Louis N. Proyect (1945-2021), Light Saber of Truth

Michael D. Yates (27 August 2021):

It is with great sadness that I announce my good friend, Louis Proyect, has died. He had a serious illness for some time. He died peacefully in his sleep on August 25. I will miss him greatly, and I assume you will as well. Louis was a voracious reader, and almost every day, he posted links to articles from a wide variety of sources on multiple subjects, from politics and economics to music and philosophy to physics and ecology. I am sure we have all learned a great deal from his posts. He did much in his life, through his efforts in Nicaragua and South Africa, for example, and with his voluminous writing, to push radical transformation forward. He allied himself with leftists around the world. He seemed to know just about everybody. Those who knew him personally know that he was a good human being, always willing to help a friend, no matter where in the world that person happened to be. He and his wife Mine showed me and my partner many kindnesses over the years. Goodbye, Louis. You will live on in our hearts and in our efforts to change the world.

Manuel García, Jr. (in response):

I first became aware of Louis N. Proyect in 2003, when I began writing for Swans (Gilles d’Aymery’s internet magazine), where Louis was an established presence. Over the 18 years since then we have had many exchanges (all over the internet, sadly; and all good, happily), and I learned a great deal from him. I was even able to teach him some things, mainly about science. We were both native New Yorkers, and he was very much the archetypical kind of good-hearted prickly exterior quick witted wise ass Jew that I had grown up surrounded by (and especially with one cherished college professor who hailed from Brooklyn). He had that refreshing “what’s it to ya'” attitude that doesn’t seem to cut it so well west of the Hudson River; but which can be so essential to cut through the crap when you really need to solve a problem (and my secret weapon out here in Californicate). On 10 July 2021, I read the ‘comic book’ style biography of Louis that he had posted (in several parts) on his blog, and wrote to tell him how redolent it was of the times and scenes I had grown up through. By then I had reached a point in my life where I told people outright if I appreciated them, because I didn’t want to accumulate more regrets. And I told Louis that in our exchanges on July 10 and then again in our exchanges on July 17, my last personal e-mail contact/exchange with him. Louis appreciated my gesture and said so. After that I could see from his blog that he was trying to get as much done as he could, as the phenomenon we all knew as Louis Proyect. I’ve lost a brother, older, and often “pesado,” but dearly loved. What I liked most about Louis was that he never let ideology confine his moral sense — his heart; his primal motivation was his deep moral sense of solidarity with all human beings, and his fiery outrage at the injustice of the sufferings of the humble, the weak, the exploited, the “salt of the earth.” He was a mensch.

He was absolutely correct on Syria — and Libya — neither of which the comfy doctrinaire ‘left’ herd have been able to face up to yet. Louis was a Light Saber of Truth.

Louis N. Proyect was the only leftist to publicize my article on chemical warfare in Syria (a commissioned piece, rejected, that went against the grain of herd orthodoxy). We both hate dictators regardless of their stripes.
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2021/07/09/chemical-warfare-in-syria-and-its-corrosiveness-beyond/

Adam Weissman (27 August 2021):

“One of the all-too-few voices on the left who challenged the lies of campists and the brutal dictators they shill for. A fierce and passionate defender of the Syrian people. He will be sorely missed.”

Link to Louis Proyect autobiography
https://louisproyect.org/2021/07/06/the-unrepentant-marxist-comic-book-final-chapter/

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9 thoughts on “Louis N. Proyect (1945-2021), Light Saber of Truth

  1. Hard to say just why I’m going to so miss Louis’ voice, There are other movie reviewers. Deflaters of the high and mighty are still to be found. There are even polemicists around who keep to a Marxist line. But no one else sounds like Louis. With him I hear the kid on his bike in the Catskills delivering orders for his dad’s store, the naive freshman who set about swallowing great mouthfuls of Bard College, the confused, turning angry young New Yorker acquiring a touch of banker’s cynicism. It’s quite a tonal mix. On his long road of political activism, his vocal modulations were more, not fewer. He was talking about everything at once and to every sort of person. Let’s explain his uniqueness by what he wrote Dec. 26, 2014: “My politics, like many of my favorite writers at Swans and CounterPunch, is joined at the hip to art and culture.”

  2. Fitting that Louis filed the last item (August 6) on his blog under “Catskills, Film, Jewish question”. It set him down in his place in the universe. It’s full of references to popular entertainers. It also touches on his boyhood predicament. It was unthinkable for his mother that any group, and especially not a Black one, could follow in the footsteps of the immigrant Jews. Blacks were a different species. The adult Louis carefully explains the mentality and class framework. But it’s not hard to imagine the confusion in the boy’s mind. I know how he felt. In the late 1940s, a gormless teen, I worked at a country club outside Chicago. On the one hand I heard about the triumph of democracy—us. But the talk of the local gentry I listened to was all about keeping Jews off our pristine green grass.

  3. How sad for all of us. Coming upon Louis only 4-5 years ago, my hopes included continuing to further my education via his often-longish essays. So prolific were those essays that only now will I have sufficient time to catch up.

  4. I’ve known Louie, as he was known in the past, more years than anyone on the list. We became friends attending the same junior high/high school in upstate New York. Louie was always the best read kid in the class (except maybe for me), the first to discover avant garde music, the most influenced by the beat movement. He graduated high school a year early and attended Bard, one of the few nontraditional colleges around in the early 1960s. He felt that if he didn’t escape the rigidly conformist kid culture in our community he’d have a breakdown.

    Louie’s first political work was campaigning for Barry Goldwater, which, he later admitted, was spurred to some extent by the adoration for the cute guy, JFK. While at Bard he discovered socialist politics and within a few years became a member of the SWP. He left some years later, feeling it was little more than a cult.

    His work was hands on and sterling in Nicaragua, South Africa, and among Native Americans. And he can’t be commended too much for insisting that Libya and Syria were not exactly socialist paradises.

    Kudos for Manuel, whose exchanges with Louie were beyond enlightening. Both of you are mensches. Louie’s last and greatest achievement was the 10,000+ essays written as “The Unrepentant Marxist.” I used to tell him that in volume he put Tolstoy to shame. Did anyone else on the planet write more on a daily basis in addition to the research and past knowledge that went into most essays?

    Miss ya already, Lou.

  5. The weblink above, to “Happy 200th, Herman!” is about Herman Melville, and it includes numerous references and links to items by Louis Proyect, as well as comments by Peter Byrne. It was a gathering of the three of us. You might enjoy it — we did.

  6. Rest in peace. I can’t claim try have known Louis well, as I never met him in person, but I was a reader of his blog for at least 10 years.

    I planned my trip from the Adirondack Mountains to Occupy Wall Street in the comment section of The Unrepentant Marxist! Louis introduced me to Pham Binh and the socialist North Star website. He amplified my work on socialism and animal rights a number of times, which I was immensely grateful for. At one point, we attempted a crowdfunding campaign, so I could write a biography of him, but we were sadly unsuccessful.

    More than anything else, I’d like think his writing about the dangers of sectarianism have helped me thus far avoid some of the mistakes his generation of leftists made. I’ll miss him.

  7. Two Letters to Michael D. Yates in response to his 31 August 2021 article about Louis N. Proyect:

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/08/31/save-a-space-for-lou-proyect-rebel-against-the-status-quo/

    Mr. Yates (#1),

    Your CP piece on Louis, today, was beautiful, very well done. You certainly captured anything I could say about Louis.

    One subject Louis and I both agreed quite strongly on (actually there were many, Libya and Syria and eco-socialism & climate change, and no nuclear power, being prominent) was the idiocy of 911 ‘truthers’, those who invented endless conspiracy theories about 911, like: “Bush did it,” and “there were no airplanes,” etc.

    Louis would occasionally ask me for references that I had to articles and websites debunking that foolishness. I wrote a lot on this for CP, and so I have been the target of e-mails from truthers ever since, desperately trying to infect me with their brain disease.

    The day after you announced Louis’s passing, I wrote a satire (note to truthers: actually, it REALLY IS all true and not a satire, as we insiders both know) on the topic as I’ve experienced it. I’ll link it below. I would dearly have wished to have shared it with Louis because I know he would have enjoyed it heartily.

    I’ve not yet been able to compose a well-organized and polished memorial essay about Louis (what I’ve posted so far is brief), and I may never be able too. Louis was a such a wide-ranging phenomenon (as you noted) that it is impossible for me to know about and comment on much of his thinking and activity.

    While Louis was very admiring of Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, and CP as an organ, I think he was a superior analyst, historian and commentator to the CP editor-publishers, and nearly always any other writer on CP. To my mind he was a little too deferential to the CP politburo. But, we’re all human, and want to be recognized by a larger audience (well, most do), and getting published in CP carries that aura.

    I think Louis’s most endearing characteristics were his deep-seated sense of morality — the compassion for the sufferings of humanity — and righteous outrage at all forms of exploitation of vulnerable human beings (and the natural world); and his immense fund of optimism, which was the source of his untiring efforts — entirely quixotic — to spark a revolution in societal thinking, so it shifted its paradigm from the toxic capitalism of today to the humane eco-socialism of our dreams. I am entirely quixotic this way, too. But Louis was an Energizer Bunny about working on it!

    It was those two characteristics that marked Louis as a deeply religious man, the Marxism was just the vernacular through which he expressed and acted on his faith. He was a saint for the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and his “miracles” were the depth and range of his ‘awakening influence’ to the people of those times who gained by experiencing his messaging.

    I was sometimes frustrated that Louis wasted his time and considerable talents engaging in irrelevant micro-denominationalist Marxist sectarian feuds. But, maybe those wastes of time helped him keep his intellectual knives well sharpened, and that was all to the good for the ‘big messaging’ he was so talented at.

    He was a great guy, I will always miss him.

    BTW, we also shared interest and enjoyment in cars! For Louis it was dragsters and ‘funny cars’ (a class of dragster), and for me sports racing cars. We loved them, just as long as they were fast and furious! And we traded e-mails and websites on that. Science was my specialty, for answering Louis’s questions. What a mind he had!!

    He was so much more than just a “leftist” political writer, and so much more of that than most of them.

    Again, I really appreciate the kind and insightful words you got published today about our mutual, now departed, friend.

    For your amusement:

    Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911
    30 August 2021

    Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911

    Mr. Yates (#2),

    Louis was a secular mystic for our modern age. I connected with him much more as an artist and visionary (and yes, I also deeply appreciated his penetrating political analyses), and for a shared intolerance of stupidity and posers. (I spent lots of time in the academia and professional Ph.D. world, so I know posers!).

    Many ‘leftist’ commentators are limited and doctrinaire, virtue-signalling self-satisfied posers. While all that still puts them above any right-wing commentator and capitalism apologist, it is still not commendable.

    For so many amateur Marxist commentators (are there actually any professional ones?), Karl Marx’s ideology seems to offer a complete system for categorizing the intellectual and group/societal identity conceptualizations of the human world. For other less self-consciously ‘intellectual’ people, simpler and fantastical ‘complete’ systems are used to organize ‘the world’ in their minds, like: religions (irrationality), tribal/nationalist/nativist creeds and — most abysmally — lunkhead capitalist and debased-religion fundamentalism.

    By Gödel’s Theorem, there are no ‘complete’ systems.

    Anyway, I wanted to point you to one other essay of mine, which I wrote during Louis’s last days and which I wish he could have seen. I’ll link it below. And I promise not to send you any more unsolicited e-mails.

    ’Stateless’, an Australian Television Drama about Refugee Detention
    22 August 2021

    ’Stateless’, an Australian Television Drama about Refugee Detention

    Best wishes,

    Manuel García, Jr.

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