The recent amalgamation of the International Socialist Organisation, Socialist Action Group, and Solidarity, to form a new Trotskyist organisation, Solidarity, presumably bubbles along in the background… somewhere. Unfortunately, three months later, while the ISO’s site hasn’t been updated (and its paper, Socialist Worker, is also seemingly moribund), the SAG’s site has re-entered the capitalist marketplace, and the new Solidarity site has been “coming soon” for about the same period.
(See also : Solidarity forever? Three of the four International Socialist Tendency groups in Australia have merged, Marcus Strom, Labor Tribune, March 2008.)
Where was I?
(I’m So Bored with the) U S A
On the one hand, the wsws.org criticises the United Auto Workers union (UAW preparing agreement to slash American Axle workers’ wages, close plants, Joe Kay, May 3, 2008). After enumerating its faults, Kay concludes:
It is critical that strikers elect rank-and-file committees to take the strike out of the hands of the UAW bureaucracy. These committees should make a direct appeal to workers throughout the auto industry—in the United States and internationally—to wage a common struggle against the concessions imposed by the corporations. The committees should organize opposition to any proposed concessions contract and prepare to mobilize a “no” vote.
The issues facing American Axle workers are of a piece with those faced by workers throughout the country and internationally. Fundamentally, auto workers confront the consequences of the failure of capitalism, a social system defended by the unions and both big business parties. A new political movement of the working class is necessary…
And the best party to lead that movement is, naturally enough, the Socialist Equality Party aka the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) aka the publishers of the wsws.org. (NB. In addition to the United States, the SEP has sections in Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany and Sri Lanka.)
Of course, while capitalism may be failing auto workers — and workers generally — some capitalist business enterprises are thriving, not failing. Thus, on the other hand, the unspeakable villains of the International Bolshevik Tendency (established c.1986 and currently lead by former — that is, renegade — Spart leader, marriage celebrant, and counsellor, Bill Logan, whom one Spart reader declares to be “the antithesis of the very essence of the liberating goals of communism”) have re-published an account of the “scandal” concerning the ICFI’s business interests, provocatively titled ‘Northites Inc.: Toeing the Bottom Line: Being Determines Consciousness’.* I thought I’d already commented on this episode, but I hadn’t, and it provides the opportunity for some terrific drama. Over to the Inter-national Bolsheviks:
In the spring of 2007, the Socialist Equality Party/Inter-national Committee (SEP/IC) was rocked by a public scandal when Scott Solomon, an embittered former adherent, revealed that David North is not only the leading figure of the SEP and IC, but is also CEO of Grand River Printing & Imaging (GRPI), a multi-million dollar business in Michigan [and “premiere provider of commercial web offset printing services”]. The SEP leadership would apparently prefer to keep its successful commercial venture secret, but it cannot deny the facts.
The GRPI evolved from the in-house printshop that used to produce the Bulletin, the newspaper of the Workers League (WL—the SEP’s predecessor). When the WL/SEP suspended publication of the Bulletin in favor of producing an online daily on its World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), the party print shop was apparently quietly transformed into a full-blown business.
At about the same time, the SEP/IC leadership discarded the traditional Marxist view of trade unions as defensive organizations of the working class and declared that they had become simple agencies of the capitalists. North wrote a lengthy essay on this theme entitled “Globalization and the Unions,” [sic] in which he announced the “objective transformation of the AFL-CIO into an instrument of the corporations and the capitalist state.” We polemicized against this in 1917 No. 29 (see “SEP: Defeatist and Confusionist: The Class Nature of the Unions”).
But really, what’s wrong with employers and employees working together towards a common goal? And do unions do anything other than cause industrial unrest? According to the Honourable Julie Bishop, MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Employment, Business and Workplace Relations, in a statement regarding ‘Increasing levels of trust between employees and employers’, dated Monday, 14th April, 2008, for example:
The unprecedented levels of industrial harmony in recent years in Australia have coincided with the dramatic decline in union membership. Declining union membership is evidence of the increasing levels of trust and cooperation between employees and employers. The vast majority of private sector employees choose to negotiate directly with their employer and do not choose to be represented by a union. The challenge for the union movement is to provide a relevant service for which people are prepared to pay membership fees voluntarily. Unions should not seek to use Labor Governments to force an increase in membership through a return to compulsory unionism and “no ticket no start”. The decline in private sector union membership contradicts Labor Party and union propaganda that business has been exploiting workers in recent years.
Across the world, Green River provides a dramatic example of a capitalist business run on the basis of ensuring a harmonious relationship between employers and employees:
David Green founded Grand River Printing in 1978. He was convinced that the key to long-term success was the creation of a unified and internally cohesive management team based on a common strategic vision and shared ideals. In the years to come, his most important contribution to the firm proved to be his ability to recognize talent, bring together people from very different social and professional backgrounds, arouse their interest in the immense potential of the graphic arts-printing industry, and impart to them a vision of a company that was both profitable, ethical and humane.
‘David Green’ is however, a Marxist revolutionary: the national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party in the US, in which capacity he has “lectured extensively in Europe, Asia, the US and the former Soviet Union on the history and principles of Marxism and the program and perspective of the Fourth International”, and is “the author of several authoritative works on the Fourth International and the Russian Revolution, including The Heritage We Defend, Perestroika versus Socialism, Trotskyism versus Stalinism and In Defense of the Russian Revolution“. (Also Marxism, History & Socialist Consciousness, Leon Trotsky & the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification, The crisis of American democracy: The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, Leon Trotsky and the Fate of Socialism in the 20th Century: A Reply to Professor Eric Hobsbawm and Anti-Semitism, Fascism and the Holocaust. See the Mehring Books site for all the exciting details.)
So much for his consciousness. As for his being, according to Scott Solomon:
From: Scott Solomon
Date: 22 Apr 2007
Subject: David W. Green (“North”) . . . CEO/Cult Leader for “Revolution”
Some years ago, the communist political cult to which I used to be a member for one year (then known as the Workers League, now known as the Socialist Equality Party) made an interesting “turn” in its political line. According to SEPtic, the unions were no longer organizations of the working class.
I found this “turn” to be quite startling. Upon further thought, however, it sorta made sense. David W. Green (“North”), the cult leader of SEPtic, having run the cult since the mid 1970s, had been a complete ineffectual. He and his cult never organized any workers, ever gained any influence in the labor movement, never accomplished anything. So, in a strange way, it made quite a bit of sense that “North” was now writing off the unions altogether.
Still, I wondered, how was it that “North” managed to keep control over a dedicated cluster in the top leadership.
Today, playing around on the web, I found a possible answer. It seems that David W. Green is CEO of the 241st largest printing company in the USA. EXHIBIT 1 is a link to the company’s site. EXHIBIT 3 shows that in 2005 the company generated $21m in sales. EXHIBIT 2 has pictures of “David North” and his wife in Crain’s, touting them as some of the best employers in the city.
The “puzzle” now makes sense. Question: Why does the North cult solicit members for donations when they run a profitable enterprise that could conceivably fund the SEPtic web page activities? Is there any sort of democracy in SEPtic? Were a faction to take over the cult, what would be the impact of the North crew vis-a-vis the company activities?
It’s interesting that CEO North now tells workers that unions are no longer organizations of the working class. This same “line” is probably echoed by CEOs at all unorganized companies.
- * The conflict between the Sparts and the IBT dates back to 1979, and centres on Bill Logan. In August 2007, the Sparts re-published The Logan Dossier, which is awesomely sub-titled ‘Documentary Evidence and Testimony in the August 1979 Trial and Expulsion of Bill Logan from the international Spartacist tendency for Crimes Against Communist Morality and Elementary Human Decency’. The IBT responds to some Spart criticism here, and describes in painful detail their version of the Sparts political degeneration over the course of the last few decades (that is, more or less since the expulsion of the IBT’s founding members). Note that the formation of the Sparts was triggered by the expulsion (in 1966) of a number of members of the Socialist Workers Party in the US.
The other important split in the Sparts occurred in 1996, when the former editor of Workers Vanguard, Jan Norden, got purged. Naturally, he went on to found another derivative of the Fourth International: the League for the Fourth International. It boldly declared “Reforge the Fourth International!”. The Internationalist Group has adherents in the United States, Brazil, France, Germany, and Mexico. The LFI used to have a Dutch section too, but he left in 2004 to join the IBT.
** Bonus! The Dumbass Guide to Leninism, Marx and Coca-Cola, Monday, November 5, 2007: “Recently someone came up to me and asked “JM, I’m a college student with severe personality problems which Leninist party should I join?” To help him out, and in honor of the 90th anniversary of the second Russian Revolution, I’ve posted this helpful guide to the various sects, splinters, splinters-of-splinters, and grouplets of Leninism. Please print and distribute…”