International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International (1987): Documents of the Third Plenum of the ICFI


This issue of the Fourth International includes the documents of the Third Plenum of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), including its March 18, 1987 statement “No to Stalinism and the Popular Front! Build the Fourth International!” which deals with the proposed fusion between the British renegades of the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), led by Cliff Slaughter, and the Morenoite Movement towards Socialism (MAS) in Argentina.

The Third Plenum rejected with contempt the WRP’s pretentious call for the “reorganization” of the Fourth International, explaining that this shabby maneuver was bereft of even the slightest principled political content. Analyzing the significance of the WRP’s preparations to fuse with the Morenoites, the ICFI warned that “the unstated and hidden purpose of this merger is to provide a cover for the liquidation of Trotskyism into Stalinist Popular Frontism and in this way create the conditions for the betrayal of the working class in Europe and Latin America.”

In the three months since this statement was issued, its political line has been powerfully confirmed in the development of the capitalist crisis and the class struggle. The Easter rebellion by Argentina’s fascist military has placed the issues raised by the ICFI squarely before the working class and its revolutionary vanguard. It has once again demonstrated the utter bankruptcy of bourgeois democracy in Argentina and throughout Latin America.

Only the political lackeys of imperialism will dare to deny that the Argentine working class is fast approaching a historical crossroads: one way leading to the socialist revolution; the other to a fascist-military regime even more brutal than that of Videla and Viola. Which course will be taken in Argentina and elsewhere ultimately will be determined by the character of the organized vanguard of the working class.

It is a measure of the political corruption and ideological decay of the centrist falsifiers of Marxism—most grotesquely embodied in the Workers Revolutionary Party—that they can talk about “reunifying” and “reorganizing” the Fourth International while paying no attention whatsoever to the great strategical experiences of the proletariat, such as those which have occurred most recently in Argentina. Their activity is in no way directed toward resolving the crisis of revolutionary leadership on the basis of the historically-developed program of Marxism. Rather, all their efforts are aimed at propping up the degenerate bureaucracies that still dominate the workers’ movement, and herein lies the key to understanding the reactionary character of the WRP’s international operations. The decision of the WRP to enter into a fusion with the Morenoites without subjecting their past to a theoretical evaluation or examining their role in the Easter events is the height of political treachery.

However, indifference to the essential question of revolutionary perspective, program and principles is not the exclusive property of the WRP. It is a universal characteristic of all the branches of Pabloite centrism. While some of the centrist competitors of the WRP have complained about being “shut out” of Slaughter’s deal with the Morenoites, they are equally disinterested in subjecting the Argentine developments to a political critique and drawing its political lessons for the Fourth International and the international workers’ movement.

The International Committee, however, approaches the developments in Argentina the same way Trotsky dealt with all the historical experiences of the international proletariat which arose during the period of his great struggles to reform the Third International (1923-1933) and, when that proved impossible, to build the Fourth. As Trotsky educated the vanguard of the working class on the lessons of the struggles in Germany, Britain, China, France and Spain (to name only a few), the ICFI strives to develop within the most advanced elements of the proletariat a clear understanding of the revolutionary events of our present period. The Argentine events must be carefully studied, and the most crucial component of such a critique is the examination of the political role played by the organizations of the proletariat.

Despite the mobilization of the working class against the coup and the determination of the masses to prevent a return to the murderous regime of the past, the April events revealed that the gravest danger facing the Argentine workers comes from their own leadership—Peronist, Stalinist and centrist—which consciously subordinated the working class to the bourgeois government of Raul Alfonsin and betrayed this movement.

As a result of this betrayal, the rightist rebellion achieved its immediate aims and the military will be emboldened to carry out new attacks against the working class. On June 5, the Argentine Chamber of Deputies passed into law the concept of “due obedience,” under which charges of torture and murder of workers and youth brought against military and police officers are to be dismissed on the grounds that they were “only following orders.”

The outcome of the Easter rebellion underscores the necessity for the building of a genuine revolutionary party in Argentina and in every country in Latin America, based on the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution and an intransigent struggle for the independence of the working class from the national bourgeoisie.

Despite the fact that it is now preparing an organizational unification with the Argentine Movement towards Socialism, or the MAS, (led, until his death last January, by the late right-wing centrist renegade from Trotskyism, Nahuel Moreno), the British Workers Revolutionary Party under Cliff Slaughter has not even offered a precise chronological account, let alone a theoretical analysis, of the events in Argentina. It has not even seen fit to republish the major statements issued by MAS during and after the military rebellion.

Rather, the WRP has been engaged in what can only be described as a conscious political coverup, aimed at concealing the treacherous policy pursued by the MAS. This coverup is a crime against those elements within MAS who falsely believe that the policies of its leadership are based on Trotskyism and it is a crime against the workers’ movement in Britain—for the silence of Slaughter on the right-wing policies of MAS can only mean that the WRP intends to introduce the same political line in its “home” territory.

Indeed, the tumultuous April events in Argentina have exposed the political significance of the right-wing trajectory of Slaughter’s WRP since its split from the International Committee of the Fourth International in February 1986. They have also completely confirmed the analysis made by the ICFI in its March 18, 1987 statement: “No to Stalinism and the Popular Front! Build the Fourth International!”:

In Argentina, where the sharp swing of the Alfonsin government to the right has placed it in open conflict with the working class, revolutionary struggles are directly on the agenda. In such a situation, for the Workers Revolutionary Party to give political credibility to the Morenoites is not merely irresponsible—it is criminal.... The fusion of the WRP and the Morenoites represents an extreme danger to the working class of Britain and Argentina and, therefore, to the international working class as a whole. At a time when Trotskyists are presented with unparalleled opportunities to build an invincible world revolutionary organization and wrest the leadership of the working class from all the historically-discredited bureaucratic agencies of imperialism, the Workers Revolutionary Party is sealing an alliance that can only serve to give these agencies a new lease on life.

The MAS failed to prepare the working class for the rightist coup and the capitulation of its leaderships. Throughout the period leading up to the crisis, the MAS concentrated all its political resources on the building of an electoral popular front alliance, known as the Frente del Pueblo (FREPU), or “People’s Front.” Its central partner in this unprincipled bloc was the Stalinist Argentine Communist Party. Rounding out the popular front formation were various organizations representing what is known as “militant Peronism;” i.e., the left wing of Argentina’s main bourgeois nationalist party.

The MAS entered the April crisis under the banners of FREPU and as the closest ally of the Argentine CP and the left Peronists. No sooner had the rightist officers launched their pronunciamiento than the Stalinists rushed to the Casa Rosada together with industrialists, bourgeois politicians and trade union bureaucrats to sign a document known as the Act of Democratic Compromise. This pact gave unconditional support to the institutions of the capitalist state and endorsed a scheme to grant complete amnesty to those officers charged with murder and torture under the former military regime.

Instead of a serious political assessment of these crucial experiences, the WRP published an ecstatic account of the May Day rally held by the MAS in Buenos Aires. The WRP hoped to thus hide its political bankruptcy, and that of the MAS, in the shadow of the Ferro football stadium where the party’s supporters gathered, and it sought to drown out any political discussion on the MAS’s treacherous line with the chants of those who attended.

In the Workers Press of May 16, the WRP approvingly quoted the speech by MAS leader Luis Zamora, declaring that he levelled “harsh criticism” against the Communist Party, “which until the Easter capitulation to the military, had been allied with the MAS in an electoral front.”

As quoted in Workers Press, Zamora stated:

“I am sure that many Communist comrades, with illusions in the left turn their party made which permitted us to build the FP, felt a hammer-blow come down on their heads when their leadership signed the act of capitulation.” He added: “It is a lie, Communist comrades, that the left is divided because we couldn’t get an agreement on candidates for the September elections,” or because of “political differences before Easter.”

Furthermore, Zamora accused the CP of “breaking up the left,” and urged its members to “retrace their steps” to a “united” People’s Front by repudiating the signing of the “Act of Democratic Compromise.”

This speech is a devastating, though unwitting, self-condemnation: if the “Communist comrades” had “illusions” in their leadership and felt the Easter events like a “hammer-blow,” whose fault was that? The MAS leadership refused to prepare them or any other section of the working class for the capitulation of the Popular Front of Peronism, Stalinism and syndicalism. On the contrary, as Zamora himself said, before the military rising, the party had absolutely no political differences with this front.

The MAS had been building a permanent political alliance with these very agencies of the bourgeoisie, through the FREPU electoral bloc. The thrust of the MAS’s propaganda had been precisely to convince the working class that Stalinism was capable of self-reform and of fundamentally altering its historically determined counterrevolutionary character.

Over the last year, its newspaper, Solidaridad Socialista, repeatedly published its greetings to the conferences and congresses of the CP, praising the Stalinists for having “the political courage to rectify positions held over many years.” It proclaimed the FREPU alliance as a “great tool” and “an extraordinary conquest which we are going to defend with all of our energies.”

This “great tool,” this “extraordinary conquest,” was exposed as a rotten political cover for counterrevolutionary Stalinism as soon as a handful of fascist officers raised their guns in anger. The revolutionary rhetoric of the MAS provided a fresh veneer of credibility for the tired old traitors of the CP so that they could once again betray the working class.

While the MAS did not join its Stalinist “comrades” for the trip to Alfonsin’s Casa Rosada, it provided them with the “leftist” credentials that made their presence alongside the industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats so valuable to the bourgeoisie. And subsequently, it has not used its refusal to sign the Act as ammunition to destroy Stalinism. On the contrary, as we shall see, it has offered once again to work for the CP’s salvation.

As for Stalinism’s “rectification” of past policies, the Easter rebellion only proved once again that it represents the most counterrevolutionary agency of the bourgeoisie within the workers’ movement—something which was analyzed by Trotsky over 50 years ago.

This perspective, confirmed in one bloody betrayal after another in every corner of the globe, is completely rejected by the Morenoites. For the MAS, as with all Pabloite groups, whether Stalinism will betray is an open question, subject to the pressure of the masses and the drafting of many-pointed programs.

In their theoretical magazine, Correo Internacional, the Morenoites make the following assessment of the Argentine CP’s evolution:

Beginning of 1985, the CP made a brusque turn to the left, abandoning its support of the government and making a self-criticism of its past capitulations. In the midst of this turn, the CP agreed to an electoral alliance with the MAS, on the basis of a principled 23-point program.... In the past months, nonetheless, the CP appeared to be determined to break the alliance and abandon this program of struggle, something in which it was strongly influenced by the Kremlin, which is in the process of concluding important agreements with the Argentine government.

The holy week crisis found the PC [Communist Party] in an open turn to the right. The question was which would matter more: the still existing alliance between the Movement toward Socialism and the left positions which had taken on flesh and blood in a sector of the ranks, or the pressure of the bureaucracy and the Argentine bourgeoisie. The unknown(!) revealed itself rapidly. Breaking with the program signed in 1985 and destroying in deeds the alliance with the MAS, the CP leadership signed the “Act” of surrender to the military.

Surprise! Surprise! The Stalinist betrayed! How could such a thing have come to pass? That the MAS was taken unawares by the treachery of the CP simply exposes its own political bankruptcy. The Stalinists made use of the cover provided by the Morenoites in order to rebuild the authority of their discredited organization. Then, inevitably, the CP betrayed the working class by collaborating with Alfonsin to keep the movement against the military under the political control of the bourgeoisie.

The speculation of the Morenoites on the revolutionary potential of Stalinism and their confidence in its “brusque turns to the left” are the hallmark of every Pabloite renegade from Trotskyism. In the context of the Argentine CP, such a method is nothing short of obscene. The CP was the one organization in the Argentine workers’ movement which supported the military junta of Gen. Videla when it came to power in 1976, initiating a bloodbath against the working class and the youth. While over 30,000 were executed and “disappeared,” the Stalinists remained virtually untouched, loyally supporting Moscow’s extensive economic ties with the dictatorship.

Given such a record, the question of whether the Stalinists would go with FREPU’s 23-point program or whether they would go with the Gorbachev bureaucracy was in doubt only in the minds of the Morenoites.

This is the real perspective of Morenoism. And it is not just a tactical question in Argentina. If the Argentine CP can carry out such “brusque turns,” then surely Stalinist parties throughout the rest of Latin America, in Britain and everywhere else in the world have the same capacity. This is the perspective which has attracted the WRP renegades to Morenoism.

One only has to ask what impact the MAS’s policies could have had among the “Communist comrades” and Argentine workers in general. Those among the most advanced layers who saw the MAS as a revolutionary alternative could only say to themselves, “If the Trotskyists, who have been the bitterest enemies of the CP, say that it has changed, maybe it’s a party we can trust after all.” This is the key role the MAS’s participation in the popular front plays in leading the working class down the road to defeat.

The centrism of the MAS in Argentina is every bit as dangerous as that of the POUM during the Spanish civil war. As Trotsky pointed out, “By their general ‘left’ formulas the leaders of the POUM created the illusion that a revolutionary party existed in Spain and prevented the appearance of the truly proletarian, intransigent tendencies. At the same time, by their policy of adaptation to all forms of reformism, they were the best auxiliaries of the Anarchist, Socialist and Communist traitors.” Add the Peronists to this list of traitors and a precise definition of Morenoism emerges.

The crucial task confronting Argentine Trotskyists following the Easter rebellion is to sharply draw the political lines between revolutionary Marxism on the one hand and counterrevolutionary Stalinism on the other. But in the weeks following the Easter rebellion the centrists of the MAS have sought desperately to restore their alliance with the Stalinists.

In its first major article after CP leader Echegaray pushed his way into the Casa Rosada in order to sign the “Act of Democratic Compromise,” MAS’s weekly Solidaridad Socialista carried a full-page article directed to the “Companeros Comunistas.”

In the style of a contract lawyer, the MAS declared that the CP’s support for an amnesty for torturers violated “points 17, 18 and 19” of the People’s Front’s 23-point program. It further criticized the Stalinists’ acceptance of the Act’s provision endorsing the “normal development of the institutions of the state.” MAS reminded the CP that the popular front alliance had called for “‘dismantling’ many of these institutions—like the repressive ones—and for ‘democratizing’, that is, changing others, like the Armed Forces” (emphasis in original).

These formulations clearly establish the thoroughly reformist and reactionary content of the electoral alliance between MAS and the CP. The agreement did not call for the “smashing” of the capitalist state but rather for its “democratizing”—a formulation which represents the complete betrayal of Marxism. It is noteworthy that Slaughter, who has written many times on the nature of the capitalist state and always denounced the attempts of centrists to evade the struggle for its revolutionary overthrow, has remained totally silent on the petty bourgeois democratic position of MAS on this very question.

The reaction of MAS to the altogether predictable and inevitable betrayal of the Stalinists has been one of utter despair. While bemoaning the CP’s action as a “hard blow to the anti-military struggle and to the unity of the left,” the thrust of the statement is to appeal to the Stalinists to renew their unity with the MAS and to halt their attempts to form a new popular front alliance without the Morenoites:

“If the CP had continued respecting the People’s Front, this wouldn’t have happened,” wrote Solidaridad Socialista, adding: “With this attitude, the Communist comrades continue dividing the People’s Front. They have blocked, despite our calls, our ability to hold a united May 1 rally. And in transgressing the program and struggle of the FP and of the people, they have placed our alliance on the brink of a split.”

Thus, even after the CP had joined with the government, the capitalists and the trade union bureaucracy in signing a statement supporting the state and endorsing an amnesty for military butchers, the Morenoites were still talking about their electoral alliance with the Stalinists being “on the brink of a split”! The article concluded by beseeching the Stalinists to return to the People’s Front in order to “broaden it with all those who are in agreement with its program, and not with capitulation.” (Solidaridad Socialista, April 24)

In its May 12 issue, Solidaridad Socialista reported on a televised debate between MAS leader Zamora and CP leader Echegaray. The report said that the “screen showed a vehement Zamora, reproaching the CP for having broken the unity with the MAS just when big struggles are in progress.”

For his part, Echegaray described the split in the People’s Front as “good, as it give rise to a new unity: that which the CP made in Atlanta with other groups.”

In a passage which resembles nothing so much as the pathetic cry of the jilted lover, Solidaridad Socialista lamented: “In this way he clarified the troubling discussion which was going on previously within the FP over the responsibility for the break. Echegaray laid bare that it is the CP which sought it, considering it beneficial.”

Responding to Echegaray’s declaration that its new popular front formation was “broader” and would lead the fight for “national liberation and socialism,” Solidaridad Socialista pleaded, ‘‘What did the FP fight for? Wasn’t its program exactly that? What advantage is there in defending national liberation and socialism with a smaller front and with the left divided?” (Solidaridad Socialista, May 12)

In its May 19 issue Solidaridad Socialista published an interview with MAS leader Zamora on his election campaign for the post of deputy. Asked about the FREPU split, he declared:

Today more than ever there is a need to offer a united alternative; that the left unite in an electoral front or alliance. The problem is that we have been divided. We have already indicated that this division was produced on April 19 when the Communist Party signed the so-called Act of Democratic Compromise. Nonetheless, it is a fact that since its May 1st rally in Atlanta, the CP and the Frente Va (the old FREPU minus MAS) have called for a struggle against the law of “due obedience,” which is a consequence of the same Act which they signed.

We must see, then, if they commit themselves to maintaining this policy and accept subscribing to a precise program to unite the left in an electoral front. We call on the Communist comrades and on the Frente Va to unite ourselves, on the basis of a program and, above all, on a consistent policy. (Solidaridad Socialista, May 19)

Little more than a month after the Stalinists carried out their wretched betrayal of the mass mobilization of the working class by signing their support for the capitalist state and the military, the Morenoites were already appealing for “unity” and calling upon the Stalinists to join them in a new “electoral front.” Moreover, so cynical are the MAS leaders that they were already claiming to detect in the Stalinists’ farcical pledge to oppose the law of “due obedience” a hopeful indication of a new turn to the left by the Argentine Communist Party!

The role played by the WRP in covering up for the treachery of the MAS leadership has not been limited to endorsing its policies in the pages of Workers Press. Leaders of the WRP have gone to Buenos Aires and publicly supported policies that can only lead to bloody defeats of the working class. Just days after the end of the coup, Bill Hunter and Simon Pirani stood alongside Zamora on the platform of the May Day rally of the MAS.

A Trotskyist would have been obliged to warn those workers present that the CP’s Easter betrayal was no momentary accident but the lawful expression of the entire historical and international development of Stalinism. He would have critically exposed the dangers represented by the MAS’s centrism. These questions are life and death for the Argentine workers and must be fought out and driven into the consciousness of the proletariat if it is to prevent a bloodbath which would surpass that of Chile in 1973 and of their own country in 1976.

But Hunter confined his remarks to vague declarations of “solidarity” which could have been uttered by any number of centrist fakers in the British Labor Party. The WRP, he assured his audience, “supports every struggle of the workers, the downtrodden masses and the oppressed nations against imperialism,” and theatrically pledged that the WRP would “support unequivocally Argentina’s right to the Malvinas.”

In short, Hunter provided a sideshow performance to distract the membership of MAS from the ignominious collapse of the party’s main political line. This action alone brands Hunter, Slaughter and the rest of the right-wing clique in the WRP leadership as miserable traitors to the international working class.

The assistance given by the WRP to the centrist leaders of the MAS vindicates yet another portion of the analysis made by the ICFI of Slaughter’s fusion with the Morenoites:

For the Morenoites, it [the fusion] is a means of obtaining an international “Trotskyist” cover for their conscious preparations for their next betrayal of the Argentine working class. In order to becalm the anxieties of those who suspect that MAS is heading on the road to defeat and to shout down those who are accusing the leaders of treachery, the petty bureaucrats who run MAS are attempting to bolster their prestige by citing their growing international support.

While working diligently to provide a political cover for the betrayals of its allies within the MAS, the WRP has directed its fire against the International Committee, denouncing it as “sectarian” and accusing it of waging a “slander campaign” against the Argentine centrists. As Trotsky wrote against those who denounced him as “sectarian” for his merciless criticism of the Spanish POUM: “If it is sectarianism, then all Marxism is only sectarianism, since it is the doctrine of the class struggle and not class collaboration.”

In this case, the charge of “sectarian” is leveled against the International Committee by an organization whose principal leaders have all found their way to direct or indirect support for Stalinism. The WRP’s former national secretary and direct ally in its split with the IC, Michael Banda, has openly solidarized himself with the entire history of Stalinism and justified the assassination of Trotsky. Its former longtime leader Gerry Healy has proclaimed Soviet Stalinist Mikhail Gorbachev as the leader of a “political revolution” in which the bureaucracy itself is realizing Trotsky’s program. And Cliff Slaughter has become the chief lawyer for the popular front, solidarizing himself with a leadership that has subordinated itself entirely to an electoral alliance with Stalinism and bourgeois nationalism in Argentina. Like Healy and Banda, Slaughter is consciously working to transform the WRP into a petty bourgeois centrist agency of imperialism.

Slaughter, attempting to defend the policies of MAS prior to the Easter events (he has not been heard from since), declared that even though the alliance of the CP and MAS is publicly known as a “people’s front,” FREPU is nevertheless a “united front”—going so far as to lyingly claim that no other parties are to be found in this bloc.

But even if it were the case (and it is not) that no bourgeois or petty bourgeois organizations are directly involved in FREPU, it would still be a mockery of Marxism to claim that this electoral bloc is not a popular-front type of political formation. The class nature of any bloc is determined, in the final analysis, by the program upon which it is based. Not every bloc between working class organizations merits the designation, “united front.” It is first necessary to examine the political aims that inspire the bloc. One must first determine whether it is a bloc formed for the purpose of fighting the bourgeoisie or for confusing and misleading the workers.

When the Marxist party proposes to form a united front with other, reformist, organizations of the working class, it does so for clearly defined tactical purposes that in no way compromise its revolutionary objectives (i.e., the overthrow of the capitalist state and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship). It is a means of unifying the working class against the forces of capitalist reaction while undermining and destroying the influence of the reformists over the proletariat. Under no conditions do Marxists propose the formation of a united front as a sort of general amnesty for the reformist traitors in the labor movement. In entering a united front, the Marxists surrender neither their independent revolutionary program nor their merciless criticism of the organizations to which they have proposed joint action against the capitalists.

None of these revolutionary conceptions animate the bloc between the Stalinists and the MAS. Their FREPU was, until its collapse in April, an electoral alliance based (as the above-quoted sections of the 23-point program cited by MAS itself clearly proves) on a bourgeois-democratic platform.

As history has already demonstrated, centrists have frequently attempted to dress up their betrayals of the working class as applications of the tactic of the “united front,” knowing full well that their centrist maneuvers have absolutely nothing in common with the policy fought for by Trotsky in relation to the German workers movement in 1930-33.

Sterile calls for the “unity” of working-class organizations are employed by the centrists to disguise their rejection of revolutionary program. By their very nature, a policy which is based on such empty appeals for unity sow first complacency and then demoralization within the working class. Inevitably, they lead to betrayals and defeats.

Indeed, the present line of MAS is not very different from the one that the United Secretariat adopted in 1963 in relation to the LSSP in Sri Lanka, one year before De Silva, Goonewardene and Pererra took that organization into coalition government with the bourgeoisie. At the Seventh (unification) Congress of 1963, the main resolution of the Pabloites had this advice to offer to the LSSP:

The LSSP must orient today in the direction of the united front of the working class organizations (the LSSP, CP, MEP and the trade unions, including the CWC and the DWC which have organized the overwhelming majority of the plantation workers) and in the direction of the formula of a really socialist united front government, which constitutes the most effective solution for change as against the different types of bourgeois governments which have succeeded one another in Ceylon since independence. It is necessary to launch this orientation in an aggressive way, to make it penetrate into the broadest masses, and to center it not on the simple negotiations at the top, but on the creation of united front committees at all levels of political life… [to] give it at the same time a precise class character by fighting for a program for the united front which will express our class position, both on the problems of power, the relations with the common wealth and with the workers’ states, the nationalization of the principal means of production, and the language problems. (The 4th International—Complete Documents of the Seventh World Congress, October-December 1963, p. 45)

If we leave out the fact that the MEP was included in this “united front”—just as bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties are included in the FREPU alliance—the essential significance of this policy was that its purpose was to dupe the workers with the bogus claim that all the major organizations of the working class were getting together in order to launch an offensive against the capitalist government, when, in fact, all the participants in this bogus “united front” were covering up for their mutual determination to defend, at all costs, the existing capitalist state!

The greatest treachery of the United Secretariat—repeated today by the WRP—was that it not only refused to denounce this political fraud in front of the Sri Lankan working class, but actually presented it as a genuine united front.

In case further proof is required that the electoral bloc championed by MAS has absolutely nothing in common with the united front policy advanced by Trotsky in the early 1930s, let us quote Trotsky himself on the subject of electoral blocs between supposedly revolutionary and reformist organizations:

Election agreements, parliamentary compromises concluded between the revolutionary party and the Social Democracy serve as a rule, to the advantage of Social Democracy. Practical agreement for mass action, for purpose of struggle are always useful to the revolutionary party. The Anglo-Russian Committee was an impermissible type of bloc of two leaderships on one common political platform, vague, deceptive, binding no one to any action at all. The maintenance of this bloc at the time of the British general strike when the General Council assumed the role of a strike breaker, signified, on the part of the Stalinists, a policy of betrayal.

No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself, with his grandmother and even with Noske and Grzesinsky. On one condition, not to bind one’s hands. (“For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism,” The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, Pathfinder, pp. 138-39)

The events of April mercilessly exposed the fraudulent character of FREPU: the “united front” of MAS and the CP disintegrated without being able to take a single action against the fascist military conspirators—thus providing fresh verification of Trotsky’s warning that such bankrupt popular-front formations “fall to pieces at the first serious test, and deep fissures … open up in all of its component sections. The policy of the People’s Front is a policy of betrayal.”

Dismissing the lessons of history, the WRP renegades declare that unlike the “sectarians” of the International Committee, the MAS is “in the thick of the struggle.” This is the favorite refrain of those who attempt to conceal their political cowardice, their refusal to fight for a correct revolutionary line among the masses, with haughty gestures.

Hoping to intimidate the critics of their centrist line, the WRP boasts that the MAS called for a “united general strike.” For that matter, so did CGT chief Saul Ubaldini, even as he was acting to subordinate the working class to the Alfonsin government. In a similar vein, the WRP proudly announces that the MAS “walked out” of the mass rally in the Plaza de Mayo on Easter Sunday when Alfonsin announced his deal with the military. So, it should be added, did various other petty bourgeois democrats, Montoneros, left Peronists, and even sections of their Stalinist comrades, who found themselves in a state of utter confusion.

Naturally, we welcome this action by the MAS and even applaud the courage of rank and file members who, we are sure, were prepared to give their lives in the struggle against the military. But our respect for the courage of individual militants does not change our political evaluation of the policies of their organization and its leaders. For this reason, we see no reason to make more of the walkout than it deserves. In fact, the sentiments which inspired the MAS leaders to signal the walkout were, if examined politically, hardly as noble as the WRP would have us believe. To continue their role as centrists, using revolutionary phrases and gestures to cover up for the Stalinist and reformist traitors, the MAS leaders had to leave the Plaza de Mayo alongside these other forces.

The events in Argentina are of historic significance, and it is impossible to dismiss the WRP’s defense of the Morenoites’ capitulation to Stalinism and bourgeois democracy as an “isolated” mistake. Immediately after contributing to the betrayal of the Argentine workers, Pirani flew to Brazil to endorse the petty-bourgeois democratic program of the Morenoites in that country. From the glowing report of the Tenth Congress of “Convergencia Socialista” in the May 30 issue of Workers Press, we learn that “‘Sarney Out’ is the CS’s main political slogan,” and, even more pathetically:

“Until a month ago, CS called for Brazil’s national bourgeois Constituent Assembly to assume power for passing laws, and displace President Samey—who was handed power from military dictatorship which ended in 1984.”

The miserable outcome of the Brazilian Morenoite’s prostration before the bourgeois state is reported by Pirani without a trace of criticism:

But the Assembly expressly voted for its own subordination to Samey. CS has now reverted to the slogan which brought millions on to the streets in 1984—“direct elections for president”.

In other words, the Morenoites are a petty bourgeois tendency whose political axis consists of opportunist agitation around various “popular” democratic slogans. On this basis it has already worked to subordinate the working class to the utterly rotten democratic institutions of the capitalist state. Only the most hopeless middle-class philistines could seriously believe that the house of ill-repute known as the Constituent Assembly could defend the interests of the working class against Samey. No doubt, the Morenoites will argue that they are “exposing” the Constituent Assembly by prostrating themselves before it and even that they are using democratic demands in order to gather popular support. This is a reactionary orientation which the Trotskyist movement has had to fight many times—as far back as the 1940s when the right-wing faction led by Morrow and Goldman insisted (as they prepared to desert to imperialism) that the Fourth International could only win the masses on the basis of democratic demands and that the Trotskyists in postwar Europe should be the leading champions of democratic constitutions!

Within the pages of Workers Press we regularly find explicit justifications for political collaboration with the bourgeoisie, as in an article written by the same Simon Pirani in the issue of April 25. Answering a letter by one P. Conlon, he strenuously objected to the question: “How can one, particularly in a revolutionary situation, tell the masses to prepare their forces for the overthrow of the capitalist government, and at the same time call for support for the same government?”

Pirani replied:

The answer is: the way the Bolsheviks did! They prepared the November 1917 revolution by supporting the bourgeois government of Alexander Kerensky against the counter-revolutionary General Kornilov in August 1917. (Emphasis added)

They had been jailed or driven underground by Kerensky in July-August—but they mobilized workers in his support, carrying out not only the military defeat of Kornilov, but a political offensive against the reformist and petty bourgeois parties (Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries) who still had a majority in the Soviets... (Emphasis in the original)

The ABC lesson of the 1917 revolution is that tactical alliances with bourgeois governments, under certain conditions, are permissible and necessary.

This line constitutes the real program of the WRP’s proposed fusion with the MAS—alliances with bourgeois governments in defense of capitalist democracy are “permissible and necessary.”

The reference to the Kornilov episode is a reactionary distortion of the policy actually pursued by the Bolsheviks. At no time did the Bolshevik Party give any sort of the political support to the Kerensky government. The policy pursued by Lenin and Trotsky was to defeat the Kornilov insurrection through the independent mobilization of the working class, always making clear that any tactical-military agreement with forces controlled by Kerensky and the Menshevik-SR leadership of the Soviets in no way implied that the Bolsheviks either defended the Kerensky regime or extended to it any political support.

In August 1917, arguing against the right-wing elements in the Bolshevik Party who were advocating critical support to the Mensheviks, the SR’s and Kerensky against pro-Tsarist forces, Lenin explained the line the Bolsheviks would take in the event of a right-wing military uprising against the Provisional Government:

Our workers and soldiers will fight the counterrevolutionary troops if they start an offensive now against the Provisional Government; they will do so not to defend this government, which called on Kaledin and Co. on July 3, but to independently defend the revolution as they pursue their own aim of securing victory for the workers, for the poor, for the cause of peace, and not for the imperialists, for Kerensky, Avksentyev, Tsereteli, Skobelev and Co. (Collected Works, Vol. 25, pp. 251-52)

Lenin continued that the Bolsheviks would tell the Mensheviks:

We shall fight, of course, but we refuse to enter into any political alliance whatever with you, refuse to express the least confidence in you. We shall fight in the very same way as the Social-Democrats fought tsarism in February 1917, together with the Cadets, without entering into any alliance with the Cadets or trusting them for one second. The slightest confidence in the Mensheviks would be as much of a betrayal of the revolution now as confidence in the Cadets would have been between 1905 and 1917. (Ibid., p.252)

Lenin was so concerned about reports of political fraternization between sections of the Bolshevik Party and the Mensheviks that he called for “an official investigation, with Moscow comrades who are not members of the C.C. participating, to establish whether the Bolsheviks had any common institutions with the defencists on this basis, whether there were any blocs or agreements, what they consisted in, etc. The facts and particulars must be investigated officially, and all details ascertained. If the existence of a bloc is confirmed, members of the Central Committee or the Moscow Committee must be relieved of their duties and the question of their formal removal must be submitted, even before the next Congress meets, to the plenary meeting of the Central Committee.” (Ibid., p. 253)

Two weeks later, when Kornilov began his insurrection, Lenin wrote to the central committee:

“Even now we must not support Kerensky’s government. This is unprincipled. We may be asked: aren’t we going to fight against Kornilov? Of course we must! But this is not the same thing; there is a dividing line here, which is being stepped over by some Bolsheviks who fall into compromise and allow themselves to be carried away by the course of events.

“We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky’s troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weaknesses. There is the difference, but it is highly essential and must not be forgotten.” (Ibid., pp. 289-90)

The period of alliances between the Bolsheviks and the bourgeois government ended in April 1917, with Lenin’s return to Petrograd and the struggle he launched against the compromisers led by Kamenev and Stalin. To claim that the “ABC lesson of the 1917 revolution is that tactical alliances with bourgeois governments, under certain definite conditions, are permissible and necessary” is a falsification of history and a betrayal of Marxism.

To take another example, Trotsky took Shachtman to task in 1937 for having suggested that it was permissible for workers’ deputies in the Cortes to vote in favor of war credits to finance the struggle against Franco. Trotsky wrote that he was “astounded” by Shachtman’s position and explained:

To vote the military budget of the Negrin government signifies to vote him political confidence.... To do so would be a crime. (In Defense of Marxism, New Park, p. 160)

Pirani’s position is that of a petty bourgeois democrat. His argument in defense of tactical alliances with bourgeois governments is advanced now in support of the MAS’s subservience to Alfonsin’s bourgeois democracy.

Far from having entered into a fusion with the MAS in order to correct its false positions and conduct a struggle for a Marxist perspective, Slaughter, Pirani and Company are working to buttress the centrist leaders and endorse their betrayals.

Any member of the MAS who has entertained hopes that the British “Marxists” of the WRP would assist in clarifying Argentine Trotskyism and refounding its revolutionary heritage will be cruelly disappointed. The WRP renegades renounced their own revolutionary heritage in the split with the IC. They know full well that any reorientation by the MAS would require a deep-going self-critique which could only expose themselves, who, after all, were attracted to the MAS based on its popular front line.

And, as the ICFI warned, the MAS leaders are seeking to strengthen their own credibility by pointing to their new alliance with “international Trotskyist leaders of considerable weight and theoretical accomplishment.”

They have informed the members of the MAS that they were “filled with joy” to receive a letter from Cliff Slaughter in which he wrote that “if I or any of our party comrades can help in the work of the LIT or even the MAS, we shall take time off and travel and work with you in whatever way you request during the period leading up to the International Conference.”

To which the MAS leaders replied, “We have responded positively to Cde Cliff because, now more than ever, we need his help.”

Indeed, they do—in order to more effectively deceive and disorient the militants of the MAS and the Argentine working class. Certainly the grotesque betrayal carried out by the Argentine Stalinists at the Casa Rosada has served to expose the real implications of the MAS’s opportunist and centrist political line over the whole past period and must lead to profound disquiet within its ranks. That is why Luis Zamora and the rest of the MAS leadership find the pseudo-Trotskyist cover of the WRP so vitally important. And, no doubt, they will find in Slaughter an eager and effective accomplice.

Slaughter’s reputation is extolled and the old centrist traitor Bill Hunter is paraded before the stadium in Buenos Aires under the false pretense that they somehow embody the struggle for Trotskyism and against Pabloite revisionism. The authority of this struggle is thereby misappropriated in order to sanctify the centrist and Pabloite treachery of the MAS leadership.

This fraud can only be perpetrated by lying about the WRP’s split with the International Committee, which was based precisely on the repudiation of the entire history of the struggle waged by the IC against Pabloism since 1953. The WRP’s current attempt to sail under the stolen flag of “anti-Pabloism” has one purpose and one purpose only—to provide a left cover for the betrayals of their Morenoite allies, as well as for the betrayals which it is preparing to carry out in Britain itself.

Today, these British chauvinists haven’t the slightest concern for the fate of the Argentine working class, nor, for that matter, for workers in any other corner of the globe who will face similar dangers of fascism and dictatorship. Their renegacy is itself bound up with the response of the petty bourgeoisie internationally to the intensification of the class struggle, and with it the growth of both revolutionary opportunities and counterrevolutionary dangers.

The knife-edge of the political situation has been exposed not only in the April events in Argentina, but also in the crises in the capitalist military and state apparatus in Ecuador and Fiji, and—in an embryonic form—in the Iran-contra revelations in the US itself. The ruling class is being forced to dispense with bourgeois democratic forms and resort to the bloody methods of police-military dictatorship and fascism. Under these conditions, the WRP’s endorsement of popular frontism is an essential part of the preparations of imperialism for defeats of the working class in Argentina, in Britain and internationally. Herein lies the real objective significance of the fusion between the WRP and MAS. This “reorganization” therefore represents a centrist alliance aimed at bolstering the discredited forces of Stalinism, social democracy and centrism and diverting the working class from revolution.

But the centrist accomplices of imperialism and Stalinism shall not succeed. The events in Argentina, constitute, as far as the International Committee is concerned, a strategic experience which will serve to educate the world proletariat and place it on guard against the treachery and impotence of centrism.