We have had great revolutions and they all turned into their opposite. The Russian Revolution was the greatest of our time. The Civil Rights Movement was a great revolution, too. Yet neither has achieved a human society. We have reached the age when we will have to start thinking. Obama is not going to provide the kind of thinking we need. He is operating within the system although he may change the appearance.
Fascism de jure has seized control of Louisiana, a cesspool of unflinching corruption and spiritual assault. There is no contender in the Presidential race who will be able to lift the dead weight of slave society and wage-labor serfdom that envelops this terrain of inhumanity. There is a beautiful world of private property working for the elite class, with bread and potatoes for the destitute. A revolution in basic ideology is desperately needed.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain's positions on issues affecting women's health have taken some peculiar turns. In July, he refused to answer a reporter's question on the discrepancy between insurance companies covering Viagra but not birth control. In March, he opposed government funding for contraception to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa saying "I've never gotten into these issues or thought much about them."
The crisis in Georgia may very well be the "October Surprise" to skew the election that some have been expecting. It could have been meticulously planned some time ago, with Bush giving Saakashvili the go-ahead and then pulling a fast one on him. There's also the confrontation over missiles in Poland. Now that the Cold War is on again, maybe Rove and Bush hope a crisis will put McCain in the White House, which it might. I'm not sure Obama and his supporters are anywhere nearly as smart as they think they are or that they're not too full of themselves to know what's going on.
FRANCE 1968 AND THE TROTSKY LEGACY
I attended a workshop on contemporary Cuba at the Trotsky Legacy Conference held at Fordham University July 25-27. A young woman student-activist who had recently returned from a visit to Cuba, and an activist with apparently many years of experience, described in-person visits. Both freely conceded racism, homophobia, and sexism within Cuban society, but still emphasized how "happy" the Cuban people were, and both elaborated their certainties as to the depth of popular support for the Cuban government.
My question to the presenters was this: as far as I know Trotskyists cannot openly organize in Cuba; by not being critical of this suppression, aren't you conceding that the Stalinists didn't need Trotskyism in order to create a truly revolutionary society (as you seem to believe Cuba represents)?
A fairly spirited discussion ensued among the workshop participants, most of whom represented one or another Trotskyist group. The outcome seemed to be that though Trotskyists might travel and speak in Cuba, attempts at political organizing have not been and would not be permitted.
In the Trotskyist party, "revolution" became the shibboleth. By building the party they kept talking of cadres, building cadres--that became the subject.
At the Trotsky Legacy Conference, bourgeois rights were praised in Cuba, which are important, but they are the boast of any bourgeois state and not the revolution. They did not address the humiliations of work which truncates the totality of the human being. We seek a society where work is not this perilous thing--for that a revolution in relations is needed. None present addressed working conditions in Cuba.
On the anniversary of France 1968, a participant gave a talk here re-creating how important and multidimensional that moment was. It was not just that something was possible, but there was an expectation that there would be a radical change. He spent some time talking about the Communist Party (CP) betrayal. The CP told workers to stay in your shop and tell us your grievances and we will do something about them, not like those radicals in the streets.
I thought that sense of betrayal by sticking to a pseudo-concrete dovetailed very well with the June-July N&L "From the Archives" column written by Raya Dunayevskaya as the events were unfolding. She takes for granted the CP betrayal. She asks why the Trotskyists couldn't make a bigger difference. It was not because they lacked courage and conviction, but because they didn't have a vision of what is concrete. It seems concrete to talk about workers' shop grievances. But in a revolutionary moment what has to be made concrete is a new society.
The Trotskyists didn't have a new sense of the concrete. The revolution to them means workers bringing their problems to them. Reprinting this column now shows that Dunayevskaya was hoping that this kind of analysis might make a difference. This is an answer to those who think philosophy is just abstractions vs. concreteness of actual labor. As we saw in 1968, in a revolutionary moment these questions about the meaning of life are most concrete.
THE INTERNATIONAL ANTI-WAR STRUGGLE -- REMEMBERING HIROSHIMA
Received from: The Executive Committee for the 46th International Anti-war Assembly representing the All-Japan Federation of Students' Self-Governing Associations [Zengakuren]; the Anti-war Youth Committee; and the Japan Revolutionary Communist League (Revolutionary Marxist Faction) [JRCL (RMF)].
We send you our Overseas Appeal for the upcoming 46th International Anti-war Assembly in Japan: Let us create an international anti-war struggle! Fight together against war, against forced poverty, against the destruction of the global environment exacerbated by the 'new confrontation between the U.S. and China-Russia'!
We would appreciate a message of solidarity.
* * *
Sent: To the 46th International Anti-war Assembly in Japan, August 2008:
The members of News and Letters Committees, the U.S. Marxist-Humanist organization founded by Raya Dunayevskaya 52 years ago, send our revolutionary greetings to the 46th International Anti-war Assembly meeting in Japan. It is with special pride that we call attention to our long-established solidarity with you in the international anti-war struggle. We also note with pride the 1964 Japanese translation and publication of Raya Dunayevskaya's Marxism and Freedom, for which that solidarity had been responsible. What was crucial to us was that the identification of both Russia and China as state-capitalist societies would not stop at the economic analysis but continue to a recognition and embrace of the philosophy of Marx's humanism.
Our fundamental opposition to war was incorporated directly into the Constitution of News and Letters Committees adopted in 1956, which established: "The age of state-capitalism, whether in its single-party totalitarian form or its parliamentary form, can offer nothing to humanity but the prospect of another war. The advent of nuclear weapons, possessed by all contenders for world power, seriously raises the question of the survival of humanity in the event of such a struggle. We believe that the working people are the only force in the world today capable of changing present-day society and of evolving the forms and shape of future society. . .
"The necessity for a new society is clear from the working people's opposition to war. That opposition is based upon a vision of a new society in which they, to a man, woman, and child control their own lives."
Our paper, News & Letters, which was thereupon established as an integral part of this quest for a fundamental new way of life, continues to be based on our principle of the unity of theory and practice that Marx practiced and that his Marxism stood for. It is with that in mind, that we 1) invite you to a continuing dialogue with us in our pages, and 2) wish to recall today the words Raya Dunayevskaya delivered to a peace rally in Hiroshima on Dec. 8, 1965:
"While I do not wish to minimize Japanese militarism's role in the second imperialist world war, the day of infamy that will never be erased from history is not Dec. 7 but Aug. 6. And when that day of infamy was extended and on Aug. 9th, Nagasaki was atom-bombed, hell on earth seemed to be the only reality left. Because we are gathered here to make sure that that dehumanized version of reality does not repeat itself, our anti-war struggles must be inseparable from those aimed at eradicating that which is at the root of all wars: class society."
Because those words are as alive today as when they were first delivered, we extend our strong solidarity in your appeal to "fight together against war, against forced poverty, against the destruction of the global environment" and sign our greetings: For Freedom and a new world built on human foundations.
CLASS DEBATES IN WL
From Terry Moon's report on the National Women's Studies Association Conference (June-July N&L) it sounded as though Patricia Hill Collins was still trying to make dual systems theory work. I loved Moon's reporting the response of the Palestinian woman, which was an objective-subjective challenge to Collin's theory.
Bush is determined to kiss-up to his reactionary followers until the end and it's frightening how much damage he can do in the few months he has left. Although somewhat watered down because of a huge outcry from women and women's rights advocates, he proposed a new rule that would require over 584,000 employers to certify in writing that they comply with laws that "protect the conscience rights" of health care workers. We're not just talking doctors and nurses here, but even someone whose job it is to clean medical instruments used in a particular procedure, volunteers or even trainees wouldn't have to do it if it went against their conscience. While supposedly only about abortion and sterilization--as if that is OK--it could also cover birth control or who knows what else some misogynist's "conscience" tells him or her is "wrong." Of course these conscience clauses and rules only apply to right-wing causes. If your conscience tells you as a medic not to participate in an immoral war in Iraq, or not to cross a picket line of your fellow nurses, that's a different story entirely.
WHAT DOES THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS MEAN?
I want to especially congratulate Franklin Dmitryev on his lead article in the last issue of N&L. It is not only comprehensive in dealing with many complex and potentially dangerous aspects of the environmental threats that we face, it also reveals the inter-connectedness with other issues that are not usually included in environmental reports. His emphasis on food production reflecting capitalist value production, which is the major systemic contradiction in capitalism that spawns all other crises we face, is both revealing and profound, and opens new windows on international developments.
The June-July Lead is very timely. Poor countries like Burma used to be net exporters and now are importers of food. This is not an accident. The list of countries where this is happening grows with free trade agreements which are based on huge subsidies for agribusiness and the use of food for fuel. The ethanol producers are posturing as going green. The general media doesn't connect the dots as the Lead did.
The important point is that the food crisis is not a food shortage. There are some, even on the Left, who argue that there is not enough production to sustain people. Yet every year we dump food into the ocean to keep the market prices up!
OUR READERS CORRECT US
The exhibit referred to in the Reader's View on "Prison Nation" (June-July 2008) was held at the William Grant Still Artist Center in Los Angeles. Still was a Black classical music composer.
Your review of Grace Lee Boggs' autobiography (June-July issue) does not give any hint of a publisher.
Living for Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs was published by University of Minnesota Press.
AN URGENT APPEAL FROM AFGHANISTAN
The following Appeal was sent to us by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA News, Aug. 3), as an open letter from Naser Fayaz, the ATN journalist who was illegally detained by the Afghan intelligence agency, the NDS:
On Monday 28 July, I was detained by the intelligence agency and released after one night. The detention took place due to my investigative program Haqeeqat (the Truth), which is broadcast every Sunday at 9:30 PM on Ariana Television. The 27 July program, which was based on the Afghan government's performance during the last four years, was pulled off the air mid-broadcast on the demand of the intelligence agency. This is against the freedom of the press and a violation of Article 34 of Afghanistan's Constitution.
Afghan law has due process provisions in cases where a journalist is accused of violations. It calls for the creation of an independent investigative committee composed of lawyers, journalists and other professionals. Several organizations known for supporting Human Rights and Freedom of Speech condemned the detention. Amnesty International in its report has said that the Afghan government must prevent the NDS from suppressing media freedom.
After my detention and release from the intelligence agency, I am feeling very scared. Only last night when I was reading Dari bulletin on our ATN channel, one of my colleagues in the station received a call from my brother informing me that he has been witnessing some suspicious movements around my house. He told me not to go home because it could be threat to my life. From that time I have not visited my house; I am at a safer place provided by my employer ATN.
I am concerned about my family. They may be attacked at any time in my presence or in my absence. I request you to save me and my family members by providing us with armed protection.
RAWA requests protests be sent to: President Harmid Karzai at
FREEDOM, NECESSITY AND POST-CAPITALIST SOCIETY
Russell Rockwell's essay "Freedom, Necessity and Post-Capitalist Society" (N&L June-July 2008) is a whole new look at "what comes after" a revolution. The question of freedom turns on our understanding of what is and isn't necessary.
The way one takes freedom from others is by claiming that unfreedom is necessary, that it's "for a higher purpose" or "for your own good," or "that's the way things are," "that's reality." Social class, which presents itself as necessary in our society, is not necessary in nature nor to our own nature, but only insofar as our own social development and understanding is incomplete. Capitalism reflects our incomplete understanding of our own nature.
We free ourselves by understanding the difference between that necessity which is imposed by capitalism--and this includes social class and inequality--and actual human necessity, which flows from nature and the history of human development, a history of overcoming previous, inadequate conceptions of freedom and necessity.
Russell Rockwell calls attention to an intriguing passage. "The civilizing aspects of capital" bring us hidden and unexpected fruits: free time, leisure time. The application of technologies to our brute labor has provided a cornucopia that is within our grasp. Now it is expropriated from us, but the poetry of our labor will reclaim it. Centuries of evolution have diminished us. In the jungle of our needs we have forgotten animals but now the forest has become a zoo, and the trapped animal within us, an angry brute. In the realm of freedom, we the producers will be the human race. We will look into the mirror and see who we really are.
The place of a vanguard in the broader movement is still a serious quesion. I can see the pros and cons to having such an entity. My roommate, himself a Vanguard Socialist, doesn't believe that a classless society is really possible. He supports a broad range of civil rights, but thinks that most people tend to do the wrong things with their ability to make, however limited, political decisions.
REACHING FOR A 'NEW BEGINNING' IN A UNITY OF THEORY AND PRACTICE
The Report on the Paper given to the News and Letters Special Convention got it right in returning to our founding principle in Raya Dunayevskaya's "Where to Begin?" It saw our concept of the practice of philosophy as an active engagement, not just with other philosophers but with ordinary working people. Those relationships with ordinary working people are new beginnings and the test of the organization/paper is whether they sustain those new beginnings.
Here's a little to help you keep going with your publication. It is so very necessary in these times of massive disinformation in the major press organs. Thank you for all you do.
In discussing membership size, the Organization Report at the Special Convention stressed that "it was never the 'count' that mattered." It does in my local--we could use more members to distribute the paper and engage in dialogues with others. But I agree with the point that was being made--our need to engage in the Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy. That is the philosophic division between News and Letters Committees and all others. The key is seeing to it that philosophy, organization and our paper are all integrated.
The June-July issue was excellent! I am glad your difficulties are behind you! Enclosed is my contribution toward your work.
We need your help to keep us going!
Published by News and Letters Committees