Fourth International 1992: The end of the Soviet Union

Founding Conference of the Canadian International Workers Party

This article first appeared in the Bulletin on April 24, 1992.

The Founding Congress of the International Workers Party/Parti Ouvrier International, held in Montreal the weekend of April 18-19, represented a historic step forward for the Canadian and international working class. Delegates from Montreal and Toronto voted unanimously to establish the new organization “on the platform and decisions of the Fourth International and [to] work under the discipline of’ the International Committee of the Fourth International to build the World Party of Socialist Revolution.

The congress was the result of a protracted struggle for the principles of proletarian internationalism within the Canadian working class.

The Canadian supporters of the ICFI have stood alone in opposing reactionary Canadian and Quebec nationalism, in fighting to unite the working class in Canada—French, English and immigrant—with their class brothers and sisters internationally in a common struggle against world capitalism.

This vital political stand has only been possible because the Canadian Trotskyists have consciously striven to make the foundation of all their political work the historical experience of the international working class, which is distilled in the program and perspectives of the ICFI.

Discussion at the IWP congress centered on the stage reached in the fight to resolve the crisis of working class leadership in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the general decay of all the traditional workers organizations.

The congress discussed and adopted two perspectives resolutions—”The World Historic Significance of the Fourth International” and “The Perspective and Tasks of the International Workers Party: The Class Struggle in Canada”—as well as a motion asking the International Committee to recognize the IWP as the Canadian section of the Fourth International.

The congress began with a minute of silence in honor of Bill Brust, the veteran of American Trotskyism who died last September.

In opening the congress, its chairman Pierre Talbot stressed its importance. “Under conditions where all the conquests of the working class are being destroyed and under conditions where all the old leaderships are openly aligning themselves with the bourgeoisie, a new revolutionary party is being founded to revive within the Canadian working class the great traditions of international socialism.”

International Workers Party National Secretary Keith Jones gave the main political report to the congress, introducing the resolution on the significance of the Fourth International.

Jones said that the conditions were propitious for raising the banner of Trotskyism in the Canadian working class. “The political authority of the official leaderships of the working class, the trade union bureaucracy and the social democratic New Democratic Party, has been vastly eroded. Insofar as these bureaucratic albatrosses continue to dominate the labor movement, it is because they enjoy the support of the capitalist state and can lean on the apathy and disorientation of workers brought about by their own betrayals. The Communist Party of Canada will soon follow its political mentor, the CPSU, into the dustbin of history. The various petty-bourgeois radical organizations including the Pabloite groups are staggering, their opportunist perspective having been undercut by the development of the class struggle, by the breakup of the bureaucracies to which they have adapted and sought to subordinate the working class.

“As for the Canadian bourgeoisie, it is in an unprecedented crisis. It must bring class relations in line with the intensifying global struggle for markets, profits, natural resources, and pools of labor to exploit. But it cannot destroy all the conquests of the working class without provoking massive class battles, without provoking a revolutionary situation.

“Moreover, the Canadian bourgeoisie is riven by unprecedented divisions, as its different sections war over who will be forced to the wall by the slump and how Canadian capitalism is to be reorganized for trade war and class war. The globalization of production has led to a sea change in the relations between labor and capital. It has also stripped the Canadian bourgeoisie of any viable independent strategy, and brought the regional antagonisms that have historically marked Canadian capitalism to the breaking point.

“Yes, in founding the International Workers Party, we anticipate a rapid growth of the class struggle, under conditions where this party can vie for the leadership of the working class. However, much as we look to the future with anticipation, the principal task before this congress is to assimilate the lessons of the past, for we can accurately understand the tasks we face only if we understand where this movement comes from, and what it represents.”

Jones said what had made the founding of the IWP possible was the rebellion of the proletarian internationalist majority of the IC against the petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party of Britain in 1985-86. Under the direction of Healy, Banda and Slaughter, the WRP had sought to subordinate the Fourth International to alien class forces, to the Stalinist and social democratic bureaucracies and to the bourgeois national movements.

In splitting with the WRP, the proletarian internationalists had taken the offensive against opportunism. Whereas the opportunists sought to “integrate” the Fourth International into the masses by adapting to the right-wing bureaucracies that during the postwar period dominated the workers movement and suppressed the class struggle, the IC established that proletarian parties can only be built through an unrelenting political and theoretical struggle against all forms of petty-bourgeois ideology in the workers movement.

The victory of the IC over the opportunists, explained Jones, was rooted in profound changes in the objective situation, in the breakup of the postwar order. The opportunist tendency led by Pablo and Mandel represented an adaptation to the settlement between imperialism and Stalinism, which enabled capitalism to be revived after World War II. But now all the bureaucracies to which the Pabloite opportunists adapted are collapsing. “All the impostors and impostor tendencies have been exposed. The perspective of the Fourth International, upheld by the IC since its founding in 1953, that the only path to socialism is world socialist revolution and that the international working class is the only force that is capable of carrying out this creative task has been vindicated by history.”

In bringing greetings to the congress, Workers League National Secretary David North also stressed the significance of the IC’s struggle against Pabloism: “What has happened to the bureaucratic organizations that Pablo said represented the real movement of the masses and into which he demanded the Trotskyists liquidate themselves? They lie in ruins. Pablo saw these counterrevolutionary bureaucracies as historic instruments of working class struggle, and sought to infect the Trotskyist movement with, what you could call, a political inferiority complex.

“At its root, the Pabloite perspective was based on the belief that it was impossible to win the working class to Marxism. Whereas the great Marxists made the foundation of all their political work the struggle to educate the working class, Pablo and Mandel deemed this an impossible task and made the focus of all their activity studying the entrails of these putrid bureaucracies. Of these mighty organizations, today, as Trotsky predicted in The Transitional Program, not one stone is being left upon another.”

North pointed to the role that Pabloism had played in destroying the IC’s Canadian section. Even in 1953, when the Canadian organization rallied to the IC, it was already deeply infected by Pabloism, fearing nothing so much as to be separated from the right-wing social democratic CCF (the forerunner of the NDP).

North stressed that with the breakdown of the postwar order, all the old prevailing political relations, including decades-old political parties, are being blown apart.

“This conference is a turning point for Trotskyism in Canada and internationally,” said North. “Don’t underestimate the importance of the work you are carrying out. It is the outcome of a conscious, protracted struggle for Marxist principles. What is decisive is the strength of the foundation. You have small forces at present, but no one who understands the dialectic of historical development or who has insight into the present world situation, should be discouraged. This is the seedtime of new organizations, both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary.”

At present, because the working class is being paralyzed by its existing leadership, the breakup of the old political forms in the advanced capitalist countries has been manifested most obviously in an upsurge of chauvinism and the development of extreme right-wing parties.

“But a movement of the working class to the left, a regroupment on the left, is inevitable. And when that comes, revolutionary-minded workers will not look to the remains of the Stalinist and social democratic parties that have led them to disaster, nor to the Pabloite opportunists who orbited around them, but to the International Committee of the Fourth International.”

The second day of the congress was devoted to discussing how the IWP translates the program of world socialist revolution into the language of the Canadian working class, and to elaborating the political work the IWP will carry out in the coming year.

The congress discussion and the resolution “The Class Struggle in Canada” mark an important advance in differentiating the Trotskyist program from all varieties of petty-bourgeois radicalism.

The petty-bourgeois opportunists have joined the labor bureaucrats in lining up behind one or another faction of the bourgeoisie in the constitutional crisis. Only the IWP has explained that this constitutional crisis is the legal-juridical expression of a crisis of class rule, and that the threatened breakup of the Canadian federal state is rooted in the crisis wracking the entire nation-state system as a result of the globalization of production.

The task of the working class is neither to prop up the Canadian state nor to support the Quebec bourgeoisie in reorganizing the nation-state system in North America, but to unite with American and Mexican workers in the struggle for the Socialist United States of North America.

The congress refuted the Pabloite claims that the NDP is the historic party of the Canadian working class, or at least a workers party, and opposed the opportunist perspective of trying to pressure social democracy to the left. “To defeat the offensive of capital,” says the perspectives resolution, “the working class must break with the NDP, fight to mobilize its independent political strength to drive out the Tory government, and fight for the establishment of a workers government based on socialist policies.”

The congress mapped out ambitious plans to take this revolutionary perspective into the working class, centering on building up the circulation of the IWP’s new bilingual monthly newspaper, The Intemational/L’Internationale. The IWP will also continue to develop the campaigns of the International Labor Defense Committee.

The founding of the IWP begins a new chapter in the struggle to win the Canadian working class to the program of world socialist revolution. Although it is a small organization, the political level of last weekend’s congress is testimony to the IWP’s solid political, theoretical and organizational foundations. We have every confidence the IWP will evoke an enthusiastic response among the class-conscious workers in Canada, for its international socialist program alone articulates the historic interests of the Canadian and world working class.