Dorothy Healey

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Dorothy Healey

Template:TOCnestleft Dorothy Ray Healey was a leading California Communist Party USA member-later active in the New American Movement (co-founded by her son) and Democratic Socialists of America. She died in 2006 in Washington DC age 91.

Tribute to Dorothy Healey

Obituary posted at the LA Times Aug 8 2006 for Dorothy Healey:[1].

Dorothy Healey, a onetime labor organizer, civil rights activist and Marxist radio commentator who was chairwoman of the Southern California district of the Communist Party USA from the late 1940s through the 1960s, has died. She was 91.
Healey, dubbed “the Red Queen of Los Angeles” by headline writers during her heyday, died Sunday of pneumonia in the Greater Washington Hebrew Home, said her son, Richard. She had been a resident of Washington, D.C., since 1983.
The diminutive Healey, who stood just under 5 feet tall and once wore a pendant that pictured a clenched fist raised as a symbol of solidarity and militancy, fought a lifelong battle against what she called the oppression of the middle class and minorities.
“She was a heartfelt revolutionary of her time,” Donna Wilkinson, the widow of national civil liberties leader Frank Wilkinson, told The Times on Monday. “She was always so fiercely partisan for working people. Yes, of course, she cared about war and peace and women’s issues, but she was always concerned about working people.”
The daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, Healey was born in Denver on Sept. 22, 1914. Her father was a traveling salesman, and the family moved from Denver to California when she was 6. Constantly on the move because of her father’s work selling smoked meat and cheese, Healey attended 19 schools. Her father died when she was 16.
Healey, whose Socialist mother was a founding member of the Communist Party in America, joined the Young Communist League in 1928, when she was 14.
“I joined the Young Communist League out of a feeling of hate and love,” she told an audience at Golden West College in Huntington Beach in 1977. “I hated the system that reduced all humans to a feeling of total helplessness ... of fear over what each day would bring.
“I loved the humans who lived under these [conditions] and I respected their potential.”
She was arrested for the first time at 14 -- for selling the Daily Worker newspaper and making a speech on skid row in Oakland.
At 16, she dropped out of school and helped organize a union and a strike at a cannery in San Jose, where she worked.
By 1933, she was organizing agricultural workers in the Imperial Valley. By the end of the decade, she was international vice president of the Congress of Industrial Organization’s Cannery, Agriculture and Packing House Workers union.
Healey was brought into leadership of the party in Los Angeles at the end of World War II. She became leader of the Communist Party USA’s Southern California district, the second largest after New York. She also became a member of the party’s National Committee.
In 1951, Healey and 14 other Californians were indicted and convicted under the Smith Act for conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. Although she was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000, her sentence was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1957.
“The decision was the government had to show -- and they had not shown -- that the advocacy was intended to motivate people immediately to action, not merely the reading of old Marxists texts,” her son said.
From 1956 on, when Healey learned the truth from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s so-called “secret speech,” in which he revealed Stalin’s crimes to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Healey became an advocate for democratizing the American Communist Party and sought more independence from Soviet control.
That led her to become an outspoken critic of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, a country she had visited the previous year. Because of her opposition to the national leaders of the American Communist Party, she resigned as chairman of the Southern California district.
In 1973, she resigned from the American Communist Party. She said, however, that she remained a staunch communist and was as much an enemy of capitalism as ever.
“My resignation from the Communist Party will not bring comfort to anti-Communists on either the right or left,” she said on her semimonthly commentary broadcast over radio station KPFK-FM (90.7).
"My hatred of capitalism, which degrades and debases humans, is as intense now as it was when I joined the Young Communist League in 1928,” she said. “I remain a communist, as I have been all my life, albeit without a party.”
Healey then joined the New American Movement, a nationwide organization for democratic socialism, co-founded by her son. She later joined the Democratic Socialists of America and became a vice president of the organization.
“Dorothy was a rebel, and it was her rebellious nature that made her such an effective union leader in the 1930s,” Maurice Isserman, coauthor, with Healey, of the 1990 book “Dorothy Healey Remembers: A Life in the Communist Party,” told The Times on Monday.
Isserman, a historian at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., said Healey’s union activism in the ‘30s “led her to become an advocate of black and Chicano rights at a time when few other people were speaking out on such issues.”
In 1979, a collection of Healey’s papers and other material, purchased by the Cal State Long Beach library for an estimated $11,000 to $14,000, was dedicated at the library, where she was guest of honor and keynote speaker.
The last time Healey had appeared on the Long Beach campus -- at the invitation of a radical student group in the late ‘60s -- she had been heckled and jeered.
But by 1979, according to a Times account of the dedication, “she hardly raised an eyebrow among an audience of 100 students and faculty members.”
In his review of Healey’s 1990 book in The Times, Jonathan Kirsch wrote that it “is essentially a political testament by a witness to history, a memoir by an Old Bolshevik who was never a true believer because she was cursed with an unrelenting conscience and a ribald sense of humor.”
But at its most touching moments, Kirsch wrote, Healey’s book “is more nearly a melodrama -- the struggle of a zealous, principled and compassionate woman to make sense of life and love in a world utterly devoted to radical politics.”
Wilkinson, who knew Healey for more than 40 years, said “old age had ravaged” Healey’s body, “but she read four newspapers up to the end and knew exactly what’s going on in the Mideast and South Central Los Angeles. She paid attention to what was going on.”
Married and divorced three times, Healey moved from Los Angeles to Washington to be near her son, who, along with two grandsons, survives her.

Early Life

Healey was born on September 22, 1914, in Denver, Colorado, as Dorothy Harriet Rosenblum. Both of her parents were Jewish immigrants from Hungary: her father worked as a traveling salesman and her mother was a Socialist Party USA activist who became a charter member of the Communist Party USA in 1919. Her family moved to California in the 1920s, settling in Berkeley, where Healey attended high school.[2]


In December 1928 at the age of fourteen, that she joined the Young Communist League USA . . Her first arrest for political activity came on May Day, 1930, at a Communist-organized demonstration of the unemployed in Oakland; she was sent to the juvenile detention home in Oakland for two weeks, where she adopted the pseudonym Dorothy Ray to protect her father's job.[3]

At the age of 17, Healey dropped out of school to organize cannery workers and later, agricultural workers.[4]

Communist Party

By 19, Ray was leading a strike of Mexican agricultural workers in Imperial County, for which she did 180 days in jail.[5]

By 24, she was an international vice president of the Cannery Workers Union and at 25 the head of the Labor Non-Partisan League–the CIO political operation in Los Angeles.

Dorothy Healey became chairman of the Los Angeles Communist Party USA in the late 1940s.

By the mid 1950s Dorothy Healey had become a "local celebrity", appearing on radio talk shows, and hosting her own show on KPFK.

In 1966 she ran for county assessor on a platform of linking property-tax rates to homeowner incomes and won 86,000 votes.

According to DSA colleague Harold Meyerson Dorothy Healey was probably the most compelling and attractive spokesperson the American Communists ever had.

Leaving the Party/NAM

When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968, the national party supported the invasion; the L.A. party opposed it.

Dorothy had the bitter experience of seeing many of the ’60s activists she’d recruited to the party – Angela Davis in particular – side with the national party’s ossified Stalinist leaders.

In the early 1970s, Dorothy Healey, Ben Dobbs and a group of their former California comrades, including housing and civil-liberties activist Frank Wilkinson and attorneys Ben Margolis and John McTernan left the party -later to join the New American Movement and eventually Democratic Socialists of America.

Dorothy Healey, John McTernan and Ben Margolis were all in the same Southern California New American Movement branch with Paul Jarrico and Bill Jarrico.[6]

Early in 1974, expelled former CPUSA California District leader Dorothy Healey formed a group of some 70 "socialists in search of a party" and took them into NAM as one of its strongest chapters.[7]

New American Movement

In the late 1970's Dorothy Healey was a Los Angeles California, contact for the New American Movement.[8]

Attendees at the Expanded National Interim Committee of the New American Movement January 2-4, 1976 in Pittsburgh, PA included;

Roberta Lynch, Anne Farrar, Judy MacLean, Alan Charney, Steve Carlip, Holly Graff, Richard Healey, Mark Mericle, Carollee Sandberg, John Ehrenreich, Bill Leumer, Elayne Rapping

RIC representatives -Ellen Sugg (Port City Chapter, Industrial Heartland Region), Mel Tanzman (Brooklyn Chapter, Northeast Region), Joni Rabinowitz (Pittsburgh Chapter, Industrial Heartland Region), Noel Ignatin (Sojourner Truth Chapter, Midwest Region), Rick Kunnes (Ann Arbor Chapter Industrial Heartland Region), Dorothy Healey ( L.A. #4, Southwest Region), John Judis (East Bay Chapter, Northwest Region), Lee Holstein (Haymarket Chapter, Midwest Region), Laura Burns (Radcliffe/Harvard Chapter, Northeast Region), Dan Marschall (East Bay Chapter, Northwest Region), Glenn Scott (Austin Chapter, Southern Region), Alice Allgaier (St. Louis Chapter, Midwest Region), Dave McBride (Austin, Southern Region), Mark Cohen (Southern Region, Hal Adams ( Iowa City, Midwest Region);

Staff - Dave Ranney[9]

In The Times Founding sponsors

In 1976 founding sponsors of the Institute for Policy Studies/New American Movement linked socialist journal were;

New American Movement 10th convention

In 1981 Dorothy Healey, LA NAM; Rick Kunnes, National Secretary; John Cameron, Co-Chair, Energy Commission and Susie Deter Shank, Detroit NAM spoke on a mini-plenary entitled National Strategies, National Coalitions at the 10th Convention of the New American Movement. The convention was held in a union headquarters in Chicago and ran from July 29 - August 2, 1981.[11]

Old NAM communists

Kathie Sheldon ‎New American Movement, July 5, 2009


Herman Rosenstein, Milt Cohen, Ben Margolis, Dorothy Healey, Saul Wellman, Ben Dobbs

Photo by Scott Van Osdol, NAM convention 1981.

Tribute to Ben Dobbs

On Sunday, June 7, 1981, the Los Angeles Chapter of the New American Movement sponsored a Tribute to Ben Dobbs for "His lifelong commitment to socialism". The event was held at the Miramar-Sheraton Hotel, Santa Monica, California. At the event Dorothy Healey and Jan Breidenbach performed a song entitled "As We Know Him". Healey was also listed as a sponsor of the event.[12]

Socialist Community School

In 1982 Dorothy Healey was a committee member of the Socialist Community School in Los Angeles[13]. She was also a teacher at the school in the 1980s.[14]

New American Movement Speakers Bureau

In the 1980s Dorothy Healey was a speaker on the The Crisis of Capitalism section of the NAM Speakers Bureau on the subject of The Struggle for Socialism Today. She was also a speaker on the The Left & People's History section on the subject of Socialist Struggles from the '30s to the '70s.[15]

Los Angeles DSA

In 1982 Dorothy Healey was on the Advisory Committee, KPFK radio commentator, of Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America[16].

In 1985, Dorothy Healey Pacifica Radio Commentator and DSA National Vice-Chair, served on the Advisory Committee of Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America.[17]

DSA vice chair

In 1984 Democratic Socialists of America vice chairs were Harry Britt, Ron Dellums, Dorothy Healey, Irving Howe, Frances Moore Lappe, Manning Marable, Hilda Mason, Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Edwin Vargas Jr, William Winpisinger[18].

DSA Feminist Commission

In 1985, Ex Officio members: Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Healey of Washington D.C., Frances Moore Lappe, Hilda Mason, Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Maxine Phillips and Esmeralda Castillo were listed on the National Officers and Staff of the Feminist Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.[19]

CoC National Conference endorser

In 1992 Dorothy Healey of Washington DC endorsed the Committees of Correspondence national conference Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s held at Berkeley California July 17-19.[20]

Rosenberg Fund for Children

In 2003 Dorothy Healey was on the Advisory Board of the Rosenberg Fund for Children[21].


Template:Reflist Template:Endorsers of the Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s

  1. Dorothy Healey, 91; Lifelong Communist Fought for Workers accessed Dec 10 2019
  2. Leaders from the 60s, page 529
  3. Leaders from the 60s, page 529
  4. New American Movement Speakers Bureau booklet, 1980s
  6. The Marxist and the movies: a biography of Paul Jarrico p222
  8. undated NAM contacts list Tarzynski papers Southern California Library for Social Change
  9. Minutes of the Meeting of the Expanded National Interim Committee, January 2-4, 1976 Pittsburgh, PA
  10. [1] In These Times home page, accessed March 6, 2010
  11. NAM 10th Convention Agenda, July 29, 1981
  12. Tribute to Ben Dobbs program, June 7, 1981
  13. Socialist Community School committee member list Feb 1982
  14. Socialist Community School Organizing Committee List, 1980s
  15. New American Movement Speakers Bureau booklet, 1980s
  16. LA DSA members letter July 10 1982
  17. LA, DSA, letterhead January 28th, 1985
  18. DSA membership letter Oct 24 1984
  19. DSA Feminist Commission Directory, 1985
  21. Rosenberg Fund for Children Letterhead June 19 2003