An Open Letter to Members of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization

July 6, 2024

Recently the IMHO steering committee posted a statement titled “Our Differences with Other Marxist-Humanists in Light of Israel’s Genocide in Gaza.” They accuse News and Letters Committees of “bothsidesism” in our November 2023 article “Israel’s war and Hamas attack stoke retrogression.” We would welcome an accurate contrast between our article and that of Kevin Anderson approved by the IMHO steering committee. No honest reader could read our statement and call it “bothsidesism” or believe that it “equates Hamas with…Israel,” as they claim without providing any evidence—not even a single quotation!—or presenting any kind of argument. The IMHO statement contains no content beyond these epithets.

An image of Gaza in December 2023. Photo: Tasnim News Agency, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED.

It is important that people are discovering Marxist-Humanism, and having the opportunity to explore the ideas of Raya Dunayevskaya. This is not helped by Peter Hudis’s ad hominem attacks against News and Letters. Thus IMHO’s most recent “Call for Convention” (listing Hudis as principal author) puts forth two such attacks. We generally ignore this sniping, but it is important to set the record straight.


Let us then briefly consider the actual differences in ideas. One would never know from the bogus label “bothsidesism” that “Israel’s war and Hamas attack stoke retrogression” begins by exposing the genocidal declarations, intentions, and actions of the state of Israel against the people of Gaza, and ends with a call for solidarity with the Palestinian people and opposition to U.S. support for Israel. Those themes, as well as the worldwide opposition to the genocide, are in fact what the bulk of the piece takes up. But what the IMHO Steering Committee’s statement seizes on to misrepresent begins with this declaration:

“Israel’s war on Gaza, and the Hamas attacks that sparked it, are driving the world in a reactionary direction and exposing the inhumanity of the ruling powers—as well as the retrogression of much of the Left. The continuing descent into brutality worldwide cries out for a revolutionary solution, and therefore a truly revolutionary perspective.”

Evidently, any but the mildest criticism of Hamas opens one up to the charge of “bothsidesism.” That is not a tactic the IMHO invented; they adopted it from the campist Left. It must be noted that in Anderson’s article the timid criticism of Hamas comes only as an afterthought, after touting the greatness of the Oct. 7 attack led by Hamas. To this day the IMHO has failed to acknowledge the history of revolts against Hamas by people in Gaza, who often denounced Israel in the same breath. This history was sketched in our November piece. And the IMHO has failed to issue a criticism of the campist parts of the Left that uncritically praise Hamas and Oct. 7, and in so doing erase the Gaza masses as a subject in their own right. This is an extension of the IMHO’s earlier effective abandonment of Raya Dunayevskaya’s crucial category of “post-Marx Marxism as a pejorative, beginning with Engels.” (See “Epigones discard Marxist-Humanist philosophy” by Franklin Dmitryev on this point—a serious critique which the IMHO never engaged.) Clearly what really raised their ire was the one sentence of criticism of Anderson’s article found in a footnote in our November piece, after these paragraphs:

“Clearly the historical and ongoing context is Israel’s expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians at its founding and its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since 1967, and its relentless displacement, invasive surveillance and everyday violence.

“This in no way justifies the way some in the U.S. and world Left celebrated the murderous attacks and hostage-taking by Hamas. The void in revolutionary thought led them to equate the reactionary, theocratic-nationalist, authoritarian, patriarchal organization Hamas with ‘the Palestinian resistance’ and therefore to declare its atrocities ‘legitimate.’ ”

The footnote to this begins:

The Gaza Strip, center of the Israel-Hamas war. Photo: Isochrone, CC BY-SA 2.0

“Most notoriously, at an Oct. 8 rally in New York called by the might-as-well-be-Stalinist Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and its front group People’s Forum, together with some Palestinian groups, ‘speaker after speaker praised the slaughter of civilians.’ Eugene Puryear of PSL told the crowd, ‘There was some sort of rave or desert party where they were having a great time, until the resistance came in electrified hang gliders and took at least several dozen hipsters. But I’m sure they’re doing very fine.’ The equally reactionary ‘Marxist-Leninist’ Workers World Party issued a statement calling the Hamas attack, ‘a heroic example for people longing for liberation from imperialism around the world’ and reprinted a statement from Hamas whitewashing the attack and declaring, ‘An “Israeli” ground invasion would be the best scenario for us to settle the conflict against the enemy.’ The NYC chapter of Democratic Socialists of America had to apologize for promoting the rally, which is a symptom of much of the larger Left’s willingness to support actions dominated by such reactionary groups as the PSL and WWP, even after they cozied up to Putin and elements of the far Right in the U.S. Arielle Isack, writer for various Left publications including The Baffler, Jewish Currents, and n+1, tweeted, ‘being supportive of a world historical insurrection event is not akin to rejoicing in the violence and bloodshed that inevitably occurs in such an event.’ Kevin Anderson of the IMHO touted the Oct. 7 attack as ‘nothing less than a global turning point’ and its ‘dramatic’ military achievements, criticizing Hamas not for the atrocities of its ‘legitimate war’ but for its illusions about its chances of success.’”


What is at stake here is the crucial vision of the future, or what are we for? If we dig a little deeper, we can see that the charge of “bothsidesism” reflects an abandonment of dialectics, in favor of the anti-dialectical view that reduces the situation to a static dichotomy (call it a binary if you wish). That is, of course, the essence of campism, but Hudis and Anderson know the language of dialectics and are capable of manipulating it to give a more sophisticated sheen to their abandonment.

Given this outlook, it is no surprise that they avoid mentioning the dialectical analysis in our November piece that revealed “the duet of counterrevolution,” in which (as has been widely documented, even in Israeli press accounts of statements by Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies)

“Netanyahu and some of his top extremist allies repeatedly propped up Hamas and undermined the Palestinian Authority to maintain divisions and to sabotage any chance of an independent Palestinian state….Hamas and Israel’s right-wing extremists danced a deadly duet that energized reaction on both sides, ever since a right-wing Jewish extremist assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, signer of the Oslo Accords, in 1995….Netanyahu in particular combined periodic military attacks on Gaza, callously calling the bloodshed ‘mowing the grass,’ to limit the power of Hamas with, at the same time, propping it up. His illusion that Hamas could be forever contained within his chosen limits follows from the grand illusion that an occupied people’s quest for self-determination could be buried for good. In this way the resistance of Hamas became a permanent feature of the Israeli occupation, dreaming of annihilating Israel and replacing it with an ‘an Arab Islamic land’….The occupation, the resistance, and the dream find themselves locked in a permanent, violent, reactionary embrace. Both reactionary sides are ‘proud to sacrifice’ Palestinian martyr after martyr for their cause.”

Raya Dunayevskaya

The abandonment of dialectics is also seen in the curious way the IMHO Steering Committee’s statement invoked Dunayevskaya’s 1982 “Need for a Total Uprooting: Down with the Perpetrators of the Palestinian Slaughter.” They refer to “an evolution of our position, though based solidly in Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism as reinterpreted for today and in light of her own evolution to where, near the end of her life, in 1982, she referred to Israel’s Lebanon invasion as ‘genocidal.’ ”

Once again, even when dealing with Dunayevskaya, they draw a huge (though vague) conclusion about her “evolution” without any real evidence or argumentation, and only by quoting a single word from her. We would do better to examine what she herself singled out as new in that 1982 document. It was not the designation of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon as genocidal but rather the analysis of Israel’s transformation into opposite.


Much of the Left conceives Israel primarily as a monolith with no path of development. Today’s state dominated by fascistic settlers bent on genocide is projected back onto the whole history of Israel. It is true that the seeds were there in the fascistic militias that were the ancestors of the Likud Party and of organizations even further to the right. And the seeds were in the incomplete nature of that 1948 revolution, which accepted those militias as part of the revolution’s fighting forces. They did not fight only against British imperialism and neighboring Arab state powers that were hostile to the founding of Israel. They fought against Palestinian civilians, even committing massacres with the intent of driving Palestinians out of their Jewish state. In Dunayevskaya’s view in 1982, to understand today one must understand the transformation into opposite. Let us allow her to speak for herself at some length to illuminate the true difference in ideas, since the IMHO avoids this. She wrote:

“History will not forget such barbarism [that is, Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon]. Opposition, and even putting an end to these uncivilized acts, cannot, however, be sufficient unto the day without, at one and the same time, showing how it had resulted from a transformation into opposite of what Israel was at its birth in 1947-48, and what it is today, 1982-83….

“How quickly forgotten…are the true origins of the idea of an ‘Israeli nationality.’ The Nazi Holocaust, which [Israel’s rulers] invoke today for reactionary purposes, is the fact of history that changed the position of Marxists who had always been for cultural assimilation to the point where nothing deviated from straight socialist goals. (See Leon Trotsky’s articles on why, though still fully opposed to Zionism, he now—i.e., 1937—had to be for a ‘homeland for the Jews.’ That was the Marxist position on Israel, on the question of national self-determination.) The same was true for those who weren’t Marxists. A good essay by a liberal, Alfred Friendly, describes the shock of today, even of those who still favored Israel in the war of 1967.

“In ‘Israel: Paradise Lost’ [he] recalls the 1967 war, when he was for Israel and when the attitude was how temporary the occupation was: …Israel categorically denied the Arab accusation that the Zionist objective was a so-called ‘Eretz Israel,’ as the Bible expressed it (‘a realm extending from the Nile to the Euphrates’), insisting instead that only the ‘crazies’ talked about ‘Eretz Israel’ in that Biblical manner. But, in fact, says Friendly, we were soon to see the ‘Dayan Plan’ which proposed ‘garrison settlements,’ which was followed by the ‘Allon Plan’ which talked of Biblical Judea and Samaria, and now we have the ‘Likud-Sharon Plan’ or ‘the triumph of the Eretz Israel boys.’ …

“The transformation of Israel into an imperialist state is a very different point of departure from what we have always used as proof of the transformation into opposite when we pointed to the first workers’ state (Russia) turning into a state-capitalist society. It is true that Israel, too, is a state-capitalist society. It is true, also, that, at its birth, it certainly wasn’t anywhere as clear a social revolution as was 1917. Methodologically as well as practically, the point here is that we could—and did—express the contradictions at its birth. We refused to be silent even when we most enthusiastically supported the establishment of ‘a homeland for the Jews,’ by pointing sharply to the fact that the land contained the presence—as a minority, it is true, but a presence, nevertheless—of the reactionary Irgun, whose leader was the terrorist, Begin. What a transformation into opposite of the Israel of Exodus, 1947-48, into the imperialistic state-capitalist Israel of 1982-83!…

“It is good that a peace movement has arisen in Israel demanding an end to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon at once. It is even better that some of that Left has raised the question of self-determination for Palestinians in Israel—or, rather, the part Israel occupies illegally. (Indeed, what Israel is now trying to annex is Palestine.) But that, too, will hardly solve much if, at the same time, a new banner of genuine liberation is not unfolded.”

Now this transformation into opposite very notably does not fit into the views of the crude Left that rejects a dialectical grasp of Israel/Palestine and prefers to deal with static formal logic concepts that lack internal differentiation.


That crude anti-dialectical view also leads to glossing over the role of Hamas. As our Perspectives Thesis for Marxist-Humanism 2024-25 put it, this approach is

“incapable of grasping the symbiotic intertwining and interdependence of Netanyahu and the Israeli Right, on the one hand, with Hamas, on the other. Instead, anti-dialectics sees only a choice between Hamas and Israel, and anything deeper is ‘bothsidesism.’ What that does show is the need for a revitalization of the movement from theory as well as of the movement from practice, and the need to combat ideological pollution not only politically but by hearing what Hegel called by the unfamiliar phrase ‘self-determination of the Idea’ in philosophy as well. None of that justifies the false portrayal of the solidarity movement as a whole as tools of Hamas.”


In that same 1982 piece, Dunayevskaya elaborated on the meaning of the events—while Israel was still occupying southern Lebanon—in a way that many on the Left today would denounce as “bothsidesism”:

Israel soldiers in Lebanon, August 1982. Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit photographer, CC BY-SA 3.0

“We cannot satisfy ourselves with detailing only what we are against or with enlarging atrocity stories. They surely abound in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

“Many atrocity stories, I’m sure, can also be told of the PLO and its fantastic covenant ‘to drive the Israelis into the sea.’ Nor should our support of the Palestinians for self-determination and the PLO as a bargaining agent lead us away from re-examining what happens to aborted revolutions—in this case, specifically Lebanon and specifically as aided by the PLO in the 1975-76 Civil War there. Which is why we correctly entitled our Political-Philosophic Letter (August 6, 1976): ‘The Test Not Only of the PLO but of the Whole Left.’

“That the Left did not meet the challenge but followed the PLO is one substantial reason for the totality of the crisis today. Just at the point when there was a near success by the indigenous Lebanese Left, and the outcome of the 1975-76 Civil War hung in the balance, the PLO insisted that the concentration must be, not on the native ruler-oppressors represented by the so-called Christian, i.e., neo-fascist, Phalangists, but on Israel alone, though at the moment Israel was nowhere present in Lebanon and Syria was all ready to invade. It is Syria the PLO had dubbed ‘liberators’ instead of a new imperialistic force. The great tragedy was that the whole Left—indigenous Lebanese under Kamal Jumblatt, Stalinists, Trotskyists—followed the PLO lead. Here is what we wrote in that Political-Philosophic Letter:

“ ‘…the New Left, born in the 1960s, so disdainful of theory (which it forever thinks it can pick up “en route”), has a strange attitude toward imperialism. It is as if imperialism were not the natural outgrowth of monopoly capitalism, but was a “conspiracy, organized by a single imaginary center, rather as the Nazis used to refer to the Judeo-Catholic-Masonic Alliance, or Communists under Stalin to the conspiracy of the Trotskyists and Rightists in league with the imperialist secret service.”… [And even, it should now be added, as Khomeini now refers to the U.S. and Israel as the Great Satan.]

“ ‘Evidently nationalism of the so-called Third World is of itself revolutionary even when it is under the banner of a king, a shah, or the emirates, or the Syrian Army. Thereby they canonize nationalism, even when it is void of working-class character, as national liberation.

“ ‘It is not that class is the sole characteristic of national liberation movements that revolutionaries can support. It is that the working-class nature is its essence and it is that the revolutionary and international impact emerges from masses in motion…

“ ‘This does not mean that we give up the struggle for self-determination, Palestinian especially. It is that we do not narrow our vision of the revolutionary struggle for a totally different world, on truly new Humanist foundations, the first necessity of which is the unity of philosophy and revolution.’ ”


If the IMHO leadership sees an “evolution,” then a serious attitude toward theory would dictate (1) clarification of what the unspecified evolution in Dunayevskaya’s thought was, (2) explanation of how they see it as a basis for a further evolution in their own ideas, and (3) clarification of their own evolution and how it diverges. Evasion of such theoretical clarification is the hallmark of opportunism. We must agree with Richard Abernethy, who is apparently a member or supporter of the IMHO and who wrote in response to the discussion of Anderson’s October piece:

“On the question of Palestine and Israel, IMHO’s recent statements show a marked departure from the analysis worked out by Raya Dunayevskaya, which went against the left orthodoxy of the time. Of course, Raya’s ideas are not sacrosanct, but if we decide that some of them no longer apply in a changed world, or were even mistaken all along, we should do so consciously, and not forget our own history.

“While strongly supporting the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, and denouncing the many inhumanities of the Israeli state, Raya also spoke out in the most forceful terms against atrocities committed in the name of the Palestinian struggle (even though these were far less bloody than the massacre of 7 October 2023, and carried out by leftists, not Islamists)….

“I agree with the slogan ‘No to Islamic terrorism and no to [Israeli] state terrorism,’ as far as it goes, although I would switch it around to put Israel first – and say ‘Islamist,’ not ‘Islamic.’ To my mind, this is not a ‘stay neutral and hope’ attitude. Rather, it is a refusal to accept ‘the lesser of two evils.’ A necessary preliminary to the search for new humanist beginnings.”

To substitute vacuous epithets and distortions for a serious discussion of the differences in ideas expresses contempt, not only for those being attacked but for the audience and for the very idea of theory. And it seems that the target audience is not only News and Letters Committees but the rank and file of the IMHO itself. That tensions exist from which the leadership may wish to divert is clear from the IMHO’s 2022 “Official Call for Convention”: “Questions we need to explore include: how can our organization work out internal conflicts in more humanistic and non-punitive ways? Given the level of participation of women and other marginalized groups, what are some ways we can prioritize these voices that often get ‘left behind’ because they may have a greater burden of caring labor? How can the IMHO engage more consistently in reflection, healing, and community building so that all our members can feel safe, heard and empowered in our spaces?”

We in News and Letters Committees welcome full, open, honest discussion and debate with those attracted to the Marxist-Humanist ideas of Raya Dunayevskaya and to trying to recreate those ideas in today’s ever-changing world. Marxist-Humanism is not a past archival moment but living Marxist-Humanism seeking to meet the challenges of our moment. We welcome those attracted to Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism who see it as a crucial strand for working toward human liberation in our time. Please check out our website to see how we confront today’s challenges,, and the writings of Raya Dunayevskaya at In particular please read our Perspectives Thesis for Marxist-Humanism 2024-25.

–Franklin Dmitryev for the National Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees

One thought on “An Open Letter to Members of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization

  1. In the spirit of open discussion, we posted a link to this as a comment to the IMHO post, but as of today they have not allowed the comment to be published.

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