Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The New World Reality

“Towards a History of the Fourth International” is a 16-volume series of Trotskyist documents, published by the National Education Department of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Most documents are of a decidedly in-house character. Four volumes deal with the so-called “International Secretariat” during 1951-54.

Unfortunately, the first volume of the IS material is unavailable from Amazon. I found that particular volume to be the most interesting one, since it contains several key texts by Michel Pablo (Michalis Raptis), the much maligned leader of the Fourth International after World War II. Pablo is often depicted as some kind of arch-traitor or wrecker, and plays a prominent role in the political demonology of some Trotskyist groups. The term “Pabloite” is used as an insult by these groups, and often directed at groups with which Pablo had nothing in common. (Compare “Trotskyite” as a term of opprobrium among Stalinists.) Pablo's political line, often described as pro-Stalinist, became so controversial that the Fourth International split in 1953, Pablo's opponents (among them the SWP) forming the “International Committee” in opposition to Pablo's “International Secretariat”. In 1963, the Fourth International was reunited, but for some reason Pablo left the “United Secretariat” two years later, forming his own independent tendency.

This second volume of the IS material covers a factional struggle within the French Trotskyist movement between Pablo's supporters and dissidents led by Pierre Lambert and Marcel Bleibtreu. It also includes material on Pablo's allies within the SWP, the so-called Cochranites. SWP's leadership around James P Cannon resolutely opposed both Pablo and Bert Cochran. Most of the documents and letters reprinted in this volume are of interest only to historians specializing in the Trotskyist movement. The only text of some interest to “general left-watchers” is Harry Frankel's “The New World Reality and the New Confusion”, a polemic against the SWP leadership from a Pabloite-Cochranite perspective.

Not sure how to rate this collection, but since most of it was frankly boring, I'm inclined to only give it two stars.

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