Workers Vanguard No. 687, 27 March 1996
Northite Pirates Run for Cyberspace
After years of hysterically trumpeting the need to build a weekly, then twice-weekly, then daily Bulletin, David North’s fake-Trotskyist “Socialist Equality Party” (SEP — formerly the Workers League, and before that the “American Committee for the Fourth International”) has now officially thrown in the towel on what was always a grotesquely fake newspaper. A February 13 “Dear Reader” letter announcing the SEP’s latest grandiloquent scam, “the launching of the World Socialist Web Site,” mentioned in passing: “We… will no longer be publishing The International Workers Bulletin. “ North’s British SEP satellite has similarly announced the end of its International Worker.
So much for the Northites ”mass paper” pretensions. Since anointing himself supreme leader of the “International Committee of the Fourth International” following the ouster of the discredited (now deceased) Gerry Healy a dozen years ago, North has followed in Healy’s corrupt, thuggish and megalomaniacal footsteps. When in 1976 Healy launched a fancy, four-color, daily paper modeled on the British tabloids, we asked: “Where’s the Class Line in the News Line?” (WV No. 114, 18 June 1976). That soon became clear, as Healy — and his American flunkey North — began running paeans to Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi and other oil-rich Arab bourgeois regimes (see “Healyites, Messengers of Qaddafi,” WV No. 158, 20 May 1977). Two years later, Healy and North openly hailed Saddam Hussein’s execution of 21 Iraqi Communists, while Healy’s outfit secretly spied on Iraqi oppositionists in Britain.
When the flow of petrodollars for services rendered dried up, Healy’s regime imploded. North stepped into the breach, soon proclaiming himself, ever so modestly, the leader of the international proletariat.
The Northites are now rhapsodizing about the Internet as a “revolutionary medium” which is supposedly “relatively cheap and accessible” to “potentially millions.” This pompous dismissal of the vast majority of the world’s workers and poor — especially minorities and immigrants — who don’t have up-to-date computers, modems and netsurfing capacity sums up the Northites’ appetites as “middle-class radicals” (an epithet they are fond of throwing at the Spartacist League in an attempt to deflect our polemic attacks). For North, the Internet is a evolutionary medium” because it enhances his ability to bury his wildly opportunist 2ig-zags of yesterday in flickering digital documents that may appear today and be wiped out tomorrow. And the Northites no longer have to face attacks from angry trade unionists who noticed that the Bulletin was a scab paper, published without a union “bug.” The new SEP Web site, rapidly expanding via the gaseous “great thoughts” of David North, is the latest in a growing junk belt of virtual fantasy worlds, where posturing little grey men with gigantic egos and dubious politics can play at revolution. Nowadays it’s become quite the rage for burnt-out drop-outs to set up Potemkin Village Web sites as outposts of retreat. It’s fitting, indeed, that the “Internationalist Group” of Jan Norden, a shamefaced defector from Trotskyism who was formerly editor of Workers Vanguard, has also created its own little world within the Net.
The liquidation of the Bulletin is part of a broader phenomenon as a host of reformists and centrists, buying into the imperialist lie that “communism is dead;” submerge themselves in larger social-democratic formations or split up on the road to oblivion. Among the flotsam and jetsam of anti-Spartacist grouplets in the U.S., both the “Bolshevik Tendency” (BT) and Workers’ Voice recently announced (hopefully fatal) splits. The BT has long pushed grossly Anglo-chauvinist opposition to independence ‘for Quebec; now a wing has decamped ostensibly over its abstentionist line on the anti-working-class European Union Maastricht Treaty — of 1992! And in a January 23 Internet posting, the Bay Area Workers’ Voice announced that its Detroit branch — which ”constituted the majority of the leadership… but were a minority in the organization” — had split.
Contrary to the hostile buzzing of a small clot of petty-bourgeois losers and nerds who obviously have nothing better to do than clog up the Internet with sneers that the SL is “anti-technology,” we actually do believe that computers, and yes, even Web sites, are useful tools — for certain purposes. But that’s all they are. To pretend dumping some documents into cyberspace is any substitute for the hard fight — in the real world, among real people — to build a revolutionary workers party, only confirms the total depths of cynicism and humbug for which the Northites are infamous.
The Healy/Northites are, to borrow Lenin’s term, “political bandits” — political pirates who will show any flag to attack any target — for whom the class line is a revolving door. In the bureaucratic infighting of the 1960s “Cultural Revolution” in China, they enthused over Mao Zedong’s wing of the Stalinist bureaucracy; throughout the Cold War of the 1980s, they supported every imperialist-backed force arrayed against the Soviet Union, from fascist-infested Lithuanian nationalists to the bloodthirsty Afghan mujahedin. After years of routinely pleading with the racist Cold Warriors of George Meany’s AFL-CIO bureaucracy to “build a Labor Party,” North & Co. veered recently into writing off the trade unions entirely as workers organizations — openly apologizing for scabs who crossed United Auto Workers picket lines in the long and bitter Caterpillar strike (see “David North, 'Socialist’ Apologist for Scabbing” WV No. 637, 19 January 1996).
There is much, much more to this tendency’s sordid history — all thoroughly documented and readily available in bound volumes of back issues of Workers Vanguard. Indeed, since North’s Bulletin had barely 150 subscribers, many of you are probably only here learning of its demise. At its core, the program of the SEP, proclaimed with great fanfare in the leadup to the 1996 presidential elections, is profoundly reformist — or worse. Reflecting their long history of hostility to the struggles of blacks, women and gays, this strange “equality” party made a central focus of its election campaign an attack on affirmative action — in an election year marked by a virulently racist bipartisan assault on welfare and affirmative action. The SEP also advised the capitalist rulers on how to reallocate economic resources, mewling: “Tax codes would have to be radically revised to place the greatest burden on those who can afford it, the corporations and the rich” (International Workers Bulletin, 11 November 1996). “Our aim is not to reduce the rich to conditions of penury,” they wrote. Well, our aim is to expropriate the bourgeoisie as a class, and they can then find meaningful employment, if they want to eat. You need a world party of socialist revolution — a reforged Fourth International — to do that, and you need a Trotskyist press to build that party.