The “4th Conference of groups of the Communist Left”: a wretched fiasco

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In n°122 of our Review we published an article on the cycle of conferences of the groups of the Communist Left, held between 1977 and 1980. We stressed the fact that these conferences marked a real step forward and deplored the fact that they were deliberately undermined by two of the main participating groups, the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (PCInt – Battaglia Comunista) and the Communist Workers’ Organisation, today the main sections of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party. The initiative for these conferences lay with the PCInt which had launched an appeal to hold them in 1976 and had hosted the first of these in Milan in 1977. The fact that this conference was not a complete flop was down to the fact that, unlike other groups who announced that they would take part but failed to turn up, the ICC sent a sizeable delegation. The convocation of the two ensuing conferences was not simply down to the PCInt but was the work of a “Technical Committee” where the ICC worked with the utmost seriousness, particularly by organising them in Paris where the largest section of our organisation is situated. And it was in large part thanks to the seriousness of this work that many more groups took part in these conferences and that they had been prepared in advance through preparatory bulletins. By introducing, at the last minute, an extra criterion for “selection” for future conferences, an initiative explicitly aimed at excluding our organisation from them, the PCInt, with the complicity of the CWO (which it had brought round after long discussions behind the scenes) took the responsibility for demolishing all the work that had been done, even though it had itself begun this work. And the 4th Conference, which was finally held in September 1982, only confirmed the catastrophic attitude adopted by the PCInt and the CWO at the end of the 3rd.

This is what we intend to demonstrate in the present article, which is based essentially on the English-language proceedings of this conference, published as a pamphlet by the IBRP (which had been formed in 1983)[1] in 1984 (in other words two years after the conference itself) .

In the opening address to the conference, the CWO, which had organised it in London, referred to the three previous conferences and notably the 3rd:

Six groups attended the 3rd Conference whose agenda included the economic crisis and perspectives for class struggle as well as the role and tasks of the party. The debates of the 3rd Conference confirmed the areas of agreement already established but a stalemate was reached as far as the discussion on the role and tasks of the party were concerned. In order that future conferences could go beyond merely reiterating the need for the party and repeating the same arguments about its role and tasks, the PCInt proposed an additional criterion for attendance at the conferences to the effect that the revolutionary organisations must recognise that the revolutionary organisation has a leading role to play in the class struggle. This opened up a clear division between those groups who realise there are tasks for the party today and that the party must take a leading role in the class struggle, and those who reject the idea that the party should be organised inside the class today so as to be able to be in a position to take a leading role in the revolution of tomorrow. Only the CWO supported the PCInt’s resolution and the 3rd Conference broke up in disarray.

Today, therefore, fewer groups are present than at the last conference but the basis now exists for beginning the clarification process about the real tasks of the party. In this sense the break-up of the last conference was not a totally negative split. As the CWO wrote in Revolutionary Perspectives n°18 when reporting on the 3rd Conference:

‘Whatever is decided in future, the outcome of the 3rd Conference means that the international work amongst communists will proceed on a different basis from that of its predecessors’ (…)

Although today we have a smaller number of participants than at the 2nd and 3rd Conferences we are starting from a clearer and more serious basis. We hope this conference will demonstrate this seriousness by a willingness to debate and discuss in order to influence each other’s positions rather than merely mounting sterile polemics and trying to use the conferences as a publicity arena for one’s own group”.

The proceedings of this conference give us a very clear idea of the “greater seriousness” that distinguished it from the previous ones.

The organisation of the conference

In the first place, it’s worth looking at the “technical” aspects (which obviously have a political significance) of the preparation and holding of the conference.

In contrast to the two previous conferences, there were no preparatory bulletins. The documents which had been submitted in advance were essentially texts which had already been published in the press of the participating groups. Here we should make special mention of the documents submitted by the PCInt: this was an impressive list of texts (including one book) published by the PCInt on the questions on the agenda and which amounted to several hundred pages (see this list in the PCInt’s circular letter of 25th August 1982, p39). All of it in Italian! Now Italian is certainly a very beautiful language, and it’s also a language in which a number of very important documents in the history of the workers’ movement (beginning with Labriola’s studies on marxism and above all many of the fundamental texts of the Italian Communist Left between 1920 and the Second World War) have been written. Unfortunately, Italian is not an international language and we can imagine the perplexity of the other participating groups faced with this mountain of documents whose content was closed to them.

We should recognise that, in the same circular, the PCInt showed that it was concerned with this problem of language: “We are translating into English a further document relating to the points on the agenda, which will be sent as soon as possible”. Unfortunately in a letter dated 15th September to one of the invited groups we read: “The promised text will, for technical reasons, only be ready at the conference itself” (ibid, p 40).

We are well aware of the difficulties, in the sphere of translations as in many others, facing the groups of the Communist Left, given their limited forces. We do not criticise this weakness of the PCInt in itself. But in this case its inability to produce in advance a document comprehensible to the other participants at the conference “for technical reasons” simply shows the lack of importance it attached to this question. If it had really given it the same degree of “seriousness” which the ICC had given it previously, it would have mobilised much more energetically to overcome this “technical problem”, if only by calling on a professional translator.

The conference itself also came up against this problem of translation, as we learn from the proceedings: “The relatively brief nature of the PCInt’s interventions is due in large part to the limitations of the host group’s translations from Italian to English”.

Thus, many of the explanations and arguments put forward by the PCInt were lost, which is obviously a pity. The CWO seems to put this down to its poor knowledge of Italian. But it seems to us that it was up to the PCInt, if it really did take the conference seriously, to send comrades who could express themselves in English. For an organisation that wants to be a “Party”, it should be possible to find at least one such comrade in your ranks. The comrades of the CWO may think that when the ICC was present at the conferences, we did nothing but “repeat the same arguments about the party over and over again”. They may even claim that we simply wanted to use the conferences for our own sectarian policies. But all the same, they would have to admit that the organisational capacities of the tandem they formed with the PCInt were well below those of the ICC. Nor is it just a question of numbers of militants. It’s fundamentally a question of understanding the tasks confronting revolutionaries today and the seriousness with which you carry them out. The CWO and the PCInt consider that the Party (and the groups which are presently preparing the way for it, i.e. themselves) have the task of “organising” the class struggle. This is not the position of the ICC.[2] However, despite our weaknesses, we try to organise as effectively as possible those activities that are down to us. And this doesn’t really seem to be the case with the CWO and the PCInt: perhaps they think that if they devote too much energy and attention to the tasks of organisation today, they will be too tired tomorrow when it comes to “organising” the class for the revolution.

The groups taking part

In the pamphlet containing the proceedings of the conference we learn that the groups initially invited were the following:

  • Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Battaglia Comunista, Italy)
  • Communist Workers Organisation (UK, France)
  • L’Eveil Internationaliste (France)
  • Unity of Communist Militants (Iran)
  • Wildcat (USA)
  • Kompol (Austria)
  • Marxist Worker (USA)

The last three groups had the status of “observers”.

At the conference itself, there were only three groups. Let’s see what happened to the others:

By the time the conference took place Marxist Worker and Wildcat had apparently ceased to exist” (p38). We can judge from this the perspicacity of the CWO and the PCInt who made up the Technical Committee charged with preparing the conference: in their great concern to “select” organisations “really capable of concretely posing the question of the party and attributing it with a leading role in the revolution of tomorrow”, they turned towards groups who judged it preferable to go on holiday while waiting for the future party (again, probably to have more strength for playing a “leading role” when the time comes). On the other hand, we can say that the conference had a narrow escape: if Wildcat had survived and had come along, it would surely have polluted it with its “councilism”, which far outdoes anything that the PCInt accuses the ICC of. Its councilism was well known, and yet still somehow enabled it to fulfil the criteria which excluded the ICC.

As for the other groups who didn’t come, we will once again leave the explanation to the CWO:

In the light of subsequent events it seems appropriate now to draw out the significance of the last conference. The non-attendance of two groups who initially agreed to participate has been shown to be part of their political distancing from the framework of the conference. Kompol have not communicated with us further while L’Eveil Communiste has embarked on a modernist trajectory which is leading them outside of the framework of Marxism altogether” (“Preamble”, p 1).

Once again, we can only admire the political flair involved in inviting such groups.

We now come to the SUCM (Student Supporters of the UCM), the only other group present at the conference apart from the two who called it.

This is what the pamphlet has to say about it:

The SUCM has ceased to exist. Its members have become part of a wider organisation (The Organisation of the Supporters of the Communist Party of Iran Abroad – OSCPIA) which includes the previous members of the SUCM as well as sympathisers of the Kurdish Komala. Despite their initial adherence to the criteria for attending the conferences; despite their willingness to discuss and relate to organisations of the European Left Communist tradition, the SUCM found itself hamstrung by its position as a support of a larger organisation in Iran, a group which became the Communist Party of Iran in September 1983. Laying aside polemics, it appears that this date has an objective significance, confirmed, for example, by the trajectory of the comrades of the SUCM on the question of the Revolutionary Democratic Republic and its implications. At the time of the 4th conference, the SUCM clearly accepted that real wars of national liberation are impossible in the era of imperialism, in the sense that there can be no genuine war of national liberation outside of the workers’ revolution for the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. From then on, however, the SUCM insisted more and more on the thesis that communist struggles emerge from national struggles. That is, the theoretical position is diluted in line with the positions of the CP of Iran, positions which are very dangerous – as articles in the press of the CWO and the PCInt have demonstrated. Thus, instead of deepening the clarification process and pushing the Iranian organisations towards positions more clearly and firmly rooted in revolutionary soil, the OSPCIA tries to reconcile the distortion of the communist programme evinced by the SUCM and the CP of Iran with left communism. It is inevitable that there will be distortions in one form or another in an area which has no contact with the Left Communist tradition or with its heritage of theoretical elaboration and political struggle. However, it is the task of communists neither to hide these distortions nor to accept them and adapt themselves to them but to contribute towards overcoming them. In this respect the OSPCIA has missed an important opportunity. Given the present state of the differences it is not possible to define the CP of Iran as a force which can claim the right to re-enter the political camp delineated by the Conferences of the Communist Left”.     

If we are to believe the explanations given in this passage, the SUCM, after the conference, and following in the wake of the CP of Iran, had evolved towards positions which no longer allowed it to “claim the right to re-enter the political camp delineated by the Conferences of the Communist Left”. In sum, these two organisations were now given the same label as the ICC since our organisation could also not claim such a “right”.[3]

In fact, the CP of Iran was not just “outside the political camp defined by the conference” but also outside the camp of the working class. It was a bourgeois organisation in the current of Stalino-Maoism. We can only be fascinated by the subtle diplomacy (in order to avoid “polemic”!) with which the IBRP talks about this organisation. The IBRP doesn’t like calling a spade a spade. It prefers the tool in question to be neither a fork nor a hoe… but an agricultural implement nonetheless. This way of proceeding has a name in the workers’ movement: it is called opportunism, or else the word has no meaning. True, it is disagreeable to think that people with whom you’ve spent several months before a conference working for the perspective of the future world party of the revolution have become out and out defenders of the capitalist system. It’s even more difficult to admit it publicly. So it’s better to say that these elements, whom you continue to call “comrades”, have “missed an important opportunity”, that they have found themselves “hamstrung”, that their “theoretical position is diluted in line with the positions of the CP of Iran”, positions which you call “very dangerous” in order to avoid calling them bourgeois.

What the IBRP doesn’t see, or doesn’t want to see, or simply refuses to recognise publicly, is that the evolution of the SUCM towards the defence of the capitalist order (re-baptised as making it no longer “a force which can claim the right to re-enter the political camp delineated by the Conferences of the Communist Left”) wasn’t really an evolution at all. At the very time of the conference, the SUCM was already a bourgeois, Maoist organisation. This can be seen, by anyone with their eyes open, by its interventions at the conference.

The interventions of the SUCM

We reproduce below some of these interventions:

...if capital in the domestic market of the metropolitan country tolerates the impositions of the trade union movement during its normal and non-crisis conditions of operation, and it is only during the deepening of the crisis that it resorts to decisive suppression of the trade union movement”(p 6)

This assertion is to say the least surprising on the part of a group which is supposed to belong to the Communist Left. In reality, in the advanced countries, it’s not the trade union movement which is crushed when the crisis deepens, but workers’ struggles, with the complicity of the trade unions. Even the Trotskyists are capable of seeing this. But not the SUCM, which has no problem identifying the trade union movement with the class struggle. Thus, on the question of the role of the trade unions (which is not secondary one but among the most fundamental for the working class), the SUCM is situated to the right of Trotskyism and ends up with the same position as the Stalinists or the social democrats. And it’s with such a group that the CWO and the PCInt proposed to cooperate with a view to forming the world party.

But this was just a taster. 

Today the proletariat in Iran is on the eve of forming its communist party and, with the massive force that is behind the programme of this party, it is to become an independent and determining factor in the present upheavals in Iran. The indisputable leadership of Komala over the struggle of vast sections of the workers and toilers in Kurdistan, the influence that revolutionary Marxism has acquired among advanced workers in Iran, the existence of vast networks of workers’ nuclei which distribute the theoretical and workers’ publications of revolutionary Marxism and localities, despite the conditions of terror and suppression and the ever-increasing turning of currents: disillusionment with populism and moves towards revolutionary Marxism are all indicative of the important role that the socialist proletariat of Iran will play in the forthcoming events. From the standpoint of the world proletariat the significance of the question lies in the fact that now, after more than 50 years, the red banner of communism is about to become the banner of the struggle of the workers of one dominated country. The hoisting of this flag in one part of the world is a call upon the world proletariat to end the dispersion of its ranks and to unite as a class against the world bourgeoisie and settle matters with it” (p 10-11).

Faced with such a declaration, you have a choice of three hypotheses:

  • either we are dealing with elements who are sincere but who are totally out of touch with reality;
  • or we are dealing with a huge bluff aimed at impressing the public but not based on any reality;
  • or, in effect, the CP of Iran and Komala had the influence described, but in the historic conditions of 1982 a political current with such an influence could only be bourgeois.

If the first hypothesis was true, the first suggestion to make to such elements, before any discussion, would be to go and seek psychiatric help.

If we are dealing with a bluff, discussion with elements who are lying like that would have no interest, even if they thought they were defending communist positions in this manner. As Marx said, “the truth is revolutionary”, and while lying is an essential weapon of bourgeois propaganda, it can in no way be part of the arsenal of the proletariat and its communist vanguard.

We come to the last hypothesis: the SUCM was a group that was not proletarian but leftist, i.e. bourgeois. This is what we said at the time, following discussions we had with the elements from this group, discussions that enabled us to understand its real nature regardless of its declarations in favour of the Communist Left. The CWO and the PCInt did not want to take heed of our warnings.

The bourgeois nature of this organisation appeared quite clearly in the discussions on the question of the “democratic revolution” and the programme of the party. In the midst of interventions that appear to have a theoretical foundation, with the support of marxist writers, from Marx and above all Lenin, we can find the following:

The world crisis of imperialism foments the embryo of revolutionary conditions, but this embryo, precisely because of the different conditions in the dominated and metropolitan countries, is more developed in the dominated country. The first sparks of the socialist revolution of the world proletariat against capital and capitalism at its highest stage set the flames to the democratic revolution in the dominated country. A revolution, which from this standpoint is an inseparable part of the world socialist revolution, whilst because of its isolation, because of the limitations of its ability on the strength of workers and toilers of the dominated country, because of the lack of the necessary objective conditions within the proletariat of these countries on the one hand, and the presence of vast masses of a toiling and revolutionary non-proletariat on the other, inevitably takes the form and develops in the first instance within a democratic revolution. The present revolution of Iran is such a revolution” (p 7).

The present revolution is a democratic revolution whose task is to remove the obstacles to the free development of the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism.

The content of the victory of this revolution is the establishment of a democratic political system under the leadership of the proletariat which, from the economic point of view, is equivalent to the practical negation of the domination of imperialism, and the requirements of the accumulation of capital in the dominated country, over the material existence and living conditions of workers and toilers” (p 8)

Furthermore, the SUCM makes the following denunciation of the policies of the Khomeini government at the time of the war between Iraq and Iran which broke out in September 1980, a year and a half after the installation of the “Islamic Republic”:

The wresting of democratic gains of the Uprising [the uprising at the beginning of 1979 which got rid of the Shah and enabled Khomeini to take control] and the prevention of the direct exercise of the democratic authority of the people in determining and running their own affairs ” (p 10).

Finally, the SUCM establishes a distinction between the minimum programme (the “democratic republic”) and the maximum programme, socialism (p 8). This distinction was used by social democracy when capitalism was still an ascendant system and the proletarian revolution was not yet on the agenda, but it was rejected by revolutionaries in the period opened up by the First World War, including by Trotsky and his epigones.

The interventions of the CWO and the PCInt

Obviously, faced with the bourgeois conceptions of the SUCM, the CWO and the PCInt defended the positions of the Communist Left.

On the union question, the PCInt’s intervention was very clear:

No union can do anything other than stay on bourgeois ground (…) In the imperialist epoch communists can never think of the possibility of restoring the unions or building new unions (…) Unions bring the class to defeat since they deceive it with the idea of achieving its interests through trade unionism. It is necessary to smash the unions” (p 12).

These are formulations to which the ICC would be happy to put its name. The only thing we regret is that the PCInt, which put forward these positions in a presentation on the struggles in Poland in 1980, didn’t say explicitly that they were in total opposition to the positions put forward by the SUCM shortly before on the same question. Is this because it was lacking vigilance towards the declarations of the SUCM? Is it because of a language problem? But the CWO understands English. Or was it a question of “tactics”, of not immediately brushing the SUCM up the wrong way?

In any case, on the question of the “democratic revolution”, the “democratic republic” and the “minimum programme”, the PCInt and the CWO could not fail to reject such notions, which have nothing to do with the programmatic patrimony of the Communist Left:

The oppression and misery of the masses cannot in itself lead to revolution. This can only happen when they are led by the proletariat of those areas linked to the world proletariat…To say that Marx supported these in the past and therefore we must support them today, in a different epoch, is, as Lenin said on another subject, to quote the word of Marx against the spirit of Marx. Today we live in the epoch of the decay of capitalism and that means the proletariat has NOTHING TO GAIN from supporting this or that national capital or this or that reformist demand…It is nonsense to suggest that we can write a programme which provides the objective basis for the struggle for socialism. Either the objective basis exists or it does not. As the Italian CP says in its Rome Theses of 1922, ‘we cannot by expedients create the subjective basis’. …Only the struggle for socialism itself can destroy imperialism, not structural expedients about democracy or minimum demands” (p16).

We believe the role of the communist party in the dominating and dominated countries is the same. We do not include in the communist programme minimum demands from the nineteenth century…We want to make a communist revolution and can only do that by putting forward the communist programme and never including in our programme demands which can be recuperated by the bourgeoisie” (p18).

We could add many more quotes from the CWO and the PCInt defending the positions of the Communist Left, as well as others by the SUCM making it clear that they have nothing to do with this current, but this would end up with us reproducing a good third of the pamphlet.[4] For anyone familiar with the positions of Maoism in the 1970s and 80s, it is clear that the SUCM (which takes great care in several of its interventions to criticise official Maoist conceptions) is a “left” and “critical” variant of this current. What’s more, on two occasions, the CWO notes similarities between the positions of the SUCM and those of Maoism.

Our real objection is however the theory of the aristocracy of labour. We think this is the last germ of populism in the UCM and its origin is in Maoism” (p 18).

The section on the peasantry is the last vestiges of populism in the SUCM (…) The theory of the revolutionary peasantry is reminiscent of Maoism, something we totally reject” (p 22).

However, these remarks remain timid and “diplomatic”. There is, though, a question which the CWO and the PCInt could have put to the SUCM: the significance of the following passage from one of the texts presented by the SUCM to the conference, the “Programme of the Communist Party” adopted by the UCM and Komala (a guerrilla organisation with links to the Kurdish Democratic Party), and published in May 1982, i.e. 5 months before the conference:

The domination of revisionism over the Communist Party of Russia led to the defeat and retreat of the world working class in one of its main strongholds”. By “revisionism” this programme meant the “Kruschevite” revision of “Marxism-Leninism”. This is exactly the vision defended by Maoism and it would have been interesting if the SUCM had made it clear whether it considered that before Kruschev the Russian Communist Party under Stalin was still a party of the working class. Unfortunately this fundamental question was not posed, either by the PCInt or the CWO. Are we to believe that these two organisations had not read this document, which was essential as it represented the programme of the SUCM? We can only reject such an interpretation because it would be inconsistent with the “seriousness” so strongly proclaimed by the CWO in its opening speech. Furthermore, several interventions by the PCInt and the CWO made precise quotes from passages from this document. There is another interpretation: these two organisations didn’t pose the question because they were afraid of what the answer would be. After all how could they have carried on a conference with an organisation which may have considered Stalin as being “revolutionary” and “communist” – Stalin, the leading figure of the counter-revolution which was unleashed against the proletariat in the 1930s, the assassin of the best fighters of the October revolution, the butcher of tens of millions of Russian workers and peasants?     

Obviously, raising this question would not have been very “diplomatic” and would have risked turning the conference into an immediate fiasco, leaving only a tête-à-tête between the CWO and the PCInt – i.e. the only two organisations who at the 3rd conference had adopted the new criterion aimed at eliminating the ICC and giving new life to the conferences.

These two organisations preferred to emphasize the total agreement that existed between their view of the role of the party and that defended by the SUCM in its presentation on this question, where it affirms that the party “organises all aspects of the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and leads the working class in accomplishing the social revolution” (p25). The fact that the PCInt and the CWO have a programme which is totally opposed to that of the SUCM (communist revolution against democratic revolution), the fact that both want to “organise” and “lead” struggles in opposite directions, this is apparently of secondary importance for the CWO and the PCInt. The main thing is that the SUCM does not have any “councilist” leanings, unlike the ICC.


The conference concluded with a summary of the points of agreement and disagreement by the presidium.[5] The list of agreements is much the longest. Concerning the “areas of disagreement” it cited only the question of the “democratic revolution”, of which it says:

There is a need for further discussion with and clarification with the SUCM

a) The democratic revolution must be defined by the time of the next conference.

b) We propose the best way is to criticise via text the SUCM’s view of the democratic revolution and have a more developed discussion on the economic basis of imperialism”.

Concerning the totally opposing view of the role of the trade unions expressed at the conference, there is no mention, probably because the SUCM had entirely approved the presentation on the struggles in Poland in which the PCInt had raised the union question in the terms we saw above (even though the SUCM could only be in disagreement with the PCInt on this point).

At the end, the SUCM and the PCInt expressed themselves:

SUCM: “It’s a year since we contacted the PCInt and the CWO. We thank them for their help and we value the contact with the two groups. We have tried to transmit criticisms back to the UCM in Iran. We agree with the summing up

PCInt: “We agree with the summing up. We are also pleased to find comrades coming from Iran. The discussion with them must certainly be developed in order to find a political solution to the differences which this conference has focussed on”.

Thus, contrary to the 3rd Conference, which “broke up in disarray” as the CWO reminded us in the opening speech, the “4th Conference” ended with all the participants expressing the desire to continue the discussion. We know what happened afterwards.

In fact, it took quite a while before the CWO and the PCInt would open their eyes (a bit!) to the nature of the people they had been discussing with, and it was only when the latter threw off their masks. Thus, several months after the “4th Conference”, the CWO, at its territorial conference, reacted violently against the ICC which had, as is its wont, called a spade a spade and a bourgeois group a bourgeois group:

The SUCM's interventions consisted mostly of flattery towards the CWO: their only concrete point was a subtly worded suggestion that the CWO should 'critically' and 'conditionally' support the national movements. This went completely unanswered by the CWO, whose ire was instead reserved for the ICC when we attempted to raise the whole issue of the SUCM's presence; then the CWO was moved to shout down the ICC comrade before he had said more than ten words!" (World Revolution n° 60, May 83, “When will you draw the line, CWO?”)

We encountered the same attitude at an ICC public meeting in Leeds:

"The CWO's most telling interventions were firstly to support the SUCM against the ICC's ‘unfounded allegations’ about the class nature of the UCM and Komala; and then to praise the SUCM's demagogy as the clearest contribution to the meeting. Shouting down communists for warning the revolutionary movement against the invasion of bourgeois ideology was only the logical next step in the CWO's sectarian attitude towards the ICC" (ibid.). 

 This attitude of reserving your sharpest barbs against the tendencies who warn against the danger represented by bourgeois organisations and thus of defending the latter, is not new in the workers’ movement. It was the attitude of the centrist leadership of the Communist International when it advocated the “United Front” with the socialist parties, an attitude which the Communist Left rightly denounced at the time.

This is why the conference held in September 1982 in London in no way deserves to be called the “4th Conference of the Communist Left”. On the one hand because it was held with the presence of a group which didn’t belong to the proletariat, and still less to the Communist Left, the SUCM. And also because at this conference there was a total absence of the spirit and approach of the Communist Left, which is founded on a scrupulous search for clarity, on an intransigent struggle against all manifestations of the penetration of bourgeois views into the proletariat, a struggle against opportunism.

This is not the opinion of the IBRP, which, at the end of the presentation to the pamphlet tells us:

…the validity or otherwise of the 4th International Conference does not revolve around the participation of the SUCM (whose attendance, like any other group was dependent on their acceptance of the criteria developed from the 1st to the 3rd). The 4th Conference confirmed the development of a clear political tendency in the international proletarian milieu, a tendency which recognises that it is the task of revolutionaries today to develop an organised presence inside the class struggle and to work concretely for the formation of the international party. Unless the future party is more than a propagandist organisation, i.e. unless it is a party organised within the working class as a whole, it will be in no position to lead the class struggle of tomorrow to its victorious conclusion.

The formation of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (IBRP) in December 1983 is the concrete manifestation of this tendency and is in itself proof of the validity of the 4th Conference. The political homogenisation reached by the PCInt and the CWO (and confirmed, incidentally, during the debates with the SUCM) has enabled the two groups to initiate practical steps towards the formation of the future international party. International correspondence for both groups (and other Bureau members) is now the responsibility of the Bureau. But the Bureau is much more than a PCInt-CWO affair, it is a means for emerging organisations and militants worldwide to clarify their positions by taking part in international debate ad the revolutionary work of the Bureau itself. In fact it is the international reference point which the PCInt aimed should develop out of the Conferences back in 1977. By expanding and developing its work within its clearly defined political framework the Bureau will eventually be in a position to call a 5th International Conference which will mark a further step towards the formation of the international party”.

There was no 5th Conference: after the ridiculous fiasco of the 4th (which the members of the IBRP could not hide from themselves, even if they tried to hide it from the outside) it was preferable to cut their losses. And then, having adopted the same position as the Bordigists, the IBRP henceforth considered itself the only organisation in the world capable of making a valid contribution to the formation of the future party of the world revolution. We can leave them to their megalomaniac dreams… and their sad inability to maintain a continuity with the best of what the Communist Left has brought to the historic movement of the working class.


[1] 4th International Conference of Groups of the Communist Left – Proceedings, Texts, Correspondence

[2] This does not mean that we underestimate the party’s role in preparing and carrying out the revolution. It plays a vital part in the development of class consciousness, and in giving a political orientation to the class’ struggle, including on the question of its self-organisation. But this does not mean that it “organises” the class struggle, or that it takes power: that is the task of the organisation of the class as a whole, the workers’ councils.

[3]. We need to make things very clear to the reader: the ICC has never “claimed” such a right. From the moment when, at the 3rd Conference, the PCInt and the CWO explicitly declared that they wanted to continue the conferences without the ICC, we never had the idea of “forcing the hand” of these organisations (as we could have done, for example, if we had abstained at the time of the vote on the supplementary criterion, since L’Eveil Internationaliste, which had abstained, was invited to the 4th). This did not prevent us, as a number of articles in this Review will attest, from making proposals to these groups for joint work when we considered it necessary, notably to take position on imperialist war.

[4]. We encourage our readers to ask the IBRP for copies of this pamphlet so that they can read the whole thing

[5] We should note that the PCInt accepted at the “4th Conference” something which it had obstinately rejected at the previous conferences: that there should be a statement of position summing up the points of agreement and disagreement. The reason it gave was that it didn’t want to adopt any documents in common with other groups because of the divergences it had with them. From this it would follow that for the PCInt the divergences that exist between the groups of the Communist Left are more important than those which separate communist groups from bourgeois groups.


Political currents and reference: