The Catastrophic Failure of the Theory of “Catastrophism” (Part 6)



Can the Crisis of Leadership be Solved without an International Democratic-Centralist Organization?




Let us now deal with another danger of PO’s “catastrophism”. One could think that emphasizing the breakdown of capitalism in itself would guarantee a somehow more revolutionary program. Nothing could be more distant from the truth! It was a defining feature of the leading theoreticians of the Second International like Karl Kautsky and Otto Bauer to predict the “inevitable collapse” of capitalism. In fact, their “optimism” about the decline of capitalism rather served as an excuse for their “revolutionary fatalism”. It was used as justification for these “Marxists” to refrain from the revolutionary class struggle and to adapt to the bourgeoisie.


In his major speech at the III. Congress of the Communist International, Trotsky pointed out: Faith in automatic evolution is the most important and the most characteristic trait of opportunism.” [1] While he denounced at this point the social democratic revisionists like Cunow and Hilferding, his observation is no less true for those who believe in the automatic collapse of capitalism.


The methodological problem of the PO comrades is not that they adapt to the bourgeoisie, as the “Marxist” reformists did in the 1920s and 1930s. it is rather that their “catastrophism”, wittingly or unwittingly, serves as an excuse since many years that they refrain from building a revolutionary world party on the basis of a common program. In fact, PO is a national-centered Trotskyist organization which entertains some “fraternal relations” to a few other organizations.


As the RCIT has always pointed out, a Marxist or Trotskyist organization can not exist on a national basis. It can only exist as an international unit. Without such an international existence, it is doomed to degenerate into national-centeredness. Trotsky once rightly remarked: Marxist policies ’in one country’ are as impossible as the construction of a socialist society ’in one country’. [2]


He emphasized in numerous documents the urgency of revolutionaries to build simultaneously a national as well as an international organization. He considered such an internationalist orientation as indispensable for both a party as well as for a smaller, pre-party organization.


From its very first steps the Opposition must therefore act as an international faction – as did the Communists in the days of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, or in the Zimmerwald Left at the beginning of the war. In all these cases the groups were for the most part small numerically or it was a matter of isolated individuals; but they nevertheless acted as an international organization. In the epoch of imperialism such a position is a hundred times more imperative than in the days of Marx.


Those who believe that the International Left will someday take shape as a simple sum of national groups, and that therefore the international unification can be postponed indefinitely until the national groups “grow strong,” attribute only a secondary importance to the international factor and by this very reason take the path of national opportunism.


It is undeniable that each country has greatest peculiarities of its own; but in our epoch these peculiarities can be assayed and exploited in a revolutionary way only from an internationalist point of view. On the other hand, only an international organization can be the bearer of an international ideology.


Can anyone seriously believe that isolated Oppositional national groups, divided among themselves and left to their own resources, are capable of finding the correct road by themselves? No, this is a certain path to national degeneration, sectarianism, and ruin. The tasks facing the International Opposition are enormously difficult. Only by being indissolubly tied together, only by working out answers jointly to all current problems, only by creating their international platform, only by mutually verifying each one of their steps, that is, only by uniting in a single international body, will the national groups of the Opposition be able to carry out their historic task. [3]


The comrades of PO might object that they founded the CRFI in 2004. Leaving aside that their organization already existed before for decades without any serious international organization, the CRFI itself never became a real international unit based on democratic centralism, i.e. an organization with an international homogenous programmatic line, discipline, and leadership.


Just look at the small number of international statements! The CRFI began with a general declaration of principles (mentioned above) but never attempted to elaborate an international program, i.e. a Transitional Program for the present period. The comrades might claim that it is sufficient, or even particularly “orthodox”, to be content with the founding program of the Fourth International in 1938. What nonsense! A program must relate to the concrete developments of capitalism and the class struggle. Only an ignorant can deny that many features of capitalism have changed since 1938! This is why the RCIT has always emphasized the necessity to elaborate a program for the current period and, in addition, a platform for specific political conjunctures. [4]


However, for PO such concrete internationalism in party building is completely irrelevant. Usually, they publish statements of PO on important world events of the class struggle but only seldom joint international statements with other organizations. They can publish a weekly paper and theoretical journals in Argentina since many years, but no international journal! They spend much money for their electoral work in FIT but not for constructing an international organization. They can participate in elaborating a program for FIT but they can’t write an international program. In short, PO is an organization which superficially covers its national-centeredness with platonic internationalism!


Trotsky’s polemic against various national-centered centrists in the 1930s is fully valid today. In replying to criticism by the Italian-centred Bordigists, he wrote in 1930:


Your conception of internationalism appears to me erroneous. In the final analysis, you take the International as a sum of national sections or as a product of the mutual influence of national sections. This is, at least, a one-sided, undialectical and, therefore, wrong conception of the International. If the Communist Left throughout the world consisted of only five individuals, they would have nonetheless been obliged to build an international organization simultaneously with the building of one or more national organizations.


It is wrong to view a national organization as the foundation and the international as a roof. The interrelation here is of an entirely different type. Marx and Engels started the communist movement in 1847 with an international document and with the creation of an international organization. The same thing was repeated in the creation of the First International. The very same path was followed by the Zimmerwald Left in preparation for the Third International. Today this road is dictated far more imperiously than in the days of Marx. It is, of course, possible in the epoch of imperialism for a revolutionary proletarian tendency to arise in one or another country, but it cannot thrive and develop in one isolated country; on the very next day after its formation it must seek for or create international ties, an international platform, an international organization. Because a guarantee of the correctness of the national policy can be found only along this road. A tendency which remains shut-in nationally over a stretch of years, condemns itself irrevocably to degeneration.


You refuse to answer the question as to the character of your differences with the International Opposition on the grounds that an international principled document is lacking. I consider such an approach to the question as purely formal, lifeless, not political and not revolutionary. A platform or program is something that comes as a result of extensive experiences from joint activities on the basis of a certain number of common ideas and methods. Your 1925 platform did not come into being on the very first day of your existence as a faction. The Russian Opposition created a platform in the fifth year of its struggle; and although this platform appeared two and a half years after yours did, it has also become outdated in many respects.” [5]


Trotsky was absolutely right! Like he, the RCIT insists that building an international organization is always a central task – for the pre-party organization no less than for the party. A smaller pre-party organization is no less influenced by its material conditions than a party. National centeredness is disastrous for revolutionaries irrespective of their numbers. The laws of materialism – “being determines consciousness” – hold true in all circumstances! Hence, a small national organization which refuses to simultaneously expand internationally will eventually be corroded by national centeredness and looses its revolutionary character if it does not energetically correct its orientation and turn towards internationalism in practical, organizational terms.








In conclusion, we have demonstrated in this pamphlet that there is an undeniable relationship between the theoretical foundation of PO, its assessment of key features of the world situation and its organizational politics.


PO’s undialectical conception of catastrophism is effectively a one-sided mantra-like phrase that capitalism is about to decompose. It saves its leaders the trouble to analyze concretely different periods and phases within the epoch of imperialism. Neither do they see the need to develop concrete programs for such different periods.


Confusing the historic tendency of capitalism to breakdown with literally stagnation and lack of any development results in PO’s inability to recognize the completed restoration of capitalism in China, the former USSR and Eastern Europe. This is an amazing “achievement” nearly 30 years after this restoration actually did take place! PO even denies the development of a capitalist class in these countries!


It is therefore only logical that PO also strongly denies the emergence of China and Russia as imperialist Great Powers. This is a major failure in a historic period which is centrally characterized by the acceleration of the rivalry between the Western and Eastern Great Powers!


Such denial, inevitable, leads the PO leadership to the logical consequence that it “critically” supports China and Russia against the Western imperialist powers. Hence, they join the camp of pro-Eastern social-imperialism.


Finally, PO’s catastrophism serves as an excuse for its vulgar national-centeredness. Since numerous years it has completely failed to build an international organization or to elaborate an international program. It is definitely no exaggeration to estimate that the PO leadership invests 99% of its time, money and energy into national politics in Argentina. Such a method is the complete opposite of the method of Trotsky and the Fourth International!


Trotsky once remarked very accurately: "One who predicted daily the eclipse of the sun would finally live to see this prediction fulfilled. But we are unlikely to consider such a prophet a serious astronomer. The tasks of Communists is not to predict crises, revolutions, and wars every single day, but to prepare for wars and revolutions by soberly evaluating the circumstances and conditions that arise between wars and revolutions." [6]


One could imagine he did already foresee the failures of PO’s leadership!


[1] Leon Trotsky: Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International (1921), p. 263

[2] Leon Trotsky: Unifying the Left Opposition (1930); in: Writings 1930, p. 99

[3] Leon Trotsky: An Open Letter to All Members of the Leninbund (1930); in: Writings 1930, pp. 91-92

[4] The RCIT has elaborated its understanding of the revolutionary program in the current period in two documents: The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto (2012), and the Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation. The Tasks of the Liberation Struggle against Decaying Capitalism (2016), Both programs have been published in seven different languages. We have also published several “Open Letters” which elaborate a tactical platform for revolutionary unity in a given political conjuncture. Our latest document in this respect is the Six Points for a Platform of Revolutionary Unity Today (February 2018, The latter document has been published in 12 languages.

[5] Leon Trotsky: To the Editorial Board of Prometeo (1930); in: Writings 1930, pp. 285-286

[6] Leon Trotsky: The "Third Period" of the Comintern's Errors (1930), in: Trotsky Writings 1930, p.47