First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 9, October 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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COMRADES, AS YOU KNOW, CADRE RECEIVE THEIR BEST TRAINING IN THE PROCESS OP STRUGGLE, IN SURMOUNTING DIFFICULTIES AND WITHSTANDING TESTS, IN STUDYING FAVORABLE AND UNFAVORABLE EXAMPLES OF CONDUCT. WE HAVE HUNDREDS OF EXAMPLES OF SPLENDID CONDUCT IN TIMES OF STRIKES, DURING DEMONSTRATIONS, IN JAIL, IN COURT...SUCH WORTHY EXAMPLES OF PROLETARIAN HEROISM MUST BE POPULARIZED, MUST BE CONTRASTED WITH MANIFESTATIONS OF FAINTHEARTEDNESS, PHILISTINISM, AND EVERY KIND OF ROT AND FRAILITY IN OUR RANKS AND THE RANKS OF THE WORKING CLASS. Georgi Dimitroff
Recently 25 persons were arrested during a mass confrontation with cops in a small town in Southern California. The demonstration was held in support of a local strike which has been going on for about 7 months. Various misdemeaner charges were filed against those arrested, and after several weeks of mass pressure, both inside and outside the courtroom – the state was forced to drop all of the charges. This article concerns some incidents which occurred during the course of the courtroom proceedings:
The trial of the 25 persons arrested at the demonstration was scheduled for the end of July, after several hearings had been held. Before dropping the charges completely the prosecutor (with the encouragement of the presiding judge) had offered to drop the charges on all or most of the defendants if the latter would agree to not bring charges against the cops. This offer was refused. An “independent investigation” into the demonstration and arrests instigated by the local City Council was met with mass protest and a boycott of its proceedings. On Saturday, July 3rd the striking workers lead another mass picket that forced the company to hide its trucks from the strikers. Workers in uniform attended the courtroom proceedings from beginning to end. The mass pressure and the actions of the workers struck fear into the state and they were finally forced to release all of the defendants without charges.
Among those arrested or who participated in the case were members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and the August Twenty-Ninth Movement (ATM), and a person admittedly “close to” the line of the October League (OL) (Whether or not the person is actually a member of the October League is not the most important question. The important issue is the influence of OL’s line) Right from the start, the lines of demarcation were drawn over the approach we should take to the court. These different approaches actually represent fundamental differences over the attitude of revolutionaries towards the state. Specifically, whether we in practice view the state as an organ of class rule or as a mediator between classes – as something to be relied upon.
The RCP and the OL claim to be for the armed overthrow of the state. And of course, it is relatively easy for them to talk of armed overthrow when it is not an immediate question. But the task of communists at this time is to train the masses as to the class nature of the state, HOW it is to be confronted and combatted. It is THIS training which helps to prepare them for the ACTUAL overthrow of the state.
But the conduct of the RCP and OL in this case has been directly opposite of what they WRITE in their newspapers and programs. A hint of what the RCP would do later can be found in the solemn statement made by their cadre early in the defendants meetings, that the state (talking about the CAPITALIST state) has a “dual nature”, and that it is sometimes progressive (!) to use it. What this meant in practice was for the RCP to strike a cozy bargain with the state by severing his case from that of the other defendants. The prosecutor himself announced in court that he was being joined in a motion to sever by the defendant (from RCP), who had “philosophical differences” (we’ll say!) with some of the other defendants (that is, with the revolutionaries), and who didn’t like the way some of the other defendants (the revolutionaries) were conducting themselves in court. This shameful and disgusting cowardice from a member of “the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat”, as the RCP likes to call itself!
And our “friend of the people” from the October League protested against the “speech-making” by the communists and revolutionaries in court. These comrades acted EXACTLY as communists are supposed to act in court – to use it as a forum from which to expose the rottenness of capitalism and its state – including its courts. Later this “comrade” of the OL confessed that maybe his protest was a “petty-bourgeois hang-up about respect for the court”. This phoney self-criticism was more induced by the outrage of the other defendants at the action of the RCP, than by any honest motivation to seek the roots of his error (typical, we might add, of the entire history of the October League). This “comrade” finally admitted that the RCP should be “severely criticised”, and that, in fact, the proper conduct of the revolutionaries helped to strengthen the defense. ATM and other revolutionaries startled our OL “comrade” (and the pitiful cadre from the RCP) by pointing out that the latter’s act amounted to nothing less than treason to the cause of revolution, and among the masses one never gets away with such actions a second time. Naturally, to the petty bourgeois pacifists from the RCP and OL, unused to and unprepared for any of the violent aspects of revolutionary struggle, such truisms are hard to swallow.
Struggle later developed over whether we should rely on our own resources or to work with state-appointed public defenders. The OL said (and this from the organization which brags weekly about the “vanguard revolutionary (!) Party” they are building) that we should “use” the public defenders and rely on the judge to cancel them out and appoint in their place “liberal” or “radical” (OL we presume) lawyers. And, of course, we would really ’burn’ the state by having it pay large sums of money for “good” defense lawyers. (Coincidently, the OL “comrade” just happened to be an attorney.)
ATM and the other revolutionaries fought tooth and nail against this scheme of relying on the state, but was unfortunately not able to win over all of the defendants away from this line.
And the happy result of this “grand strategy”?
1) Naturally, the judge did not appoint the lawyers the OL expected him to;
2) Several defendants were stuck with public defenders;
3) These public defenders consistently OPPOSED all those who defended themselves in court, (the communists and other revolutionaries);
4) The OL “comrade” was appointed by the judge and therefore declared that “his plan (i.e., to rely on the state) has worked perfectly”.
And of course, the plan did “work perfectly” from the standpoint of the OL – that is, the standpoint of reformism and opportunism (which this time even managed to put a few bucks in their pockets). Rather than utilizing EVERY OPPORTUNITY to expose the capitalist state, both the OL and the RCP, BY THEIR ACTIONS, tried to create illusions about it, preached reliance on it. And this is not surprising, especially for the OL, which wanted Federal troops to “protect” the Black masses of Boston, and which tells the masses of oppressed women to “fight” for the E.R.A. by going to court! (This was exactly their practice with the women laid-off in 1974 at the General Motors plant in Fremont, California.)
It is the task of all communists brought before the capitalist courts for political reasons to use those forums to lay out clearly their communist convictions and to expose to the masses the nature of the bourgeois state. Our comrades involved in this trial upheld their duty with honor. We have shown how the OL and RCP behaved in the same situation. In fact, when the RCP’s treachery was exposed they completely stopped attending the defendants meetings, (more out of chauvinism than shame we would suppose). The October League, while printing articles about the strike and the mass actions which resulted in the arrests, has not issued a single piece of propaganda or agitation to the strikers or their supporters during the entire strike, (maybe they want the strikers to “read all about it in the CALL”). Their articles “neglect” to mention that they opposed the mass action which resulted in the arrests because “that is no way to stop production”, (after all we can always get a court injunction). In any case we think that these simple facts clearly reveal who acted like revolutionaries, like communists, and who acted like the opportunists they are.