Many old and new faces were at the well-attended Workers Revolutionary Party public meeting held on Tuesday in the Friends Meeting House at Euston, London.
• OPENING the meeting, Dany Sylveire said: “I am proud to have been asked to chair this meeting. It is the first public meeting in the London district on revolutionary morality and the split in the WRP.
“It is an historic meeting because our party can stand and hold its head high, having broken with the corrupt bureaucratic clique which has dominated for so long. Only this way can we build a truly Trotskyist party, British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.”
• RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, speaking in a personal capacity as AUEW convenor at Gestetners, said: “I am proud to call myself a member of the WRP and particularly’ proud to have participated with my comrades in the fight to have taken on Healy and his reactionary clique and defeated them.”
Goldstein, a member of the WRP London district committee, explained: “Like a number of my generation I joined the Socialist Labour League (predecessor of the WRP) in the 1960s out of a rejection of the reformist bureaucracy led by Harold Wilson in the Labour Party, and John Gollan in the Communist Party.
“I joined the CP when I was 16 years old and gradually became disillusioned with its completely pacifist, cowardly and non-revolutionary line. The Trotskyist movement provided the only analysis of reformism and Stalinism from a revolutionary point of view.”
Referring to the struggles against the anti-union laws in the 1960s, the 1968 struggle in France, the Vietnamese defeat of the US, and other developments of that period, Goldstein went on:
“This was the movement we chose to give our lives to. But we only had half the picture. We were half ignorant. We had read Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky—but activism prevented us from real study.
“It was not a revolutionary situation. But according to Healy it was red alert all the time.
“Comrades were prepared to accept almost anything in the name of revolution. Such is the background that Healy took advantage of, and sexually and physically abused comrades.”
It was not just Healy, he stressed. Former assistant secretary Sheila Torrance, now expelled, was “Healy’s parrot—incapable of independent political thought. She carried out Healy’s dirty work.”
It was the miners’ strike and the way it ended, Goldstein told the meeting, that created the political crisis within the WRP which eventually broke the stranglehold.
“We took up the questions of Livingstone on the GLC, the fight against state-funded secret ballots, opportunism towards Labour and trade union bureaucrats.
“Once we knew about Healy’s real practices, we knew we couldn’t build a movement whose leadership sexually abused women. We owe it to the working class to absolutely expose Healy and his clique and drive them out of the workers’ movement for good.”
• JOHN SIMMANCE, AUEW convenor at Charing Cross hospital, speaking in a personal capacity, told the meeting: “The split in our party took place over revolutionary morality—the opposition to this systematic abuse of comrades and whether leaders are answerable and accountable to the party.”
He said the Healy clique still insisted that we are living in a revolutionary situation. In dealing with this question Simmance, who is WRP Paddington branch secretary, vividly recounted his trade union experiences.
November 26, he stated, held special memories for him. It was the date in 1979 when the strike by fewer than 40 workers at Charing Cross hospital came to a head.
“We had already been out on strike for six weeks. We were picketing 24 hours and in hospital. The press came in droves to witch-hunt us. Duffey (AUEW leader at the time) wanted to break the strike, and a counter-demonstration against us was organized from inside the hospital. We stood our ground.
“We refused to let an oil tanker through the pickets. The hospital already had oil. That night, Thatcher stood up in parliament and said, for the first time I believe, if we didn’t allow the oil through she would call in the army. And there were 35 of us!”
This happened six months after the Tories won the 1979 election. In the six years since then we had seen the biggest changes since World War II.
But, Simmance pointed out, a revolutionary situation depended not just on economic prerequisites, but on the achievement of a definite state of consciousness within the working class.
“The Healyites have got problems on their hands,” he continued. “Not only are they unable to distinguish between a revolutionary situation and a pre-revolutionary situation, but they cannot count. They are calling themselves the WRP, even though the vote on the Central Committee for charging Healy in order to expel him was 25 votes to 11.”
• JULIE HYLAND, Young Socialists national secretary, told how the YS had taken up the fight to expose Healy and his supporters and drive them out of the movement.
When a meeting of the YS London Youth Committee had passed a resolution on October 7 demanding a control commission into Healy’s practices, Claire Dixon—then a WRP Central Committee member, who has since gone with Healy—claimed the meeting was unconstitutional and threatened to bring disciplinary charges against Hyland for allowing the vote to go through.
“But the youth in London and all over the country stood absolutely firm against this and other examples of intimidation,” said Julie.
The abuse was just one of Healy’s crimes, she emphasized. While Healy and Torrance still led the WRP, the youth were unable to develop policies for the YS.
“We were stopped from actually participating in the struggles of the youth. A prime instance being when Torrance told us we could not take part in organizing school strikes—because, she told us, the youth would get victimized! Yet at the same time as this, over 60 miners had been jailed and youth were at the forefront of the fight against the South African regime.
“Youth in the YS would not accept that we had no right to fight for rights. Thatcher and the right wing of the Labour and trade union leadership had not been able to hold back, to subjugate the youth—and neither was Healy.
“With Healy, the YS had no real political life. But now, for the first time, we are discovering the historical basis of the YS and know we can set out to build and train a YS like never before.”
Comrade Hyland quoted from Trotsky’s Revolution Betrayed and the Transitional Program of the Fourth International.
• CLIFF SLAUGHTER, WRP Central Committee member, began by saying that like everyone else on the platform he considered the expulsion of Healy to have been the most positive thing they could have done, adding: “Many here will say we should have done it a long time ago.”
He went on: “I have written many things; many things I am very proud of, others of which I am ashamed. The best thing I’ve written was the charge against Healy that led to his expulsion.”
Slaughter, who joined the Trotskyist movement after expulsion from the Communist Party in 1957, emphasized though that separation from Healy could not simply be carried out by expulsion.
What had been done so far since the expulsions could only be a start, he stated, and warned: “Anyone who tries to give a simple account of what had taken place—it just was not like that.
“Healy and his clique were expelled because the WRP and its paper were brought to the brink of ruin. I don’t exaggerate. Above all, we had a party turned into a sect, a propaganda, opportunist sect.
“Healy did things without referring to any committee. He referred only to one or two closest to him.”
The sexual abuse of female comrades and physical abuse of male comrades—especially the youth inside our party—was a direct manifestation of the most decadent form of bourgeois ideology.
Corin Redgrave, the meeting was told, had very recently visited a WRP member and told him: “The mistake Gerry Healy made was that three of the girls he had were daughters of party members.”
In other words, said Slaughter, it would have been alright if Healy had not been caught. “Sexual abuse. Yes it took that to wake up this party to take action.
“No one should underestimate the damage that has been done. And no one should underestimate the moral side of it. It is political,” he said.
“But it was entirely positive that this party did find the reserves to make a turn. We made that turn—Healy is not coming back.”
Slaughter pledged: “We are at the beginning of an objective analysis, and all those who wish to really learn the lessons can certainly participate. We will examine all questions, as Trotskyists.”
• QUESTIONS and contributions from the audience then took place, and among those who spoke were: expelled WRP member Alan Thornett, Connie Kirkby (“Socialist Action”); Harry Vince (Socialist Labour Group); Stuart King (“Workers Power”); Bob Pennington (formerly International Marxist Group); Monty Johnstone (CPGB); and David Bruce (WRP Central Committee).
An excellent collection for the WRP £60,000 Special Fund raised £572.38.