Tim Wohlforth

Last updated

Timothy Andrew Wohlforth (May 15, 1933 – August 23, 2019), was a United States Trotskyist leader. [1] On leaving the Trotskyist movement he became a writer of crime fiction and of politically oriented non-fiction.


As a student, Wohlforth joined the youth section of Max Shachtman's Independent Socialist League (ISL), the Socialist Youth League in 1953. [2] He broke with Shachtman in 1957 when the ISL moved rightward to merge with the Socialist Party of America. Later that year, Wohlforth and a minority of ISL members joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which was the main Trotskyist group in the US at the time. [3]

In the early 1960s when the SWP and its supporters internationally in the International Committee of the Fourth International fused with the International Secretariat of the Fourth International and developed a critical but generally supportive attitude towards the Cuban Revolution, a minority of members led by Wohlforth and James Robertson (another former ISL member) formed the Revolutionary Tendency within the SWP. While Robertson left the SWP in 1962 and went on to form the Spartacist Group, later Spartacist League, Wohlforth and his supporters remained within the SWP and fought for the perspective of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). They were expelled in 1964 after demanding a discussion of the significance of the Sri Lankan Lanka Sama Samaja Party's entry into the government of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The US supporters of the ICFI formed the American Committee of the Fourth International, and in 1966 they formed the Workers League. [3]

In 1974, the ICFI discovered that Wohforth's partner, Nancy Fields, an active member of the Workers League, was raised by a relative who had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency's computer division and had ties to top-ranking agency officials. The Workers League Political Committee and ICFI criticized the fact that neither Fields nor Wohlforth had revealed this to the League. In August 1974, the League's central committee suspended Fields from membership and removed Wohlforth as national secretary pending a commission of inquiry, in a unanimous vote that included Wohlforth's. Both left the League, and Wohlforth rejoined the SWP. An investigation conducted by the Workers League concluded that Fields did not have connections to the CIA, and the two were requested to resume their membership. However, they refused. [4]

Wohlforth later claimed that the Workers League became a cult, largely due to the domination and manipulations of the principal ICFI leader at the time, Gerry Healy.

Wohlforth was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. In 1994 he published his memoirs, The Prophet's Children. He subsequently co-authored On The Edge: Political Cults Right and Left (2000) with Dennis Tourish. His former wife Nancy Wohlforth, is Secretary-Treasurer of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) and on the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fourth International</span> Revolutionary socialist international organization

The Fourth International (FI) is a revolutionary socialist international organization consisting of followers of Leon Trotsky, also known as Trotskyists, whose declared goal is the overthrowing of global capitalism and the establishment of world socialism via international revolution. The Fourth International was established in France in 1938, as Trotsky and his supporters, having been expelled from the Soviet Union, considered the Communist International as effectively puppets of Stalinism and thus incapable of leading the international working class to political power. Thus, Trotskyists founded their own competing Fourth International.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shachtmanism</span> Political ideology

Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman (1904–1972). It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of proclaimed socialist countries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky's description of Stalinist Russia as a "degenerated workers' state".

Max Shachtman was an American Marxist theorist. He went from being an associate of Leon Trotsky to a social democrat and mentor of senior assistants to AFL–CIO President George Meany.

The League for Socialist Action was a Trotskyist organization in Canada. It was known by several names throughout its history, including the International Left Opposition (Trotskyist) of Canada, the Workers Party of Canada, the Socialist Policy Group, the Socialist Workers League, the Revolutionary Workers Party, The Club, the Socialist Education League and the Socialist Information Centre.

James Robertson (1928–2019) was the long-time and founding National Chairman of the Spartacist League (US), the original national section of the International Communist League. In his later years, Robertson was consultative member of the ICL's international executive committee.

The Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) was a Trotskyist youth group of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the United States of America. It was founded in 1960, although it had roots going back several years earlier. It was dissolved in 1992. The membership peaked in 1971 at 1,434.

<i>On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left</i> 2000 book by Tourish & Wohlforth

On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left is a non-fiction book about political cults, written by Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth.

Under a variety of names and within a number of organizations over at least 17 years, the group around Harry Turner, or Turnerites was a presence within Trotskyism in the United States.

The Spartacist League is a Trotskyist political grouping which is the United States section of the International Communist League, formerly the International Spartacist Tendency. This Spartacist League named themselves after the original Spartacus League of Weimar Republic in Germany, but has no formal descent from it. The League self-identifies as a "revolutionary communist" organization.

The Revolutionary Tendency within the American Socialist Workers Party was an internal faction that disagreed with the direction the leadership was taking the party on several important issues. Many groups and movements would have their roots in the RT, both in the United States and internationally, including the Socialist Equality Party and the world Spartacist and LaRouche movements and their various splinters.

The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is the name of two Trotskyist internationals; one with sections named Socialist Equality Party which publishes the World Socialist Web Site, and another linked to the Workers Revolutionary Party in the UK.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Socialist Equality Party (United States)</span> Trotskyist political party

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is a Trotskyist political party in the United States, one of several Socialist Equality parties around the world affiliated with the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). The ICFI publishes daily news articles, perspectives and commentaries on the World Socialist Web Site and maintains Mehring Books as publishing house.

The Fourth International (FI), founded in 1938, is a Trotskyist international. In 1963, following a ten-year schism, the majorities of the two public factions of the Fourth International, the International Secretariat and the International Committee, reunited, electing a United Secretariat of the Fourth International. In 2003, the United Secretariat was replaced by an Executive Bureau and an International Committee, although some other Trotskyists still refer to the organisation as the USFI or USec.

The Workers Party (WP) was a Third Camp Trotskyist group in the United States. It was founded in April 1940 by members of the Socialist Workers Party who opposed the Soviet invasion of Finland and Leon Trotsky's belief that the USSR under Joseph Stalin was still innately proletarian, a "degenerated workers' state." They included Max Shachtman, who became the new group's leader, Hal Draper, C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Martin Abern, Joseph Carter, Julius Jacobson, Phyllis Jacobson, Albert Glotzer, Stan Weir, B. J. Widick, James Robertson, and Irving Howe. The party's politics are often referred to as "Shachtmanite."

The International Communist League , earlier known as the International Spartacist tendency is a Trotskyist international. Its largest constituent party is the Spartacist League (US). There are smaller sections of the ICL (FI) in Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Greece and the United Kingdom.

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is a communist party in the United States. Originally a group in the Communist Party USA that supported Leon Trotsky against Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, it places a priority on "solidarity work" to aid strikes and is strongly supportive of Cuba. The SWP publishes The Militant, a weekly newspaper that dates back to 1928. It also maintains Pathfinder Press.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pierre Lambert</span>

Pierre Lambert was a French Trotskyist leader, who for many years acted as the central leader of the French Courant Communiste Internationaliste (CCI) which founded the Parti des Travailleurs.

Orthodox Trotskyism is a branch of Trotskyism which aims to adhere more closely to the philosophy, methods and positions of Leon Trotsky and the early Fourth International, Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx than other avowed Trotskyists.

Michael Banda, born Michael Alexander Van Der Poorten, was a Sri Lankan socialist activist best known as the General Secretary of the British Workers Revolutionary Party.


  1. "Obituary for Timothy Andrew Wohlforth".
  2. Jim Higgins, The Prophet's Children (1995), Revolutionary History, Vol. 6 No. 1, Winter 1995/96. (accessed 2008-08-15)
  3. 1 2 Harry Ratner, "Review of The Prophet's Children", New Interventions, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1996 (accessed 2008-08-15).
  4. David North, The Heritage We Defend, Detroit, 1988.
  5. Nancy Wohlforth Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine , OPEIU Website (accessed 2008-08-15)