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Dorothy Healey

& The Little Red


BY:  Don Noyes-More Ph.D.

My thanks to ERIC GORDON for his editorial assistance.

 

 

“Every generation needs a new revolution.”

                                               Thomas Jefferson

 

“ She (Dorothy Healey) was the wise woman who not only had many, many, many political children; she knew what to do with us. She taught us how to critically analyze our world in all of its complexities, to apply analysis to practice, and, as importantly, to also use our practice to modify our analysis. She showed us the power of a life-long, deep anger towards all forms of oppression.  She modeled the beauty of keeping faith in the possibility of a better world and of a life committed to building a just society and world for all. In the end, however, perhaps her most meaningful gift to her children (biological and political) was her abiding belief in each of us and her unwavering support of the paths we took. I know that without this last gift I would never have had the confidence to embark on my own journey. Dorothy lives on in the hearts, minds, spirit and work of her innumerable children. May we give to others even a small part of what Dorothy has given to us.  

Louise Derman-Sparks

Pasadena, California

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Bunker Hill

Downtown Los Angeles

September 22nd 2006

      I was listening to the radio while working on the computer. During the news break they mentioned the death of LA’s famous Communist “Red Queen” Dorothy Healey. I went numb for about 10 minutes and then started to uncontrollably sob. One of the most important people in my life died. That radio news announcement was not unlike what is said about dying, when your life flashes in front of your eyes. This woman’s passing was a reflection of who I am and what I had become in life. I too am one of “Dorothy’s Children” and the “little Red” that’s me! This is my story of Dorothy.

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It was a bright sunny day in Downtown Los Angeles as people converged from all directions for one of LA’s first major civil rights demonstrations. The year was 1965. I was with my friends Jeannie Williams and Dan Blocker and his wife.  Dan was a family friend, who was “Hoss” of TV Bonanza fame. I was barely into my teens and on fire with the passion for social and economic justice for African-Americans. Thousands gathered on the steps of LA’s mythic city hall and together with a few thousand people sang “We Shall Overcome”.  I felt part of something historically important. It was just before my 15th birthday.

Standing to my right was a smallish woman, about 5 feet tall, animatedly and constantly chatting with two people all the while chain smoking.  When she turned towards me our eyes met. “Who are you?” The woman said in a rather feline manner. “Uhhh, you mean me? I responded as I pointed to myself.”  She looked irritated and waited for her answer with a little grin on her face. I almost shouted at her in answer, “I’m a goddamn freedom fighter, and who are you?”  She squinted her eyes at me and said mocking me loudly, “really? A freedom fighter!” I was not happy at her mocking tone. She grabbed my arm and held it tightly. She pulled me close to her, looked in my eyes at about 3 inches and said, “I’m the goddamn person that will make you a real goddamn freedom fighter, (pause)… hi, and my name is Dorothy.” She let go of my arm as she took a drag from her cigarette. She grinned and looked upwards into the sky like she was looking for something. She paused a couple of minutes then pulled out a pen and wrote down her telephone number on a scrap of paper. Dorothy got this little grin on her face. I could not tell if she was just playing with me or for real. She turned to the two people she was with and they walked off. I was puzzled as to who this woman really was. I kept the small piece of torn paper and thought about the little “Mighty Mite” woman that was going to make me into a freedom fighter. I did not have a clue at all. My life was about to dramatically change. Until I met Dorothy I had not yet realized I only knew 7% of everything I thought I knew.

About a week later I was going though my jean pockets and found the enigmatic piece of paper from the strange little woman. I put the paper on my desk, sat down and called her number. She picked up the phone and I told her who I was. She didn’t have much to say except to give me the address to the Workers Center aka: “The Red House” off of Pico Blvd. “Come by dear” and she just hung up on me while saying a soft “Goodbye”.

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DOROTHY HEALEY

On my way to school one morning I decided to “ditch” school and go to the Worker’s Center. This seemed like it was going to be my great adventure. I arrived at about 9:30 am and no one was answering the door. I waited until 11am and who should arrive but Dorothy. She said for me to follow her into the house and I did. A few minutes in the door and with very little talking she handed me a copy of Das Kapital in German. “Here” she said with an impish smile. “When you finish the book come on back.” She turned and walked away. I was totally confused. The book was in German. “But…but I don’t know German” was my thought. I took the book and walked off to the bus to go to the beach. Confused, hurt, and sort of mad I returned about a week later with the book. I confronted Dorothy in the entry of the Worker’s Center. She saw me and smiled, “Well, you’re back!” “I can’t read or understand this!” I said loudly while holding Das Kapital in my hands. She took the book and said, “That’s why you need the Party and me.” Dorothy touched my shoulders, smiled with a twinkle of her pale blue eyes, and gave me the telephone number of a UCLA organizer on LA’s West side to call, he was an organizer for the WEB DuBois Club.

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The WEB Du Bois Club

A young blond man picked me up at my parent’s house. We had had a long conversation the night before on the phone.. “Dorothy said to take care of you.” He smiled. He was to facilitate my membership in the WEB Du Bois club that day per Dorothy’s instructions. It was an organization dedicated to fight against racism and imperialistic wars. The Club was the youth and ethnic segment - New Left outreach of the Communist Party USA. The Club was staffed by the young and wonderfully idealistic. I was the youngest member and sort of a Club poster child of the New Left. It was at the WEB Du Bois Club that I met the big love of my life, a UCLA student from Guatemala and he was a Communist. But that is another story: (See: REDS in California Boomer: Keeper of the Story) For the most part I rarely saw Dorothy at Du Bois Club meetings in Venice where I was a member. She would call me weekly and hold informal “salons” for young radicals from the New Left. I fell into Dorothy’s wide circle of New Left young people. She often challenged our ideas and analysis with at times biting quips, and viral critique. She did not always suffer political fools with a smile. She knew how to turn information into political action.

Dorothy started to embrace the passive civil disobedience strategies of Sol Alinsky. We would sit and laugh over the possibilities; in 1966 “possibilities” turned into a plot.

National Liberation Front Comes to LA

During the imperialist “Vietnam War” American troops would occupy a Vietnamese village by force and then “Pacify it”. The Americans built moats, high fences and detection towers around the villages supposedly so after the people went to sleep they were “safe”. Oddly people living in the villages were not free to move in and out of the village at will except to and from work in the fields. Yes! “Just like a chain-gang prison.”

We Comrades were eager for some kind of action beyond just protesting. Some WEB Du Bois Comrades and I met with Dorothy one early summer night. Dorothy had hatched a plan that if it worked would help bring attention to US Marine “Vietnamaztion = pacification.” The US Marines as part of their on-going selling of the War had built a model of a “Pacified” Vietnamese village, wall and all in Century City. They took families on tours showing how wonderful these villages were.

It was about 12 am in the morning. We all loaded in an old green Dodge and headed to Century City. Dorothy was in the back seat laughing at what we were about to do. We slowly drove by the Marine built village. No guards, no goddamn Marines anywhere! The US flag was on the flag post rather than the South Vietnamese regimes’ fascist flag. Dorothy gave out a little cheer. We parked right in front of the village. Dorothy kept the car going, we “Bois’ boyz” poured out of the car quickly running up the slope to the village. We climbed the wall and went directly to the flagpole and ran up the flag of The National Liberation Front. We posted Communist slogans everywhere but the last thing we did made me cry, we broke open the gates. It was a symbolic but powerful action of liberation. We all ran back to the car and drove east on Olympic Blvd. We were laughing, crying and singing the “International” over and over again. That night Dorothy gave me a hug and said for the first time, “Goodnight Comrade.” “Comrade” over and over again I replayed her words in my head “…Comrade.”

The papers ran a piece on the “Vietnamese village invasion by local Radicals.” Of course it was all over the counter-culture newspapers. After our “Liberation” of the village the Marines stationed 5 guards there every night and a lock was installed on the flagpole and the front gate had a special security lock with an alarm. A year later “Vietnamaztion” ended as a monumental failure to authoritarian Fascist control.

I like many kids joined Students for a Democratic Society and the Vietnam Day Committee. We were branching out. The years of organizing and protesting were just beginning.

PEOPLE'S HERO
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ALEXANDER DUBCEK

1968: The Prague Spring

1968 was one of the most turbulent years in American history. The deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy shocked us. The brazenness of the Fascist murders was astounding. The protests in the streets grew and were more organized; most big city protests hit over 200 thousand. Throughout the world 1968 turned into a year of international protests by New Left radicals agitating for economic changes and an end to the imperialist wars of aggression and repression. One of the brightest hopes for us young Communists was the Prague Spring; an act of defiance by Czechoslovakia’s Young Turk Socialists against the undue influence and oppressive occupation by the Soviet Union. The leader of the movement was a brilliant Communist named Dubcek. After the illegal invasion of the country by the Soviet army the CPUSA sided with the Soviet Union’s actions. Almost every Communist and all the New Left young people I knew were sad and disillusioned with the CPUSA’s decision to support the Czechoslovakian invasion, among those was my mentor Dorothy. The Party under the aging leadership of Gus Hall committed itself to a “Dinosaur Communism”.  It seemed that there was no room for young people in the Party anymore. Along with other Struggles like the emerging Gay Liberation movement we were set to the side. None of us young guys related to the old struggles of the 1920’s through the 1950’s. We were not interested in what the Party had done in the past but rather what we were going to do in the following 40 years. We thought we had captured our futures.

I walked into Dorothy’s little office space. She looked up at me without her usual smile. I could see her tight jaw and dejected look. On her desk were many international newspapers all running the story on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, her right hand was pressed down on one, her cigarette in the other hand.  She looked up at me and said, “It has gone all wrong.” She picked up a paper and ignoring me kept reading. I walked out of the Workers Center and went home.

I rarely saw Dorothy after that. She seemed lost and at times disoriented. She was short and curt with me on the phone. I could tell she was greatly stressed if not depressed. She was in New York a lot of the time too. In 1969 there were rumors that Dorothy was leaving the Party, which finally officially happened in 1972. At the time I had left Los Angeles and was in the Bay Area at University.

I spoke with Dorothy only one more time by phone. She said the most difficult thing she ever did was to leave the Party. Actually it was more that the Party had left Dorothy. “We need reforms Donnie maybe you’ll be part of that.” And that was all I ever heard from her.

Dorothy was not just a leader to us Young Communists but the voice of reason, of how to make Socialism work, of inclusiveness, and about building bridges to other struggles and other socialist traditions.

Dorothy’s years of activism and Party leadership was an amazing legacy for us younger Comrades. Her understanding and teaching about Marxism was always on target. She was a Party shining star. She was energy itself! Dorothy fully understood that the world had changed. She took every new young person in hand and knew our value and always told us so. Dorothy was an exceptional organizer and did not limit herself to staunchly “old school” Communist traditions and political analysis. She saw that the real future of Socialism was in our hands and to that end she equipped us and educated us every week.

A SMILING GUS HALL
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DOROTHY & GUS BATTLED FOR THE HEART OF THE PARTY

Sadly Dorothy's break-up with the Party was at times mean spirited. It became a family divorce of pain, anger, and isolation. Dorothy became at times unkind and blinded by her hurt. She was feeling deeply wounded and betrayed by those she loved. In response to Dorothy's attacks the Party stood more closely behind Gus Hall and the politics of a bygone era. Gus was filling Party leadership with people deemed less than far-sighted by the Party's best and brightest minds; Gus' brand of a calcifying dogma was more suited to 1919 Petrograd Russia. The Party lost almost an entire generation of young comrades and a host of highly regarded Party intellectuals. A political tailspin ensued with horrible results. I suppose Dorothy's  warnings to the Party came true. The Party was deaf to internal reformers. In a move worthy of  a Stalin playbook; the Party even went so far as to dissolve the very popular and active WEB DuBois Club into a worthless couple of organizations. I like so many of my DuBois Comrades left once the Club was dissolved. We saw why they were doing this; because some of the old Party members were frightened of our real political power. Change is always difficult. New Left radicals (Boomer generation) posed a threat to the Party "Old Think" authoritarian throught process and behaviors. Few of us would go into another Party organization. The die was cast.

Epilogue

I’m now in my 62nd year of life. So many of us still understand the truth about Socialism and what Dorothy was teaching us. The CPUSA continues internal reforms and strategies first proposed by Dorothy 45+ years ago but now newly reformulated by the folksy leadership of Sam Webb. Today the Party is more inclusive and embracing many non-traditional Socialist struggles such as LGBTQ Liberation and inviting people of all religious faiths  into the Party. Dorothy would be both pleased and amused. Dorothy had been right.

I officially rejoined the Communist Party in 2011. An artistic act and a political statement as well. It has been said of men: "Every boy wants to go back home some day." I decided to go back home to the Party.  At the new Party members meeting at the Worker’s Center I said to myself  “Dorothy, I’m back home again”.  I’m no longer the young boy walking through the Red House front door with visions of revolution and liberation in my head, but now I'm an old man with many roads I have already walked; most are now all behind me. There is still a world to gain. I quoted Dorothy at my membership meeting, “Why am I a Socialist? “Capitalism has never worked, Capitalism does not work now, and Capitalism will never work, Revolution Now!”

Postscript: Still a Socialist.































































CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTOS

PHOTO AFTER I FIRST MET DOROTHY
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PHOTO TAKEN WEEK I JOINED THE WEB DUBOIS CLUB
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INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST YOUTH CONFERENCE
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HAVANA, CUBA

PHOTO THE DAY I JOINED SDS
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      Still Engaged in Socialist Politics

I was asked by Councilwoman Jan Perry to present before the Los Angeles City Council the Downtown LA Life Magazine Service Award; presented to volunteers working on behalf of the People. (See photo below)

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(L-R) COUNCILWOMAN JAN PERRY AND DON NOYES MORE

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DOROTHY HEALEY LATER IN LIFE

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DOROTHY LOS ANGELES 1951

DOROTHY & COMRADES BEING LED OFF TO JAIL
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ILLEGAL PROSECUTION OF POLITICAL MINORITIES

ILLEGAL TRIAL OF DOROTHY BECAUSE SHE WAS COMMUNIST
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LA COMMUNIST RALLY 1930's

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COMMUNIST RALLY IN LOS ANGELES 1930s

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ANOTHER LA COMMUNIST RALLY 1930s

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DOROTHY'S BOOK

DOROTHY SAW THE FUTURE IN THE HANDS OF THE YOUNG
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DOROTHY AT A UCLA "TEACH-IN"

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A WORLD TO GAIN! 1968

AMAZING PEOPLE'S HERO
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SHE NEVER STOPPED HER STRUGGLE FOR SOCIALISM

THE TIMES WERE CHANGING
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THE PARTY DID NOT EMBRACE GAY LIBERATION IN 1970

DOROTHY ADVOCATED FOR THE CHICANO MOVEMENT
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DOROTHY HAD ME "CONNECT" WITH THE BROWN BERETS

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DOROTHY ALWAYS WITH THAT LITTLE GRIN


"Dorothy was the only person 
I have ever loved unconditionally."
   Don Noyes-More


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QUOTE BY HERBERT APTHEKER
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