Oral Histories

Interview of Dorothy Healey (1972)

Chair of the Southern California chapter of the Communist Party.
Subtitle:
Tradition's Chains Have Bound Us
Topic:
Social Movements
Communist Party
Interviewer:
Gardner, Joel
Interviewee:
Healey, Dorothy
Persons Present:
Gardner and Healey. Bernard Galm, senior editor, Oral History Program, operated video equipment at the second video session. Barbara Nestor, Healey's mother, dropped in on several sessions, and Philip Connelly, Healey's third husband, was present at the session of December 15, 1972.
Place Conducted:
Healey's home in Los Angeles, California; Powell Library, UCLA [video session].
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Joel Gardner, editor, Oral History Department, UCLA; B.A., M.A., French, Tulane University; M.A. journalism. Gardner prepared for the interviews by familiarizing himself with historical patterns in the United States generally, and in California particularly. He then read histories of communism, the Communist party, and the California labor movement.
Processing of Interview:
Lawrence Weschler, assistant editor, edited the verbatim transcript, checking it for accuracy and editing for punctuation, paragraphing, spelling, and verification of proper nouns. The final manuscript remains in the same order as the taped material. Words or phrases introduced by the editor have been bracketed. Healey reviewed and approved the edited transcript. She made few additions or deletions, and she provided or confirmed spellings of names not previously verified. Healey specifically requested that the word black, used as a noun with reference to the Negro race, be capitalized. The Program complied, although its style, consistent with that of the University of Chicago's Manual of Style, calls for the initial letter to be lowercase. The index was compiled by Deborah Young. The introduction was written by Al Richmond, author of A Long View From the Left. Front matter was prepared by program staff.
Length:
42 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Family background--Mother's rebelliousness as dominant family influence--Childhood in Denver: Socialist colony--Move to California: homes in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland--Brothers and sisters.
Bossy brother and maternal sister--Mother's emotional traumas: pregnancies and self-abortion--Schoolwork and awkward socializing--Joins Young Communist League at fourteen: distributing leaflets-­High school: contempt and bad grades--Unemployed demonstrations--May Day arrest of Dorothy Ray.
Agitating in juvenile hall--Sex and Lenin--YCL regimen--Drops out of high school--Cannery strike in San Jose--Scottsboro case and "Hands off Nicaragua"--Red Sundays--Tom Mooney--Marries Lou Sherman and moves to L.A.--No time out for babies-­Organizing East Los Angeles and Imperial Valley.
Moves to south L.A.--Police raids on leftist organizations: routine repression--Red Hynes and the Red Squad--Hunger marches--Death of father-- Party leadership--Brawley lettuce strikes--Jailed in El Centro.
Cooperation among workers of different ethnic groups--The arrest, cont’d.--Assessing weakness of tactics--Pea strikes in Calipatria--Okies--Trials begin in Brawley; convicted--Jail: Emma Cox and the diary--Jail experiences in general: good opportunity to read and talk with prisoners-­Overall effects of the strikes.
Strike tactical errors--"Nonnegotiable demands," no compromise--1934: rejection of AFL and EPIC campaign--Social fascism--Left factionalism-- United front in the wake of EPIC--Competition among leftist groups--Impact of widespread strikes on non-working-class sector--1935: divorces husband-- Organizing San Pedro unemployed seamen; meeting with ILWU--Organizing fish cannery on Terminal Island--Interunion violence--Move to San Francisco to work for YCL--UCLA Communist activity--Naive acceptance of party leadership line: Stalinism of the world movement--Alaska Cannery Workers Union.
YCL national plenum--Family feuds--CIO starts organizing--California Sanitary Canning Company-­Organization of walnut workers--Thoughts on women in union activity; interaction with rank and file vs. union leadership--0range pickers' strike in Orange County--Cotton strike in Kern County: mobilizing broad support--Miscarriage--Farm Security Administration--Elected an international vice-president of UCAPAWA--1938: antifascist coalitions--Spanish Civil War.
Mass meeting in the Imperial Valley fairgrounds--UCAPAWA: stabilizing a transient work-force union-¬Works for Labor's Non-Partisan League--Citizens' committee coalition to recall Mayor Shaw--Sam Yorty and Jack Tenney: the "Red" assemblymen--Elect Fletcher Bowron mayor--Tom Mooney pardoned-- International Labor Defense: Angelo Herndon case, Scottsboro case--White chauvinism; Finnish Hall "trial"--Self-determination in the Black Belt-- Blacks and the Communist party--Spanish-speaking people's movement--Appointed state deputy labor commissioner.
Mythology of the "Red decade"--The Roosevelt aura-- Left oversights: the consciousness of the masses and the American heritage--Effects on the United Front of the Soviet-German Non-Agression Pact and the Soviet-Finnish war--Deputy labor commissioner, cont'd.--Tenney Committee--Starting the Tom Mooney Labor School--Securing party permission to become pregnant; Richard is born-International representative for Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.
Gods' Committee--Win the War at All Cost; the Teheran Line--Comintern dissolved; 1944: Communist party becomes the Communist Political Association-¬Jacques Duclos's attack on Browder and revisionism ---Ideological battle--Emergency convention--Elected county committee org secretary--Geographical distribution of party.
Joining the internal party leadership--Trade-union Communist vs. Communist trade unionist; hothouse Communists--Structure of the California CP; eventual division of California into northern and southern districts--Democratic centralism--Org secretary functions--Civil rights organizing--"Iron Curtain countries" and the cold war begins--Spread of McCarthyism--Hollywood Ten--Maltz Controversy-- Switch from First to Fifth Amendment defense-¬Walter Reuther's election as president of UAW-CIO.
UAW and Reuther; isolation of Left and deterioration of labor movement--CIO right-wing movement--Henry Wallace minimizes hysteria over Czechoslovakia and possibility of Soviet invasion--1948: organizing a third-party campaign.
"Lesser evil" concept and the two-party system in America--Norman Thomas--Liberals and the fifties hysteria--Smith Act; Foley Square trials--Local arrests; going underground--Separation from Richard --Becomes chairman of the county CP by flip of the coin--Underground chairman--Tensions in marriage-- Slim Connelly--Richard gets mumps; Dorothy surfaces --Grand jury subpoena--Contempt-of-court jail sentence--Taking the Fifth--Arrested for violating Smith Act--Turning the tables on the FBI--Bail fights.