Anti-Dialectics For Beginners-- Or, Why I Oppose Dialectical Materialism





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May 2011 Update: A character at RevLeft called 'Vogelman' has posted a rather weak attempt to criticise some of the arguments rehearsed below. I have replied to 'him' here.


March 2015 Update: Another comrade (a 'Marxist-Leninist' this time, who operates under the name 'Finnish Bolshevik' [FB]) has posted a largely incoherent and confused video response to some of the material presented below -- unfortunately telling a few fibs (and that's putting it mildly!) along the way.


I have replied to this scurrilous film here, here and here.


The video itself is over 40 minutes long, which explains my rather protracted response -- anyway, approximately 20% of my reply has been taken up by a word-for-word transcript of FB's rambling 'narrative'.


I have posted the video itself near the foot of this Essay.






Anyone using the following links must remember that they will be skipping past supporting argument and evidence set out in earlier sections.


(1)   Preliminary Remarks (Please Read This First!)

(2)   Despite What Dialecticians Will Tell You, Formal Logic Can Handle Change

(a) Dialectical Fairy-Tales

(b) The 'Three Laws' Of Formal Logic

(c)  Hegel's Logical Blunders

(3)   Motion Isn't Contradictory

(4)   Dialectical Materialism Has Been Imposed On Nature

(5)   Traditional Thought

(6)   The Three 'Laws' Of Dialectics

(a) Engels And 'Mickey Mouse Science'

(b) Quantity And Quality

(c) Internal 'Contradictions'

(i)  Dialectical Versus 'Mechanical' Materialism

(ii)  Dialectics Can't In Fact Explain Change

(iii) Opposing Forces Aren't 'Contradictions'

(7)    Lenin's 'Images' Undermine Materialism

(8)   The Mysterious "Totality"

(9)   Practice Actually Refutes Dialectics

(a) Or Does It?

(b) Intermission

(c) Excuses, Excuses...

(d) Case Studies -- The Damage DM Has Inflicted On Marxism

(i)  Stalinism

(ii)  Maoism

(iii) Trotskyism

(iv) Conclusion

(e) Heads Back In The Sand, Comrades!

(f) Ah, But What About 1917?

(10) Why Dialecticians Desperately Cling To This Failed Theory

(a) Ruling-Class Thought

(b) A Source Of Consolation In The Face Of Defeat

(11) Boss-Class Ideology

(a) Ruling-Class View Of The World

(b) 'Truth' Derived Solely From Language And 'Thought'

(12) Concluding Undialectical Comment

(13) Notes

(14) Addendum

(15) References

(16) Caveats


Abbreviations Used At This Site    Contact Me    Return To The Main Index Page




Preliminary Remarks -- Please read First!


Hard though this might be for some of my critics to believe, nothing said below is intended to undermine Historical Materialism [HM] -- a theory I fully accept -- or, for that matter, revolutionary socialism. My aim is simply to assist in the scientific development of Marxism by helping demolish a dogma that has in my opinion seriously damaged our movement from its inception, Dialectical Materialism [DM] -- or, in its more political form, 'Materialist Dialectics' [MD].


Naturally, these are highly controversial claims, especially since they are being advanced by a Marxist; the reason why I am publishing these allegations is partially explained below, but in far more detail in my other Essays. Exactly why I began this project is explained here.


Some readers might wonder how I can claim to be both a Leninist and a Trotskyist given the highly critical things I have to say about philosophical ideas that have been an integral part of these two traditions from their inception. However, to give an analogy: we can surely be highly critical of Newton's mystical ideas even while accepting the scientific nature of his other work. The same applies here.


I count myself as a Marxist, a Leninist and a Trotskyist since I fully accept, not just HM (providing Hegel's baleful influence has been fully excised), but the political ideas associated with the life and work of Marx, Engels, Luxembourg, Lenin and Trotsky. Some might think that this must compromise HM itself, in that it would then become like a "clock without a spring". The reverse is the case. As I aim to show below: if DM were true, change would in fact be impossible.


Again, some might wonder why so much effort has been devoted to what many consider a rather peripheral issue, something that isn't really of central importance either to building revolutionary socialism or the fight to change society. This isn't, of course, how Engels, Plekhanov, Luxembourg, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, or Mao saw DM. Indeed, it is the exact opposite; they regarded this theory as integral to their politics. [Marx's name has been omitted from this list for reasons explored here and here.]


Nevertheless, it is my contention that an adherence to DM is one of the reasons why Dialectical Marxism is now virtually a by-word for failure and Marxist parties the world over are almost as divisive as they are sectarian. Indeed, it is my further contention (supported by evidence and argument -- on that see below, but in more detail here) that this theory helps ensure such parties remain small, and waste valuable time on internecine warfare and petty bickering, thus leaving the ruling-class free to laugh all the way to their next attack on our side. [Notice the use of the phrase "one of the reasons", above. I am not blaming all our woes on this theory!]


In addition, I contend that DM helps insulate militant minds from the fact that Dialectical Marxism has been such a long-term failure, thus preventing the scientific development of revolutionary socialism.


[Again, in the above, notice the use of the word "Dialectical" before the word "Marxism". What I am not claiming is that Marxism itself has been a failure; the non-dialectical version hasn't been road-tested yet.]


All this is quite apart from the impression created in the minds of working people the world over that revolutionaries are, at best, a political joke, an opinion that has penetrated so deep that it is now a widely accepted cliché. I believe -- and I think I can show -- that DM is indirectly implicated in this, too. Of course, all this is in addition to the familiar stereotyping of revolutionaries by the capitalist media, some of which is based on these self-inflicted wounds.


Naturally, this means that it is now difficult for our movement to be taken seriously by friend and foe alike.


Once again, these are highly contentious allegations, but in view of the fact that Dialectical Marxism has been such an abject and long-term failure we have no option but to think things afresh -- like the radicals we claim to be.


This Essay is devoted to that end. May I suggest, therefore, to those who find the above allegations far too controversial to accept (or who think them patently false and thus are tempted to reject them out-of-hand) that they shelve such qualms until they have examined the arguments I have assembled -- outlined briefly below, but in much more detail in my other Essays.


Even in what follows, fair-minded readers will I am sure agree that I have at least constructed a prima facie case against the philosophical theory early Marxists imported into the workers' movement -- a destructive case that is being advanced, it is worth recalling, with the sole purpose of making revolutionary socialism more relevant, less sectarian, and hence far more successful.


[The arguments summarised below are further expanded upon in Essay Sixteen, which is a much longer précis of my core ideas. Readers who want to know more are directed to that Essay after they have read through the material presented here.]


Finally, when reading the material presented here, some comrades have asked; "Well, what's your theory, then?" In fact, I reject all philosophical theories as incoherent non-sense -- I have outlined my reasons for doing so, here. In which case, I have no alternative philosophical theory to offer, nor do we need one.


[Please note: this doesn't mean I reject scientific theory! Indeed, for example, I fully accept HM, a scientific theory of history and how to change it.]




Please note that this Essay deals with very basic issues, even at the risk of over-simplification; it is, to repeat, an Introductory Essay!


It has only been ventured upon because several comrades who weren't well-versed in Philosophy wanted a very simple guide to my principle arguments against DM.


In that case, it isn't aimed at experts!


Anyone who objects to the apparently superficial nature of the material presented below must take these caveats into account or navigate away from this page. The material below isn't intended for them.


It is worth underlining this point since I still encounter comrades on Internet discussion boards who, despite the above warning, still think this Essay is a definitive statement of my ideas.


It isn't!


Several of the aforementioned critics, who have plainly ignored the above comments and who therefore think that the material below represents my considered views, when it doesn't, should perhaps read the following more carefully:


this Essay is aimed solely at novices!


As noted above, those who want more detail should consult Essay Sixteen, or the relevant Essays published at the main site.


Any who still find this Essay either too long or too difficult might prefer to read two much shorter summaries of my ideas posted here and here.


Finally, I have had to assume that readers already possess a rudimentary grasp of DM. Anyone unfamiliar with this theory/method should read this, or this -- or, indeed, my short summary, here. A much more comprehensive account can be found here.



Main Objections


Formal Logic And Change


Dialectical Fairy-Tales


Dialecticians tell fibs about Formal Logic [FL], and they persist in this even after they have been told that what they have to say about logic is woefully inaccurate, if not downright misleading.


Indeed, they regularly write things like the following:


"Formal logic regards things as fixed and motionless." [Rob Sewell.]


"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition cannot cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]


"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity....


"…If a thing is always and under all conditions equal or identical with itself, it can never be unequal or different from itself." [Novack (1971), p.20.]


However, I have yet to see a single passage from a logic text (ancient or modern) that supports these allegations -- certainly dialecticians have so far failed to produce even so much as one!


No wonder; they are completely false.


FL uses variables -- that is, it employs letters to stand for propositions, objects, processes and the like, all of which can and do change.


This handy formal device was invented by the very first logician we know of (in the 'West'), Aristotle (384-322BC). Indeed, Aristotle experimented with the use of variables approximately 1500 years before they were imported into mathematics by Muslim Algebraists, who in turn employed them several centuries before French mathematician and philosopher, René Descartes (1596-1650), introduced them into the 'West'.


This is what Professor Nidditch had to say about Aristotle's invention:


"One has to give Aristotle great credit for being fully conscious of this [i.e., of the need for a general account of inference -- RL] and for seeing that the way to general laws is by the use of variables, that is letters which are signs for every and any thing whatever in a certain range of things: a range of qualities, substances, relations, numbers or of any other sort or form of existence....


"If one keeps in mind that the Greeks were very uncertain about and very far from letting variables take the place of numbers or number words in algebra, which is why they made little headway in that branch of mathematics...then there will be less danger of Aristotle's invention of variables for use in Syllogistic being overlooked or undervalued. Because of this idea of his, logic was sent off from the very start on the right lines." [Nidditch (1998), pp.8-9. Italic emphasis in the original.]


Indeed, Engels himself said the following about this particular innovation in mathematics:


"The turning point in mathematics was Descartes' variable magnitude. With that came motion and hence dialectics in mathematics, and at once, too, of necessity the differential and integral calculus…." [Engels (1954), p.258.]


Now, no one doubts that modern mathematics can handle change, so why dialecticians deny this of FL -- when it has always used variables -- is somewhat puzzling.


It is even more puzzling when we realise that if DM itself were 'true', change would be impossible.


[Furthermore, as we will see in the next section, the 'Law of Identity' [LOI] doesn't in fact preclude change.]



The 'Three Laws' Of FL


With very little variation between them dialecticians also like to assert the following about FL:


"The 'fundamental laws of thinking' are considered to be three in number: 1) The law of identity; 2) the law of contradiction, and 3) the law of the excluded middle.


"The law of identity...states that 'A is A' or 'A = A'.


"The law of contradiction... -- 'A is not A' -- is merely a negative form of the first law.


"According to the law of the excluded middle...two opposing judgements that are mutually exclusive cannot both be wrong. Indeed, 'A is either B or non-B'. The truth of either of these two judgements necessarily means the falseness of the other, and vice versa. There is not, neither can there be, any middle." [Plekhanov (1908), pp.89-90. Italics in the original.]


"The Aristotelian conception of the laws basic to correct thinking may be stated as follows:


"1. Law of Identity: Each existence is identical with itself. A is A.


"2. Law of Noncontradiction: Each existence is not different from itself. A is not non-A.


"3. Law of Excluded Middle: No existence can be both itself and different from itself. Any X is either A or non-A, but not both at once." [Somerville (1967), pp.44-45. Italics in the original.]


"The basic laws of formal logic are:


"1) The law of identity ('A' = 'A').


"2) The law of contradiction ('A' does not equal 'not-A').


"3) The law of the excluded middle ('A' does not equal 'B')." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.91. In the above, quotation marks have been altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"The basic principles of...Aristotelian or formal logic were the 'law of identity' and the 'law of non-contradiction'. The 'law of identity' stated, in symbolic terms, that A is equal to A, or an ounce of gold equals an ounce of gold.... The 'law of non-contradiction' stated that A cannot be equal to non-A, it makes no sense to say that an ounce of gold is not an ounce of gold." [Molyneux (2012), p.43. Quotation marks have been altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Even a cursory examination of a handful of logic texts will reveal that not only are the above claims incorrect, not even Aristotle's logic was based on these so-called 'laws'! [Anyone who doubts this is encouraged to read (or, better, study) Quine's Methods of Logic, and Bostock's Intermediate Logic (i.e, Quine (1982) and Bostock (1997)) -- or, perhaps even better, check this out -- this links to a PDF.]


To be sure, dialecticians regularly claim that Aristotle founded his logic on these principles, but they have yet to produce the evidence. In fact, Aristotle knew nothing of the LOI, which was a Medieval invention. [More on that here and here.]


The LOI will be examined presently, but the 'Law of Contradiction' [LOC] merely entails that if one proposition is true, its contradictory (its negation) is false, and vice versa. [In some versions of mathematical logic, the LOC says that no contradiction can be true, but must be false.] However, the LOC says nothing about "equality", or, indeed, the lack of it, as Plekhanov, Woods and Grant, Molyneux, and a host of other dialecticians regularly assert -- again without even a cursory nod in the direction of substantiation.


Nor is there any connection between the so-called "negative" form of the LOI (i.e., "A cannot at the same time be A and Not-A") and the LOC. The LOI concerns the alleged identity of an object with itself, while the LOC expresses the true/false link (otherwise known as the "truth-functional connection") between a proposition and its negation. Hence, the LOC doesn't concern the relation between 'objects'.


Likewise, the 'Law of Excluded Middle' [LEM] says nothing about objects being identical, or otherwise, merely that any proposition has to be either true or false; there is no third option.


[Any who think the LEM is defective in this regard (and that there can be a third option), should check this out and then perhaps think again. Moreover, there is no logical connection between the LOI and the other two 'laws', as the above dialecticians seem to think. On this, see my comments over at Wikipedia.]


Some claim that Quantum Mechanics [QM] has, among other things, refuted the LEM, but QM has merely forced us to reconsider what we should count as a scientific proposition. Hence, the LEM remains unaffected by QM.


And, contrary to what dialecticians often tell us, these 'laws' do not deny or preclude change, nor are they unable to cope with it. Indeed, we are only able to speak about change when we are clear about what is or what isn't true of whatever it is that is supposedly changing.


In fact, as we will soon see, it is DM that can't cope with change!


The LOI has been no less mis-handled by DM-theorists. That is because they have unwisely borrowed their ideas about this 'law' from a German Idealist and Mystical Philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). [On that, see below, as well as here.]


The basic idea behind this misguided criticism of the LOI seems to be the following:


"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity. This law can be stated in various ways such as: A thing is always equal to or identical with itself. In algebraic terms: A equals A.


"...If a thing is always and under all conditions equal to or identical with itself, it can never be unequal to or different from itself. This conclusion follows logically and inevitably from the law of identity. If A equals A, it can never equal non-A." [Novack (1971), p.20.]


This is incorrect. As noted above, the LOI doesn't preclude change, for if an object changes then anything identical to it will change equally quickly. If this weren't so they couldn't have been identical to begin with! Moreover, if something changes, it will no longer be identical with its former self.


So, far from denying change, this 'law' allows us to determine if and when it has occurred. This is quite apart from the fact that Novack (along with many other DM-theorists) has confused equality with identity!


[There is much more on this 'law', and Trotsky's and Hegel's misguided criticisms of it, here. The word "law" has been put in scare quotes since it is clear that this 'law' is in fact a misconstrued rule of language. Follow that link for an explanation.]


Recently, John Molyneux had this to say about Marxism:


"Marxist materialism is repeatedly attacked by the method of oversimplifying and caricaturing it to the point where it is obviously false.…" [Molyneux (2012), p.36.]


And yet, this is precisely what Molyneux and other dialecticians do with respect to FL!


As a result, anyone trained in logic will conclude that Marxist dialecticians are a woefully ignorant, dissembling bunch. In turn, this will inevitably have a negative effect on their opinion of Marxism itself.


This is quite apart from the fact that scientists have discovered trillions of absolutely identical objects in each gram of matter -- on that see here.



Hegel's 'Logical' Howlers


As noted above, the criticisms of FL advanced by most dialecticians were lifted from Hegel, who, alas, committed a series of logical blunders which, even to this day, dialecticians have failed to notice -- or which, when they have been apprised of them, they simply ignore. In fact, committing these blunders was the only way that Hegel could make his 'system' even seem to work.


Many of his core 'logical' ideas are destructively analysed here; I have omitted that material from this Introductory Essay because of its more technical nature. However, a basic outline, once more written for novices, can be accessed here.


Unfortunately, these blunders completely undermine the legitimacy of 'Dialectical Logic' [DL]. Hegel's entire system is based on these errors (upside down or the 'right way up') -- some of which he himself inherited (in a bowdlerised form) from Medieval Theologians.


Naturally, this means that since DM has also been founded on these blunders, it enjoys absolutely no rational support, either.


It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that DM has presided over 140+ years of almost total failure.



Motion Isn't Contradictory


According to Hegel, motion itself is a 'contradiction'. Unfortunately, dialecticians have bought into this rather odd idea. Here is Engels:


"...[A]s soon as we consider things in their motion, their change, their life, their reciprocal influence on one another[,] [t]hen we immediately become involved in contradictions. Motion itself is a contradiction: even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body at one and the same moment of time being both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continuous assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is." [Engels (1976), p.152.]


This is an age-old confusion derived from a paradox invented by an Ancient Greek mystic called Zeno (490?-430?BC).


[Notice how these ideas keep coming from self-proclaimed mystics?]


So, Engels appears to be claiming that moving objects are (i) in two places at the same time, and (ii) in one of these places and not in it at the same moment.


In fact, as should seem obvious, all objects (which aren't mathematical points) occupy several places at once whether or not they are moving. For example, while you are sat reading this Essay your body isn't compressed into a tiny point! Unless you have suffered an horrific accident, your head won't be in exactly same mathematical location as your feet, even though both of these body parts now (i.e., pre-accident!) occupy the same place -- i.e., where you are sat.


So, occupying several points at the same time isn't unique to moving bodies. In which case, this 'paradox' has more to do with linguistic ambiguity than it has with anything 'contradictory'.


The ambiguity here is plainly connected with the use of words like "move", "place" and "location", the meaning of which Engels simply took for granted; more on that presently.


Hence, an object can be in several places at once (in one sense of "place") -- i.e., it can be in one location and in another at the same time. Moreover, it can succeed in accomplishing this 'astonishing' feat while being stationary (relative to what scientists call an "inertial frame").


For example, let us suppose that you are now sat at a desk in your house, office or flat (etc); plainly, you are also located in your home village, town or city, and this would still be true if you are sat perfectly motionless. In that case, you would be in at least two places at once, but still not moving. Notice, once again, the obvious and intentional ambiguities involved here.


Consider another example: a car can be parked half in, half out of a garage. Here, the car is in one and the same place and not in it, and it is in two places at once (in the garage and in the yard), even while it is at rest relative to a suitable frame of reference.


Plainly, the alleged 'contradiction' here fails to distinguish moving from stationary bodies; that is, if moving and stationary bodies can both do supposedly 'contradictory' things, then this 'conundrum' has more to do with linguistic ambiguity than it has to do with anything supposedly paradoxical or 'contradictory'.


Exception might be taken to the above in that it implicitly uses phrases like "not wholly in one place" (i.e., the car in question is "not wholly in the garage"). Hence, it could be argued that Engels was quite clear about what he meant: motion involves a body being in one place and in another at the same time, being in and not in it at one and the same moment. There is no mention of "not wholly inside, or in", here.


Or, so it could be maintained.


Clearly, this objection depends for its force on what Engels actually meant by the following words:


"[E]ven simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body at one and the same moment of time being both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in it." [Ibid.]


Here, the problem centres on the word "in". It is worth noting that Engels's actual words imply that "not wholly in" is a legitimate, alternative interpretation of what he said (paraphrased below):


E1: Motion involves a body being in one and the same place and not in it.


If a body is "in and not in" a certain place it can't in fact be totally in that place. So, Engels's own words allow for his "in" to mean "not wholly in".


Once again, notice the in-built ambiguity here.


A mundane example of this might be where, say, a 15 cm long pencil is sitting in a pocket that is only 10 cm deep. In that case, it would be perfectly natural to say that this pencil is in, but not entirely in, the pocket -- that is, it would be both "in and not in" the pocket at the same time (thus fulfilling Engels's definition) --, but still at rest with respect to some inertial frame. E1 certainly allows for such a situation, and Engels's use of the word "in" and the rest of what he said plainly carry this alternative interpretation.


Hence, it seems that Engels's words are compatible with a body being motionless relative to some inertial frame!


Consider another example: A cat could fall asleep in the doorway of a room, and would thus be in that room and not in it at the same time. Once again, ambiguities built into language allow for these eventualities. Engels failed to take this into account, and hence he failed to be clear about what he actually meant.


Independently of these obvious ambiguities, there are serious problems with what Engels did say: a moving object is supposedly "in one and the same place and also not in it". But, if moving object, B, isn't located at X (i.e., if it is "not in X"), then it can't also be located at X, contrary to what Engels asserted. If it isn't there then isn't there. On the other hand, if B is located at X, then it can't also not be at X. Otherwise, Engels's can't have meant by "not" what the rest of us mean by that word.


But, if so, what did he mean?


Unfortunately, he neglected to say, and no one since has been any clearer. Other than holding up their hands and declaring it a 'contradiction', there is nothing more they could say. Once more, this can only mean that they, too, mean something different by "not". So, for example, it seems that for DM-theorists "is not" means "is and is not"! If so, they certainly can't now respond by saying "The above is not what we mean", since this use of "not" implies they really mean "The above is and is not what we mean"! (as each "is not" is replaced by its 'dialectical equivalent', "is and is not"), and so on.


As we can see, anyone who falls for this linguistic conjuring trick will find it impossible to tell us what they do mean!


Nor can it be replied that Engels's words only apply to movement and change; hence when a dialectician uses "is not" in, for instance, "This is not what we mean" they don't also mean "This is and is not what we mean". That is because, if everything is constantly changing into what it is not (as DM-theorists insist) then this will also be true of the meaning of the words they use. In that case, "This is what we mean" must have changed into "This is and is not what we mean".


[The so-called 'relative stability' of language argument has been neutralised in Essay Six, here and here.]


In Essay Five, I have made several attempts to disambiguate and clarify Engels's words in order to make sense of what he was trying to say. Alas, every attempt was to no avail! As things turn out, there is nothing comprehensible that Engels could have meant by what he said. The last few paragraphs give a flavour of the problems his odd use of 'dialectical' language creates.


[The reader is referred to the above Essay for more details.]


Any attempt to circumvent these objections with the counter-claim that moving objects occupy regions of space equal to their own volumes (hence a moving object will occupy two of these regions at the same time, occupying and not occupying each at the same time) won't work either. That is because this option would picture a moving body occupying a region greater than its own volume at the same time -- since, according to this view, it will now occupy two such volumes at once --, which would mean, plainly, that it wouldn't so much move as expand, or inflate!


Worse still, Engels's account depicts objects moving between successive locations outside of time -- that is, he has them moving between locations with time having advanced not one instant --, otherwise the said objects couldn't be in two places at the same moment. This is impossible to reconcile with a materialist (or even with a comprehensible) view of nature. According to Engels, motion takes place outside of time!


So, if object B is in one place and then in another (which is, I suspect, central to any notion of movement that Engels would have accepted), it must be in the first place before it is in the second. If so, time must have elapsed between its occupancy of those two locations, otherwise we wouldn't be able to say it was in the first place before it was in the second. But, if we can't say this (that is, if we can't say that it was in the first place before it was in the second), then that would undermine the assertion that B was in fact moving, and that it had travelled from the first location to the second.


Hence, if B is in both locations at once, it can't have moved from the first to the second. On the other hand, if B has moved from the first to the second, so that it was in the first before it reached the second, it can't have been in both at the same time.


If DM-theorists don't mean this, then they must either (a) refrain from using "before" and "after" in relation to moving objects, or (b) explain what they do mean by their words. Option (a) would prevent them from explaining (or even talking about) motion. We are still waiting for a response to option (b).


[One comrade has recently sought to challenge me on this; the details can be found here. In fact, I have shown that Hegel and Engels's ideas about motion lead to even more ridiculous conclusions than those outlined above. The reader is once again directed to Essay Five for more details -- here, here, and here.]


Finally, as noted above, this 'contradiction' is a direct consequence of the ambiguities built into, or which are a consequence of Zeno's (and thus Hegel and Engels's) account of motion -- that is, their use of certain words (like "moment", "move", and "place"). In turn, this means that when these equivocations have been resolved, these supposed 'contradictions' simply vanish -- which, incidentally, is what one would expect of a conundrum invented by mystics.


[Once again, that disambiguation has been carried out here.]


Be this as it may, Engels's argument is a prime example of apriorism, about which DM-fan, George Novack, had this to say:


"A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added.]


Even Engels pointed out the following:


"The mistake lies in the fact that these laws are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them. This is the source of the whole forced and often outrageous treatment; the universe, willy-nilly, is made out to be arranged in accordance with a system of thought which itself is only the product of a definite stage of evolution of human thought." [Engels (1954), p.62. Bold emphasis added.]


But, these comments also apply to the idea that motion is 'contradictory', which hasn't been derived from evidence, but from a 'law of thought' -- in fact, from an egregious example of word juggling -- invented in Ancient Greece and promoted by that notorious Christian Mystic, Hegel.


It is to this seldom acknowledged aspect of DM that I now turn.



DM Has Been Imposed On Nature


Given the above, the question naturally arises: Has dialectics been read from nature or imposed on it?


It would seem that the former must correct since we regularly encounter the following seemingly modest disclaimers from dialecticians:


"Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it." [Engels (1976), p.13. The on-line version uses "building...into" here in place of "superimposing".]


Why is this important? Well, as dialecticians themselves tell us, the reading of certain doctrines into reality is a hallmark of Idealism and dogmatism. So, if DM is to live up to its materialist credentials, its theorists must take care to avoid doing this -- which is, of course, why they often agree with Engels.


Indeed, we have already seen George Novack point this out:


"A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added.]


Here, too, are the thoughts of Communist Party theoretician, Maurice Cornforth:


"Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), p.15. Bold emphasis added.]


However, when we examine what dialecticians actually do, as opposed to what they say they do, we find that the exact opposite of this is the case. For example, Engels himself went on to claim the following about motion:


"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transmitted…." [Engels (1976), p.74. Bold emphasis alone added.]


How could Engels possibly know that "Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be"? Was he a minor deity of some sort? Has he been seated at the right hand of 'God'?


Had this observation been derived from the facts available even in Engels's day (a policy to which he had just sworn allegiance), he would have expressed himself perhaps as follows:


"Evidence so far suggests that motion is what we call 'the mode of existence of matter'. Never anywhere has matter without motion been observed, but it is too early to say if this must always be the case…. Matter without motion isn't in fact inconceivable, nor indeed is motion without matter, we just haven't witnessed either yet…." [Re-vamped version of Engels (1976), p.74.]


It is worth recalling that motionless matter isn't in fact inconceivable. Indeed, that very idea had been a fundamental precept of Aristotelian Physics, which was the dominant scientific doctrine for the best part of two thousand years!


Worse still, as noted earlier, Engels's argument about motion was based on "abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source" -- that is, on speculative ideas lifted from Hegel and Zeno. It most certainly wasn't based on evidence, but on an argument about what certain words (such as, "motion", "moment" and "place") supposedly meant. As I have argued in Essay Five:


An appeal to evidence would be irrelevant, anyway. That is because the examination of countless moving objects would fail to confirm Engels's assertion that they occupy two places at once. This would still be the case no matter what instruments or devices were used to carry out these hypothetical observations, and regardless of the extent of the magnification employed to that end --, or, indeed, the level of microscopic detail enlisted in support. No observation could confirm that a moving object is in two places at once..., and in one of these and not in it at the same time. This explains, of course, why Engels offered no scientific evidence whatsoever in support of his belief in the contradictory nature of motion. And this picture hasn't altered one iota in the intervening years -- indeed, no book or article on DM even so much as thinks to quote any evidence in support of this thesis --, and that situation isn't ever likely to change.


Quantum phenomena that supposedly violate this caveat (i.e., the claim there is no evidence that moving objects occupy two places at once, etc.) don't affect this negative conclusion. No one supposes that in experiments which suggest an electron, for example, can be in two places at once that this particle moves from one of these places to the other -- or, indeed, in no time at all. What is supposed to happen is that when one electron is aimed at a double slit and focused on a screen, it appears to have taken two separate paths at the same time. So, it hasn't moved between the latter two locations at the same time; it has, it seems, merely followed two trajectories. Why DM-supporters view this a confirmation of their theory, is, therefore, something of a mystery.


It could be objected to this that if, say, a photograph were taken of a moving object, it would show by means of the recorded blur, perhaps, that such a body had occupied several places at once. In that case, therefore, there is, or could be, evidence in support of Engels's claims.


The problem with this is that no matter how fast the shutter speed, no camera (not even this one, or this) can record an instant in time, merely a temporal interval. Clearly, to verify the claim that a moving object occupies at least two places in the same instant, a physical recording of an instant would be required. Plainly, since instants (i.e., in the sense required) are mathematical fictions, it isn't possible to record them.


It could be countered that as we increase a camera's shutter speed, photographs taken will always show some blurring. This supports the conclusion that moving objects are never located in one place at one time. Despite this, it still remains the case that no photograph can catch an instant, and thus none can verify Engels's contention.


Again, it could be argued that it is reasonable to conclude that moving objects occupy two locations at the same moment from the above. Once more, since an instant in time is a fiction, it isn't reasonable to conclude this. Not even a mathematical limiting process could capture such ghostly 'entities' in the physical world, whatever else it might appear to achieve in theory. But, even if it could, no camera (radar device, or other piece of equipment) could record it. Hence, even if an appeal to a mathematical limiting process were viable (and/or available), it would be of no assistance. No experiment is capable of substantiating any of the conclusions Engels reached about moving bodies.


And that explains why he and those who accept these ideas have had to force this view of motion onto nature.


Hence, this thesis about moving bodies hasn't emerged from the facts, but has been imposed on them, in defiance of what Engels himself said.


Indeed, as one comrade (inadvertently) admits, this doctrine is based solely on a series of thought experiments:


"Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, famously said that 'everything changes and nothing remains the same' and that 'you can never step twice into the same stream' [this is not what Heraclitus actually said -- 'On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow' (sic) -- RL]. It is the ideas of ceaseless change, motion, interconnectedness and contradiction that define dialectical thought.


"The philosopher Zeno famously tried to illustrate how essential dialectical thinking is to our understanding of the world by using thought experiments. He poses the following:


"Imagine an arrow in flight. At any one durationless instant in time (like the freeze-frame in a film) the arrow is not moving to where it is going to, nor is it moving to where it already is. Thus, at every conceivable instant in time, there is no motion occurring, so how does the arrow move?


"To answer this we are forced to embrace what appears on the surface to be a contradictory idea -- that the arrow is, at any one time, in more than one place at once. This thought experiment serves to highlight the contradictory nature of the movement of matter in the world.


"The German philosopher Hegel further developed the dialectical (sic) in a systematic form. Instead [of] trying to discard contradictions Hegel saw in them the real impulse for all development. In fact Hegel saw the interpenetration of opposites as one of the fundamental characters of all phenomena. Hegel's philosophy is one of interconnectedness where the means and the end, the cause and the effect, are constantly changing place. It explains progress in terms of struggle and contradiction, not a straight line or an inevitable triumphal march forward...." [Quoted from here; accessed 02/08/2015. Bold emphases and links added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Of course, as the above confirms: it isn't as if we don't already know where these ideas originated; they didn't arise from a body of detailed observations of moving bodies carried out by Zeno or Hegel -- or anyone else, for that matter -- , but from a series of thought experiments dreamt up by these two mystics!


In which case, Novack and Cornforth's comments also apply to Engels's dogmatic assertions about motion itself.


Here, too, are Lenin's own dogmatic impositions on nature:


"Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world." [Lenin (1961), p.110. Bold emphasis added.]


"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…." [Ibid., p.358. Bold emphases alone added.]


Lest we are tempted to search back through the archives to find the countless container-loads of evidence that Lenin had marshalled in support of these dramatic claims about everything in the entire universe for all of time (for what else does "eternal development" mean?), a consideration of the next passage will at least relieve us of that onerous task. Here, at last, Lenin is disarmingly honest about where he obtained these dogmatic generalisations:


"Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Ibid., pp.196-97. Bold emphasis alone added.]


Lenin is quite open about his sources in these private notebooks: dialectics derives its 'evidential' support, not from a "patient empirical examination of the facts", but from studying Hegel! As far as evidence goes, that is it! That's all there is! The search for evidence begins and ends with a dialectician leafing through Hegel's Logic. That is the extent of the 'evidence' Lenin offered in support of his assertions about "everything existing", about "eternal change", about "all phenomena and processes of nature", and about nature's "eternal development", etc., etc.


As is relatively easy to show, all dialecticians do likewise (the mountain of evidence substantiating that allegation can be found here). First, they disarm the reader with the modest claims we saw rehearsed above; then, sometimes on the same page, or even in the very next sentence, they proceed to do the exact opposite, imposing dialectics on nature.


Why they do this and what significance it has will become apparent as this Essay -- and more specifically, the next section -- unfolds.



Traditional Thought


In the 'West', since Ancient Greek times, Traditional Thinkers have been imposing their theories on nature (again, as Cornforth and Novack pointed out). In fact, this practice is so widespread and has penetrated into Traditional Philosophy so deeply that few notice it, even after it has been pointed out to them. Or, rather, they fail to see its significance. And that includes DM-theorists.


This ancient tradition taught that behind appearances there lies a hidden world (populated by the 'gods' or assorted 'spirits' and 'essences'), which was more real than the material universe we see around us, and which was accessible to thought alone. Theology was openly and proudly built on this idea, but so was Traditional Philosophy.


This way of viewing things was concocted by ideologues of the ruling-class, which class (and/or their minions) ensured that others were educated (but often, forced) to see things this way, too. They invented this 'world-view' because if you belong to, benefit from, or help run a society that is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep order in several ways.

The first and most obvious way is through violence. This will work for a time, but it is not only fraught with danger, it is costly and it stifles innovation (among other things).

Another way is to persuade the majority (or a significant section of "opinion formers" -- philosophers, administrators, editors, bishops, educators, 'intellectuals', and the like) that the present order either (a) works for their benefit, (b) is ordained of the 'gods', (c) defends 'civilised values', or (d) is 'natural' and thus cannot be fought against, reformed or negotiated with.


These ideas were then imposed on reality -- plainly, since they can't be read from it.


As Marx pointed out, members of the ruling-class often relied on these other layers in society to concoct and then disseminate such ideas on their behalf, in order to persuade the rest of us that each successive system was 'rational', 'natural', or 'divinely ordained':


"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch...." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65, quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


Notice, Marx tells us they do this "in its whole range", and that they "rule as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age."


In Ancient Greece, with the demise of the rule of Kings and Queens, the old myths and Theogonies were no longer relevant. So, in the newly emerging republics and quasi-democracies of the Sixth Century BC far more abstract, de-personalised ideas were required.


Enter Philosophy.


As Marx also noted:


"[P]philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version here.]


It is no accident then that Philosophy emerged as Greek society changed in the above way.


From its inception, Traditional Philosophers constructed increasingly baroque and abstract systems of thought, invariably based on obscure and arcane jargon, impossible to translate into the language of everyday life.


Again, as Marx pointed out:


"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.


"...The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases alone added.]


Philosophers felt they could read their doctrines into nature, since, for them, nature was 'Mind' (or it was the product of 'Mind' -- i.e., it was 'rational'). In that case, the human mind could safely concoct and then project its thoughts onto a 'rational' world created by such a 'Mind'.


As the late Professor Havelock pointed out:


"As long as...communication remained oral, the environment could be described or explained only in the guise of stories which represent it as the work of agents: that is gods. Hesiod takes the step of trying to unify those stories into one great story, which becomes a cosmic theogony. A great series of matings and births of gods is narrated to symbolise the present experience of the sky, earth, seas, mountains, storms, rivers, and stars. His poem is the first attempt we have in a style in which the resources of documentation have begun to intrude upon the manner of an acoustic composition. But his account is still a narrative of events, of 'beginnings,' that is, 'births,' as his critics the Presocratics were to put it. From the standpoint of a sophisticated philosophical language, such as was available to Aristotle, what was lacking was a set of commonplace but abstract terms which by their interrelations could describe the physical world conceptually; terms such as space, void, matter, body, element, motion, immobility, change, permanence, substratum, quantity, quality, dimension, unit, and the like. Aside altogether from the coinage of abstract nouns, the conceptual task also required the elimination of verbs of doing and acting and happening, one may even say, of living and dying, in favour of a syntax which states permanent relationships between conceptual terms systematically. For this purpose the required linguistic mechanism was furnished by the timeless present of the verb to be --  the copula of analytic statement.


"The history of early philosophy is usually written under the assumption that this kind of vocabulary was already available to the first Greek thinkers. The evidence of their own language is that it was not. They had to initiate the process of inventing it....


"Nevertheless, the Presocratics could not invent such language by an act of novel creation. They had to begin with what was available, namely, the vocabulary and syntax of orally memorised speech, in particular the language of Homer and Hesiod. What they proceeded to do was to take the language of the mythos and manipulate it, forcing its terms into fresh syntactical relationships which had the constant effect of stretching and extending their application, giving them a cosmic rather than a particular reference." [Havelock (1983), pp.13-14, 21. Bold emphases and links added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling modified to agree with UK English.]


Havelock then shows in detail that this is precisely what the Presocratic Philosophers succeeded in doing: inventing abstract nouns, eliminating verbs in their place, and transforming the verb "to be" in the required manner. [I have explained these developments in much greater detail in Essay Three Parts One and Two.]


For these theorists, true thoughts were a "reflection" of the underlying, 'Divine Order'. "As above, so below", went the old Hermetic saying. The microcosm of the mind "reflected" the macrocosm of the universe. The doctrine of Correspondences thus came to dominate all ancient and modern theories of knowledge. On this view, 'philosophical' truth corresponds with hidden 'essences', which supposedly lie 'underneath', or 'behind' the superficial world of 'appearances'. These 'essences' were impossible to detect by any physical means whatsoever, and hence were accessible to thought alone.


As Novack pointed out, this rendered all such theories Idealist.


Indeed, as Marx hinted, and as the record confirms, these philosophical systems were based on the idea that language contained a secret code, a cipher that 'enabled' Traditional Theorists to represent to themselves the 'rational' order underlying 'appearances' -- the so-called "secrets of nature" --, and in some cases, the very 'Mind of God'.


As Umberto Eco points out (in relation to the 'Western' Christian tradition, which, of course, drew heavily on Greek Philosophy):


"God spoke before all things, and said, 'Let there be light.' In this way, he created both heaven and earth; for with the utterance of the divine word, 'there was light'.... Thus Creation itself arose through an act of speech; it is only by giving things their names that he created them and gave them their ontological status....


"In Genesis..., the Lord speaks to man for the first time.... We are not told in what language God spoke to Adam. Tradition has pictured it as a sort of language of interior illumination, in which God...expresses himself....


"...Clearly we are here in the presence of a motif, common to other religions and mythologies -- that of the nomothete, the name-giver, the creator of language." [Eco (1997), pp.7-8. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Philosophical language and thought were thus seen as an esoteric medium or channel that enabled the "inner illumination" of the 'soul' -- a hot-line to 'God'.


Unsurprisingly then, the philosophical theories and theological dogmas concocted by countless generations of ruling-class ideologues almost invariably turned out to be those that rationalised and 'justified' the status quo.01


Either that, or they were employed in order to 'justify' a change in, and then a defence of, a new status quo as one Mode of Production -- or, indeed, as one ruling-class --, was replaced by the next in line.


To this end, language was viewed primarily as a means of representation -- a vehicle by means of which 'God' could 'illuminate the soul', and then re-present 'His' ideas to humanity --, but, not as a means of communication, as Marx and Engels had argued.


[More on that, here.]


As noted above, this ancient tradition has changed many times throughout history (with the rise and fall of each Mode of Production), but its form has remained basically the same throughout: fundamental 'truths' about reality can be derived from language (or 'thought') alone, which meant that these 'cosmic verities' 'truths' could be imposed dogmatically on nature.


Word-juggling thus became the 'sport of choice' for subsequent Philosophers.


Some might object that philosophical ideas can't have remained the same for thousands of years, across different Modes of Production, since that assertion itself runs counter to core ideas in Historical Materialism. But, we don't argue the same for religious belief. Marx put no time stamp on the following, for example:


"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man -- state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.


"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." [Marx (1975c), p.244. Italic emphases in the original.]


These remarks applied back in Ancient Babylon and Egypt, just as they did in China and India, in Greece and Rome, in the Middle Ages and they have done so right across the planet ever since. While their content might have changed many times, their form has remained the same: fundamental 'truths' about reality can be derived from language (or 'thought') alone.

The same is true of the core thought-forms that run through Traditional Philosophy: that there is indeed an invisible world, accessible to thought alone --, especially since Marx also argued that:


"[P]hilosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. Bold emphasis added.]


This, of course, helps explain why Marx thought this entire discipline (Philosophy) was based on distorted language, and contained little other than empty abstractions and alienated thought-forms -- and, indeed, why he turned his back on it from the late 1840s onward. [On that, see here.]


So, just like Theology, but in this case in a far more abstract and increasingly secularised form, subsequent philosophies sought to reflect the 'essential' structure of reality, which 'justified' and rationalised class division and oppression, mystified now by the use of increasingly esoteric terminology and obscure jargon. As Marx also noted:


"Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118.]


[Exactly how this series of developments is connected with the attempt to legitimate class power and systematic oppression is outlined here.]


'Materialist Dialectics' was conceived and was then developed from this tradition, as Lenin himself acknowledged (plainly failing to appreciate the significance of what he was saying):


"The history of philosophy and the history of social science show with perfect clarity that there is nothing resembling 'sectarianism' in Marxism, in the sense of its being a hidebound, petrified doctrine, a doctrine which arose away from the high road of the development of world civilisation. On the contrary, the genius of Marx consists precisely in his having furnished answers to questions already raised by the foremost minds of mankind. His doctrine emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy and socialism.


"The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is comprehensive and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction, or defence of bourgeois oppression. It is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism." [Lenin, Three Sources and Component Parts of Marxism. Bold emphases alone added.]


In its modern form, this ancient world-view/method was re-invented and re-packaged by that quintessentially Idealist Philosopher, Hegel, working in the mystical Neoplatonic, Christian, and Hermetic Traditions. It was appropriated by Marxist classicists before the working class could provide them with a materialist counter-weight. DM was thus born out of Idealism, and, as we will see, it has never escaped from its class-compromised clutches -- despite the 'materialist flip' dialecticians claim to have inflicted upon it.


And that is why dialecticians are only too happy to impose their ideas on nature: it is thoroughly traditional to do so, as Novack noted. Indeed, since DM is based on ancient and idealised abstractions -- which, plainly, can't be derived from the material world -- its doctrines have had to be read into it.


Unfortunately, in so doing, dialecticians are (unwittingly) identifying themselves with a tradition that wasn't built by working people, and which doesn't serve their interests.


Worse still, since DM isn't based on material reality it can't be used to help change it.


Small wonder then that it has failed us for so long.


Some might think that if the above conclusions were correct, science itself must be equally flawed. This is mistaken. Science has always been dominated by individuals who don't just theorise about nature, they interact with it, observe it, experiment on it and learn from it, modifying their ideas accordingly. [On this, see Conner (2005).] Scientific theory is thus tested and confirmed by its complex relation to the world and humanity's endeavour to control it. Traditional Philosophy not only isn't, it can't be.


[However, further discussion of this particular topic would take us way beyond the scope of this Basic Introductory Essay. It has, however, been dealt with in more detail here. A summary can be found here.]


Hence, for all their claim to be radical, DM-theorists are thoroughly conservative when it comes to Philosophy. [Why that is so will also be explained below.]


Indeed, despite the fact that DM-theorists appear to be challenging traditional ideas, their theoretical practice reveals they belong to an intellectual tradition that is quite happy to derive fundamental truths about nature -- valid for all of time and space -- from thought alone, just as boss-class theorists have always done.



The 'Laws' of Dialectics


Engels And Mickey Mouse Science


The age-old tactic of imposing theories on nature (discussed above) can be seen in practice if we examine Engels's so-called 'Three Laws of Dialectics':


"Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connection. Main laws: transformation of quantity into quality -- mutual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes -- development through contradiction or negation of the negation -- spiral form of development." [Engels (1954), p.17.]


All dialecticians who accept these 'Laws' impose them on nature in like manner (indeed, as did Hegel, from whom Engels lifted them).


[Again, the evidence supporting that allegation can be found here and here.]


What little evidence dialecticians have scraped-together in order to substantiate these 'Laws' is not only woefully insufficient, it is selective and highly contentious.


Anyone who has studied and practiced genuine science will know the lengths to which researchers have to go in order to modify, revise or up-date even minor aspects of current theory, let alone justify major changes in the way we view nature.


[For those who haven't had this sort of background, I have posted several examples of genuine science here.]


In the place of hard evidence, what we invariably find in DM-texts are the same hackneyed examples dredged up year-in year-out. These include the following hardy perennials: boiling and/or freezing water, cells that are 'alive and dead', grains of barley that 'negate' themselves, magnets that are UOs, Mamelukes' ambiguous fighting abilities when matched against French soldiers, Mendeleyev's Table, the sentence "John is a man", homilies about parts and wholes (e.g., "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts", etc., etc.), characters from Molière who discover they have been speaking prose all their lives, laughably weak and misguided attempts to depict the principles of FL, "Yay, Yay", and "Nay, Nay", anything more than this "cometh of evil", wave/particle 'duality', 'emergent' properties popping into existence all over the place, etc., etc., etc. Even then, we are never given a scientific report on these phenomena; all we ever find in DM-texts are a few brief, amateurish and impressionistic sentences (or, at most, paragraphs) devoted to each example.


From such mantra-like banalities dialecticians suddenly 'derive' universal laws, valid for all of space and time!


Even at its best (in, say, Woods and Grant (1995/2007) -- which is one of the most comprehensive attempts there is to defend classical, hard-core DM -- or Gollobin (1986), which is in many ways an up-market version of Woods and Grant, but written from a Maoist perspective), all we find are a few dozen pages of secondary and tertiary 'evidence', padded out with no little repetition and bluster (much of which has been taken apart here). Contrary evidence (of which there is plenty) is simply ignored or hand-waved aside. This is indeed Mickey Mouse Science at its best.


In many ways this feeble and superficial attempt to substantiate Engels's 'Laws' resembles Creationist endeavours to show that the Book of Genesis is scientific! As noted above, what little evidence DM-theorists have cobbled-together is highly selective and heavily slanted. More often than not it is merely anecdotal, and is therefore deeply contentious -- as we are about to see.



'Law' One -- 'Quantity' And 'Quality'


Here is the First 'Law', the alleged change of 'quantity into quality':


"It is said, natura non facit saltum [there are no leaps in nature -- RL]; and ordinary thinking when it has to grasp a coming-to-be or a ceasing-to-be, fancies it has done so by representing it as a gradual emergence or disappearance. But we have seen that the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming-other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it. Water, in cooling, does not gradually harden as if it thickened like porridge, gradually solidifying until it reached the consistency of ice; it suddenly solidifies, all at once. It can remain quite fluid even at freezing point if it is standing undisturbed, and then a slight shock will bring it into the solid state." [Hegel (1999), p.370, §776. Bold emphasis alone added.]


"...the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis alone added.]


"With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Engels (1976), pp.82-83.I have used the online version here, but quoted the page numbers from the Foreign Languages edition. Bold emphasis added.]


"We gave there one of the best-known examples [of this Law, RL] -- that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0°C from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100°C from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning-points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water." [Ibid., p.160.]


Notice how Engels feels he can derive an "impossible" from what little evidence he supplied his readers:


"...the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis alone added.]


But, how could he possibly have known that it is "impossible" to change the quality of a body without the addition of matter or energy?


Indeed, this is something Engels himself (inadvertently) recognised:


"The empiricism of observation alone can never adequately prove necessity." [Ibid., p.229.]


In fact, he couldn't possibly have known this; in which case, he clearly "foisted" it on nature.


These changes in 'quality' aren't supposed to be smooth or gradual, either:


"For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change." [Engels (1976), pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]


"It will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1974), p.613. Bold emphases alone added.]


"What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness...." [Lenin (1961), p.282. Bold emphases added.]


However, and contrary to what Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin asserted, not everything in nature changes 'qualitatively' in the way they say -- that is, in sudden "leaps" (or "nodally").  Consider melting glass, rock, resin, tar, metal, butter, toffee, and plastic. When heated, these substances change from solid to liquid slowly, with no 'nodal' points or 'leaps' anywhere in sight. Who doesn't know that metals soften and then melt gradually when heated?


[For anyone who doubts this, I have posted several videos of melting metal, plastic and chocolate here. More details, including my answers to various objections, can be found here.]


Some might want to appeal to the exact melting points of solids, for instance, as clear examples of "nodal" change; however, this is what we read about the so-called "amorphous solids" (e.g., glasses, gels, and plastics):


"Amorphous solids do not have a sharp melting point; they are softened in a range of temperature." [Quoted from here; accessed 03/05/2015. Bold emphasis added.]


"[A]morphous solids tend to soften slowly over a wide temperature range rather than having a well-defined melting point like a crystalline solid." [Quoted from here; accessed 08/04/2015. Bold emphasis added; spelling modified to agree with UK English.]




"Almost any substance can solidify in amorphous form if the liquid phase is cooled rapidly enough...." [Ibid. Bold added.]


This means that "almost any substance" will lack a melting point when cooled in the above manner. This in turn implies that there are countless non-"nodal" (non-"leap"-like) changes in nature.


[Notice that I am not arguing that there are no sudden changes in nature and society, only that not everything changes this way.]


Do DM-theorists even so much as mention, let alone consider, these counter-examples?


Are you joking!?


Furthermore, not every change in quality is produced by quantitative increase/decrease in matter/energy (again, contrary to what Engels and other DM-theorists allege). There are in fact countless differences in quality that aren't produced in this way. For example, molecules called Stereoisomers share exactly the same number and type of atoms, and yet they are qualitatively dissimilar because of the different spatial arrangement of their constituent atoms.


So, here we have qualitative change produced by a difference in geometry. This is just as important a material constraint as any Engels himself considered.


[Some comrades have objected to this point because there is no "development" in this case. I have responded to that criticism here.]


Other qualitative changes in nature and society can be produced by (a) different timing or by (b) a different ordering of the relevant events (for the same amount of matter and/or energy involved) -- or even by (c) altering their context. [Several examples of these phenomena are given here.]


Moreover, this 'Law' only appears to work because of the vague way that "quantity", "quality" and "node" (or even "leap") have been defined by DM-theorists -- that is, if they ever bother to do so. Indeed, after nearly 30 years of research, I have been able to find only a handful of DM-texts (out of the scores I have had to study) that attempt, even superficially, to tell us what a DM-"quality" is; for example, Kuusinen (1961), Yurkovets (1984), and Gollobin (1986)!


[Once more, their arguments have been batted out of the park in Essay Seven.]


Indeed, after nearly 200 years (if we include Hegel), not one single DM-theorist has even thought to tell us how long a "node" is supposed to last!


Now, Hegel 'defined' "quality" in the following way:


"Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker." [Hegel (1975), p.124, §85. Bold emphasis added.]


He lifted this idea from Aristotle.


Similarly, the Marxist Internet Archive defines "quality" as follows:


"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else and reflects that which is stable amidst variation. Quantity is an aspect of something which may change (become more or less) without the thing thereby becoming something else.


"Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a 'qualitative change', whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a 'quantitative change'." [Quoted from here. This definition has been altered slightly since it was first consulted. Bold emphases added.]


But, given the above definition, many of the examples dialecticians themselves use to illustrate this 'Law' would in fact fail to do so. For example, water as a solid, liquid, or gas is still H2O. Quantitative addition or subtraction of energy doesn't result in a qualitative change of the required sort; nothing substantially new emerges. This substance stays H2O throughout. Indeed, iron is still iron as a liquid or as a solid; Nitrogen remains nitrogen whether it is in a solid, liquid or a gaseous state. Nothing substantially new emerges when these (and all the other elements) are heated or cooled.


Furthermore, countless substances exist in solid, liquid, or gaseous form, so this can't be what makes each of them "what it is and not something else". What makes lead, for instance, lead is its atomic structure, and this stays the same whether or not it exists in solid or liquid form. As such, it remains "the same kind of thing."


In fact, the lack of definitional precision here 'allows' DM-theorists to see changes in "quality" whenever and wherever it suits them, just as it 'permits' them to ignore the many instances where this just doesn't happen, applying this 'law' entirely subjectively. This, perhaps, helps explain why Engels's 'Law' has been left so vague for so long.


If the above is difficult to believe, ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a 'node'/'leap', for example, is supposed to last. You will receive no answer -- except you might find that your query is hand-waved aside. But, if no one knows how long a 'node' is supposed to be, then anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be 'nodal'!


Plainly, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is an objective law.


And, it really isn't good enough for dialecticians to dismiss this as mere "pedantry", or "semantics". Can you imagine a genuine scientist refusing to say how long a crucially important time period in her theory is supposed to last, accusing you of "pedantry" -- or labelling your query "semantics" -- for daring to ask?


[One comrade has taken great exception to my asking how long a 'node' is supposed to last. I have responded to him here.]



The Other Two 'Laws'


The other 'Laws' fare no better. The Second 'Law' -- the "Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites" (coupled with change though "Internal Contradiction") -- will be examined in the next sub-section. Since the "Negation of the Negation" [NON] -- the Third 'Law' -- is really an extension of the Second, its credibility plainly depends on that 'Law'. Hence, the next sub-section will in effect deal with both of these 'Laws' together.


[Several, more detailed objections to the NON can be found here.]



'Internal Contradictions'


Dialectical Vs Mechanical Materialism


Among other things, Mechanical Materialism holds that all things are set in motion by an external 'push' of some sort. In contrast, dialecticians claim that because of their 'internal contradictions', objects and processes in nature and society are in fact "self-moving".


Lenin expressed this idea as follows:


"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. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).


"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.


"The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


However, there are several serious problems with this passage, not the least of which is that it clearly suggests that things are self-moving. In fact, Lenin did more than just suggest this, he insisted upon it:


"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)…." [Lenin (1921), p.90. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Other Marxists say more-or-less the same. Here are Woods and Grant (readers will no doubt notice that these two comrades are quite happy to impose this doctrine on nature, holding it valid for all of space and time):


"Dialectics explains that change and motion involve contradiction and can only take place through contradictions.... Dialectics is the logic of contradiction....


"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 essential point of dialectical thought is not that it is based on the idea of change and motion but that it views motion and change as phenomena based on contradiction.... Contradiction is an essential feature of all being. It lies at the heart of matter itself. It is the source of all motion, change, life and development. The dialectical law which expresses this idea is the unity and interpenetration of opposites....


"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.]


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!


Now, in order to avoid such absurd consequences, some dialecticians (mainly Stalinists and Maoists) have had to allow for the existence of "external contradictions" (or "impulses", contrary to what Woods and Grant, for example, assert), which are somehow also involved in such changes.


Here, for example, is Stalin:


"Our country exhibits two groups of contradictions. One group consists of the internal contradictions that exist between the proletariat and the peasantry.... The other group consists of the external contradictions that exist between our country, as the land of socialism, and all the other countries, as lands of capitalism....


"Anyone who confuses the first group of contradictions, which can be overcome entirely by the efforts of one country, with the second group of contradictions, the solution of which requires the efforts of the proletarians of several countries, commits a gross error against Leninism. He is either a muddle-head or an incorrigible opportunist." [Stalin (1976b), pp.210-11. Bold emphasis added.]


[More details can be found here; more quotations, here. There are deeper, philosophical reasons (derived from Hegel, and accepted by Lenin) why 'external contradictions' would totally scupper DM. I have covered that topic, here.]


But, as seems obvious, this makes a mockery of the idea that all change is internally-generated, just as it undermines the contrast drawn above between mechanical and 'dialectical' theories of motion. Indeed, what becomes of Lenin's "demand" if there are countless changes that violate this 'dialectical principle'?


Worse still, if 'contradictions' are the result of a 'struggle of opposites', and all motion is a 'contradiction', what sort of 'struggle' is going on inside, say, a billiard ball that keeps it moving? Does each billiard ball possess an 'internal motor' -- supposedly these "internal contradictions" -- which impels it along? If so, much of post-Renaissance mechanics will need to be ditched.


This perhaps helps explain the point of the following joke:


Q: How many dialecticians does it take to change a light bulb?


A: None at all; the light bulb changes itself.


In addition, as we saw above with Lenin, DM-theorists appeal to these "internal contradictions" in order to undercut theism. Here, for example, is Cornforth:


"The second dogmatic assumption of mechanism is the assumption that no change can ever happen except by the action of some external cause.


"Just as no part of a machine moves unless another part acts on it and makes it move, so mechanism sees matter as being inert -- without motion, or rather without self-motion. For mechanism, nothing ever moves unless something else pushes or pulls is, it never changes unless something else interferes with it.


"No wonder that, regarding matter in this way, the mechanists had to believe in a Supreme Being to give the 'initial push'....


"No, the world was not created by a Supreme Being. Any particular organisation of matter, any particular process of matter in motion, has an origin and a beginning.... But matter in motion had no origin, no beginning....


"So in studying the causes of change, we should not merely seek for external causes of change, but should above all seek for the source of change within the process itself, in its own self-movement, in the inner impulses to development contained in things themselves." [Cornforth (1976), pp.40-43. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


But, if external causes are now permitted, or are required in order to stop this theory becoming absurd, then that will simply allow 'God' to sneak back in through a side door.


Of course, all this is independent of whether or not it makes sense to say that anything in nature or society (outside of language) can be described as a "contradiction". Dialecticians, following Hegel, certainly believe they can be so depicted, but up to now they have been content merely to assert this for a fact, neglecting the proof.


Apparently, Hegel's mystical authority is sufficient!


[It is also worth reminding ourselves that Hegel's own use of this term was based on series of sub-Aristotelian, logical blunders.]



Dialectics Can't Actually Explain Change


But, even if every object and process in nature did in fact possess "internal contradictions", exactly as DM-theorists suppose, that would still fail to explain why anything actually moved or changed. Quite the opposite, in fact, as we are about to see.


As is relatively easy to confirm, dialecticians have been hopelessly unclear as to whether:


(1) Objects and processes change because of a "struggle" between their "internal contradictions" and/or "opposites", or whether they,


(2) Change into these "opposites";


Or, indeed, whether they,


(3) Create such "opposites" when they change.


Here are just a few passages that illustrate this confusion:


"However reluctant Understanding may be to admit the action of Dialectic, we must not suppose that the recognition of its existence is peculiarly confined to the philosopher. It would be truer to say that Dialectic gives expression to a law which is felt in all other grades of consciousness, and in general experience. Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite." [Hegel (1975), pp.117-18. Bold emphasis added.]


"Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics, dialectical thought, is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature." [Engels  (1954), p.211.Bold emphasis added.]


"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…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77. Bold emphasis added.]


"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….


"In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….


"The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics…. 


"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. Bold emphases added.]


"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. Bold emphasis added.]


"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.]


[Dozens more quotations (taken from classical and more contemporary dialecticians, who all say the same) can be found here.]


Of course, if the third option above were the case, the alleged opposites couldn't cause change; they would be produced by it, not the other way round.


Moreover, if the second alternative were correct, we would see things like males naturally turning into females, the working class into the capitalist class, the medieval peasantry into the feudal aristocracy, electrons into protons, left hands into right hands, and vice versa, along with a whole host of other oddities. [On that, see here.]


As far as the first and second options are concerned, it is worth making the following points:


[1] If an object and/or process changes because of its struggle with an already existing 'internal opposite', then it can't change into that 'opposite'. Plainly, that is because that opposite already exists!


Clearly, no object or process can change into something that is already there!


Hence, if object/process A is already composed of a 'dialectical union' of A and not-A, and it supposedly 'changes' into not-A, this can't happen since not-A already exists. If not-A didn't already exist, there would be nothing with which A could 'struggle', and hence change.


Moreover, the 'dialectical' account of change leaves it entirely mysterious how not-A itself originally came about. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere. It can't have come from A, since A can only change because of its struggle with not-A, which doesn't exist yet! And pushing this process into the past will simply replicate the same problems.


Of course, this isn't to deny change, only that dialectics is capable of explaining it.


Indeed, if dialectics were 'true', change would be impossible!


Should the reader regard the above argument as far too 'abstract', then consider a more concrete example: a live cat that changes into a dead cat.


Consider live cat, C. According to the dialectical classics, C can only change because of a "struggle" with its 'opposite'. Let us call the opposite of cat C, C*. However, DM-theorists also tell us that C will change into that opposite. So, the opposite that C changes into must be C*. Furthermore, since C eventually changes into a dead cat, that dead cat must also be this opposite, it must be C*!

[Some might object that it is the 'contradictory tendencies' within C that make it change. I have dealt with that response here.]

However, if C is to "struggle" with C* (in order to change), then, plainly, C* must already exist.


In other words, in order to die, live cat C must struggle with dead cat C*!

Has anyone ever witnessed a live cat struggling with its future dead self so that it might die?

On the other hand, if dead cat C* already exists, so that C can struggle with it, C couldn't change into C* since it already exists! Alternatively, if C* didn't already exist, C couldn't struggle with it, and so couldn't change. In that case, according to this 'theory', cat C can't die!


[Any who object to these absurd conclusions should pick a fight with the DM-classicists for importing such crazy ideas into Marxism, not me!]


Readers who do not, shall we say, 'appreciate' complexity can skip the next sub-section, and begin again here.




Incidentally, the same result emerges if we consider intermediate stages in the life and death of C:

Let us assume that C goes through n successive stages, C(1), C(2), C(3)..., C(n-1), until at stage C(n) it finally 'pops its clogs'.


[If we now try to introduce the NON into the mix, and each of the above stages is a "sublated" result of a previous stage, the result would be no different. The full details have been worked out here.]

But, according to the dialectical classics, C(1) can only change into C(2) because of a "struggle" of opposites. They also tell us that C(1) "inevitably" changes into that opposite. So C(1) and C(2) must be opposites of one another.

Hence, if the DM-classics are to be believed, C(1) must not only "struggle" with C(2), it must change into it.

However, the problems we met earlier now simply re-emerge: C(1) can't change into C(2) since C(2) already exists! If C(2) didn't already exist, C(1) couldn't "struggle" with it, and hence change.

Furthermore, if C(2) is itself also to change, it must struggle with whatever it changes into -- that is, it must 'struggle' with and change into, C(3). But, C(2) can't change into C(3) since C(3) already exists! If it didn't, there would be nothing to make C(2) change, nothing with which it could struggle.

By (n-1) applications of the above argument, all the stages of a cat's life must co-exist. In which case, no cat could change, let alone die! And, what applies to cats, applies to anything and everything that changes. All their stages must co-exist, too.


It is a mystery, therefore, how there is any room left in the dialectical universe for anything to move, let alone change!


'Dialectical cats', therefore, not only have vastly more than nine lives, they are, it seems, eternal beings.

Once more, this doesn't deny change, only that dialectics can account for it.


[Again, this argument is worked out in considerable detail here, where I respond to several obvious (and one or two not so obvious) objections.]



Opposing Forces Aren't 'Contradictions'


In order to translate Hegel's theory into its allegedly 'materialist' form, dialecticians often appeal to forces of attraction and repulsion to explain how 'contradictions' are capable of actually moving lumps of matter about the place.


Unfortunately, the physical nature of forces is a mystery even to this day. This is one reason why scientists have finally abandoned them, preferring to talk about exchange of momentum instead.


Of course, in both popular and school physics (and maybe also as a convenient shorthand), scientists still talk about 'forces', but since there is no way of giving them any sort of physical sense (other than as part of a vector field, etc., which is, incidentally, impossible to interpret in physical terms, too), advanced physics translates forces in the way indicated in the previous paragraph, appealing to "exchange particles". Indeed, in Relativity Theory, the 'force' of gravity has been completely edited out of the picture and replaced with motion along a "geodesic".


Even Woods and Grant concede this point:


"Gravity is not a 'force,' but a relation between real objects. To a man falling off a high building, it seems that the ground is 'rushing towards him.' From the standpoint of relativity, that observation is not wrong. Only if we adopt the mechanistic and one-sided concept of 'force' do we view this process as the earth's gravity pulling the man downwards, instead of seeing that it is precisely the interaction of two bodies upon each other." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.156. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


However, Woods and Grant failed to tell us how a "relation" can make anything move; still less how the items they mention are 'opposites', let alone 'internal opposites'.


Physicist Max Jammer notes the following about forces:


"[The eliminability of force] not confined to the force of gravitation. The question of whether forces of any kind do exist, or do not and are only conventions, ha[s] become the subject of heated debates....


"In quantum chromodynamics, gauge theories, and the so-called Standard Model the notion of 'force' is treated only as an exchange of momentum and therefore replaced by the ontologically less demanding concept of 'interaction' between particles, which manifests itself by the exchange of different particles that mediate this interaction...." [Jammer (1999), p.v.]


This is re-iterated by Nobel Laureate, Professor Frank Wilczek (of MIT):


"Newton's second law of motion, F = ma, is the soul of classical mechanics. Like other souls, it is insubstantial. The right-hand side is the product of two terms with profound meanings. Acceleration is a purely kinematical concept, defined in terms of space and time. Mass quite directly reflects basic measurable properties of bodies (weights, recoil velocities). The left-hand side, on the other hand, has no independent meaning. Yet clearly Newton's second law is full of meaning, by the highest standard: It proves itself useful in demanding situations. Splendid, unlikely looking bridges, like the Erasmus Bridge (known as the Swan of Rotterdam), do bear their loads; spacecraft do reach Saturn.


"The paradox deepens when we consider force from the perspective of modern physics. In fact, the concept of force is conspicuously absent from our most advanced formulations of the basic laws. It doesn't appear in Schrödinger's equation, or in any reasonable formulation of quantum field theory, or in the foundations of general relativity. Astute observers commented on this trend to eliminate force even before the emergence of relativity and quantum mechanics.


"In his 1895 Dynamics, the prominent physicist Peter G. Tait, who was a close friend and collaborator of Lord Kelvin and James Clerk Maxwell, wrote


'In all methods and systems which involve the idea of force there is a leaven of artificiality...there is no necessity for the introduction of the word 'force' nor of the sense-suggested ideas on which it was originally based.'" [Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


[The above passage now appears in Wilczek (2006), pp.37-38; it can also be accessed here. (This links to a PDF.)]


These developments might be why Engels said the following:


"When two bodies act on each other…they either attract each other or they repel each other…in short, the old polar opposites of attraction and repulsion…. It is expressly to be noted that attraction and repulsion are not regarded here as so-called 'forces', but as simple forms of motion." [Engels (1954), p.71. Bold emphasis alone added.]


But, if there are no classical forces, then there can't be any 'dialectical contradictions', either --, be they 'external' or 'internal' -- or, at least, none that are capable of making anything happen -- if, that is, opposing forces are to be interpreted along these lines.


Hence, even if there were 'dialectical contradictions' in nature, they could do no work, and DM, the erstwhile philosophy of change, would be unable to account for it.


Faced with this 'difficulty', some DM-apologists have tried to argue that modern science is either dominated by 'positivism', or is 'reactionary'. In other words, to save their theory, they are prepared to cling on to an animistic view of nature, one that even Engels was ready to abandon!


Even so, any DM-apologist tempted to adopt this (desperate) line-of-defence will struggle to tell us in physical terms exactly what a force is. [Expect plenty of hand waving, bluster and diversionary tactics.]


Of course, dialecticians might be using the word "contradiction" in a new, and as-yet-unexplained sense; if so, what is it?


We have yet to be told.


Alternatively, they could be using this word metaphorically; if so, what is its "cash value" (to use William James's happy phrase)? For example, if someone were to describe a man as "a pig", we'd perhaps take that to mean he is uncouth, slovenly, has appalling table manners, or that he treats his partner or women in general very badly. That is this metaphor's "cash value". So, how is this DM-metaphor, if it is one, to be cashed out?


Again, we have yet to be told.


Even so, if we really must cling to this animistic notion, we would still have to take into account the fact that changes in nature are produced by resultant forces -- that is, by forces that are the result of other forces combining, not struggling. Hence, if any metaphor or phrase were applicable here, it would be 'dialectical tautology', not 'dialectical contradiction'!


However, this is a complex issue; for more details I can only refer the reader to my extensive discussion here, and especially here.



Lenin's 'Images' Undermine Materialism


In MEC, Lenin argued as follows (a point he reiterated many times in the same book):


"Materialism is the recognition of 'objects in themselves,' or outside the mind; ideas and sensations are copies or images of those objects." [Lenin (1972), p.14. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"All knowledge comes from experience, from sensation, from perception." [Ibid., p.142.]


"Our sensation, our consciousness is only an image of the external world, and it is obvious that an image cannot exist without the thing imagined, and that the latter exists independently of that which images it. Materialism deliberately makes the 'naïve' belief of mankind the foundation of its theory of knowledge." [Ibid., p.69. Bold emphasis added in all three cases.]


As we can see from the above, Lenin based knowledge on 'images'. He tells us that "all knowledge...comes from, sensation, from perception", and that " only an image of the external world". But, this left him in exactly the same predicament as the Subjective Idealists and Phenomenalists he was criticising.

[MEC = Materialism and Empirio-criticism (i.e, Lenin (1972).]


Why? Well, Lenin had no way of showing these 'images' were 'objective' and weren't figments of his own imagination. Practice is no help, since all he had were 'images' of practice. No good referring us to the results of scientific enquiry, since, if he were right, all he would have access to would be 'images' of what scientists have supposedly discovered. An appeal to the 'commonsense' of ordinary folk is no help, either, since all Lenin would have access to are 'images' of ordinary folk and what they supposedly believe. Nor can he argue that only madmen/women will doubt the existence of the material world, since, if his theory were true, all he would have are 'images' of the deranged and what they do or do not believe. Hence, all Lenin has are these 'images' with no way of 'leaping out of his own head' to check to see which are valid and which aren't.


In which case, if this theory of his were true, Lenin would be stuck in a solipsistic world all of his own making.

And, it is no help either being told that he subsequently modified these ideas (in his Philosophical Notebooks), after he had studied Hegel's 'Logic', since, and once again, if this theory were correct, all he would have access to are 'images' of that book and what it supposedly told him. All he is now left with is an appeal to 'faith' that there is indeed an 'external world', which, once again, drops him in the same phenomenalist hole as the other 'fideists' he was attacking.

[This doesn't mean that I doubt the existence of the material world, but I reject Lenin's theory as incoherent non-sense; and I wouldn't begin (or even end) with 'images'. (I have developed these ideas much more fully in Essay Ten Part One (here and here), and in Essay Thirteen Part One; readers are directed there for more details.)]


Finally, Lenin said this:


"Our sensation, our consciousness is only an image of the external world, and it is obvious that an image cannot exist without the thing imagined, and that the latter exists independently of that which images it." [Ibid., p.69. Bold emphasis added.]


"The image inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it 'images.'" [Ibid., p.279. In both cases, bold emphases added, and quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


But, if an "image inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it 'images'" (emphasis added), then this must mean that, say, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy must 'objectively' exist (since it is easy to form 'images' of them). Since they don't exist, and Lenin most certainly didn't believe they do, that can only mean one of two things: (i) He can't really have believed his own theory, or (ii) He didn't think things through carefully enough -- and neither have the countless DM-theorists since who look to Lenin for philosophical advice.


Either way, this leaves DM with no viable theory of knowledge.



The Mysterious "Totality"


Dialecticians tell us that everything is interconnected with everything else in something they call "the Totality":


"Dialectics is the science of universal interconnection." [Engels (1954), p.17.]


"The whole of nature accessible to us forms a system, an interconnected totality of bodies, and by bodies we understand here all material existences extending from stars to atoms, indeed right to ether particles, in so far as one grants the existence of the last named. In the fact that these bodies are interconnected is already included that they react on one another, and it is precisely this mutual reaction that constitutes motion." [Ibid., p.70.]


"Nothing exists or can exist in splendid isolation, separate from its conditions of existence, independent from its relationships with other things…. When things enter into such relationships that they become parts of a whole, the whole cannot be regarded as nothing more than the sum total of the parts…. [W]hile it may be said that the whole is determined by the parts it may equally be said that the parts are determined by the whole….


"Dialectical materialism understands the world, not as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which all things go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away....


"Dialectical materialism considers that…things come into being, change and pass out of being, not as separate individual units, but in essential relation and interconnection, so that they cannot be understood each separately and by itself but only in their relation and interconnection….


"The dialectical method demands first, that we should consider things, not each by itself, but always in their interconnections with other things…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.46-48, 72.]


"Here the key is to see all the different aspects of society and nature as interconnected. They are not separate, discrete processes which develop in isolation from each other. Mainstream sociological and scientific thought 'has bequeathed us the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, detached from the general context'. Much of our schooling today still follows this pattern -- the development of the arts is separated from that of the sciences, and 'technical' subjects are separated from languages, history and geography. Our newspapers and TV news programmes divide the world up in the same artificial way -- poverty levels and stock exchange news, wars and company profit figures, strikes and government policy, suicide statistics and the unemployment rate are all reported in their own little compartments as if they are only distantly related, if at all. A dialectical analysis tries to re-establish the real connections between these elements, 'to show internal connections'. It tries, in the jargon of dialectics, to see the world as 'a totality', 'a unity'." [John Rees.]


[Once more: notice how these ideas have been foisted on nature and society.]


Despite this -- and readers are invited to check the writings of the above comrades for themselves, or those of other dialecticians I haven't quoted -- we are never told what the "Totality" actually is! This is decidedly odd, especially if the "Totality" really is as important as we have been led to believe. Indeed, this omission would be about as remarkable as, say, Darwin forgetting to tell us what natural selection is.


[More details can be found here, where several possible candidates for the "Totality" have been batted out of the park.]


Belief in a "Totality" is, of course, something that dialecticians share with all known mystical systems of thought (see, for example, here and here).


As Glenn Magee points out:


"Another parallel between Hermeticism and Hegel is the doctrine of internal relations. For the Hermeticists, the cosmos is not a loosely connected, or to use Hegelian language, externally related set of particulars. Rather, everything in the cosmos is internally related, bound up with everything else.... This principle is most clearly expressed in the so-called Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which begins with the famous lines 'As above, so below.' This maxim became the central tenet of Western occultism, for it laid the basis for a doctrine of the unity of the cosmos through sympathies and correspondences between its various levels. The most important implication of this doctrine is the idea that man is the microcosm, in which the whole of the macrocosm is reflected.


"...The universe is an internally related whole pervaded by cosmic energies." [Magee (2008), p.13. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


[Compare this with the quotations from Engels, Rees and Cornforth, posted above.]


John Rees (in a continuation of the passage quoted earlier) tried to argue that it is possible to distinguish his brand of 'dialectical mysticism' from other 'non-dialectical' versions since the latter don't attempt to account for change by appealing to "internal contradictions". [These are, of course, my words, not his!]


However, contrary to what Rees asserts, we find that the vast majority of mystical systems (ancient and modern) do in fact attempt to account for change and/or stability by appealing to the unity and interpenetration of opposites (or 'contradictions' by any other name). Consider the following, for instance:


"For everything must be the product of opposition and contrariety, and it cannot be otherwise." [Copenhaver (1995), p.32. Bold emphasis added.]


"The Taoists saw all changes in nature as manifestations of the dynamic interplay between the polar opposites yin and yang, and thus they came to believe that any pair of opposites constitutes a polar relationship where each of the two poles is dynamically linked to the other. For the Western mind, this idea of the implicit unity of all opposites is extremely difficult to accept. It seems most paradoxical to us that experiences and values which we had always believed to be contrary should be, after all, aspects of the same thing. In the East, however, it has always been considered as essential for attaining enlightenment to go 'beyond earthly opposites,' and in China the polar relationship of all opposites lies at the very basis of Taoist thought. Thus Chuang Tzu says:


'The "this" is also "that." The "that" is also "this."... That the "that" and the "this" cease to be opposites is the very essence of Tao. Only this essence, an axis as it were, is the centre of the circle responding to the endless changes.'" [Fritjof Capra. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"Buddhist enlightenment consists simply in knowing the secret of the unity of opposites -- the unity of the inner and outer worlds....


"The principle is that all dualities and opposites are not disjoined but polar; they do not encounter and confront one another from afar; they exfoliate from a common centre. Ordinary thinking conceals polarity and relativity because it employs terms, the terminals or ends, the poles, neglecting what lies between them. The difference of front and back, to be and not to be, hides their unity and mutuality." [Alan Watts, quoted from here. Bold emphases alone added.]


"The three major gods of Hinduism are Brahma (the creator; paradoxically of minor importance in actual practice -- possibly, since his work is completed), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer), each with a wife, to symbolize the androgyny of ultimate reality. By theologians and educated Hindus in general, these gods and their innumerable manifestations are viewed as pointing toward one transcendent reality beyond existence and non-existence, the impersonal world-spirit Brahman, the absolute unity of all opposites....


"Hindus envision the cosmic process as the growth of one mighty organism, the self-actualization of divinity which contains within itself all opposites." [Quoted from here. (This links to a PDF.) Bold emphases added.]


[Several more examples are quoted in Note 1, below, and in Appendix One of Essay Two.]1


Finally, there is this revealing comment:


"The ancient Egyptians believed that a totality must consist of the union of opposites. A similar premise, that the interaction between yin (the female principle) and yang (the male principle) underlies the workings of the universe, is at the heart of much Chinese thinking. The idea has been central to Taoist philosophy from the fourth century B.C. to the present day and is still embraced by many Chinese who are not Taoists. Nor is the idea confined to the Egyptians and the Chinese. Peoples all over the world, in Eurasia, Africa and the Americas, have come to the conclusion that the cosmos is a combining of opposites...." [Maybury-Lewis (1992), pp.125-26. Bold emphases added.]


It wouldn't be difficult to extend this list indefinitely until it became plain that practically every mystic who has ever walked the earth thought (or thinks) 'dialectically'.


Once again, we see that Marx was right when he said the following:


"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.... Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch...." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65, quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


"[P]hilosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis added.]


The only obvious difference between overt mystics and the covert Dialectical-Marxist Mystical Tendency lies in (i) the extent to which they employ overtly religious language, and (ii) the fact that the former are quite open and honest about their mysticism. Even so, both seem happy to borrow obscure jargon from Traditional Thought in order to concoct their theories, which they then readily impose on nature and society.


Be this as it may, it is worth asking the following question: Exactly how do Dialectical Marxists know that everything in the entire universe is inter-connected?


It is no use dialecticians appealing to modern Physics in support of this doctrine; the latter merely hypothesises that everything was once connected (in the alleged Big Bang), not that everything is now inter-connected. Indeed, certain theoretical considerations suggest that most things can't now be connected, let alone inter-connected.


[BBT = Big Bang Theory.]


Moreover, the BBT is associated with the 'Block View' of time (wherein everything is viewed as part of a four-dimensional manifold); in such a set-up nothing actually changes. Or, rather, 'change' amounts to no more than our subjective view of how things appear to us. So, if the BBT is true, 'objective reality' is changeless. In which case, this aspect of modern Physics is no friend of DM. [I am not advocating this theory, merely pointing out that the BBT is inimical to DM. More on this, here and here.]


A similar appeal to "Quantum Entanglement" can't help, either. At best, experimental evidence shows that certain states of matter (certain sub-atomic particles) are interlinked locally, not across billions of light years -- nor, indeed, are they inter-connected with the past (unless, of course, we believe in 'backward causation'!). This appears to mean that most regions of the mysterious "Totality" aren't inter-connected (since, plainly, the past is far more extensive than the ephemeral present).


[This is quite apart from the fact that there are Scientific Realists who question the validity of this anti-realist aspect of modern Physics.]


But, even if DM-theorists were correct, the thesis of universal interconnection is incompatible with the doctrine of change through "internal contradiction". As we have seen, if all change is internally-driven, then no object or process could be interconnected with any other. Naturally, this would imply that the Sun, for example, doesn't actually ripen fruit, it ripens itself!


Alternatively, if everything is interlinked, then interconnection can play no causal role in change (otherwise change wouldn't be the sole result of these "internal contradictions", once more). Of course, if the Sun actually does ripen fruit, as indeed it does, then this change, at least, wouldn't be the result of the alleged "internal contradictions" in fruit, even if there were any.


We have already seen that DM-theorists try to circumvent this fatal defect in their theory by appealing to both alternatives (i.e., on the one hand claiming or "insisting" that everything is a sealed unit -- and is thus "self-moving" --, while on the other "demanding" that everything is interconnected, and is therefore 'full of holes', so to speak, for external causes to sneak back in), which is a rather fitting contradiction in itself.


Nevertheless, dialecticians are fond of highlighting the alleged contradictions in other, rival (and thus supposedly defective) theories as one reason for rejecting them, but they conveniently ignore this glaring contradiction in their own theory.


[The evidence substantiating the above allegations can be found in Essay Eleven Part One, here.]


However, this particular DM-contradiction is of such prodigious proportions that it dwarfs any that have so far been found in rival non-dialectical theories. Just think about it: how can everything in the entire universe be maximally-interconnected and totally causally isolated from everything else at the same time? And, how is it possible for all change to be internally-driven yet externally-motivated (or "mediated", to use the jargon), as part of a 'Unified Totality'?


No good asking dialecticians. They will simply accuse you of not 'understanding' dialectics, and retreat into a semi-permanent dialectical sulk.


[These 'problems', and others, are explored at length in Essays Eight Parts One and Two, and in Eleven Parts One and Two -- along with every conceivable objection to the above conclusions.]



Practice Refutes DM


Or Does It?


Is Dialectical Marxism true? How can we tell? Dialecticians have a novel answer: the validity of theory must be tested in practice.


But, what if it turns out that, in practice, dialecticians themselves ignore the results of practice?


Indeed, and far worse: what if it should turn out that practice has refuted Dialectical Marxism?


[Note the use of the phrase "Dialectical Marxism", here; I'm not claiming that Marxism has been a failure, only its mystically-compromised alter-ego. The non-dialectical version hasn't been road-tested yet!]


Should we: (1) Abandon the criterion of practice as a test of truth? Or: (2) Bury our heads in the sand and hope that no one notices we have saddled ourselves with a defective theory?


Up to now dialecticians have in general opted for Box (2).


But, is this accusation as unfair as it is impertinent?


As we are about to see, it is neither.


In order to substantiate these allegations, we need to back-track a little.


According to Lenin, the truth of a theory can only be confirmed in one way:


"From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, -- such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality." [Lenin (1961), p.171. Italic emphases in the original.]


He was, of course, merely underlining ideas that all dialecticians accept. Hence, in their view, it isn't enough for Marxists to try to develop the right sort of theory in splendid isolation, in order to try to explain the world, their ideas must be tested and refined in practice if they are to succeed in the revolutionary transformation of society. Indeed, no theory could be deemed correct, or "objective", without an intimate, long-term and "dialectical" connection with political activity -- or, at the very least, with some form of material practice. As Marx himself argued:


"The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-worldliness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question....


"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." [Marx and Engels (1976), pp.3-5. Italic emphases in the original.]


Rob Sewell continues:


"Marxists have always stressed the unity of theory and practice. 'Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it', as Marx pointed to in his thesis on Feuerbach. 'If the truth is abstract it must be untrue,' states Hegel. All truth is concrete. We have to look at things as they exist, with a view to understanding their underlying contradictory development. This has very important conclusions, especially for those fighting to change society....


"The idealist view of the world grew out of the division of labour between physical and mental labour. This division constituted an enormous advance as it freed a section of society from physical work and allowed them the time to develop science and technology. However, the further removed from physical labour, the more abstract became their ideas. And when thinkers separate their ideas from the real world, they become increasingly consumed by abstract 'pure thought' and end up with all types of fantasies." (Unfortunately, including DM! -- RL) [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Woods and Grant concur:


"The ability to think in abstractions marks a colossal conquest of the human intellect. Not only 'pure' science, but also engineering would be impossible without abstract thought, which lifts us above the immediate, finite reality of the concrete example, and gives thought a universal character. The unthinking rejection of abstract thought and theory indicates the kind of narrow, Philistine mentality, which imagines itself to be 'practical,' but, in reality, is impotent. Ultimately, great advances in theory lead to great advances in practice. Nevertheless, all ideas are derived one way or another from the physical world, and, ultimately, must be applied back to it. The validity of any theory must be demonstrated, sooner or later, in practice." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), pp.84-85. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Despite what these two passages assert, and surprising though this might seem, 'abstraction' actually destroys the capacity language has for expressing generality, thus undermining scientific knowledge. [On that, see here. I have summarised the argument here.]


Be this as it may, the results of "practice" haven't been too kind to Dialectical Marxists of every stripe. Indeed, they have been even less kind to Trotskyists like Woods, Grant and Sewell, comrades not known for their mass following.


They aren't alone in this; practice hasn't looked at all favourably on Dialectical Marxism in general for close on a hundred years (and arguably even longer):


All Four Internationals have gone down the pan and the results of the October 1917 revolution have been reversed. Indeed, we are no nearer, and arguably much further away from a workers' state now than Lenin was in 1918. Practically all of the former 'socialist' societies have collapsed (and not one single worker raised his/her hand in their defence -- indeed, many contributed to their demolition!). Even where avowedly Marxist parties can claim some sort of mass following, that support is passive --, or, at best, it is merely electorally-orientated. Moreover, many of the same parties have adopted openly reformist platforms (despite the contrary-sounding rhetoric).


So, if truth is tested in practice, practice has delivered a rather clear verdict: 'materialist dialectics' doesn't work, so it can't be true.





Word of warning -- the following isn't my argument: Dialectical Marxism has failed, therefore DM is false.


It is this:


DM is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not it is true, so no wonder it has failed us for so long.


I certainly don't believe that truth is tested in practice (why that is so is explained in detail here, and more briefly below), but in the next few sub-sections I aim to show that DM-supporters are inconsistent: (a) holding that truth is tested in practice, while (b) ignoring the long-term, negative results of practice.


Nor am I blaming all our woes on this 'theory'!



Excuses, Excuses...


When confronted with the above disconcerting allegations, dialecticians tend to respond in one or more of the following ways:


1) They flatly deny that Dialectical Marxism has been an abject failure.


2) Even if they admit to some form of failure, they invariably blame it on "objective factors" --, or, perhaps, on other, rival Marxist parties and the failure of "revolutionary leadership".


3) They simply ignore the problem.


4) They say it is too early to tell.


One thing they don't do: blame their core theory, DM, for any of this -- in whole or in part.


This is quite remarkable: according to them, their core theory has nothing whatsoever to do with the long term failure of Dialectical Marxism!


Now, there doesn't seem to be much point in dialecticians claiming that 'materialist dialectics' guides all they do -- repeatedly avowing that truth must be tested in practice -- if, when that practice delivers its long-term verdict, that verdict is rejected, disregarded or explained away.


In that event, it might well be wondered what sort of practice could possibly constitute a genuine test of DM if, whatever the results, this theory/method is always vindicated. What exactly is being tested if the outcome of every test can't be deemed as anything other than a success?


More to the point: what (permanent) successes can we actually point to over last century or so that show Dialectical marxism has been a success, vindicating DM?


In which case, it isn't so much that 'materialist dialectics' hasn't been tested in practice, it's that dialecticians are practised at ignoring the results of practice!


So, why not just declare that Dialectical Marxism is and always has been a success, with or without the need for any sort of practical test, thus abandoning Marx and Lenin's criterion?


That would seem to be a much more honest and appropriate response, based as it is on the sort of practice that continually ignores the results of practice!


If we know beforehand that DM can't fail, no matter what happens, why waste time and effort telling the world that we can only decide if a theory is true when it has been tested in practice?


What sort of empty charade are DM-theorists trying to pull here?


Faced with the above, DM-apologists often respond with the counter-claim that an "incorrect" use of dialectics can and does lead to failure; since everyone else 'misuses' the dialectic, it is no surprise that everyone else has experienced, or has engineered, unsuccessful practice for so long.


Or, so the story sometimes goes...


Anyone who doubts the above allegation can test it for themselves with the following experiment: the very next Orthodox Trotskyist [henceforth, OT] you meet, try telling them that the Stalinists and Maoists also use 'materialist dialectics'. Then, the very next Stalinist/Maoist you meet, try telling them that OTs use 'materialist dialectics', too. Try the same on the Maoists/Stalinists in relation to the Stalinists/Maoists. Extend this impromptu survey and permute the name of every group, sect, tendency or party you can think of and tell each of them that their opponents/rivals also use 'materialist dialectics' as a guide to action. Unless you are incredibly unlucky, you will be told the same thing over and over: "Those other guys misuse/distort/ignore the dialectical method; they are all in the grip of abstract formalism. Only we (and no one else) use it correctly...".


[Dozens  of examples of this sort of response are given in the End Notes to Section Seven of Essay Nine Part Two, and in Appendix B.]


In fact, there is no objective way of deciding if or how 'the dialectic' has been, or even can be, employed 'correctly'. Precisely in relation to which permanent success has it ever been used? Indeed, as we will soon see, DM can be used to defend or rationalise any theory you like and its opposite -- and this is often done by the very same dialectician, in the same book, article or speech!


Taking each of the above excuses one at a time:


1) Dialectical Marxism hasn't been an abject failure


Those who think Dialectical Marxism is a ringing success have so far failed to reveal where and how it enjoys this blessed condition.


Presumably there's a Workers' State on the outer fringes of the Galaxy?


Systematic denial of reality of this order of magnitude clearly requires professional help; argument and evidence are useless.


In fact, there is no debating with hardcore Idealism of this sort -- that is, with an attitude that re-interprets the material world to suit the comforting idea that Dialectical Marxism is a ringing success despite clear evidence to the contrary, which delusion then encourages its adepts to bury their heads in their own idea of sand.


Anyone who can look at the international situation and fail to see that our movement is not only riddled with deep and irreconcilable divisions, it is also in long-term decline, is probably far more of a danger to themselves than they are to the ruling-class.


Not only have the overwhelming majority of workers never been "seized" by dialectics, the depressing fact is that the larger the working class becomes, the less influence Dialectical Marxism seems to have upon it.


[This shouldn't be taken to mean that I think that things can't change! Indeed, this site was set up in order to help reverse this trend! (At least with respect to Marxism, not its 'dialectical' and failed alter ego!)]


In fact, things are so dire that dialecticians would be well advised to drop their appeal to practice as a test of the correctness of DM.


If a list were compiled of all the 'successes' our side has 'enjoyed' over the last 150 years or so, it would soon become obvious how depressingly short it is. Worse still, our 'failures' would easily out-number our 'successes'. Wonder no more, for here is a shortened version of that list:





(1)    The Revolutions of 1848.

(1) Russia, 1917. (Major success, later undermined and then reversed.)

(2)    Paris, 1871.

(2) Countless strikes. (Rate of exploitation merely re-negotiated.)

(3)    Russia, 1905.

(3) Revolutionary wars of national liberation; e.g., China 1949, Cuba 1959, Vietnam, 1945-75. (All deflected or reversed.)

(4)    Ireland, 1916-21.

(4) The UK Anti-Nazi League, and successor organisations. Major success, so far; however, the rise of the BNP in 2009 suggests that this might be too hasty a judgement. On the other hand, their steep decline in the period 2010-2014 indicates it might not.

(5)    United Kingdom, 1919.

(5) The UK Anti-Poll Tax campaign. (Partial success.)

(6)    Hungary, 1919.

(6) Numerous popular and anti-imperialist movements; e.g., Venezuela 2002-09, Bolivia 2003-09, Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2004-05, Nepal 2006, Lebanon 2006-07, Iran 2009. (All either partial/deflected, or it is too early to tell.)

(7)    Italy, 1919.

(7) Limited democratic and other assorted reforms. (Many now being reversed.)

(8)    Germany, 1918-23.

(8) Seattle 1999 and the Anti-Globalisation Movement.  (Rapidly petering out.)

(9)    China, 1926.

(9) The UK Stop the War Coalition, and the International Anti-War Movement, 2002-11. (Equivocal and/or petering-out.)

(10)  United Kingdom, 1926.

(10) In the UK: Respect. However, after a promising start, in late 2007 it split. That might mean this entry is now in the wrong column. [Similar developments taking place in the rest of Europe.]  In addition, as of early 2013, the UK-SWP seems to be fragmenting, which might mean that (4) above will also have to be re-categorised.

(11)  Spain, 1936-39.

(12)  France, 1936.


(13)  East Germany, 1953.


(14)  Hungary, 1956.


(15)  Poland, 1956.


(17)  Czechoslovakia, 1968.


(18)  Italy, 1969-70.


(19)  Chile, 1972.


(20)  Portugal, 1974.


(21)  Nicaragua, 1979-90.


(22)  Iran, 1978-79.


(23)  Poland, 1980.


(24)  Palestine, 1987-88.


(25)  China, 1989.


(26)  Eastern Europe, 1989-90.


(27)  France, 1968, 1995.


(28)  Indonesia, 1998-99.


(29)  Serbia, 2000.


(30)  Argentina, 2000-02.


(31)  Countless large and small strikes.


(32)  The Stop the War Movement, 2002-14. (Equivocal so far.)


(33)  Hundreds of  rebellions, insurrections, uprisings and indigenous movements.


(34)  Scores of national liberation, anti-imperialist and civil wars.


(35)  All four Internationals; the Fifth has already split!


(36)  Reformism, Centrism, Stalinism, Maoism, Orthodox Trotskyism.


(37)  Sectarianism. Fragmentation.


(38) Trade union bureaucracy, modern Social-Democratic Parties.


39) Systematic corruption of various assorted Marxist parties. [On this, see Essay Nine Part Two.]



Figure One: The Dialectically-Depressing Details


In response, it could be argued that the above list is highly prejudicial since it is padded out with dozens of failures that pre-date revolutionary Marxism, or with those that have nothing to do with 'Materialist Dialectics' -- or even with those the status of each of which is highly controversial.


However, if these are weeded out -- along with the corresponding successes enjoyed by non-Dialectical-Marxist forces -- the list would be even more depressing!


Also worth pointing out is the relatively massive scale of the 'defeats' our side has suffered compared to the modest and temporary gains made over the last 150 years. For example, the catastrophic blow delivered to our side by the failure of just two revolutions (i.e., those in Germany and Spain between 1918 and 1939) far outweighs all our successes combined, and by several orders of magnitude.


[More on this here (along with replies to several obvious objections).]


2) Our failures are due to "objective factors"


It is undeniable that "objective factors" have seriously hindered the revolutionary movement. These include a relatively well-organised, rich, powerful and focussed ruling-class, the effects of imperialism and economic growth -- all of which have been and still are compounded by racism, sexism, nationalism and sectionalism among workers --, and so on.


But, dialecticians are quite clear: the veracity of a theory can only be tested in practice. Now, since that requires the subjective input of active revolutionaries -- who tell us that DM guides all they think and do --, this aspect of practice plainly hasn't worked. Or, if it has worked, then the meaning of "success" must have changed.


In view of the above, there are only three possible conclusions to be drawn:


(a) 'Materialist dialectics' has never actually been employed by revolutionaries,


(b) Dialecticians have in fact been using a different theory all along (about which they were remarkably silent), or


(c) Their core theory has been a monumental failure.


Since (a) and (b) are manifestly absurd, we are forced to conclude that (c) is the case.


To repeat: if DM is as central to Marxism as its supporters would have us believe, it can't be unrelated to the long-term lack of success enjoyed by all forms of Dialectical Marxism -- whatever other causes there might have been for this long-term debacle.


Indeed, those who reject the connection between 'materialist dialectics' and the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism can't claim in one breath that everything in the universe is inter-related, but in the very next, reject any link between that theory and this appalling record.


Unless, of course, we are to conclude that the only two things in the entire universe that aren't interconnected are the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory!


If you believe that, then, as the saying goes, you'll believe anything.


So, whether or not there have been "objective factors", practice itself has refuted the subjective side of Marxism: the use of 'materialist dialectics'.


Either that, or truth can't be tested in practice.


Moreover, as pointed out earlier: since the Essays published at this site show that DM isn't so much false as far too confused even to be assessed for its truth or falsity, the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism is no big surprise.


One would expect such a confused theory to hinder practice.


Furthermore, because this theory grew out of the Idealist speculations of card-carrying ruling-class hacks and religious mystics (like Heraclitus, Plotinus and Hegel), this is doubly no surprise.


Indeed, under such circumstances, had Dialectical Marxism been a success, that would have been the surprise!


When faced with the above conclusions, DM-apologists often respond as follows: The alleged failure of Marxism has been greatly exaggerated, but where it has failed its causes are far more complex than the above brief and superficial analysis suggests.


Of course, this is an Introductory Essay, so it is forced to be brief and 'superficial' (but, that isn't so with respect to the Main Essays published at this site). However, when pressed for more details about the above 'complexities', I have yet to read, encounter or meet (in published work, in person or on the Internet) over the last 30 years a single DM-fan who even so much as partially blames DM, in whole or in part, for any of this. It doesn't even make in onto the edge of their radar screen, and any suggestion that DM is remotely or partially to blame is often waved aside as if this distant possibility were far too ridiculous to contemplate, even in theory. And this repudiation is almost invariably accompanied by no little abuse, personal attack, and lies liberally peppered with scatological language. It is obvious that this allegation has hit a raw nerve.


The reason for this by now stereotypical emotional and irrational response from DM-fans will be analysed below.  



Case Studies -- The Damage DM Has Inflicted On Marxism


[This is a continuation of my response to Excuse Two. The other excuses will be examined presently.]


The remarks above are largely theoretical. What we need are concrete examples of the deleterious effect dialectical concepts have had on Marxists and on those who claim to be Marxists. In Essay Nine Part Two I have presented detailed evidence and argument to show that the monumental blunders itemised in the next three sections are attributable (in whole or in part) to this 'theory'.


I propose therefore to consider three specific cases: the effect DM had on (1) The increasingly Stalinised Bolshevik Party post-1925; (2) Dialectical Maoism from the early 1930s onward; and (3) The Trotskyist movement post-1929.


There are other examples I could have chosen (indeed, I might consider including them at a later date, perhaps in another Appendix to this Essay), but given the fact that these three cover periods when workers (and others) were entering into what was arguably one of the biggest, if not the biggest -- certainly the most important and intense -- revolutionary wave in human history to date; and given the further fact that all this energy was squandered by the activities and antics of Dialectical Marxists, they should be enough to prove to all but the most rabidly partisan, or the most deeply-dialectically-doped of comrades, that MD/DM are among the very worst theories ever to have colonised the human brain.


When the working class was ready to move, Dialectical Marxists screwed up catastrophically.


We will be lucky if the proletariat ever trust us again.





[I don't expect Stalinists or Maoists to agree with the content of the next two sub-sections of this Essay (quite the opposite in fact); however, they can console themselves with the fact that I don't let Dialectical Trotskyism off the hook, either -- in the third sub-section, below.]


DM was used by the Stalinised Bolshevik Party (after Lenin's death) to rationalise the imposition of an undemocratic (if not openly anti-democratic and terror-based) structure on both the Communist Party and the population of the former USSR (and later elsewhere).


This new and vicious form of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was 'justified' by Stalin on the grounds that since Marxism holds that everything is 'contradictory', increasingly centralised control was compatible with greater democratic freedom. The "withering-away of the state" was in fact confirmed by moves in the opposite direction: the ever-growing concentration of power at the centre. So, and paradoxically: less democracy was in fact more democracy!


Indeed, Stalin claimed that this 'contradiction' illustrated the truth of dialectics!


Hard to believe?


Doubt no more:


"It may be said that such a presentation of the question is 'contradictory.' But is there not the same 'contradictoriness' in our presentation of the question of the state? We stand for the withering away of the state. At the same time we stand for the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is the mightiest and strongest state power that has ever existed. The highest development of state power with the object of preparing the conditions for the withering away of state power -- such is the Marxist formula. Is this 'contradictory'? Yes, it is 'contradictory.' But this contradiction us bound up with life, and it fully reflects Marx's dialectics." [Political Report of the Central Committee to the Sixteenth Congress of the CPSU(B), June 27,1930. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Moreover, the idea that socialism could be built in one country was 'justified' by, among other things, the dubious invention of "internal" versus "external" contradictions, later bolstered by the introduction of "principal" and "secondary" contradictions, along with the highly convenient idea that some contradictions were, and some were not, "antagonistic".


[The belief that Lenin invented "antagonistic contradictions" has been debunked here. "External contradictions" were, of course, unknown to Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, and Lenin -- as was the distinction between "principal" and "secondary" contradictions. Moreover, the introduction of "external contradictions" in fact threatens to undermine dialectics completely; on that, see here. The surprisingly ill-informed Marxist-Leninist comrade, responsible for the YouTube video criticising this Essay, says he has never heard of "external contradictions", alleging that this term has been invented; I have provided the necessary quotations from Stalin, Mao and others here.]


Hence, the obvious class differences that remained, or which soon re-emerged, in the USSR were either non-existent or were deemed "harmonious". The real enemies (i.e., the source of all those nasty, "principal" (or perhaps even the "antagonistic") 'external contradictions') were the imperialist powers, or the "capitalist roaders".


In which case, under socialism, workers' strikes were completely unnecessary -- or, they just didn't happen --, hence, they shouldn't happen --, but, when they do, they must be suppressed. And so they were suppressed with a level of violence rarely seen anywhere else outside of openly fascist states. [On this, see Haynes (2002), and Kozlov (2002).]


Any attempt made by workers to rebel (e.g., Hungary 1956) were blamed on "external forces", or agents from outside the working class  (a familiar excuse used by ruling classes the world over in order to account for, and thus ignore or explain away the significance of strikes and riots -- all caused, of course, by the ubiquitous "external agitator"), i.e., in this case, the "imperialist powers", "fascists", or even Tito -- but not the result of ordinary workers fighting for and on behalf of their own interests.


For several decades, in the former Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe (and later in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere), we were treated to the following absurd spectacle: the supposed ruling-class (i.e., the proletariat) was systematically oppressed and exploited by each and every Communist regime! So, here we have an alleged ruling-class (i.e., workers) that never actually seemed to rule! Soviet societies without genuine soviets?


All so quintessentially contradictory. All so 'dialectical'.


Here we have yet more practice -- and the result? Hundreds of millions of oppressed, exploited and dead workers.


With hindsight, we can see for ourselves the effect that all this 'applied dialectics' had on the former USSR and its satellites. Only those still wearing 'dialectical blinders' will disagree with the conclusion that these failed states weren't exactly a ringing endorsement of the practical implications of Dialectical Marxism.


Several of the dire political consequences of the idea that socialism could be built in one country can be seen: (1) In the use to which dialectics was put to defend and rationalise that counter-revolutionary idea itself, and (2) In the way it was employed to try to limit or deny the catastrophic damage it inflicted on revolutionary socialism -- i.e., by blaming these theoretical errors on those who don't "understand dialectics":


"Lenin and Stalin showed that this scheme [of Trotsky's]…was false. For if the revolution did not take place in the advanced capitalist countries, the alliance of workers and peasants in the Soviet Union had still the forces to build socialism….


"In [this example]…it will be seen that the acceptance of some ready-made scheme, some abstract formula, means passivity, support for capitalism, betrayal of the working class and of socialism. But the dialectical approach which understands things in their concrete interconnection and movement shows us how to forge ahead -- how to fight, what allies to draw in. This is the inestimable value of the Marxist dialectical method to the working class movement." [Cornforth (1976), pp.79-80. Bold emphases added.]


Since the USSR is no more, and with the benefit of hindsight, one should rightly conclude that Cornforth ought to have remained loyal to Lenin's 'fixed' and 'abstract' scheme that the revolution would have to spread, or die:


"The facts of history have proved to those Russian patriots who will hear of nothing but the immediate interests of their country conceived in the old style, that the transformation of our Russian revolution into a socialist revolution, was not an adventure but a necessity since there was no other choice; Anglo-French and American imperialism will inevitably strangle the independence and freedom of Russia unless the world-wide socialist revolution, world-wide Bolshevism, triumphs." [Lenin, quoted from here. Bold emphasis alone added.]


"We always staked our play upon an international revolution and this was unconditionally right...we always emphasised...the fact that in one country it is impossible to accomplish such a work as a socialist revolution." [Lenin, Sochineniia, 25, pp.473-74; quoted from Cliff (1988), pp.156-57. Bold emphasis added. Parts of this can be found in Volume 31 of Lenin's Collected Works; the last 18 words have in fact been edited out!]


[A long list of quotations from Lenin along the same lines, showing how deep his commitment to the centrality of the international revolution to the success of the gains of 1917, can be found here.]


Incidentally, anyone who thinks the above comments are prejudicial to Stalinism should perhaps reflect on the fact that the contrary idea -- that socialism could be built in one country -- has been refuted by history, too.


Which is, after all, what Lenin predicted.


The additional fact that not one single proletarian hand was raised in defence of these 'workers' states' (in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) between 1989 and 1991 -- or even earlier, in the period 1953-1956, for those who are hard core Stalinophiles -- while they were being toppled merely confirms Lenin's assessment. Indeed, many workers actually helped overthrow these 'People's Democracies'.


Compare the above with the way that workers in many countries have fought (sometimes to the death) to defend or promote even limited forms of bourgeois democracy since then. Indeed, contrast it with the way workers and others have fought in Nepal in 2006, in Lebanon, Serbia, France, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia recently -- and now in Burma (Myanmar) (1988 and 2007), Kyrgyzstan (April 2010), Bangkok (April 2010), Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Morocco, Yemen, and Libya (2011/12) -- to name but a few.


This is all the more puzzling when we recall that the working class of the old 'Soviet Block' was supposed to be the most powerful working class in history, allegedly in control of the second most powerful armed force on the planet, as well as the police, the judiciary, the media, and the state bureaucracy (as Stalin himself argued). Hence we are forced to conclude that (a) workers weren't in fact in control of these forces (as had been alleged of them by the Stalinists/Maoists), (b) they were happy to see the back of Stalinism -- or (c) both.


[In response to this, Stalinophiles often point to opinion polls that seem to suggest a large proportion of the population of Russia would prefer to go back to the old system. However, as we know, the results of such polls can be skewed by the options on offer, or the questions posed. Had they been asked instead: "Do you prefer to return to a system dominated by mass incarceration, oppression and lack of democratic control, governed by a self-selecting elite that line their own pockets at your expense?" I rather think the results would have been different. Of course, that question itself is prejudicial and politically-motivated, so the real test of opinion here is not simply for the Russian population to express passive opinions about the past, but what they are prepared to do to fight to restore the old system, and what they did in defence of that system when they supposedly had their hands on the levers of power -- the answer, of course, being: absolutely nothing.]


But, this is where DM comes into its own: opportunistic policies -- many of which were changed overnight into their opposites -- were sold to party cadres world-wide by means of this theory.


As noted above, that is because dialectics can be used to defend anything you like and its opposite, often by the very same dialectician in the same article or speech (as we saw was the case with Stalin)!


Stalinism and Trotskyism (rightly or wrongly) parted company largely because of their differing views on international revolution. Of course, this rift wasn't just about ideas. Decisions were taken for hard-headed, political reasons; but in order to rationalise each and every contradictory turn of events, and sell them to the international communist movement, they were liberally coated with dialectical jargon.


Those who know the history of Bolshevism will also know the incalculable damage this split has inflicted on Marxism the world over ever since.


Subsequently, dialectical arguments were used to 'justify' the catastrophic and reckless class-collaborationist tactics imposed on both the Chinese and Spanish revolutions, just as they were employed to rationalise the ultra-left, "social fascist" post-1929 about-turn. This fatally crippled the fight against the Nazis by suicidally splitting the left in Germany, pitting communist against socialist while Hitler laughed all the way to the Reichstag.


This 'theory' then helped 'justify' the rotation of Communist Party tactics through another 180 degrees in the next, class-collaborationist phase, the "Popular Front", and then through another 180 (in order to rationalise the unforgivable Hitler-Stalin pact) -- as part of the newly re-discovered 'revolutionary defeatist' stage --, and through yet another 180 two years later in the shape of 'The Great Patriotic War', following upon Hitler's predictable invasion of the 'Mother Land', 'Holy Russia'.


Post-1945, one more flip saw the invention of "peace-loving/progressive" nations versus the evil US Empire (a recent ally!). History was now a struggle between "progressive/peace-loving" nations and reactionary regimes, the class war lost in all the dust kicked up by so much dialectical spinning.


Indeed, Marx would by now be doing much more than 180 degrees in his grave!


Every single one of these somersaults had a catastrophic impact on the international working class. Collectively, they cast a long shadow across the entire Communist Movement, reducing it to the sad, reformist rump we see among us today.


However, and far, far worse, as noted above: these 'contradictory' about-turns helped pave the way for fascist aggression and the Third Reich. Hence, this 'theory' has played its own small, shameful, but indirect part in the deaths of millions of workers, countless million Jews, Gypsies, Russians and Slavs -- alongside the many hundreds of thousands of mentally-ill and handicapped victims abandoned to the Nazis.


Because of their continual, dialectically-inspired twists and turns, STDs in effect all but invited the Nazi tiger to rip European humanity to shreds.


And, it was only too happy to oblige.


[STD = Stalinist Dialectician.]


The negative effect of all this on the reputation of Marxism among the great mass of workers can't be over-estimated, howsoever hard one tries. Talk to anyone about Marxism (and not just Communism), and you will be regaled with much of the above. Everyone 'knows' Marxism "doesn't work".


We can only attribute all this hostility to "capitalist propaganda" if we are keen to see yet more dialectical debacles.


Of course, not all of this is the sole fault of this mystical theory; but it is undeniable that it was a major ideological factor in helping to rationalise these political gyrations (for whatever other reasons they might in fact have been taken), and thus in selling them to party cadres. No other theory could have excused with such ease the adoption of regular, almost overnight, changes in strategy and tactics --, or have rationalised so effectively the pathetic reasons that were given for the criminally unacceptable political about-turns imposed on the Communist Party internationally by post-1925 Stalinism.


[Some comrades have reacted to this claim by arguing that any theory can be used by both sides in a dispute to justify their side of the story, so why pick on DM? That is undeniable, but no other theory (except, perhaps, Zen Buddhism) can be used by the very same individual (and/or party) to justify a particular thesis and its opposite, often in the very next breath (again, as we saw was the case with Stalin), or the very next day.]


Nor, indeed, could any other theory have so effortlessly licensed the grinding to dust of the core of the old Bolshevik Party in the 1930s, as dozens of leading comrades were put on 'trial' on trumped-up charges, and then executed -- along with countless thousands of others.


Millions dead, Bolshevism in tatters, Marxism a foul stench in the nostrils of workers everywhere.


DM: tested in practice?


A resounding success?




But, alas, only for the international ruling-class.





Outbreaks of even deeper dialectical devotion meant that in China the anti-democratic and class collaborationist tactics adopted by the CPSU were eagerly copied by the CCP under Mao -- albeit for (locally) different reasons. For example, the use of "principal" and "secondary" contradictions to justify the class-collaborationist alliances with the Guomindang, the use of UOs to rationalise one-party, autocratic rule, and the reliance on "leaps" to excuse the lunatic and murderous "Great Leap Forward".


[UO = Unity of Opposite.]


Consider the first of these: class-collaboration. Familiar 'dialectical' arguments were deployed in and beyond the mid-1930s aimed at rationalising the abrupt change from outright opposition to the Guomindang to the formation of a united front with them. While this turn of events might look contradictory to non-dialectical critics in the grip of 'formal thinking', to the trained dialectician, it makes eminent good sense.


Consider the second of these: the 'contradiction' between centralised state power and the (claimed) goal of greater democratic accountability. Dialectical dodges, similar to those employed by Stalin, were used by Mao and his acolytes to rationalise this 'paradox' by appealing to the allegedly 'contradictory' nature of socialist democracy. [The evidence for these specific allegations can be found here.]


DM: tested in practice?


Indeed so. And we can see for ourselves the results today in that model 'socialist' state: China.


Of course, at the very least, this means that approximately 20% of the population of this planet cannot now (and might not in the foreseeable future ever) be won over to any credible form of Marxism, since the vast majority have been inured to it, having seen for themselves the dire consequences of this contradictory theory (DM), which preaches 'proletarian democracy', but won't actually trust them with any -- alongside the "mass-line" coupled with mass oppression --, these dialectical 'contradictions' rationalised along sound Stalinist lines.


Hence, Chinese workers and peasants need no one to inform them of the results of 'practice'.


And now, 'Materialist Dialectics' is being used to justify the existence of 'socialist' billionaires!


What's that you say? A contradiction in terms?


You clearly don't "understand" dialectics.


Yet more practice -- and the result?


Even more dead workers and ordure heaped on Marxism.





Trotskyism has similarly been cursed by the Dialectical Deity; its founder having succeeded in welding his followers to the dialectical doctrine that the 'socialist' regime in the former USSR was contradictory -- as Alex Callinicos notes:


"There is, moreover, a third respect in which the classical Marxist tradition is relevant to understanding the Eastern European revolutions. For that tradition gave birth to the first systematic attempt at a social and historical analysis of Stalinism. Trotsky's The Revolution Betrayed (1937) pioneered that analysis by locating the origins of the Stalin phenomenon in the conditions of material scarcity prevailing in the Civil War of 1918-21, in which the bureaucracy of party officials began to develop. He concluded that the USSR was a 'degenerated workers' state', in which the bureaucracy had succeeded in politically expropriating the proletariat but left the social and economic foundations of workers' power untouched. The contradictions of that analysis, according to which the workers were still the ruling class of a state which denied them all political power, did not prevent Trotsky's more dogmatic followers extending it to China and Eastern Europe, even though the result was to break any connection between socialism and the self-emancipation of the working class: socialism, it seemed, could be imposed by the Red Army or peasant guerrillas." [Callinicos (1991), pp.18-19. Bold emphasis added; minor typo corrected.]


In which case, it made perfectly good 'dialectical-sense' to suppose that the ruling-class (i.e., the proletariat, again) exercised no power at all, and were systematically exploited and oppressed for their pains -- even while they were still the ruling-class!


"The dual character of the workers' state.... The bourgeois norms of distribution, by hastening the growth of material power, ought to serve socialist aims -- but only in the last analysis. The state assumes directly and from the very beginning a dual character: socialistic, insofar as it defends social property in the means of production; bourgeois, insofar as the distribution of life's goods is carried out with a capitalistic measure of value and all the consequences ensuing therefrom. Such a contradictory characterization may horrify the dogmatists and scholastics; we can only offer them our condolences." [Trotsky (1977), pp.52-54. Bold emphasis added.]


Hence, because 'materialist dialectics' demanded it, all good Trotskyists were enjoined to defend the USSR as a workers' state -- albeit deformed and/or degenerated. As Trotsky argued at length, in Trotsky (1971), only those who fail to "understand" dialectics (or who reject it) will disagree.


All this helped cripple the politics of the Fourth International, demobilising militants in the run-up to WW2 -- whose cadres, even while they were advocating a principled anti-imperialist stance, were quite happy to defend Stalinist Imperialism!


Another batch of 'dialectical contradictions' to match any that STDs and MISTs were capable of concocting.


[STD = Stalinist Dialectician; MIST = Maoist Dialectician.]


And, as if to compound this monumental blunder, Trotsky used 'materialist dialectics' to defend the USSR's invasion of Finland!


After Trotsky was murdered by a Stalinist agent, the application of 'scientific dialectics' to the contradictory nature of the USSR (and its satellites in Eastern Europe) split the Fourth International into countless warring sects, who have continued to fragment to this day.


Indeed, this is the only aspect of 'practical dialectics' that Trotskyists seem to have perfected as the movement continues to splinter under the weight of its own 'internal contradictions'.


Chief among which was the following: Trotsky's heirs couldn't quite decide which was the more important principle (i) loyalty to their founder's 'dialectical method' or (ii) adherence to Marx's precept that the emancipation of the working class must be an act of workers themselves.


If the second precept is deemed paramount, the emancipation of the working class can't then be an act of the Red Army (in Finland, Eastern Europe or even North Korea), nor of 'Third World' guerrillas (in China, Cuba, Nepal, Peru, etc.), nor yet of nationalist/'progressive' dictators (several African States) -- or even radicalised students (in France, or anywhere else) -- to name but a few of the groups that have been 'dialectically substituted' for the working class by assorted Trotskyists ever since -- "socialism from below" replaced by "socialism from above".


All so 'contradictory' -- all so 'dialectical'.


DM has been, and is still being used to justify every conceivable form of substitutionism. Just to take one example: it prompted Ted Grant into inventing the contradictory idea of "Proletarian Bonapartism". This he did in order to account for the fact that the Stalinist regime in the former USSR, and the Maoist clique in Beijing, were happy to oppress and exploit their own working class -- even though the latter were still supposed to be the ruling-class!


You could make this up, but you needn't; Trotskyist Dialecticians have done it for you.


[As I argue in detail Essay Nine Parts One and Two, dialectics is in fact the ideology of substitutionist elements in Marxism.]


All this has fatally wounded Trotskyism.


It might never recover.


Current signs aren't encouraging.


So, what has been the result of all this 'dialectical practice'?


Yet more dead workers, yet more ordure heaped on Marxism.


If only there were some sort of pattern...





Tested in practice? If so, please, comrades -- no more dialectical practice!


Of course, these are just three concrete examples of the thoroughly malign effect this Hermetic Creed has had on our movement. There are many others.


Is it any wonder then that since at least the 1920s Dialectical Marxism has been to success what George W Bush is to peace on earth?


Now, this isn't a short-term or ephemeral feature of Dialectical Marxism, but one that has dogged it almost from the get-go, and which shows no sign of abating -- quite the reverse, in fact!


The next few sections will help explain why.



Heads Back In The Sand, Comrades!


Returning to the excuses mentioned earlier:


3) Ignore The Problem


This is probably the safest option for dialecticians: ignore the problem -- or, failing that, explain it away. It is certainly the tactic that inadvertently helps further the interests of the ruling-class, since it prevents the lethal theoretical problems our movement faces from being addressed, thus helping to guarantee another century of failure.


Indeed, boss-class ideologues couldn't have designed a better theory to screw with our heads if they had tried, initiating in our movement a monumental waste of time as our very best theorists vainly try to grapple with Hegel's fluent Martian in order to make some sort of sense of it -- plainly, no luck so far!


An appeal to practice is of little use here, either. This is quite apart from the fact that practice can't distinguish correct from incorrect theories; the latter often work and they can do so for many centuries. For example, Aristotelian and Ptolemaic Astronomy were highly successful for far more than a thousand years, and became increasingly accurate over time.


Furthermore, correct theories can sometimes fail, and for many centuries, too. For instance, Copernican Astronomy predicted stellar parallax, which wasn't observed until the 1838, with the work of Friedrich Bessel three hundred years after Copernicus's work was published.


[Several more examples of similar phenomena have been outlined in Essay Ten Part One.]


Moreover, since there is as yet no socialist society on earth (any who think that this is assertion false, and who imagine that, say, Cuba and/or Venezuela are socialist states, might like to read this and this, and then perhaps think again), even if success were an unfailing criterion of truth, we will only know if DM is correct after the event, if and when a genuine socialist society has been created, and permanently so. Hence, this criterion can't tell us whether DM is correct now.


[That also disposes of Excuse Four.]


It could be objected that the above points clearly ignore wider or longer-term issues. For example, the Ptolemaic System was finally abandoned because it proved inferior to its rivals in the long run.


This is undeniable, but it is also double-edged: if it is only in the long run that we may determine whether or not a theory is successful, then that theory might never be so judged.


That is because future contingencies could always arise to refute it -- no matter how well it might once have seemed to 'work', or to have been confirmed. In fact, if history is anything to go by, this has been the fate of the vast majority of previous theories. Even though most, if not all, at one time 'worked', or were well-supported, the overwhelming majority were later abandoned.


As philosopher of science, P K Stanford, notes:


"...[I]n the historical progression from Aristotelian to Cartesian to Newtonian to contemporary mechanical theories, the evidence available at the time each earlier theory was accepted offered equally strong support to each of the (then-unimagined) later alternatives. The same pattern would seem to obtain in the historical progression from elemental to early corpuscularian chemistry to Stahl's phlogiston theory to Lavoisier's oxygen chemistry to Daltonian atomic and contemporary physical chemistry; from various versions of preformationism to epigenetic theories of embryology; from the caloric theory of heat to later and ultimately contemporary thermodynamic theories; from effluvial theories of electricity and magnetism to theories of the electromagnetic ether and contemporary electromagnetism; from humoral imbalance to miasmatic to contagion and ultimately germ theories of disease; from 18th Century corpuscular theories of light to 19th Century wave theories to contemporary quantum mechanical conception; from Hippocrates's pangenesis to Darwin's blending theory of inheritance (and his own 'gemmule' version of pangenesis) to Wiesmann's germ-plasm theory and Mendelian and contemporary molecular genetics; from Cuvier's theory of functionally integrated and necessarily static biological species or Lamarck's autogenesis to Darwinian evolutionary theory; and so on in a seemingly endless array of theories, the evidence for which ultimately turned out to support one or more unimagined competitors just as well. Thus, the history of scientific enquiry offers a straightforward inductive rationale for thinking that there are alternatives to our best theories equally well-confirmed by the evidence, even when we are unable to conceive of them at the time." [Stanford (2001), p.9.]


[See also Stanford (2000, 2003, 2006a, 2006b, 2009, 2011), Chang (2003), Cordero (2011), Lyons (2002, 2003, 2006), and Vickers (2013). (Several of these link to PDFs.)]


So, if anything, practice shows that practice is unreliable!


In fact, the following declaration could become true:


"Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes." [Marx and Engels (1848), pp.35-36. Bold emphasis added.]


According to this, the "contending classes" could wipe each other out --, or, at least, the class war could result in their "common ruin" -- which outcome itself isn't at all easy to square with the NON. [Why that is so will be explored in Essay Three Part Five, when it is published.]


[NON = Negation of the Negation.]


However, judging from the way that dialecticians themselves disregard the deliverances of practice, this suggests that, in practice even they don't accept their own criterion!


For in practice, they serially ignore it.


Unfortunately, pragmatic theories (like this) will always be hostages to fortune; those who rely on or promote them should feign no surprise if history takes little heed of their dialectically-compromised day-dreams, and delivers decade upon decade of refutation.


[There are other (much better, and more materially-based) ways of confirming the validity of HM -- these will be explored in an Essay to be published at the main site at a later date.]


All this means that if we want our practice to be more successful, we should ditch the theory that has helped dump our movement into a bottomless pit of unremitting failure: 'materialist dialectics'.


Of course, this won't solve all our problems, but it will be an excellent move in the right direction.



But, What About 1917?


The argument that 1917 confirms DM -- perhaps because the 'party of dialectics' won this historic victory (to paraphrase Trotsky) --, has been shown to be no less misguided, here. Readers are directed there for more details.



Why Dialecticians Cling To DM


It is worth pointing out again more that my argument isn't as follows: DM is a ruling-class theory, therefore it is false.


It is this: DM is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able say whether or not it is true. Hence, it is hardly surprising it has failed us for so long.



Ruling-Class Thought


However, no matter how deep, long-term, devastating or repetitive the blows history keeps raining down on our movement, and despite the cogent arguments ranged against it in my Essays and elsewhere by others, the DM-faithful remain hopelessly mesmerised by this 'theory'.


Why is this? And why have revolutionaries of the stature of Engels, Lenin, Luxembourg, and Trotsky sold their radical souls to this demonstrably conservative thought-form? [Marx was an exception; on that, see here and here.]


The origin and nature of the philosophical tradition from which DM emerged isn't in any doubt (a summary of it can be accessed here), and neither is the petty-bourgeois, non-working class origin of DM-classicists such as Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky.


Unfortunately, this means that DM possesses an unenviable ruling-class pedigree.


Indeed, we have already seen Lenin give the game away:


"[T]he genius of Marx consists precisely in his having furnished answers to questions already raised by the foremost minds of mankind. His doctrine emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy and socialism.


"The Marxist the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism." [Lenin, Three Sources and Component Parts of Marxism. Bold emphases alone added.]


It is important to note, however, what is not being alleged here: that the aforementioned dialecticians imported these class-compromised ideas into the workers' movement duplicitously. On the contrary, it is being asserted that they did this honestly and unwittingly.


Unwittingly: because the only theories on offer in their day were those that had already been compromised by ruling-class forms-of-thought. They certainly didn't intend to saddle our movement with a class-compromised set of dogmas.


Honestly: because of their class origins and education they genuinely thought that the workers' movement needed a Philosophy, a 'world-view' of some sort. As noted above, they weren't workers, but came from a class that educated their children in the Bible, the Classics and Philosophy.

As I pointed out earlier:


This...tradition taught that behind appearances there lies a hidden world (populated by the 'gods' or various 'spirits'/'essences'), which was more real than the material universe we see around us, accessible to thought alone. Theology was openly and proudly built on this idea, but so was Traditional Philosophy.


This way of viewing things was concocted by ideologues of the ruling-class, which class (and/or their minions) ensured that others were educated (but often, forced) to see things this way, too. They invented this 'world-view' because if you belong to, benefit from, or help run a society that is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep order in several ways.

The first and most obvious way is through violence. This will work for a time, but it is not only fraught with danger, it is costly and it stifles innovation (among other things).

Another way is to persuade the majority (or a significant section of "opinion formers" -- philosophers, administrators, editors, bishops, educators, 'intellectuals', and the like) that the present order either (a) works for their benefit, (b) is ordained of the 'gods', (c) defends 'civilised values', or (d) is 'natural' and thus cannot be fought against, reformed or negotiated with.


Hence, a 'world-view' is necessary for the ruling-class to carry on ruling "in the same old way". While the content of this ruling ideology may have altered with each change in the mode of production, its form has remained largely the same for thousands of years: Ultimate Truth is ascertainable by thought alone, and can therefore be imposed on reality dogmatically.


So, the non-worker founders of our movement -- who had been educated from an early age to believe there is just such a hidden world lying behind appearances, and which governs everything --, when they became revolutionaries, looked for 'logical' principles in that abstract world that told them that change was inevitable, and was part of the cosmic order. Enter dialectics, courtesy of the dogmatic ideas of that ruling-class mystic, Hegel. Hence, the dialectical classicists latched onto this theory and were happy to impose it on the world (upside down or the "right way up"), since, to them, because of their education, it seemed quite natural to do just this. After all, that's what 'genuine' philosophers should do -- or, so they had been socialised to think.


This doesn't mean that only workers can be good socialists, but it does mean that we should be alert to the class-compromised ideas that the DM-classicists brought with them into our movement -- before the working class could provide them with an effective materialist counter-weight.


Today, a hundred or so years later, there is no longer any excuse for continuing to import these doctrines into Marxism since that counter-weight now exists -- and we can see the disaster that has partially resulted from this importation.


Even so, this helps explain another rather curious anomaly: as the working class steadily grows in size, the influence that Dialectical Marxism has on it dwindles even faster. [More on that in Essay Nine Part One.]


Parallel to this, our movement continues to fragment and dwindle, which means that it has 'enjoyed' a steady decline in the influence it has on the class war. Moreover, the fact that workers ignore our movement en masse means that their counter-weight has no influence where it counts: on our ideas.


So, DM lives on as its theorists think of new ways to make such awkward facts disappear.


The lack of active socialist workers means that the unifying force generated by the class struggle by-passes, and thus has no impact upon the revolutionary movement. Because it is dominated by petty-bourgeois individuals, Dialectical Marxism does little other than fragment (for well-known social-psychological reasons -- on that, see here).


Hence, the same social forces that motivate workers to unite, drive professional revolutionaries in the opposite direction, toward fragmentation -- especially since a core principle of their ideology states the following:


"The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory the essence (one of the 'essentials,' one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics....


"The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute...." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"Splitting" and "struggle", are either the "essence" of DM or are an "absolute"; this must involve the relations between comrades, too. So, an emphasis on intra-party strife and fragmentation sits right at the heart of this theory!


We needn't wait for the ruling-class to divide us, we are already world-renowned experts in that event!


A rather ironic 'dialectical' inversion for readers to ponder.


But, are these accusations enough to condemn DM?


Not on their own they aren't.


DM is demonstrably flawed from beginning to end (as my Essays seek to show); that is sufficient to condemn it.


However, the boss-class source of 'materialist dialectics' -- coupled with the class origin and class position of those who invented this theory, who promote it today, and who control the production of current theory -- explains why it has had such a deleterious effect on Dialectical Marxism for so long, helping to render it all but impotent.



The Dialectics Of Defeat


But, why do hard-headed revolutionaries cling to this failed theory like drunks to lamp posts?


Marxists are well aware that in defeat there is a tendency (even among revolutionaries) to turn to mysticism. This they do in order (a) To  explain or rationalise these set-backs and (b) To provide themselves with a potent source of consolation. After all, exposing these untoward tendencies was one of the main reasons why Lenin wrote Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Unfortunately, Lenin failed to notice that the defeats suffered in Russia in and around the 1905 revolution turned him toward dialectics, a theory about which he had largely been silent up until then.1a


Unfortunately, Dialectical Marxism has known little other than defeat, disaster and failure for most of its history. And that is partly why DM-fans cling to this theory so desperately.


This in turn means that the theory that has played an important role in helping engineer this catastrophic state of affairs also provides it adherents with the theoretical justification to rationalise and ignore its consequences.


It does this in at least two ways:


(A) The NON persuades true believers that each and every retreat is only temporary; the onward march of Dialectical Marxism is assured by the underlying logic of the universe. [We saw this surface in Excuse Four, above. Indeed, it helps motivate the other excuses, too.]


[NON = Negation of the Negation.]


(B) DM-Epistemology teaches that 'appearances' contradict underlying 'essences' -- that is, how things appear to be is the opposite of the way they really are. That being so, what might seem (to the dialectically untrained eye) to be a series of defeats is really part of the long-term, onward march of Marxism --, or, indeed, part of a run of successes about to begin, any day soon...


This is the dialectical equivalent of 'pie-in-the-sky' -- i.e., this theory works as a materialist-sounding source of consolation for past failures, as well as a means by which these set-backs can be ignored and/or rationalised as their opposites.


So, the theory that has helped engineer these set-backs also tells its acolytes that (i) They haven't really happened, or if they have (ii) They are 'essentially' the opposite of the way they seem -- or even that (iii) They don't really matter.


Anyone who doubts this should try telling any randomly-selected, dialectically-distracted comrade that Dialectical Marxism is stunningly unsuccessful, and has been so for much of its history. Unless you are extraordinarily unlucky, you can expect to be subjected to some ludicrously tortured logic that will attempt to persuade you otherwise.


This 'snow job' will no doubt include a convoluted explanation why (a) 99.9% of the working class ignores Dialectical Marxism --, and has done so for many generations --, (b) All four Internationals have gone down the pan, (c) The vast majority of the former 'socialist' states have gone into reverse, (d) Marxist parties everywhere (especially those in the Trotskyist 'movement') are a by-word for sectarian in-fighting, splits and divisions (indeed they are a standing joke in this regard),2 and (e) Even though practically every communist party on the planet has embraced open reformism --, meaning that we are now further away from establishing a Workers' State than the Bolsheviks were in 1917 --, that (f) none of this matters, (g) none of it has actually happened, (h) none of it is really now happening,  or (i) none of it is any part of the particular 'tradition' to which this sad soul belongs.


You see, it's the fault of those other "sects"; it's a failure of revolutionary "leadership"; it's all down to those in the grip of an 'incorrect'/'formalist' philosophy, or who have no 'understanding' of dialectics -- those opportunists in the Workers' Yada Yada Party. They are to blame, you see, not us in the Revolutionary Blah Blah Front...


Alternatively, the "objective circumstances" ploy will be dusted-off and given another spin around the dialectical exercise/excuse yard.


Doubtless, you will then be informed of the good news that the latest stunt, conference, intervention, split, or expulsion that the Revolutionary Blah Blah Front -- to which this dreamer belongs -- has just pulled off (or is about to stage) heralds the long-awaited turning-point for the international proletariat. [Check out Note 2a for examples of this 'dialectical malady'.]2a



Figure Two: Great Moments On The Left 01


Without a hint of irony -- still less of embarrassment -- this comrade will announce such verities on behalf of at most 0.0000001% of the population of this planet (that being the entire membership of their tiny grouplet -- led by, or largely composed of, non-workers), some of whom are about to be expelled from the Revolutionary Blah Blah Front, anyway --, probably for failing to 'understand' or apply 'materialist dialectics' correctly!



Figure Three: Great Moments On The Left 02


And, as sure as eggs are non-dialectical eggs, this comrade will fail to see the connection between such facts and such failures --, and will doubtless give you a hard time for even thinking to question the sacred gospel that preaches the exact opposite.


Or, if you belong to a different "sect", you can expect to be called a "revisionist!", a "bourgeois stooge!", a "positivist!" -- or worse.


Those familiar with revolutionary papers will already know of their unsinkable optimism: anger is always "growing", movements are always "gaining strength", meetings are always "historic", victory is always "around the corner", how almost all of them claim to be the only ones who are "leading the class", and how Capitalism is once again entering its "final crisis" -- an economic and social system that apparently has more lives than a lorry load of cats.


This will confirm yet again how unreasonable dialecticians are, and how they are prepared to bend every rule and every fact, to fib, lie, invent and dissemble in order to protect the sacred dialectic.


So, Dialectical Marxists cling to this 'theory' because without it not only would their entire world-view fall apart, their source of consolation would vanish. Hence, they are super-glued to dialectics for the same sorts of reasons that the religious cling to their faith. [More on this, here.]


That, of course, explains the mind-numbing and mantra-like repetitiveness of books and articles on DM, the pathological fear of the "R" word ("Revisionism"), the sacred books, the constant appeal to 'orthodoxy', the heroic pictures of the Dialectical Saints carried on parades (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, Enver Hoxha, Kim Jong-il, etc., etc.), the Socialist Realist Art, the inexplicable adherence to Stone Age Logic derived from in a thinly-disguised work of Mystical Christian and Hermetic Theology that celebrates the goings-on of an invisible 'Being' -- i.e., Hegel's 'Logic'.


If this weren't quite so serious, you'd roll about laughing.



Boss-Class Ideology


Ruling-Class View Of The World


One of the reasons why I reject not just DM, but all forms of Traditional Philosophy, is that, as Marx noted above, both represent or champion a ruling-class view of the world.


It is important to point out that phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" used in this Essay (in connection with Traditional Philosophy and DM) aren't meant to imply that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them.


In earlier times, the vast majority of Philosophers were either (1) Members of the ruling-class, or (2) Were patronised by them, or (3) They helped run the system for the elite. These theorists saw the state as an earthly embodiment of the cosmic order; in that case, just as society was ruled by "law", so was the Universe.


In ancient and medieval class societies, rulers and/or their representatives employed highly specialised language to frame laws in order (a) To reflect the above connection, (b) To secure the rights of property, or (c) To help keep the masses 'in their place'.


To that end, these theorists didn't in general view language as a means of communication, they regarded it as a means of representation, a secret code that (i) Linked each thinker to the 'mind of god' -- allowing 'the Deity' to re-represent 'His' thoughts to each adept --, and which (ii) Contained a series of hidden 'clues' capable of revealing the 'essential' truths of 'Being', the very "secrets of nature".


The ruling-class and their ideologues certainly thought that this was how the 'gods' actually constituted the universe, via language. As early creation myths reveal (and as we saw earlier), this is indeed how the ancients saw things; the 'gods' simply had to speak and not only did everything spring into existence, it did as it was told. The entire universe 'obeyed' the 'word of god', materialised now as physical law. Just as good citizens observe the civil and criminal codes, everything in nature bent its knee to 'divine' or 'natural', law.


This set of beliefs further prompted Traditional Thinkers into concluding that if language formed an essential component in the creation of everything in existence, if it is capable of being used to order servants and slaves effortlessly about the place, if words, codified into law, actually control the state, securing power, property and privilege, then language must possess an inherent power all of its own, and must likewise enable those versed in the highly specialised jargon they had invented -- this 'secret code' -- it must enable them to control reality -- or, at least, to understand it 'inner secrets'. As noted above, this was because they viewed the state as a reflection of the cosmic order.


Indeed, as the record shows, the idea soon suggested itself to these ruling-class hacks that language must not only constitute the underlying fabric of reality (i.e., the fabric of nature and the state), it must be capable of making things move all on its own.


So, this idea isn't just found in magic, in Harry Potter films, for example.



Video One: Words 'Control' Inanimate Objects


To paraphrase Marx: what had once been the product of the relations between human beings (ordinary language) became inverted and fetishised into a specialised, even magical code that supposedly represented the real relations among things, or which constituted those things themselves. He added:


"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphasis alone added.]


Philosophical language thus became "an independent realm", a self-referential medium divorced from ordinary life.


According to this ruling-class world-view, reality was either controlled by language or was constituted by it. In that case, language, on its own, could be used to deduce fundamental truths about it.


This doctrine I have called "Linguistic Idealism" [LIE].


LIE, in one form or another, has dominated all subsequent philosophical theories (even those that appear to be atheistical), and that is why Traditional Philosophers think it quite natural to impose their ideas on reality. [More on that here and here.]


It thus became 'natural' for ruling-class hacks to think of law and order, conflict and change, in linguistic and conceptual terms -- indeed, as a 'unity of opposites'.


And, that is why mystics the world over argue and think in the way they do (as we saw above --, and as we will see again below, but this time in connection with Heraclitus (540-475BC)): for them, the esoteric language they had concocted contained or expressed this secret code, a universal master key invented by 'god' and delivered to the select few -- indeed, as Lenin again let slip:


"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…." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Bold emphasis alone added.]


"Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Ibid., pp.196-97. Italic emphases in the original.]


Those who originally conceptualised reality in this way quite naturally thought that if the status quo on earth is the product of language, and if reality reflects, or is in turn a reflection of the state, then thought alone could unmask, and then perhaps control, nature.


Thus was born Philosophy, the most abstract form of boss-class ideology:


"[P]hilosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis added.]


"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.... And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.... And God said, 'Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.'... And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so.... And God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.' And it was so...." [Genesis 1:1-15.]


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." [John 1:1-3.]


Other creation myths also reflect this view: the world was created by means of language and is controlled by it.


Philosophical theories could now be imposed on nature because 'God' originally constituted the world this way, out of language, which meant that reality was in effect condensed discourse, or condensed 'thought'. After all, for them, nature was ultimately 'Mind', constituted by the 'Divine Logos', the 'Word'.


The philosophical doctrine that supposedly underpinned, or was the source of all this convenient theology was invented, as far as we know, by the very first dialectician in history, Heraclitus:2b


"Heraclitus, along with Parmenides, is probably the most significant philosopher of ancient Greece until Socrates and Plato; in fact, Heraclitus's philosophy is perhaps even more fundamental in the formation of the European mind than any other thinker in European history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Why? Heraclitus, like Parmenides, postulated a model of nature and the universe which created the foundation for all other speculation on physics and metaphysics. The ideas that the universe is in constant change and that there is an underlying order or reason to this change -- the Logos -- form the essential foundation of the European world view. Every time you walk into a science, economics, or political science course, to some extent everything you do in that class originates with Heraclitus's speculations on change and the Logos....


"In reading these passages, you should be able to piece together the central components of Heraclitus's thought. What, precisely, is the Logos? Can it be comprehended or defined by human beings? What does it mean to claim that the Logos consists of all the paired opposites in the universe? What is the nature of the Logos as the composite of all paired opposites? How does the Logos explain change? Finally, how would you compare Heraclitus's Logos to its later incarnations: in the Divided Line in Plato, in foundational and early Christianity? How would you relate Heraclitus's cryptic statements to those of Lao Tzu?" [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


The short answer to many of the above questions is, obviously: The ideas of the ruling-class are always the ruling ideas!


From then on -- for the vast majority of Traditional Theorists --, Logic depicted, or could be used to picture the underlying form of reality, its 'essential' structure. This further justified the imposition of the products of thought onto nature. Indeed, as Hegel saw things (although he traced this view back to Anaxagoras) :


"[L]ogic is to be understood as the system of pure reason, as the realm of pure thought. This realm is truth as it is without veil and in its own absolute nature. It can therefore be said that this content is the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite mind.


"Anaxagoras is praised as the man who first declared that Nous, thought, is the principle of the world, that the essence of the world is to be defined as thought. In so doing he laid the foundation for an intellectual view of the universe, the pure form of which must be logic.


"What we are dealing with in logic is not a thinking about something which exists independently as a base for our thinking and apart from it, nor forms which are supposed to provide mere signs or distinguishing marks of truth; on the contrary, the necessary forms and self-determinations of thought are the content and the ultimate truth itself." [Hegel (1999), pp.50-51, §53-54. Bold emphases and link added. Italic emphases in the original.]


These days, for DM-theorists, this idea resurfaces in the way they characterise 'Dialectical Logic':


"Dialectics requires an all-round consideration of relationships in their concrete development…. Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)….


"[D]ialectical logic holds that 'truth' is always concrete, never abstract, as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel." [Lenin (1921), pp.90, 93. Bold emphases added.]


What else is a "demand" or a "requirement" other an imposition? This allows DM-theorists to assert the following, dogmatically:


"Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically." [Engels (1976), p.28.]


"Dialectics…prevails throughout nature…. [T]he motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature." [Engels (1954), p.211. Bold emphases added.]


"A dialectical method is only possible because reality itself is dialectically structured." [Rees (1998), p.271.]


"As above, so below"...


Rees's claim, for example, goes much further; he asserts that "reality itself" (that is, not just a part of it, or even most of it, nor yet that of which we currently have some knowledge, but the entire universe, at every level, for all of time -- i.e., reality itself) is dialectically structured.


Even if we took into account all the available evidence (which evidence isn't conducive to DM, anyway, as we shall see in other Essays posted at this site), the inference that "reality itself" is dialectically structured goes way beyond it. As seems plain, the claim that reality itself is dialectically structured could only ever amount to a reading into nature of something that might not be there. It certainly isn't justified on the basis of the meagre and threadbare evidence dialecticians have so far scraped-together.


Of course, Rees isn't alone in this; as we have seen, all dialecticians argue along similar lines,



'Truth' Derived Solely From Language And 'Thought'


Although of late there have been notable exceptions to the above generalisations, for most philosophers (and all DM-theorists), a priori knowledge (like that expressed in the above quotations) is the only reliable source. Empirical knowledge (that is, knowledge based on evidence and experience) was considered to be unreliable since it supposedly reflected the debased experience and life of ordinary workers. [This is brought out particularly well in Conner (2005).]


So, from the beginning, philosophers denigrated the language and experience of working people -- just as they undervalued and ignored their 'commonsense' view of the world -- gradually transforming the vernacular into a complex, jargon-riddled code capable of expressing, or representing, 'divine truth' and the 'rational' order of 'Reality'. [We saw earlier that this is indeed what the late Professor Havelock pointed out in relation to the Presocratics, the 'founding-fathers' of 'western' thought.]


And, surprise, surprise, dialecticians have done exactly the same. And now we know why: the ideas of the ruling-class are in every epoch the ruling ideas..


Which is rather odd, since Marx emphasised the opposite approach:


"The philosophers would only have to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, to recognise it as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases alone added.]


Traditional Philosophers thus sought to invent a priori theses that supposedly revealed the underlying 'essence' of reality -- i.e., fundamental features of existence inaccessible to the senses, and hence 'safe' from refutation by any material means.


In every single case, but in different forms depending on which Mode of Production was dominant at the time, philosophers derived their theses from language alone -- either from specially-concocted jargon (such as, "Being", "Entelechy", "Substance", "Becoming", and "Nothing"), or from suitably distorted ordinary words (such as "cause", "law", "thought", "consciousness", and "determined"), just as Marx had pointed out.


[Although, it isn't being suggested that he would necessarily have agreed with this use of his ideas!]


These a priori theses were imposed on nature, and were not only held to be true everywhere and everywhen, they supposedly determined the form of any and all possible worlds.


Moreover, because these doctrines had been derived solely from language, they appeared to be 'self-evident' (that is, no external, physical evidence was required to establish their 'truth'; they were thus self-certifying dogma). Super-truths like these were not only easy to invent (a few moments reflection on the 'real' or 'hidden meaning' of a handful of words -- such as "motion", "thought", or "identity" -- was all that was required), but once concocted they seemed impossible to doubt.


The same is true of the theses dialecticians derived from Hegel (upside down, or 'the right way up').


Of course, this is just one more reason why practice has never been used to test of the truth of DM, and never will be. Dialectics is self-certifying. It doesn't require testing in practice, nor does it need 'revising'. Whatever happens, DM will always 'ratify' itself.


As Lenin noted, the search for empirical proof is beneath the dialectician:


"This aspect of dialectics…usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum total of examples…and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)." [Lenin (1961), p.357. Emphasis in the original.]


Hence, the need to provide evidence is a distraction, one that dedicated dialecticians should rightly eschew. In this particular case, the idea that UOs exist everywhere in nature and society, and which govern every single example of change right across the universe, for all of time, expresses a "law of cognition", a "law of the objective world", and it is these "laws" that in the end legitimate the imposition of dialectical dogma on nature.


If so, why bother testing these self-certifying 'truths' in practice?


Small wonder then that actual practice has demonstrated time and again that the deliverances of practice are consistently ignored.


[UO = Unity of Opposites.]


This approach to 'knowledge' is well summarised by James White (in this case, in relation to German Idealism):


"Already with Fichte the idea of the unity of the sciences, of system, was connected with that of finding a reliable starting-point in certainty on which knowledge could be based. Thinkers from Kant onwards were quite convinced that the kind of knowledge which came from experience was not reliable. Empirical knowledge could be subject to error, incomplete, or superseded by further observation or experiment. It would be foolish, therefore, to base the whole of knowledge on something which had been established only empirically. The kind of knowledge which Kant and his followers believed to be the most secure was a priori knowledge, the kind embodied in the laws of Nature. These had been formulated without every occurrence of the Natural phenomenon in question being observed, so they did not summarise empirical information, and yet they held good by necessity for every case; these laws were truly universal in their application." [White (1996), p.29. Bold emphasis added.]


It is worth noting in passing that the word "law" was imported from legal theory and then projected onto nature, plainly suggesting that reality was indeed governed by a cosmic will of some sort. The question is: who enacted these 'universal laws'? Who 'enforces' them? And how is 'unintelligent' matter able to 'obey' them, unerringly?


The answer that Traditional Thought delivered in each case is that reality is 'mind'-like, or the product of 'Mind'.


Hence, for Traditional Philosophers, if nature has an underlying 'rational' structure, then not only would it be much easier 'justify' the status quo (as a reflection of this underlying order), it wouldn't be difficult to argue that those who rebel against the status quo could be opposed on 'legitimate', 'divinely sanctioned', 'rational' grounds.


In fact, opposition to the status quo was futile; the cosmic, and thus the social, order would always re-assert itself.


[These days, that task has been hived-off to our genes, and to what did or didn't take place in the Pleistocene.]


This dogmatic approach to Traditional Thought is further amplified by the following two authors:


"Empirical, contingent truths have always struck philosophers as being, in some sense, ultimately unintelligible. It is not that none can be known with certainty…; nor is it that some cannot be explained…. Rather is it that all explanation of empirical truths rests ultimately on brute contingency -- that is how the world is! Where science comes to rest in explaining empirical facts varies from epoch to epoch, but it is in the nature of empirical explanation that it will hit the bedrock of contingency somewhere, e.g., in atomic theory in the nineteenth century or in quantum mechanics today. One feature that explains philosophers' fascination with truths of Reason is that they seem, in a deep sense, to be fully intelligible. To understand a necessary proposition is to see why things must be so, it is to gain an insight into the nature of things and to apprehend not only how things are, but also why they cannot be otherwise. It is striking how pervasive visual metaphors are in philosophical discussions of these issues. We see the universal in the particular (by Aristotelian intuitive induction); by the Light of Reason we see the essential relations of Simple Natures; mathematical truths are apprehended by Intellectual Intuition, or by a priori insight. Yet instead of examining the use of these arresting pictures or metaphors to determine their aptness as pictures, we build upon them mythological structures.


"We think of necessary propositions as being true or false, as objective and independent of our minds or will. We conceive of them as being about various entities, about numbers even about extraordinary numbers that the mind seems barely able to grasp…, or about universals, such as colours, shapes, tones; or about logical entities, such as the truth-functions or (in Frege's case) the truth-values. We naturally think of necessary propositions as describing the features of these entities, their essential characteristics. So we take mathematical propositions to describe mathematical objects…. Hence investigation into the domain of necessary propositions is conceived as a process of discovery. Empirical scientists make discoveries about the empirical domain, uncovering contingent truths; metaphysicians, logicians and mathematicians appear to make discoveries of necessary truths about a supra-empirical domain (a 'third realm'). Mathematics seems to be the 'natural history of mathematical objects' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.137], 'the physics of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1976), p.138; however these authors record this erroneously as p.139, RL] or the 'mineralogy of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.229]. The mathematician, e.g., Pascal, admires the beauty of a theorem as though it were a kind of crystal. Numbers seem to him to have wonderful properties; it is as if he were confronting a beautiful natural phenomenon [Wittgenstein (1998), p.47; again, these authors have recorded this erroneously as p.41, RL]. Logic seems to investigate the laws governing logical objects…. Metaphysics looks as if it is a description of the essential structure of the world. Hence we think that a reality corresponds to our (true) necessary propositions. Our logic is correct because it corresponds to the laws of logic….


"In our eagerness to ensure the objectivity of truths of reason, their sempiternality and mind-independence, we slowly but surely transform them into truths that are no less 'brutish' than empirical, contingent truths. Why must red exclude being green? To be told that this is the essential nature of red and green merely reiterates the brutish necessity. A proof in arithmetic or geometry seems to provide an explanation, but ultimately the structure of proofs rests on axioms. Their truth is held to be self-evident, something we apprehend by means of our faculty of intuition; we must simply see that they are necessarily true…. We may analyse such ultimate truths into their constituent 'indefinables'. Yet if 'the discussion of indefinables…is the endeavour to see clearly, and to make others see clearly, the entities concerned, in order that the mind may have that kind of acquaintance with them which it has with redness or the taste of a pineapple' [Russell (1937), p.xv; again these authors record this erroneously as p.v, RL], then the mere intellectual vision does not penetrate the logical or metaphysical that to the why or wherefore…. For if we construe necessary propositions as truths about logical, mathematical or metaphysical entities which describe their essential properties, then, of course, the final products of our analyses will be as impenetrable to reason as the final products of physical theorising, such as Planck's constant." [Baker and Hacker (1988), pp.273-75. Referencing conventions have been altered to conform with those adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original.]


DM-theorists attempt to do something similar; from a few specially-selected, jargonised expressions (which they have by-and-large borrowed from Hegel or from other mystics), they suddenly produce a host of a priori theses that they then happily impose on nature.


For instance, from what he believed was the 'real' meaning of the word "move", Engels thought he could derive what he imagined was true of every single example of motion in the entire universe, for all of time:


"...[A]s soon as we consider things in their motion, their change, their life, their reciprocal influence on one another[,] [t]hen we immediately become involved in contradictions. Motion itself is a contradiction: even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body at one and the same moment of time being both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continuous assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is." [Engels (1976), p.152.]


Even if Engels were right, this use of language is no less a 'brute fact', too. After all, why should a 'contradiction' make anything change or move? And, why should quantity change into quality? Why should the whole be more than the sum of the parts? The only possible answer is that they too are just brute facts about reality -- or, and what is far more likely, they are brute facts about the odd way that dialecticians use language.


Hence, just as metaphysics can't in the end explain anything, neither can 'Materialist Dialectics'. In that case, not only have Dialectical Marxists bought a pig in a poke, there is in fact no pig and no poke!


Once more, all this isn't the least bit surprising since, as we have seen, these ideas were hatched by those working within an ancient ruling-class, Idealist Tradition. As we have also seen: without exception every single DM-classicist was a non-worker, socialised and educated to think along these boss-class lines.3


So, DM is based on, and has replicated, the thought-forms of a well-entrenched ruling-class.


No wonder, then, that it makes not one ounce of sense.


No wonder, too, that it has presided over little other than defeat, failure, and disaster.4



Concluding Undialectical Comment


And that is why I am implacably opposed to DM.


In fact, it is difficult for me to understand why most revolutionaries aren't!





01. I can't be more specific about these developments in this Introductory Essay; that will be the aim of Essay Twelve Part Two, when it is published. However, interested readers can access the details for themselves if they consult the following sources: Barnes (2009), Havelock (1983), Kahn (1994, 2003), Lloyd (1971), Seligman (1962) -- or the much more extensive Bibliographies I have posted here, and here.


1. For anyone interested, there is an entire site devoted to the unity/identity of opposites (as that 'concept' has featured in mystical ideological systems the world over). [Unfortunately, this link now appears to be dead!]


Here are few more quotations from assorted mystics that show they, too, appeal to 'unities of opposites' (and the like) to account for change or stability, etc.:


"Sufism is usually associated with Islam. It has developed Bhakti to a high point with erotic imagery symbolising the unity of opposites. The subtle anatomy and microcosm-macrocosm model also found in Tantra and Taoism is used by it, dressed in its own symbols. Certain orders use ecstatic music and/or dance which reminds one of the Tantric celebration of the senses. Sometimes, the union of opposites is seen as a kind of gnosis. This is similar to Jnani Yoga." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


"The fact that the Reality of God which is disclosed through the cosmos can be described by opposite and conflicting attributes explains, in the Muslim view, why the cosmos itself can be seen as a vast collection of opposites. The two hands of God are busy shaping all that exists. Hence, mercy and wrath, severity and gentleness, life-giving and slaying, exalting and abasing, and all the contradictory attributes of God are displayed in existence. These opposing pairs of names act together in a manner analogous to yin and yang. One way in which we perceive this constant interaction of the names is through change (haraka) and transmutation (estehala). Here Chuang Tzu could say: 'The existence of things is like a galloping horse. With every motion existence changes, at every second it is transformed' (Chuang Tsu 17.6). For their part, the Ash'arite theologians said that nothing stands still in creation and no phenomenon remains constant in its place for two successive moments. Everything is in constant need of divine replenishment, since nothing exists on its own. Things can exist only if God gives them existence. If God were to stop giving existence to the universe for an instant, it would disappear. Hence, at each moment God re-creates the cosmos to prevent its annihilation." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and links added.]


"According to Acharya Mahaprajna, opposition is a fundamental rule for existence. 'There is no type of existence in which opposites do not co-exist. In a sense, existence may also be defined as the coming together of opposites. It is the principle of the quest for unity between two apparently different characteristics of a substance. It tries to point out that the characteristics which differences have, also have an identicality. Reconciliation, which is a principle of anekant, comes about only with the recognition of the identity principle.'...


"So do opposites define existence? For charity to exist, non-charity too has to be defined. How can one define light if there is no darkness? How do we understand something as being the truth unless there are lies? In the absence of foolishness, how to define wisdom?


"Acharya Mahaprajna explains the logic of Jain philosophers: That which is true contains its opposite.... Lao Tzu writes: 'In order to weaken, one will surely strengthen first. In order to overthrow, one will surely exalt first. In order to take one will surely give first. This is called subtle wisdom.' Lao Tzu's wisdom also tells us that 'Be bent and you will remain straight. Be vacant and you will remain full. Be worn and you will remain new.'


"In the opposite lies the affirmation of an attribute. This seems to be true at all levels. Even within the atom, the electron has an anti-particle called photon (sic). Writes Richard Feynman, 'Photons look exactly the same in all respects when they travel backwards in they are their own anti-particles.' The distinction remains, whether it is direct or subtle as it is in the case of very small particles: Even if the particle and anti-particle are neutral, like the neutrino and antineutrino." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis and links added.]


"Maya is Existence: both the world of which we are aware, and ourselves who are contained in the growing and dissolving environment, growing and dissolving in our turn. At the same time, Maya is the supreme power that generates and animates the display: the dynamic aspect of the universal Substance. Thus it is at once, effect (the cosmic flux), and cause (the creative power). In the latter regard it is known as Shakti, 'Cosmic Energy.' The noun shakti is from the root shak, signifying 'to be able, to be possible.' Shakti is power, ability, capacity, faculty, strength, energy, prowess; regal power; the power of composition, poetic power, genius; the power or signification of a word or term; the power inherent in cause to produce its necessary effect; an iron spear, lance, pike, dart; a sword; shakti is the female organ; shakti is the active power of a deity and is regarded, mythologically, as his goddess-consort and queen.


"Maya-shakti is personified as the world-protecting, feminine, maternal side of the Ultimate Being, and as such, stands for the spontaneous, loving acceptance of life's tangible reality. Enduring the suffering, sacrifice, death and bereavements that attend all experience of the transitory, she affirms, she is, she represents and enjoys, the delirium of the manifested forms. She is the creative joy of life: herself the beauty, the marvel, the enticement and seduction of the living world. She instils into us -- and she is, herself -- surrender to the changing aspects of existence.... Now the character of multifariously ambiguous. Having mothered the universe and the individual (macro- and microcosm) as correlative manifestations of the divine, Maya then immediately muffles consciousness within the wrappings of her perishable production.... The aim of Indian thought has always been to learn the secret of the entanglement, and, if possible, to cut through into a reality outside and beneath the emotional and intellectual convolutions that enwrap our conscious being.... Vishnu teaches the identity of opposites.... The secret of Maya is this identity of opposites. Maya is a simultaneous-and-successive manifestation of energies that are at variance with each other, processes contradicting and annihilating each other: creation and destruction, evolution and dissolution, the dream-idyll of the inward vision of the god and the desolate nought, the terror of the void, the dread infinite. Maya is the whole cycle of the year, generating everything and taking it away. This 'and,' uniting incompatibles, expresses the fundamental character of the Highest Being who is the Lord and Wielder of Maya, whose energy is Maya. Opposites are fundamentally of the one essence, two aspects of the one Vishnu." [Zimmer (1972), pp.25-46, largely quoted from here. I have modified the spelling to conform with UK English; quotation marks have been altered in line with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. Paragraphs merged to save space.]


"There are many ways of representing the differentiation of the Absolute into antagonistic yet co-operative pairs of opposites. Among the oldest and most usual of these is that based on the duality of the sexes; Father Heaven and Mother Earth, Uranos and Gaia, Zeus and Hera, the Chinese and Yang and Yin. This is a convention that has been developed with particular emphasis in the Hindu and later Buddhist traditions, where, though the outward symbolization in images is strikingly erotic, the connotations of all the forms are almost exclusively allegorical." [Ibid., p.137. Bold emphasis and links added.]


"Set or Seth (Egyptian): According to the Heliopolitan mythology, the son of Seb and Nut, is the brother of Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys; and the father of Anubis by Nephthys. In later times he became associated with Typhon. The attributes of the god underwent several changes: he is described as very closely connected with Aroeris (Heru-ur or Horus the Elder), his chief office being that of helper and friend to the deceased; in this association a twin-god is pictured, having the hawk head of Horus (light) and the Set animal (darkness) upon one human body. Furthermore, Horus was the god of the sky by day, while Set was god of the sky by night: in this sense were they opposite yet identic deities in earliest times, one the shadow of the other." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis and links added.]


"The great Fourth Hermetic Principle -- the Principle of Polarity -- embodies the truth that all manifested things have 'two sides'; 'two aspects'; 'two poles'; a 'pair of opposites,' with manifold degrees between the two extremes. The old paradoxes, which have ever perplexed the mind of men, are explained by an understanding of this Principle. Man has always recognized something akin to this Principle, and has endeavoured to express it by such sayings, maxims and aphorisms as the following: 'Everything is and isn't, at the same time'; 'all truths are but half-truths'; 'every truth is half-false'; 'there are two sides to everything'; 'there is a reverse side to every shield,' etc., etc. The Hermetic Teachings are to the effect that the difference between things seemingly diametrically opposed to each is merely a matter of degree. It teaches that 'the pairs of opposites may be reconciled,' and that 'thesis and antithesis are identical in nature, but different in degree'; and that the 'universal reconciliation of opposites' is effected by a recognition of this Principle of Polarity. The teachers claim that illustrations of this Principle may be had on every hand, and from an examination into the real nature of anything. They begin by showing that Spirit and Matter are but the two poles of the same thing, the intermediate planes being merely degrees of vibration...." [The Kybalion, reputed by some to be the third most important book of Hermeticism, quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


Incidentally, it is worth adding that even fascist mystics have adopted this metaphysic:


"The cosmos operates through polarities, and the interaction of these polarities causes change and evolution." [White Order of Thule, quoted from here. You might need to shower if you follow that link!]


What was that again about "the ideas of the ruling class..."?


[A more comprehensive list of similar examples can be found here.]


Notice how both the arguments and examples used by the above mystics are broadly similar to those we find in DM-texts. It seems that open and honest mystics (the traditional sort) seem to be as fond of appealing to the same sort of Mickey Mouse Science to 'substantiate' their 'theories' as our still-in-the-closet Dialectical Mystical..., er..., Materialist comrades are.


Exactly why both sets of mystics (i.e., the traditional and the dialectical sort) do this is explained in Essay Nine Part Two, Essays Twelve and Fourteen (summaries here and here).


1a. This isn't to argue that Lenin was totally uninterested in DM before 1905, only that this theory assumed a much more important role in this thought after 1905. It began to dominate his thinking.


2. This was, of course, made into a famous (and by now clichéd) joke by the Monty Python crew:


BRIAN: Are you the Judean People's Front?

REG: Fuck off!

BRIAN: What?

REG: Judean People's Front. We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front. Cawk.

FRANCIS: Wankers!

BRIAN: Can I... join your group?

REG: No. Piss off!

BRIAN: I didn't want to sell this stuff. It's only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.

PEOPLE'S FRONT OF JUDEA: Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh!

REG: Schtum!

JUDITH: Are you sure?

BRIAN: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Romans already.

REG: Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans.

BRIAN: I do!

REG: Oh, yeah? How much?

BRIAN: A lot!

REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.

P.F.J.: Yeah...!

JUDITH: Splitters!

P.F.J.: Splitters...!

FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.

P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...!

LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.

P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...!

REG: What?

LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters!

REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!

LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.

REG: People's Front! C-huh.

FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?

REG: He's over there.

P.F.J.: Splitter!



Video Two: 'Building The Party' -- PFJ (Official) Style


There are literally hundreds of tiny Trotskyist sects, groups and grouplets on the planet, all with the 'correct' dialectical line, just as there are nearly as many Anarchist, Left Communist, Libertarian Marxist, Orthodox Communist and Maoist parties and tendencies.


[Anyone who doubts this should look here, here, here and here, and maybe think again.]


Indeed, this is what Hal Draper had to say about the situation thirty odd years ago, in America alone:


"American socialism today has hit a new low in terms of sect fragmentation. There are more sects going through their gyrations at this moment than have ever existed in all previous periods in this country taken together. And the fragments are still fissioning, down to the sub-microscopic level. Politically speaking, their average has dropped from the comic-opera plane to the comic-book grade. Where the esoteric sects (mainly Trotskyist splinters) of the 1930s tended toward a sort of super sophistication in Marxism and futility in practice, there is a gaggle of grouplets now (mainly Maoist-Castroite) characterized by amnesia regarding the Marxist tradition, ignorance of the socialist experience, and extreme primitivism. The road to an American socialist movement surely lies over the debris, or around the rotting off-shoots of, this fetid jungle of sects." [Quoted from here.]


2a. Here is a recent example of unsinkable, revolutionary megalomania:


"Thus, we understand that the 10th Congress has been the congress of the triumph of the revolutionary working class cause and of its party of vanguard, too." [Quoted from here, page 3. Bold emphasis added. A Google search will soon reveal plenty more examples of dialectical chest beating like this.]


A microscopic Maoist sect in Argentina thus speaks for all workers!


This is what Jack Barnes, Über-Guru of the (now defunct) US-SWP, had to say about the formation of a minuscule Trotskyist grouplet in Iran back in 1979:


"Dear comrades, the formation of Hezeb-e Kargaran-e Socialist -- the first Trotskyist party on Iranian soil -- is an historic and inspiring event.... You have taken a major step in building a mass revolutionary party based on the principles of Lenin and Trotsky. Only such a party can lead the fight for a socialist Iran.... Long live the Iranian revolution! Long live Hezeb-e Kargaran-e Socialist!" [Quoted in Sayrafiezadeh (2009), p.156. Bold emphases alone added.] 


A few years later, that same party, the US-SWP (under the direction of Barnes), renounced Trotskyism. It isn't too clear what happened to those Iranian comrades, but I am pretty sure there is no mass revolutionary Trotskyist party in Iran -- or anywhere else, for that matter.


Here follows another set of examples, this time drawn from the IMT -- the International Marxist Tendency:


"In the first week of August 2004 a meeting of almost 300 Marxists from 26 countries, including Venezuela and Cuba, met in Spain to discuss the world situation and the tasks of the international revolutionary Marxist tendency. This was for many reasons an historic turning point that registered a qualitative advance of the forces of Marxism on a world scale." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


Two years later, here is more of the same from the same:


"July 30, the 2006 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency opened in Barcelona. This was a truly amazing congress, characterized by terrific energy, enthusiasm, and optimism combined with an extremely high level of political discussion and debate. Above all, there was a firm determination to build the International in the coming period. It was the largest congress ever, with 320 present, cramming the meeting hall almost to capacity....


"This world congress is dedicated to the memory of Ted Grant and we pledge ourselves to continue in his work. I will finish with the words inscribed on the tomb of Wren, the great architect: 'If you want a monument, look around you.'" [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


[No doubt, readers will be able write the entry for the 2007* 'World Congress', and then for 2008...** Check below to see if you were right.]


If you patrol little other than the Flatlands of Failure, then, when you stop to "look around you", every molehill will indeed look like a mountain, and 320 comrades seem a big deal.


[After fifteen or more years of not achieving very much, these comrades are still not going strong --, on that, see here. However, based on impressive and serial chest beating like this, you'd be forgiven for concluding the exact opposite.]


Anyone familiar with all shades of Dialectical Marxism will know that dialectical hyperbole of this sort is almost de rigueur.


[The beginning of an explanation for this phenomenon can be found here. The latter is in fact Tourish (1998). More details can be found in Tourish and Wohlforth (2000). (I must add, however, that I distance myself from the negative comments these authors make about democratic centralism and Leninism.)]


*2008 update: We can now can see if you were right about the 2007 'World Congress':


"The International Marxist Tendency held its World School in Barcelona this year from July 29 to August 3. This followed on last year's successful 2006 World Congress. Present were 300 comrades from 26 countries, including El Salvador, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Russia and most European countries....


"The school was in the first place a political event that aimed to raise everybody's political level. This we believe was achieved with the excellent leadoffs and debates throughout the week. The comrades were enthused by the event and given a feeling that they belong to something great, a genuine Marxist International, with comrades on all continents working for the same goal, the emancipation of the working class and a genuine classless society....


"Above all, what this World School showed was the enthusiasm and confidence in the ideas of Marxism and the organisation that is putting these into practice on a world scale. This was reflected in the collection: this year, as in previous years, the record was broken and no less than 37,700 Euros [approximately $55,000 --  2008 rates, RL] were collected! This money will undoubtedly be put to good use and will enable us to pay for more trips to different sections and sympathising groups, the hosting of this website, and other expenses for the promotion of Marxist ideas and the building of a strong organisation on a world scale." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and link added.]


Yep, still upbeat about the fact that the IMT has gone nowhere over the previous 12 months!


See you next year...


**2009 update:


"[The 2008] Congress of the International Marxist Tendency met in Barcelona at the end of July. It is difficult to convey the sense of momentum present in every session of the congress. This was not just another meeting of left activists searching for answers. All of the 350 delegates and visitors could feel that after years of preparation, after decades of defending the ideas of Marxism against the attacks of the bourgeois, the reformists, revisionists and sectarians, these are now being vindicated by events. All other previous gatherings of the IMT felt like preparations for this World Congress, a congress that lays the groundwork for the advance of Marxism internationally." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


So, it seems that the IMT is still pootling about in Oblivionsville.


See you in 2010...


Er..., except, in 2010 the IMT split, losing most of its Spanish-speaking sections. Some estimates put the loss at half their membership.


Does this represent a significant defeat for the international proletariat?


Not a bit of it!


How dare you even think this!


Here is the upbeat report from April 2010 that shows how wrong you were:


"The Venezuelan comrades of the IMT held their re-founding Congress in Caracas, taking the opportunity to launch their new paper, Lucha de Clases (Class Struggle). The comrades have had to deal with very difficult internal conditions over the past year but have been able to re-found the Venezuelan section of the IMT with great enthusiasm and optimism. The unanimous feeling was that the organisation was now on a qualitative higher level than before. Having purged the organisation of harmful ultra-left and sectarian deviations, they are prepared to play a decisive role within the PSUV and the Venezuelan revolution." [Quoted from here. Bold added. (On the reaction of their former comrades in the Militant Tendency, see here.)]


So, splits and expulsions somehow 'strengthen' the movement! The exact opposite of what you'd expect.


But, hey! That's Diabolical Logic for you!


Here is what Wikipedia has to report about subsequent splits in this hyper-optimistic, mega-successful 'tendency':


"A few months later, the IMT suffered a new split. The majority of the Swedish section, factions in Poland and Britain and individuals from several other sections left the IMT to form a new group called Towards a New International Tendency. [TANIT -- RL.] The Iranian section of the IMT also split away over the international's position on Venezuela's friendly relations with the Iranian government and in 2011 launched Marxist Revival with co-thinkers in Britain. In 2016 the Pakistani section split, with the majority leaving, while the minority reorganized as 'Lal Salaam' (Red Salute)." [Quoted from here. Accessed 03/09/2016. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links added. However, it appears that TANIT was formed back in the 1990s. They now run the Socialist Network page on Facebook.]


Here is more of the same sort of rabid optimism from the 2010 report:


"2010 Congress of the IMT – a great step forward.


"The 2010 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency, which took place in Marina di Massa a seaside town in Tuscany, Italy, from 1 to 8 of August, represented a great step forward for the International.


"There were 250 comrades present....


"The experience the IMT has passed through in the last year and a half was concentrated in the World Congress. The mood was one of confident but sober enthusiasm for the future, as our political perspectives are being confirmed and our methods are slowly but surely giving us concrete results, both quantitatively and above all qualitatively....


"The splits in the IMT were not the result of secondary issues or small differences of opinion, and still less of 'tone'. These differences had been developing over a long time. The 'final straw' appears to be the result of either something trivial (sic). But necessity expresses itself through accident.


"The last year has been a serious test for our International. But we will have emerged strengthened if we are able to use the experience to raise the political level of all comrades. One of the positives of this situation is the discussion we have opened up in relation to the work in the mass organizations. This is also part of the balance sheet of the whole period.


"The Congress showed clearly that the IMT has emerged strengthened, not weakened by the disputes of the last year. It was clear from the excellent quality of the speeches from the delegates that an important layer of younger comrades has emerged in the course of this experience which is willing to learn, work and build the IMT." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


So: less money collected, fewer delegates, and another year of going nowhere...


In which case, it seems that "building the party" is, to demolish it! An ironic 'unity of opposites'?


See you next year...


Here is a report from 2011:


"The IMT World School that was held in Italy between 31 July and 5 August was a tremendous success. About 225 comrades from many different countries and continents travelled to the Italian seaside resort of Marina de Massa in order to attend a week of intense but enjoyable and educational meetings....


"The 2011 World School was wound up by an inspiring speech by comrade Alan Woods, after which all those present rose to their feet in a truly rousing rendition of The Internationale.


"The mood throughout the School was enthusiastic both inside and outside the sessions. In addition to the commissions and plenary sessions there were numerous discussions and small commissions in which comrades from different countries could exchange experiences and learn from each other.


"At the end of the School, there was a very lively social, when comrades from every section sang revolutionary songs. The mood of enthusiasm was shown in the magnificent collection, which raised over 30,000 euros [approx $39,000 -- 2011 rate-of-exchange, RL] for the building of the International Marxist Tendency." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and link added.]


Plenty more of the same can be found here.


I must apologise, however, for picking on the IMT; virtually any Trotskyist sect could have been chosen. It is just that the IMT's reports are more readily available. The same can be said of most other Dialectical Marxist tendencies or parties.


No prizes for guessing the content of the 2012 report...


Guess no more, for here it is:


"The 2012 World Congress of the IMT, which was held in Marina di Massa, a seaside resort in Tuscany, Italy, marked an important advance for worldwide Marxism. It lasted for one week -- from the 24th to 29th of July -- with the participation of over 250 comrades from around the world. There were delegates and visitors from all over Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, and a record number of Pakistani comrades....


"Our forces are small. We have passed through a difficult period in the last 20 or 30 years. We have been fighting against the stream. But the tide is beginning to turn. The conditions for building the IMT have never been more favourable. Throughout this period we have maintained the flag of Marxism. What is necessary is to build the necessary forces so that we are actually able to intervene decisively in these processes, not merely as observers and commentators, but as actors and leaders of the world socialist revolution.


"There followed a lively discussion on a very high level. The question was raised of the importance of transitional demands, and it was agreed that a document on this important question would be published in the Autumn....


"The mood overall was very energetic and comrades were excited about the prospects for the IMT's development in the coming period. There were lots of new faces, lots of young people, and even a couple of contacts who joined at the Congress. This mood was very well summed up by the record collection that raised a magnificent 42,500 euros.


"This World Congress was bigger than last year and the year before that with many new comrades attending for the first time. The presence of a large number of new, enthusiastic, young comrades shows that the IMT is beginning to recruit new forces and is laying the basis for even stronger growth in the future....


"The mood throughout the congress was one of cheerful optimism. All the main documents after debate and some small amendments were approved unanimously. And at the end, the Internationale was never sung with greater gusto." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


This gaggle of rabid dialectical optimists is still smaller than it was eight years earlier, but not to worry, the future is still rosy!


[Notice: it is always jam tomorrow. (Er..., which religion(s) does that remind you of?)]


One delegate to the 2012 IMT Winter School in Cambridge, UK (which was, predictably, a "huge success"), inadvertently revealed why these sad characters are quite so optimistic:


"Having developed an interest, through prior research, into Materialist Dialectics attending the talk on Philosophy and dialectics was a no-brainer. Covering everything from the nature of Idealism and Empiricism to the limitations of Formal Logic it was a most insightful event. Although the speaker is to be commended for dealing so concisely with so vast a topic, what impressed me most was his capacity to express the complexity of the subject in such simple terms. Using for example the three states of water to describe the relationship between quantitative and qualitative change. [Well, that's never been argued before by anyone, has it? -- RL.]


"However, the discussion remained true to Marx’s own words: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it'. The practical relevance of these ideas for revolutionaries was elucidated. It was at this point that Marx's true genius seemed to dawn upon me. Almost as if by magic the fallacious nature of our current ideology was laid bare and left wanting. Yet, the insight granted by the Dialectic Method did more to encourage than leave me depressed in its wake." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


Same old fantasies, same old wishful thinking, same old mystical source of consolation.


Hands up anyone who thinks they can write the 2013 report?


Alas, there was no 2013 Congress; so no report! Nevertheless, the IMT held several smaller, local congresses in 2013, all of which were described as "historic" (even if they were attended by as many as 80 delegates!), or as "tremendous/huge successes". [On that, see here and here.]


Anyway, here is the report of the 2014 Congress:


"Revolutionary moods are growing across the world as capitalism rots and the ruling elite attempts to maintain its position by attacking the working class. Meanwhile, the International Marxist Tendency is growing in numbers, developing a deeper understanding of the processes taking place, intervening in the struggles taking place, and fighting for socialist ideas in the movements of workers and youth.


"Over 250 comrades from around the globe met in Greece between 29th July and 3rd August IMT's 2014 World Congress to discuss the perspectives for the world revolution and the tasks of the Marxists in these turbulent times. Common themes emerged from the discussions and the contributions made by comrades throughout the week, which emphasised the need to analyse and understand economics and politics on a world scale in order to understand how the situation is unfolding and to determine how to intervene most effectively in the mass movements and working class struggles taking place....


"The high degree of enthusiasm brought by the new layers of youth was demonstrated in the constant singing of revolutionary songs from the labour movements of various countries, which often broke out spontaneously when comrades gathered together. This sharing of revolutionary sentiment buoyed all comrades along, allowing them to grasp the flavour of revolutionary proletarian internationalism, represented in the ideas of genuine Marxism....


"A celebration of socialist internationalism was very apt for this year's Congress, as 2014 marks the 150 anniversary of the founding of the First International by Marx and Engels, which was acknowledged on banner for the Congress, held aloft behind the speakers.


"Thus, this year's World Congress provided a living demonstration of the strength of the ideas of genuine Marxism, which thoroughly confirmed the perspectives put before the Congress. The spirit found in the famous rallying cry of The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, 'Workers of the world, unite!' found a living embodiment. The enthusiasm born out of this spirit was thoroughly infectious and will, without doubt, drive comrades on to carry out revolutionary work back home." [Quoted from here; accessed 15/08/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]


If you have unwisely allowed DL to colonise your brain, a figure of 350 attending in 2008 declining to 250 in 2014 (and 150 years after the founding of The First International) is obvious proof that the IMT and The Fourth International are "growing in numbers".


[However, if, as this report suggests, the above comrades "constantly" broke out in song (rather like the Maoists and Red Guards of old) one might well wonder how anyone could listen to the 'historically important speeches' delivered from the platform. Perhaps I don't 'understand' dialectics...]


Anyway, see you in 2015...


Ok, here is a report of the 2015 'IMT World School' -- which now seems to have replaced the annual 'World Congress', at least for this year (full marks if you managed to predict this boilerplate accurately!):


"Over 270 Marxists have now returned home to over 30 different countries after attending the International Marxist Tendency’s World School that took place in Bardonecchia, Italy, last week. The school demonstrated the tendency's activity and the strength of revolutionary ideas through the high political level, the number of enthusiastic young people in attendance, and the excellent application of Marxist theory to the mass movements developing around the globe today....


"As was explained by many speakers, including Alan Woods in his introduction to the discussion on perspectives for world revolution, we are entering the most turbulent period of capitalism's history. Never before has there been a crisis so deep, forcing the implementation of austerity measures the world over that have led to a widening gap between the rich and the poor and increasing poverty for workers, young people, and pensioners....


"Alan Woods closed the school with a rousing speech encouraging members of the IMT to continue building the forces of Marxism, and to continue raising the banner of the IMT -- of socialism -- so that we can build a revolutionary organisation that can play an integral role in bringing about the end to the horrors of capitalism and establish a society that would provide equality and rising standards of living to everyone on the planet.


"There has never been a more important time to fight for the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky: now is the time to educate ourselves and others in how to fight oppression and exploitation; now is the time to go forth and explain to all those who are searching for an alternative to austerity that there is an alternative -- but we must organise and fight for it!" [Quoted from here; accessed 19/10/2015. Bold emphases added.]


So, once again, we have seen 'growth' from 320 (back in 2006) to 270 (in 2015) -- "impressive" is the word I think I am looking for here!


And here is a report of the US National School from earlier in the same year:


"Over the weekend of May 23 and 24, revolutionary Marxists from California, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Madison, Dallas, Kentucky, Ohio, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and London gathered at the University of Pittsburgh for the 2015 WIL National School. Nearly 60 comrades attended this event, a clear indication of the enthusiasm for the ideas of Marxism amongst the comrades of the American section of the IMT. In the midst of dramatic movements around the world and in the USA itself, the success of this school reflects the need for a clear Marxist understanding of history and current events as the working class struggles to challenge the exploitation and oppression of the capitalist system....


"[T]he school resumed with an inspiring presentation by Comrade Farhad, a leading member of the IMT's Pakistani section, The Struggle, who now lives in Chicago. He spoke about the 1968 Pakistani Revolution, the growth of the Pakistan People's Party, and the work of The Struggle today. The American Marxists keenly feel a great deal of responsibility to build our organization in the belly of the beast, given that American imperialism is ravaging Pakistan and has directly contributed to the hellish conditions for the masses of that country. We proudly salute our comrades in The Struggle and want them all to know that their work is a source of profound inspiration for us. In the course of the school, we sold many copies of the Pakistani Trade Union Defense Campaign's newsletter to the school's attendees ["many", as in more than 60? -- RL], giving them a glimpse into the situation facing the vibrant Pakistani labour movement....


"After Farhad's presentation, comrades listened intently as Fred Weston gave a detailed update of the activities of the IMT around the world. We understand that capitalism is a global system, and in order to defeat it we will need to build powerful revolutionary parties in every part of the world. This work is well begun (sic) in more than 30 countries around the world, from Nigeria to New Zealand, Indonesia to Italy, and the American comrades welcomed every advance....


"Later that night we met at a separate location for an evening social. Many comrades remarked about the high level of camaraderie, mutual respect, and friendship displayed at the school [until one section expels the other, that is -- RL]....


"The 2015 American Marxist School was a resounding success and highlights the gains made by the IMT in the United States since our founding in 2002. We are confident that our methods and ideas will culminate in the successful construction of a powerful Marxist organization in America [at least, by the year 24,500, no doubt -- RL], the key country of world capitalism and imperialism." [Quoted from here; accessed 19/10/2015. Bold emphases added. Spelling altered to conform with UK English.]


Wow! "Nearly" 60 delegates; no wonder they were so excited!


As far as I can tell there was no World Congress in 2015 (a 'giant leap forward' for the toiling masses?), but there was in 2016:


"In the final week of July, nearly 300 delegates and visitors from around 30 different countries attended the 2016 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency. Meeting in the midst of huge mass movements, class struggles, and revolutionary developments across the world, this year's congress was undoubtedly the most exciting and successful yet....


"The contributions throughout all of these sessions demonstrated the strength of Marxist ideas, and their ability to explain and understand the turbulent events taking place before our eyes today. It is these ideas, as Alan Woods stressed in his closing remarks, which form the main weapon that we have in the fight against capitalism. 'You can kill a man,' Alan remarked, in reference to the tragic death of Leon Trotsky at the hands of one of Stalin's agents 76 years ago, 'but you cannot kill an idea whose time has come.' [This 'idea' is taking its time 'coming', isn't it? -- RL]


"The electric mood amongst the comrades present was demonstrated vividly, not only by the energetic singing on the final night, but particularly by the record collection of over 60,000 euros [approximately £50,000, or $65,000 -- RL] that was raised to help build the forces of Marxism internationally. This will help enormously in the work of the IMT in countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Venezuela, and Pakistan....


"In all cases, as every speaker highlighted, the world working class are showing they are not prepared to take these defeats lying down and will fight back. The missing factor in all cases, Alan Woods stressed in his summary, is the subjective factor -- that of a revolutionary leadership. [Looks like it still is -- RL.] This, Alan stated, is our task: to build up the forces of revolution. Workers of the world unite!" [Quoted from here. Accessed 03/09/2016. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added. Somewhat similar 'dialectical hyperbole' concerning the 2016 Congress of the IMT-USA -- which we are told was a "turning point" and a "genuine milestone" -- can be accessed here.]


In 2006, there were 320 delegates, now there are 300! Dialectic 'progress' alright -- it must be because this was in fact "the most exciting and successful yet".


If you disagree, you clearly don't 'understand' dialectics!


See you in 2017...


In order to show that I'm not just picking on the IMT, here is one response to the crisis that engulfed the UK-SWP in 2013/14:


"[We] on the German revolutionary left...have followed the developing crisis in the SWP with a mix of great concern and a bit of hope. There is an immense danger that this crisis will result in a substantial, long-term weakening of the SWP and have destructive effects on the entire International Socialist Tendency.... However, this crisis also presents the possibility of a democratic renewal of the SWP and the IST -- and with it a strengthening of the entire revolutionary left." [Florian Wilde, quoted from here; accessed 31/01/2013. Bold emphasis and link added.]


Here is what ex-UK-SWPer, Ian Birchall, had to say about this debacle:


"Initially I, and a great many comrades, were deeply depressed and stunned. If the CC had shown some willingness to reassess the situation, to look for reconciliation and compromise, I am sure that many of us would have responded positively. But the CC seemed concerned only to prove how tough it was. One CC member told me that it would be a good thing if the party lost members, since that would strengthen it politically. He compared the situation to the 1975 split -- of which he appeared to know little. I asked him if agreed with the late Gerry Healy's axiom that 'with every defection the party grows stronger'. At this he did demur." [Quoted from here; accessed 15/12/2014. Paragraphs merged; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]


Set-backs reconfigured as their opposite; now, where have we heard that before...?


As I pointed out on-line in relation to this debacle:


"If you read the attempts that have been made so far by account for this and other crises, you will struggle long and hard and to no avail to find a materialist, class analysis why this sort of thing keeps happening. Comrades blame such things on this or that foible or personality defect of that or this comrade, or on this or that party structure. If only we had a different CC, or a new constitution, everything would be hunky dory. If only the climate in the party were more open and democratic...

"Do we argue this with respect to anything else? If only we had a different Prime Minister, different MPs or Union Leaders! Or, maybe a new constitution with proportional representation allowing us to elect left-wing representatives to Parliament..., yada yada.

"But this problem is endemic right across our movement, and has been for many generations, just as it afflicts most sections of bourgeois society. In which case, we need a new, class-based, materialist explanation why it keeps happening, or it will keep on happening." [Re-edited, and quoted, for example, from


Finally, two more examples, this time concerning the Daddy of Dialectics, Gerry Healy:


"Older comrades may remember Gerry Healy, leader of the Workers Revolutionary Party. He is reputed to have said on the occasion of expulsions and resignations that were common in his organisation: 'With every defection the party grows stronger.' The logic offers a grim warning for us all." [Ian Birchall, quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


The above comment is consistent with this report of Healy's response to the implosion of the old WRP and his expulsion as a serial rapist:


"A new WRP is already well under way to replace the old. Its cadres will be schooled in the dialectical materialist method of training and it will speedily rebuild its daily press. It will be a new beginning, but a great revolutionary leap forward into the leadership of the British and the international working class. It will be a revolutionary leap forward for the International Committee of the Fourth International." [Healy's 'Interim Statement' 24/10/1985, reproduced in Lotz and Feldman (1994), pp.335-36. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and link added.]


Soon after the above 'glad tidings' were announced to an eagerly expectant world, Healy died and the remaining fragments of the WRP have continued to split, disintegrate, and wither on the vine ever since.


Surprising as this might seem to some, these days the microscopic rump that was left behind after the dust settled looks about as lively as Tutankhamun's mummified corpse. [Anyone who has seen the handful of rapidly aging, bedraggled figures who sell Newsline on demonstrations will know what I mean.]


Yet another victory chalked-up to 'dialectical-practice'?


Who in their left mind could possibly doubt it!?


2b. This view of the world had in fact been implicit in even more ancient theologies and theogonies.


The following comment about Heraclitus is also of interest:


"Although he does not speak in detail of his political views in the extant fragments, Heraclitus seems to reflect an aristocratic disdain for the masses and favour the rule of a few wise men, for instance when he recommends that his fellow-citizens hang themselves because they have banished their most prominent leader...." [Quoted from here; spelling altered to conform with UK English. Bold emphasis added.]


As is this by Heraclitus himself:


"81. Men should speak with rational mind and thereby hold strongly to that which is shared in common -- as a city holds onto its law, and even more strongly. For even more strongly all human laws are nourished by the one divine law, which prevails as far as it wishes, suffices for all things, and yet somehow stands above them." [Quoted from here. This links to a PDF.]


3. Some might think the work of Joseph Dietzgen is a clear exception to this generalisation, but that isn't so.


4. A class-based, materialist and ideological analysis of this process can be accessed here and here.





Video Three: How Not To Refute This Essay


[Again, I have replied to this largely incoherent video here, here and here.]




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--------, (1978), Remarks On The Foundations Of Mathematics, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, edited by G. H. von Wright, R. Rhees and G. E. M. Anscombe (Blackwell, 3rd ed.).


--------, (1998), Culture And Value, edited by G. H. von Wright, translated by Peter Winch (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).


Woods, A., and Grant, T. (1995/2007), Reason In Revolt. Marxism And Modern Science (Wellred Publications). [The version available on-line still appears to be the First Edition.]


Yurkovets, I. (1984), The Philosophy Of Dialectical Materialism (Progress Publishers).


Zimmer, H. (1972), Myths And Symbols In Indian Art And Civilization (Princeton University Press).





This Essay will be updated continuously -- this is connected with my aim to make these ideas as straightforward and clear as possible.


However, several factors mean that that particular objective will be extraordinarily difficult to achieve:


1) Since I allege that Dialectical Materialism makes no sense, any criticisms levelled against it risk a similar fate. For example, DM-theorists refer to 'internal contradictions' to account for change in nature and society, but they seem totally incapable of explaining what these mysterious 'entities' are (that is, after 150 years of not trying very hard!).


Even the best (Marxist) account of 'dialectical contradictions' I have ever read -- to be found in an article by James Lawler -- is itself hopelessly confused. [That was demonstrated here.]


Hence, in this case as in others, my objections to DM are directed against an irredeemably obscure set of 'doctrines'. In most places, it has been impossible to turn this 'dialectical pig's ear' into even the semblance of a plastic purse, never mind a silk one. I doubt anyone can.


If, after reading this Essay, the reader still hasn't a clue what dialecticians are banging on about, that failing isn't down to me.


2) My criticisms of DM form part of a wider critique of Traditional Philosophy in general (summary here). This has involved me in having to challenge ideas that have penetrated very deeply into Western (and, indeed, human) culture -- in fact, I claim they form part of the "ruling ideas" to which Marx referred --, and thus into DM itself.


In turn, this has meant that I have had to challenge forms-of-thought that have dominated intellectual life, 'East' and 'West' --, and which few have even thought to question --, for nigh on 2500 years, addressing problems that have been missed (or have been passed over) by some of the greatest minds in human history.


That being so, it is virtually impossible to give a 'simple' account of the criticisms I aim to make of such well-entrenched "ruling ideas", especially if they relate to issues that have been missed by such towering intellects.


I hasten to add, however, that I am only in a position to do this because of Wittgenstein's work. Hence, I claim no originality for these ideas -- except perhaps for the manner of their presentation and their political re-orientation.


[I have defused several Marxist-, and 'Left-inspired' criticisms of Wittgenstein here, here and here.]


Incidentally, this is partly why my ideas have faced implacable resistance and hostility from practically every quarter: they break entirely new ground and run up against 2500 years of traditional patterns-of-thought. Indeed, had this not happened, that in itself would have indicated I was on the wrong track!


Of course, the above factors won't stop me from trying to make my ideas increasingly clear, since it is fundamental to my project that if I can't explain myself clearly in ordinary language, then not even I understand what I am attempting to say!


And that is why this Essay will need re-writing many times.


If anyone still finds anything I have said here incomprehensible, they should e-mail me and I will do my best to put it right.


In fact, one or two comrades have already complained that this Essay is far too long and/or complicated. In response, I have written "Anti-Dialectics For Dummies", which attempts to summarise some of the above ideas in even more straight-forward language -- and, in under 9500 words!


Latest Update: 03/09/16


Word Count: 45,650


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