Where Marxmail came from


posted to www.marxmail.org on March 30, 2004


I made a note to myself that when Marxmail reached 500 subscribers, I would provide a brief history of where we came from. Since we now are at 512 and I have a free moment, this would be a good time to follow through.


Marxmail is descended from the first Marxism mailing list on the Internet, which was launched by the Spoons Collective in June or July of 1994, according to Professor Jon Beasley-Murray. Jon, Hans Ehrbar (of the U. of Utah economics department whose server we reside on presently) and Malgosia Askanas were 3 members of a collective who, with the exception of Hans as far as I can remember, were oriented primarily to cultural studies rather than Marxism. They had already created a number of mailing lists for the study of Lyotard, Deleuze-Guattari, Foucault, etc. and thought that it would make sense to add one for Marx since his name came up so often in discussions. The Spoons Home Page is at: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/~spoons/index.html.


For the first year or so, the Spoons Marxism List was marked by clashing needs and interests. Since many of the original subscribers had the same sort of background as Jon Beasley-Murray, who studied with Michael Hardt at Duke, their conversation tended to revolve around the legacy of the Frankfurt School, postmodernism, etc.


Another group of subscribers had backgrounds similar to Hans Ehrbar. They were professors, especially in economics, who were interested in pursuing questions of value theory. For the average person, including me, these discussions were difficult to follow. Although I had read Marx's V. 1 of Capital and much of Mandel, I was ill-equipped to understand controversies around the Okishio theorem, etc. Eventually, everybody with such interests migrated to something called OPE-L (Outline on Political Economy list) that was initiated by Gerald Levy, a Pratt University economics professor who was a member of the SWP in the 1960s like millions of others. Well, thousands at least. Information on this list can be found at http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/OPE/archive/index.html. The home page states that it "is a small, closed list of Marxists who have been discussing controversial issues in political economy since September, 1995."


Soon the list began attracting former and current members or sympathizers of revolutionary organizations, and the topics began to have more of the character we are familiar with from Marxmail. Unfortunately, the current members and sympathizers included a number of individuals who had not transcended the kind of sectarianism that helped to destroy our movement in the 1970s and 80s. We had super-orthodox Trotskyists who were in the habit of exposing petty-bourgeois elements like me, when they weren't busy exposing each other.


They were eventually joined by a group of sympathizers of the Shining Path in Peru, including Louis Godena, a soon to be expelled CP'er in Rhode Island, and his friend Adolfo Olaechea who lived in exile in London. Adolfo, who was recently extradited from Spain to Peru, has been keeping us abreast of his legal situation. (A Guardian article on his arrest appears below.)


Immediately the hard-core Trotskyists and the Maoists began fighting like cats and dogs. The Trotskyists demanded that the Maoists recant for the Moscow Trials, the Popular Front in Spain and the liquidation of the kulaks, while the Maoists accused the Trotskyists of being CIA agents or worse.


But the worst flames were reserved for debates on the Shining Path, which was far more powerful in 1995 than it is today. The Maoists felt like they were in the vanguard of a movement that would sweep the world, while the Trotskyists viewed the Peruvian guerrillas as little better than the Khmer Rouge. I have tried to come up with a more measured assessment of the Shining Path that can be read at: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/indian/sendero.htm


Eventually, the Shining Path supporters began to fight among themselves over who had the franchise. Adolfo fought with another Peruvian exile named Quispe in a polemic that often focused on who was on Fujimori's payroll. Eventually, this fight spilled over into some serious encounters with the immigration cops as list member Ken Campbell revealed in a Canadian alternative weekly:


July 4 1996 -- On May 16, I wrote a column about a bizarre, self-described "Maoist magazine" called The New Flag, operating out of New York City -- Queens, to be exact. I treated my "public interview" with one NF editor ("Marcelina" -- a pseudonym) as a joke. This editor had used the "clarity of Maoism" to determine I was a CIA agent. At the time, I just considered the NF as more of the silly people you meet on the net.


But it stopped being a joke when, on May 30, Julian Calero, a Peruvian immigrant living and working in Connecticut, was arrested by US feds -- a person the NF had bragged to the net (hence the world) was a member of its "clandestine" Communist organization operating in New England.


full: http://www.kkc.net/peru/n6.htm


(Campbell disappeared from the original Marxism list shortly after writing this. After rejoining us a few months ago, he had to be removed since it was obvious that he could not abide by the new flame-retardant standards of the list.)


The flame wars between Trotskyists and Maoists and between Maoist and Maoist were exacerbated by the unmoderated status of the Marxism list. The Spoons Collective, for reasons I never quite fathomed, were committed to unmoderated lists. But after months and months of strife, a decision was made to launch new moderated lists in 1996.


One of them became Marxism-International that was co-moderated by Jon Flanders, Turkish grad student Zeynep Tufekcioglu and Louis Godena (we felt that it would be important to have Maoist representation on the moderation board.) The M-I archives can be read at: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/listservs/spoons/marxism-international.archive/.


Although M-I began on a hopeful note, it eventually fell prey to the same sectarian problems that destroyed its predecessor. Godena abused his position on the moderation board and eventually muscled Jon and Zeynep out of the picture. In early 1998 he began to expel subscribers from the list who refused to toe the line ideologically, starting with me.


Eventually, the Spoons Collective tired of all the warfare and made the decision to stop hosting the Marxism lists. You can read their decision at: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/~spoons/marxism/.

You can also read Spoons collective member Malgosia Askanas history of the lists at: http://www.driftline.org/spoon_collective.html


In the scramble to find new homes for the lists, I stepped forward and volunteered to moderate a new list at Panix in May of 1998. It was intended to carry on in the best spirit of Marxism-International. Hans Ehrbar transferred all of the other Marxism lists to a server at the U. of Utah, where we recently joined him. Louis Godena migrated M-I to Emory University in Georgia, where it continues today. I have no idea who or why anybody would subscribe to it, although Jim Farmelant did used to send me an occasional email that originated there from time to time.


Many subscribers on Marxmail go back to the early days. Some, like Carrol Cox and Yoshie Furuhashi, were absent from Marxmail for a period of time after having bitter disagreements with me over one question or another. I am happy that we are reunited. Other subscribers like Sol Dollinger, Mark Jones and Jim Blaut are with us only in spirit. My hope is that Marxmail can continue to expand over the next 10 years or so and serve as a resource for the revolutionary movement worldwide. The longer that we are in business; the surer we are about our collective goals. In face of all the fragmentation on the left, that at least is a hopeful sign.




The Guardian (London) September 6, 2003


Spain extradites exile to Peru on terrorism charge: Translator accused of Shining Path membership


Giles Tremlett in Madrid and Audrey Gillan


A London-based Peruvian exile has been extradited to Peru on the orders of a court in Spain, to face charges of being a member of the guerrilla group Shining Path, the Guardian has learned.


Adolfo Olaechea, who has lived in London for more than 20 years, was on a business trip to Almeria, in south-east Spain when he was arrested and handed over to the Peruvian authorities. The European court of human rights had called on the judge to delay the extradition.


The warrant for his arrest was a renewal of one from 1993, when Peru's request to Britain for his extradition was refused because of lack of evidence.


The government in Lima claims Mr Olaechea is the London spokesman for the brutal Maoist group, which was deemed responsible in a report last week for about 35,000 deaths during its 20-year war with the government and army.


Mr Olaechea admits supporting some of the ideas of the Peruvian Communist party or Shining Path, but he denies being a member .


In a statement obtained by the Guardian, Mr Olaechea, currently detained in a high security prison in Lima, said: "I am not, never have been and never will be a member of the Communist party of Peru, known as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). . . . (T)he claim that I am the spokesman for Sendero Luminoso in Europe is therefore false."


He denied taking part in any political or armed action in Peru, or contacting anyone connected to Shining Path.


The arrest has reignited a dispute in London's Latin American community over Mr Olaechea's political views.


His Dutch wife, Hariette Springer, said her husband had done nothing wrong. She pointed out that he had travelled to Spain in October and December and had been granted visas despite the renewal of an Interpol warrant in February 2002.


She said: "The charge that he has been extradited on is a complete fabrication. Adolfo is a Maoist, he is an intellectual. He has been a past critic of the Peruvian government and he has certainly sympathised with Sendero Luminoso's ideas, but he is not a member. It's not a crime to express his opinion, everything he said is completely legal."


Some Latin Americans in London said last night that they had always believed Mr Olaechea to be Shining Path's spokesman in Britain because he had espoused the group's views at meetings. They said his opinions were not criminal in themselves.


For police in Almeria, an agricultural town, Mr Olaechea's arrest was a spectacular operation.


He had travelled to Spain in early August believing he had nothing to hide, since it was his third visit in 18 months. He checked in to a business hotel under his own name and carried on with his translating duties for a British market research firm working for Japan's Yamaha company. During his stay, local police collected the forms detailing names and passport numbers which all hotel guests in Spain must fill in. His name was fed into a computer which matched it to the Interpol warrant.


The next day, Almeria's Ideal newspaper announced the capture of "Shining Path's representative in London".


At first, Mr Olaechea was confused. The only arrest warrant he was aware of was one issued by Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced former Peruvian president, who faces a request for extradition from Japan.


Mr Olaechea was tried in his absence in 1993 and sentenced to life for the crime of "apology of terrorism". These trials, were declared "unconstitutional" when Mr Fujimori left the country. The prosecutor who produced the original warrant is now in prison.


Mr Olaechea was unaware that the current president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, had reissued the warrant in February last year, again claiming that he was part of Shining Path's leadership. The new warrant was ignored by the British authorities.


The arrest has been greeted with glee in Peru. The state television, TNP, announced that "the ambassador of terror" had been caught, and Fernando Olivera, Peru's ambassador in Madrid, said: "We must remind Olaechea how he always justified these crimes and how he tried to whitewash Shining Path."


Mr Olaechea has begun bleeding from a damaged pancreas and faces an indeterminate period in Peru's jails, which are among the worst in the world.


"His situation is precarious . . . and his health is deteriorating," his brother said.