From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: Marxist-Humanist Archives
News & Letters, July 2001

Counter-revolution from within revolution: the problem of our times

Editor's Note

In response to ongoing discussions concerning what distinguishes Marxist-Humanism from other tendencies of radical thought, we here reprint sections of the Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 1984-85, originally entitled, "Where are the 1980s Going? The Imperative Need for a Totally New Direction in Uprooting Capitalism-Imperialism." This was one of several summations of Marxist-Humanism written by Raya Dunayevskaya in the period following the publication of her third major philosophic work, ROSA LUXEMBURG, WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION, in 1982. What appears here is section 4, entitled "Objectivity/Subjectivity-in Actuality and in Philosophy," and a part of section 5, "Organizational Conclusions," written April 26, 1984. The original text is in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 8123.

In restating Marx's Humanism for our age, MARXISM AND FREEDOM, 1958, began with the age of revolutions-national, industrial, social and political, as well as the intellectual revolution which discerned and developed the dialectics of revolution as the overcoming of stages of alienation. Beginning with the machine age and the revolutions of 1776 and 1789, MARXISM AND FREEDOM ended with the revolutions of our day-from the battles against Automation and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which signaled the Black Revolution both in the U.S. and Africa, to the East European revolts from under Russian totalitarianism.

Where, with our first breakthrough on the Absolute Idea, we had witnessed in the 1950s a series of new revolutions in East Europe from under totalitarian state-capitalism, the birth of a whole new Third World in the 1960s required further concretization of this philosophic breakthrough. This was achieved with our second major theoretical work, PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION, in 1973.

There we concretized the dialectic of second negativity by going beyond Lenin not only politically but philosophically. POLITICALLY meant rejecting the vanguard party-to-lead, which had so totally misled the masses as to bring about the greatest tragedy of all-counter-revolution which came out of revolution and transformed the workers' state into a state-capitalist society. PHILOSOPHICALLY meant working out Absolute Idea as new beginning, with a new sense of objectivity which revealed two kinds of subjectivity. One kind was voluntaristic. The other was masses in motion struggling for total freedom despite their oppressive awareness of the new enemy, the new objective reality-state-capitalism calling itself Communism.

We had actually first projected this in the second edition of MARXISM AND FREEDOM in 1964, in the added chapter on "The Challenge of Mao Zedong," which had ended with a subsection entitled: "In Place of a Conclusion: Two Kinds of Subjectivity." (The footnote to this section indicated that this was to be "the burden of a new work in progress"-i.e., PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION.) The two opposing kinds of subjectivity discussed here were: 1) "Mao's, which has no regard for objective conditions, behaves as if state power is for herding 650 million human beings into so-called 'People's Communes,' as if a party of the elite that is armed can both harness the energies of men and 'remold' their minds." Under that delusion,* Mao declared himself ready to ride the whirlwind of a nuclear holocaust. 2) The other type of subjectivity-that of masses in motion-"is the subjectivity which has 'absorbed' objectivity, that is to say, through its struggle for freedom it gets to know and cope with the objectively real."


Put another way, since the new enemy comes, not from traditional capitalism but from state-capitalism masquerading as Communism and continuing to use Marxist language, the struggle for total freedom becomes both more arduous and in need of a totally new relationship of practice to theory.

What that added chapter in MARXISM AND FREEDOM presented in embryo is what was worked out in the first chapter of PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION: "Why Hegel? Why Now?" By then the world had witnessed the new passions and new forces of the generation of revolutionaries of the 1960s, East and West, as well as the new revolutions in Africa both in fact and in thought, as witness Frantz Fanon's Humanism. What was needed by then was also a new sense of objectivity-that is to say, a further development of the concept of transformation into opposite when it emerges, not from reformism's betrayal as at the outset of World War I, but from the transformation of the first workers' state into a state-capitalist society.

That further development into the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism could, in one way, also have been sensed from Antonio Gramsci's projection in his PROBLEMS OF MARXISM [reprinted in SELECTIONS FROM THE PRISON NOTEBOOKS]: "The philosophy of PRAXIS is consciousness full of contradictions in which the philosopher himself, understood both individually and as an entire social group, not merely grasps the contradictions, but posits himself as an element of the contradictions and elevates this element to a principle of knowledge and therefore of action."

The illumination that we gained from working out Hegel's three final syllogisms [of his ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL SCIENCES], especially para. 577, applies directly to our age. There Hegel says: "It is the nature of the fact, the notion which causes the movement and development, yet this same movement is equally the action of cognition." Where Hegel at that point consoled himself with "the eternal idea," PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION in our age could show that the "Self-Thinking Idea" was actually the Self-Bringing Forth of Liberty. WE COULD DO THAT BECAUSE WE HAD BECOME WITNESS TO THE BIRTH OF A NEW GENERATION OF REVOLUTIONARIES AND HAD RECREATED MARX'S HUMANISM FOR OUR AGE. IN THAT NEW SENSE OF OBJECTIVITY WAS IMBEDDED SUBJECTIVITY-A SUBJECTIVITY THAT HAD "ABSORBED" OBJECTIVITY.

The 1970s, during which years PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION was published, turned out to be when Karl Marx's last writings, his ETHNOLOGICAL NOTEBOOKS, were finally transcribed. This made it possible to view Marx's Marxism as a totality, as distinct from all post-Marx Marxists, beginning with his closest collaborator, Frederick Engels, whose first work after Marx's death, THE ORIGIN OF THE FAMILY, PRIVATE PROPERTY AND THE STATE, had been presented as a "bequest" from Marx. Once the ETHNOLOGICAL NOTEBOOKS were available it became clear how very far from Marx's multilinear dialectic was Engels' unilinear view of humanity's development.

The new moments of Marx's last decade disclosed, at one and the same time, Marx's rejection of others' interpretation of his "Historical Accumulation of Capital" as a Universal instead of a characteristic simply of Western Europe, a characteristic which the undeveloped lands (which our age calls the Third World) need not follow; and a philosophy of "revolution in permanence" which was not only theory but practice.

Marx's philosophy of revolution seemed to us to hold a trail to the 1980s, both on the emergence of the Third World, and on the development of women's liberation in our age from an Idea whose time has come to a Movement. This sense of contemporaneity gained a new dimension also from a study we had been making of Rosa Luxemburg's concept of the spontaneity of the masses.

Although we found that Rosa Luxemburg was nearly tone-deaf on philosophy, as a woman revolutionary she was both active in the mass, working class, anti-war, women's movement of her day, and fought the leadership of her German Social Democratic Party on their do-nothingness against imperialism. What emerged during that sharp struggle was the most virulent male chauvinism against her. We decided not to wait until our new book [ROSA LUXEMBURG. WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION] was completed, but published in NEWS & LETTERS, in January-February 1979, the draft chapter we entitled: "Relationship of Philosophy and Revolution to Women's Liberation: Marx's and Engels' Studies Contrasted." By the time ROSA LUXEMBURG. WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION was completed, this became the climax to the whole work when it was developed as the final chapter which focused fully on "The Unknown Ethnological Notebooks, the Unread Drafts of the Letter to Vera Zasulich, as well as the Undigested 1882 Preface to the Russian Edition of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO."

The 1980s view, which concluded that final chapter, held that Marx's Marxism, from the very beginning of his break with bourgeois society, disclosed that no concept of his was separate from that of permanent revolution-from 1843 to 1883. Our projection of Marx's Marxism as a totality disclosed that Marx's philosophy of "revolution in permanence" was ground also for organization, a concept we consider most pertinent for our age, including its importance to the Women's Liberation Movement's search for a decentralized form of organization....

To concretize the momentous perspective of "revolution in permanence" for today is the arduous and imperatively needed task, if we are not to be buried in a nuclear holocaust unleashed by the superpowers to which all too many of the so-called Left kowtow.

* Hegel, in working out unresolved contradictions, refers to his PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, where he analyzes just such disoriented minds: "The self-alienated type of mind, driven to the acme of its opposition, where pure volition and the purely volitional agent are still kept distinct, reduces that opposition to a transparent form, and therein finds itself" (p. 610, J.B. Baillie edition).

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