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

How Healy Courted the Ba’athists

Healy, Banda and Slaughter share political responsibility for the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of workers, peasants and youth who have been slaughtered as a consequence of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran and the reactionary perpetuation of the war by the bourgeois Islamic Republic long after the defense of its territory had been secured.

As we have already documented, the WRP provided unprincipled support for the right-wing Iraqi Ba’athists to the extent of endorsing their murder of members of the Communist Party in the winter of 1978-79. The ties between Healy and the Iraqi Ba’athists became even closer after Saddam Hussein overthrew and murdered long-time President Al-Bakr in July 1979 and carried out a ruthless purge of all his potential opponents in the leadership of the Ba’ath party. Among those killed was Talib Suwailh, an executive member of the Central Bureau of the Trade Union Federation of Iraq, who only a few weeks before his execution on trumped-up charges had shared the platform with Healy at the July 1, 1979 Conference of the All Trades Unions Alliance (the trade union arm of the WRP) and personally brought greetings to its delegates. The ensuing blood purge was barely noted by the News Line and Suwailh’s death was neither reported nor protested by the Healy leadership.

Instead, after the executioners had completed their bloody work, the News Line of August 10, 1979 provided enthusiastic coverage for a march by Saddam Hussein’s thugs through the streets of Baghdad, gloating over the deaths of their opponents. This issue endorsed the executions, accepting Hussein’s claim that the 55 condemned men were “traitors” and publicizing his phony assurances that his dictatorship “shall fight oppression everywhere, support right everywhere, support the poor everywhere [and] fight exploitation everywhere.”

It was apparent that the political upheaval within the Ba’ath party was part of a reaction within the Iraqi bourgeoisie against the Iranian Revolution, and that Hussein’s coup marked a shift toward closer relations with US imperialism as well as preparation for military conflict with Iran. The Healy leadership, however, refused to make any serious analysis of what was taking place in Iraq. Instead, it escalated its obscene adulation of Hussein’s Bonapartist dictatorship.

During the coming months there were countless articles which amounted to nothing more than public relations jobs in behalf of the Iraqi regime. The political content of the line expressed in these articles was complete capitulation to the Iraqi bourgeoisie. Within Britain, the net effect of such articles could only be the deadening of the political consciousness of Party members and the advanced workers, insidiously conditioning them for future political capitulations within their own country. The incessant glorification of popular frontism in the Middle East could only serve to blur the class lines on an international scale—facilitating the unprincipled relations which Healy was already developing with trade union bureaucrats and Labour Party centrists in Britain.

A wholesale miseducation of the Party workers and youth and disorientation of the International Committee, within which the WRP exercised inordinate influence, was in progress. The theoretical capital of the Trotskyist movement, built up over six decades of struggle against Stalinism and revisionism, was being systematically looted by Healy and his henchmen in the WRP Political Committee and on the News Line editorial board.

In an article dated June 25, 1980, entitled “Iraq Goes to the Polls” and written by Healy’s bag-man in Baghdad, Alex Mitchell heaped praise on a fraudulent plebiscite staged by Hussein to bolster his blood-stained regime. By no stretch of the imagination could Mitchell’s article be described as a politically-literate, let alone Marxist, analysis. This was not because Mitchell was a stupid man. Rather, he was carrying out a deliberate policy, worked out by Healy and Banda on the basis of the Fourth Congress Resolution, which had sanctified bourgeois leadership over the national and anti-imperialist movement.

Applied to Iraq, this meant political boot-licking in support of the Bonapartist state. Joking over the political impotence of the national assembly—that is, the absence of any credible form of democratic rights for the working class—Mitchell approvingly quoted one Ba’athist official, “We don’t want a debating society.”

Accepting the reactionary premise that Ba’athism is the leader of the whole Iraqi nation, Mitchell observed: “The most striking thing about the people gathered at the polling booths was the sheer range of class layers that they represented.”

Nearly half the article was devoted to ridiculing a communist journalist from India who suggested that the Ba’athists had employed coercion to produce a big electoral endorsement of the regime. He sarcastically objected to the behavior of Indian and Sri Lankan journalists who “had thrown themselves into a fearsome interrogation of the election officials...Harried officials spent more than 90 minutes giving detailed replies to every question, but still the super-democrats and ballot-box wallahs were not convinced.” These lines reveal Mitchell’s real contempt for the democratic rights of the working class and the oppressed poor.