8 January 2004


I missed this in the holiday hiatus: a letter from Charlie Pottins to the Weekly Worker website on the Workers' Revolutionary Party's relationship to Saddam Hussein (for full version click here and scroll down).

"When I joined News Line [the WRP daily] at its launch in 1976, it was no secret that our leader, Gerry Healy, was soliciting funds from the Middle East, but we didn’t realise how far this would go. Under the guise of supporting the Arab peoples against imperialism and Zionism, Healy insisted on slavishly following the line of Arab regimes and leaders - not always easy when they were competing with each other to betray their peoples and pretended cause!

"To my shame, I accepted a report that the Ba’athist regime was conceding autonomy to the Kurds, but I was shocked when Healy denied the Kurds were a nation entitled to rights . . . Then in November 1977 I made the mistake of ‘prematurely’ criticising the Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat, or suggesting the PLO had done so. I was removed from News Line’s foreign desk and sent to the Midlands to cover the firefighters’ strike. After the strike I was sacked.

"Hostilities between Iraqi intelligence services and the PLO put the News Line in a spot, as did the later outbreak of war between Iraq and Iran, but, when Saddam Hussein was attacking his own people, Healy had no problem deciding whom to support. This one-time ‘revolutionary’ had enjoyed VIP treatment and a motorcycle escort on his trip to Baghdad.

"The WRP came up with excuses for the execution of Iraqi Communist Party members, even calling a mass meeting to back the Iraqi regime. But that was not all. News Line photographers took pictures of a student demonstration outside the Iraqi embassy, probably assuming it was just a normal reporting task. But, when Healy asked them to make blow-ups to deliver to the embassy, one at least had the temerity to refuse, and she quit.

"In 1985 the WRP blew apart, and that’s when the truth about the leadership’s corruption came out. Unable to face the music, Healy and his loyal acolytes took off, with as many documents, etc as they could grab. One they forgot, left in Alex Mitchell’s desk, was a secret report on a visit to the Gulf states, during which Healy and Vanessa Redgrave had an audience with the Emir of Kuwait, but refused to meet Kuwaiti oppositionists, reporting their approach to the authorities instead.

"The ordinary members of the WRP had known none of this, and even the central committee had little idea what had been going on. But inexcusably, some of those who should have known refused to believe or admit anything when the truth began to come out. These are leading the present rump WRP and publishing News Line with money from I don’t know where. Sheila Torrance, until recently its general secretary, told people in 1985 that she could not see why they were making a fuss over 'a few Iraqi Stalinists' getting killed."

No comments: