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

An Open Letter to the Workers Revolutionary Party from Peter Schwarz

Essen, Germany

May 10, 1993

To the Central Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party


The International Committee of the Fourth International protests the unprovoked physical attack by your political secretary, Cliff Slaughter, on Chris Marsden, the editor of the International Worker. While selling the International Worker at a miners demonstration in Barnsley on April 2, Marsden was approached from behind and, without any warning, punched in the face by Slaughter. A few minutes later, another ICP member, Robert Skelton, was also physically attacked by Slaughter. A full report of these events is contained in the Political Committee statement of the International Communist Party, published in the April 17 issue of the International Worker and the press of all the sections of the ICFI.

As you know very well, physical attacks on political opponents are entirely incompatible with the most elementary democratic principles of the workers movement and open it up to enormous dangers. It is your responsibility to call Slaughter to order and discipline him. If you refuse to do so, you share full responsibility for his provocative behavior and will be held publicly accountable for it.

The events of April 2 were only the culmination of a series of physical provocations against members of our British section. One of the most serious took place in July 1989, when Cliff Slaughter punched and kicked an ICP member outside the Leeds Trades Club. Then, and in all other cases, Slaughter justified his actions with the claim that his son Patrick had been vilified by the ICP and the ICFI.

We should not have to remind you that neither the ICP nor the ICFI can be blamed for the arrest and conviction of Patrick Slaughter on charges related to his association with fascist thugs who attacked black youth outside football matches. Indeed, you all know very well that Slaughter has cynically exploited the legal problems of his son as a pretext to denounce us. This is proven by the fact that you yourselves, i.e., the Central Committee of the WRP, never felt obliged to launch a public campaign or issue a statement in defense of Patrick Slaughter. You never attempted to factually disprove the charges that formed the basis for his conviction. When well-known antifascist journals and bourgeois papers like Searchlight, Leeds Other Paper and the Yorkshire Post described Patrick Slaughter’s activities in right-wing circles in detail, the WRP, including, Cliff Slaughter, remained silent. Whenever you raised his case in public, it was exclusively to attack the ICP and the ICFI. Is it necessary to point out once again that Slaughter’s first provocative denunciation of the ICP and ICFI vis-a-vis the Patrick Slaughter case, took place even before we had written a single word on the subject?

All this demonstrates that Cliff Slaughter’s violent outbursts, including the latest, are not motivated by the case of his son Patrick. Rather, his provocations are timed to serve factional needs related to problems arising from his unprincipled politics. When faced with a crisis within the ranks of his own organization, he habitually resorts to provocations in order to prevent the necessary political clarification. In 1985-1986 we witnessed Slaughter’s unsavory modus operandi over and over again.

In October 1985 he accused the supporters of the minority faction led by Torrance and the Redgraves of being “near-fascists,” in order to poison the atmosphere and prevent any discussion of the political reasons for the crisis in the WRP. This was after the Political Committee, with Slaughter’s full collaboration, had for three months suppressed an investigation into the abuses of political authority by Healy, which then served as justification for an immediate split.

Once Slaughter realized that the ICFI would not let him escape a discussion on the political reasons underlying the degeneration of the WRP, including his own role in it, he initiated a campaign of provocations and slanders against the International Committee and its sections. In December 1985, just before the meeting at which the ICFI was scheduled to review documents related to the WRP’s corrupt relations with bourgeois regimes in the Middle East, Slaughter, in a brazen attempt to disrupt the proceedings, made a fool of himself by threatening to punch David North. A few weeks later, he authorized physical attacks on leading supporters of the pro-ICFI minority inside the WRP led by Dave Hyland.

Slaughter’s provocations culminated in the infamous issue of Workers Press of February 7, 1986. Only twenty-four hours before the scheduled start of the Eighth Congress of the WRP, the Workers Press published a front-page statement denouncing leading representatives of the International Committee and its supporters inside the WRP. You all know what happened next. In an action without precedent in the history of the Trotskyist movement, Slaughter summoned the police to bar representatives of the ICFI minority from attending the congress of the party of which they were then members.

Slaughter needed these provocations because that was the only way he could retain control over the WRP. Had a real discussion been permitted inside the WRP during the winter of 1985-1986, Slaughter’s fraudulent majority would have fallen apart at the congress. After all, what did it consist of? Stalinists like Dave Good, pro-Stalinist bourgeois nationalists like Mike Banda, open Pabloites like Cyril Smith, and an inchoate assortment of petty-bourgeois radicals like Dave Bruce, Charley Brandt, Chris Bailey and Gerry Downing. All these individuals, to name just a few, were to leave the WRP within a few months of the split with the ICFI. David Good actually joined (or would “rejoined” be more appropriate?) the Communist Party. Mike Banda, on his way out of the WRP, proclaimed that Stalin was the greatest Marxist of the twentieth century!

We have had enough experience to know that Slaughter’s latest outburst against the ICP, however irrational it may have seemed to those who witnessed it at Barnsley, must be connected to a deepening political crisis inside the WRP and its “Workers International.” In all likelihood, some sort of factional struggle is raging inside the WRP, and the Barnsley incident was deliberately staged by Slaughter to help create the type of unhealthy environment which he needs to settle his accounts with opponents.

You are in the best position to judge the reasons for Slaughter’s actions. But whatever they are, it is your responsibility to call Slaughter to order and place him under control. Indeed, an organization which permits such an individual to remain in its ranks, let alone be its leader, is allowing itself to be used for policies that are deeply reactionary.

I await your response.

Yours fraternally,

Peter Schwarz

Secretary of the ICFI