Cornelius Castoriadis Agora International Website
A Second, Interim Response
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?
In "Addendum," Or the Cornelius Castoriadis/Agora International Website Receives a Threat (September 2006), I responded to Agora, Chomsky, Bookchin, and Democracy & Nature , written by "The Editorial Committee of The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy" and published by them as ID Newsletter #37 on September 1, 2006. That ID piece containing the inconsistent and inconsequential threat referred to in my first response was both mistimed (their badly written protest-threat was hastily posted along with an unsubstantiated claim that AI had already positively "refused" to print it, whereas I had not yet even had a chance to draft an initial editorial response) and misplaced (ID's August 27 threat was to publish this protest first in the next issue of their "Journal"--which has still not appeared). The ID protest itself concerned the inclusion, in our "News" section, of the following brief death notice, which made no claim to completeness but which contained entirely accurate information relating to Murray Bookchin, Cornelius Castoriadis, and Agora International:
We have received word of the death of Murray Bookchin on July 30, 2006. Bookchin (b. January 14, 1921), a former Trotskyist like Castoriadis, shared Castoriadis's advocacy of direct democracy and even preceded the latter in his concern with environmental issues. Castoriadis discussed Bookchin's municipally-based, ecologically-informed, anarchist views briefly inCrossroads in the Labyrinth. They both joined the Editorial Advisory Board of Society & Nature in the 1990s. When Bookchin and his partner Janet Biehl resigned from this journal in 1997--considering it, among other things, too "Castoriadian"--Agora International's David Ames Curtis wrote a reply, "On the Bookchin/Biehl Resignations and the Creation of the New Liberatory Project," at Castoriadis's request and with his approval, the text appearing only a year and a half later in censored form in the successor journal, Democracy & Nature. It was on account of D&N's censorship effort that Castoriadis had determined to leave its Editorial Advisory Board as soon as the censored version appeared, a decision he was not able to carry out, however, due to his own intervening illness and death. Bookchin later wrote Curtis a conciliatory letter acknowledging that Castoriadis's views deserved further examination, but ill health and other priorities kept Bookchin from realizing his aim of writing such a text.
I ended my September piece with a few words from Castoriadis on how "thoughtful doing" (le faire pensant), rather than impulsive reaction, can serve as "an 'essential component' of the 'self-transformation of society.'" Soon thereafter, Agora International was e-mailed a notification entitled "The ID Journal's Newsletter No.39"--which began: "Dear friends, This is to let you know that no. 38 [sic] of the ID Journal's Newsletter has been uploaded." In their rush to respond, we now learn, the ID Editors have published The Autonomy and Inclusive Democracy Projects and "Agora's" Defamatory Delirium (dated October 9), a grim, humorless, indeed witless 10,750-word rejoinder posted a scant five days after the September-October CC/AI Website electronic update announcement. This text is nevertheless hysterical in both senses: wildly uncontrolled as well as highly comical. In fact, I have not stopped laughing since I first received ID's protest-threat in late August. The latest zaniness is that, in their haste, the ID Editors have written a huge, rambling, overwrought, and largely imitative reply . . . without actually informing their own readers about that to which they are replying: there is no proper citation of my September piece, no link to http://www.agorainternational.org/dnweb2.html , not even a mention of its full title. (By way of contrast, my September piece conscientiously included all relevant Democracy & Nature and Inclusive Democracy links, and AI created an additional link to their Newsletter #37 in our English-language Castoriadis webography .) ID readers thus had only the ID Editors' word for what had been said. In crucial instances, the ID Editors got it wrong, making up and mangling quotes, or--a bit easier for ID readers otherwise left in the dark--reprinted the very thing I accurately quoted them as saying even as they flatly denied what I said they had said; and sometimes (as with a mention of Israel, Hezbollah, and Lebanon), they accused me of taking the very position they themselves had articulated and I had quoted. These exchanges from the ID have thus been the source of endless amusement.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT NAME-CALLING?
Since this extended ID exercise in name-calling again focuses rather obsessively on me, I take the responsibility to respond below. As for the name-calling itself, I am not upset in the least. Most readers, I believe, will know what to make of this blunderbuss approach that likens my behavior (my "methods," "tactics," etc.) to the practices of Stalinists, Zionists, and--not to neglect establishing good anti-Nazi credentials even as they, speaking in clichés or code words, say that it is "no wonder that British Zionists have repeatedly tried to use their power base inside the British elite"--"Goebelian[s]," all at once. The unintentional humor of such a combination of scattershot claims is matched only by their fatuousness in making them: they seem never to have considered what is social-historically involved in, e.g., "Stalinist methods"--which comprised and entailed a deadly secret-police apparatus, equally deadly spy networks, official totalitarian party organs capable of enforcing full compliance and suppressing all dissent, and so on.
The name-calling also gets more personal:
Curtis, the self-appointed depositary of Castoriadis's work (to the dismay of Castoriadis's family which is in conflict with him) sees the Inclusive Democracy project in competitive terms and, therefore, uses his website as a launching pad for a dirty attack against our journal and the ID project itself . . . .
I could not help but laugh at the idea that, after having helped set up the CC/AI Website a decade ago with Cornelius's explicit involvement and support, worked with a bibliographical collective now covering fifteen languages, encouraged and assisted people to create their own sections within this website, and devoted most of my Agora International time to collecting information and conveying it, nonhierarchically and without playing favorites, to 750+ freely associated individuals and organizations (who in turn share their information), while also corresponding with them and others about how they wish to make something for themselves of Castoriadis's work and the project of autonomy (the one not to be confused with the other, as I have repeatedly stated) and putting people in contact with each other so that they can collaborate on their own terms--in short, taking a back seat and acting in the humble roles of facilitator and networker as well as translator (something the ID Editors backhandedly acknowledge when they point out that my personal editorial output is low compared to theirs)--I would somehow be seeking an exclusive, monopoly position. Equally funny was the Inclusive Democracy Editors' automatic willingness to take the side of management (the Castoriadis family) in a labor dispute ( click here now for the latest information ). When there is "conflict," we know which side their ID comes down on: as I had predicted in my piece on the Bookchin/Biehl resignations, which included an assessment of Democracy & Nature's idiosyncratic conception of Inclusive Democracy (surely not the only one possible), D&N/ID's vaunted "economic model" and their entire viewpoint end up fostering such an antilabor attitude. This attitude is also visible in their attempt to discredit a person they characteristically label "a disgruntled ex-member of the journal with a vendetta against us" and who in fact is Takis Fotopoulos's former editorial assistant and thus was his direct subordinate. Most humorous of all, perhaps, is the idea that I or Agora International have been engaged in some kind of "competit[ion]" with D&N/ID, whereas in fact the CC/AI Website has dutifully listed, without commentary or criticism, bibliographical references and webographic reprints for every one of their texts and I myself have--until the recent brief death notice, which provided useful information regarding Bookchin, Castoriadis, and AI at the appropriate time (i.e., when there was no longer, on account of Bookchin's death, a prospect that he would add anything more)--studiously refrained from engaging publicly with them since the time they censored my piece, despite a stream of obnoxious complaints and demands sent to the CC/AI Website and despite the fact that D&N/ID members are the only persons ever to have criticized Agora International publicly. I was going to provide here the link for such a text signed a half decade ago by that former assistant editor, but it seems that this link has since been suppressed on the D&N website--along with all other D&N links to texts written by this individual ID now considers persona non grata: another multiple instance of D&N/ID censorship. Since their former unpaid employee is "disgruntled," why not go ahead and efface electronic access to his writings--even as they wish to restrict reprinting of those texts elsewhere? (Similarly, their latest piece makes no clear reference and offers no links to any of my texts that they are discussing.) Here is how we now must list on the CC/AI Website their former assistant's piece:
Alexandros Gezerlis. "Castoriadis and the Project of Autonomy. A Review of The Imaginary Institution of Society." Democracy & Nature: The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, 7:3 (November 2001): 469-88.
http://www.democracynature.org/dn/vol7/alex_castoriadis.htm (suppressed link)
http://raforum.apinc.org/article.php3?id_article=1794&lang=en (partial reprint)
After leaving D&N, Gezerlis kindly offered his apologies to AI for this scurrilous attack upon us--which was inserted into his piece. And yet it is supposedly AI that would be in "competiti[on]" with D&N/ID--rather than, say, the other way around.
Previously, my favorite ID epithet involved my being a "devious reader" (guilty, to be sure, of reading what they actually wrote instead of what, after the fact, they want me to have read), an epithet they now repeat to hilarious effect--"Of course, a devious reader like Curtis may play with words and argue that our message did not contain the word 'present'"--since their threat did indeed not contain that word. (In their latest piece, they again surreptitiously add or alter words to make their statements fit what they later claim they meant, so it is advisable not to believe any of their claims or criticisms, or even single-word quotations, without independent confirmation.) Now, after "another BLATANT LIE," "malicious lies," and "outrageous lies," one of their newest perfervid denunciations of me is contained in the section subtitle "The case of Wikipedia's [sic] or Curtis's resort to dishonest [sic] and nasty lies." "Dishonest . . . lies," no less! This glaring pleonasm hardly bolsters their case against me, though it speaks volumes about their mindset. (I'm still trying to figure out, though, what the possessive is doing in "Wikipedia's" and why they included an "or" thereafter.)
That said, I am used to such misplaced personal attacks, which neither surprise me nor upset me--though their imaginary content endlessly fascinates me. They come with having been Castoriadis's close but--need I add?--nonexclusive friend and collaborator over the last thirteen years of his life. In a footnote for "Autonomy and Axiality: Comparative Perspectives on the Greek Breakthrough" (Agon, Logos, Polis. The Greek Aftermath and its Achievement, Johann P. Arnason and Peter Murphy, eds. [Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2001]), Arnason took me to task for my alleged translation of a text Castoriadis . . . had himself written in English and published . . . before I ever met him. (Confronted, Arnason, in his "apology," criticized me for not later altering Castoriadis's own English to conform . . . to a French translation done by someone else: I was thus accused, by turns, of being not faithful enough to the original and then too faithful.) When I proposed to translate the late Piera Castoriadis-Aulagnier's La Violence de l'intérpretation (1975), a number of grieving "friends" of this author wrote to Yale University Press to say that my "translation" of her book, which I had not even begun, was incompetent, thus sabotaging a project to translate their "friend"'s book as they repeated to me over and over how upset they still were at Cornelius over his divorce from Piera . . . a woman I never met. (At issue was my YUP project proposal, these "friends" claiming that I had translated the French psychoanalytic term topique as "space," whereas, had her "friends" known her own writings, they would have realized that the French word at issue in my sales proposal was simply . . . espace. A section of Castoriadis's reply to Joyce McDougall--who had written to YUP on behalf of Sophie de Mijolla, Nathalie Zaltzman, and other "friends" of Aulagnier--can now be found near the top of my professional webpage .) Sometimes the personal, the professional, and the political are all jumbled up. Daniel Blanchard, a former member of Socialisme ou Barbarie and the person who has the distinction of having introduced Guy Debord into the group, expressed his disappointment that I had become Castoriadis's friend and was invited over to his home, collaborated with him, etc., whereas Blanchard no longer enjoyed such a relationship after he ceased to be Castoriadis's "disciple [sic]." His misplaced projection, accompanied by a logical blunder, was that, if I was Castoriadis's friend, I must therefore also be his disciple. (Blanchard apparently never considered an alternate explanation--viz., that the acting out of a self-described ex-"disciple" might simply have been off-putting to Cornelius.) Along with his wife, former S. ou B. member Helen Arnold, he then took advantage of his cultivated reputation in relation to Debord to contact Bill Brown of the Situationist 'zine Not Bored!, protesting the publication of the anonymous translator's foreword to the electronic Castoriadis translation The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep) on Brown's Not Bored! website and questioning Brown's political integrity . . . while neglecting to tell Brown that Arnold had been hired as the scab translator to replace me as Castoriadis's translator. Needless to say, Brown spoke harshly of the "nerve" Blanchard and Arnold had in protesting to him about certain allegedly personal features of this foreword while carefully concealing their own personal, and indeed financial, interest in the matter.
WHAT'S LOVE (AND FRIENDSHIP) GOT TO DO WITH IT?
The answer to such name-calling and expressions of jealousy, rage, anger, and/or envy is, I believe, contained in an interview on friendship that AI member Clara Gibson Maxwell conducted with her collaborator, the composer Ornette Coleman . In his uniquely elliptical way, Coleman deftly wove together friendship and love--what the Greeks called philia, leading them to create philosophy as the "love of wisdom," which implies that philosophers are also the "friends of wisdom":
clara gibson maxwell: Yeah. Well, this is an odd question that comes out of this, though: How did you handle envy and jealousy? Because the problem is that when people have an experience of freedom, I mean, frankly, it freaks them out sometimes.
ornette coleman: Yeah, that's true. . . . I mean, when you speak of the word "jealousy," the jealousy between someone having something that someone [else] doesn't have--the jealousy of someone who doesn't have is one thing. Speaking of someone as jealous because there is something a person can do that another person cannot do, that is a form of life, you know--hatred with jealousy. So, to me, the basic things that I have always responded to have not been from jealousy or need or want, but from sharing. And, even in sharing, maybe there's someone that always wants more or less than someone that you are sharing with, but the main thing, as you've said before, is that love has no container--you can't have a cup of love, a barrel of love. So, let's assume that love is a word, that it's a code, for "eternity." Right? I mean, there is nobody that would not never like to be in love. So you would assume that, if love could exist, it could go into eternity. So, yes, I have not met anybody that has said the reason they are living is because they're living in eternity and that makes them love. But I do believe that if eternity could exist in the form of something that you could feel and believe, it would have to be in the form of love. And the thing that art and creative people do is to remind people of their history of those moments. The present is the only thing that can sum up the past and the present and the image of the future. But the problem with love is that whether you see it or feel it or touch it, it is not something that you can contain, it is always something that you have to share. And I have been trying to figure out how to do that without taxing other people. But, you know, to be intelligent or to be illiterate or something, sometimes I think love is seen to be as if it's being cloned. You know? And I don't think you can clone love.
clara gibson maxwell: No.
ornette coleman: No. So I think that's my answer for jealousy--that you can't clone love.
One can only share what one cares about most deeply. And to the extent that this involves a creative experience, that experience is not one to be encapsulated in "models" to be copied (what other kinds are there?) or contained in preset formulas.
HOW AND WHEN SHALL I RESPOND?
In my September piece, it was "[o]ut of a perhaps inordinate sense of duty as well as considerable amusement" that I responded in extenso to the ID Editors' threat and their silly charge of a "refus[al] to publish." It took me 6,800 words just to deal with the inaccuracies and incoherencies contained in their short Newsletter item and their subsequent hate-filled correspondence. I do not see the point of responding so comprehensively again at this juncture. Their original threat--viz., to print their protest in their "Journal" if I did not print it in time to meet some unspecified deadline--has yet to be fulfilled, and they have failed to amend their posting to indicate, by a precise date, how short was the period between this threat and its fulfilment when they posted their protest in the wrong place. By dashing off a 10,750-word response within days of reading my late September piece, but providing their readers with no clear reference to it, ID Editors have deprived their readers of an independent source of comparison for their heated and hectic claims.
Since these Editors still claim that they "always" print responses from others within the pages of their journal, I shall wait to see if this is indeed the case with respect to mine. I place no impediment on their reprinting both that piece and the present one in full within their next issue, provided that I retain the chance to reply there more fully later on. They have already stated that they themselves will write no more on this matter, so all that remains will be for me to complete my side of a dialogue that, for their part, they have now decided to end. At this time, I shall make only a few specific and more general points that might aid the reader of both my September piece and their October reply. Anyone disturbed by any particular issue or controversial point not yet addressed can write to me at email@example.com .
SO, WHO SAID WHAT?
The ID Editors complained that, in my pointing out grammatical and spelling errors in their protest-threat, I was wrongly expecting theirs to be a "literary journal." Far from envisioning Fotopoulos et al. as potential reincarnations of Hemingway or Proust, I pertinently showed how weaknesses in their claims were indicated precisely by such errors. A crucial claim, made repeatedly, is that I objected to Noam Chomsky's very "presence in [sic] the Advisory Board!"--whereas this Greeklish phrase betrays the fact that they made up this claim themselves while trying to pin the phrase on me. (In their latest piece, they correct this phrase . . . without telling ID readers that they altered it in order to avoid further embarrassment.) They could not even spell the negationist Robert Faurisson's name correctly, while pretending to be experts on his Affair and making defense of "Fourisson [sic]" a key litmus test--such that disagreement with their position necessarily entails "sid[ing] with the Zionist establishment." (Again, they now make the spelling correction without indicating their previous error.)
Devious reader that I am, I shall now pertinently demonstrate how their improper use of quotation marks and suspension points shows them to be even more ridiculously evasive and untrustworthy. A bit of patience will be rewarded with a great punch line. The following excerpt from their latest piece indicates that they do not know how to use single and double quotation marks properly and seem at loss where to place either one correctly when eliding text:
And Curtis's blatant distortion of events goes on:
"when they lost their fight within the Wikipedia review process these ID Editors made two determinations, neither with any real effect or even hold upon reality. The first was "to withdraw with immediate effect ALL the Inclusive Democracy entries from Wikipedia, including those that have been challenged only on account of trivial Wikipedia copyright violations as well as those like the entry on the founder (our italics, see below) of Inclusive Democracy, [[Takis Fotopoulos]], which has not been challenged by anyone during this whole process... Their second decision was "to demand the banning of any new entry on the following topics: Inclusive Democracy, Democracy & Nature, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, The International Network for Inclusive Democracy and Takis Fotopoulos. We reserve all our legal rights in case any future entries on these topics are created in Wikipedia without our explicit and written permission."
Deprived of a proper reference to my original September piece , the poor ID reader is herself at a loss to know where quotations begin and end or who is saying what. Quite conveniently, this blurring of the lines of attribution allows them to blame me for what they wrote in their statement of "withdrawal" from Wikipedia (which I was quoting verbatim). Even the reader of my own piece might have thought that I was interpolating when the name "[[Takis Fotopoulos]]" appeared in those strange double brackets right after my quotation of their phrase "the entry on the founder of Inclusive Democracy." But this was, in fact, the ID Editors' doing--name, double brackets, and all. We now see what "Curtis's Goebelian methods" amount to: I have quoted the ID Editors so well, and so embarrassingly, that they now must attribute to someone else what they themselves actually wrote. Here is their latest hysterical defense:
Any reader who visits the Wikipedia entries on ID will immediately see through Curtis's Goebbelian methods. No entry refers to Fotopoulos as the "founder" of Inclusive democracy and if any anonymous visitor used this term in one of the dialogues relating to these entries, this was obviously not approved by us.
Yes, they irrelevantly state, "[n]o [Wikipedia] entry refers to Fotopoulos as the 'founder' of Inclusive Democracy." Yet it was not I or
some "anonymous visitor," but they themselves in their own statement of withdrawal from Wikipedia , who made this very claim about
Fotopoulos as "founder" that they now wish would disappear. Their whole set of crazy claims concerning the project of autonomy vs.
the Inclusive Democracy project collapses now that their sham denial of their use of the term "founder" has been exposed and once one
is reminded that Castoriadis cannot fully be identified with the much vaster and more impersonal project of autonomy--a main point of
my original D&N piece. No amount of trad-left pontificating in capitals about "Theory and Practice" can salvage their basic blunders
here. The only conclusion to be drawn is that any attribution Fotopoulos and his shifting et al. have ever made or edited in any venue
requires independent verification before acceptance as valid.
WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE?
The closest the ID Editors veer toward humor in their dour reply is to try to have some fun at my expense:
And why all this fuss about a single footnote? Because David Curtis's "presence" on the AB together with Chomsky et. al. might be misinterpreted by "people", i.e. by the readers of D&N --the vast majority of whom would certainly never have heard his name before! This is how he put it in a communication with the EB:
"If I am not given a chance to explain myself, I am forced to keep silent about an appearance people would have a chance to misinterpret" (6/5/97)
No wonder that Curtis feels satisfied today that, thanks to his world-shaking revelations, the "people", (who, in his paranoid, self-centered and frenzied world have, presumably, always thirsted to hear this blatant act of censorship against him!), have now been well-informed of the "facts", as the Editors "can no longer keep a lid on a controversy they have always wanted to contain".
Actually, it was Bookchin who first used the word "presence"--in his Advisory Board Resignation Letter , after objecting to "Castoriadian imaginaries"--and it was precisely that conception I was contrasting with my own decision to join that same board, despite objections to Chomsky's misrepresentations about Faurisson. Little matter: Fotopoulos will continue to place the word in quotation marks as if it were mine, based on an incorrect inference he has decided must be a "clear impl[ication]." (More on his mode of "analysis" below.) The connection between quotation marks and what is contained within them is ever malleable to Fotopoulos's whims. Similarly, use of suspension points is optional for him: his former editorial assistant Gezerlis had informed me that Takis felt indications of elision could themselves be elided, when quoting another author, so long as Fotopoulos himself was satisfied with the resulting jam-up of words. The only conclusion to be drawn is that any quotation Fotopoulos and his shifting et al. have ever made or edited in any venue requires independent verification before acceptance as authentic.
But mustn't I really be full of myself to think that some "people" would pay the least attention to me and my associations? Actually, any attentive D&N reader had already heard of me many times, since D&N regularly cited my Castoriadis translations. It was Fotopoulos himself who invited me to join this Advisory Board on the Editor's behalf, presumably thinking that I had something to add ("every potential to be a very fruitful working relationship," an EB member is quoted as saying). And several other D&N members wrote me, after my "disinvitation," to say how disappointed they were by what had happened, since they thought that I had something significant to contribute. Such assessments of my importance always seemed to me overblown, but I accepted the compliments politely. Now we will never know what any "people" might have thought about my sharing the same editorial advisory board as Chomsky, since I was "disinvited" for having objected to D&N's censorship of the very part of my first D&N piece that laid out precisely this concern, with an eye toward allaying it.
What we now do know, however, is what Fotopoulos and his shifting et al. thought about my and Agora International's alleged associations. Here is the paragraph stuffed into that 2001 D&N review of the 1987 translation of Castoriadis's 1975 book The Imaginary Institution of Society (talk about extraneous attacks . . . ):
Another way that Castoriadis' work has been received, is presented in the activities of the association Agora International. Even though this association's proclamations are that it is interested in promoting autonomy based on Castoriadis' work (and we have no reason whatsoever to doubt its true motives) its practice is dubious to say the least. The close relationship between Agora International and various post-modern academics, leads inevitably to the distortion of Castoriadis' actual ideas, as was amply manifested, for instance, in a fairly recent New York conference in which his work was celebrated by post-Marxists, poststructuralists and the like.
So, those "people" who function through guilt by association--about which I supposedly worried inordinately or inappropriately--reduce to . . . Fotopoulos and his shifting et al. Confusing my personal agreement to be a respondent at a public conference, as well as Agora International's announcement of this conference (just as the CC/AI Website announces all other conferences around Castoriadis's work, regardless of content or participants), with an imagined organizational endorsement thereof by AI, Fotopoulos and his shifting et al. concoct an ongoing "close relationship"--whereas my suggestions for participants were ignored by conference organizer Andreas Kalyvas (I thought, for example, that local student activists should be invited to speak), I was purposely kept in the dark about the final speaker list until nearly the last moment, and as soon as I opened my mouth as respondent another organizer, strategically placed a few feet away from me at the podium, passed me notes saying that I had to stop speaking right away. Now, I will be the first to admit that I had been misled by Kalyvas (who had previously coauthored with me a piece explicitly criticizing postmodernists, post-Marxists, and the like ). But here is Fotopoulos's uproariously funny reply, a breathtaking revelation of how his methods of criticism and denunciation actually operate:
In fact, it was valid deductive reasoning that led me to these conclusions, particularly so since I was unaware of what actually happened in it. (9/21/2004 Fotopoulos e-missive).
Well, what actually happened? As I said, I was kept in the dark and ignored in the runup to the 2000 Columbia University Castoriadis conference. Both fellow Agora International member Maxwell and I then criticized this conference from the start. (Not being democratic centralists, all AI members have freedom of speech, so one still cannot deduce an AI position from any particular member's statement.) When speaker Seyla Benhabib declared that "autonomy" was just an "illusion," Maxwell stood up and denounced the entire organization of the conference, setting off a mini-May '68 in the room as students and others began to speak out, asking why, at a Castoriadis conference, speakers were not talking about student-teacher relations, hierarchy more generally, current political stakes, or other vital issues Castoriadis raised during his lifetime. (In a beautiful bit of backtracking, Benhabib then lamely replied that she was actually for autonomy--which she had just belittled as an illusion--but for "responsible autonomy.") By our attending this conference and speaking out, the little guy--students and other attendees not invited to speak--was able to get an idea of the radical potential of Castoriadis's ideas and "people"--dare I use the expression again?--began to speak up on their own. Really, I cannot stop laughing. The ID Editors boast from afar that their journal is "perhaps closer to Castoriadis's thought than any other in the world" but then--another purely imaginary concoction of their "political analysis," as we shall next see--denounce a "purely authoritarian attempt by the French intellectual establishment, including [Pierre Vidal-]Naquet, Castoriadis and their follower Curtis." (Later, extrapolating from Chomsky, these Editors go so far as to claim that "intellectuals like Naquet, Castoriadis et al . . . ' . . . have sought to disguise their profound commitment to Stalinist-Nazi doctrine.'") For them, I am an unknown nobody one minute, a member of the "French [sic] intellectual establishment" the next--one who follows Castoriadis in his commitment to "Stalinist-Nazi doctrine." What a howler.
A ZEN QUESTION: WHAT IS THE SOUND OF CONTENTLESS REASONING?
The old adage has it that "ignorance is bliss." For Fotopoulos, we just saw above, ignorance is both the basis and the justification for his "valid[ly] deduc[ed]" positions. This hands-off-reality approach can be traced back at least nearly a decade and thus predates the recent neocon denigration of "reality-based" thinking. In the exchange that led to my disinvitation, Takis, already shouting about "blatant distortion[s]" but seemingly no more aware of the purpose and import of parentheses than he is now of apostrophes, quotation marks, or suspension points, replied to me on September 3, 1997 after I had presumptuously asked for evidence supporting what he actually wrote:
I find the way you put your request above another example of blatant distortion. All I said in my reply to you dated 1/7 was the following
"Is it accidental that Zionists attack NC on every occasion (and may well be behind the present campaing [sic] to revive the Faurisson affair in [sic] the Internet, possibly with the help of the CIA --Nikos Raptis has all the relevant information--) I suspect because of his honest stand on the Palestinian issue and the Gulf war?"
It is obvious that my reference to Nikos Raptis was in connection to his information about the attempt in [sic] the Internet and elsewhere to revive the Fourisson [sic] affair and not in connection to the speculation about who motivates this campaign. Obviously, as we are not in the spy ring, we are only able to speculate (on the basis of our political analysis) on who may be behind such campaigns and nothing else! However, the above clear statement has been distorted by you as implying the existence in our possession of a "dossier of evidence establishing the Zionist/CIA effort against Noam Chomsky". I am sorry but I find this attempted distortion distasteful. That aside, however, the fact that, as Nikos Raptis points out below, Chomsky was at the top of Nixon's "enemies list" (which is presumably the ultimate "dossier") is a clear indication of the people who might be behind such campaigns.
All this insinuated nonsense that accidents can't happen and that, if something embarrasses D&N/ID or otherwise does not conform to their current positions, that thing must be happening for reasons relating principally to them and/or in conformity with their "political analysis" can now be understood in its paltry nakedness: it is just a matter of pure "speculation" on their part wherein all upsetting events, no matter how disparate or small, are magically drawn together and then impelled ("motivate[d]") in one direction by what is "behind" them. (By the way, I actually corresponded with the author of the one website Raptis managed to cite; that person did not back up those speculations at all; Raptis, it may be pointed out, was in the vanguard of what would become the majority EB decision to exclude me from their International Advisory Board.) For his part, Cornelius expressed to me at the time his amused interest to know whether I was a Zionist, a CIA agent, or both at once in these people's minds; this mutual chortling at D&N's expense (which I relayed to Takis) was in fact one of the last laughs we had together.
It is in light of such contentless reasoning and wild speculation that we should judge the following new ruminations from the ID:
It is, therefore, not accidental that Bookchin decided to withdraw just after the final formulation of the theoretical aspects of the ID project in Democracy & Nature and in Towards An Inclusive Democracy, and that Castoriadis (assuming that his alleged decision to withdraw were true) was thinking along the same lines at exactly the same time -- namely, at the very moment at which it was clear that S&N/D&N, after years of theoretical work and exploration, was moving from being a journal of theoretical exploration and discussion of various antisystemic projects to being a forum for Inclusive Democracy.
Previously, it was insinuated that, in order to side with the "Zionists" now allegedly attacking ID (about whom I have not the least
information, should any exist), I had suddenly, in August 2006, invented Castoriadis's 1997 decision to withdraw from D&N. Once they
learned that there is independent proof that I have been publicly and privately reporting this decision for many years, the ID Editors had
to backtrack on this conspiracy theory in order to try to accredit a new speculation. Now, it turns out, Castoriadis's "alleged decision"
may be true, yet that decision, whose reality they now grudgingly accept as possible, must have been made ("[i]t is, therefore, not
accidental . . . ") for reasons that still relate to them and their obsessions. Back in 1997, I reported to Fotopoulos that Castoriadis had
"always" considered Chomsky's actions in the Faurisson affair "irresponsible" and that he viewed these insinuations about Zionism and
the CIA as utter nonsense regarding the issue at hand--viz., the censorship of my piece, wherein I criticized Chomsky's
mischaracterization of Faurisson as an "apolitical liberal of some sort" presenting "findings" while, for my part, never giving the least
indication of favoring the imposition of state-sponsored historical truth. Yet for Fotopoulos et al., it is still now inconceivable that
Castoriadis would have determined to leave D&N in solidarity with me against its Editors' censorship of my text (which he wanted to see
printed in the pages of D&N, since it was replying to Bookchin's unfair criticisms there of "Castoriadian imaginaries") and their
subsequent exclusion of me from an IAB of which he was until then a member. Nor can they accept the idea that, along with these
disturbing actions on their part, the ID Editors' ridiculous posturings about "Zionism"--so reminiscent of what Castoriadis had explicitly
condemned as the "stupidity" and "maliciousness" of La Vieille Taupe and of Pierre Guillaume in Guillaume's post-Socialisme ou
Barbarie days (see my September piece)--might have been motivation enough for him to leave. (The interested reader should also know
that Roger Garaudy, described by the ID Editors as "on the Left"--a reputation he earned when he was trying to introduce Christianity
into the French Communist Party and which he lost a decade and a half ago when he reportedly became identified with the French New
Right--was another author whose writings were distributed, ten years ago, by Guillaume's La Vieille Taupe publishing house. What is
gained, in the struggle for free speech and free inquiry, by making such false representations of Faurisson and Garaudy?) Here we have
another fine example of their paranoid post hoc, propter hoc reasonings and misinterpretations of reality, introduced this time with "just
after . . . at exactly the same time . . . at the very moment" and a rejection of the existence of "accident[s]" (let alone of any
nonconformist judgments or positions independent of their own schema of things and unrelated to run-of-the-mill political discourse).
Our intrepid Hegelian chemists are so convinced of the world-historical importance of their attempt to effectuate a "new synthesis" that
they have also convinced themselves that any departure from that particular synthesis by anybody ever associated with their review must
indicate those persons' immoral flight from their allegedly superior achievements.
HOW TO READ S&N/D&N/ID?
We have already seen that any attribution or quotation made in a journal edited by Fotopoulos and his shifting et al. requires independent confirmation before acceptance as genuine. Moreover, ID Editors regularly deny what they have said even as they repeat it, sometimes kindly providing new elements to prove exactly what they are at the same time denying (their section entitled "More facts dishonestly distorted" is one lovely case in point, their section on Wikipedia another).
How, then, is one to read S&N/D&N/ID and, now, their October reply while we wait to see if my two responses will appear in their Journal? Devious reader that I am, I suggest that you check for yourself what they assert in order to judge whether they or anyone else being quoted has actually said what they claim and then retain in memory their assertion beyond the point where they may no longer want you to remember it. The laughs will be worth the effort. As we already saw, ID is "perhaps closer to Castoriadis's thought than any other in the world" yet Castoriadis adheres to "Stalinist-Nazi doctrine." Publication of a brief death notice on the CC/AI Website caused "significant damage," thereby creating a desperate "urgency" to respond, yet our website attracts merely "peaceful bibliographical readers." (May CC/AI Website subscribers--which include anarchists and artists, situationists, socialists, and scholars, philosophers and psychoanalysts, students and professors, ex-Bordigists and current Wobblies, among many others interested in the autonomy project--be assured: we do not give out our 750+-name mailing list for ID to examine and analyze.) As a "newcomer," it was improper for me to criticize an established Advisory Board figure like Chomsky, but in the case of ID's lost dispute over web postings they decry Wikipedia for "discounting the votes of registered users who are not long-established." When a rebellious former subordinate no longer under their authority (Alexandros Gezerlis) adds a Wikipedia section about their precursor journal's "main theoretical influences" it is a case of "vandalis[m]" that propels them into the equivalent of national-security mode (Harold Bloom could write a whole new chapter for The Anxiety of Influence dealing just with Fotopoulos); if someone else (my friend John Ely) says pretty much the same thing, but the quotation in which this supposed error is stated proves useful for their immediate ends, a polite correction suffices and the rest of the quotation is treated by them as valid without question. And so on.
More generally, when these Editors appeal to "any reader" or "every bona fide reader," you can be assured that an open and unresolved controversy exists over what has been written. If something is declared "obvious," that means that it remains in dispute. What is labeled "evident" is in fact what is lacking in reliable evidence. The adverb "clearly" is employed to cover over reasonable doubt. When a point has been "indisputably shown," the debate has not yet begun. The "self-evident" character of an argument they make is directly proportional to the tendentiousness of their claims. And so forth. Additionally, various "presumably"s, "might"s, and "may"s, among other expressions, serve to introduce unsubstantiated insinuations and innuendos that even these Editors dare not characterize as "obvious," "evident," "indisputabl[e]," or "self-evident." On the other hand, "coincidence" as well as "accident[s]" are to them suspect prima facie.
Whatever names ID Editors shout at me do not bother me in the least. And I think CC/AI Website subscribers will easily see through their outlandish claims about Castoriadis--for example, the canard about "his adopting American propaganda in the first Gulf War." Let us now wait and see whether the ID Editors will ever fulfill their original threat to print their protest in the pages of their journal--and whether they will indeed, as they say they in principle "always" do with exchanges, print this second, interim response as well as my previous response from September there, too. It is my hope that, in the meantime, the above suggestions for help in deciphering their problematical allegations, speculations, and assertions will be of service to the reader.
David Ames Curtis
Paris, October-November 2006