Forwarded from David Walters (on SWP legal threats)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Oct 9 10:04:17 MDT 2000

Louis, If you would permit me to reply to Fred Feldman, I can help clarity
some of the issues.

1. The MIA, and it's predecessor, the MEIA based in Canada, both have
attempted to contact Pathfinder in the past. In the latter's case, the
reply was "We're going to sue you." In the former's case, we were ignored.

2. You state "The Socialist Workers Party, which supports Pathfinder
politically, is a an organization of several hundred cadres and a few
hundred more organized youth and supprters. Pathfinder books make no profit
but have to be heavily subsidized by voluntary contributions of supporters
of these publications. What is involved here is not intellectual property
in the cloudy sense that term is usually used but enormous quantities of
human labor power (12-hour days by editors, translators and printers, the
activities of the volunteers on the digitization project, the wages of
contributors, and so on.. ." I found this interesting. I've talked to more
than one ex-Pathfinder Print shop volunteer. All indicated that over the
years as much as 80% of their printing is for commerical purposes, not
political ones. I'm sure this is not desirable by Pathfinder but is true
nevertheless...they do this to subsidize the SWP (and, I'm sure, other
works by Pathfinder).

Secondly, the majority of the translations and layout of Trotsky's works,
especially the major ones, were done before you or I were even born. So
it's no skin off of Pathfinder to allow these works to be distributed.

3. I would argue that instead of helping distribute the works of Trotsky
and other they actually hinder it. "Selling them to meatpackers,..." as you
say, is rarely the case with the books that Pathfinder actually
pushes...they don't push the classics, they push Castro and Barnes. The
works the Marxists Internet Archive have been prevented from using, for the
most part, are not the works Pathfinder sells to workers, or even
advertises, they are works that were first typset in the 1930s by the
Trotskyists of those days. Their high prices restrict the distribution of
these works, not help them. Bookmarks, in the UK, is probably the single
biggest distributor of Trotsky's writings. For over a decade they cutdown
on this distribution because of the high-end prices Pathfinder sells their
works for.

4. Pathfinder itself barely pushes anything by Trotsky anymore. The Trotsky
Internet Archive, the sub-section in question on the Marxists Internet
Archive, gets between 8,000 and 20,000 hit's a month. (the MIA as whole
gets between 1 and 2 million hits a month from approx. 60,000 different
people...these are software generated statistics available on the MIA). Who
helps distribute these writings more? . . . Pathfinder or the MIA?

5. The Marxists Internet Archive is able to distribute these writings and
more to people in countries with repressive regimes that proscribe these
works and prevent publishers like Pathfinder from distributing these
writings. We're able to electronically circumvent these anti-democratic
laws...and we do it for FREE. So, by Pathfinder taking these actions means
that workers in such countries as Indonesia, China and Vietnam are
prevented by the SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY from reading works by Trotsky and
the other revolutionaries on the MIA. How is this a legitimate use of

6. You take issue with some of the defenders of the MIA about their
chastizing Pathfinder for using "Park Avenue" Lawyers. Your comparison with
using a high priced criminal laywer like Jonny Cochran falls flat on its
face. First, we're not talking criminal anything here. We're talking about
the distribution of Marxist works by a very small sect that has monopoly
control over these writings and restricts their distribution. Secondly,
when Healyite epigone Gelfand sued the SWP for information as part of his
suit after his expulsion from the SWP, David Frankel wrote an article
attacking the Workers League (the Healyite group in question) for using
high priced "Century City lawyers...". Fred, the analogy here inolves
"those that throw stones..."

7. We actually WANT to work with Pathfinder. We'd love to be their conduit
to the Internet, a sort of on-line archive for their writings, instead of
dumping them in some university archive someplace. We want to give them
credit, link to their web site, etc. What do we get? An answer by way of
their "Park Avenue lawyers" threatening to sue us.

8. By trying to restrict the MIA from distributing Marxist works,
Pathfinder press has inadvertantly created a monster: I received
notification that several people will be placing these proscribed works on
thier web sites in other countries and will advertise these sites, along
with actually copyrighted works. I wonder if these Park Avenue lawyers have
branch offices overseas? Unlike 10 years go when the black activist pushed
the works reprinted some of Malcolm X, there was no Internet. Now there
is...and pay back can be a bitch.

David Walters,
Trotsky Internet Archive
tia at

Louis Proyect
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