In 2016 and 2017 Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste (Canadian state) contributed to the formation of a new revolutionary political current in the Fourth International. It was based on a text which constituted a sound, principled and absolutely necessary challenge to the F.I. leadership’s abandonment of the historic programme of world Trotskyism. Published in six languages, the document gained support by organizations and individuals around the world. Unfortunately, the Platform for a Revolutionary International obtained few votes at the World Congress held in March 2018.
At the SA/LAS convention in Toronto in May 2018 we pledged to continue our close collaboration with our American comrades in Socialist Action (USA), our very good relations with the Fourth International section in Greece, with the comrades of the Anticapitalist and Revolution (AetR) tendency of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France, with the Revolutionary Left Anti-capitalists (IZAR) in Spain, with Socialist Democracy in Ireland, with the LUS in Mexico, and with co-thinkers in Italy, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Hong Kong and other countries. Our efforts to participate in the FI as a sympathizing organization, or even to attain observer status, have seemingly reached a dead end. The decision of the 1995 World Congress to include SA/LAS in all F.I. gatherings has been systematically violated. Farcically, the dormant Gauche socialiste in Quebec, which claims to have ten members, remains the official F.I. section in Canada.
At the World Congress the policy of abandonment of revolutionary strategy, which has led to the liquidation of numerous national sections, was again affirmed. As a result, it is clear that to build a revolutionary workers’ international, and to participate directly in that work, SA/LAS must turn its attention to significant Trotskyist parties operating elsewhere, especially in Latin America, and to seek direct political collaboration with them.
One such body is the Trotskyist Faction-Fourth International, best known for its largest component, the Socialist Workers’ Party (PTS) in Argentina and the publication “Left Voice.” Despite some political differences we have with it, the TF exhibits the continuity of the internationalism of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, Maurice Spector, Jack MacDonald, and of Latin American revolutionaries Jose Carlos Mariategui, Justo Fosso, Hugo Blanco and Nahuel Moreno. In essence, we want to link the strongest threads of revolutionary Marxism found in the Americas.
Below, please see recent correspondence between SA/LAS and the TF.
Revolutionary politics is immensely practical. We contend that there will be no solution to the organic crisis of capitalism and its steady, toxic decay within any national framework. Not anywhere in the world, but especially not here in the heart of the imperialist beast. There will be no solution to catastrophic climate change, growing inequality, racism, the subjugation of women and national minorities, and the deepening exploitation of workers on this continent and globally without a mass, co-ordinated struggle for the destruction of North American imperialism and its agents in the dominated countries of Central and South America. That means, as it has since the days of the Third International of Lenin and Trotsky, the development of a world party of socialist revolution, that is, an international organization of the vanguard of the continental and global working classes.
If you agree with us that it is time to end this global system of domination and exploitation of the immense majority of humanity, which is designed to fill the coffers of the billionaires and their hangers-on; if you, like us, believe that the paid off politicians of the capitalist parties, and the privileged bureaucrats of the North American labour movement must be replaced by leaders with the courage, clarity and determination to mobilize the ranks to end that system, we say this to you:
Join Us. Help build the indispensable tool which can free humanity from a cruel fate. Build the revolutionary party and the revolutionary workers’ international.
On Friday, July 27, 2018 at 12:06 a.m., the following message was sent to the Trotskyist Faction – Fourth International
Dear Juan Cruz and comrades of the Trotskyist Faction – Fourth International,
The statement below is the response of our leadership to your invitation to read and reflect on the basic analysis and positions of the TF-FI. Let us know what you think of it, and how you see discussion and collaboration between our party and your international current proceeding.
Federal Secretary, Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste in the Canadian state
Political convergences and differences with the Trotskyist Faction
The Trotskyist Fraction (TF) has shown what can be done when a small group of revolutionary Marxists dedicate themselves to building a Leninist party rooted in the working class and how such a party can grow, establish an international on-line presence and form a front with other revolutionary organizations in Argentina that play a significant role in the class struggle.
We are in broad agreement with the analysis and strategic orientation of the comrades of the TF as outlined in their 2013 Manifesto and updated texts. The documents are in the best tradition of Revolutionary Marxism going back to the early Communist International. They present a coherent analysis in an accessible and pedagogic style.
Important areas of agreement
– We agree that refounding a revolutionary Fourth International is necessary. Also, that this will arise from a fusion of forces, propelled by a deepening of the crisis of global capitalism and an increase in the tempo of class struggle. As a first step, we concur with opening a discussion, under the auspices of a Movement for a Revolutionary Socialist International or some other framework.
– We share the analysis of the stagnation of global capitalism after 2008, the crisis of leadership in the workers’ movement and for the most part the view of the political conjuncture in Latin America, Europe, the United States and the Middle East. One clear difference is over Cuba, less obviously over Syria (see below). The TF’s analysis is thinner in the case of the UK (Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn).
– We concur with your defense of the theory of permanent revolution and its contemporary application to Egypt and the ‘pink tide’ regimes in Latin America. Another valuable contribution in the Manifesto is to demonstrate how the demands of the ‘democratic revolution’ can only be realized in a transitional and ‘permanentist’ framework.
– Finally, we share the view that the construction of revolutionary parties is imperative and that the international conjuncture opens up new possibilities for achieving this.
Points of divergence: Social Democracy, Syria and Cuba
– In tracing the crisis of international social democracy, the comrades of the TF appear to neglect its uneven application. Each national context presents an original combination of the general features of the historical period.
The Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon in the UK, and on a lesser scale the rise of the DSA in the United States, testify to this uneven and contradictory character. Social democratic parties are generally undergoing a deepening crisis of delegitimation. But this analysis should not be applied in a mechanical and linear fashion. The picture is uneven, depending on the history of the workers’ movement and the vicissitudes of the class struggle in different national settings. Revolutionary Marxists need to be sensitive to these specific and contradictory dynamics, whatever tactics they adopt to relate to them.
Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) is a weak social democratic party, which is patterned after the British Labour Party. It was launched in 1961 on the initiative of the Canadian Labour Congress and the CCF, a social democratic party founded in 1933. The NDP is frequently elected to office at the provincial level but has never won a federal mandate. Its leadership is pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist. Nevertheless, it is supported by class conscious workers who have broken with the parties of Canadian capital, the Liberals and Conservatives. There is no party to the left of the NDP outside of the tiny neo-Stalinist Communist Party and a few small groups of Trotskyist or Maoist persuasion.
Quebec Solidaire is a small mass party confined to Quebec that grew out of the crisis of the bourgeois nationalist Parti Quebecois. It is a ‘left’ rather than a labour-based party that is not yet as bureaucratized as the NDP. But power is increasingly in the hands of a party leadership whose vision is limited to getting elected on a program of mild reforms.
Socialist Action seeks to build a class struggle left wing in the mass organizations of the Canadian and Quebec working class. The bureaucratic misleaders of our class must be challenged outside of but also within those mass organizations. That is the basis for our fraction work in the unions and in the NDP.
Our work in relation to the NDP, like our activity in the labour unions, is fundamentally a function of our strategic orientation to the working class and its mass organizations. We have no ideological affinity to social democracy, let alone the anemic version of it embodied in the NDP.
The NDP cannot be transformed. It has all the fatal weaknesses of social democracy. We work there because it has been possible to advance a principled program of a transitional character and we are able meet and discuss with the working class base of the party. At the same time, the majority of our activity is focused outside the NDP.
– After Libya, does it really make sense to assimilate Syria to the ascendant phase of the Arab Spring rather than to imperialism’s counteroffensive? Revolutionaries cannot confuse their wishes for reality. US imperialism was caught off guard in Tunisia and Egypt. But the popular insurgency in Syria was rapidly militarized and hegemonized by reactionary Islamist forces. The Baathist regime retained its social base and its army remained intact despite heavy losses. We are not partisans of Assad any more than we were of Gadhafi. But the demonization of Third World autocrats is an old imperialist ploy. In any case, it is the task of the Arab masses and no one else to settle accounts with their rulers.
Imperialism’s violations of national sovereignty, in whatever guise, must be consistently opposed. As the TF comrades acknowledge, victory for the US and its allies in Syria would strengthen imperialism’s grip in the region and globally while reinforcing militarism and reaction at home.
Summing up the war in Syria as “a reactionary civil war” and a confrontation between “global powers” stops short of what is required to understand this brutal conflict. In our view, this is fundamentally a proxy war sponsored by Washington and its allies (including Canada) aimed at regime change and failing that, weakening the Syrian state. The call for the overthrow of Assad while rejecting any collaboration with imperialism is an abstraction. In the heartland of imperialism, it can only serve to disorient the anti-war movement. We hope for a US defeat in this war. Revolutionary Marxists should defend Syria’s sovereignty including its right to call for assistance from its allies. This is a principled anti-imperialist stand not to be confused with the campism of the Stalinist and neo-Stalinist left, who offer a reflex political defense of any regime targeted by imperialism.
Likewise, we are not political apologists for Putin. We recognize, however, the essentially defensive character of Russia’s intervention in Syria and Ukraine. It cannot be equated to the aggressive policy of Washington and its NATO allies.
It is not clear if, like the IST, the TF regards Russia as a fully-fledged imperialist power and the war in Syria as in essence an inter-imperialist struggle.
– Defense of the Cuban Revolution including its leadership goes back a long way among Canadian Trotskyists. Comrades in a predecessor organization played an exemplary role in building solidarity with the nascent Cuban revolution in the early sixties. We have been influenced by Joe Hansen’s analysis of Cuba which we believe has stood the test of time. We are aware that Latin American and European Trotskyists have not viewed the Cuban leadership as favourably.
We acknowledge that Cuba lacks genuine institutions of workers’ democracy and revolutionary political pluralism.
But for us, Cuba is less bureaucratized than the former USSR, with a lesser degree of material privilege and repression while demonstrating a greater capacity for self-criticism and correction. After Che, who tried to light the torch of revolution internationally, the Cuban leadership relied in large measure on defensive diplomacy to resist the pressure of U.S. imperialism. Dependent as it was on Soviet assistance, the regime adapted to Stalinism, more so at certain times than others. However, weighed against this must be Cuba’s exemplary internationalism quite unique for a ‘bureaucratized workers’ state’, examples of which include its medical missions, and its decisive military engagement in Africa in the 1980’s against the forces of the apartheid South African regime.
Trotsky only considered the political degeneration of the Third International to have crossed the point of no return after 1933 with the refusal of the German KPD to build a workers’ united front against fascism. We do not see an equivalent counter-revolutionary watermark in the case of the Cuban CP.
That is why we have not called for the formation of a revolutionary party to oppose the Cuban CP. Even less do we support a political revolution to overthrow the Cuban bureaucracy. Cuba’s international role has not been counterrevolutionary in our view.
The traditional policy of our political current is not to advocate the construction of a party in opposition to the Cuban Communist Party, but to support the establishment of a Trotskyist tendency within the CCP, alongside our efforts to advance socialist political pluralism and the defense and extension of the gains of the revolution.
Growing inequality and weakened solidarity risk undermining the achievements of the revolution. It would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of a restoration of capitalism in Cuba and re-absorption by imperialism. But for the comrades of the TF, this appears to be a foregone conclusion while we believe this judgment is premature. We intend to follow political developments in Cuba on these important questions while continuing our line (shared by the Trotskyist Fraction) of unconditional defense of the Cuban revolution against imperialist aggression whether blockade, internal meddling or war.
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There is much more we could add but we feel that is best left to the unfolding discussion between our tendencies which we very much hope will continue.
Central Committee, Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’action socialiste in the Canadian state