Entdinglichung

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

Aufruf zu einer Gründungskonferenz einer internationalen marxistisch-humanistischen Organisation

Posted by entdinglichung - 5. Juni 2010

Quelle: Webseite der US Marxist-Humanists, hier auch ein weiterer Text zum Thema: Announcing a new formation: The International Marxist-Humanist Organization


Call for Founding Conference of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization

May 1, 2010

„Least of all must a philosophy be accepted as a philosophy by virtue of an authority or of good faith, be the authority even that of a people and the faith that of centuries. The proof can be provided only by expounding its essence.“—Karl Marx

Dear Friends,

We are issuing a Call for a founding conference of a new group, the International Marxist-Humanist Organization, because the body of ideas of Marxist-Humanism is in urgent need of philosophic and organizational renewal. Marxist-Humanism is not a mere heirloom that can be simply „handed down“ from one generation to the next. Nor is it a mere set of organizational statutes and rules that guards against the threat of bureaucratic practices. It is instead a philosophy of liberation that needs to be developed anew for each historic period on the basis of the specific realities, philosophic questions, and forces of revolution that defines each era. It has never been more important to work towards such a philosophic and organizational renewal than today, on the 100th anniversary of the birth Raya Dunayevskaya, founder of Marxist-Humanism in the U.S.

I.

The compulsion for mapping out how we can achieve such a philosophic and organizational renewal of Marxist-Humanism arises from the specific challenges posed by today’s objective and subjective situation. Although global capitalism has so far avoided the collapse that seemed possible at the end of 2008, it has managed to keep itself afloat through massive bailouts and growing indebtedness while doing nothing to address the systemic reasons for the crisis. Global capitalism has no strategy with which to extricate itself from the worst economic and financial crisis in 70 years—other than saddling the masses with permanently high levels of unemployment, reduced consumption, gutted social services, and environmental devastation. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that growing numbers of people around the world are searching for an alternative to capitalism—both to its „free market“ and state-capitalist forms.

It has proven an extremely difficult task, however, to theoretically envision and work out such an alternative. The main reason for this (as Marx argued in the Grundrisse and elsewhere) is that capital is „the all-dominating economic power of bourgeois society“ that governs or influences all existing social conditions and intellectual relations. Capital’s all-dominating power means that overcoming the mystified and fetishized forms of existing society by envisioning a truly free one requires enormous conceptual labor. It cannot be achieved by just repeating conclusions and failed approaches of a previous era. It requires being deeply rooted in the fullness of Marx’s critique of capital, as found on all of his major works. It requires being deeply rooted in the Hegelian dialectic of absolute negativity, which calls all fixed and frozen social and intellectual relations into question. As Dunayevskaya put it in „Hegel’s Absolutes as New Beginning,“ „Hegel’s Absolutes were never a series of ascending ivory towers. Revolutionary transformation is immanent in the very form of thought“ (See The Power of Negativity, p. 185). And it requires developing these philosophic resources anew in light of the crises and social struggles of the living forces of liberation of our era.

All of this is what makes it urgent to work toward the philosophic renewal of Marxist-Humanism. No other philosophy is more rooted in the totality of Marx’s Marxism—from his early Humanist essays to Capital to his last writings on organization and the developing world. At a time when much of the Left, post-structuralist or otherwise, is rejecting the dialectic, we need to underline that no other philosophy is more deeply rooted in the Hegelian concept of absolute negativity, which Marx called the source of all dialectic. And no philosophy has done more to give philosophic expression to the forces of revolt that have reached for the transformation of exiting society—labor, women’s liberation, the Black dimension, and youth. Most important of all, no other philosophy has emphasized more than Marxist-Humanism the inseparability of philosophy and organization in arguing that the defining responsibility of a revolutionary organization is to develop and project a vision of „what happens after the revolution“ before it occurs.

Although the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism has been characterized by a unique concept of organization since its inception in the 1950s, that concept took on new importance when the post-World War II world came to an end in the 1980s. Marxist-Humanists were now called upon to re-think and re-develop its ideas in the face of new realities. Foremost among these were the gaping void in any articulation of an alternative to both free market capitalism and the state-capitalism that had called itself „socialism“ or „communism.“ Dunayevskaya made it clear that the future of Marxist-Humanism depends on developing the philosophy anew in light of this situation. She therefore called upon us to take organizational responsibility for the body of ideas of Marxist-Humanism by grappling with this problematic of „what happens after the revolution.“ She saw it as a central component of what she called „the dialectics of organization and philosophy.“

What is at issue is the need to overcome the clash between two different totalities—on the one hand, the totality of Marxist-Humanism as a philosophy of liberation, on the other, the totality of a world in crisis in which a vision and concept of a viable alternative to capitalism is missing. The future of Marxist-Humanism hinges on speaking to and overcoming this opposition. A new level of philosophic engagement with ideas as well as organizational commitment to further develop them is demanded.

Dunayevskaya spoke to the task in one of her final writings: „[t]he burning question…[is] how to begin anew when two totalities—reality and revolution—are in such drastic collision as to search not for a non-existent heaven but a totally new beginning…For that you need new forces of revolution, new passions, a new vision of totally new human relations, be they Man/Woman, master/slaves, the end of alienated labor, and the end of the fetishism of commodities. The long trek of history, striving to achieve this in different historic periods, fought under the name of freedom but always crippled by the narrowing of specific freedoms, have not, however, sunk into oblivion but reappear in this recollection of forms now inwardized as the ground for the new. The question that remains unanswered is why should suddenly the word Organization appear as the key…“ (See „Part II of ‚Why Hegel’s Phenomenology? Why Now?‘ in Supplement to The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection [April 1987], 10899-10900).

Although many of us who were in News and Letters Committees tried to address this challenge in the years after 1987, by 2008 the group recoiled from trying to take organizational responsibility for philosophy by addressing „what happens after“ the revolution. Instead of trying to develop the ideas in light of such questions, it took the easy route of repeating conclusions like some mantra. Although N&LC also suffered from a failure to rethink the form and structure of the organization after 1987, this was not the central problem. The central problem was that it refrained from engaging in the hard theoretic labor of overcoming the opposition of philosophy and reality. Those thinkers and activists in N&LC who sought to move the group in a different direction, in accord with the challenge of dialectics of organization and philosophy, were forced out by 2008. None of the other efforts to give organizational expression to Marxist-Humanism has lived up to the task developing it in the face of a changed world. Members of the U.S. Marxist-Humanists, the London Correspondence Committee and others have formed the International Marxist-Humanist Organization, which comprises the most outstanding activists and theoreticians who have been impacted by Marxist-Humanism, and are calling for a founding conference to formulate its tasks and perspectives in order to form the much needed philosophic nucleus that can renew it for the 21st century.

II.

The structure, tasks, and goals of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization will need to be worked out though a detailed discussion of the challenges facing us from the objective situation. Of foremost importance in this regard is the global economic crisis, which has by no means yet run its course.

Although many on the Left and the Right have blamed the Great Recession, the most severe downturn in 70 years, on the misdeeds of bankers, financial speculators, and lax government regulators, it was actually a product of the systemic contradictions of capitalism that came to the fore with the changed world of the 1980s and 1990s.

Central in this are the massive macroeconomic imbalances that have generated enormous flows of capital from surplus to deficit countries. Although much attention has been focused on the U.S.’s trade and fiscal deficits, far more significant is the level of household debt, which rose from 77% of disposable income in the 1990s to 127% in 2008. This debt was financed by massive surpluses run up by other nations, many in the developing world. This was not mainly the result of the federal budget deficit. Clinton’s budget produced a surplus in the late 1990s, but overall U.S. indebtedness actually took off at that point. The imbalance instead arose, in large part, from the opening up of additional parts of the former „Communist“ or state-capitalist economies to the world market. In the past three decades over 350 million Chinese peasants have been uprooted from the land and transformed into proletarians engaged in sweated wage labor for multinational capital. Hundreds of millions more have since joined their ranks in India, Mexico and elsewhere. As these new hands were forced into the global capitalist labor market, the price of wages declined, and with it, the cost of capital and interest bearing capital. The „freeing“ of the laborers from the objective conditions of production—pinpointed by Marx as the precondition for capital accumulation—vastly increased the accumulation of monetary capital, as seen in the massive growth in China’s foreign exchange reserves. Whereas 30 years ago the U.S. had virtually no economic relations with China, by the start of this decade the massive surpluses from China provided much of the „easy money“ for the credit bubble that helped prop up the U.S. economy—until the bubble began to burst in the fall of 2008.

The macroeconomic balances are not temporary but structural. The collapse of the housing bubble will no more end it than did the bursting of the dot.com bubble a decade ago. This is because it flows from the problem world capitalism has faced since the 1970s, when it encountered a sharp decline in the rate of profit. Although profit rates improved in some areas of he economy since then, they have stayed considerably below their pre-1974 levels. Rates of profit in the manufacturing and productive sectors are especially low by historical standards. Capital migrates to where profit rates are higher, so greater and greater amounts of capital have migrated to the financial arena in recent decades. Since profit rates in the productive sector have not improved, capital will continue to flow toward the financial sector despite talk of imposing tighter „regulation“ of financial markets. In fact, the Obama administration’s efforts to „reform“ the financial regulatory regime are extremely weak and do nothing to address the systemic roots of the crisis.

This does not mean that nothing has changed as a result of the crisis of the past two years. The partial bursting of the speculative bubble means that capital must now engineer a significant decline in the masses‘ living standards in the real economy in order to maintain the profit levels that they were getting through the highly lucrative speculative sector. We are not therefore facing a situation in which global capitalism can extricate itself from the crisis by boosting consumer spending and demand. When faced with a possible meltdown in the global economy capitalist governments can and will spend trillions to shore up financial markets—as it has done over the past two years. But it will not move to shore up the living standards of the masses. That strategy of the liberal welfare state is a thing of the past. Its limits are defined by an era of low profit rates and rising indebtedness. Capitalism is therefore responding by moving to directly force down consumption levels, in the U.S. and Europe especially. It is seen in the efforts to impose austerity programs in Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, and especially Greece, an effort being hotly contested by its workers. This is but the initial expression of what is bound to be a long-term strategy on the part of capital—at the very time that unemployment rates of 10% or more are expected to prevail for years to come in the U.S. and Europe.

This presents revolutionaries with a serious challenge. The impact of the strategy being employed by global capital has already led to increased alienation, frustration, and anger from wide sections of the populace. With the liberal welfare state unable to come to the rescue, many (especially in the U.S.) are turning to simplistic answers being offered by the Right. Part of the reason for this is the organizational and conceptual weakness of the Left. By focusing on the phenomenal manifestation of the crisis—greedy bankers, corrupt financiers, and lax government regulators—the Left has largely failed to disclose the systemic roots of the crisis in capitalism and what constitutes a viable alternative to it.

This political and conceptual void has provided ample room for the far Right to get a hearing with its claim that the decline in living conditions is a result of some government conspiracy or high levels of social spending. The tendency of many leftists to focus on the personifications of capital instead of its structural contradictions has dovetailed with the tendency of many rightists to blame the declining living conditions on the actions of „government bureaucrats.“ Their threat should not be underestimated, since it is fueled by racist and misogynist mythology that always surfaces in hard times. In the U.S. the extreme Right has already succeeded in taking control of much of the Republican Party. With the Democrats unable or unwilling to offer any serious solutions, the threat of a rightist resurgence has to be taken very seriously. This is no less true in Britain, where the arguments in the current election campaign are about when to cut social services and government spending and by how much—never about whether such cuts are really needed or desirable. The voice of the Left is meanwhile hardly decipherable. We are currently witnessing a global crisis of the Left that in many ways is every bit as deep as the crisis in capitalism itself.

The present crisis makes it more imperative than ever that we engage in the hard conceptual labor of developing an alternative to capitalism. It is not a task that can be achieved by one individual or by a few individuals working in isolation. It requires taking organizational responsibility for developing the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism anew for the 21st century. It is in order to produce such a philosophic renewal of Marxist-Humanism that we are coming together in a new international organization that aims to marshal all the talents and abilities of those who have been impacted by this philosophy.

III.

In coming together to found the International Marxist-Humanist organization, we must take great care to become rooted in and concretize the Marxist-Humanist concept of organization while making sure that we do not repeat past practices and behavior that held back our development. Of foremost importance is that we not shoulder any single individual or set of individuals with the burden of working out the philosophic and organizational direction of the organization.

We have already demonstrated a determination to move in this direction through the statements that we have drafted and circulated on the democracy movement in Iran and against Obama’s decision to escalate the U.S. War in Afghanistan. Few parts of the world can claim a more vibrant and continuous mass movement for freedom and democracy than what Iran has experienced since the stolen elections of last June, and working out a collective statement in response to the challenges posed by that movement—and by the fact that much of the global Left has refused to support it—represents an test of meeting our responsibility to develop Marxist-Humanism anew in the face of rapidly unfolding world events. The same is true of our statement on the war in Afghanistan, issued at a time when many on the Left refuse to criticize the Taliban as well as imperialism. We aim to further extend such collective development of Marxist-Humanism in the work of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization.

To achieve that goal, each and every decision and task of the organization must be decided upon in an open and democratic a manner. Nor can we allow for any division between „general theory“ and taking responsibility for the „nuts and bolts“ of developing its work, as was true in earlier efforts to create an organizational expression of Marxist-Humanism. For this reason, we propose that every report given to our forthcoming conference be „all philosophical“ and organizationally concrete in the same time, insofar as the aim is to develop a philosophic nucleus of practicing dialecticians. Creating such a nucleus is not a task for some members, but for each and every one of us

Discussion on all aspects of our forthcoming Conference commences with this Call. We invite all those interested in the future of Marxist-Humanism to join us in this collective process of discussion and development.

Although the task we have set ourselves—the philosophic and organizational renewal of Marxist-Humanism on the basis of its full body of development—is ambitious, we are confident that it can be achieved through intense discussion and a new level of organizational commitment that brings the essence of Marxist-Humanism alive for the 21st century. What must motivate us in all our endeavors is the perspective of Marx himself: „Least of all must a philosophy be acceptws as a philosophy by virtue of an authority or of good faith, be the authority even that of a people and the faith that of centuries. The proof can be provided only by expounding its essence.“

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