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International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)

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Title: International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Revolutionary Tendency (SWP), Spartacist League (US), Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), Fourth International (ICR), Fourth International
Collection: Organizations Established in 1974, Trotskyist Political Internationals
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)

The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), earlier known as the international Spartacist tendency is a Trotskyist international. Its largest constituent party is the Spartacist League (US). There are smaller sections of the ICL (FI) in Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom.

The group originated within the "Revolutionary Tendency" of the Socialist Workers Party and, upon its expulsion from the SWP, it named itself "Spartacist" in 1964 in homage to the original Spartacist League in World War I Germany co-led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.[1]


  • Publications 1
  • Positions 2
    • Regarding domestic policy 2.1
    • Regarding similar groups 2.2
    • On Islamic states 2.3
    • On socialist states 2.4
  • History 3
    • Background 3.1
    • Establishing an International 3.2
    • International Spartacist tendency 3.3
    • Later splits 3.4
  • Affiliates 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The central theoretical journal of the ICL(FI) is Spartacist which is published in four languages approximately once a year. Apart from the above the ICL(FI)'s American section, the Spartacist League, operates the Prometheus Research Library in New York City. The library has published a number of bulletins and books and houses the tendency's archives and other material on the history of Trotskyism.

In addition to Spartacist the national sections of the ICL(FI) each publish a regular paper of varying regularity. For example, the U.S. group publishes the newspaper Workers Vanguard, which is known for its acerbic running commentary on the activities of other leftist groups, its sarcastic wit, and its obituaries of leftist figures whose lives often are inadequately analyzed and/or memorialized in the mainstream media, recently including Bill Epton, Richard Fraser, Robert F. Williams, and Myra Tanner Weiss. Since the 1990s Workers Vanguard has also featured original essays on the history of Marxist and pre-Marxist radical ideas written by long-time member Mark Tishman under the name Joseph Seymour. From time to time Workers Vanguard also carries features under the rubrics Women and Revolution and Young Spartacus, these being the titles of once separate publications since discontinued.


Regarding domestic policy

Since the early 1980s the League and affiliates have also organized mobilizations against Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. They were an early campaigner to save Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row.[2] The Spartacist League regards what they term the "struggle for black liberation" as central to communist revolution in the U.S.; to that end, they promote "revolutionary integrationism" [3] and also prominently support the right to bear arms. The party is radically permissive with regards to sexuality and culture, opposing all the laws which prohibit consensual sexual relations, including "age of consent" laws.[4] In addition they are for the decriminalization of prostitution, drug use, gambling, pornography, homosexual sex which they regard as "crimes without victims" and are "generally illegal or heavily regulated under capitalist law." [5]

Regarding similar groups

The League rejects left-wing political coalitions and campaigns believing they are popular fronts aimed at providing platforms for bourgeois politicians from the Democratic Party and the U.S. Green Party, a strategy the SL's ideas abhor. Instead, the League denounces all support to "capitalist parties," especially the left-wing ones founded through popular front formation, and instead argue for an independent workers' party aiming for state power.

The Spartacists also devote much attention to polemicizing against other communist and socialist groups. These polemics are usually exceptionally forceful and are often seen by the groups being attacked as unnecessarily disruptive of their activities. The Spartacist League is also highly critical of groups associated with the reunified Fourth International, whose politics they characterize as Pabloite.

In a book entitled Death Agony of the Fourth International, Workers Power and the Irish Workers Group claim the iSt's strategy was/is based on, and they quote from an iSt document, "destroying" other left wing groups. They claim this involves occupying rooms where other left groups are due to have meetings as well as other methods. Furthermore, they argue that the Spartacists, while developing a correct position that the SWP were centrist, did not recognise that the Fourth International had degenerated before it split, and therefore were more critical of one section than of the other.

On Islamic states

The Spartacists are one of few leftist groups which do not shy away from criticizing Islam. The Socialist Workers' Party supported Ayatollah Khomeini during the Islamic Revolution in Iran as "anti-imperialist,"[6] but the Spartacists gave no support to this. The League was one of the few communist groups other than the Workers World Party to hail the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the occupation that followed. At the time the Spartacists believed it provided an opportunity to extend the gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan people, especially women, in a struggle against the misogynistic Islamic fundamentalists of the U.S.-backed Mujahideen. Later, when the U.S. intervention led to the formation of the successive Islamic governments of the Mujahideen and the Taliban, the League echoed its condemnation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and denounced these governments as theocratic, capitalist and anti-woman.

On socialist states

The League also fought hard in mobilizing to defend the Soviet Union and East Germany from what they termed capitalist counterrevolution. Their group in Germany waged a campaign in 1989 calling for political revolution against Stalinism and opposition to the capitalist reunification. Today, the Spartacists defend what they see as the remaining deformed workers' states and have called for the defense of North Korea's right to nuclear arms as a necessary component keeping it free of U.S. military intervention. This is a continuation of their earlier positions on what they consider the deformed workers states of the Republic of Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the People's Republic of China. On these countries they continue to call for political revolution against the ruling communist parties while at the same time calling for the defense of these revolutions from imperialism and internal capitalist counter-revolution.



The first Spartacist League, founded in 1966 with James Robertson as national chairman, developed in the United States from the Revolutionary Tendency that had emerged within the Socialist Workers Party. Among their criticisms of the SWP was its embrace of "Pabloism" and its decision to leave the International Committee of the Fourth International and join the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. After its expulsion from the SWP both the Spartacists and the American Committee for the Fourth International were considered affiliates of the ICFI. However, at the 1966 London Conference of the ICFI the positions of the Spartacists were condemned and the ACFI was recognized as the only American ICFI section.[7]

Establishing an International

The American Spartacists remained isolated until central committees an International Executive Committee and an International Secretariat as its executive arm.[8]

International Spartacist tendency

The iSt held its first international conference in England in the summer of 1979. Delegates attended from the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Canada. There were also fraternal delegates from the Revolutionary Workers Party of Ceylon led by Edmund Samarakkody and the Lega trotskista d'Italia. They attempted to recruit both groups to their tendency, but only succeeded with the latter. A new International Executive Committee was also elected.[9]

By the 1985 conference of the iSt an "external tendency" had split from the iSt. This group had adherents in the US, Canada and Germany.[10]

Initially based in the San Francisco Bay area and Toronto the ET was to define itself as a public faction of the SL and sought to be readmitted to the ranks of the parent organization. Said efforts were rebuffed by the SL who have since waged a polemical war with the ET and its successor groups the BT and IBT.

The iSt changed its name to the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) in 1989 and adopted a new Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) in February 1998.

Later splits

In 1996, Workers Vanguard editor Jan Norden and other founders of the League for the Fourth International were expelled, allegedly for maneuvering with a group from Brazil involved in bringing court suit against a trade union.[1]

The Australian section of the Spartacist League, which had previously been involved in IBT events, split again in 2005, with one member leaving to found the Trotskyist Platform.


The current members of the ICL include:

Former sections include:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ by Maziar RaziWhy revolutionary Marxists should not support Islamic fundamentalists
  7. ^ Alexander, Robert International Trotskyism: a documented analysis of the world movement Durham, Duke University Press 1991 p.552
  8. ^ Alexander, Robert International Trotskyism: a documented analysis of the world movement Durham, Duke University Press 1991 p.553
  9. ^ Alexander, Robert International Trotskyism: a documented analysis of the world movement Durham, Duke University Press 1991 p.553
  10. ^ Alexander, Robert International Trotskyism: a documented analysis of the world movement Durham, Duke University Press 1991 p.554

External links

  • International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)
  • International Bolshevik Tendency
  • Workers Vanguard biweekly paper of the Spartacist League
  • Trotskyist Work in the Trade Unions, by Chris Knox
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