The Historical Thinking of Dubois and Marx

Dubois in his book Dusk of Dawn had tried to teach us that to think historically is to be objective as much as possible to our way of seeing and analyzing things. In this book wherein he dedicated to discuss the rampant racist tradition in the United States and in the globe, he argued that one must get rid of their racist spectacles and lenses that limit them to a racist attitude. According to him, “there has been an understandable determination in the United States among both Negro and white thinkers to minimize and deny the realities or racial differences… these problems has been rationalized every day” (p. 138). For Dubois, this underdevelopment in the ways of treating people from different races came from the inability of the population to see the things as it is, to see things in its own appearance and nature. He expounded this when he said, “all our present frustration in trying to realize individual equality arises from our continual unwillingness to break the intellectual bonds of group and racial exclusiveness” (Dubois 137). In many cases people are unwilling to take off their spectacles. This is seen especially in the white population who enjoyed a long era of domination that enabled them to exploit the other races (i.e. Negro and Asians).

Marx also provided an extensive way of seeing things historically. Together with Engels, their analysis of the capitalist society was based on an extensive practical and literary historical research of the situation. As proclaimed, “The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically, just as communism, its activity can only have a world historical existence” (Marx 162). Here, Marx provided a critic of the capitalist system not on the basis of his personal feelings and cultural biases (alone) but rather on a scientific way of seeing the capitalist phenomena.  As a pioneer of historical materialism or on his own term ‘materialist conception of history’, Marx had provided us an analysis on how come we arrived in the capitalist society. Slowly discussing the history of humankind since the dawn of civilization, Marx had scientifically analyzed the situation, separating himself from the common notions and beliefs of the society but rather to a more unbiased way of analysis of historical facts.

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These same analyses of Dubois and Marx can be used in seeing many issues that is surrounding the modern world. One of the best examples of the phenomenon that we can analyze by thinking historically is the issue on racial superiority, racial inferiority or simply racism itself. Between Marx, Dubois, Foucault and Nietzsche, this issue was discussed extensively by Dubois. In the later part of the book Dusk of Dawn, he stated an ambition in the future regarding the race issue, “… the vision of world with intelligent men with sufficient income to live decently and with the will to build a beautiful world” (Du Bois 172). Today more than ever, we are witnessing a development on how one race will see, treat and judge another race. Though our situation is still far from perfect wherein we still see some injustice in the society in relations to race and nationality, we had witness that our society is moving forward and gaining important developments. Ranging from the abolition of slavery, treating the non-whites not as human to the rise of colored people in different aspects such as politics, entertainment, sports, the world had witnessed the recovery of the colored people from the total injustice and inhumane treatment of the last hundreds of thousand years. Today more than ever, people are starting to see the other people pass to the color of their skin or pass the shape of their nose. The world is moving forward to a society wherein what is important is what is inside, the dedication, the intellect and the heart itself of the people. This is closer to Dubois vision of the colored people who do not exist only for their selves but rather as a part of a larger group who have cries and opinions that will take the world to its realization of a bigger destiny (Du Bois 172). In the future, with this kind of trend and flow of history, we can expect a world in the future that is a haven not only to the privilege white but also for every human being of all colors and sizes.

Many will ask, is there a danger in thinking historically and seeing the bigger picture? The answer is simple and straight forward. Yes. We had witness in history that to think and act differently from the general population will either glorify or condemn you. Most of the time, it will condemn you. As people, it is natural to think not on their own feet but rather to let the society dictate what they need to do. Accepting the world as it is, no matter how inhumane and unjust that world is what we can witness in the majority of the population. Rather than seeing the world as it is, examining every detail and lesson of the past, people are satisfied with what they are feeling and what the majority will tell them. As someone who is thinking historically, someone who is dedicating himself to the revelation of the exact events and issues, oftentimes, you will find yourself on your own. People will not believe you. People will not follow you. The road that you are travelling is much more dangerous than the comfortable carpet they are standing in. As someone who thinks historically, your foes are the majority of the population. Your enemies are the people who will rather seat down and enjoy the status quo rather than moving and doing things that will bring justice to the injustice of the world. Dubois is a great example of a person who was suffered by thinking historically. He was suspected by his own country and later denied some rights to travel. Marx even died as a stateless person. The same with thousands or even millions of people in the history, the people who dedicated their selves in thinking historically and objectively suffered a terrible fate or experience in one way or another.

As established in the above paragraphs, we had learned that the people who think historically are the people who are less likely to enjoy praise and admiration. People will prefer someone who will speak what they want to hear and what is easier to be heard and to accept. The bourgeoisie for example will definitely not adhere in hearing Marx’s ideas because of the discomfort that they will suffer and the threat to their private properties. For Dubois, the whites cannot afford to sacrifice their dominant status among the other races. As stated, “The poor must be poor so the rich may become rich” (Du Bois 162). The products of historical thinking are denied despite the accuracy and the truthfulness of these ideas. People will only listen to what they want to hear. This is a grave danger especially in politics. As people are stacked in this kind of framework, no legitimate politicians that have a truthful grasp of history can be elected. Rather, politicians who are only appealing in the wants of the masses rather than their needs will be holding the position. The political implication is strong. No revolutionary changes in the society will ever happen as long as people will back out from the real lessons of history. No progress can be made as long as there is no politician who will hold an office that will initiate changes based on the true history, made possible by thinking historically.

Thinking historically is thinking objectively. It is in direct contrast of thinking, deciding and acting only in the basis of what you are accustomed or what you are used to. Rather than consulting your own feelings, your own perception and your own cultures, to think historically is to use an objective way of seeing and analyzing things. To think historically is to consult the literature that enveloped the point of concern. To think historically is to trace the birth of the issue. To think historically is to have a more humane position in the affairs of the society.

One thing that we learned in this paper is for sure – for us be able to initiate a revolutionary change in our society, we must all take out our spectacles of prejudice and biases and see the world as it is, its history and its future.

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