History,  Trots

From the Vaults: The News Line, May 7, 1976

A key difference between the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), formed in 1973, and other Trotskyist parties was that the WRP had a daily newspaper. This meant that Party members had to spend a lot more of their time selling the Party organ than members of other Trotskyist groups.  But there was something similar between the WRP and other Trotskyist groups—the never ending rounds of raising money from members.  .

A problem can arise if members’ contributions and receipts from sales of newspapers, which could be the same thing, together with further donations, which could be from the same people, do not cover the costs of allowing the party to produce a newspaper. This was the situation with Workers Press, the daily newspaper of the WRP.  Due to a severe financial crisis the paper’s final edition was published on Valentine’s Day 1976.

At the beginning of May 1976 The News Line commenced as the new daily newspaper of the party. Often produced with full colour pages and it always had a sports section.  Where the money came from for this publication was widely suspected and suggested but always denied: Libya.

After the party had spectacularly exploded into many new factions following the expulsion of Gerry Healy, the party’s leader, partly as a result of him sexually abusing at least  26 female members of the party, many of whom were quite young, a report was produced that showed that the Party had received a minimum of £500,000 from Libya and possibly substantially more.

The report, which was internally generated, stated that an agreement had been reached between Libya and the WRP whereby:

This agreement includes providing of intelligence information on the “activities, names and positions held in finance, politics, busi­ness, the communications media and elsewhere” by “Zionists”. It has strongly anti-Semitic undertones, as no distinction is made between Jews and Zionists and the term Zionist could actually include every Jew in a leading position.

The relationship between Libya and the WRP was so close that even in their hagiography,  Gerry Healy: A Revolutionary Life, which I really would not recommend, Corinna Lotz and Paul Feldman admit (p.47, p.274) that Healy was flown back to London on Colonel’s Gaddafi’s private jet on one of his numerous  Libyan trips.

A reason why it was widely suspected that Libya was funding the party was the glowing tributes that The News Line paid to Libya and Colonel Gaddafi. One does not need to look far for these tributes as they commenced in the first week of the newspaper’s existence.  Below I copy an extract from one of those first week articles. It is a shame that I cannot also copy one of the photos that was attached to the article. The one I would have liked to have done contained the caption: “Libyan President Colonel Gaddafi rides his white Arab steed past cheering crowds.”

May Day in Libya

Special report from Tripoli

The News Line, May 7, 1976, pp.8-9.

…. Here it is not called May Day but the Spring Festival. Everywhere great lines of Peugeots, VWs and Datsun and Toyota pick-up trucks….

Today, along with about 10,000 people, the horsemen are here again, in traditional clothes, on fine lean horses, many with guns.

In a hot spring sun there’s an unrelenting build up in the crowd.

Everywhere a great display of placards with pictures of Gaddafi….

Banners from different groups of workers and youth and from various villages, all re-dedicating their solidarity with the ‘Great First of September Revolution’ , are waving and rising and falling….

Today the great release of revolutionary energy that began on September 1, 1969, will roar on non-stop till 8.30 in the evening; slogans, rhythmic, firm hand clapping, the high pitched yodel that sounds like a battle cry.

This is the awakened and unmistakable voice of the Arab masses….

The Health Service is free to all, with no prescription charges….

As six o’clock approaches the crowd, which had been swayed, sat and stood for four hours at least, pressed closer to the stand: plastic jugs of water were passed around. Then President Gaddafi arrived to an enormous welcome….

[H]e was greeted by one great cry … ‘Fateh .. Fateh.. Fateh.. Fateh..’ Revolution.

Everyone stretches out their hands….

With Gaddafi is the Minister of the Interior; the greetings lasts for twenty five minutes after both get to the platform: everywhere ‘Fateh .. Fateh.. Fateh’.

The horsemen surge forward, some standing on their saddles with guns firing into the air….

As time went on the slogans, clapping, chanting got stronger, more determined. The crowd was now pressed tight up to the platform, trying to get nearer to their youthful leader….

Finally, a white horse is brought to the platform steps. Gaddafi  rides out to the open crowd, the clenched fist salute from the saddle….

Gaddafi rides a brisk trot along the crowd, striking hands, touching fingers. A short pause and then he goes past at a wild gallop coat flying, to huge cheers. Think of Princess Anne and laugh….

A last huge round of slogans and Gaddafi returns to the platform in a good sweat….

As he steps to the microphone a truly tremendous cry from all round ‘… Al Fateh … Al Fateh … Al Fateh..’ the crowd, the platform, the horsemen.

A short speech, not demagogic or falsely emphatic, punctuated by chants, cheers and claps. A last short sentence and straight into a waiting Range Rover. The mercurial colonel is off again.


Brian in the comments has brought to my attention the editorial of today’s The News Line, which is produced by one of the numerous splits from Gerry Healy’s party.  I am not surprised that it includes the following:

We urge the working class of the world to oppose the imperialist intervention into Libya that is being made, and the greater, possibly military intervention to come into the affairs of the Libyan people.

We urge the Libyan masses and youth to take their stand alongside Colonel Gadaffi to defend the gains of the Libyan revolution, and to develop it.

This can only be done by the defeat of the current rebellion….