Defeat Messengers of Qaddafi!
Healyite Libel Suit: An Attack on Workers Movement
We reprint below material documenting the attempt by the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) of Gerry Healy and Michael Banda to silence, through the bourgeois courts, Socialist Organiser (SO), a fortnightly newspaper of a tendency within the British Labour Party initiated by and politically identified with Sean Matgamna’s Workers Action grouping. The WRP (formerly the Socialist Labour League) had long been notorious for seeking to bludgeon left-wing critics into silence through physical gangsterism and use of the agencies of the bourgeois state. After more than a decade of political banditry of the most extreme sort, the Healyites decisively departed the ranks of the workers movement by 1978 by politically and materially subordinating themselves to a host of murderous Muslim dictatorships, most notably that of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, protector of Idi Amin and self-proclaimed apologist for Adolf Hitler. The current threat of libel action against SO (with the WRP’s Vanessa Redgrave fronting for them) represents a sinister attack against the right of political expression by the workers movement as a whole, and must he vigorously opposed by all tendencies of the left and labor movement.
To the best of our not uninformed knowledge, we affirm that, the charges and characterizations alleged against the WRP by SO are true. We emphasize comrade Matgamna’s observation that Redgrave’s attorneys conspicuously choose not to contest the allegation of the WRP’s ties with the oil-rich bloodthirsty bourgeois tyrant of Libya. In April 1979, we noted the WRP’s role as “shameless apologists for white terror in Iraq” through its open support for the murder of 21 Iraqi Communist Party militants by the bourgeois nationalist Ba’ath regime:
“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 in favor of the latter.”We explained in the same article that this action, though decisive, was by no means isolated, but capped a long period of bizarre and venomous behavior, targeted in more than one brutal instance against supporters of the international Spartacist tendency:
– Workers Vanguard No. 230, 27 April 1979
“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 clement to their political banditry: they have become the British press agents for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the fanatical dictator of Libya.”In Spartacist (No. 9, January-February 1967) we publicized the savage beating of Canadian United Secretariat supporter Ernie Tate outside a Healyite meeting at London’s Caxton Hall which inflicted injuries so severe as to require Tate’s hospitalization. The Healyites then sought to cover their tracks, not by denying that they beat up Tate, but (as today) by instituting legal proceedings against him to stop the circulation of an open letter by Tate describing the thug attack. In fact, Healy succeeded in frightening two weak-kneed British left-wing publications into publishing retractions of Tate’s letter under threats of libel actions against them. Healy’s then-loyal American toad, Tim Wohlforth, shamelessly defended the vicious beating with typically convoluted Healyite “logic” (workers rightly beat up scabs, Tate was scabbing on the Healyite International Committee, (Q.E.D...).
As noted, the libel action against SO is taken in the name of performer Vanessa Redgrave, the most well known, of the WRP’s dwindling constellation of supporters and “angels” within the entertainment industry. Though it is common practice under British libel law to set up a personality to pursue a libel suit (organizations generally have a very difficult time pursuing a libel case), the use of Redgrave’s name and money against a working-class tendency is particularly scandalous. Nor is it the first time they have done this. In 1975 Redgrave dragged former Healyite Alan Thornett, a car worker, into court over an outstanding personal loan. This action against Thornett was taken by one who, as we noted at the time, has a lifestyle which would do no shame to Princess Grace of Monaco or Princess Ashraf, lately of Iran.
Since the material we are reprinting below came in hand, five writs, used to secure prior censorship through vicious and punitive methods, have been served against SO, its printing firm and the secretary of the defense committee. Indeed, one of those writs was used to prevent publication at the last minute of an article in Socialist Press, weekly paper of Thornett’s Workers Socialist League (WSL), which is printed at the same firm (which also prints a number of other left-wing papers in Britain). Some clients have already been intimidated into withdrawing their business from this printer.
Every working-class militant should look forward to the day when the Healy/ Banda gang is politically removed as a menace to the left and labor movement. A victory by SO against this attack would constitute a step toward that goal and we are therefore compelled by basic class principle to offer such resources as we can to assist in the defense of this case, including fund-raising and publicity, not least internationally. (The very English Healyites have a few shriveling international connections known as the “International Committee of the Fourth International.”) We offer as well to make available our extensive files documenting the Healyites’ history of slander, internal intimidation and violent hooliganism. We urge our readers to likewise support this important defense of the workers movement.
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c/o 214 Sickert Court,
London N1 2SY.
2nd March 1981.
Socialist Organiser appeals for support to the left wing and labour movement press
against the attempt by the WRP to stifle accurate reporting and fair comment
about them. The enclosed documents give the details of the WRP’s threatened
legal action and the case which looks likely to go to court.
I draw your attention to the curious fact that the WRP have not chosen to regard as
libellous the statements about their relationship with Colonel Gaddafi, and to the proposals that were made at the end of Sean Matgamna’s letter of 26th February 1981, including for a jointly agreed working class movement inquiry on the issue.
John Bloxam. Secretary.
5th February, 1981
Sean Matgamna, Esq.,
5 Stamford Hill,
We are instructed by our Client Miss Vanessa Redgrave
a well known member of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party
(WRP). The WRP is referred to on page 10 of the issue of Socialist
Organiser No. 33 dated January 24, 1980, and in particular in an article at
the bottom of page 10 under your name, with the headline “GADDAFI’S FOREIGN
LEGION TO KNIGHT’S RESCUE”. The Knight in question is Ted Knight and your
article referred to the support by the WRP for Lambeth Council’s rent and rate
rises discussed, on January 17, 1981, at the second “Local Government in Crisis”
conference. It is therefore obvious that this issue of Socialist Organiser should have been dated 1981 and not 1980.
In view of her widely known association with the WRP our Client regards the attack on the WRP in your article in this issue of Socialist Organiser as a libel on her as well
as on the Party itself. While we understand that the article contains very many
untrue and defamatory statements and implications (for instance by the headline
quoted above) about the WRP we are instructed to call upon you to undertake to
publish an unequivocal withdrawal of certain of those statements which constitute particularly gross libels. These are contained notably in the second and third full paragraphs of the second column where you state that the WRP:“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.At the end of the above second paragraph there is an asterisk which refers
It recruits and exploits mainly raw, inexperienced, politically socially and psychologically defenceless young people. It employs psychological terror and physicalviolence against its own members (and occasionally against others).”
to a footnote naming “The Battle for Trotskyism” published by the Workers
Socialist League “For an account of its (i.e. the WRP’s) internal life”. We are
instructed that the publication in question most certainly does not substantiate
the allegations made in the said paragraph which have been completely refuted in
WRP publications published subsequently, e.g. in “The Thornett Clique Exposed”.
As you must know, the WRP bears no resemblance whatsoever to the
Moonies, the Scientologists or the Jones Cult. Nor does it exploit young people
or anyone else amongst its recruits. Further, it not only does not employ
psychological terror and physical violence against its own members or against
anyone else but has gone on record repeatedly to dissociate itself from any
policy of violence in support of its Marxist aims.
If any future issue of the Socialist Organiser is to be published we would ask you to let us hear from you in immediate reply to this letter, that is within seven days of its date, as to the intended or proposed date of such publication and the date when it should go to press, together with the names of the paper’s Editor or members of its editorial committee and its proprietors. We learn that Socialist Organiser is not registered as a business name and note that, contrary to the law, its printer’s name and address do not appear anywhere in its pages, as to which your explanation is awaited. Our Client’s primary concern at this point is to have your undertaking that, with appropriate prominence to be agreed, a disclaimer and apology in the following terms will be published in the next issue of Socialist Organiser or in such other publication as may replace it as the newspaper put out by the publishers of Socialist
Organiser, whoever they may be, or in any such other publication to which you are contributing:Vanessa Redgrave and the Workers’ Revolutionary PartyWhile we await your undertaking as to the arrangements to be made to publish the above disclaimer and apology and your response to our above request for information, we must also ask you to acknowledge receipt of this letter within seven days of its date and to undertake not to repeat the same or any other libels on the WRP or on our Client in the future.
”Sean Matgamna and the Editor and Publishers of Socialist Organiser acknowledge that the terms in which they referred to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP)in their issue of the 24th January last contained wholly unwarranted suggestions that the WRP is a ‘cross between the Moonies, the Scientologists, and the Jones Cult’ or bears a material resemblance to those non-political, non-Marxist organisations. Further, it is acknowledged that the WRP does not, as falsely stated in Sean Matgamna’s article, recruit and exploit ‘mainly raw, inexperienced, politically, socially and psychologically defenceless young people’ or, indeed, exploit anyone; nor does it employ ‘psychological terror and physical violence against its own members’ or others, being on record repeatedly as condemning violence in support of its aims. We apologise to the WRP and to Vanessa Redgrave, who is in particular associated with it, for having published wholly unwarranted and grossly libellous matter which we now expressly withdraw.”
Pending a fully satisfactory reply to this letter our Client’s full rights in the matter are reserved.
cc: Morning Litho Printers
* * *
c/o 214 Sickert Court, London NI 2SY.
26th February 1981.
Rubinstein Callingham, Solicitors,
6 Raymond Buildings, Grays Inn,
London WCIR 5BZ.
I am in receipt of your curious letter of 5th February 1981, which is in fact more an attempt at a political polemic than a normal legal communication.
I hereby formally acknowledge sole responsibility for Socialist Organiser, and declare myself to be the publisher and political editor of the paper. The printer’s name was inadvertently left off Socialist Organiser no. 33, but there was a name and address on the paper. The printer’s name and address has appeared on previous issues. There was therefore no intention of evading legal responsibility. I owe you no explanation, and that section of your letter reads like a rather feeble attempt to intimidate the printer. I do offer you the assurance that our relations with the printer are proper commercial relations, without benefit of subsidies from the Arab or any other bourgeoisies.
I note that your letter refers to the headline of my article ‘Gaddafi’s Foreign Legion to Knight’s Rescue’, alleging that it is “one of the very many untrue and defamatory statements and implications about the WRP”, and goes on to contrast it with what you say are “particularly gross libels” and for which you demand a public apology. You make no reference to the clear statements in the text which clearly imply that you are subsidised by the Libyan Government, and perhaps other Arab Governments. Can it be that Ms Redgrave and the organisation for which she is in this affair acting as a front do not consider important what the labour movement believes about their relations with Libya? The implication is inescapable that your client knows that she must treat this as not libellous because it is true and, moreover being true, not something disreputable nor something which places the WRP outside the ranks of the labour movement because they have every appearance of acting as agents within that movement of the bourgeois Libyan Government. The implied admission in your client’s letter is therefore a valuable, if inadvertent, step to admitting the truth and to enlightening the labour movement on matters that concern it.
As regards your client’s reputation, although my article names three prominent leaders of the WRP organisation (Gerry Healy, Cliff Slaughter, Michael Banda) it makes no reference to Vanessa Redgrave. In my view, our readers would not be likely to consider Ms Redgrave to be a member with control of the WRP. In fact, the invocation of Ms Redgrave’s reputation, such as it is, is a transparent hypocrisy. Those who have decided to threaten a legal action obviously regard Ms Redgrave’s reputation, like Ms Redgrave’s money and her publicity value, as an expendable asset. The attempt to invoke the courts against a labour movement publication, like Socialist Organiser, can only tarnish Ms Redgrave in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of labour movement activists who consider it a fundamental breach of principle to involve the bourgeois state in the affairs of the labour movement. In fact, Ms Redgrave’s threatened action will provide topical illustration to show even more clearly that the WRP has, as my article asserted, ceased to be part of the labour movement.
In fact, my article in Socialist Organiser no. 33 (which was written in response to the Newsline editorial of Monday 19th January 1981 which attempted to brand the entire left at the second ‘Local Government in Crisis’ Conference as agents of Thatcher) contains not one single untrue statement or implication about the WRP. Every single statement in the passage you complain of is either true or fair comment and reasonable construction on the stated facts, or both. I would not choose to go to court with you over this. That decision is yours. In the event, however, that you force it on me, I will have no inhibitions or qualms about bringing into court some of the mass of evidence which has accumulated in the labour movement in order to establish that my article was in no way untrue or unfair to the WRP.
In your letter you make the absurd claim that your client’s organisation has “completely refuted” the account of the WRP contained in the publication ‘The Battle for Trotskyism’. This is laughable. One of the prime examples of the mental world of the WRP is the latest pamphlet ‘The Thornett Clique Exposed’ dealing with it. Here I draw your attention to the fact that the cover of that publication consists of a photostat of a document stolen, together with a filing cabinet full of other documents, in a burglary of a house in Oxford in 1977. This burglary was on Alan Thornett’s house. I would be interested in your client’s explanation of where they got this document.
You say that the WRP has gone on record “repeatedly to dissociate itself from any policy of violence in support of its Marxist aims”. This is disingenuous. I know very well that the WRP has publicly disavowed in the courts, during the ‘Observer’ libel case, the Marxis teaching on violence-which is essentially that the bourgeoisie, if faced with defeat by the majority of the people, will impose on the working class the choice to either defend itself and secure its interests by defensive violence or to peacefully accept the alternative which is bloody counter-revolution. My article clearly refers to the internal regime of the WRP. What it said about that regime is, as stated above, factually true and can be substantiated with oral evidence and documents. I want to add here, however, that anything the WRP says, whether by way of denial or affirmation, has little credibility in any existing section of the labour movement which is even slightly familiar with the WRP. That organisation has lied systematically and to a degree never paralleled (except by the Stalinists in the 30s, 40s and 50s) in the entire history of the labour movement, of which the WRP was part until 4 or 5 years ago.
My approach to this matter is governed by the responsibility to tell the truth to the labour movement and to call things by their right names where the WRP is concerned. While I am determined to discharge that responsibility, I nevertheless would not choose to go to court. There can however be no question of gainsaying what I know to be true or of publicly lying for the WRP according to the terms of your proposed letter of apology. I make the following proposals to you however.
1. As I said above, I would be willing publicly to explain that I do not consider Ms Redgrave to be a member with control of the WRP and its policies, with the precise wording of such an explanation to be agreed between us.
2. I would be willing to publish a reply of the same length as my article in Socialist Organiser by Ms Redgrave or even by “the leadership”, namely Mr Gerry Healy. They could probably have had that for the asking, as Socialist Organiser is an open and democratic newspaper. It is offered now, however, only in exchange for one of the following:
(a) an article to be published in Newsline (of the same length as the WRP’s article in Socialist Organiser) by Alan Thornett of the Workers Socialist League, to explain to the readers of Newsline how 20 members of the WRP came to Oxford 2 weeks ago and made a mass distribution at British Leyland’s Cowley plant of a printed broadsheet which, among other things, implied that he was a police agent and was clearly aimed, for the WRP’s own sectarian and. vindictive reasons, to help Michael Edwardes to discredit and then smash the militant rank and file leadership in the Cowley plant;
(b) an article to be published in Newsline (of the same length as the WRP’s article in Socialist Organiser) by George Novack, on behalf of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, to reply to the WRP’s campaign of libel;
(c) an article to be published in Newsline (of the same length as the WRP’s article in Socialist Organiser) by the Stalinist Iraqui Communist Party, the slaughter of whose
members Newsline has publicly justified;
(d) an article to be published in Newsline (of the same length as the WRP’s article in Socialist Organiser) by myself, discussing the recent statement by Colonel Gaddafi calling for the rehabilitation of Hitler and Nazism.
3. I do not consider the WRP to be part of the labour movement any longer. The WRP however pretends that it is. I propose that a working class movement inquiry be set up to investigate the statements in my article and contribute to the public debate on the issue, with the composition and other details of the inquiry to be agreed between us.
4. I would be willing to publish a clarification about the point on violence, explaining clearly that for anyone who knows the WRP the idea that the “leadership” would contemplate violence against the bourgeois state is an absurdity. That, however, would he done in such a way as to make our own Marxist views clear.
Yours faithfully, Sean Matgamna.