The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

For a Public Discussion on Healy’s IC

Workers Press article by Dave Good

February 7, 1986

In November last year the Workers Revolutionary Party held a meeting at Friends Meeting House on the question of “Revolutionary Morality and the split in the WRP.” Speaking on behalf of the Central Committee, Cliff Slaughter pledged that “We are at the beginning of an objective analysis, and all those who wish to really learn the lessons can certainly participate. We will examine all questions as Trotskyists.”

That was more than two months ago. Many other groups have produced material on the crisis in the ranks of our movement and a public discussion on the degeneration of the WRP is underway.

In the February issue of Socialist Viewpoint there is an article by John Lister on the internal discussion now taking place within the WRP. He was one of those expelled from the WRP in 1974, along with Alan Thornett and supporters. The 1974 expulsions have been viewed with some criticism by a lot of members of the WRP since the expulsion of Healy in October 1985. Indeed Cyril Smith, the chairman of the Control Commission in 1974 which called for the expulsion of Thornett, described it as a “controlled commission” in the pages of the Workers Press.

The present Control Commission of the Workers Revolutionary Party is reexamining the 1974 expulsions and will present a report on its findings to the party’s 8th Congress in February-March 1986.

In the article. Lister makes the following point in relation to the WRP Central Committee’s decision to engage in public discussion on the degeneration of the party:

“The very notion of discussion with other left-wing currents was sufficient to send the Healy group into near apoplexy, denouncing Slaughter and others as ‘centrists and liquidationists’ for contemplating such a course.

“Under this withering fire (from such withered sectarians) sections of the WRP majority appear to have quailed and retreated somewhat from the bold stance in favor of open discussion outlined by Slaughter in the first public meetings on the split.”

Lister does have a point, since November 1985 there has been a certain reluctance within the leadership of the WRP to engage in the public discussion which was decided upon. That is not to say that there has been no change in the public stance of the party, but there have been some questions which have been considered almost taboo in the pages of our press.

The silence of the Workers Press on a number of questions, especially matters which would formerly have been considered “internal” party matters, has hindered the party’s struggle against Healyism and even led to covering up for some of its defenders internationally. I believe that this is an unprincipled way for our party to proceed and one which must be changed forthwith.

In particular we have remained silent on the political frameup being hatched by the International Committee of the Fourth International against the present leadership of the WRP. Alas, this silence can be continued no longer, unless our party is prepared to ignore the discussion taking place publicly, or even worse to attempt to deny the truth.

In the Socialist Viewpoint article Lister states in relation to the present leadership of the WRP that “they have been challenged by an opposition promoted and encouraged by Dave North, leader of the WRP’s American sister party, the Workers League. North, donning the barely convincing guise of a longstanding opponent of Healy, has used the remnants of the WRP’s ‘International’, the International Committee, as a lever against the Slaughter wing of the movement. The WRP is currently ‘suspended’ by the International Committee at North’s urging.”

It is indeed true that on Monday, 16 December 1985, the International Committee decided to suspend the WRP from the IC. The WRP is the British section of the Fourth International, affiliated to the International Committee. This decision was taken on the basis that the WRP had “carried out an historic betrayal of the ICFI and the international working class.

“This betrayal consisted of the complete abandonment of the theory of the permanent revolution, resulting in the pursuit of unprincipled relations with sections of the colonial bourgeoisie in return for money” (ICFI resolution on the suspension of the WRP, 16 December 1985).

At the IC meeting the WRP was suspended without written charges and no opportunity to prepare a defense. The comrades who expelled Healy and his rotten clique were suspended from the IC on the basis of a frameup.

In October the IC set up an International Committee Commission “to investigate, but not limited to, the corruption of G. Healy, the coverup by the Political Committee and the financial crisis of the WRP.” This interim report was supposedly the basis of the suspension, but it was not made available to the IC delegates until after the meeting had finished.

Lister and Thornett will find the IC’s method familiar: call a control commission into the corruption of G. Healy—and use it to find his opponents guilty!

The ICC interim report does not take up the corruption of G. Healy, but attempts to frame the present leadership of the WRP for the actions of Healy. In fact any of the practices of Healy which implicate the leaders of the IC are deliberately left out of the report. The BMW car (£16,000) and the £20,000 slush fund are not mentioned, because the money was provided by the Socialist Labour League of Australia. So much for the fight against Healy’s corruption!

The suspension was opposed by the WRP Central Committee, but supported by a minority, led by Central Committee members Dave Hyland, YS National Secretary Julie Hyland and Colleen Smith. This minority follow the political line of Dave North, secretary of the Workers League in the United States. At its meeting on 29 December 1985, the Central Committee of the WRP passed a resolution rejecting the suspension of the British section of the ICFI. It is an abrogation of international leadership that the IC takes this action at a time that the discussion is underway for the WRP congress.

“The arbitrary, administrative action of the IC can only aid the Healyite clique and is meant to prevent a full discussion on the degeneration of the IC in the last 10 years as expressed in its repudiation, in practice, of the Permanent Revolution and the building of a world revolutionary leadership.”

The resolution went on to say that “we accuse the IC of splitting the WRP at a time when the Party is under vicious attack from the Healy clique and we believe that this shows the irresponsible, unprincipled nature of the IC and shows its adherence to the methods of the Healy clique.”

An intense discussion is now taking place within the WRP, and in the other sections of the IC, on the issues involved in the degeneration of the WRP and the ICFI together with the consequences of the expulsion of Healy and the rump who defended his corrupt practices within the WRP.

Lister goes on to take up the question of the relation of the WRP to the IC. He raises the fact that “North and his cothinkers ... refer repeatedly and apolitically to the need for the WRP leadership to ‘recognize the authority of the International Committee,’ and stress their defense of what they regard as a ‘continuity’ of the IC tradition.”

This is at the heart of the differences between the WRP and the IC. North says that the degeneration of the WRP was a nationalist deviation from Marxism. He goes on to assert that the IC is the embodiment of internationalism and the continuation of the struggle of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

If the WRP subordinates itself to the IC the national chauvinism of the WRP can be overcome with the assistance of the IC which North claims is the world party of socialist revolution.

But comrades from the WRP have repeatedly asked what is this IC tradition which we are supposed to subordinate ourselves to? Furthermore, where does the IC get its authority from? After all it was led by G. Healy for many years and followed his political line which is now recognized within the IC to have been thoroughly revisionist.

The international work of the IC has consisted, over the last decade, of three main aspects. Firstly, the establishment of relations with the national liberation movements and national bourgeoisie of the Middle East. Secondly, Healy’s so-called cadre training. Thirdly, Security and the Fourth International and the Gelfand case.

Over the last 15 years the WRP and the IC have established relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East. It has been pointed out, quite correctly, both within the IC and the WRP (not to mention by many other groups over a period of many years) that these relationships were opportunist. They led to support for the murder of 21 Iraqi communists by the regime of Saddam Hussein, the characterization of the Libyan Jamahiriyah as socialist and the assertion that the Iranian revolution was the greatest blow to imperialism since the Russian revolution.

These relations meant the repudiation of the theory of Permanent Revolution in practice despite many declarations in favor of it. It meant the abandonment of any perspective of building sections of the FI in the Middle East.

The IC complains that these opportunist relations were established behind their backs. There is no doubt that Healy and his clique did many things without informing the IC, the WRP central committee or the WRP membership. But abandonment of the theory of Permanent Revolution and opportunism in the Middle East was done publicly. Strange leaders these that didn’t notice these publicly wrong positions and complain that it was all done behind their backs.

But North and the IC go further, accusing the WRP of establishing mercenary relationships with reactionary and nonproletarian forces. This is the cover for North’s abandonment of the side of this work which was correct.

The defense against imperialism of the PLO and those bourgeois national regimes fighting against imperialism is not something that the WRP is going to abandon or apologize for. We will continue to take our responsibilities as revolutionaries in a metropolitan capitalist country seriously and tirelessly defend all those in the fight against imperialism, no matter how much we disagree with them.

We do recognize the need for criticism of those fighting imperialism, but we oppose those who see this as an excuse for denouncing the enemies of imperialism as reactionary and nonproletarian at every turn.

We understand that the pressure of imperialism on this question leads to a desire by North to ditch this principled position, but we will oppose this national chauvinism in the same way that we fought Healy.

To characterize the PLO, the Libyan Jamahiriyah and other bourgeois national regimes as “reactionary and non-proletarian forces,” as the IC does, has nothing in common with Marxism. Read Lenin’s report on the National and Colonial Question to the Second Congress of the Communist International! These national revolutionary movements must be supported in the struggle against imperialism by anyone who wishes to call themselves a Trotskyist.

In actual fact support for the national revolutionary movements together with criticism of the inability of the national bourgeoisie to carry through the tasks of the national revolutionary struggle, is the only basis for the building of Trotskyist parties in these countries.

The question of “cadre training” has been discussed at some length in the WRP meetings and articles in our press. From the theoretical standpoint Healy’s “philosophical work” was an attack on the ideological foundations of Marxism. There can be no revolutionary movement without rigorous defense of the theoretical basis of Marxism—principally dialectical materialism, historical materialism and Marx’s political economy.

But Healy’s “cadre training” goes much further than attacking the ideological foundations of our movement, it also created the conditions for it to be carried out. It was, in reality, the systematic moral, political, theoretical, personal and physical destruction of the cadres of our movement. It was not just what Healy said, but also what he did. Those like North who raised criticisms of Healy’s “Studies in Dialectical Materialism” only tackled one side of the problem. It is not merely a question of being right as opposed to those who are wrong.

The question of cadre training must be viewed from the standpoint of revolutionary practice. In order to overcome the legacy of Healyism, it is necessary to change the social relations within the party which enabled Healy to carry out his vile barbaric practices which were not just anticommunist but also antihuman. This is the degenerate ideology of the bourgeoisie, and no matter how much North protests, it is a near-fascist ideology.

In the IC meeting of December 16 North asserted that in the fight to regenerate the WRP, “numbers do not matter.” I have a message to him, and all those in the IC who think like him, from the membership of the WRP.

Numbers do matter, after all “numbers” are only our members, our cadres. In the WRP things have changed, with the expulsion of Healy came the fight for the rights of members. We will not stand idly by and see our cadres destroyed by “leaders” with no respect for the rights of members. We will fight for communist relations within our movement and: break with all those who reject the communists need for respect and dignity as well as determination and sacrifice.

We dealt with Healy and we are quite capable of dealing with the remnants of his supporters in the WRP and the IC.

North and the IC are presently supporting a minority within the WRP who have disrupted our meetings and trampled on our party’s constitution. They have made communist relations in our meetings at all levels, impossible. This is the continuation of Healy’s destruction of cadres and we will fight it every inch of the way. North has disagreed with what Healy had to say on the question of cadre training, but he took part in Healy’s destruction of cadres and is continuing to do so. North wants Healyite “cadre training” without Healy’s “dialectics”—let the destruction of cadres continue—we say no more, our cadres are the heart of our movement.

The third aspect of the IC’s work is Security and the Fourth International, with the Workers League’s involvement in the Gelfand case in the US. This is a very touchy subject for North. The WRP Central Committee has called for a reevaluation of the whole of Security and the Fourth International, and most leaders of the WRP are of the opinion that the whole thing is a frameup of Hansen and Novack, whose only “crime” was to revise Marxism, not spy for the FBI/CIA or GPU. This has caused panic in the leadership of the Workers League.

The “forensic science” of Healy, Mitchell and North will have to be reevaluated. It is untenable to contend that Security and the FI is the high point of the international struggle of the working class against the capitalist state, as North does and indeed the WRP used to.

The position of the WRP Central Committee is that we will not subordinate ourselves to these traditions. Anyone who will defend the work of the IC as the “continuity of Trotskyism” is no Trotskyist.

In October last year the IC proposed a reregistration of the membership of the WRP “on the basis of an explicit recognition of the subordination of the WRP to the IC.” This was endorsed unanimously by the WRP central committee on the basis that it was aimed at the exclusion from membership of the Healyite rump. In practice they split with the WRP before the reregistration began and those excluded from membership were constitutionally expelled with full rights of appeal to the party’s 8th Congress.

The form of the reregistration was the signing of a form recognizing the authority of the IC, and the subordination of the WRP to its decisions.

Hundreds of party members who had taken part in the fight against Healy refused to sign such a Healyite loyalty oath. Under pressure from the membership the central committee withdrew the form which was politically and constitutionally unjustifiable.

At the same meeting of the WRP central committee a resolution was passed on the crisis in the IC. This resolution calls quite mildly for:

1) All evidence presented and conclusions drawn be reexamined.

2) That such an investigation, including a full financial account, be carried out internally at this stage.

3) That we recognize that the Gelfand case has set an extremely damaging precedent in calling on the state to determine the membership of a working class political organization.

4) That the IC strive to find a means to resolve this outside the courts including an approach by the Workers League to the Socialist Workers Party.

This has sent North wild. The Workers League Central Committee is calling for the expulsion of the majority Central Committee members in the WRP. The 8th Congress of the WRP taking place this weekend is described as a “bogus conference packed with anti-Trotskyists.”

So be it. If North, Beams and the IC want to defend the Stinking corpse of Healy’s IC, they are welcome to do so. But I would point out to them that the truth is a powerful enemy.

To John Lister and other interested parties, the public discussion will proceed in earnest.