The World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism was held in Berlin on November 16-17, 1991 under the auspices of the International Committee of the Fourth International. The conference was convened on the basis of the May 1 manifesto, Oppose Imperialist War and Colonialism! (see The Fourth International, vol. 18, no. 1) and was attended by more than 200 delegates. This is the opening address by Workers League National Secretary David North to the conference.
Eight months have passed since the International Committee, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, voted to hold this conference. And more than six months have passed since it published the manifesto which provided the necessary political orientation for the work which our sections have conducted all over the world to prepare this conference.
This preparatory work has included the publication of this resolution into 18 languages and the holding of a series of preliminary national conferences and rallies in which the political line of this manifesto was discussed and adopted. This conference is without question the product of the most ambitious and successful international campaign ever conducted by the International Committee.
But this conference is not merely the outcome of work which began at the Eleventh Plenum last March. The journey which has brought us to Berlin began long before that; and it took far longer than those who began it could possibly have imagined. Now that we are here in Berlin, having achieved this milestone, the significance of this conference can only be understood within the context of the entire history of the Fourth International.
This conference is a historic victory for the Fourth International and the working class. For the first time in many decades, it has become possible to organize and convene an international conference of the Fourth International with delegations representing the working class from many different parts of the world on the basis of a Trotskyist, that is, revolutionary socialist program.
This has been achieved under conditions in which the most dangerous enemies of the Fourth International, the international working class and the struggle for world socialism—that is, the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union and its political agents throughout the world—have undergone a catastrophic political collapse. The fate which Trotsky predicted for Stalinism more than a half-century ago—that of the discredited bureaucratic machine “not one stone would be left upon another”—has been virtually realized.
Given the place which Berlin has occupied in the history of the international workers movement, it is under all conditions an appropriate locale for a gathering of revolutionary socialists. But the setting of this conference is a powerful symbol of the vast change of the relationship of political forces. Scarcely two years ago, it would not have been possible for a Trotskyist to utter publicly a single political sentence without being subject to arrest. Who can forget that Comrade Oskar Hippe languished in the jails of the East German Stalinists for eight years?
But today it is the Fourth International which meets in what was formerly the capital of the Stalinist regime and, we might add, in its political headquarters as well.
Considering the fact that comrades have travelled from all over the world to participate in this conference, one regrets that we are obliged to complete the agenda within just two days. But let us recall that those who founded the Fourth International in September 1938 were compelled to complete their work in just one day. And the difficult political conditions under which they met found tragic expression in the fact that the delegates elected Leon Sedov, Erwin Wolf and Rudolf Klement, all murdered during the previous 12 months by agents of the Stalinist GPU, as honorary conference presidents.
In the opening report Pierre Naville said: “Owing to the tragic death of Klement there would be no formal report. Klement had a detailed written report in preparation which was to have been circulated, but it had disappeared with the rest of his papers.”
The conditions under which the founding conference was held were the bitter product of an objective situation which was dominated by the defeats of the European working class. Just one year after the founding conference, the Second World War erupted. In August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated by an agent of the GPU. In virtually all of Europe, the cadre of the Fourth International were driven into illegality, persecuted simultaneously by the fascists, Stalinists and, we must not forget, the “democratic” imperialists. For even in the United States, the leaders of the Trotskyist movement were indicted on charges of sedition and jailed. Comrade Bill Brust attended those trials as a young member of the Socialist Workers Party.
Nevertheless, despite the persecution, the programmatic foundations of the Fourth International laid down by Trotsky withstood the tremendous challenge posed by the war, and the political homogeneity of the world party was preserved. The Fourth International was able to reconstitute itself as a unified world movement at the end of World War II. It held its first and second world congresses in 1946 and 1948. But then, what the police of the fascists, Stalinists and “democratic” imperialists had failed to achieve—the destruction of the Fourth International—was very nearly accomplished by an opportunist tendency which emerged as a response to the restabilization of world capitalism on the basis of the political settlement between American imperialism and the Kremlin.
From the developments in Yugoslavia under Tito and the nationalization of property relations in Eastern Europe, Michel Pablo and his then close associate Ernest Mandel drew the conclusion that Stalinism retained a revolutionary potential that Trotsky had failed to appreciate. Rather than being, as Trotsky had insisted, the principal agency of imperialism in the workers movement, the Stalinist bureaucracies and their associated parties were destined to provide the necessary impulse for the victory of socialism.
According to the schema elaborated by Pablo and Mandel, socialism was to be eventually realized as the byproduct of a cataclysmic war between imperialism on one side and the Soviet Union and the Eastern European states on the other. They claimed that beneath the pressure of war, the Stalinist bureaucracies would be compelled to lead the masses in a worldwide revolutionary struggle against capitalism. This process, Pablo and Mandel insisted, was to culminate in the creation of bureaucratically deformed workers states that would over a period of several centuries develop into a socialist society;
Pablo and Mandel arrived at the astonishing and infamous conclusion that “objective social reality consists essentially of the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world.” Therefore, it followed that the class struggle of the proletariat was no longer to be considered the motor force of historical progress. Flowing logically from their repudiation of the unique historical role of the proletariat, Pablo and Mandel rejected the necessity of developing its independent revolutionary party. The tactical initiatives which they elaborated on the basis of their opportunist perspective amounted to the liquidation of the Fourth International. No longer could or should the Fourth International strive to wrest the leadership of the working class from the Stalinists and social democrats.
Instead, Pablo and Mandel demanded that the sections of the Fourth International dissolve themselves into the Stalinist parties or whatever other political movement dominated the working class, and seek to encourage their leftward development.
Conditions of extreme disorientation developed inside the Fourth International, and for that reason the revisionist program of Pablo and Mandel went unchallenged at the Third World Congress in 1951, just 40 years ago. And that congress was to prove to be the last international assembly, until today, of the Fourth International as a unified world movement.
While the far-reaching implications of their revisionist positions were not immediately grasped, the attempt of Pablo and Mandel to put their liquidationist line into practice led to a political explosion. By the spring of 1953 a veritable civil war was raging throughout the Fourth International, as supporters of Pablo’s line sought to dissolve their own sections into the mass Stalinist and social democratic organizations. It was only the intervention of James P. Cannon, who was then the most experienced and respected figure in the world Trotskyist movement, that made it possible for the orthodox Trotskyists to organize effective opposition to the Pablo-Mandel faction.
In fact, today, the sixteenth of November, marks the thirty-eighth anniversary of the event which gave rise to the International Committee. The November 16, 1953 edition of The Militant published a letter to Trotskyists throughout the world in which they warned that the faction led by Pablo and Mandel “is now working consciously and deliberately to disrupt, split and break up the historically created cadres of Trotskyism in the various countries and to liquidate the Fourth International.”
The letter went on to state, and I quote again: “The lines of cleavage between Pablo’s revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally. The Pablo faction has demonstrated that they are determined to drive all orthodox Trotskyists out of the Fourth International or to muzzle and handcuff them.”
One week later, at a meeting in Paris on November 23, 1953, the orthodox Trotskyists, including the leaders of the British and French sections, formally repudiated the authority of the old International Secretariat, which was controlled by the Pabloites, and established the International Committee as a new political center of the Fourth International.
Several months after the split, Cannon wrote a letter in which he explained the essential political and theoretical issues underlying the split with Pablo and Mandel. It was a letter in which he specifically analyzed the positions held by Mandel, who then went by the name Germain. It is worth quoting. Cannon wrote:
Our objective is fundamentally different from Germain’s. In the last resort, it traces back to a different theory of the role of the revolutionary vanguard, and its relation to other tendencies in the labor movement. Germain thinks he is orthodox on this question—he even wrote an article about it in Quatrième Internationale—but in practice he compromises the theory. We alone are unconditional adherents of the Lenin-Trotsky theory of the party of the conscious vanguard and its role as leader of the revolutionary struggle. This theory acquires burning actuality and dominates all others in the present epoch.
The problem of leadership is not limited to spontaneous manifestations of the class struggle in a long drawn-out process, nor even to the conquest of power in this or that country where capitalism is especially weak. It is a question of the development of the international revolution and the socialist transformation of society. To admit that this can happen automatically is, in effect, to abandon Marxism altogether. No, it can only be a conscious operation, and it imperatively requires the leadership of the Marxist party which represents the conscious element in the historic process. No other party will do. No other tendency in the labor movement can be recognized as a satisfactory substitute. For that reason, our attitude towards all other parties and tendencies is irreconcilably hostile.
And Cannon added:
The Fourth International today is a cadre organization. Its striking power and historical justification derive from its program and its ideological homogeneity. Pabloism is not amass movement to be penetrated and influenced, but a revisionist tendency which discredits the Fourth International and disrupts its cadres. The revolutionary task is not to ‘live with’ this tendency—which, moreover, is a minority tendency—but to blow it up.
I would suggest that those were among the finest words ever written by Cannon.
Cannon and the SWP at that time envisaged a rapid defeat of the Pablo-Mandel tendency within the Fourth International. They could not have foreseen that the formal split of November 1953 marked only the beginning of a protracted struggle between opportunist and orthodox tendencies within the Fourth International. They did not imagine that the SWP would itself capitulate to the line of Pablo and Mandel in just a few years.
But the growth of opportunism, an opportunism which was even to overwhelm many of the most experienced cadre inside the Fourth International, expressed not merely the weakness of individuals, but rather an objective tendency which had profound roots in the world political situation. It was the postwar boom and the world political arrangements between imperialism and the Kremlin bureaucracy which provided the objective setting for the strengthening of Pabloite influence even as its fundamentally reactionary character became more and more apparent with each passing year.
By 1957 the Socialist Workers Party, reeling under the blows of the unfavorable situation within the United States, had itself begun to more and more openly adapt to the Pabloite line. And so, Cannon, who in 1953 had said that there was no going back to Pablo, was writing a letter to Leslie Goonewardene of the LSSP in Sri Lanka suggesting that it would be a good idea to initiate unification talks with the Pabloite International Secretariat.
The Trotskyists in Britain, who were in 1959 to form the Socialist Labour League, opposed the drift back to Pablo, and sought to prevent the Socialist Workers Party from pursuing this catastrophic course. In 1961, 30 years ago, the Socialist Labour League urged the Socialist Workers Party to recognize that “it is time to draw to a close the period in which Pabloite revisionism was regarded as a trend within Trotskyism.” That advice was undoubtedly correct. They were basing themselves on the experiences gleaned from the role played by the Pabloites in the Hungarian revolution, where they covered up for the Stalinists, and in the great struggles of the colonial masses, where the Pabloites were emerging ever more openly as shameless apologists of the reactionary national bourgeoisie.
But despite the criminal policies of the Pabloites, the Socialist Workers Party could not be stopped from carrying through the reunification in June 1963, which established the United Secretariat. It did not take long for the tragic political consequences of this reunification to find expression. Just one year later, the LSSP, the Pabloite organization in Ceylon, entered the bourgeois government of Madam Bandaranaike.
In reviewing that period, it is now clear that the relation of forces between opportunism and revolutionary Marxism was unfavorable to the latter. In the final analysis, the influence of the Pabloites was based on the residual power of the Stalinist organizations and the petty-bourgeois forces which, due to the peculiar characteristics of the postwar order, were able to maintain, especially in the backward countries, influence over the masses on the basis of pseudo anti-imperialist radical posturing. The Pabloites collaborated with and promoted these forces—from Castro and Guevara in Cuba to Ben Bella in Algeria, Ne Win in Burma and Mao Zedong in China—in order to block the development of an independent revolutionary leadership within the working class.
Despite the growth of the Socialist Labour League in Britain, its international co-thinkers were few in number. The orthodox Trotskyists were extremely isolated; and they were subjected by the Pabloites to repeated internationally-orchestrated provocations, such as the notorious Tate affair of 1966.
The Fourth International and the working class paid a very heavy price for the sabotage of the Pabloites, who were able, in the midst of all their betrayals, to masquerade as the authoritative representatives of world Trotskyism and dismiss the representatives of the International Committee as nothing more than “ultraleft sectarians.”
As the International Committee has explained in its perspectives resolution of 1988, the political havoc wreaked by the Pabloites was the principal reason for the inability of the Fourth International to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the world crisis which began in the late 1960s and extended into the first half of the 1970s.
Delegates are sufficiently familiar with the more recent history, and it should not be necessary to describe in detail the growth of opportunist tendencies inside the International Committee. You know that from the late sixties on, the International Committee itself. First, the OCI called into question the continuity of the Fourth International, and though this was resisted by the Socialist Labour League, the leadership of the Socialist Labour League chose not to pursue to their fundamental roots the differences with the OCI, accepted a hastily arranged split in 1971 which left the political issues unclarified, and then within a very short space of time began to develop positions of an overtly Pabloite character.
The history of the International Committee under the leadership of the SLL/WRP in the 1970s and early 1980s is one of the increasing opportunist subversion of orthodox Trotskyism by Healy, Banda and Slaughter. The great gains which had been made in the struggle against the Pabloite reunification of 1963 were systematically betrayed. Within the International Committee itself, the orthodox Trotskyists were reduced to what amounted almost to a semi-legal tendency. It was not possible for several years to present the program of the permanent revolution within the International Committee against the growing adaptation to bourgeois nationalists.
But still, there remained within the International Committee the heritage of the past theoretical struggles, and this was the basis for the emergence in 1982, nearly a decade ago, of a developed Trotskyist opposition to the Pabloite line of the WRP. At first this opposition appeared to be isolated and without support within the International Committee. But within what now seems to have been an astonishingly brief period of time, between 1982 and 1985, the tables were turned. The WRP suffered a political shipwreck, and within only a few weeks in the autumn of 1985 the orthodox Trotskyists reasserted their control over the International Committee.
Just as the previous domination of opportunism had deep objective roots, the change of relations within the International Committee was a reflection of changes within the world situation. The 1982-85 struggle within the International Committee roughly coincided with the crisis inside the Soviet bureaucracy in the aftermath of the events in Poland and the period leading up to the ascension of Gorbachev to power in March 1985.
The growing crisis of Stalinism was among the principal factors in the weakening of the opportunists of the WRP and of the position of the Pabloites all around the world. For example, just as the struggle was unfolding within the International Committee, one of the principal Pabloite leaders, Jack Barnes, leader of the police-infested Socialist Workers Party, delivered a speech in December 1982—remarkably, just two months after the Workers League presented its criticisms of the line of the WRP—in which he declared that within one decade no one would consider himself a Trotskyist. Barnes claimed that the Fourth International was irrelevant and that it would be superseded by what he called a “mass Leninist international” composed of such parties as the New Jewel Movement in Grenada, the Sandinista party in Nicaragua, the Farabundo Marti in El Salvador and, for good measure, the ANC in South Africa.
What has since become of these organizations, upon which Jack Barnes proposed to build a mass Leninist international? Only a few months later the New Jewel Movement blew its brains out and provided a pretext for the invasion of Grenada by American imperialism. The Sandinistas surrendered power to the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie. The Farabundo Marti has been engaged for years in fruitless negotiations with the Salvadoran fascists. And the ANC has evolved openly and unmistakably into a reactionary bourgeois party.
Only one decade was required to expose the complete bankruptcy of the Pabloite perspective, which was in complete contradiction to the objective logic of political development. The Pabloites—whose perspective was shared by the WRP—were attempting to establish a “mass international” based upon organizations which were more and more openly being called upon by the world bourgeoisie to attack the working class and abandon their prior radical pretenses. Underlying the weakness of these petty-bourgeois and nationalist organizations hailed by the Pabloites was the crisis of Stalinism itself, which deprived these organizations of the political props upon which they had depended.
Just as the Pabloites were entering into political bankruptcy, the orthodox Trotskyists—who had worked under the most unfavorable conditions for so long—were able to carry forward a decisive struggle which has taken us to where we are today.
We are holding this conference under conditions in which the struggle waged by the International Committee since 1953 has been vindicated. Moreover, that struggle, especially over the last nine years, has reforged the Fourth International as a politically homogeneous organization, able to conduct its work all over the world on the basis of a common revolutionary program.
We meet today not as one faction of a broad Trotskyist movement. Those who are in this room today are the authoritative representatives of the Fourth International and world Trotskyism. It is now possible for the International Committee to decisively settle accounts with the Pabloites. We have done what Cannon attempted to do 38 years ago and what the Socialist Labour League said should be done 30 years ago, that is, purged Pabloite opportunism from the Fourth International.
For more than a half-century the Trotskyists fought against the lie that Stalinism has something to do with Marxism. We are now establishing no less decisively that the politics of Mandel and the associated opportunist tendencies, like that of Cliff Slaughter’s fraudulent and pathetic “Workers International,” have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Trotskyism and the Fourth International. We are drawing from these political facts the necessary organizational conclusions.
The struggle against Mandel and the Pabloites is not simply over theoretical points or even over certain programmatic issues within the framework of socialism. Rather, it is a conflict between different class forces and their historic aims. This has been demonstrated by the whole historic evolution of Mandel’s tendency, culminating in the role which it has played during the past several years.
As Marxists, our political evaluation of the Pabloite organizations is based on the test of decisive historical events. Our evaluation of Mandel is not animated by subjective feelings. Nor is our characterization of his tendency a matter of angry epithets. Rather, we are applying political definitions which adequately express objective truth. Mandel cannot be adequately defined as merely a “revisionist” politician—for that term tends to suggest that the disputes with Mandel are principally of a theoretical character, that he has “merely” departed from certain orthodox Marxist conceptions, and that he somehow remains, despite this or that error, within the precincts of Trotskyism and revolutionary socialism.
But that is by no means the case. As a product of his revisions of Marxism over many decades, Mandel has become, in the full sense of the word, a bourgeois politician. To put it most explicitly, he defends, in the final analysis, bourgeois forms of property, bourgeois ownership of the means of production. The political work which he has carried out in the most recent period, when this fundamental issue has assumed the most dramatic significance for the working class, demonstrates that.
Let us give a number of examples. First of all, there is Mandel’s role and that of the Pabloite organizations in preparing the ground for the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe. Jacek Kuron, the minister of labor in Poland under Lech Walesa, who has principal responsibility for implementing the austerity plans of the International Monetary Fund, is a political protege of Ernest Mandel. And one can say with ample justification that through the medium of Jacek Kuron, Lech Walesa himself is a political Frankenstein created by Mandel.
In Czechoslovakia, the Pabloite Peter Uhl, a close associate of Ernest Mandel, works with the government of Vaclav Havel as the head of State Information.
The events of 1989-90 in what was formerly the German Democratic Republic exposed the direct role played by Mandel and his political associates in providing the West German bourgeoisie with the breathing space which it needed to carry through its plans for the reunification of Germany on a capitalist basis.
On November 4, 1989 the BSA, the German section of the International Committee, intervened in the first great mass demonstration in East Berlin against the Stalinist regime. Our comrades issued an appeal to East German workers, warning them that unless they took control over the political struggle against Stalinism, the outcome of the collapse of the regime would be the restoration of capitalism rather than an advance for the establishment of genuine workers power. The appeal of the BSA, distributed in the thousands, found a powerful response and provided the political basis for developing the movement of the East German working class in a socialist direction.
Within a matter of two or three days, the government of Egon Krenz brought Mandel into East Germany to counter the influence of the BSA. The Stalinists interviewed Mandel in the leading East German newspaper, and in that interview he specifically denounced the BSA as “outside agitators” who had no business interfering in the “internal affairs” of East Germany. Obviously, the Stalinists, with whom Mandel has worked behind the scenes for several decades, knew that they could rely on him. And he obligingly served notice that he was prepared to do everything in his power to collaborate with the East German Stalinists in clearing the way for the reunification of Germany on a capitalist basis.
As a second example, no less decisive, we cite the political support given by Mandel and the Pabloite organizations to the regime of Mikhail Gorbachev. Ernest Mandel wrote a book in which he specifically praised the program of perestroika, declaring that the realization of Gorbachev’s program would represent a historic advance for the Soviet working class—this at a time when the International Committee was already clearly warning, and when there could not be any doubt, that perestroika was the program of capitalist restoration.
Mandel’s longtime collaborator, Tariq Ali, wrote a book in praise of perestroika which he dedicated to Boris Yeltsin. That is proof that the program of Pabloism is for the restoration of capitalism. There is no fundamental difference between the program of Mandel and the program of Yeltsin. It is only that they work different sides of the street, maintaining a certain division of labor which is necessary to mislead and disorient the working class.
Now let us consider the position of Mandel on Yugoslavia. A few weeks ago, International Viewpoint, the journal published by Mandel, urged direct imperialist intervention in Yugoslavia. It took a completely reactionary and cynical attitude towards the events taking place in Yugoslavia. Echoing the position of the German bourgeoisie, Mandel protested against Serbian chauvinism, but said nothing about Croatian chauvinism. In fact, he said nothing of the responsibility of imperialism in stoking up this conflict. The Pabloite journal chose not to mention that all the nationalist Stalinist factions are being manipulated by different sections of world imperialism.
Moreover, Mandel’s journal declared that Croatian self-determination must be unconditionally supported without regard to the character of the regime created in an independent Croatia. In other words, even if there were to be established in Croatia a fascist regime, butchering workers, the Mandelites would unconditionally uphold Croatia’s right to self-determination. This is a pro-imperialist position which ignores basic class questions and is utterly reactionary.
Let us recall the position Trotsky took in relationship to the Saar referendum in 1934. At that time, in the aftermath of the victory of Hitler, the question arose of the status of the Saar, which had been taken from Germany at the end of the First World War. As an abstract question, of course, Marxists recognized the right of the Saar to self-determination and its right to return, if it wished, to German control. And yet, under conditions in which that would mean the transfer of the Saar and its working class to the authority of the fascists, Trotsky emphatically opposed the nationalist slogan which cut across the basic class interests of the working class in the Saar. But here we have Mandel calling for the establishment of self-determination in Croatia regardless of the character of the regime in Croatia.
Now, the last example. There is a well-known saying that a criminal always returns to the scene of his crime. And it is being actualized in the activities of Mandel and his cohorts on the island of Sri Lanka. In the most recent period, there has blossomed a rather strange love affair between an organization known as the NSSP, the Nava Sama Samaja Party, and Mandel’s United Secretariat. The NSSP is all but proclaimed an official section of the United Secretariat. The NSSP is a party which collaborated in the round table discussions with the Jayawardene regime back in 1987 and helped pave the way for the invasion of Sri Lanka by the Indians in order to suppress the Tamil liberation movement. Moreover, this is a party which enjoys the closest political relations with all the bourgeois parties and with elements within the Sri Lankan military. The head of the NSSP is on a first-name basis with fascist generals in Sri Lanka. The NSSP is being groomed by the imperialists to play an important role at a time when its interests are being increasingly threatened by the movement of the masses in India and Sri Lanka and when the old bourgeois political organizations are breaking up. At this very point, Mandel rushes in to give the NSSP “Trotskyist” credentials in order to bolster its authority with the masses. Thus, Mandel welcomes this really reactionary organization, led by case-hardened stooges of the bourgeoisie, to attend the most recent conference of the United Secretariat and proclaims the NSSP to be its official representative.
Given the test of these events, we must recognize that the lines which divide Pabloism from the Fourth International are the lines which divide counterrevolution from revolution. Pabloism has in the course of its history been defined as a bourgeois trend in the workers movement, just as in an earlier period social democracy emerged out of revisionism and developed into a definitive prop of imperialism within the working class.
The use of this definition is not a matter of trying to find new and more bitter epithets. It is a question of making a scientific evaluation of the Pabloite organizations and drawing the necessary political conclusions. If we failed to make the necessary class evaluation, we would be misleading the working class. It is our task to say to the working class what is.
This Berlin conference marks a new stage in the development of the Fourth International. The International Committee today constitutes the only bona fide world Trotskyist organization in the entire world. The International Committee is not merely a specific tendency within the Fourth International, but it is the Fourth International as such. Starting with this conference, the International Committee will assume leadership responsibilities for the work of the Fourth International as the World Party of Socialist Revolution. The delegates today speak to the international working class as the authoritative representatives of the Fourth International.
This development arises from our long history of political struggle and is fully sanctioned by irrefutable political facts. In establishing this new political relationship, we are contributing decisively to the necessary political clarification within the working class about the international program and activities of the Trotskyist movement, and at the same time decisively disassociating Trotskyism from the provocations of the Pabloites.
We will on this basis establish the Fourth International as a pole of attraction for the most politically advanced sections of the working class precisely at the point when the working class all over the world is entering into great struggles of a historic character.
In 1980, at the height of his political madness, Healy announced suddenly that the International Committee should only consider itself to be a “nucleus” of the Fourth International. He never quite clearly explained what he meant, but his practice showed what he meant. The International Committee was really, in his opinion, nothing more than one of many small groups of propagandists, and that we really had to liquidate ourselves into the mass organizations, whether they were dominated by the Stalinists, social democrats or, in the oppressed countries, by the bourgeois nationalists.
The ICFI rejected that conception in 1985. At any rate, the future of the Fourth International will not be based on fusions and regroupments with the shattered remnants of Pabloite organizations. The future of the world party depends upon the most energetic turn by the forces of the Fourth International, represented by those who are assembled here today, into the working class.
The great importance of this conference is that we have been able to reorganize and reunify the Fourth International on the basis of a Trotskyist program at precisely the point when the international working class is entering into the greatest struggles.
Comrades, there is not sufficient time now to speak at length on the many important aspects of the objective situation. These are reviewed in the manifesto and in the resolutions to which other speakers will address themselves. But it can be briefly stated that the perspective which was advanced by the International Committee in the manifesto which forms the basis of this conference has been vindicated and verified more rapidly than we could have even imagined six months ago. Virtually all the tendencies which we analyzed in that document—with regard to the deepening of the economic crisis, the intensification of antagonisms among the major imperialist powers, the growing disequilibrium of the world capitalist system as a whole—all of these tendencies have developed very rapidly in the last six months.
The discussion which took place at the recent meeting of NATO shows that the bourgeoisie is split as it has been at no time since the end of the Second World War. The euphoria and triumphalism which followed the capitalist reunification of Germany and then the war in the Persian Gulf has been largely dissipated. In its place has come pessimism and disorientation. Bush himself said that the greatest danger facing world capitalism today is uncertainty and events which are unpredictable. Far from inaugurating a new world order, the war in the Persian Gulf has simply accelerated the breakup of the old one. And while the American bourgeoisie may have hoped that the war would stimulate the US economy, the recession refuses to end and is assuming ever more dangerous and worldwide scope.
The social crisis within the United States, the center of world imperialism, continues to deepen. I would just like to illustrate this by citing an article which appears in the current issue of the Bulletin, published on Friday:
“Thousands of unemployed workers stripped of General Assistance benefits in the new Michigan budget passed October 1 are being evicted from welfare hotels and slum apartment buildings with the sanction of the state and local government and the courts. Already, authorities have reported the death of four homeless people from exposure to the subfreezing temperatures which hit Detroit last week. On Friday, November 8, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the cutoff of General Assistance benefits to 90,000 so-called able-bodied, single Michigan residents. To date, Detroit police have arrested 20 homeless people, members of the Detroit Homeless Union, who have participated in demonstrations and attempts to occupy vacant apartments at the Jeffries and Herman Gardens public housing projects. One demonstrator was arrested and a pregnant woman was struck by a cop and collapsed on the freezing ground. She was loaded onto an ambulance and whisked away to a hospital.”
These are scenes which are becoming increasingly common in the United States, supposedly the wealthiest imperialist country in the world. The impoverishment of the working class is a social phenomenon which will become more and more common in the major centers of world imperialism. Even in Germany, supposedly immune from economic crisis, layoffs are spreading, and only recently plans for the closure of mines employing thousands of workers have been announced.
In a rather brief period of time, the illusions which attended the downfall of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe have been dissipated. This is demonstrated by the outcome of the Polish elections, the mass demonstrations which have taken place in Romania, the movements of workers in Bulgaria, the disaffection among ever wider sections of the population in Czechoslovakia. This is accompanied by a growing upsurge of the working class in which virtually every day’s newspaper brings reports of mass strikes, general strikes and mass demonstrations in locations as far flung as Greece, France, Italy, Barbados, South Africa and Canada.
We are entering into a period which will be characterized by ever greater struggles of the working class. Our task is to bring to this growing movement of the working class Marxist consciousness, and to organize the vanguard of the working class into the sections of the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution. Our task all over the world in the coming period is to win this vanguard of the working class to Marxism.
We must transform the spontaneous militancy of the working class into Marxist consciousness. And we have the political strength to do this precisely because we have decisively settled accounts with those who betrayed the program of Trotskyism within our own movement. We have demonstrated our right to lead the working class by virtue of this struggle.
What is the task that lies before us? We can now go about to organize an authoritative world congress of the Fourth International. On this basis we will equip the Fourth International to serve as the political instrument through which the international unity of the working class will be forged.
We will develop the Fourth International into the powerful proletarian world party that Trotsky set out to build when it was founded in 1938. This, comrades, is the period that orthodox Trotskyists have for so long worked. This is the period the International Committee has prepared for. The great responsibility of leading the working class has fallen to this movement and we will certainly prove worthy of the responsibilities we have.