David North
The Heritage We Defend

The Wohlforth Incident

We are approaching the conclusion of our analysis of “27 Reasons,” which—the author would be the first to admit—has gone on quite a bit longer than he either intended or expected. But, if the author may be permitted to speak in his own defense, autopsies can sometimes be messy and arduous affairs, especially when the corpse arrives in a state of advanced decomposition. And this was certainly the case with Michael (Van Der Poorten) Banda, who, as he finally admitted in “27 Reasons,” had completed his inner break with Trotskyism at least a decade before he actually wrote the document.

In keeping with the opportunist relations which prevailed inside the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party, Healy sought desperately to suppress political discussions within the International Committee that would uncover the political demise of his longtime protege. One of the main uses of Healy’s “practice of cognition” was to preempt the concrete theoretical analysis of program and perspective with mystical and pseudoscientific excursions into the realm of “pure thought.” This allowed Healy to engage in furious mock-battles over the “correct” sequence of logical categories in the unfolding of the “Absolute Idea,” while keeping his mouth shut about Banda’s skepticism and mounting hostility toward all the fundamental conceptions of Trotskyism. Toward the end, Healy’s efforts to sustain the image of Banda as a revolutionary assumed a pathetic and somewhat comic dimension: he insisted that party members greet the approach of the “comrade general secretary” to the speaker’s platform at public meetings with a standing ovation!

And despite the split inside the WRP, Healy could still write, some eight months after the publication of “27 Reasons,” that for thirty-five years Banda—unlike the terrible North—“contributed in a powerful practical way to building the Workers Revolutionary Party and the ICFI, in the best traditions of historical materialism.”[1] For reasons bound up with his own political degeneration, Healy has explicitly denied that Banda’s break with Trotskyism was prepared over many years.

In place of a concrete political analysis of Banda’s record of opposition to the theory of permanent revolution, his adaptation to Maoism and his promotion of bourgeois nationalist views, Healy has taken refuge in a thoroughly idealist-mystical distortion of the real political process. Banda’s evolution, he tells us, is that of a “Fichtean subjective idealist.” For the benefit of those who are not among the specially initiated, allow us to explain that Fichte lived from 1762 until 1814. Nevertheless, Healy seeks to substantiate his astonishing diagnosis by referring his readers to the following passage by Hegel, which supposedly “explains” the fate of Michael Banda:

“The infinite limitation or check of Fichte’s idealism refuses, perhaps, to be based on any Thing-in-itself, so that it becomes purely a determinateness in the Ego. …

“But this determinateness is immediate and a limit to the Ego, which transcending its externality, incorporates it; and though the Ego can pass beyond the limit, the latter has in it an aspect of indifference by virtue of which it contains an immediate not-being of the Ego, though itself contained in the Ego.”[2]

Elementary, my dear Watson. But for those who are still somewhat unclear as to the connection between Fichte’s Ego and Banda’s anti-Trotskyism, Healy illuminates the argument in the following manner. Men such as Banda, he tells us, “fail to realize … that these empty word forms contain a content of ‘Not-Being’—the ever-changing world economic and political crisis, whether they are aware of it or not. The build-up of such countless ‘not-beings’ have their revenge when the multitude of ‘empty word forms’ without them being able to recognize their ‘not-Being’ content blow up in their face, leaving them totally unprepared.[3]

Thus, Healy discovers the source of Banda’s betrayals in … The Revenge of the Not-Beings, which perhaps will be turned into a cinematic adventure by his last and most faithful disciples, Vanessa (OBE) and Corin Redgrave, at some point, let us hope, in the very distant future.

We must now, alas, take our leave of Healy’s make-believe world of Fichtean Egos, empty word forms and Not-beings in order to deal with another of Banda’s falsifications. Attempting to attack the Workers League and discredit its struggle to defend the perspective of Trotskyism within the International Committee, Banda rewrites history in order to claim that the present leadership of the Workers League is the product of an unprincipled witch-hunt against its former national secretary, Tim Wohlforth. This is the explanation which he gives of the desertion of Wohlforth from the Workers League in September 1974:

The crisis with Wohlforth was artificially exacerbated by Healy with his paranoid ravings about security and his total failure to deal with the Workers League’s problems of perspective and policy. The issue of Nancy Fields was exaggerated and distorted beyond all proportion. In my opinion Wohlforth’s weaknesses were maliciously exploited by Healy to drive him out. As a point of information it is necessary to correct the impression that it was Dave North’s leadership that fought Wohlforth. This is a tax on my credibility. The entire “struggle” was conducted by the leaders of the WRP with tactical help from the WL. The case of Nancy Fields must be re-examined in the same way as Thornett, Blick and other victims of Healy’s malice and bureaucratic sadism.

Despite the belated claims by the Slaughter wing of the WRP that it disagrees with Banda’s “27 Reasons”—though it did not hesitate to base its split with the International Committee upon this very document—it has also embraced the cause of Wohlforth and Fields as a central element of its “case” against the Workers League and the International Committee.

In the Workers Press of October 18, 1986, Geoff Pilling, who fervently defended Healy against the criticisms raised by the Workers League between 1982 and 1984, wrote that David North fears an examination of “the question of Tim Wohlforth.” The entire membership of the WRP is now being led to believe by Pilling and Cliff Slaughter that Wohlforth was, as claimed by Banda, some sort of “victim.” In an internal document, dated October 1986, the International Commission of the WRP informed its members that it was sending a representative to San Francisco “so that we can begin to get a general picture of developments with Tim Wohlforth, if possible. His bureaucratic removal from the Workers League by Healy, later ably assisted [by] North, is something we have to take full responsibility for.”[4]

Who, then, is Tim Wohlforth, and what became of him? In the early 1960s, he played a central role in the struggle against the Pabloite degeneration of the Socialist Workers Party and, collaborating closely with the International Committee, formed the American Committee for the Fourth International in 1964 after he and eight other SWP members were expelled for having insisted on a discussion of the LSSP’s betrayal in Ceylon. In 1966, upon the founding of the Workers League, he became its first national secretary.

No one in the Workers League would deny the contribution made by Wohlforth in the early years of the organization. However, the breakup of the middle-class antiwar protest movement in the early 1970s, to which much of the practical activity of the Workers League during its early years had been oriented, threw Wohlforth into a deep political crisis. In 1972 Wohlforth came under sharp and correct criticism within the International Committee for weakening the Workers League’s long-standing programmatic orientation to the working class, through the fight for the formation of a Labor Party based on the trade unions.

Looking for something to replace the waning antiwar movement, and reacting impressionistically to the events surrounding the September 1971 uprising at Attica prison, Wohlforth decided to focus the party’s work on the political radicalization of prison inmates. For weeks on end, the pages of the party’s press were turned over to publishing letters from prisoners, and Wohlforth developed the theory that the penitentiaries were becoming the main centers for the development of Marxism! Wohlforth directed that an “Open Letter to Prisoners” be published in the Bulletin, which contained the following passage (dictated by Wohlforth to the letter’s ostensible author, Lucy St. John):

Many of the cadres of the Bolshevik Party were prepared and educated within the prisons. After 1905 and before 1917 the prisons became a center for the development of political consciousness. …

So too today the prisons have become a center of the development of political consciousness. A new generation of revolutionary leaders can be developed and come out of the Tombs of today.[5]

Notwithstanding the fact that the existence of a vast prison population is the product of social conditions created by capitalism, it was a theoretical travesty, not to mention a political insult, to compare the leaders of the Russian Revolution, incarcerated because of their conscious struggle against czarist oppression, to the inmates of American prisons. That such a line could be advanced in the pages of the Bulletin expressed Wohlforth’s deep political disorientation and his turn away from the working class.

However, Wohlforth’s political problems were exacerbated by the opportunist manner in which the Socialist Labour League carried through the split with the French OCI. The refusal of the SLL to deepen the theoretical and political questions relating to its differences with the OCI, as it had just one decade earlier during the practical struggle with the SWP, contributed to the disorientation of the International Committee and the Workers League. The criticisms of Wohlforth at the Fourth Congress of the ICFI in April 1972 were substantially correct and justified, but were made within the context of the precipitous split with the OCI and the growing political disorientation within the SLL itself.

While adapting himself to the immediate criticisms of the International Committee, Wohlforth continued his petty-bourgeois orientation. In early 1973, despite objections raised on the Workers League Political Committee, Wohlforth proposed inviting leaders of the Spartacist League to publicly debate the history of the Fourth International. This initiative, taken without consulting the International Committee, represented a turn back to the milieu of middle-class radicalism then epitomized by the Spartacist League. The final stage in the formation of the Workers League, consummating its five-year struggle against SWP revisionism, was the irrevocable break made by its founding cadre with the Spartacist group led by James Robertson. To publicly invite this group, seven years later, to engage in debates on the history of the Fourth International, could only mean, as Wohlforth’s subsequent evolution proved, to call the finality of that break into question.

After these debates were criticized by Healy with his characteristic bluntness, Wohlforth lost whatever was left of his political equilibrium and initiated a political wrecking operation inside the Workers League, which, within the space of one year, nearly destroyed the entire organization. The beginning of these violent and unstable activities coincided with the initiation, in the summer of 1973, of an intimate personal relationship with a woman by the name of Nancy Fields. This woman, who was soon exercising enormous influence over Wohlforth, was promoted into the party leadership. Ignorant of Marxism and contemptuous of the working class, Fields made use of her position, which was based entirely on her personal ties to Wohlforth, to initiate a pogrom against the Workers League cadre.

Slaughter and Pilling, who know all the facts about Fields’ brutal, violent and destructive actions against party members, now join Banda in defending her against the Workers League. Spending thousands of dollars of party funds without authorization, Wohlforth and Fields traveled around the country in luxury, while closing down party branches and expelling members. Fields employed the most vile means to force cadre out of the Workers League: in one instance, she demanded that a member, five-months pregnant, undergo an abortion! Slaughter and Pilling are familiar with this incident and many others like it. But this does not prevent these latter-day champions of “revolutionary morality” from ardently pleading her case before the abysmally ignorant WRP membership.

To give an idea of the impact upon the Workers League of Fields’ year-long rampage, let us quote from a letter written by Wohlforth to Healy on July 19, 1974, little more than two months before his desertion from the party:

In answer to the question about your coming to our camp and conference let me just give you some information on the League. It has been going through a very remarkable period. I have figured that since “X” left about a year and a half ago, some 100 people have left the League. This figure refers only to people in the party for some time and playing important roles, not those who drift in and out, the usual sorting out of membership. The bulk of these people left in the period of the preparation for and since the summer camp last year which was the decisive turning point in the history of the League.

Even this figure does not show the full impact of the process. Almost half of those who left were from New York City. Almost half the National Committee and Political Committee were involved. Virtually the entire original youth leadership were also involved. …

We are, of course, very much of a skeletal movement these days with very good work carried on by very, very few people in many areas. We are virtually wiped out as far as intellectuals are concerned—one big bastardly desertion. What is done on this front I have to do along with Nancy. We have nothing more in the universities—and I mean nothing. The party is extremely weak on education and theoretical matters. …

As far as the trade unions are concerned our old, basically centrist work in the trade unions, especially SSEU, has collapsed precisely because of our struggle to change its character and turn to the youth.[6] (Emphasis added.)

Thus, according to Wohlforth’s own balance sheet, in the course of one year, the Workers League had lost more than 100 cadre, half the membership of its National and Political Committees, its entire original youth leadership, and virtually all of its intellectuals. On top of that, its trade union work had collapsed. In other words, by the summer of 1974, Wohlforth and Fields had almost succeeded in liquidating the Workers League. This accounts for the esteem in which they are both held to this day by all the enemies of the Trotskyist movement.

Now let us deal with Banda’s claim, seconded by Slaughter and Pilling, that “the issue of Nancy Fields was exaggerated and distorted beyond all proportion.”

In May 1974, having become Wohlforth’s inseparable traveling companion, Fields was selected by him to attend the Fifth World Congress of the International Committee. In attendance were delegates from countries such as Spain, where revolutionary work was being conducted in conditions of illegality.

In August 1974, not long after the above-quoted letter arrived in Britain, Wohlforth was invited by Healy to visit London to discuss the crisis which had developed inside the Workers League. In the course of these discussions, Wohlforth was asked about Nancy Fields. Prior to her attendance at the Fifth World Congress, she had been unknown to the International Committee. Noting the crisis inside the Workers League and Fields’ meteoric and unexplained rise to authority, Healy, in the presence of the WRP Political Committee, asked if Wohlforth had any reason to suspect that Fields might be connected to the Central Intelligence Agency. Wohlforth replied that he did not.

But within two weeks, what remained of the Central Committee of the Workers League received astonishing information that placed the activities of Nancy Fields in an entirely new light. She had been raised and financially supported since childhood by her uncle, Albert Morris, a high-level operative of the Central Intelligence Agency and a close friend of its one-time director, the notorious Richard Helms (“The Man Who Kept the Secrets”). Wohlforth had known about Fields’ family connections to leading CIA personnel, but had failed to inform either the International Committee or the Workers League Central Committee. When asked to give an explanation for his failure to inform his own party about Fields’ background, he said that he did not think it was important.

This was a clear breach of the political security of the revolutionary movement and Wohlforth’s responsibility to both the Workers League and the International Committee. The Workers League Central Committee acted accordingly. It removed Tim Wohlforth from the position of National Secretary (but not from any leading body of the party) and suspended Nancy Fields from membership pending an investigation by an International Commission into her background and this breach in the security of the Workers League. This resolution was adopted unanimously, with both Wohlforth and Fields voting in favor, on August 31, 1974.

But less than one month later, just weeks before the commission was to begin its work, Wohlforth suddenly resigned from the Workers League, declaring that he would not cooperate with the investigation. In a letter dated October 6, 1974, replying to Wohlforth’s resignation, Slaughter warned him against

asserting yourself as an individual leader against the movement. Your conviction that NF [Nancy Fields] is not a security risk must predominate over the security requirements and decisions of our leading bodies. Your assessment of your record as leader is placed before everything else. You find yourself unable to conceive of the Workers League as a party and as a vital part of the Fourth International. Instead you see it only as a retinue of your followers, who will collapse without you. …

At this late hour, Comrade Wohlforth, we call upon you to reconsider and immediately change your position. It is not too late. You are called upon to resume immediately the leading responsibilities to the Workers League and the IC and collaborate in the work of the inquiry. This inquiry has had to wait a few days until the work can be completed, but arrangements are in hand to begin the actual investigation within the next few days. The comrades are instructed to complete their work and report to the IC within a very short time. The committee asks you, Comrade Wohlforth, to immediately withdraw your letter of resignation and collaborate fully in the work of the investigation. Only in this way can you prepare to resume your positions in the leadership.[7]

Banda, as he perhaps recalls, flew to the United States in October 1974 for what turned out to be a futile attempt to persuade Wohlforth to rejoin the Workers League. Despite Wohlforth’s attempt to sabotage the work of the International Commission, it carried out its work and produced a report, dated November 9, 1974, which concluded the following about Nancy Fields:

The inquiry established that from the age of 12 until the completion of her university education, NF was brought up, educated and financially supported by her aunt and uncle, Albert and Gigs Morris. Albert Morris is the head of the CIA’s IBM computer operation in Washington as well as being a large stockholder in IBM. He was a member of the OSS, forerunner of the CIA, and worked in Poland as an agent of imperialism. During the 1960s a frequent house-guest at their home in Maine was Richard Helms, ex-director of the CIA and now US Ambassador in Iran. …

We found that the record of NF in the party was that of a highly unstable person who never broke from the opportunist method of middle-class radicalism. She adopted administrative and completely subjective methods of dealing with political problems. These methods were extremely destructive, especially in the most decisive field of the building of leadership. TW [Tim Wohlforth] was fully aware of this instability, and bears the responsibility for bringing NF into leadership. He found himself left in an isolated position in which he eventually concealed NF’s previous CIA connections from the IC. He bears clear political responsibility for this.

The inquiry found as follows:

After interviewing and investigating all the available material, there is no evidence to suggest that NF or TW is in any way connected with the work of the CIA or any other government agency. The inquiry took into account TWs many years of struggle for the party and the IC, often under very difficult conditions, and urged him to correct his individualist and pragmatist mistakes and return to the party.

We recommend that TW, once he withdraws his resignation from the Workers League, returns to the leading committees and to his work on the Bulletin, and has the right to be nominated to any position, including that of National Secretary, at the forthcoming National Conference early in 1975.

We recommend the immediate lifting of the suspension of NF, with the condition that she is not permitted to hold any office in the Workers League for two years.

The inquiry urgently draws the attention of all sections to the necessity of constant vigilance on matters of security. Our movement has great opportunities for growth in every country because of the unprecedented class struggles which must erupt from the world capitalist crisis. The situation also means that the counterrevolutionary activities of the CIA and all imperialist agencies against us will be intensified. It is a basic revolutionary duty to pay constant and detailed attention to these security matters as part of the turn to the masses for the building of revolutionary parties.[8]

The fact that the International Committee dared raised the issue of maintaining vigilance against the political police of the capitalist state enraged the SWP’s Joseph Hansen, who was by then presiding over an organization which, according to published reports, had been penetrated by hundreds of FBI agents. He immediately declared his solidarity with Wohlforth’s “right” to conceal, for reasons of personal convenience, vital information pertaining to the security of the revolutionary movement. Hansen knew very well that similar behavior by Sylvia Ageloff in 1938–40, who failed to tell the Fourth International everything she knew about her lover Ramon Mercader, facilitated this agent’s assassination of Leon Trotsky.

The WRP’s Pilling has written, “It was as a result of charges against Wohlforth that Healy’s infamous ‘Security and the Fourth International’ was launched,” as if there was something illegitimate in this connection. Hansen’s vitriolic defense of Wohlforth’s right to ignore the security needs of his own party and his labeling of concern for security as paranoia raised fundamental political questions for the Fourth International. How could revolutionary cadre be trained if Hansen’s position was allowed to go unchallenged? If it was accepted that members, not to mention leaders, of a revolutionary organization could establish and maintain unreported relations with individuals who may be connected with the intelligence agencies of the capitalist state, this meant that the party would be left defenseless against the machinations of the political police.

When the ICFI voted at its Sixth World Congress in May 1975 to initiate an investigation—the first since 1940—into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Leon Trotsky, it was to make the new generation of Marxist revolutionaries aware of the terrible human toll exacted from the Trotskyist movement by the combined agencies of world imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The ICFI did not anticipate that its investigation would uncover incriminating documents linking Hansen to both the Soviet GPU and the American FBI, which explained why Hansen had reacted so bitterly to the ICFI’s actions in relation to Wohlforth.

The ICFI’s handling of the Wohlforth affair and its initiation of the Security and the Fourth International investigation were entirely in keeping with the traditions of the Trotskyist movement. While Hansen’s charge of paranoia found a ready response among all the diseased middle-class radicals who unfortunately infest the workers’ movement, the International Committee was right to call Wohlforth to order. It would not hesitate to act in the same way if similar circumstances were to arise once again. Wohlforth’s relation with a woman whose immediate family included a high CIA operative was not his own “personal business.”

On September 28, 1940, just one month after Trotsky’s assassination, the question of party members’ “personal lives” was dealt with by James P. Cannon:

Now then … we have to check up on carelessness. We want to know who is who in the party. We don’t want to have any universal spy hunts because that is worse than the disease it tries to cure. Comrade Trotsky said many times that mutual suspicion among comrades can greatly demoralize a movement. On the other hand, there is a certain carelessness in the movement as a hangover from the past. We haven’t probed deeply enough into the past of people even in leading positions—where they came from, how they live, whom they are married to, etc. Whenever in the past such questions—elementary for a revolutionary organization—were raised, the petty-bourgeois opposition would cry, “My God, you are invading the private lives of comrades!” Yes, that is precisely what we were doing, or more correctly, threatening to do—nothing ever came of it in the past. If we had checked up on such matters a little more carefully we might have prevented some bad things in the days gone by.

We are proposing that we set up a control commission in the party. We are fully ready for that now. This will be a body of responsible and authoritative comrades who will take things in hand and carry every investigation to a conclusion one way or the other. This will do away with indiscriminate suspicions on the one side and undue laxity on the other. The net result can only be to reassure the party and strengthen its vigilance. We think the whole party now, with the petty-bourgeois riffraff out of our way, is ready for the appointment of such a body.[9]

In January 1975, Wohlforth completed a document denouncing the International Committee and the Workers League which he turned over to the Socialist Workers Party. Even after this, an appeal, dated January 22, 1975, was made to him by Cliff Slaughter: “You are called upon to abandon this course of providing aid to all the enemies of the International Committee and the Workers League, and to bring your document into the party, accepting that the discussion of it must take place within the framework of your acceptance of the discipline of the League and the political authority of the IC.”[10]

Wohlforth refused to accept this principled course of action and made his desertion from the Workers League irrevocable. Within a few months, repudiating all that he had written over the previous fifteen years, Wohlforth rejoined the Socialist Workers Party. This development confirmed that the political source of Wohlforth’s destructive activities inside the leadership of the Workers League, including his relationship with Fields and his cover-up of her dubious background, was a capitulation to the pressures of American imperialism. This is why he found it impossible to act in a politically principled manner and soon wound up in the ranks of the very organization whose betrayal of Trotskyism he had correctly fought just one decade earlier. And that did not bring to a conclusion the process of his political degeneration.

The present attempts of the WRP to portray Wohlforth as a “victim” of Healyism find their supreme refutation in the political evolution of this traitor since he deserted the Workers League. His reentry into the SWP, where he was promptly placed on its Political Committee, was just one point on a political trajectory that has led Wohlforth to repudiate Marxism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

His present anticommunist position is summed up in an article he wrote for the September-October 1986 issue of Against the Current, a radical journal whose editorial board includes, among others, Noam Chomsky and Ernest Mandel. Wohlforth’s article, entitled “The Two Souls of Leninism,” argues that Stalinism is a product of Leninism.

I believe that I have proven that the single party state was the conscious construction of Lenin and Trotsky. It was not forced upon the Bolshevik leaders because of the treachery of the working class opposition. It was justified theoretically by the leading proponents of Leninism at the time. …

However, I hold that Leninism is not valid as a democratic, revolutionary, working class heritage. We are now in a Post-Leninist period, a period in which we should insist upon pluralistic working class politics rather than suppression of working class parties, and revolutionary fronts composed of several parties rather than vanguard party leaderships.[11]

When Wohlforth resigned from the Workers League rather than accept a party inquiry into his violation of the elemental precepts of revolutionary security, when he insisted on his personal right to place his own subjective interests above that of the working class, he was already expressing in embryonic form the clearly anticommunist positions that find finished expression in the above quote.

Finally, there is Banda’s claim that the WRP conducted the “entire” struggle against Wohlforth, with only “tactical help from the Workers League.” We consider this to be perhaps the most politically significant aspect of Banda’s falsification of the Wohlforth episode. As a matter of fact, the Workers League never claimed that “it was Dave North’s leadership that fought Wohlforth.” In 1974, David North was a member of the Workers League Political Committee. When the facts relating to Fields came to light in August 1974, he was among those who supported the motion suspending Fields and replacing Wohlforth as national secretary. Wohlforth’s successor was Fred Mazelis, a founding member of the Workers League, who assumed, under extremely difficult conditions, the responsibilities of the secretaryship, a position which he held for the next fifteen months. During this crucial period, the foundations were laid down for the creation of a real collective leadership which functions to this day inside the Workers League.

If the struggle against Wohlforth is analyzed from the standpoint of its political content, it becomes obvious that the roles of the Workers League and the WRP are precisely the opposite of what is claimed by Banda. The Workers League waged the political struggle against Wohlforth; the WRP provided the tactical support.

The entire political and theoretical analysis of the degeneration of Wohlforth was produced by the Workers League leadership. In April 1975, the Workers League Political Committee published a powerful document, entitled What Makes Wohlforth Run, which provided a detailed analysis of Wohlforth’s break with the International Committee. It dealt with fundamental questions of Marxist theory and political perspective. The next major document produced by the Workers League was The Fourth International and the Renegade Wohlforth, co-authored by North and Alex Steiner, which deepened the party’s analysis of Wohlforth’s attacks on the principles of Trotskyism after he had joined the Socialist Workers Party.

These documents represented the renewal of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism by the Workers League. In the light of Wohlforth’s betrayal, the awesome historical implications of the 1953 split and the subsequent battle against the Socialist Workers Party were reassimilated by the entire party. Upon these strengthened foundations, the party turned more vigorously then ever toward the struggle to construct a Marxist vanguard party of the working class in the United States as part of the world party of socialist revolution.

What was the political contribution of the WRP to this crucial struggle? The record shows that not a single leader of the WRP wrote even one article analyzing the theory and politics of Wohlforth’s betrayal, despite the fact that he had played a central role in the work of the ICFI for many years. This expressed a theoretical indifference that reflected the WRP’s turn, already well under way, away from the struggle which it had earlier waged against revisionism. Abstaining from the theoretical struggle against Wohlforth, the WRP failed to assimilate any of the lessons that were to be learned from this vital experience through which the ICFI had passed in the United States. For this reason, the leaders of the WRP can today lie with impunity about the split with Wohlforth, without any fear of contradiction from the members of their own organization, who never knew and now do not care to know anything about the real life of the International Committee.

It would be worthwhile, moreover, to compare the exhaustive analysis made by the Workers League of Wohlforth with the manner in which Banda and Healy dealt with the political differences raised by Alan Thornett inside the WRP. Aside from the bureaucratic manner in which the WRP leadership preempted discussion by resorting to expulsions, the polemics prepared by Banda A Menshevik Unmasked and Whither Thornett? were characterized by their nationalist focus. Despite the fact that Thornett’s documents called into question the legitimacy of the struggle waged by the International Committee against Pabloite revisionism since 1953, these decisive questions were dealt with in an off-hand fashion, mainly from the standpoint of defending the record of the WRP leadership in Britain.

Moreover, Banda’s documents continuously belittled the programmatic heritage of Trotskyism, again and again counterposing “philosophical method,” a phrase which played a purely decorative role in Banda’s text, to its actual articulation in the program and perspectives of the party. This was a distortion of Marxism which facilitated the revisionism that was taking root inside the WRP. The WRP’s insistence that programmatic questions were merely of a secondary character—that the “fundamental” questions of the struggle against revisionism were only tackled once “method” was dealt with at the level of the purest abstractions, in the pseudo-analysis of logical categories in and for themselves, palmed off as the inner and essential content of all political issues (the latter being contemptuously dismissed as little more than the outer and inessential expression of the movement of logical thought-forms)—served to justify the most brazen violations in practice of the most basic programmatic conceptions of the Fourth International.

For the Workers League, the struggle against Wohlforth constituted a crucial chapter in its political development as a Trotskyist party capable of rooting itself in the struggles of the American working class. For the Workers Revolutionary Party, on the other hand, the brawl with Thornett proved to be yet another stage in the deepening political crisis that was to lead finally to its collapse.

Moreover, the political foundation for the opposition of the Workers League to the revisionist course of the WRP was prepared in the course of the struggle against Wohlforth. At the very time when the WRP leadership was abandoning the principles it had defended in an earlier period against the Pabloites, the Workers League was reeducating its entire membership on the basis of those historic lessons. From 1976, the paths of the WRP and the Workers League steadily diverged and led to the latter’s open declaration of differences in the autumn of 1982.


News Line, 23 September 1986.






From a copy of the original document.


Bulletin, 19 June 1972.


Cliff Slaughter, ed., Trotskyism Versus Revisionism: A Documentary History (Detroit: Labor Publications, 1984), vol. 7, The Fourth International and the Renegade Wohlforth, pp. 172–173.


Ibid., pp. 262–264.


Ibid., pp. 270–272.


James P. Cannon, The Socialist Workers Party in World War II: James P. Cannon Writings and Speeches, 1940–43, ed. Les Evans (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1975), pp. 81–82.


Slaughter, ed., Trotskyism Versus Revisionism, vol. 7, p. 266.


Tim Wohlforth, “The Two Souls of Leninism,” Against the Current, vol. 1, no. 4–5, September-October 1986, p. 42.