Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

Healy Joins the Struggle Against Pablo

91. Neither Cannon nor Healy initially appreciated the extent of Pablo’s theoretical revisions. But the full implications of his line became clear as he tried to force the sections of the Fourth International to dissolve themselves into whatever tendency dominated the working class in a given country. In Britain, Pablo’s supporters, led by Socialist Outlook editorJohn Lawrence, sought to subject Healy to a Stalinist-style “gagging order” to prevent him raising his opposition to their trajectory. In response to these efforts at censorship, Cannon wrote to Healy:

“You are at a decisive turning point in your whole lifetime activity as a revolutionary right now. All the fruits of all your previous work and struggle to consolidate a principled cadre are threatened by this disloyal attempt to intimidate you by pointing the pistol of an opposition faction at your head...

“It is particularly necessary now for the members of your movement, the newly recruited ones as well as those who come from the past, to recognize that the organization through which they did this work did not fall from the sky. The conditions for all their constructive work in recent times, in an atmosphere of internal unity and harmony, were prepared by your long-drawn-out, exhausting and at times discouraging, factional struggle against the Hastons and others who were not much better than the Hastons. You have a fight on your hands now again. And you will not have internal peace and the possibility to develop another long period of constructive work, unhindered by factionalism, until you have settled accounts with this new faction which has risen up to challenge you.”[1]

92. Healy played an invaluable role in supporting the struggle of the SWP against Pablo and Mandel, while working patiently in the face of constant provocations by their supporters in Britain. An important ally in Healy’s fight was Michael Van Der Poorten (Mike Banda), then a 20-year old member of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, who arrived in Britain from Ceylon in 1950. The lessons learnt by Healy from his earlier struggles were brought to bear in the fight against the Pablo faction. His correspondence with Cannon manifested great sensitivity to the political complexities of assembling and educating a revolutionary cadre, a clear rejection of Pablo’s line and a concern for its disorienting impact on the ranks of the Fourth International. In a letter to Cannon on July 21, 1953 Healy wrote:

“Experience has taught us that the construction of a cadre takes time and many experiences. In spite of the inflammable international situation you cannot short-cut cadre building. In fact, the two things are dialectically related. The more explosive the situation, the more experienced a cadre must be in order to deal with it. The long time taken in developing a cadre then begins to pay off big dividends. What appears previously to be a long difficult process now changes into its opposite.”

In another letter to Cannon on September 7, 1953 Healy described how a meeting with Pablo had convinced him:

“we are engaged in the greatest struggle in the whole history of our movement to defend our basic principles. Pablo attacked your conception of our international with great bitterness. This man proceeds with all the old cominternist vices. His methods sickened me to the point that it almost made me physically unwell. Many things flashed before my mind whilst we talked. They hate the old cadres of our movement. They want an international of spineless creatures who will accept revisionism to the point where they become the left cover for Stalinism. These are hard words, but if you went through what I did, you would, I know, agree.”[2]

93. On September 19, the National Committee of the British section voted 11 to 6 to oppose Pablo’s line. Healy issued an internal document, The Struggle Against Revisionism, in which he declared:

“What is at stake is nothing less than the fate of Trotskyism, that is, of the Marxism, the revolutionary socialism of our time… Is the theory that has guided our movement for more than a quarter of a century now outlived, dated, and obsolete? Have the new facts, the ‘new realities’ of the recent period basically changed such concepts as we have held up to now of the Soviet bureaucracy, of Stalinism, of their relationship to the big contending classes in present-day society? And, if they have, must we not also change our own function, our role, as we have conceived it up to now—as a Fourth International, as the nucleus of an indispensable revolutionary party still to be built to carry the proletarian revolution to its ultimate victory over capitalism? … The only logical, consistent conclusion that can follow from this revisionism is the liquidation of the Fourth International as we have conceived it up to now.”[3]

94. The Pabloites, he continued, claim:

“Because of some real or alleged new facts about Stalinism, we must forget all about the past, about the whole evolution of this social phenomenon—as though what has been involved in Stalinism is some accidental aberration of individuals who are now in the process of self-reform! There have been many such attempts in the Marxist movement—with regard to the nature of capitalism and the capitalist class—from [German Social Democrat Eduard] Bernstein down to [Labour politician John] Strachey. In fact, the official ideology of the labour movement in this country is that the capitalist class has more or less reformed and accepted the need of a Welfare State just as the Labour leaders have accepted the need for a ‘mixed’ economy with capitalists in it.”[4]


Trotskyism versus Revisionism (1974) New Park Publications, Volume 1, pp. 259-260.


ibid. pp. 267-268.


Gerry Healy, cited in What Next? The Struggle Against Revisionism, http:///www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/healy/1953.html.