Socialist Equality Party (United States)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)

The Collapse of the WRP and the Split in the International Committee

In August 1985, members of the International Committee were summoned to London, where they were informed by Healy and other leaders of the WRP that the British section was confronted with a serious financial crisis. The ICFI members were told that the problems were caused by unexpected tax surcharges and a substantial increase in the cost of distributing the WRP’s daily newspaper, the Newsline. An urgent appeal was made by the WRP leaders for financial assistance from the ICFI sections. As was soon to emerge, the report given to the ICFI consisted almost entirely of lies. Moreover, the WRP did not inform the IC members that a crisis had erupted in the leadership of the British section over allegations of improper personal conduct by Healy himself. Demands raised within the Central Committee for a control commission investigation of these allegations were being opposed, not only by Healy, but also by Michael Banda and Cliff Slaughter. While seeking money from the ICFI to shore up the problems created by the internal political crisis in the British section, the WRP sought to conceal these facts from the ICFI members. However, as the factional conflict within the WRP intensified over the next few weeks, the facts of the crisis became known to the ICFI. David North, representing the Workers League, Nick Beams (from the Socialist Labour League in Australia), Ulrich Rippert and Peter Schwarz (from the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter in Germany), and Keerthi Balasuriya (from the Revolutionary Communist League in Sri Lanka) traveled to Britain to review the political situation in the Workers Revolutionary Party. They insisted that the crisis that had developed inside the British section was rooted in long-standing political issues relating to international program and perspectives. They informed the WRP leaders that the ICFI would not take sides in the struggle among different unprincipled factions in the WRP leadership. The ICFI rejected entirely the efforts of WRP leaders to utilize the international movement for their own nationalist and opportunist purposes. Indeed, the political recovery of the WRP from its crisis was possible only to the extent that the British organization accepted the discipline of the international movement.

On October 25, 1985, after examining the allegations against Healy, the International Committee voted for his expulsion. The statement issued by the ICFI declared:

In expelling Healy the ICFI has no intention of denying the political contributions which he made in the past, particularly in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism in the 1950s and the 1960s.

In fact, this expulsion is the end product of his rejection of the Trotskyist principles upon which these past struggles were based and his descent into the most vulgar forms of opportunism.

The political and personal degeneration of Healy can be clearly traced to his ever more explicit separation of the practical and organizational gains of the Trotskyist movement in Britain from the historically and internationally grounded struggles against Stalinism and revisionism from which these achievements arose.

The increasing subordination of questions of principle to immediate practical needs centered on securing the growth of the Party apparatus, degenerating into political opportunism which steadily eroded his own political and moral defenses against the pressures of imperialism in the oldest capitalist country in the world.

Under these conditions his serious subjective weaknesses played an increasingly dangerous political role.

Acting ever more arbitrarily within both the WRP and the ICFI, Healy increasingly attributed the advances of the World Party not to the Marxist principles of the Fourth International and to the collective struggle of its cadre, but rather to his own personal abilities.

His self-glorification of his intuitive judgments led inevitably to a gross vulgarization of materialist dialectics and Healy’s transformation into a thoroughgoing subjective idealist and pragmatist.

In place of his past interest in the complex problems of developing the cadre of the international Trotskyist movement, Healy’s practice became almost entirely preoccupied with developing unprincipled relations with bourgeois nationalist leaders and with trade union and Labour Party reformists in Britain.

His personal life-style underwent a corresponding degeneration.

Those like Healy, who abandon the principles on which they once fought and who refuse to subordinate themselves to the ICFI in the building of its national sections, must inevitably degenerate under the pressure of the class enemy.

There can be no exception to this historical law.

The ICFI affirms that no leader stands above the historic interests of the working class.[1]

Notwithstanding their factional conflict with Healy, Banda and Slaughter shared his opportunist and nationalist perspective. They, no less than Healy, sought to avoid an examination of the origins and development of the crisis of the organization in which they had played a leading role for more than three decades. Moreover, it soon became clear that Banda and Slaughter would not accept international constraints upon the political alliances and activities of the WRP. On December 11, 1985, the Workers League Political Committee wrote to the Central Committee of the WRP:

During the past three months, the Workers League has stated repeatedly that the political crisis within the Workers Revolutionary Party can be overcome only through the closest collaboration of the British section with its international comrades. Unfortunately, after years of systematic miseducation under Healy there are many comrades within the leadership of the WRP who view the International Committee with contempt, and consider appeals of the IC for genuine collaboration and consultation as an unwarranted intrusion into the life of the British section. References to the “subordination of the WRP to the International Committee” evoke a hostile response from some comrades. Of course, we are not dealing with the subjective weaknesses of individual members. The existence of powerful nationalist tendencies within the WRP is a political reflection of the historical development of the working class in the world’s oldest imperialist country. Insofar as they are recognized and consciously fought these tendencies can be overcome, and the responsibility for waging this struggle falls upon the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

The great danger that we now confront is that anti-internationalism is being encouraged by the leadership. The national autonomy of the Workers Revolutionary Party is being counterposed to the authority of the International Committee as the leading body of the World Party of Socialist Revolution.[2]

In response to Slaughter’s assertion that “Internationalism consists precisely of laying down ... class lines and fighting them through,” the Political Committee asked:

But by what process are these “class lines” determined? Does it require the existence of the Fourth International? Comrade Slaughter’s definition suggests—and this is the explicit content of his entire letter—that any national organization can rise to the level of internationalism by establishing, on its own, the “class lines and fighting them through.” ...

The Workers League reminded Slaughter:

Those parties which uphold Trotskyism as the contemporary development of Marxist principles and program are organized in the Fourth International and accept the authority of the International Committee. To base one’s definition of internationalism on the separation of the program from its organizational expression is to adopt the standpoint of all those revisionist and centrist opponents of Trotskyism who deny the continuity of Marxism, embodied in the ICFI, in order to retain freedom of action within their national theater of operations.[3]

On December 16, 1985, the International Committee received a report from an International Control Commission that it had formed to examine the political and financial relations that had been established by the WRP with various bourgeois national regimes in the Middle East between 1976 and 1985. This report established conclusively that the WRP had entered into political relations that betrayed the principles of the Fourth International, while keeping these relations hidden from the ICFI. The International Committee voted, over objections of WRP delegates representing the Slaughter and Banda factions, to suspend the WRP from membership in the international organization. This resolution was supported by David Hyland, who represented a substantial section of the WRP membership that was in political agreement with the International Committee.

The suspension of the WRP represented an unequivocal assertion of the principles of revolutionary internationalism within the Fourth International. With this action the ICFI made clear that it would not tolerate the subordination of international Trotskyist principles to any form of national opportunism. The purpose of the suspension was not to punish the WRP, but to establish the conditions for membership in the ICFI. A second resolution passed by the ICFI on December 17, 1985 enumerated the historical and programmatic foundations upon which the International Committee was based. It called upon the WRP to reaffirm these principles and, in so doing, prepare for its own rapid readmission into the ICFI. The statement concluded:

The ICFI and the Central Committee of the WRP shall now work closely together to overcome as quickly as possible the existing problems which are the legacy of the nationalist degeneration of the WRP under Healy, to reassert the basic principles of internationalism within the WRP, and on this basis restore its full membership in the International Committee of the Fourth International. The organizational structure of this relationship shall at all times be based on the Leninist principles of democratic centralism, which are elaborated in the statutes of the Fourth International.[4]

Once again, the WRP delegates, with the exception of David Hyland, voted against this resolution. Their vote made clear that the WRP did not accept either the program or the authority of the International Committee. One month later, the WRP Central Committee rescinded its previous agreement, made in October 1985, to reregister its membership by admitting into its ranks only those who agreed that membership in the British section required acceptance of the political authority of the International Committee. Hyland and two other members of the WRP Central Committee opposed the WRP’s repudiation of this agreement. The WRP Central Committee vote signified a split from the International Committee. On February 8, 1986, the WRP held a rump congress from which all supporters of the International Committee were excluded. This political travesty marked the definitive end of the WRP as a Trotskyist organization. The main document prepared for this congress was an anti-Trotskyist diatribe composed by Banda, entitled 27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should be Buried Forthwith and the Fourth International Built. Within months of writing this document, Banda repudiated his nearly 40 year association with the Fourth International and proclaimed his admiration for Stalin.

As for the WRP, its various factions disintegrated one by one. Within less than a decade, Slaughter and other former leaders of the WRP were heavily involved in the US-NATO operation in Bosnia. The only viable political tendency in the British organization that was to emerge from the collapse of the WRP was that led by Dave Hyland, which upheld the principles of the ICFI. This tendency established the International Communist Party in February 1986, the forerunner to the present-day Socialist Equality Party, the British section of the ICFI.


Fourth International, Volume 13, No. 2, Autumn 1986, p. 52.


Ibid., p. 77.




Ibid., p. 102.