The Healyites

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Mon Nov 6 22:34:09 MST 2000

The most useful book on the SLL/WRP may well be Alan Thornett's 'From
Militancy to Marxism'.

These days Thornett is part of the FI (USec), but he was a leading
industrial militant in the Healy movement in the late 60s and early 70s,
when the SLL/WRP was at its biggest.  I think his book is generally fair -
it points to certain strong points of the SLL, while also showing the
degeneration of the organisation.

Of course, there is a sense in which the SLL - like all these groups - was
highly problematic right from the start (ie Zinovievism).  But given that
the SLL and the (much looser organised) IS of the early 70s actually had
small, but real, bases in the working class - through recruiting on the
factory floor, not sending students to colonise industry a la Barnes -
these are experiences that shouldn't just be ignored thirty years on.

Their real presence in the working class also meant that they attracted
many of the best elements of the younger intelligentsia/cultural milieu as
well (left academics, artists, musicians, actors etc).

And some of these people made important contributions in terms of articles,
books etc.  For instance, Healyites like Tom Kemp and Geoff Pilling - where
they could escape the madman looking over their shoulder and dictating to
them to stick in paragraphs about the immense implosion of capitalism,
imminent onset of fascism, world war 3, and FBI/CIA-baiting of Novack,
Hansen and
Mandel - actually wrote some very good stuff.  Kemp's (post Healyite) 'The
Climax of Capitalism' (abut the US) is very good, as is (apart from some
unnecessary attacks on the USec FI) his 1980 'Marx's "Capital" Today'.
Pilling's 'Marx's "Capital": philosophy and political economy' is
outstanding and should be read alongside Roman Rosdolsky's brilliant 'The
Making of Marx's "Capital"' and I.I. Rubin's 'Essays on Marx's Theory of

Philip Ferguson

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