Selected Quotations from Notes on Chairman Gonzalo's 1987 Philosophy Seminar

I occasionally come back to read this text as my knowledge of philosophy and its history improves to solidify what I believe to be important lessons that can be drawn from this document; although I do maintain a slight bit of distance as we sadly don't have the entire seminar available (for people like me who over-specialize in philosophy, I consider this a tragedy). Some parts are quite fragmentary and I still consider the meaning of some passages quite murky. It should be recognized that these come from notes taken by a student. Here are some of my personal favorite selections, but feel free to read the entire text if it interests you. The first section I've labeled general comprises the majority of the text (with the exception of the very last section) and underneath I've placed quotes where he speaks of philosophers individually or as a group. Emphasis are my own and some quotes have been slightly edited from the original, a couple additions have also been made for readability.

Part of my motivation for uploading this is to demonstrate that there's been at least one major Communist theorist who's engaged with some of the available literature of both the Analytic and Continental traditions. I'm always a little skeptical of self-described “Leftists” that feel the admittedly misguided need to import theorists and philosophers alien to Marxism, so it's quite interesting to see what a real Communist thinker made of both camps.


Many have argued that what makes up the mind of man is mathematics. One can no longer think like that. Others propose logic. Neither mathematics nor logic are systems that make up the mind of man. It is philosophy, the process of knowledge through different stages and modes of production.

Dealing with the laws governing the development of man, Lenin went so far as to establish that philosophy was an eminently political necessity. ‘The core of ideology is philosophy.’

Without philosophy there is no party.

Reject the criterion that philosophy is only going to be given from the Greek world. Later studies show that this is a prejudice, contempt for the thought of other peoples.

Materialism starts from prior matter and from a process of knowledge.

Materialism has always developed with an understanding and respect for man. Its thought was harmful to society and the criteria of the ruling class.

Nominalists are nothing but empty mouths, without real content, they are derivations extracted from things.

They love to present the philosophers as desk-men; the reality has not been like that. Poison and the knife has been the way of debate in philosophy.

[Peter Abelard, Duns Scotus, and Thomas Aquinas are mentioned but I didn't find any particularly interesting quotes on them with the exception of Duns Scotus, quoted above. Kant and Leibniz are also mentioned but I didn't find anything worth quoting. Diderot and Feuerbach are mentioned in the development of modern materialism.]

The earlier materialism had developed into empiricism or seeing reality as something passive, not understanding how matter acts and how man through his work changes reality (grasping reality). All empiricism is a bourgeois position.

All philosophy in its long journey had developed a theory of dialectics and of materialism.

To access materialism demands a process of movement derived from contradiction.

Dialectical materialism is able to enter into knowledge and transformation by man acting on matter. The scientific character of Marxism is questioned; matter is transformed through practice.

The ideology that the exploiting classes have generated is inverted because it gives an idealistic explanation of history. Our ideology is scientific because it is a true reflection verified by its practice and its class character.

This process has a trajectory of 2500 years; it has a solid historical foundation in which the best has been gathered, resulting in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The application of dialectical materialism gives rise to historical materialism and the scientific understanding of society. [The amount of years mentioned are likely a reference to the beginnings of Greek philosophy from around the 6th century B.C.E., although it should be noted that philosophy developed in other places on the Earth in roughly the same time period, such as in China and India.]

It is not a circle; Marxism is a dialectical process that will continue to develop. This demarcates us from all the philosophical processes that are closed.

Philosophy has a partisan character.

Bourgeois philosophy enters a process of clear decline.

Positivism, reactionary response of the bourgeois captains.

It is born dead because it is a philosophy that is already dead.

Chairman Mao used to say that one cannot be vaccinated against idealism if one does not know it.

Chairman Mao argues that the only [philosophical] law is contradiction and the others are derivations. With Chairman Mao we arrive at philosophical monism; the only law. This does not imply that the system has been completed.

Individuals and Groups


Genius intuitions.


A great materialist. The greatest exponent of materialism in ancient times.


In Socrates we see how the Greeks were extremely social; individualism was not developed.


Linked to the aristocracy, very wealthy, systematizes all idealist thought.

He destroyed every part of Democritus that came within his reach.


A disciple of Plato. He arrives at idealism craftily.


When Descartes develops science he is materialistic, but when he develops metaphysical ideas, he turns philosophy towards the ‘I’, from here onward the foundation of bourgeois thought begins.


He will deny the application of his own dialectic.

Hegel is inconsistently dialectical and we are consistently dialectical. This is the greatest revolution there was in the history of mankind. Marxist philosophy lays the foundations of development. Knowledge can never be exhausted; it is a process that gets closer and closer to the truth and discards new errors.


With this document he demarcates the camps. [Gonzalo here speaks of Marx's Theses on Feuerbach]

Since they [previous materialists] do not understand practice he calls it contemplative materialism.

Communism is posed as the first great revolution in the world, since all earlier revolutions were the substitution of one class for another.


It is stupidity from start to finish.

Althusser's theories lead to a new surrealism, making possible the merger of the theories of Kant and Spinoza.


An extraordinary pen. Theories that seek a way out of imperialism.


The most consistent of the neo-positivists.

Wittgenstein and Russell:

Their analyses lead to the undoing of knowledge.

They stay in disassembly and do not get to the assembling.

They discover paradoxes that allow us to advance, when we think we are thinking in finite terms and they have been cleaning up philosophy and science. Knowledge has entered a critical moment, there is a moment of synthesis, and once again it begins to expand. Demolition of the concepts of science, everything has entered into crisis. The proletariat will establish these new principles. The process of demolition is not over. There is a class that is dying and its principles die with it. Confusion is the result.


In his travels is anguish, when this happens there are two attitudes: to face or to flee from that anguish. The problem is facing his anguish, facing his death, being for death, that is the identity of man, to live for death. It served Nazism, it is an expression of a class that is dying. An expression of philosophical decadence.

On the Existentialist and Analytic philosophers he mentions:

All these are expressions of the class that has no way out.

Final Words

Marxism-Leninism-Maoism combats individualism and its root egoism, fighting the ‘me first’. The individual develops historically, private property strengthened individuality and selfishness, the bourgeoisie strengthens individualism to the maximum, to the point of excess.

Action in the class struggle is what is principle; working collectively dilutes the education we bring with us.

By making the revolution, the world is transformed and so are men. The root is selfishness and it is a basis for revisionism and it takes time. Uprooting individualism will be a long process. As new and more developed production relationships are generated, it will be more and more reflected in the ideas throughout society.

Communists must be trumpets that announce the future. Ideology allows us to develop and advance in the struggle against selfishness. We must be the most advanced. We work for a goal that we will not see. Increasingly reduce individualism and selfishness. It is in struggle where action hits individualism the hardest. Ideology is what allows us to advance.