Re: [OPE-L] Taking Debate Seriously

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Tue May 17 2005 - 22:56:07 EDT

I had an exchange with M. Junaid Alam on the aut-op-sy list
which, in fairness to him,  is reproduced below.  The first two
messages are from Alam, the next two I sent.  For the sake of
brevity, I have deleted my original post from the end of both
of Alam's messages.

In solidarity, Jerry

Message: 1

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: M. Junaid Alam <>
Subject: Re: Fwd: [AUT] Taking Debate Seriously: A Response to M. Junaid

Please forward to relevant lists.

Quite silly for Jerry to go hunting for some small comment I made on a
list-serv in passing, and fail to actually engage the written piece I
produced.What kind of intellectual engagement is that? How much siller
can you get, really, that you can't even address the argument one
presents in the form of an essay for public view, and instead try to
squeeze water out of stone by "critiquing" a few passing comments made
in a discussion with somebody on a list-serv? He didn't even bother
contacting me about this "critique", as if in hopes that no one would
notice the jarring flaw in "engaging" an argument by overlooking the
piece in which the argument was advanced. In my book that's called
intellectual cowardice.

More silly, though, is this nonsensical rhetoric about "aid and comfort"
to the enemy...this is what passes for analysis now? Sad, really.
Apparently I'm guilty on this count because I characterize the
Zapatistas as a motely collection of indigenous groups. No reason is
given as to why this is an incorrect designation; apparently  cheap ad
hominem attacks and mere characterizations of the term as "demeaning"
more than suffices. The Zapatistas *are* operating in a milieu of
various indigenous groups, and it is from them that they draw some
measure of support. This is a fact, not an insult.

It's bad enough Jerry  wasted so much time trying to "critique" one
sentence from a discussion-list, and didn't have the honesty to actually
take on the written argument I produced; it's even worse that he (a)
thinks facts are "demeaning" and (b) utterly fails to see that I only
pointed out they were indigenous in order to say that there is no basis
for comparing models with them vis-a-vis Venezuela, it's apples and
oranges. Of course, Jerry fails to notice this context, and therefore
goes on ranting about my *non-existent* comparison between a Zapatista
model and a Chavez model. In my actual article I never even mentioned
the Zapatistas, precisely because it's not a model for comparison.

Not that Jerry would know since he doesn't like reading articles written
for a debate; he prefers to construct strawmen based on one
decontextualized sentence taken from a discussion list.

I write this only to address the most jarringly bizarrre mistake Jerry
makes, namely retreating from the article and clutching at strawmen
based on inferences made from brief discussion list comments. The rest
is sheer nonsense simply because Jerry is pontificating to himself, as
if to reassure his own mind. Clearly he is not addressing me, since he
never actually read the article in question.

I'd only say in closing that the most revealing characteristic of this
display of intellectual dishonesty by Jerry is the most amusing
"defense" he mounts for Holloway, which amounts to maybe one sentence of
handwringing denials about his fetishization of the Zapatistas, and of
course, the *total absence* of engagement about the *massive
improvement* made in real people's lives as a result of the
revolutionary process in Venezuela. Though in Jerry's defense, his
friend Holloway himself hasn't done much better on this score. Aside
from a few words of contempt about the revolution being a kind of
conspiracy of "oil and international Trotskyists", he has been damningly
silent about the whole thing. Perhaps he is just waiting it out, in
hopes that it fails, so he can then preach on about the evils of state
struggle on more solid ground.

Reality does have a nasty habit of interfering with theory, after all;
who cares about things like government-funded literacy, and housing, and
food, when you can just jump up and down and declaim, "the state always
betrays us!"
<I have deleted my original post, JL>


Message: 2

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: M. Junaid Alam <>
Subject: important addition

I just noticed this, so I should add that Jerry's assertion that I said
the Zapatistas are "dangerous" - never mind his further comment that I
am therefore in league with "the imperialists" - is an outright
distortion. Here is what I actually said on the discussion list where
the word "dangerous" appeared:

" I defend the Chavez approach as being far more useful. I don't think
the Zapatistas are a useful model, not so much as a function of their
strategy but because of their composition as a motley collection of some
indigenous groups. (Which is why I didn't criticize them i the article)
But what they are doing, as quite a marginalized force, is really just
surviving, which is no doubt crucial, but dangerous, in that if you
don't change the economic basis which underpins your ability to survive,
you are in serious trouble. So I don't think the Zapatistas are a useful
model when it comes to broader social forces operating in national
terms, where you need to be able to set the basis for national economic
development. I think Chavez is definitely trying to do this, way beyond
any kind of populist rhetoric, he is trying to fundamentally reorient
the national structure of the economy agriculturally and financially. He
is just not just going on a spending spree with petro dollars but break
apart the civil bureaucracy."

So what I said was "dangerous" was only in reference to *themselves* -
that they do not control the economic levers to improve their material
standards, and not that they are terrorists, or a danger to Mexico, or
whatever else Jerry tries to insinuate.
<I have again deleted my original post, JL>

Message: 3

From: <>
Subject: [AUT] Take Yourself Seriously:  A Brief Reply to Alam

Only three short comments:

1. The Left Hook discussion list is a list with public archives.

2.  He does not deny what his "main beef" is.

3.  He does not explain his decision to hide from the readership
    of Zmag what his "main beef" is.

In engaging with what Alam said was his "main beef" with
"Holloway et al" I  showed him far more respect than he showed
the readers of Zmag.


Message: 4

From: <>
Subject: [AUT] Alan's important addition

> So what I said was "dangerous"  was only in reference to
> *themselves* [...]

I'm sure the Zapatistas will appreciate his explanation that
they are only dangerous to themselves!


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