Workers Vanguard No. 1139
7 September 2018
Reforge the Fourth International!
(Quote of the Week)
Eighty years ago, on 3 September 1938, the Fourth International was established under the leadership of Leon Trotsky. In opposition to the reformism of the social-democratic Second International and the Stalinized Communist International (Comintern), its founding document, excerpted below, provided the framework for building a new world party of socialist revolution. It is the task of the International Communist League to reforge the Fourth International, which was destroyed by a revisionist current under Michel Pablo in the early 1950s that renounced the need to build Trotskyist parties.
It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.
Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program, which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program, which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need of such a bridge, since the word socialism is used only for holiday speechifying. The Comintern has set out to follow the path of Social Democracy in an epoch of decaying capitalism: when, in general, there can be no discussion of systematic social reforms and the raising of the masses’ living standards; when every serious demand of the proletariat and even every serious demand of the petty bourgeoisie inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state.
The strategical task of the Fourth International lies not in reforming capitalism but in its overthrow. Its political aim is the conquest of power by the proletariat for the purpose of expropriating the bourgeoisie.
—Leon Trotsky, “The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” commonly known as the Transitional Program (1938)