"The Transitional Programme" and "the Leninist conception of party": more than valid nowadays, essential for the revolutionary Marxist work
by Gustavo Gamboa

I- Introduction

Twelve years ago, a traumatic process of expulsions in the Working Party of Argentina (PO) took place. The victims of such a Stalinist purge - who soon formed the Working Revolutionary Party (POR) - did not understand at that time the ideological root of the phenomenon. We hardly managed to stammer about some very evident symptoms and we even did some advances in an interpretation of the origin of the class behaviour of the bureaucratic power group led by Jorge Altamira.

Those theoretical-political landmarks (summarised in a pamphlet entitled "Working Party: party of what class or what class of party?" by Fernando Armas), which established a first boundary with respect to our origins, are appreciated today by us with the feeling that one has in front of a prehistoric staff, or a story or a poem that has been written by us when young.

This comparison makes sense because, still in our immaturity and naivete, we could with those landmarks define the bases which would have been the benchmarks in later discussions, in the debate into our organisation, and in the controversies with other groups that come from other origins and routes.

Nevertheless, the worst thing than we could have done is exactly to approach old discussions with anchylosed arguments, suspended in absolute truths that, most of the times, operates like a patch for the own ideological nakedness. In our ideological rupture with the Lorism(1), in our controversies with the diverse Morenoist tendencies (in particular with the comrade Rolando Astarita(2), with the PTS(3) and the MAS(4)), as well as in the multiple contacts that we maintained with the different expressions of the self-claimed revolutionary left, we sincerely tried to study the arguments of our circumstantial adversaries, not in order to elaborate an occasional answer to fortify a pre-establish position from the prejudices, but to advance towards a synthesis.

In a contribution to the magazine Estrategia Internacional (soon reproduced in several left media) we wrote an article in which we considered an hypothesis about the process of regrouping of the vanguard in general, and of the Fourth Internationalism in particular. We wrote about an unavoidable exploratory process, in which the ideological baggage and the trajectory of each group had to be collated with its concrete positioning before the events of the class struggle. So that the diverse fragments could be able to make a new organisation solidly planted in front of the international working vanguard, it is unavoidable an integral and simultaneous process of discussion and political action.

However, this process cannot be started from anything, even not from prehistory. It must be started (we thought) from verified ideological conquests, like those which give title to this work. It is not accidental that a wide spectrum within the self-claimed Trotskyism has openly attacked with violence these conquests every day. An important part of them openly does it, the clearest example is Rolando Astarita, who wrote an extensive and detailed work against the Transitional Programme. However, there are others who daily attack them on behalf of their defense. Thus, they make the worst defense of them, not only because their practice violates them, but because in their controversy against Astarita, they demonstrate ideological weakness and their arguments are so sectarian, infantile and self-claimative, that tend to fortify the declared liquidacionist position.

The objective of this work is to present a new synthesis of a series of controversies which, in some cases, are partially known for the reader. Its aim is both, to explain our conceptions, which allows those who know us through this material to make a good composition of place of our thought, and to analyse the last controversies (with the Altamirism, the Lorism, the Morenoism, etc.) from new angles. In summary, we will attempt to write a "corrected and extended" version of documents already published(5).

II- The importance of the political characterisation of the correlation of forces between the classes

From an historical point of view, we live in pre-revolutionary stage. This definition simply means that the capitalist relations of production not only block the development of the productive forces, but also tend to destroy them. Then the Socialist Revolution is the only progressive answer which can release those productive forces and finish with the borders that the several bourgeoisies used to set limits on their development, like class bound to nation-state. The delay of our victory (the victory of the Socialism, of the Communism), explains the decomposition of the society, the barbarism. This general objective definition is relative without taking into account the correlation of forces between the classes. That is that still under the worst conditions of oppression and hegemony of the bourgeoisie, the revolutionaries must construct a party in order to struggle for the Communist perspective. The definition of revolutionary militant does not have to be a consequence of the momentary conditions, but of an ideological understanding of the historical period in which we lived (of "wars and revolutions" according to Lenin).

However, it is always fundamental to fit the militancy to the period and, even more specifically, to the concrete situation. The revolutionary militants, including the most proven, are also a product of an historical time. Because of this, they should made a scientific evaluation of the correlation of forces between the predominant classes of the society - i.e. bourgeoisie and proletariat - as well as to osculate the dynamic positioning of the intermediate layers, the petty bourgeoisie.

The Marxists who had lead a revolution (Lenin and Trotsky fundamentally), established that it is fundamental to made a distinction between the objective and the subjective factors. They helped us to distinguish between which we defined as a "revolutionary stage" (according to the exposed above) and a "revolutionary situation". For the last one, they paid extreme attention to the call subjective factor, because in addition to the "extraordinary worsening" of the economic situation that makes the conditions of existence unbearable, to the "crisis of the ruling class" who cannot continue governing as it was doing it, and to a "radicalisation of petty bourgeoisie", they prioritised the existence of a "generalised and independent movement of the proletariat". And this cannot happen without a certain degree of political differentiation in revolutionary terms, even when the proletariat is not organised in a Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist party.

One of the central problems that explains many of the deviations of the self-claimed Trotskyist, is their extremely superficial evaluation of this correlation of forces. In particular, the history of splits within the Trotskyism is the history of controversies about the possibilities of the situation, about the prognosis of it, and about the development of the revolutionary party. The "over-optimistic" currents of this movement deserve a synthetic but forceful exhibition:

This "over-optimism" (in some cases frankly delirious) is an artificial mechanism of recruitment of wills, used in order to enlarge the groups. It clearly bothers any reflective militant who, at least, questions that the revolution is around the corner. In addition, it apostatises of all preparatory work and political education of the cadres and the own masses, because the proximity of the revolutionary outcome does not leave time for the planning of the middle and long reach work. The result of this is that these organisations model impotent robots to criticise. In some way they are not able to put in judgement the prognoses under which they organised even their own lives. Thus, these groups become true crushing sects of militants, which cause, like an inevitable result, a reactive phenomenon in the opposite sense.

Thus arise this way Astarita and the "MAS of the new time" who cannot weight all the elements of their own historical balance, and who see "all black" and elaborate doctrines which even question the general revolutionary character of the stage.

We, who dreamed up (not without confusion, contradictions and hesitations) by fighting against both faces of the same coin, we think that it is necessary to evaluate the great world-wide events that define a new historical period. The capitalist restoration in the former USSR and in East Europe (as well as the advance of a similar process in Cuba, Vietnam, China and North Korea) is a defeat for the labour movement at world-wide level which modifies the correlation of forces in favour of the Imperialism, who has the initiative, placing the proletariat to the defensive.

Nevertheless, due to the own capitalist crisis, and because the defeat has not acquired a historical character that paralyses all possibility of fights, still exists a tendency to the outbreak of revolutionary situations, whose outcome is in direct relation with the degree of politically independent intervention of the exploiteds. The capacity that has had the Imperialism and the national bourgeoisies to manoeuvre in front of serious situations of crises (Ecuador, Indonesia, etc.) is product of a dialectic relation between the crisis of the world-wide working direction and the handicapped political conciusness of the masses, which is a consequence of the previous defeats. The preparatory character of the work, the construction of the party, and the penetration of the programme are the facts that must be weighted in order to made a correct characterisation of the situation as a whole.

III- The split of the "minimum" and "maximum" programmes leads to the reforming policy or the ultraleftist sectarianism

Like an unavoidable consequence of the superficial characterisation of the political situation (correlation of forces between the classes) both sectors of the self-claimed Trotskyism corrupt the basic concept of the Transitional Programme(7): "the strategic task of the next period - prerevolutionary period of agitation, propaganda and organisation - consists of surpassing the contradiction between the maturity of the objective conditions of the revolution and the lack of maturity of the proletariat and its vanguard (confusion and pessimism of the old direction, lack of experience of the young one). It is necessary to help the masses, in their process of daily fight, to find the bridge between their present vindications and the programme of the Socialist revolution". The pessimists and sceptics doubt that this necessity of BRIDGES exists: "we set out to demonstrate the necessity to return to the division between the maximum programme and the minimum" (pamphlet on the matter by Rolando Astarita, page 33). The form that they adopt consists in dissociating the struggle for the minimum vindications from the struggle for Socialism. First, it would deserve for them a reformist conception, looking for the satisfaction of the massesí needs without questioning the bourgeois state and the capitalist system; second, it would have a propagandistic character merely: the Socialism could wait until ... the Greek Calends.

The "over-optimists" show an infantile revolutionary optimism. Although they explicitly support the Transitional Programme, in their practice they actually despise the fight for the minimum vindications, without caring about the problematic that generates them, in name of the direct revolutionary struggle for Socialism, which of course, would be the task of the day.

If Astarita and the "MAS of the new time" capitulate to the reformism through action, the PTS, the PO, and the Bolivian POR, capitulate to it by default, when despising the preparatory work and the struggle in the mass organisations, which obviously are part of the vindictive struggle. Vindicating the method of the Transitional Programme, the revolutionaries should look for finding bridges between the minimum and the maximum programme in order to construct at the heat of the struggle the double power(8), and therefore advance in the political independence of the working class.

IV- The "Unique Front" is an indispensable resource to regroup to the vanguard

One of the most remarkable consequences of this renouncement to the Foundation of the Fourth Internationalís Programme conception is the rejection of Unique Frontís tactics.

The Transitional Programme establishes that any advance is unthinkable without an unequal and combined development in the politicalization of the vanguard. Such a vanguard, which is a product of a complex process of political differentiation, does not find itself with the revolutionary party in a "pure" state (as we will see afterwards, the revolutionary party is not a pure phenomenon either). Well on the contrary, the vanguard should be constructed from its own experience, in which the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist intervention must combine its role as organiser and political orientator, with the educating and training function in the ideological side.

The tactic of the Unique Front is an essential resource, not only to harness the fight (regardless its level) but also to create the appropiate landscape to conquest the partyís authority of the authority and to pave the way for the ideological penetration.

Once again, the Transitional Programmeís apostates abjure of the Unique Front. Some of them even openly alert against the dangers of contamination with the policy of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie (with which the masses are impregnated as an inevitable part of the historical process). Others (e.g. the Bolivian POR) claim about the "Anti-imperialist Unique Front" as if it were the "dictatorship of the proletariat" or the "Workers and Farmersí Government" transforming in this way this TACTIC in something STRATEGIC and ABSTRACT, sterilising thus their true function as a transitional resource, a sort of bridge, destined to the regrouping of the vanguard.

V- Who rejects the Transitional Programme also rejects the Leninist conception of party

Lenin understood the militant (and therefore the revolutionary party) as an historical product, and not as a perfect ideal. Its historical materialistic dialectic approach of the question, is widely developed in several classical texts(9), in which, following Plekhanov(10), he established a dialectic relation concerning the role of the individual (and the party) in History.

Those who criticise the Transitional Programme (we insisted that Astarita is only its most open critic) cannot do it without also attacking the Leninist conception of party, of the professional militant, of the organisation of revolutionaries given to a cause. They are "objectivists" who interpret that the weakness of the revolutionary group does not depend at all in the own political will of those who claim themselves as revolutionaries, but on a determinism of laws which are stronger than their subversive task.

In an apparent opposed pole are the so called "subjectivists", those who act contrary to the Leninist conception of party and the Transitional Programme making a voluntarist and empty abstraction of the revolutionary will, forgetting about the concrete historical process.

Jorge Altamira and Guillermo Lora, for example (we were told that they learned it from Pierre Lambert) made a true cult of the "mea culpa" of the militants ("imbecile, impotent, etc."), who were not at the level of the revolutionary situation. Lora even reached the Guevaraist (anti-Marxist) definition of the "NEW MAN", expressing the possibility of reaching under the capitalist society, contradicting explicitly (without declaring it) to Leon Trotsky, who explains to us why such a thing is not possible. It is due to the fact that even the "REVOLUTIONARY MAN" (the one that we can and must construct ourselves), is an historical product of the capitalist society, with all his tares and contradictions.

In fact, both conceptions are nothing but the two sides of the same coin, because both, either one with its declared action opposite to the Leninist conception of party, of professional militants, or the other which on its behalf, condemns the impotence to obtain the perfect ideal, and deny the possible and necessary work in the concrete political fight for the formation of the cadres. The first variant do it by dissolution of all partisan conception in a movementism without limits; the second variant do it through a self-claimatory sectarianism and messianic ostracism.

VI- Conclusion

We tried to establish a connection between the different political categories that, most of the times, are presented in the controversies like disjoint compartments. It is possible that while trying to integrate these categories to a common one, our depth in some aspects would have been lost. In any case, this article is indeed intended to present an integrated position, because we think that this is the fundamental task, at the time of a balance of decades of revolutionary militancy, as well as for the future, with the aim of reconstructing the Fourth International and its sections. If the reader (specially in the case of a militant, either individual or integrated into a political group) understands this necessity, and together we advance in the analysis of our differences with this method, we will advance solidly and deeply enough in our task.


(1) Lorism: The current with centre in the Bolivian Revolutionary Working Party (POR) is well known under this name, being its maximum leader Guillermo Lora. Founded on the decade of the 30ís, it reached a significant relevance in Bolivia and since then formed an inevitable reference within the Fourth Internationalism. The "Theses of Pulacayo", the formation of the Parliamentary Mining Block, the intervention in the revolution of 1952 and the Bolivian Popular Assembly of 1971, are key points for an historical balance, not only of the Bolivian proletariat, but also of the world-wide working class and its relation with Trotskyism. The Lorism always was very weak (and even negligible) regarding the Fourth Internationalist work, proclamaiting the so called "Bolivian Trotskyism" and the "Bolivian exceptional nature". Our organisation founded together with the Lorism the Liaison Committee for the Reconstruction of IV International (CERCI) on 1988, which was dissolved by a bureaucratic decision of G.Lora and Atilio De Castro (Brazilian T.POR), in February of 1998, due to the divergences displayed by most of the Argentine section. The seventh Congress of the Argentinean POR systematised its political, ideological and organisational delimitation from Lorism, in a series of documents approved, that can be gotten by the reader either in Spanish or in Portuguese. We still considered ourselves in debt concerning a deepening of an historical balance of this current, out of which we were born.

(2) Rolando Astarita: Argentinean Trostkyist, who has integrated the fraction of the MAS which founded afterwards the PTS. Some time later he conformed his own group. Today he has systematised his political thoughts in an extensive critical work entitled "About the Transitional Programme". Our answer to it, "In defense of Trotskyism, historical continuity of the Marxism-Leninism", is at the reader disposal.

(3) PTS: Abbreviation that means " Party of Workers for the Socialism ", product of a split of the MAS produced in 1988. Our organisation conformed in 1998 a Parity Committee; an exploratory organism of political debate and action to advance in the reconstruction of the Fourth International. Soon after initiating this experience, the PTS suffered a fraction (nowadays called Internationalist Working League). This fractional process deserved an intervention of our Party in the frame of the Parity Committee. Because of our critics to their movementistic conception of party (with clear opportunistic and bureaucratic characteristics of both fractions) the direction of the PTS decided to end the exploration, with the false argumentation of political differences facing a police strike in the Province of Mendoza. The document that systematises our observations concerning the aforesaid fractional process (known already as "the hidden letter") was never published by none of the PTS fractions, breaking one of the elementary commitments accepted in the act of conformation of the Parity Committee. All the documentation about this experience is at the readerís disposal.

(4) MAS: Abbreviation that means "Movement towards Socialism". Founded on 1982, it is a continuation of the Socialist Party of the Workers founded by Nahuel Moreno. It has exploded in multiple fractions, conserving the official name a nucleus of cadres that have as common denominator their permanent deliberative state. It was expelled from the LIT (League the International of Workers) whose hegemony nowadays rests in the PSTU of Brazil.

(5) In addition to which was already mentioned, we recommend the works of the comrade Fernando Armas on the Morenoism, its open letter to the communist militants, and the pamphlet "What the defense of the Cuban Revolution is about". We also recommended the pamphlets written by the comrade Tomás Murúa on the History of the Focoism in Argentina, and on the evaluation of the capitalist restoration in the former USSR, which is a controversy with the book of the MASís leader Andrés Romero, "After the Stalinism". There are also at the readerís disposal the programmatic guidelines and the statutes of our Party.

(6) In such a way was named name the process of sackings to supermarkets in Rosario, which caused the declaration of the State of site in the zone between May the 29th and June the 30th of 1989. The so called "pucherazo" was a desperate action of the masses due to the hyperinflation, whose tendency to general strike was blocked by the unions and the electioneering accomplice policy of the reformist left. Our party actively took part in those events with a class policy, being imprisoned one of our leaders, Fernando Armas. The campaign for his freedom and the one of the other political prisoners had an international reach, obtaining its success by the rising of the site state. Most of the political forces of the left and the self-claimed Trotskyism joined such a campaign with the exception of the Working Party. Its maximum leader Jorge Altamira declared to the newspaper Página 12 that "he did not know such a person" (in answering to a question of the journalist regarding Fernando Armasí imprisonment). Fernando Armas had been candidate to Governor by Santa Fe through the Working Party in 1987 elections. He had integrated the Central Committee of this party, and he had already been during more than fifteen a militant of the Working Party.

(7) The Transitional Programme is at the reader disposal in the three languages in which this magazine is published. It is the foundational document of the Fourth International, and it was written by Leon Trotsky himself. It was approved in Paris in 1938.

(8) We use the expression dual power in its broadest meaning. Many people reduce the question of the dual power to the existence of organisms able to act as channels for the taking of power (workers councils, soviets, popular assemblies). In this case, they are embryos of the dictatorship of the proletariat. We understand that the fight for the double power comprises also the small battles, even though those whose purposes are minimum vindications. In fact, the Strike Committee of a Factory, the rank and file assemblies , and the multiple forms through which the masses organise themselves in parallel, facing the unionís bureaucracy, conform as a whole a school of struggle for the dual power.

(9) We refer specifically to "What is to be Done?" and "Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder".

(10) G.V. Plekhanov was the founder of the Russian Marxism, teacher of Lenin. We recommend the reading of his work "The role of the individual in History". His later evolution towards the reformist menshevikism does not deny his undoubtless contribution to the ideological and political baggage of Marxism.



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