[Marxism] Re: Mark Curtis: Truth or Fiction

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Dec 26 23:24:16 MST 2004

I'm glad that Dayne Goodwin and I are on the same page about the
presumption of  innocence.  I think, however, that he is overly
concerned with his being on the scene of the rape.  If being "on the
scene" was proof, then Mumia Abu-Jamal and the five kids falsely accused
of raping the Central Park jogger are guilty, too.  If not, then Mark
Curtis should be innocent in our eyes. (Unless we have personal
knowledge of his guilt, which I sure as hell don't and Dayne obviously
Especially now that we are long out of the party, our pivot should not
be various facts and estimates about what was wrong with the party, but
basic democratic rights, class solidarity, our knowledge of the criminal
justice system as a frame-up system, the long history of rape frame-ups
as part of the class struggle, etc.  Rape is a brutal act of  violence
against women, but nothing but harm can come from allowing prosecutors
to do anything less than prove it and they did not in this case.
Actually, it is not true that the party presented the Curtis case simply
as an attack on the party.  That was an initial stance that was
systematically corrected in the party -- towards an emphasis on the
frame-up nature of capitalist class justice. We rejected the idea that
there was a "plot" to get Curtis because he was so important.
Read the pamphlets: the first one already carried this corrected axis,
and the second went further along the same line.  The line was not an
attack on the party, but Curtis was in the wrong place at the wrong time
and the capitalist system followed its basic frame-up procedures from
there. And of course, the fact that he was a vanguard worker and
activist in the defense of immigration rights in a union situationw
where a direct attack took place was icing on the cake.
Dayne is too concerned with speculations about what Jack Barnes thought
and what Jack Barnes wanted.  Speculations about the thought of the
Prophet are presented in the way that casts a purely speculative shadow
on Curtis' consistent denials of his guilt. I certainly know where this
comes from and cannot point to myself as an outstanding counter-example.
But on matters like this, the important thing is not what Barnes thinks
but what you and I think -- and not what we think about Barnes, but what
we think about the class matters at hand.
I knew and know what I think about the Curtis case.  I think I had some
advantages over most comrades, who reacted -- quite naturally and
decently, in my opinion -- with visceral class, party, and personal
When I was around 13 in the mid-50s, I became fascinated by the Samuel
Sheppard case, and begin to sense how the whole machine, including the
press, works against the defendants in criminal cases.  (Okay, I was a
strange young man -- thank God I didn't end up on somebody's porch at
the wrong time!) I actually thought Samuel Sheppard's version of the
murder of his pregnant wife -- which the preponderance of evidence now
indicates was completely true -- was implausible, as did all other
right-thinking citizens. But I got somehow that it was their job to
prove their story, not his job to prove his version. Later I developed
the ambition to be a criminal defense lawyer to screw up what I saw as a
frame-up system.  I eventually  dropped this in favor of  the
revolutionary movement.  My ideal was a highly aggressive, no-prisoners
defence -- one that wouldn't accept any of the prerogatives of the
prosecution and take-no-prisoners to protect the rights of the client. I
actually didn't know what I was thinking about until I saw Cochran (and
the other guy from Yeshiva University who took apart the blood work) in
the OJ Simpson.  That kind of defense was my youthful ambition.
So I was better grounded to form a personal opinion, not just a
party-line opinion of the Curtis case.  I think he was innocent.  And
from everything that I know personally, I think he was incapable of the
brutal acts charged against him.  So I really didn't and don't care what
Barnes "really"  thought.  I knew what I really thought.
So for me, Curtis is innocent.  And for me, his record as a fighter is
unstained.  He was a fighter in Des Moines for the rights of his
immigrant coworkers.  He was a fighter in prison for the rights of all
the prisoners, himself included.  He never gave them an inch in all
those years.  Good for him! We should all do as well.  
I think his conviction was wrong, his imprisonment was wrong, and --
given everything going on in the party in those years -- I operate on
the presumption that his expulsion was wrong as well.  Why should I make
an exception for him?
Fred Feldman

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