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. 

"The development of the International Left Opposition is proceeding amidst sharp crises that cast the fainthearted and the short-sighted into pessimism. In reality these crises are completely unavoidable. One has only to read the correspondence of Marx and Engels attentively, or to preoccupy oneself seriously with the history of the development of the Bolshevik Party to realise how complicated, how difficult, how full of contradictions the process of developing revolutionary cadres is."

Ted Grant was a well-known figure in the international Marxist movement. He had a significant impact on British politics. When he died all the most important newspapers carried extensive obituaries that recognised this fact. This is a remarkable work that comprehensively covers the development of Ted's life and ideas, starting from his early family background in Johannesburg right up to his death in London in 2006 at the age of 93.

The media have just finished celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. We would like to remind our readers of an important event that took place around the same time, the Neath by-election on 15th May 1945. For the first time in Britain, a Trotskyist party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, contested a Parliamentary election. The seat was solid Labour, but the vote for the RCP was significant. Even more significant was the way the party was able to link up with the most advanced workers and youth.

In 1946 the perspectives of the then leadership of the Fourth International were that through “the combined economic, political and diplomatic pressure and the military threats of American and British imperialism” the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union could collapse. The complete opposite was the truth. Ted Grant, together with the leadership of the RCP, attempted to correct this mistaken prognosis. Here we provide the historical 1946 documentation.

We remember all those thousands of genuine Communists who perished in Stalin’s camps, butchered simply for defending the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. Old Bolsheviks like Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were forced to confess to crimes they had not committed. These famous victims were only the tip of the iceberg. Not remembered are the thousands of Trotskyists who languished in brutal concentration camps. They were brave and defiant to the end.

In 1946 the leaders of the Fourth International were predicting imminent revolutonary upheavals, when in reality capitalism was entering the biggest boom in its history. The leadership of the British Trotskyists, in particular Ted Grant, tried to convince the International that their perspective was false. History has proven Ted to be right. No one can doubt it, and we are proud to continue the tradition that he laid down of serious, meticulous analysis of the real processes taking place in society.

The resolution adopted by the International Pre-Conference of the Fourth International in April 1946, was permeated with the false perspective of the impending revolutionary crisis, the impossibility of a general economic recovery of capitalism and therefore it highlighted the excellent possibilities to develop the forces of the Fourth International. All this of course was false and eventually led to one crisis after another of the organization, and to its final collapse.

In January Wang Fanxi died in Leeds, England. He was one of the few remaining links to the early Chinese Trotskyist movement. It was after the defeat of the 1926 Chinese revolution that, together with hundreds of other members of the Chinese Communist Party, he began to question the policies of the leadership and joined Trotsky’s Left Opposition.

Ajit Roy, Speakers' Corner, 1942

Trotsky's struggle with Stalin was a life or death struggle. It was a struggle to defend the clean banner of Lenin against the growing bureaucratic reaction within the Soviet state and party. Rob Sewell examines the origins of Trotskyism in Britain.

This book by Ted Grant is a unique contribution to the history of British Trotskyism. It begins with the debate on Trotskyism in the British Communist Party in 1924 and ends with the break-up of the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1949 and the beginning of more than thirty years of work within the Labour Party. Ted Grant was the founder and political leader of the “Militant Tendency”, which haunted the Labour leadership, and was eventually expelled along with the Militant editorial board in 1983.

Much has changed since this document was first produced, and we have continually refined and updated our perspectives and analysis in subsequent books and articles.  However, the historical value of this document, especially those parts concerning the history of the internationals, the rise of proletarian Bonapartism, and the post-WWII period retain their full force and value.

This is a document, dictated in 1966, in defence of the basic tenets of Trotskyism. It was a reply to an Irish socialist, Brendan Clifford, who put the classic Stalinist position, using garbled and one-sided quotations from Lenin to show how Trotskyism was a 'counter-revolutionary trend' opposed to the ideas and methods of 'Leninism'.

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."