Fourth International

Leon Trotsky Bundesarchiv500

The isolation of the Russian Revolution and the ruinous effect of the Civil War allowed the Stalinist bureaucrats to isolate and expel the genuine forces of Marxism from the Communist Party. After his exile from Russia in 1929, Trotsky immediately threw himself into the task of defending the real traditions of Bolshevism.

While Stalin was preparing to dismantle the Communist International and renouncing the struggle for world socialism, Leon Trotsky was building a new, Fourth International, not only to defend the legacy of the October Revolution, but also to spread its influence throughout the world in the face of war, fascist reaction and Stalinist persecution.

The history of the Fourth International represents a struggle to keep the genuine spirit of working-class internationalism alive. Its construction was also part of Trotsky’s attempt to recruit and educate a new generation of genuine Bolsheviks, who would be able to finish what he and Lenin had started.

The incredibly difficult conditions facing the International meant it was ultimately stillborn. Nevertheless, through Trotsky’s struggle and sacrifice, a new generation could inherit the authentic legacy of the Russian Revolution. The IMT can trace its lineage to the Fourth International. It is part of our heritage, and a vital object of study. 

On October 28, 1938 an inspiring mass meeting in New York celebrated the founding of the Fourth International as well as the tenth anniversary of the Trotskyist movement in this country. American imperialism would not permit Trotsky to be present at that memorable celebration. But an electrical transcription of Trotsky’s speech to the meeting helped to bring him closer.

How do Marxists use programmatic demands to win the working class to the cause of revolutionary socialism? Trotsky explains the need to use transitional demands to bridge the gap between the present consciousness of the working class and the need for the socialist transformation of society.

"We must now say openly that the Spanish "Left Communists" have allowed this exceptionally favorable interval to slip by, and have revealed themselves to be in no way better than the Socialist and "Communist" traitors. Not that there was any lack of warning. All the greater therefore is the guilt of Andrés Nin, Juan Andrade, and the others. With a correct policy, the "Left Communists" as a section of the Fourth International might have been at the head of the Spanish proletariat today."

"The Third International set for the first time the example of the victorious proletarian revolution, but it found itself ground between the millstones of the bureaucracy in the isolated Soviet state and the reformist bureaucracy of the West. Today, under the conditions of decisive capitalist collapse, the Fourth International, standing upon the shoulders of its predecessors, enriched by the experience of their victories and defeats, will mobilize the toilers of the Occident and the Orient for the victorious assault upon the strongholds of world capital."

The official dissolution of the Communist International comes almost ten years after the proclamation by Leon Trotsky that the Third International was dead as the world instrument for the socialist revolution. It was on July 15, 1933 that Trotsky wrote his theses, reprinted here, in justification of this conclusion and the need of building the Fourth International.

A letter written to the Italian Trotskyists in 1930 in which Trotsky deals with the question of the Constituent Assembly and the perspectives for Italy at that time. He severely criticises those who attempted to mix the slogan of the Constituent Assembly with that of workers' soviets, and also showed incredible insight into how the process would unfold once the Mussolini regime collapsed.

This document was the end product of a process of analysis and struggle in a constantly changing and living movement – the Bolshevik Party. It sums up a period which spans roughly four years, commencing some time before the death of Lenin in 1923 and concluding with attempts to publish this programme in 1927. This Platform was drawn up at a time of crisis for the bureaucracy. This bureaucracy consisted at that time of two basic tendencies – the Bukharinist right and the Stalinist centre of the Party, the latter perhaps less prominent in the public eye but with control of the entire apparatus. Neither was sure of its future at the time.