Troubador My Search for Revolution

Released: 28/10/2019

ISBN: 9781838590987

eISBN: 9781838597061

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

My Search for Revolution

& How we brought down an abusive leader

by

In October 1985, Gerry Healy was expelled from the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) on charges of sexual abuse and violence. His defenders included leading Party members Vanessa and Corin Redgrave and sympathiser Ken Livingstone. Clare Cowen was one of five Party members who secretly laid plans to challenge Healy. Now, in a tell-all book, she sets the record straight.


Cowen joined the Trotskyist Young Socialists and Socialist Labour League, later to become the WRP, as a student in Bristol in the heady days of the late 1960s. It was exhilarating; she felt in tune with major class struggles and believed her actions were making a difference. But by the early 1980s she began to question Healy’s autocratic control of the Party’s policies, members and finances.

The 1984-85 miners’ strike raised troubling questions among the members about Party policies. On 1st July 1985, Healy’s secretary went into hiding, leaving a letter exposing his decades-long sexual abuse of Young Socialists and women Party members. The work of the five conspirators was beginning to bring about his downfall.

Review

My Search for Revolution, by Clare Cowen, is a passionate and cool narrative of Clare’s life in the Trotskyist movement and events in the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985. This book records how the sexual and political corruption of leadership of our party was dealt with. It must never be forgotten within the revolutionary movement. Clare reports in an exciting narrative the heroic secret resistance that led to the defeat of Gerry Healy and his clique.

There are glorious fragments of evidence that anyone familiar with the Centre will recognise: ‘Sheila’s method of Party building is exhortation and haranguing,’ for instance. There are extraordinarily significant sections, such as the very brief one on The Women Question, and the attempt to explain why TG Healy was revered by the vast majority of the membership, not of course counting those who had given up political activity or in Healy’s words ‘taken off’. Most of us were loyal even when we had begun to think something was seriously wrong. Clare explains that very well in her account of the Special Congress of 1985 when we expelled Healy: ‘Gerry’s activity had pervaded all past Congresses. He had intervened in the discussions, he had always made a powerful speech at some point to direct and inspire our work with incisive analysis, compelling perspective, skilful oratory… ‘.

I received the book on Friday, began to read it as soon as possible, and couldn’t stop until it was finished at about 2 am.


John Peters

Note about the reviewer: I was a member from 1969, when I first began to read Workers Press, at first of the All Trades Union Alliance and then of the Socialist Labour League. I learned a great deal about the early part of the conspiracy from the book, partly because in 1985 I had not been allowed near the Centre. I was struggling to keep money coming in from non-existent readers and members and in addition had been kept busy by doing peripheral jobs that kept me driving round the country and guarding the Brixton and West Ham bookshops. Once a week I wrote a book review for Workers Press.

Part way through the events I had a TIA as I was driving through the rush hour in Peckham on the way to establish loyalty to the Party among comrades who were no longer members. For some weeks I was incapable of doing anything. I was so unwell that I went to my GP who immediately sent me to a consultant who asked me if I ever missed a night’s sleep? I automatically replied, ‘No,’ but then I thought and said innocently ‘Not more than about three nights a week’. ‘That’s what’s wrong with you!’ he said.

Healy had come to dislike me, partly because I worked on my own account as a trade unionist with other trade unionists, with no party support, and partly because I didn’t let him hit me when he wanted to challenge me.

After the Special Congress I became a member of the Central Committee, along with a number of other comrades who had been put out to grass.

John Peters

28th October 2019


by John Peters


Review

My Search for Revolution, by Clare Cowen, is a passionate and cool narrative of Clare’s life in the Trotskyist movement and events in the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985. This book records how the sexual and political corruption of leadership of our party was dealt with. It must never be forgotten within the revolutionary movement. Clare reports in an exciting narrative the heroic secret resistance that led to the defeat of Gerry Healy and his clique.

There are glorious fragments of evidence that anyone familiar with the Centre will recognise: ‘Sheila’s method of Party building is exhortation and haranguing,’ for instance. There are extraordinarily significant sections, such as the very brief one on The Women Question, and the attempt to explain why TG Healy was revered by the vast majority of the membership, not of course counting those who had given up political activity or in Healy’s words ‘taken off’. Most of us were loyal even when we had begun to think something was seriously wrong. Clare explains that very well in her account of the Special Congress of 1985 when we expelled Healy: ‘Gerry’s activity had pervaded all past Congresses. He had intervened in the discussions, he had always made a powerful speech at some point to direct and inspire our work with incisive analysis, compelling perspective, skilful oratory… ‘.

I received the book on Friday, began to read it as soon as possible, and couldn’t stop until it was finished at about 2 am.


John Peters

Note about the reviewer: I was a member from 1969, when I first began to read Workers Press, at first of the All Trades Union Alliance and then of the Socialist Labour League. I learned a great deal about the early part of the conspiracy from the book, partly because in 1985 I had not been allowed near the Centre. I was struggling to keep money coming in from non-existent readers and members and in addition had been kept busy by doing peripheral jobs that kept me driving round the country and guarding the Brixton and West Ham bookshops. Once a week I wrote a book review for Workers Press.

Part way through the events I had a TIA as I was driving through the rush hour in Peckham on the way to establish loyalty to the Party among comrades who were no longer members. For some weeks I was incapable of doing anything. I was so unwell that I went to my GP who immediately sent me to a consultant who asked me if I ever missed a night’s sleep? I automatically replied, ‘No,’ but then I thought and said innocently ‘Not more than about three nights a week’. ‘That’s what’s wrong with you!’ he said.

Healy had come to dislike me, partly because I worked on my own account as a trade unionist with other trade unionists, with no party support, and partly because I didn’t let him hit me when he wanted to challenge me.

After the Special Congress I became a member of the Central Committee, along with a number of other comrades who had been put out to grass.

John Peters

28th October 2019


by John Peters


This book is dynamite. In telling her own story Clare uncovers the workings of a psychopathic predator and the devastating impact on those around him. She gives a voice to Gerry Healy's victims to whom she dedicates this book. The book sheds light on the inner workings of a cult that operated through fear, humiliation, bullying and absolute control. Read it and learn.

by Penny Vevers


This book is dynamite. In telling her own story Clare uncovers the workings of a psychopathic predator and the devastating impact on those around him. She gives a voice to Gerry Healy's victims to whom she dedicates this book. The book sheds light on the inner workings of a cult that operated through fear, humiliation, bullying and absolute control. Read it and learn.

by Penny Vevers


This book is an account of a young woman's idealism and commitment to revolutionary socialism. She has revealed so much of her life's journey: a strict internal regime that pushed members to the extreme limits, bled money and resources continuously from adherents. The Party could never be wrong. But it was and she and others brought down an abusive leader.

In parts this is a tough book to read. Whether it was a cult or a sect, the WRP destroyed people, families and relationships. It was a pariah "left" group. It was the "Heineken" group of so many political groupings: it got to be the AWFUL most embarrassing group in British left politics. I was in the group for 7 years (1964-71). This book is vitally important for all socialists, feminists and libertarian thinkers.

by John Manix


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