From Labor Action, December 16 1940
The utter collapse of the two old Internationals, even before the outbreak of the Second World War, has only been spectacularly emphasized since the war began.
Also emphasised, over again, is the burning need of reconstructing the world vanguard of the working class, of regrouping all the revolutionary Marxists who have remained true to their principles, and of organising them on the basis of the fundamental program of the Fourth International. Now, more than ever before, can it be said that without this program, the downward march of mankind into the abyss of barbarism will remain unhalted, its upward march to the new order of world socialism, of freedom, peace, abundance; security and brotherhood of the peoples will not be crowned with triumph.
Not since the last war has the spirit of nationalism been so prominently engendered in the minds of the people. Nationalism, chauvinism, defense of the fatherland are the indispensible weapons in the bourgeois artillery of the war. As always, the war is accompanied by a strict censorship resulting in severe interference in international contact.
But the war has also demonstrated the international character of modern economy and has demonstrated that the solution to the problems posed by the war and moribund capitalism is the International, the world revolution. If nationalism is the weapon of reactionary capitalism, internationalism is the weapon of socialism.
Not since the last war has the need for internationalism become so vital an instrument of the struggle against war and capitalism. Ours is the party of world revolution.
It is the task of the Party to demonstrate this, first by an internationalist attitude on the development of events, by active propaganda and agitation for the solidarity of all workers the world over, and by a common effort with Fourth Internationalists throughout the world in struggle against the imperialist war. For this, it is an imperative necessity that our party maintain active contact with Fourth Internationalists in every country and work in a single effort to accomplish our socialist goal.
The events of the past year, filled with many working class defeats, have not been without their injurious effects upon the Fourth International. The war brought with it not only a certain dispersal of our movement, and an enormous accentuation of difficulties for it, but also the destruction of an organised, authoritative central body speaking for the Fourth International as a whole.
The split in the American section of the International has had direct and immediate repercussions in the International as a whole and in its central institutions in particular. The Socialist Workers Party, led by the Cannon group, followed the split with a call for an “Emergency International Conference”. This Conference was called in direct and flagrant violation of the Statutes of the Fourth International solemnly adopted at its Founding Congress. The call for the Conference was not supported by any of the important sections of the International outside of the Cannon-group and a dozen comrades in Mexico and Canada. The duly elected Bureau of the International was neither consulted about the Conference, nor informed that it would take place.
The majority of the members of this Bureau were not invited to the conference. They were, indeed, excluded from it by virtue of the monstrous condition placed upon their attendance, as well as upon the attendance of the Workers Party, namely, that they commit themselves in advance to support of the decisions taken by the Cannon group. Members of the International Bureau, who were expelled from, the SWP by the Cannon group, had their expulsion ratified by the same Cannon group sitting as an “international conference”. The judges, the prosecutor, and the appellate judges were all the same people!
Throughout the existence of our movement, we have repeatedly condemned the Stalinists for their cynical violation of their own Comintern statutes. We cannot do less when the same, or even worse, violations occur in our own International. For to condone them means to deprive ourselves of the right to indict Stalinism.
In the fight of the Left Opposition in Russia, however, the expelled or suspended oppositionists were at least given the formal right to appear before the International; to state their appeals against the decision of its Russian section. In the case of the “emergency conference” of the Cannon group, the expelled minority was not even given this right.
The Cannon conference could not and did not represent the Fourth International. The Executive Committee elected by it has even less claim to such representation. It is a falsehood to say that a single one of the European sections mandated a representative to this spurious conference. It is false to say that a single one of the South American sections mandated a representative. It was a conference of the Cannon faction, plus a delegate representing two others in Canada, and a delegate representing ten others in Mexico.
Whatever claims to authority this conference, and the committee elected by it, might have made at the time, the last vestige of any authority for it to speak in the name of the Fourth International has disappeared with the tragic death of comrade Leon Trotsky. We cannot tolerate by silence the attempt of the Cannon group, representing at best only one tendency in the Fourth International, to usurp the authority of our world movement or to speak in its name.
The undersigned comrades represent the majority of the International Bureau of the Fourth International, as duly elected by the authorised and representative institutions of the International. These comrades supported, as is known, the viewpoint of the minority of the Socialist Workers Party, now organised as the Workers Party. This viewpoint has also been endorsed by the Brazilian Section of the International, the Uruguayan section, by two important sections in Asia which have recently come over to the program of the Fourth International, and by groups of comrades and individuals in other sections throughout the world.
However, despite our formal authority, the realities of the situation prevent us from arrogating to ourselves, as the Cannon group has done, the right to speak in the name of the Fourth International. We must establish the tragic fact that while the movement for the Fourth International exists and will grow, that while sections exist — the Fourth International as an organised, centralised, authoritative and representative body does not now exist. We see our primary task to be the painstaking work of reconstituting the International as it should be constituted. This involves the work both of restoring relations with other sections and groups throughout the world, and clarifying and elaborating our fundamental international program in light of the developments in the world situation and in the working class movement.
Towards this end. the undersigned comrades have constituted themselves as a Committee for the Fourth International.
It invites all true Fourth Internationalists and revolutionary Marxists throughout the world to follow suit by establishing everywhere similar committees, entering into closest relations with each other, collaborating politically and organisationally to the maximum extent possible, and preparing for the convocation of an authentic and representative world congress of the Fourth International.
Our movement has suffered severe blows. We have felt the first blows of the imperialist war reaction and repression, and been buffetted by the first waves of social-chauvinism. We have had defections — the withdrawal of the Burnhams, the shift to reaction of the Rivcrao, the flight to the democratic imperialists of the Chen Duhsius. But we are more than ever convinced of the power of our principles, of the triumph of our program, of the invincibility and victory of the socialist working class.
Long live the Fourth International, regenerated and more powerful than ever! Long live the struggle against imperialist war and reaction! Long live the struggle for a workers’ world and international socialism!
Brown, Anthony, Alberts, Trent (Members of the Bureau of the Fourth International)