International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 3-4 (July-December 1988)

Government Cash for the SWP

This article originally appeared in the August 26, 1988 issue of the Bulletin

The Reagan administration has approved a payment of $415,000 to the Socialist Workers Party, according to a brief report in the August 26 issue of the Militant, the SWP’s weekly newspaper. Combined with the $280,000 check sent to the SWP in June, this will bring the total US government cash provided to the Socialist Workers Party to nearly $700,000.

The latest US government payment is divided into $390,000 in attorneys’ fees and $25,000 in costs incurred by SWP lawyers during the course of the party’s 15-year lawsuit over FBI spying and harassment. Aside from whatever may be paid to Leonard Boudin, the nominal chief defense counsel, the rest of the fees will go to lawyers who are SWP members—including Margaret Winter, Carla Riehle, Robin Maisel, and Shelley Davis—and thus will be funneled directly into the party’s coffers.

The agreement to pay the SWP’s attorneys was approved on August 5 by Judge Thomas Griesa, the federal district court judge who has handled the SWP lawsuit since its inception. It was Griesa who handed down a decision in August 1986, awarding the SWP $264,000 in damages for FBI spying and harassment between 1960 and 1976.

The Militant report said that the agreement was negotiated between Boudin and the US Attorney’s office in New York City, which is headed by Rudolph Giuliani. The report did not indicate when the Reagan Justice Department accepted the agreement, but it apparently took place prior to the departure of Edwin Meese, who announced his resignation as attorney general in early July, to become effective a month later.

Meese also approved the first six-figure payment to the SWP, when the Solicitor General of the United States—Meese’s immediate subordinate—decided on March 7, 1988 that the government would not appeal Griesa’s 1986 ruling.

This action reversed the position which the Justice Department had previously taken throughout the 15-year lawsuit, in which it denied all the charges made by the SWP and even refused to produce evidence under court order. As late as January 1988, the Justice Department filed notice of its intention to appeal Griesa’s decision to the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case-hardened cynics of the petty-bourgeois radical movement in the United States—and their international co-thinkers like Professor Cliff Slaughter of the British WRP—passed over the $264,000 award to the SWP, announced in March and paid in June, in complete silence. They can be counted on to accept the claim by the SWP that this second cash payment from the US government is also “a significant gain for democratic rights.”

But any class-conscious worker will recognize that the US government, the bastion of anticommunism and capitalist domination on a world scale, would never voluntarily pay nearly $700,000 to a revolutionary organization fighting to overthrow it.

This huge government subsidy to a party which claims to be socialist and even “communist” is unprecedented in the history of the workers’ movement. It provides powerful additional evidence to substantiate the charge by the Workers League that the SWP is a government-controlled organization which functions in the labor movement as an instrument of political spying and provocation.

The ruthlessness and vindictiveness of the American ruling class and its state machine have been demonstrated in crime after crime against the working class. Frame-up victims like Rubin Carter and Gary Tyler have languished in prison for decades after their convictions were exposed as fraudulent. Seven years after the mass firings of 12,000 air traffic controllers, not a single PATCO striker has been rehired.

It took 46 years for the victims of the mass deportations of Japanese-Americans during World War II to receive any compensation, and these survivors of concentration camps were granted a miserable $20,000 apiece.

Well-known and politically legitimate civil rights lawsuits, filed by the victims or the relatives of victims of some of the most outrageous crimes of the 1960s, have been strong-armed by the court system. Thus Walter Bergman, the Freedom Rider who was put in a wheelchair by FBI-directed Ku Klux Klan thugs in 1962, won only a pittance in damages after a decadelong legal fight. The family of Viola Liuzzo, murdered in 1965 by a group of KKK thugs which included the FBI provocateur Gary Thomas Rowe, lost their lawsuit against the federal government, and were even saddled with court costs.

Yet the Socialist Workers Party receives nearly $700,000 by means of a lawsuit which was utterly fraudulent. The SWP leadership deliberately limited the scope of the lawsuit to the most minor of the countless crimes committed by the FBI, exposing only incidents of harassment, such as anonymous letters. The lawsuit did not uncover the name of a single government agent inside the SWP, despite the admission that more than 1,600 FBI spies were in or around the party between 1960 and 1976.

Indeed, there is an enormous contradiction in the government’s response to the SWP lawsuit. When it came to naming its agents inside the party, the Justice Department took an implacable stand, with then-Attorney General Griffin Bell defying a court order in 1978 to provide several names, and announcing he would go to jail rather than comply. But when it comes to a court order to pay off the SWP, the Justice Department doesn’t even bother to file an appeal!

In addition, the actual targets of the FBI, those SWP members who had some past connection to Trotskyism and the working class movement, were driven out of the party in a purge conducted in 1982-83. The cash is going, not to real victims like James Kutcher, blacklisted in the McCarthy period in the infamous “Case of the legless veteran,” but to the sinister group of government agents which controls the SWP leadership and which expelled Kutcher.

The timing of the latest award to the SWP is both extraordinary and politically significant. In the waning days of the Reagan administration, and the final hours of Meese’s tenure at the Justice Department, a concerted effort is being made to pump as much money as possible into the SWP and settle up all its outstanding legal claims, before a new administration takes office.

Another remarkable fact is the utter silence on the payments to the SWP, both in the capitalist press, and from ultraright politicians who habitually go into a frenzy if a single government dollar ends up in the bank account of an abortion clinic or a legal services agency aiding migrant farm workers. This astonishing silence only means that these elements are in the know, aware that this is money being tunneled, not to a revolutionary organization, but rather to a secret agency of the state.

The only politically serious explanation of the Reagan administration decision to drop the appeal and make payments to the Socialist Workers Party is that these payments represent a transfer of funds from one branch of the US government to another.

The investigation into Security and the Fourth International, conducted by the International Committee of the Fourth International and the Workers League since 1975, has produced thousands of pages of documents and sworn testimony demonstrating that the present leadership of the SWP is the product of massive government infiltration. For those who wish to examine this evidence, it is summarized in the two volumes, The Gelfand Case, A Legal History of the Exposure of U.S. Government Agents in the Leadership of the Socialist Workers Party.

There is nothing that the American ruling class and its state fears more than the specter of communism taking root in the working class, and the mobilization of the enormous power of the American working class under revolutionary socialist leadership. A central preoccupation of the bourgeoisie is to prevent and block such a development, and to that end, it has developed a vast apparatus of coercion and control, not only through direct agencies of government spying, such as the FBI and CIA, or through the capitalist-owned mass media, but through an apparatus which reaches directly into the working class.

Billions of dollars have been lavished over the years to cultivate relations between the capitalist state and the corrupt and anticommunist trade union bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO, with the result that this bureaucracy has been transformed into the political police of big business inside the labor movement.

In the form of the Socialist Workers Party, the capitalist class has acquired its “own” socialist party, to go along with its “own” trade union bureaucracy. The government cash is being used to build up the SWP as a listening post inside the working class movement both in the United States and internationally, where the SWP has a vast network of bookstores and permanent correspondents, maintained through large and unexplained resources.

Today, the SWP is being used to spy on the labor movement. Tomorrow, it will be used under conditions of a mass upsurge of the working class in an effort to divert and sabotage any revolutionary struggle against capitalism. Every class-conscious worker should be warned. When you speak to an SWP representative or a correspondent for the Militant, you are speaking to an arm of the federal government.