Raya Dunayevskaya

Raya Dunayevskaya

region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th century
color = #B0C4DE

name = Raya Dunayevskaya

image_size = 200px
image_caption =
name = Raya Dunayevskaya
birth = May 1, 1910 (Ukraine)
death = death date and age|1987|06|09|1910|05|01 (Chicago)
school_tradition = Marxist-Humanism, Libertarian Marxism, Hegelian Marxism
main_interests = social theory, social revolution, social movements, dialectical philosophy, Marxist praxis, Marxism
influences = Hegel, Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg, Fanon
notable_ideas = State capitalism, Movement from practice that is itself a form of theory, Black Masses as Vanguard, Absolute Negativity as New Beginning, Post-Marx Marxism as Pejorative

Raya Dunayevskaya (1 May 1910 – 9 June 1987) was the founder of the philosophy of Marxist Humanism in the United States of America. At one time Leon Trotsky's secretary, she later split with him and ultimately founded the organization News and Letters Committees and was its leader until her death.


Born a Jew in Ukraine, Dunayevskaya emigrated to the United States and joined the revolutionary movement in her childhood. Active in the American Communist Party youth organization, she was expelled at age 18 and thrown down a flight of stairs when she suggested that her local comrades should find out Trotsky's response to his expulsion from the Soviet Communist Party and the Comintern. By the following year she found a group of independent Trotskyists in Boston, led by Antoinette Buchholz Konikow, an advocate of birth control and legal abortion. ["Women Building Chicago", p. 239.]

Without getting permission from the U.S. Trotskyist organization, she went to Mexico in 1937 to serve as Leon Trotsky's Russian language secretary during his exile there. ["Women Building Chicago", p. 239.] Having returned to Chicago in 1938 after the deaths of her father and brother, she broke with Trotsky in 1939 when he continued to maintain that the Soviet Union was a "workers' state" even after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact). She opposed any notion that workers should be asked to defend this "workers' state" allied with Nazi Germany in a world war. Along with theorists like Tony Cliff and C.L.R. James, Dunayevskaya argued that the Soviet Union had become state capitalist. Toward the end of her life, she stated that what she called "my real development" only began after her break with Trotsky. ["Chicago Literary Review", "Marxist-Humanism, an Interview with Raya Dunayevskaya," p. 16.]

Her simultaneous study of the Russian economy and of Marx's early writings (later known as the "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844"), led to her theory that not only was the U.S.S.R. a state capitalist society, but that state capitalism was a new world stage. Much of her initial analysis was published in "The New International" in 1942-1943.

In 1940, she took part in the split in the Socialist Workers Party that led to the formation of the Workers Party (WP), with whom she shared an objection to Trotsky's characterisation of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers' state. Within the WP, she formed the Johnson-Forest Tendency alongside C. L. R. James (she being "Freddie Forest" and he "J.R. Johnson", named for their party cadre names). The tendency argued that the Soviet Union was state capitalist, while the WP majority maintained that it was bureaucratic collectivist.

Differences within the WP steadily widened, and in 1947, after a brief period of independent existence during which they published a series of documents, the tendency returned to the ranks of the SWP. Their membership in the SWP was based on a shared insistence that there was a pre-revolutionary situation just around the corner, and the shared belief that a Leninist party must be in place to take advantage of the coming opportunities.

By 1951, with the failure of their shared perspective to materialise, the tendency developed a theory that rejected traditional Leninism and saw the workers as being spontaneously revolutionary. This was borne out for them by the 1949 U.S. miners' strike. In later years, they were to pay close attention to automation, especially in the automobile industry, which they came to see as paradigmatic of a new stage of capitalism. This led to the tendency leaving the SWP again to begin independent work.

After more than a decade of developing the theory of state capitalism, Dunayevskaya deepened her study of the Hegelian dialectic, taking on a task the Johnson-Forest Tendency had set itself: exploring Hegel's "Philosophy of Mind". She discovered in Hegel's Absolutes a dual movement: a movement from practice that is itself a form of theory and a movement from theory reaching to philosophy. She considered these 1953 letters to be "the philosophic moment" from which the whole development of Marxist Humanism flowed.

In 1954-1955 Dunayevskaya and C.L.R. James split. In 1955, she founded her own organization, News and Letters Committees, and a Marxist-Humanist newspaper, "News & Letters", which remains in publication today. The newspaper covers women's struggles, the liberation of workers, people of colour, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual rights and the disability rights movement, while not separating that coverage from philosophical and theoretical articles.

Dunayevskaya authored what came to be known as her "trilogy of revolution": "Marxism and Freedom" (1958), "Philosophy and Revolution" (1973), and "Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution" (1982). In addition, she selected and introduced a collection of writings, published in 1985, titled "Women's Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution".

In the last year of her life she was working on a new book which she had tentatively titled, "Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy: The 'Party' and Forms of Organization Born Out of Spontaneity." [Many of her writings that were part of the process of work on the projected book are included in Volume XIII of the Supplement to the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection.]

Raya Dunayevskaya's speeches, letters, publications, notes, recordings and other items are located in the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit. Microfilm copies of the collection are available from the WSU Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. Guides to the collection are available from News and Letters Committees.


"Marxism and Freedom: from 1776 Until Today"

Published in 1958, this is the first expression in book form of Raya Dunayevskaya's Marxist Humanism. A central theme of "Marxism and Freedom" is Dunayevskaya's assertion that the "movement from practice is itself a form of theory." This concept was developed by Dunayevskaya from a direct encounter with Hegel's dialectical philosophy and particularly his Absolutes, which she interpreted as posing a dual movement from practice to theory, and from theory to practice. Blacks, workers, women, and youth struggling for freedom were not faceless masses to be led, she held, but the source of new stages of cognition because in their very actions was embedded a theory of human liberation. One example of this is the West Virginia Miners General Strike of 1949-1950, where Dunayevskaya pointed out that instead of merely demanding higher wages, the workers were asking questions such as, "What kind of labor should man do?" and "Why should there be such a gulf between thinking and doing?" She based the book's structure on her view that history and theory emanate from the movement from practice.

The book aimed to "establish the theory of Marxism on native grounds." The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Abolitionist movement, the American Civil War, and the fight for the eight-hour day by American workers, and were seen by her as revolutionary American struggles which provided fertile ground for the Humanism of Marx. Dunayevskaya analyzed the latter struggles as making "historic contributions" to Marx's thinking, especially in the structure and content of his major theoretical work "Capital". The new stage of Automation in production--whether in the mines with the "continuous miner" (a machine the miners called a "mankiller") or in the auto shops--with its consequent speed-up, was also seen by Dunayevskaya as a new stage in American worker revolt.

The 1958 edition of "Marxism and Freedom" contained the first published English translations of Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and of Lenin's notebooks on Hegel's "Science of Logic". She felt a false division had been made between the "young Marx" of 1844, and the "mature Marx" of "Capital." Rather, she saw Marx's complete body of work as a development of 1844, where he broke with bourgeois society and labeled his own thought "a thoroughgoing Naturalism, or Humanism."

Among those who argued for separating Marx into two distinct thinkers--one young and idealistic and the other mature and scientific--were Soviet Union theoreticians. Dunayevskaya believed the Communist state turned Marxism into its opposite--the totalitarian theory and practice of Stalinist and post-Stalin USSR--and signaled a new stage of world
state-capitalism. "Marxism and Freedom" presented an analysis of the USSR's economy as state-capitalist--rather than socialist, bureaucratic collectivist, or a Degenerated workers' state--based on Marx's economic categories and official Soviet statistics. She pointed to the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution as more than revolts against Communism, because they based themselves on Marx's Humanism. Later editions added critical analyses of Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution.

Marxist intellectual and Frankfurt School thinker Herbert Marcuse wrote the preface to the first edition of "Marxism and Freedom", and Scottish Socialist Harry McShane wrote a preface to the British edition. The 2000 edition featured a new foreword by U.S. Green Party activist and social theorist Joel Kovel.


* "He who glorifies theory and genius but fails to recognize the "limits" of a theoretical work, fails likewise to recognize the "indispensability of the theoretician." All of history is the history of the struggle for freedom. If, as a theoretician, one's ears are attuned to the new impulse from the workers, new "categories" will be created, a new way of thinking, a new step forward in philosophic cognition." –from "Marxism and Freedom"

* "Precisely where Hegel sounds most abstract, seems to close the shutters tight against the whole movement of history, there he lets the lifeblood of the dialectic – absolute negativity – pour in. It is true Hegel "writes" as if the resolution of opposing live forces can be overcome by a mere thought transcendence. But he has, by bringing oppositions to their most logical extreme, opened new paths, a new relationship of theory to practice, which Marx worked out as a totally new relationship of philosophy to revolution. Today's revolutionaries turn their backs on this at their peril." –from "Philosophy and Revolution"

* "It is true that other post-Marx Marxists have rested on a truncated Marxism; it is equally true that no other generation could have seen the problematic of our age, much less solve our problems. Only live human beings can recreate the revolutionary dialectic forever anew. And these live human beings must do so in theory as well as in practice. It is not a question only of meeting the challenge from practice, but of being able to meet the challenge from the self-development of the Idea, and of deepening theory to the point where it reaches Marx's concept of the philosophy of 'revolution in permanence.'" –from "Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution"

External links

* [http://www.newsandletters.org/Raya_Dunayevskaya.htm Biography]
* [http://www.newsandletters.org/ News and Letters Newspaper]
* [http://www.thehobgoblin.co.uk/ The Hobgoblin, a Journal of Marxist-Humanism]
* [http://struggle.net/mhf/archive.htm Archive at struggle.net]
* [http://libcom.org/library/raya-dunayevskaya Libertarian Communist Library Raya Dunayevskaya holdings]
* [http://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/index.htm Marxists Internet Archive Raya Dunayevskaya Archive]




* Trilogy of Revolution
** "Marxism and Freedom, from 1776 until Today". 2000. Humanity Books. ISBN 1-57392-819-4.
** "Philosophy and Revolution: from Hegel to Sartre and from Marx to Mao". Third ed. 1989. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07061-6.
** "Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution". 1991. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-01838-9.
* Other
** "Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching for the Future". 1996. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-2655-2.
** "The Marxist-Humanist Theory of State-Capitalism". 1992. News & Letters Committee. ISBN 0-914441-30-2.
** "The Power of Negativity: Selected Writings on the Dialectic in Hegal and Marx". 2002. Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0266-4. [http://www.newsandletters.org/catalog/PON%20cover.jpeg Image]


* "The Shock of Recognition and the Philosophic Ambivalence of Lenin". "TELOS", No. 5 (Spring 1970). New York: [http://www.telospress.com Telos Press] .


* "Frantz Fanon, Soweto & American Black Thought" by Lou Turner and John Alan ; new introd. by Raya Dunayevskaya. – new expanded edition, Chicago : News and Letters, 1986


* "Raya Dunayevskaya Collection--Marxist-Humanism: A Half-Century of Its World Development." Held at the Wayne State University Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Detroit, Michigan 48202. [http://www.reuther.wayne.edu/collections/alua.html Labor and Urban Affairs Archives home page]
* Supplement to the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection. Held at the Wayne State University Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.

Writings about Dunayevskaya

* Afary, Janet, "The Contribution of Raya Dunayevskaya, 1910-1987: A Study in Hegelian Marxist Feminism," "Extramares" (1)1, 1989. pp. 35-55.
* Anderson, Kevin, chapter 8, From 1954 to Today: "Lefebvre, Colletti, Althusser, and Dunayevskaya," in "Lenin, Hegel and Western Marxism: A Critical Study," University of Illinois Press: Urbana, 1995.
* Anderson, Kevin, "Sources of Marxist-Humanism: Fanon, Kosik, Dunayevskaya," "Quarterly Journal of Ideology" (10)4, 1986. pp. 15-29.
* "Chicago Literary Review", "Marxist-Humanism, an Interview with Raya Dunayevskaya, "Chicago Literary Review", March 15, 1985.
* Easton, Judith, "Raya Dunayevskaya," "Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain" (16), Autumn/Winter 1987. pp. 7-12.
* Gogol, Eugene, "Raya Dunayevskaya: Philosopher of Marxist-Humanism," Wipfandstock Publishers: Eugene, Oregon, 2003. [http://www.geocities.com/rayabook/]
* Greeman, Richard, "Raya Dunayevskaya: Thinker, Fighter, Revolutionary," "Against the Current," January/February 1988.
* Hudis, Peter, "Workers as Reason: The Development of a New Relation of Worker and Intellectual in American Marxist-Humanism," "Historical Materialism" (11)4, pp. 267–293.
* Jeannot, Thomas M., "Dunayevskaya's Conception of Ultimate Reality and Meaning," "Ultimate Reality and Meaning" (22)4, December 1999. pp. 276-293.
* Kellner, Douglas, "A Comment on the Dunayevskaya-Marcuse Dialogue," "Quarterly Journal of Ideology" (13)4, 1989. p. 29.
* Le Blanc, Paul, "The Philosophy and Politics of Freedom," "Monthly Review" (54)8. [http://www.monthlyreview.org/0103leblanc.htm]
* Moon, Terry, "Dunayevskaya, Raya," in "Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary," Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. pp. 238-241.
* Rich, Adrienne, "Living the Revolution," "Women's Review of Books" (3)12, September 1986.
* Rockwell, Russell, "Hegel and Social Theory in Critical Theory and Marxist-Humanism," "International Journal of Philosophy" (32)1, 2003.
* Schultz, Rima Lunin and Adele Hast, "Introduction," in "Women Building Chicago 1790-1990," Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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