The Forgotten History of Red Rebels – Raya Dunaevskaya-Fench

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15.05.2015 Posted in History, Lifestyle No Comments

I hope you liked my first article about Louise Berger written within the series of articles about the Red Rebels. Today I would like to say a few words about Raya Dunaevskaya whose 105th birthday we celebrated two weeks ago (a real revolutionary, Raya was born on Labour day – May 1). I came across Raya Dunaevskaya while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel, due to be published by McFarland in September. Both women were good friends. Unfortunately, due to the lack of space in my book, I was unable to write about Raya.

Raya Dunaevskaya was born in 1910 in a small village, Yaryshev, in the Vinnitsiya area, at the time a part of the Russia Empire, today’s Ukraine. (Regretabbly I did not find any photos of her which are copyright free and which could be published in my blog.) Raya’s fate was unusual from the start. At the aged of 12 she immigrated with her family to the U.S. where she joined the communist movement as a child,  becoming an active member in the American Communist Party youth organization. She was expelled at age 18 and thrown down a flight of stairs after suggesting to her comrades that they should find out Trotsky’s response to his expulsion from the Soviet Communist Party. A year later she joined a group of independent Trotskyists in Boston. She also advocated for birth control and legal abortion.

In 1937, when she was 27, she became a secretary of Lev Trotsky who by then moved to Mexico after being expelled by Stalin from Russia.

Becky_Edelson_and_Louise_Berger_(LOC_ggbain.16541) Leon Trotsky House - Mexico CityShe went to Mexico to join Lev Trotsky (without getting permission from the U.S. Trotskyist organization) as his Russian language secretary. She broke with Trotsky two years later over the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (more known as Hitler-Stalin Pact) signed in 1939. Trotsky maintained that the Soviet Union was a “worker’s state” even after this pact. Raya opposed any notion that workers should be allies with Nazi Germany.

Towards the end of her life, she stated that what she called “my real development” only began after her break with Trotsky.

She then developed a theory that that not only was the U.S.S.R. a ‘state capitalist’ society, but that ‘state capitalism’ was a new world stage.

In 1955 Raya founded her own organization, News and Letters Committees, and a Marxist-Humanist newspaper, News & Letters, which remains in publication today. The newspaper covers women’s struggles, the liberation of workers, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual rights and the disability rights movement, while not separating that coverage from philosophical and theoretical articles.

Dunayevskaya wrote what came to be known as her “trilogy of revolution”: Marxism and Freedom: From 1776 Until Today (1958), Philosophy and Revolution (1973), and Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution (1982) followed by on, a collection of writings, published in 1985, Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution. She died in 1987.

Raya’s speeches, letters, recordings and other items are located in the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.

*Information for this article came from Solidarités Journal, article about Raya Dunaevskaya by Gilberto Lopez Y Rivas; Wikipedia – Russian version.

**Featured image – the cover page of Soviet Posters: Pull Out Edition, by Maria Lafont, Prestel, 2014

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