Love of people leads to justice

Che Guevara, Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of Revolution

September 15, 2000

Two major factors unite the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and Che Guevara, one of the main instigators of the Cuban revolution: their internationalism and their unashamed stress on the importance and power of love. That they owed their allegiance not to one country but to the peasants and workers of the world is witnessed by Freire's work in three continents during his 16 years of exile and by Guevara's decision to give up his government post in Cuba, and indeed his Cuban citizenship, in an attempt to create the revolution in another continent.

After a brief flirtation with postmodernism, Peter McLaren has returned decisively to the camp of historical materialism and democratic (as opposed to Stalinist) socialism. He castigates postmodernists with characteristic force: "For those voguish hellions of the seminar room, postmodernism is the toxic intensity of bohemian nights, where the proscribed, the immiserated, and the wretched of the earth simply get in the way of their fun."

The pedagogical implications of this return to a Marxist paradigm are expressed in a key question: "How do educators assume a model of leadership that can resist global capitalist exploitation and create a new social order?" For McLaren, this is formable neither in terms of the critique that postmodernism provides, nor with critical pedagogy, which, with its political ally multicultural education, is no longer an adequate social or pedagogical platform. Only revolutionary pedagogy puts power/knowledge on a collision course with their own internal contradictions, and gives a provisional glimpse of a new society freed from the bondage of the past, and this, says McLaren, can only be grasped in the dialectical thinking of Guevara, Freire and other revolutionary thinkers.

The barbarities of, inequalities in and the destructive power of globalising world capitalism are well documented here and in numerous other works. Perhaps capital's greatest achievement is that it appears natural, free and democratic. In McLaren's words, it presents itself "as if it has now replaced the natural environment. It announces itself through its business leaders and politicians as coterminous with freedom, and indispensable to democracy such that any attack on capitalism as exploitative or hypocritical becomes an attack on world freedom and democracy itself." For Guevara and Freire, capitalism was neither natural nor inevitable, and was the antithesis of freedom and democracy.

Whatever the shortcomings in the contribution they have to make to social justice, Guevara and Freire, as McLaren argues, "have never been needed more than at this current historical moment". What resonates in the mind after reading this moving and powerful book is love, hope and the possibility of a just and equal future for all.

Mike Cole is senior lecturer in education, University of Brighton.

Che Guevara, Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of Revolution

Author - Peter McLaren
ISBN - 0 8476 9532 8 and 9533 6
Publisher - Rowman and Littlefield
Price - £55.00, £15.95
Pages - 220

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