Joanne Landy at it again


Posted to on May 13, 2006


In the latest attempt by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (a wholly owned subsidiary of the left-Shachtmanite New Politics magazine) to put a halo over its head, executive director Joanne Landy is gathering signatures for a petition that carves out a "third way" between the USA and Iran. Since the 1940s, this current has always adopted a sort of moralistic concept of politics in which one of the primary goals has always been to curry favor with middle-class opinion. It is inspired by the anti-Soviet open letters that people like Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler and Dwight MacDonald used to circulate in the 1950s.


MacDonald, who was in the Trotskyist movement in the 1930s, left with Max Shachtman but eventually cut his ties to organized politics completely and launched a magazine called "Politics." About MacDonald, Trotsky had this to say: "Every man has a right to be stupid on occasion but Comrade Macdonald abuses it." Although I am no expert on the history of New Politics and have no plans to become one, I wonder if it was named after MacDonald's magazine in the same way that the neoconservative New Criterion of today was named in honor of T.S. Eliot's Criterion.


After the USSR disappeared, Joanne Landy and the New Politics milieu were forced to ferret out new causes upon which they could establish their Tolstoyan saintliness. It should come as no big surprise that Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro would serves as useful substitutes for the role that Josef Stalin once played. In two open letters drafted on the occasion of two separate wars with Iraq, they proclaimed their desire for peace and their utter antipathy to Saddam Hussein. This gesture was clearly designed to distinguish themselves from the Ramsey Clarks of the world, who saw no compelling need to curry favor with enlightened opinion in the academy or the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. When Cuba arrested people who were operating with funding and direction from the CIA and other US government agencies, Landy and company yelped for their release. How dare Cuba put people in jail who took their marching orders from diplomat James Cason? You'd think that the USA was freeing terrorists who were blowing up Cuban civilian airliners for this kind of over-reaction to occur.


Landy's open letter on Iran consists mostly of unobjectionable characterizations of how bad life in Iran today, such as "Iranian women lack some of the most basic human rights" and "Workers who try to strike or form independent trade unions are violently suppressed".


She also makes the record that she too is opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons, even though Israel has between 2 and 3 hundred. To reduce the threat of nuclear war in the Middle East, "a new democratic U.S. foreign policy" is required. In keeping with the generally moralistic posture that characterizes the "third camp," there is not the slightest inkling of how such a policy can be realized, especially in light of the deepening bellicosity of the US ruling class and its two parties. Perhaps George W. Bush will read the open letter, slap his forehead and cry out, "Why hadn't I considered this before?" Nor is there much likelihood that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be moved by these words.


The open letter includes a laundry list of concrete demands that would be part of a "new democratic U.S. foreign policy." Some seem dubious at best. For example, it calls for "Supporting the right of national self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews." Anybody with a lick of sense would understand that there is a contradiction between calling for self-determination for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews unless you are talking about the discredited "two-state solution." Since the ineffable Michael Lerner, a leading 'left' spokesman for the two-state solution, has signed the open letter, one might gather that this is exactly what the open letter intended but lacks the forthrightness to defend openly.


The letter also urges the "Abandoning the effort to impose, through the IMF/World Bank or unilaterally, neoliberal economic policies of privatization and austerity that bring mass misery to people in large parts of the world." Although one must clap loudly for these lofty sentiments, the plain fact is that the only concrete moves taking place today against "economic policies of privatization and austerity" are occurring in Latin America under the inspiration and with the material aid of the despised Cuban government.


Furthermore, no matter how backward Ahmadinejad is around a whole range of questions, he has demonstrated a willingness to close ranks with Venezuela against imperialist attempts to reestablish control over oil resources. One imagines that the real hue and cry in the mainstream media over Iranian backwardness has more to do with this threat than it does over anything else, since the same kind of policies exist in Saudi Arabia where the "crime" of homosexuality is punishable by death.


The plain fact is that Joanne Landy and company are not really addressing the Iranian or US'an Presidents, but people like us: the organized, unorganized and disorganized left in the USA. She feels an almost irresistible compulsion to appear without sin among her peers in much the same manner that religious sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Hasidim strive to distinguish themselves from the unsaved. And it generates the same reaction, especially when it is thrown in the face of the unbeliever: disgust.