From the January-February 2020 issue of News & Letters
The editor’s note accompanying Raya Dunayevskaya’s column on the need for “Philosophy and Revolution as process” in times of political crisis (Nov.-Dec. 2019 N&L) expressed its relevance for the Trump era. Praxis en América Latina in Mexico also sees the need to grasp the relationship between philosophy and revolution when philosophy means dialectics and revolution means uprooting this entire social system. Here, the administration of Lopez Obrador claims to be “progressive.” But opposition to his developmentalism is strong among Indigenous communities. Other social movements are also questioning his administration. Activism is on the agenda in opposition to a number of mega-projects that are being pushed—a Mayan train through Indigenous communities, a new thermoelectric plant being imposed, etc. Yet much of the opposition is posed as “action” alone, without a philosophic view of the kind of uprooting that is necessary. We in Praxis decided to begin a study group of Philosophy and Revolution as concept unseparated from Philosophy and Revolution, Dunayevskaya’s book. Dialectics, rooted in Hegel’s concept of “absolute negativity” and Marx’s development of “permanent revolution,” needs to influence “action” in Mexico.
DISORDER IS THE ORDER
The present turn to racist, other-hating nationalism is in the context of a collapsing rate of growth in the world economy. Nationalist capitalists aim to draw attention away from themselves and transfer the impact of the climate crisis and mass unemployment onto the global poor and defenseless: global capitalism’s multitude of surplus population, fleeing economic destitution, climate change and ethnic cleansing. The disorder of this moment—every ego-run-amok nationalist for himself—is its order. Any “deal” is just a moment before a final confrontation. In the 1930s Hitler and Stalin had a deal, until they didn’t. Trump-Kim are ever on the verge of a deal. Trump-Putin are ever flirting. Capital markets rise and fall on whispers of a Trump-Xi deal that might reinstate the U.S./China globally structured economy. What scares all the rulers is when workers confront them as a class, as in Chile today, or Iraq and Lebanon, where heretofore rulers had been able to entrench themselves through ethnic division.
Readers might think that Trump did something right when he announced that colleges and universities will be denied federal funding if they permit “anti-Semitism” on their campuses. There has been an increased number of violent anti-Jewish acts in the U.S. But look closer: “anti-Semitism” means “criticizing Israel.” Real action against anti-Semitism is Palestinian and Israeli women marching together for peace. That action against anti-Semitism shines forth in Within the Eye of the Storm, a documentary about two Israeli fathers, one Jewish, one Palestinian, working together to end the violence in their country, to honor their young daughters who were murdered by “the other side.” We all must do what we can to make sure these facts are not lost.
As a Jew I was outraged when alt-Right-leaning President Trump conflated “race, color, and national origin” with being Jewish, in his Dec. 11 Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism. Judaism is a religion which some people are born into and continue to accept while some leave or join another religion; and some not born into Jewish families choose to join at some point in their life. It is not up to Trump, a racist, sexist discriminator against people whose national origin he disdains—and bans from entering the U.S.—to say who Jewish people are. It is racists who treat Jews as a race; it is racists who define Jews as Other. If Trump gave a damn about ending anti-Semitism, he would have to stop being the disgusting racist, anti-Muslim fanatic that he is.
Faruq in “Black August, from 1971 to 2011-13” (Nov.-Dec. 2019 N&L) writes powerfully of his journey to realize freedom by realizing his humanity. He keeps his vision through the incomplete and partial freedoms he first encountered in solitary confinement, and to recognize the humanity in each person he meets. He is steeped in the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic and comprehends the development of each person’s humanity through the contradictions he or she experiences under capitalism’s alienation.
When he describes the homeless people he meets in San Francisco, it calls to mind the invisible homeless in Detroit and Flint. The specter of homelessness is always a threat, even to senior citizens whose homes are paid for. Many cannot afford basic maintenance and risk losing their homes to property tax foreclosure. Single mothers and grandmothers with young children face a tight rental market of deteriorated properties. They have high eviction rates—and probably twice as many face “informal” evictions when slumlords make them move because they’ve asked for repairs. Add to these, family conflicts in which teenagers and “returning citizens” are “kicked out” and must couch-surf to survive.
VOICES FROM BEHIND BARS
Thank you for the issues of N&L. I especially like the story “Creating homes for ex-prisoners” and Terah Lawyer’s freedom from imprisonment (both in Sept.-Oct. 2019 N&L). It was a story I can relate to about finding freedom in prison. Now she is creating homes for ex-prisoners. That is encouraging on how she is giving back and restoring others. Thank you, Terah.
Keep up the great work. Please continue my subscription with thanks! I’m on the condemned row in California and am grateful for those who contribute to those of us who can’t afford the subscription. We wouldn’t be able to keep up to date on the news of “anti-prison” citizens. In here, it’s all about “Who’s never leaving,” by the officers (glorified babysitters with a shiny badge). One woman got off the Row this year! History making.
This paper has educated me on what socialism is. People argue that socialism won’t work. But will it? Maybe the reason why they don’t want it is because it would really work. Sorry to say this, but our Constitution is not broken, it works just fine. That’s why some people in this country will always live in the bonds of inequity. I love this paper. Could you please find me a donor.
TO OUR READERS: Can you donate $5 for a prisoner who cannot pay for a subscription to N&L? It will be shared with many others. A donation of $8 pays for a subscription plus the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers pamphlet to be sent to a prisoner. Prisoners are eligible to continue their free subscriptions when they first get released, a time when the system tries to make them forget the struggle.