By the Editorial Board
Nearly two weeks ago, Tribune of the People reached out to People’s Voice News (PVN) through private correspondence regarding an article on their website, “Opinion: On Incendiary News and its Milieu: Against Dogmato-Revisionist Bogeymen, Sectarianism and Opportunism.”
The article originally contained no byline and it was unclear to us whether this was the official position of PVN or not. But soon after, PVN issued a disclaimer which included an updated byline and clarifying that it was an opinion article, and that the comrades made a few minor but important edits to the article. We wish to openly state our gratitude for this. However the changes are unsatisfactory, so the article needs to be addressed, as well as a more recent piece from PVN, “A Response to Tribune of the People,” which openly addresses us.
We must express that the following is mainly in regard to the opinion piece by the author “Comrade Toussaint” and those who agree with him, and concerns PVN when appropriate. That being said, PVN has shown amateurishness and irresponsibility as editors and publishers. Before getting into the meat and bones of the “Toussaint” opinion hosted on PVN, we must address PVN itself and correct some of their poor reading and analysis as seen in their most recent piece.
The PVN comrades claim we refer to ourselves as “Gonzaloites”:
“The subject of the criticism clearly is the principally Maoist trend as a whole, referred to by the author as ‘Gonzaloites.’ The Tribune of the People publicly refers to themselves as such.”
We do not. In good faith we will assume they simply did not read the article they hyperlink in order to support this incorrect claim. If they did, they would see with a simple word search that our article “Defend the Life of Chairman Gonzalo on his 86th Birthday” mentions Gonzalo’s name 24 times, but never once uses the word “Gonzaloite” to describe ourselves or anyone else. Hence it is abundantly clear that Tribune does not publicly refer to itself as such, nor has it ever. Such poor reading objectively results in misleading their readers in an attempt to defend their writer who is in error, rather than accept correct criticism.
PVN is further mistaken when linking to an article and rationalizing, “In March 2020, an editor of Incendiary News outlines the relationship between Incendiary News and The Tribune of the People.”
More bad reading—in the article hyperlinked, the Incendiary editor, when self-criticizing, encourages readers to support Tribune, but he does not outline a relationship. In fact, this editor is not and has never been involved with Tribune and there is nothing in the linked article to suggest otherwise. For our part, we make no attempts to conceal the fact that some of Incendiary‘s writers and Support Committees joined Tribune of the People after having resigned from Incendiary before its demise. This is clear in the bylines of our articles. Unlike PVN, we do not paint an organization or publications with the same brush. We demarcate between the good and the bad, we affirm the good and negate the bad, and in so doing we accept members on their merit and ability to self-criticize for their mistakes and correct their political line and work methods. The PVN comrades are grasping at straws to defend the indefensible rather than just accept that they make mistakes.
What other links do they attempt to establish? They claim a link to Incendiary on the basis that they reported that someone once at a protest in LA mentioned the theoretical journal Struggle Sessions! To be clear, we and Incendiary have reported on many events, where speakers quote all sorts of individuals and publications, and reporting on this does not establish a link except in the imaginations of those who suffer from sectarianism and want to connect nonexistent dots. For our part, we find much of the material published by Struggle Sessions useful and illuminating, but we are not affiliated with them any more than PVN is.
PVN’s most recent piece attempts to criticize our initial response, “What Is a Provocateur?” which examined “Touissant’s” pattern of online provocation to make clear that he operates with no higher purpose but to bait sincere revolutionaries and promote his social media persona. Our published arguments that “Toussaint” was engaged in police work had to do with the attempts to link our news service to the Mike Ramos Brigade (MRB). We appreciate the fact that PVN removed this speculation from the article—better late than never. However the retraction does not absolve the writer of his activity, and by denying it, the PVN comrades just cover up the mistake. Their public response, if it wishes to be taken as a genuine attempt, at the very least should state that linking us and other publications to a repressed organization was wrong and unprincipled. It is disappointing that PVN would rather shield their own from criticism than criticize “Touissant”, and this is more harmful to them than to us—they just don’t see it yet.
PVN states, “We can clearly see that bad-jacketing is a destructive force, ironically, a tactic widely used by police.” We agree, which is precisely why we take issue with “Toussaint” claiming that Maoists “get people arrested.” Clearly the comrades at PVN cannot identify any problem with making claims like this. They can redact his attempts to link us to MRB, but not take this seriously enough to condemn it.
We did not “bad-jacket” “Toussaint”; we condemned him for “bad-jacketing” others. The sort of deflection issued by the comrades at PVN does not conform to reality and reduces itself to the childish skit “I know you are but what am I?” Tribune would have had absolutely no reason to mention the issue if PVN had not published such an irresponsible screed in the first place.
As for PVN’s claim that we have not responded “to real criticisms, raised by many, notably, the banning of ‘postmodernist words.’” This is partially true. On one hand, we made it clear in “What Is a Provocateur?” that we intended to produce a thorough repudiation of the opinion article, and on the other hand the opinion article does not contain “real criticisms, raised by many.” Tribune has furthermore never claimed to ban terms. We do not, and our response below addresses this. The issue is that PVN provides nothing to support the claim that we do ban terms, and simply assumes as much because Incendiary did, another indication of their clinging to “Touissant’s” line that the “milieu” is all one and the same.
PVN comrades misread articles and do not take editorial work seriously enough. They lower standards and defend this on the basis of identity politics and accuse us of racism in the process for no other reason than that, as editors ourselves, we believe certain editorial standards should be in place:
“The editors resort to extreme scrutiny of the author’s style and tie his media accounts together. New Afrikan writers are routinely subject to bourgeois academic critiques of their writing style, language and tone, and Tribune takes the role of the racist English teacher in complaining about ‘run on sentences’ and other things.”
This relies on the idea that there is no Marxist criticism of editing and writing and that any technical criticism of the work of a Black writer is bourgeois. Let us be clear: “Toussaint” is a college graduate, a fact he boasts about regularly. His poor writing has nothing do with being disadvantaged as a Black man and this is a deflection. We do not deny that during his studies at St. Louis University he experienced racism; in fact, it is documented that he was penalized for a “bias-related incident” for criticizing Israel. In our view, this does not mean that his specific writing style is beyond criticism. Instead of accepting criticism, the writer and PVN respond by jumping to conclusions and deflecting.
In more poor reading from PVN, they say that we “even claim Toussaint makes a statement on the murder of Garrett Foster. No link to such a statement is provided because this does not exist.”
Let us have a look and see. In our article, “What Is a Provocateur?” We say the following:
“’Toussaint’ expresses a view similar to that of Austin Police Association president Kenneth Casaday, who in an attempt to criminalize Garrett Foster (a supporter of MRB who was murdered by Army Sgt. Daniel Perry at one of their protests) tweeted ‘Please watch this video. This is the guy that lost his life last night. He was looking for confrontation and he found it. The Feux [sic] Mike Ramos Brigade needs to be stopped. The only people out of control during this incident was the Feux [sic] Brigade.’” [emphasis added]
It is clear to anyone paying attention that the appearance of the word “who” at the start of the clause immediately following “Kenneth Casaday” means that “who” is referring to Casaday and not “Toussaint,” while highlighting the similarities in their viewpoints that MRB are “adventurists” (Toussaint) and “out of control” (Cassaday). What we did not do was make any claims about “Toussaint’s” view of Foster. However, Foster was a supporter of MRB and a participant in the majority of their actions and protests, so yes, by claiming MRB were adventurists, “Toussaint” indirectly makes a comment about Foster as well. Suggesting that a group is reckless and brings harm to themselves has clear implications regarding Foster’s death.
Pertaining to “Toussaint,” we are not responsible for whatever random individuals on social media say about him. We do not use this method of exchange and do not take it seriously. We cited his Facebook post to substantiate a point: that on one hand he calls others “adventurists” and on the other hand baits them for not being adventurist enough, and that this is textbook provocation. We made no claims that he is an agent provocateur. He is a bad element, a revisionist, a loudmouth, a gossip, and a provocateur nonetheless.
We are well aware others have criticized him for years; some we agree with, others we do not. However, he was no better at taking criticism now than he was then, or PVN are now, for that matter. Then and now, deflecting criticism with identity politics has been the order of the day, and when Black comrades criticize him, he claims they are “brainwashed.” The baseline is denial and attack in response to criticism.
PVN states, “However, after receiving an email from Tribune, the comrade has agreed to remove their name from his article.”
But this was not done: after publishing this claim, the PVN-hosted article at the time of this publication still mentions us.
We have chosen to publish the following long response, which deals with “Toussaint” aka “Black Red Guard’s” false claims, sectarianism, etc. so that there is no confusion on our position, and so that we engage as requested with claims about Incendiary, ourselves, and others.
Our exposing of the provocateur behavior of “Toussaint” was made necessary by PVN not removing the opinion article from their website due to the issues within it that they have committed to ignore in the main part. We would normally prefer that that these discussions be handled organization to organization. We had never mentioned PVN in our publication before they published the screed “Incendiary News and its Milieu.” Now that they have, there is no putting the cat back in the bag. It must be addressed and in the terms set by PVN—a public exchange. And while we do not seek to muddy ourselves, “Toussaint’s” methods do not warrant padding our response any at all.
As far as PVN’s suggestion that we and others single out “Toussaint,” we feel it is necessary not to attribute his extreme opinions to anyone else. When we focus on him, it of course includes those who agree with his methods and take his political line.
Download the Full Response
Note: We have provided a PDF version of the full article due to its length, this includes the introduction above.