Perspectives and Contradictions in the
Contemporary Development of Man


Niculae Bellu and Alex. Tanase

Marxist thought both implies and founds a critical theory of man. This theory it infers from the study of history, which it introduces among the coordinates of development in perspective of contemporary society and man. Man assimilates the totality of social relations in his historical development and confers a subjectivized expression of this aggregate upon it in the unitary terms of mind and reason. This whole set of social relations cannot in turn be understood, in the mechanism of its inner dynamics, history and development, except as the product of a human subject in continuous evolution, of a human subject endlessly transformed throughout the great historical epochs and participating (in this role of new man) in the foundation of a new set of social relations. The two terms are correlative and can only be defined in terms of their correlativity. Social revolutions thus appear to Marx to be implanted in the internal logic of history, not only because (1) the obsolete structure cannot be removed except by way of a radical break with the institutions of the past, but also because (2) it is only through social revolution that man himself is set free from his subordination to former relations and becomes able to forge a new world. In this way, revolutions appear to affect not only the object, but the subject as well, just as when taking a revolutionary course, the subject affects not only history but itself equally, molding itself in accordance with the action it undertakes. It is not only social relations that are released from the weight of antiquated structures that have fostered a process of stagnation, but the new tendencies of the human condition, [65/66] having meanwhile sprung forth and partially grown to ripeness, are likewise released from the pressure of obsolete relations and the spiritual climate they express. Marx does not hesitate to express the truth that, in order to build a radically new socialist world, the working-class—i.e., man engaged in founding the new society,—"will have to fight its way through long battles and a whole sequence of historical processes that will completely transform man and events." (The Civil War in France). The problem does not lie in achieving ideals, in lending life to Utopias, but in developing "the elements of the new society that have already evolved in the bosom of bourgeois society." (Ibid.) It is, however, this very action that Marx considers a discontinuity—a process of rupture. "The Communist revolution is the most radical break with the relations of production inherited from the past; no wonder, therefore, that the most radical break with traditional ideas occurs in the course of its development." (Manifesto of the Communist Party.) Comprehending the new socialist man and his genesis in Marx's terms amounts to associating, on the theoretical plane, the idea of process, which suggests continuity, with the idea of rupture—breaking of continuity. To grasp the problem of contemporary man, we base ourselves on the concept of the rupture as a continuing process, which—although a process—can neither conceal nor attenuate the fact that we are in fact confronted with the hidden mechanism of a rupture. With his intuition, Marx draws a general description of the mechanism of this process of rupture, so radical and complex. "On the other hand, proletarian revolutions are continuously criticizing themselves and interrupting their own course, reverting to what seems to have been already achieved just to start over again; they ridicule relentless and in detail the half-measures, shortcomings, and negative aspects of their first attempts . . . they falter again and again, terrified by the boundless immensity of their own goals, until the moment when every retreat is cut off, when the very circumstances cry out: Hic Rhodos, hic salta*!" (The Eighteenth of Brumaire.) Literary license only emphasizes more stringently the radical realism of this way of understanding the process of rupture—rupture on the historical plane, rupture in the continuity of human typology. The man that issues from this rupture [66/67] is hypothetically defined as different from the man of the rupture, from him who achieves it.

This communication endeavors to re-implant the question of socialist man within the coordinates of such a process of rupture, without which our dramatic contemporary efforts would prove "Sisyphean," and, as such, senseless and lacking humanistic perspective.

Man is not a saint. This truth, verified by the historical experience of several thousand years, nevertheless, has not prevented the imagination from creating a pure and lofty alternative image of man, which has become a pattern of perfection, as eager to constitute a reply, be it even an ideal one, to the impure and highly contradictory reality of the human condition, as it is unreal. With this ideal of perfection the idea of man enters the realm of myth. It passes out of common speech, where man means this or that, along with what is both good and evil, beautiful and ugly, agreeable and disagreeable—into a meta-language, or a second semiotic system where nothing is retained but man as a symbol of the oneness of his species: homo faber, homo sapiens, homo significans. In giving all things a meaning, man suddenly finds himself face to face with his own concept, as though facing a sign carrying some other meaning than the true expression of his own condition. And, thus, we may distinguish two moments. First: everyone knows or guesses—at least in his innermost self, or in his moments of frankness (exceptions are not out the question)—what he is, as a man. He knows roughly what man taken individually is like, at least within the limits of his own existence as a concrete individual, within an aggregate dynamic existence. But the distinguishing feature of this knowledge or approximation of knowledge is its equivocal character. To say all about man, means to say nothing meaningful, to leave no room for analytical distinctions for determining elements of contradiction and tension, for examining the relations that define them in their unity; it is impossible to detach what signifies from what is signified, the label (the word) from its concept. Within the limits of this first moment, representation is adequate but diffuse, obscure, and insignificant. With a second system of language (selective or meta-language) the situation undergoes a radical change. The aggregate, undifferentiated, equivocal notion of man (equally good and [67/68] bad, etc.) is here resumed only from the angle of his originality as a species (faber, sapiens, significans). Here, only the specific difference is considered meaningful. Man enters this second language by reason of these new features of his existence (difference with respect to his species). Seeking his concept and defining himself through his elevation, man installs himself in a meta-language that is superior by reason of its meaningfulness, but univocal at the same time, univocal owing precisely to this element of meaning that it has acquired.

It is by virtue of this meta-language that the myth of man or the idea of man as a myth is constructed. This meta-language creates the opportunity for thought to operate in the anthropological field, using terms that convey man's significance, rather than his condition; his difference rather than his existential inference. The determining of the idea of man is achieved to the detriment of an adequate representation of the human condition. Thus, in the idea of man we have an expression, not of the real in its contradictory effectiveness, but one of its tendencies, without the contradiction in which it is implanted and which explains it.

The idea of man becomes the myth of an illusive non-contradictory stage of the human condition, which impels thought in the direction of a linear vision of human progress, in the form of a slow and continuous improvement of his defining features. Hence, the Utopian idealism of any sort of "ameliorism." Reduced to its mythical image, the idea of man contains all of its future developments ("ameliorations"). Nothing else essentially new could appear here.

Roland Barthes notes that "myth conceals nothing; its function is to deform, not to cause to disappear." But, by this very definition, it does conceal something, for any adjustment of meaning (that de-forms) subjects the fact or event to a judgment of value and expresses it in the light of an act of choice. In this sense, the proposition man is good by nature, that condenses within a seemingly benign phrase the entire and persistent mythological belief about man, "deforms," "causes to disappear," the fact conspicuously revealed by Hegel and reaffirmed by Engels, that the proposition man is wicked by nature tells a lot more.

At the same time, however, as Roland Barthes explains, 94 myth is a value"; it confronts not truth but its interpretation. [68/69]

We may thus isolate and describe a set of intentions that restrict the idea of man within the bounds of the myth of natural goodness. Likewise, we can observe that this myth of man performs an empirical action, interferes in life, participates in the process of integration of the individual in the world, in the formation of social habits and reflexes, in the analysis of the various types of human relations, and, finally, in a prefigures [sic] interpretation of existence. Broadly, the postulation—as a myth—of a generic, "natural" goodness of man, by providing and imposing such a hypothesis, makes it possible at the same time, offers it as an alternative, as an ideal, as a stimulus, as an aspiration. This is the positive action of myth. "Myths," notes Camus, "are meant for imagination to endow them with life."

But theoretical thought cannot pass lightly over the opposite effect. For whatever is thus left in the shade becomes all the more ugly and dangerous. Unfortunately, it is precisely some of the most specific results of human development so far that are neglected: his egocentric make up conveying the conditions of penury and repression not yet overcome by man's history; the desire to possess things, and even people, with all its implications, etc. All this is a part of man's reality, of real man, but is overlooked in the idea of man—hence, the deception that follows upon the dissipation of the illusion. Any spiritual structure erected upon such a base remains defenseless and incapable of active resistance. This is an unpropitious climate for any human community, affecting its constructive psychological and moral reserves. But the more difficult and harmful its living conditions, the more a human community commits itself, in the course of several generations, to a socialist, and therefore radical, renovation of its way of life and implicitly to the creation of new dimensions in the human condition. There comes a time when the radical renewal of society cannot continue without as radical as possible a renewal of man himself.

In the face of such difficulties, the question must be posed as to how the former myth will be inscribed within the scheme of the new tendencies of the human condition, whether what it causes "to disappear," the ambiguity that it leaves in the shade, the one-sided "goodness" that it favors—whether all this is not installed, this time, as a "natural" continuation of a past system and of a climate toward which [69/70] man can only place himself in a relation of duplicity—a relation of duplicity deriving from the repressive nature of the human relationships (material and spiritual), accounted for in the myth "man is good by nature," meaning that whatever does not fall within the bounds of this idea is evil.

Such evil, as opposed to the myth of man good by nature, should be most carefully specified, for neither the sense of possessiveness nor that of domination are contained in the traditional idea of evil; neither does it take account of the system of subjective levers that has stimulated the process of social and human development from time immemorial until now. "Evil" would be, rather, refusal to submit to repression, rejection of conventions and duplicity, non-acceptance of "destiny"—whereas "good" would be this very acceptance and reconciliation, for going beyond these limits, man would be lost for lack of guidance and restraint.

The myth of man's being good (by nature), thus reveals (perhaps somewhat paradoxically) its normative moral significance, and—in this context—its value as the tenet of a system of repressive norms, a system of norms repressing whatever is not meant to be seen, known, or said, namely that which—as in every myth—is supposed to disappear. Such norms try to repress what Hegel meant when he pointed out that much more was asserted by the proposition man is evil by nature; that is, he comes loaded with instincts and passions that a society founded upon domination and competition molds only to the extent that it implants them even deeper in the human condition, thus molding the human mind, the common awareness and the ideology of all the times of penury and repression in such a way as to turn the myth of man's being good into the chaste alternative of this reality: modest, hypocritical, double-dealing — Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. But man—so that he may be understood as such and so that his history may be understood—must be analyzed by way of his aggregate and historically contradictory structure. When Marx cited the aphorism that, being a man, nothing human was strange to him, he emphasized the need to clear the field of the human condition of all prejudice, all false modesty, and hypocrisy. In the same way, Marx considered childish and ridiculous the image of a developed socialist society in which sharing of wealth was [70/71] arranged according to need, but in which man was, at best, an improved type of the man of today—an improved human type, having, in turn, an improved morality. When worked out to its final consequences, this idea implies that a moment of rupture, an interruption of continuity, is required here. Progress can only be achieved by the difficult route of such discontinuity. An alternative to any unilateral and apologetic idea about man is thus set forth; an alternative to the man of repressive morals who has hitherto held sway, and to any practice of basing man's fate on the ideal man of the future on a Philistine so-called improvement of morals.

The theoretical need to introduce a clear-cut distinction between, on the one hand, the concept of moral progress and, on the other hand, its commonly held meaning, as well as that of interpreting it within the limits of quantitative accumulations, as an improvement of morals—has been approached in a previous paper. At the same time, this distinction involves contemporary understanding of human evolution, man's destiny, the possibility of approximating the real lines of confrontation (in the field of contradictory forces) that govern the historical production of a new human typology.

Therefore, can the devising of a new human pattern, which both denies the bourgeois pattern and heralds that of the epoch inaugurated by socialism, be compatible with the sanctified myth of man "good by nature," who was given the task of continuing the uphill road on the Golgotha of his "improvement"? Or, on the contrary, does the hypothesis of a socialist pattern of man in principle require and imply a radical break with the obsolete myth? Such a break with the past tends to shed a critical light even on the theoretically quasi-molded structure of socialist man, which has likewise become a reality, but was constructed, in its turn, less from the practical material gained from a new human experience, as from what a long, idealized vision of man had established as being the gaps in the bourgeois (or an even older model). And, by a mechanical process of compensation, the socialist ideal is endowed with qualities chosen on the basis of their absence or desirability in a historical epoch characterized by the reign of blind necessity, penury and repression. It would obviously be unfair to completely deny the heuristic value of this method of building the hypothesis of a new [71/72] human pattern, using the elements which are most noticeably absent from mankind's experience thus far. Even in this negative form, it is a human model forged of desires and ideals, established in the course of thousands of years, and condenses a vast human experience, practical and theoretical. Such a pattern is, at the same time, the expression of the historically established presence of certain psychological and intellectual tendencies of contemporary man which plan an active part in the enhancement—present and future—of the human ideal, with the result that, even within these limits, it fulfills a prospective function, suggesting a wide range of hypotheses and real possibilities.

With this, however, we do not get beyond what we might term the "improvement" stage in the evolution of human properties; we remain restricted, smothered within the limits of the same hallowed structure, developed over a long period of time, that sees evolution only in terms of the quantitative moment of "improvement," rather than the moment announcing—through the interruption of continuity—a human subjectivity, a mental, moral and intellectual complex corresponding to a new, radically changed human condition. The principle of discontinuity is disregarded under the influence of the hypnotizing myth of "improvement."

However, the radically new reality of socialism and communism, man's still maturing new condition, would prove impotent if the man which it produces, who takes possession of this reality and develops it in the spirit of his own internal dynamics, does nothing but recreate the ancient biblical alternative—Cain and Abel. Ever the human ideal, this patient, meek Abel, born under a repressive climate and expressing it—or at most, the moderate Spinozan sage, at last realized; an idyllic "betterment" of the species, a dream fraught with the finalistic illusion of perfection—an anthropological prejudice, a puritan myth within whose bounds today's profoundly iconoclastic tendencies and manifestations appear merely as signs of moral chaos and disintegration, perversity and baseness, Sodom and Gomorrah. From the theoretical point of view, the propagandistic tendency to attribute this trend exclusively to the decay of the Western, capitalist world should not be accepted without reserves. It could not be universally asserted that the erosion from within of the old pattern expresses simple, sterile negativity [72/73] without any consequence other than so-called "moral decadence." In this description we do not recognize the true workings of history, the mechanism of its periods of equilibrium and rupture, for, as Engels perceived, all advancement is accompanied by a relative regression, or what appears as such. For, indeed, the new times expose the superannuated structure to an acute process of erosion. The ancient temples totter. The old ideas are powerless to arrest the downfall of the established system. Even if the hallowed relative immobility of the past is once more embellished and idealized, that which appears truly and profoundly novel in history continually activates the process of erosion and degradation that clears the terrain for new possibilities and patterns. In his "Grundrisse," recently become famous, Marx offers a sufficiently elaborate theoretical grounding for this process to be understood: "In the very act of reproduction it is not only the objective conditions that change . . . (he writes) but the producer himself is changed, in that he develops new qualities within himself, and he himself evolves through the process of production, and is transformed while creating new forms and new representations, new means of communication, new needs and a new language." These new representations, new means of communication, new needs and the new language that he creates, appear, on the other hand—to use an idea belonging almost equally to Hegel and to Engels, who comments upon it—as "a sacrilege against something holy."

The Socialist world today is faced with just such a moment of choice. Continuity and rupture stand face to face; the old and the new human condition in perspective; the old and the new language of humanity. The idea of man as a myth, the one-sided character of goodness, is the "sacred," and the process of consecration thus has a share in the perpetuation, even if purely formal, of the authority of the past, offering itself as a means for the past to resist the erosion to which the motion of the present incessantly subjects it. But even in this light, the resistance of the past, the "sacred," is not simply negative, in outright opposition to the renovating action of the present, but also contains some positive elements, representing, as it does, the accumulated and resisting material upon which the present acts, subduing it—precisely because of its resistance—to a [73/74] lengthy and elaborate processing of its very essence, in order to adapt it to the new conditions of existence. Through its opposition and resistance, the past, the idea of man as myth, continues to affect the present and the future. That which is molded by the new conditions of life, in turn molds these same conditions, while what we postulate as the man of the future and the progress that he makes possible will only be achieved by way of this close and painfully bitter confrontation. Myth is active, although thought must recognize it as such and cast off the darkness it engenders. The solution can be decisive only to the extent that it can be methodically implemented. The rest continues to gravitate under the protection of myth. And progress can be forged only as a result of this confrontation, in the course of which neither of the terms thus placed in opposition will have the last word. Thus progress can be achieved only with difficulty, and only within the space between the antagonists. Theory tends to see beyond that which is continuously raised to the level of the "sacred." Practice will again and again elevate to the state of myth a historically determined model of the human condition. In contrast to this ideal, the movement itself, the process which ends with the moment of progress, appears every time as the absence of firm principles, indecency, a bent for appearances, superficiality, a drifting with the tide, modernism—in one word, the moral perversion of the human condition. It is precisely because such "depravity" is not a simple fiction but a substantial component of the process itself, one of its conditions, that any theoretically valid image of progress appears indecent and shocks the timidity of "common sense."

Theory is constrained to yield to this timid and Philistine spirit, within whose bounds the new human pattern can only be conceived as a betterment, in the spirit of puritan man's idea of purity, thus setting the entire process within the sphere of a conception vitiated by apriorism and the notion of inborn good governed by Providence.

The Philistine narrowness of this sort of vision, grounded in the unavowed but deeply rooted belief that "man is good by nature" obscures theoretical thought on man's perspectives, perverts it to a great extent, restricts freedom of investigation on this plane, subjecting it to inhibiting censure in the hallowed name of propriety. And thus, although it is natural [74/75] for an individual man to be considered sinful, the concept of man, on the other hand, as denoting the species, generic man, abstract man, or collective man, although accumulating in its very nature the complexity of the contradictory traits of individual men (or at least the capacity for such traits) is envisioned, by contrast, and almost without exception, as uniquely representing both the focal point of all creation and the transcendence of self, audacity, freedom—born pure and immaculate. Thus the concept of man in the abstract, in its generic sense, is weighed down and encrusted with a persistent layer of duplicity and Philistinism. Human progress—here reduced to a banality—is conceived of idyllically and linearly, in the positive, promising antecedents of existing conditions. As regards the rest (enclosed within decorous parentheses), it is assigned exclusively to the field of practice, either in the guise of the impact of public opinion, press criticism, subjects in art and literature, or under the pedagogical influence of houses of correction for minors or the repressive activity of the councils of justice, and courts for civil affairs or criminal offenses.

Within the limits of this outlook, with which our specialty literature superficially concerns itself, contemporary man means man, man in general, human nature. That is, of course, contemporary man raised to the perfection of his qualities. The myth-man. The God-man, although a God-man afflicted with petty sins. A model of man cannot be imagined otherwise than endowed with exalted forms of all those qualities that are considered positive and completely lacking those considered negative. This is an image as bookish as it is shallow and paltry, collapsing in the face of a sensible positive attitude; as decorous as it is powerless to discover a source of energy capable of achieving more than simple improvements in a continuous plane—but the interruption of continuity, the discovery in the present of sources of energy that would be able to develop a new human model through successive oppositions, is beyond it. Man needs another image of himself and a new equilibrium between his personal aspirations and his role in society. Such progress, which is simultaneously that of human nature and of its morality, evidently implies the overcoming, in deed, in real life, of all feelings of inhibition, frustration, and guilt, acquired in the course of thousands of years under the influence of all the [75/76] repressive moralities, under the empire of want and need, under the tutorship of successive hierarchical authorities, under the rule of the vengeful past, always competing with the present. At the end of this process, the human model can only be that of a repressed creature, submitting to its condition and rebelling against it, but assimilating—even against its will—the repressive climate as its existential surrounding, and identifying the pulse of this existence with the natural condition of its spirituality. Within this frame of existence and spirituality, the sense of possession (and that of domination that complements it) which Marx speaks of most significant is the outcome: man making of possession his existential principle—the myth of possession and the myth of possessive man. Goods are possessed and they are goods because they are possessed. Even the relation between the sexes becomes a relation of possession. A woman is possessed. The principle of possession leaves its mark on all human relations: man-woman, parent-child. We only prize what we possess—in fact we look at all things in terms of possession. Possession is the key to man, his basic structure, a sacred thing.

Every refinement, every improvement within this conception can be only a refined, improved expression of this structure, a structure which continues to reproduce the past in the present. But this is a structure we hardly dare to touch, even within the realm of theory, however paradoxical it may seem: a structure still able to hypnotize with its sacred, mythical authority, that imposes resigned acceptance of its dogma through repression.

Thus, in order to face this Titan—this myth of the idea of man—in investigating and dissecting the possible directions of progress on the plane of the human model, we can advance effectively only in an iconoclastic spirit, obeying the inscription found by Dante at the gate of Hell: "Here you must banish all your doubts, and let all fear be dead."

The truth that man is not a saint requires a radically new exploration of man's perspectives. We must recognize the fact that we are experiencing a moment of rupture, which imposes the methodological necessity of reconstructing the idea of man from a new perspective of his condition, as well as from a new perspective of his aspirations. The myth of the idea of man, as it has been expressed throughout history, [76/77] obscures the perspective of thought, reduces everything to itself, discourages every other hypothesis. It leaves no room for any other human model to suit the times that are in the making and the new possibilities that have cropped up in the meantime, whereas, so far as reconstruction is concerned, the working hypothesis of Marxist thought is the restoration of real man to his rights. A critical theory of real man is required—of the real man of our times, who is experiencing radical change and acquiring new contradictions generated by these very changes: The man with a new subjectivity, corresponding to new objective conditions of the individual-universal relation. A new aggregate structure of the human condition, corresponding to a new type of relation with nature, with the areas of culture and history. To state this problem in radical terms does not mean so much to break with the past, as to free man's vision of himself from a superfluous weight that prevents him from grasping the pivot positions of his essential being and his new, still unfolding, elementary structure.

As follows from the first part of this paper, the image of a new human model, in a position to deny the bourgeois pattern and to herald that of the epoch inaugurated by socialism, is not compatible with the hallowed myth of man "good by nature" whose fate would be simply to continue climbing the road of his "improvement." By contrast, the hypothesis of a socialist model of man assumes and implies transcendence of the one-sidedness of the old concepts: a critical appraisal of the theoretical, quasi-molded structure of socialist man, composed less of the practically experienced material of a new human existence than of the elements of a demythologized pattern of man exposed in the social and human practice of presocialist societies. In other words, the new socialist pattern of man must radically and effectively (not only theoretically) transcend the mystical, apologetic idea of man created good by nature, with all its ameliorative implications.

There can be no doubt that socialism introduces the most overwhelming historical confrontation in man's experience. Socialism's basic purpose is not simply to achieve a revolution within the material structures of human existence (especially in the sphere of material production)—tending towards that future society with an abundance of products, where for the [77/78] first time there will exist thorough and real equality among men, where each will receive from society according to his needs,—but also to construct a new human pattern. But what does this pattern represent, and in what relation does it stand to the humanistic heritage of the past? Rejection of the mythical consecration of obsolete patterns does not mean the negation of all continuity in human evolution, for, independently of its more or less mythicized theoretical models, socio-historical and cultural-artistic practice has succeeded in forming and reaffirming certain general human traits, whose historical validity has been evinced through their continuous transformation and enrichment from one historical epoch to another. Thus the human pattern of each epoch or society represents an association of specific features (patterns of thought, behavior, creativity, kinds of ideology, etc.) with certain general-human qualities.

Stripping the mythical elements from the idea of man in socialism does not mean denuding it, divesting it of edifying spiritual contents; it does not mean denial of the axiological criteria of estimating and evaluating human deeds. It is only a regressive society that feels a need for apologetics and an atmosphere of sanctity, a society in dissolution, undergoing a spiritual crisis, intent on concealing or substituting the myth of the ideal of man for a cruel and sad human reality. That is certainly not the case of socialism, in which, however burdensome the vestiges of the past and the presence of a wide range of conflicting situations, there is no need to mythicize the ideal, as it represents a dimension of the real.

The human pattern in socialism is an original synthesis between the universally human and the specific, but its construction and its contents are radically different. Marx outlined this new human profile in his famous Manuscripts, where he formulated the idea that the perfect humanism of communism, as a "real appropriation of the human essence by man and for man . . . . is the true solution to the conflict between man and nature and between man and man, the true solution to the conflict between existence and essence, between objectivity and self-assertion, between liberty and necessity, between the individual and the species."

It would be erroneous to infer from these words that socialism, or even communism, establishes a human-social order where all conflict and all tension disappear. These [78/79] criteria, as well as those concerning the emancipation of all human emotions and qualities through the suppression of private property, describe an ideal model of the human condition, a model which is no longer a speculative construction bordering on mythology, with no basis in social practice, but an ideal projection, in full agreement with the essence and the destiny of the new society. But it is nonetheless an ideal, for it indicates the purified result of a historical process, rather than the process itself. However, the great historical confrontation in which socialism is engaged is this very attempt to discover ways and means to contribute to the realization of such an ideal by transforming the human world into a world of liberty, the potential and ideal condition of man into a real condition and man's essence into a true social existence. The socialist human model is the joint product of practice and culture. In accordance with its historical vocation of achieving a perfect humanism, it is the duty of socialism to uplift and guide all social practice in the direction of human development, to transform society into a huge laboratory producing not only material goods but also spiritual values, human consciences. Socialism must make of the expression "the end justifies the means" only a bad memory, for the humanistic goal it has set itself must be achieved by humanistic means. This signifies that, in order to forge, a new human pattern that will not be merely an ideal projection into an indefinite future, but a real dimension of social man, it is necessary that all his surroundings as he inherits them, and as he transforms them become a psycho-spiritual climate of human perfection, for developing man into a many-sided personality. We mean a climate of trust and human sincerity, which does not exclude dreaming, although this does not imply flight from truth or the denial of critical lucidity. Socialism does not need mystification of truth, fetishes and idols, but critical thought, at once iconoclastic and constructive, that can look truth in the face (for is not socialism itself the most profound, the most overwhelming of human truths?). Socialism must assume responsibility in all the problematical situations in which man, human communities, or society as a whole may find themselves (the condition and role of woman, of youth, the dialogue between the generations, ways of improving social [79/80] relations, forms and methods of organizing and managing social life, etc.). It is, therefore, necessary, not only to determine the ideal of humanity that socialism requires and must promote—an area in which the temptation to yield to the pressure of a mythological time-hallowed approach is strongest—but also to obtain a clearer understanding of what we might call the formative surroundings of the human condition. However, it is precisely in connection with this environment, where the new and the old confront one another both spectacularly and profoundly, in an infinite variety of forms, that the idea of man as conveyed to us by the early humanists proves inconsistent. For we are not on the soil of a land of promise, where all dehumanizing and alienating phenomena are bound to disappear automatically, but in a world where man—the object and the product of a long and dramatic history, thus representing a contradictory spiritual reality—commits himself lucidly and with full awareness to his role as creative subject of a new history. It is this history which will realize the leap out of the empire of necessity into that of liberty.

Engels’ formula has nothing to do with the false, Utopian vision of socialism as a sort of terrestrial paradise in which there is no more pain or grief or sorrow; socialism leads to the radical transformation of the human condition, material and spiritual, in the sense that the world of man develops more and more into a world of genuine liberty. This transformation is not granted to men as a gift of the gods, but comes about at the price of struggles and exertions, victories and defeats, through an immense constructive effort in the plane of ideas as well as in that of actual social practice.

Side by side with socio-economic and political practice, an important place in man's formative environment belongs to culture—all the instances and forms of the culture in whose matrix the creative hypostasis of the human condition appears so promising and stimulating. Culture plays an outstanding part in the process of demythicizing the idea of man, in the construction of a new human model, in a transformation of the human condition that does not imply merely an ideal of perfection, as something devoid of conflict, but also a Faustian striving, the spiritual tension of the doubting mind. In other words, socialism brings about, for the first time, the theoretical and practical solution of a fundamental [80/81] contradiction of the human condition: between the theoretical visualization of specifically human forces and their realization, between the theoretical ideality of the human essence and the practical reality of human existence. Thus the cultural patterns envisioned and tested by socialism must express, to varying degrees of breadth and depth, not an abstract human essence but the existential actuality of the human world with its ups and downs, a world of tenderness and despair, of the sublime and the grotesque, the comic and the tragic, through his meaning (as homo significans), through the act of culture (as homo sapiens), through the act of civilization (as homo faber), man inserts himself into reality, expresses his human condition, but also transcends it, for he proposes a new reality that is not an exact copy of the original reality, but a synthesis between the real and the ideal, an effect but likewise a cause, the anticipation of a future human existence. Through the act of culture, man achieves that intersection (which expresses the singular greatness of his spirit) of the ideal and the real planes of his existence, of the present best by conflict and irrelevancies and mental projection into another historical time, either past—in which case it would serve as a model for a possible future world—or future—for the purpose of conferring an ideal stability, the right to continuity, on present events.

Nobody will deny the value of the ideal in man's activity—but the ideal insofar as it is genuinely an ideal, that is, transcending of the present that incorporates some aspect of the model of human perfection. In culture this is achieved through an infinite series of interventions and compromises. Culture appears to us as man's path and the amount of progress he makes along this path from the present, empirical reality of his condition to his potential, ideal condition. Man is not completely at home either in the first hypostasis of his earthly condition—where his Faustian spirit appears as a mere tendency, a potentiality, an unfulfilled vocation, or in the "terminal" point of his human self-realization, where all his potential values have been systematized as a model of perfection. He is most truly himself during his wearisome, endless march from the real toward the ideal, in which any advancement of thought and sensitivity, of knowledge and creativity, brings us closer to such an ideal.

The historical movement of the human condition determined by the new society must embrace all aspects of [81/82] existence and awareness, its real effectiveness consisting in its efforts towards the cultural humanization of nature, as well as of the relations among men, in the creation of new patterns of the human condition, which would be neither nihilistic—in the sense of satanic demonism—nor apologetic—in the sense of consecration of tradition, but a synthesis between what man is and what he can be.

The socialist pattern of the human condition must therefore be understood in all its complexity and put into practice in the pedagogical field and in cultural-educational activity in general. Of course, this suggests that we bear a set of conditions in mind, and use adequate means to scientifically organize human activity in view of setting up cultural patterns. Thus, for instance, institutionalization of human (especially cultural) activity is a positive factor with formative effectiveness in the field of the human condition only if it serves to construct and reinforce the cultural patterns demanded by the new socialist spirituality, and only if the. institutions in question are not themselves fetishized, bureaucratized, or transformed into ends in themselves. They should represent fairly flexible social tools, to realize the journey of the human spirit from the real to the ideal, from nature to culture (which means the humanization of the real, its ideal transfiguration), and from the ideal to the real (objectivization, materialization)—that is, from the ideal plane of culture to the real plane of civilization, from cultural values to the concrete goods of civilization, by which we mean not only an abundance of products necessary for material existence, but the whole range of human riches, the totality of cultural values in actu.

* "Here is Rhodes; here you jump!"

Commentary on Bellu and Tanase


Andre Niel

This paper demonstrates the possibility of an original philosophy developing in a marxist national culture. The central idea of the paper is that the myth of the good man is dangerous, even for socialism: "Man is not a saint . . . (the [82/83] myth of the good man has its value) in a system of repressive laws . . . In socialism, where there is still an enormous range of opposing situations, the ideal does not have to be mythologized because it represents a dimension of reality".

It is an important cultural phenomenon that dynamic Marxist thinking today wishes to go beyond the myth of a communist superman and that it recognizes the contradictions which exist in the socialist countries themselves: "The communist movement"—Mr. Stojanović writes from his side—"has often been torn between the most human goals and the most brutal means".

There appears in the text of Messrs. Bellu and Tanase a penetrating understanding, a philosophical inspiration wherein is outlined an actual mutation—humanistic and personalist—of the Marxist revolutionary process: "Socialism"—we are told, for example—"(must) direct the entire social process towards the formation of man. (The society thus becomes) an immense laboratory which will produce not just material things but also spiritual values, human consciences."

As for us, "non-Marxist humanists", we would be quite content if a human socialism were to bring one or more socialist countries to a higher level of human existence; it is here, in effect, that one actually finds hope for a rapid humanist revolution somewhere in the world. On the other hand, if the human revolution fails in these progressive socialist countries, one fears that the proletarian explosion of the twentieth century will finish by failing in its destiny.

Indeed, don't we actually see in many countries that history is regressing in a false social and moral "progress": (alienated) participation of the workers in capitalist profit—"superstatism" and fascism under the mask of socialism? May we be permitted to add to the socialist optimism of the two speakers that in reality it seems to us that our future opens into two alternatives: either the human race fulfills itself progressively in a society which is truly open and universal (freed of nations and classes), or it is strangled in the conflicts of new a priori myths about man—a conflict which can become genocide through the employment of modern techniques of repression and destruction.

SOURCE: Bellu, Nic.; Tanase, Alex. “Perspectives and Contradictions in the Contemporary Development of Man,” in Tolerance and Revolution: A Marxist-non-Marxist Humanist Dialogue, edited by Paul Kurtz and Svetozar Stojanović (Beograd: Philosophical Society of Serbia, 1970), pp. 65-82 [Section I, Chapter IV].

Niel, Andre. “Commentary on Bellu and Tanase,” pp. 82-83.

Humanist Ethics: Dialogue on Basics edited by Morris B. Storer

Secular Humanism—Ideology, Philosophy, Politics, History: Bibliography in Progress

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