Fourth International 1992: The end of the Soviet Union

Discussion on Resolution Two at Berlin conference

Nick Beams, national secretary of the Socialist Labour League of Australia, introduced the resolution on the struggle against imperialist war and colonialism.

I would like to begin my remarks by bringing to this truly historic conference the warmest revolutionary greetings from all the members of the Socialist Labour League, the Australian section of the ICFI. Let me assure you that the deliberations of this conference will be followed with very keen interest by all our members and by the class-conscious sections of the proletariat.

I want to agree with the opening report, which made clear that the United Secretariat of Ernest Mandel and its various satellite groups are nothing more than political agencies of imperialism, and that the International Committee is not one of several tendencies within the Fourth International, but the Fourth International itself.

The struggle against war, as Trotsky said, is the struggle for the Fourth International. Therefore, the identification and establishment of who actually is the Fourth International and who is a counterfeiter, forger and agent of imperialism is the most decisive question of all in the struggle against imperialist war and colonialism.

In the May Day manifesto which convened this conference, the International Committee explained that the brutal war against Iraq marked the eruption of a new period of imperialist barbarism. We said that it was an expression of the complete breakdown of the postwar equilibrium of capitalism. It was through this equilibrium that the historic contradictions which had given rise to imperialist wars had been contained and regulated—contained but never overcome.

This analysis has now been powerfully vindicated by the test of events. The eruption of war over the past five months in the Balkans is not merely an expression of the conflicts between the rival national cliques as they organize the restoration of capitalism. It has an even more profound meaning. Historically, the Balkans have always constituted the weakest point of the nation-state system of Europe. Just as water breaks through a dam at its weakest point and, having burst through, eventually sweeps away the whole structure, so the crisis of the nation-state system of capitalism as a whole has erupted once again in the Balkans. In the past five months, thousands of people have been killed; at least 5,000, but most likely many, many more, with at least 350,000 made homeless. Whole towns such as Vukovar have been virtually flattened.

There is a deep historical significance to the bombardment of the historic port city of Dubrovnik and the threat to its priceless cultural heritage. This is very much the writing on the wall, the warning now being inscribed in blood, that all the historical achievements of mankind and civilization itself are directly threatened, as capitalism in its death agony once again drives to war.

We must issue the clearest warning to the workers of Yugoslavia that the proposed introduction of the so-called UN peace-keeping force, as called for by both the leaders of Croatia and Serbia, represents the start of a new carve-up of the Balkans.

All the imperialist powers have their eyes on particular spheres of influence that they intend to grab. German imperialism, forced once again to undertake a drive to the east, seeks to establish the so-called independent republics of Croatia and Slovenia as client regimes. Italian imperialism, which throughout its history has sought to grab parts of Albania and the Dalmatian region of Croatia, already has troops stationed in Albania for the first time since Mussolini’s forces were driven out of the Balkans. French imperialism, fearful of the implications of the push to the east by its rival Germany, is in favor of trying somehow to maintain the framework of the existing structure, and this view is shared to some extent by both British and US imperialism.

There is but one road to peace in the Balkans. This is the road of the class struggle, the fight for the program of proletarian internationalism, the mobilization of the working class for the overthrow of the entire existing structure of the rival national cliques and the establishment of the socialist federation of the Balkans as part of the United Socialist States of Europe.

War, it is rightly said, is the test of all parties and programs, and the war in the Balkans has certainly proved to be no exception. In the first place, it is the most graphic expression of the real meaning of the program of capitalist restoration being implemented by the rival gangs of Stalinist bureaucrats and comprador bourgeois.

The Serbian nationalists aim to establish a greater Serbia and set themselves up as a strongman of the region against their rivals. At the same time, they have launched this reactionary war in a desperate attempt to divert the anger of the masses over the collapse of the economy and the imposition of mass unemployment.

The program of the Croatian cliques is no less reactionary. Their aim is to establish themselves as a comprador regime of German imperialism in the traditions of the fascist state set up in 1941 by the Ustasha under Ante Pavelic.

In the conflict between these two rival cliques of gangsters, the question of which one constitutes the “lesser evil” is completely meaningless. They are two aspects of the same system. The working class must advance its own independent program to overthrow both of them.

The international working class must draw the sharpest lessons from these events. The struggle for the program of proletarian internationalism against all forms of nationalism, racism and chauvinism is literally a life-and-death question. The program of nationalism and chauvinism of every section of the trade union and labor bureaucracy is no less reactionary than that pursued by the cliques of Stalinists and ex-Stalinist bureaucrats in Yugoslavia. Just as the Serbian and Croatian gangsters have provoked a fratricidal war, so in every country where there is racism and chauvinism, the social democratic and trade union bureaucrats are promoting it and stoking it up. And the outcome of this program is war.

That is why we have insisted in the resolution drafted for this conference that the international working class must rise up and drive these forces out of the labor movement. As the capitalist class and its servants in the union bureaucracies seek to poison the proletariat with the fumes of racism, before drowning it in blood, the international working class must launch a great counteroffensive.

The events in Yugoslavia, as Comrade North referred to in his opening report, are of decisive significance for the Fourth International. They have provided another graphic expression of the class orientation and the class character of all the petty-bourgeois groupings. Above all, they reveal the role of the United Secretariat of Professor Ernest Mandel as a political agency of world imperialism.

The International Committee has always explained that the Pabloite organizations function as the most crucial prop of world Stalinism. Now the demise of the Stalinist apparatus has, so to speak, stripped away the covering under which the Pabloites have operated, forcing them to reveal their real agenda. International Viewpoint, the journal of the Mandel organization, openly called in an article published on September 16, for intervention in Yugoslavia by “Europe as a whole” to bring about the defeat of the Milosevic regime in Serbia.

This article does not even contain a reference to the interests of imperialism. The reactionary orientation of the Pabloites is set out even more explicitly in a statement issued by the United Secretariat published in the October 28 edition.

The Pabloites explicitly support the right of the Croatian bureaucrats and comprador capitalists and fascists to establish their own state apparatus to carry out the suppression of the working class. They say that the United Secretariat “supports the right of self-determination, that is to say, of independence against the army intervention without any preconditions about the social character of the regime created by self-determination.” The Pabloites support the right of the Croatian bourgeoisie to establish a state along the lines of the fascist Ustasha regime.

The Fourth International champions the democratic right of self-determination. But we implacably oppose the right of the bourgeoisie under the guise of self-determination to establish its own state apparatus. In fact, the democratic right to self-determination cannot be realized under any state established by the bourgeoisie, but only through its overthrow by the international working class.

The class orientation of all the other opportunist tendencies towards imperialism and fascism can also be seen in their positions on the civil war in Yugoslavia.

The bogus “Workers International to Rebuild the Fourth International” of Slaughter, managed to maintain a three-month silence on the Yugoslav crisis. The word “Yugoslavia” wasn’t even mentioned in their papers. The silence was only finally broken in October when Workers Press published an extensive interview with someone they called a Yugoslav member. And what an interview it was!

He declared that nationalism had become the dominant force, Stalinism had “gravely compromised socialism,” “the toiling masses ... reduced to such poverty and despair that even a runaway king seems to be a lifeboat” and consequently that “all winds blow against us.”

There is only one purpose in publishing such a reactionary and cowardly interview. Slaughter is on the same road as Mandel, to back the Croatian fascists and to back the intervention by the imperialist powers.

The so-called International Workers League of the Argentine-based organization of the late Nahuel Moreno calls for solidarity with the Croatian people as it aligns itself with the Tudjman regime and its German imperialist backers. The Morenoites call for workers in every country to take up a struggle on two slogans. They say: “Federal army troops out of Croatia! Immediate recognition of the independence of Croatia and Slovenia!”

These demands are in fact no different from those advanced by the foreign policy representative of German imperialism, Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, who is calling for European intervention to carry them out.

War tests out all parties and programs. The protracted struggle waged by the International Committee against Pabloism has the same significance as that waged by Lenin against the opportunists of his day. No less than the social democrats who operate as the agents of the bourgeoisie in the working class, the Pabloites are an open agency of imperialism, as their position on this and every other question certainly demonstrates.

Only the International Committee represents the Fourth International. It must be built as the World Party of Socialist Revolution through the exposure and driving out of all these opportunists.

Remarks by Wije Dias

Wije Dias, general secretary of the Revolutionary Communist League of Sri Lanka, spoke in support of the resolution.

I would like to bring greetings from the members of the Revolutionary Communist League, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, to this conference of great historic significance.

Comrades already have spoken about the historical import of this conference. It is not just because we have gathered together here from many countries, representing the proletariat and the oppressed masses of many nationalities, which itself is significant. The basic significance of this conference lies in the fact that it is grounded on the most fundamental historical laws of this epoch. This is the epoch of world wars and revolutions, and we are the only movement which is preparing the working class on a world scale to confront and defeat the attempts of the imperialists to carry out another devastating world war against humanity.

Historical laws can be suppressed, but they cannot be eradicated. That is what we have seen in the past 44 years. In the aftermath of the Second World War, based on a massive destruction of the world’s productive forces, and also of world humanity, with the massacre of millions and millions of people, the imperialists were able to establish a world order with the support of the treacherous social democratic and Stalinist bureaucracies.

But now we are seeing the complete collapse of that world order. Its emergence, of course, disoriented many, including a section within the Fourth International itself. That’s what was represented by Pabloism by the beginning of 1950s. But the Fourth International was based on the fundamental laws of history, and it correctly insisted even after the Second World War that the proletariat had no reason to become disillusioned about the prospects for the world socialist revolution.

If I may quote from the position taken by the Fourth International in 1946, as quoted in The Heritage We Defend: “Only the superficial and cowardly petty-bourgeois mind can see a refutation of our revolutionary perspective in these facts: that war did not, either during its course or immediately thereafter, bring about the revolution in Europe; that the German revolution has not taken place; that the traditional organizations, and foremost among them, the Stalinist parties, have experienced a new and powerful rise. While recognizing that all these facts represent so many defeats for the revolutionary proletariat, the Fourth International cannot for one moment forget that the mortal crisis of capitalism, the destruction of its equilibrium, the sharpening of all its fundamental contradictions, constitute far more important facts, and upon them rest our revolutionary perspective and our vastly increased opportunities for building the Revolutionary Party.” These are our fundamental premises from which we started to analyze the developments after the Second World War.

On the basis of the premises established by the Fourth International, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India correctly characterized the arrangement made between the imperialists and the national bourgeoisie in the backward countries as a conspiracy against the people. That was the characterization. They did not adapt to the establishment of the fraudulent national states in the Indian subcontinent, or, for that matter, anywhere else. But these positions were liquidated. The Pabloites adapted to the post-Second World War order.

Now what has come about of this world order today? As Comrade Dave North pointed out in his opening report, the hegemony of US imperialism, under whose umbrella the imperialist order was organized, has collapsed. Now the inter-imperialist rivalries have come to the forefront, leading the rival imperialist powers toward a new war conflict, to re-divide the world once again according to the imperialists’ needs.

It is only our movement which has prepared itself on the basis of the theoretical groundwork laid down by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, building the Fourth International to prepare the world proletariat and the masses to face up to their historic responsibilities in this epoch.

In the war program of the proletarian revolution, written by Lenin several months before the October victory, it states, “Only after we have overthrown, finally vanquished and expropriated the bourgeoisie of the whole world, and not only of one country, will wars become impossible.” That’s the only way that imperialist wars can be stopped, by overthrowing imperialism on a world scale. It’s a world perspective.

The Marxist movement from its very beginning, from its founding document the Communist Manifesto, was based on the perspective of world socialism. There was no room for national socialism, national roads to development, within the Marxist movement. And history takes its merciless revenge upon people who turn their back on these historical laws. The ignominious collapse of the Stalinist regimes stands as testimony to this today.

This is the force from which we derive our strength. We base ourselves on the historical laws of this epoch.

We have seen how the imperialists are attempting to create a redivision of the world once again in the war they carried out in the Middle East against Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people are being killed. The Iraqi masses were driven into conditions of the last century, without running water, without medical facilities. This is the fate they are going to deliver to many millions, not only in the backward countries, but in the advanced countries as well. They have already begun that process. That is why we say we have to take the initiative in mobilizing the world revolutionary force against this barbaric system.

Have the imperialists given any concessions or relief to Iraq after they inflicted so much devastation during the war? No. They are still after the Iraqi masses. They are still imposing sanctions. They are still trying to starve many more millions in Iraq itself. It is the same policy they adopt throughout the world.

For instance, in India, the Narasimha Rao government which recently came to power has taken steps which are unprecedented in India’s so-called independence era to open the doors for imperialist investors to come in and exploit the poor workers and oppressed masses of the country. But that does not stop the imperialists from imposing all their barbaric methods on India. They seek the complete devastation and annihilation of the Indian economy. That is what the imperialists ‘ interventions in the backward corm-tries mean.

It’s not just a matter of injecting some imperialist capital and imperialist technology into a backward economy. If they enter these backward countries, they have to annihilate their economies. This indeed is what they did when they came bursting into those countries in the nineteenth century, or even in the eighteenth century. All the traditional industries—guild industries, domestic industries—they were all wiped out and it was on the ashes of those industries that the imperialist ventures were imposed. Once again, with the development of the productive forces and technology, they need such devastation in the backward countries. It is on that basis only that the imperialists will be able to squeeze the masses in those countries for the extraction of private profit.

Therefore, we cannot see the imperialist interventions in the backward countries, for the redivision of the world, as something in the nature of so-called restructuring. It is a devastating attack on the working class and the oppressed masses.

This they do while at the same time carrying out the most destructive attacks against the working class and the masses in the developed capitalist countries themselves. That is precisely why we insist that the unity of the world working class, in the advanced capitalist countries as well as in the backward countries, is of historical significance and decisive importance. It is on that basis only that we’ll be able to combat and defeat these imperialist measures.

In the theory of permanent revolution, Trotsky insisted on this. In the introduction to the German edition of The Permanent Revolution, Trotsky said in 1930—today, it should be added, the very changed conditions are even more in favor of the theory of permanent revolution—”If we take Britain and India as polarized varieties of the capitalist type, then we are obliged to say that the internationalism of the British and Indian proletariats does not at all rest on an identity of conditions, tasks and methods, but on their indivisible interdependence. Successes for the liberation movement in India presuppose a revolutionary movement in Britain and vice versa. Neither in India, nor in England, is it possible to build an independent socialist society. Both of them will have to enter as parts into a higher whole. Upon this and only upon this rests the unshakeable foundation of Marxist internationalism.”

It is on this basis that we have to mobilize the world proletariat in every country to become a unified revolutionary force against the imperialists’ war preparations.

We see that the regimes which were established after the Second World War in the backward countries are facing collapse. The imperialists themselves intervene in these countries to destabilize these regimes and re-divide these countries in accordance with their needs.

There are splits taking place in the bourgeois parties within these regimes. For instance, when the US trade representative Carla Hill came over to India, an editorial in one of the prominent bourgeois papers, the Indian Express, said, “Mrs. Carla Hill, the US trade representative, has jolted hopes of strengthening Indo-US economic relations by the total lack of understanding she showed in New Delhi for this country’s aspirations.”

Of course, the bourgeoisie in these countries still expects the imperialists to show an understanding of the pathetic conditions which the pro-imperialist comprador bourgeoisie faces. And the editorial ends by saying, as if it were a threat, “In a world rapidly splitting into trading blocs, India will have to quickly develop reflexes to counter such blatant pressure tactics.”

They are turning and twisting in their seats today to find another trading bloc which they could consider a savior against US imperialist pressure and the burdens imposed upon them. But there are no such imperialist blocs. Imperialism is not just a policy of one section of the bourgeoisie. It has its own logic. It is a historical development, whether it is US imperialism or Japanese imperialism or German imperialism.

Under these conditions we see that all these regional cooperation organizations established in the past under the umbrella and patronage of US imperialism have begun to split. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, which was built up in South Asia between India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, could not meet this month on November 6, 7 and 8 at their annual congress. It had to be called off because Bhutan refused to participate, and on that basis, India refused to participate. It collapsed.

Definitely the other imperialist camps are intervening in these countries in order to preserve their portions and regions. India was divided in 1947 as Pakistan and India. It’s not enough. It has to be re-divided today in order to divide the working class and pit one section against the other. That’s the only way the imperialists can intervene in these countries and exploit them.

In the same way we see the splits taking place within the regime in Sri Lanka. There was an impeachment motion brought against the president of Sri Lanka by a section of his own party. But this impeachment motion collapsed. One could not help recalling how Trotsky explained the situation in Russia in 1917, prior to the February Revolution. Trotsky explained how the generals came from the front to the Duma and reported that if the war continued to be carried out under the tsar, it would lead to a disaster. Trotsky states again, “If it continued to be carried out!” Then another general gets up and says, “If I have to choose between Russia and the tsar, I would choose Russia.” Trotsky again says, “If I have to choose!”

Such is the pathetic condition of these sections of the bourgeoisie, who pretend to be against the regime. So in Sri Lanka, the impeachment has collapsed. In the same way that the Russian working class and the oppressed masses had to intervene to get rid of the tsar in the February Revolution—the victory of which was consummated under the leadership of the Bolsheviks organizing the working class at the head of the oppressed masses—so too the working class and the oppressed masses have to intervene to get rid of the pro-imperialist regimes in these backward countries, unifying with the proletariat in the advanced countries to fight and defeat imperialism on a world scale.

It is under these conditions we see the complete bankruptcy and the reactionary nature of all the labor bureaucracies and petty-bourgeois organizations.

In Sri Lanka, in the same way that the bourgeoisie is splitting, the petty-bourgeois groups, like the LTTE, which claim to fight for the rights of the Tamils, have started to adopt not double, but at times triple policies. They fight with arms in hand against the regime in one second. Then they issue statements saying that they support any move by other sections of the bourgeoisie to get rid of Premadasa. Then, on the other hand, they send their voice into parliament under the name of another organization, EROS, to support Premadasa and defeat the impeachment motion.

This is the pathetic situation these petty-bourgeois nationalists have come to. Isn’t it the same thing we see with the PLO? Isn’t it the same thing we see with the leadership of the ANC, the Sandinistas, and every other organization which claimed to represent the oppressed nationalities, and which claimed to be in struggle against imperialist, chauvinist and racist regimes?

The collapse of the reactionary policies of the labor bureaucracies has not been different. The LSSP and CP have completely won the hostility and opposition of the working class and oppressed masses. Under these conditions, the NSSP, as Comrade North pointed out in his opening report, has now joined the ranks of the Pabloites.

What’s the record of the NSSP? They were fully behind the faction which came out of the UNP, supporting the impeachment. They blatantly said that this impeachment motion was supported by the “liberal imperialists” in the world. They have found a faction of the imperialists to be liberal. They said these liberal imperialists favored the return of Sri Lanka back to the Westminster type of parliamentary rule, and they supported this.

They are fully behind the racist war against the oppressed Tamils. They are fully behind the massacring of rural youth in the hundreds of thousands. Their demand in relation to the detainees is that they should be brought to trial in the bourgeois courts, and all those who are found not guilty must be released!

They fully back the law-and-order system of the pro-imperialist capitalist regime. That is why we say that these are bourgeois politicians, in the same way that Mandel is a bourgeois politician. The working class must overthrow these bureaucracies.

We must affirm at this conference that there is no current outside of this movement, represented by the International Committee of the Fourth International, that embodies the struggle for socialism, or even speaks for genuine anti-imperialism. This is the movement which is going to mobilize the working class and oppressed masses throughout the world against imperialist war and colonialism.

That is why it is fitting to declare that this is the Fourth International as such. There are no tendencies which represent the Fourth International outside of this movement. It is on that basis that we have to take this conference as a pledge to build the Fourth International as the revolutionary internationalist leadership of the working class throughout the world for the victory of the world socialist revolution.