International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)

From Academic Kids

The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) (formerly the International Spartacist Tendency) is a Trotskyist international organisation. It consists of the various Trotskyist groups, many named the Spartacist League.

The most prominent section of the international is in the United States, and there are smaller sections in Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Greece and the United Kingdom. They named themselves after the original Spartacist League of Germany.

The origins of the group are to be found in a group of left wing youth recruited to the American Socialist Workers Party in the late 1950's from the Independent Socialist League led by Max Shachtman which was then about to dissolve in order to join the Socialist Party USA. This small group included James Robertson who would go on to be the central leader of the Spartacists and Tim Wohlforth. Also important in the early days were Shane Mage and Geoff White.

By 1960 this grouping, mostly active in the youth group associated with the SWP, had become worried by what they saw as the opportunism of the leadership of the SWP headed by Farrell Dobbs and by overtures by the SWP to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. Particular issues in dispute included the character of the Cuban revolution (characterized by the majority as a "healthy workers' state") and proper orientation towards the Civil Rights movement (where the majority attitude was that of uncritical uspport from afar). Rather than continue as leadership of the youth group, they formed an opposition caucus named the Revolutionary Tendency and made clear their loyalty to the International Committee of the Fourth International in 1962.

Differences developed in the Revolutionary Tendency as to how to characterise the SWP, leading to a split within the caucus. A minority closer to the ICFI left to form the Reorganised Minority Tendency, led by Tim Wohlforth, just as the Robertson led grouping was being expelled from the SWP. The RMT indeed played a role in the expulsion of the Robertson grouping, laying the evidentiary basis for claims of "party disloyalty." Having been expelled in 1964 the Robertson group were swift to publish a magazine entitled Spartacist from which they would later take their name. Nonetheless they still stressed their loyalty to the ICFI and attended that body's conference held in Leeds, England in 1966 only to find themselves excluided from its ranks.

Today, the group characterizes itself as a revolutionary fighting propaganda group. In organizing and participating in demonstrations and labor support and co-ordinating exemplary actions against fascists and elsewise, it devotes much attention to polemicizing against other groups that consider themselves to be socialist. The ICL has refused to join many left wing political coalitions and campaigns, characterising them as popular fronts aimed at providing platforms for bourgeois politicians (from the Democratic Party and the Green Party). Their polemics and political criticism are often seen by their opponents as unnecessarily disruptive of other group's activities. The Democratic Socialists of America and the International Socialist Organization (ISO) accuse them of having become violent at meetings. They in turn have claimed that various groups have acted in a violent fashion towards them (and others). They are also highly critical of groups associated with the United Secretariat of the Fourth International which they characterize as Pabloite.

The International Bolshevik Tendency, which formed in 1985 out of members who had variously quit and been expelled, claims that since they left the group it has engaged in very little trade union activity. The IBT also claims that the Spartacists have degenerated into an "obedience cult" centered around Robertson, but anti-cult organizations such as the American Family Foundation have never taken a that the Spartacists are a political cult.

Another split occurred in 1996 when the founders of the League for the Fourth International were expelled, allegedly for maneuvering with a group from Brazil involved in bringing court suit against a trade union.

The ICL(FI) denounces all support to capitalist parties, not least through popular front formation, in favor of an independent workers party aiming for state power. They regard what they term the struggle for black liberation as central to revolution in the U.S. and promote "revolutionary integrationism".

The ICL was one of the few groups to hail the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the Soviet occupation which followed. They believed it provided an opportunity to extend the gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan people (especially women), in a struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. Although they were widely criticized for this position, the U.S. government itself ended up relying (in part) on remnants of the pro-Soviet Afghan army to overthrow the Taliban rule (the type of regime the Spartacists had warned against) in northern Afghanistan during the post-9/11 invasion. However, the Spartacists opposed the U.S. invasion.

The Spartacists gave no support to Ayatollah Khomeini during the Islamic Revolution, which the majority of the left supported as "anti-imperialist."

The group also maintains a position of defending what they see as the remaining deformed workers states. This famously extends to them calling for defense of North Korea's right to nuclear arms. The ICL(FI) also fought hard in mobilizing to defend the Soviet Union and East Germany from what it saw as capitalist restoration, though it was unsuccessful. Their group in Germany waged an election campaign in 1989 uniquely calling for opposition to the capitalist reunification.

Since the early 1980s, the group and affiliates have organized mobilizations against Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, and in the late-1980s were early campaigners to save Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Less popularly, they have defended groups like the North American Man-Boy Love Association on civil libertarian grounds and have called for an end to age-of-consent laws. Their publications frequently criticize the Christian Right's opposition to abortion and homosexuality as examples of an attempt to establish a "sex police."

The US group publishes the newspaper Workers Vanguard, which is known for its running commentary (usually very acerbic) on the activities of other leftist groups, its sarcastic wit, and its obituaries on leftist figures whose lives often are inadequately memorialized (or analyzed) in the mainstream media. (Examples from recent years include the obituaries on Bill Epton, Richard Fraser, Robert F. Williams and Myra Tanner Weiss.) Since the 1990s the paper has also featured original essays on the history of Marxist and pre-Marxist radical ideas written under the party name James Seymour. The UK group publishes Workers Hammer. The "Sparts" (as they are commonly called on the left) also publish the theoretical journal Spartacist in four languages.

The US group operates the Prometheus Library in New York City, which includes the tendency's archives and other material on the history of Trotskyism.

External link

See also: List of Trotskyist internationals


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