INTRODUCTION

The following item first appeared in Notes From the Borderland issue 4 (p.32-34) and was written using a pesudonym by the author Dave Black, probably best known for the book 'Acid' on how the intelligence services (especially the CIA) helped propagate LSD for their own nefarious purposes (on which see here). He has now agreed we can attach his name to the piece--but potential contributors should note that subject to reasonable conditions, we have no problem with pseudonymous articles, and from our end security in such matters is watertight. This piece epitomises what both us, and hopefully you, expect from NFB--careful analysis of intrinsically interesting subjects. It is difficult now for those who were not around to realise just what an important group the WRP were in their day--and the unholy alliance chronicled between two disreputable exemplars of 'Last Century Leftism'--Healy & Livingstone--is little surprise to us. There is yet more to say on the historic infiltration of Leftist groups, and we will return to this subject--even apart from the NFB 5 'True Spies' extract featured in the journalism/SPIJwatch section of this site. Dot Gibson, it should be noted, is still very active politically, principally in the 'National Pensioners Convention'...

A TROTSKYITE MONSTER MYSTERY : THE DOWNFALL OF GERRY HEALY
by Campbell J. McGregor

In October 1985, the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) ousted its general secretary. Gerry Heaiy. This event precipitated the break up of Heaiy's "International Committee of the Fourth International" (ICFI), whose sections in various parts of the world imploded and split into a myriad of grouplets. Healy had long claimed the British party alone had 10,000 members, but in reality its membership was never more than 2,500 and by the time of the split was probably less than 1000. Also, by 1984 the party was heading towards bankruptcy - in the financial as well as political sense. Party assets, which included a printing plant, a chain of bookshops, a training college and various other properties, were under threat from the liquidator.

THE DESERT FOX

That the WRP had been financed to a great extent by certain Arab regimes was common knowledge inside the Left. But this was never confirmed or denied by the party publicly until the central committee had expelled Heaiy for the following reasons:
1) Sexually abusing female comrades.
2) Organising physical attacks on party members.
3) Making false allegations: in particular, that the head of the international's American section, Dave North, was a CIA agent.

Within weeks of his downfall however, an Investigation Commission was set up by the majority ICFI faction which confirmed that "Healy established a mercenary relationship between the WRP and the Arab colonial bourgeoisie" [1]. As the Commission revealed. Heaiy first informed the International Committee in June 1976 of "official contacts" between the PLO and himself/other party leaders. However some of these "official contacts" were known about only by Healy and his Inner "clique", notably Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, and former Sunday Times journalist, Alex Mitchell, editor of the newly launched party daily, Newsline. In April 1976, Corin Redgrave signed a secret deal with representatives of the Libyan government for: "providing intelligence information on the 'activities, names and positions held in finance, politics, business, the communications media and elsewhere' by 'Zionists'. It has strongly anti-semitic undertones, as no distinction is made between Jews and Zionists...".

By spring 1978, Healy and Vanessa Redgrave had established enough credibility in Arab 'diplomatic' circles to travel extensively on fundraising trips. In Kuwait Heaiy and Vanessa met Crown Prince Sa-ad to ask for help in funding a film documentary on Palestine. The meeting was a success and the Kuwaiti regime also coughed up £156,000 for the party. In October 1979 Vanessa visited Libya to ask for £500,000 towards the WRP 'Youth Training' project in Britain. She came away with £200,000, part of the £542,000 recorded total of Libyan donations. Healy and Vanessa also took in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai; and did so-.perhaps, in more ways than one. Heaiy somehow convinced several Arab regimes that WRP support extended well beyond film stars and movie directors to the wider British labour movement and political class opinion-formers. In the PR fieid, he assured them, the WRP could greatly help the Arab cause; furthermore, Healy was prepared to put party members to work for Arab intelligence agencies.

In 1980, Vanessa Redgrave helped the Libyans launch the English edition of Gaddafi's Green Book in London, amidst a fair blaze of publicity. Behind the scenes, Healy was making clear to Gaddafi that he was also prepared to sell out the party's Trotskyist principles as part of the deal. A document signed by Healy and presented to Libyan authorities in April 1980, according to the Commission, "reconciles the WRP perspectives with The Green Book. Instead of the 'working class' we find 'the masses' and the Libyan Revolutionary Committees are identified with Soviets". Coverage of Libya in Newsline was reliably servile. When, during a demo against Gaddafi outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984, WPC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered by a shot from inside the embassy, Alex Mitchell editorialised with a suitable conspiracy theory: "The Tory government, Home Office and Metropolitan Police all planned to invade the Libyan People's Bureau in St. James's Square last Tuesday to oust the supporters of Colonsi Muammar Gaddafi and install a bunch of right-wing pro-imperialist stooges. Their plan was to stage a provocation " at the entrance of 5 St James's Square between anti-Gaddafi and pro-Gaddafi demonstrators and use the ensuing clashes to storm the building"[2].

INTELLIGENCE

Relations were strengthened on the intelligence front in March 1981, when Heaiy visited Libya to ask for more money and recorded that "We suggested that we work with Libyan intelligence and this was agreed". In October 1981 Alex Mitchell spoke to a PLO representative acting as liaison and reported back to Healy that "[name missing] proposed to write a letter to Gaddafi and forward it through [name missing] at Libyan Intelligence". Throughout this period, says the Commission (rather naiveiy), "relations with the PLO" were "cynically used to make the PLO an instrument for obtaining money from the Arab bourgeoisie". The most damnable Middle East collaboration of the WRP was with Iraqi intelligence. An Iraqi communist, Talib Suwailh, who attended a WRP trade union conference was later a victim, in March 1979, of a wave of regime executions in Baghdad. The WRP central committee voted to support the executions! It was iater revealed that Newsline photographers had taken pictures of Iraqi Communists protesting outside the Iraqi Embassy. In the end it seems the Iran-Iraq War breaking cut cut short the WRP's relationship with the Iraqi regime, which contributed just £19,697 tc the WRP fighting fund [3]. In total, between 1977 and 1982, money received by the WRP from the Middle East amounted to just over £1,000,000. However, the Commission reported: "From internal evidence in the documents under our control, it is obvious that much more material must exist, which was either taken out of the centre when the rump was in control or kept elsewhere. Therefore the actual amount of money received from these relations and the extent of these relations must be considerably bigger than what we are able to prove in this report". The report added: "frequently cash was brought in to the centre which would not be immediately banked. Therefore, it was possible for large sums of cash to come in and go out without ever being recorded".

Healyites were quite adept at intelligence gathering. Burgling opponents for documents was regular, systematic and efficient (here I must declare an interest - I was burgled by the WRP and robbed of documents in North London in 1977). More refined methods included infiltrating other organisations. For example, between 1982-84 an agent planted by Healy in the offices of Communist Party monthly, Marxism Today fed the WRP regular reports and helped Alex Mitchell gather enough material to write a book on the CP entitled 'Behind the Crisis in British Stalinism' [4].

From the mid-1970s onwards the International Committee disrupted and soured relations amongst trotskyists internationally by falsely alleging the American Socialist Workers Party's veteran leaders had collaborated with the Russian intelligence service (the GPU) back in 1939-40 to help assassinate Trotsky, and since then had switched allegiance to the FBI.

WHERE WAS BRITAIN GOING?

The WRP lost its last real industrial stronghold in 1976, when Healy expelled the Oxford WRP branch led by Alan Thornett, a popular shop steward who had built up a strong WRP presence at the BL Cowley plant. By the eighties, Healyite influence in the British far left was eclipsed by rivals, such as the Labour Party Militant Tendency, in his old stamping ground of Liverpool, and the Socialist Workers Party, which made gains in the Universities and some white collar unions. Enter to the rescue, stage right, Ken Livingstone, a genuinely important member of the British political class, known throughout the world - the Arab world included - as a sworn enemy of Thatcherism, Reaganism and 'Zionism'. Livingstone first met Healy in 1981, shortly after becoming Greater London Council (GLC) leader. Livingstone found himself "captivated" by the old Trot's "vivid recollection of events", "impressed" by his "non-sectarian approach" and "challenged" by the "broad sweep of his knowledge and understanding of the movement of economic and social forces". Livingstone recalled: "Gerry Healy saw that it was possible to use the GLC as a rallying fortress for Londoners who were opposed to Thatcher's hard-line monetarism... Newsline's coverage was thorough and objective throughout our struggles. Given we were under siege by the Fleet Street press...".

During this period, Livingstone and Ted Knight, Lambeth Council leader and ex-Healyite, launched the weekly Labour Herald. Subsidised by GLC advertising money, Labour Herald was printed at the WRP's high-tech Runcorn printing plant at Runcorn and edited by WRP central committee member Steve Miller. Livingstone's eulogy continues: "The other area we had a close understanding about was the role of the security services in Britain. We know that joint campaigning between genuine Marxists and socialists in the Labour Party was viewed as a dangerous threat by the intelligence services. In particular contacts between us and national liberation movements such as the Palestinians drew even more attention from the British state" [5]. Such 'attention' would have come mainly from MI6 -the Secret Intelligence Service, though Livingstone doesn't appear to differentiate them from MIS -the Security Service: "MI5 considers even the smallest left organisation worthy of close surveillance and disruption. Given the pivotal role of Healy in maintaining contact with Yasser Arafat's HQ through the WRP's use of the latest technology, MI5 clearly felt that they had to stop the growing influence of the WRP. I have never changed my belief that the split in the WRP during 1985 was the work of MI5 agents". Livingstone made this claim - that MI5 engineered the WRP split - in his introduction to 'Gerry Healy, a Revolutionary Life', by Corrina Lotz and Paul Feldman, published 1994. Lotz and Feldman formed, along with the Redgraves, Healy and a few dozen others, the 'Marxist Party', one of a dozen splinter groups coming out of the WRP. Shortly after Healy died in December 1989, the Marxist Party announced their little faction of the 'International Committee' was organising a Commission of Enquiry into how, "in 1985, MI5, MI6 and the Special Branch, the CIA, BOSS and Mossad organised the WRP split".

TAKING LIBERTY: VANESSA AND THE NCCL

In February 1991, with not a shred of evidence for the above theory on the horizon, as if by Hollywood magic Vanessa Redgrave found a listening device in her London home and immediately contacted Liberty - the National Council for Civil Liberties. Here was proof, she told a Libertypress conference, of the state plot against loyal revolutionary followers of the late great Gerrard Healy.

There was however, a problem. The device had been planted in 1985 by an anti-Healy faction of the WRP during the splits. According to ex WRPer John Spencer, this comrade "offered to make a full statement to Liberty. He was quite open about it. But instead of investigating the story, Redgrave - and Liberty too, who ought to have known better - told the European Commission on Human Rights (they went all the way to the top) that Redgrave was not in a position to verify it. The truth was neither she, nor Liberty had any evidence at all. They simply added a line to their submission to the European Commission, saying that Redgrave believed that the man who said he made the device may have been involved as an agent, willing or otherwise, of the security service." [6].

A FEMALE PLOT

Ten years after Healy's expulsion from the WRP a public meeting was held in London to discuss its historical significance. Dot Gibson, who along with Healy's secretary Aileen Jennings had dedicated herself to the "responsibility of looking after Healy in his old age", told the meeting that they and a few other longtime women members of the party had engineered Healy's downfall and NOT "MI5, MI6a nd the Speciai Branch, the CIA. BOSS and Mossad". Gibson explained:

"It was a madhouse. The pressure of the financial crisis was intolerable... the bailiffs, the bank, the Inland Revenue, the need for thousands of pounds of paper, for ink for despatch... By the mid-1980s there were five of us ready to take action against Healy...".

It is one thing to claim that a small group of conscientious trotskyists, rather than "MI5, MI6 and the Special Branch, the CIA, BOSS and Mossad" engineered Healy's final downfall in order to try and save the Fourth International - a salvage job Dot Gibson is engaged in to this day with ever decreasing returns. It is something else to imply that such agencies had NO impact on the events leading to the crisis in the party that reached critical mass during the Miners Strike.

THE MINERS STRIKE AND THE SPLIT

Whilst Healy had cuddled up to Livingstone (metaphorically), he was sectarian towards miners leader Arthur Scargiil. Healy predicted that Scargill, as an ally of Stalinism, would betray the strike and pronounced that WRP members should not work with Miners Support Groups in a fight sure to be lost soon. But Scargill didn't capitulate and six months into the strike, with the WRP isolated from the Miners supporters, Healy finally switched to uncritically supporting Scargill's leadership. When the miners were finally defeated in March 1985 after a heroic year-long fight, the WRP's long-suffering membership was demoralised. Healy's crying wolf about Thatcher's supposed 'Bonapartist' plans to destroy parliamentary democracy [7] was no longer listened to. As Gibson put it, "Healy became more and more aware he was losing control. In a paranoid frenzy he was looking everywhere for the opposition he felt was building up". Clare Cowen, another conspirator, took up the story: "When it was decided Healy had to go, three possible means were considered. The first was to take up a political struggle... The second was to carry out an exposure of the crazy autocratic methods of running the partycompanies and finances. The third was the exposure of the sexual abuse of a large number of women comrades". The first was rejected because "Heaiy was extremely skilled at political manoeuvres. He knew how to rally the party"; the second because he "would have blamed Dot Gibson", who had responsibility for the accounts. The third option, eventually adopted, was to build up a dossier on Healy's abuses. Finally, in July 1985, Aileen Jennings delivered a letter to the WRP Political Committee and immediately went into hiding in fear of her safety. It said she "could no longer go on sitting on the volcano of Healy's opportunist sexual liaisons with female members of the party, comrades in Newsline and members of the International Committee and the Young Socialists". There were 26 names [of female members abused by Healy]. Vanessa Redgrave's reaction was to say it was a provocation and should be ignored; and as far as they were concerned, that was that. But the cat was out of the bag and events moved on from there. Alex Mitchell called the letter "a heap of shit" and moved rejection of the statement at the Political Committee meeting. He won by 8 votes to 4, but a meeting of the larger Central Committee insisted on seeing the Jennings letter and voted in October 1985 to expel Healy. The party fell apart within weeks [8].

UNFINISHED BUSINESS?

Jhn O'Mahony, Alliance for Workers Liberty trotskyist and self-styled Heaiyologist argued: "That there are state spies and agents in and around revolutionary organisations is as natural as bacteria in the air - but you have to be as paranoid as Healy to see them as all-controlling. They fish in troubled waters and that's all" [9]. Certainly those who blame the spooks for all the failures of the left often do so in order to avoid facing their own political failings; and after all, it is people, not sheep, who become politically active, and they have a responsibility to use their heads. On the other hand to argue that intelligence agencies make no difference ignores the long term strategic value of having infiltrators in place: to exercise leverage within targeted organisations in order to influence processes and events in which those organisations are participants.

Robin Ramsay, in Lobster magazine (issue 25), has cogently argued that through most of the Cold War period MI5 protected the Communist Party from exposure of its reliance on 'Moscow Gold' sent by the KGB to London - eventually confirmed by ihe KGB and their British bagmen in 1991. Ramsay points out that CP influence helped retard the growth of real left alternatives in the Labour Movement and other, newer fields of struggle.

Similarly, one might add, the WRP, with its large membership turnover, for twenty-odd years helped disillusion and deactivate a good part of two generations of rebellious youth. In the wake of the 1984 trial of Michael Bettaney (sentenced to 25 years for leaking information to the Russian KGB), the Guardian revealed that "In the last ten years, as the security commission noted in 1982, more attention has been paid to other left-wing groups [than the CP] with the Socialist Workers Party and Workers Revolutionary Party being particularly heavily infiltrated. This in turn, has taken the Security Service into the officially legitimate area of members of the Labour Party particularly" [10].

Did such "officially legitimate area of members of the Labour Party particularly" include the Livingstone-run GLC, which Thatcher decided in 1983 to abolish? (And was her decision perhaps influenced by secret MI5 briefings?). Could this be what Bettaney had in mind when he stated through his lawyer after he was sent down that the security service "cynically manipulates the definition of subversion and thus abuses the provisions of its charter so as to investigate and interfere in the activities of legitimate political parties, the Trade Union Movement and other progressive organisations"?[11],

Healyite involvement with Arab intelligence services would have made it a dead cert that MI6 as well as MI5 got on their case and would certainly have gone to great lengths to place a good number of agents in the party..preferably at the top. Had Six, whose covert ops in the Middle East constitute its bread-and-butter work (or should that be guns-and-oil?), been able to penetrate Healy's network of bag-carriers and what Livingstone so intriguingly called his "contact with Yasser Arafat's HQ through the WRP's use of the latest technology"? If so then they would have been able to identify a number of key Arab intelligence assets in target agencies. Whether Healy made more use of the spooks than they made of him remains a matter of speculation, if a few lessons have been learned by those engaged in the renewal of Left politics, perhaps it no longer matters. But as long as Left politics remains dominated by political racketeering in both new and old forms, then perhaps it does.

FOOTNOTES

1) Interim Report International Committee Commission, Workers News April 1988
2) Quoted in Private Eye 4/5/84
3) Solidarity : Spring 1986, Robin Blick '57th Variety Act', Ken Weller, 'The Party's Over' and Spring 1988 Tom Burns 'The Revolution Betrayed1.
4) 'Politics By Burglary' Brendan Martin,New Statesman 6/6/86
5)'Gerry Healy a Revolutionary Life' Corinna Lotz and Paul Feldman, Lupus Books 1994
6) 'Revisiting 1985' Workers International Spring 1998
7) For the WRP analysis and 'revelations' of ruling class moves towards military dictatorship, see 'Britain's State Within a State' (New Park 1981). [I have always found this book a mine of useful and relevant information despite its overall hypothesis being way over the top. Editor]
8) James Buchan, 'Beauty and the Beast' Esquire November 1993
9) John O'Mahony, 'Gerry Healy As I Knew Him' Socialist Organiser 2/6/94
10) Nick Davies and Ian Black, 'The Watchers' The Guardian 19/4/84.
11)Private Eye 4/5/84

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About NFB Magazine

Welcome to Britain's premier parapolitical investigative magazine Notes from the Borderland (NFB). We have been producing the magazine since 1997 but some published material before then.

Our political perspective is Left/Green, but we welcome truth-tellers, whatever their affiliation. Research interests include the secret state (MI5/MI6/Special Branch, now SO15) & their assets, including those in the media. We are resolutely anti-fascist, and to that end investigate the far right and state infiltration of various milieus. In a shallow age where many TV programmes and print/internet stories are spoon-fed to servile journalists/bloggers by shadowy interests, NFB stands out as genuine investigative research. 

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