Workers Revolutionary Party (UK)
|Workers Revolutionary Party|
|Founded||The Club (1947)
Socialist Labour League (1959)
Workers' Revolutionary Party (1973)
|Split from||The Club|
|International affiliation||International Committee of the Fourth International|
|European Parliament group||None|
|Politics of the United Kingdom
The WRP grew out of the faction Gerry Healy and John Lawrence led in the Revolutionary Communist Party which urged that the RCP pursue entryist tactics in 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 the publication's 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
The group grew, in part as people grew disillusioned with the Communist Party of Great Britain's rejection of the Hungarian Revolution and support for the Soviet intervention, as well as 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 active in the Labour Party. They were also very active in the Labour Party's youth organisation, the Young Socialists, and gained control of it until it was wound up in 1964.
The SLL used the YS as their own youth section. It was run through the "centre" in Clapham - the SLL's HQ - in a doctrinaire and almost militaristic fashion. The Annual Conferences of the YS were stage managed by the Healyites. The Labour Party renamed the youth section the "Labour Party Young Socialists" (LPYS).
However, during this period the SLL did experience considerable internal tensions. Fryer left in 1959 and in 1960 a group of members split away to form Solidarity, which became a theoretically influential, industrially oriented organisation strongly influenced by the ideas of Paul Cardan. Brian Behan also severed his involvement with the group after a confrontation with Gerry Healy.
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
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. The party slowly lost members from the mid-1970s as demands on members to serve the organisation took their toll, although Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, among others, had joined by now.
In 1975, Corin Redgrave bought the 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. 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. The jury found that not all words in the article were substantially true, but that the complainants' reputations had not been materially injured.
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. The eventual report exonerated Robins and claimed that Ramon Mercader was alive in Czechoslovakia. In 1979, the group purchased Trotsky's death mask to use as an iconic focus for events.
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. Close links continued, with party members regularly speaking at official events in Libya. In 1981, The Sunday Telegraph alleged that News Line, was financed by money from Muammar al-Gaddafi's government. In 1983, The Money Programme made similar claims, which were repeated by the Socialist Organiser newspaper. While the WRP initially chose to sue, it quickly abandoned the case. 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. 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. 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.
The group also set up youth training centres in various deprived communities across Britain. Liberal Party MP David Alton claimed in Parliament that youths were being taught anti-police methods at the centres, and when he repeated the allegations outside Parliament was sued by the WRP.
Fragmentation and continuation
||This section possibly contains original research. (April 2013)|
In 1985, the party expelled Healy and his supporters, including Vanessa and Corin Redgrave. Initially, Healy was accused of "non-communist relations". 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. Some of these allegations were confirmed by an internal party investigation. This was conducted by two long-standing working-class members of the WRP, one of whom later published the control commission report in his memoirs.
The expelled group counter-claimed that the expulsion had been motivated by a failed political coup attempted by party secretary Michael Banda. This group continued to claim to be the WRP, and for a time two versions of the group were in existence, each publishing its own daily News Line paper. The split in the WRP also had repercussions in the ICFI and as a result there were also two versions of that organisation.
The two versions of the WRP soon became known by their newspapers, with the group led by Gerry Healy and Sheila Torrance being known as the WRP (Newsline). The group led by Cliff Slaughter soon expelled Banda, and became known as the WRP (Workers Press). Both groups fragmented further over the following years.
The first split in Healy's WRP (Newsline) came when a section of the London membership around full-timer Richard Price revolted and were expelled in due course. They formed the Workers International League in 1987, which later evolved into Workers Action and away from the Healyism it defended when first founded.
Another split in the pro-Healy ICFI and WRP developed 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. Some members of the WRP sympathetic to North, led by David Hyland, left the WRP in 1986 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 and became an advisor. When the organisation printed an article reviewing Healy's contribution to Trotskyism, 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. The Marxist Party in turn experienced another small split after Healy's death which formed the Communist League. The Marxist Party continued until 2004 before dissolving itself, with the Redgraves then forming the Peace and Progress Party.
The WRP (Workers Press) suffered a series of further splits - including the International Socialist League and supporters of the Workers International to Rebuild the Fourth International - and ended as a tiny organisation known as the Movement for Socialism.
Torrance's WRP is the only surviving Workers' Revolutionary Party in the UK and still produces News Line daily, now as a website. The party has been registered with the Electoral Commission since 15 May 2001, with Frank Sweeney as registered leader. As of 2007, the WRP had assets of just over £4,000. It remains electorally active and stood seven candidates for the 2015 UK General Election, six in London and one in Sheffield, gaining a total of 488 votes.
- Solidarity (1960)
- Workers Socialist League (1974), later the International Socialist Group
- Workers Party (1979), later "Economic and Philosophic Science Review Supporters"
- WRP (Workers Press) (1985), later the Movement for Socialism
- Workers' International League (1985)
- International Communist Party, later the Socialist Equality Party (1986)
- Communist Forum (1986), split from WRP (Workers Press); later the "Marxist Philosophy Forum"
- Marxist Party (1987),
- International Socialist League (1988), split from WRP (Workers Press)
- Communist League (1990), split from Marxist Party; also known as "Movement for a Socialist Future" and now "A World to Win"
- Paul Keel, "The vicarious road to revolution", The Guardian, 11 February 1980
- Alan Smith, "Revolutionaries are breaking into a trot", The Guardian, 3 March 1975
- Colin Smith and Robert Chesshyre, "Vanessa and the Red House Mystery", The Observer, 28 September 1975
- "Secret report on Redgrave party revealed", The Guardian, 31 October 1978
- "Observer stresses its victory over Vanessa", The Guardian, 13 November 1978
- Martin Walker, "The revolutionaries devour their own", The Guardian, 17 August 1976
- David Pallister, "Trotsky's death ripples down the years", The Guardian, 7 March 1977
- "Death mask", The Guardian, 31 October 1979
- Peter Hillmore, "Diary", The Guardian, 16 August 1977
- Martin Walker, "High spirits remain on the Tripoli-Gatwick run", The Guardian, 5 September 1981
- David Pallister, "£50,000 for facts on foreign gold", The Guardian, 17 September 1981
- Burns, Tom (1988). "The Revolution Betrayed". Solidarity (16).
- Patrick Bishop, "How Ms Redgrave took over church", The Observer, 12 April 1981
- "Leftist group 'training young'", The Guardian, 17 February 1982
- "Actions speak volumes", The Guardian, 29 October 1981
- "Trotskyists split over purged chief", The Observer, 27 October 1985
- Martin Jennings, "Ex-chief of WRP 'expelled for sex attacks'", The Guardian, 31 October 1985
- Norman Harding, Staying Red, Index Books, 2005, pp248-250
- Norman Harding, Staying Red, Index Books, 2005, pp254-260
- Kelvin Alexander, "Redgraves claim Healy letter forged", The Guardian, 5 November 1985
- Martin Bailey, "Vanessa's new party fuels Trotsky feuds", The Observer, 23 August 1987
- Workers' Revolutionary Party UK Electoral Commission
- Annual Statement of Accounts UK Electoral Commission
- Hallas, Duncan. Cult comes a cropper (cached by Google)
- Healy, Gerry. Some Reflections on the Socialist Labor League. From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Labour League’s internal bulletin Forum. Reprinted by What Next Journal. Retrieved 14 June 2006.
- Higgins, Jim. Suppose He Had Been Enthusiastic: Review of Harry Ratner, Reluctant Revolutionary. A review of a memoir of the Socialist Labour League. New Interventions, 1995.
- Pitt, Bob. The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy
- North, David. Behind the split in the Workers Revolutionary Party
- John Sullivan "Will the real WRP please stand up?" in As Soon As This Pub Closes
WRP election flyer for party candidate Deon Gayle (Streatham) in the run up for the parliamentary election on 7 May 2015 
- Lotz, Corinna. Feldman, Paul. Gerry Healy: A revolutionary life, (1994: London, Lupus Books), ISBN 0-9523454-0-4
- Harding, Norman. Staying Red: why I remain a socialist, (2005: London, Index Books), ISBN 1-871518-25-3