Notes on the Revolution / Column #34
November 22, 2019
Political Science from the South
By Charles McKelvey
“Political Science from the South” is a transdisciplinary initiative that involves scholars in philosophy, political science, economics, history, anthropology, and sociology. It seeks to develop an analysis of human history and political dynamics from the perspective of the global South, endeavoring to develop insights that are relevant to political strategies of the nations and social movements of the Third World. The initiative is headed by Dr. Thalía Fung, President of the Cuban Philosophical Society and Chair of the School of “Political Science from the South” of the University of Havana. The majority of the Cuban scholars participating in the initiative are affiliated with the Division of Philosophy, History, and Sociology of the University of Havana and with similar divisions in the provincial universities throughout the island.
From November 20 to November 22, 2019, the Twenty-Third International Conference on Political Science from the South is being held at the University of Havana, sponsored by the Cuban Philosophical Society.
During the opening ceremony, Dr. Thalía Fung reminded the conference participants that Western political science was developed by national civil societies tied to the bourgeoisies of the Western countries. As the peoples of the Third World confronted the colonizers, they required a new point of departure in order to progress in stages in a process of decolonization toward a completely new society. They needed an alternative political science, a political science from the South, that forms the consciousness of the peoples in revolutionary transformations that are personal, national, and global.
Dr. Fung further maintained that a task confronting the political science of the South is to formulate a theory of truth that makes clear how we know, or can arrive to know, the true and the right. This task is needed in a period in which scientific and technological knowledge develops without being informed by ethics and morality, and political decisions are influenced by advertising and false news. There cannot be scientific knowledge in service of human development, she declared, without a theory of truth.
On Thursday, November 21, the second day of the Political Science from the South conference, Gabriel Corona Armenta, Professor of Political Science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, gave a presentation on the Morena party in Mexico and the transformations envisioned by the current government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The Moreno party was founded in 2014 by members of various parties of the Left as a political party with a social movement base. Its candidate, AMLO, won the presidential elections in 2018, and it attained the majority of deputies in the federal congress and well as a majority in the Senate. Never in the history of Mexico has an opposition party had such success in so short a period of time.
Corona explained that the AMLO government is attempting the fourth transformation in the history of Mexico. The first was during the period of the independence of Mexico (1810-1821), the second was the reform of the period 1857 to 1867, and the third was the transformation associated with the Revolution of 1910 to 1920.
Corona named five principles of the fourth transformation sought by the AMLO government. First, the separation of political power from economic power, seeking to break the historic tendency of the economic elite to control the political process. Secondly, the substitution of neoliberal economic policies with alternative economic policies that are not yet fully defined, because there are no precedents with situations comparable to that of Mexico today. But the steps to date of the AMLO government indicate, first, the concept of greater intervention by the state in the economy; and secondly, the quest for an economy that functions for the good of all and not for particular interests.
The third principle of the fourth transformation is to reduce injustice and social inequality; the fourth, to consolidate the democratic advances; and the fifth, to effect a comprehensive transformation of the life of the nation. Another high priority of the AMLO government is to combat corruption in its various manifestations.
Vicdiomara Ramona García Magallenes is a member in the Venezuelan diplomatic corps in Cuba, and she is a candidate for a doctorate in political science at the University of Havana. Her presentation was on the challenges that today confront ALBA (or the Bolivarian Alternative for Our America, the regional association formed by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro at 2004), in light of the intensification of the economic and ideological aggression of the United States against Venezuela and Cuba. With reference to obstacles to financial transactions, she observed that think tanks of the South have to develop structures that can eliminate the dependency of the nations of the South on the financial structures of the capitalist world-economy, a concept she called “money sovereignty,” and a step in this direction is that of using the Venezuelan virtual currency, the Petro. She also observed that the nations of the South have to diminish their dependency on the large transnational corporations.
During the Political Science from the South conference, Dr. Isabel Monat, a well-known Cuban intellectual who is the editor of the review Marx Today, gave a plenary address in commemoration of the international day of Philosophy. She maintains that philosophy does not exist as an end in itself. Philosophy shapes human consciousness, guiding human action toward emancipation. Human emancipation is the fulfillment of philosophy. Before the challenges that humanity confronts today, philosophy is our historical responsibility.
Dr. Susan Babbitt is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She has studied Cuban philosophy for many years, and she is an active member in the Cuban Philosophical Society, with particular emphasis on the work of José Martí. She presented a paper in the First International Congress on a Philosophy of Emancipation, Diversity, and the Life of the Planet, which is being held concurrently with the Conference on Political Science from the South. She writes: “Many on the Left, opposing Trump and marching against climate change, identify with imperialism. They oppose other injustices but not the superiority of the North. Dostoevsky called it a ‘lived lie’. In Demons, he wrote, “The most difficult thing in life is to live and not lie.’ It’s because lies are built into social practices. In an unjust world, they are part of who we are.” She maintains that living the lie is difficult to escape, because individual thinking is groupthink, resulting from our individual social dependence on a group. She recommends that to live a more authentic life, intellectuals of the Left should come to Cuba.
The international conference on Political Science from the South indicates certain qualities of the Cuban academic world. First, there is emphasis on cross-disciplinary dialogue, a tendency that has structural support, in that there have been created a number of interdisciplinary research and teaching centers that are dedicated to various aspects of philosophical, historical, and social scientific understanding; and there is encouraged the holding of conferences and interchanges by each of the centers, divisions, and departments. Secondly, in Cuba, intellectual work is not seen as an end in itself, but as emerging from revolutionary social movements and as seeking to contribute to the attainment of their goal of human emancipation.
I participated as a professor and student in the academic life of the United States for a number of years, prior to having the opportunity to take part for several years in Cuban academic life, and I can testify to the high quality of the Cuban academic interchanges, and the mutually respectful manner in which dialogue is carried out, facilitating a non-conflictive expression of alternative views. Cuban academics live in practice what was declared in the First Declaration of Havana on September 2, 1960, at which time a number of human rights were affirmed, including the right of intellectuals to do work that seek human emancipation. I quote: “the National General Assembly of the People of Cuba proclaims . . . the right of intellectuals, artists, and scientists to struggle, with their works, for a better world.”
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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