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Russell Rockwell Lecture on Newly Published Dunayevskaya, Marcuse, Fromm Correspondence, 1954-1978

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Russell Rockwell May 5, 2012 Alternative Press Center, Chicago, lecture on the newly published Dunayevskaya, Marcuse, Fromm correspondence, 1954-1978

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The Dunayevskaya, Marcuse, Fromm Correspondence


May 5, 2012

The Origins of the Hegelian-Marxian Dialectic in the United States

        Recovering the Dunayevskaya, Marcuse, Fromm dialogue, like the social movements that

have recently sprung back to life, provides links to renew the sense of possibility of a post-

capitalist society worth fighting for, which can help move the incipient social movements

forward. Their correspondence is important documentation of the origins of the Hegelian-

Marxian dialectic in the United States. The interaction of the three correspondents was integral to

these beginnings. But these have remained as only beginnings, as this Marxist tendency has

never fully coalesced and achieved the recognition it deserves, nor has it come close to realizing

its theoretical and practical potential.

        The core of the social theory of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic is determination of the

collectively possible on the basis of the actual, existing conditions of capitalist society. However,

it is important not to forget, and continue to investigate the underlying reasons for it, that there

already has been a theoretically serious international Marxist social theory in the United States

that failed. The failure of Marxism prior to the origins of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic in this

country, a failure which escaped for years the notice of even many committed Marxist

revolutionaries and other serious activists alike, is illustrated by a moving moment in the

Dunayevskaya-Fromm correspondence. In early 1974, Dunayevskaya ended a letter she wrote to

Fromm about his efforts to encourage reviews of Dunayevskaya’s just-published work

Philosophy and Revolution. Dunayevskaya writes to Fromm, who then lived in Mexico:

       How are you? I keep thinking of Cuernavaca [Mexico] as is where LT’s [Leon Trotsky’s]

household “escaped” after those horrid Frame-Up Trials — and it was at their conclusion in

1938 that, along the paths of bougainvilleas, began my series of doubts in purple!

       Here we have in Dunayevskaya’s letter to Fromm an account of what was among the

earliest inklings of a recognition among committed Marxists who opposed Stalin of the

theoretical deficiencies inherent in even Trotsky’s titanic battle against Stalin, deficiencies in

Trotsky’s theory in the sense of its being inadequate to the task of providing the necessary

philosophical underpinning of a global struggle to overcome capitalism and create a post-

capitalist society. Dunayevskaya’s letter to Fromm refers to Stalin’s Moscow Frame-Up Trials of

1936-38. These paved the way for the Hitler-Stalin pact and World War II, which eclipsed

world-wide efforts to realize a post-capitalist society. In 1939, very shortly after the moment of

Dunayevskaya’s “doubts in purple”, which she described in the letter, she broke with Trotsky,

disagreeing with his position that, despite the pact, the Soviet Union must still be defended as a

workers’ state, “though degenerate”.

       By the time World War II was drawing to a close, Dunayevskaya had moved even further

to the left. She had embarked on a diagnosis of the restoration of capitalism in Russia, which she

now identified as a state-capitalist society. Stalinist theorists continued to argue that the Soviet
Union represented a post-capitalist society in which Marx’s concept of socialism had been

realized. Writing for the American Economic Review in 1944, Dunayevskaya translated and

issued a commentary on an article that appeared in the middle of the war in Stalinist Russia’s

most prominent theoretical journal. Written by the state’s leading theoreticians, it argued that the

law of value, previously understood by even Stalinists to be characteristic of capitalist society

alone, indeed operated in the Soviet Union.

       Though a discussion of the “law of value” would take us too far afield for this talk, it is a

category Marx developed to specify capitalism. The concept is simple in definition but has far-
reaching implications. It explains the basic contradiction of capitalism, two conflicting forms of

wealth existing together, the value and material forms of wealth. It simply states that the value of

commodities, including labor power itself, is determined by the labor time required to produce

them. Because labor power is a capitalist commodity like all other commodities, it is paid for at

value (the equivalent of the material and social necessities required for a worker to labor another

day), but it is also unique such that in its use it produces more value than it costs its buyer. It thus

creates value but also “surplus value”, which falls to the buyer. The implications for society as a

whole are not only “exploitation” of the working class, but a situation in which the main driver

of the economy is the extraction of surplus value, either by extending the hours of labor, or by

intensifying labor (producing more in less time). Surplus value, far above what capitalists can

individually consume, is realized in future production, primarily by the application of science

and technology. This increasingly automated production, however, ultimately reduces the need

for direct labor, which is the only source of value and surplus value (the very form of specifically

capitalist wealth); and, automated production cheapens the only commodity workers, as a class,

have to sell—their ability to work. Material wealth, while greatly expanding under capitalism

compared to previous social formations, is not only unequally distributed according to class. It

does not allow for the reduction of the hours of toil and realization of the possibilities of more

interesting and fulfilling work, although these are indeed potential outcomes in a post-capitalist

society. Because it is a mere by-product of value production, increasing material wealth is the
outcome of what Marx called “production for production’s sake”. Hence, the existing capitalist

mode of production has immense implications for people’s necessary access to labor, the quality

of the work that is available in capitalist society, and ultimately the viability and sustainability of

the capitalist social formation itself.

        Thus Dunayevskaya’s point in translating and publishing the article in the American

Economic Review in the midst of World War II exposing the new admission of the operation of

the law of value in Soviet society was to not only reveal the counter-revolutionary trajectory of

Russian society a generation after the world’s first proletarian revolution. It was also to direct
attention to the ominous, systematic theoretic deceptions about this turn of events. In 1944, the

controversy that Dunayevskaya’s critique provoked hit the front page of the New York Times. In

her article, Dunayevskaya referred to the concept of alienated labor in early Marx’s 1844

Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, which had only first appeared in German in 1932 (Marcuse

was among the first to publish an analysis of them at that time); they would not be published in

English translation until 1958, when Dunayevskaya included them as an appendix to her work,

Marxism and Freedom. She referred to these yet virtually unknown early writings of Marx to not

only expose the Stalinists whose guiding principle for post-WWII production had become the

retrogressive, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work”, but to also

criticize the great majority of Trotskyists. Dunayevskaya wrote: “If you don’t want that [Marx’s

concept of alienated labor as the basis of value production], then back to the old degenerated

workers’ state conception.”

       Clearly, Stalin and the Stalinists, even before World War II ended, were already

anticipating the need to elaborately prepare the post-war public reception for their distortions of

Marxist economic and political theory. Dunayevskaya pointed out in her commentary on the

Russian theoreticians’ article she had translated that it directed academia in the teaching of

Capital to “skip” the first chapter—precisely the core of Marx’s theory of value by which

capitalist society is specified. Remarkably, the writers of this article were assisted by the

eventually well-known American economists Paul Baran and Oscar Lange, whose subsequent
attacks on Dunayevskaya’s commentary on the article in American Economic Review, also

reported in the New York Times, served to support the economic and political developments in

Stalin’s Russia.

       Perhaps Dunayevskaya and Herbert Marcuse were never closer—theoretically—than they

had been during this auspicious period of the 1940s, before they had ever met. The 1940s and

early 1950s were the formative years of the establishment of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic in

the U.S. Marcuse published his seminal Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social

Theory. This work was written at Columbia University in New York several years after Marcuse,
a member of the Institute for Social Research (I.S.R) associated with the Frankfurt School of

Critical Theory, left Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. His was the first work in

English to provide a general analysis of Marx’s 1844 Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts. It was

also the first work in any language to discuss all of Hegel’s principal works. The initial and long-

term impact Marcuse’s work on the Hegel-Marx relationship in Reason and Revolution had on

Dunayevskaya’s thinking on the dialectic is evident in the opening letter of her correspondence

with Marcuse in late 1954:

       Although I do not know you in person, you are of course familiar to me for your "Reason
       and Revolution”. I was so impressed with the work at the time it was published that I then
       got your address from Meyer Schapiro and intended to write you. I intended also to visit
       you, but you were then living in Washington, D.C. and I in Pittsburgh. I hope when next
       I come East, there will be an opportunity to meet you in person.

       Twenty-five years later Dunayevskaya published an “In Memoriam to Herbert Marcuse”

in News and Letters, the paper Dunayevskaya founded in 1955 and which continues to the

present. The piece is also included in the appendix to the correspondence. She wrote not only of

the theoretical but also the practical impact of Marcuse’s work on American Marxists like

herself, who were struggling against World War II while trying to sustain an independent

Marxist tendency:

       In that seminal work, Marcuse established the Humanism of Marxism, and re-established
       the revolutionary dialectic of Hegel-Marx, for the first time for the American public. It is
       impossible to forget the indebtedness we felt for Marcuse when that breath of fresh air
       and vision of a truly classless society was published—and we were actively opposing that
       imperialist war.

This nearly boundless appreciation for Marcuse’s work—and Dunayevskaya appears to be

speaking not just for her, but for her entire still-Trotskyist tendency—is of great historical

interest. This is especially so since Marcuse’s closest collaborators in the Frankfurt School of

Critical Theory at the I.S.R., such as Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, never seemed to

hold the work in such high esteem.

       Yet, Dunayevskaya’s statement has implications pointing to deeper questions.

Dunayevskaya and other Marxists were “actively opposing that imperialist war”. Marcuse was

not, though along those lines he was doing more serious theoretical work than had been generally

known before 1999, when Marcuse’s archival material was edited and published by Douglas

Kellner. It has been widely known that from 1942 to 1951 Marcuse worked first for the Office of

Strategic Services (OSS, later reconstituted as the CIA), and then for the State Department. He

concentrated on propaganda and later, on U.S. occupation policies for Germany, while also

continuing to carry out studies of war and fascism.

“Theories of social change”

       However, as recorded in the first volume of Marcuse’s previously unpublished writings--

and so not known until fairly recently—despite Marcuse’s years of work for the U.S. government

in the post-WWII years, he was also at the same time centrally involved in an incipient post-

Reason and Revolution “social”, and perhaps even revolutionary, tendency within the I.S.R. as

well. In 1999, Douglas Kellner wrote in his introduction to the first of six volumes of Marcuse’s

previously unpublished writings, which he edited, that they indicated a Marcusian tendency was

perhaps vying for supremacy within the ISR. Horkheimer and Adorno were moving away from

social theory altogether, focusing their attentions more on cultural critique. An article on

“Theories of social change” was one of a series of documents Marcuse co-authored with his

I.S.R. colleague, Franz Neumann. In this article, written around the time of Reason and

Revolution, Marcuse and Neumann survey the tradition of Western philosophy in terms of its

critical social theoretic potential. They interpret Hegel’s philosophy in particular as the basis for

determining the role of revolutionary thought in social transformation. Marcuse and Neumann


         The dialectical conception of change was first elaborated in Hegel’s philosophy. It
         reversed the traditional logical setting of the problem by taking change as the very form
         of existence, and by taking existence as a totality of objective contradictions.…Hegel
         himself used the dialectical conception in the field of social philosophy by analyzing
         Civil Society as developing through the antagonism between self- and common interest,
         accumulating wealth and increasing poverty, growing productivity and expansionist war
         (Marcuse 1998, 131).

“33 theses”

         And another piece, “33 Theses”, written in 1947, a few years after “Theories of social

change”, provides important evidence for the different theoretical and political perspectives that

were developing in the late 1940s between Marcuse on the one hand, and Horkheimer and

Adorno on the other. A central feature of the importance of this manuscript lies in the context

formed by Marcuse’s efforts, which failed completely, to actually secure the repeatedly promised

collaborations of other I.S.R. members in establishing a theoretical nucleus aimed at social

change in the post-war years. In the case of “33 theses” Marcuse essentially proposed that a

statement of distinctly Hegelian Marxism form the basis for resumption of publication of

Zeitscrift für Sozialforschung, the ISR’s journal, after the defeat of German fascism. With

obvious yet sometimes intriguing ambiguities, “33 theses” argues that the post-World War II

world was dividing into Soviet and neo-fascist camps, a situation demanding that revolutionary

theory, “ruthlessly and openly criticize” both camps. The thesis was never publicly tested, even

though Marcuse held in the article that the rationale for such a critique was that the,

       working class and political praxis of the working class, and changing class relations (at
       the national and international level) continue to determine the conceptual development of
       theory, as they in turn are determined by it—not by the theory without praxis, but by the
       one which “seizes the masses” (Marcuse, 1998, 218).

       These 1940s writings of Marcuse, which other than Reason and Revolution have been

widely available for only a decade or so, with their suggestions of the need for the establishment

of a Hegelian Marxist tendency independent of state powers and for complete social

transformation, clearly can be compared with Dunayevskaya’s 1940s writings on value

production as specific to capitalism and operative in both U.S and Soviet society; Marx’s

concept of alienated labor; and, the near-term goal of a post-capitalist society based on Marx’s

dialectic of theory and practice—from each according to his or her abilities, to each according to

his or her needs.

       Somewhat parallel to Marcuse’s 1940s “missing link” back to Reason and Revolution,

which has been found fairly recently in the Marcuse archives, Dunayevskaya had already argued

in the mid-1960s after her correspondence with Marcuse had all but ended, that “‘Western

philosophy’[certainly a reference to ‘Western Marxism’, principally the Frankfurt School]

…never saw the philosophical implications” in her 1943-44 debate with the Russian Stalinists

over the law of value, including how they, “had to deny the dialectic structure of Capital” in

teaching that work by skipping the first chapter. To put two and two together here, recall that as

early as 1944 Dunayevskaya had based her opposition to Stalinism and Trotskyism alike on the

early Marx’s concept of the abolition of alienated labor as the necessity for overcoming

capitalism. Now, by also referring to her 1944 article as centered on a critique of the Stalinists

for their “reinterpretation” of the first chapter of Capital, which is both the most “Hegelian” in

identifying contradictions in its unfolding of capitalism’s law of value, and most explicit about

overcoming the “fetishism of commodities” by a post-capitalist society of freely associated

individuals, Dunayevskaya may be questioning whether Marcuse ever familiarized himself with

and/or fully appreciated the dialectical argument of Dunayevskaya’s analysis of the Russian

economy, despite the long correspondence between the two theorists.

       To summarize here, there is a bit of a two ships passing in the night element to the story

of the origin of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic in the United States, its initial steps preceding the

Dunayevskaya-Marcuse correspondence: Marcuse’s political-philosophical struggle within the

I.S.R. to establish a post-war Hegelian-Marxist tendency was probably never known to

Dunayevskaya, just as the full implications of Dunayevskaya’s analysis of the Russian economy

was never known to Marcuse. This is precisely why the correspondence we have before us now

is a valuable addition to the literature—the origins and development of the Hegelian-Marxian

dialectic in the United States is not a doctrine but rather a task to be done, and the opportunity to

examine the historical dialogue can surely help guide the work to be done.

Dunayevskaya and Marcuse: Theoretical trajectories, Intersections, and Clashes

       Despite the predominance of technical economic categories in her arguments, perhaps

Dunayevskaya’s sharpest criticisms of Communist theoreticians in the 1940s Soviet Union was

directed at the use they made of Marx’s summation of the dialectic of the post-capitalist

society—they transformed Marx’s “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his

needs” into, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his work”.1 This is

important to note so as to keep in mind that while, apparently, the question Dunayevskaya had

invoked against Trotsky was about what distinguished post-capitalism from capitalism,

Dunayevskaya’s arguments suggested that the answer implied filling out Marx’s theory of post-

capitalist society. Dunayevskaya indicated that not only Stalinism but Trotsky and Trotskyism

clearly failed at a crucial turning point—the outbreak of World War II—to meet the crisis with

development of a theory of what not only to oppose but what to be for (as Duanyevskaya would

often put it).

         In fact, while by 1940 Dunayevskaya had broken theoretically with Trotsky himself, she

remained within the Trotskyist movement for another decade and more, linking up with C.L.R.

James, the Trinidadian Marxist who had independently arrived at a state-capitalist position.

These two along with Grace Lee, the Chinese-American philosopher, assumed the leadership of

the Johnson (C.L.R. James)/Forest (Dunayevskaya) tendency of the U.S. Socialist Workers’

Party. Keenly aware that nothing like the dialectic of World War I and the Russian Revolution

had emerged in the 1940s, the Johnson Forest-Tendency engaged in intensive discussions of

Marxist theory, the working class, state-capitalist society and, perhaps most importantly, the

contemporary social relevance of Hegel’s philosophy.

         During these 1940s discussions, Dunayevskaya and James indicated their awareness of

the tension inherent in, on the one hand, the tendency’s state-capitalist theory and, on the other,

the Trotskyist organizational framework their continuing activity legitimated and perpetuated.

Dunayevskaya translated the philosophical notebooks on Hegel that Lenin produced in 1914

    See Dunayevskaya 1944, p. 532

soon after the outbreak of World War I and the collapse of established Marxism in the various

European countries.2 The Johnson/Forest tendency’s discussions around Hegel’s categories

themselves, primarily through Lenin’s interpretations of Hegel’s Logic in Lenin’s “Conspectus

on Hegel’s Science of Logic” in the philosophical notebooks, provided a context for breaking

with the concept of the vanguard party-to-lead. Together Dunayevskaya and James formed the

autonomous Marxist “non-party” group, Correspondence, in 1951. But ultimately these Hegel

discussions, especially Dunayevskaya’s insistence against James on the importance of Hegel’s

post-Science of Logic work, Philosophy of Mind, also underlay a James-Dunayevskaya break in

1955. Dunayevskaya, philosophically striking out on her own, focused on developing the

rationale of the emerging Hegelian-Marxism as an independent political-philosophic tendency.

In the aftermath of this break with James, and a couple of years into her correspondence with

Marcuse, in a letter that is included in the volume we are discussing today, Dunayevskaya writes

to John Dwyer, her comrade and husband, about a long session she had with Marcuse discussing

the manuscript of Marxism and Freedom, which was published in 1958. Dunayevskaya writes,

“He [Marcuse] kept saying ‘What would Father Marx say if he lived now’ and his eyes lit up as

to the paragraph where Marx stopped in [Hegel’s] Philosophy of Mind and where my analysis


          Dunayevskaya is referring to a “coincidence” she continued to note in later years. Her

May 20, 1953 letter to Grace Lee is one of her letters on Hegel, which as we shall see she had

shared with Marcuse a few weeks into their acquaintance. In that letter, she had begun her

analysis of Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind precisely where Marx’s analysis had broken off in his

last essay in the 1844 Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, titled “Critique of the Hegelian

    See Lenin 1976, p. 85-237.

Dialectic”. The young Marx, in breaking off his discussion of Philosophy of Mind, this last

volume of Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, two paragraphs before the end of

the work’s Introduction, seemed to make the point that as great as Hegel’s achievement had been

in developing dialectical thought, ultimately the Hegelian philosophy lacked prospective social

relevance. In contrast with Marx’s reading, in her May 20, 1953 letter Dunayevskaya analyzed

the remaining two paragraphs of the Introduction, which were left uncommented on by Marx.

These paragraphs presented an overview of the dialectic of necessity and freedom, what Hegel

called “the hardest of all dialectical transitions”. Hegel realizes this transition through his

articulation of the relationships of Objective Mind, Subjective Mind, and Absolute Mind (the

three parts of Philosophy of Mind). Contrary to the interpretation of the same text Marcuse would

record a few months later in Eros and Civilization, Dunayevskaya had concluded that Hegel’s

dialectic of necessity and freedom constituted the logic of not only overcoming capitalism, but of

the emergence of a post-capitalist society. In the same letter, in introducing her analysis of

Philosophy of Mind, Dunayevskaya refers to Marx’s Capital, a section in Volume III titled “The

Trinity Formula”. There, Marx himself had returned to consider the categories of necessity and

freedom, which he had left alone two decades before in his 1844 Economic-Philosophic


         A mere few weeks into her correspondence with Marcuse, Dunayevskaya refers to a

 book that Marcuse was at work on. The work was Eros and Civilization, which most now

 know as his “Freud book”, a work Marcuse must have been writing when Dunayevskaya first

 contacted him in December 1954, and continued working on until it was actually completed

 and published a year later, at the end of 1955. Because Marcuse does not mention Eros and

 Civilization in their correspondence until December of 1955, when he indicates it has just gone

to press, Dunayevskaya’s initial reference to the work likely stemmed from the in-person

discussions in their first personal meeting sometime in February or March, 1955. Interestingly,

though the work was certainly “on” Freud’s theories, Marcuse at some point in the writing

includes a chapter titled, “Philosophical Interlude”. This is the chapter that takes up the

significance of Absolute Mind, the final section of Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind. As I was just

discussing, this happened to be the subject Dunayevskaya had taken up in the “Hegel letters”

that she had lent to Marcuse. Absolute Mind is a subject she then reintroduced and persisted in

discussing in her exchange of letters with Marcuse from April 3, 1955 to June 22, 1955, the

time Marcuse was completing Eros and Civilization.

         In an April 3, 1955 letter to Marcuse, soon after their first in-person meeting,

Dunayevskaya wrote in respect to the book she was working on:

     The twin poles to me of any fundamental work there must have, automation [of
     production] at one end, and the absolute idea or freedom at the other end. I'm very
     anxious to hear your reaction to those two letters where I first posed the question of the
     absolute idea in terms of a movement from practice to theory as well as from theory to

         Marcuse’s response, though brief, came quickly. In an April 14, 1955 letter, Marcuse


     I have now read the notes on Hegel which you lent me. This is fascinating, and I admire
     your way of concretizing the most abstract philosophical notions. However, I still cannot
     get along with the direct translation of idealistic philosophy into politics: I think you
     somehow minimize the "negation" which the application of the Hegelian dialectic to
     political phenomena presupposes.

     On May 5, 1955, while also following up on her earlier invitation to Marcuse to visit

Detroit to meet some of the workers she had been organizing with, Dunayevskaya responded:

     It is not a question of "my" direct translation of idealistic philosophy into politics, but the
     dialectical development of proletarian politics itself as it struggles to rid itself of its
     specifically class character in its movement to a classless society. That is why I
     "translated" Absolute Mind as the new society…In truth, only when you do have the
     "translation" in mind, and posit the proletariat, the freely associated proletariat, as the
     Notion, can you hear the Idea at all…Has your book [Eros and Civilization], including
     corrected proofs, gone to press and are you now a free man? (my emphasis, RR)

Marcuse replies several weeks later, June 22, 1955:

     Your answer to my brief remarks re Hegel does not satisfy me. Certainly you do not
     suspect me of ignoring the substantive connection between philosophy and praxis. BUT
     it is…a dialectical connection, not an immediate one. What is the meaning of the explicit
     or implied "is" in your statements: "the dialectic of the Absolute Idea is the dialectic of"
     the proletariat or whatever it may be? Is this a mere analogy? An equation or
     identification? You cannot just "apply" Hegel's text to an essentially different sphere
     without demonstrating why and how...

      Unlike Reason and Revolution, in which Marcuse hardly took up Hegel’s Philosophy of

Mind, in Eros and Civilization Marcuse refers to the text to make a point that appears to be

opposite to what Dunayevskaya had concluded in her 1953 letters on Hegel, which she had

recently shared with Marcuse. In Eros and Civilization, Marcuse characterizes Hegel’s

philosophy as,

     the last and greatest attempt to demonstrate the validity of its categories and of the
     principles that govern its world…the philosophy of western civilization culminates in the
     idea that the truth lies in the negation of the principle that governs this civilization—
     negation in the two-fold sense that freedom appears as real only in the idea, and that the
     endlessly projecting and transcending productivity of being comes to fruition in the
     perpetual peace of self-conscious receptivity…[Hegel] believed that, on the attained level
     of civilization, with the triumph of reason, freedom had become a reality. But neither the

       state nor society embodies the ultimate form of freedom. True freedom is only in the
       idea. Liberation is thus a spiritual event…

       Despite Marcuse’s persistent disagreement with Dunayevskaya’s understanding of the

conceptual relationship of Hegel’s Absolute Mind and Marx’s theory of proletarian revolution,

set forth in his June 22, 1955 letter I just cited above, further down in the same letter Marcuse

wrote of a manuscript Dunayevskaya had sent him: “Let me just tell you that I read your draft re

‘Marxism and State Capitalism’ and found it most needed and useful. The whole idea is

excellent.” And after a several month hiatus in their correspondence, which Marcuse attributed to

the “final rush of the publication of my Freud book”, Marcuse wrote to Dunayevskaya on

December 2, 1955 that the draft chapters for the book she had been sending him for review,

which would become Marxism and Freedom, were an, “oasis in the desert of Marxism”. Despite

Marcuse’s disagreements with Dunayevskaya’s “applications” of Hegel’s philosophy, he

expressed great interest in her interpretations of Marx’s theories.

       Given the Dunayevskaya/Marcuse dialogue on Hegel over several months in 1955, it is

surprising to see Dunayevskaya’s response to her reading of Eros and Civilization in the

following year in a letter to Marcuse dated September 5, 1956. In several paragraphs of

comments on the work, she only briefly mentions the chapter, “Philosophic Interlude”, calling it

her “favorite”. However, in focusing more on Marcuse’s debates with Fromm, she does not note

the Philosophic Interlude chapter’s analysis of Hegel’s philosophy in the context of Western

thought, which really spells out the differences with Dunayevskaya that Marcuse only touched

upon in the correspondence we just reviewed. Most briefly, in Hegel’s concluding works, like in

prior western philosophy since as far back as Aristotle, freedom is real only in the idea. In

explaining that Hegel’s conclusion is the result of a negation of existing forms of state and

society, and is the only conclusion possible on the basis of the level of civilization thus attained,

Marcuse’s assessment draws attention to his critique of Dunayevskaya in his April 14, 1955

letter to her—that she somehow minimizes the "negation" which the application of the Hegelian

dialectic to political phenomena presupposes.

       One can’t help but think that the negation Marcuse had in mind was the potentially new

level of civilization afforded by technological production, a negation of the prior historical

relationship of the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom, which Marcuse described, also

in Eros and Civilization. Part 2 of Eros and Civilization, “Beyond the Reality Principle”,

concludes the chapter on “The Aesthetic Dimension” with an interpretation of the passages of

Marx’s Capital, Volume III, which, as I mentioned previously, discuss post-capitalist society.

Interestingly, Marcuse does not directly quote the passages wherein Marx expounds on the

“realms” of necessity and freedom, or even reference them. Marcuse begins by positing that a

non-repressive order is essentially an order of abundance, and remarking that the idealist and

materialist critiques of culture agree on this point. Yet, Marcuse’s summary of Marx’s passages

asserts they indicate that even in a post-capitalist society of abundance labor for the necessities

of life can contain no freedom, and can only be the “prerequisite of a free society”. Marcuse’s

interpretation implies that even in a post-capitalist society reduction of necessary labor time

would still leave the remaining necessary labor time repressive and essentially “inhuman”; thus

freedom in a post-capitalist society can only be realized “outside the inevitably repressive work-

world”. Yet, according to Marcuse, the “negation which the application of Hegel’s dialectic to

political phenomenon presupposes” is precisely represented by Marx’s theory of a post-capitalist

society wherein the realm of freedom is socially universal. It is neither just a spiritual event, nor

the domain of the philosopher alone. However, it is Marcuse’s view that a realm of necessity

where labor for the necessities of life that contains no freedom remains alongside the realm of

freedom as its “prerequisite”

       In a September 21, 1956 letter, Marcuse responds to additional draft chapters

Dunayevskaya continued to send to him. In categorically disagreeing with Dunayevskaya’s

analysis of Stalinism as a “complete break” with Leninism, Marcuse for the first time refers to

his own study of “Soviet Marxism”, which he expected to be published “early in 1957”. Marcuse

writes, “I shall send you the typescript for your comments and your critique before it goes to the

printer's.” In fact, even though the work was not actually published until 1958 (the same year

Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom was published with a Preface by Marcuse),

Dunayevskaya never received Marcuse’s “Soviet Marxism” manuscript, even though in

subsequent letters she had inquired about it to follow-up Marcuse’s stated intentions to send it to

her. As it turned out, Dunayevskaya did not publicly comment on Soviet Marxism until after the

paperback edition was issued in 1961, several years after initial publication. (It is included as an

appendix to the correspondence).

       The impact of Soviet Marxism on the Dunayevskaya-Marcuse correspondence, as well as

on Dunayevskaya’s dialogues with Fromm, remains an interesting question to this day. As we

will see in the early part of Dunayevskaya’s correspondence with Erich Fromm, Dunayevskaya

attributed the fall-off in discussions with Marcuse on Hegel’s Absolutes to publication of Soviet

Marxism, writing that such discussions, “became impossible because, whereas we had never seen

eye to eye, until his rationale for Communism, the difference in viewpoints only helped the

development of ideas, but the gulf widened too much afterward.”

       Yet, less obvious than that Marcuse’s assessments of Stalinism and Leninism diverged

from Dunayevskaya’s, but actually more basic to the correspondence with Dunayevskaya, were

several other of Marcuse’s positions that had to do with Hegel’s philosophy and Marx’s theories,

which Marcuse elaborated in Soviet Marxism. For example, Marcuse stressed, “…[T]he relation

between necessity and freedom…is the key problem in the Hegelian as well as the Marxian

dialectic…The transition from necessity to freedom is that into a fundamentally different

dimension of ‘being’, and Hegel calls it the ‘hardest of all dialectical transitions…’” Marcuse

attempts to show how these concepts are brought to bear on Marx’s concept of post-capitalist

society, especially new perspectives on technologically advanced, automated production, which

came into focus with the publication of Marx’s Grundrisse in 1939 and 1941. In Soviet Marxism,

Marcuse writes, “This is the most important of Marx’s manuscripts, which shows to what extent

the humanist philosophy is fulfilled and formulated in the economic theory of Capital”. This idea

is repeated almost verbatim, and is published in the same year, as Marcuse’s Preface to

Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom, to which we know turn.

       Marcuse’s Preface to Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom

       Marcuse’s analyses of the categories of necessity and freedom, as well as Marx’s

Gundrisse, in his Preface to Marxism and Freedom, are clearly at odds with Dunayevskaya’s

interpretations. For descriptive purposes, the Preface can quite easily be divided into three parts:

(1) a succinct statement of the conditions of theory, explained as the differences between, on the

one hand, “modifications” and, on the other, non-viability and necessity for a different theory;

(2) an argument for the crucial importance of both the recently published Grundrisse for

understanding Marx’s theory in its own right, and Dunayevskaya’s work on a viable

contemporary Marxist theory in light of it; and, (3) interpretations of crucial historical

developments at odds with those of Dunayevskaya, such as the status and revolutionary potential

of the working classes in the West, and the nature of the Soviet Union, in which the viability of

Marxist theory was as much at stake as it was in the strictly theoretical discourse.

       Here I we will need to focus on the middle part of Marcuse’s essay, expressed above in

the second point on Dunayevskaya’s recognition of the contribution of the Grundrisse for

grasping Marx’s theory as historically viable. There are two particularly important points to

make here in respect to what Marcuse writes that updates and/or clarifies his prior positions.

       First is what he writes about the Grundrisse itself. Marcuse remarks that since as far back

as the 1920s Marx’s Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, after years of oblivion and neglect, had

become the focus of attention as the “ground” of Marx’s writings on economics and politics.

Now, Marcuse writes, heretofore

       [ T]he inner identity of the philosophical with the economic and political "stage" of

       Marxian theory was not elucidated (and perhaps could not be adequately elucidated

       because a most decisive link was still missing, namely, the Grundrisse der Kritik der

       Politischen Oekonomie of 1857-1858, first published in 1939 and 1941). Dunayevskaya's

       book goes beyond the previous interpretations. It shows not only that Marxian economics

       and politics are throughout philosophy, but that the latter is from the beginning

       economics and politics.

Next, Marcuse combines a paraphrase of Marx’s passage on the realm of necessity and the realm

of freedom from Capital, Volume III, with a quotation from Marx’s Grundrisse meant to

elaborate the meaning of these passages in Capital. Marcuse writes:

       As long as man's struggle with nature requires human toil for procuring the necessities of

       life, all that can be attained in this sphere is a truly rational societal organization of labor.

       Its establishment at the stage of advanced industrialism is "only" a political problem. For

       Marx, it is to be solved by a revolution which brings the productive process under the

       collective control of the "immediate producers." But this is not freedom. Freedom is

       living without toil, without anxiety: the play of human faculties. The realization of

       freedom is a problem of time: reduction of the working day to the minimum which turns

       quantity into quality. A socialist society is a society in which free time, not labor time is

       the social measure of wealth and the dimension of the individual existence…(Marcuse

       [1958b] 2000, p. xxiii)

       Directly following the above observations, in which Marcuse interprets Marx’s passages

on freedom and necessity in Capital, Marcuse next quotes the Grundrisse, concluding with

Marx’s statement:

       Free time -- which is leisure time as well as time for higher activity -- transforms its

       possessor into a different subject (Marcuse [1958b] 2000, p. xxiii).

       This passage from the Grundrisse as quoted by Marcuse, combined with his summary of

the passage from Capital, Volume III right before it (which Dunayevskaya had already cited in

the text of Marxism and Freedom), serves to round-out Marcuse’s interpretation of Marx’s

concept of post-capitalist society. In sum, no freedom can be found in the realm of necessity. At

most, this realm can become “rationalized”, brought under control of the direct producers, and/or

shortened—thereby expanding the “realm of freedom”.

        However, a brief look at the two texts of Marx that Marcuse considers here does not

entirely support Marcuse’s interpretations. For example, in the passage from Capital, Volume III

that Marcuse paraphrases first, Marx does not write that there is no freedom—ever—in the realm

of necessity. In the passage Marcuse had in mind, Marx writes, “Freedom…[in the realm of

necessity] can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the

human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead

of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy

and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature…” (Marx 1981, p. 958-


        Now if realization of freedom happens to be what is “most worthy and appropriate for

human nature” (which we have just shown Marx claims for a post-capitalist realm of necessity),

then Marcuse’s notion of the time saved for individual development as exclusively outside of

production of the necessities of life clearly draws a questionable boundary between “free time”

and “work time”.

        Interestingly, the passage from the Grundrisse that Marcuse himself quoted (the last line

of which I reproduced above) also actually supports such an interpretation different from

Marcuse’s. As it appears in Marcuse’s Preface, the quoted final sentence reproduces only half of

Marx’s original sentence, which reads in full as the following: “Free time -- which is leisure time

as well as time for higher activity -- transforms its possessor into a different subject [this is

where a period is placed in the quoted text, but the sentence continues], and he then enters into

the direct production process as this different subject.” (Marx 1973, p. 712). So, since the

dialectic continues, not only from work to free time, but also from free time to work in the realm

of necessity, the question then becomes, how much will this “different subject” submit to “work”

versus how much will work have to conform to the demands of the collectivity of free


       As we discussed earlier, in a later letter to Fromm, Dunayevskaya recalled that it was the

publication of Marcuse’s Soviet Marxism, especially the tenuousness of its critical approach,

which made continuation of the dialogue with Marcuse on Hegel’s philosophy, which was of

greatest interest to Dunayevskaya, nearly impossible. Yet, even in the final text of Marxism and

Freedom itself, completed nearly simultaneously with Marcuse’s book on Soviet Marxism,

Dunayevskaya herself does not connect her reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind in the 1953

letter she had shared with Marcuse to initiate their dialogue on Hegel to her analyses of Marx’s

Capital, Volume 3. For example, in Dunayevskaya’s May 20 1953 letter to Grace Lee on her

reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, Dunayevskaya made a major point of indicating that her

reading of Hegel’s text was in the context of also re-reading Capital, Volume 3 (particularly the

section on freedom, necessity, and post-capitalist society); but five years later in Marxism and

Freedom Dunayevskaya discussed her findings in reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind only in

the section, “Hegel’s Absolutes and Our Age of Absolutes”. In that section she mainly interprets

Philosophy of Mind’s final three syllogisms. However, this rendering leaves out the importance

she herself had attributed to the text’s Introduction, that is, Hegel’s detailed discussion of the

dialectic of necessity, freedom, and a new society (precisely in Hegel’s text where

Dunayevskaya initiated her discussion in the 1953 letter to Grace Lee).

         Meanwhile, it is in a separate chapter of Marxism and Freedom that Dunayevskaya

discusses the section on freedom, necessity and post-capitalist society.3 In this separate chapter

Dunayevskaya never connects her discussion of Capital, Volume 3 to her prior 1953 analysis of

Hegel’s introduction to Philosophy of Mind. This is so even though both the Introduction to

Philosophy of Mind and Capital, Volume 3 take up the dialectic of necessity and freedom, and it

appears quite likely that in these Capital, Volume 3 passages Marx himself had already

“returned” to Hegel’s “Absolute Mind”—which he had set aside in1844— to work out his

concept of post-capitalist society.

         The exchanges leading up to the completion of Marxism and Freedom, as well as

Marcuse’s Preface, which in its high praise for Dunayevskaya’s work even compared it to the

achievement of Lukacs’s History and Class Consciousness, represented both the high-point and

the virtual collapse of the Dunayevskaya-Marcuse correspondence. In fact soon after the work

was published, a three year-long break in the correspondence ensued. During this break, Fromm,

with whom Dunayevskay had no previous relationship, contacted Dunayevskaya, indicating he

had just read Marxism and Freedom.

         Philosophy and Marx’s Humanism in the Fromm-Dunayevskaya Correspondence

         June 6, 1959, in the middle of the post-Marxism and Freedom hiatus in the

Dunayevskaya-Marcuse correspondence, Fromm wrote in a letter to Dunayevskaya that he

planned to, “publish a selection of Marx writings, especially on the topics of philosophy and

    Dunayevskaya 2000, p. 145

historical materialism, with an introduction by myself.” He informed Dunayevskaya that the

main reason for the letter was to inquire whether she was willing to make an English translation

of Marx’s “Philosophie and National-Oekonomie”, which would be included as “one of the main

pieces of the volume”. Fromm concluded the letter by saying, “I read your book on Marxism and

Freedom some months ago, and consider it an exceedingly important and most needed

contribution to the socialist literature.”

        Though short, this letter is packed with several significant issues, all of which become

focal points of a lengthy correspondence, which will continue until Fromm’s death in 1980.

Since we cannot possibly discuss all of these issues, let me just mention what they are. I will then

discuss a couple of them in a little more detail. First, recall that Dunayevskaya had apparently

sided with Marcuse on the Marcuse-Fromm debate around interpretation of Freud’s ideas, and

now was confronted with Fromm’s obvious high regard for her work. Second, Fromm’s

invitation to collaborate with him on “the topics of philosophy and historical materialism”, came

just when Dunayevskaya’s discussions with Marcuse on Hegel’s philosophy, which she was

most interested in, had taken a seriously bad turn after several years of her persistent attempts to

keep them on track. Third, it seems neither Dunayevskaya nor Fromm at first fully realized that

Dunayevskaya had already published as an appendix to Marxism and Freedom a good part of the

Marx writings Fromm was proposing that Dunayevskaya translate for his planned volume. Let

me just say about the first—Fromm’s apparent high regard for Dunayevskaya’s work—that the

Fromm-Dunayevskaya correspondence shows that Dunayevskaya subsequently found it

necessary to disentangle some of Fromm’s understanding of this work from Marcuse’s ideas,

where Fromm seemed to see only the significant commonalities. And let me just say about the

third issue—publication of an English translation of Marx’s 1844 Economic-Philosophic

Manuscripts—that much of the first few letters between the two cover important historical

ground, which is highly significant for understanding the origins of a philosophically grounded

Marxist humanism in the United States.

        Dunayevskaya’s reply to Fromm (6/17/59) offered strong support for Fromm’s planned

book on Marx, though she declined to do the translations Fromm requested; her reply also

suggested that she viewed Fromm’s contact somewhat warily, that is, in the context of her prior

correspondence with Marcuse who, after all, shared with Fromm a background in the old

Frankfurt School. Important differences with Marcuse had emerged, resulting in the two-and-a-

half year-long break to date. But in referring to Marxism and Freedom, Dunayevskaya advised

Fromm: “[Marcuse] was sufficiently free of the mores of the academic world to be willing to

associate his name with mine, despite our violent disagreements of interpretation of the modern


Theoretical intersection: Dunayevskaya and Fromm/Marx’s Concept of Man

        Dunayevskaya did not resume the correspondence with Fromm until nearly two years

later—only after having read Marx’s Concept of Man, published in 1961. Therefore it will be

helpful to review some aspects of Fromm’s long essay opening that work, the bulk of which

consists of the English translations of Marx’s early writings. We will do this while at the same

time indicating themes Fromm had developed in The Sane Society several years prior. Some of

these themes Dunayevskaya had also developed, a little later, in Marxism and Freedom, with

significantly different interpretations. Hence, I believe it can be demonstrated that Fromm’s

reading of Marxism and Freedom after he had written the Sane Society, as well as the exchange

of letters between Dunayevskaya and him prior to the publication of Marx’s Concept of Man,

had a major impact on the shift in Fromm’s interpretations of Hegel’s and Marx’s ideas from the

time he wrote The Sane Society in the mid-1950s to his publication of Marx’s Concept of Man in


        In several places in Marx’s Concept of Man Fromm indicates the impact of Marxism and

Freedom on his concept of Marx’s humanism. He acknowledged that Dunayevskaya’s appendix

to Marxism and Freedom contained the first English translation and publication of Marx’s

Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts in the U.S. However, this acknowledgement in a note to the

Preface had not been included in the original edition; Fromm added it in a later edition after

correspondence with Dunayevskaya clarified the fact. (In the correspondence Fromm’s

explanation was that the version of Marx’s manuscripts he had published included sections not

published in Dunayevskaya’s work.)

        In a section of his Introduction to Marx’s Concept of Man, with the title “Marx’s Concept

of Socialism”, Fromm notes, “the fantastic ignorance about Marx that existed in the Western

world”; he uses a quote from Marx (“Freedom is so much the essence of man that even its

opponents realize it….No man fights freedom; he fights at most the freedom of others”), and

refers to Dunayevskaya’s analysis of the young Marx where she used the same quotation in

Marxism and Freedom. Finally, after surveying the European scene (both East and West) for

significant developments in Marxist humanism, Fromm assesses the U.S. scene, writing, “In the

United States, the most important work which has opened up an understanding of Marx’s

humanism is Herbert Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution…Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and

Freedom, with a preface by H. Marcuse…is also a significant addition to Marxist-humanist


       Beyond Fromm’s explicit acknowledgements of the influence of Dunayevskaya’s

Marxism and Freedom on his current thinking, other perhaps even more important indications

about this influence emerge through comparisons of Fromm’s analysis of Marx’s concepts in The

Sane Society, published in 1955, with his assessments of these concepts in Marx’s Concept of

Man, a work that Fromm may have conceived shortly after reading Dunayevskaya’s Marxism

and Freedom. While it will not be possible to directly link the theoretical modifications Fromm

made in Marx’s Concept of Man (compared to The Sane Society) to his reading of

Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom and subsequent communication with Dunayevskaya the

changes in several key concepts Fromm treated in both his works (separated by six years) are

highly suggestive.

       In her response to Fromm’s initial letter, Dunayevskaya declines Fromm’s invitation to

do the translation of Marx’s early writings for Fromm’s planned book. However, she also makes

a strong point of being proud of having been the first to “bring the Humanism of Marx” to the

attention of the American public. But since doing so, she wrote, “the Communists have

redoubled their attacks on Humanism because it is the form of the actual movement against their

totalitarian rule in Russia itself and in the Soviet zone.”

       Whether or not this point particularly impressed Fromm, when Marx’s Concept of Man

appeared in 1961 Fromm’s brief forward immediately criticized existing Communism from this

perspective, writing, “the truth is that the Soviet Union is a system of conservative state

capitalism and not the realization of Marxian socialism”. Against the background of nothing

similar in its level of specificity in his previous writings, in this long essay introducing Marx’s

early philosophic writings, Fromm returned again and again to the theme of state-capitalism,

even emphasizing that the crucial contrast was not between “democratic” capitalism and state

capitalism that called itself Communism:

       For example, Fromm wrote:

       Even if the state as “abstract capitalist” were the employer, even if the “entire social
       capital were united in the hands either of a single capitalist or a single capitalist
       corporation” [Fromm’s reference is to Marx’s Capital] this would not be socialism. In
       fact, as Marx says quite clearly in the Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, “communism
       as such is not the aim of human development”. What then is the aim? Quite clearly the
       aim of socialism is man (Fromm, 1961, p. 58).

Importance of Hegel’s dialectic to Marx’s Humanism

       In The Sane Society Fromm had already on a couple of occasions briefly alluded to the

importance of Hegel’s philosophy for Marx’s thought: in respect to alienation, Fromm writes of,

“[A] form of self-estrangement, which permits the person to act reasonably in practical matters,

yet which constitutes one of the most severe socially patterned defects”) and, more generally,

that, “Hegel’s philosophy found its most significant historical continuation in Marx.”

       However, much more extensively on Hegel in Marx’s Concept of Man, Fromm compares

and contrasts the dialectical methods of Hegel and Marx. Fromm’s most sustained focus on

Hegel is in a section on “The Nature of Man”.

       To see the significance, flash back for a second to The Sane Society, where Fromm had

written that Marx was, “lacking in satisfactory psychological insights [and] did not have a

sufficient concept of human character, and was not aware of the fact that while man was shaped

by the form of social and economic organization, he in turn also molded it.”

       In contrast to these 1955 conclusions, Fromm’s 1961 Marx’s Concept of Man includes in

the section, “The Nature of Man”, a part on “Man’s Self-Activity”. Here Fromm begins by

stating that Marx’s concept of man is rooted in Hegel’s thinking. Fromm quotes from Marcuse’s

Reason and Revolution on Hegel’s Science of Logic where Marcuse wrote that the task of the

dialectical thinker is to, “distinguish the essential from the apparent process of reality and to

grasp their relation…the world is an estranged and untrue world so long as man does not destroy

its dead objectivity and recognize himself and his own life ‘behind’ the fixed form of things and

laws. When he finally wins this self-consciousness, he is on his way not only to the truth of

himself, but also of his world. And with the recognition goes the doing. He will try to put this

truth into action and make the world what it essentially is, namely, the fulfillment of man’s self-

consciousness.” Thus, an interesting aspect of Fromm’s analysis of Hegel’s thought in Marx’s

Concept of Man, an analysis that is similar to Dunayevsksaya’s in Marxism and Freedom, is that

it refers several times to Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution to support his own versus Marcuse’s

position in their debate over Freud’s theories and psychoanalysis at the time of publication of

Eros and Civilization. For example, Fromm writes:

       For Hegel the development of individual powers, capacities and potentialities is possible
       only by continuous action, never by sheer contemplation or receptivity…In as much as
       man is not productive, in as much as he is receptive and passive, he is nothing, he is dead.
       In this productive process, man realizes his own essence, he returns to his own essence.

Contemporary Social Relevance of Marx’s Ideas

       Perhaps the most striking change, which is evident in Fromm’s transition from The Sane

Society to Marx’s Concept of Man, concerns his conclusions on the relative importance and

contemporary social relevance of Marx’s ideas. In The Sane Society Fromm had concluded that,

“for us in the middle of the twentieth century it is very easy to recognize Marx’s fallacy…we

have seen the tragic illustration of this fallacy occurring in Russia”; by contrast, in the Preface to

Marx’s Concept of Man Fromm identified Marx’s philosophy as an indispensable “movement

against the dehumanization and automation of man inherent in the development of Western

industrialism”, and he argues that, “…[T]he truth is that the Soviet Union is a system of a

conservative state capitalism and not the realization of Marxian Socialism”, and that making this

distinction clear is essential in, “the battle for the minds of men”. These arguments for the

contemporary importance and relevance of Marx’s thought are precisely the central themes of

Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom.

       It is important to recall a point that is crucial for understanding the context of the

Dunayevskaya-Fromm dialogue on Marx’s Concept of Man. In March, 1961, for the second time

since its 1954 inception, the Dunayevskaya/Marcuse correspondence had broken off. This break

was over world events and not in an immediate sense over automated production and

contemporary society, which was the topic that motivated Marcuse to reestablish contact with

Dunayevskaya for the first time after publication of Marxism and Freedom. Much less was it

about the contemporary importance and relevance of the Hegelian dialectic for challenging

capitalism, which was the original flash-point of the Dunayevskaya-Marcuse correspondence.

No, the explosion occurred around their different perspectives on the emerging African and Latin

American revolutions, Communist interventions in them, and the stances taken in respect to

these events by presumably independent Marxists (such as Isaac Deutscher), and Marcuse


       Dunayevskaya and Fromm corresponded regularly between the publication of Marx’s

Concept of Man and the publication of Fromm’s 1965 symposium on Socialist Humanism, which

included many contributions from Eastern Europe, and a volume in which Dunayevskaya,

Fromm, and Marcuse all contributed essays. This phase of the correspondence included dialogue

on Marx’s Concept of Man, Dunayevskaya’s attempts to engage Fromm in a dialogue on the

contemporary relevance of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, dialogue on the Socialist Humanist

volume itself, particularly Dunayevskaya’s contribution to it; and, an exchange that demonstrates

both writers’ intensifying criticism directed at some of Marcuse’s writings. The latter was a topic

both Fromm and Dunayevskaya would return to with increasing frequency throughout the late

1960s and 1970s, the topics ranging from Russia and the Eastern European revolts, Freud and

social theory, and the history and current status of the Frankfurt School.

       I want to return for a second to Fromm’s analysis of Marx in his 1955 The Sane Society,

several years before he was acquainted with Dunayevskaya’s work. Fromm points out that at the

end of his life Marx came under the influence of Lewis Henry Morgan, the American

anthropologist, and Johann Jakob Bachofen; with the influence of these, along with his

correspondence with Vera Zusulich, Fromm writes that Marx was ready to “make certain

changes in his theory”. Fromm holds that Marx, in suggesting in his correspondence with

Zusulich that Russia could develop in a socialist direction without destroying the rural communal

form (the mir), was modifying the emphasis he had placed on “ownership of the means of

production”. According to Fromm, Marx increasingly recognized the importance of the “power

of ideas”, and the “spirit of equality and cooperation”.

       We have already seen that Fromm himself, influenced to no small extent by

Dunayevskaya’s work, seemed to modify his own understanding of Marx’s theory, that is, to see

the unique idea of humanism that was at the core of Marx’s theory from its inception. Yet, it is

interesting indeed to connect this 1955 insight Fromm developed from his re-reading of the

totality of Marx’s writings, independent of Dunayevskaya, to Dunayevskaya’s later works.

Aware or not of what Fromm had developed in 1955, in the 1970s Dunayevskaya also turned to

Marx’s last decade, which included his correspondence with Zasulich, as well as his

Ethnological Notebooks. These Notebooks covered Morgan on gender and primitive society, as

well as other writers who were among the first Anthropologists. In taking up these notebooks,

Dunayevskaya challenges many of the well-known interpretations, particularly on gender, found

in Friedrich Engel’s Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Dunayevskaya

showed how Marx’s work in his last decade deepened the dialectical humanism characteristic of

his thought from the beginnings.

       But she also held that the new insights afforded by Marx’s last writings challenged

contemporary activists and theorists. In some of her last letters to Fromm, Dunayevksaya wrote

of her studies of Marx and gender, and of contemporary women theorists, especially Rosa

Luxemburg. In one of his last letters to Dunayevskaya, written October 26, 1977, as he lay

recovering from a heart attack, Fromm responded to Dunayevskaya’s probings:

          I feel that the male Social Democrats never could understand Rosa Luxemburg, nor
          could she acquire the influence for which she had the potential because she was a

          woman; and the men could not become full revolutionaries because they did not

          emancipate themselves from their male, patriarchal, and hence dominating, character

          structure. After all, the original exploitation is that of women by men and there is no

          social liberation as long as there is no revolution in the sex war ending in full equality,

          which has never existed since pre-history. I believe she was one of the few fully

          developed human beings, one who showed what a human being can be in the future....

          Unfortunately I have known nobody who still knows her personally. What a bad

          break between the generations.

       I will conclude here by saying, clearly, the Dunayevskaya, Marcuse, Fromm

correspondence shows that it was not so long ago there were powerful currents alive, which were

both the outcome of and the impetus for ideas that seemed integral to overcoming capitalism and

working out what happens after. The record of the Dunayevskaya, Marcuse, Fromm

correspondence is of the highest importance for any attempts to re-establish a link to this

unfinished dialectic.

      Marcuse 9/21/56 plan to publish Soviet Marxism, send RD typescript before goes to


      Brings us to “eyes light up”

      Go to: comparison of ’53 letters on Hegel’s audacity vs Marcuse’s E&C, plus Marcuse’s

preface, plus’53 letters vs M&F

      Go to from Soviet Marxism to 1 dimensional man: grundrisse, Hegel/Marx freedom,


1953 letters: Introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind (where Marx left off—“father Marx”)

       Eros & Civilization (final paragraph philosophy of mind, labor and necessity)

       Marcuse’s Preface to M&F

       Dunayevskaya’s Hegel section in M&F

       Soviet Marxism (Hegel’s freedom and necessity)

       That the authors of neither book connect Dunayevskaya’s reading of Hegel’s Philosophy

of Mind to her analyses of Marx’s Capital, Volume 3 may be explained by the fact that

Dunayevskaya herself never explicitly did so. For example, in Dunayevskaya’s May 20 1953

letter to Grace Lee on her reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, Dunayevskaya made a major

point of indicating that she had just re-read Capital, Volume 3 (particularly the section on

freedom, necessity, and post-capitalist society) (PON, p. 25); but five years later in Marxism and

Freedom Dunayevskaya discussed her findings in reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind only in

the section, “Hegel’s Absolutes and Our Age of Absolutes” (PON, pp. 37-43). In that section she

mainly interprets Philosophy of Mind’s final three syllogisms. However, it was not at Philosophy

of Mind’s final syllogisms that Marx’s 1844 text had broken off, but rather way before, when he

was commenting on the text’s Introduction just prior to Hegel’s discussion of the dialectic of

necessity, freedom, and a new society (precisely in Hegel’s text where Dunayevskaya initiated

her discussion in the 1953 letter to Grace Lee).

         Meanwhile, Dunayevskaya’s discussion of Capital, Volume 3—the section on freedom,

necessity and post-capitalist society—takes place in a separate chapter of Marxism and

Freedom.4 In this separate chapter Dunayevskaya never connects her discussion of Capital,

Volume 3 to Hegel’s introduction to Philosophy of Mind. This is so even though both the

Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Capital, Volume 3 take up the dialectic of necessity and

freedom, and it appears quite likely that in the latter Marx had “returned” to Hegel’s “Absolute

Mind” in the former to work out his concept of post-capitalist society

         The essay in which Marx broke off his discussion of Hegel’s text just prior to Hegel’s

analysis of the necessity and freedom dialectic is “Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic”, the third

and final manuscript of Marx’s Humanist Essays, or the “1844 Economic-Philosophic

Manuscripts”5. In this essay Marx surveys and issues critical commentary on Hegel’s major

works, including Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. The culmination of Hegel’s

system, the Encyclopedia includes separate volumes on Logic, Nature, and Mind. Marx’s 1844

essay includes summary, almost aphoristic critiques of all three volumes, but his manuscript

breaks off at a point approximately half-way through Hegel’s Introduction to Philosophy of

Mind. Dunayevskaya’s own analysis of Philosophy of Mind at the height of 1953 Johnson-Forest

    Dunayevskaya 2000, p. 145
    Fromm 1961, pp. 169-196.

tendency discussions of Hegel began (though she was unaware of it at the time) at the next

paragraph of Hegel’s text, following the point where Marx’s commentary had broken off.

Fromm, origins of Marxist-Humanism in the United States

*Based on adding brief descriptions of personality/theoretical trajectories of each correspondent

at beginning of paper (pre-R&R, post M&F for Marcuse; post-Capital for RD; pre-return to

Marx for Fromm)

RD’s comments came from her article in Fromm’s Socialist Humanist Symposium (1965)

So they implicate Fromm as well (example: Fromm letter describing disappointment with

“socialist” E.Europe)

Even though: 1959 letter from Fromm, inviting RD to translate for Marx’s Concept of Man,

which praises M&F

The impact of Dunayevskaya’s dialogue with Fromm on his introductory essay for Marx’s

concept of Man: especially state-capitalism, but also Hegel

Crystallization of the Frankfurt School and Marxist Humanism in the United States—and

Dunayevskaya and Fromm’s critique

Emergence of Eastern Europe and Women’s Liberation: RD’s deeper dive into Marx’s dialectic

in contrast to Fromm and Marcuse

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