The killing of Trayvon Martin and David North’s SEP; a backward, workerist/reductionalist political current By Tony Fox July 2012

16/08/2014 by socialistfight


Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. SEP Counterposition: “Toward this end, these forces have put forward a grossly distorted picture of American society, politics and history—one in which race, and not class, is the central issue.”

The North group (SEP, WSWS) has become a backward, workerist, reductionalist current. For them the revolution is an objectively unfolding process without the need for human agency which will come knocking on their door when they have exposed the frauds and the fakers who now lead the working class.

They have the objectivism of the old post war ‘Pabloite’ legacy, only they have objectivised the working class and not the petty bourgeoisie. The world revolution is powering forward and it is held back not by the leadership of the trade unions and bourgeois workers parties, but by the various centrist groups on the planet that claims the name of Trotskyism.

The WSWS and the SEP is the sole remaining revolutionary working class current on the planet, they tell us, engaged in a life-and-death struggle against these centrist groups, now bizarrely dubbed ‘ex-lefts’. When these have been exposed and defeated, the Northites claim, the working class will turn to the SEP, because they will have nowhere else to go, and the world revolution will be consummated. They have adopted the worst features of the Gerry Healy’s catastrophism and political culture and exaggerated these, thereby reducing Trotsky’s Transitional Programme (TP) and the method behind it – to an absurdity.

  1. The SEP says bourgeois-workers parties (BWPs) and trade unions – “… are no longer part of the workers’ movement but mere instruments of state oppression”. Contradictions have been eliminated theoretically in order to avoid the struggle against and where possible within the BWPs. The primary direction of the TP is the struggle within the trade unions to set the base against the bureaucratic misleadership. This is dismissed with contempt as reformist practice.
  2. Abandonment of the struggle for the right of oppressed nations to self-determination thereby denying the Leninist division of the globe into Imperialist oppressor nations and colonial and semi-colonial oppressed nations. A failure to defend oppressed nation’s right to self determination is a total capitulation to imperialist ideology.

It amounts to a support to the strongest imperialist powers right to impose economic, social and cultural imperialism on all the oppressed. It is an ideological collapse before Wall Street and Coca Cola and Barak Obama. Marx made this very point in the First International when French delegates demanded that all the business of the International be conducted in French – they saw their own culture as the only model for humanity; French social chauvinism.

  1. A development of the backward social attitudes to Special Oppression of the old WRP, so dramatically exposed in the sexual abuse scandal that led to Healy’s expulsion in October 1985. The SEP supported Roman Polanski against the raped 14 year old (“a teenage model” they said) and Dominique Strauss-Kahn against the hotel maid in New York. Racist remarks by Healy were cited during the 1985 split and the Aileen Jennings letter accepted unquestioning the homophobia of the organisation. This is the opening lines of her letter to the Political Committee that blew the party into smithereens:

“… Dear Comrades, During the course of action on the Manchester Area certain practices have come to light as to the running of ‘Youth Training’ by a homosexual and the dangers this holds for the party in relation to police provocations. I believe the Political Committee was correct in stating that a cover-up of such practices endangered the party from a serious provocation” …”

North (and the Sparts incidentally), thought that these matters were simply being used to hide the real political issues i.e. they were of no political importance in themselves. Although it is true that Mike Banda, the WRP general secretary and other trends, were then using these questions in this way, to hold that these matters were of no political importance was backward in the extreme. After all the whole driving forces of a social revolution is to eliminate all oppression in every form and to dismiss such terrible acts of oppression as that which Healy committed, as having no profound political implications, was to repudiate the central aim of the revolution itself as being of no importance. A false and outrageous counterposition.

Joeseph Kishore, the World Socialist Web Site Editor thinks the killing of Trayvon Martin has nothing to do with his colour

This brings us to the posting on the WSWS site on 5 April by Joseph Kishore entitled, The killing of Trayvon Martin and racial politics in America. The piece seeks to prove that it was class and not race that motivated the murder and those who were trying to impute racial motives to George Zimmerman were defending the capitalist system and trying to divert the anger of the masses away from its real cause and into the blind alley of ‘identity politics’. Zimmerman, the killer, was not motivated ostensibly by a white racist agenda and the fact that Martin was black – this very likely had nothing to do with the case. We must be sure of this – because Kishore informs us,

“Racial prejudice may have played a role in the killing of Martin, who was African-American. The initial public reaction, however, did not focus on race, but rather on the gross injustice involved. As Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, put it, “It’s not about black and white, it’s about right and wrong.”

As if the two were counterposed. Again the gross reductionalism: all black people must forget about the history of Imperialist barbarism and slavery and get on with uniting with whites against capitalism.

Kishore, in directing his anger against the ‘ex-lefts’ makes the following outrageous counterposition,

“Toward this end, these forces have put forward a grossly distorted picture of American society, politics and history—one in which race, and not class, is the central issue.”

The history of the USA is about class and NOT race is it? Of course behind the Civil War and the Jim Crow laws is class, the divide and rule, the poor whites and the Ku Klux Klan but given this history then we absolutely cannot ignore, downplay or even dispute the racial content of this history or the racial motivation of the Zimmerman murder or we can justly be called racist ourselves. Kishore then makes an even more suspect claim in repudiating Jesse Jackson;

“Jesse Jackson, for example, writes in a recent comment in the Guardian, “Racial profiling is all too common in the US, and has led to the killing of a young man.” He compares the killing of Martin to that of Emmett Till, brutally murdered by racists in Jim Crow Mississippi in 1955.”

This is what Jackson wrote in the Guardian of 30 March;

“Yet police authorities accepted Zimmerman’s account of the killing – and proceeded to investigate the victim instead. It harks back to the case of Emmett Till, the young black man whose killers walked free in 1955; or the murder of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers, whose killers were not prosecuted for 30 years.”

From what standpoint of ‘Marxism’ can you take issue with this statement? How can you use this so obviously correct statement to then claim that this MUST lead to the conclusion Kishore draws that,

“Not only is race the basic issue in the killing of Martin, Jackson insists, it is the basic issue in American society.”

Jackson draws these wrong conclusions because he is, of course, a reformist bourgeois-Democrat politician. What he actually wrote is clearly wrong – an even “more perfect union” – led by capitalism, will never fight racism, it is a vital part of their armoury in dividing the US working class,

Let us take a moment to grieve for Trayvon Martin, whose life was so brutally taken. Then let us move from moment to movement, and revive the struggle for a more perfect union. That would be fitting legacy for Trayvon.”

Who would seek to prove that racism was not ‘the real issue’ in the US by proving that Jesse Jackson was an opportunist politician?

‘Unconscious Marxists’

Of course there are sections of the petty bourgeoisie that want to deny the class content of racial murders, there are ‘Pabloite’ (as they were termed in the 1950s) groups who seek substitutes for the building of revolutionary leadership to lead the whole working class in the taking of power, but to oppose this and go to the total opposite extreme, in the name of combating this, is politically criminal. The US SWP, for example, were clearly wrong in making Fidel Castro and Malcolm X into ‘unconscious Marxists’ and thereby abandoning the struggle the win the vanguard of the class to be ‘conscious Marxists’, (the only possible type of Marxist).

But, by the time of his assassination, Malcolm X was seriously studying Marxism and was drawing class conscious conclusions. This was why the Nation of Islam members assassinated him. Had the SWP fought for consistent Trotskyism there is every chance they might have won him to go on to be a great Trotskyist leader, in a party of leaders, but they had abandoned the struggle by then.

Two views on race from Malcolm X? No a developing understanding. and the above words are not his but from the blog Godfather Politics [1]

Kishore then goes on to attack the International Socialist Organization and complained that for them “race is a virtual obsession” and they have outrageously, “called for an end to the “new Jim Crow”,” and then, in a completely dishonest amalgam, falsely accusing them of taking Jackson’s stance on the matter. Kishore says,

“What is necessary is a “new civil rights movement,” the ISO insists—meaning a race-based movement subordinated to the likes of Jesse Jackson and Sharpton, and, therefore, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.”

Well if that is really what the ISO think then Kishore will need a bit more than an assertion to prove it. Kishore then goes on to complain that every recent social movement from the Arab uprisings to the Occupy movement has begun with a struggle against injustice but have been hijacked by these ‘ex-lefts’ into bogus identity politics issues, thereby marginalising the issues of class. He tells us that,

“The politics of Jackson, Sharpton, the ISO and the entire coterie of “left” supporters of the Democratic Party represents the interests of a layer of the upper-middle class that is deeply worried that it is beginning to lose political control over the working class.”

There it is. The SEP would now be leading the revolution were it not for the above mentioned and their promoting ‘identity politics’.

Kishore claims,

“They are seeking to establish the political conditions for once again subordinating the working class to the election of Obama. More fundamentally, their aim is to undermine and pre-empt any development of independent class consciousness, which poses a threat to the capitalist system. They are exploiting the killing of Trayvon Martin for this deeply reactionary purpose.”

But Lenin had a far more dialectical approach than this backward workerism. Look at how he puts the matter in ‘What is to be done?’ – in 1902: … “In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy (communism), that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”

It is abundantly clear that the trade union branch secretary is the model here for North and Kishore (or would be if the trade unions (AND MEMBERS) had not now become part of capitalism, period.) The Marxist Social-Democrats (this was their name up to the 1917 Russian Revolution) looked to, “… every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation”.

There is the dialectical method as opposed the North’s turgid and rigid counterposition of race and class. Every black workers is both black and a worker, they have a history of both race and class oppression and are experiencing it right now. To tell them to ignore the race and concentrate on the class, is itself lecturing, bordering on racism.

North’s anti-dialectics

We recall North’s attack on Gerry Healy’s version of dialectics back in 1985 – and what his solution was. He claimed that:

“… as materialists, we cannot refer to man as a thinking body, because that would reject historical materialism, which insists that the essence of man is not consciousness but labour.”

As the late Sy Landy of the US’ League for the Revolutionary Party remarked earlier:

“… North’s unbelievable mechanical view cannot show the difference between mankind and beavers”…

Z.A. Jordan’s book The Evolution of Dialectical Materialism has a far more dialectical understanding of mind and body than the crudity of North.

“While the old philosophy has taken as its starting point the statement ‘I am an abstract, an exclusively thinking being, and my body does not belong to my essence’, the new philosophy starts with the statement ‘I am a real, a sensuous being, my body belongs to my being and, indeed, my body in its totality is myself, is itself my essence’.

The soul and the brain are mere hypostatizations of certain functions of the human individual and they disrupt what is in fact an inseparable totality; the separation of the soul from the body or of the sensuous from the non-sensuous essence of man is a purely theoretical act which we constantly refute in our everyday life and to which nothing corresponds in reality. Man is a ‘soul invested brain’ (das beseelte Gehirn) and an ‘embodied soul’ (die eingekorperte Seele). Feuerbach regarded man as a mind in a body and as a part of nature.”

From Z.A. Jordan’s book The Evolution of Dialectical Materialism, published by Macmillan, 1967.

It really is time to take these questions far more seriously in the Trotskyist movement if we are not all to end up like North’s pathetically mechanical dead-end “Marxism”.

David North, WSWS/SEP leader and also CEO of Grand Rapids Printing as David Green. This duaity explains why his is the most difficult image to find online.

[1] Malcolm’s break with the N.O.I. did not set well with the organization’s leadership. This included Elijah Muhammad and Louis X, better known as Louis Farrakhan. While in Mecca on a pilgrimage, Malcolm wrote the following to his assistants at the Harlem Mosque:

“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and the overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races. . . . You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. . . .”

While Malcolm changed his views regarding race, it seems that there are people today who define everything by race. Farrakhan and Rev. Jeremiah Wright are extremist examples of keeping the issue of race front and centre in American politics. There are others. But what’s most irritating is the way some people see race in everything and make a point of keeping the wound of racial conflict festering.


WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

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