David North (ICFI) ~versus~ David Green (Grand River)

wsws.org is the online publication of the ICFI, the ‘International Committee of the Fourth International’. You may remember the ICFI from such rallies as took place in Melbourne in the early 1990s (when they were still known as the ‘Socialist Labour League’); the selling of their newspaper, Workers News, sometimes being accompanied by angry denunciations of anarchism.

Well, I do anyway.

In any case, the ICFI is one of umpteen FIs out there battling to maintain Brotsky’s Crotsky’s Drotsky’s Frotsky’s Trotsky’s legacy. For its part, the ICFI modestly describes itself as “the leadership of the world socialist movement… consist[ing] of Socialist Equality Party national sections throughout the world”. ‘The world’, in this instance, meaning Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Sri Lanka, and ‘the leadership’ an American bloke named David North.

(The history of the FI (est.1938) is complicated, and there are many different international associations claiming descent. Wikipedia, for example, lists 20, of which four–CWI, ICFI, ICL and IST–have a noticeable presence Down Under. Their size ranges from the tiny (eg. IBT) to the very, very small.)

In its current incarnation the ICFI, aka the leadership of the world socialist movement, developed in the wake of a split in the I during the mid-1980s. Bob Gould:

…after several years of intense activity, including publishing a bi-weekly newpaper for some time, [the Australian SLL] imploded in 1985, about the same time that the British Workers Revolutionary Party collapsed. Bob Pitt’s thorough political biography of WRP leader Gerry Healy [The Rise And Fall of Gerry Healy] explains most of the reasons for the collapse of the SLL/WRP current. The remnants of the SLL were subsequently incorporated into the Socialist Equality Party, and the newspaper Workers News was closed and incorporated in the World Wide Socialist Website.

So much for Australia. As Bob Pitt puts it: “In February 1986 supporters of David North, led by Dave Hyland, were kicked out with all the WRP’s usual contempt for democratic procedure. Adopting the name of the International Communist Party, the Northites [in the UK] quickly relapsed into sectarian ultra-leftism, adopting the Bordigist position that the trade unions are no longer workers’ organisations having been entirely incorporated into the capitalist state.” Ten Years After, according to the SEP nee SLL:

In June 1996, the SLL held its 17th National Congress to begin the process of transforming itself into the Socialist Equality Party. A similar initiative was being undertaken in all the sections of the ICFI. This was not simply a change of name. It was based on the recognition of the new responsibilities posed to the party by the far-reaching changes in the fundamental historical context in which the party conducted its work. New forms of work were necessitated by the political realignment underway in the international working class.

As part of this transformation, the wsws site was launched wayback in 1998 (that is, three years after The Mid Atlantic Infoshop site). Strangely, despite being launched wayback when, the inaugural SEP conference was only held in January, 2010: many years after its supposed birth. Leaving aside the question of the ICFI’s access to time travel, the blast-off into cyberspace was not greeted with much enthusiasm by their comrades in the International Communist League, who of the historic occasion remarked (Bulletin Liquidated: Northite Pirates Run for Cyberspace, Workers Vanguard, No.687, March 27, 1996):

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.


As well as providing incisive analysis of World-Historical Events (and film reviews), wsws also includes innumerable exhortations to join the ICFI, such calls almost invariably concluding ‘most any such analysis. Which makes perfect sense if the reader is committed to following the leadership* of the world** socialist movement.

Be that as it may, recently, while searching for critical materials on Drink-Soaked Ex-Trotskyite Popinjay for War Christopher Hitchens, I stumbledupon a rather unflattering portrayal of him on the ICFI site: Journalist, scoundrel Christopher Hitchens dies at 62 (David Walsh, December 17, 2011). The mournful response to his death on the part of The New York Times, Walsh argues, is on account of his exemplifying “a social type they admire”:

Taken from the widest angle, Hitchens’ trajectory resembled that followed by many of his contemporaries in the “protest generation.” His was an especially spectacular and filthy evolution, but the difference between a Hitchens and a great many left celebrities, including those who still maintain a pretense now and then of opposition to the existing order, is slight. What has characterized these middle class elements, above all, has been an immense unseriousness about the great life-and-death questions of our day.

And certainly, if a complete absence of humour regarding both Life and Death is your thing, then so too is the ICFI; revolution, like the ah, internets, is serious business. With regards Hitchens (Scoundrel time redux: Christopher Hitchens as a social type, David Walsh, February 13, 1999):

He takes positions… that draw attention to himself, allow him to stand out in a crowd, but don’t threaten his social position or standing. To get on in the world it helps sometimes to raise a few eyebrows. In some circles, a British accent, a little sauciness (but nothing too profound) will do the trick.

Maybe. But Hitchens wasn’t the only one to be tricky. The thing is, wayback in April 2007, the leader of the ICFI, David North, was exposed as being David Green, the CEO of a Michigan-based printing company (Grand River Printing and Imaging).

Well, kinda sorta.

When I blogged about it a year later (May 2008) one commenter described ex-SEP member Scott Solomon’s outing as “a pathetic effort to slander David North and the SEP”. Which again, may be so. But this didn’t actually answer the question: is David North, the leader of the world socialist movement aka the ICFI, also David Green, CEO of Grand River?


Solomon’s allegations caused something of a stir at the time, and another FI — the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) — was certainly happy to elaborate, first with Notes on the SEP/GRPI Puzzle (May 15, 2007) and then with Northites Inc.: Toeing the Bottom Line: Being Determines Consciousness (Bolshevik, No.30, 2008). Another FI — (Jan Norden’s) Internationalist Group — also makes reference to the seeming contradiction in Socialists in Bourgeois Electionland (The Internationalist, November 2008) and Where Were You, David North? (The Internationalist, July 2009).

Upon receiving a local business award (“Best Places to Work in Southeast Michigan”, an honour bestowed by Crain’s Detroit Business and IRI Consultants to Management) in 2003, David Green (David North?) remarked of his company that it “places heavy emphasis on what an employee has to deal with day to day, including personal and social responsibilities, and accommodates accordingly. The company firmly believes it and employees must work together to survive.”

As of this date, the name ‘David Green’ has been expunged from the Grand River website; Grand River remains a union-free workplace.

See also : On the Socialist Equality Party, The Partisan, April 6, 2010 | The Downward Spiral of the International Committee of the Fourth International, Alex Steiner, Permanent Revolution, November 2009. NB. This PR is to be confused with Permanent Revolution, the group that split from Workers’ Power aka the Fifth International, in 2006. Sadly, its five Australian members failed to keep the flame of the Fifth International-And-A-Half alive Down Under, their spark expiring a few short years later.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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19 Responses to David North (ICFI) ~versus~ David Green (Grand River)

  1. LeftInternationalist says:

    Speaking of Trot politics (well, it prob be more accurate to call the IST post-Trotskyist, given how the more traditional, orthodox Trots like Louis Proyect, among others, insist on calling them ‘Anarcho-Marxists’- which I think is a compliment) I just read Ian Birchall’s biography of Tony Cliff, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by how level headed it was- it certainly was not a crass apologetic or a rah rah rally the troops kind of book, though it’s written by a long time SWP member. Ever read any stuff by William Morris or Simone Weil? They’re quite fascinating political lions to say the least, and among the hardest to place into rigid categories (for example, Morris was a friend of both Engels and Kropotkin). I’m thinking about picking some of their books up. Plus, I hear some anarchists got arrested either at the NATO or G8 summit (can’t remember which) please comment.

  2. LeftInternationalist says:

    Also, opinions on the International Organisation for a Participatory Society recently set up and associated with ZNet and Michael Albert’s ideas? I hear they have 1700 members across 80 countries- not bad for an organisation less than a year old.

  3. @ndy says:


    Re Louis Louis, he got his own ideological barrow to push: reckons the IST gotta bad interpretation of Lenin(ism).


    Yeah, read some stuff by Morris and Weil: interesting chars.

    And yeah: anarchists are always getting arrest at anti-summit stuff. Maybe you mean to ref to the three d00ds what got arrest and charged with terrorism? If so, at first glance, it appears that the charges are bogus: unlikely to be a coincidence that The Three Amigos were apparently the ones in the car what got stooped last week (May 9) by the CPD. Otherwise, the repression appears to follow the script written for the Genoa protests in 2001. Donatella della Porta et al (The Policing of Transnational Protest, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006) have written useful stuff about this.

  4. LeftInternationalist says:

    Yeah, I meant the super-special-scary-charged as terroristy anarchists (I assume they actually are anarchists, and this is not just a media blow-up/slur/propagandhi). I was just reading up on the crazy security going ons in the run-up to the London Olympics (surface to air missiles mounted on residential buildings anyone?) and it feels so absurd that it would not be fair to say it’s like 1984, because it feels far more like a parody. Yes, it’s more Mad Max (or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) than Orwellian.

  5. billyboob says:

    Hey LI where did you get the ‘anarcho-marxists’ quote from?

  6. LeftInternationalist says:

    from this article http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2007/04/20/hugo-chavez-and-the-venezuelan-revolution-conclusion/ quote: “The anarcho-Marxists of the State Capitalist tendency…”

  7. JH says:

    Hi there.

    I am former member of the SEP. I quit the party in January of 2007 after its cult-like atmosphere finally wore me out. Shortly thereafter, I came into contact with Scott Solomon, the ex-SEP member who originally found the information about Grand River Printing. You asked:

    “Is David North, the leader of the world socialist movement aka the ICFI, also David Green, CEO of Grand River?”

    The answer is yes. I know this for a fact. I was a member of the party and I saw the information Solomon had dug up. The pictures in the magazine articles he showed me were of North and his wife, whom I had obviously seen myself as a party member. I also recognized the real names of several party members on the old Grand River website who were serving as executives at the company. There is no doubt that the SEP and GRPI are owned and run by the same group.

    Just thought you might like to know.

  8. @ndy says:

    Hey JH,

    Thanks for your comment. As far as I’m aware, the ICFI maintains radio silence on the question. In many respects, the question is immaterial, but it strikes me when reading the wsws.org site just how many disparaging references are made to other parties, tendencies and individuals as ‘petit-bourgeois’; further, the way in which this presumed ideological perspective is claimed to be the (unconscious?) product of the economic and social status of same. Given the above, applying this logic to the situation of the leadership of the world socialist movement results in some rather intriguing conclusions…

  9. Justus Liebig says:

    Dealing with GRP for over a decade all I can testify:

     DG or known as DN gave shelter to fellow comrades.
     He tried constantly to practice LT’s ideas giving people a chance to strive.
     Equality did not mean to stay ignored, low paid or abused.
     His operation still offers benefits many other companies do not offer any more.
     During my decade there was and is a clear separation between his personal and his business world.
     Looking into the Josef McCarthy’s witch-hunt and later J Edgar Hoover’s aftermath I fully understand his protective measures.
     Any doctrine of course can narrow anybody’s wider view.
     Isolation into a secret inner world may happen.
     Surrounding yourself with yes-men followers may give you a false reality.
     Instant world travel in a hurry, split second meetings with pre-fab Q&A sessions remove you from reality.
     If your rhetorical talent results in brain washing your supporters, you create equal programmed robots.
     A strong democracy should give room for all colors of the human spectrum.
     So DG / DN can have his space.
     If you feel you pulled his wagon and disagree with his mission, you have the right to leave.

    The extreme left and far right have a lot in common. Vertical structured management.

    Live well and prosper.

  10. J says:

    Now you’ve finished with North will you now attack Engels for his role managing his father’s mill?

  11. @ndy says:


    Yes I will.



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  13. Eric Sommer says:

    I’m not a member of the SEP or the ICFI but this entire article appears to be slander without a word of serious critique or examination of the political positions or recent political work of these organizations. One would never guess from this discussion that the http://www.wsws.org provides some of the best progressive news and analysis available on the planet. Nor after reading the quote suggesting they are substituting internet work for real-world’ political activism, that they are actively engaged in a number of very real-world social actions. The sneeringly referred to linked article regarding Christopher Hitchens is in fact a well-researched and devastating critique of this mans political development into a supporter of U.S. imperialism. I urge readers to visit the wsws themselves and judge for themselves, rather than on the basis of the cynical presentation in the article.

  14. @ndy says:

    Who could possibly gainsay Deuce Bigelow (The Gigolo)?

  15. Ex SEP member says:

    Yeah, Eric is for sure a member of the SEP, his mannerisms are stock for the SEP internet brigade that used to flood Reddit before they all got banned. I can personally attest to the fact that David North is David Green, that he made literally millions of dollars off of the company, and that the workers, and especially those who were also party members were either execs or treated like shit, with no middle ground. The SEP wants to hide this fact because of the obvious implications, whereas Engels was a less than willing owner of a factory (taking the job for familial reasons) David North took the former Bulletin presses and converted them into a for profit business which he gladly profited from.

    So just some food for thought.

  16. Hansen says:

    Another former member here. “Ex SEP Member” is indeed correct. Eric is an SEP member masquerading as an “objective” bystander only seeking “truth”. I’ve actually met him lol it’s really not that difficult to trace the identities of these people. Anyway, one has to wonder why David North is somehow magically impervious to the same political, economic and historical forces that apparently everyone else is influenced by. Does he have some magic power we’re not aware of? Ah yes, the dialectic is his saving grace. He and he alone wields its power properly and of course his disciples (but watch out! Should you question anything the guru says, even out or ignorance or genuine curiosity, your “subjectivity” may just cast doubt on your loyalty). “Woe to the factionalists!” is the call of the day. Only Trotsky knows the way forward, and North is his living incarnation. But seriously, any group (cult) claiming to have all the answers to existence should always be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

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