Oaxaca, Monday 2 July 2007

      Despite my intention to take a little break from SftP, I'm still wrapped up in it. Today I sent the following to one of our members who I consider very valuable.

Dear Xxxx,
      One of the things I hate about the internet is that many people choose to hide their identity. Now I know you're a . . . and, if you permit me to pin a label on you, a revolutionary! No matter. I love you just like I love Maurice Bazin, another real comrade in the struggle.
      Building trust starts between two people. It takes lots of effort, but it's even possible on the internet. Mitchel Cohen has become a friend over the years. He was one of the people labelled 'denialists' but not an 'attacker'. I've learned from Mitch that Jonathan Campbell used to belong to the so-called Progressive Labor Party (PLP), which had and still has rotten politics. But I've corresponded with Jonathan, mostly through posts, and he's largely come around to admitting  he was a lead provocateur. I honestly don't think you need be at all concerned about getting into a nasty back-and-forth with him. He's already admitted (either privately or on the listserv, probably the latter) that he was wrong to label the TAC a fascist outfit. Mitch says he's changed since his PLP days and gives him a lot of credit for that. I personally intend to continue criticizing the positions of some individuals, and to try to persuade them that it's because of their poor politics. Balter is one. I think I've got him pretty well sized up, junior psychoalanyst that I am. But I don't want to attack him, rather to show him the diversionary effect it can have to point people to articles like Freeman Dyson's in the New York Review of Books. [Balter posted it today]
      Dyson is an extremely gifted, highly trained mathematical physicist (I think from Cambridge, UK) who has, so far as I know, been remarkably uncreative in physics throughout his career. He is brilliant at synthesizing other people's work. But he is cut from a different cloth than Feynman, Tomonaga and Schwinger, who shared a physics Nobel prize for their formulation of quantum field theory, [my error. was quantum electrodynamics, which is a particular quantum field theory] or from Weinberg, Salam and Glashow, a more recent physics Nobel triad . I rember studying Dyson's paper on quantum field theory in the Physical Review -- he was able to read their papers and put together a readable synthetic account, which I could never have done.
      Extremely gifted, he is also a first rate expositor. That, together with his elitist, sheltered, class-unconscious background (he was a graduate student at Cornell and for years has been at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey), he can provide speculations for the smart set to chat about over their cappuchinos in New York cafes and other such hang-outs of the Oh!-so-sophisticated-set. (Note added: I just Googled him and found the following on his homepage: "He went on to Cornell University as a graduate student in 1947 and worked with Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman. His most useful contribution to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. Cornell University made him a professor without bothering about his lack of Ph.D. He subsequently worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied."
      I haven't yet finished Freeman's article, which Balter told us about this morning "for informational purposes only", but so far I haven't come upon anything about class struggle, capitalism, or the 'horizontal' flowing of wealth that the billions of the earth's impoverished human beings need instead of the 'horizontal sharing' of genes that Dyson is in rhapsodies about. So I hope you'll not be so withdrawn from public discussion. The SftP group seems energized and open right now . . .

Very sincerely with best wishes,
The above was in response to an e-mail I got today saying in part, "I am thinking about your suggestion that my message be posted, but feel a bit reluctant to do so, to be honest . . . I don't want to stir things up when they seem to be settling a bit.