Fourth International (March 1987)

Michael Banda: Stalinist

Michael Banda, the former general secretary of the British Workers Revolutionary Party, has publicly denounced Trotskyism and declared his political agreement with Stalinism.

According to a report published in Workers Press, weekly newspaper of the WRP, Banda delivered a speech before a faction of the British Communist Party in which he characterized Trotskyism as a “centrist excrescence” and described Trotsky as a “petty bourgeois motivated by pique.” Banda claimed that Trotsky never forgave Stalin for defeating him in the struggle for leadership of the Bolshevik Party after Lenin’s death.

Asserting that Trotskyism is politically irrelevant, Banda said that Trotsky’s writings “should occupy a special place in political libraries alongside Proudhon, Kropotkin and Bukharin.”

Banda also justified Stalin’s bloody repression of the working class and the destruction of Soviet democracy as necessary for the development of the productive forces of the USSR in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. He compared the role of the bureaucracy to that of the English bourgeoisie after the Cromwellian Revolution in the seventeenth century.

After 40 years in the Trotskyist movement, Michael Banda has joined the very enemy against whom the Fourth International has fought a life-and-death struggle from the first day of its existence. His present position confirms once again what was proved more than 30 years ago by. another renegade from the Trotskyist movement in Britain, John Lawrence—that Pabloism leads inexorably, in one form or another, to political capitulation to Stalinism.

Lawrence, one of Pablo’s principal supporters during the bitter 1953 struggle inside the Fourth International, joined the Communist Party after being expelled from the British section. In 1954, when Lawrence made a provocative appearance in the Trotskyists’ print shop, Michael Banda had to be physically restrained from cutting his throat with a hunting knife. Now Banda follows in his footsteps.

Banda’s evolution puts paid, for once and for all, to the stupid and lying claims that (1) the basis of the explosion inside the WRP was a struggle over “revolutionary morality” and (2) that there existed some sort of “equal degeneration” inside the International Committee.

Banda did not become a Stalinist overnight and his sickening betrayal is not the product of his personal idiosyncracies. Rather, his present position is the outcome of revisionist political conceptions which were developed over many years inside the Workers Revolutionary Party leadership. During the 1970s Healy, Banda and Slaughter moved more and more openly toward political accommodation with Stalinism. The political cutting edge of this right-wing drift was the abandonment of any struggle against Pabloite revisionism.

Despite all the subjective bitterness that accompanied the split within the WRP, it should be noted that Healy holds a position toward Stalinism that is not fundamentally different from that of Banda. While Healy has not yet publicly denounced Trotsky, he has already declared that the closest political allies of the organization he leads are to be found in Moscow and Beijing.

As for the wing of the WRP led by Slaughter, its attempt to strike a pose of outrage in response to Banda’s speech is utterly cynical and dishonest. The rehabilitation of Stalinism inside the WRP was begun by none other than Cliff Slaughter on November 26, 1985, when he shook the hand of Monty Johnstone, a leading British Stalinist, at a public meeting called by the WRP. It was at that meeting that Slaughter made his first public attack on the International Committee.

During the next 10 weeks, the WRP’s split from the International Committee was carried through on the basis of Banda’s pro-Stalinist line. Everything Banda is reported to have said before a group of British Stalinists was already contained in his vitriolic denunciation of the International Committee—the notorious “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried Forthwith.”

This document was enthusiastically welcomed by Slaughter as a blow against the International Committee and provided the political justification for the two split resolutions passed by the WRP on January 26, 1986, in which the political authority of the International Committee was repudiated.

The actual writing of these resolutions was entrusted to Banda’s associate, Dave Good, who within four months resigned from the WRP and embraced Stalinism.

It is a historical fact that those who organized the campaign within the WRP for a break with the International Committee, claiming that the IC did not represent the continuity of Trotskyism, have in the meantime gone over to Stalinism.

It should also be noted that these forces, working with the support of Slaughter, were instrumental in initiating the vicious attack on Security and the Fourth International.

Banda himself devoted a section of his “27 Reasons” to a denunciation of the investigation. The political content of this attack is now clear: his opposition to the International Committee’s investigation into the role of Stalinist agents in the events surrounding Trotsky’s assassination stems from the fact that he now believes that Stalin’s murder of Trotsky was politically justified.

On this basis, every Stalinist agent inside the WRP was provided with a political license to denounce and campaign against the first and only investigation ever conducted by the Trotskyist movement into the crimes committed by GPU-KGB agents against the Fourth International.

Prior to the Eighth Congress of the WRP in February 1986, Slaughter directly appealed to Banda for an alliance against the ICFI and its supporters within the British section. On February 8, 1986, the Slaughter- Banda forces summoned police to bar the pro-ICFI minority from entering the congress. They then passed a resolution denouncing the International Committee as “anticommunist”—an out-and-out Stalin-style smear.

In the aftermath of the split, the Banda-Slaughter alliance broke up as a result of bitter disputes over organizational matters, centered on the control of the party’s financial assets. This led to the expulsion of Banda in May 1986. However, the WRP did not publish a single document exposing and denouncing the proStalinist line of Banda and his supporters.

Moreover, the Stalinist group before which Banda made his speech, the “Leninist,” has already had one of its letters denouncing Trotskyism published in the Workers Press, as part of the WRP’s “discussion” on the Fourth International.

The absence of any fundamental difference between the Workers Press and Banda is indicated in the headline of its report on Banda’s speech: “Not a Handshake but a Deadly Embrace.”

In other words, it is proper to shake the hands of Stalinists—as Slaughter did at Friends Hall last November—but “deadly embraces” are to be avoided. That is the extent of the “differences” between Banda and Slaughter.

The fact that the International Committee represents the continuity of Trotskyism has been demonstrated in practice through its struggle against the WRP. Far from having denegerated alongside the British renegades, the ICFI demonstrated its political health by fighting back against the pro-Stalinist cancer which had been metastasizing for years inside the WRP.

Within 24 hours of having received the text of the WRP resolutions of January 26, 1986, the central committee of the Workers League unanimously endorsed a letter to the ICFI and the WRP membership which declared that Banda and those who supported the line of the WRP resolutions were “renegades from Marxism who have capitulated to the pressures of British imperialism and are placing themselves in the service of the class enemy.” That assessment has been totally vindicated.

We do not expect that Cliff Slaughter will offer any public explanation as to how it has come to pass that the general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party and his political ally in the struggle against the International Committee has gone over to General Secretary Gorbachev. Nor do we expect that he will explain why, despite the supposed “equal degeneration” of the ICFI, not a trace of such reactionary tendencies as that represented by Banda have appeared in any of its sections.

He is too busy for that. The Workers Press has announced that it is raising a $15,000 fund to finance its international work—that is, to finance Cliff Slaughter’s trips all over the world to find new allies against the International Committee and Trotskyism.