“Knowledge, ideology, and real socialism in our times”
We concerned citizens find ourselves in a situation today in which public discourse of the United States and other nations of the North is confused and divided; all bands are armed with half-truths, shouting at one another rather than reasoning together in search of consensus.
I have been on a lifelong intellectual and moral journey, beginning with participation in the student anti-war movement in the late 1960s, followed by personal encounter with black nationalist thought in the early 1970s. I subsequently studied Catholic philosophy, followed by study of Marx, and culminating in experience and study in Latin America and socialist/Marxist-Leninist Cuba (see “Preface: An intellectual autobiography,” April 6, 2021).
Through my long journey, I have arrived to a view of what needs to be done, of what the United States has to do to overcome its debilitating ideological divide, and what humanity needs to do to build a more just and sustainable world. It is an understanding that is consistent with what progressive Third World nations plus China are declaring and are implementing in practice, although my approach gives special attention to the meaning of these developments for those of us who are citizens of the nations of the North. At the same time, it is an understanding that shares certain principles and values of conservatism, as expressed by both Third World socialism and American conservatives. These conservative values include the conviction that there is a reasonable process for discerning the true and the right; that citizens are called to personal responsibility toward society, work, and family; and that one should have patriotic sentiments toward the nation and should affirm the importance of its constitutional foundation.
I believe that in the United States today we need to improve the quality of our public discourse and our structures of popular participation, as the basis for creating a situation in which the federal government is under the control of the people, and not the corporate elite. We need a strong government that not only provides necessary support for education, health, and family assistance; but also directs the economy, with a comprehensive plan for the development of sustainable forms of production, incentivizing prioritized industries, in accordance with the political will of the people and the long-term wellbeing of the nation. At the same time, we need a federal government that respects constitutional provisions of federalism and recognizes the right of the states to decide many of the cultural issues that divide our people, even though national political parties may want to make recommendations on these issues. And we need an anti-imperialist foreign policy, so that the United States can cooperate with the nations and movements of the Third World in creating a world that respects the true sovereignty of nations and adheres to the principle of mutually beneficial trade among nations.
Understanding must culminate in action, in the pursuit of justice, in collective/joint action that effectively and intelligently implements those structural transformations necessary for a renewed nation and a more just and sustainable world. To this end, my hope in writing these commentaries is that readers will make comments, sending their reactions, commentaries, and reflections. If we read, reflect, and study together, perhaps we can figure out how to disseminate fundamental principles and ideas. Perhaps too, we will arrive to understand how to develop new structures of popular political education that can play a constructive role in enabling the nations of the North to find the necessary road of cooperation with the nations of the South, so that the peoples of the world, working together, can overcome the current civilizational crisis of humanity.
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Charles McKelvey, Professor Emeritus, Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina
Follow me on Twitter: Charles McKelvey@CharlesMcKelv10