The International Committee of the Fourth International denounces the call issued by the British Workers Revolutionary Party for a conference “for the reorganization of the Fourth International.” It is a reactionary political maneuver orchestrated by a section of the WRP leadership to carry out a unification with the right-wing centrist Morenoite tendency in Argentina. Lacking the slightest principled content, the unstated and hidden purpose of this merger is to provide a political cover for the liquidation of Trotskyism into Stalinist popular frontism and in this way create the conditions for the betrayal of the working class in Europe and Latin America.
For the Workers Revolutionary Party, the unification with the most right-wing of the Pabloite tendencies—that of the late Nahuel Moreno in Argentina and his so-called Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) and its bogus international front, the International Workers League-Fourth International (its Spanish acronym being LIT-CI) will represent the culmination of the calculated anti-Trotskyist course which it has pursued under the direction of Cliff Slaughter since the split with the International Committee in February 1986.
For the last 18 months, Slaughter has exploited the disorientation and demoralization among WRP members in the wake of the political crisis which exploded inside the organization in October 1985 to orchestrate, step by step, the WRP’s repudiation of the founding principles of Trotskyism and turn it into a treacherous instrument of popular front betrayals.
The International Committee has repeatedly warned that the political trajectory of the Workers Revolutionary Party would inevitably land it in the camp of the class enemy. Moreover, we have warned that Slaughter has been working with a political perspective which he refused to discuss with the ICFI prior to the split and which he has kept concealed from the WRP membership itself. Without having ever divulged his long-term plans, he has now brought the Workers Revolutionary Party within inches of a unification with a political party whose leaders are working inside a popular front formation with the Argentine Stalinists.
From the standpoint of the history of the Workers Revolutionary Party, its dissolution into the centrist swamp of Morenoism will signify an irrevocable break with Trotskyism and the rapid transformation of this organization into an agency of imperialism.
The objective significance of such a betrayal of Marxism for the workers’ movement was explained many years ago by none other than Cliff Slaughter:
As imperialism (not “neo-capitalism”!) moves rapidly into its worst-ever economic and political crisis, it must desperately suck away these middle-class elements to some centrist political force to deal with that phase of the crisis when new masses are thrown into political struggle.
Such centrist forces cannot be sucked out of nothing as it were. Mandel is hatching out the kind of politics to fit the bill. Of course, imperialism uses the centrists in this way only as a short step on the road to the eventual fascist and dictatorial repression. (Fourth International, Summer 1972, p. 215, emphasis in the original)
At the very point when both Britain and Argentina stand on the eve of revolutionary class battles, and under conditions where Stalinism, social democracy and (in the case of Argentina) Peronism are in desperate crisis, this merger represents an attempt to create a new organizational framework for the revival of popular front politics. Such a new force on the left is a matter of extreme urgency for the British bourgeoisie, who realize that the working class, hostile to the Kinnock right-wingers and rapidly losing confidence in the increasingly hopeless electoral prospects of the Labour Party, is paying greater attention to extra-parliamentary solutions to the long drawn-out crisis of British capitalism. For this very reason, the bourgeoisie sees the need to create in advance those left “safety valves” that will be employed when necessary to contain and dissipate the revolutionary energies of the proletariat.
In Argentina, where the sharp swing of the Alfonsin government to the right has placed it in open conflict with the working class, revolutionary struggles are directly on the agenda. In such a situation, for the Workers Revolutionary Party to give political credibility to the Morenoites is not merely irresponsible—it is criminal. No organization that takes its obligations to the international working class seriously—especially the doubly oppressed proletariat of Latin America—can remain silent as preparations are made for future defeats of the Argentine masses.
The fusion of the WRP and the Morenoites represents an extreme danger to the working class of Britain and Argentina and, therefore, to the international working class as a whole. At a time when Trotskyists are presented with unparalleled opportunities to build an invincible world revolutionary organization and wrest the leadership of the working class from all the historically-discredited bureaucratic agencies of imperialism, the Workers Revolutionary Party is sealing an alliance that can only serve to give these agencies a new lease on life.
That is why the International Committee is obligated to not only expose this conspiracy, but to call upon and mobilize Trotskyists throughout the world, including those who remain inside the WRP, against it. The political spotlight must be thrown on the dirty work of the centrists. As history has shown, the betrayal of principles, such as that being carried out by the Slaughter gang, has catastrophic implications for the international working class.
Lessons from the History of the Fourth International
Almost a quarter-century has passed since the WRP’s predecessor, the Socialist Labour League, refused to participate in the bogus “reunification congress” of June 1963 organized by Joseph Hansen and Ernest Mandel. It rejected the claims made by the US Socialist Workers Party that concrete events—above all, the victory of Castro in Cuba—had both superseded and resolved the political differences which had led to the 1953 split in the Fourth International and the formation of the International Committee to spearhead the defense of Trotskyism against Pabloite revisionism.
The SLL condemned the reunification and refused to participate in it not only because it rejected the SWP’s appraisal of the evolution of the Pablo-Mandel International Secretariat, but also because the SWP insisted that reunification should take place prior to and without any political discussion of the fundamental questions of history, program, strategy and tactics that had given rise to the 1953 split.
The Fourth International, it explained, could not be reunited without understanding why it had previously split. The unity of the Trotskyist movement could not be established merely through episodic agreements on the “realities of living events.” Even such agreements mean very little unless they are built upon a common appreciation of the world-historic strategical experiences of the international proletariat since 1917.
Inasmuch as the Mandel tendency still insisted upon the essential correctness of the 1951 Third World Congress documents, which totally revised Trotsky’s conception of the epoch and repudiated his basic appreciation of the counterrevolutionary character of Stalinism, the SLL asserted that the SWP’s refusal to discuss the past amounted to ideological treason. The SLL leadership warned that such a reunification, built upon rotten foundations and in violation of the most fundamental principles established by Lenin in his lifelong struggle against opportunism, would serve only to disorient the cadre of the Fourth International and lead to political catastrophes.
It did not take long for these warnings to be confirmed: the LSSP, Sri Lankan section of the Hansen-Mandel “United Secretariat,” celebrated the first anniversary of the reunification in June 1964 by becoming the first “Trotskyist” party in the history of the Fourth International to enter a bourgeois government! This historic betrayal set into motion a tragic chain of events that led not only to the massacre of thousands of Sri Lankan peasant youth in the abortive JVP uprising—carried out by a government which included four LSSP ministers—but also to the anti-Tamil pogroms that left this oppressed minority with no choice but to take up the armed struggle for self-determination.
That was not all: despite all the claims that a “new world reality” made the reunification of Trotskyist organizations so urgent that there was no time for careful preparatory discussions and firm programmatic agreements, within just six years the “United Secretariat” was itself hopelessly split. In Argentina, where the most favorable conditions for the proletarian revolution were rapidly maturing, the forces of the “United Secretariat” were not only divided, they actually found themselves on the opposite sides of the barricades. Mandel’s faction was liquidated into a futile guerrilla war and isolated from the working class. At the same time, Hansen’s faction—led by Moreno—defended the very state that was carrying out the physical liquidation of those who were aligned with Mandel.
The final outcome of this political tragedy was the complete paralysis of the Pabloite forces in Argentina in the face of the military coup of 1976. Among the thousands who were to perish during the next six years were hundreds who had once been members of one of the two factions. But the leaders who had betrayed them fared better. Moreno escaped to Colombia. As for Mandel, he continued to eat croissants in Brussels.
What Are Slaughter’s Credentials
Completing its irrevocable break with all that was principled in its past and utterly indifferent to historical lessons that were paid for in blood, the Workers Revolutionary Party, under the cynical guidance of Cliff Slaughter, is today embarking on a “reorganization” adventure that will, sooner rather than later, implicate it in betrayals of historic magnitude.
One would imagine that the WRP, in light of its recent past, would not attempt to undertake anything so ambitious as the reorganization of the Fourth International. After all, what are its credentials for such an assignment? During the last 18 months, it has undergone a collapse of unprecedented dimensions. It has lost all credibility in the eyes of the advanced workers. A leadership which took shape over a period of four decades has completely disintegrated. Gerry Healy, the founder of the organization, is in hiding. Michael Banda, general secretary of the WRP for 13 years, has repudiated Trotskyism and sold himself to the Soviet bureaucracy. The sole survivor of this discredited troika, Cliff Slaughter, has asserted his right to lead the WRP by repudiating, without explanation, everything he has written and said over the last 30 years.
It is impossible for the Workers Revolutionary Party to understand where it is going when it remains unable to explain how it arrived at where it is today. Slaughter has perfected a mode of factional struggle quite without precedent in the history of Trotskyism. Never has he produced a single document analyzing the political differences which necessitated the various splits through which the organization has passed. Nothing so clearly exposes the unprincipled and petty bourgeois character of the WRP leadership than its inability to formulate a program of its own. In the fight against Healy, Slaughter rested upon the documents written by the Workers league; in the fight against the ICFI and the Workers league, Slaughter depended upon the documents of Banda; he then repudiated these same documents in order to expel Banda.
In place of a program, the WRP unfurled a banner which could only be taken seriously in a country so saturated with middle class hypocrisy as Britain—that of “revolutionary morality.” Just as the British bourgeoisie discovered in its “civilizing mission” a license to murder, plunder and rape, the Slaughterites concluded that their crusade for “revolutionary morality” entitled them to disregard every Bolshevik norm to conduct a factional struggle. Thus, they willfully slandered the ICFI as “anticommunist” and called police to bar its supporters inside the WRP—members of an official minority tendency that comprised nearly half the membership—from attending the WRP’s Eighth Congress in February 1986. Before long, the real class forces and political interests that were hiding beneath the banner of “revolutionary morality” showed their face. Banda and his colleague Dave Good, Slaughter’s principal allies in the fight against the International Committee, deserted openly to Stalinism.
The WRP has never troubled to ask itself how those who authored the resolutions which repudiated the authority of the International Committee—with the insidious connivance of Slaughter—went over, in a matter of weeks, to Stalinism. The fact that this development did not provoke any section of the remaining membership to reevaluate the political trajectory upon which the WRP has been launched by Slaughter is a profoundly troubling indication of the extent to which the organization has already been conditioned to blindly serve the interests of alien class forces.
There are members of the WRP who are so naive (or should we say ignorant) as to believe that they are being “wooed” by the Morenoites and various other Pabloite tendencies because their mythical struggle against Healy commands respect. The political reality is quite different. The “influence” of the WRP is derived entirely because its political formlessness and ideological vacuity has transformed it into the ideal instrument required by imperialism to effect those necessary refurbishings, rearrangements and realignments among the “left” pseudo-Trotskyist organizations upon which the ruling class depends to derail the coming proletarian revolution.
What Are the Reasons for the “Reorganization”
Under conditions of an unprecedented crisis of Stalinism and social democracy, the international bourgeoisie depends more than ever upon those renegades from Trotskyism without whom no popular front can be successfully established and sustained. This was, of course, the significance of the LSSP betrayal of 1964 and, as we shall explain, the role played by Moreno in Argentina between 1973 and 1976. Even more specifically, the universal putrefaction of all the Pabloite organizations since the 1963 reunification confronts imperialism with the danger that they will be of little use in the hour of need unless some way is found to revive their political authority.
In this project, imperialism finds a real use for the Workers Revolutionary Party. That is why the hour of the has-beens and mediocrities has struck. Bill Hunter, suddenly acclaimed as a great British Trotskyist and incomparable revolutionary orator, was swept out of his dotage in Liverpool, where he had been nursing his rheumatism, and placed at the head of thousands in Buenos Aires, alongside of Nahuel Moreno, who was devoting his final hours to the organization of yet another popular front. Hardly knowing why this honor had come to him and dazzled by the attention paid to his person after years of neglect, Hunter brought greetings and legitimized a joint demonstration alongside members of the Stalinist and Radical parties—a seemingly small but still vital contribution to the betrayal of the Argentine working class. Similarly, Phil Sandford was summoned from Australia, where he has been nervously biting his nails as the size of his tendency dwindles to the number of fingers on both hands, to referee the negotiations between Slaughter and Moreno. In Argentina, his initials on the regroupment document are cited in order to impress the Morenoite rank and file with the breadth of their “international” support.
In preparing to unite with the Morenoites, Slaughter, as is his wont, says nothing about the political history and record of this tendency. Even less of an attempt is made to justify this unification than was made by Hansen and Mandel in 1963. Then, the SWP claimed that the differences of 1953 had been episodic. It argued that the concrete experience of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 had proven that the International Secretariat had pulled back from the revisionist formulations of the Third Congress and had adopted a Trotskyist line. Even more important, according to the SWP, the International Secretariat shared its appraisal of the significance of the Cuban revolution. This was how the reunification was justified.
But the present unification resembles a marriage of amnesiacs. The past does not even exist! An agreement for the unification of the WRP and the LIT-CI has been initialed without even a reference to the out-and-out treachery of Moreno’s PST (Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores), whose role in Argentina in the crucial years leading up to the 1976 coup was no less reactionary than that of the POUM in the Spain of 1936-37 or, to put it in a more modern context, that of the LSSP in the Sri Lanka of 1963-75.
The fact that the WRP does not raise the experience of 1973-76 is of enormous political significance. Slaughter knows all about Moreno’s betrayal of the Argentine workers. The absence of any political and theoretical accounting of this bitter experience is not to be attributed to diplomacy. By his silence Slaughter condones Moreno’s defense of the capitalist state and thus prepares the ground for the adoption of the same line in Britain.
A Treacherous Document
Indeed, the complete absence of any theoretically concrete analysis of the revolutionary experiences of the international proletariat in the “reorganization” document published by the WRP proves that it has been expressly drafted to pave the way for future crimes against the working class.
The document bears further witness to the political cynicism of its author, Cliff Slaughter. He has produced what is nothing more than a cover for the betrayal of Trotskyism. Virtually every sentence is an affront to Marxism. The opus consists entirely of holiday phrases and hollow declamations. In other words, we are back in the world of the notorious Tenth Congress of the ICFI—the last held under the leadership of Healy, Banda and Slaughter. The International Committee has already subjected the contents of the Tenth Congress manifesto, written by Slaughter, to a lengthy critique. As the ICFI stated in “How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism”:
This document was a living monument to the suppression of political discussion within the IC by Healy, Banda and Slaughter. Despite the fact that the last IC congress had been held in February 1981, this document could deal with none of the major developments in the world economic and political situation of the previous four years. All the strategic experiences of the international class struggle and the ICFI went unmentioned. There was not a single political development which was concretely analyzed—even in those countries where the ICFI has sections. The section of the document dealing with the objective world situation consists of just nine small printed pages—consisting of nothing but generalities, platitudes, banalities, and gross theoretical blunders. (Fourth International, Summer 1986, p. 111)
In his call for “the Reorganization of the Fourth International,” Slaughter gives a repeat performance, deducing the proposal of the WRP from an “analysis” of the objective situation which consists entirely of a series of empty abstractions. He asserts that Trotskyists have a responsibility to resolve “the continuing crisis of the Fourth International.” He then makes no attempt to precisely define the specific character of this crisis, its historical origins, its social and material foundations and the forms of its development.
Is it a crisis that arises from the inadequacy of its program or, perhaps, from strategical miscalculations made by Trotsky himself (Deutscher)? Or, must we consider a no less troublesome proposition: that the conceptions upon which the foundation of the Fourth International was based have become invalidated in the course of the past half-century by the emergence of a theoretically-unanticipated “new world reality” (Pablo)? There is still one more possibility, which represents the real bargain-basement of petty bourgeois revisionist thought: that the crisis of the Fourth International stems from the personal inadequacies of various leaders (Moreno and Banda).
Of course, none of the principal representatives of centrism have defended only one of these propositions during the past half-century. Generally, bits and pieces of each of these conceptions overlap in the arguments of individual revisionists. For example, Banda “progressed” from the view that Trotsky “sowed dragon’s teeth and reaped fleas” to the opinion that Trotsky himself was a flea.
Slaughter speaks of resolving the “continuing crisis of the Fourth International” without explaining either the source of this alleged crisis or indicating his attitude to any of the hypotheses previously advanced by the revisionists. For example, he does not state whether he subscribes to the opinion of Moreno, asserted in the theses approved at the founding conference of the LIT-CI that the creation of the Fourth International was the grotesque fusion of a “giant’s head” (Trotsky) with “the body of a dwarf.”
Having left this central question unclarified, Slaughter goes on to declare: “The resolution of this crisis is an inescapable necessity and responsibility in the face of the decisive changes which have begun in the relationship of class forces on the world arena, changes embracing the political revolution in the degenerated and deformed workers’ states as well as the struggles of the working class and the oppressed masses against imperialism in the advanced capitalist countries and in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.” This is nothing more than a verbal Cook’s tour of world politics that explains absolutely nothing. What are the “decisive changes”? What is the new “relationship of class forces on the world arena”? Do the “changes embracing the political revolution” include or, perhaps, even derive from the glasnost policies of Mikhail Gorbachev?
These questions are not addressed. Instead, in the next paragraph the “decisive changes” are miraculously transformed by Slaughter’s ink-tipped magic wand into “great changes which have both exposed clearly the nature of the crisis in the Fourth International and created the conditions for overcoming that same crisis.” The sheer power of one adverb, “clearly,” makes it unnecessary for Slaughter to either analyze the “great changes” or the “crisis in the Fourth International” whose “nature” it has “exposed.” Even more astonishing, we are told that the sum total of these phenomena has created an even greater abstraction, which Slaughter calls “conditions,” which overcome the previously mentioned abstraction, “the crisis in the Fourth International.” Sophistry, thy name is Slaughter!
These formulations are not merely the expression of Slaughter’s theoretical charlatanry; rather, this deliberately abstract mode of expression is an objective and historically-perfected method developed by the petty bourgeoisie to disorient and mislead the working class. The overall effect of Slaughter’s document is to chloroform the working class. None of the “great changes” referred to by Slaughter are defined, let alone concretely analyzed from the standpoint of strategical experiences of the vanguard of the working class. Without summarizing, critically assimilating and making these experiences the basis of the revolutionary preparation for the winning of state power by the working class, empty talk about “great changes” will not enable the vanguard of the working class to make any headway in resolving the crisis of proletarian leadership—that is, in overcoming the contradiction between the maturity of the objective situation and the immaturity of the proletariat and its vanguard.
Slaughter’s formulations are organically related to liquidationism, for he creates the dangerous illusion that the past is of no consequence because there are objective forces at work which, if they are duly acknowledged, will solve all the problems confronting the working class and its vanguard. There was a time when Slaughter understood this very well and insisted:
No starting point for revolutionary practice in the present international political situation can be found simply from contemplation of “objective forces” at work. The lessons of the struggles within the revolutionary Marxist movement are decisive to the grasping of these opportunities in the objective situation. (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. Five, New Park Publications, p. 14)
To return to Slaughter’s document, he continues: “The WRP does not in any way consider itself to be in any ‘privileged’ position in initiating the preparation of the International Conference.” Behind the pose of disarming modesty are the political calculations of a cynic who is offering to all discredited centrists a mutual amnesty for all the betrayals they have committed in the past. No, Slaughter does not base the present initiative of the WRP on its past role in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism. Instead, he derives the WRP’s unity maneuver from something his new-found centrist allies are in a much better position to understand: political degradation. “In 1985 and 1986 the WRP experienced the practical and theoretical results of political degeneration and revisionism in the Fourth International in an extreme form.”
Here we have an especially vulgar example of the hypocritical formulas with which Slaughter’s document abounds. Since when in the history of the Marxist movement have ribbons been awarded to those who have pathetically fallen victim to their own political crimes? Generally, historical rights to leadership of the working class have been won only by those who have waged a relentless and unflagging struggle against the perpetrators of betrayals. When Lenin came forward as the leader of the movement for a new international, it was not as a degraded and demoralized victim of Kautsky. Rather, his leadership was based on the struggle that he had waged over many years within Russian Social Democracy against the very opportunism and centrism that eventually destroyed the Second International.
Slaughter’s confession means only one thing: that he was not a Marxist and that he was unable to anticipate or in any way to resist the degeneration of the organization of which he had been a leader. Moreover, his reference to the “extreme form” of the “political degeneration and revisionism in the Fourth International” is not only conveniently vague; it is a shameless distortion of historical truth when Slaughter casts the Workers Revolutionary Party as the hapless victim of the Fourth International.
More Slanders Against the International Committee
This particular formulation is necessary for the renegades to cover up their own treachery in betraying the British and international working class. The actual fact that Healy, Slaughter and Banda betrayed the International Committee—stole money from its sections, organized provocations against their leaders, destroyed valuable cadre who had been sent to Britain for training, and, in general, did everything in their power to politically derail the national sections—is now transformed into the foul lie that the Fourth International betrayed the WRP!
Resorting to the method of the “big lie,” Slaughter asserts: “In rejecting the opportunist politics of Healy, Banda and the North fragment of the old International Committee, the WRP has been compelled to recognize the necessity of a return to fundamentals, to the continuity of the struggle of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, Bolshevism, the October Revolution, the Left Opposition and the founding of the Fourth International.”
Everyone in the WRP knows full well that the only Trotskyist opposition to the betrayals of Healy, Banda and Slaughter prior to the collapse of the WRP in October 1985 was represented by David North. And it is equally well known that Healy, Banda and Slaughter worked between 1982 and 1985 to destroy the Workers League. The private correspondence between Slaughter and Healy on this subject has already been published. It is also generally known that the principal speech delivered by Cliff Slaughter to the WRP Central Committee on October 12, 1985—at which charges were brought against Healy—was, for the most part, plagiarized from documents written by North.
As if the amalgam between Healy and North was not sufficiently dishonest, the attempt to lump the IC together with Banda is so outrageous as to boggle the mind. The WRP’s split with the International Committee was based upon the pro-Stalinist political platform provided by Michael Banda. Even after the latter’s “27 Reasons” had arrived in Britain and left no doubt about the counterrevolutionary trajectory of its author, Slaughter insisted, in a private letter to Banda’s no less politically-crazed brother, “It will be criminally shortsighted to do anything but concentrate all our energies” against the International Committee. After the split, the WRP was compelled to acknowledge, in a letter written on July 21, 1986 by Simon Pirani, one of the WRP’s present leaders, that the “demagogic denunciations of the ICFI” were passed by the Eighth Congress because “the supporters of Mike Banda, who have since then split from the party, were attempting to foist their liquidationist positions on the party.” (Fourth International, March 1987, p. 29)
Will the real WRP please stand up! Last July the organization secretary of the WRP confessed that the split with the ICFI was spearheaded by a liquidationist tendency led by Banda. Now Slaughter lumps Banda together with the ICFI and proclaims that the struggle against them forced the WRP to return “to fundamentals.” What we have here, indeed, is lying at its most fundamental level!
While boasting of their struggle against the opportunism of the “North fragment of the old International Committee,” the WRP cannot point to a single document in which this “opportunism” has been analyzed. Slaughter cannot quote from a single political critique of the program and practices of any of the ICFI sections. In fact, the WRP’s Workers Press has explicitly stated that the Sri Lankan section of the ICFI, the Revolutionary Communist League, is conducting a principled struggle for Trotskyism against the right-wing class collaborationist leaders of the labor movement. Thus, to this day, the only monument which exists to record the struggle waged by the WRP against the ICFI is Michael Banda’s “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Must Be Buried Forthwith”—a document which the WRP claims to have repudiated.
While stating that the fight against the ICFI compelled the WRP to “return to fundamentals,” it is a matter of the historical record that Slaughter, while still secretary of the ICFI, opposed a resolution introduced by the International Committee on December 17, 1985 which called upon the WRP to reaffirm the principled foundations of the Trotskyist movement, which were specifically defined as “the decisions of the First Four Congresses of the Communist International (1919-1922); the Platform of the Left Opposition (1927); the Transitional Program (1938); the “Open Letter” (1953); and the documents of the struggle against the bogus SWP-Pabloite reunification (1961-63).” (Fourth International, Autumn 1986, p. 102) In light of subsequent developments, it is clear that Slaughter opposed the motion because he understood clearly that the reaffirmation of basic Trotskyist principles was totally incompatible with the agenda he was preparing for the WRP.
All the facts which demolish the lies of Slaughter are recorded in documents which have been published by the International Committee. They are available to everyone and therefore it must be presumed that the cadre of the ICFI are not the only ones who recognize the glaring contradictions, distortions and outright lies in the statements of Slaughter. And yet, outside of the ICFI, there is not a murmur of protest. Not one other tendency claiming to be Trotskyist calls Slaughter to order and demands that, regardless of his differences with the ICFI, he conduct the political discussion on a principled basis.
This is a phenomenon of no small importance. So advanced is the political degeneration of all the Pabloite tendencies that they tolerate and regularly indulge in the type of unabashed lying and falsification which previously were witnessed only in the Stalinist movement. This state of affairs can only be explained as the terrified reaction of the petty bourgeois layers represented by these centrist organizations to the tremendous deepening of class antagonisms and the growing rebellion of the proletariat against the counterrevolutionary bureaucratic leaderships of the labor movement.
The utterly uncritical attitude of the Pabloite tendencies to the WRP, and, especially, to its ideological leader, Cliff Slaughter, is a self-indictment of their own lack of principles. Far from seeking to resolve the crisis of revolutionary leadership, the centrists of all stripes are filled with hatred against precisely those who demand an honest political and theoretical accounting of the history of the Fourth International.
In reality, the centrists’ “hatred” of Healy was not directed against his opportunist betrayals of the 1970s and 1980s, but against the role he had played in the 1950s and 1960s in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism. That is why the centrists are either indifferent or openly hostile to the political struggle waged by the International Committee against the programmatic betrayals of the WRP, and, in fact, eagerly welcome the opportunity to unite with Slaughter, although he continues to pursue what is essentially the same political line that the WRP followed under Healy during the past decade.
Opportunists and the “Isolation” of Trotskyism
After blaming the Fourth International for the crisis inside the WRP, Slaughter offers his solution to what he calls “the historical crisis of working class revolutionary leadership of the Fourth International.” He declares, “The challenge is to overcome the isolation of the Trotskyist movement from the working class, as the working class now comes directly into conflict with the capitalist state, and with the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR and the deformed workers’ states.”
Here we have, repeated word for word, the old and favorite argument of all the Pabloites—from Michel Raptis to Ernest Mandel and finally to Gerry Healy. At one time or another, they all have told us that the problem of the Trotskyist movement is to overcome its “isolation.” Invariably, the solution they propose is for the Trotskyists to abandon their “dogmatism” and get closer to the “mass movement.” By this they mean that the Trotskyists should adapt themselves to those forces in either the labor bureaucracies or among the bourgeois nationalists who temporarily dominate the spontaneous movement. It has never occurred to those who offer this advice to critically examine the results of their many efforts since 1951 to overcome “isolation” through the medium of opportunism.
For Marxists, the central problem which confronts the revolutionary vanguard is not isolation as a thing-in-itself; rather, it is the historical question of the persistence of opportunism, resting on definite social forces, within the international workers’ movement. The Marxists strive to overcome their isolation, which is usually the product of objective historical conditions, through the persistent and unrelenting struggle against this opportunism—above all, as it expresses itself within their own ranks.
Those who claim that the crisis of the Fourth International stems from isolation invariably represent petty bourgeois tendencies who are succumbing to the pressure of imperialism on the revolutionary vanguard and are justifying their desertion to the camp of opportunism. Empty references to isolation, as if it were some sort of infectious disease, contribute nothing to an understanding of the historical problems of the Fourth International. The “isolation” of revolutionaries is, in itself, nothing more nor less than an external reflection of the extremely complex and contradictory historical process through which genuine class consciousness develops in the proletariat. To put it somewhat differently, isolation is not a thing-in-itself, but a manifestation of the relation of forces between opportunist and revolutionary tendencies within the labor movement at any given moment.
It is not isolation that has led to the ruin of Trotskyist organizations. Rather, it has been the impatience of petty bourgeois elements within the Fourth International who, seeking to leap over the contradictions in the development of the working class, have sought ephemeral popularity by watering down their principles to accommodate the naive confidence of the masses in the latest false messiah. Paradoxically, their own political capitulation to the “popular” agents of imperialism in the end serves only to intensify the isolation of those revolutionary elements in the Fourth International who have remained true to their principles. In its frantic efforts to overcome isolation, each new detachment of opportunist deserters succeeds only in becoming the worst isolators of the revolutionary movement.
We challenge Slaughter: name those revolutionaries who built great movements without enduring protracted and painful periods of isolation. With the library of Bradford University at your disposal, cite those writings of the great masters of Marxism in which they single out isolation as the root of their problems! You will find none.
At a time when he was perhaps the most “isolated” man in the European workers’ movement, Lenin had this to say to the Slaughters of his era:
And precisely because Karl Liebknecht and Otto Ruhle in Germany were not afraid of a split, openly declaring that a split was necessary, and did not hesitate to carry it out—their activity is of vast importance for the proletariat, despite their numerical weakness. Liebknecht and Ruhle are only two against 108. But these two represent millions, the exploited mass, the overwhelming majority of the population, the future of mankind, the revolution that is mounting and maturing in every passing day. The 108 represent on the other hand the servile spirit of a handful of bourgeois flunkeys within the proletariat.
The genuine revolutionary internationalists are numerically weak! Take France in 1780, Russia in 1900. The politically conscious and determined revolutionaries, who in France represented the bourgeoisie—the revolutionary class of that era—and in Russia today’s revolutionary class, the proletariat, were extremely weak numerically. They were only a few comprising at the most 1/10,000 or even 1/100,000 of their class. Several years later, however, these few, this alleged minority, led the masses, millions and tens of millions of people. Why? Because this minority really represented the interests of the masses, because it believed in the coming revolution, because it was prepared to serve it with supreme devotion. Numerical weakness? But since when have revolutionaries made their policies dependent on whether they are in a majority or minority? (Lenin, “Open Letter to Boris Souvarine,” Collected Works, Vol. 23, Progress Publishers, pp. 199-200)
Among those who had sufficient reason to ponder the problem of isolation was Leon Trotsky, and what he had to say on this subject is diametrically opposed to Slaughter’s position. To his own shame (if he is still capable of feeling shame), Slaughter finds himself not in the company of Trotsky, but in that of the incurable centrist Marceau Pivert, against whom Trotsky wrote:
When Marceau Pivert speaks of our “sectarianism” (we do not deny the presence of sectarian tendencies in our ranks and we fight against them) and of our isolation from the masses, he demonstrates again his own incomprehension of the present epoch and of his own role in it. Yes, we are still isolated from the masses. By whom or by what? By the organizations of reformism, of Stalinism, of patriotism, of pacifism and by the intermediate centrist groupings of all kinds in which are expressed—sometimes in an extremely indirect and complex form—the self-defense reflex of expiring capitalism. Marceau Pivert, while preventing a certain group of workers from pushing their ideas to the very end and while thus isolating these workers from Marxism, reproaches us for being isolated from the masses. One of these isolators is centrism; an active element in this isolator is Pivert. Our tasks consist precisely in removing these “isolators”; to convince some and win them to the cause of the revolution; to unmask and annihilate the others. [Slaughter, prenez garde!] Pivert simply takes fright at the fact of the isolation of the revolutionists in order to remain close to the pacifists, the confusionists and the Free-masons, to put off to an indefinite future the serious questions, to invoke the incorrect “rhythm” and the bad “tone”—in a word, to stand in the way of the conjunction of the labor movement and revolutionary Marxism. (Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), Merit, p. 127)
We have just one more quotation, written in June 1967, to cite on the question of isolation:
Now the radicalization of the workers in Western Europe is proceeding rapidly, particularly in France. The election results there, the threat of a return to the political instability of the ruling class in the Fourth Republic, the mounting strike struggles, the taking of emergency powers—all these place a premium on revolutionary preparation. There is always a danger at such a stage of development that a revolutionary party responds to the situation in the working class not in a revolutionary way, but by adaptation to the level of struggle to which the workers are restricted by their own experience under the old leaderships, i.e., to the inevitable initial confusion. Such revisions of the fight for the independent Party and the Transitional Program are usually dressed up in the disguise of getting closer to the working class, unity with all those in struggle, not posing ultimatums, abandoning dogmatism, etc. (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. Five, New Park, pp. 113-14)
Do you remember those words, Comrade Slaughter? How well you wrote 20 years ago, when you were a Marxist and not a cynical and scheming opportunist, prattling like a frightened old lady about “isolation”! In all honesty, you cut a far more dignified figure then than you do today.
Some New Legends from Old Opportunists
Slaughter will perhaps protest that the ICFI is distorting his position, and that his anxiety over isolation is not at all connected to any retreat from the struggle for revolutionary principles. Then let him explain the meaning of the following passage:
It is because the working class is, in these struggles, at the first stage of a new rise in the world revolution, that the WRP crisis must now take its place as part of the struggle to overcome the long-drawn-out crisis of the Fourth International. The working class, characterized by revisionists and centrists as being quiescent or in retreat, is in fact out in the front of the conscious struggle to rebuild the Fourth International. This poses urgently to all Trotskyists the historic responsibility of overcoming the crisis of the Fourth International. (Emphasis added)
If the working class is “in the front of the conscious struggle to rebuild the Fourth International,” then what need is there at all for the relative handful of Trotskyists who are still engaged in the laborious work of fighting to penetrate the existing mass organizations of the proletariat? This formulation irrefutably proves that the perspective of the WRP’s call for the reorganization of the Fourth International is to proceed with the total liquidation of Trotskyism into the camp of opportunism.
Though this quotation stands on its own as the extreme expression of Slaughter’s theoretical betrayal, it is worthwhile to examine it within the context of the document as a whole.
Great emphasis is now being placed on the role of the British miners’ strike in precipitating the crisis of the WRP. Like successful British sausage manufacturers and other middle class parvenues who feel the need to acquire a more distinguished pedigree in line with their higher social station, and thus bribe geneologists to trace the family lineage back to William the Conqueror, the Clapham electronic office buggers, check-forgers and book-fiddlers who spearheaded the “conspiracy of five” against Healy are now attempting to present themselves as a secret and hitherto unknown detachment of the flying pickets of the National Union of Mineworkers.
Thus, the miners’ strike is presented as the crucial event which not only led to the split in the WRP, but also forced its break with the ICFI, as well as its present reorganization strategy.
What became clear in a year of internal struggle on these principled questions was that the shell containing the internal corrosion and corruption of the WRP and the International Committee had been shattered totally by the demands of the miners’ strike of 1984-85, the demands of the working class for revolutionary leadership as a new phase of the world revolution found its expression in Britain.
This is an indispensable lesson. The miners, in their unprecedented year-long strike, confronted directly the capitalist state. They were forced to return to work by the betrayals of the reformist bureaucracy and the Stalinists. Trade unionism had clearly reached its utmost limits. Revolutionary tasks were posed. Those who characterize the miners’ strike as a defeat for the working class, one of many such defeats, are wrong. The WRP was forced, in the struggle against Healy, Banda and North, to recognize that this upsurge of the working class in a situation with no way out except proletarian revolution and the successful struggle for revolutionary leadership, was the root of the WRP crisis; and only by a revolutionary turn to these class forces, international forces, could our theory and practice be developed to overcome the crisis exposed by the struggle of the working class.
Slaughter’s preoccupation with the miners’ strike is somewhat belated, given the fact, as is well known throughout the WRP, that the Bradford University don never took the trouble to inspect a single picket line during the entire year-long struggle. At any rate, it is impossible to imagine a more open capitulation to the spontaneity of the working-class movement. What Slaughter has written amounts to nothing less than a complete renunciation of the struggle for Trotskyism.
It is, of course, true that the miners’ strike in Britain did expose the political bankruptcy of the entire WRP leadership. But it is equally true that not one of those leaders whose bankruptcy was exposed has, as a consequence of the miners’ strike, returned to the road of revolutionary struggle. In fact, the WRP still refuses to acknowledge the central role which it played in the betrayal of the miners’ strike and to this day defends the same line which Healy advanced throughout that struggle. Far from drawing the real lessons which must be learned from the miners’ strike, the WRP renegades seek only to exploit the heroism of the miners in order to justify their own opportunist adaptation to the treacherous leadership of the NUM.
The WRP Still Adapts to Scargill
The rottenness of the WRP’s analysis of the miners’ strike finds its consummate expression in Slaughter’s internally contradictory assertion that while the miners “were forced to return to work by the betrayals of the reformist bureaucracy and the Stalinists,” it is wrong to “characterize the miners’ strike as a defeat for the working class, one of many such defeats....”
Allow us to note that it was Healy himself who insisted that neither the miners’ strike nor any of the other struggles betrayed by the TUC bureaucracy (e.g., the steelworkers’ strike of 1980, the NGA strike of 1983-84) could be characterized as defeats. The refusal to tell the truth about the consequences of the bureaucracy’s betrayals, decorating reality with glib references to the “undefeated nature of the working class,” was the most characteristic form of Healy’s opportunism. In the case of the miners’ strike (as in the printers and steelworkers’ strikes), Healy’s denial that a defeat had been inflicted upon the union was directly related to his adaptation to the Scargill leadership of the NUM.
Former NUM President Arthur Scargill
Despite all the organizational bloodletting and anti-Healy hysteria, absolutely nothing has changed in the policy of the WRP in relation to the “lefts” in the trade union bureaucracy. The claim that the miners were not defeated is Scargill’s line and it has been adopted by the WRP in order to adapt to his wing of the TUC.
The WRP attributes the miners’ return to work to “the betrayals of the reformist bureaucracy and the Stalinists” but does not include Scargill among them. The March 7, 1987 issue of Workers Press carries a front-page headline that reads: “Scargill Defends National Union,” and the text of the lead counterposes his policy to that of Mick McGahey, the best-known Stalinist official in the NUM. Just two weeks earlier, in the February 21, 1987 issue of Workers Press, the lead article praised Scargill as the “notable exception” to the failure of the trade union leadership to fight the Tory government.
In this way, Slaughter continues to advocate the same line he championed with Healy during 1984-85, and thus conceals the central lesson that must be drawn by Trotskyists for the whole working class from the miners’ strike: that the trade union “lefts” like Scargill represent at the present time the greatest danger to the British proletariat in its revolutionary struggle against the capitalist state.
To simply concentrate one’s fire on the well-known and well-hated right-wing “ogres” of the TUC, like Norman Willis, is an evasion of revolutionary responsibilities. Since it is known to everyone from the outset that these unconcealed reactionaries will do nothing but betray, to suggest that their actions will determine the outcome of crucial struggles serves only to discourage the working class.
In fact, in the miners’ strike of 1984-85, as in the General Strike of 1926, the really crucial question concerned the role of the “lefts” and the attitude of the revolutionary vanguard to them. Everything depends on the struggle waged by the revolutionary elements, no matter how few they are, to break the working class from the tutelage of the “lefts”—that is, from the modern versions of Purcell, Hicks and Cook. The failure of the WRP to conduct an unrelenting campaign against Scargill’s policies—above all, against his refusal to demand that the TUC and Labour Party join the miners to bring down the Tory government—left the miners’ trapped in the left-treacherous syndicalism of the NUM leadership.
The fact that the WRP still adheres to Healy’s policies exposes as a shameless fraud its present claims that the miners’ strike has compelled the party to recognize “the demands of the working class for revolutionary leadership....” This phrase means nothing if its content is not the explicit and pitiless struggle to destroy every residue of reformist, centrist and left-centrist influence in the working class.
This the WRP refuses to do. In the aftermath of the miners’ strike, Healy prostrated himself before Scargill and pledged that all the resources of the WRP “are at the disposal of the NUM and yourself as its President.” (Letter of Healy to Scargill, April 29, 1985, reprinted in Fourth International, Summer 1986, p. 108) Significantly, the WRP has never commented on this unprecedented letter, but judging from the recent issues of Workers Press, it appears that Slaughter is making good on Healy’s promise.
There is yet another aspect of the WRP’s refusal to acknowledge that the miners were defeated—an attitude which reeks of middle class indifference to the real historical problems which confront the British working class. For years, Healy, Banda and Slaughter sought to create a new and opportunist axis for the work of the WRP and the International Committee by substituting the “undefeated nature of the working class” for the “crisis of revolutionary leadership” as the key strategic conception of the Fourth International.
Rather than concentrating on resolving the crisis of leadership, the sections were pressured to develop practices which would enable them to latch onto the spontaneous struggles through which the “undefeated nature of the working class” was finding expression—rather than focusing on the struggle for revolutionary policies and the winning of the advanced workers to Trotskyism.
Within the WRP, the uncritical glorification of each and every spontaneous struggle as the expression of the proletariat’s essential “undefeated nature” cultivated a complacent attitude toward the historic tasks of the Fourth International. If the essence of the proletariat is, indeed, its “undefeated nature,” then the danger of catastrophic defeats arising from the betrayals of its existing leadership is hardly so great.
Thus, the WRP no longer saw as its task the uncompromising struggle against the “lefts.” Instead, these treacherous leaders were judged to be a legitimate part of the spontaneous movement, giving at least partial expression to the “undefeated nature” of the working class. In this way, rationalizations were found to justify the WRP’s adaptation to Sirs, Dubbins, Knight, Livingstone and Scargill.
The unrestrained exercise of “tactical” opportunism encouraged by this middle-class outlook destroyed all that was left in the WRP of a principled Marxist approach to the revolutionary tasks of the working class. Insofar as the sections of the ICFI resisted the required “innovations,” they were denounced by Healy, Banda and Slaughter as “sectarians” and “propagandists.”
The International Committee and the Miners Strike
This brings us to another of Slaughter’s outrageous falsifications: that not only the WRP but the International Committee as well “had been shattered totally by the demands of the miners’ strike of 1984-85....”
First of all, Slaughter fails to explain how the miners’ strike in Britain—rather than another political event—became the “acid test” of the historical viability of the International Committee, as the outbreak of the imperialist war in 1914 and Hitler’s ascension to power in Germany in 1933 determined the fate of the Second and Third Internationals respectively. He makes no attempt to demonstrate that the miners’ strike was the last crucial link in a chain of international events which decisively exposed the bankruptcy of the ICFI and the futility of all attempts to reform it.
Certainly, Slaughter cannot point to any documents published prior to, during or even after the miners’ strike, written by himself or anyone else in the WRP, entitled either “The Miners’ Strike: the Key to the International Situation” or “The NUM and the ICFI: The Last Warning.” As would be obligatory for a Marxist, Slaughter makes no effort to demonstrate how the ICFI’s “collapse” in the face of the miners’ strike was the inexorable outcome of the growth of opportunist tendencies in all the major sections, rooted in powerful material forces, which led their leaderships, in the decisive hour, as the lights were going out all over Britain, to cast their lot with the Labour Party and TUC bureaucracy. Nor does Slaughter even suggest that similar capitulations were being made by the sections of the ICFI to the right-wing labor bureaucracies in their own countries.
What lends to Slaughter’s allegations an element of farce is that his implacable condemnation of the International Committee appears in the midst of his assertion that the miners’ strike was not defeated! In other words, the strike proved only the bankruptcy of the International Committee—but not of Arthur Scargill. No wonder Slaughter claims that the miners—by which he means the NUM bureaucracy—“is in fact out in front of the conscious struggle to rebuild the Fourth International.”
Thus, the real content of Slaughter’s use of the NUM strike as the decisive test of the ICFI is simply this: the need of the WRP to place itself at the service of the new bureaucratic “vanguard” led by Scargill requires that it sever its international connections with the Trotskyists of the International Committee and enter into alliances with case-hardened centrists, like the Morenoites, with a long and proven record of capitulation to trade union bureaucracies.
While Slaughter insists that the NUM strike was the crucial historical test of the ICFI and uses it, ex post facto, to justify the WRP’s split from it, he does not tell us how the Morenoites contributed to the struggle of the miners and succeeded where the ICFI had failed.
We confess that the ICFI does not know precisely how the Morenoites acquitted themselves during the miners’ strike. We must await further clarification from Slaughter on this question. However, we are prepared to defend the record of the International Committee in relation to the miners’ strike. Like so many other aspects of the work of the ICFI and its sections, we have no doubt that it remains totally unknown—thanks to Healy, Banda and Slaughter—to the membership of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
There are two central criteria for evaluating the work of the ICFI in relation to the miners’ strike, practical and political. Let us first deal with the former. The practical work of the ICFI sections was necessarily concentrated upon mobilizing international working-class solidarity behind the miners.
In the case of the Workers League, it carried out a relentless year-long campaign to build support and raise funds for the striking miners. Collections were systematically organized at factory gates, in front of mines and on the docks. Tens of thousands of leaflets were circulated among American workers explaining the issues involved in the miners’ strike and appealing for support. The Bulletin, twice-weekly organ of the Workers League, carried extensive reports on the strike.
The highpoint of the Workers League’s fight for the miners was its organization of a national fund-raising tour, in July 1984, by a local leader of the NUM, John Moyle. Working under conditions which are very different from those normally encountered by WRP members in Britain—fighting the rabid anticommunism of the trade union bureaucracy and the vitriolic opposition of the AFL-CIO leadership to Arthur Scargill (on account of the NUM’s participation in a Soviet-led trade union federation)—the Workers League was able to arrange highly successful meetings between Moyle and many union officials.
Among these was a meeting between Moyle and the International Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of America—which resulted in a donation of $25,000 to the NUM and the organization of a solidarity visit of UMWA officers to the miners’ picket lines.
The Workers League’s campaign for the miners led directly to bitter clashes with the trade union bureaucracy in the United States. After the Workers League organized a meeting between Moyle and the top leadership of the United Auto Workers at Solidarity House in Detroit, union President Owen Bieber, at the request of the AFL-CIO, reneged on his pledge to equal the UMWA’s financial contribution to the miners’ strike. In response to this betrayal, the Workers League launched a six-month-long campaign throughout the labor movement demanding that the UAW be forced to honor its pledge to the British miners. The UAW bureaucracy was shaken by this campaign, which discredited it in the eyes of thousands of union members.
It should be pointed out that the Workers League’s political differences with Scargill and with Brother Moyle in no way hindered the development of its solidarity work. Throughout his tour of the United States, Brother Moyle and the Workers League discussed many issues related to the strike and held different positions. But in the fight to mobilize the American workers and overcome the sabotage of the right-wing bureaucracy, we formed an entirely principled bloc. And, we trust, John Moyle would be the first to testify that the Trotskyist principles of the Workers League in no way served to isolate the British miners from the American working class.
In Australia, a no less important campaign was waged by the Socialist Labour League. Its members raised thousands of dollars for the miners as a result of a special party campaign and raised additional large sum of money through its work in the trade unions. For example, it was on the motion of an SLL member who was a delegate to the Technical Teachers Union of Victoria that a contribution of $20,000 was voted upon.
The German section of the ICFI, the BSA, was the first political force in the country to expose and conduct a struggle against the export of scab coal to Britain. Under conditions in which the reactionary bureaucracy of the German coal miners union was ordering its members to work overtime to produce coal for Thatcher, the BSA campaigned among miners throughout the Ruhr and in the Saarland, collecting signatures demanding that the scabbing be stopped.
The Workers Revolutionary Party never took any comparable interest in the workers’ struggles in those countries where the ICFI had sections. During the same period, a series of desperate struggles were being waged by American workers against the union-busting policies of the Reagan administration. In spite of its small numbers, the Workers League played a leading role in a number of these strikes, most notably that of the Phelps Dodge copper miners and the PATCO air traffic controllers. Absolutely no solidarity work was undertaken by the WRP to support these struggles. The WRP’s interest did not extend beyond asking the Workers League to provide a PATCO speaker to impress delegates brought to one of the Workers Revolutionary Party’s ATUA conferences. Of course, the air fare was paid by the Workers League!
Far from supporting the struggles in which ICFI sections were involved, the WRP would not hesitate to intervene on the side of their political enemies. In 1984, in the midst of the Workers League’s first presidential campaign, the petty-bourgeois lackey of American imperialism, Jesse Jackson, was accorded a hero’s welcome in Lambeth by the WRP’s political ally, Ted Knight. Rather than using its influence in Lambeth to educate workers about the reactionary role of Jackson in order to discredit this media event (which was used by Jackson in the United States to bolster his own presidential campaign) and turn it into a fiasco for this Democratic Party charlatan, the WRP publicized it in the News Line. No invitation was extended by Knight to the presidential candidate of the Workers League, the transit worker Ed Winn.
In light of the ICFI’s record in the miners’ strike, how does the Workers Revolutionary Party propose to justify its break from the Workers League and the International Committee in front of the British working class? The fact of the matter is that the WRP’s unprincipled split from the International Committee threatened to sever vital links between the British proletariat and the advanced workers in those countries where the ICFI has sections and supporters. Only the struggle waged by the expelled supporters of the ICFI inside the WRP—who went on to form the International Communist Party—has preserved those crucial bonds.
The Terrible Price of Anti-internationalism
As important as the solidarity campaigns were as a measure of the ICFI’s defense of proletarian internationalism, there is still the question of its political attitude. The most important contribution that an international party can make to a national section is to give it political assistance and help it develop a correct revolutionary line in relation to the tasks of the class struggle as it is developing in the given country. Did the International Committee in any way attempt to fulfill its political responsibilities to the Workers Revolutionary Party in relation to the upsurge of the class struggle in Britain?
There is no question but that the answer is yes! In the months leading up to the miners’ strike, the Workers League sought to convince the leadership of the WRP to abandon its opportunist adaptation to the trade union bureaucracy and to fight for an independent revolutionary policy.
Exactly one month before the beginning of the miners’ strike, on February 11, 1984, David North presented, among many other points, a detailed analysis of the WRP’s wrong policies in relation to both the Labour Party and TUC leadership. We quote only a few passages from North’s report to the International Committee:
Our concerns about the relations with Livingstone and Knight and the GLC are heightened by the recent role played by the WRP in the NGA strike. We cannot agree with the way in which the WRP tail-ended the NGA leadership, covered up for them, put forward no independent demands, and, in the end, was compromised by their payment of the fine and their calling off of the Warrington demonstration....
The political line of the WRP raises many questions. How do we now foresee the development of the social revolution? Should any political demands be placed upon the Labour Party and its trade unions? In relation to the latter, we waited as long as possible before calling for a General Strike. We did not demand new elections and a return to power of Labour. Our slogan of a Workers’ Revolutionary Government, under conditions in which we have not captured the leadership of any significant section of the working class, is very abstract. It appears very “left” but it is coupled with uncritical relations with right-wing ‘politically-moderate’ trade union bureaucrats. We place no demands upon the Labour Party—as if the task of exposing them has already been carried out. (Fourth International, Autumn 1986, pp. 45-46)
Slaughter was present when this report was made and he emphatically rejected it, joining Banda in threatening an immediate split with the Workers League unless North withdrew his report. There is no question that Slaughter’s role at the February 1984 meeting of the ICFI had catastrophic consequences for the miners’ strike and the fate of the WRP itself. Had the WRP leadership paid heed to the criticisms of its international comrades, it might have been able to play a far different role in the historic miners’ strike—and, in tum, the revival of the struggle for Trotskyist principles would no doubt have played a decisive role in helping the WRP to overcome its grave problems. The denouement of October 1985 might have been avoided.
As a review of this crucial political event in the history of the ICFI has established, the WRP was not a victim of the Fourth International, nor was it drifting unknowingly to a catastrophe. Concrete criticisms were made of its Pabloite degeneration and these were consciously rejected as the WRP leadership, with Slaughter in the lead, oriented the British organization deliberately to the trade union bureaucracy.
It is not only factional considerations that motivate Slaughter’s refusal to acknowledge the role played by the International Committee in its struggle against the opportunism of the WRP. Above all, Slaughter rejects and opposes that criticism to this day. He organized the split from the International Committee not in order to turn away from a bankrupt world party that had been shattered by the miners’ strike, but in order to isolate the WRP from international Trotskyist criticism as Slaughter implemented his hidden agenda.
Slaughter’s “10 Principles”: A Case Study in Opportunism
Every year, the representatives of the seven leading imperialist powers meet to ponder the intractable political and economic contradictions of the capitalist order. Against the backdrop of a French chateau, a British castle, a Venetian palace or even a quaint colonial setting in the United States, the imperialists spend an extended weekend haggling desperately among themselves in private. Recriminations, accusations and threats are flung across the diplomatic table like pieces of raw meat. For hours on end the proceedings teeter precariously on the brink of collapse. Only the terrible fear of what lies beyond the edge of the abyss and the self-conscious awareness that the shadow of the international proletariat hangs over the conference forces the capitalist leaders to a bitter eleventh-hour reconciliation.
Invariably, the meeting concludes with the issuing of a “joint economic communique” in which the “agreements” arrived at by the imperialists are pompously enumerated. All parties to the communique are agreed upon the need to lower unemployment levels while rigorously combating the evils of inflation. It is universally accepted that order must be restored to the international monetary system and that the United States should seek to prevent too sharp a fall in the value of the dollar. While all parties to the agreement will continue to defend the principle of free trade, Japan and Germany will consider means of correcting trade imbalances. The United States will seek to reduce its payments deficits while resisting domestic pressures for trade warfare. All parties agree that a concerted effort must be made to bring international debt under control without undermining efforts to raise living standards throughout the world. Finally, the undersigned pledge to work for world peace and universal disarmament while strenuously combating Soviet expansionism and international terrorism.
Every phrase in these annual communiques is worked out in advance to take into account and accommodate the uncontrolled drive of each imperialist power for hegemony. It is accepted that the enumerated principles are not legally binding, are unenforceable, and that nothing in any of the clauses shall be construed to infringe on the national sovereignty of the participants. All of them are free to interpret the agreement according to the interests of the national bourgeoisie they represent.
In much the same spirit, the WRP has drafted no less than 10 principles that, supposedly, are to guide the process of reorganizing the Fourth International. Every paragraph is cynically woven with the threads of ambiguity, evasion and equivocation. The “principles” are set in such general terms that they commit no one to anything. Thus, the purpose of the document is not to lay down the foundation of revolutionary practice; but rather to provide a semblance of political orthodoxy to conceal the skullduggery of its author.
Point number one is typical, proclaiming agreement with: “The resolutions and theses of the first four Congresses of the Third (Communist) International in all its essential strategic principles, in relation to: imperialism, the bourgeois state, democracy and reformism; problems of the taking of power and the dictatorship of the proletariat; the leading role of the proletariat in relation to the peasantry and the struggles of the oppressed masses; soviets, work in trade unions; parliamentarism; united front policy.”
This would seem to be an iron-clad guarantee of political orthodoxy, as long as no one inquires as to how the principles live in the policies and practices pursued by the signatories. In principle, the Morenoites are ferocious defenders of the proletarian dictatorship. In practice, they have found it necessary on occasion—excuse us, only in the face of a national emergency—to defend the capitalist state in Argentina. Similarly, Slaughter and the WRP are in absolute agreement with the Comintern theses on work in the trade unions, though they are careful not to allow their bedtime reading of Lenin to interfere with their adaptation to the TUC “lefts.”
In fact, the entire document is an exercise in political charlatanry, consisting of nothing but “fine print.” The abstract assertion of “historical principles,” unrelated to the analysis of the strategical experiences of the proletariat—especially in those countries where Trotskyist forces are present—is nothing more, as Trotsky once wrote, than a “diplomatic office job.” During the past quarter-century, the proletariat has lived through colossal historic events. No era is as rich as ours in revolutionary experience on such a broad international scale. And yet virtually none of these are referred to.
Agreement on general principles is too slender a basis for the formation of a programmatically-unified world party. It is not enough to claim agreement with the theory of permanent revolution in the abstract, or on the counterrevolutionary nature of Stalinism in general. Real agreement arises on the basis of a common assessment of the crucial historical experiences of the international working class, bearing in mind, of course, that world history did not end in the 1930s. That Stalinism betrayed in China in 1927, in Germany in 1933 and in Spain in 1937 is fundamental. But it is no less vital to educate the Trotskyist cadre of today on the basis of the role of Stalinism throughout the whole postwar period.
It is not enough to recognize the hegemony of the proletariat in the Russia of 1917. The significance of the theory of permanent revolution must be historically concretized with the lessons derived from the more recent revolutionary upheavals in Indochina, the Middle East, South Africa and, last but not least, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Slaughter has no problem declaring agreement with “The theory of permanent revolution, with the hegemony of the proletariat as its essential content.” However, in deference to his new Morenoite friends, he employs the most ambiguous formulations, such as the permanent revolution “means that the democratic revolution ‘grows over’ into the socialist revolution under proletarian leadership.” This formulation is entirely compatible not only with the Stalinist “two-stage” theory, but also with the practice of the Morenoites in Latin America. It is left conveniently unclear as to whether the democratic revolution itself is carried out under the leadership of the proletariat, or whether the democratic revolution, under the leadership of the bourgeois nationalists, “grows over” into a socialist revolution led by the proletariat.
That is not all: for all the oaths sworn to the permanent revolution, the leading role of the proletariat and even the dictatorship of the proletariat, the document informs the reader, between parentheses, that the WRP’s position on Cuba is “to be urgently reviewed.” In other words, bowing to the Morenoites, the WRP upholds the hegemony of the proletariat and even “the leadership of the proletariat by Bolshevik-type parties” except in those exceptional cases when the historical tasks of the working class can be carried through by petty bourgeois nationalist forces!
The document speaks of “states which have won their independence from imperialism”—a craven capitulation to the bourgeois nationalist leaderships of the backward countries which the WRP claims to oppose, but to which the Morenoites have adapted for decades. There is not a single backward country which, regardless of formal independence, has been able to tear itself from the grip of imperialism through the efforts of the national bourgeoisie.
Why ls There No Reference to Centrism
Perhaps the most deceitful element of this document is its silence on the most crucial political questions arising from the crisis of proletarian leadership. Slaughter writes, “Social-democracy has only retained any force in the working class movement because of the destruction of the Communist International by Stalinism.” By 1948 it would have been necessary, in the light of the role played by the POUM in Spain, the PSOP in France and the ILP in Britain, to make certain amendments. But by 1987, the statement is nothing but a lie. This assertion is the equivalent of an unconditional pardon for the crimes committed by centrism, whose main contingent consists of the various tendencies associated with Pabloite revisionism.
Social democracy survives by virtue of the betrayals of Stalinism. True enough. But how is one to account for the survival of Stalinism, and, through Stalinism, of the entire bourgeois order? This question is answered only through a historical accounting of the role played by centrism in the course of the whole postwar period. But it is no accident that the word “centrism” is not to be found in the entire document. As Trotsky noted as early as 1934, “A centrist readily proclaims his hostility to reformism, but he does not mention centrism. Moreover, he considers the very definition of centrism as ‘unclear,’ ‘arbitrary,’ etc.; in other words, centrism does not like to be called by its name.” (Writings of Leon Trotsky (1933-34), Pathfinder Press, p. 233)
The WRP has no interest in exploring the vexed question of centrism, inasmuch as such an analysis would require a good deal of political soul-searching. To attribute the survival of social democracy in Britain to the treachery of the Stalinists is altogether too trite. While still looking to Stalinism as a crucial bulwark against socialist revolution, the British ruling class and its servants in the Labour Party have long ago recognized that the Communist Party does not possess anything approaching the political authority which it had among revolutionary-minded workers, youth and important sections of the intelligentsia during the 1930s. In no other European country has Trotskyism made such advances in overcoming the authority of Stalinism. This achievement, of course, is the greatest legacy of the struggles with which the old SLL and the WRP were identified.
For this very reason, the cultivation of centrist tendencies, above all inside the Workers Revolutionary Party, became a matter of strategic importance to world imperialism. Within this context, the crisis of the WRP is a matter of world historic significance. The crude sectarian errors committed by the WRP in the aftermath of the 1974 election victory of the Labourites, which were by 1979 to become transformed into conscious opportunist treachery, played the decisive role in extending the life of the Labour Party and preventing the development of a mass revolutionary alternative to social democracy.
Far from having arrested the political degeneration, the “reorganization” program of the WRP represents the virtual collapse of all inner resistance to the party’s transformation into a full-fledged centrist agency of imperialism. This is the political significance of Slaughter’s agreement to unite with the MAS and its international front, the Liga Internacional de los Trabajadores-Cuarta Internacional on the formal basis of the 10 principles.
What Is Morenoism
It would have been bad enough had the WRP united with any one of the myriad Pabloite groups in Britain. Then it might have at least advanced the face-saving arguments that its new allies were undergoing a development, breaking with Mandel, capable of learning, etc., etc. No such arguments can be made in relation to the Argentine Morenoites. Here one is dealing with a well-known quantity: a finished centrist tendency whose political physiognomy has been shaped over decades and which has been already subjected to decisive historical tests. Based on the history of this tendency, it is a foregone conclusion that it can do nothing except betray the Argentine proletariat. At this stage of its evolution, Morenoism has become branched off from Trotskyism as decisively as apedom from humankind.
We do not know what, if anything, the membership of the Workers Revolutionary Party knows about the history of the Moreno tendency. We suspect that most of the WRP ranks have had to depend, unfortunately, on either Slaughter or Hunter for their information. The latter has, no doubt, already regaled not a few unwary WRP members with tales of his thrilling experiences in Buenos Aires, where, for the first time in decades, he was finally able to address a real “mass” audience! And, even better, there was no one there who reproached him for his well-known centrist predilections, dating all the way back to his days in the ILP.
But Hunter’s adventures in Buenos Aires count for very little on the scales of history. Those in the WRP who are prepared to base their evaluation of the proposal to unify with Moreno on such eyewitness accounts (shades of Hansen’s “fact-finding” tours to Cuba) are, to put it bluntly, fools. The fact is that the Moreno tendency has already “been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” It played a decisive role in betraying the Argentine working class and is directly responsible for one of the worst defeats of this generation.
Given the political history of Moreno, it is not surprising that he never subjected his role in the Argentine fiasco to a serious theoretical accounting. But for the WRP to enter into an alliance with his tendency without drawing a political balance sheet and, in fact, remaining silent on the whole experience, is nothing short of outright political betrayal. In this sense, the opportunism of Healy, Banda and Slaughter during the past decade was only of a preparatory character. The ratification of the betrayal of the Argentine working class and the decision to unify with Moreno’s organization means that Slaughter’s WRP is now in the process of being politically conditioned to play in Britain the role that Moreno’s PST played in Argentina during the 1970s.
A review of the political biography of Morenoism utterly exposes the rank treachery which underlies Slaughter’s “reorganization.” Moreno joined the Argentine Trotskyist movement as a youth in 1940 and participated in the labor movement as the leader of the Argentine textile workers’ union. The Argentine section of the Fourth International was directly affected by the degeneration of the International Secretariat under the leadership of Pablo and Mandel. They had insisted on an orientation to General Juan Peron and accused the Argentine section of dismissing the Peronists as “fascists.”
At the time, Moreno opposed Pablo’s line, but this position appears to have had less to do with principles than with the exigencies of his factional differences with Posadas. Although Moreno declared for the International Committee in 1953, he soon began moving toward Peronism—thus initiating a process of adaptation to bourgeois nationalism that was to become the essential characteristic of Morenoism.
By 1956 Moreno and his supporters entered the Peronist movement, publishing a paper which declared on its masthead that it functioned “under the discipline of General Peron and the Peronist Superior Council.” This paper went so far as to publish without protest anticommunist diatribes by Peron.
While this gross opportunism brought it some recruits from the ranks of Peronism, the tactic turned into a fiasco in 1958 when Moreno loyally followed Peron’s directive from exile to support the election of the right-wing candidate Frondizi. Even the Peronist “left” defied this directive and an estimated one-third of the Peronist electorate cast blank ballots.
The fact that Moreno’s political line in Argentina was not challenged within the International Committee was directly connected to the political degeneration of the Socialist Workers Party, which was already moving rapidly toward reunification with the Pabloites.
Moreno’s evolution took a sharp turn in the early 1960s in relation to the Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro. Incredibly, he initially had denounced Castro as a gorila and hailed the failure of the first general strike called by the Castroites in 1958, because Moreno and his followers were buried inside the Peronist movement where Batista was considered the “Cuban Peron.”
But by the early 1960s Moreno again changed his position 180 degrees, uncritically endorsing the Castro leadership as a model for the revolution throughout Latin America and accepting the SWP’s definition of Cuba as a “workers’ state.” There was an internal connection between Moreno’s past record and his sudden shift on Castroism. Like so many Latin American petty bourgeois radicals who pretend to be Trotskyists, he was organically incapable of establishing and fighting for an independent class line. When Hansen said that it was impossible to oppose Castro because it would be suicidal, he was, no doubt, appealing to, if not actually articulating, the fears of Moreno.
After his conversion to Castroism, Moreno still did not break from Peronism. Instead, he sought to unite the two. His party in this period went by the name “Peronismo Obrera Revolucionario,” and his paper, which still declared on its masthead that it functioned “under the discipline of Juan Peron,” carried pictures of Peron and Castro side by side.
Moreno declared his total allegiance to the short-lived OLAS movement set up by Castro, and defined the Castroites as “the unchallenged leadership of the continental civil war”—that is, unchallenged by Moreno. At the same time, he justified this policy by explicitly renouncing Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution, asserting, “The dogma that the only class that can accomplish the democratic tasks is the working class is false.” These positions prove that by the 1960s, Morenoism had defined itself as a typical petty bourgeois tendency whose connection to Marxism never went beyond the shouting of empty phrases.
In 1964 Moreno ended direct entryism in the Peronist movement and, based on a fusion with a group in northern Argentina, known as the Popular IndoAmerican Revolutionary Front, led by Mario Santucho, formed the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (PRT, or Workers Revolutionary Party).
Not long after, the PRT split, with the majority following Santucho and taking his adulation of guerrillaism to its logical conclusion. It founded the ERP (People’s Revolutionary Army) which launched a series of spectacular armed assaults and kidnappings. In opposing this adventurism, Moreno seized the opportunity to disguise his chronic adaptation to the Peronist labor bureaucracy as a defense of Leninist orthodoxy.
From 1969 on, the split in Argentina between Santucho and Moreno was at the center of the political conflict inside the United Secretariat. For reasons related to its immediate needs in the United States, where an association with guerrillaism threatened to disrupt the links it had established with the liberal wing of the imperialist Democratic Party during the Vietnam antiwar protest period, the Socialist Workers Party sided with Moreno—despite the fact that its entire previous line on Castroism had paved the way for the liquidation of Trotskyist cadre into Santucho-style adventurism.
Far from undertaking a principled struggle for Trotskyism, Moreno’s opposition to the ERP simply assumed the form of total prostration before Peronism and the bourgeois state and directly implicated his movement in a historic betrayal of the Argentine working class. A study of Moreno’s policies is mandatory for all class-conscious workers who wish to understand the fatal role of centrism.
How Moreno Betrayed the Argentine Working Class
In the early 1970s, Moreno set out consciously to create a centrist party by merging with the semidefunct Socialist Party of Juan Coral and forming the PST. In what amounted to an incredible condemnation of his own actions, Moreno wrote: “The formation of a centrist party of the legal left is our main political organizational objective at the moment. We know consciously that the organization is the opposite of a proletarian Bolshevik organization. That is a revealing confession that we are in the company of renegades who have rejected revolutionary Marxism.”
The crucial test of Morenoism began in 1973 when the Argentine bourgeoisie, wracked by crisis and confronting the prospect of open civil war, recalled General Peron to power. In the months that followed, Moreno proved completely incapable of freeing himself and his organization from its political dependence on Peron and turning resolutely to the working class. Instead of conducting itself as the revolutionary Marxist party fighting to shatter all ties between the masses and Peronism, the PST acted as a sort of plenipotentiary of the “left” inside the environs of the Peronist movement.
From time to time, the Morenoites would employ revolutionary rhetoric, for, as Trotsky once noted, the centrist “is not niggardly with sonorous phrases.” Thus, it would speak of the need to establish the political independence of the working class and even go so far as to accuse Peron of serving the interests of imperialism.
But even when it struck its most militant poses and denounced the policies of the regime, the PST always remained, in the final analysis, the loyal opposition of the left. At every crucial point, whenever the Peronist regime faced collapse, the PST placed itself at the disposal of the government. The PST habitually functioned as the “social conscience” of Peronism and the defender of democracy, not as the party of extreme revolutionary irreconcilability whose clearly stated goal, at all times, was the overthrow of Argentine capitalism and the smashing of its state.
Within certain limits, it would be possible to compare the role of the PST in Argentina to that of the POUM in Spain—though it must be said that the role of the PST was far worse. The only thing Moreno had in common with Nin and the POUM is that virtually his entire political life was modeled on its worst errors, which he managed to reproduce in forms so vulgar that they would have no doubt been vociferously denounced by Nin himself.
All analogies are limited and, even as we write these lines, we are reluctant to place Moreno on the same plane as Nin. At least one can say—not to excuse the POUM but in order to understand it—that the tragedy of Nin reflected the generally tragic conditions of that period, dominated as it was by the monstrous betrayals of Stalinism. Trotsky himself noted this, although he did not permit even a trace of sentimentalism to intrude into his unequivocal condemnation of Nin and his followers, even after they paid for their most serious error—the refusal to break with the popular front government—with their lives.
Under historical conditions entirely different from those confronted by Nin, incomparably more favorable to the proletariat, the PST, while claiming to represent revolutionary Marxism, refused to break with an even more decadent version of popular frontism. It held on desperately to the tail of the senile Bonapartism of the Peron regime, using its “left” criticisms only to disorient the masses and divert them from revolutionary struggle.
In March 1974, confronted with a polarization of class forces that threatened to erupt into civil war, Peron called for an audience of eight political parties, one of which was the PST. The others were the Union Civica Radical (Radical Civic Union, the bourgeois liberal opposition party), the Partido Revolucionario Cristiano (Revolutionary Christian Party), the Partido Socialista Popular (People’s Socialist Party), the Partido Intransigente, the UDELPA (Union del Pueblo Adelante, People’s Union for Progress), the Communist Party and the Progressive Democratic Party.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a joint declaration by the participants was published in all the bourgeois newspapers, as well as in the press of the PST, Avanzada Socialista.
The statement said:
The participants have confirmed their fundamental commitment to spare no effort to maintain and consolidate the process of institutionalization [consolidation of constitutional bourgeois democracy] in our country within the context of the democratic system and through the practice of coexistence and constructive dialogue The republic has been experiencing difficult moments as a result of its confrontation with forces that have long subjected it to their pressure. But these problems will be easily surmounted by actions of solidarity conducted by sectors that respect the aspirations of the majority of the people and of the popular strata for freedom that was expressed in the elections, a freedom that guarantees their right to continue to express themselves in the future so that they can apply this liberty in practice to free themselves from the burden of imperialist domination and assure enjoyment by the workers of the benefits of the wealth created by their labor....
As for those who want the constitutional system to fail or are waiting for circumstances that will permit a new reactionary adventure, those who are trying to use sectors of the regime to prejudice future options, and those who are adapting totalitarian or corporativist practices that fit in ideologically with fascist-type demands and the interests of the multinational companies that exert a constant pressure on our frontiers, all these people must realize that this country is united on the basis of a fundamental agreement and will respond to their actions. (quoted in “What Course for Argentine Trotskyism,” Education for Socialists, National Education Department, Socialist Workers Party, June 1975, p. 5)
According to the March 28, 1974 issue of Avanzada Socialista, the PST had signed this statement. Moreover, the newspaper carried an editorial which justified participation in the meeting by citing the threat posed by fascist forces. It asserted that “participation in the dialogue with the president of the republic” was a “concrete step in defense of the democratic rights gained in the heroic struggle by the mobilizations of the workers and the people that have developed since the Cordobazo.”
The publication of this statement evoked a letter of protest from the United Secretariat, which correctly declared that the PST’s participation in the conference and its signing of the joint agreement was a fundamental break with Marxism, as it accepted responsibility for the defense of the bourgeois state under the cover of defending democracy.
An acrimonious exchange of letters between Moreno and Mandel then followed for the next few months, with Moreno denying that the PST had signed the statement. He claimed that the bourgeois press had falsely claimed the agreement of the PST with the statement and that Avanzada Socialista had also mistakenly reported the signature of the PST. However, Moreno indignantly noted that the June 26, 1974 issue of the newspaper had made a public correction. In reply, Mandel wondered why it had taken the PST two months to publicly correct the false information that had appeared in the bourgeois press and the PST’s own Avanzada Socialista.
Putting aside the petty technical questions, the opportunist character of their participation in the conference with Peron was undeniable. Even Moreno had to admit, “We recognized that our participating in an interview with Peron might be misunderstood by a few loyal militants and that some of our opponents might subject it to malicious misinterpretation.” (Ibid., p. 8)
He also acknowledged that their defense of “institutionalization” might be “falsely” interpreted as a defense of bourgeois democracy: “We acknowledge that some of the formulations we have used could have led to this impression. We might even have made the error in the current situation in Argentina of not carefully distinguishing between a given bourgeois ‘structure’ and the defense of democratic rights.” (Ibid., p. 10)
In revolutionary politics in general, but especially in a revolutionary situation, ambiguity and confusion is one of the characteristic forms of centrist treachery. If Moreno’s comrades in the United Secretariat were unable to exactly decipher the meaning of his newspaper, what was its effect on Argentine workers? An organization which takes two months to publicly correct the “false impression”—broadcast by the bourgeois media all over the nation and “mistakenly” confirmed in its own press—that its leadership has entered into an agreement with the bourgeoisie is engaged in political double-dealing.
The Lackeys of Peron
At any rate, this was not an isolated episode. Little more than two weeks after the controversial and disputed audience with Peron, Moreno’s colleague, Juan Carlos Coral attended an April 5, 1974 meeting between opposition political parties and officials of the Peron government. The report of this meeting, written by Coral himself, exposes the rottenness of the PST. Everything Coral wrote was a justification for an alliance with Peron and a section of the “democratic” bourgeoisie against right-wing forces. Explaining the PST’s participation in meetings with bourgeois parties and Peron, Coral stated:
Our party considered it obligatory to participate in all the difficult stages of this laborious process involving constitutional democracy which was initiated by Lanusse and Mor Roig and is continuing today under General Peron. The struggle has been over democratic rights: on one side, the masses fighting by means of strikes and mass mobilizations to extend these rights; on the other, various ruling figures, parties, and bourgeois sectors trying to restrict them. (Ibid., p. 40)
It is hardly necessary to comment on the obvious treachery of this statement, which proves that the PST was committed to a defense of Peronism with a democratic fig leaf. What is the meaning of Trotsky’s struggle against popular frontism and of Bolshevism’s struggle against the Provisional Government in 1917 if not that unity with the “democratic sectors” of the bourgeoisie—even if one wishes to be so generous as to include Peron as one of its parts—is the road to catastrophe?
No less indicative of the hopeless petty bourgeois character of the PST was its “theatrical” conception of politics: that the bourgeoisie is fought with dramatic confrontations in presidential palaces rather than through the independent mobilization and arming of the working class.
Rather than educating the working class—sternly teaching its advanced elements and through them the class as a whole that “discussions” with the bourgeoisie are a dangerous waste of time (or as Lenin wrote, the equivalent of “preaching morality to the keepers of a brothel”), that the defense of democratic rights is possible only through the ruthless struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie and to establish a proletarian dictatorship—the PST sowed complacency. It suggested that through the participation of its leaders in such conferences, the bourgeoisie could be pressured to the left, or at least, away from the right. There is no illusion more fatal to the interests of the working class. As the bloody history of the workers’ movement in Latin America has proved time and again, the road to the torture chambers passes beneath the portals of such illusions.
Concealing from the masses the role of the bourgeois state itself, Coral wrote, “Today the threat against the democratic conquest of the masses comes from a sector of the ruling party and the union bureaucracy.” Having thus insulated the capitalist state and even Peron himself from responsibility, Coral went on: “That is why, just as we once demanded that the military get out and that free elections be held, we have now confronted Peron’s government with five demands of the labor and socialist movement.” (Ibid.)
What was the point of such a “confrontation”? It is one of the more farcical conceptions of petty bourgeois centrism that the bourgeoisie is “exposed” by confronting it with demands—as if one confronts a rabid dog in order to be able to expose, after he has taken out a piece of one’s flesh, what a vicious animal he is. Invariably, the essential content of such confrontations is prostration, masked with the type of terrifying verbal “irreconcilability” that serves to confuse the working class, but is always taken by the bourgeoisie as a sign of weakness.
“We were able to confront [it would have been more honest to say, ‘crawl on our knees before’] the government ministers and the president directly with these demands,” Coral reported. “Peron, who was in good health and a jovial mood, showed that he was perfectly aware of what is going on in the country....
Here are the five most urgent demands of the working people in brief: (1) Call a halt to the violent repression of popular organizations and the murder of their activists. (2) Stay the hand of the union bureaucracy, beginning by recognizing the victory of the workers at Villa Constitucion. (3) Repeal the laws on redundancy. (4) Stop exploitation, starvation wages, and rising prices. (5) Fight imperialism, beginning by nationalizing the automotive monopolies. (Ibid.)
Only a miserable gang of petty bourgeois reformists and parliamentarians would dream of presenting such a list of “demands” to the leader of the capitalist state. The Morenoites can cite all the documents in the world to “prove” that they condemned the policies of Peron. But this one meeting did more to disorient the masses and pave the way for the counterrevolution than all their purely verbal propaganda did to advance the revolution. To suggest that it was permissible to call upon Peron to end exploitation and to fight imperialism amounted to a complete prostitution of revolutionary principles. How could the PST break the working class from Peronism while it was calling upon Peron to establish socialism? Is that not the essential political outlook of Peronism in the labor movement?
Even worse and more cowardly was the appeal by Coral “the confronter” for action by Peron against the fascist and military gangs. He expressed outrage that Peron permitted the right to act with impunity, and made the following anguished appeal to the crafty old president:
This complacent attitude of the government toward the armed bands of rightists has encouraged an escalation of general terrorism which reached a peak in the seditious action of the police in Cordoba, and which is to be seen in the assassination of students and the destruction of headquarters of political groups that is going on; all of which stirs grave uneasiness over a threat from the army to the exercise of civil liberties.
In summary, gentlemen, the government should speedily come to grips with such flagrant contradictions as the following: Giving a speech at a peaceful assembly of workers as an act warranting arrest for “disturbing the public order,” while kidnapping a governor and his entire cabinet, leaving a province at the mercy of armed civilians, does not constitute a crime, not even an offense! (Ibid., p. 41, emphasis added)
As if the latitude given by the government to the fascists was the result of “complacency” rather than an expression of direct connivance. To any Marxist the situation was absolutely clear: the Peron regime was allowing the fascist gangs to operate with impunity while relying on Peron’s lackeys in the labor movement, which included the PST, to keep the workers under control. In such a situation, the “left” party which appeals to the bourgeois state to protect the workers—rather than calling upon the workers to arm themselves and crush the fascists and the state which sponsors them—is itself part of the whole reactionary bourgeois order.
After the death of Peron in July 1974, Moreno immediately transferred his loyalties to the bereaved widow, Isabelita. At yet another class-collaborationist “multisectoral” meeting, held in the presence of Madame Peron on October 8, 1974, Coral declared:
We fully assume the responsibility that devolves on us in the present political process with the sincerity with which we have always expressed our points of view and with the sincerity that Senora Presidente herself demanded of us in her opening speech; we have come this morning to categorically repudiate all forms of terrorism, all the manifestations of individual violence of groups that act apart from the desires and necessities of the masses, and to repudiate also that other, more general, almost institutionalized, form of violence in our country represented by coups d’etat.
Finally, Senora, let us say that our party considers this form of dialogue, which is unprecedented in the country, to be useful. We do not hope to alter the government’s policy with a speech; but surely Senora Presidente and the ministers have noted some of the observations we have formulated. (Ibid., p. 17)
That was not all: Coral went on to give the official pledge of the PST that it would defend the Peronist government:
The Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores will continue struggling against all those factors that create the putschist climate and will struggle for the continuity of this government, because it was elected by the majority of the Argentine workers and because it permits the exercise of some democratic rights that, in turn, are conquests of the workers’ and people’s mobilizations that have shaken the country since the Cordobazo. (Ibid.)
This explicit defense of the “democratic” bourgeois state and its government against the fascists summed up the entire bankrupt and treacherous policy of the PST, which functioned as nothing more than an appendage of Peronism. Again, this was not a careless and episodic formulation, but the central and guiding line of the Morenoite program, which the PST bitterly defended against all critics.
Repeatedly, the PST attempted to justify this position with references to the semi-oppressed character of Argentina or with calculated misrepresentations of the Bolshevik policy in 1917. What all the arguments of the PST boiled down to in the end was the reactionary petty bourgeois conception (denounced on innumerable occasions not only by Lenin and Trotsky but also by Cliff Slaughter, before he repudiated Marxism) that the struggle against fascism entails a defense of bourgeois democracy.
The PST, in defending its supine attitude toward the capitalist state, asserted:
In Argentina we have to take into account as a prime element the struggle against the foreign imperialist power; and this affects the attitude that must be adopted toward a sector of the bourgeoisie that is inclined—however weakly and undependably—to resist imperialism and its most venal and brutal native agents. The struggle for national independence, a bourgeois democratic task, becomes one of our foremost considerations. In this our tasks differ from those of Trotskyists in imperialist Germany, whether in 1932 or 1974. (Ibid., p. 23)
There is not a word here which in any way differs from the “classical” Stalinist position, against which the Trotskyist movement has fought since the 1920s—not to mention the struggle conducted by the Bolshevik Party against Menshevism in its defense of the Provisional Government of Kerensky. The idea that from the oppressed character of Argentina there arises a democratic and anti-imperialist bourgeoisie is the key conception upon which the PST’s argument was based. And from this flowed its betrayal of the socialist revolution.
It is a tragic measure of the political degeneration of the WRP that the ICFI is called upon to remind its members that Trotsky insisted that the attitude of the national bourgeoisie to the democratic tasks is determined above all by the level of class antagonisms within the given backward country, not from imperialist oppression in general. If this is a subject for debate inside the WRP, it simply confirms that what was once the founding section of the ICFI is rapidly breaking from Trotskyism. If these Marxist truths are not rejected, then why is the WRP uniting with a party which does reject the Trotskyist attitude toward the national bourgeoisie in a semi-oppressed country? Why is it seeking to provide “Marxist” credentials for yet another betrayal of the Argentine working class, when it is the obligation of Trotskyists all over the world to do all in their power to discredit the Morenoites and to contribute to the shattering of their influence in Argentina. Is that not our solemn obligation to our class brothers and sisters in Latin America?
Finally, as for the PST claim that their line in any way resembled that of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, when they “defended” Kerensky against Kornilov, this is such an outrageous distortion of historical fact that it should hardly be necessary to answer it. The Bolsheviks, illegal due to their irreconcilable struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeois Provisional Government (which was then being defended by the Russian Morenoites led by Martov and Dan), organized the independent mobilization of the working class, arms in hand, to strike down Kornilov. In the course of this struggle, they entered into strictly limited tactical alliances with those forces of the Kerensky regime who were actually fighting to put down the military forces of Kornilov. This was done without either giving any support to Kerensky or undermining the preparations, well advanced, to overthrow him—a task which was completed within 60 days of the defeat of Kornilov.
At no time did the Morenoites ever pose to the working class the necessity for overthrowing Peron and, more to the point, never did they make the slightest preparations to carry out such a policy. Instead, as Moreno wrote in one of his typically miserable rationalizations for his cowardly and opportunist policy:
Peron in exile was regarded with reverence by the Argentine working class as a whole. We had no choice but to keep this feeling in mind in all our efforts to educate the class and help it move along the lines of independent political action. To have acted in any other way would have barred us from getting a hearing. (Ibid.)
So strongly did the Morenoites keep this “reverence” in mind that not even the old generalissimo’s death could convince them that the time had arrived to mount a struggle against the Argentine state. Instead, they transferred their own reverence and submissiveness from Juan Peron to Isabelita.
Here we have the political record of the heroes whom Slaughter, Pirani, Pilling, Hunter and Tutti Quanti are now embracing as their bosom-comrades in the “reorganization” of the Fourth International. This relationship guarantees only one thing: When the time comes for them to give similar speeches in Whitehall, if not Buckingham Palace, they will be able to enlist the assistance of experienced petty bourgeois boot-lickers.
The politics of the PST disarmed the Argentine working class, demoralized its advanced elements, and paved the way for the coup of 1976. Moreno was politically responsible for the deaths of thousands. The only difference between Moreno and the leaders of the LSSP is that the latter sold themselves to the bourgeoisie at a higher price. While Colvin de Silva, N.M. Perera and Leslie Goonewardene demanded seats alongside Madame Bandaranaike in her cabinet, Moreno and Coral were satisfied to kneel at Peron’s feet! But this is not a “difference” which makes any one of them more credible in the eyes of Marxists.
No party that has carried out the type of betrayal of which the PST was guilty has ever revived itself. There are no objective conditions which can cure an organization so totally contaminated by opportunism and restore it to political health. Moreover, in the case of the PST, at issue is not only a change of line. We are dealing with a political organization of the democratic petty bourgeoisie, not of the proletariat. To change such an organization into a Marxist one would require not only exceptional and hitherto unknown historical conditions, but alchemy as well.
The New Face of Morenoism
The PST has now reemerged in the form of MAS. There have been, of course, great proletarian parties which failed in their first efforts to storm the ramparts of bourgeois society. Such parties have generally subjected their experiences to merciless analysis and, when conditions have presented fresh opportunities, returned to the field of open battle with redoubled strength. But the “Founding Theses of the LIT-CI”—which is nothing more than the international front behind which the MAS leaders operate—make absolutely no assessment whatsoever of the coup of 1976!
Instead, it heaps glory upon itself, proclaiming, “The leap given by the PST during the revolutionary crisis of 1969-76 was a decisive factor for the development of Trotskyism in Brazil, Colombia and other countries.” What about Argentina? Apparently, no leaps for Trotskyism were recorded there because the leaders of the PST, in the aftermath of the 1976 coup, were too busy leaping out of Argentina into exile. Unfortunately, many devoted members of the PST were unable to escape the fate prepared for them by the betrayals of their leaders.
An organization which does not incorporate into its foundations an honest and unequivocal evaluation of its role in the most crucial experience of the proletariat—an event which ranks among the most tragic in modern Argentine history—deserves only contempt.
Included among the “10 principles” enumerated by Slaughter and which are to serve as the basis for the WRP’s unification with MAS/LIT-CI are ritual denunciations of Stalinism. “Its international policy,” Slaughter writes, “executed through the Stalinist parties of the world as well as through the bureaucracy’s state agencies, betrays the proletarian revolution, perpetuates the imperialist encirclement, and thus endangers the conquests of October.”
That is not all: Slaughter also declares, “The defeat of imperialism requires the strategy and tactics of breaking the working class from the existing Stalinist and reformist leadership,” and in another passage he insists upon “The struggle for the defeat of Stalinism and the bureaucracy, and the rejection of all forms of capitulation to and compromises with Stalinism.”
These fire-eating words have been endorsed by the present leaders of MAS and by Moreno himself shortly before he died—his last deception! Despite these words, all the signatories are consciously working for the breaking down of all political and organizational barriers between themselves and Stalinism. Though he will not say so openly, Slaughter long ago decided to work for the liquidation of the WRP into Stalinism. Back in November 1985, at the notorious Friends Hall meeting in London, Slaughter burnt his fingers badly when his indiscreet handshake with the Stalinist reprobate Monty Johnstone evoked a storm of protests from supporters of the ICFI who had not yet been expelled from the WRP. In a memorable reply to the direct accusation that Slaughter was secretly working with the Stalinists, he qualified his denial by warning the International Committee, “If it were true, I wouldn’t tell you anyway.”
In the year that has passed since the WRP’s split with the International Committee, Slaughter has made giant strides in working through his undeclared agenda. The unification with MAS will bring the WRP into direct association with an organization that works in open collaboration with the Argentine Communist Party. MAS is presently part of the so-called Frente del Pueblo (FREPU), an organization whose very name (“People’s Front”) reads like a traitor’s calling card. FREPU is an unprincipled electoral alliance composed of MAS, the Communist Party and a series of small petty bourgeois nationalist organizations known collectively as “Combative Peronism”!
Thus, having created FREPU, Moreno was able to expire knowing that he had already set down the political foundations for future defeats of the Argentine working class. In fact, he had but one remaining mission before death put an end to his otherwise incorrigible opportunism: to travel all over the world visiting various centrist organizations in order to provide MAS/FREPU with an international “revolutionary” cover.
A Tribute That Workers Press Chose Not to Publish
When Moreno died, the Argentine Stalinists paid fulsome tribute to the services which he had rendered. Jorge Pereyra, the organizational secretary of the CP, tearfully embraced the present leader of MAS, Luis Zamora. This touching moment was captured in a photograph, which, beneath the headline, “Thank you, Comrades of the Communist Party,” was published in a special memorial issue of the MAS newspaper, Solidaridad Socialista, dated February 10, 1987.
An article run in a Morenoite newspaper with the headline, “Thank you, Comrades of the Communist Party” and a picture of CP Secretary Jorge Pereyra embracing a MAS leader
At the memorial rally, Pereyra, leading the Stalinist delegation, declared: “Moreno was not only the founder of your party but is one of the cofounders of the beginning of the frontist road for the national and social liberation.”
An official message to MAS, written by the CP general secretary, Althos Fava, declared:
Before the painful loss of Nahuel Moreno, distinguished founder of your party, and leader of political and union struggles of our country, and of other brother countries, we send to you our most felt and fraternal solidarity.
Aside from the well-known and understandable ideological differences which there were and are between our parties, the importance of our common struggle, which culminated in the recent years in the construction and development of the People’s Front, a true political happening in our country, cannot be ignored. The FREPU presents itself as a viable alternative to the bipartisanism, confronting the politics of giveback and dependency of both major parties.
Nahuel Moreno has contributed much to this effort and to this common labor to make concrete the frontist and revolutionary objective. He leaves us, then, this attitude and this unitary example for the days and struggles to come: hard, for certain, but of great perspectives.
Receive, then, dear comrades, the regret, the solidarity and the fraternal salute of our Party.
Despite the fact that Workers Press published messages from all over the world on the death of Moreno, Slaughter found it advisable to conceal this one from the members of the WRP. He has also failed to publish MAS’s official “salute” (as it was called in the Morenoite press) to the recent Sixteenth Congress of the Argentine Communist Party, which was reproduced in the November 11, 1986 issue of Solidaridad Socialista. Jorge Guidobono of the MAS stated:
I want first to transmit to this important congress of the Communist Party the warm salute of the Central Committee of the MAS and the personal one of Comrade Luis Yamoa, who would have wanted to be here with you today, but had to march to the glorious front line of fire in the struggle against imperialism, which is Nicaragua.
It is a salute to a party which has had the courage of rectifying political positions sustained for many years, and which has done it in the context of an intense polemic, this fire where, according to Lenin, the correct policy is forged and the revolutionary militants are educated.
There is a second and extremely fundamental reason for our salute to the XVI Congress of the communists and this is that the Congress has been a ratification of your will to continue constructing jointly this formidable weapon to which we gave birth a little over a year ago, the People’s Front.
All of the debate in the course of the XVI Congress has been followed with close attention by those of us who claim to be Marxist-Leninists.
But also the enemy forces have been attentive and trying to intervene by all means to achieve their most desired objective, to divide the left.
For this many have acted. From President Alfonsin, with his speeches against the CP and the MAS, to the scribes in pay of the exploiters who have dedicated themselves to search for all the possible differences between our two parties, with the aim of trying to gain some advantage and being able to divide the People’s Front.
Surely you, just as us, could add some more differences to those that these hacks mention.
But all of us are conscious that these differences—and the new ones that the frontist life will cause to arise—we have to discuss beginning from the basic undeniable agreement: the defense of that which unites us, the intransigent demand of the PF of its 23 programmatic points, of the frontist practice which we have begun to initiate and which we are ready to maintain and deepen.
The government and the exploiters attack us for one very simple reason: while they continue paying the foreign debt and applying the Austral Plan, the workers’ movement will continue fighting in a growing way, as it is already doing now.
If these struggles and this process of radicalization finds in the united left an alternative leadership it will change the Argentine political panorama and the Radical-Peronist bipartisan proposal, supported by its agents in the trade union bureaucracy in all its variants, will be buried in the trashcan of history.
What these people cannot begin to understand is that while they are pirates who fight to divide the booty sacked from the workers, the polemic in the left is over the best way to halt the country from being continuously more subordinated to imperialism, its workers constantly more impoverished, or about how to stop imperialism from sinking mankind in the misery and taking it up to the brink of a nuclear holocaust as Reagan now threatens.
For this reason, with the same energy that we defend all the advances made by the working class in the world beginning with the unconditional defense of the conquests of the glorious October revolution—we also will continue pushing forward this extraordinary advance which is the PF, the means by which the workers march toward their political independence and stop voting for the parties of their bosses, the right.
The task of the hour is to consolidate the PF and to broaden it on the basis of its 23-point program.
For this it is necessary to be even more together with all of the workers and people in struggle, it is necessary that the PF not only is present but that it begins to play a growing role as the important part of a new union leadership opposed frontally to all the bureaucratic variants and that it responds to the combative necessities and of union democracy which the workers today demand.
To intervene in these struggles and also to give political battle it is necessary to advance considerably in the formation of the rank and file committees of the Front, in every factory, industry, college, high school, or neighborhood. These committees, composed of all the comrades which belong to the PF are the arm of the Front to take its program and policy and give it flesh in the movement of the masses.
A New Centrist Axis for Betrayals of the Working Class
The significance of the unification between the WRP and MAS now becomes entirely clear. For the Morenoites, it is a means of obtaining an international “Trotskyist” cover for their conscious preparations for their next betrayal of the Argentine working class. In order to becalm the anxieties of those who suspect that MAS is heading on the road to defeat and to shout down those who are accusing the leaders of treachery, the petty bureaucrats who run MAS are attempting to bolster their prestige by citing their growing international support.
Thus, an editorial published by MAS in the December issue of their theoretical journal, Correo, refers to the WRP as “by far the strongest Trotskyist organization with the greatest traditions in England, whose proletariat is one of the most militant in the world.” There is no small element of irony in this tribute, considering that for the last 18 months the WRP leaders themselves have spared no effort to denigrate the entire history of their organization. Slaughter is on record as having declared that “the WRP was transformed into the private brothel of Healy.”
In an utterly deceitful attempt to sell the WRP to the Argentine workers, and, more to the point, to its allies among the petty bourgeois nationalists, the MAS is now portraying Slaughter and company as the proletarian heroes of the 1982 Malvinas war. A joint statement of the WRP and the MAS makes the fraudulent claim that the WRP adopted a “principled position” on the Malvinas after having “overturned” the “neutralist position” taken by Healy.
Like every other myth created by Slaughter to explain away his history of betrayal, this one likewise cannot stand up to the slightest investigation. First of all, to describe the position taken by the WRP as “neutralist” is politically untrue. What in fact the News Line stated was that Argentina was acting in the Malvinas as the “client state” of US imperialism to grab British-held oil reserves (!) and establish a base for the Pentagon. This outrageous and chauvinist line evoked no protest from Slaughter who was more than comfortable wrapped in the Union Jack.
It was, in fact, Banda who carried out the change in line—taking care that he did so in such a way as to prevent any discussion within the party on the question and particularly any criticism of the leadership. When one member later complained about this coverup, he was summarily expelled.
To call the new line adopted under Banda’s direction “principled” is a travesty of Marxism. From giving backhanded support to British imperialism, the WRP swung over to a position of uncritical support to the Argentine dictatorship. The News Line stated that a “Trotskyist” party in Argentina would “unconditionally support the Argentine bourgeoisie” and even “form a united front with the bourgeois military junta.” It gave glowing accounts of speeches by such now-imprisoned generals as Leopoldo Galtieri, presenting these murderers and torturers as genuine “anti-imperialists.”
That the Morenoites would accept this as a “principled policy” is hardly surprising. True to their petty bourgeois form, it was precisely this line which they adopted, discrediting themselves before the masses and helping to ensure that Alfonsin could pick up the pieces of the collapsed junta in the absence of any revolutionary proletarian alternative.
In what can only be described as besmirching the name of internationalism, the recent joint statement commits the WRP to nothing more than attempting to “pressure” a “future Labour Government” over the Malvinas, while the MAS merely “denounces” the Alfonsin government. Such a centrist petty bourgeois alliance, it can be safely predicted, will not survive the next shots fired in anger in the Malvinas.
Just one additional point should be added: while the WRP was in the throes of a crisis over the Malvinas war, the other sections of the International Committee arrived at a correct political line. In the United States, the Workers League understood that the Reagan administration was supporting Thatcher in the Malvinas war, and from the outset called for the defeat of US and British imperialism.
Recognizing the central role that Slaughter has played in orchestrating the split from the International Committee and in undermining the Trotskyist foundations of the WRP, the neo-Stalinist hacks who run the MAS go on to pay him a special tribute, declaring that the WRP leaders “enjoy the enviable Marxist influence of the English intellectuals, who have made great contributions to Marxism in recent years.” Thus, the MAS leaders seek to intimidate their revolutionary critics in Argentina by proclaiming that “great English Marxists,” like Cliff Slaughter, have endorsed their political line. We hope that the time is not far off when the advanced workers of Argentina will know that they have nothing to learn from Slaughter and his academic brethren. The sooner the better!
For the WRP as well, there is no longer any mystery about the meaning of the split with the International Committee. The unification with MAS is nothing else but the necessary international route, mapped out by Slaughter, through which the WRP will soon arrive at the same policy of collaboration with Stalinism and popular frontism in England that is now being pursued by their new allies in Argentina.
The fact that the WRP is entering an international alliance with an organization whose entire activity is based on a popular front alliance with the Stalinists means that before long, similar forms of work will be developed in Britain. Anyone in the WRP who is so naive as to believe that such a thing is impossible simply has not attempted to work through the political logic of their organization’s international policy.
If it is permissible for the WRP’s “international comrades” to work with the Stalinists in an electoral popular front, along with various other petty bourgeois organizations, why should the same forms of work be impermissible in Britain? It will not be long before the WRP will be sending observers and delegates to the meetings and conferences of the CPGB. The so-called anti-imperialist people’s front constitutes the basic international strategy of the Morenoites. They would not enter into a fusion with an organization which intends to oppose them on this question and disrupt the activities in which they are engaged in Argentina and throughout Latin America. Moreover, they will seek to implement this policy, with Slaughter’s assistance, inside the WRP.
It does not matter whether this is the perspective of the many silly Billies and simple Simons of the WRP. It is the perspective of Slaughter, the real political and ideological leader of the WRP. The Bradford professor has infinite contempt for the disoriented petty bourgeois rank and file whose demoralization, confusion, subjectivism and ignorance he has so assiduously exploited during the last 18 months. Slaughter is more than ready to deal with them, “no holds barred,” if and when they wake up to the awful truth, and he will prove that he has by no means exhausted his repertoire of backstabbing dirty tricks.
The Predictions of the ICFI Have Been Confirmed
The International Committee knows precisely what kind of political animal it is dealing with. We have a proven track record in anticipating the maneuvers of this prevaricating anti-Trotskyist renegade. Permit us to quote from the December 2, 1985 letter of Comrade Peter Schwarz of the ICFI’s German section to the central committee of the WRP, which was written immediately after the Friends Hall meeting. Referring to Slaughter’s speech, Schwarz wrote, “I cannot help but take this speech as a clear indication that Comrade Slaughter wants to split with the ICFI altogether and rejoin the revisionist and Stalinist swamp.”
Having closely watched Comrade Slaughter’s actions during the last six weeks I am more and more convinced that he follows his own political course, which he does not intend to discuss with anybody, thereby using the political confusion prevailing in the WRP after the expulsion of the Healy group to break it up. (Fourth International, Autumn 1986, pp. 73-74)
On December 11, 1985, the Workers League’s Political Committee took note of G. Pilling’s apology for Slaughter’s Friends Hall handshake with Johnstone and his defense of discussions with Stalinists. It wrote to the WRP Central Committee:
What took place at Friends Hall was not a meeting; it was a perspective. What was revealed at this meeting is a move toward what the SWP once called “regroupment”—that is, the abandonment of Trotskyism in favor of unprincipled alliances with radicals, revisionists, and Stalinists of all description. This right-wing orientation is explicitly advanced in the December 6, 1985 issue of News Line, in which Pilling writes: “We have absolutely nothing to fear from the most open and wide-ranging discussion with Stalinism.” And what is it that Pilling and Slaughter want to discuss with the Stalinists? The crisis inside the Workers Revolutionary Party. It is one thing for Trotskyists to approach rank-and-file Stalinist workers and seek to break them from the counterrevolutionary policies of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is quite another to “discuss” the internal problems of the WRP with what Pilling himself refers to as a “notorious Stalinist.” Such discussion can have only one aim: to explore the possibilities for joint work and future amalgamation. It would be one of the greater ironies of history if the program of regroupment of which at least some WRP leaders are privately thinking was to be written under the heading, “Revolutionary Morality”. (Ibid., p. 99)
The letter continued:
The great danger which the bourgeoisie must avoid at all costs is the existence of a revolutionary Trotskyist party that will provide an alternative to the inevitable betrayals of the Social Democrats, Stalinists, and the trade union lefts like Scargill. Under these conditions, any retreat from Trotskyist principles by the WRP, that is, a turn toward POUM-style centrism, would constitute a massive historical crime against the working class. (Ibid., p. 100)
When these letters from the Workers league and the German section of the ICFI arrived, such farsighted political thinkers in the WRP as Simon Pirani and David Bruce denounced them as “lies.” But the test of time has vindicated the Marxist prognoses of the International Committee and exposed the political myopia of the petty bourgeois empirics of the WRP Central Committee, who never saw further than the noses by which Slaughter was leading them.
Let us cite a few other of our observations: those related to the political significance of the vitriolic campaign that Slaughter unleashed at the same Friends Hall meeting against Security and the Fourth International. This is an especially timely question as the categorical denunciation of Security constitutes one of the “10 principles” incorporated into the WRP’s “reorganization” platform.
In a resolution dated January 27, 1986, denouncing the WRP’s repudiation of the political authority of the International Committee, the central committee of the Workers League warned, “There is a profound political logic behind this hatred of Security and the Fourth International.... No discussion with the Stalinists and revisionists can get under way in Britain until the WRP renegades repudiate Security and the Fourth International.” (Ibid., p. 123)
On February 2, 1986, David North addressed a letter to the membership of the Workers Revolutionary Party which began as follows:
In recent weeks a campaign has been initiated by the majority of the WRP Central Committee to discredit the decade-long investigation of the International Committee into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Leon Trotsky and the infiltration of the Fourth International by agents of world imperialism and its Stalinist lackeys.
This campaign is part of a wider attack on the entire history of the International Committee, from which the WRP leadership has decided to split. The Slaughter-Banda leadership has already established contact with revisionist groups in Europe and the United States and will be working openly for a regroupment with Pabloite as well as Stalinist organizations as soon as the break with the IC is completed. (Ibid., p. 139)
Another article by North which was published in the February 21, 1986 issue of the Bulletin analyzed the WRP split from the International Committee and directly warned, “Aside from immediate factional considerations,” the political aim of Slaughter’s campaign against Security and the Fourth International was “to work toward a political rehabilitation of Stalinism for the purpose of justifying collaboration with the agents of the Soviet bureaucracy.” (Ibid., p. 156)
With the decision of the WRP to unify with the Morenoites, this prediction, as well, has been completely vindicated.
Permit us now to make another prediction, in fact, a warning: the formal completion of the unification with the MAS/LIT-CI will lead very rapidly to the transformation of the political physiognomy of the Workers Revolutionary Party beyond recognition. The giddy celebrations of the new alliance will hardly be over before the impact of the unification produces a violent shift to the right. Splits and expulsions will follow as middle-class forces, attracted by the smell of incipient popular frontism and unequivocally hostile to Trotskyism, invade the WRP. New and strange faces will appear and leaders of unknown origins will spring up overnight. Whatever remains of the “old Trotskyists” in the WRP, to the extent that they attempt to hang on to the principles that inspired their past struggles, will not survive the rough passage to new political shores.
A Warm Welcome for Renegades
Once again, Slaughter is working very consciously to prepare the ground for this development. That is the meaning of his resuscitation of such middle-class dregs as Peter Fryer.
His appointment as a free-lance columnist is hardly the inconsequential event that the naive ones in the WRP may unwisely take it to be. This is a man who broke decisively and violently with the Fourth International more than a quarter century ago, creating a provocation and denouncing the Socialist Labour League in the capitalist press in the midst of a furious witch-hunt by the right-wing Labourites against the British Trotskyists.
So serious was this provocation that it caused political concern throughout the world Trotskyist movement. Let us quote from a lengthy analysis of this event which appeared in the pages of the Militant, the organ of the American Socialist Workers Party, on January 4, 1960. The author was Murray Weiss:
One group of these intellectual critics of Trotskyism is centered around the magazine New Reasoner which now appears as the New Left Review after a merger with Universities and Left Review. The grouping, which calls itself the “New Left,” is composed of former CP intellectuals who broke with Stalinism during the shake-up that followed the Khrushchev revelations and the Hungarian Revolution.
Trotskyism has proved attractive to them but they have also found it—repellant. They profess to see in the Trotskyist movement the modern continuation of a lot of old evils generally involving discipline, centralism, and so on. They lump together Leninism and Stalinism and regard Trotskyism as simply another example of the same evil. The evolution of these intellectuals is certainly not concluded and one can expect them to deepen their thinking on this question. The SLL takes a friendly attitude toward them, urging them to discuss the basic principled questions of Marxism and to participate in working class struggles.
A prominent member of this general grouping of British radical intellectuals, Peter Fryer, has recently moved away from the SLL after several years’ association as one of its leading writers. At first he offered no political motivation for his shift: then in statements to the press he accused the leadership of the SLL of employing “Stalinist methods.” (See Militant, December 14) His evidence for this is trivial and obscure and saturated with the inference that his own disenchantment should be proof enough.
Fryer’s break precipitated a new flurry of anti-Trotskyist campaigning among the centrists. For example, the Independent Labour Party weekly, Socialist Leader, November 21, 1959, cites Fryer’s departure. This issue really bears down on the menace of Trotskyism. A screaming front-page headline announces: “Stalinism in New Clothes.” The article is ostensibly about the National Assembly of Labour, but the real subject is the Trotskyist villain Gerry Healy, a bloody blackguard to believe this sheet. Here is a typical bit: “Gerry Healy, old-line bureaucratic Trotskyist leader, who with bald head sweating spoke in a style more appropriate to a meeting of peasant guerrillas than a twentieth-century workers’ conference.”....
The Socialist Labour League, as can be seen, is faced with a formidable combination ranging from the most reactionary sections of the capitalist press to centrists [Weiss was referring to the Pabloites] and sectarians seeking factional advantage at no matter what cost to the British socialist movement.
But the League has demonstrated its capacity to stand up under the assault. It is gaining influence despite the blows thrown from all quarters. And it is winning the admiration of honest socialist fighters everywhere.
We are certain that the British Trotskyists will continue to give just as good an account of themselves in the future as they have up till now in this battle. We wish we could do more to help them.
The other Militant article on this subject, to which Weiss referred, dealt with a letter which Healy wrote to Fryer after the latter made his public attack on the Socialist Labour League. It stated:
Healy’s reply is a measure of the maturity of the British Trotskyist leadership and their objectivity. Not a word of anger or bitterness can be found in Gerry Healy’s open letter to the comrade whom he had welcomed so warmly and in whom he had placed such confidence....
Healy’s open letter ... will certainly, one thinks, be widely approved for the thoughtful appreciation it shows for one of the most precious assets of the socialist movement—its intellectuals; and, we must add, for its firmness in refusing to make any concessions when one of them slips.
The author of this tribute to Healy was ... Joseph Hansen, who, within a relatively short period of time, as the SWP turned decisively toward reunification with the Pabloites, would be vindictively denouncing the SLL and retroactively solidarizing himself with Fryer and similar “victims” of Healy’s “sectarianism.”
Now Fryer has been rehabilitated by Slaughter, who has lyingly claimed that this long-standing anti-Trotskyist was driven out of the movement by Healy. A man with innumerable connections to all sorts of petty bourgeois radicals, black nationalists, university snobs, etc., Fryer is a magnet for attracting many anti-Trotskyist freeloaders being sought by Slaughter to strengthen the right wing and pave the way for the integration of the WRP into the unrestrained practice of popular frontism. The very fact that Fryer, in the distant past, denounced the Soviet invasion of Hungary and therefore retains certain fading “anti-Stalinist” credentials by no means negates his value to the cementing of a popular front alliance. Quite the opposite: such petty bourgeois democrats are the moral flagbearers who lead its parades.
Fryer, though not a member of the WRP and unbound by any political discipline, has been provided a weekly column in the Workers Press. He uses this special berth as a launching pad for anti-Leninist vomit as well as for scurrilous attacks against WRP members. He is free to challenge Lenin’s definition of the capitalist state and to hold WRP members who seek to defend Marxist conceptions up to ridicule.
The Screws Are Being Tightened
In contrast to the license given to Fryer, steps are already being taken to suppress political views which clash with the unstated requirements of the WRP-MAS unification. Those in the WRP who thought that the removal of Healy inaugurated a new chapter of inner-party democracy are in for the surprise of their lives as Slaughter tightens the screws. They will learn for the first time what it means to live inside a party veering toward popular frontism. WRP members would be wise to ponder the significance of the last paragraph of a WRP Political Committee statement, published in the March 14 issue of Workers Press, on the alleged “slanders against the Simon Bolivar Brigade.” Out of the blue, this episode in the twisted history of Morenoism is magnified and made the pretext for the introduction of censorship. The political committee warns:
We welcome honest political debate on these life-and-death questions but we will not permit Workers Press to become a vehicle for slanders of revolutionaries who risked, and in some cases lost, their lives in the Nicaraguan revolution.
An altogether astonishing statement! Since when have Trotskyists considered it out of order to criticize the politics of a tendency because its members fell in battle? The fact that countless Stalinists have lost their lives, often heroically, has never prevented the Trotskyists from denouncing the counterrevolutionary nature of the Soviet bureaucracy and its associated parties. It is, however, the Stalinists, such as those in Chile, who invoke the memory of the dead to silence their critics.
Moreover, for months on end, the Workers Press tolerated and encouraged attacks on Lenin, Trotsky, the Russian Revolution and the most fundamental principles of the Fourth International. Peter Fryer is permitted to boast that he “toes” no party line. But suddenly, Slaughter lays down the law on the Simon Bolivar Brigade! This is, of course, only a pretext for achieving Slaughter’s unstated and reactionary political aims.
It is not only discussion on the Simon Bolivar Brigade that will be prohibited. It is only a matter of time before a similar warning will be issued to those who attempt to criticize the line of the Morenoites in Argentina itself—especially during the period of the coup—on the grounds that it is an insult to the fallen martyrs of the PST! And not only that: those who attempt to criticize Scargill will be accused of disrupting the unity of left forces in the working class.
It should be absolutely clear to everyone in the WRP who retains any devotion to the political principles of Trotskyism that the real aim of what Slaughter insolently refers to as the “reorganization” of the Fourth International is nothing but an attempt to transform it into an instrument of popular frontism and new betrayals of the working class.
The time has come for all members of the WRP to seriously reexamine the entire political course upon which they have been placed since Slaughter ascended the platform at Friends Hall. They must honestly ask themselves whether they joined the British Trotskyist movement in order to one day end up as accomplices of its liquidation into the camp of Stalinism and popular frontism. Do they really believe that the answer to the crisis which exploded inside the WRP on July 1, 1985 is to be found in closer relations with proven traitors like the Morenoites and the counterrevolutionary gangsters of world Stalinism? Do they really believe that the Workers Revolutionary Party, for all its tremendous problems and contradictions, was guilty prior to October 1985 of political crimes more serious than those carried out by the Morenoites, not to mention the Stalinists?
For those WRP members who might carelessly dismiss the warning being made by the International Committee as exaggerated or even extreme, we strongly urge that you consider the whole evolution of not only Slaughter, but of the two other main leaders of the old WRP. As the International Committee reported as far back as October 1986, Healy himself has become an admirer of Mikhail Gorbachev, suggesting that the political revolution has begun under his leadership. Then there is the desertion of Michael Banda to Stalinism. Do you know of any precedent for such a development in the history of world Trotskyism, in which a prominent leader, with decades of experience, passed directly from the Fourth International into the camp of Stalinism?
How is it possible for Banda to have moved from Clapham to the Kremlin so quickly? Is this not an indication of both the organic pro-Stalinist tendencies within the WRP itself—which developed during the many years of theoretical backsliding, when the WRP abandoned the struggle against Pabloite revisionism—and the enormously powerful class pressures that are now bearing down on the revolutionary movement and driving unstable elements from the middle class directly into the camp of counterrevolution?
If there exist members of the WRP who believe that an alliance with Banda against the International Committee was politically justifiable, then it must be flatly stated that such individuals already have one foot in the camp of Stalinist counterrevolution. On the other hand, those members of the WRP who sincerely oppose all that Banda has come to represent must ask themselves how they wound up in an alliance with a tendency that was passing over to the camp of Trotskyism’s mortal enemy. While the Trotskyist movement has had to confront unprincipled blocs in the past, not since Burnham deserted Shachtman in order to repudiate socialism and place himself at the service of American imperialism has the Fourth International witnessed such a rapid and devastating exposure of a reactionary political alliance.
In January and February 1986 the WRP was too busy firing away at the International Committee to take notice of who was providing the ammunition. The counterrevolutionary ramifications of Banda’s “27 Reasons” were not understood, even by those who now profess to oppose it. Even in the aftermath of Banda’s desertion, there has been no serious analysis whatsoever of the political significance of this development. What this means is that the WRP’s powers of resistance to Stalinism has been, as a consequence of years of nationalist opportunism, drastically eroded.
We must warn members of the WRP: In your mad rush to break with the International Committee, you did not ask where you were going or who was leading you; now, in your equally hasty rush to unite with the Morenoites, you are still failing to ask these same crucial questions. You have too easily forgotten that in his campaign against the International Committee, General Slaughter—who remains your chief strategist (however far behind the battle line his well-camouflaged tent is pitched)—used Banda and Dave Good as a sort of germ warfare against Trotskyism. Later, Slaughter’s break with Banda took place exclusively around an organizational dispute of the most sordid character. Months passed after Banda’s expulsion without any public announcement by the WRP. Not until after Banda declared himself for Stalinism did Slaughter feel compelled to write a brief column, remarkably entitled, “Where Is Banda Going?,” as if anyone was in doubt about his new political address.
The fact is that Slaughter has no fundamental differences with Banda on questions of principle His only concern was that Banda’s loose lips and reckless haste would discredit Slaughter’s operation and frustrate the completion of his agenda. At any rate, the break with Michael Banda is not as fundamental as it may appear to members of the WRP. We know of nothing that Michael Banda has said that would disqualify him from membership in the Argentine Communist Party and, therefore, in the Morenoite-Stalinist FREPU. Moreover, it may not be necessary for Bill Hunter to travel all the way to Buenos Aires to meet him. If, for example, the Banda brothers decide to join the Communist Party of Great Britain, it is not inconceivable that one of them might be given the opportunity to bring the greetings of British Stalinists to a future congress of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
The ICFI Has Defended Trotskyism
From the earliest stages of the crisis inside the WRP, the International Committee worked loyally for political collaboration with all those who wanted to overcome the difficult problems and restore what we viewed as our party to good health. After all, since 1982 the Workers League had been seeking to discuss the fundamental political questions with the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party. It was not North who sabotaged that discussion, but Healy, Banda and Slaughter.
Between October 1985 and February 1986, the International Committee did everything in its power to maintain fraternal relations with the Workers Revolutionary Party. We were always prepared to objectively discuss all the questions which arose out of the political explosion inside the WRP within the framework of a defense of the programmatic foundations and theoretical conquests of the International Committee. However, we would not bow to those who sought to exploit the initial traumatic impact of the crisis upon large sections of the WRP membership in order to undermine and even throw out the crucial lessons of the long struggle conducted by the ICFI throughout the world against Pabloism.
For this very reason, as it must now be clear to those in the WRP who are still concerned with revolutionary principles, the International Committee and the Workers League were subjected to an unprecedented witch-hunt. Every effort was made to blackguard the ICFI and its sections and to make discussion impossible. Comrade Dave Hyland, who, as everyone knows, played an absolutely honorable role in the struggle to expose Healy’s abuses and then formed, with the permission of the central committee of which he was a member, a minority faction on the basis of an explicit defense of fundamental Trotskyist principles, was denied the most elementary rights under the WRP’s constitution. Supporters of the minority, including the same youth comrades who were the principal victims of Healy’s wretched behavior, were subjected to systematic harassment and even, in some cases, physical violence.
And, on February 8, 1986, in an event for which we know of no parallel in the Trotskyist movement, police were called to bar members of a duly-constituted minority faction from attending a party congress to which they had been elected delegates! On the eve of that same congress, the Workers Press published a public denunciation of the ICFI, the Workers League and the WRP minority.
Such unprecedented events inside an organization claiming to be Trotskyist could only take place under conditions in which the most reactionary political forces were playing a direct and active role. The evolution of the Banda faction proves that this was the case.
For WRP members who, whatever the confusion of the past, still want to defend Trotskyism, this is truly the eleventh-hour. If they fail to take a principled stand now, their organization will be turned into a vital prop of the counterrevolutionary preparations of imperialism in Britain, Argentina and throughout the world. What the advanced workers of Argentina require of the Trotskyist movement in Britain is not such ceremonial gestures as a pledge to lobby a future Labour government for the return of the Malvinas. Rather, they need the revolutionary collaboration of genuine Trotskyists in order to construct an Argentinian section of the Fourth International whose political line is diametrically opposed to the opportunism of the Morenoites. Thus, the greatest act of political solidarity with the Argentine proletariat that the WRP could carry out at the present time would be the repudiation of the proposed unprincipled unification. WRP members must act to put a stop to Slaughter’s attempt to implicate the entire WRP in a historic betrayal.
If they take up this crucial fight, they can count upon the fraternal assistance of the International Committee and its British section, the International Communist Party.
But whatever their decision, the International Committee will continue to wage a relentless war against all forms of centrism and Stalinism, and, through this struggle, build up the international programmatic unity of Trotskyist forces throughout the world. The isolation which was imposed upon the Trotskyist movement for many years will be overcome through an uncompromising struggle against opportunism. It is on this principled basis that the Fourth International will win the advanced workers of the world to its banner and decisively resolve the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.