SOMETHING strange and nasty happened at the "Local Government in Crisis" conference. Gerry Healy’s so-called Workers Revolutionary Party turned up to support Ted Knight and rent and rate rises.
Perhaps as many as forty delegates were members or sympathisers of the WRP, which had obviously made a big effort to mobilise for the conference. It has been many a long year since the WRP concerned itself with a mainstream labour movement event like this, and the labour movement has been the cleaner for their absence.
At the conference the WRP formed a bloc in support of rent and rate rises with the right wing, the supporters of Ted Knight, and the Communist Party. They also moved resolutions advocating their current universal cure-all, "Community Councils".
Essentially these are non labour movement bodies designed to by-pass existing bodies like Trades Councils. Newsline, the WRP’s glossy daily, has outlined the participants it has in mind for its alternative to the labour movement: "Labour groups and constituency Parties, action committees, immigrant organisations, ratepayers’ [!] and tenants’ groups, small business organisations [!], civil rights, child rights and women’s rights groups."
Quite a few elegates ridiculed this nonsense before throwing it out decisively.
But the WRP is no laughing matter. It is a pseudo-Marxist gobbledegook-spouting cross between the Moonies, the Scientologists, and the Jones Cult which committed mass suicide in the Guyana jungle three years ago.
It recruits and exploits mainly raw, inexperienced, politically, socially and psychologically defenceless young people. It employs psychological terror and physical violence against its own members (and occasionally against others).*
It is very widely believed to be in receipt of subsidies from one or more Arab governments, from Gaddafi’s Libya at least. Of course there is no public proof of this. But for years, during which its membership has not been more than four or five hundred, it has published a very glossy daily paper, Newsline, which has survived despite having only a tiny circulation.
Its relationship to Gaddafi was and is that of a mercenary Hollywood publicityagent to his client (and when it was a political organisation the WRP – then the SLL – was marked by bitter hostility to real third-world revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro). It also supports and shamelessly justifies the widespread murder of Communist Party members by the Hussein dictatorship in Iraq.
It supports the repression of women, gays and socialist activists by Khomeini of Iran, whose reactionary Muslim regime it also supports. Its vehement campaign against Israel and much-publicised support for the Palestinians has nothing in common with socialist or working-class politics when it is coupled with crawling, uncritical, cap-in-hand support for the Arab bourgeois regimes who have in the past betrayed the Palestinian masses (& will in the future).
The WRP has spent the last 5 years or so in a paranoid spy-hunting campaign in which it has traduced and slandered as spies and "agents" long-standing Marxists like George Novack and the late Joseph Hansen.
It now sees the political world in terms of "spies", "agents", and as a comicbook-fantasy-level cops and robbers story. For example Monday’s (19th) Newsline carried a raving page-long editorial on the Conference.
"Those who preach such a solution [i.e. opposition to rate rises and confrontation with the government] are really ‘Thatcher’s people’ [Newsline quotes] because they are speaking ‘her’ language [Newsline quotes]. The revisionists want [Newsline emphasis] the Tory commissioners in Lambeth. They are now calling for rent and rate strikes in the borough with the aim of deliberately destabilising the council and hoping to force it into bankruptcy.... In other words, behind their fake ‘left’ words and their talk of a ‘militant stand’ against the Tories, they are in fact hellbent on getting Labour out of Lambeth and the Tories in." The motive for this revisionist plot is that we "hope to see the working people of Lambeth punished with cuts, unemployment, and dreadful collapse of living standards. Then, say the revisionists, when they have suffered enough, they will be ready to fight".
Soon now Newsline will tell its readers which of us work for the CIA, which for the KGB, and also who among the critics of Ted Knight are the double agents working for both.
Today the WRP – the sycophant of Gaddafi and other bloody anti working class dictators – is no longer a part of the labour movement. Gerry Healy, Cliff Slaughter, Michael Banda, etc. long ago betrayed Trotskyism, socialism and the working class itself. (And, as a matter of fact, they betrayed themselves too. But that’s their business.)
Yet Ted Knight and his friends accepted without protest or comment or visible embarrassment the public support of this crew. The Lambeth Left should ask Ted Knight and his friends exactly where they stand on this poisonous, divisive, anti-socialist sect, with its undisguised ties to Arab bourgeois dictators. The question should be asked forcefully and in public.
* For an account of its internal life, see The Battle for Trotskyism, published by the Workers Socialist League.
Originally published in Socialist Organiser, 24 January 1980.