Toward Freedom: Intervening in a World on the Brink–A Marxist-Humanist series of classes

September 19, 2019

(See printable pdf brochure here.)

As crises shake the world, it is clear that we are living in a dangerous time. Vibrant movements have arisen to challenge the destructive path that powerful rulers like Donald Trump, Valdimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Bashar al-Assad, Ali Khamenei, etc., are trying to force on us all. The challenge of our times needs to be met in both activity and thought because the opposition to this suicidal world order must be total, including theoretical preparation for revolution. It is not enough to call for, or hope for, a total transformation without a vision of what happens after revolution and a reckoning with the dialectics of revolution and counter-revolution. The need for a total change compels philosophy, a total outlook.

In that spirit, News and Letters Committees is offering a free series of classes to explore this degenerate stage of capitalism, why it arose, what is the opposite seething within it, and how to strengthen that opposition.

News and Letters Committees is a Marxist-Humanist organization, founded in 1955 by the revolutionary philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya. It stands for the abolition of capitalism in both its private property form as in the U.S., and in its state property form calling itself Communist as in Russia and China. Marxist-Humanism is a body of ideas that challenges all those desiring freedom to transcend the limitations of post-Marx Marxism. We aim not only to reject what is, but to further work out the revolutionary Humanist future inherent in the present.
Core readings are taken from two new Marxist-Humanist books, Russia, from Proletarian Revolution to State-Capitalist Counter-Revolution: Selected Writings by Raya Dunayevskaya and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in Permanence for Our Day: Selected Writings by Raya Dunayevskaya. To see additional selections—both Marxist-Humanist and representing other views—which are suggested for those who want to broaden their exploration, see our syllabus.

PLACE and TIME: Chicago meetings will be held at the News and Letters Library, 228 S. Wabash Ave., Room 230, Chicago, Illinois, at 6:30 PM.

For time and place in other areas, contact your News and Letters Committees local.

Class 1: Wednesday, September 25, 6:30 pm:
The history of failed revolutions raises questions about revolutionary thought as well as activity. The burning question of what happens after revolution has an impact even before a revolution arises. Subjects of revolution—women, youth, workers, Black masses, and others—reach for serious consideration of those questions, so that a philosophy of revolution in permanence becomes a force in daily practical activity, and a subject of revolution.
Readings: Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in Permanence for Our Day chapter 11, “Post-Marx Marxism as a Category” introduces the category of post-Marx Marxism; chapter 23, “The Dialectic of Absolute Idea as New Beginning” brings to the fore what is distinctive about Marxist-Humanism.
Class 2: Wednesday, October 23, 6:30 pm
The movements around climate are the source of some of the most widespread questioning of capitalism and within them there is an incomplete discussion of a needed “theory of change.” In the climate justice movement is a growing realization that capitalism is a big, even fundamental, part of the problem. This demands that we grasp what is essential to capitalism and what kind of new society can transcend it, while not repeating the oppressive and ecologically destructive paths taken by countries that claimed to be socialist, like the USSR and China.
Readings: Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in Permanence for Our Day, chapter 3, “The Todayness of Marx’s Humanism” poses Marx’s Humanism as key to a concept of socialism adequate to our age.
Class 3: Wednesday, November 20, 6:30 pm
In this decade, Syria’s revolution and counter-revolution became the test of world politics. The depth of the current crisis is starkly illustrated by the genocidal assault on Idlib by the Assad regime with aid from Russia and Iran. The ascendancy of counter-revolution, with support from swaths of the Left as well as the Right, threw the doors wide open for the current global march of fascism. What is tested is not alone those on the Left who defended Bashar al-Assad but the pragmatic philosophy that underlies the broader Left who are willing to cooperate with the apologists in anti-Trump actions but have done little in solidarity with the Syrian people’s revolution. The resulting search for a new orientation demands a dive into dialectical philosophy.
Readings: Russia, from Proletarian Revolution to State-Capitalist Counter-Revolution chapter 1, pages 58-79, “Hegelian Leninism” shows how key and yet how difficult it is to make a philosophically-based divide in the Left when opposing attitudes to world crises have provoked a political divide.
Class 4: Wednesday, December 18, 6:30 pm
The most massive resistance to the Trump administration burst out as the Women’s Marches, with many voices, ideas, ways of reaching for the future, and connections with the historic threads of the women’s liberation movement. Confronted by efforts to narrow it to electoral politics, many of those voices are struggling to be heard. How can hearing the ideas of women’s liberation and the philosophy of human liberation enable the movement’s reorientation? How can the humanism that shone forth from the Women’s Marches help inspire the entire movement for liberation?
Readings: Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in Permanence for Our Day, chapter 1. Iranians involved in fighting the counter-revolution that emerged from the Iranian Revolution asked Raya Dunayevskaya to write this “Preface to the Iranian Edition of Marx’s Humanist Essays” as an effort to fight the reactionary religious forces attempting to hijack the revolution. It grounds women’s struggle for freedom in Marx’s moment of philosophic creation, unseparated from his humanism, concept of labor, and critique of vulgar communism. It is a short piece projected to participants in an ongoing revolution within which women’s liberation was both attacked and supported.
Class 5: Wednesday, January 22, 6:30 pm
The separation perpetrated by post-Marx Marxists between Marx’s concept of revolution and his concept of organization helps make clear that neither the concept of socialism nor organization can be separated from the concept of revolution and what happens after revolution, from dialectical philosophy, or from absolute negativity.
Required reading: Russia, from Proletarian Revolution to State-Capitalist Counter-Revolution, chapter 2, “Dunayevskaya’s Changed Perception of Lenin’s Philosophic Ambivalence, 1986-87” puts Hegel’s Absolutes at the center of the critique of Lenin and the question of organization.

If outside the Chicago area, check with the closest Local of News and Letters Committees for times and places of classes.

Feel free to contact us for help getting copies of the readings.

312-431-8242 / /
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