Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Healyites, Messengers of Qaddafi (1977)

Workers Vanguard No. 158 (20 May 1977)

Healyites, Messengers of Qaddafi

Something stinks in News Line, daily garbage organ of the British Healyite Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) -and it's not simply that it continues these political bandits’ unsavory record of sectarianism, Stalinist gangsterism and egregious opportunism. Ever since News Line’s inception on May 1976, it has been a mouthpiece for the megalomaniacal ravings and “people's democracy” pretensions of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. Month after month articles in News Line have lauded the dictator in weirdly shameless fashion, hailing his “agricultural revolution,” his support to the “Arab Revolution,” detailing his every attack on the “high treason” of Egypt's Anwar Sadat, and so forth.

Thus a brief article in the 26 February News Line hailed the London publication of the Libyan strongman's Green Book as “an uncompromising rejection of parliamentary democracy in favour of ‘the authority of the people’.” Two Labour MP's who pushed the book were taken to task for giving it “a patronizing send-off”; their praise of the Green Book as “challenging, stimulating, moral” is evidently insufficiently fulsome for the WRP’s taste. Qaddafi’s Healyite press agents complain that his “writings and his drive towards people's democracy hardly received the attention they deserve.”

The WRP has in the last year been making up for that with a vengeance. Over 20 articles on Libya have appeared in News Line, not to mention a considerable increase in “special reports” from Tripoli and attacks on Sadat’s Egypt. News Line's castigation of Egypt, described as “near bankruptcy,” for its repression of leftists is completely in accord with Qaddafi's feud with Sadat – and contrasts sharply with the Healyites’ silence on repression in Libya.

An article in the 14 October 1976 News Line, for instance, discussed a BBC television interview with Qaddafi and dismissed the interviewer's inquiry into political prisoners in Libya as one of the bourgeois media’s “stock-in-trade questions.” News Line smugly added, “Gaddafi was unmoved, saying that they were ‘enemies of the revolution’.” The Healyites praised the program for having “broken at least part of the Gaddafi enigma and answered some of the US State Department and Zionist lies,” but complained that the interview was not shown on prime time:

“Miss Kewley's profile rightly belonged in the BBC’s prestige slot, ‘Panorama’.
“It is a measure of the censorship on television that it was squeezed into
the ‘religious programmes’ department where it could not do justice to the subject of Islam or its leading advocate.”

What is perhaps most curious is that Workers Press, the previous Healyite daily –which folded in February 1976 with the presumption of “lack of funds” – paid little or no attention to Qaddafi and his so-called “Revolutionland.” In the six months prior to its collapse, we could locate only one article in Workers Press dealing specifically with Libya, and this was implicitly critical of Qaddafi, reporting a protest by Libyan students in London against the police slaughter of “at least 16 students” at a demonstration at Libya’s Benghazi University (Workers Press, 14 January 1976). On 8 September 1976 News Line carried a centerfold spread on Tripoli’s “anniversary celebration” of Qaddafi’s military coup. Boasting huge photos and snide comments about the bourgeois press’ lack of coverage of the glorious event, News Line’s spread on “Libya's Day” was a sharp departure from the silence of Workers Press the year before. Something has changed, and it wasn’t the Qaddafi regime.


We are more than happy to give Qaddafi’s policies “the attention they deserve.” Qaddafi is fanatical in his devotion to the Koran, which sanctifies the feudal enslavement of women and prescribes legal punishments such as cutting off the tongues of liars and the hands of thieves. At least 700 political prisoners have been reported held in Libyan jails. Regarding one trial of 17 prisoners (acquitted in 1974) against whom Qaddafi personally intervened to impose new sentences of life imprisonment and death, Amnesty International recently noted: “The accused were allegedly Marxists, Trotskyists, and members of the Islamic Liberation Party” (Intercontinental Press, 4 April I977). Qaddafi's 1973 “cultural revolution" laid out his “Five Principles,” including:
“We must purge all the sick people who talk of Communism, atheism, who make propaganda for the Western countries and advocate capitalism. We shall put them in prison.”

“We live by the Koran, God’s book. We will reject any idea that is not based on it. Therefore we enter into a cultural revolution to refute and destroy all misleading books which have made youth sick and insane.”
– New York Times, 22 May 1973

Qaddafi’s idea of “refutation” is simple: he ordered “the burning of books that contain imperialist, capitalist, reactionary, Jewish or Communist thoughts” (New York Times, 18 April 1973).


The sordid history of the Healyites is replete with examples of slavering enthusiasm for left-talking “Third World” nationalists and Stalinists. Workers Press gratuitously proffered “leftist” cheerleading to assorted petty-bourgeois anti-working-class formations, from the Maoist Red Guards to the Angolan MPLA. But the WRP’s pandering to Qaddafi is surely a new low.

Perhaps the most disgusting was a full-page “special News Line interview” with Hamied Jallud, general secretary of the “Libyan trade union federation, equivalent of the British TUC” (14 September 1976). To News Line questions about collective bargaining and the right to strike, the Qaddafi bureaucrats replied, “The role of the trade unions in socialist countries is completely different from capitalist countries”! After all, “the responsibility of the trade unions is to educate the workers and increase production”; Qaddafi's “General People's Congress” will look after the workers' interests. The WRP’s shameless presentation of Qaddafi's repression of the Libyan working class leaves no doubt of its utter subjugation before this capitalist dictator.

News Line hailed the “General People's Congress” held in early March in Shebha, a small desert village distinguished by Qaddafi’s having gone to school there. Fidel Castro was the guest of honor as the “Congress” renamed Libya the “People's Socialist Libyan Arab Public” (sic) and kicked off Qaddafi's “Third Universal Principle” which he modestly claims solves “the problem of democracy.”

The Healyites have had some “problems” with “democracy” themselves; their solution has generally been to beat up political opponents. Qaddafi, who-unlike the WRP-holds state power, has worked out a more elaborate schema. His little Green Book explains that “both administration and supervision become popular” through “committees everywhere” – while Qaddafi becomes head of the “General People's Congress” which runs everything and is so “popular” that it meets once a year. The sinister meaning of this “solution” comes out in the slogans pasted up around Shebha: “Parliaments are defunct.” “representation is a fraud” and “Parties are treason” (London Guardian, 3 March 1977).

“Parties are treason” – what about the Workers Revolutionary Party? In this “People’s Public” where communists are to be jailed and butchered and their books burned, ostensible leftists would have to do some pretty peculiar things to survive – and News Line has made it clear the WRP would be more than willing to do them. The London Times (6 September 1976) reported:
The repression... in Libya has not, of course, weakened the interest of
left-wing groups in other countries. Representatives of Miss Vanessa Redgrave's Workers' Revolutionary Party, for instance, have visited Libya three times in the past twelve months. Nor has it diminished the affection of those countries like Malta, which feel, with some reason, that Colonel Qaddafi has proved to be their only friend.”

Malta’s reasons are obvious. About to be impoverished by the closing of NATO bases, Malta is now dependent on Qaddafi's aid to remain solvent. The mendicant guerrillas who flock to Tripoli seeking Soviet-made arms and Libyan oil money reportedly have included Muslim secessionists from the Philippines and Ethiopia, opponents of anti-Qaddafi Arab regimes (Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco), the Provisional IRA and various Palestinian organizations. Naturally, such groups do not bite the hand that feeds them and have accorded Qaddafi a high place in the pantheon of “anti-imperialist” leaders.


Workers Press, which folded on 14 February 1976, titled itself the “Daily Organ of the Central Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party.” Heavy publicity in the preceding months for the paper’s “Crisis Fund” and dire warnings that “the future of the paper is in doubt” would lead to the presumption that it closed up shop for lack of funds. Yet the “Final Edition” Editorial Board statement does not explicitly say so; instead, the Healyites tersely announce that their printing firm, Plough Press, will cease operations.

The Healyites, normally so fond of denying inconvenient reports on the grounds of their bourgeois sources, hid behind an abstract and irrelevant set of statistics from one of the great bourgeois interests, the British Printing Industrial Federation, on “rises in general expenses” increasing printing costs. For two and a half months no Healyite newspaper appeared. Then News Line sprang to life – but not as any kind of party organ – with a format which included paid advertising. At about that same time Healy was replaced by Mike Banda as WRP general secretary.

The WRP ranks have been kept busy with the usual treks across England – and lately the “Children's Crusade” across Europe – designed in part to keep them too exhausted to notice their corrupt leaders’ maneuvering. But even a cursory look at News Line’s year-long pandering to the oil-rich Qaddafi forces the observation that there is indeed something very rotten in the state of Denmark.