The Spark

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

80 Years Ago, The Founding of the Fourth International

Oct 1, 2018

The Fourth International was born on September 3, 1938, with the Transitional Program as its founding document. It was drawn up by Leon Trotsky, who was leader of the Russian Revolution, alongside Lenin. Trotsky was the uncompromising opponent of Stalin, who eliminated his adversaries, especially those in the Left Opposition. Trotsky was the only leader capable of giving a revolutionary perspective to working class militants and workers of all countries.

Not that the revolution seemed imminent. Things were going downhill in France after the June 1936 strikes; Franco had achieved victory in Spain; fascists and Nazis were in power in Germany and Italy. Working people were under attack, or even crushed. None of the parties basing themselves on the working class had anything to propose except uniting with bourgeois parties, creating illusions for the Popular Front. The German Communist Party was defeated by Hitler in 1933 without it so much as proposing a fight. This showed that it was no longer possible to rebuild the Third International nor its national sections. It was necessary to create new organizations.

In a world suffering from the economic crisis of 1929, plunged into economic and political chaos, headed for another world war, Trotsky tried to bring militants together on the basis of a program that considered the principles and experiences of the Bolsheviks, the only ones to have led their revolutionary policy up to the very end. “Starting from the consciousness of large parts of the working class,” this program and its transitional demands aimed to connect the daily struggles of workers and the fight to take power by the whole proletariat.

Today, the capitalist world is again in crisis: wars, growing misery or galloping inflation that forces entire peoples to migrate. Even in the richer countries, the wealthy classes maintain themselves only by putting more pressure on working people. The transitional demands remain pertinent today: for a sliding scale of wages to resist inflation; for a sliding scale of hours of work to combat unemployment; for workers’ control of the workplaces; for the abolition of secret banking and commercial agreements in the affairs of a bourgeoisie unable to control its own system.

The Transitional Program of the Fourth International remains the only revolutionary, Marxist program that proposes, not a list of economic demands, but a perspective for political struggle based on the belief that only the working class can overturn capitalism and transform society at the level of the entire world. It is this program that revolutionary militants must continue to defend and that workers need to have in front of them when they go down the path of struggle. As it says in a text from the first meeting of the Communist International, “the working class is conscious of this truth, that if it wants to live, capitalism must die.”