Jim and other scapegoats

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Thu Sep 21 07:39:48 MDT 1995

Jim wrote

	I truly believe that this list would make a fascinating study for
some psychologists on the subject of group dynamics -- my case being,
becoming somehow a designated whipping-boy

Chris B.

I agree with this. It is one of several reasons why I am interested in
the list, and why I periodically post on the group dynamics of the list.
I think such phenomena occur and it is the responsibility of  both the
scapegoat and the wider group to consider why.

I believe Mao's principle of the correct handling of
contradictions among the people (whatever mistakes were made by Mao) to be
crucial to a rebirth of marxism. Different contradictions must be analysed
differently and be handled differently.

First I would like to express appreciation to Jim for sorting out his
signature line. Little things like that can be very irritating and
sometimes only get sorted out after an argument, but they do need to be
sorted out. Persecutory though it felt to be on the receiving end, I
accept that Jim did not understand this until it was pointed out to him.

Secondly I must take some share of reponsibility for encouraging Jim to
cross post, in that I indicated I would like to know how Tudjman
presents himself on his Web site to get an idea of how open are
his fascist tendencies. I was concerned for the sake of our list
about the length of the cross posting, but I personally valued
reading it all. I also think that an extract was of
service to the list as a whole, since we clearly had to go beyond just
asserting our belief that the Croats were more fascist than the
Serbs and vice versa. We had to analyse concretely what was going on.

This list has moved a long way from the academic exchanges of a
year ago. I think Jim has a  strong point about how we connect with
actual struggles. That is a stage that has to happen in our
development. I welcomed that he expressed the argument so
clearly because that helped to assess it on its merits. But
Louis is right too that it presents us with a particularly
difficult logistical problem. We clearly have to discuss this.

When I crossed swords with Jim strongly a few months back
it was because I had had long drawn out skirmishes with
Justin about the law of value, and I was therefore most
concerned by any implication that Justin should be pressed
to leave the list because he did not support the law of value.
That would have wasted the previous six months. Justin
has now gone to his law studies, and it can be said that
the debate on the law of value has moved on to consider
in what ways it is relevant. That is a collective achievement
for the list.

I do think there is a problem that Jim's postings are in a style
probably more of a usenet group of quick brief repartee.
I also find the language very specialised and am not
familiar with the slang. I am sure that I exclude some people
by my language. But short words can exclude as well as long
words, if they are known to only a number of insiders.

Some short contributions from
a number of posters are very funny and very effective, and
at times I have thought there was a great deal in what Jim
has written in a very condensed and slang form, but
clearly Jim's style is not the majority house style.

I find it a problem that Jim reacts so angrily to criticism.
It makes it difficult to sort out what the problems really are.

I don't understand his frequent references to hypocrisy
and his envy that other people seem to get away with
things without being accused of being provocative, which
so often happens to him.

If Jim could take responsibility to handle his feelings himself
I think he would find himself less scapegoated.

At any one time on this list we seem to have one or more
individuals whose contributions are seen as problems.
Sometimes these are deliberate provocations by haters
of marxism, sometimes contributions by marxists that
are bitter or deal with contradictions in a personal way.

We need to take these difficulties in our stride. Part of the
way is to help people make a more positive contribution if they
wish.  I feel that Jim's energy about the WWW could be a
valuable positive resource if he could offer to be patient with
people's ignorance, explain and help, to get the best out of
our connections.

Chris B, London.

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