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TOPIC: Eighty Years of the Fourth International: The Lessons of History and the Struggle

Eighty Years of the Fourth International: The Lessons of History and the Struggle 21 Jan 2019 09:48 #13124

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Eighty Years of the Fourth International: The Lessons of History and the Struggle for Socialism Today

By David North
9 October 2018

On October 7, David North, International Editorial Board chairman of the World Socialist Web Site, delivered the following lecture to a well-attended public meeting in Colombo, organised by the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka). The meeting, the second of two held in Sri Lanka, was called to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Fourth International and the 50th anniversary of the SEP in Sri Lanka.

It is a pleasure and an honor to have the opportunity to lecture in Sri Lanka on the history of the Fourth International. The heroic role played by Ceylonese revolutionary socialists in the early years of the Fourth International is well known by Trotskyists throughout the world. In the face of immense difficulties, the pioneer Trotskyists who founded the Lanka Sama Samaja Party in 1935, and later, in 1942, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, opposed the political agents of imperialism in the Indian and Ceylonese national bourgeoisie. Their political perspective was based on the theory of permanent revolution, which had been elaborated by Leon Trotsky in the first decade of the twentieth century, and which provided the political strategy that guided the Russian working class to victory in 1917.

In 1939, Trotsky addressed a letter to the workers of India. With his characteristic grasp of history and the dynamic of the class struggle, Trotsky summed up the essential strategical issues that confronted the masses of the Indian sub-continent:

The Indian bourgeoisie is incapable of leading a revolutionary struggle. They are closely bound up with and dependent upon British capitalism. They tremble for their own property. They stand in fear of the masses. They seek compromises with British imperialism no matter what the price and lull the Indian masses with hopes of reforms from above. The leader and prophet of this bourgeoisie is Gandhi. A fake leader and a false prophet!

Trotsky denounced the treacherous role played by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union, which demanded, under the banner of the so-called “People’s Front,” the subordination of the working class to the national bourgeoisie. He wrote:

What a mockery of the people! “People’s Front” is only a new name for that old policy, the gist of which lies in class collaboration, in a coalition between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In every such coalition, the leadership invariably turns out to be in the hands of the right wing, that is, in the hands of the propertied class. The Indian bourgeoisie, as has already been stated, wants a peaceful horse trade and not a struggle. Coalition with the bourgeoisie leads to the proletariat’s abnegating the revolutionary struggle against imperialism. The policy of coalition implies marking time on one spot, temporizing, cherishing false hopes, engaging in hollow maneuvers and intrigues. As a result of this policy disillusionment inevitably sets in among the working masses, while the peasants turn their backs on the proletariat, and fall into apathy.

The founders of the LSSP heeded this warning, opposed the national bourgeoisie, and created a powerful revolutionary party of the working class in Ceylon. But in 1964, with tragic consequences, the LSSP turned its back on its founding principles, and entered into a coalition with the SLFP government of Madam Bandaranaike. It was in struggle against this “Great Betrayal” that the Revolutionary Communist League—the predecessor of Socialist Equality Party, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International—was founded in 1968. For a half century, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee has waged an uncompromising struggle to overcome the legacy of the betrayal of 1964. But in waging this fight, it has never forgotten the great contribution that the founders of the BLPI and LSSP originally made to the cause of revolutionary socialism, not only in Sri Lanka, but throughout the world.

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