Gajo Petrović 1993

I Confess

SourceFaculty of Philosophy at University in Zagreb;
First Published: “Profil. Magazin za predcivilno doba,” “Nedjeljnа Dalmacijа,” February, 23rd 1993, pp. 20-21;
Translated: by Zdravko Saveski;
HTML Mark-up: by Zdravko Saveski, 2010.

Recently, in “Nedjeljna Dalmacija,” i.e. in “Profil,” in “Slobodna Dalmacija,” and in many other newspapers, a lot has been written on Croatian philosophy, Croatian Philosophic Society, the “Praxis” journal, Philosophy department of the Faculty of Philosophy, and even on individual philosophers. From time to time, my name was also mentioned – mostly in just the same way as in the last four decades.

From purely personal reasons (not related to philosophy or politics) for some time I could not participate in philosophical gatherings nor could I, even if I wanted to, join the current (so-called philosophical polemics. Even now I don’t want to polemicize, because I think that, for the general cause, it is better if I publicly confess at least some of my numerous philosophical errors. Of course, incidentally I’ll have to say something about other things and other people. But – not to delay.

I confess that the philosophical texts that I have published from the end of the 1940s until today (approximately 15 books and several hundred items in collections of papers, journals and newspapers), were denounced in the former Yugoslavia and in the countries of “socialist camp” throughout that time (four decades) – at first as insufficiently Marxist, then as non-Marxist, anti-Marxist, idealistic, abstractly humanist, Heideggerian, existentialist, non-dialectic, positivist etc. Some have denied every their philosophical intention and relevancy, proclaiming them, as well as my whole public activity, as political, demagogical, bourgeois-liberalist, Anarchist, Left-radical, extremist, anti-self-management, destructive, anti-Socialist and anti-Communist. As a mitigating circumstance I state that works of some other Croatian and especially Zagreb philosophers (members of Praxis school) were characterized in a similar way. The aggravating circumstance for all of us is that those works were evaluated completely differently in Western Europe, America and elsewhere.

The Assembly of Socialist Republic of Croatia should receive honours because, on basis of extensive elaboration of comrade Vladimir Bakarić and comrade Miloš Žanko, as well as the vivid and belligerent discussions of the delegates, has condemned the Republic’s Committee for Rewarding Scientific Workers (headed by Većeslav Holjevac) and the expert commission for the “Božidar Adžija” award (headed by Professor Vladimir Filipović), for giving that award to two members of Praxis school (Milan Kangrga and Gajo Petrović), and because has immediately replaced Veco Holjevac, for not accepting that condemnation. Because of that action it is not justified to condemn the Assembly for constant brutal interference in the sphere of science, for during several decades hundreds of scientific workers (among them many are generally recognized as victims of the previous regime) have received awards on Republic level, but only once the Assembly of Socialist Republic of Croatia held such spectacular discussion with such decisive conclusions. In order not to give impression that the condemned award “Božidar Adžija” was the only award that I have ever received in former Yugoslavia, I confess that I was given two more – the award of Matica hrvatska for 1955 (for the book “English Empiricist Philosophy”) and “Nolit”s award for 1987 (for the book “Prolegomena to a Critic of Heidegger”), and that political forums didn’t react, just as they failed to react negatively to hundreds of other “federal,” “republic” and “city” official, semi-official and unofficial awards that were given to other scientists, writers, artists etc. (some got several dozens).

I confess also that some university forums have noticed my damaging activity. The University Council, on demand of its president Boris Bakrač (who, at the session of the Council was waving the newspapers containing the speech of President Tito against the professors of Praxis school), didn’t give its consent for my promotion to the title of full professor in 1968. However, the disobedient Faculty of Philosophy, one year later (1969), on its own initiative has started and completed my promotion into that title – without the blessing of the University. It was in accordance with the principled attitude of the Faculty of Philosophy (which came into prominence in 1971-1972) not to fire its members for political reasons. In 1974 the dean of the Faculty of Philosophy said to me that the Faculty will react against the expulsion of members of Praxis school, which politicians were planning in that time, cancelling it after the fierce reaction of international public on the expulsion of eight professors from Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade.[1]

I confess that I was one of the initiators of the foundation of the Croatian Philosophical Society, first secretary of CFS (1957-1959) and president for one term (1963-1964); also, that I participated very often (particularly as lecturer) in symposiums and discussion evenings of the Society. I confess that, contrary to numerous similar societies, Croatian Philosophical Society was independent, didn’t act under anyone’s “higher” directives, nor did it ever have its “party aktif” (which was general rule in every professional, cultural, social etc. organizations and institutions). According to its capabilities, the Society worked on the promotion of philosophy, and it would be good to write more about this – without excessive praise, but without groundless denunciations too. In any case, the Society, soon after its foundation, has achieved remarkable prestige, so for some time the rulers were dreaming about putting it under their control and misusing it for denunciation of “Praxis”. However, their attempts to do that, to their sorrow – have failed miserably. Because of that, credit should be given to all of them who, in a past session of the CFS, pushed through some statement in which they politically denounced some particular philosophers, some former managements of the Society, and, “incidentally,” the “Praxis” journal. But, it would be interesting to know how many members the Society has today, how many have voted for this statement and what significant philosophical works lay behind our political cleaners of philosophy.

I confess that I was one of the founders of the mentioned notorious philosophical journal “Praxis,” which started to be published in 1964, and was thwarted in 1974; also that, regardless of the official criticisms and campaigns which were pursued all the time against it, I was exercising the duty of one of the two of its main and responsible editors. We knew that the vigorous main directive for attacks on “anti-Communist” “Praxis” had been given by President Tito personally, and because of that, in the attacks on “Praxis,” were so concordant all political forums, leading cadres and ideologues from all republics of former Yugoslavia (meanwhile, some of those attackers have become politically inactive, and some are in power or close to the power today too). Regardless of that, arrogantly, I confess, we keep to the praxisfulness.

The Korčula Summer School – closely related to “Praxis” and inside the “praxis” – have included amongst its most intensive participants, a lot of highly esteemed, even some of the most esteemed Western European and American philosophers of most diverse orientations (from unorthodox Marxists, through phenomenologists to analytical philosophers), and international philosophical journals, even daily newspapers have written about “Praxis” journal and the philosophers of Praxis school as a significant phenomenon of the international philosophical life. I confess self-critically that I didn’t oppose that international affirmation of “Praxis,” and that I helped it according to my capabilities.

With this the list of my general sins is far from completed, but I think I should confess some concrete ones too. So, I confess that I taught three subjects in the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb for more decades (Logic, Epistemology and Ontology), and I gradually succeeded teaching assistants being elected on all of the mentioned subjects. I was condemned in the newspapers on the grounds that one of them is anti-Marxist, the other one – non-Marxist, and the third one – a Marxist with mistaken orientation. But, I confess, I liberalistically thought and still think that neither Marxism nor anti-Marxism is an obstacle for the work in University.

Mea maxima culpa, at least according to some opinions, is Žarko Puhovski.[2] When it is so, I confess that he was indeed one of those whose first evaluator for the doctoral dissertation was me, together with academic Predrag Vranicki and professor Milan Kangrga, as members of commission. I confess that this commission has positively evaluated the doctoral dissertation of Žarko Puhovski, who successfully defended this dissertation in front of the commission with the same members, and with me as a president. I confess that (as the other members of the commission), I didn’t agree with some of the candidate’s opinions, and we have vividly discussed that in the public defence in front of significantly numerous auditorium. However, I also confess that this dissertation (which is available as a book to anyone interested) I have considered and I consider it to be very successful, not only by our criteria, but international ones too.

I confess that I also have a very good opinion about other scientific works, as well as scientific capabilities of Žarko Puhovski, and that it was I who, several years ago, recommended him as a one-year member of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, one of the most eminent scientific institutes in the world. The mentioned institute is created according to the model of even more famous Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, but it is significantly smaller by its range. Every year, the Wissenschaftskolleg invites for a year some 40 eminent scientific workers from different professions throughout the world, of which German scientists get approximately half of the invitations. For that reason, it is not so simple to get an invitation for a one year stay at this institute, and Puhovski got and realized such an invitation. Surely, he didn’t receive the invitation only because I have recommended him as a person who was also a member of this institute as well as the institute in Princeton. Significantly complicated and, sometimes, long are the procedures according to which the Wissenschaftskolleg makes the selection among the huge number of suggestions, and eminent scientists from many countries participate in those procedures. They are much guiltier than me because Žarko Puhovski – apart of undersigned – was until now the only guest of the mentioned institute, not only from Croatia, but from the whole area of former Yugoslavia.

I confess that my opinion about the scientific works and abilities of Žarko Puhovski (or, anyone else) doesn’t have to mean anything to the political instigators of our philosophy, who, with their original methods, can easily contest scientific competency, even moral eligibility, not only mine, but of every living philosopher. They cannot only prove, but de facto they have already proven that I have never been even a member of Praxis school. They have undisputedly determined that members of Praxis school have almost every day visited Aleksandar Ranković – Marko,[3] and, as I have never in my life met nor get known the comrade Marko, I don’t have a right anymore even to call myself a member of Praxis school. And if the same criterion is applied to the rest of, until now, known members of Praxis school, it will come up that member of Praxis school and praksisovshtina, against which all former rulers thundered, haven’t even existed.

I confess that I should be unmasked up to the end in every other philosophical area, and not only I, but all other members of Praxis school too – simply because it hasn’t been done “to the end” until now. It means not only that members of Praxis school should be unmasked, but also all those philosophers and scientists in the world who evaluated them completely differently from the Stalinist rulers of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia.

Keeping in mind that I was visiting professor on many Western European and American universities, and that I presented lectures at much more, all those universities, and especially their philosophical departments, should be unmasked.

Keeping in mind that all of my books and articles have been published in many languages on diverse continents, numerous publishers and editors should be held responsible – from America through Europe to Japan. Keeping in mind that, as invited speaker, I have participated on huge number of international philosophical gatherings, organisers of all these gatherings should be called on order, and especially Western European and American newspapers which sometimes reported quite extensively about my participation in those gatherings (as well as on lectures on some universities), what our newspapers – to their honour – haven’t done! Also, our newspapers should be praised for not reporting any of the awards that members of Praxis school received from international scientific organizations and institutions (I wouldn’t mention them now), and “Vjesnik” from Zagreb should be harshly condemned because, on one occasion (more than two years ago), it wrote properly about one award (honorary PhD degree) which I got from one Western European university. However, about the honorary PhD degree that my deceased friend Rudi Supek has received from the University in Uppsala a long time before me, it could be read only recently, in obituaries – as if we have hundreds of scientists with such titles (we don’t have them, I am afraid, not even a few dozen). Contrary to some scientists, writers and artists who in the past period got several dozen diverse awards, Rudi Supek, who died shortly before his 80 birthday, didn’t receive even one!

I am convinced that political instigators of our philosophy will also successfully perform the noble task of rehabilitation of all those persons who are called Stalinist obscurantists in the civilized world. Because, those obscurantists saw the real nature of “Praxis” and members of Praxis school long time before our contemporary light-carriers, and therefore should receive complete acknowledgement from their modern disciples and followers.

It is argued that some philosophical non-entities, by disclosing philosophers and philosophy, are trying to achieve some nasty unphilosophical goals. I know too little about all of that to immediately join that claim. But, I don’t know of any case in the history of philosophy when someone has asserted himself as a philosopher by political devaluation and defamation of philosophers that asserted themselves with their philosophical works. Accordingly, political instigators of philosophy, mildly speaking, cannot aspire to any philosophical goals. What their struggle is about – that is a question that I put aside now.


Translator’s notes

1. In January 1975, eight dissident university professors (Mihailo Marković, Ljubomir Tadić, Zagorka Golubović, Svetozar Stojanović, Miladin Životić, Dragoljub Mićunović, Nebojša Popov and Trivo Inđić) were expelled from the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade on the basis of a political decision of the Serbian Assembly.

2. Žarko Puhovski (b. 1946) in that period of nationalist euphoria all over in former Yugoslavia, and concretely in Croatia, was one of the staunchest advocate of human rights, and therefore he was attacked by the nationalist right. The next month, in March 1993, Puhovski was one of the founders of Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

3. Aleksandar "Leka" Ranković (1909-1983) was a leading Yugoslav Communist politician. He was minister of the interior and head of the military intelligence ("OZNA") and political police ("UDBA"), and, informally, second most influential politician in former Yugoslavia in 1950-ties and early 1960-ties, immediately after Tito. He fell from power in 1966.