The SWP and the Fourth Inter­na­tional, 1946-54:

Genesis of Pabloism

Continued from left column

Germain Resists

In March 1951 Germain produced “Ten Theses,” which was a veiled attack on “Where Are We Going?” but did not attack Pablo or the docu­ment by name. Germain restated the Marxist use of “transitional period” as the period between the victory of the rev­olu­tion (the dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tar­iat) and the achievement of socialism (the classless society). Without any explicit reference to Pablo’s position, he wrote: “No more than the bour­geoi­sie will it [Stalinism] survive a war which will be transformed into a world upsurge of the rev­olu­tion.” Germain insisted on the con­tra­dic­tory Bonapartist character of Stalinism, based on pro­le­tar­ian property forms while safe­guarding the privileged position of the bureauc­racy against the workers. He empha­sized the dual nature of the mass CPs outside the USSR as determined by their pro­le­tar­ian base on the one hand and their subservience to the Stalinist bureaucracies in power on the other.

Germain attempted to present the orthodox response to the Pabloist impulse that the destruction of cap­ital­ism in Eastern Europe, China and Yugoslavia without a Trotskyist lead­er­ship made the Fourth Inter­na­tional superfluous. Again, he did not refer to the positions he was attacking; one would have thought that the “Ten Theses” simply dropped from the sky as an interesting theoretical exercise, rather than in response to the emergence of a revi­sion­ist current completely coun­ter­posed to Germain’s thrust. Insisting that a new worldwide rev­olu­tion­ary upsurge would not stabilize Stalinism but rather was a mortal danger to it, he wrote:

“It is because the new rev­olu­tion­ary wave contains in embryo the destruction of the Stalinist parties as such that we ought to be much closer today to the Com­mu­nist workers. This is only one phase of our fundamental task: to construct new rev­olu­tion­ary parties….” [our emphasis]

“To be ‘closer to the Stalinist workers’ then signifies at the same time to affirm more than ever our own program and our own Trotskyist policy.”

The “Ten Theses” showed that all wings of the Trotskyist move­ment were still incapable of grasping the nature of the social trans­for­ma­tions which had occurred in Eastern Europe (although the analysis of the British Haston-Grant RCP majority, borrowed by the SWP’s Los Angeles Vern-Ryan grouping, achieved the beginning (but only the beginning) of wisdom in recognizing that in the immediate post-war period an examination of native property forms would hardly suffice since the state power in Eastern Europe was a foreign occupying army, the Red Army). Back to Appendix 1 In 1951 Germain still considered the process of “structural assim­ila­tion” uncompleted (!) and predicted the assim­ila­tion of the armies of the East European states into the Soviet army—i.e., that Eastern Europe would simply be incorporated into the Soviet Union. Germain did recognize that the trans­for­ma­tion in Eastern Europe destroyed cap­ital­ism but contained within it, even in victory, a decisive bureau­cratic obstacle to socialist development; he stressed that the expansion of the USSR’s non- capitalist mode of production “is infinitely less important than the destruction of the living workers’ move­ment which has preceded it.”

No such inbuilt obstacle was recognized with regard to China and, especially, Yugoslavia. The Trotskyists were unable to disassociate the phe­nom­enon of Stalinism from the person of Stalin; the Titoists’ break from the Kremlin obscured any recognition that Yugoslavia would necessarily pur­sue qualitatively identical domestic and dip­lo­matic policies in safeguarding the interest of its own national bureau­cratic regime against the working class. Uneasy about admitting that Stalinist forces heading peasant masses could ever con­sum­mate an anti-capitalist rev­olu­tion, Germain in “Ten Theses” termed both the Yugoslav and Chinese events pro­le­tar­ian rev­olu­tions and also argued that “under such conditions, these parties cease being Stalinist parties in the classical sense of the term.”

Whereas Pablo took these events as the new rev­olu­tion­ary model which invalidated “ ‘pure’ forms and norms” (i.e., the Russian Revolution) Germain—again without referring to Pablo—stressed that they were as a result of exceptional circumstances which in any case would not be relevant to advanced industrial countries. He contrasted “the de facto United Front which today exists between the colonial rev­olu­tions in Asia and the Soviet bureauc­racy, which has its objective origin in their being both menaced by impe­ri­al­ism…” with the pos­si­bil­ities for Europe. He concurred in the prediction of an imminent World War III between “the united imperialist front on the one hand and the USSR, the buffer countries and the colonial rev­olu­tions on the other” but rather than hailing it, termed it a counter-revolutionary war.

The crux of Germain’s argument was:

“What matters above all in the present period is to give the pro­le­tar­iat an inter­na­tional lead­er­ship capable of coordinating its forces and proceeding to the world victory of communism. The Stalinist bureauc­racy, forced to turn with a blind fury against the first victorious pro­le­tar­ian rev­olu­tion outside the USSR [Yugoslavia!], is socially incapable of accom­plish­ing any such task. Herein lies the historical mission of our move­ment…. The historical jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for our move­ment…resides in the incapacity of Stalinism to overturn world cap­ital­ism, an incapacity rooted in the social nature of the Soviet bureauc­racy.”

With the advantage of hindsight and the experience of the past 20 years—the counter-revolutionary nature of Stalinism reaffirmed most clearly in Hungary in 1956; the 1960 Cuban rev­olu­tion in which petty-bourgeois nationalism at the head of peasant guerillas uprooted cap­ital­ism only to merge with the Stalinist apparatus internally and inter­na­tionally; the consistently nationalist and Stalinist policies of the Chinese CP in power—it is easy to recognize that “Ten Theses” is flawed in its analysis and predictions. What is much more important, however, is the docu­ment’s consistent and deliberate non-factional tone which presaged Germain’s refusal to place himself in the anti-Pabloist camp. Divorced from the determination to fight for a correct line in the Fourth Inter­na­tional, Germain’s theoretical defense of the necessity of Trotskyism meant very little. This was Pabloism merely at one remove, the denial of the subjective factor in the rev­olu­tion­ary process.

Third World Congress

The Third World Congress of the Fourth Inter­na­tional was held in August-September 1951. The main political report attempted to distinguish between the Com­mu­nist Parties and “reformist parties” on the grounds that only the former were con­tra­dic­tory, and projected that under the pressure of a strong mass upsurge the CPs could become rev­olu­tion­ary parties. The opportunist nature of Pablo’s version of an entrism tactic was sharply revealed in the repudiation of the prin­ci­pled entrist goal of sharp polarization and split: “The pos­si­bil­ities of important splits in the CPs…are replaced by a leftward move­ment within the CPs among its rank and file.” There was no recognition of decisive deformations in the East European and Chinese workers states; thus implicitly the Congress posed only a quantitative dif­fer­ence between the Soviet Union of Lenin and the degenerated and deformed workers states. The report projected the possibility that Tito might “head a regroupment of rev­olu­tion­ary forces independent of cap­ital­ism and of the Kremlin…playing a major role in the formation of a new rev­olu­tion­ary lead­er­ship.” There was no mention of the per­spec­tive of permanent rev­olu­tion for the colonial countries.

The application of Pablo’s policy of “entrism sui generis” was elaborated in the Austrian Com­mis­sion:

“The activity of our members in the SP will be governed by the following directives: A. Not to come forward as Trotskyists with our full program. B. Not to push forward programmatic and prin­ci­pled questions….”

No quantity of verbal orthodoxy in res­olu­tions could have any longer obscured the vision of those who wanted to see.

The Parti Com­mu­niste Inter­na­tionaliste of France submitted Germain’s “Ten Theses” for a vote (after Germain himself had apparently backed out of doing so) and proposed amendments to the main docu­ment. No vote was taken on the “Ten Theses” or the French amendments. The PCI voted against adopting the thrust of the main docu­ment; it was the only section to do so.

In the months that followed, the Pabloist line was elaborated along the lines already made clear before and at the Third World Congress:

“We are entering [the Stalinist parties] in order to remain there for a long time banking on the great possibility of seeing these parties, placed under new conditions [“a generally irreversible pre-rev­olu­tion­ary period”], develop centrist tendencies which will lead a whole stage of the radicalization of the masses and of the objective rev­olu­tion­ary processes….”

(Pablo, Report to the 10th Plenum of the Inter­na­tional Executive Committee, February 1952)

“Caught between the imperialist threat and the colonial rev­olu­tion, the Soviet bureauc­racy found itself obliged to ally with the second against the first…. The disintegration of Stalinism within these parties ought not to be understood…as an organ­iza­tional disintegration…or a public break with the Kremlin but as a progressive internal trans­for­ma­tion.”

(“The Rise and Decline of Stalinism,” Inter­na­tional Secretariat, September 1953)


With the capitu­la­tion of Germain, whose role in the preliminary conflicts over Pabloist policies is ambiguous but in whom the French appear to have placed some degree of confidence, the task of fighting Pabloism fell to the French PCI majority of Bleibtreu-Lambert and the American SWP. Despite a considerable body of mythology to the contrary, both the PCI and SWP vacillated when revisionism manifested itself at the head of the Fourth Inter­na­tional, balking only at applying it to their own sections. Both groups compromised themselves by uneasy acquiescence (combined in the case of the PCI with sporadic resistance) to Pablo’s policies until the suicidal organ­iza­tional consequences to their sections necessitated sharp fights. Both abdicated the responsibility to take the fight against revisionism into every body and every section of the Fourth Inter­na­tional and both retreated from the struggle by the foundation of the “Inter­na­tional Committee” on the basis of “the prin­ci­ples of orthodox Trotskyism.” The IC from its inception was only a paper international ten­dency consisting of those groups which had already had splits between pro-Pabloist and orthodox wings.

PCI Fights Pablo

The PCI majority, having been placed in receivership by the Inter­na­tional Secretariat (which had installed the Pablo-loyal minority led by Mestre and Frank as the lead­er­ship of the French section), continued to claim agreement with the line of the Third World Congress, arguing that Pablo and the IS and IEC were violating its decisions! According to the French, Pabloism “utilizes the confusions and con­tra­dic­tions of the World Congress—where it could not impose itself—in order to assert itself after the World Congress.” (undated “Declaration of the Bleibtreu-Lambert Tendency on the Agreements Concluded at the IEC,” March or April 1952)

An important letter dated 16 February 1952 from Renard on behalf of the PCI majority to Cannon appealed to the SWP. Renard’s letter claimed agreement with the Third World Congress, including its French Com­mis­sion, and contrasted the supposedly non-Pabloist World Congress (citing vague platitudes to dem­on­strate its presumably orthodox thrust) with Pablo’s subsequent actions and line in the IEC and IS. Renard asserted that “Pabloism did not win out at the Third World Congress.” (He wisely did not attempt to explain why his organ­iza­tion voted against the main Congress docu­ments!) The main argument of the letter is an appeal against the Pabloist inter­na­tional lead­er­ship’s inter­ven­tion into the French national section.

Cannon’s reply of 29 May accused the PCI majority of Stalinophobic oppor­tun­ism in the union move­ment (a bloc with progressive anti-com­mu­nists against the CP) and denied the existence of any such thing as Pabloism.

The PCI majority evidenced a clear under­stand­ing of the implications of the Pabloist entrism. In a polemic against minority theoretician Mestre the majority had written:

“If these ideas are correct, stop chattering about the tactic of entrism, even entrism sui generis, and pose clearly our new tasks: that of a more consistent ten­dency, not even a left oppo­si­tion…whose role is to aid Stalinism to overcome its hesitation and to pose under the best conditions the decisive clash with the bour­geoi­sie…. If Stalinism has changed…[it means that] it no longer reflects the particular interests of a bureau­cratic caste whose very existence depends on the unstable equilibrium between classes, that it is no longer bonapartist, but that it reflects solely…the defense of the workers state. That such a trans­for­ma­tion should be produced without the inter­ven­tion of the Soviet pro­le­tar­iat…but on the contrary by an evolution of the bureauc­racy itself…would lead us not merely to revise the Transitional Program [but] all the works of Leon Trotsky since 1923 and the foundation of the Fourth Inter­na­tional.”

(“First Reflections of Zig Zag,” PCI Internal Bulletin No. 2, February 1952)

But the PCI majority, not unlike the SWP, dem­on­strated a failure of concrete inter­na­tionalism when faced with the prospect of all alone carrying through the fight against Pabloism.

On 3 June 1952 the PCI majority asked for recognition of two French sections of the Fourth Inter­na­tional, thus permitting the PCI majority to carry out its own policies in France. This was in clear violation of the founding statutes of the Fourth Inter­na­tional and meant the liquidation of the Inter­na­tional as a disciplined world body. What was required was an inter­na­tional faction fight over the political line of the Fourth Inter­na­tional. But the PCI majority was unwilling to subordinate work in France to the crucial fight for the legitimacy and continuity of the Fourth Inter­na­tional. Pablo’s refusal to accede to this demand led directly to the split of the PCI majority.

SWP Enters the Struggle

The SWP only joined the fight against revi­sion­ism when a pro-Pabloist ten­dency, the Clarke wing of the Cochran-Clarke faction, manifested itself within the American party. In his reply to Renard dated 29 May 1952 Cannon had said:

“We do not see [“any kind of pro-Stalinist ten­dency”] in the Inter­na­tional lead­er­ship of the Fourth Inter­na­tional nor any sign nor symptom of it. We do not see any revisionism [in the docu­ments]…we consider these docu­ments to be completely Trotskyist…. It is the unanimous opinion of the leading people in the SWP that the authors of these docu­ments have rendered a great service to the move­ment.”

The story that the SWP had prepared some amendments to the Third World Congress docu­ments which Clarke (SWP representative to the Inter­na­tional) had burned instead of presenting is quite possibly true but not very significant, in view of Cannon’s declaration of political allegiance to Pablo when it counted, in refusing to solidarize with the anti-Pabloist PCI majority.

Against Cochran-Clarke’s advocacy of an orien­ta­tion toward the CP fellow-travellers, the SWP majority affirmed support to the Pabloist CP entrism tactic in general but insisted on a kind of American exceptionalism, contrasting the mass European parties with the pathetic American CP milieu, lacking a working-class base and peopled with shoddy third-rate intellectuals.

In response to the Cochran-Clarke threat, Cannon set about forming a faction in the SWP aided by the Weiss lead­er­ship in Los Angeles. Cannon sought to line up the old party cadre around the ques­tion of conciliation to Stalinism and appealed to the party trade unionists like Dunne and Swabeck by drawing an analogy between the need for factional struggle within the party and the struggle within the class against the reformists and sellouts as parallel processes of factional struggle against alien ideology. He told the May 1953 SWP Plenum:

“During the course of the past year, I had serious doubts of the ability of the SWP to survive…. I thought that our 25 year effort…had ended in catastrophic failure, and that, once again, a small handful would have to pick up the pieces and start all over again to build the new cadre of another party on the old foundations.”

(Closing speech, 30 May)

But Cannon chose another road. Instead of pursuing the necessary struggle wherever it might lead, Cannon made a bloc with the Dobbs-Kerry-Hansen apparatus over the organ­iza­tionally liq­ui­da­tion­ist implications of the Cochran-Clarke line. In return for their support Cannon promised the routinist, conservative Dobbs administration total control of the SWP with no further interference from him (“a new regime in the party”).

The SWP’s response to finding the dispute in the Inter­na­tional reflecting itself inside the American section was to deepen its isolationism into virulent anti-inter­na­tionalism. Cannon’s speech to the SWP majority caucus on 18 May 1953 stated, “We don’t consider ourselves an American branch office of an inter­na­tional business firm that receives orders from the boss” and extolled discussion in which “we work out, if possible [!], a common line.” Cannon denied the legitimacy of an inter­na­tional lead­er­ship and referred to “a few people in Paris.” He contrasted the Fourth Inter­na­tional with Lenin’s Comintern, which had state power and a lead­er­ship whose authority was widely recognized, and thus denied that the contemporary Fourth Inter­na­tional could be a dem­ocratic centralist body.

Cannon belatedly took exception to Pablo’s conduct against the French majority, but only over the organ­iza­tional ques­tion in keeping with the proposition that the Inter­na­tional lead­er­ship should not intervene in the affairs of national sections. He wrote:

“…we were flabbergasted at the tactics used in the recent French conflict and split, and at the inconceivable organ­iza­tional precedent established there. That is why I delayed my answer to Renard so long. I wanted to help the IS politically, but I didn’t see how I could sanction the organ­iza­tional steps taken against the majority of an elected lead­er­ship. I finally resolved the problem by just ignoring that part of Renard’s letter.”

(“Letter to Tom,” 4 June 1953)

The “Letter to Tom” also reiterated the position that the Third World Congress was not revisionist.

The crucial defects in the anti-Pabloist struggle of the PCI and SWP were duly utilized by the Pabloists. The 14th IEC Plenum took Cannon to task for his concept of the Inter­na­tional as a “federative union.” It noted that the SWP had never opposed the Pabloist entrism policy in prin­ci­ple and accused the SWP-PCI of an unprin­ci­pled bloc on China. Seizing on the SWP’s one-sided orthodoxy (Hansen’s defense of an SWP majorityite’s formulation that Stalinism is “counter-revolutionary through and through”—a char­ac­ter­iza­tion which fits only the CIA!) the Pabloists were able to cloak their liquidation of an independent Trotskyist program with pious reaffir­ma­tions of the con­tra­dic­tions of Stalinism as a counter-revolutionary caste resting atop the property forms established by the October Revolution.

IC Formed

Following the Cochran-Clarke split, the SWP pre­cipitously broke publicly with Pablo. On 16 November 1953 The Militant carried “A Letter to Trotskyists Throughout the World” which denounced Cochran-Clarke and Pablo and belatedly solidarized with the “unjustly expelled” PCI majority. The SWP’s previous char­ac­ter­iza­tions of the Third World Congress as “completely Trotskyist” necessitated an attempt in this so-called “Open Letter” to locate the emergence of Pabloism after the Congress, which doomed the SWP to present a somewhat unconvincing case leaning heavily on a leaflet or two of the Pabloist French minority from 1952. At about the same time the SWP produced “Against Pabloite Revisionism” dated November 1953, which contained a more competent analysis of Pablo’s liq­ui­da­tion­ist accom­mo­da­tion to Stalinism:

“The conception that a mass Com­mu­nist Party will take the road to power if only sufficient mass pressure is brought to bear is false. It shifts the responsibility for rev­olu­tion­ary setbacks from the lead­er­ship to the mass….”

“The working class is transformed [by Pablo’s theories] into a pressure group, and the Trotskyists into a pressure grouping along with it which pushes a section of the bureauc­racy toward the rev­olu­tion. In this way, the bureauc­racy is transformed from a block and a betrayer of the rev­olu­tion into an auxiliary motor force of it.”

In 1954 the “Inter­na­tional Committee” was formed. It included the French PCI majority, the American SWP (fraternal) and the Healy (Burns) grouping in England. The latter did not play any significant or independent role in the fight against revisionism. The Healy-Lawrence split from the disintegrating Rev­olu­tion­ary Com­mu­nist Party after the war, impelled by the Healy-Lawrence faction’s deep entrist per­spec­tive toward the British Labour Party, had been backed by Pablo’s Inter­na­tional Secretariat, which recognized two sections in Britain and gave them equal representation on the IEC. Healy was Cannon’s “man” in England and had been consistently supported by the SWP in disputes within the RCP. When the SWP broke from Pablo, the Healy-Lawrence faction split, Healy aligning with the SWP and Lawrence with Pablo (Lawrence later went over to Stalinism as did the PCI minority’s Mestre). Despite being part of the new anti-Pabloist inter­na­tional bloc, the Healy group continued its arch-Pabloist Labour Party oppor­tun­ism. It had no weight in the IC bloc until its recruitment of an impressive layer of CP intel­lec­tuals and trade unionists (most of whom it later lost) following the 1956 Hungarian revolution made it considerably more substantial in the British left.

The IC also claimed the adherence of the Chinese (emigre) section, which had already undergone a split, and the small Swiss section.

The IC managed to produce a couple of internal bulletins in early 1954 but never met as a real inter­na­tional body, nor was a centralized lead­er­ship ever elected. The tactic adopted by the SWP was to boycott the Fourth World Congress, as merely a meeting of Pablo’s faction having no legitimacy as the Fourth Inter­na­tional.

The world move­ment paid a high price for this evasion. To cite only one example: Ceylon. The Ceylonese LSSP took a non-factional position on Pabloism, appealing to the SWP not to split and to attend the Fourth Congress. A hard fight should have been aggressively pushed toward the passive Ceylonese doubtists, forcing a polarization and forging a hard cadre in the struggle. Instead the Ceylonese drifted along with Pablo. Some seven years later, the rev­olu­tion­ary reputation of Trotskyism was besmirched in the eyes of militants throughout the world by the LSSP’s entry into the bourgeois Ceylonese coalition government, pre­cipi­tat­ing a last-minute split by the inter­na­tional Pabloist lead­er­ship. Had a hard prin­ci­pled anti-revisionist fight been waged in the Ceylon section in 1953, a hard rev­olu­tion­ary organ­iza­tion with an independent claim to Trotskyist continuity might have been created then, preventing the association of the name of Trotskyism with the fundamental betrayal of the LSSP.

Thus the anti-revisionist fight was deliberately not carried to the world move­ment, the IC consisting mainly of those groups which had already had their splits over the application of Pabloist policies in their own countries, and the struggle to defeat revisionism and reconstruct the Fourth Inter­na­tional on the basis of authentic Trotskyism was aborted.

From Flirtation to Consummation

In 1957 Pablo’s Inter­na­tional Secretariat and the SWP flirted with possible reunification (the Hansen-Kolpe correspondence). The basis at that time was formal orthodoxy—the similarity of line between the IS and SWP in response to the 1956 Hungarian revolution. The SWP, perhaps naively expecting a repetition of Clarke’s 1953 position on the possibility of self-liquidation of the Stalinist bureaucracies, tended to accept the IS’s formally Trotskyist conclusions over Hungary as good coin. These early reunification overtures came to naught because of the oppo­si­tion of the British and French IC groups, as well as Cannon’s suspicions that Pablo was maneuvering. The issue was posed in a defective way—simply apparent empirical agree­ment without an examination of past dif­fer­ences and present motion.

When the ques­tion of reunification, con­sum­mated in 1963 with the formation of the United Secretariat, came up again, the entire political terrain had shifted. The IS and the SWP found themselves in agreement over Cuba. But the basis was no longer an apparent convergence on orthodoxy, but the SWP’s abandonment of Trotskyism to embrace Pabloist revisionism (which the SWP in its class-collaborationist line on the Vietnamese war has now transcended on the path to outright reformism).

The basis for the 1963 reunification was a docu­ment titled “For Early Reunification of the World Trotskyist Movement—Statement by the Political Committee of the SWP,” 1 March 1963. The key new line was section 13:

“Along the road of a rev­olu­tion beginning with simple dem­ocratic demands and ending in the rupture of capitalist property relations, guerilla warfare conducted by landless peasant and semi-pro­le­tar­ian forces, under a lead­er­ship that becomes committed to carrying the rev­olu­tion through to a conclusion, can play a decisive role in undermining and pre­cipi­tat­ing the downfall of a colonial and semi-colonial power. This is one of the main lessons to be drawn from experience since the Second World War. It must be consciously incorporated into the strategy of building rev­olu­tion­ary Marxist parties in colonial countries.”

In “Toward Rebirth of the Fourth Inter­na­tional,” 12 June 1963, the Spartacist ten­dency coun­ter­posed:

“Experience since the Second World War has dem­on­strated that peasant-based guerilla warfare under petit-bourgeois lead­er­ship can in itself lead to nothing more than an anti-working-class bureau­cratic regime. The creation of such regimes has come about under the conditions of decay of impe­ri­al­ism, the demoralization and disorien­ta­tion caused by Stalinist betrayals, and the absence of rev­olu­tion­ary Marxist lead­er­ship of the working class. Colonial rev­olu­tion can have an unequivo­cally progressive rev­olu­tion­ary sig­nifi­cance only under such lead­er­ship of the rev­olu­tion­ary pro­le­tar­iat. For Trotskyists to incorporate into their strategy revisionism on the pro­le­tar­ian lead­er­ship in the rev­olu­tion is a profound negation of Marxism-Leninism no matter what pious wish may be concurrently expressed for ‘building rev­olu­tion­ary Marxist parties in colonial countries.’ Marxists must resolutely oppose any adventurist acceptance of the peasant-guerilla road to socialism--historically akin to the Social Rev­olu­tion­ary pro­gram on tactics that Lenin fought. This alter­na­tive would be a suicidal course for the socialist goals of the move­ment, and perhaps physically for the adventurers.”

Ironically, the SWP’s further rightist evolution leads it to now repudiate the basic line of section 13, from the other side—the U.Sec.’s advocacy of petty-bourgeois armed struggle is far too adventurous for the legalistic SWP which aims to become the mass party of American reformism.

Spartacist and the Fourth Inter­na­tional

In his struggle to found the Fourth Inter­na­tional, Trotsky repeatedly underscored the imperative need for rev­olu­tion­ary organ­iza­tion on an inter­na­tional basis. Prolonged national isolation within one country must ultimately disorient, deform and destroy any rev­olu­tion­ary grouping no matter how subjectively steadfast. Only a prin­ci­pled and disciplined inter­na­tional collaboration can provide a coun­ter­balance to the fierce pressures toward insularity and social chauvinism generated by the bour­geoi­sie and its ideological agents within the working-class move­ment. As Trotsky recognized, those who deny the need for a programmatically founded dem­ocratic centralist world party deny the Leninist concept of the vanguard party itself. The destruction of the Fourth Inter­na­tional by Pabloist revisionism, paralleled by organ­iza­tional fracturing into numerous competing inter­na­tional blocs, necessitates unre­mit­ting struggle for its rebirth.

In our ten year history, the Spartacist ten­dency has faced and resisted powerful objective pressures toward abandonment of an inter­na­tionalist per­spec­tive. Cut off from the possibility of disciplined inter­na­tional ties as a result of the organ­iza­tional sec­tar­ian­ism and subsequent political degeneration of Gerry Healy’s Inter­na­tional Committee, the Spartacist League has refused to passively acquiesce to the national isolation forced upon us. We have emphatically rejected the ersatz “inter­na­tionalism” which achieves its inter­na­tional connections at the price of a federalist non-aggression pact thus renouncing in advance the struggle for disciplined inter­na­tional organ­iza­tion. We have sought to develop fraternal ties with groupings in other countries as part of a process of clarification and polarization. Our aim is the crys­tal­li­za­tion of a cohesive dem­ocratic centralist inter­na­tional ten­dency based on prin­ci­pled programmatic unity, the embryo of a reborn Fourth Inter­na­tional.

The current cracking of the several inter­na­tional “Trotskyist” blocs now provides heightened oppor­tu­nity for the Spartacist ten­dency to intervene in the world move­ment. Our history and program can serve as a guide for currents now in motion towards authentic Trotskyism, because despite involuntary national isolation for a time, we upheld our inter­na­tionalist determination and continued to wage a prin­ci­pled fight against revisionism.

The shattering of the revi­sion­ists’ and centrists’ pretensions to inter­na­tional organ­iza­tion—the reve­la­tion that the United Sec­re­tar­iat, the Inter­na­tional Committee, etc. have been nothing more than federated rotten blocs—combined with the world­wide renewal of pro­le­tar­ian combativeness in a context of sharpened inter-imperialist rivalry and intensified deep-seated capitalist crisis, provide an unprece­dented objective oppor­tu­nity for the crys­tal­li­za­tion and development of the Spartacist ten­dency inter­na­tionally. As the political corpses of the revi­sion­ist blocs continue to decay, the Fourth Inter­na­tional, world party of socialist rev­olu­tion, must be reborn.


The American Socialist Workers Party and the European Pabloists travelled at different rates along different paths to revisionism, to converge in uneasy alliance in the early 1960’s in an unprin­ci­pled “reunification,” which has now broken down as the American SWP has completed the transition from Pabloist centrism to outright reformism. The “United Secretariat” which issued out of the 1963 “reunification” teeters on the edge of an open split; the “anti-revisionist” “Inter­na­tional Committee” fractured last year. The collapse of the various competing pretenders to the mantle of the Fourth Inter­na­tional provides a crucial oppor­tu­nity for the reemergence of an authentic Trotskyist inter­na­tional ten­dency. Key to the task of reconstructing the Fourth Inter­na­tional through a process of splits and fusions is an under­stand­ing of the characteristics and causes of Pabloist revisionism and the flawed response of the anti-Pabloists who fought, too little and too late, on national terrain while in practice abandoning the world move­ment.

World War II: U.S. and France

Before the onset of the war, Trotsky and the Fourth Inter­na­tional had believed that decaying cap­ital­ism and the rise of fascism removed the possibility for reformism and therefore for bourgeois-dem­ocratic illusions among the masses. Yet they could not but become increasingly aware that the revulsion of the working class against fascism and the threat of fascist occupation gave rise to social chauvinism and a renewal of confidence in the “dem­ocratic” bour­geoi­sie permeating the pro­le­tar­ian masses throughout Europe and the U.S. Faced with such a con­tra­dic­tion, the powerful pressures of nationalist backwardness and dem­ocratic illusions in the working class tended to pull the sections of the Fourth Inter­na­tional apart, some adopting a sectarian stance, others capitu­lat­ing to the social patriotism which was rampant among the masses. The SWP briefly adopted the “Proletarian Military Policy” which called for military training under trade union control, implicitly posing the utopian idea that U.S. workers could fight German fascism without the existence of a workers state in the U.S., through “controlling” U.S. impe­ri­al­ism’s army. British Trotskyist Ted Grant went even further, in one speech referring to British impe­ri­al­ism’s armed forces as “our Eighth Army.” The German IKD returned to outright Menshevism with the theory that fascism had brought about the need for “an intermediate stage fundamentally equivalent to a dem­ocratic rev­olu­tion.” (“Three Theses,” 19 October 1941)

The French Trotskyist move­ment, fragmented during the course of the war, was the best example of the con­tra­dic­tion. One of its fragments subordinated the mobilization of the working class to the political appetites of the Gaullist wing of the imperialist bour­geoi­sie; another grouping renounced any struggle within the resistance move­ment in favor of work exclusively at the point of production and, not recognizing the existing level of reformist con­scious­ness among the workers, adventurously attempted to seize the factories during the “liberation” of Paris while the working masses were out on the streets. The February 1944 European Conference docu­ment which was the basis for a fusion between two French groupings to form the Parti Com­mu­niste Inter­na­tionaliste char­ac­ter­ized the two groups:

“Instead of distinguishing between the nationalism of the defeated bour­geoi­sie which remains an expression of its imperialist preoccupations, and the ‘nationalism’ of the masses which is only a reac­tion­ary expression of their resistance against exploi­ta­tion by the occupying impe­ri­al­ism, the lead­er­ship of the POI considered as progressive the struggle of its own bour­geoi­sie….”

“the CCI…under the pretext of guarding intact the heritage of Marxism-Leninism, refused obstinately to distinguish the nationalism of the bour­geoi­sie from the resistance move­ment of the masses.”


European Trotskyism and American Trotskyism responded in initially different ways to different tasks and problems following World War II. The precarious inter­na­tionalism of the American SWP, maintained through intimate collaboration with Trotsky during his exile in Mexico, did not survive the assassination of Trotsky in 1940 and the onset of world war. The American Trotskyists retreated into an isolation only partially forced upon them by the disintegration of the European sections under conditions of fascist triumph and illegalization.

Anticipating the difficulties of inter­na­tional coor­di­na­tion during the war, a resident Inter­na­tional Executive Committee had been set up in New York. Its only notable achievement, however, appears to have been the convening of an “Emergency Conference” of the Inter­na­tional, held 19-26 May 1940 “somewhere in the Western Hemisphere,” “on the initiative of its U.S., Mexican and Canadian sections.” A rump conference attended by less than half of the sections, the “Emergency Conference” was called for the purpose of dealing with the inter­na­tional ramifications of the Shachtman split in the U.S. section, which had resulted in the defection of a majority of the resident IEC. The meeting solidarized with the SWP in the faction fight and reaffirmed its status as the one U.S. section of the Fourth Inter­na­tional. The conference also adopted a “Manifesto of the Fourth Inter­na­tional on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution” written by Trotsky. Following Trotsky’s death, however, the resident IEC lapsed into oblivion.

At least in hindsight, the American section of the Fourth Inter­na­tional should have initiated a clandestine secretariat in a neutral country in Europe, staffed by qualified SWPers and emigres from other sections, to centralize and directly supervise the work of Trotskyists in fascist-occupied countries. But the SWP was content to limit its inter­na­tional activities during the war to the publication in its internal bulletins of letters and factional docu­ments from European Trotskyists. The passage of the Voorhis Act in 1941 inhibiting U.S. groups from affiliation with inter­na­tional political organ­iza­tions—a law which to this day has never been tested—also gave the SWP a rationalization for downplaying its inter­na­tional responsibilities.

The SWP’s work during the war did evidence an inter­na­tionalist per­spec­tive. SWP longshoremen used the oppor­tu­nity of ships from Vladivostok docking on the West Coast to clandestinely distribute Trotsky’s “Letter to Russian Workers” in Russian to the Soviet seamen. The SWP concentrated its merchant marine comrades on the supply runs to Murmansk until the extremely heavy casualties compelled the party to discontinue the Murmansk concentration. (It was in response to such activities that the GPU was directed to activate the Soblen anti-Trotskyist espionage net. Testimony years afterward revealed that Cannon’s telephone was tapped by the GPU and that the business manager of the SWP’s Fourth Inter­na­tional magazine, one “Michael Cort,” was one of the GPU agents.) But the maintenance and direction of the Fourth Inter­na­tional was part of the SWP’s inter­na­tionalist responsibility, and should have been a priority as urgent as the work which the SWP undertook on its own.

The lead­er­ship of the SWP came through the war period essentially intact, but reinforced in its insularity and ill-equipped theo­ret­ically to deal with the post-war situation.

During the later years of the war and the immediate post-war period, the SWP had registered some impressive successes in implanting its cadres in industry during the boom and in recruiting a new layer of pro­le­tar­ian militants drawn to the Trotskyists because of their oppo­si­tion to the Com­mu­nist Party’s policies of social patriotism and class peace.

Optimism and Orthodoxy

The SWP entered the post-war period with buoyant optimism about the prospects for pro­le­tar­ian rev­olu­tion. The 1946 SWP Convention and its res­olu­tion, “The Coming American Revolution,” projected the indefinite continuation of successes for the SWP. The isolationist per­spec­tive of the Party was in evidence at the Convention. The necessarily inter­na­tional character of crises and rev­olu­tions is recognized, but not the concomitant inter­na­tional character of the vanguard party. The res­olu­tion in effect makes excuses for the political backwardness of the U.S. working class while praising its militancy and presents the following syllogism: the decisive battles of the world rev­olu­tion will be fought in the advanced countries where the means of production are highly developed and the pro­le­tar­iat powerful—above all in the U.S.; therefore all that is necessary is to build the American rev­olu­tion and world cap­ital­ism will be overthrown. Profound impres­sion­ism led the SWP to see the world through the eyes of American cap­ital­ism which had emerged from the war as the unques­tioned pre-eminent capitalist world power.

The post-war stabilization of European cap­ital­ism, the emergence of the Stalinist parties as the dominant reformist workers parties in Europe, the expansion of Stalinism in Eastern Europe (apparently flying in the face of the Trotskyist analysis that Stalinism could only betray), the destruction of cap­ital­ism by peasant-based nationalist-Stalinist formations in Yugoslavia and China—all these developments posed new theoretical problems for the Trotskyist move­ment which the SWP, stripped of a layer of talented intellectuals by the petty-bourgeois Shachtman split and shortly thereafter deprived of Trotsky’s guidance, could not handle. The SWP’s immediate response was to retreat into a sterile “orthodoxy” stripped of real theoretical content, thus rendering its isolation more complete.

The 1950’s brought a new wave of spontaneous working-class struggles in West and East Europe, but to the SWP they brought the onset of the Cold War witchhunt: the Smith Act prosecutions of CPers and former CPers; the deadening of every aspect of social and intellectual life; the relentless purge of known “reds” and militants from the union move­ment, severing the SWP’s connection with the working-class move­ment which had taken years to build up; the dropping away of the whole layer of workers recruited to the SWP during the late 1940’s. The objective pressure to become a mere cheering section for European and colonial developments was strong but the SWP hung on to its verbal orthodox commitment to making the American rev­olu­tion.


The vulnerability of the European Trotskyist move­ment to revisionism hinged on the historic weaknesses of the European organ­iza­tions com­bined with the thorough shattering of their continuity to the earlier period. When Trotsky in 1934 launched the struggle to found the Fourth Inter­na­tional, the European working class, con­fronted with the decisive choice of socialism or barbarism, lacked a com­mu­nist lead­er­ship. The task facing the Fourth Inter­na­tionalists was clear: to mobilize the class against the threat of fascism and war, to amass the cadres for the world rev­olu­tion­ary party which would stand for pro­le­tar­ian inter­na­tionalism in the face of the march toward imperialist war and the social chauvinist capitu­la­tion of the Second and Third Inter­na­tionals. But Trotsky had noted the immense difficulty for the conscious vanguard to go forward in a period of crushing defeat for the class and the “terrible disproportion between the tasks and the means.” (“Fighting Against the Stream,” April 1939) The weakness of the European move­ment was exem­pli­fied by the French section, which was repeatedly criticized by Trotsky and whose petty-bourgeois “workerist” deviation and dilettantism were the subject of a special res­olu­tion at the founding conference of the Fourth Inter­na­tional in 1938.

“By its very nature opportunism is nation­al­istic, since it rests on the local and temporary needs of the pro­le­tar­iat and not on its historic tasks. Opportunists find inter­na­tional control intol­er­able and they reduce their inter­na­tional ties as much as possible to harmless formalities…on the proviso that each group does not hinder the others from conducting an opportunist policy to its own national task…. Inter­na­tional unity is not a decorative facade for us, but the very axis of our theo­ret­ical views and our policy. Meanwhile there are not a few ultra-Lefts… [who] carry on a semi-conscious struggle to split up the Com­mu­nist Opposition into independent national groups and to free them from inter­na­tional control.”

(Leon Trotsky, “The Defense of the Soviet Union
and the Opposition,” 7 September 1929)

“We stand not for democracy in general but for centralist democracy. It is precisely for this reason that we place national leader­ship above local leader­ship and inter­na­tional leader­ship above national leader­ship.”

(Leon Trotsky, “An Open Letter to All Members
of the Leninbund,” 6 February 1930)

The Fourth Inter­na­tional geared itself up for the decisive struggle against fascism and war—and lost. During the course of the war and the Nazi occupations the very rudiments of inter­na­tional, and even national, coor­di­na­tion were destroyed. The Inter­na­tional disintegrated into small groups of militants pursuing improvised policies: some opportunist, some heroic. The 65 French and German comrades who were shot by the Gestapo in July 1943 because of their rev­olu­tion­ary defeatist fraternization and the building of a Trotskyist cell in the German armed forces are a monument to the inter­na­tionalist courage of a weak rev­olu­tion­ary move­ment fighting against insurmountable odds.

Trotskyist Cadres Decimated

In August 1943 an attempt was made to reestablish the rudiments of organ­iza­tion in Europe. The European Secretariat set up at this meeting in Belgium included exactly one surviving member of the pre-war lead­er­ship and largely as a result of the nonexistence of tested cadres, Michel Pablo (Raptis), a skilled clandestine organizer not known for ability as a political leader or theoretician, emerged as the head of the Inter­na­tional. When in June 1945 a European Executive Committee met to prepare for the holding of a World Congress, the experienced leading cadres and the most promising of the young Trotskyists (A. Leon, L. Lesoil, W. Held) had been killed at the hands of the Nazis or the GPU. The continuity of Trotskyism in Europe had been broken. This tragic process was duplicated elsewhere with the imprisonment and eventual execution of Ta Thu-tau and the Vietnamese Trotskyists, the virtual extinction of the Chinese Trotskyists and the liquidation of the remaining Russian Trotskyists (including, besides Trotsky, Ignace Reiss, Rudolf Klement and Leon Sedov). The Europeans were apparently so starved for experienced leading cadres that Pierre Frank (leading member of the Molinier group which Trotsky denounced as “demoralized centrists” in 1935 and expelled in 1938 for refusing to break with the French social-democracy after the “French Turn”) was enabled to become a leader of the post-war French section.

At this crucial juncture the inter­ven­tion and lead­er­ship of a truly inter­na­tionalist American Trotskyist party might have made a great difference. But the SWP, which should have assumed lead­er­ship in the Inter­na­tional throughout the war years, was sunk in its own national preoccupations. Cannon noted later that the SWP lead­er­ship had deliberately built up Pablo’s authority, even going “so far as to soft-pedal a lot of our differences” (June 1953). The urgent responsibility of the SWP, which whatever its deficiencies was the strongest and most experienced Trotskyist organ­iza­tion, was precisely the opposite.


The immediate task facing the Trotskyists after the war was to reorient its cadres and reassess the situation of the vanguard and the class in light of previous projections. The Trotskyists’ expectations of tottering West European capitalist regimes and the renewal of violent class struggle throughout Europe, and especially in Germany where the collapse of Nazi state power left a vacuum, had been con­firmed. However the reformists, particularly the Stalinist parties, reasserted themselves to contain the spontaneous working-class upsurges. Control of the French working class through the CGT passed from the social democracy (SFIO) which had controlled the CGT before the war to the French Stalinists. Thus despite the manifest rev­olu­tion­ary spirit of the European working class and the great waves of general strikes, especially in France, Belgium, Greece and Italy, throughout West Europe, the pro­le­tar­iat did not take power and the Stalinist apparatus emerged with new strength and solidity.

The Fourth Inter­na­tional responded by falling back on sterile orthodoxy and stubborn refusal to believe that these struggles had been defeated for the immediate period:

“Under these conditions partial de­feats… tem­po­rary periods of retreat…do not demoralize the pro­le­tar­iat…. The repeated dem­on­stra­tion by the bour­geoi­sie of its inability to restabilize an eco­nomy and political regime of the slightest stability offers the workers new oppor­tu­nities to go over to even higher stages of struggle.

“The swelling of the ranks of the traditional organ­iza­tions in Europe, above all the Stalinist parties…has reached its peak almost everywhere. The phase of decline is beginning.”

(European Executive Committee, April 1946)

Right-opportunist critics in the Trotskyist move­ment (the German IKD, the SWP’s Goldman-Morrow faction) were correct in noting the over-optimism of such an analysis and in pointing out that the traditional reformist lead­er­ships of the working class are always the first inheritors of a renewal of militancy and struggle. Their “solution,” however, was to argue for a limitation of the Trotskyist program to bourgeois-dem­ocratic demands, and such measures as critical support to the post-war French bourgeois Constitution. Their advocacy of an entrist policy toward the European reformist parties was dismissed out of hand by the majority, which expected the workers to more or less spontaneously regroup under the Trotskyist banner. This attitude prepared the way for a sharp reversal on the entrism ques­tion when the implicit position of ignoring the reformists’ influence could no longer be maintained.

The Fourth Inter­na­tional’s immediate post-war per­spec­tive was summed up by Ernest Germain (Mandel) in an article called “The First Phase of the European Revolution” (Fourth Inter­na­tional, August 1946). The title already implies the outlook: “the rev­olu­tion” was implicitly redefined as a metaphysical process enduring continuously and progressing inevitably toward victory, rather than a sharp and necessarily time-limited confrontation over the ques­tion of state power, the outcome of which will shape the entire subsequent period.


The later, Pabloist, capitu­la­tion to Stalinism was prepared by impressionistic overstatement of its opposite: Stalinophobia. In November 1947 Pablo’s Inter­na­tional Secretariat wrote that the Soviet Union had become:

“a workers state degenerated to the point where all progressive manifestations of the remains of the October conquest are more and more neutralized by the disastrous effects of the Stalinist dic­ta­tor­ship.”

“What remains of the conquests of October is more and more losing its historic value as a premise for socialist development.”

“…from the Russian occupation forces or from pro-Stalinist governments, which are completely reac­tion­ary, we do not demand the expropriation of the bour­geoi­sie….”

Within the SWP, the rumor circulated that Cannon was flirting with the char­ac­ter­iza­tion that the Soviet Union had become a totally degenerated workers state, i.e., a “state capitalist” regime—a position which Natalia Trotsky shortly embraced.

On the ques­tion of the Stalinist expansion into East Europe, the Fourth Inter­na­tional was united in simple-minded orthodoxy. An extensive discussion of “The Kremlin in Eastern Europe” (Fourth Inter­na­tional, November 1946) by E. R. Frank (Bert Cochran) was shrill in anti-Stalinist tone and tended toward the view that the countries occupied by the Red Army would be deliberately maintained as capitalist states. A polemic against Shachtman by Germain dated 15 November 1946 was still more categorical: the theory of “a degenerated workers state being installed in a country where there has not yet previously been a pro­le­tar­ian rev­olu­tion” is dismissed, simply, as “absurd.” And Germain rhetorically queries, “Does [Shachtman] really think that the Stalinist bureauc­racy has succeeded in overthrowing cap­ital­ism in half of our continent?” (Fourth Inter­na­tional, February 1947)

The methodology here is the same as that pursued, more cynically, by the “Inter­na­tional Committee” in later years over the ques­tion of Cuba (perplexed? then deny reality!) with the difference that the class character of East Europe, with capitalist economic institutions but the state power held by the occupying army of a degenerated workers state, was far more difficult to understand. Empiricists and renegades, of course, had no difficulty in char­ac­ter­izing the East European states:

“Everyone knows that in the countries where the Stalinists have taken power they have proceeded, at one or another rate of speed, to establish exactly the same economic, political, social regime as exists in Russia. Everyone knows that the bour­geoi­sie has been or is rapidly being expropriated, deprived of all its economic power, and in many cases deprived of mortal existence…. Everyone knows that what remnants of cap­ital­ism remain in those countries will not even be remnants tomorrow, that the whole ten­dency is to establish a social system identical with that of Stalinist Russia.”

(Max Shachtman, “The Congress of the Fourth Inter­na­tional,” October 1948 New Inter­na­tional)

Excruciating as this ridicule must have been for them, however, the orthodox Trotskyists were trapped in their analysis because they could not construct a theory to explain the East Europe trans­for­ma­tion without embracing non-rev­olu­tion­ary conclusions.

Germain, as was typical for him in those years, at least posed the theoretical dilemma clearly: is the Trotskyist under­stand­ing of Stalinism correct if Stalinism shows itself willing in some cases to accomplish any sort of anti-capitalist social trans­for­ma­tion? Clinging to orthodoxy, the Trotskyists had lost a real grasp of theory and suppressed part of Trotsky’s dia­lec­ti­cal under­stand­ing of Stalinism as a parasitic and counter-revolutionary caste sitting atop the gains of the October Revolution, a kind of treacherous middle-man poised between the victorious Russian pro­le­tar­iat and world impe­ri­al­ism. Having thus reduced dia­lec­ti­cal materialism to static dogma, their disorien­ta­tion was complete when it became necessary to answer Germain’s ques­tion in the affirmative, and the way was prepared for Pabloist revisionism to leap into the theoretical void.

Fourth Inter­na­tional Flirts with Tito

Virtually without exception the Fourth Inter­na­tional was disoriented by the Yugoslav rev­olu­tion. After some twenty years of Stalinist monolithism, the Trotskyists were perhaps ill-disposed to scrutinize the anti-Stalin Yugoslav CP too carefully. The Yugoslav Titoists were described as “comrades” and “left centrists,” and Yugoslavia as “a workers state established by a pro­le­tar­ian rev­olu­tion.” In one of several “Open Letters” to Tito, the SWP wrote: “The confidence of the masses in it [“your party”] will grow enormously and it will become the effective collective expression of the interests and desires of the pro­le­tar­iat of its country.” The Yugoslav rev­olu­tion posed a new problem (later recapitulated by the Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese experiences): unlike East Europe, where the social trans­for­ma­tions were accomplished by the army of a foreign degenerated workers state, the Yugoslav rev­olu­tion was clearly an indigenous social rev­olu­tion which, without the inter­ven­tion of the working class or the direction of a Trotskyist party, succeeded in establishing a (deformed) workers state. The Fourth Inter­na­tional avoided the theoretical problem by dubbing the rev­olu­tion “pro­le­tar­ian” and the Titoists “left centrists.” (The SWP avoided the ques­tion of China by refusing to unambiguously characterize the Maoist regime as a deformed workers state until 1955. As late as 1954 two articles by the Phillips ten­dency, char­ac­ter­izing China as state capitalist, were published in the SWP’s Fourth Inter­na­tional.)

Again orthodoxy is maintained but robbed of its content. The impulse, resisted until Pablo was to give it consistent expression, was that the ability of non-pro­le­tar­ian, non-Trotskyist forces to accomplish any form of social overturn robbed the Fourth Inter­na­tional of its reason for existence. The crucial qualitative distinction between a workers state and a deformed workers state—demarcated in blood in the need for political rev­olu­tion to open the road to socialist development and the extension of the rev­olu­tion abroad—had been lost.


The numerically weak, socially isolated, theo­ret­ically unarmed and inexperienced cadres of the post-war Fourth Inter­na­tional were easy prey for disorien­ta­tion and impatience in a situation of repeated pre-rev­olu­tion­ary upsurges whose course they could not influence. Beginning in early 1951 a new revisionism, Pabloism, began to assert itself, responding to the frustrating objective situation by posing an ersatz way out of the isolation of the Fourth Inter­na­tional from the main motion of the working class. Pabloism was the generalization of this impulse in a revisionist body of theory offering impressionistic answers which were more consistent than the one-sided orthodoxy of the early post-war Fourth Inter­na­tional.

It is crucial that the organ­iza­tional weakness, lack of deep roots in the pro­le­tar­iat and theoretical incapacity and disorien­ta­tion which were the precondition for the revisionist degeneration of the Fourth Inter­na­tional not be simply equated with the consolidation and victory of that revisionism. Despite grave political errors, the Fourth Inter­na­tional in the immediate post-war period was still rev­olu­tion­ary. The SWP and the Inter­na­tional clung to sterile orthodoxy as a talisman to ward off non-rev­olu­tion­ary conclusions from world events which they could no longer comprehend. History had dem­on­strated that at crucial junctures rev­olu­tion­ary Marxists have been able to transcend an inadequate theory: Lenin before April 1917 was theo­ret­ically unequipped to project a pro­le­tar­ian rev­olu­tion in a backward country like Russia; Trotsky until 1933 had equated the Russian Thermidor with a return to cap­ital­ism. Pabloism was more than a symmetrical false theory, more than simply an impressionistic over-reaction against orthodoxy; it was a theoretical jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a non-rev­olu­tion­ary impulse based on giving up a per­spec­tive for the construction of a pro­le­tar­ian vanguard in the advanced or the colonial countries.

In January 1951 Pablo ventured into the realm of theory with a docu­ment called “Where Are We Going?” Despite whole paragraphs of confused crackpotism and virtually meaningless bombast, the whole revisionist structure emerges:

“The relation of forces on the inter­na­tional chess-board is now evolving to the disadvantage of impe­ri­al­ism.

“An epoch of transition between cap­ital­ism and socialism, an epoch which has already begun and is quite advanced…. This trans­for­ma­tion will prob­ably take an entire period of several centuries and will in the meantime be filled with forms and regimes transitional between cap­ital­ism and socialism and necessarily deviating from ‘pure’ forms and norms.

“The objective process is in the final analysis the sole determining factor, overriding all obstacles of a subjective order.

“The Com­mu­nist Parties retain the possibility in certain circumstances of roughly outlining a rev­olu­tion­ary orien­ta­tion.”

Pablo’s elevation of the “objective process” to “the sole determining factor” reducing the subjective factor (the con­scious­ness and organ­iza­tion of the vanguard party) to irrelevance, the discussion of “several centuries” of “transition” (later char­ac­ter­ized by Pablo’s opponents as “centuries of deformed workers states”) and the suggestion that rev­olu­tion­ary lead­er­ship might be provided by the Stalinist parties rather than the Fourth Inter­na­tional—the whole analytic structure of Pabloist revisionism emerged.

In another docu­ment, “The Coming War,” Pablo put forward his policy of “entrism sui generis” (entrism of its own kind):

“In order to integrate ourselves into the real mass move­ment, to work and to remain in the masses’ trade unions for example, ‘ruses’ and ‘capitu­la­tions’ are not only acceptable but necessary.”

In essence, the Trotskyists were to abandon the per­spec­tive of short-term entrism whose purpose had always been to split the working-class organ­iza­tions on a hard programmatic basis as a tactic for building the Trotskyist party. The new entrist policy flowed directly from Pablo’s analysis. Since the asserted shift in the world relationship of forces in favor of the advance of the rev­olu­tion would compel the Stalinist parties to play a rev­olu­tion­ary role, it was only logical that the Trotskyists should be a part of such parties pursuing essentially a policy of pressuring the Stalinist apparatus.

All this should have exploded a bomb in the heads of the inter­na­tional Trotskyist cadres. Pablo was after all the head of the Inter­na­tional Sec­re­tar­iat, the resident political body of the Fourth Inter­na­tional! But there is little evidence of even alarm, let alone the formation of the inter­na­tional anti-revi­sion­ist faction which was required. One long docu­ment by Ernest Germain (“Ten Theses”), and perhaps some subterranean rumbling, did force Pablo to produce an attempt at orthodoxy on the ques­tion of the “transitional period” but no other literary notice was taken of Pablo’s most overt assault against the program of Trotskyism.