Extracts from Chapter 3 of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope:
I have never labored under the misapprehension that social classes and the struggle between them could explain everything, right down to the color of the Sky on a Tuesday evening. And so I have never said that the class struggle, in the modern world has been or is “the mover of history”. On the other hand, still today. and possibly for a long time to come, it is impossible to understand history without social classes, without their interests in collision.
The class struggle is not the mover of history, but it is certainly one of them.
In our making and remaking of ourselves in the process of making history – as subjects and objects, persons, becoming beings of insertion in the world and not of pure adaptation to the world – we should end by having the dream, too, a mover of history. There is no change without dream, as there is no dream without hope.
Thus, I keep on insisting, ever since Pedagogy of the Oppressed: there is no authentic utopia apart from the denunciation of a present becoming more and more intolerable, and the “annunciation”, announcement, of a future to be created, built – politically, esthetically, and ethically – by us women and men. Utopia implies this denunciation and proclamation, but it does not permit the tension between the two to die away with the production of the future previously announced. Now the erstwhile future is a new present, and a new dream experience is forged. History does not become immobilized, does not die. On the contrary, it goes on.
The understanding of history as opportunity and not determinism, the conception of history operative in this book, would be unintelligible without the dream, just as the deterministic conception feels uncomfortable, in its incompatibility with this understanding and therefore denies it.
Thus it comes about that, in the former conception the historical role of subjectivity is relevant, while in the latter it is minimized or denied. Hence, in the first, education, while not regarded as able to accomplish all things, is acknowledged as important, since it can do something; while in the second it is belittled.
Indeed, whenever the future is considered as a pregiven – whether this be as the pure, mechanical repetition of the present, or simply because it “is what it has to be” – there is no room for utopia, nor therefore for the dream, the option, the decision, or expectancy in the struggle, which is the only way hope exists. There is no room for education. Only for training.
As project, as design for a different, less-ugly “world”, the dream is as necessary to political subjects, transformers of the world and not adapters to it, as – may I be permitted the repetition – it is fundamental for an artisan, who projects in her or his brain what she or he is going to execute even before the execution thereof.
That is why, from the viewpoint of the dominant class interests, the less the dominated dream the dream of which I speak, in the confident way of which I speak, and the less they practice the political apprenticeship of committing themselves to a utopia, the more open they will become to “pragmatic” discourses, and the sounder the dominant classes will sleep.
The assertion that an “ideological discourse” is a kind of natural clumsiness on the part of the Left, which insists on holding one when there are no ideologies anymore, and when, it is said, no one any longer wishes to hear an ideological discourse, is itself a cunning ideological discourse on the part of the dominant classes. What we have gotten over is not the ideological discourse, but the “fanatical”, or inconsistent, discourse, which merely repeats clichés that never should have been pronounced in the first place. What is becoming less and less viable, fortunately, is verbal incontinence – discourse that loses itself in a tiresome rhetoric bereft of so much as sonority and rhythm.
Any progressive, who, all afire, insists on this practice – at times in a tremulous voice – will be contributing little or nothing to the political advance of which we have need. But, then, to up and proclaim the era of “neutral discourse”? Hardly.
I feel utterly at peace with the interpretation that the wane of “realistic socialism” does not mean, on one side, that socialism has shown itself to be intrinsically inviable; on the other, that capitalism has now stepped forward in its excellence one and for all.
What excellence is this, that manages to “coexist with more than a billion inhabitants of the developing world who live in poverty,”*, not to say misery? Not to mention the all but indifference with which it coexists with “pockets of poverty” and misery in its own, developed body. What excellence is that sleeps in peace while numberless men and women make their home in the street, and says it is their own fault that they are on the street?
To me, on the contrary, the element of failure in the experience of “realistic socialism”, by and large, was not its socialist dream, but its authoritarian mold – which contradicted it, and of which Marx and Lenin are also guilty, and not just Stalin – just as what is positive in the capitalist experience has never been the capitalist system, but its democratic mold.
In this sense, as well, the crumbling away of the authoritarian socialist world – which, in many aspects – if a kind of ode to freedom, and which leaves so many minds, previously calm and contained, stupefied, thunderstruck, disconcerted, lost – offers us the extraordinary, if challenging opportunity to continue dreaming and fighting for the socialist dream. Purified of its authoritarian distortions, its totalitarian repulsiveness, its sectarian blindness. This is why I personally look forward to a time when it will become even easier to wage the democratic struggle against the wickedness of capitalism. What is becoming needful, among other things, is that Marxists get over their smug certainty that they are modern, adopt an attitude of humility in dealing with the popular classes, and become postmodernly less smug and less certain – progressively postmodern.
Let us briefly return to other points already mentioned:
Inasmuch as the violence of the oppressors makes of the oppressed persons forbidden to be, the response of the latter to the violence of the former is found infused with a yearning to seek the right to be.
Oppressors, wreaking violence upon others, and forbidding them to be, are likewise unable to be. In withdrawing from them the power to oppress and crush, the oppressed, struggling to be, restore to them the humanity lost in the use of oppression.
This is why only the oppressed, by achieving their liberation, can liberate the oppressors. The latter, as oppressing class [emphasis in the original], can neither liberate nor be liberated.**
* See Relatório sobre o Desenvolvimento Mundial [World Development Report], 1990, published for World Bank by Fundação Getulio Vargas
** Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 43.