International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 20 (1994): Capital, Labor and the Nation-State

A Political Provocation: WRP Leader Cliff Slaughter Attacks ICP Members

Workers Revolutionary Party political secretary Cliff Slaughter has violently assaulted two members of the International Communist Party.

On Friday, April 2, 1993, Chris Marsden, editor of the International Worker, was selling the ICP’s paper at a miners demonstration in Barnsley, Yorkshire. At approximately 12:15 p.m., Cliff Slaughter approached Marsden from behind and, without warning, grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket and punched him in the face.

Recognizing his assailant, Marsden maintained his presence of mind and refused to be drawn into the fistfight that Slaughter had intended to provoke. Instead, he turned to astonished onlookers who witnessed the assault and identified the name and political position of the assailant.

Slaughter then backed off and attempted to justify his actions by telling the onlookers that Marsden had called his son, Patrick Slaughter, a fascist. He then ripped a pamphlet out of Marsden’s hand, saying, “I’m going to kill you. Next time I’m going to kill you.”

At this point another young ICP member, Robert Skelton, shouted, “This is how Cliff Slaughter responds to his political opponents.” Slaughter responded by punching the young man in the left side of the face, knocking his glasses off.

Further attacks by Slaughter were prevented by the intervention of onlookers, who forced him to depart. A number of the witnesses, outraged by what had taken place, gave Marsden their names and addresses, and said that they would be willing to testify in court if charges were brought against the assailant.

A further incident took place shortly after Cliff Slaughter left the scene. A man approached Marsden with his hands balled into fists. He identified himself as Patrick Slaughter, and said, “I’ve been waiting three or four years to see you. You called me a fascist thug in your paper. Do you want to say that to my face?”

Marsden replied, “I don’t want to speak to you at all.” After observing a police officer a short distance away, Patrick Slaughter threatened, “You’re a coward. You’ll pay for this. It won’t be forgotten. We’ll remember this.” He then walked up the nearby escalator, where he joined Cliff Slaughter.

This physical assault by Cliff Slaughter, with the participation of his son, is the latest in a series of provocations by the leader of the Workers Revolutionary Party against the ICP since the arrest and conviction of Patrick Slaughter on criminal charges related to his involvement with well-known fascists in soccer-related violence. Patrick Slaughter was arrested in 1988 as part of a group of soccer hooligans known as “Para’s Army,” which was infiltrated by the police. The trial conclusively established the younger Slaughter’s association with fascists and his participation in violent assaults. Slaughter himself led an attack on black youth in Balham.

Slaughter’s codefendants included David Brown, a former soldier in the Paratroopers, described by the antifascist journal Searchlight as a “Leading Leeds National Front supporter” and a “self-proclaimed racist and Nazi NF follower” who “targeted black people for many of his violent forays.”

No attempt was made by Patrick Slaughter to disassociate himself from the other defendants. Moreover, he conducted no independent defense and refused to take the stand.

The WRP did not launch a public political campaign in defense of Patrick Slaughter. It barely reported his arrest and trial in the WRP’s newspaper. In fact, the WRP explicitly denied that Patrick Slaughter’s arrest was a state attack on its organization. The WRP never officially called for Slaughter’s release or acquittal and never produced a single document exposing the trial as a fraud.

The WRP and Cliff Slaughter have written on the case only for the purpose of fomenting provocations against the ICP and the International Committee of the Fourth International.

It is a fact that the International Committee did not even comment on the case of Patrick Slaughter until it had been the subject of a vitriolic denunciation for which the case was used as a pretext. For its part, the International Committee had no interest in making political capital out of the predicament of Slaughter’s son. Indeed, had the WRP responded to the arrest and trial of Patrick Slaughter with a principled political campaign that demonstrated that the latter had no links whatsoever with Brown and the other fascist defendants, the ICP and ICFI would have readily and unequivocally defended Cliff Slaughter’s son, regardless of all political differences with the Workers Revolutionary Party.

However, in the July 9, 1988, issue of Workers Press, Slaughter published a statement denouncing the ICP as “a despicable little group of provocateurs” who were “slandering Patrick Slaughter as a racist and a fascist.” At that point the ICFI was obliged to respond to this filthy attack, although it was already clear to us that Slaughter was seeking to utilize his son’s case as a political provocation and diversion.

A further statement was published by Slaughter in a Workers Press supplement of October 29, 1988, which called on “all organizations in the workers movement ... to declare that the North group (David North, national secretary of the US Workers League) is excluded from the workers movement.” (Significantly, this letter was dated June 11, 1988—more than two months before any public statement on the case of Patrick Slaughter had been issued by the ICFI.)

This campaign to bar the ICP and ICFI from meetings in England has been accompanied by recurrent physical attacks on ICP members by Slaughter himself, acting as a “wounded father” who is not in control of his actions. Prior to the events in Barnsley, the most serious of these took place in July 1989, when Slaughter punched and kicked an ICP member outside Leeds Trades Club.

No politically serious person will accept that Slaughter’s behavior is the violent outburst of a grieving father. Even if it were true that his son had been the victim of a frame-up and the unprincipled vilification of unscrupulous opponents, an experienced political leader would not permit himself to reply at the level of physical blows and swear words. Rather, he would, in the traditions of the socialist movement, expose the frame-up and the vilifiers with facts.

Slaughter’s actions, however, are those of a provocateur. He is cynically exploiting the case of his son as a pretext for staging provocations that are aimed at (1) diverting attention from the political contradictions and crises that confront his own organization and (2) setting the stage for attacks on the ICP and ICFI.

It is not hard to imagine what use Slaughter would have made of the incident at Barnsley had Comrade Marsden replied to the attack by striking a blow in return.

It is hardly a secret to anyone who carefully follows the affairs of the WRP that Slaughter’s organization is presently in an increasingly desperate political crisis. Nearly eight years after Slaughter, in alliance with right-wing Pabloites and Stalinists, carried out an unprincipled split from the International Committee, the WRP and its bogus “international” front, the “Workers International for the Fourth International,” are torn by bitter political disputes.

The entire history of the WRP since the crisis of 1985-1986 has been one of debilitating and politically unclarified splits. One after another, virtually all those with whom Slaughter collaborated in his unprincipled fight against the International Committee—Mike Banda, David Good, David Bruce, Chris Bailey, Gerry Downing, Cyril Smith and Bill Hunter—have deserted the WRP. Having worked with Slaughter in his effort to destroy the International Committee, they soon left him to join either the Stalinists, various Pabloite and reformist groupings or to retire from politics.

Slaughter’s efforts to create an “international” centrist formation—in order to obstruct the turn of revolutionary socialists to the International Committee—has been crippled by his inability to explain his own role in the degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party between 1973 and 1985 or to give an accounting of the crucial events of 1985-1986.

The incident at Barnsley is a calculated and provocative political stunt staged by Slaughter to divert attention from political issues that he cannot and will not deal with in a principled manner.

The Workers Revolutionary Party has a clear responsibility to put a stop to Slaughter’s provocations.