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Published by Gerald J Downing

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Published by: Gerald J Downing on Apr 12, 2009
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Interregnum & ‘Glasnost’ 1986
“Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity, There never was a cat of such deceitfulness and suavity. Re always has an alibi, and one or two tospare: At whatever time the deed took place -MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!”
T S Eliot, Macavity: The Mystery Cat 
Or how the old WRP leadership (and Cliff Slaughter in particular) survived theperiod of reassessment and re-examination.During 1986 the political discussions with other groups got under way inearnest. A new Central Committee was elected at the Eight Congress sessionof 15 March and Simon Pirani, Dave Bruce and Chris Bailey, a long-timemember from Cambridge emerged as the most progressive of the new Partyleaders. Also a second tier of leaders were emerging like John Simmance, aformer YS National Secretary and an AEU shop steward at Charing Crosshospital who returned to a leadership role in party work after the split. Hisstanding was won on the good articles he was writing analysing the TorranceWRP (News Line) during the Wapping print strike when they had defendedBrenda Dean and the trade union bureaucracy who sold out that dispute.Lynn Beaton, formerly of the Australian IC group the SLL, did good work forWorkers Press on Ireland. Phil Penn was active on the Guildford Four, RichardGoldstein, an AEU member from east London, was taking a leading role aswas Keith Scotcher, another AEU member from Fords Dagenham. These twowere leading trade unionists. I had begun to make a contribution too onIreland and other issues, very much under Pirani’s influence at the time.
Aspiring Bureaucrats
 The other layer of aspiring bureaucrats had little to say in this period.Slaughter and Dot Gibson retreated into the background and missed manyPC and CC meetings. There was a new spirit of reconstructing somethinguseful. The Workers Press had many new people writing for it and issues likeIreland, the Labour Party, youth perspectives and special oppression werebeing examined. However leadership in the class struggle there was not, norwas any consistent strategy developed. The Manifesto that we did adopt atthe 3
session of the 8
Congress in June was never applied to the classstruggle. Its perspectives were very vague in any case. None of the new orthe old leaders had been party builders with the result that intervention inthe class struggle was on an ad hoc individual basis with no caucusingbeforehand.In fact all the academics who had never carried out any practical work in theclass struggle in their own place of work, and whose basic function had beento supply Healy with a veneer of Marxist orthodoxy were now lost without aleaden The academics were akin to hired hands who supplied whatever ideas
 April 12, 2009Page 2
or justifications were required to enable Healy to carry out his currentorientation, whatever that might be. The role of the intellectual in capitalist society, supplying the ruling class withan ideology justifying the oppression of the working class, was replicated bythe academics within the WRP, except that now they performed this servicefor Healy. Trotsky analysed the growing intellectual prostitution of this layerin his booklet The Intelligentsia and Socialism’. When faced with the task of actualising their theories they had no idea, having always moved in therealm of pure ideas. Oh how they needed a ‘doer’, a new Healy. This will beexamined in more detail in the section on dialectical materialism in the nextchapter.Simon Pirani the only one who could now fill the role of Party builder, but behad never fought a factional battle in his life where he was not guaranteedvictory in advance. His great principles only developed according as thenumbers appeared favourable, and after a feeble attempt to remain true tothe spirit of the spilt with Healy when a real opposition emerged fromSlaughter and the rest at the end of 1986 on the question of the OpenConference which Slaughter wanted closed), he ratted and blocked with theacademics and layer of middle ranking aspirant trade union bureaucrats. Theopposing types of political characters, Varga (1) and Moreno (2), were thenbecoming the new Healys.Pirani’s standing in the Party rested on the very good work he was beginningto do on Ireland (which I’ll deal with later) and on his contribution to the 3
session of the Eighth Congress. In early May he produced his 11 page‘Contribution on International Perspectives’ which was endorsed at thatsession. This was his best attempt at assessing the history of the IC andfighting for the regeneration of the Party. It was the theoretical reflection of,and an inspiration for the best period of the struggle for the new leadership.He repudiated the Banda group-inspired splitting resolution of the firstsession of the Eight Congress (Down with the Fraud of the ICFI) written byDave Good (3) and began a real attempt at re-assessment of the post warera. He rejected the characterisation of the IC as anticommunist and themotion for the dissolution of that body as an attempt to avoid theresponsibility for our past actions. He asserted that we had rejected theauthority of the ICFI not because it was anti-Trotskyist and anticommunist butbecause it did not represent the World Party of Socialist revolution (or thenucleus of it).Pirani called this the most thoroughgoing reassessment of the history of theIC tradition but left many questions up in the air hoping it seems that none of the academics would shoulder the responsibility for that. We are still waitingfor them! In particular he rejected the identification with the IC tradition andthe characterisation of the USCC as ‘revisionist’ (suggesting that some formof unidentified continuity ran through the IC tradition) and the vaguenessafar estimation of the struggle against Pablo (to be left to a later date) wasan attempted rapprochement with the other sections of the IC outside Britainand the US and a sop to the old ‘crap’.Slaughter in particular us horrified by this turn of events, though it was thisvery defence of the IC tradition (critical as it was) that was later to supply theammunition for the re-emergence of the old guard with the help of Varga. It
 April 12, 2009Page 3
was also an attempt to differentiate ourselves from Workers Power, whoseposition on the Fourth International many member, like Mick Bishop and hisfollowers (a section of the Banda group who joined the CP) and later ChrisBailey and his followers, approximated to as they sought to estimate thehistory ‘of Trotskyism only to go straight through it and out the other sideand abandon Trotskyism itself. There was also an understandable reluctance to concede that any of thepoints that Banda had made in his document (for anti-Trotskyist reasons andwith a sceptical method) might possibly have substance to them and needdetailed answers. In other words the eternal problem in a heated politicalstruggle emerged: there was a tendency to put a plus where ever youropponent had a minus.But perhaps more important than the historical assessment (and maybeeven because
it) was the whole militant tenor of Pirani’s document and thecontempt for the old leaders, then quite rife in the Party because of thewhole Banda fiasco. On p3 he says:‘Comrades supported North because they (quite rightly) didn’t trust Bandaand Slaughter, and (wrongly) because they thought North had the answers.’And on p8 he fumes: The resolution ‘Dissolve the ICFI’ (Down with the Fraud of the ICFI. GD) hasan appalling section which starts off with the assertion ‘The WRP was anorganisation that was not revolutionary’. Like Dave North (the ICR is thecontinuity of Trotskyism, and comrades Hunter, Pilling and Smith (‘the WRPwas and is a revolutionary party’) [This document had been produced at anational aggregate and withdrawn in haste when it met with almost universalscorn. G.D] comrade Good gives us one of those over-simplified labels thatstifle discussion. None of these statements are right? ...A sharp struggle liesahead to make the party revolutionary.”And as if to forecast his own abandonment of that struggle:‘However small the numbers of comrades involved this party must not ‘Jumpout of the relationship with them (the IC) in the petty bourgeois mannertypified by this resolution; this must be corrected otherwise the same anti-Marxist method will dominate all our work internationally; we will perhaps‘jump in’ to something else in a similarly ill-considered way” Just one year later all that was gone and Pirani was all for such an ill-considered jump in’ with the Morenoites. It should be mentioned that Piraniforged the left wing alliance with Chris Bailey with this document. It was toendure until the end of the year. Lottie Bailey had close family ties with theGerman IC group and Chris Bailey, her husband, visited Germany in anunsuccessful attempt to open up that group for political discussions, muchagainst the wishes of the old WRP leadership.Also at this session a Manifesto was drawn up, in the most extraordinary way.It consisted of a draft drawn up by Pilling and amended out of recognition byseveral branches. ‘People power’ had really come to the WRP!In particular the Kilburn branch, on my instigation, had removed theformulation The miners were not defeated’ and replaced it with The miners

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