Report Back from Fourth International Congress by Rajni Lallah & Lindsey Collen
During a members' assembly held on Sunday 7 March, two leading members Lindsey Collen and Rajni Lallah gave a report on their participation as guests in the 16th Congress of the 4th International in Belgium last month.
Lindsey Collen gave an outline of the crying need for internationalism, a need felt and responded to since the time of the First International when capitalism was already clearly international. She referred also to the Manifesto by Marx and Engels from that International (which LALIT has translated into a booklet and audio version, both in Mauritian Kreol) and to the importance of the Manifesto when the Paris Commune took place so soon after its publication, where the working class first took power for a few weeks. LALIT had recently held a showing of the 6-hour Peter Watkins film La Commune (1871), so all members, including new members, were able to situate themselves. This International, she said, weakened under the reaction that set in after the Paris Commune in Europe.
The Second International, which grouped together parties not just associations, collapsed under the pressure of "nationalism" at the outbreak of World War I. At this point, Lenin and others set up the Third International under the impulse of the Russian Revolution. When it became subservient to Stalinism and when the Left Opposition was completely stifled by Stalin, it was the moment when Leon Trotsky and others set up the Fourth International, when fascist parties were already in power in European countries and just before the Second World War broke out.
And the FI, she said, has continued until today. Every four years (or so), it holds a Congress, and that is what two of our members attended. She also mentioned, in reply to a question from a member, that Hugo Chavez has recently called for a Fifth International, and that that was also discussed at the Congress.
Rajni Lallah then said that the Congress had given both of our members a wealth of experience. With 200 delegates and guests from some 45 countries, and in a place that was ideal for this kind of Congress, the five days was extremely informative and also enjoyable. The interpretation was excellent, too, in and out of English, French and Spanish. There were many parties from Latin America present, and for the first time ever, a Russian party, became a Section. The form of the FI has, until now, been that there is "a section" from each country and that when added up, you have an international party. However, there is a now a tendency towards more federal structures, as you will see when you read on.
We in LALIT, she said, found ourselves, as we said before leaving in broad agreement with the main resolution on the international political situation, and also found the resolution on climate change and the debate on the issue enriching. There was surprisingly no direct mention of the John Bellamy Foster breakthrough on Marx's ecology (though some speakers related to the content of his work) and the forces (mainly Stalinism) that had kept this part of Marxism suppressed, but then again the Congress had surprisingly few references even to Karl Marx. The resolution on the Middle East was also something we agree with. The resolution on the women's question was a very well thought out document, linking the analyses of reality to the specific demands being put forward. It focussed on both women's issues and women's different experience of reality.
Rajni Lallah said the Fourth International was at a period of changing from being an International grouping together revolutionary socialist and Trotskyist parties in its earlier years, to now seeking to unite together "broad parties". The debates on this issue were very informative, and there were views from diametrically opposed directions. This is not a new tendency but a process over some 15 years. However, the tendency to prescribe precise forms of organization has meant that LALIT had for its first 20 years of contact with the Fourth International opposed the pressure to become a section of a Trotskyist International Party, while now and in recent years feels the need to oppose a certain pressure to become a "broad party". (LALIT has been in contact with the FI since its inception as a Tribune Libre de Gauche in 1976; and recently, she reminded members, Leon Cremieux, from the FI had been present at our International Conference on "Internationalism" last year.)
Today, the combined dissolution of the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire and the formation of the broader Nouveau Parti Anti-Capitaliste in France, are at one and the same time a symbol of this tendency towards broader parties and also a further pressure in favour of this tendency. In general, there was also an undertow in the Congress of the need (a genuine need) for a pan-European mass organization in order to address the existence of a European Parliament, on the one hand, and the vacuum that has been left from the evaporation of social democracy in Europe, on the other. In fact, there was a lot of very informative debate on the issue of whether when social democracy moves to the right there is "space" or "non-space".
Two of the sections from Asia are mass parties, one more NGO oriented, another more trade union oriented, while the Brazilian and Mexican sections have suffered rather badly from the "broad party strategy". Going with the tendency towards "broad parties" there was also a clear indication that no-one was obliged to follow this strategy if it was not appropriate. "Who," as Lindsey Collen put it, "doesn't want a broad party? But this depends on an upturn, and on increasing mobilization in broad sectors of the working class."
While our two members, comparing LALIT with other parties at the Congress, reported that LALIT is, in their opinion, very well informed and up-to-date on issues of the world political situation, the Middle East, the environment and climate change, as well as on the women's issue, we felt that we were ignorant on the debates on the issue of the kind of "international" that is needed. "Our ignorance," Lindsey Collen said, "is not so much on the political issues involved, like the need for a broad party when it is time for one, but more on the question of how internationals take decisions, how they function and how they might take decisions and function in the future." They felt that LALIT has a great deal to learn on this question.
As a guest, LALIT did not participate in the closed sessions when there was voting and when elections were held.
During their time there, Rajni Lallah reported, we had a number of bilateral meetings, on general issues and also to share the issue of the need to close the Diego Garcia military base, the question of the sovereignty of Chagos, and the right of return for Chagossians as Mauritians. In particular, she mentioned sharing ideas with parties from the UK, Japan, Ireland, Australia, Turkey, France, Algeria, Morroco, Sweden, and Congo Brazzaville, as well as with two left parties in the US and France. These contacts were facilitated by Lindsey Collen's 7-minute speech, she said, about the economic crises and LALIT's reaction to them, and about the recent perfidy of the British State on the Diego Garcia issue.
The Women's Commission session, Rajni Lallah reported, was interesting in that women gave an insight into their political backgrounds in narrative form (while implying analyses), each in just two minutes. There was another party, in addition to LALIT, that had an all-women's delegation: the party from Ecuador. Women's presence was quite strong at the Congress.
Our two members had a cordial meeting with two members of the FI leadership.
Our members distributed some 20 copies of our 22-page summary of the past five years' political work that we had originally prepared in a Kreol version for the members' assembly in January, as well as a page on LALIT.
On the last day, there was a tempest on the coast, and our members travelled back, the first leg on a tram, in cyclonic conditions, only very cold.