Going public

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 24 16:15:24 PDT 1998

(This nut just wrote me that I was unprincipled and blames it on my "Trotskyist roots". That forces me to go public. No fucking idiot has the right to mail me this kind of shit and get away with it. Just look me up sometime in NYC, "Comrade" Lawrence and I'll let you insult me to my face, you punk.)

CONFIDENTIAL - Not for Reproduction or Quotation


I am a reader of Henwood's list, but so far I have not posted, mainly for lack of time to get embroiled in often frivolous byways. I have been a revolutionary activist for almost 40 years, 23 of them in Mississippi. My best known comrade and teacher was C.L.R. James; I was for many years a leader of Sojourner Truth Organization. In recent years, my principal activity has been anti-fascist, although I'm better known for writing on government repression.

In almost everything you wrote on this subject, I agree with you. Nevertheless, a word to the wise:

Ward Churchill is an old friend. He and I collaborated on a joint anti- mercenary issue of CovertAction Information Bulletin in the early 1980s. But our relationship became strained shortly afterward by his embrace of the Nicaraguan Contras. Although pitched as righteous support for the oppressed Miskitos, it was nothing of the sort. Ward worked closely with his friends, Glenn Morris and Russell Means, funded by the Moonies, to create anti- Sandinista provocations. They created a rump "Colorado AIM" to lend that work a gloss of leftwing insurgent legitimacy. Next, Ward accompanied contra leader Brooklyn Rivera to a meeting with Eliott Abrams, seeking [more] U.S. aid.

By coincidence, a group of anti-apartheid activists at Boulder invited me to speak at a teach-in on the same day that Ward had invited Russ Means. Means took the platform to denounce "Sandinista apartheid." Fortunately, I was the next speaker, having just returned from two weeks in Nicaragua, including to Puerto Cabesas, Tasba Pri, and several other Miskito towns, so I was able to refute his every word, as well as the fake quotes he attributed to Tomas Borge. Embarrassed by the encounter, Ward professed to love us both, praised my work, and said that he and Russ just wanted to make sure that the little fish don't swallow even littler fish while they resist the imperialist monster.

What came next was appalling even for fourth-world champions who hate leftists. Ward and Glenn co-wrote an article for Cultural Survival titled "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," justifying the Hmong and Miskito alliances with the CIA in Laos and Nicaragua as expressions of Leninist self- determination in opposition to Stalinism. (Sorry, unfortunately my files are still in Mississippi, inaccessible to me, so I cannot provide references and quotes.)

At the same time, Ward had no qualms about attacking Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, then a Sandinista publicist, for her 1970s betrayal of her RU comrades to HUAC during her feminist phase, and hinting that her claim to Indian heritage was fraudulent.

My comrades in the (nationalist) Mexican MLN in Colorado, and in the militant Chicano movement, were always suspicious of Ward, because except for his writing, he is not culturally a radical, nor does he participate in solidarity activities. He uses his department as a ward-heeler dispenses patronage. His personal behavior is extremely macho, abusive of women; his lifestyle is affluent bourgeois; and he remains chummy with his former employer and co- workers at Soldier of Fortune and Gung-Ho magazines.

I quit writing for CovertAction when the (recently fired) former editor refused to allow me to engage Ward in debate over his support of military alliances with the CIA. She said that would be "sectarian" and would violate the spirit of "unity."

Your point about the others is well taken. While I was working to counter the influence of Nazi Holocaust deniers in Mississippi schools, Noam Chomsky came to their defense. French Nazi professor Robert Faurisson published a letter from Chomsky in an early issue of the Journal for Historical Review. In the letter, Chomsky not only supported Faurisson's right to speak, write, and teach, but also lent political and legal advice to his defense. I wrote to Chomsky asking how he could have done such a thing. His long angry reply noted that he had defended Henry Kissinger's right to teach also, but danced around the only significant point of his political solidarity with a Nazi.

Michael Moore promised to bring Roger and Me to Mississippi, when he was embracing me (in East Germany) as a true USA insurgent grass root, while he slagged the prominent leftists present in his usual insufferable arrogance. But once home, he never answered a letter or phone call, let alone made an appearance. [Iin contrast to Moore, Bob van Lierop premiered all of his great African liberation documentary films to grass-roots audiences in Mississippi.]

I don't know whether postings to LBO have any substantial political value. If they do, I have not seen it. Nevertheless, assuming the best, I would urge you to be as careful about Ward as you are about Alex Cockburn, Chomsky, and Moore.

Incidentally, one other similar point may be in order. Paul Mattick and the council communists have received praise on LBO. Back in the 1940s, they were agitating on behalf of the plebeian anti-Hitler Nazi leader, Otto Strasser, and seeking permission to bring him here for a speaking tour. To his dying day in the 1970s, the younger Strasser brother was an unreconstructed Nazi, racist, and anti-Semite.

In solidarity,

Ken Lawrence


I wish you had read through what I sent before firing off your retort.

Your post is somewhat unprincipled, since I am currently unable to refute your simplistic misrepresentation of my advisory note, the point of which is plainly that Ward was/is NOT a sincere Miskito advocate, and dropped that pretense as soon as the Sandinistas were defeated. I wrote you not of his "pro-Miskitu" activity, but of his collaboration with the CIA and the Moonies, on the pretext of supporting indigenous Atlantic coast people of Nicaragua, later elevating collaboration with the CIA to the level of principle.

Sadly, given your Trotskyist roots, I suppose should not be surprised. If this is your typical response to a private word of comradely advice, one can only hope that you have a better manner in the larger political world. It is as though your ego requires you to have prepared a manifesto on every subject, with which to forestall any real political exchange, combing others' texts only for verification, but not for insight. In this respect, you are more a Spartacist than you admit -- again, IF this is your standard response, which I hope it is not.

Besides that point your revised portrayal is still far too rigid and intellectualized, not close to reflecting reality. (Like many of your posts, I would add. I do presume that your activist persona is more multifaceted and human, less cocksure than your writings.)

I did not regard them as Reaganite scum, except for the corrupt top leadership. It was easy to discuss politics with them regardless of political differences, and I can't recall anyone expressing fear of criticizing the Sandinistas. It was equally easy to engage Sandinistas in discussions of their mistakes and occasional obtuseness, partly because the majority everywhere were so young, and so open to ideas.

What you wrote is only part of the story. In almost every Miskito community, there was a generational divide, with the older group holding to tradition, and the younger people enthusiastically joining the Sandinistas.

One example was poignant. The Sandinistas had built a medical clinic, staffed with dedicated comrades from both coasts, at Puerto Cabezas. It was the busiest office in town, as people lined up for examinations, treatment, and mainly prenatal and infant care. A traditional tribal healer and her followers harangued the patients as traitors to their ancestors. They were jeered playfully, but won no converts. So naturally the clinic became a contra target for destruction.

In any event, Ward's alliance with the CIA is only part of the picture. After the Sandinista defeat, Ward, Glenn, and Russ lost all interest in the Miskitos' plight, though it worsened considerably afterward. The fact that their role on the left has been only to distract or divert does not vitiate their righteous claims of genocide, but it does mean that they are not allies in anyone's liberation struggle.

I note that one writer has posted the standard, false, apologetic for Chomsky in reply to what you wrote. You might look up that letter to Faurisson if you intend a response.

Ken Lawrence

Louis Proyect (http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/marxism.html)

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