Socialist Equality Party (United States)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)

“Continuity” vs. “Reconstruction” of the Fourth International

The ICFI—and, in particular, the British Trotskyists of the Socialist Labour League—demonstrated great political prescience at the 1966 Congress and its aftermath in opposing all efforts to denigrate the fight against Pabloite revisionism. “The first prerequisite is to grasp that the fight against Pabloism was a fight to develop Marxism and at the same time to defend every past conquest of Marxist theory,” the SLL wrote in 1967. “The 1966 Conference of the IC expressed this clearly in insisting that the IC, through its struggle inside the FI, represented the continuity of the movement. Against Voix Ouvrière and Robertson, we insisted that only in the fight against Pabloism had Marxists preserved and developed the theory of the revolutionary party, of Bolshevism.”[1]

The French section of the Fourth International, the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste (OCI) supported the position of the SLL at the 1966 Congress. However, it argued that the Fourth International had to be “reconstructed.” Underlying this ambiguous terminology—which betrayed a significant degree of skepticism toward the viability of the Fourth International as it had emerged out of the break with the Pabloites—was a centrist shift in the OCI itself. By 1967, the OCI had begun to insist that the main problem with Pabloism was not its orientation to Stalinism and bourgeois nationalism, but its overly centralized bureaucratic methods. The OCI insisted that the task was to build more “supple” organizations focused on the “united front” tactic. The SLL issued a prescient warning to the OCI leadership:

Now the radicalization of the workers in Western Europe is proceeding rapidly, particularly in France... There is always a danger at such a stage of development that a revolutionary party responds to the situation in the working class not in a revolutionary way, but by adaptation to the level of struggle to which the workers are restricted by their own experience under the old leaderships, i.e., to the inevitable initial confusion. Such revisions of the fight for the independent Party and the Transitional Program are usually dressed up in the disguise of getting closer to the working class, unity with all those in struggle, not posing ultimatums, abandoning dogmatism, etc.[2]


“Reply to the OCI by the Central Committee of the SLL, June 19, 1967” in Trotskyism Versus Revisionism Volume Five (London: New Park, 1975) p. 111.


Ibid., pp. 113-14.