By Erasmo Calzadilla
As a result of what I have written about my expulsion from the university (the ruling on my appeal is still pending), some people have wondered about the philosophy that I uphold and the concrete grounds for the accusations of me being “right wing.” They also questioned whether I had given the institution more rope by speaking out on the issue. I immediately put pen to paper.
An unnamed reader, apparently someone from the university, commented here in Havana Times that the proof of my inability to teach was that my students could not answer such an elementary question as “What is philosophy?” Damn, thinking about it carefully, if they asked me that same question I might spend several years dedicated to the matter, and I too would find it difficult to answer.
One of the most interesting aspects about philosophy is that it must be rediscovered by each person who is interested in it. The person learning it must re-create it. The educator cannot teach the answers, because then we would not be in the presence of an emancipatory knowledge, of a philosophy.
If such an approach to teaching does not fit within the institution of a socialist university, it would be preferable to eliminate the program of studies. However, what is paradoxical is that any self-described socialist or leftist university should in fact be the first to adopt this method, the only manner capable of de-colonizing the minds of the future intellectuals of the nation.
To develop an idea of what is philosophy requires a long period of reading and reflection, during which time each person slowly forms their ideas in accordance with their personal experiences and interests. Yet those who contrived the program that I am accused of violating, and many of those who teach the subject, believe that the concept of philosophy discovered many years ago by the groundbreakers and their continuators, should be handed to the students by the teacher during one of their first classes.
The program asserts that all students of higher education in Cuba should know that philosophy is a science, the mother of all others, studying the most general laws of reality and thought, and that it establishes the relationship between being and thinking. This science, they say, is above all concerned with establishing whether the material or the spiritual is primary, and that true philosophy-ours, Marxist and revolutionary, confirmed by the advances of science-establishes that being determines thought.
This, with few variants, is the precept that appears in the official bibliography so that all teachers, without exception, instruct it. With hardly any modifications, its content was copied from the Soviet manuals, which nonetheless were officially declared obsolete. Anyone who differs from this “philosophy” and this manner of teaching it are put on a list, added to a collection of others (I am certain that mine has not been the only case).