Call for Convention of News and Letters Committees, 2024

February 25, 2024

to Work Out Marxist-Humanist Perspectives for 2024-2025

February 25, 2024

To All Members and Friends of News and Letters Committees

Dear Friends:

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated plans for an assault on Rafah—the last allegedly safe refuge in Gaza, where 1.5 million people have gathered—U.S. President Joe Biden’s plaintive grumble that the war is “over the top” only underscored his failure even to threaten reducing military aid to the genocidal campaign, let alone withdraw support, as famine and epidemics are beginning. Biden and Netanyahu refuse to acknowledge the widespread protests calling for at least a ceasefire. That movement had reverberations everywhere from high schools and colleges to the ranks of the Biden administration and the International Court of Justice.

That is just one element of today’s “polycrisis,” a complex of interacting systemic crises that the theoreticians adhering to the capitalist class have recognized, although they shrink from recognizing it as the multiple manifestations of the global crisis of capitalist society. Israel’s war is not limited to Gaza but also encompasses violent repression and displacement in the West Bank as well as attacks in Lebanon and Syria, with the U.S. and its allies having intervened with attacks in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. The U.S. and Iran both aim to avoid direct war with each other, according to insiders on both sides, but brinksmanship always risks spinning out of control.

The same is true of Russia’s war on Ukraine. And these wars are only the most prominent of scores of armed conflicts going on in the world. All of that fuels and is fueled by the march of fascism—broadly understood, including Trumpism, with its dire threat to democracy, as detailed in our January editorial. The far right is rearing its head everywhere from Argentina to multiple European countries, to India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a message of combined religious, governmental, and business state-capitalism under his supreme leadership when he personally acted as a religious leader consecrating the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. And everywhere the far right has placed targets on the backs of immigrants and ethnic, religious and sex/gender minorities as well as women.

Amidst all this, the severe disarray on the left, with the marginalization of the revolutionary left, is a crucial factor. The self-disarming of the left is manifested in multiple ways, including falling short on opposing the clear and present danger of a second Trump term. At its most extreme, it is manifested in championing organizations or ruling classes that oppress their own people, from Hamas to the Houthis, from the rulers of Iran and Syria to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. That kind of disorientation cannot be explained by political arguments alone but must be comprehended in relationship to the philosophical abyss into which much of the left has descended, and therefore requires an answer that is philosophical as well as political.

Nor can we overlook the perilous ramifications of the climate emergency, economic instability, and technological disruption across the world, and overlapping with each other and all the major crises.

But none of this can be comprehended outside of the context of the absolute opposite: masses in revolt and a philosophy of revolution. Otherwise, our thought and therefore our activity would be trapped within the horizons of the existing crisis-ridden world.

We live within the contradictions of that world and are not on a separate plane from the general crisis of the left. This year’s pre-Convention and Convention discussion will begin with that knowledge and take stock of our experience of the past year, with our transition to publishing on the web only. Taking advantage of the web means not only using attributes such as color photos, videos, and audio not available in the older medium, but reaching across the world, which involves creatively thinking about how to project our websites, articles, ideas and organization. Those without the internet, such as most prisoners, miss the print edition. That was not our preferred path, but a strategic retreat, which we aim to follow with regrouping in thought and practice in order to clear the way for a new beginning, the exact nature of which we could not possibly predict at this moment.

Fundamentally we are attempting to work out a new path based on what our organization is all about—revolution, philosophy, organization, and the relationship between subjects of revolution and a philosophy of revolution, between the movement from practice and the movement from theory. That is, the philosophy of revolution encompassed in the body of ideas of Karl Marx’s Marxism, and its development in the body of ideas of Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism.

Three times before, our Conventions have amended the Constitution of News and Letters Committees—in Dunayevskaya’s words, it was when we “reached new stages of cognition that flowed from new objective crises.” We do not claim this year to have reached a new stage of philosophical development, but rather see the need to revisit our Constitution to reflect where we are with the aim of clearing the pathway for a new beginning.

For that purpose we issue this Call for a national Constitutional Convention on Memorial Day weekend. The outgoing National Editorial Board will meet online in Executive Session Friday evening, May 24. Beginning on Saturday morning, May 25, and running through Sunday, May 26, all sessions of the Convention will be open to members and to invited friends, who are given the same privileges to the floor.

With this Call begins a full 90 days of pre-Convention discussion. A draft Perspectives Thesis will be taken up internally in early March and published on our website in April so that it can be discussed by members and friends, correspondents and critics, before the Convention. Articles for pre-Convention Discussion Bulletins must be submitted to the Center by Thursday, April 25. Any articles after that date must be distributed online or through the mail by the contributor or their local. Discussion within our local committees and with all those we can reach is vital to preparation for our Convention and all our activities throughout the pre-Convention period.

—The Resident Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees

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