Statement of the Political Committee of the Socialist Labour League (Australia)
A group of anti-Trotskyist renegades has split from the Socialist Labour League, the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, to regroup with the revisionist forces to attack the SLL and the ICFI. This group, led by Phil Sandford and Robert Buehler, broke from the SLL and the ICFI after a special national congress at the weekend, during which they declared they would not recognize the political authority of the ICFI.
Sandford, Buehler and their followers declared support for the Banda-Slaughter renegades in Britain, who openly broke from Trotskyism on February 8, when they excluded properly elected delegates who supported the ICFI from the 8th Congress of the WRP and called in the police to enforce that decision.
During the SLL Congress, Buehler declared political solidarity with the Banda-Slaughter renegades, hailing them as “British Trotskyists.” Before splitting from the SLL, Buehler and Sandford declared their political solidarity with former SLL National Secretary Jim Mulgrew by voting against his expulsion for an anti-party action.
Mulgrew did not attend the Congress to answer the serious charge against him and neither Sandford nor Buehler presented anything to contradict the irrefutable evidence against him, but they voted against his expulsion from the SLL.
The Buehler-Sandford renegades have openly revealed their anti-communist politics. They align themselves with the Banda-Slaughter group, who used the police to exclude Trotskyists from the WRP 8th Congress in Britain, while in Australia they defend the renegade Mulgrew.
The political basis of the split in the SLL could not be clearer. Buehler, Sandford and their supporters declared that they would not recognize the political authority of their own organization, thereby establishing there was no basis for them to remain in it.
They have now aligned themselves with every revisionist organization which has fought to liquidate the Fourth International over the past three decades, and completely support the position of the renegade Banda that the ICFI should be “buried forthwith.”
In splitting from the SLL, they were answering a call from the Banda-Slaughter anti-Trotskyists for an international regroupment to attack the ICFI, which came in a resolution from the bogus 8th Congress of the WRP on February 8-9. That resolution stated:
“This 8th Congress of the Workers Revolutionary Party declares that the International Committee of the Fourth International does not represent the continuity of the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938.
“Failing to analyze and correct the degeneration and betrayals which it carried out under the leadership of Healy, it has now organized an anti-communist opposition and split against the WRP because of the WRP’s principled struggle against Healyism.
“This Congress rejects completely the special international conference called by the International Committee to expel the WRP, and instructs the central committee to begin work immediately to regroup all those in the International Committee sections who are fighting to defeat Healyism and against the actions of D. North and the IC majority.
“The public discussion of the problems of the Fourth International will continue and this party will work for an international pre-conference of all those who stand on the Permanent Revolution, the Transitional Program and the first four Congresses of the Communist International, before the end of 1986.”
In answering this call for regroupment, the Sandford-Buehler renegades are not breaking from “Healyism” but from the principled struggle waged by the ICFI against Pabloite revisionism.
The ICFI was founded in 1953 in response to the Open Letter to the world Trotskyist movement from the American Socialist Workers Party, calling for a fight against the liquidation of the Fourth International into counter-revolutionary Stalinism being carried out by Pablo and his supporters. The ICFI successfully maintained the continuity of the Fourth International when it broke from the SWP, which carried out an unprincipled reunification with Pabloite revisionism in 1963. The Banda-Slaughter renegades and their supporters in Australia now clearly repudiate the entire struggle of the ICFI since 1953 and are regrouping with those who attack its principles.
The Banda-Slaughter renegades’ resolution, the political basis of the split by the Buehler-Sandford group, is a complete falsification of the history of the struggle against Healy and the WRP. The leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party carried out no principled struggle against “Healyism.” In fact, they collaborated with Healy because, at least from the mid-1970s, they were in the process of fast rejecting the principles on which the ICFI was founded and built. This was why in July 1985, when a fight to expose Healy’s vile sexual and physical abuse of the cadre of the WRP and the ICFI was taken up by members of the WRP, Banda and Slaughter carried out a systematic campaign to protect Healy.
Banda, who now calls for the ICFI to be “buried forthwith,” attempted to drive out of the party members who called for Healy to be charged. Healy was expelled from the WRP on October 19 only because Banda and Slaughter could no longer maintain the coverup in the face of a rebellion in the ranks of the party.
The ICFI, which had been systematically lied to about the situation in the WRP, first heard a report from its British section on October 25, 1985.
It expelled Healy from its ranks immediately. But in so doing, it recognized that Healy’s attacks on the Trotskyist movement were a product of the nationalist degeneration of the entire British leadership, and took steps to reestablish the principles of Trotskyism in the British section.
The ICFI was opposed at every turn by the Banda-Slaughter leadership, who fought to continue the nationalist politics of Healy, without Healy. Under Healy, Banda and Slaughter, the ICFI was increasingly subordinated to the narrow, national and pragmatic needs of the WRP. The political basis of this degeneration was the ever-more explicit abandonment of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and its replacement with unprincipled alliances with sections of the colonial bourgeoisie and the trade union and Labour bureaucracy.
At its October 25 meeting, the ICFI declared that it could collaborate only with those in the WRP who fought against the nationalist degeneration which had taken place in the British section.
It called for the re-registration of the WRP membership on the basis of an explicit recognition of the political authority of the ICFI and the subordination of the British section to its decisions. The British delegates, including Banda and Slaughter, voted for this decision, which was then endorsed by the WRP Central Committee on October 26 and by a special conference of the WRP the following day.
The ICFI, also with the unanimous support of the British delegates, set up a control commission to investigate the corruption of G. Healy. In its interim report, delivered to the ICFI on December 16, the control commission established that the WRP under Healy had entered mercenary relationships with sections of the colonial bourgeoisie in the Middle East, in which the principles of the Trotskyist movement had been sold for cash.
The ICFI majority refused to accept Slaughter’s position that this was merely the result of the activities of G. Healy. It was, in fact, the sharpest expression of the degeneration of the WRP. Slaughter and Banda had blocked with Healy in suppressing criticisms of the WRP’s increasingly Pabloite political line raised by Workers League national secretary Dave North in 1982 and 1984 and expelled members of their own party who raised differences.
In order to defend its principles and integrity, the ICFI suspended the WRP as the British section. On December 17 it carried a resolution setting out a principled basis for the restoration of full membership of the WRP.
Both resolutions were rejected by the majority of the WRP leadership. While Banda deserted his post to return to Sri Lanka and resumed contact with the LSSP, the party which broke from Trotskyism in 1964 when it entered the Bandaranaike coalition government, Slaughter whipped up a campaign against the ICFI. He received support from Buehler, Sandford and Mulgrew in the SLL.
The SLL held a special conference lasting eight days over the Christmas-New Year period to discuss the crisis in the ICFI. It was attended by two members of the WRP who were able to freely argue against the ICFI decision to suspend the WRP. At the end of the most wide-ranging and open discussion in the history of the SLL, the conference voted by a more than two-to-one majority to support the suspension of the WRP.
Within the WRP, a minority led by Central Committee member Dave Hyland, who had refused to back down to Banda’s demand that he withdraw his call for a control commission investigation into Healy, was winning increasing support for the principled struggle waged by the ICFI.
The Banda-Slaughter clique faced the possibility that it would lose control of the Central Committee at the WRP Congress of February 8-9. This was the reason that the WRP Central Committee majority overturned the decision to reregister the party membership on the basis of recognition of the political authority of the ICFI. The WRP majority declared the re-registration was invalid because the ICFI did not have any political authority.
But even after this decision, which permitted open anti-Trotskyists to attend the conference, the WRP majority still faced defeat on the conference floor. They therefore excluded minority delegates from the Congress and called the police to enforce their decision.
These anti-communist actions of the WRP majority were fully supported by the Buehler-Sandford group in the SLL. On February 1-2 the SLL Central Committee majority adopted a resolution calling for the expulsion of the WRP CC majority at the next world congress of the ICFI, recognizing that the January 26 resolutions were an open declaration of split. This resolution was opposed by Buehler, Sandford, Mulgrew and their supporters. Mulgrew declared that the ICFI was not the continuity of Trotskyism. The IC, he said, could go to the “trash can of history, and quite frankly I’ll be pleased to see you go there.”
The Central Committee meeting of February 1-2 also carried a resolution calling on the ICFI to expel the leaders of the Spanish and Greek sections for refusing to recognize the political authority of the ICFI. This resolution was carried unanimously.
It was supported by both Buehler and Sandford. But they opposed a resolution stating that all those in the SLL who refused to recognize the political authority of the ICFI should be expelled from the party at its Easter Congress.
This resolution was based on a clear principle: the SLL, as the Australian section of the ICFI, could not have in its ranks members who would not recognize the political authority of the world party to which they belonged.
The February 1-2 Central Committee meeting clearly exposed the opportunist character of the Buehler-Sandford group. They upheld the political authority of the ICFI in expelling Healy and his supporters, but would not recognize that political authority themselves.
Following the February 8 split in the WRP, the Buehler-Sandford group formed a minority faction in the SLL. They said they would abide by the discipline of the ICFI and the SLL but would not recognize the political authority of the ICFI. They were accorded minority rights, but immediately began to break the discipline of the SLL when members of the faction refused to sell and distribute Workers News.
Despite these provocations, no organizational measures were taken against them. Despite the clear anti-Trotskyist positions of the minority at last weekend’s special congress, no organizational measures were taken against them.
The SLL majority was prepared to allow them full rights within the party to fight for their positions before the Easter Congress. But immediately after the special congress they split.
Their politics were defeated in an open struggle in the SLL lasting more than four months. That struggle has made clear the revisionist foundations of any new organization they set up. It will be nothing more than a recruitment ground for the most vicious opponents of the ICFI and the SLL. Before their renegacy, the Buehler-Sandford group made clear their liquidationist position by calling for the ending of the twice-weekly Workers News and the production of a weekly.
Right at the point where growing sections of the working class are coming into conflict with the Labor government, these renegades wanted to liquidate one of the major gains of the SLL.
Like their mentors in Britain, they are openly adapting to the trade union and Labor bureaucracy.
The objective basis for the struggle inside the ICFI over the past months has been made clear by the recent events in Haiti and especially the Philippines.
The political foundation of the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership, at least over the past decade, was its rejection of the theory of Permanent Revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries and accommodation to imperialism at home via the trade union and Labor bureaucracy. This led to liquidation of sections of the ICFI and abandonment of the struggle to build new ones.
The essence of the struggle against the Banda-Slaughter renegades and their supporters internationally has been the fight against the resurgence of Pabloite revisionism within the ICFI.
The defeat of the liquidators of Trotskyism within its own ranks has been the indispensable preparation by the ICFI to go forward in the building of the world party of socialist revolution. The Buehler-Sandford group was the political expression in the SLL of the fight for anti-Trotskyism led by Healy, Banda and Slaughter.
The Buehler-Sandford renegades have not broken from “Healyism”—the essence of which is the liquidation of Trotskyism—but continue its attacks on the ICFI. The SLL has registered a decisive political victory in exposing this revisionist tendency and purging it from its ranks.
The Political Committee calls on all SLL members to take forward the gains of this split by carrying out a determined campaign to educate workers and youth on the political lessons of this struggle and recruit into the party.