On March 4, 1990 Labour Member of Parliament Ken Livingstone declared that agents of the MIS, the British equivalent of the FBI, had made a deliberate decision to smash up the WRP. Livingstone was speaking at a public meeting under the auspices of the Marxist Party, the middle class pro-Stalinist organization set up by former WRP leader Gerry Healy after his expulsion from the International Committee and the split in the WRP.
On April 3, 1990 ICP National Secretary Dave Hyland wrote a letter to Livingstone, asking that he substantiate his remarks on MI5 infiltration of the WRP by producing documents and other evidence to support his claims. The same month, the faction of the Workers Revolutionary Party headed by Cliff Slaughter sent its own letter to Livingstone, seeking clarification on the claims of MI5 infiltration. Several weeks later, on May 4, 1990 Livingstone sent a letter to Slaughter giving further details on the role of the MIS in provocation and surveillance against left-wing groups in Britain, and asserting that a “high-ranking member of the leadership” had worked as an MI5 agent to help produce the 1985-86 split. Livingstone did not name the agent.
On July 2, 1990, in response to further inquiries by the ICP, Livingstone sent a copy of his letter to Slaughter to Dave Hyland with a note apologizing for the delay. Comrade Hyland has now replied to Livingstone’s letter, on behalf of the ICP, demanding that Livingstone make public all that he knows about the role of state provocateurs in the breakup of the WRP.
Letter from Ken Livingstone to Cliff Slaughter
July 2, 1990
Dear D. Hyland,
Thank you for your letter, dated 25 June. Please accept my apologies, I did not realise who was in what.
Thanks for your letter re MI5 penetration of the old WRP. In the early 1970s as the LP and TUC swung to the left there was a massive expansion of infiltration of MI5 and Special Branch agents into all political groupings on the left. Even meetings as small as a dozen or less would, in some cases, have had a SB agent present if this was thought to be an important meeting. Copies of some SB reports on such meetings have been made available to one of my advisors.
The decision to break up the WRP was taken because the developing relationship between the WRP and left-wing Labour councils was considered to pose a threat to the possibility of a “reliable” Labour Party re-emerging after the upheavals of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The WRP’s links to the PLO were a major factor particularly after the left victory at the 1982 LP Conference to recognise the PLO as the sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people.
Democratic centralist organisations are particularly vulnerable to internal disruption by MI5/SB because of their traditions of expulsions and their secretive style of operations. One high ranking member of the leadership can easily wreck havoc under cover of traditional left rhetoric and this was the case inside the WRP. The identity of the agent is not known to me. But it is likely that the individual concerned deceived others into taking the leading roles in the disruption.
I am not, of course, in a position to reveal my sources and “proving” all this may take as long as it did to expose the dirty tricks of the Clockwork Orange Programme. In that case it was over 5 years before former agents went public and a further 10 before there was forensic evidence to confirm the charges.
Yours sincerely, Ken Livingstone
Letter from Dave Hyland to Ken Livingstone
July 11, 1990
Dear Brother Livingstone:
Thank you for your letter of July 2nd with its enclosure of a copy of your letter of May 4, 1990 to Cliff Slaughter.
Your letter to Slaughter indicates that you possess definite and detailed information which establishes that the British state played an active role in the destabilization of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
You claim to have seen Special Branch reports of important party meetings at which only a few people would have been present.
You categorically assert that the state decided to destabilize the WRP in order to disrupt its “developing relationship” with left-wing Labour Councils and because of its “links to the PLO.”
You state explicitly that a “high ranking member of the leadership... under cover of traditional left rhetoric” wreaked havoc inside the WRP.
However, you state that you cannot reveal your sources and that it may be necessary to wait another 5 to 10 years until the “agents go public” and substantiate the charges.
We emphatically reject this position. If the information you have so far provided is true, it is clear that the destabilization of the WRP represented a major state conspiracy against the British and international workers’ movement. It would mean that state provocateurs intervened to disrupt legitimate political discussion and struggle inside the Workers Revolutionary Party in order to break it up.
If that is what actually happened, everything possible must be done to bring out all the facts and expose this state conspiracy as quickly as possible.
It is your solemn responsibility to make public all the information you have at your disposal—including copies of all relevant documents, the names of informants, and, above all, the identity of the “high ranking member of the leadership” who, as you indicate, played a major role in breaking up the WRP.
Until you name that leader, or provide information that can lead to his/her identification, former leaders of the pre-split Workers Revolutionary Party will be under a cloud of suspicion. Moreover, there exists the real danger that the “high ranking member” remains politically active to this day. He, she or they must be exposed.
You cannot evade your obligation to reveal all you know and to fight for the exposure of this entire conspiracy. After all, you chose to state on a public platform of the Marxist Party on March 4, 1990 that the split inside the WRP was the product of “a sustained and deliberate decision by the MI5 to smash that organization.” Your letter to Slaughter reasserts that allegation in even more striking terms.
Despite our political differences, the International Communist Party is prepared to collaborate fully in such an investigation. No stone must be left unturned to force the exposure of the state conspiracy which you allege was behind the destabilization of the Workers Revolutionary Party.