MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1946 2nd International Conference of the Fourth International

The Conference of the Fourth International

Written: April, 1946.
First Published: June 1946
Source: Fourth International, Volume VII, No. 6, June 1946, pp. 163-165.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, November, 2005
Proofread: Scott Wilson
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

A Great Labor Conquest

The International Conference which convened in Paris in April is a great conquest for the Fourth International, the world party of the socialist revolution. This Conference was held in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles of the postwar period. Despite all the hardships and difficulties, it was a more representative gathering than the Founding Conference of 1938. Participating in the work of the 1946 Conference were delegations from the principal European sections, France, England, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Ireland and Switzerland; in addition there came representatives from the Western Hemisphere and from colonial countries.

In this issue we proudly publish the main political document, “The New Imperialist Peace and the Building of the Parties of the Fourth International,” together with the other resolutions adopted by the Conference and a partial account of its deliberations. The Conference also instructed the newly elected International Executive Committee to draft a Manifesto, the text of which was published in the May 11 issue of The Militant. It will soon be made available in pamphlet form by Pioneer Publishers. We urge every reader to carefully study these documents.

They are basic to a correct understanding of the entire period ahead. They, like the Conference itself, express the authoritative views of world Trotskyism. As a system of ideas and as a living organization incarnating these ideas, the Fourth International wields authority by virtue of its unswerving loyalty to the program of Marxism and the traditions of the Russian Revolution. The Fourth International alone can speak with authority in the name of proletarian internationalism because it alone held up this banner in the interval between the two world wars and throughout the war years. It alone was able to swim against the stream in this era of tragic and catastrophic defeats”, it alone proved capable of understanding, analyzing and assimilating the lessons of contemporary history. That is why it was able to withstand the crucial test of war. All the others fell by the wayside.

The Manifesto of the International Conference correctly states:

The Second International disappeared without a trace and the Social Democratic parties within it became transformed into miserable propaganda agencies of Anglo-American imperialism. The collapse repeated in more grotesque form its performance of 1914-18.

The Third International, after being corroded by years of betrayal, was merely traded out of existence by Stalin in exchange for Wall Street’s Lend-Lease.

All the centrist organizations, like the London Bureau, simply broke up into their component parts.

The Message Of Truth

Never was truth needed more urgently than today, above all the truth about the system in which we live. Yet from all sides are heard the voices of corruption and betrayal, of confusion and prostration, of weakness and hysteria, of deception and falsehood. We hail the International Conference because at this moment of gravest crisis it brings the agonized peoples of the world its message of truth and hope.

The Dark Ages once stood as a popular symbol for unspeakable infamies, horrors and suffering. But the Dark Ages never plumbed the depths of human degradation to which capitalism has sunk. Against the background of miracles of science, amid untold wealth accumulated so painfully through the centuries, at a time when society disposes of a productive apparatus capable of flooding the earth not only with necessities but luxuries—in such circumstances the gangrene of an outlived system is seeping through every pore of the social organism; the very atmosphere is poisoned by fumes of decay; civilization is being drained of all its vital juices. The abominations and villainies of monopoly capitalism have hurled mankind so far back that the human mind is stunned, unable for the moment to grasp the enormity of the disaster.

The bestial visage of monopoly capitalism has fully revealed itself in an unprecedented wholesale destruction of material and spiritual values. Practices and happenings from which men used to recoil in horror have become established as the norm and are being accepted as commonplace.

The Disaster of Cities

From the dawn of civilization the human consciousness has been shocked by natural calamities, especially those that befell cities. Because these are the hearths of culture and progress and have always been cherished as such. Records and historical accounts of disasters that befell cities have come down from antiquity to modern times. The shelves of libraries are filled with factual and fictional material on this subject. The fate in 79 A.D. of Pompeii, a small Roman vacation resort at the foot of volcano Vesuvius, has been remembered through the centuries. The news of the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 (between 10,000 and 20,000 lives lost; damage, $100 million) made such an impression on the German poet Goethe, a child of six at the time, that he recalled it to his dying day. Hollywood periodically produces films based on the Chicago fire of 1871 (no fatalities listed; damage, $196 million) or the San Francisco earthquake and conflagration of 1906 (452 lives lost; property loss of $350 million). But we have just witnessed the man-made destruction, amid patriotic cheers, of city after city in Europe and Asia. The exact number of victims and the extent of material damage will probably never be known.

The imperialist bourgeoisie has become habituated to acts to which the greatest stigma has universally been attached. Bourgeois historians still shed tears over the burning of the great library of Alexandria by the Arabs in 640 A.D. But the imperialist incendiaries have put to the torch more irreplaceable treasures and monuments than all the vandals of the past.

Not so many years ago the destruction of a single French cathedral was accepted in certain circles as incontrovertible indictment of the Kultur of the Kaiser. The very same people have in the space of a few years spread devastation unequaled by all the man-made and natural catastrophes recorded in the annals of history. At this very moment the super-vandals of Wall Street are busy preparing weapons for subjecting the remaining cities on earth to the same treatment they accorded Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The “Culture” of Capitalism

Yet we still hear talk of culture. This indecency comes from the lips of those who continue to support capitalism in the name of “democracy.” If these are not the greatest enemies of culture who have walked among men, then ordinary words have lost all their meaning and the human mind all its capacity to reason.

Abstract talk of “humanism” and “humanitarianism” today is brutal mockery. Queen Antoinette, as is well known, advised the starving French people to eat cake if they couldn’t obtain bread. In this single phrase is laid bare the completely antisocial character of the feudal regime. But the French queen was a humanitarian in comparison with such gentlemen as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Reporting before a Congressional committee on the plight of men, women and children now starving by the millions, Mr. Clinton P. Anderson remarked: “Some people are going to have to starve. We’re in the position of a family that owns a litter of puppies; we’ve got to decide which ones to drown.” In this inability to any longer differentiate between animals and human beings is to be heard the genuine voice of the completely degenerated capitalist class, anti-social to its marrow.

The list of material and spiritual values reduced to muck and gore by the capitalist cannibals is far too long to enumerate. Is there a single ideal that has remained inviolate? If any truth is absolute for our generation it is that for mankind to live, capitalism must perish.

We hail the International Conference because it summons to a mortal struggle against capitalism. The simplest as well as the loftiest concepts of morality, ethics, etc., have no meaning today except in relation to the basic problem of our generation, namely, the life-and-death fight to abolish capitalism. As old Spinoza long ago pointed out the will is inseparably bound up with intellect. The impairment of the former inescapably leads to the disintegration of the latter. The distinctive trait of the revolutionary vanguard is its inexorable will to struggle. It expresses thereby in the most concentrated form the character and historic mission of its class. Among the irrefutable proofs of the virility and power of the world Trotskyist movement is that its will to struggle remains unimpaired.

The Will to Struggle

The masses have no way out from the charnel house of capitalism except through struggle. They have risen time and again, only to be defeated. Why? Because their fighting capacity was invariably sapped by their treacherous Readerships. Today, none renders greater service to the imperialists, than the completely prostituted Stalinist parties. But the Stalinists are only the main detachment of the army of prostitutes in the service of the rulers. Their efforts are supplemented in each country by the native variety of Social Democrats and official trade-union leaders. In their wake follow the scientific, academic, journalistic and other intellectual prostitutes for bourgeois “democracy,” “morality,” “humanism,” “ethical values,” etc., etc.

We hail the International Conference for preserving intact the main guarantees of the coming victory—the principled program of the socialist struggle and the strategy and tactics of the Transitional Program. The principles, strategy and tactics of the Fourth International were not copied from books nor sucked out of anyone’s thumb. They are the product of all the past proletarian struggles, victories as well as defeats, periods of flood-tide as well as of ebb. They represent the generalized experience of the class, the theoretical and political capital handed down from one generation of the proletarian vanguard to the next. They have been tested and re-tested in the fire of events. They have been amended, perfected or altered only to the extent that the historical process itself so dictated. Principled irreconcilability distinguishes Trotsky’s movement from all others, just as it distinguished the movements led by Marx and Lenin. Ours is the orthodox school of Marxism. This must not be understood to mean, as our vilifiers and enemies contend, that we consider our program immutable. No. We adapt the program to the needs of the struggle and bring our analysis up to date in conformity with the events. But we cling to Marxism as the one fundamental analysis of capitalism and society, as well as the one fundamental revolutionary program which has been vindicated in the fires of great experiences and struggles. And by the same token we contemptuously reject all light-minded attempts to overthrow it or discard it.

The Bolshevik Organization

We furthermore note with satisfaction that the International Conference reiterated its determination to build Bolshevik-type parties—the main instrumentalities of the revolution. The organizational principles and structure of Bolshevism were created by Lenin. Half a century ago, when Lenin first began building the Bolshevik Party, failure to grasp its historic role was understandable. Today, after the Russian Revolution, opposition to a democratically-centralist proletarian party is the hallmark of an opportunist. The Fourth International remains in this respect as in all others the only legitimate heir and continuator of Bolshevism.

Finally, we hail the International Conference for its unswerving loyalty to the spirit of internationalism. Marxists attach the greatest value to the international ties of the revolutionary proletariat not out of abstract ethical considerations, but because all the burning problems of society permit of solution only on a world scale. Because of the anti-democratic Voorhees law, the Socialist Workers Party in this country is not affiliated with the Fourth International. But as is clear from our position, we are in complete solidarity with the political ideas and the decisions adopted by the International Conference.

This historic gathering marks a new stage in the development of the world Trotskyist movement. The building of the world party of the socialist revolution was begun in 1928 by small propaganda groups. The tempo of the pre-war epoch forced the revolutionists all the way back to the Marxist circle phase. Recruitment was restricted to individual selection on the basis of theoretical discussion. For a decade the various groups remained almost hermetically sealed from the labor movement. The Founding Conference of the Fourth International in 1938, which adopted the transitional program, laid down the tactical line for the parties to break out of their isolation and win the leadership of the masses. This phase was cut across by the war which furthermore imposed an enforced separation upon the various national sections.

The New Period Ahead

This International Conference liquidates the conditions of enforced separation caused by the war and enables the movement to move forward once again as a united striking force on the world arena. The tempo of the post-war epoch differs radically from the tempos if the pre-war and war periods. The revolutionists have now to adapt themselves not to conditions of isolation, slow growth, and the onrush of reaction but to the epoch of greatest revolutionary convulsions and greatest opportunities for building the revolutionary parties. Historical circumstances have for years placed monstrous obstacles in the path of the Fourth International. Many of these still remain. But the movement that was able to emerge from conditions of war and savage persecution, stronger in numbers (despite proportionately huge losses) and more tempered ideologically (despite the disruption of all connections) will have the strength to win the leadership of the masses and go forward to the socialist revolution.


Last updated on 12.01.2005