Revolutionary Workers League
Statement of Principles (1977)
On August 8, 1977, the Revolutionary Marxist Group, the League for
Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvričre, and the Groupe Marxiste
Revolutionnaire voted to combine into one organization, named the
Revolutionary Workers League/Ligue Ouvričre Revolutionnaire, the section
of the Fourth International in the Canadian state.
The founding conference adopted this statement as the basis of unity.
Statement of Principles of the
Revolutionary Workers League
For more than a century the domination of the capitalist mode of
production has posed before humanity the alternatives: Socialism or
Decaying capitalism has long been the central obstacle to social
progress. Imperialism in its death agony can promise the world’s peoples
only further economic crises, famine, war, national and sexual oppression,
and the erosion of democratic rights.
Since 1945 the threat of nuclear holocaust has put in question the
continued existence of humanity itself. The uncontrolled disruption of the
environment by anarchic capitalism poses a similar threat.
The only definitive solution to these problems is the elimination of
capitalism and its institutions, and the establishment of collective
social ownership of the means of production, rational economic and social
planning, and the abolition of all forms of national, racial, and sexual
oppression and privileges.
Thus, the fundamental task of revolutionary Marxists is to build a
revolutionary party capable of leading the workers and their allies toward
the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism.
"All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet
‘ripened’ for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious
deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have
not only ‘ripened’; they have begun to get somewhat rotten."—The
Transitional Program of the Fourth International
Since World War I, this statement has been verified time and again. The
world revolutionary process has experienced periods of rise and decline;
its tempo has been uneven. But it has never ceased to be the central
political fact of the epoch that opened with the Russian Revolution of
1917. The workers and poor peasants have repeatedly shaken the very
foundations of the capitalist order.
The majority of these struggles have ended in setbacks and even in
defeats. However, the responsibility for these setbacks lies not with the
masses, whose revolutionary capacity remains intact, but rather with the
treacherous policies of the old leaderships of the masses: the Stalinist
and Social Democratic parties, and, in the oppressed nations, the
petty-bourgeois nationalist parties. The hold that these bureaucratic
leaderships exercise today over the masses constitutes the central
political obstacle to the victory of the world revolution.
The necessity of building revolutionary Marxist parties and a
revolutionary Marxist International flows from both aspects of this
reality: on the one hand, the actuality of the revolution; on the other,
the necessity for a revolutionary leadership that is able to win the
overwhelming majority of the workers, poor peasants, and other exploited
social layers to the revolutionary program, and thereby to assure the
victory of the socialist revolution.
Capitalism has developed as a world economic system. It is
illusory to believe that the much higher development of the productive
forces that socialism entails can be achieved within the framework of a
The division of the world into different states imposes a definite form
on the revolutionary process. The proletariat must and can take power and
begin to build socialism in the territories defined by different
existing states. But the construction of socialism can be completed only
on a world scale.
Proletarian internationalism is the political and theoretical
reflection of this reality. Far from expressing a sentimental or moral
outlook, proletarian internationalism is based on the objective unity of
interests of the world proletariat and on the strategic interdependence
of its struggles in the various countries and regions. Such
internationalism becomes concrete and receives its highest expression in
the international revolutionary party, the Fourth International.
The uneven development of world capitalism and the world revolution
determines the different components of the struggle for world socialism.
In the advanced capitalist countries the immediate task of the
proletarian revolution is to expropriate and disarm the imperialist
bourgeoisie and place full power in the hands of the working class, the
majority of the population in these countries.
In the colonial and semicolonial countries capitalism is unable
to accomplish even tasks that the bourgeoisie long ago achieved in the
advanced capitalist countries. The elimination of famine and illiteracy,
the achievement of national independence and unification: all are pressing
tasks of the colonial revolution.
But these national and democratic tasks cannot be fulfilled if the
revolution is contained within a bourgeois framework. Only the growing
over of the revolution into a socialist revolution-with the destruction of
capitalist as well as precapitalist social relations, and the tearing of
the national economy out of the world capitalist market-can ensure the
definitive solution of the national and democratic tasks.
This combination of democratic and socialist tasks determines the need
for the colonial proletariat to take power in its own name while
establishing under its leadership a close alliance between the workers and
the urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie (who constitute the majority of the
populations in many of these countries).
The logic of this outlook, which revolutionary Marxists call the theory
of permanent revolution, has been confirmed many times since the victory
of the Russian Revolution (positively in China and Cuba, for example, and
negatively in Algeria, Indonesia, and elsewhere).
In the bureaucratized workers states (including the Soviet
Union, the East European countries, and China) the bourgeoisie has already
been overthrown and capitalist relations of production have been replaced
by nationalized, planned economies. But political power has been usurped
by a privileged bureaucracy, which uses its monopoly over political and
economic decision-making to protect and reinforce its material privileges.
Only the victory of the antibureaucratic political revolution can permit
the full development of socialist democracy.
While ceaselessly struggling for the overthrow of the ruling
bureaucratic castes in these countries, revolutionary Marxists
unconditionally defend these states against all imperialist attacks and
against any attempt to re-establish capitalism.
The international labor movement has long been divided between
reformists—who claim that the proletariat’s aims can be realized through
the institutional framework of the bourgeois democratic state—and
proponents of the revolutionary road to socialism.
The bourgeoisie has demonstrated time and again that if its system is
fundamentally challenged, it will defy any hostile parliamentary majority
to defend its class interests. Its principal means of defense is its state
apparatus: the courts, jails, police, army, and administrative
bureaucracy. This apparatus must be demolished by the working class and
its allies and replaced by a state based on democratically-elected
councils of representatives of the working class and its allies.
These councils will be democratically linked together at the national
and, ultimately, international levels. They will function according to the
principles of workers democracy, derived from the experience of the world
proletariat since the Paris Commune of 1871.
The victory of the revolution can occur only through the active
participation of the overwhelming majority of the population. Thus
revolutionary Marxists reject all militarist, putschist, and terrorist
illusions. The actions of a small revolutionary minority cannot substitute
for the revolutionary mass action of the proletariat and its allies.
The entire experience of the international proletariat for 150 years
demonstrates conclusively that while the "spontaneous" action of the
masses is an element of prime importance in the struggle for power, it is
not sufficient to ensure the victory of this struggle.
The program of the socialist revolution, which includes the theoretical
principles of Marxism and the strategic heritage of several generations of
class struggle, will not arise spontaneously from the masses.
Only conscious and permanent organization of the proponents of this
program can assure its survival and elaboration. Only the organization of
the proletarian vanguard in a Leninist revolutionary party, equipped with
the revolutionary program and rooted in the masses, can prepare the masses
for the seizure of power in the Canadian state.
The Leninist party brings together all the forces within the working
class and the oppressed layers who struggle for the socialist revolution.
Its basis of unity is active agreement with the program of revolutionary
It is not monolithic because the very diversity of the class struggle
produces a diversity of opinion within the vanguard itself. Its positions
are adopted by majority vote after a full, democratic debate in which all
its members participate.
But it must be a party of combat, unified in action. So the positions
adopted by the majority are applied by all its members until collective
practical experience confirms or invalidates these positions. This method
of functioning, demanding the greatest democracy in the elaboration of the
line and the greatest discipline in action, is historically known as
"The Communists ... have no interests separate and apart from those of
the proletariat as a whole.... They always and everywhere represent the
interests of the movement as a whole."—The Communist Manifesto
Every defeat of the working class, no matter what the issue, is a blow
to the socialist revolution. The proletariat prepares itself for the
revolution through a variety of struggles around partial and intermediate
goals. Revolutionary Marxists support and participate in all struggles
against exploitation and oppression and seek to contribute to their
However, the intervention and the program of revolutionary Marxists are
in no way limited to participation in these partial struggles. The old
Social Democratic division of the program into a maximum program (the
revolution, mentioned only on Sunday) and a minimum program (small reforms
within the framework of the system) must be completely rejected.
But at present the majority of the proletariat does not understand the
necessity of socialist revolution. And it will not be convinced by ritual
and abstract calls to revolution. To bridge the gap between the masses’
present level of consciousness and struggle and the revolutionary
consciousness necessary for the socialist revolution, a transitional
program must be put forward.
For revolutionary Marxists this means a program of demands that are
rooted in the objective needs of the masses and their present level of
consciousness but which, in the course of struggle for their realization,
lead the masses to understand the necessity to destroy the bourgeois
Revolutionary Marxists are consistent fighters for the unity of the
working class. They support and build trade unions and fight for the
unions to incorporate and take up the demands of all workers, regardless
of sex, race, national origin, or political belief. They advocate the
workers united front against the bourgeoisie.
United actions with the reformist workers organizations can be
especially important in ensuring the victory of specific struggles,
facilitating the development of proletarian class consciousness, and
building the workers’ confidence in their own revolutionary capacity.
The Stalinist, Social Democratic, and trade-union bureaucracies seek to
deflect the thrust of the class struggle toward various types of
collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its institutions.
Just as they are consistent fighters for the unity of the working
class, revolutionary Marxists struggle at all times for the complete
political independence of the proletariat and its allies from all sections
of the bourgeoisie. They systematically oppose all forms of class
collaboration: "integration" of the trade unions into the administration
of the capitalist economy or individual enterprises; political support to
bourgeois parties or governments; alliances between workers parties and
bourgeois parties with the objective of forming governments.
Revolutionary Marxists actively defend all democratic rights of the
masses, including freedom of movement, of assembly, of belief, of speech,
and all trade-union rights. Moreover, they seek to qualitatively expand
all these rights in a workers state by ending the economic and political
limitations imposed on them by the capitalist "order." They endeavor to
demonstrate to the masses that socialist democracy is qualitatively more
democratic than bourgeois "democracy."
The struggle to liberate women from the bondage in which class society
has placed them is a struggle to free human relationships from the
shackles of economic compulsion and to propel humanity along the road to a
higher social order.
The oppression of one half of humanity—the oppression of women-is a
central strategic concern for revolutionary Marxists. The oppression of
women in general and the institution of the nuclear family in particular
are integral to the capitalist system.
Women’s oppression is a mainstay of capitalist economic stability, both
through the superexploitation of women workers and through the role of
women’s domestic labor in maintaining the labor force. Ideologically,
capitalism is bolstered by the reproduction of capitalist social relations
within the family.
Thus, one of the first tasks of a victorious socialist revolution will
be to initiate the socialization of domestic labor as a means toward
abolishing the sexual division of labor.
While understanding that only the overthrow of the capitalist system
itself will create the material conditions for the full equality of women,
revolutionary Marxists support all struggles against the oppression of
women and participate in building the independent women’s movement.
The liberation of women is a fundamental task both leading up to and
after the socialist revolution. This must be fully recognized by the
proletariat and its vanguard in order to realize the complete unity of the
male and female sections of the proletariat and to maximize the
revolutionary potential of the independent women’s movements that have
developed on a mass scale in many countries.
Together with heterosexual women, male and female homosexuals—who
constitute at least 10 percent of the adult population of the advanced
capitalist countries—are oppressed by the institutions and sexist ideology
of capitalist society. Revolutionary Marxists denounce and combat all
forms of legal and ideological discrimination against homosexuals.
By virtue of its economic, social, and political characteristics and of
its place within the world capitalist system, Canadian capitalism is
defined by revolutionary Marxists as imperialist. Thus, they
unconditionally reject all forms of Canadian nationalism as reactionary.
The task of the proletariat in Canada is not to struggle for
"independence" from U.S. imperialism. It is first and foremost to struggle
for the overthrow of the Canadian bourgeoisie. A central aspect of
revolutionary strategy is the struggle against the oppression of Quebec.
The Canadian state is a prison house of peoples. An unremitting
struggle must be waged in defense of the rights of francophones in
provinces outside Quebec and against the brutal oppression of the Native
peoples. The working class must defend the rights of immigrants and ethnic
minorities in Canada.
Active solidarity with the foreign victims of Canadian imperialism-in
the first place, the oppressed masses of Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin
America, is likewise a priority of revolutionary Marxists.
Quebec is an oppressed nation within the Canadian Confederation.
Although its economy is highly industrialized, unlike classic colonies,
its development has been deformed by Canadian and American imperialist
domination. The Canadian state denies Quebec the right to
self-determination-its right to its own state. The Quebecois suffer severe
economic, social, cultural, and linguistic oppression.
The struggle of the working class and of the Quebecois masses for
national liberation has profound revolutionary implications for the entire
North American continent. It creates structural instability in the
Canadian state, threatening the very survival of this state as a separate
imperialist power. The example of this struggle can reverberate even in
the United States, especially among the oppressed nationalities that are
an important component of that country’s working class.
Revolutionary Marxists defend unconditionally the right of Quebec to
self-determination and the concrete expression of that right, the struggle
for political independence. But they also emphasize that without the
complete elimination of imperialist domination, national oppression cannot
Only the proletarian revolution can lay the basis for national
liberation by accomplishing simultaneously the national tasks and the
expropriation of capital. The working class is the only class that can
lead this struggle for national liberation and for socialism to victory.
The Parti Quebecois is a bourgeois nationalist party which, at present,
enjoys the massive support of Quebecois workers. Revolutionary Marxists
struggle for the Quebecois workers to break politically with this party
and with all bourgeois parties and to form their own political party,
which would fight for a workers government.
In English Canada there is only one mass party that is based on the
organized labor movement, the New Democratic Party. Revolutionary Marxists
describe this party as a reformist workers party of the Social Democratic
type. This distinguishes it from the Liberal, Conservative, and Social
Credit parties, which are parties controlled directly by the capitalist
class and which function as its principal political instruments. This
definition likewise distinguishes the NDP from the bourgeois nationalist
But the NDP is in no sense a workers party from the standpoint of its
program. It is completely committed to the preservation of the private
property system and the bourgeois state. Its fundamental role is to
represent the particular interests of the conservative trade-union
The NDP can never be transformed into a vehicle of struggle for
socialism. It is the principal obstacle to the socialist revolution within
the organized workers movement in English Canada.
However, the hundreds of thousands of workers who currently follow the
leadership of the NDP should not be identified with this rotten
leadership. This leadership must be politically defeated through the
building of a mass revolutionary workers party that will win the
allegiance of the majority of the proletariat, including those who follow
the NDP. The building of the revolutionary workers party in English Canada
therefore requires flexible application of the united front tactic towards
The victory of the socialist revolution requires an international
program, an international strategy, and thus an international organization
of the proletarian vanguard. These have always been the goals of all those
who considered themselves revolutionary Marxists, including Marx, Engels,
Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky. These goals were inscribed in the program
of the Communist International.
Today, alone among the various tendencies that claim the Marxist and
Leninist heritage, the Fourth International functions as a worldwide
organization. The struggle to build the Fourth International as a mass
international revolutionary party is inseparable from the building of mass
revolutionary parties in every country.
—Adopted August 8, 1977
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