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Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution Paperback – 1 Jun 1991

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"Dunayevskaya remains the liveliest, probably also the best-informed, theoretician of the far Left, deeply committed to the Marxist cause, yet remaining fiercely independent." -- Louis Dupre, in Owl of Minerva: Journal of the Hegel Society of America

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Exciting reading, not simple 26 May 2000
By Christopher D. Wright - Published on
Format: Paperback
The book presents a variety of useful discussions of Rosa luxemburg and Marxism. The analysis and discussion of Luxemburg's "Accumulation of Capital" makes VERY valuable reading. Add to that the discussion of women's liberation (and Rosa Luxemburg's complicated and contradictory relationship to it) and Marx's Ethnological Notebooks, and you have one of the most interesting recent Marxist works written by an actual revolutionary, not an academic.
Not all of the moments equal those, and I still think problems present themselves at moments where Dunayevskaya places forces other than the working class as the historical Subject. Overall, however, I think this book is a fine example of the Hegelian-Marxist tradition.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Author brings Karl's Marx philosophy to life 17 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution" is the third book in the "trilogy of revolution" by the Marxist humanist philosopher, Raya Dunayevskaya (who died in 1987). This second edition includes a foreword by the feminist poet Adrienne Rich, a new essay by the author, a biographical note by the editor and five pages of "New Thoughts" on the book. These "New Thoughts" are passages added as answers to questions raised in a 1983 lecture tour by the author. The book has three parts, as the title suggests. The first, "Rosa Luxemburg as Theoretician, as Activist, as Internationalist," covers an enormous amount of ground with striking originality. As Adrienne Rich suggests, it is "not a conventional biography but rather the history and critique of a thinking woman's mind." The main chapters deal with Luxemburg's ideas--on spontaneity, on economics and debates with Lenin, as well as the major events of the period--war and revolution. The second part, "The Women's Liberation Movement as Revolutionary Force and Reason," begins with a short section on the historical importance of the "Black dimension" to the history of the women's movement. The second chapter returns to Luxemburg and takes issue with Peter Nettl's authoritative biography. Nettl's assertion that Luxemburg's years after the break-up with her lover Leo Jogiches were "lost years," is a "typical male attitude" according to Dunayevskaya who documents Luxemburg's myriad activities and theoretical work including Mass Strike. Her address to the 1907 Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in London on the meaning of the 1905 revolution appears as an appendix. Dunayevskaya feminist sensibility that Luxemburg's wish not to be "pigeonholed" into the "woman question," and argument that her passionate espousal of revolution had a "hidden feminist dimension," are other controversial aspects of the book. The second part concludes with the modern day feminist movement, which Dunayevskaya believes has raised important questions, specifically on organizational forms. The feminist demand for a decentralized form of organization is, for example, a new appreciation of the creativity of a movement that was not only interested in the overthrow of the existing reality but also creating new human relations. This concern is the central element of Marxist humanism and why Marx Marxism must be returned to as a totality. The final section, "Karl Marx--From Critic of Hegel to Author of Capital and Theorist of 'Revolution in Permanence,'" takes up nearly half the pages of the book. It is not biographical but considers Marx's idea of revolution in permanence in its first articulation in his Doctoral Dissertation of 1841, to his last writings on anthropology, "The Ethnological Notebooks." Two elements, Marx's rootedness in Hegelian dialectics and its reconceptualization as "Revolution in Permanence" remain central to each chapter. Over and over again we are introduced to new elements of Marx that have been ignored by other scholars, including little discussed aspects of the "1844 Manuscripts," the "Grundrisse" and "Capital." Moreover the "Critique of the Gotha Program" (1875) becomes an important element in an original chapter that traces Marx's ideas about organization. Dunayevskaya argues quite convincingly that Marx had a concept of organization that was very much tied up with his world view and philosophic outlook. It is the truncations by post-Marx Marxists (Luxemburg, Mehring, Kautsky and Lenin among the first) that has remained the received view. Lassalle was elevated to the authority on organization while Marx was denigrated to an intellectual figure in the British museum. However it is not "merely" the question of organizational form but the idea of what Marx's Marxism, as a "philosophy of revolution" is, which concerns Dunayevskaya. Here Engels comes in for the sharpest critique as the first "post-Marx Marxist." Although the critique of Engels is implicit throughout the book it comes to the fore in the final chapter which concentrates on Marx's last writings: "The Ethnological Notebooks," his letter (including drafts) to Vera Zasulitch and the 1882 preface to the Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto. All of these are concerned with the possibility of revolution coming first in a "backward" land. The contrast between Marx's "Ethnological Notebooks" and Engels' "Origin of the Family" (Engels supposedly based his Origin on Marx's notes) is profound. Dunayevskaya's represents one of the few analyses of "The Ethnological Notebooks" and it is surprising that others have not contrasted Marx and Engels on this point. Briefly, Dunayevskaya shows that Marx concentrates on showing the dualities within the primitive commune, and the transformation into opposite of gens into caste society. Rather than the deterministic and stageist view put forward by Engels in the Origin, which saw class society developing at the end of the primitive commune, with the "historic defeat of the female sex," Marx traced the process of dissolution within the commune itself. Dunayevskaya contends that in the context of Marx's increasing "hostility to colonialism.... [t]he question was how total the uprooting of existing society and how new the relationship of theory and practice" had to be. She adds that Marx's studies enabled him (Marx not Engels) "to see the possibility of new human relations, not as they might come through a mere 'updating' of primitive communism's equality of the sexes, as among the Iroquois, but as Marx sensed they would burst forth from a new type of revolution" (190). It was this new type of "revolution" that Dunayevskaya attempts to connect to Marx's concept of the Man/Woman relation set forth in the 1844 manuscripts viz: "the direct, natural relationship of human being to human being is the relationship of man to woman." What remains central to Dunayevskaya's view of Marx is the "human resistance of the subject" which she calls a multilinear view of human development. "Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution" is an engaging and stimulating account by someone who viewed the dialectic as the lifeblood of Marxism. Those still interested in a dialectical and humanistic view of Marx might find points of disagreement but they will find this book a refreshing interruption.
6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This book is too simple and easy! 2 Dec. 1999
By Shannon M. Hayes - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I do not mean to use Raya Dunayevskaya as a straw-man, so to speak, but this book simply does not hit the mark. In it, the author asserts that Rosa Luxemburg was a blatant feminist. This, as anyone who has studied Luxemburg's life would know, is an absolute overstatement. It is clear that this claim was only made for the author's own end. Rosa Luxemburg cannot simply be called a feminist: She actually rejected the women's movement! Luxemburg indeed holds a place in the larger scope of feminist history, but Dunayevskaya's work is over-simplified and should not ever be used as a reputable piece of history as regards that admirable socialist leader.
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