Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Workers League and Mark Curtis (1989)

Workers Vanguard No. 480 (23 June 1989)

Why Should Anyone Believe David North?

The Workers League and Mark Curtis

Mark Curtis, a 29-year-old member of the Socialist Workers Party and union activist at the Swift meatpacking plant in Des Moines, is doing 25 years in an Iowa state prison on charges of burglary and sexual abuse. David North’s Workers League, meanwhile, has been relentlessly working to undermine defense efforts for Curtis in the workers movement, here and internationally. Claiming that the “government-controlled” SWP is covering up for a “depraved rapist,” the WL is vilifying leftists and trade-union leaders who sign statements or speak out on his behalf, Currently, the WL’s Bulletin is running a weekly series on “The Mark Curtis Hoax,” already in its eleventh installment. This campaign is now the Workers League’s major activity.

What is going on? Mark Curtis was convicted on 14 September 1988 in a Des Moines court of third degree sexual abuse and first degree burglary, based on the state’s charge that six months earlier Curtis forced his way onto the porch of the residence of a black family and attempted to rape 15-year-old Demetria Morris. But according to no account, not even that of the police or the young woman, did a rape ever take place, nor was anything stolen, nor was there a weapon, and there is no physical evidence of contact between Curtis and the alleged victim. Yet a young socialist militant faces 25 years of his life behind bars – for what? And why is David North’s Workers League running point for the prosecution? Isn’t there something weird here?

Let’s look at their targets. The Workers League has attacked the Socialist Workers Party as “a police-infested organization which works among politically diseased and disoriented layers of the middle class typified by the rapist Curtis” (Bulletin, 25 May). They have labeled our organization, the Spartacist League, a “politically deranged petty-bourgeois group,” claiming: “The defense of this depraved rapist has become the rallying point for a political provocation against the Workers League, the most frantic exponent of which as always, the Spartacist League” (Bulletin, 6 January). What set off this tirade was our noting that “the Northites have suddenly and cynically discovered the use of black oppression in order to get a white SWPer in Iowa sent to prison for 25 years on a dubious rape charge” (WV No. 467, 16 December 1988).

The Socialist Workers Party is a reformist political organization of the left. It was one of 16 groups singled out for special scrutiny by the FBI’s so-called “administrative index” (ADEX) a “subversives” list set up under Nixon to consolidate the earlier “Subversives Index” and “Communist Index.” In 1973, at the height of liberal reaction against the government’s Watergate “dirty tricks,” the SWP filed a legal suit against FBI spying and disruption, particularly under the infamous COINTELPRO program. Testimony and documents uncovered during the “Watersuit” revealed that between 1960 and 1976, the FBI committed 206 burglaries at SWP offices or homes, stole 12,600 documents and tapped telephones for at least 20,000 days. In August 1986, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ruled in favor of the SWP, ordering the FBI to pay them the not very munificent sum of $264,000 in damages for its 38-year-long campaign of harassment.

The Spartacist League was also listed on the ADEX file, targeted by the government for “special” attention. The ADEX code included a group designated “SPL,” along with the Communist Party, SWP, Black Panthers, Progressive Labor, SDS and others (see illustration). The FBI’s definition of “SPL” claimed the Spartacist League “does not openly advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government at this time,” implying that we were some kind of secret terrorist conspirators. The SL, too, sued the government, in a 1983 suit over the Attorney General’s “Guidelines for Domestic Security/ Terrorism Investigations.” And in 1984 we won the case by forcing the government to delete its slanderous and deadly “definition” of the SL, thus conceding that Marxist advocacy cannot be equated with violence or criminal terrorism.

What about David North’s Workers League? Unlike the SWP and the SL, they don’t appear on the ADEX file. And while the SWP was in court fighting, in its fashion, against government surveillance and provocation, what was the WL doing? North and his godfather Gerry Healy’s International Committee were mounting their own smear campaign, “Security and the Fourth International,” cop-baiting SWP leaders as simultaneously agents of the FBI and the Russian secret police! When a WL agent. Alan Gelfand. was expelled from the SWP in 1977, North & Co. dragged the SWP into court, demanding that the capitalist state carry out a fishing expedition, prying into the party’s minutes, finances and membership lists. It takes effrontery to haul groups into court who are the object of vicious governmental repression.

One has to ask, who benefits – cui bono?

And one has to ask, who’s doing the talking?

The rather shadowy David North is the latest in a long line of now infamous and sinister characters who have been prominent in the Gerry Healy tendency in Britain and their organization in the U.S.. the Workers League. Let us see how North now describes his illustrious predecessors. Tim Wohlforth, who was axed in 1974 as lider maximo of the WL amid allegations of CIA connections, is reviled as a “petty bourgeois American philistine.” Following the 1985 blowout in the Healyite organization, North dismissed Michael Banda. Healy’s top hatchet man, as one of many “politically diseased petty-bourgeois renegades.” Cliff Slaughter, another of the Healyites’ ex-leading lights, is described as “a consummate cynic and hypocrite” who “epitomizes in his political and personal life all that is corrupt and perverse” in the British intelligentsia, “gathering into his net the most degenerate human specimens produced by this decadent social milieu” (Bulletin, 9 December 1988).

These were David North’s mentors who showed him the ropes. Alex Mitchell, a fellow hack in the Healyite slander mills who together with North penned most of the “Security” smear job against the SWP, resurfaced with a column in an Australian bourgeois paper, the Sydney Sun Herald. Peter Fryer, who got out of the Healyites before the really dirty business got started, is described as “a degenerate middle-class journalist.” Freddy Mazelis, who did a brief stand-in performance as WL honcho after Wohlforth was axed, has so far escaped being satanized, but only so long as he serves as North’s toady. As for Gerry Healy, the evil sorcerer whose apprentices have run amok, in the 1985 implosion of the Healyites it was proven that he determined the party line in accordance with money from Arab colonels and sheiks. Now Healy is called a “political agent of the Kremlin” who is welcomed in Moscow “because he has placed his knowledge of the inner workings of the Fourth International at the disposal of the KGB” (Bulletin, 20 November 1987). Vanessa Redgrave is thrown in as “the Kremlin’s New Leading Lady.”

This is quite a record in treachery. As we have noted, “Stalin never claimed that all the Bolshevik Central Committee at the time of the October Revolution were counterrevolutionary spies and traitors. Exempted were Lenin, a few who died early and a couple who lucked out and died a natural death at old age” (“David North: Joseph Hansen’s Natural Son,” WV No. 456, 1 July 1988). But David North claims that every one of his predecessors is degenerate, if not an outright agent – Wohlforth, Banda, Slaughter, Mitchell, Redgrave, Healy, and don’t forget the arch-“renegades” Pierre Lambert and Michel Varga. If, as North writes, Banda “can no longer be counted among the living,” when it comes to “Marxism and the struggle for socialism,” this must make North himself a zombie. He is the only True Believer, descendant of a long and complete line of traitors.

With this “authority” the WL pro claims Mark Curtis a “sociopath,” a “vicious rapist,” a “sadistic rapist,” a “white middle-class rapist,” and above all a “convicted rapist” and a “proven rapist” convicted and “proven” by the bourgeois courts. The SWP is labeled “a sociopathic organization, a watering hole for all sorts of degenerate elements, social criminals, filled with hatred of the working class,” of which “Curtis himself – a drug user and rapist – is a perfect representative” (Bulletin, 28 April). In the pages of the Bulletin, they endlessly regurgitate the words of the prosecution. Stranger yet, in her summation at Curtis’ trial Iowa state prosecutor Catherine Thune regurgitates virtually the exact words of the Bulletin (see illustration). They seem to be working from a common script.

Mark Curtis was a subject of FBI surveillance as an activist in CISPES in Birmingham, Alabama. At Swift, where Curtis worked in Des Moines, federal agents had been working with management for three months reviewing personnel files before staging a raid which seized 17 foreign-born workers at the meatpacking plant on March 1. After work on March 4, Curtis had participated in a meeting of workers at the plant protesting the roundup. A couple hours later he was arrested and charged with rape. Curtis says the cops grabbed him, pulled down his pants, beat him brutally at the jail, then lied in court. Mark Curtis maintains his innocence, declaring, “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.”

So why should anybody believe David North? Who is the Workers League to say that Curtis is guilty, and why? How does the WL come to possess such influence with the prosecution? What kind of purported socialists retail the cops’ story as if it were “The Truth “? We and many of our readers have some relevant experience on the nature of these paid thugs of the racist capitalist state. Under the circumstances we must believe Mark Curtis is innocent.

Political Bureau, Spartacist League/U.S. 12 June 1989

* * *

[facsimile illustration]

On August 5, the Workers League asks:

• How did the police know that Curtis was going to abruptly leave his house in the middle of the night to buy food?
• How did they know he would drive by himself?
• How did they know which store he would go to, and what route he would take?
• How did they know that he would be stopped at a particular red light, where he could be accosted by the girl?
• How did they know that he would agree to let the girl into his car?
• How did they know he would agree to drive her home?
• How did they know that when he arrived at her home, he would get out of his car, go to the porch and then wait placidly to be arrested?

- Bulletin, 5 August 1988

...A month later, the prosecutor’s summation:
“How did the police, or how did Demetria and Jason or their family, know that the defendant was going to abruptly leave his home, sometime between 8:30 and 9:00, to buy food? How did they know?
“How did they know that the defendant would get into a car and drive by himself?
“How did they know that the defendant would go to the HyVee store to do his grocery shopping? How did they know what route he would take?
“How did they know that he would be stopped at a particular red light, where a girl could approach him? How did they know the light would be red?
“How did they know that the defendant would agree to give this girl a ride to help her out?
“How did they know that he would agree to drive her to her home, or a home, in what the defense has brought out to be a bad or unsafe neighborhood?
“How did they know that when he arrived at the home, he would get out of the car, agree to go to the porch, and then wait calmly to be arrested?”

- Bulletin, 16 September 1988