The Political Committee of the Workers League has received Comrade Cliff Slaughter’s eight-page type-set letter, dated November 26, 1985, to Comrade David North. We believe that this letter constitutes an unprincipled attack on the Workers League and the International Committee, and—when viewed within the context of other recent developments inside the British section—makes it all too clear that the long and protracted political degeneration within the Workers Revolutionary Party which produced the explosion in October has not been ended with the expulsion of Healy and the organizational split with his supporters.
During the past three months, the Workers League has stated repeatedly that the political crisis within the Workers Revolutionary Party can be overcome only through the closest collaboration of the British section with its international comrades. Unfortunately, after years of systematic miseducation under Healy there are many comrades within the leadership of the WRP who view the International Committee with contempt, and consider the appeals of the IC for genuine collaboration and consultation as an unwarranted intrusion into the life of the British section. References to the “subordination of the WRP to the International Committee” evoke a hostile response from some comrades. Of course, we are not dealing with the subjective weaknesses of individual members. The existence of powerful nationalist tendencies within the WRP is a political reflection of the historical development of the working class in the world’s oldest imperialist country. Insofar as they are recognized and consciously fought these tendencies can be overcome, and the responsibility for waging this struggle falls upon the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
The great danger that we now confront is that anti-internationalism is being encouraged by the leadership. The national autonomy of the Workers Revolutionary Party is being counterposed to the authority of the International Committee as the leading body of the World Party of Socialist Revolution. This is the real meaning of Comrade Slaughter’s assertion, in his letter to North, that “Internationalism consists precisely of laying down ... class lines and fighting them through.” But by what process are these “class lines” determined? Does it require the existence of the Fourth International? Comrade Slaughter’s definition suggests—and this is the explicit content of his entire letter—that any national organization can rise to the level of internationalism by establishing, on its own, the “class lines and fighting them through.” In another passage Comrade Slaughter refers to the subordination of the national sections to the IC as “the necessary form of internationalist practice” while “The content of this internationalism reaches down to the fundamental questions on which we have expelled Healy and his followers.” It may at first appear that this formulation is more orthodox, but, in fact, it reproduces the fundamental error of the first quotation. In the first quotation, internationalism consists in laying down class lines; in the second, it consists of reaching down to fundamental questions. The organizational structure of internationalism—the Fourth International and its International Committee—is presented as merely an empty form which imposes no definite obligations upon any national section once it “reaches down” and determines the “class lines.”
This separation of the forms of internationalism (the International Committee) from its supposed content (the class line) is stated most explicitly by Comrade Slaughter when he declares: “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.” This is an utterly abstract and ahistorical conception of the development of Marxism. The International Committee of the Fourth International is the historical embodiment of the “whole programmatic base of Trotskyism and the Marxism of Marx and Lenin.” The subordination of national sections to the IC is the organized expression of their agreement with and defense of that program. Those parties which uphold Trotskyism as the contemporary development of Marxist principles and program are organized in the Fourth International and accept the authority of the International Committee. To base one’s definition of internationalism on the separation of the program from its organizational expression is to adopt the standpoint of all those revisionist and centrist opponents of Trotskyism who deny the continuity of Marxism, embodied in the ICFI, in order to retain freedom of action within their national theater of operations.
Compare Comrade Slaughter’s definition of internationalism (“laying down class lines and fighting them through”) with that of Trotsky: “Internationalism is no abstract principle but a theoretical and political reflection of the character of the world economy, of the world development of productive forces and the world scale of the class struggle.” (Permanent Revolution, New Park, p.9) Herein lies the foundation of proletarian internationalism and the necessity of its organized expression in the World Party of Socialist Revolution. No national organization, no matter how loudly it proclaims its allegiance to Marxism, can develop and maintain a revolutionary perspective except through constant contact and collaboration with international co-thinkers. Democratic centralist discipline is an essential component of that collaboration. The statutes of the Communist International, far from being mere “forms,” were indissolubly connected with the transition from free-competition capitalism to imperialism, the historical development of the proletariat and the international struggle against the social-democratic and reformist agents of imperialism within the workers’ movement. They established the forms through which ideological and programmatic homogeneity of the revolutionary movement was to be sustained. This has been incorporated into the Statutes of the Fourth International. Those who rail against the subordination of national sections to the international movement upon which these statutes insist ignore the fact that the price of “independence” is subordination to the pressures of the national bourgeoisie and world imperialism.
This is no small danger in Britain. The defense of national autonomy against the discipline of the Fourth International has a long history within the British labor movement. It should hardly be necessary for the Workers League to call to the attention of the WRP the arguments advanced by Trotsky against the anti-internationalism of the ILP and the bogus internationalism of its London Bureau, led by Fenner Brockway. In opposition to the ILP, Trotsky wrote: “The International is not at all a ‘form’ as flows from the utterly false formulation of the ILP. The International is first of all a program, and a system of strategic, tactical and organizational methods that flow from it.... Without a Marxist International, national organizations, even the most advanced, are doomed to narrowness, vacillation and helplessness; the advanced workers are forced to feed upon surrogates for internationalism.” (Ibid., pp. 112-13)
No less relevant to the present crisis in the WRP and the International Committee is Trotsky’s admonition to the Lee group in Britain (with which Healy was then associated) on the eve of the Founding Conference of the Fourth International. He was calling upon the Workers Internationalist League to accept the proposal of the International Secretariat for the unification of all Trotskyist groups in Britain. He explained that:
“The present conference signifies a conclusive delimitation between those who are really in the Fourth International and fighting every day under its revolutionary banner, and those who are merely ‘for’ the Fourth International, i.e., the dubious elements who have sought to keep one foot in our camp and one foot in the camp of our enemies.”
Replying to the refusal of the Lee group to accept the authority of the International Secretariat and end its independent existence, Trotsky warned:
“Under these circumstances it is necessary to warn the comrades associated with the Lee group that they are being led on a path of unprincipled clique politics which can only land them in the mire. It is possible to maintain and develop a revolutionary political grouping of serious importance only on the basis of great principles. The Fourth International alone embodies and represents these principles. It is possible for a national group to maintain a constant revolutionary course only if it is firmly connected in one organization with co-thinkers throughout the world and maintains a constant political and theoretical collaboration with them. The Fourth International alone is such an organization. All purely national groupings, all those who reject international organization, control, and discipline, are in their essence reactionary.” (Documents of the Fourth International, Pathfinder, p. 270)
The fact that these fundamental conceptions are opposed by a substantial majority on the Central Committee reveals how little progress has been made in comprehending the social forces and political methods which underlie the degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party. Comrades have not yet made real advances in analyzing the process through which the WRP succumbed to the pressure of British imperialism and alien class forces, and turned its back on the conquests of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism. An increasingly one-sided preoccupation with finding immediate practical solutions to the political problems of the British section provided fertile ground for the development of increasingly opportunist practices and policies. Fundamental questions of principle came to be judged on the basis of their immediate “use value” for the work of the British section. In so far as practical gains could be derived from relations with the Arab bourgeoisie, the programmatic foundations of Trotskyism—such as the theory of Permanent Revolution—were looked upon with growing skepticism as old propagandist crotchets with no immediate relevance to the pragmatically-defined concrete tasks of “party-building.”
The politics of the leadership grouped around Healy became that of a petty-bourgeois nationalist clique. The gradual revisions in the political line—the accumulation of almost imperceptible shifts in tactics, ever-so slight softening of criticisms, unexplained omissions in the party press, unexpected faces on the platforms of our public meetings, etc.—assumed a systematic form, expressing a distinct turn by the WRP away from the struggle to establish the political independence of the working class on the basis of Trotskyism, the Marxism of today.
The organizational forms of this political deterioration were the inevitable expression of the change in the party’s class line. A revisionist line could not be imposed “peacefully” upon a Marxist party. In one way or another the cadre—the leaven of past struggles—resisted the turn to the right. Hence the need for the degenerating leadership, conscious of the contradiction between the principles to which it still formally adhered and the opportunism of its practice, to subvert and destroy democratic centralism. Frightened by the political implications of any criticism, organizational measures against the membership replaced political discussion. A sort of subterranean civil war defined the relations between the petty-bourgeois clique and the party membership. Leadership was transformed into an almost institutionalized abuse of authority.
Within the International Committee, the political authority of the WRP and its leadership rested on their historical role in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism. The changes in the way that authority was exercised—at first serving as a means of educating inexperienced cadre in different countries and later on, with ever increasing arrogance and cynicism, becoming a means of subordinating the IC as a whole to the practical needs of the WRP—reflected the process of degeneration toward nationalist opportunism. Healy’s contempt for the small sections of the International Committee—to which he referred not infrequently as “Trotskyite groupos”—expressed his growing disdain for the traditions of the Trotskyist movement.
Within the International Committee the British leadership sought to protect itself against political criticism through dishonest and vile organizational methods. It functioned as a law unto itself. While Comrade Slaughter “looked after” the interests of the WRP within the IC and maintained the facade of internationalism, the real foreign policy of the British section was conducted by Healy and Mitchell. Political alliances with bourgeois states were formed behind the back of the International Committee. Healy maintained an extensive correspondence with bourgeois nationalists within the Middle East which was never shown to the delegates of the IC. The financial aspects of the private wheeling and dealing were likewise kept secret from the international movement.
This was all part of a reactionary method of work through which the details of the political and organizational life of the Workers Revolutionary Party were systematically misrepresented to the sections of the IC. In so far as the WRP leadership provided information on its work within Britain, it was only to report astonishing achievements. These were counterposed, at virtually every meeting of the International Committee, to the pressing problems of the sections. From the WRP delegates the IC received glowing reports of a daily circulation of 17,000 copies of News Line, a dues-paying membership of nearly 10,000, apparently growing by the hour, expanding influence within the trade unions and labor movement, and immense financial resources. Not once did a single delegate from the WRP suggest to the International Committee that the internal life of the British section and its apparent gains differed in any way with the reports provided by Healy. There was, according to Healy, nothing the WRP had to learn from the sections of the International Committee, which had neither daily papers, thousands of members, nor impressive bank accounts.
And yet, without suspecting that the WRP leadership was lying about its organizational gains, questions about the political line and theoretical method of the British section began to be raised within the International Committee. These differences reflected the struggle of class forces within the Fourth International. The issues raised by the Workers League expressed the opposition within the International Committee to the pressures of imperialism on the Fourth International manifested in the political line of the Workers Revolutionary Party. It was an opposition to the British section’s ever-more explicit abandonment of the Trotskyist movement’s strategical orientation to the international working class as the gravedigger of capitalism and the builder of a socialist society.
The bitter reaction of the WRP leadership to those criticisms, its attempts to suppress them, did not simply arise from the subjective motivations of Healy. The political line that had been developed over previous years had already become anchored in definite class interests. The drift toward centrism was objectively connected with developments within the class struggle internationally and sharp changes within the British labor movement. The intervention of the International Committee between 1982 and 1984 cut across these new relations, of a politically-centrist character, which were being developed by the WRP, not only with the Arab bourgeoisie but with the left-talking reformists in the Labour Party and TUC. That is why Healy could only respond to the proposals for discussion of differences by threatening to split with the Workers League. The fact that not one leader of the WRP was prepared to support the Workers League’s call for a discussion must be interpreted politically as an expression of the enormous class pressures bearing down upon the WRP at that time. The nature of these class pressures may be grasped in a more concrete form when we consider that the IC meeting at which the WRP leadership suppressed discussion of the Workers League’s criticisms came just one month before the start of the national miners’ strike.
It is this class approach to political questions that Comrade Slaughter now wishes to avoid. He does not want to talk about objective class forces—especially where the issue of his own role in the leadership of the WRP and the International Committee is involved. He is all for accepting “responsibility” as long as it is shared equally by everyone else on the International Committee—thereby divesting this “responsibility” of any real content. In the end, there is only the maniacal Healy imposing his “will” on everyone.
In the aftermath of the split with Healy, Comrade Slaughter should be in the forefront of the struggle to reestablish internationalism in the British section. Unfortunately, he is working in the opposite direction, seeking to build up a “case” against the International Committee and convince members of the WRP that they should have no confidence in the Fourth International. Slaughter is determined to prove that the International Committee and all its sections are all infected by “Healyism,” that the process of political degeneration is one and the same in all sections, and that the International Committee, rather than focusing on the errors of the WRP, should subject itself to “self-criticism.” Thus, he singles out for special praise the comrade who asked at the October Special Conference what Comrade Slaughter now glorifies as the “64,000 dollar question: ‘All right, we can’t have unconditional confidence in the WRP leadership; why should we have confidence in the IC?’” This question, on which Comrade Slaughter, to his shame as a Marxist, places such a high value, actually reflects the anti-internationalism cultivated by Healy.
Comrade Slaughter’s criticism of Comrade North’s speech to the Special Conference is bound up with an attempt to discredit the International Committee Resolution of October 25, 1985 which sought to end the reactionary nationalist autonomy of the WRP, made membership in the WRP conditional upon acceptance of the authority of the ICFI, and established internationalism as the fundamental basis for the regeneration of the British section. The Resolution thus defined the fundamental historical principles at stake in the struggle within the Party.
Attacking North’s speech, Slaughter writes:
“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 onesided 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, 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.”
We regret that it is necessary, in reply, to expose Comrade Slaughter’s criticisms point by point. But as Trotsky once explained, honest information is the precondition for political discussion. The history of the communist movement has demonstrated again and again the political damage that can be done by misinformation and half-truths. The use of such unworthy methods can do real damage inside the WRP where there are many comrades who, despite their devotion to Trotskyism, have been denied the possibility of acquiring any knowledge of the political life of the World Party. He is seeking to exploit this lack of knowledge to foment hostility toward the IC. Toward this end he twists facts and employs disorienting half-truths to confuse the cadre and make them suspicious of their international comrades.
Before proceeding to the most serious distortions of the historical record, let us first deal with a few minor points in the order which they appear in Comrade Slaughter’s letter. First, Comrade North has never suggested that he was the only one who opposed Healy on political questions. There certainly were comrades within the WRP, including members of its Central Committee, who were prepared to take a principled stand. We have recently learned that Comrade Brendan Martin raised many of the same political criticisms which Comrade North had raised and at about the same time, in the fall of 1982. Between the time Comrade North first raised these differences in October 1982 and then was compelled to withdraw them in December 1982, Comrade Martin was expelled from the WRP. It now appears that Comrade Martin’s expulsion was part of Healy’s preparation for the fight against the opposition within the International Committee. We do not believe that Comrade Slaughter opposed this organizational suppression of Comrade Martin’s criticisms. Unfortunately, the expelled comrade did not bring his case to the attention of the International Committee. Perhaps he was not able to do so.
We have also recently learned of the case of Comrade Stuart Carter, who was physically assaulted and expelled for opposing Healy this past June. Fortunately, this comrade’s membership has been reinstated. We suspect that there are many other comrades who were dealt with in a similar fashion. Therefore, the criticisms which North made at the Special Congress were by no means directed against the WRP cadre in general. When he spoke of an unprincipled clique within the Political Committee, he was referring only to those who subordinated questions of Trotskyist principles to the pragmatic needs of the practical work within the British section. Comrade Slaughter was an important part of that clique leadership.
There is another small point that must be answered: Comrade Slaughter suggests that the discussion bulletin published by the Workers League containing documents relating to the differences raised by Comrade North between 1982 and 1984 is an incomplete record. He writes that “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.”
Allow us to point out that North’s letter of January 23, 1984 to Comrade Banda was not a reply to any letter written by the latter. We had received none. As for the letter of December 27, 1983 to Comrade Slaughter, this was a reply to a letter from him which Dave North had received earlier that month. Since his letter quoted Comrade Slaughter’s letter so extensively, we thought that the reproduction of the latter in the discussion bulletin would be superfluous. Comrade Slaughter visited our print shop in Detroit just prior to publication and North showed him the printed galleys and the table of contents. He indicated complete satisfaction with the arrangement of the material.
At any rate, if Comrade Slaughter believes that the documents which we included in the Workers League discussion bulletin comprise an incomplete record, he need only to publish Dave North’s notes and the whole correspondence, which he has had in his possession since 1984, in the News Line. However, we have noticed that the News Line editorial board has chosen to publish all the documents relating to the struggle against Healy—including one written by Sheila Torrance—except those which are contained in the Workers League discussion bulletin. Thus, the only substantial critique of Healy’s policies and anti-Marxist method has not been made available to the readers of the party’s press. The leadership of the WRP prefers that the role of the International Committee in the struggle against Healy not be known.
Now let us concentrate on that portion of the letter that constitutes Comrade Slaughter’s principal and most consciously dishonest attack on Comrade North and the International Committee: that they were reluctant to carry through the struggle against Healy, that they failed to understand the real issues at stake in the fight within the British section, and that behind the formal slogan of internationalism they obscured the class lines being drawn by Comrades Banda and Slaughter against the minority.
Comrade Slaughter writes:
“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 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.”
He then goes on to stress that while Vanessa Redgrave had already resorted to legal actions, the resolution put forward by the International Committee (with the agreement of, the Peruvian and West German delegates, whom Slaughter fails to mention) stated that “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.”
Comrade Slaughter then writes the following:
“As you know, WRP delegates on the IC (C. Slaughter, P. Jones, M. Banda) spoke out 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.... 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 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 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.... 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.”
To answer this thoroughly dishonest account, it is necessary to reconstruct the events leading up to the Special Conference and split of October 26th.
On July 1, 1985, the WRP Political Committee was confronted with the Aileen Jennings letter which accused Healy of sexual relations with at least 26 female members of the WRP and international sections. With the support of Comrade Banda, the Political Committee began a cover-up that was to last for another three months. Though he claims not to have seen the letter, Comrade Slaughter was informed of the allegations upon his return to London from the United States on July 2nd. A meeting of the International Committee had been scheduled for the second weekend in July, immediately prior to Comrade Slaughter’s scheduled departure to Greece for his summer holidays. This meeting was cancelled in order to conceal the scandal within the WRP leadership from the International Committee. However, the eruption of the financial crisis led Healy to summon the IC delegates to London in order to milk the sections for money. At a meeting chaired by Comrade Banda, false reports were given to the IC by Comrade Dot Gibson, Corin Redgrave and Healy. Pledges of 82,000 pounds sterling were obtained—nearly the entire financial reserves of all the IC sections. Not a word was said about the sexual scandal.
As it covered up the scandal from both the WRP membership and the International Committee, the internal relations within the Political Committee began to resemble that of an Italian court in the days of the Borgias. For Comrade Slaughter to suggest that the split took place under conditions where the political issues had been fought out within the WRP (“You should,” he writes to North, “actually analyze and learn from the clarification already going on in the WRP before October 25.”) is a grotesque mockery of Marxism. When Comrade North traveled to London during the weekend of September 14-15, there was no talk whatsoever of a split within the WRP leadership. In fact, Healy had been permitted to prepare “lectures” for an international school despite his supposed retirement. He made use of the opportunity to organize a split within the International Committee. Moreover, when Comrade North arrived in London and learned for the first time of the Jennings allegations, Comrade Banda was still opposed to a control commission. Moreover, he was then in an alliance with Sheila Torrance.
Even as late as the weekend of October 5-6th, when Comrade Slaughter came to the United States to meet with the Central Committee of the Workers League, it was still not clear that the WRP leadership intended to move for the expulsion of Healy. Precisely because there was no indication that further organizational measures were contemplated within the WRP, the Workers League did not press for an immediate meeting of the International Committee at that point. We believed that it would be possible to wait until early November, and agreed with Comrade Slaughter’s suggestion that Comrade North should undertake to contact different sections and report to them on the crisis within the WRP. The purpose of such reports was not to line up support for any faction within the WRP; but to help prepare a meeting of the International Committee in which all sections could send delegations that would be prepared for the most exhaustive discussion. Indeed, there was still no official division between a majority and minority within the leadership of the British section and Comrade Slaughter specifically stated that he was visiting the Workers League not as a representative of the Workers Revolutionary Party but as the secretary of the International Committee. He even stated that he did not believe that a majority of the Central Committee would have endorsed his trip to the United States, so strong were the anti-internationalist tendencies within the party. In fact, the Workers League paid for his trans-Atlantic fare.
It was only during the days that followed Comrade Slaughter’s return from the United States that the factional struggle within the WRP exploded. The now famous “walkout”—which gave Healy’s supporters on the Political Committee the full run of the center and enabled Vanessa Redgrave to steal the documents that she then used to launch her court suit—occurred on October 10th. It was on that afternoon that Comrades North and Rippert, who had just arrived in London, learned that Mike Banda intended to move a motion at the upcoming Central Committee for the expulsion of Healy. They were also told by Comrade Banda that he intended to move the expulsion of all those who opposed this resolution.
Both Comrade North and Comrade Rippert were totally opposed to such an organizational settlement with supporters of Healy on the Central Committee and immediately contacted Comrade Slaughter to protest this course of action. As Comrade Slaughter hopefully will recall, he expressed agreement with their opposition and accepted their proposal for an immediate discussion in Leeds. In the course of their discussions with Comrade Slaughter, which began at 4:30 AM on the morning of October 11th and lasted throughout the day, an agreement was arrived at: Comrade Slaughter would oppose any resolution for the expulsion of Torrance and other supporters of Healy on the Central Committee and would demand that they be given minority rights. The basis of this agreement was the recognition that involved in Healy’s abuse of cadre, which fully justified a motion for his expulsion, was an enormous political degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party and the greatest crisis in the International Committee since the split with the SWP in 1963.
In the course of the day, the discussions between Comrades North, Rippert and Slaughter were joined by Comrades Dave Hyland and Dave Temple. At every point the international implications of the struggle within the WRP were stressed. Comrade Slaughter emphatically agreed with the comrades from the IC. Indeed, Comrade Slaughter opposed Comrade Banda’s plans for mass expulsions and prevailed upon him to accept the establishment of minority rights. On the morning of October 12th, prior to the scheduled meeting of the Central Committee, Comrade North—at the request of Comrade Slaughter and Comrade Banda—spoke to rank and file WRP members to explain why the struggle for political clarification required that the conditions be created for the fullest discussion within the party and that organizational measures be avoided. This was understood and accepted by virtually all the Party cadre who attended the two meetings at which these issues were discussed. Thus, at the Central Committee that was held that afternoon and into the following day, Healy was correctly charged and his supporters were guaranteed minority rights.
At no time during that weekend did Comrade Slaughter suggest that the international comrades were evincing political weakness toward Healy and his supporters. He gave the appearance of agreeing with the proposition that by granting the minority the rights specified by the constitution, the conditions would be created for the rapid exposure of Healy’s supporters and a real clarification of the political issues. This approach was vindicated in subsequent developments. Unwilling and unable to discuss their real politics in front of the membership, the minority escalated its provocative actions against the WRP. It boycotted the Central Committee meeting of October 19, 1985 at which Healy refused to attend to answer the charges against him and was rightly expelled.
As Comrade Slaughter claimed to understand, the struggle within the WRP had international ramifications. So rapidly had the inner-party crisis developed in mid-October that the motion for the expulsion of Healy had been voted prior to any formal meeting of the IC. Let us state for the record that the Workers Revolutionary Party Central Committee had the right to move and carry through the expulsion without the explicit authorization of the International Committee. But it must be bluntly said that these conditions were the direct product of the squalid behavior within the WRP Political Committee during the previous three months: the cover-up of Healy’s abuses, the intimidation of members who demanded a control commission investigation, the lies to the International Committee, etc. However justified Healy’s expulsion—on this score we don’t need to be lectured by Comrade Slaughter—it took place under conditions in which there had been no discussion whatsoever of the underlying political issues within the Party leadership, let alone within the WRP branches.
Moreover, the expulsion created a serious crisis within the International Committee. The fact that the WRP leadership was blind to the political consequences of the expulsion beyond the English Channel and the Irish Sea was itself a demonstration of its nationalist myopia. Without any information or political explanation, IC sections were suddenly confronted with the expulsion of the most well-known international leader.
This is why preparations were immediately begun, following the vote on October 12th, to summon a meeting of the International Committee on the crisis in the British section as quickly as possible. Comrade Beams of the Australian section and Comrade Balasuriya of the Sri Lankan section traveled to London during that week. The leaders of the Peruvian, Spanish and Greek sections were contacted and urged to come to London. Complicating the situation, however, was the fact that Savas Michael, the secretary of the Workers Internationalist League in Greece, was by now collaborating secretly with Healy to split the International Committee and working to block a meeting of IC leaders. Both the Spanish and Peruvian leaders were contacted by the WIL secretary, given false information, and urged not to attend any meeting of the International Committee not called by Gerry Healy.
On Sunday, October 20th, in the midst of these efforts to organize an IC meeting, Comrade North, who was then in Detroit, was informed by Comrade Banda over the telephone that the News Line—which had not been published for more than one week—would reappear the next day carrying a statement on the expulsion of Gerry Healy. This course of action was opposed by the Workers League Political Committee and by the IC delegates from Sri Lanka and Australia who were already in London. With an IC meeting only a few days away, it was felt that the WRP majority was obligated to consult with its international comrades prior to making the expulsion public. This opinion was communicated to Comrade Banda by Comrades Balasuriya and Beams. Comrade Banda then informed North that the statement would not be published until the IC met. That evening Comrade North flew to London.
On Monday afternoon, the 21st of October, the international delegates who were present in London were invited to attend a meeting at which a report would be made on the situation at the print shop in Runcorn. The delegates agreed, of course, to hear the report. In the discussion that followed the report, WRP comrades began to discuss the preparations for a split with the minority. It was at that point that Comrade North, with the agreement of all the international leaders, requested permission to withdraw from the meeting. He explained that the upcoming meeting of the IC had been called to hear a report from the British section, not to provide a stamp of approval for any faction; and that the IC was determined to have an objective discussion of the political crisis within the WRP. It was on this principled basis that Comrade North stated that the International Committee stood for the unity of the British section.
This marked a turning point in the relations between the WRP majority and the International Committee. It now became clear to Comrade Banda and others in the WRP majority that the IC was not going to be a rubber stamp for the decisions of any faction within the British section, and the domination of the IC by the WRP was being ended for once and for all. Moreover, the standpoint of the IC delegates—to maintain, if at all possible, the unity of the WRP and avoid a split—was totally correct. It has always been the tradition of the Marxist movement to oppose premature splits, i.e., those which precede clarification of the underlying differences on matters of political principle. Such a clarification had certainly not taken place within the WRP, regardless of the most recent alignment of forces on the Political Committee.
Above all, it was not at all clear that on the most decisive question of all—its attitude toward the International Committee—the position of the majority was different from that of the minority. When Slaughter speaks of “the Healy anti-party group,” his standpoint is simply that of a national leader. Our starting point, however, is that of the World Party of Socialist Revolution. Those who refuse to uphold its authority, who place the immediate practical needs of a national section above those of the international working class and the world revolution, whose conscious leadership is embodied in the Fourth International, are anti-party. For the International Committee, the problem it confronted was not whether it was prepared for a resolute break with Healy and his supporters. Rather, it was whether such a break would enable the IC to maintain fraternal relations with any section of the Workers Revolutionary Party. That was our “64,000 dollar question.”
Let us speak directly about the experience of the Workers League. Our party emerged directly out of the struggle against the abandonment of proletarian internationalism by the Socialist Workers Party. A small minority waged the struggle for the perspectives of the International Committee inside the SWP for nearly four years. In the interest of the international clarification of the Trotskyist movement, it resisted enormous pressures to either adapt to the Hansen leadership or split prematurely in response to bureaucratic persecutions. The IC faction led by Tim Wohlforth remained inside the SWP even after the 1963 reunification with the Pabloites, in order to continue the fight for internationalism. When the supporters of the IC were finally expelled, in June 1964, the break came not over a domestic issue but over the refusal of the SWP to tolerate discussion on the entry of the Ceylonese Pabloites into the Bandaranaike coalition government—a world historical betrayal of Trotskyism. Later, prior to the formation of the Workers League, the American Committee for the Fourth International broke with Robertson’s Spartacist tendency over the refusal of the latter to accept the authority of the International Committee. Robertson saw the Fourth International merely as an adjunct to his national activity. We continue to believe—though we are not sure that Comrade Slaughter does—that the break with the Spartacist League over this issue was absolutely principled and made it possible for the Workers League to break politically with the bankrupt milieu of petty-bourgeois American radicalism and to begin to develop as a revolutionary proletarian party.
In 1974 every single member of the Workers League stood with the International Committee against Wohlforth’s rejection of Trotskyist principles. Permit us to remind our British comrades that Wohlforth’s resignation on September 29th of that year was made in opposition to the intervention of the International Committee in the affairs of the Workers League. In answering Wohlforth’s statement that the suspension of Nancy Fields was carried on the Workers League’s Central Committee “only because of the intervention of the IC,” Comrade Slaughter replied (in a later dated October 6, 1974):
“As a comrade who has had to fight against the anti-internationalism of Cannon and Hansen, then Robertson, you must surely pull up sharp when you re-read these words. With this phrase you lower yourself to the level of that narrow American pragmatism, which sees the International only as an appendage to your own immediate purposes. With such an appeal, you deny your own past struggles and appeal to the worst elements around the movement, and particularly to hostile groups waiting to attack and destroy it. Every rotten petty-bourgeois revisionist concentrates his attack on the alleged authoritarianism of the IC and defends his national independence.” [Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. 7, p. 262]
How well Comrade Slaughter wrote 11 years ago! But, unfortunately, it is easier to condemn the nationalism of another section than it is to fight such a tendency within one’s own.
We will now return to our narrative. The immediate response of the WRP majority leadership to the refusal of the International Committee to rubber stamp its decisions was one of unconcealed hostility. Delegates representing four sections of the International Committee were thrown out of Comrade Banda’s house on the evening of the 21st, and they had to obtain hotel accommodations in London at considerable expense. The WRP majority then decided to go ahead with the publication of its statement on the expulsion of Healy prior to any meeting of the International Committee. On Tuesday, October 22nd, IC delegates representing these four sections wrote the following letter to Comrades Slaughter and Banda:
“A meeting of the International Committee of the Fourth International is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning in London. It has been summoned by the Secretary of the International Committee on an emergency basis to hear a report from the British section on the expulsion of Healy by the Central Committee of the WRP last Saturday, October 19, 1985.
“All the sections of the International Committee have been duly and properly informed of the scheduled meeting and adequate time has been given to permit all section delegates to attend the meeting. The North American section has made available to the Peruvian delegate a pre-paid air ticket.
“Delegates representing an absolute majority of the sections (those of Sri Lanka, Germany, North America, Australia and Britain) are already assembled in London. The International Committee meeting must go forward as scheduled, at 10:00 a.m., October 23, 1985, in London.
“As this emergency meeting of the IC is now less than 24 hours away, the undersigned delegates request that the Workers Revolutionary Party postpone a public announcement of the expulsion of Healy for one additional day, until the IC hears the report from the British section.”
This request, which was read over the telephone to the WRP at 11 in the morning and presented in writing two hours later (giving the News Line staff plenty of time to prepare another lead story), was simply ignored. The delegates did not even receive a formal reply. When this letter was read over the phone to Comrade Slaughter in Leeds, he claimed that it might not be possible to stop publication because the Runcorn Occupation Committee would not tolerate any delay. In fact, members of the Committee later told IC delegates that they would have certainly responded favorably to an appeal from the International Committee.
The statement actually published by the Workers Revolutionary Party was devoid of any serious political content. Aside from announcing the expulsion, it provided no clarification of the issues underlying the crisis in the WRP. Its statement on the political questions was confined to the declaration that “The Central Committee will continue to investigate the circumstances and a fuller explanation will be given.” The statement then added that: “We have a duty to the International Committee of the Fourth International, to the Trotskyist movement and the working class to expose and explain this situation, and give them the full benefit of this investigation.” This last declaration would have carried greater weight if the publication of the expulsion statement had been held until after the International Committee met with the British section.
Without the participation of the British section, the remaining IC delegations (including the Peruvian delegate, who had arrived early on Wednesday morning, October 23rd) drafted a statement on the expulsion of Healy from the WRP. In contrast to the statement of the British section, it provided, however limited, an analysis of the political and social roots of Healy’s degeneration. It explained:
“In expelling Healy the ICFI has no intention of denying the political contributions which he made in the past, particularly in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, this expulsion is the end product of his rejection of the Trotskyist principles upon which these past struggles were based and his descent into the most vulgar forms of opportunism.
“The political and personal degeneration of Healy can be clearly traced to his ever more explicit separation of the practical and organizational gains of the Trotskyist movement in Britain from the historically and internationally grounded struggles against Stalinism and revisionism from which these achievements arose.
“The increasing subordination of questions of principle to immediate practical needs centered on securing the growth of the Party apparatus degenerated into political opportunism which steadily eroded his own political and moral defenses against the pressures of imperialism in the oldest capitalist country in the world.
“Under these conditions, his serious subjective weaknesses played an increasingly dangerous political role.”
In another passage the statement warned:
“Those like Healy who abandon the principles on which they once fought and who refuse to subordinate themselves to the ICFI in the building of its national sections must inevitably degenerate under the pressure of the class enemy.
“There can be no exception to this historical law.”
The contrast between the two statements simply underscores the importance of the intervention by the International Committee. Despite Comrade Slaughter’s insinuations, the International Committee understood the significance of Healy’s actions and recognized that the overwhelming majority of healthy forces within the WRP, especially its vital proletarian core, supported the expulsion. Nor was it indifferent to what Comrade Slaughter refers to as “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.”
What Comrade Slaughter fails to mention is that this situation was the product of the unprincipled cover-up in which Comrade Banda and other leaders of the WRP majority had participated throughout the summer. The form of the explosion within the WRP was determined by the absence of any struggle for a Marxist program by any section of the leadership over many years. This is why the IC felt that its fundamental responsibility was to fight for political clarity within the WRP. This could not be achieved by simply sanctioning a split.
The IC finally met on Friday, October 25th, in Bradford. There were six sections present. (Of course, the Workers League is a “section” only in the sense that it is in political solidarity with the IC and functions within the world movement within the legal limits established by the reactionary Voorhis Act.) The Greek and the Spanish leaderships refused to attend despite direct appeals from all the other delegations. In his report to the International Committee, Comrade Slaughter offered no political analysis of how this degeneration had developed within the WRP. His position was that the split was simply over the question of Healy’s sexual abuses. When Comrade Banda was asked to offer an explanation, he refused with the words: “Don’t preempt me; I’m still thinking.” With the Special Conference little more than 24 hours away, the WRP leaders had nothing to say on the political questions underlying the explosion in the WRP and did not even have a single programmatic statement to present to the International Committee.
The delegates from the five other sections insisted that the crisis within the WRP had exposed the degeneration of its entire leadership, and that the survival of this organization as a section of the International Committee was now at stake. The International Committee rejected the claim by three of the four WRP representatives that the immediate factional line-up within the British section could be accepted at face-value as a decisive demonstration of principled differences. (It should be noted that Comrade Slaughter refers only to himself, Comrades Jones and Banda as the delegates from the British section. He neglects to mention Comrade D. Hyland, the fourth WRP delegate, who spoke strongly against the report given by Slaughter.) To claim, as Banda and Slaughter did, that the issue before the IC was “for or against rape” was to insult the whole world Trotskyist movement, including the membership of the WRP. The international delegates insisted that the crisis within the WRP was the outcome of a nationalist opportunism which rejected the struggle for the World Party of Socialist Revolution and used the Fourth International as a means of satisfying the needs of the British section. The IC pointed out that the behavior of the WRP majority during the previous week—its refusal to consult with the IC and its unconcealed hostility toward its delegates—indicated that the majority shared the same anti-internationalism of those supporting Healy.
As for Comrade Slaughter’s claim that the IC refused to recognize that “collaboration with the Iraqi regime” should be the basis of a split, the delegates replied that it would be politically dishonest to single out members of the minority for a policy that had been carried out by the entire leadership. After all, when the Workers League had raised the issue of the execution of Iraqi communists on the International Committee in February 1984, Comrade North was opposed by Comrade Slaughter. If the policies of the WRP in relation to Iraq were to be made issues upon which a split was to be immediately carried out, the IC would have been obliged to break not only with Mitchell but with Slaughter and Banda as well. Moreover, the execution of Iraqi communists was not the only instance of a gross betrayal of Trotskyist principles. At the IC meeting of February 1984, the Workers League was specifically denounced for having published a lengthy statement condemning the persecution of Tudeh party members in Iran. We believe as well that the line laid down by the WRP on the Iran-Iraq War has implicated the entire IC in a terrible betrayal of the Iranian and Iraqi working class. We might also speak about the uncritical coverage of the Lancaster House talks, which led to the betrayal of the Zimbabwean masses. The IC insisted that the correction of these errors required a serious and objective analysis, not organizational scapegoating by those anxious to cover up their own tracks.
The IC delegates made it absolutely clear that they were not going to provide unprincipled backing for Comrades Slaughter and Banda; and that the precondition for further collaboration between the Fourth International and the WRP would be the explicit acceptance of the authority of the International Committee. The IC was prepared to collaborate loyally with all those within the WRP who accepted this internationalist standpoint—both majority and minority—and work for the unity of the British section on the basis of a principled discussion of all political differences. The IC emphasized that acceptance of this proposal would itself be a crucial test of the political character of both factions and their leaders. The international delegates then produced the two resolutions which had been prepared prior to the meeting. The first announced the endorsement of Healy’s expulsion from the WRP. The second resolution analyzed the crisis in the British section and put forward concrete proposals for overcoming it and avoiding, if possible, a split.
Let us quote several passages:
“At the root of the present crisis which erupted with the exposure of the corrupt practices of G. Healy and the attempt of the WRP Political Committee to cover them up, is the prolonged drift of the WRP leadership away from the strategical task of the building of the world party of socialist revolution towards an increasingly nationalist perspective and practice...
“In the past the WRP has correctly urged its international comrades to always begin from the needs of the world party and not from narrow national considerations.
“Now the ICFI calls on all leaders and members of the WRP, whatever their legitimate differences on perspective and program, to subordinate themselves to the discipline of our international movement and uphold its authority.
“If this is not done, there is the imminent danger of a split without clarity on issues of principle and programme. Such a split would severely weaken the Party and create the conditions for provocations against the WRP and other sections of the ICFI.
“Certainly the section which has played the leading role in exposing the activities of the agencies of imperialism and Stalinism in the Trotskyist movement cannot be unmindful of the dangers inherent in the present situation.
“Political differences should be neither suppressed nor concealed. They exist and must be openly and fully discussed in a Party united under the leadership of the ICFI and the Central Committee of the WRP. In this way the cadre of the WRP and the entire international movement can be educated and the present crisis overcome in a way which will bring gains for the ICFI as a whole.”
One month later, Comrade Slaughter demagogically attacks this resolution, thus exposing the fact that his participation in the IC meeting and his support for the Resolution was simply an unprincipled maneuver. His claim that “We (i.e., himself, Banda, and Jones) voted for the IC Resolution because that was all we could get agreement on” is a political non-sequitur, because the Resolution made no concessions whatsoever to the position put forward by Slaughter, Banda and Jones at the start of the meeting: that the IC should rubber stamp a split with the minority. The IC Resolution instructed the WRP majority to prepare for the 8th Congress “starting with the circulation of documents by both the Majority and Minority tendencies.”
As for Slaughter’s argument that the Resolution was “fundamentally wrong” because Redgrave had already initiated a lawsuit against the WRP, this has no political weight whatsoever. First, as Slaughter must certainly recall, he began to shift his position in the course of the discussion of point 3 of the IC proposal: that “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.” Though he now specifically attacks this proposal, claiming that it is impermissible “to ask that such actions be ‘withdrawn’ and ‘discussion’ for ‘unity’ resumed,”—a position which we consider absurd—it was Slaughter himself who agreed, and then urged Banda to recognize, that an attempt should be made to see whether it would be possible to prevail on Redgrave, through the intervention of the leaders of the minority faction, to call off her legal action against the WRP. After the British delegates accepted the IC proposal, Slaughter and Banda contacted the News Line editorial office and instructed them to remove from the front page an article that had been prepared on the legal suit filed by Redgrave. With a substantial portion of the party’s assets threatened, only a fool or worse would accept Slaughter’s claim that, as a matter of principle, the IC should not have demanded the withdrawal of a legal action against the WRP.
At any rate, the issue is a cynical diversion. Anyone who reads the Resolution will understand that had the minority accepted its provisions, it would have been compelled to demand that Redgrave call off her attack on the Party. If she had refused, the minority would have had to support her expulsion from the WRP and then collaborate loyally with the majority to repulse her attack. Who in his right mind can claim that the IC Resolution, and specifically provision 3, failed to recognize class lines?
All this aside, the question of Redgrave was entirely secondary. The attempt of the IC to establish the conditions for a principled discussion within the WRP and to avoid a split if possible was absolutely correct. If Trotsky was correct to oppose a split with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union even after Stalin was driving his secretaries to suicide and arresting and shooting his supporters, and if he was correct to oppose a precipitous split with Burnham, Abern and Shachtman even after they rejected the defense of the USSR, the IC was correct to strive to establish a principled line of struggle within its British section without being unduly distracted by the actions of Redgrave. The International Committee was not, as Comrade Slaughter suggests, “toying” with unity. It was fighting for the political clarification of the British section and the entire world movement.
The llth-hour decision of the British section to accept the terms of the Resolution was warmly welcomed by the International Committee. It was seen as an important first step toward breaking with the anti-internationalism of Healy and toward genuine collaboration with the Fourth International. It was agreed that Comrade North should contact a representative of the minority faction the following morning, October 26th, and put the agreement before them. If they were prepared to discuss the proposal, a further meeting was to be held between representatives of both factions under the auspices of the International Committee.
As arranged, Comrade North contacted Ben Rudder of the minority faction at 7:45 AM. He informed Rudder that the majority had agreed to an IC proposal that would guarantee the constitutional rights of the minority and allow the discussion to proceed within the Party. He stated that the International Committee would be on the premises of the London center from 10 AM on, prepared to meet with representatives of the minority to discuss the Resolution in detail. In conclusion, Comrade North said to Rudder: “We are assuming that you still consider yourselves members and accept the authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International.” Rudder’s reply was: “You shouldn’t assume anything.” That remark, and the events of the next few hours, demonstrated that the International Committee had correctly identified the fundamental issue within the WRP: For or against the Fourth International! The minority refused to meet with representatives of the International Committee. Here they exposed Healy’s real line: rejection of the Fourth International. He and his coterie of petty-bourgeois nationalists will not accept the authority of an international proletarian party which they cannot control. Like all revisionists, they see in the program and principles of the Fourth International an obstacle to their centrist orientation to one or another section of the existing trade union, social-democratic and Stalinist bureaucracies.
The pro-Healy rump split from the WRP on the basis of a break with the Fourth International. Alex Mitchell showed up outside the London center not to meet with the International Committee, but rather to circulate the “communique” of the Greek and Spanish organizations which had refused to attend the IC meeting and fight for their positions within the Fourth International.
It is significant that Comrade Slaughter has comparatively little to say about this important part of the struggle within the International Committee. This is because a careful analysis of the issues raised with the Greeks and Spanish cuts completely across his attempts to belittle the issue of internationalism, a word and concept that Slaughter misses no opportunity to denigrate. It is too “formal” and “abstract.” For example, Comrade Slaughter writes: “I do not accept that the relations between IC members in London on the one hand and the WRP CC members in London on the other are more decisive historically, more important, than the actual issues on which Healy was expelled.” But raised in the question of relations between the IC and the WRP is the historical necessity of the Fourth International. Slaughter counterposes so-called “actual issues” to the principles upon which the Trotskyist movement is based. In doing so, he ignores the real political content of these “actual issues” and thus defends the anti-internationalism that characterized the degeneration of the WRP and ultimately produced the abominable organizational regime. The challenge confronting Marxists at every point in the class struggle—which finds its most complex though concealed reflection within the inner-party struggle—is to disclose the historical questions of principle that lie at the core of the so-called “actual issues.”
While Comrade Slaughter is not prepared to accept that relations between the WRP Central Committee and the International Committee are not “more important” than the “actual issues” of rape and physical abuse, he holds a different position on relations between the International Committee and the WIL Central Committee in Athens.
Informing the Greek section of its suspension from the International Committee, Comrade Slaughter makes clear that the sole reason for this action was the refusal of the WIL to accept the authority of the International Committee, and not its opposition to the expulsion of Healy. Writing to the Greek section on November 11, 1985, Comrade Slaughter stressed that the WIL may “of course disagree” with the decision to expel G. Healy “and fight for your position within the ICFI.” In other words, in relation to the Greek section, Slaughter places the central emphasis not on the “actual issues” of sexual abuse but on the fundamental issue of internationalism.
“The anti-internationalism which led to the refusal to attend the October 25 IC meeting must be rejected,” wrote Comrade Slaughter. “If not, the WIL faces destruction as a Trotskyist party. The WIL is on the brink of announcing the ‘transformation of the League into the revolutionary party.’ Comrade Savas and the CC know that there are gigantic destructive dangers in founding a party on the unprincipled foundation of a break with internationalism. The very best interpretation which can be placed on Comrade Savas and the Greek CC’s break with the IC is that they fear disruption of their work for the transformation into a party. Such a position, politically, means that internationalism, the foundation of our movement in every country, is rejected in favor of immediate national concerns as perceived by the WIL leadership. (Emphasis added)
“A party formed on this basis could never be a section of the World Party of Socialist Revolution, the Fourth International. It would attract all those petty bourgeois elements who reject our internationalist foundations. We urge you with all the force at our command to turn back from the path upon which you have embarked, to return immediately to the IC, and to conduct the work of founding the revolutionary party in Greece on this, the only principled basis.”
This is the advice that Comrade Slaughter gives to the Greek section, whose leaders find common ground with Healy on the basis of opposition to internationalism. S. Michael is cynically exploiting the crisis within the British section to free the WIL from any international control and meet the demands of imperialism for a new “Hellenic” centrist party, tailored to the needs of the Greek petty-bourgeoisie, to bolster the crisis-ridden PASOK of Papandreou and block the development of Trotskyist leadership in the working class. For S. Michael, “subordination” to the International Committee means submitting the program of his organization to the scrutiny of Trotskyists. Slaughter correctly condemns this rejection of the Fourth International. As he has for many years, Comrade Slaughter is prepared to defend internationalism with all the strength he can summon ... outside of Britain and as long as it does not run counter to the immediate practical needs of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
Permit us to quote still one more passage from Comrade Slaughter’s letter on the question of the events leading up to the split. He tells Comrade North:
“I have said that I think 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 meant it only to have a tactical role (defense of assets etc.).”
Far from this position being “exposed,” it was supported by every IC delegate except Comrades Slaughter, Banda and Jones. Nor was the Resolution merely a “tactical” measure, though it is now clear that Comrade Slaughter’s belated acceptance of the Resolution was simply a tactical maneuver in relation to the IC. But since the Special Conference opened on October 26th, he has been trying to undermine and discredit the Resolution. Why? Because he does not agree with the principled relation between the WRP and the International Committee defined by that Resolution.
Comrade Slaughter makes the claim that the International Committee and Comrade North “dangerously underestimated the real issues involved in the expulsion of Healy” and therefore present internationalism “in a formal way that obscures these issues.” This is nothing but a demagogic attack on the refusal of the IC delegates to accept the claim that Healy’s sexual practices are the fundamental issue involved in the split or the characterization of the Torrance-Mitchell-Redgrave faction as “near-fascist” or “neo-fascist.”
It was not the International Committee that suppressed the investigation into the sexual abuse of cadre by Healy but the leadership of the WRP. The fact that an overwhelming majority of the Political Committee endorsed the suppression of the Jennings letter and that it was concealed for months from both the WRP Central Committee and International Committee demonstrates that neither the political nor moral implications of these practices were understood, and it tarnishes later claims that the split occurred over moral corruption. If the split was simply over rape, then how is it possible that it took such a long time to move against Healy on this issue? Why was Healy permitted to close the rally last August 18th which commemorated the 45th anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination—six weeks after the Jennings letter came into the possession of the Political Committee? Why was he permitted to lecture at the International school, with IC delegates present, in late September—10 weeks after the Jennings letter? Shortly before the school was to begin, just a few days after Comrade North had been informed by Comrade Banda of Healy’s forced retirement (without the actual reason being given), the WRP general secretary called the States to find out how many Americans would be attending! The Political Committee refused to send anyone.
The Workers League maintains that the sexual abuse of cadre was a manifestation of the political degeneration of Healy and the Workers Revolutionary Party. The former was a derivative of the latter. No one is denying that the sexual practices are of political significance and that such abuses cannot be tolerated. As a matter of fact, Comrade Slaughter may recall that it was during his conversations with Comrade North in the United States in early October that the latter first defined these practices politically as an attack on the historically-assembled cadre of the Trotskyist movement. But to place all the emphasis on the “sex” question serves only to distract attention from the more essential issues of program, principles and method. The danger of such an approach is revealed in the December 3rd issue of News Line, which carries an article entitled “The deadly price of CORRUPTION.” A series of disconnected incidents are pasted together, connecting such diverse figures as Maurice Thorez, Georges Marchais, Ernest Thaelmann, Walter Dauge and Raymond Molinier. In reference to Thaelmann, the article mentions a 1928 scandal involving the theft of party funds which was covered up by the leader of the German CP. In turn, Thaelmann’s cover-up of his brother-in-law was sanctioned by Stalin. No doubt these unprincipled maneuvers were a reflection of the political degeneration of the Communist International. But what conclusions are drawn by the “special correspondent” who wrote the article? The victory of Hitler, he writes, “was the price that the German working class paid for the cover-up of Thaelmann in 1928. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that from a little corruption arose a massive defeat.” As far as we are concerned, this conclusion is a grotesque exaggeration. The defeat of the German working class did not arise from “a little corruption” but from the growth of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, based on the post-World War I defeats of the European working class which isolated economically backward Russia, the subsequent degeneration of the CPSU and the Comintern, and the disastrous policies imposed upon the German working class by Stalin. It appears that a new conception of history is being unveiled.
On the same page, immediately below this article on corruption, the News Line carries an interview with Tyrone Sullivan, a Labour Party member in South Wales. The article informs us that “Sullivan’s feelings are that sexual abuse is the most fascinating and important topic in the working class movement and presents a greater danger of corruption—even more so than drug abuse—which is something which is affecting the whole movement.” This interview is entitled “Morality and the Miners.” Given the fact that Sullivan, a member of the Labour Party, is not asked about the present conditions facing the miners in the aftermath of the strike nor about his views on the policies of Kinnock, we find the title ironic. (By this we imply no criticism of Tyrone Sullivan, who is not responsible for the questions he was asked.)
As for Comrade Slaughter’s continuing efforts to justify his characterization of Healy’s supporters as representatives of a “neo-fascist tendency,” we find this a truly deplorable departure from the Marxist method and the teachings of Trotsky. The method that describes Mitchell as a “near-fascist” is by no means superior to that which characterizes Thatcher as a “Bonapartist dictator.” If, indeed, the Workers Revolutionary Party turns out to have been the breeding ground for a sizeable number of fascists—including one-third of its Central Committee up until mid-October—the International Committee could have nothing to do with such an organization. Moreover, if Comrade Slaughter states, for once correctly, that “Healy and the WRP were a long way down a political path which has been well-trodden before: the path of Pabloite revisionism,” how is this to be reconciled with the claims that the supporters of Healy adhere to “the very ideology which inspired Mussolini”?
The danger of replacing concrete analysis with factional hyperbole is revealed when he states: “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.” If Comrade Slaughter re-reads this passage carefully, he will notice its strong similarities with the anti-communist rhetoric of bourgeois liberals. What does he mean by the “rights of human individuals”? The confused non-class terminology demonstrates—and here we are being generous—that he has not thought his analysis through to the end and is working on the level of superficial comparisons and analogies. Moreover, the political logic of labelling Healy and his supporters fascists is to end all analysis of this tendency and the roots of its development within both the party and the working class. On this false basis, the real nature of Healy’s political betrayal cannot be understood.
Comrade Slaughter’s attempt to portray the IC as befuddled and indecisive, incapable of recognizing the essential issues, is directly contradicted by the statement made by Mike Banda to the Central Committee, in the presence of Comrade Slaughter, when he presented the IC Resolution to the WRP leadership and urged its unanimous ratification. Standing before the majority members of the CC on October 26th, Comrade Banda stated:
“I just want to make a few remarks. Comrade Dave North tried to contact all of the sections. The Greeks refused to come. The Spanish comrades took their phone off the hook. After discussing throughout yesterday we had a lot of disagreements, which were really misunderstandings which can be understood in dealing with the enormity of the crisis that we face. The IC sent a letter to me asking for a delay in publishing the statement on Healy’s expulsion. We refused to consider it. But this did not prejudice the IC. The meeting yesterday discussed these questions. There, we concluded, after much discussion, that essentially due to the previous practice, the WRP looked upon the IC as an advisory body to rubber stamp decisions of the WRP. We had to reevaluate and reexamine the whole position of the WRP to the IC. We were holding the position of Healy which led to his destruction.
“For the first time we had to break free from these concepts which were bureaucratic, nationalist, and centrist, to subordinate ourselves to the decisions of the IC. From now on we intend to make it the construction of the IC and not just the WRP. If you look at the statement of the (pro-Healy) minority, it says nothing about the IC. It is a nationalist conception.
“I must pay a special tribute to comrades in the IC, we nearly came to blows at one point. This was the old conception when Healy said he was the IC and replaced the IC with himself. This was the reason for the expulsion of Mulgrew (from the Australian section) and the accusation that North is a CIA agent. The practice of the Greek and Spanish sections is a product of this degeneration.
“The exposure of this began in 1982. The critique of Healy’s philosophy and the WRP’s politics by the Workers League became the basis of the regeneration and rearming of the International. There was an objective logic to this process. Despite the suppression nothing could stop it. This includes the differences that arose over the Middle East, the Malvinas and Grenada. It was an international phenomenon. This is what led me to call Dave North and say ‘Renew the Alliance.’ It was not, in fact, an alliance. It involves the whole struggle of the world party. The development of dialectical materialism cannot be fought out on a nationalist basis.
“Before the IC meeting, we originally conceived of the conference today as being simply against the minority and its morals. But now I see that the decisive question is the International and how it functions. The International is not the summation of its parts. It is a body in itself. This is the fight of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We embody that. The rump group, however, does not recognize the foundations of the Fourth International.
“I want to commend Comrade Dave North and the American section. We could not have done this without their fight.”
The resolution was carried unanimously by the Central Committee and then presented, in a slightly amended form which acknowledged the split which had occurred on Saturday, October 26th, to the Special Conference which passed it by an overwhelming vote.
Comrade Slaughter’s Attack on the Workers League
In attempting to discredit the International Committee in the eyes of the WRP cadre, it is necessary for Comrade Slaughter to argue that an undifferentiated process of degeneration took place within each of the sections of the World Party. The claim that the degeneration of the IC sections paralleled and duplicated the processes within the WRP enables him to advise WRP members that it is “appropriate to ask, as one comrade did, is not mistrust in the IC equally justified?” As part of his dishonest efforts to undermine the internationalism of the WRP cadre, he singles out the Workers League for criticism and claims that Comrade North has failed to give a true account of his own degeneration and that of the American section.
We consider Comrade Slaughter’s insinuations to be nothing less than a slander against the Workers League and the International Committee. Let us state as bluntly as possible that the practices and methods of work which have existed for years inside the WRP are unknown and unheard of inside the Workers League. When the Workers League removed Tim Wohlforth as national secretary in 1974, it put an end to the domination of arbitrary and subjective methods within its leadership. Neither Comrade North nor anyone else in the leadership of the Workers League is looked upon as infallible or omniscient. There is not a single leader who has not made his share of mistakes, and these are openly discussed within the appropriate committees of the Party, and, when necessary, in front of the entire membership. The constitutional rights of all members are respected. Since Wohlforth’s resignation from the party, not a single member of the Workers League has been expelled or driven out of the movement because he or she expressed political differences with the Party leadership. Until recently, we believed that in upholding democratic centralism within the Workers League, we were simply following in the footsteps of the Workers Revolutionary Party. We had no way of knowing—and this was a major point made by Comrade North in his speech to the WRP Special Conference—that a nationalist clique leadership within the British section was systematically covering up for Healy’s organizational abuses. We had no way of knowing that Comrade Slaughter and others worked might and main for many years to present a false picture of what was actually taking place within the WRP. So for Comrade Slaughter to claim that North has been an “executor” of Healy’s “policies and methods” is an abominable libel against the political integrity of the Workers League.
Comrade Slaughter refers to the decision of the Workers League to withdraw its differences in February 1984 under conditions in which, as Comrade Slaughter now admits, North was “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.”
As Comrade North explained at the Special Conference, Banda’s remarks had an impact upon him precisely because the Workers League did not know what was taking place within the WRP and did not suspect that Banda and Slaughter were consciously misleading the International Committee. There should be no doubt about it: had either Comrades Slaughter, Banda or Geoff Pilling (who was part of the WRP delegation to the IC meeting of February 1984 and especially vitriolic in his attack on the Workers League) indicated the actual state of affairs within the WRP to Comrade North—not to mention stating that they agreed with his political report—the withdrawal of criticisms would never have been contemplated.
Comrade Slaughter continues: “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.”
We entirely reject the arguments presented above as both dishonest and cowardly. Let us point out to Comrade Slaughter that North did not withdraw his criticisms in 1984 to avoid “bitter and ruthless attacks” or out of fear of personal “isolation” or “expulsion.” A “leader” who conceals his differences because of fear is not a communist. In terms of his personal position within the IC and his relations with Healy, North crossed the Rubicon when he put down his criticisms in writing and confronted Healy and the Political Committee of the WRP in October 1982. In February 1984, when the decision to withdraw the criticisms were made, North was acting in his capacity as the leader of the movement in the United States, responsible for the political future of the Workers League as well as the International Committee. The threat was not simply against North.
Comrades Banda, Slaughter and Pilling made it clear that fraternal relations between the International Committee and the Workers League were about to be broken. A meeting of the Central Committee of the WRP had been called on Monday, February 13th, to authorize such an action.
The decision made by the American delegation to withdraw its criticisms may be legitimately criticized. But, in reply, let us note that there was not a single delegate from the other IC sections (the Australians, Sri Lankans and Peruvians were not present) who voiced agreement with even a single point made by North and the other comrades from the Workers League. The American delegates discussed at length amongst themselves the implications of a split, with the Workers League in a minority of one. Under these conditions, they decided against it. There have been other important occasions in the history of the communist movement when similar retreats were made to avoid a premature split. To those who argued categorically against the admissibility of such a retreat, Trotsky was wont to quote the Latin aphorism, “Long live justice, let the world perish!” But if the Workers League had known about the real situation within the WRP, there would have been no question of withdrawing any criticisms. Nor, we should add, would the Workers League have been a minority of one on the International Committee.
We must stress, however, that there is a fundamental difference between those who, on the basis of principled considerations, withdrew criticisms which had been put down in writing and forthrightly presented, and leaders such as Comrade Slaughter for whom concealing their own differences and denouncing criticisms made by others became a way of life. Comrade Slaughter claims that he faced the same situation which Comrade North confronted. We ask Comrade Slaughter to provide us with the record, if there is one, of his struggle against Healy within the WRP Central Committee during the last 15 years? We are not asking for private correspondence of which no one was told. Within the International Committee, for at least the last decade, there is absolutely no record of even the slightest disagreement between Slaughter and Healy. He suggests that Comrade North, prior to 1982, would “have joined in the attack mobilized by Healy” had you raised differences. Come, come, Comrade Slaughter. You have been viewed by every member of the International Committee for more than 20 years as the most erudite Marxist theoretician in the world movement. Had you simply gotten up at any meeting of the International Committee and said that you had serious disagreements with Healy’s conception of dialectics, the floodgates would have been opened up. At the very least, comrades in every section—not to mention your own—would have been alerted and encouraged to examine Healy’s method with a critical eye.
At the last meeting of the IC on November 5th, Comrade Slaughter indicated that his own role between 1982 and 1984 was not raised by Comrade North in his speech to the Special Conference. That oversight should now be corrected, for the role played by Comrade Slaughter in defending Healy and suppressing the criticisms raised by the Workers League was absolutely decisive.
In October 1982, when Comrade North informed Slaughter of his differences with Healy’s Studies in Dialectical Materialism and asked him for his opinion, Slaughter replied, “I’m very suspicious of things I don’t understand.”
North outlined the content of his differences and asked Slaughter if he thought they were correct and whether they should be pursued. He replied that they were entirely legitimate differences, that he had long been concerned with the separation of the question of dialectical method from the development of historical materialism, and that these issues must be discussed within the International Committee. Slaughter did warn that he was not prepared to indicate the precise form that his intervention in the discussion would take. This last remark caused Comrade North to ask whether he would have Slaughter’s support in raising these issues on the International Committee. Comrade Slaughter’s reply was unequivocal. “Dave,” he said, “I’m 55 years old and I’ve never pulled away from a fight.”
But the next time Comrade North visited England, he encountered a very different Cliff Slaughter. Healy did not have the courage to personally defend his Studies. That task was assigned to the rest of the WRP Political Committee, whose members were joined by Slaughter and Pilling. Healy did not attend a single session of the two-day discussion. Slaughter intervened on the second day. He declared that he had been misled by North and that now, having had the opportunity to study the written notes, he wanted to correct the impression that he had any agreement with his criticisms. He warned Comrade North that the theoretical positions which were advanced in his critique of the Studies resembled those of Sidney Hook, the American pragmatist and leading Cold War anti-communist. Thus, it was Comrade Slaughter who took the lead in mounting the defense of Healy against North’s criticisms.
Slaughter’s collaboration with Healy against the Workers League did not end with that meeting. Throughout the next year, Comrade Slaughter intervened repeatedly to build up a case that the Workers League was abandoning the struggle for dialectical materialism. The central theme of his attack was that the Workers League was underestimating the importance of Hegel in the development of Marxism. This criticism was intended to reply to North’s correct statement that Healy was “Hegelianizing” Marxism, i.e., that he was mystifying the dialectical method and reverting to subjective idealism.
In April 1983, for the first time in several years, Slaughter wrote a letter to Comrade North criticizing an editorial which had appeared in the Bulletin on the occasion of the centenary of Marx’s death. This editorial, in praising Marx’s contribution, had failed to mention the role of German idealism in the development of dialectical materialism. The Political Committee was surprised by the tone of the letter as it seemed that the slight mistake did not warrant such a major response. At any rate, with Slaughter’s criticisms in mind, Comrade North spoke at length on the origins of Marxism at the May Day rally held in Detroit the next month. No written reply was sent to Comrade Slaughter as North expected to see him soon in Britain and intended to discuss the matter there. For various reasons, the scheduled meeting with Slaughter did not take place. But in meetings with Healy during the next few months, the subject of Slaughter’s criticism never came up.
It was, therefore, with some astonishment that Comrade North reported to the Political Committee that he had received another letter from Slaughter, dated July 13, 1983, which stated:
“You will recall that I sent you a short letter, drawing your attention to certain sentences in a Bulletin editorial. This editorial wrote about Marx’s theoretical contribution without the essential content of the dialectical method achieved by the ‘negation’ of Hegel’s philosophy. Do I take it that you received this letter and that a reply can be expected?”
Comrade North responded to Comrade Slaughter, in a letter dated July 21, 1983, acknowledging the omission of reference to Hegel’s role in the March editorial and thanking him for calling this to our attention. There was no further letter on this matter from Comrade Slaughter.
The next intervention by Comrade Slaughter was made at the IC meeting held in late October 1983. After Comrade North had spoken at length on the political situation in the United States, and explained in detail the reasons for the Party’s decision to intervene for the first time in the US Presidential election with its own candidate, Slaughter attacked the report for failing to concentrate on the issue of cadre training on the basis of the dialectical method. This was followed by a denunciation by Comrade Banda of the position which the Workers League had taken on the US invasion of Grenada. On the basis of a casual glance at the headline of a single issue of the Bulletin, Banda claimed that the Workers League had failed to take a revolutionary defeatist position. Following the meeting, after taking the time to review the entire issue of the Bulletin, page by page, Comrade Banda retracted his criticism and offered to apologize to North in front of the International Committee.
Several weeks later, a letter from Comrade Slaughter arrived in the United States, reviving the false claim that the Workers League had abandoned the position of revolutionary defeatism. However, the most important aspect of this letter (to which Comrade North replied at length on December 27, 1983), was Slaughter’s escalation of the factionally-motivated attack on the Workers League’s supposed abandonment of the fight for dialectical materialism.
Once again recalling the editorial in the Bulletin, he claimed that the Workers League “had Marxist philosophy presented in a manner doctored to meet the requirements of American pragmatism.” He accused North of concentrating “on matters of program to the exclusion of an explicit treatment of the struggle for the dialectical method in the day-to-day fight with the party cadre, and that this can only bring dangerous letting up in the conscious struggle against propagandism.”
Slaughter asserted that North’s “heavy emphasis of the ‘political independence of the working class,’ backed by a quotation from In Defense of Marxism, will become a weapon in the hands of all those who retain the mark of pragmatism, because it will be treasured by them as something more ‘concrete’ than the explicit struggle to develop and comprehend the categories of dialectics as a method for that life-and-death matter of grasping the rapid and all-sided developments thrown up by the world crisis.” From there Slaughter proceeded to attack the position taken by the Workers League on Grenada and claim that it flowed from the rejection of dialectical materialism. Slaughter’s arguments, as North explained in his reply of December 27, 1983, were right-wing and Pabloite in character.
Upon studying Slaughter’s letter, it became clear that the differences between the Workers League and the Workers Revolutionary Party were of a fundamental character. What was involved was not merely a different appreciation of Hegel’s contribution to the development of Marxism—the position of the Workers League on this question had been, at any rate, shamelessly distorted by Healy and Comrade Slaughter—but a clash on the most fundamental issue of revolutionary strategy: the leading role of the proletariat in the socialist revolution. As North wrote to Slaughter: “I must admit that I am disturbed by the very suggestion that an emphasis on the ‘political independence of the working class’ could be characterized as ‘very heavy’ within the International Committee—especially in relation to the report from a sympathizing section in a country in which the working class has not yet broken politically from the liberals. All the organizational, political and theoretical tasks of a Marxist party—above all, in the United States—are directed precisely toward the achievement of this political independence.”North pointed out that “the concept of the political independence of the working class... is under relentless attack by Stalinists and revisionists all over the world today.”
Following a discussion on the Central Committee, at which Slaughter’s criticisms were rejected, it was agreed that there had to be a discussion in the International Committee on the political line of the WRP and the world movement as a whole. That is why Comrade North drafted a letter to Comrade Banda calling for a discussion on the perspectives of the International Committee. This letter, dated January 23, 1984, stated:
“We feel that the basic problem is that the International Committee has not yet drawn up a real balance sheet on its work over the last eight years. Surely we cannot simply go from alliance to alliance without making an analysis of each concrete experience through which the International Committee has passed. Without such an analysis we will face greater and greater confusion which inevitably, if not corrected, will produce political disasters in the sections.”
Two weeks later, Comrade North presented a comprehensive report, which had been prepared with the collaboration of the entire Workers League Political Committee, to the International Committee. This report, which at least some WRP members have now read thanks to the efforts of the comrades who participated in the Runcorn occupation, was rejected. By the time Comrade North formally presented his differences to the International Committee on February 11, 1984, a great deal of factional spade work had already been done by Comrade Slaughter. Further discussion on the IC and within the national sections was suppressed.
On February 14, 1984, just one day after the conclusion of this International Committee meeting, at which the Workers League was threatened with an immediate split unless it withdrew its criticisms of the political line and theoretical method of the Workers Revolutionary Party leadership, Gerry Healy wrote a letter to Cliff Slaughter, in which he congratulated the IC Secretary for the “good political job” that “was done last weekend ...” Though Healy had not attended the meeting, he boasted that “we are strong enough to ideologically rout our most important and powerful imperialist opponents.”
Having identified the Workers League with US imperialism, Healy concluded his page-long letter with the following analysis: “We have avoided the split which was posed by the metaphysical pragmatists and established instead this new unity and identity of opposites, of which they are still part. We look forward to this state of affairs continuing, also if necessary, with no holds barred.”
It is a measure of Healy’s degeneration that he could speak of the “ideological rout” of an opponent whose criticisms could neither be objectively discussed nor answered in writing.
Two days later, on February 16, 1984, Comrade Slaughter replied [We quote the text in full]:
Thank you for your letter of February 14. I believe that what you say does penetrate more deeply to the essential content of what took place at the IC of Feb 11/12. The attack from the US Section has as its content the need of the imperialists to destroy the IC. To defeat this attack means that the dialectical materialist training of the cadre in the last period has indeed been in line with the needs created by the most fundamental processes of revolutionary change in the objective world. The objective necessity at the heart of this interconnection could not have been grasped so clearly and made consciously, the content of our response without the systematic work on Vol 14 and well as Vol 38.
Not only that: we have to understand as your letter says in conclusion, that the newly established unity and conflict of opposites is not a completed and self-contained process but develops always anew in interconnection with the world revolution of which it is a part. Hence we go forward ‘also if necessary with no holds barred.’
Exposed in Healy’s letter to Slaughter and the IC Secretary’s sycophantic reply is the political cynicism and total disregard for principles which characterized the WRP leadership’s attitude toward the International Committee. When Healy crudely identified the Workers League with “our most powerful imperialist opponents,” Slaughter neither protested against this slander nor did he point out the absurdity of maintaining a “unity and identity of opposites” with an organization so defined. He did not even suggest that the disputed issues expressed a legitimate difference within the Trotskyist movement. Instead, he fortified Healy’s slander—which finally blossomed 16 months later into the allegation that Comrade North is a CIA agent—with the observation that “The attack from the US Section has as its content the need of the imperialists to destroy the IC.” No one forced Comrade Slaughter to write those words, which he knew even then to be grossly untrue. But in the struggle against the International Committee, the operative principle was, as both Comrade Slaughter and Healy agreed, “No holds barred.”
Knowing his own role in fighting against the development of Marxism in the Workers League and the International Committee, one would have expected that Comrade Slaughter would be reluctant to return so quickly to the factional war path against the ICFI. It is distressing to see how quickly Comrade Slaughter has reverted to the old methods of baiting the International. As if nothing at all had happened within the IC, he writes to Comrade North:
“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 those. 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.”
We must confess that every member of the Political Committee rubbed their eyes in amazement upon reading these lines. Has Comrade Slaughter already forgotten that it was he who explicitly attacked the Workers League’s central emphasis on the Labor Party? In his above-quoted letter to the Workers League in November 1983, Slaughter wrote:
“It is correct in general to insist, as your resolution’s concluding section does, that ‘The central issue facing the American working class is the necessity to establish its political independence through the formation of a Labor Party, and the struggle for a workers’ government committed to abolishing the capitalist system and establishing socialism.’
“Yes, but the road right now, to ‘establishing the political independence of the American working class’ is by recognizing that the ‘central issue’ is to fight for the defeat of the US imperialist invasion of Grenada and its coming attack in Nicaragua.”
In reply, Comrade North warned that Slaughter’s approach, “which explicitly separates the fight for the defeat of the US invasion of Grenada from the struggle to establish the political independence of the working class, is identical to that of every revisionist and Stalinist group in the United States.
“Wasn’t it against this invidious distinction that the Workers League and the IC based their struggle against the opportunist Pabloite conception of the ‘anti-war’ movement? Do they not always claim that our ‘sectarianism’ consists of our principled approach to all political developments, and our refusal to abandon a strategical line worked out over many years to suit what is happening ‘right now’? ...
“I do not want to write more sharply than is necessary, but the approach you suggest would lead, if accepted by the Workers League, straight toward outright opportunism ...
“Had the Bulletin of October 28, 1983 repeated 100 times the call for the defeat of US imperialism but left out the issue of the Labor Party as the central task facing the working class, the Political Committee statement would have represented a centrist evasion of the real concrete tasks.”
Comrade Slaughter never replied to this letter in writing. But the attack on the Workers League’s perspective on the Labor Party was stepped up. The Workers League was accused in February 1984 of elevating the Labor Party from a tactic to a strategy, that is, that it was liquidating the struggle for the building of the revolutionary movement in the United States in favor of exclusive concentration on the building of a labor party. The allegation was factionally motivated and false.
The Workers League made no “correction” on the campaign for a Labor Party because there was nothing to correct. Following the IC meeting of February 1984, the Party simply continued to develop the presidential campaign that it had launched one month earlier. The Election Manifesto which had been produced prior to the IC meeting was used throughout the year with great effect. The matter was never raised again on the IC. (As for our presidential election campaign, the first waged by the Workers League since its founding in 1966, it was virtually ignored by the Workers Revolutionary Party. In the course of 11 months, the News Line ran less than a half dozen news articles on it. So much for Healy’s interest in what he liked to refer to, on holiday occasions, as “the great North American proletariat.”)
It was not the Workers League which abandoned the Labor Party orientation. We defended it against the criticism of Comrade Slaughter and the WRP leadership. Our record on this question is of immense pride to our entire membership.
Comrade Slaughter is not finished with his criticisms of North and the Workers League. He continues: “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 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 the 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.”
First, let us make a minor correction. Comrade Slaughter refers to the error on the trade union bureaucracy and the 12th Congress as if there were two different episodes in 1985. In fact, the incorrect formulation on the bureaucracy was part of the same resolution that was discussed at the 12th Congress. As for the substance of his criticism, we have no difficulty acknowledging that the Workers League, like every other revolutionary party, makes mistakes.
But Comrade Slaughter should feel somewhat ashamed of the way he raises this in his letter to Comrade North. Given the conditions which existed within the International Committee in the aftermath of February 1984, it was inescapable that serious political problems would arise within the Workers League and every other section of the International Committee. Our party has never operated with the delusion that a correct national orientation can be sustained without a scientific international perspective developed by the Fourth International. The Workers League, like every other section, paid a price for the impressionist international perspective that was written by Comrade Slaughter, in collaboration with Healy, and then imposed on the Internationa] Committee. The mistakes within the Workers League perspective flowed directly from the 10th International Congress Resolution.
The fundamental thesis of this international perspective was “the struggle for power is on the agenda in every country,” that the crisis is not “building up,” but rather that “Every single day is a movement of the revolutionary flux of developments.” It insisted that “the decisive revolutionary battles are already engaged.”
When Comrade Slaughter introduced this resolution in a speech to the 7th Congress of the Workers Revolutionary Party just one year ago, he placed great emphasis on this thesis: “All the unevenness and variations in tempo and form until now, even so now, are levelled out.”
As for the situation in America, the resolution stated that “The proletariat of the United States, undefeated, enters struggles of a revolutionary nature simultaneously with those of the rest of the world.” Under conditions in which strike activity within the United States had fallen for three successive years, in the aftermath of the destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers’ Organization (PATCO), to record lows, the international perspective of imminent revolution inevitably had a disorienting effect. It was for this reason that exaggerated weight was placed on the war preparations of the Reagan Administration as the catalyst of the struggle for power which the IC declared to be on the agenda. We might add that the Workers League was also working under the burden of the allegation made by Comrade Slaughter and the WRP during the previous 18 months that it had abandoned the principle of revolutionary defeatism. These distortions had a definite impact on the Party cadre and this led to a situation in which the Political Committee believed that it had to make explicit its attitude toward imperialist war. As for the error on the trade union bureaucracy, it is true that the Workers League Resolution incorrectly placed too great an emphasis on the enormous financial income of the personnel of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, which totals in the billions of dollars. But this was a minor and easily corrected mistake. Nowhere did the resolution evince a programmatic retreat from the League’s implacable struggle against the trade union bureaucracy.
In the written statement to the membership of the Workers League, dated October 6, 1985, Comrade Slaughter specifically declared that the 10th International Congress Resolution “was the real cause of the incorrect perspective which you withdrew at your 12th Congress.” In his letter of November 26th, he writes no less emphatically: “I am convinced, as you are, that such a gross revision of our basic perspectives 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, of course, Comrade Slaughter attempts to do precisely that.
Comrade Slaughter writes:
“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.”
We certainly do, and for the benefit of the membership of the WRP and International Committee sections we shall explain why. The political line of this letter was set down by Comrade Slaughter himself, who told the Political Committee upon the conclusion of the 12th Congress, that the source of the mistakes in the party’s perspectives was Comrade North’s opposition to the dialectical materialist method being championed by Healy. He insisted that North had failed to correct the “mistakes” he had made between 1982 and 1984 in criticizing Healy and the WRP. At one point, during a meeting of the Political Committee, Comrade Slaughter made a motion demanding that a quote from Lenin’s Volume 38 be written down on a placard and posted in a prominent place in the room where the PC meets.
Despite the temporary disorientation the problems were eventually overcome as the Political Committee established that the source of the mistakes of the 12th Congress Resolution was the false international perspective. It was on the basis of these discussions within the Workers League PC that North brought to the attention of Comrades Banda and Slaughter in September the Pabloite formulations in the 10th Congress Resolution.
What emerges from this not too pretty record of Slaughter’s role between 1982 and 1985 is that he was by no means some sort of passive victim of Healy’s abuses. Rather, when the political and theoretical conceptions underlying these abuses were challenged by a section of the International (as well as by individual members within the WRP, such as B. Martin), Slaughter closed ranks with Healy. Whatever his private disagreements with Healy’s conception of dialectics, Slaughter vigorously defended Healy’s “infallibility” against opponents within the International Committee and the Workers Revolutionary Party. Even the extent of those “private” disagreements can be properly called into question. Aside from the above quoted letter following the IC meeting of February 1984, there is another “Dear Gerry” hand-written letter which sheds considerable light on the nature of Comrade Slaughter’s extremely unprincipled relations with Healy:
“I would just like to say,” Slaughter writes, “that I consider your report (and the discussion which it produced) the most irrevocable proof of the correctness of the struggle for theory and practice which you have led. Here is the ‘concrete’ produced through the work of abstraction, on which living perception has been posited. This concreteness—the road to the dictatorship of the proletariat in England came not from ‘concrete issues’ & ‘action’ but from the qualitative fights for dialectical practice of cognition. Like 1917 it is the party that starts with dialectical materialism that makes the revolution & not the ‘get in the streets’ men. Like Dora Kaplan, they will find themselves now, without reservation, on the other side.
Best wishes, Cliff”
This letter does not only stroke Healy’s ego; it explicitly warns him that those who are resisting his emphasis on the dialectical practice of cognition are counter-revolutionists who are prepared to use physical violence to defeat his leadership. What else can the reference to Dora Kaplan—the Socialist Revolutionary who attempted to assassinate Lenin in August 1918—mean? This correspondence, by an experienced leader with decades in the Trotskyist movement, does not mesh with Comrade Slaughter’s present account of his role in the Party under Healy. At one moment he’s congratulating Healy for defeating an attack from the Workers League which Slaughter characterized as an attempt by US imperialism to destroy the IC. At another moment he’s advising Healy that his struggle for dialectics is being waged against the Dora Kaplans of the WRP! This, we suspect, is all part of fighting “with no holds barred.”
Let us emphasize again: the conflict within the IC was not between North and Healy. It was between the Workers League and the Workers Revolutionary Party. It was not a clash of personalities but of program and perspective. That is why Comrade Slaughter’s present distortions, his attacks on Comrade North and the Workers League, and his attempt to reduce everything to the small coin of “personal” mistakes are so dangerous. It leads him to completely misrepresent the actual relations within the International Committee during the 1980s. He writes:
“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...
“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 the 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 Workers League rejects this account completely. According to Slaughter, there was no political struggle by the Workers League against the revisionist degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party. There were only individuals and their misgivings, doubts, reservations and, ultimately, capitulation to the all-powerful Healy.
We would like to know, what “positive and theoretical work” done by Slaughter and Banda is being referred to here? We know from the examination of Slaughter‘s role in 1982-85 that he was working, not as an armchair theoretician, as he seems to imply, “separated from the actual conduct of the work of the IC,” but as Healy’s principal defender in the ICFI. Far from being “all-powerful”, Healy retreated in front of the challenge which he faced within the International Committee. In the two years prior to North’s criticisms of Healy’s distortions of dialectical materialism, Healy wrote more than 25 lengthy articles in the pages of the News Line. These came to an abrupt end after October 1982. From then on, he did not attempt another article on philosophy. As for the fight against his “most powerful” imperialist opponent, that, as we have seen, was left to Comrade Slaughter.
Slaughter makes an equation between this role and the theoretical work done by Dave North, which was also not “separated from the actual conduct of the work of the IC,” but was part of a struggle against the political degeneration of the WRP and through it of the IC.
Theoretical work is not the activity of the isolated individual contemplating the universe. It is inseparable from revolutionary practice. The driving force of the “positive and theoretical work” done by Dave North and the Workers League was the struggle against revisionism, about which Slaughter says precisely nothing, a struggle which was carried out both against the Socialist Workers Party, and against revisionism within the IC and WRP.
This struggle began first with the analysis of Larry Siegle’s attack on Trotsky and Permanent Revolution in 1981-82, then continued with the critique of Healy’s “Studies in Dialectical Materialism,” and then the analysis of Barnes’s repudiation of Permanent Revolution in his speech of December 31, 1982.
The fact that Dave North criticized the gross idealist distortion and vulgarization of dialectics by Healy and the increasingly right-wing political line of the WRP, cannot be explained as a “personal” question. This is demonstrated by the fact that when he made these differences known to comrades on the Political Committee, there was not only general agreement, but a reaction that many comrades had begun to have serious questions about the political and theoretical line of the WRP.
This incidentally gives the lie to Slaughter’s claim that he could not raise his supposed differences with Healy because up until 1982 the Workers League would “have joined in the attack mobilized by Healy.”
The struggle against revisionism was being conducted by the Workers League, not in a political vacuum, but as part of the struggle to penetrate the working class. Beginning in 1978-79, following the assassination of Tom Henehan, the Workers League decided on and carried out the transfer of its political center from Manhattan, the East Coast mecca of middle class radicalism, to Detroit, one of the great centers of the industrial labor movement. The bulk of the work of the party was concentrated in the industrial Midwest. This was an enormous advance in the struggle to implement the “proletarian orientation” that had been fought for by Trotsky in 1939-40 during the fight against the petty-bourgeois opposition inside the SWP.
At a time when the Workers Revolutionary Party was turning to the national bourgeoisie of Libya, Iraq, and the Gulf, and later to Labour “lefts” such as Knight and Livingstone, the Workers League was engaged in a tenacious and protracted struggle to turn to the working class.
The correctness of this struggle was vindicated in the battles which erupted after the installation of the Reagan Administration in 1980, above all the PATCO strike of 1981, the Phelps Dodge and Greyhound strikes in 1983, and the struggles over concessions, plant closings and unionbusting throughout this period. In every struggle in which the party intervened, not without mistakes and difficulties, but with a serious effort to overcome then, it made real gains, in terms of new relations with important sections of the working class, the political tempering and education of our own cadres, and, even if initially few in number, the recruitment and training of new cadres in the working class. It should be known to every member of the WRP that between February 1978 and May 1984—the entire period of these crucial experiences of the Trotskyist movement in the United States—not a single member of the Workers Revolutionary Party leadership came to the United States, the center of world imperialism, to attend as much as one Central Committee meeting. During the same period, countless trips were made to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya. This says everything about the real perspectives of the WRP.
The struggles of the Workers League inside the American working class were conducted simultaneously with an unprecedented level of international work. The investigation into Security and the Fourth International, culminating in the Gelfand case, produced a wealth of historical knowledge for the world Trotskyist movement and the international working class about the joint conspiracies of Stalinism and imperialism against the revolutionary movement. This struggle continues to this day.
The political differences raised by the Workers League with the WRP in 1983-84 were directly associated with our section’s decision to run for the first time in the presidential elections. This was the product above all of the struggle against revisionism, both the analysis of Barnes’s rejection of Permanent Revolution and the assessment of the SWP’s actions in the Gelfand case, when it proved the correctness of Security and the Fourth International by coming openly to the defense of the GPU agents Zborowski and Sylvia Franklin.
Despite the enormous difficulties created by the refusal of the WRP leadership to allow any political discussion at the IC meeting of February, 1984, the Workers League continued its presidential election campaign, and won ballot status in six major industrial states with a population of over 50 million. The Workers League overcame direct opposition from the capitalist parties, involving the arrests of members and attempts (all unsuccessful) to deny the Party a place on the ballot. We conducted the broadest campaign for Trotskyist principles in our movement’s history. This development, as we have said before, was virtually ignored in the press of the British section.
We have gone to some length in presenting the political record of the Workers League, and the relation of this record to the crisis which has erupted within the International Committee. If we are unable at this stage in the discussion to present an equally detailed account of the work of other sections, it is not because this work was less important, but because it would be presumptuous to write on it without the necessary knowledge. The nationalist clique in the WRP leadership prevented the IC sections from learning from each other’s experiences. However, from the little we know about it, we believe that every section of the International Committee could learn many valuable lessons from the way our comrades in the Revolutionary Communist League in Sri Lanka stood up for the right of the Tamil nation to self-determination in the midst of murderous pogroms in Colombo.
We are convinced that the Workers League’s record of principled political struggle is not exceptional in the International Committee. We categorically reject Slaughter’s groundless assertion that the same process of degeneration was taking place in every section that most assuredly did take place within the WRP.
The proof of this is the way in which the majority of the sections of the International Committee quickly came to a common understanding and worked together on the basis of a principled agreement to deal with the crisis within the WRP.
Slaughter’s amalgam (“this process that you went through has been true of many many of us who have worked in the WRP and IC leadership”) breaks down as soon as one examines the actual consequences of the February 1984 IC meeting. For the Workers League, the retreat forced upon our delegates to the IC meeting was confusing, damaging, but ultimately overcome.
For the Workers Revolutionary Party, on the other hand, the February 1984 IC meeting was a milestone on the road to political disaster. Even at that late date, had the WRP accepted the need for an objective international discussion, it would have been possible to come to grips with the political disorientation of the leadership, create the conditions for exposing and correcting the organizational abuses, and rearm the entire party. Instead, the eruption of the miners’ strike just one month later pitched the WRP membership into a historic development of the class struggle with a radically false political orientation.
The political implications of the party’s abandonment of the struggle against revisionism were brought out into the open. 1) The WRP developed an entirely false conception of the nature of the Thatcher regime, which it proclaimed to be a Bonapartist dictatorship. 2) Following the Mansfield demonstration of May 1984, it abandoned all criticism of the Scargill leadership and covered up for the NUM leadership’s refusal to demand that the TUC call a general strike. 3) The WRP avoided issuing any political demands upon the Labour Party in relation to the miners’ strike. Not once did it call for the bringing down of the Tory government to return a Labour government, as a means of mobilizing the working class and exposing the reformists. The abstract slogan of a “Workers Revolutionary Government” simply avoided a real struggle against the Labourites and enabled the WRP to maintain its unprincipled alliance with Livingstone and Scargill. 4) Behind the superficial euphoria about the revolutionary situation in Britain, the WRP was pessimistic and demoralized about the prospects for the working class. Prior to the end of the strike, a defeat of the strike was identified with fascism and the illegalization of the Party. Following the strike, the defeat of the miners was bombastically denied and a concrete analysis of the situation confronting the NUM avoided. 5) While maintaining the slogan of the general strike after the defeat of the miners, the longstanding adaptation to the trade union “lefts” found its consummation in the elevation of the United Front tactic into the real centerpiece of the WRP’s program - the classic form of centrist downsliding.
When the necessary detailed analysis of the WRP’s position on the miners’ strike is finally made—hopefully we have not long to wait—it will demonstrate that the movement of the working class exposed the political bankruptcy of the Healy regime and exploded the unprincipled relations that had been built up within the party’s leadership over many years. But since the split, for all Comrade Slaughter’s talk about the political clarification taking place inside the WRP, we have yet to read a single document in which the political degeneration of the party’s line is analyzed. The series of documents on the United Front testify to the confusion which exists on virtually all basic questions.
The absence of documents analyzing the fundamental political questions confronting the WRP means that the real political positions held by those in the leadership of the WRP are being concealed from the international movement and from the WRP membership. This has extremely serious implications. It is becoming increasingly obvious that at least a section of the majority leadership—specifically, that section which takes its lead from Comrade Slaughter—are working consciously to break with the International Committee and the historical principles and traditions of the Fourth International which it represents.
Despite the indignant response of many Central Committee members to the criticisms made of the recent meeting in Friends Hall by Comrade P. Schwarz, an IC delegate and member of the German section, we believe his warning to be entirely justified and correct. The depth of the on-going crisis within the WRP is demonstrated by the very fact that a majority of the Central Committee do not even seem to recognize the grave implications of the statements made by Comrade Slaughter at that public meeting on the expulsion of Healy. Without any prior discussion on the International Committee, Comrade Slaughter publicly calls into question the charges made over many years by our movement against Joseph Hansen in the course of the decade-long campaign on Security and the Fourth International. He even raises questions about the legitimacy of the 1953 split with the Pabloites. The chairman of the meeting then gives the floor to Stalinist Monty Johnstone, who has already shaken hands with Comrade Slaughter.
These shameful proceedings, like everything else which takes place in the WRP, are defended on the grounds of the immediate practical needs of the struggle in Britain against Healy. It is more or less assumed, if it is even thought of at all, that the actions decided upon by the WRP to solve “its own” problems serve the interests of the International Committee.
We are appalled by the fact that Stalinist scum like Johnstone are welcomed at a meeting called by a founding section of the International Committee. Is there anyone who believes that the Trotskyist movement has anything to learn about “revolutionary morality” from Johnstone? Does Comrade Slaughter believe that Healy’s opportunist degeneration and Stalin’s physical annihilation of the Bolshevik Party are historical phenomena of equal magnitude? For Slaughter to wax indignant about the International Committee’s supposed inability to recognize Redgrave’s crossing of class lines while he shakes hands with a political representative of counter-revolution exposes the truly reactionary implications of his attack on the International Committee.
We are no less disgusted by the welcome given to reprobates like Pennington, who represent the dregs of the Pabloite movement. We have absolutely nothing to learn from him and the international tendency he represents, which now openly condemns the theory of Permanent Revolution. As for the “revolutionary morality” of the Pabloites, the practices for which Healy was expelled wouldn’t raise an eyebrow within their petty-bourgeois outfits. We are also indignant over Slaughter’s statement that those who remained inside the Party are neither politically superior nor better equipped to deal with the present crisis in the WRP than those who left the movement. How disgraceful it is that Comrade Slaughter debases the party and its self-sacrificing members in front of the mortal enemies of the Trotskyist movement.
On the question of the Security and the Fourth International investigation, it should be noted that Comrade Slaughter is intimately familiar with the entire development of this campaign. He has written on it more than once. On not a single occasion has he suggested that the exposure of the SWP was not founded on powerful documentary evidence. More than one decade ago, on October 23, 1975, Slaughter wrote to Joseph Hansen:
“Security is not only an organizational question, but above all a fundamental political question of the struggle of the world party of socialist revolution against the capitalist state, against the intelligence and repressive agencies of the imperialist powers, and against the Stalinist bureaucracy, the main counter-revolutionary force in the world arena, dedicated since its inception to the liquidation of the Fourth International.
“The training of revolutionary cadres for the revolutionary struggles of today cannot be carried out without a relentless fight to establish the historical continuity of Trotsky’s life and death battle against the Stalinist bureaucracy.
“When Hansen lyingly accuses the Workers Revolutionary Party of being led by police agents and provocateurs, but then rejects a security investigation which would hit decisively at the Stalinists and their agents in our movement, what role is he playing? Why has he hitherto insisted on covering up the great historical questions concerning the murder of the founder of the Fourth International and his closest collaborators? What is the responsibility of those, like Hansen, who have criminally neglected these question and now refuse to take them up?”
Further on, after referring to Hansen’s trips to the US Embassy in Mexico City and his secret meetings with the GPU agent “John,” Slaughter wrote:
“Comrade Hansen, you have written many articles and memoirs claiming to give a full picture of the circumstances surrounding Trotsky’s assassination. You even wrote a detailed supplementation of the facts as given by Isaac Deutscher, in your introduction to Trotsky’s My Life. Yet at no time did you mention the GPU’s attempt to recruit you. Nor did it enter into the political preparation of the comrades responsible for guarding Trotsky either before or after the Siqueiros raid. The international movement has never been informed, and we have the extraordinary position where the US State Department has known of your ‘operation’ of playing along the GPU, according to you with Trotsky’s agreement, but our own movement has been kept in ignorance...
“These are not, we repeat, dead historical questions. The Cointelpro documents reveal the extensive infiltration of the FBI against the SWP. No one can doubt the implications of the billions of dollars spent on the CIA. And the Stalinist bureaucracy, in crisis equally with imperialism, will always strive to liquidate our movement.”
During the past decade, the investigation conducted by the International Committee has assembled thousands of pieces of evidence to substantiate all its charges against Hansen. When Comrade Slaughter wrote the lines quoted above, we did not yet have the official correspondence which noted Hansen’s request for a contact within the FBI “to whom information can be imparted with impunity.” We did not have the sworn testimony of SWP leaders from the 1940s establishing that nothing was known within the Party leadership about Hansen’s contacts with the FBI and GPU. We did not have a copy of the private letter to Hansen from his close friend, V.T. O’Brien, recalling the secret identification of Hansen as a GPU agent by Louis Budenz. We did not have the June 1958 grand jury testimony of Sylvia Franklin, in which she acknowledged her role as an agent of the Communist Party inside the SWP and thus exploded the decades-long cover-up by Hansen and his Pabloite associates. Nor did we have knowledge of the fact that the entire central leadership of the SWP was recruited from the same small Midwestern college in Minnesota. Comrade Slaughter also knows that during the Gelfand case, the Socialist Workers Party collaborated with Mark Zborowski—the GPU assassin of Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov—to prevent his deposition from being taken. Eventually, the deposition was barred by the US Federal Court on the grounds that the identification by Zborowski of agents inside the SWP would be in violation of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
And yet he now publicly questions the allegations against Hansen—thus providing encouragement to the Socialist Workers Party, which wrote in the December 2, 1985 issue of Intercontinental Press that “it’s possible that the fallout over the next few months from the party’s breakup will produce a few bits and pieces about the slander campaign against the SWP and other organizations.”
What took place at Friends Hall was not a meeting; it was a perspective. What was revealed at that meeting is a move toward what the SWP once called “regroupment”—that is, the abandonment of Trotskyism in favor of unprincipled alliances with radicals, revisionists and Stalinists of all description. This right-wing orientation is explicitly advanced in the December 6, 1985 issue of News Line, in which Pilling writes: “We have absolutely nothing to fear from the most open and wide-ranging discussion with Stalinism.” And what is it that Pilling and Slaughter want to discuss with the Stalinists? The crisis inside the Workers Revolutionary Party. It is one thing for Trotskyists to approach rank-and-file Stalinist workers and seek to break them from the counter-revolutionary policies of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is quite another to “discuss” the internal problems of the WRP with what Pilling himself refers to as a “notorious Stalinist.” Such discussion can have only one aim: to explore the possibilities for joint work and future amalgamation. It would be one of the greater ironies of history if the program of the regroupment of which at least some WRP leaders are privately thinking was to be written under the heading, “Revolutionary Morality.”
Pilling adds: “So we retract nothing about our public meeting. We intend to carry out a systematic investigation of every aspect of the movement’s history, from the time of Trotsky’s death onwards.” What does this mean? Does the WRP intend to reconsider the split with the right-wing Goldman-Morrow faction in 1946? Reappraise the refusal of the Fourth International to reunify with the Shachtmanites? Reexamine the split with the Pabloites in 1953? Re-evaluate the rejection of reunification and the break with Hansen in 1963 (The precondition for such a re-evaluation would be the repudiation of Security and the Fourth International)? Re-investigate the split with the OCI in 1971 ?
And why stop there? Why should 1940 be “arbitrarily” selected as the starting point of the “systematic investigation” proposed by Pilling? By just pushing back two years further we could reconsider the founding conference of the Fourth International. This would remove all the old “dogmas” and Trotskyist “shibboleths” which stand in the way of a regroupment of the left. In place of the Fourth International, it would be possible to create a new “Mass Leninist International” along the lines which the SWP Pabloites propose. This is the objective logic of Pilling’s statement which, in our opinion, is nothing less than a formula to justify theoretical and political renegacy. There is a political consistency in the development of Pilling and Slaughter which deserves again to be noted: from having played critical roles in defending Healy against criticisms within the International Committee and blocking a discussion of the WRP’s abandonment of a Trotskyist program, they are now the most fervent proponents of calling the entire history of the Fourth International into question.
We note, by the way, that the same issue of News Line carries an editorial in which there is a reference to the “former International Committee.” At the risk of dampening the author’s enthusiasm, allow us to assure him that the IC is more active today than it has ever been.
In the early 1960s, the drive of the SWP to break with the International Committee was bound up with its abandonment of the proletarian orientation and the Transitional Program. As the role of the SWP during the Vietnam War demonstrated, this break with Trotskyism served the most vital needs of imperialism. The SWP was to become the chief medium through which imperialism was able to prevent the linking up of the mass anti-war movement and the ghetto insurrections with the powerful movement of the American industrial proletariat during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In the present situation, the WRP leadership’s resentment of the efforts of the International Committee to establish international collaboration on the basis of democratic centralism expresses a desire to break free of the political restraints imposed upon the British section by membership in the World Party of Socialist Revolution. In the aftermath of the miners strike, which has driven the Labour Party and TUC to the right, exposing their perfidy before ever-larger sections of the working class, the creation of new centrist movements is a desperate historical necessity for the British bourgeoisie. The break-up of the old Stalinist organizations has greatly weakened that appendage of the Labour-TUC bureaucracies upon which the ruling class could formerly rely. With the Thatcher government in deep crisis—and the threat by OPEC to lower prices will destroy what little remains of her economic program—it knows very well that the return of a Labour government will be associated with an enormous political radicalization of the working class. Purges by Kinnock within the Labour Party will not halt this process.
The great danger which the bourgeoisie must avoid at all costs is the existence of a revolutionary Trotskyist party that will provide an alternative to the inevitable betrayals of the social-democrats, Stalinists, and trade union lefts like Scargill. Under these conditions, any retreat from Trotskyist principles by the WRP, that is, a turn toward POUM-style centrism, would constitute a massive historical crime against the working class.
This is why we look with great concern at every expression of indifference and hostility toward the International Committee. At each point in the present situation Marxists are obliged to examine the class forces that are working through comrades—whether they recognize them or not. We are greatly disturbed to hear that Comrade Tony Banda declared at a recent meeting of the Central Committee that the WRP should break with the Socialist Labour League of Australia rather than listen to its criticisms. We are even more disturbed by the fact that he was not called to order and sharply rebuked by the secretary of the International Committee. While WRP leaders talk about getting rid of IC sections, they seek to ingratiate themselves with revisionists and Stalinists. They are pleased to discuss with these enemies of Trotskyism but refuse to make available to the WRP members the critical documents produced by sections of the International Committee. We refer specifically to the fact that the letter of the Workers League Central Committee, dated November 21st and which was received in Clapham on November 25th, has still not been made available to the membership. It has not been published in the most recent WRP discussion bulletin, which instead carries Comrade Slaughter’s letter of November 26th as well as the Workers League Political Committee letter of July 8th, whose real origins we have already explained. The sole purpose of this deceitful arrangement and presentation of documents is to disorient the WRP membership. Before the members have a chance to read any of the documents of the International Committee, their attitude toward the IC is to be poisoned—or that is, at least, what Slaughter intends. We think he underestimates the WRP cadre. We know very well the significance of such dishonest methods in the conduct of a political discussion. As we have explained throughout this letter, Comrade Slaughter and others are “building a case” against the IC for political reasons which are becoming more evident every day.
It would be worth while for the members of the WRP Central Committee to ask themselves how it is possible—little more than a month after expelling Healy—that leaders within the British section react no differently to criticism from the international movement than Healy did between 1982 and 1984.
We still hope that it will be possible to establish truly internationalist relations with the Workers Revolutionary Party. We are prepared to provide you with all the political assistance we can. It is not too late to begin to assimilate the lessons of the past period and open up a new chapter in the struggle for Trotskyism. But we warn you in advance that we will not take the road of capitulation and betrayal.
In closing, we formally request, again, that this letter be distributed to every member of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
The Political Committee of the Workers League