On the Earthquake, Humanism, and Marxism

The Sichuan earthquake is very terrible; it killed so many people within a brief second, especially many students of middle schools and primary schools, and even some kindergartens. You can imagine how deeply many families are damaged under the policy of population control. The number of victims is increasing every day. The official figure is about 50,000, but most of people in China do not think so.

People who have different ideas from the government have few paths to express their viewpoints. Consequently, this earthquake has deepened the divide between the people and the government. I have read some reports from foreign media, and compare theirs with domestic media. Unfortunately, the latter still have to keep silent on the so-called negative phenomena.

From the angle of humanism, the earthquake is an inevitable natural disaster, and those suffering people need our help, in body and mind. As far as I know, our government politicizes this case and it is usually hostile to NGOs, which gave much help in this earthquake. Of course, the government and the army always play the main role. However, even the military lacks the necessary professional skills to face so terrible an earthquake. In the first days many young soldiers and citizens were in tears as they tried to give help without any tools. They are brave and compassionate.

Some tragedies are natural, and some are human. Some people die without any reason, and some survive. The trauma is long and deep. Yes, as someone said, we live together, die alone, and some of us will survive. In these days I can do nothing but just wait and read news from the front. This is my country and my people, and I can feel and understand their misery. But, do most of people in the world have the ability to care about foreign strangers, for example, the suffering people in Burma or Darfur? When they became a cold number, such a cold number makes their lives abstract. In this moment humanism demonstrates its great and real meanings.

This connects to my understanding of the concept of subject, which is different in Raya Dunayevskaya and Herbert Marcuse. Thinking about their correspondence, in my opinion the key reason why Marcuse disagreed with Dunayevskaya’s notion of Hegel’s Absolute Idea is that they have different ideas of the subject (of humanism). For Marcuse, the subject is abstract, so he gives up its historical dimension and the becoming subject. In this sense, Marcuse is a humanist like Jean-Paul Sartre. Once the working class has changed and would not be the revolutionary subject, they can only feel depressed. For Dunayevskaya, however, the subject is concrete and developing and historical. Thus, her humanism is able to become the new beginning of new history in the face of the contemporary movements, which is the core of the Absolute Idea. The self-developing subject (and its self-recognition) is the key to understanding Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism. And such self-developments are undoubtedly the result of dialectics.

Plus, Marcuse mainly understands Hegelian dialectic from the sociological dimension; this is another reason for their differences.

I agree with you that we as humanists should note and listen to the aspirations and voices from those uprisings. Since I stay the side of non-violence, however, I see many tragedies in the name of revolution in our country. As to the October Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, all of these historical tragedies were foreseen by Mikhail Bakunin. So, those Tibetans on March 14 also killed and attacked so many innocent citizens, and in this sense, I think their goal was hurt, together with these innocent citizens. That famous sentence from Eduard Bernstein, “the end, whatever it may be, is nothing to me, the movement is everything,” is of course somewhat right. As a result, if a humanist could say that it is ok when innocents are killed in those riots in the name of a grand or ordinary political end, for instance, the liberation of proletariat, or autonomy, etc., do you think it is still “humanism”? As for me, I would not stay on the side of this kind of humanism. I would turn away from this humanism.

Humanism should be abstract, because only an abstract form makes itself universal. But humanism should also be nonviolent, for violence probably deviates from the spirit of humanism. And then comes the question: reform or revolution? Oh my god, the old debate from before the last century comes back!


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