07/10/2015 by socialistfight
Obituary comment by Gerry Downing
Healey’s 1945 election poster; genuinely moved by socialist ideals like many of his post-war generation at the time.
Denis Healey died on 3 October aged 98, “the greatest leader the Labour party never had” they all tell us. Leaders of the British establishment paid him fulsome tribute. The Morning Star reported his death on 5 October with the headline: “Tributes pour in for ’no-nukes’ Healey”. Jeremy Corbyn’s assertion that he was “a Labour giant whose record of service to party and country stands as his testament” leaves a little to be desired. Like Jeremy Healey too had once said that he would never have authorised the use of nuclear weapons when he was defence secretary, according to the MS. CND general secretary Kate Hudson concurred and MS further report Jeremy Corbyn as saying “Labour is built on people with commitment of those who devote their lives to public service, as Denis Healey did.”
Healey was a vicious right wing reactionary, an enemy of the working class and of socialism, a staunch defender of the right of British imperialism to plunder the world for profit and to suppress all who opposed this “right” by extreme violence when necessary for most of his life. He fully supported the war of British imperialism against the oppressed nationalists of the six counties in the north of Ireland in and out of government. He also authorised the expulsion of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago, and authorised building of the United States military base at Diego Garcia. The appalling racist bigotry with which this heinous crime was committed by Healey’s agent is explained in a Wikipedia article:
“In a memo dating from this period, Colonial Office head Denis Greenhill (later Lord Greenhill of Harrow) wrote to the British Delegation at the UN: ‘The object of the exercise is to get some rocks which will remain ours; there will be no indigenous population except seagulls who have not yet got a committee. Unfortunately, along with the seagulls go some few Tarzans and Man Fridays that are hopefully being wished on Mauritius.’” Depopulation of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depopulation_of_Chagossians_from_the_Chagos_Archipelago
He explained Labour’s defeat in the 1983 election in an interview in Marxism Today in April, 1986:
“The reason we were defeated in so far as defence played a role is that people believe we were in favour of unilaterally disarming ourselves. It wasn’t the confusion. It was the unilateralism that was the damaging thing.”
Despite some famous attacks on Margaret Thatcher he strongly admired her as did almost all Labour’s right wing:
“He was advised early on to watch out for the up-and-coming Thatcher by an MP friend who knew her well. “He said, ‘She’s good-looking but she’s also politically brilliant.’ He was right.” Denis Healey: “Thatcher was good-looking and brilliant” New Statesman, 26 March 2013, http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk-politics/2013/03/thatcher-was-good-looking-and-brilliant
That Healey considered the anti-social ignorant bigot Thatcher “politically brilliant” says it all. Healey joined the Communist Party in 1937 and resigned in 1940. Bagley proudly boasts of his commitment to Joe Stalin:
“He joined the Communist Party in 1937, inspired by the party’s anti-fascism and the republican struggle for democracy in the Spanish civil war. Healey was a leading member of the party at Oxford and became treasurer of the October Club, which was the Communist section of the Oxford University Labour Club. He was an ardent defender of the party line. One of his former college comrades recalled how Healey discovered him reading Trotsky’s book The History of the Russian Revolution. Healey stormed into the room, roared that he must stop reading the book, and threatened to have him drummed out of the party for daring to look at a book by “that traitor Trotsky”.
Whether he was also inspired by Stalin’s mass murder of all the surviving leaders and participants in the Russian Revolution during that period, his Popular Front policy of collaborating with the ‘democratic imperialists’ and the consequent mass murder of the Spanish Trotskyists, Poumists (POUM – ex-Trotskyists United Marxist Workers party) and anarchists by the same NKVD that were so zealously executing the left in the USSR they do not tell us. But the reference to “that traitor Trotsky” is surely intended to indicate that this was the case and that comrade Begley approves.
We do not know why he resigned from the CPGB in 1940 (before or after the fall of France in June 1940), following the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939, but the infamous Nazi-defending Daily Worker editorial of 1 February, commenting on Hitler’s speech a few weeks before would, have been very difficult to defend from the standpoint of a true British patriot like Healey:
“Hitler repeated once again his claim that the war was thrust upon him by Britain. Against the historical fact there can be no reply. Britain declared war attempts were made to end the war. But the Soviet German peace overtures were rejected by Britain. All through these months the British and French Governments have had the power to end the war. They have chosen to extend it… War should never have been declared on September 3, there should have been negotiations and peace talks” (our emphasis).
This is clearly at odds with his position as revealed in his autobiography The Time of My Life, on why joined the CPGB:
“For the young in those days, politics was a world of simple choices. The enemy was Hitler with his concentration camps. The objective was to prevent a war by standing up to Hitler. Only the Communist Party seemed unambiguously against Hitler. The Chamberlain Government was for appeasement. Labour seemed torn between pacifism and a half-hearted support for collective security, and the Liberals did not count.”
Bagley, who seems to have plagiarised a great chunk of his obituary from the Spartacus Educational on Healey: http://spartacus-educational.com/PRhealeyD.htm, goes on to tell us:
“His former Communist comrades were surprised when he suddenly appeared at the Labour Party conference at the end of WWII in 1945. In his army uniform, the 28-year-old Healey strode to the conference rostrum and hailed “the socialist revolution that has already begun in Europe.”
It would seem from the report of his speech at the Labour Conference in May 1945 in Spartacus Educational that he was now genuinely motivated by socialist, if not revolutionary ideal, as were a vast number of his generation post-war:
“The upper classes in every country are selfish, depraved, dissolute and decadent. The struggle for socialism in Europe … has been hard, cruel, merciless and bloody. The penalty for participation in the liberation movement has been death for oneself, if caught, and, if not caught oneself, the burning of one’s home and the death by torture of one’s family … Remember that one of the prices paid for our survival during the last five years has been the death by bombardment of countless thousands of innocent European men and women.”
Harold Wilson summed up Healey’s dogmatism very well.
His narrow minded dogmatism quickly reasserted itself, however. Harold Wilson aptly summed him us thus in his Memoirs: 1916-1964 (1986)
“I made Denis Healey Minister of Defence. He is a strange person. When he was at Oxford he was a communist. Then friends took him in hand, sent him to the Rand Corporation of America, where he was brainwashed and came back very right wing. But his method of thinking was still what it had been: in other words, the absolute certainty that he was right and everybody else was wrong, and not merely wrong through not knowing the proper answers, but wrong through malice.”
His patriotism quickly defeated his post war socialism and his subsequent battles against the left in the Labour party and the working class in general after his election to parliament in 1952, beginning with his alliance with Hugh Gaitskell against Aneurin Bevan, are well known.
The MS ran their obituary by Roger Bagley to Healey on the same day as their ‘tribute’. He was a “though bruiser of a politician who fought against the left in the Labour party but ended up a critic of Tony Blair.” But “he started his political life as a fervent communist and admirer of the Soviet Union”. So he started off well, degenerated but in the end saved his political soul by opposing Blair, comrade Bagley would have us believe. Well almost because “In the recent Labour leadership election, Healey once again rejected left-wing policies and supported Yvette Cooper.” But “He nevertheless remained a proud member of the Labour Party right to the end of his long and eventful life.” So one of us really, even though we had a few falling outs along the way. Dead wrong. The historical judgement on him is that he was a right wing Labour traitor to the working class and to socialism.