From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters
HEGEL’S THIRD ATTITUDE
On “Hegel’s Third Attitude Today” (May-June 2022 N&L): How we come to what we believe is personal and related to organization. Hamlet’s “outrageous fortune” is the pain we experience. We take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them: the revolution. What dreams may come with that must give us pause. We intuitively perceive a wrong, but a dream comes of something better. Through personal creativity we see a better world. I was depressed by politics in the 1960s but woke up with the Black Freedom movement. An idea begins in dream, intuition; then we mix the two: How are you going to organize and move forward? With mediation we recognize others with the same idea. There has to be a way we respect individual perceptions, but bring them together with organization that is open to different ideas. Imagination can help develop openness to the desire to be liberated, and constantly overcoming, developing universality.
Dunayevskaya points out that Hegel said intuition was progressive in an earlier period, with Descarte’s “I think, therefore I am.” At this moment when both Left and Right are drowning in intuitionalism, the Third Attitude seems all-powerful. Slings and arrows can be what oppresses you and also what intuitionalism runs from: what Hegel calls the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labor of the negative. This highly abstract question is the question.
I felt like I was living in Raya’s and Hegel’s worlds, with the objective situation today. Truth as subjective knowledge describes the Big Lies of the reactionaries, which are then “exaggerated into a fact of the consciousness of all.” It was less than six years ago when Trump’s press secretary shocked us by talking about “alternative facts.” We were sure that everyone would see it was a feeble excuse. Now those “alternative facts” (Big Lies) are accepted as reality by nearly half of the U.S. Rational, evidence-based discourse is completely uncomprehended and ignored by a large percentage of Americans. They come to believe what they once questioned, like the personhood of a fetus. Dunayevskaya’s letters to Hegel scholars bring in a new element, organization. How will philosophy be realized in organizations that will take us to a human society?
Susan Van Gelder
The Third Attitude is all over, right wing, center, left wing. Analyses blame widespread toxic delusions on social media and Fox News, which do play a role. Dunayevskaya takes it to a deeper philosophic level by looking to Hegel’s analysis. You can’t just argue the facts. How do we ground ourselves in philosophy? Most of the Left talk about the need to unite the Left, as if we had the numbers. The power of philosophy is too often overlooked but is crucial for building a movement and uniting theory and practice. Reactionaries want a fantasy past and are very determined to brainwash people. The power of the idea is essential for opposing that.
CAPITALISM, FASCISM & REVOLUTION
At a recent meeting we discussed a debate between Raya Dunayevskaya and Max Shachtman from May 1947 that has direct relevance to what is happening in the U.S. today. On the surface, the debate was merely over whether the Russian system was state-capitalism or bureaucratic collectivism. What was really at stake was whether capitalism in crisis would lead to socialist revolution or to a new non-capitalist, non-socialist society free of the contradictions of capitalism. Shachtman and his followers thought that revolution was off the table and that the movement should instead fight for democratic reforms. Today, capitalism in crisis has produced Trumpism. Again there is a fight for democracy, allegedly led by the Democratic Party and anti-Trump Republicans. We absolutely do need to fight to preserve democracy but political democracy alone will never defeat fascism in all of its ugly reincarnations.
GRASPING THE SPIRIT OF THE TIMES
In Raya Dunayevskaya’s “Hegel’s call to grasp spirit of the times,” in the July-Aug. 2022 issue, Hegel comes alive for her day and ours. She presents provocative readings of a number of Hegelian categories. Perhaps her most revolutionary reading is within Hegel’s Absolutes, which she breaks down to a dual movement: a movement from practice to theory which she sees as a form of theory as in workers’ opposition to capital, the Black freedom struggles, women’s liberation, etc.; and a movement from theory to meet that practice from below, which is itself reaching toward the fullness of dialectical philosophy. Hence, the continual necessity for revolutionary thinker-activists to return to Hegel as well as Marx for our day. It is deeply frustrating that so few activist thinkers want to engage with Dunayevskaya.
VOICES FROM BEHIND BARS
I was not aware that Black August went deeper than George Jackson’s movement and struggles. (See “Black August, from 1971 to 2011-13,” Nov.-Dec. 2019 N&L.) Black August is important to me because it acknowledges what is left out in relation to Black history and what we should know. It’s special to me to keep that history alive as we continue today to strive for the same causes and rights that all men and women should have but are deprived of because of our race or incarceration. So, to remember, uplift the concept of Black August which gives us power, motivation, and reason to keep striving for what’s right and keep hope and change alive.
Lumberton Correctional Institution is a medical camp. They have guys with breathing machines, some in wheelchairs, some with walkers, and some with canes. But there is no air conditioning in the dorms at all. We only have fans here. It gets really hot at times. I see why the breathing machines overheat so quick. It gets really hot when we take our showers. The exhaust in the showers doesn’t work at all. It gets really, really hot then. So, what to do about it? I heard they are supposed to put air conditioning in all the North Carolina prisons. They have a nice size budget, I hear. I just want to get my words out there to someone that will help us out.
At Hays State Prison, the neo-slave plantation, I’m being subjected to dehumanization in segregation, deprivation of “basic human needs” by prison officials acting in deliberate indifference toward prison conditions. I have been in Administrative Segregation housing unit for almost nine months, without a hearing, no disciplinary reason, infringing my due process constitutional rights and DOC policies. I’ve been deprived of exercise outside of my cell for almost nine months. The grievance system is sabotaged with doctored documentation, which don’t get processed correctly to appeal through the Office of the Ombudsman. This institution recently failed its audit in several departments, even though administration covered their tracks. All my radical reformists, in our togetherness: Let’s change the inhuman conditions of prison and focus on the issues the government ignores because it’s All of Us or None!
I am a prisoner in ad-seg. Here at Southeast Correctional Center, Tracy Medlock and the conservative Republican evangelical Christian white supremacists are routinely violating our First Amendment rights by quoting policies that often do not even apply, in vague ways, to censor our mail. And now, though the offender mail policy states we are to receive mail sent directly from a vendor, publisher, or distributor, they are seeking to classify items whose views they do not agree with as “personal mail” in order to prevent us from receiving it.
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. 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.