A discussion series: Liberation and organization: philosophy and revolution

News and Letters Committees invites you to a series of discussions, 2016-2017:

Liberation and organization: philosophy and revolution

   Organization is crucial as we fight to change our oppressive reality of exploitation of labor, racism, sexism, hatred and discrimination against LGBTQ people, and outright wars on civilians, as in Syria, Yemen, and Congo.

   From Black Lives Matter to Women’s Liberation and from Occupy Wall Street to the Fight for $15, movements for freedom have been looking for alternatives to discredited models of organization like the vanguard party of “Marxism-Leninism.” Yet organization of people from below and organization of liberatory thought have not yet united in such a way as to create the foundations of a new, human society.

    Bring your ideas about revolutionary transformation to a series of discussions on the relationship of a philosophy of freedom to organization.

   Discussions will include:

  Spontaneous forms of organization vs. the vanguard parties

  What do Hegel, Marx, and Lenin have to say about organization that speaks to today?

  A look at organization in our Post-World War II world, concentrating on the Black movement for freedom in the U.S. and Africa

  What contribution has the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism made to the question of what kind of organization is needed today?

Each discussion will be led off by a presenter.  Suggested readings are on the reverse.

Where: News and Letters Library: 228 S. Wabash Ave., Room 230, Chicago

Chicago Schedule (note meetings moved to Wednesdays)

Wednesday, October 19, 6:30 PM: On Spontaneous Forms of Organization vs. Vanguard Parties

Wednesday, November 9, 6:30 PM: Hegel and Marx — on Dialectics of Philosophy and Organization

Wednesday, December 14, 6:30 PM: Hegel and Lenin

Wednesday, January 4, 6:30 PM: Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy in the Post-World War II Period

Wednesday, February 1, 6:30 PM: Marxist-Humanist Organization

Suggested Readings for Each Discussion

I, On Spontaneous Forms of Organization vs. Vanguard Parties

Movements for freedom have been looking for alternatives to discredited models of organization like the vanguard party of “Marxism-Leninism.” Appreciation of the self-organization of masses that arises spontaneously from below, as in the Arab Spring uprisings, has been important in this.  So have attempts to create non-elitist forms of organization such as the “horizontalism” seen in Argentina’s revolt a decade ago and, more recently, Spain’s indignados and Occupy Wall Street.  How do we explain the barriers faced by all these movements, not only attacks from without but pitfalls from within?If spontaneous movements and anti-elitist forms of organization are not the absolute opposite to the vanguard party, what is? What would it take to unite these kinds of self-organization with a liberatory organization of thought so that theory and practice can combine to open the way to the foundation of a new, free society?

Suggested readings:

The one-page “possible outline” by Raya Dunayevskaya for a book on “Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy.”

Introduction, Section 2 of American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard, “The Compelling Issue at Stake,” and Part I on Abolitionism and the Civil War.

Grenada: Counter-Revolution and Revolution,” a Political-Philosophic Letter by Dunayevskaya. (It is excerpted in Dialectics of Black Freedom Struggles with an added note on C.L.R. James.)

II, Hegel and Marx — on Dialectics of Philosophy and Organization

How did Karl Marx’s development of a philosophy of permanent revolution illuminate questions of organization? We consider his critique of a supposedly Marxist party in this context and the context of all he was developing at the end of his life in relationship to non-capitalist countries, women’s liberation, and the Paris Commune.  We consider how Hegel’s dialectic illuminates these concepts, creating also a new view of Marx’s moment of philosophic creation in his Humanist Essays. Does the dialectic in philosophy bring forth a dialectic in organization?

Suggested readings:

Chapter 11 of Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution, by Dunayevskaya, “The Philosopher of Permanent Revolution Creates New Ground for Organization.”

Chapter 16 of The Power of Negativity, by Dunayevskaya, “Another Look at Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind.” (Or see online version.)

Talking to Myself on “Why Phenomenology? Why Now?” (Raya Dunayevskaya Collection #10883)

III, Hegel and Lenin

How can we move beyond Lenin’s concept of a vanguard party, not alone politically but philosophically? We look at how the dialectic of the Absolute in Hegel and the “self-determination of the idea” relate to establishing a new basis for revolutionary organization.

Suggested readings:

Chapter 17 of The Power of Negativity, which includes:

• 1986 letters to non-Marxist Hegel scholars on the Idea of Cognition as the threshold of the absolute and how that relates to Lenin’s philosophic ambivalence, and on Hegel’s Third Attitude to objectivity

Jan. 21, 1987, Talking to Myself letter on “the dialectical flow of the Self-Determination of the Idea” in the 1953 Letters on Hegel’s Absolutes, and

• Dunayevskaya’s last “Theory/Practice” column. (Alternative format in this pdf.)

IV, Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy in the Post-World War II World

After World War II, a new stage was reached. The spread of automation meant a new stage of production that was met by new revolts. At the same time, new movements arose from below making revolutionary challenges to capitalism in the “advanced” countries like the U.S. from the workers, youth, women, and Blacks within as well as from the peoples in colonized countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; and revolutionary challenges to the state-capitalism of Russia and its satellites, especially in the revolts in East Germany and in Russian slave labor camps and the Hungarian Revolution. Marxist-Humanism saw this as a new stage of movements from practice that were themselves forms of theory. The new stage of cognition came both from these movements and from the new philosophy of Marxist-Humanism, which created a new kind of organization. This session explores the relationship of dialectics of organization and philosophy to this new stage.

Suggested readings:

“A 1980s View of the Two-Way Road between the U.S. and Africa” (1983 Introduction to American Civilization on Trial).

Our Original Contribution to the Dialectic of the Absolute Idea as New Beginning” by Dunayevskaya. (Excerpted in May-June 2010 N&L, p. 4.)

A Post-World War II View of Marx’s Humanism, 1843-83. Marxist Humanism, 1950s-1980s,” by Dunayevskaya. (Included in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Achilles Heel of Western ‘Civilization’.)

V, Marxist-Humanist Organization

We look at Marxist-Humanist concepts and practice of organization, and their relationship to emancipatory organizations and movements in U.S. history from the Abolitionists to the Black freedom struggles up to today, as well as to the self-determination of the idea of freedom, and draw together the threads from all five discussions.

Suggested readings:

News and Letters Committees Constitution.

Part VII of American Civilization on Trial, which includes three sections: “The Self-Determination of People and Ideas”; “The New Voices We Heard”; “What We Stand For—and Who We Are”

June 1, 1987, Presentation on the dialectics of philosophy and organization, by Dunayevskaya

May 1953 Letters on Hegel’s Absolutes (printed in 3 parts in 3 issues of News & Letters), by Dunayevskaya

Readings available via News & Letters Committees, arise@newsandletters.org / 312-431-8242 / 228 S. Wabash #230, Chicago, IL 60604.

For more inspiration, see our description of some important related Marxist-Humanist writings.