Free Mark Curtis!
Workers League Brokers Frame-Up Operation
There’s a first-rate anti-communist witchhunt in progress over the case of Mark Curtis, a member of the quirky reformist Socialist Workers Party, now doing 25 years in the Iowa state penitentiary on frame-up charges. The Des Moines district attorney’s 1988 railroading of Curtis was aided and abetted by the Workers League, a dubious outfit that specializes in provocation, in pursuing its vendetta against the SWP, long a target of government harassment and “dirty tricks.” But although Curtis has spent the past four years behind bars, his defense campaign has been the object of a frenzied assault by right-wing feminists who want to prevent him from getting out on parole. Their aim is to smear the entire left as racists, rapists and sexists. To do so, they pass off the Workers League as good coin, ignoring its history of many years of sinister provocation, insist on the existence of a “rape” which even the prosecution doesn’t claim took place, and cite a plethora of “pro-victim” sources which turn out to be linked to government agencies.
There’s some pretty strange stuff going on, particularly coming out of the Boston area. Consider the following:
• The Boston NAACP has been on campaign footing circulating a letter (dated March 14) declaring “MARK CURTIS IS A VIOLENT RAPIST!” and urging those who had defended him to withdraw their names from the Curtis campaign.
• When multiracial protests swept the country in solidarity with the Los Angeles upheaval against the acquittal of the racist cops who beat Rodney King, Boston NAACP official Mary ‘ Benin and some associates attended a May 8 demonstration at Boston City Hall. They were there not to protest the racist L.A. verdict, but …to circulate an anti-Curtis tract calling to “Dis-endorse now” and saying “it’s not anti-left to be anti-rape.”
• Days later, at a May 16 Boston SWP forum on the Rodney King case, a group of so-called progressives showed up including Bertin, Fred Pelka of “Men to End Sexual Assault” (MESA) and other activists of the “stop rape movement.” They had come, not to discuss police brutality, and certainly not to criticize the SWP’s reformist call on George Bush’s “Justice Department” to indict the cops, but …to set up a picket line outside the Pathfinder Bookstore, chanting “Racist, sexist SWP!” and “Keep Mark Curtis in jail!”
• On July 18, a forum was held at the Boston Public Library where Bertin, Pelka and Ann Russo, a women’s studies professor at MIT, participated in a panel discussion whose purpose was …to destroy the Mark Curtis Defense Committee activities in the Boston area. Mark Curtis was described here as a “white man” who “raped” “an Afro-American woman,” and the SWP as “racists” who “glorify” a “rapist.”
• At a demonstration in Boston on September 30, where thousands of black Haitian workers were protesting the anniversary of the military coup that overthrew the government of the radical priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the anti-Curtis crowd was back again, with leaflets not against the bloody junta and its links to the U.S. government but …denouncing a socialist group and its imprisoned member for “Racism and Rapism.”
What kind of people go to a Rodney King demonstration against cop brutality and a Haiti demonstration against a military junta in order to pillory a young socialist militant who was active in the defense of immigrant workers at a meatpacking plant in the Midwest? Even if they think he is guilty of rape, why are self-proclaimed advocates of the interests of women, blacks and labor so driven to go after someone who is already in jail? What is going on here?
What’s going on here is a sinister, organized provocation with a not-so-hidden agenda of vilifying the left. In the name of victims’ rights and stopping rape, a network has sprung up that works closely with the police, embraces vigilantism and is in the tow of reactionary forces. With liberal rhetoric they engage in witchhunting taken straight from the hook (literally) of J. Edgar Hoover. And the whole operation is being brokered by David North’s Workers League, which is obsessed with destroying the Socialist Workers Party and sees this case as its vehicle.
The Spartacist League has no love lost for the rotten-reformist SWP, but we can tell a dirty frame-up when we see it. And this one is a threat to everyone. Rape and sexual abuse are serious crimes, and we have given careful consideration to the Curtis case. We have read the 400-page trial transcript and the voluminous articles and pamphlets on this case, and we have documented our conclusion that Mark Curtis was framed – see the statement of the SL/U.S. Political Bureau, “The Workers League and Mark Curtis” (WV No. 480, 23 June 1989), and our article “Why Should Anyone Believe David North?” (WV No. 487, 13 October 1989).
The Railroading of Mark Curtis
Mark Curtis is a former national chairman of the SWP’s youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance. At the time of his arrest he was a union activist at the Swift packing plant in Iowa. There had been a lot of turmoil in the Midwest meatpacking industry, particularly around the protracted 1985-86 Hormel strike by Local P-9 in Austin, Minnesota, which was broken by the combined efforts of the company, the Democratic state government and the social-democratic national union bureaucracy. In the Swift plant in Des Moines, four days before Curtis’ arrest in March 1988, an INS immigration raid had picked up 17 workers. On March 4, Curtis spoke in Spanish at a meeting in defense of these workers. Only hours after this, he was arrested at the Morris residence in Des Moines by cops who took him to police headquarters where they beat him to a pulp, calling him a “Mexican lover.”
In September 1988, Curtis was convicted of third degree sexual assault and first degree burglary. The state charged that he had forced his way onto the porch of the Morris house, and attempted to rape 15-year-old Demetria Morris. Curtis said he was lured there by a request for aid. By no account, not even that of the police or the young woman at the trial, did a rape ever take place, nor was anything stolen, nor was there a weapon. Whatever may have happened to Demetria Morris, there was never any physical evidence of contact between Curtis and the alleged victim. The court refused to allow testimony about the government’s multi-year campaign of “dirty tricks” aimed against the SWP. And now Curtis is serving a 25-year sentence. Despite vows by members of the Iowa State Parole Board that he will serve his entire sentence unless he confesses his “guilt,” Curtis has not been broken. “I am not a rapist, but a fighter for women’s rights. And I am not guilty of the crimes I have been charged and convicted of,” Curtis declares.
The Workers League has aided the capitalist state prosecution of this young socialist militant as part of their decades-long vendetta against the eccentric, and pretty irrelevant, reformists of the SWP. In the trial, the closing arguments of the Polk County prosecutor were taken virtually verbatim from the pages of the WL’s paper, the Bulletin. After the conviction, they have sought to destroy Curtis’ defense committee and drive away its endorsers. Through the father of the alleged victim, Keith Morris, they went to the capitalist courts demanding the names of endorsers, and access to the defense committee finances. WL agents have crisscrossed the globe searching out individuals who endorsed or contributed to the defense fund, contacting and harassing them.
But in the midst of all this imaginary psycho-projection and demagogic collective guilt-tripping, a simple fact has been left out: in this case there was no rape! In fact the state dropped the charge of rape against Mark Curtis. So why then this tabloid-style hysteria based on the assertion that there was a rape?
In January, Mark Curtis won a police brutality suit against the Des Moines cops who beat him bloody the night of his arrest. (The verdict came a month after the Des Moines cops were exposed for the brutal beating of a black worker, Larry Milton, who they subsequently tried to frame up on “theft” charges.) The court decided the cops lied when they said they didn’t beat up Mark Curtis, and awarded him $11,000 plus attorney’s fees. Since the cops were critical witnesses at Curtis’ trial, that testimony is deeply suspect as well.
The Smear Campaign
All this has only been a spur for the Workers League to accelerate their campaign smearing Curtis as a “depraved rapist.” The WL went after Curtis’ labor support, lining up with the Iowa AFL-CIO officialdom as well as bourgeois black organizations like the Des Moines NAACP and Black United Front. More recently they have hooked up with a clot in Boston including the Rape Crisis Center, black politicos and union officials. As a result of their poison campaign, some 20 people have reportedly withdrawn their support, including former Boston mayoral candidates Mel King and Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler, IUE Local 201 president Jeff Crosby (Lynn GE), former Boston University professor Howard Zinn and feminist author Margaret Randall.
Circulating in the feminist milieu are several articles notable for their praise of the Workers League and virulent attacks on “the left” for supposed racism. “The Strange Case of Mark Curtis: Victim or Victimizer?” by Fred Pelka of Boston MESA appeared in an obscure Queens, New York “progressive woman’s quarterly” On the Issues (Spring 1991). And the Boston-based feminist newspaper Sojourner (October 1992) has , an article by Ann Russo, “Mark Curtis: When Racism Equals Rapism.” Russo calls the WL’s Martin McLaughlin “one of the few progressives who supported the rape survivor and her family.” She also lays out the witchhunt campaign in detail:
“Efforts to challenge the propaganda of the defense committee escalated this past spring when Mary Bertin, on behalf of the Boston NAACP, got involved …. A group of us, including Barry Shuchter, Fred Pelka, Anita Saville and others, including myself on behalf of White Women Against Racism and Violence Against Women, have been directing our efforts towards supporters of Curtis, encouraging them to disendorse his defense campaign.”“Some activists wonder why we are making such an effort to stop the Curtis defense campaign,” Russo writes. “In this case, the rape survivor faces an international progressive community that supports this white male rapist.” She quotes Mary Bertin saying: “For the past four years, [the SWP has] literally had the reign of the world, and that has to end. I felt the NAACP could be her voice, and so we designed a campaign to inform people of Demetria’s story.”
Russo’s piece is loaded with emotional white liberal guilt-tripping. At issue in the Curtis case, she claims, is “a young working-class African-American girl … brutally raped and beaten by a white man.” Russo keeps repeating: Demetria Morris was “brutally raped and assaulted,” she is “a rape survivor.” Russo puts herself inside the victim’s mind, saying “imagine being reminded” about “the good things that the man who raped you has done.” Russo imagines this, imagines that. Of the SWP, she says that “they consistently downplay the rape” of one of the “women of color who have been raped by white men,” and they ignored “the impact of their campaign on the rape survivor.” How has the SWP “gotten away with” a “support campaign in defense of a, rapist,” she asks. The “progressive community …supports this white male rapist,” and this supposedly “illustrates the racist ignorance and denial of sexual assault that continue to permeate the progressive community.”
Russo locates the source of this in “the ideology that so-called ‘good men’ (which in this country translates into white men) don’t rape.” In the May 8 (leaflet this is rendered as “‘good men,’ that is, progressive activists) don’t rape.” What is the conclusion? That all men rape? But in the midst of all this imaginary psycho-projection and demagogic collective guilt-tripping, a simple fact has been left out: in this case there was no rape! In fact the state dropped the charge of rape against Mark Curtis. So why then this tabloid-style hysteria based on the assertion that there was a rape? And what purposes does the exploitation of the non-rape of Demetria Morris serve?
In Defense of the Scottsboro Boys
In this respect, the article by Fred Pelka of Men to End Sexual Assault is instructive. This smear job paints the left as “sexists” who reflexively defend and harbor rapists if they are among “their own.” Pelka claims that a “feminist analysis of the Curtis case” shows “how effectively the left has acted to silence the survivor.” “What does it mean … when so many ‘politically correct’ people are willing to take, at face value, the word of a white man convicted of rape , over that of his Black victim?” And in showing that the left supposedly has a long tradition of vilifying rape victims, he obscenely cites the case of the Scottsboro Boys!
This astounding claim comes in response to Russ Davis, a Boston supporter of the Curtis defense campaign, who wrote that there are historical precedents for the use of rape in frame-ups. Pelka asserts:
While fraudulently claiming to have recently resuscitated the traditions of the CP’s International Labor Defense, the economist WL never mentions any of the ILD’s defense of blacks. Moreover, the WL’s Bulletin (31 July) fulsomely quotes from Pelka and Russo without a mention of their vicious anti-communism and racism. Their silence on these issues is utterly damning.
“It’s significant that Davis’ list of cases where rape ‘has been used in frame-ups’ begins and ends with the ‘Scottsboro Boys’ – a group of African-American men convicted of rape by an all-white (and all-male) jury in Alabama in 1931 ….What racist, anti-communist trash! Naturally Pelka doesn’t bother to mention that the Scottsboro Boys – nine young black men – were sentenced to die on the basis of the testimony of two young white women, based on charges of rape that had been manufactured by the Alabama cops! But to keep Curtis in jail, Pelka is glad to retry these victims of Southern lynch law.
“There is one similarity, though, between the Curtis case and that of the Scottsboro defendants. In both cases, the prosecution witnesses, women without access to power and unable to tell their stories, were vilified by the left. In 60 years that much, at least, hasn’t changed.”
Defense of the Scottsboro Boys was the focus of an international campaign, centrally led by the Communist Party, in which hundreds of thousands of people were mobilized to save these young black men from Jim Crow “justice.” As for the two women, one did “tell her story.” Ruby Bates later recanted her testimony, and in 1933 marched at the head of a protest in front of the White House demanding freedom for the Scottsboro Boys. As James P. Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism, wrote in a 1932 article entitled “Mobilize White Workers for Scottsboro Prisoners”:
“The deliberately planned assassination of the unfortunate Negro children is notice to the entire world that imperialist America, this pretended pacifist and friend of justice, is in fact a monster. The endeavor to thwart its bloody designs in the present case calls out the deepest and best human instincts.”Not so for Pelka & Co., for whom, even 60 years later, the case of the Scottsboro Boys calls out the basest, if reflexive, instincts.
What gets them seeing red is not the lynch rope, but that the lives of these young men were saved by mobilizations led by Communists. In his attack on the left over the Scottsboro Boys, Pelka is playing on an old theme. The NAACP sabotaged the Scottsboro defense, defended the court that convicted the framed-up youth, denounced the mass mobilizations and raised the cry of the “red menace,” accusing the CP of using the case for its own purposes. (Only four years later, under intense pressure from the black masses, did the NAACP finally take up the case.) During the McCarthyite witchhunt, the liberal historian Wilson Record vituperated against the CP over the Scottsboro case in his book The Negro and the Communist Party (1951). And today we have the Boston and Des Moines NAACP and Fred Pelka playing the same theme in the Mark Curtis case.
At the same time, the Workers League has scandalously erased the Scottsboro Boys from American working-class history. While fraudulently claiming to have recently resuscitated the traditions of the CP’s International Labor Defense, the economist WL never mentions any of the ILD’s defense of blacks. Moreover, the WL’s Bulletin (31 July) fulsomely quotes from Pelka and Russo without a mention of their vicious anti-communism and racism. Their silence on these issues is utterly damning.
The Scottsboro and the Curtis frame-ups are wielded in a cynical attempt to portray the left as enemies of women and blacks. Pelka, Bertin & Co. are supporters of the racist capitalist system. Just look at the charge of “lying.” Pelka approvingly cites the argument of prosecutor Catherine Thune that Curtis can’t be trusted because he lied …on an employment application! Is there another way to get a job? And what about the “illegal” immigrant workers at Swift whose jobs Curtis was defending – if their documents weren’t in order does that mean they should be deported? On the other hand, Pelka waves aside the fact that one of the cops, Gonzalez, had been suspended from the Des Moines police for lying, saying he was only “fudging an arrest report to protect the identity of an informant.” Actually, Gonzalez was caught lying about beating a suspect.
A lot of Pelka’s stuff sounds like it comes out of the House Un-American Activities Committee. “How is it,” he wants to know, that the SWP has gotten so much support for Mark Curtis? For the answer he goes to Barry Shuchter, formerly an editorial committee member of the Boston Labor Page. “The first thing (SWP members) do is the personal favors trick,” says Shuchter. “They say, ‘We’ve been on the line with you, we’ve come to your events. Now we’re asking for this one favor in return.’ Then comes the ‘Look who else has endorsed’ trick.” This sounded so much like a page out of J. Edgar Hoover’s Masters of Deceit that we decided to check. Sure enough, the FBI boss gave as an example of Communist agitation:
“The communists publish a story: John Doe has been arrested, the charge is murder …. The Party machinery springs into action, typical of thousands of mass-agitation campaigns …. The next step is probably the formation of the XYZ Committee to Save John Doe …. Finally come the unsuspecting noncommunists, with contact being made either in person or on the telephone.Pelka and Shuchter have learned well at the knee of this master of frame-ups. Incidentally, the first use of the term “PC,” to our knowledge, comes from J. Edgar’s how-to chapter on “The Communist Front”: “Don’t just ‘slap’ slogans on cardboard. Make sure they are ‘politically correct’.”
“‘Mr. X, I’m So-and-So from the XYZ. Committee to Save John Doe. I was just over at Mr. Y’s office. You know him, don’t you?’ …
“On and on. ‘Dr. F, Rev. O, etc., have given statements’ ….
“‘Why,’ a friend will say after reading the testimonial, ‘if So-and-So endorses that organization [or issue], it must be OK.’ The dupe becomes a communist thought-control relay station.”
Police Aides, Vigilantes and Willie Horton
What’s behind the new assault on Mark Curtis is a right-wing trend that might be called yuppie feminism. One of the most tangible effects of the women’s movement has been the appearance of a layer of women professionals and executives: lawyers, professors, bank managers. They’re hostile to the left, and the heroines of this upwardly mobile strata include Democratic women politicians and lady prosecutors, from Liz Holtzman to Des Moines’ Catherine Thune. They have a ruling-class outlook, including seeing the state and its police as their defenders and allies, from going after rapists, child abusers and “pornography” to “protecting” abortion clinics (by clamping down on radicals who seek to stop the bible bigots besieging the clinics).
The politics of these self-styled “progressives” are thoroughly bourgeois, and can get pretty reactionary. The Pelka article appeared in the same edition of On the Issues (Spring 1991) as a column by editor Merle Hoffman in support of Bush’ s Persian Gulf War! On the Issues has a distinct Zionist flavor, with articles on the “pros and cons” of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. It features photos of the Vigilante Queen, the Guardian Angels’ Lisa Sliwa (at the trial of the black youths who brutally assaulted the Central Park jogger). The current (Fall 1992) issue has an article, “Let’s Make Rape an Election Issue,” which blames Dukakis’ 1988 defeat on his wimpy response as to what he would do if Kitty was raped – supposedly showing his “insensitivity” – while Bush at least was addressing the “issue” with the Willie Horton ad!
In the Mark Curtis case, it’s striking how the people lined up in the witchhunt against him all base themselves on the story being disseminated by the Des Moines police and their adjuncts. Pelka quotes prosecutor Thune, Marti Anderson of Polk County Victim Services, Demetria Morris’ rape crisis counselor Terry Schock. Barry Shuchter, who kicked off the Boston disendorsement campaign, says, “We called the Des Moines Rape Crisis Center who gave us quite a different story” from Curtis’ defenders (Labor Page, April/May 1990). Well, we called the Des Moines Rape Crisis Center, too, and they answered the phone, “Victim Services.” We confirmed that all of these are Polk County, Iowa, official agencies: Catherine Thune, Marti Anderson and Terry Schock are all government spokesmen and worked together in preparing the case against Mark Curtis. So the witchhunters call up the prosecution, and surprise, they get the prosecution line.
How could you not believe the victim, these righteous feminists ask? A piece of literature titled, “Rape Myths and the Mark Curtis Case,” claims: “In fact, more than ninety-eight percent of all rapes reported to the police actually occurred as described by the victim.” Yet, as the SWP points out, the source of this assertion can only be the police themselves. In reaction to the whole history of rape trials, in which the woman victim was placed on trial, her character assassinated and her word dismissed, it has become an article of faith in the “stop-rape movement” that the victim never lies. Russo says the Curtis defense campaign must be fought because it “betrays the already shaky alliances between the feminist, civil rights, labor, and progressive movements,” since “trust …cannot be assumed when a white man’s word” is taken as truth “against the words and experience of an African-American girl.”
This brings to mind the Tawana Brawley case, in which a black teenager having family trouble invented a story about being a victim of a racist rape. This became a cause célèbre as it was pushed by black nationalists with their own agenda and taken up by liberals and radicals who implicitly took the word of “the victim” as good coin. And it was all a pack of lies.
In his article, Pelka quotes Claire Kaplan of the “National Coalition Against Sexual Assault” who sees in the Curtis case “this eternal denial on the part of the left to think that men among their ranks couldn’t possibly commit such a crime.” Kaplan is one of the main proponents of the victims-don’t-lie argument. So much so, that in a Virginia case where the day after a Manassas man was convicted of rape the alleged victim (who was married with two children) recanted, admitting the sex was “probably consensual,” Kaplan told the press that such an incident was rare: “if a case is falsely reported …it doesn’t even get to a conviction” (Washington Post, 9 May 1990). For her, Curtis must he guilty, because otherwise it will damage the “stop-rape movement” and “groups will be divided wherever the SWP takes this campaign.”
Kaplan & Co. not only work closely with the police, but they also sanction reckless vigilante action, with not the slightest concern for the rights of the accused. In 1987, a teenage boy in a small California town sued for defamation when his name appeared on flyers posted around the county by the Santa Cruz Women Against Rape listing supposed rapists. The flyers included not only his name but a physical description, his address, place of employment and what kind of car he drove. The young man commented bitterly, “It’s a vigilante thing – they’re the Lone Ranger and all of a sudden they started getting out of hand with it.” The young woman who initially named him to the Women Against Rape settled out of court, putting in writing that “I was not raped by you …on the night described in the flyer, or at any time.” Kaplan, however, justified this vigilantism, saying “the whole anti-violence movement got started by guerrilla tactics and this is just one of them” (Los Angeles Times, 10 December 1987).
Working as adjuncts of the police, vigilantism, slander, anything goes in this milieu. And don’t forget one of the favorite themes of the new McCarthyism, child abuse. The current uproar against and police investigation of Woody Allen, in retribution for leaving Mia Farrow, is the worst kind of frame-up, designed and guaranteed to destroy his reputation and his life. Here also, some enraged feminists are making common cause with the Republican right in their vicious crusade over “family values.”
Boston Feminist Witchhunters
In Boston the anti-Curtis campaign has taken on a particular frenzy. Here the Workers League found fertile ground for its frame-up campaign against Curtis and the SWP. A center of the “disendorsement” campaign is the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, which is the parent outfit of Pelka’s MESA. In passing, let us note that this center gets almost half of its funding ($81,000 out of a total of .$178,000 in 1991) from agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Another chunk of their income comes from the Haymarket People’s Fund, based heavily on the inheritance of Abby Rockefeller and the Kellogg heirs, which underwrites various “progressive” causes in the Boston area. Until several months ago, NAACP official Bertin was on the Board of Directors of the Haymarket fund. What the WL has tapped into here is a feminist/popular-front milieu in which key actors have hated the SWP (and anyone they consider “Trots”) for the last 20 years.
It goes back to 1970 when the SWP split the Boston radical women’s group Cell 16, led by Roxanne Dunbar and among whose founders and funders was Abby Rockefeller. The history of “Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975” by Alice Echols (Daring to Be Bad ), notes: “Cell 16’s shift from Marxism might have been related to the Socialist Worker’s Party’s (SWP) attempted take-over of the group some time after Dunbar’s departure …, non-SWP women circulated a letter throughout the movement alerting women to the SWP’s efforts to ‘infiltrate’ feminist groups.” Old history? Not at all. It’s still useful in whipping up anti-communist frenzy.
This summer, the New York Women’s Action Coalition (WAC) was a hotbed of controversy after abortion clinic defense demonstrations against the combined efforts of Operation Rescue and Cardinal O’Connor on the eve of the Democratic Party convention. Political polarization at WAC meetings led to an exclusion attempt against the Spartacist League and the ISO. At one meeting we found rent-a-cops and lady goons at the door, and leaflets of pages from a book by Flora Davis, Moving the Mountain: The Women’s Movement in America Since 1960(1990) retailing horror stories about how the Boston women’s liberation movement was “infiltrated” by “outsiders, primarily by the Socialist Workers’ Party,” which had “targeted” Cell 16. Railing against “takeover attempts by the Trots,” Davis wrote: “The Cell 16 women soon realized that they’d lost control. The Trots had their mailing list; they had the signature on the bank account …they had most of the back issues of the journal and the posters.”
Certainly, the SWP’s apolitical organizational maneuvering in the style of the Stalinist CP leaves them open to this kind of anti-communist attack (as occurred also in NOW at around the same time). Moreover, the by then anti-Trotskyist SWP recruited women not to Marxism but to socialist-flavored feminism. In contrast, the SL was able to beat back the WAC redbaiting attack with an up-front defense of our communist program for women’s liberation through socialist revolution (see “SL Zaps WAC Attack,” WV No. 557, 7 August). But in the Mark Curtis case, what’s notable is that liberal witchhunters are still burning over the SWP, and this feeds into their desire to burn Curtis at the stake. This is the culture medium of ex-New Leftists-become-social-democrats, the rad-lib Jamaica Plain crowd (more lib than rad) in which Pelka, Russo, Beltin, Shuchter and their friends are getting a hearing. And the SWP can’t fight it because they capitulate to it politically, not wanting to “alienate” potential bloc partners in their endless lowest common denominator pop-front coalitions.
WL and the Anti-Curtis Cabal
We have had our own experience with this crowd. In March 1991, when fascist David Duke tried to hold a rally at Boston’s Old South Meeting House, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee initiated a united-front demonstration and mobilized 1,500 people in the streets to stop this Klansman-in-a-suit. The NAACP and the various bureaucrats around Labor Page gave us the run-around and refused to endorse. And a slanderous whispering campaign was started, violence-baiting the Partisan Defense Committee and SL and claiming that the communists just want to “take all the credit,” to try to poison the atmosphere and prevent a united-front mobilization. Above all, this milieu of liberals, reformists and labor bureaucrats don’t like reds mobilizing in what they consider “their” constituencies, because it undermines their political “credit”-ability. It’s noteworthy that when there is a major class battle, to defend minorities against the fascist Duke or to protest cop brutality in L.A., these friends of the police are nowhere to be seen …or show up only to trash Mark Curtis!
This slander campaign has become even more ominous now that it has been taken up by a “respectable” layer of antirape feminists and wannabe bureaucrats. Their anti-communism is their own, but their ammunition comes from the professional provocateurs of David North’s Workers League. This is hardly the first time that North’s sinister outfit has acted as fingermen for forces hostile to the interests and defense of the workers movement. In 1983, on the eve of the British coal miners strike, the WL’s British mentors, the Workers Revolutionary Party, set off an anti-red witchhunt against miners union leader Arthur Scargill by “exposing” his forthright statement that Polish Solidarność, the favorite “union” of Ronald Reagan, was “anti-socialist.” The WRP “exposé” was taken up by Cold War labor bureaucrats and the labor-hating Fleet Street press with the aim of crushing the militant miners union.
These days, along with targeting the Curtis campaign, the Workers League’s other major activity in Detroit is blocking with white racists against the Malcolm X school... But in order to get Mark Curtis, the Northites suddenly and cynically “discover” black oppression and play to the bourgeois feminists and “stop rape” vigilantes
In the late 1970s, the WL tried to use the bourgeois courts against the SWP, in the Alan Gelfand case, demanding that it turn over its membership lists, financial records and minutes to the imperialist government which had been spying on it for 50 years, most recently in the COINTELPRO case. Meanwhile, for years North’s “International Committee,” then under founder-leader Gerry Healy, was on the payroll of virtually every Arab regime in the Near East. By its own later admission, the IC received over one million pounds sterling (at least) from these kings, sheiks and tin-pot colonels. In exchange, the “IC” offered to supply the names of, and intelligence on, prominent “Zionists” in “finance, politics, business, the communications media and elsewhere” to Qaddafi’s Libya. Financial backing from Saddam Hussein to the “IC” bought his regime not only the publicity services of the Healy/Northites – whose press hailed the 1978 execution of 21 Iraqi Communist Party members – but photographs of anti-Hussein protesters in Britain.
Insofar as one can speak of this Healyite outfit on a political level, its defining characteristics have been vicious anti-Sovietism and a crude workerist adaptation to the Cold War AFL-CIO tops. Their catering to the labor bureaucracy means mimicking every form of racial insensitivity and political backwardness. Or in the immortal words of former Workers League leader Tim Wohlforth: “the working class hates faggots, women’s libbers and hippies and so do we”! These days, along with targeting the Curtis campaign, the Workers League’s other major activity in Detroit is blocking with white racists against the Malcolm X school (see article on page 12). But in order to get Mark Curtis, the Northites suddenly and cynically “discover” black oppression and play to the bourgeois feminists and “stop rape” vigilantes.
The Curtis case is the latest installment of the Northites’ psychotic “Security and the Fourth International” campaign slandering the SWP as an organization supposedly controlled by the U.S. government. The WL’s Bulletin (17 July) writes: “The issue has gone far beyond the guilt or innocence of Mark Curtis. The real question is: What is the Socialist Workers Party, and whose interests does it serve?” The same article provides a veritable data sheet of the names of leading SWPers and their industrial employers. This scurrilous McCarthyism is then offered as “proof’ that they are police agents – because they got hired! (Of course, for Pelka & Co., it’s the opposite, Curtis is a dishonest commie because he lied to the boss!)
Today the Northites act as brain-trusters for government prosecutors, right-wing feminists, AFL-CIO labor traitors, to get the SWP. Only a paranoid believes history is a conspiracy, but everybody knows there are conspiracies in history. And about North’s organization we can only warn: Beware! To paraphrase the Bulletin, “what the Workers League is” is pretty hard to fathom, but “whose interests it serves” are definitely not those of women, minorities or the working class.