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The Heritage We Defend

A Contribution to the History of the Fourth International

By David North

Online Publication: June 9, 2009

Labor Publications: 1988
539 pages - ISBN 978-0-929087-00-9

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In 1985, after a lengthy period of degeneration, the majority of the WRP, British section of the ICFI, renounced Trotskyism. Michael Banda, one of its main leaders, soon issued documents attacking all the principles and history of the Trotskyist movement. In writing an exhaustive reply to Banda's scurrilous attacks, David North, who played a key role in the fight against the WRP's betrayal, traced the history of the Trotskyist movement from the assassination of Trotsky in 1940 up to 1988.

One of the main targets of Banda's articles was the founding of the International Committee of the Fourth International in 1953. At the time, James P. Cannon had defended the heritage of the Trotskyist movement against political views associated with Michel Pablo. In opposition to positions developed over years of struggle in the Fourth International, Pablo's supporters argued that the Stalinist bureaucracies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe could reform themselves and lead socialist revolutions in the post-war period; in addition, petty-bourgeois nationalist leaders would lead socialist revolutions of a special type in the colonial and semi-colonial world.

Gerry Healy and other leaders of what was to become the WRP had fought Pabloite conceptions for more than two decades, but by the late 1970s similar views began to develop in the leadership of the British section itself. Within the ICFI, the drift toward Pabloism was vigorously fought, as can be seen in the analysis presented in "How the Workers Revolutionary Party Betrayed Trotskyism" and in "The ICFI Defends Trotskyism."

It is striking to consider how quickly the correctness of the ICFI's views was confirmed. Indeed, as the split with the WRP was developing, Mikhail Gorbachev arose as the leader of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union and launched his program of "perestroika," or restructuring. Virtually every Pabloite leader claimed that Gorbachev was extending socialism through the self-reform of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Having broken with the ICFI, Healy arrived at the same conclusion, hailing Gorbachev as leader of the supposed political revolution in the Soviet Union. Only the ICFI correctly identified perestroika as a policy of capitalist restoration, a view that was tragically confirmed by 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed and capitalism was ruthlessly reintroduced.

Banda's political evolution was different from Healy's but similarly striking. Having argued in the 1980s that property relations in the Soviet Union were irreversible, by the late 1980s he was praising Joseph Stalin and fully embracing Stalinism.

The essential lessons of these political struggles are presented in this full online edition of The Heritage We Defend. These lessons are crucial to the building of the ICFI today to resolve the crisis of proletarian leadership and establish socialism internationally


Table of Contents

1. M. Banda Renounces Trotskyism
2. The Banda School of Falsification
3. The SWP and the 1940 Elections
4. The SWP and American Stalinism
5. Revolutionary Defeatism in World War II
6. Trotsky's Proletarian Military Policy
7. The Fourth International in World War II
8. The "Three Theses" of the Retrogressionists
9. The Morrow-Goldman Faction
10. Cannon's "American Theses"
11. The Fourth International After the War
12. The Fourth International and the Yugoslav Revolution
13. The Origins of Pabloism
14. The Metaphysics of Nationalized Property
15. The Nature of Pabloite Opportunism
16. Cannon's Struggle Against the Cochranites
17. The Split in the Fourth International
18. James P. Cannon's "Open Letter"
19. After the Split
20. The SWP and McCarthyism
21. The SWP in Retreat
22. Khrushchev's Secret Speech to the Twentieth Congress
23. The Impact of the Hungarian Revolution
24. The SWP's "Regroupment" Fiasco
25. The British Trotskyists Oppose Unprincipled Unity
26. The Cuban Revolution
27. Hansen's Debasement of Marxist Theory
28. The SLL Defends the International Committee
29. The Historic Betrayal in Ceylon
30. Marxism and the "Breakdown" Theory
31. A Petty-Bourgeois Nationalist Unmasked
32. The Wohlforth Incident
33. M. Banda Embraces Stalinism (I)
34. M. Banda Embraces Stalinism (II)
35. M. Banda Embraces Stalinism (III)