Refuting A Weak Attempt At Refutation -- Part Five
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Although I am highly critical of Dialectical Materialism [DM], nothing said here (or, indeed, in the other Essays posted at this site) is aimed at undermining Historical Materialism [HM] -- a theory I fully accept -- or, for that matter, revolutionary socialism. I remain as committed to the self-emancipation of the working class and the dictatorship of the proletariat as I was when I first became a revolutionary nearly thirty years ago. [That puts paid to the allegation that those who reject DM soon abandon revolutionary politics.]
My aim is simply to assist in the scientific development of Marxism by helping to demolish a dogma that has in my opinion seriously damaged our movement from its inception: DM --; or, in its more political form, 'Materialist Dialectics' [MD].
The difference between HM and DM as I see it is explained here.
[Latest Update: 19/05/17.]
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(2) Stop Press! TFB Agrees With Two Trotskyist 'Wreckers'!
Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism
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In 2015, I posted the following comment on a YouTube page which was devoted to introducing prospective viewers to a highly simplified version of DM:
Alas for this
video, I have demolished this dogmatic theory (from a Marxist angle) at my site:
Main objections outlined here:
I have posted many similar comments on other pages at YouTube that are devoted to this theory and received little or no response. But, the producer of this film (whose on-screen name used to be Marxist-Leninist-Theory [MLT], but which has now changed to The Finnish Bolshevik -- henceforth, TFB) did respond (and to which I replied, here and here).
Not long afterwards, another video appeared on YouTube -- which was also produced by TFB, but posted to his other YouTube page -- entitled: "Refuting a Trotskyite Attack on Dialectics". I have replied to this largely incoherent video, here, here, and here.
After several, shall we say, 'skirmishes' over the last six months or so, TFB posted a second, even longer video, which attempted to respond to one of my briefer attacks on this failed 'theory' of his:
Video One: The Garbling Continues
As part of my reply to TFB's earlier video, I transcribed the vast bulk of it into print, which took absolutely ages. I did this for several reasons:
(a) So that others could see how largely incoherent it is.
(b) So that it would be easier to expose TFB's lies and fabrications.
(c) So that I couldn't be accused of distorting what he had said.
I have so far posted one response to the above video, so this Essay constitutes my second reply. All my debates and responses to TFB have now been collected together, here.
Incidentally, I have now decided to post much shorter replies to TFB in order to (a) Increase the probability of him reading them and, consequently, (b) decrease the likelihood of having to explain the same things to him over and over, as had been the case up to now -- since he still refuses to read my longer replies, even though he expects his viewers to listen to his voice droning on and on, often incoherently, for an hour!
Stop Press: TFB Agrees With Two Trotskyist 'Wreckers'!
TFB now turns to another section of my brief response to an earlier comment of his, first of all quoting a sentence from a longer passage from Woods and Grant (1995), the authors of which are leading Trotskyists:
It (sic) says, quote:
"'...Matter is self-moving and self-organising.'"
Now, that's perfectly reasonable to me. I agree with that. So, she responds with..., she responds to that by saying:
"But, if this were indeed so, nothing in nature could have any effect on anything else....."
[Dramatic pause.] Why? What makes you say..., what on earth makes you say that? [Another pause.] "Nothing in nature could have any effect on anything else." They [presumably Woods and Grant -- RL] never said thaat (sic). That's a bit weird. They say "Matter is self-moving and self-organising." So, you [presumably me -- RL] mean that it's [pause] only self-moving and self-organising, and self-motion means that nothing has effect on anything else. That's odd. I've never heard that before. [Another dramatic pause.] What a weird understanding of dialectics you have. Erm. Or..., [garbled]..., is like..., I'm not sure if you're trying to be..., [pause] I'm, I'm (sic) not sure if this is your honest opinion or if you're trying to make like, build a weird strawman, because this is a crazy argument. Erm....
"Hence, while you might think that it is your kick that moves a football, in fact -- according to the above -- the ball moves itself!"
Oh, God! No. Aaah.... [Dramatic pause.] Yeah, mechanical materialism would have you think that you kick the ball, the ball just moves. Erm..., but in reality..., erm..., your foot and the ball are in a dialectical relation. Nobody ha..., [garbled]..., well like.., ok, let's assume that people actually believed what you are claiming that they believed, you're claiming that according to dialectics everything only moves by itself, nothing ever affects anything else. Now, why..., where's the dialectics part of that? [Pause] How can there be two things in a dialectical relation if, as you're claiming, dialectics claims that nothing affects anything else. That's a crazy argument. Nobody would ever make..., would ever claim that. Nobody would ever believe that. Jesus. Aaah! [Approx 17:00-19:24. Emphases have been added where they seem appropriate from the tone and inflection of TFB's voice.]
I have alleged elsewhere that it is difficult to slip a party card between the interpretations put on this failed 'theory' [DM] by Stalinists, Maoists and Trotskyists alike (even though they will all swear blind that only they "understand" dialectics, while all the rest fail to use it, misuse it, or have adopted a wooden and formalistic version of it), so it is no big surprise to see TFB agree with two ultra-orthodox Trotskyists. In fact, all wings of Dialectical Marxism agree virtually 100% over the details of this 'theory'. In Part Four, we even saw TFB in the end (albeit inadvertently and unwittingly) agree with 'Brezhnev era revisionists'!
As I have also pointed out many times: TFB refuses to read my Essays, or even my longer replies to him, preferring to base his ill-considered views on Introductory Essays that were meant for novices, or on brief responses posted on YouTube, so no wonder he failed to understand my reasons for saying the following:
"But, if this were indeed so, nothing in nature could have any effect on anything else. Hence, while you might think that it is your kick that moves a football, in fact -- according to the above -- the ball moves itself!"
It is quite clear by now that TFB prefers to remain in the stygian gloom into which this failed 'theory' has cast him (even though I have endeavoured several times to lift some of the fog from his brain); so I have no inclination to waste any more energy explaining this rather simple point to him -- yet again!
Less benighted -- or less prejudiced -- comrades, should they read this, can check out my earlier replies to TFB on this very topic, here, here and here.
A couple of additional points, though:
They [presumably Woods and Grant -- RL] never said thaat (sic). That's a bit weird. They say "Matter is self-moving and self-organising." So, you [presumably me -- RL] mean that it's [pause] only self-moving and self-organising, and self-motion means that nothing has effect on anything else. That's odd. I've never heard that before. Another dramatic pause.] What a weird understanding of dialectics you have. Erm. Or..., [garbled]..., is like..., I'm not sure if you're trying to be..., [pause] I'm, I'm (sic) not sure if this is your honest opinion or if you're trying to make like, build a weird strawman, because this is a crazy argument.
As we have also already seen, TFB has a problem telling the difference between his own mis-reading/misrepresentation of my argument and my actual argument. And here is yet another excellent example. I nowhere say that this is what Woods and Grant say, or believe. What I am saying is that this follows from what they assert, whether or not they are aware of it. Plainly, if matter is self-moving, then that must be true of every atom in the universe. If that is so, then the aforementioned football can't be moved by something else, or it wouldn't be self-moving.
Indeed, Woods and Grant, with whom TFB now seems to agree, had this to say:
"So fundamental is this idea to dialectics that Marx and Engels considered motion to be the most basic characteristic of matter.... [Referring to a quote from Aristotle -- RL] [t]his is not the mechanical conception of motion as something imparted to an inert mass by an external 'force' but an entirely different notion of matter as self-moving....
"The universal phenomena of the unity of opposites is, in reality, the motor-force of all motion and development in nature. It is the reason why it is not necessary to introduce the concept of external impulse to explain movement and change -- the fundamental weakness of all mechanistic theories. Movement, which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter....
"...Matter is self-moving and self-organising." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), pp.43-45, 47, 68, 72. Bold emphases alone added.]
Just like Lenin, the above two Trotskyists contrast mechanical materialism with DM, and emphatically tell us that this idea -- that matter is 'self-moving' -- "is the reason why it is not necessary to introduce the concept of external impulse to explain movement and change...." [Bold added.]
From which it follows that no one need kick a football (and hence provide just such an "external impulse"); the ball will move itself! And, of course, this is "crazy", but it follows from this "crazy" 'theory', and from the idea that matter is 'self-moving'. Unfortunately for TFB and other DM-fans, who have yet to confront the "crazy" implications of this 'theory' of theirs, I am more than happy to point them out.
Second, just because TFB claims that no one has ever thought this, or believed this, about DM, that doesn't mean that the above conclusions do not follow from it. Over and above merely labelling the ridiculous conclusions that follow from DM, "crazy", TFB has yet to explain why they fail to follow from DM. We both agree they are "crazy", but that just labels the serious theoretical problems facing both DM and TFB. Just as it underlines the following question: "Why has TFB swallowed such a 'crazy' (and failed) theory?"
[In Essay Nine Part Two I have explained just why it is that DM-fans appear to suffer from what can only be called partial rationality when it comes to DM. That is, I explain why they have happily swallowed this failed, vague and confused 'theory', and appear to be totally incapable of subjecting it to any sort of critical analysis or scrutiny, over and above merely repeating the mantras passed down to them from the DM-classicists from generation to generation -- rather like the more open and honest religionists who fill the gospel halls, synagogues and mosques of this world -- some of whom invented this 'crazy' approach to dogma long before DM was ever thought of.]
Finally, TFB calls the relation between a foot and a football "dialectical". If so, according to the DM-classics, that foot should change into the football, and the ball should change into that foot! Is this "crazy" too? I fear it is indeed yet another "crazy" implication of the 'theory' the DM-classicists imported into Marxism from that Christian Mystic, Hegel (upside down or 'the right way up').
That is because those very classics tell us that in a 'dialectical relation': (i) All change is caused by a struggle between 'opposites', and that (ii) Those 'opposites' change into one another. In this case, if a foot causes a ball to move in a 'dialectical sort of way', then that foot must be the opposite of the ball that was kicked, and they must change into one another!
Here are just a few quotes from the DM-classics, which TFB should already have seen since I have quoted them at him several times, that show this isn't my invention (in each case, bold emphases alone have been added, and quotation marks have been altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site):
"For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Engels (1954), pp.212-13.]
"According to Hegel, dialectics is the principle of all life. Frequently one meets people who, having expressed some abstract proposition, willingly recognize that perhaps they are mistaken, and that perhaps the exactly opposite point of view is correct. These are well-bred people, saturated to their finger tips with 'tolerance': live and let live, they say to their intellect. Dialectics has nothing in common with the sceptical tolerance of men of the world, but it, too, knows how to reconcile directly opposite abstract propositions. Man is mortal, we say, regarding death as something rooted in external circumstances and quite alien to the nature of living man. It follows that a man has two qualities: first of being alive, and secondly of also being mortal. But upon closer investigation it turns out that life itself bears in itself the germ of death, and that in general any phenomenon is contradictory, in the sense that it develops out of itself the elements which, sooner or later, will put an ‘end to its existence and will transform it into its own opposite. Everything flows, everything changes; and there is no force capable of holding back this constant flux, or arresting this eternal movement. There is no force capable of resisting the dialectics of phenomena....
"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite….
"Every phenomenon, developing to its conclusion, becomes transformed into its opposite; but as the new phenomenon, being opposite to the first, also is transformed in its turn into its own opposite, the third phase of development bears a formal resemblance to the first." [Plekhanov (1974), pp.539-45.]
"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….
"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58.]
"'This harmony is precisely absolute Becoming change, -- not becoming other, now this and then another. The essential thing is that each different thing [tone], each particular, is different from another, not abstractly so from any other, but from its other. Each particular only is, insofar as its other is implicitly contained in its Notion....' Quite right and important: the 'other' as its other, development into its opposite." [Ibid., p.260. Lenin is here commenting on Hegel (1995a), pp.278-98; this particular quotation coming from p.285.]
"Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another." [Ibid., p.109.]
"Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....
"In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into one another....
"All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute." [Mao (1961b), pp.340-42.]
[Dozens of quotations that say the same (taken from the DM-classics and 'lesser' DM-clones -- from all wings of Dialectical Marxism) have been posted here.]
So, let us assume foot, F, and ball, B, are in a 'dialectical relation'; if so they must be 'dialectical opposites', and hence in 'contradiction' to/with each other -- as, indeed, Mao pointed out:
"As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development....
"The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end."
"Engels said, 'Motion itself is a contradiction.' Lenin defined the law of the unity of opposites as 'the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society)'. Are these ideas correct? Yes, they are. The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist...." [Ibid., pp.313-18.]
"The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other, struggle with each other and are in opposition to each other. Without exception, they are contained in the process of development of all things and in all human thought. A simple process contains only a single pair of opposites, while a complex process contains more. And in turn, the pairs of opposites are in contradiction to one another. That is how all things in the objective world and all human thought are constituted and how they are set in motion.
"The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other, struggle with each other and are in opposition to each other. Without exception, they are contained in the process of development of all things and in all human thought. A simple process contains only a single pair of opposites, while a complex process contains more. And in turn, the pairs of opposites are in contradiction to one another. That is how all things in the objective world and all human thought are constituted and how they are set in motion....
But is it enough to say merely that each of the contradictory aspects is the condition for the other's existence, that there is identity between them and that consequently they can coexist in a single entity? No, it is not. The matter does not end with their dependence on each other for their existence; what is more important is their transformation into each other. That is to say, in given conditions, each of the contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite, changes its position to that of its opposite. This is the second meaning of the identity of contradiction.
"...Things in contradiction change into one another, and herein lies a definite identity....." [Ibid., pp.337-39.]
So, according to the above DM-worthies, F must change into B, and B must change into F!
[I have developed this argument in considerable detail here, where and have responded to several rather obvious criticisms and objections,]
Has anyone noticed this miraculous change taking place in a football match?
Clearly, you don't 'understand' dialectics!
Is it any wonder then that with such a "crazy" 'theory' like this at its heart Dialectical Marxism has been such an abject and long-term failure?
So, instead of picking a fight with me, TFB should pick one with the DM-classicists for saddling him with such a "crazy" 'theory' -- or, indeed, pick a fight with himself for swallowing it.
It's your "crazy" 'theory', sunshine!
Deal with it.
More to follow in Part Six...
Engels, F. (1954), Dialectics Of Nature (Progress Publishers).
Lenin, V. (1961), Collected Works Volume 38 (Progress Publishers).
Mao Tse-Tung (1961a), Selected Works Of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume One (Foreign Languages Press).
--------, (1961b), 'On Contradiction', in Mao (1961a), pp.311-47.
Plekhanov, G. (1974), Selected Philosophical Works, Volume One (Progress Publishers, 2nd ed.).
Woods, A., and Grant, T. (1995/2007), Reason In Revolt. Marxism And Modern Science (Wellred Publications, 1st/2nd ed.). [The on-line version still appears to be the First Edition.]
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