The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

Behind the Split in the Workers Revolutionary Party

This article was originally published in the Bulletin newspaper.

The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), supported by the proletarian internationalists inside the Workers Revolutionary Party, has defeated an attempt by the petty-bourgeois clique led by C. Slaughter and M. Banda to liquidate, politically and organizationally, the world Trotskyist movement.

The calling of police on Saturday, February 8, to the WRP Congress venue to prevent duly and properly elected delegates from attending was the culmination of a series of attacks on the history, program and principles of the ICFI by Banda and Slaughter.

At least 25 police were called to the Congress where they provided an escort for Slaughter as he entered the building where his anti-Trotskyist faction held a bogus congress and completed their split from the International Committee.

Delegates elected in accordance with the decisions of the WRP Special Congress of October 26-27, 1985 then moved to another location where they convened the legitimate Eighth Congress of the WRP (Internationalist).

As a result of the seven-month political and organizational crisis within the WRP, it is now clear that the personal corruption of G. Healy, which initially sparked the explosion within the party ranks and forced his expulsion on October 19, 1985, was only part of a far deeper political degeneration affecting the entire central leadership—above all, Healy’s closest collaborators for more than three decades, Banda and Slaughter.

The publication of M. Banda’s “Twenty-Seven Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried” lays bare the political essence of the organizational crisis which erupted over the exposure of G. Healy’s grotesque abuse of authority: the wholesale rejection by the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership of the entire political, theoretical, programmatic and historical foundations of the Fourth International. Once again the Marxist view that the regime of a party is a product of its political line has been vindicated.

In Banda’s “27 Reasons,” the general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party reveals that he has not been a Trotskyist for at least a decade and regrets the years which he delayed his break with the International Committee. Banda contemptuously denounces the entire history of the Fourth International as “an uninterrupted series of splits, betrayals, treachery, stagnation and confusion.” He declares that “It must be stated emphatically, nay, categorically, that the FI was proclaimed but never built.” He attacks the International Committee, of which he was a member for 32 years, as “a grandiose illusion, a contemptible maneuver and a disgusting charade.”

In his first public statement since his expulsion from the WRP last October 19, Healy pretends that Banda’s present position simply developed overnight. He writes that “In the 35 years we politically worked together he would argue at times, but he politically agreed with every major decision made by conferences and almost countless Central and Political Committees over that long period.” (News Line, February 8, 1986) A more devastating indictment of his own leadership could not be imagined. Such was the opportunist nature of the political regime that existed within the WRP that Healy consciously covered up the fact that his closest collaborator and protege had degenerated into little more than a right-wing Pabloite. It is now clear why Healy worked desperately at successive congresses of the International Committee since 1979 to suppress any serious discussion on questions of program and perspective.

In another article, which appears under the pseudonym “Paddy O’Regan,” G. Healy admits that while Cliff Slaughter “betrayed the Party and the youth” for more than 20 years, he continued to support him in the post of secretary of the International Committee. The value of these admissions, regardless of their subjective and factional motivation, is that they expose the disgusting political rot that had accumulated over many years within the leadership of the WRP. In place of principled relations, cynical and opportunist maneuvering prevailed within the central leadership.

In turn, the Banda document exposes the political basis upon which Banda and Slaughter collaborated with Healy between 1982 and 1984 to prevent criticisms made by the Workers League of the WRP’s increasingly Pabloite revisionist political line and Healy’s subjective idealist philosophy from being discussed in the ICFI.

Moreover, it explains why for three months, from July to October 1985, the WRP leadership—particularly Banda and Slaughter—suppressed demands for a Control Commission into abuses committed by G. Healy against the cadre of the WRP.

Under the Healy-Slaughter-Banda leadership, the WRP had become a political incubator for anti-Trotskyism, in which the historically-developed principles of the Fourth International were abandoned and betrayed. Demoralized by the protracted character of the struggle against reformism in the workers’ movement and increasingly skeptical toward the revolutionary capacities of the British and international working class, the WRP leadership abandoned the proletarian orientation for which it had fought against the Socialist Workers Party and succumbed to the Pabloite disease which it had combatted in the 1960s. In place of the patient struggle to penetrate the working class of all countries and build new sections, the attention of the WRP leadership was increasingly focussed on the development of mercenary relations with petty-bourgeois nationalists and even bourgeois nationalist regimes aimed exclusively at securing funds to finance the work of the WRP in Britain.

At the same time, forgetting all that they had said and written about the reactionary anti-internationalism of the SWP, Healy, Banda and Slaughter treated the International Committee with disdain—plundering the material resources of its sections and using them merely as adjuncts of its pragmatic operations. While the tactical aspect of these activities were supervised by Healy, their political and theoretical cover were provided by Banda and Slaughter.

The right-wing clique in the leadership of the WRP which had protected Healy—going so far as to conceal for nearly three years an increasingly desperate financial crisis in the party in order to maintain his and their political authority—only moved to charge and expel him when a rebellion in the party’s ranks made continuation of the coverup impossible.

The International Committee never accepted the position that the crisis within the WRP was merely a question of Healy’s personal degeneration and organizational abuses. It categorically refused to rubber-stamp the belated opposition “led” by Slaughter and Banda. In its first resolution on the situation inside the WRP, dated October 25, 1985, the ICFI stated:

“At the root of the present crisis which erupted with the exposure of the corrupt practices of G. Healy and the attempt by the WRP Political Committee to cover them up, is the prolonged drift of the WRP leadership away from the strategical task of building the world party of socialist revolution towards an increasingly nationalist perspective and practice.”

It insisted that

“The first step towards overcoming the crisis in the WRP is the recognition by its leadership and membership that it requires the closest collaboration with its co-thinkers in the ICFI.”

The IC proposed, in order to purge the WRP of all anti-internationalists within its ranks, that members inside the WRP be reregistered “on the basis of an explicit recognition of the political authority of the ICFI and the subordination of the British section to its decisions.” In actuality, this meant only that the WRP should consciously act upon the statutes of its own constitution, in which the party is identified as a section of the ICFI.

This resolution was unanimously endorsed by the British delegation to the ICFI meeting of October 25. On the next day, the Central Committee of the WRP unanimously endorsed it as well. It was approved with no votes against by the membership of the WRP at its Special Congress on October 27. The ICFI attempted to present this resolution to members of the then-minority within the WRP supporting Healy. This faction refused even to consider it and split from the WRP.

Thus, the political relations between the ICFI and the Slaughter-Banda faction was based solely on the internationalist conditions stated in the October 25 resolution. The political necessity of these conditions arose from the fact that the ICFI would politically collaborate only with those who were prepared to fight consciously under its discipline to overcome the nationalism produced by the class pressures of British imperialism that was the source of the degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

It soon became clear that Banda and Slaughter had accepted the October 25 Resolution simply as a tactical maneuver to win the support of the ICFI against the pro-Healy faction. Once the latter had rejected the resolution and split from the WRP and the ICFI, Banda and Slaughter began working to repudiate the agreement with the International Committee. Opposing at every point the subordination of the British section to the ICFI, they fought to continue the old political relations under Healy in which the ICFI was subordinated to the nationalist practice of the WRP as it pursued an increasingly right-wing course.

But within the British section a tendency was forming around those forces which had fought against the attempted Political Committee coverup of Healy’s abuses and which had demanded a Control Commission investigation. These forces, led by Central Committee member Dave Hyland, the organizer of the party’s work in the mining region of South Yorkshire, refused to back down from this demand—even in the face of repeated political and physical threats by Banda. This tendency formally constituted itself as a minority on November 9, 1985.

The political platform of this minority called for a return to the Transitional Program, the defense of the Theory of Permanent Revolution, the resumption of the struggle against Pabloism, the re-establishment of the party’s traditional proletarian orientation, and the restoration of democratic centralism within WRP.

Mindful of the long-established practice under the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership of expelling those members who raised political differences, the ICFI, at its meeting of November 5, 1985, carried a resolution insisting that no organizational measures be taken by the leadership against its critics within the party before the Eighth Congress, scheduled to take place on February 8-9, 1986.

Slaughter initially objected, saying that the resolution was unnecessary because it simply asked the WRP leadership to obey its own constitution. It was pointed out that it was precisely because the rights of the membership had been so consistently abused that such a resolution was necessary.

Throughout the month of November it became ever more apparent that the anti-internationalism that had prevailed under Healy was continuing and that the degeneration of the WRP had not been brought under control, let alone reversed.

On November 12, 1985, the WRP Central Committee announced the closure of the daily News Line and its replacement by a twice-weekly. This decision had been made by Banda and Slaughter in advance of the November 5 IC meeting, but they had decided not to raise the matter with the international delegates.

Responding to the refusal of the WRP leadership to even discuss such an important decision with its international comrades, the Central Committee of the Workers League wrote to the WRP Central Committee on November 21, 1985. It stated:

“We are deeply disturbed by the mounting evidence that our comrades in the leadership of the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International have not yet begun to analyze the political issues raised by the split nor confronted the source and nature of the degeneration that has produced the explosion inside the WRP. Our great concern is that in the absence of such an analysis, which is the precondition for the theoretical arming of the section, the split will remain at the level of a purely organizational break with Healy and his supporters.

This would mean that the WRP will continue to drift further and further away from Trotskyism and the International Committee of the Fourth International.

“The basic source of our disagreement and the cause of increasing friction between us is that the Workers Revolutionary Party is not prepared to acknowledge, except in verbal and platonic form, the authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Precisely because it does not recognize that the most essential feature of Healy’s political degeneration was his subordination of the international movement to the practical needs of the British section, the WRP leadership is in real danger of continuing, albeit in somewhat different form, the same nationalist-opportunist course.”

The political implications of the on-going degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party was starkly revealed at the meeting on “Revolutionary Mortality,” held on November 26, 1986 at Friends Hall in London. In front of several hundred revisionists and anti-Trotskyists of all stripes, Slaughter publicly called into question the historical foundations of the International Committee. Exploiting the confusion within the WRP membership—especially among its most unstable petty-bourgeois elements—the Slaughter-Banda clique was heading rapidly for a regroupment with revisionist and Stalinist forces. This was symbolized when Slaughter publicly shook hands with arch-Stalinist Monty Johnstone in front of the audience at Friends Hall.

Opposing this political betrayal, Comrade Peter Schwarz of the Bund Sozialisticher Arbeiter (German section of the ICFI) wrote to the WRP Central Committee on December 2, 1985:

“Having attended the London meeting on the expulsion of G. Healy on November 26 I am writing to you because I am deeply disturbed by the contribution Comrade Slaughter made at that meeting. In my opinion it amounts to nothing less than a complete rejection of the history and tradition of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

“Made in front of the entire coterie of British revisionism by the secretary of the ICFI, I cannot help but take this speech as a clear indication that Comrade Slaughter wants to split with the ICFI altogether and rejoin the revisionist and Stalinist swamp.”

Slaughter and his supporters on the Central Committee—especially the parasitic elements who have their hands on the purse strings of the substantial assets of the party apparatus—denounce the Schwarz letter as “lies.” In fact, their real objections were that the letter exposed all too clearly the political road taken by Slaughter-Banda, and that it alerted the ICFI and those in the WRP minority tendency fighting for internationalism that the right-wing clique was moving rapidly to liquidate the WRP as a Trotskyist organization.

On December 16-17, 1985, the International Committee assembled to hear an interim report prepared by its Control Commission that had been established at its meeting of October 25 “to investigate, but not limited to, the corruption of G. Healy, the coverup by the Political Committee and the financial crisis of the WRP.”

The report presented detailed documentary evidence that the WRP under Healy had established politically corrupt relations with bourgeois regimes in the Middle East and sold the principles of the Trotskyist movement for cash. The documents, which included Healy’s private correspondence, revealed that the WRP leadership cynically used the Palestine Liberation Organization to further its own money-raising schemes. In concealing these unprincipled relations, the WRP leaders lied systematically to the sections of the International Committee and to the British working class.

Not only did the documents expose the sinister connection between the corrupt relations established by Healy with bourgeois regimes in the Middle East and the conscious revision of Trotskyism; they also revealed how the clique in the party leadership worked systematically to protect Healy from criticisms within both the ICFI and the WRP.

On the basis of this interim report, the ICFI declared that “the WRP has carried out an historic betrayal of the ICFI and the international working class.

“This betrayal consisted of the complete abandonment of the theory of permanent revolution, resulting in the pursuit of unprincipled relations with sections of the colonial bourgeoisie in return for money.” The ICFI majority refused to accept the subjective argument advanced by Slaughter that the responsibility for this betrayal lay simply with Healy but insisted that “the political responsibility for the nationalist degeneration which allowed these practices to be carried out rests with the entire leadership of the WRP. ... The ICFI does not seek to blame any individual leader but holds the entire leadership responsible.”

Accordingly, on December 16, 1985 the ICFI suspended the WRP as the British section. The WRP delegation was split on this vote, with Slaughter, T. Kemp and S. Pirani opposing the suspension and D. Hyland supporting it.

The suspension was necessary because the ICFI recognized that the political degeneration which had produced the betrayal had not ended with the expulsion of Healy, and, therefore, the ICFI could not lend its authority to the WRP and assume responsibility for and sanction further betrayals of the British and international working class. The suspension of the WRP made its membership in the ICFI contingent upon a conscious struggle by its leaders and members to halt the revisionist degeneration on the basis of the historic principles of the Trotskyist movement.

Far from turning its back on the WRP, the ICFI elaborated in detail what had to be done in order to restore the membership of the British section in the International Committee of the Fourth International. In a resolution presented by the ICFI on December 17, 1985, it simply called upon the WRP to reaffirm its agreement with the programmatic foundations of Trotskyism, embodied in “the decisions of the First Four Congresses of the Communist International (1919-22); the Platform of the Left Opposition (1927); the Transitional Program (1938); the Open Letter (1953); and the documents of the struggle against the bogus SWP-Pabloite reunification (1961-63).”

The conclusion of this resolution stated:

“The ICFI and the Central Committee of the WRP shall now work closely together to overcome as quickly as possible the existing problems which are the legacy of the nationalist degeneration of the WRP under Healy, to reassert the basic principles of internationalism within the WRP, and on this basis restore its full membership in the International Committee of the Fourth International. The organizational structure of this relationship shall at all times be based on the Leninist principles of democratic centralism, which are elaborated in the statutes of the Fourth International.”

Slaughter, Pirani and Kemp voted against this resolution. Slaughter refused to explain his differences with the resolution, which did no more than reaffirm the historical and programmatic foundations of the ICFI. But this opposition confirmed that the real content of the degeneration of the WRP was the repudiation of Trotskyism by the entire old WRP leadership, now split into the two right-wing factions of Healy and Slaughter-Banda.

In the course of the ICFI meeting, in answer to a direct accusation that he was already working with the Stalinists, Slaughter qualified his “denial” by stating, “If it were true, I wouldn’t tell you anyway.”

It was now clear that the political breech between the WRP majority led by Slaughter-Banda and the International Committee was unbridgeable. Not only did they reject the democratic-centralist organization of the Fourth International, but they were also opposed to its very existence.

In the aftermath of the suspension, Slaughter, working closely with a coterie of middle-class professors now placed in the leadership of the WRP, initiated a wild slander campaign against the International Committee. A central target of these attacks was the decade-long investigation of the International Committee into the assassination of Leon Trotsky and the penetration of the Socialist Workers Party by agents of the Soviet GPU and the American FBI-CIA. Banda and Slaughter, who had played central roles in the initiation and development of this investigation, began denouncing it without even challenging any of the evidence which had been assembled, particularly in the course of the Gelfand case.

Aside from immediate factional considerations, the purpose of this campaign was (1) to facilitate a political rapprochement with the Pabloite allies of the Socialist Workers Party, and (2) to work toward a political rehabilitation of Stalinism for the purpose of justifying collaboration with the agents of the Soviet bureaucracy.

Michael Banda, who had deserted his post in the leadership of the WRP in the midst of the party crisis to return to Sri Lanka for an open-ended vacation, wrote the lengthy, above-mentioned document attacking the entire history of the Fourth International. At the same time, he resumed personal contact with members of the anti-Trotskyist LSSP, the party which betrayed the working class in 1964 by entering into the bourgeois coalition government of M. Bandaranaike.

The Banda document arrived in Britain in mid-January but it was not shown to the membership of the WRP or the IC. Instead, it served as the basis for two resolutions carried by the majority of the WRP Central Committee on January 26, 1986. These resolutions overturned the October 27 Special Congress Resolution which mandated the reregistration of the WRP membership on the basis of an explicit recognition of the authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The political and practical content of these resolutions was to declare a split with the International Committee. The renegades who voted for these resolutions were acting in violation of the decisions of the Special Congress and were consciously rigging the delegate selection process for the Eighth Congress scheduled for February 8, 1986.

According to the decision of the Special Congress, membership in the WRP was to be limited only to those who signed the reregistration forms acknowledging the authority of the ICFI. A substantial section of the majority supporters, making no secret of their revisionist views and political hostility to the International Committee, refused to sign the reregistration forms. By mid-January, the Slaughter faction realized that it would lose its majority on the Central Committee if the election of delegates was based on party membership as defined by the Special Congress decision on rereregistration. Therefore, the Central Committee majority ordered on January 26 that the reregistration forms be withdrawn and that delegates be elected on the basis of membership lists supplied arbitrarily by the branches.

These split resolutions were opposed by the Central Committee minority led by Hyland, which fought to uphold the authority of the ICFI as well as the decisions of the Special Congress.

The Banda-Slaughter renegades completed their split on February 8. When the duly-elected delegates of the minority arrived at the Congress venue, they were barred from entering. The majority then called the police to enforce the decision. Unable to confront the principled Trotskyist positions of the minority in front of the Congress, the Slaughter-Banda faction resorted to the tactics of anti-communist bureaucrats.

The minority delegates, representing the real Trotskyists inside the party, found another location and assembled the legitimate Eighth Congress of the WRP (Internationalist).

Healy, Banda and Slaughter are politically dead from the standpoint of revolutionary Marxism. They have capitulated shamelessly to the pressures of British imperialism and are now collaborating with the worst enemies of the Trotskyist movement. But they have completely failed in their efforts to destroy the International Committee. The ICFI and the Workers League will work tirelessly to expose the reactionary politics of the right-wing cliques of Healy and Banda-Slaughter while collaborating closely with those genuine Trotskyists of the WRP (Internationalist) who are fighting to reestablish as quickly as possible the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.