Alan Thornett reports from the sixteenth world congress of the Fourth International (FI) which was held near Ostend, Belgium, in late February. There were over 200 delegates, observers and invited guests from around 40 countries. The International brings together revolutionary socialists from around the world and Socialist Resistance is its section in the British state.
It was the International’s most successful congress for some years, marking important steps forward at both the political and the organisational levels. A new Russian section was recognised and an expansion or consolidation of the forces of the FI was recorded in a number of countries from Japan to the Spanish state. The Labour Party Pakistan, an organisation with over 7,000 members, has declared itself in solidarity with the FI and played an important role.
There was a very positive mood at the congress. This was due, not least, to the fact that there were more young people than in previous years and more women. Both of these factors were reflected in the new International Committee which was elected at the end of the Congress with 40% women’s representation.
The Congress discussed a range of resolutions from the world political situation, the economic crisis, climate change, women and the crisis of humanity, LGBT rights, and the role and tasks of the FI itself. It also adopted resolutions on, Palestine, Human rights in Mexico, Peru, Sri Lanka, Haiti and on the importance upcoming conference on climate change in Cochabamba called by Evo Morales.
The single most significant decision was the adoption of the resolution on climate change. This is a comprehensive and detailed resolution which includes the decision to define the FI as an ecosocialist international. It is one of the most important programmatic resolutions adopted by the FI for many years and makes the FI the first of the Trotskyist international organisations to define itself as ecosocialist.
High level of agreement
The driving force in the discussion on climate change was the delegates from the global south including the Latin American delegations — some of which had already defined their own sections as ecosocialist. The only sceptical voice in the discussion was a visitor from the French Organisation Lutte Ouvrière who argued that the climate change issue was a middle class fad.
Most impressive from a practical point of view was the Philippines section — the Revolutionary Workers Party-Mindanao. They not only talked about the impact of extreme weather events on the region caused by climate change but how they are seeking to create sustainable agriculture in the Chiapas-type zone they control. They are, for example, replacing Monsanto modified rice, which has had it power to germinate as seed destroyed, with traditional rice strains which the farmers can use as seed.
There was a high level of agreement on the world political situation and the economic crisis — in particular on the structural and dual economic and ecological nature of the crisis. There was also wide agreement on the war drive and the role of Obama’s USA which is increasingly displaying a continuity with George Bush’s project. The delegate from China explained in graphic detail how China was emerging as a new imperialist power with a gigantic labour force at its disposal — possibly representing a quarter of the world’s working class.
A text was agreed on the role and tasks of the Fourth International around the need to build anti-capitalist parties to provide a political voice for all those abandoned by social democracy which has now embraced neo-liberalism. Socialist Resistance was sceptical about the call for a future broader anti-capitalist international although the text nevertheless called for the building and strengthening of the FI in its present form as a revolutionary socialist international. Importantly this includes putting a new impetus behind the FI’s Institute for Research and Education (IIRE) in Amsterdam — which is planning future seminars on broad parties, ecosocialism and on job conversion in the car industry. There were also reports on the launching of two ‘regional’ extensions of the IIRE, one in Manila, which is already functioning and another which is being planned in Islamabad.