Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism

The 10 Stupidities of C. Slaughter

Any conception of the uneven development (from which the law of combined development is derived) of the world economy and the class struggle was denied. Thus, the resolution, which had been dashed off by Slaughter during a few spare hours, presented the following assertions:

1. “The objective laws of capitalist decline now operate without hindrance. They have broken through.” (Ibid., p. 4)

This can only mean that all subjective factors—such as the conscious intervention of the bourgeoisie—have now been overwhelmed, and capitalist economy is plunging like a cascading waterfall into the abyss. However, as history has demonstrated and as Trotsky explained, the bourgeoisie is not a passive victim of “objective laws of capitalist decline” but intervenes within the objective process to counteract and influence the operation of these objective laws. It is only within the sphere of abstract scientific study—as in Volume One of Capital—that we can study the abstract movement, “without hindrance”, of the objective laws of capitalist decline. In Volume Three, Marx already deals with the more complex forms through which these laws are mediated in capitalist society. In society the laws of capitalist decline operate through classes, which reciprocally act upon and influence their operation. It need only be pointed out that the most essential law governing the decline of capitalism—the tendency of the rate of profit to decline—itself does not operate “without hindrance” but is subject to a whole series of countervailing factors, of both an objective and subjective character. Thus, the statement quoted above, which constitutes, so to speak, the “theoretical” foundation of the entire document, is an absurdity—which arose out of the complete repudiation by the WRP of the need for any serious work on the development of Marxist perspectives.

2. ”It is the open dominance of these objective laws of capitalist historical crisis, on a world scale, that characterizes essentially the political situation in every country.” (Ibid.)

This statement was based on the first and provided the bridge to the following political conclusion:

3. “The capitalist class finds itself—and this is historically unprecedented—confronted by a working class which despite growing mass unemployment is making mass revolutionary experiences as an undefeated class. Along with the mass revolutionary struggles of the British miners and other European workers goes the mounting resistance of the masses of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, driven on by the same insoluble crisis.” (Ibid.)

This is, indeed, historically unprecedented, because such a situation as that described in the above paragraph has never existed and never will. All the connections between different countries and their struggles were established purely through the power of the English language. In truly Olympian fashion, Professor Slaughter even decreed that unemployment was no longer a significant factor in the concrete conditions of the class struggle within each country.

4.“The reality is that the decisive revolutionary battles are already engaged.” (Ibid., p. 5)

This statement was presented as a universal truth, applicable to every country. It meant that those who take this document seriously would have to view any struggle, now matter how isolated or small, as one of the decisive battles of the revolution—that is, of immediate life and death significance. There is no essential difference, therefore, between a strike by gold miners in South Africa, mass demonstrations in Haiti, and strikes involving a small number of workers in the United States. Such a perspective could only lead those who based their political work upon it to the wildest and most fool-hardy adventures.

5. “Every single day is a movement of the revolutionary flux of developments—it is not a question of something ‘building up’ for the future. “(Ibid.)

This meant that everywhere in the world the revolutionary situation was already in its “nine month,” and the mass movement in every country had already attained its highest possible level of development.

6. “The political struggle—in which the working class and the International Committee sections are now involved—are struggles in which the question of state power is already directly posed and has to be answered. “(Ibid.)

Slaughter could write these words, and—as Trotsky once warned about middle-class academics, put them back in his briefcase, forget about them and trundle off to Bradford University the next morning. But for those in different parts of the world who read these words, their meaning had far more serious implications. While producing these words cost Slaughter nothing but an afternoon at his writing desk, it could cost genuine revolutionists their heads.

7. “The objective laws predominate and the struggle for power is on the agenda in every country, whether it be in the form of a development contained in the struggle to organize the General Strike in Britain or some other form.” (Ibid.)

This sentence established the identity of every form of struggle, not only in disregard of its level of development, but, no less important for the strategy of the ICFI, of the class forces which predominate within it. With the phrase “some other form,” a political identity was created between the struggle of different social strata. They were all endowed with the same historical weight and significance within the perspective of the International Committee. Thus, no distinction could be allowed between demonstrations of US farmers and strikes by Minnesota meatpackers; or between strikes by Indian railway workers and the occupation of the Golden Temple by the Sikhs; or the Brighton bombing by the IRA and the miners strike. All these struggles were presented as merely different “forms” of the same universal essence. Thus, the historical perspective of the ICFI was decisively shifted off its proletarian axis.

8. “The proletariat of the United States, undefeated, enters struggles of a revolutionary nature simultaneously with those of the rest of the world.” (Ibid., p. 7)

When these lines were written, the level of strike activity in the United States had fallen to its lowest level in the entire post-war period for the third consecutive year. There had not taken place a single mass demonstration of the working class since 1981. Trade union membership, beneath the impact of repeated betrayals by the AFL-CIO, had fallen to its lowest level in more than a generation. In mid-1985, a series of strikes—including the first steel strike in 25 years—began. They were largely of a defensive character, called to resist demands for wage cuts and other contract concessions. None were of a political character. Yet, the resolution placed the class struggle within the United States at the same level as that in South Africa, Brazil or Britain. If this were the case, the perspective of fighting for the formation of a Labor Party as the first step toward the establishment of the political independence of the working class would have to be thrown out—for there would be no need for the intermediate stage of development.

In fact, since 1983 the WRP had been placing pressure upon the Workers League to drop its demand for the formation of a Labor Party in the United States. The central emphasis placed by the Workers League had been attacked by Slaughter in his December 1983 letter and in February 1984, without presenting any evidence to substantiate his charge, Healy alleged that the Workers League was transforming the demand for a Labor Party into a strategical goal and thus liquidating the fight for the building of the Workers League. What Healy and Slaughter really wanted was to force the American organization to abandon its proletarian orientation and turn it toward the bankrupt middle-class radical protest movement.

9. “The revolutionary class confrontation, the struggle for power, the development of a whole series of interconnected, unevenly developed, but unified struggles for state power—is now joined, not anticipated merely.” (Ibid., p. 8)

This sentence is merely a variation on the same theme, with a bit of confusion added. For the sake of his theoretical soul, Slaughter added—a few drops of ink—the words “unevenly developed.” But once it is asserted that the unified and interconnected struggles for state power are now joined and not merely anticipated, the words “unevenly developed” can be nothing more than meaningless verbiage. At any rate, none of these statements were concretely illustrated with examples from either history or the actual living development of the class struggle. Thus, Slaughter did not explain the difference between a struggle for state power that is “joined” and one that is “merely anticipated.” He did not establish the historical point at which the anticipated struggle for state power became transformed into one that was actually joined.

Slaughter’s supra-historical abstractions, disconnected from the actual developments of the class struggle, were not merely the product of his own theoretical impoverishment. The WRP leadership needed this type of document precisely because it could not tolerate any concrete analysis of the strategical experiences of the party and the international class struggle during the previous decade.

10. “All the political tasks of the International Committee and its sections flow from this revolutionary content of the struggles in which the working class is inescapably engaged.” (Ibid., p. 9)

With these words Slaughter was attempting to cast a very wide net. While speaking of “All the tasks...,” Slaughter failed to elaborate even one—for the International Committee, for a single section...or even for a branch. Although they attempted to transform Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks into a factional platform against the International Committee, none of the anti-Marxist charlatans in the WRP leadership were capable of genuine dialectical analysis. They could not understand why Lenin quoted appreciatively this “beautiful formula” from Hegel’s Logic: “Not merely an abstract universal, but a universal which comprises in itself the wealth of the particular, the individual, the single..” (Collected Works, Vol. 38, p. 99)

It is hardly surprising that in the aftermath of their split from the International Committee, Healy and his renegade clients in the Greek WIL should invoke the authority of the 10th Congress Resolution. It was the type of document that could furnish a petty-bourgeois demagogue with enough winged phrases to last him for a year. In its style and content, the 10th Congress Resolution bore a striking resemblance to those prepared by Pablo on the basis of the 1951 Third Congress:

“The situation is prerevolutionary all over in various degrees and evolving toward the revolution in a relatively brief period.” (“The Building of the Revolutionary Party,” SWP International Information Bulletin, June 1952, p. 35)

The 10th Congress document marked the climax of the anti-internationalist rampage of the Healy-Slaughter-Banda clique. The repudiation of this reactionary exercise in petty-bourgeois radical phrase-mongering was an elementary duty of the Trotskyist faction inside the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The 10th Congress was historic in this sense: it proved that the Workers Revolutionary Party had forfeited all right to the leadership of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Seven months after the conclusion of the 10th Congress, delegates of the International Committee were urgently summoned to London for a meeting held on August 17, 1985. It was chaired by Banda and addressed by Healy, Corin Redgrave and Dot Gibson, the WRP’s treasurer. They claimed that there was a serious financial crisis caused by unexpected tax surcharges that had been levied by the government. No reference was made to the political crisis raging inside the Party—the desertion of Jennings, the allegations against Healy and the demand for a Control Commission investigation into his activities. Promising to repay all loans, the WRP collected £84,000 pounds in pledges. By now, as the crisis within the leadership approached its denouement, its relations with the ICFI had degenerated into extortion and grand larceny.