Forwarded from Anthony (ICFI)
lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Nov 6 06:43:01 MST 2000
On the International Committee of the Fourth International
Phil Ferguson asked about the ICFI, and Lou gave him a short, bascially
It would probably be useful to Phil, and to others, to have a longer answer.
The ICFI was founded by the Socialist Workers Party in reaction to Michel
Pablo's turn toward "entryism sui generus" into the Communist Party's of
Europe. More importantly for the Socialist Workers Party's internal life,
it was James Cannon's reaction against the Cochran-clark faction which Lou
likes so much.
The SWP wrote an open letter to world Trotskyism against Pablo and set up
the ICFI as a loose federation of national organizations, not as a
democratic centralist international organization (as the Fourth
Internaitonal had been - at least on paper - since its inceptcion.)
The most important groups which adhered to that letter were the SWP, the
Healy group in Great Britain, and the Lambert Group in France (which ahd
been expelled from the official French Section - despite being the majority
of the group - by Pablo and friends) and a split from the Lanka Samana
Samaja Party in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
Those groups were not the only adherhents of the open letter. Others
included the Moreno group in Argentina.
The issue of the split was not - as Lou put it - that the CPs had staying
power, but what strategy and tactics should be adopted in regard to the CP's.
Neither was the issue "entryism": all of the groups which joined the ICFI
practiced this tactic, or had practiced this tactic.
During the 1950's the SWP was moribund - something you get a good idea
about if you read the posts emanting from Cochranites and others on this list.
But the Socialist Labor League, led by Gerry Healy, in England was not.
It recruited an important sector of the Communist Party as a result of the
crisis of that party over the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary.
With those recruits it was able to advance its work in the unions, winnning
leadership positions in a number of them - but most importantly in the
Labor Party Youth.
The ICFI's split over Cuba, with the SWP and Moreno leaving to join with
Mandel and company, and Lambert and Healy's groups mainttaining the ICFI,
was for Healy and Lambert an effort to maintain their organizational
indepdnedence from Mandel's group, which they veiwed - correctly - as
willing to follow any new vanguard that might arise, as long as they
themselves didn't have to lead anything.
Moreno's group in Argentina on the other hand, agreed with Healy and
Lambert's characterization of Mandel's spinelessneess, but defended the
Cuban revolution as socialist - so sided with the SWP, without signing on
to the SWP's whole program.
In Great Britain, by the early 1960's the SLL gained control of the Labor
Party youth organization - the Young Socialists, and their newspaper Keep
Soon after they were expelled. (The Militant tendency - actively
spearheading the expulsion, was awarded the leadership of the minority of
the youth movement which stayed in the Labor Party. This became the
launching pad for that organizations later rise to prominence - and
expulsion in turn from the Labor Party.)
By the early 1970's, the Socialist Labor League led the Cowley factory of
British Leyland - then the most important auto plant in Great Britain, the
actors union (Vanessa Redgrave was the most important public figure, but
her brother Corin was the real leader) important sections of longshoremen
and teachers, and had fractions in virtually every important union in that
The SLL and Lambert, but mostly the SLL, had by this time recuited various
small groups in other countries numbering from a few people to perhaps a
couple of hundred. The most important of those groups were in the USA (the
Workers League), Germany, Greece, and Australia. Healy's turf was the
former pieces of the British empire (Germany an exception)
Gerry Healy had the notion that the French 1968 would be followed in the
1970's by a revolutionary crisis in Great Britain. He argued that it was
the weakest link of imperialism. (And in that, he was probably right).
His criticisms of the Lambert group included that they had not anticipated
1968 in France. And Healy was determined not to make the same mistake when
his turn to lead a revolution came his way.
Healy's characterization of the coming British revolution may sound off the
wall now, but in those days you had a wave of great industrial strikes,
miners, longshoremen, auto workers. US imperialism was in crisis over
Vietnam, a world financial crisis was in the works (the dollar was finally
taken off the gold standard in 1971) France had nearly had a revolution in
1968, Stalinnism was in crisis, and ... it didn't seem off the wall at the
I remember reading the headlines of the London Times and the Daily
Telegraph withchunting the Socialist Labor League and its predecessor the
Workers Revolutionary Party.
I remember attending Young Socialist rallies of more than ten thousand in
London. And educational conferences under giant circus tents with several
thousands out in the Essex countryside.
Healy's organization, at its height, put the Socialist Workers Party to
shame in terms of size, political influence, and weight in the working class.
However, Healy blew it.
The British revolution didn't happen on schedule.
Healy went nuts - and probably always was a little nuts.
When he gave up on the British workers - after the split with Thornett, he
began to look for a third world messiah like so many failed first world
revolutionaries have done before. Healy chose Ghaddafy.
His authoritarian internal regime, became a dicatatorial internal regime.
And a crazy one. The satelites spun away from their British sun into
never-never lands. The British membership dwindled. Finally the whole thing
blew up over Healy's abuse of his secretaries.
(Healy and Lambert parted company in about 1971 or 1972 supposedly over the
issue of a resolution about dialectical materialism at a youth conference
they staged in Essen, Germany. (Healy's side said you couldn't be a
revolutionary without it, and Lambert's side, interseted in allying with
people outside of Marxism - were against the resolution).
The real issues were the Lambertistes deepening involvement in the Catholic
trade unions in France, and a fight between Healy and Lambert over who was
going to be the top dog in the organization. They both won.)
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