From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters
THE DIALECTIC OF HISTORY vs. RETROGRESSION
In the hands of a dialectician, a category like African nationalism is illuminated as not only evolving but transforming into its opposite (“Nigeria: a retreat, not a victory,” by Raya Dunayevskaya, Sept.-Oct. N&L). We see how it went from a universalist idea to a mass movement, and then disclosed a new unifying force with labor’s eruption. But the pull of the world market sucks in leaders who separated from the self-activity of masses; statist nationalism regresses into exploitation and war. When that dialectic of history is not grasped, history becomes prey to all sorts of rewriting, which is a key element of far-right ideology.
Not to reduce Marx’s philosophy of revolution to “a theory”—or, in other words, not to separate “social critique” from the absolute subjective-objective mass movement of becoming—but to keep them as a unity, is the major challenge that thinker-activists and social movements face today. “Epigones discard Marxist-Humanist philosophy” (Sept.-Oct. N&L) gives us a wake-up call about this. Along with the unity of theory and practice comes the question of organization, which is the “third term” in this dialectical view. But, when one gives up “on this exceedingly difficult task,” as the authors criticized in the essay seemed to do, the only option remaining for theoreticians is their own plan “to work out an alternative to capitalism.”
Anderson, Hudis and Kliman have forgotten the history of Marxist-Humanism, a body of ideas with deep roots in the 1949-50 West Virginia coal miners’ strike. That action by workers was in fact a breakthrough in theory. The miners didn’t ask how they should be paid or how the products of labor should be distributed or consumed, but asked instead, “What kind of labor should we be doing?” That moment helped lead to the emergence of Marxist-Humanism as a distinct philosophy. These pretenders have not escaped the fetish of the commodity and have fallen back to decades before the mid-20th century in their thinking. In fact, however they may characterize themselves, they have unwittingly abandoned Marxism altogether for a flood of abstractions that lead to Nowheresville.
Former tire builder
For those who never met Hudis but may read his writings, the essay offered an outstanding overview of his attempts to redefine Raya Dunayevskaya’s view of Marxism. Having an ego is okay, but not when it creates misinformation to disseminate a theory based upon egoism rather than concrete information. I find it disturbing how Hudis is trying to hijack the Marxist-Humanist concept and redefine it with his own person. That he and others are trying to marginalize Dunayevskaya’s original thoughts is troublesome. How do you redefine theories, ideas, philosophies that are well-established principles with a concrete analysis of the idea, and try to make them your own based on ego and subterfuge?
PRISONERS, SUPPORTERS SPEAK
I am in a 24/7 disciplinary segregation program at Hancock State Prison. I am determined to spend the nine months that I have to do in this program educating myself and expanding my mind in new ways. I have always identified myself as a socialist but am very interested in learning as much about any other political viewpoints as possible.
In June 2016, Transsexual female Eva Contreraz went on a hunger strike in a California state prison. Eva, who is serving a life sentence, has been refused female housing even as a post-op (having forced the prison to castrate her via a lawsuit), and again when she had her California birth certificate amended to record her sex as female in 2015 under a new law that allows Transsexuals in California to amend their birth certificate with or without genital surgery. Eva’s hunger strike lasted 45 days before she was transported by ambulance to a community hospital where she spent several days recuperating after losing 44 pounds. Still, the prison refuses to act. Eva has initiated a lawsuit for housing in a women’s prison that is pending and will also sue for damages for having her rights, under the Constitutions of California and the U.S., violated.
Transgender Accountability Panel
Comrade Keith “Malik” Washington, Deputy Chair of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party/Prison Chapter-Texas Region, is in long-term solitary confinement. They are using the “inciting to riot” disciplinary charge. But, when Norris Hicks and Malik called for the Work Stoppage to go down in April—a nonviolent protest strike action—that went right over their heads. The focus is on him now to take the heat for the work stoppage. Malik can use any reading material. Use your utmost letter-writing skills and observe attention to content to the best of your clever, experienced abilities. Write him at: Keith “Malik” Washington, TDC # 1487958, Eastham Unit, 2665 Prison Rd. 1, Lovelady, TX 75851. They are rejecting anything that relates even remotely to Black Lives Matter, race, strikes or police. What we need is documentation when you write to see just how much they are violating basic human rights of free expression, and write often if you can. Also, if you have free subscriptions of anything edifying for him to read, he would appreciate anything that you can send.
Twitch, on behalf of
End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement
It was very uplifting to read in “Shut down all of today’s Alcatrazes!” (September-October N&L) that folks in San Francisco at the day of outreach regarding 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement helped many people realize, as the rest of the world does, that that is torture. The solidarity shown by prisoners in protests against solitary confinement, such as hunger strikes, is key in making this world human. We should all be doing that educational outreach.
N&L is one of the most righteous publications in the world, because you represent all oppressed nationals and provide a vociferous voice for the voiceless and the most deprived and disenfranchise people on earth.
The Michigan Dept. of Corrections offers college classes and vocational programs to prisoners about to be released. I believe in rehabilitation for all. To disregard the needs of the longer-term prison population is damaging to the prisoners, the state and the community. Education reaches beyond the prisoner into one’s family and community. Everybody deserves a chance to change.
Prison groups and individuals need to put aside their differences and unify against the real enemies of the world’s peoples. The enemies being the capitalist system, the U.S. government (the world’s biggest terrorist organization), the Western nations’ military-industrial complexes and the super-rich that basically control what happens in the world. Please sign me up for a subscription. One can never have enough revolutionary information.
Olney Springs, Colo.
TO OUR READERS: Can you donate $5 for a prisoner who cannot pay for a subscription to N&L? Due to increasing requests we are creating a fund for sending other literature to prisoners who cannot pay, such as the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers pamphlet. Postage costs for those are much higher. Please support News and Letters Committees.