Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 7, 2010

Alexander Cockburn and the vicissitudes of old age

Filed under: Alexander Cockburn,media — louisproyect @ 5:49 pm

When you get to be my age and Alexander Cockburn’s, your memory starts to fade. I am not talking about Alzheimer’s but simple lapses. Like last week. I am taking a course on documentary film at Columbia that meets on Monday’s but for some reason it slipped my mind. I thought it was Tuesday instead. And I really like the class so I should have been on top of that.


Speaking of the aging crack journalist, I had a bit of a row with him over a post I wrote on September 20th taking him to task for writing for Chronicles, a pretty rotten rightwing magazine—something that I described errantly as his main gig outside the Nation (excluding Counterpunch of course.) He wrote me a note that insisted that Chronicles publishes the same articles that appear in leftist magazines through a syndicator he has a contract with. I corrected my post but wondered why he would agree to allow his stuff to appear in Chronicles, arguably a qualitatively more toxic site than the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, his erstwhile gig in the 1980s. Its editor Thomas Fleming has written:

What is racial profiling, if not an acknowledgment that different racial and ethnic groups are statistically more likely than other groups to engage in different sorts of illegal behavior. The Irish, who have a genetic weakness for alcohol, are too prone to get into fights, while Sicilians and South Italians have demonstrated an amazing ability to organize extortion, protection, prostitution, and gambling rackets. When O.J. Simpson kills a white woman or engages in other violent acts, he is simply living up to a statistical stereotype that informs us that African Americans, who make up less than 15% of the population, commit roughly 50% of violent crimes.

For my part, I’d rather bring a bedbug-infested rug into my apartment than have anything to do with a magazine that has such an editor, but then again I make my living writing Perl scripts not hawking my scribbles.

Cockburn’s Counterpunch article raked Fidel Castro over the coals for writing “drivel” that took a certain Daniel Estulin seriously:

More recently, in early August of this year Castro touted to his audience in Cuba and across the world his sympathy with one of the standard mantras of nutdom, which is the belief that the world is run by the Bilderberg Club.

The 84-year-old former Cuban president published an article on August 18, spread across three of the eight pages of the Communist Party newspaper Granma, quoting in extenso from the Lithuanian-born writer Daniel Estulin’s ‘The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club,’ (2006) alleging the Bilderbergers control everything, which must mean that they pack a lot in to the three-day session the Club holds each year as its sole public activity. Of course they probably skype each other a lot too and rot out their brains plotting and planning on their cell phones.

I too had shuddered when I learned about Castro’s fascination with Estulin but since I had never put him on a pedestal to begin with, this was not such a shock. In fact I had labeled Castro’s (and Chavez’s) support for 911 conspiracy theories nonsense. As someone who had spent 11 years in a Trotskyist cult-sect, I had learned not to take people at their word even if they were heads of socialist states.

The day before yesterday I wrote an article about Henry Kravis bestowing 100 million dollars on Columbia University, my employer. In order to dig up some good dirt on Kravis, I went to Counterpunch, an essential website despite Cockburn’s occasional peregrinations into his own wacky conspiracy theories about climate change.

A search on “Kravis” turned up the following:

May 27, 2005
“Murio la Verdad”
Infiltrating Bilderberg 2005

The annual secret meeting of the Bilderberg group determines many of the headlines and news developments you will read about in the coming months. But the Establishment media completely black it out. With the exception of half-a-dozen high ranking members of the press who are sworn to secrecy, few have ever heard of the exclusive and secretive group called The Bilderbergers.

Mainstream news organizations boastful about their no-holds barred investigative exploits, have been strangely reluctant to lift the blackout curtain hiding a major event: the Bilderberg group’s secret annual meeting for the world’s most powerful financiers, industrialists, and political figures.

2005 was a bad year for Bilderberg and its future looks gloomy. Herculean efforts to keep their meetings secret in Rottach-Egern failed miserably. Bilderberg’s grief is free world´s glory-and hope for further restraining the power grabbers in the dawn of a new millennium.

At a Saturday night cocktail [May 7] at the luxurious Dorint Sofitel Seehotel Überfahrt in Rottach-Egern, Bavaria, Munich, several Bilderbergers sharing the standing bar with Queen Beatrix of Holland and Donald Graham, Washington Post´s CEO were discussing the up-coming sale of Spanish telecommunications and cable giant Auna. Auna operates fixed line telephone services, a mobile-phone network, cable television system and is also an Internet provider. One of the Bilderbergers familiar with the matter [believed to be Henry Kravis, based on the physical description of the source at the meeting] stated that Auna´s mobile operations could bring in some 10 billion euros including debt, while another Bilderberger, a tall man with a receding hairline added that its fixed-line assets could fetch some 2.6 billion euros. Sources close to the Bilderbergers have stated off-the-record that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, a private-equity firm is interested in buying all of Auna. An abundance of cheap credit and low interest rates have made Auna an appetising target for private-equity buyers.

Full: http://www.counterpunch.org/estulin05272005.html

So let me see if I got this straight. When Castro referred approvingly to Estulin, he was demonstrating his “his sympathy with one of the standard mantras of nutdom, which is the belief that the world is run by the Bilderberg Club.” But when Cockburn published the same exact kind of “mantra” by Estulin in 2005, he was not part of “nutdom”? Who knows? Five years is a long time for a geezer like Cockburn. I couldn’t remember what day my class was a week after it met, so it should not come as a surprise that he made a scandal over Castro quoting a character forgetting that he had the same kind of fascination with Estulin a half-decade ago.

Why not try a little cod liver oil, Alex? It may not do much for the noggin but it might straighten out your lower intestine, the source of much of your journalistic endeavors of late.


  1. Exercise and diet can help combat long term memory decline. The hippocampus needs blood circulation. The less blood, the more long term memory tends to fade over time and the closer one gets to dementia. Keeping fat out of the veins helps as well as vigorous exercise.

    Comment by Mike B) — October 9, 2010 @ 4:05 am

  2. I’m not your generation, but I still sadly recall missing a rare opportunity to see “For a Few Dollars” more on a big screen now at the late, lamented UC Theatre because of a similar mixup. Thought it was Tuesday, but it was Monday.

    As for Cockburn, earning a living as an out front left journalist is as hard as it has ever been. The contradictions between serving capital and promoting socialism are hard to avoid. At least he has avoided being coopted by the liberal Demcratic party opinion machine that runs publications like The Nation. I’m not trying to make excuses for him on the Estulin article, but it is possible that St. Claire might have been responsible for it, or he might even been unaware of Estulin’s background at the time. I have seen other writers appear on the site for awhile and then mysteriously disappear.

    Even so, to criticize Castro about it when you posted him on your site is pretty lame. One of my objections to him and St. Claire is their celebration of a faux Western populism that ranges between slight to non-existent in actual practice. The activism that they celebrate can be found in just about any part of the US.

    I appreciate your comments about Castro. About a year and a half ago, I read Diana Block’s “Arm the Spirit”, her candid autobiography about her 1970s radical activism and her life underground in the 1980s because of her association with the Puerto Rican independence movement, and one of my conclusions was that she was, along with her Leninist allies, too enamoured of Cuban Revolution to the exclusion of other radical currents. We have seen something similar in recent years in regard to the willingness of some to rationalize any peculiar thing that Chavez says.

    By the way, are you familiar with Kevin Anderson’s “Marx at the Margins”? I would assume that some of his conclusions about Marx and his perspective on what Anderson describes as “non-Western societies” are pretty controversial. But, then, not having lived a political life centered around Marxism, I’m not in a position to really know.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 9, 2010 @ 6:00 am

  3. I am very aware of Kevin’s work in these areas and plan to read his book when I get a chance.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  4. If you are so inclined, I would be very interested to read your review of it.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 9, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

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