MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1946 2nd Conference of the Fourth International
Proceedings of the International Conference of the Fourth International
Paris, April 1946
Adopted: April, 1946.
First Published: June 1946
Source: Fourth International, Volume VII, No. 6, June 1946, pages 183-187.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, November, 2005
Proofread/Edited: Scott Wilson
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
Motion on the Character and Authority of the Conference
MOTION: To establish the authority of this Conference and of the Executive bodies elected by it.
This representative conference of mandated delegates from . . . sections of the Fourth International, which is the first representative gathering since the Emergency Conference of 1940, having heard the organizational report of the European Secretariat and taken cognizance of the opinions expressed by the members of the existing International Executive Committee, and with a full understanding of the difficulties in the preparation for the Conference, decides:
1) To sit as a world conference of the Fourth International and to take binding decisions on all questions that are on the agenda; and
2) To dissolve the existing IEG and IS and to elect from this Conference a new IEC and IS with full authority to act until the next world congress.
Note:The representative of the Canadian minority, who was not present, later cast his vote against this resolution. The representative of the French minority later declared that, while voting for it, he would present some reservations.
Criticism of Theses of the February 1944 Conference (Resume)
What self-criticism are we to make today of the Theses of the European Conference of February 1944?
In my opinion this criticism should cover three points:
(a) The perspective of the German Revolution.
(b) The tempo of development of the situation in Europe.
(c) The use of the Red Army.
It is true that we banked on the inevitability of the German revolution as the inevitable result of the certain military defeat of Nazism. This perspective was commonly shared in the International, and was in my opinion a correct, that is, the most likely perspective, if one started from an analysis of the sum-total of factors which characterized the situation in Europe in this epoch. We thought in fact that even if the Nazi terror should succeed, up to the moment of military defeat, in averting the revolutionary explosion in Germany, the defeat once consummated would open up a period of revolutionary crisis in the country. But in elaborating this perspective, we had not envisaged what the actual consequences might be of the war and of the combined military occupation by the “Allied” armies and the Red Army. In other words, we underestimated the effects which the coordinated and consciously counter-revolutionary action of the imperialists and the Soviet bureaucracy could have on Germany. Germany was the pivotal center of Europe, the danger of revolution was very real there. This has been demonstrated, negatively if you will, by the savagery which the imperialists and the Soviet bureaucracy have shown in destroying a large part of the material and human premises for any large-scale action of the masses, in demoralizing the German proletariat with their chauvinist propaganda, and in submerging the country under the flood of their armies which have kept up and sharpened the paralysis of Germany.
We are resolutely opposed to any statement that Nazism has altered the class consciousness of the German proletariat. The absence of the German revolution has, however, conditioned the slowness of tempo of the revolutionary development in Europe. The European Conference was perfectly correct in insisting on what is now the world character of the revolutionary crisis and in indicating its three chief arenas: decaying Europe, the colonial world, and America.
But the irregular rhythms of the maturing revolution in the first of these arenas have not yet been brought to realization.
The European revolution, momentarily deprived of the support of the German proletariat, has up to now sent out only its first waves, which were weaker than had been expected.
The third point of self-criticism of the theses of the European Conference concerns the role of the Red Army.
As a whole our analysis of the USSR, of the Soviet bureaucracy, of the role of Stalinism, was correct; but since we were always banking on the revolution in Germany and its consequences for all Europe, we considered as very unlikely the extended occupation of Europe—and especially the occupation of revolutionary Germany—by the Red Army.
We must recognize all this frankly and clearly, and we have already partly done so, but this must not cause us to revise our perspectives on the fundamental character of the period we are entering, the tasks which flow from it, the way of setting about the building of the Party. In the course of the political report we shall have more ample occasion to speak on all these problems.
Report on the Activity of the European Secretariat (Resume of Report by G.)
The ES was set up about August, 1943 with the participation of French, Belgian, Greek, Spanish and German representatives.
It first took the name of Provisional European Secretariat and set as its chief aim the preparation of a Conference of European Sections of the Fourth International.
It began the publication of a theoretical organ, Quatrieme Internationale, which after two mimeographed issues, has appeared in printed form since January 1944.
From August 1943 to February 1944, the date when the European Conference was convoked, the activity 6f the provisional ES consisted of the following work:
Preparation of the political report for the European Conference; publication of Quatrieme Internationale; establishing a German group in France and publication of its paper Arbeiter und Soldat, following the work of the Spanish Group, the French Section, and the Belgian Section. In February 1944, the European Conference was held, with French, Belgian, Spanish, German and Greek representatives attending. The work of the Conference lasted for six days, with the following principal results:
(a) Elaboration of the Theses and other documents which were published in Quatrieme International.
(b) Decision of the two French organizations, the POI and CCI, to unite in a single section of the Fourth International.
(c) Election of a European Executive Committee and of a European Secretariat which abandoned its provisional title.
The European Conference unquestionably marked a very important step forward on the road of reorganization of the International in Europe, and made possible for the executive bodies which it elected (the EEC and the ES) a more coordinated, wider and more effective activity.
In June 1944 came the landing of the “Allied” forces in Europe, and the new conditions created since then have little by little made possible the reestablishment of contact with the other European sections and especially with the non-European sections of the International.
It was especially during the year 1945 that the activity of the EEC and the ES broadened considerably.
The EEC during the past year has held four plenary sessions and has been progressively enlarged to eight European sections, plus one colonial section (the Indo-Chinese in France); English, French, Belgian, Spanish, German, Swiss, Greek and Dutch Sections. The ES has furthermore been in contact with the Italian, Irish and Danish Sections.
The chief political resolutions during this period were those of the EEC meetings of January 1945 and June 1945, published in Quatrieme International.
The necessity for calling an International Conference made itself felt early and steps for its preparation were taken at the June 1945 meeting of the EEC.
But it seemed well-nigh impossible, in view of the present state of contact and communications between the different countries, to organize within a short time a genuine international discussion, and to get a really wide representation from the sections of the International.
We therefore came to an intermediate solution: A preliminary Conference should be called within as short a time as possible and with the widest possible representation from the International.
The aim of the Conference should be twofold:
(a) On the political plane, to define a preliminary general political orientation of the International, and to demarcate the revisionist or opportunist tendencies which have manifested or are in the process of manifesting themselves in its ranks.
(b) On the organizational plane, to elect a new representative leadership of the International and to decide upon its transfer to Europe. This new leadership would be responsible for carrying on a discussion in the International on all questions where agreement might prove to be impossible or difficult at the time of the Pre-conference, and to prepare, as soon as conditions permitted, and if possible toward the end of this year, a World Congress representative of the entire International.
It is within this framework that we propose that you regard this first International Conference today, for which we have drawn up the following agenda:
(a) Report on the activity of the ES and IS.
(b) Discussion on the report “The New Imperialist ’Peace’ and the Building of the Parties of the Fourth International” published by the ES and sent to the various sections.
(c) Discussion on the situation and reorganization of the German section.
(d) Election of the new IEC and IS.
We ourselves believe that the need for a representative International leadership, centralized and effective, is now most urgent.
We shall discuss the details of the composition and the election of the new executive bodies of the International three days from now, when this question will come up on the agenda. But right now we want to insist upon the necessity of putting this Conference on record at the very outset as having a determined desire to affirm the existence of the International as a World Party endowed with a centralized leadership, and to work toward this task.
The youth of our International and the conditions of war have caused a lax and often ineffective functioning of our executive bodies. I do not know under what conditions, for example, the IS has worked. But I do know very well under what conditions we have worked on the ES. Here are a few details which will clearly describe the situation:
I am the only one remaining of the group which formed the ES in 1943. Since 1943, the ES has been reformed several times without ever having fully attained a composition which would allow it to carry out effectively its role of leadership. There were several reasons for this, among others the limited number of cadres at our disposal internationally, and the desire of each section to keep them for national work rather than to “sacrifice” them somewhat for the leadership of the International.
However, if we start from the point of view of the International as a World Party with a capable and centralized leadership, and not as an International which is simply a federation of national sections, we must make the necessary sacrifices to meet first of all the needs of the International as a World Party. This means that it is necessary before everything else to send to the leadership of the International not observers, not more or less passive by-standers, but energetic and capable comrades, from among the most energetic and most capable whom we have at our disposal internationally. This also means that we must give material aid to the International leadership in every way possible. Again I repeat, on the question of the ES—it would be very difficult for you to understand under what material conditions we were obliged to work during the war and even after.
Our resources were and are extremely limited, since very few of the sections have formed the habit of paying their assessments regularly, or of increasing them, or of suggesting to US other ways of increasing our resources.
The leadership of the International must assert itself in every field.
It is time to bring to an end the present situation which, if prolonged, could lead to the strengthening of centrifugal tendencies disintegrating our International, and to the creation of a climate favorable to the development of ideas and currents hostile to our program.
We will show that we have a profound understanding of this necessity, by endowing the International with a leadership composed of comrades who are among the most politically capable at our disposal internationally, and by furnishing it with all the assistance it must have if it is to fulfill its role effectively.
Resolution on Report of European Secretariat
The International Conference adopts the report presented by Comrade G. on the activity of the ES since it was set up. It points out the errors made at the time of drawing up the Theses of the European Conference of February 1944, on (1) the perspective of the inevitability of the immediate German revolution; (2) the scope and the tempo of the revolutionary upsurge in Europe; (3) the narrow limits given to the counter-revolutionary intervention of the Soviet bureaucracy in Europe; and characterizes these as errors in estimating tempo, not as errors in fundamental perspectives. It instructs the IEC to publish as quickly as possible a document expounding completely and clearly the self-criticism of our past policy.
Adopted by 22 votes against 2 (French and Canadian Minorities).
Resolution on Character of Present Political Situation
Having heard the report of the ES on the main political resolution of the Conference, and on the basis of the general discussion, the Pre-conference, before passing on to discussion of the amendments and adopting a final text, affirms again:
1) The fundamentally revolutionary character of our epoch on a world scale and chiefly in Europe.
2) The increasingly favorable objective conditions for the building of Revolutionary Parties of the Fourth International.
3) The necessity for centering the political work in all the world Sections, and especially the European Sections, around the Transitional Program.
Note: The representative of the Canadian minority later cast his vote against. The representative of the French minority abstained.
Proposals for Amendments Submitted by the RCP (England)
Opening Section. Rewrite along following lines:
Sketch general objective conditions.
Characterise general situation:
Epoch of wars, revolutions and colonial uprisings.
Differences between present period and period following World War I. Characterise period as the period of the Fourth.
Bring to fore primary questions facing us today. War has resulted in revolutionary conditions on a world scale but this alone not enough. Explain role of Social Democracy and Stalinism as objective obstacles to the revolution.
Develop present process: Weakness of bourgeoisie; vanishing of fascism; retreat of reaction everywhere; radicalization of masses but slowness of revolutionary development; all these factors compel bourgeoisie to lean on reformist and Stalinist agents—result: unstable bourgeois democracy.
Our tasks—see later section.
Economic Section. Condense statistics, or rather include in text only the general conclusions which flow from them.
Immediate perspective—measure of relative economic recovery and stabilization already partially beginning, to be sketched within the general framework of decline and does not contradict general revolutionary perspective. On the contrary will give impetus to offensive of masses (Germany) and slump which will follow will create revolutionary crisis.
Recovery in Europe will be largely on basis of US loans. US major power dominating world market; conflict with British imperialism. Reduced status of British imperialism correct but weaknesses over-emphasized. Factors for partial recovery should be brought out:
Measures of industrial rationalization through nationalization. Multilateral trade as against unilateral trade of USA. USA, whilst undermining Britain must also make concessions— dual process of assisting and controlling.
Section on USA. Reactionary aspirations of US bourgeoisie not in correspondence with conditions existing abroad; forced to combine military repressions with “democracy” and to lean on reformist bourgeois democratic methods because of mood of masses including US armed forces.
Antagonism between USA and USSR. Conflict inevitable unless proletarian revolution intervenes—USA already maneuvering for positions (e.g. preparing Japan as a base against the USSR); but this is a long-term perspective; impossible to use troops against USSR in period of revolutionary development. War against the USSR possible only after decisive defeat of proletariat; next period is period of proletarian revolution.
USSR. Rewrite in line with RCP Conference Resolution. Eliminate conflict in ES Report between strength of USSR as a world power and probability of bourgeoisie destroying economic base by economic penetration and diplomatic maneuvers.
Examine reason for USSR not being defeated in war—importance of nationalized economy.
Recuperative powers of USSR underestimated in ES Report.
Elaborate general contradictions e.g., insofar as bureaucracy plays progressive role in developing (bureaucratically of course) productive forces of USSR, this tends to undermine world capitalism and in that sense aids world revolution.
Develop inner contradictions—explain “left” swing of bureaucracy; note pressure of Russian masses, particularly the youth.
England. Full re-elaboration necessary. Spain. Section on Spain necessary. Also eliminate present reference to “authoritarian democracy”.
China. Paragraph I underestimates capacity of China to win national independence and does not bring out revolutionary significance and possibilities of such a struggle. Lacks revolutionary perspective for China.
Germany. Raise question of national oppression and related issues. Take up clear position on questions arising.
Deal with counter-revolutionary aims of Stalinism in Germany and policy of plunder being pursued by the bureaucracy. Show danger of Stalinism being associated in minds of masses with Communism.
Note economic importance of land reform in Soviet zone and eventual political repercussions in favor of Russia.
Contradiction between the conception of politics that arises from economic policy in Germany and politics which arise from general economics in rest of Europe. Deal with dismemberment of Germany. Note difference between Germany and colonial oppression. Need for struggle for democratic demands.
Social Antagonisms and Revolutionary Perspectives. Characterise regimes in Europe—not Bonapartist although elements of Bonapartism exist. Unstable bourgeois-democratic regimes existing in a revolutionary period.
NOTE: After defeat of proletariat, and NOT before, we will have military regimes and Bonapartist dictatorships. To say that Bonapartist dictatorships exist now is to say that the proletariat is already defeated and a counter-revolutionary period exists in Europe. Proletarian revolution not defeated. Bourgeois democracy distinguished by existence of mass organizations of the working class and the rights they possess. Disarming proletariat by saying that Bonapartism exists when it does not. Central element of Bonapartism is the rule of the sword.
Self criticism. Elaborate and show the extent to which our perspectives have been confirmed and where revision is necessary.
Building up of Parties and Our Political Tasks. Major emphasis of this section should centre around forthcoming developments in reformist and Stalinist organizations of the masses. Analyze probable development of centrist currents and state our attitude and approach.
Importance of Stalinism and Reformism.
Rewrite section on entrism to effect that possibility of total or almost total entry in reformist and centrist organizations in Europe be recognized (as for Britain) and not excluded. Independent work not necessarily the “sole” pole of attraction.
Cut out polemics and broadsides against minorities or state the negative position and deal with it properly. Our Tasks in Europe: Write along lines of RCP Conference Resolution. Include demand for democratic republic. Our task to transform small cadre organizations into mass revolutionary parties.
Necessity for flexible tactics and application of democratic and transitional demands not only as bridge between present level of consciousness of masses and revolutionary consciousness but also as a bridge between our small cadre parties and the workers. Need for twofold activities: extending and building cadre parties and conducting mass work.
Clarify demand for suppression of fascists. This from governments composed primarily of workers’ parties, but not from governments in which bourgeois parties predominate.
Democratic and Transitional Demands. Should be interwoven into a single program and not artificially separated.
Workers’ and Peasants’ Government not a transitional demand but a central task. Communist-Socialist-CGT (France) government is a transitional concretization.
Program of such a government. Explain reason for demand and relation to program—development of consciousness of masses and crisis in given country. Example: in England outright disagreement with LP program and call for “program of demands in workers interests”. In Russia (see “Threatening Catastrophe”) Bolsheviks demanding much less than Mensheviks were demanding in words, but with more revolutionary content. Not a static position but must be worked out for each country and each stage of development.
“The Soil Belongs To Those Who Till It.”
General. Raise demand for withdrawal of all armies from Europe, including Red Army. Changed situation as result of end of Nazi-Soviet conflict. Right of independence for all nations including those occupied by Russia. Simultaneously stress defense of nationalized property in occupied countries (Baltic States, Eastern Poland, etc.).
Organizational Tasks. Reorganization of T.U.’S on basis of factory branches. Our tasks in Britain and USA—inadequate, to be elaborated by British and US comrades.
France. Importance for Europe. Should have section dealing fully. Add sections on Racialism, Food, UNO. Deal with development of Fourth International during the war.
Motion on the Political Resolution Presented by the Secretariat
The Conference adopts the text of the report of the ES and instructs the new IEG to elaborate it in final form, incorporating all the amendments which are in conformity with its general line.
Adopted—18 for, 2 against, 4 abstaining.
Against: French and Canadian Minorities.
Abstaining: 3 English and 1 Irish.
Note: Regarding this, the delegation of the British majority makes a statement explaining their abstention: The delegation is in complete agreement with the fundamental line of the resolution, established in the preceding resolution. It has sent a short statement to the ES, and as a basis for criticism has composed a series of amendments which should be submitted by the International Organization for discussion.
Resolution on the IKD and Reorganization of German Section
The Conference of the Fourth International meeting in April 1946, having discussed the political line followed by the leadership of the old German section of the Fourth International, the IKD, in exile abroad, and the problems posed by present conditions in Germany, declares:
(a) It unanimously condemns the revisionist ideas contained in the documents written since 1941 by the IKD leadership (”Three Theses,” “Socialism or Barbarism,” “Problems of the European Revolution”). The leadership of the IKD has substituted for our transitional and socialist program, which corresponds to the objective historical character of our epoch and remains fundamentally that of the socialist revolution, a national-democratic program, based on “the necessary detour of the democratic revolution” and on the perspective of the “coming great national-democratic wars of liberation of all the oppressed peoples of Europe.”
The Fourth International does not minimize the importance of the slogan of self-determination for every people, or of other democratic slogans in general; but it does not separate them from the rest of its transitional and socialist program, it does not put them forward even for a limited period as ends in themselves, nor does it proclaim any intermediate stage of “democratic revolution,” to be accomplished by “all the people” and distinct from the socialist proletarian revolution.
(b) It considers that a sustained effort must be made by the new IEC and IS, in close collaboration with the present leader ship of the IKD to regroup all the elements who base themselves on the platform of the Fourth International and submit to the discipline of its conventions and its executive bodies, and to organize them in Germany itself as the official German Section of the Fourth International. To this end the IEC and the IS must be instructed immediately to take, in close consultation with the present IKD leadership, every necessary measure to bring about the reorganization of the German Section and the resumption of its work in Germany itself.
(c) It invites the leadership and the members of the IKD still abroad to carry out the decisions of the Conference, to submit to the discipline of the new IEC and IS, and to prepare as rapidly as possible for their return to Germany, in accordance with the instructions and directives of the International.
Adopted—19 for; 4 against (British majority delegation and French minority representative). The Canadian minority representative later entered his vote against.
NOTE: The British delegation (Majority) presented a different resolution as follows:
(1) Condemns the political line of the “Three Theses.”
(2)States the necessity for reconstituting the work in Germany.
(3) Asks the present leadership of the IKD to prepare immediately the reconstitution of the German Section, under the direction of the new IEC and IS, which commission it to work out a policy for Germany.
The resolution of the British majority delegation was lost 4 to 19.
Remainder of the Agenda
In view of the need for adjournment, the remainder of the agenda was voted to be turned over to the new IEC for action.
Last updated on 12.01.2005