The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

Document of the Workers Revolutionary Party 8th National Congress

January 1986

SECTION I—The first priority is to recognize:

1. The perspectives carried at the 7th Congress of the WRP were a travesty of Marxism. They were a rejection of the theory and strategy of Permanent Revolution, a rejection of the law of uneven development.

2. The fundamental basis of the revolutionary role of the working class and the leadership role of the Fourth International, to resolve the crisis of working class revolutionary leadership, was rejected in the WRP 7th Congress perspectives and those of the ICFI 10th World Congress.

3. Our analysis of the world capitalist crisis, instead of being directed at the basic social relations of production, was restricted to the appearances of the basic crisis in the sphere of monetary crisis.

4. The false and ultra-left international perspectives were the cover for relations in the ICFI which were the denial of internationalism. The IC sections were used as resources to be continuously bled dry by the “Central Committee Department” of the WRP.

5. Inside the WRP, the relationship of the Centre, working through a rigged Political Committee, to the ranks of the Party in the Districts and Branches, mirrored the relations in the IC: the members were regarded merely as objects to take orders and supply finances without any regard for their development as communists. As in the IC, this practice was concealed behind ultra-left sloganizing: revolutionary situation; Bonapartism going towards fascism; General Strike; Workers Revolutionary Government.

6. Political differences and genuine discussion of these perspectives was sealed off by a false system of mystified “dialectics” by G. Healy. This was used, “applied”, in order to impose on all developments in the Party the arbitrary and subjective interests, and the sectarian and opportunist politics, of G. Healy.

7. The leadership elected at the 7th Congress was hand-picked and dominated by the clique closest to G. Healy. His “Central Committee Department”, and his clique in the majority of the Political Committee, ran the Party.

8. At the 10th Congress of the ICFI, January 1985, these perspectives and practices deepened the disorientation of the international movement. Revolutionary situations and “perspectives” of mass parties and the immediate struggle for power were imposed everywhere. Dictatorial, arbitrary interventions were made in the work of sections. Communist relations between leading comrades on the IC were replaced by deals and plots. There came accusations of “CIA agents” and financial corruption—accusations led by Healy, centre of the greatest political and personal corruption of all.


The removal of the Healy clique represented a qualitative change in the Party and the elimination of major obstacles to the turn of the world party and its British section to building a real communist movement with mass support.

That such a movement must be built on the foundation of the first four congresses of the Comintern, and the Transitional Program. Of particular importance are the resolutions of the Third Congress of the CI on the Party and on tactics.

Although a qualitative change has been made from an opportunist propaganda sect we recognize that relationships, habits, and methods which grew up in the degeneration of the Party have carried over into the present. But they are not decisive, if fought in line with an uncovering of all sources and processes of degeneration. That is above all a theoretical regeneration of the Party, founded as it is on revolutionary theory. Only on this basis will we overcome the wrong perspectives of the past and elaborate perspectives to build sections of the world party fighting for leadership in the working class.

The degeneration of the WRP was at the very same time a degeneration of the ICFI. The struggle of the IC to build the nucleus of the world party of socialist revolution was deserted and replaced by phrases. The talk of inevitable progress of revolutionary movements was reminiscent of the objectivism of Pablo and even of some aspects of the “Third Period” of the Comintern. For a decade or more the IC has not had a perspective for the building of sections of the world party. On this soil, in which the unity of theory and practice fell apart, the abstract “dialectics”; and idealism of Healy could flourish. It replaced the struggle to develop Marxism through the task of resolving the crisis of revolutionary working class leadership.

The resolution on “Tasks and Perspectives for the 9th Congress of the International Committee of the Fourth International” in 1981 is a crass example.

The resolution is centered around an “historic turning point in the development of the world revolution.” The turning point? The resolution says, “The turning point is this: it is no longer possible for imperialism to wall off the anti-imperialist struggles of the masses in the former and semi-colonial countries from the intensifying class struggle in the United States, Europe and Japan.”

This is nothing but “objectivism.” “No longer possible” it says and with a “squib and a phrase” as Lenin would write, the whole crisis of leadership is wiped out.

Worse still, the resolution declares: “The 8th Congress of the International Committee voted to constitute itself as the nucleus of the World Party of Socialist Revolution. The decision was the most important since the founding of the International Committee in 1953 to defend the Fourth International against Pabloite revisionism. The material foundation for this decisive advance in the struggle to resolve the historic crisis of revolutionary leadership in the working class was the Iranian Revolution, the greatest strategic defeat for world imperialism since the 1917 October Revolution. The correctness of this decision has been further manifested in the outbreak of the political revolution in Poland ...”

Since the October Revolution? And the Chinese Revolution, which did have a small difference from the Iranian Revolution? It resulted in a workers’ state. And Vietnam? Strange defense of the “Permanent Revolution” when we couldn’t see a class difference. As in the old Pabloite documents, we ride on the objective waves of revolution. Leadership, the subjective factor, is forgotten. We became the “nucleus of the World Party of the Socialist Revolution” by deciding to call ourselves that!

And this voting for a phrase and talk of advancing revolution, as in the case of Pablo, became an excuse for moving away from responsibilities.

We stand for a struggle for the strategy of the Permanent Revolution in action, not in words. It is not sufficient to expose the open repudiation of the “Permanent Revolution” by Barnes and the SWP. There was a desertion from the strategy of the Permanent Revolution by the IC. It lay in the IC’s failure to develop perspectives for the building of independent sections and the substitution of mystical phrases about the national liberation and political revolutions.

The Permanent Revolution also teaches us that the revolution can only be made permanent if it develops on an international plane. Quite apart from the IC’s failure to tackle the very difficult questions of building sections or assembling cadres, where have we conducted a systematic campaign to bring out in theoretical work, in pamphlets, in books, in articles, in discussions, that, on a national plane there can be no solution to the revolution in Africa, in the Middle East, in Latin America etc? Or in the political revolution in the deformed and degenerated workers’ states?

Re-establishing the Permanent Revolution means to tear down all the idealism expressed in the politics and practice of the International Committee which stemmed from the degeneration of the Healy clique. We must ruthlessly bring out how this degeneration undermined the strategy based on the Permanent Revolution in documents and in our practice.

That is why immediately the proposal of the WRP special conference must be implemented: the publication of all documents of the IC over the past ten years. The IC must be pressed to extend the discussion internationally.

The IC members who support the expulsion of Healy and who participated in the Committee during the past ten years should be welcomed in the struggle to uncover the degeneration in the WRP and the world party and to re-arm the movement to intervene to resolve the crisis of world imperialism.

Party organizations at all levels must actively participate in all working class and trade union struggles, and in the experiences and struggles of the youth. There will be an end to abstract propagandism about “revolutionary situations” and “Bonapartist regimes”, and instead a struggle to implant our Party organizations in the working class, elaborating perspectives concentrating on the essential task: resolution of the crisis of leadership.

We stand for a paper built as a communist workers’ paper of the type outlined by Zinoviev in his letter to the Communist Parties of 1923. A paper written mainly by its readers. We stand for the re-orientation of the Editorial Board and the running of the paper on these lines.

For the rousing of the Party to its responsibilities in developing worker correspondents and developing the paper as a “friend in the home” of every worker. From the development of the paper as an organizer of workers and the Party, from the growth of its authority among workers, will come the possibility of making it again a daily paper.


The 7th Congress of the WRP took place after nine months of the miners’ strike. The depth of the issues raised at first lent credibility to the ultra-leftism of the WRP perspectives and the regime of whipped-up activism.

But the reality was that these same basic issues, the confrontation of miners with the state, the craven betrayals of the TUC, the Labour leaders, the Stalinists and the centrists, and the burning necessity for a program of transitional demands and for a party able to relate politically to workers coming into conflict with the traditional leadership, inevitably exploded the accumulated contradictions in the WRP. The old, false discipline, was soon to collapse.

For this to happen, the objective developments in the class had to be met by a struggle within the revolutionary party itself. This development did not take a straight line.

Healy’s regime [was] a mass of repressed hostilities and frustrations as well as compromises forced by repression, sheer brutality, corruption, misplaced loyalty and the threat of expulsion and isolation from the Trotskyist movement. The Healy regime of intimidation was a material reality, and the breaking of it came about by a prepared explosion in which a small group of comrades working at the Party centre, including leading youth comrades, broke with Healy.

The politics of the 7th Congress, expressed in their crudest form by Healy, had been exposed in all their bankruptcy by the Stalinists and TUC’s betrayal of the miners’ strike. Alongside the ultimatum of “stay on strike for a workers’ government—or fascism”, there was a reliance on an “understanding” with the reformist group around Livingstone—the rate-capping protest would come to the aid of the miners in a revolutionary combination.

In fact the apparatus politics of this approach to the Labour left, using the revolutionary party and paper only as political ballast, was the real politics of the WRP and soon it would become clear that internationally an even greater betrayal had taken place in the selling of the principles of the Fourth International in order to gain opportunist political and financial advantage from national bourgeois governments in the Middle East.

This reached the depths with the WRP paper openly endorsing the Iraqi Ba’ath Socialist Party government’s execution of Communist Party and trade union oppositionists in 1979.

But the political conflict building up around the ending and aftermath of the miners’ strike was able to break through in 1985 only because the fight to expose Healy’s corruption, arbitrary expulsions, assaults and sexual abuses began to break the grip of Healy’s apparatus. Healy for some weeks was able to win the majority of the PC to suppress the Aileen Jennings letter, and to use the PC to suppress also the demands of a small number of comrades for a Control Commission to investigate Healy’s practices. On August 17, the International Committee was called and used to continue this cover-up, with the real cause of the crisis concealed, and large sums fraudulently raised from the IC sections.

Only by the first week of September did Cde. M. Banda force the retirement of Healy and agree to a Control Commission, and a small minority (8) on the CC began to work for a majority against Healy and what he represented.

They sought and received the collaboration of the majority of the sections of the IC. Torrance, during September and October, made it clear by her actions that she was prepared to go back to Healy and all his practices rather than accept the necessity of ending the whole cover-up in order to initiate the re-founding of the Party. Only the demonstration of this in practice made it possible for the anti-Healy minority on the CC to become the majority.

The events of October, in which comrades working at the center, at the press, in the Party bookshops, and elsewhere, acted with the CC majority to reject and isolate Healy and his clique, are fully on record.

During the same period, September and October, the written political discussion on strategy and tactics was developed. The Healy-Redgrave-Mitchell-Torrance position, developing to their logical ultra-left conclusions the 7th Congress perspectives, was submitted to the CC by Torrance. It was rejected and answered. The documents of that discussion are before the 8th Congress, and the Central Committee endorses and submits for pre-Congress discussion, the reply to Torrance, and the basis for strategy and tactics contained in the document of Cde. S. Pirani, as the basis for developing perspectives from the 8th Congress. Also submitted are the Party pamphlet covering the split and all material in the Internal Bulletin containing the letter to Cde. D. North from Cde. Slaughter.

Thirteen members of the CC elected at the 7th Congress have been expelled from the Party. They are leading a rump of some 150, and the spearhead of their politics is the use of the capitalist courts to smash the WRP. They will not do this, and the Party will unite to repulse them.

The fundamental question is to recognize, negate and overcome the degeneration inflicted on the WRP and the ICFI by the tendency led for so many years by Healy. The documents of the Party struggle from September 6 until now are placed before Congress, in order to arm the Party for a turn to mass work which has not been possible for decades because of Healy’s regime and his revisionism.

There can be no dialectical and revolutionary relation between the Party and the working class without an objective analysis of the degeneration which afflicted this Party.

The first and vital steps have been taken by expelling Healy and his clique and exposing their opportunist politics and anti-communist methods. More is involved than political line, organizational methods, and the reduction of dialectics to mumbo-jumbo by Healy.

The revolutionary party is founded on revolutionary theory, on the scientific world outlook of Marxism, developed by Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Bourgeois ideology inevitably dominates the working class, until the revolutionary party can win the leadership of the class, bringing political consciousness into the working class “from the outside.” Marxism developed not out of the working class but “alongside it”, as Lenin emphasized. It can develop only in a living connection with the revolutionary class, through the work of a communist party.

Bourgeois ideology constantly builds up new defenses, new forms of influence and corruption of the working class movement. The revolutionary party has to develop Marxist theory in conscious struggle against all these forms and by a turn to study every experience not only of the working class but of the relations between all the classes. The revolutionary party is not insulated from the ideological effects of the bourgeoisie in its epoch of decay. Only a conscious and continuous struggle [f] or Marxism can counter this influence. That struggle, carried into the working class, is the only basis for revolutionary discipline:

“How is the discipline of the revolutionary party of the proletariat maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First, by the class consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its firmness, self-sacrifice and heroism. Secondly by its ability to link itself with, to keep in close touch with, and, to a certain degree, if you will, merge itself with the broadest masses of the toilers. Thirdly by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard and by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided that the broadest masses become convinced of this correctness by their own experience...” (V.I. Lenin, Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder)

The extent of the damage done to the WRP can only be grasped from this theoretical standpoint. To refound the WRP means to reconquer its Marxist theoretical foundations. Outside of this perspective, all talk of “proletarian orientation” and “ending the rule of middle-class cliques” is demagogy which obscures the fundamental theoretical and political tasks. It misleads and miseducates the youth.

The politics and the practices of the Healy leadership actually produced leaders at national and international levels who were not only mistaken on matters of perspectives, program, strategy and tactics, and organizational methods. They rejected the most basic axioms of the Marxist world outlook against capitalism and capitalist ideology.

It was not only a matter of debating opposed ideological positions. The Healy leadership exploited and destroyed hundreds of cadres who joined this movement from the working class, youth and students. If these cadres had abilities useful to the Party apparatus, and in particular to Healy, they were kept in the kind of relation to the Party where they could be used without endangering or challenging the political and organizational domination of the real leadership.

In the period after the fall of the Tory government in 1974, this corrupt method of leadership predominated more and more in the WRP. 1974 marked the limit of the trade union militancy of the period of boom and full employment. This produced a crisis for the politics, program and theory of the Party. The trade union work, led above all by Healy in an opportunist way, in the Oxford area, by now was bankrupt in the new conditions.

Instead of the revolutionary strategy and tactics, the Transitional Program, which now needed to be developed, the WRP under Healy’s leadership began its turn to the ultimatism of the last period. This ultra-left activism for the ranks was accompanied by a systematic turning of the Party into an apparatus around the finance to be gained from national bourgeois governments and from elements of the middle class (especially V. Redgrave), radicalized in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This petty-bourgeois radicalization was typical of the early stages of a profound crisis, in which the working class at first moves, however militantly, only in a series of sectional struggles still taking the old form (e.g. the miners’ struggle of 1973-74). Stepping over the tasks of developing Marxism and turning with transitional demands to break the working class from the bureaucratic leadership (which would have required a uniting of the Party’s trade unionists, youth and writers at a higher level), Healy moved from Workers Press to News Line, representative of an apparatus, propaganda approach to bourgeois elements inside and outside the Party and the ICFI.

The years of work in which the Party’s youth, students and the cadres including writers were turned into the trade unions, were thrown aside. More and more, these sections were separated, and related to each other and to the Party only through Healy himself and a small clique. With the development of program and theory stifled and suppressed, Healy himself was built up as the fountainhead of all theory and development of program.

Behind this degeneration stands the weight of anti-theory in the British labor movement. The upper layers of the working class have for generations been corrupted by social and ideological links with imperialism, a relationship institutionalized in many ways; above all in the Labour Party and parliamentarianism. Stalinism degenerated into another arm of this political and ideological corruption. The degeneration of the WRP under Healy’s leadership has its own development but cannot be separated from this historical process.

The possibilities for Healy of building a bureaucratic apparatus in the 1970s, through opportunist political relations with the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois, and even open betrayals—these provided the conditions for Healy’s anti-theory and activism to become dominant, and for isolation to be imposed on other leading comrades. This process had profound theoretical dangers which very rapidly showed through, opening up the WRP to the worst historical influences of bourgeois ideology and its opportunist effects in the labour movement.

It was in these conditions—which require a thorough historical analysis—that the gross sexual abuses of which Healy was guilty could happen. Only in a regime of anti-communist relations (dressed up as “iron discipline”, “battles against subjectivism”, etc) could these abuses have been systematically organized and concealed for so long.

Only by driving out or isolating many of the cadres recruited or trained in previous struggles could Healy’s cult domination of the new, petty-bourgeois leadership be consolidated. By the 1970s, the WRP leadership became predominantly a committee of party professional workers and middle-class elements with no record of struggle, with workers in a tiny minority.

It is a gross distortion of Marxism to say that the abuses now exposed are nothing more than the “manifestation” of a political line. There is no doubt that only a party with a degenerated political line could contain such abuse on a prolonged and systematic basis. But both the political line and the “regime,” this morality, etc, are manifestations (each feeding the other) of the most fundamental cause, the failure to develop Marxist theory, to make, maintain and develop the break from this ideology, the world outlook, of bourgeois society in decay, particularly in the conditions of dying British imperialism.

To rebuild on Marxist foundations means to recognize the thoroughly anti-Marxist nature of the so-called “dialectical materialism” dispensed by Healy and of the perspectives of the IC, which were a rejection of the theory of Permanent Revolution, the basis of our strategy and tactics of proletarian revolution. We have only begun to re-orientate our political line on Ireland, our work in the trade unions, and our Party educational and press work, along these lines. The 8th Congress must consolidate and develop these changes.