The national question, democratic tasks & Stalinism

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Sat Oct 5 06:23:44 MDT 1996


On Fri, 4 Oct 1996, Hugh Rodwell wrote:

> M1, unfortunately is more of a mirror than we might like to admit,
> reflecting (echoing might be a better image) the opinions of fairly
> important segments of the labour movement. Right now it's heavily
> overrepresented in terms of academics and Stalinists, but that's probably
> just a childhood disease, at least as far as the Stalinism is concerned.
>

Louis: This gets to the heart of what has destroyed M1 and what sits like
a coiled rattlesnake ready to destroy M-I if Zeynep, Godena and Flanders
are not vigilant.

Mailing lists of several hundred people on the Internet are not
appropriate places to pretend one is Lenin, Luxemburg or Trotsky and the
"other" is Kautsky or Bernstein. This is just too closed a space and it is
much too inflammatory.

Back in the spring I tended to blame the degeneration of M1 on the PCP
flame wars. Now it is clear to me that a much bigger problem was the
behavior of ultra-Trotskyists like CEP (Carlos, "Shiny Shit"), Rodwell and
an agent-provocateur who spews Spartacist league venom to earn his pay.

This one of the biggest problems I have with Trotskyism by the way. When
Trotsky had a big faction fight with Max Schachtman in the American SWP,
he said that he was trying to prevent a scratch from turning into
gangrene. He was also fond of describing Stalinism as the syphillis of the
workers movement.

This type of mentality, leaving aside the question of its appropriateness
at the time, is like arsenic for an Internet mailing list. Instead of
getting the profound Louis Godena that we are getting now, we instead
would get a flaming demon. It is interesting that the ultra-Trotskyists
are incapable of modifying their behavior. What an indictment of
Trotskyism.

We need a mailing-list where we can leave our guns at the door. If you are
anxious to prove how "revolutionary" your line is and how "Menshevik"
somebody else's is, go out and organize the masses with it. That is how
you "destroy" your adversaries, not by wasting this precious space with
sterile denunciations. (It is interesting, by the way, that Rodwell never
talks about any activity he is involved with in England.)

This does not mean that I am opposed to polemics. I love to defend ideas
that are close to my heart. A model of what these polemics can look like
is my debate with Jim Miller on Nicaragua. We spent a month in battle
without using terms like "Menshevik" or "Petty-Bourgeois". In the end,
most people on the list, including me, felt that they had learned a lot.

This is not Rodwell's appproach, however. He doesn't want to do his
homework. He doesn't want to be intellectually prepared. It is much easier
for him to make sterile "denunciations" without getting beneath the
surface. When he is joined by his agent-provocateur partner in such
efforts, the results can be terribly corrosive.

Fortunately, M1, in its waning moments, is turning up some interesting
discussion. This bodes well for M-I. All I would ask is that the
moderators of M-I keep their eyes on the prize. This is what we are
looking for: intelligent dialog, not arbitrary administrative rules to
keep order.



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