The Cuban Philosophical Society
Developing a comprehensive science of politics from the South
The Cuban Philosophical Society held its Eleventh International Colloquium, “A Philosophy for the Emancipation, Diversity, and Life of the Planet,” from November 16 to November 18, 2022, in Havana.
The founder and president of the Society, Dr. Thalía M. Fung Riverón, Professor Emeritus at the University of Havana, welcomed the delegates in the opening ceremony, which was initiated with the singing of the Cuban national anthem. She reviewed the history of the Society, which was founded in 1983 with the intention of developing a Marxist-Leninist philosophy that responded to the conditions of the neocolonized peoples of the global South
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist bloc, believing that the Soviet Union had paid insufficient attention to study of the science of politics, the members of the Society committed to developing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary science of politics from the perspective of the neocolonized peoples. Dr. Fung began writing of this need in 1997, and in 2000 the Political Science from the South was established as a recognized field of study at the University of Havana under the joint administration of the Cuban Philosophical Society. She called upon the participants to continue dedicated work on this duty, noting that in the current historic moment of international crisis, Cubans are defending not only their sovereignty, but also the most advanced democracy in Latin America, forged by their socialist revolution, which is providing key insights for a sustainable future for humanity.
The colloquium was organized as a series of two simultaneous commissions of three days, one dedicated primarily to philosophical questions, and the other dedicated to questions related to the national and geopolitical politics.
The universality of the epistemology of the South
In the panel on Epistemology and the Reading of the Present World, Dr. Yelenne Díaz Lazo, Professor of Philosophy of the University of Havana, emphasized the need for the peoples of Latin America to have their own knowledge as a defense against the ongoing efforts at the imposition of a colonial paradigm. She called for an epistemology of the South, an alternative to the modern Western paradigm that seeks to justify capitalism, economic exploitation, and social domination. She advocates a decolonized epistemology, in harmony with the cultures and values of the peoples, that responds to the imposed conclusions and perspectives.
In my view, the peoples of the South are constructing in practice an implicit epistemology of the South. In the first place, the intellectuals and leaders of the social movements and progressive states of the Third World plus China have been describing the modern world as built on the foundation of colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism. It is a description that contrasts with the view of Western leaders and the great majority of Western intellectuals, who in some form or other believe that the great advances of the West in science and technology were built on a foundation of exceptional intelligence and work.
In describing the fundamental facts of modern history and contemporary reality, the Third World is implicitly stating, first, that there is an existing historical and contemporary reality, concerning which it is our duty to understand and describe. And secondly, that we arrive to the truth by listening to the voices of all, and in this regard it should be noted that the Third World appreciates and studies Western philosophy, science and technology. The Third World is implicitly asserting that, although all humans begin the quest for understanding by reflecting on their experiences in a particular nation or social class, ultimately we arrive to truth by taking seriously the understandings that emerge from the concrete experiences of all, including others that live beyond our cultural horizon.
The Third World is following this epistemological maxim. Living in the neocolonial situation, it cannot escape or forget the colonial reality, which the Western paradigm overlooks. Yet the Third World takes seriously Western philosophy and science, and it therefore is capacitated to construct in practice a universal political theory and epistemology.
In the second place, the Third World theoretical and epistemological construction pertains not only to the realm of fact, but also to the realm of values and morality. Third World leaders and intellectuals have expanded the Western liberal democratic concept of the inalienable rights of human beings to include, first, the rights of nations: to sovereignty and true independence, to non-interference in their internal affairs, to control over their resources, and to development. And secondly, to include the rights of all persons to health care, education, nutrition, and housing; not as privileges for those who can pay, but as human rights.
These values, thanks to the dynamic participation of the former Soviet Union and the East European socialist bloc, and thanks to the committed work of the governments of the Non-Aligned Movement, have been codified in various documents of the United Nations, thus constituting a formal declaration of the universal human values that ought to guide humanity.
Thus, in the realm of values and in the realm of fact, Third World leaders, intellectuals, movements, and progressive states are constructing an alternative political theory and epistemology from the vantage point of the South, which becomes the foundation for a more advance universal theory and epistemology, appropriate and necessary for the current age, in which the contradictions of the capitalist world-economy have brought the neocolonial world-system to its inherent limits.
I expressed something along these lines in the interchange at the panel. Yelenne Díaz Lazo responded that the construction in practice generally occurs in particular nations, all of which have their particularities. We need an epistemology that goes beyond the particular.
Correct. So I would say that China and Cuba constitute the most advanced expressions of the emerging political theory and epistemology of the South, but we must take into account that their formulations are being developed in particular conditions. So our task is to generalize from the various particular cases of advanced formulations among the nations constructing socialism as well as those with progressive, anti-imperialist governments.
At the same time, the regional associations provide an experiential base for grasping the unfolding theory and epistemology, inasmuch as they of practical necessity must move beyond the particular conditions in their nations and find the common elements. Especially important in this regard are the Non-Alignment Movement and ALBA-TCP. The Non-Aligned Movement, because it brings together virtually all the nations of the Third World, and it has played an important historic role. ALBA, because it possesses a clear anti-imperialist agenda, forged by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
The quest for a multipolar world
Several panelists at the commission on geopolitical dynamics discussed the quest for a multipolar world: Dr. Indira López, Cuban Philosophical Society; Dr. Clovis Ortega, Preparatory School of the Communist Party of Cuba of Matanzas; María del Carmen Pérez, Faculty of Economics, University of Havana; Martha Rodríguez, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Havana; Alberto González, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Havana; Hernán Marcial Torres, University of Artemisa; Luis Rubén Valdés, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Havana; and Dr. Jorge Hernandez, Center for US and Hemispheric Studies, University of Havana.
They stressed that there is an ongoing process of constructing a multipolar world, an alternative to the unipolar world directed by the United States. The process is taking several overlapping directions. On the one hand, poles of civilizations are emerging, including regions influenced by China, India, Russia, and Iran; and regions moving toward unity and integration, such as Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the USA/Western Europe. At the same time, there is the possibility of key nations in several regions aligning with China, on the basis of its orientation to mutually beneficial trade among the nations of the world, more beneficial to many nations than the practices of Western imperialism. And there is the possibility of a unity of the Third World plus China, a vision formulated by the Non-Aligned Movement as an alternative to the Western-centered capitalist world-economy.
It is not clear, the panelists maintained, which of these forms the multipolar world ultimately will take. Will Cuba, for example, define itself as belonging to Latin American civilization or to the Third World? In any event, what is most important is that the emerging multipolarity expresses itself in a form that does not permit Western re-colonization.
The panelists consider the persistence of the United States in its imperialist road to be the biggest threat to the multipolar process as well as to the future of humanity. They noted that imperialism has passed through various stages, but it continues to be in essence imperialism. They wonder if it would ever be possible for the United States to abandon its imperialist road.
The comments and questions of the panelists point to the necessity of political change in the USA, transforming the foreign policy of the United States from imperialism to cooperation with the nations of the world in the construction of a more just world order. In my view, in order for this to occur, a political party would have to formulate a reality-based vision of advancing the productivity of the nation’s economy on the basis of mutually beneficial trade with other nations, a coherent vision that would enable the party to take political power and reorient the nation to alternative economic and foreign policies, legitimating these new policies with a narrative that basis them in the founding republican principles of the nation, now deepened and expanded on the basis of experience and a changing world.
In a conversation that I had with Yelenne Díaz Lazo, she emphasized that economic conditions shape culture and ideology, and therefore it would be most difficult for the political culture of the United States to turn from its imperialist road. I commented that, to be sure, there is very little in the way of anti-imperialism in the U.S. public discourse at the present time. However, imperialism is no longer an economically beneficial policy for the United States or for the Western powers in general. The world-system has overextended and overreached the territorial and ecological limits of the earth, and continued efforts to extract natural resources and labor in accordance with short-term Western interests will only result in greater resistance by the peoples of the world, more conflicts and wars, and increased ecological damage, which will lead to further global chaos and increased possibilities for nuclear and biological wars and for ecological disaster, possibly resulting in the extinction of the human species or a new age of barbarity.
The peoples of the United States, at least the 99%, do not have an interest in a world characterized by conflict, chaos, barbarity or human extinction. They have an interest in expanding the productivity of their economy and the prosperity of their nation, which can only be accomplished, in today’s global conditions, in a world of peace and prosperity. These post-imperialist material conditions have been present since the 1970s, but the U.S. power elite and the political establishment have taken the nation down the self-destructive road of economic and military aggression. However, these post-imperialist material conditions continue to create the real possibility for the emergence of a new direction, if politically intelligent and morally responsible leadership were to emerge to formulate a coherent platform and to call the people to its realization.
Celebration of the International Day of Philosophy
On November 18, the colloquium, as is its custom, celebrated the International Day of Philosophy in the Aula Magna (Great Hall) of the University of Havana. This year, the event celebrated the life and work of Dr. Thalia M. Fung Riverón, who in the morning General Assembly of the Society, had been awarded with the position of President of Honor. Dr. Alicia Morffi García, who has served as secretary of the Society for many years, except for three years of service in a Cuban educational mission in Angola, was elected the new President of the Cuban Philosophical Society.
In her brief address at the celebration, Dr. Fung recalled that her foreparents were among the first Chinese to settle in Cuba. They had been political prisoners in China who had been sent for forced labor in Cuba. Because of this heritage, she said, she is a daughter of China. At the same time, the Cuban Philosophical Society has always been Marxist-Leninist in the service of the Cuban Revolution.
Contribute to the Cuban Philosophical Society
I donate to the Cuban Philosophical Society 10% of income earned through subscriptions. Therefore, if you are a paid subscriber, you are contributing to the Society. If you are an unpaid subscriber, consider upgrading to a paid subscription, so that a part of your subscription payment would be donated to the Society.
A free subscription option is available, with capacity to read, send, and share all posts. A paid subscription ($5 per month or $40 per year) enables you to make comments and to support the costs of the column; paid subscribers also receive a free PDF copy of my book on Cuba and the world-system.