Crisis at the Socialist Worker 2013 : Echoes of the Healy Sect 1985 – A Personal Account after 30 Years.
Sexual Abuse in the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain
Rape is a most abusive violent power relation and weapon used for oppression which echoes the exploitative rule of capital itself. For such a form of abuse to emerge in any so-called socialist organisation – and to ‘deal’ with it in the way the SWP has – reflects the presence of the deepest forms of degeneration and corruption which, in turn, replicates the most insidious and inhuman forms of alienation and oppression of capitalist domination. If a so-called socialist organisation is not a safe place for women to voluntarily participate in its activities, then it is not worthy of the name ‘socialist’. It is the worst possible environment in which to develop socialist ideas. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the work of Marx.
Historically, and speaking from my early political experience, socialists have witnessed such behaviour before. The dissolution of the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985 was sparked by the discovery that its leader – Gerry Healy – had regularly assaulted party members, physical abuse and sexually abusing female comrades for many years and perpetrating various libels and slanders against socialists in other organisations. Healy’s secretary – who was instrumental in exposing his abuses – listed more than 20 victims. Healy used his position of power in the party to sexually abuse female comrades. All those leading figures around Healy in the WRP denied any knowledge of Healy’s abusive activities against women until it was clearly revealed in the ‘Jennings Letter’. And today, they still continue to hold this position. And yet many were aware of Healy’s physical abuse of people (some were themselves physically abusive on occasions) and never spoke out or did anything to oppose this bullying and violence at the time. Today, in retrospect after further consideration, I have to state unequivocally that I find it difficult to accept that leading individuals in the WRP at the time had no knowledge of Healy’s systematic and sustained sexual abuse of women party members. To admit to this knowledge (and having done nothing about Healy’s abuse for years) would be to confess a complicity and, in so doing, to politically remove any remaining credit left to those who continue to be politically active today. Some are still active in various ‘blogs’, guises and groupings. However, if we accept that my conception here is unfounded without grounds in the history of real events, then surely we need to pose the following pertinent question : How and why were Healy’s abuses undetected and/or undisclosed for so long by those who were ‘closest’ to him politically and/or personally in the leadership of the WRP and its predecessors from the 1950s onwards? Surely the class movement warrants an analysis here from those in this leadership who claim that they “did not know what was happening” in regards to Healy’s abuses, especially his predatory sexual abuse of women members of the WRP. There are vital lessons to be learned for the class movement in the discourses of such analyses.
I was a branch member of this ultra-sectarian outfit in Hull at the time. I have to say that the overwhelming majority of the broad membership of the party turned against Healy and drove him and his cronies (the Redgraves, Mitchell, etc) out into political obscurity. In Hull, we had to fight Healy’s overbearing and bullying placeman which then turned into a rearguard action against the North/Hyland splinter group with which he allied himself. At one very stormy meeting, at the Trades and Labour Club in Hull, they tried to justify the absurd unhinged notion that in the middle of the parliamentary democratic Thatcherite Britain of 1985 – after the defeat of the Miners – we were all living under a ‘Bonapartist’ dictatorship. We were ‘informed’ that Thatcher was the new Bonaparte. Four years later Healy was dead and gone. ‘Bonaparte’ (ironically it was Healy who was more the ‘Bonaparte’) had still failed to appear over the horizon by this time.
I was a branch member in Hull. Never a branch official or on any regional or national committees. Essentially I was an ‘unknown’. I went to national conferences but was often at odds with the WRP at branch level in Hull. I was suspended, expelled and re-admitted on several occasions.
The crisis and its aftermath finished the WRP. It released the shackles so I was now free to think and develop my conceptions and to use my energies in new, more productive, directions. Dare I say, socialist directions. At the time, Healy’s paranoid sidekicks insisted that he was a victim of a “secret state within the state” conspiracy, i.e. MI5, Special Branch, “dark forces”, etc, but no concrete evidence was ever presented for wider inspection by the labour movement. I recall that years earlier the party put out a half-hysterical, semi-paranoid publication titled “Britain’s State within the State” as if none of us were aware that the state power of capital has an intelligence service, MI5, a secret police, paid assassins, etc. A soldier dressed in camouflage stood menacingly in front of 10 Downing Street on the front cover of the book.
Healy was projected as “the great revolutionary leader”. Those who opposed Healy were accused of “bourgeois morality” (such accusations will ring a bell with those opposed to the ‘elect’ in the SWP) or labelled with bizarre philosophical terms like “Kantian” or “subjective idealist”. To be labelled a “revisionist” was the worst of philosophical and political crimes. A multi-volume sectarian rant entitled “Trotskyism versus Revisionism” was published to undermine the other Trotskyist sects. Corin Redgrave (the now dead brother of the still living actress Vanessa) caused uproar in a meeting in Scotland when he praised Healy’s so-called achievements and said that, quote, “If this is the work of a rapist, then let’s recruit more rapists” unquote.
This was the sort of obscene, anti-socialist, inhuman morality which prevailed in the Workers Revolutionary Party prior to the break-up in 1985. This was used to prop up and validate the bizarre sectarian notions of vanguardism: “we are the vanguard party”, etc. Verbal and physical abuse, unremitting petty censorship, control-freakery, coercion, bullying, intimidation, emotional blackmail, humiliation, people re-mortgaging and even losing their houses to fund the party and working all hours (18-hour days were normal for some comrades) were all part of being a “professional revolutionary” in the WRP. The personal life was ‘toast’. Party life was ‘tutti’. The regime in the WRP not only destroyed people politically. It totally devastated them on a psychological level as human beings. And has left a lasting legacy of bitterness which is still with some today in 2015.
We were brainwashed into the belief that “only we can make the revolution” and that all other socialists were “counter-revolutionary revisionists” (the Pablo, Lambert and the “GPU” Hansen & Novack “conspirator” outfits). Other “class enemies” included the “left reformists” (the late ‘airchopping’ Ted Grant and his Militant Tendency now prosaically known, after several splits, as ‘The Socialist Party’), “ultra-lefts” (that harmless and charming bookish ‘Oxford’ man Tariq Ali – now a published novelist, I understand, and sought after TV celebrity – and his disciples in the IMG), “state-caps” (the late and ebullient Tony “if we say you are then you are” Cliff and his devoted followers in the IS/SWP who thought that the old Soviet system was a form of capitalism), “opportunists” (all of them!, but especially the “Cliffites”) and “police agents of the state” (all of them again! but especially the “Hansenites” and “Novackites” slandered as complicit in Trotsky’s murder) who had to be “swept away” in the “struggle for power”. At this moment, looking back on it now, the thought “absolute lunacy!” comes to mind. And to think I ‘fell’ for it and ‘swallowed’ it at a very early age. And gullible others are doing exactly the same thing now with the other madcap sectarian outfits which are still clinging on in ever decreasing numbers.
One of the high points of the diabolical fabrications made by Healy was the publication – in vulgar A3 format – of the libellous “How the GPU murdered Trotsky” which wrongly implicated fellow socialists in colluding in Trotsky’s murder by assassin Ramon Mercader and the GPU – Stalin’s secret police. People were rightly outraged. Trotsky’s murderer, Mercader himself – after release from a Mexican prison and receiving acclaim and decorations from the Soviet regime in 1959/60 – was rewarded for his deed, welcomed and allowed to settle undisturbed in Cuba and provided with a comfortable life by the nepotistic, ‘bella figura’ Castro regime which is now embarking on a programme of capitalist restoration like its long gone friends in the old Soviet Union.
This exercise in libel – with I recall, if my memory serves me well, a graphic, emotive picture of the dying Trotsky on the cover – was ‘complimented’ by the publication of Healy’s very unremarkable “Studies in Dialectical Materialism” which turned out to be an incomprehensible admix of phrasemongering and confusion. One comrade in Hull (who was later to have a ‘nervous breakdown’ as a result of his experiences in Healy’s sect) sarcastically recommended it as “bedtime reading” when I told him I was having trouble sleeping. Because we didn’t grasp it, we thought it was “too advanced” for us. We didn’t possess the “supreme dialectical mind of a Gerry Healy”. As things turned out, when we looked at it as the fog started to lift, it was clear that we didn’t understand it because it was unadulterated gobbledegook. Here again, we see a characteristic of cult-existence in which its leader was, momentarily at least, attributed powers which he really didn’t hold. None of us understood the “Studies” and so we were told to “theoretically discipline ourselves” like a mental or intellectual form of self-flagellation or ‘penance’ found in physical form in some religious cults or sects. But all the “theoretical disciplining” did not bring us one iota closer to understanding it. Its meaning and significance remained elusive. When you do actually take the terms in the text at face value, so to speak, and string the sentences together, you almost inevitably come to the conclusion that the book is not the coherent outcome of dialectical thinking but rather is the incoherent victim of the dialectic itself.
There is still a Healy-worshipping sect somewhere (I think it’s called the Movement for a Socialist Future or something bonkers like that, run by his old fans, and there is still a rump WRP led, I understand, by the vitriolic Sheila “just get the fucking money in!” Torrance ) which considers Healy’s effort to be a “revolutionary breakthrough” and “recommended reading” for its disciples.
In our encounters with others, we had convenient sticky labels to plaster on anybody and everybody who opposed us : “Ultra-left!” “Revisionist!” “Reformist!” “Counter-revolutionary Pabloite!” “Stalinist agent!” It was a sort of political psychosis. Like being on a never-ending overdose of something unpleasant which leaves a nasty taste in the mouth when you manage to wean yourself off it. Revolution was just around the corner. The leadership of the WRP whipped and bullied on the membership into overwork and often illness. Today, many of them seem to conveniently forget such relations in their new-found political guises. Some still carry the traces of such behaviour with them in their current political relations with people.
We must prepare for it! For revolution tomorrow! Only “we” can lead it! This was the ridiculous, hideous, megalomaniac mentality in the WRP in the 70s and 80s. During the Steel strike in the early 1980s in which I was active in Scunthorpe (Bill Sirs of the ISTC ‘led’ it.) I recall Mike Banda – a member of the CC at the time – actually stating unequivocally that “we will be in a state of civil war within months”. We were run off our feet actively preparing for it. 18 hour days. Exhaustion. People’s lives were “party building”; a normal human life unthinkable and many simply ‘dropped out’. When somebody asked Banda (one of Healy’s sidekicks) where we would get the arms from, he replied “The IRA or Fatah will supply them”. This was the degree to which these WRP “leaders” were in touch with the historic reality around us. They were totally out of touch with the times. We all looked around at each other in a state of confusion and consternation. Some laughed.
It was about this time that Corin Redgrave visited me when I lived on Bransholme, which is a large working class housing estate in the northern part of Hull. We were on a ‘drive’ in the area. I was jobless and living in a run down area of flats on the estate. I will never forget the expression of surprise and dismay on his face and the remark – appropriately emphasised – he made when I showed him into my poorly heated and sparsely furnished flat : “Do you actually live here?”. His tone of voice was that of a nursery child asking mother where babies come from. Later on I thought that if you are indeed accustomed to living in the urban comfort of a well-heeled bourgeois with the option of retreating to pleasant, relaxing, well-furnished rural abodes, holiday homes abroad, etc, with the cream of the Thespian fraternity around you, it must have come as a bit of a shock to see how a jobless worker lived in Hull in the early 1980s as Thatcher ‘got to work’.
Many people did actually have mental breakdowns even after the break-up of the WRP. Homes broken. Divorces. Families destroyed. Lives skewed and ‘screwed’. “Building the party” was simultaneously the point of departure and the point of return. Everything else was subservient to this manic “party-building”. My late comrade and friend George Myers – who recruited me into the WRP and who was a very pleasant human being – was killed in a motor cycle accident in 1981 whilst “party-building”. To this day, I have very good reason to think that it was overwork that really killed him. I believe he must have lost concentration and control of the motorcycle on the bend in a road because I think he was so very tired. After his death, Healy callously remarked to George’s brother, “I thought your dumb brother could ride that motorcycle”. We never got wind of encounters like this until it all imploded in 1985 and later. This nasty, inhuman remark, for example, only came to light in the course of purging the party of Healy and Co. The branch membership of the party were simply given the role of paper-selling and cash-raising drones who knew nothing of what was happening at the national level. Healy – at branch level – was seen (and told to be seen!!) as a model revolutionary who had dedicated his life to the struggle to overthrow capitalism. At branch, and even at regional level, we were totally in the dark about serious abuse. Those ex-leaders of the WRP who are still alive today (and those who are now dead claimed) still claim today the same degree of ignorance of Healy’s abuse as the broad branch membership did at the time. We believed our hard work and contributions, some from well-heeled party members like the obnoxious Redgraves and other loathsome and arrogant individuals, were responsible for the growing resources of the party and not funding from despots and killers abroad. When other groups accused us of taking funds from mass murdering regimes and of slander and libel, we automatically thought that it was they who were slanderous and libellous. Branch members would be told through the ‘Newsline’ paper and branch meetings to expect court action against these “MI5 agents” if such “slander and libel” continued on a national level against the WRP.
Healy’s sexual abuse was the most grotesque manifestation of this regime. We were “Trotsky’s Witnesses”. I doubt if Trotsky would have approved. We did paper sales every night on the working class housing estates in Hull. People would take the greatest of pleasure in closing their front doors on us. In our faces. I lost count of the number of times in Hull when people would state unequivocally on their doorsteps “Not tonight love, thank you. We’re not religious, you know.” People could see that our approach was indeed apostolic, a door-to-door proselytising style like Jehovah’s Witnesses. With the zealotry of the divinely inspired. They were right to close their doors. They were closing them on a dreadful little cult which was actually capable of damaging them. As it damaged many people and families in the course of its sectarian existence.
The most difficult ones to convert were those who were already part of the general “Marxist” creed but refused point blank to accept the specificities and particularities of the dogma of WRP doctrine because it conflicted with their sect-dogma. You could argue for hours with them and nobody would give way on the tiniest, most insignificant, minor points of their sacred scripture. To concede on such points would be to betray the party doctrine as a whole which was “cast from a single block of steel”. Eventually mental exhaustion brought matters to a fitting end. Sometimes a bitter shouting match ended matters. Doors were closed or encounters terminated and zeal would drive you to the next potential gullible convert/victim. The main “competitors” in Hull at the time in the 70s and 80s were Tony Cliff’s IS/SWP and Ted Grant’s Militant but there were other “revisionist splinters” and “cowboy outfits” like Alan Thornett’s WSL for which the worst kinds of vitriol were reserved because they were ex-WRP heretics.
Years later, when I reflected on all that, I realised that there was an elemental presence of a most debilitating evangelism in the whole practice of the left-wing sectarian grouplets. It was an almost psychotheological approach that ossified the content of the thoughts of a mighty thinker like Marx into stone; broke off the centrality and importance of revolutionary critical thinking – dialectics in the most comprehensive sense of the term – and replaced it with the authorised dogma and doctrine of the sect. They turned Marx’s thinking into a morbid, ossified mixture of liturgy, mantras and incantations, each sect with its very own sacred juju stick news-sheet. They are still ‘at it’ today. When I see the youth working in their sectarian groups today, I feel a genuine sympathy and pity for them. I look at them like victims and, if possible, always recount my own experiences in Healy’s sect.
It took many of us many years to work through and resolve all this trash politically and psychologically even after the dissolution in 1985; to disentangle ourselves from the gross anti-Marx sectarianism (Marx himself had to fight against it in his own day) and the destructive “muck of vanguardism” and so-called “democratic centralist” mentality which was only suitable as a necessary strategic/tactical expedient for the specific historical conditions of Tsarist autocracy and persecution by the Ochrana secret police under which the Bolsheviks were working, being shipped off to Siberia, tortured, executed, etc. The WRP saw it – and the sects today see it – as an unassailable manual of “party organisation” for all times and all places as the sectarian groups have mechanistically taken it and uncritically applied it. They view it in the spirit of a car repair manual valid for all times and places which is how the groups have appropriated it. Take, for example, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) which in its literature still describes itself as an organisation based on the principles of “democratic centralism”. And, like the WRP in the past, still attracts the allegiance of university professors and the like.
The ‘leaders’ of these sectarian groups – these minilenins and tinytrotskys – tend to attract the same degree of reverence from their rather uncritical membership as a religious charismatic does from the enchanted congregation of his cult. The social psychology is fundamentally the same. Until, of course, a profound crisis sets in which shakes everything to its foundations. And sexual abuse in a so-called socialist organisation is such a crisis.
On a psychological level, for many, leaving the WRP was like coming out of a religious cult – e.g. the Moonies or Scientologists – and having to make the difficult adaptation to a normal human life again. I joined the youth section of the WRP – the ‘Young Socialists’ run by Healy’s youth organisers Claire Dixon and Simon Pirani – in 1976, age 16, at a young and impressionable age. Psychologically, leaving the WRP was akin to losing one’s political comfort blanket and then wondering where the hell to turn next. Since then I have based my work in the broad class movement as a socialist independent.
“Democratic Centralism” was turned into a mantra by the Bolsheviks after 1917. It was ideologised. For example, simply study the documents of the first four congresses of the Third International where democratic centralism is proclaimed like a mantra suitable for all forms of “revolutionary organisation” across the capitalist world at the time. Which, of course, it certainly was not. In truth, it was essentially a tactical/strategical consideration informing political organisation under very definite, specific, concrete historical conditions which we saw in Tsarist Russia. We are now working at the beginning of the 21st century in ‘globalised’ western Europe. The sectarians have turned it into a dogma and made it part of an organisational ritual and liturgical formula for the so-called “Leninist party”. One of the sacred ‘pillars’ of Leninism. They have ossified Lenin into dogma (Lenin and Trotsky helped in this regard) which runs counter to the actual spirit of dialectics just as the Soviet bureaucracy embalmed Lenin himself rather than following his last wishes to bury him. They ‘embalmed’ his thinking as well, as do the sectarian groups. They did the same to Ho Chi Minh who wanted to be cremated. They also wanted to stuff and embalm Hugo Chavez and stick him in a glass cabinet for every Tom, Dick and Harry to gawp at. Placed in a reliquary. Like a medieval mummy. I wonder what his last wishes were? Not to be stuffed, I dare say. They were foiled in their attempts as the natural processes of putrefaction had advanced to the stage which made it impossible.
Meanwhile today, in August 2015, 30 years post-Healy, the Socialist Workers Party remains open to the accusation that it is harbouring rapists and sexual predators. Academic studies have been done on the structure and psychology of cults and sects. The psychology of the sect is always “us” against the world so that the outside world is kept out at all costs since it might disrupt its normal functioning. An attempt is always made to internalise any crisis – keep it inside and covered up – so that it’s dirty linen is not exposed for all and sundry to inspect. But when the lid will no longer contain the pressure build-up, the result is often an explosion and the contents of the container get splattered all over the joint. This is what happened with the WRP in 1985 and it appears to happening with the Cliff group but in a slow-motion version of it.
I got up one morning in 1985 – thinking it was going to be a normal sort of day – and a copy of the ‘Newsline’ came through the letterbox and landed on the doormat: “GERRY HEALY EXPELLED” on the front page in massive bold. That’s the first thing I had heard about it or anything preceding it. I felt my lower jaw dropping onto the doormat with it. I was so absolutely taken aback. I think I must have felt like a Jehovah’s Witness receiving a copy of ‘The Watchtower’ with front page headline “JEHOVAH HAS DIED”. Healy ran and hid. We were not told where he’d gone. There was a rumour going around in the Hull branch that the Redgraves had put him up somewhere. Again, branch members were totally in the dark. All was happening above and beyond us.
It seems to me that once you pledge fealty to one of these sects, it is quite difficult to get away from them or even envisage a life outside of them. Your whole being goes into them. They grip your mind in a psychological vice and they work on you day in day out. Then you yourself – when fully integrated into its practices and outlook – become a contributor to its continuous reproduction. You become a part of its re-creation and, in so doing, you create the creature that then continuously reproduces you as one of the sect’s best sectarians. It’s the classic ‘vicious circle’, or better, ‘vicious spiral’ in which you become the creation of the creature which you yourself have helped to create and of which you are now an intrinsic part. In helping to reproduce the life of the sect you simultaneously reproduce yourself as one of its sectarians which serves to perpetuate its existence as a whole. In a way, you become the victim of your own creation because you have alienated your whole being into it and you have helped to raise something up which is greater than you and now stands as an alien creature hovering above you and opposed to any degree of self-autonomy whatsoever. You get imprisoned in it. Any attempt to move away from it is met with the outstretched tentacle of the creature you have helped to create. It then turns into a psychological crutch to give personal/subjective meaning to your life.
Personally, I expect more of this sort of thing to come out as the crisis of the capitalist system unfolds. And not only in the SWP but in the other sectarian grouplets as well. None of them are exempt. The ‘happenings’ inside the SWP is a deadly serious business for every socialist in the broad movement. It is not an “internal matter” for this dreadful little sect. The SWP have actually ‘dealt’ with the allegations and crisis in a way which imitates the classic response of a religious cult.
The WRP regime generated an unhealthy psychological milieu commonly found in religious cults and sects like the Moonies, Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Scientology cult which also has celebrities as members.The internal humourless atmosphere was one of “they” are “trying to destroy the vanguard”. This was a perfect recipe for paranoia and mental breakdowns. It was a self-sealing, vacuum-packed, collective psychology isolating people from the wider social reality of capitalism. Ironically, we believed that only we were in real contact with this reality and that everyone else had “lost the plot”. This self-regarding delusional state of mind is a characteristic feature of the mentality of people who are caught in the middle of what the psychiatrists call a ‘paranoid psychotic’ breakdown. They believe only they are in contact with “the truth” and everyone else on the planet is insane, deluded and ‘out to get them’. Whatever others say or do can be interpreted as part of ‘the plot’ to ‘get them’.
Life in the WRP was generally humourless but not without mockery and cruel derision. I once attended a conference in London where different speakers were getting up to make their contributions to the conference which was attended by about 1000 people or more. One young male comrade got up and started to address the floor from the microphone. It was obvious straight away that he had quite a severe stutter. My first thought at the time was how very brave. But this was not the attitude of the platform. Their smirks, titters and laughter infected the floor and very soon this young comrade was subjected to a wider mocking derisory laughter. He promptly finished and returned to his seat. At another conference, a man with a facial disfigurement also received guffaws and derisory comments.
Such conference ‘receptions’ made me feel nauseous. Even in my ‘early days’, I sensed in my guts that something was wrong with this outfit but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, brainwashed by the whole thing I wasn’t able to identify and articulate it. Human beings, in my opinion, have an uncanny sense of being able to ‘detect’, ‘sense’ or even ‘feel in their guts’ when something is not quite ‘right’ in a situation, relationship, even person, etc. It is something unconscious perhaps, perhaps instinctual. They feel it but they often cannot quite articulate it in thoughts and words. It’s a feeling of unease. Life has taught me that it is important to always try to get to the bottom of such feelings because sometimes they are the psychic expression of something concealed and rotting. It has also taught me to cultivate a healthy disrespect for all so-called ‘authority’. Speaking personally, real ‘authority’ now means something totally different.
Examples of this kind – public abuse, etc – are too numerous to mention. They took place at branch, regional and national level. These are relatively minor compared to other abuses. I read that Healy and his lieutenants would make trips to the Middle East to raise funds. The WRP was funded by regimes which it supported through its daily 30 page ‘Newsline’ and the ‘Young Socialist’ publications. My understanding is that Healy handed Saddam Hussein photos of exiled dissidents in the Iraqi Communist Party taken at a demo outside the Iraqi embassy in London. I understand that at least one man was arrested on his return and murdered by the Saddam regime. Saddam butchered the Iraqi Communist Party. He had them tortured and shot. I understand this murdered comrade even spoke at a WRP meeting or conference. They were fellow socialists, men and women with families, friends, children. I still don’t know the full details of what happened here. It is only what I have read or been told. In some details, I may even be incorrect or not correct enough. A truly comprehensive account of all the abuses and the context in which they took place would have been very useful. The late Norman Harding’s book (‘Staying Red’) goes some way towards that but I think there is a lot more to come out even decades after the ‘explosion’. I still think there remains a marked reluctance to venture into certain areas by some.
It pains me to mention that I was a member of this dreadful outfit at the time of such abuses which in this case cost the life of at least one young Iraqi comrade. And many more if Saddam’s regime acted on the photos handed to it by Healy. Healy received hundreds of thousands of pounds and dollars from various sources on condition for his support for Fatah and other bourgeois nationalist movements and blood-soaked regimes. All this corruption is well documented and already in the public domain. At the time of the break up of the WRP, my understanding is that it had about 90 full-time salaried organisers with party cars and motorcycles. It had its own publishing and printing press in Runcorn, Cheshire and HQ in London. And, of course, the famous or infamous ‘White Meadows’ School of Marxist Education in rural Derbyshire. Healy had the use of a party flat (and BMW car and 20K slush fund) in London which he used for his abusive activities. We had papers, periodicals, books, pamphlets, etc, etc, coming out of our proverbial earholes.
I remember attending a YS conference in Scarborough where I was shocked to find books and pamphlets on sale actually written by the Ayatollahs and the Khomeini regime in Iran whilst around the same time socialists were being arrested in Iran and executed by the theocracy. We were told to “support the national liberation struggle regardless of its form” but this “form” was murdering men and women in Iran who had devoted their lives to the struggle for socialism. I remember defending the Khomeini regime in a student meeting at Hull University in the early 80s – I was an undergraduate Biochemist at the time – and three Iranian students followed me later and threatened to give me a beating. A thick, sticky, foul-smelling, obnoxious gloss of legitimacy was always plastered on the most illegitimate of movements and regimes which generally were jailing and murdering socialists whilst “the vanguard” supported these regimes. Today, in the age of the globalised proletariat, we still have some sectarian groups supporting the likes of Hamas in Gaza. Or even ISIS in Syria and Iraq!!
I was only a branch member in Hull and never a national figure so what I have written here is only a fraction of the whole story, and even a fraction from my own perspective. I myself could write volumes if I sat down and dredged my memories. Many tomes could be written on the subject of the abuses alone. Nobody escaped it. Everyone suffered it. ‘Comradeship’? It was non-existent in a party run by a serial rapist and all those lickspittles, some of them ‘celebrities’, who supported Healy’s regime to the very end.
We only really started to discover comradeship in the actual process of driving Healy and his supporters out. The WRP destroyed a generation of well-meaning young communists. And communism is the most beautiful word in the English language. Some day I hope many of them will return and we can all sit down as real comrades over a drink or meal. Hopefully, that we can talk freely about any mistakes we made and any injustices we committed and, if necessary, apologise for them. And that we can go forward in the common struggle to put an end to this rancid, wretched inhuman system of violence and exploitation. And perhaps, out of all the death and destruction which may follow, we, or those who come later, can create a society which is truly worthy of our humanity: a society where the capital relation and commodity production have been finally put to the sword. This is my hope. That all is not lost. That there is a future for humanity. That the age of capital will be transcended. That its barbarism and death will not triumph. That truth, beauty and goodness will win through in the end over the lies, ugliness and evil that currently stalks the Earth. That men and women will eventually find it within themselves to put an end to this putrid state of affairs and go on to create something better. Something free and full of beauty. Where all life, all Nature’s creation, is nurtured and not subject to all manner of sufferings and cruelties we see today. A life in which people and all sentient creatures can breathe freely without fear, without abuse, with care, with love.This is my hope.Together, we must try to find a path to it. To this new world. We are duty-bound to those who have lived and died trying to find it. And to all living creatures now and those yet to come. It may be a peaceful path but we may have to use war to reach it. That may be the unavoidable condition which is presented to us. But we must try. We must go on. Always. No matter what happens. Till we reach this world of beauty, of goodness, of truth, this “true realm of freedom”.
Shaun May, Hull. [updated August 2015. email : firstname.lastname@example.org]
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