Workers Revolutionary Party (UK)

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For other similarly named political organizations, see Workers' Revolutionary Party.
Workers Revolutionary Party
Leader Sheila Torrance
Founded The Club (1947)
Socialist Labour League (1959)
Workers' Revolutionary Party (1973)
Split from The Club
Ideology Trotskyism Leninism Stalinism
Political position Far-left
International affiliation International Committee of the Fourth International
European affiliation None
European Parliament group None
Website
http://wrp.org.uk/
Politics of the United Kingdom
Political parties
Elections

The Workers Revolutionary Party is a Trotskyist group in Britain once led by Gerry Healy. In the mid-1980s, it split into several smaller groups, one of which maintains possession of the name.

The Club[edit]

The WRP grew out of the faction Gerry Healy and John Lawrence led in the Revolutionary Communist Party which urged that the RCP enter the Labour Party. This policy was also urged on the RCP by the leadership of the Fourth International. When the majority in the RCP rejected the policy in 1947, Healy's faction was granted the right to split from the RCP and work within the Labour Party as a separate body known internally as The Club. A year later the majority faction of the RCP decided to join The Club in the Labour Party.

Healy called for a massive educational effort within the organisation, which angered the old leadership. Though he met with opposition, Healy valued having a well-educated cadre over a large number of mindless followers. Healy set to work purging the group of real and imagined opponents with the result that within months the organisation was a fraction of its former size, but Healy's leadership was unchallenged.

In 1948 The Club joined with a number of Labour left and trade union leaders to organise The Socialist Fellowship as a vehicle for left wing Labour Party members. The Socialist Fellowship launched a paper called Socialist Outlook, with John Lawrence as editor. When the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) was established as a public faction of the Fourth International in 1953 it recognised The Club as its official British section. However, Lawrence objected to this and as a result was replaced as editor of the paper. Healy took over editorial duties, but Outlook was banned by the Labour Party in 1954. After this, The Club distributed Tribune.

The Club was one of the ICFI's larger segments. After the American, Austrian, Chinese, Latin American and Swiss parties of the ICFI agreed to reunification with the FI in 1963 (forming the reunified Fourth International), The Club controlled the ICFI until its fragmentation in 1985.

Socialist Labour League[edit]

The group grew, in part as people grew disillusioned with the Communist Party of Great Britain's position on the Hungarian Revolution and in part due to recruits from trade union activities. One of their best-known recruits from the CPGB was Peter Fryer, who had been the Daily Worker's correspondent in Budapest during the suppression of the uprising by Soviet troops, and who edited The Newsletter, a weekly which began publication in May 1958, over a year before the launching of the SLL. This paper and their publication of a number of Trotsky's then hard-to-find books further helped them recruit from among those disillusioned by the CPGB. Among these recruits were many of the group's best-known intellectuals such as Cliff Slaughter and Brian Pearce.

This, coupled with pressure from a group around leading industrial activist Brian Behan, led them to form the Socialist Labour League in 1959, independent and for the first time openly Trotskyist, although still with most of its members in the Labour Party. They were also very active in the Labour Party youth organisation, the Young Socialists, and gained control of it until it was shut down in 1964.

However, during this period they did experience considerable internal tensions. Fryer quit in 1959 and in 1960 a group of members left to form Solidarity, which became a theoretically influential, industrially oriented organisation strongly influenced by the ideas of Paul Cardan.

In 1963, the SLL leadership claimed that they had identified a revolutionary situation in Britain. In their view this meant the most important activity was building the party. They started a daily paper, Workers Press, in the early 1970s and increased the turnover of membership, and began to fear police infiltration. Crisis mongering would become an increasingly prominent part of their public profile and internal and external dissidents were dealt with harshly. One incident saw Ernie Tate, a Canadian Trotskyist, attacked in public while distributing anti-Healy leaflets.

Workers Revolutionary Party[edit]

Leaving the Labour Party, the WRP formed the All Trade Unions Alliance, which it wholly controlled. Among its best known policies was the immediate replacement of the police by a workers militia.[1] The party slowly lost members from the mid-1970s as demands on members to serve the organisation took their toll, although Vanessa Redgrave and some minor celebrities joined.

A major split occurred when Alan Thornett was expelled, and went on to found the Workers Socialist League.[2] In 1979, a smaller group split from the WRP to found the Workers Party.

In 1975, Corin Redgrave bought White Meadows Villa in Parwich, Derbyshire, and the WRP used the house as a venue for training, under the name 'Red House', run by television director Roy Battersby.[3] The Observer printed a report alleging that actor Irene Gorst was interrogated while at the school and prevented from leaving. The group sued Observer editor David Astor over the report, in a case marked by discussion of an armed police raid of the building in which bullets were found.[4] The jury found that not all words in the article were substantially true, but that the complainants' reputations had not been materially injured.[5]

In 1976, the WRP launched an inquiry into the details of Trotsky's death, following claims from Joseph Hansen that Harold Robins, a founding member of the American Socialist Workers Party might have been a Soviet agent.[6] The eventual report exonerated Robins and claimed that Ramon Mercador was alive in Czechoslovakia.[7] In 1979, the group purchased Trotsky's death mask to use as an iconic focus for events.[8]

The WRP met with Libyan officials in 1977 and issued a joint statement, opposing Zionism, U.S. imperialism and Anwar Sadat. There were immediate suggestions that this statement might be linked to Libyan funding for the party's newspaper, News Line.[9] Close links continued, with party members regularly speaking at official events in Libya.[10] In 1981, the Sunday Telegraph alleged that News Line, was financed by money from Muammar al-Gaddafi's government.[11] In 1983, the Money Programme made similar claims, which were repeated by the Socialist Organiser newspaper, and the WRP chose to sue them, but soon abandoned the case.[12] When, a little later, the WRP disintegrated, an investigation was carried out by the leadership of the ICFI, with the support of Mike Banda and Cliff Slaughter, leading figures in the WRP. The report concluded that the WRP had collected information for Libyan Intelligence. As printed by Solidarity, the report claimed £1,075,163 had been received by the group from Libya and several Middle Eastern governments, between 1977 and 1983.[13] While only a small proportion of this is alleged to have come from Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government, it draws particular attention to photographs which it claims WRP members were instructed to take of demonstrations of opponents of Saddam Hussein, and it states were later handed to the Iraqi embassy.[14] Dave Bruce, who oversaw the printing press, claims that income from Libya mostly covered the cost of raw materials for printing work for them, including copies of The Green Book, and that the party could otherwise cover its own costs.[15]

The group also set up youth training centres in various deprived communities across Britain.[16] Liberal Party MP David Alton claimed in Parliament that youths were being taught anti-police methods at the centres,[17] and when he repeated the allegations outside Parliament was sued by the WRP.[18]

Fragmentation[edit]

In 1985, the party expelled Healy and his supporters, including Vanessa and Corin Redgrave. Initially he was accused of non-communist relations.[19] Shortly after this split, News Line claimed that the real reason for the expulsion was that Healy had sexually assaulted at least 26 female comrades, as alleged in a letter from his former secretary Aileen Jennings.[20][21] Some of these allegations were confirmed by an inner-party investigation. This was conducted by two longstanding working-class members of the WRP, one of whom later published the control commission report in his memoirs.[22]

The expelled group counter-claimed that the expulsion had been motivated by a failed political coup attempted by party secretary Michael Banda.[23] This group continued to claim to be the WRP, and for a time two versions of the group were in existence, each publishing their own daily News Line paper. The split in the WRP also had repercussions in the ICFI and as a result there were two versions of this body, too.[citation needed]

The two versions of the WRP soon became known by their newspapers, with the version led by Gerry Healy and Sheila Torrance being known as the WRP (Newsline). That led by Cliff Slaughter soon expelled Banda, and became known as the WRP (Workers Press). Both would fragment further over the coming years.

The first split in the pro-Healy WRP[when?] came when a section of the London membership around full timer Richard Price went into revolt and were expelled in due course. They formed the Workers International League which has since evolved into Workers Action and no longer has anything in common with the Healyism it defended when first founded.[citation needed]

Another split in the pro-Healy ICFI and WRP[when?] would develop when the American section of the ICFI led by Workers League National Secretary David North revolted against Healy's leadership and split to form its own rival movement also called the ICFI.[citation needed] Some members of the WRP sympathetic to North, led by David Hyland, left the WRP at this point to form the International Communist Party, based in Sheffield. This grouping has since been renamed the Socialist Equality Party.

In 1986, the ICFI loyal to Healy expelled the WRP (Newsline). Healy was removed from the group's Central Committee to become an advisor. When the organisation printed an article reviewing Healy's contribution to Trotskyisim, he concluded that his forced retirement was being finalised. With Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, he formed a minority tendency which called for a more pro-Soviet alignment, and split away in 1987 to form the Marxist Party.[24] The Marxist Party would in turn lose another small split after Healy's death which formed the Communist League while the Marxist Party would linger on until 2004 before dissolving itself.

The WRP (Workers Press) suffered a series of further splits and is now a tiny organisation known as the Movement for Socialism.

Torrance's WRP is now the only surviving Workers' Revolutionary Party in the UK and it still publishes News Line daily.

The party has been registered with the UK Electoral Commission since 15 May 2001, with Frank Sweeney as registered leader.[25] The WRP has assets of just over £4,000.[26]

Young Socialists[edit]

The WRP aims to attract young people through the "Young Socialists". It publishes a Young Socialists newspaper weekly.[citation needed] As well as general youth work, the party has tried to play a role within universities as the "Young Socialist Student Society", although it has remained minor.[citation needed]

Previous logos[edit]

Splits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Keel, "The vicarious road to revolution", The Guardian, 11 February 1980
  2. ^ Alan Smith, "Revolutionaries are breaking into a trot", The Guardian, 3 March 1975
  3. ^ Colin Smith and Robert Chesshyre, "Vanessa and the Red House Mystery", The Observer, 28 September 1975
  4. ^ "Secret report on Redgrave party revealed", The Guardian, 31 October 1978
  5. ^ "Observer stresses its victory over Vanessa", The Guardian, 13 November 1978
  6. ^ Martin Walker, "The revolutionaries devour their own", The Guardian, 17 August 1976
  7. ^ David Pallister, "Trotsky's death ripples down the years", The Guardian, 7 March 1977
  8. ^ "Death mask", The Guardian, 31 October 1979
  9. ^ Peter Hillmore, "Diary", The Guardian, 16 August 1977
  10. ^ Martin Walker, "High spirits remain on the Tripoli-Gatwick run", The Guardian, 5 September 1981
  11. ^ David Pallister, "£50,000 for facts on foreign gold", The Guardian, 17 September 1981
  12. ^ http://www.workersliberty.org/node/view/1115
  13. ^ Burns, Tom (1988). "The Revolution Betrayed". Solidarity (16). 
  14. ^ http://libsoc.blogspot.com/2004_07_25_libsoc_archive.html
  15. ^ http://www.whatnextjournal.org.uk/Pages/Healy/Chap10.html
  16. ^ Patrick Bishop, "How Ms Redgrave took over church", The Observer, 12 April 1981
  17. ^ "Leftist group 'training young'", The Guardian, 17 February 1982
  18. ^ "Actions speak volumes", The Guardian, 29 October 1981
  19. ^ "Trotskyists split over purged chief", The Observer, 27 October 1985
  20. ^ Martin Jennings, "Ex-chief of WRP 'expelled for sex attacks'", The Guardian, 31 October 1985
  21. ^ Norman Harding, Staying Red, Index Books, 2005, pp248-250
  22. ^ ibid, pp254-260
  23. ^ Kelvin Alexander, "Redgraves claim Healy letter forged", The Guardian, 5 November 1985
  24. ^ Martin Bailey, "Vanessa's new party fuels Trotsky feuds", The Observer, 23 August 1987
  25. ^ Workers' Revolutionary Party UK Electoral Commission
  26. ^ Annual Statement of Accounts UK Electoral Commission

Articles[edit]

Books[edit]

External links[edit]