International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 20 (1994): Capital, Labor and the Nation-State

The Workers Revolutionary Party and the Politics of Provocation

In February 1986 the Workers Revolutionary Party, under the leadership of Cliff Slaughter, carried out an unprincipled split from the International Committee of the Fourth International. Neither then nor in the years that followed has the WRP attempted to explain the political basis of its action. Instead, it has resorted to crude provocations aimed at diverting attention from its opportunist politics. Two such provocations are the subject of the documents published below. The first consists of a “secret letter” written on December 16, 1991, by the WRP and circulated among trade union officials and radical organizations, privately slandering members of the International Communist Party, British section of the International Committee. Several months passed before the ICP became aware of the “secret letter.” We include the public reply then prepared by the International Communist Party [forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party of Britiain] to the slanders of the WRP.

The second provocation was a physical assault by Cliff Slaughter against two members of the ICP. We include below the ICP statement that described the attack as well as an official letter of protest written by Peter Schwarz, secretary of the International Committee. As of our publication date, no reply to Comrade Schwarz’s letter has been received.

From Slaughter’s Secret Letter

This material was first published in the International Worker on October 24, 1992.

To: Working class political and trade union organizations

Dear comrades,

We write to inform you of the vindictive, slanderous, hurtful and dangerous accusations being made against us.

Our secretary, Cliff Slaughter, his son Patrick, and by implication, his family and our organization are under attack from a small group calling itself the “International Communist Party” (ICP), which accuses us of being fascists.

This group continually publishes articles making this charge in its newspaper “International Worker.” They talk of “Cliff Slaughter and his fascist son.” We cannot imagine a worse accusation and the continual publication is doing grave harm to vulnerable people, some of whom are not even members of our party.

Taking the obvious step from their accusations this group, referring to us, advises workers to build “defense guards that will acquaint their faces with the pavement and send them on their way.” You can see that the danger exists of a provocation against Cliff Slaughter and his family, particularly in the Leeds area.

This alarming statement appeared in “The Bulletin” (USA) on 12 August 1988 and subsequently in the British and German newspapers of the so-called “International Committee of the Fourth International” (ICFI), led by David North, secretary of the “Workers League” (USA).

We have exposed these lies in our weekly newspaper “Workers Press.” In addition to articles and letters we published two special supplements on 29 October 1988 and one April 1989. However, ICP members continued to turn up outside meetings and demonstrations selling their papers containing these filthy lies and they attend labor movement meetings. We therefore feel we must call upon you to defend us and take a stand against them.

We are sure that those who read Workers Press and our theoretical journal “The International” or witness the activities of our comrades in the working class movement will treat these charges with contempt....

When G. Healy, former leader of the WRP, was expelled in 1985 for sexual and physical abuse and slander, Cliff Slaughter was a leader in the majority which carried out the expulsion.

In the 10-point call subsequently issued as the basis for international (and all) discussions we included “condemnation of the method inherited from Stalinism, of slanders, violence and frame-ups designed to silence and drive out political opponents.”

North opposed our path. Instead he proclaimed what remained of Healy’s ICFI to be the Fourth International. A faction which he formed in the WRP in collaboration with David Hyland became known as the ICP (“British section of the ICFI”).

They then started publishing attacks on Cliff Slaughter and the WRP with the same kind of obnoxious slanders for which Healy had been expelled.

An example of this is North’s description of Cliff Slaughter as the “master procurer” and our members as “the most degenerate human specimens ... from hallucinating journalists, alcoholic university professors, and aging film directors of unfulfilled promise to neurotic middle class ladies who blame Trotskyism for their unsuccessful love affairs and failed marriages.”

Later North went even further with charges of fascism about which we are writing to you. First, these were whipped up against Cliff Slaughter’s son, Patrick, who is not a member of our party, but is a socialist and an anti-racist.

Patrick’s “crime,” as far as his slanderers are concerned, is that in July 1988 he was one of five young men convicted at Leeds Crown Court of conspiracy to cause affrays in and around football matches in the 1987-1988 season. He was one of three to receive a prison sentence of four years....

An anonymous article in issue 105 of the “International Worker” (November 9, 1991) says “Patrick Slaughter is condemned as a fascist by the company he keeps.” The “company” referred to is David Brown.

Brown, one of the young men rounded up by the police and put on trial in Leeds in 1988, is known as David “Para” Brown. Like so many who are damaged and destroyed in capitalist society, Brown joined the army for a short time—hence the nickname.

Patrick Slaughter explained in a letter to Workers Press (18 March 1989) that Brown has never been his personal friend. He “is a well-known character in Leeds for his propensity to tell fairy stories about his exploits.” Most people treat Brown as “a joke” says Patrick, and “the reasons for his behavior were best explained by the consultant psychiatrist in court.”

However, Patrick would never stoop so low as to hurt the vulnerable David Brown by quoting this evidence in his own defense against North’s lies. Compare this thoughtfulness with the inhuman behavior of North and Hyland, who declare that Brown “has been publicly identified as a fascist” and that he gave lodgings to a “Swedish fascist.”

They never tell us where the reports come from, but on the basis of this “evidence” they condemn him and Patrick Slaughter (by association) as fascists!

They go even further. In the same “anonymous” article they say that Patrick Slaughter was found guilty “of taking part in a vicious assault on a black youth.” This was never the charge against Patrick or the others at the trial, and it is a lie.

At two meetings organized jointly by “Leeds Socialist” and Workers Press on 10 and 29 October, members of the ICP sold their papers and told those attending that the meetings were organized by supporters of fascists.

They even went to the caretaker of one of the halls and accused him of letting “known fascists” hire the place! Needless to say the ICP members were not allowed to attend the meetings....

These methods of the ICP and the ICFI are an echo of the corrupt, anticommunist and inhuman methods of Stalinism. They will go to any lengths to discredit and get rid of their political opponents.

However, we have built many alliances throughout the working-class movement with comrades and organizations who have fundamental political disagreements with us, and there is no question of slander and intimidation being used on either side in any discussion of these differences.

We are writing to ask you to oppose the liars and their lies, but because this vindictive campaign is causing harm to members of Cliff Slaughter’s family, we are not proposing to print this letter and nor are we asking you to do so. In any case we do not wish to give this group any further publicity. We simply wish the facts of the matter to be as widely known as possible on the left.

Yours comradely,

Liz Leicester

On behalf of the Central Committee

Reply by the International Communist Party

September 24, 1992

To whom it may concern:

A letter of December 16, 1991, calling for members of the International Communist Party to be banned from political meetings, is being circulated by the Workers Revolutionary Party/ Workers Press group. Regardless of the political differences your organization may have with the ICP, we call on you to defend the principles of democracy and open struggle and reject this political provocation by the WRP.

The WRP claims that the ICP has slandered the Workers Revolutionary Party as “fascists” because of articles written on the conviction of their political secretary Cliff Slaughter’s son Patrick and others on July 1, 1988—for conspiracy to commit acts of violence during football matches. This charge of slander is utterly without foundation.

Every word written by the ICP and its co-thinkers in the International Committee of the Fourth International on the case of Patrick Slaughter is absolutely true and verifiable by court transcripts and other sources. Patrick Slaughter was convicted on the basis of overwhelming evidence which tied him in with fascist elements in soccer-related violence. This was the result of an extensive police undercover operation known as “Operation Wild Boar,” launched on October 22, 1986, in which a group of Leeds soccer hooligans known as “Para’s Army” was infiltrated and later brought to trial. Patrick Slaughter was a third year law student, with no connection with the workers movement, other than through his father. He had one previous conviction for threatening behavior.

While claiming innocence, Slaughter’s attorney did not challenge the fact that he was present at all the matches where the racist violence took place.

Amongst his codefendants was David (“Para”) Brown, a soldier in the Paratroopers for six years, which he joined in 1979. He served in both the Falklands and the north of Ireland. He is well known in Leeds as a fascist and has been seen distributing the National Front’s youth paper, Bulldog. He shared a flat with “Mad” Frank Burden who was then the main Leeds NF organizer. He has three previous convictions for threatening behavior and criminal damage.

The case and its background were reported extensively in the media. The liberal antifascist journal Searchlight of May 1988 contains a report on a Leeds Trade Union Council and Anti-Fascist Action publication, “Terror on Our Terraces,” which documents the activity of fascist groups such as the National Front and features a picture of Brown captioned, “Dave Brown, Leeds Nazi hooligan and two of his chums.”

The July 1988 Searchlight reports the Slaughter/Brown trial, stating, “Leading Leeds National Front supporter, David Brown, is one of five football thugs convicted in the city for plotting to cause violence at football matches....

“A self-proclaimed racist and Nazi NF follower, Brown targeted black people for many of his violent forays, which included travel to other cities in search of mayhem.”

The Leeds Other Paper reported the convictions and said this of Brown and Slaughter on June 1, 1988:

“David John Brown ... told undercover police officers that violence gave him a ‘buzz.’ The group’s leader, Brown was said to have extensive contacts in different towns and cities, who could help him obtain tickets for matches and supplied information on rival supporters’ favorite pubs. Among the items found in his home were a Leeds United Service Crew leaflet....

“Patrick Slaughter.... The son of a leading member of the Workers Revolutionary Party, he was said by police to be the ‘most wicked’ of the defendants, although he was not part of ‘Para’s Army’ most of the time. Described by Brown as a ‘handy boy,’ Slaughter was said to have led an attack on black youth in Balham....”

The Yorkshire Post of June 2 also reports, “An undercover officer, PC Mick Fickling, recalled how it was during a ritual drinking session before the game that one of the gang rushed in to say there was ‘a team of niggers outside.’

“Within minutes, one of the gang’s leading figures, Patrick Slaughter, had charged out into the street yelling: ‘Come on Leeds, everybody out and into them.’”

The WRP is now claiming that Patrick Slaughter was the victim of a police frame-up and, by writing on his conviction, the ICP were assisting in this. If such a police undercover operation had been used to manufacture evidence against Patrick Slaughter, then the ICP would have defended him, regardless of our deep political differences with the WRP. If an assertion of frame-up is made, however, then the person or group concerned has the obligation to mount a serious exposure of this and launch a campaign in the labor and civil rights movement against it. No such action was ever taken over the “Wild Boar” trial. The WRP specifically denied that the arrest of Patrick Slaughter was motivated by the desire of the state to attack them.

If falsely arrested, Patrick Slaughter’s first task would have been to disassociate himself from the other defendants, particularly given the fascist sympathies of some. He would then have to take the stand, denounce the case and refute its charges. Slaughter conducted no such independent defense and refused to take the stand. Every accused has the right to do this, but the main reason for not doing so is that the defendant will be damaged by his own testimony. The fact is that Patrick Slaughter was guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted.

Furthermore, if the WRP is to claim that it is being witch-hunted by the ICP, then they must also raise this charge against Searchlight, Anti-Fascist Action, the Yorkshire Post and all the other publications cited here!

In making their attack on the ICP and the ICFI, the WRP mount an explicit defense of David (Para) Brown. They state, “Like so many who are damaged and destroyed in capitalist society, Brown joined the army for a short time—hence the nickname.

“Patrick Slaughter explained in a letter to Workers Press (18 March 1989) that Brown has never been his personal friend. He ‘is a well known character in Leeds for his propensity to tell fairy stories about his exploits.’ Most people treat Brown as ‘a joke,’ says Patrick and, ‘the reasons for his behavior were best explained by the consultant psychiatrist in court.’

“However, Patrick would never stoop so low as to hurt the vulnerable David Brown by quoting this evidence in his own defense....”

They then denounce the “inhuman behavior” of the ICP, “who declare that Brown ‘has been publicly identified as a fascist.’ They never tell us where the reports come from, but on the basis of this ‘evidence’ they condemn him and Patrick Slaughter (by association) as fascists!”

Slaughter defends Brown in order to back up his claim of slander. There is absolutely no confusion on whether Brown is a fascist. He himself admits this. To sympathize with him as a “damaged” man, rather than with his victims, is unheard of. One could just as well describe Hitler in these terms; a “damaged” man who joined the army for a short time, prone to wild exaggerations which no one took seriously. It is with such elements that Slaughter is attempting to associate your organization.

The WRP claims that the ICP and the ICFI are calling for attacks against themselves, Cliff Slaughter and his family, by denouncing them as fascists. They rip out of context a quote from an August 1988 article calling on workers to oppose fascists by, “building defense guards that will acquaint their faces with the pavement...,” claiming that this is referring to the WRP!

In reality, a number of incidents have occurred where Slaughter and other members of the WRP have attacked ICP members using the pretext of righteous indignation over the issue of Patrick Slaughter. The ICP has never physically responded to this. The only person ever to call his political opponents fascists is Slaughter himself. During the split which took place in the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985-1986, Slaughter declared the political supporters of the Healy-Torrance faction “near-fascist.” The ICFI condemned the use of such language, which was aimed at covering over political differences by inflaming the situation to such a degree that discussion was prevented.

The WRP never campaigned for Patrick Slaughter’s release. They have never produced a single document refuting the charges and have never raised any criticism of any other report of his trial. Anyone claiming to have been slandered has one obvious recourse: to take out a court case against the guilty party. Yet Slaughter has never done so. Why then do they now resurrect this issue three and a half years later to attack the ICP?

The facts are that Cliff Slaughter, who feigns the role of an injured father, has from the very outset cynically used the fate of his son for the sole purpose of attacking the ICP and its international organization, the International Committee of the Fourth International. The July 9, 1988, issue of Workers Press denounced the ICP as “a despicable little group of provocateurs” who were, “slandering Patrick Slaughter as a racist and a fascist,” before any section of the ICFI had written a single word on the case. A letter was published in a Workers Press supplement of October 29, 1988, from a group of Slaughter’s co-thinkers in Paris. After raising the issue of Patrick Slaughter’s trial, this called “on all organizations in the workers movement... to declare that the North group (David North, national secretary of the US Workers League) is excluded from the workers movement.” This letter was dated June 11, 1988—more than two months before any public statement had been issued by the ICFI! Thus Slaughter had already been engaged in an international discussion on the use of the issue of his fascist son as a basis for calling for the exclusion of the ICP and the ICFI from the workers movement.

This sinister and unprincipled campaign has continued to this day. Slaughter’s present letter concludes, “because this vindictive campaign is causing harm to members of Cliff Slaughter’s family, we are not proposing to print this letter and nor are we asking you to do so.”

This is a blatant attack on basic democratic rights. The WRP are demanding that we be tried and convicted without even having the right to defend ourselves. Such methods have no place within the workers movement. The WRP’s letter is a desperate and unprincipled attempt to prevent the voice of their political opponents from being heard. We call on all political organizations to publicly reject the “secret letter” and the entire unprincipled campaign of the WRP against the ICP and the ICFI and in defense of fascists.