The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

Letter from Cliff Slaughter to David North

November 26, 1985

Dear Comrade Dave,

As you know, the WRP Central Committee called a Special Congress on October 26th and 27th to discuss the situation surrounding the expulsion of G. Healy on October 19th 1985. This Congress was continued on November 2nd and again on November 9th. The discussion was not completed. Party tasks require that some time be left to comrades for their carrying out. The internal bulletin will be used to continue the discussion; and there will of course be the period required by the WRP Constitution for discussion preceding the 8th National Congress called for the weekend of February 9th, 1986. The contents of this letter (following our telephone conversation of some days ago) are based on notes I had prepared for the last session of the Special Conference, and I am submitting a copy of this letter for the written discussion, as well as for international discussion. I enclose also the transcript of my remarks at the London WRP Aggregate meeting of October 18th. In those remarks I used the term “near-fascist ideology” to characterize the conduct (not just the ideas) of the then minority. Since then you and others have made attacks on the use of terms such as this (near-fascist, neo-fascist, etc) saying that they are “leftist” in character, obscuring the real process of degeneration. Those who are saying this, however, choose not to present or analyze what was actually said. You will find, on reading my statement, that I go out of my way to point to parallel processes in the degeneration of the parties of the Comintern, that I cite Trotsky on the nature of these parallels, and that I do not call anyone a fascist. Not only that; I point out that a degeneration of the depth we have experienced must have its roots in the pressure of decaying capitalism, and not in “human nature” or any such thing; and it should not surprise anyone that the results are ideologically similar to the “culture” of fascism, which is itself the ultimate product of capitalism in decay. If you read carefully what I say, you will see that I do not use the word “near-fascist” to avoid or skate over an analysis but to expand it.

I suggest to you that your long speech at the first session of the WRP Special Congress on October 26th requires a very thorough criticism and self-criticism, and that it contains dangers, because it is very one-sided and misleading. It is indeed one-sided and misleading to such an extent that it tends to guide comrades into a much too easy and simple understanding of what is involved in the degeneration of Healy and Healyism and their effects on the WRP and the IC. It gives a picture of a WRP and WRP leadership corrupted to such an extent by Healy that no-one in the WRP could or would raise a criticism of Healy’s anti-Marxist writings and practices, while D. North, on the other hand, had, at least since 1982, taken up arms or correct positions against Healy. If such a false picture is allowed to go unquestioned, we shall never understand and overcome the real process of degeneration of which Healy was the arch-representative. I propose therefore to take up your speech point by point. Before doing so, however, I must mention one or two points about the events preceding the Special Congress and your remarks there.

On returning home from a visit to the Central Committee of the Workers League on October 5th and 6th of this year, I was very glad to bring back with me 50 copies of your notes on Healy’s Studies in Dialectical Materialism, which you published (following agreement with Comrade M. Banda and myself) together with letters from you to M. Banda and C. Slaughter. These materials were, we all agreed, of great value in opening up the necessary discussion in the WRP. What I did not understand was why you chose not to publish the letters to which you were replying. That would have helped clarify even further. I hope that any future publication of your letters will include Banda’s and my own, since our mistakes can then be used for the movement’s education. I must also say that your notes on Healy’s Dialectics appeared without including the full 8 pages of your original notes which were concerned with “Lenin on Dialectics,” written by me in 1962 and about which you wrote in 1982: “a major contribution to the struggle for dialectical materialism within the Trotskyist movement, and it remains, to this day, perhaps the best exposition of the general features of the dialectical method.” For my part, I do not agree with that, but it would have been useful for the comrades who were just given your 1982 thinking on Healy’s booklet to know your thinking on Slaughter.

The second point I want to make before turning to your speech at the Special Congress concerns the few days just preceding that Congress. We must correct the impression that by October 19th or thereabouts you and other IC comrades were for a resolute break with the Healy anti-party group and that the WRP majority leadership was somehow resisting a truly internationalist understanding and treatment of the problem. As you know, as late as October 25th, the very eve of the Healyite rump’s calling of a split conference, supported by the leaders of the Greek and Spanish sections of the IC, you, together with comrades from Sri Lanka and Australia called for an approach which started from the perspective of uniting the Party. I remind you that the ex-minority, although taking full minority rights, had refused to attend the CC of October 19th which heard the charges against Healy and expelled him; and, furthermore, V. Redgrave had begun her recourse to the courts of the bourgeois state and C. Redgrave had attempted to lay claim to the College of Marxist Education. I will only add that when the IC met on October 25th to work for agreement on the IC Resolution eventually carried at the Special Congress, the original draft of this Resolution contained the following clause:

“(4) All actions involving the use of bourgeois state agencies by members of the WRP against other members must be withdrawn immediately. All disputes are internal to the WRP and the ICFI and must remain so.”

(At this time of course there was still one day to go before the open split.)

As you know, WRP delegates on the IC (C. Slaughter, P. Jones, M. Banda) spoke strongly against this clause. Our opinion (developed below) was that resort to the bourgeois state put an unbridgeable gulf between Redgrave & Co. and the WRP. That is a class line, and it is fundamentally wrong to ask that such actions be “withdrawn” and “discussion” for “unity” resumed. This is an extremely important difference,. Internationalism consists precisely of laying down such class lines and fighting them through. My position, as I clearly stated it, was that the IC should declare that such actions, together with those of Healy which brought his expulsion, and also the crimes carried out through collaboration with the Iraqi regime and what lay behind them politically, should be split questions, and that the IC should issue an immediate statement to the WRP Special Conference to that effect, accepting as members of the IC section in Britain only those who also accepted our line on this question. We voted for the IC Resolution because that was all we could get agreement on. I consider the resolution inadequate. The split, is not only over internationalism defined as subordination to the IC, but over the whole programmatic base of Trotskyism and the Marxism of Marx and Lenin which preceded it. At the very center is the theory of permanent revolution and the Transitional Program. Because IC comrades were still toying with the possibility of “the standpoint of the unity of the party” they restricted the conception of internationalism to the formula of subordination to the IC. The importance of this point will, I believe, emerge clearly when we examine your Congress speech and it explains why one WRP comrade could legitimately ask the $64,000 question: “All right, we can’t have unconditional confidence in the WRP leadership; why should we have confidence in the IC?” I answered this question by saying that in declaring subordination to the IC we were not at all saying that the IC was unaffected by Healyism—far from it—but we were affirming a basic general principle. That principle had been broken by us under Healy’s leadership. As I stated clearly and unequivocally to the Workers League CC on October 5th this year, we have to say there is no leading section of the IC, that the WRP has the same obligations to the IC as does every other section, that these sections have no obligations to the WRP but only to the IC, and that the WRP is subject to the authority and criticisms of the IC just like every other section.

Now for the speech you (D. North) made at the WRP Special Congress on October 26th.

You said early in your report: “a split has taken place and this split is decisive because it’s on the most fundamental political question of all: who is for the International Committee of the FI and who’s against it? Now that reply has come very decisively this week.” Now I have already said that I believe this to be too abstract and formal, and the same criticisms apply to the IC Resolution on the split. Without any doubt, the split exists on the IC as well as in the WRP: the Greek and Spanish sections’ leaders, at this point, reject the expulsion of Healy and reject any collaboration with the IC. Their split has a basis in program and principle, on fundamental issues of Marxist politics and theory, and the rejection of the authority of the IC is the surest expression of that. They refuse to reject the gross anti-communist abuses—sexual and physical assault carried out systematically over decades, using Party and IC resources to degrade and destroy the cadres of the WRP and other sections of the IC. These resources were garnered and nourished by the sacrifices of hundreds of Trotskyists. Healy, acting on a theory and an ideology which represents directly the most foul degeneration of the bourgeoisie in the epoch of capitalist decay, set about abusing his authority and power in this movement to do the job for imperialism of breaking up and dispersing the cadres of Trotskyism in the WRP and the rest of the IC. Those who say that these are in any way not political issues are completely wrong. They could not be more political, more basic. The organized and willful corruption of generations of young leaders—this eats away at the most basic historical requirement of all: the gathering and training of all the alternative revolutionary working-class leadership, without which the working class cannot fulfill its revolutionary role, and thus without which there is no proletarian revolution and no socialism. This is not just a matter of two opposite positions in a verbal debate about morals; it is a matter of a fight to put a stop to the actual destruction of the WRP and the IC, and to the destruction of its cadres. This destruction consisted of a rejection of the theory of permanent revolution, rejection at the same time of independent leadership, rejection theoretically and physically of the necessity of the independent development of Marxism for the training of Party cadres. We must oppose all attempts to in any way separate the sexual and physical abuse from something called their politics. These abuses were a political war against Trotskyism. C. Redgrave and all those who argue that the revolutionary goal justifies such practices or makes us neutral in attitude to them, are anti-Marxists. They argue that the end, the aim, socialist revolution, justifies any means, any action carried out along the way. That is exactly what Trotsky denies and attacks in “Their Morals and Ours.” The means we adopt and develop must be such that they really do prepare the working class for having the stature, unity and independence it needs to win power and build socialism. The bullying—sexual, physical, mental—practiced by Healy strengthens and defends and protects the apparatus and the “leader,” but it destroys the revolutionary forces brought from the working class and the intelligentsia to the Party, and it continuously works to destroy the confidence between the revolutionary party and the working class. Who can say that all this in any way is non-political? Such a claim is absurd.

The relations of Healy (and, through him, the WRP) with national-bourgeois regimes were not separated politically, ideologically, or materially, from the vile practices at the center of the WRP up to June 1985. These relations with the rulers of Arab countries cannot be understood solely as concerned with an opportunist search for money at the cost of principles and independence of the revolutionary movement. Both in relation to Arab bourgeois leaders like Saddam Hussein (Iraq) and Gaddafi (Libya), and to the Labour left in the GLC leadership, Healy and the WRP were a long way down a political path which has been well-trodden before: the path of Pablo revisionism. The essence of it is: building of the independent revolutionary party by our small Trotskyist forces has proven too slow and difficult for the real tempo of the revolution, and this revolution may well pass us by. It is further argued that other, non-Marxist, even non-working-class forces can represent these revolutionary currents. The relations of the arch-bureaucrat Healy with these Arab-country bourgeois rulers were entirely opportunist. The real building of the revolutionary parties of the ICFI was abandoned, while Healy bargained for financial resources through relations with these bourgeois rulers. The content of the political degeneration is the same as that of Pabloite revisionism and liquidationism since the Second World War: namely to abandon the permanent revolution and liquidate the essential, central contents of the Transitional Program, the struggle to establish independent revolutionary parties to enable the working class to fulfill its revolutionary role. This content is to be found not in the occasional correct general statements of the WRP and the IC but in the material relations of GH’s clique with the bourgeois-national movements, for which formal affirmations of correct positions provided a cover. (This did not of course prevent the descent into entirely false and open declarations which directly contradict the theory of permanent revolution: welcoming Gaddafi as “developing in the direction of revolutionary socialism” and justifying the butchering of members of the Iraqi Communist Party and Iraqi trade unionists in 1979.)

These developments are characteristic, and instructive, of the way Healy’s practices worked to destroy the movement. Positive and theoretical work done by others (such as C. Slaughter, M. Banda, D. North and many others) became more and more separated from the actual conduct of the work of the IC, the WRP, and the News Line, which was directly governed by G. Healy from his London office and through the Parwich school. It is not just that such theoretical and political writing and speaking gets more and more barren because it is separated from the real working relations of the leadership. It becomes little more than a justification for the real material relations of plunder between Healy’s WRP office and the IC sections and for the capitulation to the national bourgeois rulers and the abandonment of building non-independent revolutionary sections in their countries. While comrades wrote perspective documents and conducted IC Conferences (as in the 10th IC Congress where Slaughter, Banda and North worked without any differences with Healy to lay down the line and work of the Conference) they let Healy’s unchallenged authority the WRP and IC continue to dominate the IC’s practice. There is not the slightest doubt that every one of these leading comrades at more than one point in their political development found themselves faced with criticism and attack for raising criticisms and decided that they would not accept the (at that time) inevitable expulsion and isolation from the movement. The inevitable political compromise which resulted of course deepened the disorientation and degeneration, and it is only by the skin of its teeth that the world movement can now regenerate itself with any contribution from these comrades. This real contradiction, rather than attribution of blame and guilt, is what must be grasped.

It is this real contradiction and its analysis that is missing from your presentation, which left the definite impression of a history of lone protest and declaration of opposition by yourself against the degeneration. That is false, and dangerous. The corruption in relations between comrades, brutally expressed at its sharpest in Healy’s sexual attacks on women cadres, cannot be separated as somehow not political or “less political” than this political and theoretical degeneration under Healy’s leadership of the WRP, which was accepted by the WRP leaders and members, and of the IC sections and sympathizing organizations (like the Workers League, prevented by legal conditions from being affiliated).

The same extreme decadent capitalist ideology which led to cynical sexual abuse of women comrades, and the cynical justification of these practices by Healy’s supporters, was reproduced in the way that the Political Committee of the WRP (on Healy’s motion, and with only M. Banda opposing) supported the execution of Iraqi Stalinists in 1979. As Torrance said of one of the girls: “She was rubbish. She would have gone anyway.” As Healy and his supporters said of the victims of Saddam Hussein, “They were only Stalinists.” The thinking behind this is: our will decides what must be done, and everyone and anyone can be used, are expendable, and can be thrown away when finished with. All this, of course, was done in the name of Trotskyism and in the name of a battle against subjective idealism. It is in part an extreme expression of subjective idealism in its 20th-century degraded form: that of pragmatism and of the “will” (Bergson): the very ideology which inspired Mussolini.

The third fundamental issue involved in the split follows directly from this last point, namely the systematic and long-term revision of Marxist principles in philosophy and scientific world outlook (dialectical and historical materialism) by G. Healy over the last 20 and especially the last 10 years. This version was not “Hegelian” but subjective idealist in character, and it was, I repeat, a subjective idealism of the utterly modern 20th century form, in which arbitrary will and self-justification replaces subjectively interpreted “Reason” of the classical subjective ideology. Healy’s “dialectics” is not a philosophy or a logic at all but only the mystified form of a cover and rationalization of Healy’s corrupt practices and turn away from the working class. The cult of Healy’s advanced and infallible “practice of cognition” was nothing more than a mechanism to justify and enforce the arbitrary control of the WRP and the IC by Healy and his immediate supporters, sealing off Healy from any accountability or criticism and also sealing the WRP off from accountability to the IC. By this mechanism the IC as well as the WRP was simply used and bled white for Healy’s political and personal purposes. The “process of cognition” for Marxists, is not some special equipment of logical categories that the brain learns, enabling a person to then “speedily develop practices.”

Engels says in “Ludwig Feuerbach” that Hegel’s great discovery, taken over and developed by Marx, was that truth lay “in this process of cognition itself,” and he then explains immediately that by the process of cognition is meant the whole history of science, of man’s struggle to master and know nature and history. This is the very opposite of Healy’s individualist “practice of cognition.”

Fourthly, the bullying and brutality of Healy personally was the form through which this class political and theoretical content was most crudely and perfectly expressed. And this form reinforced the content at every point. It was when these forms could no longer contain and repress the problems forced through by developments in the class struggle that the conditions emerged to begin breaking up these forms. And this meant, concretely, breaking Healy’s personal grip. During September and early October this struggle to break the very real domination of the movement by Healy’s brutal practices clarified greatly what had to be done and what it meant: there had to be a break, a split, with this poisonous right wing. The political struggle in the CC and at aggregates, and the resort to bourgeois law by the Redgraves, clarified that, and I am not sure what you meant by saying that the IC needed to “create the conditions in which the whole cadre within the party and internationally could be clarified as to what this struggle is all about.” You should in saying this, actually analyze and learn from the clarification already going on in the WRP before October 25. If this had been done, I believe, you could not have made the mistake approaching the (then) minority and majority in the WRP “from the standpoint of the unity of the Party,” as you put it. And we would have had, then, a split not only on the general principle of subordination to the IC but on all the vital political and ideological questions.

In your remarks at the October 25 Special Congress you welcomed the opportunity to speak directly, for the first time except on public or ceremonial occasions, to the WRP membership. You might have added that it was the first opportunity you had had to listen to the WRP membership. However, you have spoken at meetings, Congresses, and schools, and on those occasions you were not the same David North as you are now. You were on those occasions bound by the as yet unbroken “discipline” of Healy’s domination, and, like the rest of us, on many occasions you worked as the executor of his policies and methods. I am sure you can recall many examples. In this sense we too, like you, can say that for the first time we have the opportunity of speaking directly to the WRP membership and to each other.

You went on to say that with other comrades you decided in 1982 that Healy’s “Studies” was rubbish. You then gained applause by saying that “we asked ourselves how was it possible that such rubbish could be printed and no one in the British section was putting a stop to it.” I must say to you that you know the regime created by Healy, from your own experience, and you know why no one was doing anything about it. The applause you received expressed the entirely justified mistrust of the WRP delegates in the WRP leadership. But it is appropriate to ask, as one comrade did, is not mistrust in the IC equally justified?

You explained, for example, why you withdrew your criticism of Healy’s “Studies” in 1982-83. This was because, considering the experience and authority of the WRP and of Healy, and being reminded of the political consequences of the OCI‘s opposition on similar questions, and fearful of a split and isolation from the movement, you withdrew—as I have said in a document dated October 12, you did so quite rightly.

Similarly in 1984, when you made correct criticisms of the WRP and IC positions on the national question, you found yourself presented with threats and ultimatums and the immediate danger of split. You said yourself that you then withdrew (February 1984) “influenced” by these threats and by the fact that you still were influenced by the fact that you had always seen the US section as loyal to the WRP and the IC. You added that Mike Banda pointed out that if these criticisms were true then you would have to conclude that the WRP had degenerated into a full-blown revisionism, and so you pulled back. And you conclude: “in fact the very way it was posed contributed very strongly to my withdrawing the documents.” (See the speech you made, appended.)

My only point here—a major one, I think—is that this process that you went through has been true of many of us who have worked in the WRP and IC leadership. Opposition on any question brought bitter and ruthless attacks, and if comrades did not at a certain point agree to be wrong, or to put aside their criticisms, they faced only the prospect of isolation, expulsion, as you did. I do not believe that you were any less the victim of this than I, for example, was, and if I had persisted, on earlier occasions, with my criticism on perspectives or on philosophy you could until 1982 have joined in the attack mobilized by Healy.

Because of such considerations we all made extremely serious mistakes in the past, and the mistakes made by Cde. Banda in pulling back in 1982, and by me, at the same time, in not supporting your criticism, with which I agreed to a great extent, were undoubtedly among the most serious. If we do not all learn from these mistakes we cannot play any role in the necessary regeneration of the movement, we cannot learn anything or correct anything. If we paint a picture of one or more comrades having been correct all along the line, even for just the past four years, we tell a lie, and cannot get down to scientific analysis.

Now, I maintain that the one-sidedness and partial, selective nature of the account you gave to our Congress was disturbing and dangerous, and conflicts with the urgent necessity of facing up to and analyzing our responsibilities. You omitted several important political questions which have emerged in the last four years. To analyze these is essential to any clarification of the split. For example, you will recall that the Workers League leadership came to the point of abandoning the long-time perspective of the Fourth International towards a Labour party in the United States. Discussion on the International Committee corrected that. We all know that differences on basic perspective do appear in sections and in the IC itself, and the IC and its sections fight to correct these. But in giving an account of how you challenged Healy’s and the WRP’s positions and failed to get support in the WRP, it is entirely wrong to ignore this question, in which I think you will agree the IC and WRP comrades were right against you and whoever supported your position (which you corrected) in the Workers League. Later, in 1985, you followed with a lapse into an analysis of the trade union bureaucracy in the US which we challenged as being completely non-Marxist in its method and conclusions, and you eventually agreed. Nobody made you write that analysis, and you have presumably made some critical analysis of how you came to proceed in a thoroughly undialectical, completely empiricist and “objectivist” way, in the manner of bourgeois sociology, concluding that the “material base” of the American trade union bureaucracy was its vast empire of wealth, privilege and bureaucratic organization. But you did not incorporate any such invaluable self-criticism in your account of the developments in the IC since 1982. Yet surely there are social forces behind such a prostration before the accomplished fact, just as there are social forces behind Healyism (see the “Political Letter No. 1” issued to Workers League members by yourself on behalf of the Political Committee on July 8 this year).

Finally I must refer to the Workers League Conference of June 30/July 1 this year, which is the subject of your Political Letter to which I have referred. You presented to the Workers League 12th Congress a perspectives document which was nothing short of a total disorientation. When I began to discuss this document with you (you will recall that I had arrived in Detroit on the eve of your Congress, and until then, like the delegates, had not seen the document), I came very soon to the conclusion that the various formulations I found to be wrong or confused were in fact part of a perspective which could only be called Pabloite.

You had reacted to US government and presidential statements and preparations threatening war, and your conclusion was that the perspective for the Workers League was one of preparing a revolutionary defeatist struggle against the US imperialists when they went to war. This is the old Pabloite “war-revolution” thesis of over 30 years ago. You corrected this position even before the Congress began, and you did the right thing in announcing to the delegates that the perspectives were revisionist through and through, representing an abandonment of Trotskyist program and Marxist method. The written report which I submitted to the WRP on return said the same, and it also said that you worked in collaboration with me to turn the Congress round and achieve a strong unity by the end. You will recall that did not in any way use the two day Congress to turn anyone against you or to apportion blame or condemnation, despite the fact that you were personally responsible for this resolution.

I am now convinced, as you are, that such a gross revision of our basic positions resulted from the disorientation created by our own IC 10th Congress’s false perspectives, and we must not in any way hold against you the development of these wrong positions in the Workers League. But all this is directly contradictory to the impression you created at our special congress, ie. that you were working along a correct line against us, It was not like that. Comrades will read your own Political Letter, attached here, on the Workers League Congress which met on the same weekend as Comrade Aileen Jennings’ letter was sent, and ask themselves if it could have been written by the same comrade who addressed them on October 26th. Among the works you recommended for reading by every comrade in July, was, among others, Healy’s “Studies in Dialectical Materialism.” I don’t ask you to explain why—we both know why. When I mentioned to you my opinions about this experience, you answered that at our Special Congress we were not discussing American perspectives. That is not the point. The American perspectives cannot be separated from world perspectives, as I am sure you agree, and the real point here is something else, namely, that what we are discussing is an objective analysis of that past which we have to negate and overcome. It must be objective, not one-sided and subjective, or we shall not avoid similar errors in the future. I am sure you would want to retract your remark that “we were not discussing American perspectives.”

One small part of your speech is representative of the same argument. You said that when you visited Britain in August 1985 you were baffled by G. Healy’s remarks about Comrade A.J.’s possibly having police connections, but that “we didn’t believe that we could raise this with our section on the basis of doubts. We had a crisis which we had to confront, it was our crisis, the crisis of our daily newspaper.” I understand the account of your experience and your thoughts very well, it is very familiar to me; but I fail to see why you can present it, correctly, as a true account of why your suppressed your doubts, while condemning others for having rationalized their hesitations on exactly the same way on earlier occasions. The same kind of thinking and self-imposed censorship in response to the pressure of “crisis” explains many actions by many comrades in the past.

In your speech you laid much emphasis on Comrade M. Banda’s phone call to you on Sept. 3rd, 1985, when he said, “The time has come to renew the alliance.” You used the word “alliance” to draw the conclusion that, “What we were dealing with in Britain was an unprincipled clique leadership that based itself on national considerations, that alliances were picked up and dropped on the basis of what was happening in Britain and that at one point we could be told we had an agreement on political questions (and) at another point we could be told we didn’t. We could be told at one moment we had an agreement and one moment we didn’t and then on the basis of developments within Britain we could (be) suddenly be called and asked to involve ourselves in an international alliance.” You want us to argue that the fundamental issue in this whole experience is the subordination of the WRP to the IC—the opposite of what prevailed under Healy.

Your emphasis on M. Banda’s use of the term “alliance” was linked to your earlier recounting of a conversation with Healy—which he had said, when you criticized him, “The alliance is over.” In actual fact of course the content of M. Banda’s remark was totally different. Rather than concluding that Banda was showing himself to be part of what you call an “unprincipled clique,” why did you not conclude that he was taking a vital step out of that unprincipled clique by referring the matter to you and thereby to the IC? Developments of the kind we are discussing do not happen by individuals working out pure, correct positions and acting accordingly. Comrades come up against the existing forms in a real struggle and make breaks. However much Cde. Banda might hesitate before and after September 3rd, he was taking actions, such as contacting international comrades, which burned his bridges behind him. You should have based yourself on that objective logic of the break from the clique, with all its real problems and not on the verbal and formal similarity of the uses of the term “alliance.” As you know, Comrade Banda, you, I and others actually did work together, and we all agreed that you, not us at that point, would make the international contacts. I gave you, as IC secretary, a letter backing your visits will full political confidence. Your work was our work. Remember that you were very definitely against an immediate meeting of the IC and in favor of discussions with the individual sections, giving them time to study the documents and experiences as well as to discuss with you or us. As part of this I visited your own Central Committee on October 5/6. These were certainly not unprincipled relations, and I cannot therefore accept your remark, “how could the leadership of the oldest section of the International Committee have such relations with us.” The relations were conceived by us as relations of collaboration necessary in order to fight together as international comrades in one movement against Healy, his practices, his theoretical revisions, his clique domination over the movement. If you insist on characterizing this as using the IC as a weapon for regulating internal WRP disputes, you are wrong.

You say, and we agree: “We want not only Healy destroyed, we want Healyism rooted out of this party.” But Healyism, as you yourself pointed out, had victims in all sections of the IC, not only the WRP, and the job cannot be done without facing up to the results of Healyism throughout the cadres of the IC. All the leaders of the IC were part of Healyism as well as its victims, and that must be confronted, analyzed and corrected. The test of leaders today is their ability to face up to, analyze, negate and supersede their own role in all that, not to prove that they were less sullied than others. You suggested in your speech that the WRP leadership (I think you mean Cdes. M. Banda and C. Slaughter especially) persist in trying to settle questions pragmatically, empirically, by way of impressions and pressing immediate national requirements, because, not yet freed of the Healy legacy, we reject, we reject control by the IC and the perspective of building the world party. We consider that that will only be tested in the struggle, but we do know that facing up to one’s own responsibility for the present crisis is an indispensable requirement.

I can summarize part of what I have written so far by saying, bluntly, that the many comrades, who, for reasons we all know, are unfamiliar with the history of differences in the IC, have had built up for them a picture of Cde. D. North being right against Healy, at least since October 1982. You earned another round of applause when you asked why the British section leadership responded only when the abuses struck here, inside the WRP. This is just not based on fact. The abuses have been striking blows, vicious blows, against the membership of the WRP for decades. What changed in 1985 was that the systematic nature of these abuses in the name of Trotskyist leadership was exposed by the work of a small number of comrades. Their “subjective” preparations could grow and be successful because the whole bureaucratic and opportunist edifice was coming into irreconcilable conflict with the changes in the class struggle and the new demands forced on the WRP (I refer especially of course of the miners’ strike). It is dangerous to use phrases like the rhetorical question you asked (why only when the abuses struck here? etc.), reaching out to the general mistrust in the Party, instead of working to analyze what actually happened.

For you the critical example comes with your description of how the IC requested and did not get a 24-hour delay in publication of the CC statement on Healy’s expulsion. You seem to think that this clinches the argument that we could be going from the frying pan into the fire. I see it very differently. I do not accept that the relations between IC members in London on the one hand and WRP CC members in London on the other are more decisive historically, more important, than the actual issues on which Healy was expelled. We had been forced to recognize that an ultra-right cancerous tendency had set out to destroy us. High Court writs were in operation. In addition, you ignored the position inside our own ranks. The exposure of Healy had exploded so violently in the membership that a real rebellion had erupted, including the occupation and shutdown of our print shops. That was entirely justified and understandable, and you endorsed it specifically in your opening sentences. But you ignore its implications, the first of which, rightly, was “Get Healy!” You seem to want a perfect set of “internationalist” rules of procedure guiding every step of the real movement. It was not like that and could not be. There was behind this the other difference to which we have referred. You were in fact still looking for a discussion framework with the then minority, just as, earlier, you were not for the expulsion but for the suspension of Healy. This was a legitimate and important difference between us, and the issue was not simply one of delaying a statement until the IC could meet. In any case, as I have already pointed out, you had been until then not for an IC meeting but only for discussions. We finally arrived at a proposal for a meeting on Wednesday, October 23rd. Your response was that as the statement had now appeared, the meeting could wait until Friday, 25th. That did not stop some comrades, who think it useful to champion the IC against the WRP leadership, from asserting that the IC comrades were kept waiting the whole week in London. I may also remind you that until Wednesday, October 23rd, we were still trying to bring the Spanish and Greek sections to a meeting. Here it is relevant to mention once again that we wanted an IC meeting before the Special Congress of October 26th, in order to have the IC lay down the political conditions for a reregistration to the British section of the IC, and to exclude the supporters of Healy on political grounds. This would have had more content than a general affirmation of subordination of national sections to the IC.

You make a point of attacking what I am said to have said about “neo-fascist tendencies” in the WRP minority. This you say sounds very left, but has no content, being used as substitute for a real analysis. I have already discussed this in the context of Healy’s “morality” as well as the question of the Iraqi executions. The “justifications” for these gross acts was of the most right-wing, amoral character, ideally suited to the requirements of capital. At a report from the Central Committee to comrades “lobbying” on October 12th I opposed those comrades who called some members of the Healyite minority “fascists.” Fascists are organized into bodies of men to do violence to the working class and Marxism. What I spoke about (see my remarks at the London Aggregate) was the right-wing, “near-fascist” ideology involved. It had a close and directly relevant parallel in Paris, where several very “radical” leaders of the 1968 movement are now editing ultra-right-wing journals. It will not be correct to characterize the Healy clique and its apologists as only “nationalists.” They are close to every fascist position on the rights of human individuals, rights which for them are reduced to nothing by the requirements of the party.

Now I would like to come back to an area where we appear to have easy agreement, but this proves decidedly not so. You say “...really there’s not a single comrade here who can seriously believe that we have come and assembled to decide whether rape is a legitimate question [?] inside the working class movement.” And you go on, “that’s a settled question in this movement.” We do have a difference. It is dangerous to stop at the level: “we were of course horrified” in reference to Healy’s sexual abuses. We heard members of the expelled minority of splitters say almost identical things. Once again, it tends to put these abuses into a “non-political” category secondary to some other more “real,” “political” issues. They are basic political questions. It is not at all true that “that’s a settled question.” We are not confronting a debate about this “settled question” but about the actual systematic crimes of leadership in destroying comrades, against this “settled question” for decades. And we must plumb that degeneration, a political degeneration, to its depths. These were “split” questions and they did produce the split. It is flying in the face of reality to suggest that we cannot say a split took place on the question of rape.

We are all aware, of course, of what you pointed out to the Congress, that Stalinism began with a revision of the Marxist position on world revolution, embracing instead “socialism in one country.” But we also are aware that the material conditions for the development and victory of this revisionism were contained in the backwardness of the isolated Russian economy and culture, which nurtured bureaucratic privilege and repression. Thus backwardness and bureaucratic reaction, combined with the international defeats of the proletariat resulting primarily from the errors of Stalin’s faction in the leadership of the 3rd International, formed the noose which tightened around the neck of the Left Opposition, says Trotsky. He certainly could not have been satisfied with an abstract assertion of the principles of internationalism.

You say the split has come on decisive categorical grounds. Yes, but it is, I repeat not just a question of the WRP’s relation with the IC. Subordination of national sections in the IC is the necessary form of internationalist revolutionary practice. The content of this internationalism reaches down to the fundamental questions on which we have expelled Healy and his followers. It is the decisive work on these questions that will be most important. I cannot accept your assertion (it is no more than that) that the work of the IC “smoked out” the Greek leadership. Their definitive split from the IC is the consequence of the work of Healyism in the IC for two decades, and we must face up to the fact that we were unable to prevent it, despite your visit to Greece early in September. The work to expose the real questions before the membership of the Greek/Spanish sections remains still to be done.

As you can see I disagree with the whole emphasis of your statement. Your final round of applause was won by calling on the WRP membership to make clear to the WRP leadership that they must subordinate themselves to the IC. Why do you counterpose the WRP members to the WRP leaders in this way? Why not counterpose the members to the IC, which after all is the international leadership that carried out Healy’s program and policy? But really it should not be a matter of counterposing anyone to anyone else; rather, we should be making clear that we are prepared to work and fight together to clarify ruthlessly the theoretical questions involved in order to rebuild the movement as the foundation of the development of Marxist theory.

I have said that I think that your “standpoint of the unity of the Party” in the week between Healy’s expulsion and our Special Congress profoundly mistaken, because we had gone through intensive experiences in exposing the then minority. Because you did not share or study the implications of those struggles you draw the false conclusion that your search for an “objective” demonstration of the correctness of the majority’s position was finally successful in the October 25th resolution agreeing subordination of the WRP to the IC. This is not true. The WRP delegates would of course have agreed to such a formulation at any time, just as any other section would. Such a declaration does not and cannot “objectively” decide anything whatsoever. I believe that you persisted in a dangerously over-formal line of “let the differences come out and be clearly seen” long after the minority had actually gone to the State and had split. This formalism led you to give little importance to the really basic class questions of the split, so that you could seriously propose, as late as 25th October, that Redgrave withdraw from the court action and resume her minority rights! Only afterwards, when the discussion had exposed this argument, did you assure us that you had meant it only to have a tactical role (defense of assets etc.). It was actually part of “your starting from the standpoint of the unity of the Party.” That was never a possibility after Healy had been charged and this minority voted against charges. I know that you will consider seriously what I am saying here: that you dangerously underestimated the real questions involved in the expulsion of Healy, and that you are presenting internationalism in a formal way which obscures these issues. We shall find (I am sure the Australian section provides examples) many in the movement who will state or revert to the expelled minority’s position, that the sexual abuses are an unpleasant, even “horrifying” incident but they are secondary and should be put aside. To encourage that in any way would be to ignore the gigantic force of reaction that is expressed by Healy’s practices and by the position of those who justify his practice and ideas. If that is allowed to happen we cannot do what you as well as I want most of all to do: to drive out Healyism as well as Healy.

Yours fraternally,