Gerry Healy


Defend our Democratic rights



G. Healy

(National Secretary of the Socialist Labour League)

Workers Press 24 February 1973

   These are the gravest days in the history of the British Labour Movement. The Tory government has set the stage for an inevitable and unavoidable confrontation with the working class. They are preparing the most monstrous attacks on the labour and trade union movement and must be forced to resign.

   The object of their attacks is Crystal clear; to preserve their corrupt, exploitative system, the Tories have to reverse history and take back all the basic democratic rights which the working class has won in two centuries of struggle.

   Initially, this could involve the imprisonment of thousands of workers all over the country and closing down of workers’ news-papers.

   One of the great dangers of the moment is that there is too much political sleep-walking going on. Stunned by the swift deterioration of the economic and political situation, workers are not grasping the enormity of the conspiracy which is being prepared against them.

   Yet it is no secret that the political police are engaging in the most feverish surveillance of groups on the left and rank and file committees.

   The Special Branch has already drawn up a two-stage plan to attack the workers movement.  First, there will be raids on members’ houses in an attempt to intimidate supporters, particularly those in the provinces.  And, secondly, the known leaders will be arrested on trumped-up charges at a time when state of emergency powers will be operating.  

    Workers Press has been in the forefront in exposing the activities of the police spies.

   We reproduced evidence from an ex-MI6 agent that the political police secretly tape-recorded a conversation between miners’ leaders and a senior Communist Party member during the miners’ strike.

   We vigorously came to the defence of the International Socialism Group when the homes of many of its members were raided by police last year.

   We have fought to expose the telephone tappers and mail openers who continually harass our own activities in the workers movement.

   All these incidents demonstrate that the police state is all but here. This repressive apparatus has been constructed without the approval – or even the knowledge – of Parliament or the public.

   Now, finally, under another cloud of secrecy, it is learned that the British police are armed. And they have been operating “shoot-to-kill” squads for the past two months.

   Ulster has come to Britain.

   There is only one force capable of repelling the violence being plotted by the Tories and their minions. That is the working class united in struggle in defence of its democratic rights.

   The Socialist Labour League insists and will always insist that a conflict over basic political differences is vital in the building of a genuine revolutionary Marxist movement

   Such a discussion can take place in Britain at the moment in public because of the centuries of struggle by the working class to win democratic rights, such as the freedom of speech.

   No such democratic confrontation could be held in countries where there is dictatorship.

   Make no mistake about it, the Tories are such a dictatorship.

   The responsibility for defending the rights of the working class  rests with the Labour Party, the Communist Party, the IS, the International Marxist Group, the SLL and others on the left.

   Since the founding days of the Trotskyist movement the SLL has pledged itself to come to the defence of all groups and tendencies in the Labour movement irrespective of our political differences, if they are attacked by the class enemy.

   What is now needed is a meeting of all these groups and parties to issue a joint declaration that, as an integral part of the defence of the basic democratic rights of the working class, they will provide the staunchest support for each other in the event of either of our organisations being singled out for attacks by the Tories.

   The SLL is ready to proceed immediately with such a meeting and discussion.

   The political differences between organisations concerned must go on being discussed as they are now.

   We say, make your criticisms of the SLL as sharp as you like; we only ask the right to reply in the same way.

   All we are saying – and every serious worker will say – is that when the Tories attack our democratic rights, then an injury to one is an injury to all.

   We say to the Labour Party, to the Communist Party, to IS and IMG – the defence of the democratic rights of the working class means mobilising the working class to bring down the Tory government.

    That is our political perspective.

   But it is not necessary to agree with us on that in order to agree with what we are proposing.

   The political experiences of the coming period will clarify the questions … and before very long.