Northite Fool’s Gold
This article was written for Spartakist No. 91, published by our comrades of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany
For close to two decades David North’s Workers League and his cohorts in the “International Committee of the Fourth International” have been foam-flecked cheerleaders for virtually every imperialist-backed anti-Soviet force in the world. But these days the WL is talking a lot out of the other side of its mouth. Now we read in the “ICFI” statement on “The Lessons of the August Putsch and the Tasks Before the Soviet Working Class” (Bulletin, 6 September) that only their organization “defends the historic conquests of the Soviet proletariat and upholds its great socialist traditions”! Our advice to anyone who falls for this one is, as the Romans said, caveat emptor - hold on to your wallet.
More than 20 years ago we recalled Lenin’s term “political bandits” to describe the Workers League and its “International,” then headed by IC “founder-leader” Gerry Healy. Over the years, the Healyites’ “political” banditry was eclipsed by their degeneration into outright gangsters-for-hire. In 1979, after years of pimping for Libya’s Qaddafi, Healy & Co. heralded Iraqi Ba’athist dictator Saddam Hussein as a leader of the struggle against “counterrevolutionary Stalinism” and hailed his execution of 21 members of the Iraqi Communist Party. At the same time they photographed anti-Saddam protesters in London and handed the photos over to the Iraqi embassy, fingering demonstrators for arrest, torture and possibly death. Meanwhile the Healyites were receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the Ba’athist regime.
Although the most heinous, this was only one of many crimes committed by the Healy/Northites, for which they were put on the payroll of virtually every Arab sheik and dictator in the Near East (see “Healyites Got Blood Money,” WV No. 517, 4 January, and “Northite Blood Money,” WV No. 523, 29 March).
In 1985 when this dirty source of revenue dried up, Healy’s organization fell apart and Workers League leader David North declared himself the heir to his former master’s seat at the head of the shattered remnants of the International Committee. Now that it seems like nobody’s paying them for what they say and write, the Northites have reverted to an earlier scam: selling themselves as supposed orthodox Trotskyists in the abstract, while still tailing after anti-Soviet counterrevolutionaries in the concrete. But this latest con game blew apart with the August showdown in Moscow, as Yeltsin’s countercoup brought to power the capitalist-restorationist forces that the Bulletin has been covering for.
The Northites’ current posture as the defenders of the gains of the October Revolution is so manifestly fraudulent that they can’t get it straight themselves.
The “ICFI” statement on tie coup and Yeltsin’s countercoup reads like it was written by a schizophrenic. First we have the declaration that “The International Committee of the Fourth International welcomes the humiliating collapse of the August 19 Stalinist putsch in Moscow.” Yet the very next paragraph states, “But the justified satisfaction felt by workers both in the Soviet Union and internationally at the failure of the putschists must not blind them to the fact that those now assuming center stage in Moscow are bitter antisocialists and ruthless exponents of capitalist restoration.” Again later it declares, “The collapse of the August 19 coup is a large. nail in the coffin of the Stalinist bureaucracy.” Yet this is followed by:
“But any premature jubilation on the part of the working class would be totally unjustified.It’s those telltale “buts” that give the game away. For the collapse of the coup, which North & Co. “welcome,” is not divorced from, but identical with the victory of “those forces now in the forefront” who they admit are “frothing enemies of the working class.” What’s to welcome? This is not “dialectics,” which Healy and North have done so much to discredit, but the squirmings of opportunists hoist on their own petard. They want to be with the Yeltsinite “masses” on the barricades while warning against Yeltsin the harbinger of capitalism. The dilemma, which many Stalinophobic pseudo-Trotskyists resolve by prettifying the “democrat” Yeltsin, North deals with by talking out of both sides of his mouth.
“Those forces now in the forefront are the most ruthless and frothing enemies of the working class. Their aim is nothing less than selling off all the assets of the Soviet Union and its reduction to a semi-colonial status.”
– Bulletin, 6 September
The anti-Stalinist David North evidently agrees with Joseph Stalin on one thing: “Paper will put up with anything that is written on it.”
Even at the level of description, the “two-line” statement exposes itself. It heralds “the implacable opposition of the socialist working class to the military-KGB coup.” Yet a few paragraphs later it notes Yeltsin’s “appeal for a general strike went largely unanswered, even in Moscow. The working class identified with neither faction.” The Northites warn that “without the independent mobilization of the working class on the basis of a socialist program, the collapse of Stalinism will lead to even more brutal forms of repression and social devastation” and “the terror of capitalism.” Yet for years these Stalinophobes have denounced the Kremlin bureaucracy as the sole moving force for capitalist counterrevolution in the USSR.
Thus in one of his interminable speeches, spread over six pages of the same 6 September issue of the Bulletin, David North refers to Gorbachev as “leader of the restorationist faction of the official Communist Party apparatus” while Yeltsin is called “a representative of the emerging Soviet bourgeoisie” and of “bourgeois comprador elements,” dating this as far back as 1987. But as recently as the 21 June Bulletin, an article titled “Behind the Election of Boris Yeltsin” writes of “the drive to capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, whether it is led by Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin or some other counterrevolutionary representative of the bureaucracy.”
And referring to Yeltsin the bureaucrat rather than Yeltsin the bourgeois is no mere slip of the pen, for in the Northite zodiac the Soviet bureaucracy is nothing but a “counterrevolutionary” agency working hand in hand with imperialism. Thus in his 1989 tract on Perestroika Versus Socialism, North declares that “the political and economic goals of the bureaucracy in its relations with world imperialism” are “the destruction of the planned economy and the social conquests of the October Revolution” and the restoration of capitalism. And, more generally, in his 1988 tome The Heritage We Defend, he declares that “Trotsky had branded the Stalinist bureaucracy as ‘counterrevolutionary through and through’.” This stupidly one-sided formulation is the banner of every anti-Soviet fake-Trotskyist. And it is a lie.
Leon Trotsky never said any such thing. Rather, he wrote in “The Class Nature of the Soviet State” (October 1933) that “Whoever fails to understand this dual role of Stalinism in the USSR has understood nothing.” He is referring here to the position. of the bureaucracy, which rests upon the collectivized property forms inherited from the October Revolution, at the same time as it seeks to balance between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, transmitting the pressures of imperialism but also, on occasion, constrained to defend in its bureaucratic fashion the workers state in order to protect its privileges. Trotsky repeatedly insisted on this fundamental point, as in The Revolution Betrayed, which has a section on “The Dual Character of the Workers State” And in a 1937 article against the future renegade Burnham, Trotsky noted:
“The function of Stalin, like the function of Green [then head of the American trade-union federation, AFL], has a dual character. Stalin serves the bureaucracy and thus the world bourgeoisie; but he cannot serve the bureaucracy without defending that social foundation which the bureaucracy exploits in its own interests. To that extent does Stalin defend nationalized property from imperialist attacks and from the too impatient and avaricious layers of the bureaucracy itself. However, he carries through this defense with methods that prepare the general destruction of Soviet society. It is exactly because of This that the Stalinist clique must be overthrown. But it is the revolutionary proletariat who must overthrow it. The proletariat cannot subcontract this work to the imperialists. In spite of Stalin, the proletariat defends the USSR from imperialist attacks.”We discussed the genealogy of the anti-Trotskyist formula that Stalinist is “counterrevolutionary through and through” in our article “David North: Joseph Hansen’s Natural Son” (WV No. 456, I July 1988). It is important to underline it here once again, for behind North’s analytical deceit lies a fundamental assault on the Trotskyist program of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union against counterrevolution. And indeed, at the decisive moment in the face of a direct counterrevolutionary assault by forces which North himself acknowledges to be a “comprador bourgeoisie,” North’s bottom line was “we were for the defeat of this coup” – which was also Yeltsin’s bottom line.
– ”Not a Workers’ and Not a Bourgeois State?” (November 1937)
From Walesa to Yeltsin: Crush the Counterrevolution!
In an article titled “Middle Class Radicals and the Soviet Coup” (Bulletin, 13 September), the Northites assume a posture of denouncing the cabal of fake-Trotskyists who cheered Yeltsin’s countercoup. At the same time they rant that the Spartacist League “criticized the coup plotters only for ‘ineptitude’ and ‘stupidities,’ because they did not arrest Yeltsin or even cut off his phones, and did not mount a ‘serious assault’ on the Russian parliament building. In other words, this politically-diseased organization was hoping against hope for an old-fashioned Stalinist bloodbath.” North’s German followers of the BSA (Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter) continue in the same vein, saying the Spartacists only criticize the coup plotters “because they didn’t carry out a bloodbath in front of the White House in Moscow like the Chinese Stalinists did two years earlier in Tiananmen Square in Peking” (Neue Arbeiterpresse, 4 October).
To compare the couple of thousand scruffy yuppies, speculators and Russian nationalists, including fascists and priests, who were the pathetic advance guard of Yeltsinite counterrevolution, with the hundreds of thousands of workers and students, many of them explicitly pro-socialist, who rallied day after day in Tiananmen Square, is obscene. Like the less duplicitous cheerleaders for Yeltsin, the Northites can’t stand our statement that “a call on Moscow workers to clean out this counterrevolutionary rabble was in order.” And to North & Co., the crime of crimes would be a military bloc with a section of the bureaucracy seeking to fight the outright capitalist restorationists. And as we wrote in our polemic “Traitors, Not Trotskyists – Cheerleaders for Yeltsin’s Counterrevolution” (WV No. 535, 27 September):
“The ‘gang of eight’ was incapable of sweeping away Yeltsin in its pathetic excuse for a putsch because, as we wrote, it was a ‘perestroika coup.’ But both imperialism and the forces of internal counterrevolution were aligned on Yeltsin’s side. The coup plotters were not only irresolute but didn’t want to unleash the forces that could have defeated the more extreme counterrevolutionaries, for that could have led to a civil war if the Yeltsinites really fought back. And in an armed struggle pitting outright restorationists against recalcitrant elements of the bureaucracy, defense of the collectivized economy would have been placed on the agenda whatever the Stalinists’ intentions. Trotskyism would have entered a military bloc with ‘the Thermidorian section of the bureaucracy against open attack by capitalist counterrevolution,’ as Trotsky postulated in the 1938 Transitional Program. This was precisely our policy toward Jaruzelski in 1981.”And indeed, it is precisely the example of Poland which lies behind the Northites’ policy in the Moscow coup. At that time, when the entire left was proclaiming “Solidarity with Solidarity,” the international Spartacist tendency sought to expose before the world’s working class that Lech Walesa & Co. were an agency for the CIA and Western bankers, Ronald Reagan, the Pope and clerical nationalists. They quoted as if it were an outrage our forthright statement: “If the Kremlin Stalinists, in their necessarily brutal, stupid way, intervene militarily …we will support this. And we take responsibility in advance for this; whatever the idiocies and atrocities they will commit, we do not flinch from defending the crushing of Solidarity’s counterrevolution” (WV No. 289, 25 September 1981). Healy, North et al. lined up with the counterrevolutionary cabal.
Now that Solidarność leader Walesa is presiding over the capitalist immiseration of Poland, all the fake-lefts are jumping ship, including North. Thus in its statement on the August coup, the Bulletin denounces Walesa for running a “pro-imperialist regime” which uses police and troops to smash workers strikes. But ten years ago, the Northites joined with anti-Communist Polish emigres and AFL-CIO bureaucrats at a pro-Solidarność rally in Chicago which was addressed by the Reaganite governor of Illinois. “Mass Support for Solidarity,” ran the front-page headline of the Bulletin (18 December 1981) describing this anti-Soviet political orgy.
Anti-Soviet Nationalists and Anti-Union Witchhunts
With openly. capitalist-restorationist forces on the ascendancy in Russia and other republics, the Northites offer themselves as the leadership for the struggle of the Soviet working class to “stop the degradation of the Soviet Union into a Balkanized semicolony of imperialism.” What gall! The Workers League has been the most fervent defender of every force in the USSR that was fighting for just such an outcome.
Last year they championed the cause of the right-wing nationalist Sajudis government in Lithuania. Echoing the most right-wing, anti-Communist elements of the American ruling class, the Workers League even denounced Bush for not imposing imperialist sanctions against the Soviet workers state on behalf of Lithuanian independence:
“The April 24 announcement by the White House that it is taking no retaliatory actions against Moscow for its blockade of Lithuania underscores the unprecedented level of collaboration between imperialism and Stalinism against the international working class.”Here the militantly counterrevolutionary Lithuanian Sajudis regime – whose first act when granted independence by the Yeltsin-Gorbachev regime was to grant a blanket amnesty to the native fascist collaborators of Hitler’s Germany – Is identified with the international working class!
– Bulletin, 27 April 1990
Today the Northites declare that the Soviet working class “must retain its complete independence from the political aims of the imperialists and their political and economic agents in the Soviet Union.” Yet last spring the Bulletin uncritically enthused over the Soviet coal miners strike, which was organized and manipulated by the pro-Yeltsin leaders of the newly formed Independent Union of Miners to demand that control over the mines and other industrial enterprises be transferred from the central Soviet government to the Yeltsin regime of the Russian Republic.
Although the strike reflected the desperate economic conditions facing the miners and their growing hatred for the Gorbachev regime, we warned of the hardline Yeltsinites at the head of the miners union:
“These people are bitter enemies of the Soviet working class. They seek to turn the powerful Soviet miners into a battering ram for openly pro-capitalist forces whose victory would mean the destruction of every remaining social gain - the right to work, cheap housing and low food prices, free medical care-which the Soviet workers have as a result of the collectivized economy.”We pointed out how many of the leaders of the new union were “well known to the AFL-CIO,” according to the American union federation’s newspaper, and indeed they had been toured through the U.S., paid for by the Bush government. And we noted how the AFL-CIO is notorious as an agency for CIA intervention into the labor movement internationally. Not a peep on any of this from the Northites.
– ”Soviet Miners Strike Amid Perestroika Turmoil,” WV No. 522, 15 March
Among the cabal of CIA types present at the founding congress of the Russian miners union in October 1990 was a delegation from the scab “Union of Democratic Miners” in Britain. A creature of the Thatcher government and the British mine bosses set up to destroy the real miners union during the 1984-85 coal strike, the UDM was there to purvey the imperialist-orchestrated Big Lie campaign that miners union leader Arthur Scargill “mishandled” funds that were donated by Soviet miners during the strike. The bourgeoisie was enraged at this internationalist solidarity from Soviet workers, who dug deep in their pockets to aid this bitter class battle. After years of persecuting the union, and even stealing union funds from the banks, the British state finally had to drop court charges against Scargill.
Spartacists who were present at the Soviet miners congress exposed this anti-union vendetta. Now the Northites say nothing about the whole affair. Small wonder. In 1983 it was their own international leaders, in Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party, who instigated the initial anti-Communist witchhunt against Scargill. On the eve of the coal strike, Healy’s press lambasted the miners union leader for accurately calling Solidarność an “anti-socialist” organization. This was a completely calculated “bombshell” by the Healyites and one which was played for all it was worth by Thatcher, her Fleet Street media and the anti-Communist labor bureaucrats in Britain in their campaign to cut off any solidarity with the miners. The Healyites were so proud of themselves that they published an entire pamphlet about it.
David North and the “AFL-CIA”
Here we had the intersection of the two political hallmarks of Healyism – vicious anti-Sovietism and belly-crawling before the Cold War trade-union tops. At the height of the Vietnam War, the Workers League put out a program for a labor party that didn’t mention either the war or the fight for black liberation in the U.S. And in the December 1990 German Bundestag elections, the Northite BSA ran on a program that did not even mention immigrant workers, racist/fascist attacks or women’s rights. And while they included ritual criticisms of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Northites called for votes to the SPD witchhunters, who served as the advance guard of capitalist reunification in a Fourth Reich of German imperialism.
Today, as part of its “orthodox” con game, the Northite “ICFI” is making critical noises about the pro-imperialist labor bureaucracy. North cynically proclaims: “We do not make a fetish of the so-called mass organizations, with their paper membership and their overstaffed and overpaid bureaucracies…. The AFL-CIO, like all the other bureaucracies which exist in this world, is an instrument of imperialism which exists to control and discipline the working class” (Bulletin, 6 September). He calls for a “Fight for a Labor Party Based on a Socialist Program,” and even declares at such a party need not be “some sort social democratic party under the aegis of the AFL-CIO.” Quite a mouthful coming from the same Workers League which for years routinely called on the same sellout AFL-CIO bureaucrats lead everything including general strikes.
In fact, during the Iran-Contragate scandal, the Northites demanded that he AFL-CIO conduct[s] its own independent inquiry into the, illegal White House activities and the direct dangers they pose to the working class” (Labor Must Act on Iran-Contra Crisis, January 1987). This is tantamount to calling on e CIA to investigate itself! The AFL-CIO tops were no less involved in the U.S. war crimes in Central America than the crew in the White House basement. Lane Kirkland was a member of the Rockefeller Commission, which carried out a whitewash of CIA assassination activities for the Ford administration in 1975. Kirkland was a member of the Kissinger Commission, which rubber-stamped Reagan’s support to the contra terrorists in Nicaragua. He is a member of the National Endowment for Democracy, set up to give a veneer of legitimacy to CIA-funded subversion. And the AFL-CIO has for years provided cover for CIA “labor” activities through the “American Institute for Free Labor Development” in Latin America and similar outfits elsewhere.
“Democratic” Cover for Imperialist War
The hypocrisy is mind-boggling, but hardly new for the sinister David North, who was one of the prime authors of the Healyite cop-baiting smear job against the American reformist Socialist Workers Party, “Security and the Fourth International,” and who more recently appealed to the capitalist state to jail SWP member Mark Curtis, while lining up AFL-CIO bureaucrats to back this vicious frame-up. As part of his current pseudo-orthodoxy jag, North is putting his membership’s heads through yet another Healyite wringer as they build for a “Berlin Conference Against Colonialism and War” this month.
This is quite a name for a conference held by this crew. When the U.S. imperialists’ mad bombers were laying waste to Iraq, the central demand of the Northites was for a “national referendum on the gulf war in which all workers and youth of voting age would be able to take part” (Bulletin, 30 November 1990). We pointed out (and perhaps members of North’s Workers League could figure out for themselves) how this amounted to “democratic” support for the imperialist war:
“At the red-white-and-blue ‘antiwar’ demonstration in Washington, D.C. on January 26, the Northites marched under a banner reading: ‘Stop War Against Iraq – Let the People Vote on War.’ This is worse than the most abject social-pacifism, appealing to the imperialist butchers to give a more ‘democratic’ cover to their genocidal war against the Iraqi people. At the time, the American ‘people,’ in their overwhelming majority, supported Bush’s war!”North’s attempt to invoke Trotsky in defending this social-patriotic ploy is a slander against the Bolshevik leader, who consistently fought for class struggle against imperialist war. While the “ICFI” was peddling this line, the Spartacist League marched under the banner “Defeat U.S. Imperialism! Defend Iraq!” and the sections of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) fought for labor political strikes against the war.
- WV No. 523, 29 March
So our advice to anyone who might be taken in by North’s latest shell game is to look carefully at the record of this dubious tendency which took well over £1 million from Arab bourgeois regimes; which set up the leader of the British miners union for persecution by the class enemy; which has systematically used the capitalist cops and courts against its opponents on the left; which extolled the execution of Iraqi Communist workers, and fingered opponents of the Ba’athist regime for bloody repression; which hailed feudalist Ayatollah Khomeini and Walesa’s Solidarność, the only union Ronald Reagan ever loved; which has supported fascistic Lithuanian nationalists and Yeltsinite “union” misleaders bought by the “AFL-CIA”; which has catered to the AFL-CIO bureaucracy in America and the Fourth Reich Social Democrats in Germany …look carefully at all this and understand that the slimy reality of the Northites is not just what you read on paper. These people are capable of saying and doing anything.