Weekend Roundup 2/10/13

by Ben Campbell on February 10, 2013

Readers of The North Star have likely noticed that much of our commentary was re-posted from elsewhere. Indeed, one of the purposes of The North Star is to avoid the duplication and triplication that goes into every small left grouping attempting to disseminate its own “party line”. Thus, we strive to incorporate the most interesting perspectives published elsewhere, regardless of how much we agree. Thankfully, there is far more out there worth reading than we are able to re-post here. That is the purpose of this column, hopefully a regular feature, with the comments thread serving as an open thread for discussion of developments on the left.

  • In Tunisia, the assassination of the leftist politician Chokri Belaïd led to mass protests, after a general strike called by the General Union of Tunisian Workers. Here’s Juan Cole on why Tunisia’s Arab Spring is in turmoil, while Dominique Lerouge of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste provides an overview of the Tunisian left.
  • In the latest development in the ongoing Socialist Workers Party (UK) crisis, the embattled Central Committee has agreed to call a special conference. While maintaining that they do not have “plans for ‘mass expulsions'” the CC maintained that “there must be a resolution – and soon.” Opposition members on the International Socialism blog quickly responded to, “urge members to reject yet another arbitrary deadline, and demand their full constitutional rights. We also urge members to send a clear signal of opposition by joining the faction.This comes after the Democratic Renewal faction was declared, calling for a special conference, and ends another week in which the SWP and the meaning “Leninism” have been subjected to harsh criticism from both within the party and without. After Nick Grant intervened in defense of the SWP in Socialist Worker (ISO), China Mieville and Richard Seymour responded with the sharp rejoinder On Accusations of Heresy, while Mark Bergfield of the CC offered his resignation letter. Owen Hatherly looked at the crisis and the meaning of “Leninism” in the Guardian. Harpymarx said of Leninism, Don’t accept pale imitations, while Soviet Goon Boy offered an extended reflection, and The Commune took a critical look at Chris Harman’s Leninism. Meanwhile Simon Hardy wrote of “New possibilities for a realignment of the left”, while discussions on this topic were held in London.See also The North Star‘s features on “Leninism”, by Pham Binh, Louis Proyect, Dario Cankovic, Corey Ansel, and Chris Cutrone. And finally, check out this videoblog on the SWP and Leninism submitted by Radio Free Utah.
  • The other story that seemed to exhaust the left’s attention this week was the heavy-handed attempt to stifle free speech at Brooklyn College. The boycott, divestments and sanctions (BDS) event with Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler did go on, and if you somehow missed the discussion, Brooklyn College professors Corey Robin, and Samir Chopra are a good place to start.
  • At the interface of ecology and the left, John Bellamy Foster offered a critical look at James Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the world’s foremost climate scientist, while Chris Williams asked “What must be done to stop climate change?”
  • We posted an interview with Eric Martin and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois on the lessons of the Quebec student strikes—see New Socialist for more.
  • Chris Maisano of Jacobin interviewed Sam Gindin on the “crisis in America labor”. Gindin is co-author with Leo Panitch of the recent book The Making of Global Capitalism, the conclusion of which can be read online.
  • Finally, we introduce our readers to the ‘Pop the Left’ podcast, produced by Derick Varn, Douglas Lain, and Nicholas Pell. The most recent episode ‘Sexy Anarchists vs Marxist Eggheads’ is worth a listen:


This list is not meant to be comprehensive—we welcomes tips on good material, at editors[at]thenorthstar.info, and the comments thread is open.

  • Brian S.

    Excellent innovation – should really help to build the site as a resource for the whole left.

  • David Berger

    Let me post my standard carp: not one mention of a concrete working class struggle. For example, in NYC alone, there is a major strike or school bus attendants and drivers; and ongoing organizing drive at Golden Farms, a large grocery store in Brooklyn; a struggle over the firing of 22 unionized CWA workers; a major gathering of, to make it simple, forces opposed to the 99% version of NYC’s recovery from Sandy. I’m sure I missed a half a dozen. Oh, yes, the struggle to prevent the gutting of the Post Office.

    But we sure as shit are up on the current crisis in the British SWP and there’s real grab-ass going on about Syria, without, of course, considering the appropriate stance of the American antiwar movement.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      And you failed to provide even a single link to any of the struggles you mention. Thanks for nothing.

    • http://rosswolfe.wordpress.com Ross Wolfe

      So why don’t you write something about one of these struggles and submit it for consideration?

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Because then he wouldn’t be able to carp and posture about other people’s alleged failures and shortcomings.

        • David Berger

          What I posted was a political critique of the post. To remedy this would take a fairly heavy commitment of time. And, based on the response here, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

          I spent two years trying to build up revleft, only to be expelled. Before I make a major commitment here, I have to be pretty sure that won’t happen again. And at this point, I’m not sure. There’s too much talk of censorship and expulsions for my taste.

          • Ben Campbell

            David, unfortunately it is impossible to run an online political forum without some measure of “censorship” and “expulsions”. All we can do is assure our readers that nobody has been “censored” due to their political views. Commenting privileges have been revoked only for a handful of users who persistently violated our commenting policy. These were posters who made it clear that they were more interested in flamewars and insults than substantive (and hopefully comradely) discussions.

            As far as labor goes, I did post the one interview with Sam Gindin. But I would argue (blasphemously I know) that updates on labor activism are not in and of themselves necessarily of interest to the left. On the other hand, if you know of any analyses of these struggles that highlight the challenges and possibilities for the left, then we would be happy to share.

            There are many ways one could influence the content of this site, some of which require more time commitment than others. Writing (or editing) is the most time-intensive, but one could also notify us of reports or analyses that might be worth sharing, either as posts or in this weekend roundup. This could either be done by email or by commenting in this thread. But merely lamenting the lack of such material without doing anything to rectify it is not particularly helpful, IMO. Believe it or not, we realize that our coverage is not complete and are looking to improve in many areas. Indeed, at one point we discussed the possibility of a roundtable on the challenges posed by labor organizing today. If you have any suggestions on people who might be interested in writing on this topic, please drop us a line.

            • David Berger

              From Ben Campbell: But I would argue (blasphemously I know) that updates on labor activism are not in and of themselves necessarily of interest to the left.

              David Berger: And I would argue, quite seriously, that you don’t know what socialist action is. What, in your estimation, supersedes direct action with the working class?

              • Ben Campbell

                The relevance of a working class struggle depends on the scale of struggle and the political consciousness of the workers in that struggle. Not every minor labor dispute is of interest, no matter how much you want it to be, and not every manifestation of “trade union consciousness” heralds an advance for the left. Again, if you would like to post links to interesting analyses of these labor disputes and how socialists are working with them, then feel free. But if you are expecting The North Star to give updates on every minor labor dispute around the country, you are likely to be disappointed. I am sure you are well aware of websites you can head to for such reports.

                • David Berger

                  Ben Campbell: The relevance of a working class struggle depends on the scale of struggle and the political consciousness of the workers in that struggle.

                  David Berger: Spoken like a true party functionary. Are you sure you’re not a Leninist? You are hiding behind Marxist categories to conceal a serious problem at this socialist website: virtually no one is involved in the concrete struggles of the working class. And you’re wrong.

                  The truth is that the “scale of struggle” may or not be relevant. Recently, a group of workers in New York at a fast food joint won a union contact. The scale of the struggle was about 25 workers in one workplace. Its relevance is that it demonstrates that fast-food workers, almost entirely unorganized, can be organized now.

                  Ben Campbell: Not every minor labor dispute is of interest, no matter how much you want it to be, and not every manifestation of “trade union consciousness” heralds an advance for the left.

                  David Berger: How profound. But, again, the truth is that unless people are involved in such struggles and recognize that they may, in fact, be extremely important, how can people know whether or not that are “of interest.” Again, you sound like a party bureaucrat.

                  Ben Campbell: Again, if you would like to post links to interesting analyses of these labor disputes and how socialists are working with them, then feel free.

                  David Berger: That';s real big of you, Ben. Feel free to … whatever.

                  Ben Campbell: But if you are expecting The North Star to give updates on every minor labor dispute around the country, you are likely to be disappointed. I am sure you are well aware of websites you can head to for such reports.

                  David Berger: And if you are expecting to learn about relevant labor struggles from Sam Gindin, you will be sadly disappointed. Frankly, your writing here reeks of … whatever. I don’t want to get banned for sassing the big guys.

                  • Ben Campbell

                    Actually, I think that you do want to get banned, as your daily routine here seems to be trolling The North Star and picking fights with this site’s moderators over trivial issues. It is quite sad. I suggest you find a website to comment at that you don’t have such contempt for. Until then your comments will no longer be approved unless they contain something substantive that our readers might be interested in reading.

                    • Arthur

                      This thread was mentioned as the approriate place for discussion of moderation policy. That should imply that David Berger’s “non-substantive” comments concerning moderation policy would continue to be published in this thread. This should have been explicitly confirmed in the above comment by Ben Campbell. Instead it looks very much like a further hasty escalation as a direct and personal immediate response (within 2 hours) by Ben Campbell personally to David Berger’s (naturally hostile) comments on Ben’s moderation policy concerning Dave in precisely the the place where such discussion was encouraged.

                      Such decisons should be announced collectively by a group of site administrators after at least the customary 24 hours delay for reflection during flame wars.

                      This is a very bad precedent.

                      In challenging it I am not disputing Ben’s description of Dave’s behaviour, and I do recognize that excluding “non-substantive” posts is well short of exclusion from the site. But it appears to be a direct punitive response to the hostile tone in Dave’s comments about moderation. Such hostility can be expected and should be tolerated and not punished in discussions about moderation policy.

                    • Ben Campbell

                      Arthur, you appear to be confusing two or more different threads. The above discussion between David and others was not about “moderation policy” but about labor activism.

                      Thank you for your advice on how to moderate this site. However, the decision to put an end to David Berger’s constant trolling was a decision made unanimously by this site’s moderators. No “24-hour reflection period” is required when we have had to deal with this over several months. If anyone believes this was “hasty” they are free to peruse his commenting history and the warnings that have previously been given.

                    • Arthur

                      Yes, somehow I did confuse this thread with the one that was suggested for comments on moderation policy.

                      The latter is where I thought the above response from David should have been tolerated:

                      http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=5464

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            It wasn’t a critique, it was your standard carp, one completely devoid of anything useful.

            You spend plenty of time on this site writing paragraphs about why other people are wrong but when asked to provide even a handful of URLs about the struggles you claim are important, you come up with excuses about how much time that would take. A Google search takes less than 30 seconds.

            It’s obvious you don’t want to be subject to criticism since you prefer to level it at everyone else.

        • Brandy Baker

          Can’t please everyone.

          You all are doing a great job with this site, it is what we desperately need. Socialism will be wiped out if we do not build alternatives to the sects.

          Let me know if there is any way I can help.

  • http://phillysocialists.org Tim Horras

    I like this idea. Keep it up! :)

  • Richard Estes
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