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Notes on the Revolution / Column #36

Notes on the Revolution

Column #36

November 27, 2019

Toward a Universal Emancipatory Knowledge

By Charles McKelvey

    At the Conference on Political Science from the South in Havana last week, I spoke with Julian Advincula, Professor at the University of the Philippines in Manila.  He spoke of the meaning of the conference for him.

“The history of Cuba and the Philippines is forever linked, especially because of the Spanish-American War, which started in Havana and ended in Manilla.  So forever the two countries are linked. . . .  The presentation that I made was ‘Marxism and Globalization: In Search of a Safety-Net Mechanism for the Global South.’  For me it is very interesting, because this is a forum for me to discuss the subject matter which is usually not discussed in the other conferences that I attend, because they are too Western.  So it is a welcome conference for me, to be able to discuss this topic, which is very relevant for my own country and for other countries in Latin America and Asia.”

    Advincula here refers to the irrelevance of Western political science for the needs of the peoples of Latin American and Asia, and he has arrived to a conclusion similar to that of Cuban scholars of the School of Political Science from the South.  Western political science was established as an organized discipline after Marx, and it was based on methods that functioned to minimize the social scientific advances inherent in Marx’s method, which involved formulating a comprehensive historical-philosophical-political-economy from the vantage point of the working class.  The method of Western Political Science involved a narrow definition of the scope of the field and an empiricist method, thus confining its investigations to narrow questions, such as empirical research on voting behavior.  Western Political Science also included political theory, based on assumptions that were rooted in the West and based on bourgeois interests.  Neither the empiricism nor the theory of Western political science was useful to the movements of the colonized and neocolonized peoples of the world-system.  They needed a form of knowledge that would contribute to their political and social emancipation.  They needed an integral and comprehensive political science formulated from the South.

    As the colonized peoples formed movements of national and social liberation, concessions were made by the world powers to their demands, resulting in the granting of political independence, but not true sovereignty, to the colonized peoples; and resulting in the recognition of the political and civil rights of all, inconsistently implemented in practice.  The granting of such concessions was done in response to the political strength of the movements of the colonized on national and global levels.  These concessions, however, were not granted in a listening mode.  The process of change did not include taking seriously the points of view of the colonized, seeking to understand their understanding.

      In failing to listen to the colonized, the world powers were condemning themselves to ignorance of the world-system, inasmuch as understanding the modern world-system requires encounter with those of the social world of the colonized, oppressed, exploited, and excluded, especially the leaders and intellectuals of the social movements that they have formed, in which encounter involves listening to and taking seriously their insights.  Personal encounter with persons whose experience has led them to a different perspective enables the discovery of relevant questions that, if addressed with a commitment to truth, leads to a reformulation of understanding, and in some situations, leads to a conversion to alternative understandings that are emancipated from original social horizons.

    When the opinion makers, politicians, business executives, educators, and religious leaders decided for concessions to but not encounter with the movements of the colonized, they denied themselves the possibility of emancipation from the ideologies of the world-system and of arriving to understand the colonial foundations of the world-system.  As a result, when the contradictions of the world-system became manifest in the 1960s and 1970s, they were vulnerable to ignorant aggressive actions.  Their military and economic aggressions were not only inhumane and barbarous attacks on the majority of the world’s peoples, they also exacerbated the contradictions of the world-system, thus promoting insecurity in the world of the colonizer and placing humanity at risk of global chaos and/or human extinction.

      Therefore, the knowledge that the colonized needs for its own defense also is needed by the colonizers for their own security and by all of humanity for its survival and for the possibility of a prosperous and sustainable future based on the evident scientific and technological advances in human knowledge.  The knowledge from the South is a transitional knowledge, a knowledge that is the first stage in the formulation of a universal knowledge linked to human emancipation.

    It is difficult to imagine the transition to a universal emancipatory human knowledge while the world system remains locked into the structures of a neocolonial world-system, in which the media of communication and the educational institutions are under the control of a global elite that ignorantly attacks humanity and its own security.  The forging of universal human knowledge, therefore, is tied to the political project of the South, a project that has sought since the 1950s the sovereignty of nations, the economic and social development of the nations of the world, and the protections of the social and economic rights of all.  The more that the political project of the South emerges, the more that the structural reforms necessary for the development of universal knowledge can be established, structural reforms such as the elimination of the fragmented bureaucratization of knowledge in the universities and the expansion of public television, radio, and Internet.

      The School of Political Science of the South of the University of Havana is now turning to the formulation of a theory of truth.  Colonialism, imperialism, and neoliberalism are based on false assumptions, or perhaps we should call them lies.  Colonialism was justified during its first couple of centuries on religious grounds, portraying the conquered and colonized peoples as heathens.  As democratic revolutions established the separation of religion and the state, conquest, enslavement, colonial domination, and superexploitation were justified on “racial” grounds, based on the scientific invention of racial divisions in humanity. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, imperialist interventions have been presented as in defense of democracy, when in fact they have been undertaken in order to obtain access to raw materials, labor, and markets, often undermining democratic processes.  Since the 1980s, the defense of neoliberalism involved the false claim that state intervention and control of the economy retards economic development.  In the midst of the global conflicts today, the major media of communication frame the issues in a form that ignores fundamental historical facts and distorts current dynamics.  On top of all of these fundamental distortions, the deliberate invention of fake new to attain political interests has become a part of our reality.

    It follows that the lie is central to domination; and the truth is central to emancipation.  The peoples need a form of knowledge that discovers truth and exposes and delegitimates ideas that are nothing more than justifications of particular interests and the privileges of a minority.

    As the School of the Political Science from the South turns to the theory of truth, it must ask, what is the basis for distinguishing the true from the false?  The key is encounter with the social movements of the colonized, superexploited, and excluded.

    This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.

Edited by Ed Newman
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