The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

Letter from the ICFI to the Workers Revolutionary Party Central Committee

Dear Comrades:

On December 17th, the International Committee discussed the four resolutions voted by the WRP Central Committee. The following reply, which I was asked by the ICFI to prepare, summarizes the conclusions drawn from that discussion.

With regard to the first resolution, the IC noted that it contains formulations which are internally contradictory and politically wrong. It begins with the statement “That the differences within the IC be kept within the ranks of the movement. That public discussion by party members and non-members in meetings and newspapers be continued.”

This means that while members of the WRP reserve the right to continue public discussion in meetings and newspapers with “non-members”—which, under the circumstances, must include political opponents—the differences which arise within the IC as an outcome of those public discussions are to remain internal. In other words, the WRP is to be allowed to publicly criticize policies of the International Committee, but the International Committee can only reply to those criticisms at formal party meetings. Let us give a concrete example: at a public meeting in Britain, Comrade Slaughter states that he is for a re-evaluation of the 1953 split or for a re-examination of Security and the Fourth International. Several days later, at a public meeting of the Workers League, a revisionist cites the statement made by Comrade Slaughter and asks the speaker to state his position. According to the resolution passed by your Central Committee, the speaker would be compelled to agree with Slaughter or refuse to answer.

This proposal is totally unacceptable. The fact that it is advanced, however, is cause for great concern. In effect, the WRP Central Committee has passed a resolution which would formally re-establish the very same unprincipled relations which existed between the WRP and the ICFI prior to the expulsion of Healy. That is, the WRP can do and say whatever it likes and establish relations with whomever it pleases, but the ICFI sections must observe international discipline and not criticize the Workers Revolutionary Party. If nothing else, the adoption of this resolution by the Central Committee exposes how deeply ingrained anti-internationalism is within the Workers Revolutionary Party.

In rejecting this resolution, the IC delegates informed the WRP representatives that they were not challenging the right of the WRP to hold public meetings, attended by representatives of opponent organizations, at which the expulsion of Healy was explained. However, it was the position of the IC that the explanation of the split must be based on the defense of the International Committee and its history of struggle against Stalinism and revisionism. The meeting at Friends Hall on November 26th, at which Comrade Slaughter shook hands with Monty Johnstone, adopted an apologetic attitude toward the enemies of Trotskyism, which politically undermined the International Committee. The International Committee stated that if meetings of that type continued, or if the WRP press continued to publish statements which cast doubt on the programmatic foundations of the World Party, then the IC and its sections would have the right to publicly state their differences with the Workers Revolutionary Party.

The first resolution continues: “That we re-affirm our position on the demand for an international commission of enquiry on state penetration of the Trotskyist movement, publicly.” This position cannot be “reaffirmed” because it has never been advanced by the ICFI. The resolution of the WRP Central Committee would be enthusiastically welcomed by the Stalinists and every enemy of the Fourth International: “an international commission of enquiry on state penetration of the Trotskyist movement.” This means an investigation into the ICFI and all its sections, including the Workers Revolutionary Party. Coming some 49 years after the Dewey Commission denounced the Moscow Trials as a frame-up, it comes a shock to learn that such a resolution has been passed by the Central Committee of the WRP.

The International Committee has, in the past, called for a commission of inquiry to study the evidence, assembled in the course of the Security and the Fourth International investigation, of state penetration of the US Socialist Workers Party. The ICFI is prepared to make available to such a commission all the documents and evidence—both direct and circumstantial—upon which the ICFI bases its claim that Hansen was an agent of the US government. This demand is very different from what is proposed in your resolution. Making no reference at all to Security and the Fourth International, you implicitly propose to place the Trotskyist movement on trial with an open-ended investigation being conducted by its enemies.

We suspect that you may reply to this criticism by arguing that the resolution is simply worded poorly. If that is the excuse, we would answer by noting that sloppiness on so grave a matter is itself an expression of serious political instability within the leadership of the WRP.

The resolution continues: “That publicly all IC sections defend all other sections.” This is the position of the ICFI and we urge that it be implemented by the WRP.

The resolution goes on: “That contact internationally be at CC level and national congress level only. That all documents are circulated to the membership internationally.”

This item has arisen apparently in response to the meeting of the WRP minority in Manchester that was attended by delegates of the ICFI. We learned that members of the WRP minority, including Comrade D. Hyland, a delegate to the International Committee, have been charged for inviting IC delegates to their meeting. We specifically asked the other members of the British delegation to cite the statutes upon which these charges are based. They referred to a statute barring contact with non-party members. If this statute is applied to cover meetings between WRP members and the ICFI, it would mean that we do not have a World Party.

We remind the WRP Central Committee that during the years when Tim Wohlforth and Fred Mazelis worked inside the SWP as a minority tendency in support of the ICFI, they communicated regularly with the leaders of the Socialist Labour League. Wohlforth was even invited to travel to London, and this was not opposed by the SWP. Only on the very eve of the reunification and split with the ICFI did the SWP attempt to make an issue of Wohlforth’s contacts with Healy. On May 14, 1963, Farrell Dobbs wrote to Wohlforth and reproached him for “a factional liaison between you and the secretary of the IC which is being carried on behind the back of the party.” (Trotskyism vs. Revisionism, Vol. 4, p. 145)

In a reply dated May 22, 1963, Healy protested the attack on Wohlforth and warned that it served only “to create an atmosphere of suspicion and hysteria which will sharpen the factional alliances on secondary organizational matters thus confusing and beclouding the important political issues.” He added:

“We shall in no circumstances stand idly by and allow any kind of organizational measures to be taken against comrades Wohlforth, Art Fox or any other tendencies including Shane Mage or Robertson whose desire is to seriously participate in the international discussion.

“It seems strange that when comrades of all tendencies are seriously striving to organize an international discussion which would lead to agreement on world problems you should now embark on a course in relation to comrade Wohlforth and others that will not only confuse the political questions but may well lead you to take organizational measures against them.” (Ibid., pp. 146-51)

For the sake of the historical record, let us note that the SWP refrained from taking organizational measures against the minority—even after the split was consummated—because of contact with the International Committee. The pro-ICFI minority was not suspended until June 1964, after they issued a leaflet to the party membership demanding a discussion of the Pabloite betrayal in Ceylon.

Under Healy it was impossible for members of the WRP to establish contact with the ICFI, and vice versa. Membership in the World Party of Socialist Revolution existed only in words. These were the conditions which prevented WRP members of knowing anything at all about the criticisms which had been made of Healy by the Workers League between 1982 and 1984. The ICFI, therefore, finds it extraordinary to see how rapidly the present WRP leadership, in the aftermath of the split, strives to reimpose formally the same conditions which existed under Healy, informally. In 1982, the chief accusation which Healy made against me was that by speaking with Comrades Banda and Slaughter, I had “interfered” with his cadre. Now, a similar accusation is being made against the ICFI by the WRP majority because it met with a duly-constituted minority!

Not only is it outrageous that such a meeting should be considered a chargeable offense within the WRP. It is also grotesquely hypocritical. As Comrade Beams noted, leaders of the WRP majority, particularly Comrade Slaughter, are in constant contact with rank and file members of the Socialist Labour League in Australia. (It is doubly hypocritical for Comrade Slaughter to condemn the WRP minority for meeting with the ICFI; less than three months ago, when he feared that he was in a minority position within the WRP, he came to the United States to seek the support of the Workers League. He boasted then that he was coming without the approval of the WRP Central Committee.) The purpose of these contacts is to establish a minority within the Australian section. At a recent branch meeting in Liverpool, Comrade Tony Banda boasted that the WRP majority is working to win support within both the Australian and Sri Lankan sections. Moreover, the WRP majority discusses, in a completely undisciplined way, all the internal work of the ICFI among its supporters in the rank-and-file. Members are lined up to denounce the ICFI on the basis of information fed to them by Comrade Slaughter and others. However, the delegates of the ICFI are not to be allowed to meet with members of the minority! This is a travesty of democratic centralism and an expression of vitriolic anti-internationalism.

The first resolution concludes with the following proposal: “That all documents are circulated to the membership internationally.” This, in fact, is presently the procedure followed by the sections of the International Committee. Everything which can be properly classified a document is being circulated. As for articles and statements which appear in the News Line, the sections may exercise discretion over what they publish in their own press. It was noted at the ICFI meeting that the WRP did not carry out the decision made at the ICFI meeting of November 5th to publish in its press the documents produced by the Workers League between 1982 and 1984. Comrade Slaughter said that this was an oversight.

Resolution 2 states “That the ICFI statement on South Africa issued earlier this year must be re-examined in the light of the split and other subsequent developments. That we call on the IC to consider issuing another statement on South Africa.”

The IC delegates agreed that the present statement, which was written by the WRP and never discussed on the ICFI, is not a Trotskyist exposition of the perspectives and tasks of the ICFI in relation to the South African revolution. Another statement must be prepared which develops the theory of permanent revolution as it applies to the unfolding struggle of the South African proletariat. A decisive component of such a statement is an exhaustive critique of the position of the SWP, whose line on the struggle in South Africa is utterly counterrevolutionary. The Barnes cabal, proceeding from the repudiation of permanent revolution, explicitly 1) rejects any socialist perspective as “ultra-left sectarianism”; 2) demands unconditional subordination to the African National Congress and its reformist Freedom Charter; 3) opposes any independent political organization of the South African proletariat and condemns any suggestion that the trade unions should consider political action against the regime; 4) insists that the major goal of the South African revolution, which it defines unconditionally as “bourgeois democratic,” must be the creation of a large new class of black petty-bourgeois farmers. The SWP encourages the deproletarianization of sections of industrial workers and their transformation into farmers. This perspective conforms entirely to the views of that section of the US State Department which is attempting to develop a plan for the “democratic” evolution of South Africa, while creating a new social base for the defense of capitalist property relations and the struggle against the socialist strivings of the proletariat.

Resolution 3 states “That the ICFI make proposals on the re-establishment of the International Youth Committee of the FI and on the work of the youth international.”

There was, of course, no disagreement on this proposal; but discussion on the matter was deferred, for reasons of time, to the next meeting of the ICFI. Comrade Simon was asked to prepare proposals for the consideration of the IC.

Resolution 4 consisted of several points. No. 1: “That the ICFI use their good offices to prevail upon their constituent sections to open up their press to the discussion.” This point has already been dealt with in our answer to the first resolution. No. 2: “That the IC set up speaking tours of the sections by comrades from the British section, to explain the split with Healy and his supporters.” The ICFI delegates replied that they are always pleased to welcome representatives of the WRP who come for the purpose of discussing political issues. The ICFI advised the British delegates that the WRP would have to cover the travel expenses.

The ICFI categorically rejected No. 3, which proposes an investigation into the Workers League by the Control Commission of the WRP. This matter relates to three ex-members of the Workers League who left the party shortly after returning from extended stays in Britain. In replying to this point, I reviewed the history of the comrades involved. In at least one case, it is indisputable that comrade “A,” a highly-regarded cadre of the Workers League, was politically destroyed by his experiences in Britain. There is now strong grounds for suspecting that his experiences in Britain also contributed to the departure of Comrade “B.” As for “C,” it is now obvious that the conditions under which he worked while in Britain could not have helped him overcome his serious political problems. At any rate, based on the information it now possesses, it is the exclusive right of the Workers League to decide how it wishes to deal with the above-named ex-members. There is absolutely no constitutional basis for the ICFI to accept the unheard-of proposal that “the WRP control commission extend its investigation into all these, and matters relevant to WRP members in which IC members are involved.”

On No. 4: “That the ICFI should immediately consider setting up a section in France,” the delegates did hear a report from Comrade PS on the work now being conducted in Paris. Day-to-day responsibility for the development of the work in France was given to the Political Committee of the German section.

On No. 5: “That all approaches from the ICFI to either the majority or minority of the WRP be properly conducted through the CC of the WRP.” The IC delegates explained that the problem rests with the WRP majority, not with the ICFI. How can approaches from the ICFI “be properly conducted” through the CC of the WRP when the CC defines the IC as an outside force? The hostility felt by a substantial section of the WRP Central Committee toward the IC was illustrated on Friday, December 13th, when Comrade Slaughter hung up the phone on me after I requested that the delegates of the ICFI be permitted to attend your Central Committee meeting. Had the discussion not been broken off in this manner, I could have consulted with him about the invitation we had received to attend the meeting of the minority. At any rate, once the political conditions have been created to re-establish communist relations with the WRP on the basis of democratic centralism, we are confident that the Central Committee will facilitate, rather than obstruct, principled and fraternal contact between the WRP members and the International Committee.

Yours fraternally,

David North, on behalf of the ICFI