On Academe and the list was Re: NACLA and Colombia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sat Dec 16 19:21:31 MST 2000

Michael Hoover:
>re. whether or not Lou is academic basher, he categorically uses "academic,"
>"tenured prof" and this seems less-than-useful to me...

If I do, it is hardly meant to make a political point. If you'll recall,
the subject heading was about the evolution of a New Left publication
devoted to Latin America that now--in its latest issue--includes an article
proposing that the US Army be used against the Colombian paramilitaries.
For me that is a big, big problem. I wanted to explain the long, winding
road that made that possible.

The other day I posted an announcement (without any comments) for a
conference on Lenin basically being run by Zizek. This conference is a slap
in the face to everything Lenin stood for. Lenin taught Marx's Capital to
workers at night, while Zizek makes himself unavailable to students, brags
about it to Lingua Franca, and writes impenetrable prose devoid of a class
analysis. If I bash Zizek, it is not for his life style but for his
intellectual and political pretensions.

This is the stuff that interests me, not how professors live. Henry Liu
lives better than any Columbia professor and was head of the UCLA
architecture department 30 years ago after graduating from Harvard. If
anything, he hates capitalism more the older and richer he gets. As do I.

6 or 7 years ago when I discovered the first Marxism list on the Internet
that the Spoons Collective had launched, I couldn't believe my eyes: 9 out
of 10 subscribers appeared more interested in the social construction of
the subject or psychoanalysis than in trade union struggles or in racial
oppression. And every one of them was a professor or PhD student. I
struggled to redefine that mailing list more in tune with the genuine
Marxist project and received no help from the Spoons people, who saw it
merely as an adjunct to lists on Bataille, Deleuze-Guattari, etc.

Eventually a core of revolutionary-minded people--some on campus and some
ordinary workers--subbed to the list and the academic (sorry) pretenders
dropped away. Before long we had to deal with another set of problems:
Shining Path thugs, Trotsky imitators, the rightwinger of the week. No
matter how many times we complained to the Spoons folks, they insisted that
having an unmoderated list was some kind of principle. I suppose they saw
the ongoing mess in psychoanalytic terms.

When Shining Path death threats and 50 posts a day from Bob Malecki proved
even too much for the Spoons people, the list became moderated under a
flawed team headed by Lou Godena, a Shining Path supporter. Nearly 3 years
ago, after Godena began expelling people left and right and after he had
co-opted Adolfo Olaechea of "black vomit" fame to the moderation board, I
decided enough was enough and launched marxism at lists.panix.com.

The list began with 60 people and now has over 300. It is focused on the
burning questions of the class struggle and has achieved international
representation that was reflected in the demographics report Les Schaffer
filed the other day. Even though there are bruising debates, people
understand that they take place within Marxism and a kind of camaraderie
exists that is truly remarkable when you consider the source of the
training or affiliation of some of the posters:

3. Revolution Magazine (New Zealand)
4. PIN (Argentina)
5. WWP (USA)
6. DSP (Australia)
8. Morenoist

In the course of these discussion/debates, people listen to each other and
when they disagree, they do so in a respectful manner. This is all I ever
intended to from day one. I am happy with the results. I am sorry that you,
Carrol Cox and Yoshie don't like it when I make snide remarks about
academia. I have a lot of respect for the 3 of you, but my mandate is to
move this mailing list forward with the mission that not only I have set
forward for it, but what other people perceive it to be.

We are entering into a period that will very likely involve serious
confrontations between the workers and the bosses in the imperialist
countries, while the "peripheral" countries such as Venezuela and Colombia
are launching their own struggle for self-determination. I find it
inspiring that there are Marxist intellectuals like Carlos Rebello from
Brazil on the list, who has written a book on "Permanent Revolution in
Brazil" and is busy at work on his next one. Or activists like Nestor
Gorojovsky from the PIN, whose party headquarters was able to remain open
after a fund-raising effort took place on this list. Or Henry Liu, who is
on a one-man crusade to reinvigorate Chinese revolutionary socialism. Or
Xxxx Xxxxxx, a firebrand graduate student from Turkey who understands the
importance of being connected with these kinds of struggles. Or Anthony
from Bogota, who I know as a friend and a comrade. His reports from
Colombia on the developing showdown between the US military and the FARC
and the ELN are something unique.

This is the agenda, Michael. I understand that there are things about me
that you don't like. Let me tell you something. There are things about me
that I don't like. However, for the time being the list culture seems
generally accepted and understood by the average participant. And they
understand that there is a relationship between me as a person and that
list culture.

I only hope that you will not waste too much time trying to tell me off,
because frankly my only response will be the same as it has always been. To
tell you how much I admire you and look forward to your informed

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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