Tribute to Bill Hunter: Clarity comes with a truly international perspective and practice

August 1st, 2015

The first time I became aware of Bill was in 1985. I was a member of the, then, Workers Revolutionary Party and the party was in an extreme crisis. Like many members, I had struggled to keep up with the workload of supporting a daily paper, The Newsline.

However for some reason there had been a sudden crisis and the leader, Gerry Healy had been deposed and several factions had emerged each hostile in varying degrees to the other. I remember I had gone down to London with several comrades from the North West to participate in a meeting, or aggregate, where the pressing issues were to be discussed.

To give some context to the meetings there would be possibly 100 members. These members would be of different types. There would be workers including miners, even workers like myself, a bank clerk. There would be quite a number of middle class members such as academics and students.

In this particular instance, I found myself listening to the party’s General Secretary, Mike Banda.

Mike was a terrific speaker. Trotsky waxed lyrically in his autobiography of the powers of speech of the French socialist, Jean Jaures, and I imagine Mike had some of the same magic dust. He could always create unusual and apposite turns of phrase. Words such as “alacrity” and “Panglossian” would be sprinkled in whatever he was talking about.

Mike was giving his own views of the state the WRP had found itself in. This state was a state of free-fall much to the delight of other revolutionary sects and even the mass media.

Mike began to talk of how Trotsky in forming the 4th International in the 1930s had sown “Tigers teeth” but the harvest had been at best “hens teeth”.

I remember listening with some interest to Mike when all of a sudden in the row behind me two people began shouting at Mike.

These two people turned out to be Bill Hunter and his wife Rae. My initial reaction was one of annoyance. Why couldn’t they just shut up and let Mike speak?

It turned out that Mike was merely, if very eloquently, excusing himself from the movement, which he now considered worthless. However Bill and Rae refused to accept this.

Bill had been a Trotskyist since the 1930s and had even been sent to Germany after the war to re-establish a Trotskyist movement after its decimation by the Nazis. Bill had already given a lifetime of struggle to the 4th International and was not going to have it trashed by a slick talking former comrade.

Bill was to go on and analyse and write about the sudden decline of the WRP, which was because of what he saw as national-Trotskyism. Instead of being part of a true international the WRP had become a mere self-centred national organisation. It believed solutions to the international crisis of capitalism could be addressed by a mere national organisation – albeit – having national sections in countries abroad.

Bill went on to align himself and a section of comrades with the International Workers League (LIT) based in Latin America. In effect, putting into practice his argument that a socialist cannot gain clarity unless his practice begins from a truly international perspective.

It must be admitted that only a handful of comrades followed Bill’s (& Rae’s) lead. But those that did and managed to stay the course have been richly rewarded. Making friends with comrades from around the world, visiting other sections around the globe and helping to build an organisation that gives hope to all who fight injustice.

I came to know Bill and Rae well over the year. Sadly Rae died in 1992 but Bill continued fighting right up to his death at 95.   

Peter Windeler, ISL