From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters
Learning from history, to be able to catch what is significant in your own activity, is a life and death question. Philosophy is necessary when people need to break through the barriers that are mostly in the mind.
Urszula Wislanka’s “open letter” asked, “The power of humanism, where do we go from here?” It was written to stir a discussion and advance philosophical clarity as it relates to Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement. PHRM’s Blue Print was authored to give direction and continuity to the prisoners’ movement.
The Blue Print is calling upon us prisoners to be steadfast in projecting our humanism and be vigilant against forces capable of disrupting our forward motion. Our activity is to be rooted in the lawful procedures of human rights protocols, nationally and internationally, not separate from the five core demands listed in the Blue Print appendix.
The immediacy of our struggle for the full recognition of our humanity is a part of the mass movement for total human emancipation. This larger perspective is
the underlying historical significance of the Blue Print.
The historical record of the last half of the 20th century and the early part of 21st shows how previous revolutions were aborted. A philosophy of revolution cannot be left to be worked out in the midst of struggle. Our present moment is the unpleasant result of a philosophical void. No one had dealt with the critical question: “What happens after” the expropriation of power by the masses? We are not even close to the point where the expropriation of power is within our grasp. However, our historical obligation demands we attempt to think it through.
The open letter speaks to those who call ourselves revolutionary. The idea of humanism does not exhaust itself in our particular demands but keeps determining itself in the ongoing unfolding of new human relations as “mutually recognized self-determining free beings.” The open letter is an attempt to establish the philosophical bulwark preventing what Frantz Fanon posited: “’the dialectic … changing into the logic of equilibrium,’ where static forms of party, unions, laws and culture conceal the true conditions of men and women and attempt to stultify the self-development of humanity.” (See Frantz Fanon, Soweto and American Black Thought, p. 49.)
The open letter draws out the historical potential of the Blue Print in our present moment. It provides the reader the opportunity to envision what we have at hand. Can we meet the challenge of practice as set out in the Blue Print, which is also a form of humanist theory and realize the Absolute as the self-moving idea of freedom? Isn’t this the deeper philosophical content to the Blue Print’s statement, “We are beacons of collective building”?