Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 21, 2011

Harold Camping and Jack Barnes

Filed under: religion,sectarianism — louisproyect @ 8:34 pm

I’m probably one of the few people on the left who actually used to not only listen to Harold Camping on the radio but actually enjoyed it. I am in the habit of listening to all sorts of esoteric radio programs late at night, particularly those that feature religious fundamentalists who take phone calls. A typical Camping moment would involve a caller asking him how to interpret some bit of scripture. Almost inevitably Camping would see it as supporting his hardline theory of predestination. God had already determined who would be saved and who would be damned and it seemed to have little to do with how you led your life. So you might as well go out and enjoy your whisky at the roadhouse rather than work with lepers. I am sure that the True Believers would insist that this was not what they meant, but that’s the way it always sounded to me.

The main thing I liked about Camping was his deep baritone voice and his rather old-fashioned enunciation. It was like listening to a character in an early 1930s movie. When he didn’t have me chuckling about hellfire and brimstone, he had me drifting off to sleep through his mellifluous and soporofic tones.

Camping, of course, has been in the news lately with his predictions about the world coming to an end. He made the same kind of prediction back in 1994 that Mother Nature ignored. At the age of 90 I doubt if he has any future in the apocalypse business.

I was on the Internet back in 1994 when he made his last prediction. Around that time I posted something about it that I can’t find now but I am pretty sure it refers to the same scholarly study about this business that Alexander Cockburn referred to on Counterpunch:

It’s a safe bet that Camping and his disciples will be saying on May 22 that his math was merely a year or two off, and the end is still nigh. His congregation will have its faith fortified. Membership will probably increase, as it did after the failure of Camping’s last prediction of the Second Coming, which he scheduled for September 6, 1994.

Sociologists call the phenomenon of increased commitment to a batty theory, at the very hour of its destruction by external evidence, “cognitive dissonance.” The theory was developed by three sociologists, Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, who infiltrated a group headed by Dorothy Martin of Chicago who had received messages from the Planet Clarion that the world was scheduled for destruction by flood in the predawn hours of December 21, 1954. A flying saucer would save the group, whose members had abandoned, often at considerable expense and upheaval, all terrestrial commitments, pending transfer to Clarion.

The sociologists theorized that, when neither spaceship nor flood materialized, the group’s best strategy to avoid public humiliation would be to dismiss the failure of the prophesied events as due to minor miscalculations and then to proselytize vigorously, advertising a re-dated flood and interplanetary rescue. Dissonance between nutty theory and reality would be diminished amid growing popularity of the nutty theory. Anyone following the growth of the Christian religion in its early decades, or the Lesser of Two Evils crowd advocating support of a Democratic candidate, will recognize the dynamics.

Back in 1994 I was still in the throes of my SWP post-traumatic stress and tended to talk about this cult more than I do today. I am quite sure that I read about the “cognitive dissonance” theory back then and drew upon it to comment on the SWP that was just as batty in its own way as Dorothy Martin’s flying saucer cult. I can understand Cockburn’s reference to the Lesser of Two Evils cult but demur on one key point. That cult never put the kinds of demands on the faithful that the SWP did. Being a Progressive for Obama might require you to vote on election day while being in the SWP required you to donate $50 per week to the party and sell totally worthless newspapers in front of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in Houston, Texas. That’s some difference.

Like Harold Camping or Dorothy Martin, party leader Jack Barnes never skipped a beat when one of his millenarian predictions did not pan out. In 1979, the epoch of disco dancing and cocaine, he told his followers that proletarian revolution was imminent. When it turned out that the 80s were a time of political retreat for the working class and the left, he simply wrote off his predictions as being based on “slight miscalculations” and plunged ahead with new end-of-capitalism scenarios. As it turned out, the only that came to an end is his own sorry cult.

33 Comments »

  1. Thanks for your comments.

    I was in the YSA as a kid back in the early Eighties – a mere Jimmy Higgins – and I too came to recognize its cultish character in the years following. For me it was selling The Militant and passing out leaflets, for that Saturday evening’s Militant Labor Forum (I seem to remember that’s what it was called), under the oppressive heat of a Phoenix sun in some god forsaken part of town. In spite of all the leaflets handed out between us, I don’t think I ever saw anyone – aside from regular members and known sympathizers – show up for one of these forums. I wish now that the idea of making love behind the barricades and the militancy of days bygone hadn’t made such an impression on my romantic young mind – I might not have wasted my time.

    There was definitely a weird mentality that permeated the thinking of the hardcore members of the party that I knew. In retrospect, it’s clear to me now that these people were operating on faith, not evidence or reason, and I suspect that many of them had too much of their lives invested to walk away from it any too easily. They attached an importance to their message that was always tied to the workers and yet no worker that I ever met on the streets was even aware of our group let alone our message. It finally became clear to me that they were primarily writing for other left cults (incidentally, that’s how they would characterize other left groups like RCP and the Sparts). I remember an incident in which a comrade and I stopped off in Gila Bend, AZ at the restaurant of the Space Age Lodge. We were going back to Phoenix after a support trip to Ajo where workers were on strike against Phelps Dodge. We had entered the restaurant, and had just sat down, when a couple of guys walked in that my comrade recognized as Sparts (I would imagine from California) who had been in Ajo for the same purpose. At this, my friend got up – dragging me with him – like the devils of hell had just entered the room! We fled, my rotund comrade and I, and didn’t stop until we got back to Phoenix. LOL!

    And no, I never did get laid.

    Comment by David — May 21, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  2. Hello,

    Hope you are well. I have some Harold Camping literture that I put away saying with arrogant boldness the exact end of the world. I hope his will be denounced as the false prophet he is.

    I have seen other tyrants in ‘Christianity’ fall as well. In fact when Harold announced the ‘church age’ was over he did loose many supporters.

    However Harold just doesn’t make sense. He’ll talk about Paul’s ship wreck and say it is a sign that the church age is over. He is arrogant and does not show brotherly Love.

    That is the thing about so called Christians. The two greatest commands are to Love God and Love neighbor. The book of 1 John makes it clear that one cannot Love God who is unseen and then not Love their neighbor who is seen. If you do not Love your neighbor you cannot Love God. Luke 10 the parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that everyone is our neighbor. Christ also commands to Love your enemy as well.

    So with a tiny drop of wisdom we can dismiss the so called Christian doctrine of Souther Slave owners of stolen Africans and Puritans beating the drums of war to engage in Native American genocide.

    Sure Harold is an obvious crack pot. But society excepts others who are further away from God then him. No Christian would go into war and kill. Such an action would break the second greatest commandment. However I have had so called Christians tell me that you can Love your enemy and also kill them.

    If one really gets into the depths of the Bible one will actually find out that it is a book of revolution. The call for a righteous life abounds. Among other things the Bible condemns loaning money for interest, the capitalist system as it is in fact a system in which on serves mammon, and oppression.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — May 21, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

  3. As left wing cults go, the Spartacist League & Socialist Equality Party are probably wackier than Barnes’s dwindling band, although their journalistic efforts are far more interesting.

    ^David: I too joined the YSA in Phoenix, in 1970.

    Comment by David Altman — May 22, 2011 @ 12:06 am

  4. Dear John:

    Are the depths of the Bible really revolutionary?

    As Trotsky wrote in “Terrorism & Communism” (1920) in the chapter covering “The Metaphysics of Democracy”:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch03.htm

    “If we look back to the historical sequence of world concepts, the theory of natural law will prove to be a paraphrase of Christian spiritualism freed from its crude mysticism. The Gospels proclaimed to the slave that he had just the same soul as the slave-owner, and in this way established the equality of all men before the heavenly tribunal. In reality, the slave remained a slave, and obedience became for him a religious duty. In the teaching of Christianity, the slave found an expression for his own ignorant protest against his degraded condition. Side by side with the protest was also the consolation. Christianity told him:– ”You have an immortal soul, although you resemble a pack-horse.” Here sounded the note of indignation. But the same Christianity said:– ”Although you are like a pack-horse, yet your immortal soul has in store for it an eternal reward.” Here is the voice of consolation. These two notes were found in historical Christianity in different proportions at different periods and amongst different classes. But as a whole, Christianity, like all other religions, became a method of deadening the consciousness of the oppressed masses.

    Natural law, which developed into the theory of democracy, said to the worker: “all men are equal before the law, independently of their origin, their property, and their position; every man has an equal right in determining the fate of the people.” This ideal criterion revolutionized the consciousness of the masses in so far as it was a condemnation of absolutism, aristocratic privileges, and the property qualification. But the longer it went on, the more if sent the consciousness to sleep, legalizing poverty, slavery and degradation: for how could one revolt against slavery when every man has an equal right in determining the fate of the nation?”

    So while it’s certainly true that “In the teaching of Christianity, the slave found an expression for his own ignorant protest against his degraded condition” that’s about the extent of its progressive significance for in the end it puts the consciousness of the oppressed to sleep, just as does faith in Islam, Buddah or any monotheistic cult.

    Why would faith in Jesus have any more validity than faith in Odin & Thor of the Norse Gods? Why is it that when an entire civilization like Greece believed in Zeus, or the Roman empire had faith in Apollo they are dismissed as being wrong?

    By far the best film released in 1980 was “Breaker Morant” about the Boer War which brilliantly critisized empire building. The best line in the movie was just before the execution of scapegoated soldiers a la Kubrick’s famous film “Paths of Glory”

    Sentry: Do you want the padre?
    Harry Morant: No, thank you. I’m a pagan.
    Sentry: And you?
    Peter Handcock: What’s a pagan?
    Harry Morant: Well… it’s somebody who doesn’t believe there’s a divine being dispensing justice to mankind.
    Peter Handcock: I’m a pagan, too.
    Harry Morant: There is an epitaph I’d like: Matthew 10:36. Well, Peter… this is what comes of ’empire building.’
    Major Thomas: Matthew 10:36?
    Minister: “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 22, 2011 @ 12:31 am

  5. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Let me lay some words on you. “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you have failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Allmighty. You have lived on the Earth in luxury and self indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”

    That Comrade Karl is from the book of James in the New Testament of the Bible. Does that sound like neutrality or does it sound like it favors the poor and oppressed?

    Truth be told that anything but true Christianity is an oppressing tool. Catholicism for example. What a dreadful mockery of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Look carefully what these brood of vipers did among their immense evils. Not only did they speak in Latin during the mass, (mass by the way is a made up thing by Catholicism) but they did their best to keep the Bible out of the hands of the people. In fact when Wiclyffe translated it into the venacular the Catholic Church tried to have him murdered.

    I agree with the idea that false religion is opressing. Again look at Catholicism. First you have the hierarchy where one man, the Pope has total power as he speaks for god. Then you have rituals that the common people cannot understand because they are in Latin. In fact if one understands the nature of these rituals they are in fact pagan rituals. What Constatine did when he supposedly accepted Christianity as the offical religion was to put in his pagan beliefs using different names. The pantheon of saints, and Mary the Mother of god were in fact just different names for the Roman gods.

    The question then would be why did the Catholic Church try so hard to keep the Bible’s true contents out of the common person’s hands. The reason is that if they knew what God really wanted for humanity then they would reject the oppression they were under.

    Let me say something that you most certainly object to but there is but one class of people. Every man, woman, and child regardless of race, sex, are in fact in the same class. However it is man that has divided us into different classes. Against the will of God man has accumulated private weatlh and oppressed his kindred.

    I will prove that in reality there is no classes. If you took a king’s baby and interchanged him with peasant’s baby and had them raised without knowledge of the switch the babies would take on the nature or the characteristics of their environment.

    It is when man discovers the truths of God that the existing system is threatened. The transformation involved in following Jesus would put everybody on equal status not only before God but with one another. History is in fact the rise and fall of true Christianity.

    As we can see, like Harold Camping there are people well read in the Bible but cannot grasp the truths there in. I’m sure you’ve encountered those well versed in Marxism who dominate their wives, are arrogant towards their comrades and fail to contribute sacrificially to the cause as they cling to their personal wealth.

    Whenever true Christianity surfaces it stirs up the people to change and is ultimately met with severe and violent anhiliation. Look at the history of the Anabaptists or John Hus. Unfortunately, like Stalin the past has been disfigured by intentional lies to make the powers that be appear virtuous when in fact they are nothing but whores.

    I wonder if you have ever read the Bible or even the gospels. A real Christian would insist on the basics of the faith and when they see hypocrisy they would speak out against it with boldness. Just like the Quakers spoke out against both the genocide of the Native Americans and the brutal slavery of the Africans in the south.

    The problem with Christianity today is they do not follow Jesus at all. Once again I go back to the statement that we should Love one’s neighbor as ourself. If we really did this I think ninety percent of our problems would go away. We would feed our poor neighbors. We would not pay starvation wages to those working for us. We would not discriminate because of race or religion. We would go out of our way to help the emotionally disturbed. Contemplate on the world would be if we took that one simple teaching to it’s logical and necessary extreme.

    Marxism is not something I believe in. But there are many attractive features to it that I find consistent with my Christian beliefs. The solidaarity of the worker and the equality of the masses. The communism of the society sharing the wealths both natural and produced. The destruction of the oppressive capitalistic and imperialistic systems. The general idea that we should strive and fight for a better world though that cost us all.

    When I pass the country club by my house and see the golf course behind the fences. Or when I see the Catholic Church with their rectory, especially when they are selling Christmas trees at winter. The feelings of anger, outrage and injustice are there. Who are these people to take what God gave us and put up fences so that only the priveleged few can enjoy it? (Also the fact that I am on my way to work while these people are leisurely hitting golf balls.)

    If Jesus walked the Earth today he would condemn the vast majority of Christianity.

    Thanks for allowing me to post this on here. I came to this website seeking further knowledge or Marxism and Trotskyism to both improve myself and to learn of others. However because of the nature of this thread I do feel my views are proper in the context.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — May 22, 2011 @ 2:36 am

  6. As a compound Atheist all I can say John is this: God forbid that Marxist sectarianism alienates people like you from the socialist movement.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 22, 2011 @ 2:42 am

  7. My, my, my, Louis. Despite peddling “worthless” newspapers and being such a dismissable cult, the SWP continues the bug the hell out of you. So much so that pitiful, puerile comparisons to religious lunatics seem to give you some perverse satisfaction. So be it. This type of “commentary” has become the trademark of ex-members such as yourself, whose superior Marxism amounts to hosting eclectic on-line talk shops and voting for … Ralph Nader. In short, old-fashioned centrism for the high-tech era. Clearly, your departure from the party was the best for all concerned.

    Comment by redacter — May 22, 2011 @ 3:19 am

  8. I had a sojourn with the Communist League in New Zealand last year (a satellite group tied to to the Socialist Workers Party in the USA) that confirms a lot of this. My reasons for getting involved with them were honest enough: I had turned to Marxism during my graduate studies and decided to make the transition from armchair theorist to engaged activist.
    At first, the league made a spectacular impression. They were moving into a modest but spacious office in a building with harbour views just across the bridge from the Auckland central business district. Except for one or two younger ones, everyone was middle aged or older (in retrospect, a telling indictment, but at the time I was overjoyed to meet schooled, experienced socialists and not a bunch of hot-headed student activists).

    The members were all soft-spoken, genteel and of good humour, and the atmosphere as we painted the new offices was one more akin to a community soccer club than a vanguard party. Almost everyone was educated and yet they all seemed to have “real” working-class jobs like meatpacking and textile workers. Again, in retrospect, this incongruity should have sparked alarm bells, but at the time I was excited to find a working-class organisation stocked with working-class members instead of academics, students and teachers.

    The group seemed active and current. They were preparing an electoral campaign for the upcoming mayoral elections. One of the members had just come back from touring Cuba and staffing a book stall there; I wasn’t sure I shared her resolute enthusiasm for the regime, but I admired how the group at least valued personal reportage instead of relying on the mainstream press. Finally, of course, they had a huge book selection and sold a weekly newspaper.

    This wonderful impression unravelled rather quickly. The Militant Labour Forums, in which I expected lively discussions full of boisterous wit and energy, instead had a rather downcast feel to them. The audience sat hunched in rows and the speaker and convenor perched themselves awkwardly behind a table at the front. I still cannot pinpoint exactly what felt “wrong” about it all; there was just this creepy, moribund formality that was deeply unnerving. I began to wish for more students and academics, and maybe even a few hot-headed types — anyone to cut through the stiff atmosphere of silent, congenial approval.

    Next, I became frustrated with The Militant newspaper. The format was appalling: stories would begin on the front page and tumble over two more columns on separate pages before finishing. The content itself was boring, irrelevant and often of a self-congratulatory nature involving stories that, for example, quoted workers who were excited by new Pathfinder publications. Inexplicably, given the New Zealand context, several pages were in Spanish. There was no way I was going to stand on street corners in the South Pacific and attempt to convince people, with a straight face, why they needed to know – in a foreign language — what a meatpacker in Buffalo, NY thought of Jack Barne’s new book Malcolm X, Black Liberation and the Road to Workers’ Power.

    The final blow to my interest came when I attempted to bring students into the group. This was not, in fact, my initial idea; when I first came along it was mentioned that the group had moved near to the CBD in order to garner more student involvement. Having seen their offices, a short walk from campus, I totally agreed and thought this would be a great meeting spot for a weekly student discussion group. I asked if I could set up a facebook page (the league’s only real form of communication was a landline telephone). Two members consequently sat me down and explained that the SWP had taken a stance against facebook use (they showed me a print out from a Militant article). Furthermore, all manner of problems would erupt if people on the page started discussing things that contradicted the party line. The Communist League was trying to build a disciplined, vanguard party, they said, and to do that everything had to happen centrally.

    Then, of course, it all made sense: the aging membership; the staid debates; the relentless focus on sales. The league was not actually interested in expansion and recruiting new members. (I can only speak for my own impression of events here, but I feel strongly that they perceived me primarily as a potential threat, not a potential recruit). I never went back and became involved in other left-wing groups instead. There I found more of what I was after: vigorous debates between different stripes of greens, socialists, anarchists and Maori radicals; a focus on activism, networking and building solidarity (i.e. getting to know people, instead of flogging shitty newspapers to them); and a willingness to give leadership opportunities to new members, rather than watching over them through a slow recruitment process with a careful, distrusting eye.

    Since then, I’ve heard other negative stories about the Communist League from others who have been involved. One that I found particularly disheartening is that they discouraged a younger member from going to university because he would be taught “bourgeois theory” and that he should continue working in the biscuit factory instead. This, and all of the above, is deeply ironic because the group was founded on a university campus in the late 1960s by members (some of whom are still in it today) who considered the other communist groups to be stifling, rigid and doctrinaire!

    In a way, I still admire the tenacity and commitment of Communist League members. Some of them are up at 5am in the morning for work at the meatpackers and then over at the university until 9pm at night organising demonstrations. But I feel stronger than ever that if a revolutionary movement ever sweeps across New Zealand, the Communist League will be pedaling books to its leaders rather than leading the movement itself. I’m glad that I wasted only a couple months with them, and not decades of my life.

    Comment by K.C. — May 22, 2011 @ 4:56 am

  9. When you were in the SWP, compared to now, it was a golden age.

    In the days of the antiwar movement against the war in Vietnam, they were less insular. They had intellectuals writing the paper.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — May 22, 2011 @ 5:50 am

  10. I was in the YSA and later in the late 70’s, SWP. I’m 59 now and recently resubscribed to a whole bunch of socialist papers. I can’t bitch about my experience because I’m still a socialist, I have a framework to build from. I’m sure I stayed too long as a member and I know that I was not mature enough to develop into leadership, but I actually got laid out of it and made some meaningful friendships. I think that Barry Sheppard wrote a good analysis of SWP, while i also believe that The Militant has good articles. I never made a career of studying Barnes, and doing that makes a cult of personality out if these people more than they intend themselves.

    I understand that still waters produce rancid odor. That’s no fault of any group. Yes, I didn’t like how there was favoritism and persecution which sometimes erupted – I remember when two comrades were at a party that had a marijuana sighting. – and you’d think that there was a heroin ring operation – or, I recall being bullied by comrades who are now thoroughly bourgeois – in fact one stalwart workerist who railed against college later became a professor with a Phd., so I did see over time hypocrisy.

    But in the final analysis, we have no other alternative but read their press and follow their lead until real upsurge and mass movement emerges. The Democrats ate exactly as wretched as we learned, especially when we get up close and personal.

    Comment by Hugh B. — May 22, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  11. Successive political generations join the SWP and organizations like the SWP to make the revolution, including the generation you belonged to and the generation I belonged to. When the revolution doesn’t come, most members leave and find something else to do with their lives. Thus it is written, thus it shall be. Maybe there will be something different about the period we are entering today. Maybe there won’t.

    Comment by dave r — May 22, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  12. Still waters run rancid. The SWP was opposite YWLL on my campus circa. 1969-1973 at Indiana. There wasn’t much choice and I probably stayed longer than I should have when I joined SWP in the mid-70’s for a couple of years. There were great folks in there; there were petty bullies, as well. Given the grace of time, I’ve seen how the bullies more or less betrayed “the turn” and became professionals (where I’m sure they continued pushing people around). I can remember how a show-trial of two perfectly decent folks shamed me into leaving the party. I recall how I took my life into my hands going into Cabrini-Green selling (trying to, at least) The Militant to people so poor they couldn’t afford medicine let alone a sub. Later, I learned that a comrade was forced into a hideous sex act at this housing complex. Eventually, we all left but the fanatics. I see their names in The Militant. I know some of them. Bottom line is that I still read the paper because it delivers news to me which I can’t get in mainstream press. By the way, I’m still a socialist. Barry Sheppard is most likely right about them.

    Comment by Hugh — May 22, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  13. Hugh…does this mean that everyone who was a member of the party after 1973 was/is a “fanatic”? Interesting concept…

    Comment by dave r — May 22, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  14. Mr. Proyect,

    This might be too hard for you to do, but if you had to write a list of your top five favorite personal Marxist blogs, what would they be? I am looking for other good reading material.

    Comment by heynowheynow — May 22, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

  15. 1. http://www.leninology.blogspot.com/
    2. http://kasamaproject.org/
    3. http://revolutionaryflowerpot.blogspot.com/ (Focused on Iran, but essential)

    I can’t honestly recommend any others that are specifically Marxist but I check Mondoweiss and Socialist Unity every day. The first is excellent on the Middle East and the other is a good aggregation of news and reports from Britain with a Labour slant.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 22, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

  16. This one is good also:

    http://splinteredsunrise.wordpress.com/

    Comment by David Altman — May 22, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

  17. Hey David A., where was the Phoenix HQ located back in your day? When I first started associating with them they were at 7th ST and Indian School, across the street from the VA hospital. Their next move was onto (if I remember correctly) Baseline RD. Through the magic of google maps (and the street level view), it looks like the old Indian School RD building is still there but I think the facade of the building has been altered.

    Sorry for indulging in this reminiscing, I’m afraid that I’ve crossed over the line into that age.

    Comment by David — May 23, 2011 @ 12:00 am

  18. The main thing I liked about Camping was his deep baritone voice and his rather old-fashioned enunciation. It was like listening to a character in an early 1930s movie. When he didn’t have me chuckling about hellfire and brimstone, he had me drifting off to sleep through his mellifluous and soporofic tones.

    Amazing that you would say this. I used to hear him on the radio every now and then driving between Sacramento and the Bay Area, and had much the same reaction, and, as you note, listening to him provide a typically byzantine interpretation of scripture was a strangely mesmerizing experience.

    I still hear him on the radio every now and then, and actually appreciate the fact that he’s still alive. There’s something charming about the guy, especially his dogged refusal to try to reach people by conforming to contemporary norms of speech and media presentation.

    Also worth noting, if it’s not in your post, that Camping has actually separated himself from most of the rest of the evangelical Christian world, describing the the kind of Christianity as practiced by others as fraudulent. He is uncharacteristically harsh about it, and started emphasizing it a lot several years ago. I think that there was an article in the East Bay Express a few years about it if you are curious.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 23, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

  19. Richard,

    Hi hope you are well.

    It is true the Camping has seperated himself from the Evangelical world. Yet if you listen to him this is not a good thing. Harold interprets every teaching of Christ as a Parable. So in Mathew 25 where God instructs us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, visit those sick or in prision, this false prophet says that these commands in fact mean to spread the gospel instead of the reality of helping those in need.

    The evangelical world unfortunately is one gone astray. I recall the leader who was actively campaigning against homosexuality while he was snorting crank and see a male prostitue. That is the height of hypocrisy.

    Truth of the matter is that most ‘Christians’ put the United States before anything else. There paradigm is skewed and perverted.

    I look towards the Amish, the Quakers and the Menonites as groups showing Godly political values. Even in my own group, the Church of Christ, which has no Earthly head quarters, the majority of my brethren fail to see the light of God’s liberating and revolutionary message. The fact that a lot of congregations in the Church of Christ supported slavery is a glaring indentification of Godlessness.

    Yes Harold was unique and has a charisma about him. But his influence is not for good in any way I can measure.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — May 23, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  20. As near as I can tell, Camping is a Calvinist, with all the problems that it entails. He also seems to describe a world that predates the 20th Century, and appeals to people who see the world in this way, an interesting cultural phenomenon worthy of more investigation.

    A more interesting evangelical is? was? Gene Scott, whose church rejected the homophobia associated with right wing Christians. I used to see him on cable years ago. Being non-Christian, to the extent that I look to any Christian group, it would be Quakers, as you note, and Catholic liberation theologists. To extent that both have organized along non-hierarchical lines Z(such as liberation theologists, with the MST, and Quakers, with the Movement for a New Society), it has been beneficial.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 23, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  21. David: When I joined the YSA there was no SWP branch in Phoenix, hence no headquarters. The YSA “local,” as they were called then was based at Arizona State with a few high school students like me. I was at South Mountain High, there was another member at Arcadia, another at St. Mary’s. we had about 10 members in 1970-71. The SWP branch was set up I think 1n 1976 & the first HQ was in a house around 3rd St. in downtown Phoenix. Then they moved to the Indian School location, then to Central & Southern in South Phoenix. After that I lost track. As I left Phoenix in 1972 to join the SWP in Los Angeles, & since moved to Milwaukee I had little contact with the branch there. Do you remember a guy named Larry T? Also a Melissa H? They both joined the SWP in Milwaukee & moved to Phoenix & were expelled or forced out for one idiotic reason or another.

    I’d encourage you to check out the Yahoo SWP Group, where we discuss these matters:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/swp_usa/

    Comment by David Altman — May 23, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  22. Hello,

    As a Christian I think the best way I can prepare for the next life is to make things better on Earth for those here.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — May 24, 2011 @ 12:11 am

  23. The charlatan Camp appears to be perhaps a notch above Elmer Gantry & nothing more.

    As Omar Kyham said: “A little talk with me & thee & then no more of me & thee.”

    John K. is on the right track: the real secret to afterlife is to leave such an impression on the living that your memory is not easily vanquished from history. I suggest that V.I. Lenin was the sole individual to most influence the political outcome of the last 100 years of planet Earth — bar none.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 24, 2011 @ 12:39 am

  24. […] stuff at Louis Proyect’s blog comparing experiences in various Marxist groups (the Socialist Workers Party, the Young Socialist […]

    Pingback by Socialist Saucer Party « Berlusconi Youth — May 24, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  25. Those are some high dues. Any idea what that’d be in today’s dollars? I can’t imagine workers in the 30s paying that much…

    Comment by Binh — May 24, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  26. When I used to visit my friend Nelson Blackstock in LA, he used to play Gene Scott for me for laughs. All I remember is how Scott would show pictures of his horse ranch and demand that people send him money to keep his life style going. Or something like that–it was 20 years ago at least.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 25, 2011 @ 2:02 am

  27. Binh both groups I was in treated dues like income tax. It was a LOT of money, and based on your income. There were some comrades who were encouraged to work high-paying jobs (one at Goldman Sachs, if I recall, LOL) to bring more money in.

    Comment by ish — May 25, 2011 @ 3:23 am

  28. On Pat Robertson’s old network there used to be something called the John Ankerberg Show. It consisted mainly of polemics against groups that deviated from John’s particular interpretation of the Scriptures: What’s wrong with the Mormons, the apostasy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. It reminded me so much of the sort of arguments that the little Trotskyoid groups used to make against each other.

    Comment by David Altman — May 25, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  29. David A., thanks for your reply. I’m not sure if I remember those names or not. I seem to remember a big guy, might have been named Larry, who worked as a chef. The name Melissa seems vaguely familiar as well. The people that I remember well are:

    Jim A., Andy E., Barry F. (incredibly fluent in Spanish), Ellen L. and Chris D.(?), off the top of my head.

    There are various other faces that I can see in my minds eye that I can no longer associate names with.

    One of the things that really disillusioned me was the split that resulted in the creation of Socialist Action. I wasn’t privy to the internecine fighting that was apparently going on around the issue(s) that resulted in an already small party becoming even smaller but when I learned of it, at a YSA meeting one weekend, I thought it was insane.

    One final (now) amusing memory. I was living at home at the time of all this with my parents and an older brother. My brother had a predilection for answering the home phone in what he thought were amusing, clever ways. I got a call from the above mentioned Ellen L. and my brother answered with a hearty “John Birch Society”. Needless to say, I was mortified. We actually held a party fund raiser at my parents’ place in Chandler where we roasted a goat.

    Thanks for the invite to the yahoo group. I already subscribe though I haven’t looked at messages there in awhile.

    Comment by David — May 25, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  30. The Larry I’m talking about was definitely not a big guy. I heard he was turfed out over some act of “indiscipline” during the copper strike in eastern Arizona. Don’t remember if that was around the time of the strike in Ajo of which you speak. BTW the copper miners in Arizona have a very militant history going back to the time of the IWW & Western Federation of Miners.

    Comment by David Altman — May 25, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  31. “When I used to visit my friend Nelson Blackstock in LA, he used to play Gene Scott for me for laughs. All I remember is how Scott would show pictures of his horse ranch and demand that people send him money to keep his life style going. Or something like that–it was 20 years ago at least.”

    Like I said, you might find Gene Scott “interesting”. 🙂

    Guess he considered his horse ranch more important than homophobia.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 25, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

  32. The Gene Scott program is still on, now done by his daughter, who appears to be full of energy and brilliant as she writes in Aramaic (?) on a succession of black boards, explaining the meaning of various biblical verses. Quite a show….even without the words! I saw it on a local channel on Comcast cable…..late at night.
    quinn

    Comment by quinn — July 30, 2011 @ 6:14 pm


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