Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Tom Henehan, a member of the Political Committee of the Workers League—the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party in the US. We are republishing here a tribute delivered by David North at a meeting in 1997.
Tom Henehan (March 16, 1951-October 16, 1977) was a member of the political committee of the Workers League, the forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party of the United States. On the evening of October 15, 1977, Tom was supervising an activity sponsored by the Young Socialists, the party’s youth movement, in Brooklyn, New York. Two men, later identified as Edwin Sequinot and Angel Rodriguez, started a disturbance by attacking another Workers League member, Jacques Vielot. As Tom rushed to Vielot’s aid, he was shot five times by a third assailant lying in wait, a professional gunman named Angelo Torres. Sequinot then pulled out a gun and shot Vielot, severely wounding him. The injured Vielot rushed Tom to Wyckoff Heights Hospital. Tom died approximately an hour after arriving at the hospital, in the early morning hours of October 16. He was 26 years old.
The murder of Tom Henehan was a political attack aimed at intimidating the Workers League and blocking its efforts to build a socialist leadership in the American working class. The Workers League was at that time involved in an historic investigation of the circumstances surrounding the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Fourth International. This investigation, whose findings were published under the title Security and the Fourth International, exposed the decades-long efforts of the police agencies of imperialism and Stalinism to penetrate and sabotage the world Trotskyist movement. Among other things, the investigation revealed the insidious links between Joseph Hansen—who later became a leader of the American Socialist Workers Party—and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In June 1977, Hansen and the SWP published a statement that warned of “deadly consequences” if the investigation continued. Shortly afterwards, Tom Henehan lay dead in a Brooklyn hospital.
Soon after Tom’s death, the Workers League and the Young Socialists launched a campaign to demand the arrest and conviction of his killers. The campaign won widespread support from workers and youth throughout the country. Under growing pressure from the Workers League’s campaign, the police finally arrested Angelo Torres on a bus in Brooklyn on October 15, 1980. Several months later, in December 1980, after long denying that a second gunman was involved, the police arrested Edwin Sequinot. Both Torres and Sequinot were indicted for murder and attempted murder.
On the evening of October 15 1977, Tom Henehan, a member of the political committee of the Workers League, the forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, was supervising an activity sponsored by the Young Socialists, the party’s youth movement, held at the Ponce Social Club in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York.
On December 16, 2008, Mary Elise Henehan died at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the age of 83. She was the mother of Tom Henehan, a political committee member of the Workers League, predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, who was the victim of a political assassination carried out on October 16, 1977 in New York City.
In 1975, the International Committee of the Fourth International launched the first systematic investigation by the Trotskyist movement intothe assassination. This investigation, known as Security and the Fourth International, led to the exposure of the network of GPU agents within the Fourth International that ensured the success of Stalin’s conspiracy against Trotsky’s life.