Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Fourth International and Fifth International Merger: 4 1/2 International?

with 10 comments



It’s a Swampy Thing: the Weekly Worker wouldn’t understand.

In the interest of international left unity we publish this news.

The first discussion bulletin Inside Left Unity  is now available (via the Weekly Worker site).

The International Socialist Network, the Anticapitalist Initiative, RS21, Workers Power (Fifth International) and Socialist Resistance (4th International) are discussing merging, and will hold a Conference on this in the near future.

The comrades from the Weekly Worker publish the first discussion bulletin involving these organisations.

We note with sorrow that the CPGB has been excluded from these discussions, despite several direct approaches to two of the participating organisations, the International Socialist Network and RS 21, for exploratory talks (see here and a comment on RS21 in this article for the apolitical rebuffs we received).

The CPGB (Provisional CC) has been “feebly bad-mouthed by most participants. ” Any suggestion that the CPGB might be included in the unity discussions would prompt an instant and a non-negotiable veto from Socialist Resistance. (SR has also been distinctly sniffy about the participation of Workers Power, of course).”

What the Weekly Worker justly calls the “Gang of Five” is, they report, on the way to creating a “sect”.

They they saintly remark that  their ‘hearts will mend”  but that, “Sadly the comrades seem on an inevitable descent into the swamp of liquidationism, and not upwards to principled Marxist unity.”

The CPGB (provisional CC) has ” written to the organisers of the April 26 ‘unity’ conference requesting observer status and – whatever the outcome of that – we will keep up our campaign that seems to cause these political trends such pain: For Marxists to unite and fight for Marxism.”

In the discussion document Socialist Resistance makes a contribution on the People’s Assembly which is worth reading,

Why PA is important for revolutionaries and Left Unity.

The PA is mobilising a similar target audience that Left Unity is building from. Activists involved in the People’s Assembly are nearly all both against government austerity and New Labour’s austeritylite ‘alternative’.  We have to be working alongside these activists not preaching from the sidelines that Unite has ‘sold out’ on Grangemouth or not yet organised a general strike or that the People’s Charter is not a revolutionary programme. We need to be there when these activists ask themselves whether consistent anti-austerity activity can co-exist with a belief that Labour can be reclaimed from the left.It was noticeable that there is a very limited number of Labour MPs or councillors signed up to the People’s Assembly and  even  fewer Labour Party branches affiliated.

We need to also collaborate with Counterfire – they may be part of a future left recomposition. Sooner or later they have to ask themselves whether the only perspective is building such united fronts and recruiting to Counterfire, turning it into a better SWP, or whether energies also need to be put into developing a broad political alternative to Labour like Left Unity. Both the CPB and Counterfire counterpose the PA to projects like Left Unity – misunderstanding the difference between a political party and a united front campaign. The CPB even talks of the PA as the most important political movement around. The PA will be around after the next elections, the debate on the left may have significantly changed. We need to be in the same room as the activists who identify it as a political movement.

It will indeed be interesting to see how Counterfire develops.

On Europe though Socialist Resistance are far from clear, or illuminating,

One area where differences were apparent was on Europe. Socialist Resistance has a long-standing opposition to European integration EU style which we believe is an important mechanism through which the European bourgeoisie attacks the gains of the working class.

That doesn’t mean that we do not prioritise building solidarity on a continental wide basis or that we would support an organisation such as No to EU – which as we have argued consistently ends up capitulating to racism by defending a British jobs for British workers line.

We don’t think in the current political situation that we should campaign for British withdrawal from the EU as a priority but we don’t agree with Simon Hardy when he argued that we should support European integration or with the Lambeth resolution when it argues that we should no more take a position on capitalist European integration than we would on the mergers of companies (actually in some situations we think it’s appropriate to take a position on the latter – it’s a question of concretely analysing a specific situation and assessing what is more or less likely to strengthen workplace and company-wide workers organisation).

So if it is not a “priority” they do they still agree to withdrawing from the EU?

We should be told.

On Ukraine there are the divisions that one imagine, SR backing the Maidan protesters, Workers Power rejecting them, and the ISN taking a balanced, “don’t take sides” position.

The bulletin is well worth reading.

Though you need a stern will to get through to the end of Workers Power’s wordy contributions, which can be summed up, everyone else is wrong but us – the pure vein of working class “rank and file” revolution.

There is one major gap.

One would have preferred some deeper analysis not of “broad” left-wing parties but of the specifics of European politics. Above all, what do Socialist Resistance think of the French Front de Gauche, whose own unitary formation  split their French counterpart organisation, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA).

The failure of the NPA to capture the ground to the left of the French Parti Socialiste (at present in government) is perhaps one of the most important issues any attempt at left ‘regroupment’ should discuss.

It is noteworthy that Socialist Resistance fails to address the existence of the Front de Gauche nor do the contribution in the texts assembled in their key statements,  Building New Parties of the Left even seriously broach  the thorny topic.

Instead we get this, on the British left Unity  (Terry Conway)

…our view is that we need to maintain the ability of this new political party to attract those just breaking with social democracy as well as those new to political activity and more seasoned activists joining a political party for the first time from the unions and single issue campaigns.

In practice we think that with the best of these militants these difficulties will be broken down in so far as Left Unity begins to build itself in a consistent way in the localities, campaigning on the key issues that are mobilising people. As people build up a loyalty and sense of identification with Left Unity as an organisation through collective activity, these more ideological debates will become less dominant.

So, their strategy is build a broad party until the time is ripe for some ‘Ideological debate’ – sectarian in-fighting.

To return to the title of this post: if SR and Workers Power are in the same organisation will this mean that the Fourth and the Fifth Internationals will merge?

In the Four and a Half International?


10 Responses

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  1. So I take it reading the briefing that ex-swp members have formed a “Popular Front of Judea”! I notice still using the old entryist tactics of the SWP but at least stating “where they have the base amongst the membership to do so” something that never worried the SWP, at least until people noticed they hadn’t been elected and kicked them out. Also notice the usual divide and rule tactics of setting one worker (agency staff, cleaners ect) against the rest, what’s wrong with electing at least one workplace representative for every staff group? I can now understand the opposition to Left Unity and the calls to take back our union from these fringe groups.

    Chris W

    April 20, 2014 at 2:24 pm

  2. That is excellent news. It’s a shame the SWP, SP, Counterfire. AWL and CPGB (WW) are not invited into discussions, and although I want SR in, I’d much rather have WW than the very wet SR (and who increasingly remind me of Socialist Action in their constant wish to be the bag-carriers of those like the leadership of Left Unity, as SA were with Livingstone). I may apply to join a merged party myself.

    I’d go further myself with the invites – one state, one party – and invite Maoists, hard-caore Stalinists, CPB, RCG, SSP, other Trots, anarchists, Left Communists etc. I reckon the time for us Trots is limited in LU and I’m disappointed that LU is resembling just another Left group, rather than a unifer of these. It’s tragic they were sniffy to TUSC overtures and it’s bad for LU to be counterposed to them – If I had to vote for the most hardened SP sectarian as a TUSC candidate versus Terry Conway as a LU candidate, the former would get my vote every time despite my LU membership. I’d join TUSC if it took individual members.

    The disgraceful decision by LU to support a Green candidate in the NW Euros is very bad news – the leadership (who appear to well represent the membership) are overwhelmingly neo-Bennite left reformists.

  3. Your email addresses don’t work. Send me one that does. themadmullahofbricklane@gmail.com.


    April 21, 2014 at 5:09 am

  4. What I really think should happen is a Far Left death match.

    I envisage a locked room with ultra-Stalinists carrying live size, heavy portrauts of Comrade Joe; those ‘oh so radical’ Student anarcho types, shouting ‘SWP = Rape Apologists’ with flamethrowers to ‘burn the SWP’; SR members with armoured Zimmer Frames; Workers Power members with the portable heavy-oak book case that all of them are obliged to carry around with them so they always know at all times e.g. what is the correct line on Bolivia 1952. And Jim Denham with a broken whisky bottle.

    My guess is that the Socialist Party will be the only ones remaining after such a street-fighting contest but my hope is that the effort will exhaust them. I will them step in with a coup-de-grace on them, assume leadership of the Far Left and, in a far quicker time than all those comedians can or ever would, lead us swiftly to the British, if not world, October.

    Either that or it’s another 35 years of time-wasting (I don’t think I can face that.) I should have taken up bus-spotting rather than Trotskyism.

  5. This is an interesting aspect which has been signaled to me, m(Socialist Resistance)

    “SR has long ceased to use the term ‘democratic centralism’. Instead we say revolutionary democracy. This is not because we reject the collective formulation of policy and collective implementation – maximum participation in the decision-making processes and maximum unity in action. Far from it. It is because we reject the undemocratic practices which have long been associated with ‘democratic centralism’ and practiced in its name.

    For example, we think that the requirement that members must advocate in public something that they disagree with internally is not only wrong in current circumstances but perverse. Whilst members are expected to carry out the decisions of the organisation, they are not expected to advocate policies with which they disagree. However, when minority views are expressed in public they should be presented as such.

    Another example of revolutionary democracy in our view is minority representation on leadership bodies. In our view, a revolutionary organisation cannot be democratic unless all properly established minority views are proportionately represented on all the leadership bodies.

    The way we see internal democracy also has an effect on the way we work in organisations like LU. Block voting in line with a party mandate deprives members of independence when working in such organisations and undermines the democracy of the organisation itself. We don’t agree with this way of functioning in a broad left party that we are trying to build as a political alternative, and we don’t practice it.

    One of the things which triggered the discussion around revolutionary regroupment was Luke Cooper and Simon Hardy’s book ‘Beyond Capitalism?’ which advocated a new kind of more democratic and heterogeneous model for the far left. We supported this idea at that time and we support it now.”


    Andrew Coates

    April 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm

  6. I really don’t see this one working. The Anti-Capitalist Initiative contains the now-dissolved Permanent Revolution, a split from Workers Power, and Simon Hardy was also a member of WP until relatively recently. Will they be able to be in one room with their former comrades without a row breaking out?

    Dr Paul

    April 21, 2014 at 1:19 pm

  7. I was thinking of joining the Socialist Labour Party, but it effectively collapsed before I sent off my application. The same thing happened with the Socialist Alliance. I actually joined the Campaign for a Marxist Party, but that collapsed shortly afterwards.

    I’m thinking about joining Left Unity, but I have a horrible feeling that my applying might have an untoward effect upon it.

    Dr Paul

    April 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

  8. Dr Paul. I think you are situationist.


    April 21, 2014 at 5:58 pm

  9. Why not apply then?

    Btw Maddy, the public E-Mail address given above does work!

    Andrew Coates

    April 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

  10. There are two and both bounce back. Post the one I should use.


    April 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm

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