Crisis at the Socialist Worker 2013 : Echoes of the Healy Sect 1985
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I have just found Mark Steel’s (the well-known comic) recent account of the shenanigans in the SWP after looking at a certain Pat Stack’s ‘secret’ party document in full glare, so to speak, on the internet. In it, he (or she?) refers to critics outside the Socialist Worker sect, especially those on the internet, as “the filth that is out there” without any sense of irony whatsoever as to where the real “filth” may be located. Irony, of course, has a dialectical character so we would be somewhat over-optimistic to expect its conscious deployment in a piece by a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party. Rape, however, 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 is anathema to the work and spirit of Marx who saw men and women as supportive comrades in the common struggle against the rule of capital.
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, 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.
I was a member of this sectarian outfit in Hull at the time. I am very proud to say that the overwhelming majority of the central committee and the broad membership of the party turned against Healy and drove him and his servile cronies out into political obscurity. In Hull, we had to fight Healy’s overbearing placeman which then turned into a rearguard action against the Hyland splinter group with which he allied himself. We defeated them. 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 parliamentary democratic Thatcherite 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. ‘Boney’ had still failed to appear over the horizon by this time.
The best account I have read of ‘life’ in the WRP – I use the word ‘life’ circumspectly – is Norman Harding’s ‘Staying Red’ which is free to download on WordPress. (http://stayingred.wordpress.com/staying-red-html-version/)
The crisis and its aftermath finished the WRP. It released the shackles so we were now free to think and develop our conceptions and to use our energies in new, more productive, directions. Dare I say, socialist directions. At the time, Healy’s 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.
They also defended Healy on grounds which gave him a licence to commit any sin under the sun because he was “the great revolutionary leader”. When Cliff Slaughter in opposition to Healy – at a meeting in London – quoted Lenin on morality, Healy et al accused him of purveying bourgeois morality (such accusations will ring a bell with those currently fighting the ‘elect’ in the SWP) until he actually stated subsequently to the full meeting that he had just quoted from Lenin. This exposed how far Healy & Co had actually moved away from ‘their’ Lenin on questions of morality. For Healy et al, Lenin was infallible, indisputable gospel. Nobody critiqued Lenin. Volumes 14 and 38 of the Collected Works were treated like divine revelation. To critique Lenin was like a devoted Catholic heretically accusing the Pope of having gay orgies with the cardinals in the Vatican. It automatically invited the accusation of “revisionist” or even something worse. Looking at both these volumes, there is plenty in them which is actually open to critique. Certainly, for example, the notion of thought being a “photograph” of the world etc, in volume 14 and even Lenin’s study of Hegel’s dialectics in volume 38 which, in my humble opinion, sometimes verges on the mechanistic.
Corin Redgrave (the now dead brother of the still living actress Vanessa) caused uproar in a meeting in Scotland when he praised what he called Healy’s “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, 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’.
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), “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 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”) 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.
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 (or 1960?) – 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 most abject philosophical philistinism and theoretically dissolute publication of Healy’s very unremarkable “Studies in Dialectical Materialism” which turned out to be an incomprehensible assemblage of convoluted mumbojumbo phrasemongering and terminological confusion. One comrade in Hull 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 in which each term and sentence not only contradicts itself within the context in which it is located but also they contradict each other in an endless cacophony of confusion.
There is still a Healy-worshipping sect somewhere (I think it’s called the Movement for a Socialist Future or something ridiculous 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. My recommendation, for what it’s worth, is not to all rush out at once to buy it. Unless you enjoy headaches.
In our encounters with others, we had convenient alienating sticky labels to plaster on anybody and everybody who opposed us : “Ultra-left!” “Revisionist!” “Reformist!” “Counter-revolutionary Pabloite!” “Stalinist GPU agent!” It was a type of political psychosis. Like being on a neverending 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. We must prepare for it! Only “We” can lead it! During the Steel strike in the early 1980s in which I worked in Scunthorpe (Bill Sirs of the ISTC ‘led’ it. Wasn’t he knighted later?), I recall a member of the CC (I recall it was Mike Banda) visiting Scunthorpe 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. When somebody asked him where we would get the arms from, he replied “The IRA or Fatah will supply them”.
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. My impression of Corin was that of a rather severe and humourless individual. Somewhat overserious with a robotic zeal for the proclamations of the party. We were on a ‘drive’ in the area. I was jobless and living in a run down area of flats on the Bransholme estate. I will never forget the expression of surprise and utter 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 accustomed to living in the urban comfort of London with the option of retreating to pleasant, relaxing, well-furnished rural abodes 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 on a sprawling working class housing estate 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. In fact, for some, many years afterwards. A sort of ‘delayed effect’ which wrecked people’s lives. Homes broken. Divorces. Families destroyed. “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 very good friend George Myers – who recruited me and who was a fine human being – was killed in a motor cycle accident in 1981 whilst “party-building”. He left a wife, Jean, and, I think, two young children. To this day, I have very good reason to think that it was really overwork that really killed George. I believe he must have lost concentration and control of the motorcycle because I think he was so very tired. After his death, Healy callously said to George’s brother, Bob, “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. It was all kept from us by the clique around Healy. Healy was seen as a model revolutionary who had dedicated his life to the struggle to overthrow capitalism. At branch level (in Hull anyway) we were totally in the dark about serious abuse. We believed our hard work and contributions, some from well-heeled party members, were responsible for the growing resources of the party and not funding from despots and killers in the Middle East. When other groups accused us of slander and libel we thought it was they who were slanderous and libellous and expected the party to take court action if they continued on a national level. We were all brainwashed into thinking that whatever Healy and his clique did, was in the “interests of the working class”.
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. 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.” Our approach was indeed apostolic, a door-to-door proselytising style. 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 and their families.
The most difficult ones to convert were those who were already part of the general creed (members of other competing sects) but refused point blank to accept the specificities and particularities of the dogma of party doctrine. 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. Doors were closed 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 “if we say you are then you are” Cliff’s IS/SWP and Ted “basincut airchopper” Grant’s Militant but there were other “revisionist splinters” and “cowboy outfits” like Alan “The Weasel” Thornett’s WSL for which the worst kinds of vitriol were reserved. Thornett’s group were ex-WRP heretics who dared to stand up to Healy.
Years later, when I reflected on all that, I realised that there was an elemental presence of a most debilitating evangelism (almost pentecostalistic) in the whole practice of the left-wing sectarian grouplets. It was an almost psychotheological approach that ossified the content of the thoughts and method 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 mumbojumbo juju stick news-sheet. Some are still ‘at it’.
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. Lenin outlined this “centralism” in ‘What is to be done?’ 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. Both Lenin and Trotsky ideologised it in their work in the Third and Fourth Internationals. The sectarian left groups took it as an unassailable manual of “party organisation” for all times and all places. These groups have taken ‘Democratic Centralism’ in the spirit of a car repair manual valid for all times and places which is how the groups have appropriated it. Lenin and Trotsky were both in error to ideologise it as they did.
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 charismatic prophet does from the enchanted congregation of his cult. The 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’ – in 1976, age 16, at a young and impressionable age. Psychologically, leaving it was akin to losing one’s political comfort blanket and then wondering where the hell to turn next. Since then – with a brief uncomfortable spell in the SLP – I have based my work in the broad class movement as a socialist independent.
In my opinion, so-called “Democratic Centralism” as a method of party organisation and structure of the sectarian groups owes more to ideology, Stalin and Mao than it does to Marx. For Lenin, it was essentially a tactical/strategical consideration informing political organisation under very definite, specific, concrete historical conditions which we saw in Tsarist Russia. But he ideologised in the Comintern. We are now working at the beginning of the 21st century in ‘globalised’ western Europe. The sectarians have “fetishised” it. 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 it into dogma 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 and now Chavez is to be stuffed, waxed and stuck 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.
Are these sectarian grouplets Marx? No! No! and No! again. The quicker they all go into the quicksand of history, the better for the class movement as a whole. We need to move on. We have real, very serious work to do. “We have a world to win”.
Meanwhile today, in March 2013, 28 years post-Healy, the Socialist Workers Party remains open to the accusation that it is harbouring rapists and sexual predators whilst two women socialists are insisting that they have been sexually abused by the accused man who is still free to prowl around the female membership. At a recent demo, when I challenged a leading member of the Hull branch of the SWP on the accusations, he yelled in my face “Fuck Off, You’re an Idiot!” Of course, I wasn’t surprised. After all, this is exactly what most SWP leaders are saying to the women accusers.
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 place. 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. It might end up as a rump like Torrance’s WRP. Don’t they still have a daily paper, the ‘Newsline’? And if so, how on earth do they manage that?
I got up one morning in 1985 – thinking it was going to be normal 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 upper case bold. That’s the first thing I had heard about 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 IS DEAD”. Healy was exposed like a rabbit caught in car headlights and he ran and hid. We didn’t know where he’d gone. We sought him here. We sought him there. We sought the accused everywhere. But nowhere could he be found to face his accusers. There was a rumour going around in the Hull branch that the Redgraves had put him up in a burrow somewhere but I couldn’t vouch for this.
It seems to me that once you pledge fealty to one of these sects, it is very 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. Its 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. Kick the crutch away and it devastates you. You feel helpless. Vulnerable. What do you do? You yourself become the rabbit in the car headlights. Do you stand still or do you make a run for it? “I’m a Rabbit, Get me out of here!” or (if you’re a young female member of the SWP) “I’m a young woman, Get me out of here!”
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. If it were my female relative – and if she felt capable and wanted to – I would want and help her to make it a matter for a police investigation. To subject the allegations to the normal, due legal process. To take him ‘out’ if he’s guilty as charged. The SWP have actually ‘dealt’ with the allegations and crisis in a way which imitates the classic response of a religious cult. A cover-up by the “Children of God” or the “Jesus is Love” 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 a so-called ‘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’. The mindset is that whatever others say or do is interpreted as part of ‘the plot’ by ‘others’ 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. I recall it being at the Alexandra Palace. One young male comrade got up and started to address the floor from the microphone. He was a teenager or early twenties. It was obvious straight away that he had quite a severe stutter. Very courageous to speak to a large gathering. But this was not the attitude of the platform. Their smirks and titters 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. I recall Norman Harding mentions in ‘Staying Red’ that Healy had racist tendencies and that he had peddled the prejudice to his female victims that quote “Black men carry diseases” unquote.
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 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 ‘authority’. Speaking personally, real ‘authority’ now means something totally different. Please excuse the cliche, but you really do earn it along with respect. You never ‘command’ it. That ‘command’ generates fear in its wake.
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. Norman Harding’s book goes some way towards that but I think there is a lot more to come out even decades after the ‘explosion’.
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 probably 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 bloodsoaked 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 real estate/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. On the face of things, we were a fully functioning and growing revolutionary movement. How deceptive appearances can be! 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 – following the party line – defending the Khomeini regime in a student meeting at Hull University in the early 80s. I was an undergraduate Biochemist at the time. Three enraged socialist Iranian students followed me later and threatened to give me a good beating. Whenever any of them saw me selling the ‘Newsline’ in the student union, well, as they say, if looks could have killed. They were correct. I recall one stating that some of his comrades had been murdered by the Khomeini regime.
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 uncritically supporting the likes of Hamas in Gaza or Fatah in the West Bank. It reminds me of days of yore.
I was only a branch member in Hull, occasionally active at the regional level in Yorkshire 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. The world is always more complex – and always will be – than our conceptions of it. If ex-WRP members got together, I dare say that 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 this 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. 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 commodification 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”.
Hull. March 2013.
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