For describing the WRP as a cross between the Moonies, the Scientologists, and the Jones Cult, which exploited young people, etc.,John Bloxam and Sean Matgamna were in 1981 sued for libel by the actress Vanessa Redgrave. This portrait of the WRP was part of an appeal for labour movement support in fighting the libel action. The WRP was then subsidising and producing Labour Herald, the paper of the Livingstone Labour left.
Some readers have asked us for more information about the WRP, the organisation which is threatening to bankrupt Socialist Organiser [predecessor of the Alliance for Workers Liberty] through legal action by Ms Vanessa Redgrave, one of its members.
We do not have the space for a detailed - and necessarily long - account of how the organisation came to be what it is today. And any mention of the WRP in Socialist Organiser threatens to involve us in new legal expenses. This article is a leaflet inserted into Socialist Organiser because our printers were intimidated into refusing to print it for fear of legal action (see note, below)
But our readers are entitled to information.
We do have some recent WRP circulars and copies of their bulletins for members only. These offer not a full account of the WRP but, so to speak, a recent vivid snapshot. Excerpts:
The Central Committee [notionally the highest body of the WRP] held an emergency meeting on November 12th, 1980. it seemed then as if there was going to be a bitter firemen's strike. How did the situation register in the mind of ‘the leadership‘ [Mr G. Healy]?
‘The threat of state repression directed against the party is not part of an ongoing perspective, but immediate in its dangers. The countdown can be set from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) national delegate conference at Blackpool next Friday, November 21, which will launch the struggle of 4 million public service workers against the Tories’ pay cuts and attacks on jobs.
‘The Tory plan will be to use bloody provocations in order to introduce special Emergency laws and to take violent reprisals against the party, its Press and organisation‘. The aim is to terrify the trade union leaders into submission and to try and isolate the revolutionary leadership from the mass movement’.
By way of explanation of this text we must indicate to the reader that according to the thinking of the WRP it is ‘the revolutionary leadership‘, even though it has only a few hundred members, though few workers have heard of it ‘and fewer still would follow its ‘leadership’.
Like Napoleon Bonaparte, Mr Healy is self-crowned - and, bettering Bonaparte, who needed the services of the Pope, he is self-anointed too. ‘Leadership’ is not a function or a relationship in the real world,. but something self-ascribed.
For those who accept that view of the party and of the world, it is reasonable to conclude that ‘the leadership’, Mr Healy, would be the prime target of a government bent on bloody repression. As with the party, Mr Healy's importance does not, according to WRP theology. depend on things in the real world. He is to the party what the party is supposed to be to the working class. The utterly false view of immediate reality, the inability to refrain from projecting the leader's [platonic] obsession with assassinations and things like that, the misjudgement of where we are at in Britain - this is everyday WRP ‘politics’. Things that are possible in certain circumstances, and would be probable in others, are taken to be immediate threats or certainties - to the point of being datable, without regard to facts or circumstances.
It seems however that members have been failing in their duty to love and revere ‘the leadership’. Another ‘special meeting’ of the Central Committee [August 24, 1980] passed a resolution containing this passage:
‘The highest political responsibility must be developed towards the protection of the organisation and its leadership. Light-minded middle-class disrespect for leadership must be ruthlessly fought against. Backwardness and arrogance will be resolutely combated. Centralised leadership means that great political devotion to the role of leadership must be consciously developed.
‘We will avoid panic under state attack by cadre training in the dialectical materialist theory and practice...
‘Each leader must indicate his or her attitude by signing and accepting this resolution.
This prophet is not sufficiently honoured at home and among his own people even though his enemies appreciate him enough to be planning to assassinate him. Things have come to a sorry state when Mr Healy Himself has to move a motion like that above.
But there is hope: it was passed unanimously.
A circular from the Political Committee [August 28, 1980] described the [unanimous] decision of the Central Committee of 24.8.80:
‘On August 24, 1980, the enlarged Central Committee meeting unanimously voted in support of a special resolution on party security, discipline and tasks. The unanimous acceptance of this resolution places the issue of party unity in the face of state repression as the most important issue facing the Workers' Revolutionary Party.
‘Regardless of political differences and organisational difficulties which were present right up to the adoption of the resolution, it means that the entire membership of the party accepts that we can preserve unity and utilise the objective situation ahead to resolve even the most serious problem.
‘We turn over an entirely new leaf in the history of our party, close our ranks against the dangers of state repression and resolve to implement the terms of the resolution together.
‘We accept and understand that those comrades who violate these terms by in any way refusing to carry them out, place themselves automatically outside the WRP.
‘The implementation of the resolution is binding on all members and leaders. Not to carry it out will be considered a blow at party unity in the face of state repression. Now that the resolution is accepted, it is up to every member and leader to demonstrate the vital necessity to maintain party unity through making changes, discipline and unstinting loyalty .
‘We want to make clear that those who have accepted the resolution in words but violate it in practice automatically place themselves outside the WRP.
‘The Political Committee resolves that the terms of the resolution constitute a permanent item on its agenda from September 1 to November 30. It instructs all branches and District Committees to do likewise’.
This should help ‘the leadership’ raise his status. Not only is dissent expressed in words forbidden, but lack of zeal or [if the leadership chooses to regard it as such], luck of love and reverence for ‘the leadership‘ can - at will - be interpreted as‘ dissent expressed in practice. This means that if a member so much as ‘looks sideways’ at the sensitive Mr Healy, ‘the leadership’ can expel him or her.
Such regulation of internal life is of course helpful in keeping an organisation together around ‘perspectives’ such as that quoted above.
And around perspectives such as these:
‘Before they engage in a physical confrontation with the masses, the Tories are certain to use the techniques of provocation and frame-up against the working class, especially its conscious revolutionary leadership, the Workers Revolutionary Party.
‘The Party has immediate obligations to the membership and the working class to meet the dangers of this situation. It must actively prepare for semi-legality and possible illegality...
‘Those whose political practice remains in isolation from the masses play directly into the hands of Tory state repression and lay the ground for the party's destruction in the first wave of police attacks. We must broaden the base of the party if we are to survive. This is the vital importance of Community Councils to lay the political, social and economic foundations for a Workers Revolutionary government.
‘It means a turn to the youth, recruiting them into the Young Socialists and building the revolutionary youth centres. centres will be at the 1ce'ntre‘ of the work of the Community Councils’.
The WRP leaders inhabit a mental world in which there is an immediate threat of fascist or Chilean-style repression, directed in the first place against the ‘leadership’ of the WRP which ‘really’ is at the centre of events and not what it seem to those untrained in what the WRP calls the ‘dialectical method’ . [It has, of course, nothing to do with Marxism].
[Readers should also note what purpose the ‘Community Councils’ are to serve].
Not only is a special view of the political world, what's happening in it now, and the ‘real’ centrality of the WRP and its leadership in it, demanded of WRPers. Not only is dissent, or practice ‘the leadership’ chooses to interpret as dissent, completely ruled out. There is also a prescribed ritual for mantaining such a view of the world.
A primitive tribe in the New Hebrides was recently reported to have evolved a religion of its own around the unlikely figure of the Duke of Edinburgh. The WRP has evolved a special ritual from that familiar furnishing of labour movement affairs - the branch agenda!
On 30 January, Michael Banda, general secretary, chief lieutenant of ‘the leadership’, sent out the following circular to ‘all delegates at the special conference’:
‘Both the ’Agenda’ and the resolution should now be submitted to all branches of the Workers' Revolutionary Party and steps taken to see that they are implemented as soon as possible.
‘The 'Special Conference’ understood that the changes which have to be made in branch organisation require the most consistent attention from all the delegates at the conference as well as leading members from the District Committees and branches.
‘The required change will only be carried into practice provided this practice is worked for and checked over time and time again to see that it is being carried out. The tendency will be for comrades, in typical idealist fashion, to either re-arrange the Agenda (a little bit at a time) to suit ‘local conveniences’. If this happens then the 'Agenda' will simply disintegrate into a harmless Labour Party or trade union type agenda. Please remember that the margin between the two Agendas, the idealist one and ours embodying the dialectical method, is very narrow in appearance. Since our comrades have been miseducated in the bourgeois-idealist method, at first sight, they will tend to treat it as an ordinary labour movement, spontaneous type of agenda.
‘Without realising it, they will tend to adapt it along these lines. That is why the essence of the responsibilities arising from the conference is to see that all branches are clear politically about what they must do, and take the necessary steps to see that they do it!’
This is the outline of the agenda Mr Banda is writing about:
1. Attendance; 2. Political Report and Discussion; 3. Minutes of the last meeting; 4, Matters arising from the minutes; 5. Future activity; 6. Political summary.
Now the reader can appreciate Mr Banda’s point that it could easily ‘degenerate into a harmless Labour Party or trade union type agenda’.
Salvation from such ‘degeneration‘ lies only in close attention to the priestly commentary on which the special character of the agenda depends. We quote in full. [If it were in church-Latin, SO would probably be able to secure a translation to ease the reader's path. But it is written in pidgin-Hegelian, so you're on your own].
‘The pre-Fifth Congress of the Workers Revolutionary Party unanimously decided to introduce the dialectical method into the organisation of branch meetings. Lenin explained this method as the path of Cognition, ‘From Living Perception to Abstract Thought, and from this to practice’. Vol.38, Lenin’s Works, p. 171.
‘l. Living Perception is contained in the Political Report which should endeavour to include a presentation and analysis of all the latest news of the world capitalist crisis and the class struggle internationally and in Britain.
'2. Transition of this report into the basic knowledge we already have. This knowledge will in the main be the outcome of our struggle to build the Workers’ Revolutionary Party as a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
‘3. Abstraction: Minutes of the last meeting - This unity constitutes a determinate essence through which the connections and interconnections with different departments and areas of our work emerge as a higher abstraction - Essence in Existence. Essence in Existence acquires an appearance when we consider:
‘4. Future Activity: We begin to visualise what we are aiming for. During the discussion on future activity we actualise this activity in the area covered by the branch.
‘5. Notion - Future work: Political summary - Report of the work of the branch meeting and its potential for the building of the WRP branch in the area.
6. Thence to Practice which means testing out the policies we have decided through a comparison of experience of the fight to build the WRP branches in the area.
‘In connection with the manifestation of the dialectical method in the drafting of Branch Agendas", comrades should read beginning with the final two paragraphs of Vol.38, p.225, read and study pps. 226-227, 228, 229, 230, 231, and the first two paragraphs of p.232.
And that is the WRP.
To come back to the mundane world of British politics in March 1981, we-learn from Newsline that the chief speaker at a meeting in Runcorn [where the WRP has its printing press] at which a ‘Community Council’ was set up by the WRP is Ted Knight, leader of the Labour majority on Lambeth Council. ls Knight completely out of touch with what the WRP has become? Or is he thus paying for their support in Lambeth?
The Lambeth Labour left should ask Ted Knight and his friends what they think they are playing at with the WRP. The question should be asked forcefully and in public.
Latest developments: Ms Redgrave has issued a new writ against Sean Matgamna for the appeal in the last Socialist Organiser and against the printers for the same. A writ is also issued against John Bloxam for a circular letter to SO supporters appealing for support to fight off the first writ.
His circular constituted endorsement and repetition of the libel, says the WRP - which has the money to get a court writ to back this nonsense.
Special note should be taken of the technique with John Bloxam - to fight against their attempt to gag SO is to endorse the libel and be drawn into the legal toils!
Note: This article is printed separately as an insert in Socialist Organiser because Morning Litho Ltd refused to print it as part of the paper.
Despite the article having been checked over by our legal advisers, they were fearful of further legal action. All along it has been clear that the target of the WRP must be the printers, who, without commitment to anything in this matter other than commercial interests, were likely to be intimidated by a barrage of writs.
This is clear illustration, for anyone in doubt, of how the attack on free comment represented by the use of the courts against the labour movement press can spread into a virtual gag law.
This issue concerns anyone who supports free debate within the labour movement. Help us resist this gag law. Support the Labour Movement Press Defence Fund.