Thursday, 18 September 2014

Passing of a political gangster

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One of the more fascinating organisations on the far left in the seventies and eighties was the Workers Revolutionary Party. Led by the now somewhat discredited Gerry Healy, it managed to publish a daily newspaper (Workers Press and the News Line), attract more than a few "luvvies " from the Equity Union including Vanessa and Corin Redgrave and maintain a fairly high profile on the left that far outweighed its actual influence.

More of a sect than a political party, the WRP managed to betray every single principle it said it stood for. Gerry Healy its leader was exposed in a factional dispute as a serial abuser of female members of their Young Socialists group and subsequently expelled. At first most outsiders were astonished, shocked or just bemused. The stories about Healy only began to emerge after the now famous headline "G. Healy expelled from the WRP".

Of course as events unfolded there suddenly appeared to be two News Lines one published by the rump WRP under Cliff Slaughter, Sheila Torrance and Mike Banda and the other by Healy himself. The Healy group eventually morphed into the tiny Marxist Party, barely outlasting Healy's own death in 1989.

One of Healy's main collaborators was a man called Michael Banda, a Sri Lankan trotskyist who died recently. Banda was a leading figure in the various groups that eventually became the WRP and even managed to supplant Healy as General Secretary in 1978, though actual power remained quite firmly in Healy's hands.

The WRP became renowned for its mad sectarianism, denouncing every other organisation as "Pabloites" long after Michel Pablo had left the trotskyist movement. They also ran a bizarre international campaign claiming that other veteran trotskyists were GPU/CIA agents and complicit in the murder of Leon Trotsky. Absurd to the extreme, their political line claimed that a military coup was in the offing for years and demanded a level of activism and loyalty from their membership reminiscent of religious cults.

It included demands on their women, something hidden from public view until the WRP fell apart in 1985/86. Banda took part in the coup against Healy, but soon fell out with all the other players in the organisation and ended up out on a limb.

According to a more sympathetic obituary published by A World to Win, one of the remnants of the WRP:

Banda, hitherto Healy’s strongest political ally, now began to spin around politically. He proved incapable of resisting the combined pressures of a rapidly-changing political situation, a financial meltdown and massive efforts to destabilise him politically. Casting aside decades of political training, Banda now became deeply disoriented, descending to the crudest anti-Marxism and personal attacks. He thus became the instrument of the most reactionary elements in the leadership to split the WRP down the middle, opening the party door to the Fleet Street media to witch-hunt Healy, the man who had been his closest comrade......

The manipulation of the WRP’s substantial assets and subsequent financial crisis played a crucial role in undermining a dedicated Marxist and revolutionary. This came together with a concerted international campaign to destroy his relationship with Healy, playing on Banda’s ego and volatile temperament. His actions in 1985 were those of someone who tragically could not cope with the tremendous pressure that revolutionaries come under at crucial moments in the class struggle. He thus ended up helping to destroy the very organisation he had worked so hard to create.

In many ways this view of Banda is almost the same as the line David North, an American protege of Healy, wrote about the death of his own former master:

For a long and difficult period, Gerry Healy was a crucial human link in the historical continuity of the Fourth International. For decades he fought against stalinism and opportunism. In the end he broke beneath the pressure of this tremendous struggle.

Denial. The inability to cope with the very real failings that this party went through.

Michael Banda represented a form of politics that offered up some of the worst that humanity has to offer. Imagine what world would have come into being under the likes of Banda or Healy. No different to that which became known as "Stalinism", the very thing the trotskyists themselves claim to be opposing.

Marxism (whether through Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin) has proved itself a false faith, yet continues to attract it's adherents blinded through ideology that allows the individuals ability to think for themselves to be supplanted by the party, and ultimately the leader of that party.

Banda and Healy were just two of many false messiahs. 

The far-left still contains many such people.

"Comrade delta" and the "Prof" come to mind.

Best avoided and frankly consigned to the dustbin of history!

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