Platyleaks 2.0, Ian Donovan, and the CPGB

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Attached is some more ridiculous, outrageous, and offensive shit that Chris Cutrone wrote to the Platypus e-mail list-serve. I’m sure some of it was selectively quoted and taken out of context, but am not going to pretend that even half of what he says in here is okay. Most readers of this blog are aware that I was once a member of Platypus. Even when I was, though, I was bothered by a lot of the opinions expressed by the group’s “guru” and clashed with him often. While I don’t think any of this is sufficient reason to no-platform the Plats — especially compared to the slew of leftist organizations and publishing houses that have either covered up or sought to downplay instances of rape, sexual abuse, and assault by its various members and authors (the FRSO, Solidarity-US, ISO-US, SWP-Britain, Historical Materialism, etc.) — I would still like to make clear in no uncertain terms how utterly abhorrent I consider these positions to be.

Platypus continues to pose interesting questions and put together worthwhile events. To wit: Democracy and the Left, Anti-Fascism: Its Problematic History and Meaning, Marx and Wertkritik, and Neoliberalism and Its Discontents. For the most part, I continue to get along with and respect most of its members. Many of them do not share Cutrone’s bizarre or shocking beliefs, but unfortunately find themselves often tasked with defending his antics and megalomania. Here is not the place to go over my manifold reasons for leaving Platypus. Contrary to what you may have heard (that I was “pushed out” after becoming “too much of a liability”), I wasn’t expelled from the group. Rather, I resigned of my own volition. And though for a time I sought to rejoin, this was mostly because the New York chapter I’d invested so much time into seemed to be falling apart. A while ago I drafted a list of all my grievances, everything about Platypus that annoyed the living shit out of me, but decided not to post it. It’s all blood under the bridge.

Nevertheless, I do feel some responsibility to distance myself from some opportunistic remarks made by Ian Donovan against the CPGB, a British communist group whose work I greatly admire. Donovan describes Platypus as “the CPGB’s lynch-mob American ally” — a gross mischaracterization, as anyone familiar with the two organizations will recognize immediately. The CPGB is not in any sense Platypus’ “ally.” First of all, because the latter does not officially espouse a political line, notwithstanding the aforementioned opinions of its founder and president. Second of all, because most of the back-and-forth between Cutrone & Macnair, Parker & Turley, as well as others, has so far consisted of frank and open (though sometimes productive) disagreement. Many different Marxist and anarchist organizations have engaged with Platypus, seldom out of the concordance of their views. Whether they will still to do so after this latest batch of Platyleaks is up to them.

At any rate, we would do well to attend to the real motivations behind Donovan’s attack on the CPGB. Just a year or so ago, Peter Manson authored a devastating article exposing antisemitic statements made by Donovan during his stint on Left Unity’s Communist Platform. Manson explained how Donovan’s notion of a “pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie” in Israel, included in his awful Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism, is plainly antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. Yassamine Mather of the CPGB also added some cutting criticism, and Manson appended the motion on antisemitism prepared by Jack Conrad and Moshé Machover in response to Donovan. I highly recommend reading it.

So, to summarize: I’m publishing here the leaked “highlights” of Cutrone’s e-mails to the Platypus list-serve. Clearly I’m not singling out Platypus, since I’ve publicized “Internal Bulletins” from the ISO and some (now-redacted) information regarding Solidarity in the past. Nor do I intend to shield Platypus from such publicity out of a misbegotten sense of loyalty to my former organization. That said, Ian Donovan’s attempt to tar the CPGB’s reputation in light of these leaked e-mails is completely illegitimate.

10 thoughts on “Platyleaks 2.0, Ian Donovan, and the CPGB

  1. Thanks for making this clear. Especially since Weekly Worker is one of the most valuable publications on the Anglophone Left (though unless you’re already familiar with Marxist thought you’re usually going to be completely lost reading it; but Mike Macnair and Ben Lewis, to name two, are some of best Marxist scholars around right now).

  2. There is nothing opportunistic in my criticism of the CPGB over this. I have been criticising them for their anti-anti-racism both before their purge of me from the Communist Platform almost a year ago, and long before this Platypus business. For evidence of this, I quote the remarks of the same Mike MacNair during the purge a year ago, when he wrote that my views were:
    “a terrible example of how prioritising “anti-imperialism” and “anti-racism” above class can lead you in the end to red-brown politics.” (see http://commexplor.com/political-recommendations/)
    This is an obvious reference to the fact that even before they made the allegation of ‘anti-semitism’, I was criticising their position that the ruling class in Britain (and indeed the USA) was no longer racist, and that the real problem was ‘official anti-racism’.

    As further evidence along these lines, I cite a leaflet which I distributed to their dayschool months ago, long before ‘Platyleaks’ titled ‘Blindness to Oppression, taking a Dive on Democracy‘, that quite clearly criticises their anti-anti-racism and Islamophobia over a notorious occasion when the British state overruled the electorate in a key Muslim area of London and expelled the elected, independent Muslim mayor from office. As a follow-up, when they slightly adjusted their position to one even more contradictory, I again sharply criticised their inconsistencies and their opportunist adaptation to specificially Jewish chauvinist tendencies on the left in terms of their Islamophobia (My letter was published in WW of 12 June, I also commented on their unscrupulous treatment of it in this item.

    Another example of my criticising their anti-anti-racism came when, after their allegation of ‘anti-semitism’ was put to the Disputes Committee of Left Unity (which for all its flaws is not dominated by one political trend) the allegations were dismissed. My response in the Weekly Worker is here, the full details of this investigation and verdict is here. I have submitted a further letter to WW, pointing out their hypocrisy and duplicity, which hopefully will be published in the next WW. Failing which it will be published on CommExplor.

    Not only were the CPGB’s allegations rejected by Left Unity, they were also rejected by the comrades of Socialist Fight, whose broadened editorial board I recently joined by invitation. This is an organisation that does take anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism and anti-racism seriously, unlike the CPGB who only play with these questions. I refer you to this Socialist Fight leaflet that was distributed to the CPGB’s recent Communist University event. This embodies my views on the Jewish question, which were first theorised and elaborated here.

    There is no antipathy towards Jews in these theses, just a concrete Marxist analysis of the reasons for the power in Western societies of bourgeois political trends like AIPAC and the Conservative/Labour etc. Friends of Israel. I would submit that these are not organisations designed purely to further the interests of US and British imperialism, but have a much more complex and difficult-to-analyse purpose and ethos. If you have an alternative analysis that actually addresses this, I would like to hear it. Simply hiding your head in the sand and pretending they don’t exist does not suffice in Marxist terms.

    The CPGB’s article on my supposed ‘anti-semitism’ is not ‘devastating’ at all. It is profoundly intellectually dishonest; if its ‘Holocaust’ graphic shows anything, it is that the CPGB’s hacks have not broken from the political method that led their political forebears to depict Trotsky and Zinoviev as Nazi dogs. The Conrad/Machover motion is profoundly dishonest as it tries to equate my views with those of Proudhon and Bakunin, without quoting even a smidgeon of their writings to demonstrate this. This omission is no accident, it is because my views as expressed in my theses have nothing in common with these ideologues of 19th Century anarchism. They are, however, extensions of the political method of Karl Marx (“On the Jewish Question”) and Abram Leon (“The Jewish Question: a Marxist Interpretation”). If their motion had been more honest, it would have excluded me on the basis of my adherence to the ‘left anti-semitism’ of Karl Marx and Abram Leon.  But then the anti-communist nature of the purge would have been obvious to all.

    Regarding the CPGB’s relations with Platypus, it does seem to me that they in allied in some sense. I have been to three major public events of the CPGB in the last year, and on each occasion they appeared to have the status of honoured guests, based in part on a shared anti-anti-imperialism. My comment on Communist Explorations reflects the reality of the CPGB’s relations with Platypus as I see it:
    “The CPGB is contemptuous of formal international ties between small groupings, deriding such things as ‘oil-slick internationals’. It does not have really have any formal ties therefore. Its relations are pretty informal. But that does not mean they do not exist. If a particular trend is repeatedly invited to public events and treated as an honoured guest, as opposed to other trends that are treated with contempt and smeared, and when representatives both trends join in such denunciation of anti-imperialism and even ‘anti-semitism’, it is not unreasonable to call them allies over those questions at least (which both trends regard as pretty important).
    Mike McNair is also the leader of a minority in the CPGB that openly rejects Lenin’s theory of imperialism, among other things. It is difficult therefore to positively pin his views on the CPGB majority trend. But they do appear to act in a very broad sense as allies on the international arena, with their common pretence of openness to debate and their common anti-anti-imperialism. Therefore in a broad brush sense, I think it is appropriate to refer to them as allied trends. That does not imply that they have fused, many alliances are much more loose and informal than that.”

  3. Couple of minor corrections. The day shool where the leaflet on ‘Blindness to Oppression’ was distributed was of the CPGB front group HOPI (Hands off the People of Iran’) not the CPGB itself. However those there were the same people as those at CPGB events. Including Platypus people. So no political difference there. Also,it was Trotsky and Bukharin who were portrayed as Nazi dogs in the cartoon I was thinking if, not Trotsky and Zinoviev. No difference there either. But I like to be accurate.

  4. There are in practice many times in which regarding sex “no means yes.”
    To fail to recognize this is to not recognize the psychology of not only sex, but emotional as well as physical intimacy.
    The evil of this is that it short-circuits the very real anti-sex attitude of society: because people are encouraged to say no and stigmatized for saying yes to sex, this will drive the problem further underground: for there will inevitably be occasions in which “yes means no.”

    Cutrone sez sometimes ‘no means yes’. Rhetoric I thought only college fratboys and date rapists would ever use. Is this the real reason you left that fatass ex of yours? Because she would make you have sex with her even after you said no?
    Your old gmail chats with her are pretty frightening. Exhibit A –

    Ross Wolfe: well if you let me do work while i am over there maybe
    Pam Nogales: I said I would already, Ross.
    it doesn’t matter to you
    Ross Wolfe: i mean like i don’t know how much snuggling or watching time we would have
    Pam Nogales: you just don’t want to. 8:25 PM
    we’d wake up in the same bed, Ross
    i would get to kiss you goodnight
    we can have our little coffees together
    et
    c
    i like that stuff
    Ross Wolfe: you wouldn’t demand sex?
    Pam Nogales: wow
    “demand” sex?
    jesus, you must really hate havig sex with me
    Ross Wolfe: or get upset if i don’t
    want to
    not true 8:26 PM
    Pam Nogales: this is how you think about having sex with me?
    that I demand it
    Ross Wolfe: sometimes i have a lot of stuff to do
    Pam Nogales: i never just jump on to have sex if you are working Ross
    it only comes up when we are in bed together
    so please don’t make me upset saying that stuff
    i am sorry you never want to have sex
    so that you just characterzing when I wasnt sex as “demanding” it 8:27 PM
    *want
    *demanding
    Ross Wolfe: not all the time but ometimes when i don’t feel in the mood you get upset

    Exhibit B –

    Ross Wolfe: well I really don’t want to have anone over tonight
    Pam Nogales: but you agreed ot it
    and you agreed you weren’t going to break plans
    wirth me anymore
    that it was going to be your part
    of what you do
    to keep this relationship stable
    please don’t
    i can’t take this
    stop please 12:38 PM
    i did my part
    i didn’t make a bgi deal when you didn’t want me over two nights ago
    even though I usually do
    i worked hard not ot
    can you please work hard on this
    Ross Wolfe: you kept asking me yesterday to get you off even after I said no
    Pam Nogales: and just not be so closed minded
    ????
    Ross, this is not about sex
    you are making me extremely agitated 12:39 PM
    right now

    Or force you to finger her before bed. Exhibit C –

    Pam Nogales: do you just not get good sleep when you stay over? 6:02 AM
    aw, lover
    Ross Wolfe: it depends 6:03 AM
    Pam Nogales: on? 6:04 AM
    bot?
    Ross Wolfe: usually on if we stay up having sex
    Pam Nogales: oh, ok 6:05 AM
    Ross Wolfe: which can really wear me ot
    out*
    Pam Nogales: k 6:06 AM
    Ross Wolfe: yeah i usually just like getting a good night’s sleep before working
    otherwise i would efinitely come over 6:07 AM
    Pam Nogales: so can we still come over then
    you*
    if we just don’t have sex
    before bed 6:08 AM
    Ross Wolfe: yeah that would be fine but you tend to get grumpy if we don’t
    Pam Nogales: you can just finger me so I can fall asleep. 6:09 AM
    but this is fine, like I understand that you want to get a good nights sleep before work.
    Ross Wolfe: haha can you really not sleep if you don’t get off?

     
    She just can’t take a hint. Exhibit D –

    Ross Wolfe: yeah just please don’t be so insistent 8:49 PM
    Pam Nogales: I am responding to the concerns you are bringing up
    so I coul ese your mid about them
    *mind
    I will bring a sleeping mask so you won’t worry about satying up.
    is there anythign else that worries you? 8:50 PM
    Ross Wolfe: you would want sex stuff and that makes me uncomfortable :( 8:51 PM
    Pam Nogales: baby?
    aw, widdle
    ok, we don’t have to do anything
    just kissing?
    nite kisses?
    and maybe a little snuggling?
    hunni, I just want to be close to you.
    i don’t need anything.
    Ross Wolfe: i just need to focus babe
    Pam Nogales: :(
    but I am not asking for anything.
    Ross Wolfe: okay

    Maybe faking a pregnancy scare would make you like her. Exhibit E –

    Pam Nogales: ah jeez, honey i have to tell you something because it has me a little worried
    but i don’t want you to be upset
    Ross Wolfe: That’s okay baby. What is it?
    Pam Nogales: i am late, and I am getting anxious about it 6:01 AM
    maybe it’s nothing and maybe it will just come, and that will be that
    i’m not like crazy late
    but i am late. 6:02 AM
    Ross Wolfe: Yeah, though you have been under a lot of stress lately, and anxiety tends to throw off one’s menstrual cycle
    hmm, thanks for telling me though. 6:04 AM
    I don’t know how it could have happened, though, since I never really was on the verge of cumming during sex. But maybe we should be more careful in the future.
    Better safe than sorry! 6:05 AM
    Pam Nogales: well that’s nice to know that I don’t make you feel like you want to cum when we are having sex… but anyway, it only takes so little. And there is precum 6:06 AM
    yeah, i think we should be more careful. 6:08 AM
    Ross Wolfe: babe, why are you making this into something personal?

    Didnt you say she asked what youd name your first kid? Psychotik. You and Platypus should really protect your email better

      • I don’t really get how revealing someone’s relationship troubles is really productive. Most you can do is character assassinate, and even then, it doesn’t really discredit their ideas when they aren’t actually interconnected. Checking your uh, twitter, you’ve made me curious. Beyond his former affiliation with Platypus, what do you have against Wolfe?

      • Y’know, I don’t even care. You’re the one calling people “fatass.” Maybe I’m naive but I always thought that leftists were above that kind of immaturity.

    • I Hate to say it because I Find both of them gross but PAm’s constant harassmant and pressuring of ROss to have sex verges on rape. HOw did she not get the hint that he did not want to fuck her

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