International Committee of the Fourth International
The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International: Perspectives Resolution of the ICFI

The Theory of Permanent Revolution Vindicated

The Pabloite capitulation to Stalinism and Maoism was accompanied by its adaptation to the national bourgeoisie in the backward countries. Turning their back on the historical lessons of the October Revolution, the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, and the Spanish Revolution, the Pabloites became cheerleaders for every bourgeois national leader, from Ben Bella in Algeria and Peron in Argentina to even Ne Win in Burma. They rejected the fight for the political independence of the working class from the national bourgeoisie. Instead, they falsified the theory of permanent revolution, and transformed it from a conscious strategy which guides the struggles for the dictatorship of the proletariat into a self-serving justification for their own adaptation to nonproletarian forces. Rather than fighting for the strategy of the permanent revolution through the independent mobilization of the working class, the Pabloites complacently proclaimed that it was being realized, albeit unconsciously, by bourgeois nationalists like Castro and Ben Bella. Moreover, the Pabloites declared that the proletariat did not need to have its own revolutionary party to come to power; for “unconscious Marxists” like Castro and Ben Bella had supposedly succeeded in establishing “workers’ states.” Ignoring everything Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky had written on the subject of the proletarian dictatorship—especially on the universal significance of soviets as the new form of state power discovered by the working class—the Pabloites argued that the existence of independent forms of workers’ power is not an essential criterion for deciding whether a workers’ state has been created.

The Reunification Congress of 1963 was programmatically grounded on the rejection of the historical necessity of building sections of the Fourth International in the backward countries. The resolution adopted at that congress by the Pabloites declared: “Confronted by ruling classes, rotten to the core and lacking mass support, the revolution draws into struggle the mass of the working population, including the poorest peasants and pauperized petty bourgeoisie, bringing about the collapse of the traditional order and its state, and exerting such pressure on centrist working-class parties and similar formations as to bring them to power.... The weakness of the enemy in the backward countries has opened the possibility of coming to power even with a blunted instrument.”

The abandonment of the struggle to build the revolutionary party was, in essence, the repudiation of the revolutionary role of the proletariat itself. This search for alternatives to the proletariat was expressed in the reunification resolution: “In view of the peculiar socio-economic structure of these countries, the main strength of the proletariat does not lie among the industrial factory workers, who with the exception of Argentina, form only a minority of the wage earners and a tiny fraction of the active working population of these countries ... the emphasis should be placed on ... miners, plantation hands, agricultural workers and largely unemployed.... In the form of expanding guerrilla forces, the peasantry has undoubtedly played a much more radical and decisive role in the colonial revolution than was forecast in Marxist theory.”

The glorification of guerrillaism was spelled out by the Bolivian Pabloite Moscoso: “The guerrilla method advocated by the Cubans is applicable to all underdeveloped countries, although its form must vary in accord with the peculiarities of each country. In those countries where there exists a great peasant mass with an unresolved land problem, the guerrillas will draw their strength from the peasantry; the guerrilla struggle will bring this mass into action, solving their agrarian problem arms in hand, as occurred in Cuba, starting from the Sierra Maestra. But in other countries the proletariat and the radicalized petty bourgeoisie of the cities will provide the guerrilla forces” (Ernest Mandel, ed., Fifty Years of World Revolution [New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970] pp. 194-95). Moscoso’s colleague Vitale, who was then preparing the future defeat of the Chilean workers, also trumpeted the overriding importance of guerrilla warfare, proclaiming, “The credit for having inaugurated this new insurrectionary strategy belongs without question to Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communist Party” (Ibid., p. 46).

To fully grasp the magnitude of the Pabloites’ political crimes, one has only to draw a balance sheet of the consequence of the guerrilla “strategy.” In Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina, the glorification of guerrillaism by the Pabloites isolated the revolutionary elements from the proletariat, obstructed the development of the revolutionary party in the working class and contributed to immense defeats.

In the course of these betrayals of the theory of permanent revolution, the Pabloites abandoned the standpoint of the international proletariat and separated the historical perspective of socialism from its roots in the struggle of the working class against capitalism and imperialism. In the implementation of their opportunist line, the Pabloites simply breathed new life into the old and discredited “two-stage” theory of the Stalinists, through which the Kremlin bureaucracy had for decades subordinated the proletariat to various bourgeois national leaders, claiming that the initiation of the socialist revolution had to be delayed until the democratic revolution had been completed.

Seeking to justify their adaptation to the national bourgeoisie, the Pabloites stated at their Reunification Congress that the crisis of revolutionary leadership did not really exist, or at least not in so acute a form, in the backward countries: “In the colonial and semi-colonial countries ... the very weakness of capitalism, the whole peculiar socio-economic structure produced by imperialism, the permanent misery of the big majority of the population in the absence of a radical agrarian revolution, the stagnation and even reduction of living standards while industrialization nevertheless proceeds relatively rapidly, creates situations in which the failure of one revolutionary wave does not lead automatically to relative or even temporary social or economic stabilization. A seemingly inexhaustible succession of mass struggles continues, such as Bolivia has experienced for ten years.” The tragic experiences of the last quarter-century—the defeats in Indonesia, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, the Sudan, to name only a few—have since shown the consequences of this opportunist complacency!

For a number of years, the Pabloites claimed that their policy was based on the theory of permanent revolution. But in 1982, following the inexorable logic of Pabloism, the SWP openly denounced Trotsky. It declared that the theory of permanent revolution was a barrier to the development of a new “Mass Leninist International” consisting of petty-bourgeois movements like the New Jewel Movement in Grenada and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, which the SWP hailed as its “sister parties.” Along with abandoning the theory of permanent revolution, the SWP resuscitated the old concept of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry,” which the Bolsheviks had discarded in 1917, but which Stalin revived in the 1920s to justify his disastrous alliance with Chiang K’ai-shek. The implications of this attack on Trotskyism are most graphically illustrated in the SWP’s vehement insistence that the South African proletariat must unconditionally submit to the political authority of the bourgeois African National Congress.

The Pabloites’ craven capitulation to the national bourgeoisie represented an adaptation to those forces to whom imperialism turned in the aftermath of World War II to head off the threat of proletarian revolution in the backward countries. Bogus independence was granted by imperialism to states throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa in the years following World War II. But after more than 40 years, none of the basic democratic tasks have been carried through successfully in any of these “newly independent states.” Together with the collapse of Stalinism, the failure of bourgeois nationalism to satisfy the basic needs of the masses in the backward countries, let alone realize socialism, heralds the complete ideological victory of Trotskyism over the nostrums advanced by the petty-bourgeois theoreticians, especially the Pabloites, to block the development of Marxism in the international proletariat.

The partition of India in 1947 symbolized the abortion of the democratic national struggle by the national bourgeoisie in alliance with imperialism. The pattern has repeated itself again and again. Even where the end of direct colonial rule involved armed struggle, the national bourgeoisie has been unable to liquidate the bitter legacies of colonialism and economic backwardness. The economic stranglehold of imperialism remains unbroken, and finds expression in the inescapable indebtedness of the so-called Less Developed Countries. Far from establishing equality among the various nationalities which comprise the populations of backward countries, ethnic, linguistic and religious hatreds are deliberately instigated. The outcome of the denial of the right of self-determination is communalism, pogroms and state repression.

While the Pabloites opposed the development of an independent revolutionary proletarian leadership, the national bourgeoisie exploited the sacrifices of the masses in the anti-imperialist struggle to secure its own interests. Such has been the outcome of the struggle in Algeria, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, to cite only a few examples. In Iran, the bourgeoisie has channeled the revolution into the dead end of a fratricidal war with Iraq that has strengthened the hand of US imperialism in the Persian Gulf.

In the most recent period, the organic inability of the national bourgeoisie to wage a consistent struggle against imperialism has been graphically illustrated by the PLO, the Tamil Tigers and the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. Tied to the apron strings of the reactionary Arab bourgeoisie, which is the most bitter enemy of Palestinian self-determination, the PLO has sought to keep the movement of workers and youth in Gaza and the West Bank within limits acceptable to the Palestinian bourgeoisie. Arafat’s policies have deliberately isolated the national movement from the proletariat of the Middle East.

In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, representing the most radical wing of the Tamil petty bourgeoisie, is incapable of conducting a consistent struggle for self-determination. The politics of the Tigers, based on their fatal illusions in the Indian bourgeoisie, culminated in their sanctioning of the Indo-Lankan Accord and led the Tamil masses to the present impasse. Even as the Tigers are being hunted down by the Indian Army, the LTTE leaders still declare their faith in Rajiv Gandhi and turn their back on the Indian proletariat. The implications of the petty-bourgeois nature of the LTTE reveal themselves most graphically in its defense of the strategic interests of the Indian bourgeoisie. The LTTE’s position was summed up in a speech by a member of its central committee Tilakar, who proclaimed: “Our liberation movement is not opposed to India’s interests. We have no objection whatsoever to India’s strategic aspirations to establish her status as the regional superpower in South Asia. We always functioned and will continue to function as a friendly force to India. We would have extended our unconditional support to the Indo-Lankan Accord if the agreement were only confined to Indo-Lankan relations aimed to secure India’s geo-political interests.”

The prostration of the Tamil Tigers to the geopolitical interests of the Indian bourgeoisie is echoed by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas’ endorsement of the Arias plan, which accepts the inviolability of the state forms through which imperialist domination of Central America has been upheld. The record and evolution of the Sandinistas is the most crushing refutation of the Pabloite capitulation to bourgeois nationalism. A decade after coming to power, the Sandinistas have failed to carry through any of the fundamental tasks of the democratic revolution. There has been no comprehensive program of land reform. And though the SWP proclaims that Nicaragua is a workers’ state, the overwhelming majority of the country’s economy remains privately owned. Following the signing of this pact, the Sandinistas have welcomed the contras to peace talks in Managua, while they crush working class strikes. In fact, the renewal of relations with the contra leaders, many of whom at one time belonged to the Sandinista Front, exposes how even the radical petty-bourgeois democratic wing of the national bourgeoisie is prepared to seek alliances with the most reactionary sections of the bourgeoisie when confronted with the independent movement of the working class.

In the United States, the Workers League—which is in political solidarity with the International Committee—has intransigently defended Nicaragua against the provocations of American imperialism. As a party that conducts its daily work in the center of world imperialism, a special responsibility falls upon the Workers League to champion the cause of all oppressed nations, especially those of Latin America and the Caribbean, which confront most directly the weight of Yankee imperialism. Moreover, this struggle for proletarian solidarity with the oppressed nations is a decisive component of the development of revolutionary class consciousness in the American working class, which must learn to hate every act of imperialist barbarism carried out by the United States. However, its unconditional defense of oppressed nations in their struggle to end imperialist bondage does not oblige the Workers League or any section of the International Committee to endorse the program of their bourgeois leaders. In fact, countless bitter experiences have demonstrated that the victory of the democratic revolution is possible only on the basis of the proletarian socialist revolution.

As a party based on the strategy of world socialist revolution, the International Committee pursues a single class line. There cannot and does not exist in any country “exceptional conditions” which would justify the subordination of the working class to any section of the national bourgeoisie. In the period of the first four congresses of the Comintern (1919-22), when there still existed many countries in which capitalist relations had hardly developed and in which the proletariat constituted only a negligible portion of the population, Lenin insisted on the necessity of cultivating in even the most immature proletariat a consciousness of its independent class interests. Nearly 70 years later, given the massive development of capitalist relations on every continent and the vast historical experience testifying to the utter rottenness of the national bourgeoisie in all oppressed countries, any retreat from the fight for the political independence of the working class serves only to disarm it and prepare defeats.

And as the debacle of the WRP proved, its betrayal of the class interests of workers in the Middle East led inexorably to its capitulation to the bourgeoisie in Britain itself. Healy’s unprincipled alliances with Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq served the fundamental interests of world imperialism which, whatever conflicts it may have with this or that regime, relies on the national bourgeoisie in the backward countries to fight the main threat to imperialism, the revolutionary working class.

In all struggles, in every part of the globe, the International Committee and its sections represent the historical interests of the proletariat, which is the international revolutionary class. It fights under all conditions to establish the independence of the working class from all the agencies of imperialism.