Essay Two: Dialectical Materialism -- Dogmatically Imposed On Nature, Not Read From It


Technical Preliminaries


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As is the case with all my work, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a scientific theory I fully accept --, or, indeed, on revolutionary socialism. I remain as committed to the self-emancipation of the working class and the dictatorship of the proletariat as I was when I first became a revolutionary thirty-five years ago.


The difference between Dialectical Materialism [DM] and HM, as I see it, is explained here.


This particular Essay is intended to motivate the ideas presented in the rest of the site, particularly those found in  Essays Three Parts One to Five, and Twelve Parts One to Six, where the most controversial allegation advanced below (i.e., that Marxist dialecticians have bought into a ruling-class view of the world) will be explained and substantiated.


[That particular argument is summarised here, here, and here.]


In connection with the above, it is worth pointing out that phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used in this Essay and 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, this 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 more details.


[**Exactly how this applies to DM will be explained later on in this Essay -- see also, here and here. In addition to the three links in the previous paragraph, I have summarised the argument (but this time aimed at absolute beginners!), here.]


It is also worth emphasising that my objection to DM isn't that it has reproduced key areas of ruling-class ideology, but that it makes absolutely no sense. That serious allegation will be fully substantiated in Essays Three through Thirteen at this site.




One of the problems with the material presented below is that, even though I have included literally hundreds of quotations substantiating the allegation that despite what they say DM-theorists have imposed their ideas on the world, DM-apologist often argue that these are just "passing remarks", have been "taken out of context", or that they are merely "hypothetical".


First of all: the question whether or not they are "hypothetical" has been neutralised below (mainly, but not exclusively, here and here).


Second: had I included every dogmatic passage found in the DM-classics (as well as in 'lesser' DM-books and articles) this Essay would have been many hundreds of thousands of words longer than it already is. In order to confirm that this isn't just lazy hyperbole, I have now added an Appendix to this Essay where I have posted some of this additional material. Indeed, and to that end, I have also added a score or more examples of the a priori, dogmatic theses to be found in just the first half of Engels's Anti-Dühring [AD]. This batch of new material is over 5000 words long, confirming my estimation that Engels was a Dialectical Dogmatist to rank among the best. More material will be added from other DM-classics over the next few years.


So, these aren't just "passing remarks".


Moreover, as readers can easily check, they are in context, too. [On that, see here.] Indeed, when asked to supply, or explain, the 'missing context', DM-critics have so far failed to respond. E-mail me if you think you can help them out!


It is also important to point out that in what follows the truth or falsehood of the dogmatic passages I have quoted from the DM-literature isn't the point at issue, merely whether or not DM-theorists are consistent in their assurances not to have imposed their ideas on the facts. Why that is an important question in itself will also be explained.


Of course, in other Essays posted at this site (especially in Essays Three Part One through Thirteen Part Three), the actual truth or falsehood of DM-theses will become the issue. In fact, we will discover that DM-theses are far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not they are true. They don't make it that far!


It is also worth adding that a good 40% of the case against DM has been relegated to the End Notes. This has been done to allow the main body of the Essay to flow a little more smoothly. This means that if readers want fully to appreciate my criticism of DM, they will need to consult this additional material. In many cases, in the End Notes, I have qualified my comments (often adding greater detail and additional supporting evidence); I have also raised objections (some obvious, many not -- and some that will have perhaps occurred to the reader) to my own arguments, which I have then answered. I have further explained why this tactic has been adopted in Essay One.


If readers skip this material, then my answers to any objections they might have will be missed, as will this extra evidence, qualifications and argument.


Since I have been debating this theory with comrades for well over 25 years, I have heard all the objections there are! [I have linked to many of the more recent on-line debates here.]




This project began as a lengthy criticism of John Rees's book The Algebra of Revolution (but it has now moved way beyond that initial objective), so it is with this work that I begin. I do so in order to show that he, too, is quite happy to appropriate an ancient, ruling-class tradition -- i.e., one of imposing a philosophical theory on nature and society. I next extend my criticism to the works of the dialectical classicists themselves (Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, etc.), and then move on to literally dozens of secondary dialectical works that have been published over the last century or so in order to substantiate fully the allegation that they're all it: foisting their dogmatic theses on the world.


In Appendix One I aim to show that open and honest mystics from across the planet not only impose their ideas on reality in like manner, they also accept a set of doctrines that is difficult to distinguish from those of their DM-cousins -- namely, that: (1) Everything is inter-connected, (2) Everything is a unity of opposites, (3) Change and development are the result of the inter-play/'struggle' between these opposites/'contradictions', and (4) Change is a universal phenomenon.


In Appendix Two, I have started to post yet more passages from the DM-classics that further confirm the above allegations. In Appendix Three, I have added dozens of passages from across the Internet to the same end, and in Appendix Four, I concentrate on the work of The Daddy of Dialectics: Gerry Healy.




Throughout this Essay, readers will find me regularly asking the following rhetorical question: "How could theorist A, B or C possibly know X, Y or Z (where "X", "Y", and "Z" represent certain specific DM-theses)?"


The answer is pretty clear in each case: they couldn't possibly know these things by any conceivable means, which implies they must have been imposed on nature.


This question is asked continually in order to underline the fact that dialecticians en masse promulgate theses that cannot possibly be, or have been, substantiated by any conceivable body of evidence, no matter how large -- since these doctrines are held to be true for all of space and time.


So, just like the more open and honest mystics listed in Appendix One -- who derived their ideas, not from a scientific study of nature, but from each other, or from the deeper recesses of their own fantasy world -- the theses Marxist Dialecticians have imposed on the universe were appropriated, again, not from a scientific study of the world, but from that Mystic Extraordinaire, Hegel, or the work of earlier mystics -- for example, Heraclitus and Spinoza.


Exactly why all DM-theorists do this will also be revealed below, but in more detail in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.


What Marx said of the 'Critical Critics' in The Holy Family could very well be said of DM-theorists in general, and with equal justification:


"[D]espite all its invectives against dogmatism, it condemns itself to dogmatism...faded, widowed Hegelian philosophy which paints and adorns its body, shrivelled into the most repulsive abstraction...." [Marx and Engels (1975a), p.20. Italic emphasis in the original.]


Hard to believe?


Then read on...


Several readers have complained about the number of links I have added to these Essays because they say it makes them very difficult to read. Of course, DM-supporters can hardly lodge that complaint since they believe everything is interconnected, and that must surely apply even to Essays that attempt to debunk that very idea. However, to those who find such links do make these Essays difficult to read I say this: ignore them -- unless you want to access further supporting evidence and argument for a particular point, or a certain topic fires your interest.


Others wonder why I have linked to familiar subjects and issues that are part of common knowledge (such as the names of recent Presidents of the USA, UK Prime Ministers, the names of rivers and mountains, the titles of popular films, or certain words that are in common usage). I have done so for the following reason: my Essays are read all over the world and by people from all 'walks of life', so I can't assume that topics which are part of common knowledge in 'the west' are equally well-known across the planet -- or, indeed, by those who haven't had the benefit of the sort of education that is generally available in the 'advanced economies', or any at all. Many of my readers also struggle with English, so any help I can give them I will continue to provide.


Finally on this specific topic, several of the aforementioned links connect to web-pages that regularly change their URLs, or which vanish from the Internet altogether. While I try to update them when it becomes apparent that they have changed or have disappeared I can't possibly keep on top of this all the time. I would greatly appreciate it, therefore, if readers informed me of any dead links they happen to notice.


In general, links to Haloscan no longer seem to work, so readers needn't tell me about them! Links to RevForum, RevLeft, Socialist Unity and The North Star also appear to have died.


I have also linked to Woods and Grant's book, Reason in Revolt, numerous times in this Essay, but the link I used now only takes the reader to parts of the second edition instead of the entire book, as used to be the case. However, anyone who wants to access a complete version of that edition can now do so here. I haven't changed the scores of links to the old site that I have inserted in what follows since they used to take the reader to specific chapters of that book, but that faculty is now no longer available.




Finally, as of January 2024 this Essay is just over 152,500 words long, a significant proportion of which consists of hundreds of quotations (and that number is no exaggeration!) from the DM-classics and 'lesser' DM-works. A much shorter summary of some of its main ideas can be accessed here.


The material below does not represent my final view of any of the issues raised; it is merely 'work in progress'.


[Latest Update: 11/01/24.]


Quick Links


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


If your Firewall/Browser has a pop-up blocker, you will need to press the "Ctrl" key at the same time or these and the other links here won't work!


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(A) Introduction


(1) Traditional, A Priori Dogmatics


(2) Dialecticians In A Fix


(B) Radical Politics -- Conservative Philosophy


(1) An Ironic 'Dialectical Inversion'


(2) Dialectics: Consistently Inconsistent


(C) Dialectics Isn't A 'Master Key' -- Or So The Official Brochure Says


(1) Dialectical Idealism?


(2) Imposition Number One: 'Reality' Is Dialectical After All!


(D) Dialecticians Reveal Their True Colours


(1) Throwing Caution To The Wind


(2) Tested In Practice?


(E) The Dialectical Chorus Line


(1) Rees Imposes His Theory On Reality


(2) The Dialectical Classicists -- All A Priori Dogmatists


(a) Engels Ignores His Own 'Modest' Disclaimers


(b) Lenin Finds The 'Master-Key' That Unlocks All Of Reality


(c) Bukharin 'The Bold'


(d) Trotsky's Traditionalism


(e) Plekhanov -- Apriorist Extraordinaire


(f) Stalin Murders A 'Theory' -- For A Change


(g) Mao's Great 'Leap' Backwards


(h) Hegel -- The Mother Lode


(F) A Priori DM-Super-Science


(1) The Norm, Not The Exception


(2) Trapped Between The Scylla Of Hegelianism And The Charybdis Of Positivism


(G)  Lesser Dialectical Clones


(1)    They're All At It!


(2)    Dietzgen The Dogmatist


(3)    Abram Deborin


(4)    David Hayden-Guest


(5)    Edward Conze


(6)    August Thalheimer


(7)    George Novack


(8)    Woods And Grant


(9)    Harry Nielsen


(10)  Gerry Healy -- The Daddy Of Dialectics


(11)  Amadeo Bordiga


(12)  Maurice Cornforth


(13)  John Desmond Bernal


(14)  Ira Gollobin


(15)  Paul McGarr


(16)  John Molyneux


(17)  Chris Nineham


(18)  Levins And Lewontin


(19)  Terry Button


(20)  CLR James -- 'No Proof Required'


(21)  Philip Moran -- 'Proof Already Provided'


(22)  Alex Callinicos


(23)  Ernest Mandel


(24)  Christopher Caudwell


(25)  Lenny Wolff


(26)  Erwin Marquit


(27)  Potpourri -- A Mixed Bag


(a) David DeGrood, Ifor Torbe, And Abdul Malek


(b) Terry Sullivan And Camilla Royle


(c) Peter Mason And John Pickard


(28)  Assorted Stalinists And Maoists


(a) Shirokov


(b) Spirkin


(c) Afanasyev


(d) Konstantinov


(e) Sheptulin


(f)  Kharin


(g) Kuusinen


(h) Adoratsky


(i)  Oparin


(j)  Lauesen


(28)  DM-Dogmatism Spreads Across The Internet


(29)  YouTube And Dialectical Dogmatism


(H) Academic Dialectical Dogmatists


(1)  Conservative Theorists Masquerading As Radicals


(2)  Sean Sayers


(3)  Slavoj Zizek


(4)  Henri Lefebvre (Still Under Construction, May 2023)


(I) Dialecticians And Their 'Non-Dialectical Fig Leaf'


(J) Changeless Particles?


(K) Conclusion


(L) Appendix One -- Open And Honest Dialectical Mystics


(1) Mysticism And 'Ruling Ideas'


(2) Greek Philosophy


(a) Anaximander


(b) Anaximenes


(3) The Kybalion


(4) Mysticism In General


(5) Mixed Examples


(a) Daoism


(b) Buddhism


(c) Hinduism


(d) Shinto Mysticism


(e) Muslim Mysticism


(f) Eastern Mysticism


(g) Native American Mysticism


(h) Aztec Mysticism


(i) Kabbalism


(j) Ancient Egyptian Mysticism


(k) Miscellaneous Mysticism


(l) Fascist Mysticism


(M) Appendix Two -- Dialectical Dogmatists On Steroids


(1) Engels Engages Dogmatic Hyperdrive


(a) Anti-Dühring


(b) Dialectics Of Nature


(c) Ludwig Feuerbach And The End Of Classical German Philosophy


(N) Appendix Three -- Dialectical Dogmatism Spreads Across The Internet


(1) Dialectical Knotweed


(2) Dialectical Materialists Issue "Demands"


(P) Appendix Four -- Welcome To The Gerry Healy Mausoleum Of A Priori Dogmatics


(Q) Notes


(R) References


Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism


Abbreviations Used At This Site


Return To The Main Index Page


Contact Me




Essay Two will establish that despite what DM-theorists say, they have imposed their theory on nature and society.


Traditional A Priori Dogmatics


For over two thousand years Traditional Philosophers have been playing on themselves and their readers what can only be described as a series of complex verbal tricks. Since Ancient Greek times, metaphysicians have occupied themselves with deriving their a priori theories solely from the meaning of a narrow range of specially-selected and suitably-doctored words. These 'philosophical gems' were skilfully polished and then peddled to the rest of humanity dressed-up as 'profound truths' about 'fundamental aspects of reality', peremptorily imposed on nature, almost invariably without the benefit of a single supporting experiment.01


In fact, Traditional Theorists went even further. These acts of linguistic legerdemain 'enabled' them to uncover seemingly endless Super-Truths in the comfort of their own heads, concocting theories they claimed revealed the underlying, essential nature of existence, valid for all of space and time. Unsurprisingly, discursive magic of this order of magnitude conveniently reflected contemporaneous ruling-class forms-of-thought, chief among which was -- and still is -- the belief that reality is rational.


Clearly, the claim that reality is rational has to be imposed on nature. It can't be read from it since nature isn't Mind. Plainly, theorists find it much easier to 'justify' and rationalise the imposition of a hierarchical, oppressive and grossly unequal class system on the majority if they can succeed in persuading them that the 'law-like' order of the natural world perfectly reflects, and is reflected in turn by, the social order from which their patrons just so happen to benefit, the fundamental tenets of which none may legitimately question.


Material reality may not be rational, but it is certainly rational for ruling-class hacks to claim it is.


Dialecticians In A Fix


Even before the first Marxist Dialecticians put pen to misuse they found themselves surrounded on all sides by ideas drawn from an ancient, hostile ruling-class philosophical tradition. Clearly, this meant that they faced serious problems, one of which was that if they copied Traditional Philosophers and imposed their ideas on nature, they could be accused of constructing just another form of Idealism. On the other hand, if they didn't do this, they wouldn't have a 'philosophical theory' of their own to lend weight to their claim that they alone understand the aforementioned 'fundamental aspects of reality' and hence the motivating forces of social development. That would have the knock-on effect of undermining their right to lead the revolution. Confronted thus by Traditional Thought-forms (which they had no hand in creating, but which they were only too happy to appropriate, DM-theorists found there was no easy way out of this minefield -- or, at least, none that prevented their theory from sliding remorselessly into yet another form of Idealism.


This isn't to argue that dialecticians weren't aware of the Idealism implicit in Traditional Philosophy -- indeed, as George Novack pointed out:


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


This echoed Lenin's views:


"The derivation of necessity, causality, law, etc., from thought is idealism." [Lenin (1972), p.192.]


On the contrary, their excuse for disregarding or downplaying the pernicious influence of Traditional Thought on their own ideas was that the materialist flip they say they have inflicted on Hegel's system (putting it 'back on its feet') was capable of transforming theoretical dirt into philosophical gold.


However, as we are about to see, flip or no flip, their own thought is thoroughly traditional: it is (a) dogmatic, (b) a priori, and (c) expressed in jargon lifted straight from The Philosophers' Phrase Book. While few DM-theorists will deny that Traditional Philosophy itself is predominantly Idealist, not one of them has failed to emulate, and then elaborate upon, its dogmatic approach to a priori knowledge.


Despite this, dialecticians still insist that their theory hasn't been imposed on nature, simply read from it.1 Because of this they insist they can not only deflect, they can neutralise the above allegations.


And yet, it is far from clear how any theory could be read from nature -- at least, not unambiguously. Not only have countless inconsistent theories been 'inferred from reality', the idea itself trades on the misleading metaphor that the world a book, or is book-like, and hence that on it, or in it, there have been inscribed countless secrets just waiting for humanity to stumble across.


Of course, if it were true that the universe had such 'messages' encoded into it, that would imply that it was indeed the product of Mind, and ultimately perhaps that it was just One Big Idea (in development, perhaps). As the record clearly shows, Traditional Philosophers found it difficult to resist just such an inference. That fact is, of course, well-known. Less widely appreciated are the class forces that have encouraged Idealist conclusions like this, even among Marxist Dialecticians.


[The latter will be explored in more detail in other Essays posted at this site -- particularly Nine Parts One and Two, Twelve Parts One to Seven (summary here), and Fourteen Part One (summary here).]


Radical Politics -- Conservative Philosophy


An Ironic 'Dialectical Inversion'


As will soon become apparent, for all their claims to be radical, when it comes to Philosophy DM-theorists are surprisingly conservative -- and universally incapable of seeing this even after it has been pointed out to them!


[An excellent example of this, and one that has been highly influential on how DM-theorists receive and then respond to such criticism has been posted here.]


At a rhetorical level, philosophical conservatism like this has been camouflaged behind what at first sight appears to be a series of disarmingly modest disclaimers, which are then promptly flouted.


The quotations given below (and in Note 1) show that DM-theorists are keen to deny that their system is wholly, or even partially, a priori, or that it has been dogmatically imposed on the world, not read from it. However, the way that dialecticians themselves phrase their theories contradicts these seemingly modest-looking denials, revealing the opposite to be the case.


This inadvertent dialectical inversion -- whereby what DM-theorists say about what they do is the reverse of what they do with what they say -- neatly mirrors the distortion to which Traditional Philosophy has subjected ordinary language over the last two millennia (outlined in Essay Three Parts One and Two, and in Essay Twelve Part One), a point underlined by Marx himself:


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


However, unlike dialecticians, Traditional Metaphysicians were quite open and honest about what they were doing; indeed, they brazenly imposed their a priori theories on reality and hung the consequences.


But, because dialecticians have a novel -- but nonetheless defective -- view of both Metaphysics and FL (on that, see here and here), they are oblivious of the fact that they are just as eager as Traditional Theorists have ever been to impose their theory on the world, and equally blind to the fact that in so-doing they are aping the alienated thought-forms of their class enemy, whose society they seek to abolish.


Naturally, this means that their 'radical' guns were spiked before they were even loaded; with such weapons, is it any wonder that DM-theorists fire nothing but philosophical blanks?


[FL = Formal Logic.]


DM is a conservative theory precisely because its adherents have imported, and then adopted, the distorted methods, a priori thought-forms, theories and meaningless jargon they found in Traditional Philosophy.


For many, the above accusations might seem far easier to make than they are to substantiate.


In fact, the reverse is the case, as we are about to discover...


DM: Consistently Inconsistent


Given the fact that DM-theorists see contradictions everywhere, one would be forgiven for thinking that they would welcome a few more to add to the list. However, if the past is anything to go by, it is a safe bet that dialecticians won't be too happy with the many that will be brought to their attention in the Essays posted at this site -- especially if the majority of these contradictions show that their theory is not so much consistently inconsistent, as fatally so.


Dialecticians claim that even though their theory/method has been derived from Hegel's system of Absolute Idealism, the materialist flip they say they have imposed on it means that DM isn't the least bit Idealist, it is thoroughly materialist, having been refined and tested in practice for over 150 years.


That is, of course, what the official brochure tells us.


But, is it an accurate picture of DM?


As we are about to see, it is as close to the truth as dodgy Iraq WMD Dossiers were.


DM -- Not A "Master Key"


Dialectical Idealism?


The claim that abstract concepts underlie our knowledge of the world has obvious Idealist implications (on this, see below, and Essay Three Parts One and Two) -- implications that an aspiring materialist has a pressing need to avoid, if not deny. The question is: How do DM-theorists manage to do this?


[TAR = The Algebra Of Revolution, i.e., Rees (1998).]


For one, John Rees argues that human knowledge grows because it has:


"[Brought] to it a framework composed of our past experiences; what we have learned of others' experience, both in the present and in the past; and of our later reflections on and theories about this experience…. Concepts and theories are necessary to interpret the world." [Rees (1998), p.63.]


These observations form part of a criticism of Hegel's belief that:


"[A]ll real knowledge of the world is theoretical knowledge… [and] the development of knowledge primarily depends on the further elaboration of concepts." [Ibid., p.63.]


However, Rees then argues that it would be a mistake for us to try to:


"[D]educe directly particular events from general rules or to assume that general laws can be directly inferred from specific, empirical observations." [Ibid., p.107.]


But, this further requires us to:


"[M]ake an abstraction from the inessential and accidental features of reality to grasp more clearly its key features." [Ibid., p.110.]


Rees also points out that the danger here is that this might reintroduce Hegel's own errors, luring Marxists into a familiar Idealist trap. This can be avoided by ensuring that:


"Testing by facts or by practice…is…found in each step of the analysis." [Ibid., p.113; quoting Lenin (1961), p.318 -- but not p.320, as Rees suggests.] 


In that case:


"Constant empirical work is...essential to renew both the concrete analyses and the dialectical concepts that are generalized from these analyses." [Ibid., p.110.]


Moreover, general concepts can't be seen as:


"[A] substitute for the difficult empirical task of tracing the development of real contradictions, not as a suprahistorical master key whose only advantage is to turn up when no real historical knowledge is available." [Ibid., p.9.]


Later, in a discussion of Trotsky's views on DM, Rees reminded his readers that Trotsky himself warned that the dialectic isn't:


"'[A] magic master-key for all questions.' The dialectic is not a calculator into which it is possible to punch the problem and allow it to compute the solution. This would be an idealist method. A materialist dialectic must grow from a patient, empirical examination of the facts and not be imposed on them…." [Ibid., p.271; mis-quoting Trotsky (1973), p.233. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original.]


Even though the metaphor of the garden has now replaced that of the book, it is clear that Rees accepts the standard line that DM mustn't be imposed on nature, but should be derived from a scientific study of it -- adding that not only should it be checked at every stage, it must be thoroughly tested in practice.


The question is: Does this succeed in avoiding the Idealist trap mentioned earlier? Even more to the point: Is this an accurate picture of what DM-theorists actually do, as opposed to what they merely say they do?


Indeed, is it even an accurate account of what Rees himself does?


Reality Is Dialectical After All!


Clearly not, for just two lines later Rees added this revealing aside:


"A dialectical method is only possible because reality itself is dialectically structured." [Ibid., p.271.]


But, this is quite remarkable! One minute we are being soothed with reassuring words that DM mustn't be imposed on reality, but derived from it; the very next we are told that reality itself is dialectically structured!


But, how on earth could Rees possibly know this? Clearly, unless DM had already been imposed on reality, he couldn't know that it is dialectically structured. What is the point of stressing that DM mustn't be imposed on reality -- but simply read from it -- if nature is already dialectically structured? There seems to be no point. In fact, it would be as pointless as insisting that we shouldn't impose greenness on grass, or oddness on the number three. And yet, what else could Rees's claim amount to except an imposition onto reality of something we were told should only emerge as a result of a "patient empirical examination of the facts"?1a


Plainly, the most that could legitimately be claimed here is that up to now the available evidence supports a dialectical view of reality. It shouldn't be that this widely touted 'cautious approach' is only possible because "reality itself is dialectically structured." If that were the case, caution could be thrown to the wind.


Of course, it could be objected here that Rees's conclusion is quite reasonable since it is based on a careful consideration of the available scientific evidence.


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


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


This is all the more so if we take into account the fact that DM-theorists also claim that human knowledge is not only partial and relative, it will only ever remain in this state. In fact, since DM-theorists believe that the pursuit of knowledge is an infinite quest, and that the gap between Absolute and current, or relative, knowledge will always be infinite, humanity will only be in a position to agree with dialecticians about "reality itself" at the end of an "infinite" epistemological quest. It is plain, I take it,  that Rees hasn't yet completed such a task, nor is he ever likely to do so -- and neither is humanity --, so the conclusion that realty itself is dialectically structured can't form part of human knowledge, now or ever.


Which means it must have been imposed on reality.


Again, it might be objected that Rees's claim is in fact a working hypothesis which has so far been reasonably well-confirmed. However, as we will see, this isn't how he actually frames his ideas, nor is it the way that other DM-theorists have presented their ideas over the last 150 years. As this Essay unfolds, it will become abundantly clear that dialecticians adopt a thoroughly traditional approach to Philosophy, deriving a priori theses from laughably thin evidence, or even none at all, which they then happily impose on nature.1b


Impertinent claims like these are, as it turns out, quite easy to substantiate.


Anyone still harbouring doubts should read on...


'Materialists' In Traditional Clothing


Throwing Caution To The Wind


Plainly, this isn't a reassuring way for Rees to demonstrate the "careful" application of the "dialectical method" -- which is aimed at, let us recall, persuading the rest of us that DM isn't just another form of Idealism.


However, as we have just seen, Rees's justification for the correct application of DM to reality is that reality is in fact 'dialectically structured'. That is, he appeals to the alleged fact that reality is as he says it is in order to account for the applicability of the dialectical method to it:


"A dialectical method is only possible because reality itself is dialectically structured." [Ibid., p.271.]


But if, as we were told, this is indeed an example of the cautious approach to knowledge (necessary, once more, to avoid accusations of Idealism), the direction of justification should proceed the other way. It would surely go something like this: "Because the dialectical method is so successful, we may conclude that those parts of nature and society to which it has so far been applied are dialectically structured." By no stretch of the imagination should we conclude that the method works because "reality itself" is dialectical. That inference isn't cautious, it is dogmatic.


[As we will see, Rees is simply copying Engels, here.]


Now, the fact that Rees puts the point this way round strongly suggests that the legendary dialectical spin that DM-theorists are supposed to have inflicted on Hegel's system (putting it "back on its feet") was perhaps less successful than we have been led to believe -- either that, or Hegel's system remains Idealist in forward and reverse gear, 'the right way up' or upside down.


If so, this might be enough to show that DM isn't a materialist doctrine after all, but an example of upside-down Absolute Idealism.


But, is it enough?


The rest of this Essay, and several others posted at this site, will answer that question -- greatly strengthening this suspicion.


Tested In Practice?


At this point, it might be objected that DM has in fact been tested in practice, which fact alone confirms that reality is dialectically structured. It also proves that DM isn't remotely Idealist.


Or, so it could be alleged.


Unfortunately, however, not only has practice failed to confirm DM, the exact opposite is in fact the case. [Detailed substantiation for that controversial allegation can be found in Essay Ten Part One.] If the evidence of the last hundred and forty years is anything to go by, it is clear that dialectics has been tested in practice and has so far been disproved. Indeed, history has delivered an almost unambiguously negative verdict.


Sad though it is to say, revolutionary socialism and success are almost total strangers. In that case, it would be unwise of DM-theorists to continue to appeal to practice as a test of their theory, or, indeed, of its materialist credentials.


But, even if this weren't the case, a thousand years of revolutionary practice wouldn't be sufficient to show that "reality itself" is dialectically structured. At best, it would merely confirm that human history might be. It should hardly need pointing out that the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 in no way confirms that the outer fringes of the Galaxy are dialectical, or that every photon in the entire universe is now, and will always be, powered by its "internal contradictions".1c


The Dialectical Chorus Line


Rees Imposes His Views On Reality


Again, in response to this, it could be argued that the above passage from TAR is atypical, or that it doesn't really represent its author's considered views, or that it doesn't imply what the above alleges of it, or even that Rees is neither a leading nor a typical DM-theorist, etc., etc. But, as we are about to see, not only is this set of rejoinders wrong in particular (in that this passage does indeed reflect Rees's view), it is incorrect in general.


It is typical of DM authors to talk this way; they all do it, all the time!


In fact, Rees endorses this a priori and dogmatic view of "reality":


"Lenin's worry is that previous explanations of dialectics have simply shown that reality forms a totality and that things which are assumed to be opposites are in reality connected with one another. But they have not stressed that reality is a contradictory totality or that it is the mutually antagonistic relationship between the parts of the totality which are the motor force of its change and development." [Rees (1998), p.186. Bold emphasis added.]  


[Rees nowhere objects to Lenin's dogmatic views.]


How Rees knows this to be the case concerning reality itself (and, contrary to what we are told, previous dialecticians hadn't shown that "reality forms a totality", they simply pinched this idea from previous generations of mystics who also imposed it on nature) -- how he know this, he annoyingly kept to himself. Even so, he, too, was quite happy to foist it on the facts, despite having quoted Trotsky as follows:


"'[The dialectic isn't a] magic master key for all questions.' The dialectic is not a calculator into which it is possible to punch the problem and allow it to compute the solution. This would be an idealist method. A materialist dialectic must grow from a patient, empirical examination of the facts and not be imposed on them…." [Ibid., p.271; mis-quoting Trotsky (1973), p.233. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added.]


Rees's comments are in fact part of a long tradition; DM-theorists regularly impose their a priori theories on nature, just like the Traditional Thinkers from whom they inherited this Idealist method.


Lenin admitted as much when he said:


"The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia." [Lenin (1947), pp.31-32. Bold emphases added.]


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


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


Of course, the influence of earlier thinkers isn't something dialecticians deny, but it is no less clear they have failed to appreciate its significance.


[However, in Essay Nine Parts One and Two, Lenin's claims about sectarianism will be shown to be wildly inaccurate.]


Nevertheless, the fact that Rees's claim wasn't a mere slip of the keyboard can be seen from several other things he says:


"Totality refers to the insistence that the various seemingly separate elements of which the world is composed are in fact related to one another." [Rees (1998), p.5. Emphasis added.]


Again, how is it possible for Rees to insist on something while claiming that he isn't actually imposing it on nature?


Of course, he and others might choose to believe such things -- and they could even claim support for such beliefs from the available evidence -- but, as should seem obvious, an "insistence" of this sort could only ever be justified if the pretence that dialectics hasn't been imposed on reality has been quietly dropped.


And, there is more:


"[The] natural and social world [form] a single totality developing over time as a result of…internal contradictions…. [N]ature is an interconnected system that developed for millions of years before humans." [Ibid., pp.285-86.]


But, how could Rees possibly know that the natural and social world forms a single Totality, as opposed to its being, say, two Totalities, or ten thousand Totalities --, or maybe even no Totality at all? And how could he possibly know that everything is interconnected, contradictory and changing all the time? Or even that development is always and everywhere the result of "internal contradictions"?


To be sure, he could claim to know this if DM had surreptitiously been imposed on nature, but that is the only way he could 'know' this.


[What little evidence and/or argument DM-apologists have offered in support of such hyper-bold claims will be examined in Essays Five, Seven, Eight Parts One and Two, and Eleven Parts One and Two.]


And, as if this weren't enough, Rees has several more things he sought to impose on reality:


"…[A] dialectical approach…presupposes the parts and the whole are not reducible to each other. The parts and the whole mutually condition, or mediate, each other." [Ibid., p.7.]


"In a dialectical system, the entire nature of the part is determined by its relationships with the other parts and so with the whole. The part makes the whole, and the whole makes the parts…. In this analysis, it is not just the case that the whole is more than the sum of the parts but also that the parts become more than they are individually by being part of a whole…. [F]or dialectical materialists the whole is more than the simple sum of its parts." [Rees (1998), pp.5, 77.]


But, is a presupposition any different from an imposition? And, where is all the "patiently collected" evidence that confirms that every single atom in the entire universe "mediates", and is "mediated" in return by, everything else -- or, indeed, by every other atom? How could Rees possibly know, for example, that the whole "mediates" each and every part? Once more, he may perhaps surmise this from the available evidence (which he failed to produce anyway), but these hyper-bold claims can't form part of current knowledge; and if DM-epistemology is our guide, they never will.


Indeed, it isn't easy to see how anyone could possibly confirm that, say, a humble carrot in your shopping is, or isn't, 'mediated' by Galaxy M100, or even Galaxy NGC1365, and vice versa. And what sort of spooky influence is a 'mediation', anyway? What evidence would anyone be looking for in order to confirm that these ill-defined 'influences' (these "mediacies") actually exist? Is there any way to detect, let alone study, these strange, if not spooky, 'effects'? How could the latter possibly register on scientific instruments? And yet, if the existence and nature of such 'effects' aren't capable of being confirmed (and if no one was able to say what their confirmation would even look like), we only have Hegel's word that they actually exist.


Of course, this helps explain why Rees found he had to impose such things on nature.


It is no good replying that the above theory (about 'mediation') follows from an abstract theory (or any theory), since that would merely confirm the allegation that DM is Idealist, after all. Here is Lenin again:


"The derivation of necessity, causality, law, etc., from thought is idealism." [Lenin (1972), p.192.]


And how does Rees know that every single whole that has ever existed in the entire history of the universe up until now, or will ever exist, is more than the sum of its parts? Or, that the entire nature of any part is determined by its relation to the other parts and to the whole?


Naturally, this introduces factors connected with the elusive DM-"Totality". As we will see in Essay Eleven Parts One and Two (where it will be shown that the above claims aren't even factually correct), the "Totality" is an impenetrable mystery -- even to dialecticians themselves!


[The argument Rees actually uses to counter objections like this (i.e., his argument based on an analysis of 'friendship' (pp.109-10)), will be examined in detail in Essay Three Part Four.]


More to the point: How does Rees know that wholes aren't reducible to their parts? Can he say with total confidence that not one single whole (in the many thousands of millennia to come) will never be reduced to its parts? If he does so attest -- and in advance of the evidence -- how is that different from imposing this thesis on reality?


Nevertheless, Rees is the one who wants to reduce all change to "internal contradictions" -- which, for all the world, look like they are the 'logical atoms' of DM.


[Those who doubt that assertion should consult this this Essay, and then perhaps think again.]


In fact, Rees's only apparent objection to reductionism isn't that there is a mountain of evidence demanding its rejection, but that it would lead to something Hegel called a "bad infinity" (or, in a more recent translation of his 'Logic', a "spurious infinity" -- Hegel (1999), pp.137, 139):


"Hegel described this kind of account as 'bad infinity', because it postulated an endless series of causes and effects regressing to 'who knows where?' The defect of all such approaches is that they leave the ultimate cause of events outside the events they describe. The cause is external to the system. A dialectical approach seeks to find the cause of change within the system. And if the explanation of change lies within the system, it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect, because this will simply reproduce the problem we are trying to solve. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Rees (1998), p.7. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


But, why should we accept Hegel's view? Hegel wasn't a scientist. The record fails to show he carried out any experiments. But, perhaps in compensation for this failing, he arguably holds the world record for the number of theses foisted onto nature by one human being in a single lifetime.


He is not, therefore, a terribly good witness for the defence.


Naturally, Hegel had his own Idealist reasons for rejecting such infinities, but is there any material evidence that "bad infinities" are quite as evil as he and Rees seem to think? If there is, they both unwisely kept it to themselves.


This suggests that Rees accepted this rather odd Hegelian caveat for Idealist reasons himself -- that is, he rejected such infinities as "bad" even though that conclusion wasn't based on evidence of any sort -- and despite his earlier claim that that particular requirement wasn't an optional extra.


Clearly then, Rees seems quite happy to foist these Hegelian fancies on reality.


In addition, how could Rees possibly know that there isn't in fact an endless series of causes and effects responsible for any and all change in the natural world? Or that change can't be externally-induced -- or even that all change is driven by "internal contradictions"? For all he knows, there could be parts of the universe where dialectics just doesn't apply. It might fail to apply at the centre of the earth, or it mightn't have worked only for a few years during the Permian age, or before humanity evolved. Indeed, it might have ceased to work on the other side of the Crab Nebula, or, nearer to home, on earth in a million years time. How could Rees rule out any of these and countless other possibilities?


Of course, Rees and other DM-theorists do have an argument (but no actual evidence) in favour of this idea:


"A dialectical approach seeks to find the cause of change within the system.... If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradictions, of instability, and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Ibid., p.7.]


I will examine this argument in detail in Essay Eight Parts One and Two, so readers are directed there for more details. But, it is sufficient to note here that this is a theoretical argument, and subject to George Novack and Lenin's strictures:


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


"The derivation of necessity, causality, law, etc., from thought is idealism." [Lenin (1972), p.192.]


So, when faced with objections like those above, dialecticians often reach for this Hegelian idea: all change occurs because of "internal contradictions", as a result of the universal existence of UOs --, arguing that if all change is indeed a result of this, then there is no way that DM couldn't have applied at all times and places -- for example, in the Permian, at the centre of the earth, or on the other side of the universe, etc.


[UO = Unity of Opposites.]


But, and once again, that response merely confirms the main thesis if this Essay: that DM-fans are quite happy to impose their abstract schemas on reality, even when there is no conceivable way that such things could be confirmed.


Now, should any reader be tempted to argue along similar lines, that will only serve to confirm a claim made earlier in this Essay:


As will soon become apparent, for all their claims to be radical, when it comes to Philosophy DM-theorists are surprisingly conservative -- and universally incapable of seeing this even after it has been pointed out to them... At a rhetorical level, philosophical conservatism like this has been camouflaged behind what at first sight appears to be a series of disarmingly modest disclaimers, which are then promptly flouted.


Indeed, as is the case with other traditionalists, DM-fans slip into a priori dogmatic mode impressively quickly.


[We will see, too, in Essays Five through Eight Part Two, these DM-principles don't even work closer to home, with respect to such mundane things as a bag of sugar or even cats moving about on or off  mats, let alone in distant regions of space and time.]


Now, Rees might wish to believe such things, but if dialectics can only grow from a "patient" examination of the evidence (etc.), it is quite clear that he can't know them to be true, given the present (or, indeed, any foreseeable) state of knowledge.


In fact, as it turns out, he will never know any of them; not only do "internal contradictions" fail to explain change, they can't possibly do so. Quite the reverse, in fact; as is surprisingly easy to demonstrate, the idea that change can only arise from "internal contradictions" is itself inconsistent with other DM-theses, and with what we already know about nature and society.2


There are several more suspiciously Idealist passages like this in TAR; here is another:


"If nature forms a totality, which it must unless we depart from materialism completely and become believers in the supernatural, and if this totality develops, as evolutionary theory indicates, then are we not obliged to picture this as self-development powered by internal contradiction?" [Rees (1998), p.78. Bold emphasis added.]


Once more, Rees's only argument in favour of the idea that nature forms a "totality" seems to be that to deny it would leave room for the supernatural. But, that isn't evidence. He certainly wouldn't accept a converse argument for the existence of God on the lines that to deny it would create a materialist 'bad infinity' (in that it would leave the physical world unaccounted for on purely rational grounds -- which is what Hegel and other theists have argued), a belief that is likewise supported by no evidence whatsoever. In that case, and once again, Rees's claim certainly looks like an imposition. [The word "obliged" is a further give-away.]


But, what if evidence turned up one day to show that there are indeed things that exist beyond this universe, which either are or aren't causally dependent upon it? If so, dialecticians like Rees are just going to have to come to terms with it; but they can only rule that possibility out now by imposing their current theory on nature (that imposition perhaps justified, or not, by several more a priori, Idealist 'arguments' lifted from Hegel, but plainly not based on "patiently" collected evidence).


Rees also claims that alternative approaches depart from materialism; indeed they stand in danger of lapsing into theism. But, as we will see, DM-theorists' own understanding of what counts as matter actually allows place for the existence of 'God'. Hence, if "carefully" collected evidence one day turned up showing that 'God' does indeed exist, what could dialecticians like Rees say? Given their own defective understanding of the nature of the material world (on this, see Essay Thirteen Part One), and their weak gesture at the acceptance of evidence-based science, dialecticians could only rule that possibility out now by imposing DM on reality, once more.3


Finally, in a recent article in Socialist Review, Rees endorsed Engels's 'First Law' -- 'the transformation of quantity into quality' --  unreservedly. So, on the basis of just one example (the hardy perennial: water freezing and/or boiling) he was happy to assert the following:


"Indeed this is a feature of many different sorts of change, even in the natural world. Water that rises in temperature by one degree at a time shows no dramatic change until it reaches boiling point when it 'suddenly' becomes steam. At that point its whole nature is transformed from being a liquid into a vapour.


"Lower the temperature of water by a single degree at a time and again there is no dramatic change until it reaches freezing point, when it is transformed from a liquid into a solid -- ice.


"Dialecticians call this process the transformation of quantity into quality. Slow, gradual changes that do not add up to a transformation in the nature of a thing suddenly reach a tipping point when the whole nature of the thing is transformed into something new." [Rees (2008), p.24. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


From where Rees "suddenly leaps" to this conclusion:


"This is why Marx described the dialectic as 'an abomination to the bourgeoisie' and why Lenin said of this method that it 'alone furnishes the key to "self-movement" of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to "leaps", to the "break in continuity" the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new'". [Ibid. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


So, here we have yet more a priori dogmatism -- based on little or no evidence -- as we will see in general in Essay Seven Part One.


And, careful readers will no doubt notice that while Rees tells us in one breath that DM isn't a "master key", in the very next he quotes Lenin to the effect that dialectics alone furnishes the key to the movement of "everything existing"!


What else could that be but a "master key" if it unlocks the entire universe?


DM-'Radicals' Emulate Traditional Thought-Forms


Engels Ignores His Own Anti-Dogmatic Declaration


The imposition of DM-theses on nature isn't just an aberration of modern-day dialecticians. Every DM-classicist has indulged extensively in the sport. For example, it can be found right throughout Engels's writings. True-to-form he begins by telling us the following:


"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. Several more quotations along similar lines from Engels and others can be found in Note 1.]


Also true-to-form, he then proceeds to do the exact opposite.


For instance, in his classic text, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific and Dialectics of Nature, he had this to say (which is where Rees derived this idea -- but, note, not from a scientific analysis of nature):


"Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically." [Engels (1892), pp.407, repeated in Engels (1976), p.28.]


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


But, how could Engels possibly have known all this? How could he have known that nature doesn't operate "metaphysically", say, in distant regions of space and time, way beyond the edge of the known Universe of his day? Indeed, how could he have been quite so sure that, for example, there are no changeless objects anywhere in the entire universe?4 How could he have been so certain that the "life of nature" is the result of a "conflict of opposites" -- or that some processes, in the whole of reality, for all of time, weren't, or aren't, governed by non-dialectical factors? Where is his "carefully collected evidence" about every object and event in the whole of nature, past, present and future?5


Notice that Engels didn't say that "all the evidence so far collected" in his day supported these contentions, or that "those parts of the world of which the scientists" of his day were aware behave in the way he indicated. He simply referred to nature tout court, without qualification (i.e., "throughout nature" and "everywhere in nature"). In line with other DM-theorists, Engels signally failed to inform his readers of the whereabouts of the large finite body of "careful observations" upon which these wild generalisations had been based.


[On this see Note 1b, and Appendix Two, below.]


To be sure, he did say that nature itself confirms DM, but that looks more like a manifesto claim, or a promissory note, than a summary of the evidence -- especially if the evidence he actually bothered to produce is watery thin and doesn't in fact support his ideas -- as we will see in several other Essays (especially here).


Engels didn't just stop there; he made equally bold statements about other fundamental aspects of nature:


"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 alone added.]


"But precisely therein lay the true significance and the revolutionary character of the Hegelian philosophy (to which, as the close of the whole movement since Kant, we must here confine ourselves), that it once and for all dealt the death blow to the finality of all products of human thought and action. Truth, the cognition of which is the business of philosophy, was in the hands of Hegel no longer an aggregate of finished dogmatic statements, which, once discovered, had merely to be learned by heart. Truth lay now in the process of cognition itself, in the long historical development of science, which mounts from lower to ever higher levels of knowledge without ever reaching, by discovering so-called absolute truth, a point at which it can proceed no further, where it would have nothing more to do than to fold its hands and gaze with wonder at the absolute truth to which it had attained. And what holds good for the realm of philosophical knowledge holds good also for that of every other kind of knowledge and also for practical action. Just as knowledge is unable to reach a complete conclusion in a perfect, ideal condition of humanity, so is history unable to do so; a perfect society, a perfect 'state', are things which can only exist in imagination. On the contrary, all successive historical systems are only transitory stages in the endless course of development of human society from the lower to the higher. Each stage is necessary, and therefore justified for the time and conditions to which it owes its origin. But in the face of new, higher conditions which gradually develop in its own womb, it loses vitality and justification. It must give way to a higher stage which will also in its turn decay and perish. Just as the bourgeoisie by large-scale industry, competition, and the world market dissolves in practice all stable time-honoured institutions, so this dialectical philosophy dissolves all conceptions of final, absolute truth and of absolute states of humanity corresponding to it. For it [dialectical philosophy], nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher. And dialectical philosophy itself is nothing more than the mere reflection of this process in the thinking brain. It has, of course, also a conservative side; it recognizes that definite stages of knowledge and society are justified for their time and circumstances; but only so far. The conservatism of this mode of outlook is relative; its revolutionary character is absolute -- the only absolute dialectical philosophy admits." [Engels (1888), pp.587-88. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Minor typo corrected. Parentheses in the original.]


"[T]he revolutionary side of Hegelian philosophy was again taken up and at the same time freed from the idealist trimmings which with Hegel had prevented its consistent execution. The great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of readymade things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidentally and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end -- this great fundamental thought has, especially since the time of Hegel, so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is now scarcely ever contradicted." [Ibid., p.609. Bold emphases alone added.]


"Dialectics as the science of universal interconnection….


"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa…[operates] in nature, in a manner fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or quantitative subtraction of matter or motion….


"Hence, it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion…. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious.


"Motion in the most general sense, conceived as the mode of existence, the inherent attribute of matter, comprehends all changes and processes occurring in the universe….


"Dialectics, so called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature…. [M]otion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature….


"The whole theory of gravity rests on saying that attraction is the essence of matter. This is necessarily false. Where there is attraction, it must be complemented by repulsion. Hence already Hegel was quite right in saying that the essence of matter is attraction and repulsion….


"The visible system of stars, the solar system, terrestrial masses, molecules and atoms, and finally ether particles, form each of them [a definite group]. It does not alter the case that intermediate links can be found between the separate groups…. These intermediate links prove only that there are no leaps in nature, precisely because nature is composed entirely of leaps." [Engels (1954), pp.17, 63, 69, 211, 244, 271. Bold emphases added.]


Once more, Engels forgot to say how he knew all these things were true. For example, how could he possibly have known that:


"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 emphasis added.]


Neither matter without motion nor motion without matter is inconceivable, contrary to what Engels says. [That allegation is substantiated in Essays Five and Twelve Part One.] In fact, the contrary doctrine that matter is naturally motionless was imposed on nature by Aristotle; Engels's obverse imposition is no less unimpressive, and no less Idealist.


Observant readers will no doubt have noted that even while Engels was extolling the alleged fact that "philosophy...was in the hands of Hegel no longer an aggregate of finished dogmatic statements..." he also added -- in the very same paragraph -- his own dogmatic statement about the "transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before [dialectical philosophy] except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher."


Consider another passage, this time taken from a letter written by Engels:


"The identity of thinking and being, to use Hegelian language, everywhere coincides with your example of the circle and the polygon. Or the two of them, the concept of a thing and its reality, run side by side like two asymptotes, always approaching each other but never meeting. This difference between the two is the very difference which prevents the concept from being directly and immediately reality and reality from being immediately its own concept. Because a concept has the essential nature of the concept and does not therefore prima facie directly coincide with reality, from which it had to be abstracted in the first place, it is nevertheless more than a fiction, unless you declare that all the results of thought are fictions because reality corresponds to them only very circuitously, and even then approaching it only asymptotically…. In other words, the unity of concept and phenomenon manifests itself as an essentially infinite process, and that is what it is, in this case as in all others." [Engels to Schmidt (12/03/1895), in Marx and Engels (1975b), pp.457-58, and Marx and Engels (2004), pp.463-64.]


There are several puzzling things about this quotation (some of which will have to be left until later), but how could Engels possibly have known that concepts and things interrelate in the way he alleges? In fact, if he were right, in order for him to conclude what he does about "things" (concerning which concepts he admits the knowledge available in his -- and, indeed, any other -- day never coincides), he must have extrapolated way beyond the state of knowledge in the late late-19th century, and which lies way beyond any conceivable state of knowledge, as the next passage quoted below reveals.


Worse still: if things never "coincide" with their own concepts, then on that basis alone Engels couldn't possibly have known that even this much was the case. Plainly, if he did know this, then at least one concept -- namely the one Engels was using here -- would in fact have coincided with its object!


Clearly, such semi-divine confidence in the nature of concepts, and what they do or do not coincide with, could only have arisen from the following: (i) Engels's imposition of this a priori thesis on the facts; (ii) The a priori, Idealist principles Engels admits he borrowed from Hegel -- but, not from (iii) Examining the 'book' of nature, or (iv) Collecting evidence, either "patiently" or impatiently.


As should now seem reasonably clear, if reality is permanently and forever beyond our grasp, according to Engels, then anything that could be said about 'it' must, of necessity, be imposed on 'it' (that is, if we insist on depicting things in such an odd way).6


The next passage from Engels only serves to underline that point:


"'Fundamentally, we can know only the infinite.' In fact all real exhaustive knowledge consists solely in raising the individual thing in thought from individuality into particularity and from this into universality, in seeking and establishing the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the transitory…. All true knowledge of nature is knowledge of the eternal, the infinite, and essentially absolute…. The cognition of the infinite…can only take place in an infinite asymptotic progress." [Engels (1954), pp.234-35. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphasis added.]


But, if no concept ever matches reality fully, how could Engels have known so much about it? How could he possibly know that "All true knowledge of nature is knowledge of the eternal, the infinite", or that it is "essentially absolute..."? Either he was in possession of such absolute knowledge already when he wrote this (which would have meant, once again, that at least one concept will have matched reality, namely this one), or he was himself infinitely wrong!


Of course, we already know the answer to that question: Engels thought he could impose these dogmas on reality because that is exactly what Hegel did, and it is exactly what Traditional Philosophers have always done. He simply copied them.


[Why he did this is explained here.]


However, no doubt the infinite (or even unbelievably large finite) body of evidence that Engels meant to include in Dialectics of Nature, which would have been necessary to justify these quasi-theological assertions will turn up one day.


Lenin Finds 'The Master-Key'


There is a passage similar to that quoted above from Engels in Lenin's Notebooks:


"Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object. The reflection of nature in man's thought must be understood not 'lifelessly,' not 'abstractly,' not devoid of movement, not without contradictions, but in the eternal process of movement, the arising of contradictions and their solution." [Lenin (1961), p.195. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original.]


Once more, how on earth could Lenin possibly have known any of this for a fact? Clearly, there is no way he could have known this process is endless. Plainly, if what Lenin actually said were correct, the claim to know this could only itself have been based on the successful completion of an endless process. Whatever else we might think of Lenin, he was not, I take it, an eternal being.


Certainly, no amount of evidence could show that Lenin's ambitious claim was true, or even approximately true. No finite body of data, no matter how large, would even so much as roughly approximates to an infinite amount required by the above claim.


Not only is the non-existent end this quotation postulates buried 'somewhere in the future' (and hence beyond the reach of confirmation), if the length of time between now and 'then' is itself endless, the search for the missing evidence which supports the claim that this process is endless must be endless, too! Either Lenin reached the end, or he was just grandstanding.


Here are several more 'cautious' claims Lenin advanced incautiously:


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


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


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


"Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract -– provided it is correct (NB)… -- does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, the law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely." [Ibid., p.171. Emphases in the original.]


"Knowledge is the reflection of nature by man. But this is not simple, not an immediate, not a complete reflection, but the process of a series of abstractions, the formation and development of concepts, laws, etc., and these concepts, laws, etc., (thought, science = 'the logical Idea') embrace conditionally, approximately, the universal, law-governed character of eternally moving and developing nature.... Man cannot comprehend = reflect = mirror nature as a whole, in its completeness, its 'immediate totality,' he can only eternally come closer to this, creating abstractions, concepts, laws, a scientific picture of the world...." [Ibid., p.182. Bold emphases alone added.]


"The totality of all sides of the phenomenon of reality and their (reciprocal) relations -– that is what truth is composed of. The relations (= transitions = contradictions) of notions = the main content of logic, by which these concepts (and their relations, transitions, contradictions) are shown as reflections of the objective world. The dialectic of things produces the dialectic of ideas, and not vice versa." [Ibid., p.196. Emphases in the original.]


"Logical concepts are subjective so long as they remain 'abstract,' in their abstract form, but at the same time they express the Thing-in-themselves. Nature is both concrete and abstract, both phenomenon and essence, both moment and relation. Human concepts are subjective in their abstractness, separateness, but objective as a whole, in the process, in the sum-total, in the tendency, in the source." [Ibid., p.208. Emphases in the original. In each case, quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


And here is another revealing passage:


"Nowadays, the ideas of development…as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel…[encompass a process] that seemingly repeats the stages already passed, but repeats them otherwise, on a higher basis ('negation of negation'), a development, so to speak, in spirals, not in a straight line; -- a development by leaps, catastrophes, revolutions; -- 'breaks in continuity'; the transformation of quantity into quality; -- the inner impulses to development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; -- the interdependence and the closest, indissoluble connection of all sides of every phenomenon…, a connection that provides a uniform, law-governed, universal process of motion -– such are some of the features of dialectics as a richer (than the ordinary) doctrine of development." [Lenin (1914), pp.12-13. Bold emphases alone added.]


But, once again, how could Lenin possibly have known any of these things? How, for instance, could he have been quite so sure that "[T]he dialectic of things produces the dialectic of ideas", and not the other way round -- or perhaps a bit of both (rejecting here, of course, the "either or of understanding" on 'sound' Hegelian lines)? He might have chosen to assume the validity of these and other things he asserted so confidently, but there could be no body of evidence large enough to justify the sorts of claims Lenin makes in the above passages, which he seems quite happy to foist on nature, anyway.


And, why "require" or "demand" something if science is supposed to be based on evidence? Scientists don't normally require certain things of nature. When was the last time they "required" that copper conducted electricity, "demanded" that dogs are mammals, or "insisted" that the heart is a pump?


But worse: How could Lenin possibly have known that dialectics reflected the "eternal development of the world"?


From whom did he receive the stone tablets upon which these semi-divine pronouncements had been carved?


Even though Lenin inconsistently claimed both that "truth is always concrete never abstract", and that scientific abstractions are also somehow more true (or, indeed, which allow truth to be approached more fully), just like Engels he omitted the "carefully collected" evidence that confirmed either of these universal theses -- which evidence would have been unhelpful anyway since it would have been concrete, and hence less scientifically true, if Lenin were correct.


And, it is little use arguing that scientific evidence is both abstract and concrete, for that claim itself is abstract, and hence can't be true (since, according to Lenin, truth is always concrete, never abstract -- not a bit of both):


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


"One of the basic principles of dialectics is that there is no such thing as abstract truth, truth is always concrete...."" [Lenin (1976), p.276.]


Moreover, the principles Lenin used to derive these conclusions are not just dogmatic (how, for example, Lenin knew that truth is never abstract and is always concrete, he annoyingly kept to himself), they are somewhat dubious in themselves. In light of the above assertion that "truth is always concrete never abstract" -- or, "there is no such thing as abstract truth, truth is always concrete" --, and since those claims are themselves non-concrete abstractions, Lenin's principles can't therefore be true!


So, the thesis that all truth is concrete -- since it is an abstraction -- can't itself be true, just as the claim that all scientific abstractions reflect nature more deeply and "truly", can't be true, either -- because it isn't concrete!


At this point, we might be tempted to console ourselves with the thought that, at least here, Engels's (comment from earlier) is correct: there is no way that the thesis that "truth is always concrete never abstract" will ever coincide with reality, and hence will ever be judged true itself. Paradoxically, too, if this dialectical dogma ever does turn out to be true, it would be false on that basis, since we would then have at least one truth (namely this one) that isn't concrete, but manifestly abstract.


Nevertheless, could there be a body of "patiently" gathered evidence large enough to confirm Lenin's claim that all objects are self-developing?


[Perhaps that is all to the good given the next point.]


But, if all objects and processes in nature do in fact influence one another, and everything in reality is interconnected, then it seems that nothing in the DM-universe could be self-developing.


Clearly, Lenin's incautious atomism here -- which sees everything as developmentally autonomous, with each object as an isolated, self-propelled unit -- contradicts (rather fittingly, one feels) his other belief that all things are interconnected. If all objects are indeed inter-related then surely they could only develop if they were influenced by (and influenced in return) other objects and processes external to themselves. On that basis, it wouldn't be true to say that all objects self-develop.


[Doubters should take a look at this object, which clearly didn't "self-develop".]


On the other hand, if objects are 'self-developing', they can't be interconnected in any meaningful sense.


Perhaps then it is just as well that there is no evidence that all (or even any) objects in reality are "self-developing". To be sure, DM-theorists need to pray to the 'dialectical deity' that it never turns up, either, or they can kiss goodbye to their interconnected "Totality" dogma.


[These controversial observations and their problematic ramifications form the main topic of Essays Eight Part One and Eleven Parts One and Two.]


Be this as it may, is it really all that inconceivable that in the entire universe, over many aeons of time, there might be (or might have been, or might one day be) a single object that doesn't (or didn't, or won't) undergo self-development? How could Lenin rule that possibility out? Again, as seems plain, he could only do so if that thesis itself had been imposed on nature, perhaps by "requiring" -- nay, "demanding" -- that all objects undergo self-development.


Oh wait..., he already did that!


Once more: Where is the "careful" empirical work that justifies all this "demanding", all this "insisting" and "requiring" --, not to mention the shed loads of data that would be needed to justify the many other universal a priori claims Lenin made about reality (listed above and below) -- something we were told had to be undertaken by materialists if they were to avoid being branded Idealists?


And why do we find no dialecticians "requiring" -- nay, "demanding" -- of Lenin (or his latter-day epigones) that he/they produce this evidence, or withdraw such claims?


Alas, Lenin's a priori litany continues:


"1. the objectivity of consideration (not examples, not divergencies (sic), but the Thing-in-itself). 2. the entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others. 3. the development of this thing, (phenomenon, respectively), its own movement, its own life. 4. the internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing. 5. the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites. 6. the struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc. 7. the union of analysis and synthesis -- the break-down of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts. 8. the relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, process, etc.) is connected with every other. 9. not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]. 10. the endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc. 11. the endless process of the deepening of man's knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence. 12. from co-existence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal dependence to another, deeper, more general form. 13. the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and 14. the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation). 15. the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content. 16. the transition of quantity into quality and vice versa....


"In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics...." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22. Bold emphases alone added. Formatting modified to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


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


"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing….


"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute….


"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other….


"Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as a 'nucleus' ('cell') the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58, 359-60. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Lest we are tempted to search back through the archives to find the countless container-loads of missing evidence Lenin had "carefully" marshalled in support of these dramatic claims, a consideration of the next passage will at least relieve us of that onerous task. Here, at last, Lenin is disarmingly honest about where he derived these dogmatic generalisations:


"Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97. Italic emphases in the original. First bold emphasis alone added.]


Lenin is quite open about the origin of his ideas in these private notebooks: dialectics derives its 'evidential' support -- not from a "patient empirical examination of the facts" -- but from studying Hegel! As far as evidence goes that is it! That's all there is! The search for evidence begins and ends with dialecticians leafing through Hegel's Logic. That is the extent of the 'evidence' Lenin offered in support of his assertions about "all notions" without exception, about "all phenomena and processes in nature", and about nature's "eternal development", etc., etc.


As the rest of this Essay (and other Essays posted here) will show, this cavalier approach to the 'science of dialectics' is shared by every other DM-theorist.


Admittedly, Lenin did add the following comment (however, on this see here):


"The correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science." [Ibid., p.357.]


Many other dialecticians make similar claims, or at least pay lip-service to them (for example, this one). However, as has been noted several times already, the other things they say flatly contradict this seemingly modest admission. The theses Lenin and others advance go way beyond the available evidence -- and way beyond any conceivable body of evidence. In fact, they transcend the listing of mere examples. Who says so? Lenin, that is who. [See below.]


Lenin also claimed that human knowledge will only ever be partial and incomplete:


"…[the] basis of philosophical materialism and the distinction between metaphysical materialism and dialectical materialism. The recognition of immutable elements…and so forth, is not materialism, but metaphysical, i.e., anti-dialectical, materialism…. Dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another." [Lenin (1972), p.312. Bold emphasis added. Several more DM-passages that say the same sort of thing have been posted here.]


However, neither Lenin nor the most pedantically thorough and determined 'dialectical sleuth' will ever be in a position to justify the sweeping a priori claims we find DM-theorists like Lenin regularly making -- for example, those about the "eternal development of the world".


How could anything in the entire history of science (past, present, and future) confirm something as sweeping as that?


[UO = Unity of Opposites.]


Moreover, Lenin himself admitted as much in the very next few sentences:


"This aspect of dialectics…usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum total of examples…and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)." [Ibid., p.357. Bold emphasis alone added.]


So it seems that the need to provide evidence is a distraction, one that dedicated dialecticians should rightly eschew. In this particular case, the thesis that UOs exist everywhere in nature and society, and which govern every single instance of change right across the universe, for all of time, since it expresses a "law of cognition", a "law of the objective world", and it is these "laws" that legitimise and justify the imposition of dialectical dogma on nature. Indeed, here is Herbert Marcuse endorsing this a priori approach to knowledge:


"The doctrine of Essence seeks to liberate knowledge from the worship of 'observable facts' and from the scientific common sense that imposes this worship.... The real field of knowledge is not the given fact about things as they are, but the critical evaluation of them as a prelude to passing beyond their given form. Knowledge deals with appearances in order to get beyond them. 'Everything, it is said, has an essence, that is, things really are not what they immediately show themselves. There is therefore something more to be done than merely rove from one quality to another and merely to advance from one qualitative to quantitative, and vice versa: there is a permanence in things, and that permanent is in the first instance their Essence.' The knowledge that appearance and essence do not jibe is the beginning of truth. The mark of dialectical thinking is the ability to distinguish the essential from the apparent process of reality and to grasp their relation." [Marcuse (1973), pp.145-46. Marcuse is here quoting Hegel (1975), p.163, §112. Minor typo corrected. Bold emphasis added.]


'Observable facts' just get in the way of these dogmatists!


George Orwell had a few thoughts about this:



Figure One: 'Unity Of Opposites' -- The Party And 'The Dialectic'

Are Right Even When They Are Wrong


[We will see that DM-fans like Mao, C L R James and David DeGrood make similar points, here and here.]


Anyway, as we will also see (here and here), this "law of cognition" is in fact no law at all, since it is based on a series of logical blunders committed by Hegel.


Nevertheless, in the next few sections of his Notebooks Lenin went on to describe this particular DM-theory -- the universal existence of UOs -- in the following terms:


"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…." [Ibid., pp.357-58. Bold emphasis alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Now, the uncommitted reader might be forgiven for thinking that the claim (recorded earlier, repeated below) that DM doesn't provide its adepts with a "master-key" for the interpretation of everything in the universe -- to which maxim all aspiring dialecticians at least pay lip-service -- has here been rescinded by Lenin. In this passage Lenin describes the struggle of opposites as "the key to the self-movement of everything existing" (and, note, it isn't a key, it is the key). This "everything" must surely have included the countless facts and theories that were way beyond the science of his day -- or, indeed, way beyond contemporary and any conceivable future state of scientific knowledge. If this principle covers "everything existing", it must surely encompass, say, the behaviour of elementary particles at the outermost fringes of space and time, far beyond anything humanity could ever encounter, and much else besides.


Compare Lenin's words with what John Rees had earlier pointed out:


"Trotsky warns against seeing the dialectic as a 'magic master key for all questions'. The dialectic is not a calculator into which it is possible to punch the problem and allow it to compute the solution. This would be an idealist method. A materialist dialectic must grow from a patient, empirical examination of the facts and not be imposed on them…." [Rees (1998), p.271; mis-quoting Trotsky (1973), p.233. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis added.]


But, we have just seen Lenin inform us that a belief in the universal existence of UOs is indeed "the key" to understanding everything in existence, flatly contradicting what Rees (and Trotsky) had said. If it unlocks "everything existing", it must be a master key. So, if Lenin is right, it is perfectly clear why the need to provide evidence is a distraction; the a priori approach to knowledge that DM-theorists have inherited from Traditional Philosophy means that evidence is not only unnecessary, it is to be avoided wherever possible!6a


As these two authors note:


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


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


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


A thought underlined by this author, too:


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


This approach to 'knowledge' is an expression of an ancient tradition -- which long predates Kant and Fichte -- that DM-fans have bought into. No wonder they see no problem with all this a priori thesis-mongering.


Clearly, in the minds of many dialecticians, the acceptance of an evidence-based science is a sop to 'crude materialism' -- or even worse, it is a compromise with -- shock horror! --'empiricism' and 'positivism'! It is to abandon the 'doctrine of essence'.


In fact, whenever I demand of dialecticians evidence to justify their a priori theses, they accuse me of being an "empiricist", or a "positivist" -- or, they engage in special pleading, arguing that their theory doesn't need evidential support, despite what George Novack argued (quoted earlier):


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


Such special pleading is, of course, an indirect admission that the above allegations are indeed correct -- that is, that DM-theses are dogmatic, a priori, and have been imposed on those 'unreliable' facts.


In stark contrast, however, opponents of DM are given a hard time if they don't or can't supply any -- or any adequate -- evidence in support of their criticisms of dialectics. In that case, the demand that evidence be produced in support of some theory or other can't itself be sufficient to brand the one demanding it an "empiricist" -- since dialecticians demand this of their opponents. It must be as follows: "Any critic who has the temerity to hold dialecticians to account and demand that they be consistent with the boast that their theory hasn't been foisted on nature, but has been derived from the evidence, is bang out of order." In that case, the DM-expletives "empiricist" and "positivist" must be synonymous with "yet another annoying critic who can't see that there is no contradiction between the claim that dialectics hasn't been imposed on nature and actually imposing dialectics on nature".


Contrast this with Marx's attitude (expressed in the German Ideology):


"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way....


"The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people's imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.42, 46-47. Bold emphases added.]


Was Marx an 'empiricist' for appealing to empirical evidence? Was Engels an 'empiricist' when he wrote this?


"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment." [Engels (1954), p.47. Bold emphases alone added.]


So, when we look more closely at the way that dialecticians express their ideas, we find they aren't in fact based on evidence but are based on "objective" laws, on "laws of cognition", on "dialectical logic", on "axioms" (as Trotsky himself admitted, recorded below), on assorted "insistences", "demands" and "requirements".


Hence, the request for evidence is downright dialectically demeaning; small wonder then that DM-fans take umbrage when it is requested.


In this way, therefore, we see Hegel's Idealism -- even when it has allegedly been put 'the right way up' -- has taken over. Indeed, rather like the capitalist system will tend to re-assert itself if it hasn't been totally eradicated, this ruling-class, a priori theory will do the same. Boss-class thought-forms can't be reformed, any more than it is possible to reform this rotten system in order to turn it into a socialist society.


Plainly, therefore, DM is "objective" for believers since their world is ultimately Ideal, its logical form having been constructed in thought by Hegel and his mystical forbears long before any evidence was available. DM-theorists have in their possession an Ideal Master Key, which means they can unlock the secrets concerning the "eternal development of the world". Hence, the materialist aims of these erstwhile negators of ruling-class thought are themselves negated; they end up adopting the traditional thought-forms of the class enemy, the "ruling ideas", as Marx and Engels pointed out:


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


"[D]espite all its invectives against dogmatism, it condemns itself to dogmatism...faded, widowed Hegelian philosophy which paints and adorns its body, shrivelled into the most repulsive abstraction...." [Marx and Engels (1975a), p.20. Italic emphasis in the original.]


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


"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment.


"Just as little can it be a question of maintaining the dogmatic content of the Hegelian system as it was preached by the Berlin Hegelians of the older and younger line." [Ibid., p.47. Bold emphasis alone added.]


"In this way, however, the whole dogmatic content of the Hegelian system is declared to be absolute truth, in contradiction to his dialectical method, which dissolves all dogmatism...." [Engels (1888), p.589. Bold emphasis added.]


Reformism, therefore, isn't any less misguided in Philosophy than it is in Politics.6b


It now seems perfectly clear that we have indeed found the Dialectical Master Key --, a key that opens the "doors of perception" and cognition, and which explains why so few dialecticians ever bother to provide adequate -- or sometimes any(!) --, evidence in support of their universal, omni-temporal theses, and why they react with genuine surprise when they are required to do so.6c


Bukharin 'The Bold'


In this respect, Lenin's approach mirrors that of other prominent dialecticians. Indeed, we find Bukharin asserting the following:


"There are two possible ways of regarding everything in nature and in society; in the eyes of some everything is constantly at rest, immutable…. To others, however, it appears that there is nothing unchanging in nature or in society…. This second point of view is called the dynamic point of view…; the former point of view is called static. Which is the correct position?... Even a hasty glance at nature will at once convince us that there is nothing immutable about it….


"Evidently…there is nothing immutable and rigid in the universe…. Matter in motion: such is the stuff of this world…. This dynamic point of view is also called the dialectic point of view….


"The world being in constant motion, we must consider phenomena in their mutual relations, and not as isolated cases. All portions of the universe are actually related to each other and exert an influence on each other…. All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond; nothing exists as an isolated object, independent of its surroundings….


"In the first place, therefore, the dialectic method of interpretation demands that all phenomena be considered in their indissoluble relations; in the second place, that they be considered in their state of motion….


"Since everything in the world is in a state of change, and indissolubly connected with everything else, we must draw the necessary conclusions for the social sciences….


"The basis of all things is therefore the law of change, the law of constant motion. Two philosophers particularly (the ancient Heraclitus and the modern Hegel…) formulated this law of change, but they did not stop there. They also set up the question of the manner in which the process operates. The answer they discovered was that changes are produced by constant internal contradictions, internal struggle. Thus, Heraclitus declared: 'Conflict is the mother of all happenings,' while Hegel said: 'Contradiction is the power that moves things.'


"There is no doubt of the correctness of this law. A moment's thought will convince the reader. For, if there were no conflict, no clash of forces, the world would be in a condition of unchanging stable equilibrium, i.e., complete and absolute permanence, a state of rest precluding all motion…. As we already know that all things change, all things are 'in flux', it is certain that such an absolute state of rest cannot possibly exist. We must therefore reject a condition in which there is no 'contradiction between opposing and colliding forces' no disturbance of equilibrium, but only an absolute immutability….


"In other words, the world consists of forces, acting many ways, opposing each other. These forces are balanced for a moment in exceptional cases only. We then have a state of 'rest', i.e., their actual 'conflict' is concealed. But if we change only one of these forces, immediately the 'internal contradictions' will be revealed, equilibrium will be disturbed, and if a new equilibrium is again established, it will be on a new basis, i.e., with a new combination of forces, etc. It follows that the 'conflict,' the 'contradiction,' i.e., the antagonism of forces acting in various directions, determines the motion of the system….


"Hegel speaks of a transition of quantity into quality….


"The transformation of quantity into quality is one of the fundamental laws in the motion of matter; it may be traced at every step both in nature and society…." [Bukharin (1925), pp.63-67, 72-74, 80. Bold emphases added.]


Here is yet another dialectician -- albeit one heavily criticised by Lenin, but not for his dogmatism -- happily 'deriving' DM-theses from a few hastily constructed 'thought experiments' and a priori theories of earlier Idealists.


In this regard, it is worth noting that Bukharin attributes the invention of the so-called "law of change" to Heraclitus, a theorist who happened on that particular idea without the benefit of too much supporting evidence -- since he lived at a time when little was known about the universe, let alone about the vanishingly small region he inhabited. Indeed, Heraclitus's hyper-bold claim was based on what he thought was true about the possibilities of stepping into the same river! Naturally, this didn't stop him from pontificating about all of reality, for all of time --, when for example he declared that "everything flows" -- just like his latter-day DM-progeny.


Admittedly, Bukharin did make a half-baked attempt to provide his readers with a few pages of 'evidence' in support of his claim that these laws operate everywhere, for all of time (ibid., pp.67-71 --, which he, too, "demands" should apply to all phenomena). But, most of the 'data' he offered in support was secondary and tertiary, copied from other DM-sources (or, of course, from Hegel). If this wasn't quite so serious, Bukharin's superficial gesture at providing adequate proof to back up these universal assertions would be a joke. For example, how could he possibly have known that "all portions of the universe" are interrelated?


[In fact, there are theoretical reasons for concluding that they can't be.]


In fact, his supporting evidence looks thinner than George W Bush's excuse for invading Iraq. Small wonder then that I have branded this cavalier approach to evidence, Mickey Mouse Science.


All that Bukharin offered his bemused readers by way of support for that particular claim (i.e., that all parts of the universe are interconnected) was the following extremely brief thought experiment:


"I am now writing on paper with a pen. I thus impart pressures to the table; the table presses on the earth, calling forth a number of further changes. I move my hand, vibrate as I breathe, and these motions pass on in slight impulses ending Lord knows where. The fact that these may be but small changes does not change the essential nature of the matter. All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond…." [Ibid., p.66. Bold emphases added.]


Those who are tempted to conclude that this 'argument' is sufficient to establish the above theses about everything in the entire universe, for all time (underpinned, no doubt, by means of yet another prayer to the "Lord"), should now perhaps consult a dictionary and remind themselves what the words "evidence" and "sufficient" mean, and then maybe think again.


Indeed, even if we were to be extremely charitable to Bukharin here, and count this charade as evidence, the very best it might show is that some things in the universe might be connected, but how it shows they are inter-connected Bukharin annoyingly kept to himself.


[For example, how is the typing of this word -- "anti-dialectics" -- now inter-connected with the Battle of Actium? Someone might object that these aren't the sorts of things that the theory supposes are inter-connected, but that is the problem. No one knows what this theory does imply. On that, see Essay Eleven Part One.]


In addition, Bukharin argued that with respect to change there are only two choices before us: (i) The view that nothing changes at all, and (ii) The view that all things change all the time. But, he failed to consider a third option (thus excluding it): that (iii) Some things change while others do not. An acceptance of the possibility of a third alternative would at least have the merit of undermining Bukharin's own un-dialectical use of the "either-or of understanding, and commonsense" in order to rule out the excluded middle -- i.e., either (i) or (ii).


"Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words, its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence also the acid is not something that persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realise what it potentially is." [Hegel (1975), p.174; Essence as Ground of Existence, §119. Bold emphasis added. The serious problems this dogmatic and a priori diktat creates for Hegel, which he nowhere tries to justify, are detailed here.]


"To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are isolated, are to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are objects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once for all. He thinks in absolutely irreconcilable antitheses. 'His communication is "yea, yea; nay, nay"; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.' For him a thing either exists or does not exist; a thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude one another, cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis one to the other.

"At first sight this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of so-called sound common sense. Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought, justifiable and even necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent varies according to the nature of the particular object of investigation, sooner or later reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted, abstract, lost in insoluble contradictions. In the contemplation of individual things it forgets the connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, it forgets their motion. It cannot see the wood for the trees." [Engels (1976), p.26. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Engels (1954), pp.212-13. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"…[the] basis of philosophical materialism and the distinction between metaphysical materialism and dialectical materialism. The recognition of immutable elements…and so forth, is not materialism, but metaphysical, i.e., anti-dialectical, materialism…. Dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another." [Lenin (1972), p.312. Bold emphasis added.]


Even so, on what basis could Bukharin have been quite so sure that there is absolutely nothing changeless in the entire universe, for all of time? Had he completed a thorough check of the outer fringes of the Galaxy, and beyond, before he concluded this? Surely, the rational thing to do here would be to wait for the development of scientific knowledge, not lay down hard-and-fast, immutable laws about a mutable universe. Of course, Bukharin wasn't to know that scientists would one day conclude that there are indeed such changeless objects in nature, or that there are countless trillions of them in every microgram of matter.


As is pointed out in Note 4, each proton, for example, is estimated to have a lifespan of 1032 years (it may turn out to be entirely changeless since that estimate was only advanced to make it accord with the Standard Model and the BBT). Apparently, electrons and photons are, if anything, even more awkwardly un-dialectical.


[BBT = Big Bang Theory.]


Clearly, the scientific thing to do here isn't to issue dialectical "demands", "insistences", "requirements", or caveats that nature must conform with this or that a priori law or precept -- imposing a specific structure on a recalcitrant world --, but to study nature and draw conclusions from it.


Now, where have we heard that before...?


Trotsky's Traditionalism


Turning to another DM-classicist, Trotsky; his comments on the universal applicability of DM (beyond all available, or even conceivable, evidence) are equally unambiguous, equally dogmatic. Consider the following:


"[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.]


"Every individual is a dialectician to some extent or other, in most cases, unconsciously. A housewife knows that a certain amount of salt flavours soup agreeably, but that added salt makes the soup unpalatable. Consequently, an illiterate peasant woman guides herself in cooking soup by the Hegelian law of the transformation of quantity into quality…. Even animals arrive at their practical conclusions…on the basis of the Hegelian dialectic. Thus a fox is aware that quadrupeds and birds are nutritious and tasty…. When the same fox, however, encounters the first animal which exceeds it in size, for example, a wolf, it quickly concludes that quantity passes into quality, and turns to flee. Clearly, the legs of a fox are equipped with Hegelian tendencies, even if not fully conscious ones. All this demonstrates, in passing, that our methods of thought, both formal logic and the dialectic, are not arbitrary constructions of our reason but rather expressions of the actual inter-relationships in nature itself. In this sense the universe is permeated with 'unconscious' dialectics." [Ibid., pp.106-07. Bold emphases added.]


"It must be recognized that the fundamental law of dialectics is the conversion of quantity into quality, for it gives [us] the general formula of all evolutionary processes -– of nature as well as of society.


"…The principle of the transformation of quantity into quality has universal significance, insofar as we view the entire universe -- without any exception -- as a product of formation and transformation….


"In these abstract formulas we have the most general laws (forms) of motion, change, the transformation of the stars of the heaven, of the earth, nature and human society.


"…Dialectics is the logic of development. It examines the world -- completely without exception -– not as a result of creation, of a sudden beginning, the realisation of a plan, but as a result of motion, of transformation. Everything that is became the way it is as a result of lawlike development." [Trotsky (1986), pp.88, 90, 96. Bold emphases added.]


Once again, how could Trotsky possibly have known all this? Was he really able to read the minds of peasant women and foxes?


As we found was the case with Lenin's unlimited access to the otherwise restricted regions of the 'Divine' knowledge of 'Being', these questions needn't detain us for long here, either; Trotsky provided the answer. His conclusions were based -- not on evidence --, but on the "axiom" that "everything is always changing".


But, from which noted scientist did Trotsky obtain these amazing ideas? Wonder no more:


"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 emphasis added.]


Of course, Hegel "established" no such thing; he either asserted the above 'laws' dogmatically, or he appealed to his own brand of impromptu Mickey Mouse Science in support -- for example, 'substantiating' the 'law' of the change of 'quantity into quality', applicable everywhere and for all of time, by an appeal to water freezing(!):


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


Can anyone imagine, say, Darwin attempting to substantiate his theory by appealing to just one example of variation or natural selection, in only one species?


Of course, if something is an axiom, supporting evidence ("patiently" collected or otherwise) would be irrelevant. Only a hopelessly confused mathematician, for example, would seek empirical evidence to justify the axiom that "a + b = b + a".


[Anyway, as we will discover in Essays Seven Part One (here), and Nine Part One (here), Trotsky's 'argument' (i.e., the one involving peasant women and foxes, etc.) is so full of holes, it could well serve as a colander.]


Again, just like Lenin, Trotsky was open and honest about where he obtained these "laws"; they weren't derived from careful work done in a laboratory, nor were they based on tests carried out in the field, nor yet on surveys of workers' attitudes and the views of peasant women -- or even on the 'beliefs' of foxes --, they were lifted from Hegel's Logic. And, as far as can be ascertained, Hegel did no experiments, either -- on peasants, soup or foxes. And we already know where Hegel obtained most of his ideas: from the writings and speculations of Hermetic mystics and religious fanatics who littered the Germany of his day and earlier centuries.


This sordid history will exposed in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here).


Nothing New In Plekhanov


Not to be outdone, other DM-classicists have joined the dogmatic dialectical chorus-line. Here is Plekhanov:


"According to Hegel, dialectics is the principle of all life…. [M]an has two qualities: first being alive, and secondly of also being mortal. But on closer examination it turns out that life itself bears in itself the germ of death, and that in general any phenomenon is contradictory, in the sense that it develops out of itself the elements which, sooner or later, will put an end to its existence and will transform it into its opposite. Everything flows, everything changes; and there is no force capable of holding back this constant flux, or arresting its eternal movement. There is no force capable of resisting the dialectics of phenomena….


"At a particular moment a moving body is at a particular spot, but at the same time it is outside it as well because, if it were only in that spot, it would, at least for that moment, become motionless. Every motion is a dialectical process, a living contradiction, and as there is not a single phenomenon of nature in explaining which we do not have in the long run to appeal to motion, we have to agree with Hegel, who said that dialectics is the soul of any scientific cognition. And this applies not only to cognition of nature….


"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite….


"When you apply the dialectical method to the study of phenomena, you need to remember that forms change eternally in consequence of the 'higher development of their content….'


"In the words of Engels, Hegel's merit consists in the fact that he was the first to regard all phenomena from the point of view of their development, from the point of view of their origin and destruction….


"[M]odern science confirms at every step the idea expressed with such genius by Hegel, that quantity passes into quality….


"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That's how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphases alone added. (Unfortunately, the Index page for the copy of this book over at The Marxist Internet Archive has no link to the second half of Chapter Five, but it can be accessed directly here. I have informed the editors of this error. Added June 2015: they have now corrected it!)]


"Hegel goes on to show by a number of examples how often leaps take place in Nature and in history….


"This dialectical view of Hegel's as to the inevitability of leaps in the process of development was adopted in full by Marx and Engels….


"Thus [Engels] indicated that the transition from one form of energy to another cannot take place otherwise than by means of a leap…. Generally, speaking, he found that the rights of dialectical thinking are confirmed by the dialectical properties of being….


"Herzen was right in saying that Hegel's philosophy…was a genuine algebra of revolution….


"[W]e may say that this dialectic was the first to supply a method necessary and competent to solve the problem of the rational causes of all that exists….


"The motion of matter lies at the root of all natural phenomena. But motion is a contradiction. It should be judged in a dialectical manner…. Only the motion of matter is eternal, and matter itself is indestructible substance….


"'All is flux, nothing is stationary,' said the ancient thinker from Ephesus. The combinations we call objects are in a state of constant and more or less rapid change…. In as much as they change and cease to exist as such, we must address ourselves to the logic of contradiction….


"…[M]otion does not only make objects…, it is constantly changing them. It is for this reason that the logic of motion (the 'logic of contradiction') never relinquishes its rights over the objects created by motion….


"With Hegel, thinking progresses in consequence of the uncovering and resolution of the contradictions inclosed (sic) in concepts. According to our doctrine…the contradictions embodied in concepts are merely reflections, translations into the language of thought, of those contradictions that are embodied in phenomena owing to the contradictory nature of their common basis, i.e., motion….


"…[T]he overwhelming majority of phenomena that come within the compass of the natural and the social sciences are among 'objects' of this kind…[:ones in which there is a coincidence of opposites]. Diametrically opposite phenomena are united in the simplest globule of protoplasm, and the life of the most undeveloped society….


"But this 'logic of contradiction,' which, as we have seen, is the reflection in the human brain of the eternal process of movement..." [Plekhanov (1908), pp.35-38, 92-100. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Unfortunately, the last six paragraphs above appear in the Appendix to Plekhanov (1908), which hasn't been reproduced at The Marxist Internet Archive with the rest of the book. Nor do they appear in Plekhanov's Selected Works -- i.e, Plekhanov (1976). They can, however, be found here, under the title Dialectic and Logic. As far as I can determine, in print and in English, they only appear in the Lawrence & Wishart edition. The notes to that edition tell us the following: "This appendix is an extract from Plekhanov's preface to Engels's Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. These notes on dialectic and logic were included in the German edition of the book in accordance with Plekhanov's wish." (Ibid., p.110, Note 98.)]


"We know that Hegel called his method dialectical; why did he do so?


"In his Phänomenologie des Geistes he compares human life with dialogue, in the sense that under the pressure of experience our views gradually change, as happens to the opinions of disputants participating in a discussion of a profound intellectual nature. Comparing the course of development of consciousness with the progress of such a discussion, Hegel designated it by the word dialectics, or dialectical motion. This word had already been used by Plato, but it was Hegel who gave it its especially profound and important meaning. To Hegel, dialectics is the soul of all scientific knowledge. It is of extraordinary importance to comprehend its nature. It is the principle of all motion, of all life, of all that occurs in reality. According to Hegel, the finite is not only limited from without, but by virtue of its own nature it negates itself and passes into its own opposite. All that exists can be taken as an example to explain the nature of dialectics. Everything is fluid, everything changes, everything passes away. Hegel compares the power of dialectics with divine omnipotence. Dialectics is that universal irresistible force which nothing can withstand. At the same time dialectics makes itself felt in each separate phenomenon of each separate sphere of life. Take motion. At a given moment, a body in motion is at a given point, but at the very same moment it is also beyond that point too, since if it remained only at the given point it would be motionless. All motion is a living contradiction; all motion is a dialectical process. But the whole life of nature is motion; so that in the study of nature it is absolutely essential to adopt the dialectical viewpoint. Hegel sharply condemns those naturalists who forget this. But the main reproach he addresses to them is that in their classifications they put a wide and impassable gulf between things which in fact pass into one another in obedience to the irresistible force of the law of dialectical motion. The subsequent triumph of transformism in biology clearly demonstrated that this reproach had a quite sound theoretical basis. Exactly the same is being demonstrated by the remarkable discoveries in chemistry which are proceeding before our very eyes....


"The following, however, should be noted. Hegel's viewpoint was that of development. But development may be understood variously. Even now there are naturalists who reiterate with an air of importance: 'Nature does not make leaps.' Sociologists, too, frequently say: 'Social development is accomplished through slow, gradual changes.' Hegel, on the contrary, affirmed that just as in nature so also in history, leaps are inevitable...." [Plekhanov (1917), pp.601-02. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases alone added.]


[In fact, if all of Plekhanov's dogmatic and a priori assertions had been included in this Essay, it would be several of thousand words longer still. Some of them will be added to the Appendix at a later date.]


True-to-form, Plekhanov disarms the reader with the usual claim that his theses have merely been derived from nature, not read into it:


"Hegel's logic is not at all the creation of pure thought; it is the outcome of anticipatory abstraction from nature.... In Hegel's dialectic, almost everything is derived from experience, so that were experience to take away from dialectic all that the latter had borrowed from it, dialectics would be reduced to penury." [Plekhanov (1908), p.95.]


Perhaps Plekhanov had in mind the 'cautious' observations Hegel recorded during his exhaustive study of heaven and earth with a magic telescope and an enchanted microscope --, maybe the following:


"Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words, its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence also the acid is not something that persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realise what it potentially is." [Hegel (1975), p.174; Essence as Ground of Existence, §119. Bold emphasis added.]


Of course, exactly how Hegel derived all of this from 'experience' both he and Plekhanov left shrouded in mystery -- and there it remains to this day.


[Hegel's comments have been reduced to the absurdities they clearly imply here, here and here.]


Nevertheless, whatever it was that Hegel did or didn't achieve, Plekhanov then proceeded to do the exact opposite of what he attributes to that hyper-imaginative Idealist, extrapolating DM way beyond the limited confines of the watery thin evidence he offered in support, imposing this doctrine on reality like a seasoned pro. How, for example, could he possibly have known this?


"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite." [Ibid.]


Every phenomena? From the beginning of time to the 'last judgement', everywhere in the entire universe? In fact, and to spoil the dialectical fun, we will see in Essay Seven Part Three, the above, if true, would actually make change impossible.


Beyond admitting that he lifted many of his ideas from Hegel and Heraclitus, how Plekhanov knew that motion is eternal, that no force could hold back change, or that "all that exists" has a "rational cause", he took to his grave. After all, what else could a "dialectic [that is] the first to supply a method necessary and competent to solve the problem of the rational causes of all that exists" be but the Master Key that unlocks the secret to everything in reality -- ahem..., which we were assured the dialectic isn't?


Stalin Murders A Theory -- For A Change


Stalin isn't widely known for his theoretical sophistication (that is, if we ignore the few remaining Stalin-'groupies' who congregate in and around the various hardcore Communist parties the world over -- or, more often, on the Internet -- many of whom are even now trying to rehabilitate this monster), a serious defect he more than made up for in other ways, such as imposing his will (or, rather, imposing the collective will of the 'soviet' bureaucracy) on the former USSR, foisting DM on nature and society in like manner (and, as we will see here, the latter weren't unconnected).


However, as we have discovered with others, Stalin denies he is a dogmatist, and then proceeds to be one:


"Marxism is the science of the laws governing the development of nature and society, the science of the revolution of the oppressed and exploited masses, the science of the victory of socialism in all countries, the science of building communist society. As a science, Marxism cannot stand still, it develops and is perfected. In its development, Marxism cannot but be enriched by new experience, new knowledge -- consequently some of its formulas and conclusions cannot but change in the course of time, cannot but be replaced by new formulas and conclusions, corresponding to the new historical tusks. Marxism does not recognize invariable conclusions and formulas, obligatory for all epochs and periods. Marxism is the enemy of all dogmatism. [Quoted from here; bold emphasis added.]


And this is him doing it:


"Dialectical materialism is the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party....


"The dialectical method therefore holds that no phenomenon in nature can be understood if taken by itself....; and that, vice versa, any phenomenon can be understood and explained if considered in its inseparable connection with surrounding phenomena, as one conditioned by surrounding phenomena.


"Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that nature is not in a state of rest and immobility, stagnation and immutability, but a state of continuous movement and change, of continuous renewal and development....


"The dialectical method therefore requires that phenomena should be considered not only from the standpoint of their interconnection and interdependence, but also from the standpoint of their movement and change....


"Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides...; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born..., constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes....


"If there are no isolated phenomena in the world, if all phenomena are interconnected and interdependent, then it is clear that every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated not from the standpoint of 'eternal justice'....


"Contrary to idealism..., Marxist philosophical materialism holds that the world and its laws are fully knowable, that our knowledge of the laws of nature, tested by experiment and practice, is authentic knowledge having the validity of objective truth, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known, but which will be disclosed and made known by the efforts of science and practice." [Stalin (1976b), pp.835-46. Bold emphases added.]


And this is from an unpublished and unfinished article, Anarchism or Socialism?


"It is said that social life is in continual motion and development. And that is true: life must not be regarded as something immutable and static; it never remains at one level, it is in eternal motion, in an eternal process of destruction and creation. Therefore, life always contains the new and the old, the growing and the dying, the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary.


"The dialectical method tells us that we must regard life as it actually is. We have seen that life is in continual motion; consequently, we must regard life in its motion and ask: Where is life going? We have seen that life presents a picture of constant destruction and creation; consequently, we must examine life in its process of destruction and creation and ask: What is being destroyed and what is being created in life?...


"Hence arose the well-known dialectical proposition: all that which really exists, i.e., all that which grows day by day is rational, and all that which decays day by day is irrational and, consequently, cannot avoid defeat....


"Similar processes take place in nature. The history of science shows that the dialectical method is a truly scientific method: from astronomy to sociology, in every field we find confirmation of the idea that nothing is eternal in the universe, everything changes, everything develops. Consequently, everything in nature must be regarded from the point of view of movement, development. And this means that the spirit of dialectics permeates the whole of present-day science.


"Dialectics tells us that nothing in the world is eternal, everything in the world is transient and mutable; nature changes, society changes, habits and customs change, conceptions of justice change, truth itself changes -- that is why dialectics regards everything critically; that is why it denies the existence of a once-and-for-all established truth.... From its standpoint the world is something eternal and immutable....


"The Anarchists are, of course, at liberty to note or ignore these facts, they may even ignore the sand on the sandy seashore -- they have every right to do that. But why drag in the dialectical method, which, unlike anarchism, does not look at life with its eyes shut, which has its finger on the pulse of life and openly says: since life changes and is in motion, every phenomenon of life has two trends: a positive and a negative; the first we must defend, the second we must reject....


"Everything in the world changes, everything in life develops...." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases alone added.]


I can't find anywhere in Stalin's writings where he says that DM mustn't be imposed on nature (although that would seem to classify anyone doing it as a dogmatist), but it is quite clear from the above that he did it anyway. I doubt that anyone lived long enough to challenge him on this, even if they had the courage to do so.


How, for instance, could Stalin possibly know that there are no things in the world which are unknowable? This is reminiscent of some rather odd things that Dietzgen said; Stalin perhaps copied that idea from him.


Hence, it seems that 'Uncle Joe', 'The Great Teacher', was as traditional and dogmatic in his approach to Philosophy as, say, Bonaventure was -- only the former was far more dangerous, of course.


Mao's Great Leap -- Backwards


Another of the dialectical 'giants', Mao Tse-Tung, was no less traditional, no less dogmatic, no less repetitive. Again, true-to-form, Mao began by noting how undogmatic he proposed to be:


"The criticism to which the idealism of the Deborin school has been subjected in Soviet philosophical circles in recent years has aroused great interest among us. Deborin's idealism has exerted a very bad influence in the Chinese Communist Party, and it cannot be said that the dogmatist thinking in our Party is unrelated to the approach of that school. Our present study of philosophy should therefore have the eradication of dogmatist thinking as its main objective." [Mao (1937), p.311. Bold emphasis and link added. See also here.]


On the opening page of his other major theoretical work, On Practice, the editors added these thoughts (which must have been met with Mao's approval):


"There used to be a number of comrades in our Party who were dogmatists and who for a long period rejected the experience of the Chinese revolution, denying the truth that 'Marxism is not a dogma but a guide to action' and overawing people with words and phrases from Marxist works, torn out of context. There were also a number of comrades who were empiricists and who for a long period restricted themselves to their own fragmentary experience and did not understand the importance of theory for revolutionary practice or see the revolution as a whole, but worked blindly though industriously. The erroneous ideas of these two types of comrades, and particularly of the dogmatists, caused enormous losses to the Chinese revolution during 1931-34, and yet the dogmatists cloaking themselves as Marxists, confused a great many comrades. 'On Practice' was written in order to expose the subjectivist errors of dogmatism and empiricism in the Party, and especially the error of dogmatism, from the standpoint of the Marxist theory of knowledge. It was entitled 'On Practice' because its stress was on exposing the dogmatist kind of subjectivism, which belittles practice. The ideas contained in this essay were presented by Comrade Mao Tse-tung in a lecture at the Anti-Japanese Military and Political College in Yenan." [Mao (1964c), p.295. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


But, Mao promptly ruined everything by arguing as follows:


"The reason the dogmatist and empiricist comrades in China have made mistakes lies precisely in their subjectivist, one-sided and superficial way of looking at things. To be one-sided and superficial is at the same time to be subjective. For all objective things are actually interconnected and are governed by inner laws, but instead of undertaking the task of reflecting things as they really are some people only look at things one-sidedly or superficially and who know neither their interconnections nor their inner laws, and so their method is subjectivist." [Mao (1937), p.324. Bold emphasis added.]


And yet, where is Mao's proof (empirical or otherwise) that all "objective things are actually interconnected and are governed by inner laws"? As I noted earlier:


As will soon become apparent, for all their claims to be radical, when it comes to Philosophy DM-theorists are surprisingly conservative -- and universally incapable of seeing this even after it has been pointed out to them... At a rhetorical level, philosophical conservatism like this has been camouflaged behind what at first sight appears to be a series of disarmingly modest disclaimers, which are then promptly flouted.


Even while he was accusing others of "dogmatism", Mao was quite happy to impose -- in the very same paragraph! -- some dogmatic ideas of his own,


And, there is more:


"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...." [Ibid., pp.311-18. Bold emphases added.]


I have cut short this selection of quotations from Mao since I fear that if I continue, my sanity will suffer irreversible damage, to say nothing of the mental health of the brave souls who have made it this far. But, similarly repetitive, dogmatic, and baseless assertions litter the rest of Mao (1937).


[Mao's bogus distinction between 'primary' and secondary' contradictions will be examined in Essay Nine Part Two.]


Mao continues, in full dogmatic overdrive, happy to assert things he couldn't possibly have known were true:


"First, it is necessary to apply the Marxist-Leninist law of the unity of opposites to the study of socialist society. The law of contradiction in all things, i.e., the law of the unity of opposites, is a fundamental law of materialist dialectics. It operates everywhere, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in the human thought.


"The opposites in a contradiction both unite and struggle with each other, and it is this that forces things to move and change. Socialist society is no exception. In socialist society there are two kinds of social contradictions, namely, the contradictions among the people and those between ourselves and the enemy. These two kinds of contradictions are entirely different in their essence, and the methods for handling them should be different, too. Their correct handling will result in the increasing consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the further strengthening and development of socialist society.


"Many people acknowledge the law of the unity of opposites but are unable to apply it in studying and handling questions in socialist society. They refuse to admit that there are contradictions in socialist society -- that there are not only contradictions between ourselves and the enemy but also contradictions among the people -- and they do not know how to distinguish between these two kinds of social contradictions and how to handle them correctly, and are therefore unable to deal correctly with the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat." [Mao (1964b), quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


"Marxist philosophy holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe. This law operates universally, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in man's thinking. Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things to move and change. Contradictions exist everywhere, but their nature differs in accordance with the different nature of different things. In any given thing, the unity of opposites is conditional, temporary and transitory, and hence relative, whereas the struggle of opposites is absolute. Lenin gave a very clear exposition of this law. It has come to be understood by a growing number of people in our country." [Mao (1977b), pp.392-93. Bold emphases added.]


"We should draw a lesson here: Don’t be misled by false appearances. Some of our comrades are easily misled by them. There is contradiction between appearance and essence in everything. It is by analyzing and studying the appearance of a thing that people come to know its essence. Hence the need for science. Otherwise, if one could get at the essence of a thing by intuition, what would be the use of science? What would be the use of study? Study is called for precisely because there is contradiction between appearance and essence. There is a difference, though, between the appearance and the false appearance of a thing, because the latter is false. Hence we draw the lesson: Try as far as possible not to be misled by false appearances." [Mao (1977c), pp.165-66. Bold emphasis added.]


[If I can summon up the will, I will add more of the same to Appendix Two.]


Here, too, is Mao in a brief article about DM:


"The second fundamental principle of dialectical materialism lies in its theory of movement (or theory of development). This means the recognition that movement is the form of the existence of matter, an inherent attribute of matter, a manifestation of the multiplicity of matter. This is the principle of the development of the world. The combination of the principle of the development of the world with the principle of the unity of the world, set forth above, constitutes the whole of the world view of dialectical materialism. The world is nothing else but the material world in a process of unlimited development…" ['Dialectical Materialism' (1938). Bold emphases added.]


As can be seen from these and other passages quoted in this Essay, dialecticians more than make up for the lack of evidence supporting their cosmically-bold assertions by the number of times they feel compelled to repeat them.


Moreover, as was the case with Stalin, I can find no evidence in Mao's writings where he says DM mustn't be imposed on nature (however, as noted above, Mao does attempt to castigate dogmatism; on that, see also Note 6d), but if he believed in scientific practice (which he elsewhere says he did; e.g., p.296 of Mao (1964a)), then the convoy of trucks containing the mountains of "carefully collected evidence" that would be needed to justify the above semi-divine pronouncements must have been mislaid somewhere. During the Long March, perhaps?6d


Given the unprecedented adulation the last two Dialectical Gurus (Mao and Stalin) receive from their respective groupies, the 'depth' of their analyses poses its own quirky sort of 'internal contradiction': how can such dross be regarded by so many as genuine philosophical gold?


As we will see in Essay Nine Part Two, that conundrum may be answered (a) By considering something Marx once said about Alchemy, (b) From something he also said about the reasons so many human beings turn to religion -- and, of course, (c) By recalling the substitutionist and opportunistic protocols of Soviet and Chinese Realpolitik.


Hegel's Non-Dogmatic Dogmatism


The above dialecticians were, after all, merely slotting themselves into an ancient tradition, one that was happy to concoct dogmatic theses about fundamental aspects of 'Being', based on little more than an idiosyncratic use of language. However, Marxist dialecticians might unique in this respect because of their open disavowal of a priori dogmatism -- even if they then promptly proceeded to do the exact opposite. But, in this they were also following in Hegel's footsteps. First of all, in his Shorter Logic, we encounter the by-now-familiar self-effacing modesty:


"We can assume nothing and assert nothing dogmatically." [Hegel (1975), p.3, §1.]


[Surprising as this might seem to those who can read, Hegel commentators can still be found who will tell you with a straight face that he did indeed begin with 'no presuppositions' -- a bit like DM-fans who will also tell you that the DM-classics really are dogma-free zones..., honest.]


But then, on the very same page, we find this 'non-dogmatic' statement:


"God and God only is the Truth." [Ibid.]


Followed a few pages later by yet more 'non-dogmatic' dogma (a 'unity of opposites', perhaps?):


"...we must presuppose intelligence enough to know, not only that God is actual, that He is the supreme actuality, that He alone is truly actual...." [Ibid., p.9, §6. Bold emphasis added.]


From this, the only conclusion possible is that in the minds of the aforementioned commentators and Hegel-freaks -- who are themselves quite used to swallowing at least one Hegel-inspired contradiction per minute --, that when Hegel tells us in black and white that he is actually presupposing something that obviously means he isn't.


The rest of this Hegel-tome and others are a veritable dumping-ground for lorry loads of a priori, dogmatic pronouncements, sufficient to win an Oscar if this were a film and awards were given for serial obfuscation. Brave readers are genuinely spoilt for choice. [Apologies for the mixed metaphors!]


Here are just a few examples:


"This immediate knowledge, consists in knowing that the Infinite, the Eternal, the God which is in our Idea, really is: or, it asserts that in our consciousness there is immediately and inseparably bound up with this idea the certainty of its actual being." [Ibid., p.99, §64. Bold emphasis added.]


"Pure Being makes the beginning: because it is on the one hand pure thought, and on the other immediacy itself, simple and indeterminate; and the first beginning cannot be mediated by anything, or be further determined.


"All doubts and admonitions, which might be brought against beginning the science with abstract empty being, will disappear if we only perceive what a beginning naturally implies. It is possible to define being as 'I = I', as 'Absolute Indifference' or Identity, and so on. Where it is felt necessary to begin either with what is absolutely certain, i.e. certainty of oneself, or with a definition or intuition of the absolute truth, these and other forms of the kind may be looked on as if they must be the first. But each of these forms contains a mediation, and hence cannot be the real first: for all mediation implies advance made from a first on to a second, and proceeding from something different. If I = I, or even the intellectual intuition, are really taken to mean no more than the first, they are in this mere immediacy identical with being: while conversely, pure being, if abstract no longer, but including in it mediation, is pure thought or intuition.


"If we enunciate Being as a predicate of the Absolute, we get the first definition of the latter. The Absolute is Being. This is (in thought) the absolutely initial definition, the most abstract and stinted. It is the definition given by the Eleatics, but at the same time is also the well-known definition of God as the sum of all realities. It means, in short, that we are to set aside that limitation which is in every reality, so that God shall be only the real in all reality, the superlatively real. Or, if we reject reality, as implying a reflection, we get a more immediate or unreflected statement of the same thing, when Jacobi says that the God of Spinoza is the principium of being in all existence." [Ibid., pp.124-25, §114. Bold emphases added.]


"Self-relation in Essence is the form of Identity or of reflection-into-self, which has here taken the place of the immediacy of Being. They are both the same abstraction -- self-relation.


"The unintelligence of sense, to take everything limited and finite for Being, passes into the obstinacy of understanding, which views the finite as self-identical, not inherently self-contradictory.


"This identity, as it descended from Being, appears in the first place only charged with the characteristics of Being, and referred to Being as to something external. This external Being, if taken in separation from the true Being (of Essence), is called the Unessential. But that turns out to be a mistake. Because Essence is Being-in-self, it is essential only to the extent that it has in itself its negative, i.e. reference to another, or mediation. Consequently, it has the unessential as its own proper seeming (reflection) in itself. But in seeming or mediation there is distinction involved: and since what is distinguished (as distinguished from identity out of which it arises, and in which it is not, or lies as seeming) receives itself the form of identity, the semblance is still not in the mode of Being, or of self-related immediacy.


"The sphere of Essence thus turns out to be a still imperfect combination of immediacy and mediation. In it every term is expressly invested with the character of self-relatedness, while yet at the same time one is forced beyond it. It has Being -- reflected being, a being in which another shows, and which shows in another. And so it is also the sphere in which the contradiction, still implicit in the sphere of Being, is made explicit.


"As this one notion is the common principle underlying all logic, there appear in the development of Essence the same attributes or terms as in the development of Being, but in reflex form. Instead of Being and Nought we have now the forms of Positive and Negative; the former at first as Identity corresponding to pure and uncontrasted Being, the latter developed (showing in itself) as Difference. So also, we have Being represented by the Ground of determinate Being: which shows itself, when reflected upon the Ground, as Existence." [Ibid., pp.165-66, §114. Bold emphases added.]


"Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are....


"Contradiction is the very moving principle of the world: and it is ridiculous to say that contradiction is unthinkable. The only thing correct in that statement is that contradiction is not the end of the matter, but cancels itself. But contradiction, when cancelled, does not leave abstract identity; for that is itself only one side of the contrariety. The proximate result of opposition (when realised as contradiction) is the Ground, which contains identity as well as difference superseded and deposited to elements in the completer notion." [Ibid., p.174, §119. Bold emphases and links added. I have used the on-line versions above.]


"Everything is grounded in this unity of identity and non-identity, of one and another, of sameness and distinction, of affirmation and negation. The absolute is essentially dialectical. Dialectic is the essence of Being or Being as essence. Essence is the sufficient ground of all that seems to be non-absolute or finite. A is non-A: The Absolute maintains itself in that which seems to escape it." [Hegel (1959), p.120. Bold emphases alone added.]


There is page after page after page of this stuff, and there is even more of it in the Science of Logic! Unsurprisingly, one will search long and hard and to no avail for any attempt to prove these hyper-bold assertions -- other than a set of equally obscure 'derivations' from another set of a priori assertions, supported by what is little more than innovative word-magic) -- and precious little evidence offered in support, in Hegel's entire corpus.


While the above Marxist dialecticians could easily have dogmatised for their country -- if that too were an Olympic event --, Hegel (or, indeed, many of his many epigones) would surely be first-in-line should the need arise for someone to represent the Earth in any future Inter-Planetary Dogmathon, and expect to win Gold every time.


[With Heidegger, Spinoza and a gaggle of French 'Philosophers' on the subs bench, just in case.]


A priori DM-Super-Science


The Norm, Not The Exception


Indiscriminate thesis-mongering like this is the norm not the exception in the writings of the DM-classicists. Not surprisingly, this dialectically-inspired disregard for "careful empirical work" has been copied ad nauseam in the work of 'secondary' DM-theorists, despite their own (by-now-familiar) vociferous claims to the contrary.


Trapped Between The Scylla Of Hegelianism And The Charybdis Of Positivism


Under Construction...


'Lesser' Dialectical Clones


They're All At It


In the following sub-sections I have posted a representative  selection of equally dogmatic statements published by scores of 'lesser' DM-clones (drawn from different wings of Marxism, and across the Internet). These theorists all promote a theory that purports to inform us of fundamental truths about reality, valid for all of space and time, which lie way beyond confirmation by any conceivable body of evidence. In doing so they are clearly oblivious of the glaring inconsistency between their claim that DM hasn't been imposed on reality and their attempt to do just that.


Apologies must of course be given in advance for two things: (i) The length of many of these quotations, and (ii) Their extremely repetitive nature.


The first of the above is unfortunately a necessary evil in order to bury once-and-for-all the belief that DM-theorists do not try to impose their ideas on reality (or they did so only in the past, when supporting evidence was less abundant, implying they have 'wised up' of late). It is also necessary, since DM-fans who have actually bothered to read the material presented earlier (taken from the DM-classics) still refuse to accept that these passages are in any way representative -- or even that they are the least bit dogmatic! So, the only way to prove to them that they are indeed representative is to quote them extensively.


Even then, DM-fans often respond with the "You have taken them out of context!" defence. Now, if anyone can show which passages quoted below have been taken 'out of context', I'll be happy to acknowledge that fact and will apologise profusely.


However, when asked to show if, or how, I have 'taken them out of context', objectors invariably become mysteriously silent. So, I won't hold my breath expecting any contact from them.7


The second point will be employed later on at this site in an endeavour reveal the real nature and purpose of DM-ideology, which exposé itself partly depends on the fact that DM is not only traditional in form, it is dogmatic, highly repetitive and has become completely ritualised.


An exhaustive posting of examples of this a priori pattern-of-thought, culled from every DM-text that even I possess, would easily run into many hundreds of pages, all saying practically the same thing. That this is no exaggeration may easily be confirmed by anyone who reads on, or has access to the many textbooks and articles on DM produced over the last hundred or so years (in hard copy, or now on the Internet) by its acolytes -- and, of course, plenty of Prozac.


Finally, and once more, whether or not the following theorists are, or were, correct in what they have to say isn't the issue here, merely their consistency: Do they or do they not impose their ideas on nature?


Of course, the validity of what they actually say will be questioned in other Essays posted at this site (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), but, naturally, that is a separate issue.


Dietzgen The Dogmatist


Beginning with Joseph Dietzgen:


"Scientific socialists apply the inductive method. They stick to facts. They live in the real world and not in the spiritualist regions of scholasticism....


"Indeed, where we have to deal with concrete phenomena, or, as it were, with palpable things, the method of materialism has long since reigned supremely (sic). Yet, it needed more than practical success: it needed the theoretical working-out in all its details in order to completely rout its enemy, the scholastic speculation or deduction....


"Scientific 'laws' are deductions drawn by human thinking from empiric material...."  [Dietzgen (1906a), pp.81-84. Bold emphases added.]


So much for the by-now-familiar disarming modesty. However, the mailed metaphysical fist hidden inside the self-effacing velvet glove soon emerges to pound the non-dialectical table:


"Nothing more is meant by these deductions than this: the world is a unity, that is, there is only one world….


"...[R]eason makes of all existence one order. To enroll (sic) under this order all the phenomena of the world as different species, is to follow nature. Because the intellect can do this, because it divides everything into orders and species, into subjects and predicates so that finally only one order remains, only one subject, Being or the Given Premises of which mind and body, reason, fancy, matter, force, etc., are predicates or species -- because of that there cannot possibly remain in the world any impassable gulf. Everything must reduce itself to a theoretical harmony, to one system....


"I should like to make the reader understand what the professors, so far as I know them, have not yet understood, viz., that our intellect is a dialectical instrument, and instrument which reconciles all opposites. The intellect creates unity by means of the variety and comprehends the difference in the equality. Hegel made it clear long ago that there is no either-or, but as well as...." [Ibid., pp.246-48. Bold emphases added.]


Exactly how Dietzgen "deduced" all this from "empiric material" he forgot to say, but the reader should note that even while he was helpfully upgrading our non-dialectical minds with words of wisdom empirically copied from Hegel's Logic (i.e., to the effect that there is no "either-or") he neglected to apply the rules he found there to his own non-empiric musings. Plainly, if there is "no either-or", then the world must be both a unity and not a unity (not the one or the other), just as it must also be true that "the intellect", as a "dialectical instrument", both reconciles and does not reconcile all opposites (not the one or the other).


Dietzgen clearly failed to notice, too, that material reality (captured in and by the conventions expressed in ordinary language) resists the imposition of Idealist nostrums like these; any attempt to do so soon backfires. In this case, it becomes clear that neither Dietzgen nor any other dialectician is free to reject the LEM while wishing to assert something determinate about anything whatsoever -- even about that 'law' itself.


[Why that is so will be explained in Essay Nine Part One.]


So, even Dietzgen had to ignore Hegel to make his point!


[LEM = Law of Excluded Middle.]


Alas, there is more:


"Before Philosophy could enter the innermost of the mind-function, it had to be shown by the practical achievements of natural science how the mental instrument of man possesses the hitherto doubted faculty of illuminating the innermost of Nature. The physicists do not close their eyes to the fact that there are many unknown worlds. Still some of them have yet to learn that the Unknown, too, is not so totally unknown and mysterious. Even the most unknown world and the most mysterious things are together with the known places and objects of one and the same category, namely, of the universal union of Nature. Owing to the conception of the Universe virtually existing, as a kind of innate idea, in the human mind, the latter knows a priori that all things, the heavenly bodies included, exist in the Universe, and are of universal and common nature...." [Ibid., pp.267-68. Bold emphases added.]


It should perhaps have occurred to Dietzgen's 'empiric' mind that if there are indeed "unknown worlds" then humanity can have no knowledge of them. How, therefore, such bold conclusions about these "worlds" could be drawn in advance of such knowledge only those who are similarly adrift in this cloying Dialectical Mist will be able to tell us. But, even they might stumble when it comes to explaining to those who are not quite so lost just how such 'knowns' can be derived with confidence from all those 'unknowns'. Still more might they wonder how Dietzgen's earlier rejection of 'scholasticism' squares with his new-found liking for a priori impostures like these.


The incoherent ramblings of the ex-US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, about "known unknowns", come to mind at this point:


"As you know, there are known knowns. There are things that we know we know. We also know that there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know that there are some things that we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know." [Quoted from Dilip Hiro, Secrets and Lies. The True History of the Iraq War, p.163, who was citing the UK Guardian, 03/05/2003. A video of this odd interview/press conference can be accessed here, and here is a report of a recently de-classified Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) document that shows just what Rumsfeld did know.]


When card-carrying members of the ruling-class come up with prize 'thoughts' like this we generally know how to respond. However, when dialecticians utter the same inanities, some of us nod approvingly at their 'profundity'.


But, from where did such epistemological gems originate? Dietzgen is keen to tell us (while still doing his faux Rumsfeld impersonation):


"How then do we know that behind the phenomena of Nature, behind the relative truths, there is a universal, absolute Nature which does not reveal itself completely to man?....


"It is innate; it is given to us with consciousness. The consciousness of man is the knowledge of his personality as part of the human species, of mankind, and of the Universe. To know is to form pictures in the consciousness that they are pictures of things which all, both the pictures and the things, possess a general mother from which they have issued and to which they will return. The mother is the absolute truth; she is perfectly true and yet mystical in a natural way, that is, she is the inexhaustible source of knowledge and consequently never entirely to be comprehended.


"All that is known in and of the world is, however, true and exact, only a known truth, therefore a modified truth, a modus or part of truth. When I say that the consciousness of the endless, absolute truth is innate in us, is one and the only knowledge a priori, I am confirmed in my statement also by the experience of this innate consciousness...." [Dietzgen (1906a), pp.283-84. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphases added.]


So, the laws of Dietzgen's version of 'Rumsfeldian superscience' still follow from experience --, except it is from the inner experience of "innate consciousness". On that basis, presumably, we could conclude, if we were so minded, that Saddam Hussein did possess Weapons of Mass Destruction, despite the absence of 'empiric evidence' to that effect. Indeed, we could if we based this convenient piece of 'knowledge' on an 'inner intuition', and because of that proceeded to support the imperialist invasion of Iraq as a result. Who could object? Well, only those who doubt the existence of "unknown unknowns", perhaps?


[Readers familiar the history of Mother-Nature worship and Hermetic Philosophy will no doubt recognize the provenance of much of Dietzgen's ruminations, especially those highlighted in bold. (It might be worth finding out if Rumsfeld ever read Dietzgen, or even the Hermetic Kybalion. Since the latter was (possibly?) written by three Masons, this is in fact highly likely!)]


The promulgation of a priori dogma continues:


"...[T]he world is not made up of fixed classes, but is a fluid unity, the Absolute incarnate, which develops eternally, and is only classified by the human mind for purposes of forming intelligent conceptions." [Ibid., p.322. Bold emphasis added.]


"The universe is in every place and at any time itself new or present for the first time. It arises and passes away, passes and arises under our very hands. Nothing remains the same, only the infinite change is constant, and even the change varies. Every particle of time and space brings new changes. It is true that the materialist believes in the permanency, eternity and indestructibility of matter. He teaches us that not the smallest particle of matter has even been lost in the world, that matter simply changes its forms eternally, but that its nature last indestructibly through all eternity." [Dietzgen (1984), p.37. Bold emphases added.]


But, how could Dietzgen possibly have known that "The world...develops eternally", that it is "the Absolute incarnate"? Or, that "Nothing remains the same" and that "only...infinite change is constant"? Or, even that "Not the smallest particle of matter has ever been lost to the world"? Of course, he couldn't possibly have known any this on the basis of the science of his day, and we still can't say we know any of this today! We can certainly hypothesise that some of these things might be the case, but there is no way we can possibly know that these things are true of every region of space and time -- nor are we ever likely to know this.


In fact, and true-to-form, Dietzgen derived ideas like these, not from science, but from the dogmatic theses promulgated by Traditional Philosophers.


There are many more dogmatic passages like the above in Dietzgen's rambling, almost aimless work. For example, the following:


"Consciousness, as the Latin root word indicates, is the knowledge of being in existence. It is a form, or a quality, of existence which differs from other forms of being in that it is aware of its existence. Quality cannot be explained, but must be experienced. We know by experience that consciousness includes along with the knowledge of being in existence the difference and contradiction between subject and object, thinking and being, between form and content, between phenomenon and essential thing, between attribute and substance, between the general and the concrete. This innate contradiction explains the various terms applied to consciousness, such as the organ of abstraction, the faculty of generalization or unification, or in contradistinction thereto the faculty of differentiation. For consciousness generalises differences and differentiates generalities. Contradiction is innate in consciousness, and its nature is so contradictory that it is at the same time a differentiating, a generalising, and an understanding nature. Consciousness generalises contradiction. It recognizes that all nature, all being, lives in contradictions, that everything is what it is only in cooperation with its opposite. Just as visible things are not visible without the faulty of sight, and vice versa the faculty of sight cannot see anything but what is visible, so contradiction must be recognized as something general which pervades all thought and being. The science of understanding, by generalizing contradiction, solves all concrete contradictions." [Ibid., pp.32-33. Bold emphases added.]


Dietzgen, of course, offers no evidence (or even argument!) in support of this example of 'innovative' a priori psychology (which suggests we all have a little man/woman in our heads to do all this 'processing' for us -- on this, see Essay Thirteen Part Three), except, perhaps, he read it all in Hegel, or some other Traditional Theorist.


And there is more of this a priori psycho-babble, admixed with no little dogmatic pseudo-science -- check this out:


"In the universe which constitutes the object of science and the faculty of reason, both force and matter are unseparated. In the world of sense perceptions force is matter and matter is force. 'Force cannot be seen.' Oh yes! Seeing itself is pure force. Seeing is as much an effect of its object as an effect of the eye, and this double effect and other effects are forces. We do not see the things themselves, but their effects on our eyes. We see their forces. And force cannot alone be seen, it can also be heard, smelled, tasted, felt....


"It is just as true to say that we feel matter and not its force as it is to say that we feel force and not matter. Indeed, both are inseparable from the object, as we have already remarked. But by means of the faculty of thought we separate from the simultaneously and successively occurring phenomena the general and the concrete. For instance, we abstract the general concept of sight from the various phenomena of our sight and distinguish it by the name of power of vision from the concrete objects, or substances, of our eyes....


"The world of sense perceptions is made known to us only by our consciousness, but consciousness is conditioned on the world of sense perceptions. Nature is infinitely united or infinitely separated, according to whether we regard it from the standpoint of consciousness as an unconditional unit or from the standpoint of sense perceptions and as unconditional multiplicity.... The abstract matter is force, the concrete force is matter....


"True there is no force without matter, no matter without force. Forceless matter and matter without force are nonentities." [Ibid., pp.82-85. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Naturally, this leaves Dietzgen in the same predicament as Lenin, who, with only 'images' to light his way as he confessed, had no way of knowing if there were in fact any 'objects' for him to 'image', and hence no proof that the 'outside world' even existed.


[Not that I doubt it does exist; but given Dietzgen's epistemology, there is no way he could prove it exists. (On that, follow the above link.)]


If, according to Dietzgen, we 'see' only the effects of objects on our eyes, and not the objects that supposedly cause them, how do we know we even have eyes, let alone that there is anything 'out there' that supposedly affects them? Indeed, if we don't "see the things themselves, but their effects on our eyes", then we must have a second set of eyes in our heads to do this extra 'seeing'. If not, what then does this extra 'seeing'? If something else does this extra 'seeing' (an 'inner eye', for want of a better term), is it subject to the same limitations? Can this mysterious 'inner eye' 'see' for itself? Or, does it, too, need help? If it does need assistance to 'see', then there must be an 'even inner eye' to do the 'seeing'..., and so on. If not, and this 'inner eye' can 'see' for 'itself', then why can't our ordinary eyes do that for themselves, too?


Then there is this gem:


"Everything is large, everything is small, everything extended through space and time, everything cause and everything effect, everything a whole and everything a part, because everything is the essence of everything, because everything is contained in the all, everything related, everything connected, everything interdependent. The conception of all as the absolute, the content of which consists of innumerable relativities, the concept of the all as the universal truth which reflects many phenomena, that is the basis of the science of the understanding." [Dietzgen (1906b), p.417.] 


While Dietzgen had no way of knowing whether or not any of these dogmatic musings were true, he clearly had no problem asserting them as if they were well established fact -- just as Traditional Philosophers have always done (except for them, they weren't mere facts that could be false, they were 'necessarily true', and so couldn't be false -- they were, in effect, Super-facts).


Exactly why Marx thought so highly of him is, therefore, a complete mystery!


Having said that, this comment (which appears in a letter from Marx to Engels, dated 05/01/1882) suggests he was beginning to wise-up toward the end of his life:


"You will see from the enclosed letter from Dietzgen that the unhappy fellow has 'progressed' backward and 'safely' arrived at Phänomenologie. I regard the case as an incurable one." [MECW 46, p.172. Link added.]


Abram Deborin


Abram Deborin was the 'leader' of the 'Hegelianisers' in the fSU in the mid-, to late-1920s, but whose work had been severely criticised by Lenin. After Stalin had settled the dispute between the 'Mechanists' and the 'Deborinites' in 1931 -- by anathematising both --, Deborin kept a low profile until his death in 1963.


[Further details about this rather sordid period in Soviet Thought can be found in Bakhurst (1991), Graham (1971), Joravsky (1961), Kolakowski (1981), Wetter (1958).]


Despite this, and just like the other Dialectical Dogmatists quoted in this Essay, Deborin was quite happy to impose his theory on the world:


"The dialectic teaches us that the unity of being and non-being is becoming. In concrete materialistic terms this means that the basis of everything is matter in a state of constant development. Thus changes are real and concrete, and, on the other hand, what is real and concrete is changeable. The subject of the process is absolutely real being, the 'substantive All' as opposed to the phenomenalistic Nothing.... The contradiction between quality-less, unchanging substance of the metaphysicians on the one hand, and, on the other, the subjective and changing states that are supposed to exclude the reality of substance, is resolved by dialectical materialism in the sense that substance, matter, is in a perpetual state of motion and change, that qualities or states have objective significance and that matter is the cause and the foundation, the 'subject' of qualitative changes and states." [Introduction to the Philosophy of Dialectical Materialism, 4th ed., 1925, pp.226-27; quoted in Kolakowski (1981), p.67. Bold emphases added.]   


As we have seen, this is typical of DM-theorists (be they 'orthodox', maverick -- i.e., a "Revisionist!" -- or 'Hegelian'); DM-theses are simply asserted with little or no attempt (in the above case, no attempt at all) to establish their validity. We are just supposed to accept them as if they had been delivered from On High, carved on Stone Tablets, as Cosmic Verities true for all of space and time. 


David Hayden-Guest


In a similarly dogmatic vein, David Hayden-Guest opined as follows:


"Here it is the great service of Hegel to have conceived history as exhibiting a process of development….


"Dialectical materialism appears at first sight to be a return to the original Greek view of the world from which philosophy started. And, indeed, like this Greek materialism, it sees the world as a single interconnected whole in endless motion….


"The 'dialectical laws of motion'…are the most general laws possible….


"The second dialectical law, that of the 'unity, interpenetration or identity of opposites'…asserts the essentially contradictory character of reality -– at the same time asserts that these 'opposites' which are everywhere to be found do not remain in stark, metaphysical opposition, but also exist in unity. This law was known to the early Greeks. It was classically expressed by Hegel over a hundred years ago….


"[F]rom the standpoint of the developing universe as a whole, what is vital is…motion and change which follows from the conflict of the opposite.


"The Law of the Negation of the Negation…. This law states one of the most characteristic features of evolutionary process in all fields -– that development takes place in a kind of spiral, one change negating a given state of affairs and a succeeding change, which negated the first, re-establishing (in a more developed form, or 'on a higher plane'…) some essential feature of the original state of affairs….


"This law of dialectical process is like the others in that it cannot be arbitrarily 'foisted' on Nature or history. It cannot be used as a substitute for empirical facts, or used to 'predict' things without a concrete study of the facts in question….


"Everything is not only part of the great world process but is itself essentially in process….


"Development is always the result of internal conflict as well as of external relations, themselves including conflict. It can only be explained and rationally grasped to the extent that the internal contradictions of the thing have been investigated….


"Every 'thing' is itself vastly complicated, made up of innumerable sides and aspects, related in various ways to every other thing." [Guest (1963), pp.31, 32, 38, 40, 42, 45. Bold emphases added.]


Careful readers will no doubt notice that while Guest makes the usual, self-effacing claim that DM hasn't been imposed on reality, he then proceeds to do just that. Exactly how he knew that reality was "essentially" contradictory, for instance, he forgot to inform his bemused readers.


Edward Conze


The quasi-Stalinist, but latter-day Buddhist, Edward Conze put things similarly:


"Scientific method is not a body of ready-made statements which can be learnt by heart. It gives no mystical formulae from which we can easily deduce reality without the trouble of examining the facts…[it is not] a reverential pondering over quotations….


"Scientific method demands that we should study things in their inter-relation with one another….


"…Each thing stands in some relation to everything else in the world. It is thus fully understood only if its relations are known. Therefore it has been said to know one thing completely is to know everything….


"The philosopher sums up -– Everything is inter-related with everything else….


"That everything should be studied in its development and changing forms is the demand of the second rule of scientific method….


"Everything in this world is subject to perpetual change…. Everything in the world once had a beginning; and there is no part of the universe that will not perish….


"The scientific method demands that the world should be studied as a complex of processes and events and not as a complex of ready-made things....


"The third law or rule of scientific method is that opposites are always united, that they are in unity…." [Conze (1944), pp.11, 14-15, 25-26, 35. Bold emphases added; italic emphases in the original.]


Once more, the puzzled reader will doubtless wonder where all the evidence supporting these brave assertions has gone in the intervening years. Into the 'unknown' perhaps? They will similarly wonder what became of these sensible caveats:


"Scientific method is not a body of ready-made statements which can be learnt by heart. It gives no mystical formulae from which we can easily deduce reality without the trouble of examining the facts…[it is not] a reverential pondering over quotations…." [Ibid.]


However, in a rare moment of honesty, Conze admitted:


"I know of no general reason why opposites always must be united. The study of scientific method has not yet advanced to give us a proof of this kind…. The reader must be warned against using the law as a mystical formula…." [Ibid., p.36. Emphasis in the original.]


Nevertheless, this eminently reasonable plea hasn't stopped dialecticians ever since using this "mystical formula" as just such a talisman. Sad though it is to report, but in Conze's case this caveat represented a false dawn, for on the very same page we find the following:


"The negative electrical polecannot exist without the simultaneous presence of the positive electrical pole…. This 'unity of opposites' is therefore found in the core of all material things and events." [Ibid., pp.35-36. Bold emphasis alone added.]


How this comrade knew that negative poles can't exist apart from positive poles he kept to himself. That is even though physicists have known for nearly a century that electrical monopoles might very well exist in their countless trillions. It is perhaps a good job that few, if any, actually read Conze's dogmatic pronouncement.


Be this as it may, Physicists are still looking for the famed magnetic monopole (and seem to have found it), foolishly having paid no attention to those who would impose dialectics on nature. Of course, if the poles of a magnet were logically linked, as dialecticians appear to believe, then Physicists wouldn't even have tried to look for this monopole -- any more than they would attempt to find Longitude 360 degrees North (no, that isn't a misprint!), a field goal in chess, or offside in tennis (nor are these).



Video One: Magnetic Monopoles -- Invented By The CIA?


Update May 2009: As noted above, scientists now claim to have found this elusive 'particle':


"They seem magical: magnets, every child's favourite science toy. Two otherwise ordinary lumps of metal draw inexorably closer, finally locking together with a satisfying snap. Yet turn one of them round and they show an entirely different, repulsive face: try as you might to make them, never the twain shall meet. If magnets seem rather bipolar, that's because they are. Every magnet has two poles, a north and a south. Like poles repel, unlike poles attract. No magnet breaks the two-pole rule -- not the humblest bar magnet, not the huge dynamo at the heart of our planet. Split a magnet in two, and each half sprouts the pole it lost. It seems that poles without their twins -- magnetic 'monopoles' -- simply do not exist.


"That hasn't stopped physicists hunting. For decades they have ransacked everything from moon rock and cosmic rays to ocean-floor sludge to find them. There is a simple reason for this quixotic quest. Our best explanations of how the universe hangs together demand that magnetic monopoles exist. If they are not plain to see, they must be hiding. Now, at last, we have might have spied them out. The first convincing evidence for their existence has popped up in an unexpected quarter. They are not exactly the monopoles of physics lore, but they could provide us with essential clues as to how those legendary beasts behave.


"So what attracts physicists to monopoles? Several things. First, there's symmetry -- a purely aesthetic consideration, true, but one that for many physicists reveals a theory's true worth. For over a century, we have known that magnetism and electricity are two faces of one force: electromagnetism. Electric fields beget magnetic fields and vice versa. Accordingly, the classical picture of electromagnetism, formulated in the late 19th century, is pretty much symmetrical in its treatment of electricity and magnetism. But although positive and negative electric charges can separate and move freely in electric fields, magnetic 'charge' remains bound up in pairs of north and south poles that cancel each other out. 'No monopoles' is another way of saying that there is no such thing as a freely moving magnetic charge.


"In 1931, this puzzling asymmetry caught the attention of the pioneering quantum physicist Paul Dirac. He pointed out that quantum theory did not deny the possibility of monopoles; on the contrary, they could be quite useful. His calculations showed that monopoles existing anywhere in the universe would explain why electric charge always comes in the same bite-size chunks, or quanta. Even so, monopoles were little more than a curiosity, and the lack of any obvious examples nearby dampened the enthusiasm for the chase. That all changed in the 1960s with the wide acceptance of the big bang theory -- the idea that the universe began in a fireball governed by a single force that has since splintered into the fundamental forces we see today. The great ambition of physics became to construct a theory that would reunite these forces.


"There are many different approaches to this goal, and almost all have an odd feature in common: they say that chunks of magnetic charge must have been created in the very first fraction of a nanosecond of the universe's existence. Some theories, like Dirac's original idea, suggest these monopoles are very massive, with a mass around 1016 times that of a proton. Other approaches suggest more modest beasts with a mass only a few thousand times the mass of the proton. But all predict they should be there.


"Suddenly monopoles assumed a new significance. Not only would the detection of magnetic monopoles be a major boost for 'grand unified' theories of how the universe began, but finding the mass of a monopole would help distinguish which of those theories were on the right track. 'The search has a low chance of paying off, but a very high importance if it did,' says Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin, who won the Nobel prize for physics in 1979 for his work on force unification.


"Sheldon Glashow of Harvard University, who also took a share of the 1979 prize, took the monopole idea a stage further. That same year, he suggested that beefy, Dirac-type monopoles might also be the answer to one of cosmology's most important unsolved problems: they might be the identity of the unseen dark matter that is thought to make up most of the universe and to have formed the structures that led to galaxies. Physicists thus had a wealth of reasons to believe that these 'cosmic' monopoles must exist somewhere. But where? Besides the odd tantalising glimpse, no experiment has yet produced convincing evidence of their existence (see Race for the pole').


"There are reasons to believe they never shall. According to the inflationary theory of the universe's origin, which has gained wide currency since the 1980s, the cosmos expanded enormously fast just after the big bang. This expansion should have carried most, if not all, of the monopoles created in the first instants of the universe to a patch of the cosmos so distant that they, and information about them, will probably never reach us. Game over?


Perhaps not, if the latest research is anything to go by. Monopoles might have been under our noses for a while, in a strange type of solid known as spin ice. When this material was reported in 1997 by physicists Mark Harris of the University of Oxford, Steve Bramwell of University College London and their colleagues (Physical Review Letters, vol. 79, p 2554), monopole searches were not high on the agenda. The researchers were looking at something else entirely -- an odd property of certain solids known as magnetic frustration....


"'Suddenly, there was a community of physicists who became monopole hunters,' says Peter Holdsworth of the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, one of the people bitten by the bug. Together with his colleague Ludovic Jaubert, he has produced independent confirmation of the monopole idea. In a paper published last month (Nature Physics, vol 5, p 258), the pair revisit an experiment reported in 2004 by a group led by Peter Schiffer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Schiffer's team had shown that when a magnetic field was applied to spin ice at low temperatures and then removed, the spins were surprisingly slow to revert to their original state (Physical Review B, vol. 64, p 064414). Jaubert and Holdsworth calculated that monopoles explain this perfectly: at low temperatures, monopoles do not have enough energy to move freely, and so make the magnetic response of the entire system sluggish by just the amount the experiments had found.


"It seems the elusive monopoles have been pinned down at last. But Blas Cabrera, who looked for monopoles in cosmic rays passing through his laboratory at Stanford University in the 1980s, sounds a note of caution. The monopoles discovered in spin ice are rather different beasts from those he and others were looking for. For a start, they are some 8000 times less magnetic and are free to move only within the spin ice, not to roam the wider universe. So they are not really analogous to electric charges, and it doesn't look as if they are going to solve the dark matter problem.


"Do they count at all? Quite possibly. When Dirac dreamed up his cosmic monopoles, he imagined a vacuum as the lowest possible energy state that free space could assume. Monopoles then represented a higher-energy 'excitation' of a vacuum, in much the same way that the low-energy two-in, two-out spin-ice state is excited to create monopoles. The new research even borrows elements of Dirac's description of free-space monopoles -- such as the invisible 'strings' he envisaged between pairs of poles that have separated. The similarities mean that the interactions of spin-ice monopoles could provide a way to learn about cosmic monopoles by proxy -- for example, how they might have interacted in the early universe.


"'Quite apart from that, the more down-to-earth monopoles might turn out to be practically useful', says Tchernyshyov. Most computer memories store information magnetically, and the ability to use magnetic rather than electric charges to read and write bits to and from those stores could have great advantages in speed and flexibility. What's more, the three-dimensional configuration of spin ice might allow for memories of much higher density than is currently possible.


"That's for the future. For Holdsworth, the mere fact that we have found monopoles somewhere -- anywhere -- is reason enough to make a song and dance about them. 'These might not be exactly the monopoles that Dirac dreamed of, but that doesn't mean they're not remarkable.'" [Reich (2009), pp.28-31. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. See also here. Several paragraphs merged.]


Even more worrying for dialecticians hooked on a priori dogma is this recent comment:


"We have moved a step closer to finding cosmic monopoles -- magnetic poles without their opposite. Two experiments using strange stuff called spin ice have provided the best evidence yet that monopoles really are out there. Nearly 80 years ago, physicist Paul Dirac said it must be possible for magnetic north and south poles to exist separately. But despite decades of searching, not one has been found. Last year, researchers demonstrated that certain states of the crystalline material spin ice would create monopoles that rove about the crystal (New Scientist, 9 May, p 28). They would be seen as disturbances moving through the spins of atoms within the crystal.


"Now two separate groups claim to have spotted just that. Tom Fennell and his colleagues at the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble, France, recorded the disturbances when they fired a beam of neutrons at a spin ice crystal to see how it affected the neutrons' energy (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1177582). Meanwhile, Jonathan Morris of the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy in Berlin, Germany, and his colleagues watched how atoms within the crystals fell into alignment along trails through the lattice. These trails are known as 'Dirac strings', because Dirac predicted that cosmic monopoles would have just such a connection between them (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178868).


"'To my mind there's now no question: we have overwhelming evidence that these things are real,' says Steve Bramwell of University College London." [New Scientist, 203, 2725, 12/09/2009, p.17). Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]


Update 30/01/2014: And, now we read yet more 'reactionary' news from the BBC:


"Elusive magnetic 'monopole' seen in quantum system


"If you break a magnet in two, you don't get a north half and a south half -- you get two new magnets, each with two poles. 'Monopoles' were famously predicted to exist by physicist Paul Dirac in 1931 -- but they have remained elusive. Now scientists have engineered a synthetic monopole in a quantum system for the first time, allowing its mysterious properties to be explored. They describe their breakthrough in Nature journal.


"'Detecting a natural magnetic monopole would be a revolutionary event comparable to the discovery of the electron,' wrote the team from Aalto University, Finland, and Amherst College, US, in their paper. '[Our work] provides conclusive and long-awaited experimental evidence of the existence of Dirac monopoles. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to observe and manipulate these quantum mechanical entities in a controlled environment.'


"The discovery of magnetic monopoles has been long-awaited as they can help to explain various physical phenomena. Researchers have hunted for them since Paul Dirac first theorised their quantum-mechanical characteristics in 1931. He demonstrated that if even a single monopole exists, then all electrical charge must come in discrete packets -- which has indeed been demonstrated.


"To observe and test them in the lab, scientists engineered a quantum system -- the magnetic field of a cloud of rubidium atoms in an unusual state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. Using direct imaging, they detected a distinct signature of the Dirac monopole -- known as a 'Dirac string'. The researchers note that -- while other teams have previously made analogues of monopoles --, their demonstration is the first in a quantum system which can be tested by experiment.


"'This creation of a Dirac monopole is a beautiful demonstration of quantum simulation,' said Lindsay LeBlanc, of the University of Alberta, a physicist not involved in the study. Although these results offer only an analogy to a magnetic monopole, their compatibility with theory reinforces the expectation that this particle will be detected experimentally. As Dirac said in 1931: "Under these circumstances one would be surprised if Nature had made no use of it".'" [Quoted from here; accessed 31/01/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some links added; several paragraphs merged.]


As well as this:


"Researchers have discovered a magnetic equivalent to electricity: single magnetic charges that can behave and interact like electrical ones. By Jason Palmer, Science and technology reporter, BBC News.


"The work is the first to make use of the magnetic monopoles that exist in special crystals known as spin ice. Writing in Nature..., a team showed that monopoles gather to form a 'magnetic current' like electricity. The phenomenon, dubbed 'magnetricity', could be used in magnetic storage or in computing. Magnetic monopoles were first predicted to exist over a century ago, as a perfect analogue to electric charges. Although there are protons and electrons with net positive and negative electric charges, there were no particles in existence which carry magnetic charges. Rather, every magnet has a 'north' and 'south' pole.


"Current event


"In September this year, two research groups independently reported the existence of monopoles -- 'particles' which carry an overall magnetic charge. But they exist only in the spin ice crystals. These crystals are made up of pyramids of charged atoms, or ions, arranged in such a way that when cooled to exceptionally low temperatures, the materials show tiny, discrete packets of magnetic charge. Now one of those teams has gone on to show that these 'quasi-particles' of magnetic charge can move together, forming a magnetic current just like the electric current formed by moving electrons.


"They did so by using sub-atomic particles called muons, created at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) ISIS neutron and muon source near Oxford. The muons decay millionths of a second after their production into other sub-atomic particles. But the direction in which these resulting particles fly off is an indicator of the magnetic field in a tiny region around the muons. The team, led by Stephen Bramwell, from the London Centre for Nanotechnology, implanted these muons into spin ice to demonstrate how the magnetic monopoles moved around. They showed that when the spin ice was placed in a magnetic field, the monopoles piled up on one side -- just like electrons would pile up when placed in an electric field.


"Professor Bramwell told BBC News that the development is unlikely to catch on as a means of providing energy, not least because the particles travel only inside spin ices. 'We're not going to be seeing a magnetic light bulb or anything like that,' he said. But by engineering different spin ice materials to modify the ways monopoles move through them, the materials might in future be used in 'magnetic memory' storage devices or in spintronics -- a field which could boost future computing power." [Quoted from here. Accessed 09/09/2012. Bold emphases in the original. Quotations marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged. Links added. Several paragraphs merged.]


Nevertheless, Conze's obvious good sense forced its way to the surface once more, leading him to make the following confession:


"I have had some 'dialecticians' assure me that they did not know what the structure of the atom would turn out to be, but they had not the shadow of doubt that it would be found to be 'dialectical'. This is not the language of science, but of religion…. We should beware of putting the dialectical method on the same level with the revelations of God. There is nothing ultimate about scientific theories…. Too frequently do we petrify the science of yesterday into the dogma of tomorrow. Science demands an elastic and critical spirit." [Conze (1944), p.36. Bold emphasis added.]


This passage should be required reading for all Dialectical Dogmatists (but check out comrade Thalheimer below, whom Conze might well have had in mind).


Not that it will do much good, for on the same page we find Conze himself arguing once again:


"Both attraction and repulsion are necessary properties of matter. Each attraction in one place is necessarily compensated for by a corresponding repulsion in another place…." [Ibid., p.36. Bold emphases added; italic emphases in the original.]


Conze's non-standard meander through the wastelands of dialectical dogma is instructive enough -- witness how, when his own theses are immediately contradicted, they turn into a series of more cautious antitheses, which are then contradicted right back again to become dogmatic theses once more. Hence, and true-to-form, he back sasses all the way in this passage:


"A material contradiction means that one concrete process contains two mutually incompatible and exclusive, but nevertheless equally essential and indispensable parts or aspects….


"In some cases we can observe that a thing moves and destroys itself. This is the case with radium and uranium…. Since [their] disintegration is not due to external causes, but to the constitution  of radium itself, we would assume the presence of a contradiction in radium. At the moment, however, we are incapable of pointing out what that contradiction is….


"We find clearer examples in…[Biology]. Engels pointed out that a living being is at any given moment the same and yet another…. Its life consists in that it simultaneously performs two contradictory processes, breaks down and builds itself up again…." [Ibid., p.52. Bold emphases alone added.]


Conze is clearly an odd mixture of regulation-issue-dialectical-dogmatism on the one hand, and recklessly un-dialectical-reasonableness on the other, with the former often dominating over the latter. That is itself a consequence of the aprioristic tradition that has shaped all of Western Philosophy (since the Ancient Greeks invented it in the 'West) imposing itself on him. So, as part of that tradition, Conze naturally felt he didn't need to say precisely how he knew that contradictions were capable of causing change or how they might power living cells. Simply quoting Engels or Hegel was sufficient, apparently. So much for this, then:


"Scientific method is not a body of ready-made statements which can be learnt by heart. It gives no mystical formulae from which we can easily deduce reality without the trouble of examining the facts…[it isn't] a reverential pondering over quotations…." [Ibid. Bold emphasis added.]


Clearly, in the Mystical Madhouse which is DM, it is!


August Thalheimer


Moving on; here are the thoughts of comrade Thalheimer, recorded -- it has to be said -- in one of the best, if not the most intelligent, introductions to DM there is (no sarcasm intended!), speaking on this occasion with all the ex cathedra authority 'Being' has conferred on those who sit atop The Holy Mountain on the edge of the universe, all of 'reality' laid out before them, the location of which Empyrean Throne is known only to Dialectical Mystics:


"The most general and the most inclusive fundamental law of dialectics from which all others are deduced is the law of permeation of opposites. This law has a two-fold meaning: first, that all things, all processes, all concepts merge in the last analysis into an absolute unity, or, in other words, that there are no opposites, no differences which cannot ultimately be comprehended into a unity. Second, and just as unconditionally valid, that all things are at the same time absolutely different and absolutely or unqualifiedly opposed. The law may also be referred to as the law of the polar unity of opposites. This law applies to every single thing, every phenomenon, and to the world as a whole. Viewing thought and its method alone, it can be put this way: The human mind is capable of infinite condensation of things into unities, even the sharpest contradictions and opposites, and, on the other hand, it is capable of infinite differentiation and analysis of things into opposites. The human mind can establish this unlimited unity and unlimited differentiation because this unlimited unity and differentiation is present in reality." [Thalheimer (1936), p.161. Bold emphases added.]


At first sight it might look like Thalheimer is foisting DM onto nature, but readers shouldn't be mislead: he is doing precisely that!


There then follows a few pages of anecdotal 'evidence' (of the usual Mickey Mouse quality) offered up in 'support' of these universal pronouncements, most of which will be reviewed in Essay Seven -- followed by this dogmatic 'deduction':


"Or take the smallest components of matter: two electrons which form part of the atomic system can never be absolutely identical. We can say this with certainty even though we are not yet in a position to know anything about the individual peculiarity of electrons.... This is based on the proposition of the permeation of opposites, the proposition which says that the identity of things is just as unlimited as their difference. The capacity of the mind infinitely to equate things as well as to differentiate and oppose, corresponds to the infinite identity and difference of things in nature.... We have previously shown that being and non-being exist simultaneously in becoming, that they constitute identical elements of becoming...." [Ibid., pp.167-68. Bold emphases added.]


The evidence comrade Thalheimer quotes in support of these hyper-bold claims would be considered a joke if this were hard science, but dialectics is perhaps the softest science there is (even Creationists provide more and better evidence in support of their whacko beliefs!) -- a melted marshmallow sort of science, where a few paragraphs, or maybe pages, of superficial, anecdotal evidence, secondary and tertiary 'data' 'allow' its adepts to predict what must be true, in this case, of every electron in the entire universe, for all of time.


[As we will see in Essay Six, there is now good reason to disagree with Thalheimer about the "individual peculiarity" of all electrons.]


However, Thalheimer had a sure-fire method of proof (and one he borrowed from Hegel, surprisingly enough), which meant supporting evidence was irrelevant:


"This law of the permeation of opposites will probably be new to you, something to which you have probably not given thought. Upon closer examination you will discover that you cannot utter a single meaningful sentence which does not comprehend this proposition.... Let us take a rather common sentence: 'The lion is a beast of prey.' A thing, A, the lion is equated with a thing B. At the same time a distinction is made between A and B. So far as the lion is a beast of prey, it is equated with all beasts of that kind. At the same time, in the same sentence, it is distinguished from the kind. It is impossible to utter a sentence which will not contain the formula, A equals B. All meaningful sentences have a form which is conditioned by the permeation of opposites. This contradiction [is] contained in every meaningful sentence, the equation and at the same time differentiation between subject and predicate...." [Ibid., pp.168-69. Bold emphasis added.]


We shall meet this rather odd 'argument' again in Essay Three Part One, where it will be identified as an important, if not one of the most important, 'intellectual' sources of Hegel's 'dialectics', and hence of DM, itself. We will discover there how a grammatical dodge (which is never justified) 'allows' dialecticians to turn a simple "is" of predication into an "is" of identity, creating a spurious 'contradiction' out of which much of 'dialectics' has since slithered. In that case, DM has arisen, not from a scientific study of nature -- or from the experience of individuals, or even the revolutionary party, nor yet from revolutionary practice -- but from word-juggling with the verb "to be"!


This 'impressive' example of the 'scientific method' was invented, so far as we know, by that arch-Idealist, Parmenides, who, it seems, had serious problems with other participles of the same diminutive verb.


From this egregious verbal trick there evolved the subsequent, almost neurotic, fascination with "Being", an obsession which has gripped most of Western Philosophy since -- Hegel and Heidegger being its most notorious, recent victims -- i.e., Parmenides's misunderstanding of a present tense participle of the verb "to be"!


Can you imagine any the genuine sciences basing itself solely on a misconstrued participle of any verb, let alone the verb "to be"?


Two thousand five hundred years of wasted effort thanks to a misconstrued verb!


[How and why this 'confusion' arose, and was later adopted by DM-theorists, will be the subject of Essays Three Parts One and Two, Eight Part Three, Twelve and Fourteen -- a brief outline of this argument can be found here.]


Suffice it to say that even though comrade Thalheimer was clearly highly intelligent, it is difficult to understand how ordinary sentences like, "Thalheimer writes well" slipped his mind, which by no stretch of the imagination is of the form "A = B" -- and neither is "Thalheimer failed to make his case", or "Thalheimer ignored this example" (where the reference of "this" is clear), nor even "Thalheimer, following Hegel, misconstrued the 'is' of predication with the 'is' of identity". Or, for that matter, many of the sentences that appear in his own book! Like:


"Thales tried to give a natural explanation of this." (p.67) "He (Anaximander) lived somewhat after Thales." (p.71) "He (Heraclitus) lived about five hundred years before Christ." (p.72) "Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander the Great...." (p.86).


This isn't to say that several of the above sentences can't be forced into this dialectical boot  -- as in:


T1: Thalheimer is someone who failed to make his case.


Even then, there would be obvious problems interpreting this as:


T2: Thalheimer is identical with someone who has failed to make his case.


But, exactly who is this person with whom Thalheimer is supposed to be identical? That is quite apart from the fact that T1 and T2 possess different implications. T2 could be true if this were the case:


T2a: Thalheimer is identical with George W Bush.


That isn't the case with T1.


[And don't even ask what the highlighted "is" in T2 means! Given this theory it can only mean that T2 must become: "Thalheimer is identical with identical with someone who has failed to make his case" as the highlighted "is" is in T2 replaced with what it allegedly means, "is identical with". And, with respect to that sentence, too, awkward question would similarly arise over this new highlighted "is", and so on.]


Just try doing the same 'dialectical switch' with the following:


T3: Someone told Thalheimer his watch was broken.


Or this:


T4: Anyone who reads Thalheimer's book knows someone who hasn't read anything written by those who take Hegel seriously.


The subject/predicate form, upon which Thalheimer (and Hegel) relied, is almost totally exclusive to the Indo-European family of languages, and even then it captures only a tiny fraction of the meaningful indicative sentences that can be formed in that family. The fact that Thalheimer thought he could derive such universal truths from the peculiarities of a specific language group alone (and then fail to spot the significance of the additional fact that he also thought he could get away with doing this from such simple and unrepresentative examples) further supports the case presented in these Essays that DM is just another form of LIE -- i.e., it is an attempt to derive universal truths from discourse alone.


[Concerning the connection between Indo-European Grammar and the subject-predicate form, see Kahn (2003), pp.1-2; although Kahn takes a different view of its implications. This is a link that Nietzsche also noticed (Nietzsche (1997), pp.20-21), and it also appears in the so-called Sapir-Whorf thesis -- although the validity or otherwise of that theory has no impact on the point been made in this Essay.]


[LIE = Linguistic Idealism. That term is explained here.]


Thalheimer must have used countless sentences every day that gave the lie to his theory; exactly why he and every other dialectician ignore the language of everyday life will be exposed in Essay Nine Parts One and Two, and Essay Twelve (summary here).


Thalheimer continues in the same vein for another fifteen pages or so. Here are a few examples:


"So far we have discussed the most general and most fundamental law of dialectics, namely, the law of the permeation of opposites, or the law of polar unity. We shall now take up the second main proposition of dialectics, the law of the negation of the negation, or the law of development through opposites. This is the most general law of the process of thought. I will first state the law itself and support it with examples, and then I will show on what it is based and how it is related to the first law of the permeation of opposites. There is already a presentiment of this law in the oldest Chinese philosophy, in the of Transformations, as well as in Lao-tse and his disciples -- and likewise in the oldest Greek philosophy, especially in Heraclitus. Not until Hegel, however, was this law developed.


"This law applies to all motion and changes of things, to real things as well as to their images in our minds, i.e., concepts. It states first of all that things and concepts move, change, and develop; all things are processes. All fixity of individual things is only relative, limited; their motion, change, or development is absolute, unlimited. For the world as a whole absolute motion and absolute rest coincide. The proof [sic] of this part of the proposition, namely, that all things are in flux, we have already given in our discussion of Heraclitus." [Ibid., pp.170-71. Bold emphases added.]


Clearly, Thalheimer has an odd idea of the nature of proof; he seems to think it has something to do with uncritically accepting the dogmatic ideas of previous mystics and Idealists!


He continues:


"The law of the negation of the negation has a special sense beyond the mere proposition that all things are processes and change. It also states something about the most general form of these changes, motions, or developments. It states, in the first place, that all motion, development, or change, takes place through opposites or contradictions, or through the negation of a thing.


"Conceptually the actual movement of things appears as a negation. In other words, negation is the most general way in which motion or change of things is represented in the mind. This is the first stage of this process. The negation of a thing from which the change proceeds, however, is in turn subject to the law of the transformation of things into their opposites. The negation is itself negated. Thus we speak of the negation of the negation." [Ibid., p.171. Bold emphases added.]


Thalheimer presents no evidence whatsoever that human beings think in the way he suggests, but, hey, that must mean it is a 'well established law' because that non-scientist, Hegel, says it is. Sorted!


"We now ask, where does the law of the negation of the negation come from? What is its relation to the first main proposition of the permeation of opposites? Obviously, it is related directly to the law of the permeation of opposites. It is the permeation of opposites as a process, a process in time, in sequence. The permeation of opposites as a process results in the law of the negation of the negation or the law of development through opposites. The first main proposition, the law of the permeation of opposites, represents the most general relations of things from the point of view of structure or static being. The second proposition of the negation of the negation represents the relation of things as a process, i.e., dynamically. These two propositions are so related that they hold true for every process, for everything at the same time and to the same extent. The two propositions permeate each other; they form a coherent whole. The first gives a cross-section of the world, the second a longitudinal section." [Ibid., pp.179-80. Bold emphasis added. Minor typo corrected in the on-line version compared with the published version. I have notified the editors over at the Marxist Internet Archive.]


But, how could Thalheimer possibly know that these 'laws' applied to everything "at the same time and to the same extent"? Of course, he couldn't, but that didn't stop him from imposing this dogma on nature.


George Novack


We turn now to consider the thoughts of a comrade who was an intellectual and political enemy of Stalinism: George Novack. Oddly enough, and despite what he had elsewhere said about dogmatism (quoted again below), instead of opposing it he emulated it, laying down the law like any other born-again apriorist:


"The unified process of development is the universality of the dialectic, which maintains that everything is linked together and interactive, in continuous motion and change, and that this change is the outcome of the conflict of opposing forces within nature as well as everything to be found in it." [Quoted in Green Left, 20/10/1993. I owe this reference to Petersen (1994), p.156.]


"Everything in motion is continually bringing forth this contradiction of being in two different places at the same time, and also overcoming this contradiction by proceeding from one place to the next…. A moving thing is both here and there simultaneously. Otherwise it is not in motion but at rest….


"Nothing is permanent. Reality is never resting, ever changeable, always in flux. This unquestionable universal process forms the foundation of the theory [of dialectical materialism]…. According to the theory of Marxism, everything comes into being as a result of material causes, develops through successive phases, and finally perishes….


"Dialectics is the logic of movement, of evolution, of change. Reality is too full of contradictions, too elusive, too manifold, too mutable to be snared in any single form or formula. Each particular phase of reality has its own laws…. These laws…have to be discovered by direct investigation of the concrete whole, they cannot be excogitated by the mind alone before material reality is analysed. Moreover, all reality is constantly changing, disclosing ever new aspects…. If reality is ever changing, concrete, full of novelty, fluent as a river, torn by oppositional forces, then dialectics…must share the same characteristics….


"Nature cannot be unreasonable or reason contrary to nature. Everything that exists must have a necessary and sufficient reason for existence…. The material base of this law lies in the actual interdependence of all things in their reciprocal interactions…. If everything that exists has a necessary and sufficient reason for existence, that means it had to come into being. It was pushed into existence and forced its way into existence by natural necessity…. Reality, rationality and necessity are intimately associated at all times….


"If everything actual is necessarily rational, this means that every item of the real world has a sufficient reason for existing and must find a rational explanation…. But this is not the whole and final truth about things…. The real truth about things is that they not only exist, persist, but they also develop and pass away. This passing away of things…is expressed in logical terminology by the term 'negation'. The whole truth about things can be expressed only if we take into account this opposite and negative aspect….


"All things are limited and changing…. In logical terms, they not only affirm themselves. They likewise negate themselves and are negated by other things…. Such a movement of things and of thought is called dialectical movement…. From this dialectical essence of reality Hegel drew the conclusion that constitutes an indispensable part of his famous aphorism: All that is rational is real…. [M]ovement…from unreality into reality and then back again into unreality, constitutes the essence, the inner movement behind all appearance….


"Everything generates within itself that force which leads to its negation, its passing away into some other and higher form of being…. This dialectical activity is universal. There is no escaping from its unremitting and relentless embrace. 'Dialectics gives expression to a law which is felt in all grades of consciousness and in general experience. Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being inflexible and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by the dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than it is, is forced to surrender its own immediate or natural being, and to turn suddenly into its opposite.' (Encyclopedia, p.120)." [Novack (1971), pp.41, 43, 51, 70-71, 78-80, 84-87, 94-95; quoting Hegel (1975), p.118, although in a different translation from the one used here. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]


Novack's book is literally bursting at the seams with dogmatic pronouncements like this, practically all of which he supports -- not with data or evidence --, but with quotations from Hegel and other assorted DM-luminaries! As far as this aspect of Novack's work is concerned, DM might just as well stand for "Dogmatic Materialism".


Here is another summary of his:


"[D]ialectical materialism deals with the entire universe and its logic holds good for all the constituent sectors of reality which enter into human experience: nature, society and thought. The laws of dialectics, which have arisen out of the investigation of the universal processes of becoming and modes of being, apply to all phenomena. Although each level of being has its own specific laws, these merge with general laws covering all spheres of existence and development, which constitute the content and shape the method of materialist dialectics." [Novack (1978), p.232. It is important to note that although this was a report of what three other Marxists had to say (in a debate), it is clear that Novack agreed with them. It is also interesting to note that these other three Marxists were communists, not Trotskyists like Novack. The 'wooden and lifeless' dialectic promulgated by communists was apparently vibrant and spritely enough for Novack to agree with it. I return to consider this odd fact about DM-fans right across every strand of Marxism (that they largely agree about DM, 'wooden and lifeless' or not), in Essay Nine Part Two. See also Essay Four Part One, here.]


"Dialectical materialism admits no such barriers to its field of operations. It has a universal character. It takes all reality for its province. The materialist dialectics applies to all phenomena from the most distant nebulae and the most remote time to man's most intimate feelings and elevated thoughts." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


Admittedly, Novack says that DM has arisen out of the study of nature, but he adds that it applies to "the entire universe...[and] all phenomena" and its laws apply to "all spheres of existence and development", which were, plainly, beyond the reach of the sciences of his day, let alone ours.


Compare the above with Novack's very own warning about dogmatism:


"A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added. He even adds "[DM] not imposed a priori or willfully (sic) on nature..." {Novack (1978), p.241.}]


In view of the above, he should perhaps have said this:


"A consistent materialism can and must proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this, too." [Ibid., misquoted.]


Woods And Grant


Two other OTs not to be outdone in this respect are Woods and Grant [henceforth, W&G], in Reason In Revolt [RIRE] -- some of the page references I have cited might have changed slightly in the second edition.


First, they soften the reader up with the usual disarming banter:


"Hegel was forced to impose a schema upon nature and society, in flat contradiction to the dialectical method itself, which demands that we derive the laws of a given phenomenon from a scrupulously objective study of the subject matter…[and which should not be]…arbitrarily foisted on history…." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.43-44. Bold emphases added.]


[OT = Orthodox Trotskyist.]


Then, over the next few pages (and, indeed, throughout the rest of their book) they reveal their true (and thoroughly traditional) colours:


"Dialectics…sets out from the axiom that everything is in a constant state of change and flux….


"The fundamental proposition of dialectics is that everything is in a constant process of change, motion and development. Even when it appears to us that nothing is happening, in reality, matter is always changing….


"Everything is in a constant state of motion, from neutrinos to super-clusters….


"Contradiction is an essential feature of all being. It lies at the heart of matter itself. It is the source of all motion, change, life and development. The dialectical law which expresses this idea is the law of the unity and interpenetration of opposites….


"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality has an extremely wide range of applications, from the smallest particles of matter at the subatomic level to the largest phenomena known to man.


"Positive is meaningless without negative. They are necessarily inseparable. Hegel long ago explained that 'pure being' (devoid of all contradiction) is the same as pure nothing…. Everything in the real world contains positive and negative, being and not being, because everything is in a constant state of movement and change….


"Moreover, everything is in permanent relation with other things. Even over vast distances, we are affected by light, radiation, gravity. Undetected by our senses, there is a process of interaction, which causes a continual series of changes….


"This universal phenomenon of the unity of opposites is, in reality the motor-force of all motion and development in nature…. Movement which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter." [Ibid., pp.43-47, 65-68. Bold emphases added.]


"Men and women clearly distinguish between past and future. A sense of time is, however, not unique to humans or even animals. Organisms often have a kind of 'internal clock,' like plants which turn one way during the day and another at night. Time is an objective expression of the changing state of matter. This is revealed even by the way we talk about it. It is common to say that time 'flows.' In fact, only material fluids can flow. The very choice of metaphor shows that time is inseparable from matter. It is not only a subjective thing. It is the way we express an actual process that exists in the physical world. Time is thus just an expression of the fact that all matter exists in a state of constant change. It is the destiny and necessity of all material things to change into something other than what they are. 'Everything that exists deserves to perish.'... [Here quoting Engels (1888), p.587.]


"Time and movement are inseparable concepts. They are essential to all life and all knowledge of the world, including every manifestation of thought and imagination. Measurement, the corner-stone of all science, would be impossible without time and space. Music and dance are based upon time. Art itself attempts to convey a sense of time and movement, which are present not just in representations of physical energy, but in design. The colours, shapes and lines of a painting guide the eye across the surface in a particular rhythm and tempo. This is what gives rise to the particular mood, idea and emotion conveyed by the work of art. Timelessness is a word that is often used to describe works of art, but really expresses the opposite of what is intended. We cannot conceive of the absence of time, since time is present in everything.


"There is a difference between time and space. Space can also express change, as change of position. Matter exists and moves through space. But the number of ways that this can occur is infinite: forward, backward, up or down, to any degree. Movement in space is reversible. Movement in time is irreversible. They are two different (and indeed contradictory) ways of expressing the same fundamental property of matter -- change. This is the only Absolute that exists.


"Space is the 'otherness' of matter, to use Hegel's terminology, whereas time is the process whereby matter (and energy, which is the same thing) constantly changes into something other than what it is. Time -- 'the fire in which we are all consumed' -- is commonly seen as a destructive agent. But it is equally the expression of a permanent process of self-creation, whereby matter is constantly transformed into and endless number of forms. This process can be seen quite clearly in non-organic matter, above all at the subatomic level." [Ibid., pp.141-42. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"Dialectics teaches one to look beyond the immediate, to penetrate beyond the appearance of stability and calm, and to see the seething contradictions and ceaseless movement that lies beneath the surface. We are imbued with the idea of constant change, and that sooner or later everything changes into its opposite. The capitalist system, together with its values, morality, politics and what sometimes passes for philosophy, is not something eternal, which has no beginning and no end. In fact, it is a very recent phenomenon with a turbulent past, a shaky present, and no future at all. This, of course, is something the system's defenders find impossible to contemplate. So much the worse for them!" [Preface to the second Spanish Edition of RIRE; quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


"Dialectics teaches us to study things in motion, not statically; in their life, not in their death. Every development is rooted in earlier stages, and in turn is the embryo and starting point of new developments -- a never-ending web of relations that reinforce and perpetuate each other. Hegel already developed this idea in his Logic and other works. Dialectics teaches us to study things and processes in all their interconnections. This is important as a methodology in areas such as animal morphology. It is not possible to modify one part of the anatomy without producing changes in all the others. Here too there is a dialectical relationship....


"Dialectical materialism allows us to study reality, not as a series of dry, unconnected, senseless events or 'facts', but as a dynamic process, driven by its internal contradictions, ever changing and with an infinitely rich content." [Alan Woods, Introduction to the e-book edition of RIRE, May 2015; taken from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; bold emphases added.]


The above passages represent but a fraction of the scores that could have been quoted from RIRE; indeed, if every dogmatic, a priori paragraph had been reproduced from that work alone, this Essay would have been several thousand words longer still.


As is now becoming boringly familiar, these two comrades failed to reveal how they obtained the "axiom" that everything is in a constant state of change, how they knew that motion arises only from contradictions, or which "scrupulous" examination of the evidence supports the view that contradictions are an "essential feature of all being".


Moreover, they forgot to tell their readers what the negative and positive internal aspects of electrons and photons are --, if, as they claim, everything is made of opposites, positive and negative. These opposites can't be protons and/or positrons, nor yet antiphotons (although it is controversial whether there are any antiphotons), since these are external to electrons and photons. The same question can be posed in relation to quarks, geodesics, Branes, and much else besides.


[This touches on a serious equivocation exposed elsewhere at this site: DM-fans vacillate between a logical and a spatial interpretation of "internal opposite" -- W&G included.]


Of course, there are those who think that positrons are really electrons travelling 'backwards in time' (although it isn't too clear what "travelling" might mean in such an odd context), or who think they are "self-opposites". But, even if such enigmatic talk were correct (or made much sense), it lends no support to DM since such opposites don't 'struggle' with one another and then turn into one another, as we are assured they must by the Dialectical Classics. Such talk is no more 'dialectical' than would be the words of someone who regarded forwards as the 'self-opposite' of backwards (forgetting, perhaps, sideways).


Indeed, there are more than enough dialecticians who dote on this stuff; their 'arguments' will be demolished in Essays Seven Part One and Eight Parts One, Two, and Three.


Now, it is entirely possible that W&G (temporarily) forgot what the word "foisted" meant when they declared the following:


"Hegel was forced to impose a schema upon nature and society, in flat contradiction to the dialectical method itself, which demands that we derive the laws of a given phenomenon from a scrupulously objective study of the subject matter…[and which should not be]…arbitrarily foisted on history…." [Ibid., p.43.]


To be fair to these two, they do spend a significant proportion of their book trying desperately to show that dialectical principles apply throughout nature and society, appealing to examples drawn from everyday life and the sciences, quoting prominent researchers and theorists in support. Nevertheless, and to be brutally honest, their zeal and methodology uncomfortably resemble the same approach found in books and articles written by Fundamentalist Christians in their no less desperate attempt to 'prove' the Bible is not only correct, but scientifically accurate. In the end, all these two have to offer is page after page of selective quotations, carefully chosen examples, tediously repetitive sarcasm (mostly aimed at FL, 'commonsense' and 'formal thinking'), compounded by acres of distortion and special-pleading. The 'evidence' that Woods and Grant offer their readers is presented in a populist format (no problem with that -- if it doesn't distort the material itself); they quote no original research or primary data. In fact, their book is impressionistic, superficial and situated in the marshmallow soft Mickey Mouse world of 'dialectical science', mentioned earlier.


[FL = Formal Logic.]


Many of the examples W&G use are highly fanciful (in general, those they lifted from Engels and Hegel), others perhaps less so. Several of the latter will be discussed in Essays Four and Seven, where the highly repetitive, ill-informed and fanciful comments they make about FL have been exposed for the fibs they are. [No exaggeration, but in relation to FL, RIRE contains easily the worst examples of fabrication I have yet seen in DM-texts; this is something a supporter of this site raised with one of the authors over ten years ago. He promised to correct some of them in the second edition. Added in 2008: several have been corrected, but not all.]


Reason in Revolt?


More like Reason in Remission!


Even so, a thousand-volume Encyclopaedia wouldn't contain enough evidence to justify the intergalactically over-ambitious "foistings" and declarations on behalf of all "being" promulgated by these two.


[Many of the above dogmatic pronouncements have since been repeated here (but co-authored by Woods and Sewell). Their many errors will also be exposed in Essay Seven Part Two, when it is published. Several of them have already been outlined here.]


Harry Nielsen


Here is another recent example of disarming modesty followed by the by-now-familiar a priori imposition on nature and society:


"It has been said many times that the method of Marxism is to first study the facts of a subject, and then to draw out its processes and its connections. This describes not only the method of Marxism but also the method of science (and Marxism is a science) -- not to impose an arbitrary idea, but to study a subject from all angles and to find and generalise the underlying processes that are taking place. Then to use that theoretical insight as a guide to action, to learn from further experience, and to refine and develop the theory as a guide to further action....


"Modern theoretical physics overwhelmingly emphasises deduction as the way to develop ideas about the universe, deriving predictions from more general ideas. But there is also another approach, philosophical induction, in which ideas and generalisations are derived from observations. Scientists, and Marxists, in reality use both approaches to learn about the world, from data to ideas and from ideas to data, working in both directions, simultaneously. First data (but according to an idea, a hypothesis to test, a direction to look), from which more ideas, then more tests, more ideas, and so on. This is induction and deduction, simultaneously, in parallel and in sequence -- a union and interpenetration of opposites, out of which comes the growth and development of scientific ideas." [Harry Nielsen, a Woods and Grant fellow-traveller. Bold emphasis added.]


On another page at the same site, Nielsen had this to say:


"That the quantity of matter and motion is conserved in any process is a central and fundamental part of our knowledge of the physical world. And if matter and motion exist now then they always have and always will exist -- not simply to the last syllable of recorded time but both before and beyond that time, whether recorded or not. For human beings to understand the abstraction infinity is difficult when it is so far outside of our experience and seems to have little practical meaning. Yet the existence now of matter and energy is the clearest evidence we have that they have always existed and always will. If we start with the physics that we know, then we have to conclude that the universe has no beginning, has no end, and that time is infinite.


"But the universe is not static. Everywhere, at all scales, from the very small to the very large, there is change, motion and development. Galaxies, clusters of galaxies, evolve and change. Stars and planets are born, grow and die...." [Harry Nielsen. Bold emphases added.]


But, these universal and infinitary conclusions can't follow from what little evidence even modern Physics has amassed, let alone from the tiny sub-set of which Nielsen is aware. How could he possibly know that time is infinite, for example? Or, that universe will never end? And, how can the following be extrapolated beyond anything we do currently know, or could possibly know in the future:


"And if matter and motion exist now then they always have and always will exist -- not simply to the last syllable of recorded time but both before and beyond that time, whether recorded or not"? [Ibid.]


Is Nielsen a minor deity of some sort?


It is little point replying that scientists do this sort of thing all the time, since they don't shoot themselves in the foot by first saying they will never impose their ideas on nature (in a manner similar to DM-theorists). And, except when they pass metaphysical-sort-of-opinions in their popular work, scientists tend to omit references to "eternity" and "infinity", nor do they speculate about matter existing "beyond...time".


[Recall that the truth or falsity of DM-theses isn't at issue here (even though it will be in later Essays). The main point of this Essay is to (i) Expose the glaring inconsistency between the claims made by dialecticians not to have imposed their ideas on nature and the fact that they then proceed to do just that, and (ii) Suggest they do this because it is thoroughly traditional to do it.]


Finally, in connection with the first of the above quotations, it is worth noting that Nielsen's assertion that the use of deduction and induction is a "union and interpenetration of opposites", is itself an a priori imposition onto logic of something that is manifestly not the case.


Deductive logic has no opposite (in any clear sense of that word); it just has different branches. And, inductive logic is merely a rather loose form of reasoning, mainly concerning regularities and probabilities.


Gerry Healy


The late Gerry Healy was certainly no stranger to the aprioristic tradition; in fact, if anything, he was The Daddy of Dogmatic Dialectics:


"Dialectical Materialists get to know the world initially through a process of Cognition. It affects the sensory organs, producing sensation in the form of indeterminate mental images.


"As forms of the motion and change of the external world, these images are processed as concepts of phenomena. Upon negation their dissolution from the positive sensation into their abstract negative, they are negated again as the nature of semblance into positive semblance which is the theory of knowledge of a human being. During this interpenetration process, the images as thought forms are analysed through the science of thought and reason which is Dialectical Logic….


"…Thus, the everlasting material properties of thought in Dialectical Logic in self-relation between subject and object, coincide materially with the theory of knowledge….


"The category of 'Appearance' exists initially in the theory of knowledge as negative self-mediation. It is the movement of antithesis apprehended in its unity before Negative semblance interpenetrates Positive semblance, thus activating the theory of knowledge and Appearance as a category. Law as a category is reflection of Appearance into identity with itself….


"…The 'whole' must be seen as an inner force which will strive to manifest itself in external reality as essence which must appear. Real 'wholes' must have elements bound together by the interaction of 'parts' and 'whole'. Since the 'parts' and 'whole' are constantly changing, the 'whole' as such can never be a sum total of its 'parts'. It is instead the sum total and unity of opposites in constant change, which are simultaneously not only single 'wholes' but many 'wholes'. Thus 'wholes' change into 'parts' and 'parts' into 'wholes'." [Healy (1982), pp.1-3, 57-58. Bold emphases in the original; italic emphases added. Recall that these articles originally appeared in Newsline, the daily paper of the old WRP!]


"In his book 'In Defence of Marxism' Trotsky emphasised that Hegel in 'Logic' 'established a series of laws', amongst them 'development through contradiction'....


"We reproduce for the benefit of the anti-Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky brigade the following quotations on contradiction....


[There then follows a series of quotations from Lenin, but no data. That should put this 'brigade' in their place!  -- RL]


"Contradiction, therefore, cannot be regarded as an 'empty word form' or a 'subjective' external impression, because it is contained within the very essence  of all material objects and processes. It is the dialectical unity of external and internal contradiction. Thus the infinite self-movement of matter is contradictory.


"...The development of Contradiction in the essence of objects manifests itself as IDENTITY of the infinite source of sensation in the external world." [Healy (1990), pp.7-8. Emphases and capitalisation in the original. Parts of this booklet can be found here.]


It is, therefore, remarkable that Healy managed to achieve so much in his life, having surely spent most of it examining every atom of matter in the entire universe, as well as every single human mind on the planet, in order to confirm these startling results about nature and thought. How he was passed over for a Nobel Prize is beyond comprehension.


Readers will no doubt note how Healy 'derives' more than his fair share of universalist conclusions -- not from nature --, but from Lenin and Trotsky's quotations of, or references to, Hegel! The fact that he proceeds as if this were the most natural thing in the world indicates how deep traditional thought-forms had seeped into his ultra-sectarian brain. This is no accident; the connection between (a) (i) Healy's sectarianism, (ii) the personality cult erected around him, and (iii) his bullying tactics, as well as (b) the ruling-class ideas that dominate the thought of dialectical dinosaurs like him --, in this case clearly compounded by the impenetrably obscure theories he had been gestating for many years -- will be established in Essay Nine Part Two.


Exhibit B for the Prosecution:


"The IDENTITY of the objective source of our sensation in the 'external world' is a quantitative infinite, law-governed process of dialectical nature, human society (the class struggle) and thought.


"Its self-related negation into qualitative finite DIFFERENCE in Subjective thought as a 'particular' or 'part' is the interpenetration of opposites (Object into subject). The 'antithesis' is the unity of negative infinity (IDENTITY) into finite (DIFFERENCE) and is a negative with a positive image, which as a result of the first negation contains contradiction. The 'antithesis' whose unity of negative and positive is the essence of 'something' whose source is in the external world.


"...OTHER to OTHER is infinity to infinity or IDENTITY to IDENTITY, with self-related Qualitative finite Difference omitted, or incorporated into an eclectic 'unity.'


"'Speculative thought' is prepared to consider the 'infinite' as a 'Unity' with the finite but ignores their inseparable self-related connection.


"....As a new unity of opposites consisting of a variety of 'parts' builds up, 'the regressive, rearward confirmation of the beginning' 'and its progressive further determination coincide and are the same'. A new 'whole' consisting of the new parts as a unity of opposites is ready to appear in the form of 'Essence-in-Existence'. [Ibid., pp.18-20. Emphasis and capitalisation in the original.]


This represents only a tiny fraction of the dogmatic and a priori passages in Healy's work; once more, if every such passage of his and those of his epigones had been quoted, this Essay would have been a good 25% longer still. [On this, see Appendix Four.]


[It can only be hoped that there is a 'next life', and that it affords the indominatible Healy sufficient time to try to scrape together enough evidence to prove that "negative infinity" is indeed "IDENTITY" -- with or without the use of capital letters.]


I have been unable to find a clear statement in Healy's writings that he felt there was any need to gather evidence in support of truly impressive Dialectical-Superscience like this, but because he was a Mega-OT, it is reasonably certain that he must at least have paid lip-service to this minimally scientific ideal at some point, especially in view of Trotsky's gesture in that direction. Be this as it may, Healy's devotion to the scientific method (aimed perhaps at confirming the radically 'innovative super-psychology' presented in the above quotation) unfortunately stretched only as far as his leafing through Hegel's Logic, Engels's AD and DN, and Lenin's PN and MEC.


[PN = Philosophical Notebooks (i.e, Lenin (1961)); MEC = Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (i.e., Lenin (1972)); AD = Anti-Dühring (i.e., Engels (1976)); DN = Dialectics of Nature (i.e., Engels (1954)); OT = Orthodox Trotskyist.]


No doubt, he did this extremely "carefully".


Nevertheless, after dozens of pages of quotations from Lenin, Engels and Trotsky, Healy did add this comment:


"The pragmatic eclecticist preselects abstract quotations from Marxist and transforms them into dogma." [Ibid., p.61.]


This is rather like the Apostle Paul complaining about misogyny -- or Exxon about pollution.


Moreover, in an introduction to Lenin's PN, Cliff Slaughter (Healy's side-kick until the two fell out over Healy's abuse of female comrades -- more on this in Essay Nine Part Two) -- had this to say (and he certainly wouldn't have published it without Healy's approval):


"Lenin lays great stress on Hegel's insistence that Dialectics is not a master-key; a sort of set of magic numbers by which all secrets will be revealed. It is wrong to think of dialectical logic as something that is complete in itself and then 'applied' to particular examples. It is not a model of interpretation to be learned, then fitted on to reality from the outside; the task is rather to uncover the law of development of the reality itself." [Cliff Slaughter, quoted from here. Bold emphasis added. This passage first appeared in Labour Review (the monthly theoretical magazine of the old WRP) in the early 1960s, which was subsequently reprinted in a pamphlet Slaughter wrote about Lenin's PN -- i.e., Slaughter (1963), p.10.]


Apparently, just as he failed to notice Healy's long-term sex abuse, Slaughter also failed to spot Healy, Lenin and Trotsky's dogmatic apriorism.


Update: A year or so after writing the above, I discovered this comment of Healy's:


"Great care has to be taken not to impose any abstract thought interpretations upon the external world. Its independent properties must be allowed to build up in the mind and not have some premature abstract thought imposed on these, concealed and unknown properties.... Training and using our senses properly means to avoid imposing thought images on the external world." [Healy, quoted in North (1991), pp.89-90. Bold emphases added. Paragraphs merged.]


As we can now see, Healy was clearly joking when he cam out with those words.


Amadeo Bordiga


In his 1951 article, 'On the Dialectical Method', we find Bordiga giving lip-service to the usual, seemingly modest disclaimers we have come to expect from DM-theorists:


"It is necessary to reject any idealist assumptions, as well as any pretence to discover in the minds of men (or in the mind of the author of the 'system') irrevocable rules that have precedence over research in any field." [Quoted from here. Minor typo corrected. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis added.]


In other words, the dialectic must not be imposed on the facts. So far, so good...


The sincerity of Bordiga's disclaimer can be judged from the fact that in the sentences surrounding the above passage (and, indeed, in the very same paragraph!) we read the following:


"It is therefore necessary, above all, for Marxist militants to get to know the value of the dialectic. The dialectic asserts that the same laws apply to both the presentation of the natural and the historical processes.... It means recognizing, in the causal order, the fact that the material and physical conditions for the life of man and of society continuously determine and modify the way man thinks and feels. But it also means seeing, in the action of groups of men in similar material conditions, forces that influence the social situation and change it. This is the real meaning of Marx’s determinism." [Ibid. Bold emphases added.]


So, in the very same paragraph as Bordiga asserts that dialecticians shouldn't put their ideas above any field of research (i.e., they shouldn't be foisted on nature and society), he proceeds to do the exact opposite.


Indeed, later in the same article we find these rather dogmatic ideas imposed on the facts:


"Dialectics means connection, or relation. Just as there is a relation between one thing and another, between one event and another in the real world, so too is there a relation between the (more or less imperfect) reflections of this real world in our thought, and between the formulations that we employ to describe it and to store and to practically enjoy the fruits of the knowledge that we have thereby acquired. As a result, our way of explaining, reasoning, deducing and deriving conclusions, can be guided and ordered by certain rules, corresponding to the appropriate interpretation of reality. Such rules comprise the logic that guides the forms of reasoning; and in a wider sense they comprise the dialectic that serves as a method for connecting them with the scientific truths we have acquired....


"The dialectical method is different from the scientific method. The latter, the stubborn legacy of the old fashioned way of formulating thought, derived from religious concepts based on dogmatic revelation, presents the concepts of things as immutable, absolute, eternal, founded on a few first principles, alien to one another and having a kind of independent life. For the dialectical method, not only is everything in motion, but in motion all things reciprocally influence each other, and this also goes for their concepts, or the reflections of these things in our minds, which are 'connected and united' (among themselves). Metaphysics proceeds by way of antinomy, that is, by absolute terms that are opposed to one another. These opposed terms can never mix or touch, nor can anything new emerge from their unity that is not reduced to the simple affirmation of the presence of one and the absence of the other and vice versa." [Ibid. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis added.]


This is a bit rich. One minute, the scientific method is criticised for its:


"legacy [in] the old fashioned way of formulating thought, derived from religious concepts based on dogmatic revelation, presents the concepts of things as immutable, absolute, eternal...." [Ibid.]


The next we are fed a set of ideas borrowed directly from the thoughts of previous generations of religious mystics:


"[N]ot only is everything in motion, but in motion all things reciprocally influence each other, and this also goes for their concepts, or the reflections of these things in our minds, which are 'connected and united' (among themselves)...." [Ibid.]


As Glenn Magee notes:


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


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


Once more: how does Bordiga know that everything is interconnected and in motion? Some things might be; indeed, most things might be. But all? He can't possibly know this, but he is quite happy to impose it on nature.


He continues:


"To provide an example, in the natural sciences stasis is counterposed to motion: there can be no conciliation between these two things; by virtue of the formal principle of contradiction, that which is at rest does not move, and that which is moving is not at rest. But the Eleatic School under Zeno had already exposed the fraud of such a distinction that seems so certain: the arrow in motion, while it passes one point of its trajectory, remains at that point, and therefore is not moving. The ship is moving with respect to the shore, while for the passenger walking on the ship this is not the case: the latter is motionless with respect to the shore, and is therefore not moving. These so-called sophisms were demonstrations of the possibilities of reconciling opposites: stasis and motion; only by breaking down motion into many elements composed of points of time and space would it be possible for infinitesimal mathematics and modern physics not blinded by the metaphysical method to resolve the problems of non-rectilinear and non-uniform motion. Today motion and stasis are considered to be relative terms, and neither absolute movement nor absolute stasis has any meaning." [Ibid. Links added.]


But, the Eleatics were idealists, and Bordiga has already told us to "reject any idealist assumptions". Moreover, the 'contradictory' nature of motion can't be confirmed by observation, experiment or any method known to the sciences (as we will discover in Essay Five).


[Some might object that this idea follows from a mathematical analysis of motion, and hence from one of the methods used by scientists. However, as I have also demonstrated in the above Essay, that isn't so. Readers are directed there for more details.]


So, what is the above comment doing here?


The answer is quite plain: Bordiga didn't obtain this peculiar idea from the sciences but from the a priori,  dogmatic theories invented by Idealists like Zeno and Hegel -- which fact Bordiga acknowledges, anyway:


"The introduction of the dialectic can nonetheless be understood in two very different ways. First enunciated by the most brilliant cosmological schools of Greek philosophy as a method to acquire knowledge of nature that did not depend on aprioristic prejudices...." [Ibid.]


From this it is reasonably clear that Bordiga has a rather odd understanding of "aprioristic" thought, since that is precisely what Zeno's ideas exhibited, as did those that Heraclitus dreamt up.


Maurice Cornforth


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


Inconsistent ruminations like these aren't confined to OT-gurus, or, indeed, OT-groupies. Generations of STDs have shown that they, too, are quite capable of matching anything the former have ever tried to "foist" on nature, as anyone foolish enough to trawl through their writings can well attest (indeed, as we saw earlier). Here are some of the thoughts of comrade Cornforth (prefaced, of course, by the familiar modest-looking disclaimers):


"Our party philosophy, then, has a right to lay claim to truth. For it is the only philosophy which is based on a standpoint which demands that we should always seek to understand things just as they are…without disguises and without fantasy….


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


Surprising as this might seem to some, Cornforth then proceeded to do the opposite:


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


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


"Dialectical materialism considers that matter is always in motion, that motion is the mode of existence of matter, so that there can no more be matter without motion than motion without matter….


"Dialectical materialism understands the motion of matter as comprehending all changes and processes in the universe….


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


"Dialectical materialism considers the universe, not as static, not as unchanging, but as in a continual process of development. It considers this development, not as a smooth, continuous and unbroken process, but as a process…interrupted by breaks in continuity, by the sudden leap from one state to another. And it seeks for the explanation, the driving force, of this universal movement…within material processes themselves -– in the inner contradictions, the opposite conflicting tendencies, which are in operating in every process in nature and society….


"When we think of the properties of things, their relationships, their modes of action and interaction, the processes into which they enter, then we find that, generally speaking, all these properties, relationships, interactions and processes divide into fundamental opposites….


"As Hegel put it: 'In opposition, the different is not confronted by any other, but by its other' (Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences: Logic, section 119)….


"The dialectical method demands first, that we should consider things, not each by itself, but always in their interconnections with other things….


"The employment of the Marxist dialectical method does not mean that we apply a pre-conceived scheme and try to make everything fit into it. No, it means that we study things as they really are, in their interconnection and movement….


"All change has a quantitative aspect…. But quantitative change cannot go on indefinitely. At a certain point it always leads to qualitative change; and at that critical point (or 'nodal point', as Hegel called it) the qualitative change takes place relatively suddenly, by a leap, as it were….


"Thus we see that quantitative changes are transformed at a certain point into qualitative changes…. This is a universal feature of development….


"The general conclusion [is] that whenever a process of development takes place, with the transformation in it of quantitative changes into qualitative changes, there is always present in it the struggle of opposites –- of opposite tendencies, opposite forces within the things and processes concerned….


"This struggle is not external and accidental…. The struggle is internal and necessary, for it arises and follows from the nature of the process as a whole. The opposite tendencies are not independent the one of the other, but are inseparably connected as parts or aspects of a single whole. And they operate and come into conflict on the basis of the contradiction inherent in the process as a whole….


"Movement and change result from causes inherent in things and processes, from internal contradictions….


"Contradiction is a universal feature of all processes….


"The importance of the [developmental] conception of the negation of the negation does not lie in its supposedly expressing the necessary pattern of all development. All development takes place through the working out of contradictions -– that is a necessary universal law…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15, 46-48, 53, 65-66, 72, 77, 82, 86, 90, 95, 117; quoting Hegel (1975), pp.172 and 160, respectively. Bold emphases added.]


In view of the above, it might be worth asking: How is it possible for someone not to have imposed a theory on reality -- as a "pre-conceived scheme" -- with everything made to "fit into it", as Cornforth says --, if, in fact, they have done just that?


Despite the usual preliminary gestures at theoretical modesty, Cornforth, in true form, is soon telling us that change is "not external and accidental…[it] is internal and necessary," that "contradiction is a universal feature of all processes," and that "all development takes place through the working out of contradictions," which is "a necessary universal law….", without once informing the reader from where he obtained this information (other than copying it from Hegel, Engels and Lenin, of course). But, could there be a body of evidence large enough to show that anything in nature is necessary? Especially when Engels had written the following:


"The empiricism of observation alone can never adequately prove necessity." [Engels (1954), p.229.]


Which body of evidence is capable of demonstrating that "all development" is the result of 'internal contradictions'? Or even, that all change is internally-driven?


What sort of super-duper library could possibly contain that amount of evidence? On which tablets were the above cosmic verities to be found?


Those delivered to comrade Cornforth -- perhaps, by the Archangel Gabriel --, carved in mystic runes on sapphire tablets by elfin hands?


[The a priori ruminations of a handful of STDs have been posted here.]


John Desmond Bernal


Historian of Science, Herbert Butterfield, said this of Bernal:


"He was a big man of captivating charm who certainly influenced hundreds of undergraduates. He was that rare creature, a person of truly seminal ideas on a host of subjects, yet one who would never have exercised the cumulative persistence with detail required to win a Nobel Prize." [Quoted from here.]


Although, it has also been said (I forget by whom) that Bernal was refused this prestigious prize because of his fervent Communism but because of the fact that he had already won the Order of Lenin (although it is a moot point whether he would have accepted a Nobel Prize even if one had been offered). Be this as it may, Bernal was without question one of the leading British scientists of the Twentieth Century.


I won't consider here how Bernal's commitment to Stalinism compromised his judgement (in relation to such things as the work of Lysenko -- on this, see Brown (2005)); my concern is to show that when he strayed from science into areas of Philosophy he was no less dogmatic than the others we have already met in this Essay.


As usual we begin with a clichéd gesture toward the need to look for evidence and avoid a reliance on dogmatic Philosophy:


"The central idea in Dialectical Materialism is that of transformation. The problem is at the same time: How do transformation occur and how can we make transformations occur? The approach to this problem lies not in a philosophical analysis and definition of transformation, but in an examination of all observable facts in the universe as they are known to us from various sources, scientific and historical....


"Dialectical Materialism is not a not a formula to be applied blindly either in the natural or human world. The facts must first be known and the field of application delimited before it is possible to say whether such and such a phenomenon exhibits a dialectical movement or is part of a larger process exhibiting such a movement." [Bernal (1935), pp.90, 109. Bold emphases added.]


Needless to say, Bernal omits this evidence -- he doesn't even tell his readers where it can be found, nor does he even try to summarise it --, but instead spends most of his time looking at what Philosophers have said about this "problem". Nevertheless, as is the case with other DM-fans, he is quite happy to impose this theory on nature and society in abeyance of the facts. Here are just a few examples:


"It was Engels who first attempted to generalise this materialist inversion of the Hegelian dialectic by showing how these unions of opposites were not confined to human society, or even to living things, but occurred at all stages of the organisation of matter. These oppositions are possessed of critical importance, in that they were forerunners to the spontaneous processes of real change which go on in the universe. Here Dialectics was pointing towards the solution of the central philosophical problem, the problem of the origin of the new....


"The mere static existence of opposites is, however, only the beginning of dialectic; actually opposites do not exist statically. None of the qualities mentioned is conceivable except in the process of movement and transformation. The relations, for instance, of mass and energy are seen only in the violent transformations of rapidly moving particles into light, and here again we come to one of the most positive contributions of Dialectical Materialism -- the equivalence and inseparability of matter and motion.... The...union of opposites...removes the necessity for a prime mover in mechanical systems....


"The change of quantity into quality is a second leading principle of Dialectical Materialism.... To the Dialectical Materialist...quality, new quality, always appears just at those moments of transition, when a system undergoing a purely quantitative change breaks down as a result of its self-engendered contradictions.... Transformations of this type are found all through the inorganic and organic world...." [Ibid., pp.99-106. Bold emphases added.]


In the above, we can see that Bernal inadvertently acknowledged that it wasn't facts that originally drove this theory, but Engels's extrapolation from a few trite examples (many of which he pinched from Hegel) to a set of 'laws' that govern the entire universe for all of time, thus flouting both his and Engels's disclaimers:


"Dialectical Materialism is not a not a formula to be applied blindly either in the natural or human world." [Ibid., p.109. Bold emphasis added.]


"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, far from solving the 'problem of the new', merely asserting that novelty simply 'emerges' at certain points as a result of an increase in quantity is no explanation at all. We aren't told how or why novelty arises (and, as we will discover here, if DM were true, novelty couldn't arise), we are just told it does. Better not ask then...


In which case, this 'problem' remains unsolved.


Ira Gollobin


Now, we turn to what is arguably the best book that has ever been written about 'orthodox' DM as such -- GOD --, which is itself both a rather wordy version of Baghavan (1987), and an up-market version of Woods and Grant (1995) -- minus the many snide remarks passed about FL, of course.


[GOD = Gollobin's Dialectics; i.e., Gollobin (1986).]


Having said that, the author of GOD makes all the usual moves, and mistakes, readily imposing dialectics on nature while failing to ask of his 'theory' the sorts of questions raised at this site -- or, indeed, those Gollobin asks about other theories. As far as can be ascertained, Gollobin doesn't even bother to cover his rear and argue that DM must grow from a patient examination of the evidence. This is up-front apriorism then, straight out of the starting blocks!


Update: However, a few weeks after writing the above I discovered this comment:


"'Not a single principle of dialectics can be converted into an abstract schema from which, by purely logical means, it would be possible to infer the answer to concrete questions. These principles are a guide to activity and scientific research, not a dogma.'" [Gollobin (1986), p.409, quoting the Soviet Encyclopedia. Bold emphasis added.]


And several pages after that GOD even quotes Engels:


"And finally, to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics into nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it...." [Engels (1976), p.13, quoted in Gollobin (1986), p.414. Bold emphasis added.]


Without a hint of irony, GOD then proceeds to quote a passage from Engels where the latter in fact does the opposite of what he has just said!


"Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern science that it has furnished this proof with very rich materials increasing daily, and thus has shown that, in the last resort, nature works dialectically and not metaphysically." [Engels (1976), p.28, quoted in Gollobin (1986), p.414. Bold emphasis added.]


Hence, it is quite clear that Gollobin is either blind to the fact that Engels imposed this theory on nature, or he is being deliberately disingenuous. Once more, how could Engels possibly have known that nature works dialectically -- and not metaphysically, say, in parts of the universe that the scientists of his day hadn't yet studied (let alone even knew existed)? As should seem clear, he couldn't possibly have known this, but he was quite happy to "build" this view into nature, nevertheless


And, as we are about to see, GOD is no less eager to do the same.


Oddly enough, much of the 'evidence' that Gollobin lists in support of the many things it alleges comes from Piaget (whom he seems to think is an authority on everything), or from earlier DM-classicists (particularly Engels, Lenin, and Mao), whom he also quotes in place of scientific evidence -- as if their word were law -- and it should be added, in direct contradiction to this clear statement of Mao's:


"Our comrades must understand that we study Marxism-Leninism not for display, nor because there is any mystery about it, but solely because it is the science which leads the revolutionary cause of the proletariat to victory. Even now, there are not a few people who still regard odd quotations from Marxist-Leninist works as a ready-made panacea which, once acquired, can easily cure all maladies. These people show childish ignorance, and we should enlighten them. It is precisely such ignorant people who take Marxism-Leninism as a religious dogma." [Mao (1965b), p.42. Bold emphases added.]


Which, in view of the way that 'Mao-Tse-Tung Thought' was parroted by Maoists a few generations ago, this isn't all that surprising.



Figure Two: Incontrovertible Proof That 'Mao-Tse-Tung Thought'

Isn't A Quasi-Religious Cult/Dogma 


GOD is also in the habit of classifying each DM-thesis as a genuine member of the "scientific view" of nature and society, failing to note that science is based on hard evidence, primary data -- and container loads of it, too --, not on quotations from non-experts, nor yet on those lifted from the dialectical classics.


In fact, for Gollobin -- just like Baghavan and W&G -- it seems that if something merely appears to confirm DM, into the pot it goes no matter where it came from, or how tenuous the support it actually lends the 'theory'.


Nevertheless, it isn't my aim in this Essay to discuss the countless errors GOD commits (easily far more than there are pages, and only slightly less than there are paragraphs), but to expose yet again the traditional, a priori style of reasoning found in GOD, the most faithful of the DM-faithful.


[However, in a later Essay (which will be focussed solely on GOD) I will respond to many of the things asserted in that work -- until then, see here.]


Here are a few of the many dogmatic pronouncements to be found in GOD. With respect to "sameness and difference", he had this to say:


"No two things are completely alike, no matter how seemingly identical, whether they are leaves of a tree, blades of grass, fingerprints, or any other thing. In having and identity, a thing has a sameness with other things (as well as with itself, despite all changes, during its lifetime) that stops short of complete identity, or sameness in all respects. Difference is always present....


"Sameness and difference do not simply subsist side by side in mere conjunction. They cannot exist apart.... Every affirmation of a thing's features is simultaneously a denial of its possession of other features." [Gollobin (1986), pp.92-93. Bold emphases added.]


The 'evidence' (or even argument) that GOD offers in support of these a priori claims amounts to no more than quoting a few trite examples drawn from nature, coupled with a quote from Leibniz -- which, in fact, merely expresses Leibniz's own dogmatic belief about identicals and the rationality of 'God'! ['God', not GOD!]


That's it! On that 'basis', Mickey Mouse DM-'Science' like this can reveal to us truths about everything in existence, for all of time.


Unfortunately, however, for Gollobin, as we have seen, it looks like scientists have discovered countless trillion identicals in every cubic millimetre of matter. [On that, see here (this links to a PDF), here and here.]


Returning to the claim made in the second paragraph above:


"Sameness and difference do not simply subsist side by side in mere conjunction. They cannot exist apart from each other.... Every affirmation of a thing's features is simultaneously a denial a denial of its possession of other features." [Ibid. Bold emphasis added.]


This is no less dogmatic; from a supposed logical principle, GOD -- following Hegel -- attempts to derive a universal thesis about "sameness" and "difference valid everywhere and everywhen.


This principle (supposedly derived from Spinoza), which I will later call "Spinoza's Greedy Principle" [SGP], isn't the least bit logical, nor is it at all reliable. [More on the SGP here and here.] But, even if it were completely trustworthy, how is this an example of not "building" dialectics into nature?


And there is more:


"At the dawn of bourgeois society, proof of the heliocentric theory vitiated the concept of an earth-centred closed universe. Thereafter, Newton's laws inter-related the movement of celestial bodies; Mayer and Joule formulated the general principles governing the transformation of kinds of energy from one form into another; Mendeleyev discerned a system determining the linkages between chemical elements, the periodic table; Darwin found certain ordered relationships between species; and Einstein's theories of special and general relativity disclosed certain basic connections of matter, energy, space and time....


"These scientific advances, and many more, demonstrate that all things are connected with others and that nothing exists completely sealed off, unaffected by other things...." [Ibid., p.95. Bold emphasis added.]


"Thus the comprehension of certain connections in a limited sphere is distinct from comprehending, on the basis of objective data, the generality that everything that exists is connected with other things....


"[True to form, Gollobin then quotes a handful of scientific theories, and then pulls the following gem out of a hat -- RL]...[A]ll things are connected with other things and nothing exists completely sealed off, unaffected by other things.... During its existence, a thing always exists by itself and in relation to other things.... Self-likeness, definite identity, always exists only in relation to other things." [Ibid., pp.94-95. Bold emphases added.]


"All things are in flux.... All objects ceaselessly emit radiations.... Motion is change in general and pervades all, both objects and their mental images in their ceaselessly coming into being and passing away.... There is no modicum of matter or moment of its existence without movement. Motion is the mode of matter's existence.... The universe is ceaselessly en route....


"Change is universal and incessant....


"Change and nonchange (sic) are conjoined at all times in a thing. Far from being inconsistent, they are inseparable. There is 'stable motion and mobile stability' (Dietzgen) -- at every instant in a thing's lifetime, change in at lest certain respects and nonchange in certain others.... Knowledge that a thing, during its lifetime, ceaselessly changes from within (self-moves (sic)), as well as from external influences and simultaneously preserves its identity (continues as a particular entity; does not change) opens the door to other, deeper comprehensive questions....


"Self-movement derives from a thing's internal opposites.... A thing contains polar opposites whose ceaseless conflict is indispensable for its movement and life. A thing's very general internal source of change is the conflict of its opposites. And its very general internal source of nonchange -- the preservation of its identity from birth to death as varying states of the same entity -- is the inseparability of its opposites. In dialectics a unity and conflict of opposites is termed a contradiction." [Ibid., pp.99, 100, 103, 107. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Once again, had every dogmatic passage in GOD been included, this Essay would have been many thousands of words longer than it already is (no exaggeration). Hence, I have confined the next selection of examples to a handful of randomly selected quotations (which have clearly been lifted almost wholesale from Mao; on that see here):


"Opposites are not only inseparably conjoined, but at any instant one of the opposites comes to the fore. In their mutual relations, one opposite plays the principle role and its other the secondary role." [Ibid., p.120.]


How does Gollobin know so much about all opposites (he must mean every single opposite, or the above would make little sense)? Well, dear reader, you will search in vain through GOD looking for the answer to that one. It seems Gollobin knows this simply because Mao said it.


The watery thin 'evidence' that GOD offers to illustrate this thesis -- he can't imagine it will prove it, surely? -- is coloured by several other Mao-isms, which can easily be re-interpreted so that they, in fact, fail to support Gollobin's dogmatic contentions. But, even if things were exactly as either GOD, or Mao, opine, the two examples Gollobin quotes -- in fact they were taken from cellular biology and US history; cf., p.123 -- would constitute proof of the universal validity of this thesis only for those sky high on Mescaline.


But, if Mao (or GOD) has spoken, who are we to quibble?


[Moreover, since neither Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov nor Lenin mentioned such contradictions (i.e., the "principle" or "secondary" sort), that must make the author of GOD -- and Mao -- "Revisionists"!]


"Contradictions not only have very general features, true for any time or part of the universe (e.g., the absoluteness of conflict), but also special, particular features...." [Ibid., p.131. Bold emphasis added.]


This passage (ironically) was situated right under the sub-heading: "Scientific Views". Impartial readers should, I suggest, contact the publishers and ask them if this is a misprint, or whether the heading should actually read "Unquestioned Dogma".


Does GOD offer the reader any evidence that contradictions inhabit all of reality, for all of space and time?


Are you serious?


"Dialectics as a whole, its totality, comprises two overall parts: the dialectics of the object (the very general aspects of the universe -- aspects present in nature, society, and thought), and the dialectics of the subject....


"The dialectics of the object includes laws and categories present in all processes, in all things -- nature, society and thought. As regards the presence of these laws and categories, humans are like the rest of the universe." [Ibid., p.400. Bold emphases added.]


Dialectical Dogma once more? Imposed on the world?


If you were thinking along those lines, dear reader, you clearly don't 'understand' dialectics!


"Dialectical materialism as a whole is a synthesis of syntheses, a peak from which to take an overview of the historic ascent of consciousness to knowledge of very general aspects of the cosmos, including consciousness itself. The unity of the world is absolute in that all things objectively exist...." [Ibid., p.419. Bold emphasis added.]


From this it seems that GOD has the merit of being both honest and thoroughly traditional all in one go (in that it openly admits the semi-divine status of DM).


As we will see in Essay Eleven Parts One and Two, attempts like this to "build" dialectical theses dogmatically into nature (allegedly on the back of advances in the sciences) can't succeed. In addition, we shall see that this dogmatic approach to knowledge has also been peddled by countless mystics down the ages, who themselves hit upon such ideas long before there was much evidence to speak of. However, just like contemporary dialecticians (such as Gollobin), they were quite happy to "build" this dogma into nature.


So, GOD is reassuringly dogmatic, full of a priori theses that its author couldn't possibly know were applicable everywhere, and for all of time -- "reassuring", that is, only for those intent on aping ruling-class ideology and Traditional Thought, recklessly importing both into the workers' movement.


But, GOD has spoken, and its author saw that everything was good...


Paul McGarr


From the UK-SWP, this is how Paul McGarr summed things up:


"Nature is historical at every level. No aspect of nature simply exists: it has a history, it comes into being, changes and develops, is transformed, and, finally, ceases to exist. Aspects of nature may appear to be fixed, stable, in a state of equilibrium for a shorter or longer time, but none is permanently so….


"…Engels was right to see the interconnectedness of different aspects of nature…. Parts only have a full meaning in relation to the whole….


"Engels' arguments about quantitative change giving rise at certain points to qualitative transformations are generally correct. In every field of science, every aspect of nature, one cannot but be struck by precisely this process….


"Throughout nature it seems that things which appear to have any persistence, any stability, for a greater or shorter time, are the result of a temporary dynamic balance between opposing or contradictory tendencies. This is as true of simple physical objects like atoms as of living organisms…." [McGarr (1994), pp.173-75. Bold emphases added.]


Admittedly, McGarr's comments are far more tentative, nuanced and measured than is usually the case in DM-circles; his approach is in fact reminiscent of Conze's, noted earlier. While McGarr stresses the need to DM against reality, he is just as eager as other dialecticians are to impose this theory on reality. Hence, no qualification at all was attached to the following:


"Nature is historical at every level. No aspect of nature simply exists: it has a history, it comes into being, changes and develops, is transformed, and, finally, ceases to exist. Aspects of nature may appear to be fixed, stable, in a state of equilibrium for a shorter or longer time, but none is permanently so…." [Ibid., p.173. Bold emphases added.]


At this point, it is important to stress once again that the truth or falsehood of any or all of the above assertions isn't being questioned here -- only the inconsistent way that their use of DM has been depicted by dialecticians.


However, as we have also seen, McGarr's claims about permanence are now believed to be false.


John Molyneux


John Molyneux has been imposing the same dogmatic 'dialectical' theses on nature and society for more than a generation despite this having been pointed out to him many times.


In the late 1980s, Molyneux wrote an excellent short book that explained revolutionary socialism in simple and easy to understand language -- i.e., Molyneux (1987). Unfortunately, he also included a brief and dogmatic section on DM:


"Dialectics is the logic of change, of evolution, of development. Its starting point is the idea (and the fact) that everything changes and is involved in an on-going process of coming into being and ceasing to be....


"Dialectics, however, insists that nothing is fixed or lasts forever...


"This brings us to the second fundamental proposition of dialectics. This is that social change occurs through internal contradiction, through the struggle of opposites....


"A third proposition of dialectics is that quantitative changes become qualitative ones." [Molyneux (1987), pp.49-51. Bold emphases added.]


Oddly enough, despite the reader being told that everything changes, this theory seems to remain fixed in permanent stasis in Parmenidean heaven -- nearly thirty years later we still find Molyneux trying to sell his readers the same dogmatic ideas (at his blog and then in his latest book).


First Molyneux disarms the reader in the time-honoured fashion:


"Dialectics reflects and expresses the logic of natural and social change but it is not a magic key to history. In itself dialectics cannot prove that any particular change has happened or will happen. Only a dialectical analysis of the real world can do that. And, like Marxism as a whole, dialectics is not a dogma but a guide to action." [Quoted from here.]

But, on the very same Internet page, he soon dons his dogmatic hat:


"As was said at the very beginning of this series the starting point of Marxism was not an abstract philosophy but a determination to change the world and an identification of and with the working class as the agent of that change. Nevertheless from that point of departure Marx developed, very rapidly, a coherent philosophical outlook which both built on all previous philosophy and transcended it. This outlook is usually called dialectical materialism (though Marx, himself, did not use the term).

"It is materialist in that it asserts the objective existence of the material world and the priority of matter over mind, so that, fundamentally, it is the material conditions of life that shape human consciousness and ideas rather than ideas which determine material conditions. But it is not at all a mechanical materialism or fatalistic determinism which treats human history as working like clockwork towards a predetermined outcome. Rather it is dialectical in that it deals always with complex interactions and contradictions....


"The philosophical starting point of dialectics is that everything, everything in the universe, is moving and changing....


"First, every existing 'thing' or 'state' is both a unity and a conflict of opposites, i.e. it is a temporary balance or moment of equilibrium between the forces that brought that state into being and maintain it and the forces that will bring about its dissolution or transformation. Second, every process of change involves an accumulation of gradual or quantitative changes within an existing state, which at a certain point turn into a qualitative change in which the nature of that state is transformed. Third, in every process of change the 'negative' or revolutionary force which brings about the change is itself transformed or 'negated' so that a new state, a new unity of opposites, emerges (Engels called this 'the negation of the negation')." [Ibid. Bold emphases added.]


We find similar assertions in his recent book:


"Materialism in philosophy involved commitment to the following propositions:


"-- The material world exists.


"-- The material world exists independently of human consciousness.


"-- Real, if not total and absolute knowledge of the world is possible.


"-- Human beings are part of nature, albeit a distinct part.


"-- The material world does not derive from human thought; human thought derives from the material world....


"Let us start with the question of change. At the heart of dialectics is the proposition that everything changes. 'Everything' here refers to everything in the universe from the totality of the universe itself to the tiniest particle. For a start everything is in motion, the most basic form of change, but everything is also developing, altering, evolving, coming into being or passing out of being. [The evidence is what? -- RL] As Bob Dylan once put it 'Who isn't busy being born, is busy dying.'...


"...[D]ialectics insists that nothing lasts forever, and that everything, day by day, second by second, is involved in a process of constant change


"If anything (a grain of sand, a mountain, a tree, a fish, a human, a society) gives the appearance of stability and permanence it is because it constitutes a particular moment in a longer process of change. That moment constitutes a particular balance between forces within it working for and against change -- a unity of opposites...


"No phenomenon or incident...can be properly understood or analysed in isolation. It is always necessary to see it in its context and its interrelations....


"'Truth is concrete,' Lenin (following Hegel) used to say.... Yes every individual event must be related to the whole but it does not thereby lose its specificity....


"How does one thing become something else?... In each case a process occurs in which there is a gradual accumulation of quantitative changes within a given totality up to a point where there is a sudden or relatively sudden transformation in the nature of the totality as a whole....


"The transformation of quantitative into qualitative change...presupposes that the object or given totality which changes is a unity of opposites -- a (temporary) balance of conflicting forces. This applies to everything from a single the US New World Order....


"The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitional, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as motion and development are absolute....[Molyneux is here paraphrasing Lenin's formulation, almost word-for-word -- RL.]


"Dialectics has revolutionary implications because it is based on the fact that everything changes, and that therefore capitalism is doomed to perish." [Molyneux (2012), pp.32-33; 40-52; 197. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; bold emphases added.]


Although Molyneux gestures in the direction of providing some sort of proof (asserting, for example, that modern science substantiates sweeping statements like these), what he actually offers his readers is very thin, watery gruel, of the sort which amply merits the epithet I have given it elsewhere at this site: Mickey Mouse Science.

Again, it is worth reminding readers of the following comment (quoted from the Preface to this Essay):


Moreover..., in what follows the truth or falsity of these dogmatic passages is not the main issue..., merely whether DM-theorists are consistent in their claim not to have imposed them on reality.


However, their truth or falsity will be at issue in the other Essays posted at this site -- especially here.


Chris Nineham


In a recent book on the work of Marxist Philosopher, György Lukács, ex-SWP honcho, Chris Nineham, had this to say:


"Despite the common caricatures of Marxism, it is precisely not a theory in which thought is entirely dependent on a pre-existing, separate 'being'. Thought and being are part of a totality, but a differentiated, dialectical totality. If thought and being were identical, we would be back to the notion of an automatic, predetermined history." [Nineham (2010), p.34. Bold emphasis added.]


Unfortunately, Nineham offered his readers neither argument nor evidence in support of the following: (i) There is such a thing (or process) as 'being', let alone a disembodied entity called "thought", (ii) The latter two are related in any way at all, (iii) There exists something called the "totality" (or even what it actually is!), nor yet that (iv) '[T]hought' and 'being' form all or part of [the "totality"]. Nevertheless, just like DM-theorists and Traditional Philosophers, he is happy to assert such things dogmatically.


This is otherwise known as "imposing DM on the facts".


Levins And Lewontin


The above two famous scientists aren't above imposing DM on nature, either:


"What characterises the dialectical world, in all its aspects, as we have described it is that it is constantly in motion. Constants become variables, causes become effects, and systems develop, destroying the conditions that gave rise to them. Even elements that appear to be stable are in a dynamic equilibrium of forces that can suddenly become unbalanced, as when a grey lump of metal of a critical size becomes a fireball brighter than a thousand suns....


"This appearance of opposing forces has given rise to the most debated and difficult, yet the most central, concept in dialectical thought, the principle of contradiction.... For us, contradiction is not only epistemic and political, but ontological in the broadest sense. Contradictions between forces are everywhere in nature, not only in human social institutions.... [O]pposing forces lie at the basis of the evolving physical and biological world. Things change because of the action of opposing forces on them, and things are the way they are because of the temporary balance of opposing forces.... The dialectical view insists that persistence and equilibrium are not the natural state of things but require explanation, which must be sought in the actions of the opposing forces....


"The opposing forces are seen as contradictory in the sense that each taken separately would have opposite effects, and their joint action may be different from the results of either acting alone.... However, the principle that all things are internally heterogeneous directs our attention to the opposing processes at work within the object.... Thus systems are either self-negating (state A leads to some state not-A) or depend for their persistence on self-negating processes.


"We see contradiction first of all as self-negation. From this perspective it is not too different from logical contradiction. In formal logic process is usually replaced by static set-structural relations, and the dynamic of 'A leads to B' is replaced by 'A implies B'. But all real reasoning is takes place in time, and the classical logical paradoxes can be seen as A leads to not-A leads to A, and so on.... As against the alienated world view that objects are isolated until proven otherwise, for us the simplest assumption is that things are connected...." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), pp.279-87. Bold emphases alone added. Spelling modified to conform with UK English; several paragraphs merged.]


As usual, these two make a gesture of sorts at providing supporting evidence, but the level of sophistication and detail they offer their readers would result in an "F grade" had it been reproduced in a paper submitted by one of their undergraduate students, let alone a postgraduate researcher. I have rightly called this amateurish approach to proof, Mickey Mouse Science. DM-fans en masse indulge in it.


Levins and Lewontin also have the gall to quote Engels:


"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. Quoted in Levins and Lewontin (1995), p.279. However, these two mistakenly attribute this passage to Engels's Dialectics of Nature.]


And yet they tell us on the very next page:


"The dialectical view insists that persistence and equilibrium are not the natural state of things but require explanation, which must be sought in the actions of the opposing forces...." [Levins and Lewontin, op cit., p.280. Bold added.]


Naturally, a "must" and an "insistence" differ from an "imposition" in name alone.


The other things they say in the section of their book devoted to feedback systems in living organisms (not quoted) have been dealt with in Essay Seven Part One (here and here), where their status as 'dialectical' systems or processes has been shown to be no less misguided (which means, of course, that this idea has been imposed on nature, too). We have also seen in Essay Eight Part Two that there is no way that opposing forces can be interpreted as 'dialectical contradictions' (even if we knew what the latter were!).


Finally, what these two have to say about FL would result in them being failed even from the introductory class to Logic 101. [More on this in Essay Four Part One.]


I have also highlighted Richard Levins's 'errors of logic' (which originally appeared in an e-mail exchange we had), here.


Terry Button


Comrade Button is clearly a Dogma-Meister of the first order, having caught this serious malady, it seems, from his guru, Gerry Healy:


"All that exists, all that is in being, can be divided into two categories, the objective material world, and the world of thought. The question then arises, how do these two things, these two sides of the totality of Being, relate to each other? In general, there are only two possible answers to this question, and from the very beginning philosophers have been divided into two opposing camps, depending on which of these they took to be correct.


"These two opposing points of view are materialism, which holds that the objective material world, (matter), exists independently of man, and that human thought, consciousness, is a reflection of it, and idealism, which holds that human consciousness exists independently of the objective material world, and all that apparently exists is somehow a creation of thought.  The battle between these two diametrically opposed points of view rages to this day. The reason for this antagonism is that each of the two philosophies represents, or serves, a particular class interest. Idealism serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class, while materialism serves the interest of the working class. Marxism is a materialist philosophy....


"Since materialism is the practice of allowing the external world of matter to determine thought, and since matter is in constant motion, then it follows that to be truly materialistic thought must correctly reflect this motion. We have explained that Marxism is materialism, but it is materialism of a particular kind, materialism guided by dialectical logic, or dialectical materialism. The dialectical method proceeds by grasping everything in relation to its own opposite, how these opposites relate, and how the conflict between them causes them to change and develop.


"All progress takes place through the unity, conflict, interpenetration, and transformation of opposites.


"We must weigh each word carefully. What precisely is meant by unity? A study of the nature of matter shows that all the matter in the universe is inter-connected in one way or another, no matter how distantly, and a material thing which is in direct connection with another thing has an effect on that with which it is connected and is in turn affected by it. This is all that it meant by 'opposites' in this context. Any two things may come into proximity or physical contact, but for any scientific consideration what is important is how the two things relate, and to grasp this we must consider the two things in their motion and change, and how, through this motion and change, they affect each other. For dialectics then, unity implies a living, inter-relating connection between opposites. Some forms of being have their own special opposites from which they can never be separated, and these are generally opposites of extremes such as black and white, positive and negative. Such opposites are united by their very opposition -- it would be impossible to have the concept of positive at all in the absence of the concept of negative. Each is necessary to the other. But this unity is at the same time conflict, because each excludes the other -- each is what it is only because it is not the other. Such opposites as these are called Self-related Opposites.


"Paradoxical as it may seem, opposites become identical precisely because they start off different. It is clear that a thing must be different to that which it affects and changes or no change could take place at all. That which is changed resists, hence the changing process appears as a struggle of opposites, conflict. The concept of inter-penetration expresses the way in which each of the opposites in conflict imposes its qualities on the other, forcing it to become alike, identical. The matter of precisely how opposites inter-penetrate to the point of transformation is dealt with in the second law, which is:-


"All progress takes place through the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa.


"The transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa is an obvious case of things being transformed into their opposites, and to find how they are transformed we must first discover how, by a process of interpenetration, they become identical.  How exactly does quantity become identical with quality? The first thing we note is that it is not even possible to speak of one in isolation from the other. In our example from Engels we see that he does not speak of quantity as an abstraction, but of a quantity of a quality; a quantity of matter or a quantity of energy of some kind, and the quantitative change of quality is expressed in the concept of Alteration. Let us take as an example a quality such as a colour, say blue. If we leave a dark blue object out in the sunlight it will fade and become light blue -- but it is still blue. Alteration is change of quality within the limits of that quality. If we leave the object in the sunlight long enough it will exceed the limits of the quality in question, the colour blue in this case, and become white. At the moment of qualitative transformation, the infinitely small quantity of blue is the same as the quality white. Quantity and quality find a moment of identity, and that is the leap from one quality to another. We see countless examples of this. By increasing the quantity of heat in a body of water the transformation to a new quality, from liquid to steam, suddenly occurs at a definite temperature at a given pressure; progressively adding weight to one side of a balance causes it to tip, and so on. So this is what we mean by the transformation of quantity into quality. The reverse process, the transformation of quality into quantity, is best understood by a study of the third law, which is:-


"The law of the negation of the negation.


"This law brings the other two into a unity and expresses the whole nature of the dialectical motion of matter, so that it must be explained at greater length, and in doing so we must introduce more terms and concepts which are necessary to the practice of dialectical logic.


"To understand the concept of Negation we must start from the twin concepts of Quantity and Quality. If a thing or substance exists then it is self-evident that it has some Quality which identifies it and that there is a Quantity of it, and negation simply means cancellation, rendering null.  Negation, therefore, must be understood in a double sense, in the sense of Quantitative negation, and in the sense of Qualitative negation. Clearly quantitative change is a continuous and more or less gradual process over a period of time, and if we take two consecutive moments of time, then the first quantity is replaced, rendered null, or 'negated' by the second. The first quantity no longer exists and the second has come into being. This latter must also be said of Quality, but there is a difference. Whereas quantitative change is a gradual and continuous process, a thing either has a particular Quality or it has not.  Qualitative change, then, can only be conceived as a sudden leap, from one Quality to another. This is apparent from the above explanation of the Second Law where we spoke of transformation rather than negation, but clearly each implies the other. 


"We begin with the consideration of the unity and conflict of opposites. Each opposite affects the other in some way, and in turn is affected by it. We may say that each Reflects the other. The dominating opposite determines the outcome of the motion involved, so we refer to this one as Cause and the way it changes the other as Effect. There is Difference between the two opposites, and it is helpful to consider this Difference from the point of view of one side, the affected side. The opposite with which it is in unity and conflict is a separate thing outside it, so we refer to the Difference between them as External Difference, and since the two opposites are different each one has its own Identity. We have said that the affected opposite, (Effect), Reflects the other, dominant opposite, (Cause). This means that the External Difference is reflected within the affected side, and changes it. This is Quantitative change. The affected side becomes, through time, more and more like its opposite, and correspondingly less and less like itself, and for this reason we tend to regard Cause as Positive and Effect as Negative. In every moment then, the affected opposite reflects the External difference internally, and this is its own Internal Difference...." [Terry Button. Bold emphases added. Formatting and quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


[For those interested, or even those not yet in a coma, this dogma-fest continues for quite some time at the above link. Masochists are encouraged to read all of it. They alone will feel the benefit.]


Attentive readers will no doubt have noticed that Button supplies very little evidence in support of these hyper-bold theses -- that is, over-and-above referring his readers to the usual trite examples we have come to expect from DM-clones. As noted earlier, Button is a big fan of Gerry Healy, which explains his fondness for some much obscure Hegel-speak.


On another page (which is linked to a site run by a splinter group that grew out of the wreckage created by the disintegration of the old WRP), he even quotes Trotsky:


"The dialectic is not a master key for all questions. It does not replace concrete scientific analysis. But it directs this analysis along the correct road, securing it against sterile wanderings in the desert of subjectivism and scholasticism." [Quoted from here.]


Which only goes to show that DM-fans do have a sense of humour.


No Proof Required -- CLR James


According to C L R James, even to ask for any sort of proof of the 'dialectic' is woefully misguided:


"Hegel defines the principle of Contradiction as follows:


'Contradiction is the root of all movement and life, and it is only in so far as it contains a contradiction that anything moves and has impulse and activity.' [Hegel (1999), p.439, §956.]


"The first thing to note is that Hegel makes little attempt to prove this. A few lines later he says:


'With regard to the assertion that contradiction does not exist, that it is non-existent, we may disregard this statement.'


"We here meet one of the most important principles of the dialectical logic, and one that has been consistently misunderstood, vilified or lied about. Dialectic for Hegel was a strictly scientific method. He might speak of inevitable laws, but he insists from the beginning that the proof of dialectic as scientific method is that the laws prove their correspondence with reality. Marx's dialectic is of the same character. Thus he excluded what later became The Critique of Political Economy from Capital because it took for granted what only the detailed argument and logical development of Capital could prove. Still more specifically, in his famous letter to Kugelmann on the theory of value, he ridiculed the idea of having to 'prove' the labour theory of value. If the labour theory of value proved to be the means whereby the real relations of bourgeois society could be demonstrated in their movement, where they came from, what they were, and where they were going, that was the proof of the theory. Neither Hegel nor Marx understood any other scientific proof.


"To ask for some proof of the laws, as Burnham implied, or to prove them 'wrong' as Sidney Hook tried to do, this is to misconceive dialectical logic entirely. Hegel complicated the question by his search for a completely closed system embracing all aspects of the universe; this no Marxist ever did (sic!). The frantic shrieks that Marx's dialectic is some sort of religion or teleological construction, proving inevitably the victory of socialism, spring usually from men who are frantically defending the inevitability of bourgeois democracy against the proletarian revolution." [James (1947), quoted from here. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]


[We have already seen other DM-fans argue that an appeal to empirical evidence is way beneath them, and smacks of 'positivism' or 'empiricism'.]


This is rather odd. One minute we are being told that the "laws" of the dialectic must "correspond with reality", and that this is the only "proof" Marx and Hegel "understood". The next we are being told that to ask for a proof is "misconceived".


Anyway, as we have also seen, James is mistaken when he tells us that no Marxist has ever searched for a "completely closed system embracing all aspects of the universe". Engels, for one, disagreed:


"And so, what is the negation of the negation? An extremely general -- and for this reason extremely far-reaching and important -- law of development of nature, history, and thought; a law which, as we have seen, holds good in the animal and plant kingdoms, in geology, in mathematics, in history and in philosophy -- a law which even Herr Dühring, in spite of all his stubborn resistance, has unwittingly and in his own way to follow.... Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought." [Engels (1976), pp.179-80. Bold emphases added.]


As, indeed, do many of the other DM-theorists cited or quoted throughout this Essay. Perhaps James thought that Engels was no Marxist.


James also tells us that: "the laws of the dialectic are 'hypotheses'" (Ibid.), but as I have already pointed out:


In AD Engels pointedly calls scientific theories "hypothetical" while the 'laws' of dialectics are deemed completely universal and not the least bit provisional.


I then listed several quotations that support this view. Indeed, for other DM-theorists these 'laws' look anything but "hypothetical"; here are just a few examples of what they think:


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


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


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


"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp. 357-58. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; paragraphs merged.]


"[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.]


"…The principle of the transformation of quantity into quality has universal significance, insofar as we view the entire universe -- without any exception -- as a product of formation and transformation….


"In these abstract formulas we have the most general laws (forms) of motion, change, the transformation of the stars of the heaven, of the earth, nature and human society.


"…Dialectics is the logic of development. It examines the world -- completely without exception -– not as a result of creation, of a sudden beginning, the realisation of a plan, but as a result of motion, of transformation. Everything that is became the way it is as a result of lawlike development." [Trotsky (1986), pp.88, 90, 96. Bold emphases added.]


Perhaps James forgot to check the meaning of "hypothesis".


In fact, it is quite clear that even for James the 'laws' of the dialectic aren't the least bit 'hypothetical'. If they were, why would he have written the following:


"Thus, the inevitability of socialism is the inevitability of the negation of the negation, the third and most important law of the dialectic....


"The philosophy of history which is Bolshevism bases itself upon the destruction of the barbarism by the inevitable triumph of the socialist revolution. There are even revolutionaries who deny this. For them it is not scientific to believe in inevitability. Such a belief implies that dialectic is a religion or mysticism. For them the correct scientific attitude is to reserve judgement. Yet these very ones turn out to be the mystics and the practitioners of an ill-concealed religiosity.


"If they recognise the bankruptcy of bourgeois democracy, if they accept the need for universality in the masses, if they recognise that barbarism is the only force that can suppress this need, then to refuse to accept the inevitability of socialism leaves only one of two choices. Either the inevitability of barbarism, that is to say, the acceptance of the principle of inevitability which they have just rejected or the hope, the faith, the belief that history will offer some way out of the impasse. This is the denial of a philosophy of history, that is to say, the denial of a method of thought, for which the only name is irrationalism or mysticism.


"The deniers of the inevitability of socialism can be routed both historically and logically." [James (1947). Bold emphases added.]


The above don't look 'hypothetical', either. James even castigates fellow Marxists who regard the dialectic as tentative, or who "reserve judgement"!


What of the alleged "correspondence with reality"? But, how might anyone decide if there is any such "correspondence" if they have no evidence to that effect? Are DM-theorists and Hegel-groupies (upside down -- or the 'right way up') in a position to 'intuit' these correspondences without opening their eyes, without observing the world, without measuring anything or carrying out a few experiments? But what kind of crazy science would this be? On that basis, we might just as well declare that crystal gazing and astrology are sciences and criticise anyone who foolishly asked for empirical proof. It certainly flies in the face of Marx and Engels's clearly stated attitude (even if Engels later went on to ignore his own protocols):


"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way....


"The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people's imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.42, 46-47. Bold emphases added.]


"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment." [Engels (1954), p.47. Bold emphases alone added.]


More on James to follow...


Proof Already Provided -- Philip Moran


I have just received a copy of Moran (1980); I will add some thoughts about what he has to say in a future re-write of this Essay.


Alex Callinicos


Leading UK-SWP Guru, Alex Callinicos, had this to say about 'dialectics' (in his review of TAR, approximately twelve years before its author, John Rees, left the party):


"As John [Rees] stresses, the fundamental issue involved in the dialectic is not an obscure or complicated one. It is that of understanding a social world which presents itself -- in the mass media, for example, and bourgeois social science -- as a chaotic collection of fragments. Doing so requires, as Marx insisted, distinguishing between the surface appearance of things and their underlying reality, or essence. But this essence is precisely not a mere aggregate of unconnected happenings but a totality. 'The true is the whole,' Hegel wrote. Things and events only become comprehensible when set in the context of the web of relationships that bind them together into a single interconnected whole.


"This totality, however, is a contradictory one. The essence of dialectical thinking consists in the recognition that antagonism, conflict and struggle are not a secondary aspect of reality which can be removed through a bit of social engineering or the decision of rival classes to fall in love and become 'partners'. 'Contradiction is at the root of all movement and life, and it is only in so far as it contains a contradiction that anything moves and has impulse and activity,' says Hegel. He understood this thesis primarily in terms of the contradictions which develop within concepts: the evolution of nature and human history are an expression of this conceptual dialectic.


"For Marx, however, the main contradictions do not exist in thought, but constitute the very nature of social reality. These contradictions are to be located in the tendency of the prevailing social relations of production to become fetters on the further expansion of the productive forces and in the class struggle which develops, within the framework of this conflict, between exploiters and exploited. The contradictions between the forces and relations of production and between classes are the driving forces of social transformation. Dialectical thinking thus sees reality as inherently historical, as a process of constant movement in which existing forms are destroyed by their internal flaws and replaced by new ones....


"There are many other valuable discussions in The Algebra of Revolution. But, rather than spend too long summarising what readers should discover for themselves, let me, before concluding, make two more critical points. First of all, as I have already mentioned, the book presents dialectics through a discussion of major thinkers in chronological order. Particular themes are treated in depth in the context of a particular individual's thought. This generally works well, with one major exception, namely that of the dialectic of nature. John only treats this topic very briefly in the course of his discussion of Trotsky's Philosophical Notebooks in chapter 6. Here he offers some good reasons for accepting that there is a dialectic of nature, but he doesn't really explore the matter in much depth. This is a pity, since this is such a large and controversial topic as to require quite extensive discussion in a book that claims (except in this case, with justification) to be offering a comprehensive treatment of the dialectic.


"An example of the kind of issue such a treatment would have to address is the status of Engels' famous laws of the dialectic. One of Trotsky's most intriguing suggestions is that 'the fundamental law of dialectics is the conversion of quantity into quality, for it gives [us] the general formula of all evolutionary processes -- of nature as well as of society'. He goes on to argue, 'The principle of the transition of quantity into quality has universal significance, in so far as we view the entire universe - without any exception -- as a product of formation and transformation and not as the fruit of conscious creation'. This claim has much to be said for it....


"But in what sense is the principle of the transformation of quantity into quality a law? Scientific laws typically explain specific phenomena in the world by identifying the real mechanisms responsible for them. Thus Marx's law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is a theory of the mechanism underlying capitalist crises. But the transformation of quantity into quality isn't a mechanism in this sense. It rather generalises the features common to physical and social processes which are produced by a wide variety of different mechanisms. This line of thought suggests that we should see the dialectic of nature as a broad philosophical conception of nature rather than a set of general laws from which more specific ones applicable to particular aspects of the world can be deduced. This way of thinking about the dialectic of nature has the advantage that it rules out the kind of dogmatic dictation to working scientists which gave the idea a bad name under Stalinism, but it implies a fairly loose and open relationship between dialectical philosophy and scientific research which ought to be explicitly recognised." [Callinicos (1998), pp.99-100. Bold and italic emphases added. Minor typo corrected.]


Although Callinicos tells us that his interpretation of 'the dialectic' rules out the sort of dogmatism we witnessed under Stalin, and that it is to be contrasted with the use of this theory/method as a set of "general laws from which more specific ones applicable to particular aspects of the world can be deduced", he also tells us that the "totality" is:


"a contradictory one. The essence of dialectical thinking consists in the recognition that antagonism, conflict and struggle are not a secondary aspect of reality which can be removed through a bit of social engineering or the decision of rival classes to fall in love and become 'partners'." [Ibid.]


But, what is this but a dogma which tells us that certain aspects of the social world can't be reformed away? Or, that natural processes are contradictory in the way the Stalinists once informed us? Callinicos even quoted Hegel approvingly to this end:


"Contradiction is the root of all movement and life, and it is only in so far as it contains a contradiction that anything moves and has impulse and activity." [Hegel (1999), p.439, §956. I have used a different translation to Callinicos.]


But, again, what is this but a general law about the movement of everything in the entire universe, something neither Hegel nor Callinicos could possibly have known for a fact? That being so, it is plainly a dogma imposed on the world as a general law.


More-or-less the same can be said about this comment:


"Things and events only become comprehensible when set in the context of the web of relationships that bind them together into a single interconnected whole." [Callinicos, op cit.]


Again if "things" only become comprehensible "when set in the context of the web of relationships that bind them together into a single interconnected whole", then how do comments like that rule out "the kind of dogmatic dictation to working scientists which gave the idea a bad name under Stalinism", or militate against the idea that this is a general law "from which more specific ones applicable to particular aspects of the world can be deduced"? Surely, if it is only possible to understand "things" when they are viewed this way, then this thesis must apply to individual cases, and can thus be used to deduce "particular aspects of the world".


Well, this is merely a slightly more nuanced version of the approach we have met time and again throughout this Essay: first DM-fans tell us that their theory isn't a dogma, imposed on nature and society; then, in the very next breath, they proceed to do just that!


Ernest Mandel


Mandel is in the eyes of many one of the most important Trotskyist theorists since Trotsky himself. Is his account of DM any different from the run-of-the-mill-dogmatism we have met so far? Will he impose DM on nature and society, or allow the facts to speak for themselves? After all, we have already seen him saying this:


"Precisely because Marx's dialectic is a materialist one, however, it does not start from intuition, preconceptions or mystifying schemes, but from a full assimilation of scientific data. The method of investigation must differ from the method of exposition. Empirical facts have to be gathered first, the given state of knowledge has to be fully grasped. Only when this is achieved can a dialectical reorganization of the material be undertaken in order to understand the given totality. If this is successful, the result is a 'reproduction' in man's thought of this material totality: the capitalist mode of production." [Mandel (1976), p19. Bold emphasis added. (This links to a PDF.)]


Judge for yourself:


"Everything changes, everything is in perpetual motion.... Motion, universal evolution, governs all existence.... The dialectics or logic of motion therefore study the laws of motion and the forms adopted by it. These are examined from two aspects: motion as a function of contradiction; motion as a function of totality....


"All motion has a cause.... A fundamental cause of all motion, all change, is the internal contradictions of the changing object. In the final analysis, every object, every phenomenon, changes, moves, is transformed and modified under the influence of its internal contradictions. In this sense dialectics has often been correctly called the science of contradictions. The logic of motion and the logic of contradiction are two practically identical definitions of dialectics.


"Motion is contradiction. Contradiction is the co-existence of elements opposed to each other, simultaneous co-existence and opposition between these elements. If there is integral homogeneity, a total absence of elements opposed to each other, there is no contradiction, no motion, no life, no existence.... All motion tends to produce the negation of certain phenomena, tends to transform objects into their opposite.... To understand motion, universal change, is also to understand the existence of an infinite number transitory situations.... That is why one of the fundamental characteristics of dialectics is the understanding of the relativity of things, the refusal to erect absolute barriers between categories, the attempt to find mediating forces between opposing elements....


"Everything is relative..., reply the sophists. No, answers the dialectician: there is also something absolute and not just something relative.... We have seen that motion is a function of the internal contradictions of the phenomena or set of phenomena under consideration. Each phenomena...contains an infinite number of aspects, ingredients and constituent elements. These elements are not assembled by chance in a constantly changing manner. They constitute structured wholes, a totality, an organic system constructed according to an intrinsic logic." [Mandel (1982), pp.157-68. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged.]        


As we can see, Mandel is no less happy to impose DM on the facts; his earlier commitment to a "full assimilation of scientific data", gathering the facts and fully grasping "the given state of knowledge" has gone right out of the window. How, for instance, could he possibly know that "Each phenomena...contains an infinite number of aspects, ingredients and constituent elements"? Or that "every object, every phenomenon, changes, moves, is transformed and modified under the influence of its internal contradictions"?


Of course, Mandel couldn't possibly have known this. Admittedly, like so many others, he offers a few examples (mostly drawn from human society) to 'illustrate' the above theses, but they can only be called "proof" by someone with an odd sense of humour. He seems to think these are incontrovertible truths the reader will accept the moment she sees them.


But, this is just par for the course in DM-circles.


Christopher Caudwell


Christopher Caudwell (Christopher St John Sprigg) is easily one of the most intelligent and interesting of DM-theorists; indeed, in other respects, his ideas have been highly influential on my own. [This will become apparent in Essay Twelve Parts Two and Three, when they are published.] However, as with other DM-fans, Caudwell is quite happy to impose this dogmatic theory on nature and society. Here are just a few examples:


"Why does thought torment itself with this dualism, selecting every possible combination, yet thrown always back upon itself? And what is the solution? The second question will be answered first. The solution is dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism goes behind subject and object to the material basis from which their antagonism arose.


"...A and B, and the relations between them, are all real. The Universe is one, and is as a whole absolutely self-determined, but no part of it is absolutely self-determined. All that is real exists, and all that is real is determined, that is, every part of the Universe is in mutually determining A-B relations with the rest of the Universe. Everything therefore is knowable, for the meaning of knowable is simply this, the possibility of expressing a determining relation between that unknown but knowable thing, and a thing already known. This possibility is given in our premises. This is our premise: that the Universe is a material unity, and that this is a becoming.


"This material unity of becoming cannot be established by thought alone. It is established by thought in unity with practice, by thought emerging from practice and going out into practice. Phenomena are exhibited by the thing-in-itself, and if we can by practice force the thing-in-itself to exhibit phenomena according to our desire, then we know this much about the thing-in-itself -- that in certain circumstances it will exhibit certain phenomena. This is positive knowledge about the thing-in-itself. When we can in practice achieve all possible transformations, we have all possible knowledge about the thing-in-itself. Thus we prove that the universe is a material unity by proving in practice the material basis of all phenomena. This material basis is the thing-in-itself, or the like content of any phenomena exhibited by the thing-in-itself. This proof of material unity is secured by change and is therefore a process of becoming, of differentiation, of the emergence of the new. But it is a proof of unity, of the sameness, likeness, or determinism in all phenomena.


"'The point is to change the world, not to interpret it.' For it is not possible to interpret the world, except by changing it. Thus the impasse of philosophers is seen to be the impasse of philosophy, and a proof of the impossibility of interpreting the world by thought alone.


"A-B do not exist as eternally discrete entities. The Universe is a becoming, a development. The becoming is primary. Reality does not become in time and space, but time and space are aspects of its becoming. Becoming is change. If a thing is changed, it manifests an unlike, a hitherto non-present quality. If change is real, and by our premises it is primary, such a quality does not come into existence either by the gradual decrement of a known quality to nothing, or the gradual increment of a very faint quality to something. Before, it was not, not in any way. Now it is, in every way. There has therefore been a 'jump'. To deny this is to deny the reality of change, and to suggest that the quality was already there, but so faintly we did not 'notice it'. But nothing new would then have come into being. There would therefore have been no change, and reality is, by our definition, change.


"Although such a quality is new, it is not arbitrary, i.e. absolutely self-determined. By definition, the Universe is one. A quality that is self-determined is, as we saw, unknowable. Therefore each new quality, as it leaps into existence, is determined by all qualities up till then present in the universe. These qualities do not come into being in time. Time does not flow on while they emerge. The emergence of such qualities is what time is. Time then is an aspect of, or abstraction from, change. Time is new quality as it emerges.


"But change does not merely involve the coming into existence of qualities. If we find different qualities lying about, even though they mutually determine each other, we cannot say 'something has changed'. The qualities may be qualities of different things, and so there will have been no change. There must therefore be something in all qualities that remains the same, even though these qualities are new, otherwise we cannot say, the 'Universe has changed'. There must be something like in all unlikes. Otherwise we could say, 'these unlikes are not changed things, they are different things. We have not moved in time, but in space.' How else can we distinguish motion in time from motion in space, unless time is not something in which things change, but the change itself?


"But if the newness of quality, the unlikeness, as it emerges, is time, the oldness, the likeness, is space. Qualities do not arrange themselves homogeneously in space, space is the homogeneity in their qualities. Space is quantity or known quality as it remains unchanged; it is therefore the thing-in-itself, the material unity of the Universe. The Universe is a spatial Universe. Space therefore is an aspect of matter, which is precisely what relativity physics has established by practice. Mass-energy, or the likeness in phenomena, generates space. This is established by practice. All laws of development, of evolution, of difference, of quality, of aesthetics, of consciousness, are temporal. All laws of conservation, of metrics, of comparability, of universal and unchanging relations, are spatial.


"But time and space are only aspects of becoming or change. If we could completely abstract time or space, and divide relations into a set entirely temporal, and a set entirely spatial, we should have two absolutely self-determined spheres, contradicting our premises for each sphere would be unknowable to the other sphere. Therefore no absolute time or space, as premised in Newtonian dynamics, exists. We know both time and space and prove this by their mutual convertibility, by the change of qualities and the reproduction of quantities. Neither does an absolute spatio-temporal continuum, expressible in purely metrical terms, exist. Such a continuum would after all be purely spatial, for it would be expressible entirely in terms of quantity. It would be self-determined, and independent of all quality. It would therefore be unknowable to quality, and quality would be unknowable to it. Hence Einstein's relativity physics still contains an illegitimate absolute, which accounts for its being irreconcilable with quantum phenomena.


"We take as our premise 'becoming', the becoming of a material unity which is generated by our transformation of matter. Becoming, which involves change, which involves like and unlike, involves also development. If we had no development, we would have no 'becoming'. In development there is a relation between the qualities A, B, C, D, E, which is not only mutually determining, but such that A is in some way contained in B, B in C, C in D, and D in E, but not E in D, D in C, C in B, B in A. This relation, which is technically called 'transitive but asymmetrical', is involved in the process of becoming, just as are the existence of like and unlike. If becoming were otherwise, if qualities could not all be ranged in this unique order, we should come upon groups of qualities such, for example, that A would be contained in B, and then B in A; or in some other way there would be a 'break' or return to a quality in which all the new qualities of the interim no longer appear. But such a return is indistinguishable from the previous situation, and therefore we no longer have a process of becoming, but of unbecoming. Moreover the relation of containing and being-contained is, in development, mutually determining. If therefore the series of qualities (or events) in any way returns on itself in this fashion, the Universe splits in two 'in time'. We have two or more sets of self-determined qualities, sufficient to themselves, each unknowable and non-existent to the other.


"We now see that the determination of qualities as they appear is a relation of a special sort. It is a transitive asymmetrical relation known as 'cause and effect', in which one quality mutually determines another in a way which may be described as the containing (or sublation) of one quality in another. And all qualities (or events) may, by this means, be ranged in a unique order. Moreover since no set of qualities is self-determined, we can never have a set of distinguishable qualities such that A alone determines or is contained in B; B alone determines or is contained in C, and so on, otherwise the series A, B, C, would be self-determined and unknowable. This would only be permissible if this series were the Universe. But we do not regard the Universe as composed of one event at a time. We do not believe that, whatever cross-section we took of the mass of qualities that we call the Universe, we would reveal over all the sections one quality only. If we could do that, space would then be separable from time, and we could collect spatial and temporal qualities in self-determined sets, which is contrary to our premises and experience. This cross-section would correspond to a universal or absolute present, which is permitted to Newtonian dynamics but is rightly eliminated from relativity physics.


"Since then this series is impermissible, the qualities are always arranged as follows: A and A1 contained in B. B and B1, contained in C. A2 and A3 contained in B1. The only arrangement which will now completely satisfy all our premises is that each new quality, as it emerges, is determined by another quality (subject or antithesis) and the rest of the Universe (object or thesis). This does not apply merely to the qualities of cognition but to all events. In older formulations of causality, it would be stated that each 'event' (new quality) has a 'cause' (prior quality) and a 'ground' (the rest of the Universe). The ground is currently omitted for reasons of economy. For example, we say a bell is the cause of a sound. The air, earth, fixed stars must, however, be as they are in order for the bell to produce the sound. Any general scientific law must contain Universal constants. This is recognised by modern relativity physics (p) and quantum physics (h).


"This then leads to the dialectical law of becoming, applicable to all qualities, that is, to all events. Any new quality, as it emerges, is determined by (or 'contains') a prior quality (the cause) and the rest of the Universe of qualities. Or, more strictly -- since becoming is logically prior to time and space -- the two terms determining a quality, (a) the prior quality and (b) all other determining qualities, are to that quality cause and ground, and contain its past time and its surrounding space. All other qualities, not contained in this way, are part of its effect, and contain its future time. It is this relation which enables us to settle causality and time and space, which are never absolute, but relative to a quality. Logically we express this as follows. Every new quality (B) is the synthesis of an opposition between (A) the cause, prior quality or thesis, and its negation (not-A), or antithesis -- the rest of the Universe of qualities existent in relation to A. This dialectical movement does not take place in Time and Space, but Time and Space are abstractions from it.


"Thus time not only is an abstraction of the unlikeness in qualities, but is also and therefore the abstraction of the asymmetrical relations between them which leave time open and 'infinite', and make its process and its arrangement unique, so that we cannot conceive the past in the future, or yesterday to-morrow, or ourselves going backwards in time. To go backwards in time would be to shed those qualities which contain the past, layer after layer, till we reach the past. But all that retraced 'shed' past, now no longer being in determining relations with the past-become-present, would cease to exist, and we should not have gone backwards in time. Or to go backwards in time would be to come again on to the qualities of the past which, contained in the present, now also contain the present, so that we revolve in a self-determined circle like a needle stuck in a gramophone record, and can therefore know nothing outside that circle, either past or future. We and the 'outside' would be non-existent to each other.


"Space is not only an abstraction of the likeness in qualities, but it is also and therefore an abstraction of the symmetrical relations between them which make space closed and finite, and makes its process and its arrangement non-unique, so that we cannot conceive one part of space being different from another part, nor our being unable to retrace our steps over any distance we have traversed, just as we cannot conceive one part of time being like another part, nor of our being able to go back over any portion of time we have traversed. For if the qualities A, B, C, D, and E are asymmetrically transitive, so that A is contained in B, B in C, and C in D, and D in A, there is a common relation to all events -- in this particular series it is A, for if A is in B, and B is in C, and C is in D, and D is in E, A must be in E. A therefore, is the spatial relation or likeness in development. It is that which develops, just as the unlike elements are the qualities exhibited by it in its development.


"Every quality is an event; every event is a quality. Every quality of event is a relation between the subject A, and the object not-A -- the rest of the Universe. The simplest quality (or event) is a quantum, in which there is a relation between the electron A and the rest of the Universe not-A. Relations peculiar to A and general to the Universe must therefore both figure in the complete specification of a quantum. A quantum is the most temporal quality we can abstract, just as the interval is the most spatial. Development does not take place in time and space. Development, becoming, and change, secrete time and space. Time and space are abstractions of it. Memory exhibits the asymmetrical transitive relations we have mentioned, so does experience. They are therefore more concrete, nearer to reality and to becoming, than abstract time or space, or even the abstract spatio-temporal continuum. Learning, growth and evolution are not qualities absolutely peculiar to life; they are what we call becoming in its living aspects. Becoming includes both spatial finity and temporal infinity.


"We now see that there is a universal dialectic of reality, a mode of movement which is prior to time, space, life and all other events and qualities. This dialectic proceeds as follows. First we have a quality. But a quality is a relation between subject and object, between A, subject, and not-A, the rest of the Universe. But the rest of the Universe not-A, has as its object A, to A it is subject and to it A is the rest of the Universe. The most 'primitive' quality we take therefore has two terms and a relation, this relation is involved in 'becoming' and ensures that the process of reality is open and 'infinite' at both ends. Our most infinite regress into the past brings us therefore to a quality, to an event. We cannot imagine anything simpler, for such a simplex one-term thing would be absolutely self-determined and could not be known-by-us, since knowing is a mutually determining relation between us and the thing. Any known event is already a quality, is already a subject-object relation. It already involves within itself an antagonism which can generate the means by which it is known.


"We may take either term as primary and the other as dependent on it. Since we can take either term as primary, neither can be primary. They may be regarded as simultaneous. But they are not independent terms, for they are connected by a relation. The simplest quality therefore reveals itself as a subject-object relation. But the process of becoming involves that a new quality emerges (or event occurs) not by the increment of something already there, but abruptly, exhibiting something altogether unlike. But it also involves that this new state contains the first old quality in addition to the unlike new. This new state or quality is also analysable as a two-term relation, and must in turn be succeeded by a new quality.


"In other words, the fundamental mode of motion is a state, revealed to contain a thesis and an antithesis each of which is all that is not the other (are opposites), and yet neither are self-determined but are on the contrary, in mutually determining relation (unity of opposites). This is the thesis and antithesis. This state must give place to another, containing both the old quality (A and B) and yet an unlike element C. This is the synthesis. This quality, when it reveals its dualism, no longer reveals the dualism A and B, for this dualism parted between it (relation of subject to rest of Universe) the whole of reality. There is now newness, so therefore the same portioning of reality can no longer reveal the same dualism. The old dualism is therefore 'reconciled' in the new synthesis C, which itself however can now be analysed as a two-term relation, the foundation of another movement.


"Quantity is the comparison of qualities among themselves. For this to be possible, they must all have a common element of likeness. Yet this likeness, constantly, by the dialectic movement, gives birth to the new. Quantity becomes quality, yet remains quantity. This movement guarantees the determinism of becoming, but not its pre-determinism. The pre-determinism of becoming is a nightmare arising from mechanical materialism.


"This movement is not imposed on becoming by thought. It is the only way becoming can really become, conformably to our reason and experience; and it is in our reason because our experience is part of this becoming. This movement contains within it time and space, memory and perception, quality and quantity, all of which entities are abstractions from it. Time is the difference between synthesis and the preceding relation, space is the similarity between them. The dialectic movement of the Universe does not occur in space and time, it gives rise to them. The external world does not impose dialectic on thought, nor does thought impose it on the external world. The relation between subject and object, ego and Universe is itself dialectic. Man, when he attempts to think metaphysically, merely contradicts himself, and meanwhile continues to live and experience reality, dialectically." [Caudwell (1938b), quoted from here. Bold emphases added. Several paragraphs merged; a handful of minor typos corrected. The above continues for several more thousand words!]


Attentive readers will no doubt have noticed that even though Caudwell airily informs us that "The external world does not impose dialectic on thought, nor does thought impose it on the external world", that is precisely what he has done here. Sure enough, he also says that these ideas were "established by thought in unity with practice", not by thought alone. However, it might well be wondered what sort of practice could conceivably establish the truth of the following, for instance:


"The Universe is one, and is as a whole absolutely self-determined, but no part of it is absolutely self-determined. All that is real exists, and all that is real is determined, that is, every part of the Universe is in mutually determining A-B relations with the rest of the Universe. Everything therefore is knowable....


"Reality does not become in time and space, but time and space are aspects of its becoming....


"There must therefore be something in all qualities that remains the same, even though these qualities are new, otherwise we cannot say, the 'Universe has changed'. There must be something like in all unlikes....


"Space is quantity or known quality as it remains unchanged; it is therefore the thing-in-itself, the material unity of the Universe.... Space therefore is an aspect of matter, which is precisely what relativity physics has established by practice. Mass-energy, or the likeness in phenomena, generates space. This is established by practice. All laws of development, of evolution, of difference, of quality, of aesthetics, of consciousness, are temporal. All laws of conservation, of metrics, of comparability, of universal and unchanging relations, are spatial....


"Moreover since no set of qualities is self-determined, we can never have a set of distinguishable qualities such that A alone determines or is contained in B; B alone determines or is contained in C, and so on, otherwise the series A, B, C, would be self-determined and unknowable....


"Since then this series is impermissible, the qualities are always arranged as follows: A and A1 contained in B. B and B1, contained in C. A2 and A3 contained in B1. The only arrangement which will now completely satisfy all our premises is that each new quality, as it emerges, is determined by another quality (subject or antithesis) and the rest of the Universe (object or thesis). This does not apply merely to the qualities of cognition but to all events." [Ibid., bold emphases added.]


Caudwell is remarkably coy about which practices the above are predicated upon.


It could be objected that Caudwell combines thought and practice to obtain the above results; anyone who so thinks should e-mail me with the thoughts and/or the practices that establish the truth of, say, this:


"The Universe is one, and is as a whole absolutely self-determined, but no part of it is absolutely self-determined. All that is real exists, and all that is real is determined, that is, every part of the Universe is in mutually determining A-B relations with the rest of the Universe. Everything therefore is knowable." [Ibid.]


Finally, Caudwell clearly accepts the applicability of the Fichtean triplet -- thesis-antithesis-synthesis -- which, as we have seen, has nothing to do with Hegel's method, nor with that of Marx, Engels, Plekhanov or Lenin.


Lenny Wolff


Card-carrying Maoist, Lenny Wolff, was more than happy to impose the following dogmatic pronouncements on the facts:


"To begin with, the method forged by Marxism -- materialist dialectics -- is the most systematic concentration of the scientific method ever achieved, the most accurate and critical tool of inquiry into the world (indeed, the universe) and how it works. Marxism is materialist: it focuses on the material world for the ultimate causes and directions of every event and phenomenon in nature or society. And it is dialectical in that it comprehends all phenomena in their changingness (sic) and development and in their interaction with other phenomena, and because it studies the struggle of opposites within a thing or process as the underlying basis of its motion and change.... (p.12)


"Constant development and transformation, explosiveness and changeability, all based on the struggle of opposites, drives forward not only the sun but the entire material universe; and this fundamental law forms the basis of materialist dialectics. 'Marxist philosophy,' Mao wrote, 'holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe. This law operates universally, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in man's thinking.' ('On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,' MSR, pp.442-443)


"To grasp the contradictory properties within a phenomenon and the character of their constant struggle and mutual transformation, to understand how that struggle in turn gives rise to qualitatively new things -- that is the heart of the dialectical method....


"The struggle and interpenetration of opposites that actually give a thing or process its character generally goes on beneath the surface. Dialectics uncovers the hidden mainsprings not apparent to 'sound common sense,' which as Engels once remarked, while a 'respectable the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures' when he enters 'the wide world of research.' (Anti-Dühring, p.26)


"...[After quoting Lenin] Note that Lenin underscores 'All phenomena' in his opening sentence. Can this be true? Is everything driven forward by internal contradiction?...


"Contradiction is universal, propelling every process and thing. But universality also means that in the development of each thing, a movement of opposites goes on from beginning to end. The growth of a child, for instance, unfolds in contradictions between bursts of rapid growth and periods of relative consolidation, dependence and independence, learning the old ways and forging and trying out (their own) new ideas. Where, at any point in the process, is there not contradiction and struggle?...


"Lenin lays great stress on internal contradictions as the 'driving force' of development; but this does not mean that external causes play no role at all. Ice, when heated enough, changes into water, which is certainly a change in quality, and not just degree (as one can test by diving into a swimming pool full of ice cubes, or pouring water into a Coke). Still, this does not make external causes principal; no amount of heat can transform ice into chocolate milk, or molten Iead. The ability of ice to undergo certain qualitative changes and not others results from its internal contradictions, in this case the contradictory properties of hydrogen and oxygen in their simultaneous interdependence and struggle with each other.


"Yet that example alone doesn't sufficiently address the question of the relation between internal and external contradictions. Can it not be said, for example, that the transformation of water into steam is the result of the contradictory struggle between heat and water -- in other words, that on a different level (e.g., considering a steam engine) the contradiction between water and heat is internal and not external? And that ultimately the very concept of external cause is meaningless?


"No, it is not meaningless...but it is relative. This is bound up with the fact that there are qualitatively different levels to the structure of matter (speaking here of all matter, whether subatomic particles, human societies or galaxies). Water molecules, for example, contain atoms. These atoms, however, are not 'mini-molecules,' but qualitatively different organizations of matter with distinct contradictory characteristics, properties and structures. Their combination into a molecule is conditional -- and in the absence of certain underlying conditions, the molecule will break down. But, at the same time, the behaviour of these atoms when they are integrated into the structure of a molecule will be more determined by the contradictions of the molecule than by their own internal particularities as atoms....


"The point here is that the concrete character of the process or thing being analyzed must be kept to the forefront. There are different levels of structure to matter, and any level is both relatively autonomous and at the same time linked to and influenced by other levels. Therefore clarity on what exactly is under study, and on that basis which contradictions should be considered internal and which external, and how they relate, is critically important to dialectical analysis. Mao emphasized understanding the 'law of contradiction in things in a concrete way.' ('On Contradiction,' MSR, p.90) The actual opposites which constitute and push forward the development of a thing or process must be ascertained, their interaction and struggle studied and understood....


"To begin with, identity has both a popular and a philosophical meaning. Philosophically, the identity of opposites does not mean that the two aspects of a contradiction are the same as each other, or can't be told apart; it refers instead both to the coexistence of opposites within a single entity, and to their property under certain circumstances of transforming into each other, thereby qualitatively transforming the character of the thing or process at hand.


"To begin with the first aspect of the philosophical meaning of identity, the coexistence of opposites: while every entity or process is a contradiction composed of opposing forces, through most of their existence entities exist in a relatively stable state. To put it another way, within any entity or process there are new and rising forces struggling against the framework of the thing, striving to negate its character and bring something new into being; nevertheless, at any given time a thing is still more itself than 'not itself.'... The opposites in a contradiction coexist with one another, and this (temporary) coexistence is one aspect of what is meant by the 'identity of opposites.'


"Such coexistence, however, is not static; it's more in the character of a relatively stable framework within which the ceaseless struggle of opposites goes on. And this ongoing struggle of opposites partially alters the character of the identity itself even before it reaches a point of intensity which fundamentally ruptures the identity (or the framework).


"Let's look at a few other cases of mutual coexistence and interdependence of opposites. Life is obviously diametrically opposed to death -- but really, wouldn't the very concept of life be meaningless without death, and vice versa? Death only has meaning as a limit to life, and life itself only continues so long as organisms break down and synthesize elements from dead plants and animals (and simultaneously expel the dead cells and toxic waste from their own selves).


"Or take war; war is qualitatively different from peace -- still the two have identity as well. Peace treaties turn out to be nothing but the framework within which rival bourgeoisies compete with each other and prepare for new wars, while war itself is not conducted for its own sake, but to set the terms for new (and more favourable) peaceful arrangements. And there is identity and struggle in the contradiction between just and unjust wars, too -- as when the Russian proletariat transformed the unjust, imperialist war waged by its own bourgeoisie in World War 1 into a revolutionary civil war in Russia. Further, wars waged by oppressed classes and nations for their liberation develop as a qualitative leap out of the -- relatively -- nonmilitary struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor.


But the matter, does not end with the dependence of opposites upon each other for their existence. As Mao wrote:


'...what is more important is their transformation into each other. That is to say, in given conditions, each of the contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite, changes its position to that of its opposite. This is the second meaning of the identity of contradiction. ('On Contradiction,' MSR, p.119)'


"While the struggle between its two aspects goes on throughout the life of the contradiction, and both aspects undergo partial transformations through different stages as a result of this (as well as other contradictions influencing the process), there inevitably comes a point when the old identity can no longer comprehend the contradictory aspects in their changed character. The subordinate aspect bursts forth, overcomes the formerly principal aspect, and brings a qualitatively new and different entity into being. The shell of the egg is destroyed and replaced by ifs opposite, the chicken; the shell of capitalist society is ruptured by the proletarian revolution and a new society begins to be created.... (pp.24-31)


"The identity of opposites in the preceding examples resides not only in their coexistence, but also in their change of place in their relationship within the contradiction. In the leap from water to ice, the contradictory identity between the energy of the individual molecule (which tends to random motion) on the one hand, and the bonding force between molecules on the other, goes from a state in which the molecular energy is dominant enough to permit a degree of fluidity to one in which the molecular bonding force becomes principal, and the molecules are frozen. Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie (as noted) does not vanish immediately after the socialist revolution but continues to exist and wage struggle (speaking here specifically of the internal makeup of socialist countries) as a dominated and subordinate aspect of the contradiction (as long as the society remains on the socialist road); what has changed is the respective position of the two aspects in the contradiction. This transformation of opposites into each other changes the qualitative character of the entity as a whole and the forms assumed by its contradictory aspects - from water to ice, or capitalism to socialism. In the latter case, the period in which the bourgeoisie is dominated (first in various countries, later on a world scale) will eventually result in its full disappearance -- at which point the proletariat itself will also go out of existence (after all, how could there be a proletariat without its opposite?) and another new entity, communist society, with its own contradictions and struggle, will arise....


"Identity, to sum up, is contradictory: opposites both coexist and transform themselves into one another. Their coexistence is itself a process of mutual transformation, and their transformation into each other is generally not absolute but goes on in wave-Iike, or spiral-like, development (more on this later)....


"Further, in the relationship between the opposite aspects of a contradiction, identity and struggle do not exist on a par. Struggle is principal over identity. Identity, or relative order, is a temporary condition, but struggle never ceases; it permeates a process from beginning to end and leads to the transformation of opposites and the eventual annihilation of the process (and its replacement by something new). In fact, when struggle ceases, identity goes out of existence as well, since the process itself has come to an end....


"The stars, the planets, different organisms -- all are forms of matter in motion in which the constituent opposites coexist for a time in one form, only to eventually be severed through struggle and dissolve (and become in different forms the elements of new entities). Each individual person, for example, is nothing but a particular and conditional combination of matter...matter which existed in different forms previously and will exist in other forms in the future....


"Again, Lenin's warning to take the identical opposites in a thing or process 'not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another' ('Conspectus of Hegel's Book The Science of Logic,' LCW, Vol.38, 109) rings home; and his characterization of socialism (in another work) as a combination of dying capitalism and nascent communism is an important application of just this principle of the identity and struggle of opposites.... (pp.32-35)


"At the same time, contradictions do not necessarily develop in a predetermined path; different processes and things interpenetrate and influence one another, and relatively external contradictions (in one context) can alter a process' direction of development and even eliminate it altogether.... (p.47)


"Change does not proceed by simple addition, nor simply from within a given process. While internal causes are principal over external, contradictions cannot be viewed simply as 'things unto themselves.'... (p.59)


"But back to the central point -- the opposition of materialism to idealism. The basic split between idealism and materialism concerns the nature of the contradiction between matter and consciousness. Matter has existed eternally, in an infinite and everchanging variety of forms; but through it all it exists, whether as mass or energy, a block of steel or an exploding supernova. As life on earth developed, matter began to give rise to its opposite, consciousness. The rudiments of this are found in the earliest, most primitive organisms and their ability to respond to environmental stimuli. This reaches a qualitatively higher state in the more intelligent animals, who can draw conclusions about their immediate environment and make decisions, and it takes another leap with human consciousness. Humans have the capacity to analyze their experience, dream up different ways the future might be, and work to make reality conform to their ideas and dreams, constantly comparing one to the other. Still, developed as it is, consciousness is nevertheless based on material reality and the product and property of a highly organized form of matter, the brain. This much is basic to all materialism." (p.61) [Wolff (1983), pp.12-61. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered, and in some cases added, in order to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


As we have come to expect, Wolff's 'evidence' is, at best, watery thin (as we will find out in Essay Seven Part One), but that didn't prevent him from imposing his ideas on the world -- on the sole authority of Hegel, Engels, Lenin and Mao.


Erwin Marquit


Here is an academic Marxist, Erwin Marquit, dogmatising with best of them:


"All things are connected to other things in an infinity of interconnections. The law of universal interconnection is the basis for the dialectical-materialist concept of the unity of the world and the knowability of the world. Any exception from universal interconnection would mean that there is some segment of objective reality not connected to anything else, and therefore there are no phenomena associated with it. Such a thing would be even more ethereal than the Kantian unknowable thing-in-itself. The law of universal interconnection is, at the same time, a dialectical assertion of the relative independence of things and processes, for the very concept of interconnection of things and phenomena suggests also their relative separateness. This allows us to temporarily sever the bonds of interconnection for a detailed analysis of a subsegment of the world. Such an investigation must indicate the consequences of the severance of these bonds, as well as the consequences of their restoration. Herein also lies one source of the approximate character of our knowledge at any moment....


"Quantitative changes that precede qualitative changes appear to be the simplest generalized process. However, there is an ever-present dialectical interconnection between quantitative and qualitative changes. Every quantitative change springs from a qualitative change, while the significance of quantitative changes is that they lead to qualitative changes. The quantitative rise in temperature of water in a vessel is the result of the addition of thermal energy produced through the transformation of matter from one form to another (e.g., by chemical combustion). Changes in the temperature of the water lead to some qualitative physical effect (triggering of a thermostat control, boiling, etc.)....


"The second law [the unity and struggle of opposites - RL] reveals the role of contradictions as the driving force in any process. In their dialectical interconnection as a unity and struggle of opposites, contradictions represent opposing aspects and tendencies that mutually affirm and deny each other. The unity and interpenetration of opposites, while constituting the driving force behind change, also provide the basis for the relative stability of any material system. Consequently, analysis of any process requires investigation of a number of levels of the unity and struggle of opposites....


"Law 3 [the negation of the negation - RL] asserts the universality of development and shows how this development proceeds. If, as the result of quantitative changes, the dominance of one polar opposite is replaced by the dominance of the other, the change is clearly characterized as a negation. The shift to the dominance of a new subsystem or tendency in a system is always a qualitative change, which can lead to relatively rapid or avalanche-type processes in which other contradictions are resolved and new contradictions appear....


"In this way, we see that law a statement of a never-ending succession of law-governed changes through the process of dialectical negation. The law of the negation of the negation embodies both laws 1 and 2, while, at the same time, law 1 [universal interconnection -- RL] is a particular expression of law 3. Since process, or motion, constitutes an inseparable unity in which the old and the new are moments connected with each other by dialectical negation, law 3, in turn, is an expression of law 2. We thus see that law 2 plays the central role in materialist dialectics. It points to the importance of contradiction as the source of motion (where we use the term motion as a philosophical category for any change or process). Since, according to the dialectical view, motion is the product of the unity and struggle of opposites, motion is self-motion. Vyakkerev calls contradiction the 'essence of self-motion' and suggests that 'self-motion is an existing contradiction or the mode of existence of contradiction.'...


"No material object or system of objects, however, is absolutely unchanging. To describe objects (we include a system of objects within this concept) which, in reality, are always undergoing some change, we usually make use of two kinds of reductions to form an approximate picture of objects while they are changing." [Marquit (1981), pp.309-17, and Marquit (1982), pp.70-77. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Of course, Marquit produced no evidence in support of the hyper-bold things he had to say about the universal applicability of 'the laws' of DM, but then that is just par for the course in Dialectical Marxism.


Potpourri -- A Mixed Bag


David DeGrood, Ifor Torbe, And Abdul Malek


Here is arch DM-dogmatist, David DeGrood:


"With Hegel dialectics began to become self-conscious...; with Lenin dialectics becomes not only self-conscious but a dialectics of realization in practice. The seed was present in Heraclitus..., and the oak in Lenin. Philosophy was changing the world.


"The unity (struggle, identity, interpenetration) of opposites reflects the dynamics of reality, both natural and historical, and it is vital to see its operation in today's frontiers of science and social practice...." [DeGrood (1978), p.45. Italic emphasis in the original, bold emphasis added.]


Notice that, on the basis of little or no evidence (but see Essay Seven Part One on this), DeGrood is happy to impose this theory, not just on the universe as we now know it, but on "reality" itself.


[We will also see (here and here) that not only did Lenin and the Bolsheviks not use dialectics in 1917, they couldn't have used it even if they had wanted to!]


Here, too, is Ifor Torbe (formerly Lecturer in Structural Analysis at the University of Southampton, and veteran communist), first of all disarming the unsuspecting reader in the usual manner, quoting Engels approvingly:


"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. I have used to on-line version here. Quoted in Torbe (1997), p.11.]


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


"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment." [Engels (1954), pp.62, 47. Bold emphasis alone added. Again, I have used to on-line version here; partially quoted in Torbe (1997), p.11.]


However, Torbe then proceeds to assert things like the following:


"It is a matter of observation that all things change, that everything is in ceaseless motion, and that every change, and in every motion, the laws of dialectics can be seen to be operative (p.16)...."


"The position is clearer for the law of the transformation of quantity into quality.... In the physical domain of the processes of Nature it is impossible to find a situation in which a quantifiable parameter can increase indefinitely without a qualitative change occurring at some, usually precisely defined, value of that parameter (p.18)...."


His evidence? This:


"Water when it is heated, boils and turns into steam.... Metals fracture, each when it reaches its specific level of mechanical stress, and so on through a whole range of phenomena. Everything has its specific critical limiting value...". [Ibid., p.19.]


[And Torbe actually taught science! Perhaps he forgot about "quantifiable parameters" like weight, speed, distance, time and temperature. All of these can increase indefinitely without changing into something new. A temperature of one million degrees K is still a temperature; a distance of one billion light years is still a distance; one trillion tonnes is still a weight; one hundred billion years is still a measure of time.] 


With Mickey Mouse 'proof' like this one wonders why Darwin, for instance, bothered to collect hundreds of pages of evidence in support of his theory, and why scientists have been amassing container loads more ever since. Don't they know that all that was required here were a few trite, anecdotal examples?


To be sure, Torbe does add the following comment:


"Far too often [the laws of dialectics] are given an a priori status, elevated into a sort of Holy Trinity of incomprehensibles for the uninitiated." [Ibid., p.17.]


But, as we can see from the passages quoted above, this is precisely what Torbe does!


And, he keeps doing it, too:


"Appreciation of the oneness of physical reality is helped also by the dialectic of the unity of opposites...." [Ibid., p.21. Bold emphasis alone added.]


The sub-title of Torbe's book is a dead give-away, too: The Dialectics Of Reality. Notice, it isn't The Dialectics Of Nature As We Know It Today, but The Dialectics Of Reality. But, when will humanity ever experience, or even know, 'Reality' as such -- as opposed, perhaps, to parts, regions, segments or slices of it, at best?


Here, too, is retired physicist, Abdul Malek, with whom I have debated this 'theory' over at the Guardian discussion page; Malek posts under the pseudonym 'FutureHuman' (I refer to him there as 'Future'). I say "debated", but Malek soon gave up trying to discuss this 'theory', and simply retreated into a dogmatic dialectical sulk. Among his (highly repetitive) a priori theses (which, true-to-form, he supports with little or no evidence, and even less argument!) are the following:


"Opposites reside together in the very element of a thing or a process in simultaneous unity and opposition to each other and a resolution of this logical contradiction and conflict provided the dynamics for change, motion, evolution, development, etc.... (p.5)


"One of the most important characteristics of dialectics is that it denies any permanence or absoluteness in any thing or process, everything is in a flux of coming into being and passing out of existence so that change...remains the only absolute.... [C]ontradiction (unity of opposites) in the unit of a thing or a process is the most fundamental attribute of all existence...and change or motion is the manifestation of that inherent contradiction.... (p.7) [The only exception to this 'absolute' appears to be this 'theory' itself -- RL.]


"The universe is the dialectical manifestation a) of eternal self-propelled motion, b) of its infinite series of leaps, change, transformations...; c) the perpetual process of its objects coming into being and passing out of existence mediated by blind chance and iron necessity that is inherent in chance. This motion is reflected in three...general laws i.e., i) inter-transformation of quality and quantity; ii) interpenetration of the opposites; and iii) the law of the negation of the negation that follow the dynamical and helical triads of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. Matter itself appears and disappears in the void of the infinite universe, in some elementary forms as dialectical and quantum mechanical necessities and in accordance with the first dialectical triad being-nothing-becoming.... (p.12) [We have already seen that the triad -- 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' -- is a Fichtean, not an Hegelian, concept -- RL.]


"For dialectics (and quantum mechanics) on the contrary, matter and motion are the fundamental elements and the primary conditions of all physical reality; motion is the mode of existence of matter. Matter without motion is as inconceivable as motion without matter.... (p.30)


"For dialectical materialism...reality is always in flux, motion, change, development and it is unstable and inherently uncertain at quantum scale, such that an exact, fixed, definitive and quantifiable understanding or an exhaustive description of this reality forever is impossible. But this also is at the root of the basic dialectical contradiction and the unity of the opposites between ontology and epistemology, and resolves this contradiction in the endless progressive evolution of consciousness/mind. This process can never stop or come to an end, terminating to some absolute truth.... (p.15) [Except this absolute truth, of course -- RL.]


"Further, gravity cannot only be an attractive force, but according to the dialectical law of the unity of the opposites, must also possess a repulsive nature.... (p.56)


"In the case of biological processes and the micro-world of quantum mechanics causal relations break down completely and can only be understood from the point of view of dialectics which posits that the opposites reside together in dynamic unity and contradiction, quality and quantity inter-converts into each other and motion & (sic) development occurs through the negation of the negation.... (p.63)


"As dialectics rightly asserts, every truth [except this one -- RL] has its limits; when extended beyond this limit it turns into its opposite or to an absurdity." (p.71) [Malek (2012), pp.5-71. Bold emphases alone added.]


In fact, Malek's book contains little other than page after page of dogmatic assertions like the above.


[Incidentally, I am not 'outing' ("doxing") Malek, here. He openly admits his real identity over at The Guardian, which is where I found out about his book.]


Terry Sullivan And Camilla Royle


 Sullivan and Royle are UK-SWP DM-fans. In relation to the UK-SWP, I pointed out the following in Essay Nine Part Two:


In view of the recent crisis that swept over the SWP, and its subsequent haemorrhaging of members, one should expect Dialectical Mysticism to make a strong comeback in UK-SWP publications. And that is exactly what we find in the shape of John Molyneux's latest book -- The Point Is To Change It, An Introduction To Marxist Philosophy -- alongside (i) An article in a recent edition of Socialist Worker, and (ii) Two longer articles in International Socialism -- Royle (2014), and Sullivan (2015). Molyneux's book also received a favourable -- and predictably uncritical -- boilerplate response in Socialist Review.


I examined Molyneux's attempt to impose DM on nature earlier in this Essay; the question is: Do the above two SWP theorists attempt to do the same?


One would have concluded they wouldn't do it, given these closing remarks:


"Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of my account is the contention that dialectical biology and dialectics more generally should in part be understood as a heuristic device -- a device that allows us to understand the world, not as a guarantee of knowledge but rather as a useful guide to understanding." [Sullivan (2015), p.193. Bold emphasis added.]


Sullivan also refers his readers to a passage in Anti-Dühring (which we have met several times):


"As Engels writes in Anti-Dühring: 'to me there could be no question of building laws of dialectics into nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it'." [Ibid., p.183. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


And yet, in the very same paragraph (in fact, in the sentence that preceded the above words), he also had this to say:


"[T]he dialectic is both a method for coming to understand the world, that is, an epistemological concept, and, for Marx as well as Engels, the dialectic is a claim about the nature of the world itself, that is, an ontological claim." [Ibid., p.183. Bold emphasis alone added.]


According to Sullivan (who nowhere contradicts what he thinks Marx and Engels believed), DM is an "ontological claim" about "the nature of the world itself", not a theory about what we currently know about nature (which is but a tiny fraction of what we will know in, say, two or three centuries time). And yet, Sullivan is quite happy to impose this theory on the world, and he has the cheek to do this in the same breath as saying this is something he won't do!


If only there were some sort of pattern here...


Incidentally, Sullivan nowhere quotes Marx to the effect that "the dialectic is a claim about the nature of the world itself, that is, an ontological claim", and no wonder, Sullivan just made it up!


Not content with the above, he continues a few pages later:


"First, I have been arguing that dialectics holds that the world must be understood as a constantly changing whole driven by internal contradictions. And it is within this broader concept that the three laws should be understood. To be clear it would be a mistake to examine the worth or otherwise of the three laws separately from the notions of totality, change and contradiction." [Ibid., p.186. Bold emphasis added. Sullivan repeats this almost verbatim on the following page.]


But where has this "must" suddenly come from? If, according to Engels (with whom Sullivan at least seems to agree, even if only for a few seconds!) "there could be no question of building laws of dialectics into nature", there should be no "must" about it. On the other hand, if there is to be a "must", then we need to adjust Engels's words accordingly, perhaps to: "For me there could be no question of not building laws of dialectics into nature". That would at least have the merit of being both more accurate and more honest.


Further 'foistings' by Sullivan include the following:


"In addition to regarding existing phenomena as stages in a continuing process it is no less important to consider every part as a component of a whole." [Ibid., p.181.]


"[T]he world must be viewed as whole. The second is that this whole is undergoing a constant process of change. The third is that change is the result of opposition between the poles of contradiction." [Ibid., p.184.]


[I]f we are to understand the world around us, for example, capitalism, we must begin with the totality of social relations -- economic, political, ideological and cultural -- recognising that this totality is undergoing constant change. Further, this process of 'total change' is a result of opposition between the poles of a contradiction." [Ibid., p.184.]


"[T]he world must be viewed as a whole that is undergoing a constant process of change as a result of opposition between the poles of contradiction." [Ibid., p.186.]


"[W]e should see the three laws as examples of patterns of dialectical change that may take place in wholes (or totalities) undergoing change as a result of internal contradictions." [Ibid., p.190.]


"[T]he world must be viewed as a whole that is undergoing a constant process of change where this change is the result of opposition between the poles of a contradiction." [Ibid., p.193. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


[What was that again about DM being highly repetitive?]


To be sure, in many of the above, Sullivan is summarising what he believes are the opinions of Marx and Engels, but it is equally clear that he also agrees with what he thinks they have to say.


Here are also several examples of Dialectical Dogmatism in Royle's article, but first the usual, almost knee-jerk nod in the direction of reasonableness:


"But taking a dogmatic approach to dialectics was the last thing Engels intended.... This position is also suggested by Engels's own comments on science, again in Ludwig Feuerbach. Here he discusses the potential useful contribution of Hegel's philosophy, from which he derived the three laws, and rejects some conservative interpretations of Hegel. Engels states: 'The whole dogmatic content of the Hegelian system is declared to be absolute truth, in contradiction to his dialectical method, which dissolves all dogmatism. Thus his revolutionary side becomes smothered beneath the overgrowth of the conservative side.'


"Here it seems he is saying that Hegel's laws should themselves be left open to being evaluated and reinterpreted. They are not a fixed set of rules. However, this is not to say that he intended dialectics to be purely a method. It also seems clear that, at least as far as Engels was concerned, ways of thinking about the world cannot be separated from the real nature of the world we are intending to study." [Royle (2014), pp.106-07. Bold emphases added.]


This is even though, as we have seen, Engels was happy to impose his theory dogmatically on the facts -- and, as we have also seen is the case with others who feign modesty, Royle is quite capable of dogmatising with the best:


"For many theorists the most important aspects of dialectics are change and contradiction. It allows us to grasp the nature of a world that is constantly changing, an element that John Molyneux highlights and deals with in his recent guide to Marxist philosophy. Dialectics can be called a critical philosophy because it calls into question the idea that our world has always remained the same and will carry on unchanged into the future. But it also argues that change is not always gradual -- that things can progress by leaps.... Most theories take it for granted at the outset that we can start by looking at the world as if it is static and then try to explain any changes that we see. For dialectical thinkers the reverse is true. Change is the default state of the universe; it is stasis that is unusual and requires explanation." [Ibid., pp.99-100.]


"[Paraphrasing David Harvey, with whom she agrees on this:] He is effectively saying that there is no such thing as a 'thing'. What we think of as solid objects are actually made up of processes. Different processes can come together temporarily to produce things but these are always transitory. Things are always in the process of being created or destroyed -- all that is solid melts into air. In this approach a thing could be an idea or concept or something concretely existing like a city. Engels also argued something similar in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy: 'The world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things…go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away'.


"For Marx, and for many of his followers, dialectics is about contradiction as well as change. The two are related, internal contradictions drive change forward and lead to the dynamism that we observe. Everything under capitalism seems, and is, contradictory. However, Harvey argues that thinking in terms of contradictions is compatible with his own approach. If things are made up of shifting complexes of processes it stands to reason that some of those processes will be in opposition to each other." [Ibid., pp.100-01.]


"The whole of the universe is both complex and constantly changing. Everything is related to everything else...." [Ibid., pp.111-12.]


"It seems like Engels was trying to understand something fundamental about the way the world works. He saw dialectics as describing real material processes. When he says quantitative change leads to qualitative change it doesn't just mean that it is useful as a method to treat the world as if this happens or to think about the world in this way. He means that it really does act in this way." [Ibid., p.113.]


"The dialectics of Marx and Engels is a materialist philosophy. It treats the world as if it is changing because it does change, and as contradictory because it is contradictory. The 'natural' world really is changing." [Ibid., p.116. In all of the above bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Peter Mason And John Pickard


Peter Mason is certainly one of the most reasonable DM-fans whose work I have so far had the displeasure to read, but, like all too many others, he is nevertheless quite happy to ignore his own modest disclaimers and impose DM on nature and society as a "fixed formula". Here, for example (in the following, quotes from Mason (2012), bold emphases and links have been added; italic emphases in the original):


"A fundamental law of dialectics: truth is concrete." [Mason (2012), p.16. Cf., p.3 of the print edition, but not the on-line version!]


"In other words, this ancient school of philosophers [the so-called Ionians -- RL] believed that the opposites of coming into being and passing away were two integral aspects of everything capable of change: for instance, a person is born and dies, and this mortality is a part of their being. This was the origin of the unity and interpenetration of opposites, which Engels summarised so clearly -- and which Lenin, following Hegel, considered the central element of dialectics. These opposites, which dialectics says is found in everything which changes, attempt to negate the other, until one finally triumphs and there is a qualitative change – Louis XVI is guillotined, water boils, atoms decay, the living die. There is a passing away and, perhaps, another coming into being. This was called the dialectic of becoming. [Ibid., p.30.]


"In any case, from a dialectical point of view, everything that changes has within it an interpenetration of opposites, as Engels puts it in Dialectics of Nature." [Ibid., p.104.]


"Science has demonstrated the dialectics of the universe. Some ten to twenty billion years ago, so far as is most broadly accepted by science today, there was a sudden catastrophic dialectical transformation, and the universe we know came into existence -- from what cause we do not know. Time and space are bound up with matter and energy, and are not exempt from the dialectics of nature. Time has not been ticking eternally, exempt from the transformations of quantity into quality first discovered by the ancient philosophers of Ionia, and which in modern times helped form the Marxist understanding of processes here on earth." [Ibid., p.109.]


Of course, science has shown no such thing. Mason has simply imposed DM on whatever it is that scientists have so far found. Moreover, the "ancient philosophers of Ionia" 'discovered' this theory long before there was much scientific evidence of any description, meaning that they, too, imposed these ideas on nature. [Moreover, as we will see in Essay Seven Part One, the evidence that has so far been collected doesn't support DM anyway.]


Mason continues:


"Dialectics is a holistic philosophy, which always considers things in their relations and their development, as Lenin said....


"[The development of Ionian philosophy] emerged from internal conflict, a war of opposing forces within all things, a 'unity of opposites' as Lenin called it, an 'interpenetration of opposites' as Engels termed it. These warring opposites were what drove the eternal flux of change. Dialectics is a philosophy born of revolution....


"There are various definitions of 'materialism' in philosophy. Marxists have a unique definition. For Marxists, in this context, materialism can be described as the philosophy that the world exists independently of the human mind. Ultimately, the material world is primary, and thought is secondary...". [Ibid., pp.114, 116.]


Mason seems quite happy to foist the above on nature and society, despite what he elsewhere says he never does, or should ever do.


Incidentally, although Mason traces the 'unity of opposites' back to these Ionian Philosophers and their supposed revolution, this idea was in fact derived from mystical Greek religion (as I hope to show in Essay Twelve Part Two), summarised in the following passage:


In earlier myths and Theogonies, conflict in this world was viewed as a reflection of the rivalries that existed between warring 'gods', struggles that took place in a hidden world beyond the reach of the senses. Their verbal wrangles and machinations became the model upon which later Idealist and Hermetic thinkers based their Super-Scientific Theories that attempted to explain 'Being' -- which they then happily imposed on nature and society.


Language, which was originally the product of collective labour and developed as a means of communication, is ill-suited if pressed into service as a means of representation (especially when it is interpreted as a way of representing the thoughts of 'God'). In order to transform the vernacular into a representational device, theorists found they had to take words that had grown out of, and which expressed, relations between human beings, and apply them to the relations between objects in nature --, or, indeed, between those warring 'deities' --, as the late Professor Havelock noted:


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


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


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


Unfortunately, these ordinary expressions carried with them the connotations they possessed in their everyday use in connection with those inter-human relations. These moves had a inevitable result: when imposed on nature they transformed the traditional view of the world so that it became the projection of human social relations, thus anthropomorphising nature. Again, as Marx pointed out:


"Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. Bold emphasis and link added.]


As we will see in other Essays published at this site: because they appropriated and then elaborated upon these anthropomorphic concepts, later generations of thinkers (including Marxist dialecticians and the vast majority of post-Renaissance Philosophers) anthropomorphised nature in like manner. In this way, much of subsequent thought failed to break free from this animistic view of reality....


Superstitious individuals had earlier tried to interpret natural processes as the work of various assorted 'spirits' or 'deities', using anthropomorphic language to that end. Subsequently, in more developed class societies, priests and theologians indulged in this thought-form for ideological reasons, in order to suggest that the natural and social order are 'divinely-ordained', the legitimacy of which not only couldn't, it shouldn't be questioned, let alone resisted. Subsequently, as we can see from the record, Ancient Greek Thinkers began looking for increasingly secular ways of theorising about the world in order to construct a less animistic rationale for the new forms of class society beginning to emerge in the 6th century BC. However, they also retained this transformed language, not noticing they had in fact banished the aforementioned 'spirits' and 'gods' in name alone (as Feuerbach half recognised), but the anthropomorphic connotations still lingered on, and there they remain to this day.


Unfortunately for humanity, these developments also meant that it became 'natural' for theorists (like Anaximenes and Heraclitus) to see conflict in conceptual, logical and linguistic terms. And this is from where Hegel appropriated these archaic and terminally obscure ideas.


That, of course, set this new form of discourse in direct opposition to the language of everyday life. Again, as noted above, this alienated thought-form was bequeathed to all subsequent generations of thinkers, since the latter largely shared the same privileged material conditions, ruling-class patronage, as well as the ideological predispositions that came with this slice of the intellectual territory.


In this artificial 'intellectual' world, populated by indolent thinkers like these, words appeared to exert their own irresistible authority; commands, edicts and orders seemed to possess their own secret, magical power (which, of course, accounts for the ancient and early modern search for the original language that 'God' gave to mankind; on this, see Eco (1997), partially quoted here).


Words were, after all, capable of moving slaves, servants, and workers effortlessly about the place. Codified into law, words also appeared to possess genuine coercive power, which helped mask the class domination on which this parasitic social form was predicated. Naturally, this entirely superficial aspect of official language would blind those who benefited from these social forms to its material roots in class society.


The very real social power that words seemed to possess would 'naturally' suggest to such theoretical 'drones' that if language underpinned the authority of the State, and if the State mirrored Cosmic Reality, then the universe must run along discursive lines.


[In Appendix One, the reader will find dozens of examples of mystical and Idealist systems of thought that saw (and still see) the world in this way -- powered by the 'conflict of opposites' and by 'contradictions'.]


Which is ironic in view of this comment of Mason's:


"As Trotsky writes, 'if any idealist philosopher, instead of arriving in time to catch the nine p.m. train, should turn up two minutes late, he would see the tail of the departing train and would be convinced by his own eyes that time and space are inseparable from material reality.'


"But this becomes merely an anthropomorphic view if, as we shall shortly see, time and space do not exist in some real sense at the atomic level. Why define reality only by what we humans commonly experience?" [Mason (2012), p.128.]


And yet, this is what Mason himself does when he projects a theory he admits was derived from a 'revolution' in nature as a universally valid cosmic 'law' -- the 'unity of opposites':


"[The development of Ionian philosophy] emerged from internal conflict, a war of opposing forces within all things, a 'unity of opposites' as Lenin called it, an 'interpenetration of opposites' as Engels termed it. These warring opposites were what drove the eternal flux of change. Dialectics is a philosophy born of revolution." [Ibid., p.114.]


Earlier in Mason's book we find this additional imposition on the facts of a "fixed formula":


"For two-and-a-half millennia, many philosophers have supported the view that infinity is an imaginary concept which has no actual existence. Hegel arrived at a dialectical proposition which can be expressed like this: you can always imagine an unending series of galaxies following one after another, but in concrete reality, at a certain point, quantity turns into quality and a new phenomenon emerges. Whatever existed before is negated. From this point of view there may be many galaxies undiscovered, or many universes beyond our own -- it is speculation -- but, at some point, some other property will arise that ends the tedious repetition, whether of galaxies or universes, the conception of which is beyond our current scientific horizons". [Ibid., pp.6-7. Bold emphasis added.]


Mason nowhere criticises Hegel for this clear example of a priori dogmatism; indeed, and quite the opposite, he uses this presumed fact to berate W&G (who do believe in the existence of the infinite). One might well wonder, in passing, how the above 'fact' actually coheres with what Engels had to say about this 'Law' (the "fixed formula", 'transformation of quantity into quality'):


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


But, precisely what matter or energy has been added, and by whom, to the universe (or, to a collection of universes) that is capable of bringing about the above 'transformation of quantity into quality')? Does Mason really believe that matter or energy (which wasn't there before) is added to the universe (or collection of universes) each time we discover a new galaxy? But, if there is no matter or energy that has been added, then what precisely is the 'quantity' that passes over into 'quality', here? And from where does it originate?


Moreover, one presumes that the change in 'quality' here is the change from an infinite universe to a finite universe (although Mason is far from clear about this). But, is he also suggesting that as galaxies are 'added' (or, perhaps, discovered), at some point, the universe suddenly becomes finite? If he does mean this, then what was the universe before these galaxies were discovered? Was it infinite? If it wasn't, then precisely what 'quality' has changed?


None of this seems to make sense, even in DM-terms!


While Mason rightly lambastes W&G for their many errors (of fact and theory), he might be well-advised to turn an equally critical eye on his own work, for he seems not to 'understand' dialectics!


Either that, or Engels didn't and Mason was unwise to listen to him!  


Mason even had the audacity to argue as follows:


"But to quote Engels 'The mistake lies in the fact that these laws [of dialectics -- Mason's interpolation, RL] are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them.' (Dialectics of Nature) We begin with nature and history as discovered over millennia by concrete, detailed and sometimes painstaking analysis, rather than beginning with philosophy." [Ibid., p.v. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]   


In spite of this apparent (but plainly superficial) modesty, a few paragraphs earlier we are being told the following:


"...[A] more flexible 'dialectical' outlook is required, a core view of which is that in the real world any particular thing, whether it is an atom or a particular scientific outlook, contains within it contradictory elements or opposites. The ancient Greeks argued that anything which lacked such internal contradictions could never change, and would exist for all eternity. They recognised the impermanence of all things outside the 'Heavens', the starry firmament where the gods were thought to reside." [Ibid., p.iv. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Dialecticians like Mason plainly do not "begin with nature and history as discovered over millennia by concrete, detailed and sometimes painstaking analysis", as even Mason admits; they begin with the speculative fancies of Ancient Greek Philosophers -- which speculations they in turn were happy to impose on nature. Hence, in direct (and ironic) contradiction to what Mason tells us: "rather than beginning with philosophy", that is precisely where he and other DM-fans begin.


To cap it all, Mason has the cheek to criticise W&G for imposing DM on nature!


"Reason in Revolt reaches the pinnacle of its ridicule of modern science in its condemnation of the modern science of black holes and the Big Bang theory. Yet there is no direct mention of this in the 2007 preface. Instead, Woods comments on the correct method by which to apply dialectical materialism. Woods quotes Engels, who criticises the idealism of Hegel. Engels says:


'The mistake lies in the fact that [the laws of dialectics] are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them. (Dialectics of Nature, Chapter 2)' [Quoted in Woods and Grant (2007), pp.12-13 -- RL.]


"In our critique we ask: Does not Woods make the same type of mistake? Does not Woods attempt to foist on cosmology what he believes are the laws of dialectical materialism? Reviewing, with complete incomprehension, the modern science of the Big Bang in relation to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Woods cries, 'Here the study of philosophy becomes indispensable.' (Reason in Revolt, p.216)" [Ibid., p.8. Formatting and quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Here is another Trotskyist, John Pickard, who, almost in the same breath, manages to condemn dogmatism and assert a couple of dogmas of his own:


"In point of fact Marxism is the opposite of a dogma. It is precisely a method for coming to grips with the processes of change that are taking place around us.


"Nothing is fixed and nothing remains unchanged. It is the formalists who see society as a still photograph, who can get overawed by the situations they are faced with because they don't see how and why things will change. It is this kind of approach that can easily lead to a dogmatic acceptance of things as they are or as they have been, without understanding the inevitability of change." [Quoted from here. Accessed 14/06/2016. Bold emphases added.]


While Pickard is happy to chide the "formalists" for their alleged dogmatism, in the next paragraph throw in the assumed fact that "nothing is fixed and nothing remains unchanged" -- having just told us that "Marxism is the opposite of a dogma"!


Perhaps this is Pickard's own ironic attempt to manufacture a rhetorical 'unity of opposites'?


If this site had one, that would be enough to make Pickard its poster-boy.


Pickard's summary of DM is no less dogmatic, and resembles much that we have already seen (I have omitted the clichéd and egregious things Pickard has to say about FL -- they can be found here):


"Dialectics is quite simply the logic of motion, or the logic of common sense to activists in the movement. We all know that things don't stand still, they change. But there is another form of logic which stands in contradiction to dialectics, which we call 'formal logic', which again is deeply embodied in capitalist society....


"So we need to have a form of understanding, a form of logic, that takes into account the fact that things, and life, and society, are in a state of constant motion and change. And that form of logic, of course, is dialectics.


"But on the other hand it would be wrong to think that dialectics ascribes to the universe a process of even and gradual change. The laws of dialectics -- and here is a word of warning: these concepts sound more intimidating than they really are -- the laws of dialectics describe the manner in which the processes of change in reality take place....


"Let us take, to begin with, 'the law of the transformation of quantity into quality'. This law states that the processes of change - motion in the universe - are not gradual, they are not even. Periods of relatively gradual or slight change are interspersed with periods of enormously rapid change - change which cannot be measured in terms of quantity but only in terms of quality....


"A second law of dialectics is 'the law of the negation of the negation', and again it sounds more complicated than it really is. 'Negation' in this sense simply means the passing away of one thing, the death of one thing as it becomes transformed into another.


"For example, the development of class society in the early history of humanity represented the negation of the previous classless society. And in future, with the development of communism, we will see another classless society, that would mean the negation of all present class society.


"So the law of the negation of the negation simply states that as one system comes into existence, it forces another system to pass away. But that doesn't mean that the second system is permanent or unchangeable. That second system itself becomes negated as a result of the further developments and processes of change in society. As class society has been the negation of classless society, so communist society will be the negation of class society -- the negation of the negation.


"Another concept of dialectics is the law of the 'interpenetration of opposite' (sic). This law quite simply states that processes of change take place because of contradictions -- because of the conflicts between the different elements that are embodied in all natural and social processes...." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


In an introduction to a series of articles about DM (published, 22/12/2017), most of which have been quoted here or elsewhere at this site -- Dialectical Materialism and Science --, Pickard (I am guessing it was written by Pickard!) repeats some of the above, beginning with the usual disclaimer, "What, us, guvner? We ain't no dogmatists!!":


"The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.


"The basic tenets of Dialectical Materialism are: that everything that exists is material and is derived from matter; that matter is in a process and constant change; and that all matter is interconnected and interdependent." [Quoted form here; accessed 28/03/2018. Bold emphases added.]


We have met this schizoid approach to the 'fight against dogmatism' several times already, but Pickard is at least honest where these ideas originated, in "the best traditions of philosophical thought", so it is no wonder they were dogmatic.


Assorted Stalinists And Maoists


[This section is still under construction.]


As if to prove they can be just as dogmatic as anyone else in this ideologically compromised market of ideas, here is an assortment of (highly) repetitive Stalinist authors who have written about DM. Much of what the following theorists have to say is, in many places, almost (word-for-word) identical. Readers will also no doubt notice how alike the above Trotskyists and the following Stalinists are. I take this theme up again in Essay Nine Part Two.




The following material come from what was perhaps the official Soviet DM-textbook in the 1930s:


"Everything flows, everything changes; there is nothing absolutely stagnant, nothing unchangeable in the processes of actuality. This was the conclusion, the guiding principle of knowledge (already formulated by the ancient Greek thinkers) at which bourgeois science of the first half of the nineteenth century arrived, influenced as it was by the stormy social transformations of the epoch of classical bourgeois revolutions. Such a scientific conclusion was possible only after many centuries of social practice and through the accumulation of a mass of data concerning the mutability of natural phenomena. However, one ought not to think that all those who acknowledge the mutability of phenomena understand it in an objective fashion as governed by law, as an evolutionary development....


"The exponents of the second conception [i.e., DM -- RL] proceed from the standpoint that everything develops by means of a struggle of opposites, by a division, a dichotomy, of every unity into mutually exclusive opposites. Thus capitalism develops in virtue of the contradiction between the social character of production and the private means of appropriation; transitional economy develops on the basis of the struggle between developing and growing socialism and developed, but not yet annihilated, capitalism, and also on the basis of the sharpened conflict of classes in this period in the course of which classes ultimately disappear.


"The second conception, not remaining on the surface of phenomena, expresses the essence of movement as the unity of opposites. It demands a penetration into the depth of a process, a disclosure of the internal laws which are responsible for the development of that process. This conception seeks the causes of development not outside the process but in its very midst; it seeks mainly to disclose the source of the 'self-movement' of the process. To understand a process means to disclose its contradictory aspects, to establish their mutual relationship, to follow up the movement of its contradictions through all its stages. This view gives the key to the 'leaps' which characterize the evolutionary series; it explains the changing of a process into its opposite, the annihilation of the 'old' and emergence of the 'new.' Thus only by disclosing the basic contradictions of capitalism and by showing that the inevitable consequence of such contradictions is the destruction of capitalism by proletarian revolution do we explain the historic necessity of socialism. This second conception is the conception of dialectic materialism.... (pp.133-35)


"All processes that originate in nature and society are found in uninterrupted mutual action. In one way or another they are mutually linked up and influence each other. But in order to get to understand any one of them, to investigate the course of its development, to establish the character of its mutual action with other processes, it is no use to proceed only from the action of external forces on a given phenomenon, as do the mechanists, but it is necessary to lay bare its internal contradictions.


"The fact that all phenomena in the world contain within themselves a number of contradictory aspects and properties was noticed long ago and is still noticed every day and reflected in people's thoughts and notions. But these opposing aspects were and are reflected in different ways. The eclectics, who see the opposing aspects of some processes but do not know how to expose their internal connection and mutual relationships, grasp at now one, now another of its opposing factors, according to their point of view or to the changing situation, and whatever aspect they select they advance as the general characteristic of the whole.... (pp.145-46)


"It is true that even a simple movement, the mechanical shifting of a point in space, is contradictory. A moving point is simultaneously found and not found in a given spot. Here already we have the unity of opposites, but in its simplest and most primitive form. Mechanical movement originating in consequence of an impulse or impact, i.e. in consequence of external causes, is derived from some other higher form of movement and is therefore quite inadequate as an illustration of movement in general, as for instance -- physical, chemical, biological and social movement. The mechanical is contained in each one of these in a certain degree, but the higher and more complex the form of the movement of matter, the smaller is the role that the mechanical plays. So it is impossible to reduce the contradictions of all these forms of movement to that of mechanical movement.... (p.152)


"Not only does every unity contain within itself polar opposites but these internal opposites are mutually connected with each other; one aspect of a contradiction cannot exist without the other. In capitalist society the bourgeoisie is connected with the proletariat, the proletariat with the bourgeoisie; neither of these two classes can develop without the other, because the bourgeoisie cannot exist without exploiting the labour of others and the hired proletariat cannot exist without selling its labour power to a capitalist, seeing that itself it does not possess the means of production....


"We see the same indissoluble connection of contradictory aspects in all the processes of objective actuality. There is no mechanical action without its counteraction. The chemical dissolution of atoms is indissolubly connected with their union. Electrical energy declares itself in the form of opposite electricities -- positive and negative....


"Opposites are not only found in indissoluble, inalienable connection, but they cross over and mutually penetrate each other.... (pp.162-63)


"The mutual penetration of opposites, the transition of one opposite into another, belongs to all processes. But to uncover and reveal this mutual penetration, a careful, concrete analysis of the process is required.... (p.164)


"A planet in its movement expresses the connection of the whole solar system, but its movement is only one aspect, which outside the whole is impossible.


"But the universal itself exists through the particular. Every particular is incomplete and one-sided. However, the incompleteness of one aspect is supplemented by another incompleteness, by another one-sidedness. Although they are mutually opposed yet at the same time they presuppose each other, amplify each other and are the inseparable poles of a single whole.


"And so in virtue of their contradictory nature, their internal incompleteness, particular qualities cannot exist in isolation, they presuppose other opposite qualitative peculiarities and exist only in union with them. A planet exists as a planet only because there is a sun round which it revolves. Beasts of prey exist only in company with herbivorous animals. Animals as a whole can exist only because plant-life exists, whose green leaves under the influence of sun-light turn inorganic substances into organic. And in return animals exhale carbonic acid gas, which is required for the synthesis of organic substances, and so give food to plant life. (pp.250-51)


"There are no isolated qualities of things. Every quality in its existence and development presupposes a number of others...." (p.253) [Shirokov (1937), pp.133-253. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several minor typos in the on-line text have been corrected by reference to the published version.]


Shirokov can't possibly have known (even though he might sincerely have believed) that "Everything flows, everything changes", or that "Everything develops by means of a struggle of opposites", or even that "All processes that originate in nature and society are found in uninterrupted mutual action. In one way or another they are mutually linked up and influence each other...", but that didn't stop him -- just as we have seen it hasn't stopped other DM-fans -- from asserting these things dogmatically, imposing them on nature and society in defiance of the claim that they never do this.



Here is Alexander Spirkin, dogmatising his heart out:


"The concept of universal connection. Nothing in the world stands by itself. Every object is a link in an endless chain and is thus connected with all the other links. And this chain of the universe has never been broken; it unites all objects and processes in a single whole and thus has a universal character. We cannot move so much as our little finger without 'disturbing' the whole universe. The life of the universe, its history lies in an infinite web of connections....


"So everything in the world is connected with something else. And this universal interconnection, and also the connection of the elements within the whole at any level, form an essential condition for the dynamic balance of systems....


"The material unity of the world, the interconnection of all the structural levels of existence is achieved through the universality of interaction. The chain of interaction is never broken and has neither beginning nor end. Every phenomenon is a link in the general universal chain of interaction. In the immediate sense interaction is causal. Every cause is simultaneously both active and passive in relation to another cause. The origin and development of objects depend on interaction. Every qualitatively defined system has a special type of interaction. Every kind of interaction is connected with material fields and involves transference of matter, motion and information. Interaction is impossible without a specific material vehicle....


"Development. Any type of connection or interaction must take a certain direction. Nothing in the world is final and complete. Everything is on the way to somewhere else. Development is a definitely oriented, irreversible change of the object, from the old to the new, from the simple to the complex, from a lower level to a higher one. The vector of a developing phenomenon is towards acquisition of the fullness of its essence, towards self-fulfilment in various new forms. The new is an intermediate or final result of development in relation to the old. Changes may involve the composition of the object (its quantity or quality), the type of connection of the elements of the specific whole, its function, or its 'behaviour', that is to say, the means by which it interacts with other objects and, finally, all these characteristics taken as a whole.


"Development is irreversible. Nothing passes through one and the same state more than once. Development is a dual process: the old is destroyed and replaced by something new, which establishes itself in life not simply by freely evolving its own potential but in conflict with the old.... (pp.82-85)


"Causality is universal. Nowhere in the world can there be any phenomena that do not give rise to certain consequences and have not been caused by other phenomena. Ours is a world of cause and effect or, figuratively speaking, of progenitors and their progeny. Whenever we seek to retrace the steps of cause and effect and find the first cause, it disappears into the infinite distances of universal interaction. But the concept of cause is not confined to interaction. Causality is only a part of universal connection. The universality of causality is often denied on the grounds of the limited nature of human experience, which prevents us from judging the character of connections beyond what is known to science and practice.... (p.87)


"The concept of essence and phenomenon. All thinking people want to get at the essence. They seek it like hidden treasure, which lies at the heart of things and controls them. Essence may be considered in global terms, as the ultimate foundation of the universe, in terms of various categories, such as the essence of the human being, for example, and in the sense of the main thing in an individual object....


"On the same grounds one may assert that things, events are absolutely irrepeatable in time; nothing happens twice. Everything that happens must obey the inexorable principle of the irreversibility of time. The so-called repeated event differs from what it repeats in that it occurs at a different time and therefore in new conditions that leave their ineradicable individualising mark upon it. The individual is an object taken in its distinctness from everything else and in its unique specific. The characteristic thing about the individual is its distinctness from everything else, its qualitative singularity. Here we come up against the concept of 'other'. 'Other' is 'not this', it is the background from which the object emerges and from which it differs as from everything else....


"Everything individual is transient. Every individuality passes like a shadow and suffers the fate of all transient forms. The general, on the other hand, is stable, constant, unvarying. The individual cannot arise, survive or change without being connected with a multiplicity of other things. And since various things are interconnected, interact and interdepend, they must have some point of contact, they must possess generality.... (pp.106-11)


"Everything passes! All things are finite, everything is moving towards its end. Everything has its spring and its summer, everything declines into autumn and dies in the frigid cold of its winter. Such is the inexorable logic of life, both natural and human. Everything individual is like the flame of a fire and fire consumes its own source. Time is similar. Like the ancient god Cronus, it eats its own children. This is a sad fact of life. But wisdom reminds us that without negation of the old there could be no birth or maturing of the higher and fuller forces of the new and, therefore, no process of development, no progress. Even when young and still full of energy, things start to change inwardly in the direction of inevitable ageing. This begins even when energy and strength are at their peak. Immortal is the race where the mortal dies....


"The chain of negation of the old and emergence of the new has no beginning and no end. The developing object simultaneously becomes something different and in a certain sense remains the same. For example, youth negates child hood and itself in its turn is negated by maturity, and the latter is negated by old age. But these are all different stages in the development of one and the same person.... (p.137)


"It is even more important to remember this point when we are talking about connections between phenomena that are in the process of development. In the whole world there is no developing object in which one cannot find opposite sides, elements or tendencies: stability and change, old and new, and so on. The dialectical principle of contradiction reflects a dualistic relationship within the whole: the unity of opposites and their struggle. Opposites may come into conflict only to the extent that they form a whole in which one element is as necessary as another. This necessity for opposing elements is what constitutes the life of the whole. Moreover, the unity of opposites, expressing the stability of an object, is relative and transient, while the struggle of opposites is absolute, ex-pressing the infinity of the process of development. This is because contradiction is not only a relationship between opposite tendencies in an object or between opposite objects, but also the relationship of the object to itself, that is to say, its constant self-negation. The fabric of all life is woven out of two kinds of thread, positive and negative, new and old, progressive and reactionary. They are constantly in conflict, fighting each other." (pp.143-44) [Spirkin (1983), pp.82-144. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Link added. Minor typos corrected.]




Afanasyev, not to be outdone, was no less happy to impose DM on nature and society:


"Matter exists only in motion, and manifests and reveals itself through motion.... Let us take, for example, the atom. It is exists as a definite material body only in so far as the elementary particles forming it are in constant motion. Outside of the motion of these particles the atom could not exist, not could there be any other body without motion.... Similarly, all other material bodies exist and manifest themselves only in motion.... Motion is thus a form of the existence of matter, its inalienable attribute.... (p.61)  


"The motion of matter is absolute and eternal, it can neither be created nor destroyed, inasmuch as matter itself in uncreatable and indestructible.... (p.62)


"The forms of motion of matter are interconnected and inseparable. Their unity and interconnection is based on the material unity of the world.... Recognition of the absolute and universal character of motion, with due account taken of the qualitative distinction of each form, the ability of these forms to become mutually transformed, and the impossibility of reducing higher to lower forms -- this is the essence of the dialectical-materialist concept of motion.... (p.64)


"Space and time are universal forms of the existence of matter.... The most important attribute of space and time is their objectivity, i.e., their existence independently of the mind of man.... (p.67)    


"Everything in the world develops.... (p.84)


"The development of the material world is a never-ending process of the old dying and the new coming into being.... (p.86)


"The material world is not only a developing, but also a connected, integral whole. Its objects and phenomena do not develop of themselves, in isolation, but in inseverable connection or unity with other objects and phenomena.... (p.87)


"Lenin called the law of the unity and struggle of opposites the essence, the core of dialectics. This law reveals the sources, the real causes of the eternal motion and development of the material world.... (p.93)


"All objects and phenomena have contradictory aspects which are organically connected and which make up the indissoluble unity of opposites.... (p.94)   


"The contradictoriness of objects and phenomena is thus a general, universal nature. There is no object or phenomena in the world which cannot be divided into opposites. Opposites are not only mutually exclusive, but also necessarily presuppose each other. They coexist in one object or phenomenon and are inconceivable one without the other.... (p.95)


"And so, objects and phenomena have opposite aspects -- they represent the unity of opposites. Opposites not merely exist side by side, but are in a state of constant contradiction, a struggle is going on between them. The struggle of opposites is the inner content, the source of the development of reality.... (p.97)


"All outside influences exerted on an object are always refracted through its inherent contradictions, which is also a manifestation of the determining role of these contradictions in development.... (p.99) [Afanasyev (1968), pp.61-99. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged.]


Recall once more that the truth of falsity of the above pronouncements isn't at issue here (although it will be in later Essays), merely the way they have been imposed on nature dogmatically.




This dusty old textbook, written by a committee, but which I have labelled with the name of one of its authors, opens with the following (by-now-familiar) disclaimer:


"Dialectical and historical materialism is thus an integral part of Marxism-Leninism, its philosophical bed-rock. It is a creative, revolutionary doctrine, a doctrine that is constantly being enriched and tested by historical practice. It is opposed to any kind of dogmatism...." [Konstantinov, et al (1974), p.9. Bold emphasis added.]


But, a few chapters later we encounter the following boilerplate, dogmatic pronouncements:


"As we get to know the world around us, we see that there is nothing in it that is absolutely stationary and immutable; everything is in a state of motion and passing from one form into another. Elementary particles, atoms and molecules are in motion within all material objects, every object is interacting with its environment and this interaction is bound to involve motion of some kind or other....


"Motion is the universal attribute, the mode of existence of matter. Nowhere in the world is there matter without motion, just as there can be no motion without matter....


"Matter is the vehicle of all change, the substantial foundation of all processes in the world; there is no such thing as motion divorced from matter, no such thing as 'pure motion'.... (p.80)


"Space is an objectively real form of the existence of matter in motion....


"Time is an objectively real form of the existence of matter in motion.... (p.85)


"No material object can exist only in space without existing in time, or exist in time without exiting in space. It must always and everywhere exist in both space and time. Hence space and time are organically connected....


"As real forms of the existence of matter space and time are characterised by a number of specific features. First, they are objective, they exist outside and independently of the consciousness. Second. they are eternal inasmuch as matter exists eternally. Third, space and time are boundless and infinite....


"The boundlessness of space implies the following. No matter in what direction we move or how far we go from our starting point there will never be any boundary beyond which we can go no further. Universal space is not only boundless but also infinite.... The infinity of space is the infinity of the volume of the whole countless totality of material bodies of the Universe.


"What is meant by the boundlessness and infinity of time? No matter how much time may pass up to a certain moment, time will always go on and on never reaching a limit beyond which there can be no further duration, no infinite number of processes following one after the other and constituting in their entirety boundless and infinite duration. Similarly, no matter how long ago a certain event occurred it must have been preceded by countless number of other events which, taken together, possess infinite duration. (p.86-87)


"Perpetual motion and change is inherent in everything that exists and there is no special world that does not obey this general law....


"Not even the smallest particle of matter appears out of nothing or disappears without trace; matter is only transformed from one state to another and never loses its own basic qualities....


"The indestructibility and uncreatability of matter and its motion are expressed in the law of the conservation and conversion of energy, which plays a role in conforming the proposition that the world is a material unity.... (p.98)


"There has never existed anywhere in the world, nor will there ever exist anything that is not moving matter of that has been engendered by moving matter....


"The word is material. It is unitary, eternal and infinite.... (p.100)


"The world knows no absolutely isolated phenomena; all are conditioned by some other phenomena. Any phenomenon that is taken out of its natural connection becomes something inexplicable and irrational....


"Every phenomenon and the world as a whole are a complex system or relationships, in which the connection and interaction of cause and effect play an essential part.... (p.127)


"The contradiction between quality and quantity is only one of the manifestations of the general law that internal contradictoriness is inherent in all things and processes, and that this is the source and motive force of their development.... (p.141)


"The world knows no absolutely identical things or phenomena...every object is simultaneously identical to another and yet different from it....


"The difference in an object is not only a difference in relation to another object but also a difference in relation to itself, that is, the given object, no matter whether we are comparing it with something else or not, contains a difference in itself.... (p.142)


"When dialectical theory maintains that an object simultaneously exists and does not exist, that it contains within itself its own non-being, this must be understood in only one sense: an object is a unity of stability and changeability, of the positive and the negative, of what is dying out and what is entering life....


"This means that every object, every phenomenon is a unity of opposites. What this important proposition implies above all is that opposite aspects and tendencies are inherent in all objects. Internal contradictions are an inseparable property of the structure of the structure of any object or process.... This structure is such that each of the aspects of the whole is entirely dependent on its opposite for its existence and this duality is not confined to merely to their external relationships. The interconnection, interdependence and interpenetration of opposite aspects, properties and tendencies of the developing whole are an essential feature of any unity of opposites....


"Another of its vital aspects in mutual negation. Because  the two aspects of the whole are opposites they are not only interconnected but also mutually exclusive  and mutually repellent. This factor is expressed in the concept of the struggle of opposites....


"But no matter what concrete form this struggle assumes, the main thing is that the dialectical contradiction implies also the element of mutual negation of opposites, and an extremely important element, because the struggle of opposites is the motive force, the source of development....


"This law explains one of the most important features of dialectical development: motion, development takes place as self-motion, self-development.... It means that the world develops not as a result of any external causes but by virtue of its own laws, the laws of motion of matter itself. It has dialectical meaning because it indicates that the source, the motive force of development of phenomena is to be found in their internal contradictions." (pp.143-44) [Konstantinov, et al (1974), pp.80-144). Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]




Sheptulin's textbook also opens with the following (by-now-familiar) statement:


"Marxist-Leninist philosophy, though essentially partisan, committed, is at the same time consistently objective. Subjectivism, voluntarism and dogmatism are entirely alien to it." [Sheptulin (1978), p.6. Bold emphasis added.]


However, a few chapters later we are presented with these dogmatic pronouncements:


"The dialectical method sees nature, society and knowledge in a constant state of motion and development.... The dialectical method recognizes that contradictions are universal. (p.65)


"All the materialist, however, recognise the real, objective existence of matter.... (p.95)


"According to dialectical materialism, no concrete form of the existence of matter -- atom, molecule or electron -- is eternal and invariable. On the contrary, it is constantly in motion and change, under certain conditions turning into other concrete forms, which themselves turn into others, and so on ad infinitum. (p.97)


"...[I]t affirms the truth of [the principle] that everything existing in the world is in constant motion and changes from one thing into another. What then is matter as seen by dialectical materialism? The concept of matter is tied up with all that exists outside and independently of the human mind, with the whole of objective reality.... (p.98)


"All the same, matter is eternal and spatially boundless.... (p.99)


"The material unity of the world is expressed in the substantiality of matter. The infinite multitude of various phenomena that make up reality has one material origin, constituting the various forms, stats or properties of matter. (p.102)


"...[M]otion is a philosophical concept denoting all changes occurring in objective reality.... There is an infinite multitude of various forms of the motion of matter.... The basic forms of motion of matter are always interconnected and interdependent. One form of motion is a prerequisite for the appearance of another form. (p.104)


"Motion is an attribute of matter, its fundamental property. There has never been nor can there be motion without matter or matter without motion.... (p.105)


"Matter exists eternally and continually changes from one qualitative state or type into another. The same holds for motion.... Engels stressed that matter and motion are eternal and inherently linked.... (p.107)


"What is most significant and universal in development is the fact that all material entities possess the ability to become more complex and to pass from the lower to the higher, rather than develop in general. This ability, inherent in all matter and in every material entity, manifests itself, like any other property, only under relevant conditions.... (p.110)


"According to dialectical materialism, space and time are the necessary objective properties of any material entity and the objective real forms of the existence of matter.... (p.113)


"If space has three dimensions, time has only one. It always flows in one direction -- forwards. The present becomes the past, and the future becomes the present. This direction cannot be changed -- time is irreversible. Infinity is another major characteristic of space and time.... (p.115)


"As distinct from metaphysicists..., dialectical materialists believe that interconnection is a universal form of being inherent in all phenomena of reality.... To put it shortly, everything is interconnected in reality.... (pp.190-91)


"Each thing has an infinite multitude of aspects which interact and cause changes in one another. These changes move in similar, different or opposite directions; they may reflect one and the same or different trends. Aspects in which changes move in opposite directions and which have opposite trends of functioning and development are called opposites, while the interaction of these aspects constitutes a contradiction.... (p.259)


"Transition of opposites into one each other when they exchange places is the supreme manifestation of the identity of opposites.... (p.261)


"As distinct from metaphysicists, dialectical materialists hold that contradictions are universal. They exist in any field of reality and in any material entity.... Thus contradictions are present in any field of reality. Contradictoriness is universal. It is intrinsic in all that exists in reality and consciousness.... (pp.265-66)


"All this is a graphic illustration of how contradiction acts as a source of the motion and development of matter and consciousness...." (p.268) [Sheptulin (1978), pp.95-268. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged.]




Kharin's much less substantial book is, nevertheless, still a veritable fountain of dogmatic claims:


"The concept of matter serves to denote objective reality.... (p.54)


"This definition above all stresses the property of all objects and phenomena of the surrounding world to exist objectively, outside and independently of man's and mankind's consciousness. Matter is also an objective reality that has be engendered by nobody and by nothing; and it does not presuppose and reasons or conditions for its existence.... Matter is in itself the source of the infinite multiformity of things and processes of the objective world. It also engenders consciousness, which is its highest product.... (p.56)


"Marxist philosophy closely connects the concept of matter with the capacity of matter to move. To be an objective reality in its various manifestations means to exist in motion. Motion is an inalienable property of matter, its mode of existence and an expression of its inherent activity.... (p.61)


"Everything in the world is in change and motion.... Recognition of the absolute nature of motion, i.e., that matter cannot exist in any form outside motion, is not tantamount to denying that there are moments of rest and equilibrium in the objective world. Motion is the unity of two opposites, changeability and stability.... All rest is however relative, while motion and change are absolute. This is to be understood as an indication of the self-activity of matter, rather than in the sense that motion is possible without rest.... Any state is temporary and transient, and any thing or phenomena has a beginning and end to its existence. The motion of matter is uncreatable and indestructible. It can only change its forms. No single phenomenon or object can lose its ability to change or be deprived of motion under any conditions.... The source of the internal activity of matter lies within it, in its inherent potentiality for the perpetual changeability of its concrete shape and form of existence. Motion is absolute, for it is unrelated to anything external that could determine it. There is nothing else in the world except eternally moving matter, its forms, properties and manifestations.... (pp.62-63)


"Dialectical materialism fully preserves the earlier fully preserves the earlier progressive thinkers' idea of the infinity of the world in space and its eternity in time.... Space and time are incorporated in the very concept of matter as its universal attributes.... What are space and time? They are the necessary, fundamental conditions for matter to exist in motion; inseparable from it, the most general forms of the orderliness and interaction of material phenomena. Specifically, the concept of space expresses the universal mode of coexistence of interacting material objects and their extension, juxtaposition and structuralness. The concept of time denotes the universal form of objective realities changing, which expresses the period of existence of material systems and the succession of events occurring in the world.... (p.66)  


"The process of the self-development of matter is irreversible, which is expressed in the way time is only able to change from the past to the future, not the other way round. Time only flows in one direction and is irreversible.... The conception of the world as logically moving matter prompts the conclusion that space and time are infinite. Matter is infinite because, firstly, it is absolute objective reality outside which no existence (of any Spirit, God, etc.) is possible. Secondly, matter is infinite in its structure and in the qualitative multiformity of the specific forms of its existence.... It is infinite, thirdly, by virtue of its inherent self-activity, self motion and self-development.... The infinity of matter in motion implies the infinity of the basic forms of its existence, i.e. space and time.... (pp.68-69)


"Objective reality is an endless emergence of qualitatively new manifestations of matter in motion.... It is to be stressed that dialectical materialism conceives of the motion of matter as its self-development.... The motion of matter engenders objects of a higher level and more complex structure, possessing new properties and regularities. The development of the world consists precisely in irreversible qualitative changes of material systems, involving things arising and passing away with progress and regress in qualitative changes. It is matter's capacity for self-development that conditions the emergence under definite conditions of the culmination of its perfection, i.e., the thinking mind in which matter apprehends itself. (pp.68-72)


"[T]he unity of the world lies in its materiality. In general terms this means that: a) the world is objective reality existing independently of man's consciousness and is reflected by it, and is hence in its very essence knowable; b) the world is a law-governed motion of matter in space and time; c) the world is the process by which matter develops itself, giving rise to more complex forms of its existence and to motion possessing qualitatively new properties.... (p.79)


"The materialist teaching on dialectics views the world as matter moving according to the laws of nature. This fundamental scientific thesis lies at the heart of the basic idea of Marxist dialectics. These include, above all, the principles of universal connection and development.... (pp.110-11)


"According to dialectical materialism, the development of the objective world can be explained without recourse to the activity of forces external to matter. The source of the development of matter lies in matter itself, in its internal contradictoriness.... Contradictions are to be found everywhere; they are universal in character.... This universal contradictoriness of all that exists is also the most profound motivating force behind development, and the source of all changes in objective reality. The doctrine of the contradictoriness is therefore the essence of dialectics. (p.121-22)


"Each real thing is objectively marked by both identity and difference.... (p.123)


"[Contradiction] can therefore be briefly defined as the unity of opposites  which mutually exclude one another and are in struggle. The law of dialectics that demonstrates the driving force of contradictions is formulated as the law of the unity and struggle of opposites. According to this law, contradictions are the inner impetus of development, the source of the self-movement and change of things.... The unity of opposites is transient and relative, while their struggle is as absolute as movement itself.... Development as a whole is a process whereby contradictions arise, evolve and are resolved...." (pp.125-26) [Kharin (1981), pp.54-126. Bold emphases added. Several paragraphs merged.]




Kuusinen's much more substantial book is also a classic dogmathon. Here are just a few examples:


"The term 'matter' as used in Marxist philosophical materialism designates objective reality in all its manifestations.... It is the infinite multitude of worlds in an infinite universe.... In short, the concept of matter embraces everything existing outside and independent of our mind.... (p.32)


"Matter is uncreatable and indestructible. It is eternally changing, but not a single particle can be reduced to nothing by any physical, chemical or other process.... (p.34)


"Nature and society do not know absolute rest, immobility, immutability. The world presents a picture of constant motion and change. Motion, change development is an eternal and inalienable property of matter.... Every material body, every material particle -- the molecule, atom or its components -- are by their very nature in a constant state of motion and change. The philosophical understanding of motion and change implies more than the movement of a body in space. As a mode of existence of matter, motion embraces all the processes and changes taking place in the universe.... There are no permanently fixed, ossified things in the world, only things undergoing change, processes. This means that nowhere is their absolute rest, a state which would preclude motion.... Only motion is absolute, without exceptions. (p.35)


"Space is a universal mode of the existence of matter. There is not and cannot be matter without space, just as there cannot be space without matter. The difference between the extension of an individual body and that of the whole material world is that the former is limited, finite, that is, has a beginning and end, whereas the material world is limitless, infinite.... Every body, every phenomenon of nature, has its past, present and future. These are expressions of time. Time, like space, is a universal mode of the existence of matter. Every individual thing, every process, and the material world as a whole, exists in time. But again there is a difference between the duration of existence of an individual thing and of nature as a whole: the existence of individual things is restricted in time, while nature as a whole exists eternally. Every thing arises, undergoes change and subsequently ceases to exist. Nature, on the other hand, has no beginning and no end. Individual things are transient, but the connected finite things constitute an eternal nature that knows neither beginning nor end.... Space and time, being universal modes of the existence of matter, are absolute, nothing can exist outside of time and space.... (pp.37-38)


"Nature constitutes a single whole, all parts of which are connected in one way or another. In this universal interconnection, any phenomenon, itself the effect of some cause, also acts as a cause in some other connection, giving rise to new effects.... Hence, cause and effect should not be viewed metaphysically as ossified, unconnected, absolute opposites. They should be viewed dialectically as interconnected, interconvertible, 'fluid' conceptions.... (p.76)     


"By recognising that all phenomena are necessarily subject to causality, we recognise that the world is ruled by necessity.... Necessary development is the development that cannot fail to take place under the given conditions.... Necessity in nature and society is most completely revealed in laws....


"Each law is a manifestation of the necessity that governs phenomena.... (p.77)


"But what is the motive force, the source, of all development?... The the contradictory nature of all reality.... (p.91)


"The concept of contradiction is of crucial importance in analysing the process of development.... The division of a unity into opposites and the mutual counteraction or 'struggle' of these opposites is the most fundamental and universal law of dialectics.... All development, whether the evolution of the stars, the growth of a plant the life of man or the history of society, is contradictory in its essence. In fact, development in its most general sense signifies that at any given moment a thing retains its identity and at the same time ceases to retain it. Its definiteness remains, but at the same time it changes and becomes different.... A developing thing has within it the embryo of something else. It contains within itself its own antithesis, a negating element which prevents it from remaining inert and immutable. It contains an objective contradiction; opposite tendencies operate within it and a mutual counteraction or 'struggle' of opposites forces or sides takes place, leading eventually to the resolution of the contradiction, to a radical, qualitative change of the thing.... Each thing or phenomenon contain innumerable interacting aspects. Moreover, each phenomenon is connected with the things and processes that surround it. This is why diverse external and internal contradictions can be found in all phenomena." (pp.94-96) [Kuusinen (1961), pp.32-96. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged.]




Adoratsky first of all greets the reader with the usual disarmingly modest denials:


"Marxism provides no ready-made recipes that can be applied uniformly in any and every circumstance without further reflection. The Marxian theory 'is not a dogma but a guide to action.' (p.7)


"Engels also dwelt on the same theme and treated it in a similar spirit. To the question, wherein lies the error of Hegel, he replies in the fact that the laws of dialectics 'are not drawn from nature and history, but imposed on the latter as laws of thought.' Hence the nonsensical concept that 'the world must conform to the logical system, which is itself only the product of definite stages of development of human thought.'" [Adoratsky is here quoting Engels (1954), p.62, clearly using a different translation to the one used below -- RL.] [Adoratsky (1934), pp.7-26. (This links to a PDF.) Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


[Quoting Lenin, but without using any quotation marks:] "[T]he author abuses the phrase 'dialectic negation': it must not be used without first demonstrating it by facts, it must be used cautiously....


"Lenin, therefore, condemns the application of ready-made schemes, the inability, or lack of desire, to formulate theoretically the actual situation, with all its contradictions and complexity, and the inability to think concretely. Lenin untiringly exposed and condemned every departure from this fundamental demand of dialectic materialism." [Ibid., p.61. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


After which he proceeds to do the exact opposite -- he imposes DM on the phenomena by applying just such a "ready-made scheme" (as did Lenin before him):


"Throughout the universe, development proceeds not as the result of any external cause (God), not because of any 'purpose' inherent in events, but because of the inherent contradictions in all things and in all phenomena. [And the 'evidence' for this is...what? Yes, you guessed it..., Hegel's 'logic' -- RL.] 'Contradiction is the root of all motion and of all life,' Hegel wrote. 'It is only because a thing contains a contradiction within itself, that it moves and acquires impulse and activity. This is the process of all motion and all development.'


"Lenin in his article On Dialectics points out that contradiction exist universally: repulsion and attraction, positive and negative electricity, the division into parts, and the union of the parts to form a whole, etc. [Well, who could possibly argue with such a wealth of 'evidence'? -- RL.] In all the phenomena and processes of nature and society there are contradictory, mutually exclusive, and at the same time associated, tendencies. Dialectics, i.e., the contradictions, union and conflict of opposites, prevails in the material world and is reflected in consciousness.


"The general laws of dialectics are universal... (pp.26-27)


"We thus see that nothing is immutable; everything changes, everything passes from one state to another. For this reason metaphysical thought, which regards things in isolation and treats them as immutable, cannot correctly reflect the ceaseless process of motion and the inter-relationship of all phenomena. (pp.32-33)


"Eclecticism employs methods repugnant to dialectical materialism. Dialectics is opposed to the habit of the eclectics of arbitrarily selecting isolated phrases, and their inability to grasp an object or phenomenon as a whole, in its totality, and in its systematic and inevitable inter-relationships and development as they exist in reality. Instead of taking the phenomenon as a whole in all its complexity, but at the same time in its unity  and totality, they onesidedly exaggerate isolated features, component parts and phases. Materialist dialectics demands that the important factor should be singled out, but that at the same time attention should be devoted to those phases that that are brought to the forefront by circumstances.... The concrete is the whole of nature, the whole of reality, surrounding us: it embraces, combines and coalesces all contradictions. Our knowledge moves towards an ever more complete and more profound reflection of this (concrete) reality. (pp.34-35)


"We have already said that dialectic materialism (sic) demands the expression and formulation of the actual process of development. (p.41)


"We have already seen that dialectic materialism (sic) demands the study of phenomena in all their totality (concretely) just as they occur in reality. (p.44)


"The fact that dialectics, which demands concrete thinking and a grasp of objective reality as one whole, is the theory of knowledge, serves as a guarantee that those who are guided by dialectics will not find themselves in the unpleasant and ludicrous position in which the doctrinaires found themselves (sic). (p.62)


"We conceive nature as the sum total of all bodies...which are in a constant state of interaction and motion, constantly changing their forms and qualities and passing from one into the other. It is impossible to understand their movement and the transformation of one form into another...without using the dialectic method." [Ibid., pp.26-70. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some paragraphs merged.] 


Is there some sort of pattern emerging here? Or am I being a little too hasty?


Alexandr Oparin


I have discussed Oparin in more detail in Essay Four Part One, however, he, too, seemed happy to impose DM on 'reality':


"This problem [of life's origins] has however always been the focus of a bitter conflict of ideas between two irreconcilable schools of philosophy -- the conflict between idealism and materialism.... A completely different prospect opens out before us if we try to approach a solution of the problem dialectically rather than metaphysically, on the basis of a study of the successive changes in matter which preceded the appearance of life and led to its emergence. Matter never remains at rest, it is constantly moving and developing and in this development it changes over from one form of motion to another and yet another, each more complicated and harmonious than the last. Life thus appears as a particular very complicated form of the motion of matter, arising as a new property at a definite stage in the general development of matter.


"As early as the end of the last century Frederick Engels indicated that a study of the history of the development of matter is by far the most hopeful line of approach to a solution of the problem of the origin of life. These ideas of Engels were not, however, reflected to a sufficient extent in the scientific thought of his time." [Oparin, quoted in Woods and Grant (1995), pp.239-40. (The above appears on the same pages in the second edition.) Bold emphasis added. Some paragraphs merged.]


How Oparin knew that matter never remains at rest he unfortunately kept to himself.


Torkil Lauesen


Our most recent contribution to The Annals of Dialectical Dogmatism comes courtesy of a Danish activist, Torkil Lauesen:


"Knowledge about the world comes from human practice. Human practice is not reduced to economic production but has many sources: class struggle, scientific and artistic activities, and so forth. But how do we acquire knowledge from practice? First, there is the immediate sensory perception of the world. You don't have concepts for things and phenomena yet, don't see connections or draw logical conclusions. Eventually, though, after ever increasing sensory impressions, there is a qualitative leap in the epistemological process and human consciousness: concepts begin to take form. Our ability to analyze leads us from sensory impressions to identifying commonalities between things and phenomena, and knowledge is created with the help of logic. Concept formation and logical knowledge help us to understand the complexity and essence of phenomena. We begin to understand developmental processes, see connections, and draw conclusions.


"Concepts are like intersections of knowledge. They help us bring order to our perception of the world and understand it. Concepts are never detached from practice. They derive from practice and their usefulness is proven by practical application. Without practice, there are no concepts or theories. Practice, of course, means collective practice. We cannot have each practical experience individually, but we can gather many individual experiences collectively. Sensory and intellectual knowledge are of different qualities, but they are not separate. Practice unites them.


"Knowledge begins with practical experience, our own or that of others. This is the materialist element in epistemology. To expand our knowledge, we have to move from sensory to intellectual knowledge. This is the dialectical element in epistemology. When we have attained intellectual knowledge based on practice, we have to use this knowledge. Knowledge increases not only in the qualitative leap from sensory to intellectual knowledge but, more significantly, in the qualitative leap of reapplying it to practice. Dialectical materialism's epistemology is based on the cycle between practice and knowledge, between 'doing' and 'thinking.'...


"The materialist worldview understands 'matter' as anything that exists objectively, that is, independent of human consciousness. In this understanding, 'matter' does not just refer to physical things but also to phenomena, processes, and social relationships.... The first rule is that the study of all things and phenomena, as well as of the relationships between them, must take into account the things, phenomena, and relationships that surround them. Everything is connected, everything has a cause and effect -- everything is cause and effect.


"In order to understand the development of a 'thing' we have to study its qualities as well as its relationship to other things. The contradictions of the thing itself are the basis for its development, but the relationships to other things are crucial for the direction the development takes and the speed at which it occurs. To illustrate this, Mao compared heating a stone to heating an egg. At the right temperature of 36 degrees Celsius, an egg turns into a chicken. A stone remains a stone. At 800 degrees Celsius, however, a stone turns into floating lava. Its inner contradictions are the basis for this change, but it would not happen without the impact of the outer circumstances. The exterior interacts with the interior....


"The second methodological rule of dialectical materialism is that we need to study the development of things. Matter is in constant motion. Matter as an entity is eternal and all-encompassing, but the different forms it takes have a history, a beginning and an end. Different social developments also have a beginning and an end; they appear and disappear....


"The third methodological rule reminds us that historical changes happen in qualitative leaps. There is no linear development; there are ruptures. Let us use an example from physics: at 100 degrees Celsius, water suddenly turns from liquid to steam; at 0 degrees Celsius, it turns to ice. At first, quantitative changes often have no qualitative effect. But there is always a point when they do. And no qualitative effect occurs without a preceding quantitative change....


"The fourth methodological rule of dialectical materialism is that matter's development originates in the contradictions of things themselves, not in the relationships between them. We can say that each thing is defined by its own contradictions. So when we speak of a 'contradiction,' we do not mean a 'logical contradiction' or a 'contradiction in terms.' The contradiction in a thing is not an 'error.'


"Let us first consider the universality of contradiction, then turn to the particularity of contradiction. Each contradiction has two 'aspects.' These aspects complement one another. They both exclude and require one another at the same time. They are like plus and minus. The form and character of things depends on how their two aspects relate to one another, how they struggle and how they unite. Each thing carries its inherent contradictions with it as long as it exists. When old things disappear, their contradictions disappear with them; when new things emerge, new contradictions emerge with them....


"Dialectics allows us to analyze the world as an interconnected, contradictory, and changing whole. That is why having a global perspective and identifying the principal contradiction are essential to our ability to analyze and intervene. That contradiction is internal to the thing in itself does not rule out the relationships between things being equally important to the development of the whole. Change is the important idea. Dialectics focuses on movement, process, and change, and means never losing sight of the whole and the relations therein. Dialectical materialism and the concept of contradiction are tools to analyze the world. We must become familiar with these tools in order to understand how they function. What is unique about dialectical materialism is that we use it with the goal of changing the world." [Lauesen (2020). My copy of this book is in PDF form which doesn't have any page numbers! However, all of the above have been taken from Chapter 2. Bold emphases added; quotations marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Much of this part of Lauesen's book is just a regurgitation of Mao, and in places it is simply a word-for-word copy. The book itself reads in places like a high school student's very first book report, except with the usual grandiose dogmatism (of the sort we have seen is typical of this genre) thrown in for good measure.


[If I were to quote all the dogmatic statements in Lauesen's book, this Essay would be about 5,000 words longer still!]


Dialectical Dogmatism Spreads Across The Internet


There are scores of examples of dialectical-"foisting" and "-imposing" in other books and articles devoted to this theory, just as there seem to be countless sites on the Internet that also foist alongside the best of them.


Here follows a brief selection of the latter -- apologies are once again owed the reader for the mind-numbingly repetitive nature of this material (but spare a thought for yours truly; I have had to wade through guff like this for more years than is good for any human being to have to endure):


[1] "Every phenomenon in nature is a contradiction, a unity of opposites. Contradiction is an internal process and the basis of all quantitative development. Development or motion comes about through the struggle and unity of opposites.... All phenomena are comprised of opposing poles which are mutually exclusive and interdependent, and in contradiction. This polarity -- the relation between the two poles –- organizes them and makes them what they are, a quality." [Quoted from here and here. This site alone contains dozens of examples of the sort of 'foisting' in which DM-fans tells us they never indulge. Bold emphases added. Paragraphs merged.]


[2] "The world in which we live is a unity of contradictions or a unity of opposites: cold-heat, light-darkness, Capital-Labour, birth-death, riches-poverty, positive-negative, boom-slump, thinking-being, finite-infinite, repulsion-attraction, left-right, above-below, evolution-revolution, chance-necessity, sale-purchase, and so on. The fact that two poles of a contradictory antithesis can manage to coexist as a whole is regarded in popular wisdom as a paradox. The paradox is a recognition that two contradictory, or opposite, considerations may both be true. This is a reflection in thought of a unity of opposites in the material world.


"Motion, space and time are nothing else but the mode of existence of matter. Motion, as we have explained is a contradiction, -- being in one place and another at the same time. It is a unity of opposites. 'Movement means to be in this place and not to be in it; this is the continuity of space and time -- and it is this which first makes motion possible.' (Hegel) To understand something, its essence, it is necessary to seek out these internal contradictions. Under certain circumstances, the universal is the individual, and the individual is the universal. That things turn into their opposites, -- cause can become effect and effect can become cause -- is because they are merely links in the never-ending chain in the development of matter....


In the words of Hegel, everything which exists, exists of necessity. But, equally, everything which exists is doomed to perish, to be transformed into something else. Thus what is "necessary" in one time and place becomes "unnecessary" in another. Everything begets its opposite, which is destined to overcome and negate it. This is true of individual living things as much as societies and nature generally." [Rob Sewell. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]


As we will see, motion isn't 'contradictory', but it is noteworthy that comrade Sewell's only evidence for thinking it is, is..., yes, you guessed it..., Hegel's say-so! Nevertheless, comrade Sewell was quite happy to impose the above dogmas on nature.


Here is yet another Duplicitous Dialectical Dogmatist:


[3] "Dialectical thought is merely the reflection of objective dialectics: laws governing the development of nature, the laws of uninterrupted change or, as Darwin discovered, the laws of evolution. According to this view, change occurs in the struggle between opposites. Nothing exists without opposition. When opposites confront each other, changes occur." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


Compare the above with this passage from the Corpus Hermeticum:


"For everything must be the product of opposition and contrariety, and it cannot be otherwise." [Copenhaver (1995), p.38. Bold emphasis added.]


[The on-line translation has this as follows: "For all things must consist out of antithesis and contrariety; and this can otherwise not be." (Quoted from here, Book Ten, Section Ten.)]


Here are the thoughts of several more latter-day Hermeticists (again, compare the following with the above, as well as with these mystics):


[4] "Opposition is universal. Every process coexists with its opposite (Heraclitus): harmony and conflict, asymmetry and symmetry, union and separation, positive and negative, male and female.... If opposition is universal in reality, then opposition must be included in logic. In contrast, it is excluded by the principles of no contradiction (nothing is A and no[t]-A) and of the excluded third (either A or no[t]-A). Other formulations of logic dismiss the excluded middle...or allow the coexistence of opposites....." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and two letter "t"s added. Paragraphs merged.]


[5] "One -- Every thing (every object and every process) is made of opposing forces/opposing sides.

"Two -- Gradual changes lead to turning points, where one opposite overcomes the other.

"Three -- Change moves in spirals, not circles.


"These are the three laws of dialectics according to Frederick Engels, a revolutionary thinker and partner of Karl Marx, writing in the 1870s in his book Dialectics of Nature. Engels believed that dialectics was 'A very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand'....

"Here's how it works --

"1) Everything is made of opposites.

"No object could hold together without an opposing force to keep it from flying apart. The earth tries to fly away from the sun, but gravity holds it in orbit. Electrons try to fly away from the nucleus of an atom, but electromagnetism holds the atom together. Ligaments and tendons provide the ties that hold bones together and muscles to bones.

"Like material objects, the process of change needs opposing forces. Change needs a driving force to push it ahead, otherwise everything stays put. A billiard ball only moves when hit with a pool cue or another ball. We eat when our hunger tells us to. A car won't move if it's engine won't start. To win in fair elections candidates need more votes than their opponents.

"Engels, drawing from the philosopher, Hegel, called this law the 'interpenetration of opposites'; Hegel often referred to the 'unity of opposites.' This may sound contradictory, but it is easy to understand. It's like the saying, 'It takes two to tango.' There is no game if one side quits. There is no atom if the electrons fly away. The whole needs all of its parts to be a whole." [Quoted from
here; accessed 24/10/2013. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some of this dogmatic material (this links to a PDF) even featured in the truly awful film, Half Nelson, a movie directed by the son of the owner of the site, Dialectics For Kids, which is where the above passage originated. Indeed, the PDF linked to above had this to say: "In a New York Times review, Dennis Lim (2006), who interviewed Ryan Fleck [the director of the film -- RL], stated: 'Mr. Fleck's father, Jack Lucero Fleck, a San Francisco traffic engineer, was a central influence on Half Nelson. A dialectics autodidact, the senior Mr. Fleck maintains a Website,, which includes educational stories and MP3s of songs like "Do Our Lives Go Round in Circles?" Many of [Dan Dunne's] classroom monologues are lifted almost verbatim from the site.'" See also my comments about Dialectics For Kids, here.]

[6] "Dialectics is the science of the most general laws of development of nature, society, and thought. Its principal features are as follows:


"1) The universe is not an accidental mix of things isolated from each other, but an integral whole, wherein things are mutually interdependent.


"2) Nature is in a state of constant motion....


"3) Development is a process whereby insignificant and imperceptible quantitative changes lead to fundamental, qualitative changes. The latter occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, in the form of a leap from one state to another.


"4) All things contain within themselves internal contradictions, which are the primary cause of motion, change, development in the world." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


[7] "Again, matter is not only dynamic, it is dialectical. Since matter is dialectical, it is dynamic. So, the reason why matter is dynamic is no longer unknown. Not only this, motion is not considered external, it is the internal property of matter arising from internal contradiction and conflict....


"It is now established that all particular matters are interrelated -- interrelated by unity and struggle. Contradictions, you know, are of two types -- internal and external. The contradiction within any particular matter is its internal contradiction and the contradiction between one particular matter and another is called the external contradiction. Now, the nature of relationship between the internal and the external contradiction should be understood. First, we are to understand that they help and influence each other and so the relation is what we call supplementary-complementary. But it is to be understood that out of these two, the internal contradiction is the basis of change. The external contradiction influences the internal contradiction no doubt and in some cases plays a very important role indeed. But despite this, it should be understood, when a change occurs it cannot at all come about until the internal contradiction matures. So, the point is to be understood like this that whatever influence the external contradiction might have and however important its role might be in initiating a change, it is the internal contradiction that is the basic cause of change, the basis of change." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


[8] "All things have to be understood in their interconnections and their development, not as fixed, eternal objects isolated from one another. To achieve this, the dialectic sets out new logical laws. The three major laws of the dialectic are:

"No object or thing should ever be treated as if it is fixed or static forever. Each 'thing', in nature and society, is composed of a complex of interacting elements and forces. Contending components of a thing exist in contradiction with one another, giving motion and development to the thing itself....


"Gradual changes which occur to an object will eventually reach a point of rupture, at which point the thing itself is abruptly transformed....

"As inner contradictions unfold, a change in the quality of an object takes place. Yet the original object is not simply obliterated by a completely separate thing which takes its place. A complex process occurs in which both the original object and the prevailing force that transforms it are themselves transcended and replaced by a higher unity incorporating aspects of both in a radically different relationship." [Quoted from the
Fifth International website. Bold emphases added.]


[9] "Since ancient limes, people have pondered the cause of changes in nature and the society, looking for their source and driving power. Thinkers made various suppositions on this point, either approaching or moving away from the truth. Thus, religion attributes the changes going on in the world to God, idealists to the operation of some universal will or supernatural absolute idea, and metaphysicians look for the source of motion and change in some external force, in an initial impulse, and so end up in idealism.


"The scientific answer to the question of the cause of development given by the Marxist-Leninist philosophy is expressed in the law of the unity and struggle of opposites. Lenin called that law the essence, the core of materialist dialectics. It reveals the inner cause of development, showing that its source lies in the contradictory nature of phenomena and processes, the interaction and struggle of the opposites immanent in them. To understand this law, one should first clear up the meaning of opposites and contradictions.


"Opposites are the inner aspects, tendencies or forces of an object or phenomenon which rule each other out while simultaneously presupposing each other. The interconnection of opposites constitutes a contradiction.... So, all phenomena and processes of reality have opposite aspects. Everything is shot through with contradiction." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added; numerous typos corrected. Several paragraphs merged.]


[10] "Dialectics was initially a particular kind of dialogue invented in Ancient Greece in which two or more people holding different points of view about a subject seek to establish the truth of the matter by dialogue with reasoned arguments.... Today dialectics denotes a mode of cognition which recognizes the most general laws of motion, contradiction and new development. There exist four 'laws' to the dialectical method. They are:


"1) Everything is in a constant state of motion, development and change.


"2) Everywhere there exist opposing forces which are mutually exclusive yet cannot exist without the other. Their conflict results in movement.


"3) Change occurs suddenly, all at once. A quantitative amount of something results in a qualitative change (a 'breaking' point).


"4) Development moves in spirals, from lower to higher planes of development....


"Dialectical materialism is the recognition of a transient nature -- a physical reality in constant motion and change. What makes dialectical materialism a revolutionary scientific method is that it excludes all static states, all metaphysical views of reality, all one-sidedness and inflexibility. Because it recognizes the concrete and present side of things, at the same time it acknowledges that this present state is bound to end. For dialectal materialism, the only absolute is that there are no eternal absolutes....


"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be. As we mentioned earlier, everything in nature is transient, finite, and in motion. Matter cannot exist without motion. Everything has its beginning and its end. People are born, grow and eventually pass away. Stars such as our sun eventually begin to die, either slowly burning out or self-destructing. Species evolve, adapt, or go extinct. Rain falls from the clouds, evaporates back into the clouds where it will once again rain. Human society is also part of nature and is therefore subject to the same laws....


"The principle governing all growth and development is the idea of opposition and contradiction. Two mutually exclusive forces which at the same time cannot exist without each other has been a common theme in many philosophies for a long time (i.e. yin and yang) exactly because such processes occurring around us reflect this concept upon our minds...." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Minor typos corrected.]


[Another fifty on-line examples of this dogmatic approach to DM and Philosophy have been added to Appendix Three.]


And, if the above isn't enough, readers should feast their eyes on this tangled web of crazed 'psychedelic' dialectics. That link will lead you to a site run by someone who has clearly taken some half-digested mathematics and thrown a container-load of semi-coherent Hegel-speak at it. Adventurous readers should follow the links on that page if they want a free 'trip' to another dimension, a veritable Twilight Zone, without the need to inject, snort or smoke anything 'illegal'. Or, if your eyes need an extra work-out, cast them over the material that has been re-reposted here. [Unfortunately, that link is now dead since the character involved was banned for posting several anti-Semitic remarks, so I am told.]


I would attempt to reproduce a few paragraphs from that site here on this page but I'm not sure my computer would survive the trauma! Anyway, before I was banned for being rather too good at exposing DM-gobbledygook for what it is, I posted a response, here.


YouTube And Dialectical Dogmatism


Over the last few years there has been a proliferation of videos on YouTube that purport to 'explain' nature's deepest secrets, true for all of space and time, in a few idle minutes:



Video Two -- How To Misconstrue Formal Logic 101



Video Three -- Dialectics For Novices -- Awful Music, Too!



Video Four -- Dialectics For Numpties



Video Five -- UK-SWP's Impressive Contribution

To Dialectical Confusion


Despite their superficial differences, they all say basically the same thing, just as they all seem happy to impose such ideas on nature and society. In a world supposedly governed by the Heraclitean Flux -- ironically -- not much change apparent here!


Moreover, and unsurprisingly, these videos receive very few hits.


The masses apparently prefer cat videos.


Academic Dialectical Dogmatists


Conservative Theorists Masquerading As Radicals


As noted above, a priori dogmatics isn't confined to the Dialectical Musings of lowly LCD clones. In fact, if anything, HCDs are not only more dogmatic, they are far less likely to own up to the crime. That is probably because they either don't know when they are indulging in it, or, they care even less about it when they do. [Here is an excellent recent example.]


Far more likely though, it is because Traditional Thought has always adopted a dogmatic approach to 'philosophical knowledge', and HCDs are only too keen to show how 'intellectual' and traditional they are, even if it means they have had to appropriate a set of ruling-class ideas and forms-of-thought to prove it -- as, indeed, Marx predicted they would:


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


And, here follows a particularly good example of the genre...


Sean Sayers


[Once again, it is worth pointing out that I am not here questioning the truth of any of the assertions DM-fans make (that will be the subject of later Essays), but their consistency: do they or do they not impose their ideas on nature and society while claiming they don't it?]


We now turn to HCD-theorist Sean Sayers's and his impressive bid to be enrolled as a card-carrying member of the hallowed Friends of the Dogmatic Dialectic -- and not just this more contemporary, conservative Philosophy club.


First, we will note in passing the by-now-familiar, almost de rigueur, disarming initial disclaimer, followed, as we will see, by its prompt abrogation:


"Dialectical materialism diverges from Hegelian dialectic at this point. Marx's dialectic is not an a priori deduction, but a summary of human knowledge. 'Nature is proof of dialectics' [Engels (1976), p.28] according to Engels. Colletti, Popper and company do not understand this. Their constant refrain is that dialectics is an a priori dogma….


"No doubt dialectical materialism can be used as a set of dogmatic principles from which to deduce things. But Marxists have been at pains to stress that dialectical materialism is not a universal formula which may be applied to generate significant conclusions a priori….


"Correctly understood, dialectical materialism is not a dogma. Indeed, it is rather Popper, Colletti and other such critics of dialectic who show themselves to be dogmatists by the terms of their criticisms. For they merely assert their philosophy, embodied in the principles of formal logic, and when confronted with the dialectical concept of contradiction reject it as 'absurd', and 'irrational' for failing to conform to formal logic.


"Philosophy and logic can never replace the need for a detailed investigation of the concrete and particular conditions under study. They can never replace the need for the fullest possible practical experience; and no philosophy makes this point more forcibly than dialectical materialism. According to it, philosophy is not a body of merely conceptual, logical or a priori truths. Philosophy has a twofold character: it summarizes, at the most general level, the results of human knowledge and experience; and it functions as a guide to further thought and action.


"There is no question here of using the principles of dialectics as 'axioms' from which to 'deduce' any concrete results. If anything, the process works the other way around, and philosophies are based upon results in the particular sciences…." [Sayers (1980a), pp.19-21. Bold emphases alone added. Engels's reference altered in line with the edition used here.]


This seems reasonably clear, if not disarmingly honest: it is the critics of DM who are the dogmatists here; dialecticians never impose their ideas on reality, never reason or deduce a priori. Perish the thought! In fact, Sayers assures us that DM-theorists are the exact opposite of the caricature retailed by anti-dialecticians like Popper and Colletti.


Nevertheless, when we encounter claims like the following (in this case, just two pages after the above 'modest' disavowals!), we might be forgiven for thinking that Sayers is living on another planet -- alongside the rest of his conservative, dialectical peers:


"Dialectical materialism, by contrast, is a philosophy of struggle and of conflict. Nothing comes into being except through struggle; struggle is involved in the development of all things; and it is through struggle that things are negated and pass away. Conflict and contradiction are inevitable…." [Ibid., p.23. Bold emphasis added.]


But, how could Sayers possibly know all this? The above manifestly isn't a summary of experience, nor even of the available evidence, but a clear imposition on reality of objects it might not have, or of processes it might not possess in its entirety, even in isolated pockets. For example, where is the evidence that "contradictions" are "inevitable", or that "nothing" comes into being "except through struggle"? To be sure, Sayers quotes passages from Einstein, Newton, Maxwell, and..., er..., only kidding... In fact, he quotes only Hegel in support -- but apart from an appeal to that dubious authority, where is his evidence?


[Once more, as we shall see in Essays Three through Thirteen, the 'evidence' that some DM-fans have scraped together in support of their cosmically over-ambitious theory makes the phrase "watery thin" look impressively substantial in comparison.]


With bombastic claims like these confronting the reader within pages (sometimes within a few sentences) of the familiar knee-jerk, 'modest denials' that preface them, is it any wonder that consistent materialists accuse dialecticians of Idealist dogmatism, and are right to do so?


And, it is to no avail pointing the finger at other traditional dogmatists (like Popper and Colletti), saying "Well, they did it first!", since that would merely confirm the allegation advanced here that dialecticians are indeed part of a well-entrenched, ruling-class tradition, where this sort of thing is the norm, where it is so common and ubiquitous that comrades (like Sayers) can't even tell when they themselves are doing it!


Nor will it do to divert attention onto the alleged dogmatism found in the (putative) use of FL to settle all questions, as Sayers tries to do. In fact, it is far from clear that Colletti and Popper actually do what he says; but even if they did, the case against 'Materialist Dialectics' doesn't depend on the existence or otherwise of anti-DM dogmatism.


Far more importantly, however, the real problem here is that, time and again, dialecticians misconstrue even basic FL-principles. So, when DM-apologists are reminded of them, far from that being dogmatic, it is actually remedial.


Or, it would be if DM-fans actually got the point!


[LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law on Non-contradiction; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; FL = Formal Logic;  AFL = Aristotelian FL; MFL = Modern FL.]


As if to prove the above allegation correct, here is Sayers's own misconstrual of the LOC:


"According to the logical law of non-contradiction, it is impossible for a proposition, P, and its negation, not-P, both to be true at the same time of the same thing in the same respect." [Ibid, p.24, note 6.]


First, the precise role of "not-", in "not-P", is unclear. More on that here.


Second, if the P used here is a propositional sign, it c