Wolfgang Weber
Poland 1980-1981: The Solidarity Movement and the Perspective of Political Revolution

The Betrayal of the Political Revolution by the Renegades Healy, Banda and Slaughter

The WRP Leadership’s Statement on Poland, December 9, 1980

The most valuable service for the rescue of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Poland was performed by the renegades Healy, Banda and Slaughter, the former leaders of the Workers Revolutionary Party of Britain. After having waged the struggle against Pabloite revisionism in the 1950s and 1960s and thus having made a historical contribution in defense of Trotskyism, it was their responsibility, as the leaders of the International Committee of the Fourth International at that time, to arm the Polish working class with these principles and perspectives for the political revolution. But they renounced precisely this responsibility and therefore blocked the Polish proletariat’s only means of access to Trotskyism and the program of the political revolution.

On December 9, 1980—shortly after the courts had recognized and registered Solidarity as an independent trade union and just before the mass demonstrations occasioned by the unveiling of the statues in Gdansk and Gdingen, that is, at the very height of a euphoric mood in the Polish working class—the WRP leadership published in its paper News Line a declaration on the events in Poland.[1] Right at the beginning, they write:

“In the struggle to create independent unions and establish the right to strike, the Polish ‘Solidarity’ movement is acting entirely in line with the policy of Lenin and Trotsky, who fought at all times for the defence of working-class rights against bureaucratic usurpation. All the lies, distortions and calumnies of the Stalinists cannot conceal this.

“As the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International states: ‘The struggle for the freedom of trade unions and the factory committees, for the right of assembly and freedom of the press, will unfold in this struggle for the regeneration and development of Soviet democracy.’

“Regardless of its immediate policy and leadership, the working class of Poland is now thrust into the forefront of the world socialist revolution.”[2]

Instead of examining what kind of “immediate policy and leadership” the Polish working class has, instead of pointing out its reformist limitations and exposing its petty-bourgeois advisers, they sing the same old tune as does the Pabloite Winfried Wolf with his memorable pronouncement: “What counts is not what the revolutionary1 actors think—it is only their action that is decisive.”

The difference in the line of the WRP leadership from that of the Pabloites is merely that the former does not justify its opportunist glorification of the spontaneous movement by reference to a “new world reality of two power blocs,” from which Pablo and Mandel concluded that while the Stalinist bureaucracy plays a “reactionary role” with respect to its own working class, it also plays a “progressive role” vis-a-vis imperialism. The “new world reality,” however, of Healy, Banda and Slaughter consists in the “undefeated strength of the working class,” the “inexorable forward movement of the masses toward revolution.” This enables them to dress their own capitulation to the Stalinist bureaucracy and their subordination to the imperialist bourgeoisie, using revolutionary-sounding phrases, in the costume of “orthodox Trotskyism.”

Hence, their statement on Poland does not lack in bombastic condemnations and denunciations of Stalinist crimes, privileges and assassinations. Nor is there any absence of calls for the building of Trotskyist parties with repeated emphasis on the need for political revolution. But these holiday proclamations of the fight against Stalinism serve in reality only to liquidate this struggle, even declaring it already completed.

Glorification of the Spontaneous Movement

A sentence from the Transitional Program on the struggle for the freedom of the trade unions is quoted but torn out of its connection with the perspective of the political revolution. This is done so as to give to the spontaneous struggle of Solidarity, which never went beyond purely trade union and politically reformist demands, the appearance of being guided by Trotskyist perspectives, as though it were “acting entirely in line with the policy of Lenin and Trotsky.”[3] For this purpose, the two leaders of October are presented not as the most important strategists of world revolution and as the founders of the Third International, but as consistent trade unionists; not as fighters for the complete emancipation of and the taking of power by the working class, but as decent fellows, who defend the rights of the working class.

In this same section of the Transitional Program, Trotsky stresses: “This program cannot be realized if the bureaucracy, which maintains itself by fraud and violence, is not overthrown. Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can revive the Soviet regime and guarantee its further development toward socialism. There is but one party capable of leading the Soviet masses to insurrection—the party of the Fourth International!”[4] However, Healy, Banda and Slaughter, in the eleventh section of their statement, after a few remarks on some rather arbitrarily selected events from the history of Stalinism in Poland, write as follows:

“It is the task of the sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International to smash Stalinism in every form, and to proceed to do so on the basis of the enormous vindication of the Fourth International and its programme which the Polish movement represents.”[5]

If the spontaneous movement of the working class in a country already embodies the Trotskyist program and even the Fourth International or has endorsed it, then as a matter of fact, it is completely superfluous, even harmful and sectarian, to take up a fight against its spontaneous thinking, against the perspectives of this movement. Accordingly, the policies of the WRP leadership with respect to the struggles of Solidarity in 1980-81 (aside from occasional news articles in the News Line) were in actual fact limited to the publication of a single brochure, Eye-Witness in Poland. This publication, apart from the December 9, 1980 statement, contains nothing more than a travelogue of a WRP member presenting some superficial impressions and mood pictures about the “movement in Poland” and a reprint, without commentary, of an interview with Lech Walesa, the man standing “at the head of the world revolution.”

The central strategic task in the struggle for the victorious completion of the world revolution that began with the October Revolution—that is how it is posed by Leon Trotsky in the Transitional Program—consists in solving the crisis of proletarian leadership. This means overcoming the contradiction between the objective maturity of the situation, between the necessity of socialist revolution on the one hand, and the reformist limitations of the consciousness of the proletariat on the other. The solution of this task rests solely on the construction of a Trotskyist world party, which in every country will destroy the control exercised by the imperialist agents, by the Stalinist and social democratic apparatuses over the working class and lead it to the conquest of state power.

As did Pablo and Mandel 35 years ago, so do Healy, Banda and Slaughter in their declaration on Poland—to be sure, in a more polished and apparently revolutionary form—openly champion the conception that this task is without importance or merit by reason alone of the “strength of the working class”:

“Twenty-four years after Hungary and Poland 1956, 12 years after Czechoslovakia and in continuity with the great struggles at Gdansk in Poland, the proletariat comes forward in complete opposition to its bureaucratic would-be masters.

“It does not restrict itself to the powerful economic demands for wages and for food, but presses forward inexorably with political demands for an exposure of the security and police system of the bureaucracy. Such a movement goes far beyond trade union solidarity. It is the political revolution. It will not permit itself to be led by the nose by the Catholic Church or by any imperialist agent.”[6]

Exactly one year after this complacent declaration came the bloody crushing of the bitter struggle of the Polish proletariat and of Solidarity by the military. It was not necessary for the WRP leadership to see this happen in order to be able with utmost precision to warn the working class that it would inexorably be led by the nose and crushed by the imperialist agents, by the church and the Stalinist bureaucracy, if it continued to be politically dominated and led by the syndicalist leadership around Walesa and his “experts.”

Objectivism as Method

Healy and Banda would have only needed to remember what they themselves had written during the 1950s in their struggle against the Pabloites, when they were still outstanding Trotskyists. At that time, they warned against the glorification of the spontaneous movement of the masses by the Pabloites, against the glorification of any kind of trade union leaders or “reform-Stalinists,” such as Gomulka, as being “an expression of objective forces of the world revolution.” They demonstrated that these policies of the Pabloites could only mean that they were withdrawing from the conscious struggle for the Trotskyist perspectives of the political revolution and of the socialist revolution.

In 1956, Khrushchev revealed a few of Stalin’s crimes at the Communist Party’s Twentieth Congress, and as a result, a crisis erupted inside all the Stalinist parties, especially after the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution. The British section of the ICFI under Healy and Banda (Socialist Labour League, predecessor of the WRP), on the basis of its struggle for Trotskyism, was in a position to destroy what remained of the CP’s authority in Great Britain and won over many of its members, among them Cliff Slaughter. Then, when the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) definitively broke from Trotskyism at the beginning of the 1960s and united with the Pabloites, Cliff Slaughter, who had become a leading member of the Socialist Labour League and the secretary of the International Committee, pointed out the following in regard to a document of the SWP:

“The fundamental weakness of the SWP resolution is its substitution of ‘objectivism,’ i.e., a false objectivity, for the Marxist method. This approach leads to similar conclusions to those of the Pabloites. From his analysis of imperialism as the final stage of capitalism, Lenin concluded that the conscious revolutionary role of the working class and its party was all-important. The protagonists of ‘objectivism’ conclude, however, that the strength of the ‘objective factors’ is so great that, regardless of the attainment of Marxist leadership of the proletariat in its struggle, the working-class revolution will be achieved, the power of the capitalists overthrown.”[7]

And in a letter of January 2, 1962 Slaughter wrote to the SWP:

“The greatest danger confronting the revolutionary movement is liquidationism, flowing from a capitulation either to the strength of imperialism or of the bureaucratic apparatuses in the labour movement, or both. Pabloism represents, even more clearly now than in 1953, this liquidationist tendency in the international Marxist movement. In Pabloism the advanced working class is no longer the vanguard of history, the centre of all Marxist theory and strategy in the epoch of Imperialism, but the plaything of ‘world-historical factors,’ surveyed and assessed in abstract fashion ... all historical responsibility of the revolutionary movement is denied, all is subordinated to panoramic forces; the questions of the role of the Soviet bureaucracy and of the class forces in the colonial revolution are left unresolved....”[8]

Slaughter emphatically stressed:

“Any retreat from the strategy of political independence of the working class and the construction of revolutionary parties will take on the significance of a world-historical blunder on the part of the Trotskyist movement....”[9]

Twenty years after this letter and barely 25 years after the “Polish October of 1956” and the revolution in Hungary, Healy, Banda and Slaughter, in their only political declaration on the struggle of Solidarity, do not so much as mention the name of Pablo or Mandel, let alone consider it necessary to arm the Polish and international working class with the lessons of the political experiences with “reform-Stalinists,” “October Lefts,” pseudo-Marxist documents like the “Open Letter” of Kuron and Modzelewski and syndicalist tendencies such as the Worker Opposition around Walesa. Even more, they themselves unconditionally advocate the position of the Pabloites they had earlier opposed, according to which the very posing of revolutionary leadership as an issue is no longer in harmony with the “new world realities,” since the working class has freed itself from all bureaucratic control merely by virtue of the objective relationship of forces and “no matter what the nature of its policies and leadership of the moment,” it advances inexorably to the world revolution:

“Counterrevolutionary Stalinism has always worked with only one aim—to suppress the masses inside the USSR and outside, in order to leave the bureaucracy free to regulate its own relations with the imperialists.

“In Vietnam and Cambodia, in Palestine and the Middle East, in the great Iranian revolution, the masses have in the last years broken from this control, acting independently to drive imperialism into a corner. Now the working masses in the advanced capitalist countries feel their strength as the imperialists are forced to bring home the counter-revolution.

“Great revolutionary struggles are rapidly building up in Europe and America. Into this situation, the Polish masses have burst through, irrepressibly and independent of any bureaucratic control.

“It is the political revolution against Stalinism in Poland which now takes the lead for the world socialist revolution.”[10]

Following these stirring words about the “objective forces” of the “irrepressible masses,” the call for the building of Trotskyist parties and the demands taken from the Transitional Program at the end of the statement naturally did not flow as a political conclusion derived from the previously analyzed problems of the working class in their struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy, but only from the necessity for Healy, Banda and Slaughter to cover up their betrayal of Trotskyism as long as possible.

The Belittling of Martial Law

Involved here was a betrayal of Trotskyism and not mistakes or weak revolutionary leaders. This is demonstrated by the fact that even after the military crushed the Polish working class, the WRP leadership could not be moved to subject the experience of the struggles of Solidarity, including its own positions, to any critical analysis. From their warm den with its decor of radical verbiage, on the fringes of the labor aristocracy, and in the heart of the oldest and most brutal imperialism, these renegades cynically announced that the dissolution of Solidarity, the murder of large numbers of their fighters, and the internment of their leaders represented no problem at all.[11] According to them, it was not a defeat, but a fresh confirmation of the “undefeated strength of the working class”:

“Neither the Stalinist bureaucracy nor the Catholic hierarchy can stem or turn back the flood tide of proletarian revolt unleashed in Poland and Eastern Europe by the events of the last decade. Even though it is driven underground and deprived of legitimate abode, the spectre of Solidarity haunts the bureaucracy and inspires millions to fight on.”

This was written by Michael Banda, Cliff Slaughter, Bill Hunter, Tom Kemp, Geoff Pilling and others as members of the editorial board of Labour Review, the WRP’s theoretical magazine, in January 1982. And to dispel any doubt among the party members about the political leadership of Solidarity, to prevent any question from arising as to the character of the union’s program and the correctness of the WRP’s uncritical support of that leadership, they wrote that it was in “support of Solidarity in its struggle against the bureaucratic suppression and for the achievement of a victorious political revolution,”[12] that they were reprinting, without commentary, the program of the union passed at its congress. Precisely that program included the “Net” plan for “self-financing of enterprises,” for weakening the monopoly of foreign trade, for strengthening the market economy and private sectors—the program that had just proven to be so useless in defending the working class against bureaucratic repression, let alone enabling it to achieve a “victorious political revolution.”

For several weeks, they still published a few articles under the slogan “Solidarity lives!”, in order soon thereafter to consign the Polish working class and its independent union to oblivion.

The Propaganda Battle in “Defense” of Solidarity Against Scargill

Not until a year and half later, in the summer of 1983, did the WRP leadership suddenly consider it opportune to remember Solidarity. They did so not to return to the perspectives of the political revolution nor to strengthen and train the cadre in the IC by analyzing the events in Poland, but only to find useful ammunition in a conflict with the British trade union leader, Arthur Scargill.

Scargill, with a reputation as a “leftist” and with close ties to the Stalinist bureaucracy in Eastern Europe, had been elected president of the NUM (National Union of Mine workers) as a result of the growing radicalization of the British miners in their struggle against rationalizations and pit closings. His role, however, before, during and after the 1984-85 miners’ strike, was no different than all “left,” centrist trade union leaders. They can lead the working class into militant actions, using class struggle rhetoric and, if it could not be avoided, even into great battles, such as the miners’ strike. But they do this only in order to use their authority and the workers’ illusions in their ostensible radical policies, to finally deliver the workers over to the right-wing social democratic bureaucracy and to deter them from taking the road of revolution. At a public meeting of the British Stalinist CP, Scargill had attacked Solidarity and, in a letter to the WRP, denounced it as an “anti-socialist organization which desires the overthrow of a socialist state.”

The WRP leadership used this in two open letters by the then-general secretary, M. Banda, and in several News Line articles to present itself as a defender of trade union rights in general and of Solidarity in particular. This was the last time that M. Banda scraped together so many quotes from Lenin and Trotsky, to pass himself off as a Trotskyist, before his public desertion to the camp of Stalinism (following the split in the International Committee of the Fourth International in October 1985). However, the criterion for the assessment of a revolutionary leadership is not the quantity of quotations from Marx, Lenin or Trotsky it can produce on command, nor its rhetorical eloquence in condemning the Stalinists’ crimes. But rather, to what degree it raises the consciousness of the working class by its political work, basing itself on the history and lessons of the entire Marxist and Trotskyist movement and to what degree it prepares for the task of carrying out the world revolution, that is, the socialist revolution in a capitalist country like Great Britain and the political revolution in the degenerated or deformed workers’ states.

Currying Favor with Right-Wing Social Democracy

From this point of view, the political content of the scandal-mongering propaganda battle staged by the WRP leadership against Scargill was not a struggle to unmask a centrist and his treacherous role as an obstacle and “leftist barrier” for the working class in its struggle against the ruling class. Quite the contrary, it was a maneuver to ingratiate themselves with the right-wing social democratic bureaucracy, which was alarmed at the radicalization of the British coal miners and the possible revolutionary consequences of a national miners’ strike.

The WRP “defended” Solidarity against Scargill not from a revolutionary, Trotskyist standpoint, but from that of the right-wing social democracy. The social democratic bureaucrats are always willing “to defend the independence of the union in Poland” and perhaps even “the property relations of the Soviet Union,” as long as this is limited to pathetic declarations in one’s own country and not associated with any revolutionary strategy for overthrowing capitalism and its prized perks and privileges. But this is exactly what Banda promised them! He indicated that the first objective that determined all tactical questions was no longer the world revolution: “The defence of the property relations of the October Revolution is the first programmatic premise of the Trotskyist movement, not because it is an abstract, theoretical norm, but because it is a basic and irrepla-cable [sic] condition for historical progress.”[13]

In contrast to that position, in concluding his polemic with the revisionists Burnham and Shachtman concerning the character of the Soviet Union, Trotsky in his article “The USSR in War” stresses: “We must not lose sight for a single moment of the fact that the question of overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy is for us subordinate to the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR; that the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR is subordinate for us to the question of the world proletarian revolution.”[14]

Thus, Banda places the attitude of Trotskyists in defense of the property relations of the Soviet Union completely on its head. This is no accident, but rather the result of the WRP’s abandoning the objective of world revolution a long time before. The WRP leadership therefore did not use as its criterion for criticizing Scargill the task of extending the property relations established in the October Revolution nor the task of overthrowing British imperialism by the socialist revolution, but rather a minimal program “defending the basic democratic rights of British workers.” And of course, quite in the manner of the British labor aristocracy, the general secretary, in his concluding sentence, did not neglect to affix the distant goal of “socialism” as an ornament to this minimal program. Banda concludes his open letter to Scargill with these words: “Bro. Scargill, it is clear from this correspondence that those who cannot defend Polish Solidarity are equally incapable of defending the basic democratic rights of British workers and securing socialism. Thank you for giving us this invaluable opportunity.”[15]

“Securing Socialism”

Through the News Line, this correspondence was published and brought to the full attention of a huge gathering of right and left-wing trade union bureaucrats, who were attending the TUC Congress. The very use of the expression “securing socialism,” taken from the vocabulary of the British Fabians,[16] shows to what extent the WRP leadership was attentive to the sensitivity of the gentlemen on the TUC Executive Board and those in the Labour Party bureaucracy; it was careful not to frighten them with notions about socialist revolution in Great Britain or, Heaven forbid, the dictatorship of the proletariat. From the “left” Labour MP and supporter of the “peaceful road to socialism” all the way to the most right-wing trade union bureaucrat, each of these represents a British specimen of social democratic betrayal. Steeped in all the hypocrisy acquired from his imperialist masters and the “loyalty to tradition” soaked up at party conventions and trade union congresses, he is, at last, always prepared to sing the praises of that sacred—but, thank God,—distant goal of “securing socialism.” His obeisance completed, he can return to his profane work-a-day world to carry out the most reactionary capitalist policies.

Likewise, as regards Solidarity itself, the WRP renegades knew how to impart soothing words to the TUC bureaucrats, since the latter’s indignation at the Stalinist bureaucracy under no condition would ever go so far as to commit them to any support of revolutionary uprisings by the working class against its oppressors. The social democrats always readily agree to the kind of purely verbal denunciation of Stalinist crimes made by M. Banda, in order to represent these misdeeds as the unavoidable by-product of the revolution and thus confuse the working class and, by the use of anticommunist ideologies, subordinate it even more effectively to the blessings of capitalism. An uprising of the working class in the degenerated and deformed workers’ states contains within itself, however, the possibility and danger of a victorious political revolution under a Trotskyist leadership. Success here would undermine the “balance of forces between East and West,” in other words, undermine the control over the working class by the bureaucracy in the capitalist West as well.

Banda and the WRP leadership countered these justified social democratic fears caused by the strikes and the mass movement of Solidarity, on the one hand, by alluding to the absence of any sign of such a Marxist leadership in Poland and, on the other, making it absolutely clear that no initiative need be expected from the WRP in building such a leadership: “It is true that Solidarity is not a Marxist-led movement and it suffers from a number of political confusions.”[17]

The nature of these confusions or how they could at all be overcome—about these not a word. Instead in a later article in the News Line of September 16, this is what appears: “Solidarity cannot of course [!] solve this problem. But there can be no talk of developing a conscious Trotskyist leadership in Poland without the unconditional defence of Solidarity, the precondition for the development of socialist consciousness.”[18]

In the thinking of the renegades, it is not the conscious struggle for the world scientific outlook of Marxism and the historical perspectives of Trotskyism through the construction of a revolutionary party that forms the basis and precondition for the development of socialist consciousness in the working class. Instead it is the struggle for the defense of a trade union organization.

Certainly, the danger emanating from Solidarity appeared to the social democratic bureaucracy substantially less, especially since in reality the WRP twisted its ostensibly “unconditional support” into an uncritical support and repeatedly emphasized that the mortal weakness of the Polish union’s political leadership and perspectives was something positive: “Solidarity has never sought state power nor anything like it.”[19]

And in the News Line article of September 16, 1983, we read:

“Does Solidarity, as Douglass[20] alleges, seek to overthrow the bureaucracy? We reply emphatically NO! It is a trade union and not a political party. It advocates strikes, demonstrations and other forms of struggle to put pressure on the government to elicit reforms. All its documents are written from the standpoint of reforming the system—not overthrowing any of its basic institutions.”[21]

Thus, these are all activities and perspectives with which even the most right-wing union or Labour bureaucrat can nod agreement! Accordingly, for the international working class, including the British and Polish proletariat, the WRP’s campaign during the TUC Congress failed to prepare it for its revolutionary tasks, but rather compounded its political confusion. For the right-wing union bureaucrats, however, and for the Thatcher government, their campaign contained an unmistakable message—that is, there appeared no danger from the only party in Great Britain with a history of struggle for Trotskyist principles, the WRP, which had at its disposal more far-reaching perspectives than those of the “leftist” trade union leader, Scargill. There was no threat from the WRP that it would break the working class from its traditional social democratic leadership in a political struggle, and persuade it to enter onto the road of the socialist revolution. More reassured and confident than before, the trade union bureaucracy and the government could now look forward to its confrontation with the coal miners.

So as to blot out the traces of this opportunist betrayal and above all to mislead the cadre in the International Committee of the Fourth International regarding the political content of this campaign and deceive them into thinking that a principled struggle was being waged against centrism, the WRP leadership on September 9 mendaciously wrote:

“We chose to publish this correspondence during TUC week in order to ensure the widest circulation within the labour movement. The question of Polish Solidarity is a touchstone for the international workers’ movement. Our exposure of Scargill, far from weakening the NUM in its confrontation with the Tories, strengthens the union ifor the battles ahead.”[22]

The Miners Strike of 1984

The coal miners’ strike had hardly begun in the spring of 1984 when the reality lurking behind these phrases revealed itself. Only months after the “unmasking” of Scargill, the renegade clique in the WRP leadership completed a 180-degree turn. The Solidarity victims and dead, who had just been so pathetically memorialized, were quickly forgotten and a renewed publicity campaign, again using the News Line, served to portray Scargill as a “trade union leader of a new type,” the likes of which had never previously existed, and who was in a position to lead the working class to victory over the capitalists without Marxism. Exactly a year after M. Banda had depicted him as “incapable of defending the basic democratic rights of British workers” because he had attacked and denounced Solidarity, the WRP general secretary was now writing:

“The Workers Revolutionary Party and the All Trades Unions Alliance[23] completely endorse the policy of Arthur Scargill, his courageous defiance of the state and his stubborn defence of the NUM....”[24]

Naturally, Banda found a justification even for this new assessment of Scargill in the “strength of the working class” and in the “objective factors and forces of the class struggle”: “Previous correct criticisms of the Scargill leadership on the Polish Solidarity trade union ... could not obscure the changed relations between the classes in Britain and the impact of the miners on Scargill and other leaders....”[25]

In light of the political line of the WRP during the miners’ strike, there is just one thing that its “earlier criticism” of Scargill could no longer obscure: how deeply the historical perspectives and principles that had been developed by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky for the liberation of the working class had been dragged by the renegades into the mud of opportunistic maneuvers to serve their day-to-day policies. A contradiction between the “unmasking” of Scargill under the “Trotskyist” label of defending Solidarity and the groveling, uncritical support of him during and after the miners’ strike appears to exist only if examined superficially, from the standpoint of formal logic. If, however, one considers the internal political logic, the class logic of the WRP’s policies toward the miners’ strike, it is clear that the renegades merely redeemed the pledge made during their “Solidarity campaign” at the TUC Congress, not to lead the working class beyond Scargill’s centrist perspectives. Under conditions of the militant and long enduring struggle of the miners, they were able to carry out this treachery only by providing Scargill with a leftist disguise, by carefully shielding him from any kind of criticism and preventing the workers from making the kinds of political demands that could have exposed him and broken the working class from its illusions in him.

Conclusions and Perspectives

These developments connected with the miners’ strike in Great Britain and the degeneration of the WRP leadership may appear to be very distant from the events in Poland and the struggle of Solidarity. However, they demonstrate with the utmost urgency and clarity that just as the political revolution is an organic component of the world revolution, so the betrayal of the perspectives of the political revolution is organically connected with the capitulation to the “home-grown” social democratic bureaucracy and to one’s own ruling class.

The struggle taken up in the International Committee of the Fourth International against the revisionism of the renegades Healy, Banda and Slaughter in 1982, leading finally to the split with them[26], paved the way toward resolidifying the cadre in the International Committee on the basis of the principles of Trotskyism, including the perspectives of the political revolution. It also created the conditions to arm the working class with a Trotskyist leadership in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, as a part of the world proletariat.

In an article taking issue with the centrist conceptions of the SAP and its objectivist invocation of the so-called historical process and of “inevitable mass actions,” Trotsky in 1935 defined the historical character and nature of this task.[27] In view of the betrayal of Trotskyism, first by the Pabloites and lastly by the WRP renegades, and because of the direct consequences of this betrayal for the working class in Poland as in Great Britain and other countries, the importance of Trotsky’s arguments—for the building of the International Committee of the Fourth International and, thus, for the fate of the world revolution—becomes even clearer:

“Without the slightest exaggeration it may be said: the whole world situation is determined by the crisis of proletarian leadership. The labor movement is today still encumbered with huge remnants of the old bankrupt organizations. After the countless sacrifices and disappointments, the bulk of the European proletariat, at least, has withdrawn into its shell. The decisive lesson which it has drawn, consciously or half-consciously, from bitter experiences, reads: great actions require a great leadership. For current affairs, the workers still give their votes to the old organizations. Their votes—but by no means their boundless confidence. On the other hand, after the miserable collapse of the Third International, it is much harder to move them to bestow their confidence upon a new revolutionary organization. That’s just where the crisis of the proletarian leadership lies. To sing a monotonous song about indefinite future mass actions in this situation [casting a glance toward Healy, Banda and Slaughter, one could today substitute for the above: ‘To sing an ear-piercing song about the “undefeated strength of the working class”’], in contrast to the purposeful selection of the cadre of a new International, means to carry on a thoroughly reactionary work....

“The crisis of proletarian leadership cannot, of course, be overcome by means of an abstract formula. It is a question of an extremely prolonged process. Not of a purely ‘historical’ process, that is, of the objective premises of conscious activity, but of an uninterrupted chain of ideological, political, and organizational measures for the purpose of fusing together the best, most conscious elements of the world proletariat beneath a spotless banner, elements whose number and self-confidence must be constantly strengthened, whose connections with wider sections of the proletariat must be developed and deepened—in a word, of restoring to the proletariat, under new and highly difficult and onerous conditions, its historical leadership.”[28]


This declaration was published as a “Statement of the International Committee.” However, as in most cases in those years of the renegades’ nationalist degeneration, they neither consulted with the sections of the IC nor submitted such statements to them for a vote.


Eye-Witness in Poland—Exclusive Report, News Line Special Report, “Hands Off Poland,” December 9, 1980, part 3, p. 31, emphasis in last paragraph added.




Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International: The Transitional Program (New York: Labor Publications, 1972), p. 36, emphasis added.


Eye-Witness in Poland, p. 31


Eye-Witness in Poland, p. 34.


Cliff Slaughter, ed., Trotskyism Versus Revisionism: A Documentary History (London: New Park Publications, 1974), vol. 3, p. 161.


Ibid., pp. 48-49.


Ibid., p. 49.


Eye-Witness in Poland, p. 34.


The course and causes of the degeneration of the WRP leadership are amply documented in the IC statement, “How the Workers Revolutionary Party Betrayed Trotskyism, 1973-1985” in the ICFI’s theoretical journal, Fourth International, vol. 13, no. 1, summer 1986.


Labour Review, January 1982, p. 468.


Scargill, Solidarity and the Workers Revolutionary Party, WRP pamphlet, London, 1983, p. 16.


Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p. 26.


Scargill, Solidarity and the Workers Revolutionary Party, p. 17.


The Fabians: a petty-bourgeois political tendency, who with their theories of the “peaceful and gradual road to socialism by parliamentary reforms” have since the turn of the century shaped the political outlook of every labor bureaucrat in Britain.


Scargill, Solidarity and the Workers Revolutionary Party, p. 9.


Ibid., p. 29.


Ibid., p. 9.


Douglass: a revisionist supporter of Scargill.


Scargill, Solidarity and the Workers Revolutionary Party, p. 29.


Ibid., p. 23.


ATUA, All Trades Unions Alliance: the trade union organization of the WRP.


WRP Political Committee Statement, News Line, 27 October 1984.


Perspectives for the Seventh Congress of the WRP, December 1984; cited in Fourth International, vol. 13, no. 1, summer 1986, p. 106.


See “The ICFI Defends Trotskyism: 1982-1986,” Fourth International, vol. 13, no. 2, autumn 1986.


SAP, Socialist Workers Party of Germany: a centrist organization that split from the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) in the 1930s, but opposed Trotskyism.


Leon Trotsky, Writings of Leon Trotsky [1935-36] (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1977), pp. 31-32.