Philosophy and organization

May 10, 2014

Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2014-2014

From the U.S. to Ukraine, crises and revolts call for philosophy

(Part III was previously posted.)

IV. Philosophy and organization


Despite all the retrogression faced by the masses, the revolutionary mental sediment of the Occupy Movement, as of all the revolts across the world, remains in force. As a young Occupy Boston activist viewing Turkey’s Gezi movement wrote,

“Another world really is possible! Anti-capitalism is such a realistic worldwide goal for our generation. We aren’t benefitting from capitalism, and we are finally starting to talk about it.”

The positive in the negative of anti-capitalism cannot be allowed to remain implicit. It is said often enough that we have to talk not only about what we are against but what we are for. But if the President can repeat that same statement as a platitude in his State of the Union address, we need to make clear that what we are for involves a total break with this capitalist society and its dehumanization, with all its alienations and oppressions. The unfolding dialectic of revolution and counter-revolution has placed starting from the Absolute of a new human society at the top of our, and the world’s, agenda. As the organization whose explicit basis is the Absolute of Marxist-Humanism, News and Letters Committees bears a special responsibility.


This year we are returning with fresh eyes to Marxist-Humanism’s philosophic moment, with a special focus on The Philosophic Moment of Marxist-Humanism (TPMMH) as published by this organization 25 years ago, shortly after our founder’s death.

In the 1940s, the retrogression of Russia after its 1917 revolution sent Dunayevskaya back to Marx, not only to prove that it had become state-capitalist, but to reach for a new basis for the revolutionary movement. Her encounter with Marx’s Humanism began by showing that Russia’s economy was based on alienated labor, which must be transcended, rather than being satisfied with eliminating private property. Marx’s 1844 Humanist Essays transformed Hegel’s negation of the negation into a philosophy of revolution. One way Marx spelled it out was:

“communism as such is not the goal of human development….Only by the transcendence of this mediation, which is nevertheless a necessary presupposition, does there arise positive humanism, beginning from itself.”

Compelled to reach for philosophic new beginnings, she continued exploring Marx’s 1844 Humanist Essays and Capital together with Lenin’s notebooks on Hegel and Hegel’s works themselves. Combined with her participation in struggles of workers and Blacks, and in revolutionary organizations, it led to her May 1953 philosophic moment.

Dunayevskaya’s discussion in the June 1, 1987, presentation, which is included in TPMMH, singles out from Karl Marx’s 1844 philosophic moment his appropriation of Hegel’s “negation of the negation” and transformation of it into a “new Humanism.” That, she indicates, was Marx’s ground for organization. It is in that context that she takes up his return to his own philosophic moment “as it was concretized for organization,” and then takes up Marx’s “general view of where we’re headed” after revolution, looking ahead to the abolition of the division between mental and manual labor. The reintegration of mental and manual is key to the “new society” she found in Hegel’s Absolutes in her own philosophic moment of Marxist-Humanism.

The look at Marx’s ground for organization opens out into the question of negating the elitist vanguard party, not only politically but philosophically, working out not just a form of organization but a new relationship of philosophy and organization. This implies a movement of second negation that is still on the agenda. We cannot give an answer to this question today. Rather, this year’s Convention will be dedicated to returning to the process of working it out with fresh eyes as we return to TPMMH.

B. Organizational tasks

Our tasks as an organization are conceived as ways of working out concretizations for today of TPMMH.

News & Letters continues to be the only Marxist-Humanist newspaper in the world. The concept of a Marxist-Humanist newspaper and of the process of producing and distributing it is intended to begin breaking down the division between mental and manual labor, although that can only be completed through revolution that establishes a totally new foundation for society. It involves internalization of Marxist-Humanism as the other side of projection, and outreach as the other side of elicitation. This year our work to invigorate our elicitation, which is reflected in Readers’ Views and articles from not-yet Marxist-Humanists, and our theoretical explorations as reflected in essay articles, will be a collective attempt to work out this perspective articulated in the June 1, 1987, presentation in TPMMH:

“…the context of each person’s activity and special point of concentration–be it labor, Women’s Liberation, youth, Black, etc.–will be inseparable from the meaning of that activity, and that meaning, whether of an objective event or the subjective activity, will be projected to those not-yet Marxist-Humanists, because inmeaning, i.e., philosophy, is both ground and roof of all we do, survey, strive for, as we prepare for that ‘revolution in permanence.’
“Therefore, I would very strongly suggest that…the book–The Dialectics of Philosophy and Organization–becomes the dominant force not only in essay articles, but in every activity we undertake, especially in discussions with subscribers, with not-yet Marxist-Humanists, not just as the recording of the events and their experiences, but the meaning of those events and experiences and their direction in a global context. That is what we will have to project when we have conversations with subscribers” (pp. 18-19).

The reconstruction of our website, which will be accomplished this year, is not a purely technical task but revolves around working out how it is inseparable from the paper in the process of eliciting, projection, and organizational growth. The print newspaper continues to be vital both for two-way communications with prisoners and for projecting ideas and building new relationships at events such as protests and occupations, conferences and teach-ins.

Archives as a collective task means that the technical aspect of presenting the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection on the web is not the end but a beginning for projection and theoretical exploration and development. Its expanded accessibility challenges us to explore those archives in the spirit in which the June 1, 1987, presentation pointed to “the many universals inherent in [Marxist-Humanism’s philosophic moment], so that we can see what is still new in it that we must develop for the book” on Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy.

The forthcoming book of writings by Dunayevskaya on Marx has been rethought in relation to TPMMH, so that the first two parts are “Analysis of State-Capitalism and Reach toward Marx’s Humanism and Dialectic” and “The Philosophic Moment of Marxist-Humanism,” and the final part is “Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy.”

Above all, we must confront the task of organizational growth. It should be reflected in our local discussions, including, for example, when we discuss the Call for Convention and the Draft Perspectives thesis, who we intend to invite to the Convention with it and how we intend to use these documents to do so–and similarly, to have a real organizational consciousness at both our meetings and the outside events in which we participate. That includes getting to second negation afterwards on what we did or did not do.

The Absolute is not something to graft onto the analysis of an event or movement but rather challenges us to begin from the Absolute in grasping the internal dialectic of the particular, in showing the meaning of the event. For us, philosophy is not an academic exercise but is at the heart of working out what to do. That “what to do” will be a part of all our discussions, publications, and activities and will be a test of how we concretize philosophy. One essential point for each Local will be to be concrete about how they plan to participate in ongoing organizational discussion and who they are going to bring to the Convention this year, as part of our work to build the organization. As always, the point of building the organization is to aid the self-determination of the idea of Marxist-Humanism, which, in unity with the world’s freedom struggles, will release a new human dimension that will form the foundation of a new society.

–The Resident Editorial Board, April 16, 2014

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