6 November 2009

Philosophical Battlefield

[CU for Tuesday, 10 November 2009]

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!


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.

The 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 public.

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].

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. Amaaaaaandla!!!!!!

Click on these links:

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

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

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


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