From the July-August 2011 issue of News & Letters:
- AS REVOLUTION AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION TAKE WORLD STAGE
- CHINESE ART PROJECT
- HEALTHCARE IN 2011
- NEW RIGHT=OLD LEFT?
- FREEDOM RIDES, 50 YEARS AFTER
- WOMEN’S LIBERATION SPEAKS IN MANY VOICES
- BURMA AND NORTH KOREA
- FIGHTING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
- VOICES FROM BEHIND THE BARS
Congratulations on a fine May-June issue. Thanks especially for getting Libya right–a very difficult thing in the current situation. The hopes of February were disappointed so soon–but first of all by Qaddafi, whose brutal repression of a real revolutionary impulse was followed by the NATO powers intervening, against their initial will but then as you point out in order to get what they can out of it for their own class interests. Yes, we are for the revolution, not the intervention, but to merely oppose the intervention, especially at that moment, would be to reward Qaddafi with power and allow him to massacre his people.
That said, those critics on the left who point out what has happened in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen are correct that hypocrisy will always govern the major powers’ actions. But this is an opportunity to put pressure on the U.S. for its presence in Bahrain, its silence on the Saudi invasion and so forth. That Syria and Iran are often as brutal as the U.S. government says they are, should not disorient people–there is more than one force for exploitation and violence in the world, as 9/11 itself showed, and we are against them all and for the revolution, including its next steps.
–Steven Colatrella, Rome, Italy
Keep up your good work. In these times of geographical, economic, political and world upheavals, revolt and the resulting chaos, confusion and corruption–we need N&L more than ever to help restore some sanity and hope.
–Gloria I. Joseph, Virgin Islands
What struck me most in the Perspectives Thesis, “Revolution and counter-revolution take world stage,” in the May-June issue was the discussion of the “leaderlessness” of the Arab popular revolts. Sadly, I am pretty certain these popular revolts will end up as halfway, or democratic, revolutions, at best. That is, that the leaders will sprout up like dandelions after a good spring rain.
“What happens after?” is where I part with your thesis. It poses a “two-fold problematic” that is fundamentally flawed, as it assumes it is necessary to conquer power. It seems to me that power should be destroyed, not conquered. The destruction of power is the birth of real revolution, while the conquest of power is the abortion of revolution and the birth of counter-revolution, as proven time and again by history.
–Rand Gould, Detroit, MI
Just returned to France from Morocco and opened the latest News & Letters. Very much appreciated is the lead article on Arab Spring and its relation to class struggles in the U.S. (“Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2011-2012: Revolution and counter-revolution take world stage.”) I was touched that you referenced my Z-Space blog on Libya. (See (
.) Of course you are right: too many on the Left get distracted by the false dichotomy of “imperialism”/”anti-imperialism” and lose sight of the revolution.
–Richard Greeman, France
Comparing and contrasting “leaderlessness” and “non-ideological” with the various alternatives (vanguard party, radical democracy) is important to make sense of the ongoing trajectory of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and those striving to get to first base: Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine. There are wonderful new and recurring ideas about freedom pouring out of individuals in these mass movements; without organization, genuine mass revolutionary organizations, they cannot be realized. Organization is what makes freedom sustainable–and what kinds and how they can be rooted both in philosophy and activity are the challenges that the times demand we work out. By “we” I do not mean just News and Letters Committees.
–Marxist-Humanist, New York
When I read “Letter to the youth” published in the May-June N&L column “From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya,” I felt that 1971 letter could have been written today to the young people in Benghazi, Dara’a, Tahrir Square, Sana’a and Gaza.
The concept that remains the same is that “Subject is the one that is responsible for both theory and practice,” that “practice is masses practicing and their practice is not only the doing of deeds but the thinking of thoughts,” that “thought, philosophy of liberation, the absolute idea [broken down] for our age is itself a force for revolution.” I hope readers will write to News and Letters to discuss and further concretize Marxist-Humanist ideas of freedom.
–Susan Van Gelder, New York
I salute you comrades for your efforts and yes the images of mass protests we posted on Facebook are from Kampala, Uganda. The government is trying hard to block out any leaks to media outlets of the protests in the country. To all the comrades, we stand in solidarity with them and we will continue the struggle for the total liberation of the African continent from the chains of capitalism, and struggle to usher in a period of respect, tolerance and prosperity for the working class.
–Revolutionary youth, Uganda
If read objectively, even by people who have misgivings about Marxian theory, the Draft Perspectives 2011 will make it impossible to deny the historical record. History has recorded the many previous attempts of human beings reaching for human emancipation only to meet it halfway–first negation–due to counter-revolution, be it external or internal, when the masses in motion were reaching for the second negation, that is, their vision of a new society based on human foundations evolving out of the spontaneous creation of human relationships in organization and social activity. Counter-revolution has so often appeared in its various forms as anathema to the masses attempting to emancipate themselves.
The Perspectives Statement in May-June N&L clearly explains the necessity of a philosophy of liberation as inseparable from the vision of the masses in motion as the determinant, the key. And it is precisely the need for humanity to transcend the perverse social reality of capital relations that equally demands we think hard about developing a philosophy of revolution for our day. This is abundantly clear when one sees what exactly gave rise to the reason Marx authored his Critique of the Gotha Program. A theory of a new society is inseparable from organizing principles to achieve that end.
Labor has exploded in 2011. We have seen it everywhere–in Wisconsin and in Greece and from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya and Iran, and we can’t forget the anti-sweatshop uprisings at home and abroad. What needs expression is that this is not just an explosion of activity, but that the very concepts of labor and labor organizing have been fundamentally challenged.
The challenge from the Right, such as the attack on collective bargaining rights, is well-represented in the mainstream media, but the new concepts of organizing and the question of “what kind of labor?” merit more attention and critical discussion. (Examples: teacher unions competing with charter entities to run schools; the excluded workers’ concept of community-rooted workers’ centers.)
–Retired Teacher, New York
The crisis of capitalism is a worldwide phenomenon. And I have not heard any recent interviews with supposed top economists on TV or radio that have talked about the “recovery” without connecting that to the “inevitable” downturns and dips that will continue to come. Taking another “dip” after this will not be pleasant.
I keep thinking that Marx called “prehistory” everything that happens before we finally have a new society, and said that all history is about the struggle of humanity to be free. That is why the new book of Raya’s writings on Marx is so important–to help provide a philosophic direction that gives meaning to the struggle for freedom. Where do the revolutions that “took the world stage” this year stand in that timeline of history?
Zack Kopplin is a high school student in Baton Rouge trying to get Louisiana’s anti-evolution law repealed. His efforts are endorsed by 43 Nobel Prize-winning scientists. Now he has called out Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, exposing her lie that supposedly there are Nobel Prize winners who question evolution. He challenged her to name them. No response–even when she was asked directly.
–Tired of Tea Party lies, South USA
The headlines from the Middle East and North Africa, and now Spain, have overwhelmed what’s going on especially in South America. The ongoing struggles in Colombia, Venezuela, and elsewhere are important, and to many on the Left, they define what revolution is. It is why the reports and articles in N&L are important to discuss the nature of these movements and see what is new there.
Raya Dunayevskaya said that 1969 was not a continuation of 1968, it was a different moment. I think part of it had to do with the importance of seizing a moment. In 1968 there was Prague Spring. Now we have seen Arab Spring, with hints at an American Spring in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. We don’t know at first where a revolution is going to go but we try to keep it going forward, not back to a retrogression. There was a revolution to overthrow the Shah in Iran in 1979 and the retrogression took the form of the Ayatollah.
We need to storm the Bastille, but that is not all that has to be done. It may seem at times that retrogression is always winning. That’s what we have to struggle against.
–Ready and willing, Michigan
Graffiti in Hong Kong: “Free Ai Weiwei!”
Thank you for “China clamps down” by Bob McGuire in the May-June N&L. Brilliant, just brilliant.
I am actually curating a project in London for awareness of Ai Weiwei’s capture and release. It is called The Chinese Art Project,
, and I am looking to do an exhibition using art as a symbol of unique interpretation and freedom of expression. Hopefully I’ll have 25 pieces of art to exhibit from five unique artists.
You’d be so welcome to come! I guess it’s about pulling together and standing for our rights. Especially in an age of social media power. I’ve put a project video plan up at
. It would be great if you could find an outlet to let readers know.
P.S. I’m on twitter: ChineseTwhisper
–Mr Taurus, London, England
My primary doctor and surgeon told my partner and me that the U.S.’s healthcare system is crazy. The doctor thinks it’s crazy that one has to have health insurance to get quality healthcare. My surgeon thinks the record-keeping system should be centralized for the sake of the patients, especially in this computer age. That way, each doctor and hospital can see each patient’s complete history, and patients wouldn’t have to tote around records when changing doctors or going to see a specialist, taking the chance of losing those records. When both my primary care doctor and my surgeon are criticizing the U.S. healthcare system for not being available to all and for being disorganized and inefficient, I REALLY know that universal, single-payer healthcare is what is needed in this country!
–Concerned patient, Chicago
Recently I received a card Congressman Cravaack addressed to my parents, that indicated it was “mailed at taxpayer expense.” Both my parents died in the 1980s. Obviously Mr. Cravaack was using an antiquated mailing list. Was this a wise use of public monies? My parents were pro-life but never supported right-wing politicians. All four of my grandparents publicly opposed capital punishment and rejoiced in 1911 when it was outlawed in Minnesota. I think Mr. Cravaack fails to understand that heritage and tradition in this region are always specific and precise. He speaks only in abstractions.
The New Right resembles nothing so much as the Old Left. The ideologies may differ, but the social and organizational methodologies are the same. Mr. Cravaack’s promotional card indicates his priorities for the future. He will be anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-immigrant and pro-gun. I was struck that his list of priorities did not even mention the economy, jobs, the infrastructure, healthcare, affordable education, working conditions, the arts or culture. It seems he will be a congressman for the dead and not for the living.
–Seamas Cain, Cloquet, Minnesota
Abraham Bassford’s powerful account of his 1961 Freedom Ride in the May-June N&L (“A Freedom Rider Looks Back…”) and the recent PBS documentary “Freedom Riders” are like two mirrors which face each other and multiply their images out to infinity. They both bring to life the revolutionary impact those Freedom Rides had, not only on the segregated South, but also the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement and the hundreds of youth who stepped up and took the Freedom Rides from defeat to victory.
Both the article and documentary show the young people who kept the rides going after the buses and the participants were murderously attacked, with both Southern politicians and the Kennedy Administration doing nothing to stop the racist mobs.
Bassford writes, “I couldn’t not go,” and a young Black woman speaking on the film compared the pull of the movement to being caught up in a mighty wind. The dialectics of historic events are clearly shown: the movement of the brave young people pushed their own leaders, the Kennedy Administration and eventually the broader public, to support them.
In May this year I suddenly thought most of us were missing the historical significance of what Mother’s Day was celebrating. It was originally started after the Civil War as a protest of that war’s carnage, by women who had lost their sons. The original Mother’s Day proclamation in 1870 had started this way:
“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts whether our baptism be that of water or of fears. Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies….’ We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. A voice goes up with our own to say ‘Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’”
Never was it more appropriate to remember this history than this year.
–Anti-war Women’s Liberationist, San Francisco
Anti-abortion fanatics in Congress and state legislatures are coming up with such inhuman punitive laws that more and more women are now–not in the future–being seriously harmed. The latest is an Idaho woman who is facing five years in jail and a $5,000 fine because she bought drugs online to induce a miscarriage and is being charged with “unlawful abortion.” A poor mother of two, she could not afford either a surgical abortion or the cost of the doctor’s visits to get a medical abortion. How is a law like this helpful? Those who make and carry out such laws care more for a fetus than for two living children and their mother. The latest outrage is from Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has just introduced a bill that would offer fines and jail for anyone who knowingly takes a woman under 18 across state lines to evade invasive parental consent laws. Yes, let’s throw more and more people in jail, as if forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term isn’t already an outrage.
–Women’s Liberationist, Chicago
Maureen Dowd wrote a good column in the New York Times reminding Hillary Clinton about the declarations she made in 1995 when she visited Beijing as a First Lady attending a Women’s Conference. Dowd wants Clinton to act decisively now regarding women in Saudi Arabia. I don’t think that is possible as her President’s Secretary of State. The best she could do is resign honorably and remake her statement of the 1995 Women’s Conference. Perhaps UN Ambassador Susan Rice can say something bold on Saudi Arabia. I think Obama is hopeless on this.
I was puzzled when I read recently that the U.S. had intercepted a North Korean ship it suspected of carrying missile technology to Burma and forced it to return home. About the only possible reason I could think of that Burma’s generals would want these missiles from North Korea is to further fortify their “capital” in exile (Napyidaw), against the only possible “enemy” they could be concerned about. It’s not the Indians. It’s not the Chinese. It’s not Thailand. It’s not even Japan. It’s neither of the Koreas. All these countries are heavily investing in Burma’s slavery-driven “enterprise zones.”
NO! The only possible enemy the Burmese generals could possibly use these missiles against–is the Burmese citizenry itself. Using the “fine art” of “diplomacy” to get the North Korean and Burmese Generals to comply is a bit like asking the Mexican Cartels to voluntarily cease smuggling (or Qaddafi to stop murdering his own people).
One could say the whole deal is quite Orwellian. The Obama administration says they’re “mystified about Myanmar’s motives.” Frankly, I’m mystified about Obama’s diplomatic mystique.
Martha Biggs and her four children, displaced like so many others from Cabrini Green, and currently homeless, moved in June into a house, two years vacant and foreclosed on by one of the top four banks responsible for home foreclosure in Chicago: Deutsche Bank. Their new neighbors, members of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign and others fighting for housing as a human right helped her move in. Given the current state of housing in Chicago–numerous foreclosures and systematic evictions from public housing–Martha and members of the campaign argue that this is the only course of action that makes sense. While this is just one house and one family, the group hopes to inspire other community groups to reclaim land and housing in their own communities, and to think critically about how this crisis is part of a recurring cycle of displacement and dis-empowerment.
–Anti-Eviction Campaigners, Chicago
After Georgia passed an Arizona-style anti-immigrant bill, farmers there now find themselves short of labor, with crops rotting in the fields. It perfectly reflects the desperation of present capitalist politics: so dependent on insane ideology to divide the masses that they are tearing down the foundations of their own production. Who needs more proof that it’s time for a new human society?
Yours really is the only newspaper that tells the truth. I wish the TV news was more like you.
The Marxist-Humanist Perspective was new to me, but I have found that it brings clarity to worldwide struggles in a manner that is more practical than all the other ideological perspectives I’ve been exposed to.
–Prisoner, Jefferson City, Mo.
I always share your paper with fellow prisoners. Thank you for your generosity of ideas.
I noticed in the May-June issue the “Black/Red View” was missing. It is one of my favorite sections. Will you be bringing it back? Your paper is like a breath of fresh air. Thank you for finding a donor to pay for my sub.
Editor’s note: We will send you the March-April issue, to see the In Memoriam to John Alan/Allen Willis, author of the “Black/Red View” column that appeared in every issue from 1970 to 2011. It was an outcome of the 1969 Black-Red Conference, where the participants discussed issues raised in the Black community. Participants included Marxist-Humanists, “who lend the red coloring, not only for the sake of color, but for the sake of philosophy, a philosophy of liberation.” It was that quality of Black/Red that John Alan presented in his column ever since 1970. We are proud to continue listing him as having been a National Editorial Board Member Emeritus in the masthead of News & Letters.