Decaying social order shows need for philosophy, revolution

May 6, 2015

From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters

Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2015-2016
Decaying social order shows need for philosophy, revolution

Why we print the Draft Perspectives in News & Letters

In 1975 News and Letters Committees printed its Draft Perspectives Thesis in News & Letters for the first time. The organization has continued the practice ever since. What follows is the 1975 explanation of why we decided to take such action and why we continue to do so:

With this special issue News and Letters Committees are breaking totally new ground for the Marxist movement. Publishing the Draft Perspectives Thesis for our coming national gathering directly in the pages of our paper is unprecedented, not only for all other organizations, but even for our own. We do it because our age is in such total crisis, facing a choice between absolute terror or absolute freedom, that a revolutionary organization can no longer allow any separation between theory and practice, philosophy and revolution, workers and intellectuals, “inside” and “outside.” We ask you to join in the discussion of these Perspectives with us. We are not presenting any “pat answers” to the question, “Where Do We Go From Here?” We are raising the questions that demand answers—and we ask you to help us in working them out.

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I.    Black Lives Matter

II.  Things fall apart 

A. Arab Spring: Revolution and war
B. Economic weakness and shifts in global politics
C. Whiff of fascism

III. Greek masses in peril

IV.  Marxist-Humanist organization and philosophy


The deep crisis that jolted capitalism beginning in 2007, persisting to this day, shapes the political as well as economic situation worldwide. So does the revolt that arose in the crisis. Internationally, it erupted most dramatically in the Arab Spring, as well as in occupations, strikes and protests in European countries from Greece to Spain. The depth, breadth and persistence of the revolt, together with the intractability of the crisis, points to the possibility of a new society on human foundations. The fact that the old, crumbling order will not go away quietly explains why we mark the 60 years of activity of the Marxist-Humanist organization News and Letters Committees—not as an anniversary but as an open window onto the needed philosophy of revolution, without which all revolutions and freedom movements remain incomplete.

Within the U.S. the revolt has ranged from the 2008 factory occupation at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago to prison strikes in Georgia and California, from Texas women packing the statehouse to oppose a draconian anti-abortion bill to the fightback against anti-Gay measures that spurred the legalization of marriage equality, from Occupy Wall Street’s nationwide spread to today’s struggles of low-paid workers for a living wage and the coast-to-coast cry, “Black lives matter!”

Continued in Part I

0 thoughts on “Decaying social order shows need for philosophy, revolution

  1. One of the things I like the most in the DPT is the role philosophy plays in it. “Philosophy is no less indispensable than activism for the movement to result in the kind of fundamental transformation needed”, it says, and also poses that, in Egypt, “lacking a philosophy of revolution, the movement fell prey to capitalist ideology that substituted elections for real self-determination”. The DPT also includes, in its third section, the philosophical critique of supposed Left parties in Greece and in Spain. Of course, we are referring here to a philosophy not separated from the movement from masses: a philosophy that goes to practice and therefore aids the self-determination of the Idea of revolution.

    Unlike that, there are other parts that I don´t like from the DPT. For example: I think it takes too much space to make the political analysis of what the US government is doing at home and abroad: which laws and strategic actions are being implemented. This diminishes somehow the focus on the self-determination of the movement from below, which is present all the time, but a little “obscured by the clouds” of the extended political analysis.

    I would also have presented the problem of organization growth, from the last part of the DPT, in a different way. Yes, the DPT states that membership growing means not recruiting for MH. That’s very important and true. However, I would have posed the problem of organization in a different manner, in order to avoid some kind of misreading. As RD said, masses have their own dialectic and create “spontaneously” their own organizations. The main objective of a small group of thinker-intellectuals like N & L is not that the masses “join” this small organization, but to aid the masses and other thinkers to unchain the dialectic (in thought and in action) of their liberation movements. More than membership or not membership, MH points toward the self-determination of the Idea as an historical need to overthrow capitalism. This activity requires, of course, the mediation of organization (philosophically rooted), but not organization as a fixed particular.

    I’m not saying that the DPT poses organization as a fixed particular. We have had so bad experiences with organization, that the words “membership” and “organizational growth” are loaded up with a vanguardist sense (as “Revolution in permanence” has a trotskyist sense, although being resignified by MH). My first reaction (negation) to these words brought up that sense. I’m just trying to make clearer the difference of the concept of organization between MH and vanguardist currents of thought.

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