From Munis to Meese:
LEFT COMMUNISM OR STATE DEPARTMENT SURREALISM?
By Kevin Keating
A Sleepwalker's Guide To San Francisco
In 1983 I became involved in sustained political activity outside
of conventional leftism. I joined an anarchist group,
``Workers Emancipation,'' which was nominally focused on the class
struggle and published a magazine called Ideas and Action.
"Richard Laubach" was the proprietor of the magazine. Of the oscillating
membership of 5-15 people in the group, Richard had the most
coherent idea of what he wanted and where our efforts should go; he
became the group's de facto leader and his vision or lack thereof
defined our efforts. We went to peace marches and demonstrations
against US intervention in Central America, functioning as an
orderly, cooperative tail to the rest of the left. Our group had no
theory. We haggled endlessly over a nebulously worded statement of
principles. The statement denounced the evils of capitalism while
leaving capitalism itself undefined.
Ideas and Action was filled with fraternal debates with
Trotskyists and social democrats. Turgid articles on the crisis of
the economy aped left-Trotskyists in their superficial analysis of
capitalism. Ideas and Action also reprinted statements from
anarcho-nationalists in Eastern Europe and expressions of solidari-
ty with libertarian workers' organizations in Latin America. Suspi-
ciously short on analysis, these distant exotic libertarians
compensated by chanting Kropotkinite mantras to the glories of
self-management, democracy, unionism and federalism. This was
enough to justify our reproducing their manifestos.
The long-term goal of the tendency around Ideas and Action was to
gain the North American franchise of the anarcho-syndicalist
International Workers Association, the international federation of
moribund syndicalist unions. Richard had some allies in
West Virginia and in New York City, one of whom was a low level
trade union functionary in District 65 of the United Auto Workers
Union. This was extolled among the anarcho-syndicalists as being of
great relevance to our future role in the American workers
We had the same quarrels found in any other leftist political
scene, only our disagreements were processed through a miasma of
anarchist jargon. In rebellion against his brother, a Reagan
administration appointee, Richard was fond of brandishing his
working class origins to back up his fundamentally leftist
politics. In his more visionary moments, Richard's concerns for the
social content of a post-revolutionary society focused on how the
ideal mass democratic workers' organizations would be able to
salvage the market economy, and how post-revolutionary syndicalism
would impose labor discipline on the marginal sections of the
working class. Toward the end of the life of ``Workers Emancipa-
tion'' an enormous amount of time was taken up with debating the
``historically progressive'' role of pornography consumption among
sexually frustrated anarcho-syndicalists.
Going through the mail our group received from other leftist
groups, I came across what at first appeared to be the publication
of a microscopic and baroque Trotskyist sect, the International Com-
munist Current. I was impressed by an article in their magazine
Internationalism titled, ``A Closer Look at Some Leftist Lies: Cuba
Is a Capitalist Hell.'' This article was a detailed attack on the
exploitation and repression of the Cuban working class by Cuban
Stalinism and the colonization of social life by the party-state.
The ICC even denounced the repression of Cuban anarchists by
Castro. Other articles attacked social democrats, Stalinists,
Trotskyists and Maoists, not because they weren't nice guys,
weren't anti-authoritarian enough or were untrustworthy members of the
common family of the left, as Richard Laubach and his crowd did,
but as counter-revolutionary and objectively capitalist political forces.
The ICC regarded unions as agencies of capitalist discipline
against the working class.
The ICC's emphasis on autonomous working class struggles to the
exclusion of middle class protest politics and the vehemence of
their attacks on the left and Third World nationalists impressed
me, as did their denunciation of the capitalist nature of all the
so-called Socialist countries. They had a somewhat limited critique
of Leninism. Most importantly, unlike leftists and anarchists,
the ICC defined the goal of a social revolution as being neither
the nationalization of the economy by a state led by their
organization nor workers' self-management. They were for
the abolition of wage labor, money, commodity production
and national borders by the international power of workers' councils.
The ICC weren't icepickheads after all. They traced their sources
of theoretical inspiration to obscure Marxist revolutionaries I was
just beginning to find out about; the Italian, Dutch and German
left communists of the 1920s and 30s. The ICC was a semi-Leninist
and partyist version of the revolutionary Marxism I was then
discovering in the Situationist International Anthology, and
pamphlets from Black and Red in Detroit, like Barrot and Martin's
'Eclipse and Reemergence of the Communist Movement,' 'Unions Against
Revolution,' and 'Lip and the Self-Managed Counter-Revolution.'
Influenced by coherent revolutionary analysis of the Situationists
and left communists, I came to see anarcho-syndicalism as a leftist
ideology that embalmed the disastrous legacy of the CNT in the
Spanish Civil War. Half a century earlier the world's greatest
anarchist union movement had proven itself to be as good as any
other union when it came to ending strikes, and spectacularly
inadequate when it came to destroying the state. Anarcho-
syndicalism had proven to be a dead end for the class struggle. I
drifted away from the anachro-syndicalists.
I combed the sectarian literature racks at Bound Together Books
in the Haight, looking for the publications of the ICC. At City Lights
Bookstore in North Beach I rooted through the rags of Trots, Maoists,
Sandinista groupies, peaceniks, ecology geeks, Stalinists,
Black Nationalist Stalinists, Albanian Stalinists, Moscow
and Peking franchise Stalinists. I collected back issues of
Internationalism and International Review like baseball
cards or bootleg Black Sabbath albums.
In my first encounters with the publications of the ICC, I thought I
could smell the heady air of burning cars in Paris in May 1968 --
but I was wrong; it turned out to only be embalming fluid from the
Lenin mummy. The ICC was way too close to the Bolshevik
counter-revolution for me, so I looked for people whose political
orientation was somewhere between the anarchist milieu and
the ICC. The late 1970s had seen the rise and fall of a number
of groups in the United States with authentic communist
perspectives distinct from and hostile to the left and unionism.
But by the fall of 1983 the only publication in the United States
or Canada close to a left communist perspective outside of the ICC
was a bulletin called The Alarm, produced in San Francisco by
the Fomento Obrero Revolucionario Organizing Committee
in the United States (FOCUS).
Further investigation showed that Fomento Obrero Revolucionario
(FOR) was a left communist tendency whose politics were similar to
the ICC. The FOR was active mainly in France and Spain. The FOR had
been founded in the late 1950s by people who had broken with the
Trotskyist movement over the class nature of the Russian state.
Some of the members of the FOR had been involved with the
Bolshevik-Leninist Group, the small Trotskyist group that had been
on the same side as the more numerous radical anarchist workers in
the uprising in Barcelona in May of 1937. Founding members of both
the ICC and the FOR had been internationalists during World War II;
unlike leftists and many anarchists, they had denounced the USSR,
the various resistance movements, and the democratic imperialist
powers as enemies in the class war between the wage-earning class
The FOR in Europe and FOCUS/The Alarm in San Francisco were for
working class self-activity outside of and against unions and
leftist parties. They unconditionally opposed nationalism in all
forms, including national liberation struggles. Like the ICC, the
FOR defined the USSR, China, Cuba, and other so-called socialist
countries as state capitalist societies. The FOR were enemies of
the state in its dictatorial and democratic manifestations.
The people in FOCUS/The Alarm had experienced a falling out with
the FOR several years previous but still published their bulletin
under the same name as the bulletin of the European group. They
still described themselves as the organizing committee of the FOR
in the United States.
The Alarm was an ironic title for this publication, the epitome
of petty sectarianism. The Alarm hurled furious denunciations at
other ultra-obscure ultra-left groups. The prose huffed and puffed with
ridiculous phrases like ``traitorous misleaders'' and
``neo-filibusterist.'' Early issues paid fawning homage to Trotsky
and Lenin, blaming the ``betrayal'' of the Russian Revolution on
Stalin alone. Later issues dismissed the Russian Revolution as
having been of no significance and nothing more than a bourgeois
One issue of The Alarm consisted of a long poem ``Dedicated To the
Martyrs of Bolshevik Fascism.'' The poem included a lengthy cata-
logue of prominent victims, among them the party leaders Kamenev
and Bukharin. To describe architects of Bolshevik state capitalism
as victims of Bolshevism and mourn their passing was the same as
describing the brownshirts as ``victims of Hitlerism''; technically
correct, but politically delirious. In a similar vein, the laundry
list of martyrs included the Red Army Marshal Tukhachevsky. A
graphic dedicated to the rebels of Kronstadt was illustrated with
a picture of Bolshevik troops attacking Kronstadt, under the
command of, among others, Marshal Tukhachevsky.
In later issues, The Alarm adopted an identity with Spanish
anarchism and at the same time demonstrated a fondness for Leon
Trotsky, oblivious to the implicit contradictions. The Alarm also
printed news of the autonomous workers movement in Spain, of
strikes and riots outside the control of parties and unions,
information about surrealism and the Spanish Civil War. Much of
this was exotic and appealing to me. Its crazy-quilt quality and
impassioned pleas for contact and common action with other
partisans of social revolution told me that the people behind The
Alarm were in a strange place between Trotskyism and anti-statist
communism. Politically they were much worse than the ICC, but they
were the only people near at hand, and I had nothing to lose by
pursuing contact with them. I gave them the benefit of the doubt,
assumed they were developing their ideas, and that we might be able
to work together.
The next to last issue of The Alarm, September-October 1983,
announced that they were reversing their previous opposition to
unions and joining the San Francisco branch of the Industrial
Workers of the World. This was expressed in an article titled ``New
Thesis on the Organization of Workers'' signed by a Comrade
Sandalio. This article was a hodgepodge of confusion comparing the
contemporary IWW in the United States to the early twentieth
century IWW, to the anarcho-syndicalist CNT in Spain in the 1930s
and to the factory organizations of the left communists in Germany
in the early 1920s. I'd been a member of the IWW for a brief period
a few years earlier. The IWW was a laughable anachronism, the
organizational shell of a long gone social movement, made up of
people with no analysis of its past significance or the reasons for
its subsequent eclipse. Whatever the IWW had been 60 years earlier
had little bearing on what it was in the mid 1980s. It was like a
Knights Of Columbus or Elks Lodge for non-party leftists, with as
much relevance to the contemporary class struggle as an association
of Civil War paraphernalia buffs. I was disappointed that the one
group in the Bay Area that had politics akin to my own was
evaporating just as I was becoming aware of its existence.
I wrote to The Alarm a number of times to see what had happened
to them. In the summer of 1984, I made contact with and joined a
small network in the Pacific Northwest who had taken over the
mailing list of The Alarm after the bulletin's original author quit
That summer I also made contact with Comrade Sandalio, also know
as Steve Schwartz, who had been until recently the one and only
member of FOCUS/The Alarm. Schwartz was working as the official
historian of the Sailors Union of the Pacific, AFL-CIO, in the
union headquarters on Rincon Hill in San Francisco.
The SUP building was a white rectangle with absurd nautical
trimmings, an example of the totalitarian architecture favored by
strong states of the 1930s and 1940s. The front of the building
faced a stirring view of the Bay Bridge. In the middle of the day
on a weekday the front doors were locked. I had to knock. A janitor
let me in. The interior of the building looked like a set for ``The
Lady From Shanghai'' or a Humphrey Bogart movie. Aside from the
janitor the building looked deserted.
I found Schwartz in a tiny rabbit-warren office. He was a short,
rotund man with gray and black hair. He appeared to be in his
early forties. He wore granny glasses, a green commando
sweater, chinos and penny loafers.
Schwartz told me he'd worked on merchant ships crossing the
Pacific before containerization wiped out most of the maritime jobs
in the late 1960s. In the 1970s he'd participated in anti-union
workers' committees while a clerk in the Southern Pacific Railroad
yards in Richmond, Calif. Schwartz described himself as an
internationally recognized surrealist poet who had been involved in
a number of poetic and publishing endeavors with Philip Lamantia
and Franklin Rosemont's surrealist group in Chicago. In the late
1970s he'd been the band manager for The Dils, one of San
Francisco's best early punk bands. He'd written the song ``Class
War'' for The Dils and written articles in the punk scene paper
Search And Destroy under the name Nico Ordway. Now Schwartz was
employed by the Sailors Union of the Pacific to write the official
union history, in time for its hundredth anniversary the following
Schwartz explained that he had joined the IWW because ``they were
people we (left communists, libertarian communists) could talk
to.'' I questioned the value of a dialog that required him to
abandon his politics and join an organization before the members of
that organization would condescend to talk to him, particularly
when the people in question had so little to say. Schwartz hemmed
Schwartz repudiated the left communist critique of unionism,
saying that revolutionaries hadn't come up with any alternative to
unions to offer the unionized section of the working class in the
day to day struggle against capital. I was mystified at his
presumption that it was the immediate personal responsibility of,
or that it was possible for, a few hundred revolutionaries world-
wide to solve the immediate organizational problems of millions of
wage workers in the absence of mass collective struggles. In
response to this, Schwartz claimed he'd found the philosopher's
stone of the class struggle, and that it all hinged on the San
Francisco-based Sailors Union of the Pacific.
In a series of conversations that summer, Schwartz claimed that
50 years earlier the SUP had been a labor union unlike any other
labor union in the world. His history would ``blow the lid'' off
conventional leftist histories of labor unions and class struggle
in the 1920s and 1930s. According to Schwartz, when the IWW's west
coast maritime unions were destroyed by police repression in the
late 1920s, IWW seamen joined the SUP en masse, to the point where
``two-card men'' made up the majority of the union and steered it
on a radical course. The SUP fought against the conservative craft
unionism of the AFL and against the left wing corporatism of the
CIO. The SUP fought against state intervention in strike actions.
During the San Francisco General Strike, the Sailors Union of the
Pacific regarded the Moscow-franchise Communist Party as being on
the same side as the bosses. Schwartz dizzied me with a blizzard of
data, claiming that the Sailors Union had superseded in practice
the revolutionary critique of syndicalism.
Schwartz said he'd been working independently on this history of
the SUP for years. Presenting himself to the chief union bureau-
crats as an a-political labor historian and fan of trade-unionism,
he'd bullshitted his way into the job at the Sailor's Union to gain
access to the archives and internal documents of the union.
Schwartz assured me he was fooling the old clowns who ran the union
and that he was still an ``ultra-left communist'' and a
``libertarian socialist.'' He used these terms interchangeably as
if they automatically meant the same thing.
I was 23 years old, a punk rocker and marginal who worked in
minimum wage service sector jobs when I worked at all. At times I'd
lived on the street. When I met him I was a quasi-homeless kid
camping out in the back room of the leftist bookstore I worked at
in Berkeley, and I lived close to the possibility of returning
to sleeping under eucalyptus trees in the Berkeley Hills.
I knew nothing about the militant tendencies of the pre-World War
II U.S. workers' movement, I was impressed by Schwartz's erudition
and overawed that "Comrade Sandalio" was writing a book of
apparently real historic importance.
The Alarm had been sacrificed so he could get a union job. He
couldn't work as the official historian of a union and allow it to
be known that he was the author of a publication that in its first
issue had described assassinations of union bureaucrats in Italy by
urban guerrillas as ``viscerally pleasing.'' He argued that any
confusions caused to readers of The Alarm would be well worth the
ultimate value of this book to a resurgent wildcat workers'
movement in the United States. The Alarm would be resurrected after
he'd finished his book. I respected his machiavellian attitude. I
liked Schwartz. I thought he was for real and I wanted to believe
Towards the end of the summer, Schwartz gave me a copy of the
manuscript, titled at that point, A History of the Sailors' Union
of the Pacific 1885-1985.
Schwartz began by establishing the brutal conditions faced by 19th
century seamen. Sailors endured grueling labor for low wages on
long voyages, bad food in small quantities and frequent savage
beatings from ships' officers. Sailors who jumped ship in Califor-
nia were penalized as criminals, guilty of ``desertion'' and
imprisoned for six months at hard labor.
These conditions, combined with a rapidly expanding West Coast
maritime economy, gave rise to the Coast Seamen's Union, which
became the Sailor's Union of the Pacific. The Coast Seamen's Union
was founded on a lumber pile on the Folsom Street Wharf on March 6,
1885, by radical socialists of the San Francisco-based Internation-
al Workmen's Association, modeled on Marx's wing of the First
Schwartz's manuscript contained copious amounts of information
about late 19th and early 20th century labor radicals. Schwartz
digressed at length on post World War I mutinies in the German,
French and Russian fleets, the abortive proletarian uprising in
Finland and the Kronstadt revolt in 1921. But as the account
progressed into the 1920s, schizophrenic authorial voices
alternated with metronomic regularity, in places sympathetic to
proletarian radicals, at other points distancing and dismissive in
the smug cliched style of mainstream American journalism.
Schwartz critiqued the Bolshevik hijacking of radical tendencies
in the international workers' movement, and Moscow's sabotage of
revolution in Germany. Subsequently the authorial voice took on the
frenzied tone of a protagonist in a story by Edgar Allan Poe. He
wrote as if he'd been cheated out of a parking space. On page 86 of
Chapter IV Schwartz claimed that when it came to police violence
against the working class in the United States or Russia ``There
was most assuredly a difference between the clubs of (Democratic)
forces and those of the Communist (sic) police in Moscow.''
From a left-libertarian critique of Bolshevik state capitalism,
Schwartz swung to a right-wing demonization of Stalinism. Schwartz
had crossed over to the side of the bosses, as long as they weren't
the bosses of nationalized industry in Russia.
In a later chapter Schwartz claimed the Russian and German
revolutions and all the revolts and uprisings since 1917 had been
minor footnotes to the union-controlled San Francisco General
Strike of 1934. Although many of the seamen and longshoremen in
this strike followed the leadership of Stalinists, Schwartz
dismissed this as a generation gap between solid trade-unionists of
the SUP stripe and combative young proles who didn't understand
what the union movement was all about. This last point was offered
Cracking up entirely under the weight of trade-union conscious-
ness, Schwartz extolled the patriotism of the SUP and its role in
the American war effort in World War II and the Korean War. The
manuscript ended with brown-nosing praise of Paul Dempster,
Schwartz's employer, the contemporary head of the union.
I compared Schwartz's manuscript with The Sailors Union of the
Pacific by Paul S. Taylor, an economics instructor at the Universi-
ty of California who published his history in 1923 with the
cooperation of Sailors' Union leader Andrew Furuseth.
According to Taylor, the SUP was a business union with a conserva-
tive strike policy. As early as 1894 the SUP went on record as
being against ``the collective ownership of the means of production
and distribution.'' During World War I sailors were one of the few
categories of workers that refrained from striking throughout the
war. Furuseth proclaimed in a patriotic manifesto during the war
that ``Seamen have no choice but to obey.''
Furuseth was an enemy of the IWW from a pro-capitalist position
and an eager proponent of government intervention in labor
disputes. Furuseth acted consistently to keep sailors divided from
Under Furuseth's leadership, the SUP scabbed on an IWW Pacific
Coast General Strike of marine workers, lumberjacks and oil workers
called for April 25, 1923. Furuseth was willing to give the names
of radical seamen to employers for blacklisting.
Taylor had taken a third as much space as Schwartz had taken to
say all the things Schwartz had failed to say. (1)
I was profoundly disappointed with Schwartz's manuscript. I
questioned him on the hodgepodge of perspectives in his book.
Schwartz said he was as disappointed with what he'd done as I was,
but claimed the union had forced him to write it that way and he
had no choice in the matter. He professed that he was still a
``libertarian socialist,'' etc. I didn't understand how Schwartz
could have been compelled to voice a perspective so alien to all
his professed principles. But the text was an early draft, and I
reluctantly gave him the benefit of the doubt.
With the airbrushed portrait of the Sailor's Union, I began to
detect a pattern of screwy activity. Schwartz had a penchant for
making grandiloquent statements and later retracting them or
refusing to back them up. Schwartz had once described the Italian
Marxist Antonio Gramsci as ``the greatest intellectual fraud of the
20th Century.'' I'd always heard Gramsci deferred to reverentially
by social democrats, icepickheads and academics and looked forward
to Schwartz's demystification. When I later asked him to explain
his comment, Schwartz looked befuddled and asked ``Did I say that?''
In Caffe Trieste in North Beach he repeatedly bragged loudly that
he was ``one of the world's leading historians of the Spanish
Schwartz's parents had been members of the pro-Moscow Communist
Party U.S.A. In reaction against the Stalinist milieu he'd grown up
in, he'd become a Trotskyist in his teens and eventually gravitated
towards the left communism of the FOR. Schwartz and I agreed that
all forms of Leninism were counter-revolutionary. This didn't stop
Schwartz from intensely identifying with Leon Trotsky and blaming
anything that peeved him, from bad weather to poor table service,
on the machinations of ``Stalinists''.
Schwartz had recently been married to R.L., a young woman from
Colorado. Schwartz told me Rebecca had worked in massage parlors
and acted in pornographic movies. She had bad feelings about these
work experiences, and as a consequence, she had problems being
sexual with Schwartz. They lived in separate rooms of single room
occupancy hotels in North Beach. I never saw them together, and I
only saw her once, when Schwartz stood below her window in an alley
shouting at her, imploring her to come down to him.
She leaned out the window. She was a conventionally good-looking
blonde woman in her mid-twenties. Schwartz was short and pudgy,
with a porcine face. His head appeared to rest between his
shoulders without the intervention of a neck. When he walked he
waddled as if resisting a high wind or attempting to hold a coin
between his buttocks. From their conversation I got the impression
they didn't spend much time together. He complained Rebecca was a
source of money problems to him. He wrote a long bad poem comparing
her to the Colorado Rockies, mountain spring water and alpine
The Only Survivor of the National People's Gang
Schwartz had developed a keen interest in the political situation
in Central America. He voiced what could most charitably be called
unique theories on the crisis in Nicaragua. Schwartz claimed to
have inside information that the Sandinistas' mismanagement of the
Nicaraguan economy had lost them the support of all segments of the
populace. Schwartz claimed this would soon force the Sandinistas
to invade northern Costa Rica. There they would confront the highly
effective and popular guerrilla forces of the former Sandinista
Eden Pastora. Implicitly denying that the US-backed Contra war had
already devastated the Nicaraguan economy, Schwartz believed the
Sandinistas would try to unite the country under a phony state of
emergency. Schwartz claimed that the Sandinista junta was torn by
personal conflicts and so highly divided that any effective
military strike against them would bring about a massive anti-
Sandinista uprising, and a self-destructive internal coup like the
one that had destroyed the leftist regime in Grenada a year
earlier. Speaking in July, August and September of 1984, Schwartz
was smug and certain that the Sandinistas would self-destruct
Schwartz spoke of the activities of Eden Pastora as the most
encouraging social movement in the world, more relevant to the
class war than the recent British miners' strike or that years'
upturn in riots and strike actions in South Africa. Schwartz
claimed that Pastora had been misrepresented due to the hidden
influence of leftists in the news media, and that in reality
Pastora was a closet-case libertarian socialist revolutionary.
Schwartz referred to Pastora repeatedly as ``the Nestor Makhno of
I pressed Schwartz to justify this ridiculous claim. He hemmed and
hawed, and based his praise for Pastora and his Contra outfit with
a familiar line from Lenin, in true and typical Trotskyiod-style:
``With Kerensky against Kornilov.''
Schwartz's defense of the former Sandinista government official and
current Contra military chief was always in a negative sense:
Pastora had not accepted money and weapons from the CIA, Pastora
was not allied with Alfonso Robelo or other merchant class rivals
of the Sandinistas, etc. Of course, Pastora hadn't exactly said he
was fighting for an international anti-capitalist revolution, but,
then, to his credit, he hadn't said he was against it, either. As
a last resort, Schwartz whined that if Pastora snagged state power,
he'd be able to sell copies of The Alarm in Managua.
I could already see the headline of The Alarm: ``People's
Nicaragua -- Bastion of Workers' Self-Management and Labor-Time
Schwartz vacillated between high-decibel despair over the state
of the workers' movement and enthusiasm about common action with
the people who produced the summer '84 issue of a new series of The
Alarm. After apparently concluding his relationship with the
Sailors' Union history project, Schwartz exclaimed in a phone call,
``Comrade Sandalio is back!''
In this vein Comrade Sandalio committed himself to participate in
a debate at the Old Mole Bookstore in Berkeley shortly before the
1984 presidential election. He promised me he would argue against
electoral politics and against the left wing of capitalism from
what he described as a libertarian socialist viewpoint.
At the bookstore, on the evening of the debate, with the audience
and the other debaters assembled, I got a phone call at 7:55, five
minutes before the debate was to begin. It was Schwartz. In a
haggard sniveling voice he said he'd gotten way fucked up on downers
and red wine the previous night and he was now too wasted to show up.
I realized nothing could be asked from ``Comrade Sandalio'' that
involved more than talking loudly about himself in the strategic
bastions of the class struggle, the cafes and yuppie bars of North
Around the time of the bookstore debate fiasco, Schwartz was hired
as what he described as a clerical worker at an innocuous-sounding
outfit called The Institute for Contemporary Studies.
In his by now predictable manner, Schwartz bragged to all who
would listen that his latest crusade, utilizing the resources of
his new employer, was to ``expose the Stalinists'' of the New Jewel
Movement of Grenada, the leftist regime that had been destroyed a
year earlier at the time of the American invasion. He exclaimed
that he had rediscovered the virtues of Proudhon. Karl Marx had
been ``an enemy of the working class,'' and after a successful
social revolution, commodity exchange would have to be maintained
``for thousands of years.'' Schwartz was nonplussed when I pointed
out that this last idea was not novel and was a cardinal tenet of
almost every Stalinist group in the world.
During what turned out to be my last meeting with Schwartz, he
gave me a copy of his new book on Grenada.
Published shortly before the 1984 elections with the James Bondish
title The Grenada Papers, the book Schwartz gave me was a collec-
tion of internal documents of the New Jewel Movement seized by the
CIA and Air Force Intelligence after the American invasion of
Grenada. If the documents weren't forgeries, they indicated that
the New Jewel Movement was a ``Bolshevik-Leninist'' regime, as the
ex-Trotskyist Sidney Hook exclaimed breathlessly in his introduc-
tion. Edited by University of California-Berkeley Professors Paul
Seabury and Walter McDougall, the book extolled the invasion of
Grenada as the first time a ``Communist'' regime had been over-
thrown by democratic forces.
The book existed to justify the invasion of Grenada to an audience
primarily composed of stupid American congressmen. Most important-
ly, The Grenada Papers demonized by association the Sandinista
regime and leftist guerrillas in El Salvador and Guatemala. The
editors' key point was that insurgencies in the Caribbean and
Central America were functions of Soviet intervention and a dire
strategic threat to the United States. Events in Grenada were
presented as an argument for increased aggression by the US
government in Central America.
Before the publication of The Grenada Papers, Schwartz had bragged
the book was his and that he was its chief editor. As it turned
out, Schwartz's contribution was in a secondary capacity to the
Reaganite Professors Seabury and McDougall. Schwartz wrote
introductions to sections of the book in which the ``Left-wing''
West German Social Democrats were taken to task for not being
sufficiently supportive of US defense goals.
After reading The Grenada Papers, I brought an abrupt end to my
fast fading friendship with Steve Schwartz.
The Institute for Contemporary Studies also produced a quarterly
publication, the Journal of Contemporary Studies. Schwartz became
the editor with the Fall 1984 issue. This journal was a deadly dull
public policy magazine. Looking over back issues of the Journal, I
found articles by US government officials, academics and other
professional reproducers of our rulers' ideas.
Schwartz opened the Fall 1984 issue with an article reminding
readers of ``...the realities of the difficult situation in Central
America....'' This reality was a reprint of a San Francisco Chroni-
cle editorial by the prominent rightist George F. Will. The facts,
according to Will, were that the Russians forced Nixon to prepare
to use nuclear weapons during the October '73 Middle East War, and
the Russians were creating ``a Communist Central America, and an
Iran just a wade across the Rio Grande.''
Will's cant was followed by an article by Schwartz on recent
events in Grenada. Titled ``Caliban's Children,'' it was an
unintentionally comic and pretentious comparison of the rise and
fall of the Maurice Bishop regime to events in Shakespeare's The
Tempest. Schwartz ended this pompous windbag exercise stating,
``This article is based on notes prepared by the author for his
participation with Professors Seabury and McDougall in a briefing
before the Outreach group on Central America at the White House,
October 31, 1984....''
In a letter to the IWW dated five days before this White House
conference, Schwartz eulogized a recently deceased Marxist member
of the IWW, Ed Spira, on Sailors' Union stationary, saluting Spira
as a ``working class warrior.'' Schwartz signed the letter by name
and by his IWW membership number, X333361.
An article by Sara Diamond in the March 5, 1985 issue of The Daily
Californian, a University of California campus oriented newspaper
in Berkeley, reported the Institute for Contemporary Studies hosted
a $165-a-seat public policy conference early in 1985 at the Mark
Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. About 80 academics, business
leaders and intelligence analysts attended this gathering. Reagan's
attorney general, champion of the death penalty, and W.C. Fields
look-alike Edwin Meese, delivered a speech lauding the virtues of
the Reagan economic program. Other topics at this conference
included education, Grenada, Nicaragua, and ``The Future of the
Quoting from The Daily Californian article: ```I think...Nicaragua
could easily become Grenada Two,' said Stephen Schwartz...The
`lesson of Grenada,' he said, is that in `certain of the Soviet
satellites...there are gigantic possibilities of internal instabil-
ity and collapse.'
``U.C. Berkeley political science professor Paul Seabury, who
edited The Grenada Papers along with Schwartz and U.C. Berkeley
history professor Walter McDougall, said the documents provide
analysts with a rare opportunity to study Soviet `proxy
``While he said he's not advocating any particular action, Seabury
said that `as a scholar, I would just love to see the Managua documents.'''
Participating in this conference didn't prevent Schwartz from
taking out an ad calling attention to his membership in the IWW on
page 11 of the May 1985 issue of the IWW newspaper, Industrial
In a letter dated November 12, 1985, John Zerzan wrote to the
Detroit anarchist newspaper, the Fifth Estate:
``What crazy shit about Schwartz! Knew Schwartz shortly since
about '75 and he always struck me as a pretty ridiculous character.
He went from Stalinist to Trot to `Surrealist Trot' to what he
called `very close to classical anarchist,' and given his flakiness
it didn't seem to matter nor did it seem like it would surprise me
whatever turn he would take. Now I know this sounds like a claim to
omniscience, but he always struck me as an unstable case who could
end up anywhere! I remember, somewhere around '76-77 I think, a
flyer he put out upon leaving Francis Ford Coppola's employ
`exposing' this film capitalist - imagine, I didn't even know
Coppola was a radical. Then about a year later he made himself a
joke by trying to recruit San Francisco punks - who all laughed at
him while spending his money...Paula and a punk friend almost
punched him out one night for his boorish, missionary
The Red and The Hack
After ending all contact with Schwartz, I reexamined my conversations with
him, and the issues of The Alarm he'd given me. I concluded
that Schwartz had produced The Alarm as a nominal left communist in
an attempt to weasel his way into the FOR.
By attaching himself to the FOR, Schwartz could gain notice among
Trotskyists as the author of the most extreme left English language
publication close to the Trotskyist spectrum, and guarantee himself
a place in the future as a wax mannequin in the ludicrous
icepickhead pantheon that was so dear to his heart.
He also went after the FOR to hustle first hand information from
Grandizo Munis about Munis' role in the armed uprising of the work-
ing class in Barcelona in May 1937. Schwartz had a sentimental
fixation on the Spanish Civil War, and had bragged on many occa-
sions that he would soon write a history of anti-Stalinist radicals
in Spain in the 1930s.
In his mid-twenties during the Spanish Civil War, Munis led the
Bolshevik-Leninist Group, the small Spanish section of Trotsky's
Fourth International. During the May Days in Barcelona, the
Bolshevik-Leninist Group, and the more numerous Friends of Durruti,
had, independently of one another, printed and circulated handbills
calling for the destruction of the bourgeois state. Both groups
called for the armed proletarians of Barcelona to form a revolu-
tionary junta or council to seize and occupy the centers of state
power in Barcelona. Munis and his comrades were on the same side as
anarchist revolutionaries in the fight against the Stalinist-led
destruction of the radical workers' movement in the Republican-held
regions of Spain, and against the counter-revolution led by the
collaboration of the anarchist organizations and the POUM with the
democratic capitalist state.
Munis narrowly escaped both the Stalinists and Franco at the end
of the war. He went into exile in Mexico. Munis and another former
member of the Bolshevik-Leninist Group returned to Spain at the
beginning of the 1950s, during a brief upturn in the class strug-
gle. They were subsequently arrested and spent a number of years in
Schwartz also went after the FOR for information about the poet
Benjamin Peret. Peret is regarded by many, Schwartz among them, as
the greatest poet of the Surrealist movement. During the Spanish
Civil War, Peret enlisted in the POUM militia, as many foreign
revolutionaries did. He later became estranged from the
POUM and joined an anarchist militia unit on the Aragon front. (2)
After the war, along with Munis, and Trotsky's widow Natalia
Sedova, Peret had recognized the state capitalist nature of the
Soviet Union. Together the three of them broke with the Trotskyist
movement during the 1950s. Munis and Peret founded the FOR. Peret
died in 1959. It was this confluence of Trotskyism, Surrealism and
the Spanish Civil War in the FOR that drew Schwartz into the left
communist branch of the revolutionary milieu. (3)
Munis had a violent hostility to bourgeois historians and hated
the appropriation of the experiences of radical proles by academics
and careerist hacks. After several meetings with ``Comrade
Sandalio,'' the people in the FOR decided that Schwartz was a two-
faced low-life, a liar and a fraud. They told him to fuck off, even
threatening him with violence at one point, and publicly washed
their hands of him and his chimerical ``group'' in issue 13 of the
FOR's publication Alarma in May 1982.
When it came to left communism, Schwartz boasted and bluffed his
way through a form of politics he did not fully understand. In The
Alarm, Schwartz used the term ``left communist'' incoherently, as
if this term referred to all those who weren't Stalinist who
claimed to be communist, including the POUM and various Trotsky-
ists. No authentic partisan of a left communist perspective would
have tried to attach themselves to the confused politics of George
Orwell or defended Orwell's propaganda work for British and Allied
imperialism during World War II, as Schwartz did in publishing an
article with the Trotsky-inspired title ``Their Orwell and Ours''
in The Alarm number 17, April-May 1983.
In spite of his fixation on the Spanish Civil War, Schwartz was
unable to decide whether the participation of the anarcho-
syndicalist CNT and the FAI in the institutions of the capitalist
state was ``revolutionary'', ``counter-revolutionary'' or
``reformist'', the experience of the anarchist organizations
joining the Republican government being referred to in a range of
wildly divergent ways in The Alarm. Schwartz's incoherence on this
issue was one of the points that separated him from the
revolutionaries of the FOR.
From The Alarm to his badly written history of the Sailors Union,
Schwartz sentimentalized the working class as either brutish louts
or noble sons of toil. This insipid patronizing style was consis-
tent with Schwartz's Trotskyist perspective, oblivious to the
repudiation of work and commodity relations that is the heart of
the tendency towards communism in the class struggle.
When he was trying to attach himself to the FOR, Schwartz parroted
the FOR's perspectives. After being rejected by the FOR, he was
left adrift, and parroted a variety of other opinions. Schwartz
continued for several years after this to identify his one-man
fanzine to himself as the publication of the FOR Organizing
Committee in the United States. He continued writing in the voice
of the royal ``we'' (``We of FOCUS, whose political program is
derived from the Spanish Communist Left....'') and wrote under
different names (Sandalio, S. Solsona, etc.), giving the impression
there was more to FOCUS/The Alarm than there was. The only point at
which there was more than one person involved with FOCUS/The Alarm
was after Schwartz had departed from the project, when FOCUS/The Alarm
was briefly taken over by some harmless space cadets. After that
the project soon folded. The only continuity was the bulletin's mailing list and
the name. In The Alarm, Schwartz reproduced materials others
had written on the Spanish Civil War, analysis by distant
revolutionary groups, and articles from mainstream newspapers
with particular reference to Spain. There was little or no original
analysis and virtually no record of any independent involvement
by Schwartz in the class struggle. By issue 19 of The Alarm,
Schwartz concluded that the current version of the IWW was
the most relevant expression of class war politics in the
United States. A year later he was polishing Ronald Reagan's
shoes in time for Halloween.
Schwartz claimed he'd joined the IWW to find people the royal
``we'' could talk to. For all his love of talking, especially about
himself in a loud voice in bars, Schwartz only attended a handful
of IWW meetings. Schwartz became a wobbly a short time before he
became a paid stooge of Reagan's foreign policy. The period of his
IWW membership clearly overlapped with the period of his salaried
cheerleading for mass murder in Central America.
I suspect Schwartz joined the IWW to gain access to some of the
ancient mariners of the IWW for the Sailors Union history project.
A longtime secretary of the Tacoma Washington IWW branch, Ottilie
Markholt, is referred to extensively in footnotes in Schwartz's SUP
history, finally published under the title Brotherhood of the Sea.
Schwartz wrote an article heaping fulsome praise on Markholt in the
July 1984 issue of the IWW newspaper Industrial Worker. And, as
Schwartz explained it, there was an added benefit to possessing an
IWW membership card. IWW members are regarded as members of a
fraternal organization by the Spanish CNT, and may expect access to
archival materials and internal documents, and introductions to
anarcho-syndicalist veterans of the Spanish Civil War that an
outsider might not get.
At a meeting in Berkeley of the San Francisco branch of the IWW
in the summer of 1985, I attempted to get the wobblies to publicly
dissociate themselves from Schwartz. Richard Ellington led the
opposition to my move. According to the IWW's ancient sacred occult
rules, Schwartz couldn't be expelled for being a high profile
public relations bird-dog for imperialist counterinsurgency
campaigns in Central America. Since the national security state
didn't exist at the time the IWW's rules were written, at the
beginning of the twentieth century, Schwartz's activity wasn't
specifically proscribed. He could still be a member in good
standing, though I think Ellington complained that Schwartz was in
arrears on his membership dues. On these grounds the San Francisco
IWW refused to take any action against Schwartz. This confirmed my
earlier opinion of the comic opera ridiculousness of the IWW.
Schwartz sent the following letter, dated August 26, 1985, to the
Detroit anarchist newspaper, The Fifth Estate:
It is really quite amusing to be called a ``disappointment'' by
yourselves, a group who never, in the past decade, did anything to
support the projects I was involved in such as The Alarm. For you
to come whining back now suggesting that somehow I was a valued
friend or comrade, is ridiculous. I owe you no explanations
However, you should be aware of the following. First, in attacking
me without any attempt to learn from me what has happened, and in
therefore allowing yourselves to be ``stampeded'' by an illiterate
group of Bay Area street punks whose claim to anarchism is as phony
as their vinyl jackets, you are availing yourselves of the classic
Stalinist method. You could at least write and ask for my side of
the argument. But, oh no, that isn't your style. Better to slander
and defame people without making an effort to investigate the
situation. Especially people like myself whom you always, from the
heights of your activist misery, had a basic contempt for...I have
taken no positions that are out of consonance with the positions
you yourselves still claim to defend. I wrote an article about my
evolution from ``red diaper baby'' stupidity in which I advocated
a very mild defense of some aspects of the free market system, and
a repudiation of the Soviet influence over the ``left'', as well as
the cult of terrorism. NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE WOULD HAVE
CONFLICTED WITH THE VIEWS OF, FOR EXAMPLE, PROUDHON. But of course,
why read Proudhon when World War III is about to break out, and
when you can have much more fun reading E.P. Thompson? Finally,
what are you going to do when our JOURNAL publishes articles by
Frank Fernandez of Guangara Libertaria? [Guangara Libertaria was an
anarchist magazine produced in Florida by Cuban exiles. Motivated
by Latin American nationalism, they supported the Argentine military
dictatorship in the Falklands/Malvinas Islands war in 1982.] Or
materials on the Spanish Revolution? Will it still be a target for your
schoolboy contempt? If so, too bad...I should add that it doesn't
bother me that your fine revolutionary group never supported the
political line of The Alarm or the particular activities we (sic) carried
out in the U.S., but you never did one-tenth of what The Alarm did on
the Spanish autonomist prisoners; and, regardless of political
line, The Alarm published a great deal of important historical
material on the Spanish revolution - none of it worthy of your
My current position, as I note above, differs very little from
that embraced by Proudhon. I could also cite Castoriadis. And
others. I am willing to debate with you about this and everything
else I have done and continue to do. Insults don't bother me.
With my very best wishes,
P.S. You should know that Rutgers University Press is preparing to
publish a book-length study by me and Victor Alba of the POUM,
Friends of Durruti, etc. in the spring of 1987. You will have a
fine time figuring out how to trash that. (4)
His Master's Voice
On the editorial page of the San Francisco Examiner, April 11,
1986, an opinion piece by Schwartz was published under the title
``We helped bring down Somoza, and we donated more aid to the
Sandinista regime, at first, than we gave Somoza in 20 years. But
the new regime from the beginning treated us as `the Yankees,
enemies of humanity'....''
Schwartz put the pedal to the metal with his Goebbels-style Big
Lie in this rant, using the royal we almost once for every sentence
in the article, and claiming that if ``we'' of the US government
didn't aid the Nicaraguan Contras, the Sandinistas would overrun
Guatemala and Mexico and threaten the United States the way the
Germans did to France in 1940.
An article on the Institute for Contemporary Studies, titled
``Buttoned-Down Bohemians - Welcome to San Francisco's New Age
Right,'' appeared in the San Francisco Examiner's Image magazine,
on Sunday August 3, 1986:
``...ICS was launched in 1974, during the waning days of Governor
Ronald Reagan's Administration, by Edwin Meese III and other close
Reagan associates...Defending America, a 1977 ICS title with an
introduction by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger,
built an early case that the Soviets had opened a `window of
vulnerability' in U.S. nuclear defenses...ICS, which receives the
bulk of its funding from corporations such as Bechtel, Chevron, IBM
and Chase Manhattan Bank (also Alcoa, Union Carbide, Coors, Exxon,
and the Hearst Corporation, which owns the San Francisco Examiner)
and from key right-wing fundraisers like Richard Mellon Scaife, has
been called `Reagan's favorite think tank.'''
The article proceeds to describe the leading lights in this
constellation of dim bulbs, notably ICS founder A. Lawrence
``Lawry'' Chickering, and some of his enthusiastic underlings:
``Chickering has in recent years assembled a team of unorthodox
conservatives to compliment his own evolving views. The process was
bumped along the day in 1983 when Chickering met another (Caffe)
Trieste regular, Stephen Schwartz. A bookseller's son who grew up
in the beat literary scene, Schwartz used to call himself a
Trotskyite, once organized railroad workers in the Richmond yards,
claims to have fraternized with some of Europe's fiercest
terrorists...anyone who spends time around (Schwartz) and
Chickering, who is 45, can't help but note their big brother-little
```It's like they are two halves of a complete personality,' says
Betsy Francia, who was an office worker at ICS for several years.
``Though he (Schwartz) speaks nostalgically about sharing humble
meals with Indian railroad workers, he says the friendships he's
proudest of making nowadays are those with Norman Podhoretz and
other reigning right-wing intellectuals...Though he still spends
most evenings prowling North Beach, he's more interested in making
inroads with the East Coast conservative set, the minds behind The
New Criterion and Podhoretz's Commentary. For this, says Schwartz,
his friendship with Chickering has been invaluable. `He's given me
``Betsy Francia remembers Schwartz describing his role at ICS this
way: `Lawry and I are like an ideological Batman and Robin.'''
From another point in the Sunday Examiner article:
``When the Solidarity movement took hold in Poland, says Schwartz,
`I finally saw the totally fantastic socialistic conception I had
waited for all my life. It was like a religious experience. Here
was a country where 10 million workers suddenly joined a union, the
union takes over political leadership of the country, they begin to
go in this tremendously open direction. It was totally from the
``But his excitement turned to bitterness, according to Schwartz,
because `when Poland became identified with Reaganism, the Left [in
this country] abandoned Poland'....''
His sentimentalization of trade unionism and disappointment with
the left in the United States, quoted above, was a bald-faced lie,
contradicted by a number of anti-leftist and violently anti-
Solidarity articles published by Schwartz in The Alarm in the early
'80s, most notably in an article on the cover of The Alarm #12,
April-May 1982, written by the Tampa Workers Affinity Group from an
anti-statist, class war communist perspective.
It was typical of Schwartz's whining craven grandstanding that he
portrayed himself as a sincere leftist dolt, exploited and
disappointed by cunning diabolical peaceniks and Moscow agents,
rather than acknowledge that he had claimed to have jettisoned the
left by publishing anti-statist communist perspectives in The Alarm
for five years since the end of the 1970s.
Schwartz made an artificial and abortive detour into our tiny left
communist ghetto, and left communism held no intrinsic appeal for
him. Left communism is virtually unknown in the United States, even
to intelligent functionaries of the national security state.
Happily, in the United States, left communism has no resale value.
But counter-revolutionary and ersatz forms of Marxism such as
Stalinism and Trotskyism have a limited resale value for purchasers
of used proponents of shopworn ideologies. This was convenient for
Schwartz; Stalinism and Trotskyism were the yin and yang of his
world-view. In both his right wing and left wing incarnations,
Schwartz formed his reactive morality around the devil of Stalin-
ism. Without Stalinism, Schwartz would have left without anything to
not believe in. Ignored at best, and often laughed at when not
ignored, Comrade Sandalio ultimately cashed in on the then
expanding employment opportunities for professional repentant
former leftists willing to perform public acts of contrition in
front of select Reaganite audiences. Nothing had changed about
Schwartz's fundamental motivations or the way he viewed the world;
his Road To Damascus was strictly a question of market value.
Within the space of a year, Schwartz went from parroting the
revolutionary opposition to imperialist war of Marie Louise Berneri
in The Alarm, #19, Sept.-Oct. 1983, to a career as a bargain
basement David Horowitz whose poor analytical skills and flatulent
bovine prose could be had by anyone who would buy his lunch for
In his journey from North Beach bar-scene embarrassment to
salaried cheer-leader for the mass butchery of the poor in Central
America, Stephen Schwartz resembles the flamboyant mediocrities
found in the novels of Stendhal and Dostoyevsky; a social climbing
brown-noser, porcine braggart, liar and coward whose opportunist
groveling carried him out of the realm of the merely insipid and
into a vicarious involvement with atrocities.
It seemed that Schwartz had gone as far as it was possible to go
in abasing himself for his corporate masters. Subsequently,
Schwartz surpassed his previous antics by appearing on a television news
program insinuating that he was a federal snitch, a political
informant and government spy. On Thursday November 10, 1987,
San Francisco's KRON-TV Channel 4, broadcast a
report titled ``Private Spies,'' on its 6pm ``Evening Edition.''
The following is from a transcript:
Sylvia Chase (anchor on set): People and groups who speak out
against Reagan administration policies put themselves in jeopardy
of surveillance by private intelligence gathering organizations.
Target 4 has learned it's a kind of private spying network:
conservative groups, with close ties to the White House. Members
say they pass on the information that they collect to federal
agencies, like the Justice Department. And on occasion to the White
...When Congress blocked aid to the Contras, the White House got
around the law by turning to a private network to raise the money.
That triggered the Iran-Contra scandal...
...Now, there's evidence of another private network. This one
spies on the President's political opponents...
...Here's how it works. Around the country, people gather
information on left-wing activities and funnel it to private
conservative groups...like the Council for Inter-American security,
the Capital Research Center, the Young America's Foundation, and
the Institute for Contemporary Studies.
All have close ties to the Reagan Administration.
Stephen Schwartz (Institute for Contemporary Studies): We'll be
seeing all of the NSC (National Security Council) people, I'm sure.
I'll be seeing all of the NSC people.
Sylvia Chase: Stephen Schwartz is a member of what he calls the
He works at the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San
Francisco think-tank founded by top Reagan aids like Ed Meese.
Schwartz says he addressed a White House meeting attended by
Oliver North and even met former CIA director, William Casey.
Schwartz says there are lots of ways to get information.
Schwartz: When a left-wing group publishes, say a list of its
state committee and throws it in the garbage and somebody finds it
in the garbage and brings it to me, then I know the names of all
those people and sometimes there will be more information, too.
Chase: What techniques are being used today...going through the
garbage. That's one way.
Schwartz: Going through garbage.
Chase: Lifting things off the desk when no one's looking.
Schwartz: Now, that's something which is something that I don't
believe in. But that's not fair.
Chase: But you know that it happens?
Schwartz: Yeah. I do know that it happens.
Chase: What other techniques would people use?
Schwartz: Well, if any leftist group has an open office where
there are a lot of people around, you know you can walk in and if
there's something lying on a desk, you don't have to filch it. You
might just write down what's on it...see a list of names or
something like that.
Chase: Are there other people like you around the country keeping
Schwartz: There are people that are collecting information. Yes.
Chase: And are they able to get it to people in government?
Schwartz: Yes. But the people in the government are not, frankly,
able to do anything more with it than simply collect the informa-
tion and keep track of the information...
The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the
San Francisco Examiner, on May 6, 1987:
A Battle Over Right To Write
He wanted to rebut graffiti with graffiti
by Dennis J. Opatrny, of the Examiner staff
When "New Age Rightist" Stephen Schwartz discovered graffiti calling him "the philosophical whore of North Beach," the former Trotskyite turned red with rage.
He uncapped his felt-tipped pen and was printing a reply to the scurrilous scribblings when he was busted by Mayor Feinstein's anti-graffiti police squad on a charge of malicious mischief, defacing the wall of a Vallejo Street construction site.
Schwartz...has demanded a trial to exonerate his exercise of free speech.
" I was just going to answer that I was not the philosophical whore of North Beach," said Schwartz, 37.
If he wants a trial, he can have it, said Assistant District Attorney Joseph Hoffman, who believes citizens have the right to speak out under the First Amendment -- but with limits.
"The remedy is that he can stand on a street corner and yell all he wants that he's not the philosophical whore of North Beach," Hoffman said. "But he can't go around defacing other people's property."
Municipal Judge George Chopelas Wednesday set July 21 for trial. If convicted, Schwartz faces six months in the county jail and a $1,000 fine...Quoting Schwartz's attorney, Carlos Bea, "We don't think this is what the mayor meant in her anti-graffiti campaign. In fact, it's a sad day when a person can't rebut in public the allegation that he's a philosophical whore of North Beach."...
(1) The Sailors Union, nicknamed by union militants the ‘Brotherhood of the Sea,' practiced what was called ‘checkerboard unionism.'
According to Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen and Unionism in the 1930's, written by Bruce Nelson and published by the University of Illinois Press, pp. 246 to 249:
"When the unions seized full control of hiring after the 1934 strike, blacks were often barred from even entering the Sailor's and Marine Firemen's Halls.
"In spite of considerable pressure from the Federal government's Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), the SUP adamantly refused to accept black seamen in its ranks...a federal agency reported that "[a union official] called his office and said that the SUP was not hiring Negroes and were not going to hire them."
"...Sailor's Union official Maxie Weisbarth acknowledged that there were no blacks in the SUP ‘because Negroes aren't sailors. It's not their kind of work...Them? Work? Real Work?' "
After World War II, according to an SUP veteran, "Racist types could make a name for themselves [in the SUP] and win the favor of the leadership" by encouraging hostility between the segregationist SUP and the racially integrated Marine Cooks and Stewards. SUP propaganda of the day included references to SUP members engaged in waterfront brawls with "spics."
None of this is evident in Schwartz's palace history of the Sailors Union. As the official historian of the union there was no way Schwartz couldn't have been aware of it. His song of homage to this racist, scab- herding labor brokerage should be titled "Aryan Brotherhood of the Sea."
(2) Peret described his impressions of the prospects for social revolution in civil war Spain in a series of letters to Andre Breton. From Barcelona he wrote on August 11, 1936:
"All over Catalonia, all along the route of the horrid little train which I took from Puigcerda to Barcelona, you see churches which have been set on fire, or whose bells have been taken -- it was a magical trip. In Barcelona, no more police...The anarchists are practically the masters of Catalonia, and their only opponents are the POUM...We (the POUM) have about 15,000 armed men and they have about 40-50,000. The Communists, who have merged with three or four small parties are a negligible force. In their newspaper they declared last Friday that the issue is not the proletarian revolution, but rather to uphold the Republic, and whoever tried to make the revolution would find themselves facing them and their militias. So, they are announcing their intention to sabotage the revolution, but I don't think they have the power to do so."
As early as September 5, 1936, Peret described the scene in Barcelona this way:
"Here things are quietly returning to a more bourgeois order. Everyone is slowly letting up. The anarchists have become kissing cousins with the bourgeois of the Catalan left, and the POUM makes eyes at them endlessly. There are no longer armed men in the streets of Barcelona, as there were when I arrived. The Generalitat (i.e. the bourgeoisie) has taken everything in hand -- though they are trembling hands still -- and the revolutionaries of the 19th of July are collaborating loyally with them, hence breaking the duality of power which had been established following the insurrection. So, for the moment, in both the political and economic domains, the revolution is being shelved..."
And from his post in the 1st Company, "Nestor Makhno" battalion, Durruti Division, on the Aragon front, Peret wrote on March 7th, 1937:
"...any collaboration with the POUM is impossible. They are quite willing to accept people to their right, but not to their left. Otherwise, nothing to be done because of the ultra-fast bureaucratization of all the organizations and the scandalous civil servant mentality which is developing. Moreover, as a result of Stalinist pressures, the revolution is steadily going downhill and if this isn't halted it will lead directly to violent counter-revolution. Under these circumstances I have decided to sign up with an anarchist militia, and now here I am at the front -- at Pina de Ebro -- where I will stay as long as nothing more interesting takes me elsewhere."
(From Death to the Pigs: Selected Writings of Benjamin Peret. Edited and Introduced by Rachel Stella. Atlas Press, London, 1988)
(3) After the October Revolution of 1917, Trotsky became a diehard defender of the Russian State, and put the survival of the regime he'd helped create ahead of the needs of the working class in Russia and everywhere else. But the same can't be said of all those associated with the Left Opposition prior to World War II, including Munis, and Trotsky's widow, Natalia Sedova.
After Trotsky's death in 1940, the U.S. Socialist Workers Party played the dominant role in the international Trotskyist movement, the so- called Fourth International, with a majority on its International Executive Committee. The SWP helped shape the Fourth International's perspectives with regard to the Second World War and the class character of the Soviet Union.
By 1940 the SWP had a small but real presence in the workers' movement in the United States, due in part to their leading role in the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934. Shortly before US entry into World War II, 21 leaders of the SWP were arrested by the Federal Government under the Smith Act of 1940, charged with taking part in a "conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence," and put on trial in Minneapolis. The trial was clearly a preemptive strike by the Roosevelt Administration against potential resistance to US involvement in the war in Europe by combative unionized workers.
The Feds accused the SWP of the admirable crimes of being anti-patriotic and internationalist, of aspiring to foment labor unrest and sedition among enlisted men in the military, of wanting to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, overthrow the US government and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat. To this the American Trotskyist leaders replied that they were law-abiding democrats who wanted only to see the war effort prosecuted more effectively than the Roosevelt Administration was capable of doing, in solidarity with the supposed remnants of a "workers' state" in Russia. In Britain and France as well, the Trotskyist parties collaborated with the respective efforts of the British government and the national resistance, justifying their actions as being in "defense of the Soviet Union." As the leader of its Spanish section in exile, Munis led opposition to this Russian patriotism from within the Fourth International. In his words:
"These three parties...were to convert the Fourth International to a contemptible left Stalinist position. This at a time when the state capitalist nature of the Moscow regime became even more clear. The Fourth International had renounced the very idea of internationalism...Our approach was exactly the opposite. The theoretical and practical conditions of internationalism forced us to realize the incompatibility of these principles with the defense of Russia, and secondly to re-examine the nature of the so- called ‘soviet economy' and to discover that it was State Capitalism controlled by a despotism well in harmony with the extreme centralization of capital."
Natalia Sedova, Trotsky's widow, allied herself with Munis' opposition to the SWP, and to the Fourth International's defense of the Soviet Union. Munis said, "Natalia followed our research and always expressed her agreement with our conclusions."
After the end of the war the Russian patriotism of the Fourth International led it to support the actions of the Russian Army in Eastern Europe, Mao in China and Tito in Yugoslavia.
Peret broke with the Fourth International in 1947. The Spanish section broke with the Fourth International in 1948. Munis and Peret continued their independent political evolution, as expressed in their book For a Second Communist Manifesto. In this work, Munis and Peret broke with orthodox Leninist perspectives on unions, electoral politics, nationalist struggles and the equation of socialism with nationalization of the economy. With the exception of a few excerpts in early issues of Schwartz's Alarm, this work has not been translated into English. It looks like an excellent effort. It would be well worth translating and reproducing.
Munis was also the author of Unions Against Revolution, a concise and devastating analysis of the irredeemably reactionary character of labor unions in the 20th century. Available in English from Black and Red in Detroit, Unions Against Revolution may have been based on an earlier six-part series of articles by Peret, titled La Revolution et les syndicats, published in the French anarchist weekly Le Libertaire between October 1951 and January 1953.
That Trotsky's widow came to see the Soviet Union as a capitalist society should be a source of some embarrassment to Trotskyists. Her stand goes against one of the cardinal tenets of Trotskyist ideology as it crystallized after World War Two: the claim that the exploitation of wage labor under Stalinist police states was not the expression of a capitalist mode of production, and that the "degenerated workers' states" were a "historical gain for the working class." For Trotskyists, like the Stalinists they denounce, support, and pathetically resemble, inconvenient facts are best swept under the rug.
Others broke with the Fourth International after the war as well: among them C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskya, and Cornelius Castoriadis. The parties of the Fourth International continued to evolve into the vast array of cheerleading squads for electoral clown-shows, labor merchandising outfits, state-monopoly capitalism, nationalism and imperialist war known throughout the world today as Trotskyism.
For their perspectives during the Spanish Civil War see "The Programme of the Spanish Bolshevik-Leninists." Revolutionary History, (Trotskyist). London, England. Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer 1988. pg. 38.
Information above has also been taken from an article titled "Natalia Breaks", by G. Munis, dated November 18, 1971, published by Spartacus, Paris, 1972, and published in English in a pamphlet titled Natalia Trotsky and the Fourth International by Pluto Press, London, sometime in the 1970's. I've taken it from a photocopied reproduction of the Pluto Press version published by Schwartz in pamphlet form: The Alarm, Number 3, June 1980.
The FOR confirm the accuracy of what I've written about Schwartz. They can be contacted at:
Paris Cedex 13
Their website is at
(4) This work is titled Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism, a History of the POUM, by Victor Alba and Stephen Schwartz. It was published in 1988 by Transaction Books, in connection with Rutgers University. The work, which Schwartz claimed "co-authorship" of, was mostly written by Alba, and either poorly written by him, badly translated by Schwartz, or both. It is to date the only definitive history of the POUM, the ‘Workers Party of Marxist Unification' in English. Like Schwartz's song of homage to the SUP, Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism is the product of a Ptolemaic perspective where all that goes on in the world artificially revolves around the subject of the story.
The POUM has acquired a revolutionary aura based on the presence of foreign radicals like George Orwell in the POUM militia, the occasional extremism of the POUM's rhetoric, and the martyrdom of POUM militants at the hands of Stalinist butchers. But the fact that Stalinist counter- revolutionaries slandered and murdered POUMists doesn't in itself mean that the POUM was a revolutionary organization. The POUM was essentially a pro- Bolshevik social democratic party of a type not uncommon in Europe in the pre-World War II period, an amalgam of ex-anarcho-syndicalists, formerly pro- Moscow "Communists" and left-wing social democrats. The POUM was slightly to the left of Labor parties of the Second International stripe, but well to the right of ultra-left Marxist revolutionaries like the German/Dutch and Italian left communists. The politics of the POUM did not break with the old social democratic conceptions of class struggle and social change.
In the period from 1931 to the May Days of 1937, tens of thousands of combative wage workers came together in the tendencies that gave rise to the POUM. If the POUM had been an authentic communist revolutionary organization, with a perspective centered around the violent destruction of the capitalist state, the POUM could have played a decisive role in the events of 1936-37.
On July 19-20, 1936, a proletarian revolution had begun in two-thirds of Spain, and was especially advanced in Catalonia. But the revolution had only been made half-way; in Barcelona and Madrid the state had lost much of its power, but it hadn't been decisively overthrown and replaced by an armed, anti-capitalist, working class power. In the subsequent, crucial early months of the revolution, the POUM became as much a part of the counter- revolutionary course of events as the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-FAI did: the POUM joined the Popular Front government in Barcelona, and in doing so helped to shore up the power and credibility of a left-wing capitalist government in a period of revolutionary upheaval.
After July 19, 1936, an authentic revolutionary party or organization would have remained outside of the Popular Front government and fought to exacerbate hostilities between the Popular Front and the working classes of the Republican zone, with the goal of inciting the most radical sections of the working class to overthrow the Popular Front government by force of arms and establish their own monopoly of power. The POUM did not do this. For the POUM, the "revolution" was to be carried forward from within the Popular Front, by all of the parties of the Popular Front, including the middle class Catalan Nationalists of the Esquerra:
"...the Esquerra has a profoundly popular nature, with the peasant masses and working class sectors that support it unmistakably evolving toward revolution...The new government must declare that it seeks to transform the impulses of the masses into revolutionary legality [sic!] leading toward socialist revolution..."
(Resolution of the POUM Central Committee, published in the POUM's newspaper "La Batalla", Sept. 18, 1936, p. 136 in Alba & Schwartz.)
On September 8, 1936, POUM leader Andreu Nin declared that in Catalonia the dictatorship of the proletariat already virtually existed; subsequent to this the POUM became a part of the capitalist government in Barcelona, ostensibly with the goal of "legalizing" revolutionary gains. Nin became the Minister of Justice, the chief law enforcement official, of this bourgeois state. In the words of "Juventud Comunista," the newspaper of the youth wing of the POUM:
"Our party has agreed to enter the Generalitat [the Catalan regional government -- the bourgeois state in Catalonia] because it has not wanted to go against the stream in this extremely grave moment and because it considers that the socialist revolution can be pushed ahead through the Generalitat." (emphasis mine.)
(Spanish Marxism, p. 135.)
One member of the POUM's Executive Committee, Juan Andrade, objected to this, but even he came up with a rationalization for it:
"If we refused to join, the Stalinists would have used it as a pretext to outlaw us...we had no intention of outlawing ourselves in a revolutionary situation..."
Like numerous tepid socialists before and since, it appears that the POUM wanted to get rid of capitalism peacefully and legally, without getting rid of the government apparatus and destroying the old legal system, and without causing excessive discomfort to the property-owning classes and their political representatives.
"...Nin and the three CNT members [of the government] were almost always in a minority, and thus had to give tacit approval, with their presence, to measures of which they disapproved." (ibid., emphasis added, p. 138)
These measures included the passage of laws that reduced the independence of collectivized industries and the decision-making involvement of workers' organizations in the economy. Two weeks after its formation, on October 9, this government agreed to dissolve the revolutionary committees in Catalonia and bring back regular organs of municipal administration. When combative POUMists in the town of Lleida said they objected to this, Nin traveled to Lleida to ensure their cooperation.
In the mother of all understatements, Alba writes, "This was, unquestionably, a low point for the party."
"On November 16, with all resistance now vanquished -- and there had not been much -- the Generalitat decreed the suppression of three thousand official posts in committees, people's tribunals, commissions, etc., the majority of them held by workers. The structure of working class power was, thus, eliminated." (ibid., p. 140)
In spite of its authors' intentions, Spanish Marxism offers a substantial confirmation of Munis' epitaph for the POUM:
"...The blunders and capitulations of the POUM during the civil war are far from being circumstantial...And if one wanted to provide a frightful and ugly example...of worthless practical leadership, of sluggishness in movement and failure to take advantage of opportunities, the [Spanish] Communist Left would provide the most obvious one." (Jalones de derrota, promesa de victoria pp.61-66)
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