… alle Verhältnisse umzuwerfen, in denen der Mensch ein erniedrigtes, ein geknechtetes, ein verlassenes, ein verächtliches Wesen ist … (Marx)

Stellungnahme der Marxist-Humanist Tendency zu den Zuständen in den News and Letters Committees

Posted by entdinglichung - 13. März 2008

Offenbar kommt es leider auch in den Organisationen der radikalen Linken, welche am demokratischten strukturiert sind, dazu, dass politische Konflikte administrativ geregelt werden; nachfolgend dokumentiert eine Stellungnahme der Marxist-Humanist Tendency – Mitglieder der News and Letters Committees (N&LC) in den USA – welche offenbar auf kaltem Wege aus der Organisation gedrängt werden sollen:

March, 2008

Dear Friends,

We are writing to alert all readers and friends of a serious crisis afflicting News and Letters Committees (N&LC)-a crisis that places its very existence in jeopardy.

In response to philosophic disputes within N&LC over the past several years, an organized group within N&LC has usurped control of the organization and is acting in complete disregard of the democratically approved perspectives and principles that have defined it since it founding in 1955 as a decentralized, non-hierarchical group based on the unity of worker and intellectual, theory and practice, and philosophy and organization. Those wanting to continue our democratic and humanist heritage have formed the Marxist-Humanist Tendency of N&LC. It constitutes almost half of the membership of N&LC, and we appeal to you to support us in our effort to reverse the crisis that threatens America’s only Marxist-Humanist organization.

During the past five years, theoretical discussions within N&LC have made significant progress in exploring one of the most important questions facing today’s radical movements-„what happens after“ the revolution. Our effort to develop a philosophically grounded alternative to capitalism flows from the work of Raya Dunayevskaya. As she wrote in 1987 in the course of her work on a planned book on „Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy“: „The burning question of the day remains: What happens the day after? How can we continue Marx’s unchaining of the dialectic organizationally, with the principles he outlined in his [1875] Critique of the Gotha Program? The question of ‚What happens after?‘ gains crucial importance because of what it signals in self-development and self-flowering-‚revolution in permanence.'“ In recent years we produced important theoretical work in focusing on this issue in the pages of News & Letters, in participating in numerous conferences, in editing and writing several books devoted to Marxist-Humanism, and in engaging in active dialogue with participants in the movements against global capital and in the anti-war, women’s liberation, gay and lesbian, labor, prisoner support, and Black liberation movements. This collective work represents an important step forward, since it marks the first time that a Marxist group has made a serious effort to reconnect with Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program by thinking out „what happens after“ in a way that avoids the false alternatives of state plan vs. market. As a result, N&LC is becoming increasingly known in the U.S. and around the world as an organization that takes seriously the perspective of envisioning „what happens after“ the revolution before it occurs.

Despite this important work, in recent years a small number within N&LC has opposed the perspective of working out a philosophically grounded alternative to capitalism on the basis of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program and other writings. Although these critics have never articulated a coherent position or alternative to the organization’s effort to address alternatives to capitalism, they have undoubtedly been affected by the objective movement of the U.S. Left towards giving up on the possibility of revolution. Those in N&LC who oppose our perspectives have been united by one thing-an increasing lack of interest in revolutionary theory in general and Marxism in particular.

The problem is not the mere existence of theoretic disagreements. N&LC is a democratic organization that has always encouraged the freest discussion and debate, and we have never sought to impose a single interpretation or approach upon anyone. However, since our founding in 1955 it has been a principle in N&LC that its members are obliged to project and let the world know about the democratically approved perspectives adopted by the organization.

This principle is now being violated. During the past six months, the opponents of the organization’s perspectives have joined forces with some members who no longer believe that N&LC should be based on a specific set of ideas that have as their aim catching the historic continuity with Marx’s Marxism as well as working it out for our age. Voting for the organization’s annual Perspectives Thesis has for them become a mere routine that does not involve their actually working to develop Marx’s Marxism and Marxist-Humanism for the 21st century, and now they are actively interfering with the work of those of us who do take such development as our task.

Those who have moved away from the need to develop a viable Marxism for the 21st century have acted to prevent N&LC from functioning in such a way that its philosophic perspectives can be promoted, concretized, and developed. This is seen in a couple of local committees going off on their own without making even a minimal effort to project the democratically approved positions of the organization. It is seen in those who have launched personal attacks on those responsible for promoting the organization’s philosophic and political direction. And it is seen in a disdain on the part of some for creative theoretic work itself-as if repeating conclusions and phrases from Dunayevskaya substitutes for thinking out what Marx’s Marxism means for today.

The various critics of the philosophic direction of N&LC have not formed a tendency to promote their views. Nor have they-despite repeated requests to do so-ever proposed alternative perspectives for the organization to deliberate upon, and then approve or reject. Instead, in the past several months they have intrigued secretively to take control of N&LC in complete disregard for the democratic and consultative procedures by which it has always functioned.

Although N&LC has always been based on the principle that major decisions affecting Marxist-Humanism are to be discussed with the body entrusted with the day-to-day development of N&LC, the Resident Editorial Board, no member of the REB was informed until October, 2007 that a co-trustee of the Raya Dunayevskaya Memorial Fund (RDMF) had resigned his position four months earlier and that a new co-trustee had been secretly appointed by Olga Domanski without any consultation. Although N&LC and the RDMF are legally separate entities, the members of the REB and both elected national co-organizers (Olga Domanski and Peter Hudis) had always been consulted about developments concerning the RDMF since it was established in 1987. The co-trustees of the RDMF are now claiming that they have the power to make decisions regarding the publication and distribution of Dunayevskaya’s work without any input from or consultation with the members of N&LC.

This new practice of making unilateral decisions without even informing the membership has carried through to an assortment of actions regarding N&LC. Whereas the two national co-organizers of N&LC have always had mutual input into all issues regarding N&LC, in recent months one of the national co-organizers, Olga Domanski, has made a series of decisions without consulting or informing other members of the REB or the other elected national co-organizer, Peter Hudis. In February the finances of N&LC were hijacked when a few people flown in from another city stacked an REB meeting to vote down a motion that „both national co-organizers have full knowledge and control of all aspects of N&LC’s finances.“ Incredibly, the claim is now being made that the organization’s finances are the property of one person, Olga Domanski!

This has created a situation in which some people now control N&LC while others have no control but are expected to work. Such a situation, which is completely unprecedented in the history of N&LC, is contrary to the philosophic principles of Marxist-Humanism.

In order to defend and implement the current Perspectives of the organization, democratically approved by an overwhelming majority six months ago, a large number of the members of N&LC have constituted themselves as The Marxist-Humanist Tendency of N&LC. The Marxist-Humanist Tendency of N&LC includes one of the two national co-organizers (Peter Hudis), half of the members of the Resident Editorial Board, almost half of the members of the National Editorial Board, majorities in the two largest and most active locals, Chicago and New York, and almost all of the youth in N&LC. The members of the Marxist-Humanist Tendency have done by far the most work over the past 20 years since Dunayevskaya’s death in 1987 to develop the political positions, theory and philosophy of Marxist-Humanism itself; edit and produce collections of Dunayevskaya’s writings, such as The Power of Negativity; write articles and books for outside publications; make foreign trips and carry on international correspondence; write the organization’s Perspectives Theses; and organize the work of the two largest locals in the organization. It is no accident that the vast majority of those responsible for developing Marxist-Humanism over the past 20 years have joined the Marxist-Humanist Tendency of N&LC, as have almost all of our newest members.

The intransigence of the opponents of the Marxist-Humanist Tendency, who have refused to listen or take into consideration our views in violation of socialist democratic norms, suggests that they are intent on pushing the members of the Marxist-Humanist Tendency out of N&LC.

In late February they sent a letter to the membership that hints at our expulsion. And they have refused to rule out expulsion as an option they might implement at a Convention that will take place at the end of May, an unprecedented „special Convention“ that they called hastily and without any organizational discussion having taken place beforehand.

The group within N&LC that has usurped control of the organization has created an intolerable situation for the organization as a whole. It is despicable that only one, instead of the two, national co-organizers should have knowledge and control of N&LC’s finances, as well as to assert ownership and control over all of Dunayevskaya’s writings through the RDMF. To protest this situation, brought to a head when an REB meeting was stacked on February 3 to deny the organization control of its own finances, the members of the Marxist-Humanist Tendency decided not to write for or help edit the February-March issue of News & Letters. Those who boycotted this issue of News & Letters include the Managing Editor of News & Letters, Jim Mills, the „Our Life and Times“ co-columnists, Kevin A. Barry and Mitch Weerth, the national co-organizer, Peter Hudis, and many others. We ask all readers of News & Letters to make your voices heard by protesting the actions of the clique that is threatening to destroy N&LC and to support the work of the Marxist-Humanist Tendency of N&LC.

We are convinced that the important philosophic work that has been accomplished by N&LC in recent years-most of it by those who are now affiliated with the Marxist-Humanist Tendency-provides a firm basis from which the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism can and will be continued. We cannot achieve this, however, without your support.

We are all being tested by this crisis, and it has been tremendously uplifting to see so many of our members and friends, especially those who have contributed in such a major way to our political-philosophic-organizational development in recent years, rise to the occasion by opposing the recent efforts to pull apart the body of ideas of Marxist-Humanist from organization. We cannot allow N&LC to be destroyed for the sake of some private enclaves. We must not allow a clique to undermine two decades of vital theoretic, political, and philosophic work. We must begin anew, and we are determined to do so-not just for the short term but for the long haul. We call on your solidarity and support, by sending messages of support to the Marxist-Humanist Tendency (arise@marxisthumanismtoday.org) and expressing your shock and dismay at these recent developments to N&LC (arise@newsandletters.org).

Kevin Anderson, author of Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism and co-editor of The Power of Negativity and The Rosa Luxemburg Reader

Dan Beltaigne, longtime anti-war and labor activist

Dave Black, author, Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in Mid-19th Century England and member of London Corresponding Committee

Dino, Worker

Peter Hudis, national co-organizer of News and Letters Committees and co-editor of The Power of Negativity and The Rosa Luxemburg Reader

Anne Jaclard, News & Letters writer on feminism and international solidarity and member of National Editorial Board of News & Letters

Andrew Kliman, author of Reclaiming Marx’s ‚Capital‘ and co-editor of the journal Critique of Political Economy

Ian MacDonald, London Corresponding Committee

Alex Maktoob, youth activist and co-founder of the Anti-Capitalist Theory Project at Purdue University

Ray McKay, longtime activist in the Black liberation movement and member of National Editorial Board of News & Letters

Jim Mills, Managing Editor of News & Letters

Marilyn Nissim-Sabat, Department of Philosophy, Lewis University; member of the founding board of the Caribbean Philosophical Association; member of the advisory board of the Radical Philosophy Review‘ and author of numerous publications and a forthcoming book

Tony Rayan, student activist

Ali Reza, activist and organizer to defend the progressive movement in Iran

Seth Rosen, youth activist

Carlos Saracino, anti-sweatshop activist and co-founder of the Anti-Capitalist Theory Project at Purdue University

George Shaw, London Corresponding Committee

Joshua Skolnik, News and Letters Youth Committee Representative

Heather Tomanovsky, youth activist

Mitch Weerth, member of National Editorial Board of News & Letters

Steve Williams, youth activist

Nachtrag 17.03: Nachfolgend die Stellungnahme von Olga Domanski im Sinne der „anderen Seite“ des Konfliktes:

Setting the Historic Record Straight

March 14, 2008

Dear Friends:

In a widely disseminated document dated March 10 and titled „Statement of the Marxist-Humanist Tendency,“ an open attack was launched on News and Letters Committees that demands an immediate response to keep true and clear the historic record of this Marxist-Humanist organization founded 53 years ago by Raya Dunayevskaya. This year will mark 21 years since her death, when we faced the difficult task of developing the Body of Ideas she created as Marxist-Humanism, without the presence of its founder.

Over those 21 years we have succeeded as an organization in keeping in print and arranging new international translations of the foundational works of Marxist-Humanism, the books Dunayevskaya called the „trilogy of revolution“ — Marxism and Freedom, Philosophy and Revolution, and Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution — of publishing a collection of her major writings on dialectics as The Power of Negativity; of issuing a new edition of American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard and a new statement on Black America by John Alan, Dialectics of Black Freedom Struggles. Over the past two decades we have worked out original analyses of the 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion, the wars for self-determination in Bosnia and Kosova, and the critique of Islamic fundamentalism as well as Bush’s drive for global domination after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. We have begun putting together, as an organization, a new collection of Dunayevskaya’s major writings on Marx. And throughout the entire half century we have maintained the regular publication of our newspaper, News & Letters, as a unity of theory and practice, created so that the voices of revolt from below could be heard unseparated from the articulation of a philosophy of liberation.

So serious a crisis has now developed in News and Letters Committees that a Special Convention has been called over Memorial Day weekend to attempt to return to the work of developing a philosophically grounded alternative to capitalism as outlined in our Perspectives of 2007-2008. This is unprecedented. It is the first one called, not by the leadership of the organization, but through a provision in our Constitution giving one third of the membership, so long as they are not from the same local, the right to call for such a Special Convention.

What precipitated this unprecedented Call, to which well over a third of the membership signed on within 48 hours, were actions taken by a faction that formed in January calling itself „the Marxist-Humanist Tendency (MHT) in N&LC.“ These actions came to a head the next day on January 20. At a meeting of the National Editorial Board (NEB), a majority rejected a motion by the MHT to make Peter Hudis a co-trustee of the Raya Dunayevskaya Memorial Fund (RDMF). The NEB endorsed the selection already made by Olga Domanski, who, in accordance with the Trust Agreement, had replaced the co-trustee of the RDMF who had resigned. The shocking vilification campaign begun against her around the RDMF has now reached unconscionable heights.

That an organizational rift was expressed in terms of the RDMF indicates the sham nature of this dispute. The RDMF is a unique entity created by Raya Dunayevskaya’s comrade husband and heir to all her writings, which were promptly transferred to the RDMF the month after Dunayevskaya’s death, with a specific purpose spelled out in the Trust Agreement: „The purposes of this trust are to collect, protect and house the writings of Raya Dunayevskaya, to publish, republish and preserve them by all means or manners deemed necessary, to encourage research, studies, and writing in Marxist humanism, and to publish and promote books or other works on Marxist humanism.“ It is necessary to stress that the RDMF has nothing to do with the alleged „control over all Dunayevskaya’s writings“ and never has. The manner in which Domanski has carried out her responsibilities, as RDMF trustee for 21 years, and as Dunayevskaya’s Secretary for 32 years from the founding of News and Letters Committees until Dunayevskaya’s death, has never been questioned.

The most damaging action taken by the MHT after its motion was democratically defeated on Jan. 20 was its declaration in a Feb. 6 letter not only of a „strike“ against News & Letters, but an appeal for others to withdraw their writings and submit them to another publication they planned to put out. The February-March issue of News & Letters was successfully published and mailed, despite the refusal to participate by the Managing Editor, Jim Mills, the „Our Life and Times“ co-columnists, Kevin A. Barry and Mitch Weerth, and one of the two National Co-Organizers, Peter Hudis. The publication of the February-March issue, which marked both Black History Month and International Women’s Day, manifests the refusal of News and Letters Committees to accept „politics by ultimatum“ put forward by the MHT. The most notable result of the so-called „strike,“ therefore, was the decision of the membership to try to put an end to the impossible situation that this faction had created, by calling for the Special Convention to discover and resolve whatever differences were pulling us apart.

To begin that process, it is necessary to put an end to the blatant untruths that are rampant in the March 10 Statement of the MHT. Potentially most damaging to any revolutionary organization is the charge that „the organization’s finances are the property of one person“ who allegedly has sole „knowledge and control of N&LC’s finances“ as well as „ownership and control over all of Dunayevskaya’s writings through the RDMF.“ It is necessary to ask how such charges against her, as have now been publicly disseminated nationally and internationally on two websites, could be believed when there has been no question raised — not just for the past 20 years but the past 50 years — about any impropriety whatsoever in the finances of News and Letters Committees. Indeed, Peter Hudis publicly emphasized in January 2008 and thereafter that there is no question of any impropriety in Domanski’s management of any organizational funds, ever. Suddenly what the MHT made the center of discussion is the „power“ of „money“ and of „ownership.“ For Marxist-Humanists the only power we are concerned with is the „power of negativity.“

The purpose of the RDMF, which has not been questioned for 20 years, has suddenly now been equated with the question of „ownership“ of „copyrights.“ The question of „power“ has now been substituted for the trustees‘ responsibility for carrying out the clearly defined purposes of this unique Trust. Now we face the wild falsifications of the March 10 Statement of the MHT.

A principled tendency bases itself on articulating the ideas at issue, rather than issuing statements centered on personal attacks and misrepresentations aimed at character assassination. Instead of dealing with actual writings by News and Letters Committees members on Marx and Marxist-Humanism, the MHT statement makes numerous false claims such as a „lack of interest in Marxism.“ In this way they have, for the past six months, systematically diverted the organization from any serious battle of ideas. At the same time they take credit for collective work while discounting the contributions of any who disagree with them.

In righting the historic record of the Marxist-Humanist concept of organization — as taking responsibility for Marx’s Marxism by projecting and developing theory and practice as a unit — it is most important to grasp the urgency of the task Raya Dunayevskaya left to our age to solve. It is a task that takes ALL of us to even attempt to grasp.

This most difficult challenge that had ever confronted us was the assignment she had given herself in the last year of her life to work out the inseparability of philosophy from organization as what she called the „Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy.“ In contending that it was the path no revolutionaries had walked on since Marx alone, the task she left for our generation is undeniably formidable. The most important document she left was the presentation she had planned to give us on June 1, 1987 — which an accident prevented her from delivering before her unexpected death on June 9. We published it in the January-February 1988 issue of News & Letters to share immediately with all our readers as the Perspective that would remain our common goal to work out, and published it in book form as The Philosophic Moment of Marxist-Humanism, together with Dunayevskaya’s 1953 Letters on Hegel’s Absolutes, to which the June 1 Presentation serves as both Introduction and Overview.

The essay in the February-March 2008 issue by Tom More, which we succeeded in publishing despite the MHT’s attacks, returned to this task: „For Dunayevskaya, the determinant was a matter of the inseparability of ‚meaning, i.e. philosophy‘ from ‚activity.‘ …[S]he wrote, ‚The real point is the meaning that this is not a question of the „author,“ but the whole organization,‘ such that ‚the content of each person’s activity and special point of concentration … will be inseparable from the meaning of that activity.‘ As she emphasized, ‚I want to repeat, because philosophy has not permeated the paper, therefore, it didn’t permeate the organization.‘

„The question Dunayevskaya was raising with such provocative urgency in her June 1 Presentation went far beyond the intramural affairs of News and Letters Committees, reaching up to a question of epoch-making world-historical importance, one that might strike us as even more urgent twenty years after ‚the year of the book,‘ when the need to concretize a philosophically grounded alternative to capitalist society has grown even more desperate.“

Our organization, for the past several years, has paid particular attention to her June 1 statement of the need to concretize Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program as ground for organization. This tremendously important direction is not an easy question to be worked out. It takes a collective effort.

Our Perspectives, likewise, are a collective endeavor each year that aims to flow from a discussion with the whole organization as well as the readers of News & Letters. Since 1975, we are still the only organization that publishes a draft of the Perspectives document in the paper, asking for the widest possible discussion with our readers. It both reveals the democratic nature of the organization, and manifests our unique concept of the relationship of theory and practice, of the need to break down the division between inside and outside. Once voted on and agreed to by the organization, they are to be faithfully carried through. As a living document, they continue to be open for discussion, and at the same time that they are being concretized, they can also be debated and developed.

What recent events make very real is how difficult is the task Dunayevskaya articulated for our age: to work out the dialectics of philosophy and organization. We in News and Letters Committees refuse to allow that formidable task to be debased by a vicious vilification campaign against all who dare to disagree with the MHT; or by published and widely disseminated lies about members‘ commitment to revolution and to taking responsibility for the ideas of Marx and Marxist-Humanism; or by the flouting of majority decisions by the politics of ultimatum.

In times of crisis in the past, we have always called upon the support of our readers and friends. From our beginning in 1955, it is that support that has made it possible to continue this only Marxist-Humanist organization in the U.S., and to publish the newspaper News & Letters, which presents voices from below unseparated from the articulation of philosophy of revolution. We count on your continuing contributions in the form of articles, Readers‘ Views, new subscriptions, discussion of ideas, or financial donations to help us keep going, as paper and as organization. We ask you to share with others this true historic record of recent events.

Olga Domanski, National Co-Organizer and founding member

for News and Letters Committees

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