Is a real discussion possible?

Issue 

Dear ______

I know your letter wasn't intended for publication, but I think some of the concerns you raise will be of interest to, perhaps shared by, some of our readers. I hope you won't mind me using it anonymously to address those concerns.

To give a brief summary, you are concerned that Green Left's goal of being a forum for ecological and socialist politics — "to green up socialism" — will come to grief because of too much input from Marxists. You attribute this danger, not to conspiracy, but to the fact that "it is inevitable that the Democratic Socialist Party will have a major input of personnel and technical resources".

This input, you fear, could lead to "the predictable polemical hatchet job on (a selective reading of) Ehrlich, uncritical support for Commoner, the setting up of straw Green opponents based on the most extreme fringes of right wing environmentalism, all served up with appeals to Marxist fundamentalism".

The DSP is devoting considerable resources to Green Left — the resources it formerly put into Direct Action. But others are also heavily involved; that's why Green Left is already bigger and better than Direct Action was.

And, while I think you caricature DSP views, I agree with your point that it would be disastrous for Green Left if DSP positions crowded out those of others in the socialist/ecological project. How can this be prevented?

If Ehrlich or Commoner publish a new book or go on a speaking tour of Australia, what I write about it will reflect my preference for Commoner's analysis over Ehrlich's (unless the book/talk persuades me to change my view). I can't write something that will accurately reflect your views where we disagree on something. You, or someone who shares your opinions, will have to do that.

All I can do is promise that Green Left will do its best to ensure that varied views on any controversial topic in the progressive movements are presented as fairly as possible. If Paul Ehrlich writes a new book containing the ideas he has published elsewhere, I will print a critical review if it's submitted, or maybe write it myself. But we'll also run your, presumably favourable, review — if possible, we'll run them both side by side and encourage readers to read the book with both reviews in mind.

We want Green Left to be a real open forum for discussion and debate. (Incidentally, when I say "we" in this context, I'm

not talking just about DSP members, as you can see for yourself by looking at the list of sponsors on page 2.) We think that the lack of real discussion is one of the reasons that socialists/environmentalists haven't done as well as they could have in recent years.

If we can conduct a real ongoing discussion, who knows what might happen? Some — maybe all — of us might modify our position on one question or another. Maybe we'll discover the worst: that greens and socialists can't agree on anything, and that greens can't even agree with greens, and socialists can't agree with socialists.

Even in that case, though, we'd gain something: at least we'd know that we could stop wasting our time trying to combine fire and water. I'm more optimistic than that, however. I think, or at least hope, we will find through discussion that many points we thought were disagreements were only differences of emphasis or even misunderstandings.

And even if we understand each other perfectly already, unlikely as that is, don't we both gain by debating our differences and being forced to deal with serious, reasoned challenges to our own views?

You write, "I appreciate your efforts to engage Marxism with ecological issues". But your next, concluding, sentence is: "I shall watch to see how far GLW takes us on this path". Is that really the best approach?

The people who have sponsored this paper aren't watching to see if someone else will succeed in creating a real forum for the open discussion we all feel the need of; we're putting our efforts into producing it. If you're not yet convinced that you ought to be in this project 100%, then at least meet us half way: submit your articles for publication and decide then whether we treat them fairly. But don't sit back and wait for us to write what you would write: that's a recipe for turning your fears into self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yours for a broad red/green paper,
Allen Myers

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