Workers Vanguard No. 130 (27 October 1976)
Vicious Attack on SL/ANZ, SWP in Australia
Protest Healyite Thuggery
SYDNEY, October 18 – A rampage of thuggery by the Healyite Socialist Labour League (SLL) here yesterday left supporters of the Australian Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand (SL/ANZ) seriously injured. Under direct supervision of SLL national secretary Jim Mulgrew, the Healyite goons launched two brutal premeditated assaults outside a “public” SLL forum at the Sydney Trades Hall. The Spartacist supporters were selling literature and protesting the Healyites’ exclusionist practices, while SWPers were distributing a statement in reply to the Healyites’ slander campaign against American SWP leaders Hansen and Novack. Several SL and SWP members were bruised and bloodied, and one SWPer required hospital treatment after numerous punches and kicks to the head and body.
Healyite gangsterism is no news to the workers movement. But yesterday’s attacks indicated a deliberate attempt to maim members – in particular leading members – of opponent tendencies.
No sooner had the Spartacists approached the Trades Hall than SLL honcho Mulgrew began threatening an Australasian Spartacist photographer. The reason for Mulgrew’s concern with photographs became clear an instant later as, with SWPers looking on, he directed several of this thugs to jump SL national chairman Bill Logan, shrieking “get Logan, get Logan!” SLers who sprang to their comrade’s defense were slugged and pummelled, one receiving a bloody nose.
Unable to dislodge the SLers without exposing the seamy side of Healyism before untutored SLL ranks and others coming into the hall, Mulgrew pulled his hoodlums back, restricting them to personal and sexist insults, threats, physical harassments and provocations against the SLers an SWPers who were still arriving.
But when the bulk of their youth had been shepherded inside, the Healyite goons shoved and jostled an SWP supporter handing out material to people going in. Mulgrew and his hooligans then surrounded a leading SWPer, John Percy, who was attempting to photograph the incident. After smacking him on the face, they proceeded to indiscriminately assault SL and SWP supporters coming to his defense. As Mulgrew retreated to safety, the goons launched a barrage of kicking and punching in the middle of the street. One SLer received a severe blow to the head and SWP youth leader David Deutchmann, who had vigorously protested the earlier assault on the SL, was singled out by the enraged Healyites who punched him to the ground and continued to stomp and kick him as he lay.
Healyite gangsterism against the Trotskyist criticism of the SL has a long history. SL/ANZ supporters were subjected to a similar, though less brutal, attack at the same site a year ago when Healy himself came to Sydney on a speaking tour. But with the initiation of their international slander campaign against American SWP leaders Hansen and Novack – which has driven the Healyites further into self-imposed disrepute and paranoid insularity – their thuggery has become more frequent. At a May Day march in Sydney this year, the Healyites not only kept Spartacist literature a “safe” distance from their closely guarded contingent (going so far as to call the cops to prevent an SL supporter from distributing leaflets), but they even accosted a salesman of the Socialist, paper of the ossified, ultra-reformist pro-Moscow Stalinists. This was followed by a series of incidents with salesmen of other left papers.
In July, a gang of Healyites disrupted a forum in Sydney by American SWP vice-presidential hopeful Willie Mae Reid. The SLLers, shouting and waving their “indictments” of Hansen and Novack during the discussion period, prevented Reid from speaking. The reformist SWP used the incident to ban the SLL from attending all SWP public forums. The SWP has had a longstanding ban against allowing Spartacist supporters at forums as well, thus displaying that its main concern is the suppression of left criticism of its rotten politics.
The Spartacist tendency has from the start taken an active principled stand in combating the Healyite slander campaign against Hansen and Novack and in defending the SWP against SLL disruptions and physical attacks. This is more than can be said for the SWP’s Australian partner in the “United” Secretariat (USec), the crumbling Mandelite Communist League (CL). While Bill Logan on behalf of the SL/ANZ signed the American SWP-initiated statement against the slanders, the CL was conspicuously absent from the list of Australian signatories. In fact it has bolstered the Healyite campaign by supporting their demand for an “inquiry” into the bizarre charges – an act not entirely unconnected with a certain parallelism between the SLL’s slogans and appetites toward militant Labourism and those of the CL.
The Healyites’ paranoid concern with police infiltration in the workers movement – the ostensible justification for the frenzied campaign to slander Hansen and Novack as “accomplices” in the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky – is exposed as hollow by their own practice. Their wilful provocation of thug violence opens up the workers movement to repression by the cops at any time. The short step between this Stalinist gangsterism and calling upon the cops to suppress leftist opponents is one which the Healyite political bandits made a decade ago. From the beating of USec supporter Ernest Tate in 1966, and the subsequent appeal to the bourgeoisie’s courts against Tate, to the present day the Healyites have repeatedly invoked the capitalist cops and courts against left-wing opponents. Yesterday Mulgrew boasted, “If the police come, we’ll get them to arrest you all.”
“Cop”-baiting slander and gangster violence are deliberately employed by the Healy tendency as obstacles to debate and political clarification within the workers movement. Open political debate would expose, for example, the SLL’s adaptation to the protectionist hysteria sweeping the Australian ship-building industry, threatened by overseas competition (the SLL has failed to criticize the chauvinist character of Australian shipyard workers’ occupation of Japanese ships, even though an SLL supporter is shop steward in one of the yards most active in the occupations). It would expose the SLL’s consistent catering to social-democratic illusions through its campaign to “Force the Liberals to Resign.”
We can assure Mulgrew, Healy and their gang of one thing: their gangster tactics will not prevent their exposure in the course of the struggle for the rebirth of the Fourth International.