The reunified Fourth International
was created in 1963 by the reunification of the majorities of the two public factions of the Fourth International
: the International Secretariat
(ISFI) and the International Committee
(ICFI). It usually refers to itself as the Fourth International
. It is sometimes still described by other Trotskyists as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International
(USFI or USec), which was its central body from 1963 until 2003 when the secretariat was replaced by an Executive Bureau and an International Committee. Its largest sections are in France, Brazil and the Philippines. It is thought to be the largest revolutionary socialist
The ISFI was the leadership body of the Fourth International
, established in 1938. In 1953 many prominent members of the International, and supported by the majority of the Austrian, British, Chinese, French, New Zealand and Swiss sections together with the U.S. Socialist Workers Party
organized against the views of Michel Pablo
, a central leader of the ISFI who successfully argued for the FI to adapt to the growth of the social democratic and Communist parties. This led to disagreements between supporters of the ISFI and those parties on how to build revolutionary parties. These tensions developed into a split, leading to the suspension of those parties which had formed the International Committee of the Fourth International
late in November 1953.
Over the following ten years a majority of the two sides developed similar approaches to a number of major international problems: opposing Stalinism during the 1956 crises in Poland and Hungary, and supporting the Algerian War of Independence and the 1959 Cuban Revolution. At the same time, parties in the ISFI had retreated from Pablo's orientation to the Communist parties. In 1960, the sections of the ICFI and ISFI reunited in Chile, India and Japan. In 1962, the political convergence between the majorities on both sides was strong enough for the ISFI and ICFI to establish a Parity Commission to prepare a joint World Congress. That congress aimed to reunify the Fourth International.
Some groups on both sides did not support the movement towards reunification. In the run-up to the 1961 congress of the ISFI the supporters of the Argentine Juan Posadas, a leader of the Latin American Secretariat, found themselves in agreement with the supporters of Michel Pablo in stressing the primacy of the anti-colonial revolution: the majority in the ISFI placed a greater emphasis on developing activity in Europe. However, Posadas and Pablo developed different reactions to the split in Stalinism: Posadas tended towards Mao, while Pablo was closer to Khrushchev and Tito.
A similar development happened on the ICFI side. By 1961 the ICFI had split politically, the Internationalist Communist Party (PCI) in France and the Socialist Labour League (SLL) in Britain arguing that a workers' state had not been created in Cuba, putting them at odds with the American SWP and the other organisations in the ICFI. By 1963, the split was also organizational. Each side held a congress at which it claimed to be the majority of the ICFI. On the one hand, the Austrian, Chinese and New Zealand sections met at a congress with the SWP and voted to take part in the reunification congress. On the other hand, Pierre Lambert's PCI and Gerry Healy's SLL called a "International Conference of Trotskyists" to continue the work of the ICFI under their own leadership.
Seventh World Congress: Reunification
The June 1963
Reunification Congress, the seventh, in Rome represented a large majority of the world's Trotskyists in its ranks.
Among ICFI and ISFI groups, only the PCI, the SLL and the supporters of Posadas refused to attend. The congress elected a new leadership team including Ernest Mandel
, Pierre Frank
, Livio Maitan
and Joseph Hansen
, who moved to Paris to co-edit World Outlook
(Pierre Frank also edited the magazine).
It also adopted a strategic resolution drafted by Mandel and Hansen, Dynamics of World Revolution Today which became a touch-stone document for the USFI over the following decades. It argued that "three main forces of world revolution—the colonial revolution, the political revolution in the degenerated and deformed workers' states, and the proletarian revolution in the imperialist countries—form a dialectical unity. Each force influences the others and receives in return powerful impulses or brakes on its own development." Reflecting on the Cuban Revolution, accomplished without a revolutionary party, is also concluded that "The weakness of the enemy in the backward countries has opened the possibility of coming to power with a blunted instrument." This view was reinforced the following year, through the United Secretariat's resolution On the Character of the Algerian Government drafted by Joseph Hansen.
The Reunification Congress also adopted a resolution on "The Sino-Soviet Conflict and the situation in the USSR and the other workers' states". The resolution noted the declining authority of the Kremlin both inside the Communist parties and with anti-imperialist movements such as those in Cuba and Algeria. It viewed 'de-Stalinisation' as a defensive liberalisation by the bureaucracy. The Sino-Soviet split was viewed as reflecting "the different needs of the bureaucracies headed by the two leaderships (...). The search for agreements and above all an over-all agreement with imperialism on the part of the Soviet bureaucracy contradicts the search by the Chinese leaders for more aid and for better defenses against the heavy pressure of imperialism." Pablo's tendency had drawn more optimistic conclusions about the impact of de-Stalinisation. It presented a counter-resolution, but only won minority support along with some places on the International Executive Committee: it publicly broke with the International a year later, claiming that Pablo had been ousted.
A further departure was registered in 1964 when the only mass organisation within the International, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party
, was expelled after entering a coalition government
in that country. The ISFI had sharply criticised the LSSP's parliamentary tactics in 1960, and the LSSP had been absent from the 1961 congress, but was represented at the 1963 congress by Edmund Samarakkody
Eighth World Congress: anti-imperialist focus
At the Eighth World Congress, held in the Taunus Mountains in Germany during December 1965, Samarakkody was also the delegate of a new section in Ceylon, the LSSP (R), formed by an 'orthodox' tendency in the LSSP. Sixty delegates attended the congress, which witnessed a growth from an international radicalisation of students and youth. The main resolution on The International Situation and the Tasks of Revolutionary Marxists focussed the sections on solidarity for anti-imperialist struggles, such as that in Vietnam, and intervening into the youth radicalisation and the crisis in international Communism. Other major resolutions were adopted on Africa, Western Europe and the deepening Sino-Soviet split. That congress recognised two sympathising groups in Britain. One, the Revolutionary Socialist League, objected to what it regarded as the uncritical way in which the International supported anti-colonial liberation movements and regarded the International's decision to give official recognition to a second, rival, group as undemocratic. Its views had deep roots, and the RSL left the International soon after, leaving the International Group as the British section.
Ninth World Congress: Vietnam solidarity
The International grew substantially in the 1960s, alongside most other left-wing groups. The April 1969 Ninth World Congress in Italy gathered 100 delegates and observers from 30 countries including new sections in Ireland, Luxemburg and Sweden and rebuilt ones in France, Mexico, Spain and Switzerland. It adopted a major resolution on the deepening youth radicalisation. Over the following years its sections continued to grow principally through campaigns in opposition to the war in Vietnam, though the student and youth radicalisation.
The period from 1969 to 1976 was the stormiest because of a faction struggle over the centrality of guerrilla warfare in Latin America and elsewhere. The 1969 congress had adopted a sympathetic approach to the tactics of guerrilla warfare; only one of the International's leaders opposed this approach at that time, Peng Shuzi.
Tenth World Congress: Guerrilla debate
The Leninist Trotskyist Tendency
successfully worked to convince the international majority that it had previously supported guerrilla struggles with a mistaken orientation. In February 1974, votes at the Tenth World Congress divided 45:55 on the question of armed struggle, with a large minority opposing the generalised use of guerrilla tactics in Latin America.
The 1974 congress registered further growth, with organizations from 41 countries. According to Pierre Frank, "About 250 delegates and fraternal delegates participated, representing 48 sections and sympathising organisations from 41 countries. Compared to the previous congress the numerical strength of the Fourth International had increased some tenfold. By the time the eleventh congress arrived, a new level of unity seemed to have developed in the International.
Eleventh World Congress: End of factionalism
The years prior to the Eleventh World Congress reflected declining factional heat in the International: no international factions have been declared since then. Resolutions on the world situation, Latin America, women's liberation and Western Europe were adopted by overwhelming percentages. The world congress agreed that the sections should execute a turn to industry
. The congress, held in November 1979, gathered 200 delegates from 48 countries. It registered further growth above all in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and in France. The congress also opened a discussion on the place of pluralism
in Socialist Democracy, which was to continue until 1985. It also invited contributions from the Workers' Socialist League
in Britain, starting a relationship which led to WSL's successor organisation joining the International in 1987.
The most contested debate at the congress was on the Nicaraguan revolution. Two views developed inside the United Secretariat, but both supported the FSLN and argued for the building of a section of the International inside the FSLN. This approach was disputed by the tendency of Nahuel Moreno, which split to merge briefly with the tendency led by Pierre Lambert.
Twelfth World Congress: SWP rejects Trotskyism
In May 1982 the Fourth International opened the discussion for the Twelfth World Congress. The period before the Twelfth World Congress coincided with a deep crisis in the SWP (US). The SWP's leaders started to register a number of disagreements with the International, and withdrew from the day-to-day leadership of the International. In 1982 the Political Bureau of the SWP decided against the theory of Permanent Revolution
, a key element of Trotskyism. The SWP's evolution was a central discussion at the congress, by which time the SWP's leadership had withdrawn from active participation in the International, prompting the International to launch International Marxist Review
in 1982 and International Viewpoint
in 1983. The International also supported the establishment of the International Institute for Research and Education
Over 200 delegates and observers attended the twelfth congress in January 1985. The main resolutions were adopted by around three quarters of the delegates. New sections were recognised in Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Senegal and Iceland, as well as a number of sympathising sections, bringing the total to fifty countries. A major resolution was adopted on The Dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist democracy, which built on the discussion at the 1979 world congress.
The SWP (US) and its co-thinkers formally left the International in 1990, following the Socialist Workers Party (Australia) which had developed similar criticisms of Trotskyism to the SWP, but had reached different conclusions by the time of its departure in 1986.
Thirteenth World Congress: 'New World Order'
The Thirteenth World Congress, in February 1991, was one of the most ambitious, addressing a systematic change in the global balance of forces. Its resolutions spanned the 'New World Order', European integration, feminism and the crisis of the Latin American left. The resolutions discussed a fundamental reversal of fortune for the anti-capitalist struggle, reflected by defeats in central America, counter-revolution in the Eastern Bloc and the weakening of the workers' movement. The congress rejected a counter-resolution on the world situation from a tendency supported by members of the International Socialist Group
and the Revolutionary Communist League
: the tendency was supported by six of the 100 delegates to the congress. In the opinion of the tendency, the crisis of imperialism was set to accelerate.
It was agreed to continue discussion on a resolution, "Socialist Revolution and Ecology", which was provisionally approved subject to approval at the fourteenth congress. The congress also approved the general line of a programatic manifesto, titled "Socialism or barbarism on the eve of the 21st century" and to continue the discussion on it at the January 1992 meeting of the International Executive Committee. It also registered substantial growth through the affiliation of the Nava Sama Samaja Party in Sri Lanka.
Fourteenth World Congress: Regroupment
Generally, however, the period after 1991 was increasingly unfavourable for marxists. The June 1995 Fourteenth World Congress in Rimini
addressed the final collapse of the USSR and the resulting realignment in the Communist Parties and the international workers' movement. The congress was attended by 150 participants from 34 countries: delegates from nine further countries were unable to attend. The main political resolutions were adopted by between 70% and 80% of delegates. The resolutions stressed the historical exhaustion of social democracy and the opportunities for political regroupment. A minority tendency was formed at the congress, supported by members of the International Socialist Group
and Socialist Action (US)
, which emphasised the building of sections of the Fourth International above regroupment.
The Congress resolutions] adopted a policy of encouraging realignment and reorganisation on the left, along with support for broad class-struggle parties such as the Party for Communist Refoundation in Italy, Gauche Unies in Belgium, the African Party for Democracy and Socialism in Senegal, the Workers' Party in Brazil, parties that also sent representatives to the congress. In a mainly symbolic reunification, Michel Pablo's small tendency rejoined at the 1995 World Congress. Pablo and Mandel would both die shortly after.
Fifteenth World Congress: Transformation
By February 2003, when the Fifteenth World Congress was held in Belgium
, a substantial transformation had taken part in the International. In many countries, sections of the International had reorganised as tendencies of broader political parties, while the International had established friendly relationships with a number of other tendencies. The congress resolutions were debated by more than 200 participants included delegations from sections, sympathising groups and permanent observers from Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada - English Canada and Quebec, Denmark, Ecuador, Euskadi, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Lebanon, Luxemburg, Martinique, Morocco, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spanish state, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the USA.
The fifteenth congress adopted new statutes which gave the powers of the United Secretariat to two new Fourth International committees: an International Committee, which meets twice a year, and an Executive Bureau (which also refers to itself as the International Bureau).
Sixteenth World Congress: due in 2010
The International started to prepare the sixteenth congress in March 2008; the congress itself will happen in 2010. While some topics are fixed on the congress agenda, additional discussions can be anticipated by the discussions at the international committee.
- The World Political Situation. In the opinion of the International, the developing forms of resistance to neo-liberalism suggest changes tasks for revolutionaries.
- Europe. The building of broad anti-capitalist parties is a key theme: The sections of the reunified FI have had different experiences with this tactic, and are in debate with the International Socialist Tendency over tactics.
- Climate change and the ecological movement. Campaigning on climate change is a priority for the international "Resolution on Climate Change" - February 2006, on the International Viewpoint website. and a subject of debate within it.
- Revolutionary strategy in Latin America. The situations in Brazil and Venezuela are of particular interest.
The International Today
Today, the International is regarded by most other Trotskyist groups, including the IST and CWI, as the largest and most widespread Trotskyist international tendency, including sections and sympathizing groups in over 60 countries. While other substantial international Trotskyist groupings and large national organisations exist, none claim to be larger than the reunified Fourth International (none publish verifiable membership figures).
Since the 1993 congress, the International has continued to open itself up to the participation of other currents. In 2004, for example, its International Committee was observed by the International Socialist Movement from Scotland, the Democratic Socialist Perspective from Australia, and the International Socialist Organization from the USA. It organized an International Meeting of Radical Parties at the 4th World Social Forum.
The International has been criticized as opportunist
by some other Trotskyist groups. One reason given for this criticism is that on two occasions sections participated in governments which included capitalist parties. These were the government led by Lula's PT
in Brazil which also involves the Brazilian Republican Party
and the Liberal Party
, and the 1964 coalition between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
and the LSSP
in Sri Lanka.
- * By 1964 the LSSP's leadership abandoned the party's longstanding opposition to the SLFP, completing a political turn it had attempted in 1960, until the Sixth World Congress condemned the LSSP for offering support to the SFLP. In 1964, the International also opposed the entrance of the LSSP into a coalition government, with Pierre Frank addressing the LSSP's June 1964 conference to explain the United Secretariat's views. The International severed relations with the LSSP; it supported a split at the LSSP conference, supported by around a quarter of its membership and led by Bala Tampoe, a trade union leader, and 14 members of the LSSP's central committee. Tampoe and other LSSP dissidents organised the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Revolutionary), which became the new Sri Lankan section of the International.
- * In Brazil, the International was doubtful from the beginning about the participation in Lula's government of a leader of its Brazilian section, later saying that "from the beginning there were different positions about... ...participation in the government, in the International as well as in your ranks. But once the DS had decided in favour of participation, without hiding our reservations and doubts, we respected your decision and tried to help rather than put a spoke in your wheel. So we made an effort to convince comrades in our own sections that logically speaking the question of participation in the government should be subordinated to a judgement of the government’s orientations. As time went on, the International became more openly critical of its section's role in government. Members in Brazil are now in two different organisations: A majority group, Socialist Democracy (Brazil), which is inside the PT; and a minority Freedom and Revolution current in the PSOL, which opposes participation in capitalist government.
Current member organizations (sections)
- Austria - Socialist Alternative (Sozialistische Alternative, SOAL)
- Belgium - Socialist Workers' Party / Revolutionary Communist League (Socialistische Arbeiders Partij / Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, SAP/LCR)
- Brazil - Enlace (Coletivo IV Internacional)
- Brazil - Socialist Democracy (Democracia Socialista)
- Canada - Fourth International Caucus
- Canada / Quebec - Gauche Socialiste (GS)
- Chile - Revolutionary Socialist Tendency (Tendencia Socialista Revolucionario)
- Denmark - Socialist Workers' Party (Socialistisk Arbejderparti, SAP)
- Ecuador - Socialist Democracy Current (Corriente Democracia Socialista)
- Egypt - Section of the Fourth International (United Secretariat)
- France - Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, LCR)
- Germany - International Socialist Left (internationale sozialistische linke, isl)
- Germany - Revolutionary Socialist League (Revolutionär Sozialistischer Bund, RSB)
- Great Britain - International Socialist Group (ISG)
- Greece - Organization of Communist Internationalists of Greece-Spartacus (Organosi Kommouniston Diethniston Ellados-Spartakos, OKDE-Spartakos)
- Guadeloupe - Socialist Revolution Group (Groupe Révolution Socialiste, GRS)
- India - Revolutionary Communist Organization (Inquilabi Communist Sangathan)
- Ireland - Socialist Democracy
- Italy - Bandiera Rossa Association (Associazione Bandiera Rossa, ABR)
- Japan - Fourth International Japan Section Reconstruction Preparation Group (Dayon Intânashonaru Nihon Shibu Saiken Jumbi Gurûpu, Dayon Intâ Saiken-ha)
- Japan - Fourth International Women's Liberation Group (Dayon Intâ Josei Kaihô Gurûpu, Dayon Intâ Jokai G)
- Luxembourg - Revolutionary Socialist Party (Revolutionär Sozialistesch Partei /Parti Socilaiste Révolutionnaire)
- Martinique - Socialist Revolution Group (Groupe Révolution Socialiste, GRS)
- Netherlands - Socialist Alternative Politics (Socialistische Alternatieve Politiek)
- Norway - Internationalist League of Norway (Forbundet Internasjonalen i Norge, FIN)
- Paraguay - Section of USFI
- Philippines - Revolutionary Workers Party - Mindanao (Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa - Mindanao)
- Portugal - Revolutionary Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Revolucionário, PSR)
- Puerto Rico - Political Education Workshop (Taller de Formación Política, TFP)
- Spain - Alternative Left (Izquierda Alternativa, IA)
- Spain - Alternative Space (Espacio Alternativo, EA)
- Spain / Catalonia - Global Revolt (Revolta Global)
- Sri Lanka - Nava Sama Samaja Party NSSP)
- Sweden - Socialist Party (Socialistiska Partiet, SP)
- Tunisia - Revolutionary Communist Organization (Organisation Communiste Révolutionnaire)
- Turkey - New Way (Yeni Yol)
- Uruguay - Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores)
- USA - Fourth International Caucus
Sympathising organizations (including ex-official sections)
Organisations with 'Permanent Observer' status
Organizations who share the International’s perspective of struggle but do not wish to join it formally can obtain the status of "permanent observer". This status enables organizations to participate in meetings of leading bodies - which bodies will be specified in each case - with the right to speak but not to vote.
Organizations with currents supporting the reunified FI