From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters
WOMEN AS REASON
The idea of rape culture (“From Turkey to USA, women as force & reason fight inhumanity,” March-April N&L) seems like it’s existed forever but maybe it has not been articulated that way till fairly recently? Terry Moon’s article showed that now it is being articulated as demanding a transformation of all human relationships. What seems new to me is women’s demand for men to take responsibility and men’s willingness to do so as evidenced by the Turkish men demonstrating in skirts and the men in the U.S. speaking out against street harassment and domestic violence.
One of the most important sentences of “From Turkey to USA…” is the one about “the movement in thought” experienced by the Women’s Liberation Movement worldwide. In the dialectical link between individual and social dimensions, women’s struggle is not just against “machismo,” as a question of behavior of men and women in “private life,” but a struggle against “rape culture,” understood as the conjunction of economic, political and cultural determinations that systematically reproduce the oppression of women. Even women exploit women, because it is the system that does that. There lies the importance of uprooting completely this capitalist, fascist, machismo society. Women from below are a decisive revolutionary subject for this transformation.
From the very beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement there were women who had a deep critique of the entire society and wanted a revolution, wanted society to be completely transformed. But in terms of what has come from below, I think Moon caught that the critique of existing society is in some ways deeper. It means something different when a critique comes from below and is so explicitly expressed.
Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “neglect of a dependent and feticide.” You cannot do both, of course, but what Patel did was neither. She self-induced an abortion and they’re lynching her for it. Women are still second-class citizens in America. We are, together, capable of change. Today. Now. I never thought, in my brief lifetime, that we would have less rights instead of equal rights. We are going in the wrong direction.
WE ALL CAN’T BREATHE
The essay, “Reflections on Marx’s Humanism and Fanon” (Jan.-Feb. 2015 N&L) is a fine example of the connection between Marx and Fanon, i.e., the
universality of humanism. In addition, it shows the relevancy of both men to our present world. Overthrowing the estrangement of life was what Marx and Fanon made their central focus. If an effort is made by humanity to burst asunder the existing oppressive social relations of capital, then it is wise to heed the call for a re-reading of Marx, particularly his humanist perspective. The imperative for humanity is to entirely uproot the abstraction of socially necessary labor time, in its current guise of global capital. Then it will be possible for humanity to unfurl the banner of liberation, “From each according to her ability, to each according to her need.” Indeed, the fertile ground on which humanity can begin to construct new societal relations is founded upon the principle of humanism.
To come to humanism as an answer, to grasp that about Marx in spite of what has been made of him over the years, is significant. The dream of a shared humanity is the opposite of a nightmare of estrangement and is in line with Fanon, who said to leave Europe and to go on to create a new human being. Mohammed Elnaiem is speaking as a Black man but his hope is for a new humanity for everyone.
Prisoner support activist
Mohammed Elnaiem is questioning “progress.” Is there progress? Or is it only the struggle? Marx didn’t articulate “Black masses as vanguard at turning points in history,” Marxist-Humanism did that. There is something about the centrality of Black masses in defining what freedom means in the U.S., but also in the world today. You could say that there has been slavery all throughout history. Yet the confluence of racism and revolution in U.S. history makes it unique.
We are fighting to live free and safe here. In Yemen, a developing country facing a growing risk of civil wars and terrorist groups, we are definitely in need to tell the world what is happening. Women and children suffer the most persecution and violations in Yemen, especially during the wars. I live in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, and there are a lot of daily war stories that should be told. The situation in Yemen is getting worse day by day.
In At Tuwani in Palestine, where I have lived and worked as a human rights worker over the years, Jewish colonists and the Israeli military harass, attack and arrest Palestinians who attempt to graze their sheep on their own lands, which are in the process of being seized at gunpoint by the very same Jewish colonists and Israeli military.
60 YEARS OF N&L
Though the world is in a constant state of flux, this moment in history seems to be both more progressive and more dangerous than any other moment in history. The mainstream media is driven by commercialism and whatever idealism is maintained is due to questionable reasons. Then there is N&L. This paper talks about those who seem invisible to the mainstream media and gives a poignant voice to the otherwise voiceless. It provides an open forum for the free expression of ideas, the definition of history that without this publication may go undiscovered or ignored.
If not for N&L and the multi-national News and Letters family, we may not have seen the inside of a revolution in Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, or right here in these United States except through sound bites. We would not know about the plight of the prisoners in Pelican Bay, and we may have forgotten about those who languish in limbo at Guantanamo Bay. We wouldn’t see in-depth reporting on the fight of women or discussions on LGBTQ issues, and we would not discover that the economy at the grassroots level (i.e., the workers) is still as sick as ever.
Hegel writes that: “…nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.” With N&L, passion has been defined and honored for 60 years. My association with News and Letters Committees has spanned 16 years, and the quality of the journalism and commentary through the newspaper, and its proponents, have always been compelling, insightful and true to—in my mind—the vision and body of ideas of Raya Dunayevskaya. In order to safely traverse a minefield, one must have a map. In order to progressively pursue a revolution, one must first have a voice. N&L and News and Letters Committees are those tools that allow all voices for change, freedom and humanity to be heard.
Black River Falls, Wisc.
Congrats on the 60th birthday of N&L. I didn’t come to News and Letters Committees until 1960, the first youth of the New Left/Civil Rights generation.
I hope that friends of News and Letters Committees will be encouraged by the publication of the Draft Perspectives to intervene in the process of forming the perspectives of News and Letters Committees. N&LC is alone among the Left in seeking to incorporate the ideas of people not in the organization in its perspectives. I think it is important that it begins by highlighting the new and historic role of the Black masses as vanguard in challenging U.S. racism and by highlighting all the forces of resistance to this corrupt system. At the same time, we recognize that the forces of counter-revolution are on the rise around the world, including in the U.S.
I shudder at the thought of Scott Walker as president. He would drag labor relations back to the 19th Century just as he is doing in Wisconsin. Here in New York, even with the election of a “progressive” mayor, police violence continues, homelessness is increasing rapidly and the city government is busy making deals with major real estate developers to build expensive housing without addressing the needs of the poor. As the Draft Perspectives notes, whether in New York or in Syria, what is needed is a total philosophy of freedom, which is what Marxist-Humanism can offer.
WHAT KIND OF LABOR?
Raya tells how the Coal Miners’ Strike of 1949-1950 gave her a new point of departure to develop revolutionary thought (“Miners inspired Marxist-Humanism,” March-April N&L). That’s because she didn’t see this strike just as “practice,” but as practice being itself a form of theory. Two intertwined things—understanding mass movements as forms of thought, and the dialectical method—are the two main ingredients of Marxist-Humanism. How are we recreating it for our time? In Mexico, for example, the actions of the Zapatistas; the autonomous councils developed by the people in Guerrero as forms of self-government; the peasants organizing to stop the neoliberal projects in their lands, among other movements, are not just “practice,” but practice we should direct our senses to in order to discover in it a form of theory. This is needed to understand and potentiate the dialectic of revolution brought up by the masses themselves.
Dunayevskaya’s essay is interesting to publish when News and Letters Committees is commemorating the foundation of its organization and newspaper 60 years ago. It speaks to the relationship between philosophy, practice, and organization/newspaper. Without the development of a body of ideas (Marxist-Humanism) there could have been no serious founding of a revolutionary organization and its newspaper. Rather, Dunayevskaya’s description of the miners’ action and their impact on her own development of the ideas of Marxist-Humanism speaks to the crucial relationship of theory/practice, philosophy/revolution. The actions of the miners and subsequent movements from below, such as the 1953 East German workers’ revolt, revealed to Dunayevskaya that the masses’ practice from below had the seeds of, was itself a form of, theory. With such a realization, she could discern a new philosophic moment, Absolute Negativity as New Beginning, as the philosophic vantage point for constructing a revolutionary organization and its newspaper—weapons for social transformation. The two-way road between action and thought became the key for founding News and Letters and its newspaper. In turn our celebration needs to be a reaching for the future with this concept of theory/practice.
When the miners asked in 1949 “what kind of labor should a human being do,” it was because they were facing such a horrendous monstrosity, the continuous miner. The question of “what kind of labor” must go beyond the specific job. Htun Lin gets right to where economics interfaces with humanism (“Reclaim our labor,” March-April N&L). In healthcare it’s right there: the patient and the caregiver as people vs. economic data. Nurses are so militant because they try to maintain health care as a human relationship.
I go to Kaiser Mental Health and gave Htun Lin’s article on the “CNA nurses strike” (Jan.-Feb. N&L) to my caregiver. She was so excited to read it and learned a lot from it. A major issue of the mental health workers is the shortage of staff. It’s bad for the patients too as there’s a six to eight week wait for follow up appointments.
PRISONERS IN USA
The life of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is in serious danger. His blood sugar has skyrocketed a number of times recently, his skin is leathery, the diet being given him in a prison hospital is completely inappropriate and he is thin! Finally, after much begging, some visitors, including his brother, Keith Cook, were allowed into his sick room to visit. Supporters of Mumia are calling for him to immediately obtain independent, specialized medical (non-prison) treatment. To be part of the movement to get Mumia the medical help he needs, see http://www.freemumia.com/. Mumia is a former Black Panther, member of MOVE, and has been unfairly imprisoned for the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner.
As you may or may not know, Texas prisons do not pay for work or duties performed. And this joint and individual struggle for pay continues. Please continue my subscription, as N&L is most informative about other struggles being advanced and argued in various arenas throughout the world. There are in excess of 40 persons who read and share my copy.
Iowa Park, Texas