Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WL's "Vorkuta" Fund: Follow the Money (1992)

Workers Vanguard No. 563, 13 November 1992

Follow the Money

Workers League’s “Vorkuta” Fund

With great fanfare, David North’s Workers League and its bogus “International Committee” launched a “Vorkuta Miners Relief Fund” last year, ostensibly in response to an appeal by Soviet workers in the northern Russian coal fields “for desperately needed medical and pharmaceutical supplies.” This was announced as “one of the principal decisions” of the Northites’ November 1991 Berlin “World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism,” and the opening shot of the WL’s new “International Labor Defense.” The fund drive was scheduled to “run until February 29,” supposedly aimed at helping the Vorkuta miners overcome the brutal winter in the face of the ravages of capitalist restoration. Yet right through May, week after week, the WL’s Bulletin and North’s Australian and English acolytes carried impassioned appeals exhorting workers to “come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in the Vorkuta mining region.”

In “Workers League Vile Provocation” (WV No. 549, 17 April), we raised some questions about this dubious “aid campaign.” We noted that the Vorkuta miners “are not presently engaged in any particular struggle,” and that the Northites had not published the appeal on which the fund drive was supposedly based. We asked, “Could this be related to the fact that a few months earlier the AFL-CIO set up a ‘relief fund’ for Soviet miners?” The pro-Yeltsin leadership of the Vorkuta miners in the “Independent Miners Union” had well-documented links to the CIA, through the notorious National Endowment for Democracy and the AFL-CIO’s “International Department.” Two of these “Vorkuta miners” toured Britain in June 1990 — where they addressed a conference of the scab “Union of Democratic Miners” — under the auspices of the Russian fascist NTS, which has been financed for decades by Western intelligence agencies.

The Northites, who are wont to write voluminous multipart “exposes” on the Spartacist League at the drop of a hat, never replied to these questions. However, a month after our article appeared, the Bulletin mysteriously stopped running its Vorkuta appeal box, without further explanation. Nothing more was heard for months, until a front-page article in the 4 September issue of the Bulletin trumpeted “International Campaign Aids Soviet Workers,” claiming that “seven tons of medicines, worth over a quarter million dollars” had been sent to one “Doctor Alexander Apenko” in …the Ukrainian town of Shostka. This was supposedly in response to a personal appeal to a visiting IC delegation by the “Chernobyl Union of Shostka” in the summer of 1991. As far as we could tell, this Chernobyl “appeal” had hitherto gone unmentioned in the Northite press.

Whatever happened to Vorkuta? At the conclusion of the article the reader discovers those were the supplies that the WL had earlier “assured” would go “directly to the miners”: “Originally it was planned that the bulk of the medical supplies collected would go to the miners of Vorkuta,” but because of problems with “transportation,” “corruption” and “security,” the IC “could not obtain any reasonable assurance that its shipments would arrive safely in Vorkuta.” Yet in April, the Australian Northite Socialist Labour League declared in Workers News (24 April) that it had “this month shipped more than $40,000 worth of desperately-needed medical supplies” to Vorkuta.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would have said. In reporting on its fund drive efforts, the Bulletin cited the fears of Detroit union auto workers at a plant gate collection: “Expressing their distrust of the trade union officialdom, workers wanted to make sure that their contributions really reached the miners and would not be pocketed by either the AFL-CIO bureaucracy in the United States or the Stalinist mafia in the Soviet Union.” Concerns about what happens to money donated to the WL are certainly in order. Indeed, we wonder if the shift of focus in the Northites’ philanthropical efforts from Russia to the Ukraine has anything to do with the fact that an AFLCIO delegation traveled to the Ukraine this past summer.

Even a cursory reading of the Northite press, raises myriad questions. On February 28, the day before the (first) announced end of the campaign, the Australian SLL’s Workers News lists a total collection of $631.45 in the U.S. and £700 in Britain. Two weeks later they added $1,400 Australian. In a few weeks this becomes $40,000 Australian, and after it is “shipped,” the next issue of Workers News announces a $60,000 “Party Development Fund.” After a few months, during which the campaign never again appears in their press, the Northites’ international collection mysteriously grew to $250,000 “worth” of supplies. Perhaps cynical political bandits like North have been lying so long they think no one notices.

The financial chicanery and deceptions displayed in the Workers League campaign is not surprising to anyone who knows the WL’s history of political prostitution in the service of anticommunist reaction. In the “Vorkuta” campaign, the Northites, with consummate cynicism, denounce British National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Arthur Scargill as a Stalinist, while condemning “the state orchestrated campaign against Scargill” (International Worker, 18 January) over the aid that Soviet trade unions sent to striking British miners.

Just who kicked off that campaign? On the eve of the 1984-85 British miners strike, when Thatcher and the ruling class were preparing all-out war on the NUM, the “International Committee” (then run by North’s mentor Gerry Healy) publicly crucified Scargill for opposing Solidarność — Reagan and Thatcher’s favorite union — as “anti-socialist.” Their redbaiting crusade was picked up, as Healy intended, by the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress traitors and the Conservative bourgeois press, and used as a battering ram against the miners. It was Healy/North who supplied the ammunition the bourgeoisie used to go after Scargill and the NUM.

We have noted before that the WL’s relationship to the class line is that of a man in a revolving door. Presently, the Workers League is engaged on several fronts in acts of profound hostility to the interests of the working class — from being junior G-men for the prosecution in the case of imprisoned Socialist Workers Party activist and unionist Mark Curtis, to blocking with racist scum against black schoolchildren in Detroit. Revolutionaries gag at the mercenary “IC” trying to appropriate the honorable name of the early American Communist Party’s International Labor Defense, led by James P. Cannon. In founding the Partisan Defense Committee, the Spartacist League has emulated the ILD’s strict accounting of funds through publishing in the PDC’s Class-Struggle Defense Notes a full list of numbered receipts for all in the workers movement to see. If the Healyite “IC” listed its receipts over the years, it would have to include the names of various Near East sheiks and bonapartist butchers who paid at least two million dollars for services rendered by the Healy gang as press agents, spies and provocateurs during the 1970s and ‘80s (see “Northite Blood Money,” WV No. 523, 29 March 1991). Now that the money from anti-communist bourgeois regimes has dried up… .