ARCHIVES AS LIVING
I have been following the readings for the 2012-2013 Marxist-Humanist discussions with great enthusiasm. I was especially energized by the “Women as force and reason of revolution” selections. Raya Dunayevskaya’s 1970 piece “The Women’s Liberation Movement as Reason and as Revolutionary Force” was fresh and relevant to today. This is no surprise since, to paraphrase Dunayevskaya herself, a freedom song is both universal and individual.
How refreshing and encouraging it was that such a great thinker admitted to not having always seen in Oresteia the awful indictment and wholly predictable misogyny of Athena’s speech excusing Orestes for murdering his mother since his mother murdered his father. Dunayevskaya reminds us that art is in the service of vision, which, more often than not, and “even at its greatest,” invigorates myths that conserve repressive orders, simply “updating characters.” I cannot help but take Dunayevskaya’s writing as a call to seriously engage pop culture. I feel that discussion within your pages of movies, such as Lincoln and Django Unchained, whose releases correspond with the second term of America’s first African American president, would be fitting. I would expect a lively and thought-provoking exchange.
It was stunning how Dunayevskaya’s critique of the Left of 1962—over 50 years ago—spoke as if it was written about the Left today. (See “The Cuban Missile Crisis and Its Test of Movements’ Negative Character,” Nov.- Dec. 2012.) It’s where she counsels us to never get into the position where we “sound so much against” one world power or country or group, “that we appear to be for the other. Above all,” she warns, “we oppose war not only as ‘againsters’ but primarily because we are for a totally new society, on new, on human beginnings….” How many times in our day has the Left come out and supported a monster like Qaddafi or Assad, simply because they were “against” the U.S.? She makes it clear that it is completely insufficient, indeed just plain wrong, to base yourself only on what you oppose. If one as well works out what they are fighting for, one would never end up supporting some dictator only because of what the dictator opposes.
The Archives article by Dunayevskaya dealing with the Cuban missile crisis is a timely reminder of the dangers of authoritarian tendencies that exist in the U.S. today. Although it deals with the objective situation at the time of the crisis, the article also takes up the problems and threats to News and Letters then, and the principles that have to be maintained in order to continue and grow. Those same principles are more important today and require diligent observance.
Lucky for us, in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev withdrew his nuclear-armed missiles, but that threat lingers as today’s world economic crisis is bringing capitalist countries with nuclear weapons into fierce competition for world resources that can turn into another global war.
She also mentioned that Cuba is “an outpost of single-party state-capitalism.” Today, 50 years later, so many on the Left as well as Cuban rulers think of state-capitalist Cuba as a socialist or Communist country because they have eliminated private property or private corporations. Marx’s analysis of capitalism goes much deeper than that.
During the conclusion of the Presidential campaign, Obama made an inspirational, emotional speech. The fact that he has been harangued with charges of not being fully American demonstrates the long road that lies ahead in this country for racial progress. That road has been traveled by millions of Americans who are unfairly denied a job, incarcerated, monitored, detained, harassed and assaulted simply for their ethnicity. This is a struggle shared by millions around the globe, from Burma to Bosnia, from Syria and Israel to Darfur and Nigeria, and from Tulsa to Tiananmen.
Exile from Southeast Asia
I went to a rally in Chicago commemorating and protesting 11 years of Guantanamo’s vile existence. That is good, but this one was dominated by World Can’t Wait, a Revolutionary Communist Party front organization. It is mainly interested in promoting itself and raising money! Unfortunately, I believe the rally mainly helped the RCP, not the cause.
Why isn’t the Left supporting the Syrian rebels? We support the people of Gaza and others. Over 60,000 Syrians have lost their lives, most at the hands of the butcher al-Assad, the Syrian dictator of the mild demeanor. Do my fellow leftists have a conscience or a sense of humanity? Don’t let narrow ideology prevent you from being on the side of life and justice. We must help stop the slaughter! Assad is not our friend or ally. He is a bloodthirsty dictator!
Dunayevskaya’s column, “Historic roots of far Right threat to U.S.” (Sept.-Oct. 2012 N&L) explained neo-conservatism well. John Birchers today are against Medicare, as are the Koch brothers. Once, a teacher called me a “communist.” J. Edgar Hoover accused many of the same, whether they were or not. He survived because he had dirt on many presidents.
FROM BEHIND THE BARS
I like reading and getting a better view of the world. I get that from this paper. I also like Voices from the Inside. It lets me see that some prison systems are worse than the one in Illinois. Thank you for sending it to me all these years. My current outdate is in mid-2017—approximately 4½ years. Been in now 25½ years. Thanks again.
Our prison, V.S.P.W. (Valley State Prison for Women), has now changed to V.S.P. for Men. Men now have 31 of 33 prisons in California. So all of us women have now been stuffed into two prisons instead of three. Our medical and living conditions get worse but it seems Sacramento doesn’t care.
I’m writing you because I’m an indigent inmate confined to the Behavioural Health Unit (BHU) and would like to receive your newspaper. I’m a homosexual. I’ve been down ever since 2009 on this case, but I served a year before that. I have never read a newspaper like yours. When I read Queer Notes, I feel good because I get to see what’s going on in the world besides what’s behind these walls. I’m so glad to read your newspaper and I thank my sister who let me read N&L. I look forward to reading more. Thank you for your time. Happy 2013, ’cause that’s my year to shine. I max out.
TO OUR READERS: Can you donate the price of a sub ($5) for a prisoner who cannot pay for one? It will be shared with many others.