[OPE-L:2464] Re: Urgent -- crisis at MR/Ellen Wood

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 01 2000 - 21:36:38 EST

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David McNally replied to Mike, which David said I could post to this list.

Incidentally, before I signed I did a bit of checking of what is happening
on the ground at Monthly Review and feel comfortable with my signature.


Paul Zarembka, supporting RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, web site
******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

David McNally to Mike Lebowitz, March 1, 2000


I can only reply briefly. First, the right to petition ought not, I think,
be dismissed so lightly. Why shouldn't people who've supported,
contributed to, written and spoken for MR make their views known to
members of the Board over a matter of such importance? If anything, I
think this shows the high regard we have for the work they've done and the
institution they've created. Moreover, as the letter suggests, sometimes
being overly close to the ins and outs can be as or more disabling than
being at a distance. And even at a distance, one can make certain
judgements. The 100+ of us who signed the letter looked, I think, at what
we took to be Ellen's record of accomplishment at MR. We could only see
her removal as weakening an important project of the left. Perhaps we are
wrong, but I (and I think many others) fear we are not. It seems to me
that on the left, of all places, there ought to be respect for a plea from
a large group of people, especially one like the group who've signed this
letter. This is not simply "outsiders" meddling; this is people with a
record of association with MR using one of the traditional means of
popular-democratic expression to communicate our views. I would hope,
whether or not they agree with what we say, that Board members would see
it as such.

And not to worry, I agree entirely that differences of opinion such as
this should not be allowed to damage relations on our small and beleagured
socialist left.

All the best -- David

"michael a. lebowitz" <mlebowit@sfu.ca> (by way of "michael a. lebowitz"
<mlebowit@sfu.ca>) said, on 03/01/00 at 11:35 AM:

>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,
> michael
>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
>Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810

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