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Fourth International, July 1944


Ten Years of Our Theoretical Organ


From Fourth International, vol.5 No.7, July 1944, pp.196-197.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


THE TWO HISTORIC EVENTS OF JULY 1934 Ten years ago this month the American Trotskyists launched the first issue of their theoretical journal. The appearance of the magazine coincided with the great July strike of the Minneapolis truckdrivers. These two historic events were symbolic of the whole future of the Trotskyist organization. It can be said that they served as twin guide posts of this movement, which has since become recognized as the bastion of revolutionary internationalism.

The Trotskyist leadership of the Minneapolis strike exploded forever the accusation of sectarianism with which its enemies sought to revile the movement. The strike was conducted in exemplary fashion and with the greatest tactical skill. The victory of the strike blazed the trail for the colossal class struggles that ensued in the United States. More than that, it provided the scattered and hounded forces of the revolutionary internationalists in all countries with the first living proof of the practical viability of Trotskyist ideas in the test of action and of their ability to conquer.

EXEMPLIFIED OUR DEVOTION TO THEORY The other achievement of American Trotskyism in July 1934 was no less formidable. The launching of the magazine The New International was not a mere coincidence. From the first, the American Trotskyist were imbued with the deepest conviction that, in Lenin’s words, “without revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary action.” The theoretical magazine was launched with deliberation at the very time when our party was engaged in the most important mass activity in its history.

The American Trotskyist understood that a theoretical weapon was indispensable for the further growth and the correct orientation of the American and the international Trotskyist movement.

TROTSKY SET ITS AIM AND PURPOSE Under the guidance of Leon Trotsky and with the direct and regular participation of our great teacher and, leader, this magazine was to become a major instrument for the preservation of the Marxist fundament of ideas against all attacks.

It was to serve as the means for the elaboration of the program on which the Fourth International – then in its initial stages of formation – was to be built.

FIRST EDITORIAL PROCLAIMED POLICY In the ensuing years our Marxist monthly took on the role of organizer and educator of the whole international movement. In the leading editorial of that very first issue the character and the aims of the Trotskyist theoretical organ were firmly and unmistakably set. To these aims the Trotskyist have remained unflinchingly loyal throughout the years. That ringing editorial fully describes the aims of our periodical Fourth International today, without the need of changing a comma or a colon. As indicated therein, the founders of the magazine fully realized the battle it faced.

TENACIOUS STRUGGLE AGAINST STREAM Its job was one of fighting against the stream, at a period in our epoch when – inspired by the victories of reaction – a crusade of world-wide scope was being undertaken against Marxism on the field of theory. Even the would-be Marxist intellectuals joined in this assault under the guise of “critical” appraisals. Their “independent” thinking was of a negative and sterile character, the whole essence of which was skepticism. This skepticism soon turned into corroding cynicism, hypocrisy and submissive apologies for gangrenous capitalism.

It is against this background of a virtual siege on the theoretical front, that the Trotskyist established, maintained and expanded their Marxist monthly. The magazine analyzed and exposed the attacks of the bourgeois critics. It mercilessly flayed the retreating petty bourgeois intellectuals. And when the gangrene of intellectual reaction penetrated into the Trotskyist party itself – when the petty bourgeois opposition of Burnham and Shachtman made its appearance in the Socialist Workers Party – the party coped with these ideological renegades in no less decisive fashion. After a six months discussion in 1940 the party rejected this new revisionism and reaffirmed its Marxist position.

BATTLE AGAINST TREACHERY WITHIN One casualty of the struggle against the petty bourgeois opposition was the original name of the theoretical magazine, The New International. Deserting the party, deserting the Marxist ideas for which the magazine had stood since its inception, Burnham and Shachtman, who had held formal property rights to the journal as trustees of the SWP, purloined the name and mailing rights like common thieves. They hastily published a counterfeit issue of The New International, in which they spread their whole claptrap of revisionism, anti-Marxism and anti-Trotskyism. The Trotskyists decided not to waste time in a legal contest for the name and to continue publication of our organ as the Fourth International.

“The once-glorious name of The New International,” a statement appearing in the first issue under the new masthead declared “has been irretrievably sullied, by its appearance for one issue under the auspices of these betrayers of its tradition. The program of the Fourth International, the great theoretical contributions of Comrade Trotsky, the Marxist message of our party, cannot appear under its dirtied name. We want no deception, no confusion, no mixing of banners ... They stole it. They have already identified its name with their own treachery. Let them keep it, and let the whole world know it is henceforth their magazine, not ours. Our magazine is Fourth International.”

In an article written shortly after the theft, Leon Trotsky, whose brilliant articles set the line of the magazine from the beginning, declared himself no less sharply. He wrote:

“The very first ‘programmatic’ articles of the purloined organ already reveal completely the light-mindedness and hollowness of this new anti-Marxist growing which appears under the label of the ‘Third Camp’ ... Toward their new magazine my attitude can only be the same as toward all other petty bourgeois counterfeits of Marxism.”

Shachtman’s “counterfeit of Marxism” has not improved with age nor with the departure of Burnham into the camp of outright reaction. It remains as it began, an organ of petty bourgeois opinion in which are “merely refurbished the well-riddled views of old revisionists.” 

AN HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT The rich traditions of the Marxist organ founded ten years ago this month, its heritage of struggle against revisionism and against all the sterile “reinterpretations” of Marxism, its defense of the fundamental theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky are today embodied in our magazine, in Fourth International. That is why we are able to reprint elsewhere in this issue, without any alteration whatsoever, the full programmatic editorial which appeared in Volume 1, Number 1 of July 1934. We stand by every word in that editorial.

The present issue rounds out ten years of the consistent publication of the Marxist theoretical magazine. In the annals of the revolutionary movement it would be difficult to point to a comparable achievement. The Trotskyist have been able to attain this magnificent record in a period of unprecedented reaction, of enormous working class defeats, of degeneration within the working class movement. This is a tribute to the unshakable strength of our ideas. It is another great augury of the invincible power which will carry our movement forward to the victory of world socialism in the stormy days ahead.

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