My column, “Knowledge, ideology, and real socialism in our times,” is written for people who are interested in serious reflection on issues of social justice, involving reading and learning about historic and contemporary unjust global structures, and about the sustained struggles of the colonized peoples of the world for a more just world. And for people who desire to engage in practical reflection on ways to contribute to the creation of a more just world.
As I explain in the April 6, 2021 Preface to the column, my life journey has taken me from the mainstream of American political culture in the early 1960s, to participation in the student anti-war movement in the late 1960s, encounter with black nationalism in the early 1970s, study of the Catholic philosopher Bernard Lonergan in the late 1970s, study of the Marx in the 1980s, and sustained encounter with Latin America from the 1990s to the present, especially the socialist revolution of Cuba. In my journey, I never lost sight of the question, what needs to be done to bring the United States to a more just foreign policy with respect to the neocolonized peoples?
So I have spent many years living among the colonized, formed and cared for by them. But I did not lose sight of the fact that I belonged to the world of the colonizer, and it was somehow in that world of the colonizer that my life-work and mission had to be found. The colonized themselves reinforced this orientation. They were not making a constant effort to form and care for me in order that I would become lost among them. I was expected to do something with respect to the world from which I came, which presumably, I know something about.
My journey has given me a unique voice, which may benefit the reader on his or her own journey, because it is a voice that is not heard in the societies of the North, at least not in a consistent and coherent way. It is the voice of the Third World, more particularly, the voice of the exceptional leaders and teachers of the Third World movements for national and social liberation from colonial domination and imperialism. More precisely still, it is an appropriation of those insights from exceptional Third World leaders that are the most relevant to educating us in the North concerning what we can do with respect to our own dilemmas, adapting them, of course, to our concrete situations.
The content of the commentaries also has its own special stamp. There are certain matters that I explain, and to which I repeatedly refer, which are not frequently discussed in the North, even among intellectuals of the Left. For example, the Cuban political process of people’s democracy; and the declarations, historical and contemporary, of the Non-Aligned Movement. And there are certain terms and phraseology that are repeated in my commentaries that do not have wide currency: the core and periphery of the capitalist world-economy; the economic function of the periphery; the neocolonial world-system; the sustained structural crisis of the modern world-system; a new international economic order; and an alternative, more just, democratic, and sustainable world-system. Moreover, the content includes a series of topics, much like a professor were to design an outline for a course: the history of the modern-world system; the colonial foundations of the modern world-system; the resistance of the colonized; the neocolonial structures of the current neocolonial world-system; the importance cases of China, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and the Non-Aligned Movement. But in this course, the reader finds that these topics are interwoven in the bi-weekly commentaries, which discuss current events, critically respond to current analyses, or commemorate anniversaries of significant events and historic persons.
The commentaries are anywhere from 1500 to 4000 words, usually around 3000, which is supposed to take the reader about 13 or 14 minutes, according to somebody’s calculation. Since the commentaries arrive in the reader’s Email Inbox twice a week (Tuesday and Friday mornings at 10:00, New York time), you have two or three days to find fifteen minutes or so, and of course you could do it in two or three sessions. I hope that this is not too much for the reader, and it is a good pace for me to write and for us to maintain an ongoing reflection.
You can sign up for free subscriptions, which I encourage, because I am seeking as wide a readership as possible. With a free subscription you can read all commentaries, and you also can share them. Sharing posts with colleagues, friends, and family members whom you think may be interested is a good way to make a non-financial contribution. And in fact, you could follow me on Twitter and retweet my links to the commentaries; and you could become a Facebook friend and resend my links to your friends and relevant groups.
But I also encourage you to sign up for a paid subscription of $5 a month or $40 a year. With a paid subscription, you would benefit more, because you would be able to make commentaries, and this would enable us to deepen our ongoing reflection and discussion. In this regard, Andrej Krickovic of the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow is a good example. You can see his many replies to my commentaries, and my responses to his replies. Andrej and I met at an academic conference in Cuba, and he regularly visited Cuba prior to the pandemic.
I would like to offer an additional an example of another kind. Alan Jenkins is a former student of mine at Presbyterian College; he was a participant in an experiential course in Honduras that the college chaplain and a Spanish professor and I taught. Alan is now a Presbyterian minister in Atlanta, and he is active on Facebook, with groups and friends of the left. Alan rarely replies to the commentaries, but he contributes in other forms. In addition to being a $100 contributing member of my Substack column, he regularly reads the commentaries and resends them on Facebook, sometimes highlighting a part of the text that he finds valuable.
I very much enjoy writing on current affairs, and my life would be much less fulfilling without it. I have a need to express the things that I write in the commentaries. Which means that I would do it without pay, on a purely voluntary basis.
However, the creators of Substack believe that, even though writers enjoy writing, it is still work, and everyone should be paid for their work. They point out that the advertising model, where writers are paid by newspapers and magazines that have income from advertisements, compels writers to adapt to the demands of editors, thus restraining, and in many cases seriously changing, what the writers have a desire to write. In the subscription model, writers express themselves freely, and they are compensated by their subscribers, who find value in what the writer is offering.
The worldview that you will find expressed in my commentaries is a consequence of my mission of seeking to understand Third World popular revolutions and to explain their fundamental anti-colonial and anti-imperialist logic to the English-speaking peoples of the North. It is an understanding that is consistent with what progressive Third World nations plus China are declaring and are implementing in practice, although as noted, 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 provide below the commentaries to date, organized by theme, and in chronological order within each topic.
“Preface: An intellectual autobiography,” April 6, 2021
Philosophical and epistemological issues
“The quest for the true and the right,” April 13, 2021
“First, let’s define some basic terms,” April 9, 2021
“The International Manifesto Group: A report on the Sept. 5 zoom event,” September 7, 2021
The capitalist world-economy and the modern world-system
U.S. Imperialism and resistance
“Neocolonialism and Cuba: The structures of a neocolonial republic,” June 18, 2021
“The black awakening of 1964 to 1972,” April 16, 2021
“The black middle class defends its interests,” April 20, 2021
“What became of the vision of black power?”, April 23, 2021
“The Rainbow Coalition challenges the establishment,” April 27, 2021
“Racism, Ideology, Elite Interests, and the Nation,” May 7, 2021
“Free Black Thought,” May 11, 2021
July 4th commemoration
You can obtain access to my previous writing (prior to February 3, 2021) as well as biographical information on the Website of Global Learning (www.globallearning-cuba.com).
Charles McKelvey, Professor Emeritus, Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina
Follow me on Twitter: Charles McKelvey@CharlesMcKelv10