The Internationalist
January 2012  
Exchange with the Spartacist League on the January 23 Protest

We reproduce below an exchange of correspondence concerning the January 23 protest in solidarity with Longview dock workers and against military union-busting.

Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2012 10:20
From: nysl@tiac.net
To: internationalistgroup@msn.com
Subject: January 23rd Protest

23 January 2012

To the Internationalist Group:

Late on Saturday* we received your appeal to endorse a demonstration on Monday, January 23 at the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan based on the slogans “Solidarity with Longview Longshore Workers’ Struggle” and “Stop Union-Busting—Coast Guard Keep Out!” The demands are straightforward. It is rare that the Internationalist Group appeals to the Spartacist League to endorse a “united front” action, a request that in this case is being made very late in the game. Thus, we are curious about what the attitude of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose very existence is on the line in Longview, is to this protest. We stand on the side of the defense of the union against EGT’s union-busting offensive, backed by the military and other police forces of the federal government, not with those in the Occupy movement who share the belief that the unions should be eliminated.

Sharon Shelly
for the New York Spartacist League

Cc: ILWU Local 21, ILWU International

- - - - -

Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2012 12:27
From: internationalistgroup@msn.com
To: nysl@tiac.net 
Subject: RE: January 23rd Protest

To the Spartacist League:
In response to your letter of this morning, when the Internationalist Group has initiated united-front demonstrations, as in this case, we have generally invited the Spartacist League to endorse. The one case we can recall offhand where we did not was in late January/early February 2010, when we played a leading role in organizing two demonstrations outside the U.S. mission to the U.N. in New York calling for U.S. troops out of Haiti. At the time the SL was supporting the U.S. occupation of Haiti under the guise of providing earthquake relief, a position which we (and later you) characterized as a capitulation to U.S. imperialism. Hence there was no point in asking the SL to endorse, as you were on the other side.
You say that the demands of the united-front protest to be held this afternoon,  Solidarity with Longview Longshore Workers Struggle" and Stop Union-Busting – Coast Guard Keep Out are straightforward" but ask what the attitude of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is toward this demonstration. That you will have to ask the ILWU leadership.** We can assure you that ILWU Local 21 is more than happy to have the solidarity of labor and left groups in this make-or-break struggle, and that this is also the attitude of many in the ILWU ranks. 
For our part, the Internationalist Group defends the ILWU against EGT's union-busting offensive, and has called for a mobilization of labor power to stop the loading of grain from the scab terminal. We also call to shut down the ports on the West Coast (as well as East and Gulf Coasts) in defense of the Longview struggle, where the future of the entire union and all waterfront unions in the U.S. is at stake. As you know, the ILWU bureaucracy, bowing to pressure from the employers PMA and to prohibitions on militant labor struggle in the slave-labor Taft-Hartley Act, has opposed a shutdown of the ports. 
The union tops have also undercut solidarity action by third parties, in some cases instructing ILWU members to cross the lines of Occupy protesters on December 12. However, in Seattle, Portland, Longview, Oakland and elsewhere, the union ranks did not cross the lines, and the terminals were shut down in support of Longview. We stand with the union ranks. In recent labor solidarity forums in Portland and Seattle, a spokesman for the Internationalist Group sharply criticized those in the heterogeneous Occupy movement who oppose unions or claim that they are capitalist institutions. We pointed out that it was the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy that undercut solidarity efforts, but it is the membership that constitutes the unions, not this parasitic layer. 
Both in Portland and Seattle, right-wing ILWU local bureaucrats and their hangers-on disrupted these labor solidarity forums to support Local 21 called by Occupy and held in union halls (SEIU and AFL-CIO respectively). The bureaucratic disrupters targeted in particular the several ILWU members who were speaking on the stage at those events. In Seattle, where the bureaucrats disruption included pushing, shoving and throwing punches, some Occupy activists denounced the union as responsible for the attack, but our defense of the ILWU against the sellout bureaucrats was applauded by most of the audience. Moreover, as you can see from the video we have posted on www.internationalist.org, the speakers and audience loudly chanted ILWU, ILWU, making clear that they were defending the union as opposed to the disrupters with their shameful attack. 
Since the attackers in their attempt to bust up this labor solidarity meeting claimed to be defending the ILWU against Occupy, we might ask where the Spartacist League stands on this disruption, which has been amply documented. Do you side with the likes of the International Socialist Organization and the Socialist Workers Party who have taken up cudgels for the ILWU bureaucracy against the ranks? Also since you find the demands of the protest this afternoon to be straightforward, do you endorse it? If so, please fill out the endorsement form and return. As explained in the cover letter, as is normal in a genuine united front, participating groups will be able to present their own particular views as well as the common demands. 
Jan Norden
for the Internationalist Group 

* Original invitation to endorse was sent on Saturday, January 21, at 5:14 p.m., 48 hours before the protest.

** Which the SL apparently did, forwarding their letter to the IG to the ILWU leadership.

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