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Ernest Mandel (1923-1995): From Trotskyism to centrism

Ernest Mandel, leader of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), and one of the key figures of post-war Trotskyism, died on 20 July 1995 at the age of 72.

The lengthy obituaries that appeared in several major European newspapers such as Le Monde (France), Le Soir (Belgium), The Guardian (Britain), and the fact that his death was reported by the French Communist Party daily, l’Humanité, all indicate that Mandel had a far greater influence and was more widely known than any of the other post-war leaders of the Fourth International. Read more...

Socialist Action and the myth of the USFI left wing

There’s a rumour going around the circles of dissidents within the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI). The word is that there is a new left wing, spearheaded by the Socialist Action group in the United States of America. The hope that goes with this rumour is that Socialist Action may just be able to rally the left for a fight at the forthcoming USFI 14th World Congress. But, as Mark Twain once said, a rumour is half way round the world before the truth has tied its bootlaces. In an attempt to catch up and overtake the rumour Mark Harrison sets the record straight. Read more...

Militant after Grant: the unbroken thread?

An analysis of the claims to orthodox Trotskyism by the Militant Tendency and Ted Grant, by Colin Lloyd and Richard Brenner Read more...

Politics of the ITO: No answer to USFI’s crisis

The existence of an International Trotskyist Opposition (ITO) within the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI) must appear encouraging to those members of the USFI who have watched for years as their leaders steadily abandoned more and more Trotskyist and Leninist positions. Read more...

The Downturn: New mood, same politics

In 1988 the “new mood” joined “the downturn” as one of the stock phrases in every Socialist Workers Party member’s vocabulary. The new mood was the silver lining to the dark cloud of the downturn.
Pauline Smith explains why the change in perspective has not led to any fundamental change in the SWP’s practice. Read more...

State capitalism - “Call that socialism?”

Tony Cliff’s theory of state capitalism lies at the very centre of the Socialist Workers Party’s politics. Since 1950 Cliff’s tendency has defined itself against all others on the international left mainly over the argument that the USSR, China and Eastern Europe were “state capitalist” societies.

In the face of the momentous crisis wracking Stalinism since 1989 Chris Harman has argued that “. . . this theory alone can make sense of the otherwise bewildering events of the last few months, pointing to future options both for the world’s ruling classes and those of us committed to fighting them”(ISJ 46). Mark Abram contests this claim and shows why state capitalist theory fails. Read more...

“Neither Washington nor Moscow” The view from the third camp

Conflicts between imperialism and petit bourgeois nationalist and Stalinist-led forces in the semi-colonial world have raged throughout the post-war era. From Korea in the 1950s through to Afghanistan in the 1980s revolutionaries had to declare which side they were on. Here, Dave Hughes asks this question of the SWP and its forerunners. Read more...

What is to be done? - The question economism can’t answer

Many members of the Socialist Workers Party have heard their organisation accused of “economism”. But what does it mean exactly? In this article from 1990 Clare Heath looks at the origin of this term in Lenin’s polemics at the turn of the century and finds that it is an accurate label for the SWP’s approach to struggles as diverse as the strike against Heath’s Tory government in the 1970s to the Poll Tax battle of the late 1980s. Read more...

The SWP and Trotskyism: Would Trotsky have joined the SWP?

The Socialist Workers Party has always made a point of distancing itself from "orthodox Trotskyism". Rather than describe itself as a Trotskyist organisation it claims merely to stand in the tradition of Trotsky or to "stem from" Trotskyism . Arthur Merton examines this claim. Read more...

The 1953 split in the Fourth International

Forty years ago, the Fourth International (FI) was rent by a substantial political debate over perspectives and orientation. A number of important sections (Britain, France, USA) set up the "International Committee of the Fourth International" in November 1953, in opposition to the majority "International Secretariat".

The split still reverberates today. Some of the international organisations which call themselves Trotskyist can claim to be the direct descendants of one or the other side, and virtually all of them have a clear view on the split. The split has become part of the mythology of Trotskyism, presented as a principled defence of "orthodox Trotskyism" against a political deviation led by one man ("Pablo") or as a damaging split which led to the subsequent and lasting weakness of the International. Read more...