Yesterday the panel discussion organized by the FIT-Unidad, in tribute to Leon Trotsky, on the 80th anniversary of his assassination, has held. The event had the objective of vindicating his work and legacy and also of exchanging and discussing current affairs in politics, tasks and revolutionary strategy. Comrades from the four parties that make up the FIT-Unidad (MST-PTS-PO-IS) participated in the panel and all of their interventions can be seen in the respective videos that we stremed live and can still be found on the MST Facebook page.
Below we reproduce the opening and closing statements of Alejandro Bodart, on behalf of the MST and the International Socialist League (LIS) and the intervention of Sergio García, also of the MST leadership in the FIT Unidad.
Opening statements by Alejandro Bodart
Hello comrades. We meet here after several days of debate, this time to pay tribute to Leon Trotsky 80 years after his assassination. Trotsky’s contribution to the revolutionary cause has been enormous. His entire life and work undoubtedly places him alongside Marx and Engels, alongside Lenin, as one of the greatest revolutionaries in history. Thanks to him, revolutionary Marxism managed to survive the black night that Stalinism meant. And even today, all his work, all the experience of over a century of class struggles that he managed to transmit to us, have guided the actions of revolutionaries throughout the world.
I’m not going to bore you, detailing every moment of his life, of his work, of his enormous career, of his most outstanding contributions, because everyone here has been developing all of this for weeks in our organizations, in our publications, we have had talks, other debates, tomorrow for example some of us are going to have international events. And new articles will surely come out of this debate.
I think we have to take advantage of the little time we have. The best tribute to Trotsky is to discuss the views that each of us have of what happened after his death. What has happened to Trotskyism from that moment to the present day? And to address some very important questions. Why, if Trotsky left us a foundation of granite, did Trotskyism split into multiple expressions? Why has no international organization that claims Trotsky´s legacy managed to gain mass influence? And of course, why haven´t we managed to take power in any country? Something that the vanguard, which even agrees with many of our positions, often asks us.
Obviously, there have been objective causes that we cannot deny, but there have also been revisionist deviations and gross mistakes by the leadership that was left at the front of the Fourth International after Trotsky died, and also by those of us who tried to take up Trotsky’s work throughout all these years. The crisis of the Fourth International´s leadership the beginning of the diaspora, but it further fragmented over the years. More mistakes have been made and there have been more divisions, even in the latest period there have been many divisions, ruptures and crises in our organizations.
Throughout all these years, these 80 years, extraordinary opportunities have been squandered, for example in the Bolivian revolution of 1952, which could have changed the history of Trotskyism. The young generations have to study what happened there, it is very important that they draw conclusions.
Opportunism emerged as a deeply rooted current in the ranks of the Fourth International, the adaptation to and coat-tailing of any non-revolutionary leadership of a revolution or a mass process, giving in to Stalinism at certain times, to Castroism , Sandinismo, which was even supported by sectors of Trotskyism when they expelled us, those of us who come from the Morenoist current, when we attempted to advance from reading books to the practice and application of the permanent revolution, trying to deepen the revolution in Nicaragua.
Now, the other side of opportunism has also emerged, which is sectarianism in our ranks, which parts from isolating themselves from the processes as they are, of refraining from having adequate politics and tactics if the leaderships that are at the front of mass processes are reformist, popular frontist or nationalist. This also caused us to miss many opportunities.
In the 1990s, pessimism rooted in, leading many to abandon the struggle for socialism and the construction of the revolutionary party, and others to disbelieve that it is possible to build mass organizations, refusing to have bold policies in the face of the new phenomena that have been developing.
In some organizations, national-Trotskyism crystallized, which stems from the mistaken idea of believing that it is possible to gain mass influence in an evolutionary way and at some point take power and sustain it from a national party without being part of an international organization.
Those who continued to fight to build a world organization of revolutionaries did so separated from the rest. Starting from a more or less developed party that elaborates politics for the whole world and smaller groups around it that are copies of the mother party.
The failure of all these experiments throughout these 80 years, most of them covered with bureaucratic methods to avoid discussing mistakes, led to crises and divisions. In almost no place was a change of leadership possible without causing splits in our organizations, because the leaders practically considered themselves untouchable.
All of this, the combination of all or some of these problems, is what explains why today, 80 years after Leon Trotsky´s death, Trotskyism continues to be a minority. Instead of regrouping, time it divides ever more.
Today, reality begins to give us opportunities again, which we can only take advantage of if we dare to change, to revolutionize ourselves, to lose fear of change. Trotsky was wrong about the party that Lenin proposed, but he dared to change and from that moment on he was the best Bolshevik. Lenin was wrong about the dynamics of the revolution in Russia, but he had no problem accepting Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution for the revolution to triumph. A revolutionary cannot be afraid of changes, because if there were no changes there would be no revolution.
Comrades of the Partido Obrero: we frankly consider that you have to change the national Trotskyist conception that has led you to not build an important international organization these years. You have to change and stop generalizing policies from Argentina to the whole world, and prescribing what to do in other countries, when many times these recipes cannot even be used in Argentina.
Your complete refusal to organize in broad anti-capitalist organizations like the Psol or the NPA, just to give two examples extensively discussed by you, partly explain why you have never developed in Brazil or in France. You cannot build a party from without the processes of progressive regrouping in the vanguard nor fighting for the leadership against reformism by abstaining and giving advice from outside. There is no evolutionary growth for our parties, you cannot build parties with mass influence, recruiting one at a time, without discussing bold policies to intervene in the most dynamic processes.
Nor do we believe that the labor movement can be led without giving political battles within it. Mass organizations are not divided by taking the politics of the revolutionary left into them. Organisms are divided when workers’ democracy is not practiced, when the rank-and-file is not appealed to when taking decisions, when practices inherited from the bureaucracy itself are reproduced in the organizations that we lead. But if we deny the political dispute, if we refuse bring all our political proposals to the working class, it is impossible to win the working class over to revolutionary politics.
Comrades of the PTS, it is impossible to build an international that becomes a pole of attraction and to rebuild the Fourth International from the elaborations of a single party and an international current that permanently revolves around a mother party, which also considers itself the only revolutionary subject and views everyone else as centrists. Nor you, nor anyone else has the authority – we don´t either – that the Bolsheviks and Lenin and Trotsky had, to regroup revolutionaries. For us, Nahuel Moreno was the only one in the postwar period who, albeit the distances, came closest to being an integral leader, but unfortunately he died too young. For this reason, comrades, we have to argue that the international model of the mother party has already proven to be a failure, but not only for you, for all of us who have tried at certain times in our lives to try to make it work.
Look, comrades, the only way to actually unite revolutionaries is, first of all, to accept that there are others and to build a different international model, where there can be Trotskyist organizations that come from different traditions, where they can coexist fraternally based on common principles, but also with partial differences. Where the democratic pole prevails and not centralism, because – I insist – nobody has the authority to impose absolutely anything. A model in which to work to build a leadership superior to the current ones. This is not at all lax, like we have seen you have written, but it is 100% accurate.
Today, this is the only way we will be able to transform ourselves into a strong organization, a pole at the international level. Only in this way will we be able to rebuild the forces of the Fourth International, to reorganize it, to put it back in the front. We have to discuss how we stop being small groups, small international groupings, to not settle for what we are today. If we do not clearly discuss everything that has failed, to open ourselves to trying new experiences, new models that allow us to connect with other revolutionaries. The world is full of revolutionary comrades, but we have been formed separately, there are cadres, leaders, theoretical contributions that come from different currents, that we have to unite, in the first place, accepting that we have to live in a system of equals. Where no one has to follow another with blind trust, because trust is only achieved by leading processes of the mass movement. Lenin and Trotsky were not the leaders who made the construction of the Third International possible just because. They were because they led revolutions and if we do not discuss how to unite those of us who have led practically nothing, to see if at some point we can fight for power, to make a mass international, we will never gain the necessary trust to strive for more in this world that is so convulsed and full of opportunities.
Comrades, after a long time, we are having an experience to try to unite revolutionaries. It is the experience that we are having in the ISL, we want to discuss it, we are open.
Now we have agreed with you comrades from the PTS on that it is necessary to have policies for some broad groupings, so I am not going to dwell on that. I do want to address something that we disagree with: the policy that was necessary in the face of more diffuse phenomena, like Proyecto Sur or the Civic Front at that time. We disagree because, in countries like ours, where there is no social democratic or communist tradition, but we suffer from the cancer of Peronism, of bourgeois nationalism – something that happens in many countries – we have to be open to using certain tactics when, at very specific moments, some Peronist characters, petty bourgeois ones, not bourgeois ones as some have said, fall from the branches and generate mass political phenomena. Refusing to have politics toward these processes is to refuse to dispute the leadership of the mass movement. We cannot discuss these phenomena with Monday’s newspaper, on what was the subsequent evolution of Pino Solanas. Look, all the groupings that we are discussing, absolutely all of them, including the NPA, the PSOL and broad anti-capitalist groups that we know are ephemeral. At some point along the way they always turn to the right, more and more to the right, and at some point they explode, they fall into crisis and disappear. The problem is whether we have politics when the vanguard is grouped there and sections of the masses follow them sympathetically, when they produce mass phenomena. To refuse to have politics toward them is to refuse to vie for influence, it is to deny the essence of Trotskyism, it is to always want to be a small sect, a small group, and to be afraid to fight to lead the masses to vie for power, to take leaps in our construction. We defend our previous entryism in the PSUV, as we defended entryism in the PT time ago, as we believe that it was necessary to do entryism in Syriza´s boom period, or even in Podemos, these are tactics that take the best of Trotskyism.
But I have little time left, we want to make a proposal. We even know that we are not going to agree right away, but there are comrades who proposed, for example, some time ago, to create a single party of the left in Argentina, we don´t think that is possible right now. But we could be open to discussing a project of a party with tendencies. To transform the FITU into a party of tendencies where no one would lose absolutely any of their political or organizational independence, but we could act together not only electorally but also in the class struggle and resolve our different positions democratically, that would allow us to take a leap.
We also want to clarify that we have to learn to debate our political differences without taunts. Look, I will conclude with this, for discussing a policy toward small farmers you practically placed us alongside the Rural Society; for discussing a policy towards phenomena like Pino Solanas at the time, you have suggested that we had ceased to be revolutionaries or Trotskyists, that we were going to disappear. We are still Trotskyists, we are here like you are, we are more alive than ever, nationally and internationally. Now, we have to learn how to debate. For example, a few days ago the PO made a huge mistake in the Chaco legislature, and a while ago they also made a huge mistake in the Cordoba legislature, but that doesn´t lead us to say that the PO became the PJ nor marches hand in hand with the PJ, as some say. In the legislature of the City of Buenos Aires, a huge mistake was made by the PO and the PTS, but we are not going to say that the comrades are Zionists. In the national parliament we believe that it was wrong to vote the laws of the Cayetanos, but we are not going to say that our national deputies – because we wear the jersey – are with the Church. Careful, there are pressures, we have to discuss why these things happen. Because bourgeois democracy has tremendous weapons, but we have to learn to debate among comrades, even the possible mistakes, without falling into a logic that prevents us from having a political debate because of the provocations.
If we manage to do that, we will advance, and we will be able to change some of the conceptions that we have ingrained, because nobody has the revealed truth, nor does anyone have the authority that is achieved by leading mass processes and we will not lead processes if we do not change, if we are not self-critical of what we have been doing, if we do not dare to have bold tactics to intervene, so long as we maintain the strategy of building the revolutionary party. Nothing else, I hope we can open our heads together, listen to each other. For example, we want to listen, because we are convinced that if we listen to each other, at least a little bit, all this debate will not be in vain nor will it only serve to reaffirm things and act deaf. Nothing else. Thank you very much.
Intervention by Sergio García
Hello, good afternoon comrades. For the time I am going to refer to some things to try to contribute. I think it is very important to take positive elements out of a debate, even from the clash of opinions.
It seems to me that for that, in the first place, it is very useful to not lose sight of the veracity of the facts in order to debate seriously. For example, in this debate it has been said that our current in Venezuela had an unprincipled opportunism, being part of a bourgeois nationalist government. That is a falsehood. The concrete facts show that, in the face of a revolutionary process, the most important one that the continent had at the time, our current decided to employ a political tactic of entryism in the political organizations where the working-class and the best of that country´s vanguard was expressing itself and making its experience. We were never part of the government, we never lost political independence. We had our own organization, our own newspaper, our own cadres, our own education courses, and we built an organization while intervening in this process.
Why do I say that facts are very important? Because, in our opinion, we have to stand on the facts and also avoid mixing up concepts as elementary as principles, strategy and tactics, which are precisely different concepts, between us, who are all political leaders. A political tactic served in relation to a strategy and is valued as positive or not, if it contributed to that strategy of building revolutionary organizations. The reality of our current in Venezuela today is that we are much stronger than we were before the revolutionary process. And the reality of those who were stronger before the process and had no tactics is that today they are much weaker.
I want to refer to the issue of principles, because it is very deep. Political tactics based on a strategy are very important and a current cannot be accused of having no principles for that. Otherwise it would have to be said that Lenin was unprincipled because he advised English Communists to have a tactic toward the Labor Party. Moreover, if you read exactly what Lenin said, it was: vote for them and help them win because the workers trust the Labor party, and they have to finish that experience. How little principles Lenin had, right? Look at the advice he gave English Communists. Trotsky had so few principles that he recommended entering the socialist parties to merge with its socialist youth and its left wing. Because he believed that, based on that political tactic, a revolutionary party could be built in a very important leap. It would not occur to any of us to say that they had no principles.
I say this because it is very important to not confuse things. If we want to debate positively, we must not mix concepts that are quite basic and have to be linked in a dialectical way.
When the Proyecto Sur tactic is discussed, some current may like it or not, but we are discussing tactics. What they have to ask themselves in any case is whether the MST in this tactic lost political independence and did not build a revolutionary party. And that is not the case, we never stopped having our party. Not even in the Legislature, when we entered, we had our own block. Check the voting record of our deputy over those four years. It was a political conquest of our tactic. There is not a single vote that can be questioned for violating class principles.
So you can support a tactic or not, but you have to have objective elements to say whether or not it helps to strengthen a revolutionary party. As you can see, we continue to build revolutionary parties and to build an international, just as you build your parties, and we all agree with that.
This is very important for the assessment of Trotskyism and Morenism. I see comrades who criticize, like the PTS comrades, Moreno’s history based on the stages or on whether or not he gave in to opportunism. Look, I’m going to give you a definition, the basis for giving in to opportunism is to stop building a revolutionary party and there has not been in all of Latin America a current that has built more revolutionary parties than Morenism. So if you deny that fact, it’s hard to argue. With that in mind, we are in favor of not being dogmatic with Moreno, as we shouldn’t be dogmatic with anyone. We do not believe that he is a bible, we do not believe that everything that has been written is correct. Everything can be discussed, because all currents have their strengths and weaknesses, and we all surely make mistakes.
At the international level, we must also debate in this regard. I do not believe, as Christian Castillo said, that it is an organizational problem, it is a profound political problem. Whether we have a socialist and anti-capitalist program, for example, that of the ISL is public and on every webpage. With that program, one can go out and build with others, or one can believe that they have to impose that program and a leadership authority on others. We propose a different mechanism, which is based on a program, trying to strengthen a concept of international construction that is not based on national-Trotskyist tendencies, which have already had very bad experiences.
I´ll finish, because I don’t have time. The comrades of the Partido Obrero said no to a party with tendencies, which was the proposal that Alejandro made at the beginning. What is your proposal then? Because in the FIT-U we are at a stage of electoral agreement and not much else. The FIT-U does not act in common in the class struggle. We have taken some steps, but many more should be taken. What are the proposals? Alejandro made one, we can advance to a party of tendencies. Let’s debate, because the worst thing we can do is for the FIT-U to stay at the stage it´s at today and not have the political strategy of advancing to deeper agreements, even though we have strong debates, to see if we can intervene much stronger in the class struggle and in the political struggle of our country. These two things are united, not separated.
Closing statements by Alejandro Bodart
Well, I think the debate is useful, of course time is a tyrant, but much more could be said. One cannot respond to everything that has been said and I do not think that we can only continue the debate through a bulletin; we can also use our newspapers: In fact, in the last two issues that we have even printed on paper, we have addressed the debates of the previous Conference, debates that exist in the Plenary of Militant Unionism (PSC) and now we are going to address the debates that existed today. And in this way, we can start a debate that serves to clarify and at the same time to seek points of agreement.
In the first place, we are very interested in the discussion of how to build a mass international and we start from the assessment that it has not been achieved. We are discussing 80 years, not a year or twenty, but 80 years after Trostky’s death, and still nothing. I don’t want to list the divisions of Trotskyism for you in the last 6 or 7 months, a year or two ago, but there are many, comrades. In Argentina, in Brazil, in the UK, that is, there is a problem. We have to debate. It is not, as comrade Castillo says, an organizational debate. My comrade Sergio has already addressed this issue, it is a deeply political debate because if we do not solve this problem, there is no possibility of a socialist revolution, comrades.
No national party is going to solve the problem of the world revolution. Even the Bolshevik party, after the debacle of the Second International, could not immediately build an international organization. It only managed to start building the Third International in 1919 on the basis of the prestige of having managed to take power, but it was unable to quickly build strong parties in other countries, for example, to take advantage of the German revolution that was imminent and that, had it succeeded, it would have changed the course of history. It takes years to build strong national parties and they can only be built if they are part of an international, which can help build and gain mass influence. A strong international is needed so that, if we manage to take power somewhere, the revolution can spread to the region and the world, because if it stagnates in a single country, it will retreat and begin to bureaucratize, because the bureaucracy is not a problem of wills, it is a social, political, economic problem.
Therefore, the debate of how to create an international is not an organizational problem, it is a deeply political problem. We are not in favor of building an international organization with a minimum program, or with four points of the moment. In this we disagree with the comrades of the Partido Obrero. Now, we also do not believe that a very complete program can be arrived at from the theoretical-political formulations of one of the many tendencies that exist in reality. We can agree on a principled program, but we must accept a method of functioning in which there are partial differences.
Comrade Castillo, you gave a lot of examples of Lenin doing this, Trostky doing that, but you know what the problem is? There is no Lenin or Trostky today. Therefore, no one has the authority to do what Lenin and Trostky did. And if we ever want to have that authority, we have to lead a revolution. But to lead a revolution, we need to find a way around how to build an international, how to build mass parties so as to not continue arguing in forums about how to do something that we never do.
Therefore, the problem of finding a method of functioning that is based on a program, that is as complete as possible, but that accepts other tendencies and other traditions, is fundamental, because there is a tendency of English Trotskyism that is very widespread. In a very important part of the world, there is another tendency of French Trotskyism that has spread. There are tendencies of currents that have been formed in Brazil, that have formed in Pakistan, that have formed in other countries, and they will not accept to go behind the theoretical definitions of the current of the PTS, or of the MST, or of the Partido Obrero. They want another type of method, and this is deeply political. And please don’t come with the fact that the antidote to the mother party is the Izquierda Diario network, which seems to be the Holy Grail for the comrades. In the other seminar we already questioned the idea that with Izquierda Diario one can dispute the common sense that the bourgeoisie imposes, which is completely mistaken. To debate well, we have to apply democratic centralism well.
The problem of the mother party has to do with a conception rooted in the division that we dragged along for decades and the tendencies that have been built, and we sill to eliminate it if we open ourselves to changing and building in another way.
Tactics, I want to address this. I think the only two clear positions are those of the Partido Obrero and ours. Why? Because the PO says: “nothing with anyone, anywhere. Not with the NPA, nor with Luís Juez, nor with this nor that.” A very mistaken, but clear policy, in my opinion. They have an evolutionary policy, they believe that they will grow one by one without merging with anyone. Well, it is a clear position. I respect it.
Then there is another position, as it became clear in the debate, which says: “a broad group here yes, but not there,” which is that of the PTS. Here I like it a little because I am here, I don’t like it there. “Over there I am against it, but give me a candidate.” It is a policy, excuse me comrades, that is completely wrong and inconsistent.
I am not going to refer much to Izquierda Socialista´s policy because it is not very serious. Here they criticize us for Proyecto Sur, and then they go to Peru and join the Frente Amplio. I tell you sincerely, I am going to make a joke, I think that Pino Solanas was Che Guevara compared to what the Frente Amplio of Peru is.
But hey, these are debates, let’s find agreements. We say it clearly, not everywhere, but there are processes in reality, where broad regroupments are formed in which we have to dispute, have policies and tactics towards them. They arise regardless of what we want. Of course we would like, instead of broad mass parties, to be directly the ones who capitalize on the left turns that are taking place. But generally this does not happen. Mediations arise, there are other realities, the PT existed in Brazil, the PSOL exists in Brazil, and why is it that only the Morenists have strength in Brazil? Because we were the only ones who had policies and tactics toward that.
Now, how do you measure the success or failure of a tactic, whether it is legitimate or not? What is the relationship with the strategy? For us, the strategy in relation to what we are discussing is the construction of the revolutionary party. Whoever abandons the construction of the revolutionary party for a tactic, loses the strategy. If you emerge stronger from a tactic, with a stronger revolutionary party, the tactic was legitimate and correct. Let’s talk about Juez. Will none of you draw conclusions about why we the most dynamic left in Córdoba? At the electoral level, for example, why did you lose ground while we advanced in the last time? It is not only because of the tactics we had at the time towards the Civic Front, towards Juez, of course, but it is evident that it helped a lot. Where is the collapse of our party for having had a policy toward a mass phenomenon like Juez? Our public figure, who was an important figure in the Juez phenomenon, has become the most important figure of the Cordovan left. This is how tactics are measured. The Revolutionary Party, the MST in Córdoba, is stronger and you are weaker. Whether you like it or not, that and no other is the reality. So let’s discuss tactics in relation to the strategy, because there is no other measurement, there is no other way to measure reality.
To finish, I want to tell comrade Santos of the PO not to worry, we are not going to leave the FITU, on the contrary, we have proposals and a policy to strengthen it. For example, we believe that there is immobility in the Front, because it does not act as such beyond the elections. The right wing in the country has already organized about twenty marches and we can´t go out even once to become a third pole. Our proposals are to strengthen the FITU. We believe that a party of tendencies in Argentina, transforming the FITU into a party of tendencies, would strengthen it, it would allow people who today do not join because they don´t want to join through the parties, nor do they just want to be a vote. There is no danger of reformism, because we are all Trotskyists.
We are going to fight for the FITU to become something stronger, but for that we have to discuss various problems that we see. For example, we will weaken if the separation between the Plenary of Militant Unionism and the FITU continues to be promoted. I can´t imagine Trotsky saying “no, I don´t want to be president of the Petrograd Soviet because I am not a worker, but from a tendency of the left.” Let’s have these debates if we want to strengthen the FITU, starting from reality. We have proposals to do so.
Finally, I will finish with this, I think I´m out of time. Comrades of Izquierda, since you criticize the PTS – I think with good reason – because many times they distort debates: don´t distort yourself. We did not break the UIT to go toward Chavism. That is a double lie. You forget that what was broken was the MST, comrades. You were a minority in our party and you didn’t accept being a minority, that’s why you left. You were part of the leadership of the old MAS that never accepted the emergence of a new leadership in the party in Argentina after the disaster that ended in the destruction of the old MAS, and you believed that from there you would be able to build a party here and an international. The debate we had was very deep and can´t be synthesized through a taunt. It is also false because, as we already explained, we were never part of the Chavez government either. We did entryism and vindicate those politics, and we could explain 20 examples of Trostky saying not to be sectarian, to have tactics and policies toward the Social Democratic Parties after the betrayal of the Second International, after having assassinated Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, after destroying the German revolution. So let’s debate tactics, whether we are for or against. But let’s not misrepresent things because those are student movement methods, those methods are alien to us, often inherited from Stalinism, not Trotskyism. We have to debate with a healthy, frank method, to illuminate debates. Thank you very much.