David McReynolds responds to appeal

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Aug 27 21:42:20 MDT 2000

At 10:58 PM 8/27/00 -0400, you wrote:
>yes, i would like to know the complete story about this affair and also
>what louis posted on the Columbia web site that exercised the school so
>much.  tough for me to know what went on.

Okay, you have to start of acknowledging that
alt.politics.socialism.trotsky is sort of a Dostoievskian sinkhole (but a
place that many of the most brilliant writers and thinkers on this list
first met me on one of my demented prowls, including Jose Perez, Phil
Ferguson, Anthony of forwarded fame and Carlos Rebello).

So, this is what I have been sending out to various newsgroups that is a
long version of my earlier appeal:

A volunteer with the Nader campaign in NYC has been attempting to get me
fired from my job. Let me tell you who I am first.

I have been involved with the left since 1967. Starting out in the
Trotskyist movement, I broke with sectarianism in 1978 and began work on
Central America issues. First with CISPES and then with Tecnica, an
organization that sent volunteers to work in Nicaragua and Southern Africa.
I have consulted in Managua and in ANC exile camps in Lusaka, Zambia. Over
the past 10 years I have been promoting the use of the Internet among
progressives. This includes classes at the Brecht Forum, to disabled people
in New Jersey and working with members of the Blackfoot confederacy in
Montana. I also have written for various left journals, including New
Politics, Canadian Dimensions, Science and Society, and Sozialismus (based
in Hamburg.)

Despite my well-known profile on the left, I have been characterized as a
"police agent" on alt.politics.socialism.trotsky, an Internet newsgroup, by
William Kaufman, a Nader volunteer in NYC who is working with volunteer
coordinator Masada Disenhouse on a number of projects. Now I can accept
being characterized in this fashion, since it is part of the free-wheeling
culture of usenet. What is unacceptable is Kaufman contacting my employer
about things I wrote on the newsgroup in an attempt to get me fired.

For the past year or so, Kaufman has initiated flame wars on this
newsgroup, making support for the Nader campaign a kind of litmus test.
Responding to another newsgroup participant this month, he wrote, "Dear
McCarthyite Lunatic, Are you opening a branch of the Psychic Friends
Network? I'm sure that would be a bigger success than your microsect--at
least nothing could be a more laughable failure. In fact, I am deeply
involved in the New York State Nader campaign. If anyone who lives in New
York is inteerested in finding out how he or she can help, he or she can
contact me via private E-mail."

With supporters like this, the Nader campaign is creating a bad public
image, wouldn't you say?

I was the last person on the newsgroup to experience Kaufman's venom,
largely because I am an outspoken critic of sectarianism myself. However,
in the course of a debate over Cuba in June, Kaufman began flaming me in
the same manner. In the course of a reply, I mentioned that he had been a
member of the Trotskyist movement in the 1960s when I was a member in fact.
He demanded to know how I had such information. I simply reposted his own
words from last Christmas Day:

"Yes, it's true. In a previous lifetime I was a member of the U.S. SWP--in
its Trotskyist days, during the peak of the antiwar movement and for a few
years after that. I am amused by the notion that only someone ignorant of
Leninism could possibly have any criticisms of it. My chief criticisms, in
fact, conform to Louis Proyect's research, which shows that the enforced
groupthink that passes for 'Leninism' among the various self-designated
Trotskyist groups has very little in common with Lenin's own practice. If
Louis is not inclined to repost that article--which elicited mostly an
telling silence from most APSTERs, as I recall--I might just dig it out and
repost it, if he doesn't object."

For reasons I do not understand fully, posting his own words caused him to
snap. He then vowed to "get me". I had no idea what this meant at the time.

I learned in a week or so what he did mean. Unfortunately I had been
posting to apst with my Columbia email address. Kaufman bundled together
all my apst postings, especially those with profane language, and sent them
off to the university. He made the point that I was using company time to
harass him. As a result I now I have a warning in my permanent record. This
happened during the same week some hundreds of employees of Dupont and
other corporations were fired for 'abusing' email privileges.

After this incident, I stopped using my Columbia account and began to post
from panix.com where I maintain an account to avoid these kinds of
problems. This has not made any difference to Kaufman who now snoops my
every posting to make sure that it is not on company time. Last week when I
was on vacation I posted frequently during the day from lnp3 at panix.com.
This led Kaufman to warn me:

"Proyect, your lying, slanderous days are soon coming to an end. You posted
any number of messages to this newsgroup last week during working hours--a
whole slew of them--thus sealing your fate. If I were you, I would VERY
CAREFULLY start perusing the want ads in Sunday's Times because I can
almost guarantee that you'll be looking for work within a couple of days.
Sleep well, Proyect."

Until the last couple of days, I have not bothered to respond to Kaufman's
provocations. I now realize that this is not just a personal feud. It is a
threat to free speech. Kaufman not only threatens me, he threatens just
about a person a day on apst that he will contact their ISP because of
posts he finds offensive.

I am not sure what it will take to change America into a more just society.
This much I am sure of. We have to be absolutely principled on the question
of free speech, not on an ACLU basis but on a Wobbly basis. "An injury to
one is an injury to all." If somebody publicly identified with the Nader
campaign can make such violent attacks on free speech rights, then there's
something wrong with it that needs to be fixed.

Please contact Masada Disenhouse at 212-473-2077 or masada at akula.com and
let her know that you object to people being victimized for their political

Louis Proyect
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