The (official) Fourth International. Reflections on a paradoxical pro-imperialist drift

By Dimitris Scarpalezos (*)

Compared to past conflicts, the war in Ukraine is characterized in Europe by a majority adherence of even “radical” leftists to the Manichean narrative of the US government propaganda on the issue!

In the rest of the world, this position generates incomprehension and disappointment.

At the forefront of this pro-imperialist stance, and with an impact on the subject that far exceeds its influence on other subjects, is the political current that emerged from the official Fourth International. Its positions have played an extremely harmful role in the paradoxical ideological positioning of the European lefts insofar as it gives an alibi of “leftwing radicalism” to a Manichean vision grotesquely distant from reality and pushes for the sending of arms to ensure the escalation of the war until all NATO’s objectives are achieved, even if this means risking nuclear conflict!

These positions are all the more surprising when one considers the positions taken by the Trotskyist movements and by Trotsky himself in the past.

Trotsky had always taken the position of defending the “bureaucratically degenerated workers’ state”, which he said was the Soviet Union, against the attacks of the imperialist countries and always opposed all colonialist and neo-colonial endeavors without making any concession to “humanitarian” or moralistic arguments. He remained faithful to this position until his assassination by the Stalinists.

After his death, under the leadership of Michel Raptis (Pablo), from 1943 until 1963, the Fourth International actively supported all anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements. The involvement of the Fourth International, under Michel Pablo, in the liberation struggle of the Algerian people was extremely important. The Fourth International also supported, with all its means, the liberation struggles of the Portuguese colonies. (**)

Subsequently the Fourth International and one of its most active sections, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire in France, strongly supported the struggle of the Vietnamese people against US intervention, as well as all the anti-imperialist movements and revolutions of this period such as the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua against a bloody US-backed dictatorship.

Since the fall of the USSR, however, the current begins a slow drift away from its fundamentals and its “principles” themselves are undergoing a paradoxical mutation.

For example, the “right of peoples to self-determination”, which was put forward to oppose the ethnic oppression so common in the political forms of imperialist power in the era of conquering capitalism, has been transformed into a dogma and an ideological totem that allows for the justification of anything, without specification of any the limits or of the “peoples” in question!

When imperialism instrumentalised all nationalisms to break up all multinational states that had experienced any form of “socialism”, the Fourth International continued to announce its “principles” and in the variable geometries presented by imperialist propaganda!

In the case of the Western attack to break up Yugoslavia, the (official) Fourth International, which in the past had expressed an interest in the experience of a federation that defended the rights of minorities better than any other country in the world, shifted to a position of quasi-collaboration with the enterprises of dismantling it and marching towards civil war, taking refuge in false references to the “right of peoples to self-determination” and to a series of “neither… nor” to avoid condemning these endeavors!

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It began, in the name of the “right of peoples to self-determination”, to show “understanding” for all separatist moves, without specifying what this slogan meant, which “people” wanted “self-determination”, how far this extended, and what this meant for minorities within the federated republics. (This fetishisation of the right to self-determination had pushed some extreme left-wing activists to the point of supporting, in the Nigerian civil war, Biafran separatism, which expressed nothing but the desire of certain oil multinationals to have their own meadow garden in the country and to share the profits with only a small local elite!)

The guilt feelings of a former colonial power that had colonised Muslim peoples had led them to see the Bosnian Muslims as an oppressed people deserving of ‘independence’ (in a republic of which they were around forty per cent of the overall population, at the same time forgetting that the formation of this ‘nationality’ was the result of conversions during the Ottoman period to the religion of the occupier).

The same was true for Croatia, which was influenced by German and Ustasha nationalists, genocidal collaborators of the Nazis during the Second World War, whose “right to separation” was defended as a basic principle, forgetting that entire parts of the country, such as Krajna, had a Serb majority, whose “right to self-determination” was thus disregarded.

Finally, in the case of Kosovo, which already enjoyed a status of autonomy (refused to the Russian-speaking Donbass), the right to “self-determination” was meant to be a sacred right to separation, while the rights of the Serbian minority were written off! Based on the official propaganda, the Serbian nationalism of which Milosevic was accused, was much more condemned by the Fourth International than the Croatian nationalisms full of nostalgic Ustasha, genocidal collaborators of the Nazi occupiers, or the Bosnian Islamists, already defended by “Islamic internationalists” of the Al Kaida type. The result was a reaction of “neither (Milosevic) nor (NATO)”, which for left-wing militants in a country that was part of the aggressors and those who bombed, amounted to discouraging any pacifist reaction. If some people expressed opposition to the NATO bombing without accompanying it with a virulent attack on “Milosevic” they were suspected either of solidarity with “dictators” or of “orthodox nationalism” if they came from orthodox countries!

The drift continued throughout the new century with a more than ambiguous position in all the interventions of American imperialism with the famous “neither, nor”, “neitherBush nor Sadam” 9forgetting it was not Sadam who bombed the Nato countries, but those who attacked and bombed Iraq, its infrastructure and its population, all under the false pretext of “weapons of mass destruction”.   20 Years Ago Today: We Didn’t Stop the Invasion of Iraq, But We Did Change History

When the USA, France and the UK attacked and bombed Libya, supposedly to protect a few thousand opponents of Bengaze from “genocide”, the Fourth International repeated its “neither nor” position, so as not to appear to be an accomplice of a dictator.

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Despite the “Marxist” education of their leaders, they forgot all the warnings of past Marxist thinkers about the humanitarian pretexts used by colonial imperialism (occupying Africa to fight feudalism and slavery etc).

Adherence to the virtual image of reality concocted by the media has since been quite systematic and has led to anaemic reactions to attacks by Western governments on progressive movements in Latin America.

The complete “change of sides” has reached its climax with the crisis in Ukraine. Since the events of Maïdan, seeing only the “democratic” enthusiasm of the youth of Kiev (and ignoring the neo-Nazis already at work and the billions invested by the Americans for the success of the operation, as the American vice minister Victoria Nuland herself boasted), they saw it as a popular revolution against a corrupt oligarchic class, whereas it was only the counter-attack of the pro-Western nationalist oligarchy against a part of the oligarchy which, while being as corrupt as its adversary, did not want to endanger the cohabitation of the various ethnic components of the country. They completely trusted the narrative prepared for them by small groups of “national-leftists” who did not seem to be shocked by the glorification of Banderas and other genocidal collaborators of the Nazis, nor by the de-legalisation of the Russian language even in areas where it was spoken by the majority, such as the Donbass, nor by the repression, the massacres and the exactions of the neo- Nazi strongmen.

In their “theology” the “right of peoples to self-determination” only meant the right of the nationalist majority within the Ukrainian-speaking majority to dispose of the country in its entirety and to impose a rather fascist principle of “one people, one language and one leader”.

The massacre, perpetraded by the neo-Nazis in Odessa, of about fifty left-wing anti-Maidan demonstrators, the assassinations of dozens of opponents with the complicity of the authorities, the “decomunisations” and other anti-democratic measures were, in their eyes, only the expression, albeit sometimes regrettable, of the exercise of this right!

As for the march towards Nato, which was one of the main reasons for the march towards civil war and then towards war altogether, radio silence in the name of great principles (in short, for one of the rare times when a “neither nor” would have been prudent and more in line with the morals of the radical left, since the first world war with Rosa Luxemburg and Jaurès, they have become the most relentless advocators of military support for the Ukrainian governments so that the war continues until the main objectives of the “West” are achieved, i.e. a weakening or dismantling of Russia (as Brezinski wanted in his reflections on the desirable intermediate objectives for achieving US world domination).

These “ex-ecologists” who wanted an eco-socialism that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions supported sanctions against Russian gas in order to import shale gas that was twice as polluting. These ex-antifascists now find the Azov neo-Nazis very patriotic and presentable, are ecstatic about the heroism of the “national leftists” who are going to fight under their orders in the Donbass and support the massive arms shipments, the best of which will end up in the hands of the most motivated in the Ukrainian armed forces, i.e., the neo-Nazi “heroes of AZOV”. They do not realise that they are pushing for the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian youth for the achievement of the goals of the US neoconservatives, well described in the books of their main thinker, the advisor to the US presidents, Brezisnski.

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They seem oblivious to the risks of a slide into nuclear conflict that this policy of refusing any compromise and any armistice entails!

Worst of all, this is done with a clear conscience and it has won over the minds of a number of intellectuals whose motives remain noble and “revolutionary”!

Once again “the road to hell is paved with the best intentions” (even “revolutionary” ones!)


This article is examining the position of the “United Secretariat” of the 4th International, not of all the Trotskyites organisations. There are organizations like the “Lambertists” in France or WSWS in the US which have adopted an anti-NATO, anti-imperialist position.

(*) Senior lecturer (retr.) in mathematics at the University of Paris Diderot (P7)

(**) It should be noted here that Michel Raptis (Pablo) considered the derailment, the degeneration of the Soviet reform towards an extremely right-wing direction, towards the restitution of capitalism in the USSR, the complete and unconditional integration of the Soviet space into the capitalist West and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the creation of which was the most important achievement of the world workers’ movement, to be disastrous for the USSR itself and for the whole world. Pablo devoted the last years of his life (he died in 1996) to the struggle against the US “new world order” and the sanctions against Serbia, Iraq, Libya and Cuba, organising two major international conferences and a movement of solidarity with the Iraqi people. He also organized an international conference for the defense of Lenin in 1990.

Tranlsated from the French by Crhistos Marsellos

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