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Second Conference of the Trotskyist Faction-International Strategy

by FT-CI Friday, May. 28, 2004 at 11:14 AM


Second Conference of the Trotskyist Faction-International Strategy


The Second International Conference of the Trotskyist Faction-International Strategy was held in Buenos Aires last week. The meeting decided to adopt a new name for our tendency, from now on the Trotskyist Faction-Fourth International (FT-CI), under the banner of 'rebuild the world party of social revolution'. Delegates from FT sections from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Europe, alongside a sympathizer from the Venezuelan JIR. A living debate unfolded during the five sessions of the conference on the changes in the current world situation and the need to launch an offensive policy around the need to rebuild the Fourth International and the tasks facing the sections in the next period ahead. We define the Trotskyist Faction as a 'theoretical and political propaganda platform fighting to rebuild the Fourth International'. With regards to the First Conference held back in 2002, we have seen a consolidation and growth of our current, with growing links also between the various sections and advanced layers of the labor movement -themselves a reflection of an inchoate change within the working class movement. The opening session of the Conference took place on Saturday April 24 at the School of Sociology, with almost 800 members in attendance. Members from other revolutionary marxist groups were also present at the venue, like Ernesto Gonzalez, a historical leader of the Morenoite tendency, current leader of the MAS; Gustavo Lerer, leader of the PRS-Causa Obrera, who read a letter on behalf of the National Committe of his organization and also took the floor at the conference. Last but not least, three delegates to the MRCI Congress were also present, with a member of the Italian Progetto Comunista giving a speech to the audience. The pages are a transcription of the opening report and excerpts taken from some of the most outstanding interventions at the open session.

On behalf of the Argentine section: Emilio Albamonte- PTS leader

A new phase ahead

(...) In the wake of the defeats inflicted upon it in the 1970s, the working class movement that emerged in the postwar went into decline and gave up on a whole series of major conquests -what came to be known in the 1980s as the era of 'neoliberalism'. Most of them were lost without a fight, because the existing leaderships built by the working class in the previous period failed to be up to the challenge (...)

The unfolding of neoliberalism has been a thorough-going process of counter-revolution, which was pushed ahead without no need of Fascism or Bonapartism, in this Age of Extremes, as Erich Hobsbawn branded the 20th century (...). True to form, the last twenty years have seen a massive retreat of the proletariat, which was specially deep-going in the 1990s, a decade when the collapse of the Stalinist-led workers' states was followed by an era of rampant reaction, local wars like that of the Balkans or else the Caucasus; the first Gulf War, etc. Those wars of the 1990s went hand in hand with a renewed slump and the expansion of bourgeois democracy, while austerity plans were implemented everywhere. In our continent, the neoliberal agenda culminated the work initiated by the military dictatorships a decade earlier, wiping out a whole generation of proleratians, be it physically or else morally.

And this could only mean that our organization grew within the context of a rampant reaction against Marxim both in our country and abroad. We had to swim against the stream. We have had to take up the thought and revolutionary beacon bequathed by Trotsky in an almost total political isolation, while the existing forces of Trotsyism were torn apart one after the other by political strife within their ranks.

Fortunately, comrades, those days are over now. There was a turn-about with two distinct phases. The first phase started in 1995, with the great strike by French civil servants, which marked the first watershed in the situation and reversed the defeatist atmosphere within the labor movement and the exploited worldwide. The 'labor wars' in Korea followed suit, with general strikes flaring up across a number of European countries during that period of 1995-96. However, those general strikes and fights did not grow into a generalized upswing because there rulers of the world had stroken a stable balance, and the US seemed bound to become an unrivalled power -and to a certain extent we can say it did become a 'hyperpower' (...)

Back in 1999, the youth protesting in Seattle said enough is enough! and went on to organize the anti-globalization or no-global movement, with one of its wings moving in an anticapitalist direction. This was a minority within a broader development, which encompassed the American union bureaucracy and raised a rather mixed-up program. We said, and we think we were right -although Marxists tend to fail rather than succeed to predict the course of events most of the time- that 1999 ushered in a preparatory phase. It was a phase heralding a revival of the labor and mass movements, as well as anti-imperialist struggles. Furthermore, it was a phase anticipating a transitional mood at the level of the subjectivity of the masses -with the no global movement along with its anticapitalist wing nourishing great demonstrations staged by millions of citizens in Europe against the war in Iraq. In our view, these were part of of a mass backlash in response to the US's attempt at reshaping the world along the lines of its own national interest (...)

A new mood growing within labor ranks

In our view, the capitalist crises and the changed mood brought about by the anticapitalist movement, the no global movement, the antiwar movement, have ushered in the conditions for a new turn of the proletariat worldwide. This turn is still in the making -we cannot still ponder its full scope. The Conference looked into the situation of the various countries in order to ponder all the elements at stake, without no exaggeration, for the sake of a sober political and theoretical approach. Some developments can be clearly seen already, such as the great developments led by the Europen unions in their fight against the cutbacks on social security in France and Germany. Some new phenomena could also be seen, such as the 'wild strikes' staged by the grassroots against the will of their leaders. The walkout staged by the Royal Mail employees in Great Britain which pitted some 20,000 workers against the official leaders of the union and that of the bus drivers in Milan are the two most outstanding developments in this regard. Some of those workers come from the old 'operaista' tradition within the Italian labor movement, and have bequeathed it to the new generations (...)

Latin America has not yet seen classical revolutions anywhere, but a whole series of upheavals and rebellions have nevertheless burst out across this region. And the reason for this lies in the fact that classical revolutions call forth the subjectivity of the proletariat if they are to develop fully. And the working class is just taking the first steps in this direction, hence we haven't yet seen any classical revolution. However, we should say that some Latin American developments bear some distinctive traits of classical revolutions -the October rebellion in Bolivia, for instance. The El Alto uprising has been a beacon in this regard, with aymara aboriginals -many of them peasants- coming together with the Huanuni miners, who staged a general strike and showed the potential of the working class to lead or else share the leadership of whole swathes of the mass movement, much bigger than them. From this point of view, when we say that the phase opened up back in 1999 is a preparatory one, what we mean is that our definition does not rely solely on the repetition of capitalist crises or else unilateral wars fought for by US imperialism; we also include the revival of the main agency with the ability to deliver a response to those developments and orient them towards a workers' and socialist revolution. Because -and this goes without a saying specially at a meeting of socialists- we are no Islamists, we are no pro Zapatistas, we are no landless peasants movement, although we respect many of those movements as devoted fighters. We are not just anti-capitalists, either. I would say that we are internationalist proletarian revolutionary communists. We are class-minded militants, who want to take part in the new developments just as they are, without any sectarianism at all (...)

The heightened Iraqi resistance has ushered in a transitional situation

(...) Within this preparatory phase we've been talking about -and when I say phase I mean the long term- a reactionary situation opened up in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The World Trade Center blasts were used by the American bourgeoisie as a rationale to push ahead with their agenda for tighter control of the oil resources and also political rejuvenation of the Middle East. In the words of the neo-conservatives themselves, this is all about laying the basis for a "new century" of US hegemony. Therefore, a reactionary situation opened up within this longer preparatory phase, with the defeats inflicted upon the Afghan and then the Iraqi masses as two key milestones. However, we believe that this situation has changed in the last six or seven months as the resistance in Iraq became widespread; a development that has just deepened in the last few weeks. The gaps separating the big powers ruling the world have just become deeper. And just as they were trying to find a way out of the Iraqi conundrum, the resistance became widespread, thus putting an end to the reactionary situation and opening up -in the medium term- a new situation that we have called so far a transitional one.

In this regard, we have some disagreements with the MRCI comrades, who claim there is an already pre-revolutionary situation worldwide. In our view, we are going through a transitional situation because, no matter how shaky the whole picture looks; the fact that imperialism is being politically challenged in Iraq -not so much on a military level yet-, we have to say that there is no class struggle upswing on world scale yet. Nevertheless, we have just witnessed key developments on the ground these days, such as the still uncoordinated but yet massive upheaval by the Shiite and the Sunni populations; all this speaks of a transitional situation. If should focus in the short term, what we Marxists called a conjuncture, we might say that developments worlwide hinge upon the events on the ground in Iraq. And also the agenda devised both by presidents Bush and Sharon for the Middle East (...)

Mao Zedong once said that imperialism was a paper tiger. It is true that imperialism is just an ephemeral social formation that can be overthrown. But we Marxists have always opposed such 'paper tiger' view. Today, imperialism not only counts on an army at its disposal. It also has set out a political plan, which is trying to improve day after day, but alas! it has gone from failure to failure. The latest plan devised by president Bush boils down to clinching some kind of agreement with the Shiites and the remnants of the Baath party (...) They are trying to get the old members of Hussein's party to re-organize the Iraqi army and police to go ahead with their original plan to set up a puppet administration and keep troops on the ground by relying on a network of 11 bases which should provide support for a rapid deployment task force in the Middle East. On top of that, the US has resorted to a Mr. Brahimi, an Algerian-born United Nations representative, to stich up an administration made up of both Sunni and Shiite representatives that the masses can trust (...) But this plan is -from a political point of view- is bound to fail, since the pro-American faction led by Chalabi is opposed to it; the say that handing control of the army and the police over to former Baath party members is just like having given the Nazis the control of the German army after 1945...The US is trying, nevertheless, to find a way out resorting to its massive economic, political and military muscle. But, once again, it is most unlikely that those plans will ever lead somewhere, that is why we are going through a transitional period (...)

Taken as a whole, it is very likely that the present period, that we call a transitional one out of prudence, will become a full-blown pre-revolutionary situation worldwide. Because here we are faced with enormous contradictions that have to do with the core of American politics. According to the latest polls, the American people is still in two minds about Kerry, the Democratic candidate, and this just because he is just a bad copy of Bush himself, even standing on the right of Bush on some matters.

Bush relies on a social base rooted in the Christian Coalition and big business. But the population is split in twos, and should the Iraqi uprising unfold, this base of support might as well wither away. Even if we think of a victory for Bush at the polls, this development will remain at work, so that it is very likely that the next period ahead will be a pre-revolutionary situation.

To sum up, we believe that this is a transitional situation -with some symptoms pointing to a pre-revolutionary one-, in which massive gaps are dividing the masters of the world; that Islamic terrorism is a marginal, extremely distorted and abnoxious reflection -above all in the realm of the methods it resorts to for us revolutionary Marxists- of bourgeois sections that have come under heavy fire -which America is determined to hold down under its control. However, we also think that this kind of terrorism could also herald developments within our class -we should bear in mind that terrorism, throughout its history, even in Russia, went always hand in hand with developments in the realm of the class struggle.

In this sense, we're paying close attention to the developments within the proletariat. In Argentina, the factories taken over by their workers; the experiences at Zanón and Brukman being the most advanced ones with a big impact on advanced layers not only at home but also in Europe and the US. During the tour of Italy made by Zanón workers, hundreds of people showed interest and attended the meetings there. But those were relatively small and isolated developments. What we are now discussing is the likelihood of major labor developments. If this should be the case, the time will have come for our groups and sections to make decisive inroads in rebuilding a world party of social revolution, which in our view is the Fourth International.

The fight to rebuild the Fourth International

All the discussions in this Conference dealt with the preparation of such revolutionary International. I would like to mention here a historical polemic on the subject of building the Fourth International. In discussion between Trotsky and the French leader Pivert -who was a leader of the French wing inside the French Socialist Party, who also led a faction made up of revolutionary workers that Trotsky regarded as the 'center' or else 'centrist'-; well Pivert told Trotsky that party building on a national scale was possible, but that the Fourth International was a premature undertaking because the conditions for its launch were missing (...) Trotsky replied that a centrist like Pivert considers building a party nationally as a totally sensible task; however when it comes to building an international one he raises thousands of objections.

Who was right, Trotsky or Pivert? A pragmatic person would say Pivert was in the right. But for us, who want to stay away from pragmatism and adopt a Marxist outlook, Pivert and those who agreed with him to the effect that founding the Fourth International was still-born yet were totally wrong (...)

Trotsky took issue with all those clamining that 'the conditions were missing', and went on to found the Fourth International in 1938. If Trotskyism remains an actual force today, well that's because of that momentuous decision, which if we should measure against a pragmatic benchmark has come to be an absolute failure, but when considered from a historical point of view, it has allowed the only continuity -albeit a relative and weak one, a continuity at last- that can prevent the proletariat from having to start from scratch again (...)

There are many organizations claiming allegiance to the Trotskyist movement who have dropped the fight for the Fourth International. We think this is a gross blunder (...), that there is no more urgent and important task than that of founding the Fourth International. And this means building an organization which is not just the sum-total of its national sections or any given tendency. We are a tendency, but let me tell you something. We have drafted a resolution to change our name; from now on our name will be Trotskyist Faction - Fourth International; TF-FI, to indicate the relationship between our current status -i.e. a tendency- and our aim of working, day in day out, through Liaison Committees, or else mergers, on to rebuild the Fourth International and strong revolutionary Marxist parties, i.e. Trotskyist ones, in every country of the world. This is why we have fraternally asked the MRCI comrades to attend our meeting and take the floor; if they want to address our comrades, they can do it -unfortunately we have not been invited to attend the MRCI meeting-, but we believe that we have to engage in discussions with all those fighting to rebuild the Fourth International to see how we can take common steps in this direction.

We have devised our method in this regard, which is to create Exploration Committees with those tendencies with whom we do not have a throrough-going agreement, and Liaison Committees including a common practise with those tendencies with whom we have more comprehensive agreements, with discussion bulletins published in various languages, where we shall stand by a common theory as well as a common practise. We have raised this proposal many years ago now, we have not come up with this idea at this conference, to explore how we can take steps forward to rebuild the Fourth International (...) And to make inroads in this regard we have discussed around the way to lay down methods and principled bases to have tactics towards all the wings of the Trotskyist movement; above all those not drifting towards reformism, like the United Secretariat, which claims allegiance to the Fourth International but one of his leaders is a current member of the Brazilian bourgeois government headed by Lula da Silva. As everybody knows, Mr. Rosetto, former comrade, is currently a member of the Department of Agrarian Affairs, which means that he is busy negotiating with the Landless Peasants Movement (MST), and when negotiations fail he turns to cracking down on them.

So we are going to propose all tendencies in the Trotskyist movement to mount a big campaign in defence of the 'anti-ministerialist' principle so to speak, which was originally set out by Friedrich Engels himself in response to Millerand's participation in France's bourgeois government of the time, just when the Second International was being founded. And the Third International upheld that principle too, as did the Fourth, which shows us that the United Secretariat is veering towards reformism. And this is also known by the Italian comrades of Progetto Comunista, since the United Secretariat wing led by Livio Maitán is part and parcel of Refondazione Comunista's national committee, a reformist party that broke with the Olive Coalition, which is led by a trustee of big business like Romano Prodi, because of some differences that arose on the national budget. Now they are getting ready to clinch a new deal with the Olive Coalition with a view to getting into office again. That is why we have said that the four demands raised by the MRCI comrades seems to us a necessary condition, albeit they are not enough themselves, to rebuild the Fourth International. Because this is not just a matter of three or four demands, or even more, but it boils down to a common practise and our willingness to allow other revolutionary militants to criticize our own intervention (...)

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next conference Meyer London Friday, May. 28, 2004 at 4:33 PM

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