File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-03-16.132, message 95

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 07:15:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: Censorship

Dr Bedggood writes, rather unhelpfully:

"I see that James Hillier works for the Communist Action Group. The first
Action that he would take to advance the cause of communism would be to
impose the above bureaucratic rules onhow the class struggle should be
conducted on this list. The moderators will decide what "demonstrably
constructive" or "helpful inquiry" or "serious constribution" means not the
list itself. If James Hillier is serious then I think he should get another
list where the moderators will agree to act as political censors."

Earlier, he "saw" that Richard works for the New Worker.

Strange terminology. Presumable he means "is a member of". Or is he implying
some onetary reward? Or is he trying to pry into the internal affairs of
either the CAG or the New Communist Party? In either case, he should mind his
own business and stick to the matters at hand.

Of course, the good Doctor thinks that censorship - any censorship - isa bad
thing. I don't agree. I think child pornography, for example, should be
banned, in whatever society we happen to live in. He, from a tendancy which
defends the right to what it grotesquely calls "intergenerational sex", has a
different view. But Marxism is not liberalism. not even ultra-liberalism.

The working class is in favour of censorship - *its* censorship. That is what
the dictatorship of the proletariat is about, in part: the ruthless
suppression of the counter-revolution and its mouthpieces. Now, in the
context of a revolutionary state, the question of who is actually a conscious
counter-revolutionary is a complex one. It ishard to distinguish in practice
between some forms of ultra-leftism and conscious counter-revolution: both
can come to the same practical conclusions (shooting Lenin for example).
Similarly with social democratic deviations, such as Trotskyism. But make no
mistake, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the counter-revolution
has always been and always will be suppressed. There will be no freedomof
expression for those who are trying to mislead the masses.

To take the more mundance example of an Internet listserv aimed at promoting
discussion between marxists, it is clear that it can not function without
clear guidelines. Adding the adjective "bureaucratic" does not alter this
fact. The experience of M-1 proves this beyond doubt. A free for all meant,
in practice, a collossal waste of time and resources. As some on this list
have remarked, be they Trotskyist, Menshevik or Marxist-Leninist, a lot of
people with a lot to offer such a list, take one look at the drivel that is
offered up on this list and its predecessors and pull the plug.

We have one guideline: 3 posts a day. What a relief *that* was to those of us
who had to put up with Rodwell and Malecki's endless streams of
semi-consciousness. That's censorship, Doctor. Some of our wilder
anti-Communists have fallen foul of that in their excitement to incite and

As one list contributor has remarked recently, as the list expands (IF the
list expands), the limit would have to become stricter. Without a limit on
expression, no communication is possible because we all get swamped.

Democracy, in the real sense, is not about an unrestricted free for all. At
you Trotskyist conferences, don't speakers have to adhere to certain rules?
Don't they have to get their ammendments in on time? Don't they have to limit
what they say to a certain length? Don't they have to stick to the subject?

Such things have to be enforced, too. The conference - or the leadership more
like - will elect a group to oversee the implementation of the rules. And if
someone justs starts wasting everybody's time, or refuses to move on
constructively whenthe matter has been debated as far as it can go, something
is done about it.

I reckon these principles should also apply to the list.

You say "the list" should decide. How? Through what mechanism? The delete
button? I'm afraid that doesn't quite amount to the same thing. It is an
individual measure, nota collective one. On the other hand, I was proposing a
collective measure. I say we should discuss how to make this list work
properly, and kick out all those who contravene thevery firm guidelines that
we should establish at the end of the discussion. The moderators should be
appointed by the listmembers, and be subject to their criticism and recall.
The precise forms that this accountability should take can be worked out
through discussion.

That is my "solution". Yours, on the other hand, is for the list to continue
as before, which is no solution at all.

For the record, I did not at any stage here suggest that Trotskyists should
be banned from the list. Louis Proyect is a Trotskyist. So is Gary McLennan.
But they and others are every bit as pissed of with the likes of you, dear
Doctor, as I am.

I do not want to restrict debate. I want us to establish conditions in which
debate can take place without degenerating. I would far prefer to be debating
Castroism with Louis P than discussing how the list should operate with
someone who has done his best to stop it from operating constructively. But
until we have a working, durable framework, then no real discussion is
possible except by chance.

The best that some constructive people on the list have been able to come up
with as an alternative to ridding the list of wreckers is for us all to
ignore them. Why stop there? If we don't want to waste our time reading their
posts, if we don't want to ruin this list by rising to their bait, who on
earth should be be tolerating them in the first place? We should weed them
out from the start.

This list has been operating for some months now. The track record of the
wreckers is established. It is an empirical question: what have these people
contributed? If the answer is nothing, then give them the boot.

Jim Hillier
Communist Action Group

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