30 October 2009



[CU for Monday, 2 November 2009]

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]

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 these links:

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

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)

29 October 2009



[CU for Friday, 30 October 2009]

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) “Ludwig Feuerbach”, in a very readable style, describes events about Hegel that took place while Engels was a child (he 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’.

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 these links:

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

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

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

One World


[CU for Thursday, 29 October 2009]

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 known as “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 these links:

On Dialectics, 1878, Engels (3279 words)

Philosophers, 2004, Tweedie (2657 words)

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

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

28 October 2009

Heart of Revolution


[CU for Wednesday, 28 October 2009]

Apologies for missing a day. The CU has had no e-mail or Internet service since Monday morning.

The CU met on Sunday and will meet again on 15 and 29 November to discuss Lenin's "The State and Revolution". More details tomorrow.

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.


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 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 these links:

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

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)

23 October 2009

Our Liberation Struggle


[CU for Monday, 26 October 2009 – sent on Friday 23 October in support of the March for the Cuban Five assembling from 09h30 today at Union Buildings, Pretoria]

In political education, our method is to remove ourselves in place and time. We go to the “classics” and to authors of the intermediate period, and we study other places, in the past or in the present.

All of these provide us with examples. The examples provide us with a theoretical and practical “sandpit” that gives us a “codification” or in other words a basis upon which we may have a dialogue.

Dialogue is where political education happens. Anything that can provide an occasion for political dialogue is good for education.

Our own history can be used, but what do we find? When looking for history of our liberation struggle, and the history of the armed struggle in particular, we find very little. The materials about the culminating struggle in Angola assembled below will have to suffice for now. They can also serve as a small contribution towards recognising the Cuban and Soviet comrades who fought faithfully and often fell for us, until victory came.

Vladimir Shubin has written and published two books in English: ANC: A View from Moscow” and “The Hot 'Cold War’: The USSR in Southern Africa”. These books are presently available from bookshops in South Africa, or they can be ordered via the Internet.

But there is nothing to be found on the Internet like an article or a chapter of Shubin’s that we can use for the Communist University. Suffice it to say that the Soviet record of events does not correspond in every respect with the Cuban record, and this contrast would force the readers or students to make judgements of their own, as to what was really the critical path that led to the final political result, which was victory in Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Let us hope to find a suitable Soviet or Russian article, soon.

Fidel Castro has written a lot. Linked below, as our main item, is the speech made on 2 December 2005, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the first Cuban expeditionary force to Angola, which became what Chester Crocker called an “unprecedented projection of power”.

Piero Gleijeses has written a lot. The second item is an article of his containing this memorable passage:

“While Castro’s troops advanced toward Namibia, Cubans, Angolans, South Africans, and Americans were sparring at the negotiating table. For the South Africans and Americans the burning question was: Would the Cuban troops stop at the border? It was to answer this question that President Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary for Africa, Chester Crocker, sought Risquet. "My question is the following," he told him: "Does Cuba intend to halt the advance of its troops at the border between Namibia and Angola?" Risquet replied, "I have no answer to give you. I can’t give you a Meprobamato [a well-known Cuban tranquillizer] – not to you or to the South Africans. ... I have not said whether or not our troops will stop. ... Listen to me, I am not threatening. If I told you that they will not stop, it would be a threat. If I told you that they will stop, I would be giving you a Meprobamato, a Tylenol, and I want neither to threaten you nor to reassure you ... What I have said is that the only way to guarantee [that our troops stop at the border] would be to reach an agreement [on the independence of Namibia]." [15] On August 25, Crocker cabled Secretary of State George Shultz: "Reading the Cubans is yet another art form. They are prepared for both war and peace ... We witness considerable tactical finesse and genuinely creative moves at the table. This occurs against the backdrop of Castro’s grandiose bluster and his army’s unprecedented projection of power on the ground." [16]”

Jorge Risquet Valdés Saldaña, fighter, negotiator, and currently member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, has written (downloadable, in Spanish) “El Segundo frente del Che en el Congo” (ISBN 959-210-412-3, Casa Editorial Abril, 2006) – the history of the Patrice Lumumba Battalion, in which Risquet served. The picture above is of the same Jorge Risquet, a great and brave hero, also famous for his friendliness and joie-de-vivre.

William Blum has written a chapter in his great book “Killing Hope”, but somehow misses Cuito Cuanavale, the negotiations, Namibian independence and the democratic breakthrough in South Africa. Blum has done a lot to expose the history of US atrocities around the world, but his work also shows the limitations of Western sources, even the relatively friendly ones. This essay on Angola is cast as a “great powers poker game”, and not as what it really was, namely an anti-Imperialist liberation struggle. There is no substitute for original revolutionary sources; this is the Communist University way.

This part concludes the new edition of the Communist University Generic Course on Anti-Imperialism, Peace, and Socialism. Please click here for temporary access all the documents of the course, as MS-Word downloads.

This course and the previous one on Development will be on the SACP web site soon. The last in the current programme of review of the CU Generic Courses, now in the preliminary stages of construction, is Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution.

Click on these links:

Thirty years after Angola and 49 after Granma, F Castro (4108 words)

The Massacre of Cassinga [and after] Piero Gleijeses (2243 words)

Angola, a Great Powers Poker Game, William Blum (5303 words)

22 October 2009

Democracy is Ours


[CU for Friday, 23 October 2009]

This part is the penultimate (second last) in the present series on Anti-Imperialism, Peace, and Socialism. It is designed to invite comrades to reflect upon the place of the anti-Imperialist struggle within the entirety of world history.

This is why Issa Shivji’s address on The Struggle for Democracy & Culture (linked below) is used. It explicitly and correctly claims, on behalf of the national-liberation and anti-colonial struggle, that this struggle carries, for the time being, the banner of progress for the whole world. For a long time past, and into the future, until such time as the struggle for socialism itself becomes once again the principal one, the National Democratic Revolutions taken together constitute the main vehicle for human progress, bearing and rescuing all that is noble and fine in humanity.

The bourgeoisie is a thieving class and it will steal the clothes of the revolutionaries without any hesitation if it sees the smallest, or the most temporary, advantage in doing so. The Imperialist bourgeoisie wishes to reverse the appearance of its shameful past and of its hopeless future. It wishes to claim the moral superiority that the liberation movement has, and steal it.

Issa Shivji shows very clearly how the monstrous fraud is attempted. The constant droning about “good governance” is the extreme of hypocrisy, coming as it does from the worst oppressors in history – the force that has taken oppression to the ends of the earth – Imperialism. Read Shivji: he tells it well. But also note the hypocritical machinations of our present South African anti-communists, including but not limited to, the DA. If you did not know better, you could believe from what you read that it was liberal whites who liberated South Africa from the old regime.

The struggle for democracy is ours, not theirs. The struggle for freedom is ours. We are the humanists now. We, the liberationists, are the bearers of human history and we have been for many decades past. The 20th Century was the liberation century, the anti-Imperial century. That was when we overtook the others in politics, in morality, and in philosophy - but we were only starting. In the 21st Century we will finish the job.

Mahmood Mamdani’s “Citizen and Subject” (linked below) maps the relations of four class-based powers in the anti-Imperial struggles in Africa: Bourgeois, Proletarians, Imperialists and “Traditional Leaders”. The (national) Bourgeois and the Proletarians are the modernisers and the democrats, who are compelled by necessity to combine together to fight for the democracy that forms the nation. The Imperialists make a marriage of convenience with the most retrogressive social power that they can find – tribalism – in a pact to hold Africa where it was under colonialism: partly rich, but mostly dirt poor.

We say that capitalism has failed, and that Imperialism has failed. In South Africa, capitalist Imperialism arrived more than 100 years ago, and it never delivered to the people at any time. It started bad and it got no better. Now it has come from a boom from which we somehow failed to benefit, to a recession that will last for years. What’s new? These excuses have been there all along. Maybe it is truer to say that Imperialism didn’t fail: it only lied. It was never going to deliver, and it never will.

Pictures: Eduardo Mondlane; Frantz Fanon

Click on these links:

The Struggle for Democracy & Culture, 2003, Shivji (5035 words)

Citizen & Subject, Chapter 8, 1996, Mamdani (7236 words)

21 October 2009



[CU for Thursday, 22 October 2009]

Exactly how the anti-Imperialist struggle will resolve itself in South Africa, Southern Africa, and Africa in general, is something unpredictable at the tactical level. The question of armed defence of revolutionary change cannot be ruled out, and we have examined this question.

This part of the present series, referenced to the “Beyond Vietnam” speech (linked below) of the late Rev Martin Luther King Junior, is to point to the subjective political factor in the anti-Imperialist struggle.

Nowadays it has become commonplace to refer to “international solidarity” as if it is both a narrow idea, and a universal one. But this concept that we have received and then stripped of its particularity, does actually have a tremendous history whose meaning is not fully conveyed by a formula-phrase called “international solidarity”.

The anti-Imperialist struggle and the democratic struggle can and should be one. It is not a matter of charity of the rich to the poor. It is also not solely a matter of good-hearted and exceptional individuals, but there have indeed been such individuals, and will be again.

What Martin Luther King describes, and justifies, is: “why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church - the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate - leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.”

In other words, MLK at the meeting of the “Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam” in 1967, was preaching the intrinsic, organic unity of the struggle of the common people everywhere. It is not an artificial altruism but it is a unity of purpose, in concerted action against the single enemy: monopoly capitalist Imperialism.

And further than the literal message, there is also the extraordinary power and style of MLK’s oration. We forget too easily, comrades, this factor of art. Lenin spoke of “insurrection as an art”. It is an art that goes beyond the military, and encompasses all of our activities. Therefore when reading such a piece, one should regard it as a source of learning of the art of advocacy, which is part of the art of leadership, essential to the art of insurrection.

The second linked document is included here because of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s correct and insistent concern with the continuing threat to Africa (now materialising again militarily as “Africom”) posed by Imperialism in its last stage of neo-colonialism.

Nkrumah believed that Africa must unite, for the sole reason that if it did not unite, then it would not have sufficient strength to resist the Imperialists - and so it has turned out.

The third linked document opens up the double question of who backs the communists, and if the communists are not backed, then what happens to the others? Attention has to be paid to the question of self-defence for the political movement.

Finally, to underline the ruthlessness of the Imperialist enemy, “the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... was meant to kick-start the Cold War [against the Soviet Union, Washington's war-time ally] rather than end the Second World War”. This statement is taken from the last linked item.

The two worst-ever terrorist attacks, by far, were perpetrated by the USA, for the most cynical and mendacious reasons.

Picture: Rev. Martin Luther King, Junior, at the White House, Washington DC, USA

Click on these links:

Beyond Vietnam, Time to Break Silence, 1967, King (6687 words)

Neo-Colonialism, Last of Imperialism, 1965, Nkrumah (10643 words)

First They Came For The Communists, Niemoeller (1873 words)

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Worst Ever Terror Attacks, Dixon (813 words)