The British Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP) was a sizeable organisation up to its implosion in 1985.
From 1976, in order to fund its daily paper, Newsline, the WRP took money from Libya, Iraq and other vicious dictatorships, rewarding its paymasters with anti-Jewish propaganda and support for those regimes, dressed up as “anti-imperialism”.
In 1981, actress Vanessa Redgrave, the WRP’s best known member, sued our comrades John Bloxam and Sean Matgamna for libel for comparing the WRP to the Moonie sect and the Scientologists, and for reporting that the WRP used systematic emotional and physical violence against vulnerable young people.
The WRP tied us up us in an expensive legal case for four years, although they never took the case to court. In response, we launched a campaign for a labour movement inquiry.
We wrote in our paper that there was “circumstantial evidence” the WRP was getting money from one or more Arab governments. We challenged them to sue us on that. They never did. Their paper spoke glowingly of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the Libyan despot Qaddafi.
The WRP ran a heresy hunt against us because we told the truth about them. They were able to make some headway. Sizeable numbers on the left accepted the WRP’s public enthusiasm for the Libyan regime as “anti-imperialism”. A WRP-run broad paper, Labour Herald (1981-5), was able to get articles, and speakers for its meetings, from Labour Party dignitaries such as Ken Livingstone, Ted Knight, David Blunkett and even Margaret Hodge.
We were vindicated in 1985 when the WRP expelled its 72-year-old leader Gerry Healy, accusing him of sexually abusing young women members. As the fall-out increased, Healy’s associates admitted that the organisation had, in return for money, spied on Arab dissidents and prominent Jews in Britain. Most shamefully of all they helped to get a number of Iraqi Communist Party members shot by Saddam Hussein.
We were right to stand up for honesty and clean political hands in the labour movement. We were right to stand up against people who had sold themselves and become the mouthpieces for vicious despots. And we were right to say that anti-semitism and self-serving Arab nationalism, dressed up as “anti-Zionism” and “anti-imperialism”, is political poison.
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