V. What to do in a world in upheaval

April 27, 2019

From the May-June 2019 issue of News & Letters

Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2019-2020
Humanity’s choice: Freedom and revolution or fascism, war and genocide

I. Two opposite directions: Climate strike and genocide
II. Remaking the world order in the image of the far right
III. World crises in economy, politics, ideology—and the missing link of philosophy
IV. Humanity’s never-ending quest for liberation
V. What to do in a world in upheaval

Continued from IV. Humanity’s never-ending quest for liberation

V. What to do in a world in upheaval

All this revolt is a beginning that has prevented Trump’s retrogression from becoming the new normal—but the resistance is not the absolute opposite of capitalism in its degeneracy.

The situation cries out for a banner of total human liberation to be unfurled as the absolute opposite of degenerate capitalism rushing humanity to destruction, and to act as a pole of attraction and organization for today’s revolts and social movements.

The concrete is no mere point of departure for restating Marx’s vision of liberation. It calls for us to work out the current changed world of capitalism so concretely that the opposite shines forth from within it; that the movement from practice that is itself a form of theory shines forth from within it. We need to help release the reach for a new relationship between theory and practice and the urge for theory to root itself in the movement from practice to develop, and to develop to philosophy. Such a release will make the degeneration of thought so clear that the rulers’ turn to fascism cannot be held apart from the ideological pollution of the Left and therefore we cannot ignore the crying need for Marxist-Humanist organization, which does not separate organization of people from organization of thought.

A new generation’s hunger for revolutionary thought is reflected in the surging popularity of socialism and of openly naming capitalism as the enemy. This began before the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign made the media take notice. It is the masses of youth reaching for socialism that made possible the popularity of that campaign as well as of the handful of self-declared socialists elected to Congress last year, and of the call for a green new deal. It is powered by the disillusionment of a generation that sees its future being sacrificed on the altar of profits and political expediency by the same system that shows no great concern for their present either.

This makes it all the more important to deepen the discussion of what capitalism and socialism are. The transformation into opposite of the socialist movement at the time of World War I and the counter-revolution that emerged from within the socialist Russian Revolution show the need to be rooted in objective history and in a dialectical philosophy of revolution that can anticipate and comprehend such transformations.

It shows the need for a philosophical-political as well as economic understanding of what happens after the revolution, the question at the heart of Marxist-Humanist philosophy and theory. Old mistakes are resurfacing and lessons of history are missed even by those who think that adding the words “democratic,” “ecological” and “feminist” to socialism is enough to avoid repeating the Russian Revolution’s transformation into opposite—or that the abandonment of revolution can somehow allow socialism to win. This is why we will be issuing a pamphlet this year on What Is Socialism?

It is why that pamphlet is being shaped in the context of our new book, Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in Permanence for Our Day: Selected Writings by Raya Dunayevskaya, as well as the Marxist-Humanist trilogy of revolution (Marxism and Freedom; Philosophy and Revolution; and Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution) and the whole body of ideas. This new book takes the standpoint that what Marx and Dunayevskaya were about was revolution and it is that which compelled them to immerse themselves in dialectical philosophy. The absolute negativity of the Hegelian dialectic became translated into the crucial revolution in permanence. The failure of post-Marx Marxism to root itself in the totality of Marx’s body of ideas uniting philosophy and revolution made post-Marx Marxism into a pejorative category, which is one of the crucial ideas explored in the new book.

Development of revolutionary philosophy and theory depends on the work of comprehending the current stage of world politics. Every issue of News & Letters addresses that question in articles and Readers’ Views. Now more than ever, we need to work on our projection so that these Marxist-Humanist analyses become widely recognized as a challenge to all other tendencies, whether post-Marx Marxist, anarchist, social-democratic, or other.

We have much to build on, beginning with Dunayevskaya’s trilogy of revolution, her Archives, and our other publications. Our new books and the new pamphlets we will be publishing are interventions on their topics of focus and on what characterizes this degenerate stage of capitalism, why it arose, what is the opposite seething within it, and what to do about it. That is true of the publication on Syria, the country whose revolution and counter-revolution we identified as early as 2012 as the test of world politics. It is true of the publication on women’s liberation, the Subject that broke out into the first mass opposition to Trump and now faces new contradictions. It is true of the pamphlet to challenge dominant conceptions of what socialism means.

In the coming year, we will deepen our comprehension and projections of the new publications through a series of classes with the two new books as focus. The classes will bring together the books with the projected pamphlets and the Archives, and each class will be conceived as an intervention into the objective-subjective situation, in a particular movement going on today.

We do not discuss movements as detached observers, but with the aim of projecting Marxist-Humanist ideas as an intervention within the movements. At the same time, our work will be a way to stimulate theoretical development. News & Letters is both a newspaper for all the forces of revolution and a theoretical journal; in addition to being printed, it is online on both our website and social media.

Organizational growth remains an urgent need, as our 2018-19 Perspectives Thesis stressed: “Its objectivity is shown in the rise of a new generation of potential revolutionaries. In order to avoid leaving philosophy as well as organization as abstractions, our local and national discussions need to take up the need for such growth, and concretely address what we are going to do about it. All our locals need growth, and for the functioning of the center and the organization as a whole, growth in the Chicago Local is a key perspective.”

So let us, as we have stressed before, “prepare ourselves, theoretically as well as in daily activities in mass struggles, to influence events in a most decisive way through concretization of our Marxist-Humanist philosophy politically….Towards that end, this year’s plenum becomes a way to collectively work out our Perspectives in a way that analysis of an event and activity in mass movements lead to organizational growth as well as the self-development of masses as Reason as well as Force.”[1]

—The Resident Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees, April 15, 2019

[1].  From the 1977 Call for Plenum, quoted in this year’s Call for Plenum.

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