On November 8, 1986, Michael Banda, the former general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party of Britain and the closest political collaborator of its founder and long-time leader, Gerry Healy, mounted a public platform provided by a group of British Stalinists in London and launched a vitriolic attack on the Fourth International and on Leon Trotsky himself. Not long after, Banda circulated a new document, “Will the Real Leon Trotsky Please Stand Up”—the sequel to his notorious “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried”—in which he renounced the entire struggle waged by the Trotskyist movement against Stalinism since 1928, hailed Stalin as the “proletarian Bonaparte” and defender of the conquests of the October Revolution, rejected the perspective of political revolution as counterrevolutionary, and declared himself a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev.
This event is of enormous importance to the world Trotskyist movement and for all those who are studying and seeking to understand the political developments taking place within what was formerly the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the Workers Revolutionary Party. Banda’s evolution is not only the greatest vindication of the struggle waged by the ICFI against the WRP renegades, but also the biggest political indictment of Healy and Slaughter.
Completely stunned by the virtually unprecedented betrayal of his protege—who else has ever spent decades in the leadership of a Trotskyist organization and then passed directly into the camp of Stalinism?—and unable to provide even a semblance of an analysis, Healy has ascribed it to the work of objective forces whose development he neither anticipated, recognized nor fought against. In a desperate salvage mission undertaken on Healy’s behalf, his disciple Ray Athow has blandly declared that Banda’s political evolution has nothing to do with the political positions he held during all the years in which Banda was Healy’s closest political associate.
According to Athow’s article in News Line, December 11, 1986, “the source of this development was not a programmatic contradiction but the laws of revolution and Banda’s opposition to them.” A truly brilliant discovery arrived at with the help of Healy’s “practice of cognition”! Athow’s pseudodialectical method directly contradicts Trotsky who, pointing to the political evolution of the Stalin faction in the Soviet Communist Party, said, “the attempt to explain or justify them by ‘changing circumstances’ won’t hold water. To guide means at least in some degree to exercise foresight.”
Having collaborated with Banda for many years in seeking to undermine the Trotskyist foundations of the ICFI, Healy must now ascribe Banda’s apostasy to naked objective forces in order to cover his own tracks. It is remarkable that even though Healy had made so much noise after October 1985 about Banda’s capitulation to counterrevolutionary forces, he cannot point to even a single political difference he had with Banda prior to the October crisis in the WRP. In fact, Healy himself wrote in an article published in the News Line of February 8, 1986: “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.” Even more recently, in the News Line of September 23, 1986, Healy—evidently still entertaining hopes that he could patch things together again—lavished praise on Banda for having “contributed in a powerful way to building the Workers Revolutionary Party and the ICFI, in the best traditions of historical materialism.”
The Slaughter-led faction of the Workers Revolutionary Party is equally incapable of explaining Banda’s political evolution. Like the man who won the medal for accurately “predicting” the past, Slaughter raised the question “Where is Banda going?” only after Banda had reached his counterrevolutionary destination. (Workers Press, November 29, 1986)
In his thoroughly dishonest article, Slaughter attempts to manipulate history to suit his own factional ends. Thus, according to Slaughter: “He [Banda] has certainly traveled a long way in four months since he first stated any difference with the majority of the WRP comrades who had fought Healy and North, even if some of his positions (like admiration for Mao and support of the cultural revolution in China) were there in his Trotskyist days.”
What Slaughter does not tell his readers is that Banda’s repudiation of Trotskyism was already established with the writing of his “27 Reasons.” Within two weeks of the publication of this document, the secretary of the Workers League, David North, wrote that it represents “the wholesale rejection ... of the entire political, theoretical, programmatic and historical foundations of the Fourth International.” (David North, “Behind the Split in the Workers Revolutionary Party,” Bulletin, February 21, 1986, reprinted in Fourth International, Volume 13, No. 2) But Slaughter supported Banda’s “27 Reasons” and used it as the political platform of the WRP’s split from the International Committee in February 1986. The most important item on Slaughter’s agenda was to break with the International Committee. Notwithstanding the openly pro-Stalinist positions advanced in “27 Reasons,” Slaughter wrote an urgent appeal to Banda’s brother, dated February 2, 1986, in which he declared that “It will be criminally short-sided to do anything but concentrate all our energies” against the International Committee “for a united struggle to deepen the split in the party”—by which he meant the expulsion of the pro-ICFI minority from the Workers Revolutionary Party.
While Slaughter was preparing to split from the International Committee and was whipping up the factional hysteria required to carry it out, he angrily denounced North for having told the membership of the WRP, at the special conference of October 26-27, 1985, about the role played by Banda in the political degeneration of the British section. Not only did he offer rationalizations for the clique relations which existed in the WRP leadership, he absolved Banda from any political responsibility for its abandonment of Trotskyism’s program—claiming that Healy alone was accountable for the opportunist attack on the theory of permanent revolution. According to Slaughter, he and Banda did “positive and theoretical work” which, for some unexplained reasons, “became more and more separated from the actual conduct of the work of the IC, the WRP, and the News Line, which was directly governed by G. Healy from his London Office and through the Parwich school.” (Ibid., p. 65) This is the “Blame it all on Stalin” theory of history!
What especially characterizes the “explanations” of Slaughter and Healy is their attempt to cover up the fact that Banda’s positions were developed over many years inside the Workers Revolutionary Party and that they defended him against criticism from within the ICFI precisely because they shared his doubts about the viability of Trotsky’s perspective.
While Slaughter has maintained that all the ICFI sections had undergone along with Healy an “equal degeneration,” the political record shows that within the ICFI—despite the immense authority enjoyed by the WRP as a result of the historic role played by the British Trotskyists in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism between 1953 and 1964—there was theoretically articulated opposition to the growth of opportunism inside the British section. As early as 1968, the founders of the Sri Lankan Revolutionary Communist League first raised objections to political concessions made by Banda to Stalinism and in 1971-72 produced an extensive critique of his opportunist adaptation to bourgeois nationalism.
These documents on the Bangladesh liberation struggle and the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971-72, republished in this volume of the Fourth International, record the first attempts by the young Trotskyist forces in the IC to combat the right-wing Pabloite line of the leadership of the British section. Written as polemical material against Banda’s openly Pabloite positions, they anticipated the fundamental issues which came out into the open in the late 1970s and early 1980s and were analyzed at length by the Workers League during the 1982-84 period. The issues raised by the RCL were those upon which the split in the International Committee ultimately hinged—that is, the theory of the permanent revolution and the political independence of the proletariat.
These documents give the lie to Slaughter’s bogus claim that the ICFI was simply “dominated by G. Healy” and that no opposition was possible. In politics, when dealing with the evolution of the world party of the working class, it is thoroughly non-Marxist to base one’s analysis on such non-class terms as “domination” without referring to the class and political content of that “domination.” Having capitulated to middle class revisionism, Slaughter is incapable of making a class analysis of any political phenomenon. But, the documentary record clearly speaks against Slaughter. Healy’s “domination” was exercised through an unprincipled clique whose very existence both reflected and contributed to the opportunist degeneration of the political line of the WRP. It is true that the political homogeneity of the ICFI as a world organization was undermined from the early 1970s as a result of the British section’s steady drift into the camp of revisionism. But for reasons bound up with the historical development of the International Committee, the betrayals of the WRP did not produce, as Slaughter would now have everyone believe, an undifferentiated process of degeneration and decay in all the sections of the ICFI.
The Workers League and the RCL were founded directly on the basis of the political and theoretical struggle conducted by the SLL (with the assistance of the French OCI) against the SWP-Pabloite “reunification” during 1961-63 and the entry of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party into a bourgeois coalition government in 1964. To the extent that the Workers League and the RCL—as well as other sections in Germany and Australia which had been founded on the basis of the principles and program defended by the ICFI—consciously sought to develop their political line on the basis of the lessons of the 1961-64 period, their internal evolution assumed a form quite different from that of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
For example, the struggle conducted by the Workers League in 1974-1976 against Wohlforth’s desertion to the Socialist Workers Party led to a renewal of the fight against Pabloism and a fresh assimilation of its lessons. But at this very time, the growing adaptation to class pressures within Britain were producing an ever more extreme drift by the WRP away from the struggle against revisionism and toward outright opportunism. Herein lay the roots of the eruption of an open conflict between the Workers League and the Workers Revolutionary Party. Thus, the leading role of the WRP inside the ICFI was not the simple noncontradictory phenomenon suggested by Slaughter. The very principles upon which the authority of the WRP within the ICFI rested eventually led to the political rebellion against the betrayals of Healy, Banda and Slaughter. As difficult as it may be for members of the WRP to believe, there really is a world beyond the British Isles. The sections of the International Committee were not merely appendages of the Workers Revolutionary Party, but developed their own leaderships and learned their own lessons as they lived and fought inside the class struggle of the countries in which they worked.
To understand the nature of the split within the ICFI, it is worthwhile to examine again some of the crucial issues which were at stake in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism in the Fourth International. It has now become the vogue amongst centrists to discard the terms “revisionism” and “Pabloism” as terminological monstrosities or words of political vituperation. Renegades like Cyril Smith, who is part of the Slaughter faction, now specialize in telling bedtime ghost stories to their new revisionist friends about how terrible it was in the old days when the “sectarian” WRP used to speak about “Pabloism.”
Yet, in the epoch of moribund capitalism, imperialism relies not only on the Social Democratic and Stalinist labor bureaucracies in the advanced capitalist countries and the degenerated and deformed workers states. In the backward countries where the national bourgeoisie is especially weak, imperialism depends upon the critical role played by political representatives of the radicalized middle classes in heading off the independent movement of the proletariat. Between 1961 and 1963, when the American SWP was consummating its reunification with the Pabloites, the British Trotskyists of the Socialist Labour League (predecessor of the WRP) recognized the objective link between this dependence of imperialism on the petty bourgeois strata in the backward countries and the new theories advanced by revisionism, and thus took care to safeguard the political independence of the working class. It fought against those who bowed to middle class radicalism by hailing it as the new historical instrument to abolish the imperialist system. In opposition to these apologists for the petty bourgeoisie, the SLL made the following analysis:
“The false leaders of the working class have a role and an ideology which corresponds to the objective needs of imperialism in its present stage of development. The opportunists of all varieties now rest not only upon the labor aristocracy of a few advanced countries but upon new layers of the world’s population under modern state monopoly capitalism with its particular relation to the non-capitalist world. The advanced countries have gone through a gigantic concentration of industrial and finance capital, militarization and bureaucratization of the economy and of the state, growing reliance on state intervention in the economy, and consequent creation of a new middle caste of executives, administrators and bureaucrats of the big banks and the monopolies, the state, the military and security apparatus, ‘social services’ and the means of manipulation of ‘public opinion.’ The international needs of capital are faithfully administered by the middle caste. In the backward countries they find their counterpart in the nationalist petty bourgeois governing classes to which imperialism has handed over government office. The United Nations and its agencies have the function of providing an overall check on the political and economic security of this system....
“There are thus objective class reasons for the persistence of opportunism in the present critical stage of imperialism’s development. The struggle against opportunism is not just an ideological one between tendencies in the same movement. In the present situation, revolutionary consciousness is the essential element for change. Dependence upon the ‘objective inevitability’ of socialism which somehow is thought to force the opportunists and the class forces behind them to play a ‘progressive role,’ is dangerous and misleading. Only those who lead the working class to a conscious understanding of its own road to power are in fact progressive. Without a decisive struggle against all opportunism this leadership cannot be given.
“The Fourth International approaches the problems of the movement in particular countries always from the point of view of the distinguishing features of our imperialist epoch. The overall needs of imperialism and of the proletariat determine the roles of various social groups and political tendencies. The world market developed by capitalism and the domination of international finance capital make it ever more necessary to look at all developments in advanced or in backward countries from this internationalist standpoint. In this total picture only the working class can transform the situation, and so we consider every problem from the standpoint of the international working class. The peculiarities of the movement and developments in particular countries are to be understood not as varieties of a common type but as partial phenomena whose true significance is determined only on the world arena of struggle between imperialism and the world proletariat.” (Labour Review, Winter 1961, pp. 90-91)
Thus the revisionism that attacked the Fourth International after World War II was a class phenomenon which reflected the changing political needs of imperialism itself. Confronted with the emergence of proletarian revolution, imperialism had to open up possibilities for new layers of the middle classes to assume the role of a buffer between its interests and that of the proletariat. Pabloite revisionism translated these basic needs of imperialism and the class interests of the petty bourgeoisie into those vital theoretical formulae which justified the adaptation of the Trotskyist movement to these forces. It pandered to the futile illusion that the petty bourgeoisie, through its control of the state apparatus, can create socialism without the old bourgeois state being first destroyed by proletarian revolution in which the working class—not various middle class surrogates—is the principal historical actor.
As early as 1951, the sweeping political generalizations drawn by Pablo from the peculiar circumstances of capitalism’s overthrow in Eastern Europe were worked into programmatic innovations whose revisionist content went well beyond its linking of the victory of socialism to a nuclear Armageddon (the theory of “war-revolution”). The conception that there existed a road to socialism that did not depend upon either the revolutionary initiative of a mass proletarian movement or upon the construction of independent proletarian parties led by Marxists became the idée fixe of Pabloism. Thus, the central axis of its revisions was not simply its evaluation of Stalinism and the possibilities for its “self-reform.” That was only one of the many ugly faces of Pabloite revisionism.
The essential revision of Pabloism, and what has made it so useful to imperialism, is its attack on the most fundamental premises of scientific socialism. The scientifically-grounded conviction that the liberation of the proletariat is the task of the proletariat itself and that the building of socialism begins with the dictatorship of the proletariat—as Marx indicated as far back as 1851—is directly challenged by Pabloism, whose theory of socialism assigns the main historical role to the petty bourgeoisie. And while Pabloism from time to time pays formal homage to the working class, it never goes so far as to insist that neither the overthrow of capitalism nor the construction of socialism are possible without the existence of a very high level of theoretical consciousness, produced through the many years of struggle which are required to build a Marxist party, in a substantial section of the proletariat.
The unrestrained opportunism which has always characterized the tactics employed by the Pabloites flows inexorably from their rejection of the proletarian foundation of socialism. The Marxist understands that the education of the proletariat in a scientific appreciation of its long-term historical tasks requires a principled line. He therefore prefers temporary isolation to short-term gains that are purchased at the expense of the political clarification of the working class. But the Pabloite is not “restrained” by such considerations. His tactics are directed toward the subordination of the independence of the proletariat to whatever nonproletarian forces temporarily dominate the mass movement.
While Pablo’s revisions were first employed to endow the Soviet bureaucracy with a revolutionary role, the broader implications were revealed in the aftermath of the seizure of power by Fidel Castro. The conclusion drawn by the Pabloites, now supported by the Socialist Workers Party, from the radical measures taken by Castro was that a workers’ state had been established in Cuba. As far as the Pabloites were concerned, this development legitimized the formal separation of the struggle for socialism from the historic efforts of the Trotskyist movement to resolve the crisis of proletarian leadership and construct the world party of socialist revolution.
A “new world reality” had supposedly arrived, in which it was possible to overthrow capitalism without either the independent mobilization of the working class or the presence of a mass Marxist party. Workers’ states could come into being without the existence of any genuine mass democratic organs of workers’ power. In line with this modern and streamlined approach, all that Lenin had written about the state and the universal historical significance of soviets was discarded. Instead, the act of nationalization became the essential and decisive criteria through which the character of the state power was to be determined, regardless of its historical origins and social bases. Thus, there was no longer any specific need to fight for a definite class line through which the hegemony of the working class in the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and its local national agents would be realized. Castro had “proved,” the Pabloites claimed, that the historical tasks formerly reserved to the proletariat could now be carried out by a few determined armed guerrillas.
In opposition to this perversion of Marxism, the struggle conducted by the SLL on the Cuban question was absolutely vital to the defense of the theoretical and political foundations of the proletarian party, particularly in the backward countries. All those who sided with Hansen and Mandel in that dispute stood, in one way or another, for surrendering the historical tasks of the proletariat in the backward countries to the petty bourgeois nationalists, who, no matter how radical their programmatic improvisations, serve in the final analysis as the last obstacle thrown by imperialism in the path of the socialist revolution.
The International Committee could develop Marxism only to the extent that it fought the pressure exerted by imperialism in its attempt to stabilize itself through the middle classes—always redefining the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat and safeguarding at all times the independent role of its sections. The historical implications of this struggle for Trotskyism against the “fashionable” opportunism of the Pabloites was shown clearly in June 1964 when their Sri Lankan section, the LSSP, entered the bourgeois coalition government led by Mme. Bandaranaike. Notwithstanding the political differences between Castro and Bandaranaike, there existed an organic connection between the policies which, at one moment, led the LSSP to join the SWP in applauding Castro’s Cuba as a workers’ state and, not long after, to enter a bourgeois government of “national reconciliation.” Both policies were based on the abandonment of the struggle to establish the complete independence of the proletariat from all sections of the national bourgeoisie.
In the years following the split with the Socialist Workers Party, especially after the Third World Congress of the ICFI in April 1966, there were growing signs of a political retreat within the leadership of the British section (then called the Socialist Labour League) from the intransigent and principled positions established in the fight against the Pabloite reunification of 1963. Underlying this development was the growth of the protest movement in Europe that produced a large influx of petty bourgeois elements into radical and left politics. Their semi-sentimental glorification of the struggle of the Vietnamese NLF against American imperialism and of Arab nationalism against reactionary Zionism, as well as their infatuation with the Cultural Revolution in China, was accompanied by continued skepticism toward the revolutionary capacities of the working class in the imperialist centers—a skepticism reinforced by the Stalinists’ betrayal of the May-June uprising in France.
The influence of these social forces and their moods was expressed most sharply in Banda’s writings. His idealization of Maoism and the Stalinist leadership of the NLF in Vietnam, as well as his attempts to replace the theory of the permanent revolution with a theory of “two stages,” make clear that Banda’s present position does, indeed, express the working out of long-developing programmatic contradictions.
An understanding of Banda’s political biography helps explain his vulnerability to petty bourgeois pressures. While not suggesting in any sense that Banda’s evolution was predetermined, it does appear in retrospect that despite—or perhaps even because of—his initial training in the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (in Ceylon), prior to his arrival in Britain in 1950 as a 20-year-old youth, Banda had not fully broken with a residual “anti-imperialist” nationalism. As an examination of Banda’s writings and speeches over many years would show, his strengths emerged most clearly when he sought to expose and denounce the crimes of imperialism against the oppressed nations. But when called upon to elaborate the independent tasks of the working class inside the backward countries, Banda’s theoretical weaknesses, rooted in class positions, would come to the fore.
In his review of the history of the Fourth International, “The Heritage We Defend,” David North has already noted the political positions developed by the SLL under the direct guidance of Banda in relation to the Arab bourgeoisie and the Chinese bureaucracy in the late 1960s. In a statement published on July 8,1967, the SLL already told the Arab workers to surrender their independence to the bourgeoisie:
“But before the proletariat can aspire to leadership, it must consistently and unequivocally support the demands of the national revolution and in particular the demand for the unity and complete independence of the Arab nation.
“To refuse to do so because Nasser or Aref or even Hussein, from time to time, voice these demands would be to incarcerate the Marxist movement in sectarian isolation.”
Here we see, for the first time on record, the SLL openly expressing its fear of “isolation” from the national bourgeoisie. This was a total capitulation to various sections of the Arab bourgeoisie who keep the Arab nation divided into different states, thus perpetuating disunity among the workers and peasant masses and safeguarding their privileges, as one section bargains with imperialism at the expense of the others. To talk about the “complete independence” of the Arab nation without referring to the way in which it is bound to imperialism amounts to a crude sophism which justifies tail-ending the pseudo-anti-imperialist demagogy of the bourgeois Arab leaders.
In an editorial written for the February 1968 issue of the Fourth International entitled “The Vietnamese Revolution and the Fourth International,” Banda openly advocated a petty bourgeois policy for the workers and peasants in the backward countries:
“After two decades of valiant sacrifice and ruthless struggle, the Vietnamese people led by Ho Chi Minh, today stands on the threshold of what certainly promises to be one of the most outstanding and crucial victories of the anti-imperialist and socialist revolution.
“It demonstrates the transcendental power and resilience of a people’s protracted war led and organized by a party based on the working class and the poor peasantry and inspired by the October revolution. It is indisputably true to say that on the basis of the Vietnamese experience, guns combined with the courage and endurance of individual guerrillas would have meant nothing if Ho Chi Minh and other leaders were unable to analyze the principal and secondary contradictions within Vietnam as well as between Vietnam and imperialism and on that basis outline a strategy for the conquest of power. As Lenin once wrote, without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.
“The idea of the revolutionary party was not Ho Chi Minh’s creation. It was derived from the example of Lenin’s Bolshevik party after it has been frightfully mutilated by Stalin. The theory of the ‘protracted war’ was not a unique contribution of General Giap. It too was derived after some modification, from the work of Mao Tse-tung and the experience of the Chinese Red Army in fighting Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese.”
The Revolutionary Communist League, though not yet a section of the IC at the time this editorial appeared, informed the leaders of the SLL that their glorification of Maoism and the Vietnamese leadership would mislead tens of thousands of workers and youth in Asia. Banda was not the first one to derive this so-called lesson of the necessity of utilizing “primary and secondary contradictions” in order to arrive at a “strategy to come to power.” Rohana Wijeweera, the leader of the JVP in Sri Lanka, and Charu Majumdar, the leader of the Naxal-bari rebellion in India, also arrived at the same conclusion in the late 1960s.
The foundations for a Trotskyist party in Sri Lanka, after the great betrayal of the LSSP in 1964, could have not been laid without a conscious struggle against the “theories” advanced by Banda, particularly his attempts to raise the armed struggle to the level of a strategy and his glorification of populism. In the aftermath of the betrayal of 1964, the Trotskyists in Sri Lanka had to carry out a struggle against a petty bourgeois tendency which came to be known as the JVP. If Banda’s “theories” had been accepted as a legitimate contribution to Trotskyism by the RCL, the Trotskyist movement would have been liquidated into petty bourgeois radicalism some long time back. While Banda was advocating capitulation to middle class radicalism, in its analysis of the JVP, the RCL categorically stated its opposition to the line Banda was advancing:
“To pose the question of revolutionary leadership in these countries in the oversimplified form of ‘armed struggle’ or ‘the peaceful road’ only reveals the attempts by petty bourgeois revisionists to evade the actual questions involved in building such revolutionary leaderships.
“Those who claim to be inspired by the Chinese revolution and the work of Mao Tse-tung seek to reduce the entire question of revolution to a ‘protracted war’ or any other kind of armed struggle. Nevertheless these attempts have nothing in common with Marxism.
“The question of revolution cannot even be posed without a truly objective assessment of the role of classes and their interrelationships. Those who reduce the revolution to a mere armed struggle evade the most fundamental principled questions, viz., which class is capable of playing the leading role? What kind of alliance should it forge with the other oppressed class? On what policies should this alliance be based?
“The theories of ‘armed struggle as a strategy’ or ‘spreading the revolution from countryside to the town’ are incapable of assimilating or analyzing the experiences of the struggles of the working class from the time of the Paris Commune of 1871. The Marxist insistence that the working class cannot seize power in a peaceful manner has nothing to do with the conception that victory is guaranteed by arms alone. Anyone who has the slightest regard for the experiences of the working class which has on a number of occasions faced defeat despite its possession of arms cannot put forward such theories.
“Did not the Spanish proletariat suffer defeat at the hands of fascist armies of Franco in the civil war of 1936-39, despite its entering upon the path of the armed struggle? Can the defeat of the Chinese workers in 1927 be ascribed to its failure to take up arms? Similarly did not the workers face the capitalist enemy during the postwar revolutionary wave in Europe and Asia arms in hand? Is it the lack of arms that threatens the entire guerrilla movement in the Middle East with disaster today? It was solely because the vanguard of the working class had failed to achieve complete independence from the bourgeoisie despite the fact that sections of workers were armed, that the bourgeoisie could retain its power.
“Those who ignore the difficulties of an entire generation of workers in their struggle to win complete independence from the policies of Stalinist, class collaborationist and reformist leaderships which even went to the extent of assuming leadership of armed movements, as in Greece during the civil war or in the Middle East today only in order to subordinate the working class to the capitalist class, display their utter contempt for the experiences acquired with immense sacrifice....
“The question of the leadership and the program of the revolution has been raised in this work from the standpoint of an entirely different method from that of those who pose the question in the above manner. The present work approaches the above problems through an analysis of the objective role of the classes locked in struggle and their interrelationships. Here we emphasize that in the backward countries the task before the working class is to establish a revolutionary alliance with the peasantry as opposed to an alliance with the so-called progressive section of the bourgeoisie. It is also pointed out here that the worker and peasants’ alliance is not the fusion of the working class with the peasantry.” (Keerthi Balasuriya, “The Politics and Class Nature of the JVP,” December 1970, Preface)
No comparable theoretical defense of the theory of permanent revolution was being undertaken by the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership at this time. Banda’s dangerous revisions in relation to Vietnam and China were looked upon by Healy as if they amounted to little more than personal idiosyncrasies. Already, Healy was increasingly preoccupied with organizational questions arising from the physical growth of the party in the late 1960s. From having once viewed the struggle against revisionism as the ideological mainspring of organizational advances, Healy came more and more to view such theoretical struggles as distractions, fraught with danger, from practical work. Banda, as far as Healy was concerned, could think what he liked about Mao as long as he didn’t make an issue of it and disrupt the day-to-day work of the party.
This Faustian bargain with revisionism was ultimately to have catastrophic consequences. For a time the weakening of the SLL on essential questions of program was somewhat concealed by the organizational advances which it realized in the aftermath of the May-June 1968 events in France, which radicalized large sections of petty bourgeois intellectuals and students and provided many new recruits to the British section. However, precisely under conditions in which there was an influx into the party of petty bourgeois elements, the deterioration in the class line of the SLL—exacerbated by the abruptness of its break with the OCI and its failure to develop the political and theoretical lessons of this split—rendered its leadership even more vulnerable to the class pressure of alien social forces.
The impact of this process found its expression during the Bangladesh liberation struggle of 1971-72 in a total capitulation to the Indian bourgeoisie, the main pillar of imperialist domination in the Indian subcontinent, in a situation where its rule was directly challenged by the workers and peasants.
As explained by the RCL statement on the Bangladesh war (see pp. 37-41) the development of this liberation struggle and the breakup of the Pakistani state, created through a conspiracy between the Indian bourgeoisie and British imperialism in order to keep the masses divided on religio-communal lines, was not just a challenge to the Pakistani ruling class. It was above all a direct challenge to the Indian bourgeoisie who supported and maintained the imperialist-instigated partition.
Repudiating the strategical lessons of the class struggle in India since 1947 and also rejecting the perspective put forward by the Fourth International during the period of the partition, Healy, Banda and Slaughter bestowed upon the bankrupt and reactionary Indian bourgeoisie the ability to achieve national unification of India at the point in which the masses themselves took gigantic strides to complete the democratic revolution against the mutual connivance of Hindu and Muslim rulers to keep India divided. The SLL leaders went to the extent of even supporting the war waged by Indira Gandhi to maintain the partition, as a valiant attempt to democratize India.
The first statement by the SLL (see pp. 36-37) which was put out (without any consultation) under the name of the ICFI, not only failed to make an appeal to the working class of India and Pakistan to support the self-determination of the Bengali nation by independently mobilizing itself to oppose the military activities of both the ruling classes, it also supported the actions taken by the Hindu bourgeoisie to bring the situation under control.
Challenged by the RCL, Banda openly proclaimed the “progressive” and “revolutionary” role of the national bourgeoisie in India by pointing to the inevitable threats of imperialism (see pp. 48-51). The flimsy alibis provided by Banda for the Indian bourgeoisie to invade Bangladesh, to disarm the Mukti Bahini and to go to war against Pakistan were an insult to the intellect of the advanced workers. In his sycophantic haste to gratify the greed of the Tatas and the Birlas, the major pillars upon which imperialism is resting in India, Michael Banda transformed the Indian bourgeoisie into an innocent victim of imperialist attacks.
Not only was the entire theoretical conception upon which this argument was built rotten to the core, Banda’s presentation of the relationship of class forces in the Indian subcontinent was also completely wrong. First, to argue that the pressure of imperialism supersedes the class contradictions is to make a mockery of Marxism. What Trotsky said about the imperialist domination of China in 1927 is even more applicable to the situation prevailing in India:
“It is a gross mistake to think that imperialism mechanically welds together all the classes of China from without. That is the position of the Chinese Cadet, Tai Chi-T’ao, but in no wise ours. The revolutionary struggle against imperialism does not weaken, but rather strengthens the political differentiation of the classes. Imperialism is a highly powerful force in the internal relationships of China. The main source of this force is not the war ships in the waters of Yangtze Kiang—they are only auxiliaries—but the economic and political bonds between foreign capital and the native bourgeoisie. The struggle against imperialism precisely because of its economic and military power, demands a powerful exertion of forces from the very depths of the Chinese people. Really to arouse the workers and peasants against imperialism is possible only by connecting their basic and most profound life interests with the cause of the country’s liberation.” (Leon Trotsky on China, Pathfinder, p. 161)
Second, Banda’s arbitrary and ignorant claim that Pakistan was the only instrument of imperialism in the Indian subcontinent was a complete distortion of the class relations as they evolved from the time of partition. Although it is not difficult to refute the claims of Banda on the basis of an elementary knowledge of history, it is necessary to refer to the perspective and the analysis of the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India, the then section of the FI, in the aftermath of the partition to understand how far the SLL had retreated from the traditional outlook of the Trotskyist movement:
“The partition of India, so readily attributable to the Muslim League alone, was fundamentally due not to League politics but to Congress politics. The politics of Congress in relation to British imperialism was not the politics of struggle but the politics of settlement. And the politics of settlement inevitably fed the politics of partition in as much as it also left the initiative with British imperialism.
“The partition of India was the outcome of the surrender settlement of the Indian bourgeoisie with British imperialism over the heads of and against the insurgent masses. Pakistan is the product of the bourgeois abortion of the mass movement.
“The tragedy of partition flows particularly from the declared objectives of its architects. This gruesome cutting up of the living body of India on the one hand and of two living ‘nationalities’ (the Punjabi and the Bengali nationalities) on the other was put forward as a solution of the communal problem on the one side and a means of opening the road to freedom on the other. Both pleas have proved false.
“Partition has proved in the one respect only a means of re-forging chains for the imperialist enslavement of the masses. In the other respect, it has proved but a means of beguiling two states to thoughts of mutual war as the only means of canalizing internal communal feeling away from civil convulsions. The war, by the way, may yet come (if indeed, it has not already come in Kashmir and Junagadh). But the civil convulsions have come meanwhile in catastrophic fashion. Yes, the partition of India has only rendered more acute a communalism which was entirely dissolvable without that operation. The attempt to erect communalism into separate states has only accentuated communalism in each state. The uni-communal state is the national end-in-view of communalist partition’s insane logic....
“The state of relations between the Indian Union and Pakistan will obviously govern the relations between West Bengal and East Bengal far more than the state of relations between West Bengalis and East Bengalis. But the urge for Bengali unity is deep, historically old, and cannot in the long run be denied fruition. For, it cannot be that people who fought one partition at the beginning of this century will allow another to become permanent towards the middle of it out of mere communal passion. In the long run, therefore, the urge to national unity, is bound to prevail over the present communal divisions.
“The real task is to prevent the ‘national’ movement for defeating the partition from feeding the chauvinist movement for re-absorbing Pakistan by conquest within the Indian Union (and vice versa). Those who on both sides of the dividing line are working for a genuine, i.e., voluntary reunification have therefore to find a way of carrying forward that work without embroiling the Indian Union and Pakistan.
“How is this to be done? Clearly not by aligning themselves with the reactionary expansionists on either side of the boundary. These have, on the contrary, to be resolutely fought. For the task is not the forcible reunification of Bengal (the province) within either the Indian Union or Pakistan but the voluntary reunion of the Bengali ‘nationality’ on the basis of its right to self-determination....
“In this regard it is necessary to grasp also a further fact. The reunion of Bengali nationality on the basis of its right to self-determination is not possible except through the social revolution both in the Indian Union and Pakistan. In no other circumstances can the Bengali ‘nation’ be free to exercise that right. But the social revolution in both the Indian Union and Pakistan can only mean a reunited India on a socialist basis. The perspective therefore is: a Soviet Bengal in a Soviet India! Thus does the proletarian revolutionary program alone lead to the fulfillment on a progressive basis of the aspiration both for a united Bengal (and Punjab) and for a United India. Whom the bourgeoisie have torn asunder reactionarily, only the working class can unite progressively. Such is the dialectic of this period.” (Colvin R. de Silva, The Present Political Situation in India, 1948)
Just as the BLPI leaders later abandoned this perspective to accept the compromise between the national bourgeoisie and imperialism as a democratic settlement, Banda too abandoned the perspective of the proletarian revolution to concede to the national bourgeoisie the hegemony over the democratic revolution. In his January 27, 1972 letter to Balasuriya, Banda went on to question the political legitimacy of challenging the Indian bourgeoisie on the basis of a democratic program:
“Do we equate the efforts of the reactionary Indian bourgeoisie to unite India (even to annex East Pakistan) with the attempts of imperialism to dismember India through the instrumentality of a fissiparous movement like Pakistan?”
Thus the SLL ended up by betraying the Bengalis’ right to self-determination and becoming political props of the Hindu bourgeoisie and the new imperialist-native bourgeois arrangement in the subcontinent. The warnings contained in the letters of the RCL were entirely vindicated.
This intervention of the SLL and M. Banda to uphold the political authority of the national bourgeoisie against the working class and the sections of the International Committee themselves, brings into the sharpest focus the “freelance theories” advanced by Banda and his increasing adherence to Stalinism in the betrayals carried out by the WRP leadership during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Banda’s intervention in 1972 in no sense could be considered Trotskyist. Banda had by then already rejected the possibility of mobilizing the working class for socialism and embraced the national bourgeoisie and the Stalinist bureaucracy.
In his 1972 letter, Banda also proposed that the Transitional Program of the Fourth International must be amended to incorporate the treacherous line of Maoist politics. He explicitly proposed that the starting point of the revolutionary party in the backward countries should not be the class struggle but the objective contradictions which exist between imperialism and the colonial capitalists at all times.” He then went on to declare this to be the main lesson of the Chinese revolution.
To answer Banda’s pretentious claims to be an expert on the Chinese revolution would require considerably more space and we will attend to it in due course. But it suffices here to say that the foundation of Mao’s line is the explicit rejection of the leading role of the proletariat. Mao’s response to the defeat of the proletariat in 1927, produced by the opportunist policies which he himself had supported (i.e., the subordination of the CCP to the bourgeois Kuomintang) was to turn his back on the working class and to reject as hopeless a revolutionary strategy based on the mobilization of the urban proletariat. It is in this demoralized contempt for the working class and, bound up with it, the desire to head off any independent action by the proletariat, that the secret of the perennial attraction of the petty bourgeois radical for Maoism is to be found.
The fact that these positions went unchallenged within the SLL-WRP and that the criticisms of the RCL were never brought to the attention of the ICFI proves that by 1971-72 the Healy, Banda, Slaughter leadership was already turning into a rotten clique which had embarked on the path of “experimental politics.” The RCL explicitly stated in January 1972 that the work of the British section is “tending to move in the direction of revising all the capital gains made by the SLL leadership in their fight against the SWP during the 1961-63 period.” (See Balasuriya’s letter of January 11, 1972.)
But, the RCL could not force a discussion on these fundamental issues in the International Committee. Not only were the documents submitted by the RCL not circulated among the sections of the IC. The British leadership went on to advance a position that programmatic consistency does not represent the continuity of Marxism. Even though Cliff Slaughter protests too much by claiming that the ICFI has done him an injustice by placing him alongside Healy and Banda, it was Slaughter’s interventions which provided the necessary “theoretical” cover for Banda’s open political revisions.
In 1972, supposedly answering the revisionists of the OCI, Slaughter wrote:
“Will revolutionary parties able to lead the working class to power and the building of socialism be built simply by bringing the program of Trotskyism, the existing forces of Trotskyism, onto the scene of political developments caused by the crisis? Or will it not be necessary to conduct a conscious struggle for theory into the transformed reality of the class struggle?” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. 6, New Park Publications, p. 226)
This counter-position of “theory” to the “program” of Trotskyism, backed with the politically dubious category of the “transformed reality of the class struggle”—shades of the Pablo-Mandel “new world reality”—was the political passport forged by Slaughter to enable the SLL-WRP to wander in unknown lands without having any historico-programmatic guidance. In the same work, Slaughter quite arbitrarily went on to say “that the IC fights for the real continuity of the Fourth International and Marxism by consciously striving to develop dialectical materialism.” So, according to Slaughter, there was “real” continuity and the “fake” continuity as well. The continuity became “real” only to the extent that it did not bother about the entire programmatic foundation of the revolutionary movement. Thus, Slaughter’s insistence that only the struggle for dialectics constitutes the continuity of the Fourth International was a sophisticated middle class intellectual’s justification for an unexplained break from the programmatic foundations of Trotskyism.
Thus, it was necessary for the Trotskyists to unmask the pseudo-dialectical charlatanry of the WRP leaders to bring out their irreconcilable programmatic and political differences with the renegade clique of Healy, Banda and Slaughter. That was the decisive importance of the intervention made by the Workers League in 1982 in pointing to the connection between the programmatic revisions and the completely anti-Marxist method of the WRP leadership.
The majority of the sections of the IC which firmly based themselves on the heritage of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism could not be derailed by the pro-Stalinist line the WRP leadership attempted to impose on the world party. The growing and ever-more apparent contradiction between the political line of the WRP and the principles upon which the sections of the ICFI had been founded led inexorably to the outbreak in 1982 of a principled political struggle against the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership. Despite the fact that the WRP leaders were able, for a period, to successfully flex their organizational “muscle” to temporarily isolate the Workers League, as they had previously isolated the RCL, it was only a matter of time before its criticisms found a powerful response within sections of the ICFI. The isolation of the Sri Lankan Trotskyists was decisively ended and they came to the forefront of the struggle against the revisionism of the WRP. The joint efforts of the RCL, the Australian SLL, the German
BSA, the Trotskyist opposition inside the WRP (reconstituted in March 1986 as the International Communist Party) restored, with the fraternal support of the Workers League, the programmatic homogeneity of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
In the one year that has passed since the split with the WRP, the International Committee has relentlessly continued its struggle to theoretically assimilate all the political lessons of the split and to deepen the chasm between its sections and all brands of centrism and opportunism. This work dominated the second plenum of the ICFI since the split, which was held in October 1986. The first order of business was to examine the evolution of all the forces which had broken with the ICFI. This volume thus opens with the statement “One Year Since the Split in the IC” which was the main document produced in the course of the second plenum. We should note that the rightward movement of the renegades of all factions has proceeded without interruption since this analysis was produced. The ink had hardly dried on the ICFI statement before we learned, for example, that Savas Michael of the Greek WRP had directly entered into an open electoral bloc with Papandreou’s PASOK. Candidates of the WRP ran in several localities on the same slate with bourgeois candidates. Moreover, in the interests of cementing its popular front with PASOK, the Greek WRP agreed to drop from its election program the call for the removal of American bases from Greece!
A number of other documents from that plenum which are reproduced in this volume, especially the statement of the ICFI on its tasks in Sri Lanka (see pp. 20-23), express the theoretical advances that have been made in enriching the theory of permanent revolution in relation to the present-day tasks of the proletariat.
Just one final point before the reader moves on to a study of the documents in this volume. Nearly three- quarters of a year has passed since the International Committee published, in its first issue of Fourth International after the split, a 120-page analysis of “How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism 1973-1985.” There has still been no attempt to challenge and refute this analysis by any of the putrefying renegade factions of the WRP. The most we have received by way of an “answer” is the following assertion by Slaughter that he will not answer.
“We will not go over the dozens of lies and distortions contained in North’s account, and it is not necessary to respond to his subjective outbursts or his childish constant references to ‘the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership’—a very convenient amalgam.”
This statement will no doubt satisfy his new revisionist friends who have absolutely no interest in political principles. But in the Marxist movement, where failure to answer political criticisms has always been taken as an admission of their truth, Slaughter’s slippery evasion will be read by every revolutionary fighter as an outright confession of his political cowardice and bankruptcy.