework for such a confrontation is indispensable and is part of working toward an International based on the rules of democratic centralism. Attempting to end the scattered state of the Trotskyist movement is the best way to work toward the building of a democratic and centralized international organization.

Will such an organization be created around one of the existing international organizations? Will it be the fruit of a larger restructuring on other bases? The proposed confrontation will have to deal with these questions among others, because there are great differences of opinion among the organizations which are members of international bodies and those which are not.

However, the starting point of this discussion must be the undeniable fact that an international organization having a political authority over the whole of the Trotskyist movement does not exist. This remains an aim which must be reached by the organizations existing today. Our task is to build a democratic centralized international organization starting with the presently scattered groups.

The democratic centralism of a new international organization can’t be suspended in mid-air. Nor can it be the result of correct statutes. Democratic centralism implies a basic agreement on the program. It also implies a mutual political trust on the part of the groups making up the international organization, and it implies the trust of all groups and all their militants toward the leadership.

This trust between groups and toward the leadership of the other groups does not exist at the present time. Unless some group is able to lead significant struggles of the proletariat in its own country and to prove through action that it deserves the political trust of the other groups, the sectarianism which is characteristic of the relations between Trotskyist organizations today will always prevent the formation of such trust among them.

The only other way to overcome this distrust is through an honest confrontation of these points of view and through common activities. These should be started right away in all possible fields and can be extended afterwards to encompass all the activities of the groups concerned.

In the face of the present sad situation of a scattered Trotskyist movement whose sectarianism prevents the first steps toward a solution, the undersigned organizations have taken the initiative to address themselves to the whole Trotskyist movement. We wish to set up an international framework to discuss creating an international forum within which all the different trends of the Trotskyist movement could coexist.

The framework proposed by the undersigned is not to become a new international body in competition with those already existing.

Neither is it to become a mere discussion group, though it will have to play this role fully, by allowing the participants to outline their points of agreement and disagreement, thus contributing to the clarification needed by the Trotskyist movement.

The undersigned realize that the honest confrontation of points of view is just a necessary pre-condition for the establishment of a political program for the world revolutionary struggle of our epoch. Beyond this, the positions of each will have to undergo the test of actual political struggles. The existence of a program adopted by the whole of the movement implies the existence of an international leadership recognized as such by the movement.

The undersigned organizations consider that, along with the discussion of the important problems of the Trotskyist movement, the proposed framework must examine the political and organizational help that the various groups can give to each other.

It will be up to the participating groups to determine the degree of collaboration they wish to establish, according to their own needs and their own political and organizational capacities.

When, beyond the actual differences, the participating organizations want to work toward a closer and closer collaboration; when they feel a concern for the political and organizational problems of the other groups; when they do all they can to promote closer and closer ties by an exchange of militants and of discussion materials, then the possibility will exist for the establishment of relationships based on trust. In the future these relations will form one basis of an ever-growing common discipline, allowing leaders accepted by all to be selected and trained.

SPARK (United States)

LUTTE OUVRIERE (France)

COMBAT OUVRIER (Antilles)

UATCI (African Union of International Communist Workers, Africa)

Paris, January 21, 1976