Some Thoughts on the Split in the Argentinean “Partido Obrero“


by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 10 July 2019,




The “Partido Obrero“ (PO) in Argentina experienced a major split at the end of June. A “public faction” around its longtime leader Jorge Altamira broke with the majority of the organization after an extended, partly subterranean/partly open, internal struggle. The faction claims the support of nearly 800 militants. [1]


This split is a significant event for several reasons. The PO is a longstanding and large Trotskyist organization in Argentina founded in 1964. It is one of the major components of the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT), an alliance that received 1.2 million votes at the last elections in autumn 2017. It has a number of parliamentary deputies at the national and regional level. In addition to the PO, FIT also includes the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas, Izquierda Socialista, and, more recently, the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores. It is certainly no exaggeration to state that Argentina is currently the country, globally, in which forces considering themselves Trotskyist have acquired the most numerous popular support.


Furthermore, the PO launched an initiative in 2004 that resulted in the creation of the “Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International” (CRFI) – an international organization with sister organizations in a number of countries.


The documents that have been published, to date, reflect a bitter faction struggle. [2] Altamira attacks the majority for focusing too much on elections as well as adapting opportunistically to petty-bourgeois tendencies. The majority, in turn, accuses Altamira of hypocrisy since they are merely following a tradition that he established. The only difference, they allege, is that Altamira, 77 years old, is no longer their leading electoral candidate and exercises waning powers in the bureaucratic domination of the party.


No doubt, there is significant truth in the criticism of both sides. The PO leadership has always been known for unprincipled zig-zags and opportunism. Altamira also has a reputation as a caudillo, used to running the organization in a top-down way.




Ignoring the Main Issues




However, while both sides continue to trade barbs the whole debate remains one-sided and superficial. Despite the volume of published material – the four documents exceed 36,500 words – the whole debate is focused exclusively on national politics. It seems that for both sides the world does not exist beyond the Argentine border!


This is particularly the case given the perspective developed by the PO and their international co-thinkers. Stuck in a nonsensical theory they call “catastrophism”, the PO has been incapable of understanding fundamental developments of the world situation. Operating on the basis of an un-dialectical and objectivist fatalism, the PO leadership legitimates their opportunist adaptations to class-alien forces. “Since capitalism is about to collapse anyway”, the PO/CRFI has manufactured a justification for supporting reactionary forces “in order to give capitalism the final kick”.


It is not necessary to elaborate in detail our criticism of the programmatic and theoretical failures of PO/CRFI as we have dealt with these in a substantial recent pamphlet, as well as in our book, Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. [3]


We will limit ourselves to addressing crucial issues that comrades of the PO should consider rethinking.


1) The leadership of PO and the CRFI has claimed for decades that capitalist restoration in Russia, China, and other ex-Stalinist countries has not been completed. According to their schema, capitalism has decayed to such an extent that it cannot restore the conditions for exploiting the working class and extracting surplus value in these regions! Hence, they still consider these countries “deformed workers states”. This is a fantasy that they can only entertain by closing their eyes to reality and burying their heads in the desert sands of ultra-sterile dogmatism! As we have demonstrated in our pamphlet, this is simple-minded nonsense. Capitalism was restored in these countries in the early 1990s! [4] It is therefore consistent that they also reject our analysis that China and Russia have subsequently entered the ranks of imperialist Great Powers. [5]


2) (Dis)armed with such a “theory”, the leadership of PO and the CRFI support Russia and China against the Western imperialist powers. The result? They’ve become the social-imperialist supporters of the Russian and Chinese ruling classes. [6]


3) Related to this is the alliance that Altamira and the leaderships of PO/CRFI have entered into with Russian Stalinists – in particular with the United Communist Party (OKP) of Darya Mitina. Mitina’s OKP is a staunch nationalist and supporter of Russia’s “patriotic rights”. She even served for some time as the head of the Moscow branch of the Foreign Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic. [7]Mitina is also a fervent supporter of the barbarous Assad regime in Syria. [8] Her husband, Said Gafurov, has repeatedly worked as an economic advisor for the Administrations of Primakov and Putin. He also served as a Deputy Chairman of the Russian Committee for Solidarity with Peoples of Libya and Syria since its founding – a committee which has unashamedly hailed Gaddafi and Assad from the very first hour. [9]


4) All of this opportunist adaption to reactionary forces is combined with an unashamed disregard for internationalism. The neglect of international issues in the faction documents is not accidental. It reflects the nation-centred outlook of all sides in this faction struggle – both Altamira and his present opponents. The leading cadres of the PO conceive of themselves Argentinean revolutionaries, first, and internationalists, second. Hence, the CRFI never functioned as an authentic international body but, rather, as a federation of national organizations that occasionally adopted joint statements.


In the past few years, the international activities of the CRFI have basically collapsed and the Italian component, the PCL, was expelled for its criticisms. Likewise, all former Latin American allies (with the exception of the Uruguayan PT) broke their relations with the PO.


Furthermore, the neglect of international issues in the faction documents also reflects that while the two factions disagree on some issues of national politics, they remain in full agreement about the international and theoretical fundament of their orientation.




Global Crisis of Centrism




The deep crisis of the PO and the paralysis of the CRFI cannot be understood as an isolated phenomenon. It is part of the international death agony of centrism. We have seen in recent years major splits. These include the crisis of the Cliffite SWP/IST current, Alan Woods’ IMT, the Lambertists, Peter Taaffe’s CWI, as well as the dissolution of the US-American ISO (to name only the most significant examples). [10]


These developments are not accidental. Marxists define centrism as opportunist vacillation between petty-bourgeois reformism and revolution. Trotsky defined this current as follows: “The mark of centrism is opportunism. Under the influence of external circumstances (tradition, mass pressure, political competition), centrism is at certain times compelled to make a parade of radicalism. For this purpose it must overcome itself, violate its political nature. By spurring itself on with all its strength, it not infrequently lands at the extreme limit of formal radicalism. But hardly does the hour of serious danger strike than the true nature of centrism breaks out to the surface.“ [11]


In an essay written shortly before his assassination, Trotsky remarked in a polemic against the French centrist organization Que Faire that, “like all groups lacking a scientific foundation, without a program and without any tradition this little periodical tried to hang on to the coat-tails of the POUM”. [12] Neither the Spanish centrist POUM nor Que Faire, of course, exist any longer but the various centrist forces continue to operate on the basis of the same opportunist methodology. They vacillate and adapt to reformist or left-populist parties or the trade union bureaucracy. In the present instance of the PO/CRFI, they adapt to the Stalinists.


While such opportunism might yield some immediate rewards in terms of positions or financial benefits, such successes are short-term and their demise is guaranteed. Such vulgar violations of Marxist principles remain like the mark of Cain on such organizations.


In convulsive periods the bankruptcy of opportunism is exposed. Centrism then experiences crises and splits. [13] Trotsky explained, “As a matter of fact, this is wholly in the nature of things. The contradictions between the petty bourgeois conservatism and the needs of the proletarian revolution have developed in the extreme. It is only natural that the defenders and interpreters of the policies of the POUM found themselves thrown far back both in political and theoretical fields. [14]


The RCIT has always warned that centrism is a dead-end and that revolutionaries must break with such methods. The split in the PO is neither the first nor will it be the last example of the decline and collapse of the centrist swamp. It is urgent that revolutionaries in such organizations draw the necessary conclusions, break with an incorrect orientation, and unite in order to build an authentic Marxist world party. The RCIT looks forward to collaborating with such comrades! [15]




[1] POR QUÉ UNA FRACCION PÚBLICA DEL PARTIDO OBRERO. Las 778 firmas que avalan el documento se encuentran al final,

[2] PO: Altamira y su grupo rompen con el Partido Obrero, 30.6.2019

[3] Michael Pröbsting: The Catastrophic Failure of the Theory of “Catastrophism”. On the Marxist Theory of Capitalist Breakdown and its Misinterpretation by the Partido Obrero (Argentina) and its “Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International”, RCIT Pamphlet, May 2018,; Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019. The book can be read online or downloaded for free here:, see chapter IX. Revisionist Whitewashing: Russia and China are neither Capitalist nor Great Powers (PO/CRFI) as well as chapter XXV. The Left Facing Great Power Rivalry: Pro-Eastern Social-Imperialists (Non-Stalinists).

[4] We have analyzed the restoration of capitalism in various places. See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Cuba’s Revolution Sold Out? The Road from Revolution to the Restoration of Capitalism, August 2013, RCIT Books,; see also chapter VI (dealing with capitalist restoration in North Korea) in the book by Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, RCIT Books, Vienna 2018,; concerning capitalist restoration in China we refer to Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, Chapter X,

[5] For an analysis of China as an imperialist Great Power we refers readers, in addition to the aforementioned book “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry”, to the literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website: In particular we refer to Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences. What are the background and the nature of the tensions between China and India in the Sikkim border region? What should be the tactical conclusions for Socialists and Activists of the Liberation Movements? 18 August 2017, Revolutionary Communism No. 71,; Michael Pröbsting: The China Question and the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, December 2014,; Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4, On Russia as an emerging imperialist power see: Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 25, August 2014,; Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21,

[6] In addition to the aforementioned book “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry”, we refer also to RCIT: Theses on Revolutionary Defeatism in Imperialist States, 8 September 2018, We also refer in this context to a number of statements and articles on the Global Trade War which are collected on a special sub-section of our website:

[8] For the evidence see e.g. our book “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry” (chapter XXIV, p. 293). The RCIT has published a number of booklets, statements, and articles on the Syrian Revolution that can be accessed on a special sub-section of our website: In particular we refer to RCIT: Save the Syrian Revolution! A call for international solidarity with the Syrian people in Idlib suffering from the barbarous onslaught by Assad and Putin! 04 June 2019,; Michael Pröbsting: Is the Syrian Revolution at its End? Is Third Camp Abstentionism Justified? An essay on the organs of popular power in the liberated area of Syria, on the character of the different sectors of the Syrian rebels, and on the failure of those leftists who deserted the Syrian Revolution, 5 April 2017,; Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings, February 2018, Chapter V,; Michael Pröbsting: Syria and Great Power Rivalry: The Failure of the „Left“. The bleeding Syrian Revolution and the recent Escalation of Inter-Imperialist Rivalry between the US and Russia – A Marxist Critique of Social Democracy, Stalinism and Centrism, 21 April 2018,

[10] We have elaborated a comprehensive of various centrist organizations in a number of documents. In addition to the aforementioned books “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry” and “The Great Robbery of the South”, we refer readers to: The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism, August 2015, see in particular chapter II.2.,; see also RCIT: Crisis in the CWI: For a Marxist Way Out! A proposal to all current members and former members of the CWI to discuss the way forward in these tumultuous times, 29 June 2019,

[11] Leon Trotsky: Germany: The Only Road (1932), in: Leon Trotsky: The Struggle against Fascism in Germany, Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, p. 300

[12] Leon Trotsky: The Class, the Party and the Leadership. Why Was the Spanish Proletariat Defeated? [Questions of Marxist Theory], in: Leon Trotsky: The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), Pathfinder Press, New York 1971, p. 354

[13] On our assessment of the current historic period see – in addition to the book “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry” and the pamphlet “The Catastrophic Failure of the Theory of ‘Catastrophism’: RCIT: Advancing Counterrevolution and Acceleration of Class Contradictions Mark the Opening of a New Political Phase. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries (January 2016), Chapter II and III, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 46, perspectives-2016/; Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings; Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South; Michael Pröbsting: Imperialism, Globalization and the Decline of Capitalism (2008), in: Richard Brenner, Michael Pröbsting, Keith Spencer: The Credit Crunch - A Marxist Analysis, London 2008,

[14] Leon Trotsky: The Class, the Party and the Leadership

[15] We refer reader to our document: Six Points for a Platform of Revolutionary Unity Today. A Proposal from the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), February 2018, This document has been published on our website in 15 languages.