Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Happened to Peter Fryer (1986)

Spartacist No. 38-39 (Summer 1986)


What Happened to Peter Fryer

London, December 17, 1985

Editorial Board
New York, NY

Dear Comrades,
I have just read with great interest the account in your Winter 1985-86 issue of what you aptly term the implosion of Healyism. You include on page 27 some friendly, and, I fear, unduly flattering references to me. I hope you have space for a few corrections and amplifications.

“Healy and Fryer had some kind of falling-out.” In fact, after two and a half years' close daily work with Healy. I had reached the conclusion that he was a gangster and that I could no longer continue to associate with him. So I quite the Socialist Labour League giving my reasons in an open letter to the members which was issued in the autumn of 1959.

No doubt it would have been better to stay in nd fight. But I had been exhausted by the bitter struggle in the Communist Party - my expulsion and unsuccessful appeal - and the gruelling work of building The Newsletter and the SLL. I simply didn't have the stomach, or the energy, or the appetite for a further bitter fight against a further set of of cynical and unscrupulous opponents. And I frankly admit, I was more than a little afraid of Healy, whose favourite method with dissenters was, in those days, a knock on the door by him and his thugs at two o'clock in the morning.

But I didn't go to Portugal to run away from Healy. Nor was I accompanied by my wife and my mother. I went with my then companion, Patricia McGowan Pinheiro, and our purpose was to write a book together. That book, Oldest Ally: A Portrait of Salazar's Portugal, was published in 1961.

I have never written a book with the title The Anthropology of Sex Through the Ages, or anything remotely resembling it. My books “on sex” were the following: Mrs Grundy: Studies in English Prudery (1963), a social history of contraception; and Private Case - Public Scandal (1966), an attack on the censorship at that time practised in the British Museum Library.

James Robertson asks: “What happened to Peter Fryer?” I'll tell him. My most recent book, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, was published by Pluto Press in 1984. I am still working in the field of black history, and I have two projects in hand: a history of black people in the British Empire; and an anthology (which I am compling in collaboration with Rozina Visram) of black writing in Britain since the eighteenth century.

In general, I think your account of the events of 1956-59 grossly overestimates my personal role and contribution. But, leaving that aside, the portrait of Healy that emerges is instantly recognizable to all honest people who have ever had dealings with him.

Yours fraternally,

Peter Fryer

Spartacist replies: We thank comrade Fryer for his information and comments regarding Spartacist No. 36-37, “Healyism Implodes."“ ”