[Marxism] Where Marxmail came from

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 30 10:05:40 MST 2004

I made a note to myself that when Marxmail reached 500 subscribers, I 
would provide a brief history of where we came from. Since we now are at 
512 and I have a free moment, this would be a good time to follow through.

Marxmail is descended from the first Marxism mailing list on the 
Internet, which was launched by the Spoons Collective in June or July of 
1994, according to Professor Jon Beasley-Murray. Jon, Hans Ehrbar (of 
the U. of Utah economics department whose server we reside on presently) 
and Malgosia Askanas were 3 members of a collective who, with the 
exception of Hans as far as I can remember, were oriented primarily to 
cultural studies rather than Marxism. They had already created a number 
of mailing lists for the study of Lyotard, Deleuze-Guattari, Foucault, 
etc. and thought that it would make sense to add one for Marx since his 
name came up so often in discussions. The Spoons Home Page is at: 

For the first year or so, the Spoons Marxism List was marked by clashing 
needs and interests. Since many of the original subscribers had the same 
sort of background as Jon Beasley-Murray, who studied with Michael Hardt 
at Duke, their conversation tended to revolve around the legacy of the 
Frankfurt School, postmodernism, etc.

Another group of subscribers had backgrounds similar to Hans Ehrbar. 
They were professors, especially in economics, who were interested in 
pursuing questions of value theory. For the average person, including 
me, these discussions were difficult to follow. Although I had read 
Marx's V. 1 of Capital and much of Mandel, I was ill-equipped to 
understand controversies around the Okishio theorem, etc. Eventually, 
everybody with such interests migrated to something called OPE-L 
(Outline on Political Economy list) that was initiated by Gerald Levy, a 
Pratt University economics professor who was a member of the SWP in the 
1960s like millions of others. Well, thousands at least. Information on 
this list can be found at 
http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/OPE/archive/index.html. The home 
page states that it "is a small, closed list of Marxists who have been 
discussing controversial issues in political economy since September, 1995."

Soon the list began attracting former and current members or 
sympathizers of revolutionary organizations, and the topics began to 
have more of the character we are familiar with from Marxmail. 
Unfortunately, the current members and sympathizers included a number of 
individuals who had not transcended the kind of sectarianism that helped 
to destroy our movement in the 1970s and 80s. We had super-orthodox 
Trotskyists who were in the habit of exposing petty-bourgeois elements 
like me, when they weren't busy exposing each other.

They were eventually joined by a group of sympathizers of the Shining 
Path in Peru, including Louis Godena, a soon to be expelled CP'er in 
Rhode Island, and his friend Adolfo Olaechea who lived in exile in 
London. Adolfo, who was recently extradited from Spain to Peru, has been 
keeping abreast of his legal situation. (A Guardian article on his 
arrest appears below.)

Immediately the hard-core Trotskyists and the Maoists began fighting 
like cats and dogs. The Trotskyists demanded that the Maoists recant for 
the Moscow Trials, the Popular Front in Spain and the liquidation of the 
kulaks, while the Maoists accused the Trotskyists of being CIA agents or 

But the worst flames were reserved for debates on the Shining Path, 
which was far more powerful in 1995 than it is today. The Maoists felt 
like they were in the vanguard of a movement that would sweep the world, 
while the Trotskyists viewed the Peruvian guerrillas as little better 
than the Khmer Rouge. I have tried to come up with a more measured 
assessment of the Shining Path that can be read at: 

Eventually, the Shining Path supporters began to fight among themselves 
over who had the franchise. Adolfo fought with another Peruvian exile 
named Quispe in a polemic that often focused on who was on Fujimori's 
payroll. Eventually, this fight spilled over into some serious 
encounters with the immigration cops as list member Ken Campbell 
revealed in a Canadian alternative weekly:

 >>July 4 1996 -- On May 16, I wrote a column about a bizarre, 
self-described "Maoist magazine" called The New Flag, operating out of 
New York City -- Queens, to be exact. I treated my "public interview" 
with one NF editor ("Marcelina" -- a pseudonym) as a joke. This editor 
had used the "clarity of Maoism" to determine I was a CIA agent. At the 
time, I just considered the NF as more of the silly people you meet on 
the net.

But it stopped being a joke when, on May 30, Julian Calero, a Peruvian 
immigrant living and working in Connecticut, was arrested by US feds -- 
a person the NF had bragged to the net (hence the world) was a member of 
its "clandestine" Communist organization operating in New England.<<

full: http://www.kkc.net/peru/n6.htm

(Campbell disappeared from the original Marxism list shortly after 
writing this. After rejoining us a few months ago, he had to be removed 
since it was obvious that he could not abide by the new flame-retardant 
standards of the list.)

The flame wars between Trotskyists and Maoists and between Maoist and 
Maoist were exacerbated by the unmoderated status of the Marxism list. 
The Spoons Collective, for reasons I never quite fathomed, were 
committed to unmoderated lists. But after months and months of strife, a 
decision was made to launch new moderated lists in 1996.

One of them became Marxism-International that was co-moderated by Jon 
Flanders, Turkish grad student Zeynep Tufekcioglu and Louis Godena (we 
felt that it would be important to have Maoist representation on the 
moderation board.) The M-I archives can be read at: 

Although M-I began on a hopeful note, it eventually fell prey to the 
same sectarian problems that destroyed its predecessor. Godena abused 
his position on the moderation board and eventually muscled Jon and 
Zeynep out of the picture. In early 1998 he began to expel subscribers 
from the list who refused to toe the line ideologically, starting with me.

Eventually, the Spoons Collective tired of all the warfare and made the 
decision to stop hosting the Marxism lists. You can read their decision 
at: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/~spoons/marxism/

In the scramble to find new homes for the lists, I stepped forward and 
volunteered to moderate a new list at Panix in May of 1998. It was 
intended to carry on in the best spirit of Marxism-International. Hans 
Ehrbar transferred all of the other Marxism lists to a server at the U. 
of Utah, where we recently joined him. Louis Godena migrated M-I to 
Emory University in Georgia, where it continues today. I have no idea 
who or why anybody would subscribe to it, although Jim Farmelant did 
used to send me an occasional email that originated there from time to time.

Many subscribers on Marxmail go back to the early days. Some, like 
Carrol Cox and Yoshie Furuhashi, were absent from Marxmail for a period 
of time after having bitter disagreements with me over one question or 
another. I am happy that we are reunited. Other subscribers like Sol 
Dollinger, Mark Jones and Jim Blaut are with us only in spirit. My hope 
is that Marxmail can continue to expand over the next 10 years or so and 
serve as a resource for the revolutionary movement worldwide. The longer 
that we are in business; the surer we are about our collective goals. In 
face of all the fragmentation on the left, that at least is a hopeful sign.


The Guardian (London) September 6, 2003

Spain extradites exile to Peru on terrorism charge: Translator accused 
of Shining Path membership

Giles Tremlett in Madrid and Audrey Gillan

A London-based Peruvian exile has been extradited to Peru on the orders 
of a court in Spain, to face charges of being a member of the guerrilla 
group Shining Path, the Guardian has learned.

Adolfo Olaechea, who has lived in London for more than 20 years, was on 
a business trip to Almeria, in south-east Spain when he was arrested and 
handed over to the Peruvian authorities. The European court of human 
rights had called on the judge to delay the extradition.

The warrant for his arrest was a renewal of one from 1993, when Peru's 
request to Britain for his extradition was refused because of lack of 

The government in Lima claims Mr Olaechea is the London spokesman for 
the brutal Maoist group, which was deemed responsible in a report last 
week for about 35,000 deaths during its 20-year war with the government 
and army.

Mr Olaechea admits supporting some of the ideas of the Peruvian 
Communist party or Shining Path, but he denies being a member .

In a statement obtained by the Guardian, Mr Olaechea, currently detained 
in a high security prison in Lima, said: "I am not, never have been and 
never will be a member of the Communist party of Peru, known as Sendero 
Luminoso (Shining Path). . . . (T)he claim that I am the spokesman for 
Sendero Luminoso in Europe is therefore false."

He denied taking part in any political or armed action in Peru, or 
contacting anyone connected to Shining Path.

The arrest has reignited a dispute in London's Latin American community 
over Mr Olaechea's political views.

His Dutch wife, Hariette Springer, said her husband had done nothing 
wrong. She pointed out that he had travelled to Spain in October and 
December and had been granted visas despite the renewal of an Interpol 
warrant in February 2002.

She said: "The charge that he has been extradited on is a complete 
fabrication. Adolfo is a Maoist, he is an intellectual. He has been a 
past critic of the Peruvian government and he has certainly sympathised 
with Sendero Luminoso's ideas, but he is not a member. It's not a crime 
to express his opinion, everything he said is completely legal."

Some Latin Americans in London said last night that they had always 
believed Mr Olaechea to be Shining Path's spokesman in Britain because 
he had espoused the group's views at meetings. They said his opinions 
were not criminal in themselves.

For police in Almeria, an agricultural town, Mr Olaechea's arrest was a 
spectacular operation.

He had travelled to Spain in early August believing he had nothing to 
hide, since it was his third visit in 18 months. He checked in to a 
business hotel under his own name and carried on with his translating 
duties for a British market research firm working for Japan's Yamaha 
company. During his stay, local police collected the forms detailing 
names and passport numbers which all hotel guests in Spain must fill in. 
His name was fed into a computer which matched it to the Interpol warrant.

The next day, Almeria's Ideal newspaper announced the capture of 
"Shining Path's representative in London".

At first, Mr Olaechea was confused. The only arrest warrant he was aware 
of was one issued by Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced former Peruvian 
president, who faces a request for extradition from Japan.

Mr Olaechea was tried in his absence in 1993 and sentenced to life for 
the crime of "apology of terrorism". These trials, were declared 
"unconstitutional" when Mr Fujimori left the country. The prosecutor who 
produced the original warrant is now in prison.

Mr Olaechea was unaware that the current president of Peru, Alejandro 
Toledo, had reissued the warrant in February last year, again claiming 
that he was part of Shining Path's leadership. The new warrant was 
ignored by the British authorities.

The arrest has been greeted with glee in Peru. The state television, 
TNP, announced that "the ambassador of terror" had been caught, and 
Fernando Olivera, Peru's ambassador in Madrid, said: "We must remind 
Olaechea how he always justified these crimes and how he tried to 
whitewash Shining Path."

Mr Olaechea has begun bleeding from a damaged pancreas and faces an 
indeterminate period in Peru's jails, which are among the worst in the 

"His situation is precarious . . . and his health is deteriorating," his 
brother said.


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