Sunday, September 22, 2002

"Krig mot terror" og trusler mot Irak: Amerikansk fundamentalisme

11. SEPTEMBER er ikke et historisk vendepunkt og representerer ikke noe epokeskifte, argumenterer Tariq Ali i sin siste bok The Clash of Fundamentalisms. Det er propaganda satt i scene av den amerikanske eliten for å fremme USAs militære, politiske og økonomiske makt i verden. Å akseptere at den forferdelige tragedien som rammet 3000 mennesker 11. september er mer moralsk verd enn de afghanske ofrene i USAs krig for kontroll over muligheter for oljerørledninger, eller de daglige ofrene for Israels terror i Palestina og amerikansk-britisk bombing av Irak, er forkastelig, påpeker han.

Gjennom boka viser Ali kontinuiteten i USAs utenrikspolitikk fra landet ble et imperium til dens framstøt i "krigen mot terrorisme". Gjennom å gå inn på hvordan USA har vært med på å gjøre livet vanskelig for milliarder verden over forklarer han hvordan hatet mot USA kan være så sterkt. Et "blowback" mot USA måtte komme før eller siden. For å forklare bakgrunnen for 11. september og de reaksjonære muslimske grupperinger går han nært inn på Midtøstens historie om imperialisme, olje og Israel. Et sentralt trekk i Bush-administrasjonens videre planer for "krig mot terrorismen" er å gjennomføre en krig mot Irak. De ønsker seg "sine" folk i Bagdad. Argumentene er de samme som har rettferdiggjort Gulfkrigen i 1991, sanksjonene fra den tid til i dag som har drept mer enn en halv million barn, og de daglige bombetoktene mot Irak siden krigens slutt.

Diktator
Saddam Hussein er uten tvil en diktator med mange liv på samvittigheten. Men problemet for USA er at han ikke er deres diktator lenger. Ali viser hvordan USA helt fra 50-tallet har vært med å destabilisere landet for å bryte arabisk nasjonalisme. De var med på å hjelpe Ba'ath partiet, som har regjert i Irak i over 40 år, til makten. Da Khomeini kom til makta i Iran i 1979 var dette et alvorlig nederlag for USA. De støttet derfor Saddam Hussein i den første Gulfkrigen mellom Irak og Iran. De gikk inn med militær støtte til Hussein. Det var under krigen mot Iran at Saddam gasset i hjel kurdiske landsbybeboere. Dette siste gjentas i dag for å for å framstille Saddam som Midtøstens Hitler. De som argumenterer for en ny krig mot Irak sier "Saddam må stoppes for han dreper sin egen befolkning", men glemmer å fullføre setningen med "men han gjorde det med militært utstyr kjøpt av oss og med vår stilltiende aksept". Nå fremmer USA krav igjen om våpeninspektører skal sjekke Saddams våpenarsenal og programmer, som av tidligere ledere av FNs våpeninspektører er blitt karakterisert for å være lik null. USA vil provosere fram en situasjon de kan benytte til å intervenere mot Irak.

Fundamentalistenes likheter

I boka ser Tariq Ali på likheter og forskjeller mellom ulike fundamentalister, enten religiøse av ulik avskygning eller imperialistiske og kapitalistiske apologeter. Ali synes det er påfallende å se at kristne TV-evangelister og islamister begge syntes å tolke 11. september som et verk av Gud, enten som straff for å tillate homofili og abort eller som en straff over hedningene. Men det er fundamentalistene i Imperiet og deres støttespillere som får mest kritikk. Boka er et ordspill over Samuel Huntingtons "The Clash of Civilisations". Denne uttrykker at det er kultur, og ikke politikk og økonomi som driver historien framover lenger. Sentralt i kulturen står religionen. "Vesten mot resten" er oppsummert den analysen Huntingtons kommer fram til. De store farene er olje under kontroll av muslimer og kinesisk eksport. Tariq Ali tar knekken på Huntingtons argumenter, særlig ved å vise at islam ikke har vært monolittisk på over tusen år. Det interessante er at Huntington etter 11. september - i motsetning til alle de som bruker hans bok etter angrepet på Verdens Handelssenter og Pentagon - har gått bort fra argumentasjonen sin. Han ser verken på situasjonen som Vesten mot resten eller islam mot resten, men har havnet i nok en forvillelse om at vi ser en islamsk krig utfolde seg, det vil si muslimer som kjemper mot muslimer. Han snakker om første Gulfkrigen, første og siste Afghanistan-krigen og borgerkrigen i mellomtida. For å få dette til å være muslimske kriger er du nødt til å fjerne amerikansk fundamentalisme fra bildet helt og holdent. Det er hovedfeilen til alle støttespillerne av vestlig imperialisme - de ser helt ser bort fra USAs imperialisme.

Til en ung muslim

En viktig bakgrunn for boka er nødvendigheten av å forstå tiltrekningen til religion, og spesielt islam, i en stadig mer globalisert kapitalisme. Ali mener ikke det er religion som er hovedmotiv for politiske handlinger som begås i ulike islamisters navn. - Det er ikke en plass i paradis med evig ereksjon og tusener av jomfruer som får deg til å sprenge deg selv i lufta i Israel, men helt andre grunner, sa Tariq Ali i sin innledning på konferansen "Marxism" i London i juli. Han påpeker nødvendigheten av å bygge på disse enighetene. Ali vil ha en dialog med muslimer som deler hans anti-imperialistiske standpunkt. Det siste kapitlet i boka har tittelen "Til en ung muslim" og er skrevet til alle de unge muslimer Ali har truffet på antikrigsmøter. Han vil fortelle dem om hvorfor han ikke er troende, men tilhører en muslimsk kultur, og at han mener denne kulturen har viktige nederlag å komme over for å kunne kjempe mot kapitalisme og imperialisme. Sentrale motiver for resten av den muslimske verden er at islamistene er viktige krefter mot imperialisme og Israel. Venstresida står svakt etter årevis med forfølgelse og massiv undertrykkelse i muslimske land. Irak og Indonesia er to land som hadde store kommunistpartier som ble mer eller mindre utryddet. I 1965-66 ble hundretusener av kommunister i Indonesia drept av Suharto som kuppet makten fra nasjonalisten Sukarno med USA og Storbritannias støtte. I Irak tok Ba'ath-partiet knekken på kommunistpartiet. Katastrofale politiske veivalg for venstresida har også bidratt til nederlaget. Stalinismen fikk sitt sammenbrudd med Sovjetunionens fall. Etter 11. september er det enda mer påkrevd med å samle kreftene mot imperialisme og globalisering. Men Ali går inn i dialog med klar kritikk av islamistene. Han fremmer en materialistisk framstilling av islams opprinnelse, hvordan det islamske verden vokste fram og dets forfall. Boka framstiller hvordan wahhabismen ble etablert. Det er den islamske retningen som er offisiell i Saudi-Arabia og som Osama bin Laden bekjenner seg til. Sentralt for wahhabismen, som har sine røtter på 1700-tallet, er å vende tilbake til en ren tro. I tillegg legges det vekt på islamsk straffedom med steining til døde av homofile og amputasjon av hender på tyver. Fra første stund har denne retningen vært viklet sammen med politiske maktfaktorer. Ali påpeker at praksisen i den muslimske verden har variert veldig og at kvinner har spilte en viktig rolle innen islam. Han viser også at det har eksistert kritiske røster innen islam gjennom hele dens historie, som har gått mot puritanistiske utslag.

Opplysningstidas idealer

På samme tid er det en sentral påstand i boka at islam trenger en reformasjon. På samme måte som kristendommen gjennomgikk et ideologisk skifte på bakgrunn av føydalismens transformasjon på 1500-tallet, mener Ali at islam ikke har endret karakter grunnleggende siden kalifatene og sultanenes tid. Islam trenger en samfunnsmessig tilpasning. Jeg forstår Tariq Ali dithen at han ønsker at moderniteten skal slå rot i de deler av verden som religiøst er muslimsk. Han vil fremme opplysningstidas idealer for den islamske verden. Det gjør han i boka ved å fremme eksempler som Muhammed Anwar Shaikh. Han er en muslim som retter knallhard kritikk av egen religion og derfor ses på som blasfemisk blant mange muslimer. I boka viser Ali at idealene om å bruke fornuften som våpen mot alle religioner - og spesielt mot religiøs ideologi som brukes for å fremme politiske motiver - er like relevant i dag som på 1700-tallet. The Clash of Fundamentalisms er en kompleks bok. Den har mange parallelle historier og argumentasjonsrekker. Det er en underholdende bok samtidig med et harmdirrende utfall mot vestlig imperialisme. Delvis biografisk, et rikt tilfang av islamsk kulturarv, politiske diktning og skarpe analyser godt blandet sammen til en god politisk cocktail du burde få i deg.

av Vidar Haagensen i Sosialistisk Arbeideravis nr.14, 2002

Documentation: "Building the International Today", USFI 1995

This resolution was passed at the 14th World Congress of the Fourth International in 1995 (80.5 percent of delegates voted in favour, 16.5 percent against, and 3 percent abstained). Plainly the situation has moved on since then, but we are publishing extracts from this resolution because they provide a statement of the FI's policy towards regroupment.

(1) Since our 13th World Congress in 1991, the balance of forces has continued to deteriorate for the toiling masses, in the framework of the general trends noted and analysed in the resolution on the world situation that we adopted at that congress. The international dialectic of struggles has had a negative effect, bringing about setbacks, defeats or isolation of many emancipation movements. Our own current has been affected and weakened by this negative dialectic, a result that could hardly be avoided in an organisation unprotected by any sectarian shell to protect it from the contagion of the real course of social and political struggles.

The final collapse of the Stalinist system in the USSR led to a broad offensive of pro-capitalist sections of the bureaucracy and other supporters of the generalisation of the market economy and privatisations. The chauvinistic and bellicose drift of most of the national movements proliferating in the debris of bureaucratic "socialism" has been accentuated. This reactionary evolution is explained in large measure by the decline of the workers' movement and the radicalisation in the imperialist countries, since the recession of the mid-1970s. More generally, all the social movements which are still developing at different rates in different countries-against imperialist oppression, austerity, the harmful effects of the market economy, environmental dangers, women's oppression, militarism, etc-are still very fragmented. The project of a socialist society, offering an alternative both to capitalism and to the disastrous experiences of bureaucratic "socialism", lacks credibility: it is severely hampered by the balance sheet of Stalinism, of social democracy, and of populist nationalism in the "third world", as well as by the weakness of those who put it forward today. In a large number of dominated countries, broad vanguard forces are now sceptical about the chances of success of a revolutionary break with imperialism; and sceptical about the possibilities of taking power and keeping it, given the new world balance of power. Other forces, and not the least important, have broken openly with this perspective: in Latin America alone, this is true for parts of the former leadership of the ERP/FMLN and of the FSLN leadership, as well as one current in the Brazilian PT. In such a context, the main trend is adaptation and compromise in the name of realism. Under the impact of the crisis and of the inadequacy or sheer lack of perspectives, a chain reaction of political forces moving rightward has turned into a landslide. This is the result both of transformations resulting from changes that have accumulated over a long period, particularly affecting the mass base of the big parties, and of more or less sudden turns by movements whose kind of social roots makes drifts in any direction possible. Thus bourgeois populism, like social democracy, has veered toward a "social" version of neo-liberalism; the Stalinist parties have completed their social democratisation; and many ex-revolutionaries have adopted the most right wing, stagist Stalinist positions, when they have not actually "leaped over stages" in their own way in order to merge into the "social" neo-liberal haze. In these circumstances, revolutionary internationalism appears as utopia. But the historically unprecedented globalisation of the world economy – capital internationalisation, role of multinationals, globalisation of the market which functions now simultaneously under the development of communication technology, growing share of international exchange in relation to national economies, etc; the globalisation of labour, whether it is brought about through workforce migration or through the movement of capital and industries; the globalisation of politics and of imperialist war, in the epoch of grand coalitions under the leadership of the US world cop – all of this combines powerfully to make the need for a workers' International, engaged in the fight against planetary capital and its local detachments, more compelling than ever.

Since political cycles are never entirely detached from socio-economic cycles, intransigent revolutionary hopes can draw sustenance from the strong tendency toward worsening social tensions, in the context of a capitalism which will be incapable of preventing impoverishment from being immediately seen for what it is. Illusions about a triumphant neo-liberalism rising up over the ruins of the Berlin Wall have thus already largely given way to a deep scepticism, which today is turning against really existing capitalism...

So there is no lack of reasons for keeping the flame of revolutionary hope burning. But a new accumulation of mass experiences, partial victories and radicalisation of new generations is needed to bring together all the conditions for a new leap forward in building vanguard organisations that will be both revolutionary and internationalist. The crisis of the revolutionary vanguard can in fact no longer be posed in the terms of the 1930s. Today it is not only a matter of changing the bankrupt leaderships. The necessary recomposition will not be limited to a change in the balance of power within the organised workers' movement as it exists today. It has to go through the gradual reorganisation of the different emancipatory social movements internationally. This will be a long process, which may be accelerated by certain big events in the world class struggle.

(2) Nonetheless, the general trends of the global situation weigh on the different national situations in an unequal manner, combining with the local structural or temporary specificities...

The collapse of the Stalinist system has had the positive effect of seriously shaking sectarian prejudices against us in the ranks of working class, trade union and political vanguards. The triumphalism of capital has also had the effect of encouraging the unification of all anti-capitalists, who are now conscious of their weakness. We are better able today to build up relationships of activist solidarity and unity in struggle with forces who until quite recently balked at the very idea of talking to us, particularly in the industrialised countries. Our international network gives us the advantage of being able to make a decisive contribution to the coming together of anti-capitalist forces – particularly at the European level, where the need for such a coming together has become completely obvious in face of the capitalist unification taking place, whatever its stops and starts. But our weakness is still a serious hindrance in this area, and social democratic reformism, which is involved in building up capitalist Europe, still has a credibility that is incomparably greater than ours, despite its rebuffs in dealing with the crisis...

So, we should grasp the scope of this contradiction: the current situation combines a crisis of the international workers' movement, which opens new perspectives for discussions and political recomposition in the medium term, and a social and ideological balance of power which blocks, for the time being, all possibilities of a qualitative growing over in building a revolutionary vanguard on a world scale. This contradiction is what should guide our policy for building the International today.

(3) Many organisations coming from traditions other than ours and which maintain their revolutionary aims are led to revise their historic reference points in the light of the final balance-sheet of Stalinism and the crumbling of the so-called "socialist camp". Even though we are convinced that our own analysis of Stalinism has, essentially, stood the test of time and done it better than any other theory, we do not deny the fact that the global political turmoil has affected, on this question, the considerations which in the past served to historically delimit the "Trotskyist" current from the others within the far left of which we are a part. Thus, the analysis of the Stalinist Soviet Union, the identification with the historical struggle of the Russian Left Opposition, and with the trajectory of the FI since the Second World War will little by little lose their distinguishing character in the constitution of revolutionary organisations. Although for us this is still a considerable political asset, it is, however, losing an important part of its direct and determinant relevance for the future fights, insofar as new militant generations are educated in a radically changed world context. On the contrary, our analysis of Stalinism, of the bureaucracy as a social layer with specific interests and our conception of socialist democracy have imposed themselves as unavoidable elements in any comprehensive study of the bureaucratic and substitutionist phenomena which can always threaten to corrupt the social emancipation movements before and/or after the revolution. This is now a decisive question in the formation of revolutionary organisations. Thus, such a marker which in the past could seem a singularity of "Trotskyism" can in the future be considered in a totally different way. Certain historical references to splits and complex cracks within the communist movement of the 1930s will become relative, yielding to a revaluation of the classical and fundamental division between "revolutionaries" and "reformists", if not between social democrats and anti-capitalists. This tends thus to change the possibilities of certain groups and currents joining the International, as well as the conditions for a political and/or organisational convergence with others in the long run. Currents, groups or factions of Maoist, Castroist or even neo-Stalinist origin could move closer to our positions. We can now envisage more easily winning them to our project and programme, meaning for them a deeper break with the Stalinist part of their heritage, without their necessarily having to identify with "Trotskyism" or fit themselves into its continuity. However, we should be aware of the fact that current changes in world politics are not leading in most cases to adoption of more revolutionary positions, but to capitulation and rapid integration into dominant bourgeois ideology...

We hope to carry out a real mutation of the Fourth International. We hope to develop the Fourth International further, while at the same time carefully keeping its conquests from almost 60 years of existence. We want to change, but not as most left organisations have changed in the past years: retreating faster and faster backwards from positions as they are challenged by the aggressive bourgeois offensive. We would like to confirm and deepen an advantage that our anti-sectarian attitude has increasingly allowed us to have during the last years: no longer to be simply perceived as one "Trotskyist" grouping among others, but as a component of the world revolutionary movement, putting internationalist solidarity and the interests of the struggle against the oppressors over any factional calculation or any ideological difference. We hope to welcome into our ranks revolutionary Marxist organisations which do not necessarily claim to be "Trotskyist" nor identify with our history, but which join us on the basis of a real programmatic coming together. In the longer term, we hope to assert ourselves as a pole of attraction and international regroupment for all the healthy, militant, radically anti-capitalist vanguard forces which continue or are renewed in an original way through the current turmoil in the world workers' movement.

(4) The Fourth International is still, today, the only organic international grouping of revolutionary formations sharing a similar general programmatic orientation. This orientation includes fighting:

*For the immediate and transitional demands of the wage-earners.

*For democratic rights and public freedoms.

*For a revolutionary break with capitalism; for the replacement of the bourgeois state by producers' own state administration; for the growing over, in the dominated countries, of democratic and national struggles into revolutionary, anti-capitalist ones.

*For democratic socialism based on the social property of the social means of production, the self-organisation of workers, the self-determination of peoples and the protection of public liberties, with the separation of parties and the state.

*For the unity of the mass, people's and working class movement on a democratic basis, respecting multi-partyism, the diversity of tendencies and ensuring independence vis-â-vis the bourgeoisie and the state.

*For extending self-organisation and respect for democratic rights in the struggles.

*Against all parasitic bureaucracies (Stalinist, social democrat, trade union, nationalist) dominating mass organisations.

*Against women's oppression and for an autonomous women's movement.

*Against oppression of lesbians and gays and all forms of sexual oppression.

*Against national oppression, for the respect of the right to self-determination and the independence of oppressed peoples.

*Against racism and all forms of chauvinism.

*Against religious particularisms and for the separation of religion and state.

*For the environment from an anti-capitalist and anti-bureaucratic perspective.

*For active internationalism and international anti-imperialist solidarity, for the defence of the working masses' interests in every country, with no exclusions, no sectarianism, without any submission to diplomatic or utilitarian considerations.

*To build revolutionary, proletarian, feminist, democratic parties of active members in which the rights to free expression and tendency are granted and guaranteed.

*To build a mass, pluralistic, revolutionary International...

(5) Based on this common programmatic orientation, the revolutionary organisations in the Fourth International today work together to build it. Our International is still very modest, given the tasks needed from the world revolutionary movement. It constitutes, however, an indispensable and irreplaceable instrument for sharing the very diverse political experiences of national organisations with a not insignificant militant existence, especially in relation to the rest of the revolutionary movement. This capacity for synthesis is one of the raisons d'etre of an International. It is one of the best remedies against national isolation and theorising from local experience alone. In this sense, the decision to contribute building the International is, for the organisations which form it, an aspect of their own "national" party building and a way of limiting the constant national pressures and the deformed vision that these can induce. Of course, the International is not in itself a sufficient guarantee for having a correct view of world reality, and thus of the national situation which is part of it. A mistake can also be collective, but it is the less likely to occur the more there are different points of view participating in the discussion and development of positions. Seeing and correcting mistakes are also easier. In that sense, the International is a necessary condition for having a balanced grasp of world reality. Only an organic framework, with collective discussion rules and means of elaboration, really offers this advantage, and does so in a much more systematic and general manner than bilateral dialogues between organisations. By such a process, the member parties give as much to the International as a whole as the latter to each of them.

(6) The effort to strengthen the International must begin by strengthening and broadening our parties in each single country. Just as in the separate countries the building of the International is a question of reorganising the labour movement. There is no ready network in place, just waiting to be used by revolutionary groups. The two mass Internationals were built in periods of upsurge. For the Second, Social Democratic, International its base was the rise of a new million-headed labour movement. For the Third, Communist, International it was the Russian revolution that attracted workers throughout the world. The Fourth International experienced on a much smaller scale a similar upturn in the years after 1968. But the differences were great. The upturn was more limited, especially among workers. The labour movement had already gone through several splits and the FI seemed to be just one of many possible forms of organising. There is also an immense difference between building an international organisation based on a theoretical programme and an organisation with a programme that is continuously tested in practice. To build a stronger and broader International today implies different kinds of unity work, both in different countries and across the borders. But what do we mean by "unity"? We distinguish three different kinds of united work:

(a) The united front in concrete struggles and mass movements

This is and has always been the most important level of unity. When we work within a trade union, when we form a committee to stop an environmentally harmful road construction, when we help organise a student demonstration, then we seek the broadest, concrete unity.

The fundamental question is always: what is best for the advancement of the cause? Rather than seeking the most "revolutionary" platforms, we try to build movements with a broad participation of working people, rallied around their own interests. In these struggles we participate with our parties and the Fourth International but with humility and respect for those who fight on our side, not manipulatively or in a sectarian way. This kind of unity work is the most important level of our daily work-and even with more restricted party building aims it is the most important. For given the fact that our task today is to reorganise and reconstruct the workers' movement, this can only be done as this movement is formed in today's and tomorrow's struggles.

(b) Unity with other revolutionary organisations

The FI has never pretended to have the monopoly on revolutionary thought and action. Other revolutionary organisations exist around the world; some lead heroic combats that we support totally. The fact is nevertheless that no big organisation outside our ranks shares with us, for the time being, both in theory and practice, the whole programmatic framework listed above. Nonetheless, some organisations would tick off almost all these points, with an exception or a nuance (generally on the conception of the national or international organisation). In general we seek to hold friendly and solidarity relations with these organisations, excluding the ultra-sectarians. That they do not join our International can derive from the fact that they come from a political tradition other than Trotskyism, from another historical evolution or other experiences. If that is the only problem, we can have no doubt that with the current political shake-out we should work towards unifying our forces. Nothing can justify maintaining an organisational division on the sole basis of how to interpret the degeneration of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist phenomenon to which it gave rise – that is to say, if these differences of interpretation do not in fact hide contradictory programmatic orientations in current struggles (for example the attitude towards the ongoing privatisation in the post-Stalinist societies).

Any approach which tries to take analytical conformity as the condition for organisational convergence, without demonstrating the existence of important political consequences flowing from theoretical differences, stems from a dogmatic, sectarian and monolithical conception of the organisation, often related to a not very democratic internal functioning and to manipulative practices. Political coming together in concrete struggles and the pluralistic and democratic conception of the revolutionary party that we have to build are, as we see it, much more important than common adherence to a whole theoretical programme taken abstractly.

From that point of view, we do not identify with a so-called international "Trotskyist movement" which would constitute a separate entity encompassing the constellation of organisations labelling themselves as such. Therefore we definitely do not see as a priority the "reunification of the Trotskyist movement" on the sole basis of common references; we submit our relations with the other claiming-to-be-Trotskyist organisations to the above mentioned general considerations. In the last decade there are, however, very few examples of successful projects of unity with other revolutionary organisations. It is no hazard that our experiences of joining other, much broader class struggle forces with a mass influence have been so far more positive. The pressures on small organisations with few members and too few possibilities to really have common experience testing out lines in practice are much stronger. In general we think there are reasons to be particularly cautious in joining with other small left forces in a period like this. Things like common historical references, organisational culture and language which we would like to overcome, do, however, play a significant role in times of decline and defensive struggles. History shows that they can-and must-be more easily overcome in periods of upturn, when organisations are welded together by imperative needs to answer the problems of class struggles and to cooperate...

(c) Broader regroupment with other left organisations

This kind of cooperation is not meant to replace our work in mass organisations like trade unions, student organisations, women's movements, etc. Broad regroupment with other left organisations can have different purposes. Firstly, we get in touch with the membership of the other organisations and have common experiences with them. Secondly, we increase our common audience in society, and become more credible and powerful. Even where our forces are numerically weak, the crisis of the workers' movement, of the other social movements and of the traditional leaderships-in a context where the still important social resistance puts a political outcome on the agenda-creates a situation in which it could become possible to unite forces, in order to weigh together on political life and to impose ourselves as participants in the debate on strategy within the workers' movement and the left. The conditions that could allow these kinds of regroupment to take place can obviously not be determined in advance, neither in their scope, their political platform nor their organisational forms, all of which depend on national realities, if not on regional and local realities. It could be a question of either new political movements, regrouping anti-capitalist vanguard forces in a non-party framework, or of unitarian electoral initiatives leading to a collaboration beyond the elections; or of joining parties coming out from the crisis of the workers' movement, which have kept a mass influence and develop in practice a line of resistance to neo-conservative policies. In all cases, it is a matter of developing a view of the recomposition of the left and the workers' movement, as a dynamic process in which not only politically organised forces intervene, but also individuals (trade unionists, feminists, intellectuals, social workers, etc). The FI commits itself to taking such initiatives of unity and to answering others' initiatives favourably, every time that we find it possible to establish links between radical forces on concrete tasks...

(7) Could these forms of unity work lead to the formation of a new and broader International?

Successive Internationals corresponded, each time, to new tasks linked to very big socio-political evolutions. Now, the least one can say about the turmoil in the global situation since 1989 is that it has deeply changed the framework in which the problems of the revolution, and thus previous differences, were posed. To start with, we have to evaluate such mutations and agree both on the general lessons to draw and their consequences for revolutionary activity. It will also be necessary to test in action the political agreements which could flow from a reaction to events. Thus, it will be perhaps possible some time to define the tasks and structure of a new International, qualitatively broader than what we have now.

For the time being, a world conference of revolutionary forces with no precise aims – such as solidarity with an endangered revolution, for instance – would only be, at best, a futureless cacophonous gathering. For it to be something else, participants in such a meeting should have a minimum of programmatic and political homogeneity, and a true interest in pursuing a common organisational goal. What is more, to bring together all the possible candidates for such a gathering, without discriminating against the poorest, there would have to be a prior agreement on equal distribution of the financial burden that such an initiative would imply, which would not be easy. The actually existing world revolutionary movement is the result of decades marked by Stalinism and its decomposition. Its components are much less homogeneous than were the participants in the Kienthal and Zimmerwald conferences during World War I, all of whom came from the Second International and its tradition. So a long genesis will be required, with common debates and experiences allowing it to develop reciprocal confidence, before the conditions for a large regroupment of revolutionary forces mature, something that we very much want.

For now, in this historical perspective, we commit ourselves to taking initiatives or to answering others' initiatives favourably, every time that we find it possible to establish links between revolutionary forces on concrete tasks and take their discussions forward. This can apply to new forces as well as to revolutionary organisations of different origins evolving under the impact of the current world developments. This concerns as much a mass force like the Brazilian PT as embryonic revolutionary currents like the radical socialist left from Eastern Europe and the former USSR. It can be expressed at first in political campaigns, or else in public meetings. It can take the form of regional meetings, national regroupments, or close bilateral or multilateral relations. With this same outlook, we have regularly opened our international cadre school to other forces of the revolutionary movement.

(8) Not only is there no contradiction between building our own current, the FI, and working for setting up in the future a broad international regroupment of revolutionary forces, but there is a complementarity which is, we think, essential. We reject any sectarian approach to building our own movement. We also reject any monolithical, non-pluralistic view of the international regroupment to be built, be it a simple forum or even a new International. We recognise and defend tendency rights at both levels, national and international. Besides, the heterogeneity of the world revolutionary movement is such that the broader an international regroupment is today, the greater chance there is that we will be led to maintain our international tendency-this free choice will depend, in the last analysis, on our assessment of the common platform of the regroupment and the weight of our current's specificity in relation to our allies. In any case, a discussion on this point is absolutely premature.

What is essential is to agree first on the principle itself of a world revolutionary regroupment on the basis of democratic pluralism. Today, even though it is possible to make progress in the unity of the revolutionary movement in one country or another, the unevenness of these processes is such that the worldwide regroupment of revolutionaries unfortunately will not be on the agenda in the coming years. This, of course, should not stop us from continuing our efforts in that direction. But one should not confuse what can be achieved nationally with what is possible beyond state borders or continents: there is an obvious qualitative difference, an essential discontinuity between the two levels, weighing on both sides.

To sum up, we should always avoid two sorts of errors:

*Taking only into account building the International and hence turning our backs to the possibilities of fusion of the revolutionary left which can appear in some countries.

*Taking only into account the national framework and thus watering down, or abandoning, our specific and intangible programmatic principle of the international organisation of revolutionaries.

Moreover, our rejection of monolithism is not limited to a defence of the right of tendency. In a broader sense, pluralism is the inclusion of new methods of functioning that are not simply juridical rights. Issued raised by attempts to feminise our organisations (irrespective of the degree of success in any individual case) represent a means of responding to the diversity of experience. The emphasis on feminisation is never simply a drive to improve women's statistical standing in the organisation. We have learned to introduce new internal traditions and methods of integrating and valuing the contributions of all members and their sectoral experiences in a single organisation which depart from the models of previous generations...

(9) The main feature of today's international context for our party building tasks cannot be the weakening of immediate revolutionary perspectives, real and undeniable fact though this is. By definition, immediate revolutionary perspectives fluctuate enormously, depending in large part on volatile political phenomena. On the other hand, the general recomposition of the political landscape of the world left affects a much more important structural factor. In that sense, and regardless of the main trend which appeared immediately after it, the downfall of Stalinism is, first of all, the freeing of an immense class potential chained for many years by Stalinist bureaucracies in power or in the opposition. It was also followed by the ruin of the anti-Trotskyist prejudices propagated by the Stalinists. A real, although modest, expansion of our movement is still possible, both in the countries where the International could not work in the past and in those where our sections can gain credit and influence among the vanguard and in the mass movement, despite the present difficulties in recruiting.

In the cases where we join other forces in a common party building, we involve ourselves-unlike in the purely "entryist" intervention in the mass reformist parties-in the long term building of a common organisation, on the basis of a real militant experience. However, for this process to run smoothly, it is indispensable for us to have a mechanism whereby we can monitor, in a democratic framework, the progression of political and strategic agreements with our allies. This is why we demand for the supporters of our current the right to confer and maintain their FI membership in ways which of course can be negotiated, but which must allow them to participate fully in the International's life – while being entirely loyal to the common national organisation and its own discipline. Only political homogenisation at the highest level – that of the platform laid out above, for which we will always fight untiringly – could justify the complete elimination of our distinct existence in the framework of a common organisation. But in that case the common organisation should be able to be closely associated with our International, if not to join it. When these conditions are not fulfilled, premature self-dissolution is always a very risky and dangerous gamble. The failure of the experiment by our comrades in the Spanish state bears witness to this.

At the same time, we need to convince our partners that ongoing membership of the International should not be a source of tension in the unified framework; it is rather a precondition for healthy and frank relations. We should be able to convince them that our International membership is not moved by some sort of dogmatism nor sectarianism, but that for us it is a critical aspect of the general revolutionary socialist project to which we adhere and that there is no way we can abandon it. An aspect that we cannot be asked to abandon in the name of the fusion without putting into danger the inviolable principle of democratic pluralism in a united revolutionary organisation. The proof of our loyalty and revolutionary frankness lies precisely in the fact that we push for the tightest teamwork possible between the unified organisation and our International. It is with this aim, in particular, that we invite our allies in the united organisations to attend our international meetings as observers. And the International as a whole has to show its usefulness, and convince the united organisation that the participation of FI members as such in a national organisation is a plus and not a handicap...

(10) True, the whole argument above is only valid and credible when related to our own conception of the Fourth International such as it has been shaped through the years, by its experiences and mistakes. Especially in our 12th World Congress in 1985 we again rejected the idea of an International in which the national party building policies were decided centrally and the sections had to apply the same universal or regional orientation. We have rejected the pretension, born in other times, of being the "world party of revolution" in favour of a much more sober self-definition as a minority, though specific and essential, tributary of the world revolutionary movement; a framework for common thinking and political and militant coordination of national organisations; an international grouping with a flexible, democratic and pluralist functioning. The Fourth International is not formed of local agencies in thrall to a "centre". Its national organisations are anchored in the real class struggle of their countries, though working together to build the International, and even allocating members and material means to it. International democratic centralism is not-and cannot without falling into bureaucratic centralism-be the replica of it in a national organisation. The defence of majority positions by Fourth International sections is not imperative; it is consented freely. It is not imposed through discipline, and sections can publicly express their own opinions when in minority, insofar they do not breach the limits of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, which would be tantamount to breaking with the International...

(11) Even though the centralist conception of the International, even that of the Comintern of the first period, has to be abandoned nowadays, revolutionary internationalism cannot be limited to simply promoting solidarity and exchange networks... An adequate internationalist consciousness cannot wholly flourish without an adequate political and organisational practice, without taking part in building an international organisation at the same time as building national organisations. The International that we should build must be:

*An organic instrument, capable of making commitments to joint work, setting up political campaigns and activities of several sorts at the level of the whole world, the main areas, and groups of countries.

*An instrument with the means and cadres to offer solid aid for building the revolutionary movement in many countries where it is still embryonic.

*An organised instrument to work for developing revolutionary socialist currents within the reformist-led workers' movements or in nationalist-run national movements, etc.

The delay accumulated by the world revolutionary movement is immense. Unfortunately, it is not the revolution which is making the most progress in today's world but the right wing extremism which is emerging all around the world in this new and terrible epoch of capitalist decay. It would be a crime to rely on mere spontaneity or simple solidarity to cope with all the above mentioned tasks, using the alibi of respecting national specificities. We should consciously work for this, and to achieve it an international organisation is needed.

(12) That is why – regardless of the present possibilities for regroupment in some countries and the necessary debate with our allies on building an international regroupment, or even a new International – we must unbendingly pursue, on the national and world levels, our task of building the Fourth International, the only "really existing" one... We must keep up the effort to help the development of new organisations tied to our International in the countries where we do not exist and where the independent constitution of such organisations would constitute a step forward in the revolutionary struggle... [But] it could in fact be much more positive for the future of the revolutionary movement and for a positive change of our own International to be linked to the fate of revolutionary or radical currents which already have a real social implantation, in order to help them, learn from them, and finally to envisage together building a revolutionary organisation-rather than rushing to plant a flag in what could turn out to be a barren little allotment...

(14) The credibility of a new international socialist project, in today's world, will largely depend on the demonstration made in the main imperialist countries of the capacity to relaunch mass anti-capitalist struggles and to embody a revolutionary social and political project faced with capitalism and its state structure. The countries of the "centre" remain the decisive link in any worldwide anti-capitalist strategy. The balance of power between the classes which are established there are of major importance for the outcome of struggles throughout the world. The only ally which can hamper or paralyse the action of the imperialist powers on which the struggles in the dominated countries can call is the mass movement in these same imperialist countries. The Gulf War was a striking and tragic demonstration of this reality.

*For the International to be seen as a pole of reference it has to be able to assert itself as a credibly political force in the main imperialist countries. But at the present time, and not unrelated to the socio-economic changes in these countries over the last decade, the organisations of the International there are very weak. In Germany, Japan, and in the United States our sections are very weak and divided. In Britain we are largely outstripped by two revolutionary organisations which have traditionally been sectarian towards us. In France our organisation has been weakened during the 1980s and suffers from internal divisions. It is an urgent priority to reverse this trend. Great attention should be given to this question because we cannot claim to exist as an International in the world today without a significant presence in the main industrialised countries. Our organisations in the dominated countries will themselves rapidly be threatened, given the usefulness of the contribution constantly made to them by the sections in the imperialist countries through the International.

*Another factor which will weigh heavily in the fight to give back credibility to the socialist project is the emergence of a significant socialist current, both anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist, in the post-Stalinist societies. We have put party building in these countries, conceived in a non-sectarian fashion, among the priority tasks of the International. Our balance sheet, like that of the anti-capitalist left in general, remains overall very limited. The first reason is that it is precisely in these countries, for obvious reasons, that the loss of credibility of socialism has been the greatest and that illusions in capitalism are most widespread. But sooner rather than later these will fade away confronted with the concrete experience of the torments of capitalist restoration. That is to say that above all we must not give up our efforts in that part of the world. We should, on the other hand, discuss with our comrades in the countries concerned on the methods of propaganda and party building the most appropriate to their countries – a frequent error is to reproduce the traditional forms used in capitalist countries.

*It is still the dominated countries which are today the weakest links in the world imperialist system. It is still in these countries, at the present time, that there are the biggest possibilities for building revolutionary or potentially revolutionary mass parties. It is in the direction of the dominated countries that our International has directed the greatest share of central resources, both material and human. It will continue in this direction, exploring in particular the possibilities offered in countries experiencing a new radicalisation...

Regroupment, Realignment, and the Revolutionary Left

Alex Callinicos is a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain

It is clear that what in France is called the "radical left" or "the left of left" – the forces to the left of social democracy and of what survives of Stalinism – is undergoing a major process of renewal and of realignment. The mass mobilisations that have swept Europe and North America since Seattle, the development of a worldwide movement against global capitalism, the shift to the left of Rifondazione Comunista in Italy, the spectacular performance of the revolutionary candidates in the first round of the French presidential elections on 21 April 2002, the electoral challenge to New Labour mounted by a unifying far left in Britain – all these are signs of a major political sea-change.

Two political earthquakes

This process has to be set in the context of the two earthquakes to have hit the left in the past fifteen years. The first was the revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse of the Stalinist regimes, culminating in the fall of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the USSR itself in 1991. The immediate political impact of this world-historical upheaval on the left was negative, even for those political currents that had opposed Stalinism from the social democratic right or the revolutionary left. The disappearance of the only major geopolitical rival to the Western bloc – and the catastrophic collapse of what purported to be a planned economy-seemed to confirm the idea (most famously articulated by Francis Fukuyama) that there could no longer be any progressive alternative to liberal capitalism. At best, the more radical proponents of contemporary social democracy argued, we could choose which version of capitalism we were exploited by-Rhenish stakeholder capitalism rather than Anglo-American laissez faire.1

The deeply pessimistic reaction that this situation could induce even on sections of the revolutionary left critical of Stalinism is indicated by the opening of a resolution passed at the 14th World Congress of the Fourth International in 1995 (more extracts from this document are published elsewhere in this Bulletin):

"Since our 13th World Congress in 1991, the balance of forces has continued to deteriorate for the toiling masses, in the framework of the general trends noted and analysed in the resolution on the world situation that we adopted at that congress. The international dialectic of struggles has had a negative effect, bringing about setbacks, defeats or isolation of many emancipation movements. Our own current has been affected and weakened by this negative dialectic, a result that could hardly be avoided in an organisation unprotected by any sectarian shell to protect it from the contagion of the real course of social and political struggles... More generally, all the social movements which are still developing at different rates in different countries-against imperialist oppression, austerity, the harmful effects of the market economy, environmental dangers, women's oppression, militarism, etc-are still very fragmented. The project of a socialist society offering an alternative both to capitalism and to the disastrous experiences of bureaucratic 'socialism', lacks credibility: it is severely hampered by the balance sheet of Stalinism, of social democracy, and of populist nationalism in the 'Third World', as well as by the weakness of those who put it forward today. "In a large number of dominated countries, broad vanguard forces are now sceptical about the chances of success of a revolutionary break with imperialism; and sceptical about the possibilities of taking power and keeping it, given the new world balance of power. Other forces, and not the least important, have broken openly with this perspective."

Against this background, the prediction made, for example, in my The Revenge of History (1991), that, freed of the incubus of Stalinism, the authentic Marxist left could now take up again the unfinished business of confronting capitalism was undoubtedly excessively optimistic. Viewed from the perspective of 2002, however, it does not seem positively wrong. Because the driving force in the disintegration of Stalinism was, above all in the Soviet Union itself, more its internal contradictions than mass revolt from below, the immediate short term impact of its collapse was to strengthen Western capitalism in general and US imperialism in particular. But, in the longer term, the disappearance of Stalinism as a political force did liberate the left from having to dissociate itself from an obscene caricature of socialism. And, in part because of the very scale of market capitalism's short term victory, which encouraged the worldwide imposition of neo-liberal policies, by the end of the 1990s a movement did emerge to challenge global capitalism. This is, of course, the second major earthquake – the rise of the anti-capitalist movement. There is no need to repeat here the extensive analysis of this development made by the SWP elsewhere (which has been thoroughly vindicated since its initial formulation in the aftermath of Seattle), but it may be helpful to resume the most recent developments.2

The combined effect of the radicalisation produced by the Genoa protests and 11 September 2001 was to shift the centre of gravity of the movement from North America (where activists were thrown onto the defensive after 9-11) to Europe. The scale of the protests at the European Union summit in Barcelona in March 2002 and the gigantic demonstrations against Le Pen in France in April/May 2002 indicate that this process is continuing. But, at the same time, the second World Social Forum at Porto Alegre in January/February 2002, attended by between 60,000 and 80,000 people, mainly Brazilian, underlined that the movement cannot be seen as a purely First World phenomenon, while the major demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco on 20 April 2002 – where opposition to neo-liberalism and solidarity with the Palestinian people fused in large, peaceful protests – are the most important sign to date that anti-capitalist resistance is reviving in the United States itself.

The significance of the anti-capitalist movement for the radical left is three-fold.

First, it is bringing a new generation into political activity. The youth and militancy of, for example, the anti-Le Pen demonstrations in France have been widely recognised.

Secondly, it is revitalising many activists from the 1960s and 1970s generation who, having grown tired and pessimistic after experiencing the defeats of the past quarter of a century, now see their hopes being renewed in these new mobilisations.

Thirdly, and most fundamentally, after the apparent triumph of neo-liberalism in the 1990s, the continued viability of anti-capitalist politics has been demonstrated very concretely. The regularity with which, for example, the Financial Times announces the decline of the anti-capitalist movement, only then to have to eat its words by reporting another massive protest or launching yet another defence of neo-liberalism, is an indication of the way in which a critique of capitalism from the left has once again established itself as a pole in ideological and political debates in the West.

Class polarisation in Europe

Revolutionary socialists are today swimming in a much bigger stream. Moreover, they are swimming with the stream. A large-scale process of radicalisation is drawing large numbers of people to the left. In Europe this radicalisation has its origins in the process of class polarisation that developed in the early 1990s. The impact of economic recession and of the neo-liberal policies demanded by European economic and monetary union (and still enforced by the European Central Bank and the EU Growth and Stability Pact) drove substantial numbers of people further to the right and to the left. This is what Tony Cliff called "the 1930s in slow motion". It was reflected in the gains made by the extreme right throughout Europe during the 1990s, but also in the rebellion against neo-liberalism expressed industrially in the French mass strikes of 1995 and electorally in the sweeping victories won by social democratic parties in 1996-8.3

The first round of the French presidential elections on 21 April 2002 demonstrated that this process of class polarisation has reached a new phase. The social democratic governments brought to office by a rebellion against neo-liberalism have pressed ahead with neo-liberal policies. Lionel Jospin is the most spectacular victim to date of the resulting revulsion. But Le Pen and the Nazi National Front are not the only beneficiaries. Over 10 percent of those who voted in the first round backed revolutionary candidates. This is the most concrete evidence to date of the emergence of a "radical left" that repudiates social democracy. The panic reaction of many on the liberal left to recent developments – summed up by Martin Jacques, ex-editor of Marxism Today, when he wrote, "Not since the 1930s has the threat of the irrational, of a turn towards barbarism, been so great in the West" – completely ignores this side of the picture.4 Millions across Europe are participating in a learning process. Disappointed by the experience of social democracy and encouraged by the development of the anti-capitalist movement, they are ready to look further left.

Whence the differences?

The development of the anti-capitalist movement represents a powerful challenge for existing left organisations: are they capable of relating positively and creatively to this new movement? It also poses the question of how important the theoretical and political differences that divided the left in the past still are. It is worth distinguishing between three kinds of difference.

First, there are the historic divisions on the Trotskyist left. Between the two main international currents-the Fourth International and the International Socialist Tendency-these stem ultimately from different interpretations of Stalinism, namely the orthodox Trotskyist analysis of Russia as a degenerated workers' state adhered to by the FI and the theory of bureaucratic state capitalism developed by Tony Cliff, founder of the IST.5

Secondly, there is the far more important division between Trotskyism and Stalinism. This is the political expression of a world-historic process – the degeneration of the Russian Revolution of October 1917 and the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Thirdly, there is the equally profound antagonism between revolutionary socialism and social democracy. Once again, this is a reflection of world-historic events-in particular, the capitulation of the Second International to the First World War in August 1914 and the subsequent formation, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, of a new revolutionary Third International.

To pose the question of the contemporary pertinence of these differences is not to say that they don't matter any more. For example, orthodox Trotskyism identifies a workers' state with a state-controlled economy. Since a variety of social and political forces have carried through the statisation of an economy – Stalinist parties, Third World guerrilla movements, left wing army officers-the implication was that working class self-activity was not required to create a workers' state.6

Cliff's theory of state capitalism permitted us to reaffirm Marx's fundamental idea that socialism is the self-emancipation of the working class. Even if Stalinism is moribund, what Trotsky called substitutionism – the belief that forces other than the working class can overthrow capitalism – is still alive and well.7 For that reason alone, the theory of state capitalism is an essential part of the intellectual heritage of revolutionary Marxism.

For all that, it would be mad now, when the Stalinist states have largely been swept into the dustbin of history and the surviving Communist regimes are (with the exception of North Korea) busily seeking to integrate themselves into the world economy, to insist on dividing revolutionary socialists on the basis of their different interpretations of Stalinism. This would not have been true as recently as the early 1990s.

The intellectual clarity provided by the theory of state capitalism was critical in allowing the IS Tendency to resist the wave of pessimism that swept the left internationally after 1989-including most orthodox Trotskyist currents, as the passage cited above from the FI Congress in 1995 shows. It was indeed critical to the formation of some groups – for example, the International Socialists of South Korea emerged thanks to its success in winning activists from the predominantly pro-Stalinist left in the aftermath of the August 1991 coup in Moscow on the basis of the ability of Cliff's theory to explain the disintegration of "existing socialism".

But – with the revival of the left that began with the mass strikes in France in November-December 1995 – a new page has been turned. The position that a particular organisation took on the question of Stalinism is not a reliable guide to its orientation towards the new movement.

On the one hand, the International Socialist Organisation in the United States, historically one of the leading affiliates of the IST, reacted to Seattle and the subsequent international radicalisation with a sectarian dogmatism reminiscent of the worst aberrations of orthodox Trotskyism.8

On the other hand, FI activists have played a prominent role in the development of ATTAC in France and in the World Social Forums at Porto Alegre. Political tendencies must be judged not primarily on their theory or their past, but on their response to the challenges of the present.

To repeat, this does not mean the differences listed above no longer matter. As we shall see, the question of reform or revolution retains all its force today. But, rather than simply reiterate old arguments, we need to judge, in the light of the demands of a new period, what differences, old or new, really matter today.

Processes of realignment

This assessment is merely one version of a judgement being made much more broadly on the left internationally. There is an extraordinarily strong desire for unity among activists of all backgrounds and generations. This finds expression in a variety of different ways. To begin with the far left, in Britain we have seen the formation of the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales and of the Scottish Socialist Party, which have between them united most of the sane elements to the left of the Labour Party under the same roof. On a larger, primarily European, canvas there is the developing dialogue between the FI and the IST, which has found concrete expression in leadership discussions and some practical collaboration between the two currents' flagship organisations, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire in France and the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. Overlapping with these two processes are the now regular Conferences of the European Anti-Capitalist Left, which bring together some major formations from Trotskyist, left reformist and Stalinist backgrounds.

Somewhat analogous processes are at work elsewhere in the world. For example, in the Asia-Pacific region a number of organisations from a Stalinist (usually Maoist) background are engaged in a process of re-examining aspects of their politics and drawing together organisationally. For example, various groups that broke with the Communist Party of the Philippines are currently in a process of regroupment. Often with such formations (including the PRD in Indonesia), the most obvious way in which Stalinist ideas continue to exert a residual influence is in the acceptance of a stages theory of revolution that separates democratic and socialist revolutions as distinct phases of the struggle in Third World countries.

This helps to explain the role that the Australian Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) is playing as a facilitator in the realignment of the far left in parts of Asia. The DSP, an orthodox Trotskyist grouping in origin, broke with the FI in 1985 in large part because it came to reject Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution and accept a stages approach instead. 9

It would, however, be a major mistake to reduce the processes of left realignment currently underway to these shifting relationships among currents on the far left. Much larger forces are in play. Two developments in Europe illustrate this. The first is the shift to the left by the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC) in Italy. This began in 1998 when (at the price of a split) the PRC withdrew its support for the centre-left Olive Tree coalition government then headed by Romano Prodi. But the decisive stage in this process came when the PRC identified itself with the protests at Genoa in July 2001, and with the movement that subsequently developed in Italy against the war in Afghanistan and in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Secondly, and closely connected, is the development of a Europe-wide anti-capitalist network.

Organisationally the key forces in this network are the Italian Social Forums movement that emerged from the post-Genoa radicalisation, and ATTAC, which has now spread beyond France to over 40 countries, mainly in Europe, but the network embraces many others – Globalise Resistance in Britain and Ireland, the Movement for Global Resistance in the Spanish state, the Genoa 2001 Campaign in Greece, and so on. The network developed from the necessity of Europe-wide collaboration in the various summit mobilisations, starting with Prague in September 2000, and from the leading role played by French and Italian activists at Porto Alegre I and II. Preparations for the European Social Forum due to be held in Italy on 7-10 November 2002 are extending this network, but also putting it to a critical test.

Some on the Marxist left tend to be dismissive of these coalitions because many of the activists in them do not describe themselves as socialists (this is even more true of the North American networks). This apparent contradictory state of affairs – activists fighting global capitalism but denying that socialism is the alternative – is a consequence of the fact that resistance to the system revived in an ideological climate in which not merely revolutionary Marxism but other socialist traditions had been marginalised. To exclude this layer of activists-numerically probably the largest grouping on an international scale-from the broader anti-capitalist left would be a disastrous sectarian error.

What sort of party?

This process of left realignment therefore takes place against a very different background from that assumed by the Fourth International when it discussed regroupment in 1995. Then the FI envisaged (in the resolution extracts of which are published elsewhere in this Discussion Bulletin) the possibility of different currents drawing together in a context that it saw as dominated by capitalist offensive and disarray and retreat on the left. Today, however, it is impossible to ignore the signs of revival. All the same, the growth of the far right underlines the scale of the challenge now facing the anti-capitalist left in Europe. Whether as members of political organisations or working in looser activist coalitions, they have collectively to offer an attractive and effective alternative to those radicalised by the experiences of the past years. To take the obvious example, what ongoing framework can be offered to the nearly 3 million people who voted for revolutionary candidates in France?

This takes us to the question of political organisation itself. A significant section of the anti-capitalist movement has a more or less hostile attitude towards political parties. This reflects a variety of factors – for example, the appalling record of the "official left" (social democrats, Communists and Greens) in office, negative experiences with far left organisations, and the influence of autonomism. The result is a movementism that, for example, has led to the formal exclusion of political parties from the World Social Forum and attempts to extend this ban to the European Social Forum. This position is very hard to sustain intellectually. Despite the ban on parties at the WSF, the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) was an informing presence (the concluding ceremony at Porto Alegre II felt at moments like a PT election rally). More seriously, there are systematic political differences within the movement – notably with the emergence of a strongly reformist pole around ATTAC that is challenged in particular by the Italian autonomists (the disobbedienti) on the basis of politics that chiefly emphasise the self-activity of already committed activists.10 These divergent currents operate like parties, organising on the basis of what amount to distinct political programmes, even if they spurn the name "party".

The real question, then, is not so much for or against the party as a political form, but rather what kind of party we should be building? Here Murray Smith, a member of the LCR, but also till recently editor of Frontline, the magazine of the leading current within the Scottish Socialist Party (the International Socialist Movement, or ISM), makes an interesting contribution elsewhere in this Discussion Bulletin. He makes essentially two points.

First, the LCR should take the initiative in seeking to bring together a wide spectrum of activists from different political traditions and social movements in a new anti-capitalist party in France.

Secondly, he argues against taking as the model of this party that provided by what he calls "traditional revolutionary organisations" such as the LCR and the SWP, that base themselves on a clearly defined revolutionary Marxist programme. A new party in France should, like the SSP, be "strategically non-delimited", leaving open the question of reform and revolution. To call such a party "centrist" would be to remain trapped in "a period when the workers' movement was characterised by a sharp polarisation between reformist and revolutionary currents".

The rightward shift of social democracy (Smith calls them the "post-reformist left") has, however, made such an approach obsolete: "In building a party with a class struggle practice (and an intervention by revolutionary Marxists) we create a framework that is unfavourable for the development of reformist currents. Besides, it is difficult to see how we could build a party on any other basis. Even to defend existing reforms and win new ones we have to employ the methods of class and mass struggle, in relation to which action in the parliamentary institutions would only play a supporting role. To fight for reforms has never meant you were a reformist, even still less so today when the so-called reformists don't introduce reforms any more. A party built on these bases, especially with a conscious intervention by revolutionary Marxists, doesn't constitute a favourable terrain for the development of reformist currents."

Though the experience of the SSP is often cited in this context, the conception of a broad anti-capitalist party defended by Smith is shared by many who do not support the ISM – for example in the Fourth International. In order to identify what is wrong with this conception it is essential to start with the points of agreement. First of all, the history of the workers' movement shows very clearly that mass revolutionary parties do not develop through a linear process in which a small Marxist group gradually grows bigger and bigger by recruiting more and more members. Like history more generally, the development of revolutionary parties involves qualitative leaps and sharp breaks. A classic case is the emergence of the French Communist Party from a split in the Socialist Party at its Tours Congress in 1920. There may well be cases where the way forward is to regroup a relatively broad spectrum of anti-capitalist forces in a party whose programme falls short of revolutionary Marxism. Moreover, this may indeed be what the LCR should be seeking in France. Certainly to make a larger realignment conditional on agreement with the deep-dyed sectarians of Lutte Ouvriere would be to ensure that the entire project is stillborn. The idea that has been floated in the LCR of convening a broad Estates General of the Anti-Capitalist Left as a step towards a new party makes a lot of sense. But it does not follow from the fact that sometimes regroupment on the basis of a broad anti-capitalist programme is the right step to take that the aim of the process should be a party that fudges the question of reform or revolution. Smith is able to take a relaxed attitude to this because he seems to believe that classical reformism is dead. But this is a big mistake, for at least two reasons.

First of all this belief involves a grave underestimation of contemporary social democracy. Of course, what Tony Cliff called "reformism without reforms" is a feature of the present period: a crisis-ridden capitalist globalisation presses social democratic governments to dismantle the reforms they had previously introduced. But this does not mean that the base of these parties in the organised working class has simply vanished. More to the point, there is no reason to believe that at least some social democratic parties will not, when driven into opposition by the present electoral revival of the European bourgeois right, to rebuild support by promising reforms. The French Socialist Party (PS) has already moved left in response to Jospin's defeat. Jospin himself rebuilt the PS's base after the debacle of the later Mitterrand years. Only a fool would confidently assert that this cannot happen again.

Secondly, the capacity for social democrats to recover from their failure to deliver reforms has an objective basis in the relative lack of self-confidence of workers-greatly reinforced, of course, by the trade union bureaucracy, which encourages them to look to others to improve their condition. This lack of self-confidence can only be overcome by the experience of mass struggle, and even then workers do not immediately or automatically shake off the influence of reformist ideas. All the great workers' movements, from the Russian and German Revolutions to Solidarnosc in Poland, have involved an intense battle of ideas over different strategies for taking the struggle forward.

Though we are not in a revolutionary situation today, we see precisely the same process of differentiation at work in the contemporary anti-capitalist movement. The most powerful single force within the movement in Europe is a coalition of reformist forces, embracing significant elements within both ATTAC and the Italian Social Forums movement, who see either a revived nation-state or a reformed European Union (or some combination of the two) as a counterweight to global capitalism (which they often identify with the US). This is a much more militant reformism than that represented by contemporary social democracy, because it has emerged from a mass movement and has an activist orientation, but reformism it still is. The role that this current has played in resisting mass mobilisations and in particular blocking anti-war activity in different parts of Europe is documented elsewhere in this Discussion Bulletin.

The most prominent challenge to this wing of the anti-capitalist movement from the left comes from the autonomists. But this response is vague and diffuse in the extreme. Consider, for example, Michael Hardt on the polarisation between the so-called souverainistes-defenders of national sovereignty-and the supporters of more radical positions at Porto Alegre II:

"It is certainly important, on the one hand, to recognise the differences that divide the activists and politicians gathered at Porto Alegre. It would be a mistake, on the other hand, to try to read the division according to the traditional model of ideological conflict between opposing sides. Political struggle in the age of network movements no longer works in that way. Despite the apparent strength of those who occupied centre stage and dominated the representations of the Forum, they may ultimately prove to have lost the struggle... The leaders can certainly craft resolutions affirming national sovereignty around a conference table, but they can never grasp the democratic power of the movements. Eventually they too will be swept up in the multitude, which is capable of transforming all fixed and centralised elements into so many more nodes in its indefinitely expansive network".11

Hardt's reliance on the automatic development of the "multitude" is likely to be no more successful than earlier versions of the idea that spontaneity is enough to defeat capitalism. Like its predecessors, it represents a denial of politics, the refusal to recognise that the struggle against capitalism requires for its success the articulation of ideologies, the development of political strategies, and organised efforts to win support for them.

Challenging the influence of reformism within the anti-capitalist movement cannot be left to the objective logic of "network movements". It requires the development of a coherent, organised revolutionary pole within the movement. But what is true internationally also holds on the national scale as well. An anti-capitalist party will be unable to negotiate the twists and turns of the class struggle – a class struggle from which reformism cannot be magically banished – without a clearly articulated revolutionary Marxist analysis that informs its tactical initiatives and practical activities.

Organising on the basis of a broader and more ambiguous programmatic basis may sometimes be a necessary phase in the process of building a mass revolutionary party but a looser party is no substitute for the real thing. More immediately, what Smith calls "traditional revolutionary organisation", whether large or small, has definite practical advantages. The relative ideological homogeneity of a revolutionary Marxist party gives it a greater capacity for rapid and decisive action than looser, more programmatically ambiguous formations.

Consider, for example, the speed and determination with which the British SWP reacted to 11 September 2001 by starting, within less than 24 hours of the attacks on New York and Washington, a series of initiatives that led to the formation of the Stop the War Coalition and the emergence of one of the most dynamic anti-war movements in Europe. This was possible because the SWP, and the IS Tendency, had, over more than a decade, developed both theoretical analyses and a body of practical experience concerning contemporary imperialist wars and radical Islam that allowed us very rapidly to identify the key issues that were likely to emerge in the wake of 9-11. It is important to understand that the relative homogeneity of programme and analysis possessed by a revolutionary socialist party is not something arrived at by the mechanical repetition of sacred texts or the bureaucratic imposition of uniformity. Revolutionary Marxism can only continue as a living tradition by showing its capacity to respond creatively to historically novel developments. This means that an authentically Leninist organisation has to be able thoroughly to discuss these developments. Inevitably such discussion often involves major disagreements and vigorous polemics-particularly when the party has to deal with a sharp turn in the objective situation. The consensus that now exists within the IS Tendency over both contemporary imperialist wars and radical Islam emerged over sometimes strongly polarised debates in the late 1980s and the mid-1990s respectively.

Open discussion is therefore essential to a properly functioning revolutionary party. It is not, however, an end in itself, but is rather a means of clarification and therefore of enabling the party to act more effectively. Understanding this is the key to grasping the nature of democratic centralism. Daniel Bensaïd of the LCR makes the point very well:

"What is often attacked in the notion of the Leninist party, or in 'democratic centralism', is plainly the verticalist centralism for a long time illustrated by the bureaucratic centralism of the Communist parties. We then run the risk of forgetting that a certain form and a certain degree of centralism are also democratic imperatives. Parties which are simple spaces of discussion, without decisions taken in common bringing together the activists as a whole, will be reduced to clubs where gossip and opinions are exchanged without any common engagement for action. They will then be playthings for the surrounding market mechanisms and for the co-optation of the leaders by the media (as often already happens)".12

In an authentic democratic centralist party, then, open discussion is encouraged, but as a means of allowing the party to intervene more effectively. Discussion therefore terminates in a democratically arrived-at decision, after which all members, whatever their views on the issue, work together to implement the policy that has been agreed on. What this means organisationally is a matter of some controversy. The practice of the Fourth International is normally to permit the permanent existence of organised tendencies within their sections. Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist Organisation (Zimbabwe) also defends a conception of the Leninist party as a multi-tendency organisation in his contribution to this Discussion Bulletin.

The problem with permanent tendencies is that they institutionalise internal disagreements within the party. This often has the effect of turning the organisation in on itself and creating an introverted atmosphere in which the latest internal bulletin is a bigger event than developments in the class struggle. Even where this does not happen, the existence of permanent tendencies is likely to encourage a situation in which specific issues are viewed through the lens of the internal differences. Decisions emerge, less through the weight of the strongest argument, but as a result of the balance of forces between the different factions, a situation that can encourage coalition-building and unprincipled deals. Bensaïd describes such a situation at the 10th Congress of the FI, which met in 1974, deeply split between two international factions: "the logic of factionalism set the boundaries and the Congress resembled a diplomatic meeting of delegations rather than a collective discussion. The important questions were settled separately and in private".13

Gwisai invokes the example of the Bolsheviks to support his approach, but the history of Lenin and his party offers a very different picture, one in which open and vigorous debates often took place but in which the alignments of the leading Bolsheviks constantly shifted on specific issues. Within the space of a few months, for example, Lenin and Trotsky moved from being close allies over the necessity of taking power in September-October 1917 to antagonists over the Brest-Litovsk treaty in January-February 1918, while Zinoviev and Kamenev, bitterly opposed to Lenin in October, became strong supporters of him over Brest-Litovsk.

A revolutionary party should seek to promote this kind of fluid, open debate rather than institutionalise factional differences. This conception of the Leninist party has important implications for how revolutionaries operate within the broader movement. The kind of sectarianism displayed by LO or the American ISO when they counterpose their organisation to the movement is utterly bankrupt. Participation in a broad range of united fronts is an essential feature of the present period.14 But these united fronts-which include movements such as the Socialist Alliance, ATTAC, and Globalise Resistance, which have a broad programmatic basis – are not ends in themselves.

While working constructively with a diversity of different currents, revolutionary Marxists have to be contributing to a process of ideological clarification that focuses on the question of strategy – of how to take these movements forward. Sometimes this may involve polemics with the reformists and the autonomists. Provided that these arguments are conducted in a comradely fashion, and pursued in a context where it is clear that the aim is to strengthen the movement, they need not have a divisive effect. Nevertheless the development of a strong Marxist pole within the movement depends on the willingness of revolutionaries to engage in ideological struggle.

First steps

The most obvious way in which such a pole could be constructed on an international level would be for the two main Trotskyist currents – the FI and the IST – somehow to draw more closely together. It may therefore be helpful to consider some of the obstacles that such a process faces. Two in particular stand out:

(1) Theoretical disagreements: Of these the most important is not the historic debate over the class nature of the Soviet Union. More current questions are also in dispute. For example, the conference of the European Anti-Capitalist Left in Brussels in December 2001 saw a debate between the LCR and the SWP over the movement against the war in Afghanistan. The LCR comrades argued the relative weakness of the movement in France reflected objective factors – in particular, the legacy of French imperialism. The SWP delegates criticised what we saw as the subjective weaknesses of the French left, which led them even-handedly to condemn US imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. Behind this lies a larger disagreement over assessments of radical Islamism: the SWP tends to emphasise the potential of this (very heterogeneous) ideological and political phenomenon to express opposition to imperialism, while the LCR stresses its reactionary features.15 This is not simply a theoretical disagreement: the Stop the War Coalition in England (in which the SWP plays a leading role) has been able to involve leading Muslim organisations and activists in a united front against the war on terrorism.

(2) Differences in political culture: The two tendencies also have different political styles that, while not necessarily implying principled disagreements, sometimes present difficulties in working together. These differences reflect the divergent responses by the FI and the IST to the downturn in class struggle and the crisis of the revolutionary left that developed in the late 1970s.16 The FI was itself a major victim of this crisis, suffering the collapse, disintegration, or decline of many of its leading sections. Those that survived – including the most important in Europe, the LCR – did so as coalitions of activists involved in specific movements. By contrast, the IST was a far weaker international current when the crisis of the far left developed. It expanded both geographically and numerically during the downturn of the 1980s on the basis of a perspective central to which was general Marxist propaganda. The more activist orientation that the IST developed in response to the class polarisation that began to develop in Europe after 1989 still laid much greater stress on the development of Marxist theoretical understanding than did the FI groups.17

These divergent survival strategies mean that FI and IST groups tend to have quite different age profiles: the former dominated by middle-aged activists rooted in unions or other social movements, the latter much younger but (with some important exceptions – for example, the Irish SWP and SEK in Greece) much weaker connections with the organised working class. (The British SWP, because of its longevity as an organisation and the bursts of growth it has enjoyed since the mid-1980s, spans both sides of this divide.) FI comrades' involvement in activist networks means that they have been well placed to contribute to the anti-capitalist movement: LCR members played a leading role in ATTAC from the start, and their counterparts elsewhere have often been prominent in the movement's international extension. The IST, by contrast, has sought a much higher political profile starting with the large contingent it had at the Prague protests in September 2000. Its affiliates played an important role in initiating anti-capitalist united fronts – for example, Globalise Resistance in Britain and Ireland and the Genoa 2001 Campaign in Greece – but they have also openly intervened and projected themselves as revolutionary Marxist organisations in the movement. Meanwhile the LCR in particular sometimes gives the impression that its activists in specific movements operate fairly autonomously while the Ligue itself till recently took a low profile outside elections.

These different methods of working have sometimes been a source of misunderstanding between the two currents; ways of addressing them would have to be found if the IST and the FI were to work together more closely. The decision of the LCR leadership after the French presidential elections of April/May 2002 to break with the longstanding FI tradition of making membership conditional of the attainment of a relatively high "political level" and to adopt a policy of open recruitment – something that has been, in different forms, part of the SWP's practice since the early 1970s – is therefore an important step towards reducing the gap between the practice of the two currents.

As this example indicates, the differences between the IST and the FI are not set in stone. Of course, the LCR comrades did not decide to practise open recruitment in order to reduce these divergences. Their decision was dictated by the practical necessities of relating to the wave of radicalisation since 21 April (thus, see Murray Smith's comments on the question of membership). But that is precisely the point: the development of the struggle on an international scale is forcing established revolutionary organisations to re-examine past assumptions and practices. This is the context that has put regroupment and realignment onto the agenda. This does not mean that these will simply take place spontaneously, as Michael Hardt suggests when he argues that reformism will simply dissolve into the "multitude". The obstacles described above – let alone the much greater ones that separate the Trotskyist left from currents emerging from one wing or other of the Communist movement – are real ones that cannot simply be wished away. They will need to be addressed if they are to be overcome. Concretely this means three things:

(1) The different socialist tendencies being drawn together in the new movements against capitalism and war need to engage in positive and constructive united front work that involves not merely them but also the broader anti-capitalist left that does not regard itself as Marxist or even socialist.

(2) Where possible, revolutionary currents – in particular, the FI and the IST – need to achieve a higher level of practical collaboration: steps already have been taken in this direction – for example, the far left rallies during the protests at Nice (December 2000), Genoa (July 2001), and Brussels (December 2001) – but thought should be given about how to build further on these initiatives.

(3) Discussion of the political differences that exist on the far left and in the broader movement needs to be pursued in an open and comradely way: nothing is to be gained by pretending they do not exist or trying to brush them under the carpet. Since Seattle the revolutionary left has been embarking-along with many others, fortunately – on a new voyage. There is no map to guide us – no set of rules or obvious historical reference point to dictate what we should do. The potential rewards are enormous. History will not forgive us if we miss this chance.

Alex Callinicos

Notes

1. W Hutton, The State We're In (London, 1995).
2. See especially C Harman, "Anti-Capitalism: Theory and Practice", International Socialism 88 (2000), A Callinicos, The Anti-Capitalist Movement and The Revolutionary Left (London, 2001) and An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto (Cambridge, forthcoming).
3. See A Callinicos, "Crisis and Class Struggle in Europe Today", International Socialism 63 (1994), and "Reformism and Class Polarisation in Europe", International Socialism 85 (1999).
4. M Jacques, "The New Barbarism", Guardian, 9 May 2002.
5. See T Cliff, Trotskyism after Trotsky (London, 1999), A Callinicos, Trotskyism (Milton Keynes, 1990), and D Bensaïd, Les Trotskysmes (Paris, 2002). For the most recent round in the debate between defenders of these rival interpretations of Stalinism, see the exchanges between Chris Harman, Ernest Mandel and myself in International Socialism 47, 49, 56 and 57 (1990, 1992).
6. For a case study of the political acrobatics this logic produced comparatively recently among supporters of the FI, see A Callinicos, "Their Trotskyism and Ours", International Socialism 22 (1984).
7. T Cliff, "Trotsky on Substitutionism" (1960), in International Struggle and the Marxist Tradition: Selected Writings Volume One (London, 2001).
8. See A Callinicos, The Anti-Capitalist Movement and the Revolutionary Left.
9. See D Lorimer, Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist Critique (Sydney, 1998) and J Percy and D Lorimer, The Democratic Socialist Party and the Fourth International (Sydney, 2001). For a critique of this kind of thinking, see J Rees, "The Socialist Revolution and the Democratic Revolution", International Socialism 2:83 (1999). Not all groups involved in the regroupment process promoted by the DSP accept a stages theory-for example, the Labour Party of Pakistan, which broke away from the Committee for a Workers' International, dominated by the Socialist Party of England and Wales.
10. For much further analysis, see A Callinicos, An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto, especially ch 2.
11. M Hardt, "Today's Bandung?", New Left Review II:14 (2002), pp117-18.
12. "Entretien avec Daniel Bensaïd", Le Passant ordinaire, May 2002: circulated by e-mail.
13. D Bensaïd, Les Trotskysmes, p105.
14. See J Rees, "Anti-Capitalism, Reformism and Socialism", International Socialism 90 (2001), and A Callinicos, "Unity in Diversity", Socialist Review, April 2002.
15. Compare, for example, G Achcar, "Le Choc des barbaries", ContreTemps 3 (2002), and C Harman, The Prophet and the Proletariat (new edn, London, 2002).
16. See C Harman, The Fire Last Time (London, 1988), ch 16.
17. See, on the history of the IST, T Cliff, A World to Win (London, 2000), pp201-219.
The 'Fourth International' and Regroupment

Salah Jaber is a member of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International

Whatever differences one may have with the FI on the assessment of the Cuban revolution and of Che Guevara, this issue played a positive defining role in the evolution of the international current long identified through the leading role played in it by the late Ernest Mandel. The very fact that the FI recognised in the 1960s that a socialist revolution had been led by a current which did not originate in Stalinism, and which it considered to be genuinely revolutionary and empirically close to some key tenets of its own conception of the revolutionary programme,1 was decisive in shaping an early view of the building of the international revolutionary movement as a process of regroupment.

Not a "regroupment" seen primarily as a "reunification of the Trotskyist movement", but a regroupment of revolutionary currents of various historical and ideological origins, sharing a commitment to a revolutionary strategy of struggle against imperialism, capitalism and Stalinism. This was conceived as taking place through a convergence in setting up an international mass revolutionary movement on the basis of political pluralism, of a kind that the FI's own conception and implementation of full tendency rights in its own ranks predisposed well to see as a normal pattern of revolutionary organisation. These two features – its pluralistic conception of the revolutionary movement and its own mode of organisation – contributed to making the FI one of the few international revolutionary currents that were genuinely non-sectarian. It was definitely not one of those currents that called their rivals all sorts of names, through a messianic belief in their exclusive right to represent the working class, thus labelling as "petty bourgeois" all those who disagree with their view of the world. For instance, the disagreement with the IS current on the nature of the USSR was treated by the FI as a difference among revolutionary Marxists, and not as a dividing line between revolutionaries and "counter-revolutionaries". The collapse of the Soviet Union and the world Stalinist system was naturally seen by the FI as a watershed in the history of the international workers' movement. The FI was quick to acknowledge the very positive effect of this collapse on the prospects for a full-fledged restructuring of the world anti-capitalist movement – an aspect contrasting sharply with the negative effect of the collapse of the USSR on the worldwide balance of forces, which left the USA in the position of the sole global hegemonic power in a unipolar world.

With the downfall of Stalinism, the sectarian rejection of all those referring to Leon Trotsky by major sections of the world workers' movement under Stalinist leadership or influence receded in a spectacular fashion. At the same time, the differences over the analysis of the USSR were no longer to play the divisive role they used to play within the actually existing revolutionary movement, where one could find a very broad range of positions from deep illusions in a possible help from the "Soviet comrades" to the assessment according to which the Soviet Union was just another brand of capitalism.

Accordingly, the FI – especially at its 1995 World Congress – put forward a view of the building of the international revolutionary movement as a three-tiered process of regroupment. This could best be described in the form of three circles.

The first largest circle involves the pluralistic regroupment of anti-capitalist forces, broadly defined as including both revolutionary and left-reformist forces: the most typical embodiment of this kind of regroupment is the Italian PRC (Rifondazione).


The second mid-level circle consists in the regroupment of radical anti-capitalist forces, predominantly revolutionary: the English Socialist Alliance is one of the best known embodiments of this second kind.2

The third and narrowest circle is the regroupment in a single organisation of revolutionary Marxist militants belonging to various traditions, as is the case with the Basque Zutik for instance.

A fourth circle, broader than the three aforementioned, appeared in the recent years: it is the regroupment of forces opposed to neo-liberalism, which includes forces and currents that cannot accurately be described as anti-capitalist, but believe in the possibility of shaping a "humane" variant of capitalism. The best known example of this new phenomenon, closely linked to the rise of the struggle against neo-liberal globalisation, is undoubtedly the French ATTAC which came to include tens of thousands of members.

Projected at an international scale, these four circles are to be conceived as non-concentric: the narrowest circle cannot pretend to be at the leading centre of the broadest one, unless it fell prey to the illusions of opportunist wishful thinking or sectarian isolationism. For the FI, the narrowest circle is naturally what it intends to be itself as an international revolutionary organisation. The process of regroupment at this level translates in the fact that groups from diverse origins join the FI, the most spectacular recent case being in this regard the Mindanao-based Revolutionary Workers Party of the Philippines (RPM-M), which originated in a split from the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines.

Although the prospects at this level are promising, they are not of a kind to transform qualitatively the role of the FI in the world revolutionary movement. This role is therefore seen not as one of pretending to lead the world movement-not to mention the world revolution!-but as one of playing an active and decisive role in facilitating the processes of regroupment at the other levels. At the same time, the prevalence nowadays of a pluralistic conception within the world anti-capitalist movement makes it possible to build regroupments where every component can preserve its own identity and carry on its own development, in a non-sectarian fashion.

The most obvious level of international regroupment is the broadest one: the movement of struggle against neo-liberal globalisation is embodied at the world level in the World Social Forum that was launched in Porto Alegre. The key role that the FI sections and militants have played in this respect is well known: all those familiar with the whereabouts of this movement and the history of its inception know the essential contribution that the FI made to its building. The FI considers that the WSF is a very valuable tool in the global fight against capitalism and imperialism, which should not be discarded out of ultra-left sectarian inability to work within the really existing mass movement with all its heterogeneity. On the contrary, the WSF is currently being expanded at a continental level, in order to make its international reality still more effective.

The second and third circles cannot be distinguished at the international level for an obvious reason: the diversity of the radical left forces is of such a magnitude that one can hardly devise a common platform for them that would prevent left-reformist forces from joining. On the other hand, a non-inhibitory participation of left-reformist forces in the international regroupment can strengthen it considerably in the fight against capitalism and imperialism. A significant example at this combined level is the European Conference of the Anti-Capitalist Left, which the European sections of the FI helped to launch and develop along with other organisations, like the Scottish Socialist Party, the Danish Red-Green Alliance and the Portuguese Left Bloc. This regroupment, which meets around every EU summit, includes several of the major radical left organisations of Europe. It becomes all the more important since the Italian PRC, following its "left turn" at its last congress, has decided to play an active role in it.

The FI works for improving the operational capacity of this regroupment and its direct involvement in building the anti-capitalist mobilisations in Europe. To be sure, there is a very big need – as well as a clear possibility – of building a similar regroupment on a worldwide level. There are numerous significant radical left forces in the world, from various historical and ideological origins, which are actively seeking channels of international exchange and collaboration with other anti-capitalist forces. The need for such a collaboration is more obvious than ever in today's world against the overwhelming dominance and surveillance exerted by US imperialism over the entire world capitalist system.

Most of the forces referred to could not join either the FI or a current like the IS Tendency, but would very likely adhere to a pluralistic regroupment involving a variety of radical left currents. Creating such an international regroupment, on the basis of the concrete involvement in the global anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle, should be considered as one of the pressing tasks on the agenda of all revolutionaries. It should start with the convening of an international conference on the basis of an appeal that should be drafted through an international consultation among the most obvious likely participants in such a conference. The FI and the IST are undoubtedly two of those "most obvious likely participants": this project should be put high on the agenda of their forthcoming discussions.

Salah Jaber

Notes

1. To be sure, the FI does not hold this view any longer, and has acknowledged since the 1970s the deepening of the bureaucratic deformation of the Castroist leadership of the Cuban proletarian Bonapartist state. Nevertheless, it still considers the defence of this state against US imperialism and its agents to be a key task of the revolutionary movement in the Americas and worldwide. And it still sticks to an overall positive assessment of the role of Che Guevara as a socialist revolutionary figure.
2. The French LCR is actively seeking to build such a regroupment involving forces from the radical left and the social and trade union movements in France (see its appeal).