By Mercedes Petit
Editor’s note: We are publishing this article in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Argentinian Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno. During the post-war years and after the assassination of Leon Trostky in Mexico, Moreno and a handful of revolutionaries from different countries set out to reconstruct the Fourth International: the international revolutionary party founded by Trostky and others. The article that follows examines why twenty five years after his death, Moreno’s legacy is still relevant today.
Nahuel Moreno was one of the main leaders of the Trotskyist movement in Latin America and was the founder of a current of which the International Workers Unity-Fourth International (UIT-CI) is part. His intense militant activity in party building and developing political theory covered many aspects*. Today we embrace internationalism –which he defined as being a” number one priority”—in the midst of the crisis sweeping the capitalist world and the turmoil of the Arab revolution. Socialist Core is in political solidarity with UIT-CI.
The political activity of the young Moreno (1924-1987) began in Buenos Aires in the early forties. It was the time when the bureaucratic apparatus of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its satellites dominated labor unions and mass organizations. His rejection of that “syphilis disease” brought him closer to those who fought from the revolutionary left, that is, followers of Leon Trotsky (assassinated in 1940 by an agent of Stalin). In this way he learned about what he described as “ trotskismo bohemio ” (champagne socialists) whose gatherings took place in Café Tortoni, disconnected from the labor movement.
In 1944, with a handful of young people, he began the construction of the GOM (Grupo Obrero Marxista or Marxist Workers Group), in the working class neighborhood of Villa Pobladora, in Avellaneda. Since then, and over more than 40 years, Moreno devoted his life to building an internationalist, workers party in [Argentina] and many other countries.
Is there any reason for the existence of Trotskyism? We think so. In the 20’s, Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition fought Stalinism as a continuity of Lenin’s last struggle against Stalin and the growing bureaucracy that took hold of the party and the Soviets. Even though they were defeated they continued the fight. Meanwhile, the Soviet revolution was betrayed, a bloody repression was imposed and Trotskyism, as well as any hint of opposition, was decimated. Trotsky and his followers founded the Fourth International in 1938 while living underground in exile.
Thus, the “raison d’être” of Trotskyism is building a new revolutionary leadership, leading the mobilization of workers and the oppressed masses, ending the influence of all bureaucratic leaders and all the privileged ones, and taking up the struggle for the triumph of socialism with workers’ democracy around the world.
This brief synthesis was Moreno’s driving force: to overcome the crisis of leadership in the labor movement which originated after the bureaucratization of the [former] USSR. That was the reason for his double political obsession: to build the revolutionary party in Argentina but also as part of the task that is even greater and more difficult, that is, to re-build a mass, revolutionary international organization. Therefore, Moreno denounced that the greatest crime of Stalin (who committed so many of them) was the liquidation of the Third International in 1943 to give full guarantees to the imperialist powers that he would absolutely betray all revolutionary struggles. In 1948, Moreno participated as a delegate to the Second Congress of the Fourth International. Since then, he devoted much of his activity to monitor the global situation and its main foci of insurrection.
The “black sheep”
After the war, the Fourth International, with his forces decimated and without the irreplaceable experience of Trotsky, entered into a long crisis of leadership which it has not recovered ever since. At the time, Moreno represented a sector that fought both opportunistic and sectarian positions and the dispersion of the Trotskyist movement. For example, after the triumph of the revolution against Batista in Cuba and the beginnings of the expropriations in the years  60-61, Moreno placed himself against sectarian and schematic positions within the Fourth International that either rejected or ignored the defense of the first socialist revolution in Latin America,. At the same time, Moreno fought the political opportunism of Ernest Mandel and his followers, who capitulated to the petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership of Castro under the revisionist thesis that “he who leads a revolution is revolutionary.” In fact, Mandel encouraged the view that the role of Trotskyists would be to serve as “advisors” of mass leaders even though they were bureaucratic and conciliatory; the Mandelists put this into practice with Tito in Yugoslavia, Ben Bella in Algeria and Fidel Castro in Cuba. Instead of taking this road, Moreno called to combat Mandel, fighting against the Castrist leadership to build the revolutionary party.
From this position, Moreno, in 1979 while living in exile in Colombia, promoted the participation of his political current in the Nicaraguan people’s armed struggle against [Dictator] Somoza led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Thus, the Simon Bolivar Brigade was formed, providing fighters to the FSLN Southern Front (where they lost three of them), and the Brigade took the port of Bluefields on the Atlantic Coast on its own initiative. The brigade helped to form independent unions after the triumph of the revolution, while the Sandinista government— in alliance with an anti-Somoza sector of the bourgeoisie— began to impose a bureaucratic discipline from above to control the mobilized masses. Quickly, the Sandinista government dissolved the brigade and expelled the internationalist fighters. Unfortunately, the Mandel sector (then known as the United Secretariat) gave his support to that government and it did not show solidarity with the Trotskyists who were detained, beaten and expelled **.
Build an international organization
Moreno’s theoretical and political legacy has the central issue of building an international organization. He said that an international organization, even if weak and small, was absolutely necessary. First, because one cannot make an analysis as accurate as possible of the international situation from the vantage point of a national party (what he called “nacional trotskismo“). And secondly, because in different countries the construction of revolutionary parties and groups will be developed by combining the struggles of each place to the accompaniment of the major regional and world revolutionary processes. We, as a current, also continue his combat with sectarianism and opportunism. For example, contemporary Mandelites are part of the current that is becoming increasingly skeptical about the triumph of the struggles of workers and socialist revolution. The French NPA [New Anti-Capitalist Party] is emblematic of this trend: An electoral party, disconnected from the workers and popular mobilization, under the false banner of “broadening” the left, lives from crisis to crisis and rejects the Trotskyist revolutionary party building tradition.
We, along with other comrades from other countries, are part of building the UIT-CI, an international revolutionary organization. For example, our fellow Venezuelan comrades with USI (Unidad Socialista de la Izquierda or United Left Party) and C-CURA (Corriente Clasista, Unitaria, Revolucionaria, Autónoma or Autonomous, Revolutionary, United Class Current) advocate union autonomy and class political independence from the Chavez government and his false discourse of socialism for the XXI century. Another example is that of our fellow comrades in Bolivia who participate in the demonstrations against Evo Morales. In Brazil, our comrades from the CST (Corriente Socialista de los Trabajadores or Socialist Workers Current) are part of the PSOL. In Argentina our political current (Izquierda Socialista) is deeply rooted in the working class. We lead important sectors of the railway workers. This is how we redouble our efforts to give continuity to the daunting but essential task to which Nahuel Moreno devoted his life.
Some of the main texts are: The party and the revolution, Marxist logic and modern science, Method of interpreting the history of Argentina and The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. See also four volume collection titled “Working class internationalist Trotskyism in Argentina, coordinated by Ernesto Gonzales. ** See La Brigada Simón Bolívar, Ediciones El Socialista, 2009.
The international revolutionary situation
One of the recurring themes of Moreno from the 70’s was to insist that the historical crisis of imperialist capitalism engendered a “mass uprising” international revolutionary situation and the occurrence of all types of revolutions. Since the end of World War II and the defeat of Nazism— in the midst of a great upsurge of the masses— there had been a relative “recovery” of the world economy, however, since the mid-sixties the economic boom was coming to an end leading to subsequent waves of chronic crisis of the capitalist system.
In 1985 and the World Congress of his political current, Moreno pointed out the main processes at play: the defeat of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and the upsurge in Central America; the rise and fall of dictatorships in South America, the Iranian revolution, and other processes. And then he said:
“Why do we say that there is revolutionary situation? Is it because we believe that there will be an October Revolution [similar to the 1917 in Russia led by the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky along with the Soviets] in any country in the world? No, that is not it. Is it because it going to be great revolutionary mobilizations, civil wars and revolutionary crises even though they will not succeed? Yes, indeed. We believe that a revolutionary crisis will continue to exist. Forty years after [since 1945] there continues to be revolutionary crisis and revolutionary situations in the most diverse countries and regions in the world. […] That’s all I want to say. “*
More than 25 years after these debates, the global reality reiterates again and again this description which fits so well to with the tumultuous turn of the century we are seeing.
See the essay collection Inéditos de NahuelMoreno, Crux, 1991.
Mercedes Petit is a member of Izquierda Socialista (Argentina – mpetit@ izquierdasocialista.org.ar). She is the author of “AdjustmentCubanStyle” which was originally published in Correspondencia Internacional issue 29, 2011 and reposted on www.socialistcore.org