Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

The struggle against the Lawrence Group

97. The Open Letter became the founding statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International. The Pabloite International Secretariat responded by expelling all those who had endorsed it. Explaining the significance of the split, Cannon said:

“The first concern of Trotskyists always has been, and should be now, the defence of our doctrine. That is the first principle. The second principle, giving life to the first, is the protection of the historically-created cadres against any attempt to disrupt or disperse them. At the best, formal unity stands third in the order of importance. The cadres of the ‘old Trotskyists’ represent the accumulated capital of the long struggle. They are the carriers of the doctrine; the sole human instruments now available to bring our doctrine―the element of socialist consciousness―into the mass movement. The Pablo camarilla set out deliberately to disrupt these cadres, one by one, in one country after another. And we set out, no less deliberately―after too long a delay―to defend the cadres against this perfidious attack. Our sense of responsibility to the international movement imperatively required us to do so. Revolutionary cadres are not indestructible. The tragic experience of the Comintern taught us that.”[1]

98. Pablo and Mandel worked with Lawrence in an attempt to destroy the British section. Lawrence attended a faction meeting in Paris, after which he proclaimed his minority as the official section of the Fourth International and organised a conference that “expelled” Healy. With Healy in a minority of one on the four-person editorial board of Socialist Outlook, Lawrence pushed the journal towards open support for Stalinism. His faction also sought to sabotage the work at the party’s print shop and to bankrupt it. In a letter dated April 21, 1954 to Leslie Goonewardene of the Ceylonese Trotskyists, Healy explained:

“Right from the start therefore, Pabloism in Britain emerged as a sabotaging unit working to objectively aid Stalinism. Our paper sales went down from 6,000 to 4,500 a week. By temporarily isolating myself on the Editorial Board and in the print shop they thought they would smash orthodox Trotskyism. Their whole strategy was part of a carefully concealed plan. Having been completely repudiated by the overwhelming majority of the group, they struck at the nerve centres of our work at the points where we had alliances with centrists, and it was precisely these alliances which were a big obstacle for Stalinist work inside the LP [Labour Party] left wing.”[2]

99. The viciousness of the Pabloite attack was described by Healy:

“Last Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock he [Lawrence] turned up at the print shop with one of his followers who worked for us as a machine minder. When I drew attention to the fact that he was not complying with the decisions of the Editorial Board, without warning he swung a blow at my face bursting blood from my nose. His henchman started to interfere, but by then Mike [Banda] came to the rescue, and pulled a knife on Lawrence. I immediately took it from him, and Lawrence was put out of the office by the other printers.”[3]

100. Commenting on the political significance of the incident, Healy continued:

“You are aware that we are not weaklings in our group. We have had many faction fights in the past, but never acts of violence. The only people we had these with were Stalinists―nobody else, and it is not an accident that the Pabloites run true to form.”[4]

101. Lawrence supplied information to a Stalinist weekly about The Club’s activities in the Labour Party, which published a witch-hunting exposé that was used to ban Socialist Outlook, coupled with the threat to expel its supporters. The Labour League of Youth, effectively controlled by The Club, was shut down. The Club organized protest meetings across the country. A resolution to the Labour Party conference opposing the National Executive Committee’s action secured 1,700,000 votes, but was defeated by the right wing with the support of the trade union block vote. Faced with expulsions, The Club was forced to close down Socialist Outlook. A libel action by a subsidiary of the Imperial Tobacco Company was then used to bankrupt the movement’s press.

102. Pablo’s section in Britain lasted less than a year. In June 1954, Lawrence concluded that even a tenuous connection with Trotskyism was an obstacle to his orientation to the Stalinist parties. His group in the Labour Party supported the Stalinists’ crushing of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, after which, in November 1958, he joined the CPGB, having officially recanted his Trotskyist past.[5] It was Grant, and a small number of Pablo supporters in Britain, who replaced Lawrence as the British section of the International Secretariat, forming the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1957. The merger confirmed the political convergence of Grant’s views with those of Pablo and Mandel. As early as June 1950, Jimmy Deane, Grant’s closest collaborator, had noted, “Pablo has made the transition! What a development. He conducts a struggle against us and then ends up with our position more or less.”


Trotskyism Versus Revisionism (1974) New Park Publications, Volume 2, p. 106.


ibid. p. 80.






The response of the faction within the Labour Party grouped around Lawrence is a devastating indictment of Pabloism. Not only was it collaborating with the CPGB, but its declared aim was to stiffen its resolve to face off outrage over suppression of the revolution. One of Lawrence’s converts, David Goldhill, states that in debates held in the Holborn and St Pancras CPGB, many members “were completely disorientated. And as far as I can remember it was the old Trotskyists who were stern about this and said, you can’t support this revolution, it’s an anti-communist revolution―despite the terrible propaganda coming out you have to support the Soviet Union in attacking this. And I think we in fact felt that our job was to stiffen the Communist Party, which was showing signs of disintegrating completely over this.” (quoted in Red Flag over St Pancras, Bob Pitt, Revolutionary History).