RE-VISITING CARLOS BULOSAN’S LIFE AND WORKS (during Filipino-American History Month)

by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

Numerous Filipino-American organizations in California celebrated the signing of Assembly Bill 123 by Governor Jerry Brown on 2 October 2013. Sponsored by Rep. Rob Bonta, the bill required the State curriculum to include the contributions of Filipino-Americans to the labor movement. Without legislative action, the role of Filipino farmworkers in social change would languish in oblivion. Rep. Bonta’s gesture is one sign of the attempt to remedy the historical amnesia suffered by the whole community since the demise of the anti-U.S.-Marcos dictatorship movement (1972-1986) and, coeval with the civil-rights crusade, the triumph of white-supremacist neoconservatism and authoritarian neoliberalism.

Few survivors of that epoch can recall the unswerving itinerary of racial and national awakening. One decisive event resurrected the “forgotten” Manongs. Led by Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, the 1965 Delano Grape Strike sparked the radicalization of young Filipino-Americans first mobilized by the civil-rights and anti-Vietnam war struggles. By the early seventies, the second generation of Filipinos born before and after World War II had discovered the writings of Carlos Bulosan. In turn Bulosan led them to Andres Bonifacio, Rizal and the 1896 revolution against Spain up to Macario Sakay, the Colorums and Sakdalistas, Luis Taruc and the Huk rebellion. In the process they encountered the essays of Renato Constantino and Jose Maria Sison, and the works of Amado V. Hernandez and other “subversive” artists.

In due course, Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, long out of print since 1946, was reprinted in 1973 with a memorable introduction by Carey McWilliams, a friend of Bulosan and well-known labor historian. It has since become a canonical “required reading” in literature courses. The first substantial collection of Bulosan’s writings appeared as a special issue of Amerasia Journal (Volume 6, No. 1) in May 1979, followed in 1995 by my edition of the writings in On Becoming Filipino and the major novel The Cry and the Dedication, both published by Temple University Press. A collection of hitherto unpublished stories by Bulosan which I edited, entitled The Philippines Is in the Heart, was published by New Day Publishers, Quezon City, in 1978 (soon to be reissued by University of San Agustin Press, Iloilo, Philipppines).

Over 41 years now have passed since my book Carlos Bulosan and the Imagination of the Class Struggle was published in 1972 by the University of the Philippines Press, a few weeks before Marcos declared martial law. It escaped the dictator’s censorship, blessed by the patronage of Dr. Salvador P. Lopez, then president of the University of the Philippines. Lopez is by consensus the major progressive critic of the Philippine Commonwealth and the prime moving spirit behind the Philippine Writers League. Since then, the major scholarly commentary on Bulosan that helped substantiate the generic legitimacy and ethico-political cogency of Bulosan’s achievement is Michael Denning’s The Cultural Front (1997). Denning’s intervention relocated Bulosan from the limited, claustrophic precinct of ethnic testimony into the site of popular-democratic/socialist culture with profound global, cross-cultural implications.

This is not to say that Bulosan’s discovery as an ethnic “minority” author was cooptative or even reactionary. Its historical context preserved the dialectical-materialist vitality of its national/local roots. Aside from the strategic use of Bulosan made by political groups and cultural activists such as the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), Revolutionary Union, West End Press, and others, the dissemination of his writings by academics (via ther UCLA Asian American Studies Center, among other channels) raised the civic and political consciousness of the larger community. For example, the anthology Letters in Exile (1976), edited by Jesse Quinsaat, Henry Empeno, Vince Nafarrete, Lourdes Pammit, Jaime Geaga and Casimiro Tolentino, connected scholarly inquiries with ongoing communal projects such as the cooperative building of Agbayani Village for retired “Manongs” and the emerging controversy surrounding the International Hotel in San Francisco, California.

Directly inspired by the Bulosan rediscovery, Letters in Exile rectified the recurrent “post-colonial” tabula rasa. Its inclusion of the pathbreaking essay on “The First Vietnam: The Philippine-American War of 1899-1902″ by Luzviminda Francisco was an index of the deeper understanding that the Philippines was for a long time a violently subjugated colony of the United States, and then a genuine neocolony since nominal independence in 1946. Celebrated “Filipino” fugitives from the Spanish galleon trade who settled in French Louisiana were colonized Indios, not Filipinos, contrary to Fil-Am nativists.

Filipinos from 1899 up to 1946 were colonial subjects or wards, not citizens, And even though, in 1934, the physical transplanting of these colonized subalterns was restricted to fifty bodies per year, the Philippine Commonwealth remained a full-fledged US colony with U.S. troops stationed in numerous military bases (Clark and Subic bases were closed only in 1992). Nonetheless, neocolonialism survived and is thriving well in the islands that Bulosan fled from in 1930 and tried to return to via prophecy and remembrance.
Subjugation Unspeakable and Invisible

Generations of scholars have labored to convert the colonized subjects into immigrants resembling the conventional type of Irish, Swedish, Italian, German, Russian, and other European groups. Scholars such as H. Brett Melendy, Emory S. Bogardus, Bruno Lasker, up to Antonio Pido, Ronald Takaki, Elaine Kim, Barbara Posadas, Yen Le Espiritu and others, have foisted the idea that Filipinos were immigrants from the time they were recruited to the Hawaii plantations up to the granting of nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946 (this framework vitiates such books as The Filipino Americans edited by Maria P. Root; and publications by the Filipino American National Historical Society). Such formulaic distortions remain the staple themes of Filipino-American celebrations to reaffirm the virtue of their 200% Americanization.

The obsessive fix on pacified Filipino “wards” as bonafide immigrants persists, perhaps in the hope that we might be given “preferential treatment.” After all, we’ve been here before other Asians (such as the Chinese coolies recruited by antebellum Southern plantation slave-owners). What’s more ridiculous is that some argue that Filipinos who escaped from the Spanish galleons and settled in Louisiana between 1565 and 1811 were the first Filipino immigrants to the U.S. (see De la Cruz and Baluyut 1998, 33; on Lafcadio Hearn’s account of Filipinos in Louisiana, see San Juan 2008, 322-24). It may be instructive to remind them that Louisiana was not part of the United States until that territory to which it belonged was purchased in 1803; and Louisiana was not admitted to the Union until 1812. If Filipinos were indeed bonafide immigrants, then they would have suffered the immigration restrictions such as the one imposed on the Japanese by the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1908 and the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924 (Reimers 1992, 6-7). But they were not. In truth, they were subjugated natives of the annexed territory of the Philippine islands formerly “owned” by Spain but sold to the United States for twenty million dollars in 1898.

Colonialism’s profound impact involves not only those directly interpellated by its ideological state apparatus, but also those intending to interrogate and challenge it. Even the skeptics ironically reinforce the stereotype. This failure to understand why the Filipino is not an immigrant to the U.S. national territory until 1946 explains the habitual reflex of putting Bulosan in the same category as John Okada, Hisaye Yamamoto, Theresa Cha, Ronyoung Kim, Maxine Hong Kingston–archetypal models of immigrant success. The chief culprit might be the popular anthology, Aiiieeee! (first published in 1974 and reprinted several times), which lumped Bulosan together with icons of successful assimilation or adaptation.

Even a sympathetic critic such as Sam Solberg fell into this trap, although he discerned already the problematic resolution of contradictions (between democratic ideals and racist reality) in Manuel Buaken’s I Have Lived with the American People published two years after Bulosan’s allegorized testimonial chronicle of Filipino lives. Solberg’s hope of Filipino writers (such as Jose Garcia Villa, Bienvenido Santos, NVM Gonzales, etc.) joining others in weaving the “heroic epic” of the search for Filipino in Filipino-American experience virtually privileges the American scene over the colonial experience as foundational and definitive for the colonized/neocolonized artist (1991, 58).

Examples of the immigrant paradigm’s disabling impact may be cited here. The American critic Leonard Casper opined that Bulosan “is more likely to be remembered exclusively as a teller of comic tales (if not as an alleged plagiarist or leftist sympathizer” (1966, 68). Even the aspiring Bulosan expert Licerio Lagda (1990), who has been coaxed into becoming the purveyor of dubious manuscripts, cannot hide his sense of superiority over Bulosan’s messy life. And when Lagda endorses P.C. Morantte’s philistine scorn for pedantic Marxists presumably belaboring the humor in The Laughter of My Father, we know the enemy can sport friendly masks. In contrast to those patronizing attitudes, Leigh Bristol-Kagan is exceptional. She hopes that Bulosan’s project of empowering Filipinos to learn from their singular colonial ordeal of suffering and resistance can engage Americans themselves to understand “what might be needed to change the course of our own history” (1983, 10-11).

We confront the revenge of the rejected metanarrative even before postmodernism has fully taken over. The immigrant-assimilationist paradigm becomes the Procrustean bed into which Bulosan’s texts are forced, thus producing symptoms of incoherence, dissonance, and duplicity. The equivocating narrative voice or shifting point of view in America Is in the Heart attracts the most complaint, as repeated by Marilyn Alquizola and Lane Hirabayashi in their 2014 introduction to a reprinting of the book. Such aberrations could have been resolved beforehand by learning from the lesson of Denning’s critical strategy of foregrounding the generic latitude of “popular-front” discourse which allows for such dialogism, as already anticipated by W.E. B. Du Bois’ famous trope of double-voiced personaes in The Souls of Black Folk and other slave narratives of education and collective identity-recognition.

Unravelling the Contradictions

The existence of ambiguities, sudden mutations of stances and registers, and paradoxical mix of subversion and affirmation of “Americanism” pervade Bulosan’s texts. Some have tried to elucidate these discordant traits (including Bulosan’s uneasy attitude to women) as due to feudal practices of clientelism, reciprocity, the influence of the pasyon and other historic legacies. There is partial validity to these claims. On the whole, the colonized psyche (as Fanon, Memmi and others have noted) manifests symptoms of the schizoid, disintegrated psyche. Those features have been noticed long ago by Petronilo Daroy who judged that Bulosan’s work “lacks formal coherence” and confidence because of the “social conflict of which Bulosan was a participant” (1968, 206). But if Bulosan’s texts simply mirrored their empirical conditions of possibility, they would all be perfectly understandable on first reading and would require no additional gloss or metacommentary.

The problem of such misconstruals stems from the complex articulation of aesthetics and politics in literary practice. Assuming then that the textual ideology attempts to resole real contradictions in any imaginary way (Balibar and Macherey, 1996), this is due to the peculiar mode in which Bulosan’s language and its formal models interpellate the individual readers/audience into subjects for a popular-front (not socialist or purely Marxist) subjects. In short, Bulosan’s textual praxis cannot but produce the effects traceable to the dynamic convergence of multidimensional contradictions at every conjuncture of the class struggle (Lecercle 2009). What we discover in both formal structure of the texts and the variable reader-response or reception experience cannot be accounted for simply by psychological or sociological speculation, but by an elucidation of the dialectical manner in which the text, ultimately the entire Bulosan corpus of texts, registers the sociopolitical contradictions and endeavors to resolve successfully or not in the formal architectonics of his art. This mode of dialectical analysis might help mediate the usual ambiguities into intelligible patterns of conduct, the goal of hermeneutic inquiry.

Framing the Ethico-Political Project

To be sure, Bulosan was not trying to mystify his readers. He provided a glimpse of his writerly strategy in the essay “How My Stories Were Written” (included as an appendix to my 1972 book). He fabricated composite characters and mixed happenings so as to produce a kind of pastiche, an orchestration of heterogeneous voices: “….I humanized my legendary and folktale characters, so that reading them, it would be impossible to determine which is fact and which is the flight of imagination” (1972, 139). We can also detect the style of simply recording events serially, capturing discordant impulses and incompatible moods and tonalities, as witness the phantasmagoric scenes in “The Time of Our Lives” (1979, 127-32) and “To a God of Stone” (1979, 61-68); in the kaleidoscopic sequence in “Life and Death of a Filipino in America” (1982, 50-54). The gallery of acquaintances named in his correspondence, as well as the topics addressed in the letters (in Dolores Feria’s collection, “The Sound of Falling Light”) provide an idea of Bulosan’s horizon of experience (both actual and vicarious) that might help disabuse us of the imputed peasant naivete and the hypothesized decline of his powers in the decade before his death on September 11, 1956.

A foretaste of this quandary may be found in the rich, densely textured history of Filipino transplantation into the West Coast and Hawaii by Carey McWilliams in his 1942 book Brothers Under the Skin. McWilliams describes the convulsive reshaping of the Filipino collective psyche under American colonial rule, a recasting whose depth and scale practically all the elite scholars are unable to fathom. Even though gestures acknowledging colonial and imperialist “brainwashing” abound in Takaki’s or Sucheng Chan’s history, or in Yen Le Espiritus’ recent study of Filipino identity formation, the blind-spot of the immigrant paradigm remains. For example, Le Espiritu’s concluding observations confirm my suspicion that U.S. imperial domination of the neocolony has been erased by the sly shift to privileging “relations within racially-defined groups,” so that even the proliferation of organizations in the Filipino community serve to promote “multiple levels of solidarity” (1996, 43). This shift sidetracks the fact of Filipino national subordination to the imperial metanarrative and its white-supremacist imposition of structures and mentalities on the colonized life-world.

What’s more reprehensible is the hegemonic erasure of power inequality and ethical disjunction. At the expense of subjection by nationality, race or ethnicity, the elements of class (narrowly defined in an economistic sense) and diasporic status serve not only to disguise the asymmetric relation between US hegemony and Philippine neocolonial position, but also assert their equality or parity. In short, the Philippines is a sovereign nation-state with rights or powers equal to those of the United States, or to Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and so on (for examples, see Lowe 1991; Okamura 2003). By this technique of deconstructive heterogenizing of the group, the ethnic/national subject becomes metaphysical, close to Maria Root’s stunning performative decolonizing of the Filipino-American as “a state of mind rather than of legality or geography” (1997, xiv). Wild psychological speculation finally trumps historical inventory and empirical discrimination.

In a rigorous accounting, Filipinos were not immigrants (in the strict sense of citizens fom genuinely sovereign nation-states) when they worked in the Hawaiian plantations as recruits, or joined the U.S. Navy. Nor were they immigrants servicing the Alaskan canneries or West Coast agribusiness. They became colonial migrants in 1934, and then later as neocolonialized migrants in 1946. To circumvent the racializing irony of extolling Bulosan as an ethnic and even diasporic author of recalcitrant texts, we can call him an exile or expatriate. This is Oscar Campomanes’ (and other scholars’) mode of compromise, enabling them to connect Bulosan with refugees from the Marcos dictatorship such as N.V.M. Gonzales, Bienvenido Santos, Ninotchka Rosca, and others (curiously, Jessica Hagedorn is not included is his list). But there is the implied belief that colonizer and colonized can mutually aid each other in a transnational exchange, assuming a symbiotic relationship that can grasp fully “the whole spectacle of their transhistorical movements and displacements” (1992, 72). No need to question the supremacy of English or the literary/artistic canons of the profit-centered marketplace. The Filipinos in the United States are flourishing with their exilic sensibility and horizontal comradeships, as Benedict Anderson suggests.

This twist in academic prejudice revives the metaphysics of cultural pluralism as an apology for empire. It may explain the popularity of the theatrical staging of Bulosan’s story, “The Romance of Magno Rubio” (as I noted in my 2008 re-appraisal of the Bulosan canon and critical responses so far in the post-9/11, postCold War atmosphere); racial and ethnic misunderstandings have become pretexts for delightful reclamation of cultural pluralism, the good old slogans of the Popular Front. At least, however, this may remedy the sidetracking of Bulosan for the recent voguish appeals of Hagedorn, Apostol, and other mass-media celebrities hawking commodified spectacles.

From Exile to Transmigrants and Planetary Citizens?

At this juncture, we may be past the threshold of postmodernist theories of transnational migrants, cosmopolitan cyborgs, and other weird disguises of the postcolonial subaltern released from metanarratives, totality, identity politics, national liberation struggles, and antiglobal capitalism tout court. Indeed, we have entered the millennium of total surveillance, the shock doctrine of torture, drone killings, and other technocratic digitalized folkways. We have entered the stage of nascent barbarism and ecological meltdown.

Meanwhile, we owe it to our colleagues Marilyn Alquizola and Lane Hirabayashi that we now have a new Carlos Bulosan to spend long academic conversations: the FBI suspect, the would[-be communist fellow-traveler or Oriental terrorist. The FBI files sent to our colleagues were heavily censored and blacked out. However, a few facts are clear: the FBI spied on Bulosan during the last five years of his life, from 1951 to 1956, during the height of McCarthy witchhunting against suspected members of the Communist Party USA, their fronts and sympathizers.

Based on doubtful inferences, Alquizola and Hirabayashi conclude that Bulosan became an FBI informant, in other words, he voluntarily gave information about himself because “given that Bulosan knew the FBI was looking into the matter, and given that as a Filipino national he could be deported back to the Islands if it was determined that he was a bona fide Party member, Bulosan himself wanted to be on the record denying that he had ever been a member of the Party” (2012, 45). This is an inference worth pondering, symptomatic less about Bulosan than about our academic anxieties and idiosyncrasies.

It is doubtful that Bulosan did what he was alleged to have done, in my view, for the following reasons. We all know that Bulosan expressed several times in writing that he was not afraid of being accused as a Marxist, subversive or radical writer. He worked closely with left-wing friends of Sanora Babb in Los Angeles in the thirties up to the end of his life. In a letter dated December 7, 1935 to Sanora, he wrote: “I have become a communist” (Babb 1928-2005), a statement which, however, does not prove that he enlisted in any communist party.

It is clear in his letter to Florentino Valeros (dated 17 January 1955) that Bulosan was confident that the ILWU Local 37 and its lawyers would be able to successfully fight the Walter-McCarren Act. He already reported that “Filipinos are not deportable, no matter what crime they have committed, so long as they came to this country as permanent residents before the passage of the Philippine Independent Act” (1960, 271). In the ILWU Yearbook for 1952, Bulosan openly attacked the Philippine government for its repression of the left-wing poet Amado V. Hernandez and editorialized on the neocolonial State’s terrorist response to the Huk rebellion. He did not conceal his commitment to socialist, proletarian principles.

It is possible that Bulosan met Hernandez during Hernandez’s visit to the United States in 1948 (Torres-Yu 1986, xxx) to confer with American trade union leaders. Bulosan might have discussed with Hernandez the re;ease of Luis Taruc’s book, Born of the People (published in 1953 by International Publishers, not Monthly Review Press). Together with W.E. Bois, Paul Robeson (who wrote the “Foreword”) and other Communist Party members or affiliates, Bulosan signed a letter soliciting support for the publication of Taruc’s book (later revealed as written by the American William Pomeroy, a key intellectual functionary of the Philippine Communist Party at that time). This and other facts too numerous to include here indicate that Bulosan was not so isolated or frightened that he had to mollify the FBI so as to function effectively and fulfill his union and civic responsibilities. He worked intimately with Ernesto Mangaong and Chris Mensalvas (an old friend since the thirties), the two union officials seriously threatened with imprisonment and deportation for their alleged communist leanings (de Vera 1994). Bulosan never squealed nor renounced his socialist convictions and proletarian allegiance. If anything at all, the FBI files on Bulosan reveal the indiscriminate way the agency stigmatized and threatened ordinary civilians who were either active in the union struggles or supported movements to protect immigrants and the foreign-born.

Fellow-Travelling and Other Journeys

Since about 1935, Bulosan was exposed to Communist Party activities in close association with the Babb sisters, Dorothy and Sanora. Last November 2013 I was able to access the files of the late Sanora Babb in the Harry Ransom Center Library, University of Texas, and found unpublished letters and writings of Carlos Bulosan as well as Sanora Babb’s notes on Bulosan’s life and works. They all attest to Bulosan’s intellectual involvement with leftists and possibly communist party operatives in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

One letter of Bulosan to Sanora Babb, dated October 28, 1954, typed on the ILWU Local 37 stationary, expressed his disillusionment with some union leaders and officers who were “vicious, cruel, power mad people.” But he remained hopeful amid the carnage of war and violence everywhere because “there will always be love, beauty, dignity, decency, compassion, pity among men and women and children.” Since he resigned from the union and was awaiting his unemployment compensation checks, he asked Sanora to lend him $40.00 which he promised to re-pay later by installment. He also repeated some of the facts about the Walter McCarran Act that he had already communicated to Valeros.

In a memorandum dated November 13, 1959, to Dolores Feria, who was then occupied with editing “The Sound of Falling Light,” the major compilation of Bulosan letters, Sanora Babb dissuaded Feria from writing a full biography without necessary and lengthy research. She warned Feria not to lend legitimacy to rumors and hearsay about Bulosan’s life. This includes the muddled plagiarism case (publicized without legal documentation by the McCarthyist columnist I.P. Soliongco), alcoholism, vagrancy, communist fellow-travelling if not communist behavior, and other innuendoes cast by Filipino-American academics eager to put the icon down. Babb assured Feria that the violation of copyright suit was definitely won (as I’ve already reviewed in San Juan 2008). As for his relations with women (Carlos was really in love with Sanora, as demonstrated by dozens of his letters in the Babb files), Sanora states: “This idea of Carlos being parasitic on women as mother substitutes or otherwise is completely false…Easy psychological judgments won’t hold up…. [Carlos] ws a very complex man.” Finally, Sanora also asserted that “No manuscripts were found in his room in Seattle after his death….”

But the world of fallible humans constantly offers suprises. We thus wonder why, aside from wrong-headed attacks on Bulosan’s purported misogynism, alcolholism, decline, etc., we are gifted with recently discovered manuscripts of Bulosan such as the novel All the Conspirators. The title is borrowed from the first novel of Christopher Isherwood published in 1928, an antiheroic pastiche pivoting around a mother-son conflict. As noted earlier, Lagda served as the transmission belt for Josephine Patrick’s bequeathal of unauthenticated Bulosan typescripts. We should be grateful to Caroline Hau and Benedict Anderson for stirring up troubled waters by providing this “photographic negative” of The Cry and the Dedication–if it is, indeed, by Bulosan. We have a pretext to conduct another reconnaissance of the Bulosan ruins.

Analysis of style, idiom, characterology, and narrative texture and plotting of the Lagda novel demonstrates its immense difference from Bulosan’s characteristic signature. Bulosan’s meditative mode of narration is clearly displayed in America, The Laughter of My Father, The Cry and the Dedication, the stories in The Philippines Is in the Heart, and in Lagda’s edited volume, The Power of Money. The breathless and often colloquial narrative speed of All The Conspirators belies its imputed genealogy. Moreover, Hau and Anderson’s ascription of psychological motives to Bulosan as an ambitious celebrity-seeker undermines their other more ideological polemics: “For Bulosan faced both racial and political discrimination in pursuit of his literary ambitions in America. If he initially made his name as a Filipino writer, his identity as such tended to ghettoize him. His leftwing politics made it necessary for him to write under an ‘American’ nom de plume, yet at the same time it gave him an opportunity to write as if he were a white man” (1998, xvi). Are Filipinos to blame for ghettoizing themselves as Filipino writers? We are back to the question of power relations, hegemony, subalternity, and the whole problem of grasping what racism/racialism in the United States signifies since the invention of the “white race” or white supremacy in the early Puritan colonies. Once again, Bulosan has become a victim of the assimilationist paradigm of his putative benefactors.

The Angel of History Beholds the Rubble

In the context of this inventory of the critical archive, more than literary or aesthetic questions are involved. No amount of arguing that Dunstan Peyton is really Bulosan, or his alter ego; and that this novel is the one mentioned in his letters (the main evidence is the letter to Valeros dated April 8, 1955). Biographers have noted numerous friends of Bulosan who helped revise and even rewrite many of his manuscripts, chief of whom was Dorothy Babb and Sanora Babb. But other women writers were accomplices or accessories, among them Ann Dionisio, Mary Gibson-Hatten, Jean Gundlach, Mary Allen, Marjorie Patton, Josephine Patrick, Grace F. Cunningham, together with their assistants or confidants. Perhaps two or more of these friends collaborated to fabricate the Lagda novel.

My suspicion is that “Dunstan Peyton” (only one of Bulosan’s many pseudonyms) or the author of All the Conspirators is Grace F. Cunningham, then residing in Iowa, who has already published stories set in the Philippines. (The name “Dunstan Peyton” appears in the Internet as the name of an African-American soldier in Virginia circa 1870-1879). Two are still mentioned in the Internet under Cunningham’s pseudonym, Lysle Carveth: Jungle Boy (1945) and Moro Boy (1949), both published by Longmans, Green and Company. Bulosan’s many letters to Cunningham (in the Feria anthology) also evince their close working partnership and consultation on various matters that demonstrate Bulosan’s dependency on her opinions. Someday we will have enough materials to ascertain if Grace F. Cunningham deserves the honor of reclaiming her artifice, currently ascribed to her Filipino “co-conspirator.”

We leave this affair of attribution open for now. Until a thorough research and inquiry into the authorship of the Bulosan papers in the University of Washington archive has been accomplished, we cannot in good conscience pronounce a verdict on this case. As a provisional conclusion, allow me to quote Sanora Babb’s parting advice to Feria: “Carlos is dead. All that remains of him is his work. That is more than most can leave. And some of that work is beautiful, some delightful, etc. and in this sense it adds to the reader. That is what art does, and when it does, the personality traits are not important except in a serious examination of life as related to art” (Babb 1928-2005).

Alquizola, Marilyn and Lane Hirabayashi. “Carlos Bulosan’s Final Defiant Acts: Achievements During the McCarthy Era.” Amerasia Journal 38.3 (2012): 29-51.
Babb, Sanora. Sanora Babb Papers 1928-2005. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. Series V.
Balibar, Etienne and Pierre Macherey. “On Literature as an Ideological Form.” In Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader. Eds. Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne. Oxford: Blackwell, 196.
Bristol-Kagan, Leigh. “Introduction,” If You Want to Know What We Are: A Carlos Bulosan Reader. Minneapolis MN: West End Press, 1983.
Bulosan, Carlos. America Is in the Heart. Seattle: U of Washington Press, 1972. Reprint of 1946 original edition.
—-. The Philippines Is in the Heart. Ed. E. San Juan Jr. Quezon City: New Day Press, 1978.
——. Selected Works and Letters. Ed. E. San Juan and Ninotchka Rosca. Honolulu, Hawaii: Friends of the Filipino People, 1982.
—-. On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings of Carlos Bulosan. Ed. E. San Juan, Jr. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1995.
—-. The Cry and the Dedication. Ed. E. San Juan, Jr. Phildelphia: Temple UP, 1995.
Campomanes, Oscar. “Filipinos in the United States and Their Literature of Exile.” In Reading the Literatures of Asian America. Ed. Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Amy Ling. Philadelphia: Temple UP,
Casper, Leonard. New Writing from the Philippines. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1966.
Chin, Frank, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Inada and Shawn Wong, eds. Aiiieeeee! New York: Penguin, 1974.
Daroy, Petronilo. “Carlos Bulosan: The Politics of Literature.” Saint Louis Quarterly 6.2 (June 1968): 193-206.
De la Cruz, Enrique and Pearlie Rose Baluyut, eds. Confrontations, Crossings and Convergence. Los Angeles: The UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1998.
Denning, Michael. The Cultural Front. London:Verso, 1997.
Feria, Dolores, ed. “The Sound of Falling Light.” The Diliman Review (Jan- September 1960): 185-278.
Hau, Caroline and Benedict Anderson. “Introduction” to All the Conspirators by Carlos Bulosan. MetroManila: Anvil Publishing Co., 1998.
Lagda, Licerio. “Introduction” to The Power of Money and Other Stories by Carlos Bulosan. Manila: Kaikasan Press, 1990.
Le Espiritu, Yen. “Colonial oppression, labour importation and group formation: Filipinos in the United States. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 19.1 (January 1996): 29-48.
Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. A Marxist Philosophy of Language. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2009.
Lowe, Lisa. “Heterogeneity, hybridity, multiplicity: Marking Asian American Differences.” Diaspora 1 (1991): 24-44.
McWilliams, Carey. Brothers Under the Skin. Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1964.
Okamura, Jonathan. “Asian American Studies in the Age of Transnationalism:
Diaspora, Race, Community.” Amerasia Journal 29.2 (2003): 171-194.
Quinsaat, Jesse, ed. Letters in Exile. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1976.
Reimers, David M. Still the Golden Door: The Third World Comes to America. New York: Columbia U Press, 1992.
Root, Maria, ed. Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997.
San Juan, E. Carlos Bulosan and the Imagination of the Class Struggle. Quezon City: U of the Philippines P., 1972.
—-. “Internationalizing the US Ethnic Canon: Revisiting Carlos Bulosan.” Comparative American Studies 6.2 (June 2008): 123-43.
—-. Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader. Quezon City: Ateneo UP, 2008.
Solberg, Sam. “An Introduction to Filipino American Literature.” In Aiiieeee! Eds. Frank Chin et al. New York: A Mentor Book, 1991.
Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1989.
Torres-Yu, Rose. “Amado V. Hernandez: Ang Pakikibaka ng Manunulat na Pilipino Para sa Lipunang Makatao.” In Amado V. Hernanez: Tula at Tudling. Ed. Rose Torres-Yu. Quezon City: U of the Philippines Press, 1986.


SPINOZA’S PHILOSOPHY: The Body, Race, Freedom by E.San Juan, Jr.

Spinoza and the War of Racial TerrorismIgorots


E. San Juan, Jr.


A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is a meditation on life, not on death…. If men were born free, they would form no concept of good and evil so long as they remained free. — Benedict de Spinoza

Well, my view is very prejudiced and personal, I’m afraid. I’ve no religion. I was born a Jew, but I’m an atheist. I believe we are totally responsible for ourselves.— Nadine Gordimer [Response to a question about a “clash of religions” behind the Sept. 11 attack]


Disrupting the brief multiculturalist interregnum in the North between the fall of the Berlin Wall and September 11, 2001, the current war on terrorism has exposed the roots of the irreversible crisis of global capitalism. Ploughshares have been re-shaped into swords. U.S. “national security” agenda fuels a more aggressive intervention against perceived enemies, a “humanitarian” crusade legitimized by the rationale of the “clash of civilizations” and a politics of invidious cultural difference. Resurgent nationalism everywhere targets immigrants and non-western aliens who threaten free-market operations. Liberal racism, covertly if not openly based on white supremacy, has refurbished the old Manichean ideology of the benevolent “Free World” and the demonized “terrorists” reminiscent of Cold War triumphalism, a symptom of the bourgeoisie’s world-historic decline.

Let us revisit the time when the bourgeoisie as a historic class, though soaked in the blood and sweat of slaves and colonized peasants, still harbored the seeds of future progress and liberation. The seventeenth-century thinker Benedict de Spinoza easily comes to mind, universally celebrated as the prophet of free thought and reasoned dissent. In the frenzy of military irrationalism, Spinoza’s philosophy of freedom can be redeployed as an intellectual weapon for the victims of imperial power, a resource of hope against nihilism and fatalistic commodification. Spinoza’s principle of the inalienability of human rights can renew the impulse for reaffirming the ideal of radical, popular democracy and the self-determination of communities and nations. Defined by conatus, the principle which impels every organism to persevere and strive to increase its effectivity, Spinoza’s free rational subject can become the agency for social liberation. His ideas and historic example may help clarify and resolve the predicament of Asian Americans and, by extension, all exploited and oppressed peoples long ravaged by institutional racism and predatory capitalism in the metropolitan centers and in the war zones of the borderlands.

In the sedimented chronicle of past class wars, we discover the exemplary combat between critical reason and superstition. Spinoza’s thought fusing mind and nature (deus sive natura) interrupts the postmodernist narrative with its seductive deployment of contingency and difference. Why Spinoza? The quite surprising fascination, at least in academic circles, with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s treatise, Empire (2000), may have reinforced the suspicion that Spinoza is behind (to appropriate Negri’s phrase) this not-so-savage “anomaly.” Mistakenly idolized as a mystic, arch heretic and atheist of his time, Spinoza himself continues to be a provocative enigma.

The rehabilitation of this “god-drunk” mystic strikes the genteel crowd as a risky peremptory wager. Empire’s invocation of Spinoza’s philosophy for the goal of cosmopolitical liberation runs through this manifesto of post-revolutionary anarchism. Hardt and Negri ascribes to Spinoza’s intransigent naturalism, its horizon of immanence, the discovery of the omnipresent “creative and prophetic power of the multitude” (2000, 65). This power of singularity realized by “the democracy of the multitude as the absolute form of politics” requires, for Hardt and Negri, no external mediation by any organization or party; the multitude’s constituent power somehow will by itself actualize desire in action in a possible form of direct democracy as the absolute form of government. Spinoza’s critique of modern sovereignty, according to Empire, originates from this primary goal: “the ontological development of the unity of true knowledge and the powerful body along with the absolute construction of singular and collective immanence” (2000, 186). While Spinoza repudiated all teleological speculation, he affirmed the identity of reason and virtue, virtue and blessedness, as the path to freedom.

This fin-de-siecle revival of interest in Spinoza was sparked by French thinkers like Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, who in turn inspired Negri and some American academics to reappropriate this baroque response to Cartesian dualism. Consigned to oblivion is the achievement of formidable Russian scholars led by A.M. Deborin who have celebrated Spinoza as one of the precursors of dialectical materialism (Kline 1952). This “new Spinoza” deviates from the traditional pantheist of European romanticism (idealized by Goethe) and from the complaisant saintly thinker of Bertrand Russell and Lewis Feuer. Feuer’s book Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism (1958) reconfirmed the traditional prestige of Spinoza as the torchbearer of the European Enlightenment, the apostle of ego-centered liberalism, albeit a diehard materialist who formulated certain disturbing propositions about the barbaric masses. We don’t need to recapitulate this well-trodden path. My interest in Spinoza is, for this occasion, limited to what ideas about citizenship and the power of racial/ethnic difference we can extrapolate from his philosophy. Racial supremacy, it seems, has nothing to fear from secularism, monistic naturalism, immanence, nor from the multitudes who are for now its chief support. Does Spinoza have anything to say to people of color besieged by the resurgence of neoconservative, more precisely neoManichean, nationalism consonant with the rise of a racializing program of free-market civilization? Can Spinoza be counted with the party of order or with the guerillas of liberation?

Given Spinoza’s reputation as a radical democrat, for some even an anarchist-libertarian, I am particularly intrigued by the way he has been recast as a proponent of conformity to the “common culture” straitjacket. Was Spinoza an assimilationist in spite of himself, a model minority conformist ahead of his time? I have in mind Steven B. Smith’s book Spinoza, Liberalism and the Question of Jewish Identity (1997). Smith enrolls Spinoza into the ranks of the defenders of the status quo based on the erasure of differential particularisms. He imputes to Spinoza the ideology of a “civic ethos” premised on what a later scholar (George Lipsitz) would call “the possessive investment in whiteness”:

Spinoza’s solution to the theologico-political problem can be summarized in a single word: assimilation. The assimilation he has in mind does not mean conversion to Christianity or any of the revealed faiths but assimilation to a secular society that is, formally, neither Christian nor Jewish but liberal. The idea of the fides universalis, the common civil faith, seems to embody the liberal idea of the “melting pot,” where all the old religious and ethnic particularities of a people are refined in order to produce a new universal human identity. This new identity can trace its beginnings back to the early modern wars of religion and the need to put an end to the continual conflict between the contending sects of Christian Europe. Thus it was not uncommon to find the framers of liberal democracy arguing that allegiance to a common creed was necessary to both ensure civil peace and guarantee religious freedom. The purpose of such a creed was to find a common ground for a shared civic identity while still allowing ample room within which individual and group differences could be given free expression. Inevitably, the kind of culture that came to dominate took on a largely Protestant hue. America may not have been a Christian nation, but it was a nation composed overwhelmingly of Christians, as has been noted by the most astute observer of our civil creed. The image of the melting pot, though in principle open to all, was far from neutral. An amalgam of liberal political institutions and cultural Protestantism virtually defined the uniquely American version of this civic ethos well into this century (1997, 200).

Spinoza the “outsider” has become a zealous booster for the Establishment. Oversimplifying the record drastically, Smith recruits the excommunicated Marrano into the fold of those who condemn “identity politics” for imposing “narrow orthodoxies and conformity.” Rejecting the “tyranny of group differences,” which allegedly destroys “the values of individual freedom and intellectual independence,” Smith ascribes to Spinoza the espousal of “the universalistic norms and principles of the liberal state,” more precisely, a civic republicanism which rejects cultural pluralism. Is this plausible?

Two recent biographers—Gullan-Whur (1998) and Nadler (1999)—underscore Spinoza’s intransigent free-thinking. While it is true that during Spinoza’s time, the believer had been transformed into a creditor, it strains credulity to imagine Spinoza insisting on rational-choice theory, or espousing the methodological individualism of Rawls and Rorty. We need to re-establish our historical bearings. This doctrine of a late-capitalist dispensation in crisis cannot surely be ascribed to the bourgeoisie in the stage of primitive accumulation, to the rule of booty merchants whose power derived from the phenomenal harvest of profits in the slave trade. Let us review Spinoza’s fundamental principles of political philosophy to ascertain his true position on the question of identity, power, and representation.

Right Equals Power

One of the most scandalous propositions to have been invented by Spinoza is the equivalence or co-extensiveness of right (jus) and power (potentia). Spinoza conflates right with power: “Every individual has sovereign right to do all that he can; in other words, the rights of an individual extend to the utmost limits of his power as it has been conditioned. Now it is the sovereign law and right of nature that each individual should endeavor to preserve itself as it is…; therefore this sovereign law and right belongs to every individual, namely, to exist and act according to its natural conditions… Whatsoever an individual does by the laws of its nature it has a sovereign right to do, inasmuch as it acts as it was conditioned by nature, and cannot act otherwise…” (Theologico-Political Treatise, afterwards TPT, 1951, 200-01). Moreover, each individual who is “conditioned by nature, so as to live and act in a given way,” possesses natural rights as part of nature; nature’s rights “is co-extensive with her power.”

While each person acts according to his or her own nature, humans “are liable to emotions which far exceed human power” (Ethics IV37S2), hence conflicts occur. Under the laws of nature, only such things that no one desires and no one can attain are prohibited; otherwise, strife, hatred, anger, deceit and the other effects of passion/desire prevail. Nature is clearly not bounded by human reason which still fails to comprehend “the order and interdependence of nature as a whole.” But for the sake of preserving life, and avoiding the misery brought about by fear, hatred, enmity, anger and deceit, humans have judged it best to use reason and resort to mutual aid “if they are to enjoy as a whole the rights which naturally belong to them as individuals.” Hence the social covenant—not an originary or foundational myth but an a posteriori effect—whereby the force and desire of individuals are displaced by “the power and will of the whole body,” of the state, civitas, imperium. This replaces the multiplicity of desires and its anarchic operation with the dictates of reason so as to prevent “any desire which is injurious to a man’s fellows,” and insure that people “defend their neighbor’s rights as their own” (TPT XVI; 1951, 200-201).

All human beings are born ignorant and “are not naturally conditioned” to act according to the laws and rules of reason. Based on piety (doing good according to reason) and friendship, Spinoza posits the necessity of solidarity and community: “The principle of seeking what is useful to us teaches us the necessity of uniting with men” (Ethics IV37S1). Humans agree to build a commonwealth for its utility, as dictated by reason. Unlike Hobbes, who assumed that hatred and envy will make life “nasty, brutish and short” and thus we surrender our right of self-defense to a sovereign, Spinoza believed that humans retain their power but authorizes the regime or government to use them in the name of the democratic conatus—the immanent cause of any state (Matheron 1997). By uniting, humans “have jointly more power and consequently more right over nature than each of them separately.” Therefore, “the more there be that join in alliance, the more right they will collectively possess” (PT II13; afterwards PT). Mutual aid tempers narrow private egoism. Spinoza’s naturalistic concept of the socius, entails a realistic view that not all are guided by reason, so people can act deceitfully and break promises and agreements unless “restrained by the hope of some greater good, or the fear of some greater evil.” When humans authorize the sovereign to use their natural rights (right of self-defense), their powers are also ceded, but this authorization can always be revoked (in contrast to the contractarian theory of Hobbes, Grotius and Rousseau) by the multitude.

Experience shows that “men have never surrendered their right and transferred their power to others so completely that they ceased to be feared by the very rulers who received their right and power, and, although deprived of their natural right, became less dangerous to the state as citizens than its external enemies…” (This may explain why John Walker Lindh, as an example to citizens, is more fearsome than the hundreds of Taliban/Al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo.) The right to rebel against tyrannical and oppressive government can never be outlawed. Whether the individual’s right produces an effect or is of no consequence, depends on the balance of political forces in a condition of precarious and unstable equilibrium (Curley 1996).

In a democratic polity, Spinoza argues, the aim is to bring all under the control of reason to insure peace and harmony. Obedience to rational commands does not make individuals into slaves if the object of the action is the welfare of the whole people, the common interest; they are made into subjects. In a democratic regime, which Spinoza considers “the most natural and the most consonant with individual liberty,” “no one transfers his natural right so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in a state of nature, equals” (1951, 206-07). An effective government exists when the state exercises absolute authority over its citizens, that is, when its right extends as far as its power. In this case, the state enjoys obedience from its subjects who seek to preserve their lives and pursue their personal advantage under the law, which is the rational thing to do; only within this law-governed space can justice or injustice make sense. But no matter how absolute the sovereign, the individual’s natural right remains intact: “In a free state, everyone is permitted to think what he wishes and to say what he thinks.”

In the Political Treatise, Spinoza elaborates on the theme that the right of every subject extends as far as his power does under the rule of reason: “Just as in the state of nature the man who is guided by reason is most powerful and most fully possessed of his own right… so also the commonwealth which is based on and directed by reason will be most powerful and most fully possessed of its own right” (III7; 1951, 303). Right is coextensive with power, both subserve the conatus of every individual who seek his/her own good. In striving to persevere and increase one’s capabilities of affecting other bodies, Spinoza observes, “No one will promise to give up the right he has to all things…” and “no one will stand by his promises unless he fears a greater evil or hopes for a greater good.” If hope and fear dominate instead of reason, the right/power of each individual is nullified. Assimilation may be one of the greater good, or lesser evil, if the state adopts a policy that everyone should give up her/his cultural particularities in order to be full-fledged citizens. But a commonwealth that relies on civic unity would not demand such a sacrifice, so long as the ethnic subject follows just and fair laws—laws that would not discriminate, or apply exclusiveness and selective bias. Spinoza considered the Netherlands Republic his “homeland” without ceasing to be identified as a “Jew” and to some extent an alien, as Yovel observes (1989, 173).

Empire of Reason

Spinoza’s teaching thus affirms the inviolable singularity of each person within the domain of a civil society ordered according to rational principles. In this setup, right translates into power and the right to self-preservation is made concrete or determinate in “an organized community” or polity. Notions of wrong and right are conceivable only within the polity. Laws need to enable the practice of justice—giving every person his/her lawful due—and charity; those administering the laws “are bound to show no respect of persons, but to account all men equal, and to defend every man’s right equally, neither envying the rich nor despising the poor.” Spinoza adds that those who follow desire, not reason, and who live by sovereign natural right outside the polity, are still enjoined to practice “love of one’s neighbor, and not do injury to anyone, since all are equally bound to the “divine” command—”divine” here being a shorthand for natural necessity.

Seven years after the anonymous publication of the Theological-Political Treatise in 1670, and the killing of Spinoza’s patron, Johan de Witt, by a politically motivated mob, Spinoza reaffirms his equation of power with right: “every natural thing has by nature as much right, as it has power to exist and operate.” What is notable at this point in Spinoza’s life is his recognition of the power of the masses, the multitude, which determines the general right called “dominion” or sovereignty. Earlier Spinoza stressed the value of mutual help to establish the conditions for the cultivation of the mind and exercise of reason. Now, in the Political Treatise, he envisages “general rights” of the community “to defend the possession of the lands they inhabit and cultivate, to protect themselves, to repel all violence, and to live according to the general judgment of all” (297).

A democratic society materializes, according to Spinoza, “without any violation of natural right” when individuals cede their “power of self-defence” as reason and necessity demand. Reason, that is, the imperative of preserving one’s life and enhancing one’s capabilities, dictates choosing to join others in the civitas and authorize the state to act on our behalf. The state or sovereign can compel men by force and threats, or by deploying an array of incentives and deterrents. Spinoza reminds us that based on historical experience, rulers know that if they imposed irrational commands without “consulting the public good and acting according to the dictates of reason,” their tyranny will be short-lived.

Rights thus prove their efficacy through rational collective activities. According to Deleuze, the thrust of Spinozan politics inheres in the “art of organizing encounters” leading to useful and composable relationships or assemblages (Hardt 1993, 110). These assemblages are mediated through “common notions” (Deleuze 1988). The “common notions” or general ideas that Spinoza associates with the interactions of bodies (humans as finite modes) are effective because of the historical conditions that define civil society and its articulation with the state, a pivotal linkage that gives rise to the contradictions in a market-centered system: “Now to achieve these things the powers of each man would hardly be sufficient if men did not help one another. But money has provided a convenient instrument for acquiring all these aids. That is why its image usually occupies the mind of the multitude more than anything else. For they can imagine hardly any species of joy without the accompanying idea of money as its cause (Ethics IV, Appendix 28; Spinoza 1994, 243). What an insight! Spinoza discerned the cash-nexus as the cause of reification and alienated labor long before Marx and Engels anatomized that mysterious object, the commodity, especially the individual’s labor-power.

Collectivities endowed with general rights, not individuals, are the real actors in the ever mutable field of political forces envisaged by Spinoza. They are composed by the interaction and encounter of singular individuals; from this conjuncture springs networks of individuals who have been constituted by past experiences and customary dispositions. Warren Montag points to the historical concreteness of groups: “The conjunctural agreement of complex elements that defines the specific ‘character’ or complexion of an individual (Spinoza emphasizes the Latin term ingenium) is found on a larger scale in the collective forms of human existence: couples, masses, nations all have a specific ingenium that makes them what they are and no other” (1999, 69). What defines the character of a people (ingenio gentis) are those specific historical features that distinguish them relative to others: language, religion, customs, etc. Nature comprehends this variety of embodied rights/powers exemplified, for example, in national-liberation movements discussed in Part Two of this book.

Sovereignty, or the power/right of the state to command, is measured by the power not of each individual but of the multitude in its various forms, among them, ethnic groups, racialized peoples, indigenous communities. These groups cannot simply be dissolved or liquidated in the “melting pot” of liberal pluralism, as official additive multiculturalism would have it, without risks of dissension and revolt. If the chief purpose of the state is freedom—principally, freedom of thought and its expression—which enables the formulation of a common will and the definition of the common good among citizens, then every group—while ceding its natural right (that is, power) to the state—needs to be recognized and treated as a distinct entity with its peculiar customs, rituals, traditions, aspirations, and so on.

Without the heterogeneity of singular subjects in constant exchange and communication, as the Ethics urges, the ideal of freedom as augmented power of the mind and body cannot be achieved: “Whatever so disposes the human body that it can be affected in a great many ways, or renders it capable of affecting external bodies in a great many ways, is useful to man; the more it renders the body capable of being affected in a great many ways, or of affecting other bodies, the more useful it is; on the other hand, what renders the body less capable of these things is harmful” (IV, P38). The richer these social exchanges and contacts, the greater the power of the mind to comprehend the order of nature through adequate ideas. Since the mind’s aptitude increases in proportion to the number of ways in which the body can be disposed, the thinking body graduates to the universal plane when it becomes an active link in the endless chain of causal relations in the totality of Nature. As E.V. Ilyenkov puts it, “the specific form of the activity of a thinking body consists in universality,” the attainment of intuitive knowledge as the rational understanding of the laws of its own actions within the totality of nature (1977, 46, 61).

Politics of Recognition

How then was the dialectic of unitary commonwealth and the plurality of thinking bodies realized in Spinoza’s historical situation?

A good example of how the Jewish community—mainly, exiles and refugees from Portugal—interacted with the Dutch may be cited here. In the beginning, each group regarded each other with suspicion: the European hosts did not formally recognize the Jews as a religious community until 1615 when the States General of the United Provinces allowed residents to practice their religion. Amsterdam forbade public worship. In 1616, the municipal authorities ordered the Jews to avoid criticizing Christianity, refrain from converting Christians to Judaism, and stop having sexual relations with Christian women. Clearly the local Calvinists placed a limit on tolerance. In 1619, however, the city council officially granted the Jews the right to practice their religion, though various restrictions on economic and political rights continued (Nadler 1999, 10-12). Only in 1657, fifty-seven years after Spinoza’s family arrived in Amsterdam and two years after Spinoza himself was banished from the Jewish community, did the Dutch republic grant citizenship to the Jews. They ceased to be foreigners when the sovereignty of the Dutch Republic was finally recognized by Spain, the former colonizer, at the Treaty of Munster in 1648.

A compromise was reached, but there was no assimilation or surrender of group integrity. Though economically prosperous, they remained insecure. No doubt, the behavior of this recently “naturalized” community cannot be understood without taking into account the ascendancy of the conservative faction of the Dutch Reformed Church. The religious leaders had to constantly reassure their Dutch rulers that they were able to safeguard their community and maintain orthodoxy by internal disciplinary measures. Spinoza’s excommunication was thus meant to prove to the Dutch authorities that the Jews, in conformity with the conditions of their settlement, “tolerated no breaches in proper Jewish conduct or doctrine” (Nadler 1999, 150). They enforced voluntary segregation. The lesson Spinoza derived here was clearly not the virtues of liberalism, nor was it the evil of “groupthink” which Smith condemns without qualification.

Over and above geopolitical origin or location, religious belief and practice defined the ethnic particularity of the Jewish community. Spinoza’s family belonged to the group of marranos who fled religious persecution from Spain and Portugal and joined the Sephardim community in Amsterdam which thrived as merchants and brokers in the flourishing foreign commerce from Portugal, Spain, and Brazil. They became relatively wealthy, even though restricted from the retail trade and craft guilds; they were allowed to engage in diamond cutting and polishing, tobacco spinning, silkweaving, and clandestine refining of sugar. Although Jewish merchants could purchase non-transferrable citizenship, that did not entitle them to burgher rights. An Amsterdam ordinance of 1632 stipulated that “Jews be granted citizenship for the sake of trade…” In general, the Jewish community was not isolated or quarantined so that in less than three decades since they arrived, they succeeded in recreating on the banks of the Amstel “the rich, cosmopolitan but distinctly Jewish culture” they left 140 years earlier (Nadler 1999, 26).

Singularity germinated from the confluence and mixture of peoples. It was the influx of Jews from Poland, Sweden, Russia and Germany, survivors of pogroms, that precipitated Spinoza’s rigorous affirmation of “common claims” against eccentric particularisms. The “racial discrimination” against these “children of Jacob” not only for their inferior lineage but more precisely for their menial occupations may have reinforced an equivocation: aliens not welcome to a hitherto foreign enclave. Margaret Gullan-Whur describes a complex realignment of collectivities that, assuming that “mind is the idea of the body,” may have registered in Spinoza’s reflection on his own “extension” or placing as a finite mode of Nature:

The work ethic of Jews was well-known: neither ‘Portuguese’ nor ‘German’ had proved criminal or wanted Dutch charity… But their strictures over ritual upset social harmony by inflaming Gentile imaginations… As early as 1616 a rabbi had warned that ‘each may freely follow his own beliefs but may not openly show that he is of a different faith from the inhabitants of the city… While Spinoza’s later writings poignantly addresses the question of racial oppression, it also sternly upholds, on grounds of logical necessity, the Dutch precept that racial and religious differences must not be paraded. Any religious or racial concept that applied only to one section of society could not, by definition, he said, be universally true… (1998, 45)

In TPT, Spinoza emphasized the historical specificity of Mosaic law and its value for defining Jewish nationality as an imaginary construct. But that level of social cohesion based on obedience to rational precept derived from Old Testament revelation should not be confused with a polity or civitas founded on philosophical reason. Reason urges tolerance where pietas or devotion is manifested through deeds rather than profession of dogmas which, if allowed to dictate government policy, only foments religious conflicts and persecution (Hampshire 1961). Hence Spinoza conceived of a rational state as one committed to fostering freedom, where “every man may think what he likes, and say what he thinks.” The purpose of the state is “to enable men to exercise their mental and physical powers in safety, and to use their reason freely, and to prevent them from fighting and quarreling through hatred, anger, bad faith, and mutual malice.” Consequently, “the real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over” (TPT XX). We are reminded of Spinoza’s expulsion from the synagogue, his friendship with dissidents like the Collegiants, the free-thinker Van den Enden, and other liberal-republicans, well as the fate of the radical philosopher Adriaan Koerbagh, arrested by the city authorities for blasphemy at the instigation of the Calvinist consistory and executed (Nadler 1999, 170).

We now confront the problem of citizenship and historical belonging. If Spinoza upholds the rationality of the state as coinciding with its devotion to freedom, does this freedom to think and speak arise from consensus, from adherence to a “common culture”? In short, does the giving up of one’s rights—not all–preclude the recognition of one’s identity as different? Is the government or state justified in using its power to make everyone conform to a monolithic standard of values, a majoritarian ideology? Den Uyl argues that Spinoza does not use the language of individual rights when he expounds on the political value of reason, for what is involved in the establishment of a free state is a desirable communal order, norms of community action, that would prove useful in promoting peace and security for everyone. Granted the norms of the communal order, can the ethnic and racialized minority exercise free speech and free rational judgment?

Judging from Spinoza’s own example, we can say that such freedoms are guaranteed within limits. Yovel (1989) has convincingly argued that Spinoza was the first secular Jew of Renaissance modernity. Spinoza was free to think and write in opposition to the traditional consensus. What is problematic are actions or deeds that destroy the precarious equilibrium of political-social forces subtending the peace and safety of citizens in the commonwealth. Right (jus) is contingent on utility (utile), but this utility depends on who is in command, who formulates and implements rational decisions for the state agencies. For Spinoza, a subject of a mercantile polity founded on capitalist principles of accumulation, private ownership of the means of production, and the sale of “free” labor-power, the disjunction between the ethical (private, personal) and the political (public) realms serves as the condition of possibility for the equivocation about natural rights and the shifting boundary between the prescriptive/normative and the descriptive modes of elucidating power relations (Den Uyl 1983). What rights the ethnic group or cultural minority may enjoy in private, they do not have as individual citizens in the public realm—liberalism mixed with totalitarian or authoritarian attitudes. This explains the enigmatic duplicity over the role of the multitude in Spinoza’s political discourse.

This enigma cannot be resolved by an anarchist reading (Hardt and Negri) or a conformist liberal interpretation (Smith). The concept of the multitude, which Negri defines as a contradictory social practice of singularities in pietas and therefore “the foundation of tolerance and universal freedom” (1997, 236), is unable to bridge the gap between private self and political identity in modern bourgeois society. The ambiguity of the person in a society of commodity-exchange can only be clarified by a historical-materialist optic that can illuminate the paradox of citizenship, assimilation, model minority myth, and pluralist democracy as the framework of white supremacy or racial polity. Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right provides the most cogent historical framework in which to situate the freedom/authority dialectic in Spinoza. But of more relevance is the short preliminary study entitled “On the Jewish Question” (composed in the same year when Marx published his critique of Hegel). We need to recall that Marx admired Spinoza, copying verbatim the TPT with his signature on it.

Dialectical Inquiry

We need to recall Spinoza’s major philosophical breakthrough in solving the classic dualism of mind/body by positing Substance with the twin attributes of thought and extension. Within this monistic framework, Spinoza urged us to consider the essence of the mind as consisting in the idea of an actually existing body. Marx performed an analogous diagnosis of modern alienation. In “On the Jewish Question,” Marx showed the aporia of dualistic and mechanical thinking about individual and society, minority and majority interests, the ethnic group and the nation-state. The antithesis between “political society” as a spiritual or heavenly commonwealth and “civil society” as a fragmented domain of private interests and egoistic drives warring against each other is the locus of the problem. In a free state, Marx argues, citizens live a double life: the real life of isolated, private persons in civil society, and the imaginary life of the citizen in a political sphere (state; civitas). Civil society is characterized by the pursuit of money and self-interest, the real world of everyday affairs, where humans function as means, “a plaything of alien powers”; while in the state, individuals are integrated and unified as citizens. Can these two halves be comprehended as aspects of a totality?

Bourgeois civil society and the state are dialectical opposites in unity. This bifurcation explains why political emancipation in terms of citizenship does not coincide with real, human emancipation—which is not a religious but a secular question. As Marx emphasizes: “A state can be a free state without man himself being a free man” (1975, 218). This is because freedom involves the species-life of humans (the subject as citizen) as opposed to the material, egoistic life of the bourgeois individual. In the state, however, when religion, language and other particularistic cultural properties have been confined to the sphere of private law, the individual remains “an imaginary member of a fictitious sovereignty, filled with unreal universality”—the free rational subject in Spinoza’s Ethics.

The bourgeois revolution in France (translated into jurisprudence and political principles by the American version), according to Marx, demonstrates a dialectic of opposites. The idealism of the state coincides with the materialism of civil society, with egoistic man in the latter as the foundation or presupposition of the former. In history, the bourgeois state emerged from the dissolution of feudal society into independent individuals, the world of atoms, in the theories of Locke, Mill, Rawls, Rorty, and assorted nominalists inspired by Kant and Foucault. I would like to quote this extended passage from Marx’s 1843 essay for its bearing on the topic of rights and power:

The rights of man [with the triumph of the bourgeoisie] appear as natural rights, for self-conscious activity is concentrated upon the political act. Egoistic man is the passive and merely given result of the society which has been dissolved, an object of immediate certainty, and for that reason a natural object. The political revolution dissolves civil society into its component parts without revolutionizing these parts and subjecting them to criticism. It regards civil society, the world of needs, of labour, of private interests and of civil law, as the foundation of its existence, as a presupposition which needs no further grounding, and therefore as its natural basis. Finally, man as he is a member of civil society is taken to be the real man, man as distinct from citizen, since he is man in his sensuous, individual and immediate existence, whereas political man is simply abstract, artificial man, man as an allegorical, moral person. Actual man is acknowledged only in the form of the egoistic individual and true man only in the form of the abstract citizen… Political emancipation is the reduction of man on the one hand to the member of civil society, the egoistic, independent individual, and on the other to the citizen, the moral person… Only when real, individual man resumes the abstract citizen into himself and as an individual man has become a species-being in his empirical life, his individual work and his individual relationships, only when man has recognized and organized his forces propres as social forces so that social force is no longer separated from him in the form of political force, only then will human emancipation be completed (1975, 233-34).

What divides state and civil society is the alienation of laboring bodies. Once freed from private ownership, this cooperative labor (the collective body of producers) functions as the social subject of thinking and action—in effect, Spinoza’s wise man who orders the affections of the body according to the order of the intellect. The current debate over citizenship as the site of transcendence—the point where the formal or abstract dimension of citizenship is supposedly fleshed by the social and cultural dimensions (Glenn 2000, Rosaldo 1999)—may have missed the crucial interface or reciprocity of the private and public aspects.

To recapitulate Marx’s thesis: in the world of alienated labor and commodity exchange where competing private interests dominate, the general interest embodied in the civitas or commonwealth can only be realized in a formal way, via abstraction. Thus the basis and substance of the political organism we call state, sovereignty or commonwealth remains civil society with its class divisions and internecine warfare. In fact, the unified state sanctions and legitimizes the unequal economic relations and other differences that constitute civil society. In order to overcome those actual differences, like religion, the hypostatized idealized state—the modern representative democracy with its liberal, tolerant ethos–has to acknowledge the limitations of the profane world, that is, it has to reinstate and confirm the crass materialism of bourgeois society. Estrangement and unsociability inform the very nature of the polity, the state; hence, uncritical idealism or spiritualism coexists with uncritical positivism and crude, vulgar materialism.

Citizenship in a liberal democratic order is necessarily premised on difference. The citizen is an abstraction, a formal product of a “thoroughgoing transubstantiation” of all the particular qualities, elements, and processes that are synthesized in the constitution of the modern liberal state. But this constitution is nothing else but the exaltation of private property, in short, the sanctification and legitimation of the basis of the disintegration of the state. Everything is turned upside down: the ideal of equality is praised in order to defend the cause of inequality, private property, as fundamental and absolute. From this perspective, what becomes evident is the fact that it is not the separate but consonant categories of normative and descriptive languages in Spinoza that explains the ambiguous co-presence of liberal and authoritarian tendencies; rather, it is the essence of the contradictions in the development of the capitalist mode of production and its ideological-political forms of reproduction. Spinoza’s libertarian heretical impulse concurs with his appreciation of necessity and finitude.

Historicizing the Thinking Body

We find in Spinoza’s thought a mediating expression and symbol of “the most systematically commercialized economy” in 17th-century Europe. We discern in Spinoza’s achievement a reflection of the civic virtues, intelligence and enterprise that the bourgeoisie were “ideally capable of” together with the limitations of the social relations that sustained and reproduced those qualities (Muller 1963, 225). Deborin stressed the dialectical kernel of Spinoza’s thought in positing the reciprocal interaction of all finite things within the “absolutely positive determinations” of Nature as a whole (1952, 110). This also enabled Spinoza to craft a realistic anatomy of the multitude as vulnerable to passions, external causes, and infirmities for which the Ethics was designed, even while he assured us that bondage can be remedied and freedom gained. Amid the wars and dissensions of his time, Spinoza urged men of reason to work for humanist conviviality: “To man, then, there is nothing more useful than man. Man, I say, can wish for nothing more helpful to the preservation of his being than that all should so agree in all things that the minds and bodies of all would compose, as it were, one mind and one body; that all should strive together, as far as they can, to preserve their being; and that all, together, should seek for themselves the common advantage of all” (1994, 209-10).

Caute,” be careful or take care, was the emblem on Spinoza’s ring. Yirmihayu Yovel contends that Spinoza’s dual language was his response to the existential realities of Marrano life in seventeenth-century Netherlands: the ever-present danger of the Inquisition, Spinoza’s status as a dissenter within the Jewish community and (after his excommunication) as a freethinker and reputed atheist in Calvinist Holland. Aside from this, another factor sheds light on the ambivalence in Spinoza’s discourse: his belief that the vulgus or multitude cannot liberate itself from the bondage of the sad passions and the lure of the imagination. Inadequate ideas makes the body vulnerable to external causes whose power over the finite mode of humanity proves itself in confused passivity, hence the superstition of prejudice: “If someone has been affected with joy or sadness by someone of a class, or nation, different from his own, and this joy or sadness is accompanied by the idea of that person as its cause, under the universal name of the class or nation, he will love or hate, not only that person, but everyone of the same class or nation” (PIII46). Human beings are generally prone to envy and vengeance than compassion, Spinoza observes, so it requires “a singular power of mind to deal with each according to his own understanding.”

Spinoza’s fundamental principle inheres in the conatus or endeavor of each person, in so far as he is in himself, to preserve his rationality and persevere in living within the realm of necessity that Nature ordains (Parkinson 1975). But this standard of exercising one’s agency can not be maintained by the majority. Only a few can attain the grade of the scientia intuitiva, the third kind of knowledge, without which freedom and personal salvation are meaningless. Nonetheless, the apparatus of the liberal state and rationalized universal religion may help convert “the activity of the imagination into an external imitation of reason, using the power of authority and obedience” (Yovel 1989, 32), mobilizing the masses to cooperate in the constitutional state’s task of implementing a program of justice and charity.

Despite the psychologizing tendency of the conatus doctrine, Spinoza’s materialism (on this feature, see Curley 1988) allowed him to grasp the determining pressure of social relations on individual conduct. He certainly did not view society as an aggregate of atomized individuals calculating the varying ratios of pleasure and pain. Assessing the dialectics of substance and its attributes in Ethics, Genevieve Lloyd discerns a revealing movement: “From a dynamic physics of bodies emerges a new naturalization of collective social power” (1996, 142). Smith’s portrait of Spinoza as the consummate liberal which I noted earlier will not survive the evidence of Spinoza’s inclination for cooperative endeavor. His “democratic” state is also interventionist and paternalistic. Perhaps this is peculiar to Spinoza’s reaction to the Jewish situation and the political alignment of forces in 17th-century Netherlands, as well as to his longing for a more solid republican hegemony against the menace of an intolerant monarchist absolutism.

Let us revisit Marx’s provocative insights into the “Jewish Question” from another angle. Michael Walzer recounts how the French revolutionaries debated the issue of the emancipation of the Jews in 1790-91. One centrist deputy then declared: “One must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation, and give everything to the Jews as individuals… It would be repugnant to have…a nation within a nation.” And so Jews as individuals with rights were recognized; they could be regenerated by becoming citizens in political society (as Marx extrapolated from experience) while sustaining their corporate existence in civil society. Thus, “the price of emancipation was assimilation” (Walzer 2000, 192-93). Smith would go along with that process. In which case we are reminded of what Jean-Paul Sartre cautioned us sometime ago, in his memorable essay Anti-Semite and Jew, about the democrat who is the only friend of the Jews, who tirelessly dialogues with the anti-Semite with whom he shares the penchant for resolving “all collectivities into individual elements and making an individual the incarnation of universal human nature (1965, 55). Here, the utopian kernel of Spinoza’s view of an inalienable right disappears into the “melting pot” of consumption and laissez-faire negotiation. Forgotten is Spinoza’s axiom that “no one has yet determined what the body can do” for the body, “simply from the laws of its own nature, can do many things which its mind wonders at” (1994, 155-56). Meanwhile, racism and ethnic exclusion acquire new life and virulence in the “New World Order” of globalized finance capital and its terrorist dispensation.

Specter of United States Nationalism

What advice then can Spinoza give to Asians Americans who are today beleaguered, nay besieged, by law enforcement agencies implementing the Patriot Act in the war against stipulated terrorism? How can the “Marrano of reason” assist the stigmatized pariahs of this moribund cosmopolitanism?

An inventory of incidents can scarcely register the pain inflicted by neoliberal fascism. We’ve read of the hate backlash after September 11, 2001, among others: Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49, an Indian-American immigrant in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered without much fanfare; Saad Saad, 35, of Scottsdale, Arizona, was shot by Frank Roque who shouted as he was handcuffed: “I stand for America all the way.” In Arcadia, California, Adel Karas, 48, an Egyptian American mistaken for a Muslim, was killed pointblank at the International Market, a store he owned. The list is endless. Nameless hundreds, maybe thousands—the Justice Dept and Attorney General are keeping it secret—are now detained on mere suspicion, despite challenges by Federal Court judges; many, including those held in Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, will undergo secret trials before a military tribunal. The early incidents featuring Vincent Chin, or the killing of the Filipino postal worker Joseph Ileto by a white supremacist in 1999, pale in comparison with recent outrages. The latest is the firing of tenured professor Sami Al-Arian from the University of South Florida (Walsh 2002). We cannot speak anymore of toleration, fairness, charity nor justice; war against what the hegemonic power elite considers “terrorism” justifies such extreme measures, some say a “just” and measured response, to defend U.S. sovereignty.

The “repressed” now returns in the strange mix of vigilantism and utopianism. In the last two decades, the “model minority myth” has seduced most Asian Americans into believing that they have finally lived through the period when the country needed an “indispensable enemy” (to use the historian Alexander Saxton’s epithet)—everyone has made it, almost. In fact, testimonies like Eric Liu’s The Accidental Asian, or more recently, Helen Zia’s Asian American Dreams (a vulgarized rendition of Ronald Takaki’s Strangers from a Different Shore), are symptomatic of what Spinoza diagnosed as the state’s power to encroach into the psyche. The state not only rules by coercion or by fear, but employs all means “since it is not the motive for obedience which makes a man a subject, but the will to obey.” Spinoza contends that “obedience is less a matter of the outward action than of the mind’s inner activity, so that the man who wholeheartedly decides to obey all the commands of another is most completely under his rule; and in consequence he who rules in the hearts of the subjects holds sovereignty as much as possible” (TPT, Ch. 20). It is certainly not amor dei intellectualis that motivates Helen Zia to extol Asian American dynamism (personified by her extended family) as the distinctive quality of this heterogenous assemblage of “American people.” Zia concludes that Asian Americans, by pulling their bootstraps, have already become fully acculturated or melted; what is lacking is their acceptance by the larger society. The pathos of this anxiety evokes the sad passions in Spinoza’s Ethics, an affect of mimicry determined by external forces, the appetite of the “model minority.”

Rationality now translates into the entrepreneur’s war strategy. “Turning American” for Zia means moving away from stereotypes, from tales of campaign donations and espionage, to reciting the litany of “model” successes in politics, business, mass media, and so on. Meanwhile, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese-American scientist formerly employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and recently acquitted of the charge of espionage, has just published his account of his arrest and trial, My Country Versus Me. The title ominously captures the prudential strategy Spinoza deployed in his work, but without the drive for joyful wisdom. Lee reflects during his 278 days of solitary confinement without benefit of trial: “I sometimes felt like I must have made a mistake and should not have come to America in 1964 for my Ph.D. I must have done something terrible to have ended up like this. As I sat in jail, I had to conclude that no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, a Chinese person, an Asian person like me, will never be accepted. We always will be foreigners” (2002, 37). Too late a discovery, it seems.

And so, in these days of Enron/WorldCom corporate orgies, we will witness more media scandals of secret campaign contributions, espionage, human rights violations, and so on. It is probably because of the re-invention of the “indispensable enemy” (not Al Qaeda but Saddam Hussein and his doubles) to serve the ongoing US national identity formation, not so much because of the Los Angeles riots, that the genre of the initiation-cum-spy thriller novel, exemplified by Chang Rae-Lee’s Native Speaker, will be the most appropriate vehicle to register our current predicament. All talk of postcolonial hybridity, “double consciousness” performed by transnationals or transmigrants, globalized knowledge-production, deconstruction of binary epistemologies and essentialist discourses, and so on that we read in anthologies like Orientations (Chuh and Shimakawa 2001), becomes complicit with “cynical reason” if it does not confront the racial polity and its ideological state apparatuses operating in the international arena. This exceeds the objective of the disciplinary Kulturkritik of Establishment Cultural Studies and the cosmopolitan populism of high-salaried “public intellectuals” (Mulhern 2000). What is needed is political recharging of both the pessimistic intellect and the optimistic will which Gramsci invoked during times of revolutionary retreat and regrouping.

The “Inscrutable”Enemy

Espionage becomes the theater for discriminating enemies and friends. The reporter from Newsweek who interviewed Lee describes this Chinese-American intellectual as clueless, and despite Lee’s acquittal not entirely blameless for his predicament. Who is responsible for such cruel procedures? “Washington politics and government overreaching,” the Feds’ “over-the-top tactics,” say the pundits; the “unfair manner” of the executive branch, according to the Judge who acquitted Lee. Citizenship rights seem otiose, irrelevant here, even though Lee claims he was innocent. In medias res, Lee subsists in a condition of duality, suspended on that divide between naïve, obedient citizen and a suspect, recalling his life before he was “branded a spy and an enemy agent—a disloyal, lying traitor, one of the most base and awful labels imaginable” (2002, 37). Where are the impartial jurors who can countervail against the premeditated judgment of the fixed majoritarian gaze?

Let us be generous in reviewing the case. We can conjecture that Lee not only practiced a cunning ratio but also carefully tried, in his memoir, to devise a method of reaching the “third kind of knowledge,” the knowledge of necessity, even though mediated by a journalistic narrative. This knowledge concerns not so much the causal order of the universe but the logical operations of the government to which he has sworn loyalty, its Realpolitik, its pragmatic modus operandi in enforcing its commands. He has not surrendered his right to pursue his own advantage, to demand that the social contract be properly carried out; however, his knowledge is inadequate because it assumes that the national-security state plays fair and only commits minor errors. Superstition has gotten the better of the scientist’s mind. His understanding is inadequate because it does not examine the nature of the racial polity of what is now called “homeland,” its long and substantial record of inferiorizing and subordinating the historically differentiated Other, and its mode of idealizing or abstracting those differences and alterities in order to claim moral ascendancy and spiritual superiority.

Despite these reservations, it is clear that insight of acute significance has been registered by the break between Lee’s past life as Federal employee and his present effort to vindicate his honor. What Lee’s case has dramatized most poignantly is the problematic articulation of pact and law, the tension between what Balibar calls “the physics of individual conatus or powers and the metajuridical form of the social contract” (1997, 171). For Lee, unwittingly perhaps, has proved Spinoza’s thesis that “no one transfers his natural right to another so completely that he is never consulted again, but each transfers it to a majority of the entire society of which he has a member. In this way all remain equal, as they were before in the state of nature” (TPT, Ch. 17). It is this freedom which guarantees the strength and security of the state: “Peace is not freedom from war but a virtue, which springs from strength of mind” (Jaspers 1966, 72).

The contradictions of bourgeois society sharpen as the crisis worsens. What cannot be elided over, despite such ruses and subtle legalisms, is the truth that exploitation and oppression thrives on those very same principles of liberal democracy, individual liberties tied to property, and market-determined civilization on which Western hegemony continues to ride roughshod over all of nature and humanity—a paradox which Spinoza tried to unravel and demystify. As noted earlier, Marx succeeded in casting light on the interdependency of bourgeois liberty and private property. Cultural pluralism thrives on inequity. Multiculturalism is the cultural logic of globalized neoliberal capitalism as it seeks to conceal class antagonisms behind the cover of abstract individual liberties. So it is quite possible that the terror of racism which Spinoza envisaged will continue to haunt us in this new millennium as long as the material conditions that produce and reproduce class relations, in effect the material-ideological armature of the U.S. racial polity, remain the sine qua non for the reproduction and legitimation of the dominant social structures and institutional practices of everyday life.

Social contradictions persist everywhere. Given the recalcitrance of citizens in the racial polity, the right of the state—even what claims to be an imperium democraticum—-is not identical, nor co-extensive, with its power in the case of the unruly, oppositional subaltern. Spinoza argued that such states are irrational and deserve to be overthrown. So long as the power of the individual, in this case the conatus immanent in natural right, remains his own within the respublica, it subverts the “society effect,” the production of obedience which validates the effective unity or sovereignty of the imperium. One can counterpose to this proto-fascist legality and military tribunals the Enlightenment solidarity of “progressive humanism” (Palumbo Liu 2002); but such humanism, I fear, has already been thoroughly incorporated into the constitution of the racial polity.

Social justice, the recognition and validation of people’s singular identities and worth, remains the goal of popular mobilization. Not everything is foreclosed. For despite the liberal state’s pragmatic politics of incorporation, and its power to command and enforce its commands, the collective subjects of this racial polity continue to exercise their right to dissent, protest, and rebel not just out of self-interest (“self” here read as a “common notion”)—but precisely for the sake of affirming self-determination, rational autonomy, and communal dignity. What is ultimately at stake, the survival of the planet, inheres in the conatus of every living creature. As Ethics IV, 37, proposes: “Every individual has a sovereign right to everything which is in his power.” In reminding us of this inalienable right of resistance lies, I submit, the permanent resourcefulness and value of Spinoza’s political teaching for people of color, in this period of barbaric anti-terrorism.


Amin, Samir. 2001. “U.S. Hegemony and the Response to Terror.” Monthly Review 6 (November): 20-22.

Applebaum, Richard P. 1996. “Multiculturalism and Flexibility: Some New Directions in Global Capitalism.” In Mapping Multiculturalism, ed. Avery Gordon and Christopher Newfield. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Balibar, Etienne. 1997. “Jus-Pactum-Lex: On the Constitution of the Subject in the Theologico-Political Treatise.” In The New Spinoza. Ed. Warren Montag and Ted Stolze. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—-. 1998. Spinoza and Politics. New York: Verso.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical Reason. Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press.

Buck-Morss, Susan. 2002. “A global public sphere?” Radical Philosophy 111 (Jan-Feb): 2-10.

Carby, Hazel. 1990. “The Politics of Difference,” Ms. (Sept-Oct.): 84-85.

Chitty, Andrew. 2002.”Moralism, terrorism and war—reply to Shaw,” Radical Philosophy (Jan-Feb): 16-19.

Cox, Oliver Cromwell. 1984. Caste, Class and Race. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Curley, Edwin. 1996. “Kissinger, Spinoza, and Genghis Khan.” In The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Ed. Don Garrett. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.

Den Uyl, Douglas J. 1983. Power State and Freedom. Assen, the Netherlands: Van Gorcum.

Falk, Richard. 2001. “A Just Response,” The Nation (October 8): 11-15.

Feuer, Lewis Samuel 1958; 1987 Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.

Fraser, Nancy. 1997. Justice Interruptus. New York: Routledge.

Garrett, Don. 1995. “Baruch Spinoza.” In The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Ed. Robert Audi. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Glenn, Evelyn. 2000. “Citizenship and Inequality: Historical and Global Perspectives,” Social Problems 47: 1-20.

Goldberg, Theo. 1994. Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

Goldfield, Michael. 1997. The Color of Politics. New York: New Press.

Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publishers.

Guillaumin, Colette. 1995. Racism, Sexism, Power and Ideology. London: Routledge.

Gullan-Whur, Margaret. 1998. Within Reason. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Hampshire, Stuart. 1979. Spinoza. Baltimore, MD: Penguin.

Hardt, Michael. 1993. Gilles Deleuze. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—— and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Huntington, Samuel. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Jaspers, Karl. 1966. Spinoza. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Kline, George L. 1952. Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy. New York: The Humanities Press, Inc.

Kolko, Gabriel. 1976. Main Currents in Modern American History. New York: Pantheon Books.

Lee, Wen Ho. 2002. “A Scientist’s Secrets.” Newsweek (January 21): 34-37.

—. 2001. “Hate Backlash.” Los Angeles Times, September 17.

Lipsitz, George. 1998. The Possessive Investment of Whiteness. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Marcuse, Herbert. 1968. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press.

Marx, Karl. 1975. Early Writings. Tr. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton. New York: Vintage Books.

Mills, Charles. 1999. “The Racial Polity.” In Racism and Philosophy. Ed. Susan Babbitt and Sue Campbell. Ithaca, NY” Cornell University Press.

Montag, Warren. 1999. Bodies, Masses, Power. New York: Verso.

Mulhern, Francis. 2000. Culture/Metaculture. New York: Routledge.

Muller, Herbert J. 1963. Freedom in the Western World. New York: Harper and Row.

Nadler, Steven. 1999. Spinoza: A Life. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Peller, Gary. 1995. “Race Consciousness.” In After Identity, ed. Daniel Danielsen and Karen Engle. New York: Routledge.

Perea, Juan. 1998. “Am I an American or Not? Reflections on Citizenship, Americanization, and Race.” In Immigration and Citizenship. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Reed, Ishmael, ed. 1998. MultiAmerica. New York: Penguin Books.

Rosaldo, Renato. 1999. “Cultural Citizenship, Inequality, and Multiculturalism.” In Race, Identity and Citizenship: A Reader. Ed. Rodolfo Torres, Louis Miron and Jonathan Inada. New York: Blackwell Publishers.

San Juan, E. 1992. Racial Formations/Critical Transformations. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1965. Anti-Semite and Jew. Tr. George J. Becker. New York: Schocken Books.

Saxton, Alexander. 1971. The Indispensable Enemy. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Scott, Joan. 1992. “Multiculturalism and the Politics of Identity.” October 61 (Summer): 12-19.

Spinoza, Benedict de. 1994. A Spinoza Reader. Ed and translated by Edwin Curley. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

—-. 1951. A Theologico-Political Treatise / A Political Treatise. Tr. R.H.M. Elwes. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Stam, Robert. 1997. “Multiculturalism and the Neoconservatives.” In Dangerous Liaisons. Ed. Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Steinberg, Stephen. 2000. “Occupational Apartheid and the Origins of Affirmative Action.” In Race and Ethnicity in the United States, ed. Stephen Steinberg. Oxford: Blackwell.

Takaki, Roland. 1994. “Reflections on Racial Patterns in America.” In From Different Shores. Ed. Roland Takaki. New York: Oxford University Press.

Walsh, Sharon. 2002. “Blaming the Victim?” The Chronicle of Higher Education XLVIII (February 8): 10-13.

Walzer, Michael. 2000. “What Does It Mean to be an ‘American’?” In Race and Ethnicity in the United States. Ed. Stephen Steinberg. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.

Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. New York: Oxford University Press.

Yovel, Yirmiyahu. 1989. Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Zia, Helen. 2000. Asian American Dream: The Emergence of an American People. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Walzer, Michael. 1994. “Multiculturalism and Individualism.” Dissent (Spring): 185-191.

Zizek, Slavoj. 1997. “Multiculturalism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Multinational Capitalism,” New Left Review 225 (Sept-Oct): 28-51.

E. San Juan Jr. was a Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium in the Spring of 2003. His recent books include:Beyond Postcolonial Theory (Palgrave), After Postcolonialism (Powman and Littlefield), and Racism and Cultural Studies (Duke University Press).


AMBIL, new book by E. San Juan, Jr., offers provocations

NEBookCoverPreview.doWS RELEASE

AMBIL, E. San Juan’s new book of cultural provocations, now available
Departing from his last neoconceptualist poetry collection, Mendiola Masaker (2014), U.S.-based author E. San Juan, Jr. crafted this new offering of anti-poems, experimental graphic word-art, and “unexpressive” writing. AMBIL , the book’s title, signifies irony, ambiguity, subversive or iconoclastic meanings.

San Juan’s point of departure is conceptualist art inspired by dadaist, surrealist avantgarde modes initiated by Duchamp, Schwitters, and postconceptualist artists. In one project. the poet seeks to renew or resituate conventional proverbs and banalities by using satiric and parodic techniques to defamiliarize orthodox conventions. In doing so, AMBIL rejects institutionalized art validated with prizes, honors, awards. Instead of commodified spectacles, it seeks to provoke critical resistance to consumerized culture and the narcotic fetishistic spectacles saturating the corporate mass media and the neoliberal public sphere.

In line with his previous critiques of traditional Filipino poetics, San Juan extends his inventions or installations found in Alay sa Paglikha ng BukangLiwayway (Ateneo U Press, 2000). This new work elaborates the experiments in three subsequent volumes: Sapagkat Iniibig Kita (UP Press, 2004). Ulikba (UST Publishing House 2012) and Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (2014). Ultimately, AMBIL seeks to disrupt the status quo and provoke the emergence of the new in situations and events that violate orthodoxies and conformisms.

Emeritus professor of English, Comparative Literature and Ethnic Studies, San Juan was previously a fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University; and of the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. He has taught at the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, Leuven University (Belgium), Tamkang University (Taiwan), University of Trento (Italy), Brooklyn College, Wesleyan University, and Washington State University. His recent books are In the Wake of Terror (Lexington), Critique and Social Transformation (Mellen), US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave), Toward Filipino Self-determination (SUNY), Critical Interventions (Lambert), and Between Empire and Insurgency: the Philippines in the New Millennium (U.P. Press, 2015).–#
[Now available from ] For more info, contact <>

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Tagged , , , , ,



by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University

It has become axiomatic for postmodernist thinkers to condemn the nation and its corollary terms, “nationalism” and “nation-state,” as the classic evils of modern industrial society. The nation-state, its reality if not its concept, has become a kind of malignant paradox if not a sinister conundrum. It is often linked to violence and the terror of “ethnic cleansing.” Despite this the United Nations and the interstate system still function as seemingly viable institutions of everyday life. How do we explain this development?

Let us review the inventory of charges made against the nation-state. Typically described in normative terms as a vital necessity of modern life, the nation-state has employed violence to accomplish questionable ends. Its disciplinary apparatus is indicted for committing unprecedented barbarism. Examples of disasters brought about by the nation-state are the extermination of indigenous peoples in colonized territories by “civilizing” nations, the Nazi genocidal “holocaust” of Jews, and most recently the “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia, Ruwanda, East Timor, and so on. Echoing Elie Kedourie, Partha Chatterjee, and others, Alfred Cobban (1994) believes that the theory of nationalism has proved one of the most potent agencies of destruction in the modern world. In certain cases, nationalism mobilized by states competing against other states has become synonymous with totalitarianism and fascism. Charles Tilly (1975), Michael Howard (1991), and other historians concur in the the opinion that war and the military machine are principal determinants in the shaping of nation states. . In The Nation-State and Violence, Anthony Giddens defines nationalism as “the cultural sensibility of sovereignty” (note the fusion of culture and politics) that unleashes administrative power within a clearly demarcated territory, “the bounded nation-state” (1985, 219). Although it is allegedly becoming obsolete under the pressure of globalization (for qualifications, see Sassen (1998), the nation-state is considered by “legal modernists” (Berman 1995) as the prime source of violence against citizens and entire peoples.

Postmodernist critiques of the nation (often sutured with the colonialist/imperialist state) locate the evil in its ideological nature. This primarily concerns the nation as the source of identity for modern individuals via citizenship or national belonging, converting natal filiation (kinship) into political affiliation. Identity implies definition by negation, inclusion based on exclusion underwritten by a positivist logic of representation (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991). But these critiques seem to forget that the nation is a creation of the modern capitalist state, that is, a historical artifice or invention.

It is a truism that nation and its corollary problematic, nationalism, presupposes the imperative of hierarchization and asymmetry of power in a political economy of commodity-exchange. Founded on socially constructed myths or traditions, the nation is posited by its proponents as a normal state of affairs used to legitimize the control and domination of one group over others. Such ideology has to be deconstructed and exposed as contingent on the changing grid of social relations. Postcolonial theory claims to expose the artificial and arbitrary nature of the nation: “This myth of nationhood, masked by ideology, perpetuates nationalism, in which specific identifiers are employed to create exclusive and homogeneous conceptions of national traditions” (Ashcroft et al 1998, 150). Such signifiers of homogeneity not only fail to represent the diversity of the actual “nation” but also serves to impose the interests of a section of the community as the general interest. But this is not all. In the effort to make this universalizing intent prevail, the instrumentalities of state power–the military and police, religious and educational institutions, judiciary and legal apparatuses)–are deployed. Hence, from this orthodox postcolonial perspective, the nation-state and its ideology of nationalism are alleged to have become the chief source of violence and conflict since the French Revolution.

Mainstream social science regards violence as a species of force which violates, breaks, or destroys a normative state of affairs. It is coercion tout court. Violence is often used to designate power devoid of legitimacy or legally sanctioned authority. Should violence as an expression of physical force always be justified by political reason in order to be meaningful and therefore acceptable? If such a force is used by a state, an inherited political organ legitimized by “the people” or “the nation,” should we not distinguish between state-defined purposes and in what specific way nationalism or nation-making identity is involved in those state actions? State violence and assertion of national identity need not be automatically conflated so as to implicate nationalism–whose nationalism?– in all class/state actions in every historical period, for such a move would be an absolutist censure of violence bereft of intentionality–in order words, violence construed as merely physical force akin to tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and so on.

Violence, in my view, signifies a political force that demands dialectical triangulation in order to grasp how nation and state are implicated in it. A historical-materialist historicization of this phenomenon is needed to determine the complicity of individual states and nations in specific outbreaks of violence. But postcolonialists like Homi Bhabha (1990) resort to a questionable use of the discursive performativity of language to ascribe a semiotic indeterminacy to the nation, reducing to a formula of hybridity and liminality the multifarious narratives of nations/peoples. History is reduced to the ambiguities of culture and the play of textualities, ruling out critique and political intervention.

In this light, what makes the postcolonialist argument flawed becomes clear in the fallacies of its non-sequitur reasoning. It is perhaps easy to expose the contingent nature of the nation once its historical condition of possibility is pointed out. But it is more difficult to contend that once its socially contrived scaffolding is revealed, then the nation-state and its capacity to mobilize and apply the means of violence can be restricted if not curtailed.

We can pose this question at this point: Can one seriously claim that once the British state is shown to rest on the myth of the Magna Carta or the United States government on the covenant of the Founding Fathers to uphold the interests of every citizen–except of course African slaves and other non-white peoples, then one has undermined the power of the British or American nation-state? Not that this is an otiose and naive task. Debunking has been the classic move of those protesting against an unjust status quo purporting to be the permanent and transcendental condition for everyone.

But the weapon of criticism, as Marx once said, needs to be reinforced by the principled criticism of weapons. If we want to guard against committing the same absolutism or essentialism of the imperial nationalists, we need a historicizing strategy of ascertaining how force–the energy of social collectivities–turns into violence for the creation or destruction of social orders and singular life-forms. Understood as embodying “the pathos of an elemental force,” the insurrectionary movements of nationalities has been deemed the source of a vital and primordial energy that feeds “the legal Modernist composite of primitivism and experimentalism,” a fusion of “radical discontinuity and reciprocal facilitation” (Berman 1995, 238).

The question of the violence of the nation-state thus hinges on the linkage between the two categories, “nation” and “state.” A prior distinction perhaps needs to be made between “nation” and “society”; while the former “may be ordered, the [latter] orders itself” (Brown 1986). Most historical accounts remind us that the modern nation-state has a beginning–and consequently, it is often forgotten–and an ending. But the analytic and structural distinction between the referents of nation (local groups, community, domicile or belonging) and state (governance, machinery of sanctioning laws, disciplinary codes, military) is often elided because the force of nationalism is often conflated with the violence of the state apparatuses, an error compounded by ignoring the social classes involved in each sphere. This is the lesson of Marx and Lenin’s necessary discrimination between oppressor and oppressed nations–a nation that oppresses another cannot really claim to be free. Often the symptom of this fundamental error is indexed by the formula of counterpointing the state to civil society, obfuscating the symbiosis and synergy between them. This error may be traced partly to the Hobbesian conflation of state and society in order to regulate the anarchy of the market and of brutish individualism violating civil contracts (Ollman 1993).

It may be useful to recall the metaphysics of the origin of the nation elaborated in Ernest Renan’s 1882 lecture, “What is a nation?” This may be considered one of the originary locus of nationalism conceived as a primitivist revolt against the centralized authority of modernizing industrial states. While Renan emphasized a community founded on acts of sacrifice and their memorialization, this focus does not abolish the fact that the rise of the merchant bourgeoisie marked the start of the entrenchment of national boundaries first drawn in the age of monarchical absolutism. The establishment of the market coincided with the introduction of taxation, customs, tariffs, etc. underlined by the assertion of linguistic distinctions among the inhabitants of Europe. M. Polanyi’s thesis of The Great Transformation (1957) urges us to attend to the complexities in the evolution of the nation-state in the world system of commodity exchange. We also need to attend to Ernest Gellner’s (1983) argument that cultural and linguistic homogeneity has served from the outset as a functional imperative for states administering a commodity-centered economy and its class-determining division of social labor.

Postcolonialists subscribe to a post-structuralist hermeneutic of nationalism as a primordial destabilizing force devoid of rationality. And so while the formation of the nation-state in the centuries of profound social upheavals did not follow an undisturbed linear trajectory–we have only to remember the untypical origins of the German and Italian nation-states, not to speak of the national formations of Greece, Turkey, and the colonized peoples–that is not enough reason to ascribe an intrinsic instability and belligerency to the nation as such. States may rise and fall, as the absolute monarchs and dynasties did, but sentiments and practices constituting the nation follow another rhythm or temporality not easily dissolved into the vicissitudes of the modern expansive state. Nor does this mean that nations, whether in the North or the South, exert a stabilizing and conservative influence on social movements working for radical changes in the distribution of power and resources.

In pursuing a historical analysis of violence, we need to avoid collapsing the distinction between the concept of the “nation-state” and “nationalism.” Whence originates the will to exclude, to dominate? According to Anthony Giddens, “what makes the ‘nation’ integral to the nation-state…is not the existence of sentiments of nationalism but the unification of an administrative apparatus over precisely defined territorial boundaries in a complex of other nation-states” (1987, 172). That is why the rise of nation-states coincided with wars and the establishment of the military bureaucratic machine. In this construal, the state refers to the political institution with centralized authority and monopoly of coercive agencies coeval with the rise of global capitalism, while nationalism denotes the diverse configuration of peoples based on the commonality of symbols, beliefs, traditions, and so on.

In addition, we need to guard against confusing historical periods and categories. Imagining the nation unified on the basis of secular citizenship and self-representation, as Benedict Anderson (1991) has shown, was only possible when print capitalism arose in conjunction with the expansive state. But that in turn was possible when the trading bourgeoisie developed the means of communication under pressure of competition and hegemonic exigencies. Moreover, the dissemination of the Bible in different vernaculars did not translate into a monopoly of violence by the national churches. It is obvious that the sense of national belonging, whether based on clan or tribal customs, language, religion, etc., certainly has a historical origin and localizing motivation different from the emergence of the capitalist state as an agency to rally the populace to serve the needs of the commercial class and the goal of accumulation.

Given the rejection of a materialist analysis of the contradictions in any social formation, postcolonial critics in particular find themselves utterly at a loss in making coherent sense when dealing with nationalism. Representations of the historicity of the nation in the modern period give way to a Nietzschean will to invent reality as polysemic discourse, a product of enunciatory and performative acts. Postcolonialism resorts to a pluralist if not equivocating stance. It sees nationalism as “an extremely contentious site” in which notions of self-determination and identity collide with notions of domination and exclusion. Such oppositions, however, prove unmanageable indeed if a mechanical idealist perspective is employed. Such a view in fact leads to an irresolvable muddle in which nation-states as instruments for the extraction of surplus value (profit) and “free” exchange of commodities also become violent agencies preventing “free” action in a global marketplace that crosses national boundaries. Averse to empirical grounding, postcolonialism regards nationalist ideology as the cause of individual and state competition for goods and resources in the “free market,” with this market conceived as a creation of ideology. I cite one postcolonial authority that attributes violence to the nation-state on one hand and liberal disposition to the nation on the other:

The complex and powerful operation of the idea of a nation can be seen also in the great twentieth-century phenomenon of global capitalism, where the “free market” between nations, epitomized in the emergence of multinational companies, maintains a complex, problematic relationship with the idea of nations as natural and immutable formations based on shared collective values. Modern nations such as the United States, with their multi-ethnic composition, require the acceptance of an overarching national ideology (in pluribus unum). But global capitalism also requires that the individual be free to act in an economic realm that crosses and nullifies these boundaries and identities (Ashcroft et al, 1998, 151).

It is misleading and foolish then to label the slogan “one in many” as the U.S. national ideology. Officially the consensual ideology of the U.S. is neoliberal pluralism, or possessive individualism with a pragmatic orientation. Utilitarian doctrine underwrites an acquisitive, entrepreneurial individualism that fits perfectly with mass consumerism and the gospel of the unregulated market. It is within this framework that we can comprehend how the ruling bourgeoisie of each sovereign state utilizes nationalist sentiment and the violence of the state apparatuses to impose their will. Consequently, the belief that the nation-state simultaneously prohibits economic freedom and promotes multinational companies actually occludes the source of political and juridical violence–for example, the war against Serbia by the NATO (an expedient coalition of nation-states led by the United States), or the stigmatization of rogue and “terrorist” states (North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan) by the normative standards of hegemonic capitalism. The source of political violence–and I am speaking of that kind where collective energy and intentionality are involved–is the competitive drive for accumulation in the world market system where the propertied class is the key actor mobilizing its symbolic capital made up of ethnic loyalties and nationalist imaginaries.

We have now moved from the formalistic definition of the nation as a historic construct to the nation as a character in the narrative of capitalist development and colonialism. What role this protagonist has played and will play is now the topic of controversy. It is not enough to simply ascribe to the trading or commercial class the shaping of a new political form, the nation, to replace city states, leagues, municipal kingdoms, and oligarchic republics. Why such “imagined communities” should serve as a more efficacious political instrument for the hegemonic bloc of property-owners, is the question.

One approach to this question is to apply dialectical analysis to the materialist anatomy of the nation sketched thus far. Historians have described the crafting of state power for the new bourgeoisie nations in Enlightenment philosophy. Earlier Jean Bodin and Hugo Grotius theorized the sovereignty of the nation as the pivot of centralized authority and coercive power (Bowle 1947). The French Revolution posited the “people,” the universal rights of man, as the foundation of legitimacy for the state; the people as nation, a historical act of constituting the polity, gradually acquires libidinal investment enough to inspire movements of anticolonial liberation across national boundaries. Its influence on the U.S. Constitution as well as on personalities like Sun Yat-Sen, Jose Rizal, and other “third world” radical democrats has given the principle of popular sovereignty a “transnational” if not universal status (on Filipino nationalism, see San Juan 2000a). Within the system of nation-states, for Marxists, “recognition of national rights is an essential condition for international solidarity” (Lowy 1998, 59) in the worldwide fight for socialism and communism.

Now this universal principle of people’s rights is generally considered to be the basis of state power for the modern nation, “the empowerment, through this bureaucracy, of the interests of the state conceived as an abstraction rather than as a personal fiefdom” (Ashcroft et al 1998, 153). A serious mistake occurs when the nation and its legitimating principle of popular sovereignty becomes confused with the state bureaucracy construed either as an organ transcending the interest of any single class, or as the “executive committee” of the bourgeoisie. A mechanical, not dialectical, method underlies this failure to connect the ideology, politics, and economics of the bourgeois revolution. This quasi-Hegelian interpretation posits the popular will of the post-Renaissance nation-states as the motor of world expansion, of 19th-century colonialism. Instead of the substance of the “civilizing mission” being informed by the gospel of universal human rights, according to postcolonial orthodoxy, it is the ideology of national glory tied to “the unifying signifiers of language and race” that now impels the colonial enterprise.

So nationalism, the need to superimpose the unifying myths of the imperial nation-state, is not only generated by the bourgeois agenda of controlling and regulating the space of its market, but also by the imperative of seizing markets and resources outside territories and peoples. Nationalism is then interpreted by postcolonial theorists as equivalent to colonialism; the nation is an instrument of imperialist aggrandizement, so that if newly liberated ex-colonies employ nationalist discourse and principles, they will only be replicating the European model whose myths, sentiments, and traditions justified the violent suppression of “internal heterogeneities and differences.” The decolonizing nation is thus an oxymoron, a rhetorical if not actual impossibility.

Lacking any historical anchorage, the argument of postcolonial theory generates inconsistencies due to an exorbitant culturalism. Because they disregard the historical genealogy of the nation-state discussed by Gellner, Anderson, Smith (1971), among others, postcolonial critics uphold the sphere of culture as the decisive force in configuring social formations. Not that culture is irrelevant in explaining political antagonisms. Rather, it is erroneous when such antagonisms are translated into nothing but the tensions of cultural differences. The dogma of cultural difference (for Charles Taylor, the need and demand for recognition in a modern politics of identity; more later) becomes then the key to explaining colonialism, racism, and postcolonial society. Ambivalence, hybridity, and interstitial or liminal space become privileged signifiers over against homogenizing symbols and icons whose “authority of cultural synthesis” is the target of attack. Ideology and discursive performances serve as the primary field of analysis over against “localized materialism” and vulgar Marxism.

Violence in postcolonial discourse is thus located in ideas and cultural forces that unify, synthesize or generalize a range of experiences; such forces suppress difference or negate multiple “others” not subsumed within totalities such as nation, class, gender, etc. While some culturalist critics allow for different versions of the historic form of the nation, the reductive dualism of their thinking manifests a distinct bias for a liberal framework of analysis: the choice is either a nation based on an exclusionary myth of national unity centered on abstractions such as race, religion or ethnic singularity; or a nation upholding plurality and multiculturalism (for example, Canada or the United States). This fashionable vogue of pluralism and culturalism has already been proved inutile in confronting inequalities of class, gender, and “race.” Moreover, it cannot explain the appeal of nationalism as a means of reconciling the antagonistic needs for order and for autonomy (Smith 1979) in the face of mechanistic bureaucratism and the anarchic market of atomized consumers.

The most flagrant evidence of the constrained parameters of this culturalist diagnosis of nation/nationalism may be found in its construal of racist ideology as “the construction and naturalization of an unequal form of intercultural relations” (Ashcroft et al 1998, 46). If racism occurs only or chiefly on the level of “intercultural relations,” from this constricted optic, the other parts of a given social formation (political, economic) become superfluous and marginal. Politics is then reduced to an epiphenomenal manifestation of discourse and language-games.

A virtuoso application of a culturalist contextualism may be illustrated by the legal scholar Rosemary Coombe who defends the right of the Canadian First Nations to claim “ownership” rights to certain cultural property. Coombe correctly rejects the standard procedure of universalizing the Lockean concept of property and its rationale, possessive individualism, which underlies the Western idea of authorship and authentic artefacts. She writes: “By representing cultures in the image of the undivided possessive individual, we obscure people’s historical agency and transformations, their internal differences, the productivity of intercultural contact, and the ability of peoples to culturally express their position in a wider world” (1995, 264). Although Coombe calls attention to structures of power and the systemic legacies of exclusion, the call remains abstract and consequently trivializing. Above all, it obscures the reality and effect of material inequities. The postmodernist leitmotif of domination and exclusion mystifies the operations of corporate capitalism and its current political suppression of the indigenous struggles for self-determination. Coombe ignores precisely those “internal differences” and their contradictory motion that give concrete specificity to the experiences of embattled groups such as the First Nations. Here ironically the postmodernist inflection of the nation evokes the strategy of bourgeois nationalism to erase class, gender, and other differences ostensibly in the name of contextual nuances and refined distinctions.

Notwithstanding her partisanship for the oppressed, Coombe condemns “cultural nationalism” as an expression of possessive individualism and its idealist metaphysics. But her method of empiricist contextualism contradicts any emancipatory move by the First Nations at self-determination. It hides the global asymmetry of power, the dynamics of exploitative production relations, and the hierarchy of states in the geopolitical struggle for world hegemony. We have not transcended identity politics and the injustice of cultural appropriation because the strategy of contextualism reproduces the condition for refusing to attack the causes of class exploitation and racial violence. Despite gestures of repudiating domination and exclusion, postmodernist contextualism mimics the moralizing rhetoric of United Nations humanitarianism that cannot, for the present, move beyond reformism since it continues to operate within the framework of the transnational corporate globalized market. Such a framework is never subjected to critical interrogation.

In the fashionable discourse of postmodernists, nation and nationalism are made complicit with the conduct of Western colonialism and imperialism. They become anathema to deconstructionists hostile to any revolutionary project in the “third world” inspired by emancipatory goals. This is the reason why postcolonial critics have a difficult time dealing with Fanon and his engagement with decolonizing violence as a strategic response of subjugated peoples to the inhumane violence of colonial racism and imperial subjugation. Fanon’s conceptualization of a national culture is the direct antithesis to any culturalist syndrome, in fact an antidote to it, because he emphasizes the organic integration of cultural action with a systematic program of subverting colonialism: “A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence” (1961, 155). Discourse and power are articulated by Fanon in the dialectics of practice inscribed in the specific historical conditions of their effectivity. Fanon’s universalist-critical theory of national liberation proves itself a true “concrete universal” in that it incorporates via a dialectical sublation the richness of the particulars embodied in the Algerian revolution.

Given his historicizing method, Fanon refuses any demarcation of culture from politics and economics. Liberation is always tied to the question of property relations, the social division of labor, and the process of social reproduction–all these transvalued by the imperative of the revolutionary transformation of colonial relations. Opposed to Fanon’s denunciation of “abstract populism,” Said and Bhabha fetishize an abstract “people” on liminal, borderline spaces. Such recuperation of colonial hegemony via a “third space” or contrapuntal passage of negotiation reveals the comprador character of postcolonial theories of translation and cultural exchange. Transcultural syncretism devised to abolish the nation substitutes for anti-imperialist revolution a pragmatic modus vivendi of opportunist compromises.

An analogous charge can be levelled at Edward Said’s reading of Fanon’s “liberationist” critique. Said locates violence in nationalist movements (unless it is “critical”) since they deny the heterogeneity of pre-colonial societies by romanticizing the past. For Said, a liberationist populism is preferable to nativism and the fanatical cult of “minor differences.” Said presents us a hypothetical dilemma: “Fanon’s] notion was that unless national consciousness at its moment of success was somehow changed into social consciousness, the future would not hold liberation but an extension of imperialism” (1993, 323). Said thus posits a spurious antithesis between the project of national self-determination and a vague notion of social liberation. For Said, nationalism is always a tool of the hegemonic oppressor and holds no socially emancipatory potential. Said’s answer evacuates Fanon’s popular-democratic nationalism of all social content, postulating an entirely abstract divide between a nationalist program and a socially radical one. For Said, the violence of anticolonial movements becomes symptomatic of a profound colonial malaise.

National liberation and social justice via class struggle are interdependent. As Leopoldo Marmora observes, “While classes, in order to become predominant, have to constitute themselves as national classes, the nation arises from class struggle” (1984, 113). The popular-democratic aspiration for self-determination contains both national and social dimensions. In “On Violence,” Fanon invoked the ideal of decolonizing freedom as the legitimizing rationale of mass popular revolution. It is force deployed to accomplish the political agenda of overthrowing colonial domination and bourgeois property relations. Violence here becomes intelligible as an expression of subaltern agency and its creative potential. Its meaning is crystallized in the will of the collective agent, in the movement of seizing the historical moment to realize the human potential (Lukacs 2000). If rights are violated and the violence of the violator (for example, the state) held responsible, can the concept of rights be associated with peoples and their national identities? Or is the authority of the state to exercise violence derived from the nation/people? Here we need to ascertain the distinction between the state as an instrument of class interest and the nation/people as the matrix of sovereignty. The authority of the state as regulative juridical organ and administrative apparatus with a monopoly of coercive force derives from its historical origin in enforcing bourgeois rights of freedom and equality against the absolutist monarchy. National identity is used by the state to legitimize its actions within a delimited territory, to insure mobilization and coordination of policy (Held 1992). Formally structured as a Rechststaat, the bourgeois nation-state functions to insure the self-reproduction of capital through market forces and the continuous commodification of labor power (Jessop 1982). Fanon understands that national liberation challenges the global conditions guaranteeing valorization and realization of capital, conditions in which the internationalization and nationalization of the circuits of capital are enforced by hegemonic nation-states.

We are thus faced with the notion of structural violence attached to the bourgeois state as opposed to the intentionalist mode of violence as an expression of subject/agency such as the collectivity of the people. Violence is thus inscribed in the dialectic of identity and Otherness, with the bourgeois state’s coherence depending on the subordination (if not consent) of workers and other subalterns.

We can resolve the initial paradox of the nation, a Janus-faced phenomenon (Nairn 1977), by considering the following historical background. The idea of state-initiated violence (as opposed to communal ethnic-motivated violence) performs a heuristic role in the task of historicizing any existing state authority and questioning the peaceful normalcy of the status quo. The prevailing social order is then exposed as artificial and contingent; what is deemed normal or natural reveals itself as an instrument of partial interests. But the relative permanence of certain institutional bodies and their effects need to be acknowledged in calculating political strategies. The long duration of collective and individual memories exerts its influence through the mediation of what Pierre Bourdieu calls “habitus” (1993). We begin to understand that the state’s hierarchical structure is made possible because of the institutionalized violence that privileges the hegemony (moral and intellectual leadership crafted via negotiating compromises) of a bloc of classes over competing blocs and their alternative programs. Hegemony is always underwritten by coercion (open or covert, subtle or crude) in varying proportions and contingencies. The demarcated territory claimed by a state in rivalry with other states becomes for Max Weber one major pretext for the state monopoly of legitimate violence in order to defend private property and promote the overseas interests of the domestic business class (Krader 1968).

Georges Sorel argued for the demystificatory use of violence in his Reflections on Violence (1908; 1972). Sorel believed that the only way to expose the illusion of a peaceful and just bourgeois order is to propagate the myth of the general strike. Through strategic, organized violence, the proletariat is bound to succeed in releasing vast social energies hitherto repressed and directing them to the project of radical social transformation. This is still confined within the boundaries of the national entity. Open violence or war purges the body politic of hatred, prejudice, deceptions, and so on. Proletarian violence destroys bourgeois mystification and the nationalist ethos affiliated with it. Sorel’s syndicalist politics of violence tries to convert force as a means to a political and social end, the process of the general strike. This politics of organized mass violence appeals to a utopian vision that displaces the means-ends rationality of bourgeois society in the fusion of force with pleasure realizable in a just, egalitarian order.

The classical Marxist view of violence rejects the mechanical calculation of means-ends that undermines the logic of Blanquist and Sorelian conceptions of social change. Marx disavowed utopian socialism in favor of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie through a combination of violent and peaceful means. Instrumentalism is subordinated to a narrative of emancipation from class bondage. The objective of emancipating labor associated with the laboring nation/people requires the exposure of commodity-fetishism and the ideology of equal exchange of values in the market. Reification and alienation in social relations account for the bourgeois state’s ascendancy. Where the state bureaucracy supporting the bourgeoisie and the standing army do not dominate the state apparatus completely (a rare case) or has been weakened, as in the case of the monarchy and the Russian bourgeoisie at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the working class might attain their goal of class liberation by peaceful means; but in most cases,”the lever of the revolution will have to be force” harnessed by the masses unified by class consciousness and popular solidarity.

Based on their historical investigations, Marx and Engels understood the role of violence as the midwife in the birth of a new social order within the old framework of the nation-state. In his later years Engels speculated that with the changes in the ideological situation of the classes in any national territory, “a real victory of an insurrection over the military in street fighting is one of the rarest exceptions.” In an unusual historic conjuncture, however, the Bolshevik revolution mobilized mass strikes and thus disproved Engels. Nevertheless, Marx’s “analytical universality,” to use John Dunn’s (1979, 78) phrase, remains valid in deploying the concept of totality to comprehend the nexus of state, class and nation. We can rehearse here the issues that need to be examined from the viewpoint of totality: Was Lenin’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” an imposition of state violence, or the coercive rule of the people against the class enemy? If it is an instrumental means of the new proletarian state, did it implicate the nation? Is violence here both structured into the state system of apparatuses and inscribed in the collective agency of the working masses cognized as the nation? Is the political authority invoked by the proletarian state embodied in the class interest of all those exploited by capital (in both periphery and center) ascendant over all? Marxists critical of the Leninist interpretation denounce the use of state violence as an anarchist deviation, an arbitrary application of force. They affirm instead the law-governed historical process that will inevitably transform capitalism into socialism, whatever the subjective intentions of the political protagonists involved. Such fatalism, however, rules out the intervention of a class-for-itself freed from ideological blinders and uniting all the oppressed with its moral-intellectual leadership, the cardinal axiom of socialist revolution.

Rationalist thinkers for their part reject violence as an end in itself while accepting the force of the market as normal and natural. This is epitomized by legal thinkers who contend that primordial nationalist claims should be regulated by autonomous international law, “the domain of the metajuridique” (Berman 1995). By identifying nationalism as a primitive elemental force outside the jurisdiction of positive law, the modernist legal scholar is alleged to be receptive to its experimental creativity so that new legal techniques are devised to regulate the destabilization of Europe–and, for that matter, its colonial empires–by “separatist nationalisms.” The aim is to pacify the subalterns and oppressed classes by juridical and culturalist prophylactic.

As I have noted above in dealing with Fanon’s work, the nature of violence in the process of decolonization cannot be grasped by such dualistic metaphysics epitomized in the binarism of passion-versus-law. What is needed is the application of a historical materialist critique to the complex problem of national self-determination. Marxists like Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, despite their differences, stress the combination of knowledge and practice in analyzing the balance of political forces. They contend that class struggle is a form of knowledge/action, the civil war of political groups, which can synthesize wars of position (legal, peaceful reforms) and the war of maneuver (organized frontal assault by armed masses, to use Gramsci’s terminology) in the transformation of social relations in any particular nation. Violence itself can become a creative force insofar as it reveals the class bias of the bourgeois/colonial state and serves to accelerate the emergence of class consciousness and organized popular solidarity. Insofar as the force of nation/national identity distracts and prohibits the development of class consciousness, then it becomes useless for socialist transformation. In colonized societies, however, nationalism coincides with the converging class consciousness of workers, peasants, and the masses of subjugated natives that constitute the political force par excellence in harnessing violence for emancipatory goals.

From the historical-materialist perspective then, violence cannot be identified with the nation or nation-state per se under all circumstances. We need to distinguish between the two positions–the postmodern one of indiscriminate attack on all totalities (such as class, nation, etc.) premised on a syllogistic Kantian means-ends rationality, and the historical-materialist one where means/ends are dialectically calibrated in historically inventive modalities–so as to illuminate the problem of violence in this new millennium. The impasse between these two positions reflects the relation of unceasing antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the nationalities they exploit in the world system of commodity-exchange and accumulation.

On another level, the impasse may be viewed as a theoretical crux. It signifies the antinomy between agency and structure, the intentionalist-nominalist pragmatism of liberals and the structuralist views of historical materialists. The former looks at the nation as always implicated in the state while the latter considers the nation as historically separate and contingent on the vicissitudes of the class warfare. One way of trying to elucidate this contradiction is by examining Walter Benjamin’s argument in “Critique of Violence” (1978).

Taking Sorel as one point of departure, Benjamin considers the use of violence as a means for establishing governance. Law is opposed to divine violence grasped as fate and the providential reign of justice. Bound up with violence, law is cognized as power, a power considered as a means of establishing order within a national boundary. The abolition of state power is the aim of revolutionary violence which operates beyond the reach of law-making force, an aspiration for justice that would spell the end of class society. Proletarian revolution resolves the means-ends instrumentalism of bourgeois politics. Violence becomes problematic when fate/justice, once deemed providential, eludes our grasp with the Babel of differences blocking communication and also aggrandizing particularisms found below the level of the nation-form and its international, not to say cosmopolitan, possibilities.

Violence is only physical force divorced from its juridical potency. Benjamin’s thesis may be more unequivocal than the academically fashionable Foucauldian view of subsuming violence in power relations. It takes a more scrupulous appraisal of the sectarian limitations as well as empowering possibilities of violence in the context of class antagonisms. While the issue of nationalist violence is not explicitly addressed in his essay, Benjamin seeks to explore the function of violence as a creator and preserver of law, a factor intricately involved in the substance of normative processes. Benjamin writes: “Lawmaking is powermaking, and, to that extent, an immediate manifestation of violence. Justice is the principle of all divine end making, power the principle of all mythical lawmaking” (1978, 295). Lawmaking mythical violence can be contested only by divine power, which today, according to Benjamin, is manifested in “educative power, which in its perfected form stands outside the law.” Benjamin is not entirely clear about this “educative power,” but I think it can only designate the influence of the family and other agencies in civil society not regulated by the traditional state apparatuses. In another sense, Benjamin alludes to “the proper sphere of understanding, language,” which makes possible the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Since language is intimately linked with the national community, national consciousness contradicts the disruptive effects of violence in its capacity to resolve antagonisms.

Benjamin goes on to investigate violence embodied in the state (as contradistinguished from the national community) through a process of demystification. Critique begins by disclosing the idea of its development, its trajectory of ruptures and mutations, which in turn exposes the fact that all social contract depends on a lie, on fiction. “Justice, the criterion of ends,” supersedes legality, “the criterion of means.” Justice is the reign of communication which, because it excludes lying, excludes violence. In effect, violence is the mediation that enables state power to prevail. It cannot be eliminated by counter-violence that simply inverts it. Only the educative power of language, communication associated with the national collectivity, can do away with the need to lie. But since the social contract displaces justice as the end of life with legality connected with the state, and law is required as an instrument to enforce the contract, violence continues to be a recurrent phenomenon in a commodity-centered society.

Benjamin is silent about the nation and the efficacy of popular sovereignty in this text. His realism seeks to clarify the historic collusion between law, violence, and the state. He wants to resolve the philosophical dualism of means and ends that has bedevilled liberal rationalism and its inheritors, pragmatism and assorted postmodernist nominalisms. His realism strives to subordinate the instrumentality of violence to law, but eventually he dismisses law as incapable of realizing justice. But we may ask: how can justice–the quest for identity without exclusion/inclusion, without alterity–be achieved in history if it becomes some kind of intervention by a transcendent power into the secular domain of class struggle? How can justice be attained as an ideal effect of communication? Perhaps through language as mediated in the nation-form, in the web of discourse configuring the nation as a community of speakers (San Juan 2000b), the nation as the performance of groups unified under the aegis of struggle against oppression and exploitation?

Benjamin’s speculation on the reconciling charisma of language seems utopian in the pejorative sense. Peoples speaking the same language (e.g., Northern Ireland, Colombia, North and South Korea) continue to be locked in internecine conflict. If violence is inescapable in the present milieu of reification and commodity-fetishism, how can we use it to promote dialogue and enhance the resources of the oppressed for liberation? In a seminal essay on “Nationalism and Modernity,” Charles Taylor underscores the modernity of nationalism in opposition to those who condemn it as atavistic tribalism or a regression to primordial barbarism. In the context of modernization, Taylor resituates violence in the framework of the struggle for recognition–nationalism “as a call to difference,…lived in the register of threatened dignity, and constructing a new, categorical identity as the bearer of that dignity” (1999, 240).

What needs to be stressed here is the philosophical underpinning of the struggle for recognition and recovery of dignity. It invokes clearly the Hegelian paradigm of the relation between lord and bondsman in The Phenomenology of Mind. In this struggle, the possibility of violence mediates the individual’s discovery of his finite and limited existence, his vulnerability, and his need for community. Piotr Hoffman’s gloss underlines the Hegelian motif of freedom as risk: “Violence …is the necessary condition of my emergence as a universal, communal being…for I can find common ground with the other only insofar as both of us can endure the mortal danger of the struggle and can thus think independently of a blind attachment to our particular selves” (1989, 145). Since the nation evokes sacrifice, the warrior’s death on the battlefield, honor, self-transcendence, destiny, the state seeks to mobilize such nation-centered feelings and emotions to legitimize itself as a wider, more inclusive, and less artificial reality to attain its own accumulative goals. Weber reminds us: “For the state is the highest power organization on earth, it has power over life and death…. A mistake comes in, however, when one speaks of the state alone and not of the nation” (quoted in Poggi 1978, 101).

The nationalist struggle for recognition and the violence of anticolonial revolutions thus acquire a substantial complexity in the context of modernity, the fact of uneven development, and the vicissitudes of capitalist crisis. In any case, whatever the moral puzzles entailed by the plural genealogies of the nation-state, it is clear that a dogmatic pacifism is no answer to an effective comprehension of the real world and purposeful intervention in it. Given the continued existence of nation-states amidst the increasing power of transnational corporations in a geopolitical arena of sharpening rivalry, can we choose between a “just” and an “unjust” war when nuclear weapons that can destroy the whole planet are involved? Violence on such a scale obviously requires the dialectical transcendence of the system of nation-states in the interest of planetary justice and survival.

Overall, the question of violence cannot be answered within the framework of the Realpolitik of the past but only within the framework of nation-states living in mutual reciprocity. Causality, however, has to be ascertained and responsibility assigned even if the nation is construed as “an interpretive construct” (Arnason 1990, 230). My view is that the hegemonic bloc of classes using the capitalist state machinery is the crux of the problem. If nations have been manipulated by states dominated by possessive/acquisitive classes that have undertaken and continue to undertake colonial and imperial conquests, then the future of humanity and all living organisms on earth can be insured only by eliminating those classes that are the origin of state violence. The nation-form can then be reconstituted and transcended to insure that it will not generate reasons or opportunities for state-violence to recur. That will be the challenge for future revolutionaries.


Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. Verso: London.

Arnason, Johann. 1990. “Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity.” In Global Culture. Ed. Mike Featherstone. London: Sage Publications.

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. 1998. Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies. New York: Routledge.

Balibar, Etienne and Immanuel Wallerstein. 1991. Race, Nation, Class. London Verso.

Benjamin, Walter. 1978. Reflections. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Berman, Nathaniel. 1995. “Modernism, Nationalism and the Rhetoric of Reconstruction.” In After Identity. New York: Routledge.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bowle, John. 1947. Western Political Thought. London: Methuen.

Brown, Michael. 1986. The Production of Society. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield.

Coombe, Rosemary. 1995. “The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity: Native Claims in the Cultural Appropriation Controversy.” In After Identity. Ed. Dan Danielsen and Karen Engle. New York: Routledge.

Dunn, John. 1979. Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Fanon, Frantz. 1961. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.

Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Giddens, Anthony. 1985. The Nation-State and Violence. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

—. 1987. Social Theory and Modern Society. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Held, David. 1992. “The Development of the Modern State.” In Formations of Modernity. Ed. Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Hoffman, Piotr. 1989. Violence in Modern Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Howard, Michael. 1991. The Lessons of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jessop, Bob. 1982. The Capitalist State.

Krader, Lawrence. 1968. Formation of the State. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Lukacs, Georg. 2000. In Defense of History and Class Consciousness. London: Verso.

Marmora, Leopoldo. 1984. “Is There a Marxist Theory of Nation?” In Rethinking Marx. Ed. Sakari Hanninen and Leena Paldan. New York: International General.

Ollman, Bertell. 1993. Dialectical Investigations. New York: Routledge.

Poggi, Gianfranco. 1978. The Development of the Modern State. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Polanyi, Karl. 1957. The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press.

Said, Edward. 1993. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto & Windus.

San Juan, E. 2000a. After Postcolonialism. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

—–. 2000b. “Bakhtin: Uttering the ‘(Into)nation of the Nation/People.” In Bakhtin and the Nation. Ed. San Diego Bakhtin Circle. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

Sassen, Saskia. 1998. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: The New Press.

Smith, Anthony. 1971. Theories of Nationalism. New York: Harper.

—–. 1979. Nationalism in the Twentieth Century. New York: New York University Press.

Sorel, Georges. 1906 (1972). Reflections on Violence. New York: Macmillan.

Taylor, Charles. 1999. “Nationalism and Modernity.” In Theorizing Nationalism. Ed. Ronald Beiner. New York: SUNY Press.

Tilly, Charles. 1975. “Western State-Making and Theories of Political Transformation.” In The Formation of National States in Western Europe. Ed. Charles Tilly. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Return to Left Curve no. 26 Table of Contents


Analysis of The Three Temptations by E. San Juan, Jr.

Originally posted on Erratic:

An Analysis by Patrick Lim, Enrique Fausto and Markyn Kho
The poem The Three Temptations by E. San Juan Jr. is a poem that hides many secrets and symbolism in each word and sentence. Let’s begin with the basic meaning of the poem. In the first stanza of the poem.

“What death would you desire?”

She says: “A bronze death that yields

a cloister for the heart; or that

Basically, the image that this conveys is a choice presented to perhaps the reader. We can apply Shklovsky’s concept of defamiliarization because the idea of choice and the decisions are presented by a woman. The first choice is a bronze death using what we know bronze may symbolize third place, or the least. The author uses the image of a cloister probably because he thinks that a bronze death is one where the heart is alone and quiet, more or less a peaceful quiet death…

View original 843 more words



DSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]BEYOND TRANSNATIONALISM: Lessons from Frantz Fanon
and C.L. R. James

— by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

My final prayer:
O my body, make of me always a man who questions!

–Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
Despite his intricately nuanced anatomy of “race” in Black Skin, White Masks and other works, Fanon has been somehow stereotyped as an apostle of the cult of violence. This passage from The Wretched of the Earth seems to have become the touchstone of classical Fanonism: “Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organized and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. It frees the native from his inferiority complex, and from his despair and inaction” (94). This free-floating quote, unmoored from its determinant context, exerts a reductive and disabling force. Severed from its body, Fanon’s thought can signify everything and nothing at the same time.
Claiming to rescue Fanon from this tendentious fixation as well as from the pluralism of eclectic interpretations, Henry Louis Gates offers an assessment that at first glance promises to ground Fanon in the context of the “third world.” The Tunisian intellectual Albert Memmi seems to provide Gates a pretext for the revisionary intent: Memmi conjures the figure of a black Martinican torn by warring forces who, though hating France and the French, “will never return to Negritude and to the West Indies” (Gates 140). Unwittingly Gates recuperates the canon by ferreting out clues of self-division in Fanon, “an agon between psychology and a politics, between ontogeny and sociogeny, between…Marx and Freud” (141). This postmortem diagnosis pronounces the demise of the author and his authority. By inscribing Fanon more steadfastly in the colonial paradigm, the “disciplinary enclave” of anti-imperialist discourse, Gates hopes to demolish the Fanon mystique. His deconstructive move may strike some as iconoclastic and others as reactionary; Lewis K. Gordon, for example, speculates that Gates may be a surrogate for the European man in crisis. In effect, Gates disables Fanon by arguing that Fanon himself warned us of the limits of the struggle, thus presaging the virtual collapse of “the dream of decolonization.”
Postmodern Cultural Studies (inspired by the poststructuralist gurus Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard) may have taken off from Gates’s premise of skeptical individualism and neoliberal triumphalism. It has so far pursued a nihilistic agenda in rejecting “totality” (such as capitalism, nationalism, etc.), the codeword for theoretical generalizations about social relations of production and historical movements. Contemporary Cultural Studies celebrates heterogeneity, flux, ambiguous hybrids, indeterminacies, accidents, and lacunae inhabiting bifurcated psyches and texts. Suspicious of metanarratives (Hegel, Marx, Sartre), it repudiates utopian thought, including an alleged teleology of anticolonialism informing Fanon’s texts. From this perspective, Fanon is cannibalized for academic apologetics. The version of Fanon who takes off from Hegel and Marx is rejected in favor of the Freudian disciple, thus resolving the dichotomized subject/object which postmodernist critics privileged as their point of departure.
My argument here concerns the relevance of Fanon’s materialist hermeneutics as an antidote to the conservative formalism of the hegemonic discipline exemplified by Gates. I hold that Fanon’s central insights into sociohistorical change is pedagogically transformative and enabling in a way that locates the deconstructionist impasse in the refusal of historical determinations. David Caute perceives Fanon’s serviceable legacy as inherent in his political realism, his prophetic drive to forge “new concepts” from the clash between traditional ways of thinking and novel circumstances. In one of the most astute evaluation of Fanon’s discourse, Stephan Feuchtwang points out that Fanon succeeded in rendering “as history the material of cultural organizations without assuming an original self for recognition,” showing how contingency “is culturally organized and made” and distinguishing cultural process from its multiple determinations in economic forces, political institutions, and ideological relations. By bracketing self-consciousness as totalizing viewpoint, Feuchtwang then suggests that the fundamental questions in cultural studies raised by Fanon are, among others: What people or culture is being constructed? What “social organization of cultural difference, conceived as psycho-affective organization, enhances recognition rather than denial” and “what are the economic and political conditions in which such an organization can exist?” (473).

Overcoming Postcolonial Negritude

We need to remind ourselves that Fanon never entertained any illusion that the revolutionary struggle against colonialism will automatically realize a utopia free from the delayed effects and legacies of hundreds of years of dehumanized social relations. I contend that he was not of two minds regarding the duplicity of Negritude, for example, or the perils of populist and demagogic chauvinism that swept Africa in the aftermath of formal independence (see Fogel; Gordon, Sharpley-Whiting and White). The chapters on “Spontaneity: Its Strengths and Weaknesses” and “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness” in The Wretched of the Earth are lucid proofs of Fanon’s circumspect and principled realism. The cogent diagnosis of deeply rooted reflexes of character and the habitus of groups displays his acute knowledge of historical contradictions and the variable modalities of finitude in a world of pure immanence. It is certainly an ideological move to transpose the Manichean fixation of colonialism into Fanon’s psyche and infer therefrom that we cannot derive any testable methodology or working hypothesis from Fanon’s oeuvre. That dogmatic attitude forecloses any dialogue with Fanon as alternative or oppositional to the fashionable “incredulity” at metanarratives and the ontological constitution of reality.
One lesson we can extract from the corpus of texts is precisely the avoidance of the “schism in the soul,” what Spinoza calls “sadness” (188). This involves a passage from a diminished to a more heightened or enhanced capacity for action based on ideas adequately subsuming the causes and motivations of what we do. This involves all the social, economic, and political determinants that constitute the mode of cultural revolution in Algeria. To elucidate this mode, Fanon reformulates the archetypal Hegelian drama of sublation (Aufhebung) as “the only means of breaking this vicious circle,” the battlefield within, but this drama is not a solipsistic or monadic affair. Desire involves the mutual recognition of two or more agents juxtaposed in a common enterprise: “I demand that notice be taken of my negating activity insofar as I pursue something other than life; insofar as I do battle for the creation of a human world–that is, of a world of reciprocal recognitions” (Black Skin 218). Indeed, Fanon’s project goes beyond the formulaic pragmatism of psychoanalysis: “To educate man to be actional…is the prime task of him who, having taken thought, prepares to act” (222). And this action, by risking life, enables the exercise of freedom which mediates the contingency of the present and the schematism of the future: “The Vietnamese who die before the firing squads are not hoping that their sacrifice will bring about the reappearance of a past. It is for the sake of the present and of the future that they are willing to die” (227). This project of secular redemption reminds me of Spinoza’s axiom of humanity’s finite mode as distinguished by conatus, perseverance in striving to increase one’s power through affiliation and collaboration with others (Lloyd; De Dijn; Parkinson; Yovel, Spinoza: Adventures).
Fanon’s idea of praxis is geared toward realizing the freedom of multitudes via programs of action. His practice-oriented sensibility registers the movement of groups and collectives of bodies interacting in solidarity. What Marx once valorized as philosophy becoming incarnate in the world, that is, the unity of theory and practice, is accomplished by Fanon in envisioning the field of discourse or signification as a range of opportunities for action. In this field, collective power and the rights of individuals associated together coalesce. We move through and beyond the textuality of representation, the iconicity of signs, to its articulation with radical transformative practice. In inventorying the achievement of Cultural Studies thus far, Stuart Hall remarked how the discipline has often succumbed to “ways of constituting power as an easy floating signifier which just leaves the crude exercise and connections of power and culture altogether emptied of any signification” (286). Presciently Fanon anticipated this fetishism of textuality in his conclusion to The Wretched of the Earth: “A permanent dialogue with oneself and an increasingly obscene narcissism never ceased to prepare the way for a half delirious state, where intellectual work became suffering and the reality was not at all that of a living man, working and creating himself, but rather words, different combinations of words, and the tensions springing from the meanings contained in words” (313). A new beginning has to be made, with a new subjectivity predicated on the bankruptcy of Eurocentric humanism and the prospect of creating a “new human being” at the conjuncture where core and periphery, center and margin, collide.
Aside from the malaise of systemic alienation fragmenting sensibilities and psyches, the reason why the discipline of Cultural Studies has consistently failed to confront the problem of reification is its evasion of one of the most intractable but persistent symptoms of late capitalism, racism and its articulation with sexism. It is through confronting this nexus of racism, male supremacy, and commodity-fetishism in the Manichean arena of battle that Fanon was able to grasp the subtle, compromising liaisons between culture and power, between language and value. Like Spinoza, who applied a constructive-hermeneutical method in interpreting religious texts (Yovel, Spinoza: Marrano), Fanon used rhetorical analysis to educate the subaltern imagination and provoke a more rational stance toward everyday happenings. However, there is no unanimous agreement on Fanon’s accentuation of certain aspects of “third world” reality. Renate Zahar has reservations regarding Fanon’s one-sided emphasis on a psychologized notion of violence as a category of mediation, thus ignoring “violence conceived as revolutionary social work” (96). But even a trenchant critic like Jack Woddis had to admit that Fanon “yearned for an end to the wold world of capitalism” (175). The question of social determination and the directionality of change around which orthodox Marxists and the varieties of poststructuralisms have clashed hinges really on the modalities in which capital and the manifestations of its power have continued to renegotiate its recurrent crises and sustain its precarious but resilient hegemony.

Confronting the Racial Imaginary

Fanon’s little known essay, “Racism and Culture,” provides clues as to how Fanon will confront the impasse brought about by the institutionalization, more precisely, the “Americanization” of Cultural Studies. For Fanon, the fact of racism cannot be divorced from the methodology and aims of any cultural inquiry: “If culture is the combination of motor and mental behavior patterns arising from the encounter of man with nature and with his fellow-man, it can be said that racism is indeed a cultural element” (African Revolution 32). With the emergence of industrial and cosmopolitan societies, racism metamorphosed; its object is no longer the individual judged on the basis of genotypical or phenotypical features but “a certain form of existing” (32). Fanon mentions the antithesis between Christianity and Islam as life-forms locked in ideological combat. But what sharply influenced the change in the nature of racism as ideological/political practice, Fanon points out, is the “institution of a colonial system in the very heart of Europe” (33). Racism is part of “the systematized oppression of a people” at the heart of which is the destruction of a people’s cultural values:

For this its systems of reference have to be broken. Expropriation, spoliation, raids, objective murder, are matched by the sacking of cultural patterns, or at least condition such sacking. The social panorama is destructured; values are flaunted, crushed, emptied.
The lines of force, having crumbled, no longer give direction… [The native culture] becomes closed, fixed in the colonial status, caught in the yoke of oppression. …The characteristic of a culture is to be open, permeated by spontaneous, generous, fertile lines of force (33-34).

This mummification of practices and the hardening of institutions once alive and changing attend the loss of the native’s independence and initiative. Culture dies when it is not lived, “dynamized from within.” Exoticism and other modes of objectification (for example, the varieties of Orientalism catalogued by Edward Said) accompany the colonizers’ coercive program of exploitation and subjugation.
What complicates the ever-present visage of racism for Fanon is historical metamorphosis, the shifts of adaptation to evolving social relations. With the development in the techniques and means of production and its elaboration, together with “the increasingly necessary existence of collaborators,” racism loses its overt virulence and camouflages itself in more subtler and stylized appearances, in seductive guises, despite the fact that “the social constellation, the cultural whole, are deeply modified by the existence of racism” (36). But appearances are deceptive, and verbal mystification characterizes the introduction of a “democratic and humane ideology.” Fanon insists that “The truth is that the rigor of the system made the daily affirmation of a superiority superfluous” (37). Alienation worsens. In contrast to the apologists of the neoliberal “free market” system who reduce racism to a case of individual mental illness or syndrome, Fanon asserts the sociohistorical specificity of racism as institutional practice:

Racism stares one in the face for it so happens that it belongs in a characteristic whole: that of the shameless exploitation of one group of men by another which has reached a higher stage of technical development. This is why military and economic oppression generally precedes, makes possible, and legitimizes racism….
It is not possible to enslave men without logically making them inferior through and through. And racism is only the emotional, affective, sometimes intellectual explanation of this inferiorization (37-38, 40).

From Mimicry to Subversion

In the process of demystifying the racial imaginary that subtends Eurocentric Cultural Studies, Fanon traces the dialectic of alienation and assimilation binding colonial master and colonized subaltern. He recapitulates the phases of guilt and inferiority experienced by the colonized. Racism becomes normalized when it becomes a matter of personal prejudice, dissimulating the subjugation and oppression of peoples and nationalities. Subsequently, the colonized victims react to racism by revalorizing tradition. Archaic practices and their constellation of values are revived and affirmed. The goal of reconquering the geopolitical space mapped by revolutionary war orients the project of national liberation: “the plunge into the chasm of the past is the condition and the source of freedom” (43). But this “return to the source” (to use Amilcar Cabral’s metaphor) is not nativism but a passage of catharsis. What it purges is the obsession with purity, a symptom of the fetishizing drive. What Fanon emphasizes is the mixed repertoire of weapons or resources that the colonized masses bring into play–“the old and the new, his own and those of the occupant,” resuscitating the “spasmed and rigid culture” so as to conduct a mutually enriching dialogue with other cultures. Here, the Manichean dilemma described in “On Violence” is resolved by the agon of the historical process itself. That is to say, the “universality” achieved with the recognition and acceptance of the “reciprocal relativism of different cultures” on the demise of colonialism necessarily traverses “the experienced realities of the mode of production.” Fanon takes into account the improvement of technical knowledge, perfecting of machines within “the dynamic circuit of industrial production,” the frequent contacts of people “in the framework of the concentration of capital, that is to say, on the job, discovering the assembly line, the team, production ‘time’ ” (39). This historical materialist framework of comprehending the social formation grounds Fanon’s critique of cultural racism in the complex interaction of affects, passions, and appetites that control assemblages of bodies and govern the conduct of the whole body politic.
The theme of cultural metamorphosis broached in “Racism and Culture” is further refined and illustrated in the later essay, “On National Culture” (included in The Wretched of the Earth). What is new here is the inscription of culture in the problematique of the nation and national identity. Fanon shifts gears and plots the genesis of agency from the episodes of victimization and resistance. Fanon underlines the process of change in the cultural responses of indigenous peoples to the violence of the European colonizer, from the poetics of Negritude and the revitalization of Islam to diverse manifestations of nativism. He charts the trajectory of the organic intellectual–organic to the national-popular movement of decolonization–from the initial stage of assimilation to the reactive nativism characterized by humor and allegory to the subsequent third stage, the “fighting phase,” where the artist tries to represent the advent of a new reality and a “new man.” Fanon underscores how tradition changes with the unpredictable mutations of conflict, ushering in a “zone of occult instability” where “our souls are crystallized” with the people. What I would focus on here is not the ambivalence, indeterminacy, or the aura of the apocalyptic sublime, which one can extrapolate between the lines, but the conatus or actualization of potential inscribed in certain moments of the national liberation struggle.
Originating from the Hegelian matrix of the dialectic of master and slave, the routine approach to Fanon’s thought replicates the West’s “civilizing mission.” In this psychodrama, the native develops and matures by undergoing the trials of self-alienation, doubt, and self-recovery; the three stages outlined in “On National Culture” reconfigure the value and function of tradition and all the properties of the indigenous life-forms in a Manichean environment. What Fanon apprehends in these life-forms is their capacity for change and infinite adaptability: “the forms of thought and what it feeds on, together with modern techniques of information, language, and dress have dialectically reorganized the people’s intelligences and …. the constant principles which acted as safeguards during the colonial period are now undergoing extremely radical changes” (225). The affective dynamism of anticolonial struggle explodes the mystifying influence of customs, folklore, and abstract populism associated with “gratuitous actions,” culminating at the stage in which time, agency, and the habitus of creative strategies of intervention coalesce:

The colonized man who writes for his people ought to use the past with the intention of opening the future, as an invitation to action and a basis for hope. But to ensure that hope and give it form, he must take part in action and throw himself body and soul into the national struggle…. A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify, and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence (232-33).

Culture cannot be divorced from the the organized forces of national liberation that “create” peoplehood and sustain its life. For this project of fashioning a life-form, the national territory serves as the concretely determinate framework for shaping that national consciousness (which for Fanon is not equivalent to European-style nationalism) that allows “the discovery and encouragement of universal values.” Far from keeping aloof from other nations, therefore, it is national liberation that “leads the nation to play its part on the stage of history” (247). Fanon concludes this speech with the image of a paradoxical exfoliation of opposites: “It is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness lives and grows. And this two-fold emerging is ultimately only the source of all culture” (247-48).

The Artifice of National Liberation

My contention is that Fanon’s idea of national liberation provides the logic of social constitution and assemblage needed for grasping the dynamics of cultural change in any geopolitical formation. By dissolving the boundaries of self and other, of nation and global ecumene, this new mode of theorizing history undercuts the fashionable postmodernist representation of the body as sheer polymorphous matter charged with desire and presumably a site of resistance against hegemonic capital. In the first place, ensembles of corporeal energies occupy a category different from the isolated, monadic physical body that postmodernists privilege. Moreover, one can argue that bodies are not simply vessels of desire but “a plane of immanence” (to use Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion) where power and freedom born of necessity coincide. Fanon’s theory of the praxis of multitudes not only challenges the binary opposition of bourgeois elite aesthetics and an idealized massified culture of everyday life which motivates a trendy version of Cultural Studies (see, for example, Fiske); it also exposes its paralyzing effect on the critical sensorium of ordinary people. Without a collective conatus catalyzed in the ethics of decolonization, the dogma of methodological individualism will continue to vitiate the attempts of Cultural Studies practitioners to move beyond the limitations of Enlightenment thought (racism, patriarchy, class exploitation) and affirm identities in the interstices of difference.
One way of illustrating Fanon’s singular mode of interrogating cultural practice may be sketched here in a brief commentary on his essay, “Algeria Unveiled” (in A Dying Colonialism). A recent appraisal of Fanon by Ato Sekyi-Otu regards this text as Fanon’s finest exposition of the “possibility of expressive freedom” discovered through the instrumentalization of the veil. A phenomenology of existential choice reinterprets Fanon’s discourse as an allegory of Hegelian dialectics: “The measure of freedom is the degree to which space and symbol, area of action and device of self-disclosure, are multiply configurable, open to the agent’s choice of ends and means, and are thus no longer signifiers of a radically compulsory and constricted identity” (226). This flexible disposition of the veil profiles, for Fanon, the eventual “transformation of the Algerian woman.” It is this dialectic of experience occurring in the “public theater of revolutionary action” that, for Sekyi-Otu, embodies the resonance and efficacy of Fanon’s prefigurative hermeneutics.
With the problematique of Cultural Studies as the context of exchange, my reading of Fanon’s mobilization of a cultural motif is somewhat different. I consider Fanon’s programmatic text as a critique of postmodernist ethnography that privileges subjective fantasies, aleatory gestures, cyborg speech, and “travelling” localizations. Fanon in fact subjects psychoanalytic speculations to the actual historic disposition of forces, using the assemblage of “composable” relationships (Hardt 28) on an immanent field of forces as a means of eliminating the need for transcendence implicit in a posited “unconscious” which perverse “Desire” supposedly inhabits. In extrapolating Fanon’s unique critical stance, I deploy some concepts taken from the philosopher Benedict Spinoza in order to illuminate how the “common notion” of national liberation takes shape in the course of an uncompromisingly materialist and anti-empiricist account of the Algerian woman’s role, both spontaneous and constrained, in the productive rationality of the revolution.
Fanon begins with the customary association of the veil as the synecdochic mark of Arab culture and society for the Western gaze. While the masculine garb allows a “modicum of heterogeneity,” the white veil that defines Algerian female society permits no alteration or modification. In the early thirties, French colonialism seized the initiative to abolish “forms of existence likely to evoke a national reality.” Based on the premise that behind the overt patrilineal armature of Algerian society lies a “matrilineal” essence, Fanon seizes on the patriarchal animus of colonial metaphysics. He rehearses the France’s fabled mission civilizatrice: “If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight” (38). Algerian society thus stands condemned as “sadistic and vampirish,” its internal mechanics in need of revamping and overhauling.
This bureaucratic consensus to forcibly emancipate the cloistered Algerian woman became a major policy of the French colonial administration. The rationale is strategic: to overcome the Algerian male resistance to assimilation via the control of women. But up to 1959, Fanon observes, “the dream of a total domestication of Algerian society by means of “unveiled women aiding and sheltering the occupier” continued to haunt the colonial authorities. All schemes to persuade the Algerian intellectual (not just the fellah or peasant) failed. Fanon sums up this attitude to the veil as symptomatic of “the simplified and pejorative way” the French regarded the “system of values” used by the colonized to resist the erasure of their “distinct identity.” Identity here equals culture, and culture as shared history or cohabitation distinguishes the nation. What follows is Fanon’s attempt to describe the sociopsychological causality gravitating around the penetration of indigenous society by the assimilating power. The tropes of aggressive sexuality deployed here mark the scope and latitude of the disciplinary regime France tried to impose, with the weapon of sexual seduction unfolding instead the impotence of the colonizer:
Every rejected veil disclosed to the eyes of the colonialists horizons until then forbidden, and revealed to them, piece by piece, the flesh of Algeria laid bare…. Every new Algerian woman unveiled announced to the occupier an Algerian society whose systems of defence were in the process of dislocation, open and breached. Every veil that fell, every body that became liberated from the traditional embrace of the haik, every face that offered itself to the bold and impatient glance of the occupier, was a negative expression of the fact that Algeria was beginning to deny herself and was accepting the rape of the colonizer (42).

But the impression of conquest blurs as soon as Fanon inquires into the West’s cultural imaginary, with its fatal conflation of appearance and essence, phenomenon and reality, generating the Other as guarantee of the Self’s mastery.

Disclosure and Demystification

Fanon understands that for the colonizer in control of the machinery of representation, every mask or disguise assumes that a truth lurks behind it. This translates hermeneutics into technocratic subterfuge. The search for the hidden face is invested with “romantic exoticism,” sexuality, and the will to possess that belies any claim to appreciate the physical beauty of Algerian women so as to share it with others. Fanon argues that the violence of revealing the Algerian woman’s beauty is really directed at something else under the skin, so to speak; the quest is to bare the secret or mystery in order to break her opaque alterity, “making her available for adventure.” What frustrates the European’s desire to possess the Other and fulfill his dream is the habitus attached to the veil: “This women who sees without being seen frustrates the colonizer. There is no reciprocity…. She does not yield herself, does not give herself, does not offer herself” (44). The “secret” is then immediately reduced to ugliness and deformation through a rape that evokes a deceptive sense of freedom for the conqueror, a passivity whose real cause escapes his comprehension—hence, the “sad” passions (e.g., humility, pity) shrouding the Manichean metropolis.
What is striking here in Fanon’s commentary is the way the erotic affect produces a disintegration of the Western psyche. This constellation of symptoms, mapped here as “faults” and “ fertile gaps,” appears in dreams and criminal behavior. The rending of the veil then leads to an act of violent appropriation charged with a “para-neurotic brutality” projected onto the victimized: the “timid” woman hovering in the fantasy becomes transformed into an insatiable nymphomaniac. Fanon describes the dream narrative of the colonizer circumscribing a “field of women” (gynaeceum, harem). In the dream, the woman-victim “screams, struggles like a doe, and as she weakens and faints, is penetrated, martyrized, ripped apart” (46).
Apprehending the decomposition that afflicts the colonizer, sign of an ironic pathos in which one’s capacity for grasping causality or the chain of necessity is diminished, Fanon examines next the reaction of the colonized. Initially the conduct of the occupier “determines the centers of resistance around which a people’s will to survive becomes organized” (47). And so the veil, formerly an inert and undifferentiated element in quotidian existence, acquires a new significance: it becomes a taboo or cult object. Contraposed to the Western focus of pedagogical energies to destroy the veil, the Algerians weave a whole universe of affective passions (obscured causalities) around the veil to thwart the colonizer’s attacks, or at least to bring about an “armed truce.” The principle Fanon applies here guides his entire cognitive and didactic mapping of the alignment of political forces, a principle encapsulated in the maxim: “problems are resolved in the very movement that raises them” (48). In other words, the modes and occasions of struggle entail a whole repertoire of ethical choices and tactics. In response to the ferocity of the French settler and “his delirious attachment to the national territory” (48), the Algerian revolutionary leadership decided to mobilize women to the fullest, urging them to summon a “spirit of sacrifice”as they became part of an extended and highly differentiated revolutionary machine. This decision represents the identity of will and intellect posited by Spinoza in his Ethics (II, 49), precipitating joy-passion born from the common notion, the composition of bodies in mutually useful relationships (Deleuze, Spinoza 54-55).
Women were then incorporated into the guerilla combat units mindful of the differential rhythm of their participation. In the process of constituting this new assemblage, the FLN (Algerian National Liberation Front) realized how the taboo or cult of the veil undermined the strategy of inventing commonalities across gender and class. Reinforcing tradition as a means of resistance led to women’s loss of ease and assurance, negative affects that attenuated their cooperation with the military forces: “Having been accustomed to confinement, her body did not have the normal mobility before a limitless horizon of avenues, of unfolded sidewalks, of houses, of people dodged or bumped into. This relatively cloistered life, with its known, categorized, regulated comings and goings, made any immediate revolution seem a dubious proposition” (49). Determined by the horizon of war and death by torture, the organization of women partisans (efficient collective agency) accumulates knowledge of the microphysics of bodily motion that eventually precipitates the emergence of a new character “without the aid of the imagination,” the coefficient of play and imitation in art. Before Fanon offers examples of women’s creative actuality, he recapitulates the theme of culture change by acknowledging the advent of a new protagonist who will soon dismantle the Manichean theater of regimented subjects deployed in demarcated zones:
It is an authentic birth in a pure state, without preliminary instruction. There is no character to imitate, on the contrary, there is an intense dramatization, a continuity between the woman and the revolutionary. The Algerian woman rises directly to the level of tragedy (50).

Bodies Bearing Stigmata

A hiatus intervenes at this juncture of the essay. Fanon evokes a scenario of passages and shifts of position, maneuvers leading to the urgent decision to involve all women gradually in the daily tasks of the revolution. Attention to the complex architectonics of space, a heuristic cartography of place and environment, where state power and the subject’s right (the conatus of persevering) confront each other, preoccupies Fanon. This allows him to trace the genealogy of freedom and grasp the coextensiveness of natural right (enjoyed by all humans) and power, in a manner close to the spirit of Spinoza’s politics (Spinoza 219-20; Gildin). Ideas of the play of forces replaces passive affects at the mercy of illusion, notions of contingency, and irrationalities that pervade social existence. Freedom inhabits the space of necessity, Fanon suggests, when the mind of the revolutionary organization acquires an idea of the nature of the body politic corresponding to its essence and objective: its affirmation of life, the collective joy of shared agency. This idea becomes manifest in the Algerian masses becoming the subject of revolution in the actuality of combat, in taking political decisions and implementing them.
A geopolitical surveyor, Fanon sketches for us the stage in which the tragic mask or persona assumed by women partisans will demonstrate its irrepressible hubris. It is the revolutionary process that destroys “the protective mantle of the Kasbah,” its “almost organic curtain of safety.” With the fragility of Manichean barriers exposed by decolonizing reason, the Algerian woman sallies forth out of the immobilized quarters into the bare streets of the settlers’ city; in doing so, she destroys the boundaries separating tradition and modernity, the self-reproducing organs of alienation and anomie, established by the colonial state. But even while new linkages are made and new channels of communication and logistics are set up by her own skills and intelligence, a recomposition of internal relations proceeds from within. We witness the shifting velocities of women’s striving to increase her power/right of transforming her place in society. This is the locus where the consensus of national liberation, the power of the multitude expressed to the fullest, transpires:
Each time [she] ventures into the European city, the Algerian woman must achieve victory over herself, over her childish fears. She must consider the image of the occupier lodged somewhere in her mind and in her body, remodel it, initiate the essential work of eroding it, make it inessential, remove something of the shame that is attached to it, devalidate it…. Initially subjective, the breaches made in colonialism are the result of a victory of the colonized over their old fear and over the atmosphere of despair distilled day after day by a colonialism that has incrusted itself with the prospect of enduring forever (52-53).

Embodying Ethics

An ethics of national liberation materializes through the vicissitudes of political antagonisms. Internal relations (compatibilities, elective affinities, disaffiliations) are rearranged on the basis of what promotes the striving for the maximum expression of the collective body’s power. This involves the associative movements of love, desire, and solidarity that generate common notions, purposes, and projects giving direction to the popular struggle. With the overcoming of passions bred by the mystifications and falsehoods that comprise the oppressor’s ideological apparatus, a new agency is born armed for the next phase—the counterhegemonic use of terror. This signals the phase when “the Algerian woman penetrates a little further into the flesh of the Revolution” (54), her actions transvaluing the whole Manichean asymmetry of power. This unprecedented transvaluation inverts the custom-ordained proportion of motion and rest, speed and slowness, that has characterized the position of women’s bodies in urban space. The rationale of this reversal is suggested by Spinoza’s proposition: “Whatsoever increases or diminishes, helps or hinders the power of activity in our body, the idea thereof increases or diminishes, helps or hinders the power of thought in our mind” (Ethics II, P2).
The systematic adoption of political forms of terror cannot be fully understood apart from the qualitative progression of the anticolonial struggle and its corresponding tempo of change. Fanon sums up the stages of deliberation and the nuances of attitudes toward the “circuit of terrorism and counter-terrorism.” He reminds us that from this point on the Algerian woman becomes inseparable from the constitutive force of the militant and conscientized (to use Paulo Freire’s term) multitude. Her “speed” is now synchronized to the momentum of the national-democratic mobilization. This is also the point when Fanon warns against confusing revolutionary terrorism with the anarchist cult of violence, the fetishism of the deed, and the mystique of death. Fanon almost reaches the intensity of Spinoza’s intransigent affirmation of life in the course of defying tyranny, pain, fanaticism, and ignorance: “The fidai [guerilla combatant] has a rendezvous with the life of the Revolution, and with his own life…. To be sure, he does not shrink before the possibility of losing his life or the independence of his country, but at no moment does he chose death” (58). The Algerian woman’s spirit of sacrifice is in fact a commitment to joy identified with an enhanced, active life coincident with the nation’s construction of democratic power, the vehicle for human fulfillment in the decolonized community.
In the section on the reconfiguration of the woman’s body, Fanon sketches an ethics of separation and assemblage that approximates Spinoza’s concept of freedom as the transition from the natural realm (the horizon of war) to civil society where, for Fanon, the nation-people functions as transformative agency. Freedom is the recognition of necessity, of the chain of causality, sparked by intellectual reflection. This passage to freedom is symbolized by the transformation of the Algerian woman’s body as a relation of parts that can be decomposed and reconstituted, parts with proportions of motion and rest regulated by the variety of encounters in life.
In this context, the veil becomes the signifier that actualizes woman’s power/right in a corporeal logic that breaks down the Manichean duality. In the following excerpt, we can discern the motive of Fanon’s conversion of cultural-studies ethnography into an ethical-political reciprocity of body and the world marked by the varying modalities of the expression of woman’s power:
The body of the young Algerian woman, in traditional society, is revealed to her by its coming to maturity and by the veil. The veil covers the body and disciplines it, tempers it, at the very time when it experiences its phase of greatest effervescence. The veil protects, reassures, isolates…. Without the veil she has an impression of her body being cut up into bits, put adrift; the limbs seem to lengthen indefinitely. When the Algerian woman has to cross a street, for a long time she commits errors of judgment as to the exact distance to be negotiated. The unveiled body seems to escape, to dissolve. She has an impression of being improperly dressed, even of being naked. She experiences a sense of incompleteness with great intensity. She has the anxious feeling that something is unfinished, and along with this a frightful sensation of disintegrating. The absence of the veil distorts the Algerian woman’s corporeal pattern. She quickly has to invent new dimensions for her body, new means of muscular control. She has to create for herself an attitude of unveiled-woman-outside. She must overcome all timidity, all awkwardness (for she must pass for a European), and at the same time be careful not to overdo it, not to attract notice to herself. The Algerian woman who walks stark naked into the European city relearns her body, re-establishes it in a totally revolutionary fashion (59).

The organizing skill and resourcefulness recounted here exemplifies not individual ingenuity but the contrapuntal play of bodies and political milieu where what used to be merely accidental encounters of veiled women evolves into organized ethical striving for expression of their united power. This accords with the democratic mobilizing principle expressed by Spinoza: “If two come together and unite their strength, they have jointly more power, and consequently more right against other forces in nature, than either of them alone; and the more there be that join in alliance, the more right they will collectively possess” (Political Treatise, Chapter II, paragraph 13). The multitude as substrate of change now incorporates women, a major component of self-determination or national autonomy, amplifying the potential of the whole nation. Women thus epitomize the power and intelligence of the masses sprung from the inexhaustible matrix of the national-liberation struggle.

Toward Cultural Revolution

The final testimony to how the necessity of revolutionary combat functions as the condition for freedom of the colonized subaltern coincides with the motion of women’s bodies in the streets of Algiers. Fanon describes the way women concealed bombs and weapons, illustrating how the organizing of composable parts fused spontaneous and planned elements, integrating will and contingency. The veil’s combination and permutation of opposites disrupts the conventional dichotomy of tradition and modernity. It also displaces the colonial contract, the normative codes of duty and obligation, into a field of needs and exigencies defined by the overdetermined historical situation:
Removed and reassumed again and again, the veil has been manipulated, transformed into a technique of camouflage, into a means of struggle. The virtually taboo character assumed by the veil in the colonial situation disappeared almost entirely in the course of the liberation struggle….
The Algerian woman’s body, which in an initial phase was pared down, now swelled. Whereas in the previous period the body had to be made slim and disciplined to make it attractive and seductive, it now had to be squashed, made shapeless and even ridiculous. This, as we have seen, is the phase during which she undertook to carry bombs, grenades, machine-gun clips.
The enemy, however, was alerted, and in the streets one witnessed what became a commonplace spectacle of Algerian women glued to the wall, on whose bodies the famous magnetic detectors, the “frying pans,” would be passed. Every veiled woman, every Algerian woman became suspect. There was no discrimination. This was the period during which men, women, children, the whole Algerian people, experienced at one and the same time their national vocation and the recasting of the new Algerian society (61-62).

We witness in this revisiting of a phase in the national-liberation struggle the making of the Algerian masses via the composition of multiple relations between women’s bodies and their circumstantial inscription. Fanon’s “genealogy” is really a recording of the passage of new subjects catalyzed by the “historic dynamism of the veil.” Determined by beliefs associated with tradition, the veil functioned at first as a mechanism of resistance, opposed to the occupier’s design to “unveil” Algeria. This reaction entrenched passive affects sprung from uncomprehended external causes. In the second phase, Fanon summarizes, the veil was instrumentalized to solve the new problems created by the struggle. The veil refunctioned thus unfolds a horizon of composable relations bringing people together, enacting in the process the constitution of social power itself and its consensual legitimacy. Now with the power of acting determined by adequate ideas (knowledge of the nexus of causality), the theology of Manichean polarity dissolves and a new political organism is created that transforms what is “natural” into social history. The ethical striving underwritten by the anticolonial revolution charts the passage from the immobilized “natural” Manichean order of segregated habitats and locations to the free organizing of capacities, exploding the fallacies of bureaucratic representation, the reified market, and the injustice of the imperial social contract.
This Spinozistic reading of Fanon’s text, arguably a hermeneutic thought-experiment never tried before, pursues the line of inquiry made by Antonio Negri in his book The Savage Anomaly. In Spinoza’s political theory, we find the primacy of collective human praxis, an expression of the constitutive modality of the multitude as a determined being.
Fanon’s vision of cultural revolution implicit in A Dying Colonialism testifies to what Irene Gendzier calls Fanon’s evolution from the psychologist to the political militant. The transmogrification of European humanism in the torture of political prisoners triggered this shift. We have seen how in “Algeria Unveiled” and other essays Fanon’s disruption of the separatist, apartheid logic of colonialism harmonizes with a radical transformative politics antithetical to the liberal pluralism of mainstream Cultural Studies practitioners. Given this brief comment on Fanon’s insight into the productive social dynamic of the national-liberation project, one which is extremely relevant to the crisis of the South in our globalized corporate milieu, I venture this hypothesis: Fanon’s value for us today inheres in this discursive practice of a cultural politics that goes beyond the populist articulation of heterogeneous forces along a “chain of equivalence” (insofar as such equivalence is already embodied or contained as a causal motivation and impetus within the semiotics of language, polemical prose, rhetoric and a wide range of speech-acts) to advance and illuminate the ethical drama of the multitude in the actual revolutionary process. For Fanon, culture, not just language or discourse, is key to the revolutionary transformation of the whole communicative situation in which power (potentia), the capacity for joyful experience, is rooted in adequate ideas. By “adequate ideas” is meant the appreciation of the body’s infinite capacities attuned to our reasoning power. The framework of intelligibility for Fanon is the national-liberation paradigm where the recognition of Others overcomes the seemingly permanent alienation of the Manichean world of colonial subjugation. In this trajectory of cultural inquiry, word and deed become one. nAn example of this dialectical fusion of theory and practice may be discerned in the historical investigations of Fanon’s fellow Caribbean intellectual, C.L.R. James.

Beyond Postcolonial Orthodoxy
C. L. R. James is a great West Indian of complex spirit…a unique Marxist thinker whose dialectic is attuned, it seems to me, to necessity for individual originality as much as it is involved in analyses of historical process in the life of the people or the body-politic.

–Wilson Harris

Migrating from the academic periphery to the center, the current orthodoxy of postcolonial studies has advanced to the point at which certain doctrines concerning hybridity, syncretism, ambivalence, and so on, mimic ironically what they are supposed to denounce: the master discourses of hegemonic Europe and North America. To rectify this tendency, the authors of the influential textbook The Empire Writes Back proclaim that imperial suppressions work “through as well as upon individuals and societies” and transcend “the egregious classification of ‘First’ and ‘Third’ World,” thus claiming all space/time as its field of investigation. In The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, the same authors–Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin–proceed to revise the old “civilizing mission” of the West by mandating the desideratum of concentrating on lineages. Consequently, the study of settler colony cultures becomes paradigmatic: “Settler colonies, precisely because their filiative metaphors of connection problematise the idea of resistance as a simple binarism, articulate the ambivalent, complex and processual nature of all imperial relations” (1995: 3-4). 1 Following the poststructuralist tenets of Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard, the discursive
practices of the colonizer are assumed to limit opposition peremptorily so that all resistance is fated to be complicit in domination, and all we can hope for is what postcolonial guru Homi Bhabha (1995) calls the “Third Space of enunciation,” the “in-between” of Derrida’s ecriture, of translation and interstitial negotiation, the “discontinuous intertextual temporality of cultural difference.” 2
I want to argue here that to the disjuncture between postcolonial undecidability, ethnic/nationalist essentialism, and what Paul Gilroy (1992) hypothesizes as a “black Atlantic” transcendence of boundaries can be counterposed the practice of the diasporic thinker C.L.R. James. His is neither a third way nor a reconciliation of opposites. His body of work illustrates how the political and artistic engagements of a decolonizing subject can refunction the master discourse of “dialectical materialism” without being complicit in restoring or recuperating domination. Such a discourse (the legacy of the European Enlightenment from Spinoza and Hegel to Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky) is not just enunciated by the subaltern but remolded to speak to/about circumstances and protagonists beyond those addressed by its originary theoreticians. What James accomplished is not just the invention of a counterdiscourse, a dialogic performance, suitable for “flexible” accumulation. It is a reaffirmation of the theme of “universality” against Cold War bipolarity and the pervasive fragmentation and reification of life in late capitalism. In the wake of the demise of Soviet “state capitalism” and globalized capitalism’s commodification of the whole planet (Magdoff 1992), James’s reconstruction of the materialist dialectic valorizes three motifs in his analysis of culture and society: contradiction as the basis of historical motion, the agency of the masses as creative and transformative force, and the practice of freedom as the embodiment of universality. Of these three, the agency of the masses and how it negates the need for mediation (by the party, bureaucrats, etc.) becomes pivotal to James’s cultural politics. It informs the narrative of complex dynamic forces in The Black Jacobins (1938). It enables James to avoid the perils of economism, class reductionism, voluntarism/sectarianism, and empirical determinism when he reflects on the Cold War conjuncture in the posthumously published American Civilization (1995).
The question of mass agency is linked to a controlling principle that governs James’s project of subverting state capitalism whether Stalinist or liberal: the centrality of movement in everything, in particular the dialectical transition from the old to the new. Transcontinental imperialism cannot be overcome without grasping motion in space and time. Disjunctions or distances in space becomes intelligible when the process of becoming (the ec-stases of human temporality) is reinscribed in the historicist organon that James distills in a sentence: “We can orient for the future only by comprehension of the present in the light of the past” (1994: 168). It took him almost half a century to realize this diasporic orientation in his life and thought, that “it is not quality of goods and utility which matter, but movement; not where you are or what you have, but where you have come from, where you are going, and the rate at which you are getting there” (Paget and Buhle 1992: 39).

Contextualizing Theory

Before examining this principle of becoming and the themes of universality and contradiction in James’s texts, a biographical parenthesis may be useful. A product of British Caribbean colonial education, James’s love of English literature and his devotion to cricket as an art combined with his involvement in Trinidad’s organized labor movement. His first book, The Life of Captain Cipriani (1932), also laid claim to the foundations of West Indian nationalism in the interwar period. When he moved in 1932 to England, he was exposed to the Trotskyist movement and became an independent socialist critical of Stalisnism and the Comintern, as shown in his book World Revolution (1938). In essence, his critique of authoritarian forms of rule centered on the notion of a vanguard party that would substitute for the revolutionary creative energies of the people and of the popular forces of the left around the world. What complicates James’s Trotskyism is his pan-Africanism: his collaboration with George Padmore, Paul Robeson, and the Guyanese activist Ras Makonnen linked him to a historical process begun by W.E.B.DuBois and the Pan-African Congress and by Marcus Garvey; through this James exerted influence on Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. James’s play Toussaint L’Ouverture was sponsored by the League for the Protection of Ethiopia.
Transported to the metropolis, the West Indian colonial subject discovers the African subtext in the palimpsest of world proletarian revolution. James’s book The Black Jacobins (1938) demonstrates his historical-materialist breadth of vision by connecting the French Revolution and the slave uprising in Haiti with the history of the Central African peoples on which the Atlantic slave trade depended. The Trotskyist concept of Bonapartism is applied to L’Ouverture, according to Stuart Hall, so that the Haitian revolution is read “as a mass uprising in which the leader became trapped in bureaucracy and was slowly transformed into a self-effacing dictator who capitulated, contained, and defused the popular revolution” (1992: 9). Hall’s description is not entirely correct; the Haitian masses completed the war of independence by destroying all the whites in the island.3
Imprisoned in Ellis Island at the height of McCarthyism in 1953, James completed his study of Herman Melville, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways. He read Moby Dick as an allegory of power relations, and expounded on how the ship symbolized the social relations of production at a certain period of U.S. history. Like his later work Beyond a Boundary, where cricket assumes the status of an emblematic game in which nature is reshaped into an dramatic artifice and given historical substance by the anti-imperialist struggle, Mariners can be read as a postcolonial discourse in which complicity and resistance dovetail. On the other hand, James’s obsessive concern with the tension between leadership, intellectuals, and masses (between Ahab, Ishmael, and the crew of the Pequod) derives from his preoccupation with historical motion, universality, and contradiction. In his engagement with American popular culture, with sports, carnival and West Indian politics, James applied a totalizing intellect to discern how a cultural practice crystallized the manifold historical forces at work in any given period. Whether it was the rise of the bourgeoisie during Shakespeare’s time, or the emergence of new productive forces at the moment when Melville and Whitman wrote or when Picasso painted Guernica; or the appearance of new mobilized energies of whole peoples, as in Haiti or the Gold Coast of Africa, James had an intuitive sense of the triangular play between historical moment, masses, and artist/intellectual. One might say that he privileged the totality of the revolutionary process of change, the sublation of the old into the new. He valued above all the resourceful, spontaneous, and creative force of the masses, the political energies of the working people, of a collective power mobilized during periods of crisis–this, I think, is the kernel of James’s dialectical materialism. Was this simply appropriated from the Hegelian-Marxist tradition? Is the privileging of mass agency (reminiscent of Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of centralized, bureaucratic leadership) a mere abrogation of Hegelian statism and vulgar Marxist technicist instrumentalism?

The Incarnation of Dialectics

Such questions can be understood better if we see their rearticulation in James’s magisterial review of world history in the 1947 essay, “Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity,” and its foregrounding of the telos of universality. Here James rearticulates Hegelianized Marxian themes toward what I would call a “mass line” orientation, which would later on find its historical crucible and incarnation in the 1962 discourse, “From Toussaint L’Ouverture to Fidel Castro.”
Echoing the Communist Manifesto, the 1947 essay begins with the collapse of capitalist civilization and the bankruptcy of bourgeois thought, humanity finally freed from illusions and faced now with “the real conditions of life.” Not only do Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia personify barbarism, but so do the victorious Allies presumably safeguarding the legacy of Western civilization. Dialectics enables James to grasp the fundamental contradiction between the abundant “possibilities of living” and the increasing “terror of mass annihilation” with the onset of the Cold War. Illustrating the law of the change from quantity to quality, James evokes the antithesis to counterrevolutionary barbarism: “the readiness for sacrifice, the democratic instincts and creative power of the great masses of the people” (1992: 159). Philosophy has not only become worldly but the world faced by either barbarism or socialism has become philosophical–that is, humanity posits freedom and happiness as conceivable only in the integrity of its struggle to transcend its subjection to nature and achieve a truly concrete universality. Such universality is prefigured in Marx’s notion of “species-being” in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.
James reviews the worldwide failure to realize the potential of “species-being” from the time of Christianity to the Protestant Reformation. He holds that the dialectic of concrete and abstract embedded in the logical principle of universality has been short-circuited by Hegel’s idea of “mediation.” These mediations are symptoms of the failure to grasp truth as the whole: not only in human actions but also in people’s needs and aspirations. It was Marx who succeeded in theorizing absence and negativity by a historical-materialist method, that is, by resolving the problem of mediation with the intervention of praxis. For Marx, James asserts, “these concrete revolutionary stages are the work of the great masses of the people forever seeking the concretion of universality as the development of the productive forces creates the objective circumstances and the subjective desires which move them” (1992: 166).
Productive forces–are we then caught in a productivist trope or paradigm? No, because James reinscribes development within the orbit of social praxis moving between abstract possibility and concrete necessity. In tracing the development of Western civilization from primitive Christianity through Renaissance humanism to the rise of merchant capitalism, he focuses on slave revolts, peasant insurrections, the agitation of free workers in the medieval guilds, all of which culminated in the establishment of humanism and the national state of the absolute monarchy: “mediations of the mass proletarian desire for universality no longer in heaven but on earth.” This triumph of bourgeois liberalism, however, only sharpened the contradictions in the “mass quest for universality in action and in life,” for James “the moving force of history” (1992: 170). Discerning the contradiction between abstract and concrete in the English Civil War and the French Revolution, James underscores the rupture that suspends the need for mediation (the vanguard party, elite, charismatic intellectuals): “If out of the individual’s responsibility for his own salvation, there had leapt democracy, out of his political freedom, there leapt communism” (1992: 171).
The last mediation to be surpassed is the Hegelian State, Weberian bureaucracy, and the illusion of pluralist/liberal representative democracy under the aegis of capital. James exposes here Hegel’s limitations and the teleological idealism of Absolute Spirit. He opts for Marx’s mode of conceptualizing the “objective movement” in the process of production, an approach that is not “productivist” in the positivistic sense but one that coincides with “the quest for universality in the need for the free and full development of all the inherent and acquired characteristics of the individual in productive and intellectual labour.” Such a process of socialized labor would also abolish the fateful division between manual and intellectual labor, the theoretical foundation of postcolonial notions of interjacency, hybridity, etc. James is uncompromising in affirming that “the quest for universality, embodied in the masses, constituting the great mass of the nation, forbids any mediation” (1992: 173-74). Does this then imply that the subject can no longer be viewed as an effect of difference, whether linguistic or ontological?
Difference as contradiction still exists amid globalization, but the point is to rearticulate it within a differentiated concrete totality. James cites a passage from Marx and Engels’s The German Ideology, written a hundred years ago: “Only with this universal development of productive forces is a universal intercourse between men established which produces in all nations simultaneously the phenomenon of the ‘propertyless’ mass (universal competition), makes each nation dependent on the revolutions of the others, and finally has put world-historical, empirically universal individuals in place of local ones” (1992: 179). If revolutionary politics, for James, requires linking the “needs of the objective situation” with the state of development of the masses, what is needed to renew the “vast wreck of the modern world” is the “total mobilization of all forces in society.”
Toward Concrete Universality

Facing the vast wreckage of imperialism fifteen years after, James, in “From Toussaint to Fidel Castro,” pursues the antinomy between concrete universality and its geopolitical mediations in the specific region of the Caribbean.4 Here Castro’s revolution epitomizes the “ultimate stage of a Caribbean quest for national identity” (1992: 296). The two poles of the antithesis in Caribbean history, the sugar plantation and Negro slavery, become figures in a constellation (to use Walter Benjamin’s term) for the traditional colonial order and for modernity respectively. The Haitian revolution was a mediation whose ambivalence disappeared in 1914 when the U.S. invasion ushered in the need for “Negritude,” a moment in the quest for universality. The rediscovery of Vodun in Haiti marked Negritude as a peculiar West Indian contribution, one supplemented by the invention of Cubanidad after the Platt Amendment subordinated Cuba to U.S. supremacy. In the interwar period, James presents four figures whose mediations embodied the struggle of the West Indian masses for independence: Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, Aime Cesaire, and Arthur Cipriani. It was Cesaire’s poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939) that exploded the axiom of linear, uniform evolution and introduced the dialectical leap: “that salvation for the West Indies lies in Africa, the original home and ancestry of the West Indian people” (1992: 302).5 Marx’s vision of the beginning of the “real history of humanity” is expressed in Cesaire as the convergence of African and Western worlds and the past and future of mankind, this convergence springing from (in James’s words) “the self-generated and independent being and motion” of the Africans themselves.
While James credits “Negritude” as the key mediation between Africa and the West Indian masses, Africa itself (contingently personified in the persons of Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Lumumba, Nyerere, and others) becomes integrated into West Indian life through the vehicle of mass communication: “There was therefore in West Indian society an inherent antagonism between the consciousness of the black masses and the reality of their lives, inherent in that it was constantly produced and reproduced not by agitators but by the very conditions of the society itself. It is the modern media of mass communication which have made essence into existence” (1992: 307). In effect, it is finance capitalism and the world market that provide the conditions of possibility for the West Indian national community to emerge, for West Indian artists like George Lamming and Wilson Harris to accept “complete responsibility for the West Indies.” James concludes by celebrating popular culture as the incarnation of the new things. In James’s planetary view, West Indians, emerging from “the pass and fell incensed points/Of mighty opposites” that define the Cold War, will contribute to the comity of nations: “In dance, in the innovation in musical instruments, in popular ballad singing unrivalled anywhere in the world, the mass of the people are not seeking a national identity, they are expressing one” (1992: 314). By counterpointing Western imperial barbarism with the rebellious subjectivity of the colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, James rediscovers the germinal Marxist concept of the “people” immanent in “empirically universal individuals.”
Contrary to Sylvia Wynter’s claim that James’s poiesis is exhaustively distilled by a multicultural Caliban who rejects the nationalitarian paradigm or nation model, James himself posits the historical specificity of West Indian revolutions (symbolized by Toussaint, Castro, the struggle against the Chaguaramas U.S. base in Trinidad) as necessary for comprehending the notion of universality. I would argue that the articulation of West Indian identity with global capitalism–eloquently enunciated in the 1966 lecture “The Making of the Caribbean People”–is the move James makes to recover the national-popular (to borrow Gramsci’s terminology) from its subsumption in elite vanguardism and the putative “labor-centric categories of orthodox Marxism.”6 But to delegitimate capital accumulation and its privileging of instrumental rationality over the autonomy of the body, we need to inquire not only into disciplinary regimes of power/knowledge but also more crucially into commodity-fetishism and the ideological apparatus of reification and postcolonial mystification. I think it is untenable to ascribe to James the epistemological presuppositions of Foucault and poststructuralist thought in general. Bourgeois power based on consumption and circulation of goods doesn’t spring primarily from the head/body opposition, just as the tension between the categories of race and class cannot be so easily dissolved by the mediations of jazz, calypso, and the reggae of Rastafarianism. Mass consumerism cannot so facilely displace the labor-centered paradigm Wynter rejects, despite the consensus on the protean virtues of James’s intelligence and the “pluridefined social totem pole” of Trinidad.
Engaging with Heideggerian deconstruction and the translations of alterity in response to the normative texts of Eurocentric “Orientalism,” critics like Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, and their followers all privilege the peculiar intimacy between colonizer and colonized. It is instructive to counterpose James’s unabashed totalizing of ethnic difference and contingent diversity immanent in his historiographical practice. I do not mean by this the counterdiscourse of “marvellous realism” (originally broached by the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier as “real maravilloso” in El Reine de este Mundo) proposed by Jacques Stephen Alexis, Michael Dash, and others, or the creolized differend of Commonwealth artists. Rather, the deconstruction of European master-narratives is performed through shifting the concern on limits–how human freedom in making history is “limited by the necessities of environment and conjuncture of circumstances.”

Triangulating New Worlds

At this juncture, I would like to call attention to an interview of James in the mid-seventies in which the crucial themes of mass agency and universality are staged conjuncturally. James the historian conceived of his role as studying the struggle of classes (a political, not an economistic, category), which is indivisible with the mass movements–“the emotions, activities, and experiences of the great mass of the population”–from an international perspective. Just as the sliding of signifiers cannot go on forever, the power of the individual, no matter how great, is strictly limited. The Black Jacobins opened the field of inquiry into the subsumption of individuals into race/class within imperialism. James’s point of departure in analyzing the Haitian revolution was his belief that “the center of the Black revolution was Africa, not the Caribbean” (1983: 267). A certain “native” intransigence saved James from succumbing to the temptation of “parliamentarism”; his association with George Padmore and his activities in the International African Service Bureau enabled him to make connections with African nationalists. Anti-imperialist solidarity allowed him to appreciate Cesaire’s “Negritude” as “not only a revolt against assimilation, but a poetical assertion of an African civilization” (1983: 270), analogous to the emancipatory projects of Marcus Garvey and Frantz Fanon.
What James stresses in the African context is not the antiracist or separatist cultural nationalism of the natives but rather the way British capitalism introduced slavery in the sugar plantations and how it brought its own “gravediggers” into its heartland. He insists that it is not economic relations that generate social movements but “the relations between classes,” so that West Indians living in Britain attack bourgeois society not because they are West Indians but because this particular society “trained them to act in the most advanced possible way.” In short, black people in the imperialist metropole have “succeeded in posing the question of the revolution” (1983: 272-73). James can unreservedly take this stance because of his conviction that the Haitian Revolution played a “decisive” role in the destruction of mercantilism and the abolition of the capitalist slave trade. He compares his task of demonstrating the role blacks played in the creation of modern Europe with DuBois’ endeavor to show how black people helped create modern America. In prophesying that capitalism was coming to an end, James might have exceeded the limits of his vocation as historian.
But I think the lesson he was trying to communicate is that the postcolonial strategy of deconstructing subjectivity concedes too much to the schematism of ideological texts and neglects the dynamics of transition whose understanding hinges on an analytic method that he derives from Marx’s Capital: “We learned that when something new takes place, if you want to understand it, you must begin from the highest peak of the previous form” (1983: 271). I think this presupposes again the problem of working through and beyond mediations in order to grasp the imperative of universality. This is the methodological axiom underlying James’s prolegomenon to his study of American civilization, the 1944 essay entitled “The American People in ‘One World': An Essay in Dialectical Materialism.”
Is James guilty of a populist/demagogic fetishizing of the masses and thus instigating a cult of anarchic spontaneity? I do not think so. In The Black Jacobins, James describes the “remarkable liveliness of intellect and vivacity of spirit” that characterized the slaves in the eighteenth century. But without the leadership of those “who have been able to profit by the cultural advantages of the system” (such as Toussaint, Christophe, Dessalines), their revolt would have suffered the same fate as the Mackandal rebellion and other aborted uprisings. James analyzes not so much the economic status of slaves and plantation aristocrats but rather the changing alignment and disposition of various forces in Haiti at the time before the outbreak of the French Revolution. What he was unfolding was a plot of education in which the slaves learned “how liberty and equality were won or lost” (1963: 82) through mistakes, failures, and the ineluctable pressure of circumstances. James takes into account not just the racial conflicts but the specific maneuvers in which participants registered the limits and possibilities of their actions: “Political treachery is not a monopoly of the white race, and this abominable betrayal so soon after the insurrections shows that political leadership is a matter of programme, strategy and tactics, and not the colour of those who lead it” (1963: 106). Overall James charted the oscillating, complex interactions between leaders and masses, between black slaves and mulattos and their French masters, between the colonial administrators and the bureaucrats in Paris; this triangulation becomes the midwife to the birth of the people, the praxis of universality.

Articulating Masses and Leaders

What I want to highlight here is James’s all-sided, tactfully calculated, dramatic representation of Toussaint’s character, its weakness and strength, in Chapter XI of The Black Jacobins. The class or socioeconomic determinants of Toussaint’s personality are drawn with nuanced deliberation, taking care neither to glorify nor understate. After examining Toussaint’s correspondence, James offers his judgment: Toussaint’s “vision of precisely what is required is unerring, his taste is faultless, and the constantly varying approach is always suffused with revolutionary passion, a large humanity and a never-failing distinction” (1963: 253). But this seemingly static portrait and attributes are then set into motion when Toussaint makes the wrong judgment to execute Moise, his nephew and leader of several insurrections, for his sympathy with the black slaves in the North Province. Toussaint’s rationale then was to assure the French plantatocracy and Bonaparte that he would keep the blacks and mulattos in line. James sharpens the contrast between Moise and Toussaint by transcribing their voices. Moise first:

Whatever my old uncle may do, I cannot bring myself to be the executioner of my colour. It is always in the interests of the metropolis that he scolds me; but these interests are those of the whites, and I shall only love them when they have given me back the eye that they made me lose in battle. (1963: 275)

Toussaint replies to a notable creole of San Domingo:

I took up arms for the freedom of my colour, which France alone proclaimed, but which she has no right to nullify. Our liberty is no longer in her hands: it is in our own. We will defend it or perish. (1963: 281)

James notes the “strange duality” starkly displayed here, the loyalty to France coexisting with the assertion of autonomy and self-sufficiency–an emblem of the law of “uneven and combined development.”
But in the following remarks, we see James again grappling with the drive for universality and how the strategy for national liberation of the colonized has to somehow mediate between class, ethnicity (emergent nationality), and race. James praises Toussaint’s long-range perspective: he is “one of those few men for whom power is a means to an end, the development of civilization, the betterment of his fellow creatures,” a power committed to realizing the full potential of species-being. And yet his disregard of the masses and their level of consciousness, his authoritarian and aristocratic habitus, his failure to critique the abstract universality of the ideals of the French bourgeois revolution, his naivete about Napoleon–all constitute a flaw not tragic enough but still lethal in its consequence:

[Toussaint] could not admit to himself and to his people that it was easier to find decency, gratitude, justice, and humanity in a cage of starving tigers than in the councils of imperialism…. It was in method, and not in principle, that Toussaint failed. The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental (1963: 282-83)

But the irony is that in the last chapter of The Black Jacobins, entitled “The War of Independence,” the error became Toussaint’s grave. This statement of Toussaint’s habit from hindsight becomes double-edged: “in the hour of danger Toussaint, uninstructed as he was, could find the language and accent of Diderot, Rousseau and Raynal, of Mirabeau, Robespierre and Danton” (1963: 198). That constituted both his virtue and his blindness–his blindness to what was emergent, growing, fighting to be born. Only by seizing race, nationality, and class as “unity of opposites” and rallying the masses of black people (including the mulattos) against the slaveowners and the French Empire could Dessalines and Christophe succeed in liberating the country. And for that it was necessary that Toussaint, the hybrid transcultural mediation, be removed from the scene.
At this juncture, we see that the allegory of The Black Jacobins functions as the residual subtext of both the two aforementioned essays whose purpose is to show the quest for universality immanent in historical experience. Within James’s Marxist framework, “universality” can be concretized only in communism won by a permanent world revolution. While it is true that James (like most postcolonial intellectuals) worked within the Western cultural orbit and expressed the adversarial consciousness of subjugated people of color, it is not quite correct to say, as Edward Said does, that James unqualifiedly identified Europe as his own world, even if James himself stated that “fundamentally we are a people whose literacy and aesthetic past is rooted in Western European civilization” (quoted in Said 1993: 248). James precisely urged their antinomic conjunction; the symbiosis or synergesis of the West Indian and European was, for James, always fraught and contentious, without any guaranteed closure. And contrary to Said’s allegation that James “saw the central pattern of politics and history in linear terms” (253), one has to emphasize the interruptions and returns, a syncopation of unpredictable breaks that precisely rendered unnecessary the mediations by enigmatic, free-floating signifiers or the iron cage of administrators.
A turning point in James’s cultural politics occurred when he broke away from the mainstream American Trotskyist movement in 1950 and, together with Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee, formed the Johnson-Forest Tendency. From James’s experience in the independence movement of Trinidad, the struggles of African Americans in the southern states and in the factories of Detroit evolved the Tendency’s emphasis on workers’ self-activity; their autonomous rank-and-file revolts made the prerequisite of a vanguard party superfluous. In State Capitalism and World Revolution, James considered the Ford assembly line as “the prototype of production relations in fascist Germany and Stalinist Russia” (Cleaver 1979: 46). The Soviet Union was not just a degenerate worker’s state but thoroughly state capitalist, its bureaucracy nothing else but “American bureaucracy carried to its ultimate and logical conclusion.”
Linking his vision of mass insurrection in Haiti that overtook any conscious design of the leaders or intellectuals to a quasi-anarchosyndicalist trend, James substituted the “disciplined spontaneity” of workers for the mediation of a vanguard party: “The proletariat always breaks up the old organization by impulse, a leap…. The new organization, the new organism will begin with spontaneity, i.e., free creative activity, as its necessity” (Cleaver 1979: 47). This was a drastic revision of the fundamental proposition found in Notes on Dialectics: “The Universal of socialism is the free proletariat” (1980: 152). In a letter to Constance Webb in 1944 while he was studying Hegel, James wrote: “The Marxist prepares the workers subjectively for what history prepares them objectively” (1996: 148). In Modern Politics ten years later, James again privileged the self-activity of the “great masses of people,” participatory radical democracy in action (1960: 42). The sociologist Kevin Anderson points out that in the 1948 study of Hegel, James synthesized Lenin’s ideas on organization and the “spontaneous activity and self-movement” or “free creative activity of the proletariat” within their own mass formations (1995, 200-01). Universality, in James’s hermeneutics, epitomizes the kernel of dialectics, the interpenetration of opposites, multileveled contradictions as the impetus of historical motion (Ollman1993). The search for universality begins and ends with the collective praxis of the people, popular energies unified and harnessed to explode commodity-fetishism and the legitimacy of unequal property/power relations (on “universality” from a critical-realist perspective, see Bhaskar 1993).

Naming the Beast

By the end of World War II, James traced the genealogy of United States imperialism from its beginning, the break with the “triangular trade of mercantilism,” through its intervention in Asia and Latin America, up to its victory against fascist barbarism. The profoundly synthesizing reach of the essay “The American People in ‘One World'” (1944) affords us a foretaste of the prescience invested in the 1947 discourse on “Dialectical Materialism.” It also foreshadows what James speculated as the impending apocalypse of world capitalism rehearsed in the 1962 Appendix to The Black Jacobins, which juxtaposes the figures of Toussaint and Fidel Castro embedded in the tradition of capital’s “gravediggers.” I would like to quote a lengthy passage trom this 1944 essay to illustrate the antipostcolonial unequivocality typical of James’s intellect:

American imperialism there becomes the chief bulwark of the capitalist system as a whole…. The colossal power of American imperialism is the apex of a process–the rise, maturity and decline of the capitalist world market. In the eighteenth century, “our country,” in the triumph of its industrial bourgeoisie, released the great political potentialities of the European proletariat, the mortal enemy of the European bourgeoisie. Today “our country” can release nothing. Driven by the contradictions of its own capitalistic development and of capitalism as a whole, it is now the enemy of hundreds of millions of people everythwere. The appearance of liberator of peoples is a necessary disguise for the essential reality of American imperialism, epitome of decadent capitalism, mobilized for the defense of privilege and property against a world crying to be free.
The laws of dialectics are to be traced not in metaphysical abstractions such as 168 years of “our country,” but in economic development and the rise, maturity, and decline of different social classes within the expansion and construction of the capitalist world market. The greatest progressive force in the eighteenth century, the nationalism of “our country,” is in the twentieth century the greatest of obstacles to social progress. In accordance with a fundamental dialectical law, the progressive “nationalism” of eighteenth-century America is transformed into its opposite, the reactionary “internationalism” of American imperialism…. American imperialism cannot escape its entanglements in foreign class struggles even if it would…. In our compact world, successful revolt in any area will sound the tocsin for the center more violently than the American revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth century shook metropolitan Europe. And the social crisis in America must bring onto the scene the American proletariat. (1994: 175-76)

The submerged narrative line of this essay follows the twists and turns found in the 1938 masterpiece, The Black Jacobins. I would like to emphasize three paramount theses enunciated here. First, the rise of the world market converts the whole world into an arena of revolutionary struggle so that the challenge in the periphery immediately registers in the metropolitan center. Second, the mode of imperial accumulation has generated the American proletariat which inherits the international revolutionary tradition and also utilizes “the great American tradition of the past” in the struggle for socialism. Third, the agencies of transformative politics aim for concrete specific objects that eventually generate worldwide repercussions: “The farmers, mechanics and artisans, the workers and Negro slaves, pursued strictly immediate and concrete aims and made world history” (1994, 177). The cunning of Reason becomes immanent in quotidian events, rendering even defeats and reversals stepping-stones in the oppressed people’s quest for universality, i.e., for freedom and happiness.
The universality we confront daily in the twentieth century is that of the world market which has compressed time/space through mass communications and technological innovations in travel. For James, however, that signifies the universality of commodity-fetishism and the totalitarian state. All the same, the phenomenon is constituted by multiple contradictions. James’s unfinished project, American Civilization, is precisely the endeavor to anatomize the universality known as United States imperialism, its essence (only grasped through theoretical practice) and appearances, the phenomenology of everyday life.
The fundamental thrust of American Civilization is “the creation of an integral human being.” This is predicated on the idea of the good life associated with freedom and happiness as revolutionary goals. Closely identified with African Americans and women as social forces, those goals have been compromised, mocked, postponed, sidetracked, or even negated by capitalist “mass production” and its drift toward barbarism. The original ideals of liberty, pursuit of happiness, and free individuality have now been shipwrecked in the economic and social realities of the Depression in the thirties and the relentless barbarism of the Cold War.
In assessing the impotence of American intellectuals, James arrived at the only force that can resist the worldwide barbarism: “the instinctive rebelliousness and creative force of the modern masses” (1993, 226). Unlike Weber and the resort to charismatic leaders, James pits the masses against a world-system of bureaucratic state structures. What climaxes James’s analytic of the contradiction between aspirations and realities is the chapter on “Popular Arts and Modern Society,” in which modern film, newspaper, comic strip, jazz, and radio are seen as “an expression of mass response to society, crises, and the nature and limitations of that response” (1993: 122). This contradiction is embodied in the figure of the gangster, “the persistent symbol of the national past which has no meaning–the past in which energy, determination, bravery were certain to get a man somewhere in the line of opportunity… [The] gangster who displays all the old heroic qualities in the only way he can display them, is the derisive symbol of the contrast between ideals and reality” (1993: 127). The rage and violence one finds in popular film constitute an index of “the mass exposing…its desire to smash the impasse in which it finds itself”–in short, a cathartic release of the repression of the masses by a disciplinary, surveillance system, what Henri Lefebvre (1971) calls the “bureaucratic society of controlled consumption.”

Re-discovering Africa

In 1960, James turned to the dynamics of the revolution in the Gold Coast of Africa and reinstated the conceptual primacy of the term “people” in the lexicon of socialist political theory (1971: 133; on James’s views on Ghana’s Nkrumah, see Marable 1986). Thus when he invokes the American “people” in his brand of reception-aesthetics, James returns to the guiding insight of The Black Jacobins derived from Lenin and Michelet in which the dialectic between leaders and masses is calibrated with astute realism. The dialectical method is premised on the “concrete analysis” of material conditions that determine the limits and possibilities of action. James’s analysis of popular association and mass organizing together with their symbolic expression is thus able to imbue the “national-popular” striving for revolutionary hegemony with the intractable “thickness” of historicity.
But historicism in American Civilization is neither antiquarian nor monumental because it is oriented to present imperatives and agendas. It acquires a prophetic thrust when James underscores its utopian telos: happiness. What distinguishes his socioanalytic of the American character is an abundant faith in its potential: “[The American people] combine an excessive individualism, a sense of the primary value of their own individual personality, with an equally remarkable need, desire and capacity for social cooperative action” (1993: 273). Because this volatile, aggressive individualism has been suppressed by technocratic corporate statism, a profound social crisis has ripened: anger and fear “irresistibly explode in private life.” Such explosions are registered not in refined intellectual exchanges but in popular culture. The twin drive for autonomy and for association, for asserting a distinctive personality and for “intimate communion with his fellows,” cannot be fulfilled within the regime of commodity-fetishism or mass consumerism, hence the crisis and its symptoms in gangster movies, in the private lives of women, blacks, and intellectuals.
In Mariners, Renegades and Castaways (1953), James pointed out how Melville captured in Ahab’s predicament the crisis of transition, the tension between the masses “seeking a new basis for a sense of community” and the eruption of “the most boundlessly egotistical individual personalities” in the political arena (130). But as always, James finds a resolution to all this crisis in his argument about the overriding importance of “the struggle for happiness” and for self-fulfillment in social reciprocity.7 By “happiness” is meant the integration between individual personality and the larger community, the synthesis of public commitment and private interest, in short, the political life defined and elaborated by James in Modern Politics (1960) and Every Cook Can Govern (1956).
The theoretical framework deployed in this ambitious cognitive mapping of the United States as a “civilization,” its contradictory trends and aleatory tendencies, is what we have already encountered in The Black Jacobins. It is an invention of the diasporic sensibility that apprehends the manifold links between national and the international, the local and global, the singular and the universal. I designate it the triangulation of universality in the capitalist world-system.8 One illustration can be adduced here. In the last chapter of The Black Jacobins, James traced the race war and carnage in Haiti as due to “the greed of the French bourgeoisie” (355). From this he concludes that in contrast to nineteenth-century Haiti, the “blacks in Africa [in mid-twentieth century] are more advanced” in their pursuit of freedom:

From the people heaving in action will come the leaders; not the isolated blacks at Guys’ Hospital or the Sorbonne, the dabblers in surrealisme or the lawyers, but the quiet recruits in a black police force, the sergeant in the French native army or British police, familiarising himself with military tactics and strategy, reading a stray pamphlet of Lenin or Trostsky as Toussaint read the Abbe Raynal. (1963: 377)

What sutures the diverse materials in The Black Jacobins, American Civilization, and Mariners, Renegades and Castaways is a singular theme of universality, this time cognized as the spontaneous, self-directed, inexhaustible power of the masses.
James reworked his Eurocentric education and redefined his identity as “a Man of the Caribbean” by triangulating the regions that configured the African diaspora: Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe.9 Colonialism and the slave trade established the necessity of the Caribbean as a vital, irreplaceable link in primitive capital accumulation. With his adventurous intuition, James could encompass distant points in space that would otherwise remain isolated fragments, enabling him to render not syncretic pastiches or bricolage of semiotic utopia but the actual process of decolonization: “All problems today, particularly the emancipation of the underdeveloped countries, are matters in which the world in general is involved; and at the centre of African emancipation, particularly in the development of ideas and international strategy, are the urban blacks of America” (1992: 376). This passion of the islander for cognitive and geopolitical mapping–an index of the masses’ self-activity and drive for collective self-representation–explains why he considers “Negroes” as Americans, not a separate ethnic community, whose combined segregation and integration epitomize the national crisis, the “modern Americanism, a profoundly social passion of frustration and violence” that distinguishes the United States in the midst of the Cold War.

Socialism or Barbaric Capitalist Racism

A decisive turn in James’s itinerary as an authentic dialectical-materialist thinker occurred in his re-examination of the “Negro question” or the articulation of the categories of race and class in social critique. He had already confronted the race-class nexus in the early thirties in united-front campaigns in support of Abyssinian resistance to Italian imperialism and the campaign for West Indian self-government. Before he returned to the United States by way of New Orleans after his fateful meeting with Trotsky in Mexico in 1939, James invariably subsumed the fact of “racism” in the master-code of class struggle. The encounter with “race”–the recent volume C.L.R. James on the “Negro Question” edited by Scott McLemee documents this fateful encounter–reconfigured his whole way of thinking and generated the praxis of what became the “mass line” in “Third World” people’s war in Vietnam, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
In 1938, towards the end of The Black Jacobins, C. L. R James reflected on the dialectic between the categories of race and class that framed his narrative of the first black slave uprising in the world: “The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental” (1963: 283). The reason for the internationalist focus on the class question, according to Paul Buhle (1988), lies in the Trotskyist principle of transcending national specifics for the sake of a grand epic of solidarity between the European proletariat and the “black Jacobins” of the colonies.
James at that time had never paid attention to the condition of the African Americans in the United States, but before his trip he had already been involved in the pan-African movement in England, particularly in the campaign for Abyssinian independence against European imperialism. And yet this concern of people of color for national self-determination of African colonies, and later of Caribbean societies, allegedly did not change his view that the class question predominates over the race question. In a useful review, Tony Martin reiterated this position: “Even when accepting the applicability of Lenin’s ideas on national minorities to the movement for self-determination among Afro-Americans, for example, or when appearing to condone the rhetoric of Black Power, he has never deviated from his view that race is subordinate to class” (1972: 186).
Is it correct to affirm the argument that James never deviated from his 1938 conviction of the priority of class over race? I contend that it is not correct. In the aforementioned collection of writings by James on the “Negro Question” (1996), Scott McLemee also concurs with the idea that James’s final word on the race/class antithesis may be found in the resolution James authored for the Socialist Workers’ Party Convention of 1948. The document entitled “The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem in the United States” indeed synthesizes scattered thoughts and reflections on the situation of African Americans in the United States that James expressed in voluminous writings. But this synthesis does not indicate the easy, automatic subsumption of race into class. In fact, the trajectory of the argument here implies a move toward a concrete dialectic negotiation of the claims of these two categories.

Elucidating the “Negro Question”

What is striking here, compared to his previous writings on the “Negro question,” is James’s insistence that the vitality and validity of the independent Negro struggle for democratic right “is in itself a constituent part of the struggle for socialism.” It has deep historic roots that entitle it to autonomous and integral identity. While James emphasizes that blacks “approach the conclusions of Marxism,” the problematic aspect is the relation between the organized labor movement and the African American demand for equality. James denies that this is “merely a class question,” even though he states that what is involved is “a question of the reorganization of the whole agricultural system” of the country. He invokes Lenin to resolve this impasse: Lenin says “that the dialectic of history is such that small independent nations, small nationalities, which are powerless… in this struggle against imperialism nevertheless can act as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which can bring onto the scene the real power against imperialism–the socialist proletariat” (182). So the black struggle can become the catalyst for the emergence of the socialist proletariat. But it does not mean that because the oppressed minorities, or nationalities, are powerless, therefore they proletariat has got to lead them and that “they cannot do anything until the proletariat actually comes forward to lead them. [Lenin] says exactly the opposite is the case” (182).
James reviews history and concludes: “Such is the situation of the masses of the Negro people and their readiness to revolt at the slightest opportunity, that as far back as the Civil War, in relation to the American bourgeoisie, they formed a force which initiated and stimulated and acted as a ferment “(183). The metaphor of ferment or bacilli is revealing but loaded also with dissonant connotations. But if the function of the oppressed nationalities is to initiate the proletariat into the scene by their agitation and resistance, are they therefore to be incorporated into the revolutionary proletariat and forfeit their autonomy? The evidence of black participation in the War of Independence and more crucially in the Civil War, as well as in the Populist movement, all demonstrate the need for a leadership that will not betray their cause. Except for the Garvey movement, all previous social movements failed to acknowledge their demand for emancipation from “capitalist humiliation and from capitalist oppression” (184).
James then posits the independent character of the African American struggle within the social crisis of the political formation. But this independence is distinguished for being attuned to the progressive forces at any historical conjuncture. Before it was the bourgeoisie and now it is the proletariat. Based on their response to the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) organizing efforts, James concludes that “the Negro movement logically and historically and concretely is headed for the proletariat” (185). This movement of the blacks “toward the revolutionary forces” is, James notes, “stronger today than ever before” in the context of the decay of capitalism and the resurgence of the labor movement (185). James observes that “a substantial number of Negroes” have been placed in “a position of primacy in the struggle against capitalism,” but this place in the vanguard of the proletarian movement coincides with their postion in the Negro community–a decisive intersection or confluence of the democratic and anticapitalist impulses. James does not collapse the two. He reserves an integral place for the bacilli in his concluding, prophetic statement: “Let us not forget that in the Negro people, there sleep and are now awakening passions of a violence exceeding, perhaps, as far as these things can be compared, anytning among the tremendous forces that capitalism has created…. [A]lthough their social force may not be able to compare with the social force of a corresponding number of organized workers, the hatred of bourgeois society and the readiness to destroy it when the opportunity should present itself, rests among them to a degree greater than in any other section of the population in the United States” (187).
It is in this light that James can be justly regarded as the innovative theoretician of black self-emancipation. The African American scholar Sundiata Cha-Jua (1996) historicizes James’s exploration of the race-class nexus that led to the crafting of a “neo-Marxist diasporan historiography” and proposes the view that “what began as a progressive project to fill theoretical gaps in Marxism regarding race, by the late 1940s had evolved into a theory recognizing the autonomous activity of all socially constructed groups, by the late 1950s ended as a renouncement of the proletariat’s historical agency.” There is no doubt that James abandoned a sclerotic vanguardism after 1958 and became preoccupied with the problem of mass agency, although I think his populist strain did not completely displace a class analysis, as evidenced by talks like “Black Power” (1967), “Black Studies and the Contemporary Student” (1969), and “Black People in the Urban Areas of the United States” (1970). The praxis of popular-democratic radical transformation for him still pivoted around the slogan “socialism or barbarism” (Glaberman 1995).

Power to the People

James’s rich and complex body of work cannot of course be reduced to the topic of black self-emancipation or antipostcoloniality. But this is one way of estimating its worth, its usefulness for the exploited and oppressed. It is also part of a project of shaping an epistemology of the revolutionary subject, of collective agency. “Knowing one’s self” is, in Gramsci’s famous phrase, an affair of trying to sort out the infinity of traces deposited in us by a historical process that unfortunately forgot to supply us with an inventory. Such traces are not just discursive palimpsests or tropological language games, as postcolonial theory insists. Knowing C.L.R. James is a matter of constructing the inventory of engagements that he has partly provided in Beyond a Boundary, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways, American Civilization, and voluminous tracts and essays. There is much in James’s geopolitical hermeneutics of cricket that reveals the trajectory of his quest for universality; but the indigenization of cricket could have been realized only through the mediation of a rich and complex Marxist tradition (albeit from the Trotskyist archive), through American literature exemplified by the prophetic art of Melville, and through a series of antiimperialist struggles in Africa and Asia, including the African American insurrections of the sixties and seventies.
James was one of the first Marxist-Leninists to appreciate the symptomatic value of mass media culture. But his dialectical brand of cultural criticism can be reappropriated by the fashionable trend in Cultural Studies only at the risk of positivist vulgarization. In an astute essay, Neil Larsen demonstrates that for James it is the “negativity” in popular culture, the promises of freedom and happiness that it intimates but cannot supply, its transgressive meanings that need appraisal, not its formal popularity; this negativity “makes popular culture into a potentially ‘popular art,’ that makes it a progressive moment relative to the elite culture whose negation it posits” (1996: 99). This application of a “negative dialectics” to mass culture actually originates from the moment James in exile experienced the discordance between the schemas of received theory and the recalcitrance of lived experience.
In a sense, James’s exile conforms to Said’s contrapuntal version of it: “Exile is predicated on the existence of, love for, and a real bond with one’s native place; the universal truth of exile is not that one has lost that love or home, but that inherent in each is an unexpected, unwelcome loss” (1993: 336). Such unwelcome loss is not James’s but the hegemonic elite in the United States and other oppositional activists in the American hemisphere who never recognized or acknowledged his substantial contribution to the critical assessment of what he calls “American civilization.”
When he was about to write his book on Melville, James was sent to Ellis Island in June 1952. He compared the immigration quarters there to Melville’s Pequod, microcosm of world civilization; he was an alien, however, and told that he “could always leave and go to Trinidad, where I was born, and drink my papaya juice” (1985: 146). But it was not this contemptible treatment that James sought to register in the memoirs of his captivity; rather, it was his encounter with M, a Communist Party member, whose instructive help may have neutralized his residual Trotskyism; 10 and the numerous prisoners, sailors, and members of an entire diasporic assemblage whose comprehension of global events was enabled and sustained by their aboriginal roots, their nativist loyalties. This brief incarceration exhibits not postcolonial aporia, liminal indeterminacy, or even creolized signification but rather the cunning and versatility of a praxis-oriented (in contrast to pragmatic) imagination that can sum up heterogenous materials in a way capable of moving and inducing action:

This then is the crowning irony of the little cross-section of the whole world that is Ellis Island. That while the United States Department of Justice is grimly pursuing a venomous anti-alien policy, and in the course of doing so disrupting and demoralizing its own employees desperately trying to live up to their principles, the despised aliens, however fiercely nationalistic, are profoundly conscious of themselves as citizens of the world. (1985: 161-62)

Provisionally I suggest that James’s belief in permanent world revolution ultimately committed him to a radical-popular democracy almost anarchic and utopian in temper and motivation. Not so much a DuBoisean “double consciousness” but an unabashedly totalizing reconnaissance of polarities and their nexus of mutations characterizes James application of historical materialism. Like Fanon, he did not dispense with the nation or nationalitarian longings as a moment in the liberation struggle. He was of course a victim of the Cold War. But what made him transcend this victimage is the narrative of his itinerary as diasporic intellectual, from the time of his departure from the West Indies in 1932 to his political and scholarly engagements while in Britain, to his grass-roots work in the United States, and finally to August 1952 and his indictment as a writer equal to Lenin and Marx as founders of revolutionary organizations–the government’s main brief.
In summing up his lifework in Beyond a Boundary, James invoked the anticipatory figure of Shakespeare’s antihero in The Tempest: “To establish his own identity, Caliban, after three centuries, must himself pioneer into regions Caesar never knew” (1993b: 166). James was a pioneering revolutionary writer, indeed, who preoccupied himself with the inescapable choice confronting humanity–between socialist humanism/universalism or Eurocentric capitalist barbarism–whether in diasporic motion (immigrants, refugees, “castaways”) or in entrenched fortresslike habitats. Caribbean scholars today attribute this concern to his Trinidad background, to a peculiar West Indian cosmopolitanism, its unique mode of cultural resistance (cricket, carnival, calypso, and reggae), its gift of looking outward, the genius of its passion for universality.
Whatever the weight of primordial influences, the fact is that it was Marxism, at first with a Trotskyite orientation and later with a diasporic or “Third World” inflection, that was always susceptible to global happenings (for example, the emergence of “workers’ councils in the Hungarian revolution), that allowed James to articulate his intellectual and moral responsibility toward the West Indian community with what Hazel Carby calls “historical readings of the international significance of cultural production.” When he made the dialectical leap from the doctrinaire idea of “proletarian literature” (1988: 42) to the notion of “revolutionary literature” that coalesced individual, class, and national dimensions, James had already superseded the postcolonial obsession with difference and its “politics of recognition” (see Taylor 1994) and transvalued this phase of the “Unhappy Consciousness” for the strategic tasks of worldwide popular emancipation. And for us engaged in those tasks, that is what makes the necessary difference.

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

TAO TE CHING–translated into Filipino by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.


Translated into Filipino by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.


Ang Taong naisasawika ay hindi ang di-nagbabagong Tao.

Ang pangalang naisasambit ay hindi ang pangalang walang pag-iiba.

Ang walang pangalan ang matris ng langit at lupa.

Ang umiiral ang ngalan ng ina ng lahat ng nilikha.

Samaktwid, dapat itampok ang kawalan.

Laging walang pagnanais, makikita mo ang mahiwagang kababalaghan.

Laging nagnanais, mapapansin mo ang nakamamanghang landas.

Itampok ang umiiral kung nais sapulin ang saklaw ng landas.

Nagbubuhat ang wala’t mayroon sa isang bukal, ngunit magkaiba ang taguri,

Dilim sa kadiliman, lumalabas na tila karimlan ang dalawang pangyayaring napakalalim.

Sila ang tarangkahan sa lahat ng hiwaga.


Sa ilalim ng langit, alam ng lahat ang lakas ng ganda bilang kagandahan ay nakasalalay sa kapangitan.

Batid ng lahat ang buti ay kabutihan lamang sapagkat nakasalalay iyon sa kasungitan.

Samakatwid ang umiiral at kawala’y kapwa iniluwal nang magkasabay,

Ang mahirap at madali’y bumubuo sa isa’t isa.

Ang mahaba’t maikli’y humuhubog sa bawa’t isa;

Ang mataas at mahaba’y magkalangkap;

Ang tinig at tunog ay magkakatugma;

Harap at likod ay magkasudlong, may pagkakatimbang.

Sa gayon, ang pantas ay nakasangkot nang walang pagpupunyagi,
nagtuturo nang walang usapan.

Ang sampung libong bagay ay naisasakatuparan nang walang pagsisikap.

Lumilikha, ngunit hindi humahamig,

Gumagawa, ngunit di nag-aangkin.

Naisasakatuparan ang anumang panukala; at pagkatapos iligpit iyon,

Ang mga natupad ay umiiral at tumatagal sa kanyang panahon.


Ang di pagbunyi sa may likas na talino ay gawing pumipigil sa away.

Ang di paghabol sa yaman ay patakarang humahadlang sa nakawan.

Ang di pagtanghal sa kaibig-ibig na bagay ay mabisang sagwil sa kalituhan ng diwa.

Ang marunong mamuno, sa gayon, ay may kakayahan sa pag-alis ng bagabag sa puso at pagbubusog ng sikmura,

Sa paglulumpo ng ambisyon at pagpapalakas ng mga buto.

Kung ang masa’y walang katusuhan at walang pag-iimbot, matitiyak na ang mga paham ay di manghihimasok at manggugulo.

Naiaakma ang pagkukusang-loob upang lahat ay maging matiwasay sa gayong pamamahala.


Ang Tao ay isang hungkag na sisidlan; bagama’t ito’y ginagamit, hindi ito napupuno.

O walang sayod na pinagmumulan, ninuno ng ilanlibong nilikha!

Pinupurol ang talas,

Kinakalag ang buhol,

Pinapupusyaw ang silaw,

Pumipisan sa alikabok.

O lubhang nakalubog at sa malas ay halos hindi humihinga.

Di ko batid kung saan nagbubuhat.

Kawangis nito’y ang magulang ng mga bathala.


Ang langit at lupa’y walang pakiramdam;

Nababatid nilang ang sampung libong bagay ay mga maniking dayami;

Ang marunong ay walang awa;

Nakaharap sa madla’t trato sa kanila’y mga maniki.

Ang agwat sa pagitan ng langit at lupa ay tila isang tubong hinihipan,

Ito’y hungkag ngunit di nawawalan ng hugis o nababawasan.

Maaaring pipiin, ngunit lalong bumibigay at humahaba.

Marami man ang sinabi, kung bilangin naman ay kulang.

Pagod at hapo, manatiling nakatindig sa gitna.

Hindi kailanman papanaw ang kaluluwa ng lambak.

Siya’y babae, inang puspos ng hiwaga.

Ang tarangkahan ng mahiwagang kababaihan ay binansagang ugat ng langit at lupa;

Hiblang hinimay sa katalahagan,

Gamitin mo iyon, di mauubos at laging nakalaan.


Ang langit at lupa ay umiiral nang walang taning,

Bakit walang wakas ang langit at lupa?

Sapagkat sila’y hindi ipinanganak sa mapagsariling layon,

Tatagal sila magpakailanman.

Ang pantas ay nagpapaiwan at tumitiwalag, sa gayon siya’y tumatambad;

Buhay niya’y di itinangi, ngunit iyon ay laging nakahanda,

Walang pagkamakasarili, at palibhasa’y mapagbigay, natatamo niya ang inadhikang kaganapan.


Ang pinakamataas na kabutihan ay tulad ng tubig,

Sadyang nagdudulot ng buhay ang tubig sa lahat at di nakikipagtalo.

Umaagos ito sa mga pook na tinatanggihan at kinamumuhian ng madla, kaya nga malapit ito sa Tao.

Sa pamamahay, lumapit sa lupa.

Sa pagninilay, sumisid sa pusod ng lawa;

Sa pakikipagkapwa-tao, dapat mabiyaya’t magalang;

Sa pakikipag-usap, dapat mapagkakatiwalaan;

Sa pamamahala, dapat makatarungan;

Sa pangangalakal, dapat may mabisang kakayahan.

Sa kilos, lapat sa pagkakataong likas sa panahon;

Sa gayon, dahil hindi nakikipag-unahan, walang sisisihin, natutupad niya ang kanyang hangad.


Mabuting huminto bago mapuno ang sisidlan sa halip na umapaw ito.

Kung labis na hasain ang talim, di magluluwat ay mapurol na iyon.

Kung ang silid mo’y siksik sa ginto at batong ihada, di mo mababantaya’t maipagtatanggol iyon.

Angkinin ang yaman at titulo’t upang magpalalo, di magluluwat babagsak ang parusa.

Lumigpit kapag tapos na ang mabuting gawa.

Iyan ang Tao ng langit.

Dala ang katawan at kaluluwang magkayapos, nagtatalik,

Maiiwasan mo ba’ng pagbukurin sila?

Tipunin ang diwa at magpalambot,

Maari ka bang tumulad sa isang bagong supling?

Hinuhugasan at pinaglilimi ang pinakalantay na kamalayan,

Maari ka bang walang sira?

Minamahal ang lahat at namumuno sa bayan,

Maari ka bang umiwas sa pagkilos?

Binubuksan at ipinipinid ang tarangkahan ng langit,

Maaari ka bang gumanap sa papel ng babae?

Nawawatasan at bukas sa lahat ng pangyayari,

Maari ka bang walang ginagampanan?

Nanganganak at nagpapakain,

Nagbubunga ngunit hindi umaari,

Gumagawa ngunit hindi umaasa,

Tumatangkilik ngunit hindi namamahala,

Ito ang binansagang walang kapantay na Birtud.


Tatlumpung rayos ng gulong ang kabahagi sa lunduyan;

Ang walang lamang lugar ang siyang dahilang nagagamit iyon.

Humubog ng sisidlan mula sa luwad;

Ang agwat doon sa loob ang siyang sanhi sa pagkagamitan.

Yumari ng pinto at bintana angkop sa isang silid;

Ang agwat at butas nila ang siyang dahilang magagamit ang silid.

Samakatwid ang pagka-mayroon ay nagdudulot ng kabutihan.

Ang kawalan ay nagdudulot ng kagamitan.


Binubulag ang mata ng limang kulay.

Binibingi ang tainga ng limang tono.

Ginagawang maramdamin ang dila ng limang lasa.

Ginigiyagis ang puso ng pangangabayo at pangangaso.

Nililigaw at nililinlang ang tao ng mga mamahali’t bihirang bagay.

Samakatwid ang pantas ay pinapatnubayan ng kung ano ang saloobin at hindi kung ano ang namamasid.

Pinababayaan ito’t pinipili iyon.


Tanggapin mo ang nakapangingilabot na kahihiyan nang maluwag ang kalooban.

Tanggapin ang kasawiang masahol bilang bahagi ng buhay ng lahat ng nilalang.

Ano’ng ibig sabihin na ang kasawian at kabutihang-palad ay nakapananakot?

Ang pagtatangi ay may mababang uri.

Huwag mabahala sa tila nakasisindak na lugi o tubo,

Sinasabing ang kabutihang-palad at kasawian ay nakatatakot sa malas.

Ano’ng ibig sabihin ng “tanggapin ang ang malaking kasawian” bilang bahagi ng buhay?

Sapagkat katawan ay buhay, danas ko ang kasawian.

Kung walang katawan, paano magdaranas ng kasawian?

Isuko mo ang sarili nang may pagpapakumbaba; sa gayon, mapapagkatiwalaan kang kumandili’t kumupkop.

Mahalin ang daigdig tulad ng iyong sarili, sa gayon mapapangatawanan mo ang anumang kapakanan o suliranin ng lahat sa buong daigdig.


Tingnan mo, hindi ito makikita—binura ang pangalan.

Dinggin mo, hindi ito maririnig—ang pangalan nito’y pambihira.

Dakmain mo, hindi ito mahahawakan o maaabot—ito’y malihim.

Dito matatarok ang tatlong ito;

Sa gayon magkahalo’t nagiging isa.

Mula sa itaas hindi ito maliwanag.

Mula sa silong hindi ito madilim.

Mahigpit at bawal, hindi maituring;

Bumabalik ito sa kawalan.

Ang anyo ay walang hugis,

Ang imahen ay walang larawan,

Tinatawag itong walang takda at lampas sa guni-guni.

Tumindig sa harap nito at walang simula.

Sundan ito at walang dulo.

Higpitan ang hawak sa matatag na Tao,

Kumilos sa kasalukuyan.

Ang pagkabatid sa pinakaunang pinagbuhatan ang ubod ng Tao.


Ang mga matandang guro ay matalisik, dalubhasa, sanay at bihasa,

Ang lalim ng kanilang kaalaman ay di masusukat.

Sapagkat di masusukat,

Magkasya na lang tayong ilarawan sila;

Laging maingat, tulad ng mga taong tumatawid sa ilog sa tag-lamig.

Laging handa, tulad ng mga taong pakiramdam ang mataksil na kalaban sa paligid;

Mapitagan, tulad ng mga panauhing dumadalaw.

Pumapanaw, tulad ng yelong malapit nang matunaw;

Matapat, tulad ng isang di-pa nililok na tipak ng kahoy;

Malawak, tulad ng mga yungib.

Mapusok, tulad ng alimbukay ng tubig.

Sino’ng makapagpapahinahon sa marahas?

Sino’ng mananatiling walang imik upang ihanda ang mabagal na pagluwal ng pagkilos?\

Ang mga alagad ng Tao ay di nagnanais ng labis na kasaganaan.

Di labis ang pagkamakasarili, ginagamit ang luma upang makalikha ng bago.


Sikaping alisin mo ang lahat sa iyong loob.

Hayaang manahimik at panatilihin ang dalisay na saloobin.

Umaakyat at bumababa ang sampunglibong bagay habang minamasdan mo ang kanilang pagbabalik.

Bumubukadkad at nagbubunga, kapagkwa’y bumabalik sa pinagmulan.

Bumabalik sa matris, ito’y kaluwalhatian na siyang pagbabalik sa kalikasan.

Ang pagbabalik sa buhay ng kalikasan ay walang pagbabago.

Ang pagkaunawa sa katalagahan ay liwanag ng kabatiran.

Ang di pagkaunawa sa katalagahan ay dalus-dalusang nagtutulak sa kapahamakan.

Batid ang katalagahan, ikaw ay mapagpaubaya.

Kapag mapagpaubaya, ikaw ay makatarungan.

Kapag makatarungan, asal mo’y matatag at marangal.

Sapagkat malinis ang budhi, makakamit mo ang kabanalan.

Sapagkat banal, ikaw ay ibinuklod sa Tao.

Kasanib sa Tao, wala kang wakas.

Bagamat namamatay ang katawan, walang kapahamakang darating sa iyo.


Ang pinakamagaling na pinuno ay halos di kilala ng sambayanan.

Ang kapanalig niya’y malapit at nagpupugay.

Kasunod ang mga taong kinatatakutan siya;

At ang iba’y napopoot sa kanya.

Ang pinunong hindi sapat na mapapagkatiwalaan, sa panunungkulan niya’y maghahari ang paghihinala.

Isinasagawa ang lahat sa panatag na paraan.

Pinagliban ang di-kailangang salita at itinatampok ang ilan.

Pagkatapos maisakatuparang mahusay ang tungkulin,

Bubulalas ang sambayanan: “Natupad natin ito!”


Kung tumalikod sa dakilang Tao,

Kagandahang-loob at mabuting pakikipagkapwa-tao ang bumubungad;

Kapag tumambad ang dunong at kaalaman,

Umpisa na ang garapal na pagkukunwari;

Kapag walang pagkakaisa ang pamilya,

Ang pag-irog sa magulang at pagkamatulungin ay sumisipot;

Kapag ang bayan ay magusot at namamayani ang gulo,

Lumalabas ang mga tusong upisyal sa pamahalaan.


Itakwil ang pagkamarunong, ayawan ang kaalaman,

Higit na makabubuti ito sa bawat nilalang.

Itakwil ang kabaitan, iwaglit ang moralidad,

At matutuklasan muli ang pag-ibig sa magulang at kagandahang-loob.

Itakwil ang katusuhan, ibasura ang pagkalamang;

Maglalaho ang mga magnanakaw at mangungulimbat.

Ang tatlong ito bilang mga simulaing pumapatnubay ay di sapat sa kanilang sarili,

Kinakailangang masipat ang katayuan ng bawat isa.

Alamin ang payak at yapusin ang pangkaraniwan;

Sawatin ang kasakiman at bawasan ang mga kagustuhan.

Iwan ang pinag-aralang kaalaman nang sa gayo’y humupa ang pagkabalisa.


Mayroon bang pagkakaiba ang pagsang-ayon at pagtutol?

May pagkakaiba ba ang kabutihan at kabuktutan sa isa’t isa?

Iyon namang kinasisindakan ng madla—maari bang tumakas doon?

Laganap ang lagim, walang katapusan.

Maraming nalulugod, tila nasisiyahan sa piging na pagsakripisyo sa kapong baka;

Sa tag-sibol may nagpapasyal sa liwasan at umaakyat sa terasa.

Nangungulila ako, tangay ng agos, ngunit di nag-iwan ng bakas.

Walang muwang, tulad ng isang bagong silang na sanggol bago matutong ngumiti.

Pagod na parang walang babalikan.

Ang madla’y may pag-aaring higit sa kanilang pangangailangan, ngunit ako’y namumukod na dukhang lubos.

Puso ko’y nahibang, di alam kung saan napadpad.

Ang karaniwang mamamayan ay nakaiintindi, ngunit ako lamang ang nagulumihanan.

Ang iba’y matalas at matalino, ngunit ako nama’y tanga.

Ako’y inaanod palayo tulad ng alon sa dagat, nawindang, walang direksiyon, wari baga’y unos na walang tigil.

Lahat ay may inaatupag,

Ngunit ako lamang ang walang kabatiran at natimbuwang.

Iba nga ako sa lahat

Subalit pinipintuho ko ang inang magiliw kumanlong.


Ang pinakatanyag na Birtud ay pagsunod lamang sa Tao, sa landas nito.

Ang Tao ay mailap at di masasakyan bilang lakas ng pagkilos.

Ito’y di mahihipo pagkat mailap, ngunit sa loob kimkim ang imahen;

Ito’y mailap at di masisilo, ngunit sa loob nito ang pinakaubod;

Ito’y lihim at nakukubli sa dilim, ngunit sa puso nito nakaluklok ang huwaran.

Ang buod ay lantay na katotohanan, at nilagom sa loob ang paniniwala.

Sa mula’t mula pa hanggang sa kasalakuyun, ang pangalan niya’y di nakakalimutan.

Sa gayon, gamitin ito upang matarok ang lumilikha ng mga bagay sa mundo.

Paano ko nabatid ang kondisyon ng taga-likha ng mga bagay?

Ginamit ko ang Tao.


Bumigay upang manatiling buo;

Yumukod upang maituwid;

Gasgasin upang maging bago;

Sa pagkakaroon ng kaunti, madaragdagan pa ito;

Kung maraming ari, mababahalang lubos.

Dahil dito, ang pantas ay yumayapos sa isa lamang

At nagsisilbing halimbawa sa lahat.

Hindi umaasta’t pumaparada, kaya tanyag.

Hindi niya ipinangangalandakan ang sarili, kaya natatangi.

Hindi naghahambog, tinatanggap niya ang pagkilala ng mabuting gawa;

Walang pagmamayabang, laging may pinanghahawakan,

Sapagkat di nakikipag-away, kaya walang umaaway sa kanya;

Samakatwid, wika ng mga ninuno: “Sumuko upang makapangibabaw.”

Ito ba’y pariralang walang saysay?

Dapat maging wagas ang nangungusap, at lahat ng bagay ay darating sa kanya.


Natural ang matipid na pananalita.

Ang rumaragasang hangin ay hindi tumatagal sa buong umaga,

At ang biglang ulan ay hindi tumatagal sa buong araw.

Bakit nga? Dahil sa langit at lupa!

Kung hindi mapapanatili ng langit at lupa ang walang pagbabago,

Paano magagawa ito ng isang abang nilalang?

Sinumang tumutupad sa Tao ay kasanib sa Tao.

Sinumang may mabuting loob ay dumaranas ng Birtud.

Sinumang naligaw ay dumaramdam ng pagkalito.

Kung ikaw ay kaakbay ng Tao, inaaruga ka nito.

Kung ikaw ay kaakbay ng Birtud, pinagpapala ka nito.

Kung ikaw ay kaakbay ng kawalan, sabik mong dinaranas iyon.

Sinumang hindi nagtitiwala nang sapat, siya’y hindi mapagtitiwalaan.


Ang lumalakad nang patiyad ay hindi makapagpapahamak.

Ang humahakbang ay hindi makapagpapatuloy nang matatag.

Ang nagtatanghal sa sarili ay hindi pihikan.

Ang nagpapanggap na laging tumpak ay hindi kapita-pitagan na dapat igalang.

Ang mapupusok ay walang kapakinabangan.

Ang naghahambog ay di makadadaig.

Ayon sa mga alagad ng Tao, “Ito’y isinumpa ng labis na pagkain at walang kabuluhang kargada.”

Lahat ay namumuhi doon.

Sa gayon iniiwasan iyon ng mga bihasa sa Tao.


Isang bagay na mahiwagang nabuo mula sa sigalot,

Isinilang bago pa may langit at lupa.

Sa katahimikan at sa kawalan, nakatindig mag-isa’t walang pagbabago,

Laging nakahanda at maliksi,

Kumikilos bilang ina ng lahat ng bagay sa mundo.

Hindi ko alam ang pangalan, tawagin itong Tao.

Mahirap humanap ng angkop na salita, bansagan na lang nating dakila.

Sa kadakilaan, umaagos ito

At umaabot sa malayo, kapagkwa’y bumabalik.

Samakatwid, “Tao ay dakila, langit ay dakila, lupa ay dakila, ang sangkatauhan ay dakila.’

Ito ang apat na kapangyarihan sa sangkalibutan,

Ang taong nilalang ay isa dito.

Sinusundan ang bawat nilalang ng lupa bilang batas niya,

Sumusunod ang lupa sa langit bilang batas niya,

Sinusundan ng langit ang Tao bilang batas niya,

Sumusunod ang Tao sa kalikasan, bilang batas niya.


Ang mabigat ang ugat ng magaang;

Ang matatag ang panginoon ng di mapalagay.

Sa gayon, maglalakbay sa buong araw, di nakakaligtaan ng pantas ang kanyang mga balutan.

Bagamat maraming nakaaakit na mapapanood sa lugar ng nakabibighaning langay-langayan, siya’y panatag at di nagpapatukso.

Bakit dapat umasal nang mahinahon sa madla ang panginoon ng ilanlibong karwahe?

Sa pagkilos nang mahinahon, mawawala ang ugat.

Sa kalikutan mawawala ang kapangyarihan.


Ang mahusay lumakad ay hindi nag-iiwan ng bakas;

Ang magaling magpanayam ay hindi nauutal at nagkakamali;

Ang sanay kumalkula ay hindi nangangailangan ng listahan.

Hindi kailangan ang susi sa mabuting magsara.

Ang kanilang sinasara’y hindi mabubuksan ninuman.

Ang mabuting pabalat ay hindi nangangailangan ng mga buhol.

Gayunpaman, hindi iyon makakalag o mabubuhaghag.

Samakatwid, ang pantas ay kumakalinga sa lahat

At walang iniiwanan.

Inaasikaso ang lahat at walang napapabayaan.

Ito’y taguring “pagpapatingkad sa likas na kabutihan.”
Ano ba ang mabuting nilalang?
Isang guro ng masamang tao.
Sino ang masamang tao?
Alaga ng mabuting nilalang.
Kung hindi iginagalang ang guro, at ang mag-aaral ay hindi inaalagaan,
Gulo ang sisipot, gaano man naglipana ang matalino at matalisik.
Ito ay malahimalang hiwaga.


Kilatisin ang lakas ng lalaki,
Ngunit kupkupin ang mapag-arugang babae.
Sikaping maging daluyan ng batis sa lahat ng bagay sa daigdig.
Bilang landas ng tubig sa santinakpan,
Laging kasama ang Birtud na walang pagbabago;
Bumalik sa puso ng kamusmusan.
Unawain ang puti, ngunit ingatan ang itim.
Sikaping maging halimbawa sa buong mundo.
Bilang halimbawa sa lahat, isakatuparang maigi ang walang pag-iibang Birtud.
Bumalik sa kawalang-hangganan.
Isaisip ang karangalan,
Ngunit ittinggal ang kapakumbabaan.
Sikaping maging lambak ng sansinukob.
Hayaang lumaganap ang walang pagkatinag na Birtud.
Bumalik sa lagay ng tipak na kahoy na hindi pa nilililok.
Kapag inukit na ang tipak, ito’y magagamit na.
Ginagamit ito ng pantas habang nanunungkulan bilang pinuno.
Sa gayon, “Ang dakilang iskultor ay pumipigil sa pagputol.”


Sa wari mo ba’y maaari mong sakupin ang sansinukob at isaayos ito?
Paniwala kong hindi ito maaari.
Banal na kasangkapan ang buong daigdig.
Hindi mo mapapahusay ito, hindi masusunggaban.
Kung subukan mong baguhin ito, masisira lamang ito.
Kung subukan mong pangasiwaan ito, magpupumiglas ito,
Kaya hindi kumikilos ang pantas.
Kaya nga, minsan, ang mga bagay ay nauuna at minsan nahuhuli,
Minsan ang huminga’y mahirap, minsan madali;
Minsan masigla at minsan mahina;
Ang mga bagay ay masiglang lumalago o naglalaho.
Dahil dito iniiwasan ng pantas ang pagmamalabis, makakasukdulan, at pagkawalang-bahala.


Kung naghahain ng tagubilin para sa pinuno tungkol sa gawi ng Tao,
Pagpayuan mong huwag gumamit ng dahas-militar upang pwersahin ang lahat sa ilalim ng langit
Sapagkat tiyak na magpupukaw ito ng mapaghiganting galit.
Saan mang rumagasa ang hukbo, tumutubo’t lumalago ang matinik na palumpong.
Panahon ng gutom ang tumatalunton sa daang hinawan ng walang pakundangang digmaan.
Gawin lamang ang talagang kinakailangan.
Sa tagumpay, umasal mapagkawanggawa.
Huwag samantalahin ang pagkakataon sa pagpataw ng kapangyarihan o mangahas pilitin ang mga bagay.
Adhikaing matamo ang layon, ngunit huwag magpakapalalo.
Sikaping maabot ang mithi, ngunit huwag parusahan ang lahat.
Sikaping makamit ang nasa, ngunit huwag magpamataas.
Sikaping makuha ang nais, ngunit huwag gumamit ng dahas at kamkamin ang tubo para sa sarili.
Marahas ka ngayon, ngunit hahalinhinan iyan ng panghihina at pagtanda.
Hindi ito ang gawi ng Tao.
Ang sumasalungat sa Tao ay makatatagpo ng maagang pagpanaw.


Ang mga sandata’y kasangkapan ng kilabot; kinapopootan iyon ng lahat ng nilikha.
Sa gayon, hindi ginagamit iyon ng mga kampon ng Tao.
Pinipili ng marangal na mamamayan ang kaliwa kung nasa tahanan siya.
Ngunit kung ginagamit ang sandata, intinatanghal ang kanan.
Ang mga sandata ay instrumento ng sindak, hindi ito kagamitan ng marangal na mamamayan.
Ginagamit lamang iyon kung wala na siyang pagpipilian.
Hinihirang na pinakamagaling ang kapayapaan at kahinahunan.
Ang tagumpay ay hindi dahilan upang ipagdiwang ang kagandahan.
Kung nasasayahan ka sa ganda ng tagumpay, nalulugod ka sa pagkitil ng buhay.
Kung nalulugod ka sa pagpatay, hindi matutupad ang kaganapan ng iyong loob at pagtamasa sa minimithi.
Sa mga maayong pagkakataon, binibigyan ng halaga ang kaliwa,
Sa panahon ng pighati, ipinagpapauna ang kanan.
Sa kanan ang pinunong nag-uutos, sa kaliwa ang lider ng hukbo.
Nawika noon pa na ang digmaan ay pinangangasiwaan sa paraang sumasalamin sa ritwal ng libing.
Kung maraming nasawi, dapat ipagluksang mataimtim ang nangyari.
Ito ay dahilan kung bakit dapat ipagbunyi ang tagumpay bilang isang pagburol sa mga bangkay


Laging hindi itinakdang tiyak na may pangalan ang Tao.
Maliit man ito at payak, hindi ito masusunggaban.
Kung maisisingkaw ito ng mga hari’t panginoon, walang atubiling tatalimahin ito ng lahat.
Magtitiyap ang langit at lupa, at lalapag ang mayuming ambon.
Hindi na mangangailangan ng turo at utos ang taumbayan, at lahat ng bagay ay magkatimbang na magkakahanay-hanay.
Ang namamahala ay tanyag.
Kahit na tanyag, dapat malaman kung kailan dapat tumigil.
Kung alam kung kailan titigil, mahahadlangan ang sigalot at maiiwasan ang pinsala.
Ang tao sa daigdig ay tulad ng sapa sa lambak na dumadaloy pauwi sa ilog at karagatan.


Ang kaalaman tungkol sa iba ay karunungan.
Ang kabatiran tungkol sa sariling pagkatao ay kaliwanagan.
Kailangan ang dahas sa pamamahala sa iba, ngunit ang may disiplina sa sarili ay may angking lakas sa loob.
Sinumang nakauunawa na sapat na sa kanya ang nakapaligid ay mariwasa.
Tanda ng lakas ng kalooban ang katiyagaan.
Sinumang lumilinang sa kinalalagyan ay tumatagal nang walang katapusan.
Malagot ang hininga ngunit hindi maglaho—ito’y pamumuhay sa kasalukuyan.


Dumadaloy ang Tao, maayos na bumabaling sa kaliwa’t kanan.
Lahat ay umaasa dito upang mabuhay, hindi ito umaalis.
Bagamat natapos ang minarapat na gawain, hindi ito umaangkin para sa sariling kapakanan.
Inaaruga’t tinatangkilik ang lahat ngunit hindi ito umaasal bilang pinuno nila.
Maituturing itong kasapi ng mga maliliit.
Bumabalik dito ang ilanlibong nilikha, ngunit hindi ito nag-uutos.
Maitatangi ito sa mga dakila.
Sapagkat hindi tinangkang kagilas-gilas ang paraang ito, sanhi nito, natatamo nito ang kadakilaan.


Mahigpit na humawak sa maharlikang sagisag at lahat ng bagay sa mundo’y darating sa iyo.
Dudulog sila ngunit hindi sila sasaktan.
Magpapahinga sa katiwasayan at kapayapaan.
Ikatuwa ang musika at mainam na pagkain, sadyang humihinto ang mga nagdaraang manlalakbay.
Samakatwid, kung ang tao ay inihayag sa salita, mapupuna na walang lasa at matabang ito.
Kung hahanapin ito, walang katangiang mapapansin.
Kung pakikinggan, walang sapat na mauulinigan.
Subalit kung kakasangkapanin ito, hindi ito mauubos.


Kung nais mong bawasan ang anuman, kailangang dagdagan mo muna ito’t palakihin;
Kung nais mong palambutin ang anuman, kailangangang patigasin muna pansamantala;
Kung nais mong tanggalan ang anuman, sandaling paunlarin muna iyon;
Kung nais mong hulihin ang anuman, sandaling isuko mo muna ito.
Ito’y tinaguriang “paraan ng masidhing pang-unawa.”
Ang mahina’t malambot ay tumatalo sa malakas.
Hindi mo maihihiwalay ang isda mula sa tubig sa lawa;
Ang mabisang kagamitan ng pamahalaan ay hindi maitatanghal sa madla.


Ang Tao ay hindi nagbabago sa di-pagkilos, ngunit walang hindi naisasakatuparan.
Kung nais imbakin ito ng mga hari’t panginoon, kusang-loob na maiiba ang kalikasan ng maraming nilikha.
Pagkaraan ng pagbabago, kung nais nilang makaigpaw,
Sasanayin sila ng kapayakan ng walang pangalan.
Sa pagpapahinahon sa kanila sa bisa ng payak at walang ngalang gamit, walang damdaming mapag-imbot ang lilitaw;
Kung walang pagnanasa, lalaganap ang katiwasayan at lahat ng bagay ay papanatag.


Ang tunay na mabuting tao ay hindi lubos na nalalaman ang kanyang kabutihan,
At sa gayon lantay na mabuti.
Ang hangal na tao’y nagpupunyaging maging mabuti,
At sa gayo’y hindi mabuti.
Ang tunay na mabuti ay walang tangkang gumawa.
Ngunit lahat ay nagagampanan.
Ang ulol ay laging masipag, ngunit napakaraming nakaligtaang harapin.
Kapag ang tunay na mabuti’y nagpunyagi, walang bagay na di mayayari.
Kapag ang makatarunga’y kumilos, nag-iiwan siya ng malaking pagkukulang.
Kapag ang nagpapairal ng kautusan ay nangangasiwa at walang tumutugon,
binabalumbon ang manggas upang ipataw ang batas.
Sa gayon, kapag nawala ang Tao, magkasya sa kabaitan.
Kapag nawala ang kabaitan, nariyan ang kagandahang-loob.
Kapag nawala ang kagandahang-loob, magkasya sa katarungan.
Kapag nawala ang katarungan, nariyan ang ritwal.
Ang ritwal ay upak ng pananampalataya, ang umpisa ng gulo.
Itinumbas ng mangkukulam ang tao sa marangyang laruan, ito ang umpisa ng kaululan.
Samakatwid, ang tunay na dakilang tao ay tumitira sa katalagahan at hindi sa ibabaw ng mga baga-bagay, nakatutok sa bunga at hindi sa bulaklak.
Dahil dito, tinatanggap ang ilan at tinatanggihan ang iba.


Ang mga bagay na itong nagmula pa sa sinaunang panahon ay bumalong sa isa;
Ang langit ay buo at maaliwalas.
Ang lupa ay buo at matatag.
Ang diwa ay buo at matipuno.
Ang lambak ay buo at masagana.
Ang sampung libong bagay ay buo at nagbubunga.
Ang mga hari’t panginoon ay buo at ang buong bayan ay sumusunod sa praktika ng pagkamakatwiran.
Lahat ng ito ay nangyayari dahil sa pagkakaisa.
Nahahadlangan ng kaliwanagan ng langit ang pagdurog nito.
Nahahadlangan ng kapayapaan ang pagbiyak sa lupa.
Nahahadlangan ng lakas ng diwa ng mga bathala ang pagwasak nito.
Nahahadlangan ng kasaganaan ang pagkatuyo ng lambak.
Nahahadlangan ng paglago ng isanglibong bagay ang pagkamatay nito.
Nahahadlangan ng pagkamatapat ng hari’t panginoon ang pagsira sa buong bayan.
Sa gayon ang ugat ng karangalan ay ang pagpapakumbaba.
Ang mababa ang saligan ng mataas.
Itinuturing ng mga hari’t maharlika na sila’y “ulila,” “kakarampot,” at “di sagana.”
Hindi ba nakabatay ang mamahalin sa mapagkumbaba?
Ang malabis na tagumpay ay hindi kahigtan.
Huwag kumalansing tulad ng makinang na batong ihada o mag-ingay o mag-ayos burikak tulad ng batong dupikal.


Ang pagsasauli ang galaw ng Tao.
Ang kahinaan ang paraan ng Tao.
Ang isanglibong bagay ay iniluwal mula sa umiiral
At ang umiiral ay iniluwal mula sa kawalan.

Naulinigan ng matalinong paham ang tinig ng Tao at masigasig na isinapraktika

Nabalitaan ng karaniwang palaaral ang tungkol sa Tao at iniisip ito paminsan-minsan.

Ang hangal na iskolar ay nakasagap ng balita tungkol sa Tao at walang patumanggang humalakhak.

Kung walang halakhak, hindi magagampanan ang Tao.

Kaya dinggin ang kasabihan:

Ang maliwanag na daan ay nagmumukhang makulimlim.

Ang pagsugod ay tila pag-urong.

Ang madaling paraan ay tila mahirap.

Ang pinakamataas na Birtud at tila lambak na walang halaman;

Ang puring wagas at busilak ay tila dinumihan.

Ang kayamanan ng Birtud ay tila kulang;

Ang lakas ng Birtud ay tila mabuway.

Ang tunay na Birtud ay tila pabagu-bagong pangyayari.

Ang huwarang parisukat ay walang sulok.

Ang mahusay na kasangkapan ay ginagamit sa pagtatapos ng anuman.

Mahirap marinig ang pinakamatinding tunog;

Ang dakilang anyo ay walang hugis.

Nakakubli ang Tao at walang pangalan ito.

Ang Tao lamang ang mainam magpakain at siyang nagtutulak sa lahat sa kaganapan.


Iniluwal ng Tao ang isa, at ang isa ay nagsilang ng dalawa.

Dalawa’y nagsilang ng tatlo, at ang tatlo ay nagluwal sa lahat ng nilikha.

Kanlong ang yin at yakap ang yang ng lahat ng bagay sa mundo.

Nakakamit ang pagkakasundo sa paghahalo ng lakas.

Suklam ang mga tao kung tawagin silang “ulila, “manipis,” o “salat.”

Ngunit ganito ang paglalarawan ng mga hari’t panginoon sa kanilang sarili.

Sapagkat sa katunayan ang isa’y nananalo sa pagkatalo at nawawalan sa pagkakaroon.

Kung ito ay itinuturo ng iba, itinuturo ko rin:

“Ang marahas at talipandas ay mapapariwara sa kalunos-lunos na paraan.”

Ituring itong buod ng aking pagtuturo.

Ang pinakamalambot na bagay sa sangmaliwanag ay nanaig sa pinakamatigas na bagay.

Ang walang laman ay nakapapasok saan mang walang puwang.

Kaya nga batid ko ang kapakinabangan ng walang pagkilos.

Ang pagtuturo ay walang salita at ang pagtatamo ay walang pagsisikhay:

Sa ilalim ng langit, iilan lamang ang nakawawatas nito.


Kabantugan o buhay: Ano ang higit na makabuluhan at lubhang ninanasa?

Buhay o kayamanan: Ano ang mas mahalaga?

Pagkatalo o pagkapanalo: Ano ang mas makapipinsala?

Sinumang nakakabit sa mga bagay-bagay ay lubhang magdurusa.

Sinumang nagtitipon ng maraming ari ay magdaranas ng mahapding kadahupan.

Sa gayon, sinumang batid na sapat ang kanila ay hindi mapapahiya.

Sinumang bihasa na alam kung kailan dapat tumigil ay makaiiwas sa gulo.

Patuloy siyang mabubuhay ng ligtas sa panganib.


Lumalabas na hindi talagang walang mali sa mga naisakatuparan.

Gayunman, kung gamitin, hindi iyon lumalampas sa taning ng kanyang kabuluhan.

Ang dakilang kasaganaan ay tila hungkag,

Ngunit kung gamitin, iyon ay hindi lubos na malulustay.

Ang magandang pagkatuwid ay mukhang baluktot.

Ang magaling na utak ay mukhang tanga.

Ang mahusay manalumpati ay tila pumipiyak.

Mapusok na kilos ay dumadaig sa panatag.

Hinahon ang dumadaig sa kapusukan.

Pagtitimpi ng damdamin at pagkawalang-kibo ang nag-aayos ng lahat ng bagay sa ilalim ng langit.


Kung ang Tao ay laganap sa sansinukob,

Hinihila ng mga kabayo ang pataba at ikinakalat iyon sa bukid.

Kung ang Tao ay hindi umuugit sa sansinukob ,

Ang mga kabayong pandigma ay inaalagaan sa labas ng lungsod.

Wala nang mas masahol na sakuna kay sa ang walang hunus-diling pangangamkam ng ari-arian;

Walang mas masahol na sumpa kaysa pag-iimbot para sa sariling kapakanan.

Sa gayon, sinumang alam kung ano ang husto ay laging may sapat na panustos sa buong buhay.


Kahit hindi ka lumalabas, maari mong maunawaan ang buong daigdig.

Kahit di ka tumanaw sa durungawan, maarmi mong mamatyagan ang kalakaran ng langit.

Kung mas malayo na ang naabot mo, mas makitid ang iyong kaalaman.

Kaya nga ang pantas ay hindi naglalakbay, ngunit natatalos niya ang kapaligiran.

Nalalaman niya kahit hindi tumitingin;

Kahit hindi nag-aabala, naisasakatuparan niya ang mga kinakailangan.


Sa pagpupunyaging maging paham, sa bawat araw may bagay na natatamo.

Sa paghahabol sa Tao, sa bawat araw may bagay na nawawaglit.

Unti-unting nababawasan hanggang makaabot sa walang-abala.

Kahit hindi humahakbang, walang hindi naisasagawa.

Sa pamamahala, laging ilapat ang paraan nang walang panghihimasok; laging magpaunlak na lahat ay sumunod sa sariling kalikasan.

Huwag manghimasok at sa gayo’y matiwasay ang lahat sa ilalim ng langit.


Walang pansariling hangad ang pantas.

Nauunawaan niya ang mga pangangailangan ng madlang kinasasaniban niya.

Mabait ako sa mga taong mabait.

Mabait din ako sa mga taong masama.

Sapagkat ang Birtud ay kabaitan.

May tiwala ako sa mga taong mapapagkatiwalaan.

May tiwala din ako sa mga taong sukab.

Sapagkat ang Birtud ay mapagtiwala.

Nahihiya’t nagpapakumbaba ang pantas—sa mata ng madla siya’y nakaliligalig.

Tintingala siya ng madla at pinakikinggan.

Sa harap ng lahat, umaasal siyang tulad ng isang batang musmos.


Sa pagitan ng pagsilang at kamatayan, tatlo sa sampu ang tagasunod sa buhay;

Tatlo sa sampu ang taga-sunod sa kamatayan.

At ang mga taong bumabagtas sa agwat ng kaarawan at kamatayan ay tatlo rin sa sampu.

Bakit ba ganito?

Sapagkat namumuhay ang mga ito sa pinakagarapal at bulagsak na gawi.

Ang taong sumusunod sa kabutihan ay maaaring maglagalag na walang balisa kung kaharap ng mabangis na tigre o anumang hayop sa gubat.

Hindi siya masusugatan sa labanan.

Walang katawan na matutusok ng sungay ng hayop,

Walang bahagi ng laman na matutuklaw ng kuko ng tigre.

At walang puwang na sisingitan at paglalagusan ng sandatang matalim.

Bakit ganito?

Sapagkat wala siyang puwang o pagitan na mapapasok ng kamatayan.


Lahat ng bagay ay bumubukal sa Tao.

Binubusog at pinatataba ng Birtud ang lahat.

Binibigyan ng laman mula sa mga bagay sa mundo,

Binibigyang hugis ng kapaligiran.

Kaya ang sanlibong bagay ay dumudulog upang igalang ang Tao at pagpugayan ang Birtud.

Hindi sila humihingi ng paggalang sa Tao at parangal sa Birtud.

Ngunit ang mga ito’y kaugnay ng kalikasan ng mga nilikha sa daigdig.

Sa gayon, lahat ng mga bagay ay bunga ng Tao.

Pinapakain sila ng Birtud, pinauunlad at inaalagaan.

Kinukopkop, kinakalinga, pinalalaki at ipinagtatanggol.

Sa gayon, lumilikha’t hindi umaangkin ang Tao.

Ang Birtud ay kusang nag-aaruga.

Ang kalikasan ang humuhubog sa lahat; pangyayari ang nagbubuo sa lahat.

Lahat ay nagpaparangal sa Tao at nagpipitagan sa Birtud.

Kapwa hindi nag-uutos, kung sinususnod ang walang pasubaling kalikasan.

Pumapatnubay ngunit hindi umaangkin, gumaganap ngunit hindi umaasa, at nag-aanyaya.

Tumutulong ngunit hindi namumuno.

Ito ang pinakadalisay at kakanggatang Birtud.


Ang simula ng sansinukob ay ina ng lahat ng bagay sa ilalim ng langit.

Kung nagkapalad kang lumagi sa piling ng ina, kilala mo ang mga anak nito.

Kung kilala mo ang mga anak, maiingatan mo ang pagsuyo ng ina.

Biyaya mo ang kaligtasan mula sa kilabot ng panganib.

Kung titigil ka sa pakikisalamuha at ipipinid ang pinto, walang gulong tumatagal hangang sa dulo ng paglalakbay.

Lagi kang may inaatupag sa pagkamal ng salapi.

Walang kang katubusan hanggang sa dulo.

Ang pagtuklas sa maliit ay dalumat;

Ang pagsuko sa lakas ay saksi sa pagkamatibay.

Gamit ang liwanag, babalik ka sa kislap ng paglilirip;

At sa ganitong paraan, masasagip mo ang katawan sa pagkapariwara.

Ito ang pangangalaga sa di nagbabagong katatagan.


Kung taglay ko lamang ang dunong na nagmamalasakit,

Maglalakad ako sa gitna ng lansangan at ang tanging ligamgam ko lamang ay baka maligaw mula roon.

Ang manatili sa pangunahing lansangan ay madali,

Ngunit ang karaniwang tao’y mahilig lumihis sa daan at pumili ng makitid.

Kapag ang palasyo’y nagagayak sa maaksayang palamuti,

Ang bukirin ay hitik sa damong kailangang gamasin;

At ang kamalig ay hungkag, walang laman.

Ang mga upisyal ay nagpaparadang suot ang maringal na damit,

Dala nila’y matalim na ispada, at walang pakundangang nagpapasasa sa iba’t ibang inumin at pagkain;

Nag-uumapaw ang kanilang ari-arian na sobra sa kanilang pangangailangan.

Sila ang mga mayayamang magnanakaw na maingay sa pamamansag.

Di maitatatwa na mungkahi payo ito ng ulirang Tao.


Kung anong matibay na naitayo ay hindi mabubunot.

Ang maiging nahawakan ay hindi makahuhulagpos.

Dudulutan ito ng karangalan at ritwal ng pag-aalay ng bawat salinhali, walang patlang.

Linangin ang Birtud sa bawat kalooban, at ang Birtud ay magiging dalisay.

Linangin ito sa pamilya, at ang Birtud ay lalaganap.

Linangin ito sa buong nayon, at ang Birtud ay mamumukadkad.

Linangin ito sa buong bansa, at ang Birtud ay magiging sagana.

Linangin ito sa sansinukob, at ang Birtud ay matatagpuan saanman.

Sa gayon, tignan ang katawan bilang katawan;

Tignan ang pamilya bilang pamilya;

Tignan ang nayon bilang nation;

Tignan ang bansa bilang bansa;

Tignan ang santinakpan bilang santinakpan.

Bakit ko nahuhulo na ang santinakpan ay ganito nga?

Sa pagtalima sa halimbawa ng Tao.


Sinumang taglay ang malahimalang Birtud ay tulad ng bagong silang na sanggol.

Di ito makakagat ng may lasong kulisap;

Di ito maigugupo ng mga mabangis na hayup;

Di ito gagahisin ng mga ibong mandaragit.

Marupok ang mga buto, malambot ang kalamnan.

Ngunit ang sungay ay matipuno.

Hindi niya naranasan ang pagsanib ng babae at lalaki;

Siya ay matigas at buong-buo.

Ang lakas ng pagkalalaki niya ay masagana.

Sumisigaw siya sa buong araw ngunit hindi namamaos.

Dahil ito sa mabiyayang pagtutugma.

Ang dalumat sa pagtutugma ay tinuring na walang pag-iiba.

Ang pagmumuni sa katatagan ay kaliwanagan.

Ang paghahanap ng sariling pakinabang ay di magbubunga ng kabutihan.

Kung ang udyok ng puso ay gumagabay sa budhi, ito’y pagmamalabis.

Malakas ngayon ang mga bagay-bagay, ngunit tumatanda ito at humihina.

Hindi ito ang paraan ng Tao.

Anuman ang sumasalungat sa Tao ay tiyak na hindi magtatagal.


Ang nakaaalam ay hindi nagsasabi; ang mga dumadakdak ay walang alam.

Itikom mo ang iyong bibig, tanuran ang damdamin.

Lubayan ang iyong katalasan.

Ihiwalay ang mga nakabuhol, papusyawin ang nakasisilaw.

Sumanib sa alikabok.

Ito ang binansagang pinakaubod na pagtatalik.

Sa gayon, hindi makakamit ang mataos na kaisahan at panatilihin ang pagpapalagayang-loob.

Hindi rin maipagpapatuloy ang paglayo ng damdamin.

Hindi makakamit ang kabutihan o kapahamakan, ang magastos at simple, sa ganitong kalagayan.

Samakatwid, ito ang pinagpupugayan sa ilalim ng langit.


Pamahalaan ang bansa sa tanglaw ng katarungan.

Ugitan ang digma sa pamamagitan ng nakagugulat na lusob.

Magsikap pangibabawan ang sansinukob sa bisa ng walang ginagambala.

Bakit ko natarok ang kalikasan ng kapaligiran?

Ginamit ko itong karunungan:

Kung mas maraming batas at panuntunang ipinapataw sa bayan, lalong mamumulubi iyon.

Kung lalong matalas ang mga sandata, lalong malaking ligalig sa bawat panig.

Kung mas tuso’t madaya ang mga tao, lalong maraming mahiwagang pangyayaring magaganap.

Kung maraming regulasyon at alintuntunin, marami ring magnanakaw at tulisan.

Samakatwid, pangaral ng pantas:

Wala akong ipinamamarali at ang mamamayan ay kusang nagbabago.

Nasisiyahan ako sa katahimikan at ang mga mamamayan ay kusang nagiging makatarungan.

Hindi ako nakikialam at ang mga mamamayan ay masigasig sa trabaho upang sumagana.

Wala akong ninanais at ang mga mamamayan ay nagiging katutubong payak.


Kung ang pamahalaan ay inuugitan ng isang magaang na kamay,

Ang mga taumbayan ay di maluho sa asal at matino.

Kung ang bayan ay pinangangasiwaan sa tusong paraan,

Ang mga taumbayan ay mapanlinlang.

Kahirapan ay nakaluklok sa kanlungan ng kasayahan,

Nakaugat ang kaligayahan sa paghihikahos.

Sino ang makahuhula kung ano ang ihahandog ng kinabukasan?

Wala ngayong katarungan.

Ang makatarungan ay nagiging imbi.

Ang mabait ay nagiging buktot at makasalanan.

Ang pagkagulilat ng nilalang ay nagtatagal at lumalala.

Sa gayon, matalisik ang pantas ngunit hindi humihiwa,

Matulis ngunit hindi tumutusok,

Tuwiran ngunit hindi sinasakal,

Makinang ngunit hindi nakabubulag.


Sa pag-alaga sa ibang nilalang at paglinkod sa langit,

Walang kapalit sa paraan ng pagsaway sa sarili.

Ang pagkamahinahon ay nagsisimula sa maagang paghahanda.

Nakabatay ito sa Birtud na matiyagang nalikom sa mahabang panahon.

Kung may maiging naimbak na Birtud, walang bagay na hindi maisasakatuparan.

Kung walang imposible, sa gayon walang limitasyon ang magbabawal;

Kung walang tinatalimang takda, sa gayon karapat-dapat siyang mamuno.

Ang inang siyang prinsipyo ng pagmamahal ay makabuluhan sa pangmatagalan.

Tawag dito’t pagtatamasa ng malalim na ugat at matatag na saligan;

Ito ang Tao ng malawig na buhay at walang saklaw na talino.

Ang pamamahala ng bansa ay tulad ng pagluluto ng maliit na isda.

Lapitan ang sansinukob sa pamamagitan ng Tao

At walang mapapala ang mga diyablo ng kabuktutan.

Hindi ibig sabihin nito na ang kasamaan ay hindi nagmamalupit,

Ngunit ang kapangyarihan nila ay hindi makapipinsala.

Hindi lamang ito, na hindi makasasakit sa iba, kundi pati ang pantas ay hindi makasisira.

Hindi sila mananakit sa kapwa, at ang Birtud sa bawa’t isa ay makapagpapasigla sa kapwa.


Ang malawak na bayan ay tulad ng tumana sa gilid ng ilog;

Ito’y tagpuang pook ng maraming bagay sa mundo;

Nagsisilbing ina ng lahat ng nilikha.

Laging naigugupo ng babae ang lalaki sa yumi at pagkawalang-kibo,

Nakatalungkong na walang kibo, mahinhin.

Samakatwid, kung makitrato ang isang malawak na bansa sa isang maliit sa mapagkumbabang paraan,

Magtatagumpay siya sa maliit na bayan.

At kung ang maliit naman ang makikibagay sa isang marangyang bansa sa ganoong paraan, kakanlungin siya ng bansang ito.

Sa gayon ang nais mangibabaw ay dapat bumigay,

At iyong gumagahis ay nagwawagi sapagkat sila’y sumusuko.

Nangangailan ng maraming mamamayan ang malawak na bansa;

Kailangang sumanib ang isang maliit na bansa sa iba.

Makakamit ng bawat isa ang kanyang nais;

Karapat-dapat sa isang marangyang bansa na magpaubaya at magpaunlak.


Ang Tao ay malalim na batis ng ilanlibong bagay sa mundo.

Ito ang kayamanan ng mabait na tao, ang taguang binabantayan ng masama.

Mabibili ang karangalan ng matamis na salita;

Makakamit ng mapitagang asal ang mataas na posisyon na lipunan.

Paano mo maitatatwa ang masamang katangian ng kapwa?

Sa gayon, sa araw na pinuputungan ng korona ang imperador,

O kaya, ang mga upisyal ng Estado ay inihahalal,

Huwag kang magpadala ng regalo ng batong ihada at kawan ng apat na kabayo,

Sa halip manatiling walang kibo at itanghal ang Tao.

Bakit matinding dinadakila ng madla ang Tao sa simula’t simula pa?

Hindi dahil sa natagpuan mo ang iyong hinahanap at pinatawad ka pagkatapos magkasala?

Samakatwid, ang Tao ay pinaparangalan sa ilalim ng langit.


Isapraktika ang walang pag-abala.

Magtrabaho nang walang panghihimasok.

Tikman ang walang lasa.

Palakihin ang maliit, paramihin ang kaunti.

Tumugon sa karaingan ng Birtud sa magiliw na paraan.

Tuklasin ang katutubo sa mga masalimuot na bagay.

Itaguyod ang kadakilaan sa pananaw ng munting bagay.

Sa sansinukob, ang mahirap isakatuparan ay ginagawa sa paraang madali.

Sa sansinukob, ang malaking kaganapan ay sinasaksihan ng mga gawang maliit.

Hindi sinusubok ng pantas ang anumang talagang mabigat,

At sa ganito’y natatamo niya ang kadakilaan.

Ang madulas na pangako ay natutumbasan ng matamlay na tiwala.

Ang magaang na pagrenda sa mga bagay ay magbubunsod ng mahirap na suliranin.

Sa gayon, laging tinitimbang ng pantas ang mahirap na problema.

Sa wakas, walang trabahong hindi malulutas.


Madaling pairalin ang kapayapaan.

Madaling malunasan ang gulo bago ito lumawig.

Madaling basagin ang malutong; madaling ikalat ang maliit.

Harapin mo’t bunuin ito bago mangyari.

Ayusin ang paligid bago dumagsa ang hilahil.

Ang malaking punong-kahoy na higit sa isang dipa ay sumisibol sa munting usbong;

Ang terasang may siyam na palapag ay nagsisimula sa isang tambak ng lupa.

Ang lakbay na isang libong milya ay nag-uumpisa sa ilalim ng talampakan.

Sinumang kumikilos ay siyang sumusugpo sa kanyang layon;

Sinumang sumusunggab ay natatalo.

Hindi nag-aabala ang pantas, at sa gayo’y hindi natatalo.

Hindi siya sumusunggab at sa gayo’y hindi natatanggalan.

Kadalasa’y nabibigo ang mga taong malapit nang magwagi

Kaya bigyan ng masinop at maingat na pakikitungo ang hulihan gaya ng pagtuon sa unahan.

Sa gayon hindi ka daranas ng kabiguan.

Samakatwid, hangad ng pantas na lumigtas sa pagnanais.

Hindi siya nagtitipon ng mga mamahaling ari-arian.

Ipinag-aaralan niyang huwag magkamal ng mga haka o hinagap na itatago.

Binabalik niya ang kapwa sa bagay na nawala.

Tinutulungan niya ang ilanlibong bagay sa pagsisiyasat sa kanilang tunay na kalikasan.

Ngunit siya’y umiiwas sa kaabalahan.


Sa simula, ang mga taong may kabatiran sa ulirang Tao ay hindi nagpapaliwanag.

Sa halip, hinahayaan nilang makulong ang madla sa dilim.

Bakit napakahirap pamunuan ang mga hangal?

Sapagkat sila ay sagadsarang tuso at mapanlinlang.

Ang mga pinunong sanay sa panlilinlang ang siyang umaalipusta sa bayan.

Iyong namang namumuno ng walang daya ay pinagpalang handog sa buong bayan.

Ang pag-aaral sa dalawang paraang ito ay paghatol sa ating pamamaraan.

Ang pagsipat dito ay pinakatunay na Birtud, malalim at masaklaw.

Inaakay nito ang lahat sa pagbabalik sa Tao, tungo sa dakilang pagpapailalim.


Bakit ang dagat ang hari ng ilandaang sapa sa lambak?

Sapagkat ito ay mahusay dumaloy sa ilalim.

Sa gayon ito’y kumikilos bilang hari ng ilandaang sapa.

Kung papatnubayan ng pantas ang mga mamamayan, dapat paglingkuran sila sa paraang mapagkumbaba.

Kung aakayin sila, dapat siyang pumila sa likod nila.

Dahil dito ang pantas ay nangingibabaw kapag namumuno at hindi nararamdaman ang bigat ng kapangyarihang gumagabay;

Kung siya ay nakatayo, hindi sila nasasaktan.

Itataguyod siya ng lahat at hindi sila mapopoot sa kanya

Sapagkat hindi siya makikipag-away,

Walang sasalungat at makikipagtagisan sa kanya.

Sa kasalukuyang panahon, inaayawan ng madla ang habag, ngunit sinisikap nilang maging matapang;

Tumitigil sa pagtitipid, ngunit nagpupunyaging maging mapagbigay;

Hindi sila naniniwala sa kapakumbabaan, ngunit laging hangad nilang manguna sila.

Tiyak na pagkabulid iyan.

Nagdudulot ng tagumpay sa labanan ang habag at namamayani ito sa pagtatanggol.

Ito ang paraan ng langit upang mailigtas at mapangalagaan ang lahat sa bisa ng pagmamalasakit.


Lahat ng nilikha sa ilalim ng langit ay nagsasabi na ang aking Tao ay pihikan at hindi mapapantayan.

Palibhasa’y magaling, tila namumukod iyon.

Kung hindi iba, tiyak na nabalewala ito at tuloy nailigpit.

Mayroon akong tatlong hiyas na itinatago at tinatanuran.

Una ang kagandahang-loob; pangalawa ay pagtitipid;

Pangatlo ay kapangahasang hindi umasta bilang pinakapiling nilalang sa ilalim ng langit.

Mula sa pagkamaawain sumupling ang katapangan, mula sa pagtitipid ang pagkamapagbigay.

Mula sa pagpapakumbaba umuunlad ang pamamahala sa lahat.


Ang mahusay na sundalo ay hindi marahas sa digmaan.

Ang magaling sa labanan ay hindi galit.

Ang mahusay na sumugpo sa katunggali ay hindi gumaganti sa labanan.

Ang sanay sa pangangasiwa ay mapagkumbaba.

Ito’y tinatawag na “Birtud ng hindi pagsusumikap.”

Ito ay kilala sa taguring “kakayahang mangasiwa.”

Simula pa noong sinaunang panahon, ito ang kilala sa taguring “pakikiisa sa katutubong takda ng langit.”


May kasabihang kalat tungkol sa pwersang militar:

Hindi ako dapat mangahas kumilos bilang nag-anyaya; sa halip, nais kung maglaro muna bilang panauhin;

Hindi ko pangangahasang sumugod ng isang dangkal, sa halip nais kong umurong ng isang dipa.”

Ang tawag dito ay pagmartsa sa paraang hindi ipinamamalas ang anumang galaw,

Binabalumbon ang manggas nang hindi inilalabas ang braso,

Binibihag ang kalaban nang hindi sumasalakay,

Sandatahan ngunit walang armas.”

Walang hindi pa masahol na sakuna kaysa sa pagmamaliit sa kakayahan ng kaaway.

Sa paghamak sa kaaway, muntik nang mawala sa akin yaong mga mahalaga sa akin.

Sa pagsagot sa lusob ng kaaway, ang mga hukbo ay magkamukha at magkatimbang.

Ang panig na hapis at namimighati ang siyang magwawagi.


Ang mga salita ko’y madaling maintindihan at madaling mailapat.

Subalit walang sinuman, sa ilalim ng langit, ang nakauunawa dito upang subukan at isapraktika ito.

Ang mga pangungusap ko ay sumusunod sa dalubhasang guro,

Ang mga kilos ko ay ginagabayang mahigpit

Sapagkat hindi nauunawaan ng madla ang mga turo ko, hindi nila kilala ako.

Kaunti lamang ang may kabatiran sa akin; kaunti ang nakikinig.

Sa gayon, suot ng pantas ang maligasgas na sakong damit at kimkim niyang malapit sa puso ang tunay na hiyas.


Batid mo na hindi mo talagang alam—ito ang kahanga-hanga.

Kung hindi mo batid na alam mo nga, ito ay tiyak na pagkukulang.

Walang pagkukulang na ganito ang pantas.

Sapagkat tanggap niya na ang kakulangan ay tunay na kakulangan.

Sapagkat tanggap niya ang kanyang mga kakulangan, wala siyang kapintasan.


Kung ang tao’y walang takot sa dahas, tiyak na darating ang malaking kapahamakan.

Huwag ipagpilitang pasukin ang loob ng mga tahanan.

Huwag maliitin ang paraan ng kanilang pamumuhay.

Kung hindi nakikialam ang mga pinuno, hindi sila mapopoot sa kanya.

Sa gayon, talos ng pantas ang sarili kung hindi siya nagpapasikat.

Isinapuso niya ang paggalang-sa-sarili at pag-ayaw sa kahambugan.

Pinabayaan ito at piniling asikasuhin iyon.


Ang matapang at mapusok na nilalang ay nauutas.

Ang matapang at matimping nilalang ay di mapapaslang.

Sa dalawang ito, isa’y nagdudulot ng kapakinabangan, at ang isa naman ay pinsala.

May mga bagay na hindi tinatangkilik ng langit. Sino ang makahuhulo kung bakit?

Maski ang pantas ay hindi nakatitiyak at hindi makapagpaliwanag.

Bagamat ang Tao ng langit ay hindi sumasali sa paligsahan, madalubhasang nakakamit nito ang tagumpay.

Hindi ito nangungusap ngunit itoy sanay tumugon.

Hindi tumatawag ngunit lahat ay kusang dumudulog.

Sa malas, matiwasay na ito, ngunit maliksi pa rin sa pagtupad sa panukala.

Ang lambat ng langit ay inihahagis sa masaklaw na paraan.

Bagamat maluwag ang mga butas nito, walang nakalulusot.


Kung ang taumbaya’y hindi takot mamatay,

Walang mapapala ang pinuno kung bantaan sila ng kapalarang ito.

Kung nag-iingat ang pinunong sanaying magdanas ng takot ang mga mamamayan,

At kung sikapin kong hulihin at patayin ang mga kriminal,

Sino ang mangangahas sumuway sa batas?

Laging humihirang ng upisyal na taga-bitay.

Kung kukunin mo ang kanyang tungkulin,

Malalagay ka sa sitwasyong ikaw ay karpintero’t taga-putol ng kahoy na taglay ang malalim na karanasan sa mga bagay na ito,

Sinumang nais pumutol ng kahoy bilang dalubhasang karpintero,

Madalang lang na makaiiwas silang masugatan ang mga kamay.


Bakit nagugutom ang taumbayan?

Dahil sa kinakain ng mga pinuno ang kanilang hanap-buhay sa pangangalap ng maraming buwis.

Kaya laganap ang gutom.

Bakit sila naghihimagsik?

Dahil sa labis na nanghihimasok ang pinuno.

Kaya sila’y bumabalikwas at umaalsa.

Bakit hindi lubhang sinasaloob ang kamatayan?

Sapagkat ang mga namumuno’y humihingi nang labis mula sa nagsisikap maghanap-buhay.

Sa gayon hindi dinidibdib ng taumbayan ang pangambang masasawi sila.

Sa mga nilalang na sinasayang ang buhay sa hindi pakikialam, taos-pusong nilalasap nila ang katuturan nito.


Ipinanganak ang isang nilalang na mahina’t malambot.

Sa paglisan, siya’y matigas at magaspang.

Ang damo’t luntiang halaman ay malambot at madaling mabali.

Pagkaraang maghingalo, ito ay lanta at tuyot.

Sa gayon ang matigas at di mababaluktot ay alagad ng kamatayan.

Ang mahina at malambot ay tagapagtaguyod ng buhay.

Dahil dito, bagamat ang hukbo ay malakas at ayaw bumigay, mawawasak ito.

Bagamat matipuno ang punong-kahoy at hindi yumuyuko, madaling mabakli ang mga sanga nito.

Ang matigas at matipuno ay mabubuwal;

Ang malambot at mahina ay makahihigit at mangingibabaw.


Ang Tao ng langit—hindi ba tulad ito ng pagbabaluktot ng busog?

Kung masyadong mataas, ibinababa ito; kung mababa, itinataas.

Kung higit ang kaigtingan, binabawasan.

Kung kulang naman, hinihigpitan.

Ang Tao ng langit ay sumasamsam mula sa pag-aaring nagkakatusak ng mayaman upang ipamahagi iyon sa mga pulubi.

Ang Tao naman ng karaniwang nilalang ay iba.

Kumukuha siya sa mga mamamayang nagdaralita at ipinamamahagi iyon sa mga mariwasa.

Sino ang nilikhang labis ang pag-aari at kusang nagbibiyaya sa buong mundo?

Ang nagtatamasa ng Tao lamang.

Sa gayon, ang pantas ay kumikilos nang lihim, hindi umaasa sa iba;

Naisasagawa niya ang anumang dapat mabuting gawin at hindi tumatawag ng pansin.

Wala siyang hangad magyabang dahil sa taglay na Birtud.


Sa ilalim ng langit walang mas malambot at mapagpaubaya pa kaysa sa tubig.

Ngunit kung nais mong dumaluhoong sa matigas at malakas, wala nang iba pang magaling kaysa sa tubig.

Walang makapapalit dito.

Maigugupo ng mahina ang malakas.

Maibabagsak ng malambot ang matigas.

Batid ito ng lahat sa ilalim ng langit.

Ngunit walang nagsasapraktika nito.

Sa gayon, pahayag ng pantas:

Sinumang umaangkin sa kahihiyan ng taumbayan ay karapat-dapat mamuno sa pamahalaan;

Sinumang dumaramay sa kasawian ng bayan ay karapat-dapat maging hari ng sansinukob.

Malimit dumadaloy ang kabalintunaan sa katotohanan.


Pagkaraan ng mapait na alitan, natitira ang galit o pagdaramdam.

Ano ang maaring gawin, gamit ang Birtud, upang kumalat ang kabaitan?

Sa gayon, ang pantas ay tumutupad sa kalahating bahagi ng usapan.

Ngunit hindi sumisingil sa lahat ng kanyang hati.

Ang nilikhang taglay ang Birtud ay tumutupad sa kanyang pananagutan.

Ngunit ang nilikhang walang Birtud ay humihingi ng buwis.

Ang Tao ng langit ay walang kinikilingan.

Laging kapiling ito ng mga nilalang na matulungin at mapagbigay.


Ang maliit na bayan ay pinaninirahan ng kaunting mamamayan.

Pinangasiwaang mag-imbak ng maraming sandata ngunit hindi ito ginagamit.

Iniingatan na may pagsasaalang-alang sa kamatayan at hindi sila naglalakbay sa malayo.

Kahit makagagamit ng mga bangka at karwahe, walang sumasakay dito.

Kahit mayroong sandata’t baluti, walang nagtatampok dito.

Bumabalik sila sa kinagawiang pagbuhol ng lubid sa halip na sumulat.

Mahusay ang pamamalakad ng gobyerno.

Masarap ang pagkain; maganda at mainam ang damit nila.

Ang kanilang mga tahanan ay tiwasay.

Maligaya sila sa kanilang kinagawiang pamumuhay.

Bagamat tanaw ang mga kapit-bahay at maiging naririnig ng sinumang bumabagtas sa lansangan ang tahulan ng aso’t tilaok ng manok,

Namumuhay sila nang payapa, tumatanda’t tumutugpa nang walang sukat pagkaabalahan.


Hindi magayuma ang wikang makatotohanan.

Hindi makatotohanan ang mabighaning salita.

Hindi nagtatalo ang mga mabuting mamamayan.

Ang mga nangangatwiran ay hindi mabuti.

Ang may angking dunong ay hindi palaaral.

Ang palaaral ay walang kamuwangan.

Ang pantas ay sumasawata sa ugaling pagtinggal ng mga bagay-bagay.

Sapagkat marami siyang nagawa para sa kapakanan ng iba, lalong marami siyang biyaya.

Kapag marami ang ibinibigay niya sa iba, masagana siya.

Ang Tao ng langit ay masigla at masipag, ngunit hindi ito pumipinsala.

Ang Tao ng pantas ay lumilikha at hindi nakikipag-unahan.