Michel Pablo

Activity of the International

Report Presented by Comrade Michel Pablo

(October 1957)

Presented to the Fifth Congress of the Fourth International, October 1957.
From Fourth International (Paris), Vol. 1 No. 1, Winter 1958, pp. 82–85.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

At the time of the Fourth Congress, the International was in full crisis, provoked by the split that had been carried out by the organizations that rallied to the Open Letter, and by the new split provoked right at the time of the Congress by the Cochran-Collins-Mestre tendency. Many among you perhaps remember in what an atmosphere of struggle for the survival of the International we held the Fourth World Congress.

This crisis in our ranks occurred at a time when, the objective conditions were changing in favor of renewal in the communist vanguard, and in the last analysis in favor of Trotskyism and the Fourth International. Our own crisis, far from being a sign of the decline of our movement, was in reality a sign of new times in which our movement was from then on to take its place. It is explicable that certain tendencies found it hard to reorient themselves in this new situation: the fundamental abrupt turns in the situation reacted on our own movement, including by the phenomena of crises and even of abandonment. But what definitively counts is to see on what basis the movement regroups and progresses. The way in which we liquidated the crisis of 1953–54, the fact that we not only maintained the International, but caused it really to progress and root itself better in the class, shows that the crisis, however painful it may have been, was not a demonstration of a decline of our movement. It had its roots in the new situation, to which in any case we had to face up. We were, furthermore, able to overcome it in a positive way thanks to favorable objective conditions. We did not just mark time. Since the Fourth World Congress, we have not only maintained and consolidated the then positions of the International, positions brought under destructive attack by the “orthodoxes” and the liquidators but we have made progress, and serious progress too.

The reports which the comrade delegates from the sections will give during this session will prove it in a more concrete manner than I could do myself. I shall limit this report to three main questions.

  1. The activity of the leadership of’ the International.
  2. The problems raised by the activity of our essentially independent sections.
  3. The problems raised by our entrist work.

The activity of the leadership of our International has been considerably broadened since the Fourth World Congress. It has been shown in several sectors, but I shall mention only the most important ones. The leadership of the International – in which I include the International Executive Committee, the Latin-American Bureau, and the International Secretariat – has contributed politically, financially, and by the personal participation of its members, in reinforcing the activity of certain of our sections, in reconstructing certain others, and even in building new organizations of our International.

Among the most important successes of the International in these two last sectors, I shall mention: the rebuilding of our movement in Britain: the work done toward the Eastern European countries, on which we shall have certain details later on in our discussions: and the building of a Trotskyist organization also in Japan.

The activity of the leadership of our International has been considerably increased in the field of publications. First of all. we consolidated the publication of our central theoretical organ, Quatrième Internationale, as a quarterly publication, with numbers of sometimes 100 or more pages. A similar effort was made by the Latin-American Bureau with the publication of the Revista Marxista Latinoamericana; the L.A.B. will, furthermore, present its own report immediately after this one. We have in addition achieved the publication of a theoretical organ in German, Die Internationale, with which you are acquainted, and a theoretical organ in English, Workers International Review. We published the first volume of the Ecrits de Léon Trotsky, and have started the preparation of the second volume. We have also published in French Les Bolcheviks contre Staline. We have in addition published, or republished, several pamphlets in order to have propaganda material adequate to “destalinization.” The L.A.B. has for its part made a parallel effort in Spanish. Only all these achievements, however important they may be, especially in comparison with our means and our past activity, are greatly inferior to the needs of the moment, the needs which arise from the new situation in which our movement is placed.

It is necessary to carry out a much more important programme of publications, both centrally and country by country, in order to renew and enrich our propaganda material and to answer new needs. In the field of central publications which the I.S. took on, we are already late with the publication of the subsequent volumes of Leon Trotsky’s Ecrits and with our project of pointing in a pamphlet the duplicated courses which have been given in the international schools of our International. Furthermore we are late in a general way concerning the need to publish the main works of Leon Trotsky in different languages. These works, which are more needed than ever, are in many cases out-of-print, and the question arises of considering, if needs be by the means of our own movement, the replacement of this absolutely indispensable stock of basic literature of our movement.

As for the theoretical publications of the International, though the progress of Quatrième Internationale and of the Latin-American review can be considered relatively satisfying, a big effort remains to be made to stabilize and improve the German organ, and especially the English organ. These are questions that must be studied and solved at this very Congress. In any case the question of a theoretical press, that appears regularly, that is widely distributed, and that above all consolidates and improves a very high theoretical and political level, is the principal weapon of our movement in the ideological battle already opened by “destalinization” for the reorientation of the international communist vanguard. We must not forget, comrades, that even now the main strength of our movement is the strength of its ideas, its theoretical and political superiority. In general the question of our press must concern all our sections, in order to succeed in publishing organs of a high political and theoretical level, and simultaneously – especially concerning political propaganda organs – expressing a sharpened knowledge of the problems and needs of the masses we are addressing. This furthermore will be the reflection of our real progress in integration in the mass movement.

I might further emphasize this question of the press by casting light on it from another angle. Our movement must not present itself to the masses as being essentially a movement of criticism of Stalinism, but as a movement which gives positive answers to the overall questions now raised by the working class and its vanguard. It is from our movement that whole strata of the toiling population are awaiting an answer to a series of questions in various countries. These are not only exclusively economic and political questions, but broader questions. Questions of social and cultural interest. The youth of the new generation, who have gone through and are still going through a terrible crisis, can be drawn to our movement, to the communist movement, only if the communist movement renews its themes, adapting them to the needs and aspirations of the youth of today.

The masses of women in the world, too, who have nowhere found the solution of their own problems, of their problems as women, which are not only economic problems such as equality of pay, but are much broader problems, of their relations with the other sex, on all planes, of questions which touch on the whole of the social and cultural position of women in present-day society, on their rights and freedoms on the sexual plane, on the plane of marriage, on the plane of children, on the plane of their relations with the men of this society. To these concrete questions, which worry more than you may think great masses of women who have nowhere obtained their real emancipation, it is necessary that the communist movement give an answer. It is not, of course, with the answer they found in the petty-bourgeois ideology developed under Stalinism and by the Communist Parties that women are going to be satisfied. The answer that they are seeking to these questions, very vital, very important for them, as the social category of women with their own problems toward which the men of this society always show the greatest lack of understanding, even when it concerns revolutionaries and communists – it is our movement which must give it. These questions must find a place in our press, extending it to a sector that touches on the social and cultural problems that concern broad masses of present-day humanity.

Stalinism has contributed nothing to these questions, for 30 years now. It has even gone back on the achievements attained in the first years of the Third International in this field. These questions have now become acute, let us make no mistake about it. Our movement can become a pole of attraction for broad masses if it is able to give an answer to these questions as well, to give new life to the themes of communism and renew the drawing-power of communism for a humanity which is more awakened than ever and is awaiting an urgent solution to a whole gamut of aspirations and needs, more broadly than at any other moment in its history.

We must examine the concrete means that will be able to give, not a complete solution, but the beginning of a solution, to these questions. We need a new press, a communist press tuned to the mid-XXth century. It is our movement that must begin to provide this new communist press of our times, of our period.

The importance of the question I am touching on lies, I think, in the fact that we must understand that we no longer are and must no longer be just a movement of opposition, but step firmly into our new role as the communist leadership of humanity.

* * *

The International Executive Committee has functioned in a more or less satisfactory way, at the regular tempo of two plenary sessions a year. It must however be regretted that the means of our movement have not enabled I.E.C. members from outside Europe to be present at these meetings. To fill up this grave lack, measures must be taken to make it possible, at least at one session per year, for the non-European members to be present, both from Latin America and from the Far East. As for the International Secretariat, it has met in plenary sessions at least four times a year. That is, naturally, not enough. Practical measures must also be considered so that meetings can be guaranteed at least once every two months. Unquestionably the weakest point in the functioning of the International leadership lies in the functioning of the Bureau of the I.S., on which lies the weight of the daily practical work of the International. With the increase in the activities of the International, there would have been necessary in reality a parallel increase in the stable nucleus that resides at the seat of the I.S. But we have in fact seen the contrary evolution. The weight of the activity of our sections in a series of countries has absorbed almost the entire activity of the I.S. members who have taken over a leading role in their sections, including now Comrade Walter.

As for the present composition of the I.S., I think that it is quite representative of our movement. It could be still more so if it included other comrades, especially from the Far East. In the present composition of the I.S. there are represented the principal European sections of the International and Latin American comrades. The majority of these comrades are not only leaders of the International, but also comrades who undertake real responsibilities in the mass movement. This is a very healthy development as far as the composition of the I.S. is concerned, for our goal has always been to have the International led by the principal leaders of the sections of the International.

I seize this opportunity to recall what I already said at the Fourth World Congress: our International is absolutely democratic. The doors to the leadership of the International are wide open to the sections. There exists absolutely no obstacle to the International’s being led by those who lead the sections, the essential forces of the International. I already said at the Fourth World Congress, and I repeat it: if we have reached the point that we have, we are here because, that was the unanimous, democratically expressed, will of this movement. It is necessary, it is salutary, to consider that the leadership of the International is not the business of a few men, of any individual whatsoever, but that it is the most important, the most primordial business of those who lead the essential forces of the International.

* * * *

I go on to the second part of the report, to the problems concerning the activity of our essentially independent sections. I shall leave it to the Ceylonese comrades to tell us about the current situation in their country and the problems and tasks which they have to face. It is in any case desirable, in my opinion, that the prospect of the Ceylonese revolution should have an adequate place in the document on the colonial revolution which will come out of this World Congress. I shall confine myself more especially to questions of our work in two countries: in India and in Bolivia. I shall begin with the question of Bolivia.

In Bolivia, the situation has evolved rapidly in these last months in the direction of a break between the political right wing of the M.N.R. and the left wing, represented by the strength of the trade unions and by the workers organized in the C.O.B. The political right wing, urged on by imperialism, and profiting by the pusillanimity, the cowardice, of the left wing, has since the last elections adopted an offensive attitude that aims at breaking up the conquests of the revolution, and of applying the stabilization plan of imperialism. The Bolivian example also confirms the impossibility of a so-called third way, of “a middle of the road,” between the solution of pro-imperialist capitalist reaction and the working-class solution. Siles, encouraged by imperialism, has now decided to push his offensive through to the end, even at the risk of giving place to a fascisizing extreme-right. The essential forces of the Bolivian revolution, represented by the mining proletariat and the armed peasants, are nevertheless still intact. What is important is that these forces are beginning to understand that they are now being betrayed also by the representatives of the C.O.B. and the “worker” ex-ministers, Lechin & Co. They are stirring and resisting. They are unquestionably looking for a new leadership in a way such as they never have in the past, from the beginning of the revolution up until now.

Once more, thanks to this development which is simultaneously critical and also more promising than ever for our movement, our section once more has a full opportunity to play its part. In reality, through the evolution of the situation, our section has become – it is this that we must understand and that the Bolivian comrades must understand – the key to the present situation in Bolivia. We must now prepare our party to play its role to the full. Its situation has been considerably improved of late. We have been able to observe it even here by the successes obtained at the time of the Miners’ Congress and later at the time of the Congress of the C.O.B. Its influence as well as its prestige with the masses have again increased. These masses, betrayed by the trade-union bureaucracy of Lechin & Co., opportunist and lacking in perspectives, is turning toward the P.O.R. They await from it an answer to all problems, they expect from it a leadership – that is the fact of capital importance which we must take as our starting-point to define at present our line and the scope of our efforts in Bolivia.

This time the masses must not be disappointed, and, if our party does not at present play its role, it too will contribute, objectively, to the victory of the counter-revolution in Bolivia. It is necessary that our section show itself to be at the level of events, for the greatest hopes are now placed on Bolivia. Our organization is at present the only immediate alternative leadership for the masses, and it is on its intervention that more than ever the fate of the Revolution literally depends. It must struggle to include in its ranks the leading revolutionary elements in the workers’ and peasants’ milieux who are leaving the old leaderships, by integrating the economic demands of the masses – against the high cost of living, against inflation and unemployment, against the denationalization of the mines, against the sabotage of the agrarian reform, against the plan of stabilization of imperialism and reaction – in a positive political programme giving an answer to these questions and brightened by the perspective of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government in Bolivia, which will be based on the workers’ and peasants’ organizations and their militias. In face of the complete discomfiture of the bureaucratic leadership of the C.O.B. and of the “labor” wing of the M.N.R., it is necessary, in my opinion, that the slogan of the C.O.B.’s breaking with the government, and of all power to the C.O.B., be combined more than ever with propaganda for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

If the discomfiture of the C.O.B. leadership continues and ends up in a sort of paralysis and falling away of this organization, we must be ready to take up the struggle of the disappointed masses under the more direct slogan of the struggle for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. This is a concrete question which we must discuss from the viewpoint of the completely concrete present conjuncture in Bolivia.

What seems to me essential in Bolivia is that the party, with all its strength, must carry out an immense labor of organization of the workers’ and peasants’ vanguard which has just seen itself betrayed by those whom it still recently considered to be its leaders, i.e., by the leadership of the C.O.B., and by the leadership of the “labor” wing of the M.N.R.

The party absolutely must extend its organizational base by trying to enroll in its ranks not only ordinary workers and peasants, but a series of leading revolutionary militants in workers’ and peasants’ circles that are abandoning the old leaderships. In this immense effort of our organization in Bolivia, the regular publication of our central and local press is a task that must be carried out at any cost. The Bolivian question is a question that concerns the whole International, and it is absolutely necessary that at the end of this Congress we have a more specifics resolution on the Bolivian question, a resolution adopted in the name of the Congress of the International. We must further discuss practical measures that can insure the maximum help from the entire International to our Bolivian section.

I pass on now to the question of India. India is an immense country in which, unquestionably and independently of the evaluation we may make of the immediate situation and of its evolution in the near future, there is smouldering a formidable revolutionary explosion. The possibilities for the revolutionary Marxist movement are unquestionably very great. Nevertheless, we must admit that in the question of forming a stable organization of the Fourth International with a definite orientation of work, up until now there has been failure. The reasons therefor are many, and I do not propose to go into all the details. I shall stress more especially this point: that the creation of a Trotskyist organization that is a section of the Fourth International must this time go hand-in-hand with the definition of a concrete tactic for the building of the mass revolutionary party in India. Without wanting to raise this opinion into a thesis of the International or into anything else, I have the opinion that the Trotskyists in India must combine independent work with a serious entrist work, in the Communist Party and, in certain places, in the Socialist Parties where those parties still hold mass positions. This opinion is based on a series of considerations concerning – despite everything that has gone on in that country – the chances of the Stalinists, which obviously must be discussed together with the Indian and the Ceylonese comrades.

The independent work of the section should be demonstrated above all by the publication of a regular organ, distributed as widely as possible throughout the country.

Obviously all that is first of all subordinated to the possibility of regrouping the Indian comrades on the basis of a reunified organization, an organization of the Fourth International. We must discuss the question practically with the Ceylonese comrades, and set as one of the tasks of the International in the coming period the reconstruction of the section of the Fourth International in India.

I now go on to the third and last part of my report, which concerns the problems raised by the development of our entrist work.

It is now clear that the turn carried out by the Third World Congress has proved to be fundamental for our integration in the real mass movement. This work was a success, a salutary success, which permitted, as the discussion will show, the stabilization and the progress of all the sections that engaged in it, and which has qualitatively transformed our movement. That is to say, we have not only numerically increased our membership, but changed it qualitatively by the fact that the great majority of our members are not isolated in their class but occupy a place in the mass movement.

This new physiognomy of our movement, which in the past it had in only limited cases, is now the general feature of our movement, with all the fortunate and salutary consequences for the very life of our International. After a first stage of integration, we have now pretty much everywhere reached the point of how to set going in the Socialist Parties and Communist Parties a broader left current, a current stimulated by our nuclei who work in these movements, and partly led by these nuclei. In this new stage of entrist work several new problems have appeared which have not yet found satisfactory solutions. Among these questions I shall raise the following: the question of the press, of recruitment, and the more general one of the development of the tactic. There is, furthermore, an interdependence among these questions which in reality can be summed up as that of the development of the perspectives of our tactic in mass organizations.

For this last question of the development of the entrist tactic, I personally think, on the basis of experience, on the basis of the problems that have arisen for us, that it should tend more or less everywhere to become a tactic of “sui generis entrism,” in the way in which we already carry it out in the Communist Parties, i.e., a tactic which combines independent activity with entrist activity properly so called, our independent activity continuing to be aimed essentially at aiding our entrist activity. Our independent activity will be demonstrated above all by the publication, everywhere that it is possible, of a 100% Trotskyist press, undertaken by an independent nucleus which will represent, to the developed elements of the country, the section of the Fourth International.

This is, I believe, the common conclusion which the majority of our sections engaged in entrist work are now reaching. In any case, I shall return to this question, and we can discuss it fully in this Congress.

I come back to the question of the press. What did we need for entrist work, properly so called, either in the Communist Parties or in the Socialist Parties? We needed above all an interior organ to be the expression of the left tendency of the party expressing itself in a language suitable to that milieu and representing the political alternative to the policy of the leadership of the party. I believe that that is valid for the press we need in both the Socialist and Communist Parties.

* * * *

Naturally, in addition to this internal press in either the Socialist or Communist Parties, we now feel the need pretty much everywhere of insuring the publication of an external 100% Trotskyist press that represents both the ideas and the organization, however limited it may be, of the Fourth International. Around these organs we can polarize in all countries a series of elements who have reached a higher point of understanding. For the Socialist Parties, such an organ must be rather a theoretical review. For the Communist Parties, it should rather be a newspaper combining a theoretical character with a more concrete political character.

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Updated on: 3 August 2015