Workers League Scabs on Defense of West Virginia Miner
With United Mine Workers (UMWA) member Jerry Dale Lowe now sentenced to nearly eleven years in federal prison, on an anti-union frame-up, it is urgent for all supporters of labor to redouble their efforts in fighting for his freedom. That includes raising the large sums of money needed to carry out a legal appeal to overturn his conviction. As part of our efforts to defend Jerry Dale Lowe and seven other Logan County, West Virginia strikers, Workers Vanguard has warned miners and other supporters of his cause to beware that “a dubious outfit called the Workers League has tried to stop money from going to Lowe’s defense fund” (WV No. 603, 8 July).
Now this “Workers” League — which publishes its newspaper without a printers’ union label — has confirmed its scabby role in the case of Jerry Dale Lowe. A smear piece in the WL’s International Workers Bulletin (18 July) accuses us of being “accomplices” of the UMWA bureaucracy, because we call on our readers to send contributions to the place Jerry Dale Lowe wants them to go, the UMWA Region II Defense Fund. This, according to the Workers League, is “How the Spartacist League Aids the Frame-up of a Miner”!
The Workers League has written several articles on the outrageous frame-up of Jerry Dale Lowe. So why are they going out of their way to stop contributions being sent to his legal defense? An article in their 9 May Bulletin says that any money sent to the union defense fund would be used “for the purpose of further isolating the Logan County miners and ensuring their conviction.” Yet that is where Lowe himself has asked that donations for his defense be sent. The Workers League offers no alternative for how to raise money for his defense and dismisses any attempt to mobilize the union to free this victimized striker.
Why? The Bulletin (4 July) writes that Lowe’s case demonstrates the “transformation of the UMWA and the entire AFL-CIO into agencies of big business and the capitalist state.” Union members who have seen their wages slashed, their working conditions destroyed, their jobs decimated and their strikes sold out, are increasingly and painfully aware that their union “leaders” operate as the labor lieutenants of the bosses in enforcing the capitalist status quo. But the Workers League openly declares that it does not defend the UMWA or any other union against the bosses and their government — because it equates the unions with the bosses and government. The WL tells workers to “break with this apparatus and build new organizations of struggle.” But far from promoting class struggle, these appeals for workers to junk their unions neatly dovetail with those of the union-busting bosses.
The Spartacist League defends the unions as elementary defense organizations of the workers, while fighting to get rid of the pro-capitalist misleaders. Every strike brings home the fact that a new, class-struggle leadership is needed for labor to get off its knees and fight. But you can’t win any labor battles by scabbing on defense of the unions.
The Workers League willfully ref uses to distinguish between the unions and the sellout bureaucrats. So they attack us as “accomplices” of the bureaucracy and claim that we “promoted the lie that the UMWA bureaucracy was defending Lowe.” Let’s see who’s lying. When Lowe and seven other miners were indicted last year, we denounced UMWA president Trumka for his statement that violence “has no place in the coal fields” and his pledge to aid the frame-up by giving “whatever support and assistance we can give in that investigation.” At the same time we demanded:
“The Mine Workers union must mobilize its strength to defend these victimized union men. But that will take a sharp fight inside the UMWA against the leadership that has sold out union conditions, sold out union militants and presided over the decimation of a union that was once proud to be the shock troops of American labor.”Who does fit the description of “accomplices” to the UMWA bureaucracy? When Arnold Miller and his “Miners for Democracy” invited the capitalist government’s Labor Department to “clean out” the UMWA in the early ‘70s, a betrayal which led to decisively weakening the union, nobody cheered louder than the Workers League. The WL’s Bulletin (11 December 1972) called or “all miners to vote for the Miners for Democracy slate,” hailing it as “a real alternative to the Boyle leadership” (see “Workers League vs. the Unions,” WV No. 580, 16 July 1993). In contrast, Workers Vanguard (No. 17, March 1973) headlined: “Labor Department Wins Mine Workers’ Election.” A few years later, miners were burning effigies of Miller in the 1978 coal strike, as the WL’s “real alternative” knuckled under to strikebreaking Taft-Hartley injunctions and tried to shove giveback contracts down the miners’ throats.
— WV No. 589, 3 December 1993
And when it comes to financial shenanigans, why should anyone believe the Workers League? In 1991 the WL’s phony “International Labor Defense Committee” launched a “Vorkuta Miners Relief Fund,” supposedly to raise money for medical supplies for workers in northern Russian coal fields. (Curiously, the “Vorkuta miners” had well-documented links to the CIA through the notorious National Endowment for Democracy and the AFL-CIO, which had itself just set up a “relief fund” for Soviet miners.) In April 1992, the WL’s affiliate in Australia declared that “more than $40,000 worth” of supplies had been sent to Vorkuta. Yet one month later, the WL’s paper admitted that they never delivered anything to the miners. The supplies ended up instead with a doctor in the Ukraine… or so their story goes (see “Workers League’s ‘Vorkuta’ Fund,” WV No. 563, 13 November 1992). The WL has given no public accounting of donations to its “relief fund.”
Whether tailing the pro-capitalist union misleaders or undermining defense of unions in the face of capitalist assault, the political bandits of the Workers League are always up to something dirty. The WL’s undermining of Jerry Dale Lowe’s defense is one more treacherous example. And the next time these fake-socialists pop up, ask them where is the union label on their IWB rag.