What I hope for

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Mon Sep 9 18:02:42 MDT 1996


There is every possibility that the new moderated list will be a
watershed for Marxism on the Internet. It has a number of very good
things going for it. Primarily, it will--I expect--have some really
terrific people in the role of moderator. Meanwhile I will stay among
the ranks doing what I can to infuriate and provoke people.

I want to deal with two aspects of the list that I think will make it
successful, one negative and the other positive.

On the negative side, it will be of tremendous importance to cut out
"revisionist" or "Menshevik" hunting. One of the most harmful aspects
of the PCP flame war was that it introduced an element of divisiveness
into the list that went way overboard. What's interesting is that after
Adolfo and I went through our little Kabuki theater combat spectacle,
we shook hands and started treating each other civilly.

One of the reasons people have become so aggravated with Rodwell
and Malecki is that they have continued to act like they are the only
true Bolsheviks on the list and everybody else, most especially Doug
and I, are the Mensheviks. This absolutely must stop. It is corrosive
and tends to lead to personal abuse and flame wars.

We must avoid the tendency to categorize each other. Even if you
think somebody else's position is "Menshevik", it is better to avoid
using that word since it is so provocative within communist circles.
This list is not some Parliament where people can make fiery speeches
and then go home. It is much more intimate. In a funny sort of way, it
reminds me of what it must be like in a repressive dictatorship when
Maoists, Trotskyists, social democrats, etc. are all arrested and thrown
into a common cell. These people would all be for discussing politics--
after all, it is their life-blood--but it would soon be obvious that
factional warfare would make life unlivable for those in such close
quarters.

I think you can have strong polemics without stooping to categorize
your opponent. If you recall, when Jim Miller and I were in a heated
discussion about Nicaragua for over a month, we never tried to find a
label for each other. Instead we spoke about Nicaragua. That is as it
should be.

On the positive side, I have every expectation that the type of
discussion we were having about fascism can be rekindled around a
number of other subjects in an ongoing fashion.

I have reconsidered having a moderated list on the whole question of
the revolutionary potential of the working-class. Instead it would be an
excellent idea to launch this discussion on the main moderated list so
that everybody can participate and have their spirits lifted by a rich
discussion. The people who have shown interest in such a discussion
are top-notch, including Louis Godena, Hinrich Kuhls and Jeff Booth.
I hope to recruit other smart people to be presenters and organize a
first-rate discussion.

The subject of this discussion represents the intersection of praxis and
theory. I propose to examine people like Gramsci, Lukacs, Adorno and
Laclau not as isolated theorists but as revolutionary thinkers who
represent instances of the way Marxism has had to face up to the
question of the failure of the working-class in the advanced countries
to be a revolutionary class on a consistent basis. Not only will we look
at the "dialectics of defeat", we will also look at Marxists who have
maintained a more or less optimistic view of the possibilities of
socialist revolution in countries like the USA and England. As we
approach the 21st century and witness the collapse of the welfare state
and the leveling of differences between the proletariat of the advanced
countries and the third world, this topic will take on more and more
importance.

This, by the way, is exactly the right way to study Gramsci, etc. When
we are rejoined by our tenured colleagues from M2 and new academics
down the road, they will soon appreciate that our discussion does not
revolve around what reading assignments to give their political science
graduate seminar but rather how to achieve socialism.

I expect this list to attract the most serious and conscientious Marxist
thinkers from across the globe. It will be the sort of place that South
Africans, Brazilians, Turks, Palestinians can feel at home in. This will
be a place not where sectarians rant at each other, but where
serious discussion of theoretical and practical questions of the class
struggle can take place without interference.

What I hope to do is draw back into the list some of the really special
people who had decided to split when the garbage overtook the good.
There are people like Sally Ryan, the "Toolmaker" from Canada, Paul Cockshott
who are among the most intelligent and articulate people I have ever met in
politics. It is their type of voice that I expect that will set the tone
for the new list. I also expect that the list will be the sort of place
where very special people like Will Brown and Robert Perrone, who have
been kind of quiet lately, will feel encouraged to speak up. When this
list is "on", there is no better place to be.


Louis Proyect



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