MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: International Communist League/Spartacists—Healyism Implodes
Source: Spartacist, No. 36-37, Winter 1985-86
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.
NOVEMBER 23 —The British Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) of Gerry Healy and Michael Banda, which professes to be the largest and most leftist group in Britain calling itself Trotskyism, is in profound upheaval. The apparent bulk of the group, headed by general secretary Banda and leading theoretician Cliff Slaughter, has severed itself from Healy, the WRP’s historic leader. Healy claims 250 supporters, out of a total of perhaps 1,000 WRP members or a bit more, including film star Vanessa Redgrave. The two wings have expelled one another, both claiming the WRP name and both producing papers with the same name, News Line. To appreciate just what a traumatic event this is for WRPers (not least for the Banda/Slaughter side, which at first glance might seem in a strong position, with an apparent majority as well as physical possession of the headquarters and printshop), it must be added that Gerry Healy has long occupied in the WRP a position roughly equivalent to that enjoyed by J.V. Stalin in the Russian Communist Party.
In the pages of the British gutter press, the apparent ouster of Healy by his long-time chief lieutenant is portrayed as a rip-roaring sex scandal. Given the deep-seated Puritanism of the WRP, the sex angle undoubtedly deepens the members’ shock at the charges, revelations and admissions that have been made in the pages of the WRPs’ own newspapers. But at bottom, there are two reasons why most members of the WRP must feel that reality has come totally unhinged: (1) charges of hideous physical violence against members and of concrete, bloody crimes against the international working class have been leveled, and are in the main admitted; (2) the whole of the WRP leadership and membership participated in the cult of Gerry Healy, while Banda admits to having been Healy’s closest collaborator for 35 years. The slimy capitalist reptile press may headline “Red in the Bed” but for the thousand or so members of the WRP, the old story of the emperor who had no clothes is more to the point. And Banda’s got a problem: when Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 launched his attack on the crimes of Stalin, the question legitimately would be posed, “Hey Khrushchev, where were you?” But Khrushchev had a mechanism for controlling the whole process; it’s called a Stalinist bureaucracy, backed by state power. Banda does not have state power.
The Banda/Slaughter News Line (30 October) says the WRP Central Committee expelled Healy on October 19, charges having been brought against Healy on October 12 by a CC vote of 25 to 11. The charges against Healy were (Banda News Line, 13 November): “sexual abuse of female party members, physical violence against party members and of making unfounded accusations of involvement with the CIA against an international leader of the Trotskyist movement” (i.e., David North of the American Workers League). Banda’s paper presents the following chronology; a letter (see page 4) by Aileen Jennings, Healy’s longtime secretary and mistress, was sent to the Political Committee last July. Jennings charged Healy with violating “security” over a 19-year period by having had sexual relations with some 26 women listed by name. “The letter was suppressed by the political committee.... But other victims of Healy’s behaviour came forward to tell their own appalling stories of his brutality.”
In September, still according to the Banda/Slaughter wing, Healy signed an agreement with Banda and Sheila Torrance, then the WRP assistant general secretary, to “retire on the grounds of ‘ill-health and age’.” But Torrance switched sides and the decision was overturned, Torrance making the motion to expel one of the women who had testified against Healy. “This produced an explosion inside the party. General secretary Banda and other members of the full-time staff walked out of party headquarters in protest. They were followed by workers at four of the Paperback Centres, the College of Marxist Education in Derbyshire and the Runcorn works where News Line is printed.” Banda mobilized forces outside of London, took back the print works and “prevented the pro-Healy group from producing News Line.” A Central Committee minority, including Torrance, actress Vanessa Redgrave, Alex Mitchell and some nine others went into opposition on Healy’s behalf, boycotting the CC meeting which voted his expulsion.
Banda describes the WRP in these terms:
“...byzantine debauchery and bureaucratic violence, intrigue and usurpation of members’ rights which Healy symbolised.
“It is admittedly not easy to make this conclusion alter 35 years of close political collaboration....
“For reasons which cannot be fully explained here, the truth was concealed from me as general secretary over a long period.”
Healy, who now calls himself “founder-leader” of the WRP, claims his present difficulties “cannot be separated from the brutal incarceration of Nelson Mandela, the Israeli Zionist bid to eliminate Yassir Arafat and the Tory state’s relentless attacks on Arthur Scargill” (Healy/Redgrave News Line, 6 November). It may console Healy to believe that he is the chosen victim of these powerful evil forces, but we doubt that the lights are burning late in Pretoria or even 10 Downing Street over his fate. Exuberant in seeking to drive an oaken stake through his black heart are, however, thousands of ex-Healyites, some of whom now occupy positions of authority, influence and responsibility, or at least can get the ear of a Fleet Street reporter or two. These people burn with a hatred appropriate for founder-leaders like Healy, Sun Myung Moon or Lynn Marcus.
The new International Secretary of the Banda group is David North, whose American group (concentrated around Detroit) is rated by the Healy wing in print as having 74 members. Indeed the capacity to lie about membership figures is sharply reduced, and Banda blithely sneers at the WRP’s former claims as if he’d never been a party to them: “It would seem to any member that there is a profound and inexplicable difference between the 250 members of [Healy’s] so-called majority and the oft-stated claim of a membership of 10,000 made by Healy and Torrance. What indeed happened to the other 9,750?” (Banda News Line, 30 October).
Banda has the WRP physical apparatus—the headquarters, the printing plant, the little country estate where they educate people in their travesty of dialectics. The founder-leader has himself and the Redgraves, Vanessa and brother Corin, as well as Alex Mitchell, who “was one of the few individuals who had read even less of Marx’s ‘Capital’ than the former Labour Prime Minister Sir Harold Wilson” (Banda News Line, 7 November). Healy also has some film equipment retrieved by Redgrave via a court order. We were not surprised to see Banda deploring the use of the capitalist courts against the left which has been a Healy/Banda practice for two decades; Banda’s paper (9 November) remarked: “Another triumph for the Healyite school of judicial Marxism.”
A speech made by Slaughter on October 18 (Banda News Line, 16 November) said that WRP members “were physically and sexually beaten and abused, brutally and systematically, for years and years.” In the same speech. Slaughter boasted:
“At last week’s Central Committee, C Redgrave was ‘caught with his hand in the till.’ He was found to have removed the deeds to the College of Marxist Education out of the lawyer’s office where it was kept, two days earlier.
“The deeds name him as Trustee of the property on behalf of the Workers Revolutionary Party. Under pressure, he told us he had put them in the bank under his personal account. We decided he should stay on the premises, on guard, until the morning, when he could be escorted to pick up the document.
“Some hours later he remembered the deeds were in fact not in the bank but in his home, and a nocturnal exchange, of C Redgrave for the deeds, was arranged immediately.”
The bourgeois press is enjoying the WRP sex scandal. Writing in The Spectator (9 November), Jim Higgins noted:
“For some 50 years Healy has graced, or rather disgraced, the British Trotskyist movement. In that time, by a combination of low cunning, skulduggery, and verbal and physical abuse, he has created almost as many ex-Trotskyists as Joe Stalin. It would not have surprised me...if he had been expelled for grievous bodily harm, but that it should be for grievous bodily charm is extraordinary....
“Now he has been exposed, angry parents of young females lobby the central committee for redress and even his chosen successor, Michael Banda, has turned on him, leaving him bereft of support from all but the wilder reaches of the actors’ trade union.”
For all the talk about sex, it is nevertheless not possible to determine if what was involved was brutal rape or consensual activity with young women or something in between. British centrist Sean Matgamna, in an article in the 7 November issue of his Socialist Organiser (reprinted in full in our own U.S. publication, Workers Vanguard No. 391, 15 November), observed: “But nevertheless it is also true that a considerable part of the ballyhoo against Healy’s sexual antics is both frame-up and an appeal to backwardness. Insofar as anything was voluntary in the WRP, many of the ‘harem 26’ must have acted voluntarily.”
The Tory rags, in their fascination with the glossy Redgrave connection, insinuate that it was Vanessa’s job to service the old man with guilt-ridden starlets. This is not a likely scenario. If Healy did prey on young girls, they are more likely to be the young daughters of party members, a captive milieu where Healy’s transcendental programmatic charm would have more effect, and where outraged relatives would tend toward keeping it quiet. However in any case, one can be reasonably sure that alleged sex crimes beginning 19 years ago have little to do with the implosion of the WRP.
The Aileen Jennings letter, in the black mailing tradition long practiced in the WRP, was the evident smoke-screen for a coup by Healy’s long-lime lieutenants, Banda the bully and Slaughter the kept intellectual. Slaughter has reportedly stood for countless years of Healyite abuse for being an effete petty-bourgeois. And we know that for many years Healy has been stringing Banda along with promises that the old man was going to retire, any day now, and Banda would take over.
Sean Matgamna coined a Machiavelli-like maxim to describe what happened to Healy: “He who rules by fear and terror should not live to get old and feeble.” And to that we would add that infallible leaders sometimes have trouble when things go badly for their organizations. Over the miners’ strike for example—the WRP gloried in being an open instrument for the Tory press in redbaiting and isolating miners union head Arthur Scargill on the very eve of the strike—we’ve heard that the WRP eventually had to privately apologize to Scargill.
Healy’s aberrations, his penchant for shamelessly dim deals with truly sinister “Third World” capitalist regimes, his “dialectics” doubletalk, his cynical “security” mania, his organizational abuses, and maybe sexual abuses as well, were becoming an embarrassment and there was an accumulation of restlessness in the WRP at the top. David North put out som e feelers to Banda and Slaughter, beginning with criticisms over Healy’s sacrosanct “dialectics” in 1982, and a very cautious private correspondence ensued which has now been published in North’s American paper, the Bulletin. Efforts were made at points to raise some criticisms in conferences, but the bloc partners tended to cop out on one another, leaving the whining North in a rather exposed position:
“Healy and the Political Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party refused to discuss these criticisms.... The Workers League was compelled to withdraw the criticisms, without an answer being given, under threat that there would be an immediate breaking off of fraternal relations.”
— Bulletin, 15 November
But the WRP’s main principle of unity—that all power flows from Gerry Healy—had become brittle. Then came the Aileen Jennings letter—very probably simply a contrived thing from the outset—and it was held over Healy’s head. The Political Committee was still covering up for Healy, while simultaneously trying to unload him with a promise to keep his picture on the wall. In the infamous July statement, Healy agreed to “unreservedly undertake to cease immediately my personel [sic] conduct with the youth.” Banda’s News Line (6 November) claims that Healy objected to the term “youth”: “It should say: ‘Under 25’. As it is it’ll ruin my lifestyle.” Torrance then snapped, “Just get on and sign it.”
Healy was barred from party headquarters. But he apparently decided to fight back, and convinced a chunk of the CC that they’d better rally behind him. But not a majority. And then it all blew sky high.
Bigotry and Brutality
Healy mouthpiece Mitchell said that Healy “built the WRP almost singlehanded.” The Bandaites retorted that the members “want to know what Healy was doing with his other hand while he was engaged in this single-handed endeavour” (News Line, 1 November). We have no idea what went on in Healy’s flat. We do know that Healy is a thief and swindler, a totally shameless liar, a systematic and brutal bully, a drunkard, a braggart of founder-leader proportions. And he is a canting, puritanical, hypocritical bigot. Our own experiences with Healy were quite unsavory. We witnessed Healy extorting false confessions, glorying in slanders and lies, deliberately driving weak unfortunates into unprincipled positions—all of which drove us into hard and prolonged open opposition to Healyism. Our own contact with the Healyites ended nearly 20 years ago, when the opening of a political chasm between us made us very uninterested in the internal machinations of the Healy group, then called the SLL (Socialist Labour League).
The Banda wing’s News Line (1 November) quotes Alex Mitchell as having said, “I would defend Gerry Healy even if he was found to be Jack the Ripper.” It so happens that last October 26, the Spartacist candidate for mayor of New York appeared on a radio program just after we had first gotten word of Healy’s expulsion. She remarked that “to expel Gerry Healy on the grounds of bureaucratism is something like expelling Jack the Ripper on grounds of being a male chauvinist.” It’s not just that we have priority on the comparison—there are some aspects of Gerry Healy’s psychological profile that naturally bring the image to mind. Your classic Jack the Ripper goes in for sanctimonious preaching on Sunday mornings against loose ladies and demon rum—after being out all night dismembering prostitutes.
Over the years we have heard a good deal about the puritanical practices of the Healyites: Young Socialist summer camps patrolled by purity squads, for example. The whole bunch of them are manifestly virulent anti-homosexual bigots—witness the A. Jennings letter’s hysteria over the idea that a homosexual had somehow slipped through and was carrying out party assignments among the youth. The Healyite organization has been a machine for degrading people. So now Healy is charged with sadistic sexual practices against young girls. Perhaps the burden is on him to show that in one important field of human activity he is not moved by the same spirit which has characterized his conduct in every other known department of human existence.
Now that the lid has come off the WRP, long-time ex-members are also talking up a storm. A clear picture emerges of an organization in which physical intimidation and capricious brutality were a system. Telling Healy you were quitting the organization, we are told, was the most suspenseful experience of your life: you could be beaten to a pulp and thrown down a long flight of stairs—or Gerry might pour you a drink, pat you on the back and wish you well.
Some years ago a former Healy goon told us of having participated in the quasi-kidnapping of an SLLer who wanted to resign. From a summer camp hundreds of miles away, a couple of Healyites drove to the defector’s home. He was not there, his wife explained, but out shopping. So they picked him up on the High Street, groceries and all, drove him to the camp, harangued him all night long until the man broke and said he would rejoin. And then they let him loose, without any money to get home.
A former prominent Healyite, who says he was himself beaten at least three times, tells us that in the summer of 1966—after the London Conference in April, where Healy’s expectations were frustrated by the steadfast principled conduct of the Spartacist delegation—Healy went into a particularly psychopathic, alcoholic, violent mood, and several people were beaten at the ’66 summer camp.
We first encountered documentable Healyite violence with the brutal beating of a political opponent, Ernie Tate, in late 1966 on Healy/Banda’s orders. Tate protested publicly and the SLL replied by going to the capitalist courts to suppress the scandal. We responded by making the most vociferous protests we could and demanding, “Oust Healy!”
Our own experience also demonstrates that Healy has always been fixated on money. In 1961 Healy took over a thousand dollars from political supporters of the IC in the U.S. We collected this money for him based on the promise that the IC would make a world tour to pursue political opportunities, particularly in Japan. The tour never materialized; later we were told the money was used in England—and we were denounced as American parochialists for having asked. In the way of gratuitous financial chicanery, we recall that at the 1966 London Conference, where women comrades of the SLL slaved away under fairly primitive conditions to provide nice food, Healy turned a neat profit on their labor by extorting grossly inflated prices for the meals, thereby ripping off the foreign delegations. These unprincipled financial games were a harbinger of what the Healy/Banda organization was to become when it turned centrally to the pursuit of Arab capitalist gold.
Apparently the main route of financing for Healy’s outfit in recent years was a simple, perfectly legal arrangement. At the Healy printshop, a small number of copies of some Libyan Embassy puff piece were produced at a very high price. Meanwhile News Line was printed there at very low cost. So far as we know there is no law against a printshop having two contracts, one very profitable and the other losing large sums. The problem with taking Libyan money, though, is what you have to do to get it. Barrels of oil, buckets of blood.
WRP Alibis Near East Murderers
The WRP—both wings, of course—is a Frankenstein’s monster appropriate to its creator. From early on, Healy’s programmatic legacy is “anything goes.” Certainly the Healyites have grossly and repetitively crossed the class line. Their nominal “Trotskyism” is in sharpest possible contradiction to the actual programmatic content of the WRP’s politics. Their service to Thatcher’s pals in the right wing of the Trades Union Congress to witchhunt Scargill is a matter of record. The WRP’s nominal position of “defense of the Soviet Union” has reached such a level of abstraction as to turn into its opposite: adding to their early infatuation with Maoist China, their hailing of Khomeini’s Iran, the Afghan mullahs and Polish Solidarność, the Healyites have come to stand concretely for the hostile encirclement of the Soviet Union.
It has been perfectly clear for some time that the Healy/Banda organization has been a captive creature of despotic “Third World” capitalist regimes which have the blood of the workers and peasants on their hands. In the WRP’s present tumultuous organizational situation, it has become impossible for those who along with Healy participated in hideous political crimes to avoid acknowledging that fact. Out of Cliff Slaughter’s own mouth comes this admission:
“GH [Healy] sought and found relations with bourgeois leaders like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, and Nkomo. It is not only that Marxism was distorted in order to mislead on their class nature. This Party, through Healy, sought financial support from these bourgeois, not just for this or that political purpose, but as a system.”
—Banda News Line, 20 November
This “system” led the WRP to commit a monstrous crime against the workers of the world. At the height of a flirtation with the Ba’ath regime in Iraq in 1979, the Healyite press hailed the execution of 21 members of the Iraqi Communist Party. With the Ba’ath regime moving to behead the workers movement through physical destruction of cadres of the CP, which has historically had the allegiance of key sections of the working class, the Healyites railed against “counterrevolutionary Stalinism” and applauded the execution. This was a logical application of the WRP adulation for the “progressive,” “anti-imperialist” Arab rulers combined with WRP anti-Sovietism. Now, six years later, Slaughter seems to have finally “discovered” that the WRP did some things that a group with that line might do:
“The thinking put forward in justification of these actions by the WRP was ‘they were only Stalinists’, ‘they were only Ba’athists’, and so on. The practice behind it was an unprincipled financial and political dependence on the Iraqi bourgeoisie.
“Now we know more. A News Line photographer was sent to the Iraqi Embassy with pictures of opponents of the regime... (At this point the photographic department comrade involved came to the microphone and said, firstly he did not recall the exact date, and secondly the faces of the oppositionists were concealed by placards.
“(Slaughter said he had asked the photographer before the meeting to confirm the report, and he had. Then another comrade who was a photographer on News Line came to the microphone and told how she was sent by A Mitchell, a Political Committee and Editorial Board member, to photograph supporters of the Iraqi Communist Party demonstrating outside the Iraqi Embassy.
“(When she realized what was going on she left the demonstration and refused this work. Another comrade came forward and told of discussions with Iraqi officials here, on documents as well as photographs, in which money was mentioned. This material is being investigated.)”
—Banda News Line, 20 November
Those responsible for this monstrous crime should be brought to proletarian justice. It is the entire WRP leadership which bears the central responsibility—and it is impossible to believe that the only criminals are those on Healy’s side of the current split. So “this material is being investigated”? Who, comrade Slaughter, is investigating the “investigators”?
There are two kinds of ostensibly socialist organizations in this world. There are those where, if you read the group’s paper and find yourself in agreement, and go and join the organization, it turns out to be pretty much what you expected. As examples: the Communist Party, the American SWP (until fairly recently, at least), the Democratic Socialists of America, the Spartacist League. The Healyite organization is of a different kind. It is a political cult. Formations of this sort can come into existence in the workers movement under conditions of a low level of class struggle, where there is therefore a considerable separation between socialist organizations and the movement of the masses, and little chance of corrective interaction. But these objective conditions are not sufficient in themselves. Also required is a leader with the appetite for cultism. James Cannon, speaking of the cliquist formation around J.R. Johnson (C.L.R. James), observed:
“In order for a cult to exist, it is not enough for a leader to have personal followers—every leader has personal influence more or less—but a cult leader has to be a cultist himself. He has to be a megalomaniac who gets revelations outside the realm of reality. A megalomaniacal cult leader is liable to jump in any direction at any time, and all the cultists automatically follow, as sheep follow the bellwether, even into the slaughter house.”
—Cannon, “Factional Struggle and Party Leadership,” 3 November 1953
An illustrative example of a cult is the Lynn Marcus (Lyndon LaRouche) organization in the U.S., which is today a virulently reactionary outfit which seeks to function as a think tank for the far-right wing of the bourgeoisie. In the mid-1960s the Marcus group, the Labor Committee, was a leftist group active in the New Left milieu. We ran into them a lot at Columbia University, and when they suggested a debate between our groups on Marxist economics, we agreed readily. We sent our most highly qualified comrade, Joseph Seymour, as our debater; the Marcusites were mortally insulted, because we hadn’t sent our “leader.” But just because someone is elected head of a party does not mean he is therefore the ultimate fount of all knowledge and authority in every field of human endeavor. In ordinary organizations, there are dozens of comrades who have more knowledge and expertise in particular fields relevant to the Marxist movement. But not in Marcus’ organization. And not in Healy’s either.
Over the course of years the Healy operation has sought to create a totally controlled environment devoid of any risk of internal political struggle. The intimidation of potential critics through sporadic displays of gangsterism was only one means. The Healy group worked to keep its people on the run: the endless apolitical youth marches, the sales of the daily paper, the ceaseless exhortations to work harder because the final “crisis of capitalism” was (always) at hand. There was the systematic destruction of cadres: abusing them and then holding them up to scorn as weaklings, breaking down their self-respect by extorting false confessions, using their loyalty to the professed ideals of socialism to make them complicit in crimes against their comrades and the comrades of other groups. The use of these techniques was calculating, as was also the two-pronged effort to deprive the members of the ability to think, by the invocation of “dialectics” and “security.”
“Dialectics”: those hopelessly idealist lectures of incomprehensible anti-dialectical garbage that nobody could understand—except Healy. We even made a joke out of it: “only Healy knows which opposites to hold fast to.” But it was not a joke to the members, who were supposed to come to believe that Healy alone was the respository of Marxism/Leninism, chosen for this purpose from among the mere mortals, like Moses and the Ten Commandments.
And on the other side: “security.” It has long been the Healyite norm that if you fell from favor, you would be denounced as a CIA agent or the intimate companion of such a creature. That is precisely what happened to Tim Wohlforth, Healy’s hapless toady and American servant, ten years ago. Wohlforth’s ouster by Healy afforded outsiders like us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Healyite operation (see “Wohlforth Terminated,” in Spartacist, No. 36-37, Winter 1985-86). Of course, it was sometimes possible to evade the full treatment, if Healy had some use for you still. In that case, you would merely be denounced for not understanding “dialectics”—if you were American, you were sure to be lectured at great length about empiricism and pragmatism.
The monstrous “security” fetish of the Healyites flowered fully with the multi-year campaign called “Security and the Fourth International.” In an endless series of ludicrous “exposÚs”—centering on the despicable slander of Joseph Hansen of the revisionist American SWP as an “accomplice” in Stalin’s murder of Trotsky—Healy threw the net wider and wider, until just about everyone was supposed to be implicated as a spy for the capitalist and Stalinist secret police. The methodology is: “Watch out, they’re everywhere—and only your glorious leader can detect them.” “You say you have differences?—which are you, FBI, GPU, or both?” This is a way to keep people subliminally terrified—calculated paranoia. And just as Healy is the world’s greatest dialectician, so is he also the WRP’s James Jesus Angleton.
The Spartacist League campaigned actively against Healy’s “security” campaign of slander against Hansen and the SWP. We even held a couple of demonstrations demanding, “Who Gave Healy His Security Clearance?” Healy’s case against Hansen was nonexistent from the start. When Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, several attempts were made on Stalin’s orders to assassinate him, and he was indeed murdered on 20 August 1940. The FBI undertook a very minimal investigation into the murder of one of Trotsky’s bodyguards, Robert Sheldon Harte, an American citizen, kidnapped and killed in an earlier assassination attempt. The SWP cooperated with the investigation, and Hansen was the SWP’s liaison man. It takes only one piece of evidence to dispose of Healy’s claim that Hansen was an agent of the FBI and Stalinist GPU. Hansen at one point sent a letter to the FBI district director in New York: I’m going out of town for a while, if you have more questions you should write to me at 116 University Place. And 116 University Place was SWP party headquarters. What kind of spy asks for his secret instructions to be sent openly to the very people he is supposed to be spying on? The whole hideous structure of Healy’s slander collapses under the weight of that one critical fact.
But perhaps the Healyites are sincere in their “security” fetish, sincerely paranoid? No, they are simply cynical. This is shown by the publication of the A. Jennings letter on the front page of the Banda/Slaughter News Line. First they go after Healy for violating”security” with 26 women, because some of them might be informers, then they print the letter—the informer is the party press! On a different scale, the story of Stalin’s Katyn forest “massacre” proves something similar about the Nazis—that they were not deluding themselves about their death camps, their genocide, their Einsatz units. The Katyn forest massacre was a Stalinist excess, a mass execution of members of the Polish officer corps; each individual was questioned, and those found guilty were executed. When the Germans uncovered the mass grave, they went screaming to anyone that would have anything to do with the Third Reich—the Swedes, the Swiss Red Cross, forensic experts—and insisted an investigation be carried out by independent scientists and international humanitarians. This response to someone else’s massacre showed the Nazis knew right from wrong; they just didn’t care. And so it is too with Healyite “security.”
“Security” and “dialectics” are a system for control of the WRP membership. On the one side, the “dialectics” only Healy can fathom; on the other side, “security” with Healy having the only security clearance; the membership in the middle. The purpose is to create a strong structure, one in which anything can happen, as indeed “anything” did. The Healyite organization is about the most authoritarian structure you can have short of wielding state power as a Stalinist. Other such phenomena are the Moonies, or Jonestown.
Neither of the two WRPs should have much grounds for optimism. On the Healy side one would reasonably expect a lot of the prominent people to drift away. The Banda group claims this is already happening and that’s why Healy’s newspaper has stopped publishing the names of its editorial board members.
The Banda/Slaughter outfit is likely to undergo heavy hemorrhaging of angry and confused members, who are finding it oddly difficult to believe that Banda and the rest of the leadership were innocents. The Banda wing’s youth press (Young Socialist, 2 November) says “there is now within the WRP a justified mistrust of the leadership.” Put more crudely, a lot of the ranks think the whole bunch should be expelled for complicity; it is reported that at the recent Bandaite conference a motion was raised to expel Banda for gangsterism. In the atmosphere of ferment following the split, the Banda/Slaughter gang has been unable to keep the members focused solely on the alleged sexual crimes of Healy, and a wave of revulsion has swept through the ranks over “excesses,” particularly the apparent collusion with the Iraqi government in the murder of leftists.
Inevitably, the Bandaites are having big trouble over cutting back to a twice-weekly publication, the members having had inculcated in them since time immemorial the idea that either you have a daily paper or you are less than nothing. Reflecting this fight, the News Line of 13 November says that the responsibility for abandoning the daily paper “lies not with our members who have steadfastly and self-sacrificingly fought for the Trotskyist daily”—it’s all Healy’s fault, of course. More than 20 years ago we pointed to the profoundly abstentionist thrust of Healy/Wohlforth’s proclamation that the task of tiny organizations is the immediate “conquest of the masses.” The search for shortcuts and gimmicks is counterposed to the necessary tasks of seeking to win authority for the party through propaganda and sustained communist participation in the workers’ struggles. For Healy/Banda & Co. the way to become a mass party is to pretend you are one: provide yourself with the external trappings of such a party, like a daily paper, and run about trying to dupe more and more people into believing it. That’s on the political side. Empirically, the Healyite experience casts a certain additional light on the effort to sustain a daily paper with hardly any members or influence—such an undertaking eats up a good deal of money. The WRP members who are now appalled to find out some of the services their party performed for oil-rich despots ought to give this some thought: the only “mass base” of the WRP paper turned out to be the exploitation of the workers and peasants of the Near East by their capitalist rulers.
The present split is a clique split, as befits an organization where political discussion has been driven deeply underground by the combination of terror and circuses. But there are politics in a clique fight in any political organization, even in the political cult that Healy built. In the Stalinized American Communist Party (which was not a cult but certainly had its fundamental fibre gutted by the cultist adulation of Stalin), political discussion often took place in a deformed way: “Do you like Browder?” “Well actually, I like Foster.” So some nuances at least of political differentiation will come out of the demise of the unitary WRP.
Healy has always been somebody’s running dog, but between working for Cannon and working for the Libyan government there is a class gulf. But in Healy’s mind there probably wasn’t much difference between seeking to ride the coattails of left-Labour politician Aneurin Bevan and becoming a political whore for Colonel Qaddafi. Once you discard the struggle tor the building of Leninist parties to lead the working class in the liberation of mankind, and take oil in search of get-rich-quick schemes, you will end up in a despicable place—if not a Healy, perhaps the more ordinary kind of scoundrel voting war credits for his own ruling class.
Healy is a political bandit, and the organization he built is an outfit of cynical charlatans at the top. If that were all, we would simply be enjoying the excruciating problems of the WRP leaders, who have it coming. But there is a tragic side to all this: the damage that has been done over the years to thousands of sincere young people who joined the WRP because they hated capitalism and wanted to take part in the fight for socialist revolution. The WRP’s posture of “Trotskyism,” utterly fraudulent though it is, is not without meaning for many members. And Healy/Banda’s organization has frequently done a competent job in exposing the reformist scum and centrist confusionists who people the British left; hence, the WRP is widely seen as the “hard Trotskyists,” the alternative to class-collaborationist betrayal. Now the members in the main feel profoundly betrayed, as indeed they have been. We urge them not to turn away in shock and despair from the ideals of socialism, but instead to seek to understand what has happened: we believe that they will find some of the answers in the history and analysis presented in this issue of Spartacist.
“Morality” for Marxists is inextricably tied to program. The Spartacists’ unwavering adherence to revolutionary Trotskyism—our genuine, concrete defense of the Soviet Union against imperialism and against the treacherous Stalinist bureaucracy, our commitment to building an international party of proletarian revolution—this has been our political compass. From that also comes a certain superstructure, a certain morality. We are fortunate to have been the heirs to an unbroken tradition which started with the American party of the Russian Revolution—the Communist Party—and continued through James Cannon’s SWP to the Spartacist League, the party which is today acknowledged as the Trotskyist party in the United States.