4. 1980: "The Book" - Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution - and Perspectives for the 1980s

The reason 1980 was designated "the year of the book" was not only as a deadline for its completion,56 but because of the necessity to see the three parts of the book - Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy - both as an entity that will illuminate the totality of the crises of today, and as the whole new continent of thought Marx discovered which remains the ground for perspectives for the 1980s.

Thus, whether articulated in the Draft Perspectives, "Tomorrow is Now",57 or in the completed Perspectives, "Today and Tomorrow",58 the point was to focus on Carter's drive to war, with an ever-expanding militarization and the reestablishment of registration for the draft of youth: ever-increasing unemployment with its unconscionable magnitude in the Black community, especially among the youth: the move against the ERA: and resurgent racism. All these deepening crises could hardly be described in less extreme terms than "Apocalypse Now".

The absolute opposite of that retrogressionism on the part of the ruling class was seen in the magnificent new strikes - actually occupations of the shipyards and coal mines - in Poland. Where a decade back, in 1970, the massive strikes of the shipyard workers had written a new page of freedom, the outright occupations in 1980 throughout Poland raised higher, totally new demands for both free trade unions and a free press.59

In the U.S. too, though there were no such massive strikes, there were Black uprisings from Miami to Philadelphia, and under-currents of revolt throughout the land.

Carter's intense militarization - including toying with the question of "tactical" nuclear weapons which would make nuclear war "unthinkable",60 and his reinstitution of draft registration - has brought about a new anti-war movement, in which not only is there resistance to the draft, but that resistance is related to questions both of nuclear power and of imperialism. Thus, the March 1980 N&L carried a series of articles from around the country on "No Nukes, No Draft, No War". The following issue carried as the Lead, "American youth challenge draft, racism, poverty jobs".

Our Internationalist Marxist-Humanist Youth became interested in the revolutionary journalism of Marx, holding a class around the essay on "Marx's revolutionary journalism and the Neue Rheinishe Zeitung"61 by Eugene Walker, which he related, in his report to the 1980 convention, to the new stage we were reaching with the decision to transform N&L into a 12-page paper. He concretized it as follows:

"Just as the draft chapters gave birth to the essay-type articles and 'From the Archives' as part of our continuing contribution toward working out Absolute Idea as New Beginnings, so it must continue to remain unseparated from how Absolute Idea as New Beginnings, as a movement from practice from below, is worked out within the pages of N&L. Here two seemingly unconnected contributions to our paper - the Draft Perspectives, on the one hand, and 'Readers' Views' on the other, show the way in which a new comprehension of the movement from practice has been reached in our paper".

At our convention, our new stage was seen as meaning even greater intensification of activity, especially around Black reality and Black thought. As far back as 1944 we had been active in the Black movement. "Negro Intellectuals in Dilemma"62 was a critique of Gunnar Myrdal's American Dilemma and the dilemma of the Black intellectuals - W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Bunche, L. D. Reddick et. al. - who allowed their original works to be bent to Myrdal's bourgeois values. In the 1950s we, at one and the same time, related, in Marxism and Freedom, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to the Black revolution that began with the Montgomery Bus boycott as signifying the birth of a new epoch of revolt: and became activists in it.

In 1963 we summarized the whole history of the U.S. as American Civilization on Trial, Black Masses as Vanguard. And these dialectical analyses of historic events - not limited to the current situation but stretching over a century or more - were never separated from our activities during the turbulent 1960s with the Freedom Rides, Freedom Schools and long marches.

The 1970s revealed a new aspect precisely because the '60s did not bring total freedom. It was at that point that Black reality related itself to Black thought, especially in Africa and the West Indies, as witness the pamphlet, Frantz Fanon, Soweto and American Black Thought.

Now, in 1980, we see youth in Miami - really just children of 11, 12 and 13 - not only actively participating in the uprising there: but, as Reason, helping the adults reject the established Black leadership. This revolt against established leadership may not seem to have a similarity to Lenin's revolt against, and overthrow of, the established Marxist leadership in World War I, when it capitulated to the imperialist war, but in fact this is what is new about our age - its maturity, its rejection of the old, and attempt to create the new. What we saw in Angola and Mozambique was that children just as young were exercising great influence on the occupying Portuguese soldiers with the leaflets they gave them from the African revolutionaries. Indeed, the newest phenomenon that arose from the Portuguese revolution was that the new revolutionaries did fight against established parties, be they Communist or Socialist, and created a new category - apartidarismo (non-partyism).

From a glance back at the whole quarter of a century, as an entity this time, it is beyond a peradventure of a doubt that the movement from practice was, indeed, itself a form of theory. To see that, all one needs to do is watch how Marx's Humanism fared in the following hands:

When the Christian Humanists at the end of World War II rediscovered Marx's Humanist essays, it was with the aim of bringing the masses in revolt back into the Church by showing them that membership in the Communist Party was not true to Marxism. When the Existentialists claimed that they were the Humanists, Sartre felt compelled to embellish his favourable mention of Marx's Humanism with: "It is, once again, Marx's point of view in 1844, that is, until the unfortunate meeting with Engels". (It has long been a mark of our state-capitalist age the intellectuals are more adept at rewriting history than at writing it).

Contrast what happened when Marx's Humanism was brought onto the historic stage by an actual mass movement - whether under the slogan "Bread and Freedom" or "Marxism with a Human Face". It became at one and the same time an actual revolution against Communist totalitarianism and a totally new vision of what a new, classless society really is.

For that matter, what our 25 year history has shown from the start - that is, from the break with Johnson - is that if state capitalist theory does not extend itself to Marxist-Humanist philosophy, if the theoreticians have disclosed only what they are against without revealing what they are for, there is nowhere to go but into the mire of tailending new state powers. Nowhere is this shown better than by Johnson's tailending of Castro, Nkrumah, plus "the bewildering profundities of Mao".63

That battle of ideas64 runs like a red thread throughout the history of Marxist-Humanism in the United States. Whether we take the Two Worlds column of March 1980, "Automation and the Dialectic, a Critical Review of C. P. Snow's The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution", or the first Weekly Political Letter, April 22, 1961, "Preliminary Statement of the Crisis over Cuba" (Bay of Pigs): whether we consider the July 1975 article "Instant Marxism and the Black Intellectual" on Amiri Baraka, Owusu Sadauki and John Oliver Killens, or we take "A Second Look at Adorno and Kosik and the Movement from Practice" (March 1978): whether we take the analysis of U Nu and Ben Gurion's retreat in the Weekly Political Letter of Nov. 13, 1961, "Israel, Burma, Outer Mongolia and the Cold War", or Leopold Senghor's "African Socialism" (May 1960): at no time did we analyze world events without, at the same time, relating them to the stage of cognition.

On the other hand - whether I criticized Sartre's The Words in "Remembrance of Things Past in the Future Tense" (published in the Activist, Spring 1965), or returned to Fidel Castro, both in "The Cuban Revolution: The Year After" (Dec. 1960) and the 1978 Political-Philosophic Letter, "The Unfinished Latin American Revolutions" - the point was to relate criticism to actual action, both the action that arose from below and the action in which we participated. That is why, whether we dealt with today's Women's Liberation theorists (June 1976), or discussed "Lukacs' Philosophic Dimension" (Feb. and March 1973), the reason for the battle of ideas was, at all times to trace the movements in theory as we followed the movement from practice which was itself a form of theory.

As the National Organizer expressed it in her report to the 1980 Convention on "What is Theory and its Relation to Archives":

"Theory is not just a generalization of what workers are doing. It is the practice of dialectical philosophy. That is why the pamphlets we produced all through the exciting 1960s can be seen as an extension of Marxism and Freedom, written by actual participants in the freedom struggles, who were also participants in the battle for the minds of humanity".65

And in the report of the National Co-Organizer, Michael Connolly, "Our Work with the Forces of Revolution: National and International", he was at all times stressing development, whether he was reporting on local, national or international activities. Thus:

"Throughout the year, our activity in the Black dimension moved from fighting 'poverty conscription' to support for Haitian refugees, and from community organizing in Flint, to breaking into such publications as the Journal of Negro History and the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies".

It was no accident that the first part of the book to be published, back in 1979, was not Chapter 1, but, "Relationship of philosophy and revolution to Woman's Liberation: Marx's and Engels' Studies Contrasted". We began with the Ethnological Notebooks of Marx because they demonstrably disclosed that, far from Engels and Marx being "one", there was a sharp difference between them, by no means limited to the fact that Marx was a genius and Engels a talented collaborator. The contrast that we can now make between what the so-called "Woman Question" was in Luxemburg's day and what the new Women's Liberation movement has brought to it, and do this within the context of Marx's philosophy of revolution, will show both the depth and the urgency of the uprooting needed to clear the road to a new society.

It is this overriding question - the fact that it is only now, 100 years after the last writings of Marx, that we can first grapple with the totality of the writings of the founder of a new continent of thought - which presents a new challenge to the whole Marxist movement to face not only the relationship of philosophy and revolution, but of the philosophy of revolution.

The momentous world historic events of the 1970s extending into 1980, are sure to reach a revolutionary climax this decade. In our age, when all the forces have come together - rank-and-file labor, Black dimension, youth, Women's Liberation - and have done so no matter what the color of the specific minority is, in all lands from Africa to Latin America, from Asia to Europe, East and West, to the United States, the truly global and actual confrontation of the crises is the absolute negativity transforming reality.

When I told the Hegel Society of America in 1974 that the "Absolute Idea as New Beginning can become the new 'subjectivity' for realizing Hegel's principle that 'the transcendence of the opposition between Notion and Reality, and that unity which is truth, rest upon this subjectivity alone', I added: "This is not exactly a summons to the barricades, but Hegel is asking us to have our ears as well as our categories so attuned to the 'Spirit's urgency' that we rise to the challenge of working out, through 'patience, seriousness, suffering and labor of the negative' a totally new relationship of philosophy to the actuality and action as befits 'a birth-time of history'. This is what makes Hegel a contemporary.

The critical question for today's "birth-time of history" is this: if there is a movement from practice that is itself a form of theory, and if there is a movement from theory that is itself a form of philosophy, it is necessary, rigorously and comprehensively to dig out the single dialectic that emerges from actuality as well as from thought.

There is a dialectic of thought - from consciousness and self-consciousness, through culture, to philosophy. there is a dialectic of history - from primitive communism, through slavery and serfdom, as well as capitalism's "free wage labor", to total freedom. As Marx put it in Vol. III of Capital: "Human power is its own end". There is a dialectic of liberation - from class struggle, through Spirit in Self-Estrangement, to a total uprooting through social revolution, to totally new human relations, a new class-less society.

Raya Dunayevskaya

Sept. 5, 1980


56 The planned contents of the book include:

Chapter 1 - Two Turning Points in Luxemburg's Life: Before and After the 1905 Revolution - Afterword: Once Again on the Theory of Permanent Revolution

Chapter 2 - The Break with Karl Kautsky, 1910-1911: From Mass Strike Theory to Crisis over Morocco

Chapter 3 - The Interregnum of Luxemburg, and An Excursus into Marx's New Continent of Thought - Afterword: Marx's Unknown Ethnological Notebooks vs. Engels' Origin of the Family

Chapter 4 - Marx's and Luxemburg's Theories of Accumulation of Capital

Chapter 5 - War and Revolutions, 1914, 1917, 1919; Russian, German, World

Chapter 6 - Attitudes to Objectivity - Philosophy, Spontaneity, Organization

Chapter 7 - Women's Liberation: Continuities and Discontinuities, 19th and 20th Centuries, with Focus on Today

Chapter 8 - Philosophy of Revolution: The Development of Marx from a Critic of Hegel to the Author of Capital and Theorist of Permanent Revolution

APPENDIX: First English translation of Luxemburg's speech to the 1907 London RSDRP Congress

57 Our Draft Perspectives, since 1975, have been printed directly in News & Letters, "Tomorrow is Now" was published in the June 1980 issue.

58 The contents page of the completed Perspectives for 1980-81 reads:

Part One: U.S. Capitalist-Imperialism, at Home and Abroad, especially in the Middle East and Latin America

I. Missiles, Missiles, Missiles - But What About Jobs?

II. U.S. Imperialism's Tentacles: From Iran to South Korea, And from El Salvador to Iraq; Also Relations with Other Capitalist Imperialisms

III. Religion in General and Jerusalem in Particular in this State-Capitalist Age

Part Two: Long March of Revolt, Long March of Philosophy: Imperative Need for New Relationship of Practice to Theory

I. All Roads Lead to Gdansk, Poland, And ... The Road to the Black Ghetto, USA

II. Today's Tasks and A Brief Glance at 25 Years of Marxist-Humanism

59 Urzula Wislanka translated articles from the underground workers' publication Robotnik (Worker) and publications like the satirical "liberated Trybuna Ludu" and we published them in a bi-lingual pamphlet, Today's Polish Fight for Freedom in March, l980. When the new events erupted in summer the pamphlet was completely sold out, and a new one, with additional material, was planned for publication at once. See also our Lead article in December 1979, "East European revolts spread in wake of Czech trials, Polish mine disasters" by Kevin A. Barry.

60 In the June 1977 Issue I analyzed President Carter's address in NATO as a monstrous order to begin "thinking the unthinkable": "to create more precision guided missiles, at no matter what cost". It was with good reason that we titled our Draft Perspectives that year, "Time is Running Out".

61 See the May 1980 issue.

62 This critique, written in the midst of WWII, was reprinted in the Feb, 1961 N&L, because a new era bore out the validity of the Marxist-Humanist view of revolutionary Black masses vs. the "talented tenth" who, in the 1960s, while not capitulating to a Myrdal, were nevertheless not bothering to build on the new ground of practice from below.

63 "The Gathering Forces" by C.L.R. James, a previously unpublished 1967 document, was printed by Radical America (Dec. 12, 1971).

64 In 1979 a guide to 40 Two Worlds columns from the 1960s and 1970s was issued under the title, "Critical Essays of Raya Dunayevskaya in the Battle of Ideas". The entire collection of Two Worlds columns constitutes a separate Vol XII in the WSU Archives collection. See also the Weekly Political Letters (Vol. VII).

65 See also her essay on "Women's Liberation in search of a theory: the summary of a decade", in the June 1980 issue.