Argument for a 5th International

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Fri Jan 26 06:02:49 MST 2001

[ bounced from unsubbed Barry Stoller <bstoller at> ]

Adam Levenstein: Nearly every Trotskyist group out there wants to
rebuild, reform, or somehow start the Fourth International up again. Yet
the sad, simple fact is - the Fourth International was an unquestionable

Roger Blackwell: Why would a Fifth International be any better?

'In the question of the social character of the U.S.S.R., mistakes
commonly flow... from replacing the historical fact with the
programmatic norm. Concrete fact departs from the norm... The
contradiction between the concrete fact and the norm constrains us not
to reject the norm but, on the contrary, to fight for it by means of the
revolutionary road...' (Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, New Park 1971,
p. 3).

It must be soberly conceded that Trotsky's 'programmatic norm' in the
statement above refers to nothing more than his CONCEPTION of what
socialism, particularly socialism under duress, SHOULD be. There is an
element of nihilist utopianism even in his hard-knuckled (and tactically
sound) argument for defending the gains of actually existing socialism,
'deformed' socialism as he called it.

Explaining the 'degeneration' of the worker's revolution, he famously
wrote: 'The basis of bureaucratic rule is the poverty of society in
objects of consumption, with the resulting struggle of each against all.
When there is enough goods in a store, the purchasers can come whenever
they want to. When there is little goods, the purchasers are compelled
to stand in line. When the lines are very long, it is necessary to
appoint a policeman to keep order. Such is the starting point of the
power of the Soviet bureaucracy' (The Revolution Betrayed, Doubleday,
Dorin & Co. 1937, p. 112).

What Trotsky failed to address in his long, ultimately terminal power
struggle with Stalin, was what he, if placed in Stalin's shoes, would
have done that would have altered the objective conditions that led to
'the poverty of society in objects of consumption, with the resulting
struggle of each against all.' Thus the 'great man of history'
perspective, so infamously cited against Bolshevism, was adopted by
Trotsky to some extent.

My point being...

The 4th International was created, at least in part, by Trotsky to
challenge Stalin's leadership. Yet---whether or not Trotsky, given the
power enjoyed by Stalin, COULD have done 'better' than Stalin is a
question that contradicts the core of historical materialism. Case in
point: the creation of the Soviet bloc after World War Two would have at
least met some of Trotsky's grandest internationalist ambitions. I say:
the dispute for leadership between Trotsky and Stalin is a dead
issue---THEREFORE the 4th International, an instrument OF that
leadership struggle, is also dead.*

The next international, if it must have a figurehead, should have a
LIVING figurehead.


* This opinion in no way repudiates the many brilliant contributions to
Marxist science made by Trotsky (combined & uneven development,
permanent revolution, unconditional defense, united front) NOR does it
attempt to discredit the very real progress made on behalf of socialism
by Stalin (industrialization, defeat of Nazism, development of atomic
technology) and even those who initially followed him (political
liberalization, deconcentration of authority, military parity with NATO)
under the worst possible conditions. I see them all, and all their
differences, as HISTORICAL exigencies reified.

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