30 August 2010

Power to the People!

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Philosophy and Religion, Part 10b


Power to the People!

This is the last item in our series on Philosophy and Religion. The next course may be a brand new one, in which case your VC may need some help in the form of suggestions and documents. It could either be a ten-part course of classics (a review of the Marxist “canon”), or else a ten-part course of African revolutionaries (Cabral, Sankara, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Kotane, Tambo, Neto and others). Please respond with your preferences.



We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 2 September (Thursday)
  • Time: 17h00 sharp to 18h30 sharp
  • Venue: The Library, University of Johannesburg , Doornfontein, Johannesburg (former Technikon Witwatersrand). Entrance on slip road by the bridge on Siemert Road.
  • Topic: New Tools for Marxists, by Ron Press



The late South African revolutionary Ron Press provides a very good stepping-off point from our course because he shows clearly where the open end of this study is located. The next time round we must have what the Bolsheviks did not have, which is a clear philosophical theory of how society is going to work without a state. 


In “New Tools for Marxists” (download linked below), Ron Press wrote:

‘“…the standard Marxist idea that society passes in a linear manner from primitive communism via class struggle to the ultimate victory when the working class replaces capitalism with a classless society is an unattainable myth. Especially when a classless society was taken to mean the establishment of order and stability, in fact stasis. The theories outlined above indicate that stasis means the inevitable sudden crossover into chaos and collapse.

‘Lenin in State and Revolution continued the work of Engels and Marx in outlining the parameters which form the basis for the definition of systems indicated by points (a) and (b). It is interesting that they did not define the form or structure which socialism will have. Lenin recognised these new structures when they emerged. He initiated the slogan “all power to the soviets”.’


Ron Press is saying that the theory of the State, and of the “withering away” of the State, in Marx, Engels and Lenin is not wrong, yet these three did not have the full theoretical means to appreciate in full how “stateless” systems can and already do work in nature and in human society.

The revolutionaries of today have an advantage over those of a century ago. In that case, it will be necessary to complete a “State and Revolution” for today, that includes not only the material that Lenin would have included in 1917 if he had had the time, but also material that Lenin would have included in the intervening period up to the present time, if he had had the knowledge of it.

The photo at the top is of the late Ron Press. The two diagrams above, relating to the “Strange Attractor” of Chaos Theory, are from the article.

Please download and read this text:

Further reading:

27 August 2010

Cuba, Kruschev and the 20th CPSU Congress

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Philosophy and Religion, Part 10a


Cuba, Kruschev and the 20th CPSU Congress

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.




We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 2 September (Thursday)
  • Time: 17h00 sharp to 18h30 sharp
  • Venue: The Library, University of Johannesburg , Doornfontein, Johannesburg (former Technikon Witwatersrand). Entrance on slip road by the bridge on Siemert Road.
  • Topic: New Tools for Marxists, by Ron Press




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 (download linked below( by Cliff DuRand for an exposition of this concept, including the “Universalization of the University”.

In addition, and to make the same point in a different way, we are going to conclude with a (downloadable below) 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 observers 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. Yet leading Western communists preferred not to see what was in front of their eyes.

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.

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 was a practical certainty that the leadership of our South African Revolution would 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!

Image: Nikita Kruschev with Fidel Castro.

Please download and read the following texts:

Further reading:





Previous main Communist University posts:
Channel [members]
Course Archive
Weeks
Last Posted
6/10
CU Africa [230]
12/33
CU [2811]
10/10

Courses completed in 2010 to date:
6
June - July

12
March - June

10
January - March
3 days
2-4 June
10
March - June

10
January – March


Philosophical Battlefield

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Philosophy and Religion, Part 10


Philosophical Battlefield

This week brings the last of the ten parts of our CU Generic Course called “Philosophy, Religion, and Revolution”. There will be three items, of which this is the first. The suggested item for discussion is the last one: Ron Press’s “New Tools for Marxists”, linked below.




We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 2 September (Thursday)
  • Time: 17h00 sharp to 18h30 sharp
  • Venue: The Library, University of Johannesburg , Doornfontein, Johannesburg (former Technikon Witwatersrand). Entrance on slip road by the bridge on Siemert Road.
  • Topic: New Tools for Marxists, by Ron Press




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 download for this final part is “Postmodernism & Hindu Nationalism” by the philosopher 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 were Postmodernism, Hindu Nationalism (“Hindutva”), “Vedic Science” and reactionary feminism.

Time has passed since the CU first began using this text. Five years ago it was cutting-edge, and it is still useful to South Africans because the question of rational science, of feminism and of “Congress” politics and potential successors to “Congress” have meaning for us. But Postmodernism has receded. It is no longer so sure of itself or so hegemonic as in the past.

Meera Nanda described her purpose thus:

“This essay is more about the left wing-counterpart of [Yankee] Hindutva: a set of postmodernist ideas, mostly (but not entirely) exported from the West, which unintentionally ends up supporting Hindutva's propaganda regarding Vedic science. Over the last couple of decades, a set of very fashionable, supposedly "radical" critiques of modern science have dominated the Western universities. These critical theories of science go under the label of "postmodernism" or "social constructivism". These theories see modern science as an essentially Western, masculine and imperialistic way of acquiring knowledge. Intellectuals of Indian origin, many of them living and working in the West, have played a lead role in development of postmodernist critiques of modern science as a source of colonial "violence" against non-Western ways of knowing.”

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 had 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, and these latter factors trumped and negated mass popular power. The flight from mass popular agency was a middle-class and bourgeois betrayal of the workers and the poor.

Revolutionary organs of people’s power were dismantled in each case. Golden Calves were raised up for worship, 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 was 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 such battles. Above all what is needed is devotion to and priority for the human Subject. Power, to the People!

Please download this text:

Further reading:





Previous main Communist University posts:
Channel [members]
Course Archive
Weeks
Last Posted
6/10
CU Africa [230]
12/33
CU [2811]
9/10

Courses completed in 2010 to date:
6
June - July

12
March - June

10
January - March
3 days
2-4 June
10
March - June

10
January – March


22 August 2010

Workers Demands Are Legitimate!!

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SACP Media Statement, 22 August 2010

Workers Demands Are Legitimate!!
  
From the outset of the current public sector strike, the SACP has consistently indicated its support for what we regard as a legitimate struggle for a living wage in the wider context of the struggle for decent work. The SACP also fully agrees with our comrades in COSATU that the wage gap between upper echelons, on the one hand, and the majority of workers, on the other, in the public sector (as in the private sector) is unjustified and unjustifiable.

The SACP also fully agrees with COSATU statements that, in the course of exercising their legitimate right to strike and to picket, workers must avoid any acts of violence and physical intimidation. Life-threatening actions like the invasion of operating theatres, the blocking of access to public emergency services, or the abandonment of new-borns in ICUs are completely alien to the traditions and values of our struggle.

Even during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle, MK operatives, for instance, were instructed at all times to go out of their way to avoid collateral injuries and deaths and even to abort missions when there was a risk of death to innocent civilians. It is the unions themselves that must now take the lead in condemning acts of grave indiscipline which are, in effect, counter-revolutionary, and a serious set-back to the working class struggle. Workers who are involved in counter-revolutionary and anti-people activities, workers who conduct themselves as witting or unwitting agents provocateurs, should be disciplined and if necessary expelled from their unions.

At the same, we also call on our comrades in the police and other law enforcement agencies to conduct themselves with maximum restraint. We call on government and the unions to move speedily to find an effective settlement to the present dispute.

Above all, we call on all of our formations not to play into a right-wing neo-liberal agenda that seeks to break the organic and strategic unity between Alliance partners, between organised workers and wider popular forces, and between unions and our democratic state. This means that, from all sides, we need to remain focused on what unites us - our key strategic priorities. When the relationship of our democratic government and public sector workers is reduced to an employer-employee relationship then our revolution is in trouble. Over the past decade-and-a-half the SACP has consistently criticised government (and to some extent the ANC) for often failing to consolidate, mobilise and, indeed, treat, key sectors like teachers and health-care workers as the core protagonists of any genuine democratic transformational programme.

The current strike, and other major strikes this year, have all high-lighted one of many critical challenges we face. It is no accident that in all of these strikes, it is the housing allowance issue that often looms largest in worker demands. The great majority of organised workers, not least those in the public sector – among them police, nurses, teachers – find themselves with a serious housing problem. Most of these workers are trapped in a housing limbo – they do not qualify for state-provided subsidised housing on the one hand, and they are rejected by the banks when they apply for mortgage bonds on the other. Part of an answer may well be to increase housing allowances – but it is doubtful if this, on its own, will ever help to close the grave gap in the housing market.

In this regard, we call on workers to join the SACP in our ongoing financial sector campaign. Let us inject fresh energy into this campaign, and particularly let us engage government and banks, including relevant publicly-owned Development Finance Institutions, to ensure that house-loan policies are transformed, and that there is a massive construction of appropriate mixed-income and well-located housing, including rental housing. The SACP has called for the formation of a dedicated publicly-owned Housing Bank.

Instead of flinging irritable insults at each other, while the private sector and anti-worker elements sit back and laugh, let us, once more, forge a militant strategic unity within our Alliance, and between government and the working class.

Issued by the SACP

Contact: Malesela Maleka, SACP Spokesperson, 082 226 1802

20 August 2010

Organic Intellectuals

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Philosophy and Religion, Part 9a


Organic Intellectuals

Father Joe Falkiner (featured in yesterday’s post) also mentions Gramsci, and organic intellectuals. The main item today 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 by Joe Falkiner as “the educational methods of Paulo Friere”.

The McLaren/Fischman 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’.” 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? No difference at all! In that sense, what McLaren and Fischman have managed to do is to compose a very elegant justification of the vanguard party, rooted in the most profound philosophy.

Illustration: “Question Everything!” – the sometime logo of the Communist University of London

Please download and read this text:

Further reading:





Previous main Communist University posts:
Channel [members]
Course Archive
Weeks
Last Posted
5/10
CU Africa [230]
11/33
CU [2806]
9/10

Courses completed in 2010 to date:
6
June - July

12
March - June

10
January - March
3 days
2-4 June
10
March - June

10
January – March