glevy at glevy at
Thu Feb 8 19:28:43 MST 1996

Ralph Dumain wrote:

> The writings of James and Dunayevskaya also need to be understood
> as a struggle against the Trotskyism in which they were immersed,
> as well as against Stalinism.

Historically, it is certainly true that the J-F tendency was a revolt in
part against Trotsky, and the SWP leadership under J.P. Cannon which held
that the USSR was a "degenerated workers state" which had to be defended
against imperialist invasion. It seems that there were other differences
as well, but the "split question" was over "state capitalism" I think.

> I would not underestimate novelists.  Some of them have been very
> philosophically astute, such as Richard Wright and James T.
> Farrell.

No doubt, but that's more your field than mine.

> I would say that literature and philosophy are two
> methods by which to explore the nature of character and its
> relation to environment.  It's possible to be able to have a
> command of both methodologies even if one chooses one of them to
> work in.

Sounds like a rich line of investigation.

> I've never read Sartre's novels, by the way. Are they
> any good?

Can't really say. Others on the li*st would probably be able to speak to
that question.

 > Creative writers of all kinds are often very conceptually
> sophisticated.  I think that is because their medium is language
> and they constantly have to think about how to express everything
> verbally.  Years ago I used to work in the areas of dance and
> theater.  Dancers, actors, and musicians are not intellectuals.
They *can* be.

> Do you know about the
> intellectual influences on Wright -- Kierkegaard, Husserl,
> surrealism, and eventually his friendship with Sartre and
> Bouvoir?


> One remarkable thing about Johnson-Forest was their constant
> emphasis on workers' resistance rather than on victimage and
> dehumanization at the hands of the system.  Sometimes I too think
> James's optimism is unreal, but there is a way of looking at
> reality behind it and a conscious choice that is made.

I think that most revolutionaries are optimists. I suppose it is a
character trait which is necessary for surviving certain periods. I also
believe that most Marxist organizations are optimistic programmatically.
Here's where I think there *can* be a problem. Revolutionaries, and
people in general, need hope. But, their political judgment should not be
clouded by their optimism.


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