Fourth International & Trotskyism

Leon Trotsky Bundesarchiv500The struggle to uproot capitalism and plant the seeds of socialism has always been an international task. It is not out of sentimentality that Marx and Engels proclaimed “Workers of the world unite!” Capitalism is an international economic system and therefore the struggle against it must be international. While for all practical purposes, the workers must organize themselves at home as a class with their country as their immediate arena of struggle, the real ultimate context of the class struggle is international.

The history of the Fourth International was one of a struggle to keep the genuine international spirit of the working class struggle alive when Stalin and his bureaucratic clique were undermining it. While Stalin was preparing to dismantle the Third International and renouncing the struggle for world socialism, Leon Trotsky was building, under a very difficult situation, the Fourth International not only to defend the first proletarian revolution, the October Revolution, but also to spread it beyond its border.

The building of the Fourth International was also part of Trotsky’s effort to recruit and educate a new generation of genuine Bolsheviks who would be able to finish what the Russian Bolsheviks had started. What is important is not the apparatus but the ideas that the Fourth International sought to protect and pass on to the next generation.

— From Keeping the International alive: a history of the Fourth International

From May to August of 1934, Minneapolis was rocked by a strike that would forever change the course of U.S. labour history. This was the strike of Teamsters Local 574, a union led by Trotskyists. Many of the best techniques used by organised labour today find their origins in the Minneapolis Strike, in particular the flying picket. However, the strike's greatest conquest was in laying the foundations for industrial unionism in North America, leading to the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the following years. Above all, the Minneapolis Strike demonstrated the role played by the young forces of American Trotskyism in obtaining gains for workers.

It is a well-known fact that accident can play a considerable role in both history and the lives of individuals. In the course of my life I have observed many accidents and extraordinary coincidences. But I have never experienced such a unique and unforeseeable concatenation of circumstances as that which I am about to relate here.

"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."

The following are new translations of excerpts from Trois points c’est tout by Fred Zeller (1912-2003). Zeller, who, at the time, was the secretary of the Seine (Paris) Young Socialists and a sympathiser of the Trotskyist movement in the mid-1930s, visited Trotsky in Norway at the end of October 1935. This was at the time when the Socialist Party leaders were expelling the left from the Young Socialists as well as dissolving the Bolshevik Leninist tendency, whose members had joined the SFIO in late 1934.

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 publication in English of The Man Who Loved Dogs by the Cuban author, Leonardo Padura is a major literary and political event. I read this remarkable novel when it came out in Spanish and it made a profound impression on me. I had intended to write a review then, but was prevented from doing it by a combination of circumstances. With the greatest pleasure I will now rectify this omission.

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the brutal assassination of Leon Trotsky by a Stalinist agent. We commemorate this event by publishing the transcription of his address to the N.Y. Hippodrome Meeting. The speech "I Stake My Life!" was delivered by telephone from Mexico City for the opening event of the Dewey Commission on the Moscow Trials.

Today, 9th July, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ted Grant, the founder of the International Marxist Tendency. Rob Sewell, editor of the British Marxist paper Socialist Appeal, outlines the important role played by Ted in building the forces of Marxism during his lifetime and discusses the legacy of Ted for Marxists today.

This is a video recording of the book launch of Ted Grant: The Permanent Revolutionary. Alan Woods spoke and gave an account of Ted's struggle for and his contribution to the ideas of Marxism. In the speech he gives an account of the history of the 4th International and the role of the British Marxists, the rise of the Militant Tendency and its degeneration.

In the darkest days of the Italian labour movement in the early 1930s, shortly after Mussolini had consolidated his grip on power, and as many Italian Communists and Socialists languished in fascist prisons or were forced to live in exile, a small group of Communist Party members, including three Central Committee members, turned to Trotsky as they attempted to build an opposition to the Stalinist leadership of Togliatti. Here we publish five letters of Trotsky to the newly formed group.

Continuing the theme of Trotskyism and the Second World War, this volume covers the period 1943-45. The articles and documents contained within this book covers the period of the emergence of the WIL and the setting up of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Many documents are appearing in print for the first time since they were written.

Twenty years ago the powerful repressive Stalinist police states fell one after another under the pressure of mass upsurges. The collapse of Stalinism was a dramatic event and a turning point in world history. But in retrospect it will be seen as only the prelude to something even more dramatic: the death agony of world capitalism.

Trotsky, Lenin and Kamenev in 1919.

This article was originally written for an Indonesian audience, but we believe it is of value for all our readers. It points out the conditions in which the Fourth International came into being and its subsequent demise, but also points to the future when a new and powerful Marxist international organisation must be formed out of the revolutionary events that impend.

We present John Peterson's introduction to the newly published Ted Grant Selected Works Volume 2: The Work of Marxists in the Mass Organizations. Ted Grant’s writings on the mass organizations represent a deepening of our understanding of Bolshevik strategy and tactics when it comes to connecting the ideas of revolutionary Marxism with the working class, and Peterson's introduction concisely explains Ted's method and the history of the Marxist approach to the mass organizations.

The objective of this article is, on the one hand, to serve as an introduction to the reading of Trotsky's last writings, and on the other hand also to extract the principal lessons of the attempt to create a Fourth International. For reasons of space, we cannot go into a detailed analysis of the subsequent history of Trotskyism and we will therefore limit ourselves to give an overview of the main reasons for the decline of the Fourth International after the end of WW2.

This is the first volume of Ted Grant’s Writings. It covers the period from 1938 to 1942, when he was involved in building up the forces of Trotskyism in Britain. During the early years of the Second World War, Ted became editor of the Socialist Appeal and political secretary of the Workers’ International League. In this role Ted emerged as the principal theoretician of the British Trotskyist movement.

At a recent meeting of the International Marxist Tendency in Canada, Alex Grant, editor of Fightback magazine, speaks on the writings of Trotsky in the 1930's. This period, encompassing the Great Depression and mass revolutionary movements, is a goldmine of ideas for today's youth and working class activists. Grant gives an overview of the flavour of Trotsky's writings of the period in order to encourage further reading and study.

"We must not for a minute lose sight of the fact that the power of American capitalism rests more and more upon the foundation of the world economy, with its contradictions and its crises, military and revolutionary. This means that a social crisis in the United States may arrive a good deal sooner than many think, and have a feverish development from the start. Hence the conclusion: it is necessary to prepare." These words of Leon Trotsky seem written for today's situation!

This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Fourth International. The International was established by Leon Trotsky and his supporters in September 1938. As part of the commemoration of this event Rob Sewell draws out some of the key lessons and methods on which the Trotskyist movement was built during the 1930s. He also explains that while the Fourth International no longer exists in an organisational form, it continues for Marxists today in our theory, programme, method and approach.

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