From the May-June 2022 issue of News & Letters
PHILOSOPHY vs. CAPITALISM
Toward the end of From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya (March-April 2022 N&L) she spoke of Marx’s legacy as “no mere heirloom, but a live body of ideas and perspectives that is in need of concretization.” The talk focused on Marx’s humanism in relation to Engels, Lenin and Luxemburg, who strove to make Marx’s legacy alive for their time, and why they were “philosophically” wanting, though they were all great revolutionaries. For Dunayevskaya, Marx’s philosophy of permanent revolution was central. Her talk was given to her Marxist-Humanist colleagues, challenging us on how to practice Marx’s humanism for our time. It remains very much alive as a challenge to all those who want to end capitalist domination in all its forms and recreate our societies on revolutionary new beginnings.
Regarding the interview with Melda Yaman of Turkey (March-April 2022 N&L), it’s wonderful to have Dunayevskaya’s work, especially Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution, in the Muslim world. I saw a massive demonstration of Afghan women without COVID masks on the news. That takes phenomenal courage since they can be recognized by the agents of the repressive Taliban regime. What sparked it was the closing of Afghan girls’ high schools. I was a Northern kid who felt like I was going to war in the South in the civil rights movement. I’m sure they feel the same.
Susan Van Gelder
The book bannings show that the Grand Inquisitor abides. I believe there will be a mass reaction against this. To be human is to have a hunger for knowledge, open forums, and different ways of knowing.
EDUCATION FOR WHAT?
It is a measure of how much fundamentalist theocrats across the country have grasped for total control of the schools that it is cause for celebration when a couple of laws with malicious intent get blocked. The Kansas House on April 26 failed to override the veto by Gov. Kelly of the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that would have allowed any parent to demand removal of any item that a teacher planned for their child. This was a state once called “Bloody Kansas” when abolitionists countered pro-slavery mobs from Missouri before the Civil War. But now, with white supremacy made so mainstream in Trump’s party, parents may object to anti-slavery figures like John Brown being fairly treated.
Re: “Authoritarian attacks on teachers” (March-April 2022 N&L): The North Scott School District in Eldridge, Iowa, wants to put CAMERAS in classrooms.
The attack on Critical Race Theory is simultaneously an attack on critical thinking, which is as close as bourgeois intellectuals get to dialectics. The idea that a teacher could only teach what was prepared a year ahead of time is ludicrous. One child’s question with a good teacher could alter several lessons. They want school to be an educated-child stamping factory. The whole question of “education for what?” is crucial. In Freedom Summer 1964, white kids from the North thought they were going to register people to vote. But the people there said—you want us to vote? Teach us to read. The organizers did not expect to run freedom schools; it was in response to the Black sharecroppers they met who risked everything.
“Social and Emotional Learning,” the reason DeSantis gave for banning math books, came about because so many high school age kids were dropping out. Originally the concept allowed classroom time for discussion of issues raised by teachers and students. The class would form a Community Circle—kids and teachers could speak or pass. The teacher could halt regular class immediately if concerned about something. It soon became more regulated with limited time and topics. Now there is no open discussion time because everything is iPad. Social and Emotional Learning was designed to give insight into students—those who never talked would get special attention. Math textbooks now incorporate social relationships like how do you figure out equality? Wonderful authors wrote these creative books, but schools are going back to the Spanish Inquisition.
Lake County, Illinois
HOMELESSNESS AND HUMANISM
Faruq’s article, “Homelessness and the needed humanism” (Jan.-Feb. 2022 N&L), was relevant to me. My next door bunkie, a right-wing Christian zealot, was recently, loudly, disparaging San Francisco and its unique homeless population—he being provoked by his favorite daily AM talk-radio programs: “40% of San Francisco residents are leaving because they’re sick of all the homeless!” I’m well conditioned to tolerate such ignorance/absurdity within prison culture, but couldn’t not poke him on this particuar day. (Blatant hypocrisy—bigotry, classism, veiled racism, etc.—among jailhouse Christians is just exhausting.) I interrupt: “Have you ever lived in San Francisco?” No. “Have you ever met, let alone spoken with a homeless person in San Francisco?” No. But they just said on the radio… Of course he was none the wiser that I was homeless and living on those very streets upon my arrest. Alas, and true to form, my next-door bunkie has actually been the most ardent supporter of my criminal justice reform advocacy, including this very publication.
As in every prison in the U.S., the right-wing Republican “moral majority” brand of Christianity is forced down our throats while religious rights of other minority paths like Humanism, Atheism, Paganism are discriminated against, suppressed, even punished. Parole is regularly denied unless you proclaim “born-againness.” Maybe it’s “political suicide” to mention Christianity and its effect on capitalism because in America it has been indoctrinated into everyone. We should acknowledge this for what it is. Religion is the weapon of capitalism and must be fought as vigorously as capitalism itself.
New Castle, Ind.
VOICES FROM BEHIND BARS
Your newspaper is always the highlight of the day when I receive it. It makes my time in prison that much more bearable.
N&L challenges the relationships that are indoctrinated into unsuspecting members of society, teaching us to be suspicious of these relationships. If we’re already suspicious of social relationships with established systems, N&L teaches us how. I wish I’d seen this when I was a youngster in school with all of my misdirected and immature energy against the struggle. I wanted out of the struggle because I hated the system. Now I want in with the struggle to make changes for the same reason. There’s no bigger reminder for me than living on Texas Death Row.
Thank you for sharing this great newspaper. I learned a great deal about Marxist-Humanist ideas. I share many of the same viewpoints as the authors of articles in the paper. I just made parole and I will follow N&L online from here forward. Thanks again for the good material and clever reporting—especially prison issues.
St. Mary’s, W.Va.
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.