Carlos Fonseca Terán, deputy secretary
of the International Relations Department of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
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
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. 
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. 
the poor of the world, rise up slaves without bread, Let’s all rise up to cry:
VIVA LA INTERNACIONAL!
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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
is a well-known saying that if geometric axioms affected men’s
interests, certainly someone would refute them.”  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
world today has three characteristics that should be noted here.
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.
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.
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  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.
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.
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
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. 
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:
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
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
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
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. 
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 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
, 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
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
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).
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
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.  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. 
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 . Sandino clarified that he had always
agreed with Martí’s ideas . 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
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 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
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.
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.
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
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. 
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
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). 
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
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
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.
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).
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
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
Consensus and not
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
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
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
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,  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:  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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
introducción necesaria al Diario del Che en Bolivia (Ernesto Che Guevara, Escritos
y discursos, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, Cuba, p. 8).
Lenin, Vladimir I., Marxismo y revisionismo (Obras escogidas, Editorial
Progreso, Moscú, sf, p. 20).
 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
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.
Declaración de La
Habana, http://www.pcc.cu, p. 17.
Lenin, Vladimir I., El Estado y la Revolución (Obras
completas, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, sf , p. 298 ).
Sandino, Augusto C., El pensamiento vivo, t. I, Editorial Nuevo
Nicaragua, Managua, 1984, p. 341.
Sandino, Augusto C., Ob. Cit., t. II, pp. 69.
Idem, pp. 65, 69 a 73 y
Fonseca, Carlos (citado por), Sandino, guerrillero proletario (Obras, t.
I – Bajo la bandera del sandinismo – , Editorial Nueva Nicaragua,
Managua, 1985, p.353 –).
Román, José, Maldito país, p. 137.
Sandino, Augusto C., Ob. Cit., t. II, p. 366.
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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.
Lenin, Vladimir I., La bancarrota de la Segunda Internacional,
Editorial Progreso, Moscú, 1977, p. 13.
Bilbao, Luis, Hora de definiciones (revista América XXI, # 56/57,
diciembre 2009 a enero
2010, Caracas, p. 48).
Sendic, Raúl, Reflexiones sobre política económica, Editorial Nueva
Nicaragua, Managua, 1986, p. 3.