Descolonización del pensamiento marxista (I) / Javier Biardeau

Decolonization of Marxist Thought (I)

The national-popular movements that are being activated in our America’s societies are configuring the ideological horizon of new socialist imaginaries, bringing to the agenda questions about the place of the Marxist tradition and its role in the transformations that are taking place. In multiple interventions we have wagered on the thesis of the decolonization and de-dogmatization of the Marxist tradition, as an indispensable premise for the renovation of the socialist imaginary, an idea that is constitutively articulated with the proposals of a democratic an ethical-cultural counter-hegemonic revolution. This leads to the decolonization of the tradition of the Marxist left itself, which supposes a process of disassembly, dislocation, detachment and opening towards new horizons of theoretical reflection, that mark spaces beyond Eurocentrism’s politico-cultural canon.

In a strict sense this implies a double negation in the heart of the Marxist tradition: superseding social democratic and Marxist-Leninist reformism; that is, the Eurocentric internationals. The time has come to provincialize the universal fallacies. There also exists an agenda of knowledge production that can and should enunciate that our north is the South. Does this double supersession implicate the liquidation of the program of Marxist research-action? It absolutely implicates its radical aperture and renovation. In this way, the imaginary of new socialisms from the South acquires a historical-cultural density that is rooted in the specificity of concrete circumstances, without abandoning the problematization of the existential condition of the human race, understood as a conjunction of differential experiences of civilizing, cultural and national circles.

There is no abstract humanity. There exist diverse humanities, incarnated in historic multi-diversity, in cultural dialogue. In fact, intercultural dialogue which is the condition for the possibility of other socialisms, even for communal imaginaries (different from any form of industrialism, or bureaucratic collectivism), armed from an eco-political platform that uncovers the disease-development of blind industrialism-productivism and the consumerist mentality. This supposes an even more profound rupture from developmental inertias, more than the indispensable epistemological turn, articulated to the complex, decolonizing thought that would overcome the crisis of a modernity in ruins.

Today we know where the abstract universalisms were elaborated, their categorical and conceptual measures, their historic “a priori.” We recognize their epistemological devices, their ontological wagers and their ethical principles. We know from which legitimate tongues, from which hegemonic apparatuses truths are enunciated and legitimized. We know how intellectual fields are accredited and how the legitimization of symbolic domination takes place. Today the word “intellectual” is a problematic sign crossed by its function as a support to multiple regimes of power. “Intellectual” today is a sign that distinguishes and articulates a specific social function for determined epistemological, political and cultural projects. So we have to mistrust the projections of purity, honesty and decontamination of “intellectuals,” since, in a certain sense, they are modernity’s new clergy.

Although in Europe the French Revolution liquidated to a certain degree the stew of religious superstitions disseminated by the block of dominant power, it installed the superstition of the symbolic authority of illustrated intellectuals, without considering that they carried their own ethical-mythical horizon.

In postcolonial America both sources of authority disputed the intellectual and moral hegemony over what they considered a popular field subjected to racial classifications, plagued by the need for a “pastoral power” and for a “coercive leadership.” The cross and the sword have been modified by the incitement to consume and the right to die of hunger.

Translator’s note: A slightly longer version of this essay in the original Spanish was published last month asEl imaginario de emancipación socialista y la descolonización del pensamiento marxista (I).”

{ Javier Biardeau, El Nacional, 31 January 2009 }

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