FSLN on the Fifth Socialist International: Globalise struggle and hope!

By Carlos Fonseca Terán, deputy secretary of the International Relations Department of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

First published in Correo de Nicaragua, No. 7, diciembre 2009--enero 2010, Managua. Translated by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and Kiraz Janicke for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

There will always be ample excuses not to struggle at all times and under all circumstances, but that is the only way to never win freedom. -- Fidel Castro. [1]

People who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society. -- Rosa Luxemburg. [2]

Arise the poor of the world, rise up slaves without bread, Let’s all rise up to cry: VIVA LA INTERNACIONAL!

So begins the Latin American version of the hymn sung by revolutionaries of the world throughout history. It is the anthem of the International, written while the organisation was still taking its first steps. Over and over again since 1864 it pledged to convoke a united and organised struggle by the revolutionaries of the world, carrying out the call first made by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto: Workers of all countries unite!

A little over ten years ago, walking down a Managua street, I noticed on a large wall a sign in huge black letters with the famous phrase launched in 1848 by the first two great maestros of the revolutionary movement, but with an appendix inscribed in brackets: “Final Warning.”

Indeed, this is the last opportunity for the proletariat (or what is the same, the lower classes) to free ourselves from the exploitation that determines our existence as an oppressed class, but also to assure the survival of the human species, because under the conditions of capitalism it is not possible to resolve the ecological crisis that has pushed humanity to the brink.

Certainly whatever doubts honest sectors of the world community may have had about this issue got buried under Copenhagen snow following the agreement imposed dictatorially by the industrialised countries (themselves responsible for the environmental crisis) – an agreement to limit global warming increase to a mere 2%!  It is hard to believe, even for people who clearly grasp that it is impossible to solve this crisis using the very same rules of the system that has engendered it. It’s a system based on the accumulation and concentration of wealth, and not on satisfying the need to accumulate and to concentrate wealth – not to meet the needs of the population. It’s hard to believe, because the signatories of the agreement are well aware that even a 2% rise in global warming will open the doors to an unprecedented catastrophe for the planet.

They also know that to reverse the current climate change we have to change the system. As stupid as it may be, they prefer to put humanity at risk (themselves included, obviously) rather than to change the system that gives them privileges without which life would be no fun for them. That is where such stupidity starts to make sense: it is in their class interest.

As Lenin said, “There is a well-known saying that if geometric axioms affected men’s interests, certainly someone would refute them.” [3] It could be added (in the secular view of this Lenin fan) that if those interests were of the dominant classes, most people would take the refutation for the absolute truth.

Characteristics of today’s world

The world today has three characteristics that should be noted here.

First, distances have disappeared thanks to current communications technology that emerged as part of what is known as the electronic revolution. It is now easier than ever to say (and it is politically suicidal not to) and do things globally, because of the ease with which one can communicate with people no matter their location.

Second, stemming from the first point is the dramatic reduction in the number of people required to carry out an increasing amount of productive work in the area of the general economy and in the bureaucracy. This entails a crisis of labour relations in terms of wages and therefore economic intermediation. This is carried out through the property owners’ power and control of all types (including the state, but only as owner of means of production and not in its role as machinery for political domination) over the worker who directly produces and creates material goods and wealth.

Political intermediation (the democratic representative system) carried out by elected authorities has also entered into crisis, as is shown in the way power is wielded. In this system, intermediation occurs between the represented sovereign and the decisions that as such correspond to it. The conflict emerges from the combination of the new reality stemming from the flow of communications and information on the one hand and the economic crisis of intermediation on the other: the transformation of the predominance of finance capital over industrial capital (identified by Lenin as the imperialist stage of capitalist development, now called globalisation). That is, the replacement of production of material goods by financial speculation as the main way to create wealth.

Globalisation is a new stage of capitalist development in its imperialist phase. It is shaped by the pressure financial capital flows exert detrimentally on material production in the economy. Nevertheless, in a contradictory way, that production by its very nature continues to be the fundamental basis for the existence and development of human society.

This stage is characterised by elimination of tariff barriers to allow the free flow of goods to promote the development of a tendency towards equilibrium. However, that will never happen because the technology has put its creators to work for it, becoming a source of capitalist accumulation between goods produced and money without material backing (since the beginning of the seventies when the U.S.A. eliminated the gold standard as the support for the dollar).

Thus a new major contradiction in capitalism emerged between the nature of material production as the basis for social development and financial speculation as the main way to create wealth (the specific contradiction of globalisation). It is terminal in character [4] and is manifested in the current crisis, along with the rest of the system’s contradictions.

The principal and critical contradiction is between the social character of production and the private nature of its appropriation. The critical contradiction of imperialism itself is between the national character of the concentration of wealth and the global nature of its material production and creation in general, and of the economic activity that makes it possible. On top of that is a longer range, terminal contradiction in capitalism: between limited resources and unlimited material accumulation inherent in the system. The latter has become the objective with which needs are met, rather than the opposite: that the satisfaction of needs is the objective (and therefore the limit) of accumulation.  

A third feature, stemming from the above, finds the capitalist system going through a crisis whose main expressions are economic and financial, impacting on every country in the world. The crisis is worldwide, just as is the system that engendered it.

Feudal relations of production were unable to develop the productive potential that surged from the industrial revolution and expelled a large amount of the labour force from economic life (and therefore life itself). A capitalist mode of production replaced those feudal relations, but now capitalism finds itself unable to jump-start the productive potential unleashed by the ongoing electronic revolution that has also expelled a huge workforce from the formal economy.

Only socialism can resolve the current crisis because, by its very nature it is based on the social ownership of the means of production. That makes it possible for labour outside the system to be productively put into operation, not to fuel irrational economic development that has subordinated human nature, social existence to the necessities of this predatory model. Rather, social ownership enables these new actors to exercise as economic subjects their direct rights over social property, over the means of production.

By the same token, citizens, as the new social subjects, will begin to exercise power directly in a socialism that will emerge from the new revolutionary era, without political intermediation to manipulate their will and their power.

In synthesis, the world today is undergoing a technological revolution (the electronic revolution) of equal importance to that of the industrial revolution. This new revolution involves the disappearance of intermediation as a means of exercising political and economic power. It also creates a globalised world composed of interconnected individuals; and a global systemic crisis that demands a worldwide revolutionary response of equal force and scope.

Hence the need to organise the Fifth International to bring together the political and social organisations whose raison d'être is the revolutionary transformation of society through the replacement of capitalism by socialism.

Ever since Lenin it has been known that revolution comes about when people fight for it. It becomes possible to the extent that struggle creates, develops, and identifies the conditions that make victory possible.

Making the revolution is a duty

Struggle transforms the revolution from an opportunity into a duty, as argued in the Second Declaration of Havana. It insists that the duty of all revolutionaries is to make the revolution. [5]

Now, without any doubt at all, is the time to make revolution. There’s no point in asking whether or not it is a duty. It is on today’s agenda. The capitalist model is in crisis. The goal of the revolution is to replace it with a socialist model.

Moreover, power would be meaningless to a revolutionary movement if it were not used for making revolution. Power is but an indispensable means to accomplish that. Taking power can only be justified for that end. Power emerged as a means for oppression. That corresponds to its very nature, so it is as indispensable as it is undesirable for the purpose of any revolutionary movement.

Why is that so? If power is exercised without making the revolution, frustration arises as a result of the expectations aroused, creating confusion and a collapse of mass consciousness. Revolutionaries become divided over the issue of pursuing a course that corresponds to a revolutionary program. Some agree and others oppose this flux.

Even more so, it would not make sense to exercise power in a time of crisis in the system, if not to replace it with another. Otherwise, it would correspond to the revolutionaries to resolve the crisis for the system and pay the price. No one would even thank us for acting in that way.

The crisis must be resolved, but against the system. For the left the crisis can only be resolved in a revolutionary way. The Bolivarian Revolution is the best example of what can be done when having only the government as the main institutional political expression of power. This occurred early in the initiating and re-vitalising process of the Latin American revolutionary renaissance that has made this part of the planet the first line of fire for the world revolution.

Socialists of the world: unite!

Confront the crisis of capitalism on a strategic level, and unleashing a worldwide revolutionary process cannot be done without close coordination to facilitate analysis and action among all revolutionary forces in the world, and that with a sense of commitment and discipline. To advance along this path and therefore continue the revolutionary offensive -- intensifying it, spreading what is happening in some parts of Latin America to the rest of the continent and of the world -- is only possible by thinking globally and acting locally (as the alternative world slogan says), because then everyone will act in the same direction as others at a global level.

If the problem is worldwide the solution likewise must be found by the global revolutionary movement. This can only be done through a high level of articulation, unity in action, and discipline which only a global organisation of revolutionary parties can achieve. This was the case in different historical stages, adopting at every turn the modalities each epoch has required. Now the necessity for an International is more urgent than ever. Hence, it is necessary to convene the Fifth International.

Substituting one utopia for another

The International has historically been known as a worldwide organisation bringing together diverse organic expressions of the revolutionary movement. Its story began with the utopia that a society without inequality (between exploited and exploiters) would replace the utopia of a society without estate inequalities (between noblemen and vassals). The latter utopia had been frustrated by the social injustices that characterise capitalism.

The capitalist mode of production emerged because of the inability of feudal economic relations (between landowners or feudal lords and the serfs who worked it for the right to cultivate for themselves a small plot owned by the lord) to foster the development of the productive potential that emerged with the invention of machinery for mass, assembly line manufacture of products activated by non-human energy (first steam and coal, then oil and its derivatives), in what became known as the Industrial Revolution.

Hence, capitalism was the socioeconomic and political reality that emerged from the historical necessity created by the industrial revolution. In turn it gave rise to the emergence of ideas that justified the advent of this system, not by presenting it as it really would be, but as its first ideologues hoped it would be: a society in which liberty, justice, and prosperity would govern the lives of human beings, beginning with the free market. At that time it was a revolutionary banner, given the existence of economic privileges (defined by family lineage) acquired through territorial wars that took place centuries ago.

The reality of capitalism meant that the libertarian and humanist ideal embodied in the French Revolution was assumed by a new revolutionary paradigm. The ideological focus of liberty shifted to equality as a condition of that freedom. It failed, however, to resolve the contradiction between the two. This posed future strains on socialist ideology which replaced liberalism in the imaginary of the worldwide revolutionary struggle. As a result a new revolutionary ideal should be considered that can overcome this contradiction, whether stemming from the social experiment that was underway before the Soviet crisis of the 1980s (that made the corresponding model succumb to this contradiction) or from a new attempt to implement, taking into account that failed experience, the theoretical principles that emerged from the evolution of revolutionary thought. In both and all other possible cases, a new theory that responds to new realities is created, without de-linking from the indispensable former contributions, but rather basing itself on them.

The First International

The International has been, then, the global expression of revolutionary struggle ever since the socialist ideal of equality among human beings came about. Its first version appeared in 1864. The Paris Commune was its main reference point – the first attempt at socialist revolution in history. However, the events surrounding this historic event were actually poorly linked to the work of the International. Its members were somewhat less influential than other revolutionaries at the forefront of this experience, but were not part of the International.

Karl Marx drew conclusions about the Commune that even modified in a decisive way his political theory. Although he had said before the events that the armed uprising of the Paris workers (which carried them to power for a little over two months) would not turn out well, he concluded afterwards that the exploited classes should not just take over the bureaucratic machinery of the state to put it in their service, but had to destroy it and replace it with a new state suitable to their own social project, in accordance with their own class interests. [6]

This conclusion did not emerge from an analysis of the errors, but from what Marx considered the achievements of the Commune. That is, he praised the communards (whose leaders he disagreed with in many aspects) while noting what he saw as their flaws -- instead of questioning them (from the typical academic pedantry of many leftist intellectuals) in order to affirm the validity of his own arguments. Without overlooking their faults, he acknowledged that his prognosis was not well founded, affirming that the Commune did not fall for the reasons he had stated -- according to which it ought not to have succeeded in the first place. He had, he affirmed, many more things to learn from the communards than things to teach them. This can serve as a reference for those who, never having made 6a revolution or having given up, devote themselves to attacking, in the name of revolutionary ideas, those who do make them.

The discussion that arose over the failure of the Commune was precisely the key factor that led to the First International’s dissolution in 1876. Officially named the International Workers Association, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were its principal ideologists and leaders. This was the International of the classical stage of capitalism, when free competition prevailed as the principle regulator of economic relations; when the exploitation inherent to this system manifested its most blatant features, even in industrialised countries (and principally in them), with fourteen-hour workdays for wages that only -- and with difficulty -- allowed for workers’ physical survival.

The Second International

The Second International emerged in 1889, co-founded by Frederick Engels and Karl Kautsky, among others. Its official name was the Social Democratic International – which at that time was the political denomination of the revolutionary movement.

At the beginning of the twentieth century this International was incapable of either confronting or responding in a cohesive way to the emergence of imperialism (characterised by Lenin as the highest stage of capitalism, a vision with which Augusto C. Sandino later identified [7], and more specifically responding to the outbreak of the First World War as an expression of the new epoch. The most influential parties within it opted for ideological capitulation to the system, supporting for electoral reasons their respective governments in the so called Great War.

The current reformist version of social democracy emerged at that point (reformist in substituting system change as an objective for reform of the system) Reformism’s proponents first mooted this as a less abrupt and more viable means for changing the system, but then made in over into their goal, just as Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, leading exponents of the revolutionary positions within this International, had predicted).

A controversy between reformists and revolutionaries emerged that is still ongoing today. It is central to the ideological battle for the revolutionary transformation of society since the revolution as an ongoing process is always faced with situations that lead a part of the revolutionary movement to lower their banners in the face of the system. They justify such conduct with the allegedly increased viability of a reformist path toward a permanent change in an uncertain future. The change involved is neither initially nor ultimately a systemic change, but only a superficial one. It does not eliminate the causes of social problems, but merely some of its most visible effects. This only helps to prolong a system whose very existence causes the social problems in question. It delays any generalised questioning of the system as a result of the diminution of the intolerable situation, but in the end altering enough lives so as to render untenable the existing order.

The Third International

Lenin and other committed revolutionaries of the era broke with the reformism that had finally imposed itself in the leadership of the social democratic movement. The Third or Communist International was founded in 1919, following the 1917 triumph in Russia of the first socialist revolution in history (led by Lenin). It took on the international defence of the Soviet Union and the organisation of revolutionary struggle for socialism in the world, under conditions framed by the establishment of the imperialist stage of capitalist development which transformed the social division between exploited human beings and exploiters in every country, within a global divide between exploiting and exploited countries.

The scenario of revolution switched over from the  industrialised countries – whose working class receives benefits from the exploitation exercised by their countries over other countries – to the agrarian countries – where because of this, the popular classes suffer double exploitation: that exerted by the local exploiters and that exercised by the imperialist monopolies (as Sandino expressed in his time).[8]

The Communist International had sent cadres to join the Army for the Defence of National Sovereignty of Nicaragua in the late twenties, and their presence became a factor that influenced the evolution of the thinking of the Nicaraguan revolutionary hero. Among those cadres was the distinguished Farabundo Martí, personal secretary to Sandino, known worldwide as the general of free men. The French Communist Henry Barbusse referred to Farabundo as one of the most outstanding leaders of the Third International. The war then being waged in Nicaragua constituted one of the two historical acts that inaugurated the era of national liberation revolutions as a fundamental expression of the socialist revolution (the other was the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Tse-tung, which was already underway then, finally triumphing in 1949). This flowed from the changing global revolutionary scenario as explained above.

Sandino appealed to the workers of Latin America to join the Latin American Union Confederation, a union arm in our continent of the Communist International; and to assume as their own the resolutions of the Anti-Imperialist World Congress in Frankfurt, convened by the International. [9] According to Ramón de Belausteguigoitia’s narrative in his book With Sandino in Nicaragua, it was usual to hear the anthem of the International in the camps of the Army for the Defence of National Sovereignty of Nicaragua. [10]

At one point, as is known, these cadres separated from Sandino. This took place a result of guidelines issued by the Mexican Communist Party in what was extremely sectarian behaviour. Such guidelines were questioned within the International, despite the fact that the Mexican Communists believed they were complying with the new line existing in the world organisation. It defined the strategy of class against class, meaning that the communist parties should break with everything that did not signify a commitment to socialism.

However, that commitment existed in Sandino who made it clear that he never had ideological disputes with his former comrades, in this case Farabundo Martí [11]. Sandino clarified that he had always agreed with Martí’s ideas [12]. Sandino paid homage to him after his death in the peasant uprising in his country. Walter Castillo, Sandino’s grandson, recently unearthed photos of that event from oblivion. He has published them in a recent book – El bandolerismo de Sandino en Nicaragua [Sandino’s Banditry in Nicaragua] – edited by Augusto Nicolás Calderón Sandino Foundation, and that, ironically, Sandino himself asked to be published with that ironic title.

It is worth noting the fact that the triumph in China, the first socialist revolution after the Russian Revolution, did not occur until six years after the dissolution of the Communist (Third) International in 1943. Officially this action was deemed the product of the "maturity of the Communist parties," but in reality it resulted from Stalin's commitment to his capitalist allies against Nazi Germany in World War II.

The International was then replaced by a combination of the so-called community of socialist countries -- that largely emerged as a result of the Soviet Army’s liberation of Eastern European countries from German occupation, of the global conferences of the Communist parties, and above all, of the Warsaw Pact (a military alliance between the socialist countries of Europe, a counterpart to NATO). Even earlier, the first socialist revolution in history triumphed when the International at the time (the Second) had disintegrated. A few years after World War II, China (before its break with the Soviet Union), Viet Nam, Laos, and Cuba joined the community of socialist countries. Socialism did not reach those countries from abroad. They came to socialism as a product of their own revolutionary processes, after the triumph of national liberation revolutions. That was the case of North Korea, which nevertheless always had little international presence due to its philosophy of self-reliance, known as the Juche idea.

The Fourth International

The Fourth International was organised in 1938, against the Third. According to its organisers, the Fourth International stood in agreement with the line of the Third International up to [and including] the Fourth Congress which took place in 1922. Its founder, Leon Trotsky, argued that the Third International was no longer the organised expression of the world socialist revolution but had been converted into a bureaucratic apparatus in the service of Soviet diplomacy. It was an expression of what he saw as the degeneration of the socialist revolution into a bureaucratic state in the Soviet Union. Trotsky was the main leader of the insurrection through which the Bolsheviks – the communist faction led by Lenin – took power. He was also head of External Relations for revolutionary Russia, and later founder and first chief the Red Guard, later called the Red Army, and ultimately the Soviet Army.  

Following Trotsky’s assassination and death in 1940, his followers became characterised for their highly polemical behaviour which was to lead them to successive and endless internal divisions. That approach was not unrelated to their view that the socialist revolution must be global or not at all. As a consequence, this international organisation has not promoted a single revolution in any country, precisely because they did not conceive of it within national borders. That stance led to inaction of its members. The lack of revolutionary processes to promote and defend led to replacing practical tasks of the revolutionary struggle with excessive polemics, with ensuing sectarianism. The lack of combining theory with practice has characterised this version of the International throughout its trajectory and is the origin of its divisiveness.

The fact that currently there are several global organisations -- all composed of parties which were always extremely small – who each consider itself to be the legitimate Fourth International proves this. Moreover, these parties gear their political activity more to attacking and questioning emerging revolutionary processes than to combating the forces of reaction worldwide.

George Novack, in his article  La Primera y Segunda Internacional says:

Trotsky once characterised the period of working-class activity covered by the First International as essentially an anticipation. The Communist Manifesto, he said, was the theoretical anticipation of the modern labor movement. The First International was the practical anticipation of the labor associations of the world. The Paris Commune was the revolutionary anticipation of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Lenin later characterized the Third International as the international of action which had begun to put into practice Marx’s greatest slogan: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The historical bridge between the International of anticipation and the International of action was the Second International. This can be tersely characterized as the International of organization which raised broad masses of workers to their feet in a number of countries, organized them into trade unions and political labour parties, and prepared the soil for the independent mass labor movement. [13]

Following this logic, the Fourth International would be the International of criticism, because its foundation was the questioning (independently of what had sucessfully been done) the course (certainly questionable) of the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union following the untimely death of Lenin.

The Fifth International
The need – based on the above -- to establish a Fifth International must take into account the experience of previous versions of the global organisation of revolutionaries. Alicia Sagra, in her book
La Internacional, argues that the First International was a united front, the Second a federation of socialist parties, and the Third the world's first revolutionary party, which reflected a new epoch, the imperialist epoch of the struggle for power, the era of the Socialist Revolution, and for this reason it not only had programmatic positions responding to that task, but also the operating system necessary for this: democratic centralism. [14]

In this regard, the Fourth International would be the first attempt (though impotent and failed) to retake the revolutionary path of this world party. The First and the Second Internationals existed when Lenin still had not elaborated his theory of the actuality of the revolution, consisting of the theory of the revolutionary situation and the vanguard party. Since then, Lenin’s theory has been the ruling idea for the functioning of all the revolutionary organisations in the world (at least those identified with Marxism-Leninism, which are obviously not the only ones that call themselves communist parties; some of these organisations have had to apply the principles arising from the Leninist theory in various conditions that have demanded from them a high level of creativity and flexibility).

Lenin's theory of the vanguard party.
Lenin's theory of the vanguard party posits the need for a political organisation composed or led by (depending on circumstances) revolutionaries who make revolution their profession or trade (full-time militants or political cadres -- as appropriate). That flows from the necessity for this organisation to act in a permanent way, promoting revolutionary change when a revolutionary situation emerges or has been created
(where "those below do not want to" and "those above cannot" continue living as before, as Lenin would say). [15]

The revolutionary situation can arise spontaneously (in which case the spontaneous nature of such a situation can be relative because it responds possibly to accumulated political and organisational work of the vanguard political organisation, or organised armed struggle undertaken to motivate a significant enough portion of society to fight against the system). It can also occur as a result of the artificial acceleration by the vanguard of the social process leading to it, or can be entirely created by the vanguard when their actions and the context in which they are taken permit. But the revolutionary situation will only turn to revolution if the vanguard takes on the responsibility to make it happen. That corresponds well with the emphasis the classics of Marxism put on the subjective factor for social development, later often ignored by both revolutionary dogmatists and the ideologues of reaction.

Democratic centralism

The vanguard is the political organisation that acts as the engine of the revolution. The scale of what it takes to make it succeed implies well-organised political action, for which discipline is a fundamental element. From the Leninist theory of the vanguard party derives the conception of democratic centralism for the internal life of revolutionary political organisations. Democratic centralism consists in collective work, decisions, and leadership: united leadership and decisions, individual responsibility; election and recall of officials, with regular reports and accounting, hierarchical subordination (of lower to higher bodies), the right to internal criticism, and the duty of self-criticism.

One of many anti-Leninist prejudices arising from the collapse suffered by the model known as “real socialism,” in its Soviet and European version, is to confuse the concept of a vanguard political organisation with sectarianism and dogmatism. The two defects are present in many leftist organisations (for reasons that go beyond the content of this article) and have induced them to develop a cult of personality, authoritarianism, and a tendency to substitute for the popular classes in the revolutionary struggle or in the exercise of power, in the name of their best interests.

But the conception of the vanguard -- as detailed before -- arises from the uneven character of development in general. It is philosophically explained by the dialectical law of the unity and struggle of opposites: the historical necessity of social change determines the existence of subject carriers of historically necessary changes. These subjects reflect the reality to which they belong, but are in confrontation with it. Having escaped the ideological hegemony exercised by the dominant social group, they are a minority that appear as the first symptoms of the changes social reality and history require. They are therefore the vanguard of the struggle for these changes if and when they group together and organise to attain them.

Their historic mission is therefore to ideologically educate the subjects of change, thereby integrating them into and to politically conduct the process involving these changes in order to strategically orient the course of the revolutionary transformations that will take place as result.

Confusing variants

Similarly, the Leninist conception of the vanguard has been stigmatised because of the specific characteristics of the organisations that endorsed his conception (this originates from the same phenomenon just described above). Such characteristics largely correspond to the specific circumstances in which these organisations have arisen and been forced to operate. In other words, the concept of the vanguard has been confused with some of its variants; in part by those who adopted the revolutionary party whose origin was precisely Lenin's formulation of the theory of the vanguard party.

This variant is one of an internally vertical vanguard (in which the right of criticism is limited to within the organisation or the right to an opinion is limited to when the political organisation still has not taken an official position regarding the topic on which such right is exercised). The group is outwardly closed (not all those who want join can do so).

But this variant (independently of that fact that in some cases it has been justified and in other cases not) need not be considered as inherent to the condition of the vanguard that is essential to a consistently revolutionary political organisation. It may therefore also be internally horizontal (in which criticism can be exercised publicly and in which one can emit a different opinion to the political organisation on issues about which it has already taken a position, or at least the first of these prerogatives) and outwardly open (to which everyone who wants to may belong).

Another criterion for defining how vertical or horizontal a vanguard organisation is could be the method of selection of its members where there are different categories of members:  it would be vertical in the case that the militants are selected by the leadership (as in the FSLN in the eighties); and open when such a condition is optional for each member (as it happened to be in the same party from 1994 until both categories disappeared). There exists an intermediate point where the militants are elected by the grassroots body to which they belong, as in the Communist Party of Cuba.

What is said here about the theme of the vanguard is valid for the condition of the vanguard as participants in a political organisation (in which case it is an organisation that is part of the vanguard). But when a vanguard organisation develops political capacity, and leadership and influence in each historical moment within the society to which it belongs it would not only be of the vanguard, but also the vanguard.
Emphasis has been placed on this issue of the Leninist theory of the vanguard and democratic centralism in order to pave the road towards a concrete proposal about the character that – in accordance with its necessity -- the Fifth International should have. As stated earlier regarding the characteristics of today's world that demand the existence of a revolutionary organisation at a global level, this would be historically the world party of the revolutionary movement, constituted for a second time but after a prior experience, and in different circumstances.

An important element to take it into account is what I already mentioned about no revolution having ever succeeded as a product of any International’s strategy. The Paris Commune was the only victorious revolution -- ephemeral, but victorious in the end -- during the existence of the First International. It was not the product of a plan, but the contrary. Marx himself argued at the time that a possible uprising of the Paris workers was bound to fail. Although Marx and the International of which he was the central figure supported the Commune once the uprising had triumphed, the failure of the Commune was a fatal wound for the First International and would lead to its dissolution.

However, one must recognise another historical truth: no revolution of a socialist character or nature would have succeeded without the prior existence of the International: the Bolshevik revolution is inconceivable without the prior educational and organisational work of the Second International at the level of the European proletariat in its totality (including the Russian, of course). The Chinese revolution could hardly have succeeded without the support received by the Communist International (despite the mistakes it made initially when it gave directions that put the Chinese communists at the mercy of their mortal enemies). Even the Paris Commune would not have had the importance it had as an experience of fighting for the masses without the analysis made by Karl Marx, the most prominent figure of the First International that also assigned important cadres in support of the communards. Frederick Engels, the most prominent figure of the International after Marx, provided military advice to the Commune. His knowledge of artillery was very useful in extending the Commune long enough so that it would become such an important experience.

A world party of the revolution

Outlined above is the differentiation between the Internationals made by Alicia Sagra: the First International was a mass front, the second a federation of parties, and the third a world party. Currently, the mass front of the First International is present (with its own peculiarities and bearing in mind differences of all kinds, especially the different epoch) in the World Social Forum. The federation of parties represented by the Second International is present (although not globally, but continentally and without being truly a federation because it is rather a forum for exchange and debate rather than coordination in action, which of course it also does) in the [Foro de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo Forum]. We need -- now more than ever, for the reasons given earlier -- a world party of revolution, which the Third International was.

The experience of the First International demonstrated the need for an organisation with methods that would allow more effective action. It can be said that it was guilty of too much democracy (in retrospect, it should be noted that this was just the organisational beginnings of the global revolutionary movement; therefore this cannot be analysed as an error -- rather it was a deficit objectively determined by the epoch).

The Second International highlighted the need for political theory that indicated the manner in which revolutionary struggle should be organised; that is, the theory elaborated by Lenin. Although it was no longer used by the International (the Second) that decayed in the face of the challenge of history, that theory remained an invaluable tool for revolutionary action. However, later it was applied in a mechanical and sectarian manner by the Third International after the death of its founder.

A notable error of this Third International (the Communist International or Comintern) was its excessively vertical structure. Decisions made as a whole (by vote or even, sometimes taken solely by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or to be more clear, by Stalin) were mandatory for each of them, even if the prevailing political position and situation in a specific country and its corresponding party was different from the majority at the level of the International. It also did not take into account the weight of each party in membership numbers, influence in society, and so on.

In a way, to function effectively, the Fifth International (of the period of globalisation and the decisive moment in which, due to the ecological crisis, humanity will come to an end if the socialist revolution does not triumph – this time at a global level) should be a compromise between the world party of the Third International type and the federation constituted by the Second International, while in a certain way being both.

At the same time, however, taking into account the growing importance of social movements (to be taken up later), the Fifth International would have some similarity to the mass front that was the First International. It will come with the same diversity because the first organisational steps of the revolutionary movement worldwide have hardly been taken. And also because today there is a search for [appropriate] theory, originating in the crisis of the rigidity that characterised official revolutionary theory until the collapse of the social model in which such rigidity existed.

At the same time, the program of the Fifth International should be the product of the experience not only of the successes but also failures of preceding socialism – just as the Fourth International wanted to be without managing to achieve it (possibly due to the untimely death of its founder, Trotsky). In line with the designations made by Trotsky of the First International as one for anticipation, by Novack of the Second as one for organisation, by Lenin of the Third as one for action, and by this writer of the Fourth as one for criticism, the Fifth would be an iternational for organisation, action and criticism at the same time.

Consensus and not majorities

In particular, this international organisation of revolutionary parties would constitute a global revolutionary party with binding decisions on its members. But it should strive to differentiate between those decisions that are international or regional, and those which relate to the national situation of a specific country, thus elevating the importance of the political position of the party or parties of the country or region (respectively) to which they correspond in as much as the situation has a more local and less global character. So that, for example, when dealing with the situation of a specific country, it could not take any decision with which the party concerned does not agree, not least because the decision would be unenforceable.

Likewise, all decisions would be taken by consensus, not a majority, to avoid inconsistencies between political organisations and the voting weight they exercise. Otherwise, it would be ridiculous to establish parameters within which the weight of each organisation determines the number of votes that count, to which it should be added that this weight changes and the conditions do not always exist to be able to sense when such changes take place.

So that this proposal can be seen as oriented toward the widest possible openness in the context of the need for a world party of revolution, for reasons of effectiveness it must also include discipline as a principle in its operation. In other words, in this new International maximum freedom with maximum possible discipline would be combined. Democratic centralism as an expression of the theory of the vanguard party, flexibly applied, remains not only useful but indispensable for that to succeed.

The presence of several organisations in one country would compel them to act together on matters pertaining to international strategic lines. This would be grounds for mutual rapprochement, possibly even into a single organisation; or at least to align themselves to influence the internal political life of the country to which they belong. The latter may be an internal standard in the operation of the International, which could contribute decisively to the left unity locally and as a consequence, also worldwide.

However – and to ensure there is minimal coherence -- the first organisation/s to be incorporated within a country should have veto power with respect to entry of other organisations from the same country. The proposal by Argentine writer and journalist Luis Bilbao that the international management body be composed solely of representatives from those countries where there exists not more than one recognised organisation does not seem reasonable; it would constitute counterproductive (also unfair) discrimination, possibly to the detriment of the quality of such governing body.

An important issue -- given the increasing weight of social movements as a product of the potentially revolutionary decay of political parties as an expression of the crisis of the democratic representative political system – is the entry not only of political parties but of social organisations, many of which have assumed political tasks of the vanguard parties, as is the case of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil in relation to the situation in the rural sector of that gigantic South American country.

A very important issue in relation to the cohesion of the new International is the link of such cohesion with political and ideological differences. Luis Bilbao argues that the Fifth International should be characterised by ideological heterogeneity and political homogeneity, [16] to which we should add the following: ideological heterogeneity would have to assume as a starting point the need for a common ideological approach (unity born of diversity). Otherwise, the International would be an alliance to achieve goals that are more transient and therefore much less definitive than those of a force identified with the strategic goal (and ideologically common in its scope) to replace capitalism with socialism as an intermediate step to building a fully fair and free society, socially egalitarian, equitable in terms of gender and in generational terms, environmentally sustainable, and economically prosperous enough to guarantee the minimum conditions for material and spiritual welfare, and not for the ecologically unsustainable -- and traditionally accepted by Marxist manuals – satisfaction of increasing needs.

In this sense what Raul Sendic identified as the isolation of the principle needs for their full satisfaction remains valid: [17] a society in which spiritually and collectively motivated human beings act, work, and produce goods and wealth. These are the minimum necessary premises around which all revolutionaries in the world (Marxists and communists of all possible tendencies, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, Christians for the liberation of the human being with regard to the alienation of individualist consumption, etc.) can make common cause.

Ideological heterogeneity would necessarily have the same boundaries that exist between revolution and reform as a programmatic final objective or what constitutes a political movement’s raison d'etre.

All political and social organisations that belong to the International should identify themselves based on their common commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society, or in other words, the replacement of the capitalist system by a socialist system. From this arises precisely the need for common revolutionary action at a global level in the era of globalisation and the current crisis of capitalism, in the latter case so that this crisis of the system can be abolished by revolution.

While ideological heterogeneity would limit political homogeneity around certain issues, they must be identified under the method previously raised: the more global an issue is the more homogeneity there should be and vice versa, in as much as the character of an issue is more local, there should be more heterogeneity.
Revolutionary authenticity

Perhaps the most important questioning of the recent call for the formation of the Fifth International -- symptomatically made by Hugo Chávez, leader of the revolutionary process that has served as a locomotive for the current increase of the left in Latin America as part of the favourable conditions for revolutionary change at a continental level sooner rather than later in the only place in the world where a conducive political climate exists for the socially necessary and environmentally urgent world revolution – has been that an International must be the result of a process of the search for and the construction of proposals, and not the contrary. Therefore you cannot make a call to organise the International and leave it until later to identify common actions that can mobilise the revolutionaries of the world. It is the prior identification of these actions that should serve as a starting point for the formation of the International, where as a result of the identification of these points, you can be sure that it is necessary.

The authenticity of the revolutionary attitude toward life and social reality can be verified in two ways, and by identifying in those who call themselves revolutionaries one of two types of very different human beings: one way of identifying these two types of persons is by establishing the difference between those who call for struggle and assume it, or respond to the call and struggle, and those who never struggle because they spend their time "analysing" why they will struggle, and do the same with calls to struggle: analyze them, criticise them, refuse themselves to struggle and demobilise those attending the call. As Fidel Castro said more than forty years ago (see the header of this article), those who also argue that it is not the time to fight or the proposed struggle is not correct, use this approach as a theoretical justification for refusing to fight. They're renouncing not a type of revolutionary struggle, but the revolutionary struggle itself.

The other way to measure revolutionary authenticity is to distinguish between these two types of human beings in relation to the issue of revolutionary transformations and reforms. As envisaged by Rosa Luxemburg (also embodied in the phrase at the beginning of this paper), when revolutionary change is declared impossible or impracticable and as a result the path of reform is assumed in the hope that in the distant future maybe they can make changes that will mature as a result of reforms, what is being renounced is not a form of making the revolution, but the revolution itself which has system change as its objective. Reforms within the system become the ultimate goal of those who preach this path.

Those who question the call for an International made by Chavez and moreover, the indispensable time proposed for its installation by the left parties gathered in Caracas in December 2009, are left without any argument in the face of a single question: who would be commissioned, under the scheme raised by them, of a previous search for common actions or issues identified by leftist organisations around the world, to then -- if we reach the necessary conclusion -- make the call for the International?

That search is necessary, without doubt, but first we must define who will do it. In the scheme of those who identify with Chavez's call and the necessity of the timeframe posed by the urgency of what must be done about it, the appeal is precisely the same. The convening of the Fifth International is, in the first place, the collective identification of common actions and positions, with which all the revolutionary organisations and disorganised revolutionaries of the world identify in order to fight together as the only way that this struggle can triumph in the world today.

In other words, you must first motivate -- and that's what Chavez has done -- the conscious and common search of those who are aware of the need for it, thus recognising one another and in this way, making the ideas emerge collectively to give concrete form to the existence of something so big and so important. That is impossible to achieve without the prior impulse, without such enthusiasm and such prior collective action. The first major goal should be therefore to convene it, to meet; identify one another. This should take place sometime in April 2010.

It is the only way to globalise struggle and hope in time and form. It is the current equivalent of Marx and Engels' call for proletarian unity. A call has now made from the World Social Forum, either a formidable pioneer of the Fifth International or, contrarily, a very clever way for the system to distract, in endless outpourings and conversations among themselves, those who seek to change it or believe they want to change it, precisely so that this distraction blocks the Fifth International from coming into being.

Let’s not wait longer, compañeros.

Revolutionaries of the world, let’s unite.

Final Warning.

Translators’ notes

This translation is primarily based on the version published by the Nicaraguan Sandinista magazine Correo. Author Carlos Fonseca T. is a member of the editorial board of that publication. At the time of publication, the article has still not been posted on Managua Radio La Primerisima website, which hosts back editions of Correo. However, it should appear soon. We also compared the Correo edition with that of Rebelion. In a few cases we have included text from Rebelion that did not appear in the Correo version. Carlos Fonseca’s article has appeared in several other Spanish-language publications in Europe and Indo-Latin America.

Felipe Stuart Cournoyer is a Nicaraguan-Canadian Marxist, and a militant of the Nicaraguan FSLN. A writer and translator, he is also a cntributing eitor of the Canada-based digital publication Socialist Voice. He considers himself to be a soldier of the Fifth International.

Kiraz Janicke is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia who has been living in Caracas, Venezuela,on and off since 2005, where she is journalist for Venezuelanalysis.com and in Green Left Weekly's Caracas bureau. As a representative of  Socialist Alliance she attended the World Meeting of Left Parties, in Caracas, November 2009, where Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called for the Fifth International.

Endnotes

[1] Una introducción necesaria al Diario del Che en Bolivia (Ernesto Che Guevara, Escritos y discursos, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, Cuba, p. 8).

[2] http://www.castillasocialista.org.

[3] Lenin, Vladimir I., Marxismo y revisionismo (Obras escogidas, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, sf, p. 20).

[4] Las contradicciones terminales conducen directamente al colapso del sistema, aunque la duración entre el inicio de la contradicción y el colapso que ella produce, varía según cada contradicción específica; las contradicciones críticas, por su parte, conducen al sistema a sus crisis periódicas que, sumadas, también lo conducen al colapso, pero indirectamente.

The terminal contradictions lead directly to the collapse of the system, although the duration between the start of the conflict and collapse it produces, will vary according to each specific contradiction, the critical contradictions, meanwhile, leads the system to its periodic crises which, together , also lead to the collapse, but indirectly.

[5] Segunda Declaración de La Habana, http://www.pcc.cu, p. 17.

[6] Lenin, Vladimir I., El Estado y la Revolución (Obras completas, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, sf , p. 298 ).

[7] Sandino, Augusto C., El pensamiento vivo, t. I, Editorial Nuevo Nicaragua, Managua, 1984, p. 341.

[8] Sandino, Augusto C., Ob. Cit., t. II, pp. 69.

[9] Idem, pp. 65, 69 a 73 y 80.

[10] Fonseca, Carlos (citado por), Sandino, guerrillero proletario (Obras, t. I – Bajo la bandera del sandinismo – , Editorial Nueva Nicaragua, Managua, 1985, p.353 –).

[11] Román, José, Maldito país, p. 137.

[12] Sandino, Augusto C., Ob. Cit., t. II, p. 366.

[13] Sagra, Alicia (citado por), La Internacional, Ediciones FOS, Buenos Aires, 2004, p. 21. First published in English as “Progress of World Socialism,” William F. Warde, International Socialist Review, vol.19 no.3, Summer 1958, pp.83-88. (William F. Warde was a pseudonym of George Novack.) George Novack Internet Archive, http://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/1958/xx/progress.htm#n1. The quote here is taken from the original English-language version.

[14] Idem, p. 37.

[15] Lenin, Vladimir I., La bancarrota de la Segunda Internacional, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, 1977, p. 13.

[16] Bilbao, Luis, Hora de definiciones (revista América XXI, # 56/57, diciembre 2009 a enero 2010, Caracas, p. 48).

[17] Sendic, Raúl, Reflexiones sobre política económica, Editorial Nueva Nicaragua, Managua, 1986, p. 3.

Comments

Fifth International

It is truly wonderful to see the growing interest in the need for a revolutionary workers' international. Not surprisingly, many will approach this question from distinct, partial and incomplete bases of information. An accurate appreciation of the history and role of the first four Internationals is indispensable to a global process of discussion and principled unity in theory and practice. Unfortunately, the piece by Carlos Fonseca Teran presents a caricature of the Fourth International (which is holding its World Congress this week), amongst other shortcomings in Teran's analysis of the larger subject.
Readers interested in another view should visit the web site of International Viewpoint, and of Socialist Action www.socialistaction.org . On those sites one can find a range of interesting articles by such leaders as Ernest Mandel, Pierre Frank, James P. Cannon, Joseph Hansen, George Novak, Alain Krivine, as well as the following piece:

IV Online magazine : IV405 - October 2008
Fourth International
70 years ago: the founding of the Fourth International
François Sabado

The Fourth International was founded when it was “midnight in the century”. Fascism was on the rampage, the counter-revolution had triumphed in the USSR and Stalinism was suffocating the revolutionary workers’ movement all over the world. In contrast with the preceding Internationals, it was not carried forward by waves of workers’ struggles and a growth of the working-class movement.

Earlier issues of Quatrième Internationale, a predecessor of International ViewpointImage: SirdonThe First International arose after the revolutionary explosions of 1848 in Europe. The Second International was the incarnation of the growth and the organization of the workers’ movement at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th. The Third International was launched after the Russian Revolution. But the Fourth International stood against the stream, at a time of major historical defeats for the workers’ movement. Also, contrary to certain forecasts, in particular those of Trotsky who, taking the example of the Third International after the First World War and the Russian Revolution, foresaw the development of a mass Fourth International after the Second World War, it would remain a minority organization.

But the foundation of the Fourth International was not justified by forecasts or by responses to the conjuncture of the period; it was justified by the need, faced with the betrayals of social democracy and Stalinism, to affirm a historical alternative, a new political current which would ensure continuity and the programmatic, theoretical and political vitality of the revolutionary workers’ movement. So it was not a question of proclaiming a “Trotskyist International”. It was necessary, at the moment when with the war “everything was going to pieces”, to preserve the heritage of Marxism, not in order to put it “in cold storage” while waiting for better days, but in order to aid the political struggle and the building of revolutionary parties.

Against the stream
The origin lay in the Left Opposition to Stalinism. But the Fourth International was much more than that. It maintained a certain vision of the world, marked by internationalism - which already flowed from a certain capitalist globalisation and was opposed to the “socialism in one country” of Stalin. Its whole struggle was conditioned by the class struggle, by the elements of a programme of transition towards socialism, by the united front of the workers and their organizations, by the independence of the workers’ movement faced with the governments of class collaboration in the developed capitalist countries – the different formulas of the Union of the Left or the plural Left -, but also with respect to the national bourgeoisies in the countries dominated by imperialism, which would go down in history as the theory of permanent revolution. Where many commentators reduced their analysis of the world of the last century to camps or states - the USA and the ex-USSR -, the Fourth International put forward the struggle of the peoples and the workers against their own imperialism and against the Soviet bureaucracy.

The Fourth International was not confined to defending Marxist ideas in a general or dogmatic way. Ernest Mandel, for example, analyzed the dynamics of the development of capitalism, from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s. Programmatic documents were discussed and adopted by international congresses, on the questions of socialist democracy, feminism and ecology. Faced with Stalinism, Trotsky and his movement had distinguished themselves, from the 1930s onwards, by tenaciously defending democratic socialism. These references have allowed many generations, especially today, at a time when school textbooks confuse communism and Stalinism, to distinguish between the Russian Revolution and the Stalinist counter-revolution, to maintain the objective of the revolution… and to be able, in spite of the defeats, “to start again”.

Because our movement has also another singularity, even with respect to other Trotskyist movements: that of recognizing revolutionary, anti-imperialist and socialist processes, even despite their leaderships, of expressing unflinching solidarity with them against imperialism. We clearly defended the Chinese, Yugoslav, Vietnamese, Algerian, Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions. In particular, our relationship with the experience of Che Guevara expresses this will to link ourselves to these revolutionary processes.

New period…
Now of course, that was not done without any political mistakes or faults. While combating Stalinism and expressing our solidarity with the peoples of Eastern Europe against the bureaucracy, our movement globally underestimated the extent of the destruction caused by Stalinism, which, when the Soviet bloc collapsed, left the road open, not to an anti-bureaucratic political revolution or to mass movements for democratic socialism, but to the restoration of capitalism. In our solidarity with the colonial revolutions, in this enthusiasm for living revolutions, we underestimated the problems which were linked to them. We did not sufficiently exercise the duty of criticism. But the organizations of the Fourth International demonstrated other weaknesses, often linked to their small size: a propagandist character, some sectarian faults, a style of political “advisers” towards other and bigger forces, generally reformist parties … “Do what we cannot do! ”, we said to them…

Trotskyism also suffered from factionalism. There is a well-known proverb: “one Trotskyist, a party; two Trotskyists, two factions; three Trotskyists, a split…” Whereas, over the last 70 years, a number of revolutionary organizations and currents have disappeared, the Fourth International has maintained itself. It did not fulfil its historical objectives, it experienced ups and downs, there were major crises in certain countries - as in Brazil, recently -, but there have also been breakthroughs, as in France, and positive experiences, as in Portugal, Italy, Pakistan and the Philippines. That is a considerable achievement.

At the moment when the LCR wants to write a new page of the history of the workers’ movement, we have to know where we come from, in order to “enrich with a revolutionary content” the processes of reorganization of the workers’ movement that are underway. Because this is indeed an historical turning point. The Fourth International is the product of a period marked by the driving force of the Russian Revolution, but its programme and the reality of the activity of its members go beyond this history. However, nothing is guaranteed. “New period, new programme, new party”, that also means a new International. It cannot just be proclaimed, and the road will be long. But the comrades of the Fourth International will do their utmost to bring it into existence.

François Sabado is a member of the Executive Bureau of the Fourth International and an activist in the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. He was a long-time member of the National Leadership of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR).
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Between the Fourth and the Fifth International,....

Between the Fourth and the Fifth International, no room for a 4.5!

Hi Barry,

Thanks for your comment.

You began your message as follows:

“It is truly wonderful to see the growing interest in the need for a revolutionary workers' international. Not surprisingly, many will approach this question from distinct, partial and incomplete bases of information. An accurate appreciation of the history and role of the first four Internationals is indispensable to a global process of discussion and principled unity in theory and practice. Unfortunately, the piece by Carlos Fonseca Terán presents a caricature of the Fourth International (which is holding its World Congress this week), amongst other shortcomings in Terán's analysis of the larger subject.

“Readers interested in another view should visit the web site of International Viewpoint, and of Socialist Action www.socialistaction.org . On those sites one can find a range of interesting articles by such leaders as Ernest Mandel, Pierre Frank, James P. Cannon, Joseph Hansen, George Novak, Alain Krivine, as well as the following piece:”

The Fifth International is already and will be even more a much broader international that the description you use (“revolutionary workers' international”). La Quinta is much more than a workers’ international, perhaps because it is launched under the sign of the Bolivian and Bolivarian revolutions, with Matiátegui standing guard. It already draws in the leaderships of mass indigenous and campesino movements, and their revolutionary anti-imperialist and ant capitalist processes, most importantly the Bolivian indigenous revolution.

Perhaps a graphic way to depict this would be to say that our Fifth International is and will be like a gathering together of the movement represented by the founding congress of the Third (Communist) International and the Baku Congress of Peoples of the Far East. There will be no 21 Points for affiliation, on the contrary a celebration of unity in diversity of experience and outlook.

We know that sectarians and formalists will object to this, with the spurious argument that such a movement could not possibly be Leninist – after all, without the 21 points what will we end up with? (Of course, this is not a question for you, and I would hardly want to include you in this crowd of playground, would be revolutionaries. But let´s leave that aside and recognize that this movement has already shown it can make revolutions and defend them. I think that Lenin, in this context, would deny he was a Leninist, and insist that the question is not a matter form , but of content. A ballerina can dance in the nude, something the costume cannot do, nor even the slippers.

I concur with you that Carlos Fonseca Terán's characterization of the Fourth International is not accurate, either historically or currently. You call it a “caricature,” as if you felt that Fonseca Terán had bad motives for his description. But your choice of word, here, is ill advised. Carlos Fonseca Terán and other FSLN leaders have serious reasons for their apprehensions about groups claiming to be the Fourth International; perhaps they are misapprehensions, but they have material roots, not just ideological origins. You need be aware that many Latin American revolutionists, going as far back as Fidel and Che in the preparatory years of the Cuban civil war and insurrection of 1956-59, have had bizarre and seriously negative experiences with groups advertizing themselves as the Fourth International, or its national sections.

What would your attitude be to Trotskyism if your only direct experience and concrete knowledge of it were from contact with the two or three varieties of Spartacist Trotskyism operating in Toronto over the past several decades (with the pretentiously named Bolshevik Tendency rivaling the even more obscurely named October 1917 Tendency — a really smart foot to step out on when approaching the Toronto working class, n’est-ce pas?!)?

Perhaps Carlos Fonseca Terán is unaware of the many examples where Trotsky outlined a program and strategy for NATIONAL, not INTERnational revolution in various countries, at junctures or crossroads where they were passing through revolutionary crises and opportunities (China, 1926-27, Germany 1932-33, France and Spain in the mid 30s.

The Old Bolshevik´s total identification with the anti-imperialist measures of the Lázaro Cárdenas del Río government in Mexico is not well known internationally, and its significance today seems to be lost on many who claim to be his followers.

All that Trotsky (or Lenin) ever argued on the theme of the national revolution is that it takes place not just within a nation-state, but also within a definite and strategically important international framework. It must unfold and find itself either constricted or favored by the international correlation of forces. And, that working class state power cannot be victorious indefinitely if confined to a single country, especially in the less developed nations.

This view of the constrictions on the national revolution was the common position of the Soviet Communist Party and the Comintern, including Stalin, until 1924-25 when Stalin advanced the ill-fated theory of ‘Socialism in One Country and counterposed it to an internationalist strategy of promoting revolution in Europe and Asia, especially in Germany and China. This new narrow nationalist policy placated the conservative and bureaucratic layers in Soviet society who desperately searched for a historic compromise with imperialism; for a respite; and for a life with more comforts and benefits for their children – at the expense of the toilers of the young workers state. This theory, counterposed to Lenin´s internationalism (and later to the internationalism of the Cuban revolution), is the ideological mask of the social counterrevolution that began at first with Stalin´s disregard, but later triumphed in the terror of the 1930s that he consciously promoted and personally monitored, as Khrushchev acknowledged in his famous speech to the 1956 20th Congress of the CPSU (see Isaac Deutscher, et al, and http://www.marxists.org/archive/khrushchev/1956/02/24-abs.htm .

Cuba has proven that it is possible, given a genuinely revolutionary and Marxist leadership, to hold out for an extended period (now five decades, and counting). But without the advance of the socialist revolution to other countries, especially now in the case of Venezuela, the Cuban Revolution would be hard pressed to survive and solve its problems in a healthy way. Cuban communists understand and act on this reality better than any of their critics on the intellectualized and decaffeinated left.

Nicaraguan Sandinistas learned the bitter lesson of how easy it can be for imperialism to isolate and defeat revolution within one country, or even across a region such as happened in Central America in the 1980s. Our revolution was above all a national revolution to overturn a U.S. imposed dictatorship and to reclaim national sovereignty. This process, in class terms, was led by an alliance of workers and campesinos, and by the young vanguard assembled in the FSLN. The national character of our revolution, however, in no way was able to overturn an unfavorable relationship of forces, especially after the Yankee invasion of Panama, and the implosion of the USSR.

The final collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrated how prescient and astute Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Thermidor was. He predicted that either the bureaucratic cancer had to be removed by an insurgent working class and peasantry, or else the revolutionary conquests of October 1917—1928 would be overturned and capitalism restored by a wing of the bureaucratic caste holding political power in the name of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Events did not turn out the way all genuine anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolutionaries wanted. Instead, bureaucratic power prevailed, and finally a wing of the bureaucracy took advantage of an unfavorable world relationship of forces of both an economic and military nature. They converted themselves into a new capitalist class via the road of pillage and primitive accumulation – that is, outright confiscation and theft of social property, and its conversion into private ownership and capital.

One might add, in passing, a salient aspect of the Soviet implosion. The fact that this retrogression back to unfettered, savage capitalism took place peacefully, in the cradle of an intrabureaucratic party struggle, is another element indicating that the bureaucracy was not a capitalist ruling class. The superstructural venue of this history-making dispute is a fact that revealed just how far bourgeois ideas, concepts, prejudices, illusions, and methods had penetrated deeply and widely into Soviet society – not just in Russia, or at the top of its social hierarchy, but throughout the Union, and even among the oppressed nationalities of the Soviet Far East, the southern republics, the Baltic republics, and the Ukraine. This counterrevolution took place in the midst of mass apathy and resignation within the Soviet Union, unlike in East Germany and other Eastern European “really existing” Peoples Democracies where mass opposition to the regimes was evident and widespread.

It would be a serious mistake on the part of Fifth Internationalists, from its soldiers to its theoretical captains, to make disputes about history, and historical analysis a matter of division and disunity in the new world movement. All currents coming into unison today in the ranks of the new international have both merits and demerits to be considered, and hopefully reconsidered – but this evaluation is only of historical interest. It is not immediately vital and is hardly a priority.

All militants, no matter from what tradition they come, should recognize that the Fifth International initiative already has a proven and recognized leadership, a pluralist and widely respected leadership comprised of those parties that have made or are still in the process of consolidating anti capitalist and anti-imperialist, and indigenous revolutions. Their political influence and authority in this process is not so different from that exercised by Marx and Engels in the First International, Engels in the Second, the Bolsheviks in the Communist (Third) International, or Trotsky in the Fourth International. It is not at all unreasonable that other revolutionists pay heed to their views and advice, and grant them the benefit of the doubt as they carry out their leadership responsibilities under heavy imperialist and oligarchic assault.

Current political clarification and convergence, or differentiation, must be based on today’s political challenges. The question today is: What is to be done NOW? – both in the national and an international contexts. If this methodology is maintained and privileged, we can avoid senseless disputes and we will discover that new alignments will emerge, based on new discussions and new problems. Marxism will be retooled and reformulated in living struggle on a mass scale, and will escape the confines of university seminars , academic discourse and pedantry, and the dungeons of the mini, telephone-booth “internationals.”

In an ever increasing tempo, the masses will write their own history, and will reflect on the past based on current experiences. Deeds, not words will define the vanguard, as is already the case (and, need it be said, has always been so). As stated in the Second Declaration of Havana, the duty of all revolutionaries is to make the revolution. We can leave it to the critics to criticize us, and exaggerate our faults. They will make few mistakes, because in general they do very little. Those who do nothing, of course, make zero errors with ploughshares or swords, only with words.

With that caveat in mind, a further comment about the Fourth International (no matter its several capitals) seems to be in order. It appears undeniable that genuine Fourth Internationalists from its mainstream variants have often made the mistake of throwing all Stalinist or more latterly Stalinist-originated groups in the same wash basin (the twin operation to those who cast all self-proclaimed Trotskyists into the same barrel of vodka) This includes even the absurd claim that the Cuban July 26 current under the leadership of Fidel and Che had become Stalinist under the pressures of the alliance with the Soviet Union, or that Che was Maoist when his critique of the Moscow-dominated CPs and of Kremlin policies became undeniable – even in Paris, London, Brussels, and Buenos Aires.

I suggest you adopt a fraternal attitude towards Carlos Fonseca Terán and our Sandinista current, and settle for recounting the genuine of mainstream Fourth Internationalists to not a few vital revolutionary experiences.
You could mention, to settle for a short list, the great Minneapolis general strike of the 1930s and the organization of the mid-West Teamsters Union in the USA, the contribution of European Trotskyists to the Yugoslav revolution, the US SWP’s collaboration with Malcolm X, the defense of the Cuban Revolution in North America and Europe, the exemplary role of the then healthy US SWP in building mass opposition to the Vietnam war among the US public and even its armed forces, the role of the French Ligue Communiste Internationaliste in the May-June revolutionary crisis of 1968, and their ongoing role today in the NPA, the role of the FI International Secretariat (Pablo faction) in the late fifties and early 60s in aiding the Algerian FLN and national liberation war against French imperialism, the role of the UK comrades in building the Russell War Crimes Tribunal and mass demonstrations in defense of the Vietnamese revolution through the lever of a mass antiwar movement, and last but surely not least the phenomenal contribution of Hugo Blanco and the Peruvian Trotskyists in the La Convención peasant rebellion, an armed struggle at the head of a powerful rural mass movement that won Che Guevara´s acclaim.

More important than all that, however, is the deed today, that is what can the cadres of the Fourth International contribute now to the consolidation and education of the new generation of internationalists converging within the Fifth International?

All that said, Fourth Internationalists today, if you intend to be scientific and historically objective, must address the question of why your world organizations, in the custody of Eurocentric Marxists (including some North American and Southern Cone varieties) and their followers, failed so many tests on the national level, and were bypassed by other revolutionary forces -- Cuba. Nicaragua. Grenada. Venezuela. Bolivia. El Salvador. And most recently, the mass resistance movement in Honduras., to cite just some of the experiences on the continent I know best in terms of personal experience and participation since the victory of the Cuban revolution. (1)

Not all the problems of your current can be laid at the feet of bourgeois and Stalinist repression and marginalization. For the most part, the Cuban revolution put an end to the capacity of pro-Moscow forces to isolate the Fourth International or other revolutionary forces, although they did play a significant role in the defeat of Che´s initiative in Bolivia. Others from the same party, such as the Peredo brothers, played an exemplary role that for some gets overshadowed by the shameful role of CP General Secretary, Mario Monje. Fidel has taken pains to make that clear. (2)

In any case, the acid test today in Bolivia is not to dwell on that past, but to assume Linera’s challenge and become full participants and allies of the indigenous revolution which is not yet a socialist revolution in the classical sense of overturning capitalist property relations. This too, the Bolivian Trotskyists, at least in their organized expressions, seem to misunderstand. They have not been able to grasp one of Linera´s central arguments – the indigenous, non-European character of this revolution, not unrelated to the economic displacement of the mines-based proletariat as the driving anti-capitalist force. Many European and North American Marxists made a similar error in their assessment of the character and programmatic requirements of the South African Black majority rule, anti-Apartheid revolution – insisting on either a socialist revolution or no revolution, and thereby making their followers irrelevant, or the subjects of a story yet to be written in the process of an ongoing revolution.

Carlos Fonseca Terán´s most substantive criticism of the Trotskyist forces he knows is valid, when he points to their inability to test their theory against real class struggle experience (for whatever reason), and how that did lead to a dynamic of talk-shop sectarianism.

Perhaps more dangerous was not just a bout or two of outright ultra leftism and opportunist adventurism of the kind the USec majority carried out with the disastrous 1969 turn to continental guerrilla warfare in Meso and South America, followed by its infantile spinoffs in Europe. It can be said without risk of exaggeration that had it not been for the salutary intervention and protracted internal struggle waged by the veteran leaders such as Joseph Hansen, Farrell Dobbs, George Novack, and Hugo Blanco, the entire current represented by the USec in that period would have been shattered beyond all prospect of evading the fate of Humpty Dumpty. This tragic adventurism did not enhance the image of the Fourth International within the South and Meso American vanguard. Ironically, while that debate largely paralyzed its protagonists, the Nicaraguan revolution triumphed and revealed a totally different dynamic and framework for revolution – the interplay of armed struggle and mass urban insurrections in major cities and towns.

Wouldn´t it be reasonable to argue that the challenge now for the Fourth International, whose congress you mention is about to take place, is to make common cause with the Fifth International? If this is done in a genuine and loyal way, and not as a sectarian entry or raid, then the rich arsenal of ideas and programmatic conquests assembled by the FI ever since Trotsky´s time, especially the Old Bolshevik’s post Lenin contributions, can become available incarnate, and not just through the printed word, to the hundreds of thousands of militants and revolutionists who now look to the ALBA, to the Bolivarian and Bolivian revolutions, to the Sandinistas and the Farabundistas, and to Cuba´s veteran communists for inspiration and leadership.

The choice is yours. No one will put any pressure on you because if Fourth Internationalists cannot pass this test, then you will have drifted past the point of no return as an organized current.

Thus far, as far as I am aware, the responses at an official level, both from Paris and from various national expressions, have been positive. But, as it holds in all challenges, the test is to move from the word to the deed, and to be seen to have done so.

I think we can all take as good coin the words of French NPA leader François Sabado [*} in the article you attached to your message. I want to quote a part of his comments here, so as to emphasize them:

"Trotskyism also suffered from factionalism. There is a well-known proverb: 'one Trotskyist, a party; two Trotskyists, two factions; three Trotskyists, a split… Whereas, over the last 70 years, a number of revolutionary organizations and currents have disappeared, the Fourth International has maintained itself. It did not fulfill its historical objectives, it experienced ups and downs, there were major crises in certain countries - as in Brazil, recently -, but there have also been breakthroughs, as in France, and positive experiences, as in Portugal, Italy, Pakistan and the Philippines. That is a considerable achievement [my emphasis here, FSC].

“At the moment when the LCR wants to write a new page of the history of the workers’ movement, we have to know where we come from, in order to “enrich with a revolutionary content” the processes of reorganization of the workers’ movement that are underway. Because this is indeed an historical turning point. The Fourth International is the product of a period marked by the driving force of the Russian Revolution, but its programme and the reality of the activity of its members go beyond this history. However, nothing is guaranteed. “New period, new programme, new party”, that also means a new International. It cannot just be proclaimed, and the road will be long. But the comrades of the Fourth International will do their utmost to bring it into existence.´¨
________________________________________________________________________
[*} François Sabado is a member of the Executive Bureau of the Fourth International and an activist in the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. He was a long-time member of the National Leadership of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR). ___________________________________________________________________________

François Sabado’s statement is as timely as it is frank and sincere in the Marxist sense of the terms. He and other NPA militants want to support on an international level the same course they have undertaken in France. That is both consistent and inherently non-sectarian, the approach of serious and seasoned Marxists.

One cannot but fail to note, however, that the argument advanced about the Fourth International having survived while other currents “have disappeared” is hardly impressive. Some revolutionary currents did more than survive – they led revolutions, some defeated, at least one victorious, and others now underway. It is against that standard, and not against the record of those currents that went defunct, that the accomplishments and/or failures of the Fourth International should be self-evaluated.

In that process, I believe that some of the real accomplishments of this current, especially of Trotsky in the post-Lenin period, will be appreciated best.

Worthy of mention in this context are Trotsky’s critique of Stalinism that offered not just a historical reference (the French Thermidor) but a social underpinning for the political crisis that rocked the young Soviet Republic. Any analysis of the rise of Stalinism that restricts itself to political and legalistic argumentation fails the elementary Marxist standard of seeking out the class and social roots of the political regression that Stalin led within the USSR and throughout the Comintern.

Of equal importance was Trotsky’s critique of the Comintern refusal to make an alliance with the German and European Social Democracy in order to unite the German and European proletariat and middle classes against the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany. His prescience in this regard was based on his own novel and unique analysis of the nature of European fascism in the epoch of war and revolution – a genuine and original contribution to the arsenal of Marxism that is still necessary and crucial in the new century, especially in the United States of North America and the European Union.

One may concur or disagree with Trotsky’s contributions on these, and other important questions – such as his opposition to the ultra left turn of the Comintern taken by its 1928 Congress (a shift that led to disaster here in Nicaragua with the split of Comintern cadre including Farabundo Martí from Sandino´s forces). This turn was also the main root of the disaster in Germany, and the characterization of the German Social Democracy as the twin of the Nazi´s and the main enemy. But, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has often pointed out, revolutionists in our time have much to learn from the leader of the October 1917 insurrection, and of the Red Army of the young Soviet Republic. How could it be otherwise with the cofounder with Lenin of the Communist International, and author of most of its main political resolutions through its first four congresses?

Most importantly, agreement or disagreement on these historical questions is not relevant to the process of unifying revolutionary forces today. To insist otherwise is to exude the odor of sectarianism and fail to keep pace with today´s revolutionary advances and challenges.

The questions of Stalinism, Maoism, or Trotskyism are NOT, I repeat, NOT on today´s agenda for revolutionary combatants. That is not to deny that some of the questions disputed historically will not reappear in new forms and situations. If and when they do, we will have to debate them on their merit, and not by appeal either to perceived historical precedent or to some revolutionary authority, no matter the authority cited.

I am happy to report that at least some comrades with a background in the F.I. (or Q.I., as it is known here) have assimilated the lessons of 1959, 1979, and 1998, and of Bolivia, and have organically and easily found in Sandinismo the most effective expression of their Marxist ideas and programmatic concepts on a mass level, most importantly their concept of internationalism and international collaboration. This has enriched our experience because at last we can collaborate with them in a healthy framework and not remain confined to irrelevant theoretical polemics, mostly about the past. The same can be said, and in even greater numbers and significance, for a whole raft of comrades here who come from the experience of militancy in a pro-Moscow CP experience – the old Nicaraguan Socialist Party whose best elements split and went on to play important roles in the Sandinista revolution and the FSLN government.

The mass insurrections of the late 1970s and the Sandinista revolution of the 80s transformed many of us. The experience of the Bolivarian and Bolivian revolutions, the second phase of the Sandinista revolution now underway in Nicaragua, and the mass resistance movement in Honduras, are now pressing all of us to reconsider many concepts once held to be beyond question or irrefutable. History is an invincible debater.

I think this is a natural consequence of any genuine revolution.

Didn´t the Paris Commune radically alter some basic concepts in the arsenal of the First International, especially on the question of the nature of the state and government, and on the issue of how to respond to the spontaneous mass upsurge of the kind presented in the Paris uprising? Didn´t Marx have the valor and the revolutionary integrity to admit his own errors vis-à-vis the Commune, and to recognize the merits of the plebian uprising, to the extent that he and Engels became the intellectual beacon and political bulwark for the international defense of the Communards.

Didn´t 1905 in Russia provoke a reconsideration of important concepts in the Russian and international Social Democracy?

You and I are both old enough and perhaps even young enough in spirit to recall what an enormous impact the Cuban Revolution had, and likewise the Vietnamese revolution. So too, the national liberation process in southern and South Africa, and the special role the Cuban revolution played there.

And now we can salute, take inspiration from, defend, and become participants in two revolutions on-the-rise, in Venezuela and Bolivia. Both evidence very novel combinations of mass struggle and leadership that defy all previous schemas, just like the July 26th movement did in its time, and just like the Commune did in the eyes of Marx and the General.

The Bolivarian revolution and its reach via the ALBA process has been much discussed and is, perhaps, better appreciated and understood than the indigenous majority rule revolution in Bolivia. Far less within the theoretical and programmatic grasp of revolutionists on an international scale is the rise of indigenous revolution in the Americas, whose high-water mark to date is the taking of governmental power, via elections, by the MAS, a coalition of mass social and indigenous movements in Bolivia. Not just some, but nearly all of the self-described Marxist schema about the process in Bolivia have been shattered by this experience, as has been convincingly argued by Vice-president Álvaro García Linera. AGL is a Marxist of the highest caliber, one of the best exponents in the Americas of the Mariátegui-Gramsci tradition, so lacking in both the Third and the Fourth Internationals, even in their healthiest periods. The Peruvian indigenous and campesino leader Hugo Blanco has recently written and spoken about this lacuna, but unfortunately his current outlook seems to invite scorn in many Trotskyist circles.

But a deep and promising discussion is taking shape, centering on the revolutionary struggles underway in our Americas, and on the relevance of the Fifth International. Many problems of a theoretical and programmatic nature that have seemed to loom so large in the past could well be subsumed and resolved in a positive direction by the very momentum and illumination of enormous challenges and victories, and by the insights and capacities of a younger generation untainted by the terrible defeats of the last century -- defeats that carried with them new names – fascism, the Holocaust, Stalinism, Zionism. McCarthyism, Mutual Assured Destruction, and Pol Potism.

But it is also the century that gave us Lenin´s Bolsheviks, and Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht, the Russian and Chinese Octobers, the Soviet victory over its Nazi invaders, the Yugoslav revolution, the Bolivian revolution of 1952, the colonial liberation movements and independence for many nations, the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions, the heroic and immortal heritage of Che Guevara, the Grenadian and the Nicaraguan Sandinista revolutions, the defeat of Afrikaner apartheid, and much more….as the old century gave way to the new, the Bolivarian and Bolivian revolutions put their stamp and the seal of the Fifth International on the new revolutionary epoch.

Barry , I hope you will get to your Congress. Maybe you can help tilt the process even more in the right direction. Pacha Mama, speed the day!

Felipe Stuart
Managua
• (1) I largely confine my references to Meso and South America, and the Caribbean region, the cradle of the ALBA alliance and the locus of the most advanced process of socialist revolution at this opening phase of the 21st Century. In doing so, I do not wish to underestimate or fail to appreciate the significance and weight of other critical battles such as those being waged by the victims of US aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, or the Palestinian people locked in an ongoing battle against the Zionist apartheid regime in the state of Israel and the occupied territories.
• (2)See Che Guevara’s Bolivia Campaign: Thirty Years of Controversy, Matilde Zimmermann, Departments of History and Latin American Studies, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, http://lasa.international.pitt.edu/LASA98/Zimmermann.pdf

Reply to Felipe on FSLN Teran's view of Fourth International

Hi Felipe,

I hope you will pardon me for not responding to your message with comparable volume or literary flourish. It will suffice for me to make the following simple points:

1. I am glad you agree that Carlos Fonseca Teran's characterization of the Fourth International "is not accurate". This may encourage a few more folks to look at other sources, including the ones I suggested (at the web sites of International Viewpoint and Socialist Action), to get a more accurate and complete picture of the FI, from its foundation to now.
2. We agree that the forces that respond to the call for the Fifth International will be very important. Where we differ, apparently, is concerning whether the Fifth should be programmatically and strategically formed and defined as a party for world socialist revolution, as was the Communist International in 1919.
3. We agree that "Cuba has proven that it is possible, given a genuinely revolutionary and Marxist leadership, to hold out for an extended period (now five decades, and counting)." I hope that we can agree that it is a task of the potential Fifth Int'l. to foster the formation and development of parties and leaders of the calibre, and sharing the outlook of the Cubans, and of the Bolsheviks.
4. It is essential for socialists and workers to support and defend all anti-imperialist measures, from those of Cardenas in 1930s Mexico, to Ben Bella in 1960s Algeria, to FSLN-led Nicaragua in the 1980s, to Chavez in Venezuela today. At the same time it is important not to confuse specific anti-imperialist measures with the socialist transformation of society.
5. Without socialist democracy and workers' control there can be no lasting socialist transformation and healthy re-construction of society on a new basis.
6. Either we learn from history, or we are doomed to repeat it, not just farcically as Marx warned, but in the worst possible ways. Hopefully, the Fifth will take this to heart, whatever the risks. You made important points on this score with respect to 'socialism in one country', the united front, the high cost of Stalinist betrayal in Germany and Spain, etc., and we should add the Bernard Coard-led Stalinist coup in Grenada. The lessons of these experiences must be reflected in the programme of our class and its allies if we are to win emancipation and environmental sustainability on a global scale.
7. All the beautiful poetry and prose in the world does not obscure the need for clarity and precision. It impels us to fight for both. The alternatives facing humanity are socialism or barbarism, or to use a similar expression that is the theme of a conference I am presently organizing to occur in Toronto, May 20-23, 'socialism or extinction'. There can be no socialist transformation without replacing the bourgeois state with organized workers', farmers' and aboriginal peoples' power, and without nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy. In Russia, Yugoslavia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and some other countries, that did occur. In Mexico, Egypt, Algeria, Nicaragua and other places, hopes were raised, but the transformation did not occur. The international and domestic class relationship of forces were, and always will be, a major factor in the process. So were factors of programme, strategy, leadership and organization. That is why the best supporters of the revolutionary process in Venezuela and Bolivia combine ardent hope, ceaseless solidarity, and critical analysis. The mainstream Trotskyist movement has much to learn, and much to contribute to the struggle for revolutionary leadership in every country. I suspect that will be the consensus at the FI World Congress. I hope the Fifth will be open to that perspective, and will become a mighty, unified force in the fight for global socialist transformation.

best wishes,

Barry

The Fifth International - notes towards a coherent proposal

http://tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/5379

By Salah Ahmine, Nicaragua Socialista, February 11th 2010
(Clic aquí para el original en español)

The issue of the Fifth International is an old debate of many decades and it looks as though in our days we want to “invent” iced water once more. Depending on who is broaching the matter today, we can see the underlying interests that accompany this proposal. I have no doubt at all about Chavez's good intentions and his proven insistence on his convictions, but if people want to generate widespread confusion it is certainly so as to sterilize the idea.

Some talk about a “socialist international” (IS), others of a “communist international”(IC), of a “fifth international” or simply of an “international”. It is superfluous to clarify that an IS exists and that it includes social democrats and all reformists since the beginning of the 20th Century, here, the opportunism of many who just want to be associated with Chavez's idea and refrain from positively affirming this current but who seek to get some advantage from it for themselves.

The IC that survives in the fourth form given to it by the Trotskyists over 70 years ago seems to be rising again from the ashes now via the voice of the same sectors who see in Cro. Chavez's proposal a historic opportunity to make an impact out of nowhere, with all the dangers and damage this group has represented for the Left and for revolutionary experience.

On the other hand many take on Chavez's idea – either out of ignorance or with deliberate purpose – using the original arguments of the perfect anti-Communist manual, echoing an International that has yet to be invented.

Nobody mentions – and one should ask why that should be so- the other force represented by the International Communist Movement that never suffered the least split since the setting up of the Third Communist International in the 1930s and the establishment of Popular Fronts in the world until our own time. They were grouped in the New International Review – NIR – in Prague until the end of the 1980s and starting up again more coherently at the end of the 1990s in Athens via the Solidnet network.

The Communist Parties and workers from the whole world are represented there and people who seem never to have suggested the idea of reviving the Communist International or something similar. Certainly for many decades the idea and need has been put forward of a worldwide anti-imperialist front, against war, for peace – a cry that is currently in all the programmes of those same parties in Latin America and in the rest of the world.

“The best structures are the structures that are born out of action” - Lenin

If we are talking of an International in today's panorama, in the middle of the imperialist counter-offensive, no better interpretation can be made than to give it a practical and active content, just as Chavez himself states in one of his recent speeches : “a people's counterattack”. Or what Daniel Ortega rightly called in the most timely way, a “peoples' international”. We can understand in these two affirmations a peoples' call to action, action motivated from peoples through their different forms and organizations (left-wing political parties, social organizations, intellectuals, religious groups and others). Conforming that dynamic of united action by all anti-imperialist forces, the component units of the ALBA countries are able to play a determining role.

Efforts are being made to set up this type of grouping. Some experiences are worth taking into account as is the case of the Bolivarian Continental Movement that met for its constitutive congress recently in Venezuela. (December 9th – see http://www.conbolivar.org/) to give continuity to what was previously the Bolivarian Continental Coordination (CCB). Dozens of social, religious, political and intellectual organizations from the whole American continent and the rest of the world took part and approved the formation of this Movement (see final declaration http://www.conbolivar.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=505&...). Regrettably, there was no representative from Nicaragua.

The same happened with the meeting in Lebanon of the Beirut International Forum for Anti-imperialist Resistance and Peoples Solidarity, despite it being a meeting lasting several days (In January 2009 - see http://www.antiimperialista.org/content/view/5889/), the presence and international representation was so wide and diverse that it left real hopes and convictions in relation to all the possibilities and potentialities that exist to articulate a true and dynamic international movement of progressive forces in the world. Likewise, there was no trace of a Nicaraguan presence.

Objective aspects

1) If the purpose is to advance reformism and perpetuate the reality of what social democracy has been for over 100 years, any effort is completely useless to the extent that the current IS closely follows those anti-values. People advocating that way out should simply join that grouping.

2) If the purpose is to form a reborn IC, then, despite all the possible good intentions of many, in the current political-ideological reality there will be few more candidates than the residue of the Fourth International and all the atomized movement of Trotskyism.. It is a given that in that case, no responsible revolutionary, communist or workers organization would accept being part of this type of grouping which has historically proven to be a complete failure. We learn that a few weeks after Chavez's proposal, many of these Trotskyist currents have converted different 4th-ICs into 5ths and it looks as though there are now various Fifth Internationals battling over who will get the trophy in the end.

3) If the idea is to form a worldwide grouping of serious Left wing forces, identified with class ideals and objectives, committed to the anti-imperialist struggle and aiming for the national liberation of our peoples and beyond that towards a communist society, there is no other alternative than to join forces urgently with the existing world network of workers' and communist parties joined together in Solidnet. (See http://www.solidnet.org/) One has to clarify that this decision might be valid in particular cases and specifically for certain organizations and parties – something that would be really encouraging in the case of the FSLN, the PSUV, the FMLN, MAS and others.

It is worth remembering that the FSLN and the FMLN had an active presences in the New International Review during the 1980s in Prague. It is also clear that this option in no way answers the broad reach of the idea suggested by Chavez or the other ALBA Presidents. It is obvious that it would leave out a huge number of organizations and parties that do not share in any way the basic objectives proposed – at least for the moment.

To sum up and to cut off the hypocrisies expressed by various sectors and individuals around this idea of setting up an “international”.

The three points mentioned above and the forces involved in each one, with other forces and sectors of different sensibilities can perfectly well meet up in a diverse grouping, wider, more open, that surpasses the dimensions of each one of them looking towards minimal and essential objectives in defence of humanity. Let's call it “international” as Chavez does without being more precise, as Daniel did pointing correctly to a “Peoples' International”.

Indeed, something along the lines of a “Peoples' International” where we would be able to think of a grouping of all the parties and organizations that consider themselves Left, the social, insurgent, religious, intellectual progressive movements, Left governments (like those of ALBA) and why not too think of other progressive or moderate governments. All in a “Peoples' International” under the urgent banner of the moment which is anti-imperialist solidarity, against war, for peace. As a first step towards other, doubtless more advanced perspectives in the future.

This objective could sustain itself and strengthen itself immediately on the Forums and Movements mentioned above, like the Bolivarian Continental Movement (MCB) the International Forum for Resistance, Anti-imperialism and Peoples' Solidarity, the Foro Sao Paulo, as well as so many other experiences in other continents. There we can reach all the living forces on the planet without ideological, religious or other distinction, all of us united against the ravages of imperialism, against its wars and its devastating destruction laid over the whole planet - but in favour of peace and respect for international law.

In other essays we could deal with the practical content that this “Peoples' International” might have around ALBA in its interaction with and from Latin American popular movements. An urgent decision that will have to be taken into account in the pressing current conditions. What happened in Honduras, what is happening and what is planned in Haiti, the threats against the ALBA countries and other formations of the national liberation process in Latin America, all these urge a re-ordering of our forces in continental coherence, solidarity and unity based in the popular movements, the only guarantee that will put a brake on imperialist aggression and intervention in the region.

Also, if we manage to advance and mature these ideas, it would be important to deepen these aspects to see what our immediate contribution could be in this battle. “Nicaragua Socialista could play a dynamic role in the Latin American and world context through its membership and all our friends and comrades.

The Heart of the Debate

Felipe's reply to Barry W, and the consequent response from Barry really get to the heart of the debate around the potential founding of the Fifth International. On the one hand Felipe's description of how revolutionists on the ground in Latin America participate in mass movements captures brilliantly the need to approach things in a political,not polemical way. On the other hand, Barry's concerns regarding the disappearance of 70 years of hard won analytical knowledge and political tradition reflects the unease many revolutionary Marxists feel when faced with the reality of complex social phenomena and making choices in a new context, particularly when it doesn't fit the schema.

For example, how does Francois Sabado feel about jumping into bed with a government which cut a deal with the Catholic church and criminalized abortion, as did Felipe's Sandinistas. More concretely and politically, how can you justify this action in presenting Ortega as a revolutionary to the international womens' movement.

Or, how would you feel, if you were part of the International Department of the Cuban Communist party discussing and analyzing the pros and cons of building an international revolutionary movement, trying to make sense of, for example, how to deal with the 13 variants of Argentinian Trotskyism in existence, some of whom define you as a state capitalist but who MIGHT want to join so as to get a forum to denounce you.

These types of questions have the potential to rip apart any attempt to find a common organisational framework for disparate political viewpoints, or more precisely, puntos fijos, that is reality viewed through the lens of different experiences which provide no common understanding.

So, perhaps we need to define what the new International is not, so as to clear up any elevated or distorted expectations. First off, it is not a new Third International in the sense that it has emerged from the fires of a new born revolution under the tutelage of a single mass revolutionary party. So, if those who wish to see a mass Leninist international emerge full blown from the brow of Fidel, that just isn't going to happen.

This does not preclude sections or a big majority of those organisations adhering to it moving in that direction, but only history and those participating will tell.

For my part, I view this as a new World Socialist Forum, where revolutionists from around the globe can develop campaigns and share experiences in a supportive and fraternal framework. More specifically, it would be an organisation where LEARNING from those who have made it past the starting post is an integral part of the organisational framework.(I can remember a song Felipe used to sing to us, many years ago:"In revolution, there is one rule; Experience is, the only tool!")

For example,the very process of drawing up a global political balance sheet incorporating the contributions of those engaged in open mass struggle or in clandistine anti-repression organising combined with the global insights of a great many of the world's finest revolutionary intellectuals (a few of whom are not in the Fourth International) can only be an enriching and humbling experience for those genuinely willing to learn the lessons of living history.

The crisis of these times is the crisis of leadership of those forces able to confront and defeat imperialism and its national allies and agents. A new continental leadership is beginning to emege which has the potential to resolve the crisis of leadership in humanity's favour. It is the recognition of the need to resolve this crisis by joining forces with other like minded revolutionaries which has prompted the call by Hugo Cgavez, leader of the first workers and peasants government since the Cuban revolution, to create a Fifth International whose task it will be to build unity amongst the peoples in struggle, and to build and promote a leadership joined together in common cause to develop the strategic and tactical co-ordination needed to defeat imperialism, abolish capitalism and save humanity.

I,for one, plan on being at that party in Caracas.

Bob L

The heart of the matter and the soul of the Fifth International

Thank you Bob for your most clear and succinct summary of the Heart of the Debate on the Fifth International between Toronto-based Barry Weisleder and Managua-based Felipe Stuart C. Perhaps the phrase “exchange of preliminary views” is a better description that the word “Debate,” although I am not averse to debating this theme with whatever thrust and tone seems appropriate, especially if the contrary view represents either reformism or sectarian ultra leftism.
I think your brief comments and my much more lengthy submission in response to brother Weisleder largely coincide and concur, at least on the substance of the question, and in the end that is all that is important and consequential.
My reply to Barry centered on a key affirmation, presented in the negative – I wrote that “The questions of Stalinism, Maoism, or Trotskyism are NOT, I repeat, NOT on today´s agenda for revolutionary combatants. That is not to deny that some of the questions disputed historically will not reappear in new forms and situations. If and when they do, we will have to debate them on their merit, and not by appeal either to perceived historical precedent or to some revolutionary authority, no matter the authority cited.”
You made the same point from a different angle of vision – “So, perhaps we need to define what the new International is not, so as to clear up any elevated or distorted expectations. First off, it is not a new Third International in the sense that it has emerged from the fires of a new born revolution under the tutelage of a single mass revolutionary party. So, if those who wish to see a mass Leninist international emerge full blown from the brow of Fidel, that just isn't going to happen.”
I agree with the thrust of your words above, but have a concern about how they may be misunderstood, especially among today’s youth who will not be familiar with some of your references or comparisons.
First of all, your reference to “a mass Leninist international emerg[ing] full blown from the brow of Fidel…” could be misleading to people unfamiliar with the real origins of the movement for the Fifth International. The principal motor force driving this movement is the interaction of at least four revolutions underway – the Bolivarian revolution (Venezuela), the indigenous/led Bolivian revolution, the renewal of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, and the recent advances of the Cuban revolution – all of that refracted through the impact of the ALBA alliance in Latin America and the Caribbean region. There is an even more powerful, but as yet pronounced backdrop to the ALBA process which is programmatically both anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist or revolutionary-democratic in the usage that Lenin gave to that concept. I refer to the broad movement up and down the hemisphere, or better put, OUR America (Abya Yala), for Indo Latin American and Caribbean unity in defiance of imperialist domination from either North America or Europe, or even Asia as the case may become. The decision of last week’s Cancun presidents’ summit to launch a hemispheric organization that specifically and pointedly excludes the two imperialist powers this side of the Atlantic pond – Canada and the USA – is, as Cuba’s Raúl Castro put it in his summit presentation, “an historic event.” I call it a giant step forward towards our dream of the Patria Grande, the great Indo-Latin American and Caribbean nation that stretches from the Rio Bravo separating Mexico from the US conquered western territories and Tierra del Fuego in the Antarctic south.
The driving force of this new international is not ideological. It is the mass struggle up and down the hemisphere for national liberation and escape from the ravages of savage capitalism and imperialist pillage.
When you write that the Fifth International “… it is not a new Third International in the sense that it has emerged from the fires of a new born revolution under the tutelage of a single mass revolutionary party,” you capture only a part of the reality, and not its essence. The Third International did not come out of the womb of the victorious October revolution and the defeated German revolution as a “Leninist” international. It rather resembled a zoo of revolutionary currents, all drawn to the north star of the newly formed workers’ and farmers´ republic, the first workers state in history that looked to the Paris Commune for inspiration and precedents. The Comintern did not become assuredly Leninist until at least the Fourth Congress, and the intervening years found Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek, and other Bolshevik leaders attempting to educate and forge a genuinely communist world organization or party. Unfortunately Lenin lost his last struggle, succumbing to illness and death, and soon after Stalin and his bureaucratic secret faction took hold of the reigns of raw power first in the party and soon after throughout the state.
Did any of the non-Soviet parties of the Comintern ever acquire a rounded Leninist leadership in terms of its conceptions, its capacities for mass work, and its nose for political power? Did any of the sections of the Fourth International ever get beyond an intellectual or conceptual command of the lessons of the Comintern´s first four congresses, and of the October revolution? The answer to both questions is for the most part in the negative, not because of a lack of will or commitment and dedication, but largely for deep-going and overwhelming objective problems, or because of the gigantic subjective problem of the Stalinization of Marxism on a global scale. What began in the realm of political and ideological revision and distortion of the ideas of Marx and Lenin became converted, because of the enormous influence and power of the Soviet State, into a massive, Jupiter-scale objective barrier to the advance of the socialist revolution in Europe and on other continents. Fortunately that problem dissipated in the wake of the break-up of the USSR some two decades ago, and the subsequent re-dimensioning and re-evaluations carried out by many CPs.
If I have dwelt overly on this issue of being Leninist or otherwise, it is to cut this kind of dead end politics off at the pass. Hence, when Barry Weisleder replied to my last post to LINKS, arguing that “Where we differ, apparently, is concerning whether the Fifth should be programmatically and strategically formed and defined as a party of world socialist revolution, as was the Communist International in 1919,” I have to call for a heads up. [1] What does that sentence really mean, especially the expression “defined as a party of world socialist revolution”?
Isn´t the PSUV´s call for building socialism of the 21st century a sufficient axis to both draw in broadly formed and acting anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements while at the same time clearly defining the central mission as the building of a socialist alternative? Isn´t the Bolivarian stand against social democratic and liberal reformism an adequate starting point to initiate not just international organization unity, but also an ongoing process of enrichment and clarification of programmatic and strategic ideas, based on real and deep-going mass experiences and on holding governmental and/or state power in several countries? How should we weigh the enormous political authority of the Cuban revolution and its enrichment and planting of Marxism on American soil, successfully grafting it to the great revolutionary anti-imperialist and indigenous traditions of our hemisphere, and of being a beacon for the ideas of José Martí, Josê Carlos Mariátegui, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara?
Upon examination, Barry Weisleder’s argument is tantamount to arguing that only the programmatic arsenal of the Fourth International (of course, meaning the one he supports of the several on offer) is adequate to enable more victories for socialism, and to defend them against counterrevolution or degeneration. If that is true, then the logical argument would be that the movement for the Fifth International should throw its gears into reverse and back up into the turf of the Paris-based Fourth International.
Of course, Weisleder does not pursue his own logic in this case, for obvious reasons. The Fifth International, before its first congress has even been held, draws into its current hundreds of thousands, if not millions of revolutionary minded workers, farmers, students, intellectuals and artists, indigenous militants, environmentalists, feminists, and defenders of democratic and human rights. To turn away from or ignore this movement is tantamount to political suicide on the left. It is not surprising, therefore, that many currents are trying to influence this movement, including non Marxist currents such as ZNet in the USA, the World Social Forum in its Latin American and European expressions, Via Campesina, sections of the Brazilian Workers’ Party, and the leadership of the Bolivian Movement towards Socialism (MAS). The scope and depth of this magnetic phenomenon can only become enhanced by the rising curve of social, national, economic, and anti-imperialist struggles, especially in our Americas.
The fate of the first four internationals is essentially today an historical question. In the case of the Comintern, one can argue without too much risk of exaggeration that the Third International only experienced a very brief window of Leninism on the level attained by the Russian Communist Party during and immediately following the October revolution. The Soviet CP and in its wake the Comintern itself was converted from a Marxist revolutionary vanguard into a vehicle to advance and protect the interests of a privileged bureaucratic and conservative, anti-internationalist caste in the USSR. Stalin created a bureaucratic dictatorship that depended on creating the cult of the great, infallible leader. He redefined the national interests of the Soviet state as being the bureaucracy’s caste interests, not the interests of the world working class, peasantry, and oppressed peoples – that is, not the needs and interests of advancing the socialist revolution beyond the borders of the USSR.
Hence, Bob, if the new or Fifth International is not born under the sign of Leninism, we need not worry. Over time, experience will help the younger generation of class struggle militants and anti-imperialist combatants to learn from the rich history of Marxist struggle and theory, reaching back to the Manifesto of the Communist Party, to the Paris Commune, to Engel´s enormous battle to keep the Second International and the German Social Democratic Party on a revolutionary axis, to Lenin´s profound re-orientation of revolutionary social democracy from the time of What is to Be Done to his April 1917 theses, from the October Revolution to the founding of the Third International. This younger generation will have occasion to learn from Trotsky´s post Lenin defense of Marxism against the Stalinist parody of Leninism, to his monumental struggle against fascism and its Nazi form in Germany, and his work to pass on the lessons of October and the first four congresses of Lenin´s international. And perhaps most vital of all, our youth will have an opportunity to assimilate the lessons of the Cuban revolution and the work of Fidel Castro and Che, and through them find their way forward to José Marti, Bolivar, Tupac Amaru, Maríategui, Sandino, Farabundo Martí, Carlos Fonseca Amador, and Antonio Gramsci.
To put this in other words, through the building of the Fifth International today’s youth, no matter their arena of direct involvement, will discover for themselves the rich, pluralist, open-ended, and constantly growing nature of Marxism, its dialectical and scientific methodology, as opposed to the dogmatism and sclerotic variants of Marxism posited by Stalinism and its offshoots. Those influenced by sectarian, ultra left, and anarchistic currents will have an opportunity to come into collaboration with revolutionary action on a mass scale and on the level of collaboration and growing unity between socialist and revolutionary democratic and nationalist governments in an increasing number of countries.

All roads and paths now lead to Caracas. See you there in April, even if I have to pilot a panga from Bluefields to Caracas.

Felipe Stuart, Managua

End Notes
[1] Barry Weisleder to Felipe Stuart, Monday, February 22, 2010 9:38 PM, and posted to the SV-Circle list (Canada) and the Green Left discussion list (Australia). I have posted it below so that LINKS readers following this thread have ready access to it.
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Hi Felipe,

I hope you will pardon me for not responding to your message below with comparable volume or literary flourish. It will suffice for me to make the following simple points:

1. I am glad you agree that Teran's characterization of the Fourth International "is not accurate". This may encourage a few more folks to look at other sources, including the ones I suggested, to get a more accurate and complete picture of the FI, from its foundation to now.
2. We agree that the forces that respond to the call for the Fifth International will be important. Where we differ, apparently, is concerning whether the Fifth should be programmatically and strategically formed and defined as a party of world socialist revolution, as was the Communist International in 1919.
3. We agree that "Cuba has proven that it is possible, given a genuinely revolutionary and Marxist leadership, to hold out for an extended period (now five decades, and counting)." I hope that we can agree that it is a task of the potential Fifth Int'l. to foster the formation and development of parties and leaders of the calibre, and with the outlook of the Cubans, and of the Bolsheviks.
4. It is essential for socialists and workers to support and defend all anti-imperialist measures, from those of Cardenas in 1930s Mexico, to Ben Bella in 1960s Algeria, to FSLN-led Nicaragua in the 1980s, to Chavez in Venezuela today. At the same time it is important not to confuse specific anti-imperialist measures with the socialist transformation of society.
5. Without socialist democracy and workers' control there can be no lasting socialist transformation and healthy construction of society on a new basis.
6. Either we learn from history, or we are doomed to repeat it, not just farcically as Marx warned, but in the worst possible ways. Hopefully, the Fifth will take this to heart, whatever the risks. You made important points on this score with respect to 'socialism in one country', the united front, the high cost of Stalinist betrayal in Germany and Spain, etc., and we should add the Stalinist Bernard Coard-led coup in Grenada. The lessons of these experiences must be reflected in the programme of our class and its allies if we are to win emancipation and environmental sustainability on a global scale.
7. All the beautiful poetry and prose in the world does not obscure the need for clarity and precision. It impels us to fight for both. The alternatives are socialism or barbarism, or to use a similar expression that is the theme of a conference I am presently organizing to occur in Toronto, May 20-23, 'socialism or extinction'. There can be no socialist transformation without replacing the bourgeois state with organized workers', farmers' and aboriginal peoples' power, and without nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy. In Russia, Yugoslavia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and some other countries, that did occur. In Mexico, Egypt, Algeria, Nicaragua and other places, hopes were raised, but the transformation did not occur. The international and domestic class relationship of forces were, and always will be, a major factor in the process. So were factors of programme, strategy, leadership and organization. That is why the genuine supporters of the revolutionary process in Venezuela and Bolivia combine ardent hope, ceaseless solidarity, and critical analysis. The mainstream Trotskyist movement has much to learn, and much to contribute to the struggle for revolutionary leadership in every country. I suspect that will be the consensus at the FI World Congress. I hope the Fifth will be open to that perspective, and will become a mighty, unified force in the fight for global socialist transformation.

best wishes,

Barry

Some Different Aspects of the Heart and Soul

Thanks Felipe for your cogent and well turned response to my brief interjection into the discussion between you and Barry W. I would like to respond in the following way.

1. The reference to the Fifth International emerging full blown from the brow of Fidel was in reference to the notion of a schema in the sentence two paragraphs before. Your response fleshed out what I wrote in a kind of short-hand to make that point.

2. I will quibble with you about the notion that "The driving force of the Fifth International is not ideological.It is the mass struggle up and down the continent for national liberation...". I would submit that the notion of a 21st century socialism, one which is inclusive,revolutionary and profoundly democratic, in contradistinction to the horrors of Stalinism and the decades of betrayal by the social democrats,is also a driving force not only for those committed to building a new Nuestra Anerica, but forms the content of the pole of attraction which has won over the millions of those who are in struggle for not only national liberation, but for the socialist transformation of their countries. While this process is an uneven one throughout the hemisphere, it none the less informs mass politics throughout the Grande Patria.
Let me provide one example. Here in Costa Rica Chavez is seen as a hero amongst all but the most reactionary sectors. The people love his constant poking of the stick in the eye of the Cyclops. They understand that he is "able to get away with it because of oil". In addition, they ask with a great deal of indignation what is wrong with using the proceeds of the sale of the oil for raising the living standards of the people.The recent election of Laura Chinchilla, while a continuation of the social neo-liberalism of the Arias regime, was also a rejection of any turn to the right. Her margin of victory was enhanced by the desertion of a portion of the base of the other social democratic party in order to stop the right wing of the Republican party backed Movimiento Libertario and its candidate Otto Guevera. 75% of Costa Ricans rejected the ML, and voted for the other parties of the left and center left. This is a reflection, in grossly distorted form of the impact of the mass revolutionary struggles, and particularly the mass resistence to the coup in Honduras which are seen here as symbols of the emegence of the new Nuestra America.

3. I would also like to examine the notion of what the Grande Patria means today. I would like to suggest that as a political category a limiting geographical description no longer applies. When I see the faces of Mexican and Salvadorean farm workers in the beet fields of Alberta, when I hear the voices of the Nicarauguan and Costa Rican workers singing on the construction sites of New Jersey, when LaRaza marches for its dignity in the streets of Los Angles and Minnieapolis, Seattle and Orlanda demanding that no one is illegal, I understand that imperialism has brought its victimns into its heartland and will now have to face them as its protagonist.
Many years ago now, when I was doing solidarity work in Chile during the last few years of the Pinochet dictatorship, I had an opportunity to speak to a concentration of Chileans on the barricades in one of the pobladores around Santiago. A previous speaker (Maoist) had made a not so subtle attack on the organiser of the nights events (a companera from one of the small Trotskyist groups which had survived the repression). When it came time for me to speak, I remember making two points. The first was that sectarianism had resulted in far more deaths on the continent than the forces of reaction. I used the example of Che in Bolivia and the fact that he had fought virtually alone, abandoned by almost all forces of the left. But while I was speaking and looking into the faces of those manning the barricades, their faces lit by the burning tires all around us, I began to understand that our own liberation would come about as a result of their struggles, that their struggles would inform the context of how our own working classes would begin to see the world.
I will use the analogy of the Fair Play for Cuba committee and its impact on Canadian politics. It was because of the link up between the Cuban revolution and the work of the revolutionaries in the Fair Play for Cuba committee, that the Canadian ruling class was politically unable to join with American imperialism in isolating Cuba.
Now in the context of the global crisis of capitalism, the crisis of neo-liberalism and social liberalism, and the almost non-existent influence of Stalinism in the North American workers movement, the mighty wind which is blowing from the South will soon shake the windows and rattle the walls of the imperialist fortresses to the North. As the revolution deepens throughout Nuestra America, those children of Pacha Mama, Iyok Ami living in the imperialist heartland will listen to the voices of their brothers and sisters carried on these winds of change, calling them to take up the struggle for their own liberty, their own dignity and to not be afraid to struggle for their own liberation.
If we can learn to think about the interconnectedness of these things, then Chavez's remarks about not having represntation from any revolutionary organisation from the United States shows that he undertstands the revolutionary dynamic between South and North. For North Americans, the creation of this Southern based International is above all else a clarion call to join the mass revolutionary struggle for Our America. It is an invitation, in the words of Marti, to cast our lot and share the fate with "los hombres sinceros de la tierra".
The Permanent Revolution is at work all around us. Whether it is in the creation of the peasant militias in Venezuela to defend those campasinos struggling to implemnt the agrarian reform law, whether it is in the workers' occupations to defend their work in the industrial zones of Argintina, whether it is in the proceses of building an armed resistence to the incursions of the golpistas in the neighbourhoods of San Pedro Sula or in organising the General Strike in San Juan, the processes of liberation have been set in motion, and only a mighty defeat of the masses, a defeat which would require the deaths of tens of thousands of socialist militants, will turn back the clock.
Los horas de los hornos, the hours of the crucible, are upon us. For those who fail to recognise its face will not only be cast over by the eyes of history, but will have failed the test outlined many years ago in the coalfields of Appalachia: which side are You on, oh which side are You on?

Ideology, mass struggle, governmental program, and the 5th Intl

Bob, I think our viewpoints on the process of building the Fifth International are converging asymptotically. That’s good because 100% agreement would be a sign of something contrived, artificial or unreal about our stand.

Your points 2 and 3 raise vital points that need to be incorporated into the strategy of the Fifth International, and I am wholly sympathetic to your third point. I will expand on that below.

First, however, a quibble for a quibble. You wrote, “2. I will quibble with you about the notion that "The driving force of the Fifth International is not ideological. It is the mass struggle up and down the continent for national liberation...” I would submit that the notion of a 21st century socialism, one which is inclusive, revolutionary and profoundly democratic, in contradistinction to the horrors of Stalinism and the decades of betrayal by the social democrats,is also a driving force not only for those committed to building a new Nuestra Anerica, but forms the content of the pole of attraction which has won over the millions of those who are in struggle for not only national liberation, but for the socialist transformation of their countries.”

I could hardly disagree with the thrust of your argument on that score. Pero, hay un perro (there´s a caveat) called for here.
Part of the art of and capacity for revolutionary leadership is to know how to gage the relative weight of objective and subjective factors in situations where bold moves are suggested that could place the movement or the possibility of advance at risk. There are many objective factors that are so overwhelming that subjective elements have little or no weight or impact, or too little impact to fundamentally alter a given relationship of forces. Consider the great difference, in this regard, from the impact of Che´s appeal, “either a socialist revolution or a caricature of revolution,” and the Bolivarian call for 21st Century socialism. Che´s call impacted mainly if not exclusively in the vanguard, and mostly among the student and middle class layers. Chavez’s appeal, by contrast, has impacted on a mass scale and has been taken up by a number of revolutionary democratic, socialist, and anti-capitalist parties, some wielding governmental power.

The difference is neither in the caliber of leadership nor the clarity of thought, nor even in the correctness of message. Che was right. The Cuban communists were correct and their subjective (and objective) intervention to struggle for their viewpoint helped the Latin American and Caribbean left shake off the shackles of the Menshevik-Stalinist two-stage theory of revolution. We can even say with some conviction and some force of argument without Che´s strong stand on the question of socialism, without the battle of ideas waged by our Cuban comrades for so many decades, the Bolivarian process would likely never have prospered and taken on such great objective weight in the international class and anti-imperialist struggle.

Now, when I wrote, “The driving force of the Fifth International is not ideological. It is the mass struggle up and down the continent for national liberation...,” I did not want in any way to deny the importance of the call for 21st Century socialism, or for the launching of a Fifth International. Obviously ideas and ideology can play and must play at some point the decisive role in determining the outcome of class and national struggle on a mass, revolutionary scale. All I am saying is that the force of the argument for socialism is propelled by the depth of the capitalist global crisis and the power of revolutionary movement who have come to government power. On reflection, one should add to that the accelerating convergence between class, nationalist-anti imperialist, environmental, and indigenous movements, a phenomenon that is at once a subjective or ideological process and a massive objective force in the political and international struggle.

This discussion for me seems almost to be an offshoot or sequel to an ongoing debate in the Nicaraguan daily El Duevo Diairio on the matter of the strategic weight of ethics or lack of ethics as a determining factor in the ongoing crisis of the Latin American left. This discussion began in response to the publication of "La subversión ética de nuestra realidad", the most recent work of the Nicaraguan political scientist and historian Andrés Pérez Baltodano (APB). He advances the not-so-novel thesis that the main root of that crisis is a lack of solid ethics as a compass and guiding force in determining the conduct of the left, especially when in government and heading up a state power. APB offers a brilliant tour-de-force, arguing that the real roots of the crisis are ethical and ideological, and not the objective material unfolding of a crisis of the imperialist system of domination and national oppression. Under the pressure of criticism he seems to have retreated to a dualist view that the crisis has both subjective and objective roots, but that cutting its Gordian knot requires first and foremost a new ethics.

APB wrote “…para cambiar la realidad es necesario contar con un pensamiento político revolucionario. Menos discutida es, sin embargo, la necesidad de asentar la articulación de este pensamiento en una ética transformadora” (To change reality it is necessary to count on political-revolutionary thought. Less discussed, however, is the necessity to base the articulation of this thought on a transformational ethics – quoted by Conelio Hopmann in his article Ética, Economía y Marxismo, http://www.end.com.ni/opinion/67805 ).

Hopmann and other Marxists have taken APB’s post- post-modernist ethical argument to task, defending Marx and Engels on the question of the alleged materialist determinism of the Old Moor and the General.My reaction to this seemingly odd debate among some Nicaraguan scholars and political militants came with a pinch of perplexity and two of salt.

Is this not really an old debate which Engels tried to resolve in a positive manner with his famous July 4, 1893 letter to Franz Mehring? Commenting there on the relationship between ideas, motivation, and materialist forces, Engels rejected “… the fatuous notion of the ideologists that because we deny an independent historical development to the various ideological spheres which play a part in history we also deny them any effect upon history. The basis of this is the common undialectical conception of cause and effect as rigidly opposite poles, the total disregarding of interaction. These gentlemen often almost deliberately forget that once an historic element has been brought into the world by other, ultimately economic causes, it reacts, can react on its environment and even on the causes that have given rise to it..” [http://www.marxists.org/archive/mehring/1893/histmat/app.htm ]

In Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Engels argues that “… we simply cannot get away from the fact that everything that sets men acting must find its way through their brains — even eating and drinking, which begins as a consequence of the sensation of hunger or thirst transmitted through the brain… The influences of the external world upon man express themselves in his brain, are reflected therein as feelings, impulses, volitions — in short, as ‘ideal tendencies’, and in this form become ‘ideal powers’. If, then, a man is to be deemed an idealist because he follows ‘ideal tendencies’ and admits that ‘ideal powers’ have an influence over him, then every person who is at all normally developed is a born idealist and how, in that case, can there still be any materialists?” [ http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/ch02.ht... ]
I stress the critical weight of broad mass movements and the revolutionary democratic governments now led by the gathering forces of the Fifth International, and the ALBA alliance, as the key factors that we need to emphasize at this time, and not subjective discourse and debate around ideological and historical questions. Where the subjective factor intervenes in a sharp and cutting way at this stage of mass, revolutionary actions, is the question of program.

What are we fighting against and what are we struggling for? What is to be done next? What struggles need to be coordinated, and how to do this to gain maximum leverage against imperialist and ruling class enemies? What errors are we making and how best can we correct them? This is clearly both a subjective and an objective challenge to a movement energized by the interplay of the two sides of the process.

In the Thesis on Feuerbach Karl Marx defended and praised those thinkers who stressed the importance of ideas, concepts, beliefs, and reason – idealists if you will – and hailed their accomplishment of not succumbing to what he called “the chief defect of all previous materialism.”

“The chief defect of all previous materialism (that of Feuerbach included),” he wrote, “ is that things [Gegenstand], reality, sensuousness are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was set forth abstractly by idealism — which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from conceptual objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity…. he does not grasp the significance of ‘revolutionary’, of ’“practical-critical’, activity.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm

Hence, from these earliest lessons of Marx and Engels on the relationship between ideas, human action, and political struggle, we have been taught (and we hope, learned) not to disregard either the importance of objective forces and tendencies, nor the importance of ideas, desires, programs, demands, slogans, arguments, and ideology, and of organizing around those subjective elements, to develop the mass agency capable of making revolution and building a new, socialist society.

The art of revolutionary leadership is to know when and how the stress should be placed on the subjective or programmatic issues, and when it needs to be placed on assembling mass, objectively powerful forces. Clearly, the two are dynamically interactive and mutually condition both poles of this dialectical interplay. Lenin knew this when he launched the whole weight of the Bolshevik party into agitation for “land, peace, and bread” and placed theoretical and ideological debates with reformists and Mensheviks on the back burner. In doing so, the Bolsheviks never denied the importance of theory, ideological struggle. The battle of ideas became reduced to its finest common denominator – land, peace, bread, and all power to the Soviets. These demands took on enormous material force and momentum, and changed the world, or rather their beholders and advocates changed history.
....
Regarding your Point 3 and the significance of immigrant workers from Latin America [and here we should, in the context of this discussion, include the Caribbean immigrant workers and their families] in the class struggle in Canada and the USA, we are in full agreement.

However, we should not lose sight of the great strategic significance of the formal national independence acquired in battle to create independent nation states in Meso and South America and the Caribbean. Likewise, the enormous advance represented by the formation of a hemispheric organization that excludes the two imperialist powers – Canada and the USA. The Patria Grande of necessity assembles its forces within that framework and cannot put an equal sign between the independent countries and their sovereign citizens, and the emigrant communities in North America. With this in mind, we need to stress that the defense of Latin American and Caribbean sovereignty, and the building of a strong anti/imperialist and anti-capitalist movement in the hemisphere cannot be consolidated and acquire its full potential without the inclusion of our Diaspora in the north and in Europe, and without building strong solidarity and collaboration between the two arenas of struggle. The Patria Grande includes, and will always include its sons and daughters who have had to emigrate in search of work and survival, but its national and state forms will evolve from the existing nation states. The question of building its unity in diversity cannot by pass the issue of finding continental-scale organizational expressions of our growing unity in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres.

And to close this point, we are in full agreement on the potential impact of struggles in Indo-Latin America and the Caribbean on the class and social struggles in the imperial heartland. There is already strong evidence of that, and there is every reason to expect this component of the mix to become stronger and more up front as the global capitalist crisis deepens and inter-imperialist tensions rise.

I especially appreciated your comment about the impact of the work of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee on limiting the capacity of the Canadian government to get fully on board the US war drive against the Cuban revolution. I was for a number of years in the early and mid sixties the West Coast (Vancouver-based) Fair Play for Cuba Committee (political) secretary. I learned a great deal from that experience, especially about the nature of the Canadian state in relation to Latin America and the Cuban revolution. The ability of our tiny forces to influence government policy on the matter of its bilateral diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba reflected not just the powerful attraction of the revolution in the Americas, but also to some degree rivalry between different sectors of Canadian imperialist capital at the time. A significant part of the Canadian business and agricultural sector wanted to outflank their US competitors through increasing trade and their ability to export to Cuba on terms more favorable to their profiteering expectations.

Finally, I did not know you were living in Costa Rica. Might you consider writing something more extensive about the recent election, and the role of the Laura Chinchilla presidency? Of particular concern in Nicaragua, aside from border and ecological issues in the Rio San Juan basin, and the super-exploitation of Nicaraguan plantation and domestic workers in Costa Rica, is its apparent turn away from supporting the Central American integration process (SICA) in favor of a closer ties and collaboration with Panama and Colombia in a pro/imperialist framework. Are you aware of any discussion of that issue in Costa Rica? Finally, do you expect any softening of San José’s harsh posture towards our Sandinista government under the incoming Chinchilla administration, as compared with the hard-line, pro-Obamist-Cintononian line of Oscar Arias?

Sol

Felipe Stuart - Managua - Nicaragua ¡siempre sandinista!

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