From the March-April 2019 issue of News & Letters
ROSA LUXEMBURG’S REVOLUTIONARY LIFE
Thank you for “Rosa Luxemburg’s revolutionary life” (Jan.-Feb. N&L). It is good to read a positive left perspective. And I didn’t know much of this.
Dunayevskaya’s review of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg was a preview of ideas that would be developed in Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution three years later. Dunayevskaya was a believer in “revolutionary intercommunication between the ages” in the sense that the ideas of freedom and revolution are developed from one generation to the next. Here in Mexico, there will be a conference with one theme being on Rosa Luxemburg’s life. I am hoping to give a paper: “Rosa Luxemburg and Raya Dunayevskaya: Revolutionary intercommunication between the ages.” Each fought to project revolutionary Marxism for their day, facing opposition from the ruling bourgeois society, and “orthodox” Marxists.
Dunayevskaya’s determination to present the fullness of Luxemburg to the Women’s Liberation Movement revealed the impact Luxemburg had on Dunayevskaya. This can be seen in Dunayevskaya’s category of “post-Marx Marxism as a pejorative” in relation to Marxists’ failure (Luxemburg included) to grasp the fullness of Marx as philosopher of revolution in permanence.
Raya Dunayevskaya’s passion for revolution and revolutionaries is expressed powerfully in her essay. She appreciates Stephen Eric Bronner, for his work making Luxemburg’s (RL) letters available to all and his understanding of her importance, but she is angry at him too for making it difficult for the readers to comprehend RL’s importance to us today. Dunayevskaya introduces two categories to help us: “‘Heroism of Masses’ vs. Opportunism of leaders” and “From Theory and Anti-War Agitation to Prison and Revolution.” It’s Dunayevskaya’s passion for RL and her ideas that is so engaging and powerful, so that at the end of the essay, when Dunayevskaya proclaims that “revolution was her life,” one feels that is also true of Dunayevskaya. KIt is why she so understands the meaning of RL’s life.
THE GREEN NEW DEAL
Thank you for “The Green Not-So-Great New Deal” by Franklin Dmitryev (Jan.-Feb. N&L). Anything that takes a radical vision and packages it as a policy agenda, even with the best of intentions, risks being co-opted on behalf of a “benign capitalism”—in this case with “green corporations” at the helm. At best, a “Green New Deal” can be an indispensable step in a more profound ecosocialist transformation. We need to be vigilant in ensuring any “New Deal” is not an end in itself but a means to a broader end.
I suggest Dmitryev become familiar with our macroeconomic system description of sovereign fiat currency, MMT. The Green New Deal was a term ecosocialists made popular prior to Greens. The problem isn’t capitalism; if it was, the Democratic Socialist countries would not be co-existing with it. Their government reins capitalists in; our Congress has that mandate, but is bought off. In the future, we can discuss changing our entire system (maybe), but for today, we have the means to enact a Federal Job Guarantee, Student Debt cancellation, single payer healthcare and the broader Green New Deal with Congressional appropriations. We are building political will and the Overton window has moved left. Join in or be the bringer of destruction to citizens and planet. GND NOW!
Franklin Dmitryev replies: MMT is another warmed-over panacea that doesn’t challenge capitalism. “Democratic socialist” (capitalist welfare state) countries are no model. They do have serious economic and environmental problems, and they are major contributors to climate change. Some backers of the Green New Deal want to maintain capitalism and tout bandaid reforms, dreaming that “we” have “the means to enact a Federal Job Guarantee,” as if guaranteeing wage slavery jobs is the best we could hope for. To top it off, if we don’t follow the one program, then we’ll be “the bringer of destruction.” The world needs to get off this suicidal capitalist train instead of indulging in fantasies, or joining a cult of MMT and self-limiting “Overton window” jargon.
VOICES FROM BEHIND BARS
I am always telling my fellow prisoners that they have to watch burning their bridges and that networking is important, and they need to stay in touch with those networks when they get out. A sad statistic is that there are 40 to 50 thousand policies and statutes that are designed to make reentry as hard as possible for returning prisoners to make it once they have been released on parole or probation.
I have seen prisoners get great jobs and decent places to live, then be returned to prison on a technicality. A guy in Wisconsin was actually sitting in the parole office waiting for his appointment after working two jobs back to back and fell asleep and didn’t hear his name. His parole agent locked him up for two weeks; just enough time for him to lose his job. Then a friend of mine, several years back, had been out for over 14 years on an interstate compact parole to New York from Wisconsin when someone in Wisconsin saw a different address on old paperwork that should have been changed years earlier. These people extradited him on parole violation, locked him up for four months and then they realized their mistake. The only good thing that came out of it was that they terminated the rest of his parole to keep from getting sued. Especially after New York raised hell.
In North Carolina we are talking about the 13th Amendment, which allows slavery for men, women, and children convicted of crime. This historic and outdated, draconian Amendment in our U.S. Constitution permits censorship in our prisons, low to no pay for our slave labor, long-term solitary confinement, low-grade healthcare, terrible and bland food, excessive sentences, and sexual exploitation of our bodies through excessive and unwanted strip searches. By abolishing the 13th Amendment we could change how incarcerated persons are treated and open up doors to restoring men, women, and children convicted of crime back to society through revamped rehabilitation and humanitarian approaches. But until we drain the swamps of our current prison administration and crooked tough-on-crime politicians, we will continue to be slaves to capitalism and the ideology of totalitarian control.
Elizabeth City, N.C.
I consider myself a classic (orthodox) Marxist, although along the ideology of Hegel, Sartre, Camus, Gramsci, etc. Yours is the sole publication that informs and enlightens within the classic Marxist paradigm. I have been in maximum security prison for over 34 years in California, including Pelican Bay in the 1990s, so I have a general and particular interest in revolutionist ideology. Please continue my subscription.
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