National Sections of the L5I:

Introduction

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

The Marxist programme is based on the principles of scientific socialism. It analyses all social and political development from the standpoint of dialectical materialism. It asserts that the class struggle is the motor force of history and it recognises the working class as the only consistently revolutionary class. However, whilst the general Marxist programme embodies the theoretical method of dialectical materialism and the strategic goals of socialism, the great programmatic contributions in the history of the Marxist movement have been focused on the practical tasks flowing from these fundamental principles. They embody the strategy and tactics to achieve the general goals and do not separate these questions off from the programme. There is no brick wall between strategy, tactics and principles in the Marxist programme. This is clear from the Communist Manifesto through to the Transitional Programme of 1938. With this method we set out to develop the programme of the LRCI.

Social Democracy continues to peddle the minimum-maximum programme pioneered in the epoch of free competition capitalism. This programme was characterised by the rigid separation of the minimum demands (economic or political reforms achievable within the framework of capitalism) and the maximum goal of socialism. This separation of the two elements of the programme, enshrined in German Social Democ­racy's "Erfurt Programme", was the basis of its opportunist interpretation and application by the developing reformist wing of the Second Inter­national. Present day Social Democracy differs from its classical forebears only in the ever increasing feebleness of its pleadings for minimal reforms and in the ever decreasing use it has for holiday speechifying about socialism.

In the epoch of free competition capitalism the working class, especially in Europe, was obliged to fight for a series of economic and political rights in order to build an organised mass movement of trade unions and political parties. However, in this very process a reformist bureaucracy was crystallised out of the labour aristocracy. For this bureaucracy selected elements of the minimum programme, achieved by purely peaceful, legal and parliamentary methods, were ends in themselves. This stood in sharp contrast to the position of Engels and Lenin who argued that they were only means for developing an actual struggle for socialism. The onset of the imperialist epoch strengthened the reformist bureaucracy considera­bly. Exploiting the methodological weakness of the minimum-maximum programme, it enforced the rigid separation of the struggle for reforms from any revolutionary perspective for the overthrow of capitalism.

Reformism's strategic goal was to ensure a position of influence for itself within capitalism. To this end it attempted to subordinate working class struggles, transforming parliamentary electoral tactics into its central strategy for obtaining reforms under capitalism. World Stalinism, and even sections of petit bourgeois nationalism, misleads the masses with a variation of the minimum-maximum pro­gramme: the programme of stages based on the theory of socialism in one country. This programme and theory was fashioned by the conser­vative bureaucracy of the USSR in the 1920s during the period of its political counter-revolution against the working class. According to the programme of stages, the existence of the Soviet Union means that it is possible for revolutions to pass through a democratic stage prior to a peaceful evolution towards socialism. The theory argues that this democratic stage (variously called advanced democracy, people's democ­racy, anti -imperialist democracy) is rigidly separated from a socialist stage. Capitalism must be preserved during the democratic stage and socialism can then gradually and peacefully evolve according to the unique laws operating in each country.

This rehash of Menshevism is a cynical policy by the bureaucracy to limit the struggles against capitalism and be rewarded for its services with an endless period of peaceful co-existence with imperialism. This vari­ation of the minimum-maximum programme, even in its most "left" form which argues that the implementation of the democratic stage cannot be left to the bourgeoisie but must be led by the proletariat, is a noose around the neck of the proletariat and the oppressed. Its consequence is always counter-revolution either by a capitalist class able to regroup during the "democratic" stage (Chile, Portugal, Iran) or by a Stalinist bureaucracy obliged to liquidate capitalism to defend itself, but only on the condition that it has already successfully politically expropriated the working class-as in Eastern Europe, China: Indo-China, and Cuba.

Whether in its Stalinist or Social Democratic garb the minimum maximum programme has outlived its progressive role and has been transformed into a means of obstructing not only the fight for socialism, but even an effective fight to win or defend reforms. Capitalism can provide neither permanent systematic social reforms nor lasting and fully-fledged bourgeois democracy. To solve its recurrent crises the bourgeoisie is obliged to attack every serious economic gain together with the political rights of the working class. The struggle to accommodate to such a system by the bureaucracy can only mean sacrificing even the minimum pro­gramme to the needs of the profit system. The defence of working class interests demands economic and political warfare against capitalism, even to achieve a decent wage or to secure a job.

The limits of the minimum-maximum programme are felt over the entire globe. Imperialism is incapable of overseeing radical and consistent agrarian reform or sustaining parliamentary democracy in much of the semi-colonial world. Despite periods of boom, and the attendant grant­ing of reforms by capitalism to some sections of the world working class, this apparent justification for the minimum programme is only superficial. Even the proletariats of the most highly developed countries increasingly need a programme that links the most immediate defensive struggles with the main task of the epoch, the struggle for working class power. To advance the spontaneous class struggle towards socialist goals a bridge is needed. The programme of transitional demands is such a bridge.

Such demands were first systematically presented in Trotsky's Tran­sitional Programme. Yet Marx and Engels formulated a set of transitional demands in the 1848 Communist Manifesto. Later, Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, followed by the Communist International (Comintern), at its first four congresses, formulated focused action programmes based on the transitional method. But Trotsky's 1938 work, the programmatic basis of the Fourth International, was the clearest and most complete expression of the programmatic development that had occurred in the preceding ninety years of Marxism. At every stage the programmatic declarations of Marxism were enriched as capitalist society devel­oped. In each case the Marxists have found it necessary to refine and re-­elaborate the programme in the light of experience, which, in Trotsky's words, is the supreme criterion of human re3son. In 1938 Trotsky produced a sharply focused action programme addressing the key questions of the day and answering them in the light of the experience of the previous two decades of struggle and crisis throughout the world. It embodied the lessons from the collapses of the first three Interntionals) as well as from the contributions that they made during their healthy years. It was a re-elaborated programme of revolutionary Marxism.

Fifty years on profound developments in world imperialism) world Stalinism) the semi-colonies) the struggles of the world working class and the oppressed all oblige us to re-elaborate the Transitional Programme. This we have done and our programme) like the 1938 programme) is a development of the previous programmes of revolutionary Marxism to date) not a break from them. It stands on the shoulders of the preceding gains of revolutionary Marxism. It bases itself on their method and incorporates all of their essential features as well as many of their demands. Like the preceding programmes it will have to be broken down into action programmes for particular countries) conjunctures or sections in struggle. Such action programmes will) like Trotsky’s own Action Programme for France) contain all of the key elements of the general programme itself but will sharply focus them to a particular situation or country.

Our programme is a world programme for the world party of socialist revolution) focused towards the burning problems characteristic of the crisis wracked closing years of the twentieth century. It is a programme of transition towards the socialist revolution and as such applies with full force to imperialist countries and semi-colonies alike. But it is equally a programme for the transition to socialism within the workers) states. It addresses the urgent tasks facing the workers in those states where capitalism has been abolished but where the Stalinist bureaucracy has politically expropriated the working class and the actual transition to socialism has) as a result) been blocked. It is a guide to action for the millions struggling to resolve the problems facing humanity. It is a programme that can pave the way to a society based on the satisfaction of human need) not one based on either the lust for profit or the satisfaction of the needs of a parasitic bureaucracy.

While our programme contains) at its core) a focused action pro­gramme similar to that of the 1938 programme) it is also obliged to address problems not dealt with in that document. As are-elaborated programme) it has had to confront the fact that the continuity of the revolutionary Marxist movement was broken in 1951 with the degen­eration of the Fourth International into centrism. A period of almost forty years has elapsed since this degeneration. Perspectives, tactics and strategy during those forty years have never been analysed in a revolutionary manner, nor embodied in a consistently revolutionary programme. The lessons of the major events during this period-the creation of degenerate workers' states, the long imperialist boom, the anti-imperialist struggles and lessons of the key class struggles and revolutionary situations-have not been incorporated into a series of programmes, theses and docu­ments. Instead the record of the centrists emerging from the Fourth International is one of systematic errors, of various opportunist or sectarian distortions of the Marxist programme.

Our programme is, therefore, not based on an unbroken record of revolutionary positions and cannot base itself, as the 1938 programme could, on fifteen years of documents, positions, theses and programmes (from the Left Opposition through to the founding of the Fourth International). It is obliged to be more analytical, more expansive, than the 1938 programme needed to be. If Trotsky thought that in 1938 he was obliged to include more commentary than was proper in a pro­gramme we have had to do so to a far greater extent. In this sense it is an attempt not only to guide the struggles of millions, but also to clearly define the LRCI as against the many varieties of centrism that claim to represent Trotskyism. It also has to demonstrate to the militants of such tendencies, as well as to those of other organisations within the world workers' movement, the lessons we need to draw from the past period and the answers to the crises which will arise in the future.

Clearly our programme is far from being the last word on the international class struggle and the tactics and strategy for revolution. Since 1984 the Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International (now the League for a Revolutionary Communist International-LRCI) has formulated resolutions and theses on the important questions of the international class struggle. They form a supplement to this programme. In addition we recognise that discussion with militants from countries where the LRCI has, as yet, no presence will enable us to enrich and develop the world character of our programme further. But we are firmly convinced that we have produced a programme that serves as the bedrock for such development. This programme, which in its method, its analysis, its demands and its tactics and strategy, embodies the living spirit of revolutionary Marxism, lays the basis for the re-establishment of authentic Trotskyism on a world scale.