Section I. 1983—The year of projecting a new category, “post-Marx Marxism as a pejorative”
Section II. 1984—“Not By Practice Alone: The Movement from Theory”
Section III. 1985—From the projection of Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution to “The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection: Retrospective and Perspective”
Section IV. Dialogues and the Battle of Ideas
Section V. Towards the “Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy,” the unfinished book
1983-1985: From the Marx Centenary Year to Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution
and from Reagan’s invasion of Grenada to Raya Dunayevskaya’s work on “Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy”
The years 1983, 1984, and 1985 constitute the period covered in this volume of the supplement to the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection. The scope extends from the projection of the new category she called “post-Marx Marxism as a pejorative” in Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution following its completion in 1982 to initial thoughts and work on her proposed fifth book, tentatively titled “The Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy,” in 1985. Considered with the rest of the collection, especially volumes arranged by Dunayevskaya herself, the documents here represent the “continuous development” of Marxist-Humanism in this crucial period.
The Marx Centenary Year, 1983, marked the one hundredth year since the death of Karl Marx. Dunayevskaya’s “Trilogy of Revolution” had just been published — new editions of Marxism and Freedom and Philosophy and Revolution as well as a new book, Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. In the first five months of 1983, Dunayevskaya embarked on a series of 46 formal speeches, six informal speeches, six appearances in mass media, and one videotaped interview. Before, during, and after the tour, she discussed the ramifications of viewing Marx’s writings as a whole corpus.
Dunayevskaya continued her philosophic probing into Marx’s last decade, especially his Ethnological Notebooks, after the publication of Rosa Luxemburg. Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. She delivered a paper at The Second International Conference on The Comparative Historical and Critical Analysis of Bureaucracy at the New School for Social Research in New York in September 1983. It was titled “Marx’s ‘New Humanism’ and the Dialectics of Women’s Liberation in Primitive and Modern Societies.” In the same period, her critique of Karl Korsch extended the category of “post-Marx Marxism as a pejorative” to Western Marxists.
Dunayevskaya developed her Marx Centenary lectures on “Marx and The Black World” into a new paragraph for Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. It was further developed into a new introduction, titled “A 1980s View of the Two-Way Road Between the U.S. and Africa,” for the fourth edition of American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard in August 1983. Charles Denby, the Black worker-editor of News & Letters, held that consideration of this paragraph was central to the tasks of the Constitutional Convention of News and Letters Committees in 1983.
Following that convention and then Denby’s death in October 1983, Dunayevskaya’s “In Memoriam” connected her association with Denby to the birth of Marxist-Humanism in the Coal Miners’ General Strike of 1949-50 and to her Letters on Hegel’s Absolutes in 1953. After her spring Marx Centenary lecture in Morgantown, W. Va. and Tamiment Library oral history interview, Dunayevskaya proposed a new pamphlet, for the first time developing the origins of Marxist-Humanism in that Coal Miners’ General Strike in which she had participated as an activist and thinker.
Differences between Dunayevskaya and then-colleague C.L.R. James over the revolutionary Hegelian dialectic had emerged during that strike and continued until their organizational split in 1955 when Dunayevskaya, Denby, and others founded News and Letters Committees. Twenty-eight years later, following the murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in Grenada followed by Reagan’s imperialist invasion in November 1983, Dunayevskaya analyzed Caribbean Marxism and “the state of C.L.R. Jamesism” manifested in several thinkers. She wrote a critical summation of two decades of Third World liberation movements for a new Introduction to the 1984 reprint of her Nationalism, Communism, Marxist-Humanism and the Afro-Asian Revolutions.
Dunayevskaya grounded her 1984 re-examination of Marxist-Humanism “as a body of ideas” in organizational responsibility for those ideas. The emphasis on responsibility was presented in News and Letters Committees classes in Spring, in the move of the center of the committees from Detroit to Chicago, and in reorganization of News & Letters, the newspaper. Her view of “Our 30-year existence as the organizational manifestation of Marx’s Marxism for our age” as the absolute opposite to Reagan and “the reigning intellectual void” became the foundation for the 1984-1985 Marxist-Humanist Perspectives Thesis. “Not By Practice Alone: The Movement From Theory” was the concluding section of the 1984-1985 Marxist-Humanist Perspectives Thesis and represented a new point of departure. Dunayevskaya asked shortly afterward, “What have the new live forces challenged us on that Marxist-Humanism has more than come up to by making an historic mark which would outline a new path to revolution?” She maintained that Marxist-Humanism is the “concrete Universal” philosophy of the epoch.
At the same time, Dunayevskaya prepared for publication a collection of her writings spanning 35 years on women’s liberation, titled Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching for the Future, “a book for the first time totally devoted to ourselves.” She stressed that it not only showed the dialectics of revolution for a single force, women’s liberation, but that dialectics was the focus for the entire “Trilogy of Revolution.”
A half-century of Marxist-Humanism came into view with new documentary findings from Dunayevskaya’s life. That became the basis for her lecture and the opening of an exhibit on her Archives on March 21, 1985, titled “Marxist-Humanism: American Roots and World Humanist Concepts.” She tested Marxist-Humanism against all post-Marx Marxists, first in classes on ten years of Marxist-Humanist perspectives theses in the Fall of 1984, and then in 1985 by summarizing 30 years of News & Letters—the paper, the organization, and the philosophic works, as well as pamphlets. The 30-year summation, when published over several months in News & Letters, she titled “Retrospective/Perspective,” the point being that “once we recognized our organizational responsibility for the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism, this meant our becoming practicing dialecticians.”
Responsibility for a half-century of Marxist-Humanism included showing the dialectics of revolution as it related to the Black dimension. A new and expanded edition of Frantz Fanon, Soweto and American Black Thought included a new Introduction/Overview by Raya Dunayevskaya, Lou Turner, and John Alan. New additions contained Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s critique of language of the oppressor, Haitian René Depestre’s critique of Negritude, and Dunayevskaya’s analysis of counter-revolution within “the original revolutionary leadership” of the Grenadian revolution as well as critique of the followers of C.L.R. James in Grenada. Her research for the new edition emphasized where thinkers like James stopped in the Hegelian dialectic and their impact on revolutions which failed to succeed, and she engaged new Black audiences attracted to this battle of ideas.
Throughout the three years of developing the concept of post-Marx Marxism as pejorative, 1983 through 1985, Dunayevskaya engaged in the battle of ideas and new projections of Marxist-Humanism. This included dialogues with feminist thinkers, Iranian Marxist-Humanists and Yugoslav socialist humanists; interest from forums on Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, and Erich Fromm; and correspondence with Hegel scholars George Armstrong Kelly, Louis Dupré, and Warren Steinkraus.
It was “with the very last section on ‘The 1980s View’ [in Rosa Luxemburg. Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in 1982] with the combination of the challenge to post-Marx Marxists and the challenge to ourselves that we put forth philosophy as ground for organization,” Dunayevskaya maintained. Further concretizations of “post-Marx Marxism as pejorative” illuminated most of all where it failed to concretize dialectics of philosophy—in the dialectics of organization. She recast the problem in a 1983 paragraph added to Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution after its publication:
There is a further challenge to the form of organization which we have worked out as the committee-form rather than the ‘party-to-lead.’ But, though committee-form and ‘party-to-lead’ are opposites, they are not absolute opposites. At the point when the theoretic form reaches philosophy, the challenge demands that we synthesize not only the new relations of theory to practice, and all the forces of revolution, but philosophy’s ‘suffering, patience and labor of the negative,’ i.e. experiencing absolute negativity.
Where Marxists, beginning with Friedrich Engels, failed to stand on that ground, that is, to concretize the dialectics of philosophy and organization, the need for a new book to make such a concretization became apparent to Dunayevskaya. The items in the final section of this supplemental volume bear this out.
For documents from 1983-1985 already in the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, see:
• “1983: The Marx Centenary Year” and “1984-1985: Responsibility for Marxist-Humanism in the Historic Mirror” (7639-8441 in Volume XI).
• “The Marxist-Humanist Archives—the New Additions as well as New Findings from the Old” (10218-10637 in Volume XII).
• “Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution” (15356-15377 in Volume XIV of the Supplement).
–The Raya Dunayevskaya Memorial Fund
July 23, 1998