Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 2, 2017

MRZine: goodbye and good riddance

Filed under: Iran,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:41 pm


After a decade of pumping out propaganda for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Baathist dictatorship in Syria, MRZine is no more. In a farewell note, editor Yoshie Furuhashi, who never wrote more than 2 or 3 articles for the online publication and none at all for its parent print magazine Monthly Review, stated that she is being reassigned to do translation for the institution founded by Paul Sweezy 67 years ago as a voice of the independent left.

Furuhashi’s hiring was a perverse act and likely the decision of MR board member John Mage, who like Furuhashi has a scanty publication record. Around the time that she was being considered for this post, she had been at war with subscribers to Marxmail, the mailing list I created in 1998, LBO-Talk, Doug Henwood’s listserv created the same day as mine, and PEN-L, a mailing list geared to economics professors in the spirit of URPE. For Furuhashi, these 3 mailing lists, which were among the most prominent in Marxist cyberspace, only served as a receptacle for her pro-Ahmadinejad messages that came across as leaflets being dropped from an airplane.

Her devotion to the Islamic Republic was the culmination of a several years long disaffection from the American left, including a brief membership in Solidarity. Like many young radicals, the realization that socialist revolution was not around the corner came as a bitter disappointment. Instead of taking the “longer view” of history as articulated by Monthly Review editor Paul Baran, Furuhashi was attracted to the Ahmadinejad presidency like a moth to a flame. Why fritter away your time in a small and isolated socialist group in the USA when you can become a minister without portfolio for a government that she considered even “more socialist” than Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela?

Not everybody at Monthly Review was happy with MRZine turning into something that prefigured the turn toward RT.com on the left. Seven years ago, Barbara Epstein resigned from the MR board because she found the pro-Ahmadinejad material on MRZine unacceptable. Three years earlier 17 Iranians living outside of the country wrote an open letter to Monthly Review with the same complaints. Despite Epstein’s resignation and the open letter, John Mage rejected the idea that MRZine was pro-Ahmadinejad. Of course, as is the case with all such matters, the people who owned Monthly Review were not under any obligation to meet anybody’s expectations. Who knows if Mage or John Bellamy Foster would still regard MRZine as having a diversity of views on Iran and Syria today? If you did a mathematical analysis of the tweets that appeared on its home page, you will find that there about 100 pro-Assad tweets to every one against the dictator. But like I say, freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.

I had the foolish idea ten years ago that MRZine might have functioned in the same spirit as the Guardian (the now defunct American leftist weekly newspaper) and Monthly Review that were both launched around the same time as part of an attempt by the left to reach out beyond the CPUSA’s orbit. Like Bert Cochran and Harry Braverman’s American Socialist, the Monthly Review was not a “line” publication but much more of a forum for the Marxist left to discuss and even debate its differences.

In a NY Times obituary for Paul Sweezy in 2004, John Bellamy Foster is quoted about the original vision of its founder:

“The Monthly Review was attractive to people who were leaving the Communist Party and other sectarian groups,” said John Bellamy Foster, a co-editor of the publication now. “It was and is Marxist, but did not hew to the party line or get into sectarian struggles.”

That might be true to some extent about the magazine but clearly not of MRZine. There certainly was a party line and it certainly did involve itself in sectarian struggles. Everybody understood that Yoshie Furuhashi was the last person in the world to be hired as an editor if the intention was to stay above the fray. Her history was that of a one-person sect that had a program of defending the “axis of resistance” to the point of self-parody. In March of 2011, when Assad’s cops had castrated a 13-year old boy who had been caught protesting the dictatorship and left the dead body on his parents’ doorstep, Furuhashi wrote one of the few articles under her name for MRZine that showed her true colors:

Millions of Syrians rallied all over Syria, pledging loyalty to the country, in support of Bashar al-Assad, on 29 March 2011.  The dialectic of the regime and the opposition in Syria, it is safe to say, is neither like Tunisia and Egypt, nor like Iraq and Libya.

Moreover, the president of Syria has a weapon in the obligatory media war accompanying any protest in a geopolitical hotspot these days, which neither any other Arab regime nor the Islamic Republic of Iran can claim: his undeniably charming wife Asma.  Perhaps not altogether inconsequential in the age of celebrities.

This was the Furuhashi that had antagonized hundreds if not thousands of subscribers on listserv’s such as Marxmail, LBO-Talk and PEN-L. Her article was pro-regime propaganda and blatantly so, the sort of thing that people like Rick Sterling, Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett have become infamous for. After six years of genocidal=like war, there are more and more articles now that assess the role of this sector of the left. Among them is one written by Santiago Alba Rico, a Spanish-born philosopher and writer based in Tunisia. Titled “Aleppo, the tomb of the left”, it is unsparing in its judgement of the Yoshie Furuhashi’s of the world.

In short, a large part of the Arab, European and Latin American left has sacrificed internationalism to a geostrategic order in which the peoples and their democratic struggles no longer have any friends and in which this left, irrelevant and in retreat now throughout the world, has let the regimes against which the “Arabs” rose up in 2011 advance without resistance. We have understood nothing, we have done nothing to help, we have handed over to the enemy all our weapons, including conscience. After Syria democracy is retreating everywhere. Aleppo is indeed the tomb of the Syrians’ dreams of freedom, but it is also the tomb of the global left. Just when we need it most.



  1. So God may exist after all! I wonder if she’s going to be official translator for Khamene’i or maybe Syrian Shabiha publications. She should definitely consider moving to Iran. She’ll love it there. She can go to private ‘screenings’ of women getting stoned to death for adultery.

    I have many stories about her treacheries but will share one in connection to that letter sent by Iranian activists:

    In response to the letter sent by the Iranian activists who were outraged at Yoshie’s support for the theocratic regime, she posted something written by Rostam Pourzal. The piece was all obfuscations, poisoned pills and red herrings. Now, this Pourzal character is a classic case of ‘not-so-coy propagandist’. He heads CASMII (or used to, anyway), basically a front organization set up to confuse people about the Iranian regime; it purports to be anti-war and for peace, but its real job is to divert any criticism directed against the regime and to misinform the western public about the true nature of the Iranian government. Pourzal does a pretty good job of it too, considering how many people he has fooled.

    Pourzal has been very active in suckering western anti-war activists to the Iranian regime’s side. For example, he organized meetings with Ahmadinejad when he’d go to New York for annual U.N. general assembly meetings. At one of those meetings, Code Pink people asked Ahmadinejad for visas to visit Iran. The visas were granted, and Pourzal was the tour guide who took them around different ministries, to restaurants and, of course, shopping (for real; Code Pink’s blog at the time had pictures of them shopping!! Some activists!). I wrote a piece wondering if they even bothered asking the government to let them visit jailed activists including students, women’s rights activists, labor activists. Of course they didn’t. One of them wrote to me to point out that they are aware of the ‘sad situation’ of political prisoners (or words to that effect).

    This Pourzal guy also wrote a hatchet job on me, which Counterpunch published. So, yeah, he is good at fooling people. Then again, there must be some degree of culpability for those willing and able to BE fooled as well!

    Comment by Reza — January 2, 2017 @ 5:39 pm

  2. Here is a sample of things for which you can be jailed under the Iranian judicial system, a system loved by Yoshie Furuhashi (just to give the readers a taste of the depth of Ms Furuhashi’s depravity):

    “Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee was jailed for six years in 2016 over an *unpublished* story in which the main character burns the Koran after watching a film about the stoning of a woman in Iran. […] Iranian authorities found the piece, written in a private diary, on 6 September 2014.”
    (full story at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38500746)

    Did you catch that? It was an UNPUBLISHED story written in a *private diary* in the privacy of her home, which led to her arrest!

    This is the kind of society that is supported by Yoshie Furuhashi, who was actually being paid to produce next to zero intellectual output by Monthly Review’s board for the past eleven years. That’s nearly half a million dollars to support the lifestyle of a person who supports this medieval theocracy.

    Comment by Reza — January 3, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

  3. Yoshi is loony tunes. I very briefly contributed some articles to MR Zine years ago, but was blackballed after I spoke a few kind words in one submission about Keynesian economics, depicting it as useful in helping pull countries out of recessions/depressions. Forget it, after that I was out in her mind, despite having written two books for Monthly Review Press that explicitly appropriated a Gramscian, hegemonic/marxian theoretical approach, and despite having developed pretty strong ties with the MR staff and editorial board. I don’t know a single person today who reads MR Zine.

    Comment by Anthony DiMaggio — January 5, 2017 @ 5:17 am

  4. Well, of course it’s also hard to read it when it no longer exists, lol.

    Comment by Anthony DiMaggio — January 5, 2017 @ 5:18 am

  5. Anthony DiMaggio, I had almost an exact experience with MRZine. I submitted a piece on Japan’s imperialistic tendencies, which was published. While emailing back and forth regarding the next submission, about which Ms Furuhashi had expressed a lot of enthusiasm, she asks what I thought of Ahmadinejad who had been elected president for the his first term that year (2005). Thinking I was dealing with a serious Marxist, I casually commented that the entire regime had to go and that there was no real difference between the Ahmadinejad faction and the Rafsanjani gang; also, I pointed out, the president is a figure-head and the real show is run by Khamenei (the supreme leader), not the president. I became a doormat to her immediately. All communications were cut off. She did, 4 years later, published a second (and final) piece I had written on the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution of 1979. My guess is nobody else had submitted anything for the occasion.

    On another note … I would be curious about the stats for the MRZine blog, if such stats can be found. It’ll be interesting to see how many unique visitors were actually reading MRZine.

    Comment by Reza — January 5, 2017 @ 4:52 pm

  6. Reza, I was informed by someone over at the MR foundation back in 2010, when I went out to Left Forum in NYC and was hosted for dinner by the MR foundation, that their readership numbers were something like maybe 1,000 people a day for MR Zine. Take that for what you will, but it’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

    Comment by Anthony DiMaggio — January 5, 2017 @ 5:11 pm

  7. Anthony, Thank you for the info. I wonder how that figure (may have) changed from 2010 to 2016. Hmm …

    Comment by Reza — January 5, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

  8. I get a 1000 visits on a slow day and I don’t have the imprimatur of an august institution like Monthly Review. I had my own incident with Yoshie, long before we began feuding over Iran. Not long after MRZine began, I submitted an article on the problems of aging that had some personal observations on my mom who died a few years ago. She sat on it for months until I finally complained to Michael Yates who got her to move on it. Before that went up, I had an article on “Battle of Algiers” there. Back in 2011 or so, I told her to remove anything I had written from MRZine.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 5, 2017 @ 5:50 pm

  9. My guess is the readership went down over time to the point of irrelevance. Yoshie was good at alienating people. I wasn’t the only one with these experiences.

    Comment by Anthony DiMaggio — January 5, 2017 @ 6:23 pm

  10. You did not create the Marxism list. You created *a* marxism list, after the demise of the Spoons Collective, and then set about banning every Marxist, to the point where the list is nothing more than your movie reviews and links to NY Times articles.

    Comment by Max Power — January 14, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

  11. and then set about banning every Marxist

    No, not every Marxist. Only assholes like you.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 14, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

  12. You didn’t ban me, idiot — I unsubbed after you had banned every person who was worth reading.

    Comment by Max Power — January 18, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

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