[Marxism] Some of my thoughts

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 17 22:37:28 MST 2006

Re: [Marxism] Some of my thoughts

Continuing the thread started up by Rohan Gaiswinkler, to whom my 
thanks and appreciation are hereby sent. While I really try to avoid
the personal vindictiveness which is often practiced on this particular
list, this time I'm going to respond on this occasion. Perhaps for some
readers, this kind of correspondence is a warped form of entertainment.
To me it's something more akin to the familiar line from GHOSTBUSTERS:

"It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it."

Dear Rohan - 

There was an odd silence for a number of hours here on Marxmail for a
bit. No explanation was provided so perhaps some readers took the
time to ponder a bit the nature and functions of a forum such as
this. That's a good thing. Most of us, I think, receive far, far too
much e-mail. Most of us probably delete most of what we get without
reading it, on most lists. Because we live in countries where
internet access is taken for granted, and anyone who has the money
and interest can have a computer, and can write any-thing they want
and hit "send" or "reply". Some people mistake this a "freedom". 
But is is really "freedom"? Actually, it's seems to have a lot more in
common with the behavior of a spoiled brat.

Thanks for your message, and the thoughtful tone you adopt here. 
You may be right about the frequency of my postings. I've received any
number of warning and threatening messages from Louis about this. 
He says the maximum is about five a day, and I'm now down to about 
five a day. My experience has been that Louis chooses to attack virtually
everything and anything I write if it's a topic about which he feels strongly,
whether it's a movie like FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, or the politics of places 
neither of us have visited, such as Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam or China.

The logic of all that hostility which is expressed here against China and
Vietnam makes it seem as if the critics are opposed to the ending of the
blockade. As I said in the other thread, if Washington's blockade is ended,
there will be more foreign investment, including U.S. investment in Cuba.
That U.S. investment in China and Vietnam have, along with the enrgetic
resourcefulness of the Vietnamese and Chinese peoples, made those two
countries among the fastest growing and most powerful in the world. The
U.S. is deeply dependent on China today because China holds so many
U.S. dollars. Cuba couldn't ever do such a thing because its market is
so much less, of course, but if the blockade were ended, there would be
more, probably a lot more U.S. investment in Cuba. It seems that some
of the critics here would be afraid of that.

Unless one simply stops posting, or acepts the political and intellectual
petty  snobbery, mixed with not-very-sophisticated red-baiting which is
practiced here, nothing I can do beside stopping posting at all, will get 
Louis Proyect to stop trying to bully me. And then, I don't accept such
bullying easily, of course. I admit I occasionally rise to his baiting, 
but I'm trying to restrain myself as best as I'm able. I appreciate the 
ability to post here, and will try to stay within the parameters of the 
acceptable in order to continue to be able to do that.

No matter how you slice it, nothing can change the fact that Marxmail
is, and CAN ONLY BE, a discussion forum and information source for
individuals who receive the messages or reads the archives. It's not
an organization, group or party. There are no rules and regulations
or constitution. The rules are whatever are announced by Louis and
that's just what the deal is. If this list is to perform a useful
function, recognition of the strengths and limits of such a forum
should be understood and ought to be accepted by its participants.

During my years in the Socialist Workers Party, leadership abuse of
most disagreements was the norm. Demagogic argumentation and wild
exaggerations of the arguments made by dissenters was too often the
norm. I make an effort to keep calm in the fact of verbal abuse which
is dished out on Marxmail all too frequently. I know I don't have all the
answers, as some participants here seem to think that they do. Louis
Proyect is very much a product of that school, though it seems he
doesn't realize how much of a product he is. 

Let me say also that I am also a product of the SWP, and I've no regrets 
for my years there. Some people on this list seem truly obsessed with 
exorcizing their SWP demons. To do that is realy necessary for everyone 
who passes through a challenging experience, but isn't it necessary to 
finally try to move forward? Perhaps that's why I love movies where
that is central to the narrative, like COME EARLY MORNING.

Cuba, whose defense is my political project, isn't a model of what a
socialist society should look like, far from it. I NEVER claim Cuba
as such a model. As everyone knows, I reject the entire notion of
models. Perhaps that's what bothers Louis Proyect so much since he
seems to think that he, and ONLY HE, has all the answers and,
therefore, is the model which all must accept. If not, one suffers
such penalties as Proyect deems appropriate to mete out.

While I generally refrain from the tone of personal vindictiveness
which is practiced on this list some of the time, I have responded
here because Rohan has addressed me specifically and directly.

How to lower the heat? I used to respond to Louis on areas where we
disagree. Now I'm more likely to initiate discussions, as I did with
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, and other topics. I've receive nasty letters if
I only post an article's link. I've received nasty letters if I posted too
often. Louis often posts links or articles but he states no position in
his own words about what the reader is supposed to think or to infer
from the posting. I endeaver, for the most part, to provide some idea
of why the posting is important, or at least I think it is. That's really
not a lot to ask, in my opinion.

How to lower the heat? Don't respond automatically to everything and
anything posted which one disagrees with. We have a saying here in
the U.S.: "You can't win a pissing contest with a skunk." How can we 
meaningfully discuss with people who publicly and actively attack 
movies they haven't seen, or books which they haven't read?

It's something to keep in mind. Rohan, you've received a good
example of the "moderating style" which prevails on Marxmail:

A pride-filled style of irreconcilable incorrigibility, one which admits not
even the possibility that 1% of what someone else has said could even
POSSIBLY have either validity or even be worth CONSIDERING. It's this
style of all-out, extreme, and factional argumentation which makes
this list considerably less useful than it might otherwise be. That
is unfortunate. Nothing will change that without the general decision
of all of those who participate. Unless one is willing to admit the
possibility that there is anything worth hearing in another viewpoint.
Louis often posts useful material, even when I don't agree with it, as
it gives me something to think about. 

The red-baiting with which Proyect avoids discussing areas where
political differnces exist is all too familiar. He's been practicing this
for years. Mostly, I try to ignore it, but it can't be avoided forever.

Oh, as to whatever personal relationship might exist between Louis
Proyect and me, I'm not quite sure what to say. There is obviously a
somewhat warped dynamic going on. He seems to think he's at once
the mother hen, and simultaneously the prosecuting attorney, the
judge, the jury and the executioner of what genuine Marxism is... 

My fourth grade teacher, Miss Frances Bucellato at New York City's 
P.S. 19 once observed that I had the unfortunate habit of, as she 
described it, "insisting and persisting in always having the last word." 

In my old age (approaching 63 shortly), I have come to realize that's 
not the best way to relate to others with whom one is supposed to 
be participating in a common struggle for a better world. I believe
that a softer, more collaborative, more balanced approach would be
more constructive in the long run. 

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

I think Louis does a pretty good job moderating this list overall. 
It must be a challange to be an even-handed moderator of discussion 
when you are also a contributor. I'm sure I would fail in that from time
to time if I had Lou's task. But I don't think that means I should
refrain from pointing out, occasionally, when I think Louis has
failed. So here it goes...

1. Louis, please stop being so hard on Walter. You bully him. [A note
to Walter also - you post too often so that I have started to wonder
if you like it!] A Louis bully / Walter massachist relationship might
be mutually benefitial to both of you - but I don't think I'm going
out on a limb in saying that it is BORING to the rest of the list.

LOUIS PROYECT posted a TWELVE-YEAR old link, and explained:
The way to normalize relations with Washington is to move rapidly 
toward introducing capitalist property relations. The Heritage 
Foundation can understand why Cuba is different from Vietnam or 
China. So should we.

John P. Sweeney, "Why the Cuban Trade Embargo Should Be Maintained", 
November 10, 1994, 

I am not concerned so much about expulsions as I am about ideological
monolithism. You can enforce this through harsh bureaucratic measures
such as was the case in the American SWP in the period from 1980 to
1985. You can also enforce this through creating an atmosphere that
heavily favors consensus around positions coming down from the top,
as was the case in the American SWP from 1970 to 1980.

I am dead-set against group-think either in such "vanguard"
formations or in Walter's case reading the latest article in the
Cuban press and then beating us over the head with it. Marxist
analysis is done by individuals, much as is art and science and other
intellectual/creative disciplines. You thrive on a community of
like-minded people, such as exists here, but in the final analysis
you are on your own.

For younger comrades, a word or two explaining where this baiting
nonsense comes from. It is the kind of taunt that the CPUSA used to
direct at Trotskyists from the 1930s onwards, until the USSR ceased
to exist. The next logical step, of course, is to make amalgams
between the left critics of the Kremlin and the CIA, etc. It is pure
poison politically and something that Walter must have learned from
the people he works with in Los Angeles, where the CP was once very
powerful. It is extremely sad to see somebody turn his back on
ultraleftism only to jump into the arms of this kind of abject
worship of the existing fact.

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