ITO-LFI Declaration

12 Febbraio 2024

The International Trotskyist Opposition (ITO) and the League for the Fifth International (LFI) have over the last year and a half held a series of meetings and other encounters, as well as exchanged letters and documents.

On December 17, 2023, the leading bodies of the International Trotskyist Opposition (ITO) and the League for the Fifth International (LFI) held a videoconference call, which confirmed that the ITO and the LFI substantially agree on many programmatic positions and an analysis of the world political situation.

We both recognize that the current period is characterized by a sharpening struggle for the redivision of the world between the great powers, the old imperialist states like the US and its allies (the Western European imperialist powers, Japan, Australia and others) on the one hand and the new imperialist powers, China and Russia, on the other.

We agree on the need to fight all those imperialist powers and emerging blocks. The working class must not give support to any of them. In all imperialist states it needs to recognize that the main enemy in this struggle is “at home,” its “own” imperialist bourgeoisie.

At the same time, we recognize that this global rivalry and competition does not subordinate the need to defend the right to self-determination and democratic struggles of oppressed nations.

In the Ukraine war, we need to reject not only the warmongering of Russian imperialism, but also the economic sanctions and the new cold war waged by the US, Britain, Germany, and the whole EU. However, that the global imperialist conflict does not make the Ukrainian struggle against the Russian imperialist invasion reactionary. The working class needs to defend Ukraine against Putin’s attack, without giving any support to the reactionary Zelensky regime, fighting for political independence of the working class from all bourgeois forces.

We also agree that revolutionaries need to support the Palestinian resistance in Gaza and the West Bank against the war waged by Israel. It is the urgent duty of all revolutionaries to give maximum support to the worldwide movement in solidarity with Palestine, while at the same time presenting a clear revolutionary anticapitalist perspective for its development, fighting for a secular, democratic, socialist state in the whole of Palestine, as part of socialist federation in the Middle East.

We agree on the need to refound a revolutionary working-class International and on the need to implement immediate practical steps toward refounding it. This process has led us both to agree to enter a period of discussion, aiming for fusion on a basis of programmatic agreement.

But we continue to disagree on two important methodological questions related to the process.


The ITO and the LFI agree that no movement, including the trade-union movement, can build a revolutionary International, for essentially the same reasons that no movement, including the trade-union movement, can build a revolutionary party. As Lenin explained in What Is to Be Done?, spontaneity is not enough. A revolutionary Marxist program and leadership are needed to accomplish this.

We agree that in some countries, at some times — when there is no working-class representation in the political spectrum, important trade union organizations exist, and the revolutionary movement is weak — revolutionaries may need to propose that mass organizations of the workers or the oppressed form a political party of their own. This proposal could be directed to the unions in the form of a labor party, or to a dynamic mass movement of a sector of the working class.

Revolutionaries should propose an anti-capitalist transitional program for such a party, while explaining that the party’s formation would be a step forward for the working class, whether their proposal is accepted or not.

We agree with Trotsky, Cannon, and the American Trotskyists of 1938 that this party must not be confused with the revolutionary Marxist party or a section of a revolutionary International, since these must be based on active militants regrouped on the full Marxist program and theory and organized along democratic-centralist lines.

The LFI, however, thinks that in favorable circumstances such a labor party could act as a bridge or transition to a fully revolutionary party, depending on the success of revolutionary forces in winning it to their program and to Leninist party organization.

The ITO, in contrast, sees this hypothetical labor party as a united-front organization, like the trade unions, of which it is a political expression. The goal of the revolutionary party would be to try to win maximum influence and possibly hegemony in the labor party, to use it as a supporting instrument in the struggle for power.

The ITO argues that spontaneous movements are very unlikely to create international organizations, except in a form in which union bureaucrats, reformist political parties, and NGOs dominate them too much for the labor-party tactic to be appropriate.

The LFI, on the other hand, argues that union and movement activists could create an international forum, which, if it were not dominated by bureaucratic and petty-bourgeois forces, as were the social forums of the first decade of the century, revolutionaries could apply the tactic of agitating for them to take up the building of a new International. The LFI believes that there is no good reason to believe that this is, in principle, less fruitful than the “labor party tactic” developed by Trotsky in the late 1930s.

It could start from organizing coordinated common actions in defense of workers in struggle in different countries and continents, including those suffering gender, racial or national oppression, or in opposition to imperialist wars and interventions. But at the same time, it would be necessary to fight tirelessly for a fully revolutionary program and the key elements of democratic centralism, creating thereby a revolutionary leadership and an International in the tradition of the previous four.

The ITO reiterates on the international level our analysis of the position of Trotsky and Cannon in the 1930s, described above, which is simply the defense, in relation to a complex tactic toward the general workers’ movement, of Leninist principles on the necessity and role of the revolutionary workers’ party.

If the hypothesis advanced by the LFI came to pass — which appears to the ITO extremely improbable — the ITO would support it not as a step toward the revolutionary International, but as the building of a united-front organization to be utilized at the international level, as we indicated for a labor party at the national level.

If the forum were cross-class, like the World Social Forum movement or the Fridays for Future, maintaining the political independence and democratic-centralist discipline of the revolutionary organization would be necessary in class, as well as political, terms.

The difference has no immediate practical implications, since the World Federation´ of Trade Unions (WFTU) and other currently existing international forums are dominated by bureaucratic and petty-bourgeois forces, and the LFI does not propose applying a labor party-type tactic toward them. But we need to explore the methodological disagreement to see whether it could lead to problems in the future.

The ITO and the LFI agree on the need to engage in common struggle and debate with revolutionary Marxist and leftward-moving centrist organizations close to us, to investigate their political positions, and to unify with them if we come to a principled agreement.

We disagree on how to characterize other Trotskyist organizations. The ITO considers the Trotskyist organizations it has prioritized as genuinely revolutionary organizations, with various political limits and theoretical or practical errors. The LFI considers them left centrists, hopefully leftward-moving, like those Lenin drew into the Third and Trotsky into the Fourth Internationals.

We disagree on whether there is a general pattern of leftward-moving militants being attracted to Trotskyism and hence, on our part, the need for a general policy of revolutionary regroupment toward consistently Trotskyist and leftward-moving Trotskyist-centrist forces.

The LFI, while it welcomes, and will work towards unity with, all leftward-moving national organizations or international currents, does not believe that a new International can be simply an enlarged collection of propaganda groups but is a goal to be posed to and fought for in the mass fighting organizations of the working class and the oppressed.

The ITO agrees that a new International cannot be simply an enlarged collection of propaganda groups, and will have to draw in the mass of the working-class vanguard. The problem is that the ITO, the LFI, and other revolutionary Marxist international groups are still too small to have much influence in the mass organizations. We’re fighting propaganda groups, intervening in struggles to develop and demonstrate our orientation. We’re in the process of regrouping the forces to intervene on a larger scale. We’re at the stage of the “Declaration of the Four” in the development of the Fourth International.

The ITO and the LFI will exchange documents and organize meetings to explore the two unresolved questions. To avoid an indefinite prolongation of the current phase of discussion, we will give ourselves a maximum of eighteen months to come to a conclusion. If the conclusion is positive, we will open a pre-congressional discussion towards a fusion congress, involving other like-minded forces, if we can.

Meanwhile, we will continue and deepen the current phase of our discussion through the exchange of views on events as they arise, joint statements on important questions, further review of documents, and meetings to learn about our practical approach in class-struggle interventions and to verify that we really do agree as much as we seem to agree on other matters.

International Trotskyist Opposition, League for the Fifth International