Reflections on Leo Panitch and company

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Dec 5 12:13:45 MST 2001

One of the things that created tension on the SR mailing list was the
disjunction between the editor's professed Marxist beliefs and their social
democratic practice. They probably didn't boot me sooner because I might
have reminded them of how they saw the world before they became academic

Socialist Register was started around the same time as New Left Review,
when a group of intellectuals who had broken with the CP divided once again
over what kind of journal to start. Ralph Miliband, who launched SR, was
supposedly more committed to classical Marxism while the NLR group was
headed in more heterodox directions, to put it charitably.

Panitch, who co-edited SR with Miliband until his death a couple of years
ago, has written hundreds of articles all over the place calling for
"democratizing" the state and "controlling" the global financial system.
Unless something has changed recently, this will not exactly earn you an
RCMP file.

Here's an illustration of the kind of fatuous self-delusion at work in the
upper reaches of the NDP intelligentsia where Panitch makes his home.

The Toronto Star, September 10, 1990, Monday, FINAL EDITION

Dear Bob: Make system more democratic In an open letter, political
scientist Leo Panitch argues for radical reforms inside Queen's Park


Your victory last Thursday night is the first internationally significant
electoral breakthrough by the Left since the early 1980s. Yours will be the
first new social democratic government in the post-Cold War era.

Today, when the triumph of markets over states is so widely trumpeted, East
and West, we democratic socialists have our work cut out for us to overcome
that false polarization of alternatives. The real issue posed by the
remarkable events of 1989 (and now 1990) is the challenge of democracy: The
democratization of social life, of state institutions and market
institutions. Ontario is now the first major political arena in the western
world to have said: "We refuse to use the collapse of dictatorial Communism
over there as an excuse to accept the status quo here." You have only a
limited mandate on economic and social policy: Public auto insurance,
corporate taxation, public housing, the environment, the minimum wage,
equal pay, a budget deficit in the face of recession. Even on these, you
will no doubt proceed as cautiously as social democratic governments
usually do in the face of the inevitable bluster and threat that goes under
the name of "business confidence."

(blather snipped)

Best wishes,

Leo Panitch, Chair of the Department of Political Sciences at York

Maclean's, May 22, 1995



In Lakefield, a picture-postcard village of 2,400 near Peterborough, Ont.,
spring had made a belated appearance on the same day that Bob Rae's
campaign bus rolled into town. Beneath a sky of unsullied blue, provincial
Agriculture Minister Elmer Buchanan and a dutch of New Democratic Party
faithful waited in the afternoon sun to greet the premier for a little Main
Streeting in friendly territory -- at least territory presumed friendly
enough to have been handpicked for footage on the nightly newscasts. But
Rae had scarcely set foot on the sidewalk when the first political storm
clouds blew in. Outside Lakefield Flowers, Phil Hobbs, a local craftsman
kicked off the heckling. "I want to hear what more lies are going to be
told," he yelled over the crowd. As the premier moved up the block,
doggedly shaking hands and admiring crafts with characteristic diffidence,
he shrugged off other critics with the same determination that he ignored
the "Stop Rae" signs studding shop windows. For Rae, glad-handing was
clearly a painful rite. But detouring into the drugstore, he found his
attempts to drum up small talk falling unusually flat as pharmacist Bob
Moro grumbled: "He's had 4 1/2 years and nothing's changed." Only hours
earlier, Rae had staked his claim as the defender of the provincial
health-care system -- the centrepiece of his campaign. But now aides
steered him swiftly past the Lakefield Clinic where a physician's
hand-scrawled sign in red ink on the door warned patients: "If the New
Democratic Party is reelected in Ontario, the clinic will be dosed
permanently." As if that were not hostility enough, Rae had just reached
the haven of the village square for an impromptu news conference when a
grizzled man in a tractor cap leaned out his car window to share his
sentiments "Bob Rae," he hollered, "so full of s--, his eyes are brown."

Louis Proyect
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