Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 13, 2006

Joanne Landy at it again

Filed under: antiwar,cruise missile left — louisproyect @ 3:50 pm

Posted to www.marxmail.org on May 13, 2006

In the latest attempt by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (a wholly owned subsidiary of the left-Shachtmanite New Politics magazine) to put a halo over its head, executive director Joanne Landy is gathering signatures for a petition that carves out a "third way" between the USA and Iran. Since the 1940s, this current has always adopted a sort of moralistic concept of politics in which one of the primary goals has always been to curry favor with middle-class opinion. It is inspired by the anti-Soviet open letters that people like Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler and Dwight MacDonald used to circulate in the 1950s.

Joanne Landy lecturing on the need for peace and democracy

MacDonald, who was in the Trotskyist movement in the 1930s, left with Max Shachtman but eventually cut his ties to organized politics completely and launched a magazine called "Politics." Trotsky had this to say about MacDonald : "Every man has a right to be stupid on occasion but Comrade Macdonald abuses it." Although I am no expert on the history of New Politics and have no plans to become one, I wonder if it was named after MacDonald's magazine in the same way that the neoconservative New Criterion of today was named in honor of T.S. Eliot's Criterion.

After the USSR disappeared, Joanne Landy and the New Politics milieu were forced to fish around for new causes upon which they could establish their Tolstoyan saintliness. It should come as no big surprise that Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro would serve as useful substitutes for the role that Josef Stalin once played. In two open letters drafted on the occasion of two separate wars with Iraq, they proclaimed their desire for peace and their utter antipathy to Saddam Hussein. This gesture was clearly designed to distinguish themselves from the Ramsey Clarks of the world, who saw no compelling need to curry favor with enlightened opinion in the academy or the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. When Cuba arrested people who were operating with funding and direction from the CIA and other US government agencies, Landy and company yelped for their release. How dare Cuba put people in jail who took their marching orders from diplomat James Cason? You'd think that the USA was freeing terrorists who were blowing up Cuban civilian airliners for this kind of overreaction to occur.

Landy's open letter on Iran consists mostly of unobjectionable characterizations of how bad life in Iran today, such as "Iranian women lack some of the most basic human rights" and "Workers who try to strike or form independent trade unions are violently suppressed".

She also makes the record that she too is opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons, even though Israel has between 2 and 3 hundred. To reduce the threat of nuclear war in the Middle East, "a new democratic U.S. foreign policy" is required. In keeping with the generally moralistic posture that characterizes the "third camp," there is not the slightest inkling of how such a policy can be realized, especially in light of the deepening bellicosity of the US ruling class and its two parties. Perhaps George W. Bush will read the open letter, slap his forehead and cry out, "Why hadn't I considered this before?" Nor is there much likelihood that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be moved by these words.

The open letter includes a laundry list of demands that would be part of a "new democratic U.S. foreign policy." Some seem dubious at best. For example, it calls for "Supporting the right of national self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews." Anybody with a lick of sense would understand that there is a contradiction between calling for self-determination for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews unless you are talking about the discredited "two-state solution." Since the ineffable Michael Lerner, a leading 'left' spokesman for the two-state solution, has signed the open letter, one might gather that this is exactly what the open letter intended but lacks the forthrightness to defend openly.

The letter also urges the "Abandoning the effort to impose, through the IMF/World Bank or unilaterally, neoliberal economic policies of privatization and austerity that bring mass misery to people in large parts of the world." Although one must clap loudly for these lofty sentiments, the plain fact is that the only concrete moves taking place today against "economic policies of privatization and austerity" are occurring in Latin America under the inspiration and with the material aid of the despised Cuban government.

Furthermore, no matter how backward Ahmadinejad is around a whole range of questions, he has demonstrated a willingness to close ranks with Venezuela against imperialist attempts to reestablish control over oil resources. One imagines that the real hue and cry in the mainstream media over Iranian backwardness has more to do with this threat than it does over anything else, since the same kind of policies exist in Saudi Arabia where the "crime" of homosexuality is punishable by death.

The plain fact is that Joanne Landy and company are not really addressing the Iranian or US'an Presidents, but people like us: the organized, unorganized and disorganized left in the USA. She feels an almost irresistible compulsion to appear without sin among her peers in much the same manner that religious sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Hasidim strive to distinguish themselves from the unsaved. And it generates the same reaction, especially when it is thrown in the face of the unbeliever: disgust.

UPDATE 5/17/2006


Dear Friend,
In response to some comments we received when we started to circulate our Iran statement we decided that we needed modify a few points. Nothing changes the basic thrust of the statement, but we did want to run the revised version by you to be sure you are signing on to it.

The gist of the changes is below, followed by the full text of the revised version; in case you want the original statement for reference, it's is at the end of this message. To sign the revised statement, please let us know as soon as possible by replying to us at cpd@igc.org

The need for it grows every day, unfortunately.


Joanne Landy, Thomas Harrison, and Jennifer Scarlott

Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

1) we don't want to say that we are sure that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, so we amended the text to say that there's reason to doubt Tehran's assurances that it only wants to develop civilian nuclear energy. We also dealt with the question of civilian nuclear power, which we hadn't addressed in the original version.

2) we qualified the sections on women and labor, and made very small changes in the section on gays

3) we changed the text to say that the Administration may succeed in generating popular support for aerial attacks on Iran. Our original version said that "the administration's scare tactics are generating popular support for aerial attacks on Iran"

(This is followed by the full text of the original and revised petition. I wish that I had the list of original signers since I can swear that there was between 5 and 10 with Iranian names. Now there is only one.)

UPDATE 5/18/2006

Response to Campaign for Peace and Democracy's statement on Iran

Dear Directors of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy,
As concerned citizens of the world while appreciating CPD’s effort drafting a statement opposing a war against Iran, we regretfully decline to sign it due to several contradictory remarks and overall misleading language of this announcement. Notwithstanding, however, if the language of text is changed to accommodate our concerns, we would campaign for its universal acceptance.

Your statement begins correctly exposing the hostile intents of the U.S. administration by “manufacturing a climate of fear in order to prepare public opinion for another act of aggression, this time against Iran”, yet in the very next sentence –“three years ago it was the specter of Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction; today it's the Iranian nuclear bomb”, the word alleged is missing with regard to Iranian activities.

Any doubt as above being an unintentional omission is dismissed in the 8th paragraph which asserts   “Tehran's assurances that it only wants to develop peaceful nuclear energy are not credible” and the very next paragraph which begins with “We therefore strongly oppose Tehran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons”. These two sentences together contradict your opening statement and in effect validate Washington’s baseless claims against Iran.  Absent from your entire statement is any references to the fact that Iran as a signatory state to nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) is fully entitled to develop nuclear energy which includes enriching uranium for peaceful use under article 4 of the NPT ().

The rest of your statement is a diatribe of numerous accusations against the current regime which infringes in an area totally outside your jurisdiction. As evident from the daily reports of prisoner abuses, arrests without charge, human rights violations, and illegal wiretapping of Americans by our own government, we hardly hold the moral ground to preach those outside. Amnesty international reports that two years after the horrific images from Abu Ghraib prison shocked the world; the U.S. government continues to evade responsibility by blaming a handful of soldiers and officers—despite mounting evidence of the systematic use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Iran is by no means a perfect democracy but the Iranian people have never stopped striving for a better and more just form of government since at least the 1906 constitutional movements, and that struggle continues today. Any change is exclusively in the domain of the Iranian people alone and as history confirms, any outside interference with Iran's internal affairs has often produced the opposite result. 


Daniel M Pourkesali
Aeronautical Engineer
Leesburg, VA




  1. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others have signed this petition…I understand your objections, but after reading the statement, it doesn’t sound that awful. Of course there’s something troubling about advocating any foreign policy for a bourgeois government, but that’s another story…

    Comment by Poulod — May 14, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

  2. As I tried to point out, the statement is not bad because it contains bad slogans (although some are questionable to say the least.) I am really addressing an entirely different question, which is the “third camp” basis upon which the open letter rests. What does it mean to stand between the USA and Iran? Or the USA and Cuba? Frankly, I can’t stand moralizing of any sort and when it is defended in the name of Marxism, I get particularly riled but that’s just me, I guess.

    Comment by Louis Proyect — May 14, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

  3. I agree with you, I just meant to point out that this particular example is the most possibly benign manifestation of a repulsive perspective. What realy bothers me is the suggestion of a moral equation between Iran, Iraq, Cuba or anyone else and the United States. It’s just like the ‘cycle of violence’ or ‘extremists on both sides’ rhetoric when it comes to Palestine.

    Comment by Poulod — May 14, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

  4. The left should support the right of Iran to develop nukes to defend itself with, if it wants to avoid ending up on the side of the US:

    Comment by Scott — May 15, 2006 @ 1:03 am

  5. dear i am in iran i study all books of the camus i think he was best and best writter in the world

    Comment by bahram amiri — May 11, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  6. Iran is “not a perfect democracy”? That is a euphemism to end all euphemisms. It is one of the world’s worst tyrannies.

    Comment by Aaron Carine — October 19, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: