[OPE-L:7285] [Andrea Vitale] 'Quaderni di Operai Contro' (Vitale): circumstantiated criticism vs calumny]

From: ope-l administrator (ope-admin@ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu)
Date: Thu May 30 2002 - 05:20:40 EDT

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: "Quaderni di Operai Contro" (Vitale): circumstantiated criticism 
vs calumny
From: "Andrea Vitale" <a.vitale@tin.it>

Thanks to a University Professor and dear friend of mine, I happened to
know about the debate on the OPE-L mailing list about the old and kind of
violent controversy between myself and Paolo Giussani. This dispute took
place few years ago and it is partly documented by three letters
translated in English and published on the web site
www.asloperaicontro.org of the ASLO. This is the workers' association I
am member of.
The starting point, more ore less common to all the OPE-L subscribers who
discussed about this topic, is that I would represent a very significant
example of how Marxists should not debate about issues of political
economy. Badhari does even qualify me as a "very obnoxious debater".
Fortunately, in this discussion I have been associated with very
illustrious people such as Marx, Lenin and Luxenburg. In this respect, I
wouldn't agree with the distinction that Gerarld Levy underlines between
Marx and Lenin. He wrote that it was Lenin the one who started the
"tradition of public vilification" , while most of "personalised attacks"
made by Marx were not intended for publication. Then, what about "The
Holy Family"? or the "The Misery of Philosophy" where Marx derides
Proudhoun by calling him a prophet or writing that Proudhoun was never
able to go beyond the petty bourgeoise ideology? Having said that, I
don't intend to abstractly defend this style of discussion and I am ready
to discuss with you about the issue of how carrying on a debate on
political economy.
However, before any discussion starts, I would like to make one point
clear. There are two distinct and completely different ways to publicly
and openly discuss with, argue with and criticize your opponent.
One way is to explicitly criticize the position you don't agree with, by
mentioning the person or the people whom the critics is directed against
and by precisely citing the writings where these people have stated the
positions one intend to attack. The quotations of sentences, phrases and
passages is not of secondary importance. These quotations on one hand
allow the person who is attacked to precisely reply to the criticisms
moved against him, and, on the other hand, permit the people who are
interested in the debate to verify what the disputers are talking about
and get some documentation about the positions expressed by them.
The second way to carry on a debate is just the opposite: the calumny
namely to impute to your opponent positions or points of view he had
never expressed just for the sake of getting him be discredited.
Criticizing the opponent on the basis of the ascribed positions without
citing any references or, even worst, inventing some alleged references.
I strongly believe that I have always followed the first way and always
hated the second.
Yes, I must admit that my arguing has been caustic and merciless as well
as caustic and merciless have been the comments about Paolo Giussani in
the letters written by the editorial board of the journal Operai Contro,
where most of the expressions reported in the first email of G. Levy were
used. However, I can state with confidence that we have never tried to
use calumny or false charges against Paolo Giussani. Mine are not just
personal arbitrary opinions. Everything I said has been demonstrated in
my writings which unfortunately are only written in Italian and
nevertheless can be downloaded from the web site www.asloperaicontro.org.
The essay on Algebraic Marxism contains criticism against Paolo
Giussani's interpretation of Marxism all based on very circumstantiated
reference of his writings. The method used by Paolo Giussani is indeed
very different. He has never replied to one of the criticisms against him
that have been extensively discussed in the first number of the "Quaderni
of Operai Contro". These criticisms, as I mentioned before, were
documented by citing many references where Paolo Giussani stated his
positions. He chose to follow the second way of debating. He started to
ascribe to me positions that I have never expressed neither written
anywhere without citing not even one reference where one can possibly
find the positions he attacked.
A very indicative example of the way Giussani uses to debate is his email
to the OPE-L mailing list. I don't want to address his absurd criticism
that the 78% of my writings are Marx's quotations (which is not true as
one can verify in the "Quaderni of Operai Contro"). What I would like to
emphasize is another statement of Giussani, the one when he writes that
my old book on Piero Sraffa ("Critica a Piero Sraffa" published in 1986
under the requests of the group of factory workers organized around the
journal Operai Contro) is a long list of offences and insults against P.
Sraffa. This is very far from the reality. To prove the falsity of
Giussani's opinion, let me mention that after the publication of this
book there was an article published in the journal Rinascita (weekly
journal of Italian Communist Party) of January 1988, authored by Nadia
Hanna and entitled "Forgetting Piero Straffa?" (my traslation of the
Italian title "Dimenticare Piero Straffa?"). The author of this article
was very critical about the position I expressed in the book, however she
made no mention to this list of insults and offences that I should have
allegedly made against Sraffa. The reason why she made no mention of this
list is that there was no offence of any sort.
I want to conclude this message, saying that I am open to discuss about
the most appropriate way to carry on a debate about political economy and
also accept criticism about the way I concretely carried on the debate
with Giussani. However, I think it is important not to confuse the two
ways of debating namely the open and direct criticism of the opponent
with his calumny.

Best regards
Andrea Vitale

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