To David Schanoes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 13 11:25:09 MST 2003


David Schanoes:
> (LP: First big test, let's see how I do)
>
> The issue is quite clearly that you seek to pressure, support, create even,
> a progressive bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries.
>
> I don't.  I seek to participate in an independent, international social
> movement that, grasping that this war is the product of imperialism, whole
> or cracked, opposes the war at its root, and mobilizes against all imperial
> " codes of conduct," that are being launched against Iraq.
>
> That's in a nutshell, for all those right or wrong minded.

David, from the very first time you posted on Marxmail to now, there is
a common thread. You are consistently defending some sort of Marxist
verities against one or another transgressor. First it was Lou Paulsen,
who was supposedly involved with building a popular front. Then it was
Mark Jones, who was guilty of Mad Maxism. Then, you went on the
offensive against list members consipiring to make the world safe for
Walmart rather than proletarian revolution. Now, in the latest round, we
see an assault on Michael Keany for "supporting a progressive bourgeoisie".

Let me make this as clear as I can to you. This is a very bad way to
intervene in Marxmail. Our main focus is not on exposing each other but
in furthering our understanding of the contradictions of the capitalist
system and building a strategy based on that.

Years ago I studied Kant at the New School. Although I am not
sympathetic to German idealism, the notion of a categorical imperative
remains useful. Kant says that ethics should proceed on the basis that
your action should serve as universal legislation for all humanity.
Which is a fancy way of saying "do unto others as you would have them do
unto you."

If everybody on this mailing list took the first opportunity as you seem
to do to find out how a scratch will lead to gangrene, the list would go
up in flames. In fact, that is what happened on the lists that preceded
this one. You had Trotskyists denouncing non-Trotskyists for backing the
FSLN. You had Maoists and Stalinists denouncing the Trotskyists for all
the usual offenses and vice versa. You had independent Marxists like
Ralph Dumain of the CLR James Institute denouncing everybody for
refusing to denounce Louis Farrakhan. It was a zoo.

In this list, accusations that somebody is backing the progressive
bourgeoisie is a serious charge. It leads to defensiveness and
counter-charges. Things being what they are on a forum like this, these
sorts of accusations do surface from time to time. This kind of creative
tension does often lead to deeper understandings of the issues under debate.

What we have to avoid, however, is a hair-trigger tendency to examine
all sorts of posts for violations of Marxist principles, especially when
you don't know much about the person against whom you are making the
charge. I have known Michael Keany for a number of years now and I can
tell you that he is one of the fiercest defenders of class principles I
have met on the Internet and a relentless opponent of postmodernist
fakery of all sorts.

My suggestion to you is to keep your pistol in your holster except for
those occasions when it is absolutely necessary to shoot at somebody's
ideas. And why find fault with somebody else's analysis, develop your
own instead without even mentioning the other person. You seem like an
intelligent fellow and an avid reader. Why not post on some Marxist
literature that you have perused or something like that? It is better to
light a candle than curse the darkness.

These email lists are a very confined space in many ways. In the bad old
days of the original Marxism lists, I used to liken them to a prison
cell that held both Maoists and Trotskyists. Unless you were interested
in permanent trench warfare those conditions, you had to make a decision
to sort of bracket out certain divisive questions and discuss what
bonded you and what provided for mutual solidarity, like the depravity
of the ruling class that imprisoned you. Or your favorite leftwing poet.


LETTERS FROM A MAN IN SOLITARY

1
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don't have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won't give me anything sharp)
	 or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I'm not allowed
		    to see the sky overhead.....
How many others are in this place?
I don't know.
I'm alone far from them,
they're all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
		 is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
	   my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
	   touches me so
		    that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
      lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
- with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose-
	      wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn't make me blush
	     that right now
		   I'm this weak,
			this selfish,
			     this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it's
	 this barred window,
	   this earthen jug,
		  these four walls,
          which for months have kept me from hearing
	 another human voice.

It's five o'clock, my dear.
Outside,
	 with its dryness,
		     eerie whispers,
				    mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
      standing motionless in infinity
-I mean, it's enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief-
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We'll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
Me,
the man inside,
once more I'll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
			     in a smoky, broken mirror...

2
It's spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It's spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles...
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
		       the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete...
The sun-
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
		    and on...
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
			     and it's night outside,
			     a cloudless spring night...
And inside this is spring's darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
			 especially in spring...
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
			      from experience...

3
Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
			        by how far away the sky is,
				how blue
				and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me...
I am happy.

					   Nazim Hikmet - 1938


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