On July 30 and 31 and August 1, the Latin American and US Conference convened by the Left Workers Front Unity of Argentina, to which the Socialist Workers Movement (MST), section of the ISL in this country belongs. We publish here the opening report and closing statements made by comrade Alejandro Bodart, leader of the MST and coordinator of the ISL, the conference was also attended by the organizations of the ISL present on the continent.
Opening report at the central conference – Saturday, August 1
Good morning comrades. Special greetings from the International Socialist League and the MST to all comrades of the international delegations that accompany us.
I believe that the possibility of this conference arose from very important agreements, to which I am not going to refer because we are going to present documents in common, in a resolution that contains all the agreements.
I would like to focus on three points which are important in order to begin to debate, not to finish debating today but so that we can continue it subsequently.
One has to do with the characterization of the world situation. For us this is very important because in order to define tasks, we have to agree on what the current situation is and, in turn, the dynamics of the situation. This debate is very important because even today we have debates with some skeptical currents. For example, these currents argue that the degree of defeat of the labor movement and the revolutionary movement is such that a socialist revolution is no longer possible. Nor is the construction of revolutionary parties. We had a debate with the Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), which unfortunately reasons this way. There are other currents as well, that only see a turn to the right everywhere and end up falling into sectarianism, into propagandism.
Fortunately, those of us in this plenary, after having many debates on this subject, which are expressed in documents and articles, are beginning to agree that a change has taken place. Especially since the rebellions and revolutions that took place last year. This is very important. We are convinced that the “yellow vests” brought about a change in the world situation and that this, in 2019, combined with a series of rebellions and revolutions, brought about revolutionary processes in Latin America and the Middle East. A pre-revolutionary situation began on a continental level, not just in one or another country.
Now, we believe that the pandemic, the brutal consequences of the economic crisis, the blows that the mass movement is receiving and, above all, the great rebellion of the American people, has provoked another leap. That’s why we revolutionaries have to start discussing if we are on the brink or in the dynamic of a pre-revolutionary situation opening up internationally. It’s very important for us to have this debate. Now, does this mean that we are on the verge of seizing power, as many times, petty bourgeois currents take this debate? Not at all, comrades, we are very far from taking power. That is precisely why we are not in a revolutionary situation, which would require large revolutionary parties with mass influence to decide the situation. But what does exist, from all the changes that are taking place, is a period in which we are going to see more and more rebellions and revolutions in the world, in which there are more and more opportunities to build the necessary tools. That is why it is important to discuss whether this is such a situation or not. Are there more opportunities or fewer opportunities to build the subjective factor? This is central to deciding any situation in favor of workers and the exploited peoples of the world.
Another debate is one that, to us, has nothing to do with broad parties, whether they should be formed or not. That seems to be a simplistic debate, a really low-level debate, because, to us, the most important problem is: how do we build revolutionary parties? Comrades, the USFI is not represented at this conference, they are the only ones who have the strategy of building parties with reformists and not revolutionaries, broad parties. And that is why they have abandoned the strategy of building revolutionary parties, because they do not believe in a socialist revolution. Those of us who are here all agree that we must build revolutionary parties, Bolshevik parties, Leninist parties. So what we have to discuss, the essential debate, is whether revolutionaries have to turn their backs on objective processes of the vanguard and the mass movement which are developing independently of us in a number of countries. We are convinced that those who turn their backs on objective, real processes of re-organization of the vanguard of the workers´ movement in countries where there are turns to the left, are not going to build revolutionary parties, and that is the debate we have.
In the United States, to talk about building a revolutionary party with certain influence – not a group of 5 or 6 – without a policy towards the thousands and thousands who have turned to the left and are regrouping in the DSA, is sadly utopian to us. There is no possibility of building a revolutionary party without having a political approach toward those thousands of young people in the United States. Nor is it possible if we squander the tradition and experience of the hundreds of cadres who were trained in the ISO, and who are looking for an alternative since the organization´s dissolution and are re-organizing to once again take up the task of building a revolutionary party.
In Brazil, to talk about building a revolutionary party, apart from the reorganization processes that the Brazilian working class underwent many years ago in the PT and when the PT collapsed around the PSOL, is also completely utopian. No one has been able to prove that it can be built on the margins of all that. Today, to not organize around the Left Block of the PSOL to fight against the liquidationism of the majority leadership is to renounce the building of a revolutionary party in Brazil. Look, there is a categorical example of this: the party that wanted to build itself completely apart from the PSOL was an important party in Trotskyism, the PSTU. What happened to the PSTU? Did it build itself as a revolutionary party apart from the PSOL? No, it divided. Part of its leadership, its most important cadres and part of its section in the labor movement fled massively to the PSOL. Sectarianism and denying reality, only leads to retreats, not to building revolutionary parties. It´s nice for the internal debates, for the debates we hold in party offices, but it has nothing to do with intervening in reality. We could give more examples. We are not going to build ourselves in Spain and particularly in Catalonia without having a policy, for example, towards the CUP. I don’t have much time. There are many more debates.
In addition, we can´t say, in a national-Trotskyist way, that we are going to export the Argentine experience throughout the world, as if the same thing were happening all over the world. The Left Workers Front – Unity (FITU), which is an achievement, is not a recipe like a cake recipe, to be applied in any country successfully. It´s not like that, you have to analyze the reality in each country. We need to have a more internationalist vision, to know more about the reality of other countries in order to discuss a political approach. What we do have to discuss, however, is that there are countries where there are conditions for building left fronts and unfortunately we have to discuss why they are not being built there. For example, in Chile and in Spain there are conditions that, between some of the parties that are here, allow us to take a step further. That’s why we have to stop talking about unified parties, another untruth to recruit one or two people, which has nothing to do with actually building a party.
We should discuss in France if, from the break up of the NPA that is approaching, we will regroup the revolutionary left. In Venezuela, if we´re going to build a third block without pandering to Maduro nor to the union structures that follow Guaidó. We have to discuss in Argentina as well, how to take care of the FIT Unidad, how to find democratic mechanisms to keep it from exploding. That is, we have to discuss on the basis of reality.
Another important debate is what kind of international organizations need to be built. We are convinced that after Trotsky´s death, revisionism blew up the Fourth and mini internationals emerged from each more or less developed party that perceived itself the father, the uncle, the grandfather of small groups around the world, which can indoctrinate them and make them do whatever they want. We believe that this mother party model has failed; it is part of the crisis that Trotskyism has today. We have to discuss how we manage to join forces with big parties, which do not want to follow the PTS, the MST, the IS, or much less any national party. What they want to discuss is how to build an international on equal terms, how we respect their different traditions, how we learn to live with differences, how revolutionaries are going to build a new tradition that will allow us to actually build an international. That is what we want to do in the ISL. That is why we are working with the comrades of The Struggle of Pakistan, the most important Trotskyist party in the Indian subcontinent. That is why we are working with the comrades from Turkey, from Lebanon, with comrades in Iran, Iraq, who reflect realities that are different from those of Argentina, from those of London, from those of Paris. But it´s very important to incorporate them in the construction of an international, to see if Trotskyism can one day become a reference pole for the masses.
To conclude, regarding the proposal for a new conference, we want to be honest, we don´t see it. Not because we don´t want to. We understand the need of the PO, a national party, to hold more events of this kind. We will have them in due course. But we had a World Forum of our youth last week, we are going to have several forums, we have our own agenda. Next week there is an international conference of the ISL. We are about to begin a pre-congress, we have to travel as soon as the possible to Ukraine where we are going to found a party, to Belarus, to Asia. We have a full agenda, comrades. We are an international organization, not Latin American or Argentinean. We have to consult our comrades. And specially about the bulletin, because I want to answer that: sincerely, we lack the time. You know why? Because next week the pre-congress of the ISL begins, with a Congress towards the end of the year, we have to publish our own bulletin with the challenge of doing it in 14 languages, which is what the ISL reflects. We can’t make another bulletin just to discuss among ourselves. But we can use our publications to do carry out some debates.
Thank you very much, comrades. Let’s continue debating because this way we will build more unity. We do commit to carrying out the general resolution that we are going to vote on and, in each country that we are present together, to work for the unity of our organizations in the labor movement and politically. Thank you very much.
Closing statement of the Latin American Conference
After the long debates that we had these days and specially today, I am going to deal with some of the debates mentioned. However, first of all, I would like to celebrate the declaration that we will vote, which has been the result of collective work and consensus. Because this type of event, of different national and international organizations, can only be developed on the basis of agreements and consensus. For example, we have agreed that we will not vote on any other conference, for the time being, nor on any bulletin. In order to advance, we need to move forward on the basis of agreements, and we have an agenda that prevents us from doing so. This does not mean that we cannot continue to hold debates through our publications. We are going to finish the conference with a series of very important political resolutions, which separate all of us here from the different reformist leaderships and other sectors of the left that, unfortunately, have not joined this call. Let’s go out and apply the resolutions, the campaigns, and continue to move forward in a process of unity.
One of the debates, which has been insisted upon, concerns the characterization of the conflict of the United States and China. In this regard, we believe it is a very important mistake to minimize the inter-imperialist dispute that has been developing between these two powers. We consider it a mistake because this dispute is part of the international situation that is developing. It reflects, on the one hand, a real development, which is the decline of US imperialism which, though still hegemonic, has clearly deteriorated in its role of international police force. It becomes weaker and weaker, and this poses a dynamic in which there will be more friction and we can´t rule out absolutely anything. What we must be sure of is that this will generate conflict and aggression. And we have to act in this reality, because we have to establish a very important and principled position toward this conflict. Revolutionaries have to confront the “campists”, who are trying to show China as a revolutionary alternative to US imperialism. We have to do this because it is very important to bring clarity to the mass movement about this. “Campism”not only intervenes in all processes showing alternatives that are not so, it intervenes in Venezuela, it intervenes in Nicaragua, in Syria to propose that the alternatives that should be supported are the supposedly lesser evils against imperialism, when there is actually a pincer move against the workers’ movement and the youth. Therefore, this is a very important point.
Secondly, comrades, we all agree that the situation has changed, now we have to discuss how we define it. We believe that we have entered into a dynamic, which can pose the opening of a pre-revolutionary situation on an international level. It is very important, beyond this, to have left behind a defensive definition that described a dark stage, because we are in a stage in which the relation of forces begins to be favorable for workers. This doesn’t mean that there are no contradictions, that there isn’t polarization and other phenomena.
Now, the debate we have is about how to act in that situation. I think it is a false debate, among those of us who are here at least, whether the strategy is the revolutionary party or not. Precisely, the resolution we are voting on is part of that agreement, otherwise we could not be here holding this conference. So, in reality, the debate is how to build these revolutionary parties, that is the real debate that we have among us and that is also worldwide. We have to start from one fact: revolutionaries have not found the way to turn this problem around. How do we build ourselves? How do we take leaps in construction in a stage that will increasingly provide more opportunities and a multitude of contradictions?
We believe that there are currents that have an evolutionist conception of party building. This evolutionary conception is more tremendous on an international level. Comrades, if revolutionaries do not join with others we will not be able to build great revolutionary parties and take leaps in our construction to solve the problem of problems, which will become more and more acute as rebellions grow in the world. Therefore, what we have to discuss is that we cannot, in certain countries where there are processes, put ourselves on the margin of the organizational processes of the vanguard and the mass movement, which are captured by counter-revolutionary, reformist leaderships, seeking to take the situation in another direction.
We would very much like if, in the United States, the turn to the left that has taken place and the enormous youth vanguard and a swath of masses to come with us, to the ISL. But that is not happening, because the big problem we have is that this left turn has been capitalized by the DSA with a completely reformist leadership, which is turning more and more to the right. If revolutionaries don’t have a policy against this phenomenon, we isolate ourselves, we make it easier for these leaderships to break the process apart. Careful, because sectarianism and opportunism are two sides of the same coin. To give up the battle is to make it easier for the reformist leaderships to end up blowing up the process.
In Brazil the same thing happens, to refuse to fight from the Left Bloc against the liquidationist turn of the majority leadership of the PSOL, is to allow that majority leadership to manage to break this process of regrouping. And that will not contribute to building any revolutionary party.
Venezuela has been discussed. There is content for an entire lecture. In Venezuela there has been a defeat of the mass movement. There was a revolutionary process that was defeated. So, you can’t discuss anything that doesn’t start from this. What happened? That defeat is what explains the setbacks of revolutionaries as a whole. Moreover, we could discuss what tactics one or another employed. For your information, and this is written: we never considered Chavez´s government as our government. Now, what we do have to discuss there is that, unfortunately, we have all retreated. I would like any comrade of the PTS to tell me something, those who say that some of us who fully participated in the revolutionary process did not grow because of the tactics we applied. Did the comrades of the LTS/PTS, who did not participate in the Venezuelan revolutionary process, grow? I see that they are a small group. And don’t come with how many readers you have, because we also have many readers in Venezuela, of the Aporrea site that we influence. I’m talking about militants. They are a small group, and this is explained because there was a defeat. What we have to discuss is: how do we regroup to confront Maduro’s government and the right wing? Something that some comrades (read PSL-UIT) find more difficult. We have to conform a revolutionary pole to intervene better, now that we are beginning to see a little bit of a resurgence.
Coming back to this issue of evolutionism, in the international arena it is worse. You know why? Because we are not going to build a great international from foundational groups. It is important to build the foundational groups, but we are only going to build a great international if we join with big parties. And there are big parties, but they have their own traditions, they have their own theoretical and political accumulation. Trotskyist parties with trained cadres. But, you know what? They don’t want the Argentinians to lead them. For example, we met The Struggle in Pakistan and they do not want the Argentinians to lead them. They are a big party, with 2000 militants, with a lot of elaboration, they intervene nationally and they have relations in the whole sub-continent. The comrades of the SEP, also one of the main organizations in Turkey, also don´t want us to lead them. The Australians either. But they do want to contribute to an international where they can discuss as equals, without mother parties, without anyone telling them what to do. They want a new international, a new tradition, and we believe that is what needs to be done at this time.
To conclude, I have a contribution for the comrades of Izquierda Diario. We, sincerely, study Izquierda Diario, we believe that it is a contribution. We don’t need to deny everything. It´s a contribution that the comrades have made and we are studying it because it´s very interesting. Collective elaboration has to serve revolutionaries for all of us to collaborate with each other. Now, we give you a humble opinion. Let´s not get confused and think that many readers means political adherence to our program or that it is related to militancy. I still believe in Leninism, we need a structured party that intervenes in the working class, that carries its printed newspaper, that does the grey, everyday work. And the other things help. We will not defeat the traditional bourgeois media, which constructs common sense, with any initiative from the left. We are going to do this with a lot of militancy, with a lot of structure, if we get it right politically.
Finally, we have been very happy in our organization that comrades in the PTS, even in the PO, have overcome the arrogance of believing themselves to be the only force of the left. There are many arrogant people here, we have our share, but others have their own. Having abandoned the idea that they were the only revolutionaries was what allowed the MST to enter the FITU. I think that acknowledging that we are not the only ones is the key to advancing in unity among all of us. Let’s come out of this together, let’s try to make left fronts where it’s possible, of course where it’s not possible we’re not going to achieve it even if we want to. But there are places like Spain, Chile and Venezuela where it is possible to take steps in this direction. In France we have to discuss whether we can move forward together. Now, let us go out in unity to promote the struggles, to promote the unity of classism and to promote the political unity of the left to fight against all the variants of the system, against reformism and against the union bureaucracy. Thank you very much.