The original letter of the International Bolshevik Tendency, “The Baby & the Bathwater” (January 1), can be read on their website at bolshevik.org
We received your 1 January 2024 letter.
We are in favor of engaging in more discussions with the IBT and with the other tendencies claiming the mantle of Spartacism, as well as with any group in the international left, for the purpose of advancing the struggle to reforge the Fourth International. In this spirit, a joint international conference of various organizations is certainly something we could support.
That said, we found that your proposal was putting the cart before the horse. It is mainly focused on organizational matters (how to organize discussions and a conference) while not dealing seriously with the political questions at stake. Let me explain.
The main document of our Spartacist No. 68, “The Breakdown of U.S. Hegemony and the Struggle for Workers Power,” explains the crisis of the left in the post-Soviet period and responds to the main problems confronting the international workers movement today. It is a proposal to cohere the forces of Trotskyism, which is why it is also titled “A Program for the Fourth International.” Furthermore, the various documents on permanent revolution in this same issue of Spartacist develop a perspective for socialist revolution in the neocolonial world, while demonstrating in depth how the Spartacist tendency’s founding program on this question stood in contradiction to Lenin, to the early Comintern and to Trotsky himself. This entire issue of Spartacist represents the ICL’s contribution to reforging the Fourth International today.
But we have yet to see a serious attempt by the IBT (or any other group) to seriously criticize these documents. The IBT published on October 3 a small diatribe titled “Spartacism Junked,” which consists of a succession of unproven and demagogic assertions about how the ICL is now led by a bunch of cynical Pabloites and bourgeois nationalists. Your January 1 letter is similar, calling us neo-Pabloites who are throwing out the “baby and the bathwater” (the main title of your letter) without bothering to seriously explain what this “baby” consists of and, crucially, why it matters for the struggle to reforge the Fourth International today. Reprinting a series of decade-old articles does not constitute a serious response, and a list of abstract Marxist truisms does not constitute a program.
The first step toward opening a fruitful and clarifying discussion is for the IBT (or any other group) to seriously put forward a fundamental criticism of our new program, and counterpose your own. But because you fail to do this, your proposal amounts to a call for a bloc against the new course of the ICL based solely on a vague and somewhat nostalgic attachment to the “old” Spartacist program. In other words, an unprincipled bloc.
Lastly, your proposal to organize discussions from the base up as opposed to “privileged” leadership-to-leadership talks is a species of Menshevism. To seriously engage with us or any other group, you must engage with the elected leadership of the party. That is how we engage with the IBT or any other left organizations. We are in favor of more informal discussions between our respective memberships. We are also open to the possibilities of opening joint internal discussions, provided that serious political exchanges take place. But you cannot achieve political clarity or build Leninist parties by liquidating democratic centralism into informal chatting between members (or ex-members who have quit active political life).
So, to paraphrase Trotsky: program first! Online servers for discussions? Joint conference? Practical measures? Very well, very well. But program first! Your political passports, please, gentlemen! And not false ones, if you please—real ones!
We are looking forward to a serious response to the program put forward in Spartacist No. 68 and a clarifying discussion with the IBT and all the other groups listed in your open letter.
For the International Secretariat of the International Communist League