Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Marxism for Our Times' as a Foil

This analytical brief is a response to a debate on my ideological position - whether I am a Marxist or not - that was sparked by the following quote that I fowarded to what is 'Left of Tanzanian Marxists' rhetorically asking them if they are taking such an advantage of this situation, that is, the ongoing global financial crisis to espouse the enduring prowess of 'Marxist Analysis':

"You have to continue to study Marxism as a special group because fortunately today a great deal of the conclusions of Marxism are seen by everybody. You haven't to do what Lenin and Marx had to do, to preach and teach Marxism so that people could understand. The world has objectively moved to where people only have to look and listen to understand Marxism. That is what Marx pointed out that capitalist production would do, make all the people understand their conditions of life and their relations with their kind. The objective world has reached that stage. That makes it all the more necessary for Marxists to master and learn from and continue the great tradition" - CLR James in 'Marxism for our Times' page. 65
To a Forwardist, Marxism is only an analytical toolkit just like any other radical analytical framework that can only be discretionaly employed in achieving Nkrumah's Pan-African Forwardist call "Forward Ever, Backward Never". In the Exodus discourse it is summed up in that 'Let-My-People-Go' directive: "We will not turn to the right hand nor to the left." What a Forwardist subscribes to is close to what has been referred to as 'The Third Way.' In a way Mwalimu Nyerere tried to be a Tanzanian Forwardist when he affirmed that his stance "is opposed to capitalism, which seeks to build a happy society on the basis of the exploitation of man by man; and it is equally opposed to doctrinaire socialism which seeks to build its happy society on a philosophy of inevitable conflict between man and man."

An African Forwardist, for that is indeed what I proclaim to be, is someone who has not only realized or made to discover the limitation of adopting theoretical frameworks out of Euro-American - whether from the then Eatern Bloc or Western Bloc - no matter how radical they are without developing our own theoretical frameworks borne out of our local social-historical and material conditions, but has also deliberately opted to Search for African Alternartives instead of dogmatically embracing Marxism for Euro-American Times and other Ideologies/Theories Made in Euro-America or Made in ASEAN. After all "theories and practices do not emerge out of an ideological vacuum."

If you claim to be an African Forwadist, then, you are someone who has decided to move beyond this Cul-de-Sac, aptly described by Issa Shivji, that many of our African Marxists have opted to remain in even though they knew/know very well that it was/is a dead end for Africa: "Some of us who adopted more radical approaches, albeit still within Western traditions, did not perhaps subscribe wholly to Thompson's thesis that the rule of law was an 'unqualified good'. Yet we, too, saw in bourgeois law and legality, space for struggle to advance the social project of human liberation and emancipation. Law, we argued, was a terrain of struggle; that rule of law, while expressing and reinforcing the rule of the bourgeoisie, did also represent the achievement of the working classes; that even though bourgeois democracy was a limited class project, it was an advance over authoritarian orders and ought to be defended. The legal discourse, whether liberal or radical, thus remained rooted in Western values, exalting the Law's Empire."

May the new generation of forward-looking Marxist and Non-Marxist Africans and true Friends of Africa pay attention to the thoughts/theories and practices/praxis of their society from the perspectives of their own people lest they ignore the fact that most "African Marxist projects in the 1960s ignored the complexity of their own epistemological roots and thus erased the paradoxes of their own discourse and practice" ('The Idea of Africa' page 41). May prospective African Forwadists pick a leaf from this Forwadist Alternative: "To create myths which would give a meaning to its hope of improvement, Africa seems to hesitate between two principal sources, Marxist and traditionalist, and to worry endlessly about the evidence about the superiority of the Same over the Other and the possible virtues of the inverse relationship. But a discrete and controversial current has quietly developed since 1954, the date of the publication of Cheick Anta Diop's Nations negres et culture. To many, this current appears as the only reasonable alternative to the present disorder. Using Marxism as a foil, it intends to study African tradition in depth, affirming the cultural unity of precolonial Africa, linguistic kinship, and a common historical past" ('The Invention of Africa' page 97).


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