Trotsky, Marx, Dunayevskaya

Revolution in Permanence

Eugene Gogol

[This is an English translation of the review of the book La filosofia de la recolucion en permanencia de Marx en nuestros dias. Escritos selectos de Raya Dunayevskaya, published in La Jornada Semanal OT Mexico City on December 29,2019]

 Leon Trotsky is justly famous for the theory of Permanent Revolution—that revolution could occur in a technologically undeveloped country prior to one in an advanced capitalist country—which he developed first with his colleague Alexander Parvus. It was a brilliant prognostication of events in Russia.

However, it is not Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution which this collection of selected writings of Raya Dunayevskaya takes up in this recently published volume.

Writers on Marx who do mention his writing on permanent revolution often focus exclusively on a call for "permanent revolution" in his June 1850 Address to the Communist League often analysing it as Marx's supposedly tactical/strategic call to continue the revolution after the defeat of the 1848-49 Revolutions in Europe, with Marx being "mistaken" in thinking the revolution could continue.

Dunayevskaya, however, had something quite different in mind when she took up Marx's concept of permanent revolution. In fact, she called Marx has the "philosopher of permament revolution." What did she mean?

First, she traced Marx's use of the term permanent revolution. His initial expression of the concept occurred in 1843:
"Political emancipation if, of course, a big step forward. True, it is not the final form of human emancipation in general, but it is the final form of human emancipation within the hitherto existing world order.... But one should be under no illusion about the limits of political emancipation.... [T]o constitute itself as the real species-lift of man, devoid of contradictions... [I]t can achieve this only by coming into violent contradiction with its own conditions of life, only by declaring the revolution to be permanent.... Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his' particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his 'own powers' as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished."

Thus, for the young Marx, his first mention of permanent revolution was intimately tied to human emancipation. Indeed, as Dunayevskaya strongly argued, the next four decades of Marx's thought and action was a development of a praxis of revolution in permanence as the pathway toward the fullness of human emancipation.

That pathway encompassed finding living subjects of social transformation. The proletariat certainly, but Dunayevskaya as well pointed to Marx's interest in other actors. In his Ethnological Notebooks he wrote of Iroquois women in North America, as well as the Australian aborigine who he termed "the intelligent black". He studied the Russian peasant commune, the mir, as a possible source for Russia evading the vicissitudes of capitalism. But revolution was needed to accomplish this: "In order to save the Russian commune a revolution is necessary". Women's activity in the First International was mentioned by Marx as well.

Permanent revolution as pathway to human emancipation was also rooted in the dialectic—the revolution of Hegelian philosophy—that Marx studied, critiqued, and recreated as a philosophy of revolution. This—volume contains a number of Dunayevskaya's writings on the Hegelian and Marxian dialectics, showing both Marx's indebtedness to, but also his separation from, Hegel.

Marx's concept of permanent revolution was further developed in his masterwork Capital. Dunayevskaya argued that its content can be most comprehensively grasped by tracing how Humanism and the Dialectic form its foundation.

In addition to tracing permanent revolution in Marx as subjects of revolution and as dialectical thought and practice, Dunayevskaya wrote of Marx and revolutionary organisation—from the Communist League, to the First International, to Marx's writing on the Paris Commune,, and his incisive critique of so-called revolutionary organisation in his Critique of the Gotha Programme.

She saw a Marx searching out spontaneous organisation from below, helping to forge revolutionary organisations at various historic moments, as well as building organisations that would reflect and project an emancipatory body of ideas—organisational forms of permanent revolution.

Finally, an extensive section takes up the question of Marx as Philosopher of Revolution in Permanence—Reading Marx for Today. Here Dunayevskaya's writings include sections on: "Black Liberation and Internationalism", "Women's Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution", and "Dialectivds of Organization and Philosophy", among others.

Marx's Marxism and Dunayevs-kaya's Marxist-Humanism stand upon a non-dogmatic revolutionary philosophic view of human emancipation, in which subjects of revolution and emancipatory philosophy are front and centre. ooo

[source : News & Letters]

Back to Home Page

Vol. 52, No. 37, Mar 15 - 21, 2020