Letter from P. Schwarz to Richard Price
August 20, 1987
Dear Comrade Price:
At the recently concluded Fourth Plenum of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the delegates took note of the recent series of splits that have occurred inside what was until recently the Healy-Torrance faction of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
In relation to these developments, the ICFI noted your break with Healy and Torrance and the formation of the Workers International League.
Upon examining the series of articles which have appeared in the Workers News on “The Collapse of the Workers Revolutionary Party,” it became apparent that much of your analysis is drawn from the statements previously published by the International Committee, although the form of their presentation and the conclusions drawn are very different.
Nevertheless, your articles constitute an indictment of the utterly unprincipled nature of the October 1985 split, in which you participated, of the Healy-Torrance WRP from the International Committee.
Among other things, you now admit that the allegations made against Healy—concerning his gross abuse of female cadre, and which formed the basis of the charges upon which he was expelled from the Workers Revolutionary Party and the International Committee—were true.
You also concede that the WRP, under Healy’s leadership, had formed mercenary relations with representatives of bourgeois nationalist regimes in the Middle East.
As you know, these facts, to cite only a few, were denounced as lies by leaders of the WRP minority, yourself included, when it split from the International Committee.
Moreover, your articles explicitly acknowledge that the Healy-Torrance faction were supported only by a small minority of the sections of the International Committee, the Greeks and the Spanish.
While you now seek to disassociate yourself from Healy and Torrance, condemn “the increasing indifference and contempt on the part of the WRP leadership towards the sections of the International Committee,” and even make unattributed use of the analyses of the International Committee, you are strangely silent on the present attitude of the Workers International League to the International Committee.
Even though your analysis of the WRP’s collapse concludes with the declaration that the WIL “basis its work” on “the struggle of the International Committee of the Fourth International against Pabloite revisionism,” there is no indication in your articles that your tendency intends to seek political discussion, let alone reaffiliation, with the ICFI.
Given the fact that your articles do not even attempt to demonstrate that the International Committee itself has broken with historically-developed principles which the WIL now claims to defend, it would appear that you continue to invoke the name and traditions of the ICFI in much the same manner as Healy and Torrance: as a bogus cover for nationalist and revisionist politics.
If that is not the case, and if you and other members of your tendency are truly interested in finding your way back to Trotskyism, then you will recognize your responsibility to clearly state where you stand in relation to the International Committee and the struggle it has carried out indefatigably against the treachery of Healy, Banda, Slaughter and Torrance.
Letter from Richard Price to P. Schwartz
October 22, 1987
Dear Comrade Schwarz,
The Workers International League has now discussed fully the contents of your letter of August 20, 1987.
In your letter, and in copies of “International Worker,” you have argued (without any documentation) that the articles entitled “The Collapse of the Workers Revolutionary Party” are largely plagiarised, whilst being presented in a manner which distorts the IC’s material. First, it should be clear that these articles do not claim to present a detailed history of the SLL/WRP. Over three-quarters of the articles deal with the years 1985-7, with the specific aim of answering the barrage of lies and half-truths spread by both the “Workers Press” and “News Line” groups.
We have, of course, read your material and there are undoubtedly numerous points of agreement. Without extensive archives of our own there is certain material which we could not be aware of any other way.
I assume that the material you feel has been plagiarised relates to the WRP’s relations with bourgeois nationalist movements and its abandonment of the theory of permanent revolution. Clearly you do not credit us with having arrived at any of these conclusions independently in the course of our experience in the WRP or the “News Line” group after 1985.
In October 1979, as a very junior member of the WRP, I raised an extensive series of differences with the line of the party, particularly in relation to the Zimbabwean revolution. As a result of observing the WRP’s “alliance” with ZAPU (as against ZANU which was conducting all the fighting) and through discussions with a number of young ZANU cadres who were in the course of being purged as “leftists”, it became clear that both ZANU and ZAPU were betraying the revolution and that the WRP leaders were whitewashing events, keeping silent on Nkomo’s secret meetings with Smith. The London ZANU branch was reorganised around this time and a new secretary installed who was a floor manager at Harrods (!) and happened to live in my block of flats.
The WRP’s policy on Zimbabwe brought into question its role in Libya, Iraq and Iran where it was pursuing a similar line.
In the hope of getting a straight answer on these questions, I visited Cyril Smith, for whom I had some respect at the time, at the London School of Economics. He had recently been purged at one of the recalled 4th Congresses. In addition to the Zimbabwean question, I asked him whether, as “News Line” articles had been implying, it was possible for a left-nationalist regime of the Libyan type to “mutate” into a workers’ state. Smith kept saying that he “didn’t know” and that he was “politically dead.”
A special meeting, taken by Sheila Torrance, was then summoned in my branch at which I presented my differences. I also challenged the abandonment of the IC position on Iran since February that year and, in particular, the silence of “News Line” on the suppression of workers’ organisations that summer.
The upshot of all this was a meeting with Healy in the “CC Dept.” at which I was strongly warned off pursuing any further criticisms and challenged that I must be in touch with revisionist organisations. In 1980, at a sub-district committee meeting, I attacked the WRP’s role in the steelworkers’ strike. In 1982, I came into sharp conflict with Banda over the “non-political” treatment in “News Line” of the hospital workers’ struggle in which I was closely involved and the party’s tailending of the TUC Health Service Committee. Banda used to raise this against me at every ATUA National Committee for the next two years.
I was elected to the Central Committee in 1983 in spite of these differences and largely because Comrade I. Harrison and myself had built up, in our group of hospitals, the strongest industrial support for the WRP anywhere in London and at a time when the WRP was liquidating revolutionary work in the trade unions. Not the least of this was the fact that in the course of the hospital dispute we had openly defended a revolutionarydefeatist position on the Falklands/Malvinas War.
In 1984, I opposed Gibson, Hunter and the Bandas who wanted to liquidate work around the miners into “support groups.”
Let me make it clear: I am not trying to present here a picture of a systematic opposition to the degeneration of the WRP leadership. Like many others, I was forced to withdraw without support. It does, however, show where this particular “Healyite” stood at a number of important turning points and not years after the event.
In your letter, you write: “You also concede that the WRP, under Healy’s leadership, had formed mercenary relations with representatives of bourgeois nationalist regimes in the Middle East.” The Workers International League is completely opposed to such opportunist relations. But why the onus is placed upon us “conceding”, as if our comrades were in some way party to such relations, is interesting. As you well know, allegations of such relations were common currency in the revisionist movement for many years. Thornett, I remember, alleged much the same thing in a pamphlet called “WRP Junks the old Trotskyism” in about 1979. In the early 80s, “Socialist Organiser” specialised in this field. Other than the sparse material you have published, and the “gossip” which appears from time-to-time in “Workers Press,” we remain completely in the dark as to the extent of “mercenary relations.” You are in possession of all the relevant material and until you publish the results of the International Control Commission we will remain in the dark.
Healy and Banda frequently went out of their way at aggregate meetings to deny any such relations existed. What is certain is that, having been relatively junior members of the WRP, we were in a much worse position to judge than were the leaders of the international movement. In the course of the 1985 split I was one of many who were revolted by the arch-hypocrites Banda and Slaughter producing “revelations” on this score when they themselves had been party to every step of Healy’s “foreign policy.” I am not, however, aware that on any occasion, verbally or in print, did I ever refer to these allegations as “lies.”
I first learned of the allegations of Healy’s sexual abuse from Dolly Short on June 29, 1985—two days before Aileen Jennings’ letter. From that point onwards I believed that Healy’s conduct was the grotesque expression of political degeneration. When Aileen Jennings’ letter came before the PC I refused to vote for its being declared a “provocation” and refused to be stampeded without AJ present. At the same time I was dubious (as was Julie Hyland) of the motives of Bruce-Gibson-Cowan-Harris.
Having become convinced of the necessity of a Control Commission and action against Healy, I was, nonetheless, also deeply suspicious of Banda when his abrupt U-turn to support a Control Commission coincided with his intention, announced to the PC, of “re-evaluating” the previous 35 years of Trotskyist history. This explains why I was temporarily pursuaded [sic] by Torrance that the only way to deal with Healy was within the PC. This was a mistake, but it certainly did not flow from the desire to defend Healy’s corruption. Rather, it was in reaction to an openly emerging right-wing element which subsequently crystallized as the “Workers Press” group. (This, in turn, allowed Torrance to put a “left” face forward).
In the course of September 1985 it became clear that a Control Commission was necessary and inevitable. At one of the two CC meetings that month, letters demanding a Control Commission were referred to the CC meeting of October 12. Three days before, Banda and Slaughter launched their famous walk-out to cover their own political tracks.
At the CC meeting of October 12-13, I spoke in favour of a Control Commission as I did also at the second London aggregate meeting on October 17. At all the meetings I spoke at during October 1985 (Camden, Kent, Hertfordshire, Crawley, Brighton) I made it clear that I considered the allegations against Healy to be substantially true. Comrade I. Harrison’s branch (Islington) unanimously passed a resolution which states: “We call for all such allegations to be investigated by the security commission (sic). We are not defenders of rape or corruption.”
The only document bearing my name which attempts to defend Healy is the “Special Congress” resolution of October 26—drafted by O’Regan and rushed through without discussion. This we wholeheartedly repudiate. Following the split I raised the question of Healy’s corruption on the PC of the “News Line” group and its relation to his political degeneration. This was attacked by Torrance, O’Regan, Rudder and Sweeney as a theory of “original sin.”
The comrades in the WIL were not part of any attempt to smear Comrade North as a CIA agent. I moved a resolution on the WRP PC in September 1985 which (from memory) stated that any such allegations were untrue and should be unreservedly withdrawn.
You should also be clear that our comrades were not without experiences of their own in relation to Healy. Comrade P. Marchant was physically attacked and “personally” expelled by Healy at Clapham in 1983. Comrade I. Harrison was suspended from 1973-5 on suspicion of being a “policeman.”
Comrade D. Hyland brackets us along with Torrance, Banda and Slaughter as having been “opposed to the politics of the WRP being examined” and of having participated in “an absolutely conscious betrayal” of Trotskyism (“International Worker,” May 1987). We are all conscious in retrospect of having defended numerous erroneous political positions in 1985 which only the results of the struggles of 1985-7 clarified. However, Comrade Hyland is clearly wrong in asserting that I was opposed to “examining” the WRP’s politics. I was in a minority of two on the WRP CC in attacking the opportunist relations with Livingstone, Scargill and sections of the trade union bureaucracy in July 1985. At the September meeting of the CC, I stated that I was opposed to the “worldwide Bonapartism” and “common level of struggle” of the 10th World Congress.
On the other hand, to imply that there was something “progressive” about those who were busily “examining” is at best misleading. There was a powerful current in the WRP CC which by October 1985 had arrived at outright liquidationism with the position that there never had been a Trotskyist movement in Britain, throwing overboard the entire struggle against Pabloism.
Nor can we agree with you that Slaughter operated a “hidden agenda” after October 1985. It is clear that Slaughter and Banda were in contact with other revisionist groups prior to the split and that this “agenda” was already apparent by October. In this context it becomes apparent that, far from Slaughter and Banda playing a principled role in October 1985 “and then relapsing into centrist and pro-Stalinist liquidationism immediately afterwards, their entire “campaign” against Healy was utterly dubious from start to finish. Healy’s revolutionary past was one of the main impediments in the way of “regroupment” and for that reason he had to be vilified, the movement dragged through the Fleet Street gutter and his and the ICFI’s reputation spat on all the way back to the forties.
This is not said in hindsight. We were aware of the implications of Banda’s political trajectory. At the October 12-13 CC meeting, I quoted against Banda the following section of his own pamphlet “The Anti-Party nature of Thornett’s Slander Campaign”: “Just look at your own record: In September you informed the party that you unconditionally accepted the perspectives and tradition of the ICFI and acknowledged the history of struggle of the SLL/WRP. Two months later you contradict everything by claiming that the movement is degenerate and this includes the ICFI!” (p.11). Then it was greeted with derision by the CC “majority”. Today it seems almost prophetic.
By the beginning of October 1985, the only body which could have resolved the crisis in the WRP and averted a premature split was the ICFI. The absence of any clearly internationalist tendency at the point of the split was not accidental: it reflected the deep-going degeneration throughout the upper ranks of the “Old Guard.” On both sides of the divide were sections of the old leadership clique opposed to their own degeneration being thoroughly exposed and its source analysed.
In our view, the IC’s unilateral relations with Banda-Slaughter in the month preceding the split constitute a serious error. By your own admission you did not contact the WRP “minority” until the morning of October 26. The point here is not to deny the right of the ICFI to intervene in the crisis of the British section but to state that the manner in which it did so had the effect of lining up support uncritically behind Banda-Slaughter.
Comrades North, Rippert and Beams were in Britain at the time of the October 12-13 CC meeting. By then a de facto split had already been reached yet for almost two weeks of civil war within the WRP there was no visible IC “presence.” Why was there no IC speaker at this CC meeting or at the major aggregate meetings which took place during the following week?
It was hardly surprising that Torrance’s supporters concluded that the majority of the IC stood four-square behind Banda-Slaughter.
How was it that we fell among thieves? The most powerful impulsion of support for Torrance came from the declarations of Banda. The absence of any alternative leadership created a vacuum in which the role of provocation was given free rein. The combination of Banda’s junking of Trotskyist history, the enthusiasm for Thornett, the placatory attitude to reformism, the hysterical reaction to the “riots,” Slaughter’s denunciation of the minority as “near fascist” and last but not least the use of systematic, violence against the minority all assisted Torrance in putting a “left” face forward. You yourselves state: “It was not at all clear that on the most decisive question of all—its attitude towards the International Committee—the position of the majority was different from that of the minority. When Slaughter speaks of ‘the Healy anti-party group’ his standpoint is simply that of a national leader” (“The ICFI defends Trotskyism,” p. 84).
Given this division between two groups of opportunist clique leaders proceeding down different liquidationist paths, the correct approach would have been a discussion with the minority leaders and supporters recognising that caught up in the machinations of Torrance were dozens of sincere fighters. The IC’s documents repeatedly restrict themselves to the view that the membership of the “News Line” group were merely defenders of Healy’s abuses—something that G. Pilling will heartily agree with. In fact, it is the only thing he can come up with in answer to “Workers News.”
Not the least consideration of the IC should have been that Torrance had the support (subsequently lost) of many of the youth. The idea that the “overwhelming majority of healthy forces” supported the “majority” is false (“The ICFI defends Trotskyism,” p.95).
It is clear that the IC rejected Slaughter’s analysis of the split: “To claim as Banda and Slaughter did that the issue before the IC was ‘for or against rape’ was to insult the whole world Trotskyist movement, including the membership of the WRP” (ibid, p.86). Precisely so. But the only “discussion” on offer at the point of the split was “for or against rape.” The IC resolution of October 25 which opposed organisational measures being used to resolve a political crisis came after the horse had already bolted. Had it been passed two weeks earlier the lines of the split between the healthiest sections of the membership and the leadership clique would have been substantially different. In the event, knowledge of the contents of the IC resolution was withheld by Torrance and Rudder for their own national, factional purposes.
We joined Torrance on the assurance that Healy would never be permitted to rejoin, convinced that Banda and Slaughter were plunging to the right. You may think this was naive, but it was never the case that we sought to cover up for Healy. Having split, we discovered Torrance and O’Regan had secretly thrown Healy a lifebelt.
Once the split was made, it was compounded by a campaign of violence unleashed by Banda’s selfproclaimed “military faction” against ordinary party members. Further confusion was introduced when, subsequent to the ICP’s break with the “Workers Press” group, members of the ICP continued this method of political adventurism. We stand with Trotsky who always made it clear that such methods cannot be justified in regulating inner-party or inter-party relations under any circumstances.
The immediate aftermath of the split brought Slaughter’s direct turn towards the revisionists out into the open for all to see at Friends House and strengthened the “News Line” group for a period. It was only through the struggle inside the “News Line” group that the comrades who formed the WIL were able to confront the accumulated rottenness of the preceding period.
In relation to the present perspectives and policies of the ICFI we are in substantial agreement with you on:
- your analysis of the Slaughter “regroupment campaign”;
- the fundamental documents which constitute the basis of Trotskyism.
We are, however, not in agreement with:
1) Comrade D. Hyland’s article in “International Worker” (August 22) which argues that Healy-Banda-Slaughter were beginning to abandon proletarian internationalism as early as 1966. Although it is clear that Healy’s “Problems of the Fourth International” contains a crude and wrong attack on Cannon, the article’s assertion that Cannon and the SWP leadership defended a “conscious scientific Marxist method of analysing the changes in the objective situation after the Second World War” needs to be clarified.
Wohlforth’s article “American Trotskyism without Trotsky,” published in 1966, elaborates a number of the serious methodological and political errors of the postwar period, notably the “American Theses” of 1946.
Moreover, if the WRP/IC leaders were abandoning proletarian internationalism as early as 1966, how is it to be explained that sections in Greece, W. Germany, Spain, Portugal, Peru, and Australia were built after this point?
2) The mechanical approach of the ICP in its campaign to “make the lefts fight” with which we have strong reservations;
3) Your analysis of the Iraq/Iran War.
We would appreciate a written response to the points raised in this letter. This will assist both sides in determining whether there are grounds for taking the discussion forward.
Richard Price on behalf of the Workers International League.
Letter from the ICFI to Richard Price
December 6, 1987
Dear Comrade Price:
The International Committee has thoroughly discussed your letter of October 22nd, and I have been asked to summarize its views on the points you have made. To be frank, your letter was seen by all the members of the International Committee as yet another example of the appalling state of affairs that existed in the central leadership of the old Workers Revolutionary Party. It is now apparent that during the years of its protracted degeneration, people could join the WRP and even become members of its leading committees without being taught anything about revolutionary internationalism and principled politics. Only in this political context can one understand why you might imagine that your letter would be accepted by Marxists as a serious defense of your actions in and since 1985. But from the standpoint of principled Trotskyist politics, what you have written, as we shall explain, amounts to a devastating self-indictment of your role in the events surrounding the split in the Workers Revolutionary Party.
In your first point, you take exception to Comrade Peter Schwarz’s claim, in his letter of August 20, 1987, that the analysis presented by the WIL of the break-up of the WRP was largely plagiarized from documents produced by the International Committee. But while your letter admits that you relied heavily on the writings of the ICFI, that fact was not acknowledged in the articles published in your newspaper. Your attempt to excuse yourself by citing your lack of archives does not alter the fact that the unattributed use of large portions of the IC’s material constitutes plagiarism. At any rate, what was involved was not only the citation of archival material assembled by the ICFI. As Comrade Schwarz explained, you helped yourself to whatever you found useful in the documents of the ICFI.
This question of plagiarism was not raised as an academic formality. The point being made by Comrade Schwarz is that your attitude toward the fundamental questions of principle raised by the ICFI in its detailed analysis of the decline and fall of the WRP is utterly pragmatic and nationalist. While you find certain aspects of the ICFI’s critique to be useful in relation to your immediate factional needs vis-a-vis the Torrance group, you are quite determined to maintain the factional independence of your own group from the International Committee. That is why you use its material without any public acknowledgment.
Your letter then goes on to defend, at some length, your “record” as an earnest, if somewhat inexperienced, opponent of Healy’s political opportunism from 1979 on. Unfortunately, your opposition left behind no written record. But even if we were to accept the account which you present of your subterranean struggle, it hardly adds luster to your political reputation. Indeed, it further discredits the role you played in the decisive struggles of 1985, when you defended Healy despite your alleged personal belief he had betrayed the Trotskyist program.
In point three, you declare, in reference to the evidence of systematic sexual abuse, that as of June 29, 1985 “I believed that Healy’s conduct was a grotesque expression of political degeneration.” This opinion did not, however, stop you from voting in the Political Committee on several occasions during the summer of 1985 against the convocation of a Control Commission. Nor did it deter you from demanding the removal of Julie Hyland, Dolly Short and Vicky Short from the London District Committee in order to stop them from raising the demand for a Control Commission.
Your utterly anti-Marxist conception of political struggle is blatantly exposed when you cite your suspicions of Banda to justify your opposition to a Control Commission! In an astounding passage, you declare that “I was temporarily pursuaded [sic] by Torrance that the only way to deal with Healy was within the PC. This was a mistake, but it certainly did not flow from a desire to defend Healy’s corruption.”
Whatever your desires, you became involved in what amounted to a conspiracy against the membership of the Workers Revolutionary Party, the International Committee, and the working class. And, as soon becomes clear in your own account of the events surrounding the split, this was not the last time you resorted to such private and cynical deals with Torrance behind the back of the Trotskyist movement. You relate these incriminating details with such smug self-satisfaction that one is forced to conclude that you are truly unaware that political actions have an objective class content. However, the political record which you present proves that at every crucial point in the 1985 crisis, you behaved as an unprincipled petty-bourgeois radical who placed the needs of his clique above the objective historical interests of the working class.
For example, you recall that in mid-October 1985 “I made it clear that I considered the allegations against Healy to be substantially true.”
And yet, you broke from the International Committee within just two weeks of those admissions on the basis of upholding Healy’s unquestioned authority and denouncing the allegations against him as an “unscrupulous smear campaign,” “lying charges,” etc.
For this you now offer the incredible, if not criminal, explanation that “We joined Torrance on the assurance that Healy would never be permitted to rejoin....”
Permit us to ask you what you think revolutionary politics is all about! Have you perhaps mistaken the Fourth International for Tammany Hall? You tell us that in October 1985 you aligned yourself with Torrance after having obtained her private agreement that Healy would be kept out of her faction of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
Have you already forgotten that the refusal of your tendency to submit to the authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International was based on the extraordinary public declaration that there existed no higher authority in the Fourth International than the individual, Gerry Healy?
On the morning of your split from the International Committee, October 26, 1985, members of your tendency were distributing the so-called “Joint Communique” of Savas Michael and Esther Romero which declared that “We do not accept the expulsion of the most world-known leader of the International, Comrade Gerry Healy, behind the backs of the International.” This same communique proclaimed that only this “historical leader” had the right to summon a meeting of the International Committee. But while you were publicly supporting a break from the International Committee on the preposterous grounds that it could not function independently of Healy, you were privately orchestrating, as your price for a political deal with Torrance, the secret expulsion of Healy from your faction! And then you inform us, having barely paused for a breath, that “it was never the case that we sought to cover up for Healy.”
You suggest that the International Committee may find that your actions were “naive.” That would be a rather charitable evaluation of your role in October 1985. Your actions were characterized not by naivete but by petty-bourgeois cynicism.
In point four, you state that “The comrades in the WIL were not part of any attempt to smear Comrade North as a CIA agent. I moved a resolution on the WRP PC in September 1985 which (from memory) stated that any such allegations were untrue and should be unreservedly withdrawn.”
You have apparently forgotten that the resolution to which you refer was passed unanimously only after I personally confronted the Political Committee of the WRP. This occurred after I learned of Healy’s allegation upon my arrival in Britain in mid-September 1985. However, by that time more than three months had passed since Healy, in late May 1985, told the Political Committee that immigration authorities in Boston had barred Dolly Short from entering the United States to attend an American YS Conference because of actions I had taken in my alleged capacity as a CIA agent! Of course, everyone in the WRP Political Committee knew the real reason why Comrade Short had been stopped at Logan Airport. It was because immigration authorities had found in her luggage, along with several copies of the New Park book on the British miners strike, a superfluous “letter of introduction” identifying Short as a leader of the British YS. Healy had stupidly written this unnecessary letter on WRP stationery and addressed it to me as Workers League national secretary!
But for the next three months, you did not demand that I be informed of the allegation or that Healy substantiate it with facts. Therefore, you hardly have a right to claim special recognition for your belated opposition to the smear campaign initiated by Healy. At the September meeting to which you refer, even Corin and Vanessa Redgrave voted for its repudiation.
Your vote at the September meeting notwithstanding, you endorsed the resumption of the smear campaign immediately after the split. As you well know, the CIA smear was used repeatedly by your faction of the WRP and its principal international ally, S. Michael, to justify the break with the International Committee. You were still a member of the editorial board of Marxist Review when it carried an article by Michael in its issue of May 1986 which declared that “it is established in the most indubitable way exactly what North is—a professional liar and agent provocateur.” You permitted the publication of this libel and there is certainly no public record that you opposed it, although some eight months had passed since the WRP Political Committee had adopted its belated resolution condemning the smear.
Evading responsibility for the consequences of your actions, you attempt in point eight to shift the blame onto the shoulders of the International Committee. This reminds us of the man who, facing capital punishment for the murder of his parents, pleads for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan! You did everything in your power to sabotage the efforts of the International Committee in October 1985 to avoid a split in the WRP and now you blame us for it having taken place! You write:
“In our view, the IC’s unilateral relations with Banda-Slaughter in the month preceding the split constitute a serious error. By your own admission you did not contact the WRP ‘minority’ until the morning of October 26. The point here is not to deny the right of the ICFI to intervene in the crisis of the British section but to state that the manner in which it did so had the effect of lining up support uncritically behind Banda-Slaughter.
“Comrade North, Rippert and Beams were in Britain at the time of the October 12-13 CC meeting. By then a de facto split had already been reached yet for almost two weeks of civil war within the WRP there was no visible IC ‘presence.’ Why was there no IC speaker at this CC meeting or at the major aggregate meetings which took place the following week?
“It was hardly surprising that Torrance’s supporters concluded that the majority of the IC stood four-square behind Banda-Slaughter.”
Comrade Price, aside from the misrepresentations and falsifications, these paragraphs prove that you have no understanding of what revolutionary internationalism consists of. Even if we were to leave unchallenged your presentation of the facts and accept your conclusion that supporters of the Torrance faction such as yourself really believed that “the IC stood four-square behind Banda-Slaughter,” this would in no way justify your split from the International Committee. What can it mean to join a World Party if national sections, and even factions within national sections, are free to defy international discipline the moment they find themselves in a minority?
In your opinion, you had a political right to repudiate the authority of the International Committee once you concluded it was supporting Banda and Slaughter. In other words, you were not interested in conducting a struggle within the international organization of which you were a member and were not prepared to subordinate the immediate requirements of your factional struggle within Britain to the needs of the World Party. For this reason, when the Healy-Torrance faction realized that they no longer controlled the International Committee, they split from it.
At the risk of appearing immodest, allow me to contrast to your position that of the Workers League to the authority of the World Party. Between 1982 and 1985 we found ourselves without any support for the detailed written criticisms we had made of the theoretical method and policies of the WRP leadership. But we refused to give up on the International Committee and its British section, and so we withdrew our criticisms in order to avoid a split under conditions in which an international discussion would have been precluded.
Moreover, that remained our attitude after the crisis erupted inside the Workers Revolutionary Party. Inasmuch as it contradicts your version of the role played by the Workers League and the International Committee in the autumn of 1985, you ignore the letter which I wrote to Michael Banda on September 30, 1985, reprinted in the June 1987 edition of Fourth International (pp. 89-90), in which the Workers League reaffirmed its commitment to a principled international discussion of the perspectives and program of the ICFI, and we explicitly declared: “If we should find ourselves in the minority, then we must recognize that this is the price which must be paid for the political errors of the last decade.”
The letter went on to warn Banda that “the development of the international discussion must neither be subordinated to nor preempted by the internal political struggle within the WRP leadership.”
If you check the letter in its entirety, you will be convinced that I am not quoting isolated passages out of context. It refutes your contention, which you personally first raised in your deplorable article, “The Political Evolution of the Hyland Group,” published in the September 1986 issue of Marxist Review, that I or the International Committee plotted with Banda and Slaughter against their opponents in the WRP.
There is not an iota of truth in your claim that the IC maintained “unilateral relations with Banda-Slaughter in the month preceding the split...” First, let us remind you that both Banda and Slaughter occupied definite official positions quite independent of the rapidly shifting sands of the factional alignments of October 1985. Slaughter was the secretary of the International Committee. Michael Banda was the elected general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party. For the representatives of the ICFI outside of Britain, these were not unimportant formalities. While leaders of the WRP were guided exclusively by their nationally-grounded factional considerations and violated organizational principles as it suited their purposes, the International Committee delegates insisted on observing constitutional procedures.
Now allow us to review the actual course of events which followed the eruption of the crisis inside the WRP on July 1, 1985.
As you know, among the first actions taken by the WRP leadership after the arrival of the Aileen Jennings letter was to cancel, “for reasons of security,” the meeting of the International Committee that had been scheduled for the weekend of July 13-14, 1985. However, as the financial crisis inside the WRP worsened, the British leaders decided to summon a meeting of the ICFI for the purpose of raising money. Thus, when IC delegates arrived for a meeting on August 17, 1985, they received lying reports from Corin Redgrave, Dot Gibson and Healy about the financial situation, and on this basis gave pledges totalling 82,000 pounds sterling. Not a word was said about the political crisis in the WRP and the allegations against Healy.
During the course of the next two months, the sections of the ICFI heard about the crisis at different times and in different ways. The Workers League leadership received its first report when Banda telephoned me on the evening of September 3, 1985 to report that Healy was about to be retired as a result of a scandal. That led to my own trip to Britain in mid-September. As noted above, you were present at the meeting of the WRP Political Committee on September 16, 1985 at which I spoke not only about the allegations against myself but about the crisis inside the WRP. According to the written notes which I had prepared for that meeting, published in a Workers League Discussion Bulletin in December 1985, I specifically told the Political Committee that the Workers League intended to demand an international discussion on perspectives and proposed the recall of the 10th Congress of the ICFI. In concluding my remarks, I told the WRP Political Committee that the Workers League was most concerned by the British organization’s indifference to the International Committee.
It was during that trip to Britain that I met with Comrade Uli Rippert, who had himself just learned of the crisis inside the WRP. In accordance with what I had already(told the WRP Political Committee, we began to work for the organization of a meeting of the International Committee. As I wrote to Banda in the letter of September 30:
“We must have a preliminary meeting of the International Committee as soon as possible—no later than early November—to prepare the convening of the Eleventh Congress. In our capacity as fraternal observers, the Workers League delegation intends to move a motion for the repudiation of the Tenth Congress Resolution and the opening up of an international discussion. It will be necessary to prepare documents for circulation within all the sections. An agenda and date for the Eleventh Congress will have to be fixed.
“What we really need now is the political collaboration of internationalist Trotskyist leaders who represent the sections of the World Party of Socialist Revolution. We must theoretically rearm the movement by resuming the conscious struggle against Stalinism, social democracy and their Pabloite apologists.”
That letter not only disproves the existence of any unprincipled factional intentions on the part of the Workers League. It also demonstrates that as late as September 30 the Workers League—which had by then, unlike all other sections except the German BSA, the opportunity to speak with leaders of the WRP—did not know that the factional situation was about to erupt inside the British section. It was still working on the assumption that a full discussion of the political crisis inside the WRP could be held at a November meeting of the International Committee. Indeed, at that time there was neither a minority or majority inside the WRP, and, if my memory serves me correctly, Banda and Torrance were still presenting themselves as “allies.”
It is not the fault of the Workers League or the ICFI that proposals for an orderly and well-prepared discussion were disrupted by the sudden eruption of factional warfare inside the WRP leadership. Indeed, it is fairly obvious that all the principal leaders of the WRP—Healy, Banda, Slaughter and Torrance—were acting consciously to force an organizational settlement of the crisis before the International Committee had any opportunity to intervene.
You reproach the ICFI for having failed to establish a “presence” inside the WRP once the crisis exploded. It would be more appropriate for you to explain why the WRP leadership refused to call a truce in its “civil war” until the ICFI delegations had arrived in Britain and were given an opportunity to study the political issues.
It is true that Comrade Rippert and I were in Britain at the time of the October 12-13 meeting of the WRP Central Committee. But neither Comrades Beams nor any other ICFI delegate had yet arrived in Britain. Indeed, when Comrade Rippert and I arrived in London on October 10, 1985, in the midst of Banda’s “walk-out,” we learned for the first time of plans to move for the immediate expulsion of Healy and all his supporters from the WRP.
Neither Comrade Rippert nor I were authorized to act in the name of the ICFI. We could not and would not attend any meeting of the WRP Central Committee and participate in its deliberations before the ICFI as a whole had the opportunity to meet and evaluate the situation. However, confronted with the prospect of an immediate and unprincipled organizational settlement within the WRP, Comrade Rippert and I immediately contacted Cliff Slaughter—again to speak to him in his capacity as ICFI secretary. We did not and could not challenge the right of the WRP Central Committee to take disciplinary action against Healy or any other member of the British section for violations of the party constitution. But we made it clear that we were utterly opposed to mass expulsions of those—including yourself, Comrade Price—who voted against Healy’s expulsion on the Central Committee. Comrade Rippert and I argued that minority rights had to be given to the Torrance faction, and that to deny those rights would not only violate the party constitution but also preempt a political discussion of the WRP crisis inside the International Committee. Slaughter claimed to agree with our position and eventually prevailed upon Banda to drop his demand for the expulsion of Healy’s supporters and to accept that they be given minority rights.
While you still claim that the ICFI was lined up behind Banda and Slaughter, you are well aware of the fact that Banda and Slaughter were denouncing ICFI delegates for refusing to endorse the aims of their faction. Allow me to quote from the December 11, 1985 letter of the Workers League Central Committee to the WRP:
On Sunday, October 20th, in the midst of these efforts to organize an IC meeting, Comrade North, who was then in Detroit, was informed by Comrade Banda over the telephone that the News Line—which had not been published for more than one week—would reappear the next day carrying a statement on the expulsion of Gerry Healy. This course of action was opposed by the Workers League Political Committee and by the IC delegates from Sri Lanka and Australia who were already in London. With an IC meeting only a few days away, it was felt that the WRP majority was obliged to consult with its international comrades prior to making the expulsion public. This opinion was communicated to Comrade Banda by Comrades Balasuriya and Beams. Comrade Banda then informed North that the statement would not be published until the IC met. That evening Comrade North flew to London.
On Monday afternoon, the 21st of October, the international delegates who were present in London were invited by comrades at the center—all members of the majority—to attend a meeting at which a report would be made on the situation at the print shop in Runcorn. The delegates agreed, of course, to hear the report. In the discussion that followed the report, WRP comrades began to discuss the preparations for a split with the minority. It was at that point that Comrade North, with the agreement of all the international leaders, requested permission to withdraw from the meeting. He explained that the upcoming meeting of the IC had been called to hear a report from the British section, not to provide a stamp of approval for any faction; and that the IC was determined to have an objective discussion of the political crisis within the WRP. It was on this principled basis that Comrade North stated that the International Committee stood for the unity of the British section.
While the delegates of the International Committee were scrupulous in their observance of organizational principles, your faction was already working behind the back of the International Committee to carry out a split. On October 19th, a factional meeting was secretly held in Barcelona between Savas Michael, Esther Romero and a representative of the Torrance faction at which it was decided to boycott the scheduled meeting of the International Committee.
Under difficult conditions, the meeting of the ICFI went ahead on October 25, 1985. This brings us to your denunciation of the IC’s failure to contact the WRP minority until the morning of October 26th. In fact, there was no way the ICFI, on a principled basis, could have approached the WRP minority any earlier. Your letter proposes that we should have accepted as a “given” that the crisis inside the WRP was “between two groups of opportunist clique leaders proceeding down different liquidationist paths,” and that, therefore, “the correct approach would have been a discussion with the minority leaders and supporters recognizing that caught up in the machinations of Torrance were dozens of sincere fighters.” As usual, your perspective is framed exclusively from the angle of your own battle of Britain.
The first formal ICFI discussion of the crisis inside its British section took place on October 25, 1985. On that date, the ICFI received a report on the crisis from the official international delegates of the Workers Revolutionary Party. Michael Banda, Cliff Slaughter, Peter Jones, and Dave Hyland. These delegates had been elected at the WRP Central Committee meeting of October 12, 1985. If no representatives of the minority were on that delegation, that was not the fault of the ICFI. At the Central Committee meeting of October 12th, the minority had its representatives elected to the Political Committee and the Control Commission. The fact that the minority did not also demand a representative on the WRP’s international delegation was symbolic of its contempt for the ICFI.
But let us allow that the absence of a minority delegate to the ICFI was merely the product of a political oversight in the heat of that embittered October 12th meeting. If that had been the case, there can be no doubt that the International Committee would have definitely entertained a motion to accept the admission of a representative of the minority to its meeting of October 25th. At the very least, it would have been obliged to hear a minority report. (As a matter of fact, even without the presence of an official minority representative, the WRP delegation was divided, with Comrade Hyland speaking against the positions of Banda, Slaughter and Jones.) However, not a single attempt was made by the minority to establish contact with the International Committee.
The agreement arrived at by the International Committee on October 25, 1985 provided a principled basis for resolving the crisis inside the WRP. The following measures were proposed:
1. The re-registration of the membership of the WRP on the basis of an explicit recognition of the authority of the ICFI and the subordination of the British section to its decisions.
2. Full collaboration by every member of the WRP with an International Control Commission to investigate, but not limited to, the corruption of G. Healy, the cover-up of the Political Committee and the financial crisis of the WRP.
3. All charges against members of either the minority or majority factions, which have arisen as a result of the eruption of the crisis in the Party shall be referred to the International Control Commission.
The Resolution in which these proposals were advanced concluded with the following statement:
Upon acceptance of these proposals preparations must be made for the 8th Congress of the WRP early in 1986, starting with the circulation of documents by both the Majority and Minority tendencies.
We recognize that our British comrades work under enormous class pressures generated by the ruling class of the oldest capitalist country. These can be surmounted only on the basis of a truly internationalist practice.
We again appeal to all members of the WRP to recognize their historic responsibilities to the Fourth International, the international implications of their decisions, and to therefore accept these proposals.
In the early morning of October 26, 1985, the ICFI contacted Ben Rudder and officially requested a meeting with the minority. It should be noted that this request was made even before the ICFI had presented this resolution to the majority representatives of the WRP Central Committee. However, the minority tendency never even bothered to respond to the Resolution and split from the International Committee.
Even now, Comrade Price, you excuse your faction’s repudiation of the ICFI with the dishonest claim that “The absence of any alternative leadership created a vacuum in which the role of provocation was given free rein.” The ICFI, in fact, provided alternative leadership which you chose to reject in the interest of clique agreements made behind the scenes with Torrance. Furthermore, it is the height of cynicism to claim now that “The IC resolution of October 25 which opposed organisational measures being used to resolve a political crisis came after the horse had already bolted.” Comrade Price, do you have to be reminded that the horse belonged to your faction, and that the stable door had been opened at the secret Barcelona meeting of October 19th!
Another false claim which you make in point 8 is that “the only ‘discussion’ on offer at the point of the split was ‘for or against rape.’ ” As you well know, the 1982-84 documents of the Workers League had been printed and were being distributed throughout the membership of the WRP. After reading these documents in early October, Dave Hyland, on his own initiative, called the offices of the Workers League in the United States and requested a discussion on the political crisis in the WRP and its relation to the history of the International Committee. You, on the other hand, despite your claims of past differences with the political line of the Healy leadership, showed no interest whatsoever in these documents and made no attempt to contact the International Committee.
In yet another effort at self-justification, you assert that the ICFI identified all the members of the Torrance faction as “merely defenders of Healy’s abuses...” That is not true. The ICFI never made such a blanket charge. It recognized that there might be inexperienced elements inside the WRP who were disoriented by the factional warfare and were being lied to by various leaders in whom they had confidence. But you do not belong to that category. You participated in the deception of those inexperienced members in the London area who were told that the charges against Healy were lies and that the ICFI had been taken over by state agents who were collaborating with Banda and Slaughter in a provocation against the WRP’s “historical leader.” If, as a result of these deceptions, honest elements have been lost by the Trotskyist movement, you, not the International Committee, bear the guilt.
But we should add for the record that if the Torrance faction is identified as the defender of Healy’s abuse of cadre, it is a charge which it deserves. While the International Committee did not accept that the essential question posed by the WRP crisis was “for or against rape,” it is a political fact that members of your faction, including Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, pronounced themselves emphatically in favor of Healy’s “right” to do whatever he pleased. Once the International Committee reviewed the evidence and verified the truth of the allegations against Healy—and this evidence included material that was gathered independently of the Workers Revolutionary Party—it had no doubt that his expulsion from the movement was justified. You have to this day failed to offer a credible explanation for your political defense of Healy’s abhorrent behavior.
At one point in your letter you ask rhetorically: “How was it that we fell among thieves?” Unfortunately, this is the one question which you are to this day unable to answer. Permit us to help you. In all your years in the Workers Revolutionary Party, you received no basic education in the history, principles and methods of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Instead, you received your “on-the-job” training in the London area as a member of the Torrance clique, which was, as is now clear, a typical petty-bourgeois formation. In reading your letter, which is full of subjective excuses and rationalizations, the International Committee was reminded of Cannon’s classic analysis of clique politics. We refer you to what he had to say about the methods of Martin Abern in The Struggle for a Proletarian Party.
“The characteristics of Abernism, as they have been consistently and uninterruptedly manifested for more than ten years, are: clique politics; ceaseless dissemination of gossip and complaints about the party regime; subordination of principled questions to organizational and personal considerations; unprincipled combinationism in every faction fight; and ideological treachery.”
You practice precisely those “Abernite” methods condemned by Cannon: unprincipled combinationism and the betrayal of principle to serve factional ends. In class terms, these are the methods of petty-bourgeois radicalism and they are profoundly alien and hostile to the historic interests of the working class. You have only to look upon the results of the last two years of your work to recognize the objective implications of the outlook and method which guides your activity.
Regrettably, there is absolutely no indication that you are prepared to make such an honest appraisal. Instead, in a display of shameful and embarrassing selfpromotion you now proclaim that “It was only through the struggle inside the ‘News Line’ group that the comrades who formed the WIL were able to confront the accumulated rottenness of the preceding period.” While it is true that “capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt,” that is hardly the way in which genuine revolutionary tendencies emerge on the scene. But you would have us believe that out of the stinking muck of factional maneuvers, lies, unprincipled relations and dirty scandals which went into the formation of the Torrance faction, of which you were a component part, there has suddenly blossomed a new Trotskyist organization!
Even if we were to give you the benefit of our well-founded doubts, you would still be obliged to present us and the entire working class movement with the political record of your struggle against Torrance and Healy inside the “News Line” group. However, we do not believe that such a record exists. To the best of our knowledge, you never formed a faction inside the Torrance group to fight against its opportunist political line. You did not counterpose to the policies of Torrance an alternative political line. While you now claim that Torrance and Rudder concealed documents which had been written by the ICFI—though we find it hard to believe that you had not been able to obtain them—you did not demand that they be discussed inside the Torrance group once they came into your possession. You never wrote a document, for circulation in the Torrance group, demanding an honest account of the 1985 split, let alone presenting such an account yourself.
Instead, you simply sent Torrance a letter announcing your resignation and then proceeded to set up a new organization without any declaration of principles. It is hardly surprising that the first issue of your Workers News did not even carry a statement explaining how the “Workers Internationalist League” had been formed. One can only assume that the individuals who are presently in your group, brought together and functioning without any integrated historical and programmatic conceptions, coexist as members of a petty-bourgeois circle. If there are any healthy forces among them, then you are once again engaged in a deception of inexperienced individuals.
At the end of your letter, you tell us that you are “in substantial agreement” with our analysis of Slaughter’s regroupment campaign and on “the fundamental documents which constitute the basis of Trotskyism.” This does not appear to be a very serious declaration, because the analysis and documents which you are referring to embrace the entire historical and programmatic heritage of Trotskyism, which is embodied in the history of the International Committee of the Fourth International. And yet, in so far as you express any definite attitude toward the history of the International Committee, it is one of disdainful skepticism. In fact, the very next point in your letter states your disagreement with Comrade Hyland’s defense of the role played by Cannon in the aftermath of the Second World War. Echoing the very positions advanced by Banda and the Slaughterite WRP as they were preparing to split from the International Committee in February 1986, you raise the old canard of Cannon’s “serious methodological and political errors of the post-war period, notably the ‘American Theses’ of 1946.”
Having dealt with these matters at considerable length in The Heritage We Defend, it is hardly necessary to repeat our analysis here. However, the fact that you raise precisely the same “doubts” which were thrown up by Banda and Slaughter in 1985-86 demonstrates that despite all the bitter factional disputes which erupted inside the WRP leadership, you are still rotating on their opportunist-liquidationist axis. Like them, you are desperately searching for mistakes and faults in the history of the Fourth International in order to justify your own national independence from the International Committee. But please take a warning from Banda. He eventually found it far easier to come to terms with Stalin’s Moscow Trials than with Cannon’s imaginary error in the American Theses!
We detect not only skepticism, but cynicism as well, in your request that we explain the formation of sections of the ICFI in Greece, W. Germany, Spain, Portugal, Peru, and Australia “if the WRP/IC leaders were abandoning proletarian internationalism as early as 1966.” While you base this question on a single sentence which is really taken out of context and magnified in such a way as to distort its meaning, you ignore the hundreds of pages in which the ICFI has carefully analyzed the contradictory historical development of the SLL-WRP as part of the International Committee. You tell us nothing specific about your attitude toward this history, let alone provide a carefully thought-out and detailed critique of our analysis. At any rate, as you know, the ICFI places great weight on the political implications of the SLL’s failure to carry through a systematic theoretical struggle against the centrism revealed in the dispute with the OCI. We have revealed the connection between the aborted struggle against centrism and the crisis which attended the founding and the subsequent development of the WRP. There is also, no doubt, a connection between the British section’s abandonment of the international struggle against Pabloite centrism and the inability of the ICFI, under the leadership of the WRP, to develop viable sections in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Peru. What conclusions, Comrade Price, do you draw from this analysis?
You also state that you have “strong reservations” with “the mechanical approach of the ICP in its campaign to ‘make the lefts fight.’ ” However, you fail to tell us anything specific about your “reservations” or even explain what you find “mechanical” (whatever that means) in the approach of the British section of the ICFI. We can only ask you, in return, to elaborate on the lessons you have drawn from the combination of sectarian and opportunist betrayals carried out by the WRP from 1975 on. Let us know whether you agree or disagree that demands should be placed upon the Labour Party in order to expose it. What attitude should the revolutionary movement take toward such “lefts” as Scargill, Benn and Livingstone? The political line of the ICP has been developed on the basis of a careful study of the programmatic heritage of the Fourth International and a critical assimilation of the experiences of the WRP. On what do you base your criticism of its “mechanical” approach. What is the content of your “non-mechanical” approach?
Finally, without citing any specific points, you declare that you disagree with our analysis of the Iraq/Iran War. The entire matter is handled in seven words! But the International Committee has written in great detail on the Iran-Iraq War, much of it directed against your late associates in the Healy-Torrance faction. Having reviewed your editorial in the November issue of Workers News, it is obvious that you still adhere to the petty-bourgeois radical position of the Torrance group and have still not attempted to make an objective Marxist analysis of either the historical origins of the war or of the class nature of the regimes waging it. The fact that you have not broken with the profoundly reactionary attitude of the Torrance group to the Iran-Iraq War is another indication of the unseriousness of your recent split.
This is not the place to subject your editorial to a detailed critique. In any event, most of the positions which you advance have already been dealt with in articles published in Fourth International magazine. But I cannot help but say that your editorial is full of such howling mistakes and internal contradictions that it is hard to take it seriously. In adopting uncritically the standpoint of the Iranian bourgeoisie, you do not even treat the empirical facts with the care they deserve. The sole contradiction you are prepared to acknowledge is that between US imperialism and the Iranian regime, and you make that the touchstone of your entire “analysis.” Thus, you note only the material support that Iraq has received from US imperialism, but say nothing about the considerable support that Iran has received, at different stages of the war, from other imperialist powers, such as Israel, and even (as the Iran-contra hearings showed) from the United States itself. You apparently do not remember what Trotsky had to say about those who, in justifying their adaptation to a particular national bourgeoisie, elevate the latter’s conflict with a particular imperialist state into a conflict with imperialism as a whole.
It does not seem to occur to you that wars like that between Iran and Iraq are a means through which imperialism maintains its grip over the oppressed nations, and that such wars are themselves the expression of the inability of the national bourgeoisie of backward countries to overcome on a democratic basis the legacy of imperialist domination. A serious study of the historical background of the Iran-Iraq conflict illustrates precisely this process. However, you are disinterested in such a concrete study, and write, without any embarrassment: “Whatever the rights or wrongs of this dispute [over the Shatt-al-Arab], Iraq’s war has solely served the interests of imperialism.” Let us point out again that the only imperialism you recognize is that of the United States, although such a narrow definition ignores the extensive economic and military relations which Iran has built up with other imperialist powers.
You concede that the war has been accompanied by a savage repression of the Iranian working class and the throttling of all the democratic aspirations of the 1979 revolution. However, you oppose any struggle by the Iranian working class for the defeat of the Khomeini regime, the instrument through which this repression is being effected. You will only sanction a struggle by the Iraqi working class against its national bourgeoisie. Given this attitude, your claim to uphold the political independence of the Iranian working class finds a rather sick expression. While demanding that the Iranian workers continue to wage the war against Iraq, you compassionately advise them to resist human wave assaults and the conscription of children! You write more like a representative of the Red Cross than a member of the Trotskyist movement.
It is painful to read such drivel, because it exposes how the most fundamental programmatic traditions of Marxism, established over decades, were trampled upon by the opportunist scoundrels in the Workers Revolutionary Party. What precedents and traditions are you basing yourself on in your attitude to the Iran-Iraq War, Comrade Price? Have you ever read Trotsky’s writings on the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, which are extraordinarily relevant to the present struggle between Iran and Iraq? Have you ever read his monumental War and the International? Indeed, have you ever made a systematic study of any of Trotsky’s writings?
In the United States, as you know if you follow our press, the Workers League has conducted an unrelenting campaign against American threats and provocations against Iran. That is our revolutionary responsibility in the American workers’ movement. But that does not mean that we should tell the Iranian workers that they must give political support to the Khomeini regime and its war against Iraq. The greatest blow that could be delivered to US imperialism, and which it fears above all else, would be the seizure of power by the Iranian working class, an event that would create the conditions for the revolutionary unification of the masses throughout the Middle East—a unification that can never be accomplished on the basis of Shi’ite fundamentalism.
The crude errors in the Workers News editorial arise not only from the fact that you have formed the Workers International League without attempting to assimilate any of the basic theoretical and political lessons of the collapse of the Workers Revolutionary Party, above all, its betrayal of the theory of Permanent Revolution. It demonstrates clearly that you are among the many who originally joined the WRP and then rose within it to positions of authority without ever consciously identifying yourself with the history, traditions and principles of the International Committee of the Fourth International. In short, you joined and considered yourself a member of the British Workers Revolutionary Party, not the World Party of Socialist Revolution.
In concluding this letter, the ICFI must finally call you to order for having chosen to repeat the lying allegation made in 1986, by what was then the Healy-Torrance group, that members of the ICP engaged in physical violence against its political opponents. As you know very well, the Healy-Torrance group actually provoked an incident and then instigated criminal proceedings in a bourgeois court against our comrades. Members of the Healy-Torrance group actually supplied the state with evidence and testified alongside the police at trial. However, a predominantly working-class jury saw through their lies and acquitted our comrades. Rather than repeat her discredited lies, you should have by now repudiated and denounced Torrance’s collaboration with the state against the ICP.
We regret that our letter has had to take such a sharp form. It is not our intention to discourage anyone, despite past mistakes, from finding their way to genuine revolutionary politics. But, Comrade Price, your letter demonstrates that you have not yet begun to make a principled break with the petty-bourgeois methods and nationalist outlook which led you, like many other WRP leaders, to play such an unworthy role in the events of 1985. If, however, despite present indications, you are sincere about breaking from the opportunism you learned in the WRP and building a movement based on revolutionary internationalism, the ICFI and its British section, the ICP, will give you every possible assistance.
(on behalf of the ICFI)