File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-03-16.132, message 80

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 01:25:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: Background on Spoons Marxism Lists

I would like to elaborate on my idea of what the purpose of a new list
should be. Before doing that I would like to provide some background on  
the various Spoons Marxism lists from their inception.

In the beginning there was a Marxism list that was started by graduate
students and others who were organized as the Spoons Collective and whose
primary interest was cultural studies. They saw Marx as just one more
thinker in the tradition of Baudrillard, Foucault, etc., except that he
came before them and had some kind of reputation as a communist.

Before too long, many people began to treat the Marxism list as a place to
emphasize the communist side of Marx rather than his influence on cultural
studies. The list became a place where two clashing cultures operated at
cross-purposes. I used to urge the creator of the Marxism list, Jon
Beasley-Murray, who never posts nowadays, to split the list between
theoretical/academics and activist/socialists but he had the notion that
this would be harmful. He believed that there were too many artificial
separations in Marxist thought already. He was very idealistic.

There was tension in the list between the two groupings and things sort of
staggered along for months and months. Then last year about this time, a
number of comrades showed up around who were zealous supporters of the
Communist Party of Peru. Their leader was Adolfo Olaechea. A terrible
flame war then broke out.

This precipitated a split in the Marxism list. Most of the academics and
cultural studies folks joined forces with hardened Stalinophobes into in a
new list called "Marxism-2". This was a list moderated by the late Lisa
Rogers, an anthropology student at the University of Utah. Those who did
not leave the original list were content to co-exist with the Maoist and
"Stalinist" comrades and focus their energy on activist and socialist
issues. This list became known as "Marxism-1". 

After a few months, Marxism-1 went into a new crisis. After the academics
left, the list became a battleground between different Maoist factions
over who had the real authority to represent the Peruvian revolutionary
movement. Most of this fighting was very difficult for anybody outside of
the Maoist movement to make heads or tails out of. In addition, the list
became burdened by the interventions of hard-core Trotskyist sects and
individuals. It was demoralizing to open one's email in the morning and
discover 100 worthless posts. 50 might be devoted to the question of which
Maoist faction was working with Fujimori, while the other 50 were calls to
build the Fourth International. This was junk mail with a vengeance. 

After what seemed an eternity, the Spoons Collective met in NY and decided
to kill M-1. They also decided to kill M-2. In actuality, M-1 became
Marxism-international with a 3 post per day limit while Marxism-2 became
Marxism-thaxis (thaxis is a neologism that combines "theory" and
"practice.") A third list called marxism-general was set up as an
unmoderated list without any rules.

Marxism-thaxis had problems from the beginning that stemmed from the
dependence of the list on the strong personality and charisma of Lisa
Rogers. After her untimely death of a heart attack, m-2 seemed to have
lost a lot of its momentum and focus. When it was transformed into
marxism-thaxis, it seems to have lost whatever steam it once had. I am not
exactly sure why this is so. I suspect that our visitation from Jerry Levy
has something to do with the fact that marxism-thaxis, his favorite haunt,
is defunct. If that list had maintained some kind of vitality and energy,
we wouldn't be burdened by his antics now.

Marxism-general also had a fitful start. Mostly it is declarations of one
sort or another by Rolf Martens, a German Maoist living in Sweden and Bob
Malecki, an American Trotskyist living in Sweden. Martens posted a call
for people to rally in defense of a breeder reactor recently. Malecki
writes the sort of sad, unanswered, and reclusive posts that only
mental-health professionals could begin to understand the motivation for. 

Marxism-international was a big success story from the start. Mostly all
of us were grateful for the fact that the boring and annoying people could
send mail out only 3 times a day rather than 30. There was also a lot of
pent-up energy for some good discussion as soon as the list started. We
had an interesting discussion of the Sokal affair, a cyberseminar on the
working-class, and lots of good exchanges from a variety of new

About a month ago things started to turn sour.

What caused things to turn sour is that people have been making a
determined effort to turn the clock back to last March when the Shining
Path wars destroyed the old list. Basically you have a group of people who
are determined to SMASH STALINISM and around the same number of people who
are determined to SMASH TROTSKYISM.

They view the list as being somewhat analogous to trench warfare. One side
pushes forward for a week or two, while the other side retreats to
replenish ammunition and bring in fresh troops. Then they push back and
re-gain 20 or 30 feet new territory, place their flag in the ground, and
crow victory. Meanwhile the rest of us are in a daze trying to struggle
for a calm atmosphere where discussion of current events and Marxist
theory may take place. All about us we hear gunfire, cursing and screams
about the "great betrayal of 1924"  and "the need to defend the
working-class". This is the sort of stuff that can drive one crazy.

The worst part of it is that it will drive away new people who are sane
and who have something to offer. About two months ago I discovered that
Teresa Ebert was on the M-I list. She is one of the most interesting
Marxist feminist thinkers in the United States today. I am sure that she
took one look at the quality-to-quantity ratio on the list and dropped

The problem is that anybody who has a busy life teaching, working and
writing has little patience going through a hundred posts a day trying to
find something worthwhile. The plain truth is that all we have done is
taken m-1 and reduced the number of posts. We have the same sectarian
speech-makers as before. We have the same contingent of people who are
determined to re-fight the battles of 1924 (or 1934 or 1944) until they
finally come out on top. Coming out "on top" in cyberspace is a dubious
proposition to say the least.

I don't expect things to get any better either. We have a number of people
who are hardened Stalinophobes from academia like Jerry Levy and Paul
Zarembka. They are joined by the Trotskyists who see everybody in the
world as their enemy. Then we have a number of Stalin-supporters who are
now completely embittered, including Mark Jones who has descended into
homophobia. The atmosphere has become completely poisoned as it was on 

In my next post I will try to describe a moderated list that will move us
beyond this impasse.

Louis Proyect

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