International Committee of the Fourth International

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The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is a Trotskyist international. Its affiliated parties are called the Socialist Equality Party and have sections and supporters through out the world. It is well known for its publication of the World Socialist Website. Published in 13 different languages, Alexa rankings show the World Socialist Website is the most widely read international socialist news source on the internet.



The ICFI was formed in 1953 by groups who disagreed with the course of the Fourth International under Michel Raptis (Pablo) and Ernest Mandel.

The split was co-ordinated by the American section, the Socialist Workers Party, and included the British section under Gerry Healy and the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI). Trotskyist groups in various other countries, notably Nahuel Moreno's group in Argentina, also joined.

The grouping's founding statement was the Open Letter written by James P. Cannon, outlining the disputes they had with the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. He reiterated what he saw as the basic principles of Trotskyism and described the direction of the Fourth International as "Pabloite", claiming that this threatened its survival. As an example, he explained that Pablo expelled a majority of the French section of the international, because they disagreed with his policy of working with the Stalinist Communist Party of France. Cannon characterised this as a bowing down before the apparent strength of the Stalinist regimes resulting from a cynicism about the ability of the working class to rise up against the Stalinists in these countries.

An excerpt from the concluding part of the "Open Letter" read:

"To sum up: The lines of cleavage between Pablos revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally. The Pablo faction has demonstrated that it will not permit democratic decisions truly reflecting majority opinion to be reached. They demand complete submission to their criminal policy. They are determined to drive all orthodox Trotskyists out of the Fourth International or to muzzle and handcuff them.

Their scheme has been to inject their Stalinist conciliationism piecemeal and likewise in piecemeal fashion, get rid of those who come to see what is happening and raise objections."

1960s and 70s

Despite the strong rhetoric aimed at the ISFI, some within the American SWP were in fact eager for a reconciliation, and so discouraged the committee from officially declaring itself the Fourth International. Instead, they claimed to be dedicated to the founding principles of the International. The PCI and the British group, soon to rename itself the Socialist Labour League (SLL), had little interest in reconciliation, and instead stepped up their attacks, especially on Pablo. The LSSP of Sri Lanka refused to take any side on the issue and maintained contacts with both the ISFI and ICFI. In 1964, the LSSP joined the bourgeouis government of Sri Lanka, which the ICFI condemned as betraying Trotskyist principles. The ICFI no longer considered the LSSP a Trotskyist party at that point, and encouraged Sri Lankan Trotskyists to leave that party and form a new organization, the Revolutionary Communist League.

The major groups in the ICFI actually found it difficult to work together in the initial years. The first congress did not take place until 1958, and the SWP officially only acted as observers at the event, being prevented from affiliating by U.S. law.

In the ISFI, Pablo had lost prestige, and many within the SWP and the ISFI hailed the Cuban Revolution as unconsciously furthering Trotskyism. They grew together. In 1963, the SWP left the ICFI to work with the ISFI, forming the United Secretariat of the Fourth International.

Those members who disagreed with this move characterized it as a giving in to the forces of Pabloism. They formed the American Committee for the Fourth International, and remained allied to the ICFI. Later they changed their name to the Workers' League and today are known as the Socialist Equality Party, publishers of the widely known World Socialist Website.

The ICFI continued, now essentially led by the SLL and a second congress was held in Leeds in 1966. Those Americans who followed Robertson were expelled in 1966 for refusing to recognize the authority of the International Committee, and went on to form the International Spartacist Tendency.

The French section, now renamed the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste (OCI), fell out with the SLL over Healy's support of revolutionary movements in various Arabic countries. The OCI encouraged the Bolivian Partido Obrero Revolucionario (POR) to join the ICFI, in order to support their positions, but by 1971 were forced to leave the group.

The OCI and POR split from the ICFI in 1971 to form an even smaller international, the Organising Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. The SLL renamed itself once more as the Workers Revolutionary Party, and maintained the continuity of ICFI along with affiliated sections in a number of other countries.

1980s to the present

Throughout the 70s and into the mid-80s, Healy and the leadership of the WRP pursued a policy friendly to national bourgeouis regimes. This aroused the consternation of many members throughout the ICFI. The WRP had gained many members and a large prominence in Great Britain, but the leadership increasingly went its own way against the ICFI as a whole.

This conflict erupted in the mid-80s and ended with the disintegration of the WRP. The various leaders of the WRP attempted to found their own ICFIs each claiming to be the official one. Most disintegrated along with the WRP splits; as of 2005 only the ICFI survived, led by David North of what was initially known as the Workers' League in the United States. They gained the allegiance of most of the rest of the national sections through their analysis of the split. These are now known as the various Socialist Equality Party groups. They have branches in various countries throughout the world and publish news daily on the World Socialist Website, which they say is the most widely read international socialist publication on the internet.

External link

See also: List of Trotskyist internationalsde:Vierte Internationale (Internationales Komitee/David North)


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