Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 25, 2018

Diana Johnstone versus CounterPunch

Filed under: Counterpunch,Red-Brown alliance — louisproyect @ 12:10 am

Diana Johnstone

Following her Consortium News attack on Tony McKenna, Diana Johnstone now directs her polemical pea-shooter at CounterPunch (CP) and once again the article was published by Consortium News. Since she has written about a hundred articles for CP over the years, I wondered what might have ticked her off.

I subsequently learned from CP co-editor Joshua Frank that after he and Jeff St. Clair decided to publish an article that took exception to her kind words on behalf of Marine Le Pen’s brand of nativism, she saw them as the enemy. Among other things, the article stated:

Johnstone’s torrent of unsupported claims takes a dark turn when she focuses her attention against immigration. In effect, she calls for the left to reconsider its pro-immigrant stance, because “a left whose principal cause is open borders will become increasingly unpopular.” This is a nationalist argument, suggesting that political opportunism is of more importance than the lives of refugees and immigrants.

What could make Johnstone think that her opposition to immigration will resonate with the left? It reeks of the xenophobia that we are dealing with in the USA and that most people have taken a firm stand against, whatever their differences on other questions.

She says that in the current fund-drive, CP has teamed up with Russia-bashers like Rachel Maddow, Max Boot, et al because their slogan for the fund-drive is “We Have All the Right Enemies”, which supposedly means that they are on the Kremlin’s shit-list. But there is no indication that the “right enemies” is a reference to Russia. Go to https://store.counterpunch.org/ and try to find something to that effect. And, while you are there, make a donation to the best magazine on the left.

In her blinkered vision, Jeff St. Clair wasn’t like Rachel Maddow and Max Boot back in the day. He was just as much of a Putin-booster as Diana Johnstone, even though Jeff wrote one of the most vicious take-downs of Putin you’ll find anywhere. She refers to an attack on CP that was written by a German blogger that tried to demonstrate that published articles were stacked in favor of the rightwing and white supremacists. Jeff St. Clair answered the blogger effectively but perhaps Johnstone was miffed that he did not come out and say that he was in favor of the red-brown alliance she has been advocating for years.

At the time, I was amused to see that Franklin Lamb was included in the German blogger’s group of rightists in light of the fact that for the past year or so he has written some of the most hard-hitting critiques of the Assad dictatorship found anywhere. Lamb’s ability to change his views based on new information should be lauded. It is too bad that writers like Johnstone remain evidence-averse.

According to the German blogger, the bad guys wrote 674 articles while those penned by the good guys only numbered 245, with me accounting for 59 of them. At the time, I scoffed at the blogger’s bogus statistics:

This is really quite pathetic, a classic example of “lies, damned lies, and statistics”. If you really want to characterize CounterPunch, it would be necessary to conduct an analysis of all of the articles that appear there, not just a sampling. How do I and the other “left/progressives” (god, what an awful term) exhaust the inventory of all those on the left who write for CounterPunch? All you need to do is look at a typical weekend edition, like the one that came out today, to get a handle on what it stands for. There are 40 articles and not a single one has even the slightest whiff of rightwing politics. Speaking of which, one has to wonder what criteria Hendricks used to categorize some of the people as rightwingers. She includes Franklin Lamb and Paul Larudee. Unless I am missing something, they have never written anything I would associate with the Republican Party. For that matter, mostly what they do is circulate pro-Baathist propaganda after the fashion of Tony Greenstein.

The reference to Greenstein was prompted by his own attack on CP that along with Jews Sans Frontieres made the case for it being anti-Semitic. Trust me. If I ever saw evidence on CP of the kind of Jew-baiting that goes on at Russia-Insider, where Johnstone’s article was crossposted, I would stop writing for CP. On January 15th, Russia-Insider’s editor wrote that “hostility to Putin’s Russia is largely a Jewish phenomenon.” Despite this David Duke-type rhetoric, Consortium News accepts tax-deductible donations for Russia-Insider as a fiscal sponsor. Go figure.

Make no mistake about it. Johnstone had high hopes for CP being much more like Consortium News, Russia-Insider, The Saker, The Duran, 21st Century Wire, Global Research or any of the fifty other websites that pass along RT.com talking points to the conspiracy-minded pinheads who lap this stuff up.

She was particularly upset that CP ripped alt-right fan Caitlin Johnstone a new asshole (no, the two are not related except ideologically.) After Green Party misleader David Cobb advocated following Caitlin Johnstone’s advice to bloc with people like Mike Cernovich, CP co-editor Joshua Frank blasted Cobb and Caitlin Johnstone:

Back to the disgusting Mike Cernovich, who hates gender equality and believes that white men are oppressed by big bad feminism. He’s tweeted that, “Not being a slut is the only proven way to avoid AIDS. If you love black women, slut shame them.” Fuck him. He doesn’t give a shit about women, class issues, climate change or the ugly side of capitalism.  Cernovich even told Andrew Marantz of the The New Yorker, “I believe in strong borders, including keeping out Islamic terrorists. If people think that’s inherently racist, fine—but I’m an American nationalist, not a white nationalist.”

Diana Johnstone didn’t think that this sort of thing should get in the way of a “single-issue antiwar movement” like the one we had in the 1960s. Of course, back then this meant uniting pacifists, CP’ers and Trotskyists on the need to get out of Vietnam. Nobody in their right mind would have asked someone like Cernovich to speak at an antiwar rally. What Johnstone means by “antiwar” is much different than what we were involved with back then. Instead, she wants everybody to get behind Assad’s war on the Syrian population marching along with her, Caitlin Johnstone and Mike Cernovich.

One of the other CP critiques of Caitlin Johnstone was written by Yoal Litvin, who served in the Israeli military before relocating to the USA. If that is a litmus test, what do we make of long-time CP contributor Uri Avnery who during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War fought on the southern front in the Givati Brigade as a squad commander, and later in the Samson’s Foxes commando unit (and also wrote its anthem)? Maybe Litvin and Avnery, like Lamb, changed their views. Too bad that, unlike them, Johnstone’s thinking is so calcified.

Reading Johnstone, you’d think that Alexander Reid Ross sets the tone for CP. She can’t stand that he wrote an article that denounced the red-brown alliances that she and Caitlin Johnstone advocate. To show how off-base Ross is, she refers to how an article he wrote for the Southern Poverty Law Center making such points was subsequently deleted. She does not mention, however, that it was only deleted after Max Blumenthal threatened legal action. Back in the 60s, the left understood that it should settle its differences through debate and not through the bourgeois courts. Maybe Johnstone forgot about this or maybe she never viewed this as a principle. That’s another difference between us.

It is worth noting that Ross has written 11 articles for CP but only a single one was in the vein that Johnstone objected to. Meanwhile she has written 100 articles all saying just about the same kinds of things, namely that Putin is a great guy, that Marine Le Pen is part of the left and that Assad is leading a war on terror. There was a time before her brain became so calcified that Johnstone could write some interesting stuff, even if it was wrong. I can’t stand Seymour Hersh’s politics but I would never dream of ignoring something he wrote. As for Johnstone, I tuned her out about a decade ago unless it was something as egregiously wrong-headed as this that deserved a reply.

The last couple of paragraphs sound like the sort of thing that Stephen F. Cohen tells ultrarightist John Batchelor every time he makes an appearance on his WABC radio show:

Vladimir Putin is clearly in the Westernizing tradition. Not an ignorant buffoon like Yeltsin, ready to give away the shop to get a pat on the back from Bill. But rather someone who, as an intelligence agent (yes, KGB people learn a lot) lived in the West, spoke fluent German, and wanted Russia to have a dignified place in Europe – which was the dream of Gorbachev.

But this aspiration has been rudely rebuffed by the United States. Russians who yearned to be part of Europe have been disappointed, humiliated, and finally, angered. All their efforts at friendship have been met with increasingly outlandish portrayals of Russia as “the enemy”.

What the hell does this pop psychology have to do with radical politics? It almost makes you think that Johnstone was getting paid by the Kremlin to write such drivel. If so, they better ask for their money back since it has about as much impact as a wet noodle.


  1. And Johnstone has also contributed this article to the white supremacist/neo-nazi website Unz.com where it’s being rapturously greeted by the usual fascistic vermin who dominate it’s reader comments.

    Comment by Sam Sarkasian — May 28, 2018 @ 2:38 am

  2. This article is a pile of bullshit. Johnstone is an outstanding journalist, easily one of the best and most informed. Joshua Frank has driven away many of CPs best writers: Linh Dinh, Hudson, Johstone, Whitney, Roberts and many others. Proyect is full of crap, about Johnstone and especially about Russia. Look at CP today: there are no talented writers left! Frank, with his narrow-minded mindset has driven them all away. Basically, if you don’t have the exact same political viewpoint as Josh (e.g. “Russia is evil doer!!!”), then get out!

    Comment by des — February 9, 2019 @ 7:57 am

  3. Here is some of Linh Dinh’s writing. Good riddance to bad medicine:

    Jews declared economic war on Germany, and they were having an effect. The Jews controlled higher education, media and the entertainment industry in Germany in the 30’s. They controlled much of the banking sector. Jews were fighting tooth and nail, economically, with whatever means they could, and Hitler said, “We’ve got to sort out this country, for the Germans,” and Germans supported him. Hitler revived the economy. He started Volkswagen and gave people jobs. Most Germans were elated.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 9, 2019 @ 1:28 pm

  4. Supporting economic and military imperialism caused immigration supports imperialism….duh! Speaking about open borders and immigration in a vacuum and in simple platitudes is also a common manipulation. It’s not simple. As regards France one year after this article was written the Goldman Sachs poodle, the neoliberal lap dog, Macron (Obama’s choice), the tone deaf open borders technocrat, the non democratic EU shill, has become very popular with the people as seen by the Yellow Vest movement! The army has been called in. “Vive la liberté!”

    Diana Johnstone is a great writer, more intellectual and nimble than most and she’s in her 80’s. Many writers could learn from the economy of words she uses to make a point and the way she stays on target which is lost in the example above. Too many words, too many topics, as per usual. That’s also a trick, hiding ideologies that really aren’t popular in reams of text and “look over there” distractions.

    Counterpunch like many others has turned into yet another controlled opposition. It happens slowly but obviously. The trick also used by NPR and public radio for example is to have good and true material mixed in with blatant ham fisted propaganda. Richard Wolff has a great show but it’s on Sunday morning. That certainly ain’t prime time!

    Let’s not forget these 3 important party lines: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and the ever popular “Ignorance is Strength.” How sad that these have become the slogans for our world. Beware the global fifth column!

    Comment by Norman — April 2, 2019 @ 11:08 am

  5. Norman, is Macron an open borders advocate? That’s news to me but then again I probably don’t read the same red-brown crapola like you.

    Macron Puts Immigration Controls on the Table: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/macron-puts-immigration-controls-on-the-table/

    Comment by louisproyect — April 2, 2019 @ 1:29 pm

  6. Clever try but in the sub headline to that article it says: “Under pressure from protesters and with his presidency hanging in the balance, France’s leader considers the unthinkable.” The key word here is “unthinkable.” Had this tool of Goldman Sachs and the EU not had an uprising of French citizens that isn’t abating any time soon he would be following his marching orders from on high which is open borders, or non democratic EU policy in support of American imperialism.

    Read carefully not selectively. Interesting choice for an article too. Good ole Patrick Joseph Buchanan’s web site, The American Conservative. In today’s world it’s anti war stance is quite unusual as regards never ending war in the Middle East. But we all know a name Pat has been tagged with. Luckily many years later Ilhan Omar has picked up the mantle and got called the same name. See, that’s a positive result due to legal immigration. And take a look at how the pro immigration people and media love her and treat her in Congress! Not very nicely to say the least. They’d call her a Nazi too but that would be obviously foolish as you are again implying that I am.

    If name calling is your style we all know there is no argument. It’s an ad hominem attack and you’ve done it twice!

    Comment by Norman — April 2, 2019 @ 6:39 pm

  7. Clearly, you are not a Marxist. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. There are close to 300 million people in the USA who have never read Marx. But I must remind you that conspiracism and Marxism is quite different. Diana Johnstone is a conspiracist. So are the people at Global Research, UNZ Review, Consortium News, and Off-Guardian. My advice is to hang out at those places where you will find yourself in good company.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 2, 2019 @ 6:46 pm

  8. Dear Louis, thanks for telling me something that I already know as far as not being a Marxist. As for web sites I read everything. My advice to you is get out of the echo chamber, celebrate freedom of speech and thought, realize that others have markedly different views and please, oh please stop the ad hominem attacks, opprobriums, and other boring name calling which very much weakens your credibility.

    Since you’ve steered this off topic and are resolute in your ideas about Diana Johnstone as am I, I’ll leave you with this. Marxism, Socialism, and Capitalism are all interesting and seemingly beneficial concepts by those celebrating them. Kind of like religions. They live in the pure, abstract, and academic worlds of books and ideas. In the real and physical world in which we all live however humanity adds an unknown variable to all these theories.

    That variable is Criminalism. It has hidden behind and within many accepted virtues and movements, it has corrupted the good and noble, it appears in speeches and in written form, it’s on TV, it even does banking in Switzerland, it’s in houses of worship, the arts, universities, cities, capitols, even Facebook, etc. I think the reader will get the picture.

    Out of respect to you and your prolific blog this will be my sign off on this subject. Thanks for giving me and the public the opportunity to respond in your comments section! That’s a good thing.

    Comment by Norman — April 4, 2019 @ 12:32 am

  9. […] barely know Johnstone as a writer and thinker but found her to be a relatively early and concerning example of overlap between left / far-right in the Trump era—in practice, an advocate of the “red-brown […]

    Pingback by Chris Hedges, Diana Johnstone, antifa – decomposing nightmare parody — December 18, 2020 @ 10:59 pm

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