Don’t dress Marxists up as liberals, Mason – Dunayevskaya put forward a powerful interpretation of Marx’s writings, stressing their continuities with the thought of the great German philosopher GWF Hegel. Her views are controversial because Marxists endlessly argue about Marx’s precise relation to Hegel. But she was a tough-minded Marxist who attached particular importance to Capital.
In her path-breaking study Marxism and Freedom (1958) Dunayevskaya shows how the workers’ struggles of the day and the US Civil War (1861-5) helped to shape the writing of Capital, Volume I. But she also stresses the importance of analysing the objective economic structures of capitalism that created the conditions for working-class self-activity. She says “Marx’s discovery” was “that the objective movement itself produces the subjective force for its overthrow”.
Dunayevskaya also had a very different assessment of Lenin from Mason. She puts his writings in historical context and praises him for winning the Bolshevik party to fighting for the workers’ councils (soviets) to take power in Russia in October 1917. “The party finally did become the ‘vanguard’, that is to say when they finally saw that without the spontaneity, the creative energies of millions, the ‘masses as reason’, which meant concretely their form of organisation to have power, the Marxist party would indeed be nothing but an elite,” she wrote.