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There have been many previous international workers' organisations, and the call for a Fifth International presupposes the recognition of four in particular, all of which regarded themselves as the successor to the previous ones:
- The "First International", known as the "International Workingmen's Association", founded in London in 1864.
- The "Second International", was founded in 1889 after the expulsion of Anarchists from the First International and its subsequent dissolution in 1916. The Second International was the direct ancestor of the present day Socialist International, an international organization of mainstream social democratic political parties.
- The "Third International", known as the Communist International or "Comintern", was founded by Vladimir Lenin in 1919, after the failure of the Second International at the start of World War I, and was dissolved in 1943.
- The "Fourth International" was founded in 1938 by Leon Trotsky, in opposition to Stalinism. Trotsky considered Comintern to be irreformable and to have crossed over to counter-revolution under the control of a bureaucratic elite in the Soviet Union. Although it still exists, the fragmentation of Trotskyism has similarly resulted in the call for a fifth international.
Calls for a Fifth International
In November 1938, just two months after the founding congress of the Fourth International, seven members of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) on trial in Barcelona declared their support for a "fighting Fifth International". The Argentine Trotskyist Liborio Justo, better known as "Quebracho", called for a Fifth International when he broke from Trotskyism in 1941. Another call for a Fifth International was made by Lyndon LaRouche after leaving the Spartacist League in 1965. Later, a 'Fifth International of Communists' was founded in 1994 by several very small former Trotskyist groups around the Movement for a Socialist Future.
League for the Fifth International
In 2003, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International called for the formation of the Fifth International "as soon as possible – not in the distant future but in the months and years ahead". The LRCI changed its name at this time to League for the Fifth International. They became the League for the Fifth International (L5I), which has since grown significantly and as of 2010 has sections in Austria, Britain, Czech Republic, Germany, Pakistan, Sweden, Sri Lanka (the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka) and the United States. The League for the Fifth International campaigns in the European Social Forum and the international labour movement for the formation of a new International. A split from them before they were known as the L5I, the Communist Workers' Group in New Zealand, also argues for a Fifth International.
Hugo Chávez announced in 2007 that he would seek to create a new international, which because of the size of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela could become an actual fifth international: "2008 could be a good time to convoke a meeting of left parties in Latin America to organise a new international, an organisation of parties and movements of the left in Latin America and the Caribbean". On November 21, 2009, in Caracas, Venezuela, during the First International Encounter of Left-wing Parties, Chávez called for the convoking of the Fifth Socialist International in April 2010 in Venezuela.
It was reported that the Bolivian Movement for Socialism, International Marxist Tendency, the Salvadoran FMLN, the Nicaraguan FSLN, the Ecuadorian PAIS Alliance, the Chilean Proposal for an Alternative Society, the Guatemalan New Nation Alliance, and the Australian Socialist Alliance were likely to join the new International. Representatives of the Portuguese Left Bloc, the German Left Party, and the French Left Party expressed interest but said they would need to consult. The Communist Party of Cuba seemed to favour the proposal, but many other Communist Parties were strongly opposed. The League for the Fifth International critically supports the proposal.
The plot of The Fifth Internationale, a thriller by author Jack King, is built around the premise that after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies, and the subsequent re-organization or dismantling of the various countries' intelligence and security agencies, their agents formed a pan-international organization called The Fifth Internationale.
Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein mentioned a Fifth International in several of his depictions of the future. In Heinlein's 1940 short story "Solution Unsatisfactory" a group called "The Fifth Internationalists" takes over the Soviet Union after the death of Joseph Stalin (who was still alive at the time of writing) and leads the country to an all-out war with the US. More sympathetic Fifth Internationalists appear in Henlein's later The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, where they are one of the assorted groups involved in the war of independence waged by the human-colonised Moon.
- "During the trial Poum defendants stressed that, while they 'admired Trotsky,' they regarded his Fourth International as too academic and favored a fighting Fifth International." Foreign News: Trotskyists Liquidated Time Magazine, November 7 1938
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