The Spark

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

Our Policy Toward the Trotskyist Movement

Jul 30, 1986

I. The Trotskyist movement is the only revolutionary current which gives priority to the working class as the force which has the potential to make the socialist revolution, the only one to have given itself the task of building up a revolutionary international through which the international proletariat can realize that potential. And it is the only current to have a real existence on the scale of the world. Even if the Trotskyist organizations are small, even if they are divided, even if they have few militants by comparison with the tasks which lie in front of us, nonetheless it exists as an international current. There are numerous organizations with devoted militants; there is a political capital, transmitted by Trotsky, that goes back to the Third International and the Bolshevik Party; there are even a range of different militant experiences – as limited as our forces may be – deriving from different countries and situations, even from the different priorities we have set for our work.

II. Nonetheless, there is no International that exists today worthy of the name; any more than there exists, either in the U.S. or in any other country in the world, a true revolutionary proletarian party. Organizationally weak at its founding in 1938, with few militants, and cut from the working class by the weight of Stalinism on the working class, the FI did not long survive the death of Trotsky, organizationally or, in fact, politically.

III. Almost across the board, the Trotskyist organizations did not succeed, either in the short or long term, in meeting the goal they had set for themselves when Trotsky was alive, that is, of implanting themselves in the working class. This inability to root themselves in the working class, that is in the class which their program gives priority to, does not call in question that program, for the simple reason that they never led a policy which had as its purpose to give themselves those roots. Nor did their inability to root themselves reflect only objective factors, although those were important. Their lack of implantation in the working class reflects essentially the incapacity of the leadership of the FI and of the different organizations which compose it to lead a policy, after the death of Trotsky, aimed at linking their militants and their organization with the working class, and at the same time, aimed at breaking their militants from the pressures of the petty bourgeois milieus from which the vast majority of them had come.

IV. Without a real and extensive implantation in the working class, no Trotskyist organization has been able to develop its own experience in social struggles. The Trotskyist movement as a whole has not built up a militant tradition based on its own participation in – that is, its own leadership of – workers’ struggles.

V. In the absence of such implantation and tradition, the Trotskyist movement has been condemned to being a spectator, or what is worse, a cheerleader for those who have led mass

struggles: whether for the radical nationalists in the underdeveloped countries; whether for

those – Stalinist, Social Democrat, or unionists – who have led the workers’ strikes. Cut off from the working masses, without the kind of influence which would have allowed them to offer an independent policy to the working class, they have ended up tail-ending after those who tied the working class to other class forces. Finally, they have even gone so far, several times, as to renounce the task of constructing independent revolutionary proletarian organizations.

VI. Furthermore, this lack of implantation and tradition, reflecting as it does the lack of a competent leadership formed in the struggles of the proletariat, has led to a crumbling of the Trotskyist movement. The history of the Trotskyist movement for 35 years now has been a long succession of splits, then fusions, then more splits, etc. But never since the first splits in 1951 has the movement been unified. In the U.S. alone there are at least ten Trotskyist organizations, the main one of which is the SWP.

On the scale of the world, the principal international Trotskyist grouping today is the United Secretariat, which includes the French LCR, as well as the American SWP. This grouping claims to have about 50 national sections and pretends to be the only Fourth International (a pretension that is not unique to the USec; other groupings, even weaker and much less representative than the USec, make the same claim.) There are several other international groupings which came originally from the split of the FI in 1951. The International Committee, which was formed in 1952-53 as a rival to the USec, decomposed into several other rival groupings: one around what is today the French PCI, one around the current English WRP. In addition, there is the IWL (International Workers League) which had been in both the USec and the IC, and which has most of its sections concentrated in Latin America. Finally, there are a number of other Trotskyist organizations which are not part of any of these groupings.

VII. Up until today, we have maintained a separate existence from all these groupings.

We are part of an international current within the Trotskyist movement represented, in addition to ourselves, by LO in France, CO in the West Indies, and UATCI, an organization among the African immigrants in France which has the perspective of building Trotskyist organizations in different countries in Africa.

On the international level, our tendency had its origins in France during World War II, at first separated from the rest of the French section by the conditions inside France during the Nazi occupation. After World War II, our comrades chose not to re-enter the French section because of the inability its leadership had shown during the war to resist the nationalist pressures, expecting however that the FI would disagree with the position taken by its French section. The International leadership, however, which had exhibited similar stances in other countries, did not do so. Thus our comrades chose at that point to carry on a separate existence, hoping to demonstrate that it was possible for Trotskyists to take themselves out of the petty bourgeois milieus and direct the essential part of their activity toward the working class, to build up a Trotskyist organization in the working class.

In the U.S., the militants who formed our tendency had been active within different Trotskyist organizations, finally coming to establish a separate organization in 1971, in reaction to the refusal at that time of all the existing Trotskyist organizations, without exception, to leave the petty bourgeois milieus and direct not only the basic part, but even any part of their activity toward the working class. At that time, the Trotskyist organizations in the U.S. all accepted the view that the conditions made it impossible to direct militant activity toward the working class, at the same time the growth of a movement among the students gave an opening to collect cadre.

VIII. In spite of our critical analysis of what the FI became after the death of Trotsky, and then of the different organizations and groupings that came out of the break-up of the FI, we have never stopped claiming to be part of the Fourth International. Furthermore, we have never hidden behind our criticism in order to refuse political relations with any group. Our policy has always been to try to find some ways of collaborating with the others, on both the international as well as the national level. We ask no more than to be able to defend our policies, and our organizational methods within an existing international framework – but a framework which does not force us to renounce our activities and criticisms.

IX. If we have continued, up until today, to maintain a separate organizational existence, it is not because we claim to be the sole nucleus of the future revolutionary party, in the countries where we are, much less of the International. It is because, first of all, the Trotskyist movement still does not give priority to, does not devote the maximum of its militant energy and time to implanting itself in the working class.

In fact, this separate organizational existence was imposed on us, not only by the necessity to give this work of implantation priority, but also by the stance of the other Trotskyist organizations; they have always demanded, as a precondition for us to join with them, either on the international or national level, our acceptance of democratic centralism and discipline, which, in the current state of affairs, was nothing more than a demand that we give up our way of being active in the working class and our organizational methods.

X. Certainly, an international organization, just as a revolutionary organization in one country, must be centralized and disciplined. To the extent that it isn’t, then there is no true international organization. And a leadership, international as well as national, must be able to give direction. But this presupposes relations of confidence, and in particular, confidence in the international leadership. Trotsky provided a leadership. But there is no such leadership today, not only not at the scale of Trotsky, but not even at the level of what the Trotskyist movement could produce. In this circumstance, we are not willing to submit to a decision taken by the majority in a bigger organization, concerning our own practice, policy and implantation, a majority which has proved nothing as far as its competence is concerned.

XI. Neither do we have a reason on the political level to join – that is to submerge our current in – one of these other organizations. Our separate existence is based on very different conceptions of the class struggle and of the necessity of an independent role and organization for the working class. We believe that the other organizations are closer to each other in this regard than to us. And certainly, given the habits of the other organizations of competing with each other as rivals, we don’t see much interest to join one in order to be ammunition in their hands against another.

XII. All of this being said, we do not wish to stay in this situation, cut off organizationally from the rest of the Trotskyist movement, both nationally and internationally.

Even with the international leaderships, such as they are, even with the national leaderships such as they are, we know that the fact that we do not belong to a larger organization in this country, or to an international grouping beyond the scope of our own tendency, has harmful consequences for us.

We exist in a narrow milieu, even inside this country, cut off from a whole range of militant experiences, a whole range of different ways of raising the problems which lie in front of us. There are events, experiences – a real feel for current political life, even in this country – of which we know nothing.

Beyond this we have practically no way of raising problems for ourselves from an international point of view, for the simple reason that we lack the multitude of links which would allow our organizations to consider the problems that are raised in different countries, to think about the solutions, to be confronted with situations that we don’t have in our own countries.

XIII. We know we need the other Trotskyist organizations, in this country, as well as on the scale of the world. Conversely, we think they have need of us, as well as of each other; the difference being that while we recognize this need, the others, for the most part, do not. Our different orientations and experiences have built up a capital that could be useful for all of us, in the sense that we could use the diverse experiences of each other to increase the effectiveness of our own work. Some of our differences touch on questions of principle. More are matters of priority. But the fact that another tendency takes a path to which we don’t give priority could be profitable for the whole Trotskyist movement. In any case, for us to be able to confront each other’s experiences would give us all an important means to form our own militants.

Our immediate perspective is to try to have the kind of relations, at least insofar as it depends on us, with all the other Trotskyist organizations which would allow us to function as comrades of one organization, in order to benefit from each other’s militant experience.

XIV. Obviously, our longer range perspective is to influence and finally to bring along behind our policies all or part of the Trotskyist movement. But that will not come about just through discussions and arguments. We will have to make the demonstration that our policies are the most effective, because they are the ones which give us the most chance to reimplant revolutionary ideas and militants in the working class, the most chance to build up Trotskyist organizations inside the proletariat.

XV. In any case, we must win, in one fashion or another, sufficient credit so that either the militants, or the leadership of the other Trotskyist organizations feels the need to collaborate with us, more precisely, feels that collaboration with us would be a help for them. In order for that to occur, we must carry a certain weight and have some force. Up until now we have not been strong enough, not internationally certainly, but not even in one country, for them to be convinced that it would be an advantage to them to be able to act like autonomous fractions, with us, of one and the same party, much less for them to be convinced of the correctness of our views. To be able to convince them, we will need political or organizational successes.

We are not the ones who don’t want to be together. Their dominant position allows them to carry out a sort of blackmail. They say, today if you want to be with us, enter – with everything that that implies, as far as giving up our own approach. We must get around this barrier. We will not be able to take the smallest step without the kind of success which modifies the relationship of forces, and that comes back to the effectiveness of our own militant effort, our ability to grab hold of the chances to play a role in events.

XVI. We will not be able to really move forward with the other Trotskyist organizations without a success which modifies the relationship of forces. But this eventual success can easily have no impact on other Trotskyist militants unless we have personal contacts, as much on the level of their militants as with their leadership. We must be able to discuss with them as if we were militants of one single party. Each of our militants must be capable of discussing the problems of the others’ organization, without ulterior motives. Because the others do not see the need to do this, we must be the ones to initiate such efforts and to pursue them.