Communist University

1701 Heart of Revolution | 1702 One World | 1703 Hegel | 1704 Lenin | 1705 Freedom | 1706 Weapon of Theory | 1707 Marx or Marxism? | 1708 Pedagogy | 1709 Liberation Theology | 1710 Philosophical Battlefield, and Epilogue


Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution

“Openings”


Note:

The Communist University’s Generic Courses are first and foremost designed as a resource for people who may wish to meet regularly in study circles to learn in dialogue around suitable texts or “codifications”. The CU provides sets or series of texts for this purpose.


The Communist University Blog, and its linked e-mail distribution, functioned as the generator of new material for the Communist University’s re-edited and re-formatted versions of the CU’s original Generic Courses, which were first published nearly four years previously on the amadlandawonye Wikispace web site.

The following course on the Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution is, as usual, mainly in the form of short, original writings. That is to say, they are for the most part texts that are sourced from the primary authors, and not interpretive texts from “analysts” or from academics.

Derived from the blog posts, the commentaries below are provided for continuity and as an explanation of why the particular texts were chosen, and why they were ordered in the way that they appear. Each one corresponds to one of the twelve main texts, and is numbered accordingly.


They can also serve as the equivalent of an “opening of the discussion” that one participant who had read the text would give to a study circle. It is better if you can do your own “openings” to such discussions.

There are many ways of doing an “opening” that can “kick off” the dialogue. One is to use a lot of quotations from the given text. Another is to try to find one or two strong points of controversy. Another is to attempt a summary, or a “review” of the item. Another is to state, frankly, what one does not understand in the text, and ask the comrades to assist!

Dominic Tweedie, November 2009





1701 Heart of Revolution



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This is the first of a new Communist University Generic Course called “Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution,” which combines the two 2005 Generic Courses on “Religion and Revolutionary Politics” and “Philosophy of Freedom”. This course is the eighth and last in the current round of re-editing for publication of the CU Generic Courses on the SACP web site.

In the Progress Publishers (Moscow) Dictionary of Philosophy (1984 English edition) the Fundamental Question of Philosophy is given as: “the question of the relationship of consciousness to being, of thought to matter and nature, examined on two planes, first, what is primary – spirit or nature, matter or consciousness – and second, how is knowledge of the world related to the world itself, or to put it differently, does consciousness correspond to being, is it capable of truthfully reflecting the world?”

The Communist University takes this to mean the relationship of Subject to Object, of which the Subject – Humanity – ourselves – is our primary concern and source of value, and therefore source of morality.

We take it from Caudwell that freedom is the good that contains all good, and we take it from Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto that the free development of each is the precondition for the free development of all. We will contrast this view with the contradictory view, which is that matter can be held as primary, and that human consciousness can be treated as derivative of the material that contains it.

Thus the principal dialectic of this set will proceed, without dogma and without closure.

Oscar Wilde [Image], perhaps with assistance from the Communist Manifesto, saw that only from the free development of each could come the free development of all, and that the purpose of Socialism is therefore Individualism. Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” (linked below) is a very good text to discuss, if people are ready for discussion. It is not necessary to read the whole sixteen pages (but it is rewarding to do so).

Karl Marx, writing 37 years earlier than Wilde, expresses very similar sentiments in relation to the Germans, as Wilde does in relation to the English; and even though he writes of the abolition of religion, yet Marx with words that have forever since been famous, expressed in his “Introduction to a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right” (linked) his tender and sympathetic understanding of “the heart of a heartless world”.

The eleven Theses on Feuerbach (linked) are equally well-known, especially the last one. Any one of these theses would be adequate on its own as a topic for discussion in a study circle.

So far, the works given here tend to lie easily on the side of priority for freedom and for free will in the philosophy of communism. Part 1 of Karl Marx’s “The German Ideology” (linked) is sub-titled “Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook”, and it might therefore be expected to weigh on the other side of the scales. It might be thought that those who are inclined to define humanity in terms of the properties of certain peculiar movements of atoms and molecules would find comfort here.

Is this the case? Does Marx support or advance in any way the reduction of all humanity and human history to a non-human, molecular, chemical or nuclear source? Or is Marx merely saying that the human Subject is only comprehensible within a material, objective world? In other words that the relationship of mind and matter is just that: a relationship. In other words again, simply that one is inconceivable without the other, and no more than that? We will return to these questions.

Note

The amount of reading that is given is far too much for a weekly study circle. After the first, the remaining material is given as optional extra reading, and also because of the nature of the topic: philosophy. As the Theses on Feuerbach demonstrate, it is possible to be as concise in philosophy as, for example, the Freedom Charter is in politics. But such examples are rare. Most of the suitable philosophical writings are longer. In addition, the reading of philosophy is difficult, because it constantly presents unfamiliar and revolutionary ideas, which may take effort, over time, to absorb.

Click on this link:

The Soul of Man under Socialism, 1891, Wilde (14381 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Intro, 1844, Marx (5605 words)

Theses on Feuerbach, 1845, Marx (789 words)

Idealism and Materialism, 1845, Marx (7473 words)





1702 One World



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This series on “Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution” is bound to come up against Frederick Engels, and it might as well do so early. So the main linked item below, known as “On Dialectics”, is a preface to Engel’s polemical work against Herr Eugen Dühring, known as “Anti-Dühring”.

Among other things, we are going to be saying that philosophy is indispensible to politics, and that weakness in philosophy will have, and in the past did have, disastrous effects upon political work. It turns out that although Karl Marx had a doctorate in philosophy and was reliable, and did inform all his works with philosophy, yet it was Engels who wrote didactically (that is, he preached) about philosophy, and principally in the work called “Anti-Dühring”. This is the work that contains the notorious “tools of analysis” that encourage people to have the illusion that they have a simple set of keys to the kingdom of knowledge. This CU course will leave those “tools” aside, deliberately; but we are forced to spend some time with the book in general, because it has been so influential.

The book is an argument against a person who was of very little consequence in history. Without wishing to be cruel, one could say that Dühring was a nobody. At least, he was thoroughly ordinary, only extraordinarily muddle-headed. In the book, Engels spends a tedious amount of time explaining Dühring’s errors. Engels is then obliged to express a fully-elaborated alternative world outlook, being unable to rely upon any of Dühring’s work. Hence “Anti-Dühring” appears as and became known as a compendium, and was recognised as such by Lenin, among others.

Engels spends the first page of this preface with Dühring, before breaking away with the remark that “theoretical thought is a historical product”. Then he begins to expound dialectics, investigated, as he claims, prior to his and Marx’s work, only by Hegel [Image, above] and by Aristotle. Dialectics “alone offers the analogue for, and thereby the method of explaining, the evolutionary processes occurring in nature, inter-connections in general, and transitions from one field of investigation to another,” says Engels.

The claim that Engels is making for dialectics is that it, and only it, can embrace the entirety of human thought through history, as well as the entirety of human understanding in the present. Because of dialectics, because of Aristotle, Hegel, Marx and Engels, all of this becomes possible and at the same time, therefore, unavoidable.

This recognition of unity in human history, experience, and understanding is simultaneously a great breakthrough and a pillar of our age, but also a contested, and to some extent unabsorbed idea. It would make racism impossible, for example; yet racism survives. There remain opposing schools of philosophy, and the irrational, anti-human and reactionary system called “post-modernism” has in recent decades become the mental currency of Imperialism.

To illustrate the continuity of philosophical thought and development the CU gives you a chronicle and a diagram of philosophical thought that may serve as a framework for further studies (“Philosophers”, linked). This is followed by a longer document, written by Anthony Blunt, that describes the Italian Renaissance (rebirth) through the life and work of Leon Battista Alberti. The Renaissance is significant as the link between the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and the modern world. It drew also upon Arab, Indian and Chinese culture. This piece of writing can help show how, in historical actuality, the unity of historical thought that Hegel later theorised had in fact been created.

The Italian Renaissance, based as it was on reason and the understanding that humans can develop human culture, not absolutely limited by the extent of the knowledge of the ancients, or by any other limitation, offers a pure and developed form of humanism. The Italian Renaissance was later overcome by its own internal reactionary forces, but humanism did not sleep as long as it had after the fall of the Roman Empire. It quickly rose again in Northern Europe, led by the work of Baruch Spinoza, among others. A very short piece of Spinoza’s writing is given at the end of the Anthony Blunt document.

Finally, but not for the first time in the new CU Generic Courses, we link to Engels’ “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific”, extracted by Engels from his larger work, “Anti-Dühring”, which helps to place thought in a historical framework. For example, dealing with the period subsequent to the Renaissance and immediately prior to the French Revolution that is often referred to as “The Enlightenment”, Engels writes:

We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realization in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, the Contrat Social [Social Contract] of Rousseau, came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic. The great thinkers of the 18th century could, no more than their predecessors, go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch.”

Here is the limitation imposed upon the Subject by the objective circumstances. This is humanism. Humanism says that humans build humanity (see also the quote from Spinoza referred to above) within the given material world and history. Nowhere does Engels say that humanity is an accidental combination of atoms and molecules.

Yet, by chastising the great Hegel with the same kind of roughness as he treats the nonentity Dühring, Engels sowed the seeds of others’ subsequent and greater errors, by elevating the dichotomy of “idealism and materialism” to a master-narrative of philosophy, which it is not, and leading finally towards that absurdity which we will continue to expose, that says that humanity is reducible to matter.

Communists have relied too heavily upon Engels to teach them philosophy. As a result they have magnified Engels’ otherwise unremarkable mistakes to monstrous proportions. The main one of these is the denigration of “idealism” and the perverse worship of “materialism”. Whereas it is the free-willing human Subject which was at the centre of Marx’s work, and which must be at the centre of any communist’s work.

Click on this link:

On Dialectics, 1878, Engels (3279 words)

Further (optional) reading

Philosophers, 2004, Tweedie (2657 words)

Alberti and Spinoza compilation, Blunt, Spinoza (7150 words)

Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, 1880, Engels (16229 words)





1703 Hegel




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George William Frederick Hegel (1770-1831) [Image: Hegel with his students] was more than a John the Baptist to Karl Marx’s Christ. Hegel had gathered up everything that had gone before and displayed it as unified history.

Engels, in his (linked below) “Ludwig Feuerbach”, in a very readable style, describes events about Hegel that took place while Engels was a child (Engels was born in 1820 and died in 1895) and which culminated in his own involvement with the Young Hegelians and the sensational arrival on the scene of Ludwig Feuerbach. This was the crucible within which “Marxism”, if there is such a thing, was formed; and the dialectical method taught by Hegel is the one that Marx used, particularly in “Capital”.

Engels writes:

“… with Hegel philosophy comes to an end; on the one hand, because in his system he summed up its whole development in the most splendid fashion; and on the other hand, because, even though unconsciously, he showed us the way out of the labyrinth of systems to real positive knowledge of the world.

“One can imagine what a tremendous effect this Hegelian system must have produced in the philosophy-tinged atmosphere of Germany. It was a triumphant procession which lasted for decades and which by no means came to a standstill on the death of Hegel. On the contrary, it was precisely from 1830 to 1840 that ‘Hegelianism’ reigned most exclusively, and to a greater or lesser extent infected even its opponents.”

A good place to start learning about Hegel is Andy Blunden’s Getting to know Hegel, which is part of Andy’s great resource called Hegel by Hypertext.

The second linked item, which is from Anti-Dühring, suffers from the occasional problem of that work: that it gives rather too much attention to Herr Dühring. The relevant part is mainly on page 5, which begins:

“Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him, freedom is the insight into necessity (die Einsicht in die Notwendigheit).

"‘Necessity is blind only in so far as it is not understood [begriffen].’

“Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends.”

Freedom is the recognition of necessity. The Subject knows the Object, and is made free. This is the discovery of freedom in the Fundamental Question of Philosophy, and it is the only answer that we need from that Question. Preoccupation with the alleged primacy of the material over the human is a scholastic dispute that has no practical use.

The third linked item is a return to Engels’ Ludwig Feuerbach, in its fourth and final part, dealing with Engels’ friend Karl Marx, who had died three years prior to the publication of this work of Engels’.


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Engels [Image] writes:

“Out of the dissolution of the Hegelian school, however, there developed still another tendency, the only one which has borne real fruit. And this tendency is essentially connected with the name of Marx (1).

“The separation from Hegelian philosophy was here also the result of a return to the materialist standpoint. That means it was resolved to comprehend the real world — nature and history — just as it presents itself to everyone who approaches it free from preconceived idealist crotchets. It was decided mercilessly to sacrifice every idealist fancy which could not be brought into harmony with the facts conceived in their own and not in a fantastic interconnection. And materialism means nothing more than this.”

Yes, materialism was crucial to Marx’s theories. Materialism gazed mercilessly at the objective universe from the point of view of the free individual human being. But it did not amount to an elevation of the material universe to the status of a “prime mover” God, progenitor of life and breather of spirit into man. Materialism means nothing more than reality, as opposed to fantasy; reality, seen by the human Subject.

The remainder of Part 4 of “Ludwig Feuerbach” develops into one of those grand sweeping overviews of which both Engels and Marx were capable. In this case science, philosophy and class politics are interwoven in an undoubtedly dialectical way.

There is also a typically self-deprecating footnote by Engels about Karl Marx and their relationship, but here Engels may be too close to the action to be able to make a correct judgement. The full truth is surely not contained in these few words of his. The political contribution of any comrade, in total, is an unknowable quantity. Comparisons between one comrade and another are generally odious. Engels’ contribution is undoubted, and his contribution to this CU topic of “Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution” and of Hegel in particular is proportionately greater than any other, because he was involved with it from the early 1840s, before he met Marx, and because he took care to write about it.

Click on this link:

Ludwig Feuerbach, Part 1 - Hegel, 1886, Engels (3647 words) [with Part 2]

Further (optional) reading:

Anti-Dühring, Chapter 11, Freedom & Necessity, 1877, Engels (4559 words)

Ludwig Feuerbach, Part 4, Marx, 1886, Engels (6967 words) [with Part 3]





1704 Lenin




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Helena Sheehan records that Christopher Caudwell used a quote from Lenin [Image: Lenin in 1896, aged 26] that says "Communism becomes a mere empty phrase, a mere facade, and the communist a mere bluffer, if he has not worked over in his consciousness the whole inheritance of human knowledge."

Lenin took philosophy seriously. Through 1908 and into 1909 he wrote and then published an entire book on philosophy called Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. The book is belligerently partisan for materialism versus idealism, as Lenin saw those things at that time. “Anyone in the least acquainted with philosophical literature must know that scarcely a single contemporary professor of philosophy (or of theology) can be found who is not directly or indirectly engaged in refuting materialism,” says Lenin, “in lieu of an Introduction”.

Lenin also left his notebook on philosophy, “Conspectus of Hegel’s book ‘The Science of Logic’”, dated 1914, in which, among other things, Lenin wrote: “It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later, none of the Marxists understood Marx!!”

These two stances are not exactly compatible. Hegel, after all, had always been denounced, including by Lenin, as an “idealist”.

Philosophers tend to conclude that Lenin was still deliberately learning philosophy up until the tumultuous events that followed the outbreak of the Imperialist World War in mid-1914, the resulting split in the communist movement, the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, and the enormous consequences that followed, with Lenin required to give a lead in almost every sphere of life.

What we will use here as discussion concerns Lenin’s approach to religion. Among the “classics” it is Lenin who provided the most explicit and direct prescriptions as to how practical, organising, educating and mobilising communists should deal with the question of religion. Whether he does so in a completely satisfactory way, or not, can be part of the discussion.

Lenin cannot be accused of being sympathetic to religion, as Karl Marx could be, for example, on the strength of the Introduction to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right; while Engels appears to have left the topic alone. Lenin’s feelings about religion can be judged from a note in “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” where Lenin writes “However good your intentions may be, Comrade Lunacharsky, it is not a smile, but disgust your flirtation with religion provokes.” [Image below: Anatoly Lunacharsky, People's Commissar of Education in Lenin’s first Soviet government]


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Altogether, the amount of writing by these three on the subject of religion is remarkably little. It may amount to as little as a thousandth of one per cent of what they wrote in total.

This is not surprising considering that communism is not about religion and is not at war with God. Communists are interested in individual people and humanity in general. Yet it remains a fact that in most countries, including South Africa, the majority of people, including workers, are, if not strictly religious, brought up within the fold of religion from one generation to another. So even if the communist theoretical legacy around the question of religion is very small, yet it is important. A theory of how to deal with religion will be helpful to communist cadres today.

Lenin’s “Attitude of Worker's Party to Religion” (linked below) attacks the question. Let us quarrel with Lenin for once. He writes:
“It is the absolute duty of Social-Democrats to make a public statement of their attitude towards religion.” Is it? Why is it?

Lenin writes:
“The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism… a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion.” In truth, neither Marx nor Engels ever used the phrase “dialectical materialism”, as we will show later on in this series. Nor is our materialism the opposite of religion, in the way that Lenin puts it here. Ours is only to say that the counterpart to the Subject is the real, objective universe. This is not an anti-religious statement, or an anti-religious materialism. It is humanism.

“Religion is the opium of the people—this dictum by Marx is the corner-stone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion,” writes Lenin, lending his authority to a terrible mistake that has since been repeated millions of times. Marx’s point was that religion was a relief to the poor people who could not afford opium, and that religion was also “the heart of a heartless world” and the “sigh of the oppressed creature”.

But Lenin, in this rather badly-constructed statement, appears more concerned to establish his atheistic credentials than to push his denunciations of religion to a conclusion, because he soon starts back-tracking. He recalls various examples of bourgeois persecution of religion, disapprovingly. He manages to say that the socialist revolutionaries are not tactical about religion, but also that they subordinate the question of religion to more crucial necessities. So he appears to contradict himself in this regard, too.

Then, towards the end, Lenin managed to praise the Duma deputy (parliamentary representative) Surkov, who had made a speech denouncing religion as the opium of the masses. Really, this pamphlet looks like damage control or spin-doctoring by Lenin. It looks like Comrade Surkov had got into a controversy and needed some public backing. The second item, “Classes and Parties, Attitudes to Religion”, is another response to the same exchange in the Duma, sent a few days later. Lenin is behaving like a media spokesperson of today, releasing e-mails.

These two rather forced responses are all we have in terms of prescription on relations with the religious believers, from the “classics”.

The third linked item is “The 3 Sources and 3 Component Parts of Marxism”. It is a favourite because it is very concise and very illuminating, but it also contains mistakes, and it encourages mistakes. For example, Lenin writes: “… there is nothing resembling "sectarianism" in Marxism, in the sense of its being a hidebound, petrified doctrine, a doctrine which arose away from the highroad of development of world civilisation,” and then immediately follows with “The Marxian doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is complete and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world conception” - in other words, it is hidebound. This pair of sentences constitutes another self-contradiction by Lenin.

What happened to the “highroad of development of world civilisation” in between the two statements? Did it come to a dead end? Actually, Marx himself opposed the concept of a “doctrine” that would be “omnipotent because true”, or “complete”. Marx’s work was not complete in his lifetime, and if he had been blessed with two lifetimes, he would surely have left a correspondingly greater amount of revolutionary work-in-progress.

Lenin writes: “Where the bourgeois economists saw a relation of things (the exchange of one commodity for another), Marx revealed a relation of men.” This is true. Marx was concerned with the men, more than with the things. This is why it is necessary to be careful with the word “materialism”.

The fourth linked item is Lenin’s “Biographical Sketch and Exposition” of Karl Marx, written and first published as an encyclopaedia entry. It has all the hallmarks of Lenin’s precision of style, being concise and concrete, but also all of the worst side of Lenin’s didacticism, almost to the point of dogma. “Marxism is the system of Marx’s views and teachings,” writes Lenin, cheerfully beginning the section headed “The Marxist Doctrine”. The next section is called “Marx’s Economic Doctrine”. We will be dealing with such boneheaded and totally un-Marx-like formulations as “Marx’s Economic Doctrine” in later parts of this course. Suffice it to say that Marx did not write economics, and he didn’t write “doctrine” of any kind.

Lenin was the greatest revolutionist in history, up to now, but he was not the greatest philosopher. Karl Marx was the greatest philosopher, up to now. For all the hundreds of millions of followers that Marx has, and Lenin was one of them, yet nearly all of them are still struggling to understand him, let alone catch up with him.

Click on this link:

Attitude of Worker's Party to Religion, 1900, Lenin (4419 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Classes and Parties, Attitudes to Religion, 1909, Lenin (3414 words)

3 Sources and 3 Component Parts of Marxism, 1913, Lenin (1838 words)

Karl Marx, Biographical Sketch and Exposition, 1914, Lenin (14044 words)




1705 Freedom



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Before the main text of this post there are two double quotations (first Sheehan’s words, then Caudwell’s) taken from Helena Sheehan’s Christopher Caudwell web page.



The act of knowing transformed what was known. It was never possible to detach the thing known from the knowing of it. Caudwell opposed all passivist imagery in describing knowledge. Knowledge was not a matter of copying, mirroring, photographing, reflecting. Although he never remarked on Lenin's use of such imagery in [Lenin’s] Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, he had read the book and his rejection of the reflectionist model was quite explicit and polemically expressed. In no uncertain terms, Caudwell made his point:

"The mirror reflects accurately: it does not know. Each particle in the universe reflects the rest of the universe, but knowledge is only given to human beings as a result of an active and social relation to the rest of reality."



In terms of the debate within [Lenin’s] Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, [Caudwell’s] was neither the position of Lenin nor that of Bogdanov. Nor was it the position of Lukacs or Korsch either. It was perhaps the position Gramsci was groping for, but never expressed with such confident clarity as Caudwell. When it came down to it, being preceded knowing, knowing flowed from being and evolved as an extension of being. Decidedly post-Cartesian, Caudwell asserted: I live therefore I think I am. In a concise statement of the fundamental contours of his theory of knowledge, he wrote:

"The question of which is first, mind or matter, is not therefore a question of which is first, subject or object ... Going back in the universe along the dialectic of qualities, we reach by inference a state where no human or animal bodies existed and therefore no minds. It is not strictly accurate to say that therefore the object is prior to the subject any more than it is correct to say the opposite. Object and subject as exhibited by the mind relation, come into being simultaneously.... We can say that relations seen by us between qualities in our environment (the arrangement of the cosmos, energy, mass, all the entities of physics) existed before the subject-object relationship implied in mind. We prove this by the transformations which take place independent of our desires. In this sense, nature is prior to mind and this is the vital sense for science. These qualities produced, as cause and around produce effect, the synthesis, or particular subject-object relationship which we call knowing. Nature therefore produced mind. But the nature which produced mind was not nature "as seen by us." . . . It is nature.... as having indirect not direct relations with us.... Such a view reconciles the endless dualism of mentalism and objectivism. It is the universe of dialectical materialism. Unlike previous philosophies, it includes all reality: it includes not only the world of physics, but it includes smells, tastes, colors, the touch of a loved hand, hopes, desires, beauties, death and life, truth and error."



Christopher Caudwell’s “Studies in a Dying Culture” were published at a particular moment in history. Caudwell had been killed while defending the Republic in the Spanish Civil War [Image below: Caudwell on the eve of his departure for Spain, from a group photograph]. With its references to his contemporaries H G Wells, Bertrand Russell, and E M Forster (and the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau) Caudwell’s essay may seem dated at first glance, but actually, like a lot of Caudwell’s work, it remains critical today and right up to date, in a time when the question of the free-willing human Subject is once again at the forefront.

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“Implicit in the conception of thinkers like Russell and Forster, that all social relations are restraints on spontaneous liberty, is the assumption that the animal is the only completely free creature. No one constrains the solitary carnivore to do anything. This is of course an ancient fallacy. Rousseau is the famous exponent. Man is born free but is everywhere in chains. Always in the bourgeois mind is this legend of the golden age, of a perfectly good man corrupted by institutions. Unfortunately not only is man not good without institutions, he is not evil either. He is no man at all; he is neither good nor evil; he is an unconscious brute.

“Russell's idea of liberty is the unphilosophical idea of bestiality… The man alone, unconstrained, answerable only to his instincts, is Russell's free man. Thus all man's painful progress from the beasts is held to be useless. All men's work and sweat and revolutions have been away from freedom. If this is true, and if a man believes, as most of us do, as Russell does, that freedom is the essential goal of human effort, then civilisation should be abandoned and we should return to the woods. I am a Communist because I believe in freedom. I criticise Russell, and Wells, and Forster, because I believe they are the champions of unfreedom.”

Caudwell had got to the heart of the matter: “
I am a Communist because I believe in freedom,” he wrote. And what is that? Of all politicians, only those who are communists will be able to answer the question “What is freedom?” in a satisfactory way. Others will echo the sophisticated Bertrand Russell’s bourgeois-romantic version of freedom, as a return to the condition of the wild beasts, or otherwise will say little, or nothing.

Power to the People is our slogan. This is the essence of our project. It means that the masses will have agency. The masses will be human, which is to say, able to think and to act upon their thoughts. This is the active freedom that Caudwell writes about. “This good, liberty, contains all good,” he says.

After Caudwell, and after the war that ended in victory over the fascists against whom Caudwell had fought with his body as well as his pen, bourgeois thinkers did not embrace Caudwell’s idea of liberty. Instead, they fled to irrational, anti-humanist and even outright anti-human philosophies: existentialism, positivism, structuralism, and especially the overtly irrational “Post-modernism” that has now become the house philosophy of Imperialism. Some of them declared “The Death of the Subject”. In other words, they denied human free will.

In 2002 another English author and philosopher called
James Heartfield defied the Post-Modernists and published a book called “The ‘Death of the Subject’ Explained” thereby helping to inspire the Johannesburg Communist University that started in 2003. Heartfield kindly allowed the CU to use some extracts from his book. These are contained in the second linked document below.

We communists are for freedom. We are human, not post-human. We are part of a liberation movement, not only of the colonially oppressed, but of humanity worldwide against Imperialism. We are the ones with the theory of freedom. It is the source of our morality. Power to the People! Amandla!

The concept of the free-willing human Subject is the most valuable product of philosophy, including the philosophy of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. We are going to defend it, including, if necessary, against the concept of materialism, if materialism is taken to say that human life and culture is only a transitory arrangement of molecules.

The image at the top of this post is the “Uomo Vitruviano” of Leonardo da Vinci, from the humanist period of the Italian Renaissance. Its meaning is that Man (humanity) is the measure of the Universe.


Click on this link:

Liberty, a Study in Bourgeois Illusion, 1938, Caudwell (9550 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Death of the Subject Explained Selection, 2002, Heartfield (14148 words)





1706 Weapon of Theory




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The Tricontinental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America was held in Havana in January, 1966, seven years after the Cuban Revolution and 46 years after the Baku Conference of the Peoples of the East. Forty-three years have now passed since the Tricontinental. A lot has been achieved in that time, including our South African democratic breakthrough. A lot still remains to be achieved. The full defeat of Imperialism has not yet occurred. What we can say is that the 20th-Century agenda was set by the liberation movements. The great political change in the world in that century was the taking of sovereign independence by the formerly oppressed people of the former colonies, affecting the great majority of the population of the planet and opening the road of democracy for them.

This gigantic movement and huge change was achieved with the weapon of theory.

Amilcar Cabral [Image] in his speech to the Tricontinental that has always been known by that title, “Weapon of Theory” (linked below), also said the following, 43 years ago:

“It is often said that national liberation is based on the right of every people to freely control its own destiny and that the objective of this liberation is national independence. Although we do not disagree with this vague and subjective way of expressing a complex reality, we prefer to be objective, since for us the basis of national liberation, whatever the formulas adopted on the level of international law, is the inalienable right of every people to have its own history, and the objective of national liberation is to regain this right usurped by imperialism, that is to say, to free the process of development of the national productive forces.

“For this reason, in our opinion, any national liberation movement which does not take into consideration this basis and this objective may certainly struggle against imperialism, but will surely not be struggling for national liberation.

“This means that, bearing in mind the essential characteristics of the present world economy, as well as experiences already gained in the field of anti-imperialist struggle, the principal aspect of national liberation struggle is the struggle against neo-colonialism.”

Amilcar Cabral was a true vanguardist – both a great leader, and a great intellectual.

Ten years after the Tricontinental, in 1976, four articles were published in the African Communist, written by John Hoffman (who is still in 2009 teaching philosophy at Leicester University in England, but who is no longer a believer in Dialectical Materialism) under the pen-name Dialego. These were subsequently published more than once, all together, as a booklet. Two of the four parts are linked below. (Click here for Part 3 and Part 4 if required). The articles were popular and are still famous, and they certainly raised the flag of theory. But they contained major deficiencies, of which the principal one is Dialectical Materialism itself.

We are going to return to the history of “Dialectical Materialism” in the next part of this series, and then look again at the much more fruitful Subject-Object relation, with priority given to the free human Subject, in the following two parts, before summing up in the tenth and last part of the series.

Hoffman (in his Part 2) writes of “Materialism Vs. Idealism: the Basic Question of Philosophy”. Whereas the Progress Publishers Dictionary of Philosophy says that the Fundamental Question of Philosophy is the relation of the Subject to the Object. It is as if Hoffman thought that these two pairs were the same. But they are not the same and the Dialego articles show the glaring errors that arise if and when these two formulations are conflated into one.

For example, in Part 1 under “Philosophy and Our ‘Experience’”, Hoffman describes a condition that he calls “stress[ing] the materialist component of our philosophy at the expense of the dialectical”. This is a muddle. What he is describing is what he is promoting: the idealisation of the objective factors of a situation, so that the human Subject is all but eliminated. Out goes God, in come the atoms and the molecules.

The dialectic that is political is the one between subjective humans and the objective (yes, material) universe. In this political dialectic, the Subject is the “point”. As Marx wrote in the 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Who’s point? Our point: the human beings’ point. A dialectic between material and material is like a tree falling in the forest, unseen and unheard by anyone. It is a real event, but it is not a political event.

Similarly, a switch from an imaginary world of superstition, to prioritising inert material, is no gain at all. In fact these are only two different forms of idealism. In both cases powers are held up that are higher than people, whether invisible or visible. But in politics, the power that matters is people-power. For sure, that means people-power in a real, material world. It does not mean a “balancing act”.

Hoffman’s (then) devotion to materialism leads him to write that “[man] developed out of the world of nature through a long process of evolution and his ideas are the product of the mental activity of his brain, itself a highly developed and complex form of matter.”

This places us in relation to “man” like spectators at the moment that God in Genesis breathed a spirit into Adam, but without the explanatory story that the Bible gives us.

How does a “complex form of matter” become human? Actually, it is not even necessary to ask. It is only Hoffman’s kind of materialism that leads to such questions. For the rest of us, humanity is as much of a “given” as the atoms and molecules of which matter is composed, except that humanity is special, while matter is matter; and humanity is revolutionary work-in-progress.

It is the free-willing human Subject that is at the centre of our consciousness, our concerns, and our morality.

Click on this link:

The Weapon of Theory, 1966, Amilcar Cabral (7710 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Dialego, Part 1, Necessity of Theory, 1976, John Hoffman (3627 words)

Dialego, Part 2, Theory of Action, 1976, John Hoffman (4318 words)





1707 Marx or Marxism?




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Cyril Smith, late in life, and following the fall of the Soviet Union, felt himself free enough to challenge the principle Shibboleths of Marxism, including the word “Marxism” itself. Students may think that here and there, Smith did not quite succeed in resolving all his issues. For example, he approves Marx's aim of “development of communist consciousness on a mass scale” but disapproves, in another place, of what he considers to be Lenin’s determination to do the same thing “from outside” (This CU course will continue to examine that particular question). But otherwise, Cyril Smith succeeds admirably to hit and to knock down his targets, which are the dead wood and the rotten branches of 165 years and more of “theory”, and he does us a great service thereby.

We may quickly get close to the heart of the matter by first looking at Smith’s talk on “The Communist Manifesto After 150 Years” (linked below), and in particular at the section headed “The Subject of History”. In this section, the daily practice of communists (“to educate, organise and mobilise”) comes together with the most profound depths of philosophy. It begins:

“Marx's problem was to discover the possibility for humanity, individually and collectively, to take conscious charge of its own life, and to find this possibility within bourgeois society. Communism would mean that humans would cease to be prisoners of their social relations, and begin purposively to make their own history. In other words, we should cease to be mere objects and start to live as subjects.”

It is not unreasonable, nor is it an exaggeration, to say that this is the whole matter of Marx, Lenin, communism and the entire work of all the communists that have ever been. Therefore this section is suggested as the main reading and discussion text for this part, and the matter will be taken up again in the next part. Use the section on “The Subject of History” for discussion, because it is sufficient, but do also read the entire document, for the light that it sheds upon the Communist Manifesto of 1848.

Soon afterwards, in “Hegel, Economics, and Marx's Capital” (linked below) Smith took on Marx’s premier work, “Capital”, and showed how generations of Marxists have got it very wrong. In particular, Smith shows us how “Capital” is not about “economics” or about what even Great Lenin mistakenly called “Marx’s Economic Doctrine”, but is really what it says it is: “A Critique of Political Economy”. Equally mistaken, Smith shows, is the vulgar conception of the relation between Hegel’s work and Marx’s, and here Smith could have drawn support from E. V. Ilyenkov’s [Image, above]The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital”, published in the Soviet Union in 1960. No doubt, Smith is not the first to rediscover the real Marx, and he will not have been the last. Apart from giving us a very good reminder to pay proper attention to what we are reading, Smith is also validating the CU policy of reading the original work more than the commentators and the analysts (see, e.g., the CU Generic Course on Capital, Volume 1)

Smith is very effective in dealing with the dead phrase with a zombie existence, “dialectical materialism”, never used by Marx, invented by Kautsky and Plekhanov, and used as a brand by Stalin. The third linked item is Chapter 2, “How the Marxists Buried Marx” (linked below), from Cyril Smith’s “Marx at the Millennium”, published in 1998. On the third page of that chapter, Smith wrote:

“… it is appropriate to begin with one of the most widely circulated philosophical statements of the twentieth century. It starts like this:

“Dialectical materialism is the outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method of apprehending them is dialectical, while its interpretation of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory, is materialistic.

“Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history.”

“This stuff appeared in 1939. In my view, its method, standpoint, dogmatic style and conclusions are all utterly opposed to everything that Marx stood for.”

The author was J. V. Stalin. A little later Smith writes (and he could have been writing about “Dialego”):

“Let us bring ourselves to look briefly at the way the Stalinist catechism of 1939 hitched up a highly mechanised materialism with something called ‘dialectics’. On the one hand, ‘Nature, being, the material world, is primary, and mind, thought, is secondary.’ What does this word ‘primary’ mean? Does it mean ‘first in time’ or ‘first in importance’? Or does it mean that matter ‘causes’ changes in ‘mind’? Nobody can tell, and precisely this ambiguity conferred mysterious power.”

Smith shows how even Lenin had been fooled by the catch-phrase:

“In the preface to his 1908 book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Lenin declared: ‘Marx and Engels scores of times termed their philosophical views dialectical materialism.’ He was so sure about this, that he felt no need to give any references.

“In fact, there is not one! Marx never employed the phrase in any of his writings. The term ‘dialectical materialism’ was introduced in 1891 by Plekhanov, in an article in Kautsky’s Neue Zeit. He thought wrongly, I believe, that he was merely adapting it from Engels’s usage in Anti-Duhring and Ludwig Feuerbach.”

Cyril Smith has done a good job. There are plenty of comrades who still cling to the thoughtless formula, “dialectical materialism”, and they give support and solidarity to each other. Smith can help those others who would wish to liberate themselves from the dead hands of Plekhanov, Kautsky and Stalin.

Cyril Smith also does not spare Trotsky, with whom he otherwise appears to have had some sympathy. The most serious deficiency he finds in Trotsky, however, is not any of Trotsky’s sins of omission or dissembling, but Trotsky’s lack of philosophy, and his failure to get any of his followers to make up his own deficiency. While Lenin made great progress in philosophy, Trotsky failed altogether, writes Smith.

What Smith is saying is that in the last analysis, it was the inability to overcome the Philistine, Stalin, through full command of philosophy, which led to the degradation of the Russian Revolution and its eventual reversal. Philosophy is the keystone. Without it, the other stones are bound to fall. Smith says of the Trotskyists:

“But they never had the theoretical resources to penetrate to its philosophical core. The best they could do was to show that Stalinist policies and distortions were contrary to the decisions of Lenin’s party and the teachings of ‘Marxism’.”

The Trotskyists were trapped within the same hall of mirrors that they had helped Stalin to construct.

The practical work of philosophy is, crucially, to weed out or clip off the words, dead of meaning, that encumber and trip us in our work; or otherwise, if possible, to restore their freshness. Some of those words in our present time might be: “hegemony”, “accumulation”, and “elements of socialism”.

The fourth linked item is about “Marxism”, whether there ever was such a thing, and if so, whether Marx was a “Marxist”.

The full Cyril Smith archive on MIA can be found here.

Click on this link:

The Communist Manifesto after 150 years, 1998, Smith (8285 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Hegel, Economics, and Marx's Capital, 1999, Cyril Smith (7803 words)

How The Marxists Buried Marx, 1998, Smith (13629 words)

Karl Marx and the Origins of ‘Marxism’, 1998, Smith (4670 words)




1708 Pedagogy



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In the first sentence of Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of The Oppressed” (3 chapters linked below, but take Chapter 1 for discussion), Freire “problematises” humanization, immediately placing Freire side-by-side with Marx, where Marx in the whole of “Capital” wanted to restore humanity to itself; or, as in the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, where Marx wrote: “Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.”

Here, on page 3, is Freire’s answer to “Dialectical Materialism”:

“… one cannot conceive of objectivity without subjectivity. Neither can exist without the other, nor can they be dichotomized. The separation of objectivity from subjectivity, the denial of the latter when analyzing reality or acting upon it, is objectivism. On the other hand, the denial of objectivity in analysis or action, resulting in a subjectivism which leads to solipsistic positions, denies action itself by denying objective reality. Neither objectivism nor subjectivism, nor yet psychologism is propounded here, but rather subjectivity and objectivity in constant dialectical relationship.

“To deny the importance of subjectivity in the process of transforming the world and history is naive and simplistic. It is to admit the impossible: a world without people. This objectivistic position is as ingenuous as that of subjectivism, which postulates people without a world. World and human beings do not exist apart from each other, they exist in constant interaction. Man does not espouse such a dichotomy; nor does any other critical, realistic thinker. What Marx criticized and scientifically destroyed was not subjectivity, but subjectivism and psychologism.”

The significance of the Subject in Freire’s theoretical scheme is clear all the way through and is demonstrated by these words from the last paragraph of his Chapter 1, for example:

“Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators.”

The Communists, in their own minds and in their intentions, seek to educate, organise and mobilise, not so as to command the working class and the general masses, but to set them free. The problem of how to do so is exactly the problem that Freire addresses in “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” It requires the formulation quoted above: “World and human beings do not exist apart from each other, they exist in constant interaction.” Nowhere does he refer to materialism, dialectical or otherwise. He writes of leadership and people, both Subjects, co-intent on reality.

John Turner, author of “Housing by People” (see the linked chapters below), was preoccupied with the same problem. In his case he problematised it as a question of “paternalism and filialism”, which is immediately recognisable as the very opposite of the “co-intent Subjects” proposed by Freire. Turner writes:

“Paternalism and filialism, the modern descendents of attitudes more generally associated by Europeans with the Middle Ages, are still very common attitudes in Britain. These are especially evident in the common assumption that the 'ordinary' citizen or 'layman', is utterly dependent on the 'extraordinary' citizen or the 'professional', who cultivates the mystery of his or her activity in order to increase dependency and professional fees.”

Click on this link:

Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Chapter 1, 1970, Freire (9382 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Chapter 2, 1970, Freire (5218 words)

Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Chapter 3, 1970, Freire (13444 words)

Housing by People, C1 & 6, Who decides, 1976, Turner (7901 words)




1709 Liberation Theology



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In the last third of the 20th Century a phenomenon arose that recalled Marx’s “Introduction to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”, where Marx said:

“…the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.”

And:

“The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

In other words the criticism of religion was only a starting-point and not the main business. The main business is the restoration of humanity to itself, not so much from out of the clutches of the religious clerics, but more so from the under the boot of the bourgeoisie. The struggle begins, not so much against religion, but within religion.

And so it came to pass that in the 1960s there arose, within and among the ranks of the religious, a movement which had all the essential aims that Marx had. This was Liberation Theology. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in particular recognised it for what it was, and suppressed it. The hierarchy of the Protestant denominations saw it for what it was, and co-opted and neutered its remnants, revising the “base community” idea into the sectarian “basic Christian community”, and thereby reversing the liberation that Liberation Theology had brought. But in the mean time it had a life and it left a legacy.

Father Joe Falkiner used sometimes to attend the Communist University. The first attached/linked item begins with an article of his from 2006 on Liberation Theology and Scripture, and continues with a short history of Liberation Theology from two more of its well-known practitioners, Leonardo and Clodovis Boff.

Father Joe quickly mentions that Liberation Theology “often used the educational methods of Paulo Friere”, and that they used original scriptural texts, just as the Communist University uses mainly original texts, and preferably not second-hand commentary or analysis. Father Joe writes: “… the theology was done jointly by these people in the shantytowns and their priests, not solely by traditional theologians based in seminaries and universities.”

This is what we do with politics, using Paulo Freire’s methods.

Father Joe also mentions Gramsci, and organic intellectuals. The second, supporting, item in this penultimate part of our current course has the long title: Rethinking Critical Pedagogy and the Gramscian and Freirean Legacies: From Organic to Committed Intellectuals or Critical Pedagogy, Commitment, and Praxis. It is by Gustavo Fischman and Peter McLaren, who are present-day exponents of Critical Pedagogy, or in other words what is referred to above, by Joe Falkiner, as “the educational methods of Paulo Friere”.


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The article immediately starts to grapple with “the notion of teachers as transformative intellectuals”. We are back with Cyril Smith’s problem with Lenin – the problem of the legitimacy or otherwise of “outside agitators” – and the problem of Marx's aim of “development of communist consciousness on a mass scale” (which Cyril Smith somehow managed to simultaneously approve of).

How are you going to make revolution, if the maker of revolution must be the masses, and not yourself? Alternatively, if you had a method of educating the masses, what else would you need in the way of revolution? Is there any difference between politics and political education? Or is it a trinity that is at the same time a unity, namely: Educate, Organise, Mobilise? Paulo Freire concentrated his intellectual fire on the single most practical priority, which at the same time requires the deepest philosophical clarity, and called it “
The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.

Fischman and McLaren make clear, by reference to Gramsci, that such a Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a direct form of class struggle. It is a direct confrontation with the interests of the bourgeois state. It is an open contradiction of the bourgeois class dictatorship as applied through state-led education as well as through the instructive function of the judiciary.

The authors note that Gramsci is often misappropriated (
see also CU). They write: “Because Gramsci identified civil society as an arena used by the ruling class to exert its hegemony over the society, the struggle for Gramsci was not to transform civil society but rather, as Holst points out, ‘to build proletarian hegemony’ (p. 106).” That is, proletarian ascendancy, also known as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Fischman and McLaren are rejecting the view of hegemony as a “Third Way” that could by-pass revolutionary confrontation.

After discussing Gramsci’s organic intellectuals, and as if to answer Cyril Smith’s doubts, they quote Gramsci as follows:


“Critical self-consciousness means, historically and politically, the construction of an elite of intellectuals. A human mass does not ‘distinguish’ itself, does not become independent in its own right without, in the widest sense, organizing itself; and there is no organization without intellectuals, that is without organizers and leaders, in other words, without the theoretical aspect of the theory-practice nexus being distinguished concretely by the existence of a group of ‘specialized’ in conceptual and philosophical elaboration of ideas.”

Fischman and McLaren go on to argue for the “committed intellectual”, with “an unwavering commitment to the struggle against injustice”. What is the difference between a committed intellectual and a communist party member? None.

We do not have a good picture of Father Joe Falkiner. Instead, the second picture is of Bartolomé de las Casas, a member of the same order (Order of Preachers) as Father Joe.

Click on this link:

Liberation Theology, 2006, Falkiner, L & C Boff (5590 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Organic Intellectuals, 2005, McLaren and Fischman (10053 words)





1710 Philosophical Battlefield, and Epilogue




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This is the last of the ten parts of our CU Generic Course called “Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution”.

The question of the collective human subject has been most concisely and forcefully expressed in this series by Cyril Smith in the section of “The Communist Manifesto after 150 Years” called “The Subject of History”.

The first linked item to this final part is “Postmodernism & Hindu Nationalism” by Meera Nanda [pictured]. This work is given because it shows how several pathological, anti-human strands of philosophy can play out in concert, mutually reinforcing and amplifying each other.

In the case of India as shown in this article, these are Postmodernism, Hindu Nationalism (“Hindutva”), “Vedic Science” and reactionary feminism.

The Indian case is not altogether different to what was, and could again be, the situation in South Africa, where under President Thabo Mbeki we had Postmodernism (bourgeois “normality” following the liberation struggle); pseudo-science around HIV/AIDS (Virodene, African potato, beetroot et cetera); Africanism; and again, reactionary feminism.

What is common to all of these aspects, whether in India or in South Africa, is the evacuation of popular agency and refusal of the mass Subject of History following the liberation struggle, which in both cases promised this above all other things. In India the promise was Swaraj and in South Africa, “Power to the People”. Independence and national sovereignty were supposed to be inseparable from mass popular agency. In practice political independence co-existed with bourgeois dictatorship and neo-colonialism, but these latter factors trumped and negated mass popular power.

Revolutionary organs of people’s power were dismantled in each case. Golden Calfs were raised up in substitution for the slogans of popular power. The substitutes were the slogans of bourgeois nationalism and of national mystique.

Postmodernism is the hopeless, degenerate philosophy of the hopeless, degenerate thing called Imperialism. The fight for full freedom in a world dominated by Imperialism is unavoidably a fight against Postmodernism. It is a revolutionary necessity. The purpose of this CU Generic Course called “Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution” has been to arm the communists for this battle. Above all what is needed is devotion to and priority for the human Subject. Power, to the People!

Epilogue

This Communist University has constantly upheld the central idea within Marx’s “Capital” and within Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. That idea is the full restoration of the human Subject as an individual, within human society, making humanity out of a material world.

This dialectic of the individual and the collective was most succinctly expressed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the following famous words, which we have quoted more than once before, from the Communist Manifesto of 1848:

“… the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

The Communist University has also upheld the SACP’s constitutional stricture to “Educate, Organise and Mobilise”. We do so in the conviction that our mission is not to Influence, or to Guide. Such words are used when education is abandoned by those who have no faith in it. “Influence” and “Guide” are only stalking-horses for “Command” and “Control” when the latter two tyrants are too ashamed to raise their heads.

In its Freirean educational practice, the Communist University has never sought to preach. It has opened doors to dialogue and never closed them. The Communist University codifies, but it does not prescribe.

When education succeeds, and the working class is restored to its full humanity as a Subject of History, then why would any of these insecure and furtive options (Influence, Guiding, Command and Control) be required? None of them will be required.

Hence we say as Communist University: Education is the means by which organising and mobilising are done. Education is more than a preparation for politics. Education is the method of politics and the very substance of politics, which, when considered broadly, excludes all other substances. Education is the essence of humanism.

This message is simple, and the Freirean method of carrying it out is clear. For now, the best illustration of the idea of education as the substance of political practice is Cuba, a country that has become one big university - a “society of knowledge”. Please see the article linked below by Cliff DuRand for an exposition of this concept.

In addition, and to make the same point in a different way, we are going to conclude with an example and a warning of the manner in which a previous revolutionary upsurge faced the problem of the revolutionary Historical Subject, and failed to solve it, with disastrous consequences.

The All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), Short Course (a.k.a. simply “Short Course” was an attempt to create, from the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union up to 1937, a totalised theory, free of error, for the Soviet Union itself and for the world communist movement as a whole. We came across it while studying Christopher Caudwell through Helena Sheehan, and finding material on J D Bernal and J B S Haldane on Sheehan’s web site. This material mentions the Short Course and the failure of these two otherwise outstandingly independent-minded communist scientists to oppose it.

The physical torture and elimination of comrades in the Soviet Union were shrouded in secrecy and obscurity, and even the “show trials” that took place were to the Western communist observer problematic because of the confessions of the accused. Yet the CPSU of the day did have to “lay out its stall” in public, as all political organisations are forced to do. The CPSU did so in the form of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), Short Course, and this document gave their game away completely, to anyone with eyes to see.

The Marxists Internet Archive in 2008 put up the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), Short Course in full for all to read. In addition it has Khrushchev’s 1956 speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, denouncing both Stalin and the Short Course. An extract from that speech pertaining to the Short Course is linked below. [Image: Nikita Kruschev with Fidel Castro].


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With the Short Course, the core reversal or perversion of the CPSU in the Stalin period is laid bare. For a quick grasp of this inversion of communism see the work’s Conclusion. Interrogate it with the Fundamental Question of Philosophy, with which we began this 10-part course: How stands the relation between Subject and Object? In the Short Course, the Subject of History is not educated, but is “guided”. Herein lies the whole disaster.

It is a practical certainty that the leadership of our South African Revolution will again at some point make the same error of attempting to demolish the popular Subject. Under President Mbeki, that is what happened. It is bound to be the case that another such revolutionary crisis will arrive, perhaps soon. This Communist University course, and the whole of the Communist University initiative, is dedicated to the victory of popular agency in that struggle, and in all such struggles thereafter.
Power to the People!

Click on this link:

Postmodernism & Hindu Nationalism, 2004, Nanda (9126 words)

Further (optional) reading:

Cuba - A Nation Becoming a University, DuRand, MRZine (2476 words)

Khrushchev, 20th CPSU Congress, 1956, Extracts re ‘Short Course’ (1398 words)