Richard Aoki: Snitch Jacketing 2.0? A Brief Note on the Allegations

by Sks on August 24, 2012

So we wake up on Monday, August 20, 2012, to find out Richard Aoki is alleged to have been a long-time informant of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A serious allegation, needless to say. Aoki’s military training, access to weapons, ethnic origin, and charisma were critical components in the development of the practice of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), its views on internationalism,  its views on armed struggle, and its approach to ethnic groups other than Black Americans.

To cast him in the light of a snitch shakes the very foundations of one of the most important, successful, and tragic examples of revolutionary organizing in the second half of the 20th century in the United States of America. It opens wounds of anti-Asian bigotry among Black revolutionaries, questions the internationalist instincts of the BPP, and in general pushes the ever-present question of a security culture to the forefront. It also forces us to revisit the FBI’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) and its current incantations as an existing force rather than a painful memory of a long-gone era.

While there is much to be said, my intent in this brief note is to put forward some rather incomplete initial thoughts — while approaching what I feel and view as the most critical areas to evaluate.

Snitch Jacketing 2.0

“Snitch Jacketing” is a classic counter-intelligence practice in which people who are not informants are named as informants either via “leaks” or via other actual informants, in order to destabilize the targeted individual or the targeted group. It is historically extremely effective, and hence has been used time and time again.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples in the Western world was the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) Supergrass Affairs, where a number of lesser figures were accused and sometimes even executed of being informants, while the actual informants remained free. It was an terribly effective tactic: it paralyzed entire units of the PIRA and other groups, while leading to large scale arrests of dozens of activists and Volunteers.

Snitch jacketing, however, has been losing effectiveness because of the information society and also because it generated a culture within certain corners of the revolutionary movement in which the fear of informants is such that the state has no need to deploy it: the groups themselves perpetuate a paranoid style of politics that neutralizes them.

The contemporary state hence has modified the age-old technique into something we can call Snitch Jacketing 2.0. It utilizes the existing history to create a pan-optical paranoia on the target, and this needs to be fed from time to time with fresh kills, to keep the tree of fear and uncertainty watered.

Sure, there is a need for a security culture – but those who make an unaccountable claim to posses this truth are in fact playing into the Snitch Jacketing 2.0 game: the idea is to envelop and paralyze movements, and this is best done when movements are much more preoccupied about security than politics.

The reality is, we do not know if Richard Aoki was an informant. And the timing for this information to emerge now is highly suspect in the context of a global uprising and the events in Anaheim. I can see a thread of critique from the right and from the state of what Aoki in the positive sense was a symbol of: uncompromising anti-imperialist internationalism. That is, a political line that remains as valid now as it was then, and remains equally dangerous to those in the state — and in the right and in the left — to whom anti-imperialism and internationalism are bad ideas.

On the right, the defense of white supremacy and empire is of importance, and in the left, the identitarian self-ghettoization and the pacifist liberalism find an advantage in the pushing of this myth. Even on the left that is not identitarian or pacifist there are already sectarian rumbles, full of the wounds of another era, that take advantange of the uncertainty to promote sectarian explanations for Aoki’s move from Trotskyism to a form of Third Worldism.

We do not know it to be true. That is the main point to make at this point. Those who give credence to this information to further political points, or those who assume a superficial agnosticism to do the same are playing precisely into this game. In a sense, so am I — but I will claim that this self-consciousness becomes a direct attack on this emerging form of Snitch Jacketing, and I put it forward in the hopes it helps minimize the impact of the information at hand.

But what if it is true?

This recalls the Malinovsky affair from Bolshevik times. Roman Malinovsky was a leader of the Bolsheviks – a member of the Central Committee and leader of the Bolshevik group in the Duma [the Russian legislature – ed], as well as a protege of V.I. Lenin. He was also an informant of the Czar’s secret service and responsible for the exile and jailing, one by one, of all of the Bolshevik leadership between 1910-1914. Lenin, when confronted with this information, took it in stride:  “If he is a provocateur, the police gained less from it than our Party did.”

He finally met his demise at the orders of Zinoviev, when he tried to rejoin the victorious Petrograd Soviet in 1918.

Aoki is dead. He can neither confirm nor deny this information — nor can we evaluate him as a living participant in the revolutionary movement, and much less provide some sort of justice.

We can, however, at the very least, judge as Lenin did, if the movement or the state gained more in this situation. I offer that the balance lies with the movement. His contributions — in practice and as a symbol — are much more important and central than any snitching he might or might not have done. This is an extremely important point to raise in breaking the encirclement of the counter-intelligence effort.

We do not know it to be true

And we can also see — in a movement destroyed to a large extent by paranoia, snitch jacketing, and self-consuming inner-struggles in which accusing of snitching was a prime weapon — that often the instincts of the movement are wrong: snitching is much less effective than the allergic reaction to its possibility as way to disrupt movements. Thus, countless of innocent people were branded as snitches — some of them in violent ways — who weren’t. The emergence of the Great Rectification in the Communist Party of the Philippines comes to mind as an example of what goes wrong when this snitch jacketing gains a foothold: it nearly killed the movement from within. The CPP understood this before the fatal blow was delivered, but only did so after one of the most painful and self-destructive periods of its history. There are too many lessons there to illustrate, but it is a prime example of what is wrong in letting a normal part of revolutionary politics — is the presence of snitches — become the primary preocupation of a movement over the political struggle.

It remains to be seen if these allegations are true or not. But what we can do now is reflect upon the historic effect of snitch jacketing and put this allegation on that light. And if we take it to be true, to also but this in the context of the larger historic role. This is not a time for a simplistic perspective, but rather one informed by a nuanced and historical perspective on what in means to be a revolutionary in the U.S. today, and what it meant then.

Put simply, Richard Aoki is much more than a snitch, if he was one. 

And thus, even if true, the allegations should be a footnote in his history. Not to mention, that in spite of ample opportunity to do so, these allegations were never made public while he was alive. That is highly suspect in itself — in the context of Anaheim, the Oakland Commune, and other mass resistances in the greater Bay Area of California, the political scene in which Aoiki always stood out as an icon of a certain brand of cross-ethnic internationalism. As white supremacy suffers a demographic challenge, as whites become a minority themselves, this is of extreme historic importance: divide and conquer is a tool of power much older and powerful than snitch jacketing ever was.

Let’s not lose ourselves in the footnote and forget the main text.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis Proyect August 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm
Sks August 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Except, dear Louis, that is not what Diane Fujino said. She questions the document that supposedly identifies Aoki as an informant in a convincing fashion.

Those on the left who accept prima facie the “Evidence” Rosenfeld presents as enough, as missing a key point of scientific inquiry: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Such burden is not met by Rosenfeld. Hence he is irresponsible in publishing incomplete information and evidence and passing it as such.

That is Snitch Jacketing 2.0. Maybe not by the State, but by liberals seeking to discredit – by any means necessary – politics that are now under renewed scrutiny by a new generation of radicals.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 24, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Extraordinary claims do not require extraordinary evidence. That is not the scientific method, where you test a set of hypotheses with rigorous experiments and accumulate evidence before drawing conclusions. And there is nothing extraordinary about someone being an informant except to the people who knew (or thought they knew) that someone.

The author has been working on this book for 30 years and there is nothing irresponsible in his decision to publish the material he had to fight the FBI for. Waiting on them to release Aoki’s file is what would have been irresponsible. And issuing blanket condemnations of either Aoki or Rosenfeld is irresponsible since we do not yet have all the facts thanks to the FBI’s delaying tactics.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that Aoki was an informant, and based on the quote from the book that Proyect mentioned, possibly a provacatuer as well. The fact that Rosenfeld stumbled into all of this makes it a hell of a lot more likely that it’s true since he didn’t set out to write a book on Aoki much less attacking him. I’ve had the same experience, researching one question and then finding something unusual and compelling on another question along the way. This happens to all honest researchers — radical, conservative, and liberal alike. If Rosenfeld was a liberal out to attack radicals, he wouldn’t have written a book documenting state repression of radicals.

That said, I do appreciate the caution of your overall argument. Snitch jacketing is dangerous and counterproductive when it comes to living figures, movements, and organizations. I don’t think Rosenfeld’s book is going to ignite an internal inquisition in any radical group in part because almost none of them are open to the idea of arms or armed struggle being on the order of the day. The stakes now are a lot lower because the left is irrelevant and weak although we’ve seen how quickly the state adapted to Occupy, sending in spies, provocatuers, and disruptive elements while stepping up electronic surveillance, eavesdropping, and data mining, so we can’t let our guard down either.

If anything we should seek to learn how activists in the Arab Spring successfully dealt with all of the above to lead the second wave of 21st century revolutions (the first wave is arguably Latin America from 2001 onward).


Sks August 25, 2012 at 12:08 am

What preponderance of evidence?

As Diane Fujino demonstrated quite convincingly, all three pieces of “evidence” that Rosenfeld presents are deeply flawed. And in particular she says that in the hundreds of documents obtained via FOIA she has researched – which are exactly the same as Rosenfeld’s and she sees no corroboration. In fact, she extensively cites these documents in her own biography of Aoki but responsibly didn’t touch upon the document in question, because as she points out – its ambiguous, ambiguously presented, and redacted in key parts that rob it of context.

Rosenfeld is irresponsible at best, and I am being charitable. One could argue he is a charlatan lowering the standards of academic and journalistic research.

Of course, it is no surprise you consider the burden of proof met, after all, you exhibit complete ignorance of scientific rigor – which was deeply influenced in modernity by Laplace’s declaration that “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.” or, as Carl Sagan much later worded it “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. It is a pillar of contemporary scientific skepticism and research. Your comments are ignorant – and a deep ignorance at that: ask any researcher and ethicist and scientist, and they will tell you that the hierarchy of proof is a central part of the scientific method, as practiced by scientists. That commentators left and right feel unattached to such rigor is why Rosenfeld can get away with murdering the memory of Aoki. And in fact, does a diservice to truth: since his evidence is so flimsy and circumstantial and in fact not evidence, if Aoki was a snitch, now the well is poisoned.

And yes, claiming anyone is a snitch, in indeed a extraordinary claim, and further, making this claim about a leader of an organization of historical significance, is much more extraordinary. I come from a political space in which such accusations led to murders, beatings, and all kinds of awful consequences. Which is ok when it is true, but not ok if it is not – and we need much more that one document among thousands and the say so of one guy to make this be credible.

This is why pseudo-science should be killed with fire. And why no one should trust the opinion of anyone who claims that snitching is not a extraordinary claim, and that extraordinary claims do not require extraordinary evidence. Such lack of rigor deserves our deepest disapproval.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Failing to touch on this issue on grounds of ambiguity in a biography is what is irresponsible. People and life are full of ambiguities. Fujino stumbled into the same stuff Rosenfeld did, but, unlike him, she chose to cover it up because she couldn’t make heads or tails of it (or she couldn’t accept the implications because of her bias). She did her readers a disservice. Rosenfeld deserves credit for forcing the issue, which probabaly won’t be settled until the FBI releases its file on Aoki (if it ever does).

Covering up ambiguities and uncertainties is not what scientists, journalists, or historians ought to be doing.

Aoki is dead, so the evidentiary standards are a bit different than with the living because you don’t have to figure out how to deal with the accused in an organization or worry about snitch jacketing leading to internal strife in a movement. No one is going to be murdered over this whether the allegations are true or false, no group is going to be destroyed with people taking pro or anti-Aoki positions. The stakes are much lower and there are historical lessons to be learned from this experience. Mike Ely has written a lot of excellent stuff on that at Kasama Project.


Sks August 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Oh yeah, lets crap on the dead. Because they cannot defend themselves.

BTW, Fujino didn’t do what you said she did. You are inventing this. She looked at the document after Rosenfeld raised it – according to her interview.

Of course, you have a well known tendency to never let truth get in the way of a cool story. Which figures – you defend Rosenfeld with the same ethical standard, which is basically none.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Fujino looked at the document, but did she discuss it in her book? Yes or no?


Sks August 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm

According to herself, she looked at it after Rosenfeld raised it publicly.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Based on your first comment, “[Fujino] says that in the hundreds of documents obtained via FOIA she has researched – which are exactly the same as Rosenfeld’s and she sees no corroboration. In fact, she extensively cites these documents in her own biography of Aoki but responsibly didn’t touch upon the document in question,” I was under the impression that she looked at the exact same documents Rosenfeld did when she wrote her biography but didn’t bring this one to light. “[S]he looked at it after Rosenfeld raised it publicly” presents a different picture.

I would like to hear your interpretation of Aoki’s response to Rosenfeld’s question that the FBI issue involves “layers upon layers” of complexity.


X Y August 27, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Black Panther Aoki admitted being an agent? How a smear is made


Louis Proyect August 25, 2012 at 9:01 am

SKS above: “Snitch Jacketing” is a classic counter-intelligence practice in which people who are not informants are named as informants either via “leaks” or via other actual informants, in order to destabilize the targeted individual or the targeted group. It is historically extremely effective, and hence has been used time and time again.

SKS on Kasama Project in February (

Louis Proyect supports the CIA over the black bloc.

That is all you need to know about his politics.


Sks August 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Well, you did – you said Lovestone – a confirmed CIA asset – was better than the black bloc historically. Might not have been what you intended to do, but its what you did.

Of course, you are well known to not accept things like “context” when attacking those who disagree with your self-important platitudes. You politics are reduced to “whatever I say is right, because I said it”. When you get it right, its like a broken clock that gets the time right twice a day.


Brian S. August 25, 2012 at 11:55 am

This is a bit outside my experiential territory, although not my theoretical horizons, as I have a bit of interest in security service penetration of the left.I agree with Sks that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” – if by “extraordinary claims” we mean ones which break with an established body of knowledge and understanding. The latter reflect an accumulated, collective source of knowledge, which may be wrong, but which has prima facie claim to validity until someone can make a stronger case for refutation. A classic instance is the Moscow trials: the primary case for rejecting their charges rests on their totally “extraordinary” character.)
The best summary of the arguments regarding Aoki is the Democracy Now program where the two sides confront each other. I didn’t think either was really convincing. In my view Rosenfeld defended his case poorly, and in another part of the interview concedes that FBI bureaucracy often led to misidentification of subjects (seriously weakening the one bit of documentary evidence he has); his case is largely circumstantial – although someof it relatively strong. What I found curious was the recorded response of Aokii when Rosenfeld presented the accusations to him.
Fujino did offer a convincing challenge to Rosenfeld’s “three pieces” of evidence, but not to the latter issue. And it seemed to me that she was back-pedalling in her argument quite significantly at the end.
Without having read the book, I wouldn’t even try to draw any conclusion.It will take a bit of trouble for me to get hold of it: can anyone who has read it advise if its worth the effort for the other material in it?


Sks August 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm

The interview with Aoki, at best, is evidence of his cooperation at an early age – one which besides the military service need documented corroboration to even be even considered.

The interview with the agent is not corroborated by any other documentary evidence. For example, there should be mentions of Aoki as an informant as early as the late 50s, but those are not found.

The only document presented is an ambiguous censored document. As Diane Fujino mentioned in Democracy Now, this document the “informant” slot is actually censored. And I have seen this form in other cases, and the place where Aoki is mentioned is not usually where the informant is.

All this boils down to this: it was irresponsible for Rosenfeld to make this claim as conclusive.

As more responsible thing would have been to raise this with peers and expand research, to declare this a working hypothesis worth pursuing, but that the evidence is flawed.

However, that is not what he did. And in many corners, including apparently Louis Proyect’s corner, it has been taken – acritically – as truth, usually to further pre-existing and preconceived political attacks. Snitch Jacketing 2.0.


Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

@sks: I partly agree. As I understand it, the document that Rosenfeld produces was not redacted to delete the informant’s name – it had simply not been completed when the document was drawn up but inserted subsequently in handwriting (and the name was not entirely correct). Evidence of sloppy FBI bureaucracy, which reinforces doubts over the document.
I agree that the absence of documentation from the early period of his alleged collaboration is a contra-indication; but one of Rosenfeld’s stronger points is his assertion that there is little or no reference to Aoki in FBI documents – curious for someone playing the role he did, suggesting he might have had some sort of protection (if it is accurate).
The chronology is patchy: his alleged recruitment seems to have taken place in something like the mid-1950s but I haven’t seen anything about his political activities at that time. There’s then a hiatus until he reappears in the YSA/SWP about 1962: that does seem to coincide with the start of serious FBI interest in the Bay area SWP, as indicated by the COINTELPRO files.The hiatus would be roughly consistent with the Wikipedia claim that he served in the US military for eight years (which would explain his familiarity with firearms) – but its not clear how it fits in with this scenario (and I gather you are casting some doubt on it).
Aoki’s response to Rosenfeld’s accusations do seem to me to be signigficant: there is a tendency for people caught up in these sort of “split personality” situations to want to confess as they get towards the end of their lives. But while Aoki’s reaction seems suggestive, its far from explicit.
Overall Rosenfeld’s research looks shoddy (but I haven’t seen the book) and a lot of these points should have been clarified before rushing in to print. On his part it looks like an attempt to boost his sales.
Any comment on my query about whether the book is worth going out of my way to get hold of?


Sks August 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Aoki’s military service is not under dispute, nor was it disputed by him. It was in fact the basis of his political life – he attracted veterans around him, and was upheld as an example of how armed struggle in a disciplined fashion was preferable to lumpen gun flashing.

Because this is were a defense of Aoki is important: he was, for all his love of guns, a voice of sanity and discipline in this milieu – and had to be defended from attacks from the “lumpen” wing of the BPP. This political history of the role played by Aoki within the BPP – that of a moderating and disciplining figure rather than an adventurist – is clear in Diane Fujino’s biography of him, and is completely ignored by Rosenfeld.

And it stands contrary to the supposition that Aoki was an informant – in fact Aoki left an active role in the BPP precisely at the time were the COINTELPRO disruptions of the BPP were stepped up. It makes no sense to remove an asset like that under such conditions.

Rosenfeld is snitch jacketing, the evidence mounts on this. And those who give him credence over the work of others, and the actual political trajectory of Aoki, are snitch jacketing too.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm

It doesn’t look like the name was penciled in there.

It’s entirely possible that Aoki was an informant for a period and then at some point disassociated himself from the FBI (hence the “layers upon layers” of complexity). The NYPD officer assigned to eavesdrop on Malcolm X’s phone calls ended up arguing with his superiors that they should be helping Malcolm X instead of hampering him because he was persuaded that Malcolm’s message of black self-reliance, pride, and general respect for the law coincided with the NYPD’s interests as a law enforcement organization. His bosses didn’t agree. The point here being that people change over time; someone who starts out as an informant might quit, someone who starts out as an enforcer for the system might end up being a whistleblower.

The only thing that will help settle this definitively at this point is the release of Aoki’s full file. The FBI’s claim that he doesn’t have one defies belief.


Louis Proyect August 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Comrade SKS, this is what you wrote:

And Louis Proyect brings up the “workers sitting in at a Ford plant in Flint using monkey-wrenches to defend themselves against the cops in 1938.” Very well. The Lovestonites that emerged from and led that struggle certainly stand as shinning example… of how not to do it. If your heroes are CIA agents, that is your choice. I, for one, given the hard choice prefer the jackasses in black levi’s over CIA-State Department “socialists” any day. Call me crazy.

I talked about rank-and-file workers and you dragged in Jay Lovestone out of the blue and then you made an amalgam between me, Jay Lovestone and the CIA.

You are crazy.


Sks August 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Read again what you provided.

I make no mention of rank and file workers. I make mention of the “Lovestonites that emerged from and led that struggle”, because, in fact, that strike was the crowning “achievement” of the Lovestonites. As you know, actual history – not the post-modernist deformation you peddle as history.

And of course, calling the most militant of the current working class “jackasses in black levi’s” is certainly a measure of sanity.

Go back to your cybernetic fiefdom and let us adults discuss Aoki, please.


Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm

@sks or whoever: Losing track of who’s saying what here: but to whoever claimed that the Lovestoneites were the leaders of Flint – What do you base that claim on?


Sks August 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Of course, losing track is Louis Proyect goal: he has been cyberstalking me for ages.

That said, its not a claim I make. Its the historical fact.

Wikipedia has a surprisingly correct summary on the history of this, with lots of footnotes to study:


Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm

All “facts” are claims until they are verified. The article you link to from Wikipedia is a bit confusingly written (probably reflecting its group authorship) , but if you read it carefully it disproves your claim.
The first elected executive of the UAW was associated with Lovestone’s trade union caucus, the Progressive Group, including president Homer Martin and vice-president Wyndham Mortimer. But none of them were “Lovestoneites” : as the article points out, “From the beginning the top leadership was divided between Martin loyalists and Communist Party members like Mortimer, Hall and Addes.”
The key UAW officials in the organisation of the Flint strike were Wyndham Mortimer and Ben Travis – both CP members. The Lovestoneites had even less influence at the rank and file level (their influence in the UAW was based in the bureaucracy): the main grassroots leaders in Flint were from the left of the Socialist Party – especially Kermit Johnson and the Reuthers (and Genora Johnson in community organising).
The Wikipedia article goes on to detail Lovestone’s disasterous factional manoueuvres within the UAW, which led to the destruction of any remaining influence his supporters had by 1939.


Sks August 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Interesting, because people are willing to call Aoki a snitch on much less…

Anyways, it is true it was a complex situation in Flint – however, regardless of the factual debate we can have on this topic, it does answer the disingenuous question that Proyect poses.

Now, can we get back to Aoki?


Louis Proyect August 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Actually Brian cleared things up pretty good. My suggestion to SKS remains: don’t make hasty amalgams between your ideological adversaries on the left and the CIA. It is a very nasty habit that most of us broke 15 years ago or should have.


Sks August 26, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Except Louis, I made no such accusation.

You did, however, snitch jacketed the black bloc, call people names left and right.

You want respect? Give it. Otherwise, I will get down to your cesspool level of self-righteous and incoherent babbling. I mean, even in here, you managed to contradict yourself.

Here is a piece of advice: don’t throw stones in glass houses. And don’t throw shit into a fan and get upset it smears you.

Now, dear special snowflake, can we stop making this about your wounded ego and go back to Aoki? Or this is too much to ask?


Brian S. August 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

I’ve said all I have got to say on Aoki for the time being (as it appears have you) Now, if we can get back to Lovestone. Its true that there is some debate over the role of different people and currents in Flint, but its focused on the relative importance of the CP members (especially Bob Travis) and the left SP activists (especially Kermit Johnson). Nary a Lovestoneite in sight. (They were too busy trying to take over the UAW machine.)


Louis Proyect August 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

SKS: I make no mention of rank and file workers

That’s the problem. I mentioned them because I was trying to draw a contrast between proletarians fighting for the right to have a union and the side-show represented by breaking Starbucks windows. I have no idea why you dragged Lovestone into the discussion at all except to smear me as a State Department socialist/CIA backer. Also, I have no idea what Lovestone has to do with the Flint sitdown strike. I was very close to Sol Dollinger whose wife Genora led the woman’s auxiliary. His book “Not Automatic” says nothing about Lovestone. And even if it did, what was your goal in making an amalgam between me and him? Frankly, this kind of smear job is typical of someone incapable of making a reasoned political response. It is cheap demagogy and not very effective.


Sks August 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Louis, you said this above:

“I talked about rank-and-file workers and you dragged in Jay Lovestone out of the blue and then you made an amalgam between me, Jay Lovestone and the CIA.”

Then here:

“SKS: I make no mention of rank and file workers”

Which is the truth? Both?


Louis Proyect August 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

I should have realized that it was pointless to try to have a coherent discussion with someone who uses SKS (a Soviet machine gun) as a tag. Sorry for wasting time here.


Sks August 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Really, you are worried about pseudonym?


Louis Proyect August 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm
X Y August 29, 2012 at 5:28 am

and now i wish i had actually bet some real money against louis’ declaration in his previous blog bloviation to “put money on” aoki being a snitch


Louis Proyect August 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

X Y, do you have any politics besides this Rosenberg/Aoki controversy? You have posted 26 comments about it on the Marxism list, and probably the same amount on Kasama and North Star. All in the span of 9 days. Weird… Maybe you can explore Z, since X and Y have been pretty much exhausted.

In terms of what I have written about Aoki, I professed agnosticism about his connections to the FBI. My main interest was exploring his role at Berkeley during the ethnic studies strike. As I said, I did not care whether his proposal to rob guns from National Guard armories was an FBI provocation or an ultraleft gesture in keeping with the spirit of the times. After reading about half of Fujino’s book, I have come to the conclusion that Rosenberg’s account of the Berkeley events were skewed to support his thesis, namely that “extremism” helped Reagan destroy the student movement. But the Aoki that emerges in the Fujino book is completely at odds with this picture, hence making me suspicious about Rosenberg’s scholarship. I will be dealing with this in some depth tomorrow.


Sks August 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Typical Louis, he gets caught in his contradiction, and its AD HOMINEM TIME.


Sks August 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm

That said, am glad Louis Proyect actually sees the light on this topic and through the actual correct perspective:

Diane Fujino’s scholarship is much more solid than Rosenberg’s and much more responsible to context and the complexity of the figure and its times.

Rosenberg is a snitch jacketing liberal trying to attack “ultra-leftism” by a very thin thread.

Of course, if I had LP’s ego, I would gloat a big TOLD YOU SO. But I don’t, so I won’t


X Y September 1, 2012 at 4:08 am

don’t be too hasty in your praise. LP has yet to actually recant (let alone APOLOGIZE for) his previous judgement and spreading of slander, let alone bless the world with his supposedly-forthcoming reevaluations atop the internet olympus that is his blog.


X Y September 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Here is The Chronicle of Higher Education. Includes statements from historians Donna Jean Murch and Yohuru R. Williams, in addition to Diane C. Fujino and Scott Kurashige. The full article is behind the Chronicle’s paywall.


August 31, 2012

Scholars Challenge Author’s Assertion That 1960s Activist Worked for FBI

By Peter Monaghan

[clip]”If you’re going to make that a central claim of a book, you’re going to be held to a high standard of proof,” says Donna Jean Murch, author of Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Historians like Ms. Murch, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, say Mr. Rosenfeld’s claim is unsubstantiated and warrants a more rigorous investigation than he gave it.

His allegation came to public attention in August when the San Francisco Chronicle published his article on the subject, timed to the release of his book; Mr. Rosenfeld also released a video report on the Web site of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The charges against Mr. Aoki account for only about 10 pages of the more than 700 in his book, which examines FBI activities concerning the University of California at Berkeley during the cold war. The evidence it relies on includes some 300,000 pages of FBI records released as a result of Mr. Rosenfeld’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

But Mr. Rosenfeld’s critics say that his accusations against Mr. Aoki rely on one former FBI agent, now deceased, who said he was Mr. Aoki’s handler in the years before his political activism, and one FBI document, redacted and, critics say, ambiguous.


While Mr. Aoki might conceivably have had entanglements with law-enforcement figures early in his adult life, and been singled out as a possible informant by FBI agents, his actions, over all, hardly seem consistent with expectations of how an FBI informant would behave, says Diane C. Fujino, a scholar of Asian-American studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her biography of Mr. Aoki, Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Life has just been published by the University of Minnesota Press. “Anything is possible, and so I’m open to the truth,” she says. “But I’d need to see substantial evidence.”


In response, Mr. Rosenfeld says he makes no assertion that Mr. Aoki helped the FBI disrupt political movements. (In an e-mail to The Chronicle, he said would not have time before this article went to print to respond to the specific criticisms that researchers have made about his allegations.) But his book does include such statements as: “Did Aoki help the Panthers fight for justice, or did he set them up? During the same period Aoki was arming the Panthers, he was informing for the FBI,” and “he had given the Black Panthers some of their first guns and weapons training, encouraging them on a course that would contribute to shootouts with police and the organization’s demise.”

The evidence Mr. Rosenfeld presents dates from the period in which Mr. Aoki attended activists’ meetings but before the Black Panther Party was even formed. A key consideration, says Yohuru R. Williams, an associate professor of African-American history at Fairfield University, would be to assess what kind of information he might have provided authorities, and under what circumstances. Mr. Williams, who has written extensively about the Black Panthers, says that Mr. Rosenfeld appears to draw a conclusion based on slight evidence, then projects it forward as a surmise about Mr. Aoki’s role in key events in Panther history.

Mr. Williams, like Scott Kurashige, a professor of American culture and history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor who specializes in the history of Asian-American political and social activism, criticizes Mr. Rosenfeld for apparently relying on one FBI document, and on his interviews with one former FBI agent, Burney Threadgill Jr., who died in 2005. While Mr. Rosenfeld writes that the FBI document—which has recently circulated among scholars, including Mr. Williams and Mr. Kurashige—identifies Mr. Aoki as an informant, it is in reality far more ambiguous, say the critics.


critics say Mr. Rosenfeld’s sourcing is irresponsible. In his San Francisco Chronicle account, Mr. Rosenfeld writes in reference to a taped 2007 interview between himself and Mr. Aoki: “Asked if this reporter was mistaken that Aoki had been an informant, Aoki said, ‘I think you are,’ but added: ‘People change. It is complex. Layer upon layer.'” But in Mr. Rosenfeld’s video feature, the words “people change” are not heard on the tape and appear not to have been in that part of the interview.

As other evidence for his case, he cites a second former FBI agent, M. Wesley Swearingen, who made a sworn declaration as part of one of Mr. Rosenfeld’s lawsuits against the FBI, saying he “concluded … that Aoki had been an informant.” In the video feature, Mr. Swearingen explains that part of his reasoning was that Mr. Aoki could have spied unsuspected in Black Panther ranks because he was “Japanese”—reasoning that Mr. Rosenfeld’s critics disparage as absurd.

What also bothers the critics is that Mr. Rosenfeld does not cite recent books by historians and other scholars—people like them—on topics like surveillance and the role of state “subversion” during the Panther era.

“If this were a scholarly work, it would not survive academic peer review,” says Mr. Kurashige. “I dare say that it would likely fail even a dissertation defense.”

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