by Miguel Balbuena
President James Monroe announced his namesake doctrine during his State of the Union Address to Congress in 1823, in which he said: “With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered and shall not interfere.” This was true until the United States declared war on Spain in 1898 and stripped it of its territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. Spain retained its possessions in West Africa, which Leonard Jeffries suggested was part of a larger dialectical conflict between Europe and Africa.
Speaking at last year’s Conference of the Eastern Region of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, Jeffries described the dialectic triad as being the “three sides of a pyramid”: thesis-antithesis-synthesis, where the relation between the thesis and the antithesis produces the synthesis. He gave two examples of this triad. First, mind (thesis), body (antithesis), spirit (synthesis), and; secondly, Africa (thesis), Europe (antithesis), current situation (synthesis). He then advocated for creating a new synthesis by developing an African foundation with “a formation that is more than a formal education.”
First, it seems pertinent to probe who in the late modern era – which started around the half mark of the 18th century – was the father of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis baby. After a “Casablanca”-style rounding up of the usual suspects, this operation netted five German philosophers: Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Heinrich Moritz Chalybaus. While waiting for the lab testing of the respective DNA samples of the five possible fathers, the plaintiff’s attorney summoned expert witnesses for depositions in civil court. The deponents included Gustav Mueller, a Swiss philosopher, and Harvard-trained philosophy buff Leonard Wheat.
As affidavit under oath, Mueller turned in his journal article “The Hegel Legend of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis,” which read: “The most vexing and devastating Hegel legend is that everything is thought in ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis’ … The actual texts of Hegel not only occasionally deviate from ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis,’ but show nothing of the sort. ‘Dialectic’ does not for Hegel mean ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis.'” Then Mueller claimed that the real father was Chalybaus, who, in turn, blamed the paternity on Hegel by making him responsible for the “first methodical thesis, antithesis and synthesis… an example or schema for all that follows.”
For his part, in his written statement to be used as evidence, Wheat explained that Hegel, in his books
“Phenomenology of Spirit” and “The Philosophy of History,” employed alternative terms for thesis (first moment, first stage, primitive stage, first realization), for antithesis (plain negation, first negation, negative factor, negative element, second moment, second realization, middle term) and for synthesis (connection, third moment, third stage, third attitude, third realization, union, unification, negation of the negation).
In “Phenomenology of Spirit,” Hegel posited the dialectic slave master (thesis), slave (antithesis), which, Karl Marx, when he was a student at the University of Berlin and a member of the Young Hegelian Doktorklub there, first borrowed to construct his own dialectical theory of social classes, translating it, in a capitalist society, as the dialectic bourgeois (thesis), proletarian (antithesis).
Jeffries took the same Hegelian dialectical foundation that Marx did, but Jeffries departed from the latter in that social classes did not figure in the contents of his conference presentation. Jeffries, apparently following Pan-Africanist Frantz Fanon’s theory in his book “Black Skin, White Masks,” derived another fundamental dialectic: pro-neocolonialist elites (thesis), anti-neocolonist masses (antithesis). But Jeffries’ version of this dialectic was more akin to a populist model, in which the masses are not distinguished among themselves by social classes.
Jeffries added: “Africans in leadership are preparing not to lead Africa, but to be the new colonialism, the
neocolonialism. The Manchester conference provided a blueprint for black power, set the parameter of the
African program. Our theme is Pan-Africanism or perish. A Negro agenda is not going to do it unless we have a unity agenda as we are against a system. How do we pull our greatness together? Black power is our reality, so it’s either black power or perish.”
About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).