Meeting on Raya Dunayevskaya in Toronto

November 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Coming up this weekend in Toronto is a meeting on a new biography of Raya Dunayevskaya, a founding member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency and later News and Letters.

When I was publishing Red & Black Notes, I was influenced by James and also the N&L tradition. I have quite a few differnces and objections to the group now, but it might be an interesting event.

Here’s the (slightly edited) press release:


Biography of an Idea …Raya Dunayevskaya and Marxist Humanism

With Dr. Sandra Rein, University of Alberta

Sunday, December 5 @ 4:00 PM

Room 8201 OISE
252 Bloor St. W. (at St. George)

Sponsored by: Ideas Left Out, Historical Materialism Toronto, Centre for Social Justice, and Socialist Project


Prior to her death in 1987, Raya Dunayevskaya frequently commented that her biography was not of importance or significance, but what was significant was the “biography of an idea” – in this instance the “idea” she named Marxist Humanism. However, it is impossible to separate Dunayevskaya’s “idea” from the practices and theory that were inter-woven in her more than 50 years of activism in the United States.

This talk will examine the “transformative” moment which Dunayevskaya self-identified as a result of her 1953 “Letters on Hegel”. In her own account of this philosophical moment, contextualized in the turmoil of post-world war and post-Stalinist politics, Dunayevskaya noted: “I do know that there are certain creative moments in history when the objective movement and the subjective movement so coincide that the self-determination of ideas and the self-determination of masses readying for revolt explode. Something is in the air, and you catch it.”

This talk presupposes that there is another “collision” of objective movement and subjective movement that defines our current crisis and turns to Dunayevskaya’s reflections of a similar historical juncture to explore the possibility of “masses readying for revolt” – that is, that there is something in the air today. Such an investigation will draw from three elements: (1) a brief overview of Dunayevskaya’s own biography; (2) an exploration of the conjuncture of events in 1953 that created a philosophical moment for the emergence of Marxist Humanism; and (3) a critical engagement of what the biography of an idea means in the context of today’s global crisis


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