[Marxism] "The Heretic" is for real!
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Dec 7 15:57:40 MST 2004
This is from Stan Goff, who asked me to post all this material for
clarification of his intent in his comments on my piece, which, from my
standpoint, was just normal mutual education.
I previously posted a letter from a relative of a murdered (by US
imperialism) GI, who explained that the Heretic's views -- whose
authenticity as the product of a GI was questioned by some -- were
similar to those of this GI and some of his fellow soldiers.
Now we have further and, I think, definitive confirmation from Stan and
Personally, I thought Stan Goff's comments were to the point about not
focusing narrowly on the GI activity of left groups and so forth. I
had just come from a conference on the antidraft, antiwar movement where
I was impressed by their activity, which included reports on some work a
group they support is doing with Gis in Iraq,
reports which had a definitely authentic ring to me.
And in response to Stan, I largely agreed with his approach, while
opposing being hypercritical of the ISO, WWP and others who are going
into the field. Leaving aside the provocateurs, the more the merrier
seems like the best attitude. I also suspect that a number of Gis are
moving well to the left of their parents and older family members out of
this experience, and that Military Families does very important work in
bringing the families on board and relating to them where they are in
life and politics.
One lesson of this is that while not everything can be completely
confirmed, partly for the safety of those concerned, I think we can
assume most of this GI material represents something real unless there
are really out-to-lunch stuff, provocations that can endanger people,
etcetera. We may be fooled occasionally, but there is more than enough
that is real out there that swallowing a piece of sucker bait once and a
while probably isn't going to kill us.
So far the Internet, the blogs, and so forth are definitely working for
us, not against us.
Hey again Fred.
I've inadvertently created a nasty little tempest that I need to
correct. Could you post this entire thing for me at Marxamil.
Note to Thomas Barton:
Just got off the phone with Dave Cline, and he let me know that I had
upset you. Let me say up front that I never intended to do that, and if
I have, I apologize. I didn't realize who the blogger was, and he is
someone I have corresponded with. At any rate, I never said he didn't
exist, but that we should be careful. In fact, I even disclaimed
knowledge of whether the post is authentic or not. We posted the same
on the BTHN web site. The kid is real, and he is taking a huge risk,
when people around him can shoot him and get away with it.
It was never meant as any kind of attack on you or anyone else. Let me
lay out the context.
On the fly, I noted a post to Marxmail, from Fred Feldman, in which he
suggested that WW and ISO are making the most inroads into military
communities with anti-war work. He included the post from our mutual
acquaintance (whom I did not know was this particular person!).
My own reply was:
I am going to take some exception to Fred Feldman's post on the roles of
and ISO in GI organizing, and I am one who values Fred's thoughts and
* I have since communicated with Fred and we are totally
As one who has been involved from the get in the combined campaign of
Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace (and now add to that
GI Rights Hotline, the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force,
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the new Iraq Veterans Against the
War), the Bring Them Home Now campaign, involving the mass organizations
(VFP and MFSO) from which many of the ground-level spokespersons have
emerged, this claim that WW and ISO are more advanced in this than
else is simply not the case.
* I will stand by this assertion, using numbers of people
with whom we have built relationships in military communities as the
criterion. That said, it is not in any way meant to minimize other
work, which can be judged by other criteria. I wrote this while rushed,
and this is a self criticism of how it was expressed.
I know and respect a number of people in both these groups, but the role
each needs to be understood here.
We took a lot of heat from the ultra-left when the BTHN campaign took
BECAUSE we aimed our message and our outreach/leadership development
at military members and military families. We were castigated for how
we did NOT go - that is, how we failed to confront potential new
participants and MFSO/VFP members with the necessity of adopting a
line that included an entire anti-capitalist program. There was a
lively flame-up on this list for a bit when we started, in which the
Bring Them Home Now was equated with unequivocal support for occupation
troops (a preposterous assertion if one actually read our statement of
* This expression of feeling a little wounded also exposes
some of the emotions I felt at feeling unfairly criticized - which I
expect you may feel now, and for which I apologize. It was never my
intention to minimize your tireless work.
ISO, who excel - given their largely young, academic base - at putting
university-based public education events, have been very aggressive (and
have welcomed that) in publishing the writing of our membership and in
putting our representatives in front of public audiences. That at the
of each of these appearances, there is always a pitch that posits the
solution to everything being "join the ISO" is something that is fairly
* This is a criticism I have made openly to ISO friends,
and as in the text above I will reiterate my admiration for how well
they do what they do. The Marxmail list is a place where the critique
of left organizations and methodologies is common, because it was put
together as a means of trying to identify weaknesses in the movement and
overcome them. My point - poorly made in my haste - was that this is
important, but it not the same as organizing the military communities
WW, when it was still in its pre-Becker/Holmes split conformation, was
on the phone asking for me, for Lou Plummer, for Fernando Suarez de
et al, to speak at their events. This is not the same as organizing.
harvesting, to which I have no intrinsic objection. In fact, SNAFU
up seemingly in direct response to BTHN as a similar formation (albeit
without mass organizations) that was under the hegemonic control of WW -
troublesome tendency within that organization that has made many of us a
little gun shy. I decided at the last minute to cancel a speaking
engagement at a WW event after a certain individual got me on the phone
proceeded to trash several of my personal friends (he didn't know that)
comrades as "a bourgeois force," because they worked in some capacity
UfPJ. (This business of calling participants in other, broader
organizations class traitors has simply got to stop.)
* This was a sharper criticism, again growing out of a bad
personal experience with a former member of WW, and with some of the
frustrating and sectarian tendencies many of us found with WW in the
last two years. By the same token, I have worked closely with WW
members, count a couple as personal friends, and admire their refusal to
engage in liberal backsliding on questions like Yugoslavia when much of
the Left was being stampeded into their Serbophobic hysteria. Their
take on Haiti is the best I've seen, and that from fairly extensive
experience there. But it was on a Marxist list that is designed for
just this kind of non-liberal and frank discussion, and was not intended
as an attack. There is a difference between attack and critique that
many of us easily forget because the Left has been under such relentless
attack by real liberals for so long that we have become overly defensive
about ALL criticism. This is easier for me to see paradoxically because
I am a late-comer to Marxism, and I was not trained in a particular
'tradition' that deified any particular dead communist and adopted their
writings as holy texts.
I am very appreciative, on the other hand, of the hard work of WW on
anti-war mass mobilizations (their specialty, it seems).
There are other left formations working on this campaign, in a much more
significant capacity than either ISO or WW, but they are not doing so in
instrumental way that is designed to convert it into a competitive
recruiting tool to the one true party. They do not sell newspapers, nor
they attempt to coach and control the communications of its
Mostly they just provide time, creativity, and a fair amount of sweat.
fight for positions in this campaign, and we have been successful in
persuading the majority to stick to its guns on the (bring them home)
part of the campaign, but we do not control or make it a front. In the
world, in these real mass organizations, this position is the left-wing,
it has been successful - as history has proven our point - against the
liberal electoral nonsense of several other lawyer-run 'veterans'
We have even reprinted some of this "Heretic" blogger's stuff, but I
been uncomfortable with it. not because of its content, but because the
level of socialist consciousness that it apparently reflects is
for someone who is still fighting in Iraq. It smells like
and if someone comes along and proves it to be such (I'm not saying it
isn't), we get rolled on our general credibility.
* Here is the offending paragraph, and upon review, even
with my disclaimer, I should have consulted you before posting this to a
list - even a very restricted one. For that I am very sorry, and I hope
you will accept my apology. I will post this same message to Marxmail
to publicly correct my error.
My complaint is not against these specific groups, which I mention here
in response to Fred's comments. I have a more general issue - as one
was once on the inside of a group with similar methods - about the
predisposition of many left formations to engage in this kind of true
revolutionary party competition for the extremely limited number of
conscious American socialists - many of whom avoid all formations
they are put off by these sectarian tendencies - and to attempt to
movements and then claim credit for them. I am only being direct to
the error of liberalism here.
This is just another example of why we need to pursue refoundation.
flash - this style of organizing doesn't work.
I think we should let a hundred flowers bloom, but some of these are
hothouse flowers. including Tom Barton's useful and provocative 'GI
Special,' even though it works too hard at a pose of profane anger - to
connect with the GIs, I presume - that it will not long be read by the
majority of military families. Note that I read and use 'GI Special.'
just think we need context.
* My on-the-fly and gratuitous comment about the tone was
un-called for, and again I apologize. I recognize that GI Special is
not designed to reach most military moms and wives and dads and grannies
(the majority of MFSO).
One of the main successes of the BTHN campaign has been the balance
actual GIs, who are often culturally trapped by their own masculinity
institutionally trapped by Rumsfeld's new Pantopticon military, and
members - who are a majority women, giving us a different entry point
these communities, a better one in my view than the Vietnam era coffee
houses where white college students had a hard time connecting with GIs
were from working class and oppressed nationality backgrounds. Building
relationships to develop leadership and consciousness in this group
time, and hitting them in the face with a complete world system
program is a sure-fire way to lose 99% of them up front. Over time,
the work, most shift toward anti-imperialism, but the motivation comes
within. The information comes from without.
While I cannot speak for the whole campaign, I personally welcome the
anti-war work of ANY formation, and the continued collaboration with
socialist formations. I have never attempted to conceal my own Marxism
anyone. But I think it is important to set the record straight, and to
point out again that this campaign is not a strategic campaign to
the United Socialist States of America. It is a tactical campaign to
resistance to the occupation of Iraq from within military communities.
Confusing or conflating these two goals will ensure the mediocrity of
latter by disassociating us from the actually-existing base.
* And here is the note I sent to Fred, just to clarify
Just wanted to touch base offline to assure you that my
running-out-the-door-with-my-grandson critique was not meant to come off
as hostile. I'm never sure what does or doesn't on email, and I want to
reiterate my very high regard for you and your opinions, as well as my
respect for WWP, ISO, et al. My critiques of parties, contrary to what
that one guy said, are not that they exist. I am close to LP on this in
thinking that when we do the same thing over and over and get
essentially the same result, we might ought to see if the flaw is in
what we have in common and not divergences in our lines. organizational
structure, that is. The reason I hate newspaper hawking is that it
always happens with ten of them about, and we all do them almost the
same way, and the public has no way of differentiating between WWP and
Sparts, for example, so they just put us all in the same category -
leftwing nutters. Their inherent competition forces them all to refine
their own lines so painfully to differentiate themselves and defend
themselves from each other that the writing becomes arcanely framed
I don't know the whole story about the split, but I work closely in
Haiti with one of the XXXXXX partisans - which in no way predisposes me
to XXXXXX. He said some really dumb and insulting shit to me on the
phone one time, and while I don't lose sleep over it, it left a bad
I completely agree that we have to move GIs further left when and where
we can. The reason I think the families may be the key is partly
gendered - that investment in masculinity is a tough nut to crack
because it is so deep. I think we will see the advent of fragging
within a year the way things are going - though it will be referred to
as 'non-hostile incidents' until some wretch on the edge of his own
sanity decides to out the whole thing as a reach for his own personal
redemption. This thing is going sour much harder and faster than
Vietnam because there is no Cold War tiptoeing. The disease processes
will begin to come out in the open, DoD will deny they exist, a couple
of GIs will snap on US civilians or their spouses, more revelations of
war crimes. etc. When I speak at the VFP event this week in NYC my
message is that we have to think now about 3-Ds - delegitimation,
disobedience, and disruption - as escalated post-election anti-war
tactics, and that we have to see the entire military as OURS and begin
claming them as the People's Armed Forces, vying directly for their
loyalty. Many of the original BPP were vets.
You can repost or not as is your wish. Just wanted to make sure I
hadn't stepped cross the line from critical to personal in any way.
Yours in the struggle,
Tom - I am saying the same thing here. Never intended to insult you or
degrade your hard work. Again, please accept this apology.
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