Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 26, 2009

Interesting exchange on Joel Kovel’s firing

Filed under: bard college — louisproyect @ 8:44 pm

david_kettler2David Kettler

David Kettler, a 79 year old Bard professor, tried to stake out a midway position between Botstein and Kovel in a comment on that atrocious Inside Higher Education article that read like it was written in the President’s office. You will note his annoyance at the temerity of bloggers getting involved with the case, an obvious reference to riffraff like me. He is then answered by a pre-law student. Quite frankly, the maturity and wisdom of the student persuades me that the school would be in better shape if it was administered by the students.

David Kettler:

As a colleague of Joel Kovel, who has at times agreed and at other times disagreed with his politics, who has often learned from him in both kinds of cases, and who regrets his involuntary departure, I welcome Cary Nelson’s suggestion that Joel Kovel’s allegations be subjected to an AAUP grievance procedure. As I understand those procedures, however, the inquiries are not conducted on blogs, but under conditions where charges of complicity and duplicity against colleagues are confidentially and prayerfully considered, and inferences from protest NOT made and related constructions are not taken very seriously. Does anyone seriously think that they have learned anything at all from the fact that no one objected when the conductor of an Israeli orchestra, who is also the President of the College, played two national anthems on a cultural-commercial occasion on campus?

Let’s first do some serious editing, an academic habit that should be harder to break than Joel finds it, and then put the remaining firm questions into the appropriate process. The terms and conditions of Bard faculty are under a collective agreement with the local AAUP. As a former head of a faculty union in Canada, I wish that the contract were more solidly grounded, but there are academic freedom guarantees and grievance procedures. The local chapter would be the logical starting point. If it appeared that the chapter was insufficiently experienced or otherwise unable to function independently, it would be in order for the President of the AAUP to send some wise heads to Bard to talk with the local officials and if necessary set up a special outside hearing commission on behalf of the locals. Isn’t that the point of organizations?

The people denounced by Joel’s attack include members in good standing of the AAUP, and the evidence pertinent to the charges should not be bandied around in public. I regret not only Joel’s broadside but also the action of my longtime friend and patron, Leon Botstein, in making his CEC evaluation public. But the main thing is that Cary Nelson should get going on his real job, which is to make our organization credible in these matters by acting in accordance with the procedures that legitimate it, instead of writing op eds to blogs. Do I need to legitimate myself by saying that I (mostly) agree with Kovel’s analysis of the Palestinian situation and that I was myself once–long ago–an academic freedom case? I suppose so, since that seems to be the norm in this medium.

——

’09bardie’:

Having served as a student representative in Bard’s facutly evaluation process, I can corroborate that the faculty member mentioned by Prof. Kovel should have recused himself under the provisions of the Faculty Handbook.

I think Prof. Kettler’s insistence that the AAUP take this case makes some sense for the overall preservation of faculty and administrative rights. But I don’t really really follow his argument that it was unethical for Prof. Kovel to make these allegations public. From the perspective of faculty solidarity, it makes sense. But his argument is leaving out one of the biggest stakeholders in this decision: Bard students. As pro-union as many of us are, the AAUP isn’t really a union, and in any case we aren’t AAUP members and don’t really enjoy the rights of academics. So it’s not clear to me why we might share in the obligation to keep this debate out of the public sphere. Whether or not Prof. Kovel remains at Bard is an issue for the student body; it has a significant effect on the image of the school as well as the content of other classes taught by instructors who aren’t in line with President Botstein politically. The publicty surrounding this case, and the student response to President Botstein’s decision, will also affect the sorts of prospective college students who will eventually come to Bard.

Also, I have it on good information that members of the Bard faculty have been warned not to involve themselves in this case in defense of Prof. Kovel. So we can hardly assume that Prof. Kettler’s reaction, reasoned as it is, is representative of Bard faculty opinion.

UPDATE

This was just received from Professor Kettler. Oddly enough, the reference to “sputtering” was not to anything I have written here, but an email to the Marxism list that referred to his comment above. In other words, Botstein has his vassals reading the archives of the mailing list I moderate. I don’t blame them for trying to keep track of me. I am very dangerous.

Dear Mr. Proyect,

Google indicates that you have picked up and reproduced my message about Joel Kovel’s grievance to “Higher ed.” That pleases me, since I believe that my argument for respecting and thus strengthening local organizations is worth broadcasting, even if your version of “Marxism” seems not to have heard about the importance of solidarity, organization, and collective responsibility. “I’m a victim” never impressed the old guy. Try to imagine him running a blog! I see him now on Facebook, soliciting “friends.”

I regret to say, however, that I had never heard of you before Google spoke, and therefore could not have been “sputtering” about anything you may have said on any medium. My remark was aimed directly, as the message indicated, at Cary Nelson, the President of an association of which I am a member. We’ve had a very useful and mutually respectful correspondence about the matter since then. Try it sometime.

Sincerely,

David Kettler

42 Comments »

  1. I hope that “Bardie 09” is in my class, since by the end of the semester s/he wouldn’t read a text like mine as charging that Joel Kovel had done anything “unethical.” On the other hand, I think that her/his point about the differences between faculty and student interests and modes of action makes admirable sense. As noted in the message that our moderator oddly takes as a sign that I am a “vassal” of Leon Botstein, acting under orders, my comment was addressed to a specific participant in an on-line discussion, viz., the President of the AAUP. I was not presuming to tell students or anyone not implicated in the process to which an academic freedom grievance is addressed by faculty what they should think, say, or do.

    For all I know, Mr. Proyect, you are dangerous (to whom or what?); but if your absurd self-absorption is any sign, not so very. Try “google” for “Kettler AAUP” and you’ll know how I came upon you. That I did not separate your wisdom as recorded in one site and the other doubtless has to do with the age that you were kind enough to post and optimistic enough to advance by a year.

    David Kettler

    PS Of course I did say that Leon Botstein was an “old friend and patron.” That’s called “declaring an interest.” Then the trick is to see whether what I actually say prejudges the adjudicable issues in contention.

    Comment by David Kettler — February 27, 2009 @ 3:02 am

  2. How can you be friends with a guy who fires people for their political beliefs? It reflects poorly on you!

    Comment by SGuy — February 27, 2009 @ 7:11 am

  3. Kettler has correctly recognised Louis (and implicitly, likes of the lumpen who visit/maintain ‘blogs’ as this) as danger. Undoubtedly they are a danger to the insituitional stifling of dissent and a danger to such institutional authority and a danger to the society which sustains it and, surely, a danger to the sugar-coating which Kettler is using to shove this disgusting act down our throats.

    Victor Klemperer, perhaps, had Kettler and Botstein’s counterpart German intellectuals in his mind while writing – “If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished lay in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go and even some of the leaders, who might perhaps after all have had honourable intentions and not known what they were doing. But I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.”

    Comment by Anarcho-Polpotist — February 27, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  4. Of course I did say that Leon Botstein was an “old friend and patron.” That’s called “declaring an interest.” Then the trick is to see whether what I actually say prejudges the adjudicable issues in contention.

    I am amazed that anybody at this point can speak in terms of “adjudicable” issues. I first ran across Bruce Chilton in January, before Joel was terminated. As guest of the rabbi and the deacon who host WABC’s “Religion on the Line” radio show, he was helping them push the Zionist talking points about Israel not killing civilians in Gaza, only defending itself, etc. This “religion” show has more in common with Rush Limbaugh than it does with Jesus or the prophet Isaiah. I was so shocked to hear the Bard chaplain out agitating in public on behalf of Israeli war crimes that I let him know that in no uncertain terms. Now it is his right to defend whatever bullshit far right politics he wants in public. BUT HOW IN THE FUCK DOES HE END UP ON JOEL KOVEL’S EVALUATION COMMITTEE? TELL ME THAT, PROFESSOR EMERITUS KETTLER. Well, maybe it is just as well since this is so clearly inappropriate and subversive of faculty rights that Joel will have his day in court. I hope that he sues Bard for every penny it owns, starting with the portion of the endowment contributed by that filthy hedge fund manager/corporate raider Charles P. Stevenson, Yale class of ’69 and member of the SKULL AND BONES SOCIETY. Those bastards better give Geronimo’s bones back to the Apaches, pronto.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 27, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

  5. Excuse me for having crashed your party. Since you’ve cloned your own fantasy versions of me, you won’t miss me. The chuzpah of someone who signs as Anarcho-Polpotist to quote Victor Klemperer in aid of his panic and rage confirms my impression that I have definitely dialed the wrong number. Poor Louis Proyect cannot get over my age. Calm yourself; it’s not invariably contagious.

    Cheers,

    David Kettler

    PS I became friends with the guy who is alleged to fire people for their political beliefs because he originally hired me when I was fired for my political beliefs. That disposes me to listen to what can be said pro and con.

    Comment by David Kettler — February 28, 2009 @ 2:31 am

  6. hrmmm, that should make you even more outraged! instead you’ve just confessed to self interest here. Oh yes, allegedly, right, wake up and smell the coffee David!

    Comment by SGuy — February 28, 2009 @ 3:52 am

  7. This person Kettler’s charge of self-absorption against the moderator of the Unrepentant Marxist deserves analysis. One wouldn’t expect it from an academic whose category and pay should put him on a higher level of subtlety. His trick here is to point to the big ego of his antagonist as if sitting on his throne he himself is clothed in the self-forgetfulness of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. An individual who challenges a system is now “self-absorbed.” A couple of centuries ago he would have been put away and declared mad.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — February 28, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  8. Kettler: I became friends with the guy who is alleged to fire people for their political beliefs because he originally hired me when I was fired for my political beliefs.

    Professor Kettler, I find it very difficult to believe that you were fired for your “political beliefs”. You are a Karl Mannheim specialist. This is hardly likely to bring down the wrath of the Rush Limbaughs of the world. Perhaps you can elaborate on this. You might also take the time to state clearly that you see nothing wrong with having a Zionist activist sitting on the evaluation committee of a professor who is a high-profile anti-Zionist. You might also want to explain why Leon Botstein’s refusal to utter a word on Joel’s behalf when the U. of Michigan refused to publish his book on Zionism should not be seen as prejudicial.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 28, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  9. Louis:

    When Karl Marx wanted to cite Russian collective tenures in his analysis of privatization as historical process, he studied Russian. Engels tried to learn enough Gaelic to read Irish records in the course of their joint research. If an “unrepentant Marxist” wants to wax sardonic about an easily researchable subject, he should not be so easily satisfied with the first bit of information he finds. But that’s the problem with this whole business, isn’t it? Get a factoid that makes you feel good and run with it.

    I see why people keep coming back to these blogs, however. We all like to see our names in lights, even if it’s just the dim light of the screen. The too, there is the perpetual vanity of the teacher, always imagining that they can teach under even the most hostile circumstances. Its the mix of vanity and academic furor that explains this truly last intervention.

    My ironic tone is not because I do not take seriously questions raised by Joel Kovel’s separation from Bard, including questions arising from the application of academic freedom principles under conditions when colleges and universities have become havens for public intellectuals and creative artists who are neither hired nor retained nor let go by usual academic procedures, serving in lieu of the patrons and the markets that had successively provided for livelihoods for these social formations, as well as the academics whose scholarship has historically been protected. That’s something AAUP has to struggle with, especially now that these resources, which doubtless enrich and enhance student experiences, appear unaffordable. Some of you were very upset by my saying that Botstein was my “patron,” but of course he was Joel’s “patron” too for twenty years. Neither his hiring nor his reappointments were materially any more under the control of faculty than the nonrenewal of his contract, notwithstanding his inclusion in the routine periodic “reviews,” which was evidently the completely standard mix of praise with the odd qualification. Chairing the committee that handles dozens of these each year is precisely the sort of dutiful task that people who are also chaplains–pro-Zionist or not–have the mindset to perform, year after year. The most pressing questions are issues that protest politics cannot touch, and they loom large for people inside colleges and universities, who need to find ways of dealing with them apart from the world of larger politics.

    It is my commitment to faculty self-governance and related problems that got me into this public discussion in the first place. I have never challenged the propriety of others treating Kovel as a martyr for an important political cause in order to dramatize that cause. Its a strategy deeply rooted in American radicalism, even if it seems discordant in a self-styled Marxist forum.

    End of class.

    To pick up Louis’ sparse research yield about my scholarly interests, I’ll just say that I turned to Karl Mannheim for help in thinking about the relations between intellectuals and institutions of science–and that it was my conception of the “vocation of radical intellectuals” that got me into trouble with authorities then–and that also gets me into trouble with you now. You can look it up. I wrote a pretty good article at the time in “Politics and Society” I, 1.

    What I will not do however is to defend myself against charges that I am part of some anti-Palestinian mafia. I don’t think of this blog as a locus for my political action.

    Cheers,

    DKettler

    Comment by David Kettler — February 28, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  10. Kettler:
    When Karl Marx wanted to cite Russian collective tenures in his analysis of privatization as historical process, he studied Russian. Engels tried to learn enough Gaelic to read Irish records in the course of their joint research. If an “unrepentant Marxist” wants to wax sardonic about an easily researchable subject, he should not be so easily satisfied with the first bit of information he finds. But that’s the problem with this whole business, isn’t it? Get a factoid that makes you feel good and run with it.

    Response:
    So you are not a Mannheim specialist. Who cares. In any case, you still haven’t answered my question. Who fired, or even victimized, you for your political beliefs? Or was that just a bit of self-dramatization on your part?

    Kettler:
    I see why people keep coming back to these blogs, however. We all like to see our names in lights, even if it’s just the dim light of the screen. The too, there is the perpetual vanity of the teacher, always imagining that they can teach under even the most hostile circumstances. Its the mix of vanity and academic furor that explains this truly last intervention.

    Response:
    People keep “coming back to these blogs” because they are not subject to censorship. We don’t have to worry about a Leon Botstein or a Mubarak putting a gag over our mouths. In fact, the Internet is already beginning to replace the newspaper and the academic journal so you’d better get used to it.

    Kettler:
    My ironic tone is not because I do not take seriously questions raised by Joel Kovel’s separation from Bard, including questions arising from the application of academic freedom principles under conditions when colleges and universities have become havens for public intellectuals and creative artists who are neither hired nor retained nor let go by usual academic procedures, serving in lieu of the patrons and the markets that had successively provided for livelihoods for these social formations, as well as the academics whose scholarship has historically been protected. That’s something AAUP has to struggle with, especially now that these resources, which doubtless enrich and enhance student experiences, appear unaffordable.

    Response:
    “My ironic tone is not because I do not take seriously questions raised by Joel Kovel’s separation from Bard, including questions arising from the application of academic freedom principles under conditions when colleges and universities have become havens for public intellectuals and creative artists who are neither hired nor retained nor let go by usual academic procedures, serving in lieu of the patrons and the markets that had successively provided for livelihoods for these social formations, as well as the academics whose scholarship has historically been protected.”

    Notice to my blog regulars. This is the kind of vaporous and evasive prose that can only come from many decades in academia. You are trained to become squid’s ink purveyors. Thank god I became a computer programmer instead of a professor.

    Kettler:
    Some of you were very upset by my saying that Botstein was my “patron,” but of course he was Joel’s “patron” too for twenty years. Neither his hiring nor his reappointments were materially any more under the control of faculty than the nonrenewal of his contract, notwithstanding his inclusion in the routine periodic “reviews,” which was evidently the completely standard mix of praise with the odd qualification. Chairing the committee that handles dozens of these each year is precisely the sort of dutiful task that people who are also chaplains–pro-Zionist or not–have the mindset to perform, year after year. The most pressing questions are issues that protest politics cannot touch, and they loom large for people inside colleges and universities, who need to find ways of dealing with them apart from the world of larger politics.

    Response:
    138 words to say that he sees nothing wrong with a Zionist activist sitting on an evaluation committee of an anti-Zionist activist. He of course is careful enough to evade the point I made about Leon Botstein refusing to back Kovel’s free speech rights when the U. of Michigan caved in to Dershowitz’s pressure over the publication of his book. Botstein is for free speech in the abstract but not in the classic case misattributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In fact, Botstein is lower than a slug in comparison to my boss Lee Bollinger at Columbia University who has stood up to the howling mobs calling for the firing of Joseph Massad and Nick DeGenova.

    Kettler:
    It is my commitment to faculty self-governance and related problems that got me into this public discussion in the first place. I have never challenged the propriety of others treating Kovel as a martyr for an important political cause in order to dramatize that cause. Its a strategy deeply rooted in American radicalism, even if it seems discordant in a self-styled Marxist forum.

    Response:
    The only dramatization I see here is your own prolix scenery-chewing.

    Kettler:
    End of class.

    Response:
    What a patronizing but totally expected gesture.

    Kettler:
    To pick up Louis’ sparse research yield about my scholarly interests, I’ll just say that I turned to Karl Mannheim for help in thinking about the relations between intellectuals and institutions of science–and that it was my conception of the “vocation of radical intellectuals” that got me into trouble with authorities then–and that also gets me into trouble with you now. You can look it up. I wrote a pretty good article at the time in “Politics and Society” I, 1.

    Response:
    Does anybody believe that Kettler got fired for his conception of the “vocation of radical intellectuals”? If anything, a peek at his CV indicates that he is rather good at gathering moss, becoming professor emeritus on two occasions. Also, Kettler, you are not “in trouble” with me. You are only getting criticized. Perhaps you are confused about what actually happened to you once upon a time. You wrote a stupid article that your colleagues objected to. That is not persecution. Persecution is losing your job and getting blacklisted. Writing an article in an obscure academic journal about nothing of particular earth-shattering importance does not get you fired. It gets you tenure.

    Kettler:
    What I will not do however is to defend myself against charges that I am part of some anti-Palestinian mafia. I don’t think of this blog as a locus for my political action.

    Response:
    I think the only charge being leveled at you is coyness and double-speak.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 28, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

  11. The pffting away of Chiltons involvement was shocking! My view of Kettler continues to dim.

    Comment by SGuy — February 28, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

  12. “Persecution is losing your job and getting blacklisted.”

    Exactly. Look it up.

    GREAT photo! But notice that Kettler has a Degas poster. And Degas was a notorious reactionary.

    Comment by David Kettler — February 28, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  13. Exactly. Look it up.

    Can you believe this shit? This guy tries to establish his credibility by claiming that he was a victim of persecution and when I ask him to spell out where, when, why, and how, he tells me to “look it up”. If he ever lost a job–I would add–it was probably for incompetence rather than anything else. Which reminds me of Mary McCarthy’s classic “The Groves of Academe”, which was based on a fictional version of Bard College. When a professor gets canned for incompetence, he claims that it was because of McCarthyism. Pretty funny book, even though McCarthy’s politics were crappy.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 28, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  14. In fairness Joel Kovel wrote the following in the preface to The Enemy of Nature:

    “I would also take the opportunity to give thanks to Bard College, my academic home since 1988, and to its administration, especially Leon Botstein and Stuart Levine, as well as its faculty (in particular, Jane Dougall) and students, for all the support – material, intellectual and spiritual – over the years. In a time of declining tolerance for dissident views, it was an extraordinary piece of luck for me to find Bard, and this project would have been far lonelier and more arduous without it.”

    That was of course back when Leon was Joel’s “patron.”

    Anyway it is very ironic, as Joel rightly says, that he was removed as the Alger Hiss chair for being too dissident. While pockets of radicalism do exist – anti-Zionism is beyond the pale.

    Comment by King of Kensington — March 1, 2009 @ 5:53 am

  15. King of Ken, aren’t you talking about Jewish American history of the late 19th and 20th century? It’s an old story that everyone knows but worth repeating because everyone also tries to forget it. Correct me if I’m wrong. They came somewhat upsetting their cousins already settled. But numbers count. Sweatshops; 30s unions and cheers for the New Deal; the immense shock of WWII; shift to the suburbs; sympathy for young Israel; stiffled dismay for some as it becomes a Spartan spearhead thanks to its Big Brother; finally, the Botsteins and Kettlers on high shush the Kovels below.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — March 1, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  16. I got up this morning thinking that I’d write one more message after all, calling your attention, Lou, to the fact that we were the last two left in this bar, stinking of beer and mutual dislike, and wondering why we were even talking to each other, especially since our talk no longer had anything to do with the conversation we had originally joined. It somehow got to be all about me, since you are pseudonymous. I just wanted to say that you don’t know a fucking thing about me, and that no one gives a shit about that either. But suddenly a couple of more sober guys strolled over and said something that deserves an answer on my way out the door. First to get this out of the way, I don’t lie. But the story of my life is not to the point. Only this in answer to Peter Byrne’s plausible speculation. (I’ve got a pretty good article on the origins of the Protocols of Peace, by the way, which you can also look up.) Botstein was born in Switzerland. His parents were Polish Jews who were lucky enough to be there when the Germans invaded. They were medical students, and so indeed professionals. But not “yekkes” when they came to the US with their three children. Kettler was born in Leipzig. Both parents were East European Jews, the father from Kherson and the mother from Brody. He escaped with them to the US as a boy in 1940, having lived through what people lived through who were nevertheless lucky enough to escape. The German Jews to whom he eventually oriented were all left-wing exiles: Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, and others. You can look all that up too. And don’t fuck with me. I got more credibility than you got sperm cells.

    Comment by David Kettler — March 1, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  17. To Ken of Kensington:

    You bring up an important point that I plan to deal with in a subsequent post. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the culture of higher education is feudal despite the fact that universities are becoming more and more capitalist. So with the domination of Bard’s finances by hedge fund managers, you get the persistence of lord-vassal relationships. Despite being Botstein’s employee, Joel was essentially kissing his hand when he wrote that acknowledgment. I was telling my wife the other day, who is a professor herself, that the private university fosters the kind of grovelling before authority (just take a look at the dissertation process) that the capitalist system relies upon. Ironically, it is student’s last fling with anti-authoritarianism before they become cogs in the Great Machine.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 1, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

  18. Excuse me, Peter Byrne. That doesn’t look right. My intemperate closing remarks were directed at our host, not at you. Now I really have to take a shower.

    Comment by David Kettler — March 1, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  19. August Professor Twice Emeritus Kettling:

    If I was in that bar you can bet I wasn’t sober. I’m sorry it wasn’t my sperm count you had in mind. It’s way down. Age tells, despite cute hair styles like your own. But I must be careful or you will accuse me of ageism, as you did poor Proyect, who, by the way is on the wrong side of sixty. Concerning Botstein’s forebears, I would have thought more of them if they hadn’t dawdled in petty, proper Switzerland and lost their edge. Russian area Jews directly from the muddy lanes brought real strength to America. I’m thinking of my Chicago’s Turkish baths, Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Art Shay and Lezj Czyz, aka Leonard Chess of the record company that staked Muddy Waters. But all that is by the way. The point remains, after your flurry of f-words, where do you stand on the recent war against the people of Gaza?

    Comment by Peter Byrne — March 1, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  20. We would be remiss of course if we didn’t acknowledge Peter Byrne’s recent 80th birthday. He not only exceeds Kettler by a year, but by miles intellectually.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 1, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  21. Dear Peter Byrne,

    Nice to hear from you. I was going to look for you off this site because I had two ideas in the shower that I thought you might enjoy. All clean now, and no more Bayonne Roosevelt School talk, I promise. If the ticket for admission to your version of Mr. Dooley’s pub is to show my colors, I’ll say that I opposed that war, as I have opposed most of the Zionist program since 1948. A paradox, given the talk about German Jews and Eastern Jews and all that, is that the German Jews of course were the least Zionist, even in Palestine. That’s especially true of the Hebrew University professors, who published a journal called “Das Orient” (!!) in which they fulminated over the aggressions and delusions of the East European mafia in charge. No less interesting, and this was my second clean thought, is that my whole intervention has been on behalf of a trade union consciousness patented by the yiddish speakers in the ILGWU–“you use every grievance to build the organization!”–, while the denouncers breathe the air of the Wobblies, who were as American as meths. History bounces around. Send me an email, if you like, and we can exchange some stuff. Since my address is available anyway to anyone who knows how to google. I’ll put one of them here:

    Comment by David Kettler — March 1, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  22. oops! I guess some things are censored. the address did not show up. good idea, on balance. there may be a lot of enraged people around who don’t know how to google and it’s good to keep them at bay. And happy birthday! of course.

    dk

    Comment by David Kettler — March 1, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  23. Botstein comes across like a modern day version of the early Zionists – upper class and irreligious (sometimes to the point of contempt) – certainly he wouldn’t have a Bundist in Warsaw or that sort of thing. Rather his Zionism is about in bringing “European civilization” to the desert. I doubt he was ever any kind of labor Zionist, though I’m sure he would have found the “folk orthodox” Meir Kahane types too crass for his liking.

    Comment by King of Kensington — March 1, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

  24. Is it usual for the blog convener to telephone contributors who have been careless enough to use their proper names, uttering wild denunciations and prophecies of sanctions (NOT “threats,” since the sanction at issue is quite lawful) against them? I am a novice to this medium and it may happen all the time. Still, I wonder. Is that a good thing?

    Comment by kettler — March 2, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  25. I am a novice to this medium and it may happen all the time.

    Really? The telephone is a rather well-established technology. When did you stop using tin cans and a waxed string?

    Comment by louisproyect — March 2, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

  26. For the record, I’m a socialist but not a Marxist and a non-Zionist but probably not an anti-Zionist.

    Prof. Kettler: “Unethical,” in retrospect, seems like too strong of a term, but I do think you were characterizing Prof. Kovel’s very public approach to his termination as in some way unprofessional/irresponsible/not-the-done-thing, at least from the standpoint. I posted at IHE to highlight the role of Bard students in all of this, because I think it’s really very different from that of Bard faculty or Zionist/anti-Zionist activists or Marxist intellectuals.

    Mr. Proyect: Thank you for the compliment–as you can probably guess, I have quite a few problems with the way Bard is run. But I don’t exactly want Bard to get sued out of existence. For one thing, I feel like I’ve gotten a reasonably good education here.

    Would it be out of line for me to suggest taking a deep breath?

    Comment by 09bardie — March 2, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

  27. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, anything I write about Bard College is likely to have no impact on its funding. That is more likely to be affected by the state of the economy today, which is being undermined by the kinds of hedge fund managers that Leon has gathered about him. In fact, I would give equal weight to Bard’s red ink as I would to anything that Joel has written in accounting for his termination.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 2, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

  28. Dear 09 Bardie,

    Thanks for your note and blessings for your suggestion that we all cool (You should have heard Louis on the phone about his wishes for Bard!). I understand what troubled you in my remarks and I certainly agree that student interests are not identical with those of faculty. But that doesn’t mean that they should automatically prevail: Bard students sometimes get spoiled by the paternalistic regime. As I have tried to say several times, I quite believe that it’s OK that different groups have different priorities and that they have to be negotiate them out if they cannot simple pursue their different strategies, as is often the case. I have a couple of pages of this that I’d be glad to put in your hands. To avoid cluttering this site and to spare you the compromise of emailing me direct, I’ll put it as “Priorities memo” under DRAFTS on my website:

    dk

    Comment by kettler — March 2, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  29. I hope Botstein doesn’t go around claiming he’s the son of Holocaust survivors.

    Comment by King of Kensington — March 4, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

  30. He only claims that they got out just in the nick of time. Oddly enough, even though they are Poles, they strike me as those snooty German Jews.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 4, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

  31. You guys never give up. Surely you mean those “snooty anti-Zionist German Jews,” as they have commonly been correctly identified. Who is the “he” who makes these “claims”? Botstein’s parents were out of harm’s way before the war, and they came to the US afterwards, as I wrote earlier. The “snooty” elder Dr. Botstein spent his whole American career in Harlem Hospital, serving indigent cancer patients. The other snooty Dr. Botstein, Leon’s mother, was a pediatrician in the same milieu. I think they did OK with their lives, don’t you? And do not deserve to be sneered at by you.

    But I really cannot imagine that anyone is amused by your sneers against my family either, which has shit-all to do with anything we were discussing. I know that you are incapable of apologizing or just backing off, but you do not want to read the list of the murdered from within my closest family circle. Or read the obituary of my father, dead at age 35, four weeks after our escape, as a result of mistreatment in a work camp during our last winter in Germany.

    Oddly enough, I do not think that these circumstances strengthen any of my arguments, which have nothing to do with them: victims and survivors can be dead wrong. Why do you think then that your childish innuendos serve to discredit the arguments? Let’s say that I was in fact a German Jew, whose father converted to Christianity for the sake of his career, instead of a Socialist working man out of a Russian family, who never cared much one way or the other about being irremediably Jewish. My name in the former case might then be Karl Marx. What would that (dis)prove? Or does this reflection lead you to repent?

    Comment by David Kettler — March 6, 2009 @ 3:53 am

  32. I think they did OK with their lives, don’t you?

    Of course. They raised a son that they could be proud of. A crackerjack fundraiser who never met a hedge fund manager he couldn’t seduce. A symphony orchestra conductor, albeit a mediocre one. A political operative who works closely with George Soros, the man personally responsible for co-opting intellectuals across the Stalinist universe and making proper whores out of them. A college president with the chutzpah to put a professional cold warrior in the Alger Hiss chair. This is a man for the ages, who would defy the combined talents of a Dos Passos, Balzac, and James T. Farrell to render in all his demonic complexity. I mean who else could eulogize a Spanish Civil War veteran in a commencement address and then hire a guy like Jonathan Brent to replace Joel Kovel. Brent published Ronald Radosh’s atrocious book on the Spanish Civil War, whom my old friend Scott Mclemee summed up in a Washington Post book review: “More recently, in the course of research on the Spanish Civil War, he has discovered the virtues of General Franco — a fascist dictator, yes, but at least no communist.” This is enough to make you laugh and cry at the same time, or at least burn your Bard diploma–something I did about 20 years ago.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 6, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  33. So this is about you.

    Comment by David Kettler — March 6, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  34. Or about you and Leon. Is this your idea of an “unrepentant Marxist” analysis?

    Comment by David Kettler — March 6, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

  35. Congratulations Louis on such a wonderful website and such an entertaining exchange as this (on such a meaningless issue as who gets to teach at Bard College!) I am so happy to see a professor of David Kettler’s reputation still act as childishly as we – who are Bardians of the glorious “Old Bard” of the 50’s ans early 60’s, are likewise doing well into our seniority. Nothing keeps the youthful juices flowing so much as a free buffet at the Absurdity Diner. I must say, however, that I am surprised to find a Marxist vehicle being used to praise the likes of Leonard Chess, who together with his brother Phil, founded Chess Records and the dominant Negro Programmed radio station of the sixties, WVON, Chicago. To say they “backed Muddy Waters” borders on broad comedy is not outright farce. Not all Polish Jews were good guys. The Chess brothers gave leaches a bad name.

    Comment by Richard Greener — March 8, 2009 @ 1:06 am

  36. I wasn’t proposing Leonard Chess or his brother Phil for sainthood, but they would be an excellent case for Marxist analysis, which isn’t especially concerned with good guys. They were so alienated and poor as immigrants that they actually lived next to black people, a repugnant thing for white natives. (Where do you live Mr. Greener?) In business as rag-pickers, the brothers naturally wanted to move up a rung. (That’s called the American Dream, I believe.) They set up a bar for their neighbors, aiming to make a profit,not a loss. They noticed their customers produced and enjoyed music that the white natives turned up their noses at. They began to make records of this music that they sold to the black public. Did they exploit the black musicians? Of course, to the extent that they could get away with. That’s what business is all about. Eventually, as the musicians felt their strength and the civil rights movement gave them confidence, they refused to be exploited. But American music would have been poorer and black musicians slower to gain recognition without Chess Records. White musicians who would base their careers on the “negro” blues realized it. That’s why the Rolling Stones(London suburbanites)came to Chicago to record in the Chess Studio. And a point about language: To “stake” an artist (my word) is not to “back” an artist (Mr. Greener’s word). The staker is investing with the hope of returns. It’s called capitalism.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — March 8, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  37. Mr. Byrne, I do not know you and I assume you mean well, but your opinions about the Chess brothers and Chess Records appear to stem more from some romantic fiction than from reality. You ask where do I live? Where I live now is hardly anyone’s concern. However, in the 1960s, at the zenith of the Chess brothers’ success, I lived in Chicago, where they lived and where their parents lived – not in a black neighborhood, but in a traditional, Jewish neighborhood. I knew Leonard Chess. I was a partner in what was to become, later in the 1980s, the largest Black owned broadcasting company in America. If its a Marxist analysis you wish to apply to Leonard and Phil, Chess Records was a plaything compared to the financial success of their Radio Station WVON (“Voice of the Negro”) and later their sister facility just up the road in Milwaukee, WNOV (“Negro’s Own Voice”). My company owned and operated 30 radio stations across the country from Philadelphia to San Francisco, Detroit to Houston, Texas. Included among our stations was America’s original Negro Programmed radio station, WDIA in Memphis, and perhaps the greatest of all Black radio stations, WAOK Radio in Atlanta, of which I was proud to be the General Manager. I will let history judge the Chess brothers and their treatment or mistreatment of their recording artists. It is a well-documented and sordid tale. As for the claim that The Rolling Stones actually recorded at the Chess facilities in Chicago – other than a single instrumental track, there is no evidence of such a session and none of the Rolling Stone’s discography lists a credit for or pays a royalty to Chess Records. And your apparent belief that the civil rights movement of the 1960s put an end to the record industry stealing from black talent (and white talent too!), that’s a nice dream, but it is entirely your own invention. Finally, neither Leonard nor his brother Phil (who is still alive) “backed” or “staked” Muddy Waters or any other recording artist. Instead, they misappropriated their creative work, underpaid or failed to pay at all their rightful royalties and used the American legal system to have their way. Now, there’s fertile ground for your Marxist analysis

    Comment by Richard Greener — March 8, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  38. Mr. Greener: No, I don’t think the exploitation of artists by entrepreneurs has ended.

    You can read about the Chess recording studio at 2120 South Michigan Avenue, on page 121 of Rich Cohen’s “The Record Men”(2004): “It’s where rock bands from England came on pilgrimage. The Rolling Stones cut several sides in the studio, including ‘2120 South Michigan Ave.,’ a happy-peppy version of a Little Walter riff.”

    It doesn’t really matter who I am or who you are. But your personal business dealings with the Chess brothers seem to have clouded your vision. Try being a bit more ‘romantic’.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — March 9, 2009 @ 1:21 am

  39. Mr. Byrne, I am nothing if not a romantic… please see my novels, “The Knowland Retribution” and “The Lacey Confession.” Having spent my first working lifetime in Black radio, I love the music and the people who make it. Also, I never said I didn’t like Leonard Chess. I did. I enjoyed the movie “Cadillac Records” too. But I understood it was a movie, not the truth. I believe my personal knowledge in this matter, rather than clouding, actually clarifies my historical vision. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. One thing we may both be certain of is Leonard Chess, were he able, would have a great laugh at being talked about on a Marxist blog, and Phil (if he still has his wits about him) may be laughing now.

    Comment by Richard Greener — March 9, 2009 @ 5:03 am

  40. Hmmm. I’ve always wondered if Napoleon III laughed when he read “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.” Maybe. But then again, as with your view of the Czyz brothers, maybe not.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — March 9, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  41. –We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.

    –That we have, that we have, in faith, Sir John, we have. Our watchword was ‘Hem, boys!’ … Jesus, the days that we have seen!

    Comment by David Kettler — March 9, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

  42. “Violence! Violence!”

    Comment by Linda Sneed — July 18, 2014 @ 3:32 am


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