Humanist lecture

In his letter published Nov. 2, Ted McCarron of the College Republicans, in an extended attack on the JLS, made reference repeatedly to the April 1987 forum where the late Marxist humanist thinker Raya Dunayevskaya gave a lecture in Sandburg Auditorium.

McCarron attacked the speaker for “trying to divide blacks against whites and women against men the way reds always do.” He also referred to Cambodian and Ethiopian refugees from authoritarian Marxist regimes. He claimed he was not allowed to present his viewpoint at the meeting, which was attended by 400 people.

As chair of that meeting, which was sponsered not only by the JLS, but also by CAB, the departments of history, philosophy and sociology and the Program in Women’s Studies, I would like to clarify what happened at this lively and interesting meeting, where an internationally known Marxist thinker and author gave her last public lecture, only two months before her death.

aya Dunayevskaya’s Marxist humanism includes a critique of existing Communist regimes such as Russia or China as not Marxism, but rather totalitarian state capitalism. She counterposes Marx’s humanistic vision of a society where “the freedom development of each is the conditon of the free development of all” to the reality of established Communism as well as contemporary capitalist societies. In her speech, she gave a critical analysis of American youth movements, especially the divestment movement against South Africa’s apartheid state and discussed her own Marxist humanist view in depth. A videotape of the lecture is on deposit at both the Sociology Department and the NIU Television Production facility.

In regards to Mr. McCarron’s accusations in his letter, several comments are in order: (1) He and his colleagues were several times allowed to take the floor at length and present their views. (2) The main thing which I though caused the audience to boo the CR’s at one point was their defense of the South African regime and thier opposition to economic sanctions against it, echoing the stance of Ronald Reagan. (3) Many people in the audience thought it as ludicrous to hold an independent anti-totalitarian Marxist humanist responsible for Stalinist totalitarianism, which she opposed all of her life in both actions and in her four published books, one of which, “Marxism and Freedom,” called Stalin’s Russia the “greatest barbarism on earth.” (4) Outside the meeting, the CR’s had distrubuted a rather incoherant flier beginning the “liberal-left once again presents an anti-American speaker.” While they had every right to do so, they should not have expectd this to gain the approval of the audience.

I assume the CR’s were upset at the speaker’s claim that Marx was a great humanist revolutionary thinker, her defense of the Sandinista legitimate government of Nicaragua against Reagan’s murderous contras, her attacks on U.S. complicity with apartheid South Africa, and the fact that such a large audience had attended this event. Apparently, Mr. McCarron is still upset, wishing to debate this issue six months later. I welcome his challenge to debate these issues, but wish in the future that he and his colleagues would inform themselves on a issue before attacking another position as “anti-American.”

Kevin Anderson

assistant professor