Episode 79: Dunayevskaya’s 1953 Letters: Transcending Vanguardism & Spontaneism

The co-hosts discuss Andrew’s new essay, “Dunayevskaya’s 1953 Letters: Transcending Vanguardism & Spontaneism.” Andrew sets out the political and organizational context of two letters that Dunayevskaya wrote to her co-leaders in the Johnson-Forest Tendency, CLR James and Grace Lee (Boggs), in May 1953, on Hegel’s “Absolute Idea” and “Absolute Mind (Spirit).” He argues that she was dissatisfied with the Tendency’s withdrawal from public politics and the spontaneist direction in which James and Lee were taking it after its break from vanguardism, and that the letters work out a different direction that transcends both vanguardism and spontaneism.

Brendan and Andrew discuss Dunayevskaya’s charge that James and Lee’s direction amounted to dumping all responsibility on the masses; whether Hegel’s conception of Absolute Spirit is actually relevant to radical politics and, if so how; and Dunayevskaya’s view that his Absolute Spirit chapter presents the relation between theory and practice in a manner that transcends vanguardist and spontaneist conceptions. Andrew suggests that both spontaneists and vanguardists rely on “external mediation” (the Party, objective conditions) as the driver of revolutionary change, in contrast to the “dialectical mediation” of the Absolute Spirit chapter, in which theory and practice transcend themselves together in an ongoing relation.

Plus a current-events segment: The Trumpist Threat within the Military, the FBI, and the Secret Service. The co-hosts discuss an internal FBI memo (p. 7) and a New York Times article on far-right military veterans running for office.

Radio Free Humanity is a podcast covering news, politics and philosophy from a Marxist-Humanist perspective. It is co-hosted by Brendan Cooney and Andrew Kliman. We intend to release new episodes every two weeks. Radio Free Humanity is sponsored by MHI, but the views expressed by the co-hosts and guests of Radio Free Humanity are their own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MHI.

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October 21, 2022

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