The open letter to Cliff Slaughter that has been written by Alan Gelfand is a powerful indictment of the thoroughly opportunist and unprincipled attack launched by the petty bourgeois centrists of the Workers Revolutionary Party against Security and the Fourth International. His concise summary of the factual substance of the Gelfand case demonstrates yet again the irrefutable character of the allegations made by the International Committee against the late Joseph Hansen and the Socialist Workers Party leadership.
Moreover, Gelfand’s letter is a devastating exposure of the crass cynicism which underlies Slaughter’s denunciation of Security and the Fourth International. It is truly extraordinary that for all the ferocity of the WRP’s campaign against the Gelfand case, it has to this day not even attempted to disprove the facts which were assembled in the course of the lawsuit. The legal documents and testimony reproduced in The Gelfand Case: A Legal History of the Exposure of US Government Agents in the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party have never been mentioned, let alone subjected to a critical analysis, by Slaughter or anyone else in the WRP. Indeed, as Gelfand points out, Slaughter readily concedes to the ICFI the most important point of all—that Sylvia Franklin was a GPU agent—even though this admission totally discredits his defense of the SWP and his denunciation of the Gelfand case.
As Gelfand has so clearly explained, one cannot admit that Sylvia Franklin was an agent without acknowledging that Hansen and the SWP did deliberately cover up for the crimes of the GPU against the Trotskyist movement. And given the fact that the Gelfand case uncovered the evidence which explained the real reason for Hansen’s defense of Franklin—namely, that the man who first publicly exposed Sylvia Franklin as a GPU agent, Luis Budenz, had also identified Hansen as a Stalinist agent inside the Trotskyist movement—it is impossible to reconcile the admission of Franklin’s guilt with the claim that the Gelfand case and Security and the Fourth International are “slanderous” attacks on the Socialist Workers Party. This is clearly understood by the SWP, and that is why—despite the release of the 1958 grand jury testimony in which Franklin admitted that she had worked as a Stalinist spy inside the SWP national office—Jack Barnes and Larry Seigle maintain their grim defense of her.
The devastating contradiction in Slaughter’s position is evident to anyone who understands the facts and is prepared to analyze them honestly. But here we come to the essential political problem: it has long become obvious that the attitude taken by all the middle-class centrist organizations to Security and the Gelfand case is not at all determined by an objective evaluation of the facts. Whether or not Gelfand’s charges are true is of no importance whatsoever to the WRP and all its new-found friends among the centrist tendencies that comprise the extended family of Pabloism.
We have not the slightest doubt that if Mikhail Gorbachev himself issued a public statement, in the interests of glasnost, that Joseph Hansen had once worked for the Stalinists as their agent inside the Trotskyist movement, this would not change in the slightest the attitude of the revisionists to Security and the Fourth International. Some of them would flatly assert that Gorbachev’s statement proves nothing; others would continue to claim that even if the entire central leadership of the SWP consists of agents, it was still wrong for Gelfand to file a lawsuit against the Socialist Workers Party. And there would finally be those who would say: “So what, Hansen still did good work!”
This is by no means an exaggeration of the attitude of these petty bourgeois groups. After all, their hostility to the Gelfand case was not shaken by the emergence of conclusive proof of Franklin’s guilt—only hours after Barnes had declared in open court that she was one of his greatest personal “heroes.” Nor did they in any way protest against the direct collaboration, to which Gelfand refers in his letter, between the SWP and Zborowski. Even the clear and indisputable fact that Hansen had lied about his contacts with both the GPU and FBI, had presented a phony alibi in his official version of his GPU contacts in Intercontinental Press, and had sought to hide the fact that he had been identified as a GPU agent by Luis Budenz did not change the attitude of the centrists to Security and the Fourth International.
Not a single one of these organizations objected to Barnes’s declaration that he considers it his responsibility to defend the democratic rights of the Stalinist agent Zborowski who, before coming to the United States where he lives to this day in affluent retirement, was directly responsible for the murder of Trotsky’s son and three other leading Trotskyists in the late 1930s.
As incredible as it may seem to ordinary class conscious workers who take it for granted that police stoolpigeons should be unmasked and exposed, the Workers League has actually been told by representatives of one small centrist group that they as a matter of principle, refuse to look at any of the evidence uncovered during the Gelfand case, do not care one way or another if Hansen lied about Franklin and his GPU-FBI contacts, and will continue to denounce Security and the Fourth International as a “slander campaign” regardless of the evidence. Believe it or not, this group calls itself “Truth”!
The Gelfand case uncovered evidence which documented the utter contempt for truth which prevails among all those who have played a leading role in attacking Security and the Fourth International. For example, Gelfand and his attorneys had the opportunity to take the deposition of the late George Weissman, who rendered invaluable service to Hansen and Barnes by contacting people all over the world and convincing them to sign the 1976 “Verdict” that was published in Intercontinental Press denouncing Security as a “shameless frameup.”
However, when questioned on April 29, 1982, in the presence of SWP attorney Margaret Winter, about the factual substance of the allegations against Hansen, Weissman admitted that he knew nothing. We quote from the deposition transcript:
Q: Well, do you have any position on whether that underlying material that was cited in these publications [of the International Committee] was presented accurately or inaccurately?
A: No, I have no opinion as to—without checking it against the alleged sources. I couldn’t venture an opinion as to its accuracy or inaccuracy.
Many of them appeared to me to be taken out of context, I’ll tell you that, but they just appeared to me. I didn’t think that these preposterous charges and allegations warranted a close textual criticism.
Q: So you never checked the—you understand what I’m saying when I’m referring to the underlying material and then their own inferences that they’re drawing from that?
A: I think I understand, yes.
Q: Okay, I just want to talk about the underlying material. You never personally went back to the sources and checked whether the material was presented accurately or not?
After going on to admit that he knew nothing about the origin of the “Verdict” which he circulated on Hansen’s behalf, Weissman shed some light on how signatures were obtained as well as on the politics of those who were asked to sign. He was questioned about the signature of one Chris Andrews, who had deserted the Trotskyist movement decades earlier.
Q. How long was your conversation with Mr. Andrews regarding signing the “Verdict”?
A. Oh, I’d say 20 minutes, half an hour.
Q. Was Mr. Andrews aware of the material being circulated by the Workers Revolutionary Party at the time that you called him or prior to the time that you called him?
A. He had heard rumors of it. He knew something about it, yes.
Q. Do you know how he had found out about it?
A. No, I don’t.
Q. Did he tell you that “So-and-so has told me about that,” or words to that effect?
Q. Had he read any of the Workers League publications?
A. That I don’t know, but I doubt it. He was out of the left movement, that is, he had broken with left politics completely.
And yet the ‘‘Verdict” circulated by Weissman, who never studied the evidence, and signed by people like Andrews, who were out of politics, declared publicly, “Healy and his associates have not brought forward the slightest probative evidence, documents, or testimony to substantiate their libelous accusations against Hansen and Novack, the nominal targets of the attacks.”
Andrews was hardly the worst of those who signed Hansen’s ‘‘Verdict.” Among those who affixed his signature was one Fausto Amador—selected by Hansen to be the SWP’s representative in Central America, although he was known throughout the region as a Somocista agent whom the Sandinistas had sentenced to death in absentia.
It should be noted in passing that Weissman inevitably paid a price for his unprincipled role in circulating the “Verdict.” In 1984, shortly before his death, he was caught up in the purge which had been organized by Barnes to get rid of virtually all veteran SWP members. Weissman was framed up by the Barnes clique and unceremoniously expelled from the party, of which he had been a founding member!
In the decade that has passed since the publication of that “Verdict,” hundreds of documents and thousands of pages of testimony have torn the lies of Hansen and the SWP to shreds. But this makes no impact upon the revisionist friends of the SWP, because their attitude toward the Gelfand case is determined by political considerations of the most reactionary character, as is most clearly illustrated in the circumstances surrounding the repudiation of Security and the Fourth International and the Gelfand case by the Workers Revolutionary Party.
When Slaughter, then acting in his capacity as secretary of the ICFI, visited the United States in early October 1985 to inform the Workers League of the crisis inside the Workers Revolutionary Party, he expressed full agreement with the League’s position that the explosion inside the British section was the outcome of its turn away from the fight against Pabloite revisionism. At the same time, he emphatically reaffirmed, in the presence of the central committee, his full support for Security and the Fourth International.
But just six weeks later, on November 26, 1985, at a public meeting in London’s Friends Hall called by the WRP and attended by scores of revisionists as well as a leading Stalinist, Slaughter—without any previous discussion inside the International Committee—suddenly called into question the legitimacy of the investigation and its findings.
The coincidence between the public turn to the revisionists and the first attack on Security already indicated the existence of unstated political motives which had absolutely nothing to do with redressing an injustice that had been supposedly committed by the ICFI. Rather, the attack on Security and the Fourth International went hand in hand with the WRP’s conscious preparations for a split from the International Committee. This split was sought by those in the WRP leadership who were either moving toward a regroupment with centrist forces internationally or who were about to join hands with the Soviet bureaucracy.
In the weeks that followed the November 26 meeting, Slaughter and his associates rapidly escalated the attack on Security—denouncing it as a “slander” and “frameup”—without bothering to produce a single written statement which challenged, let alone refuted, any of the facts uncovered by the International Committee. In fact, neither Slaughter nor anyone else in the WRP even submitted to the ICFI a list of questions pertaining to the evidence assembled in the course of the Security and the Fourth International investigation. And, as is noted in the open letter, the WRP never attempted to contact Gelfand and raise its objections to the case with him.
As far back as December 1985, when the campaign against Security and the Fourth International was just getting off the ground, the ICFI correctly diagnosed the essential political significance of this development.
In a letter dated December 2, 1985, just one week after the Friends Hall meeting, Comrade Peter Schwarz of the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter (German section of the ICFI) wrote to the central committee of the WRP:
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.
It is a course of liquidating the WRP into a “broad left,” which would become indispensable for the bourgeoisie to control the working class, should a Labour or Labour coalition government come to power. In this way the conditions for a popular front-type formation emerge.
On December 11, 1985, in a letter to the WRP Central Committee, the political committee of the Workers League analyzed the implications of the Friends Hall meeting and the attack on Security and the Fourth International:
What took place at Friends Hall was not a meeting; it was a perspective. What was revealed at that 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.... 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”.
Both the letters of Schwarz and the Workers League have been totally vindicated by subsequent events, thus demonstrating that the ICFI clearly perceived the concealed political motives that inspired the attack on Security.
On January 26, 1986, the WRP Central Committee approved two resolutions, written by Dave Good, which combined a denunciation of Security and the Fourth International with an explicit declaration that the WRP did not accept the discipline of the International Committee which, within the context of Leninist organizational principles, meant a definitive split.
The next major salvo against Security and the Fourth International was fired by Mike Banda, then the general secretary of the WRP. On February 7, 1986—just one day before the WRP leadership was to call upon the police to bar members of an official minority which consisted of supporters of the ICFI from attending the party’s Eighth Congress—Workers Press published Banda’s notorious “27 Reasons.” This diatribe concluded with a vitriolic denunciation of Security:
No examination of the IC would be complete or honestly objective if it didn’t include the most sinister and reactionary manifestation of Healyism in the IC—Security and the Fourth International. No one who honors Trotsky’s impeccable and scrupulous regard for absolutely verifiable fact and irrefutable evidence will have anything more to do with this monstrous frameup based entirely on circumstantial evidence and political innuendo.... No one except the paranoid North and his cronies in the IC will believe this damnable fantasy....
Since writing those lines, Banda has broken with the Fourth International, denounced Trotsky as a liar and counterrevolutionary and declared himself a Stalinist. His associate, Dave Good, has also repudiated Trotskyism. Less than four months after authoring the resolutions which attacked Security and the Fourth International, Good wrote: “Today a correct orientation must be based on a critical assimilation of revolutionary theory in the heat of revolutionary struggles as they have unfolded. It is for this reason that I no longer consider myself a Trotskyist.”
Thus, those who assumed the leading role in denouncing Security and the Fourth International, the first extensive investigation ever conducted by the Trotskyist movement into the GPU apparatus which organized the killing of Trotsky, have in the meantime become supporters of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Their provocative actions were supported by those in the WRP leadership, such as Slaughter, who were willing to enter into an unprincipled bloc against the ICFI and Security and the Fourth International in order to legitimize their repudiation of the entire political legacy of the International Committee. In private correspondence with members of Banda’s faction inside the WRP, Slaughter insisted that all political and organizational questions had to be put aside in order to drive all supporters of the International Committee out of the Workers Revolutionary Party: “It will be criminally short-sighted to do anything but concentrate all our energies” on the fight against the International Committee, he wrote to Tony Banda on February 2, 1986. “Nothing comes before that.”
Keeping in mind the political circumstances which attended the repudiation of Security and the Fourth International and the subsequent evolution of those in the WRP who spearheaded that attack, let us consider how Slaughter justifies his position in the Workers Press of January 17, 1987. Referring to the analysis of the degeneration of the WRP made by the ICFI in its statement “How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism,” Slaughter concedes that it correctly asserts “that the political decay of the WRP was inseparably bound up with its turn away from the international struggle against revisionism—the theoretical mainspring of building the world party in the early 1970s.”
But then Slaughter claims that this analysis “proves completely damning for North himself and his supporters.”
North, he writes, “knows that when there was the ‘turn away from the international struggle against revisionism,’ as he puts it, there was a turn to something else—Security and the Fourth International!
This was to be the “real” fight against the revisionists. It was a substitute for the abandonment of that fight and a “justification” of that abandonment.
Slaughter goes on:
The “International Committee” continues to defend the whole journalistic and legal war on Joseph Hansen and condemns the WRP for not doing the same.
But North and his friends in the International Committee know that for ten years the struggle against revisionism in the IC was Security and the Fourth International.
North cannot evade this, and his own role, by simply saying what everyone will agree with—that the real struggle was dropped.
In fact it was turned, misdirected and distorted into Security and the Fourth International, with North leading the turn!
Slaughter’s argument is not even original. He does little more than paraphrase what was written by Banda in the concluding section of his “27 Reasons”:
When North contends that the struggle against revisionism was abandoned he is only half right. History records that the antirevisionist struggle was transformed for over a decade into a manic witchhunt, a desperate forensic diversion to be precise, to satisfy Healy’s paranoid schizophrenia as well as his anti-theory empiricism.
It is truly touching to see how all those who have either joined the Stalinists or have completely capitulated to the Pabloites have the audacity to condemn Security and the Fourth International on the grounds that it represented a turn away from the fight against revisionism!
If that is indeed the case, then Slaughter should be asked to explain why, since the repudiation of Security, Banda has become a Stalinist and he himself is now the leader of the WRP’s campaign for regroupment with the Pabloites! Slaughter’s argument would carry greater weight if his own personal turn away from Security had been followed by a return to the fight against Pabloism. After all, if one were to accept Slaughter’s analysis, one would think that the WRP, once it had repudiated the Security diversion, would have resumed the offensive against Pabloism. The pages of Workers Press should then have been filled with trenchant analyses demolishing the positions of Mandel, Moreno, the OCI, the SWP and all other varieties of Pabloism.
But in practice just the opposite took place. The denunciation of Security was accompanied by the explicit renunciation of all the fundamental principles upon which the founding of the ICFI had been based. Workers Press was transformed into a public bulletin board where every revisionist was invited to post his notices. Slaughter’s learned colleague, Cyril Smith, suggested in the pages of Workers Press that neither the term “revisionist” nor “Pabloite” had any meaning and urged they not be used. As for the ICFI’s refusal to characterize Cuba as a “workers’ state”—a position defended by Slaughter for more than a decade prior to the beginning of the Security investigation—that was dismissed by Smith as “nonsense.”
Ignoring the contradiction which destroys his argument against Security, Slaughter makes clear that the WRP rejects the entire history of the ICFI’s struggle against Pabloism. In fact, Slaughter begins his January 17 Workers Press article by extolling the WRP’s regroupment policy, writing:
Since the expulsion of G. Healy and his supporters (Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, Sheila Torrance, Alex Mitchell and others) in October 1985 the Workers Revolutionary Party has devoted time to rebuilding the international work which was for so long broken up by the old “International Committee”.
This is an explicit attack on the most crucial episode in the history of the ICFI: its refusal to join the Socialist Workers Party in the unprincipled reunification which was orchestrated by Hansen and Mandel in 1963. The leadership of the British Trotskyist movement, in which Slaughter then played a leading role, characterized the SWP’s desertion of the International Committee and its reunification with the Pabloites as a betrayal of Trotskyism. The premise of that reunification was that the differences which had arisen in the world Trotskyist movement in 1953 over the perspectives advanced by Pablo, particularly in the documents of the Third World Congress, had been superseded by events—above all, the victory of Castro in Cuba.
The evaluation of the British Trotskyists was diametrically opposed to this opportunist evasion of the implications of 1953. Far from viewing the struggle against Pabloism as irrelevant, Slaughter himself wrote: “It is time to draw to a close the period in which Pabloite revisionism was regarded as a trend within Trotskyism. Unless this is done we cannot prepare for the revolutionary struggles now beginning.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. Three, New Park Publications, p. 49)
The whole subsequent history of the Trotskyist movement vindicated the stand taken by the ICFI against the reunification—which was unprincipled because it was based on a suppression of any organized discussion on the differences which had led to the 1953 split. Inevitably, the results of such a unification were a series of political disasters, producing defeats of the working class and the liquidation of the Trotskyist movement in a whole number of countries, especially in Latin America.
Now the WRP is proposing a new regroupment conference of “Trotskyists” in which all the historical experiences of the Fourth International and the specific role of different tendencies in the international class struggle are to be simply ignored. Their total indifference to the political record of the “Trotskyists” with whom they are working to prepare this regroupment conference is best indicated by their close collaboration with the international current identified with the late Nahuel Moreno. By any objective Marxist standards, the Morenoites would have to be characterized as a petty bourgeois tendency whose entire history, over the past 30 years, has been one of outright capitulation to the politics of popular frontism. In their central base of operations, Argentina, the Morenoites worked for years as an appendage of the Peronist movement and even proclaimed publicly that they worked under the discipline of Juan Peron.
For the WRP to enter into fraternal relations with such a tendency and to work with them for the organization of an international regroupment has a definite political significance. The WRP is itself now drawing closer to petty bourgeois currents as it conditions itself to play in Britain the same role that the Morenoites play in Argentina.
Slaughter knows this very well, for he himself explained the meaning of the 1963 reunification in a report he delivered at the time to the International Committee:
The “unification” with the Pablo group, supported by the SWP, is founded not upon Marxist theory and the actual development of the movement, the conscious resolution of the contradictions in that development. Instead, it is a combination of centrist trends each of whose development is determined by empirical adaptation to circumstances. For such a “unified” organization there can be no unified development and no growth. Within it, some groups, such as Pablo and his immediate supporters, go to the Right in complete capitulation to the national bourgeoisie in Algeria; others, held back by tradition and the force of inertia, resist the turn and look for face-saving formulae. (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. Four, New Park, pp. 194-95)
Slaughter’s indictment of Security is not only refuted by the actual evolution of the WRP. There is another unexplained contradiction in his cynical construction. While (to use Slaughter’s words) “leading the turn” on Security and the Fourth International, I was also producing between 1982 and 1984 the only systematic and comprehensive political critique of the WRP’s abandonment of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism.
Slaughter should explain this “minor” inconsistency in my supposedly disreputable role in the alleged degeneration of the International Committee. If Security was a turn away from the fight against revisionism, then why was it that at the highpoint of the Gelfand case, I formulated and presented my political differences to the leadership of the WRP, warning that its turn away from the fight against Pabloism would have catastrophic political consequences.
I did not simply write, as Slaughter suggests in his article, a document “criticizing Healy’s philosophy.” Members of the WRP know full well that the critique of Healy’s bogus dialectics was the beginning of a comprehensive analysis of the Pabloite line of what was then the British section of the ICFI. Moreover, during this period, in July 1983, the Workers League published a critique of Barnes’s notorious speech of December 31, 1982 in which he repudiated the theory of permanent revolution. This important milestone in the political degeneration of the SWP went virtually unnoticed by the WRP. In fact, in my report of February 11, 1984 to the International Committee, I specifically noted the connection between the anti-Trotskyist line advanced by Barnes and the increasingly revisionist character of the political line of the WRP:
The development of the IC has proceeded through the struggle against revisionism.... The latest attack by Barnes on Trotskyism must bring this entire history forward; precisely because the International Committee has always recognized that such crucial developments within the ranks of the revisionists inevitably foreshadow great new chapters in the world socialist revolution. Moreover, we don’t simply look upon revisionism as some sort of bacteria that exists inside a test tube, safely stored in a laboratory. Precisely because revisionism has material roots in the actual development of the class struggle of which we ourselves are a part, because it reflects the pressure of alien class forces upon the working class and its revolutionary vanguard, our response to revisionism finds its highest expression in the analysis of our own political development. (Fourth International, Autumn 1986, p. 42)
As is well known, Slaughter, who was present when this report was made, collaborated with Banda in denouncing it. Five days later, he characterized it, in a private letter to Healy, as an attack which “has as its content the need of the imperialists to destroy the IC.” And Slaughter closed the letter by proposing to Healy that North and the Workers League be fought “with no holds barred.” (Ibid., p. 93) I refer to the historical record not as a personal defense against Slaughter’s lies, but because it contributes to a correct understanding of the development of the International Committee and the place occupied by Security and the Fourth International in that development. One thing, however, is clear: “leading the way” on Security and the Fourth International in no way diverted the Workers League away from the struggle against Pabloite revisionism.
Slaughter’s argument against Security, based entirely on formal logic, is aimed at those who, knowing nothing about the real history of the International Committee over the past two decades, are prepared to accept his lying claim that its sections were never anything more than carbon copies of the WRP. Slaughter initially introduced his “theory of equal degeneration” in order to convince the WRP membership that a split from the ICFI was a necessary continuation of the fight against Healy. In his latest article, the same line continues:
Under Healy’s leadership the International Committee was turned into an appendage of the Workers Revolutionary Party, subject to the same abuses and political opportunism, in some cases leading to outright betrayal, as in the WRP itself.
Of course, Slaughter does not attempt to substantiate this allegation by examining the political histories of the sections of the International Committee, which were founded on the basis of very definite political principles and programmatic conceptions that had been defended in the course of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism.
In sharp contrast to the empty slanders of Slaughter, the ICFI’s condemnation of the opportunism of the WRP, “How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism,” provided a detailed analysis of the political line of the ex-British section over a period of 12 years. Every important component part of the political work of the WRP—in the trade unions, among the youth, its attitude toward the Labour Party, etc.—was examined. The ICFI reviewed thousands of issues of the WRP’s daily newspaper, studied scores of international party documents, and analyzed its response to virtually every major political question that arose between 1973 and 1985. In this way the ICFI systematically documented the growth of opportunism inside the Workers Revolutionary Party and proved, rather than simply asserted, that this opportunism led to its political collapse.
Slaughter has refused to answer any of this, and has made no concrete analysis of the political line of the Workers League during the last decade. While the ICFI has traced the development of opportunism inside the WRP, Slaughter has never even attempted to substantiate on the basis of a concrete political analysis, his allegation that the IC sections and the Workers League were guilty of “the same abuses and political opportunism.” Instead, while railing against the suggestion that “the WRP leadership was responsible equally with Healy,” he bases his entire case against Security on the unproved—and, in fact, lying—allegation that there was a universal, undifferentiated and unopposed turn away from the struggle against Pabloite revisionism inside all the sections of the International Committee.
The fact that Slaughter does not even make an attempt to politically substantiate his claims is a damning indictment of his position. For if there were any truth at all in Slaughter’s analysis, then evidence of the Workers League’s decade-long tum away from the fight against revisionism—“with North leading the turn”—would be written all over the policies, program and practice of the Workers League. But Slaughter knows full well that an analysis of the political line of the Workers League over the last decade would demonstrate that it has consistently and indefatigably defended the class interests of the American proletariat from the standpoint of an international revolutionary perspective. He knows, moreover, that the last attempt to attack the political line of the Workers League, made by the WRP in October 1983 over the issue of Grenada, required a conscious falsification of our party’s position, as Slaughter, who played a leading role in that sordid intrigue, was later compelled to admit.
But let us examine more concretely the actual historical relationship of Security and the Fourth International to the development of the International Committee and the degeneration of the Workers Revolution Party. In Slaughter’s presentation, Security was the outgrowth of the WRP’s abandonment of the struggle against revisionism. But this is a formal construction which cynically falsifies the history of the ICFI and the Workers League.
The origins of Security and the FI were of an entirely principled character. When it was learned in the summer of 1974 that the then national secretary of the Workers League, Tim Wohlforth, had deliberately concealed the fact that his personal companion had close family connections with a leading member of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Workers League Central Committee voted to temporarily remove Wohlforth as national secretary and suspend Nancy Fields from membership until an international commission could thoroughly investigate this very serious breach of party security.
At first, Wohlforth agreed that he had made a serious error and supported the decision, as did Fields herself, and agreed to collaborate fully with the investigation. However, on September 29, 1974, just a few weeks before the investigation was to begin, Wohlforth wrote a vitriolic letter of resignation from the Workers League.
The reply to Wohlforth’s letter was written by none other than Cliff Slaughter, who emphatically rejected Wohlforth’s subjective diatribe and defended the procedures decided upon by the Workers League and the ICFI.
He wrote to Wohlforth:
As you know, the decisions [of the Workers League Central Committee] were taken on the basis of evidence already before the committee, and admitted by you, namely that you concealed from the IC your knowledge of NF’s past CIA connections, and so did she. The decision was to set up the inquiry and meanwhile to remove you as secretary, but retaining you as full-time party worker in New York with special responsibility for the Bulletin. NF was suspended for the investigation. These decisions you and she voted for. (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. Seven, Labor Publications, p. 261)
Despite Wohlforth’s provocative and unprincipled behavior, the International Committee completed its investigation into the violation of security by Wohlforth and Fields, establishing that they had concealed from the Workers League Central Committee and the ICFI the fact that Fields had been raised and financially supported through college by Albert Morris, who had been a leading figure in the CIA. However, the ICFI commission concluded that there existed no evidence that Fields herself was or had been a government agent, and so her suspension was lifted. The commission also decided that Wohlforth should be permitted to seek re-election to the position of national secretary at the next congress of the Workers League.
Wohlforth ignored the commission report and instead turned to Hansen and the Socialist Workers Party—from which he had been expelled a decade earlier—to publish his denunciation of the International Committee and the Workers League. It was again Cliff Slaughter who replied on behalf of the ICFI to Wohlforth’s refusal to collaborate with the international commission and his subsequent desertion:
The CIA is not an incidental question for our movement, but a question of indispensable tasks flowing from the principles of the construction of revolutionary parties of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Only someone who fails to take at all seriously the building of the world party of socialist revolution can dismiss the question of security against the CIA, the international center of the counterrevolutionary plans of the imperialists.
Wohlforth is just such a person. He is now howling in protest against having been removed by the Central Committee of the Workers League from the position of secretary. But it is surely absolutely ludicrous to suppose that, having refused to accept responsibility for a basic question of security clearance against CIA connections, he could continue in a position of national leadership.
The IC and the Workers League have never and will never under any circumstances knowingly permit within their ranks anyone with CIA connections, just as we expose the CIA ruthlessly outside our movement.
We insist on immediate and rigorous inquiry into any such connection. It is the future of the revolution that is at stake. It should come as no surprise that Wohlforth is defended and embraced on this question by the bitterest opponents of Trotskyism, the Socialist Workers Party, and Robertson, who reject the perspectives of world revolution.
It has now been publicly revealed that the FBI infiltrated the SWP over a period of years. Despite this, and despite the fact that the CIA is responsible for the physical destruction of thousands of workers and youth considered enemies of US imperialism, and will plan a similar fate for the sections of the International Committee, Wohlforth and these revisionists come together in unity against the elementary and principled measures taken by the Workers League. (Ibid., pp. 283-84)
Wohlforth chose to break with the International Committee over the question of the investigation into Nancy Fields and his relationship with her—insisting that his personal life was nobody’s business but his own. That this was a political stand with far-ranging implications was clearly understood by the ICFI in 1975. In the decade since his resignation from the Workers League Wohlforth has moved so far to the right that he now explicitly rejects the Leninist concept of the party, declaring in an article published in a revisionist journal last autumn:
I hold that Leninism is not valid as a democratic, revolutionary, working-class heritage. We are now in a Post-Leninist period, a period in which we should insist upon pluralistic working class politics rather than the suppression of working class parties, and revolutionary fronts composed of several parties rather than vanguard party leaderships. (Against the Current, September-October 1986, p. 42)
What this proves is that Wohlforth’s failure to inform the ICFI about the questionable background of his personal companion and his angry reaction to the ICFI’s decision to investigate Fields was rooted in a definite petty bourgeois class position. When called upon to subordinate his personal “independence” to the interests of the party and the workers’ movement, Wohlforth’s “political agreement” with the ICFI dissolved almost overnight. The essential political implications of Wohlforth’s petty bourgeois rejection of the authority of the party and its right to defend itself ruthlessly against state attack has now found full expression in his explicit rejection of Leninism.
Slaughter and the WRP have during the past year also denounced the “frameup” of Wohlforth. In their recent call for an international conference, they have gone so far as to insist that a condition of reorganization must be the repudiation of the “slanders” against Wohlforth and Fields. Aside from the question of his personal involvement in the events, Slaughter knows that there has never been any question but that Wohlforth had indeed concealed the family connections of Nancy Fields to leading personnel in the CIA. Thus, what is involved in Slaughter’s new position is a rejection of the political premises that underlay the actions that were taken by the ICFI against Wohlforth and Fields: that the Trotskyist movement does have the right to defend its security against its class enemies and that all members are required to subordinate their personal affairs to the objective needs of that security.
The fact that Slaughter no longer believes that the ICFI should have taken any action against Wohlforth signifies a drastic change in his own class position, and, therefore, in his conception of revolutionary organization and the relationship between the individual and the party. This change was foreshadowed when Slaughter, arguing from the standpoint of a petty bourgeois democrat, claimed in November 1986 that Healy’s supporters “are close to every fascist position on the rights of human individuals, rights which are for them reduced to nothing by the requirements of the party.” No doubt, his present defense of Wohlforth falls in the category of upholding “the rights of human individuals” against those in the International Committee who would have them “reduced to nothing” in the interests of the movement’s security.
Only a simpleton could fail to see that the denunciation of Security and the Fourth International and the rejection of basic communist principles are bound up with a fundamental change in the class position of Slaughter and the Workers Revolutionary Party. They are in the process of completing the internal transformation of the WRP into the type of middle class organization which is perfectly suited for the politics of accommodation, compromise and collaboration with the bourgeoisie.
Let us now return to the events which followed Wohlforth’s resignation and led to the initiation of the Security and the Fourth International investigation. The March 31, 1975 issue of the SWP’s Intercontinental Press featured a vitriolic denunciation of the actions taken by the International Committee in relation to Wohlforth, entitled “The Secret of Healy’s Dialectics.” Its author, Joseph Hansen, sought to blackguard the necessary steps that had been taken by the ICFI and the Workers League to protect its security as “paranoia.”
Within two weeks, the Workers Revolutionary Party produced a lengthy reply to Hansen’s attack. Those who would claim that Security and the Fourth International was born in a turn away from a struggle against revisionism would be well advised to reread this document which, as a matter of fact, the Workers League reprinted and sought to circulate among members of the WRP prior to its Eighth Congress in 1986. The decision to exclude supporters of the International Committee inside the WRP from the Eighth Congress was partly motivated by a determination to prevent the distribution of this 1975 statement and related documents.
The 1975 reply of the WRP to Hansen’s attack was a major political and theoretical contribution to the education of the cadre of the Fourth International. For the first time in the Trotskyist movement since the 1940s, it reviewed the tragic experiences endured by the Fourth International at the hands of the combined agencies of Stalinism and imperialism. The statement recalled the role of such provocateurs as Senin, Well and Zborowski and their role in the assassinations of Ignace Reiss, Erwin Wolf, Leon Sedov and Trotsky.
Examining Hansen’s outraged reaction to the security policy of the International Committee, the statement then reviewed the long list of extraordinary events inside the Pabloite International:
1. The mysterious trip of the Sri Lankan Pabloite Bala Tampoe to the United States, financed by the CIA-supported Asia Foundation, where he met with Robert McNamara, and his visit to the West German embassy in Colombo where he dined with the CDU chancellor and ex-Nazi Kurt Kiesinger.
2. The exposure of Max Wechsler, minutes secretary of the Australian Pabloite group, as a high-ranking agent of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).
3. The secret testimony given by a member of the British Pabloite group, the IMG, to the Scarman Tribunal into the 1974 death of Kevin Gately at the Red Lion Square antifascist demonstration, which contradicted earlier testimony given by IMG supporters and directly contributed to a ruling which justified police violence and condemned the IMG as “morally responsible” for Gately’s death.
4. The 1973 public claim by Gery Lawless, a leading member of the IMG, that the IRA was responsible for a series of London fire-bombings—a statement denounced by the IRA. Bob Pennington, then a leader of the IMG and today one of Slaughter’s allies in the fight against the ICFI, defended the actions of Lawless.
In addition to these developments, the WRP took note of the flood of revelations, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, that the SWP had been since 1961 massively infiltrated by the FBI, with more than 1,600 agents and informers gathering information on its internal life. The WRP quite correctly stated:
In this period, Hansen sets out to deliberately distort the history of security dangers to miseducate and weaken the revolutionary movement. It comes at a time when the FBI has yielded up some 3,000 documents covering three decades of surveillance, penetration, and disruption of Hansen’s own party, and the CIA is being exposed daily for its conspiracies against the working class all over the world.
One thing the published FBI documents show beyond doubt, is that they reveal only the tip of the iceberg. These doctored and highly selective documents are undoubtedly reinforced by spies who are already and have been for some time inside Hansen’s party. (Documents of Security and the Fourth International, Labor Publications, p. 17)
The statement continued:
Security is not an abstract or secondary question. A party that is not founded on revolutionary discipline in its own ranks cannot command the support of the working class in confronting the capitalist state machine, overthrowing it, and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This is not to present security in a one-sided way. It is to be seen as a central political question in the training of a revolutionary cadre in the working class. A serious revolutionary party does not indulge in panic in dealing with security questions in its ranks, because it cannot organize its ranks properly to repel police penetration under panic.
This means vigilance at all times on questions of security in the knowledge that a trained revolutionary party, deeply embedded in the working class, is the biggest single guarantor against the counterrevolutionary conspiracies of the CIA, FBI, MI5, Ml6, etc.
Hansen’s article enables us to reopen vital pages in the history of Trotskyism. We are obliged to present this history, warts and all, since our movement has, in the past, paid a terrible price when it has ignored and derided security training in its ranks. These are the pages that Hansen wants to suppress....
The International Committee of the Fourth International is not going to be intimidated by the shouts and screams of the revisionists. They can call us “sectarians” and “paranoids” until they are blue in the face. In using these labels, they are in fact attacking the IC’s fight for principles and its attention to discipline and security vigilance in our ranks. We are not building a bucket shop for middle class free booters and adventurers, which is the hallmark of Hansen’s international groupings. That road is an open invitation to the CIA and penetration by the police, because it is precisely among such elements that the police agencies operate so breezily.
Hansen wants to hide the security question; we want to elevate it in the training and building of our movement. That is why we feel it necessary to reopen the pages of the history of Trotskyism to explain the background of why action was taken against Wohlforth and why similar steps will be taken again in the future if the necessity arises. (Ibid., pp. 17-19)
Slaughter has not yet explained—in fact, he never explains anything—how this position was incompatible with Marxism or represented a turn away from the struggle against revisionism. But we do know that Slaughter supported this position in 1975 and defended it publicly in a series of speeches he gave in the United States. At a meeting in New York on April 29, 1975, Slaughter not only defended the actions taken by the ICFI in the Wohlforth affair, he also denounced the indifference of revisionist groups to questions of security. We quote from the press account of Slaughter’s speech that appeared in the May 2, 1975 issue of the Bulletin:
Slaughter exposed the lies being spread by Joseph Hansen of the SWP that Wohlforth was driven out of the movement to avoid a discussion. He said it was precisely Wohlforth who refused every appeal by the Workers League and the IC to return to the movement to fight out his differences.
The very same Hansen who today claims the IC is afraid of political discussion expelled Wohlforth and the founding members of the Workers League in 1964 for demanding a discussion on the entry of the Ceylonese section of the Fourth International into a bourgeois coalition government.
While Hansen accuses the Workers League of being ‘paranoid’ for its security inquiry on Fields, Hansen’s co-thinker in Ceylon today, Bala Tampoe, travels to the US on CIA funds yet still remains the leader of the Ceylonese section of the Pabloite United Secretariat.
In Australia, a government spy was discovered to be on the national executive of the Pabloite movement, but in the SWP’s paper, the Militant, it was treated as a joke.
“We have here then two types of movements. One which is serious about security because it is serious about politics, the other adapting to the Stalinists, the trade union bureaucracy, and the capitalist state”....
Slaughter concluded by saying that the Workers League must be built in the United States to answer Trotsky’s message just before he died. “‘I believe in the future of the Fourth International, go forward.’ And nobody, either Joseph Hansen or anyone else, is going to make the slightest difference”.
While Slaughter may have forgotten what he said in New York, perhaps he remembers what he wrote when Hansen, one week after the publication of “The Secret of Healy’s Dialectics,” wrote another article, this time charging that the WRP’s decision not to participate in the Red Lion Square demonstration at which Kevin Gately was killed may have been the product of infiltration by agents of the Special Branch.
“Has the WRP been infiltrated by agents of the Special Branch?,” Hansen asked. “What are the identities of those in the WRP who suggested the best course was to have nothing to do with the demonstration against fascism in Red Lion Square?”
That article was answered by Slaughter in a letter to Hansen dated May 29, 1975, in which he explained that the ICFI proposed the formation of a parity commission, consisting of an equal number of members from the ICFI and United Secretariat, to investigate the security issues raised by Hansen in relation to the Red Lion Square demonstration. Slaughter stated that Healy would be prepared to present himself for questioning “if Hansen will do so as well.” Slaughter also informed Hansen that the ICFI was prepared to place before the commission evidence relating to provocations going all the way back to the notorious “Tate Affair” of 1966.
As Slaughter no doubt recalls, this proposal was rejected by Hansen. Nevertheless, the ICFI voted at its Sixth Congress in May 1975 to proceed with its own investigation into unresolved security questions surrounding the circumstances of Leon Trotsky’s assassination and the infiltration of the Fourth International by the Stalinist secret police.
In his January 17 article, Slaughter writes that I have “nothing to say” about my own and Alex Mitchell’s “devoted hack-work for Healy on Security and the Fourth International.” What Slaughter now calls “hack-work” was, in fact, a monumental contribution to the Trotskyist movement’s knowledge of its own history. The subsequent degeneration of Mitchell—for which Healy, Banda and Slaughter are principally responsible—cannot detract from the massive research he conducted into the assassination of Trotsky and the operation of the huge GPU network which organized it. The outcome of this first stage of the investigation was the series of 19 articles that were serialized in Workers Press and then published in magazine form under the title How the GPU Murdered Trotsky.
Slaughter has still not offered a critique of this pioneering work, which will be consulted by revolutionaries for decades to come as the starting point of any politically serious investigation into the murder of Trotsky. But if Slaughter ever does get around to presenting his objections to this work, we hope he will include an analysis of one of the most important documents discovered by Mitchell: the now-famous memorandum of September 1, 1940 written by Robert G. McGregor, the American consul in Mexico City, in which he reported a discussion which he had held with Joseph Hansen on the previous day in the American embassy. That memorandum included the following astonishing information:
Hansen stated that when in New York in 1938 he was himself approached by an agent of the GPU and asked to desert the Fourth International and join the Third. He referred the matter to Trotsky who asked him to go as far with the matter as possible. For three months Hansen had relations with a man who merely identified himself as “John,” and did not otherwise reveal his real identity.
In order to jog Slaughter’s memory, allow me to remind him that he was the first to bring this product of Mitchell’s “devoted hack-work” to the attention of myself and other leaders of the Workers League when he again traveled to North America in the summer of 1975. Slaughter expressed the opinion that this document raised many troubling questions that Hansen must be pressed to answer. But it does not really matter whether or not he remembers what he said at the time. The historical record shows that in October 1975 Slaughter directly challenged Hansen to explain the significance of the 1940 memorandum:
We refer to the report sent to the State Department by Robert McGregor, US Consul in Mexico City, of September 1, 1940. This relates to a visit you made to him in which he asserted that Trotsky’s assassination had been engineered from the United States. It also quotes you as saying that in 1938 you were approached by a GPU agent who tried to recruit you and that you maintained relations with this agent for three months.
Comrade Hansen, you have written many articles and memoirs claiming to give a full picture of the circumstances surrounding Trotsky’s assassination. You even wrote a detailed supplementation of the facts as given by Isaac Deutscher, in your introduction to Trotsky’s My Life. Yet at no time did you mention the GPU’s attempt to recruit you. Nor did it enter into the political preparations of the comrades responsible for guarding Trotsky either before or after the Siqueiros raid. The international movement has never been informed, and we have had to take this material from the US Government archives. We have the extraordinary position where the US State Department has known of your “operation” of playing along [with] the GPU, according to you with Trotsky’s agreement, but our own movement has been kept in ignorance. (Documents of Security and the Fourth International, p. 83)
Despite his repudiation of Security and the Fourth International, Slaughter has yet to review documents such as his letter of October 1975 and explain why he rejects what he once wrote. Does he now believe that there was no reason for the ICFI to question Hansen about his previously unknown trip to the American embassy and the meetings with the GPU agent “John” cited by McGregor in his memorandum? Does he now believe that unreported meetings between members of a revolutionary organization and representatives of the capitalist state fall within the province of “personal business”? Does he now consider that there is nothing unusual about Hansen’s meeting with the GPU? If this is the case, it is still more proof that Slaughter’s objections to Security arise from the same basic change in his class position and political outlook that underlie his present striving for unity with the Pabloite groups.
While condemning Security and the Fourth International, Slaughter does not say how the International Committee should have responded not only to the McGregor memorandum, but to all the other lies which Hansen told in his various replies to How the GPU Murdered Trotsky. Should the ICFI have accepted the obviously incredible “invisible ink” alibi which Hansen invented to explain his meetings with the GPU—an alibi, which, as Slaughter knows, was demolished in the course of Gelfand’s lawsuit? Or should the ICFI have remained silent when Hansen published a ringing tribute to Sylvia Franklin? Should the International Committee have concealed from the workers’ movement documents uncovered in 1977 that revealed for the first time that Hansen had specifically told the United States government that he “wishes to be put in touch with someone in your [referring to Raymond Murphy of the State Department] confidence located in New York to whom confidential information could be imparted with impunity”? Should the ICFI have concealed the fact that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover instructed Special Agent B.E. Sackett to be that confidential contact and that Hansen agreed to meet with him?
In posing these questions, we are asking Slaughter to tell us why he and the WRP maintain that the interests of the Fourth International and the revolutionary workers’ movement could best be served by covering up these facts.
We now wish to examine concretely the relationship of Security and the Fourth International to the Workers League. This is especially necessary inasmuch as Slaughter declares in his January 17 article, “The chosen ‘experts’ to do the job on Joseph Hansen were Alex Mitchell of the WRP and ... David North of the Workers League!”
It is no longer necessary for us to respond to Slaughter’s cynical and dishonest reference to doing a “job” on Hansen. We merely invite him again to accept Alan Gelfand’s challenge to address and answer the actual evidence. But I feel that it is necessary to deal with my own role in the work of Security and the Fourth International, not only because Slaughter suggests that herein is to be found the source of all my political sins, but, more importantly, because it sheds light on the actual process through which the Workers League came into sharp conflict with the WRP.
First of all, neither I nor anyone else in the Workers League can take any direct credit at all for the opening rounds of Security and the Fourth International. Between April and August 1975, the Workers Revolutionary Party not only carried out all the research, but also wrote all the articles that appeared in the magazine How the GPU Murdered Trotsky. At the Sixth Congress of the International Committee, the motion to initiate the Security and the Fourth International investigation was made by Healy and supported by all the delegates of the British section, including Cliff Slaughter.
However, it would not be correct to give the impression that the Workers League leadership played no role at all in the chain of events that led to the launching of Security and the Fourth International. As we have already explained, the development of the investigation had its political origins in the struggle inside the Workers League against Wohlforth’s betrayal of Trotskyism. Those who are familiar with the documents published by the Workers League more than a decade ago (and reprinted in Volume Seven of Trotskyism versus Revisionism) already know that Wohlforth’s personal relation with Fields and his failure to report her family connections was only one form assumed by his political degeneration.
In the aftermath of his resignation, Wohlforth rejoined the SWP and explicitly repudiated the entire struggle that had been waged by the International Committee over the previous 14 years—a struggle in which he himself had played a central role. His return to the SWP was not merely an act of organizational revenge against the ICFI and the Workers League. Wohlforth, within a year of his resignation, had embraced the entire right-wing platform of the Socialist Workers Party—even though this meant repudiating what he had written on fundamental theoretical and historical questions. He denounced the Workers League’s fight for the Labor Party, condemned its opposition to black nationalism and even attacked us for refusing to join the SWP in demanding the use of federal troops to fight racism in Boston! The present leadership of the Workers League was developed in the theoretical and political struggle against Wohlforth. The defense of the party’s heritage and program against his renegacy produced a renaissance of Trotskyism inside the Workers League. Its cadre could only defeat Wohlforth in a political sense by reassimilating all the lessons of the past struggles of the International Committee to construct the Trotskyist movement in the United States. The political and theoretical record of this reassimilation is to be found in the documents What Makes Wohlforth Run and The Fourth International and the Renegade Wohlforth, both of which are reproduced in the above-mentioned Volume Seven. (To this day neither Slaughter nor anyone else in the WRP has produced a document which analyzes the historical, political and theoretical content of the split with Healy. Having rejected the entire history of the ICFI, the WRP is incapable of producing such an analysis.)
Precisely because the Workers League was conducting the struggle against Wohlforth on the highest political and theoretical plane, it saw the security issues which arose around Fields within the historical context of the international struggle for Trotskyism. The Workers League leadership, of which I was then a part, was drawn into the Security and the Fourth International investigation on this principled basis. The Workers League never saw Security and the Fourth International as a forensic exercise. Insofar as it was compelled to conduct investigations, it did so as part of the struggle to clarify the historical record and rearm the cadre of the world movement in the bitter lessons of the past.
Direct collaboration between the Workers League and the Workers Revolutionary Party in the investigatory work and the writing of documents began in the latter half of 1975. The Indictment, which named Hansen and Novack as accomplices of the GPU and was published in Workers Press during the first week of January 1976 was the first of many documents written jointly by Alex Mitchell and me. The collective work of investigation, analysis and writing continued into 1977 and produced important results—especially the locating of Sylvia Franklin in a trailer park in Chicago’s western suburbs in May of that year and the discovery of new documents directly connecting Hansen to the FBI.
However, the involvement of the WRP in work relating to Security and the Fourth International began to fall off drastically after 1977. The last major set of documents produced by the WRP were those written in November 1977, a few weeks after the assassination of Tom Henehan. From 1978 on, there is not a single document to be found on Security and the Fourth International that bears the by-line of Banda and Slaughter. As for Mitchell, his work on Security assumed an entirely episodic and secondary character. The development of Security and the Fourth International proceeded directly through the work conducted by the Workers League and indirectly through the independent struggle being waged by Alan Gelfand inside the Socialist Workers Party.
The WRP’s turn away from Security was indeed bound up with its turn to something else—its increasingly opportunist activities in the Middle East. Healy was less and less willing to “spare” Mitchell for work in the United States on Security as he turned him into the WRP’s roving ambassador to Libya, Iraq, Lebanon and Kuwait.
The WRP’s abandonment of the struggle on Security and the Fourth International was not merely a matter of Mitchell doing less writing than before. As the political line of the WRP degenerated into ever more naked opportunism, the struggle against Pabloite revisionism and for the historical legacy of Trotskyism ceased to play an active role in the life of the British section’s cadre. Despite the far greater material resources of the British section, Healy could be persuaded to send only one member of the WRP to the United States to assist in the research conducted at the Houghton Library upon the opening of the previously closed section of the Trotsky Archives. When an international conference on Trotskyism was organized in Italy that same year, the WRP did not even bother to send a delegate. Instead, it was covered by a member of the Workers League and a member of what was then the Greek section.
In relation to the Gelfand case, the WRP membership knew virtually nothing about it. The Workers League reprinted both the summary judgment and trial briefs in the Bulletin. These documents provided a comprehensive presentation of the evidence against Hansen, Franklin and the SWP leaders. The evidence was so devastating that the SWP sought—and, for a brief period, was granted—a court ruling from the presiding judge, Mariana R. Pfaelzer, barring the Workers League and the International Committee from publishing the deposition testimony of the SWP leaders and other witnesses obtained by Gelfand and his attorneys. Faced with a reversal of this blatantly unconstitutional gag order by the Court of Appeals, it was rescinded by Pfaelzer herself. But despite the historic importance of summary judgment and trial briefs, neither of them were reproduced in the pages of News Line. Had these documents been studied by the membership of the WRP—as they were by members of the Workers League—it is not likely that there would be such a wide audience inside the WRP ready to swallow Slaughter’s lies about the “job” done on Joseph Hansen.
When the trial of the Gelfand case opened in Los Angeles in March 1983, the WRP did not even bother to send a News Line reporter to cover it—although the News Line habitually sent its reporters all over the world, and even to Moscow to cover the Olympics!
I was not surprised by the indifference of the WRP leadership to the trial. By then the similarity between the political line of the WRP and that of the Pabloites had grown very apparent, and the differences between the Workers League and the WRP had already emerged. At a meeting of the WRP Political Committee during the previous December, attended by Banda and Slaughter, the WRP threatened to split from the Workers League unless I withdrew my criticisms of Healy’s “dialectics.” Given the existence of this state of affairs, it was reasonable to suspect that Healy, Banda and Slaughter viewed the intensity of the struggle being conducted by the Workers League against the SWP with ever mounting unease.
Six weeks after the conclusion of the trial, I completed a 172-page typewritten manuscript summarizing the Gelfand case and its political significance. It was sent to Britain where it was to be published by New Park.
Months passed without any comment on the manuscript. Eventually it became clear that Healy did not want to publish it. I came to suspect that Healy had decided to suppress the manuscript because he did not like the considerable attention that it had paid to the politics of the SWP—in line with the Workers League’s frequently stated position that the role of agents within its leadership was a secondary byproduct of the Pabloite degeneration of the organization. As the manuscript explained:
The Gelfand case and the definitive exposure of the takeover of the Socialist Workers Party by agents of US imperialism is, in the most direct sense, the outcome of the Security and the Fourth International investigation initiated by the International Committee in May 1975. But the investigation itself was the product of previous political struggles. The historic significance of Security and the Fourth International is to be found in its vindication of the relentless political and theoretical struggle against Pabloite revisionism waged by the International Committee since its founding in 1953. Long before it first uncovered the documents which were to lead to the exposure of Hansen’s role as an imperialist agent, the International Committee had broken decisively with the Socialist Workers Party. Without the protracted struggle against Hansen—in defense of every fundamental principle of Trotskyism—there could not have been Security and the Fourth International. The investigation was not a departure from those earlier political struggles; it was, rather, their historical culmination.
Following a review of the political degeneration of the SWP between 1953 and 1963, with particular emphasis on the provocative role played by Hansen, the manuscript made this highly relevant notation:
It is common for petty bourgeois radicals—whose conception of politics is totally propagandistic—to dismiss any consideration of the intervention of the state within inner-party struggles. “We are only interested in political questions,” they are wont to say. As if the issue of state provocations inside the Trotskyist movement was unconnected to politics! In truth, these dilettantes do not take their own politics very seriously, and therefore find it difficult to believe that the agencies of imperialism would have any interest in the struggles within the Fourth International. Such middle-class complacency is of invaluable service to the CIA and the KGB, and those who say or do anything to disturb it are promptly labeled “paranoid”.
Not only does the text of this manuscript utterly refute the claim that Security and the Fourth International represented a turn away from the fight against Pabloite revisionism, it illustrates the political fact that Security contributed to the deepening of the political conflict between the Workers League and the WRP. Thus, while the WRP leaders refused to communicate to the Workers League their differences with the manuscript, Cliff Slaughter did find the time to send me two arrogant letters protesting the failure of the Bulletin to note, in an editorial commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Marx, the role of Hegel in the development of materialist dialectics.
By the summer of 1983, I had come reluctantly to the conclusion that the Workers Revolutionary Party was on the verge of repudiating the struggle against Pabloite revisionism. In an attempt to sound the alarm within the WRP and appeal directly to its membership, I addressed greetings (dated August 26, 1983) to the WRP Sixth Congress in September 1983 which, its fraternal tone notwithstanding, could only be interpreted as a pointed reminder to the British section of its political origins and the implications of the fight against Pabloism:
In every country in the world the decisive question is that of revolutionary leadership. The historical crisis of leadership can only be answered by the Fourth International.
Outside the Fourth International, every tendency in the international workers’ movement justifies its misleadership and betrayals by denying the historically determined revolutionary role of the proletariat. In one form or another, all these tendencies—the trade union bureaucracies, the Social Democrats, the Stalinists, the innumerable shades of revisionism—reject the great discovery of Marx “That the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat” and “that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”
Only the International Committee of the Fourth International—in whose founding and building the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party has played the historically decisive role—has based itself on this historic perspective of Marx. Not only its program but also its very existence is living proof of the revolutionary role of the working class.
The exceptional historical significance of the Sixth Congress is underscored by the fact that it is being held not only during the centenary year of Marx’s death, but also on the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the International Committee, the twentieth anniversary of the split with the Socialist Workers Party, and the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Workers Revolutionary Party itself. Each of these events marked historical conquests by the Trotskyist movement, which alone represents the theoretical, political and organizational continuity of Marxism.
In light of the present political evolution of the Socialist Workers Party, whose agent-infested leadership now openly repudiates the theory of permanent revolution, we have every right to proclaim the complete political vindication of the struggle waged by the International Committee in 1961-63 against the SWP and its leader Joseph Hansen. At that time Hansen as well as James P. Cannon denounced the Socialist Labour League and Comrade Healy as “ultraleft” and “sectarian.” Today, Hansen’s protege, Jack Barnes, declares that advocacy of the theory of permanent revolution leads to “leftist biases and sectarian political errors”.
Then, drawing what was clearly an unmistakable parallel to the deterioration of the relationship between the Workers League and the WRP, the greetings continued:
At the conclusion of the Fifth National Conference of the Socialist Labour League held 20 years ago, Comrade Healy wrote the following to the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party:
“Of course you have no time for the ‘sectarian SLL.’ Our comrades in the ranks and in the leadership fight day in and day out against reformism and Stalinism in the best traditions of the Trotskyist movement. But they do not yet speak to tens of thousands at public meetings like Ben Bella, Castro and the so-called Ceylon May Day meeting. In your eyes we are merely small ‘ultraleft fry’.”
Comrade Healy’s reference to Ceylon was, if we may be permitted to use the term, politically prophetic. In that same letter, he placed special emphasis on the SWP’s glorification of the LSSP, the revisionist renegades from Trotskyism who were then preparing their entrance into the coalition government of Madame Bandaranaike....
The recent bloody massacres in Sri Lanka are the direct outcome of the Pabloite betrayals. This experience alone should impress upon all cadres the life and death implications of the struggle against revisionism waged by the International Committee.
What revisionism sought to belittle in 1963 as “small ultraleft fry” is now the most decisive revolutionary force in the world today. (Bulletin, September 6, 1983)
Let Slaughter prattle all he likes about “equal degeneration” and the universal turn away from the struggle against revisionism. The political record proves that the Workers League, while indeed leading the fight on Security and the Fourth International, was at the same time leading the fight against the capitulation of the WRP to Pabloism! In fact, the present hostility of the WRP to Security and the Fourth International, no less than its shameless plunge into the revisionist swamp, is simply the final working out of the tendencies identified by the Workers League four years ago.
I do not know whether my greetings were actually read out to the Sixth Congress, because neither I nor anyone else in the Workers League was invited by the WRP leadership to attend it. But I do know that the reaction of Healy, Banda and Slaughter to the message was to prepare a political provocation against the Workers League. When I arrived in Britain in late October to attend a meeting of the ICFI, they staged their now infamous denunciation of the Workers League’s line on the US invasion of Grenada. I would prefer not to review the well-known and completely documented facts relating to Slaughter’s despicable role, which he acknowledged in 1985, in manufacturing the charge that the Workers League failed to adopt a position of revolutionary defeatism. However, it should be again recalled that it was Slaughter’s December 1983 letter to me, criticizing my “very heavy emphasis” on the political independence of the working class, that convinced the political committee of the Workers League that the WRP leadership had largely adopted the outlook of Pabloite revisionism.
(And yet despite the well-known fact that the Workers League’s reply to Slaughter directly challenged his attack on the political independence of the proletariat and explicitly rejected his proposal that we liquidate our principled proletarian line into petty bourgeois antiwar protest politics, Slaughter had the nerve to claim at a February 2 memorial tribute to Moreno that “what blew up ... the old WRP of Healy and its International Committee was the strength of the working class ... the decisive struggle—to give political independence to the working class through building independent Bolshevik leadership—was devalued, broken down.” This is a good illustration of Slaughter’s utter contempt for truth. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Healy against the Workers League’s fight to defend the political independence of the working class—the central theme of every document we submitted in 1983-84—and now he claims that the WRP broke with ICFI ... to defend the political independence of the working class! It is incredible that such barefaced lies go unchallenged inside the WRP.)
In the conclusion of his January 17 article, Slaughter informs me that my only hope for salvation lies in confession and repentance:
It is not North’s past which condemns him, but his attempt to ignore and escape from his responsibility.
A communist is not someone who makes no serious mistakes, but a communist must face up to and struggle to correct mistakes.
I suggest that Comrade Slaughter spare his quaint homilies for those better suited to appreciate them—such as humble Christians, wayward Stalinists and revisionist leaders fleeing, sometimes as refugees, from the consequences of their most recent political crimes. For such people, admitting mistakes really means letting bygones be bygones. Moreover, it is hard to take seriously those who repent their mistakes only when it is in their political interest to do so. One cannot, in such cases, avoid the conclusion that the confession of a mistake is merely a convenient way of changing a political position.
Who will argue that everyone can profit by correcting mistakes—but, let me point out, there are some “mistakes” that cannot be corrected. If Security and the Fourth International had indeed been, as Slaughter now suggests, a conscious decade-long exercise in the political frameup of devoted working class leaders, neither he, I nor anyone else who had anything to do with it would ever again have any role to play in the leadership of the Trotskyist movement. The fact that Slaughter believes that he could, under such circumstances, get off so easily by simply saying that he had made a “mistake,” as if he had been a naughty little boy, shows the real cynicism which underlies his denunciation of Security and the Fourth International.
As for his new revisionist friends, they have no problem singing the praise of a man who, if his present statements are to be believed, was one of the principal architects of a monstrous political frameup! So grotesque is their opportunism that sheer expediency is the sole criteria of all their political actions. They know very well that the repudiation of Security means only that the WRP has broken decisively with the ICFI and cleared a path for its unprincipled reunification conference with Pabloite groups all over the world.
Of all the “mistakes” Slaughter has made, none is more serious and damaging to the interest of the working class internationally than his irresponsible and dishonest campaign against Security and the Fourth International. But we do not seek from him a confession. Rather, we ask only that he accept Alan Gelfand’s challenge to reply, point by point, to the issues of fact raised in his open letter.