Two interconnected political facts dominated the 10th Congress of the International Committee of the Fourth International, held in January 1985, though neither of them were discussed. The first was the devastating political crisis within the Workers Revolutionary Party. The second was the suppression of the political differences which had arisen within the International Committee during the previous three years.
The political degeneration of the WRP was at the heart of the crisis inside the International Committee. Not only had the British section abandoned its responsibility to provide theoretical, political and organizational leadership to the world movement; it was now the main source of revisionist politics and disorientation within the ICFI. Its work inside the International Committee had assumed the character of a world-wide wrecking operation. For Healy the International Committee now existed only as a source of financial income and political prestige. Outside of these pragmatic considerations, he was opposed to its continued existence. As far as Slaughter was concerned, the IC was nothing more than an occasional diversion and a useful travel office for his summer vacations.
Neither Healy, Banda nor Slaughter—the main British delegates to the 10th Congress—had any up-to-date detailed knowledge of the international workers’ movement nor the day-to-day political life of any IC section outside Britain. None of them systematically followed the press of the IC sections or read their documents. In the course of the 10th Congress, it emerged that a major document produced by Canadian comrades had rested on Banda’s desk for more than one year without being read. Correspondence from IC sections and sympathizers in other countries generally went unanswered. Healy, who had maintained an extensive correspondence with the Workers League between 1966 and 1974, wrote just two brief letters to David North during the following decade. On the other hand, Healy wrote regularly to various bourgeois nationalist leaders in the Middle East.
From 1975 the WRP leaders reduced their visits to the international sections to a bare minimum. Prior to the split with Wohlforth inside the Workers League, Healy had made regular visits to Canada in order to maintain contact with the leading members of the American organization. But after 1974 Healy never again visited the North American continent to meet with the Workers League Central Committee. On one occasion, in 1979, he flew to Alaska to visit Vanessa Redgrave on location during the filming of a pot-boiler called “Bear Island.” A meeting with the Workers League had been scheduled to take place in Toronto during Healy’s return to London. Deposits were put down by the Americans after suitable accommodations had been found. At the last minute, without any explanation, Healy cancelled the stopover and flew directly back to London.
Relations with the other sections were no better, and, in some cases, even worse. The Bund Sozialistische Arbeiter (BSA), the German section of the International Committee, was not visited by Slaughter after 1975. Its leaders were not given the opportunity to conduct systematic political work within Germany; instead, they were used, year after year, to organize lengthy marches throughout Europe, which inevitably ended with rallies in London that served the immediate political needs of the WRP. The British section looted their reserves to the tune of tens of thousands of marks. In 1980 Healy turned up in Munich for a printing exposition and forced the young German comrades to commit their section to the purchase of a web-offset press costing several hundred thousand pounds. To meet their obligation, they were forced to organize massive loans that crippled the organization. In the end they were forced to default on the contract. The WRP, however, which negotiated the termination of the contract with the printing company, profited handsomely. As the International Control Commission later learned, Healy lied to the Germans about the sum of the final settlement with the Solna Company and skimmed about 35,000 marks (c. £10,000) off the top.
The Sri Lankan section, one of the oldest in the International Committee, having emerged out of the fight against the historic betrayal of the LSSP, was last visited by a political leader of the British movement in 1972. Later visits were made by Alex Mitchell and Corin Redgrave and their political value to the Sri Lankan Revolutionary Communist League was what might be expected. Correspondence from RCL leaders frequently went unanswered and they were not informed of IC work or even given advance notice of most of its meetings. As far as the WRP was concerned, the limited resources of the Sri Lankan Trotskyists did not justify claims on its time.
The Australian section was visited twice in the space of a decade—not counting the theatrical tour of Vanessa Redgrave in 1982, which proved immensely lucrative for the WRP but came close to bankrupting the Socialist Labour League. Moreover, Redgrave’s tour poisoned the relations of the Australian section with the Arab community, for she was seen by many as an opportunist who used the Palestinian cause as a fund-raising gimmick.
Promising sections in other countries were destroyed. A group of Portuguese members, who had come around the ICFI after the April 1974 Revolution, were lost without any explanation. The Spanish section, which at one point had several dozen active members in the political aftermath of Franco’s death, was, by 1985, reduced to no more than three active members. The Irish group was simply abandoned. No less criminal was the attitude of Healy to the building of a movement in France. A devoted young comrade was instructed to spend all her time in France running a small business, on the grounds that this would create a secure foundation for the establishment of a section. This work was placed under Healy’s personal supervision and could not be broached inside the ICFI.
Young comrades from different sections who showed promise were ordered to London were they were integrated into Healy’s apparatus and kept in the country for years. Even worse, their activity was generally of a technical and apolitical character.’ When they were finally returned to their sections—usually after being denounced by Healy for one or another imaginary offense—these comrades were politically disoriented and most of them soon dropped out of the revolutionary movement.
These horrifying organizational practices were inseparable from the political sabotage carried out by the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership. Functioning as a clique within the IC—they never disagreed amongst themselves during meetings of the International Committee—they were either indifferent to the questions raised by the sections or they willfully intervened in their work to impose disastrously wrong political lines.
The ultra-left line devised by the WRP in 1975 was forced on all the other sections in Europe and Australia where there existed large Social-Democratic parties. The demand for the bringing down of Labor and Social-Democratic governments was transformed into a universal strategy, and this had a catastrophic impact upon the sections involved. The BSA was nearly destroyed by this policy, as the German working class responded with hostility to this ultra-left nonsense. The imposition of the same line produced political disorientation within the Australian SLL.
Special mention must be made of the role played by Banda—the self-proclaimed expert on the Theory of Permanent Revolution—in undermining the work of the comrades in Sri Lanka. In 1972 they were told by Banda that their position in support of the right of the Tamil nation to self-determination was wrong and had to be reversed. By 1977, after the Tamil national liberation movement had attracted mass support and established its legitimacy, the RCL’s previous position was proved correct. Banda then suggested that the Sri Lankan section should change its line. However, when an openly Sinhalese chauvinist tendency emerged within the RCL in opposition to this necessary and belated correction, Banda lined up with the right-wing minority against the RCL leadership. Prior to the 10th Congress of the ICFI, the RCL submitted a lengthy perspectives document for discussion which was based on the Theory of Permanent Revolution. Banda denounced the RCL comrades for having imposed upon his time with a 50-page document—asking them sarcastically if they thought they were preparing a doctoral thesis—and refused to circulate it amongst the international delegates.
After the Seventh Congress in 1977—the last meeting of the ICFI that dealt at all with problems of international perspective—political discussion with the British became virtually impossible. Beginning with the Eighth Congress in 1979, every major gathering of the ICFI was made the occasion for disloyal provocations staged by Healy with the assistance of Banda and Slaughter. These provocations were used to prevent any discussion on the political documents and practical work of the sections, as well as to silence any criticism of the WRP’s work that might be brewing within the ICFI. Petty incidents which were of no political significance were blown up to prove that one section or another was “hostile” to the WRP. Looking back on each of these experiences, it is possible to connect them to a very definite attempt to sabotage political discussion within the ICFI. Healy himself had no interest in political questions outside Britain. Except on rare occasions, when he was fishing for a pretext to launch a factional attack, he did not read the newspapers of any other section.
The attitude of the WRP leadership toward the International Committee was dominated by an almost unbelievable chauvinism that governed every aspect of its dealing with the sections. Exploiting the political authority that was based on their role in the struggle against Pabloism in the 1960’s, they consciously subordinated all the work of the international movement to the immediate practical needs of the British section. Their own participation within the internal life of the ICFI was of a privileged and exceptional character. They prepared no political reports on their own work. The real nature of their relations with the Arab bourgeois was concealed and lied about. When attending sessions of the ICFI, their delegates came and went as they pleased. The only thing they did speak about at length were their astonishing organizational advances—sales of 17,000 News Lines per day; a membership approaching 10,000; and vast resources. The secret of their successes, or so they claimed, was summed up again and again with the phrase, “We know how to build” and this was counterposed to the problems of all the other sections. It took some time, due to the inexperience of the sections, but the ICFI finally learned what Healy had been building—a centrist dungheap!
It must be stated that the political degeneration of the WRP during the 1970’s had created a situation in which the ICFI could not develop politically as a homogeneous organization. None of the sections which were formed after 1973 came into the ICFI on the basis of a genuine agreement on questions of principle. The sections of the ICFI were not functioning on the basis of a common international program. From 1975 on, Healy worked consciously within the ICFI to prevent a genuine international clarification. When differences arose, they were settled bureaucratically. In Greece, the leadership which raised political differences—though incorrect—was expelled on bogus organizational grounds. The leader who replaced D. Toubanis was driven out as well, also without any discussion of his differences on the ICFI. Savas Michael was the unfortunate product of this process, which might be best described as the survival of the unfittest. Later on, as we have already explained, Healy and S. Michael worked out an international line in relation to the Iranian regime that directly contradicted the official programmatic position of the ICFI. The leadership of the Spanish movement, which had been developed during the period of illegality, was also driven out after differences had been blown out of proportion. In this case, the maneuver was related to Healy’s squalid personal affairs.
In the aftermath of the split, Healy and his associate Michael attempted to portray the opposition within the International Committee as an illegal rebellion against the decisions of the 10th Congress—in much the same way as Pablo denounced Cannon’s Open Letter as an attack on the “historic Third Congress.” Michael of the Workers Internationalist League and E. Romero of the Spanish group issued a “joint communique” which justified their refusal to attend a constitutionally-convened meeting of the ICFI by declaring “our loyalty to the Tenth World Congress of the ICFI as the highest body of the ICFI and its policies and resolutions can only be changed by another congress.” They called upon “Comrade Gerry Healy as the historical leader of this movement and as the leader of the Tenth World Congress as well as the most outstanding fighter for its perspectives to call an emergency meeting of the International Committee of the Fourth International and we will not recognize any other factional meeting called fraudulently in the name of the ICFI.”
History can mete out to Healy no punishment more terrible than for him to be remembered as the “most outstanding fighter” for the perspectives of the 10th Congress—which was, without any question, the most wretched document ever produced in the history of the ICFI. It would make the Draft Program of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern look like a masterpiece of Marxist literature.
The pedigree of this document was inauspicious. It was originally drafted by Slaughter for discussion at the February 1984 meeting of the ICFI and it was denounced then by the Workers League. An additional section—which supposedly dealt with the world situation—was tacked on the document in time for the Seventh Congress of the WRP, which passed it before the 10th Congress of the ICFI was convened.
This document was a living monument to the suppression of political discussion within the IC by Healy, Banda and Slaughter. Despite the fact that the last IC congress had been held in February 1981, this document could deal with none of the major developments in the world economic and political situation of the previous four years. All the strategic experiences of the international class struggle and of the ICFI and its sections went unmentioned. Between February 1981 and January 1985, there had been three major wars: the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Malvinas War, and the continuing conflagration between Iran and Iraq. The Indian subcontinent was in turmoil: there had been the assassination of Gandhi and the Punjab crisis, the bloody pogroms in Sri Lanka and the expansion of the Tamil struggle for self-determination, a series of coups in Bangla Desh and the mass demonstrations in Pakistan.
In Africa, there had been a coup in Nigeria, imperialist intervention in Chad, and, above all, the massive growth of the revolutionary movement in South Africa. In Latin America and the Caribbean, there had been the downfall of the Argentine junta, the emergence of civilian rule in Brazil, the growth of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement in Peru, the US invasion of Grenada, and the continuing threats of imperialist aggression in Nicaragua. In Europe, Pasok remained in power in Greece and the Socialist Party won the French election—but elsewhere the tendency toward right-centrist regimes predominated in the Common Market countries.
In Australia and New Zealand, the Labourites were returned to power; and in the Philippines the assassination of Aquino began the death agony of the Marcos regime.
The crisis of Stalinism within the USSR and Eastern Europe reached immense proportions with the suppression of Solidarity and the on-going crisis of leadership inside the Soviet bureaucracy, as the war in Afghanistan dragged on. In China, the post-Maoist leadership continued its right-wing economic policies and signed an agreement pledging to preserve capitalist rule in Hong Kong.
In North America, the conservatives came to power in Canada and Reagan was re-elected to a second term.
And last but not least, there was the British miners strike.
Most of these events were not even mentioned; and those that were, merited, at most, a sentence. There was not a single political development which was concretely analyzed—even in those countries where the ICFI has sections. The section of the document dealing with the objective world situation consisted of just under nine small printed pages—consisting of nothing but generalities, platitudes, banalities, and gross theoretical blunders.
The central thesis of the document was that there existed on the planet a universal and undifferentiated revolutionary situation “marked above all by the fact that the working class and all the oppressed masses have now entered upon a course of struggles against the capitalist state, under conditions where the necessity of revolutionary taking of state power is brought before these masses every day. From the proletariat of the capitalist countries of Europe to the workers in the United States, from the Latin American masses to those of South-East Asia, this common level of revolutionary class struggle is established.” (Resolution on International Perspectives, p. 1)
This “analysis” was established not on the basis of any specific analysis or concrete examination of the class struggle on any continent. Rather, it was supported through further assertions, themselves based on abstract references to “the necessary working out of the objective laws and the accumulated historical contradictions of the world capitalist system.” (Ibid. p. 2)
There was no concrete analysis of the economic crisis, based on a serious examination of world trade, industrial production, employment, the impact of technological developments, etc. Rather, the resolution simply declared that economic contradictions “have now broken through the ‘dam’ of Bretton Woods with irrepressible force, and the dam cannot be reconstructed. That is the key to the international situation and it is the content of the political struggle in every country.” (Ibid. p. 3)