Communist Party of Labour (PCT)

Philosophy, values and revolutionary practice

“As philosophy finds its material weapon in the proletariat, so the proletariat finds its spiritual weapon in philosophy...
The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart the proletariat...”

(Karl Marx: A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1844)

Philosophy? In these times when theory, reflection and reasoning find almost no place in our consciousness, and the space is filled by pragmatism and the needs of the moment?

Yes. Philosophy is necessary to politics, in order to interpret and transform reality, as well as to forge a revolutionary consciousness, values and practice.

What is the attitude of militants of the left in other countries to philosophy? We do not know. But we know that in today’s Dominican Republic it is not usual to have recourse to philosophy to interpret and explain social or natural reality, or at the level of thought and ideas.

Beyond a small circle of intellectuals, the relationship between politics and philosophy is ignored and even stigmatized in pejorative terms. Pragmatism is the dominant point of view, and when someone distances themselves from this practice and tries to explain positions based on philosophical resources they are accused of “philosophizing,” as equivalent to beating around the bush and not going into “what matters.” In the Dominican Republic the philosopher is considered a dilettante, a person with no trade.

The most negative thing about this is that it affects the Left, with capital letters as an expression of all its tendencies; when this should be the current most dedicated to interpreting reality and explaining it starting from philosophical conceptualizations and thus providing freshness to revolutionary political activity.

The lack of development of the Dominican Left has a lot to do with this distancing from theory, particularly from 1978 to today. With all its matchless display of ethics, sacrifice and verticality to make sometimes risky commitments, it makes the mistake of being more emotional than rational; of “doing politics by ear”, as the musicians who play an instrument but cannot read notes. That is, they are politicians who cannot interpret events based on the laws and categories of analysis available in philosophy, as well as general science, and in the various particular sciences such as history, sociology, economy, even politics, among others, which provide resources for grasping reality in all its details and consequently helping the development of political thought and positions.

The generation of revolutionaries who were formed and developed between the revolution of April 1965 and the above-mentioned year of 1978 was very concerned with the study of philosophy and theory in general. Almost everything that took place at the national and international level in that period was the object of long and fierce debates in newspapers, magazines and assemblies, in which positions grounded in philosophical interpretations were defended.

While it is true that most of these discussions were based on conceptualizations generalized from realities different from ours (from China and the Soviet Union), and thus bore part of the seeds of division, as well as misunderstanding of national tasks, one must still point to this concern for theory among the militants in that period.

This disconnect from theory, together with the divisions, the action of enemy intelligence and imposition of its anti-values, have decimated the organized militants.

Is there a Left in the Dominican Republic? Of course. And they are numerous. It is seen in various groups of different levels of development. It is in the feelings of many people scattered throughout society. To structure it in some way and set it in motion is a most important task; it is a hard one, but necessary. It is not easy. But it is necessary. The building of the broadest possible movement of the left that may, at least, act as a community of ideas and purposes in a single direction is a priority. And for this the question of achieving unity of thought is vital. Those of our sectors who are advancing towards a community of thought could contribute more to the recovery of the Left as a political force.

Philosophy is important to these issues, as a science that provides resources for analysis, and provides us with values and thought that underpin a proposal for revolutionary change.

II. Consciousness and values

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors, ‘and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment. ‘ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value...

“...It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.” (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848)

It should be noted that it often happens that, among those of us who consider ourselves consistent Marxist-Leninists, and therefore materialists, we give so much emphasis to the pre-eminence of the material over the spiritual, that we make it seem as if only the first dimension exists, or is important, and we do not assign any value to the second. We often confuse the spiritual with the religious, which is wrong; and although religion is based on idealism and so assumes and projects the spiritual dimension as essential, above the material, thus spirituality appears as the equivalent of or confused with religiosity.

The Marxist revolutionary political militants have to state clearly the conclusion that the material dimension precedes the spiritual one but they must give due importance to the latter; this is the same as saying, to recover the importance of consciousness and values.

Values enter into the realm of ideology; they are orientations, ways of life and purposes that we human beings give to our lives under particular social and historical conditions.

The moral attributes of the communist will not only appear with the triumph of communist society; they must, or should, be manifested from the moment one is conscious of the need to place oneself in a position contrary to the values that the ruling classes increasingly impose and develop as guarantors of the interests of exploitation and domination.

The communist and revolutionary parties are supposed to adopt a symbolic model, a prototype of how they want to organize society; they anticipate the society that they propose with their ideals and values, with their organizational forms, with the ways in which their members interrelate and how they make decisions. Therefore, once the members adopt the consciousness and willingness to undertake the task of building this society, the members of these parties must assume an attitude and practical conduct consistent with the ideal of the society that they proclaim.

Of course their decision will not be followed by a sudden change in their life and the path will not be an easy one. The weight of social traditions and the propaganda of the system will intervene all the time and everywhere to block the possibility that human beings will fight against the anti-values that are imposed (and are therefore dominant); on the contrary they must show in word and deed that a new human being is possible.

It is a hard fight, in which the knowledge of the causes that create the general problems in society, the consciousness that arises from that, and the ideology with its corresponding values, will unite with the willingness of the militants to resist the vices of the ruling ideology.

Marxism-Leninism is an integral science that analyzes a dialectical relationship between practice, knowledge, consciousness and values. Practice, in social production, in the class struggle or even in scientific research, are the sources of knowledge and therefore it is the road to science, and with this, again to practice.

It is the road by which human beings gain consciousness of the reason for problems, and how to overcome them.

For Marxism-Leninism, the sense of values is determined beginning with the sources that generate knowledge; this is worth repeating: 1. the struggle for material subsistence, social production in general; 2. the class struggle in its different forms, and 3. scientific investigation.

One cannot conceive of values without knowledge, because it is this that allows us to grasp for ourselves the reality, the causes of the problems, and these allow us to take a stand in order to overcome them. Values are part of this stand.

One is egotistical or in solidarity based on the position that one adopts in life and in social and political processes.

The basic premise that Marxism-Leninism brings to the assumption of a system of values is that society must and can be transformed. This view that society “must be transformed” implies certain values to the militants that precisely contradict those that are dominant in the society that must be overcome.

The society that “must be transformed” counts on certain values that justify it, that present it as necessary; the corollary that “every individual is an end in himself”, common in the work of Milton Friedman of the “Chicago’s Boys,” is the sustenance of individualism, the main manifestation of bourgeois ideology and it is raised to the nth degree in neoliberal policies, it is a value (rather an anti-value) of capitalist society.

Consumerism, hedonism, the search for personal advantage and other vices belong to the rule of the market in this society.

The conclusion that society “must be transformed” provided by Marxist science based on knowledge of capitalist society, suggests some conflicting values with those of that society. Individualism, it is worth repeating, is the main stigma of the bourgeois ideology and values, it cannot dominate the militants that proposes to overthrow capitalism; they must fight against this vice. And the party or organization, as a collective, that heralds the new society has to provide a general education and atmosphere hostile to capitalism.

The suggestion that “society can be transformed” also raises some challenging values, a spirit, a willingness and general orientation that, when translated into action can bring down the strength of the system.

The practice of strident shouts against the capitalist system and its leaders, without renouncing any of the amenities that this same system usually provides is pure diversion. Without renouncing certain pleasures and comforts, without hard work, the revolution is unthinkable. A simple life and hard work are values that should distinguish the revolutionary militant who wants to make the revolution.

Whoever only gives his free time to the revolution, gives nothing. One should not preach unnecessary sacrifices or masochistic attitudes; but one must be willing to make sacrifices. The determination to struggle, or to fight against the current of the values of the ruling classes involves some level of sacrifice.

III. Human beings are not born with individualism or anti-values

Individualism is not something inherent in human beings, as claimed by philosophers from Aristotle to Hobbes. The latter says that man is egotistical and evil by nature, thus denying the social and historical aspect of human beings.

Karl Marx’s sixth thesis on Feuerbach rejects that view. Marx refutes Feuerbach, who considers a human being abstracted, isolated from the social historical processes; he proposes that “human nature” is the result of this historical and social process. Human beings are not born either “good” or “bad”; rather their personality and attitudes are shaped in society, including the values present in the family. And this latter, in turn, is influenced by the whole of society in a long process.

This is why communist or revolutionary militants dominated by individualism and all its consequences are people who do not know how to, or cannot, overcome this dominance of the ruling classes. It has been said that the fight against these values is hard; it is not something easy that one can resolve with sermons. Because the anti-values are in everything and everywhere, and imperialism has paid special attention to how to impose them and, of course, it has many resources ranging from schools and universities, to the churches and the false heroes of film and sports; they have been converted into businesses and role models as an example of to follow. They also count on the mass media to promote them in countless ways every day.

The main success of capitalism lies in having made almost all of society accept its antivalues as appropriate and normal.

The main challenge of the training schools and the general propaganda of the communist and revolutionary parties and organizations is to sufficiently counteract those values in the minds of their own members. Because if the militants are not convinced of the correctness of their principles and positions, they cannot convince anyone of them, and they cannot contribute enough to the defeat of imperialism and the bourgeoisie. To win you must convince others and to convince others you must yourself be convinced.

Today, the example of life and militancy is vital to point out the way to change values and to restore; this, in turn, will be important in the effort to reposition the left as a political force capable of competing, winning and exercising power, beyond being just the repository of good intentions.

And as things are, the study of philosophy, which as noted above is the possibility of knowing causes, forges values and guides the struggle for the revolutionary transformation of society. The study of philosophy is therefore a revolutionary practice.

March 2015

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