This is a cross post from Howie’s Corner
There has been a lot of attention paid to the 1985 split in the Workers Revolutionary Party as a result of the current crisis in the Socialist Workers Party over allegations about “comrade delta”. Although the WRP splintered into numerous fragments over the following years there are still one or two organisations around that are in the general “political tradition” of Gerry Healy, the disgraced WRP leader who died in 1989.
For those of you who either may not remember or were not around at the time, the world of the far-left was “rocked” by the news that “G.Healy had been expelled from the WRP” as the headline in their daily newspaper the News Line declared at the time. Given that Healy had controlled the WRP (and it’s predecessors) with an “iron rod” such an event was unexpected.
Much has been written about these events which you can find in the links below this article, but the “trigger” appeared to have been a letter from his long time secretary Aileen Jennings that (in summary states) she could no longer cover up for his activities with some of the women members. The Central Committee of the WRP plunged into a crisis from which the organisation never recovered.
One of the people who took a stand against Healy was his North American protege David North. It was surprising to find that the World Socialist Web Site had plenty to say about the current crisis in the SWP. Commenting on the recent Unison Women’s conference:
The implications were made clear at the UNISON conference when the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was threatened that it could be next to be barred from platforms.
The SWP is characterised by its essential loyalty to the trade union apparatus. It has long promoted identity politics based on race, gender and sexual-preference as a counter-weight to class-based politics and has even lined up behind the campaign against Assange, demanding he go to Sweden to stand trial.
The statement continues:
In the most cynical manner, allegations of sexual impropriety against a leading member of the SWP have been seized on by pro-Labour Party ideologues such as the warmonger Nick Cohen, Owen Jones, and blogs such as Socialist Unity to launch a scathing attack on “Leninism” and “Trotskyism” as the root cause of the SWP’s anti-democratic practices and proof of the futility of building any party separate from Labour and the trade unions.
One can already imagine trade union bureaucrats demanding, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the …?”
Not quite what one would expect from people who had to face up to the same kind of problems all those years ago. The name they run under in the UK is the Socialist Equality Party. Go figure.
The guru of the WSWS is still David North (as far as I am aware) and he doesn’t seem to have quite lost his admiration for Healy. In 1991, six years after the split and two years after Healy’s death he published a short book called Gerry Healy and his place in the history of the Fourth International. His words of conclusion are:
For a long and difficult period, Gerry Healy was a crucial human link in the historical continuity of the Fourth International. For decades he fought against stalinism and opportunism. In the end he broke beneath the pressure of this tremendous struggle.
North is not alone in his attitude towards Healy. Ken Livingstone also appears to have been a “fan. Ken was asked to write a foreword to to a biography of Healy in 1994.
My own research and experiences have strengthened, not weakened, my conviction that MI5 considers even the smallest left organisation worthy of close surveillance and disruption. Given the pivotal role of Healy in maintaining contact with Yasser Arafat’s HQ through the WRP’s use of the latest technology, MI5 clearly felt that they had to stop the growing influence of the WRP. I have never changed my belief that the split in the WRP during 1985 was the work of MI5 agents.
It was a privilege to have worked with Gerry Healy. I know this book will give those who did not know him an opportunity to understand his contribution to the working class revolutionary movement.
Some people might well disagree with you Ken old chap!
There remains a small group who still call themselves the WRP and publish the News Line which must be the smallest circulation daily paper in the world. Most other people have moved on.
The demise of the WRP and the waste of effort by literally thousands of people from the formation of The Club in the 1950s through the Socialist Labour League to the final demise of the party in the 1980s should serve as a warning for those like the Professor and his supporters in the SWP as they tackle their own crisis today.
Forward to the glorious tenth?
World Socialist Web Site: http://www.wsws.org/en/
Ken on Healy: http://www.aworldtowin.net/resources/GH.html
The Gerry Healy Archive (yeah really): http://www.gerryhealy.net/
Bob Pitt: History of the WRP: http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/pages/healy/chap11.html