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 Fraction-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 Fraction – Fourth International
Dear Juan Cruz and comrades of the Trotskyist Fraction – 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.
********** ********** **********
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
Response to SA/LAS
To Socialist Action/Ligue pour L’Action Socialiste (SA/LAS),
We welcome your letter and your interest in building an international relationship with the FT. As you pointed out, we have many strategic agreements: we too believe in the need to build Leninist organizations and to rebuild the Fourth International. We also believe in the centrality and relevance of Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution. You also mentioned many political agreements with our Manifesto for a Socialist Revolutionary International published in 2013, and its updates. Notably, we share a critical balance of neo-reformist parties such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in the Spanish State, who emerged as the main political expression of massive popular discontent but who have shown to pursue a path to power without challenging the capitalist system. In the case of Syriza, it confirmed its allegiance to capital by passing harsh austerity measures right after rising to power on the promise of fighting them. We also share the characterization of Pink Tide governments in Latin America as timid attempts to tame capitalism, which ultimately failed to offer anything but short-term relief and paved the way for the current regional shift towards right-wing governments (including, notably, the rise of Bolsonaro in Brazil).
With regards to the crisis of social democratic parties and the rise of neoreformism, it is true, as you point out, that this development is uneven across different countries. The emergence of a new generation of left activism (socialist and social democratic) is taking place inside the labor party in the UK, helping restore its image among young activists, which had been almost completely lost during the Blair era. This is, however, an exception. Traditional social democratic parties in Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Greece, among others, have swerved to the center in such a decisive way that they are now indistinguishable from their neoliberal counterparts, thus leaving a political void that was occupied in many cases by neoreformist parties.
The historical evolution and the current situation is naturally different for newer labor/social democratic parties, such as the PT in Brazil or the NDP in Canada. We don’t know the political environment inside the NDP, neither we know whether there is the possibility of building a fraction of revolutionary socialist workers within it. The decision that you took as organization to build work inside the NDP shows a positive impulse to influence large swaths of workers. However, we believe organizing inside a reformist organization is a tactic to be used in specific circumstances and for limited periods of time. Moreover, the fact that the NDP is in government in two provinces (British Columbia and Alberta), makes it even more of a party of the regime; that is, a party that legitimizes and defends the capitalist state. Every time the police in these provinces represses, it’s the NDP who is giving the orders. The same goes for local governments in the hands of the NDP. In addition, in terms of foreign policy, the NDP has supported U.S. imperialism with regards to the Palestinian occupation by Israel, the Syrian conflict, the interference in Venezuela’s internal politics, etc.
All this makes it, in our view, incompatible with the politics of a socialist revolutionary
organization. Building inside the institutional spaces of the NDP for several years with no prospects of breaking off means legitimizing its claim of a party for the working people and blurs the fact that they don’t represent a real alternative to the rule of capital. It is unclear how SA/LAS evaluates when would be the correct moment to break with the NDP and under which circumstances.
With respect to Syria, we agree that what started as a popular, semi-spontaneous uprising in 2011 quickly morphed into a rather broad coalition of oppositional forces (the rebels), grouped under the umbrella denomination of “Free Syrian Army,” which lacked a working-class perspective and shared the common goal of overthrowing Bashar-Al Assad. The rebels have received funding and training from the U.S. and U.S. regional allies and do not represent in any way a socialist alternative to the Baathist rule. Russia has exerted its regional power with its military support of the Syrian government, allowing Assad to regain momentum and take back most of the Syrian territory held by rebel forces two years ago–and continue his Bonapartist, iron-fist rule. In this sense, Russia’s role has been counterrevolutionary, since it helped quash the popular uprising against the government, however inchoate this movement was since its beginning. Characterizing Russia’s intervention in Syria as merely “defensive” is, we believe, embellishing the role it has played in the conflict. Faced with a US-backed multi-class (or even bourgeois) rebellion confronting a reactionary, bonapartist government supported by Russia, socialists should not support either of these two ‘camps’; none of them is a challenge to the rule of capital. In this sense, we understand the Syrian conflict as a reactionary war, where the main actors are actually outside the country: the U.S. and its regional allies backing the rebels and trying to push for a ‘regime change’, and Russia, Iran and other minor partners supporting Assad. (There is also the Islamic State, a profoundly reactionary actor that thrived under the repeated attack of U.S. and European imperialism, and the Kurds in Rojava, the only progressive actor in the region.) In conclusion, we support national self-determination for the Syrian people, and hence we oppose first and foremost all and any imperialist intervention, but we do not provide any support to Assad’s government.
We characterize Cuba as a workers’ state with a bureaucratic degeneration. This means that, first of all, we defend the conquests of the Cuban revolution against the encroachment of U.S. imperialism, the disgraceful embargo and the pressures (external and internal) towards capitalist restoration. It is only thanks to the 1959 revolution that Cuba has attained the highest levels of education and health care indicators, and a wide array of economic and social rights that set it apart from the rest of Latin America. At the same time, the slow but steady opening of the Cuban economy to foreign capital, and the loosening of restrictions to small entrepreneurs, although ostensibly motivated by the need to stimulate an extremely weak economy, objectively brings Cuba closer to capitalist restoration. The Cuban CP has played a leading role in this process, as it did in avoiding the emergence of bodies of workers’ self-organization and democracy and in discouraging revolutionary movements in other countries, such as the case when Fidel advised revolutionaries of the FSLN in Nicaragua to not follow Cuba’s steps. Thus, we oppose Castro’s regime and its continuation in Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government, and we believe that only a political revolution that defends the workers’ state and pushes to
democratize it will be able to get rid of the Communist Party bureaucracy and set the conditions for a true workers’ democracy to advance towards socialism. The real possibilities of such an evolution to the left of the Cuban workers’ state will no doubt depend on the international situation and, notably, in the eventual emergence of other revolutionary workers’ state. But our main disagreement with your point of view is that we consider the leadership of the CP a bureaucracy that represents an obstacle to advancing towards socialism in Cuba and towards the international spread of the revolution. We do not believe (as the International Workers’ League, ILW-LIT) that capitalism has been already restored in Cuba, but the danger of such a development increase day by day, and thus the importance of maintaining a program of political revolution.
We look forward to continuing this exchange and explore venues for political collaboration.
Member of the FT in the U.S.
Response to the Trotskyist Fraction letter dated January 29, 2019
March 18, 2019.
Dear Comrade Juan Cruz and members of the Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International:
We are in receipt of your letter of 29 January, 2019, and would like to respond to some issues raised in your letter, and to the process of communication itself.
We would like to deal with the latter issue first. To say that we are frustrated by the length of time it takes to communicate, back and forth, even where we know that, in a formal sense, the formulation of responses does take time, would be an understatement. We are at a loss to know how we can remedy this problem. It raises several political points.
1. In the Manifesto for a Movement for a Revolutionary Socialist International, it is crystal clear that the FT-FI saw that the development of a left in the EUSec-FI was part of the process of regroupment which would be integral to the construction of a revolutionary workers’ international. If such is the case, and we believe that the words in the Manifesto can have no other meaning, we assume that the FT-FI would be organizationally prepared to expedite that process. It appears that such is not the case, and we would strongly encourage the TF-FI to have an urgent and meaningful discussion on this point. In conversations with other groups attracted to the politics of the FT-FI, we have heard the same frustration expressed about the perceived lack of organizational seriousness around this question.
2. The organizational question, as both Trotsky and Cannon pointed out, time and again, usually reveals a political issue. In this case, we feel the political problem is an underestimation of the importance of building the International. We know from the practice of the PTS and the FT-FI that there is an understanding of the concept, first enunciated by Marx and then restated by Trotsky, that the class struggle, while national in form, is international in content. The receding of the pink tide and its replacement by the hard right in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, and the internationalist response of the FT-FI to this, and its response to the slow coup in Venezuela, demonstrate that it is not a matter of failing to understand the meaning of Trotsky’s formulation. It is a failure to grasp that the highest political expression of that profound formulation is in fact the construction of an International Party which can give a political response to the international situation. As Trotsky himself insisted, the world imperialist system is not a sum of its national parts, but is an organic whole, operating in accordance with the law of uneven and combined development.
This is why Trotsky insisted on the need to build an International as a first priority, knowing full well that the strength of the International would be translated and reinforced in each of its national sections through a genuine process of international collaboration.
3. We raise the organizational question first, as it relates directly to the second question, that of political collaboration. Without a mechanism in place to discuss rationally this question — how, what kind, where, etc. — the notion of collaboration is a polite fiction. We see many areas where fruitful collaboration can take place: building an anti-imperialist united front to defend the national sovereignty of the peoples of the Americas, with a special emphasis on those countries presently in the cross-hairs of the guns of imperialism: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
With the sections of the FT-FI projecting anti-imperialism as a central feature of its program to mobilize the working masses of Our America, we think there can be a real opportunity for a deepening collaboration between the comrades of Left Voice, Socialist Action USA, Socialist Action Canada, and the comrades of the MTS of Mexico, for example. There are other areas, of course, where the prospects of joint work are real, but we need an actual forum within which those discussions can take place.
4. This brings us to our third point, a discussion of revolutionary Cuba and our work in the NDP. We note from your letter and your analysis of the latest Cuban constitution, for example, that the FT-FI, like our tendency, puts the defense of the Cuban workers’ state against imperialism as a priority of revolutionaries. We also agree with the FT-FI that the extension of direct forms of workers’ power will deepen the revolutionary process. We concur that recognition and welcoming of pro-Cuba Revolution political tendencies within and beyond the Cuban CP are necessary steps on the road to the flowering of proletarian democracy. The real question is how do we get there. To date, there has been little discussion about a transitional program for the defense of the Cuban revolution and the creation of organs of proletarian democracy.
5. Our NDP fraction work (it is not ‘entryism’) will soon be elaborated in a document which was originally written for the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvriere, and is in the process of being updated by one of its original authors who was a central committee member of that organization, and who is presently a member of the CC of Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action Socialiste. It will be ready for adoption at our next conference in May and for discussion between our organizations after that date.
We note that our fraction work has, to date, allowed us to create a discussion group of over 1,400 persons, where all sorts of political questions are raised and debated, including interventions from many tendencies, ranging from the Stalinists of the Canadian CP, to the IMT, the Spartacists, the International Socialists and the Canadian supporters of the ISO. Add to that the hundreds of mostly young workers and students looking for socialist solutions to their problems. To put this in perspective, it would be like Left Voice creating a socialist discussion group with 15,000 people.
We have recruited working class militants from this activity, many of whom are union activists — public sector workers, and a small cadre of building trades activists as well.
6. Which brings us back to our first point — the framework for discussion and collaboration. We would like to know the FT-FI’s thoughts on this, and how the factors which impede a fruitful discussion and collaboration can be overcome. Perhaps that can be the first point on the agenda of any future meetings between the PTS and our organizations.
Barry Weisleder, Federal Secretary,
Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action Socialiste in the Canadian state.