Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism

Perspectives of the Fourth Congress of the WRP (March 1979)

The Fourth Congress of the WRP, which dragged on for nearly two weeks, was held less than a month after the overthrow of the imperialist puppet Bakhtiar and the victory of the Iranian national revolution under the leadership of Khomeini. In a lengthy programmatic resolution written by Michael Banda, the WRP’s fundamental revisions of Marxism and Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution were codified. In light of the critical role which this document played in sanctioning the transformation of the WRP into an agency of bourgeois nationalist regimes, it merits careful analysis.

There were two essential and interconnected aspects of this eclectic document. First, it tailored its analyses to justify the already-established opportunist relations of the WRP with various bourgeois regimes and the PLO. Thus, the necessity for socialist revolution was only recognized in those countries where the WRP had not yet established ties with the bourgeois nationalists, as in Iran (for the time being). Second, it presented for the first time a perspective which virtually obliterated class divisions in the semi-colonial countries and, in turn, elevated the armed struggle to the level of strategy and transformed it into the essential criterion for evaluating the anti-imperialist credentials of various nationalist leaderships. This document clearly establishes Banda’s central role in the political degeneration of the former British section. He had failed to assimilate the critical component of the theory of Permanent Revolution as a strategy of the international proletariat. Instead, he advanced a petty-bourgeois line which was nothing but Pabloism in pseudo-Maoist attire.

In a section of the document dealing with the struggle in Zimbabwe and the attempts by British imperialism to force a negotiated settlement, the document proclaimed that the effect of the world economic crisis “drives the multi-millioned masses of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to armed revolt.” (Perspectives of the Fourth Congress, p. 14)

There would be nothing wrong with this statement if the subsequent exposition correctly identified the antagonistic social forces present among these “multi-millioned masses” and defined the class nature of the political tendencies in the leadership of the “armed revolt.” In fact, the document never referred to the independent class interests and tasks of the proletariat in the struggle to establish its hegemony in the anti-imperialist struggle. Instead, Banda legitimized the subordination of the proletariat and the peasantry to the national bourgeoisie.

Painting the role of Nkomo and Mugabe in bright colors, the document asserted: “The powerful hammer blows of the Patriotic Front guerillas struck against the armed forces of the Smith regime have effectively demolished the conspiracy of Muzorewa, Si thole, and Chirau and given new strength and courage to the Zimbabwean people in their struggle for complete liberation of their country.”

These remarks, which replaced analysis with adjectives and adverbs, served only to disarm members of the WRP and Zimbabwean workers and peasants—as subsequent events were to demonstrate. It exaggerated the political depth of the opposition of Mugabe and Nkomo to Muzorewa, Sithole and Chirau. While this trio functioned as the most craven stooges of imperialism, Mugabe and Nkomo, with whose representatives the WRP was in regular contact, represented a more dominant section of the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie, skillfully manipulating the mass movement to secure a better deal with Britain and the United States.

The crafty and treacherous formula devised by Banda to justify the WRP’s capitulation to the Zimbabwean agents of British imperialism read as follows:

“The Workers Revolutionary Party stands unconditionally on the side of the African working class and peasantry against the ruling regimes and their agents in the national movement. We support the Patriotic Front of Mugabe and Nkomo in so far as the Front continues the armed struggle against Smith and rejects a constitutional compromise. Only the armed overthrow of the capitalist state in South and Central Africa and the establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ government can put an end to apartheid and restore the land to the peasantry and nationalize the mines, estates and factories.” (Ibid., p. 15)

This conception was based on the fraudulent reconcilation of irreconcilable class opposites. In complete violation of all Marxist principles, the WRP program replaced class program with armed struggle as the basis for determining the attitude of the Fourth International toward a bourgeois national leadership. The armed struggle—presented as a political abstraction—served as the bridge for justifying the program of the Popular Front in the underdeveloped countries. Rather than stating clearly that the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie is incapable of securing genuine national independence and that it will prosecute the armed struggle only within the limits of its class interests, the document hitched the fate of the working class to the policies of the bourgeoisie. Banda’s “in so far as” was a hoax which pretended that the armed struggle, under the leadership of Nkomo and Mugabe, flowed automatically into the overthrow of the capitalist state and the realization of socialist policies—without the building of an independent revolutionary leadership of the working class.

The condition placed by Banda, Slaughter and Healy upon the Patriotic Front—that it “rejects a constitutional compromise”—was politically worthless and amounted to placing confidence in the African bourgeoisie. It represented a denial of the responsibility of the Trotskyist movement to fight for the political organization of the working class independently of the native bourgeoisie and prior to the latter’s inevitable betrayal of the anti-imperialist struggle.

Moreover, it was a political farce to suggest that a workers’ and peasants’ government could be established under the aegis of the Patriotic Front, regardless of the duration of the armed struggle. This reference to a workers’ and peasants’ government—realized through an armed struggle led by the national bourgeoisie enjoying the uncritical support of the WRP—constituted a Pabloite deception of the working class, which assisted in the disorientation of the Zimbabwean masses and left them unprepared for the treachery of the Patriotic Front leaders.

These fundamental revisions of Trotskyism were based politically on Banda’s petty-bourgeois conception of “armed struggle” as the supra-class strategy of anti-imperialist struggle, rather than a tactic which is employed by definite social forces in pursuit of their class interests. This position repudiated all the lessons of Trotsky’s struggle against the Comintern’s 1927 betrayal in China. In opposition to all Stalin’s support to the bourgeois Chiang Kai-shek “in so far as the bourgeoisie does not obstruct the revolutionary organization of the workers’ and peasants’ and wages a genuine struggle against imperialism,” Trotsky wrote:

“The sole condition for every agreement with the bourgeoisie, for each separate, practical, and expedient agreement adapted to each given case, consists in not allowing either the organizations or the banners to become mixed directly or indirectly for a single day or a single hour; it consists in distinguishing between the Red and the Blue, and in not believing for an instant in the capacity or readiness of the bourgeoisie either to lead a genuine struggle against imperialism or not to obstruct the workers and peasants. For practical and expedient agreements we have absolutely no use for such a condition as the one cited above. On the contrary, it could only cause us harm running counter to the general line of our struggle against capitalism, which is not suspended even during the brief period of an ‘agreement’.” (The Third International After Lenin, New Park, pp. 127-28)

The treachery of Banda’s formula and the Menshevik-Pabloite character of his policy was to be graphically exposed within less than a year when the WRP abandoned its one condition—that the Patriotic Front reject a constitutional compromise—in order to preserve its cowardly alliance with the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie.