Jim Higgins

The Fall of the Mekon

(9 November 1985)

From the Spectator, 9 November 1985, p.22.
Published here with kind permission of the Spectator.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Jim Higgins reviews the career of Gerry Healy, Trotskyite and alleged womaniser

“God,” so they say, “does not pay his debts in money”. I was reminded of this wise old maxim when the news broke that Gerry Healy had been expelled from his creation the Workers Revolutionary Party for allegedly using his exalted position to extract sexual favours from young female comrades. For some 50 years, Healy has graced, or rather disgraced, the British Trotskyist movement. In that time, by a combination of low cunning, skullduggery and verbal and physical abuse, he has created almost as many ex-Trotskyists as Joe Stalin. It would not have surprised me at any time in the last 30 years it he had been expelled for grievous bodily harm, but that it should be for grievous bodily charm is extraordinary.

Physically, Gerry Healy is probably the least prepossessing man I have ever seen. Short, very stout and with an extremely large head that grows directly out of his torso, he is for all the world closest in appearance to the Mekon, that fearsome tyrant from the planet Venus, whose plans for universal domination were foiled by Dan Dare in the pages of the Eagle. The similarity does not end there: like the Mekon Healy is given to wild, splenetic rages when crossed.

On one famous occasion, a dissident member of the organisation was speaking at a meeting of the central committee, justifying his position. His speech was continually interrupted by Healy, who, becoming exasperated by the comrade’s (shortly to become an ex-comrade) persistence, gave tongue to the immortal phrase: “Stop speaking when I am interrupting.”

Reports that Healy has notched up a string of amorous successes are perhaps a significant plus for that dialectical proposition about the interpenetration of opposites. They are even more astonishing in the light of the fact that in the past Healy, has used the romantic indiscretions of his comrades to line them up in support of whatever factional dispute he happened to be conducting at the time. At his party’s summer camps and schools, the sexes were rigidly segregated and “purity patrols” were appointed to seek out and separate young internationalists whose political discussions were becoming too intimate.

That he found time for his dalliances is something that has surprised seasoned Healy-watchers. One thing however, that Healy has in abundance is energy. His schedule is formidable; hardly a day passes when he is not speaking at some meeting or another. In addition, he fits in political writing (in a style likened by one critic to a sandbag dragged through a puddle of glue), plotting and conspiring with a dedication to heresy hunting that would have put Titus Oates to shame.

Over the decades, it is this heresy hunting, that Healy has developed to a fine art. Let there be one dissident in John O’Groats and he will spring into his car and drive for hours to bring the traitor to book. Another ploy, which he has refined, is the midnight knock on the door for those thought to be wavering from strict orthodoxy, to engage in long and acrimonious theoretical discussions. Even the most stalwart has been known to wilt by five a.m. the next morning. Again, one of his smoother innovations – in the development of democratic centralism – has been what might be called “guilt by vote”. In this stratagem, a prominent oppositionist is expelled on whatever charge seems handiest. A resolution pledging support for the expulsion is then moved in all branches of the organisation and those who vote against it automatically expel themselves. Thus are anti-party elements kept to a minimum and their tenure made breathtakingly brief.

How, you might ask, did anyone as personally and politically repulsive as Healy maintain himself in a leading role in an organisation claiming direct links with anything as world-shattering as the Russian revolution and the civilised and fastidious personality of Leon Trotsky, let alone, as is claimed, notch up it tally of seductions that would make a man a third of his age seriously look to his laurels. Why did they put up with it? There are those who would point to a textbook on morbid psychology to find the answer to this mystery, but they are probably wrong. Because, despite all of the shifts and turns of Healy’s policies – as an open revolutionary in the 1940s, as an entryist in the Labour Party and a close supporter of the Bevanites in the 1950s, taking in during that decade Liverpool dockers and London building workers, through the campaign in the Young Socialists in the 1960s, then back to the open party in the 1970s and loving up to the “petit bourgeois nationalist”, Gaddafi – he has always been surrounded by a cadre of young, middle-class acolytes. It is to them that he has represented himself as the continuity of the movement made flesh, the heir to Lenin and Trotsky. Before this living embodiment of the Bolshevik vanguard, nothing less than total submission will do.

Dedication above and beyond the rigorous life of a Trappist monk is demanded. Meetings seven days a week, financial contributions of swingeing severity, large paper sale quotas and total loyalty to a wildly shifting political line, are a small price to pay for the emancipation of the world’s workers, particularly if you feel guilty about a comparatively privileged past and present. So great has this remorse been for some of the young and impressionable lady comrades that they seem, according to accusations, to have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Now he has been exposed, angry parents of young females lobby the central committee for redress and even his chosen successor, Michael Banda, has turned on him, leaving him bereft of support from all but the wilder reaches of the actors’ trade union. In a sense it is ironic that a man who spent 50 years attempting the revolutionary overthrow of international capitalism should be brought low by a series of sordid peccadilloes in a succession of Clapham apartments, with the ultimate indignity of having to dispatch Corin Redgrave to collect his old age pension book and wages from the party headquarters in which he can no longer set foot, a humiliation he had visited on many other full-time workers in the past.

With luck this will be the last we shall hear of him. If so, then I cannot improve on the concluding passage of a letter of resignation from his organisation by a tough-spirited lady comrade: “Goodbye, it has been very unpleasant knowing you.” [1]



1. Supposed to have been said by Jan Pallis, wife of Chris Pallis. – Note by TC


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