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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 Barbarism.

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 single country.

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 Marxism.

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 democratic centralism.


"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 victory.

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 state.

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 be eliminated.

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 Parti Quebecois.

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 bureaucracy.

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 NDP.


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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