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Friday, December 09, 2005
Achieving Our Liberation, I

I've finally finished all my exams. We'll be returning to a full week of updates on Monday. I'll also be posting one of the essay I've recently written over the next few days for comments on any of the parts or the whole. As usual, all ideas are copyrighted by both by the DartObserver and by the individual authors.

Freedom is a prerequisite for justice.* To say that American slaves experienced injustice is an understatement. The condition of slavery made it impossible to speak of justice in a true sense. Similarly, to say that no justice exists for an entire class of nations would be equally facile. Most scholars agree that today a world system exists, rooted in international capitalism. The more radical of those scholars would acknowledge that the international economic order privileges the political economic position of the strong over the positions of the postcolonial states. As evidenced by the growing tensions within the current Doha round of the World Trade Organization, and the concept of the North-South gap, the inability of postcolonial states to determine for themselves a future independent of the world system suggests that these nations lack freedom in any real sense.

In trying to discern moral principles for “after the terror”—after the collapse of the twin towers in autumn of 2001—philosopher Ted Honderich 2002 writes of the conditions of the “half-lives” of many who live exterior to the world system as compared to their counterparts in its center. “Some people, because of their societies, have average lifetimes of about seventy-eight years. Some other people, because of their different societies, live on average about forty years.[…] For every 1,000 children born alive” in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Sierra Leone “about 200 die under the age of five. A dark fact. An evil…” More than injustice, postcolonies have lived experiences than can be classified as evil in comparison to the opulence of those in the center of the world system. Equality, however, is not the central issue; even historically, the design and function of the international economic order has been to deny those societies choices outside the world system (Wood 2005). The central issue is freedom to determine one’s own path outside the imperial logics of the era of modernization, to over-come “the world-system itself, such as it has developed until today for the last five-hundred years. (Dussel 2003)” This conception of freedom forms what the philosopher-theologian Enrique Dussel calls an “ethic of liberation.” This ethic of liberation forms the core of politician and political theorist Amilcar Cabral’s reflection on the subject: “…[T]he chief goal of the liberation movement goes beyond the achievement of political independence to the superior level of complete liberation of the productive forces and the construction of economic, social, and cultural progress of the [nation]….(Williams and Chrisman 1994)” When applied to the nation, and this is my central argument, an ethic of liberation becomes a struggle for national liberation, which is the freedom of a postcolony to find political existence outside the world system according to its own history.

This freedom is a prerequisite for justice. That is the lesson that the historical struggles for national liberation have for political theorists. The further we get from the proclamations of political independence, the more it seems that formal independence is distinct from national liberation, especially when we consider the imperial effects of a global system of capital (Wood 2005). Having defined national liberation as the ability of nations to leave the world system and find their own path, I aim to detail what national liberation, as a project, entails.

I begin by describing how the nation is unfree in the thoughts of four theorists writing in a Marxist framework: Vladimir Lenin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Enrique Dussel and Amilcar Cabral. Understanding the nation’s captivity is crucial to understanding how the nation can emerge from the system. The theorists from the center, Lenin and Sartre, disagree vigorously with the theorists from the periphery over the meaning of liberation (Wallerstein 2003). This disagreement largely results from how each imagined liberation in relation to the capitalist system. Not all visions of liberation aim to imagine the postcolony outside of a world-system, and the tensions between the postcolony and the world-system drive the disagreements between the theories. Once I have identified the source of restriction on the nation, I shall offer reasons why a truly liberated postcolony must be exterior to the system.

*I'd like to thank S. Luke Blair and Steven Wu for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this draft.