Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 17, 2009

Why you should contribute to Swans

Filed under: swans — louisproyect @ 7:18 pm

Contribute to Swans here: http://www.swans.com/about/donate.html

Although I am not 100 percent sure about the numbers, I believe that I have written 47 articles for Swans since 2003. But I am completely sure that the best things I have ever written have been for Swans, including articles on:

Given my generally cranky disposition and my wariness of the publishing business, either print or online, it is a sign of the generosity and good will of its editors that they have put up with me and vice versa, except for a spat that lasted a year or so. Nobody’s perfect, as Joe E. Brown told Jack Lemmon at the end of “Some Like it Hot”.

At first blush, Swans might be categorized with MRZine, Counterpunch and Znet (the latter two have had fund drives recently.) But, unlike them, it is not an “aggregator”, or compendium of articles that tend to be crossposted in multiple locations. Editor Gilles d’Aymery expects an article written for Swans to appear there exclusively. I think this is a good idea since it helps to create a relationship between author and editor that will never exist at the other websites. I should add that I have had very mixed experiences with MRZine, Counterpunch and ZNet but do think that they certainly have their place.

In addition to social and political analysis, Swans is one of the finest repositories of cultural analysis on the left wing of the Internet. I like to think that my own articles have been a modest contribution to that effort, but I have to tip my hat to people like Charles Marowitz who has written two dozen books on the theater and the arts. His latest article “Private World, Public Words” is an examination of the relationship between art and politics that I concur with heartily, as should be obvious from the conclusion to my piece on “The Mythology of Imperialism”.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t call your attention to the political writing of Michael Barker, whose work I first came across a couple of years ago before he began writing for Swans. Michael developed a reputation at that time for being a dragon-slayer of the foundation-based “left”, Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution in particular. His most recent article is an appreciation of Howard Zinn’s writings, particularly as it shows “how modern-day elites maintain their domination in spite of a massive array of organizations that ostensibly exist to represent the public’s interests.”

Finally, I would like to quote the conclusion of an article written by Swans co-editor Jan Baughman three years ago on the tenth anniversary of the publication:

Which brings me back to the reality of Swans. Swans is not an activist site in the sense of adopting a single issue: rallying the masses to Bring the Troops Home Now, or Stop Global Warming, or Impeach Bush. We endeavor to put these issues in a broader perspective. Milo Clark, one of the original and steadfast Swans, helped define our perspective: the importance of understanding patterns that connect; the knowledge that the only way not to play a game is not to play; and the recognition that attempting to solve problems using the tools, techniques, and thoughts which create them is silly. Without embracing these principles and acting upon them, we cannot hope for change.

This, then, is how I view Swans: as a relentless voice that is not heard in the corporate media; a weaver of tales, a connector of patterns, presenting the big picture, analyzing the story behind the stories, while celebrating poetry, and books, and culture — the very things that make us human and give us an appreciation of life in both its light and dark times. We cannot but carry on steadfast, keeping the words and ideas flowing every two weeks; with deadlines, setbacks, inspiration, hope for the future, and the deep appreciation of connections made by this so-called Information Superhighway that allows people to choose the road less traveled, where we would otherwise never meet. That, as Robert Frost said, can make all the difference.

So here’s to the next ten years of Swans. Accompany us on the journey.

So let’s help keep Swans afloat, just like the graceful bird it is named after. Go to http://www.swans.com/about/donate.html to make a contribution. Over the years I have been contacted by comrades about chipping in to keep Marxmail going. Although I have never turned a donation down, we are lucky to have the facilities of the U. of Utah at our disposal for the time being. So all I would ask at this point is for those of you who have felt the urge to send $20, 50 or 100 to Marxmail, please send it to Swans instead. The connection and other infrastructure costs to keep an online publication afloat are considerable and every dollar will be appreciated by the Swans flock, you can be sure.


  1. Actually, to date, Lou has contributed 57 (not 47) essays, film and book reviews to Swans. For the record, he is the easiest author to edit, as 1) his pieces are time and again impeccably written (with the occasional typos, of which we are all guilty), and 2) when a phrase makes little sense to this editor, or a fact need be double-checked, Lou comes back in a hurry — sentence rephrased, fact rechecked…

    The morning after publication, if a little boo boo remains, it is immediately corrected. Perfection cannot be reached, but we can strive for it, can we not?

    Beside the relationship between an editor/publisher and an author, however, there is a deeper bond that keeps the relationship going. It’s the notion (or concept?) of solidarity.

    Yes, Swans is not an “aggregator” like MRZine, Counterpunch, and Znet — and I will refrain from commenting on whether “they certainly have their place” (I’ve learned over the years, to my chagrin, about the competition and the absence of political synergy among self-defined left outputs). Swans is original all in and all out. It is not a scholarly journal (for those so inclined Monthly Review is a grand example and a regular destination of mine). It is not ideology driven for chapels are not our places of worship. But solidarity it is about.

    Solidarity about the collective wisdom (and, often enough, the misdirected ignorance…) all of us call for — the better good of the whole and not the privileges of the few. Solidarity about the cohesiveness of all lives — not just the human ones. Solidarity with the old French revolutionary motto: “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” … and justice for all. Solidarity is about you and me. It’s about throwing away the shackles that keep us alienated from each other in the name of purity and exceptionalism, and bring together that which make us who we are, the vehicle for the envisioned change that our fore parents fought and dies for. It’s a vision not to be abandoned.

    And solidarity is what has kept Lou and me together, whatever the agreements and disagreements. (It surely helps that there is deep respect between the author and the editor!)

    So solidarity, I ask you all: Help us financially if you can and please contribute your written work. Both your money and your words will go a long way keeping Swans going.

    (Many thanks, Lou, for your fund raising appeal on Swans behalf.)

    Cordially and comradely,


    Gilles d’Aymery
    Swans Commentary

    Comment by Gilles d'Aymery — November 17, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

  2. A further reason: if one contributes to Swans, one *should* contribute to Swans for the purposes of “willing reality”. Because you did, and do, that thing, and *you and others* should know. Right? Good deal, right? People?

    Comment by Jeffrey Daniel Rubard — November 17, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

  3. It should have read:

    “… the vehicle for the envisioned change that our fore parents fought and died for.”

    Or even grammatically better:

    “… the vehicle for the envisioned change that our fore parents fought and died for so that we would carry on the fight.” (Never end a sentence with an article….)

    Editors do need editing, don’t they?



    Comment by Gilles d'Aymery — November 17, 2009 @ 11:58 pm

  4. From what I’ve seen of SWANS, it is generally good though I don’t completely agree with their writing on Zimbabwe. I also remember looking at an article that praised the comedy of Jackie Mason without, if I remember correctly, mentioning that Mason is literally a fascist, what with his decades long support of the Meir Kahane movement. I don’t know if the author didn’t know about Mason’s involvement with this movement or didn’t think it relevant but I thought that that particular fact should have been included in the article. But maybe I’m just nitpicking, nobody’s perfect. I can make criticisms also of Zcom ( e.g. I think their selection of articles on their frontpage is from too limited a group of sources), Monthly Review Zine, Counterpunch with Cockburn & company’s excessive enthusiasm for right wing libertarians, etc.

    Comment by Chris Green — November 19, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  5. Here is the article about Jackie Mason that I referenced in my last place:


    Comment by Chris Green — November 19, 2009 @ 12:51 am

  6. You should mention that Swans is a bi-weekly magazine, with a small group of regular writers (possibly larger now), including some real gems like Marowitz, and another bloke (can’t remember his name) who wrote a brilliant take-off on the neocons entitled “Soup in the Evening. . .” The subject matters are diverse, as you suggest, and the editors welcome and respond to reader comments, many of which come from outside the US, so Swans is a kind of eclectic community for leftists “sans frontieres”.

    Comment by senecal — November 20, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

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