Workers Vanguard No. 562, 30 October 1992
Freddy and the Mob
In the early 1980s, as the Reagan White House kicked off a full-scale judicial counterrevolution — aimed at gearing up the state’s machinery of repression by shredding any semblance of democratic rights — it stepped up its legal vendetta against “the Mob.” As we noted, “The Reaganites want to institutionalize the frame-up principle, and what easier target for a frame job than vicious parasites like gangsters?” (“Feds Frame Up Mob,” WV No. 400, 28 March 1986). For the past ten years, the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) “conspiracy” law has been wielded for murderous frame-ups of the government’s leftist opponents, wholesale attacks on labor, and general intimidation of the population.
So when the feds’ RICO dragnet finally got John Gotti, the reputed New York “crime boss” who last summer was sentenced to life without parole, we responded with a straightforward statement based on the understanding that democratic rights are indivisible. As we observed in “Gotti, RICO and You” (WV No. 557, 7 August): “Civil liberties, if they mean anything at all, apply first of all to those perceived as really far out — whether they be Marxists, religious sects (recall Rev. Sun Myung Moon or Oregon guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) or even in fact mobsters.”
One would think that any self-proclaimed leftist, of whatever political persuasion, would by definition be opposed to RICO even if only out of self-preservation. But not David North’s Workers League. A raving response to our article on Gotti by the Northites’ vice-presidential candidate Fred Mazelis, titled “The Spartacists and John Gotti” (Bulletin, 2 October), doesn’t even mention, much less oppose, the police-state RICO laws that were used to nail Gotti.
On the contrary, Mazelis takes umbrage that the “Spartacists go on to compare Gotti favorably to the leading spokesmen of US imperialism in the Democratic and Republican parties,” citing our observation that: “If John Gotti were running with Noriega in this year’s elections, they’d be the lesser evil.” Mazelis is so insulted by the comparison of the Italian “mobster” and the Panamanian strongman with “his” imperialist rulers that he choked on quoting our next sentence: “Gotti’s probably not nature’s nobleman, but neither is the Arkansas executioner Bill Clinton nor George Bush, who regularly bombs small countries to rubble.”
This, writes Mazelis, “is the language of politically deranged elements of the petty bourgeoisie.” But somehow the oh-so-proletarian “Workers” League has been strangely mum on a law that has been the government’s primary legal weapon against the unions. Sponsored by segregationist Arkansas Senator John McClellan, who presided over the witch-hunting Senate subcommittee in the 1950s that went after Jimmy Hoffa and produced the Landrum-Griffin Act outlawing “hot cargoing” in the trucking industry, the RICO laws were in fact intended to equate “organized labor” with “organized crime.”
In the name of fighting “mob influence” in the labor movement, the gang of criminals that run this country invoked RICO to place the Teamsters under government trusteeship. Mine Workers, Longshoremen, Laborers and Hotel Workers number among the other unions to feel the RICO sting. And it is rare today that a picket line isn’t met by the threat of RICO suits.
RICO’s definition of “racketeering “ is so elastic it allows the government to go after whoever they want, whenever they want, without any evidence of any crime. You’re guilty until proven innocent and sentenced before convicted. The government has free rein to take everything you own, and without any assets it’s pretty hard to find a lawyer to take your case. Attorneys’ fees may be seized if the government claims these were paid with “ill-gotten gains,” RICO’s witch-hunting provisions were applied with a vengeance against the “Ohio 7,” a group of leftist opponents of U.S. imperialism, who were met with wiretaps, dragnets, preventive detention, kidnapping and interrogation of children.
Mazelis’ lips are sealed on all of this. But then again the Workers League would be hard pressed pretending to oppose government intervention in the labor movement or capitalist state persecution of leftists. After all, the Northites have a wealth of experience in using the capitalist courts to disrupt, harass, frame up and otherwise try to bankrupt their political opponents. In their psychotic vendetta against the once-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, which they charge with being a government conspiracy, the Northites have pursued their own version of RICO.
In the late 1970s, a Workers League provocateur, Alan Gelfand, filed suit against the SWP demanding the court seize its membership lists, financial records and minutes. In 1988, the WL’s Bulletin supplied the closing arguments for the bourgeois state’s prosecution of a young SWPer, Mark Curtis, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail on frame-up charges of sexual abuse.
One of the most common means the government uses to nail people under RICO is the charge of using the mails or wire services for “fraudulent” purposes. The Workers League, which has made an international campaign out of condemning “The Mark Curtis Hoax,” threw its support behind a court case filed by the father of the alleged victim claiming that Curtis’ defense committee was engaged in an “international smear campaign,” and demanding that the courts requisition monies raised in Curtis’ defense for damages.
Now Mazelis charges that our article “Gotti, RICO and You” is evidence of the “class affinity between the Spartacists and the mob.” This is pretty rich coming from an outfit which is internationally renowned for its gangsterism and truly criminal financial deals with a whole variety of colonels, sheiks and despots in the Near East. Moreover, given that the Workers League claims to be the most proletarian, the most internationally connected, indeed the sole repository of Marxism on the face of the planet, what kind of protection racket do they have going that makes them feel so smugly secure against the repressive legal arsenal of this capitalist government?