The class basis of this shift had been prefigured in the destruction of the trade union cadre of the Party in basic industry in 1974-75, which created the conditions for the dangerous growth of middle class influence—represented especially by such forces as the Redgraves and Alex Mitchell, upon whom Healy increasingly relied, as well as the dozens of declassed and uprooted individuals who worked in the center—in the leadership of the Party. This social layer within the Party became the principal transmission belt for the penetration of alien class interests into the Workers Revolutionary Party. The 1975-79 “struggle” against the Social Democrats reflected the impatience of these petty-
bourgeois radical elements toward the working class and their inability to conduct a systematic fight against the Labour and trade union bureaucracy. Moreover, elements among the journalists, actors and actresses who passed from Fleet Street and the West End into the Political Committee of the WRP, without any apprenticeship in the class struggle, provided a physical link to material resources such as the Party had never known. Apart from the day-to-day struggles of the Party membership inside the working class, huge amounts of money were raised. The central leadership thus acquired an independence from the rank and file that destroyed the foundations of democratic centralism.
The Party was divided into an “Upstairs”—a coterie of exalted individuals around Healy—and a “Downstairs” occupied by hundreds of rank and file members who were denied any role in the decision-making process and simply took orders. This created within the Party a whole series of destructive political relations. The leadership grew increasingly impervious to the real relations between the Party and the workers at the level of the class struggle. Contact between the Center and the WRP branches assumed a purely administrative character, not unlike that between a local business franchise and the head office. Healy himself became a remote figure who most members did not even know—and he knew very little about them. His trips to Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi and Tripoli were undoubtedly far more frequent than his visits to Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester and Cardiff.
Healy’s high-flying diplomacy and his sudden access to vast material resources, based largely on his opportunist utilization of Vanessa Redgrave as the WRP’s calling card in the Middle East, had a corrosive effect on the Party’s political line and its relation to the working class. Whatever its original intention, it became part of a process through which the WRP became the political captive of alien class forces. At the very point when it was most in need of a course correction, the “success” of its work in the Middle East, which from the beginning lacked a basic proletarian reference point, made it less and less dependent upon the penetration of the working class in Britain and internationally. The close and intimate connection with the British and international working class that the WRP had developed over decades of struggle for Trotskyist principles was steadily undermined. The isolation from the working class grew in direct proportion to the abandonment of these principles. One significant fact illustrates this process. In the May 1979 election, the Labour vote grew as workers marched to the polls to deliver—despite their hatred of Callaghan—a solid class vote against the Tories. Thatcher came to power as a direct result of a sharp swing to the right within the middle class, the very social force upon which the WRP leaders, with their call for an electoral referendum on the Labour Party, had, from 1975 on, based their fight against the Social Democrats. But even as it reported the vote totals, the WRP boasted: “We did not call for a Labour to Power victory.” (News Line, May 5, 1979) Here the WRP was glorifying its political insensitivity to the working class.
The article went on to say: “We believe that the most vital lesson of the past four and a half years of Labour, and the General Election debacle, is that the working class has been left leader less by the Labour and TUC leaders”
In making this declaration, the News Line Editorial Board probably did not realize that they had drafted the most devastating indictment of the role of the Workers Revolutionary Party over the previous four years.
If the working class had been left leaderless, this was because its revolutionary vanguard and its most politically-conscious sections had been misled by the WRP leadership, which having completed its adventure in defeatism now recoiled as frightened opportunists from its consequences.