From the March-April 2015 issue of News & Letters
To learn of the ongoing slaughter of the innocents in the Central African Republic carried out by one faction or another, partially based in religion, in a land where the wealth of diamonds and the immiseration of the masses lie side by side; the permanent war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where millions have died from guns and disease as the natural resources are gobbled up; the fate of Nigeria, a land of oil and deep poverty, of military coups, power grabs, and now of Boko Haram’s murders, rapes and kidnappings; and so many more African tragedies, each with its own history and reality—compels one to return to the great promise, and then great tragedy and betrayal, of the African Revolutions that emerged after World War II.
“The African revolutions opened a new page in the dialectic of thought as well as in world history,” wrote Raya Dunayevskaya in her 1973 book Philosophy and Revolution. That dialectic of thought was a search for a “new humanism.”
REVOLUTIONARY AFRICAN HUMANISM
Dunayevskaya didn’t believe that emancipatory philosophy alone would create a new society. Her chapter “The African Revolutions and the World Economy” discussed neocolonialism and imperialism. She saw the tragedy that “began so soon after revolution had succeeded” as not alone in the objective factors of capitalism—both the pull of the world market and capitalism’s failure to provide authentic development in the developing world—but equally in the division between masses and leaders, and in the failure to work out this new humanism as the direction for the future.
Frantz Fanon had expressed this as “Let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man….”
Dunayevskaya argued, “It is not possible to comprehend the African reality apart from the compelling objective forces of world production, the pull of the world market, and the underlying philosophy of the masses which Marx called ‘the quest for universality.’” Are we lacking such a ground and vision for grasping and transforming today’s African reality, 50 years on?