building from below: the ideas of paulo freire

by Dave Spencer

The Brazilian educationist Paulo Freire (1921-1997) is regarded internationally as the guru of adult education.  Since we are concerned as communists with educating ourselves and with “raising consciousness” among the working class, then it would seem useful to look at Freire’s ideas.


As luck would have it Freire’s classic textbook Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972) is not only a statement of the principles on which to practise adult education, it is also a handbook on how to build a revolutionary party.  There are many references to liberation and revolutionary leadership throughout the book.  One of the reasons for this is that in the 1960s in Brazil when Freire was organising Adult Literacy classes on a mass scale, his activity was very radical because only literate people could vote in Brazil.  In 1964 after the coup Freire was jailed and then exiled for his efforts.  He went to Chile and then to UNESCO where he influenced Literacy programmes throughout the Third World. Continue reading “building from below: the ideas of paulo freire”