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

Opposition Inside the International Committee

During 1981 and 1982 Healy began to commit his dialectical ruminations to paper, thus, for the first time, give the cadre within Britain and internationally an opportunity to subject his ideas to a more careful and systematic examination. The culmination of his theoretical labors were a series of articles written on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of Trotsky’s death entitled, “Studies in Dialectical Materialism.”

In October 1982 David North, the national secretary of the Workers League informed Healy and the WRP Political Committee that he had serious differences with the philosophical method that constituted the basis of Healy’s “cadre-training” and the political work of the WRP and International Committee. (While not a member of the International Committee due to reactionary American laws, the Workers League had participated in its work as an observer.) For years Healy had claimed that his work on what he called “the practice of cognition” represented a crucial development of materialist dialectics and justified this by citing Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks and Trotsky’s In Defense of Marxism.

North, having submitted Healy’s writings to a careful analysis, had come to the conclusion that they represented a complete departure from Marxism. Moreover, the discovery that Healy had plagiarized large portions of his articles from little-known Soviet sources placed the political legitimacy of his work in serious question. North made the following key points:

“Cde. Healy’s ‘Studies in Dialectical Materialism’ suffer from one decisive defect: they essentially ignore the achievements of both Marx and Lenin in the materialist reworking of the Hegelian dialectic. Thus, Hegel is approached uncritically, essentially in the manner of the Left Hegelians against whom Marx struggled.

“In approaching Hegel in this manner, the distinction between materialism and idealism is not only effaced; Comrade Healy explicitly passes over to idealism in expounding Hegel as a Left Hegelian...

“Cde. Healy does not take into account the oft-repeated warnings of both Marx and Engels that the Hegelian dialectic was unusable in the form it was left behind. Thus Cde. Healy seeks to explain the process of cognition directly from Hegelian logic. This is a false approach. The process of thought cannot be explained from the Logic any more than the nature of the state could be explained from the Logic...

“The chief defect of Cde. Healy’s articles—ignoring the achievements of Marx and Lenin—is glaringly apparent in his virtual indifference toward historical materialism. Cognition is treated as a movement of thought concepts outside the law-governed, historically-developing social practice of man.” (A Contribution to the Critique of G. Healy’s ‘Studies in Dialectical Materialism’, pp. 13-15)

North related his political criticisms to the political line of the Workers Revolutionary and the International Committee:

“For several years (in my opinion, this began in 1976 and only began to predominate in 1978), in the name of the struggle for dialectical materialism and against pragmatism, the International Committee has drifted steadily away from the struggle for Trotskyism.

“An increasingly one-sided and narrow concentration on the ‘process and practice of cognition’—almost entirely divorced from a concrete study of the objective situation—has led, as is expressed in ‘Studies,’ to a blatantly idealist vulgarization of dialectics, a caricature of Lenin’s work on Hegel’s Science of Logic, that reproduces the very forms of mystification that Marx criticized in his writings against the Left Hegelians 140 years ago (and which Engels exposed in his polemic against D�hring in the 1870s)...

“A vulgarization of Marxism, palmed off as the ‘struggle for dialectics,’ has been accompanied by an unmistakable oppportunist drift within the International Committee, especially in the WRP.

“The work of the IC in the Middle East, which has never been guided by a clear perspective of building the International Committee in that area of the world, has now degenerated into a series of pragmatic adaptations to shifts in the political winds. Marxist defense of national liberation movements and the struggle against imperialism has been interpreted in an opportunist fashion of uncritical support of various bourgeois nationalist regimes. The outcome of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon has starkly revealed the bankruptcy of this approach. At the present time, the IC has been unable to make an assessment of the situation in the Middle East. The WRP has yet to take a clear position on the present diplomatic maneuvering of the Reagan administration.” (Ibid., pp. 35-36)

After referring critically to the WRP’s line on Zimbabwe, Iran, Libya and the Malvinas War, the notes concluded:

“This does not mean that our work has been all wrong and that no achievements have been been registered. That is, of course, not the case. But the rapid development of the world crisis, the desperate crisis of Stalinism, and the radicalization of the masses in all the major capitalist countries present an opportunity for Trotskyism. However, we would be committing the greatest political error if, at this very moment, we pulled in our Trotskyist horns.” (Ibid., p. 38)

On October 22, 1982, North first informed Healy of his differences with Studies in Dialectical Materialism. The next day, following a meeting with the WRP Political Committee, he provided Banda, at the request of the WRP General Secretary, with a copy of his notes on Healy’s writings on philosophy. After studying these notes Banda informed North that he fully agreed with the criticisms, acknowledged that Healy’s subjective method was bound up with a degeneration in all areas of the political work of the WRP, and that it would be necessary to fight for a full discussion within the party on the issues raised by the notes. A discussion was then held with Cliff Slaughter, the secretary of the ICFI, who stated that he believed North’s criticisms of Healy’s writings to be correct and that he would support the opening of a full discussion, although he would have to give further consideration to the form of his own intervention. After Banda informed Healy that he agreed with North’s criticisms, Healy bitterly attacked North for having “interfered” with “his” cadre inside the WRP.

North returned to the United States on October 25, 1982, expecting that a proper discussion would be organized within the Workers Revolutionary Party and the International Committee of the Fourth International. On that very day—as the International Control Commission later established—Banda received a letter from a member of the WRP Central Committee, Brendan Martin, raising criticisms of the party’s failure to make a principled correction of its errors on the Malvinas War as well as its adaptation to bourgeois nationalism in the Middle East. He asked that these matters be discussed in a principled manner in the Party.

During the following week Healy persuaded Banda to drop his support for North and preserve the unity of the clique on the Political Committee of the WRP. As is shown by Healy’s private notes—discovered later by the International Control Commission—he moved simultaneously to have Martin expelled from the WRP and to isolate North from the WRP leadership. One of Healy’s private notes, dated October 28, 1982, read: “D. North seeks to take advantage of theoretical indecision and backwardness in the approach which he makes to comrades.”

Healy then contacted Slaughter and such resident academicians as G. Pilling and obtained their agreement to attack North’s criticisms at the next meeting of the International Committee. While this was being arranged, Healy and Banda organized the factional assault on Brendan Martin, who was expelled from the Party in the middle of November.

When North returned to Britain on December 18, 1982, Banda informed him that he had studied the notes more carefully, was now in complete opposition to their criticisms, and that he now believed that Healy’s Studies were an invaluable contribution to Marxist literature. He warned North that if he persisted in these criticisms, this would quickly lead to a complete rupture of political and organizational relations with the Workers League. During meetings of the WRP Political Committee which spanned over the next two days—at which V. Redgrave became hysterical and denounced North as a “political gangster”—Slaughter and Pilling took the lead in defending Healy’s Studies, without replying to a single specific point raised in North’s notes. They defended Healy by asserting that any criticism of Studies must be an attack on dialectics and Hegel; and that any criticism of Healy by an American must be pragmatic. Healy did not attend these meetings to defend his writings in person.

The political atmosphere at these meeting was not one in which an objective discussion could be conducted. North agreed to withdraw his notes—which, at any rate, had not been prepared initially as a document—and consider the points which had been made by Slaughter, Pilling and Banda.

This was the first attempt by the International Committee to intervene in the political crisis within the WRP. For historical reasons relating to the whole development of the Fourth International, the British section exercised immense and overriding authority within the International Committee. All the other sections, consisting of young leaderships, had been actually created in the process of the struggle led by Healy, Banda and Slaughter against the degeneration of the Socialist Workers Party of the United States, the betrayal of the LSSP in Sri Lanka and the capitulation of the French Organisation Comuniste Internationaliste to opportunism. There existed no other leadership which had such an awesome political record of unbroken political struggle against Stalinism, Social Democracy and centrism. Moreover, there existed an immense disparity between the organizational strength of the WRP and the other sections of the ICFI. From the mid-1970s on, the WRP consciously used its organizational strength as a club against the ICFI. Furthermore, it concealed the mercenary character of its work in the Middle East while systematically falsifying the reports which it gave to the ICFI on the political development of the British section.

Slaughter functioned within the leadership of the ICFI as a factional representative of the WRP, looking after the political and financial interests of the British section. We shall return to this question later. (A full account of the struggle between the Workers League and the WRP, up to the February 1984 meeting of the International Committee, has already been given in the December 11, 1985 letter of the WL Political Committee to the Central Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party.) However, it must be stressed that the WRP leadership was not prepared to accept any form of political control by the International Committee. The myth of Healy’s political infallibility was upheld by Slaughter and Banda to preserve the unchallengeable sovereignty of the WRP inside the ICFI. In other words, the personal infallibility of Healy was preserved to uphold the collective infallibility of the British section.

It was to take more time until the ICFI sections had attained sufficient maturity and experience to assert its authority over the WRP. But although the struggle could not yet be carried to a conclusion, 1982 was the beginning of a Trotskyist rebellion within the ICFI against the political degeneration of the WRP and its misuse of its authority.

From that point on, the WRP leadership knew that it could not carry through its betrayal of Trotskyism without first smashing the International Committee. Thus, to prepare this destructive work, it postponed the 10th Congress of the ICFI until 1985—some four years after the 9th Congress.