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Fourth International 1990: The end of the Soviet Union

Resolution Ten: In Honor of Comrade Tom Henehan

This resolution was adopted at the World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism, held in Berlin on November 16-17, 1991 under the auspices of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The International Committee salutes the memory of Comrade Tom Henehan, martyr of the Fourth International.

Comrade Henehan, a leader of the Young Socialists and the Workers League, was shot to death by hired killers in Brooklyn, New York, on October 16, 1977 at the age of 26.

The killing took place at a YS dance at the Ponce Social Club, to raise funds for the campaign to free Gary Tyler, a black youth framed up and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.

The three killers, triggerman Angelo Torres, Edwin Sequinot and Angel Rodriguez, undertook a political killing on behalf of US imperialism. It was aimed against the fight to build a Marxist leadership in a new generation of workers and youth, of which Comrade Tom was an outstanding representative.

There is ample evidence of state complicity in the murder which was revealed by the Workers League’s campaign. The police claimed that it was a “senseless killing” and, although the identity of the assailants was quickly established, they were not arrested. The detective in charge of the case, John Mohl, said, “He was just a commie and his death would be of interest only to other commies.”

The Workers League’s campaign for the arrest of the killers won wide support from tens of thousands of workers and union officials representing over four million workers. Only as a result of this did the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office finally order the arrest of Torres and Sequinot, three years later on October 15, 1980. Even then Rodriguez was not charged. They were convicted in July 1981 and sentenced to maximum terms of 25 years to life for Torres and 12 1/2 to 25 years for Sequinot.

At the trial, links between the killers, the police and the District Attorney’s office were established. Torres was arrested for burglary in July 1979 and released on bail, despite being wanted for murder. He had never in fact left New York, as the police suggested. Sequinot had served as Torres’s accomplice while on weekend furlough from prison, yet he was paroled in January 1978 despite eyewitness testimony identifying him as an accomplice in the crime.

The killing of Tom Henehan was aimed at terrorizing the Workers League. It was a direct response to the campaign to expose the role of imperialist agents in the ex-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. The IC had discovered irrefutable evidence that the longtime leader of the SWP, Joseph Hansen, was an agent of the Stalinist GPU and later the FBI. Only three months before the assassination, Hansen wrote an article warning the Workers League of “deadly consequences” if it continued the Security and the Fourth International investigation.

Comrade Tom joined the Trotskyist movement while a student at Columbia University, New York. At the time, the upsurge of anti-Vietnam War radicalism had largely subsided, after it had been led into the dead end of protest politics by the Stalinists and SWP. While many students became cynical and pessimistic, Tom looked for a way to fight and found it in the Trotskyist perspective advanced by the Workers League.

He joined the party in March 1973. He became a party printer and played a leading role in the building of the Young Socialists and the Workers League. For this, he was elected to the Central Committee of the party and the YS National Committee.

Comrade Tom was devoted to the cause of the working class and the struggle to build a new, revolutionary leadership. He represented all that is best in the youth. Animated by the historic perspective for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of world socialism, he was able to win the respect of hundreds of workers and youth. Those workers and youth who today take up the struggle for Trotskyism will mark well the example of Tom Henehan and pay honor to his memory.