D is for Raya Dunayevskaya

by RS on April 4, 2012

Raya Dunayevskaya, activist and philosopher.

Are you scratching your head and thinking, “Where is she getting these obscure names?” For students of the Left, Raya Dunayevskaya is considered one of the glam gals of Marxist thought and activism. Well, maybe that’s more like Angela Davis*. Okay, I just made that up to vamp this post a bit.

A minor digression: my C is for CPUSA post didn’t get as many comments as the previous ones and I managed to lose one subscriber. However, in terms of Facebook shares and likes, it proved to be my second most popular post. So here’s a shout out to my fellow travelers from across the globe: Thank you for visiting and giving it a thumbs up!

Back to the lovely Raya and her part in Julius. Raya only comes up in  a conversation when Corinne admits to Jake that she had been Ph.D bound and studied Raya’s political philosophy—Marxist humanism—which focuses on Marx’s earlier writings, specifically the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 wherein Marx wrote about his theory of alienation. Corinne explains to Jake that her dissertation was supposed to on the psychosocial consequences of natural and alienated labor during the early part of the 20th century. Admittedly, it’s an esoteric (and dry) disquisition for most people’s taste and I leave it at that. The scene is really more about Corinne withholding information about her past and why she never shared it with Jake—it’s part of a mysterious subplot . . . and that’s all I’m saying.

But who is Raya  Dunayevskaya? Born in Russia in 1910, she emigrated to the United States in 1922 and became involved in radical activities at a young age. Among those activities was Communist efforts to reach out to black workers. In 1928, she was booted out of the Communist Party’s youth section and turned to Trotskyism. In fact, during the 1930s she was the secretary to the “Old Man” in Mexico. Eventually, Dunayevskaya broke away from Trotsky over the nature of Soviet Union and returned to the U.S. It’s at this point where she developed her theory that the Soviet Union was a state capitalist social formation.

Raya’s political philosophies proposed returning to the early Marx and his Hegelian roots, which centered on the Marxist critique of alienation and overcoming it. Her work includes Marxism and Freedom (1958); Philosophy and Revolution (1973) and her final piece, Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation and Marx’s  Philosophy of Revolution. To get a better idea of Raya’s writings, visit  Marxist.org where numerous of her essays are posted for your reading pleasure.

*Angela Davis taught at San Francisco State University when I was getting my MA in economics in the 1980s. The afro was gone; she wore her hair in dredlocks and she was gorgeous.

2 comments
cecilieaux
cecilieaux

Thank you for this truly educational post.

RebecaSchiller
RebecaSchiller moderator

 @scmorgan I'm glad you found it interesting! I think you'll get a chuckle with tomorrow post. 

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