Barnesites sue Marxist archive

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Sat Oct 7 20:35:51 MDT 2000

I guess none of us who have watched the trajectory of the Barnesites over
the past 15 years will really be surprised at their resort to Park Avenue
lawyers to try to bully a voluntary Marxist information project, one which
inovles a range of people and benefits us all, into taking Trotsky off
their archive.

Given that the Barnesites have largely rejected Trotsky anyway, ther legal
threats are especially hypocritical.  Clearly, it is driven by commercial
considerations.  Trotsky, however much they may have dumped him is still a
bit of a money-spinner.

It is also hypocritical given the Barnesites much-vaunted adoration of
Cuba.  As I understand it, the Cubans do not maintain copyright and have
always rejected the idea that the speeches of Che, Fidel and stuff in Cuban
publications carries copyright.

The one qulaification I would make, is that I think the Barnesites have a
case with the Reed and Novack material.  Although their manner of dealing
with it - a lawyers' letter, rather than a direct request from themselves -
is reprehensible, I think that since Reed and Novack stuck with the
Barnesite organisation until the end of their lives, and probably willed
their stuff to the sect, they do have a moral, as well as legal, claim over
those writings.

However, works by Trotsky or any other major revolutionary figure,
constitute an entirely different sphere.  Whatever formal, bourgeois legal
right they may hold, they have no politico-moral right to copyright on
Trotsky and co.  Their attempt to assert it is just theft and gangsterism.
It brings to mind the Healyites' resort to the bourgeois law courts.

Moreover, I wonder who translated some of this stuff - weren't some of the
people purged by Barnes in the early 1980s the people who translated and
prepared for publication, quite a chunk of Trotsky's work?

I agree with Louis that a political campaign is needed.  A very wide range
of groups and individuals, on the left and among liberal-minded supporters
of free speech and free information, could be involved.  Certainly an
initial statement, pointing out that no-one 'owns' Trotsky's ideas and that
the attempt to prevent these ideas appearing on the MIA, through the issue
of legal threats, is a violation of basic left-wing principles and a
violation of free information, could be drawn up.

Although I don't think the Barnesites are embarrassable on the left - they
have gone beyond that point - it may well shake up some of their younger
members who may not yet relaise the nature of the beast they've joined, and
it may have an effect on the several hundred supporters upon whom they rely
to do free work for Pathfinder and its coffers.  Moreover, a vital
principle is at stake.  If a tinpot money-grubbing sect like the Barnesites
can stop a non-sectarian, non-profit, voluntary project - a project of
benefit to us all - from posting Trotsky (and who next, Luxemburg? since
they hold a copyright for a book of her speeches as well, no doubt), then
openly bourgeois publishing companies will be encouraged to resort to this
as well.

I think a good idea might be to try to send the statement to as many
Barnesite supporters as possible.

How Trotsky must be spinning in his grave.

Philip Ferguson

More information about the Marxism mailing list