[OPE-L:2459] Re: Urgent -- crisis at MR/Ellen Wood

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Date: Wed Mar 01 2000 - 14:35:44 EST

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Dear friends,
        Paul Z in OPE-L 2455 has brought David McNally's letter about developments
at Monthly Review to your attention. My response to David's letter (sent to
me, among others) is follows, for your interest./mike

Dear David,

        I have received your letter and haven't known what to do about it. I have
very much respect for your work and commitment as well as that of Ellen.
However, I also have a deep respect for Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff and
for the many people around Monthly Review (and the Press) who have made MR
what it is over these 50 years. In the absence of "knowledge of the
specific disputes and grievances", how can I possibly conclude that the
removal of Ellen Wood as a co-editor, if that is what is occurring, is a
"destructive course of action", will do "irreparable damage to MR's future
as a significant institution of the socialist left" and will be a "horrible
setback for the left in general"? I don't have that knowledge of the
disputes, but I am certain that those on the other side believe strongly
that their actions will have precisely the opposite effect. I also know
that if we at Studies in Political Economy were to make a similar decision
(although, of course, the institutions are not comparable!), it would have
to be the result of a continuing problem that could not be resolved
otherwise and it would not be a decision made lightly; under these
circumstances, I know I would view a letter by outsiders without knowledge
which made claims similar to those above as "irresponsible and reckless in
the extreme".
        Sadly, I cannot sign your letter. I think the people at MR should be able
to resolve this without being told that what they are doing is "a terrible
threat to MR's position as a major institution of the left." I do hope you
are wrong about the effects of the decision they make, and I hope that our
disagreement as to what is appropriate will not affect our own relations.

        best wishes,
At 11:15 AM 2/25/2000 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear friends,
>A disturbing event is developing at Monthly Review: moves to remove
>Ellen Meiksins Wood as a co-editor. This would be, needless to say I
>hope, a terrible setback for the left in general and MR in particular.
>In a desperate effort to avert this course of events, I am circulating a
>letter to the MR Board (below). A quick set of emailings yesterday got
>25 signers. I hope all of you will add your names. The letter in no way
>attempts to assign blame, merely to call on all concerned to find a way
>out of this difficulty so as not to damage an important institution of
>the left. The situation is urgent, so I ask you to reply ASAP. My hope
>is that a strong statement from a large number of us who have had some
>association with MR might avert a full-fledged crisis.
>Thanks in advance for your support -- David McNally
>To Members of the Board of the Monthly Review Foundation
>Dear friends,
> We are writing to express our alarm about reports that some Board
>members of the MR Foundation are seeking the resignation or removal of
>Ellen Meiksins Wood as an editor of Monthly Review. We believe such a
>move would do irreparable damage to MR’s future as a significant
>institution of the socialist left. As people who have subscribed to,
>supported, and contributed to Monthly Review, we implore you to do
>whatever is necessary to prevent Ellen’s resignation or removal.
> We are well aware that we lack knowledge of the specific disputes and
>grievances, imagined or real, which have caused some Board members to
>contemplate this destructive course of action. Yet, this can be
>something of an advantage at a moment like this. Removal from the
>day-to-day operations often provides a distance from which to better see
>the larger picture. And what we see is a terrible threat to MR’s
>position as a major institution of the left.
> One of the great and enduring strengths of MR has been its spirit of
>socialist pluralism – its tolerance, indeed encouragement, of a range of
>differences and viewpoints that inhabit a common space of critical
>Marxism, of an independent socialism that, as Paul Sweezy puts it in the
>May 1999 MR is "revolutionary, non-reformist, non-revisionist and at the
>same time non-dogmatic, non-fundamentalist." The addition of Ellen as an
>editor fit beautifully with this ethos. The author of many major books
>of socialist scholarship, Ellen’s work is distinguished by its critical,
>independent, non-sectarian spirit and its exceptional originality. When
>Paul and Harry wrote in the March 1997 MR that, with Ellen’s appointment
>as an editor, they had an answer – and "a good one" – to the "essential
>continuity" of MR, we agreed wholeheartedly. We couldn’t imagine a
>better person to carry forward MR’s commitment to intelligent,
>thoughtful and provocative socialist analysis. And her untiring work on
>behalf of Monthly Review over the past three years has fully vindicated
>that judgment. To throw away everything that the addition of Ellen has
>meant to MR would be irresponsible and reckless in the extreme.
> What Noam Chomsky wrote in MR’s November 1999 fundraising appeal bears
>quoting in this context. We all appreciate, he wrote, the importance of
>"stable, long-lasting institutions of an independent left – reliable,
>searching, stimulating thought and debate without the debilitating
>factionalism that has been such a painful internal barrier to progress."
>"I have to admit," he continued, "that a while back, I was personally
>concerned about the continuity of this enterprise, which has played such
>a critically important role. With Ellen now taking on a leading role,
>those concerns are gone. There couldn’t have been a finer choice . . ."
>We agree – as, we think, do hundreds upon hundreds of others who have
>supported MR over the years. A move to push Ellen out of Monthly Review
>could only hurt the magazine and damage MR’s public image, its
>reputation as a bastion of socialist sanity free of the splits, purges
>and factionalism that have repeatedly undermined the left.
>We call on all members of the Board of the Monthly Review Foundation to
>do everything in their power to avert this course of events. We implore
>you to find the intelligence, good sense, solidarity, and generosity of
>spirit to resolve differences without a damaging and debilitating
>parting of the ways. You owe it to yourselves. And you owe it to the
>many of us who look to MR for another fifty years of work "stimulating
>thought and debate without the debilitating factionalism that has been
>such a painful barrier to progress."
>The future of a major institution of the left is yours to preserve, or
>to squander. We urge you to act wisely – and in the spirit we have come
>to associate with Monthly Review.
>Yours in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
        Fax (604) 291-5944
Home: Phone (604) 872-0494
        Fax (604) 872-0485
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