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

The WRP explodes

218. The WRP leadership’s refusal to countenance any discussion within the International Committee only prepared the way for an explosion of factional warfare within the organisation. During the miners’ strike, Healy had declared that Thatcher had been transformed into a Bonapartist dictator, and that the dispute would end in either socialist revolution or a fascist dictatorship. The miners’ defeat unleashed a ferocious reaction from the WRP leaders. Echoing the rightward movement of broad swathes of the middle class in the 1980s, they concluded that they had wasted their lives in pursuit of a chimera. As North later wrote:

“For years they had repeated again and again, without making any serious analysis of the changes in the economic conjuncture or the concrete development of the class struggle, that the social revolution in Britain was imminent. Now―and this is the heart of their perspective―they no longer believe in the possibility of revolution either in this century or in the opening decades of the next one”.[1]

219. A covert faction at the party’s headquarters mounted a political “dirty tricks” operation—using a financial crisis it had helped create, and revelations of improper sexual conduct by Healy, to destabilise the party. The principal concern of the conspirators was to avoid any discussion that might have led to a questioning of the leadership’s policies. By blackmailing Healy, they hoped to force him to step aside and to assume control of the party and its assets. Healy was open to an organisational settlement, having decisively turned away from his own past struggles.

220. On this basis, the WRP leadership was still able to present a united front. On August 17, 1985, Healy, Banda and Slaughter, together with Assistant National Secretary Sheila Torrence, summoned the International Committee to London, where they lied about the source of the financial crisis in the party and extorted tens of thousands of pounds in pledges. However, as the political crisis in the WRP leadership spiralled out of control, the sections of the International Committee became aware of the internal conflict and were able to intervene. Their intervention was to prove critical, as the contending factions of the WRP moved towards an organisational split. When the delegates of the International Committee assembled in London on October 23, 1985, they rejected the efforts of the WRP leaders to use the international movement for their opportunist ends. The IC insisted that the crisis in the WRP was rooted in a long-standing drift away from the programme and perspective of Trotskyism.


David North, The Heritage We DefendA Contribution to the History of the Fourth International (1988), Labor Publications, p. 15.