FSLN on the Fifth Socialist International: Globalise struggle and hope!

A little over ten years ago, walking down a Managua street, I noticed on a large wall a sign with the famous phrase launched in 1848 by the first two great maestros of the revolutionary movement, "Workers of all countries unite! " but with an appendix inscribed in brackets: “Final Warning.”

There will always be ample excuses not to struggle at all times and under all circumstances, but that is the only way to never win freedom. — Fidel Castro. [1]

People who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society. — Rosa Luxemburg. [2]

Arise the poor of the world, rise up slaves without bread, Let’s all rise up to cry: VIVA LA INTERNACIONAL!

So begins the Latin American version of the hymn sung by revolutionaries of the world throughout history. It is the anthem of the International, written while the organisation was still taking its first steps. Over and over again since 1864 it pledged to convoke a united and organised struggle by the revolutionaries of the world, carrying out the call first made by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto: Workers of all countries unite!

A little over ten years ago, walking down a Managua street, I noticed on a large wall a sign in huge black letters with the famous phrase launched in 1848 by the first two great maestros of the revolutionary movement, but with an appendix inscribed in brackets: “Final Warning.”

Indeed, this is the last opportunity for the proletariat (or what is the same, the lower classes) to free ourselves from the exploitation that determines our existence as an oppressed class, but also to assure the survival of the human species, because under the conditions of capitalism it is not possible to resolve the ecological crisis that has pushed humanity to the brink.

Certainly whatever doubts honest sectors of the world community may have had about this issue got buried under Copenhagen snow following the agreement imposed dictatorially by the industrialised countries (themselves responsible for the environmental crisis) – an agreement to limit global warming increase to a mere 2%!  It is hard to believe, even for people who clearly grasp that it is impossible to solve this crisis using the very same rules of the system that has engendered it. It’s a system based on the accumulation and concentration of wealth, and not on satisfying the need to accumulate and to concentrate wealth – not to meet the needs of the population. It’s hard to believe, because the signatories of the agreement are well aware that even a 2% rise in global warming will open the doors to an unprecedented catastrophe for the planet.

They also know that to reverse the current climate change we have to change the system. As stupid as it may be, they prefer to put humanity at risk (themselves included, obviously) rather than to change the system that gives them privileges without which life would be no fun for them. That is where such stupidity starts to make sense: it is in their class interest.

As Lenin said, “There is a well-known saying that if geometric axioms affected men’s interests, certainly someone would refute them.” [3] It could be added (in the secular view of this Lenin fan) that if those interests were of the dominant classes, most people would take the refutation for the absolute truth.

Characteristics of today’s world

The world today has three characteristics that should be noted here.

First, distances have disappeared thanks to current communications technology that emerged as part of what is known as the electronic revolution. It is now easier than ever to say (and it is politically suicidal not to) and do things globally, because of the ease with which one can communicate with people no matter their location.

Second, stemming from the first point is the dramatic reduction in the number of people required to carry out an increasing amount of productive work in the area of the general economy and in the bureaucracy. This entails a crisis of labour relations in terms of wages and therefore economic intermediation. This is carried out through the property owners’ power and control of all types (including the state, but only as owner of means of production and not in its role as machinery for political domination) over the worker who directly produces and creates material goods and wealth.

Political intermediation (the democratic representative system) carried out by elected authorities has also entered into crisis, as is shown in the way power is wielded. In this system, intermediation occurs between the represented sovereign and the decisions that as such correspond to it. The conflict emerges from the combination of the new reality stemming from the flow of communications and information on the one hand and the economic crisis of intermediation on the other: the transformation of the predominance of finance capital over industrial capital (identified by Lenin as the imperialist stage of capitalist development, now called globalisation). That is, the replacement of production of material goods by financial speculation as the main way to create wealth.

Globalisation is a new stage of capitalist development in its imperialist phase. It is shaped by the pressure financial capital flows exert detrimentally on material production in the economy. Nevertheless, in a contradictory way, that production by its very nature continues to be the fundamental basis for the existence and development of human society.

This stage is characterised by elimination of tariff barriers to allow the free flow of goods to promote the development of a tendency towards equilibrium. However, that will never happen because the technology has put its creators to work for it, becoming a source of capitalist accumulation between goods produced and money without material backing (since the beginning of the seventies when the U.S.A. eliminated the gold standard as the support for the dollar).

Thus a new major contradiction in capitalism emerged between the nature of material production as the basis for social development and financial speculation as the main way to create wealth (the specific contradiction of globalisation). It is terminal in character [4] and is manifested in the current crisis, along with the rest of the system’s contradictions.

The principal and critical contradiction is between the social character of production and the private nature of its appropriation. The critical contradiction of imperialism itself is between the national character of the concentration of wealth and the global nature of its material production and creation in general, and of the economic activity that makes it possible. On top of that is a longer range, terminal contradiction in capitalism: between limited resources and unlimited material accumulation inherent in the system. The latter has become the objective with which needs are met, rather than the opposite: that the satisfaction of needs is the objective (and therefore the limit) of accumulation.  

A third feature, stemming from the above, finds the capitalist system going through a crisis whose main expressions are economic and financial, impacting on every country in the world. The crisis is worldwide, just as is the system that engendered it.

Feudal relations of production were unable to develop the productive potential that surged from the industrial revolution and expelled a large amount of the labour force from economic life (and therefore life itself). A capitalist mode of production replaced those feudal relations, but now capitalism finds itself unable to jump-start the productive potential unleashed by the ongoing electronic revolution that has also expelled a huge workforce from the formal economy.

Only socialism can resolve the current crisis because, by its very nature it is based on the social ownership of the means of production. That makes it possible for labour outside the system to be productively put into operation, not to fuel irrational economic development that has subordinated human nature, social existence to the necessities of this predatory model. Rather, social ownership enables these new actors to exercise as economic subjects their direct rights over social property, over the means of production.

By the same token, citizens, as the new social subjects, will begin to exercise power directly in a socialism that will emerge from the new revolutionary era, without political intermediation to manipulate their will and their power.

In synthesis, the world today is undergoing a technological revolution (the electronic revolution) of equal importance to that of the industrial revolution. This new revolution involves the disappearance of intermediation as a means of exercising political and economic power. It also creates a globalised world composed of interconnected individuals; and a global systemic crisis that demands a worldwide revolutionary response of equal force and scope.

Hence the need to organise the Fifth International to bring together the political and social organisations whose raison d’être is the revolutionary transformation of society through the replacement of capitalism by socialism.

Ever since Lenin it has been known that revolution comes about when people fight for it. It becomes possible to the extent that struggle creates, develops, and identifies the conditions that make victory possible.

Making the revolution is a duty

Struggle transforms the revolution from an opportunity into a duty, as argued in the Second Declaration of Havana. It insists that the duty of all revolutionaries is to make the revolution. [5]

Now, without any doubt at all, is the time to make revolution. There’s no point in asking whether or not it is a duty. It is on today’s agenda. The capitalist model is in crisis. The goal of the revolution is to replace it with a socialist model.

Moreover, power would be meaningless to a revolutionary movement if it were not used for making revolution. Power is but an indispensable means to accomplish that. Taking power can only be justified for that end. Power emerged as a means for oppression. That corresponds to its very nature, so it is as indispensable as it is undesirable for the purpose of any revolutionary movement.

Why is that so? If power is exercised without making the revolution, frustration arises as a result of the expectations aroused, creating confusion and a collapse of mass consciousness. Revolutionaries become divided over the issue of pursuing a course that corresponds to a revolutionary program. Some agree and others oppose this flux.

Even more so, it would not make sense to exercise power in a time of crisis in the system, if not to replace it with another. Otherwise, it would correspond to the revolutionaries to resolve the crisis for the system and pay the price. No one would even thank us for acting in that way.

The crisis must be resolved, but against the system. For the left the crisis can only be resolved in a revolutionary way. The Bolivarian Revolution is the best example of what can be done when having only the government as the main institutional political expression of power. This occurred early in the initiating and re-vitalising process of the Latin American revolutionary renaissance that has made this part of the planet the first line of fire for the world revolution.

Socialists of the world: unite!

Confront the crisis of capitalism on a strategic level, and unleashing a worldwide revolutionary process cannot be done without close coordination to facilitate analysis and action among all revolutionary forces in the world, and that with a sense of commitment and discipline. To advance along this path and therefore continue the revolutionary offensive — intensifying it, spreading what is happening in some parts of Latin America to the rest of the continent and of the world — is only possible by thinking globally and acting locally (as the alternative world slogan says), because then everyone will act in the same direction as others at a global level.

If the problem is worldwide the solution likewise must be found by the global revolutionary movement. This can only be done through a high level of articulation, unity in action, and discipline which only a global organisation of revolutionary parties can achieve. This was the case in different historical stages, adopting at every turn the modalities each epoch has required. Now the necessity for an International is more urgent than ever. Hence, it is necessary to convene the Fifth International.

Substituting one utopia for another

The International has historically been known as a worldwide organisation bringing together diverse organic expressions of the revolutionary movement. Its story began with the utopia that a society without inequality (between exploited and exploiters) would replace the utopia of a society without estate inequalities (between noblemen and vassals). The latter utopia had been frustrated by the social injustices that characterise capitalism.

The capitalist mode of production emerged because of the inability of feudal economic relations (between landowners or feudal lords and the serfs who worked it for the right to cultivate for themselves a small plot owned by the lord) to foster the development of the productive potential that emerged with the invention of machinery for mass, assembly line manufacture of products activated by non-human energy (first steam and coal, then oil and its derivatives), in what became known as the Industrial Revolution.

Hence, capitalism was the socioeconomic and political reality that emerged from the historical necessity created by the industrial revolution. In turn it gave rise to the emergence of ideas that justified the advent of this system, not by presenting it as it really would be, but as its first ideologues hoped it would be: a society in which liberty, justice, and prosperity would govern the lives of human beings, beginning with the free market. At that time it was a revolutionary banner, given the existence of economic privileges (defined by family lineage) acquired through territorial wars that took place centuries ago.

The reality of capitalism meant that the libertarian and humanist ideal embodied in the French Revolution was assumed by a new revolutionary paradigm. The ideological focus of liberty shifted to equality as a condition of that freedom. It failed, however, to resolve the contradiction between the two. This posed future strains on socialist ideology which replaced liberalism in the imaginary of the worldwide revolutionary struggle. As a result a new revolutionary ideal should be considered that can overcome this contradiction, whether stemming from the social experiment that was underway before the Soviet crisis of the 1980s (that made the corresponding model succumb to this contradiction) or from a new attempt to implement, taking into account that failed experience, the theoretical principles that emerged from the evolution of revolutionary thought. In both and all other possible cases, a new theory that responds to new realities is created, without de-linking from the indispensable former contributions, but rather basing itself on them.

The First International

The International has been, then, the global expression of revolutionary struggle ever since the socialist ideal of equality among human beings came about. Its first version appeared in 1864. The Paris Commune was its main reference point – the first attempt at socialist revolution in history. However, the events surrounding this historic event were actually poorly linked to the work of the International. Its members were somewhat less influential than other revolutionaries at the forefront of this experience, but were not part of the International.

Karl Marx drew conclusions about the Commune that even modified in a decisive way his political theory. Although he had said before the events that the armed uprising of the Paris workers (which carried them to power for a little over two months) would not turn out well, he concluded afterwards that the exploited classes should not just take over the bureaucratic machinery of the state to put it in their service, but had to destroy it and replace it with a new state suitable to their own social project, in accordance with their own class interests. [6]

This conclusion did not emerge from an analysis of the errors, but from what Marx considered the achievements of the Commune. That is, he praised the communards (whose leaders he disagreed with in many aspects) while noting what he saw as their flaws — instead of questioning them (from the typical academic pedantry of many leftist intellectuals) in order to affirm the validity of his own arguments. Without overlooking their faults, he acknowledged that his prognosis was not well founded, affirming that the Commune did not fall for the reasons he had stated — according to which it ought not to have succeeded in the first place. He had, he affirmed, many more things to learn from the communards than things to teach them. This can serve as a reference for those who, never having made 6a revolution or having given up, devote themselves to attacking, in the name of revolutionary ideas, those who do make them.

The discussion that arose over the failure of the Commune was precisely the key factor that led to the First International’s dissolution in 1876. Officially named the International Workers Association, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were its principal ideologists and leaders. This was the International of the classical stage of capitalism, when free competition prevailed as the principle regulator of economic relations; when the exploitation inherent to this system manifested its most blatant features, even in industrialised countries (and principally in them), with fourteen-hour workdays for wages that only — and with difficulty — allowed for workers’ physical survival.

The Second International

The Second International emerged in 1889, co-founded by Frederick Engels and Karl Kautsky, among others. Its official name was the Social Democratic International – which at that time was the political denomination of the revolutionary movement.

At the beginning of the twentieth century this International was incapable of either confronting or responding in a cohesive way to the emergence of imperialism (characterised by Lenin as the highest stage of capitalism, a vision with which Augusto C. Sandino later identified [7], and more specifically responding to the outbreak of the First World War as an expression of the new epoch. The most influential parties within it opted for ideological capitulation to the system, supporting for electoral reasons their respective governments in the so called Great War.

The current reformist version of social democracy emerged at that point (reformist in substituting system change as an objective for reform of the system) Reformism’s proponents first mooted this as a less abrupt and more viable means for changing the system, but then made in over into their goal, just as Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, leading exponents of the revolutionary positions within this International, had predicted).

A controversy between reformists and revolutionaries emerged that is still ongoing today. It is central to the ideological battle for the revolutionary transformation of society since the revolution as an ongoing process is always faced with situations that lead a part of the revolutionary movement to lower their banners in the face of the system. They justify such conduct with the allegedly increased viability of a reformist path toward a permanent change in an uncertain future. The change involved is neither initially nor ultimately a systemic change, but only a superficial one. It does not eliminate the causes of social problems, but merely some of its most visible effects. This only helps to prolong a system whose very existence causes the social problems in question. It delays any generalised questioning of the system as a result of the diminution of the intolerable situation, but in the end altering enough lives so as to render untenable the existing order.

The Third International

Lenin and other committed revolutionaries of the era broke with the reformism that had finally imposed itself in the leadership of the social democratic movement. The Third or Communist International was founded in 1919, following the 1917 triumph in Russia of the first socialist revolution in history (led by Lenin). It took on the international defence of the Soviet Union and the organisation of revolutionary struggle for socialism in the world, under conditions framed by the establishment of the imperialist stage of capitalist development which transformed the social division between exploited human beings and exploiters in every country, within a global divide between exploiting and exploited countries.

The scenario of revolution switched over from the  industrialised countries – whose working class receives benefits from the exploitation exercised by their countries over other countries – to the agrarian countries – where because of this, the popular classes suffer double exploitation: that exerted by the local exploiters and that exercised by the imperialist monopolies (as Sandino expressed in his time).[8]

The Communist International had sent cadres to join the Army for the Defence of National Sovereignty of Nicaragua in the late twenties, and their presence became a factor that influenced the evolution of the thinking of the Nicaraguan revolutionary hero. Among those cadres was the distinguished Farabundo Martí, personal secretary to Sandino, known worldwide as the general of free men. The French Communist Henry Barbusse referred to Farabundo as one of the most outstanding leaders of the Third International. The war then being waged in Nicaragua constituted one of the two historical acts that inaugurated the era of national liberation revolutions as a fundamental expression of the socialist revolution (the other was the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Tse-tung, which was already underway then, finally triumphing in 1949). This flowed from the changing global revolutionary scenario as explained above.

Sandino appealed to the workers of Latin America to join the Latin American Union Confederation, a union arm in our continent of the Communist International; and to assume as their own the resolutions of the Anti-Imperialist World Congress in Frankfurt, convened by the International. [9] According to Ramón de Belausteguigoitia’s narrative in his book With Sandino in Nicaragua, it was usual to hear the anthem of the International in the camps of the Army for the Defence of National Sovereignty of Nicaragua. [10]

At one point, as is known, these cadres separated from Sandino. This took place a result of guidelines issued by the Mexican Communist Party in what was extremely sectarian behaviour. Such guidelines were questioned within the International, despite the fact that the Mexican Communists believed they were complying with the new line existing in the world organisation. It defined the strategy of class against class, meaning that the communist parties should break with everything that did not signify a commitment to socialism.

However, that commitment existed in Sandino who made it clear that he never had ideological disputes with his former comrades, in this case Farabundo Martí [11]. Sandino clarified that he had always agreed with Martí’s ideas [12]. Sandino paid homage to him after his death in the peasant uprising in his country. Walter Castillo, Sandino’s grandson, recently unearthed photos of that event from oblivion. He has published them in a recent book – El bandolerismo de Sandino en Nicaragua [Sandino’s Banditry in Nicaragua] – edited by Augusto Nicolás Calderón Sandino Foundation, and that, ironically, Sandino himself asked to be published with that ironic title.

It is worth noting the fact that the triumph in China, the first socialist revolution after the Russian Revolution, did not occur until six years after the dissolution of the Communist (Third) International in 1943. Officially this action was deemed the product of the “maturity of the Communist parties,” but in reality it resulted from Stalin’s commitment to his capitalist allies against Nazi Germany in World War II.

The International was then replaced by a combination of the so-called community of socialist countries — that largely emerged as a result of the Soviet Army’s liberation of Eastern European countries from German occupation, of the global conferences of the Communist parties, and above all, of the Warsaw Pact (a military alliance between the socialist countries of Europe, a counterpart to NATO). Even earlier, the first socialist revolution in history triumphed when the International at the time (the Second) had disintegrated. A few years after World War II, China (before its break with the Soviet Union), Viet Nam, Laos, and Cuba joined the community of socialist countries. Socialism did not reach those countries from abroad. They came to socialism as a product of their own revolutionary processes, after the triumph of national liberation revolutions. That was the case of North Korea, which nevertheless always had little international presence due to its philosophy of self-reliance, known as the Juche idea.

The Fourth International

The Fourth International was organised in 1938, against the Third. According to its organisers, the Fourth International stood in agreement with the line of the Third International up to [and including] the Fourth Congress which took place in 1922. Its founder, Leon Trotsky, argued that the Third International was no longer the organised expression of the world socialist revolution but had been converted into a bureaucratic apparatus in the service of Soviet diplomacy. It was an expression of what he saw as the degeneration of the socialist revolution into a bureaucratic state in the Soviet Union. Trotsky was the main leader of the insurrection through which the Bolsheviks – the communist faction led by Lenin – took power. He was also head of External Relations for revolutionary Russia, and later founder and first chief the Red Guard, later called the Red Army, and ultimately the Soviet Army.  

Following Trotsky’s assassination and death in 1940, his followers became characterised for their highly polemical behaviour which was to lead them to successive and endless internal divisions. That approach was not unrelated to their view that the socialist revolution must be global or not at all. As a consequence, this international organisation has not promoted a single revolution in any country, precisely because they did not conceive of it within national borders. That stance led to inaction of its members. The lack of revolutionary processes to promote and defend led to replacing practical tasks of the revolutionary struggle with excessive polemics, with ensuing sectarianism. The lack of combining theory with practice has characterised this version of the International throughout its trajectory and is the origin of its divisiveness.

The fact that currently there are several global organisations — all composed of parties which were always extremely small – who each consider itself to be the legitimate Fourth International proves this. Moreover, these parties gear their political activity more to attacking and questioning emerging revolutionary processes than to combating the forces of reaction worldwide.

George Novack, in his article  La Primera y Segunda Internacional says:

Trotsky once characterised the period of working-class activity covered by the First International as essentially an anticipation. The Communist Manifesto, he said, was the theoretical anticipation of the modern labor movement. The First International was the practical anticipation of the labor associations of the world. The Paris Commune was the revolutionary anticipation of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Lenin later characterized the Third International as the international of action which had begun to put into practice Marx’s greatest slogan: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The historical bridge between the International of anticipation and the International of action was the Second International. This can be tersely characterized as the International of organization which raised broad masses of workers to their feet in a number of countries, organized them into trade unions and political labour parties, and prepared the soil for the independent mass labor movement. [13]

Following this logic, the Fourth International would be the International of criticism, because its foundation was the questioning (independently of what had sucessfully been done) the course (certainly questionable) of the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union following the untimely death of Lenin.

The Fifth International
The need – based on the above — to establish a Fifth International must take into account the experience of previous versions of the global organisation of revolutionaries. Alicia Sagra, in her book La Internacional, argues that the First International was a united front, the Second a federation of socialist parties, and the Third the world’s first revolutionary party, which reflected a new epoch, the imperialist epoch of the struggle for power, the era of the Socialist Revolution, and for this reason it not only had programmatic positions responding to that task, but also the operating system necessary for this: democratic centralism. [14]

In this regard, the Fourth International would be the first attempt (though impotent and failed) to retake the revolutionary path of this world party. The First and the Second Internationals existed when Lenin still had not elaborated his theory of the actuality of the revolution, consisting of the theory of the revolutionary situation and the vanguard party. Since then, Lenin’s theory has been the ruling idea for the functioning of all the revolutionary organisations in the world (at least those identified with Marxism-Leninism, which are obviously not the only ones that call themselves communist parties; some of these organisations have had to apply the principles arising from the Leninist theory in various conditions that have demanded from them a high level of creativity and flexibility).

Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party.
Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party posits the need for a political organisation composed or led by (depending on circumstances) revolutionaries who make revolution their profession or trade (full-time militants or political cadres — as appropriate). That flows from the necessity for this organisation to act in a permanent way, promoting revolutionary change when a revolutionary situation emerges or has been created (where “those below do not want to” and “those above cannot” continue living as before, as Lenin would say). [15]

The revolutionary situation can arise spontaneously (in which case the spontaneous nature of such a situation can be relative because it responds possibly to accumulated political and organisational work of the vanguard political organisation, or organised armed struggle undertaken to motivate a significant enough portion of society to fight against the system). It can also occur as a result of the artificial acceleration by the vanguard of the social process leading to it, or can be entirely created by the vanguard when their actions and the context in which they are taken permit. But the revolutionary situation will only turn to revolution if the vanguard takes on the responsibility to make it happen. That corresponds well with the emphasis the classics of Marxism put on the subjective factor for social development, later often ignored by both revolutionary dogmatists and the ideologues of reaction.

Democratic centralism

The vanguard is the political organisation that acts as the engine of the revolution. The scale of what it takes to make it succeed implies well-organised political action, for which discipline is a fundamental element. From the Leninist theory of the vanguard party derives the conception of democratic centralism for the internal life of revolutionary political organisations. Democratic centralism consists in collective work, decisions, and leadership: united leadership and decisions, individual responsibility; election and recall of officials, with regular reports and accounting, hierarchical subordination (of lower to higher bodies), the right to internal criticism, and the duty of self-criticism.

One of many anti-Leninist prejudices arising from the collapse suffered by the model known as “real socialism,” in its Soviet and European version, is to confuse the concept of a vanguard political organisation with sectarianism and dogmatism. The two defects are present in many leftist organisations (for reasons that go beyond the content of this article) and have induced them to develop a cult of personality, authoritarianism, and a tendency to substitute for the popular classes in the revolutionary struggle or in the exercise of power, in the name of their best interests.

But the conception of the vanguard — as detailed before — arises from the uneven character of development in general. It is philosophically explained by the dialectical law of the unity and struggle of opposites: the historical necessity of social change determines the existence of subject carriers of historically necessary changes. These subjects reflect the reality to which they belong, but are in confrontation with it. Having escaped the ideological hegemony exercised by the dominant social group, they are a minority that appear as the first symptoms of the changes social reality and history require. They are therefore the vanguard of the struggle for these changes if and when they group together and organise to attain them.

Their historic mission is therefore to ideologically educate the subjects of change, thereby integrating them into and to politically conduct the process involving these changes in order to strategically orient the course of the revolutionary transformations that will take place as result.

Confusing variants

Similarly, the Leninist conception of the vanguard has been stigmatised because of the specific characteristics of the organisations that endorsed his conception (this originates from the same phenomenon just described above). Such characteristics largely correspond to the specific circumstances in which these organisations have arisen and been forced to operate. In other words, the concept of the vanguard has been confused with some of its variants; in part by those who adopted the revolutionary party whose origin was precisely Lenin’s formulation of the theory of the vanguard party.

This variant is one of an internally vertical vanguard (in which the right of criticism is limited to within the organisation or the right to an opinion is limited to when the political organisation still has not taken an official position regarding the topic on which such right is exercised). The group is outwardly closed (not all those who want join can do so).

But this variant (independently of that fact that in some cases it has been justified and in other cases not) need not be considered as inherent to the condition of the vanguard that is essential to a consistently revolutionary political organisation. It may therefore also be internally horizontal (in which criticism can be exercised publicly and in which one can emit a different opinion to the political organisation on issues about which it has already taken a position, or at least the first of these prerogatives) and outwardly open (to which everyone who wants to may belong).

Another criterion for defining how vertical or horizontal a vanguard organisation is could be the method of selection of its members where there are different categories of members:  it would be vertical in the case that the militants are selected by the leadership (as in the FSLN in the eighties); and open when such a condition is optional for each member (as it happened to be in the same party from 1994 until both categories disappeared). There exists an intermediate point where the militants are elected by the grassroots body to which they belong, as in the Communist Party of Cuba.

What is said here about the theme of the vanguard is valid for the condition of the vanguard as participants in a political organisation (in which case it is an organisation that is part of the vanguard). But when a vanguard organisation develops political capacity, and leadership and influence in each historical moment within the society to which it belongs it would not only be of the vanguard, but also the vanguard.
Emphasis has been placed on this issue of the Leninist theory of the vanguard and democratic centralism in order to pave the road towards a concrete proposal about the character that – in accordance with its necessity — the Fifth International should have. As stated earlier regarding the characteristics of today’s world that demand the existence of a revolutionary organisation at a global level, this would be historically the world party of the revolutionary movement, constituted for a second time but after a prior experience, and in different circumstances.

An important element to take it into account is what I already mentioned about no revolution having ever succeeded as a product of any International’s strategy. The Paris Commune was the only victorious revolution — ephemeral, but victorious in the end — during the existence of the First International. It was not the product of a plan, but the contrary. Marx himself argued at the time that a possible uprising of the Paris workers was bound to fail. Although Marx and the International of which he was the central figure supported the Commune once the uprising had triumphed, the failure of the Commune was a fatal wound for the First International and would lead to its dissolution.

However, one must recognise another historical truth: no revolution of a socialist character or nature would have succeeded without the prior existence of the International: the Bolshevik revolution is inconceivable without the prior educational and organisational work of the Second International at the level of the European proletariat in its totality (including the Russian, of course). The Chinese revolution could hardly have succeeded without the support received by the Communist International (despite the mistakes it made initially when it gave directions that put the Chinese communists at the mercy of their mortal enemies). Even the Paris Commune would not have had the importance it had as an experience of fighting for the masses without the analysis made by Karl Marx, the most prominent figure of the First International that also assignedimportant cadres in support of the communards. Frederick Engels, the most prominent figure of the International after Marx, provided military advice to the Commune. His knowledge of artillery was very useful in extending the Commune long enough so that it would become such an important experience.

A world party of the revolution

Outlined above is the differentiation between the Internationals made by Alicia Sagra: the First International was a mass front, the second a federation of parties, and the third a world party. Currently, the mass front of the First International is present (with its own peculiarities and bearing in mind differences of all kinds, especially the different epoch) in the World Social Forum. The federation of parties represented by the Second International is present (although not globally, but continentally and without being truly a federation because it is rather a forum for exchange and debate rather than coordination in action, which of course it also does) in the [Foro de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo Forum]. We need — now more than ever, for the reasons given earlier — a world party of revolution, which the Third International was.

The experience of the First International demonstrated the need for an organisation with methods that would allow more effective action. It can be said that it was guilty of too much democracy (in retrospect, it should be noted that this was just the organisational beginnings of the global revolutionary movement; therefore this cannot be analysed as an error — rather it was a deficit objectively determined by the epoch).

The Second International highlighted the need for political theory that indicated the manner in which revolutionary struggle should be organised; that is, the theory elaborated by Lenin. Although it was no longer used by the International (the Second) that decayed in the face of the challenge of history, that theory remained an invaluable tool for revolutionary action. However, later it was applied in a mechanical and sectarian manner by the Third International after the death of its founder.

A notable error of this Third International (the Communist International or Comintern) was its excessively vertical structure. Decisions made as a whole (by vote or even, sometimes taken solely by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or to be more clear, by Stalin) were mandatory for each of them, even if the prevailing political position and situation in a specific country and its corresponding party was different from the majority at the level of the International. It also did not take into account the weight of each party in membership numbers, influence in society, and so on.

In a way, to function effectively, the Fifth International (of the period of globalisation and the decisive moment in which, due to the ecological crisis, humanity will come to an end if the socialist revolution does not triumph – this time at a global level) should be a compromise between the world party of the Third International type and the federation constituted by the Second International, while in a certain way being both.

At the same time, however, taking into account the growing importance of social movements (to be taken up later), the Fifth International would have some similarity to the mass front that was the First International. It will come with the same diversity because the first organisational steps of the revolutionary movement worldwide have hardly been taken. And also because today there is a search for [appropriate] theory, originating in the crisis of the rigidity that characterised official revolutionary theory until the collapse of the social model in which such rigidity existed.

At the same time, the program of the Fifth International should be the product of the experience not only of the successes but also failures of preceding socialism – just as the Fourth International wanted to be without managing to achieve it (possibly due to the untimely death of its founder, Trotsky). In line with the designations made by Trotsky of the First International as one for anticipation, by Novack of the Second as one for organisation, by Lenin of the Third as one for action, and by this writer of the Fourth as one for criticism, the Fifth would be an iternational for organisation, action and criticism at the same time.

Consensus and not majorities

In particular, this international organisation of revolutionary parties would constitute a global revolutionary party with binding decisions on its members. But it should strive to differentiate between those decisions that are international or regional, and those which relate to the national situation of a specific country, thus elevating the importance of the political position of the party or parties of the country or region (respectively) to which they correspond in as much as the situation has a more local and less global character. So that, for example, when dealing with the situation of a specific country, it could not take any decision with which the party concerned does not agree, not least because the decision would be unenforceable.

Likewise, all decisions would be taken by consensus, not a majority, to avoid inconsistencies between political organisations and the voting weight they exercise. Otherwise, it would be ridiculous to establish parameters within which the weight of each organisation determines the number of votes that count, to which it should be added that this weight changes and the conditions do not always exist to be able to sense when such changes take place.

So that this proposal can be seen as oriented toward the widest possible openness in the context of the need for a world party of revolution, for reasons of effectiveness it must also include discipline as a principle in its operation. In other words, in this new International maximum freedom with maximum possible discipline would be combined. Democratic centralism as an expression of the theory of the vanguard party, flexibly applied, remains not only useful but indispensable for that to succeed.

The presence of several organisations in one country would compel them to act together on matters pertaining to international strategic lines. This would be grounds for mutual rapprochement, possibly even into a single organisation; or at least to align themselves to influence the internal political life of the country to which they belong. The latter may be an internal standard in the operation of the International, which could contribute decisively to the left unity locally and as a consequence, also worldwide.

However – and to ensure there is minimal coherence — the first organisation/s to be incorporated within a country should have veto power with respect to entry of other organisations from the same country. The proposal by Argentine writer and journalist Luis Bilbao that the international management body be composed solely of representatives from those countries where there exists not more than one recognised organisation does not seem reasonable; it would constitute counterproductive (also unfair) discrimination, possibly to the detriment of the quality of such governing body.

An important issue — given the increasing weight of social movements as a product of the potentially revolutionary decay of political parties as an expression of the crisis of the democratic representative political system – is the entry not only of political parties but of social organisations, many of which have assumed political tasks of the vanguard parties, as is the case of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil in relation to the situation in the rural sector of that gigantic South American country.

A very important issue in relation to the cohesion of the new International is the link of such cohesion with political and ideological differences. Luis Bilbao argues that the Fifth International should be characterised by ideological heterogeneity and political homogeneity, [16] to which we should add the following: ideological heterogeneity would have to assume as a starting point the need for a common ideological approach (unity born of diversity). Otherwise, the International would be an alliance to achieve goals that are more transient and therefore much less definitive than those of a force identified with the strategic goal (and ideologically common in its scope) to replace capitalism with socialism as an intermediate step to building a fully fair and free society, socially egalitarian, equitable in terms of gender and in generational terms, environmentally sustainable, and economically prosperous enough to guarantee the minimum conditions for material and spiritual welfare, and not for the ecologically unsustainable — and traditionally accepted by Marxist manuals – satisfaction of increasing needs.

In this sense what Raul Sendic identified as the isolation of the principle needs for their full satisfaction remains valid: [17] a society in which spiritually and collectively motivated human beings act, work, and produce goods and wealth. These are the minimum necessary premises around which all revolutionaries in the world (Marxists and communists of all possible tendencies, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, Christians for the liberation of the human being with regard to the alienation of individualist consumption, etc.) can make common cause.

Ideological heterogeneity would necessarily have the same boundaries that exist between revolution and reform as a programmatic final objective or what constitutes a political movement’s raison d’etre.

All political and social organisations that belong to the International should identify themselves based on their common commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society, or in other words, the replacement of the capitalist system by a socialist system. From this arises precisely the need for common revolutionary action at a global level in the era of globalisation and the current crisis of capitalism, in the latter case so that this crisis of the system can be abolished by revolution.

While ideological heterogeneity would limit political homogeneity around certain issues, they must be identified under the method previously raised: the more global an issue is the more homogeneity there should be and vice versa, in as much as the character of an issue is more local, there should be more heterogeneity.
Revolutionary authenticity

Perhaps the most important questioning of the recent call for the formation of the Fifth International — symptomatically made by Hugo Chávez, leader of the revolutionary process that has served as a locomotive for the current increase of the left in Latin America as part of the favourable conditions for revolutionary change at a continental level sooner rather than later in the only place in the world where a conducive political climate exists for the socially necessary and environmentally urgent world revolution – has been that an International must be the result of a process of the search for and the construction of proposals, and not the contrary. Therefore you cannot make a call to organise the International and leave it until later to identify common actions that can mobilise the revolutionaries of the world. It is the prior identification of these actions that should serve as a starting point for the formation of the International, where as a result of the identification of these points, you can be sure that it is necessary.

The authenticity of the revolutionary attitude toward life and social reality can be verified in two ways, and by identifying in those who call themselves revolutionaries one of two types of very different human beings: one way of identifying these two types of persons is by establishing the difference between those who call for struggle and assume it, or respond to the call and struggle, and those who never struggle because they spend their time “analysing” why they will struggle, and do the same with calls to struggle: analyze them, criticise them, refuse themselves to struggle and demobilise those attending the call. As Fidel Castro said more than forty years ago (see the header of this article), those who also argue that it is not the time to fight or the proposed struggle is not correct, use this approach as a theoretical justification for refusing to fight. They’re renouncing not a type of revolutionary struggle, but the revolutionary struggle itself.

The other way to measure revolutionary authenticity is to distinguish between these two types of human beings in relation to the issue of revolutionary transformations and reforms. As envisaged by Rosa Luxemburg (also embodied in the phrase at the beginning of this paper), when revolutionary change is declared impossible or impracticable and as a result the path of reform is assumed in the hope that in the distant future maybe they can make changes that will mature as a result of reforms, what is being renounced is not a form of making the revolution, but the revolution itself which has system change as its objective. Reforms within the system become the ultimate goal of those who preach this path.

Those who question the call for an International made by Chavez and moreover, the indispensable time proposed for its installation by the left parties gathered in Caracas in December 2009, are left without any argument in the face of a single question: who would be commissioned, under the scheme raised by them, of a previous search for common actions or issues identified by leftist organisations around the world, to then — if we reach the necessary conclusion — make the call for the International?

That search is necessary, without doubt, but first we must define who will do it. In the scheme of those who identify with Chavez’s call and the necessity of the timeframe posed by the urgency of what must be done about it, the appeal is precisely the same. The convening of the Fifth International is, in the first place, the collective identification of common actions and positions, with which all the revolutionary organisations and disorganised revolutionaries of the world identify in order to fight together as the only way that this struggle can triumph in the world today.

In other words, you must first motivate — and that’s what Chavez has done — the conscious and common search of those who are aware of the need for it, thus recognising one another and in this way, making the ideas emerge collectively to give concrete form to the existence of something so big and so important. That is impossible to achieve without the prior impulse, without such enthusiasm and such prior collective action. The first major goal should be therefore to convene it, to meet; identify one another. This should take place sometime in April 2010.

It is the only way to globalise struggle and hope in time and form. It is the current equivalent of Marx and Engels’ call for proletarian unity. A call has now made from the World Social Forum, either a formidable pioneer of the Fifth International or, contrarily, a very clever way for the system to distract, in endless outpourings and conversations among themselves, those who seek to change it or believe they want to change it, precisely so that this distraction blocks the Fifth International from coming into being.

Let’s not wait longer, compañeros.

Revolutionaries of the world, let’s unite.

Final Warning.

First published in Correo de Nicaragua, No. 7, diciembre 2009–enero 2010, Managua. Translated by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and Kiraz Janicke for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

Translators’ notes

This translation is primarily based on the version published by the Nicaraguan Sandinista magazine Correo. Author Carlos Fonseca T. is a member of the editorial board of that publication. At the time of publication, the article has still not been posted on Managua Radio La Primerisima website, which hosts back editions of Correo. However, it should appear soon. We also compared the Correo edition with that of Rebelion. In a few cases we have included text from Rebelionthat did not appear in the Correo version. Carlos Fonseca’s article has appeared in several other Spanish-language publications in Europe and Indo-Latin America.

Felipe Stuart Cournoyer is a Nicaraguan-Canadian Marxist, and a militant of the Nicaraguan FSLN. A writer and translator, he is also a cntributing eitor of the Canada-based digital publication Socialist Voice. He considers himself to be a soldier of the Fifth International.

Kiraz Janicke is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia who has been living in Caracas, Venezuela,on and off since 2005, where she is journalist for Venezuelanalysis.com and Green Left Weekly’s Caracas bureau. As a representative of  Socialist Alliance she attended the World Meeting of Left Parties, in Caracas, November 2009, where Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called for the Fifth International.


[1] Una introducción necesaria al Diario del Che en Bolivia (Ernesto Che Guevara, Escritos y discursos, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, Cuba, p. 8).

[2] http://www.castillasocialista.org.

[3] Lenin, Vladimir I., Marxismo y revisionismo (Obras escogidas, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, sf, p. 20).

[4] Las contradicciones terminales conducen directamente al colapso del sistema, aunque la duración entre el inicio de la contradicción y el colapso que ella produce, varía según cada contradicción específica; las contradicciones críticas, por su parte, conducen al sistema a sus crisis periódicas que, sumadas, también lo conducen al colapso, pero indirectamente.

The terminal contradictions lead directly to the collapse of the system, although the duration between the start of the conflict and collapse it produces, will vary according to each specific contradiction, the critical contradictions, meanwhile, leads the system to its periodic crises which, together , also lead to the collapse, but indirectly.

[5] Segunda Declaración de La Habana, http://www.pcc.cu, p. 17.

[6] Lenin, Vladimir I., El Estado y la Revolución (Obras completas, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, sf , p. 298 ).

[7] Sandino, Augusto C., El pensamiento vivo, t. I, Editorial Nuevo Nicaragua, Managua, 1984, p. 341.

[8] Sandino, Augusto C., Ob. Cit., t. II, pp. 69.

[9] Idem, pp. 65, 69 a 73 y 80.

[10] Fonseca, Carlos (citado por), Sandino, guerrillero proletario (Obras, t. I – Bajo la bandera del sandinismo – , Editorial Nueva Nicaragua, Managua, 1985, p.353 –).

[11] Román, José, Maldito país, p. 137.

[12] Sandino, Augusto C., Ob. Cit., t. II, p. 366.

[13] Sagra, Alicia (citado por), La Internacional, Ediciones FOS, Buenos Aires, 2004, p. 21. First published in English as “Progress of World Socialism,” William F. Warde, International Socialist Review, vol.19 no.3, Summer 1958, pp.83-88. (William F. Warde was a pseudonym of George Novack.) George Novack Internet Archive, http://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/1958/xx/progress.htm#n1. The quote here is taken from the original English-language version.

[14] Idem, p. 37.

[15] Lenin, Vladimir I., La bancarrota de la Segunda Internacional, Editorial Progreso, Moscú, 1977, p. 13.

[16] Bilbao, Luis, Hora de definiciones (revista América XXI, # 56/57, diciembre 2009 a enero 2010, Caracas, p. 48).

[17] Sendic, Raúl, Reflexiones sobre política económica, Editorial Nueva Nicaragua, Managua, 1986, p. 3.