League for the Fifth International

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Logo of the League for the Fifth International

The League for the Fifth International (L5I) is an international grouping of revolutionary Trotskyist organisations around a common programme and perspectives. The group has sections in Europe, South Asia, and North America as well as supporters in the Middle East.


Early years[edit]

L5I was founded as the Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International. Its first member groups were Workers' Power in Britain, the Irish Workers Group, Pouvoir Ouvrier in France, and Gruppe Arbeitermacht (GAM) in Germany. After a congress in 1989 the organisation adopted a common programme, the Trotskyist Manifesto, and a democratic centralist constitution, under which each national section agreed to be bound by the decisions of the international organisation as a whole.

Anti-capitalist movement and fighting for a Fifth International[edit]

In the late 1990s the League was quick to respond to the development of the anti-capitalist movement, launching the youth group Revolution as an independent organisation in 1997. They actively participated in each stage of the movement, from the summit sieges of the late 1990s and early 2000s and the social forum conferences, which began with the World Social Forum in 2001. Of particular note in the summit siege phase, was the leading role its relatively young Czech section and Revolution played in protests against the International Monetary Fund in 2000 and its participation in the famous direct action protests against the G8 in Genoa in 2001.

In this time the League developed the slogan of a 'new, Fifth International', which called on mass organisations of the working class to form a new global party, while also maintaining that such a party should adopt a revolutionary programme. The call for a Fifth International expressed the League's view that the Fourth International, founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938, had degenerated into non-revolutionary fragments since the end of the Second World War and now a new international must be built, with new forces, but one that expressed continuity with the Trotskyist tradition. This was originally expressed in the book published by the British and Irish sections called The Death Agony of the Fourth International and the Tasks of Trotskyists Today.[1]

This orientation to larger forces, in a period quite different from when the Trotskyist Manifesto was published, necessitated, for the League, developing a new programme From Protest to Power: A Manifesto for World Revolution,[2] in which its fundamental ideas were re-elaborated. It also changed its name to the League for the Fifth International. It regards this programme as a new "transitional programme", based on the method of Trotsky's original from 1938, but applied to the current global political situation.

The League and Revolution have both argued that young people in the anti-capitalist movement should form a new revolutionary youth international. Successes at the Paris European Social Forum in 2003 led to youth groups in Greece, Turkey, and the mass Basque group Segi signing the youth international statement. Although neither of these groups made any further contribution towards the League's goal of founding a Fifth International.

Through this work the group has steadily regenerated its ranks with younger members but has not made substantial steps forward towards its goal of a Fifth International. Although, their work has led to some on the right wing of the movement such as Bernard Cassen of ATTAC to warn of the dangers of the “nagging temptation of the fifth international".[3] In addition, more recently, the academic and activist Samir Amin, has joined their call for a Fifth International - but does not give it the same Trotskyist content as the League.[4]

Faction fight over world perspectives and the resultant split[edit]

In July 2006 the League expelled its Australian section, its sympathising group in Ireland and a large minority of its British section. The International Faction was planning to split the organisation on the eve of its Seventh Congress in Prague.

In the previous two years, the International Faction (first as a tendency), had struggled against the perspectives and orientation of the League. In particular, they rejected the view that since the turn of the century there had been an intensification in class struggle, that the world economy was either "stagnant" or demonstrated a "tendency towards stagnation" in the imperialist heartlands, which the League had summarised as marking a "pre-revolutionary period". Instead, they argued that capitalism had entered on a "long upward wave" following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeats of the working class movement in the 1970s/80s and that the League had exaggerated the extents to which breaks had occurred in social democracy.[5] The League regarded the credit crunch, global financial crisis and recession as vindicating its analysis and published a critique of the theory of the long wave in its book The Credit Crunch - a Marxist Analysis.[6]

The International Faction subsequently launched a new group Permanent Revolution. This followed the expulsion of some members of the League's Austrian section.[7]

Post-split growth[edit]

In May 2007 the League announced the formation of fraternal relations with an organisation in Sri Lanka called the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka. This group was formed by a split from the United Socialist Party. A few weeks later they announced the formation of new group in Pakistan called the Revolutionary Socialist Movement, created by activists who had been involved in the lawyers and democracy protests around the sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. These groups have since become full sections of the League, and a sympathizing groups formed in the USA and Lebanon. Numerically the League states that it is several times as large as during the 2006 split due to both recruitment to existing sections and new sections being added.


The supreme decision making body of the League and all its members is its international conference, which elects an international leadership committee. Each section of the League is completely subordinate to the international decisions made by the League, even if they have voted nationally not to agree with that position they must enact the policy of the League while arguing their position internationally, and as such the League is democratic centralist in the tradition of the pre-war Fourth International.


The degenerated revolution in the Soviet Union, and the degenerate workers states[edit]

What happened in the Soviet Union?[edit]

The League views the Russian revolution to have degenerated because of the takeover of the party by the non-revolutionary Stalinist leadership. The League, and Leon Trotsky, saw the Soviet state as having become "bureaucratically deformed" before it degenerated under the Stalinist leadership. The League disagrees with the argument associated with Tony Cliff, who considered the revolution doomed when world revolution did not occur in the period after the First World War, and who also see it as degenerating into state capitalism. The League views it as still possessing post-capitalist property relations and was therefore a degenerated workers state (degenerated because it was once a healthy workers state, then deformed, before the Stalinist caste takeover). Before the state degenerated in the thirties, Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition had the programmatic demand to "reform" the "bureaucratically deformed" state by revitalising the Soviets and bringing more democracy to the party. In the thirties Trotsky viewed the USSR as being unable to be reformed, and therefore needing a political revolution, hence was degenerated. The League largely agrees with Trotsky's analysis although disagrees about the exact time of degeneration.

Eastern Europe and states "degenerate from birth"[edit]

The League differs from other groups in that it calls Eastern European states "degenerate from birth" rather than deformed. It also viewed Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia as a "disobedient Stalinist" whose actions moved Yugoslavia in a direction towards, not against, imperialism. This is against groups such as the US SWP and eventually after the Third World Congress, the Fourth International, who viewed Tito as an unconscious Trotskyist and sent greetings to the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) asking to attend their conference in order to help them in a revolutionary path. This analysis by the Fourth International which originally came from Michel Pablo was the reason they saw the Eastern European states as having only quantitative deformations, not being qualitatively degenerate. The FI thought there was a possibility that the communist parties in Eastern Europe would break with Stalin as the YCP and Tito had done, and through this become revolutionary. The League disagrees, and sees while breaks like Tito were possible, these parties would remain bureaucratic, and while they could, in order to defeat both a revolutionary workers movement and imperialism trying to remove them, proform a social revolution and create post-capitalist property relations, there would need to be a political revolution against them as they were a bureaucratic caste, like Joseph Stalin's in the Soviet Union. Because of this (i.e., these states never having a period of revolutionary workers control, unlike the USSR which had revolutionary workers power from 1917 when the Soviets and revolutionary Bolshevik party had power) these states were classed as "degenerate from birth" instead of "degenerated", although the tasks for revolutionaries in them - political revolution - remained the same. This is just a "linguistic" difference in order to show the historical circumstances these states came into existence by. Workers Power printed The Degenerated Revolution in 1982 as the culmination of their break from Cliffism and towards Trotskyism.

"The Death Agony of the Fourth International" & the need for a Fifth International[edit]

The League views the Fourth International as degenerating when at its Third World Congress when it adopted the position that the Stalinist parties in Eastern European countries like Yugoslavia could regenerate and were roughly 'blunt instruments' for carrying out the proletarian revolution. As a result, the League has started deep entryism in social democratic and Stalinist parties.

As they regard both sides of the 1953 split in the Fourth International to have affirmed this stance, which they regard as a fundamental breach with Leninism and Trotskyism, and as they believe all the major forces having emerged from the Fourth International to be implementing this false 'processist' methodology today, they call for a new Fifth International to be built by the working class forces fighting neoliberalism worldwide, including from the workers' trade unions, parties and other forces participating in the World Social Forum and analogous continental formations like the Asian and European Social Forums.

Workers Power (UK) published a book in 1983, called "Death Agony of the Fourth International" which remains the group's major work on analysing the post war Trotskyist movement.

Other theory[edit]

The League empathises the transitional programme and having articles with transitional demands in them in their publications. They also believe in permanent revolution (i.e., not stageist, and in the impossibility of the bourgious in semi-colonial countries leading revolutions). They believe imperialism is world capitalism, like Lenin, rather than just militarism and war. They see the current stage of their life as being a 'fighting propaganda group', and thus intervene into struggles such as the June 2007 Communication Workers Union strike where they call for rank and file committees, organised balloting with other public sector unions and an all out strike.


The League publishes a quarterly English language journal entitled Fifth International. The majority of writers for this appear to be from the British group, although other sections publish journals in their own languages. Revolutionärer Marxismus is the German language journal. The League has previously published first the journal Permanent Revolution which was more theoretical looking at tactics that communist organisations use, theories of imperialism, and similar questions. This was followed by Trotskyist International, which although still theoretical, looked also more at current affairs.

The League also has published many pamphlets on a variety of issues. In 2007 in republished The Road to Red October, a short history of the Russian Revolution. Among these publications is its transitional programme, From Protest to Power.

Member organisations[edit]

Groups that have a common history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/publications/pamphlets/death-agony-fourth-international
  2. ^ http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/resistance-revolution-manifesto-fifth-international
  3. ^ http://workerspower.com/index.php?id=146,1314,0,0,1,0 Forward to the Fifth International, Dave Stocking, Workers Power May 2007
  4. ^ The World We Wish to See: Revolutionary Objectives in the Twenty-First Century (NY: Monthly Review Press, 2008)
  5. ^ http://www.permanentrevolution.net/files/pr2/36-45%20Economy.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/publications/-credit-crunch-marxist-analysis
  7. ^ http://www.workerspower.com/index.php?id=47,1098,0,0,1,0 A split in the League for the Fifth International, Workers Power Website
  1. Forward to the Fifth International, Dave Stocking, Workers Power May 2007
  2. A split in the League for the Fifth International, Workers Power July/August 2006
  3. A split in the League for the Fifth International, Workers Power Website
  4. Death Agony of the Fourth International, 1983

External links[edit]