This article originally appeared in the Bulletin on December 9, 1988
Cliff Slaughter, the political secretary of the anti-Trotskyist British Workers Revolutionary Party, is continuing his reactionary effort to utilize the conviction and imprisonment of his fascist son, Patrick, as a pretext for a political provocation against the Workers League and the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Last June 1, at the conclusion of the so-called Wild Boar trial, Patrick Slaughter, a 23-year-old law student, was one of five men found guilty by a jury in Leeds, England of conspiring to commit acts of violence during football matches.
The convictions were based on evidence gathered by police who had infiltrated a racist gang of fascist sympathizers known as “Para’s Army.”
Patrick Slaughter was accused of being one of the group’s ringleaders and chief instigators of racist violence. Among those convicted with Slaughter was David “Para” Brown, a Falklands War veteran and member of the Territorial Army, who has been publicly identified as a fascist.
Several months after his conviction, Slaughter was sentenced to a prison term of four years.
The coverage of the case of Patrick Slaughter in the pages of Workers Press has been limited to vitriolic denunciations of the Workers League, the International Committee, and its British section, the International Communist Party.
Neither before, during, nor after the trial have the Workers Revolutionary Party and Cliff Slaughter conducted any campaign in the British workers’ movement to expose the trial as a frame-up and to rally labor support for Patrick Slaughter and the other defendants. Workers Press, organ of the Workers Revolutionary Party, never reported the arrest of Patrick Slaughter or even provided its readers with a factual account of the trial proceedings, although the case was being widely covered in the capitalist press.
In the July 9 issue of Workers Press, Slaughter denounced the ICP as a “despicable little group of provocateurs” who are “slandering Patrick Slaughter as a racist and a fascist.” One week later, in the July 16 issue of Workers Press, another article appeared attacking a member of the ICP for “telling anybody in the Hull area that Patrick Slaughter is a fascist.”
Here is an astonishing paradox. For months on end, the Workers Press remained completely silent in the face of massive capitalist press coverage of the arrest and trial of Patrick Slaughter. No attempt whatever was made by the WRP to refute stories appearing daily in the capitalist mass media which identified Patrick Slaughter as a participant in racist violence organized by rightwing and fascist hooligans.
However, some six weeks after the conviction of Patrick Slaughter, Workers Press and Slaughter senior decided to break their silence in order to denounce the “slanders” of the ICP! In other words, the WRP did not consider it necessary to reply to the devastating allegations against Patrick Slaughter appearing in the bourgeois media, read each day by millions of workers, but the supposed “slanders” being spread by an ICP member in Hull was another matter! For the record, it should be noted that as of the date of the two Workers Press articles, neither the ICP nor any other section of the International Committee had made any public comment on the case of Patrick Slaughter. The ICP had done nothing more than send observers to the trial of Patrick Slaughter, a political decision which hardly requires justification.
If Patrick Slaughter were in fact innocent of the allegations against him and if he had been falsely implicated in the racist activities of fascist elements, then it would have been the solemn responsibility of the Workers Revolutionary Party to do everything in its power to rally supporters within Britain and internationally to expose the state frame-up. But it did absolutely nothing; and if this were not proof of Patrick Slaughter’s guilt, it would certainly be proof of the political cowardice of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the face of a state attack.
To this date, the WRP has raised the issue of Patrick Slaughter only in the context of vitriolic attacks on the International Committee. Even after the diatribes published in the issues of July 9 and July 16, there were no further references to the case of Patrick Slaughter in the pages of Workers Press for another three and a half months, that is, until yet another hysterical denunciation of the Workers League and International Committee in a four-page supplement published in the Workers Press of October 29.
Cliff Slaughter now writes that he believes that he “has been responsible for our movement’s making a mistake in not having exposed the way in which this court case has been used by political opponents to slander and discredit, and to attempt to silence, me and my comrades in the WRP and the Preparatory Committee.
“I propose here and now to correct that mistake. It is our bounden duty to expose and condemn such unprincipled methods, even if they are used by groups whose numbers and influence are infinitesimal, and who are already held in contempt by those who know them politically.”
Slaughter does not consider it a mistake that the WRP has never presented a factual refutation of the charges against Patrick Slaughter, that it has not attempted to respond to allegations published in scores of newspapers throughout Britain, and that it has not even solicited a single statement of labor solidarity for Patrick Slaughter and his fellow defendants—not from a member of Parliament, a trade union official, or a local Labour councillor. No, he only regrets that the WRP has not been more energetic in its use of the case to denounce political opponents of supposedly “infinitesimal” influence!
The supplement pretends to answer the Workers League’s response to the two diatribes which had appeared in the Workers Press. In an article published in the August 12 issue of the Bulletin, I dealt with the essential political questions raised in the case of Patrick Slaughter, that is, what political attitude should be adopted by the revolutionary workers’ movement to police and legal actions, including “covert operations,” taken by the bourgeois state against fascists? Are Marxists obliged to defend fascists against investigations and prosecutions undertaken by the capitalist state? Should they be defended just as working class and socialist victims of state prosecutions? I wrote:
“There is no doubt that the use of undercover police in a covert operation represents a threat to the workers’ movement, even if the immediate target of police activities is, as in the Leeds case, right-wing and neofascist elements.
“In assessing such cases, Marxists always warn workers that the conspiracy laws used by the capitalist state against racists and fascists may be used against revolutionary workers tomorrow. Indeed, the state prosecution of right-wing groups is often little more than a trial run for the use of conspiracy laws on a far wider scale against the real enemies of the ruling class in the socialist and trade union movement.
“However, in making such a warning, Marxists do not extend the slightest political sympathy to the fascists and the racists, nor do we call upon the working class to defend them. We point out to workers that such exemplary prosecutions of a handful of racist thugs like those in Leeds will do nothing in the long run to prevent the growth of a fascist movement. Therefore, we advise workers to fight the racists and fascists by relying on their own strength as a class, not by depending upon the institutions of the capitalist state.
“The Workers Press distorts this basic revolutionary approach by writing that ‘It is a basic question of working class morality that questions of racism, alleged and real, are not dealt with by the state but within the working class itself.’
“What is the meaning of this little word ‘within’? Since when do Marxists consider racists part of the workers’ movement who are to be fought from within? Racists and fascists should be fought by the workers’ movement, not within it. In other words, workers should deal with trash like Brown and Slaughter by building defense guards that will acquaint their faces with the pavement and send them on their way.”
Attempting to muddy over the class issues, Slaughter argues, “North does not say what is true, namely, that these young men were convicted solely on police evidence. Does he have an opinion about that.... Does he not know that for a Marxist not to denounce such procedures is a gross neglect of duty, because it is necessary to warn the working class and youth against such measures.”
Slaughter knows full well that he is simply evading the questions raised by the Workers League. His use of such a non-class and sympathetic phrase as “these young men” to describe the defendants is a reactionary attempt to cover over the class chasm that separates the proletariat from the petty-bourgeois fascist scum with whom Patrick Slaughter associated.
That the working class must be warned about the methods employed by the capitalist state was made clear in the Bulletin statement. However, Slaughter implies that the hostility of the working class to the methods of the capitalist state obliges the labor movement to defend fascists who face state prosecution. We emphatically reject that position.
In the recent history of the United States, there are examples of state prosecutions in which fascists were convicted of crimes on the basis of evidence provided by federal agents working within their ranks. In the celebrated case of the civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo, murdered in Alabama in 1965, the main evidence brought against her Ku Klux Klan assassins was provided by the notorious FBI agent Gary Thomas Rowe. Moreover, there exists a great deal of evidence to prove that Rowe himself was an active participant in the conspiracy to murder Liuzzo. This evidence was a telling illustration of the real relations between the bourgeois state and its fascist hirelings, even though it occasionally is obliged for its own purposes to slap these hirelings on the wrist. But notwithstanding the role of Rowe, no class-conscious worker would feel obliged to defend the fascists convicted on the basis of the FBI agent’s testimony.
Even more recently, there has been the conviction of members of the fascist Aryan Brotherhood for the murder of the radio commentator Alan Berg. The evidence against the fascists was provided by FBI informers working within their ranks. To suggest that the labor movement was obliged to defend “these young men” of the Aryan Brotherhood because they were convicted on the basis of evidence provided by police informers would be an outrageous distortion of Marxism and class-conscious revolutionary politics.
In such cases, the revolutionary party must warn workers against petty-bourgeois democratic illusions that the growth of fascism can be halted by the police actions of the bourgeois-democratic capitalist state, and it must also point out that the type of covert operations employed by the state against the Aryan Brotherhood are also used against the organizations of the working class. But the revolutionary party does not tell the working class to defend the Aryan Brotherhood.
Similarly, the workers’ and socialist movement is under no obligation to defend Patrick Slaughter and his cohorts.
However, if Patrick Slaughter were innocent of the charges against him, if he and his associates had been falsely labeled as racists, then the issue confronting the workers’ movement would be one of defending the victims of a state frame-up. But there is no reason to believe that Patrick Slaughter and his associates have been identified falsely as racists and framed up. In addition to the fact that the WRP has presented no factual refutation of the charges against Patrick Slaughter, the defendant himself never took the stand in open court to disprove the charges or even to disassociate himself from codefendants who are known to be fascists and racists.
In the article of August 12, I wrote:
“Had he been falsely accused, it would have been Patrick Slaughter’s responsibility—and Cliff Slaughter should have insisted upon it—to take the stand, disassociate himself from elements like ‘Para’ Brown, and refute the charges. Instead, he remained silent.”
Rejecting Slaughter’s invocation of the legal right to remain silent as a political justification of his son’s failure to take the stand and politically expose the supposed frame-up, I stated:
“Certainly, every accused has the right to avoid self-incrimination; but the alleged victims of a political frame-up do not generally base their trial defense upon the exercise of that right! They welcome the opportunity to answer their accusers and clear their names.”
These observations have enraged Slaughter who now writes:
“To comprehend the depths to which North sinks here, it is necessary to know what North chooses not to say. He does not say that Patrick’s lawyer advised him not to take the stand for cross-questioning. She announced in the court that she had so advised him, so there is no question of North’s being ignorant of the facts.”
It so happens that the Bulletin article addressed the very issue of legal advice. I noted, “When an individual is accused of a crime, there are a number of reasons why a lawyer may advise his client not to take the stand. But the main reason against taking the stand is the sober calculation that the defendant will be damaged by his own testimony. While the courtroom jury ought not to draw unfavorable inferences from Patrick Slaughter’s silence, the far more important jury—that of the workers’ movement—has every right to draw negative conclusions.” Cliff Slaughter offers the following astonishing explanation of the advice given by Patrick Slaughter’s lawyer: “The reason for this advice was that Patrick Slaughter was the only one of the defendants who had made a full statement under police interrogation which did indeed refute every single charge and every single alleged association and incident brought forward by the police!” And this is supposed to satisfy the working class and socialist movement! Patrick Slaughter, we are told, was under no political obligation to take the stand in his own defense in open court because he had already given a statement to the police. Here is yet another paradox: Slaughter first argues that his son must be unconditionally defended by the labor movement, with no questions asked, because his conviction was based on evidence provided by the police. Then he turns around and declares that there was no need for Patrick Slaughter to testify in open court because he had already made a full statement to the police!
The WRP attempts to find a political justification for Patrick Slaughter’s failure to take the stand by citing the Thatcher government’s recent attacks on the “right to silence.” In the same issue of Workers Press that carries Slaughter’s diatribe against the International Committee and the Workers League, his toady Simon Pirani writes that “it’s worth noting that on the ‘right to silence’ the ICP [International Communist Party] see eye-to-eye with Thatcher.”
Any politically literate worker will see through the dishonest cynicism of this libel. The issue raised in the Patrick Slaughter case is not whether he should have had the right to remain silent. No one is challenging that. The question is, in the concrete conditions which he confronted, why did he choose to exercise that right? If he was the victim of a frame-up, falsely charged with conspiring to organize acts of violence together with fascist hooligans, on what political grounds would he avoid taking the stand? From a political standpoint, the most important task facing Patrick Slaughter if he were innocent would have been to refute allegations of association with “Para” Brown and the other right-wing defendants. There is no other conclusion that can be drawn from Patrick Slaughter’s silence other than that his attorney decided that his testimony would strengthen the prosecution’s case.
There are, of course, political cases where it would be legitimate not to give testimony. No one would challenge the political responsibility of an IRA supporter not to take the stand under conditions where his testimony will be used by the state to elicit information about the national movement. Members of the revolutionary workers’ movement could be placed in a situation where class interests dictate silence to a defendant. Generally, however, unless concrete circumstances suggest otherwise, Marxist victims of a state frame-up use the courtroom to expose their accusers. Certainly, Trotsky did not choose to invoke the democratic right to remain silent in the face of the slanders of the Moscow bureaucracy. Nor did James P. Cannon, the founder of the Trotskyist movement in the United States, invoke the right to remain silent when he was indicted by the federal government in the celebrated 1941 Smith Act trial.
At any rate, in the case of Patrick Slaughter, there were no special circumstances that would politically justify failure to take the stand. He is not even a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party whose testimony could be used to elicit information about the party. He was advised by his attorney not to take the stand because she feared that Patrick Slaughter would be compelled to make damaging admissions about his own activities and associations.
The pathetic and utterly reactionary character of Slaughter’s position is most glaringly exposed by the way in which he attempts to dismiss as of no particular importance the relationship between Patrick Slaughter and his codefendants, especially David “Para” Brown.
In the Bulletin article of August 12, I pointed out that “Slaughter never disassociated himself from the other defendants, even though David Brown, alias ‘Para’ Brown, has been publicly identified as a fascist. It has been reported that two years ago, during an international gathering of fascists in Leeds, a well-known Swedish fascist was given lodgings by Brown. Another trial defendant has also admitted that he is a sympathizer of the National Front.”
In reply, Slaughter declares:
“North’s method is despicable, and dangerous, because it represents a time-worn technique of slandering opponents by ‘association.’ He pretends to have established ‘association’ between Patrick Slaughter and a fascist. He has in fact said only something quite different, namely, that Slaughter ‘did not disassociate’ himself from someone ‘publicly identified’ as a fascist.
“We are not told even how Brown was so ‘publicly identified,’ only that ‘it has been reported’ (by whom? has North checked the report?) that Brown gave ‘lodging’ to a ‘Swedish fascist.’
“I know nothing of Brown’s politics (which is precisely as much as North knows about the subject). What I do know is that first North declares Brown to be a fascist on the basis of a ‘reported’ association with some unnamed fascist, and then proceeds to incriminate Slaughter for not ‘disassociating’ himself from Brown. No one else has alleged anything like association except the police, and, as I have already explained, they did not suggest (or need to suggest, for their ‘conspiracy’) anything other than a tenuous connection, which they did not prove.” [Emphasis added.]
The first point which should be made is that for all his word juggling Cliff Slaughter never explicitly denies that his son knew David “Para” Brown and that he traveled with him and other defendants to football matches at which acts of violence were carried out.
But the most extraordinary and politically significant statement is Slaughter’s claim that he knows “nothing of Brown’s politics.”
Here we have the political secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party, a man who claims to have been a communist for the last 40 years, telling us that he is utterly ignorant about the politics of a man who is the co-defendant with his son in a trial which has definite political implications. If Slaughter’s statement is true, it would be by itself a declaration of total political bankruptcy. This ignorance would imply that Slaughter simply did not care whether or not Brown was a fascist; that he did not consider the question of Brown’s politics to be of any special importance to the case; and that he believes the labor movement should defend Brown regardless of his politics.
No one who is familiar with the provocative role played by Cliff Slaughter in the events surrounding the split inside the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985 will miss the irony of his claim to know nothing about the politics of “Para” Brown. This same Cliff Slaughter is the very man who in October 1985 proclaimed his factional opponents in the WRP to be “near-fascists”—a term which he never managed to clearly define—and on this basis declared that no political discussion with these opponents was possible. This is the same man who denounced the International Committee, which was seeking to avoid a premature split and to develop the widest discussion on the political differences, for failing to recognize that Slaughter’s factional opponents in the WRP had crossed “class lines.”
But now this same Cliff Slaughter tells us that he has never bothered to inquire into the politics of David “Para” Brown, and then proceeds to denounce the International Committee and the Workers League for describing Brown as a fascist.
As it so happens, Cliff Slaughter’s claim to know nothing about the politics of ‘Para” Brown is an out-and-out lie. The fact that “Para” Brown is a fascist is well-known in the British labor and socialist movement.
David Brown served in the British Army as a paratrooper for six years. His parents are officers in the Salvation Army and he had an uncle in the Royal Ulster Constabulary who was killed by the IRA the day before Brown left Britain to serve in the Falklands War. Brown has been awarded two medals for his service in the South Atlantic and in Northern Ireland. Earlier this year, while on bail awaiting trial, Brown enlisted as a full-time member of the Territorial Army. His principal character witness at the trial was an army psychologist who fought alongside Brown at Goose Green on the Malvinas Islands. This man claimed that Brown suffers from post-traumatic-stress syndrome.
These facts, which hardly add up to the portrait of a politically innocent “working class youth,” as Cliff Slaughter likes to refer to Brown, were revealed in open court in the presence of the WRP’s political secretary.
But that is not all there is. In its issue of May 1988, the well-known liberal antifascist journal, Searchlight, reproduced a photo of Brown and described him as a “Leeds Nazi hooligan” with reference to the Wild Boar trial. The same issue reported extensively on the active role being played by the Leeds labor movement to expose fascist involvement in football violence:
“Leeds Trades Union Council have brought the full extent of football activity by NF [National Front] Nazis in the city into the light of day.
“At a press conference held jointly by Leeds TUC and Anti-fascist Action last month, a report, titled Terror on our Terraces, was launched.
“At the conference, which won wide media attention, Leeds TUC secretary Gordon Lunn emphasized the criminal nature if much of the fascists’ involvement in football.
“‘Leeds’, he explained, ‘has long been a focal point for Nazi and racist activity’.
“Mr. Lunn said that the report, which draws extensively on material from Searchlight, ‘pulls no punches’.”
In the July 1988 issue, after the conclusion of the trial, Searchlight ran an article “Fascists export football terror” which stated:
“Leading Leeds National Front supporter, David Brown, is one of five football thugs convicted in the city for plotting to cause violence at football matches.
“Brown, a 26 year old ex-paratrooper and Falklands war veteran, was described in court as the leader of ‘Para’s Army’ a marauding gang of soccer louts.
“A self-proclaimed racist and NF follower, Brown targeted black people for many of his violent forays, which included travel to other cities in search of mayhem.
“According to evidence presented at Leeds Crown Court, Brown was ‘obsessed by football violence’ and kept extensive records of the habits of rival supporters.
“This knowledge gave him a key place among the hooligans and he was frequently in charge of planning trips to Leeds United away matches.
“Meetings were often held in city center pubs including Yates Wine Lodge and the Prince of Wales, both popular drinking dens for National Front members and other local fascists. Violence was said to ‘give him a buzz.’
“A further National Front link came to light in the case of one of the five men acquitted on the same charges. Twenty-year old Christian Michael Jackson, from Todmorden, admitted in court that though he was not an NF member, he ‘agreed with them basically’.
“Though Brown and four others were still awaiting sentence, their conviction demonstrates the accuracy of the allegations made by Leeds Trades Council and Leeds AFA in their recent expose of fascist-inspired hooliganism amongst Leeds United Fans.”
There has been no statement in the Workers Press denouncing Searchlight for this characterization of “Para” Brown and its account of the Wild Boar trial. Nor has Slaughter and the Workers Revolutionary Party condemned the Leeds TUC for supporting the exposure of fascist involvement in football violence. This silence is by itself irrefutable proof that Slaughter and the WRP are using the case of Patrick Slaughter exclusively as a calculated provocation against the International Committee and the Workers League.
According to information which we have received from the Leeds Trades Council, “Para” Brown shared a house with Frank Burden, the Leeds organizer of the National Front, who is widely known as “Mad Frank” and often is seen hawking Nazi literature, including copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. This friend of “Para” Brown has been described by Searchlight as a “psychopath” who has a long record of convictions for violent crimes, including attacks on left wingers and Asians. It was at the house shared by “Para” Brown and “Mad Frank” that the Swedish fascist was lodged.
Cliff Slaughter, hoping that readers are utterly ignorant of the facts, cynically portrays his 23-year-old bullyboy son as just another working class football fan. It is only because of my supposed “desperate state of mind,” as Slaughter suggests, that I fail to recognize that “there are many thousands of youth who travel to watch their teams every Saturday.”
But according to Searchlight, Patrick Slaughter was part of a network of football gangs, also known as “crews,” which are made up of loose groups of “supporters” who participate in gang violence against rival “crews.” The most notable of these in Leeds is the “Leeds service crew”—so called because they travel to games on the service trains—which is led by well-known fascists like “Para” Brown.
“For many years,” according to Searchlight, “Leeds has had an unenviable reputation as one of the biggest and most violent gangs of soccer louts in the country, the so-called ‘Leeds service crew.’ National Front members figure amongst the leaders of this horde of thugs and vandals.
“The Nazis themselves, in their hate sheet Bulldog, have loudly boasted that the ‘service crew’ are ‘all proud to be members and supporters of the National Front.’ “
When Patrick Slaughter was arrested, police found among his belongings a belt that was studded with a metal inscription which read “Leeds Service Crew.” He claimed that it belonged to a friend.
While attending the trial, Slaughter had the opportunity to learn something about the political views of his son’s codefendants. Martin Pickard admitted that he had once assaulted a black youth in Ipswich because he was a fan of a rival football team “and even better because he was black.” This statement was reported in the June 19, 1988 issue of Leeds Other Paper.
C. Jackson, who was eventually acquitted, had in his possession an exercise book with the letters “NF” and the word “Soldier” written over it. Jackson denied being a member of the National Front, but said that he “agreed with them basically.”
Dishonestly claiming to know nothing of these facts, Slaughter refers to the defendants as “a group of youth who are being witch-hunted as scapegoats for the social crisis of capitalism and Toryism.” This politically obscene characterization lumps together under the category of “youth” the real working class victims of capitalism with the racist “human dust” mobilized by the ruling class to defend the bourgeois order.
There is one significant question which Slaughter never attempts to answer: why was Patrick Slaughter, a 23-year-old law student preparing for a comfortable middle class career, selected to serve as a “scapegoat” by the prosecutors? If this was a politically inspired frame-up, the only conceivable explanation for the selection of Patrick Slaughter would be that he was in some way being used to get at the Workers Revolutionary Party.
Indeed, this was the explanation given by Cliff Slaughter’s closest political associate, Balazs Nagy of the Group of Opposition and Continuity of the Fourth International. In a statement published by the Workers Press denouncing the International Committee (about which we will have more to say further down), Nagy (also known as Varga) declared that through the prosecution of Patrick Slaughter “the bourgeoisie are aiming above all to strike at the Workers Revolutionary Party.”
However, replying to my observation last August that there was no indication that the purpose of the trial was to attack the WRP, Slaughter replied:
“What is this nonsense? Why on earth should the question arise of the prosecution’s referring to my political activity? Neither we nor anyone else has suggested that the case was directed at Cliff Slaughter and the WRP.”
Clearly Mr. Slaughter and Mr. Nagy have gotten their signals crossed. But the question remains: if not to attack Cliff Slaughter and the WRP, why was Patrick Slaughter, a young and seemingly respectable petty bourgeois preparing for a career at the bar, singled out for state prosecution? This question is never answered. Perhaps we are to believe that the prosecutors picked the name of the unfortunate Patrick Slaughter out of the Leeds telephone directory.
Playing to the gallery of cynical middle class radicals for whose sympathy he appeals, Slaughter once again decries my supposedly “scandalous abuse of the personality and integrity of those whom he decides may be destroyed,” my “groveling acceptance of the capitalist ethic of exploitation of men and women,” and my rejection of “principled struggle for objectivity, for human integrity in the face of oppressors.” Slaughter, claiming incomprehension as to how I could “descend to this” and “kick a young man when he is down,” declares that the Workers League “has abandoned the first principles of working-class solidarity.”
Upon reading these words, a worker who had been previously unaware of the facts might well be amazed to learn that the case at hand involves the activities of fascist and racist thugs, and that the “crime” of the Workers League consists of its refusal to defend right-wing gangsters who have carried out violent attacks on black and Asian workers and youth.
The lies and distortions employed by Slaughter are so obvious that those not familiar with his modus operandi could be excused for wondering what he hopes to accomplish by making the case of Patrick Slaughter the spearhead of a campaign against the International Committee and the Workers League.
First of all, it is necessary to understand that Slaughter’s hysterical appeal is not directed to the working class at all. As we have pointed out, the WRP and Slaughter have shown absolutely no interest in organizing a legitimate defense campaign on behalf of Patrick Slaughter and his codefendants inside the workers’ movement. They know full well that such a campaign, given the nature of the defendants, would be greeted with nothing but intense hostility.
Slaughter’s real audience, as always, is the semi-declassed and demoralized radical petty bourgeoisie. Within this politically diseased milieu, full of hatred of the working class and Marxism, Slaughter and the WRP anticipate a more favorable response to their frenzied attack on the International Committee. Slaughter, a consummate cynic and hypocrite, epitomizes in his political and personal life all that is corrupt and perverse in the British petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. He is, therefore, a specialist in gathering into his net the most degenerate human specimens produced by this decadent social milieu: from hallucinating journalists, alcoholic university professors, and aging film directors of unfulfilled promise to neurotic middle class ladies who blame Trotskyism for their unsuccessful love affairs and failed marriages. Slaughter, the master procurer, is always on the scene to commiserate with and gently massage the bruised egos of all those who over the last 20 years have acquired personal grudges against the Fourth International.
Slaughter knows that Marxist principles mean nothing to such people, who hate the International Committee far more than they hate fascism. He can play on their heartstrings by appearing before them as the wounded father, whose loving son has been subjected to such cruel abuse by the “inhuman” followers of North, who care nothing about the “individual” and his “personality.”
Addressed to the most reactionary layers of the middle class, this attack on the International Committee and the Workers League is a combination of diversion and provocation. Slaughter seeks to use the case of Patrick Slaughter to cover up the fact that the Workers Revolutionary Party is unable to politically justify its break from the International Committee. In the three years since the split of February 1986, Slaughter has been unable to produce a single public document analyzing the collapse of the Workers Revolutionary Party, the subsequent split from the International Committee, and the numerous splits which have since taken place in that fragment of the WRP which remains under his control.
All those with whom Slaughter collaborated in orchestrating the unprincipled split with the International Committee have since broken with the Workers Revolutionary Party. Michael Banda, Slaughter’s principal ally in his fight against the ICFI, has since repudiated Trotskyism and is now a right-wing petty-bourgeois nationalist. Bill Hunter, the author of Slaughter’s “revolutionary morality” platform, has quit the WRP and is now the British representative of the Argentine Morenoites, with whom Slaughter formed a brief alliance in order to provide an international cover for his break with the International Committee.
Slaughter now writes that North is “a man at the end of the line, bankrupt of all rational argument, unable to justify his political existence, unable to face his past or his future.” It would be impossible to compose a more precise description of Slaughter himself. There does not exist a single article in which he has even attempted to explain the unprincipled zigs and zags in the line of the WRP over the last three years. Slaughter cannot point to a single article in which either he or his political associates have replied to any of the hundreds of pages in published documents in which the history and evolution of the WRP and Slaughter himself have been subjected to the most detailed and scientific analysis. Nor does there exist a single article in which Slaughter has attempted a critique of the program and policies of the International Committee or any of its sections.
Slaughter refers to “the crisis of North himself and his politics, the dead-end to which his organization has been brought by his leadership.” But he offers absolutely no political evidence to substantiate this hollow assertion. The Workers League has just completed a national presidential election which resulted in its receiving more votes than any other organization claiming to be socialist. But the Workers Press never even acknowledged the existence of this campaign in the center of world imperialism, let alone attempted a political critique of the program advanced by the Workers League’s candidates.
Mr. Slaughter does not explain what constitutes a political dead-end. Since the desertion of the Workers Revolutionary Party, the International Committee, with which the Workers League is in political solidarity, has carried out more theoretical work than at any time since its founding in 1953. It has published seven editions of the Fourth International magazine, which, prior to the split in 1986, had, under the editorship of Cliff Slaughter, appeared only twice in 10 years. The International Committee has published political statements on virtually every major international political question. In September, it published its international perspectives resolution that is the outcome of two years of discussion inside the International Committee. The International Committee has also produced a contribution to the history of the Fourth International, the 500-page book entitled The Heritage We Defend.
During this same period, the Workers Revolutionary Party has produced virtually nothing. Indeed, this diatribe in defense of Patrick Slaughter is the longest article Cliff Slaughter has published in three years! The fact is that Slaughter, the WRP, and their bogus “Preparatory Committee”—a virtually non-functioning front group with which Slaughter claims to be “reorganizing” the Fourth International—are so politically bankrupt that they have decided to convert the case of Patrick Slaughter into a scandal with which they hope to blackguard the International Committee.
That this is the real purpose of the campaign is proven by the so-called Message of Support sent from Paris by Slaughter’s one “international” ally, the Group of Opposition and Continuity of the Fourth International, led by the old opportunist, Nagy-Varga. It is published as part of the four-page supplement in the October 29 issue of Workers Press. It declares:
“The bourgeoisie have helpers. North’s group in England, led by a certain Hyland, is particularly active in the attack against comrade Slaughter.
“Its members even go so far as to provoke him at the court and, picking up the police provocation, slander him with collusion with the fascists.
Following the example of Healy, who, a few months ago, used the police to have comrade Phil Penn of the WRP jailed, the North group too, has earned the contemptible title of assistant agent provocateur of Thatcher’s police.
“We vigorously condemn them as abject. The North group has proved that there is no place for them in the workers’ movement.
“We call on all organizations in the workers’ movement, especially those who claim to be Trotskyists and members of the Fourth International, to condemn this provocation, to express proletarian solidarity with comrade Slaughter and to declare that the North group is excluded from the workers’ movement.”
This statement was written on June 11, 1988—more than two months before the Workers League had even issued any public statement on the case of Patrick Slaughter. The sole “offense” of the International Committee at that point was that representatives of its British section attended the trial. Now, after more than four months, this statement is released as part of a reactionary campaign aimed at inciting layers of the middle class against the Trotskyist movement.
Allow us to point out that Mr. Varga himself has never written a single sentence analyzing the politics of the International Committee and the Workers League. His demand that we be “excluded from the workers’ movement” is based entirely on our attitude to the Wild Boar trial and Patrick Slaughter. Varga has never attempted to show how this “reactionary” position is objectively reflected in the political line fought for by the International Committee and the Workers League in the workers’ movement of the countries in which we fight.
In the United States, the Workers League is the only party that consistently fights for the political independence of the working class from the bourgeois parties on the basis of revolutionary socialist policies. In the course of the 1988 elections, the Workers League advanced an uncompromising revolutionary internationalist program which was centered on three demands: (1) for the mobilization of the American and international working class in a unified revolutionary struggle against world imperialism; (2) for the building of a labor party based on revolutionary socialist policies; (3) for a workers’ government. Varga does not acknowledge, let alone express an opinion on, this program.
The Australian section of the International Committee, the Socialist Labour League, is in the political vanguard of the struggle of the working class against the betrayals of the social democratic Hawke-Keating government. Its influence within the mass organizations of the working class is growing steadily. In late November, more than 1,000 railway workers demonstrating outside the state parliament building unanimously adopted a resolution introduced by a member of the SLL Central Committee, calling for the ouster of the Liberal Greiner government in New South Wales and its replacement with a Labor government opposed to the reactionary policies of the Hawke-Keating regime and pledged to socialist policies. One week later, a mass meeting of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union adopted another SLL resolution calling for an emergency congress of the Australian trade union federation to fight for the ouster of the Hawke-Keating right wing from the Labor government and the implementation of a socialist program.
Varga, we must assume, opposes these policies and would tell Australian workers to reject them because, as a section of the International Committee, “there is no place for them [the SLL] in workers’ movement.”
The Revolutionary Communist League is the only party in Sri Lanka which, in the face of steadily escalating racist terror, unconditionally defends the right of the Tamil people to self-determination and which has opposed the Indo-Lankan Accord. It has won the leadership of the crucial Central Bank Employees Union, which was the only union which refused to subordinate the working class to the terror campaign of the JVP. The RCL is at the present time the only working class organization that is fighting to organize the defense of the Sri Lankan proletariat against the assassination squads of the fascist JVP gangsters. On November 12, 1988, a leading member of the RCL, Comrade R.A. Pitawala, paid with his life for the heroic struggle being conducted by the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee. One day after his assassination by the JVP, 1,000 villagers attended the funeral to mourn the death of this revolutionary fighter. But according to Mr. Varga, the assassination of Comrade Pitawala should not have been protested because the International Committee is not part of the workers’ movement!
We are not inclined to dismiss the denunciations of the WRP, Slaughter and Varga as merely the product of factional hysteria. They have an objective significance which can only be understood in the context of the social forces represented by the Workers Revolutionary Party. Here we come to the second and more profound source of this seemingly implausible campaign to convert the petty-bourgeois hooligans of the Wild Boar trial into labor martyrs. It might almost seem bizarre were it not related to a similar political phenomenon which is now unfolding in the United States.
Since March 1988, the national activity of another organization of the radical petty bourgeoisie, the police-infested Socialist Workers Party, has been centered on defending a party leader who was caught, literally, with his pants down in the act of beating and raping a 15-year-old black working class youth, Demetria Morris. A jury in Des Moines, Iowa convicted Mark Curtis after hearing overwhelming and irrefutable evidence proving that this SWP leader was guilty as charged.
Within the working class, the defense campaign launched by the Socialist Workers Party has provoked almost universal revulsion. Initially, based on outright suppression of the basic facts of the case—for example, the SWP concealed the nature of the crime and the identity of its victim—the Socialist Workers Party was able to gather a number of endorsements defending Mark Curtis as a victim of police brutality. But as the real facts surrounding the case became known, unions began voting at mass membership meetings to rescind the support which had been given. Union officials have sent letters of apology to the family of Demetria Morris. In Britain, Labour MP Joan Ruddock, whose support had been obtained on false pretenses at the Labour Party conference, withdrew her support to Curtis and sent her own letter of apology.
However, as the labor movement has been angrily repudiating the Curtis provocation, one petty-bourgeois radical group after another has been proclaiming its support for this vile rapist. Not one of these declarations of support has even attempted to deal with the facts surrounding Curtis’s arrest and conviction. Not one of them has attempted to answer a letter written by the Morris family, circulated throughout the labor movement, in which the case against Curtis is elaborated in detail.
Both the cases of Mark Curtis and Patrick Slaughter reflect in different forms the unbridgeable political chasm which now divides the demoralized representatives of petty-bourgeois radicalism from the revolutionary proletariat. The social forces around which these petty-bourgeois tendencies rally is a clear expression of their reactionary political role. In Britain, the WRP finds itself embracing fascists. In the United States, petty-bourgeois radicalism finds its apotheosis in the person of a convicted rapist.
What is involved here is not a political aberration, but the historical outcome of the extremely reactionary evolution of petty-bourgeois radicalism. On a world scale, the anti-proletarian political trajectory of these middle class tendencies is becoming more and more pronounced. The period when such tendencies could demagogically pose as socialist has been irrevocably ended by the development of the crisis of world capitalism and the resulting polarization of the two main classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The petty-bourgeois radical organizations and their leading personnel, whose politics assume an increasingly chauvinist and racist complexion, turn with fury against the proletariat and its revolutionary vanguard. All over the world, there are innumerable veterans of the petty-bourgeois radical politics of the 1960s who today are vicious enemies of the working class. The present prime minister of France, who considered himself a revolutionary in 1968, now mobilizes the army against striking transport workers, whom he denounces for discomforting wealthy suburban commuters. This reactionary transformation of petty-bourgeois radicalism finds its consummate expression in the politics of the JVP, a petty-bourgeois organization which not long ago was spouting Marxist phrases, but which is now murdering workers.
Thus, we contemptuously dismiss the declaration of anathema pronounced by Varga and Slaughter upon the International Committee and the Workers League. We have nothing whatsoever in common with and are in no way part of Cliff Slaughter’s “workers’ movement” of petty-bourgeois reactionaries that includes fascists like Patrick Slaughter, “Para” Brown, and the other bully-boys of the Leeds service crew.