Report from the academic Marxist frontline

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Apr 14 16:21:53 MDT 2001

Hi, comrades. Just returned from the first day of the yearly Socialist
Scholars Conference, which gives the unwashed mob like myself the chance to
hear some Columbia University professor pontificating on the prospects of
working class transformation bleh-bleh. Being on my usual ornery worst
behavior I challenged the muckety-mucks.

At "Burying the Third Way", I heard Tariq Ali castigating fellow panelists
about their concessions to Blair et al including a dreadful Frenchman from
the Fondation Jean-Jaures who talked about the need for "left wing
activists" to have fought for the re-election of Clinton. With the jaded,
media lion Ali functioning as the left wing of such a constellation, the
case for socialism is ill-served. With the New Left Review's "turn", I was
in no mood to put up with such silliness. During the discussion period I
reminded Ali that there was such a thing as a "Third Way" in Latin America,
which helped to prepare the electoral victory of Vicente Fox in Mexico. So,
I asked, how come in the NLR interview with Jorge Castaneda (Fox's Foreign
Minister and biographer of Che), there were only soft ball questions like
Ted Koppel interviewing Kissinger. Was this a conscious decision or did it
reflect that the NLR editors were on vacation at the time. Ali responded
that NLR often interviewed "the enemy" and would also have an interview
with Subcommandante Marcos. Frankly I think the problem is that the NLR
can't tell the difference between Castaneda and Marcos.

In the afternoon there was a bang-up panel by the WBAI folks, with a packed

After that I went to hear a bunch of tenured professors in their sixties
and seventies, including Bogdan Denitch, wring their hands about "a left
politics for an age of transition." During the discussion period I
suggested that people who have been department heads for 30 and 40 years
(as was the case for just about everybody on the panel) would not have been
able to detect possibilities for a new radical movement if it fell on their
head. Interestingly enough, other members of the audience under 30 seemed
to be in touch with the Quebec protests, etc. The gap between their hopes
for the future and the timid, woeful presentations by the professors was as
wide as the Grand Canyon. It reminded me of the value of this mailing list.
It serves to provide a bridge between the new generation of radicals and
those old alley cats like myself who have learned the hard way what not to do.

Louis Proyect
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