Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2006 - 2007
Theoretic preparation for uprooting capitalism
Theoretic preparation for uprooting capitalism
I. The crisis in Iraq and the two worlds in each country
Nothing more fully reveals the dehumanized nature of the Iraq War and of the Bush administration as a whole than the cold-blooded massacre by U.S. Marines of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November, which only recently became widely known in the U.S. despite having been reported to the government months ago. The atrocities in Haditha and elsewhere and the effort to cover them up have come to symbolize the true cost of the U.S. drive for single world domination.
The massacre was first reported by an Iraqi journalism student on the day it occurred and was documented shortly afterward by the Hammurabi Human Rights group. Yet the Marine Corps and Bush administration ignored their reports. It was not until TIME picked up the story months later that the U.S. began to look into the incident.
Just as the Abu Ghraib scandal forced the U.S. media to begin to confront the real cost of Bush's "war against terrorism," the reports of the Haditha massacre have lifted a veil on opposition to these horrors by many U.S. servicemen and women, some of whom have deserted and gone into exile rather than to follow the murderous orders of their officers.
Garrett Reppenhagen, who served as a U.S. sniper in Falluja, where the killing of hundreds of Iraqi civilians set the tone for much of the war, stated: "The order to annihilate Fallujah came from the very top, and none of them are doing the duck walk." Iraq combat veteran Tina Garnanez stated: "I not only had to fear attacks from the Iraqis during the war, but sexual assault by my own fellow soldiers at night."(1)
These voices of opposition show that the Haditha massacre looms as far more than the My Lai of the Iraq war. It underlines the urgency of creating a new world on human foundations.
The U.S. occupation of Iraq has brought neither democracy nor stability to the Middle East, nor has it quelled the forces of fundamentalist terrorism. Iraq is riven by sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi'a militias, which the formation of a new Iraqi government seems powerless to resolve. Deadly attacks continue to be launched by reactionary fundamentalists, who have killed more Iraqis-including independent union trade unionists, feminists, and students who aspire for a multiethnic, secular Iraq-than U.S. troops. Violence against women is escalating. Iraqi journalist Shatta Kareem states, "Men have been given a voice. But women will not get their part in building this country."(2)
Nevertheless, neither the U.S. occupation nor the terrorist attacks have put a stop to independent workers' and students' struggles, nor to the ongoing development of a feminist movement opposed to imperialism and fundamentalism.
The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq stated: "We have witnessed the occupation implanting seeds for sectarian war in Iraq and empowering political Islam inside and outside the government in disregard of their discrimination against freedoms....The Haditha massacre is daily occurring in all Iraqi cities by the occupation or as a result of it. We call out to all women and libertarians to join our campaign 'Women against Occupation' which will be part of a mass anti-occupation movement working towards the freedom of Iraq."
The Bush administration clearly faces a quagmire, in that it feels it cannot withdraw from Iraq for fear of seeing the country tear itself apart, yet it cannot remain in Iraq over the long-term given the drain that the occupation is having on troop morale and on the U.S. economy.
All this is complicated by the U.S.'s standoff with Iran. Bush's effort to get the UN to impose sanctions against it has only strengthened the hand of its reactionary President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who knows that U.S. options are limited at a moment when oil is $70 a barrel. Faced with resistance to taking military action from Russia, China and the European allies, Bush has been forced to offer direct talks to Iran so long as it gives up its uranium enrichment program-something that it appears unwilling to do.
It isn't that Bush wouldn't like to attack Iran to detract attention from his troubles. Yet because the U.S. military is stretched so thin and it is getting less support from its allies, it doesn't have a lot of unilateral options anymor
This situation was exacerbated by Vice President Cheney's attack on Russian President Putin this spring for disregarding "democracy and human rights"-after which he traveled to Kazakhstan and embraced its autocratic leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose rule is even less democratic than Putin's. The Russian government responded by saying that we may be in for a new Cold War.
It is hard to imagine why the administration chose that moment to go after Russia when it needed its vote in the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran-unless its priority at the moment is not so much stopping Iran's nuclear program as securing control over Central Asian oil. Kazakhstan has huge untapped oil reserves. Russia wants Kazakhstan to build a pipeline through Russia, while the Bush administration wants it to ship its oil west through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. China meanwhile is trying to get it to build a pipeline east towards its borders in order to help meet its soaring energy needs.
Although those who argue that the U.S. invaded Iraq simply to obtain its oil vastly oversimplify matters, the U.S. is engaged in a fierce competition to secure control of oil in various parts of the world-just as are China and Russia. It is an expression of the U.S. drive for single world domination-something that is bound to continue in some form regardless of the outcome of the Iraq war, since the drive for single world domination is rooted in the very structure of today's glo
As we noted at the start of the Iraq war, the fact that the U.S. is driven by a quest for world domination does not mean it has ACHIEVED it. Global power is one thing; global DOMINANCE is another. The difference lies in the existence of state powers that have competing interests with the U.S. and which try to stand in its way at various moments.
One sign of this is that Iranian President Ahmadinejad went to China in June to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, formed in 2001 by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as a possible counterweight to U.S. domination. Iran is now aspiring to become a full member. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sharply criticized Russia and China for inviting Ahmadinejad, questioning why they would consider having "a terrorist state" join their organization.
While we cannot underestimate the strength of U.S. power, the past several years have exposed the hollowness of Bush's illusion that the U.S. could dominate the world at will.
In some cases the barrier to U.S. dominance comes from states that are trying to consolidate their power and prestige at U.S. expense, as is the case with Russia. In other cases the barrier to U.S. dominance comes from the DISINTEGRATION of centralized states.
This disintegration is linked to the nature of today's globalized capitalism. As capital becomes more globalized, governments are forced to compete internationally for investment, which forces them to cut social expenditures and taxes. In many parts of the developed world this "race to the bottom" has led to growing social chaos and fragmentation.
In the most extreme cases it has led to the rise of warlordism. It's seen in Afghanistan, with the resurgence of the Taliban. It's seen in Somalia, where a coalition of radical Islamist groups has gained control of the country from the warlords who have dominated it for 15 years. The U.S. supported the warlords because they supposedly opposed terrorism.
And it's seen in Congo, where four million have died from the ravages of war since 1998. Congo, like some other countries in the developing world, is less a functioning national entity than a patchwork of disjointed cantons. Far from creating a "new world order," our globalized capitalist world includes regions of genocidal disorder.(3)
In some places, Islamic fundamentalists are trying to fill the void created by such disintegration by imposing their reactionary agenda upon the populace. Whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, Sudan or Somalia, their effort begins with an attack on the rights of women. As we have argued for years, revolutionaries must not take sides between reactionary fundamentalist forces and U.S. imperialism. The only way out is unfurling a total banner of human liberation that points the way to the transcendence of capitalism. Nowhere is that more needed than right here in the U.S.
II. Renewal of freedom movements?
A. The U.S. Scene
Today we see signs that a renewal of the freedom movements may be underway in the U.S.-though we can neither underestimate the power of the Bush administration to repress them nor overestimate the desire of the Democratic Party to aid them.
Support for the U.S. occupation of Iraq has hit an all-time low, as many realize that the war has further destabilized Iraq, moved the U.S. toward economic bankruptcy, and provided religious fundamentalists in the Middle East with a cause around which to rally. Dissatisfaction with the "growing economy" in the U.S. is mounting as it becomes clear that the trillions of dollars of new wealth generated in the past 10 years is benefiting only a tiny percentage of the populace. Opposition is rising to Bush's attacks on women's rights and civil rights through his Supreme Court appointments.
Things look very different from just a year ago, when Bush claimed that his reelection provided him with a "mandate" to impose total political and ideological control over the U.S.
This provides an opening for the Left-the question is whether it will take advantage of it.
Nothing in the past year was a more defining moment than the outrage voiced over the response to Hurricane Katrina. The government's inaction exposed the racism that has defined this country from its birth. New Orleans today looks little different than after the hurricane, largely because of class-based decisions on rebuilding that have left 200,000 Black and poor white former residents homeless.
The disastrous conduct of the Iraq war and of hurricane relief is also producing splits in the ruling class, as seen in the controversy over the NSA's domestic spying operations. Bush's illegal spying on tens of millions can hardly be explained by an effort to "protect" us from overseas terrorists. It is part of the government's response to growing opposition by youth and war veterans to the Iraq war, women protesting the destruction of abortion rights and continued attacks on birth control, gays and lesbians protesting the drive to roll back the hard-won gains in civil liberties, and Blacks and Latinos raising their voices against the racist character of American "civilization."
The danger posed by the attack on women and gay and lesbian rights has reached an especially critical juncture. Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, a conservative Democrat, plans to sign into law a bill that would completely outlaw abortion in that state, were the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Roe vs. Wade. Several other states are following South Dakota's earlier lead in enacting laws criminalizing abortion as well as promoting anti-gay referenda. In some states like Illinois, however, efforts to promote anti-gay and lesbian ordinances have run into firm opposition.
The most evident sign of the renewal of freedom movements in the U.S. is the outbreak of massive marches for immigrant rights. At a moment when U.S. workers are being subjected to an intense effort to further lower wages and gut benefits-as seen in the drive to deprive millions in auto, airlines, and other industries of their health benefits and pensions-the new struggles of immigrants have the potential to reawaken the U.S. labor movement as a whole.
A one-day work stoppage by immigrants on May Day led agricultural production in Florida and California to come to a halt. In the Midwest, all three of the largest meatpackers were forced to close, knowing that if they did not, their workforces would have walked out anyway. In Los Angeles, garment workers closed the huge garment center and the wholesale food workers struck as well. Independent truckers shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Except for some of the meatpackers, none of these groups of workers were in unions. By comparison, in all of 2005, labor-union strikes involved only 100,000.
Though the vast bulk of those who marched on May Day in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, and other cities were Latino, the Black dimension also made its presence felt. In Oakland a speaker from the NAACP expressed solidarity with immigrants by singling out the need for "all individuals, regardless of race or nationality, to be treated with respect and dignity." Many of today's marchers are taking their cue from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in evoking the memory of Martin Luther King's work with the Memphis sanitation workers in 1968 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56.
Six months ago no one predicted such an outpouring. Yet we must not underestimate the response to it on the part of the U.S. Right. Bush is calling for 6,000 National Guardsmen to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border and for a chain-link fence to be constructed along hundreds of miles of it. The Senate has voted to make English the national language of the U.S. And Congress is considering restrictive laws that would define millions of immigrant workers as felons. All of this is part of an ideological battle by the Right to distract attention from the Iraq war and Katrina.
Meanwhile, many of the white militias that disbanded after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 are reemerging and making attacks on immigrants their prime concern. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of racist groups openly operating in the U.S. today has grown by 33% since 2000.
This year's events show that no one can predict which forces will move and in what way. The question is, WILL WE BE READY when masses of people move in a REVOLUTIONARY direction by projecting a concept of a new society that can help give their actions a direction?
B. Challenges to global capital, from France to Latin America
To probe into this we need to confront the specific political-philosophic challenge facing Marxist-Humanists in light of the freedom struggles in parts of the world that are reaching for a revolutionary uprooting of society.
Some of the most important struggles this year occurred in France. Last year's ghetto revolts against police abuse by Arab and African minority youth were followed by massive student-worker protests-the largest mobilization of the Left in over two decades. In response to the government's effort to enable employers to fire young workers without cause, three mass protests of a million people, plus the occupation of 1,200 high schools and 69 universities, forced it to back down. In response to the government's failure to carry through with promises made after last fall's revolt to redress problems of poverty and police abuse, Arab and African youth engaged in new protests in two Paris suburbs on May 31.
At the other end of the world, China is also witnessing intense social unrest. Over 80,000 protests and demonstrations have occurred there in the past year. This unrest is also impacting the realm of ideas. As seen at an international conference on Rosa Luxemburg in China in March, there is a quest on the part of activists and thinkers there for an alternative to both the capitalist free market and authoritarian statism.(4)
No part of the world is seething with unrest more than Latin America. The situation in Mexico, which held its presidential election on July 2, is especially critical. Although Felipe Calder—n narrowly defeated the left-of-center candidate AndrŽs Manuel L—pez Obrador in a stolen election, the campaign brought to the surface deep discontent among Mexico's workers, farmers, and the poor with the country's overall direction.
The most important development in Mexico concerns the revival of its labor movement. Mexican workers have been outraged over the death of 65 coal miners in Coahuila, which has led to a series of wildcat strikes by Mexican miners. The Feb. 19 mine disaster at the Pasta de Conchos mine occurred shortly after a government safety inspection report said that the mine was safe. The miners, who earn only $1 an hour after deductions for benefits, have filed charges of industrial homicide against the company.
Many protests have also been held against efforts to make it virtually impossible for workers to form independent unions, bargain collectively, or strike. Tens of thousands of miners, steelworkers, and teachers have held strikes against the government's effort to stifle opposition to government-controlled union leaders. In May, a teachers' strike involving 70,000 broke out in Oaxaca. Teachers, students and supporters camped out in the streets of Oaxaca City in the largest ever mass mobilization there.
Many of today's movements in Mexico-and Latin America as a whole-have adopted nonhierarchical organizational forms that oppose the old left model of "first we seize state power, then we figure out how to reorganize social relations." The women's liberation movement helped bring about this focus on decentralized forms of organization.
The feminist movement became an important force in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. From its inception women chose to organize themselves in decentralized, nonhierarchical collectives and formations in direct opposition to the vanguardism and elitism of most of the Left. Mexican feminists initiated a series of gatherings, called ENCUENTROS-open-ended spaces for women to develop perspectives for liberation. This as well as the forms of struggle of the indigenous peoples of Mexico helped inspire the nonhierarchical organizational forms of the Zapatistas and other movements. The feminist movement's insistence on anticipating the forms of new human relations in the course of struggles against existing society has deeply impacted movements in Latin America as well as elsewhere.(5)
This remains especially important in Argentina, where 193 factories employing 10,000 workers have been taken over by workers and run as self-managed cooperatives.
A Marxist-Humanist who recently visited Argentina reports: "I visited one of the smaller plants which produces books, is run as a cooperative, with everyone getting the same wage, the only differential being if they have a family and thus receive more. This particular factory has a relation with a neighborhood assembly that brings over meals for the workers every day. And they do so voluntarily without any compensation. In some re-occupied factories the neighborhood works closely with the workers...there are also schools that are run cooperatively" as well as many unemployed workers' organizations. The factory cooperatives and unemployed organizations are based on nonhierarchical forms based on democratic decision-making.
Yet these groups are not without contradictions. Vanguardist parties have sought to control the cooperatives and undermine what they cannot control. And some cooperatives have gravitated toward supporting Kirchner's government, since it provides financial aid to some of them. Kirchner's mixture of traditional Peronism with neo-liberal economics has also succeeded in co-opting a section of the PIQUETEROS. The autonomist assertion of non-hierarchical organizational forms does not necessarily prevent many who defend such a position from making use of or even supporting statist forms as well.
This phenomenon is visible throughout Latin America. Mass opposition to neo-liberalism swept Evo Morales into power into Bolivia and helps explain the support for Chavez in Venezuela. Throughout the continent indigenous peoples have taken the lead in challenging decades of paternalist policies that allowed multinationals to rob their national resources.
This has led to renewed efforts to nationalize industry. In Ecuador, the government expropriated Occidental Petroleum's oil fields in May. A month earlier, Ecuador's parliament raised taxes on oil companies to 50% when prices go above levels stipulated in contracts. The U.S. responded by canceling long-running trade talks with Ecuador. Most important of all has been Evo Morales' dramatic nationalization of Bolivia's oil and gas reserves.
There is often less to these nationalizations of industry than meets the eye, however. Neither Venezuela nor Bolivia has engaged in the outright expropriation of foreign capital that characterized C‡rdenas's nationalization of the oil industry in Mexico in the 1930s. Venezuela requires that foreign oil companies convert their contracts into joint ventures with the state and has increased royalties and taxes on their operations. Bolivia does not promote joint ventures, but it has increased the royalties and taxes on the oil companies from 50% to 83%. Morales D‡vila, advisor to Bolivia's state-owned oil company stated, "This nationalization process puts capital at the service of the interests of the nation instead of expropriating it...we will be very tough with the companies, but we will guarantee secure contracts."
While many in Bolivia support these moves, many to the left of Morales are also demanding direct workers' control of industry. Some Bolivian leftists worry that a "fetish of statism" may consume the mass movements.(6)
In many places around the world today we are witnessing a return to traditional approaches that focus on nationalized property and the statification of natural resources as the solution to the ravages of capitalism-not just on the part of statist vanguardists, but also on the part of many who oppose them in the name of grassroots initiatives.
One reason for this is that the movements from theory have failed to offer a comprehensive concept of the transcendence of capitalist value production. Many recognize the need for free association, workers' control, and self-determination. But the question of how such forms can enable masses of people to uproot value production itself has been largely left aside. Politics, like nature, abhors a void. When the anti-vanguardist left fails to articulate how people can create a liberating alternative to capitalism, then other tendencies can be expected to rush in to provide false answers instead.
III. The philosophic-organizational challenge: what happens after?
A. New stage of revolt or birth of a new epoch?
To see the role we can play in helping to resolve this problem, we want to examine the Perspectives Thesis of News and Letters Committees of 1977-78, written as part of an effort to concretize the contributions of Raya Dunayevskaya's PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION (1973).
The Thesis was entitled, "It's Later, Always Later-Except When Spontaneity Upsurges and You Realize IT is Here and Now, and YOU Aren't There and Ready." It focused on the difference between "totally new, epochal beginnings" and "only new stages of revolt," stating: "Not all great events which mark new stages of revolt are also epochal new beginnings, initiating a historic new in thought as well as in fact." The East German workers revolt of 1953 marked an epochal new beginning as it "not only achieved the first revolt from under totalitarian Communism, but also raised the question of the Humanism of Marxism." This led, by 1956, to the birth of a new epoch when the Hungarian Revolution pried Marx's ECONOMIC AND PHILOSOPHIC MANUSCRIPTS OF 1844 from the archives.(7)
This new epoch was ANTICIPATED by the philosophic moment of U.S. Marxist-Humanism-the 1953 Letters on Hegel's Absolutes. It became the basis for Dunayevskaya's development of U.S. Marxist-Humanism, starting with MARXISM AND FREEDOM (1958). A philosophic moment is a very RARE creation. It represents a NEW STAGE OF COGNITION. It doesn't just come out of the head of an intellectual. It involves an historic leap in the actions of masses of people.
In the 1960s a new stage of revolt was reached with the protests against the Vietnam War, the Black revolution in the U.S., the women's liberation movement, and the near-revolution in France 1968. Yet while 1968 was a dramatic highpoint as a near-revolution, it did not initiate a new epoch in thought. Unlike East Germany 1953 and Hungary 1956, which brought forth a rediscovery of Marx's Humanism-to the extent that it became taken up by thinkers ranging from Christian theologians to Existentialists, and even to fellow travelers of Communism-France 1968 and the other movements of 1968 did not lead to a deeper conceptual appropriation or development of Marx's Humanism.
Instead, in May 1968 Jacques Derrida penned his famous essay "The Ends of Man," in which he proclaimed the "end" of any liberatory humanism. This rejection of Marx's Humanism, which was by no means restricted to those who went on to develop postmodernism, formed the dominant tendency in radical thought for the next several decades. This shift resulted, in part, from the abstract and ahistorical character of the existentialist version of humanism articulated by thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre. His philosophy was about "subjectivity without a subject"-an abstract humanism shorn of the impulses arising from actual movements from practice. Such a standpoint could hardly win the argument against anti-humanists like LŽvi-Strauss, Althusser, Derrida, and Foucault.
This didn't mean that creative mass revolts came to an end. "Nevertheless, once the near-revolution in Paris in 1968 aborted, it became necessary to draw a balance sheet between what was a truly new, epochal beginning and what were only new stages of revolt."(8)
Dunayevskaya concluded from the unfinished revolts of the 1960s that the time had come to take "revolutionary responsibility for picking up the link" of continuity with Marx's Humanism through a renewed engagement with Hegel's dialectic of ABSOLUTE negativity, which centers not just on the negation of what is but on the "negation of the negation"-the projection of a positive, liberatory vision of the future. It led to her writing PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION, which explored the dialectic "in and for itself" and concretized it through a critique of revolutionary alternatives and an analysis of objective world realities.
She wrote in "Not by Practice Alone" (1984): "With PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION we had a new situation. It is not alone all the new passions and forces of the 1960s with which the book ends but the fact that the philosophic predominates over the historic, the theory over the practice...not the movement from practice, but the movement from theory-gave the whole question of Hegelian dialectics 'in and for itself' a totally new meaning, in the sense that it demanded detailing not only the movement from practice but that from theory."(9)
An epochal new beginning does not arise only from a new stage of revolt; it arises from a new stage of revolt that is accompanied by a new stage of dialectical cognition. Not only did the latter not arise in the 1960s, no epochal new beginning has arisen since then-despite Poland's Solidarnosc of 1980, the East European revolts of 1989 that brought down Communism, the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992, and the 1994 Chiapas rebellion and 1999 Seattle protests, which initiated a new movement against globalized capitalism.
Our task today is not to apply the philosophic breakthrough contained in PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION to today in an unmediated fashion. We instead need to absorb, internalize, and develop the ramifications of its central category, "Absolute Negativity as New Beginning," in light of the problems of our times. Only then will we be prepared for new revolts to come.
What SPECIFIC challenge for today flows from Dunayevskaya's "unchaining of the dialectic" with the concept of "Absolute Negativity as New Beginning"? In 1987 she wrote: "The burning question of the day remains: What happens the day after [the revolution]? Can we continue Marx's unchaining of the dialectic organizationally, with the principles he outlined in his CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM?"(10)
B. China's Cultural Revolution, 40 years later
We can gain illumination on this challenge by taking note of the 40th anniversary of China's Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong initiated the Cultural Revolution in 1966 as a preventive civil war aimed at bringing down leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who had criticized his disastrous "Great Leap Forward" of 1959-60, in which millions perished. The Cultural Revolution of 1966-73 led to a decade of chaos and near civil war.
Conferences on the Cultural Revolution are now occurring worldwide. Some leftists are arguing for a reappraisal of this disaster, on the grounds that it represented China's last chance to check the growth of a "new capitalist class" and avoid the full-scale plunge into the world market.
The foremost exponent of this view is the French philosopher Alain Badiou, who writes, "Our debt to the Cultural Revolution remains enormous." He calls it "this grandiose and courageous" Event that "was the only true political creation of the '60s and '70s," since it represented Mao's effort to encourage the masses to "free politics from the framework of the party-state that imprisons it."(11)
Incredibly, Badiou still accepts at face value the Maoist claim that the Cultural Revolution was part of an effort to destroy the party-state that ruled China since the Communists took power since 1949. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite its importance, China's 1949 Revolution did not mark the birth of a new world. A new world instead arose from the 1953 East German revolt and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution-which Mao opposed. Mao launched the misnamed "anti-Rightist campaign" in 1957 in response to developments like articles by Liu Binyan in PEOPLE'S DAILY that reported that many Chinese workers wanted to emulate the 1956 Hungarian Revolution by SMASHING the single party-state.
Mao's crackdown on dissident voices also led to an attack on Humanism in the philosophic sphere. In the 1960s, Wang Ruoshui was assigned by Mao's ideological henchman, Zhou Yang, to write an attack on Marxist Humanism. However, Wang was won over to Marx's Humanism when he read the forbidden books he had been asked to attack (which included works by Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Dunayevskaya). It was only after Mao's death, in the 1980s, that Wang was able to publish his famous essay "Does Alienation Exist Under Socialism?" in which he used Marx's 1844 MANUSCRIPTS to criticize "actually existing socialism." It led to his expulsion from the CCP.
Long before then, in the late 1950s, Mao had argued that the time had come for Russia to directly challenge the U.S. When the Russians demurred, Mao initiated the Sino-Soviet split. Although his subsequent assertion of Chinese leadership of the Communist world led to a new, narrow nationalism that held the forefront of world attention for two decades, Mao's policies completely failed to develop China. China broke from Russia but was also opposed by the U.S. So how was China going to develop economically? Mao deluded himself that China could achieve a "great leap forward" by forcing greater output from the masses through ideological exhortation. The superstructure was held to be more important than the economic base and consciousness was promoted as an independent force that could shape reality sui generis. "Philosophy," in the form of Mao's Thought, was presented as a force that could surmount the two-fold world of the ideal and the real. Everything became subordinated to culture and consciousness. As Mao put it, "Politics is in command."
This led to his launching of the disastrous Great Leap Forward and, in 1966, the Cultural Revolution. Though Mao initially used the latter to rid the party hierarchy of those who favored a more traditional Russian-style approach to economic development, when truly revolutionary groupings arose (such as the Sheng Wu-lien) that called for the overthrow of the "red capitalist class" and workers' control of production, Mao sent in the army to slaughter them.
The Cultural Revolution proved the total failure of Mao's voluntarist effort to use consciousness to leap across material limitations. It is therefore no surprise that no sooner was Mao dead than his successors moved China toward a full embrace of the world market, while paying lip service to "Mao Zedong Thought."
Mao may not have known Hegel, but Hegel surely anticipated him, as seen in the section of his PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT entitled "Spirit in Self-Estrangement." Dunayevskaya once wrote, "Politically speaking, such a period I would call 'What Happens After?' that is to say, what happens after a revolution has succeeded and we still get, not so much a new society, as a new bureaucracy."(12) Here is what Hegel says in "Spirit in Self-Estrangement": "Spirit is conscious of an objective reality which exists independently...their alienation is pure consciousness.... Spirit in this case therefore constructs not merely one world, but a two-fold world, divided and self-opposed."(13)
Hegel's point is that the opposition of ideal and real cannot be surmounted by "pure consciousness" that "extinguishes all objectiveness." The "universal inversion of reality and thought" cannot surmount barriers to liberation; it simply reproduces them. The fetish of culture, like the fetish of the political, "constructs not merely one world, but a two-fold world, divided and self-opposed." The two worlds remain in an insuperable opposition. Faced with this internal barrier, consciousness or will turns into an empty negativism, "the rage of fury of destruction" that fails to create anything new, as Hegel put in the chapter of "Spirit in Self-Estrangement" entitled "Absolute Freedom and Terror."
Hegel's critique of such attitudes toward objectivity in his PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT not only illuminates the shortcomings of figures like Mao who long ago passed from the scene. It also addresses the standpoint of many prominent radical thinkers today.
Far too much of radical theory today relies on mere critique and negativism while shying away from projecting any positive vision of a new society. It is typified in the approach of Badiou as well as Slavoj Zizek, who recently stated: "As soon as you formulate a critique, they respond: 'Yes, but do you have a positive program?' Of course, one doesn't have one! We live in an epoch of emptiness, where we can only prepare the ground. Our main responsibility today, even if one doesn't know what to do, is to keep an open space."(14)
No totally new epoch has arisen since the 1950s. Yet the world is full of crisis and revolts. We still face "two worlds in opposition." But today there isn't a clear way out of these two worlds in opposition, LARGELY BECAUSE RADICAL THEORISTS HAVE FAILED TO DEVELOP THE NEW STAGE OF COGNITION THAT EMERGED FROM AS EARLY AS THE 1950S ON THE BASIS OF MARX AND HEGEL BY SPELLING OUT A VISION OF A NON-CAPITALIST WORLD IN RELATION TO THE SPECIFIC REVOLTS AND WORLD REALITIES OF OUR TIMES. Despite the interest shown by many youth today in working out a comprehensive alternative to capitalism, the prevailing tendency of radical thought is to stop dead at the political form of decision-making as the determinant to creating a new society-as if the question of "what happens after" the revolution can be answered without grappling with the difficult problem of how a revolution can transcend the capitalist law of value.
As our Perspectives for 2005-2006 stated: "The tendency to reduce the question of a new society to political forms of decision-making, while shying away from the question of how to transcend the capital relation itself, is symptomatic of much of radical theory today....the radical movement has virtually dropped any discussion of transforming the mode of production, focusing instead on civil society, democracy, culture, 'self-expression,' etc. These issues are important, but what's been left aside is any discussion of how to transform the economic structure of capitalism....The failure by post-Marx Marxists to transform production relations because they fetishized property forms has led many to now act as if the most we can reach for is to transform the political and cultural superstructure of capitalism. In both cases transforming alienated labor and the capitalist mode of production is left untheorized."(15)
No new society can arise without freely associated relations of production and in society as a whole. But masses of people want to know what SPECIFIC relations of production and society need to be transformed in a way that can enable humanity to fundamentally break from value production. We must address that question and not stop dead before it.
C. The transcendence of value production
"The difficulty that Marxist-Humanists have had this year-indeed, what revolutionaries have always encountered great difficulty with, is the sudden recognition that it is the Universal that is crucial, not the particular. That by itself is by no means sufficient because the Universal must particularize itself. In fact, to catch the 'moment' when the Universal particularizes itself and when it does not is the key to everything."
-Raya Dunayevskaya, Marxist-Humanist Perspectives 1986-1987
Each generation brings forth new realities as well as unresolved theoretical questions. The particular question that any effort to challenge existing society faces today is addressed in the third work of Dunayevskaya's "trilogy of revolution,"(16) ROSA LUXEMBURG, WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION (1981). In contrasting "post-Marx Marxism as pejorative" to Marx's philosophy of "revolution in permanence," it posed the question of HOW TO ACHIEVE A "REVOLUTION IN PERMANENCE" THAT ABOLISHES CAPITALIST VALUE PRODUCTION AND CREATES A CLASSLESS, NON-RACIST, NON-SEXIST, NEW SOCIETY. We know from bitter experience that simply nationalizing property and industry, even when under the control of a "progressive" regime, does not constitute the abolition of capitalism. Such efforts have repeatedly led to the formation of authoritarian state-capitalist societies. The transcendence of capitalism requires a far deeper uprooting by creating freely associated relations of labor and of human relations as a whole that abolish the law of value.
We also know from history that cooperatives and worker-run enterprises, important as they are for prefiguring the actual abolition of the opposition between capital and labor, do not constitute the abolition of capitalism. Marx wrote that as long as "[the] cooperative factories run by workers themselves [exist within capitalism they]...naturally reproduce in all cases, in their present organization, all the defects of the existing system, and must reproduce them...But the opposition between capital and labor is abolished here, even if at first only in the form that the workers in association become their own capitalist, that is, they use the means of production to valorize their own labor."(17)
The hard theoretical labor needed today to envision how a revolution can transcend capitalist value production must BEGIN by "continu[ing] Marx's unchaining of the dialectic organizationally, with the principles he outlined in his CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM"-the work in which he issued his fullest discussion of what happens after the revolution in the course of a critique of a supposedly socialist organizational program. Let us briefly review Marx's elaboration in that critical text of how it may be possible to transcend value production.
First of all, we should note that the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM expresses Marx's disappointment that his closest followers so little understood the content of CAPITAL. Marx's CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM not only specifies the tissue of errors of his followers, but it also comes closest of any of his works to specifying the philosophic and organizational principles that would have been adopted by a party "in the eminent historical sense," had it truly projected a philosophically grounded alternative to capitalism and the law of value.
The philosophic and theoretic outlook of CAPITAL is integral to the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM. In CAPITAL, Vol. I, Marx stated that human relations take on "the form of a relation between things," because "that is what they really are" in capitalism. This thingification of human relations is rooted in the "peculiar social form of labor" under capitalism. Capitalism is characterized by a "social relation between the products of labor," instead of "direct relations between the producers." Commodity fetishism begins not in the market, but in production, in the indirectly social character of labor.
Marx then writes, "Let us finally imagine, for a change, an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common, and expending their many different forms of labor power in full self-awareness as one single social force."(18)
He notes that "the total product of our imagined association is a social product." Workers freely allocate part of the product to renew the means of production, "which remains social," and the rest is "consumed by the members of the association as means of subsistence." The way this division is to be carried out will "vary with the particular kind of social organization of production and the corresponding level of social development attained by the producers."
In the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM, Marx goes into greater specificity on what is needed for the revolutionary transformation of capitalist society into communist society. He writes: "Within the cooperative commonwealth based on the social ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor embodied in the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, the individual labor no longer exists as an indirectly but as a directly constituent part of the total labor."(19)
Marx is here envisioning a post-revolutionary society in which value production is abolished. Labor has become directly social, but without the hierarchies and patriarchal relations characteristic of pre-capitalist societies. New freely associated production relations have arisen in which the alienation in the very activity of laboring is abolished.
These new PRODUCTION relations lead to new relations of distribution. All expenditures of labor are now measured by an equal standard. The magnitude of the contribution that someone makes will be measured by the magnitude of the labor she expends. All contribute labor to the commons and then receives a voucher (not money) measuring the labor they have performed based on the standard of the actual AMOUNT of labor time worked. Marx writes, "The individual working time of the individual producer is that part of the social working day contributed by him, his part thereof. He receives from society a voucher that he has contributed such and such a quantity of work (after deductions from his work for the common fund) and draws through this voucher on the social storehouse as much of the means of consumption as the same quantity of work costs. The same amount of work which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another."(20)
Marx acknowledges that at this initial phase of a new society, or the lower phase of communism, there will still be inequality, because of the unequal productive capacity of individuals and their unequal needs (one works longer and more intensively, another has more dependents who can't work, etc.). But these defects, he writes, are inevitable in "a communist society... just as it emerges from capitalist society."
Although this initial phase of communism is only the BEGINNING of the effort to create a new society, it suggests a huge transformation. Class oppression, value production, commodity fetishism, and indirectly social labor are uprooted. Labor power is no longer a commodity and alienated labor is abolished. A powerful foundation is thereby created for ending the separation of mental from manual labor, which has existed for millennia. This profound transformation of labor at the point of production-no longer alienated labor, but now directly social labor-is the pivot upon which the revolutionary transformation of the whole society must turn, short of which the social relations of capitalist society can only be re-inscribed.
As Dunayevskaya put it, "If goods were produced by labor in direct social relations there would be no two-fold character of labor and the reason for the social division of classes and the realization of value by exchange value would vanish. But even that is preliminary to full Communism: 'from each according to his capacity, to each according to his need.'"(21)
No one has a crystal ball as to how to create the social relations that Marx outlined as needed in the aftermath of a social revolution. Neither a program nor a blueprint can bring it into reality. But the radical movement has greatly suffered from failing to take off from and further develop the principles outlined in Marx's CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM. This has left a void that is being filled by false alternatives like market socialism, statism or anarchism. None can answer the pressing question of whether humanity can be free from capitalist value production, racism, sexism, and dehumanized, thingified relations of everyday life.
We aim to help fill the void on the question of "what happens after" by creatively rethinking and restating his concept of "revolution in permanence" for today, and by making Marx's CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM our ground for organization. In taking this as our core organizational perspective, we seek to get others thinking about these concepts by going to their meetings, writing to their publications, and engaging in dialog with all whom we can reach.
IV. Political-organizational-philosophic tasks
Dunayevskaya's 1980s work on a planned book on "Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy: 'The Party' and Forms of Organization Born from Spontaneity" speaks to this task. This work centered on a paragraph added to ROSA LUXEMBURG, WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION (1981) that reads: "Though committee-form and 'party to lead' are opposites, they are not absolute absolutes. 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.' THEN AND ONLY THEN will we succeed in a revolution that will achieve a classless, non-racist, nonsexist, truly human, truly new society."(22)
In 1992, when we confronted the changed world brought about by the collapse of the state-capitalist regimes that called themselves "Communist" in East Europe and Russia, we addressed the significance of this paragraph in our Perspectives Thesis of 1992-93. We stated, "In correctly opposing the elitist 'party to lead' we have too often acted as if the working out of its organizational alternative would come by itself. The problem with such skipping over of organization is that it cuts away the compulsion to experience philosophy. The Idea thereby gets reduced to an abstract universal that is bowed to but never concretized. That is when we confront 'two worlds' of philosophy and reality opposed to one another instead of their interpenetration. Today's objective-subjective situation provides ample proof of how the effort to work out a new beginning cannot be realized when the concretization of the philosophy of revolution is skipped over. The time is long past when one could just repeat the generalization that spontaneity and party are not absolute opposites. The time has come to act on it." We concluded: "This involves further developing Marxist-Humanism PHILOSOPHICALLY so that an aim, a goal, an end can become the ground for a new beginning [which] can be projected to those hungering for a vision of the future."(23)
Becoming a "thought-diver" requires DIGGING AWAY AT ONE SPOT to develop anew the ideas that answer the problems of our age. Thus, the principle task we set ourselves for the coming year is to keep digging away at the elaboration of an alternative to capitalism on the ground of the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM-instead of either spreading ourselves so thin that we fail to seriously engage the issue or reduce the body of ideas to an abstraction.
One way that we seek to meet this challenge in the coming year is by working out a new collection of Dunayevskaya's writings on Marx. It will include a wide selection of her writings on Marx, ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s. Our aim is not to treat the writings as some icon that we bow to but never concretize. We instead seek to absorb and share with others her writings on Marx as part of the effort to work out the unfinished and unresolved task that confronts THIS generation-working out a comprehensive understanding of what is required to surmount value production. We cannot leave that for later, nor can we leave it on the backs of spontaneous struggles. History shows that once a revolution breaks out events move far too fast to first begin thinking out the content of a liberatory alternative.
This year we had many experiences that provided the opportunity for concretizing this. We were invited to China and Latin America, where we participated in conferences and debates on radical theory, the legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, and the meaning of Marx's thought for today. We engaged in important dialog with thinkers and activists within the women's liberation, labor, anti-war, Black liberation and immigrant rights movements. We held classes on "Developing a Philosophically Grounded Alternative to Capitalism," in which we probed into the question of "what happens after" the revolution. This work gives us the confidence that we can build our organization on the basis of the challenges facing us.
No less important has been our effort to elicit the voices of the second (oppositional) America and the second Iraq in the pages of NEWS & LETTERS as part of an effort to project a banner of liberation opposed to both capitalism-imperialism and religious fundamentalism. This has been central to our work in the Women's Liberation movement and we intend to deepen that work in the coming year. An important opening for doing so has been the work of some members of News and Letters Committees as part of a new anti-war coalition dedicated to solidarizing with the workers, youth and women of Iraq and elsewhere, National Organization for the Iraqi Freedom Struggles. As part of this we also seek to extend our philosophic exploration and dialogue in NEWS & LETTERS in the coming year.
The "two worlds" of ideal and real are still in opposition. We still live in a capitalist world defined by "Spirit in Self-Estrangement." But as Dunayevskaya noted in the Perspectives Thesis of 1977-78, "The overwhelming, incontrovertible fact of the actual continuous revolt is that out of the 'Spirit in Self-Estrangement' comes not despair, but the road to revolution." Her concluding words are especially timely for today: "Revolutions have always been a release of mind as well as of body."
1. For other accounts by veterans of the Iraq war, see Peter Laufer's MISSION REJECTED: U.S. SOLDIERS WHO SAY NO TO IRAQ.
2. "For the Woman of Iraq, the War is Just Beginning," by Terri Judd, THE INDEPENDENT, June 8, 2006.
3. For more on this phenomenon, see "The New Middle Ages" by John Rapley, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, May/June 2006.
4. For a discussion of this, see "Luxemburg in World's Sweatshop" by Peter Hudis, NEWS & LETTERS, June/July 2006.
5. For the impact of the feminist movement on the Zapatistas, see "Another (Also Feminist) World is Possible: Constructing Transnational Spaces and Global Alternatives from the Movements," by Sonia E. Alvarez with Nalu Faria and Miriam Noble, CHALLENGING EMPIRES: AN ANTHOLOGY OF ESSAYS ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM, ed. Jai Sen, et al. (New Delhi: Viveka Foundation, 2003) and "Zapatista Indigneous Women," by M‡rgara Mill‡n, ZAPATISTA! by John Holloway and Elo’na Pel‡ez, eds. (London: Pluto Press, 1998).
6. See "Bolivia today: Liberation or Statism?" by Jorge Virana, News & Letters, June/July 2006.
7. "It's Later, Always Later-Except When Spontaneity Upsurges and You Realize It is Here and Now, and You Aren't There and Ready," THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION-MARXIST-HUMANISM: A HALF CENTURY OF ITS WORLD DEVELOPMENT, Wayne State University Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs, 5726.
8. RDC, 5726.
9. THE POWER OF NEGATIVITY: SELECTED WRITINGS ON THE DIALECTIC IN HEGEL AND MARX, by Raya Dunayevskaya (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2002), p. 282.
10. See "The Year of Only Eight Months," RDC, 10690.
11. "The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?" by Alain Badiou, POSITIONS 13:3, 2005. In contrast, as early as October 1966 Dunayevskaya castigated the Cultural Revolution as "retrogressive," and noted that Mao accepted Stalin's 1943 declaration that the law of value operates under "socialism." See "China's Self-Created Turmoil," NEWS & LETTERS, October 1966. Excerpts are in this NEWS & LETTERS.
12. "Letter to Erich Fromm" [Nov. 11, 1963] THE POWER OF NEGATIVITY, p. 118.
13. Hegel's PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, trans. by J.B. Baillie (London: Allen & Unwin, 1933), p. 510.
14. "I Believe in a Universality of Combat," by Slavoj Zizek, LE MONDE DES LIVRES, April 7, 2006.
15. "Developing a Philosophically Grounded Alternative to Capitalism," NEWS & LETTERS, July 2005.
16. "Trilogy of revolution" refers to the foundation works of Marxist-Humanism, each by Raya Dunayevskaya-MARXISM AND FREEDOM (1958), PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION (1973) and ROSA LUXEMBURG, WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION (1982).
17. Capital, Vol. III, trans. by David Fernbach (New York: Vintage Books. 1981), p. 571.
18. Capital, Vol. I, trans. by Ben Fowkes (New York: Vintage Books, 1976), p. 171.
19. CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM, MARX-ENGELS COLLECTED WORKS, Vol. 24 (New York: International Publishers, 1989), p. 85.
20. CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM, p. 86.
21. "Value, Exchange Value, Surplus Value: How Applicable to Capitalist Society and How to Other Societies," RDC, 429.
22. ROSA LUXEMBURG, WOMEN'S LIBERATION, AND MARX'S PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLUTION, by Raya Dunayevskaya (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), p. xxxi.
23. "Spontaneity, Philosophy, Organization: The Test of Today's Crises," NEWS & LETTERS, July 1992, p. 8.
Published in News and Letters, August - September 2006.
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