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

The significance of the split

236. The defeat of the liquidationist assault on the International Committee expressed a reversal in the balance of forces between the world Trotskyist movement and the various representatives of Pabloite revisionism. For several decades, the SLL had defended revolutionary Marxism under conditions of political isolation created by the dominance of the Stalinist, social democratic and trade union apparatuses over the working class. The eruption of Pabloite liquidationism engendered by these conditions had destroyed much of the Fourth International. Though the SLL had waged a principled struggle against Pabloism, which had registered important gains and won the support of international co-thinkers, it eventually succumbed to the pressures exerted upon it.

237. For the first time, after the split in 1986, the Trotskyists were in the ascendant within the international movement. The struggle against the WRP became the occasion for the most thoroughgoing reckoning ever undertaken by the International Committee with the opportunist political conceptions associated with Pabloism. It provided the opportunity to reassert the central importance of internationalism against all manifestations of national opportunism―the separation of the political work of any national section and any national practice, however important, from the international perspective embodied in the central goal of constructing the Fourth International.

238. The decisive character of the split found expression in the key documents that emerged from it: The ICFI Defends Trotskyism 1982-1986 and How the Workers Revolutionary Party Betrayed Trotskyism 1973-1985. To this must be added The Heritage We Defend: A contribution to the History of the Fourth International. Written by David North as a polemical reply to Banda’s attack on the record of the International Committee, this work became the basis for a re-assimilation of the strategic lessons of the post-war history of the Trotskyist movement.

239. Powerful objective changes were evidenced by the victory over the national opportunists. The crisis within the WRP was ultimately one manifestation of a broader process engulfing all the traditional organisations of the working class, which had been plunged into crisis by fundamental changes within the structures of world capitalism. Those who split from the International Committee believed that in doing so, they were putting behind them the years of what Healy now contemptuously proclaimed as “whiter than white socialism of the purest water and the smallest number”. They were now free to consolidate the relations they had begun to establish with the Labour and trade union bureaucracy in Britain, the larger centrist groups and the Stalinist apparatus.

240. All of these grand schemas came to nothing. In reality, the bureaucracies and their Pabloite hangers-on were in an advanced state of political and organisational decay. Instead of great successes, the contending WRP factions disintegrated. Healy ended his days as an open convert to Pabloite apologetics for Stalinism—asserting that Mikhail Gorbachev was carrying through the political revolution in the Soviet Union and “de-Stalinising” the bureaucracy. In the final years of his life, he was to travel to the Soviet Union as a guest of the government.

241. Banda quickly renounced his Trotskyist past altogether and professed his admiration for Stalin as a proletarian Bonaparte. He became an unvarnished advocate of nationalism, working in support of the Kurdish Workers Party. Most of his handful of former supporters joined the Communist Party. These included several who had acted as Stalinist agents provocateurs during the split.

242. Following the split, the Slaughter WRP pledged to work for a speedy international regroupment with the Pabloites. But efforts towards this end only saw Slaughter repeatedly lose sections of his party to the groups he was courting. In 1991, he too publicly repudiated Trotskyism, writing:

“Marxists, having fought for many years, sometimes their whole political lives, to refute in words and deeds the lie that Stalin and the Stalinists were the heirs of Lenin and Bolshevism, find themselves in a situation where this issue seems to be irrelevant…. We must not simply proceed as if there is some ‘real Marxism’ which we have always known and somehow preserved and counter-pose it to the false consciousness resulting from years of Stalinism”.[1]

243. Slaughter was to declare the building of a Leninist-type party to be impermissible, advocating instead loose, popular-front formations that did not seek to “impose” their views on workers. The most notorious action of his group was as apologists for the 1995 US-NATO intervention in Bosnia, and then as cheerleaders for the Kosovo Liberation Army.

244. The ICP proved to be the only viable tendency to emerge from the split. It undertook to educate the advanced workers and youth in its central lessons and to renew the political offensive against the Labour and trade union bureaucracy that had been abandoned by the WRP. Its work was characterised by an intimate collaboration with its international co-thinkers without precedent in the history of the Trotskyist movement.


Fourth International, Labor Publications, Summer-Fall 1991, Volume 18, No. 1, p.37.