Here's a sampling of some of the things I found embarrassing in the Spartacist League's "Workers Vanguard" from the years (in the mid 90's) when was trying to get my liberal friends to read it:
1) The headline SHAME-FACED DEFECTION FROM TROTSKYISM" which told of an editor, who "shame-facedly" started another Trotskyist sect. (By the way, he started the Internationalist group, and they say that the Sparts aren't true Trotskyists. I don't go out drinking with boys from either group.)
2) Frequent--far too frequent--defense of NAMBLA group. NAMBLA is an acronism for "North American Man Boy Love Association." While I do accept that this group should be let alone--and certainly the FBI can never take the moral high ground on anything--I though that the Sparts coverage of this was way, way overdone. How big was this group? What is it's political significance.
3) The printing of letters written by new recruits which spoke of accepting the "party discipline."
4) A "Hooray for Nina!" insert which showed porn-star (and socialist!) Nina Hartley posing and defending her battles with a Las Vegas court for obscenity. This wouldn't have been so bad, except the picture they published was of her suggestively posing--a surreal juxtapostion to the other pictures in that issue, protestors and Lenin and Trotsky.
5) When one of their ex-comrades was murdered in Russia, they wrote the most curious obituary I have ever seen. Even as this woman lie dead, having sacrificed herself in activisim, the Sparts still lamented that she had fallen into some "weird" non-Trotskyist group, but they nevertheless were sorry to see her go and wish the last part of her life would have been spent in the proper political group, which was of course, the Spartacists.
6) The lionization of a single man who languishes on Pennsylvania's death row, Mumia Abul Jamal. While it does appear he was unjustly convicted and this probably because he's black and was a member of the Black Panthers (and indeed I made donations to the Sparts' legal defense fund), it's obvious to anyone that they are using him for symbolic value, which wouldn't be so bad in itself, for if we can stop the death of one man in prison, perhaps we could stop more. Like I say, this wouldn't be so bad in itself except for . . .
7) The Spartacists' POSITIVELY RIDICULOUS take on the O.J. Simpson verdict, in which they used that the well-known racism of the Los Angeles police department to suggest that it was plausible that O.J. was a victim of an elaborate police frame-up. Then they wrote that "only O.J. knows what happened that night."
In defending OJ in the manner they defend Mumia, the Sparts lost a lot of credibility with me, for they showed an utter obliviousness to what I think was the central lesson from the O.J. case. The U.S. justice system is in fact color-blind to Black and White, and sees only one color, Green. O.J. bought his aquittal, and his doing so was just as repulsive as if the president of Exxon had done the same thing.
8) Finally, I "really" have a strong "objection" to the writing "style" of the Spartacists which uses far too many "quotation marks." And I must "admit" that this "style" has infected my "writing" as well. It's as if they don't "trust" we "readers" to know that the capitalist "justice" system is not really "justice" at all but a "facade" for power relations. I think most people realize that, and the Spartacists would do well-advised to stop using so many quotes and write in a manner more respectful of their readers' intelligence.
So, the Worker's Vanguard was an embarrassment, and I couldn't get anyone to read it. The irony is they--like the Mormons--take their unpopularity as a sign of their own veracity.
In a way, I can see their thinking there. I mean, what's popularity, really? Michael Jackson is popular, like Billy Ray Cyrus, Beenie Babies, Pokemon, Family Circus and Dr. Pepper. What does popularity have to do with substance or quality? Nothing.
True enough, but when I was trying to sell a paper that screams about TRUE TROTSKYISM!, I was never surprised to find that people, all of a sudden, had other things to do.