1965-12 The Humanism of Marx Is the Basic Foundation for Anti-Stalinism Today [Dunayevskaya]

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the Japanese publication of her MARXISM AND FREEDOM, Raya Dunayevskaya traveled to Japan in the winter of 1965–66 and held discussions and meetings with student youth, autoworkers, anti-war activists, and Marxists grouped around the anti-Stalinist Zengakuren movement. Here is one of her lectures, « The Humanism of Marx Is the Basic Foundation for Anti-Stalinism Today, » delivered in Tokyo on Dec. 28, 1965 and presented to the Waseda University student newspaper. It was published in NEWS & LETTERS in January 1966. The text has been edited for publication and can be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, pp. 6762–6763. Another speech from the trip has been reprinted as « Lecture in Japan on Hegel » in THE POWER OF NEGATIVITY: SELECTED WRITINGS ON THE DIALECTIC IN HEGEL AND MARX by Raya Dunayevskaya.

* * *

The death of Stalin, in March 1953, marked the end of an era. De-Stalinization began almost at once, not by Khrushchev from above, but by the East Berlin workers from below, who on June 17 rose in spontaneous revolt for « Bread and Freedom » and against raising « work norms » (speed-ups). Within weeks the East German revolt was followed by one in the forced labor camps in Vorkuta inside Russia itself. When the 20th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, in February 1956, finally embarked on de-Stalinization, it brought to the surface the seething undercurrents of revolt throughout Eastern Europe, and by October 1956, Russian Communism was faced with a proletarian revolution in Hungary that demanded freedom from its overlordship. By the time the Sino-Soviet conflict reached the point of no return in 1963, Mao Tse-tung was boasting of the fact that it was he who initiated the Russian armed intervention.

Thus did the Russian-Chinese counter-revolution begin and, hand in hand with it, came the campaign of slander against the Hungarian revolutionaries as « revisionists. » However because the revolutionary, creative restatement of Marxism for our age came from an elemental surge forward, and because the Humanist banner was soon seen also in Latin America, in Africa, in the whole new Third World fighting for freedom from Western imperialism as well, it was impossible any longer to consign the Humanist Essays of Marx to unreachable library shelves.

Philistines there are…who declare that we should never have awakened the ECONOMIC-PHILOSOPHIC MANUSCRIPTS OF 1844 from their century-old slumber. Serious thinkers, on the other hand, know that no other writing anywhere, at any time, has made history as have Marx’s now-famous essays on « Private Property and Communism, » « Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic, » and « Alienated Labor. » To look, even just cursorily, at the…history of these essays is to embark on a journey of adventure which reveals the grandeur, the tragedy, and the challenge of our times.

It is true that when the young Marx left his manuscripts « to the stinging criticism of the mice, » it forbade no tragedy because the living Marx kept concretizing and developing his concept of alienation as it developed into the proletariat’s « quest for universality. » This vision of « all-round » man was an integral part of the very organism of Marx, both as theoretician–be it the theory of revolution, the Paris Commune, or that of « the economic laws » of CAPITAL–and as activist, as General Secretary of the first International Workingmen’s Association.


Altogether different was the fate of those Humanist essays when the official heirs of Marx and Engels–the German Social Democrats–kept them sealed in vaults and thus deprived themselves of the concept of a new human dimension. With the outbreak of the first World War and the collapse of the German Social Democracy, Lenin had to recapture the unity of the ideal and the material through a painstaking return to the philosophic origins of Marx in Hegel, and only then moving it forward to the new historic plane, 1917, when the population « to a man » would not only abolish private capitalism, but would run production and the state, and thus initiate the breakdown of the division between mental and manual labor that characterizes all class societies.

It took a Russian Revolution PLUS the tireless efforts of the great Marxist scholar, Ryazanov, PLUS money to pry the 1844 manuscripts out of the vaults of the Second International. But once again reaction intervened to rob the proletariat of its philosophic heritage. In Russia the triumph of Stalin meant the beginning of the end of « the realization of philosophy, » the Marxian concept of theory and of freedom. In Germany the victory of Hitler marked the height of capitalist barbarism, the Holocaust of World War II, the bankruptcy of bourgeois thought. Thrown into the savage inhumanity of a Buchenwald, who could think of philosophy?

And yet World War II had no sooner drawn to a gory end with American imperialism’s atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, than throughout Western Europe, everyone from the Catholic theologians to the atheistic Existentialists rediscovered those precious Humanist Essays. But the Communists were powerful enough to keep the debate confined in academic channels. The reality is this: yet another generation was born to face the challenge. No matter how young and new the present generation of anti-Stalinist revolutionary Marxists are, they must come face to face with these two overpowering facts: 1) World War II had come and gone without resulting in any successful proletarian revolution, and without starting a new stage in thought comparable to the one begun by Lenin at the time of World War I and his return to the Marxian origins in Hegel; and 2) nothing but a stillbirth had resulted from Leon Trotsky’s gigantic labors to build an anti-Stalinist Marxist International. This, despite the fact that only Lenin had stood higher than Leon Trotsky in the leadership of the Russian October; despite the fact that Trotsky had tried to keep the Marxist banner unsullied by Stalin’s betrayals and perversions of Marxism; despite the fact that he spent all the remainder of his life trying to build a revolutionary « vanguard party »; and despite, finally, the fact that he had succeeded in getting a few other outstanding revolutionary internationalists, such as the Dutch Marxist, Hendrik Sneevliet, to sign the Manifesto of the Fourth International.


To this writer it has become all too obvious that Leon Trotsky failed because he had not been the theoretician that Lenin had been, had not prepared himself either for 1917, or for 1939, in the manner Lenin had or would have. That is to say, Trotsky had not met the twin political-philosophic challenges that each generation of Marxists must answer for itself: 1) What new stage of production and, with it, relations in production had we reached? And 2) what new stage of workers’ revolt and new, related underlying philosophy will now emerge? But whether or not you, the readers, single out the Humanism of Marx as the theory of liberation for our state-capitalist age, you must find the link of historic continuity. If history has rejected Trotskyism–and the fact that the Fourth International has proved to be a still-birth seems to bear this out–then the new anti-Stalinist revolutionary forces must find the « why » of the failure of the first appearance of anti-Stalinist Marxism.

Not only is it impossible « to skip » historic stages, but one must face reality and note that, where the movement from theory to revolution proved a still-birth, the movement FROM PRACTICE did not. Quite the contrary. Whether you begin with the Hungarian Revolution openly unfolding the banner of Marx’s Humanism as a movement of freedom from COMMUNISM, or with Fidel Castro in Cuba, who, in fighting against AMERICAN imperialism and its puppet Batista, claimed [at first that] his revolution was both against capitalist exploitation and « communist political tyranny, » was « humanist »; whether, instead, you begin with the year, 1960, « Africa’s Year » when no less than 19 nations gained their independence from Western imperialism, again under the banner of Humanism; or whether you use that year as the new point of departure because of the mass demonstrations in Japan against the American Security Pact (when the marvelous « snake dancers » promptly built an international bridge of solidarity between you and the SECOND America of the proletariat, the youth, the Negro Revolution, the anti-Vietnam war fighters), one truth stands out: everywhere the masses were in motion, and, from below, there was a dynamism of ideas unmatched in grandeur by the movement from theory that is bound to an elitist « vanguard » party.


No sadder commentary can be made about the 40 year theoretic void left by the death of Lenin than by quoting Zhou Yang and realizing that his downgrading of the Humanism of Marxism reflects the views of some who call themselves anti-Stalinists: « The modern revisionists and some bourgeois scholars try to describe Marxism as humanism and call Marx a humanist… This, of course, is futile…  »

If a serious discussion on an international scale is to be started among anti-Stalinist Marxists, then we must begin here, just here. Zhou Yang notwithstanding, it is not some « bourgeois scholars » who brought Marx’s Humanism onto the historic stage, but masses in motion–masses in motion against established Communism, masses in motion against American imperialism, masses in motion against British, French, Belgian imperialism, masses in motion against all existing societies. The Marx of 1844 who could write of the Silesian weavers–« the Silesian uprisings began where the French and English uprisings ended, with the consciousness of the proletariat as a class »–needs no lessons in class struggle from a representative of state power in China. Stalinism, be it in Russian or Chinese garb, should not be allowed to sully Marx’s concept of revolution and vision of the « all-round » man.

It is the concept of individual as well as social freedom, the conditions of class society that had to be undermined, abolished, transcended. It is this we must now recapture, unfold, develop on the new historic plane of the 1960s.


There must be no more Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. And something a great deal less honorary than « a degenerated workers’ state » should be reserved for retrogressionists, for any who expound the barbarous view that a « new civilization » can first be built on the ruins of what would be left of the world after a thermonuclear war. In a nuclear age where the only war that can be won is the battle for the minds of men, it is high time for Marxists and other freedom fighters to clear their heads, and, in opposing both Western imperialism and private capital as well as state-capitalism that calls itself Communism, East and West, unfurl a banner of a classLESS society and BEGIN laying the foundation for a new revolutionary Marxist International.

Une Réponse to “1965-12 The Humanism of Marx Is the Basic Foundation for Anti-Stalinism Today [Dunayevskaya]”

  1. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken - eine Auswahl « Entdinglichung Says:

    […] Update vom 26.02., u.a. mit: ** Raya Dunayevskaya: The Humanism of Marx Is the Basic Foundation for Anti-Stalinism Today (1965) ** Pierre Monatte/Alfred Rosmer: Lettres aux membres du Parti communiste (1924, pdf-Datei) […]


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