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Crisis From Internal Split in News & Letters Committees

Crisis From Internal Split in News & Letters Committees

Statement from the Marxist-Humanist Tendency of News and Letters Committees - 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 and expressing your shock and dismay at these recent developments to N&LC (arise@newsandletters.org )

Marxist-Humanist Tendency of News and Letters Committees



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

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

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

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

[Ed. notes:

The MHT supporters have launched their own website at http://www.marxisthumanismtoday.org

A statement from News and Letters has been put out in response to the MHT statement. This can be seen and debated at La Bataille Socialiste