Philosophic basis of News & Letters

November 20, 2015

From the November-December 2015 issue of News & Letters

 by Terry Moon, Managing Editor, News & Letters

Dear Readers, As we publish this last issue of 2015 in the celebration of our 60th year of publication, we want to share the philosophic basis of this newspaper.

Marx middle age small

Karl Marx

Karl Marx wrote in the Introduction to the Grundrisse: “The concrete is concrete, because it is a combination of many objects with different destinations, i.e., a unity of diverse elements. In our thought, it therefore appears as a process of synthesis, as a result, and not as a starting point, although it is the real starting point.”

News & Letters could be seen as a “unity of diverse elements”: workers, women, prisoners, Blacks and other people of color, youth, people from other countries, the differently abled and LGBTQ people all speaking for themselves; philosophical and theoretical articles; and columnists writing of our life and times from different perspectives. These articles may have different goals, opinions and ideas; and the result, an issue of News & Letters, may appear to be a finished product, or a synthesis of those elements. But in reality, each issue is a summing up of the current reality and a new starting point for work and thought.


The philosophic basis of News & Letters is crucial in shaping each issue. It is what makes a paper one that is Marxist-Humanist rather than merely “Left.”

To Marxist-Humanism, the Absolute means above all the revolutionary society that abolishes capitalism, breaks down the division between mental and manual labor, and builds social foundations on totally new human relations. And News & Letters was a conscious effort on the part of the founders of News and Letters Committees in 1955 to begin a paper from the Absolute, knowing that it could be Absolute only in its completion within a revolution in permanence. Because neither the paper nor the organization could be the Absolute, they are endowed with the impulse to transcend, to self-develop, to strive for the Absolute.

Raya Dunayevskaya, the founder of Marxist-Humanism, gives a view of the form of News & Letters in her document of May 28, 1987, titled “July 1984 to June 1987” (#10985):


“Now let’s get to the reality of the single dialectic in philosophy, in organization, no matter what its form, in paper, no matter what its frequency. The real point is the form, and this is meant not as a contrast to content, but form as a Universal directly related to philosophic moments:

“What distinguishes us from any other paper? How did that form as well as its soul—Marxist-Humanism—result in abolishing the distinction between a theoretic organ and a popularization in a newspaper form? And how did that change the relationship between inside and outside?

“Worker-intellectual; theory-practice articles; with each form have a little of the other in it; Readers’ Views, national/international; spontaneous actions as Leads as well as editorial type of leads.”

This is not to say that the form of News & Letters can never be changed. It changed through the years when Dunayevskaya was alive and we have changed it as objective events demanded.

As new movements arise we want to make sure we carry the voices—and therefore the thoughts—of new activists in the LGBTQ movement, for example, or the revolutionaries emerging from the movement for people with disabilities. We are never satisfied that we have enough voices involved in struggle speaking for themselves, which we comprehend as a form of theory; or enough development of the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism. We are determined to improve with the help of you, our readers.

News & Letters does not stand alone. From its inception it has been inseparable from News and Letters Committees. The paper was created to help the organization by creating a forum for those involved in struggle to speak for themselves unseparated from theoretical and philosophical development. To Dunayevskaya, listening to the voices from below was where the job of the theoretician “first began.” Furthermore, someone seeing their own words in the paper alongside those of others—from different countries tackling different problems and oppressions—means their self-development too.


Raya Dunayevskaya

Raya Dunayevskaya

Organization was always a key aspect of News & Letters. As Dunayevskaya wrote on May 11, 1987, about “The Organization, the Paper, the Book” and how “All Equal Philosophy of Marxist-Humanism”:

“Projection of Marxist-Humanism had been narrowed in our concept both between philosophy and organization, and organization and paper. This could throw us off the rails of our uniqueness if each one of us doesn’t immediately work at a very serious self-critique.”

This 60th anniversary of both our founding and the first issue of News & Letters has reinvigorated our determination not to separate organization from paper and philosophy, something that will be central to our discussions as we prepare for our 2016 Convention in May.

We recognize that philosophical work is not only a matter of presenting a piece by Dunayevskaya on page four. It is something each column, lead, editorial and Draft Perspectives tries to accomplish. Presenting the voices from below in that context is needed for the life of the paper, the organization and the philosophy as a living body of ideas, and therefore for the movement.


Let’s start anew on the projection of the Raya Dunayevskaya Archives now that they are online and available to almost everyone, keeping in mind her critique of narrowing the concept of the relationship of organization to both philosophy and the paper.

We cannot do this either alone, or isolated. We invite you, the reader, to join in working for a new society built on new human relationships by writing for this unique paper, by subscribing to it, by arguing, by working out your ideas, by coming to News and Letters Committees meetings and joining in a series of discussions beginning soon in every local on: “The Philosophic Comprehension of History Illuminates Today’s Crises: The Revolutionary Archives of Raya Dunayevskaya.”

Participate in a series of discussions on:

The Philosophic Comprehension of History Illuminates Today’s Crises: The Revolutionary Archives of Raya Dunayevskaya

Archives come alive when a new problem confronts the world. We see something different because of what a new generation is facing.Raya Turnley distorted 1

Our look at the Revolutionary Archives of Raya Dunayevskaya and Karl Marx can help us comprehend and act on today’s problems such as catastrophic climate change, counter-revolution coming from the revolutions of the Arab Spring and the unprecedented refugee disaster it created, racist police murders plaguing Black communities, the attack on women’s reproductive rights and the widening gap between the super-rich and the poor.

See contact information for a local near you to find out when, where and how to participate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *