The Pseudo-Marxism of the so-called “Fourth International” founded by Pierre Lambert and its historical background
By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), November 2017, www.thecommunists.net
Part II: Pabloism and the OCI-PT
When the Fourth International split in 1953 both wings were centrist, far away from Lenin and Trotsky’s revolutionary politics. (12) The opposition to Pablo that set up the International Committee of the FI was composed mainly of the American SWP, the "Club" led by Gerry Healy and the French PCI.
Contrary to the legends that different groups who were at one time or another affiliated with the ICFI tell about themselves, the ICFI did not fight the Pabloists on theoretical, programmatic or strategic level, but only on the organizational level as they refused to liquidate themselves into the Stalinist parties.
The SWP began to struggle against Pablo only when the leadership of the SWP discovered that Pablo supports the faction led by Bert Cochran inside the Socialist Workers Party that opposed the leadership of Cannon. The faction accused Cannon of sectarian attitude toward the American Stalinist party.
As to the French section, in 1952 the leaders of the Fourth International (Pablo, Mandel) removed the Central Committee of the PCI and replaced it with Michelle Mestre and Pierre Frank, who accepted the International's policies. This forced them to fight against Pablo and Mandel.
As to the legend of the "anti-Pabloism" of the IC, the leadership of the FI (including the groups that in 1952 formed the ICFI) knew that the POR - the FI section in Bolivia - was politically supporting a popular front government (Movimiento Nationalista Revolutionario - MNR) that subordinated the working class to the bourgeoisie. The POR claimed that by putting pressure on the MNR, the nationalists will overthrow capitalism. Yet they all kept quiet as it happens in many similar situations, the popular front that demoralized the workers was overthrown by the military.
Furthermore, the Lambertists following the letter to Tito were very enthusiastic about this perspective of courting the Yugoslav Stalinists.
"For a while, activity with the “Titoites” — supporters of the Tito regime in Yugoslavia, which had fallen out with Stalin in summer 1948 — appeared to offer the PCI a way out. Like many Trotskyists, Lambert had been expelled from the CGT in 1950. He started work in Force Ouvrière, and, helped by funds from the Yugoslav embassy, was able to start a newsletter advocating trade-union unity on a democratic basis. The PCI also organized some 300 volunteers to go to Yugoslavia in work brigades. But all that was based on gross illusions about the nature of the Tito regime; ended embarrassedly when Tito backed the USA in the Korean war; and anyway brought the PCI little profit". (13)
As we shall see the Lambertists who refused to liquidate themselves into the Stalinist parties moved in the direction of social democracy. It is not an accident that Lionel Jospin, the social democratic Prime Minister of France in 1997-2002, was in his youth a Lambertist.
Moving in the direction of Social Democracy was not a straight line. In the first few years after the split of the FI, the politics of the Lambertists resembled anarcho- syndicalism more than revolutionary working class Bolshevism. Its paper La Vérité featured headlines such as: “The odious comedy of elections will change nothing. Let’s prepare the struggle for power!” (16 December 1955); “General strike for bread and peace” (28 September 1956 and against 19 September 1957); “War and poverty or socialist revolution” (27 December 1956); and “The general strike can win 10,000 francs increase for all and peace in Algeria” (17 October 1957).
However, when De Gaulle came to power in 1958, the group moved to the right and declared that the working class is incapable to fight politically. The call for a general strike was dropped and was replaced with the call for Constitutional Assembly, their main demand even today in many countries like in Palestine. This resembles Menshevik politics of two stages more than Trotsky's strategy of the Permanent Revolution.
At the time of the split of the Fourth International the French Lambertists called themselves the PCI (Parti Communiste Internationaliste). Later on, in 1967, they changed the name to the Internationalist Communist Organization (French: Organization Communiste Internationaliste, OCI).
In 1963 the SWP left the ICFI and returned to the International Secretary of the FI. One of the key issues that led to the split in the ICIF was the Cuban Revolution. The leaders of the SWP (Canon and Hansen) claimed that the Cuban revolution was very different from Stalinism (a clear cut Pabloist position). This led the SWP back to the International Secretary of the FI which they had condemned in 1953 as traitors to the socialist revolution.
The OCI left the ICFI in 1971. In 1973 the OCI took the position of defeatism for both Israel and Egypt during the war. This was a clear betrayal of the Marxist position of revolutionary defeat for Israel, a settler colonialist state, while Egypt is a semi colony.
Lambert split from Healy, rejecting his methods, but by the 1960s Lambert’s group, in its internal organisation, had adopted bureaucratic control of the membership much like Healy’s and the same bureaucratic regime of Pablo already in the 1950s, when Pablo and Mandel replaced the central committee of the French section.
In 1981, the OCI again renamed itself as the "Internationalist Communist Party". In 1984, it formed a Movement for a Workers Party, with different currents including Anarchists and independent socialists. Those who opposed it like Stephan Just were expelled. In 1989, historian Pierre Broué was also expelled.
In 1991, the Movement for a Workers Party declared itself the Workers Party. Since 2002 it calls itself the Independent Workers Party (POI). The POI is not a party but a political block of four distinct organized “tendencies”: the CCI (Trotskyist), “anarchist”, “Communist”, and “Socialist” tendencies.
The degeneration of the ostensible "Trotskyist" organizations in France has been observed by many:
"But talking of the PG’s crisis partly misses the point. The entire French left, after all, is in crisis. From the post-Trotskyist New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) to the Greens (EELV), and the PS, every political organization is hampered by plummeting membership, factional disputes, poor electoral results, and a complete lack of strategic vision for the future. Even the “Lambertist” Independent Worker’s Party (POI), one of France’s far-left sects that still claims four thousand members, is on the verge of collapse." (14)
Over the years they came under heavy Islamophobic influence:
"Lambert’s most famous ally was Alexandre Hébert. Hébert, a self-proclaimed anarcho-syndicalist, was operationally a careerist bureaucrat and the little Napoleon of the Force Ouvrière union in Loire-Atlantique from 1947 until 1992 (now succeeded by his own son, Patrick!). Moreover, as I discovered when I interviewed Hébert in researching a study of May 1968, his attitudes to immigrants are racist. In 1995, he contributed to Jean-Marie le Pen’s paper Français d’abord (“The French first”), outlining his hostility towards immigrants. Hébert and his periphery joined the Parti Travailleurs". (15)
What we have seen, whether in the case of the United Secretary of the FI, and in the case of the ICFI, and in the case of the Lamertists, is the forces-at-work of historical laws concerning the degeneration of parties that were once revolutionary. Ironically, they seem very similar to the processes of the degeneration that Stalinism underwent on the political and organizational levels, with the difference of not possessing the power of a state apparatus.
The POI has taken the position of exit of imperialist states from the EU on the grounds that it is the first stage on the road to socialism. A typical Menshevik stagist position!
The Lambertists, like other organizations of the far left, have failed the duty to stand up against imperialist wars with a revolutionary position. As we have written in our Open Letter to All Revolutionary Organizations and Activists:
"The centrists of various hues – “revolutionaries” in words, but opportunists in deeds – are part of the problem, not the solution. As a general rule they opportunistically adapt directly to the bureaucratic apparatus of the mass organizations and thus, indirectly, to this or that imperialist Great Power. We specifically name, among many others: the CWI led by Peter Taffee, Alan Woods’ IMT, the Lambertists as well as the Mandelist NPA in France who consistently fail to support the resistance against the imperialist occupation in those countries which are victim to the imperialist powers (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, etc).” (16)
Those who study the history of the working class know that the POUM, for example, that once declared itself a Trotskyist organization was later denounced by Trotsky himself when they support the popular front in Spain during the revolution of 1936-39, know that the POUM has since disappeared from the historical stage.
These days the Lambertists are trying to penetrate semi-colonial countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But any honest revolutionary in these continents should ask himself/herself: is the Lambertist politics a way out of the imperialist control of the oppressed people, or just another version of capitulation to imperialism?!
Only the working class in alliance with the poor peasants and the poor urban population, led by a revolutionary party, can liberate the oppressed people in Africa, Asia and Latin America!
(12) For a more detailed history of the centrist degeneration of the Fourth International we refer readers to Michael Pröbsting: Healy’s Pupils Fail to Break with their Master (Reply to Socialist Fight / LCFI). The revolutionary tradition of the Fourth International and the centrist tradition of its Epigones Gerry Healy and the ”International Committee”, October 2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/healy-and-fourth-international/; Workers Power (Britain) and Irish Workers Group: The Death Agony of the Fourth International, London 1983