Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Workers League Cop-Lovers (1986)

Workers Vanguard No. 413 (10 October 1986)

Workers League Cop-Lovers

7 October 1986

To the Editor:

In the recent WV article on David North’s “Workers” League ['Lord of the FleasWV No. 412. 26 September] the point is made that To the extent that the Healyites had a coherent political core, they were cringing legalists/Labourite economists....” To underline this observation, you have only to examine the record of the Workers League on cops and so-called cop “unions.” In the WL’s recent series attacking the Spartacist League, in Part Five which the WL self-revealingly titles “An Obsession with Race,” the WL claims we slander them when we denounce their support to the 1971 New York City cop “strike.” After all, it happened “more than 15 years ago” – this is clearly ancient history for these grotesque opportunists who need a twice-weekly paper simply to keep up with their flip-flops and line changes. In the same article, they complain about the large umber of WV articles devoted to the fight against the racist cops and fascist terrorists in 1985 – the year of the hideous racist state massacre of Philly MOVE.

The Workers League’s support to the police “strike” did not fall from the skies. It is an expression of the WL’s anti-Marxist line that the brutal racist cops – the core of the bourgeois state – are part of the labor movement. This position is a measure of the WL’s gross capitulation to the worst elements of the pro-imperialist, racist, job-trusting labor tops.

In its existence, the WL has had only one “industrial” concentration, a group called the “Committee for a New Leadership” (CNL), in a NYC white-collar welfare workers union, which became AFSCME Local 371. In the late 1960s, the CNL agitated for the union to support the demand by welfare cops for “peace officer” status – which would authorize them to carry guns. Even the thoroughly reformist president of the union, Marty Morgenstern, argued against the CNL’s motion, pointing out that the only people that armed welfare cops would shoot would be welfare recipients and welfare workers. The motion was defeated.

The 1971 NYC cop “strike” was the culmination of a decade of growing racist cop terror and bonapartism exemplified in the formation of the cop “union,” the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, with close ties to the Minutemen and John Birch Society, in 1963, and the police riots in Harlem the following year. (It is indicative that the last “strike” by NYC’s “finest” occurred in 1863 when they refused to put down pro-slavery draft riots and burning of black orphanages.)

The WL’s Bulletin covered the cop “strike” in its 25 January 1971 issue in an article entitled “New York Labor Begins Showdown.” The article was accompanied by a picture of marching cops, described in the photo caption as “militant policemen.” Thus, to the WL these professional strikebreakers and racist killers constituted a militant vanguard of New York labor! The 15 February 1971 Bulletin was even more explicit. An article incredibly entitled “In Defense of the Working Class” stated: “The significance of all this is the importance of placing the recent New York police strike within the framework of the general movement of the working class and at the same time seeking to understand what underlies this movement of the class. “What underlay this movement of the cops was the civil rights movement and the ghetto explosions – namely, the cops and their “unions” behaved as shock troops of the “white backlash” against the movement of the oppressed working people. The cops, with true fascist mentality, saw bourgeois liberals like New York mayor John Lindsay as “soft” on blacks and radicals. As far as the cops were concerned, the courts were “on the side of the criminals,” so therefore dark-skinned “perpetrators” should be simply shot down in the streets.

A few months after the WL’s championship of the 1971 cop “strike” came the gruesome Attica prison massacre. This became an issue at the 1972 international convention of AFSCME, which included not only a large number of government workers, including poorly paid racial minorities, but 10,000 cops and prison guards including the Attica guards! At the convention, the Spartacist-supported Militant Caucus (MC) from Los Angeles introduced a resolution demanding the expulsion of cops and prison guards from the union (see WV No. 10, July-August 1972). An MC spokesman made the elementary point that excluding the cops would strengthen the union, because it is impossible to defend both the rights of those who struggle against exploitation and oppression and the “rights” of those whose job it is to suppress that struggle. Then-president of AFSCME, Jerry Wurf, relinquished the chair of the convention to take the floor and launch into a 20-minute redbaiting diatribe against the MC. The Workers League supporters vigorously defended keeping the butchers of Attica and the racist killer cops in the union.

Last year the New York cops staged an ominous bonapartist mobilization after one of their number got a slap on the wrist for blowing away black grandmother Eleanor Bumpurs with a shotgun because she had fallen behind in her rent. Was David North there alongside his cop “brothers” as they surrounded a courthouse demanding their “rights”? Does the WL support better wages and working conditions for the cops of South Africa as they wreak the apartheid rulers’ vengeance upon the defiant masses?

Perhaps the most consistent feature of the WL’s zigzagging political history is its endless, empty, fake-agitational call for a “labor party.” For example, in the same anti-Spartacist Bulletin series, in Part Three, entitled “Opponents of the Fight for the Labor Party,” the WL denounces our advocacy of the militant tactics that built the trade unions in this country – mass picketing to stop scabs and shut down struck plants, “hot cargoing” actions by other unions, refusing to play by the bosses’ rules in the matter of strikebreaking laws and court injunctions, etc. – as “sheer adventurism” in the absence of a labor party. But what kind of labor party does the WL want? They are for a “labor party” that only the late George Meany, archetypal Cold War labor bureaucrat, could love.

Even at the height of the radical activism of the 1960s, when all of American society was shaken up by the mass struggle for black civil rights, when millions of American workers were disenchanted with the support of the AFL-CIO tops for the war against Vietnam, the WL in 1967 put out a five-point program for its “Trade Unionists for a Labor Party” which had not one word to say about the Vietnam War or black people! A “labor party” which scorns the fight against U.S. imperialism, which has “nothing special” (i.e., nothing) to offer the black component of the proletariat in this viciously racist country – this is the real program of the Workers League.

Reuben Shiffman