From the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters
PHILOSOPHY, THEORY AND NEWS & LETTERS
The relation between particular and universal couldn’t be more clearly stated than in the letter from a Chicano prisoner saying The Raza needs theory: “We all have the same oppressor, but there are issues that are unique to our existence, which we need to learn in order to overcome.” We can get lost in the abstraction of “We are all humans.” Yes, but we have to go deeper than that. Chican@s have “issues that are unique to our existence.” Just rising from that particular struggle, can a concrete universal be achieved?
Terry Moon scared me by starting with a quote from Karl Marx’s Grundrisse, but her letter to the readers (“Philosophic basis of News & Letters”) was one of the best, most coherent and well laid-out articles to appear in the newspaper recently.
Ron Kelch’s philosophical dialogue (“Behind Markovic’s turn to fascism was rift with Marx’s humanism,” Nov.-Dec. 2015 N&L) has a particular import to the dilemma of unfreedom that has humanity ensnared. Why do these catastrophes continue to haunt humanity? The writer believes an answer exists in the context of this philosophical dialogue. The principle which explicitly sets a Marxist organization apart from all other tendencies is the universal, self-determining, free, conscious activity as the first necessity of life. This universal shaped Marx’s life of revolutionary theory and practice, including a key to realize freedom in a post-capitalist society. Many Leftist tendencies are bereft of a revolutionary philosophy, which speaks to why humanity has had to continuously witness the revolutionary process turned into its opposite: a barbaric counter-revolution. Marx’s revolutionary philosophy gives humanity a way forward.
Mihailo Markovic became an accomplice, an architect, of the 1990s genocide in Bosnia and the rest of what had been Yugoslavia. That is his real crime. The idea that there is a link between this degeneration of his thought and some inadequacy in his philosophy from the 1960s is interesting, but the philosophic dialogue makes no argument to show such a connection. Degeneration of thought is not a unilinear phenomenon flowing inexorably from a philosophical error. Nor does the article make clear what “halfway dialectic” can be found in Markovic. Too much depends on reading the word “immediately” from one sentence as if it implies excluding mediation from Marx’s dialectic and limiting it to action. The criticized sentence intends to contrast Marx’s dialectic as “activist and revolutionary” as against a reified, closed methodology.
Kelch’s essay does not purport to show a causal link between Markovic’s interpretation of Marx and his turn to a genocidal criminal. He showed how neither Markovic nor News and Letters Committees measured up to the uniqueness of Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism, which would help us to not fall into the many traps that lay in wait, the pitfalls of a “dialectic” that does not go all the way to Absolute Negativity in the form of self-referred negation which is also a self-determination of Marx’s own humanism. Rearticulating the importance of “free conscious activity as the first necessity of life” has stood out for me since we re-read the 1844 Essays.
FLINT PART II
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, which made such a catastrophe in Flint, approved the petition of the Marathon Oil Refinery in Southwest Detroit to increase the release of sulfur dioxide into the ZIP code with the most polluted air in the U.S.: 48217. One Black woman interviewed said, “This is Flint Part II.” One of the Emergency Managers in Flint who didn’t heed citizen complaints about the water is Darnell Earley, now manager of Detroit Public Schools, who is excoriating the teachers for holding “sickouts” since the first of the year.
Susan Van Gelder
Political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for grossly inadequate medical care for Abu-Jamal’s Hepatitis C. In March, three years after he was diagnosed, an unconscious Mumia was rushed to the hospital. Despite the fact that his kidneys were failing and his blood sugar level was extremely high, he was neither treated nor informed about his condition. More than one-fifth of U.S. prisoners have Hepatitis C. Prison officials are reluctant to treat it with the expensive FDA-approved antiviral treatment. Since 1982, Abu-Jamal has been in prison without chance for parole, convicted at a trial that Amnesty International said didn’t meet international standards. All prisoners deserve quality healthcare and fair trials! To get involved go to http://www.freemumia.com.
Mumia supporter from Japan
VOICES FROM BEHIND THE BARS
This paper helps me not only to be aware of what’s happening in other prisons, but also that I’m not alone in what we go through “inside.” “California prisons’ punitive ‘wellness checks’” (Sept.-Oct. 2015 N&L) shows we’re not alone as women. We have the “wellness checks” too. So, thank you for your newspaper, your writers, your donors, your compassion, and help.
Ideas are made real by how we act, especially toward each other. In order to act as a self-determining agent of one’s destiny we have to learn through our mistakes. I was incarcerated at a young age. I didn’t realize how destructive to my family and myself I was. In prison I had to look within myself. After that I was able to look outward and see the true face of the power of the state, how the prison system tries to manipulate our minds by controlling our behavior and who our enemies are. We must come together to formulate a stand like the hunger strikes.
How can we get young prisoners to want to change? They leave prison with no education and go out into society without a care for anyone, including themselves.
From the perspective of the rulers of this world we are all criminals (at least potentially), because we are all potentially capable of seeing through the veil of the law, choosing to ignore it, and taking back moments of our lives whenever we can on our own terms. This law, and the social order of property and power which require it, makes us equal precisely by criminalizing us. There is only one way to respond. We must attack this society and destroy it.
Upper Peninsula, Mich.
I came across an issue of your newspaper, the contents of which proved stimulating. The perspective termed “humanist” piqued my interest. My understanding of Marxist analysis has admittedly been heavily influenced by Louis Althusser’s readings. Though I abstain from subscribing to much of his thought, it is his notion of “interpellation” which to this day I find illuminating. This notion has contributed, not without foundation, to the characterization of his thought as “anti-humanist.” I am interested in the news as well as the “humanist” lens through which it is viewed. Thus I would like to request a subscription to your paper.