1. Commentary on Stojanović

by

Andre Niel

The criticism given by Mr. Stojanović is as intelligent as it is merciless: “Who is to educate the educators (revolutionaries)?” Indeed, it is impossible for the revolutionaries to build the society which is the goal of socialism if they themselves remain absolutists, fetichists, authoritarian, alienated:

“Therefore . . . the revolutionary movement makes an absolute of itself and fosters the great historical illusions . . . Some of its members (of the party) begin to exploit the revolution, and cease to live for it . . . it is the careerism and privileges.”

In that way the revolutionaries themselves, by their spirit of totalitarianism and exploitation, reestablish “the evil against which the revolution had struggled” — We ourselves [49/50] believe that this danger is universal. It is present wherever the objective of an open, non-dictatorial society has gained some influence.

Nevertheless, an exclusively materialistic vision of history seems to us to be an inadequate teacher; it cannot produce from revolutionaries men completely open to others. Charles Andler, companion of Jaurčs, soon came to regret the abuses of “revindictive” socialism which exclusively applied itself to obtaining material advantages. He urged a “pure socialism” founded on the joy of solidarity and fraternal relations. If it is true that the desire for possessions, the taste for honor, authoritarianism, and “assumed superiority” remain as often insurmountable barriers to the establishment of fraternal human relationships at every level of the hierarchy, this is because, in our opinion, in the socialist societies with a marxist culture, there is not yet enough concern for the moral and psychological issues. This Conference revealed to us that qualified representatives of contemporary marxist thought have returned to these concerns; and we are very glad to see this.

We believe, in particular, that a socialist doctrine which is liberating must immediately treat the worker as a whole man—not reduce him to his economic needs—and thus consider him worthy of an education completely open to contemporary sciences, to the most free arts, and to the most recent philosophies.

We have undertaken an educational task of this nature at the Institut de l’Homme in Paris through the renewal of the teaching of socialism and humanism by means of the study and criticism of the most modern schools of thought: psychoanalysis, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism. Our experience has been encouraging and it permits us to conclude that a highly cultural radio and press would awaken and then develop in the masses unsuspected resources of curiosity, selflessness, and self-education.

Today one sees in both the East and the West an anti-education which mobilizes the mass media and diverts people from true culture—through political or cultural indoctrination. The goal of this diversion is to smother popular resources of imagination and responsibility, by means of the privileged classes and of the strict authoritarianism.

[50/51]


2. Commentary on Stojanović

by

Staniša Novaković

It is completely true that Marxists and communists have always been troubled by the relation between revolutionary means and ends. Especially so since it had been very often imagined that the most human ends could be realized by the most brutal means. Stalinism for example, as S. Stojanović has pointed out, tried to give ideological rationalization of the brutality of means it employed. It managed to do this by a futuristic interpretation of the ultimate revolutionary and humanistic ideals and ends. But I think it worth while to ask the following question: how is it possible to make such strategic manoeuvers with means and ends, i.e. how are such ideological rationalisations possible in the first place?

To put it briefly, the answer can read like this: the above mentioned situation is possible just by reason of our adoption of the view that there is or that there must be some ultimate authority which we all should acknowledge. Namely, as soon as any entity commands this kind of unquestionable authority, there is always the possibility of transferring its characteristics, its symbols and its power to other entities. At the same time this means restriction of the possibility of critical transcendence, of growth. This viewpoint needs, of course, further explanation.

In our case, naturally, we are interested in the position arguing that there are unquestionable ultimate ends of social development. But, in my opinion, even if we suppose that mankind, i.e. its great majority, adopts a definite ultimate end, a definite projection of the ideal society, — that end would not be allowed to possess the quality of the unquestionable authority, would not be allowed to be singled from those entities that are susceptible to critical discussion. Nevertheless, many honest and humanistic communists—not to mention those who are non-humanistic—hold the view that the ultimate end of the communist society cannot be open to criticism.

It is possible to object that the standpoint of the comprehensive criticism is itself indefensible since it deprives [51/52] criticism of any firm foundation. But, it seems so only on first sight, since it never happens and it should not happen that we question and criticise at the same moment all the values and all the ends created by mankind. The important thing is that we should always have the possibility of criticising any human value or any human end, relying firmly on other human values and ends to do so.

On the supposition that this possibility of criticism is granted, it would be much easier to remove negative phenomena from concrete human societies. Moreover, it appears that all kinds of ideological rationalisations would be made impossible.


SOURCE: “Commentary on Stojanović” by (1) Andre Niel; (2) Staniša Novaković, in Tolerance and Revolution: A Marxist-non-Marxist Humanist Dialogue, edited by Paul Kurtz and Svetozar Stojanović (Beograd: Philosophical Society of Serbia, 1970), pp. 49- 50, 51-52. The essay commented upon is:

Stojanović, Svetozar. “Revolutionary Teleology and Ethics,” pp. 29-49.


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