Bob Gould, 2003

Lay off Laura

Source: Marxmail, August 15, 2003
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

I’m in strong sympathy with the moderator’s note about the greater utility of sustained argument as opposed to ill-considered, almost conversational, exchanges.

In one of his autobiographical novels, perhaps The Road Between, James T. Farrell describes a Stalinist called Leather Jacket, who was notorious around the left in New York for his abusive language and behaviour. I’m struck by how the disembodied voice on the web amplifies the impact of the Leather Jackets of this world, a number of whom, it appears, travel under a lot of different bylines and post their abuse on a lot of different lists.

One can sense various moderators’ exasperation and irritation with the Leather Jackets on the web. Louis is a very patient moderator who lets things run a bit, which is smart. His basic point, however, in yesterday’s note, seems to me well worth absorbing: why waste the time on ill-considered exchanges?

I don’t like the superior tone of John Cox’s attack on Comrade Laura. Her appearance on the list, defending in a systematic way the politics of the US SWP as a disciplined sympathiser, seems to me a very good sign of the broadening of necessary political discussion. Her arguments seem to me more measured and careful than those of several babbling Stalinists who’ve passed through the list in recent months. Why pick on her because her politics are those of the US SWP?

I disagree with her on a number of points, but would want to argue with her politically, rather than slinging gratuitous insults.

Once again, I find Jose Perez’s lengthy contribution to this discussion yesterday interesting and useful. His general point, informed by his knowledge of the territory — that it’s quite useful to draw the US SWP into some kind of political discussion, and his observation that in his patch Solidarity and the US ISO are beginning to talk, and presumably argue sensibly with each other — gives me heart.

And again, the sensible, practical tone of the argument between Malik Miah and Richard Lesnik on the one hand and the bloke who disagreed with their tactics in the union conflict on the other, struck me as an eminently sensible example of how an argument between socialists about difficult tactical matters should be conducted. We need more of that kind of exchange and less point-scoring and abuse. Lay off Laura, argue with her.