On Saturday, February 8, a faction inside the Workers Revolutionary Party led by M. Banda and C. Slaughter, split from the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Duly-elected delegates to the 8th Congress, representing at least half the party membership and opposed to the anti-internationalism of Slaughter and Banda, were barred from entering the conference hall and fighting for their positions inside the Congress.
The gates outside the conference hall were locked, and 25 police, gathered by the splitters, stood guard outside the Congress. Slaughter arrived at the Congress venue and entered the conference hall with a police escort.
Delegates elected in accordance with the decision of the WRP Special Congress of October 26-27, 1985, which had stipulated acceptance of the political authority of the International Committee as the essential criterion of party membership, moved to another location where they convened the legitimate 8th Congress of the WRP (Internationalist).
The attempted sabotage of the 8th Congress was the result of a premeditated decision by the faction led by Slaughter and Banda to preempt political discussion, expel all supporters of the International Committee from the WRP, and present the undecided and disoriented sections of the party membership with a fait accompli.
On January 26, 1986 the Central Committee of the WRP voted by 12 to 3 to overturn the decision of the October Special Congress and changed the rules governing the election of delegates to the upcoming 8th Congress.
The Central Committee repudiated the unanimous resolution of the Special Congress which required the reregistration of all WRP members on the basis of explicit acceptance of the subordination of the WRP to the International Committee of the Fourth International. The Central Committee ordered that the reregistration forms be withdrawn and that delegates be elected on the basis of new membership lists supplied by the branches.
In practice, this meant that anti-Trotskyists who had refused to sign the reregistration forms could now be counted as members and included in the delegate selection process—not to mention names indiscriminately added to bolster the delegates of the Slaughter-Banda faction.
Along with the vote to repudiate the Special Congress resolution—which had endorsed the IC resolution dated October 25, 1985, and was signed by Banda and Slaughter—the Central Committee also voted on January 26 to endorse a resolution which declared that “The IC cannot claim political authority as an international leadership. Neither can sections be subordinated to an international discipline determined by the IC.”
The resolution also denounced the ICFI’s decade-long investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Leon Trotsky and the penetration of the Socialist Workers Party by imperialist and Stalinist agents.
This splitting resolution was directed especially at the actions of the International Committee at its meeting of December 16-17, 1985, which heard the interim report of a control commission set up to investigate the political degeneration of the WRP under the leadership of G. Healy, Banda and Slaughter.
This report documented irrefutably the mercenary relations established by the WRP, behind the back of the ICFI, with Arab semi-colonial bourgeois regimes, in which Trotskyist principles were sold for money. In order to create the conditions for a serious accounting and principled correction of this protracted opportunist degeneration, and to defend the integrity of the International Committee, the ICFI voted to suspend the WRP as its British section.
The IC meeting of December 16-17 also rejected claims (made by Banda and Slaughter) that the ICFI had degenerated equally with the WRP, and reaffirmed the historical continuity of the Trotskyist movement, the First Four Congresses of the Communist International, the Left Opposition’s struggle against Stalinism, the Transitional Program, the “Open Letter” against Pabloite revisionism on which the IC was founded in 1953, and the struggle between 1961-63 against the bogus “reunification” of the US Socialist Workers Party with the Pabloites.
On Friday, February 7, 1986, the Slaughter-Banda faction published an edition of Workers Press with a front-page attack on the International Committee of the Fourth International, on a pro-ICFI tendency within the WRP, and on the Workers League of the United States and its national secretary, David North.
This issue included a four-page statement by M. Banda, general secretary of the WRP, entitled “Twenty-seven Reasons Why the International Committee Should be Buried Forthwith and the Fourth International Built.”
In this statement, Banda presents a slanderous account of the entire history of the Fourth International, denounces all those associated with it, asserts that the “FI was proclaimed but never built,” and declares that it was an “historical accident.”
Banda, however, did not attend the congress. He remains in Sri Lanka where he has spent the last three months since he deserted his post in the midst of the inner-party crisis. Banda was deeply implicated in the attempted coverup of the abuses which led to Healy’s expulsion.
While in Sri Lanka, Banda has been reestablishing his personal and political contacts with the anti-Trotskyist LSSP,
which betrayed Trotskyism in 1964 when it entered the bourgeois coalition government of M. Bandaranaike.
Banda’s statement, which, as Workers Press admits, arrived in Britain three weeks ago, was never circulated to the membership for discussion prior to its publication on the eve of the 8th Congress.
Since October 1985, when it first learned of the crisis within the WRP, the ICFI has conducted a principled and uncompromising struggle against the nationalist degeneration of the entire WRP leadership. This struggle has brought into the open the revisionist character of both the Healy and Banda-Slaughter factions of the WRP.
As Banda’s document makes clear, he has been politically opposed to the formation of the Fourth International for at least a decade. In the case of Slaughter, his opposition extends back even further. This scepticism underlay their refusal and inability to conduct any principled struggle against Healy’s political degeneration.
In turn, Healy suppressed political discussion, organized his leadership on the basis of the most rotten, opportunist relations, and provided a political cover for these right-centrist forces within their Central Committee.
Together, they collectively constituted a nationalist anti-Trotskyist clique leadership. They collaborated to oppose all those within the ICFI and WRP who sought to defend Trotskyism against the revisionist line of the Healy-Slaughter-Banda leadership.
Inside the WRP, a minority led by Central Committee member David Hyland, the leadership of the Young Socialists, and virtually the entire proletarian forces within the party, have fought loyally in defense of the International Committee and its Trotskyist principles.
Although supported by only a minority on the party’s unrepresentative Central Committee, the internationalist line fought for by Hyland evoked a powerful response among the WRP’s rank and file.
By the time of the Congress, support for this principled line had grown to such an extent that Banda and Slaughter felt compelled to bar Hyland and all his supporters from even attending.
It is politically significant that the February 7 edition of the Workers Press denounced those who were in the leadership of the fight against Healy’s revisionist politics and organizational abuses, David Hyland and David North.
Throughout the summer, Hyland, together with leaders of the youth movement, fought persistently within the leadership against the efforts of Banda, Slaughter and virtually the entire Political Committee to prevent a Control Commission investigation into Healy’s abuses.
From 1982 to 1984, North produced the first and only documents criticizing Healy’s distortion of dialectical materialism and the revisionist political line of the WRP. These criticisms were suppressed by Slaughter and Banda, who used their positions in the leadership of the WRP and ICFI to threaten the Workers League with the rupture of all political ties between the Workers League and the ICFI.
Meeting in Hammersmith, the WRP (Internationalist) convened the legitimate 8th Congress, repudiated the January 26 resolution of the renegade Central Committee and expelled Banda and Slaughter.