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

The Workers League’s critique of the WRP

212. The pronounced shift in the WRP’s political orientation had led to a growing divergence with the Workers League in the United States. The Workers League had responded to Wohlforth’s desertion by deepening the struggle against Pabloism, placing the assimilation of the historical experiences of the Trotskyist movement at the centre of its work. This was manifested in the central role played by the Workers League in the Security and the Fourth International investigation, as well as its consistent orientation to the working class, based on the fight to develop socialist consciousness and Marxist leadership.

213. Concerned at the WRP’s political drift, Workers League National Secretary David North set out to initiate a discussion within the International Committee. In 1982, he submitted a detailed critique of Healy’s Studies in Dialectical Materialism and its relationship to the party’s shift away from its Trotskyist axis. North wrote:

“For several years (in my opinion, this began in 1976 and only began to predominate in 1978), in the name of the struggle for dialectical materialism and against propagandism, the International Committee has drifted steadily away from a struggle for Trotskyism”.[1]

214. Referring to the WRP’s relations with bourgeois nationalist regimes in the Middle East, he continued:

“A vulgarisation of Marxism, palmed off as the ‘struggle for dialectics’, has been accompanied by an unmistakeable opportunist drift within the International Committee, especially in the WRP…. Marxist defence of national liberation movements and the struggle against imperialism has been interpreted in an opportunist fashion of uncritical support for various bourgeois nationalist regimes”.[2]

215. Subsequently, Slaughter and Banda were to claim that the revisions of Marxist philosophy and the political opportunism accompanying them were solely Healy’s responsibility. But, as International Committee secretary and WRP general secretary respectively, Slaughter and Banda played a critical role, as part of a clique within the WRP leadership, in suppressing any discussion of North’s critique. They threatened to immediately sever relations with the Workers League unless the criticisms were withdrawn. The class content of their actions was revealed in a December 1983 letter from Slaughter to the Workers League, in which he attacked the US Trotskyists for their “heavy emphasis on the ‘political independence’ of the working class”.

216. In a letter to Banda dated January 23, 1984, North restated that the Workers League had become:

“deeply troubled by the growing signs of a political drift toward political positions quite similar―both in conclusions and methodology―to those we have historically associated with Pabloism…. Rather than a perspective for the building of sections of the International Committee in every country, the central focus of the IC’s work for several years has been the development of alliances with various bourgeois nationalist regimes and liberation movements. The content of these alliances has less and less reflected any clear orientation toward the development of our own forces as central to the fight to establish the leading role of the proletariat in the anti-imperialist struggle in the semi-colonial countries. The various conceptions advanced by the SWP in relation to Cuba and Algeria, which we attacked so vigorously in the early 1960s, appear with increasing frequency within our own press”.[3]

217. North returned to the issues in a report to the ICFI delivered on February 11, 1984, in which he called for a “serious and honest discussion” in order to resolve political differences. Once again, the WRP leadership threatened a split. In a letter to Healy, dated February 16, 1984, Slaughter hailed the “defeat” of the “attack from the US section” and promised to go forward together “also if necessary, with no holds barred”.


Fourth International, Autumn 1986, Labor Publications, Volume 13, No.2, p.16.


ibid. p. 23.


ibid. p. 35.