Letter to Workers Vanguard
Sectarian Stupidity Will Not Free Mumia
To the Editor of Workers Vanguard:
Mondays stay of execution was vital to the battle for the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Its achievement is a crucial tactical victory, which can open the way to the more profound victory we needgetting him off death row and freeing him.
This tactical victory was a result of mobilization by thousands of leftists, trade unionists and blacks throughout the world. The more profound victory will be possible only through the mobilization of even broader layers, and in larger activities. With the consistent application of united-front methods, Mumia Abu-Jamal will be freed.
The Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee have done an admirable job in publicizing Mumias case and mobilizing in his defense. But your recent article, "Anti-Communist Smear Targets Jamal Campaign" (Workers Vanguard, 28 July) can only undermine the effort required to save Mumia from the executioners needle. Supposedly a response to attempts to sabotage the fight for Mumias freedom, it in fact resorts to Stalinist-style cop baiting to further the narrow organizational interests of the Spartacist League.
In the article you claim that the polemics of the Bolshevik Tendency exposing your cult-like internal regime are really aimed at sabotaging the fight for Mumia and bringing down state repression on your heads. You write that "defamatory ravings about the SL as a cult feed into the Wall Street Journals vintage redbaiting, which is aimed at spiking the necessary mass protest that is essential in fighting for Jamals freedom" (emphasis in original). You write further that the BT "has always sought to be the instrument of bigger forces with its provocative slurs and slanders against the Spartacist League," insinuating that we (along with the other left groups mentioned in your article) are in league with sinister forces (like the FBI, maybe?) to "get" the SL.
You find particularly sinister the WSJ articles mention of the fact that we "deride [our] old party as Jimstown, a takeoff on Jonestown." What the WSJ reporter didnt know, however, is that the term "Jimstown" (from our article, "The Road to Jimstown," published ten years ago) was only indirectly derived from Jonestown. Its immediate antecedent was your characterization of Jack Barnes Socialist Workers Party as "Barnestown". You also fail to mention that for years you have publicly labeled the Healyites, the Revolutionary Workers League, the Freedom Socialist Party and other left groups "cults." When, during the Gulf War, you pointed to the years-long role of David Norths Workers League as paid publicists for Saddam Husseins regime in Iraq, and as apologists for the murder of members of the Iraqi Communist Party, the Workers League responded to these charges in exactly the same way that you respond to ours: they claimed you were attempting to set them up for government repression. Was the SL seeking to become "the instrument of bigger forces" against these other groups? Your accusations against them are no less a matter of public record than our claims about the SL, and are no less accessible to the Wall Street Journal or any other bourgeois newspaper. Or what about your remark in German-language Spartacist (Winter 1989-90) that we have "similar appetites" to those of the Mossad (Israeli secret police)? Did you think that such an insinuation posed no danger to our German comrades, in light of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in that country? The Spartacist League evidently believes it has a right to say anything about other left groups, but goes into a frenzy the minute it gets a taste of its own medicine.
Even more appalling is the fact that you explicitly equate any criticism of yourselves with an attack on Mumia Abu-Jamal. You are hardly the only group active in the fight for his freedom. We, along with yourselves and others, have participated in demonstrations for Mumia in every part of the world where we have comrades, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Berlin, Hamburg and London. An English supporter got a resolution for freeing Mumia passed in the Birmingham Trades Council. Our New Zealand section has initiated two demonstrations calling to free Mumia, the first in 1990. A New York comrade got his union (Local 2110, UAW) to send a protest letter to the Governor of Pennsylvania on Mumias behalf. Our Toronto group has helped to build two demonstrations for Mumia so far, and is now participating alongside your members in efforts for another mobilization on 14 August. Our name appears on the PDC poster for this rally as one of the endorsers.
According to your logic, Trotskyists in the 1930s, by pointing to the bureaucratic internal regime of the U.S. Communist Party and its cult of Stalin, were sabotaging the campaign to defend the Scottsboro Boys. The Stalinists themselves seized every opportunity to make this point. But Trotskyist exposures of Stalinist betrayals from Germany to Spain, or their condemnations of the Moscow Trials, never prevented them from defending the Soviet Union against imperialism, or from defending American Stalinists from McCarthyite witchhunts. Similarly, our knowledge of the cult-like practices of the SL leadership does not prevent us from seeking united fronts to defend Mumia, nor from defending the SL against repression by the state.
For many years the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee, to their credit, campaigned for Mumias freedom before many were familiar with the case. More became involved when Mumias death warrant was signed, including many of the SLs competitors on the left. Rather than welcoming these organizations to the fight, your reflex has been to defend your turf in truly sectarian fashion, writing that other leftists "venomous hatred of the Trotskyist Spartacist League far outweighs their professed defense of Jamal" (emphasis added). In other words, you are Mumias only real defenders on the socialist left. Some of your members even went so far as to claim that our protest letter to Pennsylvanias Governor Ridge, which states that "For each activist you strike down, ten will arise to take his or her place," means that we somehow conceive of Mumias murder as a positive development!
In the wake of your recent altercation with the International Socialist Organization, you write "that their support to the campaign for Jamal isnt worth the paper its printed on," and that "united-front action[s] are completely alien to the ISO, which has been noticeably absent (or represented by token teams) at recent demonstrations for Jamal." Yet at one major recent demonstration for Jamal in New York City (Saturday, July 22), where approximately 400 showed up, the ISO had many times more members than the SL, who turned up with fewer than ten people. In a city where you could have mobilized 50 of your own members at the very least (not to mention your periphery), this is truly shameful. Could this lack of enthusiasm be explained by the fact that the demonstration was called by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, and not the SL or PDC? It would seem that united-front actions are somewhat "alien" to the SL as well. The SL, in fact, rarely engages in united fronts it does not initiate and unilaterally control. While there has been an unevenness in your methods internationally, on the whole your approach has been more reminiscent of the Third Period Stalinist "united front from below" which allowed Hitler to take power in Germany, than to the Trotskyist approach of negotiations among as many organizations as possible to mobilize the maximum forces in united action.
The campaign to save Mumia places the Spartacist leadership in a particular bind. On the one hand, it wants to maintain the SLs reputation as Mumias best defenders, and build a broad campaign on his behalf. On the other hand, the leadership is uncomfortable about the fact that such a campaign will inevitably bring SL members into wider contact with other leftistsa development the SL leadership tries to avoid for fear that the rank and file may begin to question the leaderships claims to infallibility. Hence the reluctance to participate in non-SL events and the need for cop-baiting attacks in the pages of Workers Vanguard.
It is this kind of sectarian behavior, and not the fact that we and others dare to criticize the Spartacist League, that truly sabotages the fight for Mumias freedom. Yet we insist that one need not be a fan of the SL leadership to keep working with the SL and anyone else who is willing to fight for the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
On behalf of the International Bolshevik Tendency,
Posted: 25 November 2004