National Sections of the L5I:

Twenty-five years of centrism; The USFI 1963-88

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Amidst the meetings and celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the founding of Trotsky’s Fourth International (FI), little has been heard of another anniversary, that of the formation of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI) in 1963. The USFI itself has been particularly reticent about this anniversary. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that it has very little to celebrate. Of the two major forces which “united” with the International Secretariat (IS) in 1963, one—the Moreno current—has already split, and the other—the Socialist Workers Party of the United States (SWP)—has organised a de facto split. It effectively runs its own separate “International”, with its own organisation and press. A quarter century after the “reunification of the world Trotskyist movement”, its component parts are largely back where they started.

In 1951 the SWP supported, wholeheartedly, the systematic centrism of the Third World Congress. Yet in 1953 Cannon and Hansen bounced the International into a split rather than confront the IS at a conference. The result was the International Committee (IC) which was set up with Healy in Britain, Lambert in France and, finally, Nahuel Moreno in Argentina. In 1963 the split was ostensibly healed when the majority of the IC, with the exception of the British, the French and a few hangers-on, returned to the fold, fusing with the IS to form the USFI. The USFI was therefore able to claim, not only that the vast majority of avowed Trotskyists were in its ranks, but also an organisational continuity through Mandel, Frank, Hansen Cannon and Pablo with the leadership of the pre-split International.

The USFI’s claim to be the Fourth International has increasingly come to the fore over recent years as its opponents’ “Fourth Internationals” have disintegrated. First the rump of the IC split in 1971, with Healy maintaining the IC and Lambert setting up the Organising Centre for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. In 1980 Lambert and Moreno’s Fourth International (International Committee) fell apart after less then a year’s existence. Since then Lambert’s Fourth International (International Centre of Reconstruction) has undergone a damaging split with its Latin American affiliates (1987) and the Morenoite International Workers League (Fourth International) has been unable to break out of its Latin American heartlands. Meanwhile Healy’s IC degenerated into a tiny sect living off handouts from the Arab bourgeoisie, only to explode and disintegrate in 1985.

This debacle of “anti-Pabloism” appeared to confirm the USFI’s claim to be the living continuity of the revolutionary FI: the only significant, truly international “Trotskyist” tendency. Like many other centrist currents, the USFI grew rapidly in the new period of class struggle after 1968. The bulk of the new recruits were in Europe, but sections in North and Latin America also experienced substantial growth. By the end of the 1970s it could claim around 14,000 members in fifty countries.

Since this all-time high the USFI has declined and suffered splits, having fewer than 10,000 members at the end of the 1980s. But the losses suffered by the USFI have been less dramatic than those of their “Trotskyist” competitors or the various semi-Maoist and Guevarist centrist organisations. It is therefore little wonder that it remains a pole of attraction, “the mainstream of Trotskyism”, even to its supposed “left” critics.

However, neither the claims to organisational continuity nor the relative size and stability of the USFI settle the question of its claim to represent the revolutionary continuity of Trotsky’s FI. The key question is that of political, programmatic continuity with the revolutionary FI. It is here that the USFI’s claim to be the FI stands or falls.

It is currently fashionable within the USFI, when reflecting on its history, to admit that it made “mistakes” and “errors”.1 Of course even a revolutionary International will make mistakes and errors, even on occasion major ones, but what we see in the quarter century history of the USFI is something different. We do not see errors recognised, corrected and learnt from. Rather, we see systematic and grossly opportunist tactics and strategy: programmatic liquidation of the highest order. Errors covered over or only half-admitted many years later. Errors repeated at the first opportunity. This method has a name in the communist movement. It is called “centrism”.

In this article we demonstrate that the only continuity that exists in the 25 year history of the USFI is that of chronic and systematic centrist errors. The continuity of the USFI is with the centrism of the post-1951 “Fourth International”, not with Trotsky’s revolutionary organisation.

The seeds of re-unification

The IS leadership (Mandel/Frank/Pablo), together with Cannon, Hansen, Healy and Lambert, oversaw the political degeneration of the FI over the period 1948-51. The analysis of Stalinism they adopted, and of the bureaucratic social revolutions which took place in Eastern Europe and China, was a thoroughly opportunist one, involving a gross adaptation towards Stalinism.

By the 1951 Third Congress the whole of the FI including Cannon, Healy and the rest of the future IC, agreed that Tito had broken with the Kremlin, was no longer a Stalinist and that he had become some form of centrist. The same analysis was to be applied to Mao Tse Tung in the next few years. This position, as we have explained elsewhere2 was a revision of the revolutionary programme, and led directly both to Pablo’s project of deep entry into the Stalinist parties, and to the later enthusiasm of the IC for the Maoist led “cultural revolution”.

This opportunist method, which was common to all sections of the FI from the beginning of the 1950s, proved fatal to the preservation of the revolutionary programme in the post-war years. The fragile revolutionary continuity, preserved by Trotsky and then by the FI was broken, and the “Trotskyist” epigones of both the IC and the IS became cheerleaders for various Stalinist and petit bourgeois nationalist currents.

It was the Cuban Revolution of 1959, coupled with the increasing weakness of the SWP, which provided the basis for the 1963 “reunification”. The SWP, having split the International in 1953, showed little interest in building an alternative international tendency to the Europeans.3 However it took other, material, factors to convince the SWP that “reunification of the world Trotskyist movement” was necessary.

A key element was the SWP’s decline in size and influence. The impact of the cold war, McCarthyism and errors of perspective led to a serious weakening of the SWP, and its membership began to plummet. By 1959 all the SWP’s industrial fractions had been dissolved. The organisation which had led the 1934 Minneapolis teamsters’ strike no longer had any national intervention into the US labor movement. Opportunist electoral blocs brought them no success, either. The party was spiralling away. 4

In this context, the Cuban Revolution came as a godsend to the SWP. Through their participation in “Fair play for Cuba” committees they began to recruit again. Indeed this was the period in which a good part of the current SWP leadership were recruited. In addition it offered the beleaguered SWP a short cut to the revolution. Joe Hansen, later a self-proclaimed “orthodox” defender of “the Leninist strategy of party building”, argued at the time that Castro’s July 26 Movement—without the aid of any sort of “Leninist” party and despite the absence of any organs of working class power—had created a “pretty good looking” workers’ state. 5

The IS’s analysis was identical. Both interpretations were of a piece with the 1951 Third Congress’s position on Yugoslavia, which had junked the need for a revolutionary party in Yugoslavia, having found that a “blunt instrument”—the Yugoslav Communist Party—was able to do the job for them. If these analyses are correct Trotskyism and the FI are relegated to an auxilliary role.

The revolutionary position is somewhat different, of course. True, a workers’ state exists in Cuba. But the nature of this state is not qualitatively different from the USSR or the other degenerate workers’ states. The key task for the Cuban masses remains the construction of organs of workers’ and peasants’ power (soviets), and the building of a revolutionary party capable of leading the Cuban masses in a political revolution. The “Cuban road” is not one that the oppressed masses can follow if they wish to be truly liberated. It leads only to a Stalinist regime of the kind currently found in Havana, one which blocks that road to socialism.

The nature of the 1963 fusion

The 1963 fusion left all the disputed questions of the 1953 split unresolved. As the preamble to the re-unification resolution glibly stated:

“The area of disagreement appears of secondary importance in view of the common basic programme and common analysis of major current events in world developments which unite the two sides”.6

The fact that subsequently the USFI has spent most of its life riven by factions which basically repeat the pre-1963 line-up suggests that this was not the case!

The question of entrism sui generis was swept under the table, as were the opportunist excesses of both sides. These were deemed to be historical questions which could be resolved at leisure, even though for the British, Italian, Austrian, Belgian and French sections, for example, opportunist entrism was still being carried out a decade after the SWP had found it necessary to split over the question! Further, there was no common analysis of the various Stalinist regimes and parties.

On the question of the nature of the Castro leadership in Cuba both sides were in agreement. They reached for the opportunist and centrist method used by the FI between 1948 and 1951 to analyse the Tito leadership of the Yugoslav Revolution. According to the USFI the Cuban Revolution was evolving towards revolutionary Marxism, and had “set a pattern that now stands as an example for a number of other countries”.7 On the question of Maoism, however there was little agreement. Fundamental differences between the two sides were skated over. For the ex-IS leadership, Mao was a “bureaucratic centrist” (implying that Maoism was qualitatively superior to counter-revolutionary Stalinism) and so there was no question of fighting for a political revolution in China.

The SWP held a different view, one based on its 1955 resolution that “the CCP is a Stalinist party and its regime is a bureaucratic dictatorship necessitating political revolution.”8

The difference was “overcome” by adopting an ambiguous centrist formulation in 1963 which called for “an anti-bureaucratic struggle on a scale massive enough to bring about a qualitative change in the political form of Government”.9

Each side was able to interpret this as it liked. The SWP interpreted it as meaning political revolution. For the old IS leadership it implied reforms necessary to overcome merely quantitive bureaucratic deformations.

The question of China was to haunt the USFI throughout the 1960s, especially after the Cultural Revolution of 1965-67. All the opportunist appetites of the Mandel/Frank/Maitan wing came to the fore, and their analysis of Maoism as “bureaucratic centrism” was adopted at the Ninth World Congress in 1969. This position, based on an impressionistic acceptance of Mao’s “left” rhetoric, and on the fact that he led a social revolution has never been rescinded. The fact that Mao, like Stalin before him, deprived the working class of political power from the outset never troubled the old IS leaders.

These differences over the analysis of Stalinism were to be repeated with respect to the Vietnamese CP where again there was no agreement between the two sides. The unprincipled fusion of 1963 and its method of covering over differences, relegating them to “historical questions”, guaranteed a faction ridden unity within the USFI.

This was necessarily reflected in an internal regime that bore no relation to that of a communist democratic centralist organisation. The SWP made sure there was no question of it being treated as a “branch office” of the International as Cannon had put it during the 1953 split. As a result the USFI developed a caricature of democratic centralism which meant that where differences existed a common majority line was never “imposed” on a national section. The USFI developed as a series of “non-aggression pacts”, where national leaders held sway in their own countries or continents without fear of “interference” from the International.

Ernest Mandel has recently re-affirmed this attitude in an article on the Fourth International.

“The functioning of such an International—as is already the case with the Fourth International today—must be founded on a two fold principle: total autonomy for national parties in the selection of their leaderships and national tactics, but international discipline based on the principle of majority rule . . . when it comes to international political policies.”10

The idea that it is possible to have “total autonomy” in national tactics as though they did not flow inseparably from the international programme and policies is a thoroughly centrist one. It is an excuse for federalism—made necessary by the real failure to have programmatic unity. Further the whole history of the USFI—especially in relation to key revolutionary situations in Argentina, Portugal, Iran and South Africa—shows that completely different “international political policies” were practiced and tolerated by the supposedly “Unified” Secretariat.

Another feature of the fusion resolutions is the emphasis on the “world revolutionary process” and the “three sectors of the world revolution”. These phrases could merely denote the fact that revolutionary situations develop and recede throughout the world over the years and that different tactics need to be applied in different situations (notably in the imperialist countries, the semi-colonies and in the workers’ states).

For the USFI, however, these oft-repeated phrases imply a recognition of an inexorable logic to the spread of revolutions. This “process” is carried out by “blunted instruments” like the Yugoslav or Chinese CPs. According to this view, the role of revolutionaries is reduced to that of cheering on this inevitable sequence of events. The formation of separate Trotskyist parties would prove an embarrassment, indeed an obstruction, to the International’s role of friendly adviser to these unconscious Trotskyists or empirical practitioners of permanent revolution.

In the initial period of the USFI, the “epicentre of the World Revolution” was deemed to be firmly in the semi-colonial world, the workers in the imperialist countries could be written off. As Pablo put it in 1962:

“The ideological neo-reformism of the European workers’ parties who have betrayed the European Revolution and the Colonial Revolution is thus combated conjointly by the action and by the revolutionary ideology of the forces exterior to the advanced capitalist nations, with whom and from whom will be constituted henceforth the new leadership of the World Socialist Revolution.”11

Thus imitating Castro in Cuba or Ben Bella in Algeria was the key programmatic question for the re-born “Fourth International”.

This adaptation to “Third Worldism” was in fact a confession of the USFI’s inability to find a path to the industrial working class in imperialist countries during a period of relative prosperity. The class struggle was not abolished in these years and moreover, as both the Belgian general strike of 1961 and the French miners’ strike of 1963 show, this struggle could reach a high degree of generalisation. However, for the USFI sections buried deep inside the mass reformist parties, the method of using the Transitional Programme to relate to workers in struggle had long since been forgotten.

The first crises: Sri Lanka and Algeria

No sooner had the USFI been formed than the problems inherent in the mistaken political method shared by all the participants began to be revealed. The first example was that of Sri Lanka, where the USFI section, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), entered the popular front government of Mrs Bandaranaike in the spring of 1964 in order to help it control and terminate a strike wave. The leader of the LSSP, N M Perera, even became Finance Minister! The USFI, of course, were quick to condemn this action and even expelled all those who supported the LSSP leadership line (75% of the section).

But the opportunist policies and appetites of the LSSP were there for all to see long before spring 1964. Throughout the second half of the 1950s, the LSSP had repeatedly made overtures towards the bourgeoisie, including voting for the Bandaranaike government’s budget in 1960. The IS, supported by the 1961 Sixth World Congress, finally criticised the 1960 turn and the LSSP corrected its line, at least to the extent that the LSSP MPs did not vote for the bourgeois budget in 1961! However, the 1963 fusion conference made no mention of the LSSP’s rightist tendencies, in the hope of keeping the “world movement” “unified”. The message was clear: there was to be no “interference” in the national tactics of the national sections however opportunist they were.

In a recent article12 reviewing this “painful moment in our history”, USFI leader Livio Maitan finds a whole series of explanations for the LSSP’s chronic opportunism, including the fact that it was never a Leninist party (true, but this discovery came rather late!). The one possibility he will not countenance, however, is that the IS/USFI leadership bore a heavy responsibility for covering up the LSSP’s “social democratic” nature (the phrase is Ernest Mandel’s), for only intervening decisively once it was too late and then only to wash its hands of the whole affair. The real truth is that the whole FI, including the post-53 splitters, looked to the LSSP as the only mass Trotskyist party—one that might come to power and change the world wide balance of forces. If it was indeed rather a blunt instrument why should the Stalinists have all the blunt instruments? The fact that the LSSP’s practical politics were 90% electoralist and trade unionist was conveniently forgotten.

In Algeria, the USFI made a parallel series of mistakes which, once again, miraculously only became apparent to these “Trotskyists” long after the event. From 1959 onward, Pablo and his Latin American lieutenant, Posadas, had been arguing that the “focus of the World Revolution” had shifted to the imperialised world. For Posadas, this was basically an excuse for cutting all links with the IS and resulted in his 1961 split. Pablo’s position was somewhat different. His orientation to the Ben Bella government—which he described variously as an “anti-capitalist state” and a “semi-workers’ state”—was at one with that of the whole of the USFI.

Pablo’s difference was that he wanted to follow the logic of this political analysis through to the end. At the Unification Congress he proposed that the International’s centre should transfer itself to Algiers! He went on to take up a position in Algeria as economic adviser to the Ben Bella government and his faction broke with the USFI majority completely in 1964.

Enthused by the victory of the FLN over French imperialism, and then by the massive nationalisations undertaken by Ben Bella in October 1963, the May 1964 International Executive Committee (IEC) of the USFI called for the construction of a “revolutionary socialist left”, “led by the FLN”.13 As was the case in Cuba, in Yugoslavia and in China, the Trotskyist party and programme were to be shelved in favour of tailing behind petit bourgeois nationalists who had no intention of giving the workers and poor peasants any say in events, beyond a few nods in the direction of “self-management”. Instead of genuine workers’ control of production these “self-management” schemes meant the involvement of workers in running the plants in the interests of the capitalist class!

The USFI, blinded as ever by words, enthused:

“The question that remains to be answered is whether this government can establish a workers’ state. The movement in this direction is evident and bears many resemblances to the Cuban pattern. ‘Self management’, with its already demonstrated importance for the development of workers’ and peasants’ democracy, offers the brightest opening for the establishment of the institutions of a workers’ state”.14

In June 1965, Ben Bella was overthrown by Boumedienne in a coup d’état. The USFI’s dream of a workers’ state on the southern shores of the Mediterranean faded away. And as the dream faded, the “orthodox” criticisms re-emerged. Four years too late, the USFI saw through Ben Bella and the FLN. It made Pablo the scapegoat for errors all its leaders had made together. The December 1969 Plenum of the IEC argued that the “Pablo tendency”:

“. . . assigned to mass mobilisations essentially the role of supporting the Ben Bella tendency and carrying out the programme of the FLN, failing to appreciate that it was crucial for the urban and rural proletariat and poor peasantry to set up independent organs of power, and clinging to the utopian and non-Marxist concept of the possibility of a gradual change in the nature of the state”.15

Whatever the IEC might wish us to think, this was the programme of the whole of the USFI during the first half of the 1960s, not just Pablo’s! The resolution also recognised—five years too late—that the USFI “did not correctly estimate the narrowness of the social base on which the Ben Bella team rested . . . did not sufficiently stress the imperious necessity of establishing independent organs of political power by the urban and rural proletariat” and should have stressed “the need to work amongst the ranks first to create a revolutionary Marxist organisation linked to the Algerian masses”.16 How seriously this “self-criticism” influenced their future conduct is demonstrated by the current USFI line on Nicaragua.

Leftish members of the USFI often defend their organisation’s record by pointing to this belated and half-hearted “self-criticism” and saying “better late than never”. But “late” is better than “never” only if the lessons of the error are learned, and if the same mistake is not repeated. Unfortunately, the history of the USFI is littered with such post mortem-style “corrections” of an opportunist line, none of which are used to change the organisation’s fundamental method. It is rather a way for an inveterate centrist leadership to cover its tracks.

“Structural reforms”

While the “epicentre” of the World Revolution was seen to lie outside of Europe and the main task in the imperialist countries was to aid it, the sections of the USFI were still involved in deep entry work in the Stalinist and social democratic parties of Europe. Within these parties the IS, and later USFI, sections made major accommodations to the reformist leaderships.

The USFI sections were advised to “concretise” the workers’ government slogan as “the expression of the political will of the working class, not as revolutionary Marxists would like it to be but as it really is at a given stage”.17 This simply means that a government of the existing reformist leaderships of the working class would be graced with the title “a workers’ government”. This idea, which conveniently leaves unspoken the class nature of such a government—the interests of which class will rule it?—returns again and again throughout the life of the USFI.

In connection with this the IS promoted the idea of the Transitional Programme as a series of “structural reforms” which gutted it of its revolutionary content, a method which was happily continued within the USFI. During the 1961 Belgian general strike, Ernest Mandel, as an editor of one of the Socialist Party’s papers, La Gauche, put forward a reformist programme which called for cuts in military expenditure, the nationalisation of the big holding companies and power industries, and for the “planning” of the economy through the establishment of a national investment fund. This left reformist programme of “structural reforms” was dressed up as a transitional programme adapted to the Belgian situation!

Again it was left to the logic of the struggle, “the revolutionary process”, rather than the conscious intervention of Marxist’s around a revolutionary programme to overthrow capitalism. As Mandel put it in 1967:

“Either one stands squarely inside the framework of the capitalist system . . . or one refuses, takes a socialist position, rejecting the road of increasing the rate of profit, and advocates the only alternative road, which is the development of a powerful public sector in industry, alongside the private sector. This is the road out of the capitalist framework and its logic, and passes over to the arena of what we call structural anti-capitalist reforms”. 18

Yet over the next few years, this right centrist orientation was to be replaced by a left, sometimes ultra-leftist, one. The impact of May 1968 and developments in Latin America were to blow the USFI off the course of “structural reforms” and into the arms of the petit bourgeois radicals who were incapable of addressing the question of reformism in the workers’ movement. However, despite the abrupt left turns, a zig zag symptomatic of centrism, the fundamentally opportunist method remained the same. The USFI could capitulate to reformism or try to kill it with curses but it could not fight it or overcome it.

The origins of the guerrilla turn

At the Ninth World Congress in 1969, the USFI adopted a resolution arguing that Latin America faced a “continent-wide structural instability [and] more precisely a pre-revolutionary situation”. The resolution continued:

“Latin America has entered a period of revolutionary explosions and conflict, of armed struggle on different levels against the native ruling class and imperialism and of prolonged civil war on a continental scale.”19

On this basis the USFI argued that guerrilla warfare should be the strategy for all the USFI sections in Latin America and that the USFI should work to integrate itself into the current around Castro. The American SWP reacted to this resolution with particular hostility, and launched a faction fight which effectively paralysed the USFI for much of the 1970s.

In their many polemics against the European leadership of the USFI, the SWP liked to present the 1969 conference decision as the beginning of the guerrillaist adaptation by USFI members Mandel, Maitan and Frank. This view is only partly true. Although 1969 certainly marked the codification of this line, from the late 1950s both the IS and the SWP had considered that guerrilla warfare—as practised by Mao and Castro—was a vital element of the “revolutionary programme for the imperialised world”.

The uncritical endorsement of the guerrilla strategy used by Castro and Mao to gain power was a complete departure from the Marxist approach to such tactics. The Marxist position on guerrilla warfare and “armed struggle” of all kinds is that whilst we do not rule out the use of any tactic in the class struggle, it is essential that the tactic be in complete accord with our strategy, which is the seizure of power by the working class.

The decisive forces of the working class, based in the factories, workshops and mines, develops the armed struggle against the bourgeoisie, led by a proletarian party, through armed workers’ militias. The road to these lies through the organisation of picket defense squads, armed defence of workers’ districts, of strike actions and of demonstrations. It is combined with revolutionary work amongst the rank and file soldiers aimed first at encouraging disaffection and, as the struggle develops, winning the troops over to the side of the workers. This amounts to breaking up the bourgeois army.

Certainly rural guerrilla warfare can be a subordinate tactic, especially where the peasant and small farming class is a significant, even predominant, portion of the population. But even here such a struggle must be intimately linked to the proletarian party and subordinated to the seizure of working class power. The guerrilla strategy of Castro and Mao was never based on such a concept. The real struggle was seen as one taking place in the countryside, based on the peasantry. The struggles of the workers in the cities were at best a useful adjunct. Indeed guerrillaism in Latin America has traditionally seen political action in the cities as a method of recruiting workers and students out of the cities and into the mountains.

Also the very nature of guerrilla struggle, be it rural or urban (as in the case of the Uruguayan Tupamaros or IRA), demands secrecy and the organisation of armed force in isolation from the masses, except perhaps in the final moments where the struggle takes on the proportions of civil war. Even here the fact that the struggle is left up to a minority of fighters, normally outside of the cities, breeds passivity amongst those very layers who should be struggling for their own liberation.

It is no surprise, therefore, that this elitist and individualist conception of struggle finds its most ardent proponents in the movements of petit bourgeois nationalists such as the July 26th Movement, the IRA, ETA or the PLO, and in the petit bourgeois intellectual circles in which the USFI swam in the late 1960s and 70s. Where the Stalinists have adopted such tactics, it has been on the basis of abandoning work in the proletarian urban areas, in favour of mobilising and basing themselves on the peasantry—a petit bourgeois strategy.

“Victories” for such movements, as a result, are never proletarian victories. They put into power either an alien class—popular fronts of bourgeois and petit bourgeois forces committed to preserving capitalism (July 26th Movement, FLN, FSLN)—or they can lead to Stalinist parties expropriating the bourgeoisie and excluding the working class from power, in the process creating degenerate workers’ states which block the road to socialism.

In painting up these petit bourgeois nationalist or Stalinist guerrilla movements as “socialist” and “revolutionary” the USFI was yet again abandoning the Marxist programme. This opportunist adaptation was reinforced in 1967 by two interconnected events: the attempt by the Cubans to open a guerrilla campaign in Bolivia and the foundation of the Organisation of Latin American Solidarity (OLAS).

In 1966, Che Guevara, romantic symbol of the revolution for many adolescent revolutionaries of all ages, left Cuba to launch a guerrilla war in Bolivia. Isolated from the masses, completely out of touch with the real focus of the Bolivian revolution—the Bolivian working class of the Altoplano—Guevara paid the price with his life in 1967. The “new left” had acquired its martyr, and Che’s poster flowered on the walls of a thousand student apartments. The USFI joined in the funeral orations, but failed to draw any critical political conclusions from this event. Quite the opposite.

Guevara’s intervention in Bolivia was not an individual initiative. He took with him 16 Cuban officers who included four members of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. From early 1966 Castro had signalled to the Kremlin that he was discontented with their support for the isolated and threatened Cuba. At the Tricontinental Conference in January 1966, held in Havana, Castro invited, alongside the national Communist Parties, guerrillaist groups from Latin America, many of whom were hostile to their local Stalinist parties.

By July 1967 he had convened the first conference of the OLAS which brought together 160 delegates from “fidelista” organisations in Latin America. Earlier the same year the Cubans had openly backed the guerrillaist wing of the Venezuelan CP, led by Douglas Bravo, which had split from and denounced the pro-Moscow leadership.

Joe Hansen, sent to the conference by the SWP as an observer, declared that “a great advance has been registered” for the revolutionary vanguard. Hansen noted approvingly that OLAS saw launching a guerrilla war as the key tactic:

“The question of armed struggle was thus taken at the OLAS conference as the decisive dividing line separating the revolutionists from the reformists on a continental scale. In this respect it echoed the Bolshevik tradition”.20

Of course it echoed nothing of the sort. Guerrilla warfare, misnamed “the armed struggle” in and of itself is not a Bolshevik method. It is the method of the revolutionary bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie. OLAS itself met under the twin portraits of Guevara and Bolivar.

Castro’s Bolshevik position led Hansen to rave that:

“The OLAS conference thus represents an important ideological advance, offering the greatest encouragement to revolutionary Marxists throughout the world. One of its first consequences will be to facilitate a regroupment of revolutionary forces in Latin America . . . The turn marked at the OLAS conference conforms with the political realities of Latin America and the imperative need to build a revolutionary leadership capable of correctly absorbing and applying the lessons of the Cuban Revolution on a continental scale.”21

Moreno added his voice to the uncritical cheerleading of the OLAS declaring it the “only organisational vehicle for power” as did, of course, the Europeans.

Only two short years lay between this apparent unanimity in the wake of the OLAS conference and the faction fight, with Hansen and Moreno leading the opposition to the Ninth Congress’s support for “the strategy of guerrilla warfare”, and its avowed aim of “fusion with the current around OLAS”. What caused them to retreat from their previous positions?

The growing leftism in the USFI

Despite both Hansen and Moreno’s great hopes for the OLAS Castro’s left turn was only to be short lived. The 1967 Havana conference was the first and last meeting of the OLAS. By October 1967 Che Guevara had been hunted down and killed in the jungles of Bolivia, the guerrilla “foco” smashed. This disaster, combined with economic pressure from the USSR which included the slowing down of oil shipments, rapidly ended Castro’s flirtation with spreading Latin American revolution through guerrilla warfare. By 1968 he was endorsing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and making overtures to the new military government in Peru.

Both Hansen and Moreno could see which way the wind was blowing as Castro gradually dumped his former guerrillaist allies. The continued enthusiasm of the European USFI leadership for the guerrilla struggle and the direction this was taking the sections in Latin America and Europe thus provided the motive for the development of an opposition tendency led by Hansen and Moreno.

Behind the 1969 Ninth Congress decisions lay a number of factors which had pushed the USFI and other centrist currents leftwards at the end of the 1960s. The Castroite calls for spreading the revolution, the Maoist led “Cultural Revolution”, the rising struggle of the Vietnamese against US imperialism, all provided the impetus for the radicalisation of a whole new generation. The explosion in Paris in May 1968 set off a radicalisation of students and young workers throughout Europe.

This radical wind of change filled the sails of various forms of centrism including the USFI. Several sections grew rapidly, recruiting important new layers of youth. This was notably the case with the French section, then known as the Ligue Communiste (LC). From having been an invisible entrist group burrowing away in the PCF, the Ligue burst into the spotlight on the Paris barricades and became the largest section of the USFI.

The recruits, however, were frequently far from “Trotskyist” being heavily tainted by the Maoist/Guevarist conceptions prevalent on the centrist left at the time. Indeed, it was precisely because their politics found a ready echo in the USFI that it was this organisation which gained most, in numerical terms, out of this period of radicalisation. The political instability of many of the USFI sections around the time of the Ninth World Congress is shown by the fact that at the 1969 founding conference of the LC, over a third of the delegates voted against affiliation to the “Fourth International”. Many of these leaders were later to organise a Maoist split, called “Révolution!”.

The left turn in Europe involved the USFI sections abandoning their deep entry work and the associated perspective of pressing for “structural reforms” within the reformist parties. The new turn meant adapting to the radicalised student milieu. The Ninth World Congress was to describe “the special role played by the university, high school and worker youth as the ‘detonator’ and spearhead of the movement”.22 This was the “new youth vanguard” towards which the European sections turned.

In practice it meant turning away from a struggle in the trade unions, or in the social democratic and Stalinist parties. The task became one of establishing “red universities” and “red bases” where the students could be organised to act as “detonators” to revolutionary explosions involving the workers. The workers to be orientated to were, as the Ninth Congress resolution put it, a “new generation of young workers” which “enjoys much greater freedom of initiation and action because it has largely escaped the control of the traditional organisations”.23

In fact this line represented a retreat from the struggle against the reformist leaders. Both the social democratic and Stalinist parties retained their grip over the European working class. The lessons drawn from the Paris events of May 68 were precisely the opposite of those that should have been drawn by Marxists. The French general strike and its betrayal by the Stalinists showed the importance of fighting the grip of Stalinism in the heart of the working class movement. The USFI chose instead to try and go round it—from the “periphery to the centre”—concentrating on mobilising students and young workers and linking them to the “third world struggles”.

Among the leaders and membership of the European sections even more wildly adventurist and ultra-left positions started appearing. In 1971 a section of the French leadership, including a member of the IEC (Jebrac), wrote a document which effectively argued for the European sections to take up urban guerrilla warfare. Despite being disowned by Mandel and others, it became clear that a strong guerrillaist tendency, based on a confused admiration of Guevara and the Vietnamese, and fundamentally petit bourgeois in nature, was growing inside the European sections.

Ultra-left positions on the Labour Party and the IRA flourished inside the IMG, the British section at that time. In 1970 the paper that the IMG co-sponsored, Red Mole, carried a major article by Robin Blackburn calling for the breaking up of Labour Party election campaign meetings using the methods of direct action developed in the student struggles. Even a mildly critical reply by the secretary of the IMG could not bring itself to call for a vote for the Labour Party in the election. In France a series of firebomb attacks on businesses took place in Paris and were loudly acclaimed by Rouge, the paper of the French section.

In June 1973, the LC launched an adventurist attack on a fascist meeting in Paris which was guarded by a massive force of riot police. Over the next few days the Ligue’s offices and scores of militants’ homes were raided, two Ligue leaders were arrested and the organisation banned, only resurfacing a year later as the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire. Whilst all this might have salved the consciences of a few petit bourgeois “revolutionaries of action”, it did nothing to break the working class from the stranglehold of Stalinism.

All this caused growing concern among the SWP leadership. Not only was Castro retreating from his support for guerrilla currents, but there was a growing move to “armed actions” in the SWP’s own backyard which it felt necessary to combat and distance itself from. The Weather Underground, the Black Panthers and dozens of other small groups heavily influenced by Maoism and spontaneist individualism, were being provoked into self-destructive “armed actions” against the state. The last thing the SWP wanted was to be targeted by the FBI as a “guerrillaist” organisation at this time.

We do not sneer at the fact that a thousand or so strong “propaganda society”, made up largely of students and white collar workers, did not wish to engage the US state in armed struggle. We do, however, have contempt for centrists who advocate such means of struggle “abroad” but recoil in horror when faced with the question nearer to home.

The Ninth Congress

The Ninth Congress saw the start of the unravelling of the 1963 unification, although at this Congress, the depth of future differences were not apparent. According to USFI reports of the time, there were 98 delegates from thirty countries present. Theses on “The new rise of the World Revolution” were adopted unanimously. This resolution mainly dealt with the situation of the famous “three sectors of the world revolution” and how the USFI was going to win the “new youth vanguard”—mainly students—who had been mobilised in the wake of May 68.

The main differences expressed at the congress were centred around the resolutions on Latin America and on the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The latter revolved around the differences over the nature of Maoism which had been swept under the carpet in 1963. For a period Mandel, Maitan etc, had agreed that a political revolution was necessary—but only because Mao said he was leading one—the “Cultural Revolution”! Once Mao was in the saddle again they reverted, once more, to their old position. For the SWP the differences over Latin America and “guerrillaism” were more serious.

Hansen and the SWP did not abandon their position on Cuba where they had retrospectively endorsed the guerrilla method of struggle used by Castro. In one of his polemics in 1971 Hansen was proud to quote from the 1963 reunification document:

“Guerrilla warfare conducted by landless peasant and semi-proletarian forces, under a leadership that becomes committed to carrying the revolution through to a conclusion, can play a decisive role in undermining and precipitating the downfall of a colonial or a semi-colonial power. This is one of the main lessons to be drawn from experience since the Second World War. It must be consciously incorporated into the strategy of building revolutionary Marxist parties in colonial countries.”24

The main objection of the SWP to the resolution was that the “Europeans”, especially Maitan, were turning guerrilla warfare into a strategy. As far as Hansen was concerned:

“What is primary in revolutionary strategy, the minority maintains, is building a combat party: resorting to guerrilla warfare should be regarded as a secondary tactical question.”25

So why was the faction fight to become so bitter? One reason was the SWP’s fear that this programme might become generalised to the imperialist countries—and therefore implicate them. As a “tactic” for some or all Latin American countries it was acceptable. As a strategy for the whole International the SWP were not having it. As Hansen argued in his June 1969 report on the Ninth World Congress:

“If [guerrilla warfare] is taken as a tactical question, then the the use of guerrilla warfare ought to be decided by each section and fitted into a broader strategy.”26

No orders from “a few guys in Paris” as Cannon put it.

This was linked to the SWP’s fierce opposition to the new statutes of the USFI, which were proposed at the 1969 Congress. These proposed statutes stated that:

“The public expression of major differences with the programme of the Fourth International or the political line adopted by the majority at a world congress” would be disciplinary offences.27

Hansen complained that the majority “advanced the concept of a highly centralised International empowered to intervene in the life of the sections in an energetic and forceful way”.28 As the whole history of the SWP shows, democratic centralism is an anathema to our “orthodox” comrades.

But in 1969 Hansen still expressed an optimistic view. In his report to the SWP on the Ninth Congress he declared that the discussions over the disputed questions would be “rich and educational”. In fact the disputes grew increasingly bitter. Between the Ninth Congress and the official end of the faction fight in 1977 the dispute rapidly took in many other questions apart from guerrilla warfare. The Vietnam War, the nature of Stalinism, the national question, the woman question, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Portugese Revolution, contacts with other “Trotskyist” groups, democratic centralism and the nature of the Fourth International were all the subject of heated polemical exchanges, with the main battle-lines corresponding to those of the IS/IC components of the 1963 fusion.

The SWP and Moreno’s Latin American supporters lined up on one side—at least until 1975—in the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (LTT), with the European leadership and a majority of the members on the other, in the International Majority Tendency (IMT). Accusations of factionalism came fast and furious on both sides as the internal functioning of the USFI ground to a halt. World congresses, supposed to be held every three years, were held every five or even six years (1974, 1979, 1985). The IEC, supposed to meet at least twice a year, frequently did not meet from one year to the next.

Bolivia and Argentina: the guerrillaist line in practice

It was in Bolivia and Argentina where the line of the Ninth Congress was to be tested to destruction. The polemics over the lessons to be learnt from these countries dominated the debates in the USFI until the mid-1970s.

Livio Maitan, the member of the IS with particular responsibility for Latin America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, argued that it was necessary to subordinate the work of the International to the areas of the world where a “breakthrough” was possible. In the run up to the Ninth Congress he declared “. . . it is necessary to understand and explain that at the present stage the international will be built around Bolivia.”29

Far from drawing the conclusion from Guevara’s debacle in Bolivia that such guerrilla warfare tactics could only lead to disaster, the majority of the USFI drew the opposite conclusion. In a marvellous piece of double-think Maitan argued “The events which have followed the defeat of the guerrillas have also, in the last analysis, confirmed Guevara’s fundamental option.”30

It was with this perspective that the Ninth Congress “armed” its Bolivian section, the Partido Obrero Revolutionario, known as the POR(Gonzales) after its leader Hugo Gonzales Moscoso.

Links were made with the National Liberation Army (ELN), a guerrilla group which traced its origins to Guevara’s group, and which identified absolutely with the “foco” strategy of the original ELN. The POR(Gonzales) preoccupied itself with military preparations. The political perspective adopted for Bolivia in order to justify the military strategy, one that saw no possibility of legal or semi-legal trade union mass struggles arising under the military, was soon to be rudely shattered by the events of 1970-71.

The death of the dictator General Barrientos led to an upsurge of trade union action. Growing mass mobilisations in 1970 led to an attempted coup by right wing generals. The military regime split apart as the masses poured onto the streets in response to a general strike called by the COB, the Bolivian trade union centre. The result was the “leftist” military regime of General Torres supported by a “Political Command” made up of the COB and various left political parties.

The POR(Gonzales) was completely isolated from these mass struggles. Instead it had been organising support for the opening of a guerrilla struggle in Teoponte by the ELN and preparing its own guerrilla actions. The Teoponte Front, opened in July 1970, was a complete disaster. The 75 guerrillas involved were hunted down by the army and slaughtered. Only eight escaped execution by the army.

Despite the mass workers’ struggles of 1970-71 the POR(Gonzales) stuck to its guerrillaist perspective. When it finally recognised the importance of the Popular Assembly in 1971—a body drawing together the COB, political, student and peasant organisations—it was only to make propaganda within it for the necessity of organising a “peoples’ army”.31Rarely had a political line been proved so rapidly bankrupt as was the case with the Ninth Congress decisions. Yet worse was to come in Argentina.

The Partido Revolucionario de Trabajadores (PRT) had been founded in 1964 as a result of the fusion between Nahuel Moreno’s group, which had broken from the IC and was now in political solidarity with the USFI, and an openly Castroite current, the FRIP. By 1968, however, Moreno was opposing the guerrillaism he had previously fostered and a split with the pro-Castroite wing of the PRT resulted. Moreno led what became known as the PRT(Verdad) while the other wing was led by Mario Roberto Santucho and known as the PRT(Combatiente). Both groups attended the Ninth Congress and asked to be recognised as the official section.

For the old IS leadership in Europe there was no question but that the PRT(C) should be the official section given it identified completely with the guerrillaist strategy. When Moreno pointed out that the PRT(C) was not Trotskyist the USFI leadership denied it. (Of course Moreno was not on particularly strong grounds as these were his erstwhile fusion partners of a few years before!)

Certainly the PRT(C) did not even claim to be Trotskyist. Their 1968 founding document had declared their aim to fuse together the currents of Trotskyism, Maoism and Castroism! But then these positions were not a million miles away from the position adopted at the Ninth Congress which called for “integration with the historic revolutionary current represented by the Cuban Revolution and the OLAS”! Neither did the PRT(C) even recognise the USFI itself to be a revolutionary international, a curious stance for a section of the “world party of socialist revolution”!

At its Fifth Congress in 1970 the PRT(C) announced its “intention of bringing about the proletarianisation of the International, of transforming it into a revolutionary organisation, and of struggling to orient it toward the formation of a new revolutionary International based on the Chinese, Cuban, Korean, Vietnamese and Albanian parties”.32

None of this stopped the PRT(C) becoming the centre of the USFI leaderships attention as offering another possibility of a “breakthrough”. Maitan, safe in his professor’s office in Rome University, encouraged the young PRT(C) leadership to launch a guerrilla war.

The development of the faction fight

In 1970 this leadership around Santucho launched the “Peoples’ Revolutionary Army” (ERP). Over the next four years the ERP engaged in a series of increasingly foolhardy actions which resulted in the virtual destruction of the organisation and led to the murder of hundreds of revolutionaries by the army.

Maitan obviously sensed that this young leadership was not only more on his political wavelength than his old adversary Moreno, but also that it was more malleable. Over the next decade, Maitan consistently encouraged and defended the Santucho leadership, even in some of its more curious pronouncements and disastrous actions, to the extent that he refused to vote for the “self-criticism” on the guerrilla turn made by Mandel and the rest of the USFI majority at the end of 1976.

As in Bolivia the guerrilla line was launched in Argentina in a period when the military dictatorship was coming under increasing pressure from workers’ mobilisations. In May 1969 a mass general strike and rising broke out in Cordoba, followed by mass strikes elsewhere. In 1971 there was a second rising in Cordoba, which resulted in a change of government bringing General Lanusse to power with a promise of a return to civilian government.

During these mass struggles the ERP, like the various Peronist guerrillaist movements, concentrated on armed actions. The ERP, following the example of the Uruguayan Tupamaros urban guerrillas, progressed from “liberating” milk floats and distributing the booty in the shanty towns, to “declaring war” on the Argentinian state! Bank raids multiplied, political meetings were held at gun point in factories, managers were kidnapped for ransoms used to distribute food to the needy.

These “Robin Hood” tactics might have gained some transient popularity for the PRT(C) but they did nothing to gain them a place or hearing in the growing struggles in the factories and trade unions. In March 1972 they kidnapped Oberdan Sallustro, the general manager of Fiat Concord and executed him a few weeks later when the ransom demands were not met. This, together with the Bolivian events, was too much for the SWP. They publicly condemned the shooting, which had been endorsed in the press of many sections of the USFI.

The SWP argued that such actions, isolated from the mass movement and not undertaken in a civil war situation, were defined by Marxists as “terrorism”, and had nothing to do with the Marxist tactics of armed struggle. The European leadership replied that the SWP was “tail endist”, not willing to lead the masses in the need for armed actions, and “spontaneist” in leaving the question of arms for the workers to be “solved” by the insurrection.

This was the background to the December 1972 IEC meeting which was to give rise to the opposing tendencies. The IMT consisting of largely the old IS leadership, condemned the SWP stand and forbade other sections to publish it. However, even Maitan and Mandel were forced to start voicing some criticisms of the PRT(C)’s line in 1972.

As the PRT(C) moved further down the road of urban guerrillaism and away from the USFI so it became increasingly faction ridden. Already its delegates to the Ninth Congress had been expelled and two thirds of its Central Committee of that time either expelled or left. In a letter from six leading IEC members (including Mandel, Frank and Maitan) sent to the PRT(C) in October 1972 they raised the first tentative criticisms of the organisation. They still, however, declared that the PRT(C)/ERP’s line “represents an unquestionable gain for the Trotskyist and revolutionary movement”.33

This confidence was ill rewarded by the PRT(C). The leadership denounced the USFI for attempting to organise a faction within their ranks. Having already publicly declared they were no longer Trotskyist, the Central Committee formally broke with the USFI in July 1973. Their leader Santucho was already in Cuba, where he proceeded to found the “Co-ordinating Revolutionary Junta”, an organisation that included the Bolivian ELN, the Chilean MIR and the Tupamaros of Uruguay.34

This desertion was a blow to the IMT embroiled as it was in a factional struggle. At the December 1972 IEC meeting critical resolutions on the record of the USFI sections in implementing the Ninth Congress line had been tabled. They were co-authored by Joseph Hansen, Hugo Blanco, Nahuel Moreno, Peter Camejo and Anibal Lorenzo. Both were rejected along with the minorities proposal to postpone the Tenth Congress due in 1974. March 1974 saw the formation of the Leninist-Trotskyist Faction (LTT) which largely represented the old IC wing of the fusion. By August the LTT had converted itself into the Leninist-Trotskyist Faction (LTF), aimed not only at changing the line on guerrilla warfare but also the leadership of the USFI.

The key argument that the LTF used to justify its transformation into a faction was that the IMT was in fact functioning as a “secret faction”. As Hansen put it in a way which mimicked Cannon’s 1953 discovery that a secret Pablo clique had hijacked the International:

“Later it was discovered that the International Executive Committee Majority Tendency was in actuality functioning as a secret faction; that is, on an undeclared basis. It was discovered, in addition, that some of its leaders favoured working toward a split in the Fourth International.”35

This apolitical response to the IMT’s manoeuvres marked a distinct down-turn in the quality of the LTF/SWP polemics. Hansen’s last major article was written before the formation of the LTF, and the field was increasingly left open to the new SWP leadership around Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters, drab apparatchiks for whom the “organisational question” predominated. Formal lawyer’s arguments replaced political debate. Allegations of secret meetings, secret letters and organisational manoeuvres filled the pages of the LTF’s articles. The tone was set for much of the SWP’s internal life up to the present.

In May 1973 Bill Massey and John Barzman formed the Internationalist Tendency (IT) inside the SWP, on the basis of support for the IMT. The SWP leadership, which since the year before had been in the hands of Barnes (National Secretary) and Barry Sheppard (National Organisational Secretary), was not amused. At the SWP Convention in August 1973, the Nominations Commission refused any places for the IT on the SWP National Committee. The boasted internal democracy of the SWP did not count for much.

The Tenth World Congress

The Tenth World Congress took place in February 1974. 250 delegates were present, from 48 sections representing 41 countries. On all the major resolutions adopted—on the world political situation, Bolivia, Argentina, armed struggle in Latin America, the theses on building of revolutionary parties in capitalist Europe—the congress was deeply divided along factional lines. The minority against the IMT positions consistently received over 45% of the votes at the congress. A third small tendency was formed at the congress—the Mezhrayonka Tendency—often voting with the LTF against the IMT.

The “new youth vanguard” of the Ninth Congress resolutions had been transformed into something bigger. “A new vanguard of mass proportions has appeared” declared the Tenth Congress theses on “Building revolutionary parties in capitalist Europe”.36 Developing the theme adopted at the Ninth Congress the USFI congratulated itself on the fact that the traditional reformist parties were growing weaker and weaker.

Their policies were “losing credibility”. The “electoralist and parliamentary road” was being “increasingly challenged objectively by the broad masses”. Indeed it had to be “objectively” since the same paragraph noted an infuriating subjective tendency:

“They continue to vote for the traditional parties”! “The traditional leaderships” the members of the USFI were assured “are no longer successful in winning over very [!] large sectors of the young workers to their policy and concepts.”37

Like the Ninth Congress, the Tenth continued its attempts to dismiss and go round the Stalinist and social democratic parties, to ludicrously belittle their influence over the masses and exaggerate the role and strength of a “new mass vanguard”.

Quite how distant from reality this position was is clear if it is remembered that in the same year as the Tenth Congress the British Labour Party was returned to power, Mitterrand missed becoming French President by a whisker, the Italian CP was on its way to its highest vote ever (34·4% in 1976) and that in Germany in 1972 the unions and workers spontaneously engaged in strike action against a parliamentary motion of no confidence against the SPD/FDP coalition government!38 This latter event, of considerable significance in indicating the working class’ continued loyalty to the reformist parties, isn’t even mentioned! For the USFI, all that counted was their impression that “We are seeing the beginning of a re-composition of the organised workers movement as a whole” whatever that meant.39

And what was their programme for winning over these radical layers? As in 1969, the USFI had nothing to recommend except “continuing education of the vanguard”40 and “a capacity on the part of the revolutionary Marxist organisations to take political initiatives outflanking the course of the reformists”, including “independent actions within the plants”.41 As at the Ninth Congress, once a wave of the USFI magic wand had made the reformists disappear, all that was necessary was a few “exemplary actions” and the “political vacuum” would be filled by the USFI. The similarity between this position, applied to the industrial working class in Europe, and that for the peasant masses in Latin America, is striking. Both are classic examples of a petit bourgeois failure to understand the real dynamics of the class struggle, the real roots of reformism and how to intervene to combat it.

On the question of guerrilla warfare in Latin America and especially the Argentinian question, in the light of the defection of the PRT(C), the IMT had to make some slight retreats. The “First self-critical balance sheet” was a remarkable affair.42 It noted that at the time the PRT(C) was admitted to the USFI as the official section it held positions that were “in contradiction with the essential concepts and analyses of the Fourth International”. These were:

“. . . an erroneous conception of Maoism . . . an apologetic appreciation of Castroism: a centrist and eclectic conception of building the International: an opportunist conception of the struggle against the bureaucracy of the degenerated workers’ states, typified by the support they gave to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Kremlin armies, etc.”

The resolution goes on to acknowledge that “Although these positions were partly known, neither the Ninth Congress nor the leadership of the Fourth International spelled out a political critique of the PRT”.43

After this breathtaking admission of the real politics of the PRT(C) and a retrospective characterisation of it as “centrist” the resolution goes on to say, “The recognition of the PRT as a section of the Fourth International was justified”! Yet after recovering our breath this should come as no surprise. A fairly consistent theme of the Mandel led “Fourth International” has been its willingness to liquidate their International into “centrist” currents if only they were given the go ahead. The IS/USFI has, in its time, played unrequited suitor to Tito, Mao, Castro, Ben Bella and lately the Sandinistas. It is no wonder it could swallow the neo-Maoist PRT(C) without worrying. Programme? Strategy? Tactics? Leadership? These become so much unnecessary ballast when the possibility of the “big breakthrough” is dangled before such inveterate centrists.

The resolution on Argentina, while criticising the erroneous guerrilla strategy of the PRT(C)/ERP for its failure to link itself sufficiently to the masses, for “its insufficient assimilation of the theory of permanent revolution” and for its support for a popular front between the trade unions and the “progressive bourgeois Alfonsin” (now President) nevertheless could declare that it continued “to appear as the most advanced and most credible existing option in the revolutionary left”.44

Not surprisingly, given this line, the PRT(V) of Moreno received little mention in the resolution and Moreno’s group was refused recognition as the official section, despite its considerable growth since the Ninth Congress. In the Bolivian resolution the line of the POR(Gonzales) was endorsed. And a resolution on “Armed struggle in Latin America” reaffirmed the Ninth Congress resolution on the guerrilla strategy as “one of the gains made by our movement”. While “uniting with the Castroite current” remained “a central question”.45

The Tenth Congress resolutions however only reflected part of the differences that had opened up in the USFI. Before the congress it had been agreed to put off discussions on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the nature of the Vietnamese Communist Party and solidarity work, women’s liberation and the Middle East.

Differences over Vietnamese solidarity work in particular led to a major dispute over the nature of the Vietnamese Communist Party (1973-74). The SWP had consistently tailed the anti-war movement in the USA, refusing to raise clear defeatist slogans or openly support the victory of the NLF. The European sections, making an equally strong adaptation to the solidarity movement in which they were working, while correctly arguing for the victory of the Vietnamese army, took a completely uncritical attitude to the Vietnamese Stalinists.

They argued that the VCP—like Tito and Mao in their time—were not Stalinists, but “empirical revolutionaries”. The SWP replied that they were indeed Stalinists. This was not generalised to a critique of the Cuban Revolution, nor of Castro’s Stalinism, however. Further, they were unable to challenge the basis of the majority’s position—which is an essential part of the centrist continuity of the USFI with the centrism of the 1951 FI—whereby:

“There is room between the social democratic or Stalinist reformist parties and the Trotskyist revolutionary-Marxist parties for a whole gamut of centrist formations or groups that on the theoretical level are distinguished by revolutionary empiricism” 46

As in the 1950s, the method was the same on both sides. The only difference was over defining who exactly were the “revolutionary empiricists”.

Thus after the Tenth Congress the USFI remained as deeply divided and faction ridden as ever. Where there was agreement, however, at least between Mandel and Hansen, was that a split had to be avoided and the unprincipled fusion of 1963 maintained. While this annoyed the “splitters” in the IMT, (e.g. Maitan, Krivine) it also led to growing divisions over tactics within the LTF. Having been again refused admission as the official section in Argentina, Moreno pressed for the declaration of a “public faction”. Seeing the unwillingness of the SWP to go along this path and thus risk a split, the Moreno tendency increasingly organised itself separately and prepared to carry out just such a split itself.

The tentative agreement between Mandel and the SWP leaders not to split the International did not, however, apply to splitting the national sections as the SWP soon brutally demonstrated.

Barzman’s IT—with or without the knowledge of the IMT centre—had been organising themselves separately within the SWP, with their own internal bulletin and conference. At the June 1974 SWP Convention the IT were expelled. In a classic piece of SWP double-think, they were described as having “split”, and as being members of the “International Tendency Party”. Of the 150 IT members expelled, 17—including Barzman—were later re-admitted into the SWP. The rest drifted off into the political wilderness, after having forlornly tried to maintain the “IT” as an independent organisation. In this they received no support from Mandel or the IMT. In this period factional tensions reached their height, virtually paralysing the USFI as an international tendency.

The SWP leadership claimed that the IMT had organised the IT “split”, and called for a Special World Congress to deal with the matter, given that the question now involved “nothing less than the main theoretical acquisitions of the Fourth International since the death of Trotsky”.47 The United Secretariat replied claiming that the allegations were “slanderous”, “ridiculous” and “unfounded” and called in the International Control Commission to investigate the claims. The Steering Committee of the LTF replied that the IMT leaders had:

“. . . usurped the Bureau, converting it into a monopoly of their faction. They have reduced the United Secretariat to a formal body that meets in a perfunctory way and cannot even be relied upon to furnish accurate minutes of its own proceedings.”48

The year 1975 was to be the high point of the factional struggle in the USFI. The Portuguese Revolution starting in 1974 was again to pit the two wings of the USFI against one another. The defeat of the revolution was to lead to a rapid shift rightwards by the IMT. Like the rudderless centrists they were, when reality finally caught up with them after the defeat of the Portuguese Revolution and the retreats of the workers’ movement in Europe, these impressionists quickly turned 180 degrees and became, once again, the most craven opportunists and footsoldiers to the same reformist leaders they had previously declared finished! In this situation there was to be a further erruption of factional struggle within the USFI.

Notes

1 See L Maitan and E Mandel’s articles in International Marxist Review, London, Autumn 1988, No 2, Vol 3
2 Notably in The Death Agony of the Fourth International and in The Degenerated Revolution, Workers Power and the Irish Workers Group, London, 1982 and 1983 respectively
3 See The Death Agony of the Fourth International and Permanent Revolution 7, Workers Power, London, Spring 1988
4 See Permanent Revolution 7 for a fuller account
5 J Hansen, Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, New York, 1978, p85
6 Dynamics of the World Revolution, New York, 1974, p13
7 Ibid, p17
8 See “The Chinese Revolution and its Development”, Education for Socialists, New York, September 1976
9 Quoted in J Hansen, The Leninist strategy of party building, New York, 1979, p540
10 International Marxist Review, op cit, p40
11 Fourth International, Paris, May-July 1962, p31
12 Quatrième Internationale, 29-30, Paris, Août-Décembre 1988, pp47-72
13 “The workers’ and farmers’ government”, Education for Socialists, New York, 1974, p64
14 World Outlook, New York, 21.2.64
15 “The workers’ and farmers’ government”, op cit, p64
16 Ibid
17 Quatrième Internationale, Paris, Fevrièr 1966, p70
18 E Mandel, An introduction to Marxist economic theory, New York, 1976, pg77
19 Ninth Congress resolution on Latin America in Intercontinental Press, Vol 7 No 26, Paris, 14 July 1969, p717
20 J Hansen,op cit 1978, pp215-16
21 Ibid, p226
22 “The new rise of the world revolution”, Intercontinental Press, Paris, July 14 1969, p670
23 Intercontinental Press, op cit, p683
24 J Hansen, 1979 op cit, p115
25 Ibid, p85
26 Ibid, p60
27 Statutes of the Fourth International, IMG Publications, London, p16
28 J Hansen, 1979 op cit, p319
29 Quoted in ibid, p51
iences and Perspectives of the armed struggle in Bolivia”, Intercontinental Press, Paris, 2 September 1968
31 See “Bolivia 1970-71: a revolution disarmed”, Workers Power 40, London, March 1983 for a more detailed account
32 Cited in J Hansen, 1979 op cit, p274-75
33 International Internal Discussion Bulletin X(7), June 1973, p22
34 Santucho was later killed in Buenos Aires in an armed action by the Argentinian military in 1976
35 J Hansen, 1979 op cit, p444
36 Intercontinental Press, Paris, 23 December 1974, p1822
37 Ibid
38 The “Barzel coup”
39 Intercontinental Press, Paris, 23 December 1974 op cit, p1822
40 Ibid, p1824
41 Ibid
42 Ibid, p1797
43 Ibid, p1797
44 Ibid, p1794
45 Ibid, p1806
46 International Internal Discussion Bulletin, X (7), June 1973, p3
47 International Internal Discussion Bulletin, XII (3), January 1975, p3
48 Ibid, p6

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