Healyites: Kill a Commie for Qaddafi
In May of last year 21 members of the Iraqi Communist Party (CP) were executed on charges of forming cells within the army. This juridical murder was part of a major crackdown on the mass party of the Iraqi proletariat by the bourgeois-nationalist Ba'athist regime. According to Iraqi CP leaders, some 15,000 party members are now sitting in jail. Though the pro-Moscow Stalinists still seek friendly relations with the Baghdad butchers, they are obliged to go through the motions of protesting the persecution of their Iraqi corades. So the British CP press, the Morning Star, has run a few articles exposing anti-communist terror in Iraq. In response, the following recently appeared in a certain British paper:
“At the obvious instigation of the Kremlin, the Communist Party of Great Britain has become the centre of an immense slander offensive against the bastion of the Arab Revolution - the Republic of Iraq and its revolutionary vanguard, the Arab Ba'athist Socialist Party...Is this perhaps a letter from the Iraqi press attache to the London Times or Guardian? No, incredibly, this shameless defense of white terror comes from an article entitled “A Conspiracy Exposed” in the News Line (2 February), organ of the fake-Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) of Gerry Healy and Michael Banda. The Healyite syphilis within the ostensible Trotskyist movement has now become so putrescent that it can openly support the murder of working-class militants by a capitalist government.
“It is true that 21 CP members were executed early last year for illegally forming cells in the armed forces. The purpose of these cells was to fight against the government. There are no prizes for the answer to what would happen to Ba'athists who set up cells in the Soviet army. They would be ruthlessly purged!”
The Healy/Banda tendency has long had an extremely unsavory flavor. It combines idiot organizational sectarianism with the wildest gyrations of gross political opportunism to create an aura of extreme instability. Its penchant for elaborate conspiracy theories and its well-known readiness to employ physical gangsterism against left-wing opponents denote more than a trace of paranoia. But in the past couple of years the Healyites have added another element to their political banditry: they have become the British press agents for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the fanatical dictator of Libya. It is evidently in that capacity that they have now become shameless apologists for white terror in Iraq.
This atrocity has produced visible revulsion within the WRP periphery. The 8 March News Line prints a protest letter by one J.A., who identifies himself as a trade unionist, along with the editors' lengthy reply. J.A. writes in a tone of shocked disbelief:
“Are readers of the News Line to conclude that you actually support the murder of members of the Communist Party of Iraq?And here is the Healyites’ “theoretical” justification:
“I thought that it was a principle among Trotskyists that they should defend workers against attacks from the state in a capitalist country. How is the British working class to have any confidence in your organization when you show such indifference to the murder of workers abroad at the hands of their state.”
“From an historical point of view, the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party of Iraq has played a hundredfold more progressive role in the Middle East than Stalinism.”The News Line goes on to list the supposed crimes of Stalinism against Arab nationalism, among them having “led President Nasser around by the nose.”
So according to the Healyites, bourgeois nationalism in the Near East (and why only there?) is historically more progressive than the nationalism of the Soviet bureaucracy, a government based on a degenerated form of proletarian class rule. This kind of “anti-Stalinism” places them in the company of Adolf Hitler, Chiang Kai-shek and Iraq’s Kassem, who likewise condemned the Kremlin supporters as enemies of the “national revolution.” For Trotskyists, Stalinist foreign policy is counterrevolutionary precisely in its support to bourgeois-nationalist regimes for the sake of Russian diplomatic maneuvering. But the Healyites now condemn the Stalinists for betraying bourgeois nationalism through their support to the Soviet bureaucracy!
The enormity of the Healy/Banda tendency’s crime over Iraq goes far beyond typical opportunist betrayals. To put it in perspective, we will use an historical analogy. The Chinese Revolution of 1925-27 was decisive both in the development of Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution and in the historic division between Stalinism and Trotskyism. Trotsky opposed the Chinese Communist Party's liquidation into the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang as suicidal opportunism. But after his worst predictions had been borne out, he fully solidarized with the Communists against Chiang’s terror. (Even Stalin, who advocated the entry into the Kuomintang, defended the Communists when the bourgeois nationalists turned on them.) The Healy/Banda position in Iraq is equivalent to supporting Chiang’s massacre of the Communists on the grounds that they had “betrayed the Chinese Revolution”! And this is more than an analogy. The Communist Party of Iraq is not merely a Kremlin publicity agency. It is the mass party of the proletariat, centered on the strategic oil workers. And its mass base has a history of resisting Moscow’s “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism and alliance with bourgeois nationalism – namely in the 1958 revolution.
In July 1958 the Hashemite monarchy of King Faisal was swept away by a popular uprising led by the CP in bloc with a nationalist grouping in the officer corps under General Kassem. Under pressure from the revolutionary masses the CP went into opposition to Kassem and sections of the party were pushing to overthrow him and take power directly. So as not to disturb the “spirit of Camp David,” the Kremlin openly supported Kassem, denounced the Iraqi CP for “ultraleftism” and demanded a purge of its left wing. As Isaac Deutscher wrote at the time:
“Since the far-off days of the middle 1920s, when Stalin ordered the Chinese communists to serve as the 'Kuomintang's coolies,' no Communist Party has been exposed to quite so abject a humiliation.”Encouraged by Moscow's supoprt and the demoralization of the Communist ranks, Kassem moved against the CP. In 1960 he outlawed all parties affiliated to international organizations. Using this reactionary law he purged CPers from the trade unions and drove the party underground. The 1963 Ba’athist coup intensified the repression which Kassem had begun. Presumably the Healyites retrospectively support the Kassem/Ba’athist terror against the Communist Party because to the latter's “international affiliations.”
– ‘Russia and the International Communist Movement,’ in Russia, China and the West: A Contemporary Chronicle 1953-1966 (1970)
With practiced cynicism the News Line tells J.A.:
“It is a principle with Trotskyists that we defend workers, whether they are Stalinists, revisionists or social democrats, from the attacks of the capitalist state. But, as the facts show, that has nothing to do with the incidents in Iraq.”Do the Healyites then maintain that Ba’athist Iraq is not a capitalist state? Or perhaps they mean that they defend the workers movement against capitalist state repression only for groups that don't do anything illegal, like organize within the army. In case the WRP leaders’ parroting Qaddafi’s oratory has entirely rotted their brains, we will remind them that one of the famous “21 conditions” for membership in the Communist International states:
“The obligation to spread communist ideas includes the special obligation to carry on systematc and energetic propaganda in the army. Where such agitation is prevented by emergency laws, it must be carried on illegally. Refusal to undertake such work would be tantamount to dereliction of revolutionary duty and is incompatible with membership in the Communist International.”We have long maintained that beneath the bully-boy bluster of Healy, Banda & Co. is the cowardly legalism endemic to the British Labourite bureaucracy. The Stalinist cadres in the Iraqi army, despite their class-collaborationist politics, are a hundredfold more corageous than Qaddafi's yellow journalists in Clapham High Street.
– Jane Degras, ed., The Communist International 1919-1943, Volume 1, 1919-1922 (1956)
The WRP’s fake-Trotskyist opponents are naturally scandalizing it for its support to counterrevolutionary terror in Iraq, thrilled with the chance to oppose the WRP from the left. But the myriad British centrist groups are by no means champions of proletarian class independence in the Near East (or elsewhere). They too support bourgeois nationalism in backward countries, though now less flamboyantly than the Healyites. They too uphold the notion of the "Arab Revolution" – that most curious “revolution” which is directed not against Arab governments and ruling classes, but externally against Zionist Israel. Like Healy/Banda, they supported Khomeini as “progressive,” “democratic” or “anti-imperialist.” But now it is Healy/Banda who have taken the “Arab Revolution” line to its logical conclusion – opposition to any expression, however partial or deformed, of proletarian class independence which disturbs the Arab rulers, up to and including support to its bloody repression.
We warn the WRP and its supporters in the rump “International Committee” that its cynical embrace of the Lybyan and Iraqi military dictators has consequences. Whereas Stalinists similarly apologize for repression against their left-wing opponents by bourgeois nationalists (e.g. Indira Gandhi, Mengistu, Velasco) as prescribed by the bureaucrats of the deformed workers states, the Healyites have gone them one better in mimicking the class treason on behalf of bourgeois nationalist regimes directly. For a small propaganda group without a significant mass base, moreover, program is decisive in determining a group’s class character. In the case of the Healy/Banda organization, the contradiction between its “Trotskyist” pretensions and the dictates of its Libyan patrons has repetitively come down on in favor of the latter.