The term “pseudo-left” denotes political tendencies that utilize democratic and populist phraseology to advance the interests of privileged sections of the upper middle class and defend capitalism against socialist revolution. There are many representatives of this politically reactionary tendency internationally, including the Democratic Socialists of America in the US, the Left Party in Germany, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, Socialist Alternative in Australia, the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, and the NSSP in Sri Lanka.

In his foreword to The Frankfurt School, Postmodernism and the Politics of the Pseudo-Left, published in 2015, WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North provided a concise “working definition” of the pseudo-left, as follows: 1) It is “anti-Marxist, rejects historical materialism, embracing instead various forms of subjective idealism”; (2), It is “anti-socialist, opposes the class struggle, and denies the central role of the working class and the necessity of socialist revolution in the progressive transformation of society”; (3) It “promotes ‘identity politics,’ fixating on issues related to nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and sexuality in order to acquire greater influence in corporations, the colleges and universities, higher-paying professions, trade unions and in government and state institutions, to effect a more favorable distributions of wealth among the richest ten percent of the population”; and, (4) “in the imperialist centers of North America, Western Europe and Australasia, the pseudo-left is generally pro-imperialist, and utilizes the slogans of ‘human rights’ to legitimize, and even directly support, neo-colonialist military operations.”

The development of an independent socialist movement of the working class requires an unrelenting struggle against all forms of pseudo-left and opportunist politics. On this page, readers will find major polemics published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) against the pseudo-left, including in relation to the major political experiences and world events of the past decade, as well as major documents from the history of the ICFI in its struggle against Pabloism and all forms of anti-Marxist revisionism.

Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias speaks as Spain's caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looks on after signing an agreement at the parliament in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. [AP Photo/Paul White]
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Events of the past decade: Marxism versus the pseudo-left
2011: The war in Libya

In March, 2011, the United States, Britain and France launched a neo-colonial regime-change operation to overthrow the Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi and install a client state. The war involved a bombing campaign and the arming of local Islamist right-wing proxy forces, who ultimately captured and murdered Gaddafi. In the eight years since, the war has contributed to a humanitarian catastrophe in Libya and across North Africa and the Sahel.

The Libya war was supported by a coterie of pseudo-left organizations, who uncritically repeated the lying claims of Washington and its allies that the war was a “humanitarian” intervention aimed at saving the population from Gaddafi, and which had nothing to do with imperialist control over Libyan oil reserves or the critical supply routes of North Africa.

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2011-2013: Revolution and counterrevolution in Egypt

On January 25, 2011, tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Cairo and other major industrial cities of Egypt, marking the starting of a revolution that within three weeks toppled a decades-old US-backed dictatorship headed by Hosni Mubarak. The working class played the leading and decisive role in the revolution. Politically, however, it lacked a revolutionary leadership, based on the Trotskyist theory of Permanent Revolution. This enabled the bourgeois Islamist and pseudo-left groups to politically disorient the revolutionary movement, giving the ruling class sufficient time to maintain its control, and ultimately launch a military coup in July 2013.

Throughout the revolutionary upheavals over this period, the WSWS sought to outline a revolutionary program for the Egyptian working class, and exposed the efforts of pseudo-left parties in Egypt and internationally to subordinate the working class to one or another faction of the bourgeoisie.

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2011 onwards: US-led intervention in Syria

Beginning in 2011, the US and its allies, including France and the UK, conducted an increasingly open regime-change operation against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The CIA-led operation involved arming and funding Islamist proxy forces, some with direct ties to Al Qaeda, to overthrow the Syrian government, a key ally of Russia in the Middle East.

Throughout the regime-change operation, pseudo-left organizations in the imperialist countries, including the ISO in the United States, the NPA in France, and Socialist Alternative in Australia, backed the US proxy war, and labelled its Islamist proxy forces as democratic revolutionaries.

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2014: The right-wing coup in Ukraine

In February, 2014, after months of right-wing “Maidan” demonstrations, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was forcibly removed from power by a coup. This coup was openly supported by US and European imperialism and implemented primarily by far-right shock troops such as the Right Sector and the neo-Nazi party Svoboda.

Internationally, pseudo-left forces supported the coup, falsely proclaiming it a “revolution”. The ICFI and WSWS alone advanced a principled, socialist opposition to this imperialist operation, warning the working class of its dangerous consequences.

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2015: The Syriza government in Greece—The pseudo-left in power

Syriza (the “Coalition of the Radical Left”) was elected in January 2015 to the government of Greece, amidst mass opposition to years of uninterrupted austerity enforced by the “troika” of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Its election was hailed by other pseudo-left parties around the world as a triumph for the left and a model for how it could come to power.

In the ensuing eight months, Syriza betrayed all of its pledges, including by repudiating the landslide “no” vote in the referendum on EU austerity in June of that year. It enforced police-state policies and enacted some of the most brutal anti-refugee measures in all of Europe. Its betrayal, which confirmed the warnings published by the WSWS, constitute a strategic experience for the international working class as to the real nature of pseudo-left politics.

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2015-2019: The British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn
The coronavirus pandemic
The Democratic Socialists of America
Latin America
The International Committee and the fight against Pabloism

The Fourth International was founded by Leon Trotsky, the co-leader, with Vladimir Lenin, of the 1917 Russian Revolution, in 1938. The crimes and betrayals of the Stalinist Third International and the social democratic parties had led humanity to catastrophes of war, depression and fascism. In its founding document, Trotsky explained that the crisis of mankind was the crisis of revolutionary leadership. The International Committee was founded in November 1953, to defend the Fourth International against an opportunist current, Pabloism, that sought to liquidate the Fourth International into the parties and organizations controlled by Stalinism, social democracy and bourgeois nationalism. The struggle against Pabloism within the Fourth International spanned more than three decades. It was brought to a conclusion in 1986 with the defeat of the opportunists by the orthodox Trotskyists of the International Committee.

The ICFI’s fight against revisionism ensured the continuity of a genuine Trotskyist perspective in the 21st century. The subsequent evolution of the Pabloite and state-capitalist tendencies into the pro-imperialist pseudo-left demonstrates the historic significance of the political and theoretical fight against revisionism inside the Fourth International. A number of critical documents from this struggle are included below.

More on the History of the Fourth International