The subdued tone of the references to Stalinism in the Six Reasons was no more accidental than any other of the opportunist formulations we have examined thus far. Without any discussion within the WRP, not to mention the International Committee, Healy was privately cultivating relations with the Stalinists. The International Committee does not yet have all the facts at its disposal, but attention should be drawn to the following:
1. In 1980 the News Line’s sports reporter, Paul Feldman, was allowed by the Soviet Union to attend the Moscow Olympics and was accorded the warmest reception—an occurrence for which there is no parallel in the history of the International Committee.
2. The Soviet bureaucracy accorded to New Park Publishers the rights to an English-language edition of E. V. Ilyenkov’s Lenin’s Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism. A member of the Workers League of the United States was instructed to translate this volume, but the American Trotskyists were kept completely in the dark about the agreements into which the Workers Revolutionary Party had entered.
3. In 1982 the Workers League published a lengthy analysis of the crisis in the Soviet economy which answered an attempt by the American Pabloites to glorify the nationalized industry. This article was not reprinted in any WRP publication, and the only explanation given for this censorship was that the article was “one-sided.” In contrast to the treatment accorded the Bulletin, the News Line had previously reprinted without any critical comment a Novosti press release praising the conditions which exist in the Soviet steel industry.
4. The coverage given to the Solidarity movement in Poland was episodic and without any political depth. Not a single analysis was prepared by the News Line of the programmatic documents of the many tendencies to the left of Walesa. A single set of articles—of a non-analytical journalistic character—were prepared on the basis of a trip to Poland made by the wife of a party member who had gone to visit her family. While the News Line was able to arrange a trip to Moscow for the Olympics, no attempt was made to obtain credentials for a trip to Warsaw. The greatest confirmation of Trotsky’s conception of Political Revolution was, from a theoretical standpoint, completely ignored. Not until 1983—nearly two years after the suppression of Solidarity—did the WRP decide that the time had come to make a major issue of Solidarity, and that was in order to create an immense press scandal at the expense of Arthur Scargill during the Blackpool conference of the TUC.
At the very least, all of these incidents were part of a steady weakening in the political line of the Workers Revolutionary Party toward Stalinism.
However, the reaction of the WRP to the crisis within the British Communist Party which erupted in June 1983 with the takeover of the Morning Star by its editorial board invites no other conclusion than that the principles of Trotskyism were being betrayed in the interests of some behind-the-scenes maneuver which no one in the WRP—except the clique in the Political Committee and a few of Healy’s operatives in the apparatus—knew about.
In response to the vote by the People’s Press Printing Society—which was run by the so-called “Tankie” faction of the Stalinists—to assume control of the Morning Star and ignore the instructions of the hacks in the CPGB bureaucracy, the News Line organized an unprecedented campaign to mobilize support in the labor movement behind Euro-Stalinist boss McLennan and his cronies.
“The ‘Morning Star’ is the daily paper of the Communist Party” screamed the headline of a Workers Revolutionary Party statement (no committee was specified) which appeared in the June 6, 1983 issue of the News Line. The statement declared:
“The Communist Party has every right to take political decisions and to insist that its members on the PPPS and the ‘Morning Star editorial board carry them out. This includes the ‘Star’ editor, Tony Chater, the assistant editor David Whitfield and the PPPS secretary, Mary Rosser...
“All the political as well as the management questions at the ‘Star’ are Communist Party questions. The PPPS management committee is subordinate to the Communist Party executive committee, and not the other way around.”
Without any examination of the political line of the contending factions within the Communist Party, the News Line unconditionally upheld the “right” of the Stalinist chieftains to reassert their bureaucratic control over the Morning Star. No reason was given, moreover, why the Trotskyist movement should support one or another faction of feuding Stalinists. There was no evidence that the PPPS takeover of the Morning Star involved a state attack, nor was there any indication that either faction was expressing, even in a distorted form, the interests of the working class. It was clearly a falling out among thieves, related to alliances formed by various CPGB leaders with different sections of the Labour and trade union bureaucracy. If anything, the faction represented by McLennan speaks for the extreme right-wing of the Communist Party which has even flirted with the Tories and the Social Democratic Alliance. On this basis, an argument—however foolish—could have been concocted in support of Chater. Thus, it is very hard to understand what Healy and Mitchell were up to in June 1983. Perhaps Mike Banda knew but he never told anyone.
The June 8, 1983 edition of the News Line placed the good offices of the WRP at the services of the CPGB leadership and published in full a statement by its Political Committee, which gave the Euro-Stalinist side of the story. In an accompanying article, the News Line warned that if the PPPS succeeded in taking control of the Morning Star, “it would amount to a political coup against the Communist Party”and insisted again that “The Communist Party has a right to publish its own daily paper.”
With WRP members wondering what was going on and the whole fishy business starting to stink to high hell, Healy finally came up with a profound reason for the latest maneuver: “If recent events are anything to go by, the Communist Party will find difficulty in having its political statements and opinions published.” (News Line, June 15, 1983)
Thus, the greatest task confronting the British Trotskyists was to spare the labor movement from this terrible loss! There was another and even more profound reason given for defending the CPGB leadership:
“The new political line means liquidating the historical link with the party and orienting towards the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour Party.” (Ibid.)
And to whom had the Stalinists been orienting before the Chater “coup”? Had Healy perhaps forgotten the official adoption of the parliamentary road to socialism in 1951? Or the CPs enthusiastic support for Churchill during World War II? Or its approval of Trotsky’s assassination in 1940?
Healy then gave the McLennan faction some curb-side advice: “The party leadership has the clear responsibility to call an emergency congress to discuss the Chater takeover of the ‘Morning Star.’ It must formulate a political policy to be implemented in the pases of the ‘Star.
“The congress must also call an extraordinary meeting of the PPPS and rally shareholders to oust Chater and Co and all those who want to break party discipline and split.
“The issue of political principle, despite our well-documented opposition to Stalinism remains: the ‘Morning Star1 is the daily newspaper of the Communist Party and must remain so.” (Ibid.)
Healy did not tell the members of the WRP whether this new principle—that Trotskyists must unconditionally defend Stalinist organizations against the consequences of splits within their | ranks and fight to uphold their bureaucratic discipline—should be written into the Transitional Program or introduced alongside of it as a special motion.
Concern over the fate of the Morning Star continued to mount within Healy’s office and inside the editorial board of the News Line. An editorial which appeared on the following day complained bitterly:
“The Chater-Rosser plan has never been submitted to the Communist Party for consideration and discussion. It is the brain-child of a handful of people on PPPS management committee.
“In other words, the fate of the ‘Morning Star’ is going to be decided by a tiny minority who have never bothered to consult the party leadership and membership.”
Definitely an unprecedented state of affairs inside the Communist Party! Mere than 55 years after the expulsion of Leon Trotsky from the Communist International—which represented the usurpation of political power from the Soviet working class by the Thermidorian bureaucracy—and 50 years after the complete transformation of the Stalinist parties into the political instruments of counterrevolution, Healy, himself a victim of Stalinist “inner-party democracy,” was decrying the fact that Chater was dishing out to McLennan what McLennan had been dishing out to others for years.
Healy’s next move was to order the publication of an Open Letter from the WRP Political Committee to the members of the Communist Party, which appeared in the June 24, 1983 edition of tne News Line. It began dramatically: “Your daily newspaper, the ‘Morning Star’, has been victim of a successful political coup. It is no longer under the political control of the Communist Party of Great Britain or its congress.”
This event, the letter claimed, “represents not only a repudiation of the Communist Party, but the historical foundations on which the party was formed, namely to defend the great gains of the Russian Revolution of 1917 led by Lenin and Trotsky and the establishment of the first workers’ state in history.”
It was, first of all, empty sophistry to claim that the CPGB in any way rests on the “historical foundations” of 1917. All such connections were severed through an historical process through which Stalinism was transformed into an agency of imperialism within the workers’ movement. On the basis of Healy’s logic, the Fourth International might just as well defend the KGB on me grounds that its historical foundations are the Chekaj Moreover, if it was correct to intervene in support of one faction of the British Communist Party—based simply on a sort of organizational metaphysics—then the way is clear for the Fourth International to appoint itself the guardian of the ruling Stalinist factions in Communist parties throughout the world, from the USSR to Afghanistan.
This statement was of extraordinary significance for yet another reason: it amounted to a complete acceptance of the Stalinist theory of the Communist Party. The idea that the CPGB was founded to defend the Soviet Union belongs to Stalin and Harry Pollitt, not to Lenin and Trotsky. In fact, the conception that the sections of the Comintern exist to defend the USSR was the political corollary of the theory of “socialism in a single country.” If the central task of communist parties is conceived of as the defense “of the great gains of the Russian Revolution of 1917”—and not the extension of the world socialist revolution—it follows logically that such parties must function as auxiliary instruments of the Soviet state and its foreign policy.
As Trotsky wrote, referring to Stalin’s theory: “The new doctrine proclaims that socialism can be built on the basis of a national state if only there is no intervention. From this there can and must follow (notwithstanding all pompous declarations in the draft program) a collaborationist policy towards the foreign bourgeoisie with the object of averting intervention, as this will guarantee the construction of socialism, that is to say, will solve the main historical question. The task of the parties in the Comintern assumes, therefore, an auxiliary character; their mission is to protect the USSR from intervention and not to fight for the conquest of power. It is, of course, not a question of the subjective intentions but of the objective logic of political thought.” (The Third International After Lenin, New Park, p. 47)
For Trotskyists, the defense of the Soviet Union is a tactical task subordinate to the strategy of extending the world socialist revolution.
Healy’s crude error, which was neither corrected nor challenged in the Political Committee, was bound up with a method of work in which principles were no longer discussed or even considered. Everything which the WRP did was a function of immediate tactical considerations. In this sense, Healy was water-skiing on the surface of politics—reacting to events as they came up and devising a line on the basis of a “Get-rich-quick” approach. Such a method of work is inseparable from sordid maneuvering and the worst forms of political skullduggery. Tactics which are worked out on the basis of immediate gains invariably place the party at the service of hostile class forces. Excluding for the moment the possibility that there existed any ulterior motives in the defense of the McLennan faction, the method employed by Healy proceeded from a tactical opportunism aimed at winning the ear of Communist Party members. But the political content of the line determined the types of ears the WRP would reach.
In this case, the line of the News Line was not directed toward the education of the WRP membership, the advanced workers and to those few healthy elements who may exist within the ranks of both factions within the Stalinist party. Rather, it was directed at courting favor among a section of degenerate Stalinist bureaucrats inside the trade unions of the McGahey type who, for their own right-wing reasons, backed McLennan. This type of intervention may have won Healy a few new friends, but it did nothing to develop the struggle against Stalinism within the British workers’ movement and win new forces to Trotskyism.
On the basis of its tactical opportunism, the WRP sought to rally support in the labor movement behind the CPGB bureaucracy’s “right” to publish the Morning Star just four years after it had endorsed the right of the Iraqi Ba’athists to execute members of the local Stalinist party!