David North
The Heritage We Defend

A Petty-Bourgeois Nationalist Unmasked

The nauseating collection of distortions and lies produced by Banda under the heading “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried” has one central goal: to discredit and destroy the Trotskyist movement. It is the work of a renegade whose political evolution embodies the protracted degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party, from an organization which at one time defended the principles of Trotskyism into a right-centrist appendage of the British social democracy and an apologist for Stalinism and bourgeois nationalism. Especially after the transformation of the Socialist Labour League into the Workers Revolutionary Party, the line of the International Committee’s British section systematically abandoned the principled Trotskyist line that it had defended in the struggle against the reunification of the SWP with the Pabloites. This process has been analyzed in depth by the International Committee in its statement, dated June 9, 1986, entitled “How the Workers Revolutionary Party Betrayed Trotskyism 1973–1985.”

Banda rejects the position that the content of the WRP’s degeneration consisted of its betrayal of the struggle for Trotskyism. On the contrary, he claims that the degeneration of the WRP was the inevitable outcome of its identification with the Trotskyist movement, i.e., the International Committee. For this reason, Banda’s response to the crisis within the WRP was to call for the burial of the ICFI.

The most dishonest, and yet politically revealing, of all Banda’s declarations is the following:

North and his minions understand nothing about the degeneration of the WRP when they try to ascribe the cause to the abandonment of the theory of Permanent Revolution. The fact is, as I have shown with innumerable references and concrete evidence, that the SLL-WRP and IC never subscribed to it in the first place. In practice they repudiated it.

This was, incidentally, the case in Indo-China too where for years the IC advocated the policy of “Long Live the Vietnamese Revolution—Down with the NLF!” I personally intervened both in the Workers League with Wohlforth and in a bitter struggle both with Healy and Lambert to change the line to “Victory to the NLF!” (Banda’s emphasis.)

First, let us dispose of the odious lie about the line of the ICFI and the Workers League on the Vietnamese Revolution. Neither the Workers League nor the IC ever issued the call “Down with the NLF!” This is yet another malicious fabrication.

Banda claims that he was engaged in a struggle which spanned years to convince Healy and Wohlforth to stop shouting, “Down with the NLF.” Unfortunately, Banda fails to specify the years in which he waged this struggle. This omission is not unintentional, for a review of the chronology of the war is enough to expose Banda’s lie.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was manufactured by President Lyndon Johnson to provide a pretext for a bombing attack against North Vietnam, took place in August 1964. The systematic bombing of North Vietnam was ordered in February 1965 after the mortar attack against the US air base in Pleiku. The decision to substantially expand the use of US ground forces in Vietnam was made in March 1965, and the decision to seek the military defeat of the NLF through a massive commitment of American soldiers was announced by the Johnson administration in late July 1965.

In the February 22, 1965 issue of the Bulletin of International Socialism, the American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI), forerunner of the Workers League, carried a statement which declared, “The struggle of the National Liberation Front must be defended in every way possible. Essential to this defense and necessary to its ultimate victory, is the long struggle to bring the working class to power in the advanced capitalist countries, especially in the U.S.”

In the July 10, 1965 issue of the Newsletter, in a statement headlined “Defeat Imperialism in Vietnam!” the Central Committee of the Socialist Labour League declared, “Every socialist must welcome the successes of the national-liberation fighters in South Vietnam. A victory for these heroic workers and peasants over US imperialism and its puppets will be a major blow against the enemies of the labour movement throughout the world.”

In its issue of July 24, 1965, the Newsletter emphatically stated:

The role of Marxist parties is to give unconditional support to all liberation movements fighting imperialism.

In the case of Vietnam, workers in every country must mobilize to weaken the imperialist forces and hasten the victory of the Vietcong.

The campaign for unconditional class support for the Vietnamese revolution in opposition to all the opportunists, Stalinists and revisionists is the first necessity for the construction of parties of the Fourth International in every country.

The Trotskyists are the severest critics of the leaderships of these colonial movements because we are also the most loyal defenders of the anti-imperialist revolution.

Today, there is a danger that the successful war being led by the Vietcong can be isolated and undermined and the fruits of victory plucked by alien hands.

Thus, the call by American Trotskyists for the victory of the NLF came more than a year and a half before the founding of the Workers League. The Socialist Labour League issued the call for the victory of the NLF from the earliest days of the war against US imperialism. There exists absolutely no factual record which Banda can cite to substantiate his allegation against the ICFI and the Workers League.

As for Banda’s attempt to dismiss the ICFI’s charge that the degeneration of the WRP was bound up with its abandonment of the theory of permanent revolution, it is best answered by examining the political manifestation of the British section’s drift away from the principles that it had defended in the early 1960s and the role played by Banda in that process. From 1967 on, he took the lead in revising and attacking the theoretical foundations of Trotskyism. Banda’s present claim that “the SLL-WRP and the IC never subscribed” to the theory of permanent revolution is not only a lie. It is an attempt to cover up the fact that Banda’s own conception of this theory, from at least the mid-1960s, had absolutely nothing in common with that advanced by Trotsky.

In the late 1960s, Banda’s writings on Vietnam, China and the revolutionary movements in the backward countries in general rejected two central tenets of the theory of permanent revolution: (1) that the democratic revolution in the backward countries can be completed only through the dictatorship of the proletariat, and (2) that the establishment of a socialist society is inconceivable without the worldwide overthrow of capitalism by the international proletariat. Banda’s writings assumed the character of an apology for the colonial bourgeoisie and an acceptance of the Stalinist two-stage theory of revolution.

Anticipating all the various national movements and tendencies which, regardless of their episodic differences with the Soviet bureaucracy, still derive, in the last analysis, their political line from the Stalinist perspective of “socialism in a single country,” Trotsky wrote:

To aim at building a nationally isolated socialist society means, in spite of all passing successes, to pull the productive forces backward even as compared with capitalism. To attempt, regardless of the geographical, cultural and historical conditions of the country’s development, which constitutes a part of the world unity, to realize a shut-off proportionality of all the branches of economy within a national framework, means to pursue a reactionary Utopia. If the heralds and supporters of this theory nevertheless participate in the international revolutionary struggle (with what success is a different question) it is because, as hopeless eclectics, they mechanically combine abstract internationalism with reactionary utopian national socialism.[1]

Enthralled by the military audacity of the NLF and the radicalism of the Cultural Revolution, Banda placed diminished emphasis on this decisive internationalist criteria in evaluating the policies of Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh. This led to an exaggeration of the extent of their supposed differences with the essential premises of Stalinism and to an outright capitulation to their policies. Banda’s lyrical tributes to the courage of the NLF fighters were increasingly tainted by an uncritical and apologetic attitude toward the political line and history of the North Vietnamese leadership. After protests made by the Organisation Communiste Internationalist (OCI), which was then the French section of the ICFI, the editors of Fourth International magazine were forced to publicly disavow an editorial written by Banda in the February 1968 issue, which virtually proclaimed the NLF to be the reincarnation of the Bolshevik Party.

During the same period, Banda’s enthusiastic declamations in support of the Red Guards, despite the use of the term “critical,” were characterized by unwarranted and dangerous concessions to the perspectives underlying Mao’s “Cultural Revolution.” In January 1967, Banda eulogized Mao as the leader of the Chinese proletariat in the struggle against bureaucracy: “The best elements led by Mao and Lin Piao have been forced to go outside the framework of the Party and call on the youth and the working class to intervene.

“For the first time since 1926 the working class in China has intervened as an independent force. This is the real significance of recent events in Peking, Shanghai and Nanking.”[2] (Banda’s emphasis.)

In a speech delivered that same January in London, Banda depicted the political struggle raging within the Chinese bureaucracy in terms which accepted Mao’s claims at face value:

The fight in China today is between those sections representing the pressure of imperialism bearing down on the Chinese state and party; those who want to call a halt to the Chinese Revolution, who do not want to go any further; who are satisfied with the privileges and salaries they have; who are contemptuous of the working class inside and outside China and who want to impose their policy on the Chinese Party and the Chinese state.

They don’t want any “flowers to bloom” or any schools of thought to contend. …

The Mao leadership with the support of the Red Guards is fighting against this group under the banner of “egalitarianism.”

They are fighting against privilege, against autocratic powers, for democracy in China; for the right to criticise and to act on the criticisms; the right to tell the judges, the police and the ministers what the people really think about their policies and to throw them out if they don’t mend their ways.[3]

Banda’s analysis represented a dangerous manifestation of the method of Pabloite revisionism in the leadership of the British section of the ICFI. Banda assigned to Mao the same sort of role previously assigned by Hansen to Castro: the unconscious, or, at best, semiconscious substitute for the Fourth International. While Castro was anointed leader of the socialist revolution in Cuba, Banda more or less proclaimed Mao the leader of the political revolution in China: “The Chinese Communist Party (which was the creation of Mao Tse Tung), the Chinese trade unions, the Chinese youth movement, all these organisations have degenerated to a point beyond redemption. That is why Mao had to set loose the Red Guards.”[4]

It is impossible to believe that Banda did not realize that his claim that Mao created the CCP was factually wrong. Rather, one must conclude that he was quite deliberately ignoring the history of the Chinese Communist Party between 1921 and 1927, the crucial formative years which are a necessary foundation for a Marxist study of its political evolution. To claim that Mao created the CCP was simply to deny that Mao’s leadership was itself a creation of Stalin’s betrayal of the Chinese Revolution in 1925–27.

There was an even more dangerous distortion of Trotskyism in Banda’s speech. Referring to Trotsky’s prophetic article, “Peasant War in China and the Proletariat,” Banda declared:

As far back as 1932, Trotsky, in a letter which he wrote to the Chinese supporters of the Left Opposition, told them that if the Chinese Communist Party was to seize the power in China then very soon it would be faced with a new conflict because the Chinese Communist Party, being largely based on the peasantry, would attract to it many people in the course of the national-democratic revolution who were not really communists but petty-bourgeois democrats.

He wrote that sooner or later a crisis would erupt between the working class wing of the Communist Party and the bureaucratic and peasant wing of the Communist Party and lead to a supplementary revolution in China. …

What is happening in China today is in many respects a fulfillment of Trotsky’s predictions.[5]

This was a falsification of what Trotsky had written. While Banda cited the 1932 letter in order to justify critical support to Mao as the leader of a proletarian tendency, suggesting in true Pabloite style that he was carrying out the political testament of Trotsky, “Peasant War in China and the Proletariat” was in fact a devastating indictment of the entire political line pursued by the CCP under the leadership of Mao.

Drawing on the rich legacy of Russian Marxism’s struggle against Narodnikism (peasant populism), Trotsky emphatically rejected the conception that the peasantry could constitute the principal social base of a genuine communist party. A genuine communist party must be, first and foremost, the vanguard of the urban proletariat. He graphically described the social process whereby “communist” revolutionists, cut off from the urban proletariat and leading peasant armies, would become transformed into leaders of a popular force hostile to the working class. Trotsky explained that the basic social antagonisms between the proletariat and peasantry cannot be overcome simply because the peasant army calls itself “Red” and is led by people who consider themselves Marxists.

Trotsky noted the connection between the Stalinists’ retreat into the countryside after 1927–28 and their previous subordination of the proletariat to the national bourgeoisie between 1925–27. Regardless of the episodic successes of the Red Army, he refused to accept as legitimate the Stalinists’ attempt to substitute the peasantry for the proletariat as the social foundation of the revolutionary socialist movement. Moreover, contrary to what Banda says, in considering the consequences of the victory of the peasant army, Trotsky did not speak of a conflict between the “working-class wing” of the CCP and its peasant and bureaucratic wing. That was an invention of Banda who was attempting to portray Mao as the leader of the proletarian elements inside the CCP. What Trotsky really spoke of was the danger that the peasant-based CCP could be transformed into an open enemy of the proletariat, inciting the peasantry against the Marxist vanguard represented by the Chinese Trotskyists.

Although this letter was written before his definitive break with the Third International in 1933 after the defeat of the German working class, Trotsky made clear that the interests of the Chinese proletariat could be consistently defended only through the development of the faction of Bolshevik-Leninists, the supporters of the International Left Opposition (precursor of the Fourth International).

Making a superficial and false differentiation between Mao and the consequences of the class line which the CCP had pursued during the previous forty years, Banda ignored all those features of the Cultural Revolution which, based on Mao’s non-Marxist conception of peasant-based socialism, were reactionary. The dispersion of sections of the proletariat into the countryside, the glorification of the village over the city, the attacks on science, culture and virtually all forms of intellectual activity had nothing in common with Marxism, but reflected the provincialism of the peasantry. Ultimately, the Cultural Revolution brought China to the brink of complete economic collapse, and led directly to Mao’s frantic turn, in 1971, toward an accommodation with American imperialism.

But the most terrible consequences of Maoist “theory” were realized in the policies of the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea. The peasant army’s entry into Phnom Penh in 1975 produced a catastrophe. As Trotsky had warned might happen in such a situation, the peasant army looked upon the entire urban population, including the working class, as its enemy. From this reactionary outlook, followed the terrible evacuation from the capital and the massive loss of life.

The extent of Banda’s illusions in the leadership of Mao Tse-tung was exposed in his declaration, “The dialectic of history is inexorably transforming the ‘cultural revolution’ into a political one.”[6]

In the interests of preserving unity in the leadership and advancing the practical work in Britain, Healy avoided any clash with Banda over his Pabloite approach to the problems of the Chinese Revolution. This was already a political retreat from the theoretical responsibilities that had been assumed by the British Trotskyists in the course of their struggle against the SWP. Moreover, Healy’s laissez-faire attitude toward Banda’s views inevitably weakened the class line of the British section. His uncritical attitude toward Ho Chi Minh and Mao Tse-tung mirrored the views of wide layers of intellectuals whose skepticism in the revolutionary capacities of the proletariat went hand in hand with an infatuation with the successes of “people’s war” based on the peasantry.

This political romanticism attracted a growing audience during the late 1960s as a result of the radicalization of large sections of the petty bourgeoisie in response to the deepening economic and political crises of imperialism. Healy’s avoidance of any political conflict with Banda on these questions of revolutionary perspective amounted to a political capitulation to these petty bourgeois elements and had dire consequences. The numerical growth of the Socialist Labour League was based largely upon the influx of middle-class elements, and the compromises within the leadership meant that the new forces could not be trained on the basis of the theoretical and political lessons of the struggle against Pabloism. Thus, the physical growth of the organization was not accompanied by a further development of Trotskyist cadre. Rather, the Socialist Labour League began to evolve into a centrist organization, repeating, in somewhat different form and under different objective conditions, the political process that had led to the disintegration of the Socialist Workers Party several years earlier.

Banda’s capitulation to the nationalist outlook of Mao and Ho was accompanied by a full-scale revision of the Trotskyist attitude toward the national bourgeoisie in a backward country. Having glorified the revolutionary potential of peasant war at the expense of proletarian revolution, he embraced the view that the national bourgeoisie of a backward country could play a progressive role in the anti-imperialist struggle and must be supported. This line was the logical extension of Stalin-Mao theory, whose opportunist attitude toward the peasantry is but one element of its separation of the national-democratic struggle from the revolutionary-socialist struggle.

The outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war in June 1967 became the occasion for Banda’s explicit repudiation of the theory of permanent revolution. In contrast to the French OCI, which adopted a position of neutrality in the war, the Socialist Labour League identified the conflict as one between an oppressor nation and several oppressed nations, and correctly called for the defeat of the Zionist armies. However, in the writings of Banda, the defense of nations oppressed by imperialism was converted into political support for their bourgeois regimes. Rejecting all that Trotsky had written on this question and forgetting everything that the SLL itself had written just a few years earlier, Banda attributed to the Arab bourgeoisie a progressive role in the struggle against imperialism and insisted on the subordination of the proletariat to its leadership.

Attempting to transform Trotskyism into a theoretical defense of the hegemony of the national bourgeoisie, the Newsletter declared on July 8, 1967:

Nowhere did Trotsky ever suggest that since the underdeveloped countries are faced with the tasks of the belated bourgeois-democratic revolution they must or can avoid the bourgeois-democratic phase of the revolution and rush straight to its socialist-proletarian phase. Such a distortion has more in common with the Immaculate Conception than with Marxism.

The backward countries of the world remain backward because they are oppressed and exploited by imperialism. This is nowhere more true than in the Arab world. Despite formal political independence, 80 million Arabs remain under the heel of imperialism. This is the mainspring of the Arab revolution which is not a socialist revolution, but is a bourgeois-nationalist and democratic one.

This revolution will—to use an expression of Lenin’s—“grow over” into the socialist revolution only to the extent that it comes under proletarian leadership.

But before the proletariat can aspire to leadership, it must consistently and unequivocally support the demands of the national revolution and in particular the demand for the unity and the complete independence of the Arab nation.

To refuse to do so because Nasser or Aref, or even Hussein, from time to time voice these demands would be to incarcerate the Marxist movement in sectarian isolation. (Emphasis added.)

Repeating the old sophistries of the Stalinists, Banda deduced from the democratic tasks confronting the Egyptian masses a progressive role for the Egyptian (and Arab) bourgeoisie. His abstract reference “to the demands of the national revolution” excluded the existence of powerful class contradictions within the oppressed Arab nations (especially Egypt) and amounted to a demand that the proletariat accept the tutelage of the national bourgeoisie in the anti-imperialist struggle. Moreover, his categorical denial of any socialist (anticapitalist) dynamic in the anti-imperialist struggle was the equivalent of illegalizing any independent action by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, in the name of “anti-imperialist national unity.”

And yet the central axiom of the theory of permanent revolution is that the revolutionary energy necessary to destroy the domination of imperialism over the backward country is generated by the internal class struggle of the proletariat against the national bourgeoisie. The anti-imperialist struggle can never be victorious until the proletariat has, in the course of bitter class struggle, established its complete independence from the national bourgeoisie and mobilized behind itself the millions of oppressed peasants.

Banda’s eulogy of Nasser in his “27 Reasons” as the symbol of Arab unity merely provides up-to-date evidence that his own political evolution was that of a left bourgeois nationalist. In this sense, the biography of Banda-Van Der Poorten mirrors that of many bourgeois youth of his generation from the colonial countries. Initially, their disgust with the impotence of the national bourgeoisie in the backward countries led them toward the working class and Marxism. However, their relation with the proletariat remained tenuous and was disrupted once imperialism proved willing to make an accommodation with the national bourgeoisie. They interpreted these concessions as proof that the national bourgeoisie did have a progressive role to play, not as calculated retreats by imperialism aimed at preventing its complete expropriation by the revolutionary proletariat. It is ironic that Banda has succumbed to the same political illusions and class pressures that destroyed the revolutionary leaders he had idolized as a youth. In his native Sri Lanka, the granting of independence in 1947 began the process of reformist conditioning that ended with the LSSP’s break with Trotskyism and its transformation into a reformist prop of native bourgeois rule.

If one considers the development of Banda as a whole, his “Trotskyism” proves to have been only the surface coloring of a petty-bourgeois radicalism that stopped far short of a truly proletarian outlook. He never assimilated the essence of the theory of permanent revolution: that the national liberation of the masses of the backward country can be achieved only through the leadership of the proletariat and its Marxist party. Whereas the Trotskyist always looks to the working class to resolve the fundamental problems of social development and is at all times preoccupied with the task of building a leadership within the working class, Banda was frequently swayed from the proletarian moorings of the International Committee by the ephemeral radicalism of various “left” bourgeois nationalists, especially when they resorted to armed struggle. The more discouraged Banda became by the protracted character of the struggle for the development of revolutionary consciousness in the European and North American proletariat, the more susceptible he became to the spectacular development of the nationalist movements in the backward countries.

There was yet another side to Banda’s rejection of the revolutionary role of the proletariat. He supported the “right” of the bourgeoisie in the backward countries to defend the state boundaries. While Banda now has the audacity to claim that the ICFI never accepted the theory of permanent revolution, his opportunist adaptation to the Indian bourgeoisie during the Indo-Pak War of 1971 came under direct attack from the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee, the Revolutionary Communist League.

This dispute is of enormous significance, not only because it answers Banda’s lying claim that the ICFI never supported the theory of permanent revolution. It brings to light the fundamental contradiction in the relationship of the SLL-WRP to the International Committee. The struggle waged by the Socialist Labour League against Pabloism won the support of Trotskyists all over the world. The documents written by Slaughter in 1961–64 in defense of the theory of permanent revolution provided the theoretical foundation for the education of a new generation of revolutionaries. The founding of the Workers League in the United States and the Revolutionary Communist League in Sri Lanka were the direct product of the struggle against Pabloism, and their cadre were developed on the basis of the theoretical lessons drawn from that fight. This was the political source of internal conflict within the ICFI. While it is convenient for Banda to depict the ICFI as an abstract unity of all sections, the drift of the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership to the right revealed the sharp differences which existed inside the International Committee.

In March 1971, the Pakistani army invaded East Pakistan and initiated a genocidal carnage in a desperate attempt to prevent the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh. By the autumn of that year, Bengali resistance, led by the radical Mukti Bahini, had drastically weakened the Pakistani army. Anticipating the imminent collapse of the Pakistani army and fearing the establishment of a Bengali state under radical leadership, the government of Indira Gandhi decided to intervene with troops in East Pakistan.

The intervention of the Indian army was enthusiastically endorsed by Banda. Without any discussion inside the International Committee, Banda wrote a statement supporting the Indian bourgeoisie that was published in the name of the ICFI. It declared: “We critically support the decision of the Indian bourgeois government to give military and economic aid to Bangla Desh. We condemn the attempt of US imperialism to stop the conflict through UN intervention and the threatened cessation of economic aid to India.”[7]

While formally acknowledging “the reactionary nature of the Indian bourgeoisie,” Banda insisted on the right of Gandhi to intervene in Bangladesh and made absolutely no reference to the independent tasks of the Indian proletariat.

The statement of the Revolutionary Communist League, Sri Lankan section of the ICFI, was diametrically opposed to that produced by Banda with the approval of Healy and Slaughter. It called upon the proletariat of Pakistan and India to oppose the military actions of their own ruling class:

Precisely because the Trotskyists stand unconditionally and unequivocally for the struggle for Bangladesh, they stand for the defeat of the Pakistan army at the hands of the Mukti Bahini forces. We declare that the task of the proletariat in Pakistan is to link its fate with that of the struggle for Bangladesh and to fight for the defeat of “their own” army. The Pakistani proletariat, in the finest traditions of proletarian internationalism, should take the Leninist position of revolutionary defeatism, because the war waged by the Pakistani ruling class is a war for national oppression, in the interests of the imperialist status quo.

At the same time we demarcate ourselves clearly and sharply from all those who cover up the annexationist and counterrevolutionary aims of the war waged by the Indians—in the East as well as the West, by their ostensible support for the Bangladesh movement. We call upon the Indian proletariat to reject the claim of the Indian bourgeoisie to be the liberators of E. Bengal. The Trotskyists declare that the Indian armed intervention in E. Bengal had one and only one object. It was to prevent the struggle for Bangladesh from developing into a struggle for the unification, on a revolutionary basis, of the whole of Bengal. The Indian armed intervention was designed to smash the revolutionary Bengali liberation struggle, to crush the upsurge of the masses in Bengal and to install a puppet regime which, fraudulently usurping the name of the government of Bangladesh, would confine and contain the mass movement in the interests of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. Thus we call upon the Indian proletariat too to take a position of revolutionary defeatism in relation to the counterrevolutionary war of the Indian bourgeoisie, while supporting by all and every means the struggle of the Mukti Bahini.[8]

The secretary of the RCL, Keerthi Balasuriya, wrote a letter to Cliff Slaughter on December 16, 1971 protesting the line taken by the British section in the name of the International Committee:

India’s war against Pakistan is not a liberation war. The aim of this intervention is to establish a dictatorship within India itself, well equipped to suppress the national and working class struggles. Indira Gandhi, while shouting about the repression carried out by Khan, has suppressed all the democratic rights of the Indian working class and the oppressed masses through emergency (rule) and attempts to annex Kashmir and E. Bengal to India.

It is not possible to support the national liberation struggle of the Bengali people and the voluntary unification of India on socialist foundations without opposing the Indo-Pakistan war. Without opposing the war from within India and Pakistan, it is completely absurd to talk about a unified socialist India which alone can safeguard the right of self-determination of the many nations in the Indian subcontinent.

Without taking a principled position in relation to the war between Pakistan and India, the IC statement critically supported “certain decisions” of the Indian government. This position cannot be supported in India or anywhere else in the world. Should the Indian working class support this war or not? Without answering this question how can a section of the IC be built in India? The meaning of opposing the war waged by Indira Gandhi is that the Indian working class should be mobilized independently to overthrow and replace the Gandhi government with a workers’ and peasants’ government. Only by taking this revolutionary defeatist line can the revolutionaries fight for the freedom of Bengal and the socialist unification of India.[9]

The revolutionary position of the RCL enraged Banda. In a letter to Balasuriya dated January 27, 1972, he justified the line of the SLL with a position which amounted to a craven defense of the class interests of the Indian bourgeoisie. Banda declared, citing an article written by the American bourgeois muckraker Jack Anderson, that Gandhi’s military intervention was justified because it was necessary to protect “the already restricted home market of the Indian bourgeoisie”—as if the political line of the proletariat was to be subordinated to the hopeless efforts of the bourgeoisie in a backward country to defend its feeble capitalist economy against the pressure of imperialism.

Even more remarkable was Banda’s claim that the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan created a “dramatic change” in the political situation: “The contradiction between the Indian working class and the Indian capitalists did not cease. No, but it was superseded by the conflict between the Indian nation and imperialism represented by Pakistan.”[10] (Banda’s emphasis.)

With these lines, Banda completely renounced Marxism. To claim that a war between oppressed and oppressor nations (which, at any rate, was not the issue in the 1971 Indo-Pak War) supersedes the class struggle inside the oppressed nation itself is to adopt the line of Menshevism and Stalinism. Taken to its logical conclusion, Banda’s position was an argument for the cessation of the class struggle and for the formation of a popular front alliance between the working class and the national bourgeoisie. Banda’s line mimicked that of those whom Trotsky denounced in 1927 as “woeful Philistines and sycophants” who believe that national liberation “can be achieved by moderating the class struggle, by curbing strikes and agrarian uprisings, by abandoning the arming of the masses, etc.”[11]

This political record shows two things. First, within the ICFI, those who based themselves on the legacy of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism defended the theory of permanent revolution while it was being discarded by the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party; and, second, the inspirer of the theory of the revolutionary role of the national bourgeoisie, which led in the mid-1970s to Healy’s unprincipled and mercenary relations with the Arab bourgeoisie, was Michael Banda. Healy’s activities in the Middle East went unchallenged within the WRP because Banda had already provided a theoretical justification for the most unrestrained opportunism. Thus, when Banda declared in early November 1985 that his split with Healy was not based on differences of a programmatic character, he was, for once, telling the truth.

Indeed, Healy’s operations in the Middle East were no worse than the positions adopted by Banda. In 1978, at a time when Healy was justifying the murder of Communist Party members in Iraq by the Ba’athist regime, Banda was denouncing the Australian section of the ICFI, the Socialist Labour League, for having defended the right of East Timor to self-determination. Banda declared that the invasion of East Timor by the armies of the Indonesian dictator, General Suharto, which led to the slaughter of thousands of workers and peasants, was a justifiable act aimed at preserving the unity of Indonesia! This so-called expert on the theory of permanent revolution had degenerated into a reactionary nationalist whose principal political concern was the defense of bourgeois state boundaries.

That such a man occupied the position of general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party testified to the depth of the organization’s political putrefaction.


Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects (London: New Park Publications, 1962), p. 22.


Newsletter, 21 January 1967.


Newsletter, 28 January 1967.






Newsletter, 15 April 1967.


Workers Press, 6 December 1971.


Revolutionary Communist League statement, Fourth International, vol. 14, no. 1, March 1987, p. 38.


Ibid., p. 42.


Ibid., p. 49.


Les Evans and Russell Block, eds., Leon Trotsky on China (New York: Monad Press, 1976), pp. 161–162.