Leon Trotsky
Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka)

The International Perspectives of the ICFI

26-1. The ICFI’s Perspective Resolution of August 1988, The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, provided the first comprehensive analysis of world economy and world politics since the WRP abandoned such work in the early 1970s. The resolution laid the basis for the closer integration of all of the sections of the ICFI. Central to the document was its examination of the implications of the unprecedented global integration of production processes, which marked a qualitative shift in world economic relations that objectively strengthened the international unity of the working class and the basis for a world socialist economy. The ICFI concluded: “It has long been an elementary proposition of Marxism that the class struggle is national only in form, but that it is, in essence, an international struggle. However, given the new features of capitalist development, even the form of the class struggle must assume an international character. Even the most elemental struggles of the working class pose the necessity of coordinating its actions on an international scale ... The unprecedented international mobility of capital has rendered all nationalist programs for the labour movement of different countries obsolete and reactionary. Such programs are invariably based on the voluntary collaborations of the labour bureaucracies with ‘their’ ruling classes in the systematic lowering of workers’ living standards to strengthen the position of ‘their’ capitalist country in the world market.”[1]

26-2. The bankruptcy of nationally-based programs was reflected in the wave of “renunciationism” sweeping the old leaderships of the working class. The Stalinist and social-democratic parties and the trade unions were repudiating “even the elementary conceptions that the proletariat exists as a distinct class in society and that it must defend its independent interests against capitalist exploitation.” The ICFI analysed in detail the advanced degeneration of the Stalinist bureaucracies in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China. In opposition to all of the middle-class opportunist tendencies, the ICFI insisted that Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika were the policies of capitalist restoration—as was rapidly verified. The document established that the crisis of the armed Tamil groups in Sri Lanka was part of broader international processes stemming from the inability of the national bourgeoisie to wage a consistent struggle against imperialism. The LTTE’s capitulation to New Delhi found diverse parallels in the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s subordination of the Palestinian intifada to the reactionary interests of the Arab bourgeoisie, and in the deal struck by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas with right-wing Contra rebels.

26-3. The ICFI insisted that the global integration of production, far from opening up a new golden age of capitalism, had raised the fundamental contradictions between world economy and the outmoded nation-state system, and between social production and private ownership, to a new peak of intensity. The resolution identified the driving forces for a new period of revolutionary upsurge, including the economic decline of the United States and the rise of inter-imperialist antagonisms, the emergence of huge new battalions of the working class, particularly in Asia, the impoverishment of the backward countries and the crisis of Stalinism.

26-4. Turning to its strategic tasks, the ICFI summed up the lessons of the struggle following the 1985–86 split to overcome residual nationalist tendencies that were the legacy of the WRP’s degeneration. “Revolutionary internationalism is the political antipode of opportunism. In one form or another, opportunism expresses a definite adaptation to the so-called realities of political life within a given national environment. Opportunism, forever in search of shortcuts, elevates one or another national tactic above the fundamental program of the world socialist revolution. Considering the program of world socialist revolution too abstract, the opportunist hankers after supposedly concrete tactical initiatives. Not only does the opportunist choose to ‘forget’ the international character of the working class. He also ‘overlooks’ the fact that the crisis in each country, having its essential origin in global contradictions, can only be resolved on the basis of an international program. No national tactic, however significant its role in the political arsenal of the party … can preserve its revolutionary content if it is elevated above or, what amounts to the same thing, detached from, the world strategy of the International Committee. Thus, the central historic contribution which the sections of the International Committee make to the workers’ movement in the countries in which they operate is the collective and unified struggle for the perspective of world socialist revolution.”[2]


The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, pp. 6–7.


Ibid., pp. 70–71.