Essay One: Why I Began This Project




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Although I am highly critical of Dialectical Materialism [DM], nothing said here (or, indeed, in the other Essays posted at this site) is aimed at undermining Historical Materialism [HM] -- a theory I fully accept -- or, for that matter, revolutionary socialism. My aim is simply to assist in the scientific development of Marxism by helping to demolish a dogma that has in my opinion seriously damaged our movement from its inception: DM --; or, in its more political form, 'Materialist Dialectics' [MD].


[The difference between HM and DM is explained here.]


It is also worth mentioning up-front that phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (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. Up until recently, this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.


However, that will become the central topic of Parts Two and Three of Essay Twelve (when they are published); until then, the reader is directed here, here, and here, for further details.


[**Exactly how this applies to DM will, of course, be explained in the other Essays published at this site (especially here, here and here). In addition to the three links in the previous paragraph, I have summarised the argument (but this time it has been aimed at absolute beginners!) here.]


As of December 2014, this Essay is just over 29,500 words long.



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(1) The Background To These Essays


(2) Introduction To This Site


(3) Heads Back In The Sand, Comrades!


(4) Dialectical Excuses


(5) Notes


(6) References


Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism


Abbreviations Used At This Site


Return To The Main Index Page


Contact Me


The Background To These Essays


This work began life in July 1998 as an unpublished review of John Rees's book The Algebra of Revolution (henceforth, TAR), which then developed into a full-blown project aimed at completely undermining the influence of Dialectical Materialism [DM] -- and dialectics (in the post-Hegelian sense of that word) -- on Marxism.


However, a brief outline of the relevant parts of the author's biography might help readers appreciate the motivation, length and tone of the Essays posted at this site.


I studied for a BA Honours in Philosophy at The University of XXXX in the late-1970s, then for a PhD in the early 1980s, and later for a Mathematics degree. After I became involved in revolutionary politics in the early 1980s I decided to write at some point a thorough-going refutation of DM, having come to appreciate the pernicious influence this doctrine has had on revolutionary socialism over the last 140+ years. The publication of John Rees's book in 1998 provided me with the final impetus I needed.


My political views had swung sharply to the left much earlier; this occurred as a result of the very minor part I played in the UK Postal Workers' strike of 1971 -- I had at that time been a postal worker since 1969. This put me in direct sympathy with the left of the Labour Party (as it then was). Several years later, at The University of XXXX, I was introduced to Marxist Humanism by one of my tutors -- a truly remarkable man who possessed the rare gift of being able to explain Marxism in simple, everyday language, expressing Historical Materialism [HM] in eminently comprehensible and ordinary terms, free of the usual Hegelian jargon and Hermetic obscurities.


However, right from the start I was put off Marxism by the philosophical and logical confusion I encountered when reading books and articles on DM -- a theory I thought unworthy of acceptance by anyone with genuine materialist sympathies -- and in works expounding Hegelianised Marxism.


My antipathy toward the tradition from which DM had emerged was significantly intensified by the training I received in Analytic Philosophy from a group of first-rate Philosophers and Logicians at the above University (most of whom were prominent Wittgensteinians and/or Fregeans). This ensured that I would never take Hegel or DM seriously.


And I haven't since!


The election of Margaret Thatcher and the increasingly bitter class struggle this heralded in the UK in the early 1980s drove my opinions further to the left. However, while studying for my PhD on Wittgenstein, I happened to read Gerry Cohen's book, Karl Marx's Theory of History. From then on my opinion of Marxist Philosophy changed dramatically, for even though I couldn't fully agree with Cohen's account of HM, or his politics, I now saw that there was no need to accept the mystical doctrines found in Hegel and DM if I wanted to be a revolutionary.


Hence, a year or so after the defeat of the National Union of Miners in 1985, I joined the UK-SWP, since they seemed to me to be the most sincerely revolutionary and least sectarian group in the UK. In addition, and to their credit, they didn't appear to be lost in the sort of dialectical mist that had engulfed other supposedly revolutionary groups. [Gerry Healy's now defunct WRP comes to mind here.]


Unfortunately, almost as soon as I joined this party the leadership did an about-face and suddenly discovered a new-found liking for DM, and articles expounding Engels's confused philosophical ideas began to appear in their publications. Although I now think I understand why this happened, at the time this turn of events was truly devastating. I just could not understand why Marxists I had come to respect for the clarity of their political, historical and economic analyses had suddenly grown fond of what seemed to me to be little other than Dialectical Mysticism.


As things turned out, I was soon able to witness at first-hand the baleful effect that DM and DL [Dialectical Logic] can have on revolutionary politics -- in this case, on local party activists in XXXX. Several of the latter (in the run up to the defeat of the Poll Tax, and the under direction of the party leadership) began to behave in a most uncharacteristically aggressive and abusive manner, especially toward less 'active' comrades. To be sure, revolutionary groups require commitment from their members, but there are ways of motivating people that do not involve treating them simply as a means to a particular end.


These activists now declared that (among other things) 'dialectical' thinking meant there were no fixed or rigid principles in revolutionary politics -- not even, one presumes, the belief that the emancipation of the working-class is an act of the workers themselves (although, somewhat inconsistently, not one of them drew that particular conclusion!). Everything it seemed had now to be bent toward the 'concrete' practical exigencies of the class struggle. 'Abstract ideas' were ruled out-of-court -- except, of course, for that 'abstract idea'. Only the 'concrete' mattered, even if no one could say what that was without using yet more 'abstractions'!


In practice, this novel turn to the 'concrete' meant that several long-standing members of the party were harangued until they either abandoned the party or they adapted to the "new mood" (as the wider political milieu in the UK was then called by the UK-SWP).


In the latter eventuality it meant that they had to conform to a suicidally increased rate of activity geared around the fight against the Poll Tax, whether or not they or their families suffered as a consequence. At meetings, one-by-one, comrades were isolated and then subjected to a series of grossly unfair and decidedly unpleasant public hectoring sessions (in a small way reminiscent of the sorts of things that went on in the Chinese "Cultural Revolution" -- minus the physical violence, of course -- and, unlike the WRP where beatings were common, so we are told). These serial inquisitions were conducted with no little vehemence by several party 'attack dogs' (working as a sort of ideological 'tag team') until their 'victims' either buckled under the strain or gave up and left the party.


'Dialectical' arguments of remarkable inconsistency were used to 'justify' every convoluted change of emphasis, and counter every objection (declaring them one and all "abstract"), no matter how reasonable they might otherwise have appeared to be. Comrades who were normally quite level-headed became almost monomaniacal in their zeal to search out and re-educate those who were not quite 100% with the program. For some reason, they left me alone, probably because I was highly active at the time -- and maybe because I knew a little philosophy and could defend myself.


In the end, as is evident from the record, the Poll Tax was defeated by strategies other than those advocated by this particular party, and the "new mood" melted away nearly as fast as most of the older comrades soon did -- and, as fate would have it, about as quickly as many of the new members the party had managed to recruit at that time. I don't think that the local party in XXXX has recovered from this period of "applied dialectics" (indeed, from what I can tell, it is about a half to a third of its former size, and thus nowhere near as effective). I have no reason to believe that the national body has managed to avoid a similar fate. Quite the opposite, in fact.


So, for twenty or more years, the UK-SWP have been a fraction of their former size (despite claims to the contrary). Coupled with other splits that have occurred since, this probably explains why they have been unable to capitalise significantly on the widespread radicalisation brought about by the international Anti-Globalisation movement, the fierce opposition to the US/UK invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq (despite the prominent role they played in the Stop the War Coalition), the pathetic weakness of the 'official left' in the UK --, or, indeed, the fight to defend the welfare state, wages and pensions (post 2008).


My guess that there had been a disappointingly low level of recruitment during this period has now been confirmed by this document, and now this. (These have also been indirectly confirmed by this response written by a leading member -- and this, by another.) However, this document tells us that the UK-SWP's registered membership in 2008 was in excess of 6000. (These are due-paying members, but, of these, a sizeable proportion are in fact inactive, which illustrates another recent turn of events -- this wouldn't have been tolerated when I was a member!) There is no way to confirm this figure, but it is inconsistent with other evidence. [On that, see here.]


The UK-SWP used to hold two large annual gatherings each year (one in Skegness around Easter time, and one in London in the summer); this is now down to one. The second of these used to last a whole week, but is now (i.e., from 2007 through to 2013) projected to stretch only over five days, two of which are half days. The recent (2007) split in Respect has further reduced their size and influence. The self-inflicted and suicidal crisis which engulfed the party in 2013/14 has all but finished the party off as an effective force on the left. [More on this presently.]


These conclusions are all the more depressing given the failure of the entire 'Dialectical Left' to make significant progress during the most widespread and militant class resistance mounted by European workers that we have witnessed since at least the early 1970s, and possibly since the Second World War (in opposition to various national 'austerity' programmes). As Richard Seymour noted:


"The 'strategic perplexity' of the left confronted with the gravest crisis of capitalism in generations has been hard to miss. Social democracy continues down the road of social liberalism. The far-left has struggled to take advantage of ruling class disarray. Radical left formations have tended to stagnate at best." [Seymour (2012), p.191. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


Of course, as Richard goes on to point out, there are two notable exceptions to this generalisation -- the gains made by the electoral left in Greece and France --, but it is far from clear that the 'Dialectical Left' have benefitted (or will benefit) from this in any way.


Indeed, a movement that is constantly fragmenting, and which maintains an incessant war between its member parties, isn't likely to grow to a size that will threaten even a handful of bosses or local police chiefs, let alone the entire capitalist class.


Nor is it ever likely to impress radicalised workers or the young.


Chris Bambery made a similar point:


"There is no question that the global recession on the back of the constant 'war on terror' has produced a radicalisation. Anti-capitalism is widespread. Evidence comes from the sheer scale of popular mobilisations over the last decade. Once, achieving a demonstration of 100,000 in Britain was regarded as an immense achievement. When grizzled lefties looked back on the demo of that size against the Vietnam War in October 1968, tears welled in their eyes. Now a London demo has to be counted in hundreds of thousands, to be a success.


"Yet this radicalisation, in Britain at least, has not been accompanied by the growth of any of the political currents which you would expect to benefit from this anti-capitalism. And I mean any, even those who reject the label 'Party'.


"The situation the left finds itself in is worse than when it entered the new century....


"No other period of radicalisation in British history has experienced this lack of any formal political expression. It's not that people opposing austerity, war and much else are without politics. They are busy devouring articles, books, online videos and much else." [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


 Leading ISG member, Alex Snowdon, concurs:


"Let's start with a simple observation: the revolutionary left is not growing. Indeed I am perhaps being generous in referring merely to stagnation rather than decline....


"Yet we live in an age in which many revolutionary socialist groups predict a growth in the revolutionary left -- including whatever their own organisation is -- and indeed sometimes speak as if it's already happening. So for someone from within the revolutionary left -- like me -- to make this comment may be somewhat uncharacteristic.


"There are two reasons why this stagnation might surprise people and therefore requires explanation. One is historical precedent. Previous periods of systemic crisis -- whether the First World War, the 1930s or the post-1968 era -- have led to a growth in the revolutionary left or in other sections of the Left (or both). So shouldn't that be happening now?


"The second reason is that it's not like we have a shortage of resistance to capitalism, or particular aspects of capitalist crisis, in the current period. Shouldn't such phenomena -- Arab revolutions, Occupy, general strikes in southern Europe, a widespread anti-establishment mood etc -- find expression in the growth of the revolutionary left?" [Quoted from here.]


And yet, DM-fans still refuse to consider alternative explanations why this is so!


In relation to the current crisis in the UK-SWP, Alan Gibbons, prominent ex-SWP-er, has spoken about the need to:


"[Break] from the toy Bolshevism that has led to the dominance of monsters like Gerry Healy and to grotesque fractures such have been discussed on these pages, a practice that has meant the Left has failed to grow in circumstances that have looked favourable....


"The Left can point to some successes out of proportion with its size: the Anti Nazi League, the poll tax campaign, the Stop the War campaign. Have these mobilisations resulted in any genuine lasting and durable implantation of the Left? I'm afraid not. It has to be discussed why not. The lessons have to be learned. Then maybe left organisations can handle incidents such as the one which triggered this whole debate with integrity and humanity and not a squalid clumsiness that discredits it." [Quoted from here; 13/01/2013]


This malaise isn't just a UK-, or even a Europe-wide phenomenon; here are the thoughts of a US comrade:


"We should start with the fact that the objective situation is tough and that the left everywhere is having a hard time. Practically no organization or model has succeeded as a consistent challenge to the neoliberal order, and the most inspiring efforts in Greece and Egypt have stalled and been savagely turned back, respectively. The US working class is disorganized and reeling under blow after blow of austerity. The picture is defeat and flaming wreckage all across the front line, and, in Richard Seymour's words, pointing to the example of 'the CTU [Chicago Teachers Union -- RL] will not save us, comrades.' The American capitalist class has done pretty well under Obama's leadership, and profitability is at record levels (though they're not out of the woods of the Great Recession just yet).


"So yes, the world is not making it particularly easy to build a revolutionary socialist organization at the moment (and perhaps for quite a while now). That also makes it more likely that we're getting parts of our perspective and orientation wrong. We cannot allow reference to the objective conditions to become a block to self-evaluation, self-criticism, and change. And on the one hand, to say that objective conditions have been extremely difficult for the past five years does not square with our sense that the onset of the Great Recession would open a new era of radicalization that would allow us to operate more effectively and grow. Nor does it square with the advances in struggle in the Arab Spring and Occupy. Nor does it square with the assertion that there is a 'continuing radicalization' going on right now." [Sid Patel, quoted from here. Accessed 08/02/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


But, who wants to join a movement that will in all likelihood split before they receive their membership card? Or, will descend into yet another wave of scandal and corruption before they attend their first paper sale?


As I have pointed out in several places on the Internet:


"If you read the attempts that have been made so far by comrades to account for this and other crises, you will struggle long and hard and to no avail to find a materialist, class-based 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 we only 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 President, different Senators or MPs! Or, maybe a new constitution with proportional representation allowing us to elect members to Parliament..., yada yada.

"But this is an endemic problem right across our movement, and has been for generations, just as it afflicts most sections of bourgeois society. In which case, we need a new, historical materialist explanation why it keeps happening, or it will keep happening." [Slightly edited and quoted, for example, from here.]


Sadly, this comment of mine has sunk without trace. It seems that comrades still prefer to advance Idealist explanations why the far-left is regularly in crisis:


"There is currently a huge crisis playing itself out within the SWP, the party I have been a member of the past five years. Like many of us warned, this has now spread beyond our ranks into the national press, and has been even been picked up by our international affiliate groups in the International Socialist Tendency. Regardless of [any -- RL] individual's opinion on the details of this case, it can no longer be denied that this issue will create severe repercussions for the party. The CC have failed to lead and much of the membership is demanding an explanation. It is also a dead end to argue that this should stay within the party and we should simply draw a line under it. This is in the national press and silence and failure to recognise the problem would be political suicide with the very people we hope to work with, the movement....


"We need an entirely new leadership, and we need to comprehensively overhaul all the democratic structures of the party." [Quoted from here. Accessed 14/01/2013. Bold emphasis and link added.]


Which means, of course, that this sort of thing will keep on happening. Indeed, it looks like the ISN (set up in 2013 by ex-SWP members) is already fragmenting! Indeed, in late January 2014, the ISN suffered its first serious split.


[My comments at the ISN's website are being routinely deleted (even when they aren't about dialectics!), and I have now been barred from posting there! The ISN seems to have inherited the recently-incipient Stalinism of the old UK-SWP.]


What was that again about those who refuse to learn from history...?


[Essay Nine Part Two even attempts to explain this particular phenomenon, too! (I.e., why comrades refuse to apply a Marxist analysis to Marxism itself.) Indeed, it is aimed at approaching crises like this from an entirely new angle, providing for the first time the beginning of a historical materialist explanation why our movement is constantly in crisis, and what can be done about it.]


After all, if your core theory [DM/MD] has been lifted straight from German Idealism and Mystical Christianity (upside down, or the 'right way up'), is it any wonder that comrades automatically reach for an Idealist explanation for such things?


Another example of the disastrous consequences that result from of this style of politics (and in the IST, too) can be seen in the break-up of SAG in Germany in the early 2000s. [On that, see here.] 


Similar crises have afflicted other revolutionary groups/parties.001 The disintegration of the WRP and the Militant Tendency (that link is a reply to this) confirms that this sort of thing is not only endemic and alarmingly widespread on the far-left, it has been for several generations. Indeed, here is how one ex-WRP member characterised the internal regime of that party (linking the crisis it experienced with the current predicament in which the UK-SWP finds itself -- on that, see also below):


"Rape, however, is a most abusive violent power relation and weapon used for oppression which echoes the exploitative rule of capital itself.  For such a form of abuse to emerge in any so-called socialist organisation -- and to 'deal' with it in the way the SWP has -- reflects the presence of the deepest forms of degeneration and corruption which, in turn, replicates the most insidious and inhuman forms of alienation and oppression of capitalist domination. If a so-called socialist organisation is not a safe place for women to voluntarily participate in its activities, then it is not worthy of the name 'socialist'....


"Historically, and speaking from my early political experience, socialists have witnessed such behaviour before. The dissolution of the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985 was sparked by the discovery that its leader -- Gerry Healy -- had regularly assaulted party members, sexually abusing female comrades for many years and perpetrating various libels and slanders against socialists in other organisations. Healy's secretary -- who was instrumental in exposing his abuses -- listed more than 20 victims. Healy used his position of power in the party to sexually abuse female comrades....


"When Cliff Slaughter in opposition to Healy -- at a meeting in London -- quoted Lenin on morality, Healy et al accused him of purveying bourgeois morality (such accusations will ring a bell with those currently fighting the 'elect' in the SWP) until he actually stated subsequently to the full meeting that he had just quoted from Lenin. This exposed how far Healy & Co had actually moved away from 'their' Lenin on questions of morality. For Healy et al, Lenin was infallible, indisputable gospel. Nobody critiqued Lenin. Volumes 14 and 38 of the Collected Works were treated like divine revelation....


"Corin Redgrave (the now dead brother of the still living actress Vanessa) caused uproar in a meeting in Scotland when he praised what he called Healy's 'achievements' and said that... 'If this is the work of a rapist, then let's recruit more rapists'....


"This was the sort of obscene, anti-socialist, inhuman morality which prevailed in the Workers Revolutionary Party prior to the break-up in 1985. This was used to prop up and validate the bizarre sectarian notions of vanguardism: 'we are the vanguard party', etc. Verbal and physical abuse, coercion, bullying, intimidation, emotional blackmail, humiliation, people re-mortgaging and even losing their houses to fund the party and working all hours (18-hour days were normal for some comrades) were all part of being a 'professional revolutionary' in the WRP. The personal life was 'toast'....


"[All this] was 'complimented' by the most abject philosophical philistinism and  theoretically dissolute publication of Healy's very unremarkable 'Studies in Dialectical Materialism' which turned out to be an incomprehensible dog's dinner of convoluted mumbojumbo phrasemongering and terminological confusion. One comrade in Hull sarcastically recommended it as 'bedtime reading' when I told him I was having trouble sleeping. Because we didn't grasp it, we thought it was 'too advanced' for us. We didn't possess the 'supreme dialectical mind of a Gerry Healy'.  As things turned out, when we looked at it as the fog started to lift, it was clear that we didn't understand it because it was unadulterated gobbledegook. Here again, we see a characteristic of cult-existence in which its leader was, momentarily at least, attributed powers which he really didn't hold. None of us understood the 'Studies' and so we were told to 'theoretically discipline ourselves' like a mental or intellectual form of self-flagellation or 'penance' found in physical form in some religious cults or sects....


"Many people did actually have mental breakdowns even after the break-up of the WRP. Homes broken. Divorces. Families destroyed. 'Building the party' was simultaneously the point of departure and the point of return. Everything else was subservient to this manic 'party-building'....


"The 'leaders' of these sectarian groups -- these minilenins and tinytrotskys -- tend to attract the same degree of reverence from their rather uncritical membership as a charismatic neo-prophet does from the enchanted congregation of his cult. The social psychology is fundamentally the same. Until, of course, a profound crisis sets in which shakes everything to its foundations. And sexual abuse in a so-called socialist organisation is such a crisis....


"Meanwhile today, in March 2013, 28 years post-Healy, the Socialist Workers Party remains open to the accusation that it is harbouring rapists and sexual predators whilst two women socialists are insisting that they have been sexually abused by the accused man who is still free to prowl around the female membership. [The ex-comrade involved has since resigned from the SWP in order to avoid having to answer further accusations of sexual harassment levelled at him by the second of the two female comrades mentioned above -- RL.]" [Quoted from here; accessed 09/10/13. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]


Anyone familiar with the history of Trotskyism either side of the Atlantic, and elsewhere, over the last 70 years or so will know that this isn't just a UK phenomenon. Indeed, it is now such a deeply entrenched, even stereotypical feature of Trotskyism world-wide, to such an extent that it has turned the whole tradition into a laughing stock.



The People's Front Of Judea -- Now A Cliché,

But Still Painfully Accurate


Indeed, here is what Wikipedia has to say about UK Trotskyist outfit, Workers Power:


"In 2006 the League for the Fifth International suffered a split which particularly affected the British section. The minority, which left to form Permanent Revolution believed that the world economy was in a long upward wave (a position they adopted from Ernest Mandel) and that the possibility of a crisis of capitalism was unlikely for several more years. They criticised the majority as having an overly optimistic perspective or a pre-revolutionary period.


"In 2012, two further groups split, one criticised Workers Power's position on the NATO intervention in Libya and 16 more left to launch what the majority described as the 'liquidationist' Anti-Capitalist Initiative, the latter reducing Workers Power's membership by about a third." [Quoted from here. Accessed 19/12/2013. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; links in the original.]


As well as this about the League for the Fifth International:


"In July 2006 the League expelled its Australian section, its sympathising group in Ireland and a large minority of its British section. The International Faction was planning to split the organisation on the eve of its Seventh Congress in Prague.


"In the previous two years, the International Faction (first as a tendency), had struggled against the perspectives and orientation of the League. In particular, they rejected the view that since the turn of the century there had been an intensification in class struggle, that the world economy was either 'stagnant' or demonstrated a 'tendency towards stagnation' in the imperialist heartlands, which the League had summarised as marking a 'pre-revolutionary period'. Instead, they argued that capitalism had entered on a 'long upward wave' following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeats of the working class movement in the 1970s/80s and that the League had exaggerated the extents to which breaks had occurred in social democracy. The League regarded the credit crunch, global financial crisis and recession as vindicating its analysis and published a critique of the theory of the long wave in its book The Credit Crunch -- a Marxist Analysis.


"The International Faction subsequently launched a new group Permanent Revolution. This followed the expulsion of some members of the League's Austrian section." [Quoted from here. Accessed 19/12/2013. Italic emphasis and link in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Permanent Revolution's side of the story can be accessed here.]


Details of the degeneration, decline and disintegration of the US-SWP can be accessed here, here, and here. A similar punch-up in the CPGB a few years ago is described here. There was also a serious split in the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) in 2010, and then another split a few months later -- subsequently hailed as its exact opposite: a 'success'! [On that, see here.]


Sad though it is to say, Trotskyism's one (and perhaps only) major 'success' story has been to split more times than a schizophrenic Amoeba on speed, which is, of course, one reason why it has been such a long-term failure.


Believe it or not, there are comrades who will bemoan this fact in one breath, but in the very next will refuse even to countenance the idea that their core theory ('Materialist Dialectics') has got anything to do with it! They won't even consider it as a remote possibility -- nor yet even as one aspect of a partial explanation why our side has witnessed 150 years of almost total failure. The possibility itself is rejected out-of-hand, and with no little vehemence.


[Why they all do this is explained in detail here. Anyone who doubts the above allegation should check out the hostile response I received here, here, and here for merely suggesting this as one possible contributory factor. Or, indeed, dear reader, take note of the response you will get, too, if you try out the following experiment for yourself: Suggest the remote possibility -- even so much as tentatively advance this idea -- that DM/MD might be a partial cause of just some of our woes. The hostility, abuse and vituperation that will surely greet you has now become an almost knee-jerk reaction.]


Stalinism and Maoism are, it seems, far less fragmentary, but that is only because they have a long and bloody record of imprisoning, torturing and/or killing those who stray too far from the 'path of righteousness' --, as opposed to their merely being expelled from the party.


One wonders, therefore, what would become of dialectical-dissidents if Trotskyists ever managed to secure real power.


The vitriol, hostility, lies and smears I have had to face now for many years suggest I'd not last long in such an eventuality! One prominent Marxist Professor of Economics, Andrew Kliman, in an e-mail exchange, expressed the fervent hope I should "Eat sh*t and die!" -- either that or quaff some Hemlock -- simply because I had the temerity to question the 'sacred dialectic'. [This was repeated here (in the comments section) in October 2013, but it was deleted by the moderators because of the violent and intemperate nature of the language the good Professor had thought to use!] Another SWP comrade (implicitly) accused me of being worse than the Nazis, and for the same reason! Incidentally, this comrade has now left the UK-SWP.


And yet this is the movement that is supposed to herald a new and better era for humanity!


This series of events initiated a train of thought: as is apparent to anyone with unblinkered eyes, Dialectical Marxism [DIM] is one the most unsuccessful major political movements in human history -- almost bar none. Given its bold aims, totalising theory and the fact that it is supposed to represent the interests and aspirations of the vast bulk of humanity, the opposite should in fact be the case. But it isn't.


As noted earlier, the record of Trotskyism is, if anything, even worse; in fact, it is little short of disgraceful. And I say that as a Trotskyist!


To be sure, these observations are somewhat less true of Academic Marxism, a hardy perennial that largely sprang to life sometime in the 1960s, and is still going strong -- but, alas, to nowhere in particular.


In fact, the political 'effectiveness' of this current has been conspicuous by its absence -- which is an odd sort of thing to have to say of those comrades in Universities and Colleges around the world who spare no effort reminding us that truth is tested in practice (or praxis, to use the buzz-word). For these individuals, "practice" seems to mean little more than attending seminars, endlessly discussing obscure philosophical conundrums on Internet mailing lists, writing blogs and obscure articles or books that not one single worker will ever see --, except perhaps briefly in the print room before being shipped.


Ironically, just as the richest of Christian Churches in the world attempt to 'justify' the brazenly luxurious life-style of Cardinals and Bishops while claiming to represent a man who lived in absolute poverty, and who condemned wealth, so these academic comrades claim to be furthering the "world-view of the proletariat" with theories that few without a PhD can hope to 'comprehend'.


Although at the time I had no way of proving it, the local events mentioned earlier suggested that an allegiance to DM might have something to do with this wider, but suitably ironic, "unity of opposites" -- namely: the long-term failure of a movement that should in fact be hugely successful.


The thought then occurred to me that perhaps this paradoxical situation -- wherein a political movement that avowedly represents the interests of the vast bulk of humanity is ignored by all but a few -- was linked in some way to the contradictory theory at its heart: DM.


Perhaps this was part of the reason why all revolutionary groups remain small, fragmentary, and lack significant influence? Indeed, could this theory be related to the unprincipled (if not manipulatively instrumental) way that these 'Disciples of the Dialectic' tend to treat, use and/or abuse one another?


Maybe it also had something to do with the rapidity with which former 'friends' and 'comrades' regularly descend into lying, gossip-mongering, fabricating and smearing one another -- for example, in the recent collapse of UK-Respect (but not just there).


Indeed, a good place to sample much of this 'comradely banter' is over at the Socialist Unity website -- aptly so-named, presumably, because it (unwittingly, perhaps even 'dialectically' manages to do the opposite -- its 'owner' is, or used to be, a huge fan of the 'dialectic') records and/or encourages the exact opposite tendency. A significantly large (minor) fraction of its space was until recently devoted to highlighting every negative factoid (of dubious provenance) it could lay its hands on to rubbish the UK-SWP (and its 'leaders'), and now, Leninism in general (its owner having collapsed into supporting that well known 'socialist' fighting force, the UK Labour Party!). Many of the contributions in the comments section (at the end of each article) are even more hostile and uncomradely. The level of abuse and vitriol shown there toward fellow comrades just has to be seen to be believed. Small wonder then that very few female comrades venture there (especially given the content of the next couple of paragraphs).


Update, September 2012: The aforementioned 'comradely' acrimony and vitriol re-surfaced in the late summer of 2012 over the controversy around Julian Assange and his alleged rape of two Swedish women -- which controversy was seriously compounded by the offensive remarks George Galloway subsequently made about rape; on that see here and here (especially in the comments section). See also here, here, here, here, and here.


Readers will no doubt notice that Socialist Unity has degenerated to such an extent that it is now trying to defend Galloway, and brush aside his remarks on rape as a 'mis-statement'. This, from one of the left's most eloquent speakers?! The controversy prompted the resignation of two of Respect's leading female members.


Update, January 2013: As one ex-UK-SWP-er, Tony Collins, has noted in relation to the latest (i.e., January 2013) crisis in the UK-SWP:


"The problem is, there is a certain way of seeing any discussion of the far-left that's started by someone who isn't a part of it. He must by definition be an enemy and we must therefore believe he's trying to destroy the left....


"That's what happens on the far-left. We sort of have these instinctive reactions. You can see glimpses of this all over the net right now, with SWP members openly attacking each other, something I've not seen ever. There's a cult-like hatred of people who used to be allies." [Quoted from here; 14/01/2013. Bold emphasis added.]


Of course, vitriol like this isn't just confined to Marxists circles, it is found also among feminists, and has been for years:


"Yet even as online feminism has proved itself a real force for change, many of the most avid digital feminists will tell you that it's become toxic. Indeed, there's a nascent genre of essays by people who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in it -- not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists. On January 3, for example, Katherine Cross, a Puerto Rican trans woman working on a PhD at the CUNY Graduate Centre, wrote about how often she hesitates to publish articles or blog posts out of fear of inadvertently stepping on an ideological land mine and bringing down the wrath of the online enforcers. 'I fear being cast suddenly as one of the "bad guys" for being insufficiently radical, too nuanced or too forgiving, or for simply writing something whose offensive dimensions would be unknown to me at the time of publication,' she wrote....


"Further, as Cross says, 'this goes to the heart of the efficacy of radical movements.' After all, this is hardly the first time that feminism -- to say nothing of other left-wing movements -- has been racked by furious contentions over ideological purity. Many second-wave feminist groups tore themselves apart by denouncing and ostracizing members who demonstrated too much ambition or presumed to act as leaders. As the radical second-waver Ti-Grace Atkinson famously put it: 'Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.'


"In 'Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood,' a 1976 Ms. magazine article, Jo Freeman described how feminists of her generation destroyed one another. Trashing, she wrote, is 'accomplished by making you feel that your very existence is inimical to the Movement and that nothing can change this short of ceasing to exist. These feelings are reinforced when you are isolated from your friends as they become convinced that their association with you is similarly inimical to the Movement and to themselves. Any support of you will taint them…. You are reduced to a mere parody of your previous self.'


"Like the authors of #Femfuture, Freeman was trashed for presuming to represent feminism without explicit sanction, in this case of the group she'd founded with Shulamith Firestone. It began, she told me, when the left-wing magazine Ramparts published a neck-down picture of a woman in a leotard with a button hanging from one breast. The group decided to write a letter to the editor. Four members drafted one without Freeman's knowledge, and when they presented it to the rest of the group, she realized it was too long and would never be printed. Freeman had magazine experience, and she decided to write a pithier letter of her own under her movement name, Joreen. When Ramparts published it but not the other one, the women in her group were apoplectic, and Freeman was excoriated at their next meeting. 'That was a public trashing,' she says. 'I was horrible, disloyal, a traitor.' It went beyond mere criticism: 'There's a difference between trashing someone and challenging them. You can challenge someone's idea. When you're trashing someone, you're essentially saying they're a bad person.'


"For feminists today, knowing that others have been through similar things is not necessarily comforting. 'Some of it is the product of new technologies that create more shallow relationships, and some of it feels like this age-old conundrum within feminism,' Martin [this is feminist activist, Courtney Martin, mentioned near the beginning of this article -- RL] says. 'How do we disentangle what part is about social media and what part is about the way women interact with one another? If there's something inherent about the way women work within movements that makes us assholes to each other, that is incredibly sad.'" [Michelle Goldberg, quoted from here; accessed 30/01/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; some links added. Spelling adjusted to UK-English.]


Naturally, in this case, DM is hardly to blame (in fact, as I have pointed out, DM simply makes a bad situation worse).


[In Essay Nine Part two I examine several HM reasons why this sort of thing keeps happening right across the left, and not just the Marxist left.]


Update July 2013: The crisis in the UK-SWP seems to be building again, with the level of vitriol {this link now appears to be dead!] reaching new heights (so we are told):


"Symptomatic of this, the atmosphere in the SWP is becoming fractious and poisonous. Accusations of the hacking of opposition email accounts and epithets like 'malignant tumour' and 'systematic liar' are thick in the air. The responsibility for this criminal, sectarian vandalism lies exclusively with the leadership; the comrades of the opposition, whatever our disagreements with them, are rebelling against a crass bureaucratic regime of an unaccountable, apparatus power. They deserve the solidarity of all partisans of the workers movement." [Quoted from here. I have no way of knowing whether or not these allegations are true, but if they are, it wouldn't surprise me; 'defending our tradition' in such a climate amounts to doing whatever it takes to rubbish, demean, misrepresent or trash 'the opposition'.]


Yet more vitriol and personal abuse between UK-SWPers and ex-members can be found here, in the main article, and in the comments posted at the end.


Update October 2013: The leadership of the SWP have just attempted to mount a rearguard defence of their conduct (on that see here); for a response, see here.


Update December 2013: The SWP held their 2014 annual conference several weeks early because of the growing storm in the party. From Twitter feeds it looks like at least another fifty members have resigned (including Ian Birchall -- check out his measured resignation letter --, Dave Renton, Jonathan Neale, Charlie Hore, Pat Stack, Neil Davidson, and Colin Wilson) as a result of several things that were said from the platform and the motions that were passed. It is highly likely that several hundred more will soon follow suite.


Even more shocking, this was reported to have been said at the conference:


"We aren't rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth -- and guess what, some women and children lie." [Quoted from here. Several other sources on Twitter confirmed this.]


What is worse, it received a round of applause!


Update 30/12/2013: Indeed, there has now been a mass resignation of 165 comrades from the SWP.


Witness, too, the animosity and personal abuse also apparent in the recent (i.e., Summer 2007) split in the US Communist League, and the even more recent feud (February 2008) in the Maoist RCP-US. A similar, dialectically-fuelled bust-up is currently underway (2007/08 -- this link now appears to be dead!) in the US wing of the ICFI. The recent split (2009/10 -- this link also appears to be dead!) in the IMT/WIL was no less rancorous.


And, here is a revealing comment made by the IMT on the above split:


"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 emphasis added. (On the reaction of their former comrades in the Militant Tendency, see here.)]


Notice how yet more splits and expulsions somehow 'strengthen' the movement! Gerry Healy, DM-Guru par excellence, was well known for holding the same view.


Here is how some members of the IST responded to the crisis that engulfed the UK-SWP in 2012/13:


"[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.]


And 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 to the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]


This is clearly the Trotskyist equivalent of the Maoist idea that "retreat is attack" (justified by an appeal to the 'unity of opposites') put about by Ai Ssu-ch'i in the 1930s (on that, see here). How and why comrades come up with such contradictory ideas is -- as should seem obvious by now -- a direct result of the contradictory theory which has them in its thrall.


[More details here, here, and here.]


As I have pointed out in Essay Nine Part One:


Here lies the source of much of the corruption we see in Dialectical Marxism. If your core theory allows you to justify anything you like and its opposite (since it glories in contradiction), then your party can be as undemocratic as you please while you argue that it is 'dialectically' the opposite and is the very epitome of democratic accountability. It will also 'allow' you to claim that your party is in the vanguard of the fight against all forms of oppression, all the while covering up, ignoring, justifying, rationalising, excusing or explaining away sexual abuse and rape in that very same party. After all, if you are used to 'thinking dialectically', an extra contradiction or two is simply more grist to the dialectical mill!


And if you complain, well you just don't 'understand' dialectics...


One thing is for sure: we can expect much more of the same before we finally allow the ruling-class to screw the planet, courtesy of our own studied idiocy.


It is difficult, therefore, to disagree with much of the following:


"British politics urgently needs a new force -- a movement on the Left to counter capitalism's crisis


"Capitalism is in crisis, but its opponents are writhing around in an even bigger mess. The largest far-left organisation in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, is currently imploding in the aftermath of a shocking internal scandal. After a leading figure was accused of raping a member, the party set up a 'court' staffed with senior party members, which exonerated him. 'Creeping feminism' has been flung around as a political insult. Prominent members, such as authors China Miéville and Richard Seymour, have publicly assailed their party's leadership. Activists are reported to be in open rebellion at their autocratic leadership, or are simply deserting en masse.


"This might all sound parochial, the obscure goings-on out on the fringes of Britain's marginal revolutionary left. But the SWP has long punched above its weight. It formed the basis of the organisation behind the Stop The War Coalition, for example, which -- almost exactly a decade go -- mobilised up to two million people to take to the streets against the impending Iraqi bloodbath. Even as they repelled other activists with sectarianism and aggressive recruitment drives, they helped drive crucial movements such as Unite Against Fascism, which recently organised a huge demonstration in Walthamstow that humiliated the racist English Defence League. Thousands hungry for an alternative to the disaster of neo-liberalism have entered the SWP's ranks over the years -- many, sadly, to end up burnt out and demoralised....


"But the truth is that Britain urgently needs a movement uniting all those desperate for a coherent alternative to the tragedy of austerity, inflicted on this country without any proper mandate....


"The history -- and failures -- of the radical left are imprinted on my own family, spanning four generations: my relatives had wages docked in the 1926 General Strike and joined failed projects ranging from the Independent Labour Party to the Communists. My parents met in the Trotskyist Militant Tendency in the late 1960s; my father became their South Yorkshire organiser, and striking miners babysat my brothers while he fought (unsuccessfully) for revolution....


"Neither would I argue for yet another party of the left to be built, Leninist or not. Britons are becoming poorer with every passing year; the wealthy elite continues to boom -- the increase in the fortunes of the richest 1,000 since 2008 eclipses our annual deficit; and Labour's leaders are still to offer a genuine alternative to austerity. But parties challenging Labour for the mantle of the left languish, as they have almost always done, in political oblivion. In the by-election in Manchester Central back in November, for example, the catchily titled Trade Union and Socialist Coalition won an embarrassing 220 votes and was even beaten by the Pirate Party. If not now, comrades, then when?


"...But it is absurd that -- as we live through a Great Reverse of living standards and hard-won rights -- the opponents of austerity are scattered and fragmented. Even as their poison drives up debt, poverty and long-term unemployment alike, the High Priests of Austerity remain perversely united.


"Ugly forces are more than happy to benefit from a widespread mood of revulsion at the political establishment. Nigel Farage has benefited from a ubiquitous presence on our TV screens -- so much for a left-wing conspiracy at [the BBC] -- but Ukip is thriving too as a collective middle finger stuck up at our rulers. If the left cannot pull itself together half a decade after global capitalism started to totter, the populist right knows a vacuum when it sees one." [Owen Jones, The Independent, 20/01/2013. Some links added.]


Just when the biggest attack on workers' living standards the world has witnessed in many a generation -- perhaps ever -- gains momentum, the far-left has shot itself in the head. Just when the Far Right and the fascists are mobilising, we have fatally compromised our ability to resist and fight back.


Are we just unlucky? Or, are there deeper structural and ideological reasons for our continual screw-ups?


Other questions soon forced themselves upon me: Could it be that DM is connected with the tendency almost all revolutionary groups have of wanting to substitute themselves for the working-class --, or, at least, for excusing the substitution of other forces for workers, be they Red Army tanks, Maoist guerrillas, Central Committees, radicalised students, 'sympathetic' or 'progressive' nationalist leaders...? Indeed, has this theory been used to 'justify' and/or rationalise all manner of opportunistic and cynical political twists and about-turns (some of which took place literally overnight -- like those we witnessed in connection with the manoeuvrings of the CPSU and the CCP in the 1920s and 1930s), which helped destroy several revolutions, demobilise workers' struggles, and indirectly lead to the death of millions of proletarians in the lead up to, and during WW2, and since?


[As we shall see, the answer to the above questions is unequivocally in the affirmative.]


And we wonder why workers still distrust us!


It seemed to me that by researching these and related questions it might help explain why revolutionary socialism has been so depressingly unsuccessful for so long. Indeed, if there are no fixed principles (according to the fixed principle that there aren't any!), it isn't the least bit surprising that comrades treat one another -- and are treated in return -- in an unprincipled and manipulative way. Or that they use Marxism to justify whatever is politically expedient.


In that case, isn't DM just another aspect of the "muck of ages" that Marx claimed humanity had to cast aside if a socialist society is to be created?


Maybe not; but shouldn't it be?


Monumental lack of success (lasting now for over one hundred and fifty years -- which means that this isn't just an ephemeral feature of the movement) sits rather awkwardly with the emphasis dialecticians constantly place on practice as a test of truth. Despite this long history of almost complete failure, DM-theorists still declare Marxism a success! This they say is because it has been "tested in practice", and has not been found wanting.


Now, to ordinary observers, denials like this resemble (rather too uncomfortably) the refusal to admit to any damage made famous by the Black Knight in Monty Python And The Holy Grail; no matter what body part this joker lost, he still claimed he was winning.



Video One: The Black Knight -- 'Punching Above His Weight'?


In fact, anyone who has tried to persuade the DM-faithful that DIM has been, and still is an abject failure might just as well try to convince them that Marx was made of cream cheese for all the progress they will make. In fact, any such attempt won't even register --, so deep in the sand has the collective dialectical head been inserted.


[DIM = Dialectical Marxism/Marxist, depending on context.]


[Of course, the obverse of this is the widely held view (and held not just by ex-Marxists) that Marxism itself is an abject failure, those advancing this idea failing to note that non-DIM hasn't even been road tested yet!]


An irrational compulsion to see the world as other than it really is, is something Marxists quite rightly lay at the door of our class-enemies. But, it now looks like this psychological defect has come home to roost, and is nesting securely in each dialectical skull.


[As we will see in Essay Nine Part Two, both of these phenomena have the same materialist causes.]


This suggested to me that DM might actually insulate militant minds from reality, and that this might indeed be part of its appeal: the role it occupies as an 'opiate', numbing the critical faculties.


Indeed, the radically perverse nature of dialectics might help convince otherwise alert revolutionaries that even if what they can see with their own eyes contradicts the abstract idea (it certainly isn't concrete!) that Marxism has been tested successfully in practice, this disparity can be discounted since MD also teaches that appearances 'contradict' reality. In that case, incongruities of the order of magnitude mentioned above are only to be expected. What is worse: this incongruity only serves to further confirm the theory!


In a world supposedly full of 'contradictions' what else is to be expected?


Hence, no material fact (no matter how obvious or damning) is allowed to count against the fixed idea that DIM has been, and still is, eminently successful.


This is, perhaps, one unchanging belief over which the infamous Heraclitean Flux has no hold, for it seems to be the only belief that remains rock solid year in, year out.


Anyone who doubts this need only read the neurotically up-beat reports one constantly encounters in most revolutionary papers, and on the vast majority of Marxist websites (with few notable exceptions): everything is always coming up roses, all the time. Major set-backs are largely ignored, and the smallest success is hyped out of all proportion and hailed as if it were of cosmic significance.


Figure One: Great Moments On The Left 001


Hence, when a couple of dozen hard-boiled, leather-necked, brick-faced Bolsheviks gather together in some god-forsaken hotel in the suburbs, we are regaled with the glad tidings that this marks a significant advance for the world proletariat! Except, of course, no one bothered to tell all four billion of them, and the latter happily returned that complement by staying away in their billions. A month later, and what do we find? This 'party of the working-class' has split, with one half expelling the other, or vice versa --, and, as if to rub it in, even that is hailed as a major advance for the toiling masses (as, indeed, we saw above with the IMT)!



Figure Two: Great Moments On The Left 002


The situation in the USA, with respect to the ISO, seems to be somewhat similar, as one comrade recently pointed out:


"And there is, finally, the question of the group's size and impact. A lot of games have been played with the categories of 'quantitative' and 'qualitative' since Convention, as if these have nothing to do with one another. In particular, while it is now basically admitted that the ISO has shrunk over the last several years, the leadership faction claims that the group's 'quality' has improved. Now it is theoretically possible for a group to decline in numbers and grow in strength–if, for example, ten 'random' comrades quit and we recruit five people in a single important workplace, we probably would be stronger–but the implications of what comrades are saying in the concrete context are really quite chilling. That is, it is being argued that shedding cadre is neither bad nor even neutral, but a positive good.


"In truth, the ISO has declined quantitatively and qualitatively since 2008, just like the international left generally. The fact that this has happened to basically everyone indicates that powerful 'objective' factors are engaged; the decline in itself is arguably not a sin. What is a sin–always and under any circumstances–is lying to oneself about it." [Quoted from here; accessed 03/11/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; link in the original.]


The conclusion of the above comment is even more apposite if DM is used (in the shape of "quantity and quality") to reconfigure a serious set-back as its opposite (again, this is the equivalent of Maoist idea that "retreat is attack" -- justified by an appeal to the 'unity of opposites' --, an idea invented by Ai Ssu-ch'i in the 1930s; on that, see here). Here is another excellent example of this above phenomenon.


Self-deception of this order of magnitude is clearly pathological.


Check out the rabid optimism that (up till recently) swept through Respect, and then Respect Renewal (the 'breakaway' party), especially here (where even the cake that was served was "marvellous"!) --, and this after yet another split! 300 or so bedraggled comrades roll up 150 years after the Communist Manifesto was published and this is something to shout from the rooftops! Of course, all this optimism has now been replaced by fragmentation and bitter recrimination, as we saw above.


And these numpties still refuse even to be told!


Single-celled organisms learn far faster, it seems.


To be sure, not everyone involved in the above split was a fan of 'the dialectic' (even though significant sections of it were); here, the social-, class-origin and -nature of the vast majority of those involved are the key factors, for it is in this petty-bourgeois soil that sectarianism festers -- aggravated, of course, by this mystical 'theory'.


[This was analysed in more detail in Essay Nine Part Two.]


A one hundred and fifty year mismatch between theory and observation -- of this order of magnitude -- would normally sink an honest theory (i.e., a scientific theory), but not DM. Because of this 'theory', the message delivered to the dialectical brain is inverted into its opposite, thus becoming a powerful re-confirmation of the very theory that instructs believers to expect just such discrepancies, just such contradictions! Theorists who proudly proclaim their materialist credentials can now 'safely' ignore material reality (since the latter is merely an 'appearance'), and cling to the comforting (theoretical) idea that the tide of history is on their side.


The fact that most dialecticians buy into this rosy view of reality (and cling to it even more desperately after its true nature has been exposed) suggests that something has gone badly wrong inside these Hermetically compromised craniums.


Dialectical Myopia is, alas, movement-wide; it afflicts Maoists and Stalinists, Orthodox Trotskyists and Libertarian Communists, Non-orthodox Trotskyists. Left Communists, 'Green Marxists' and Academic Marxists alike. In fact, the deep sectarian divisions that have split the movement from top to bottom, and for generations, haven't succeeded in dividing opinion in this one area: while 'every other tendency is an abject failure and is thus a traitor to the cause', the members of each individual tradition/party judge themselves to be success incarnate.


In a world governed by topsy-turvy logic like this, fantasy easily replaces fact, and wish-fulfilment conveniently replaces reality.


The near universal and long-term rejection of DIM by almost every section of the working-class can thus be flipped upside down to become the source of DIM's strongest support! If workers disdain Marxism, then the theory that inverted this material fact -- transforming it into the contrary idea that workers do not really do this (since they are blinded by "false consciousness", have been 'bought-off' by imperialist super-profits, or have succumbed to 'commodity fetishism') -- at one stroke becomes both cause and consequence of the failure of revolutionary politics to "seize the masses". That is because hard-core fantasy like this actually prevents its dialectical victims from facing up to the long-term problems confronting Marxism. If there are no problems with the core theory, then plainly none need be addressed!


So, the theory that helps keep Marxism consistently unsuccessful is the very same theory that tells those held in its thrall that the opposite is the case, and that nothing need be done about it, even while it insulates the militant mind from recalcitrant reality that inconveniently says different.


This means that the DM-inspired negators of material reality can now safely ignore the fact that it universally negates their theory. DM has now been rotated through 180 degrees in order to conform to the idea that whatever happens will always be a victory for socialism (at least in the long term -- er..., or, ...someday soon..., er..., anyway, the movement is building, anger is growing...).


This is a contradiction of such prodigious proportions that only those who "understand" dialectics are properly capable of "grasping" it!


Ironically enough, for a theory ostensively created by hard-nosed Bolsheviks, the Ideal now stands proudly on its feet, the material world having been unceremoniously up-ended.


But, if anything and everything that happens in nature and society can be made to agree with this 'theory', if decades of defeats, set-backs, splits and disasters count for nothing, how can it reasonably be maintained that practice is a test of truth? What exactly is being tested if reality is so easily ignored? If DM can't fail, whatever happens, why bother with such an empty charade?


The short answer is, of course, that practice has never been used to test the truth of DIM (despite what the brochure says). Had it been, there would be no DM-supporters left to question this latest allegation, since all would have seen DIM for what it is -- failure writ large, refuting a theory writ small --, and given up.


If one hundred and fifty years of defeat, retreat and disaster are anything to go by, we can safely conclude one or more of the following: (a) If practice is a criterion of truth, DIM stands refuted; (b) If practice is a criterion of truth, it hasn't yet been applied to DIM itself; (c) Practice isn't a reliable test of truth; or (d) All of the above.


If these allegations skim somewhere close to the truth, it would seem reasonable to suppose that an adherence to DM should possess other noxious side-effects, which its adepts might prefer not to confront, or which they can be expected to try to invert in like manner.


Perhaps this theory has helped aggravate the following unappealing DM-traits: (a) Mean-spirited intolerance invariably shown by comrades of one group toward those of any and all others, (b) Sectarian in-fighting over minor theoretical differences (in the interpretation of this or that vanishingly small dialectical thesis), (c) The cult of personality, and (d) Substitutionist tendencies displayed by almost all 'professional' revolutionaries.


Maybe DM is also linked to one of more of the following: (e) The anti-democratic promulgation of dogmatic theses by cabal-like Central Committees, (f) The casuistical rationalisation of dictatorial internal party structures, (g) The inconsistent tactical manoeuvrings based on the adoption of openly contradictory 'principles' (as proof, no doubt, that the dialectic is working through this or that tiny sect -- on the 'sound' dialectical basis that if nature is contradictory, the party and its tactics must be, too), (h) The megalomaniacal idea that a handful of militants gathered together in, say, a flat in Camden is authorised to issue demands on behalf of the "International Proletariat", (i) An irrational devotion to quasi-mystical theses -- involving, among other things, a belief in the 'infinite', a commitment to the idea that nature is a unified whole where everything is interconnected, the brazenly animistic idea that the universe is in what can only be described as an endless 'argument' with itself (evidenced by the alleged fact that there exist real "contradictions" in nature and society) --, and finally (j) The tendency practically all dialecticians have for quoting Holy Writ in answer to any and all objections (and this from comrades who are otherwise proud of their independence of mind!).


All of these, and more, can be attributed (in part or in whole) to an acceptance of the 'dialectic'; and they will be in what follows at this site. The wide-spread prevalence of these faults is hardly surprising given the fact that the philosophical principles underlying DM can be traced back to the ideas of ancient and early modern Mystics, whose theories mirrored and expressed well-known ruling-class forms-of-thought.


[The above allegations are substantiated in the following Essays: Nine Parts One and Two, Twelve and Fourteen (summaries here, here and here) -- I have linked to summaries since the latter two Essays haven't yet been published.]


The unity, self-discipline and grass-roots democracy that the class war progressively forces onto workers stands in stark contrast to the petty sectarian divisiveness found in all known revolutionary parties. Amazingly, comrades can still be found who will argue that while, on the one hand, workers must organise collectively to defend themselves, on the other, they will tell anyone who will listen that voting to expel this or that faction from that or this party will ("historically") advance the cause of the working class!


This is yet another 'unity of opposites' for puzzled readers to ponder.


The fact that dialecticians cannot even see the incongruity here speaks volumes in itself. Of course, such splits are often connected with the drive to maintain doctrinal 'purity' (or "unity in action"), but that implicates dialectics all the more It is only because the DM-classics are treated biblically that the notion of doctrinal purity makes sense to begin with. Indeed, just like the Bible, the fathomless obscurity of Hegel's Logic works admirably well in this regard --, all this, of course, compounded by the lesser DM-works that have fed off this Mystical Motherlode in the meantime.


The class origin of professional and semi-professional revolutionaries -- coupled with the ideologically-compromised theory they espouse -- helps account for the radical mis-match between the genuine political/economic concerns of the working-class and the irrelevant philosophical ideas spouted by these self-appointed 'class-warriors', and 'tribunes' of the people.


The differential effect on workers and revolutionaries of either or both of these is instructive: while the class war drives the former together, it forces the latter apart.


This needs explaining --, and so it has been in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.


If, as a result of the action of well-known economic and social forces, working people have had to unite to defend themselves, then maybe the all too easy fragmentation witnessed in our 'movement' can similarly be explained as the result of other, less well-appreciated social and ideological forces -- those inherent perhaps in the class origin (and current class position) of prominent comrades. As Marx noted:


"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."


Social being might indeed determine the ideological predilections of leading Marxists, none of whom were beamed down to this planet as fully-formed rebels. As members of the human race, dialecticians are surely not above the material pressures that shape the rest of us; but you would never be able to guess that from examining the inflated view they have of themselves. As far as they are concerned, social forces have by-passed any and all involvement in the formation of their ideas.


[The accusation that this is "crude reductionism" is defused here.]


Otherwise, it must be a sheer coincidence that DM shares most of its core theses with the belief-systems of practically every mystic who has ever walked the earth --, the members of which group, as bad luck would have it, also occupied a analogous class position and thus had a commensurate need for mystical consolation.


It must also be 'coincidental' that DIM shares with every mystical belief-system the same propensity to fragment and split.


Is it beyond the realms of possibility that the historical forces, which originally helped shape class society -- and which also gave birth to the ideas of those who still benefit from this --, have played their own part this glaring antinomy?


Those who think not need go no further. I have no desire to wake you from your slumber...


For the rest: if it can be shown that DM was derived from, and belongs to an ancient and divisive philosophical tradition, which developed alongside and nurtured class conflict (as indeed it can be shown), this might help explain why DIM has witnessed little other than fragmentation, sectarian division, and unremitting failure almost from its inception. If DM is indeed part of a theoretical tradition that owes its life to ruling-class patterns-of-thought, its tendency to foment and exacerbate division will thus have a materialist explanation.


Is this then the historical and ideological source of the deeply engrained sectarian and substitutionist thinking in our movement?


It certainly is.


Even better, it is possible to show that it is.


It thus became clear to me that if these un-comradely vices were to be eradicated from our movement, this malignant tumour (DM) must be completely excised from it.


Of course, this isn't to suggest that dialectics is the only reason for the persistent failure of Marxist ideas to "seize the masses", but it certainly helps explain why revolutionary parties tend to be permanently tiny, persistently factional, steadfastly suspicious, religiously sectarian, routinely authoritarian, studiously insular, worryingly substitutionist, monumentally unsuccessful, consistently inconsistent and profoundly unreasonable.


In fact, and on the contrary, had such vices led to success, that is what would need explaining!




A supporter of this site raised some of these issues at a national gathering of the UK-SWP in London in July 1990. The reception he/she received from one large meeting suggested two things. (1) That there were many comrades in and around that party (at that time) who thought like he/she did but had no focus for their views, and (2) That the party leadership would resist any attempt to undermine their collective commitment to the sacred Dialectical Mantra.


For personal (not political) reasons I let my membership of this party lapse in the early 1990s, and although I have been active around several issues since (for example, in connection with the big demonstrations in support of the NUM in the early 1990s and those in opposition to US/UK/Israeli aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon in 2003-08), my links with the UK-SWP have been merely formal since. However, it is important to add that I still have no theoretical differences with this party (other than those that involve 'Materialist Dialectics').


However, it is important to add: my differences with the UK-SWP now revolve around their disastrous handling of recent rape allegations.


Nevertheless, in 1998 John Rees published TAR. This awoke me from my non-dogmatic slumbers, motivating me to write a detailed response, since this book symbolised for me much that was wrong with Marxist Philosophy. Despite its obvious strengths (not the least of which is its clear commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society), TAR is a stark reminder that the very best of socialists can have their thinking seriously clouded by dialectical mud.


And yet TAR isn't the worst offender in this regard; in fact, it is an unorthodox DM-text! 'Orthodox' dialecticians will, I am sure, abhor it. They will accuse it of this or that heinous crime against dialectics: that it is a "revisionist" tract; that it is too "concrete"; that it is not "concrete" enough; that it is too "abstract"; that it is not "abstract" enough; that it underplays theoretical issues and is thus superficial (I have already seen that one on the Internet); that it is too theoretical; that it takes a "subjectivist" view of this or that; that it takes an "objectivist" view of that or this; that it is "eclectic"; that it isn't "all-rounded", and is too "one-sided"; that it is the work of a "sophist"; that it is far too "empiricist"; that it is not empirical enough; that it is a "rehash" (this is a popular word among the DM-faithful) of such and such, or of so and so; that is it little more than "warmed-over" (another popular dialectical buzzword) reformism, or X-,Y-, and Z-ism; that it is Idealist, "authoritarian" and/or "elitist"; that it is "positivist"; that it ignores "materialist dialectics"(!); that it fails to consider "systematic dialectics"; that it is "workerist"; that it forgets that "matter precedes motion" (or is it the other way round?), etc., etc...


In fact, TAR will be dismissed simply because that is how the 'orthodox' respond to practically anything and everything that they themselves have not written.


Sectarianism like this can be found in all religions, as is well known; but emulating it has done Marxism few favours. Revolutionaries cannot tap into the religious alienation that guarantees the oppressed will often prefer to turn to Bishops, Priests and Imams for guidance.


Nevertheless, the universally sectarian stance (if not attitude) adopted by most dialectically-distracted revolutionaries suggests that as far as party size goes, small is not just beautiful, it is as inevitable as it is desirable. The smaller the party, the easier it is to control.


Hence, despite all the effort that has gone into "building the party" (on the Trotskyist Left, that is) over the last seventy or eighty years, few tendencies can boast membership levels that rise much above the risible. Not a single one has ever "seized the masses". On Communist Left, this has been the case at least for the last fifty years or so. Nor have both tendencies looked like they are likely even to so much as lightly hug them of late.


But, why change such an unsuccessful strategy, or challenge a failed theory? Why indeed would anyone who assents to the idea that reality is in constant flux want to do such a crazy thing?


Change that close to home? Are you mad!


Ironically, once again, it seems that this is one abstract principle to which the Orthodox fondly adhere -- nay, stoutly defend.


But, dialecticians are supposed to be inconsistent; it is etched into their DNA. Indeed, if DM-fans still want to be consistent with their own belief in universal contradiction, they must continue to preach unity, but practice division -- as they manifestly do.


And we can expect them to continue sanctifying this failed strategy with the use of quasi-religious rationalisations -- such as: this a defence of "orthodoxy", "tradition" and doctrinal "purity" --, rejecting "Revisionism" -- even though Lenin argued that all theories need constant revision!


However, if Marxism is to provide the ideas, strategy and organisation necessary for a successful working-class revolution (as I believe it can), and if I am right about the negative impact DM has had on our movement, then the future of the human race depends on just this theoretical struggle.


That is how important this issue is.


We have no choice, therefore; we cannot allow DM one day finally to come to stand for Dead Marxism.


Comrades, you have nothing to lose but your small and steadily shrinking pond!



Introduction To This Site


Some might wonder how I can claim to be a Leninist and a Trotskyist given the highly critical things I say about philosophical ideas that have been an integral part of these two traditions. 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 influence has been fully excised), but the political ideas associated with the life and work of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.


Nevertheless, in the Essays posted here I have focused mainly on core DM-theses, among which are the following: the nebulous Totality and the "mediated" relation between whole and part, universal flux, 'determinism' versus 'freedom', the three so-called "Laws of Dialectics" ("the transformation of quantity into quality", the "interpenetration of opposites" (involving "change through internal contradiction"), the "negation of the negation"), the nature of abstraction, the 'contradictory' nature of motion, Lenin and the status of matter, and the supposed limitations of Formal Logic and the 'Law of Identity'.


In addition, I have also examined the class-compromised origin of the ideas dialecticians have imported into Marxism -- alongside issues connected with the deleterious effect these have had on our movement. I will also be examining the nature of science, language, cognition, and 'mind', as well as Hegel's logical and philosophical blunders, as these relate to the issues under discussion at this site.


However, the first serious difficulty that confronts an aspiring critic is that it is virtually impossible to determine what the above theses actually amount to, especially if reliance is placed solely on what dialecticians themselves have said about them. This isn't because little has been written on these topics -- far from it, the opposite is in fact the case --, it is because what has been published is hopelessly vague, mind-numbingly repetitive, alarmingly superficial, and profoundly confused -- if not totally incomprehensible (as this series of Essays will demonstrate).


This has meant that in every single case it has been necessary for me to attempt to clarify key DM-theses before criticism can even begin. Of course, in endeavouring to do this I am fully aware that I might well have misrepresented this or that DM-thesis. If that is the case, then any DM-supporters reading this, who find that my attempts to rephrase their theory are unsatisfactory, are invited to correct any errors they find, and say clearly -- and for the first time ever -- what the central doctrines of DM actually amount to.


Unfortunately, there is little prospect that the above will ever take place -- if it is left to DM-theorists themselves to do it.


This is so for at least two reasons:


[1] DIMs appear to be incapable even of entertaining for one second the idea that there might possibly be anything remotely wrong with their core theory -- DM/MD. In fact, what I alleged above (i.e., that it is impossible to determine with any clarity what DM actually amounts to) will meet with immediate incomprehension followed knee-jerk rejection from all concerned. However, anyone who reads the Essays published at this site will soon see why I have alleged this.


Nevertheless, there are several reasons for such Parmenidean DIM-complacency; these are examined in Essay Nine Part Two. But, whatever the cause, this closed mind-set seriously affects the way that criticisms are handled: invariably detractors are labelled 'enemies of Marxism', they are misrepresented, misquoted, ridiculed or abused, their motives questioned, and spurious allegations invented in order to character assassinate each critic. [On this, see here and here. A recent (January 2014) example can be found here (in the comments section).] Disconfirming facts and arguments are more often than not simply ignored. Either that, or critics (like me) are dismissed as latter-day reincarnations of Peter Struve, Max Eastman or James Burnham (which is, of course, the dialectical equivalent of guilt by association).01


Dire warnings are then issued concerning the serious consequences for anyone questioning Holy Dialectical Writ --, along the lines that such foolishness will lead those unwise enough to do so away from the true faith, it having been forgotten by Trotskyists (at least) that far more of those they count as counter-revolutionaries accept the Dialectical Gospel than those they count as fellow revolutionaries -- namely, the Stalinists and the Maoists. [The latter comrades, of course, will just have to ignore that comment! Except they can apply the same point in reverse to us Trotskyists!] Just as one and all will fail to notice that Plekhanov, a DM-theorist par excellence, was a Menshevik (as were both of the Axelrods); even Max Shachtman was a dialectician after he split with Trotsky.


Moreover, in universities and colleges, Systematic Dialectics and Academic Marxism (DIM's vastly more sophisticated, but completely useless distant cousins) are surely the well-spring of much that is non-revolutionary in Marxism. [The above link leads to an automatically downloadable RTF document.]


This is also quite apart from the countless thousands who have been put off Marxism for life because of the Dialectical Foul-ups exposed here.


In that case, dialectics isn't, as some imagine, super-glued to a firm or permanent commitment to revolutionary politics, nor is it eternally linked to its successful prosecution (and that allegation includes 1917). Indeed, since DIM is itself a stranger to success, and has played an active part in more than its own fair share of failed revolutions, not only are its adherents in no position to point any fingers, they have no legitimate fingers to point!


[Despite this, dialectically-distracted comrades will be the very last to see this, so we are likely to witness the same ignorant, knee-jerk dismissal of these Essays from such benighted and bigoted souls.]


This tactic is standard practice; one could almost now call it a cliché. [A perusal of Internet sites where I have 'debated' DM with assorted dialecticians from all wings of Marxism will amply confirm this apparently cynical indictment. (I have listed most of them here.)]


One reason for this reflex response is the assumption that because DM is unassailably true (despite Lenin having said that no theory is final and complete), any criticism of it can only have arisen from the suspect ideological/political motives -- or, indeed, the personal failings -- of its opponents. Thus, if detractors are branded from the start as insincere or duplicitous (even if there is no evidence to suggest this) -- or maybe, perhaps, as they are surreptitious enemies of Marxism, or are cops in disguise (I have been accused of that one several times!) --, then they can be misrepresented, vilified, abused, and thus ignored. Naturally, this is about as sensible as ignoring the signs of cancer, and then attacking anyone who diagnoses its presence or warns of its consequences.


Unquestionably, these particular theoretical waters have been well-and-truly muddied by the detritus stirred up by ideological currents that are openly inimical to revolutionary socialism. Marxists are right to be ever wary of the underhand tactics of the class enemy. However, this reactive stance has meant that revolutionaries have been forced onto the defensive time and again; over the years they have adopted a siege-like mentality. So, from inside these circled wagons there are only two ways to shoot: in or out. This 'friend or foe' approach to theory has meant that critics (even if they turn out to be comrades who are committed to revolutionary socialism and HM -- as I am) will never be given a fair hearing (or any at all) for fear that this might aid and abet the class enemy. Even though this state of semi-permanent paranoia is understandable (given the above considerations), it only serves to perpetuate the myth that DM is without fault and above criticism -- and therefore obviously true.1


Naturally, an impregnable redoubt like this can only be secured at the cost of making Marxism unscientific. There is no science that is above error or beyond revision. Indeed, there is none that refuses to take criticism.


In light of what Lenin himself said about the approximate nature of knowledge, Leninists should be the first to see this point. The fact that, in general, they are not, do not, cannot, or will not see it suggests that for them DM is neither approximately true nor scientific. It has indeed become a dogma requiring continuous acts of devotion and expressions of faith -- and is thus defended with the same level irrationality displayed by the genuine 'god'-botherers among us in defence of their mystical mantras.


However, one thing is clear: dialecticians are creatures of tradition; it is their most powerful instinct. If reader check these links, they will see that almost every DM-fan with whom I have 'debated' this doctrine makes practically the same point (explicitly, or implicitly): "Who are you, Ms Lichtenstein, to question the likes of Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao...?"


Perhaps such comrades have forgotten that science is predicated on radical questioning of this sort. Had they lived centuries ago, one can almost imagine them arguing: "Who are you, Galileo, to question the Church, or Aristotle?"; "Who are you, Hegel, to question Kant?"; "Who are you, Feuerbach, to question Hegel?"; "Who are you, Herr Marx, to question Ricardo?"


And even when this point is put to them, it sails right over their heads, so compromised have their critical faculties become. Small wonder then that in Essay Nine Part Two I liken them to religious obscurantists.


[2] The second reason for this moribund state of affairs is not unconnected with the first: DM-supporters invariably regard any attempt to examine dialectics critically as an attack on Marxism itself -- even where (as here, once more) this isn't the case. This defensive posture has evidently been prompted by the suspicion that any clarification of their core theory -- i.e., one that advances beyond yet another paraphrase of the 'classics', or 'Introduction' to the basics -- might encourage the suspicion that the dogmas enshrined therein are less than perfect (otherwise, why 'clarify' them?).2


However, one noteworthy consequence of this reactive stance is that DM has remained trapped in a theoretical time-warp, one now lasting well over a hundred years. An almost permanent doctrinal ossification has descended upon this theory. Its supporters, who --, despite their eagle-eyed capacity to spot change everywhere else --, have failed to notice this semi-permanent stasis in their own back yard.2a Clearly, this moribund state of affairs is preferable to one that might suggest this doctrine is defective in any way. A theory steeped in formalin, it seems, can't rot any further, but it is still dead for all that.


This means that -- beyond certain trivialities -- DM hasn't advanced theoretically in the last 80 or 90 years. That is how "vibrant" DM is; indeed, Tutankhamen looks rather sprightly in comparison.


This backward-facing stance (unique, except perhaps for a somewhat similar orientation found in Fundamentalist Christian Theology) helps explain why Lenin, for example, imagined he could advance dialectics by retrieving ideas he discovered in Hegel, ones written over ninety years earlier still!3


It is instructive to contrast this approach with the way that genuine science develops. It is difficult to imagine someone like, say, Niels Bohr referring back to the ideas of Newton, copying them out and commenting on them in detail -- and doing practically nothing else -- in his endeavour to advance Physics. Difficult, perhaps; but it would be impossible to believe that scientists since Bohr's day would be happy exclusively doing the same. Yet this is how DM-theorists conduct themselves. TAR is just a recent example of this conservative mind-set, one that is happy to regurgitate the truths handed down from the dialectical-prophets (albeit with new clothes bedecking the decaying corpse). [So is this book, by John Molyneux, as is this article (published in January 2014).]3a


Ironically, therefore, the theory that posits change everywhere else can find no place for it at home. As already noted -- perhaps fittingly --, this situation isn't likely to change.4 Hence, DM -- the erstwhile theory of universal mutability -- is living disproof of its own commitment to it; DM contains theses that have remained virtually frozen solid for over a hundred years. Hegel's system (albeit, "the right way up") has thus been cemented in place; the abstract now set in concrete.5


Another consequence of this backward-facing and doctrinaire stance is that the majority of dialecticians are almost totally ignorant of developments in Modern Logic [ML] and Analytic Philosophy (having branded these 'bourgeois' and/or 'ideological').


This means, of course, that anyone not quite so educationally-crippled, who tries 'debating' with DM-acolytes, will find that they are doubly handicapped.


First of all, they will face accusations of being a "bourgeois apologist" (or, of being one of their "dupes"/"stooges"), or they will be branded an "elitist" (a favourite term used by OTs and ultra-lefts) for having bothered to acquaint themselves with Analytic Philosophy and Logic. This is, of course, as rational a criticism of ML and Philosophy as is that advanced by Creationists against Darwinism; in fact, less so, since Marxists should know better!


[OT = Orthodox Trotskyist.]


Second, it is virtually impossible to help correct the thought of comrades who are steeped in logical error if they are unaware of the extent of their ignorance; still less is it any use trying to correct others who are happy to wallow in such blissful nescience (as many are). Since the vast majority DM-fans are almost totally ignorant of logic (ancient or modern), not only are they incapable of spotting for themselves the serious logical blunders Hegel committed (summary here), they can't follow any explanation of how and why these have occurred.


Thirty or more years experience 'debating' with DM-fans has taught me that the majority of them are quite happy to remain almost totally ignorant of ML and Analytic Philosophy, but that hasn't stopped them pontificating about one or both. This is yet another trait they share with the Creationists.


There is now no excuse for this self-inflicted ignorance, since there are plenty of sites on the Internet that make ML reasonably accessible to those willing to put the effort in. Of course, one can be an excellent revolutionary and know nothing about Logic; but if DM-fans want to criticise this discipline, ignorance isn't bliss.


In that case, many of the criticisms advanced here will sail right over most dialectical heads. In order to minimise this, I have endeavoured to present the ideas and methods I have learnt from Analytic Philosophy in as accessible a form as possible --, even at the risk of being accused of over-simplification.


In these Essays, therefore, I am not addressing academics, but comrades who have fallen badly behind, and who are thus unaware of the advances made in the above disciplines.5a


In addition, I have also linked to other sites --, and have cited books and articles --, where these ideas are developed in more detail, or with greater sophistication, for those who want to know more.



Heads Back In The Sand, Comrades!


Nevertheless, for all their avowed love of "contradictions", DM-theorists do not like to be contradicted -- especially "internally", as it were, by a comrade. In fact, they reject almost out-of-hand all such attempts -- which is rather odd given their commitment to the belief that progress can only occur in this way, through contradiction!


So, here is a nice conundrum: if all progress and change does indeed result from "internal contradictions", then the pages that follow, which uncover the many that lie at the heart of dialectics, should be warmly welcomed by the DM-faithful. Indeed, if improvement and development can come about in no other way, then these Essays ought to be well-received by those genuinely committed to 'dialectical' change.


The fact that they won't be welcomed in this way should therefore count as one of the opening 'contradictions' exposed at this site: DM stands refuted as much by its own unwillingness to be contradicted (internally or externally) as it is by the fact that this situation isn't likely to change.




It is worth emphasising at the start that unless otherwise stated, I have confined my remarks to the so-called "Dialectics of Nature"; the extrapolation of 'dialectics' into areas governed by HM has been largely ignored -- except, that is, where this might involve issues relevant to my demolition of DM itself, or where (in my view) the use of dialectical concepts/jargon fatally undermines the credibility of HM.


For example, this will involve cases where, say, the word "contradiction" has been employed to analyse of Capitalism, or where comrades employ this word almost indiscriminately to describe anything and everything in Capitalism (as a "contradiction") -- but, when they are asked to explain what this word could possibly mean in such contexts, they either refuse to do so, or simply can't do so. Indeed, supporters of this site (including myself) have sent numerous letters to Socialist Worker and other publications, and posted comments on various websites, asking DM-fans to explain why they keep using the above word in this way, all without adequate response, or they receive none at all.


[On the indiscriminate and profligate use of this word in DM-circles, see here, here, here, and here, and my attempts to elicit a response, for instance, here, here, here, and here.]


This isn't to say that I accept the validity of any examples of dialectical jargon that have found their way into HM (i.e., to form 'Materialist Dialectics'); the opposite is in fact the case. However, since the point of these Essays is to stem the flow of poison at its source, I have largely targeted DM.6


Throughout this work HM has been distinguished from DM. To some, this might seem an entirely bogus, if not completely perverse, distinction. However, no Marxist of any intelligence would use slogans drawn exclusively from DM to agitate workers. Consider for example the following: "The Law of Identity is true only within certain limits and the struggle against the occupation of Iraq!" Or "Change in quantity leads to change in quality (and vice versa) and the campaign to keep hospital HH open!" Or even, "Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved in Becoming, and the fight against the BNP!"


Slogans like these would be employed by militants of uncommon stupidity and legendary ineffectiveness. In contrast, when communicating with workers active revolutionaries employ ideas drawn exclusively from HM. The best papers on the revolutionary left, for instance, use ordinary language coupled with HM-concepts to agitate and propagandise; rarely do they employ DM-phraseology to that end. Only deeply sectarian 'revolutionary' papers of exemplary unpopularity and impressive lack of impact use jargon lifted from dialectics to educate and agitate workers. Newsline, the paper of the old WRP, was a notable example, hence its irrelevance and terminal decline.


So, the distinction drawn here is made in practice every day by militants. The present work merely systematises it.


[Objections to this argument are considered in detail in Essay Nine, Part One. See also here.]


In these Essays, no attempt will be made to defend HM; it will be taken as read. Hence, any non-Marxists reading this would be well-advised to go no further. These Essays aren't addressed to them.


Should any Professional Philosophers stray onto this site, they will find that in many places the material here only scratches the surface of the philosophical issues raised. In a site such as this, which isn't aimed at professional philosophers, unnecessary detail would be inappropriate. However, in each of my Essays I have referenced numerous academic books and articles that develop or substantiate topics that have only been touched upon.7


Several other features of these Essays will strike the reader as rather odd: (1) Their almost exclusively negative, if not unremittingly hostile tone; (2) Their quasi-dialectical structure (where the word "dialectical" is to be understood in its older, classical sense); (3) The total absence of any alternative philosophical theses; (4) Their extraordinary length; and finally, (5) Their analytic, if not relentless style.


The first two of the above points aren't unrelated. Although I have endeavoured to construct as comprehensive a case against DM as I am capable of producing, I have also sought to raise objections to my own criticisms at nearly every stage. While this strategy has been adopted to test my ideas to the limit, it has also been of some use in trying to render DM a little clearer and/or more comprehensible.


To that end, the reader will find that many issues have been raised here for the first time ever. Core DM-theses have been examined in unprecedented detail, most of them from a completely novel angle. It is a sad reflection on the mental paralysis induced in those who -- in Max Eastman's words -- "suffer from dialectics" that these ideas have escaped detailed attention for over a hundred years, but it is nonetheless accurate for all that.


Even if it should turn out that this project is misconceived in some way, it succeeds in breaking entirely new ground, as readers will soon discover. In fact, should DM-supporters engage fairly with the content of this site -- even if they remain of the same opinion by the end --, they will find that their own ideas will emerge clarified and strengthened because of the entirely novel set of challenges advanced in this work.8


As alleged earlier, it is the opinion of the present author that DM has contributed in its own not insignificant way to the spectacular lack of success 'enjoyed' by DIM. It is an alarming fact that of all the major political ideologies and/or movements in history, DIM is among the least successful ever.8a The role that DM has played in helping to engineer this disastrous state of affairs partly accounts for the persistently negative (if not openly hostile) tone adopted in these Essays.8b


If revolutionaries genuinely wish to change the world by assisting in a successful working-class revolution (and I certainly count myself among those who do), then the sooner this alien-class ideology (DM) is excised the better.


In that case, if the ideas presented here are correct, then it is clear that DM has helped cripple the revolutionary movement almost from the beginning. Because of that, those who insist on clinging to this regressive doctrine (for whatever reason) risk extending this abysmal record of failure into this new century.


Unfortunately, it is far from clear whether either the planet or humanity can take another hundred years of Capitalism. Indeed, one more protracted cycle of DIM-induced failures could mean that even fewer workers will take Marxism seriously --, or, what amounts roughly to the same thing, live to tell the tale in anything remotely resembling a civilised society.


Items (3) and (5) in the above list are rather different, though. From time to time readers will find themselves asking the following question of the author: "Well, what's your theory then?" No alternative philosophical theory will be advanced here (or anywhere else for that matter). This tactic hasn't been adopted out of cussedness -- or even out of diffidence --, but because it is an important part of the Wittgensteinian method (adopted at this site) not to advance philosophical theories. Wittgenstein's approach in fact means that no philosophical theory makes any sense.


[Why that is so will be considered at length in Essay Twelve Part One. A brief summary of this idea has now been posted here. Objections to the use of Wittgenstein's ideas have been neutralised here.]


As far as (5) is concerned, those unfamiliar with Analytic Philosophy might find the overall style of these Essays somewhat daunting, if not entirely deflationary; this is so in the sense that these Essays not only seek to deflate the overblown pretentions of Traditional Philosophy, and DM, they do likewise with the common assumptions on which both are based, showing that one and all are founded on little more than hot air.


Nevertheless, the analytic method is to be preferred since (in many cases) it produces clear results. Anyone who takes exception to this way of doing Philosophy (or who is happy to leave their head in the sand) can simply log off this site now. I have no wish to wake you up.



Figure Three: Dialectical Alertness?


Item (4) also needs explaining. The length of these Essays has been determined by two factors: (a) the nature of DM itself and (b) the attitude of its supporters.


All of the major -- and the vast majority of the more minor -- DM-theses have been subjected to extensive and destructive criticism at this site. Because of DM's totalising approach to knowledge it can be demolished in no other way. Had a single topic been left with only superficial injuries -- and not fatally wounded -- its supporters might easily have imagined it could be revived. Had even one of DM's theoretical strands been left intact -- because of the alleged interconnections that exist between each and every one of its parts -- the temptation would have been to conclude that if one element is viable, the rest must be, too. Hence, the extraordinary length of each Essay is partly the result DM's holistic character itself, and partly because few of its supporters have ever bothered to analyse this theory to any great extent -- certainly not in the unprecedented detail found at this site.


Those who still think these Essays are too long should compare them with the work of, say, Hegel, Marx or Lenin, whose writings easily dwarf my own. I have, however, attempted to summarise my main criticisms of DM in three Essays of decreasing length and complexity, here, here and here.


Finally, even though many of the arguments presented at this site are in my view definitive, genuine knock-down arguments in Philosophy are exceedingly rare and hard to find. In that case, readers will have to make up their own minds as to whether or not I am alone in judging them this way.9




In researching the material published here, I have endeavoured to consult as many DM-texts as is physically possible; these include all the DM-classics, the vast majority of the more important secondary works, and countless minor and subsidiary books and articles.


For reasons explained on the opening page, these Essays were originally published on the Internet when they were less than half-complete. In that case, over the years I will be (and have been) adding extensive detail and new material as I factor in the notes I have made on the many DM-works I have consulted, but which have not yet been referenced, or fully referenced in the already published Essays. In most cases, each Essay will end up approximately twice the length it now is. I expect to be working on this project for at least another ten years (i.e., from 2014).


However, since most DM-texts simply repeat almost verbatim what the classics have to say (quoting and paraphrasing Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin or Trotsky endlessly, using the very same ideas, phrases and even words) -- with little attempt to clarify or amplify their content --, much of this research in fact turned out to be exceedingly repetitive. Indeed, on many occasions it felt as if the same book or article was being read over and over again. That, of course, is one of the problems with DM.


[The reason why DM is so neurotically repetitive will be explored in Essay Nine Part Two, as will the ideological significance of the semi-parrot-like behaviour of its adepts --, a serious character-defect, it seems, DM-fans have so far failed to notice in themselves.]


Despite this, my lack of Russian (in which language most of the secondary literature on DM has been written) has prevented me from consulting Stalinist, post-, and pre-Stalinist works, except where these have been translated into English.10 Although Trotskyists would want to argue that the "lifeless and wooden" dialectic found in Stalinist texts contrasts unfavourably with their own 'vibrant strain', an examination of both traditions reveals a rather different story. While there certainly are detectable differences between Stalinist, Maoist, Libertarian Marxist, and Trotskyist applications of 'Materialist Dialectics' to class society, as far as a commitment to DM is concerned (i.e., in relation to nature), all four are virtually indistinguishable. Here, one and all are genetic and somatic Siamese Quintuplets, philosophically joined at the head.


[STD = Stalinist Dialectician; OT = Orthodox Trotskyist.]


Any who doubt this easily confirmed fact will find it substantiated in Essay Two and in Essay Nine Part Two.11 And, if truth be told, some STDs (Russian and/or Chinese) display a far more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of "the dialectic" than do many OTs -- Lukacs, Ilyenkov and Oizerman come to mind here.


[Another three exceptions include (1) Alexander Spirkin's analysis of the Part/Whole relation, outlined here; (2) Yurkovets's discussion of "quality", and (3) Bettelheim's analysis of 'principal', versus 'secondary contradictions.']


Of course, its dogmatic nature is what helped DM become the official State Dogma in many of the former 'Marxist' states; but DM is no less of a dogma among OTs, too. And yet, because of their even less successful revolutionary credentials, Trotskyists do not have even so much as single 'Trotskyist' state (former or otherwise) on which they can impose their very own preferred dialectical Shibboleths.


As far as can be ascertained, in this respect, that is the only relevant difference.


Another preliminary point worth making is this: the reader will find no overall summary of DM in these Essays. While DM-texts are quoted where necessary (sometimes at length), and are analysed in painstaking detail, I have made no effort to outline the general content of this theory (except, very briefly, here). Had such a summary been attempted it would have served no purpose and would probably have been counter-productive.


It would have served no purpose because there are countless summaries of DM available to those who want yet another -- all of which read very much the same anyway.


It would have been counter-productive, too, since, as these pages show, there is no settled interpretation of DM even among its acolytes. They all disagree with one another over minutiae -- while they all give lip-service to its basic ideas and repeat them endlessly, which are then put to almost Machiavellian sectarian mischief. Hence, one more attempt to summarise DM would surely have failed.


Hardcore DM-theorists would have responded to yet another summary of their theory in the way I have no doubt they have already received TAR: they'd object to practically every single word, syllable and punctuation mark. That is what they do; that's all they do. Dialectical Moaners like this don't change, which is, of course, a suitably ironic punishment that the Parmenidean 'Deity' has mischievously inflicted upon these erstwhile advocates of the Heraclitean Flux.


So, despite what Heraclitus said, it is all too easy to step into this same river of abuse and misrepresentation time and again -- especially on the Internet.




Readers should also make note of the fact that, in what follows, if a certain doctrine is criticised, this doesn't mean that I accept that its supposed contradictory is true. Hence, if, say, the idea that reality is rational is under attack, no one should conclude that I believe that reality is irrational. In fact, in this case, I can make no sense of either attribution. To take another example: if I criticise the use of the word "objective" (when it is employed metaphysically), no one should conclude that I am a relativist (which I am not), or that I question the validity of scientific knowledge (which I do not). In fact, I reject this entire way of speaking about 'reality', 'objectivity', and scientific knowledge (for reasons that will be aired later).12


In connection with this it is worth making this more general point: readers shouldn't conclude from my use of jargon drawn from Traditional Philosophy that I agree with its use, or that I think it makes any sense. I am merely employing such language in order to assist in its demise.




Since I began this project in July 1998, the Internet has transformed a researcher's capacity to do work at home (and, of course, publicise her/his views). It is now possible to access all of the Marxist classics on-line, and much else besides. In addition, and by this means, I have been able to obtain literally hundreds of obscure books, theses and articles from around the world, which would otherwise have been practically impossible to access before. In addition, the Internet has also allowed me to link to sites (but, particularly the truly excellent on-line Encyclopedia, Wikipedia) where many of the ideas and technical terms I have used are clarified and/or expanded upon. This is especially useful for those reading this work who are new to this debate, or who aren't familiar with specific topics or certain jargonised expressions. On top of this, it has been possible to communicate with other Marxists who also have serious doubts about DM/MD, and air critical remarks on several discussion boards, 'debating' dialectics with those still held in its thrall. Finally, it has also allowed comrades from all over the world to read my work (thus giving it a far wider circulation than would have been possible had it only been published in hard copy), and hence for some of them to e-mail their appreciation of my forthright stance -- or, of course, the exact opposite.


Unfortunately, Internet experience has underlined just how resistant the DM-faithful are to having their ideas challenged. It has also highlighted how unreasonable many of them are -- hence the 'scare' quotes around the word "debate" above. Quite apart from the fact that such comrades seem incapable of reading these Essays with any degree of care (let alone accuracy -- that is, of the few that bother to do so), or the responses I have posted on discussion boards in reply to their own objections to my ideas, their collective reaction has been highly instructive.


In general, DM-fans have so far oscillated between the twin extremes of abuse and incredulity. For some, their response has revolved around the safe but pointless regurgitation of 'Holy DM-Writ' (i.e., the quotation of selected passages from the 'classics'), or they retail the same tired old formulae -- as if reading the same hackneyed material for the thousandth time will do the trick where the previous nine hundred and ninety-nine had failed. To a man, woman, or 'robot' one and all seem unable, unwilling or incapable of arguing in support of the metaphysical theses our ideological forebears imported into our movement. To be sure, the crippling level of incapacity demonstrated in this respect by such comrades appears to be in direct proportion to their propensity to quote Holy Dialectical Scripture, and in inverse proportion to their ability to read with any accuracy what I might have posted in response.13


[FL = Formal Logic.]


This strongly supports the prediction made earlier that such 'true-believers' will never abandon the faith -- whatever dire consequences this intransigent stance holds out for our movement. In common with many other failed theories that humanity has had to endure, it seems that the older generation of dialecticians will have to 'pop its clogs' first before this miserable doctrine is flushed out of Marxism for good.


Of course, this might never happen, and newer generations of comrades intent on initiating this long-overdue exorcism from Marxism might fail to emerge from the shadows. Indeed, Marx's own assessment that the class struggle could lead to the common ruin of the contending classes may yet come to pass, assisted in no small measure by his followers' unswerving attachment to this regressive 'theory'.


"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." [Communist Manifesto.]


If the above does indeed come to pass, the revolutionary movement will surely have been poisoned by the contradictory theory at its heart as much as it will have been neutralised by the enemy at the gate.


In fact, if one particular thesis aired at this site is correct, then this cancerous doctrine has been shaped by ideological thought-forms gestated long ago by a very real, external class enemy (the latter, of course, engaging in this 'activity' for their own ends, oblivious of the misbegotten use to which dialecticians would one day put their ideas). In that case, this alien theory has been imported into revolutionary socialism by non-working class theorists who were clearly far more impressed with the thought-forms they appropriated from traditional thought than their commitment to philosophical radicalism might otherwise have suggested.


However, because of its pernicious influence these alien-class concepts -- which had been smuggled into our movement long before the working-class could provide them with an effective, materialist counter-weight -- are impeding the scientific development of Marxism.


This is partly a result of (1) the fact that these alien-class dogmas have been ossified into what has come to be known as 'the Marxist Tradition', and partly because (2) its acolytes are blithely unaware of the link between this 'poisoned chalice' and the long-term failure of DIM.


Even worse, the vast majority of comrades obviously feel they can ignore the ruling-class origin of this theory (even while inconsistently chiding yours truly for my alleged reliance on 'bourgeois' logic/philosophy!) in the fond belief they are in fact defending a radial tradition when they are in truth defending an ancient Hermetic and Neoplatonic belief system (upside down, or the 'right way up').


[More on this in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here).]


However, our movement is slowly dying, and not only is this alien theory partly responsible, it prevents anything from being done about it. That is because it helps convince comrades that nothing need be done about it. Another ironic 'unity of opposites' for readers to ponder.


DIM thus contains the seeds of its own destruction: Its core theory (DM/MD) not only aggravates the tendency DIM has to fragment, it convinces those held in thrall to it that nothing need be done about it since DIM is success incarnate, having been 'tested in practice'.


[Even though practice tells a different story.]


All the while, the actual "gravediggers of Capitalism" (i.e., workers) have shown they want nothing to do with us.


That fact, too, is buried deep in the same sand dunes that provide refuge for the collective dialectical brain.



Figure Four: Dialectics 101 -- The Search For 'Clarity' Goes On


Tragedy and farce all rolled into one.





001. Of course, this isn't just a problem for Trotskyists. The BBC had this to say about a recent criminal case in the UK involving three individuals allegedly held as slaves over a thirty year period by ex-Maoists:


"The couple accused of holding three women as slaves for more than 30 years were activists in a Maoist group in London. It was a period when the UK had a plethora of small left-wing collectives and communes. Aravindan Balakrishnan, known as Comrade Bala, and his wife Chanda ran a bookshop and commune from a large building in Brixton. Balakrishnan had been a member of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) in the early 1970s but split and formed his own collective in 1974 -- the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. It comprised about 25 people.


"The group was not unusual. There were about 20 Maoist groups active in the UK in the 1970s, says Michel Hockx, director of the SOAS China Institute at SOAS, University of London. All followed the ideology of Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, who put industry under state ownership, collectivised farming and ruthlessly suppressed opposition.


'All [the UK groups] considered themselves Maoists, but they fought against each other about who was in possession of the right ideology.... Some were fairly militant, they would actively promote overthrowing the capitalist systems and class systems. Others practised communal living, equality as a group.'


"In some of the groups work would be collectively organised, people took meals together, shared possessions and would take part in political planning together.... It wasn't just Maoists, there was a great deal of other radical activism at the time.


'There was general ferment in society. In terms of radical politics people were very engaged by the war in Vietnam, significant numbers of young people were protesting about that,' says Prof Dennis Tourish, author of The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership. 'It was also the three-day week, the collapse of Franco in Spain, the 1968 Paris riots, there had been the assassination of Kennedy and Martin Luther King. There was a mood of radicalisation. Many people were drawn to far-left causes at one time or another.'


"Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, has described Balakrishnan's Maoist sect as the 'breakaway of a breakaway of a breakaway'. The term used was 'splittist'. Groups would part company and suspend members who did not toe the party line or presented a different view of the same ideology. Fringe groups would then form, often creating angry rivalries with their former comrades.


'Each spilt had its own pope, its divine leader, but they were all trying to colonise the same belief systems,' adds Tourish.


"Left-wing groups were active across the UK, but in Brixton in south London, there was a ready supply of short-term empty houses in neighbourhoods that Lambeth Council was gradually clearing for its housing programmes. It provided ample choice for people looking to set up squats and communes.


'There were also plenty of empty or under-used small shop premises, like that at Acre Lane, which has been linked with the Mao Zedong Memorial Trust,' says Alan Piper, of the Brixton Society. 'Some of these groups took a closer interest in local affairs, and went on to organise squats or housing co-ops or print workshops, or even to contest local council elections. Others were more oriented to national or international causes, so had a lower profile in the immediate area,' he adds.


"Not all of the fringe groups were based around communes. The Workers' Revolutionary Party encouraged their members to share accommodation, according to Tourish, but it was not mandatory.


'They had a number of other techniques to draw in members and reinforce their commitment.... It was only a small party -- at its peak it had around 1,000 people -- but for example they put huge effort into producing a daily newspaper which they would then spend their days trying to sell, and being ignored and ridiculed for it. That effort raised their commitment, and gave the members a very powerful group identity...." [Taken from here; accessed 27/11/2013. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; several paragraphs merged to save space. Some links and italics added.]


We will return to this theme in Essay Nine Part Two. [See also here and here.]


01. Dialectical Excuses


[This forms part of Note 01.]


Of late, the main tactic of Dialectical Mystics is to ban me from posting on their discussion boards, since I am far too effective at challenging their ideas -- RevLeft, RedMarx and the Association of Musical Marxists being among the latest to do this (in fact, the latter two sites banned me within a couple of weeks of my first posts there -- readers can judge for themselves the extent and depth of my unprincipled and heinous thought crimes from this thread), joined of late by the break-away UK-SWP site, the International Socialist Network, obviously importing their own brand of incipient Stalinism from the UK-SWP.


Another favourite response is for dialectically-distracted comrades to claim that these Essays contain "nothing new" (or, that they have been "plagiarised"). This is just the latest example (reply here).


Despite this, anyone reading my work (i.e., with their sectarian blinkers removed, if they have any to divest) will soon discover that much of the content of my Essays is entirely original. Where I have borrowed from others, I have generally acknowledged that fact.


Of course, comrades who advance this accusation have been challenged to reveal where these allegedly "plagiarised" ideas have appeared before; to date, not a single one has responded. Either they can't provide this information, or they simply enjoy being enigmatic. I suspect other motives.


One deeply desperate dialectical soul (10th post down at that link --, and again, here) even tried to claim I hadn't actually written these Essays! Exactly who he supposes their real author to be he mysteriously kept to himself.


Others have begun to claim that I quote the dialectical classics "out of context" (for example, here and here), but when they are asked to explain the 'right context', oddly enough, they go rather quiet. In many places, in fact, I endeavour to quote the entire context (for example, here), but even where I do not do this, it is difficult to defend Engels, for instance, from the charge of outright inconsistency when he tells us in one breath:


"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. Bold emphasis added.]


And then, in the next, he says things like this:


"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….


"A motionless state of matter therefore proves to be one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas…." [Engels (1976), p.74. Bold emphases added.]


[There are in fact dozens of examples of a priori dogmatics like this in Engels's work alone; these have been posted here.]


Do we really need much context to appreciate the glaring inconsistency here -- especially since Engels is simply emulating the traditional way that Philosophy has been practiced for well over two thousand years, and which practice all dialecticians ape, too (as will be demonstrated in Essay Two)?


Beleaguered dialecticians have also begun to claim that they are "too busy" to work their way through these Essays (or respond to them), a convenient excuse that allows them to continue advancing all manner of baseless assertions about me and my work, copying hackneyed errors off one another, without actually having read a single one of my Essays or checking their facts. [An excellent recent example of this syndrome can be found here.]


To be sure, no one has to read a single word I write, but then those who refuse to do so would be wise to avoid passing comments on material about which they know nothing.


[Perhaps the worst offender in this regard, who posts under the name "Volkov", can be found fabulating away here (alas, this link is now dead) and at RevLeft under the name "Axel1917". This comrade is an 'expert' in all I have ever had to say, even though he openly admits he hasn't read a single one of my Essays, and regularly warns others to avert their sensitive eyes let they be harmed in some way!]


Another excuse is that my work is far too long -- a factor that clearly doesn't prevent them wading through page after page of Hegel's 'Logic', or studying Das Kapital in detail. Indeed, it doesn't stop them dismissing my work as a "rant" (another favourite  term of theirs), or as a "screed" (ditto), even while they continue to pass judgement on its content in total ignorance.


[They even refuse to read the short summaries I have written, and regularly warn others to 'stay away'!]


However, when I write short articles, they are branded "superficial"; on the other hand, if I write long and detailed Essays, they are too long, or are "tedious" and "boring". In fact, dialecticians already "know the truth" --, and it has "set them free"; i.e., "free" from having to read anything that might disturb their Hermetic slumber.


Another recent ploy is to argue that while it might be the case that I have examined the ideas of dialecticians A, B and C, I should have looked instead at the work of X, Y and Z. Then another comrade will complain that while I might have examined the ideas of A, B and X, I should have concentrated on C, D, and Z! Yet another will then advise me to confine my attention to A, D, and W..., and so on.


Trotskyists complain if I quote Stalin and Mao's writings; Maoists and Stalinists moan if I do likewise with Trotsky's; non-Leninist Marxists will bemoan the fact that I have not confined my comments to Hegel and Marx, advising me to ignore the confused or "simplistic" thought of Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Trotsky.


Of course, because these comrades haven't read my work, none of them know that I have in fact looked at A, B, C, D,.., W, X, Y and Z's work (along with Marx and Hegel's, and many other authors these comrades haven't even heard of!). Indeed, since most of the material dialecticians produce is highly repetitive, this quite often means that to look at A's work is in fact to look at almost everyone else's, too!


However, the most common complaint on the Internet from academic (or quasi-academic) Marxists is that I have ignored theorists such as Lukacs, Adorno, Habermas, Zizek, Ollman, and the like. In fact, I have explained why I have done this (for example, here). The work of several of these HCD-theorists will be examined anyway in later stages of this work. [Indeed, part of Ollman's work, for example, has already been examined -- as has Marcuse's.]


1. Apart from those listed in Note 01, above, the most common reactions to my work (from comrades who have 'debated' this 'theory' with me on the Internet, or elsewhere) are the following:


(1) An expression of total incredulity that there are genuine Marxists who would even think to question this dearly beloved doctrine, or who claim (as I do) that Philosophy in its entirety is a completely bogus discipline. This is then often accompanied with a parallel inference that I can't therefore be a Marxist -- even though Marx himself rejected Philosophy!


Naturally, the above would mean that being a Marxist is merely a matter of definition (and a rather narrow one at that: i.e., "Only those who do not question tradition are genuine Marxists") --, and, incidentally, it is a definition that ignores Lenin's advice that no theory is sacrosanct, or above criticism.


(2) A rapid retreat to the claim that dialectics isn't "a royal road to truth", but is merely a "method". [Comrades who offer this response have plainly failed to notice that this completely undermines its 'objectivity'.]


(3) The posting of several long (or short) quotations from the DM-classics, often of tenuous relevance.


(4) Page after page of bluster, abuse and misrepresentation. Indeed, one leading Marxist Professor of Economics, Andrew Kliman, told me in an e-mail exchange to "Eat sh*t and die!" (either that, or quaff some Hemlock) just because I had the temerity to ask him to explain what a "dialectical contradiction" was, and then point out that his explanation was defective! [Scatological abuse is alas, almost de rigueur from such comrades. Here is just the latest, incoherent example. Here is another.] 


Naturally, twenty-five or more years of having to endure such vilification would make anyone (other than a 'saint') rather tetchy, if not somewhat aggressive in return.


[Indeed, on this page the reader will be able to see that my forthright response to their attacks on me is something DM-fans can't stomach. Sure, they can lie about -- and abuse -- me, but Ms Lichtenstein must take this lying down, and be all sweetness and light in return.]


(5) Posing the bemused question: "What other concepts are there that could possibly account for change?"


However, the apparent obviousness of the reply that these comrades hope to elicit (viz.: "You are right, there are none, so dialectics must be correct…") is itself plainly a consequence of the conceptual desert DM has created inside each dialectical skull. As will soon become apparent from reading the Essays posted at this site (for example, this one), there are in fact countless words and phrases in both the vernacular and the sciences that allow changes of every conceivable sort and complexity to be depicted (and thus explained) in limitless detail. Indeed, ordinary words do this far better than the lifeless and obscure jargon Hegel invented in order to fix something that wasn't broken. Moreover, every single one of these everyday terms can be appropriated with ease for use in HM. In fact, the best revolutionary papers already do this. They have to if they want to sell copies to workers!


This is, of course, quite apart from the embarrassing fact that dialectics itself can't explain change!


(6) A casting of the usual time-honoured slurs e.g., "anti-Marxist", "positivist", "sophist", "logic-chopper", "naïve realist", "revisionist", "eclectic", "relativist", "post modernist", "bourgeois stooge", "pedant", "absolutist", "elitist", "empiricist"..., and so on.


Naturally, when such comrades are described as "mystics" in return, they complain about "name-calling". Once more, they are allowed to dish it out (but not very well), but they plainly can't take it in return.


(7) The attribution to me of ideas I do not hold, and which could not reasonably have been inferred from anything I have said or written -- e.g., that I am a "postmodernist" (which I am not), an "empiricist" (same comment), a "Popperian" (I am in fact an anti-Popperian), that I am a "sceptic" (and this, just because I challenge accepted dogma, when Marx himself said he doubted all things and Lenin declared that all knowledge is provisional), that I am an "anti-realist" (when I am in fact neither a realist nor an anti-realist -- with respect to philosophical theories, I am in fact a "nothing-at-all-ist" -- but, this mustn't be confused with Nihilism!), that I'm a "positivist" (same reply!), that I am a "reformist" (when I am the exact opposite), or that I am a "revisionist" (when Lenin enjoined us all to question accepted theory).


Once more, these are often advanced by comrades who haven't read a single one of my Essays (but that doesn't prevent them from being 'experts' about my work, or from making things up about me), or they have merely skim-read a few isolated sections of my work. Naturally, they would be the first to complain if anyone else did this with the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. [This is just one of the latest examples. Here's another.]


Indeed, Engels himself waxed indignant with Dühring over precisely this point:


"In connection with Herr Dühring's examination of the Darwin case, we have already got to know his habit, 'in the interests of complete truth' and because of his 'duty to the public which is free from the bonds of the guilds', of quoting incorrectly. It becomes more and more evident that this habit is an inner necessity of the philosophy of reality, and it is certainly a very 'summary treatment'. Not to mention the fact that Herr Dühring further makes Marx speak of any kind of 'advance' whatsoever, whereas Marx only refers to an advance made in the form of raw materials, instruments of labour, and wages; and that in doing this Herr Dühring succeeds in making Marx speak pure nonsense. And then he has the cheek to describe as comic the nonsense which he himself has fabricated. Just as he built up a Darwin of his own fantasy in order to try out his strength against him, so here he builds up a fantastic Marx. 'Historical depiction in the grand style', indeed!" [Engels (1976), p.159. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


Dühring isn't allowed to do this, but apparently it is OK for dialecticians to do it to me!


[In many cases, the standard of debate displayed by DM-fans sinks almost to the level on display here (by a rather benighted Creationist). This is, alas, particularly true of fellow UK-Trotskyists -- here, here, here and here are excellent examples of this sort of crass response from UK comrades, who can't defend their 'theory' without resorting to prevarication, lies and abuse. Typically, they just become emotional, irrational, and childish, often content merely to post supercilious remarks as a way of deflecting from their predicament. However, there is one major difference between these comrades and that Creationist -- the former are far more abusive!]


(8) The rejection of "bourgeois logic" (i.e., modern Fregean and post-Fregean Logic).


This is the oddest response, since such comrades invariably know no MFL at all (and in most cases, they are also ignorant of AFL!), even while they have uncritically swallowed the 'logic' found in Hegel's work -- who was, as we all know, a fully paid-up member of the working-class, and not the least bit bourgeois!


[MFL = Modern Formal Logic; AFL = Aristotelian Formal Logic.]


So, for such comrades, it is lack of specialist knowledge that makes each and every one of them expert logicians -- a nice 'dialectical' conundrum if ever there was one. Plainly, too, that would make George W Bush a leading Theoretical Physicist, and the late Ronald Reagan a towering authority on the intricacies of brain surgery.


[Many even complain when this is pointed out to them; here is a good example of this.]


Furthermore, these endearing qualities are often garnished with stereotypical, ill-informed and erroneous comments maligning Wittgenstein as a "bourgeois" apologist, or as a mystic, or both -- as if Hegel himself were squeaky clean in this regard!


[On this particular issue, see the Additional Essay posted here -- Was Wittgenstein a Leftist? -- summarised here.]


Of course, it is perfectly possible to be a revolutionary socialist and know little or no logic at all, but if comrades are going to pontificate about MFL (or even AFL), they ought, at least, to have the decency to learn some first!


(9) Of late, desperate defenders of the dialectic have adopted a new tactic when the ridiculous nature of their core belief system has been exposed:


(a) They deny that the DM-classics actually say the things I allege of them, or,


(b) They try to argue that the rather odd things found in the Dialectical Grimoire aren't to be taken literally (they're merely "metaphorical", or "whimsical"), or,


(c) They claim that Engels, Trotsky, and/or Lenin, etc., aren't authorities when it comes to DM. [Yes, they are that desperate!]


This they maintain even in the face of the quotations themselves (recent examples of this desperate dialectical dodge can be found here, here, here, and here), and despite the fact that it has been pointed out to them that similar tactics are adopted by Christians when they are confronted with the results of modern science -- i.e., the latter, open and honest mystics, also claimed that the Book Of Genesis, for instance, is "metaphorical".


Who exactly is the authority in matters dialectical they steadfastly refuse to reveal (even when they are asked).


So, DM-fans, it seems, will say anything, pull any dodge, try any ploy, invent, lie, twist and turn beyond even the knotted pretzel stage, rather than allow the theory that history has already refuted even to be so much as questioned.


[An excellent recent example of this phenomenon can be found in the warped logic and frenetic special-pleading found here (written by one "Gilhyle").]



Figure Five: Dialectical 'Reasoning' -- After It Has Been Straightened-Out A Little!


Political 'spin doctors' look recklessly truthful, open and honest in comparison!


Finally, dialectically-distracted comrades more often than not either (a) Refuse to respond to the vast majority of my criticisms -- they just ignore them, or (b) They simply call them "nonsense", brush them aside, and retreat into a protracted dialectical sulk.


[An excellent recent example of the latter tactic can be found here. The individual concerned, who posts under the name "Jochebed 1", said he had read my Essays and then decided they were "unsystematic nonsense". When I pointed out to him that, miraculously, he had managed to read all 2.1 million words at this site in less than an afternoon, he went rather quiet.]


In fact, the above is reminiscent of the pathetic response given under cross examination by William Jennings Bryan -- the prosecutor in the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial", in Tennessee, July 10 to July 25, 1925 -- summarised for us in this book review:


"But there is also an embarrassing side to Bryan: the 'great commoner' was a Bible-banging fundamentalist. When officials in Dayton, Tennessee decided to roast John Scopes for teaching evolution in 1925, they called in the ageing Bryan to prosecute. The week-long trial became a national sensation and reached its climax when the defence attorney, Clarence Darrow, called Bryan to the stand and eviscerated his Biblical verities. 'Do you believe Joshua made the sun stand still?' Darrow asked sarcastically. 'Do you believe a whale swallowed Jonah? Will you tell us the exact date of the great flood?' Bryan tried to swat away the swarm of contradictions. 'I do not think about things I don't think about,' he said. The New York Times called it an 'absurdly pathetic performance', reducing a famous American to the 'butt of a crowd's rude laughter'. This paunchy, sweaty figure went down as an icon of the cranky right. Today, most Americans encounter the Scopes trial and Bryan himself in a play called Inherit the Wind. I once played the role of Bryan and the director kept saying: 'More pompous Morone. Make him more pompous.'" [James Morone, London Review of Books, 21/02/08.]


If my experience is anything to go by, the vast majority of DM-fans "do not think about things they don't think about", either. An excellent recent series of examples of this Know-nothing tendency was kindly provided for us by a comrade operating under the pseudonym "Futurehuman" (over at The Guardian newspaper's comments section, again) -- see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, and here. This comrade insists on inflicting the obsolete and confused ideas he lifted from Hegel and Engels on his readers, and steadfastly refuses to defend them in the face of my criticisms.


[It should be obvious, but I have posted there under the pseudonym "RosaL001". You will need to use the search function in your browser (if it has one!) to locate both sets of comments. At the first of the above links, however, this comrade did attempt to post a weak defence his ideas, but after that he merely sunk back into a dismissive, dogmatic dialectical sulk. (This comrade is also the author of Malek (2012), about which book I will be commenting in some detail in a later re-write of Essay Seven Part One. By the way, I am not 'outing' this comrade; he acknowledges he is the author of the said book in the above comments pages.) The latest example of this can be found here.]


DM-fans react in more-or-less the same way to the many problems their theory faces, highlighted in the Essays published at this site. For example, when confronted with the fact that not all changes in 'quality' are sudden (or, indeed, proceed in "leaps", to use the buzzword) -- e.g., melting metal, glass, plastic, butter, resin, toffee and chocolate -- DM-fans either ignore these exceptions, or brush them aside (often for no stated reason). This was indeed the response of one of the leading figures in the CPGB, who seems to think it a minor point that almost every metal in the universe disobeys this part of Engels's 'Law'. Moreover, when asked to define the length of a dialectical "node", without fail, they all become consistently evasive -- either that, or they change the subject, distracting attention from this awkward topic. [More on that here, here, and here.]


Anyone who still doubts this should consult: (1) The numerous passages reproduced in the Essays posted at this site; (2) The material churned-out by any randomly-selected DM-fan; or (3) The many discussion boards and Marxist sites that have sprung up on the Internet (for example, as noted above, here).


[However, in relation to option (2), readers should also consult the comment at the end of Note 11, below.]


Added, 23/03/10 -- the latest, and perhaps the most desperate accusation ranged against me (over the last twenty-five years) is that Rosa is a policeman!


As if a cop could screw around with DIM any better than its own acolytes have managed over the last 140 years!


2. As is the case with those committed to disseminating the doctrines expressed in that other 'Holy' book, The Bible, to the dialectical faithful it seems that only heretics would want either to change, or to add to, the content of the DM-canon. [One can imagine a Christian (or even Muslim) Fundamentalist saying, "Why clarify the Word of God? Who are you to presume to know better than the Lord and His Holy Prophets? You can't improve on perfection...", etc. etc.]


While dialecticians certainly give some thought to their ideas and endeavour to debate them amongst themselves, internal dialogue is heavily constrained by other organisational and psychological factors outlined at this site (for example in Essay Nine Part Two).


However, this does help explain why all DM-writings are extremely repetitive, why all dialecticians use almost exactly the same phrases and reasoning style (which often simply amounts to lengthy paraphrases of Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, or Mao), and why their ideas encompass a very limited range of concepts.


For instance, the vast majority of DM-fans illustrate Engels's 'Three Laws' with the same examples (boiling water, balding heads, plants negating seeds, Mendeleyev's Table, North/South poles of magnets, wave-particle duality, and, of course, those pesky Mamelukes), despite the fact that it is relatively easy to show that these 'Laws' fail to work even here. In addition we are informed by one and all of the "limitations" of FL (and by comrades who can't even get Aristotle right!), that "internal contradictions" lie behind every example of change in the entire universe, for all of time (while in the same breath these comrades swear blind that they do not "impose" dialectics on nature!). These hoary old DM-verities are wheeled-out year after year as if they were still cutting edge science, and not the Mickey Mouse Science they demonstrably are. [Apologies for the mixed metaphors here!]


It also helps explain why DM-fans refuse to confront ideas they can't handle, or why they pretend problems with their theory don't exist. Such 'difficulties' are often rejected out-of-hand with no reasons given (other than they are incompatible with the edicts found in the Dialectical Holy Books -- the continual, knee-jerk response from this comrade being an excellent example of this malady -- or that any critic of DM must have questionable motives). This is perhaps the most frequent reaction to my work. [It certainly motivates the vast majority of those listed here.] Failing that, spurious reasons are invented why dialectics 'hasn't been 'disproved' by my attacks. [Three excellent (recent and published) examples of this sort of response to my Essays can be found here, here and here.]


2a. Some might be tempted to question this hyperbole, arguing that MD is a living, changing theory (an excellent recent example of this counter-hyperbole can be found here). Sure, there have been some changes to the theory, but when examined, these amount either to yet another set of elaborations on the eternal truths laid down by Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin or Mao --, or they have attracted accusations of "Revisionism!" from guardians of the Dialectical Flame.


[This is issue is discussed in more detail in several later Essays, particularly Essay Thirteen Part One. See also Note 5 below.]


Academic Marxism is, of course, a different matter, but since that Dialectical Dead End is irrelevant to revolutionary socialism, I have largely left it out of account.


3. In general, it isn't easy for dialecticians to appreciate this point, even after it has been pointed out to them -- in fact, it is nigh on impossible for them to do so. This is partly related to (1) The a priori style of reasoning found in all DM-texts, and (2) The fact that, after 2500 years of Traditional Philosophy (where this approach is de rigueur), it has become part of the 'philosophical furniture', as it were. In fact, this style of argument has been around for so long, no one notices it or recognises it for what it is. A priori dogmatics thus seems quite normal and natural to most dialecticians and Traditional Thinkers. In this way, the ideas of the ruling-class, and the a priori methods employed by their "prize fighters", have been imported into Marxist thought --, and no one bats an eye!


Quite the reverse in fact; ruling-class forms-of-thought find some of their stoutest defenders among dialecticians. [And this is relatively easy to explain in view of the class origins of the vast majority of such comrades.] A recent example can be found here (more specifically here, and the ensuing discussion), and here. A more pernicious set of examples can be found here, here and here.


As far as (1) above is concerned, while DM-acolytes never tire of telling us that they don't impose their ideas on nature (and that DM is not a "master key" that is capable of unlocking the deepest secrets of the universe), that isn't what actually happens. Dialecticians en masse are quite happy to foist their theory on the world. [This is demonstrated in Essay Two.]


For instance, DM-apologists do not usually regard Lenin's philosophical work as an example of a priori reasoning; on the contrary, they see it as a genuine contribution to science, or at least to philosophy and revolutionary theory.


But, this is despite the fact that Lenin did not even attempt to marshal any supporting evidence for the claims he so confidently advanced (in, say, his Philosophical Notebooks [PN]), and in spite of the fact that he asserted the truth of numerous universal, all-embracing theses, which he declared were applicable to all of reality, for all of time (in relation to which no amount of evidence would have been sufficient confirmation).


This can be seen, too, when Lenin claimed, for instance, that dialectics reflects the "eternal development of the world". [PN, p.110.] He even went on to contradict the usual DM-claim that dialectics isn't a master-key that unlocks a cosmic door to a priori knowledge:


"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.]


[A key that unlocks such secrets is different from a "master key" in name alone.]


Of course, these are the sort of things that only a deity could possibly know.


In fact, as noted earlier, dialecticians can still be found who will read the following passage from Engels and not notice (or they will even deny!) that it is an excellent example of a priori dogmatics:


"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…." [Engels (1976), p.74. Bold emphases added.]


A few pages later Engels said this:


"Finally, for me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it." [Ibid., p.13. Bold emphasis added.]


So, Engels, too, was oblivious of what he was doing.


Nor will they view the following from Trotsky in this light:


"[A]ll bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour etc. They are never equal to themselves…. [T]he axiom 'A' is equal to 'A' signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist…. For concepts there also exists 'tolerance' which is established not by formal logic…, but by the dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing…. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradiction, conflict and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc…." [Trotsky (1971), pp.64-66. Bold emphases added.]


Or, this from Mao:


"The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics....


"As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development....


"The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end....


"...There is nothing that does not contain contradictions; without contradiction nothing would exist....


"Thus it is already clear that contradiction exists universally and is in all processes, whether in the simple or in the complex forms of motion, whether in objective phenomena or ideological phenomena....


"...Contradiction is universal and absolute, it is present in the process of the development of all things and permeates every process from beginning to end...." [Mao (1937), pp.311-18. Bold emphases added.]


There are countless examples of this sort of thing to be found in the Dialectical Classics, and in the writings of lesser DM-luminaries.


Indeed, these doctrines weren't discovered by scientists, nor were they derived from the available evidence; they were in fact dreamt up my mystics (like Heraclitus --, indeed, he managed to derive a universal thesis, true fro all of space and time, from a "thought experiment" about stepping into a river!) before there was any evidence to speak of, so these Theses can't have been mere 'summaries of the evidence'. Worse still, what little evidence DM-theorists have scraped-together in support of these universalist claims turns out not to do so anyway (as my Essays show, particularly this one).


If Lenin's philosophical dogmatism is now contrasted with his other more tempered claims (i.e., where he insists that science is only ever partially true, and always revisable), the above examples hyperbolic dialectical exaggeration soon begin to look far less edifying.


Hence, it is difficult to see how Lenin, for one, could possibly have asserted with such confidence the universal and omnitemporal (i.e., true for all of time) validity of the usual DM-theses while at the same time maintaining the belief that DM hasn't been dogmatically imposed on reality -- and while holding on to the idea that knowledge in general is only ever partial and relative.


Of course, it could be objected that revision does not mean abandonment of the gains of the past, and that scientific advance builds on previous generations. Maybe so (but the picture is far more complex than this -- which theme will be explored in Essay Thirteen Part Two), and yet the truth is that if anyone tries to argue with the faithful that DM should be so much as slightly revised in line with Lenin's advice, even with respect to the minutest of details, they risk being assailed with perhaps the strongest word in the DM-arsenal of abuse: "Revisionist!", and the Unholy Inquisition will be on their case.


Dialecticians clearly pay lip-service to Lenin's modest claims; what he said applies to everyone else, not them --, and to every other theory, not theirs.


In fact, no amount of evidence could substantiate the sort of universal claims Lenin, Engels, Plekhanov, Dietzgen, Stalin, Mao and Trotsky repeatedly made, about all of reality for all of time.


In this regard, it is instructive to contrast this dogmatic dialectical frame-of-mind with, say, the much more measured and genuinely scientific approach found in Darwin's careful, empirically-based classic, On The Origin Of Species.


Admittedly, PN wasn't meant for publication, but this quasi-theological aspect of dialectics appears in most published DM-texts, as Essay Two demonstrates.


More recently, this a priori style of thought is especially to be found in the dialectical musings of Gerry Healy, CLR James, and Raya Dunayevskaya. Among HCD practitioners of 'Systematic Dialectics', and/or Academic Marxists (i.e., Tony Smith, Chris Arthur, Bertell Ollman, etc.) it is clearly mandatory.


In fact, it is impossible to find a single DM-text that doesn't slip into a priori Dogmatics.


[Option (2) above is dissected in detail in Essay Twelve Part One.]


3a. Gollobin's recent book is a long, detailed and excellent example of this approach to Holy Writ. RIRE is another first-rate example of this spruced-up cadaver-of-a-theory.


In fact, and in direct response to several recent posts of mine, this site thought it timely to publish yet another copy of the Dialectical Catechism for the faithful to meditate upon as a prophylactic measure to ward off my evil influence -- indeed, as I pointed out:


I can only think that you are publishing all this material on dialectics as some sort of response to my recent demolition of one of its core ideas -- that is, I have been able to show that if this 'theory' were true, change would be impossible.


So reproducing the above material is no more of an effective response than it would be for Christian Fundamentalists to publish passages from the Book of Genesis on-line in response to Darwin.


This 'theory' has been thoroughly demolished at my site.


Get over it.


4. Again, experience on the Internet suggests that not only are DM-acolytes impervious to argument, they are living disproof of their claim that everything in reality is always changing: they never do, and apparently never will. It looks as if a whole generation of DM-apologists might have to die out before fresh theoretical air is allowed into Marxism.


But, I for one will not be holding my breath.


5. As noted above, the accusation that DM hasn't changed significantly in over a hundred years will be substantiated in Essay Thirteen Part One.


This claim is often contested by DM-apologists who appeal to examples drawn from the development of Marxist social, political and economic theory. However, since the above allegation is directed solely at DM, not HM, that response is itself beside the point.


Another aspect of the defensive stance adopted by dialecticians is the fact that few of them fail to point out that hostile critics of Marxism always seem to attack "the dialectic". This then allows DM-fans to brand such detractors as "bourgeois apologists", which in turn means that whatever the latter say can safely be ignored (as, 'plainly', ideological).


[This is the DM-equivalent of the Roman Catholic Church's old Index of Forbidden Books.]


However, it has surely escaped such comrades' attention that the reason the dialectic is attacked by friend and foe alike is that it is by far and away the weakest and most lamentably feeble aspect of traditional Marxist Philosophy. Far from it being an "abomination" to the bourgeoisie (even though the State Capitalist rulers of Eastern Europe, the former USSR, Maoist China and North Korea are, or were, rather fond of it), the dialectic has in fact proved to be an abomination on revolutionary socialism.


So, our enemies attack dialectics precisely because they have found our Achilles Heel.


Whereas, revolutionaries like me attack it for the opposite reason: to rid Marxism of its Achilles Heel.


To be sure, Trotsky tried to respond to this argument along the following lines:


"Anyone acquainted with the history of the struggles of tendencies within workers' parties knows that desertions to the camp of opportunism and even to the camp of bourgeois reaction began not infrequently with rejection of the dialectic. Petty-bourgeois intellectuals consider the dialectic the most vulnerable point in Marxism and at the same time they take advantage of the fact that it is much more difficult for workers to verify differences on the philosophical than on the political plane. This long known fact is backed by all the evidence of experience." [Trotsky (1971), p.94.]


Of course, this works both ways, for if it is difficult for workers to verify such "differences", then that surely allows others to manipulate workers with ideas they do not understand, or can't check (i.e., those found in dialectics itself).


However, as the Essays posted at this site show, there are no good reasons to cling on to these lamentably weak DM-theses, even though there are easily identifiable psychological and ideological reasons why they are, have been, and will be clung onto.


And, far from it being the case that only workers find it hard to defend (or even to understand) this 'theory', so that they can detect such "differences", DM-theorists themselves have shown that they too do not understand their own theory (as these Essays also demonstrate, particularly this one). This isn't because it is a difficult theory to grasp; it is because it relies on incomprehensible Hegelian jargon (upside down or the 'right way up').


Hence, the conclusion is inescapable: petty-bourgeois revolutionaries maintain their commitment to this mystical set of doctrines for contingent psychological and ideological reasons, and for no other. [More about this in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.]


[The "What about 1917?" defence is neutralised here.]


The class origin of comrades like Trotsky works against them, as well. After all, they too are not above (i.e., exempt from) Marx's declaration that:


"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness." [Marx (1970), p.21.]


[The "Ah, but that's just crude reductionism!" riposte is defused here.]


5a. Those who object to my reliance on allegedly 'bourgeois thinkers' should read this and then think again.


There is a notable exception to this rule; one comrade has openly declared on the Internet that he is learning logic so that he can answer my criticisms.


[This declaration can be found here, along with my reply, here (and in subsequent posts on the same page). In fact the Maoists at this site were considerably more comradely toward me that most fellow Trotskyists have been!]


Update January 2014: Six years on, and still no sign of this comrade or his newfound knowledge of logic!


6. Some readers will be surprised to find little or no discussion or analysis of Academic Marxism at this site --, particularly the work of theorists like Lukács, Sartre, Althusser, Derrida, Zizek, the 'Frankfurt School' -- or, that of other 'Continental Philosophers' --, or, indeed, much that passes for "Systematic Dialectics".


That is because:


(1) Most of their work relates to issues connected with HM.


(2) So far (and mercifully!), revolutionary socialism has largely been unaffected by this current (whatever deleterious effects it might have had on the minds of otherwise alert comrades), and:


(3) I can make little sense of much that passes for 'theory' in this genre. [On that, see here.]


Indeed, most of the work that has emerged from this 'tradition' strikes me as little more than an exercise in the systematic production of aimless prose, impenetrable jargon, and then more of the same just to 'explain' the last batch. This theoretical quagmire contains ideas and concepts that are about as comprehensible and transparent as tortuous theological tracts on the nature of, say, the Incarnation of Christ. It is in effect a sort of 'woollier-than-thou' approach to Philosophy.


Hume's bonfire has never been more sorely missed.


Marx likened Philosophy to masturbation (or rather he said that it stood to science as masturbation does to sexual love); well the above thinkers appear for all the world to be engaged in their own collective 'circle-jerk', which is probably why their influence on the class struggle has been close to zero, and will no doubt approach zero asymptotically as their writings become more prolix over time --, and as the working-class increases in size.


Having said that, much of what is concluded in Essay Twelve (i.e., about the class origins of metaphysical/philosophical thought) also applies to this insular body of 'theory' and to those who churn it out. [A summary of which can be found here.]


7. These Essays have been written from a certain perspective within Analytic Philosophy (and, it is worth adding, a minority and unpopular viewpoint, at that!). However, since most DM-fans lack any sort of background in this genre (which failing is not unconnected with, but is significantly compounded by, a general ignorance of MFL), many of the points made at this site have had to be pitched at a very basic level. Professional Philosophers will, therefore, find much here that will irritate them. That, however, is their problem. As I have already noted, this site is not aimed at them.


In addition, I have endeavoured to write much of this material with the following thought in mind: "If this or that passage isn't accessible to ordinary working people, re-write it!" Now, I do not think for one second that I have succeeded everywhere in achieving that level of clarity or directness, but most of the material at this site has been written and re-written well over fifty times (no exaggeration!), and with that sole aim in mind. This process will continue indefinitely. Naturally, it is for members of the target audience (i.e., working people, should they ever read these Essays!) to decide if I have succeeded or failed in achieving my stated objective.


Indeed, and in this regard, I am happy to be judged by them alone.


Even though the content of this work has been greatly influenced by the work of Frege and Wittgenstein, it strives to remain consistent with HM. This will strike some readers as an impossible (if not pointless) task; this misapprehension will also be addressed later on at this site. [On that, see here.]


8. Not much chance of that, though! In fact, up to now, after well over 25 years, I can count the number of comrades who have engaged fairly with me (that is, without them descending into abuse, fabrications or slander) on the fingers of a severely mutilated hand.


It is worth recalling that according to the 'theory' under review here, no theoretical progress can be made except through internally-generated contradictions -- i.e., in this case, those contradictions conjured up by someone inside the movement, one presumes. Once again, that is why these Essays should be welcomed by the DM-faithful --, but it is also why they won't.


The problem with dialecticians is that they do not (or perhaps cannot) recognize the glaring 'contradictions' in their own theory (or they brush them aside with what I have elsewhere called the "Nixon defence").


As far as change is concerned, this can only mean that either their theory can't develop (that is, according to their own theory of change it can't if it has no 'internal contradictions'), or that if they refuse to examine the 'contradictions' I have located, their theory of change must be defective, since this can only mean that such 'internal contradictions' do not in fact change anything!


But, if their theory of change is wrong, then they can safely ignore any 'contradictions' I point out, including this one!


Of course, if DM can't change (presumably this will be because, for the first time in history, human beings have invented a theory with no 'internal contradictions'), that would imply it is absolutely true, and Lenin's claim that all knowledge is relative and incomplete is itself mistaken!


Whichever way we turn here, core DM-theses take another body blow.


In that case, DM-theorists should welcome the many 'contradictions' I have found in their theory, even if only to save it from such easy refutation!


Unfortunately, however, that particular option will sink their theory even faster!


[This rather nice dilemma is tweaked some more here, and here.]


8a. Of course, that depends on how the word "successful" is defined. Unfortunately, however, on any reasonable understanding of this term, this allegation (i.e., that of all the major political ideologies and/or movements in history, DIM is perhaps the least successful) turns out to be true. On that, see Essay Ten Part One.


8b. It is worth underlining yet again the fact that I am not blaming all our woes on dialectics, since comrades who read these words still persist in thinking that I am doing just this no matter how many times they are told the opposite! What I am doing is claiming that this 'theory' is partly responsible for the long-term failure of DIM.


[The extent to which I think that is the case is in fact detailed in Essays Nine Part Two and Ten Part One.]


9. Since beginning this project I have discovered several somewhat similar criticisms in Eric Petersen's The Poverty Of Dialectical Materialism, an excellent book I first read in January 2005.


Also in early 2005, I also happened across the work of Denis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth; their invaluable study -- On The Edge: Political Cults Right And Left -- greatly amplifies several of the points made here, about sectarianism, etc.


It needs adding, though, that I distance myself from their comments about the political nature of Leninism.


A summary of Tourish's ideas can be found here.


10. However, despite the fact that genuine Marxism isn't, DM seems to be alive and well in China (boosted no doubt by its close affinities with Daoism). Because of that, I have consulted several books on 'Chinese Dialectics', which have been translated into English.


11. That is, of course, why Trotskyist bookshops (such as Bookmarks in London) find they can sell works written by STDs.


However, the comments in the main body of this Introduction are not meant to suggest that Trotskyism and Stalinism are literally Siamese twins; far from it. At least as far as a clear commitment to international revolution and the self-activity of the working class are concerned (among many other things!), the two couldn't be more dissimilar. However, with respect to DM, it is difficult to slip a party card between them.


[This controversial claim will be examined in more detail in Essay Two and in Essay Nine Part Two.]


12. On Internet discussion boards, this has perhaps been one of the hardest messages to get across -- not least because comrades there accept the traditional fable that Marxism in fact needs a 'philosophy' of its own of some sort. Why this is so is a question that is seldom raised. [The few arguments advanced in its favour are examined in Essay Twelve Part One.]


However, it is often assumed that if I query a specific 'philosophical' thesis I must therefore accept an opposing doctrine (which I never do -- I invariably reject both). in fact, we no more need Philosophy than we need Religion, and the ubiquity of both in class society shouldn't fool us into thinking that they are inevitable and/or necessary to the human condition.


Indeed, as Essay Twelve points out, in that Traditional Thought largely expresses ancient ruling-class priorities, and both Theology and Philosophy appeal to/employ a priori dogmas of one sort or another -- based on the idea that there is an underlying "rational" structure to reality, accessible to thought alone --, it is clear that both are the result of analogous alienated social conditions.


Even more instructive: in Essay Nine Part Two I am able to show that the quasi-religious devotion shown by DM-fans to their 'dialectical world-view' is in fact a result of the same alienating forces that encourage theological myth-making in its other social victims (i.e., the religious). One cause, two similar effects.


[This argument has now been summarised here.]


13. Two recent examples of this phenomenon can be found here and here (the latter was posted just after I had intervened on the site in question) -- but there are many more like this.


As noted earlier, the only other 'argumentative ploy' that DM-apologists seem to have to hand (in response to my Essays) is to ignore totally whatever they don't like, or can't answer. Such comrades appear to know little FL (many indeed proudly and openly boast about this rather un-flattering defect), but that doesn't stop them informing the electronic world of its many alleged shortcomings. In this they perhaps stand to MFL rather like the Pope does to the advice he gives on marriage and sex. [Except the Pope has the decided edge here; he is of the male sex -- so, at a minimum, he at least knows something (even if that isn't much) about what he says.]


[FL = Formal Logic; MFL = Modern Formal Logic.]


[These comments do not, however, apply to the work of Graham Priest, a highly sophisticated philosopher who has also a mastered MFL. Priest's ideas will be criticised in subsequent Essays. Until then, the reader is directed here.]


However, when anti-DM arguments are rendered so simple that any child can follow them, dialecticians lambaste them for their 'banality', or their 'superficiality'. On the other hand, when they are presented at length, in all their complexity, they moan even more loudly, and throw out with labels like "elitist", "ivory tower", "academic",  "pedantic", "semantic", and allege that they are being "talked down to".


Page after page of impenetrable Hegelian gobbledygook they happily down before breakfast; a few pages of clear argument from yours truly and they throw a tantrum.


You could make it up, but you needn't...





Cohen, G. (1978), Karl Marx's Theory Of History: A Defence (Oxford University Press).


Engels, F. (1954), Dialectics Of Nature (Progress Publishers).


--------, (1976), Anti-Dühring (Foreign Languages Press).


Gollobin, I. (1986), Dialectical Materialism. Its Laws, Categories And Practice (Petras Press).


Lenin, V. (1961), Philosophical Notebooks, Collected Works Volume 38 (Progress Publishers).

--------, (1972), Materialism And Empirio-Criticism (Foreign Languages Press).


Malek, A. (2012), The Dialectical Universe -- Some Reflections On Cosmology (Agamee Prakashani).


Mao Tse-Tung, (1937), 'On Contradiction', in Mao (1964), pp.311-47.


--------, (1964), Selected Works, Volume One (Foreign Languages Press).


Marx, K. (1970), A Contribution To The Critique Of Political Economy (Progress Publishers).


Petersen, E. (1994), The Poverty Of Dialectical Materialism (Red Door).


Rees, J. (1998), The Algebra Of Revolution (Routledge). [This links to a PDF.]


Seymour, R. (2012), 'A Comment On Greece And Syriza', International Socialism 136, Autumn 2012, pp.191-96.


Tourish, D., and Wohlforth, T. (2000), On The Edge. Political Cults Right And Left (M E Sharpe).


Trotsky, L. (1971), In Defense Of Marxism (New Park Publications).


Woods, A., and Grant, T. (1995), Reason In Revolt. Marxism And Modern Science (Wellred Publications).



Abbreviations Used At This Site




 AD:    Anti-Dühring (i.e., Engels (1976))


 AFL Aristotelian Formal Logic


 AIDS: Absolute Idealism


 BBTBig Bang Theory


 CNSCentral Nervous System


 COT Coherence Theory Of Truth


 CTT Correspondence Theory Of Truth


 DL:    Dialectical Logic


 DIM:  Dialectical Marxism/Marxist


 DM:   Dialectical Materialism/Materialist


 DN:   Dialectics Of Nature (i.e., Engels (1954))


 FL:   Formal Logic


 IDM: In Defense Of Marxism (i.e., Trotsky (1971))


 IED:  Identity-In-Difference


 IO:   Interpenetration Of Opposites


 HM:  Historical Materialism


 LEM: Law Of Excluded Middle


 LIE:  Linguistic Idealism


 LOC: Law Of Non-contradiction


 LOILaw Of Identity


 MD:  Materialist Dialectics


 MEC:    Materialism And Empirio-criticism (i.e., Lenin (1972))


 MECW: Marx And Engels Collected Works


 MIST:   Maoist Dialectician


 MFL:    Modern Formal Logic


 NON:   Negation Of The Negation


 NOT:   Non-Orthodox Trotskyist


 OLP:    Ordinary Language Philosophy


 OT:     Orthodox Trotskyist


 OTG:   Orthodox Trotskyist Group


 OTT:   Orthodox Trotskyist Theorist


 PB:     Principle Of Bivalence


 PMT:   Pragmatic Theory Of Truth


 PN:      Philosophical Notebooks (i.e., Lenin (1961))


 QM:     Quantum Mechanics


 Q«Q:  Quantity Turns Into Quality, and vice versa


 STD:    Stalinist Dialectician


 STT:    Semantic Theory Of Truth


 RIRE:   Reason In Revolt (i.e., Woods and Grant (1995/2007))


 TAR:   The Algebra Of Revolution (i.e., Rees (1998))


 UO:     Unity Of Opposites



Word Count: 29,700


Latest update: 15/12/14


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