Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 5, 2010

Letter to John Weeks

Filed under: nicaragua — louisproyect @ 2:18 pm

John Weeks

Hello, John

I don’t know if you remember me but I chaired the debate between you and  Paul Berman just after the Sandinistas were voted out of office.  Originally Michael Moore had agreed to debate Berman but I was persuaded  that you would be a better choice because you were an “expert”. Worst  decision of my life, I am afraid.

I just took a look at your website (http://jweeks.org) that was  announced on Jerry Levy’s mailing list, a gathering place for Marxist  economists. Out of curiosity, I went there and found a paper that you  and your wife wrote in 1992 making the discovery that the FSLN was not  really “revolutionary socialist”, like you–a professor emeritus–I  suppose. It was the same argument I heard from James Petras around that  time. One imagines that if you or him had been president of Nicaragua,  then the country would have been saved.

But leaving aside your politics, which someone described to me as Maoist  (unfortunately after the event), the real question I have always had is  why you were so unprepared. You winged it for 20 minutes or so, while  the filthy Paul Berman had a well-prepared presentation. I remember it  like yesterday, you informing an audience of solidarity activists that  the FSLN was just like the PRI in Mexico–something in clear distinction  to the cozy relationship the USA enjoyed with Mexico.

Anyhow, I hope you are enjoying your professor emeritus status. My  advice is to take up gardening or basket-weaving and turn down any  invitations to speak at such debates in the future for the sake of the  radicals who might mistakenly invite you.

Yours truly,

Louis Proyect

23 Comments »

  1. Michael Moore would have definitely been a better choice. Whatever his faults, at least Moore had the principles to get fired as editor from Mother Jones magazine for refusing to allow equal standing for the Contra side of the debate. Just like there’d be no state of Israel today if it weren’t for Uncle Sam, the Contras couldn’t have existed without that same child molesting Uncle.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  2. Granted, there was a deterioration of FLSN politics in the early 90s:

    http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj74/gonzalez

    Comment by Jenny — June 5, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

  3. Jenny: Just like with the USSR, you very frustratingly never seem to quite grasp the unique & decisive social forces, like relentless imperialist encirclement, blockade & sabotage for starters, that directly lead to the political degeneration of these fledgling workers’ states — although one could argue that the degeneration of the Sandinistas began much earlier, like from the outset, when the leadership refused to expropriate the expropriators when it had the chance.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  4. Obviously, I’m sure they did great things when they took power,but after all the fighting, they seemed to give in to wealth. I’m rather stunned at the fact that you refuse to look at these governments critically.

    Comment by Jenny — June 5, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

  5. Oh yes, and about the “necessity” of the Berlin Wall:

    http://socialistworker.org/2009/11/03/stalinism-and-eastern-europe

    Comment by Jenny — June 5, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  6. You’re such a time waster Jenny. I just critisized the Sandanistas for not expropriating the expropriators. That means they didn’t fully nationalize industries and seize a bunch of property from rich people, let alone round up a bunch of the crooked torturers from the old regime and shoot them publicly.

    I’d go further and say they should have never held elections with a gun to their heads. I was there in the summer of 1989. If the Soviets didn’t exist their military wouldn’t have even had helicopters. They tried to buy some Mirage jet fighters from France to defend themselves against Contra attacks. The Hawks in the US Senate said that they should be bombed for even thinking about buying jets to defend themselves. The Doves, like the liberal Paul Tsongas who you’d have (if you were old enough) probably voted for if Dukakis didn’t get the nod, argued instead that no, we should first wait to see if they actually acquire the jets… and then bomb them. So the Sandinistas got MIG jet fighters from the Soviets instead, much better quality and practically for nothing. That was Mission Accomplished for Uncle Sam since, you see, it had a much nicer ring in the Pentagon to say “Soviet supplied Sandinistas” rather than “French supplied Sandinistas.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  7. As far as the Berlin Wall I’ve already wasted enough time explaining to you why it was of course absolutely necessary. A beseiged workers’ state cannot waste its scarce resources educating kids through childhood to adult rocket scientists or whatever only to then have walk over the border for a nicer apartment, a big screen TV and some discoteques.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2010 @ 10:40 pm

  8. The true story of East Germany’s birth and death could never be conveyed in a film such as this, but there are realities that never surfaced in conventional Cold War narratives. In Carolyn Eisenberg’s Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949, we learn that US President Franklin Roosevelt intended that Germany be deindustrialised, demilitarised and — most importantly — de-Nazified after the war, a goal shared by his partner Joseph Stalin. Then along came President Harry Truman, who saw communism as just another impediment to US hegemony. In violation of the Potsdam and Yalta agreements, Truman pushed for reindustrialisation of West Germany under the Marshall Plan and the creation of a formal West German state.

    Washington then abruptly ended de-Nazification, leaving 640,000 war criminals unprosecuted and cancelled steps to break up the cartels that had provided much of Hitler’s economic and social base. Defying conventional notions of Stalin’s intractability, US ambassador Walter Bedell Smith confessed: “We really do not want nor intend to accept German unification in any terms that the Russians might agree to, even though they seemed to meet most of our requirements.”

    And what did the Soviets seek? Nothing but what had already been hammered out at Yalta and Potsdam, namely US$10 billion in reparations, four-power control of the Ruhr Valley and vigourous de-Nazification and permanent demilitarisation. In exchange, they would accept free elections throughout Germany modelled along the lines of the old Weimar Republic — hardly the stuff of communist subversion.

    full: http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/30689

    Comment by louisproyect — June 5, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

  9. Kind of reminds me of when in Vietnam Ho Chi Mihn basically plagiarized the US Constitution and offered to have UN inspected free nationwide elections to ratify it but Uncle Sam wouldn’t have any of that nonsense as it might give legitamacy to a communist revolution, and then you’d really have the “Domino Effect.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 5, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

  10. “As far as the Berlin Wall I’ve already wasted enough time explaining to you why it was of course absolutely necessary. A beseiged workers’ state cannot waste its scarce resources educating kids through childhood to adult rocket scientists or whatever only to then have walk over the border for a nicer apartment, a big screen TV and some discoteques”

    What the fuck’s wrong with allowing leisure time?

    Comment by Jenny — June 5, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

  11. And never mind the previous socialist worker article, here’s a better critique:

    http://socialistworker.org/2009/11/12/revolutions-of-1989

    So the failure to “denazify” Russia made Stalin’s oppression okay,eh? Good to know.

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 12:06 am

  12. So the failure to “denazify” Russia made Stalin’s oppression okay,eh? Good to know.

    Was this a reference to what I wrote? Nothing would make Stalin “okay”. The only point being made is that the Berlin Wall is not something that should be seen in simplistic Cold War terms.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2010 @ 12:09 am

  13. So the Berlin wall was put up because the U.S. was against German Unification? Or was Stalin against it? I’m confused. And my reply wasn’t to you as much as it was to Karl who’s a bit more caustic, to say the least.

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 12:44 am

  14. Absolutely nothing so long as the resources of the beseiged workers’ state aren’t pilfered by imperialist marauders.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 1:05 am

  15. So Discoteques were created for pilfering resources? Really?

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 2:00 am

  16. P.S. look what I found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_wall#Background

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 2:19 am

  17. Im sorry wikipedia? while I stifle a chuckle Ill tell you something, wikipedia isn’t as reliable as you might think.

    Comment by SGuy — June 6, 2010 @ 2:31 am

  18. My god,I thought the argument about which ‘camp’ we were in had gone away with the collapse of the USSR.Reality ain’t black or white,but both.

    Comment by damien — June 6, 2010 @ 3:21 am

  19. [So the failure to “denazify” Russia made Stalin’s oppression okay,eh? Good to know.]

    Jenny. For crissakes. Idiotic statements like that can only bring out the caustic in any sentient being.

    Perhaps that’s by design? Are you some kind of agent provocateur or just stupid?

    If neither then “I’m confused” should be your middle name.

    The Russians smashed the Nazis so they didn’t need to “denazify” Russia, their homeland, but rather Germany.

    If, say, you were the leader of a workers’ state you couldn’t, unless you were a terrible leader, let your intellectual infrastructure walk over a border and stay just because they might like capitalism’s night life with its prostitutes and drugs better.

    Hence to protect their intellectual commodities a beseiged workers’ state is compelled to build a wall. What part of that don’t you get?

    Maybe you can grasp this: If Cuba wasn’t an island it too would have to build a wall or the revolution’s gains would perish amidst imperialist encirclement.

    Now if your argument is why can’t workers’ states have discos, then just freakin’ say so, as that’s a different argument altogether, and I’d be for them right alongside you.

    Why have workers longing for overpriced spittle like Coca Cola when it’s not rocket science to bottle Hammer & Sickle Cola, particularly when there’s cheap sugar in Cuba to be had.

    Your constant confusion over simple concepts is what gets you into ridiculous arguments.

    Maybe if you read some actual Trotsky instead of these “Cliff Notes” (pun intended) you’d actually understand the dual nature of the Soviet State and wouldn’t have to going searching for bogeymen that don’t exist.

    Nobody’s defending the incompetence & turpitude of the Stalinist bureaucracy any more than we’re defending the incompetence & turpitude of Gettlefinger and the UAW’s bureaucracy. But when capitalist marauders try and smash that union then we defend it tooth & nail.

    You defend American trade unions don’t you? Yes or no? Well assuming it’s yes, since that’s the last feeble defence workers have in this blighted land, then know that the leaders in their bureaucracies are analogous to Stalinists. Their existence is dependent on defending the gains of the union’s contracts, even though their parasitic position, beseiged as they are by the bosses demands and open shops, socially compells them to simultaneously undermine the workers through class collaboration.

    The most socioloically concise definition of the USSR was a giant trade union that seized state power.

    Now connect the dots.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 4:06 am

  20. “Now if your argument is why can’t workers’ states have discos, then just freakin’ say so, as that’s a different argument altogether, and I’d be for them right alongside you.”

    they did have them you know

    “Maybe you can grasp this: If Cuba wasn’t an island it too would have to build a wall or the revolution’s gains would perish amidst imperialist encirclement.”

    Too sweeping a statement: cuba allowed mass emigration of skilled personnel in th 60’s and massive emigration of declasses and other alienated social elements in the 1980’s. Hopefully you know that cuba’s policy on emigration is very different from that of east germany and others in the eastern block. For example, in cuba, it is made explicit that your right to emigrate will be temporarily suspended if you choose to train as a doctor or if you are up for military service. For everyone else the restrictions on movement are more a function of US policy than Cuban policy. While more difficult in their context, the east germans could have tried to adopt a similar approach: if you choose not to benefit from free higher education you can go, if you are an expropriated bourgeois you are also free to go. Blanket prohibitions are generally not the way to solve social problems.

    Comment by max — June 6, 2010 @ 5:38 am

  21. Fair enough max, but I swept the statements purposely to illustrate a larger point which has not been undermined by your example of miniscule exceptions some quarter or half century ago in Cuba.

    That larger point, which is apparently impossible for people like Jenny to grasp, you made quite eloquently in the following 10 words in quotes: For workers’ states “restrictions on movement are more a function of US policy.”

    The problem is in Jenny’s world view Uncle Sam always gets the benefit of the doubt, never Cuba or the USSR.

    It’s not like this is an isolated incident either. This feigning confusion followed by absurd statements is a constant refrain of hers.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  22. So you’re just opposed to capitalist leisure in different borders, not in worker states? Now we’re getting somewhere, I think. And really, the Berlin Wall was part of a tit for tat battle: the U.S. bordered up West Germany so Russia bordered up East Germany, but that doesn’t make one better than the other.

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  23. Jenny: Of course I’m for the leisure of all workrs. The point is that it’s much easier for the West to supply creature comforts to their citizenry when they have the bounty of 70% humanity immiserated through imperialist plunder, maniuplated markets and uneven trade.

    As far the Berlin Wall, if you continue to insist is was Stalin’s fault then please write a letter to Carolyn Eisenberg explaining why her 12 years of dilligent research is all bullshit because I’m done with your nonsensical ramblings.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 10:45 pm


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