Who is Raya Dunayevskaya?

Raya Dunayevskaya (1910–1987) is the founder of the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism. She concretized that philosophy during a lifetime in the revolutionary movement as she participated in all the freedom movements of our age—whether of workers, women, the Black dimension, and youth. Her archives in the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection and its Supplement are online at rayadunayevskaya.org. The online Guide to the Collection, written by Dunayevskaya, and the Guide to the Supplement are a very helpful point of entry into the archives.

She became Leon Trotsky’s Russian-language secretary in 1937 during his exile in Mexico, but broke with him in 1939 at the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Her simultaneous study of the Russian economy and of Marx’s early writings (later known as the 1844 Humanist Essays) led to her 1941-42 analysis that not only was Russia a state-capitalist society, but that state-capitalism was a new world stage.

After more than a decade of developing the theory of state-capitalism, Dunayevskaya made a philosophic breakthrough. In two letters written May 12 and 20, 1953, she deepened her study of the Hegelian dialectic and saw in Hegel’s Absolutes a dual movement—a movement from practice that is itself a form of theory and a movement from theory reaching to philosophy. She considered these 1953 letters to be the philosophic moment from which the whole development of Marxist-Humanism flowed. In 1955 she founded the organization News and Letters Committees and the newspaper News & Letters.

Dunayevskaya authored what came to be known as her trilogy of revolution:

  • Marxism and Freedom, from 1776 until Today (1958)
  • Philosophy and Revolution: from Hegel to Sartre and from Marx to Mao (1973)
  • Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution (1982).

In addition, she selected and introduced a collection of writings, published in 1985, titled:

  • Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching for the Future.

In the last year of her life she was working on a new book which she had tentatively titled, Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy: The ‘Party’ and Forms of Organization Born Out of Spontaneity.

Raya Dunayevskaya’s speeches, letters, publications, notes, recordings and other items are located in the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University & in Detroit. Microfilm copies of the collection are available from the WSU Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. These archives are online at rayadunayevskaya.org, with a very useful online guide. Printed guides to the collection are available from News & Letters. A selection of Dunayevskaya’s books and other writings in print are available for purchase in the Literature section of this web site.