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a socialistworld is possible: the history of the cwi by peter taaffe
new introduction

United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI)

On the international plane, the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI) looks towards the SSP, which more and more corresponds to their own view of politics.

They are perhaps the most widely known international organisation identified as Trotskyist. Yet, the USFI, by its own admission, claims that at its World Congress in 2003 there were participants from 40 countries (not all of these were members of the USFI). This is a similar figure to the number of different countries in which the CWI has sections, groups or members at present. While the USFI has a sizeable presence in France, through the LCR, this is not the case in most Western European countries. The strength of the different ‘revolutionary left’ Internationals is not just a question of present strength but of potential. This, in turn, depends upon a correct analysis of the stage through which society and the working class is passing and all the political conclusions that flow from this. Whether an organisation numbers dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions is important in relation to the effect it can have, but what is ultimately decisive, when sharp turns in the situation take place, is the political premise of these organisations. It would be criminal to form or maintain a separate political organisation of the left unless there are fundamental differences that cannot be accommodated within one organisation or through the unification of different organisations. At the same time, a revolutionary party is not the same as any transitional broad formation, in which different political positions, organisations and trends, some of them differing wildly from others, can collaborate and work together.

The need for unity flows from the basic trend within the working class to combine its forces against the common enemy, the capitalist class. Woe betides any political party or current that in critical periods stands in the way of this urge for unity! Marxists must always seek common cause, particularly with genuine organisations that have roots in the working class, in specific actions, in united front-type initiatives, etc. But this must not be at the cost of dipping or hiding the Marxist banner, or watering down or not advancing the programme of Marxism. The future of the different ‘Internationals’ will be determined by their political approach now and in the future and by whether their ideas meet the needs of the current situation.

Neither the IST nor the USFI have ever over a period consistently put forward a Trotskyist or Marxist analysis. The USFI, claiming lineage from Trotsky, is recognised in ‘intellectual’ circles as the representative of ‘orthodox Trotskyism’. Unfortunately, this is not the reality, as an examination of the USFI’s current analysis and programme will demonstrate. To take on the designation of ‘Trotskyist’ is to defend the heritage of Trotsky, his method of analysis and, in general, his activity in the workers’ movement. This does not mean a carte blanche acceptance of everything that Trotsky did as being right. In a recent series of articles in the USFI’s ‘International Viewpoint’ journal, dedicated to Trotsky, a series of criticisms and attacks on his ideas and methods appeared. Rather than taking up some of the mistakes that Trotsky made – and in his lifetime he admitted to them openly, unlike the USFI and its leaders today – USFI writers attack “mistakes” he never made; they lambast his strong rather than his weak points! In so doing, they echo, unconsciously perhaps, the criticisms of the Stalinists about Trotsky’s alleged “weaknesses”.