Workers' Revolutionary Party

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(Redirected from Socialist Labour League)

The Workers' Revolutionary Party was a Trotskyist political party in the United Kingdom.

Contents

The Club

The WRP grew out of the faction Gerry Healy and John Lawrence led in the Revolutionary Communist Party which urged that the RCP enter the Labour Party. This policy was also urged on the RCP by the leadership of the Fourth International. When the majority in the RCP rejected the policy in 1947, Healy's faction was granted the right to split from the RCP and work within the Labour Party as a separate body known internally as The Club.

A year later the majority faction of the RCP was wopund up and joined The Club in the Labour Party. Healy set to work purging the group of real and imagined opponents with the result that within months the organisation was a fraction of it's former size but Healys leadership was unchallenged.

In 1948 The Club joined with a number of Labour Left and Trade Union leaders to organise The Socialist Fellowship as fvehicle for left wing Labour Party members. The Socialist fellowship launched a paper called Socialist Outlook which Gerry Healy became the editor of until it was banned in 1954. Following the banning of Socialist Outlook The Club distributed Tribune.

Recognised as the official British section of the Fourth International when it split in 1953, they became one of the larger sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International. The Club and its succesor groups the Socialist Labour League and Workers Revolutionary party would remain within the ICFI until the final collapse of the latter. Indeed the tiny remnant which now bears the name WRP still maintains its version of the ICFI.

Socialist Labour League

The group grew, in part as people grew disillusioned with the Communist Party of Great Britain's position on the Hungarian revolution and in part from recruits from trade union activities. One of their best known recruits from the CPGB was Peter Fryer who had been The Daily Workers corrspondent in Budapest during the suppression of that city by Warsaw pact forces and when the SLL launched The Newsletter as a weekly paper he became its editor. The paper and their publiation of a number of Trotsky's, then hard to find, books further helped them recruit from amongst those disillusioned by the CPGB. Among these recruits were numbered many of the groups best known intellectuals and leaders such as Slaughter.

This led them to form the Socialist Labour League in 1959, independent and for the first time openly Trotskyist, although still with most of its members in the Labour Party. They were also very active in Labour Party youth organisation, the Young Socialists, and gained control until it was shut down in 1964.

However during this period they did experience considerable internal tensions and in 1960 a group of members left to form Solidarity (UK), which became an theoretically influential, industrially oriented organisation strongly influenced by the ideas of Pierre Cardan.

In 1963, the SLL leadership claimed that they had identified a revolutionary situation in Britain. In their view this meant the most important activity was building the party. They started a daily paper, Workers Press, in the early 1970s and increased the turnover of membership, and began to fear police infiltration. Crisis mongering would become an increasingly prominent part of their public profile and internal and external dissidents were dealt with harshly. One incident saw Ernie Tate, a Canadian Trotskyist, attacked in public while distributing anti-Healy leaflets.

Workers Revolutionary Party

Leaving the Labour Party, they claimed that it was necessary to unconditionally support nationalist groups in various Arabic countries, including Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi. The party slowly lost members from the mid-1970s as demands on members to serve the organisation took their toll, although Vanessa Redgrave and some minor celebrities joined. A major split occurred when Alan Thornett was expelled, and went on to found the Workers Socialist League. The WRP also notoriously purchased Trotsky's death mask to use as an iconic focus for events.

They formed the All Trade Unions Alliance wholly controlled by them.

In the early 1980s, the BBC claimed that News Line was financed by money from Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein's governments. The Socialist Organiser newspaper repeated these claims, and the WRP chose to sue them. The WRP soon abandoned the case, leading many to surmise that they were guilty. When, a little later, the WRP disintegrated aninvestigation was carried out by supporters of the Workers Press group but the results of that have never been made fully public. What is known for certain is that the WRP's companies carried out printing work for the Libyan Government and for the Iraqi Government. As to whether there was a direct connection between this work and the groups political positions with regard to these countries is a matter of speculation.

Fragmentation

This turmoil led to the WRP fragmenting. At the beginning of what was to be a period of intense factional struggle two versions of the WRP were in existence, each publishing their own daily News Line paper! The split in the WRP also had repercussions in the ICFI and as a result there were two versions of this body, too.

The two versions of the WRP soon became known by their newspapers with the version led by Gerry Healy and Sheila Torrence being known as the WRP (Newsline) and that led by Cliff Slaughter known as the WRP (Workers Press). Both would fragment further over the coming years.

The first split in the pro-Healy WRP came when a section of the London membership around full timer Richard Price went into revolt and were expelled in due course. They formed the Workers International League which has since evolved into Workers Action and no longer has anything in common with the Healyism it defended when first founded.

Another split in the pro-Healy ICFI and WRP would develop when the American section of the ICFI led by David North revolted against Healy's leadership and split to form its own rival movement also called the ICFI. Some members of the WRP sympathetic to North left the WRP at this point to form the International Communist Party based in Yorkshire. This grouping has since been renamed the Socialist Equality Party and largely confines its activity to the publication of texts on the internet.

In 1986, the ICFI loyal to Healy expelled the WRP (Newsline) after Healy had been pushed out of the WRP and had formed his own Marxist Party in 1987 with his few remaining supporters including the well-known actors Corin and Vanessa Redgrave. The Marxist Party would in turn lose another small split after Healy's death which formed the Communist League while the Marxist Party would linger on to 2004 before dissolving itself.

The WRP (Workers Press) led by Cliff Slaughter meanwhile entered into a period in which its press became the focus of debate on the history of the WRP/ICFI for the members of the WRP and other Trotskyists in Britain and abroad. Moves were made to organise an Open Conference of Trotskyists throughout the world, but this miscarried and in the end a minority of the WRP around veteran Bill Hunter and Martin Ralph were to form the Bolshevik Faction in August 1987. This which split in February 1988 to form the International Socialist League as a section of Argentinian Trotskyist leader Nahuel Moreno's International Workers League (LIT).

The ever declining remnant of the WRP(WP) limped on and in 1990 it formed the Workers International to Rebuild the Fourth International with a few other tiny groups including that led by Belaz Nagy called the Group of Opposition and Continuity of the Fourth International (GOCFI). In 1996 the decision was taken to abandon the name WRP, and it renamed itself the Movement for Socialism in 1996. This later split again with Slaughter's group continuing to use the name MFS and the Bob Archer and Dot Gibson group going by the name WIRFI. Neither have any regular press and are now minuscule.

Torrance's WRP is now the only surviving Workers' Revolutionary Party in the UK and it still publishes News Line almost daily.

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