Before I begin i'd like to give a heads up to some other general reports of Socialism 2008 - there are one's at A Very Public Sociologist, Socialist Party Devon, The Nation of Duncan and The Revolution Decides - if there are anymore that want plugging let us know! (by the way, some of this is a little simplifed but i'm trying to draw out some of the main points made) On a completely different note - maybe we should have a Socialist Party Bloggers meeting next year at Socialism during one of the breaks?
The final session I went to on the sunday was the one on the furth international. Disappointly or nor, there were none of the ultra-left groups there that i had expected. However, we were treated to a leadoff which breifly summarised the history and degeneration of the first three international working class organisations and then Niall Mulholland outlined the emergence of the Fourth International (also referred to as FI).
It had been the defeat of the German working class with the rise of Hitler to power in 1933 which had led Trotsky to break with the Comintern. Although him and other had been expelled, the International Left Opposition created in 1930 (the Russian Left Opposition had already existed for 7 years) saw itself as trying to reform the Comintern and as an expelled faction.
The Fourth International was launched under difficult conditions. It supporters were under attacks in Russia and abroad by the GPU - several of the main supporters of the Fourth International were executed prior to the conference or in the next few year afterwards - Leon Sedov. Rudolf Klement, Erwin Wolf and Trotdsky himself to name a few. But Niall said that the conference was justified by continuing the marxist political programme which the Comintern had moved away from.
The organisation's difficulties didn't stop after the conference. The outbreak of WW2 led to a crisis in one of it's strongest sections, the US SWP, with some of the leaders capitulating to petty-bourgeois ideas over the USSR. The war also scattered the forces of the Fourth International, this was especially so after the assination fo Trotsky. However, there were some acheivements during the war - particularly in Britain by the WIL and RCP organising workers.
But a whole range of political and historical debates where thrown up by the end of WW2. Trotsky had argued that there would be an upsruge in struggle after the war - which did occur, however, as Niall put it, there was a counter-revolution in democratic clothes led by the CP's and Social Democracies. Flying in the face of the situation some of the leaders of the Fourth International argued that the war would continue and that Eastern Europe couldn't be Stalinised. This was criticised by Ted Grant who put forward the best positions in relation to these events and it is the organisation around the Militant that he helped found from which the Socialist Party developed from. We were part of the FI until 1965 - criticisng the illusions of some of the leaders fo the FI, like Mandel and Pablo, had in Tito, Mao and Castro. Although all these regimes differed from the USSR, none were healthy workers democracies. At that time we were based only in Britain, but by linking up with Marxists in other countries (namely Ireland, Germany and Sweden) we launched the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) in 1974 - the Committee part was deliberate as we didn't see ourselves as the whole of the new international (and still don't at this stage - we are far too small despite now being present in over 40 countries)
I didn't make that many notes on the discussion and my contribution came out all wrong. However on of the things in the sum up did interest me and that was on the fact that Trotskyism did build a base for itself in some countries - Bolivia (post on that session coming soon) and Sri Lanka. Now I would really like to read up on Sri Lanka as what Niall alluded to in his leadoff was quite interesting - the NSSP had built up a strong presence in the workers movement there but under the influence of the FI had squandered this by joining a bourgois government - indeed Niall alluded to its capitulation being aprt of the reason for the civil war that rages to this day. There were also more points that I didn't properly take notes of. However, Phil from AVPS was sitting next to me and his notes seemed much fuller on the discussion so hopefully he'll post on that.