June 2, 2008
An Open Letter to all Friends and Supporters of News and Letters:
Dear Friends and Supporters —
The following brief report on the Special Convention of News and Letters Committees, held May 25, 2008, will, at one and the same time, inform you about the important decisions reached there, and serve as an assurance that this Marxist-Humanist organization founded by Raya Dunayevskaya in 1956, is alive and well. Thus, the publication of News & Letters, dedicated to projecting Marx’s philosophy of revolution as a unity of theory and practice, continues strongly into its second half-century. The importance of the Special Convention was its affirmation of the firm ground on which we stand, which exposes as totally spurious the maliciously contrived claim of our “collapse,” circulated by the minority group calling itself a “Marxist-Humanist Tendency” as it resigned the day before our Special Convention convened.
It is necessary to recognize the unprecedented nature of this Special Convention, the first one in the history of this organization which was called for by the membership, not the leadership, in accordance with a by-law in our Constitution, adopted in 1956, that foresaw a situation where it might be necessary. The Call for the Special Convention issued on Feb. 24 was motivated by the desire to resolve the impossible situation created by the attempt of the “Tendency” to sabotage the publication of N&L, and to discover and resolve whatever differences were pulling us apart. Instead of availing themselves of that opportunity, and trying to work it out, they resigned.
The “common goal” we had been seeking to get back to was the work of developing a philosophically-grounded alternative to capitalism. The three documents we saw as crucial for our restudy were 1) the June 1, 1987, Presentation by Raya Dunayevskaya on “Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy”; 2) the Marxist-Humanist Perspectives for 2007-08 which was to concretize further for today the assignment we had been given in that June 1 challenge; and 3) the 1956 thesis presented by Dunayevskaya to the Founding Convention of News and Letters Committees which she had called “Theoretical and Practical Perspectives — Where to Begin?” While the enormous difference between that moment in 1956 and the decisive moment we confronted in 2008 could not be minimized, the principles established by the founder of Marxist-Humanism were what we saw as guiding us to a new and higher point in our quest to become continuators of the movement founded as accepting responsibility for Marx’s philosophy of the unity of theory and practice.
While, as always, we will be publishing a Summary of the Convention within the month, here is a brief description of our experiences there:
What we re-discovered at this Special Convention was the importance of the collectivity that responded to the threat to our continued existence. The threat brought out the many skills and talents of our members, who suddenly needed to take on the new tasks demanded to continue publishing News & Letters, the unique combination of workers and intellectuals, and of theory and practice. A number of friends who had dropped away participated in the discussions to help make sure this precious and unique organization would survive. Other friends had sent extra contributions unsolicited when they learned of a threat to News and Letters Committees’ existence. This outreach reaffirmed the importance of the breaking down of “inside and outside ” that N&L has represented since our beginnings.
All our locals as well as several members at large were represented in the vigorous discussions that took place during the day. They, in turn, represented a wide range of dimensions — from two of our founding members to the Youth columnist for our last two issues; younger women’s liberationists as well as the mother who became a South Central Los Angeles activist after her son’s arrest during the LA rebellion; gay activists as well as a Black worker with long experience in community organizing; professors and students.
One of our many prisoner subscribers, who has participated in our classes by mail, sent us his greetings: “From my perspective it’s critically important that News & Letters continue to not only survive, but flourish. Humanity itself is standing at the edge of the black hole of capitalism, about to be completely sucked into the abyss of an existence where poverty is the norm for a vast multitude of people. No one has more accurately articulated the dialectical movement of capital than Marx. Without this fundamental comprehension of the dialectical process, we are going into battle unarmed and blind.”
The objective need for an organization like ours — as a vital part of the search for a viable alternative in the life and death struggle for a totally new society, built on human foundations — is evident in the daily headlines of the world press. What is evidence of our own finger on the pulse of these crises are the kinds of articles that provided the focus points of the last two issues of N&L — from the crisis-ridden economy, to the “flames of revolt in China,” to the seemingly never-ending disastrous war in Iraq. All the Reports given to the Convention — on Organization, on News & Letters, and on Finances –will be included in full in the Post-Convention Bulletin, which will be available on request to all at cost, as will be our 64-page Pre-Convention Discussion Bulletin.
It is important to single out in this brief letter only two of the many difficult tasks and publications we will undertake in the months ahead. One is our determination to continue our work on the collection of selected writings by Dunayevskaya on Marx. The most immediate task before us, of course, will be the June-July issue of News & Letters, which will mark the 21st anniversary of the June 1, 1987, Presentation and challenge to us to help the world work out the “Dialectics of Philosophy and Organization.”
The deadline will be June 29 for the June-July issue of N&L. We invite your contributions, whether of articles or Readers’ Views, as well as your questions and suggestions for future issues. Your financial contributions will always be welcomed and greatly needed.
The National Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees