The instability of the world economy, the growth of global geo-political tensions, the eruptions of military violence, the deterioration of the social conditions of the working class in all countries, the increase in class conflict and the alienation of the broad mass of the people from the established political organizations indicate the approach of a revolutionary crisis. In the final analysis, the source of this widening pattern of disequilibrium is to be found in the incompatibility of the social relations and political forms developed by capitalism with the new global expansion and integration of the productive forces. This incompatibility can only be resolved and transcended through the conquest of political power by the international working class and the socialist reorganization of the world economy. The alternative is barbarism.
At the very center of this global crisis is the breakdown in the world position of American capitalism. The vast wealth and dominant world position that underlay American “exceptionalism”—i.e., the absence of a mass political movement of the working class—have been substantially eroded. American society is polarized along class lines to a degree unequalled since the social conflicts of the 1930s. But American capitalism is unable to offer the reforms that saved the system 75 years ago. The unending series of financial scandals and business failures have profoundly eroded public confidence in “free enterprise.” The theft of the 2000 election, the lies told by the government to justify the invasion of Iraq, and the horrors of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo have shaken the faith of the working class in the institutions of American democracy. The conditions for a radicalization of the social consciousness of the working class and an historic shift in its political allegiances are at an advanced stage. The United States is not exempt from the laws of historical development. It is entering into a period of revolutionary class conflict.
Only a party that is unequivocally oriented to and based on the working class, is guided by the most advanced political theory, has assimilated the lessons of the past struggles of the international working class, and developed a program that proceeds from a scientifically-grounded appraisal of the objective tendencies of socio-economic development, can meet the demands of a revolutionary epoch. The Socialist Equality Party and the International Committee represent and carry forward a vast historical tradition. There is not another political movement that can, or would even want to, retrace its own history. The opportunist organizations—the Social-Democrats, the Stalinists, the trade unions and the Pabloite tendencies—have no desire to be reminded of their record of blunders and crimes. Nor do they wish to be constrained in the exercise of their opportunist maneuvers by the invocation of history and principles. The International Committee of the Fourth International is the only party that consciously bases its political work on great principles and, therefore, can present its history to the working class, without any gaps. It will attract to its banner the most determined, courageous and honest elements among the workers and youth.
Celebrating the founding of the Fourth International, Trotsky declared in 1938:
We are not a party like other parties. ... Our aim is the full material and spiritual liberation of the toilers and exploited through the socialist revolution. Nobody will prepare it and nobody will guide it but ourselves.
Seventy years later, the work of the Socialist Equality Party and the International Committee of the Fourth International invests these words with renewed significance.
“The Founding of the Fourth International” in Writings of Leon Trotsky [1938-39] (New York: Pathfinder, 2002), p. 93.