Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 5, 2012

Richard Aoki Reconsidered

Filed under: Richard Aoki — louisproyect @ 4:51 pm

The North Star

Richard Aoki Reconsidered

by Louis Proyect, Unrepentant Marxist on September 5, 2012

in analysis, debate, history

Although my Maoist comrades will probably be disappointed in my failure to do a full-scale breast-beating self-criticism, I am now ready to admit that my original take on the Richard Aoki controversy was shortsighted.

I placed far too much credit in Seth Rosenfeld’s investigation based on his having been honored with a George Polk award in 1992. Named after a CBS correspondent who died in the Greek civil war (1946-1949), it is often given to fearless journalists such as Robert Knight, the WBAI radio reporter who received the award for his coverage of the U.S. invasion of Panama.

I also took into account the fact that he was a staff member of the Center for Investigative Reporting whose board members include Ben Bagdikian, Bill Moyers, and Mark Dowie (the author of Losing Ground, a tough-minded investigation of mainstream environmentalism and American Foundations, an equally tough-minded take-down of the Pew Charitable Trust and company.)

Finally, I placed a lot of trust in Wesley Swearingen’s involvement with Rosenfeld’s investigation since this former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent is about as close to a Philip Agee as the bureau ever produced. In a January 15, 1979 New York Times profile on Swearingen, John Crewdson reported that the ex-agent accused the FBI of killing Fred Hampton in a “deliberate set-up.” I also heard Swearingen’s testimony first-hand on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) when it was suing the FBI as an occasional visitor to the courtroom in New York where the case was being heard.

So I was inclined to give Rosenfeld and Swearingen the benefit of the doubt. These are two men who appeared at first blush to be exemplars of integrity, and still are worthy of respect. However, I am afraid that Rosenfeld did not live up to past standards when writing about Aoki as I will now attempt to demonstrate. I have read his chapter on Aoki at least three times and have had the opportunity to read Diane Fujino’s Samurai Among Panthers, up to and including the chapter on the 1969 student strike at Berkeley.

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1 Comment »

  1. Well this was pretty much the type of review I was looking for when I first heard of this issue. I know that there were some people who reacted against Rosenfeld’s claims simply on an ideological basis, sort of like if a fervent adherent of the Theory of Permanent Revolution were to reject the charges at the Moscow Show Trials simply by arguing “Trotsky can not be working for Hitler!” I don’t like that type of approach. I like to think that the fraudulent charges made by Stalin can all be rejected simply because they are fraudulent, not because of any special attachment to Trotsky.

    When I first heard of this Aoki-controversy I thought “Someone is going to have really read these books to honestly make a judgment!” But I didn’t feel like ordering them just then. So I’m glad someone else did. Maybe I’ll get around to looking at them myself eventually. But for now this is a good overview from someone who has actually bothered to look at the texts. That’s what I needed.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — September 5, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

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