Laurence Humpheries never broke from the methods and politics of Gerry Healy
Reply by the LCFI to the Resignation of Laurence Humphries from the Socialist Fight Group/LCFI
4 March 2015
On 27 February Laurence Humphries announced his resignation from Socialist Fight Group (SFG) and that he had joined the Austrian-based Revolutionary Communist Internationalist Tendency (RCIT). The comrade had been disaffected from some time because we had failed to recruit and because his own political analyses on the history of Trotskyism and Gerry Healy’s entry work in the Labour party was rejected by the group as a whole. He had failed over the past year to get a supporter to form a tendency or faction despite strong efforts, which were constantly reported to us. The fact that he has now joined a group who have even more differences with him on these two points makes his resignation appear as an unprincipled manoeuvre to gain a leadership position as the RCIT’s sole representatives in Britain with no one to oppose him.
The RCIT and Imperialism in Libya and Syria
We must first look at the differences between the RCIT and the SFG and our international grouping the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI). The RCIT was expelled from the League for the Fifth International (LFI, Workers Power’s International) in mid-2011, just as the war in Libya raged. In a letter in 2012 the RCIT list the following criticisms of Workers Power, with which we would agree:
1. It is the duty of Marxists to make clear which class character political forces have. The leadership of the LFI has NOT made clear which class character the liquidationist, petty bourgeois split has.
2. This happens because of the adaption from the leadership of the LFI towards the petty-bourgeois milieu! In the united front/Anticapitalist initiatives projects which WPB joined they don’t have a sharp revolutionary profile and are very soft in criticizing centrist forces or don’t criticise them at all in public. They are even talking about the “revolutionary left” when they mean the centrist left. 
The “liquidationist, petty bourgeois split” referred to is the group who departed Workers Power early in 2012 and of whom Mark Fischer wrote in Weekly Worker on 6/12/12:
This politically ‘shy’ shell of this group has a political kernel to it, of course. That is, the adaptation of the comrades around Simon Hardy and Luke Cooper, who collectively walked out of Workers Power earlier this year, to the anarcho/autonomist/left-liberal milieu that WP once cynically sought to recruit from. This adaptation is shared by the other major component of the ACI, Permanent Revolution (an earlier split from WP). However, as we predicted, members have actually leaked the other way. 
Our first opposition to the newly formed RCIT group from mid-2011 was on Libya. Up to that point they completely agreed with Workers Power. They argued in the autumn of 2011:
“The civil war in Libya and the arguments of sectarian “anti-imperialism”
In the second part of this article we want to deal with one of the most recent examples of sectarian confusion: the condemnation of the Libyan Revolution in 2011 in the name of “anti-imperialism.” The RCIT supported the popular uprising since it was a democratic revolution against the reactionary bourgeois dictatorship of Gaddafi. We argued that revolutionaries should fight inside the rebel movement against the bourgeois leadership of the TNC, since the later tried – together with NATO imperialism – to contain the revolution and reduce it to the regime-change. We called for the deepening of the revolution by the formation of workers’ and popular councils and militias and its transformation of the democratic into a socialist revolution. We therefore emphatically opposed the NATO attacks.
…However, the sectarian “anti-imperialists” sided with the reactionary Gaddafi regime and supported it against the popular revolution. Examples of organizations which adopted such a reactionary position are the Liaison Committee of the Liga Comunista (Brazil), the Revolutionary Marxist Group (South Africa) and Socialist Fight (Britain)  or the ICL/Spartacists, the Internationalist Group/LFI of Jan Norden or the Stalinist group “Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)”.” 
In our reply we pointed out that the SFG/LCFI had differences with ICL and the IG/LFI on Libya and major differences with the CPGB (ML), who were uncritical (at least publicly) supporters of Gaddafi in Libya, and now of Assad in Syria and Vladimir Putin and the right nationalist Donbass leadership. By autumn 2012 it was obvious to the most naive political person that things had gone badly wrong not only for the ‘revolution’ bit but more especially for the ‘democratic’ bit; women were now caged, bought and sold and have lost all the rights they had under Gaddafi (and their lives if they did not like that). Sharia law was now advancing menacing in all sectors with developing tribal warfare. The slaughter of minorities since then, particularly the appalling public video they have shown of the beheading of 21 poor labourers because they were Coptic Christians signals the further advance of the “democratic revolution” we must suppose. Of course all sides are pro-imperialist ultimately, they were just fighting for who would be the local strongman to represent the interests of imperialism.
The great “Democratic Revolution” in Libya so uncritically supported by the RCIT and Workers Power turned out to be not so democratic for slaughtered black workers and for women’s rights, to put it mlldly!
This is how the RCIT assessed the outcome of their ‘democratic revolution’ in the autumn of 2012, our interjections were almost involuntary:
“The failure of sectarian “anti-imperialism” in the West: Some general considerations from the Marxist point of view and the example of the democratic revolution in Libya in 2011 Naturally, since then there have been more cases of conflicts and liberation struggles in which imperialist powers have attempted to interfere (Syria, Ukraine, etc.)… We should only add here that, since the original writing and publication of the article, events in Libya have completely confirmed our analysis (oh FFS, really???? ED). As is well-known, those pseudo-“anti-imperialists” who defended the dictator Gaddafi at the time of the popular uprising against him and his regime – who behind their “anti-imperialism” are actually hiding their pro-Russian and pro-Chinese social-imperialism (absolute nonsense, who noticed the threat to the Libyan and African masses from Russia and China? ED) – predicted that NATO’s military intervention would transform Libya into a Western colony (it has only destroyed it entirely, which is far better, we must suppose – ED). Contrary to these fantasies, the unfinished democratic revolution (Unfinished?? Please do not finish this monstrous ‘revolution’- ED) in Libya led to the killing of the US ambassador and the flight of the embassies of all the great Western powers from the country (by the CIA sponsored jihadists who turned on them for jihad! ED). These events do not deny the setbacks and difficulties for the completion of the revolution caused by the competing petty-bourgeois and bourgeois leaderships of nationalist and Islamist persuasions (you can hum it! ED). Only the formation of a revolutionary party which can lead the working class on the road of class struggle to the socialist revolution can push aside these obstacles (obstacles that you have helped to create – ED). Our decision to republish the essay at this time, following some English language editing, is due to our conviction that the method of analysis described herein is a vital resource which allows revolutionary Marxists to correctly evaluate extremely complex political and military situations and to derive the appropriate tactics in world increasingly torn by imperialism’s attempts to interfere in struggles for liberation. (This is a ‘struggle for ‘liberation’? you have lost your marbles entirely, Michael Pröbsting – ED)” 
We have only to mention the struggle in Syria to see how well that ‘revolution’ turned out. It is perhaps apposite to mention the position of Yossi Schwartz. He chose the Sunni Jihadists as the vehicle for the ‘revolution’ in Syria and we all know how well that ‘Marxist analysis’ has turned out. He claimed in 2013:
Thus it is clear that at least until now the Western imperialists have not armed the rebels and the reason they have not armed the rebels is because they do not trust them as many of them are Islamists. The problem the imperialists have in Syria is the relative strength of the Islamists in the mass movement.
The LCFI replied:
“Of course Imperialism has armed the rebels, both on their own accord and via Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They have not supplied them with heavy weapons or air cover; apparently Syria’s air defences are very sophisticated. And it is true that they are nervous about what the fundamentalist might do to Israel and the reaction of Russia, China and Iran. Yossi’s criticism amounts to a demand that Imperialism arm the FSA now; he may get his wish soon. But the next statement brings out his capitulation very clearly:” 
And here it is:
“At this conjuncture of history in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Mali the imperialists are on one side and the Islamists on the other. This of course can be changed and this would not be the first time in the history of the last 100 years that the Islamists would serve the imperialists. But today the Islamists are fighting against the imperialists and today Revolutionary Marxists are on the same side as the Islamists in the conflict against Assad’s tyranny without giving the petit bourgeois or bourgeois secular or religious forces any political support (our emphasis).” 
Yossi, you could not make a worse political analysis of the situation in Syria if you deliberately tried, we would suggest.
Laurence joins his Epigones; the history of Trotskyism and the Labour party entryism
As we mentioned at the start comrade Laurence’s initial points of disagreement makes his decision to join the RCIT very strange as they have even greater differences with him on these points than the SFG/LCFI has. Let us take his position on the history of Trotskyism first. In early 2014 Laurence wrote a document entitled: THE EPIGONES DESTROY TROTSKY’S INTERNATIONAL 1940-1953, A REPLY TO WORKERS POWER. 
The document seeks to be ‘balanced’ and shows that the comrade had seriously studied the period. Nevertheless he managed to come to a conclusion that rejected both the position of Workers Power, and therefore the RCIT, who continue to defend the positions of Workers Power up to when they were expelled from the Fifth International in mid-2011, and of his own group, the SFG/LCFI, by asserting that the continuity of Trotskyism went with Healy, Lambert and Cannon and the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) in 1953.
“I have answered the questions that WP has posed around the need for a party and a disciplined fight to establish orthodox Trotskyism against Pabloite Revisionism. The 1953 split was a principled defence of Trotskyism against liquidation and revisionism and was therefore a definite continuity of Trotskyism.” 
This conclusion directly contradicts the position of the SFG/LCFI which he has outlined earlier in the same document:
“It (the ICFI 1953 split) should be critically supported as an attempt to defend the heritage of Trotskyism against the liquidationism of Pablo and his supporters, whilst pointing to its weaknesses and inadequacies. Primarily these consisted in a refusal to assess their own role in the post war degeneration and therefore conduct a self-criticism which would have helped to ward off any repeat of those errors. A failure to do that saw all three currents of the IC revert to some version of Pablo’s errors.” 
We can only assume he does not understand what ‘critical support’ means and that ‘a refusal to assess their own role in the post war degeneration’ designated the ICFI as a centrist current. The issue of critical support arises because we are obliged to support a left current against a right current because of the content of their criticisms and because their followers really believed they were conducting a fight for Trotskyism. Just as you would give critical support to a left trade union bureaucrat against a right trade union bureaucrat in an election, ‘critical’ really is the operative word. You cannot correct errors if you do not critically reassess them. IDIOT No 9 On the Continuity of Trotskyism, which was approved at the founding conference and by the LCFI, sets out our position on these questions.
The RCIT, with Workers Power, their political co-thinkers up to 2011, take no sides in that 1953 split. That is a Shachtmanite position, neither Washington nor Moscow etc. That semi-state capitalism position results in them simply counter-posing their own group to the centrists and results in no active intervention whatsoever in the crisis of post war Trotskyism apart a purely propagandist one.
Thus defence of the ICFI in 1953 as the continuity of Trotskyism leads Laurence to defend the expulsion of the Oxford group around Alan Thornett and John Lister in 1974, who later founded the Workers Socialist League. He does acknowledge the undemocratic nature of the split although he has yet to apologise to Alan Thornett for the ‘liberating’ of internal documents from his flat on Healy’s instructions and his continued amusement at the phrase used by Healy to justify all the beatings and other thuggery employed against the group and other before and later, “we are a hard group and we visit people.” He objected to my pointing out this history, seeking to deny and justify it at the same time.
But he agreed with Healy’s central charge against the group that they were liquidating into the Labour party because they correctly pointed out that WRP catastrophism (the country always faced the imminent threat of police-military dictatorship) was simply nonsense to avoid the real task of formulating transitional demands and the application of the transitional method within the trade unions and the Labour party to place demands on leaders and set the base against them in struggle.
Whilst at the same time he defended Healy’s open capitulation to Labour reformism during Healy’s own period of entryism. For instance he defends Healy in an article entitled REVOLUTIONARIES AND THE LABOUR PARTY – REPLY TO WORKERS NEWS (Workers Internationalist League) SEPTEMBER 1994. In the name of an attack on the defunct WIL it was, in fact, an attack on the political basis for the entry work of the SFG in the Labour party into which he wished to liquidate, as Healy had done. He defends Healy here:
“The article asserts “The Healyites in practice built a right-centrist tendency around the paper Socialist Outlook which in fact engaged in wholesale adaption to left reformists and Stalinist fellow travellers”. The WIL is here engaged in massive generalisations without any evidence whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that Healy and his group were attempting to win centrist leftward moving elements in the Labour party. They did form alliances with Braddock and Bevan, but these were tactical questions. There is no doubt that in its Politics and practice Socialist Outlook was a Trotskyist paper and it won plenty of workers to its cause to fight the right wing inside the Labour Party.” 
And then he goes on the quote Bob Pitt’s criticisms of Healy, which we had quoted approvingly, seemingly unaware that this material is damning him:
“Thus Bevan’s speech to the 1952 Labour Party conference was hailed by Socialist Outlook with the headline ‘Bevan Gives the Lead that Workers Want’. Bevan’s election to the NEC on a record vote, and the replacement of right wingers Dalton and Morrison by the Bevanites Harold Wilson and Richard Crossman, the front page editorial stated, was ‘the clearest indication’ that the rank and file wanted socialism.
A month later, next to a message of support from Michael Foot on behalf of Tribune, the paper carried the headline ‘Aneurin Bevan Demands a Real Socialist Policy’. Yet, by Socialist Outlook’s own admission, Bevan had done no more than defend political positions which were commonplace in the Labour Party before 1945, and he had made it plain that he had no desire to wage a serious struggle against the rightwing.
The chief conditions for success, as enumerated by Healy, were: ‘1. complete reliance on the organised power of the working class. 2. No confidence in Britain’s capitalists or America’s imperialists. 3. Finish without delay the job of nationalising, democratising, and reorganising industry along socialist lines. 4. Put into effect a Socialist and democratic foreign policy.’ This programme, which was to be implemented by a future Labour government, was, Healy wrote, ‘the only road to workers’ power and Socialism in Great Britain’. After all, the FI leadership did take the view that, in addition to Socialist Outlook, the British section should publish ‘a theoretical organ, openly defending revolutionary Marxism’ only to have their repeated requests to this effect ignored by Healy. Indeed, Pablo himself would subsequently criticise Healy’s adaptation to Bevanism as an ‘opportunist application’ of the entry tactic! [Excerpt from Bob Pitts The rise and Fall of Gerry Healy].” 
This whole section shows Healy as an unprincipled opportunist maneuverer in the Labour party, by any criterion, far worse than anything he had wrongly charged the Thornett group with. And yet Laurence seems blissfully unaware of this. We can only assume that this is how he intends to operate within the Labour party now if he sees nothing wrong with all that back then.
The actual resignation letter
Now to the actual resignation letter. In it Laurence adopts all the positions of the RCIT in opposition to positions he had advocated himself barely a month ago. He has dome this to make himself acceptable to the RCIT – the position of dual defeatism on the Ukraine, that the Donbass and its leadership are simply proxy armies for Putin and the claim that Russia and China are Imperialist powers of equal danger to humanity as Anglo American imperialism.
The RCIT/Fifth International said Russia was a “Moribund Workers State” under Yeltsin when it was the most obviously pro-Western and privatising all state assets to the corrupt oligarchs (as also in Ukraine), to the delight of Western imperialism. Then, when Putin came to power in 2000 and began to adopt measure in defence of Russian capitalism against the USA suddenly they decided that it was a capitalist and what’s more an imperialist nation. So by a strange coincidence we are asked to believe now that it was political confusion that led them to adopt the ridiculous ‘Moribund Workers State’ theory and so defend the set-up in the former USSR that had pleased Western Imperialism so much. And then when Western imperialism was so disgusted with Putin because he would not do as US imperialism told him suddenly political clarity was achieved and Russia was a nasty imperialist power, equally as bad of the USA, or worse maybe with all its homophobia etc. And all this had nothing to do with abject capitulation to the ‘public opinion’ of the petty bourgeois milieu in which they operated. And perish the thought that the ridiculous “Moribund Workers State” theory was a consequence of them declaring that they stood “arm-in-arm with Boris Yeltsin” outside the White House during the Yanayev coup in August 1991.
Boris Yeltsin atop a tank outside the white house on 19 August 1991, Workers Power and therefore the RCIT stood “arm-in-arm with Boris Yeltsin” they said; “arm-in-arm” with a counter-revolution in capitulation to the petty-bourgeois milieu in which they operate, in fact.
The RCIT demonstrate again their outright capitulation to US-led imperialist propaganda in the following extract on Ukraine today:
“The situation changed qualitatively when, in July-August 2014, the Ukrainian army gained huge military advances and brought the Donbass republics close to defeat. At that moment the Putin government decided to massively intervene. Moscow replaced the leadership of the People’s Republics and put in charge Russian as well as pro-Russian politicians from the Donbass region who had a history of being loyal instruments of Moscow. In addition, the Putin government deployed thousands of troops in the eastern Ukraine thereby tipping the balance of forces and helping the Donbass republics regain substantial ground. In early September, Moscow imposed a ceasefire. The August intervention of the Russian imperialist state marked a qualitative turning point, as we have outlined in the RCIT’s analysis of these events. From that moment on, the uprising has been transformed into one which is predominantly a tool of an imperialistic Russian foreign policy.” 
There is no proof for the assertion that: “Moscow replaced the leadership of the People’s Republics (with those) who had a history of being loyal instruments of Moscow” or that “the Putin government (sic!) deployed thousands of troops in the eastern Ukraine”. No doubt that Russia seeks to direct the struggle and that they allowed thousands of VOLUNTEERS to enter the Donbass but to echo John McCain’s propaganda on this is unforgivable as it the political decision to then withdraw unconditional support from the Donbass whilst it was under such vicious attack from fascist led forces who were slaughtering the civilian population in the cities of the east. We categorically reject the proposition that this war is one between rival imperialist powers. For instance the RCIT say:
“In addition, the Minsk Agreement demonstrates once again the character of the military conflict in the eastern Ukraine as a proxy war of rival Great Powers. It is not the separatist leaders and the Kiev government which negotiated the agreement, but rather the leaders of the two biggest Western European imperialist nations opposite Russian imperialism on the behalf of the former.” 
Whilst this might seem better than the outright national chauvinist positions taken by the likes of Socialist Resistance (USFI), the Alliance for Workers Liberty and the majority leadership of the Labour Representation Committee nonetheless it is profoundly in error. In particular we reject the proposition that the fighters of the Donbass have become simply a proxy army for Putin (just as we rejected this in Libya in 2011 and in Syria since then). The only proxy armies in these three conflicts are US/EU proxy armies; the Benghazi rebels, the Free Syrian Army and the jihadists of the Al-Nusra Front and the ISIS and the Kiev regime and its fascist infested army. Libya, Syria and the Donbass fought or are fighting genuine wars of national liberation against imperialist aggression despite the fact that they are led by reactionary bourgeois nationalist politicians. They have a right to get arms and assistance from anyone who will supply it, including Russia in the case of Syria and the Donbass.
The RCIT says:
“Instead, they have to pursue a dual defeatist position, i.e., to wage a struggle on two fronts: against the imperialist bourgeoisie of the US and EU and their Kiev marionette, as well as against Russian imperialism and their stooges at the head of the Donbass republics.” 
And then go on to take an openly Shachtmanite position in its list of demands at the end of their article, The Minsk Agreement and the Civil War in the Ukraine; “Down with the reactionary, pro-Western imperialist regime in Kiev! Down with the Putin regime and its puppets in the Donbass republics!” and “Neither Brussels nor Moscow! For an independent workers’ republic!” they say and draw the same conclusions in almost the same words as Max Shachtman did against Trotsky and Trotskyism in 1939 and subsequently.
This is profoundly incorrect, it will not assist the working class in its struggles against US imperialist aggression. It will only spread defeatism and confusion. If taken seriously that position would have dire consequences for the working class of the Donbass and the revolutionary socialists in the region fighting for the leadership of the working class. It would demoralise them and undermine the position of a working class growing in confidence and class consciousness following their great victory at Debaltseve.
Laurence’s final complaint is that the Liga Comunista and the Coletivo Lenin (whom he does not mention) advocated a vote for Dilma Rousseff, the Workers Party leader, against Aécio Neves in the Presidential election and the RCIT man in Brazil wanted us to cast a null vote. Considering that the masses would have faced a direct agent of US imperialism if Neves had won as opposed to a victory for Dilma which maintained at least a measure of national independence and defence of workers’ rights (as in the Yeltsin, Putin dichotomy above) it is criminally irresponsible not to take the principled anti-imperialist united front stance that they did.
The fact that Laurence has now gone along with all this nonsense shows him as a profound opportunist who is unable to fight for his own position openly. He desires to be the ‘leader’ of the RCIT group in Britain. As comrades can see from the above he cannot even lead himself, so unsure is he about what his own political line if from one day to the next.
Still ‘Londonderry’ even in 1971 and Gerry Healy was calling for the dismantling of the barricades in the no-go areas to “unite Catholic and Protestant workers” – the British army duly obliged!
It is noteworthy that we have lost two comrades from the old WRP that we won mainly on rank and file work in the trade unions. Unfortunately we lost both over the same question; imperialism. Ray Rising adopted to Bruce Wallace’s reactionary position on the Ukraine. Wallace has retained the unregenerated syndicalist and pro-imperialist positions of Ted Grant on all the foreign wars of UK imperialism from the Malvinas to Ireland to Libya, Syria and Ukraine. Similarly Laurence Humphries has indicated that he is now comfortable with the RCIT group that has such an appalling line on imperialism, the latest example of which is their pro-imperialism on the Ukraine. It was noteworthy that both comrades have never broken from the old Healyite national chauvinism position on Ireland. Both were unenthusiastic, to say the least, about the work of the Irish Republican Poisoners Support Group. Support for the anti-imperialist struggles of Irish Republicans, no matter what our political differences may be with them, is obligatory for all English socialists. And not just support, but active participation in solidarity work, especially for the POWs today.
 Where is the LFI drifting?, A Letter from the RCIT to the LFI comrades, 11.5.2012, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/centrist-degeneration-of-lfi/
 Mark Fischer, Weekly Worker on 6/12/12, Issue 941, Anti-Capitalist Initiative:Up the Swanny, http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/941/anti-capitalist-initiativeup-the-swanny/
  For the unconditional defence of Libya against Imperialism! For a Military United Front with Gaddafi to defeat NATO and the CIA armed “rebels”! No confidence in the government of Tripoli; only by arming all the people and by the permanent revolution can we win the struggle! Statement on Libya by the Liga Comunista of Brazil, the Revolutionary Marxist Group of South Africa and Socialist Fight of Britain, 21 April 2011; in: Socialist Fight No. 6 (2011), p. 36
 Liberation Struggles and Imperialist Interference, (originally written in Autumn 2011, republished in 2012 with a foreword by Michael Pröbsting, repeating the original pro-imperialist stance and refusing to learn any lessons at all), http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/liberation-struggle-and-imperialism/
 Victory to the Revolution in Syria! The second anniversary of the uprising in Syria,
by Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (Israel/Occupied Palestine), 15.3.2013 http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/victory-to-syrian-revolution/
 The Internationalist Socialist League (ISL) Of Palestine Breaks With The American League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP), http://socialistfight.com/2013/04/12/the-isl-breaks-with-the-lrp/
 Victory to the Revolution in Syria!
 THE EPIGONES DESTROY TROTSKY’S INTERNATIONAL 1940-1953, A REPLY TO WORKERS POWER. In 1983 Workers Power produced 4 documents on the History of the Fourth International. This is my reply. http://socialistfight.com/tag/laurence-humphries/
 REVOLUTIONARIES AND THE LABOUR PARTY – REPLY TO WORKERS NEWS (Workers Internationalist League) SEPTEMBER 1994, http://socialistfight.com/2014/01/31/938/
 The Minsk Agreement and the Civil War in the Ukraine, By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 20.2.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/minsk-agreement/