Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 20, 2009

Left Forum 2009 journal (Saturday)

Filed under: Academia,revolutionary organizing,socialism — louisproyect @ 5:45 pm

As will be obvious from my take on the very first panel I attended, the Left Forum is as always a mixed bag. But this year there were so many panels that promised to be of extraordinary interest that I made the decision to attend both the Saturday and Sunday sessions. I report on Saturday first.

****

10-12am: “Dependency Theory Revisited: Elements for a Critical Interpretation of the New-Developmentism in Latin American Governments”

As a long time dependista, I was curious to see what this was all about. Who in the world would be “revisiting” a theory that was considered distinctly unfashionable in the academy and why? The scheduled speakers were Brazilians-Fernando Corrêa Prado and Monika Ribeiro de Freitas Meireles-studying at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). As the session began, Monika informed us sarcastically that Fernando could not make it because he had recently gotten married and preferred to go on his honeymoon rather than attend the Left Forum.

Monika is a graduate student and unfortunately appeared to be just getting her feet wet around the dependency debate. She gave a presentation using Powerpoint, just like my wife does in her microeconomics course. All in all, I was made to feel like a student and did not enjoy it very much, especially when the teacher was so misinformed.

The “new developmentalism” referred to in the title of the workshop encompassed all of the new left-oriented governments in Latin American ranging from Hugo Chavez on the left to Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Brazil’s Lula on the right. What they all had in common, according to Monika, was their willingness to promote the class interests of a section of the national bourgeoisie in a kind of neo-Peronism.

I found this use of the term “developmentalism” rather odd since it has always meant a mixture of Walt Rostow type economics internally and free trade treaties externally, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, etc. to me.

She then proceeded to present a survey of dependency theorists, breaking them into two camps, mainstream and Marxist. For those who have some knowledge of the history of this tendency, her inclusion of Raul Prebisch and Fernando Cardoso in the first group and Andre Gunder Frank in the second was to be expected.

What was missing entirely from her calculations was the role of the Robert Brenner influenced theorists in Latin America who blamed Andre Gunder Frank for exactly the sins she attributed to the “developmentalist” governments. If you look at the debate that raged in the pages of Latin American Perspectives in the 1970s and 80s, you will see that Frank and his co-thinkers were accused over and over again of adapting to the national bourgeoisie. You might even say that the reaction against the 1960s dependency theorists was inspired by this passsage from Robert Brenner’s 1977 New Left Review article “The Origins of Capitalist Development: A Critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism”:

Yet, the failure of Frank and the whole tradition of which he is a part-including Sweezy and Wallerstein among others-to transcend the economic determinist framework of their adversaries, rather than merely turn it upside down, opens the way in turn for the adoption of similarly ill-founded political perspectives. Where the old orthodoxy claimed that the bourgeoisie must oppose the neo-feudalists, Frank said the neo-feudalists were capitalists. Where the old orthodoxy saw development as depending on bourgeois penetration, Frank argued that capitalist development in the core depended upon the development of underdevelopment in the periphery…The consequence is that Frank’s analysis can be used to support political conclusions he would certainly himself oppose.

Thus so long as incorporation into the world market/world division of labour is seen automatically to breed underdevelopment, the logical antidote to capitalist underdevelopment is not socialism, but autarky. So long as capitalism develops merely through squeezing dry the ‘third world’, the primary opponents must be core versus periphery, the cities versus the countryside-not the international proletariat, in alliance with the oppressed people of all countries, versus the bourgeoisie. In fact, the danger here is double-edged: on the one hand, a new opening to the ‘national bourgeoisie’; on the other hand, a false strategy for anti-capitalist revolution.

This is the real antithesis to the “new developmentalism”, not Andre Gunder Frank type dependency theory.

****

12-2pm: “Making Sense of the Greek Uprising”

This was worth the price of admission, four Greek Marxist professors sizing up the December uprising.

Costas Panayotakis gave an introduction to the Greek left, which was either critical of the uprising or bypassed by it. As might be expected, the Communist Party was appalled by the destruction of property. The CP generally steers clear of any protests–violent or nonviolent–that it does not directly control and habitually calls its own demonstrations rather than participate in a united front. It has a rival called the Coalition of the Radical Left (commonly known by its Greek abbreviation SYRIZA) that Costas described as Eurocommunist, with the peculiarity of the leader identifying with Chavez’s 21st century socialism. SYRIZA is closer to the youthful rebels than the CP but is not really part of it.

Andreas Kalyvas began his presentation by applying three categories to the revolt that suggested David Harvey’s influence:

1. Time: 44 cities were affected in 24 hours and the uprising lasted for 3 weeks.

2. Space: rural areas were affected as well.

3. Size: the uprising incorporated the kinds of numbers of participants not seen since 1974.

Next he dealt with some of the unique features of the revolt, starting with the fact that it took place in a liberal democracy and on European soil. But most importantly, it involved a social layer that had only recently become a major player in Greek politics, or perhaps more accurately that had been external to Greek politics: the immigrant community.

Of the 1.5 million immigrants, who were mostly economic victims of Eastern European privatization, 900,000 were undocumented. Of the 300 arrested, half were immigrants. They along with the high school students were the primary foot soldiers of a revolt that has more recently moved in the direction of urban guerrilla warfare attacking police stations and banks which Kalyvas likened to Italy in the 1970s. And, as was the case in Italy, the organized parliamentary left has been bypassed totally.

Peter Bratsis focused on the legitimation crisis that produced the explosion. He explained that relationships between the state and capitalism, peculiar to Greek society, created vulnerabilities that reached a boiling point as Greece became integrated into the European Union’s neoliberal framework.

Apparently, capitalism came rather late to Greece and in the absence of a fully developed capitalist economy the state became a source of employment, particularly for people who had been admitted to the state-funded universities. Until the 1980s, half of all college graduates worked in the public sector. All in all, this arrangement sounded to me a whole lot like Kemalist Turkey.

Under the impact of neoliberal restructuring, the welfare state in Greece has been eroding at a rapid pace. High school students are in the vanguard of resisting these changes, particularly because it affects them personally but also because they are cultural rebels reacting against the rampant commodification taking place. As proof of this, a number of the rioters came from wealthy suburban families who were not directly affected by the neoliberal changes. (This observation came from Neni Panourgia, the speaker who followed Bratsis.)

Stathis Gourgouris introduced a cautionary note, drawing attention to the fact that for the rioters rage played more of a role than politics. Sparked by the cop murder of a high school student in a “bohemian” neighborhood sounding like Athens’s East Village, they moved against the 3 C’s: corruption, cops and commodification.

Gourgouris warned that there was a nihilist streak in the uprising that could not be ignored. It was fueled by a sense that all politics was rotten, including that of the left. He said that it was possible that under certain conditions the movement could shift to the right. But for the time being, it was shaped by three equally important factors: nihilism, spontaneism, and anarchism. During the discussion period, I commented that it sounded like the Argentine piqueteros who also had a fetish against politics. Considering the fact that Greece has powerful anarchist traditions, this outcome might be expected to some extent.

****

3-5pm: “Indigenous Mobilization in South America” (cancelled)

I was looking forward to this more than any other event this weekend, since it included Hugo Blanco, the Peruvian Trotskyist who led a guerrilla movement in the 1960s. Blanco is now 74 and in failing health so I wanted to get a chance to hear him speak, especially around the question of indigenous mobilization. I also worked overtime this week to finish scanning Mariategui’s 7 Essays on Peruvian Reality just to be able to announce it to the workshop. Unfortunately, it was cancelled. Why I do not know, although I do worry that it might have something to do with Blanco’s health.

Instead I went to hear Joel Kovel, who I ran into in the hallway just outside the room where Hugo was scheduled to speak. Joel and I spoke briefly about his struggle at Bard and he reported that he had a meeting with Botstein recently to discuss the terms of his firing. It seemed that Botstein was reacting to the pressure mounted by a disgruntled blogosphere and hoped to mollify Kovel in some way, short of course of giving him back his job. Joel revealed to me that he was glad to be free of Bard in some ways. The prospects of returning to this feudal baronage had as much appeal to him as it would for a parolee being invited to return voluntarily to prison.

Joel’s fellow panel members included Barbara Nimri Aziz, the WBAI broadcaster, Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and Alan Goodman, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party who organized the event and served as chairperson.

This was my first opportunity to ever hear an RCP’er speak and it was quite an earful. I was shocked by the boneheaded sectarianism that made groups like the British SWP and the DSP in Australia look like Proyectites by comparison. He started by “preaching to the choir” by telling us about all the bad things that Israel has done. He had nothing good to say about Hamas, whose Islamic fundamentalism was explained in terms of the defeat of the Cultural Revolution that he regarded as one of the greatest revolutionary movements of the past half-century. If Maoism still prevailed in China, people in the Middle East would be reading the Little Red Book rather than the Quran. I am not making this up.

Against my better judgment, I asked Goodman a question during the discussion period. Since Joseph Stalin was part of the RCP’s pantheon, how would he explain USSR support for the creation of the state of Israel? Once my better judgment returned to me, I walked out of the room before I had a chance to endure his response. Although I have little use for www.marxist.com type vanguardism, they are always useful for providing orthodox Marxist politics on matters such as these:

At the beginning of 1947 a very strange coalition had come into being over the Palestinian question — the USA, the USSR and the Zionists. They all supported the partition of Palestine. Of course each one of these had their own specific interests. The USA wanted to push out the old British colonial lion and replace him in the oil rich and strategically important Middle East. As for Stalin, he wanted to use the Jews in Palestine against British imperialism, and to establish a point of support for the Soviet bureaucracy in the Middle East. We also know what Ben-Gurion and his gang wanted a “Great Israel” on both sides of the Jordan or at least encompassing the Sinai peninsula.

We could ask ourselves the question as to whether Stalin had any inkling of a Marxist understanding when he supported Zionism? The answer is, of course, that he did not. His approach was all reduced to playing the old game between Russian and British imperialism for control of this region. Stalin didn’t support any drastic social changes in Palestine and thus a bloody conflict to divide Palestine was absolutely predictable.

5-7pm: Regroupment of the European Left

This too was worth the price of admission since it included Leon Cremieux of the LCR and now the NPA. I brought along my new Flip Video Camera, which is about the size of a digital still camera, to record the event. Alas, the camera’s software refused to compress the video, thus making it unusable. I cannot judge whether buying the Flip was a mistake (it was only $115) but if not for this problem, I can recommend it strongly.

The session was chaired by Sebastian Budgen and also included Cinzia Arruzza from Sinistra Critica in Italy (a leftwing split from Refundazione) and Katja Kipping and Oliver Nachtwey from Die Linke in Germany. It was too bad that my video experiment did not work since the visual contrast between Cremieux and the others was quite striking. Cremieux was in his fifties and described himself as a trade unionist. I don’t know what kind of job he had but he had the hands of a pipe-fitter and a beer gut. Everybody else dressed in black, looked like art students or punk musicians, and was surely under fifty if not under forty. The big surprise was Sebastian Budgen, a rather lofty figure in the world of Marxist journaldom. He must be very bright and of singular determination to have carved out a niche in this world at such an early age. I expected someone older and tweedier, not the Johnny Rotten image he projected.

Cremieux’s talk did not break new ground, although it was interesting to hear. Basically, the LCR decided to launch the NPA because there was massive opposition to capitalism per se rather than some foggy notion of neoliberalism in France. The LCR’s judged that a new party could galvanize all the radical-minded people in France who were fed up with the SP and the CP’s reformist politics. During the discussion period, I asked whether the LCR’s encountered any resistance in their ranks when they proposed something that might seem “liquidationist” in traditional Trotskyist terms. And also whether there would be problems with them interacting with people who had never been members of the LCR. He said that the comrades were not interested in maneuvering behind the backs of such people and understood that the tasks of the class struggle in France dictated such an approach. I was very impressed with his reply.

He was followed by Cinzia Arruzza who reported on the disgusting treachery of Refundazione. I had not been paying much attention to this once promising formation, but apparently it has lost most of its support because many of its leaders have backed the “war on terror” and neoliberal economic policies as part of its coalition deal with the social democrats who now call themselves the Democratic Party of Italy (!!!). Even after losing all its parliamentary seats, the rightwing leaders persist in their shitty politics. Cinzia stressed that once you start cutting deals with the right, you lose all credibility as a leftwing party. Sounds to me like Italy and the U.S. have the same kinds of problems nowadays.

The comrades from Die Linke were proud of having built this promising new party but worried about two things: one, the tendency to believe in neo-Keynesian solutions rather than anti-capitalist struggle that led to total transformation of the system; two, a tendency toward social conservatism attributable to the trade union base in West Germany that was instrumental in launching the party. One hopes that Die Linke does not go down the same road as the Greens in Germany or Refundazione. Perhaps the severity of the economic crisis will help keep the party on the right road.

****

Socializing

I am glad that my pre-registration name tag was in large block letters since a couple of my favorite people spotted my name and chatted with me briefly. One was Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb fame who was much more soft-spoken and even shy in person than his flamboyant Internet persona. But that’s true for me as well, I guess. The other was Derrick O’Keefe from Canada who is about Richard’s age and writes for various online publications. I regard both of these youngsters as the cream of the upcoming revolutionary crop and only hope that they can avoid the mistakes of my youth. I know for a fact that Derrick has a very good handle on sectarianism and I expect good things from him in the future. I told Richard that he has an outstanding future in front of him as a Marxist intellectual and was of course happy to tell that to him in person.

A group of us met up at the Monthly Review table after 7pm and went out for drinks. That included my old friend Michael Yates, the irrepressible Sartesian, Kurt Hill, an ex-SWP’er and Bard College graduate like me, and Robbie Laurel Kwan from the Philippines. We chatted about Spanish colonialism in Mexico and the Philippines, working on the railroad, and various other topics while munching on chicken wings and fried mozzarella sticks and drinking beer and whiskey. A fine time was had by all.

Tomorrow I report on Sunday’s sessions.

25 Comments »

  1. I don’t like Proyectite. I’d rather be a Proyectista.

    Comment by chegitz guevara — April 20, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  2. Thanks for the report.
    are you aware of audio/video recordings (or pdfs, whatever) of any of the debates?

    Comment by easteuropean — April 20, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  3. It seemed like just about every panel discussion I attended was videotaped, but I really have no way of knowing whether any of it ended up on the Internet. If I find out anything, I will announce it.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 20, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  4. Louis – what’s your ballpark guess of the total number of attendees over these 2 days?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 20, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  5. Yeah, I saw you at the European Regroupment panel and at the Monthly Review table, answering the question of someone who wondered what the Marxist-Humanists were. I was also at Richard Seymour’s panel on Sunday, but for both of you I couldn’t think of much else to say beyond a fanboyish “Ilikeyourblogsomuch!” so didn’t try to engage in conversation.

    Comment by Nathaniel — April 20, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  6. Also, I think Louis was distracted by the kid making noise sitting next to me 😀

    Comment by Nathaniel — April 20, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

  7. I honestly don’t know why people bring babies to something like this. If they can pay $45 to register, surely they can pay for a baby-sitter. I have a feeling it might have something to do with the notion that they are “empowered” by taking their kid with them, but it is no different than putting up with a crying baby in a movie theater.

    On the numbers, I can’t really say. Truth be told, the organizers of this event don’t have a very keen sense of the importance of such matters. If I ran it, I’d allow feedback on some kind of blog. But then again, I am just a sans culotte so that ain’t gonna happen.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 20, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong but I seem to recall reading somewhere (probably on this site) that this event was formerly known as the “Socialist Scholars Conference” which historically was primarily organized by the ISO.

    Who were the “organizers” of this event? Primarily the ISO still? If so it’s indeed odd that there’s not some kind a feedback blog since 1) the ISO always had many youth in their ranks and 2) it’s a cheap and effective way to organize and advertise the event?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 20, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  9. So as far as you know this Left Forum is not organized by a discernable left organization?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 20, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  10. Louise said…”Truth be told, the organizers of this event don’t have a very keen sense of the importance of such matters. If I ran it, I’d allow feedback on some kind of blog. But then again, I am just a sans culotte so that ain’t gonna happen”….

    No kidding,indeed the presentations could be recorded for later pod casting.Indeed a socialist type FORA.TV site would be very helpful.

    Comment by dirk — April 21, 2009 @ 12:03 am

  11. Louis–
    Nice write-up. Thanks for sharing mine on MarxMail–most hits I’ve ever gotten.

    -Max

    Comment by max1284 — April 21, 2009 @ 4:30 am

  12. The forum was once known as the Socialist Scholars Conference but that did not mean it had anything to do with the ISO sect. Far from it. It was really, and still is largely, a DSA operation with people like Bogdan Denitch key organizers.

    Comment by Anon — April 21, 2009 @ 6:59 am

  13. “Indeed a socialist type FORA.TV site would be very helpful.”

    I thought of registrering the name “Redtube” once for something like that, but unfortunately it already exists and isn’t quite socialist…

    Comment by Martin Wisse — April 21, 2009 @ 10:41 am

  14. I particpated in a pannel entitled “How Occupation Works” which was organized by a client of mine, Ayreen A. Also participating was Father Frank Morales, a radical Episcopal priest; Jerry the Peddler, a squatter leader from the Lower East Side; Olive McKeon of the NYU occupation; Drew Phillips of Take Back NYU; John Clegg of the New School in Exile; and representatives from Picture the Homeless.

    We had about 40 people who attended, predominately youth (unlike the other talks and pannells I attended). I briefly discussed my experiences during the ABC Community Center occupation in 1989 on the Lower East Side, as well as some of my experiences as a squatter for three years. The students discussed their experiences during recent building occupations at various colleges in the City. And others related lessons to be learned from their occupation activities. It was fun! (And I made a number of new contacts who will be coming to our all-day Greenpoint/Williamsburg Housing Forum Saturday April 25t at Boricua College, 186 N. 6th Street (Bedford & Driggs Ave “L” to Bedford Ave beginning at 10 am). Saturday April 25th.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

    Comment by Kurt Hill — April 21, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  15. The forum was once known as the Socialist Scholars Conference but that did not mean it had anything to do with the ISO sect. Far from it. It was really, and still is largely, a DSA operation with people like Bogdan Denitch key organizers.

    Not really. This article appeared in a neoconservative newspaper and is fairly useful as a simple background on the facts, but the analysis is fucked up. Basically, Denitch and his DSA pals fired Eric Canepa because he was considered too sympathetic to the Serbs and hostile to the DP. The DSA’ers began organizing their own conference but it never got off the ground.

    Socialist Scholars’ Split Cancels Confab
    By JEREMY SMERD, Special to the Sun | April 13, 2005
    http://www.nysun.com/new-york/socialist-scholars-split-cancels-confab/12129/

    For 23 years, the Socialist Scholars Conference was a big tent under which leftist activists and academics took shelter in an increasingly conservative America. Last June, however, seven of the group’s 16 board members resigned, “in protest of the lack of democratic and participatory governance procedures.”

    As a result of the split, the group’s annual conference has been canceled, at least for this year. Meanwhile, the seven who quit the board quickly formed a new organization, the 2005 Left Forum, which has scheduled its debut conference for this weekend at the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown Manhattan.

    The new group grew in large part out of a desire by dissidents to broaden the socialist conference’s scope to include more activists. Though it preceded the November presidential election, observers said the split also reflects internal tension simmering within the broadly defined but fractured “left,” which has not been able to respond en masse to the rightward shift in American politics in recent years. Specifically, the resignations were a referendum, those who handed them in said, on the Socialist Scholars Conference’s ability to reflect the ideals of inclusion and consensus building that they had sought to foster in the world at large.

    “We did not want to be part of an organization where we felt people were violating their own principles,” a board member who resigned, Stanley Aronowitz, said. Mr. Aronowitz, who is a sociology professor at CUNY, also is a founder of the new forum.

    “These disputes are not uncommon,” a founder of the conference who remains on its board, Bogdan Denitch, said. “The amazing thing is that we ran it for 23 years without breaking up. People who passionately believe in things tend to fight. Look at the Democrats and Republicans.” Mr. Denitch is an emeritus professor of sociology at CUNY.

    The resignations came after the board, led by Mr. Denitch, voted 8-7 last May to fire the group’s staff director, Eric Canepa. Mr. Denitch said Mr. Canepa had overstepped his bounds by making decisions over whom to invite to the annual spring conference, which had been held at the Cooper Union.

    Under Mr. Canepa, the group too closely resembled nongovernmental organizations “and the goody-goody organizations where the staff runs the thing and the leaders are just figureheads,” Mr. Denitch said. Furthermore, Mr. Denitch disagreed with Mr. Canepa’s choice of guest speakers: mainly “academics from Europe and former communists who are perfectly nice people but don’t have much to say,” Mr. Denitch said.

    American socialists, in Mr. Denitch’s view, can learn something from President da Silva of Brazil, who “was elected by the largest electorate in Latin America,” but not from President Castro of Cuba, who “has never faced an election.”

    Mr. Aronowitz, who was the 2002 Green Party gubernatorial nominee in New York, said the decision to resign had less to do with the firing of Mr. Canepa than with how it was done. The seven board members, in an e-mail addressed to the “Socialist Scholars Conference community” explaining their resignation, wrote: “We are leaving because we feel that the campaign to accomplish this was riddled with behavior we regard as politically unethical, including grossly inaccurate charges that were repeated even in the face of evidence of their inaccuracy, tirades that were abusive to the point of derangement, and the recurrent implication that those of us who objected to these procedures, being newcomers, were not the ‘real’ board.”

    Critics of Mr. Denitch said the board was intent on firing Mr. Canepa and began accusing him of misspending money, in particular a $10,000 grant. Warned that a vote to remove him would precipitate resignations, the board went ahead with it anyway, according to one of the board members who resigned, Frances Fox Piven.

    At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental difference in organizational philosophy, some insiders said. The firing of Mr. Canepa was akin to instituting a top-down management approach like that of a corporation, those who resigned said.

    “You can’t be authoritarian and want a society that is democratic or non-authoritarian,” Mr. Aronowitz said. “My politics is that if you are a member of the organization, it has to be prefigurative of the society you want to make. It was not in this case.”

    Mr. Denitch – who, like Mr. Aronowitz, is a veteran of the Democratic Socialists of America – said the minority contingent on the board had simply been outvoted and left in protest.

    Mr. Canepa, who is helping to organize this weekend’s Left Forum, downplayed the split, saying it was very easy to misinterpret as some kind of “political clash” but was “not a left-right split at all.” He declined to speak about the board’s decision not to renew his contract or about the resignations.

    In Internet discussions of the conference, some postings trace the split back to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when Mr. Denitch, who is originally from the former Yugoslavia and pressed for American intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s, supported the American-led war in Afghanistan. Those who eventually resigned had opposed it. When the Iraq war came in 2003, fierce opposition was seen as a point, conference members said, upon which everyone on the board could finally agree.

    Those organizing the Left Forum said that they plan to broaden debate this year by including more youth and activist groups and that special attention will be focused on core issues of the left, such as saving Social Security, protecting women’s right to abortion, and taking stock of the anti-war movement.

    “They want sessions as much as possible in which people disagree and hold conflicting positions,” a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Jesse Lemisch, said.

    Ms. Piven said she believed the Left Forum will include some of the old organizations but will also seek to bring into the fold some of the new organizations on the left, including more activists and youth groups, in an effort to broaden the left’s reach.

    “Their conference was academic – after all it was called the Socialist Scholars Conference,” Ms. Piven, a sociology professor at CUNY, said. “We will include academics but we will also include people from the movements.”

    Mr. Denitch contested the view that the Socialist Scholars Conference did not include younger voices or those of activists. Given the intensely felt political beliefs of those involved, he characterized the parting as an almost inevitable outcome.

    “It’s not unfair to say that people on the left tend to be more persnickety,” he said. “Conservative people on the right tend to respect authority. People on the left are taught to question authority.”

    “These debates are what’s good about leftist conferences,” a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Richard Wolff, said.

    “If it were the intent of one side to exclude the other it wouldn’t work,” Mr. Wolff, who has helped plan this weekend’s conference, continued. “The majority are acutely aware that if they want to have conferences with people who only agree with them, the small left will become the invisible left.”

    Comment by louisproyect — April 21, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  16. A source of continued amazement is found in the political symmetry of the anti-Castro DSAers being for the bombing of the Serbs — the hallmark of the “Cruise Missile Left”.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 21, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  17. From a non-activist leftist such as myself……we are waiting. When will ‘The Left’ get its shit together. We need ‘YOU’ now.
    The history of left splits is interesting but also depressing. From my own minimal reading it sure does seem logical to work towards some kind of United Front (from Leninists to SDA’ers) instead of all this micro perfectionism regarding who has the best line on this or that issue. In poll after poll the American people favor left of center policies. What we need is an organization to articulate those policies, organize and lead us. If the Left can’t do that, don’t make us feel guilty for supporting Obama. What choice do we have?
    la lucha continua

    Comment by Ed — April 21, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  18. “…don’t make us feel guilty for supporting Obama. What choice do we have?”

    Don’t worry. Leftists that on principle would never give a vote of confidence to the Party that prosecuted every major war in the 20th Century need not do anything to make you feel guilty. The everyday actions of the DP should suffice for that.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 21, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  19. So State Department Socialist Denitch thinks Castro is “undemocratic?” Takes one to know one. When Denitch was caalling the shots at the Socialist Scholars Conference, he had Russian socialist Boris Kagarlitsky banished after the latter had the audacity to attack Denitch by name during a major session for supporting US imperialism’s bombing of Yugoslavia. On another occasion, Denitch was so outraged at the amount of applause that Tariq Ali’s anti-imperialism was generating, that he made the other speakers at the main plenary, some of whom were from overseas, rush through or cut short their presentations so that he could get his own two cents of Soros-style socialism in ASAP.

    Of course, Denitch, being an old Shactmanite, was far more well versed in left lingo and history than most of other social democrats and red, white and blue “progressives” he regularly rubbed shoulders with. So he was able to put a more “radical” veneer on his support for counter-revolution, than, say, his old rival in the DSA, Michael Harrington would have. At one of the above events, Denitch lectured a bunch of us ultra-leftists about how Karl Marx also supported a bourgeois politician leading a “capitalist” war. That of course, would be Abraham Lincoln and how a war that ended slavery compares with one that sought to re-impose it on Yugoslavia was beyond me. Too bad Denitch never debated Peter Camejo on voting for the “Lesser Evil.” That would have been an event well worth being at, unlike most of the Socialist Scholars Conferences I attended.

    Comment by MN Roy — April 21, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  20. #7 “If they can pay $45 to register, surely they can pay for a baby-sitter”.

    How do you know they can afford to pay maybe double or more than you did to attend? And/or that they’re not following WHO guidelines that state babies should, whenever possible, be exclusively breast-feed for at least 6 months, with an only gradual transition to solids up to two years, and may not have been able to express enough milk to attend for a day? (I wrote about the Chinese milk scandal and the politics of infant feeding at http://www.greenleft.org.au/2008/771/39761 )

    Babies aren’t any problem at political or cultural events, unless they’re crying, which they don’t actually do most of the time (with considerable variation it’s true). Most parents are sensible enough to walk around the halls etc at those times, as they can’t take in anything either. Unfortunate for you guys if this person wasn’t.

    In any case, if the organisers didn’t provide on-site childcare that was cheap (i.e heavily subsidised by general conference costs), then you should direct your complaint to them.

    Comment by Nick Fredman — April 21, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  21. I mistakenly used the word “baby” in my comment above. The kid in question was playing cards with her mother, so I don’t think that breast feeding was an issue. And furthermore, I think it is completely disrespectful to bring kids or babies to events that they can disrupt. The SWP, for all its sins, used to have free day care at Oberlin and it is a shame that the Left Forum does not follow suit. I remember my mother dragging me along to adult meetings when I was 5 years old and hating every minute of it.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 21, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  22. # 21. Well that’s a bit different, but the vastly more important point than your comfort is that it’s disrespectful, if not a shameful dismissal of women’s oppression, not to provide free or cheap childcare at a left conference in a rich countries attended overwhelmingly by well-off people who could add a few bucks to their rego to subsidies the service. Clearly one of the better things the DSP copied from the SWP.

    You can tell the conference committee from me, if they don’t get their act together, next year I’ll organise a squad of 5 year old cadres to storm the platform whenever an organiser is speaking, and scream a mass impersonation of Sacha Baron Coen singing “I like to move it move it” in Madagascar 2, as our older boy is wont to do.

    Comment by Nick Fredman — April 22, 2009 @ 3:28 am

  23. […] famous bloggers Louis Proyect and Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb (who was also a speaker) here, here, and here. Doug Henwood’s talk is here, and a response here. Rather than give a report […]

    Pingback by Tragedy of the Commons « American Stranger — April 23, 2009 @ 5:15 am

  24. This look interesting,so far.
    If there are any real people here looking to network, leave me a post.
    Oh, and yes I’m a real person LOL.

    Later,

    Comment by BlueHornet — July 17, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  25. “Real people”? As opposed to what — fake people?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 17, 2009 @ 10:55 pm


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