From the March-April 2011 issue of News & Letters:
The Middle East events are bringing lots of people to talk about 1979 as well as the 2009 movements in Iran. I appreciated Raha’s essay in the Jan.-Feb. issue, “Philosophy and Iran’s revolution: Where to now?” because it raises the question of what could go wrong right now in Egypt.
–David, Bay Area
At first I thought the Lead in the Jan.-Feb. issue, “European revolts confront economic and political crises,” was so much on Europe that it had become passe. But then a friend pointed out that the conclusion on overcoming alienated labor is appropriate in Egypt too. Most important is that, despite some on the Left who were proposing that Mubarak’s ouster was a CIA plot, a whole new world is opened up, where the old dualities look ridiculous, like “anti-imperialism.” All those self-limiting discussions changed overnight when people had new social connections on the street.
–Ron, Bay Area
There are moments in history in which the impossible becomes unavoidable. Like the dissolution of the Soviet Union just before its fall, the changes sweeping the Middle East were unimaginable to most a month ago. But people power has a logic and timeline all its own. While many of us may never step foot in the Middle East, the hopes of its people are interwoven with ours and those of the world. In moments like these, it is inspiring to know that our solidarity, in hope and action, can play a small part in big change.
To help Avaaz send phones, tiny video cameras, and portable radio transmitters to activists in the Middle East so they can broadcast live video feeds even during internet and phone blackouts, send donations to Avaaz Foundation, 857 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003, or go to avaaz.org.
–Stephanie, David, Alice, Morgan, Ricken, Rewan, Maria Paz and the Avaaz team, New York City
Given the most recent events unfolding in the Arab World, particularly in Egypt, the relevance of Raya Dunayevskaya’s work on “Dialectics of Philosophy and Organization” becomes clear. In a short 18-day period–Jan. 25 to Feb. 11–the spontaneous eruption of the various sections of Egyptian civil society was able to end the 30-year reign of dictator Hosni Mubarak. The question that now looms large is, what happens the day after the Revolution?
Rubén Dri’s introduction to the Spanish edition of Raya Dunayevskaya’s The Power of Negativity recognizes that “a fundamental theoretical assumption for any revolutionary political project is that reality moves dialectically.” As in Argentina in 2000, now in Egypt the revolt against oppression by workers, teachers, housewives and students contains great potentialities that could only be translated into new politics if it were interpreted dialectically. Thus, what force will arise in Egypt that is capable of performing the task of translating the spontaneous movement, its potentialities, into a political force?
Because of the mass movements, from Tunisia to Egypt and across North Africa and in the Middle East and Wisconsin-Ohio-Indiana, Karl Marx’s words “Human power is its own end” are alive today.
The current uprisings throughout the Middle East make it critical to discuss the ideas and actions that will help these new revolutions develop toward the new human society we all want. It brought to my mind the lines from Hegel that Raya Dunayevskaya quoted in her Philosophy and Revolution: “When individuals and nations have once got in their heads the concept of full-blown liberty, there is nothing like it in its uncontrollable strength, just because it is the very essence of mind, and that as its very actuality.”
–Susan, New York
I am thinking a lot of Raya these days, with a new February Revolution sweeping around the world. I’m glad N&L has survived. It is an intellectual “tearmann” [sanctuary] for me, as we say in Gaelic. Beannacht.
–Séamas Cain, Minnesota
Bahrain is an oppressed nation which suffers from lack of freedom and a non-declared apartheid. The monarchy, which was brought into power by Britain 200 years ago, belongs to minority Sunnis who rule a majority Shiite country. This minority group is a very good ally of the U.S. and hosts the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, so the U.S. government doesn’t exert any pressure on the ruling family to change their behavior. Because the majority are Shiites, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf which are Sunni officially declared their support of the ruling family of Bahrain. The Bahrainian people are locally and internationally strangled.
–Mohammad, New York
Marx begins his Critique of the Gotha Program by clarifying the conception of “labor as the source of all wealth and culture” stating, “Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use-values as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.” This point of clarity became necessary because there exists a distinction as to what defines a social program.
The way bourgeois phrases are used gives meaning to conditions. The bourgeoisie, because of its class position as the owners of property, falsely ascribed supernatural creative power to labor. The person who owns no property but his/her labor power is subject to being reduced to a slave to the owners of the material conditions of labor. Thus, it is only with permission that s/he is able to work, and by extension, able to live.
Throughout the Critique Marx is demonstrating how the use of hollow phrases designed to serve as the foundations of society can be twisted and tortured.
So instead of making general phrases about labor and society, we must turn to “proving concretely how in present capitalist society the material, etc., conditions have at last been created which enable and compel the workers to lift this social curse.”
Why have no other post-Marx Marxists dealt seriously with Marx’s Critique as Lenin and Dunayevskaya did? TheCritique is roughly 136 years old, and yet in our present-day society its overall relevance is profoundly clear.
Wherever we look at the world–Europe, the Arab world, Afrika, etc.–the material conditions of capital relations have created the conditions for the international working class to lift the social curse.
–Faruq, Crescent City, Calif.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced Houtan Kian, the lawyer of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, to death by hanging. Kian was arrested in October 2010 along with Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, Ashtiani’s son, and two German journalists during an interview. Whilst the latter three have been released, Kian faces imminent execution. Ashtiani’s death sentence has also been confirmed. Only strong international pressure will save them and the many others awaiting their death in the execution capital of the world.
Please send copies of any protest letters, actions and emails, and acts of solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org. For useful contact details for protest letters, go to: http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com/2011/03/call-to-save-life-of-lawyer-houtan-kian.html.
–Mina Ahadi, International Committees against Stoning and Execution; Patty Debonitas, Iran Solidarity; Maryam Namazie, One Law for All
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when some people had illusions about the class nature of the Tea Parties. Not anymore. Here’s some of what TPers have said online about the protests in Madison: “All labor unions were Communist collectivist inspired and have taken their toll on America. The NLRA was passed in 1935 and signed by a President who had an administration full of Communist Jews”; “If the n*****r police chief won’t do his job, bring in the National Guard with mace and tear-gas to oust these union thug commie radicals”; and, for the trifecta, “Everybody knows that Hippies don’t work so why are they supporting those union pukes?”
–Union supporter, Illinois
At the Chicago solidarity rally with Wisconsin workers, one of the speakers reminded us how people died fighting for the right to organize. It’s something I know, but given what is going on, and the determination of the reactionary right to destroy unions, it took on more poignancy. That we still need the right to bargain, strike and organize is clear if one just remembers the Massey Coal Company mine disaster a year ago April, or the explosion of the oil rig that set off the spill in the Gulf of Mexico–both were caused by management cutting corners to get out production; both showed a shocking disregard for workers’ lives. The right to strike and bargain is about life and death.
–Women’s Liberationist, Chicago
I went to Madison and saw a real good protest about unions. When I saw that many people demanding that all these governors stop their attacks on the union, I felt this enormous protest was powerful because it took in the power of every person fighting for what they believed. We’re going to direct our power to make those governors treat us with honor and respect and give us back our freedom. Our demands are to respect us; to not lie to the nation; to stop evictions; to freeze jobless people’s loans until they get jobs; to not cut the budget for public housing, clinics, food stamps, welfare and Section Eight.
–Latina Worker, Chicago
Republicans and their allies want to eliminate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, using the excuse of dealing with the deficit. The right wing does not care about the average citizen. They have no idea what it is like to struggle to pay rent, buy food, etc.
The Republicans opposed the original Social Security and Medicare programs. They still do. As I have told Senator Durbin’s office, seniors vote in high numbers. I said that if he takes part in Social Security cuts, I will help defeat him in the next election.
The Republicans’ attempts to cut Social Security and other safety-net programs are part of their contempt for the average American, whether senior, union member or worker. They have special contempt for low-income minorities and women.
We need to change our society to one that respects the average person no matter what their income level, age, gender, race, or religion.
During the Depression, the FBI, with the cooperation of the Japanese-American Citizens League, gathered the names of teachers and heads of organizations two or three years before Pearl Harbor. Anti-Japanese messages were projected in the mass media. I’m now hearing more and more anti-Chinese statements on the radio. China is a major competitor to U.S. capitalism today, as Japan was in the 1930s. It’s today’s economic climate that creates the antagonism.
–Japanese-American, Los Angeles
U.S. capitalists are not going to point to “Free Trade” policies as a reason for today’s crisis, they’re going to blame China. It’s easer to foment hatred against foreigners than to look for the cause of the economic crisis. The labor unions are again asking teachers to make concessions, but no one asks why the economy suddenly collapsed. Why not go after those who brought on the disaster?
–Teacher, Los Angeles
So sad to learn of the passing of Suze Rotolo (1943-2011). She was more than the young woman with Bob Dylan on the Freewheelin’ album cover. Through her involvement in the late 1950s in the Congress On Racial Equality, she had a lot to do with inspiring his important civil rights movement oriented songs. And she kept active right on into the new millennium, as one of the satirical Billionaires for Bush. Her memoir A Freewheelin’ Time is an interesting portrayal of the growth of part of the 1960s New Left out of what her parents’ CP-oriented “Old Left” was, and out of what it wasn’t, too–it opens with an early 1960s cafe discussion of what the word freedom really means that captures what it was like to be young and idealistic, then, or now.
–Tim Finnigan, Midwest
It’s encouraging to hear of continuing efforts by youth to stop bullying! Such an example is a music video put out by kids attending Long Branch Middle School in New Jersey, “Bullying We’ll Stop It.” Thanks to those kids, and to Enrique Iglesias who supported them. You should check it out: http://wacptv.ning.com/video/bullying-well-stop-it-official?xg_source=activity!
–Sexual Humanist, originally from Japan
I was late to the Walk for Choice because my bus picked up a lot of people to attend the multiple rally actions in downtown Chicago on Feb. 26. My bus driver blew her horn in support of the pro-union rally where I got off the bus. She said that the mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel, is anti-union and wondered if people knew that.
–Bus rider, Chicago
My friends and I finally hooked up with the 500-strong Walk for Choice rally which started downtown at Chicago’s Daley Center Plaza. There was no permit for the march, so we were split up and my group went across the street to the pro-union rally and our slogan was “Pro-union, pro-choice.” One man said that they were two different issues, but most of the people agreed that it was the same fight.
I was disappointed that I saw no coverage of the Walk on any news stations. When I googled the pro-choice rally in Chicago, I got the one that occurred at the downtown Chicago Federal Building on Feb. 25, which about 50 people attended, but not a word about the much larger event on the 26th. Friends commented that women’s issues are not considered as important as others. How can we change this? There was also no coverage on the national news even though the Walk for Choice was nationwide.
John Tierney wrote a disingenuous article in the Feb. 8 New York Times, “Social Scientist Sees Bias Within,” where he claimed that “assumption that female scientists faced discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias” has been “repeatedly contradicted,” citing the recent study by Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams, “Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science.”
The new study, however, was no defense of Larry Summers’ ridiculous thesis that men were better at science than women. On the contrary, they argue that, when looked at across the whole population, formal discrimination is not as significant as it once was, but discrimination remains. They advocated shifting from battling formal discrimination to work/family balance problems that discourage women from certain careers. Tierney’s twisting of science is out of place in an article that pretends to be discussing the distortion of science to suit one’s values. Rather than a critique of that practice, his article is an example of it.
–Terry Moon, Chicago
New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s hypocrisy on the subject of teacher “merit” is shown in his top-down “business model.” Saving money and having power over teachers seem to be his prime considerations. By getting rid of seniority, he can keep lower-paid, albeit inexperienced, teachers.
Instead of providing more resources and help to schools that were “failing,” he opened privately run charters and selective academies that take space and resources away from traditional schools. Although the mayor claims that his policies resulted in higher student achievement scores, recent state-wide tests show no significant progress. This is part of a national policy (both Democrat and Republican) to privatize the entire public sector and destroy public sector unions.
–Retired UFT Member, New York
The reader who praised New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for signing anti-bullying legislation, unlike many New Jerseyans, found something good about him. Unfortunately, the rest of his agenda puts him into consideration as a Republican Presidential candidate. He is right there with Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio in efforts to break teachers’ unions. He cancelled a construction project to build a rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, a project which would have provided jobs and mitigated automobile traffic and pollution in the region. I think Christie is the state’s First Bully; he just doesn’t want competition!
–Native of New Jersey
The world food crisis, which was dire in 2008 and then subsided temporarily, is getting worse again. It was one of the factors in Tunisia’s revolution, along with recent revolts in Algeria. The pause in the food crisis was partly from better weather. But weather catastrophes are increasingly common as the climate warms, including a string of disasters in the past several months: drought in Russia; floods in Pakistan, northern Europe, the U.S., and Australia; and dry conditions in Latin America.
Added to other factors such as the continued diversion of cropland to biofuel production instead of food, this is very likely to bring the food crisis of three years ago roaring back. Far from being able to solve the problem, capitalism is driving us in the wrong direction.
–Franklin Dmitryev, Chicago
The New York Times is covering the issue of Marcellus Shale horizontal hydrofracturing wastewater in unprecedented fashion. Their coverage documents a 2008 drinking water crisis that affected more than 850,000 residents along the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. Municipal treatment plants were accepting up to 40% of their influent as natural gas drilling wastewater even though they were not equipped to handle that type of waste. The water became unpotable. A 70-mile stretch of the river was impacted.
You can view a video explaining some of these issues at: http://toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/videos/nyt-alert
–Walter Hang, Ithaca, N.Y.
I have been reading N&L for six years and it is the most enjoyable publication I’ve ever read. I always enjoy the articles by Raya Dunayevskaya or Marx.
All the sections are informative and put forth a point of view that cannot be found in publications such as The USA Today or The New York Times, and won’t be shown on broadcasts like CNN. I’ve studied Marx and other 18th and 19th century philosophers for years and find that Raya’s essays always bring a new light to the greats. Prisoner Florida
Revolutionary greetings. I like N&L because it focuses on the plight of all the oppressed, including Lesbians, homosexual males, Bis, and Transgenders. N&L reminds me that the struggle for freedom and justice is far from over. N&L feeds the mind and inspires all brothers and sisters to yank off the chains responsible for any criminal or colonial mindsets so they can begin the process of re-educating themselves and start doing the work of the civilized. I leave as I came–in revolutionary human solidarity. The struggle continues.
–Prisoner, Boscobel, Wisc.
Socialism is frowned upon due to miseducation, misunderstanding and ignorance. It can be conquered by proper use of educational tools–which this newspaper represents; the much-needed information to fill the void.
–Prisoner, Huntington, Penn.
Your paper provides a more interesting angle on world events not discussed on TV news. If people don’t see all angles, they will become American media zombies, and very misinformed.
–Prisoner, Crescent City, Calif.