May 2008   

The Strange Case of Bill Logan

Speakers at the February Coast Caucus of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) as well as at the May Day protest accompanying the port shutdown noted that the union action came out of the Labor Conference to Stop the War, held in the Local 10 hall in San Francisco last October 20. Supporters of the Internationalist Group in the trade unions helped build this conference and took an active part in it, speaking in workshops and the plenary session on how to fight the Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC), on the need for the ILWU and other unions to defend immigrant workers, and on how to bring about workers strikes against the war. What did the Spartacist League do?

The SL had five or six supporters present in and around the hall at different times during the conference selling their paper. But their sole intervention was to ask to make an announcement about a demonstration to be held when a decision came down in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. After spending about a minute on the announcement, the speaker launched into a frenzy denouncing the presence of one Bill Logan, leader of the misnamed International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT), who was justly expelled from the Spartacist tendency in 1979 for crimes against communist morality and elementary human decency.1 After going way beyond the time limit that other speakers had observed, and having abused the pretext on which she was granted speaking time (to make an announcement) as the workshop was about to close, the chairman, Jack Heyman told her to sit down. When she refused, he ended the session.

WV (No. 901, 26 October 2007) then published an article on the conference titled “Labor Opportunists, Renegades Embrace Bill Logan.” The article is positively weird, but more than that, this smear job is a classic example of the smear technique used by the Stalinists against Trotsky in the 1930s, the amalgam, trying to equate us and the IBT. WV writes: “Yet sitting silent through Heyman’s attack on our speaker was none other than Internationalist Group (IG) leader Jan Norden.” After quoting what Norden said condemning Logan in 1999, it continues: “Now, taking the floor not long after our comrade at the conference, Norden’s only mention of Logan was a brief, oh-so-comradely criticism of Logan’s description of a 1930s Australian labor boycott of pig iron to Japan as an example of working-class struggle against war. Thus, Norden joined the labor opportunist Heyman and the renegades of the BT in legitimizing the twisted monster Logan as part of the workers movement.”

For starters, Norden spoke some time before the SL spokeswoman, who was the last person before the break. And what he said was that what Logan had hailed as an example of workers action against war actually fed into the imperialist embargo of raw materials to Japan that paved the way to World War II. He underlined that workers action by itself is not enough, it has to be based on a program of defeating imperialism. In other words, we fought the IBT politically, in the framework of a conference to discuss workers action against the imperialist war, while the SL screeched, literally, about the crimes Logan committed 29 years ago. These have been known to the public since the SL released three thick International Information Bulletins (No. 10, Parts I and II, from January 1979, and No. 16, November 1983) detailing the charges against Logan and his regime. For the ICL today, almost three decades later, to publish an additional two-part bulletin, The Logan Dossier (August 2007), totaling over 400 printed pages, at a price of $10, reflects their increasingly bizarre/skewed priorities.

The SL pretends that being in the same room with the líder máximo of the IBT and attacking his pro-imperialist politics is a monstrous crime and amounts to “embracing” him. Yet here, as in so many other instances, they apply a double standard. What is one to make of the fact that just a couple of weeks earlier the SL, via the Prometheus Research Library, co-sponsored a forum  in New York together with the IBT presenting Brian Palmer’s biography of James P. Cannon? (The Internationalist Group also endorsed the event.) If politically exposing the IBT leader is a crime, what about the fact that the ICL’s Canadian section debated the IBT in February 1999? Is there rhyme or reason in the SL’s hysteria and limitless hypocrisy? Yes, they used Logan’s presence to manufacture a diversion, to avoid explaining their political abdication from any real fight against the labor bureaucracy and for real workers struggle against the war.

The fact that all Workers Vanguard had to say about a labor conference on workers action against the war was to denounce the crimes of Logan speaks volumes about how far the SL’s peculiar degeneration has proceeded. At the meeting, its representatives said not a word about how to fight imperialist war.  WV’s post-facto justification was that “this conference was little more than a talk shop for a bunch of sometimes left-sounding bureaucrats and a gaggle of reformists and liberals to peddle their wares in the shadow of the Democratic Party, the other party of U.S. imperialism.” Yet the result was the first workers strike against imperialist war in the history of the United States. To these ex-Trotskyists who increasingly live in a world apart, a genuine, if limited, step forward in the class struggle means nothing.  n

1 As a leader of the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand, Bill Logan egregiously manipulated the private lives of comrades. Most seriously he sought (together with his companion Adaire Hannah) to force a woman comrade to have an abortion, telling her (and getting her husband to tell her) not to take her medication that had been prescribed to prevent a miscarriage. When she went ahead and had her baby, they tried to get her to leave the section and go to the U.S. When she was unable to travel because of her medical condition, Logan tried to force her to give up the newborn child, rendering the comrade suicidal. Logan was put before a trial body at the first international conference of the international Spartacist tendency and was found guilty as charged. Even the BT admits today that “many of the complaints raised by the SL/ANZ membership were legitimate, or substantially legitimate,” that “the membership came forward with genuinely agonized accounts of organizational abuse and atrocities,” and that “Logan was undoubtedly guilty of running a grossly abusive regime.” Leaders of the Internationalist Group who were then leading cadres of the SL spoke for and voted for Logan’s expulsion, and we have never had reason to revise our opinion of his guilt. It is grotesque that the BT (which would more accurately be called the Menshevik tendency, being the right opposition to the ICL) should have such a person as its leader.

Bill Logan, incidentally, has a private business as a “counsellor, narrative therapist and celebrant based in the Wellington region in New Zealand.” In this guise he performs “marriages, civil unions, and funerals.” But he is also “available for professional supervision, dispute mediation” and other “organizational services.” Those services are specifically offered to private companies, as he explains: “Many businesses and community organisations find it hugely useful to have a trained and experienced outsider to help at times of crisis, decision or dispute. My combination of experience in building organisations [!], chairing meetings, conflict resolution and counselling might make me the right person to help your team through a special challenge or with processes of policy development or strategic planning.” (Readers can consult his web site at: http://www.bl.co.nz.) So this supposed communist is offering his services to businesses to engage in “conflict resolution.” But what can you expect from an organization (the IBT) that publishes an entire bulletin in defense of scabbing (“Sectarians, ‘Scabs’ and Socialists,” May 1996).

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com