Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Socialism 2008 - The Fourth International and After

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.


Duncan Money said...

I think the Fourth International session was the most interesting I was at but we covered a lot of ground in two hours.

That said, it would have been good to hear more about the specific political events which led up to the formation of the CWI. This was touched on in the session with the bit about the political differences with the USFI but there's a bit of a gap between expulsion in 1965 and the concrete formation of the CWI in 1974(?).

maybe we should have a Socialist Party Bloggers meeting next year at Socialism during one of the breaks?

Sounds like a good idea.

Prinkipo Exile said...

"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"

You definitely need to read up on this.

I think you mean the LSSP.

And the Fourth International representative at the conference where they voted to join the bourgeois government urged them to reject it and said they would be expelled from the FI if they joined. After the majority voted to join the bourgeois government, the FI supporters in the minority walked out and immediately established a new organisation - the LSSP(R) which was recognised as the continuity of the FI and the LSSP majority were expelled. The split that produced the NSSP came much later.

It is sad that after 40 years the same old Healyite slanders still rebound around the labour movement.

Prinkipo Exile said...

"there's a bit of a gap between expulsion in 1965"

What expulsion in 1965? The only expulsion were the SLL supporters who were expelled from the Labour Party, supported by the Grantites.

The RSL/Militant chose to no longer be associated with the FI because it would have compromised their position in the Labour Party. No one was expelled from the FI over this.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I did mean the LSSP.
I'm paraphrasing what was said and perhaps I didn't quote Niall correctly on this - I do intend to read up on this though. However, that such a string position in Sri Lanka was wasted obviously needs studying. Feel free to comment more on the sri lanka stuff and any good books on the topic

On the FI and CWI. They were not expelled - they were sort of demoted to sympathiser status rather than as a full section however i also belive there were some serious political disagreements, and I think there were also stuff to do with documents not being published as well. As far as I'm concerned the argument that they left because it would have compromised their position in the labour party i don't think is accurate.

Phil BC said...

Duncan, were you in disguise? I didn't see you in that session! (Mind you, by this time I was half asleep - I hope I didn't snore my way through ...).

LC, my notes are very incomplete so I probably won't be posting on the session now. I think you got the bits I remember down to a tee.

One thing I'd like to know, which I haven't worked out, is what are the positions/analyses that differentiate the Morenoites as a distinct Trotskyist trend?

journeyman said...

Mine's not a Socialist Party blog as such - but a blog from an SP member.

There's a purely personal piece on Socialism 08 there too...