Triangulating- Erwin:ScottS:me

Chris Burford cburford at
Wed Jun 28 07:32:28 MDT 1995

Triangulating between Erwin and Scott S

Much as I care about the law of value because I care about
inequalities between the north and the south, I care on this list
more about how contradictions are handled.

If we can broadly handle most of the contradictions however robust, as
contradictions among the people, not contradictions with the enemy, then
as a self-organizing system this list can grow in its creativity and

That is why although I had been fighting Justin about Sraffa for
several weeks, I sided with Justin not with Jim when Jim was
challenging Justin's right to be on this list.

That is why I regard language about putting people up against walls and
doing nasty things to them including shooting them, as integrally part of
the heroic and tragic history of the international marxist movement.

[Any good marxist analysis of the New Jewel Movement and the Greek
tragedy that occurred on the Caribbean island of Grenada, BTW?]

The exchanges between Erwin Marquit and Scott Solomon come over to me as
having a particularly grim tone. The psychological and social destruction
of at least one of them seems to be desired, and Scott is already
positioning himself as having nothing to lose, which is both a very
powerful position and one that, if the fighting stops, really does leave
you with nothing except of a negative nature.

When a fight occurs on the list, one thing others can do is triangulate -
a third or a fourth person coming in breaks up the polarisation and allows
the issue to be opened up more dialectically in its ramifications.
Therefore at the risk again for being denounced by both sides as the
pompous twit I am undoubtedly capable of being, let me interpose myself.

With three observations.

I think Erwin and Scott S are enacting for us on this list several recurrent
themes from the history of marxism.

1. The destructive rebelliousness of youth to elders whom they cannot
respect for reasons they see of hypocrisy, oppressiveness, stupidity,
weakness, pomposity etc.  It is a marxist tradition. Marx was only thirty
when he wrote the Communist Manifesto with Engels. Outrageous. Deliberately
one can't help feeling, after all those years of diligent Germanic

2. The decades-old war between the tribal groupings known to each other
as Stalinists and Trotskyites. Peace cannot break out easily. Mourning,
remembrance and forgiveness cannot occur without quite a lot of thought,
and we have hardly begun to address the issues. But I would like to say,
as someone who has had difficulty in not feeling almost in a strange way
racist towards committed followers of Trotsky, that it is one of the
liberating things for me about this list to be able to read considered
contributions from senior writers from this school. Thank you.
Somehow we have got to get to a position where we can view all the
bravery, the tragedies and the stupidities as part of history, and go on
from there.

3. Handling conflict/contradictions constructively/non antagonistically.
Going back to Scott S's post of Monday it is clear that the exchanges
between Erwin and him that became antagonistic were at a highly politicised
time. Scott claims support for his view that Erwin exhibited
"obnoxious conduct". Scott describes himself as at the time "tied up
with a Trotskyite cult". It seems rather clear that both regarded the
other as behaving obnoxiously, and the conflicts getting out of hand.

Would it be provocative to suggest they have that in common, and to
ask if it could be widened so it becomes relevant to the whole list,
rather than something they act out in front of our eyes?

Chris Burford, London.

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