File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 272

Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 10:47:31 +0100
Subject: Re: My protest to the moderator was Re: M-I: Cheap Trotsko..

In message <>, Gary
MacLennan <> writes
>>Comrades Green and Heartfield have run up the banner of free speech.
>Comrade Godena has wrapped himself in that flag too.  How charmingly
>liberal of them. Or should that be 'how hypocritical of them'?
Why the sarcasm? Is it so extraordinary that someone should think that
free speech is a good idea? In what sense hypocritical? Are you saying
that I don't really believe in free speech, I'm just pretending I do. To
what end? To characterise the IRA as fascist (one of the many
accusations that you toss around)? Well, most of the time I have ever
spent in police cells was for demonstrating in favour of the IRA, but I
do know that not everybody agrees with that view, and that some quite
intelligent people make the mistake of equating republican nationalism
with British nationalism. What should I do? Refuse to talk to them? In
1988 I was on a demonstration against British rule in Ireland. It wasn't
the most popular cause in the country at the time but I thought it was
important and acted as a steward. As they had done the previous year,
the police organised a provocation hand in hand with the British
National Party. The police withdrew, the BNP attacked and when we fought
back the police weighed in to make arrests. I was taken after I tried to
stop a police officer breaking into the march, and charged and convicted
of assault.

When we fought the convictions we fought them on the basis of freedom of
speech. We weren't being ironic of hypocritical. I really believe that
the best way of changing peoples' minds is by trying to talk to them, or
demonstrating, or any other way of convincing them of the force of your
convictions. In all my life I have never known anyone to adopt a point
of view because they were disciplined.

Falsely (maliciously?) Gary attributes the point of view to me ('our
free speechers)that Castro is a fascist. Now I have never said anything
here about Castro. And I don't mind saying that I am no admirer of his
regime (though his contribution to international solidarity puts him
head and shoulders above the official Stalinist bloc in my view). But
when you caricature any criticism of Castro as being akin to the CIA
aren't you making the same mistake as those who say Castro is a fascist.
Surely it is possible to criticise Castro, even criticise Castro
wrongly, without being a member of the Central Intelligence Agency? This
all smacks of the arguments that you used to hear about not being
allowed to criticise the Soviet Union without giving succour to the
enemy. Any moral restriction on our opinions and thinking is bound to
arrest the progress towards the truth. Or to put it another way, if you
are confident of your analysis, you will welcome the chance to defend it
against less considered opinions.

>Comrade Heartfield says he has no commitment to the list either.  Well
>Comrade all I can say is that it shows.
Please, feel free to be rude.

>This list will not survive without some kind of commitment.  The very
>minimum is that the moderators should act as a group.  They should come to
>a decision about crossposting Adolfo. I would urge them as a group to
>discipline Godena and to force him to stop this practice.

The problem here is that you want the list to act as if it were a
democratic centralist organisation. But joining the list costs nothing.
It makes no demands on its subscribers. It has no disciplinary powers,
and represents no common committment. Consequently there is no basis for
any enforcing of the content of people's views, apart from the common
etiquette of not being a nuisance - which is to say a largely formal
>Now of course if Comrade Adolfo were to subscribe then that would be an
>entirely different matter.  But I fear our free speechers are not able to
>make this distinction. 
I think this is your strongest point and I agree that it is a bit sly to
be contributing to the list but not subscribe. If I ever meet Adolfo I
shall tell him so ... But if Louis Godena wants to post Adolfo's
contributions, that's his business: In formal terms it is just the same
as quoting someone. Of course, everyone else is welcome to draw the
obvious conclusions, that this is a dogmatic, one-sided debate that has
no great merit in it. But that is not half as bad as the conclusions
that you would draw from the content of Adolfo's posts.

And that's what's so great about free speech. It is not just the freedom
of the speakers to rant on about bugger all, but the value it places on
the listeners ability to decide for themselves what is important,
interesting and correct.

James Heartfield

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