Gajo Petrović in Praxis 1964

Why Praxis?

Written: by Gajo Petrović 1964;
Source: Anarhosindikalistička konfederacija;
Translated: Zdravko Saveski.

There are so many journals today, but too few people read them! So, why another journal?

Despite the abundance of journals, it seems to us that we don’t have the one that we want: a philosophical journal that isn’t narrowly “expert,” a philosophical journal that isn’t just philosophical, but also discusses the actual problems of Yugoslav socialism, the contemporary world and man. We don’t want a philosophical journal in traditional sense, nor do we want some general theoretical magazine without a central thought and without physiognomy.

The idea to start such a journal hasn’t emerged from a pure desire to realize just another theoretically possible physiognomy of a journal; the idea has emerged through the conviction that a journal of this kind is a vivid need of our time.

Socialism is the only human way out from the difficulties in which humanity has entangled itself, and the Marx’s thought – the most adequate theoretical basis and inspiration for revolutionary activity. One of the basic sources of the failures and deformations of socialist theory and practice during the last decades should be sought in the overlooking of the “philosophical dimension” of Marx’s thought, in the overt or covert negation of its humanist essence. The development of an authentic, humanist socialism is not possible without the renewal and development of the Marx’s philosophical thought, without a deepened study of the works of all significant Marxists and without a really Marxist, non-dogmatic and revolutionary approach to the open issues of our time.

The contemporary world is still a world of economic exploitation, national inequalities, political non-freedom, spiritual emptiness, a world of misery, hunger, hatred, war and fear. The old problems are joined by new ones: nuclear devastation isn’t just a possible future; it already poisons our lives everyday. The greater and greater achievements of man in creation of means of “subjugation” of nature are more and more successfully transforming him into a supplementary instrument of his instruments. And the pressure of mass impersonalism and of the scientific method of “cultivation” of the masses is more and more opposed to the development of a free human personality.

The conscious efforts of progressive human forces to overcome the present inhuman condition and to achieve better world should not be underestimated. The significant successes achieved by struggle should not be forgotten either. But it should not be overlooked that in those countries too, where there are efforts to realize a genuinely human society, the inherited forms of inhumanity aren’t defeated and deformations emerge that didn’t exist earlier.

The philosopher cannot observe all these occurrences indifferently, not because in hard times everybody should help, and among others the philosopher too, but because in the roots of all that hardship lie problems whose solution is impossible without participation of philosophy. But if contemporary philosophy wants to contribute significantly in resolving the contemporary world crisis, it should not be reduced to the study and interpretation of its own history; it shouldn’t be the scholarly building of all-encompassing systems; even worse, just an analysis of the methods of contemporary science or description of everyday use of words. If it wants to be the thought of the revolution, philosophy must turn to the important concerns of the contemporary world and man, and if it wants to reach for the essence of the everyday life, it should not refrain from seemingly moving away from it, going into the depths of the “metaphysics.”

In accordance with these observations, we want a journal that would not be philosophical in that sense according to which philosophy is just one of the special areas, one scientific discipline, strictly separated by the rest of them and from the everyday problems of human life. We want a philosophical journal in that sense according to which philosophy is the thought of the revolution, ruthless criticism of all that exists,[1] a humanist vision of the really human world and an inspirational force for revolutionary activity.

The title “Praxis” is chosen because “praxis,” that central notion of the Marx’s thought, expresses most adequately the conception of philosophy we have sketched. The use of the Greek form of the word doesn’t mean that we understand this notion in the way as it is understood somewhere in the Greek philosophy. We do that because we want to detach ourselves from the pragmatist and vulgar-Marxist understanding of praxis and to state that we are oriented to the original Marx. Moreover, the Greek word, even if it isn’t understood exactly in the Greek sense, can serve as a reminder that, in contemplating, like the ancient Greeks, on the most mundane issues, we don’t overlook what is profound and which is essential.

The issues that we want to discuss transcend the frame of the philosophy as a profession. They are issues in which philosophy, science, art and social activism come together, issues that don’t concern this or that fragment of man, nor just this or that individual, but the man as a man. In accordance with the orientation on issues that cannot be enclosed in one separate profession, therefore neither in professionally understood philosophy, we will tend to gather contributors. We don’t want only philosophers to take part in the journal, but also artists, writers, scientists, public servants, all of those who aren’t indifferent to the vital problems of our time.

Without understanding of the essence of Marx’s thought there is no humanist socialism. But our program is not through interpretation of Marx’s thought to come to its “correct” understanding and only to “defend” it in this “pure” form. We don’t want to conserve Marx, but to develop vivid revolutionary thought inspired by Marx. The development of such thought requires broad and open discussion, in which non-Marxists would also participate. That’s why our journal will publish the works not just of Marxists, but also works by those who work on theoretical issues that concern us. We maintain that in understanding the essence of Marx’s thought, its intelligent critics can contribute more than its limited and dogmatic proponents.

The opinions presented in concrete works should not be attributed to the editorial board, but to the assigned authors. As the readers will have a chance to see, even members of the editorial board do not agree on everything. Publishing of whatever work in the journal, no matter if the author is a member of the editorial board or not, doesn’t mean that the editorial board agrees with the author’s viewpoint; it only means that the editorial board considers the work as a relevant contribution to the discussion of actual problems of the contemporary world and man.

The Croatian Philosophical Society publishes the Praxis journal, and its seat is in Zagreb. It is reflected in the composition of the editorial board too. However, problems of Croatia today cannot be discussed separately from the problems of Yugoslavia, and the problems of contemporary Yugoslavia cannot be isolated from the big questions of the contemporary world. Neither socialism nor Marxism is something strictly national, so Marxism cannot be Marxism, or socialism – socialism, if we enclose ourselves in narrow national frames.

In accordance with these statements, the journal will discuss not only some specifically Croatian or Yugoslavian themes, but also and in the first place the general problems of contemporary man and contemporary philosophy. And the approach to these themes will be socialist and Marxist, meaning internationalist. Along with contributors from Croatia, we will strive to gather contributors from other Yugoslav republics and from other countries, and from other continents, and along with the Yugoslav edition of the journal (in Croato-Serbian language), we will publish international edition (in English and French). The purpose of the international edition isn’t “representation” of Yugoslavian thought abroad, but stimulation of the international philosophical cooperation in discussing decisive issues of our time.

We don’t think that our journal can “solve,” not even put on discussion all the acute problems of the contemporary world. We shall not attempt such a thing. We shall try to concentrate on some of the key issues. That is why the journal will not be formed only on the basis of individual, accidentally received contributions, but in the first place the editorial board will highlight some issues which it considers significant and appropriate for discussion. We hope that contributors and readers will help us in choosing those themes.

Directing the journal towards acute issues of the contemporary world and philosophy, the editorial board will strive to ensure that relentless criticism of the existing reality is nurtured in the journal. We maintain that criticism that goes to the root of things, not fearing whatever the consequences, is one of the important features of every real philosophy. We also think that no-one has a monopoly on the truth, or a special right on any kind or field of criticism. There is no general or specific issue that would be only an internal issue of this or that country, or private issue of this or that social group, organization or individual. However, we maintain that the primary task of the Marxists and socialists of individual countries is, along with the general problems of contemporary world, to illuminate critically the problems of their own countries. The primary task of Yugoslavian Marxists, for example, is to critically discuss the Yugoslavian socialism. By such critical discussions Yugoslavian Marxists can best contribute not only to their own, but to the world socialism too.

If our journal “appropriates” the right to criticism that is not limited by anything except the nature of the criticized entity, that doesn’t mean that we demand a privileged position for ourselves. We maintain that the “privilege” of free criticism should be common. We don’t want to say by this that every outcome of free criticism has to be “good”: “The free press remains good even when it produces bad products, for the latter are deviations from the essential nature of the free press. A eunuch remains a bad human being even when he has a good voice.” (K. Marx).[2]

If everything can be an object of criticism, the Praxis journal cannot be exempted from that. We c.annot promise in advance that we would agree with all objections, but we shall welcome every public critical discussion of the journal. We maintain that even the wholly unfavorable criticism doesn’t have to be a bad sign: “This cry of its enemies has the same significance for philosophy as the first cry of the new-born babe has for the anxiously listening ear of the mother: it is the cry testifying to the life of its ideas, which have burst the orderly hieroglyphic husk of the system and become citizens of the world.” (K. Marx). [3]

Of course, our goal isn’t to cause an outcry against us. Our basic desire is to contribute in accordance to our possibilities to the development of philosophical thought and realization of a humane human community.

Translator’s notes

1. This expression, ruthless criticism of all that exists, is used by Marx in his Letter to Arnold Ruge of September 1843. The whole expression states: “If constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”

2. See Karl Marx “On Freedom of the Press.”

3. See Karl Marx “The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung.