Fourth International (March 1987)

Nine Years Since the Death of Comrade Tom Henehan

The International Committee of the Fourth International honors and commemorates the struggle and sacrifice of Comrade Tom Henehan on the ninth anniversary of his assassination.

Comrade Henehan, a member of the Political Committee of the Workers League (the US Trotskyist organization in solidarity with the ICFI), was murdered by two hired killers on October 16, 1977.

The assassination of Comrade Henehan was in response to the investigation by the ICFI into Security and the Fourth International. Three months before his murder, the ICFI investigation had uncovered the fact that the late Joseph Hansen, at that time the leader of the revisionist Socialist Workers Party, had established a secret contact with the FBI five weeks after the assassination of Leon Trotsky on August 20, 1940.

Prior to this, the investigation had shown that Hansen, who was in charge of Trotsky’s security at Coyoacan, had established a secret contact with the GPU, the Soviet secret police which carried out the murder of Trotsky.

Hansen publicly defended the Stalinist agent Sylvia Franklin who worked in the SWP offices from 1938 to 1947 and was part of the GPU network which set up the assassination of Trotsky.

The ICFI has now established that Hansen’s defense of Franklin arose from the fact that the former editor of the Stalinist Daily Worker newspaper, Louis Budenz, who had named Franklin, had also secretly identified Hansen as a GPU agent.

Comrade Henehan is a martyr of the ICFI, struck down in the struggle to expose the agencies of Stalinism and imperialism working to destroy the Trotskyist movement. Although his murder was clearly a political killing, not one of the revisionist organizations condemned it. To this day they all parrot the line of the New York City Police Department that Comrade Henehan was the victim of “senseless violence” in New York.

Despite the revisionists’ wall of silence, the Workers League conducted a nationwide campaign in the labor movement which forced the police to carry out the arrest of Angelo Torres in October 1980 and his accomplice Edwin Sequinot two months later. They were tried and convicted on charges of second degree murder in July-August 1981.

However, the police have still refused to investigate who ordered the contract killing. Since the trial of Torres and Sequinot, unanswered questions still remain:

1. Why was Sequinot allowed to remain free for three years after the killing, which he carried out while under police supervision on work release?

2. Why was Torres released during the same period when he was picked up by the police although there was a murder warrant out for him?

3. Why has the third man involved in the killing, Angel Rodriguez, never been arrested?

4. Why was vital physical evidence destroyed by police “investigators”?

5. Why did Comrade Henehan not receive adequate medical attention, but instead was allowed to bleed to death without surgery?

All the revisionist organizations which have refused to condemn the killing of Comrade Henehan have lined up to defend Hansen and the SWP against the charges brought by the ICFI as a result of the Security and the Fourth International investigation without even examining the documentary evidence.

They have been joined by the Banda-Slaughter renegades of the Workers Revolutionary Party in Britain who split from the ICFI in February 1986.

Without presenting a shred of evidence to contradict its findings, these renegades, and their supporters in Peru and Australia, have renounced the Security and the Fourth International investigation and come to the defense of Hansen and the SWP.

In so doing, they spit on the principles and program of the Trotskyist movement for which Comrade Henehan fought and died and which they once defended.

In “An Open Letter to the World Trotskyist Movement,” issued on November 10, 1977, which he drafted in his capacity as secretary of the ICFI, Slaughter wrote:

“Hansen has fallen absolutely silent since the publication of our interview with the GPU undercover agent Sylvia Franklin and the further article exposing his FBI association, which was entitled, ‘Will the Real Joseph Hansen Please Stand Up?’ (Bulletin, August 5,1977)

“Does Hansen intend to explain to his members, to the Trotskyist movement and to the international working class how he came to be consorting with a top GPU agent in 1938 and forming a secret and personal liaison with the FBI in New York in 1940, five weeks after Trotsky’s murder?

“It seems not. Instead of working on a reply to these fully documented charges—the immediate responsibility of any serious revolutionist—Hansen is preparing his bucket of diversionary slander.” (The Murder of Tom Henehan, Martyr of the Fourth International, pp. 28-29)

Now it is Slaughter who is tipping his bucket of diversionary slander on the ICFI and the Security and the Fourth International investigation while failing to answer the very same questions he put to Hansen.

“He cannot explain why these associations were kept secret from his own party and the international movement until they were uncovered by the International Committee during its investigation. Nor can he explain why he praises Sylvia Franklin, nee Callen, party name Caldwell, as an ‘exemplary comrade’ of the SWP when the International Committee has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that she was a GPU undercover agent in the Trotsky murder team.”

Concluding the letter, Slaughter wrote: “The political slaying of Comrade Tom Henehan demands an immediate response from all Trotskyists. Whatever the differences, there can be no justification for failure to solidarize with the Workers League on this question. It is an elementary duty flowing from the revolutionary proletarian internationalism on which our movement is founded.

“It is time to close ranks and restore life to these principles. Together with these basic questions of defense against the terror of the class enemy goes the inescapable responsibility of exposing the truth of the Stalinist terror machine which killed Trotsky. These are the great historic questions now facing Trotskyists everywhere.”

Slaughter’s words are as true today as when they were written—only now they condemn him.

As for Banda, we can do no better than quote from his own speech made at the meeting to commemorate Comrade Henehan one week after the assassination.

“When you look around and see the generations that have come and gone, you think not only of those who have stayed but those who have left. Some, perhaps, were frightened by the prospect of the assassin’s bullet, but that wasn’t what made them go.

“What has made many of them leave and others turn their back and others really spit on the traditions of the history of the revolutionary movement, of the Trotskyist movement? It stems, above all, from a pragmatic skepticism about the prospects of the world revolution, the rejection and the denial of the international perspective, the perspective for which Comrade Trotsky gave his life—the perspective of socialism or barbarism.” (The Life and Death of Tom Henehan, p.32)

Banda, Slaughter, and their followers have renounced the great principles of the Trotskyist movement and passed over to the defense of the class enemy which killed Tom Henehan.

The International Committee of the Fourth International continues the struggle for which Comrade Henehan gave his life. It will intensify its campaign on Security and the Fourth International.

Comrade Henehan did not die in vain. His struggle lives on in the building of the world Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International, for which he gave his life.