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Vanessa Redgrave and the Red Sex Slaves: A Marxist Analysis, er..

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Leftist Trainspotters of the world are fascinated by this story,

Vanessa Redgrave and the red sex slaves: How her bid to start Marxist revolution plunged her into bizarre scandal

By Tim Adler (from his The House of Redgrave.)

Aside from its radical politics, part of the appeal of the WRP for the Redgraves was its leader, Gerry Healy, who became a kind of father figure.

Like all leaders of cults, he maintained his personal domination by isolating members from their families and the outside world. Despite his contempt for the female sex, he gave Vanessa carte blanche to pursue her career, while Corin was swamped with Party work. Brendan Martin, a WRP member, said that Healy also extended to her ‘the privilege of having a lover who was not in the Party’….


Nothing, it seemed, could rock Vanessa’s steely allegiance to the WRP. So everyone wondered which way she’d jump when it was  suddenly split apart by a huge sex scandal in 1985.  

At the age of 73, the squat and unattractive Gerry Healy had been accused of ‘gross sexual misconduct’ and expelled by the Party he’d founded. It turned out that he’d had sex with at least 26 comrades, and — in the words of the West Croydon branch — had ‘turned women into his sexual slaves’. As trades unionist Roy Lockett revealed: ‘He told the girls it was their revolutionary duty.’

It also transpired that he’d slept with the daughter of two of his closest friends and then beaten her up, leaving her almost crippled.

Vanessa did what she always did: she held a Press conference. ‘These allegations are all lies and the women who are supposed to have made them are all liars,’ she raged. ‘I don’t care whether it’s 26, 36 or 236 — they’re all liars.’

Corin insisted what Healy did in his spare time was his business, adding that he was ‘neither for,  nor against, rape’ but ‘for the  social revolution’.

Afterwards, Michael Banda, the newly-elected leader of the WRP, blasted the Redgraves for defending ‘the corrupt sexual practices of a “leader” who thinks nothing of abusing his political authority to degrade women and girl comrades’.

Proceedings then descended into farce. The Redgrave faction tried to expel Banda. And Banda expelled the Redgraves.

Blaming MI5 propaganda for  Healy’s downfall, Vanessa and Corin left the WRP and named their breakaway faction ‘The Marxist Party’.

So now there were two parties, each with its own newspaper and each fighting for control of the party’s  £1.5 million war chest — much of it donated by Libya, Iraq and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

Banda described Vanessa’s new Party as a ‘bogus WRP, bereft of all credibility, detested and reviled by the vast majority of members’.

…..(Fast-forward to the present)…

She did, however, have a string of new causes: among them, opposition to the Iraq war, defending human rights in Chechnya and demanding the closure of Guantanamo Bay. For once, however, her views have been in tune with a substantial section of the middle classes.

Many leftists find it hard to understand why Vanessa Redgrave has been allowed to pontificate in the mainstream media – as she does – about any issue to do with human rights at all.

More from the Daily Mail, the leftist’s friend,  Here.

Bob Pitt gave a detailed and important account of the WRP’s history in full some time ago – here. 

It remains worth reading.

On the facts related above Pit says,

The final nail in Healy’s political coffin was the eruption of a sexual scandal centring on his corrupt relations with women comrades. Again, there was nothing new in this. Back in the early 1950s, Healy had been in trouble after propositioning of daughter of a prominent figure in the Fourth International.3 In 1964 an SLL control commission had been held over Healy’s relationship with a leader of the Young Socialists.4 And one of the background issues to the 1974 split in the WRP was the rejection of Healy’s advances by a woman supporter of Thornett.5All of this, however, had been kept from the membership, the majority of whom reacted with shock and outrage after Healy’s corruption was exposed in a letter by his longtime secretary Aileen Jennings.

What was the character of this sexual abuse? It was later stated that the women Healy pressurised into having sexual relations with him ‘mistakenly believed that the revolution – in the form of the “greatest” leader demanded this, the most personal sacrifice of all. They were not coerced … physically, but every pressure was brought to bear on them as revolutionaries’. The situation was ‘not so much rape but … sexual abuse by someone in a position of power and trust’. It was, Dave Bruce comments, ‘wholesale sexual corruption in a manner analogous to these religious sects. There’s a very close parallel’.

This extract, on the aftermath of this and other scandals which broke up the WRP, is also worth citing,

Almost immediately after the split, the Banda-Slaughter grouping itself began to fragment. In February 1986 supporters of David North, led by Dave Hyland, were kicked out with all the WRP’s usual contempt for democratic procedure. Adopting the name of the International Communist Party, the Northites quickly relapsed into sectarian ultra-leftism, adopting the Bordigist position that the trade unions are no longer workers’ organisations having been entirely incorporated into the capitalist state. Mike Banda and his supporters soon decided that the WRP’s collapse was due to fundamental flaws not in Healy’s politics but in Trotsky’s, and in Banda’s case subsequently evolved towards support for left Stalinism and ‘third world’ nationalism.

As for the Slaughter-led WRP, under Dave Bruce’s editorship its paper Workers Press did for a while become a forum for serious political discussion, and the organisation briefly showed at least the potential to reassess its own past and make some positive developments. Any such potential was destroyed, however, as longstanding Healyite hacks like Pilling and Slaughter reasserted their domination over the group. The WRP/Workers Press soon reverted to proclaiming itself and its co-thinkers to be the sole legitimate continuation of the Fourth International, publishing fatuous contributions concerning ‘the struggle against Pabloism’, answering its critics with slanderous attacks and demonstrating general contempt for Trotskyism’s basic political positions – Healyism, in short, without Healy. Having arrived at this sectarian dead end, in late 1996 the ‘party’ ceased publication of Workers Pressand formally wound itself up.

Could things have turned out any differently? It is doubtful. The organisation Healy had built possessed no tradition of internal democracy – oppositional minorities were simply anathematised and driven out. Consequently, nobody in the WRP had the slightest experience of conducting a principled factional struggle. And the party’s actual politics were so far removed from Marxism that informed political debate was virtually impossible. Indeed, the Healyite movement was so rotten that there was no real prospect of the organisation as a whole being regenerated. The most that could be hoped for was that some elements might emerge from the wreckage and evolve in a politically healthy direction. They proved to be painfully few.

Sean Matgamna gives a pithy summary of Healy’s political career:  here.


Written by Andrew Coates

May 19, 2011 at 11:37 am

Posted in Conspiracies, Marxism, Trotskyism

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. I recommend Tim Wohlforth’s account in The prophet’s children about his time as Healy’s American vice-roy … he even voted for his own expulsion on a CC meeting


    May 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm

  2. The real problem that has yet to be explained is that the WRP, from its SLL days, had a layer of quite sincere and rational leftists, many of whom were trade unionists (and originally EQUITY played only a minor role in the WRP’s life).

    These people, if often dour and a bit dogmatic like the Lambertists were often respected activists in bodies like Trades Councils. Indeed like the Lambertists, they were frequently ‘hidden’ in the movement. But, as I say, not ‘cult’ material in quite the way this book describes.

    Yet some stayed through the initial wave of mad politics (Britian faced a Bonapartist coup in the 1970s, support for Arab ‘anti-imperialism’ seeping into collaboration with Baathism as well as Gaddafi), and the split away of their best trade unionists (like Thornett).

    Even if Vanessa Redgrave is morally contemptible and worthy of public shunning, this was not the case with everyone drawn into Healy’s orbit.

    Andrew Coates

    May 19, 2011 at 12:45 pm

  3. I know, they “harvested” some of the best people who left the CPGB after 1956, e.g. Peter Fryer or Brian Pearce


    May 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

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