Born in Ballybane, County Galway, Ireland, he emigrated to England and worked as a ship radio operator at the age of 14. He soon joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, but then left to join the Trotskyist Militant Group in 1937. He then left to become one of the founders of the Workers International League, led by Jock Haston and Ralph Lee.
Healy's period in the WIL was difficult and he threatened to resign several times and was actually expelled and readmitted. He was in the group when it came to form the Revolutionary Communist Party, but grew closer to the leadership of the Fourth International, effectively the leadership of the American Socialist Workers Party and their representative in Britain, Sam Gordon. They encouraged Healy to form a faction, and to take that group into the Labour Party. In 1950, he was rewarded as the RCP voted to dissolve itself into his faction, which became known as The Club.
In 1953, Healy joined the split in the Fourth International instigated by James P. Cannon and was soon nominal leader of the International Committee of the Fourth International. The Club recruited a substantial number of former members of the Communist Party of Great Britain after they became disillusioned with Stalinism after the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party which brought Khrushchev's allegations about Stalin and the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. This qualitatively changed the ability of Healy's group to carry out activity and they launched The Newsletter as a regular weekly paper in 1958. He reconstituted The Club as the Socialist Labour League in 1959, and then in 1973 as the Workers Revolutionary Party.
In 1974 a group of members around Alan Thornett, then a leading militant in the automobile industry at Cowley, departed from the party. Part of this group would form the Workers Socialist League. From this point the WRP lost members and became ever more isolated from the rest of the labour movement. However, they remained sizeable and wealthy enough to produce a daily newspaper. Much of the monies for this printing enterprise coming from subsidies and printing contracts with various Middle Eastern regimes as internal reports later proved. They supplemented their income by printing newspapers for leading figures of the Labour Left such as George Galloway and the Labour Herald for Ted Knight, a former member of the SLL, and Ken Livingstone. Healy forged a friendship with Livingstone. The Herald also served as a vehicle for the WRP limited entrist operation in this period.
Healy's regime within The Club, SLL and WRP was marked by demands for a high level of activism. An exception to the requirement for 24/7 activism was made for participants in the SLL's cultural front activities set up to attract actors and writers, at least until they became full party members.
By 1985, concern as to Healy's financial, political and intelligence links with the Libyan and Iraqi governments had risen within the WRP to the point at which the group imploded, the final straw being revelations from long time associate Aileen Jennings concerning Healy's alleged (but never proven) abuse of female members of his movement. Healy described the allegations as a smokescreen for those who had become disappointed with revolutionary politics, following the defeat of the miners' strike. The result was that Jennings disappeared and the WRP collapsed into many tiny, competing, groups.
In 1985 Healy was expelled from the WRP and it promptly split in several parts. One version of the group producing a version of their daily paper headlined "Healy Expelled" while his WRP produced a totally different version. Healy's WRP continued until what he saw as unconstitutional manoeuvres by the Torrance leadership led him to form another new group. Formed in 1987, the Marxist Party had very few members, but did retain the allegiance of Vanessa Redgrave, the best known member of the WRP. One faction within the WRP supported the perspective advanced by the ICFI and Workers League National Secretary David North. They formed the WRP (Internationalist), later renamed the International Communist Party and, in 1996, the Socialist Equality Party.
In his old age Healy would claim that the disintegration of the WRP was due to the intervention of MI5 and came to the conclusion that Mikhail Gorbachev represented the looked for political revolution in the USSR.
Healy died at the age of 76 in the UK from natural causes. He is depicted as Frank Hood of the Hoodlums in Tariq Ali's satire Redemption (Chatto & Windus 1990 ISBN 0-7011-3394-5).
A full political biography of Healy was published by Lupus Books in 1994: Gerry Healy, A Revolutionary Life, by Corinna Lotz and Paul Feldman, Healy's political secretary and close collaborator (ISBN 0-9523454-0-4).
Bob Pitt's study The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy, originally serialised in Workers News, is available in a revised and expanded version on the What Next? website.
David North wrote a political biography entitled Gerry Healy and his place in the history of the Fourth International (ISBN 0-929087-58-5).
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