Essay Nine -- The Politics Of Metaphysics

 

Part One: Substitutionism -- Or, Why Workers Will Always Reject Dialectical Materialism

 

Preface

 

This Essay Should be read in conjunction with Essays Nine Part Two and Ten Part One.

 

If you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or later), you might find some of the links I have used won't work properly unless you switch to 'Compatibility View' (in the Tools Menu); for IE11 select 'Compatibility View Settings' and then add this site (anti-dialectics.co.uk). I have as yet no idea how Microsoft's new browser, Edge, will handle these links.

 

[Quick Links to my discussion of Marx and Dialectical Materialism [DM]: Part One, Part Two.]

 

This Essay takes for granted much that has been established in earlier Essays. Anyone who hasn't read this material is likely to conclude that many of the things I have asserted below are either dogmatic or baseless. However, without repeating all that material in this Essay(!), the only suggestion I can make is that readers should shelve their qualms until they have consulted my other Essays. I have supplied links where necessary in what follows. 

 

It is also worth pointing out that a good 50% of my 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 case against DM, they will need to consult this material. In many cases, I have added considerably more detail to the main argument, along with numerous qualifications. I have even raised objections (some obvious, many not -- and some that will have occurred to the reader) to my own arguments -- which I have then answered. [I have explained why I adopted this tactic in Essay One.]

 

If readers skip the Endnotes, then this additional material and my answers to any objections they might have will be missed.

 

Since I have been debating this theory with comrades for over 25 years, I have heard all the objections there are! (Many of the more recent on-line debates are listed here.)

 

Last four points:

 

(1) Phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (in connection with Traditional Philosophy and DM), aren't meant to suggest that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.**

 

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

 

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

 

(2) Some might be tempted into thinking that my argument is as follows: DM is false because of its origin in ruling-class thought, on Lenin's own admission. I am not. This isn't my argument. [On that, see here.] I am in fact arguing that DM is far too vague and confused for it to be declared either true or false. It doesn't make it that far. Its origin in boss-class ideology has simply made a bad situation worse, and this is part of the reason why Dialectical Marxism has been such an abject failure.

 

[Notice, I said "part of the reason" not "the reason". Why I have alleged this is explained in Part Two and in Essay Ten Part One.]

 

(3) Although I refer to DM throughout this Essay, readers should take this to include 'Materialist Dialectics' [MD], too.

 

(4) As is the case with all my Essays, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a 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 nearly thirty years ago.

 

Finally, unless stated otherwise, I have used the word "dialectics" in this Essay (and this site) in the way that DM-theorists employ it -- to refer to the theory/method they inherited from Hegel (upside down or the 'right way up'). It is in that sense that the title of this site was chosen to be "anti-dialectics". However, this word carried a different meaning before Hegel took it over and turned it into a cosmic super-theory (or method); I have no specific problem with the use of "dialectics" before Hegel had altered its meaning (except to point out that it is a particularly inefficient way to argue), i.e., its classical meaning.

 

Nevertheless, when I turn to discussing Marx's use of this word (in the Afterword to the second edition of Das Kapital), my argument takes a dramatic turn, which has confused some readers. There, I try to use the word as Marx understood it in that Afterword, not as it has been used by subsequent DM-apologists, or even Hegel. It is quite clear that in this Postface Marx adopted an older understanding of this word -- which was based more on the work of Aristotle, Kant and The Scottish Historical School (Ferguson, Millar, Robertson, Smith, Hume and Steuart), and which situated "dialectics" closer to HM, not DM. On that, see here.

 

The difference between DM and HM, as I see it, is explained here.

 

As of February 2017, this Essay is just under 74,500 words long; a summary of some of its main points can be found here.

 

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

 

[Latest Update: 16/02/17.]

 

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!

 

I have adjusted the font size used at this site to ensure that even those with impaired vision can read what I have to say. However, if the text is still either too big or too small for you, please adjust your browser settings!

 

(1)  Introduction

 

(a) The Aims Of Essay Nine Parts One And Two

 

(2)  The Main Thesis Of This Site Seems Impossible To Believe

 

(a) The Origin Of DM

 

(b) Unbelievable, But True

 

(c) Unwitting Dupes

 

(3)  Substitutionism

 

(a) Ideological Roots

 

(b) Revolutionary Robots?

 

(4)  Alien-Class Ideas

 

(a) Philosophy -- Imported From The 'Outside'

 

(b) Topsy-Turvy Logic

 

(5)  Dialectics: A Deep Mystery Even To Marxists

 

(a) DM -- Terminally Obscure

 

(b) Well, Have You Read And Fully Understood The Whole Of Hegel's Logic?

 

(6)  A Mystery To Workers, Too?

 

(a) Unconscious Dialecticians?

 

(b) Bootstrap Dialectics

 

(c) Ordinary Language

 

(d) Dialectics Of Labour?

 

(e) Class War Dialectics

 

(f) Hindsight Dialectics

 

(g) Trotsky In A Stew

 

(h) Trotsky Out-Foxes Himself

 

(7)  Historical Materialism Different

 

(a) Dialectical Marxism -- A Long-Term Failure

 

(b) Historical Materialism -- Introduced From The 'Inside'

 

(c) The Vernacular -- Hindrance Or Resource?

 

(d) Language And Dialectics

 

(8)   Marx And Dialectical Materialism - I

 

(9)   Marx And Dialectical Materialism - II

 

(10) Is Dialectical Materialism The Same As Historical Materialism?

 

(11) Hegel And 'Double Meanings'

 

(12) The Revenge Of The 'Either-Or' Of 'Commonsense'

 

(13) Appendix A -- Aristotle's Comments On His Dialectical Method

 

(14) Notes

 

(15) References

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Introduction

 

The Aims Of Essay Nine Parts One And Two

 

In Essay Nine Parts One and Two I hope to examine some of the political implications of the analysis of Metaphysics and DM advanced at this site, particularly those presented in Essay Twelve Part One.

 

[DM = Dialectical Materialism; HM = Historical Materialism.]

 

Part One of this Essay will show that, unlike HM, DM can't form a theoretical foundation for the "world-view of the proletariat", and, therefore, that it has had to be imposed on what few workers Dialectical Marxism has managed to attract to its ranks over the years. What is more, this imposition runs 'against the grain' (so to speak) of workers' materialist good sense. Hence, it will be argued that DM is the ideology of substitutionist elements within Marxism.

 

Moreover, since it is also possible to show that 'dialectics' is a mystery -- even to DM-theorists --, it can't even provide the latter with a scientific or philosophical foundation either for their politics or their practice. In which case, DM can't 'reflect the experience of the party'.

 

The differences between HM and DM will also be explained.

 

Part Two will expose the role that dialectics (in either its DM-, or its 'Materialist Dialectics' [MD-], form) plays, or has played, in addressing and satisfying the contingent psychological needs of prominent Dialectical Marxists.

 

In addition, it will also show how and why Hegel's influence has assisted in the corruption of our movement from top to bottom (aggravating, but not causing, sectarian in-fighting, fostering the subsequent splits and expulsions that often arise as a result), revealing, too, why DM has had such a deleterious and narcoleptic effect on militant minds. These untoward consequences will be linked to the class origin and class position of leading revolutionaries -- those who have helped shape our movement's core ideas.

 

It will also be shown how and why the above comrades are particularly susceptible to ideas that have been peddled by boss-class theorists for thousands of years -- specifically, the doctrine that there is a 'hidden world', a world of 'abstractions' and 'essences' anterior to 'appearances' that is more real than the material universe we see around us (in the sense that these 'abstractions' are somehow capable of making objects and processes in nature concrete, an ancient idea that implies nature is in fact insufficient to itself, and needs 'Ideas', or 'Concepts', to make it 'Real'), and which 'hidden world' can be accessed by thought alone.

 

In short, it will be shown that this theory has played a key role in making Dialectical Marxism synonymous with political and theoretical impotency --, which, naturally, helps explain its long-term lack of success.

 

[Notice the use of the indefinite article here -- i.e., in "a key role". I am not blaming all our woes on this theory! Doubters should read this warning -- on the opening page of this site, in the right hand column.]

 

These fatal defects, among others, will be further explored in Essay Ten Part One, where this part of the sorry tale will be concluded.

 

 

Impossible To Believe?

 

The Origin Of DM

 

In Essay Twelve it was argued that Ancient Greek Metaphysics received its most important, formative input from contemporaneous ruling-class ideology, itself expressive of the interests and priorities of the elite. In subsequent Modes of Production, Traditional Metaphysicians directly or indirectly benefited from, or helped serve, the State, rationalising class division and gross inequality as 'natural' or 'god'-ordained.

 

While, for example, Theology has always represented the theoretical expression of alienated religious sentiment (among other things), in its different forms Metaphysics has helped systematise, rationalise, and legitimate ruling-class hegemony, linking the authority of the State to the hidden, 'natural', or 'god-ordained' order. Ever since Ancient Greece, metaphysicians have concocted Super-Scientific theories that supposedly reveal the fundamental principles governing the entire universe, unmasking its underlying 'rational' structure --, which, un-coincidentally, mirrored the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity. Beneath the 'velvet glove' of Metaphysics lies the mailed fist of class domination, its 'necessary truths' dimly reflecting -- more often 'justifying' --, the iron rule of the State.

 

[The above argument is outlined in more detail, here.]

 

As Marx and Engels noted:

 

"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. Bold emphases added.]

 

"In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or -- this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms -- with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic -- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production." [Marx (1968b), pp.181-82. Bold emphasis added.]

 

It is worth underling the last part of the first quotation above, since most comrades appear to miss it, or fail to see its significance (especially those who deny that Traditional Philosophy -- including the concepts that have re-surfaced in DM -- forms a key component of the "ruling ideas" Marx speaks about):

 

"[T]hey do this in the whole range...[they] rule as thinkers, 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." [Ibid. Bold emphases added.]

 

Note how the ruling-class do this in the "whole range", how they "regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age....", and how they also "rule as "thinkers". This can only mean that Traditional Philosophy is indeed one of the key elements of these "ruling ideas". In the second of the above passages, Marx confirms that Philosophy is one of the "ideological forms in which men become conscious" of the class war and then "fight it out."01

 

[Exactly how the boss-class and their ideologues have managed to do this was, of course, one of the main concerns of Essay Twelve (i.e., all seven Parts of it, when they are published; a summary of what they will contain can be accessed here), and Essay Three Parts One and Two. Essay Nine will simply examine the effect all this has had on Dialectical Marxism.]

 

It has also been argued (in the above Essays, along with Essay Two) that it was largely through the influence Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Plekhanov, among others (courtesy of Hegel), that such alien-class concepts were imported into revolutionary politics (upside down, or 'the right way up'). [I have omitted Marx's name for reasons explained here and here.]

 

Indeed, Lenin was quite open about this (as are many other DM-theorists):

 

"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.]

 

In that case, one particular conclusion is reasonably clear -- in fact, Lenin seems quite proud to have acknowledged it -- DM-theorists have imported ruling-class forms-of-thought into Marxism.

 

It could be objected that Marx in fact argued as follows:

 

"In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic -- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out." [Marx (1968b), p.182. Bold emphasis added.]

 

If this is correct, then it implies workers can use philosophy to fight back. But, for 2500 years, Philosophy has only ever been used in a limited number of ways in the class war: (i) to rationalise and defend the power and wealth of the elite, or (ii) to rationalise, promote and defend the pretentions of a new, rising class, challenging for power or rich enough to patronise philosophers. Neither of these has ever been true of workers. One can count on the fingers of a severely mutilated hand the number of workers who have ever bothered with Philosophy (in the sense that they have written and thought systematically about it). In fact, I can think only of Epictetus who might fit this bill -- with the mystic, Jakob Böhme, perhaps, on the subs bench. [As we will see, this isn't true of Dietzgen.]

 

Of late, I can only think of only two examples of professional philosophers with a working class background:

 

(1) The late G A Cohen -- but, in his case, it is worth adding that he was a notorious anti-Hegelian Marxist, and co-founder of what came to be known as Analytical Marxism -- an approach to Marxist Theory not a million miles distant from the line adopted at this site. [Having said that, there are important qualifications that need to be brought to the attention of the reader.]

 

(2) Donald Davidson -- a leading Analytic Philosopher who was both working class in origin and a socialist, too (although Davidson's working class credentials aren't quite as clear cut as Cohen's), but who, as far as I know, didn't use philosophy to fight on behalf of either side in the class war.

 

[Details underlying Cohen's working class background can be found in Cohen (2000), pp.xx-xxi, as well as the key role he played in founding Analytical Marxism, pp.xvii-ff. Davidson's background and political orientation are detailed in Davidson (2004) pp.231-65. If anyone knows of other examples of working class philosophers (either from the past or the present), please e-mail me with the details.]

 

To be sure, Marxist intellectuals use Philosophy to fight their side in the class war, but because of this, as we have seen, their ideas have been completely compromised. The fact is that workers don't use Philosophy, and this Essay and Part Two explain why. I return to this theme and discuss it in more detail, below, and, as noted, also in Part Two. With that in mind, it is quite clear that when Marx spoke about the use of Philosophy to fight the class war, he can only have had in mind the two uses of it mentioned above -- in which struggle no 'working class philosophers' have had "skin in the game", to use an Americanism.

 

Admittedly, the allegations advanced at this site face several seemingly insurmountable objections, not the least of which is its apparent incapacity to explain how it is even remotely conceivable that the above revolutionaries could possibly have appropriated and then disseminated ideas that represent the theoretical interests of the class enemy. On the face of it, it seems totally unbelievable that class fighters of the highest calibre -- comrades who (mostly) have, or had, impeccable revolutionary credentials -- could have accepted a theory that supposedly represents the worst form of ideological compromise imaginable.

 

In addition, it could be argued that revolutionary theory has been refined in struggle for over one hundred and fifty years by the very best theorists and activists in the Marxist tradition. Had there been the slightest hint of contamination from any form of ruling-class ideology this would have shown up long ago, becoming apparent perhaps in a series of disastrous theoretical, strategic and tactical blunders, or in major compromises and accommodations with the class enemy.

 

It is inconceivable that revolutionaries (not to mention countless thousands of militants and socialist workers -- many of whom were, and still are, prepared to give their lives in furtherance of revolutionary cause) would have, or could have, adopted ideas derived from the ideologues of the class enemy, totally vitiating their long-term political aims and life's work.

 

Furthermore, it might well be wondered how revolutionary classics (such as Marx's Das Kapital, Marx and Engels's The Communist Manifesto, Engels's Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Lenin's What Is To Be Done? and State and Revolution, Trotsky's The Permanent Revolution and The History of the Russian Revolution, Luxembourg's The Mass Strike -- along with countless others) could have been written by comrades who have been portrayed in the Essays posted at this site as little more than undercover propagandists for the ruling-class.

 

 

Unbelievable -- But True

 

Nevertheless, the contention made here -- in all seriousness -- is that the above comrades, in so far as they entertained a theory that is based on concepts drawn from Hegel and other boss-class ideologues, succeeded in introducing into the revolutionary movement a world-view that constitutes a major theoretical compromise with the class enemy.

 

Indeed, and in answer to one of the objections rehearsed above, this is part of the reason why Dialectical Marxism has witnessed little other than defeat, disaster, retreat, and fragmentation over the last 100 years or so. If practice tells us anything, it tells us that practice has not served us well, and that Dialectical Marxism is now almost synonymous with catastrophic, long-term failure.

 

[Notice, please, the emphasised word ("part") used in the first sentence of the last paragraph! Once more, I am not blaming all our woes on DM! More on this in Part Two of this Essay and Essay Ten Part One -- where I will be examining (among other things) the excuses generally advanced by DM-apologists for this sorry record.]

 

Furthermore, both parts of Essay Nine aim to show why Dialectical Marxism has been about as 'successful' as religious belief has always been at fostering and aggravating sectarianism. Far from presenting a glowing beacon to mankind, Dialectical Marxism has become an object lesson in failure and (in the eyes of most people) a byword for corruption and bureaucratic callousness.

 

[I hasten to add -- since some have misinterpreted the comment in the previous paragraph -- that I am not blaming DM for the sectarianism in Dialectical Marxism, only that it has made a bad situation worse.]

 

Admittedly, much of this we can attribute to the malign influence of Stalinism; but STDs and MISTs were ardent DM-fans too. [In Part Two, I will examine the claim that they employed a "wooden and lifeless" version of the dialectic, transforming DM into an ossified state dogma. Of course, if you are a Stalinist or a Maoist, you can blame much of this on us Trotskyists. But, OTs and NOTs are fervent DM-fans, too.]

 

[STD = Stalinist Dialectician; MIST = Maoist Dialectician; OT = Orthodox Trotskyist, NOT = Non-Orthodox Trotskyist.]

 

We can't put all this down to the destructive influence of bourgeois propaganda, either; time after time we have scored more than our fair share of own goals, presenting the capitalist media with abundant ammunition to use against us. [This is just the latest example. There are countless others.]

 

Furthermore, as we will see in Part Two, this shameful record is one reason why Dialectical Marxists cling to dialectics like terminally insecure limpets (despite the fact that it has been comprehensively refuted by history), it 'allows' them to re-interpret the long-term failure of Marxism as its opposite -- as success in disguise --, and then ignore it.

 

Indeed, those who accept a theory that tells them that "appearances contradict 'essence', or  'reality'" are going to find it relatively easy to re-interpret each and every failure as its opposite, as a disguised success -- since, whatever happens, the NON is guaranteed to turn things around eventually. This then 'allows' them to argue that only those who don't 'understand' dialectics will conclude otherwise. [More on this in Part Two.]

 

[NON = Negation of the Negation.]

 

Given such a rosy view of history, not only does every failure appear to have a silver lining, there are in fact only silver linings!

 

Dialectics thus prevents the serious problems our movement faces from ever being addressed, which helps guarantee they will keep recurring. It does this by encouraging those whose brains it has colonised into concluding that DM has been tested in practice and has emerged a resounding success --, the exact opposite of the truth.

 

And, that is why, to the DM-faithful, the allegations made in this and other Essays posted at this site will seem so patently false, so preposterous, providing sufficient grounds for them to be rejected out-of-hand, or, better still, for them to be ignored and left unread --, or, failing that, misrepresented and vilified.

 

Of course, those lost in a Dialectical Day-Dream are going to resist all attempts to slap some materialist good sense into them.

 

Nevertheless, comrades, may I suggest you return to "the desert of the real"?

 

 

Heads Out Of The Sand, Comrades -- Dialectical Marxism Sucks!

 

 

Unwitting Dupes

 

Having said that, it needs stressing up-front that it isn't being maintained here that leading revolutionaries adopted ruling-class ideas duplicitously or willingly. What is being alleged is that they did this unwittingly. Exactly how and why they did so will be revealed in Part Two.

 

However, in order to provide an adequate answer to the seemingly insurmountable objections outlined above, we must take a slight detour; strange as it might seem, we need to consider substitutionism.

 

 

Substitutionism

 

Ideological Roots

 

It is quite remarkable that the ideological roots of substitutionist thinking have received scant attention from revolutionaries. For example, in his otherwise excellent essay on Trotsky's views on this phenomenon, Tony Cliff doesn't even mention the ideological roots of substitutionist thinking. The closest he gets to doing so is here, in the following passage:

 

"The fact that the working class needs a party or parties is in itself a proof of the cleavages in the working class. The more backward culturally, the weaker the organisation and self-administration of the workers generally, the greater will be the intellectual cleavage between the class and its Marxist party. From this unevenness in the working class flows the great danger of an autonomous development of the party and its machine till it becomes, instead of the servant of the class, its master. This unevenness is a main source of the danger of 'substitutionism'....

 

"Men make history, and if these men organised in a party have a greater impact on history than their relative number warrants, nevertheless they alone do not make history and, for better or worse, they alone are not the cause of their greater specific weight, neither of the general history of the class nor even of themselves in this class. In the final analysis, the only weapons to fight the 'substitutionism' of the revolutionary party for the class, and hence the transformation of the former into a conservative force, is the activity of the class itself, and its pressure not only against its social enemy, but also against its own agent, its party....

 

"Because the working class is far from being monolithic, and because the path to socialism is uncharted, wide differences of strategy and tactics can and should exist in the revolutionary party. The alternative is the bureaucratised party or the sect with its 'leader'. Here one cannot but regret Trotsky's sweeping statement that 'any serious factional fight in a party is always in the final analysis a reflection of the class struggle'. [Trotsky (1971), p.77.] This verges on a vulgar materialist interpretation of human thought as growing directly out of material conditions! What class pressures separated Lenin from Luxemburg, or Trotsky from Lenin (1903-17), or what change in class pressures can one see in Plekhanov's zigzags: with Lenin in 1903, against him in 1903, against him in 1905, with him again (and at last breaking, it is true, with Lenin and with the revolutionary movement and joining the class enemy)? Can the differences in the theory of imperialism between Lenin and Luxemburg be derived from an analysis of their position in class society? Scientific socialism must live and thrive on controversy. And scientists who start off with the same basic assumptions, and then use the same method of analysis, do differ in all fields of research." [Cliff (1960), pp.126-30. Here, I have used the version reprinted in Cliff (2001). Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]

 

It is almost as if the party were run by automata, or by individuals who had no class-origin themselves -- and so no philosophical baggage which they had brought with them into the movement.

 

But, to suggest that the above stalwarts were human beings, who might have had alien-class ideas already installed in their brains by their upbringing, education and class background (ideas that had been concocted and disseminated by countless generations of boss-class hacks, as Marx noted), and who react to defeat and demoralisation (just like most human beings, they look for some form of consolation, some sort of explanation to neutralise and rationalise the cognitive dissonance these set-backs often generate) -- to suggest this, in no way amounts to a concession to "vulgar reductionism" (as is often claimed -- more on that here); it is to take Marx seriously when he said:

 

"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." [Marx (1859), p.181. Quoted from here.]

 

Naturally, we must handle the beliefs of fellow human beings with no little sensitivity, but revolutionaries like Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky weren't beamed down to the earth from a passing spaceship, nor were they born fully-formed with every single one of their ideas pre-installed.

 

However, when we find virtually every avowed Marxist -- despite their massive political differences -- ranging from Leninists to Trotskyists, Maoists to Stalinists, Libertarian Communists to non-Orthodox Trotskyists, accepting and attempting to apply almost exactly the same dialectical doctrines (derived from that ruling-class hack, Hegel, upside down or the 'right way up'), this constitutes reasonably strong prima facie evidence that "social being" might very well have been at work here -- as Marx indicated -- shaping the collective dialectical 'consciousness' of generations of Marxists. [More on this in Part Two.]

 

Of course, this isn't to suggest that substitutionism hasn't been discussed at length by Marxists; far from it. But, the debate so far has often been defensive, uncharacteristically piecemeal and vaguely apologetic, lacking any attempt to examine its roots in boss-class ideology. [Cliff's article perhaps constituting Exhibit A in this regard.]

 

In Cliff's case, and with respect to the revolutionary party itself, substitutionism is portrayed as a latent disposition of little consequence or danger when the wider movement is vibrant, healthy and on the advance; but which poses considerable threat when the movement is weak, in retreat or in its death throws.

 

Hence, substitutionism is depicted in terms that make it look almost inevitable, given the 'right' sort of circumstances.

 

Indeed, Cliff all but suggests that the party will naturally gravitate in this direction unless it is prevented from doing so by an assertive working class!

 

But, in view of the fact that Marxist parties these days tend to be small (or, if large -- as they are in some 'third world' countries -- dependent on a largely passive working class, as election-fodder, etc.), this can only mean that, if Cliff is correct, every Marxist Party is actively substitutionist, or tends in that direction!

 

There is even a hint of this in Victor Serge's famous comment:

 

"It is often said that 'the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its beginning'. Well, I have no objection. Only, Bolshevism also contained many other germs, a mass of other germs, and those who lived through the enthusiasm of the first years of the first victorious socialist revolution ought not to forget it. To judge the living man by the death germs which the autopsy reveals in the corpse -- and which he may have carried in him since his birth -- is that very sensible?" [Quoted from here.]

 

However, Serge neglected to identify this "germ of Stalinism". Could it have something to do with the class origin, class position, ideology, and psychology of leading Marxists?

 

 

Revolutionary Robots?

 

Naturally, this doesn't mean that theorists have failed to consider other aspects, or causes, of substitutionism, or that different explanations of it don't exist. What is undeniable, though, is that little systematic thought appears to have been devoted to the internal features of this phenomenon, and especially to its ideological roots --, that is, to (i) the theoretical background that supplies it with what seems to be some sort of revolutionary rationale and (ii) the class origin of those it seems to have so easily seduced.

 

Indeed, even less thought has been devoted to (iii) the material, social or philosophical source of substitutionist ideology.

 

It is undeniable that substitutionism must have an ideological basis if it is to have any effect on human beings -- as opposed to, say, 'motivating' automata. But, exactly how it achieves this has never been examined.

 

To be sure, our understanding of the relationship between the revolutionary class and the Party has changed considerably over the last 150 years, yet the specific details of the theoretical (let alone the practical) relationship between the two have remained somewhat imprecise, vague and sketchy. Naturally, this is because few are happy to admit that a serious problem even exists in this area even though the aforementioned relationship has presented the movement with intractable difficulties at important historical junctures (for example in the former Soviet Union [fSU], after 1917, and the subsequent Civil War, following on the almost total destruction of the Russian proletariat).

 

Nevertheless, since the above relationship is central to the success or failure of Marxism -- and in view of the fact that Dialectical Marxism has witnessed little other than long-term failure -- this can only mean that there is something profoundly wrong with our movement and with its ideas.

 

[DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist, depending on context.]

 

This also suggests that our relationship with the working-class isn't all it should be.

 

However, it isn't my intention to address that particular problem in this Essay. [It has been partially dealt with in Essay Ten.] My aim here will be limited to the connection that is alleged (by me) to exist between important ideological aspects of substitutionist thought and DM itself.

 

Clearly, the solution of the former can only benefit from a resolution of the latter.

 

 

Alien-Class Ideas

 

Philosophy -- Imported From The 'Outside'

 

In his book Marxism And The Party, John Molyneux attempted to reconcile Marx's claim that the "emancipation of the working class" is the "act of the working class" with Lenin's belief that:

 

"Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of the relations between workers and employers." [Lenin (1947), p.78. Quoted in Molyneux (1978), p.45. Italic emphases in the original.]1

 

My aim here isn't to take issue with Molyneux's resolution of this apparent, but much discussed, problem. What is of present concern is that, whatever 'dialectical' relationship there in fact exists or is imagined to exist between the working class and the party, it is clear that Molyneux concedes that workers of themselves can't develop a "revolutionary consciousness" -- or, at least, one that is either even or fully-formed -- a fact which is undisputed by most Leninists anyway.

 

Of course, as Draper argued many years ago, this is a caricature of Lenin, but the point is that this 'received' view has, rightly or wrongly, motivated many, if not most, self-described Leninists ever since.

 

[More recently, Lars Lih has pushed his own 'revisionary' ideas to their limits (cf., Lih (2005)). See also Harman (2010) and Lih (2010).]

 

Nevertheless, how this particular theoretical dispute will finally be resolved (whether Lenin was right in what he appears to have said, or whether his views have been seriously misrepresented, etc.) doesn't affect the point being made here, as we are about to see.

 

The 'received' view tells us that there is a pressing need for intervention by the Party to bring revolutionary ideas to workers. To be sure, not only must the Party learn from workers and their struggles, it must have in its ranks revolutionary proletarians themselves (i.e., "advanced" sections of the working class). Indeed, the structure of the Party should be as democratic as the exigencies of the class struggle permit. Granted, too, that even though this Party is "of the working class", it still separate from it, that it represents its "memory" and remains a "tribune" for the oppressed (etc., etc.).2

 

Despite this, a paradox remains: even though the Party's strategy and tactics have been derived from a series of long-term interventions in workers' struggles, its philosophical ideas have plainly originated elsewhere. And that is why the resolution of the above dispute is irrelevant; Dialectical Marxism's core ideas have been introduced from the "outside". 

 

Lenin himself confirmed this several times (quoted earlier):

 

"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.]2a

 

As we will see, philosophical ideas like these can't be derived by workers themselves (and that isn't because they lack intelligence), so they have to be introduced to them from the "outside". In which case, whatever Lenin really meant in What Is To Be Done?, and despite the 'revisionist' reading put about by Lars Lih, DM itself has had to be introduced from the "outside".

 

In which case, this comment (also quoted earlier) must apply to 'dialectics':

 

"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. Bold emphasis added.]

 

As well as this:

 

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

 

[The real significance of these comments will become increasingly clear as this Essay and Part Two unfold.]

 

To be sure, in TAR, John Rees argued that dialectical concepts have arisen partly out of a theoretical analysis of the growth of Capitalism, partly out of an engagement with the long-term resistance mounted by workers -- among other things --, and partly out of the interplay between the two. However, when these concepts are examined (as they will be below), it is clear that this picture of revolutionary theory is, to say the least, far from accurate. In fact it is about as inaccurate as anything could be.

 

Not only is it impossible to believe that DM-concepts could have been cobbled-together in this way, it is equally impossible to believe they could have been developed by workers themselves. Nor could these concepts have been derived from any sort of interaction between the Party and workers -- nor even from a scientific analysis either of the natural world or of social development.

 

And neither could they have been developed out of the experience of the Party -- nor yet from any conceivable body of experience that any human being could conceivably ever have encountered.3

 

 

Topsy-Turvy Logic

 

[It should be pointed out that in what follows I will first of all present as series of seemingly dogmatic assertions. The rest of this Essay, Part Two and Essay Ten Part One will be aimed at substantiating each of them at some point.]

 

I aim to show that while workers are capable of developing ideas consonant with HM (which enables them to connect with revolutionary theory and practice systematised by the revolutionary party), they can't form from their own experience -- as a matter of fact or of logic -- any notion whatsoever of concepts drawn exclusively either from DM or from Hegel's work (upside down or ''the right way up').

 

Indeed, it will be shown that such concepts lie way beyond the experience that any human could conceivably have.

 

And that includes dialecticians.

 

It will be argued, therefore, that workers have had to have this alien-class ideology imposed on them. DM has to be substituted into workers' heads by outside influence, and this has to be done against their materialist inclinations. In fact, DM has to replace many of the ideas that workers might already have formed which could have helped them understand, not only Marxism, but how to transform their own lives by acting for themselves and in their own interests. In short, it will be argued that DM not only cripples workers' comprehension of Marxism, it hinders their self-activity, fatally compromising their capacity to create a socialist society for themselves.

 

Even worse: it will be maintained that not only does DM put workers off Marxism (because it is incomprehensible), it aggravates sectarianism and hence helps cause fragmentation in what they might otherwise assume is 'their' Party, encouraging a climate of unreasonableness and systematic corruption (political, personal, and sexual). Worse still, it 'allows' Dialectical Marxists to rationalise various forms of substitutionism, which frame-of-mind has helped cripple revolutionary socialism, putting hundreds of millions of workers off Marxism, leading directly or indirectly to the death or serious injury of countless millions of proletarians and/or their family members. [That particular topic will form part of Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

Plainly, this in no way makes the antics of generations of 'dialectical' revolutionaries appealing to workers.

 

Furthermore, it will also be shown that despite claims to the contrary, revolutionaries themselves couldn't possibly employ -- or have employed -- dialectical concepts, either (i) In their own day-to-day activity, or (ii) During revolutionary upheavals (such as 1917). [On that, also see here.]

 

That is because it is impossible to use incomprehensible concepts. Since no one (not Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Plekhanov, Stalin, Mao, Luxembourg, Gramsci, or anyone else for that matter) is capable of understanding dialectics, it can't feature, nor could it have featured, in the practical activity of the Party, despite what we are constantly told. Again, this isn't because dialectics is too difficult to grasp, it is because its theses are either non-sensical and incoherent, or they are far too confused for anyone to be able to understand, and thus act upon, them. [Why this is so will be explained in detail in Essay Twelve Part One, especially here.]

 

Hence, it will be concluded that the concepts found in DM can't have been developed out of -- or in response to -- the class struggle (by any stretch of the imagination), by anyone, ever. In that case, whatever else DM-theses are, they are neither historical nor materialist.

 

Furthermore, it will also be argued that one of the side-effects of this alien-class 'theory' is that it superglues workers to a passive ideology, which transforms them into the objects of theory, not the subjects of history. In connection with this it will be maintained that DM encourages in workers a servile, subservient notion of themselves as the playthings of mysterious metaphysical forces that neither they nor anyone else understands -- or ever will, or ever could --, but which they find they have to accept because DM forms an integral part of a philosophical tradition they had no part in building.4

 

Strange as it may seem, 'activity' by Traditional Dialectical Marxists has (a) Inadvertently contributed to the theoretical passivity of any workers it has managed to attract to its ranks, (b) Helped, directly or indirectly, put them off Marxism altogether by (i) Attempting to fill their heads with incomprehensible jargon they have to accept, and which no one is allowed to question, by (ii) Saddling them with undemocratic party and/or state structures, and by (iii) Murdering them, or otherwise causing their deaths, in the countless millions -- among other things.

 

The irony here is that this 'theory' enslaves workers' minds because it forms an integral part of the promise that only if these alien concepts are internalised and obeyed will they be capable of freeing themselves from the wage slavery they experience under Capitalism!

 

Plainly, that unity of opposites hasn't so far worked to the benefit of workers.

 

Now, all this is quite remarkable -- not just because it represents another dialectical inversion -- but because no one seems to have spotted it before.

 

These allegations are completely unique to this site.

 

Nevertheless, if the above is correct, it is in fact the self-activity of workers that DM-theorists have turned on its head, not Hegel.

 

To that end, workers have had to be ideologically knocked off their feet, their material ideas inverted and mystified.

 

This topsy-turvy approach to revolutionary theory is just one more reason for the revolutionary impotence of Dialectical Marxism.

 

DM thus encapsulates, not the 'rational core' inside a mystical shell, but the rotten cause of a monumental shambles.

 

In stark contrast, HM provides workers with an analysis of the course of history and of the vital part they must play in overthrowing their exploiters and oppressors -- and which connects directly with their daily experience.

 

Hence, HM doesn't need to be substituted into their heads, simply introduced to them -- and, as we will see, not from the "outside", either.

 

In comparison, once more, DM stands out as an anachronism: an atavistic throw-back to ideas that have motivated ruling-class hacks for thousands of years. In bringing this to workers, revolutionaries have inadvertently substituted obscure metaphysical jargon for crystal clear materialist concepts, and imposed on workers (and themselves) a theory that they not only do not understand, no one understands, or could understand.

 

Serious doubts have been raised throughout this site about the philosophical provenance of the concepts found in DM; however, its actual historical origins aren't in any doubt. The long and sordid trail is there for all to see (and will be exposed for those who want to see, in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here)).

 

[AIDS = Absolute Idealism. HM = Historical Materialism.]

 

This fact doesn't need inverting; it just needs airing. DM was developed out of the most all-embracing version of AIDS ever concocted -- a theory sited right at the heart of an age-old tradition of philosophical and mystical thought that stretches back into Ancient Greece, and further into Ancient Egypt -- and arguably beyond even that to the very origins of class society itself -- as even Lenin admitted.5

 

This means that DM has had to be brought to workers from the "outside", from traditions and forms-of-though that are inimical to their interests and alien to their materialist view of the world --, which concepts, too, lie beyond anybody's grasp, and which are foreign both to their experience and to their use of language.

 

Oddly enough, these claims are nearly as easy to substantiate as they are to make; the rest of this Essay is aimed at showing this isn't an empty boast.

 

 

DM: A Deep Mystery Even To Marxists

 

DM -- Terminally Obscure

 

It could be objected to the above that while many scientific theories lie way beyond the grasp of the majority -- given the poor education they receive in class society -- that doesn't automatically brand them as inimical to their interests. Most of modern science transcends ordinary experience; since this presents no problems for scientists, it can't present any for dialecticians. If so, the fact that workers don't understand dialectics (that is, even if it is admitted that they don't) doesn't imply that it represents alien-class interests.

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

However, with respect to understanding genuine scientific theories, only an inadequate education and insufficient leisure time stands in the way of ordinary individuals in this respect. With regard to DM, on the other hand, things are completely different. In the Essays posted at this site, we have seen on numerous occasions that even the DM-classicists find it impossible to explain its core ideas to one another -- or to anyone else, for that matter (let alone to workers) -- in a comprehensible form. Not only have we witnessed DM-theses repeatedly collapse into incoherence at the slightest encouragement, we have also seen how impenetrably vague and equivocal they are. In fact, even now, well over one hundred and forty years since Engels, Dietzgen and Plekhanov first invented DM, not one of its core ideas has been explicated in anything other than a terminally obscure form.6

 

Indeed, DM-theses have remained in the same confused state that the DM-classicists originally left them. From the beginning, dialecticians have relied largely on merely repeating, generation after generation, the same vague notions and confused ideas they inherited from Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin -- the dialectical needle stuck well and truly in that Ideal groove.

 

Hence, what we find in DM-writings are the same erroneous assertions made about FL (which is repeatedly -- and one now suspects, deliberately -- conflated with Aristotelian Syllogistic), the same confused references to the LOI, the LEM, the LOC and change, the same repetition of vague reformulations of Engels's "three laws of dialectics",7 the same appeal to an epistemology that is as implausible as it is unworkable, the same unimaginative examples repackaged as if they were either brand new or relevant (e.g., those involving boiling or freezing water, Mendeleyev's table, John's manhood, a character from Molière's Monsieur Jourdain discovering he has been speaking prose all his life, plants negating seeds, Mamelukes out-fighting French soldiers (or otherwise), "yea, yea", and "nay, nay" (this one is very popular), and so on, ad nauseam). In tandem with we encounter the same old bluster, hand waving, sweeping generalisations, snide remarks and diversionary tactics whenever DM encounters any serious criticism.8

 

DM, the erstwhile philosophy of change, has remained stuck in a 19th century time-warp; little sign here of the Heraclitean Flux!

 

[FL = Formal Logic; LOI = Law Of Identity; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; LOC = Law of Non-Contradiction.]

 

It is pertinent to ask, therefore: How is it possible for DM to be "brought to workers" (as an integral cog in revolutionary theory) if even its best theorists seem incapable of 'bringing it to themselves' after over 140 years of not trying all that hard?

 

 

Well: Have You Read And Fully Understood The Whole Of Hegel's Logic?

 

The alarming facts upon which the above allegations supervene are thrown into even starker relief by Lenin's surprising and oft-quoted remark that not one single Marxist up until his day -- which must have included Engels, Dietzgen, Kautsky, Luxemburg, and Plekhanov -- actually understood Marx's Capital, since none of them had fully mastered Hegel's Logic!

 

"It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]9

 

Clearly, Lenin's aside raises serious questions of its own. If professional revolutionaries find Hegel's work impossibly difficult to comprehend (few in my experience bother even to consult much of what Hegel wrote, let alone attempt to study the entire Logic -- but, which Logic is meant (there were in fact two!)?9a --, is it credible that workers themselves are capable of comprehending the whole of it in its entirety? In which case -- if Lenin is correct --, what chance is there that anyone (revolutionary or worker) will ever make head or tail of Das Kapital?10

 

Even worse, Lenin's comments suggest that only a tiny fraction (if that!) of revolutionaries have ever fully understood Marxism (or, at least Das Kapital). Lenin is quite clear: only those Marxists who have "thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic" (emphases added) can claim to be able to comprehend Das Kapital; short of that they can't. Again, how many revolutionaries have thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic (let alone read it) since Lenin's day? Even professional philosophers find that work daunting, and of those who claim to understand it, the presumption must be that that is an empty boast until they succeed in explaining it clearly to the rest of us.11

 

Nevertheless, a far more serious and damaging question is the following: How would it be possible to decide if anyone has ever actually understood all of Hegel's Logic?

 

Plainly, we can't enquire of Hegel what the correct interpretation of his work is. Even Lenin himself failed to provide us with a comprehensive (or comprehensible) account of all of Hegel's Logic. And, as we know with regard to the interpretation of that other (but far less) obscure book -- The Bible --, it is always open for someone to claim that their interpretation is the correct one, while all the rest aren't, with no viable way of deciding between them.

 

Of course, as we will see, this is precisely what allows revolutionary sectarians to impose their own brand orthodoxy on their corner of the militant market. Indeed, buried in here somewhere is one of the reasons why sectarianism is endemic in Dialectical Marxism;12 Hegel's Logic is to DM what the Bible is to Theology. In relation to both of these books, a 'correct' interpretation functions as permanent a test of orthodoxy; their use is a source of mystification as much as it is a guarantee of righteousness.

 

Moreover, as is relatively easy to demonstrate, this helps Dialectical Marxists find whatever post hoc rationalisations they require in order to 'justify' inconsistent, undemocratic strategic manoeuvring, or counter-revolutionary policies, as and when the need arises. Furthermore, as is the case with other sacred texts -- where priests, theologians and assorted 'holy men' claim exclusive interpretive rights --, only a handful of self-selected Dialectical Magi can 'rightly' claim to 'understand' Hegel's Logic (and thus "dialectics", and hence Marxism), even if they find it impossible to prove this by explaining DM clearly to anyone this side of the Kuiper Belt.

 

That being so, few among the rank-and-file will feel confident (or foolish) enough to question the theoretical deliverances made on their behalf by the likes of Stalin, Mao, Mandel, Healy, Pablo, Hoxha, Grant, North, Avakian --, or, whoever.13

 

Another analogy (drawn once more against the numinous) springs to mind here: there would be little point in anyone complaining that the pronouncements and tactical zigzagging mentioned above were "inconsistent" in themselves, or with whatever had passed either for 'orthodoxy' or the party line only yesterday; that would simply confirm that the one complaining had failed to "understand" dialectics. Consistency is no more to be expected of dialecticians than it is of Doctors of Divinity -- perhaps even less so. [Or better, than can be expected of Zen Buddhists.] The Deity and The Dialectic move in mysterious and contradictory ways; the Divine Mind is no less baffling than DM. This makes DM a handy ideological cover for our 'leaders' when they seek to justify whatever they like or fund expedient -- i.e., for saying one thing one day, the exact opposite the next. Which is, of course, one reason why they are loathe to abandon this usefully pliable 'theory'.14

 

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

 

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

 

However, few scientists would be foolish enough to make similar claims for any of the classics in the history of science -- not even of Darwin's Origin or Newton's Principia --, i.e., that only if the latter were studied from end to end, and thoroughly understood, could an aspiring researcher or student claim to comprehend modern science. One guesses that only a minority of scientists have actually read (let alone studied) most (or all) of the classics in the history of their field, but that doesn't materially affect their work.15

 

Now, even though revolutionary theory is different from other scientific disciplines, this doesn't mean that incomprehensible philosophical texts must be treated theologically, with every word regarded as required reading, and every syllable understood before initiation can begin. And yet, Lenin's aside indicates that this is exactly how Hegel's Logic should be viewed by the DM-faithful: only the correct understanding of this intractably obscure work -- in its entirety -- is sufficient to allow novice socialists to proceed to the next level, and try to comprehend Marx's classic, before they too can presume to spread the Good News.

 

Of course, this is all rather puzzling since Marx himself never claimed this of his own work!16

 

 

DM: Beyond Workers' Ken?

 

Unconscious Dialecticians

 

It was asserted above that not only is DM not, it can't be associated, connected or linked with workers' experience. But, that appears to contradict the following observation of Trotsky's:

 

"[A] worker who has gone through the school of class struggle gains from his own experience an inclination toward dialectical thinking…. Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects…. 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." [Trotsky (1971), pp.58, 65, 106-07. Bold emphases added.]17

 

One of the more revealing aspects of the above comment is Trotsky's assertion that human beings obey the laws of dialectics for the most part "unconsciously", and, moreover, that the actual law they observe is the "Hegelian law", not (note!) its alleged 'materialist inversion' --, i.e., they obey the full-blooded version derived from AIDS.18

 

[AIDS = Absolute Idealism.]

 

Trotsky also claimed that workers "obey" DM-laws "unconsciously" ("in most cases"). To be sure, if workers are themselves largely unaware of these 'laws', then, ex hypothesi, they would need to be informed of them from the 'outside' since it wouldn't be possible to learn about them from their own experience, left to their own devices.

 

This poses a problem, however, since the above quotation also appears to suggest that workers can form rudimentary dialectical concepts if left to themselves. Hence, it would seem important for dialecticians to be able to show that workers can form a rudimentary grasp of dialectics, as Trotsky argued.

 

If this is indeed so, then dialectics doesn't need to be introduced to workers from the 'outside'.

 

To that end, it could be argued that workers might become aware of these 'laws' to some extent when they encounter them as part of their day-to-day activity. Indeed, it could even be maintained that while most workers don't always think dialectically, certain advanced sections of the proletariat might gain a rudimentary or limited dialectical view of the world as a result of their experience of the class struggle (etc.).

 

In that case, there appear to be several alternatives Trotsky (and indeed others) might have had in mind in connection with workers like this (or with human beings in general). Consider, therefore, the following:

 

[1] Some individuals might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of their experiences in the class struggle.

 

[2] Some might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of their practical activity in the labour process.

 

[3] Others might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of their reflection on their own unconscious compliance with certain dialectical laws.

 

[4] Still others might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of reading Hegel, or the DM-classics.

 

While Trotsky might have assented to [1], [2] and [3], he certainly wouldn't have disagreed with [4]. I won't, however, be discussing [4] here since the idea it expresses has already been covered. [Interested readers are re-directed here for further details.]

 

Nevertheless, his general point seems to be that workers (and human beings in general) could attain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM, in some way, by some means, somehow. Hence, he might have thought that ordinary folk (or workers) could comprehend certain aspects of change, the concrete inapplicability of the LOI, the truth perhaps of the 'three laws of dialectics', the "Totality" and universal inter-connectedness in an attempt to account for some of the many changes there are in nature and society (etc.) as a result of their general life experiences.

 

I shall consider each of these in turn, beginning, however, with [2]. But, first a brief digression.

 

 

Bootstrap Dialectics

 

To recapitulate, Trotsky argued as follows:

 

"Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects. In the elaboration of a bearing-brass into cone bearings, a certain deviation is allowed for the cones which should not, however, go beyond certain limits…. By observing the norms of tolerance, the cones are considered as being equal. ('A' is equal to 'A')…. Every individual is a dialectician to some extent or other, in most cases, unconsciously." [Trotsky (1971), pp.65, 106.]

 

This passage was tackled in Essay Six in the following way:

 

From this it is clear that Trotsky misconstrued his own version of the LOI! If he had wanted to direct our attention to the lack of identity between two different objects (the two "cone bearings" in the above example) he should have used the following schema:

 

W1: A is equal to B.

 

But not:

 

W2: A is equal to A.

 

In the quotation above, Trotsky referred to the manufacture of "cone bearings" as part of his argument against the unrestricted application of his own simplified version of the LOI. Here, he was clearly interpreting the two "A"s in W2 as standing for different (even if somewhat similar) "cone bearings", that is, he was in fact employing W1. Naturally, this throws into serious doubt Trotsky's ability to spot even when something is or isn't an instance of his own garbled version of the LOI!19

 

[LOI = Law of Identity.]

 

Some might regard this as unfair. Surely, Trotsky's point was to argue that just as cone bearings look very similar (but are nevertheless distinct), the two "A"s in W2 are equally similar but distinguishable (in some way). So, he was right to use W1.

 

This objection has some force -- but, fortunately, not much. That is because Trotsky began with the following assertion: 

 

W3: Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects....

 

The idea seems to be that workers often (invariably?) realise that the LOI is of limited (or zero) applicability when they make things. However, even if this were correct, Trotsky's main point would be irrelevant. His avowed target had been the LOI ("A is equal to A", not "A is equal to B"), since he hoped to show that workers in their practical activity implicitly or explicitly reject that 'law', or, at least, that they are aware of its limitations. In order to do this, he advanced the claim that workers in general know that it is impossible to make two objects exactly alike. But, one of his criticisms of the LOI was that all objects change continually and hence they are never equal to themselves. Now, even if we accept Trotsky's version of the LOI, it doesn't refer to two separate objects being the same; in its classical form (and sometimes even in Trotsky's version) it is manifestly about an object's alleged relation to itself.

 

If, on the other hand, Trotsky had written:

 

W4: Every worker knows that it is impossible to make an object completely equal to itself,

 

the absurdity of what he was saying would have been clear to all; no worker (or anyone else for that matter) would entertain such a crazy idea.

 

W1: A is equal to B.

 

However, in W1, Trotsky's point is completely different; there he was arguing that different objects aren't identical, and that workers know this. In this particular case, he wasn't saying that any one specific object isn't self-identical, but that of any two objects, not only can workers see that they aren't the same, they also know they can't make two that are identical. He didn't say that workers are aware that they can't make one object the same as itself. But, that is precisely what Trotsky needed to show, that no worker believes that one object can be made the same as itself -- i.e., that it is impossible to make one that is self-identical. He manifestly failed to do this....

 

Put like this, it is reasonably clear that few workers (if any) would understand such a claim (does anyone understand it?), but, even if they did, no worker would draw such an odd conclusion from their own activity.20

 

In any case, Trotsky's point (in W3) can't even be derived from his own criticism of the LOI. W3 isn't even a DM-thesis! And, this is quite independent of whether or not workers conclude all he said they should. As seems clear, it isn't relevant to claim that workers are automatic dialecticians because they assent to a banal truth that isn't actually part of DM. It isn't a DM-thesis that two objects are different, only that no object is self-identical. What is wanted here is an example taken from DM that workers could assent to before they were persuaded to do so by a fast-talking Dialectical Missionary. What we actually have is a truism that any card-carrying member of the ruling-class could accept; even George W Bush knows that two apples aren't one apple!

 

[Trotsky's point that the two letter "A"s in "A is equal to A" aren't identical themselves is tackled in Essay Six, link above.]

 

Nevertheless, and contrary to what Trotsky said, workers can make countless identical objects. Given the fact that certain sub-atomic particles are identical with every other particle of the same type, any worker can easily 'produce' two or more identical objects. Hence, every time a worker throws a light switch, he or she makes (or generates) countless trillion identical objects per second -- which must mean that such workers are "unconscious" anti-dialecticians, if we apply the same sort of fractured reasoning here as Trotsky.21

 

[Supporting argument and evidence for these seemingly controversial assertions can be found in Note 21.]

 

 

Ordinary Language

 

This brings us back to point [2], mentioned earlier:

 

[2] Some might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of their practical activity in the labour process.

 

Despite the comments made in the previous section, it could be argued that Trotsky's point is that all workers are aware of change, since they know that the machines they use produce seemingly alike, but different objects. Hence, it could be argued in line with [2] above that the labour process will enable them at least to form rudimentary dialectical ideas.

 

If this is what Trotsky meant then it is certainly unexceptionable, but it isn't what he said. And even if he had, it wouldn't have distinguished a DM-description of processes at work in nature and society from one available to anyone using ordinary language, or, indeed, anyone cognizant of 'bourgeois' science -- or even anyone with an ounce of 'commonsense'. Indeed, we can go further: no sane Capitalist believes that all commodities are identical or that things do not change.

 

In fact, workers themselves were aware of change long before they arrived at their first job. They learn to talk about and understand change as they learn to use ordinary language and gain practical experience -- as, indeed, do members of the ruling-class, their hangers-on, and their ideologues. Hence, workers (at least) do not need to be informed from the "outside" about change -- and neither are they "unconscious" of it. Clearly, a failure to learn about change -- or, a lack of awareness of it -- would threaten the survival of any organism so afflicted, let alone that of workers. This means that the attempt made by DM-theorists to enlighten workers about change is about as useful as telling them that water is wet, grass is green or that fire burns.

 

Again, it could be objected that this admission simply confirms that DM is integral to workers' consciousness, after all, since it acknowledges that they are aware of change almost from birth.

 

Of course, this is something that was underlined in an earlier Essay: ordinary language contains countless words capable of describing and depicting every sort of change far beyond the limited capacity possessed of technical jargon -- and way in excess of that expressible in the obscure terminology Hegel invented, as well as in the writings of his modern-day DM-proselytisers. Furthermore, ordinary human beings are highly proficient at recognising change. In fact, our ancestors would have left little or no progeny behind to ponder this question were they not possessed of this capacity or had failed to pass it on.

 

The only point at issue, therefore, is whether or not we should call this facility a sort of 'dialectical' awareness of the nature of reality. If this is what DM-theorists mean by such a skill, it is worth asking: What happened to the general DM-claim that ordinary language and 'commonsense' are super-glued to a static view of reality? The latter was underlined in TAR itself with the patently false assertion that all that ordinary humans are able to do when they speak about the world is pathetically mutter words like "this" and "that":

 

"Ordinary language assumes that things and ideas are stable, that they are either 'this' or 'that'…." [Rees (1998), p.45.]22

 

Again, as was argued in an earlier Essay (link two paragraphs back), it is in fact ordinary language and common sense that lend even to DM-theorists what little ability they have to talk about change -- not the other way round! Again, if this is what Trotsky meant, there would be no problem because it concedes the point (defended here) that ordinary language is all right as it is (to paraphrase Wittgenstein). It doesn't need any assistance from dialecticians -- or their obscure jargon. Quite the reverse, in fact. As we have seen, if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

However, this is almost certainly not what Trotsky meant -- that is, of course, if it were possible to decide what he meant.

 

In addition, members of the ruling-class and their hangers-on are also aware of these issues (just as much as workers are) when they use the vernacular. Even they are able to refer to change -- and, it must be said, in a way that is vastly superior to dialecticians, since the latter insist on employing the impoverished and severely limited logico-linguistic resources they inherited from Hegel and other boss-class ideologues. This would, of course, make members of the ruling-class superior 'dialecticians', at least in this respect!

 

Anyway, this is very different from showing that workers are capable of gaining even a hazy grasp of DM from their life experiences. Workers understand change as a result of their interaction with nature and with one another -- and because of the sophistication ordinary language and common understanding makes available to them (partly by means of which we are all socialised). This doesn't mean that the rest of DM can be lumped in as a job lot.

 

This is so for at least three reasons:

 

(1) Everyone (not just workers and their families) learns about change in this way -- including the most reactionary and conservative elements in society. Are we to now to say that the latter are "unconscious" dialecticians, too? [And superior ones at that, since their ideas don't imply that change is impossible?]

 

(2) Ordinary language is incomparably richer in its capacity to express change, identity, difference, negation, movement, stability, instability, opposition, struggle, development, resistance (etc., etc.), than the obscure jargon one finds in DM. Indeed, that is why ordinary language is used by most revolutionary papers. Few of them quote Hegel at length, or at all! In which case, a switch to DM by workers wouldn't just constitute a backward step, it would be detrimental to their ability to think clearly. If any of them subsequently wanted to comprehend more complex changes they would have to unlearn DM, and become conscious anti-dialecticians.

 

(3) The type of change referred to in the DM-classics isn't just change simpliciter, it is change through 'internal contradiction'. Not only is this sort of change incomprehensible (to one and all, as was demonstrated in Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three -- but more specifically here), workers would never think of using such odd language to depict anything whatsoever, as we will see below.23

 

 

Labour And Dialectics

 

It could be argued in response that the labour process in fact teaches workers more about the deeper aspects of change than does ordinary language and 'commonsense', something DM later hooks onto and greatly amplifies.

 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to assess the validity of that particular claim until it is made clear what these "deeper aspects of change" actually are. And that is by no means easy.

 

Presumably, these are related to the 'appearance/reality' distinction, the notion that change occurs through 'internal contradiction', the 'mediated nature of the Totality', and so on. But, even if sense could be made of these notions (and we have seen that none has been so far), it is equally clear that workers could make little of them -- especially if the best minds in the DM-tradition have yet to attain to this blessed state themselves (again, as earlier Essays have shown).

 

It is worth remembering that workers are supposed to be able to conclude such things simply from watching items roll off the production line, or from engaging in collective activity, attending strike meetings or forming a picket line (etc.) -- if this interpretation of Trotsky's intentions is correct. But, are we really supposed to believe that as the 1000th Widget for the day is packed into the 100th crate, worker NN thinks to herself: "Well, that's another nail in the coffin of the LOI"? Or: "So, that's what the deeper aspects of change really are"? Or: "How amazing, the Totality has just mediated another 1000 Widgets!" Or even: "Now I understand why Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved in Becoming"?

 

Naturally, this doesn't mean that workers don't reflect on their experiences, or learn from them; far from it. But, if 2500 years of philosophical speculation, mountains of obscure Hegel-speak -- coupled with DM-theorists' own best efforts over the last 140 years -- can't produce a single clear description or characterisation of "deeper change", never mind other items that litter the Dialectical Midden, it is a pretty safe bet that workers can't either. Or even that they could make sense of such questions, to begin with.

 

Or, more significantly: whether there is actually anything substantive here for anyone, let alone workers, to make sense of.

 

By way of contrast, this does mean that we have once again discovered that Trotsky's claims are either completely misguided or they are far too vague and confused for us to evaluate, either way. Hence, in this respect, it isn't credible to suppose that workers can raise themselves up by their conceptual bootstraps in order to attain to a DM-understanding of their own experience, howsoever vague, attenuated and rudimentary this is deemed to be.

 

This isn't because workers are incapable of understanding complicated questions, it is because there is as yet nothing here that they (or anyone else, for that matter) can even aim toward comprehending. DM-theorists have yet to provide us with a clear goal for anyone -- again, let alone workers -- to aim for. They have yet to say with any clarity what the options before us actually are!

 

Indeed, we might as well be asked to suppose that workers could understand the Incarnation of Christ and the 'mysteries of the Trinity' by their own efforts.

 

If this is so, then not only must workers have DM imposed on them (since it is alien to their experience), we should also expect them to become confused in the process. That is because they would have to have an incoherent doctrine foisted on them, one that runs counter to both their experience and their language, and one that not even DM-experts seem capable of fathoming.

 

Or, if they can, they have kept that fact well hidden for over 150 years.

 

Finally, it is worth noting that since workers already understand change (i.e., they know how to use language connected with real material change in everyday life), even if DM provided the bootstraps, workers wouldn't need them.24

 

 

Class War Dialectics

 

In this sub-section, consideration will be given to option [1], which was:

 

[1] Some individuals might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of their experiences in the class struggle.

 

Trotsky's probable assent to [1] seems to be much clearer and easier to evaluate. Few (if any) socialists would wish to contest the idea that workers have their lives or their ideas changed in, or by, struggle.

 

But, what has [1] got to do with DM?

 

Recall that the whole point of this part of the Essay is to ascertain if there are any ideas exclusive to DM (not HM) that workers can access on their own as a result of the class struggle.25

 

Perhaps, the following is an example of one such?

 

W5: As a result of the class struggle, worker, NN, learnt that change occurred through internal contradiction.

 

But, it is worth noting here that until Hegel (and perhaps a few other Idealists/mystics) began to employ this term idiosyncratically approximately 200 years ago, no one had ever thought of using the word "contradiction" in such a way -- or, indeed, in the manner subsequently employed by DM-fans.26

 

In which case, it is pertinent to ask: Who today (outside DM-circles) utilises this term in this rather odd way in ordinary life -- or anywhere else, for that matter? As soon as this question is posed the answer seems rather obvious: no one. Not one soul on the planet (that is, outside of esoteric Hegelian/DM/Buddhist-circles and/or assorted mystical covens) uses this term in such an idiosyncratic way -- least of all ordinary workers and their families. [Examples of the alleged use of this word in ordinary discourse are examined here.]

 

In fact, in ordinary discourse, to "contradict" generally means to "gain-say" something that someone else has said. Indeed, the ordinary word "contradiction" isn't even synonymous with its more tightly defined, typographical twin found in FL, let alone its distant, mutant cousin artificially cloned in DL.

 

[FL = Formal Logic; DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

Now, if any workers were naïve enough to conclude from their experience of the class struggle that change occurs simply by "gainsaying" the boss, the police or even the state, then they are going to lose far more battles than they will ever win. But, this is precisely what the word "contradiction" in W5 would mean to workers (as brought out in W5a, below), based on their own experience -- but, not after having read a DM-tract --, that is, that change results from merely arguing with someone:

 

W5a: As a result of the class struggle, worker, NN, learnt that change occurred through gainsaying.

 

[W5 would be interpreted this way by anyone unschooled in DM.]

 

Furthermore, as we have seen several times already, DM-theorists themselves (LCDs and HCDs) have an alarmingly insecure grasp of the term "contradiction" as it is actually used in FL -- and even as it is supposedly used in DL. Hence, it is highly unlikely that workers would succeed in comprehending the Hegelian (or even the DM-) use of this familiar word if generations of dialecticians have signally failed to do so themselves -- confusing this word, as they do, with contraries, opposites, paradoxes, puzzles, unexpected events and opposing forces (among many other things).

 

But, why should, or would, workers bother grappling with this obscure Hegelian notion if they already understand (in use) the vernacular version of this term? Indeed, and because of this, few workers would commit the sort of simple-minded mistakes that DM-theorists constantly make, confusing the everyday "gainsaying" of someone with, say, the secret inner dynamic of reality.

 

To be sure, you have to "understand" dialectics really well to swallow that one...

 

[LCD = Low Church Dialectician; HCD = High Church Dialectician. These terms are explained in Part Two; follow the links.]

 

Well, perhaps this is being unfair to Trotsky and other dialecticians? Maybe then the following is what he/they mean?

 

W6: As a result of the class struggle worker, NN, learnt that change occurred as a result of opposing class forces.

 

W6 is clearly unexceptional. Many workers who have never heard of Marxism would agree with W6 (or something like it). Unfortunately, however, W6 doesn't express an idea that is exclusive to DM. As noted elsewhere, if this is what Trotsky meant by "dialectics" then it would be perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, what we are looking for here are ideas specific to DM that might conceivably pop into workers' heads before they encountered a single DM-evangelist. Clearly, W6 isn't relevant since it is a proposition taken from HM. What is required, on the other hand, is an example exclusive to DM that workers might form or grasp, unaided.27

 

Are there then any other notions exclusive to DM that workers could discover unaided? Perhaps the following:

 

W7: As a result of the class struggle worker, NN, learnt that truth is the Whole.

 

If W7 is meant to be restricted to DM-type ideas about the Totality (assuming, of course, that we are ever actually told what the Whole, the Totality, is (on that, see Essay Eleven Part One)), then it is difficult to see what NN could possibly conclude from the class war that would express this new state of mind.

 

Perhaps W7 might imply something about the Andromeda Galaxy, an idea prompted in worker, NN, by her attending a strike meeting? Or, NN could begin to ponder the deep significance of the mass extinction of life at the end of the Permian Age as a result of winning the subsequent dispute? Or, maybe W7 implies something about semi-conductors, or the number of grains of wheat in Dallam County, Texas in August 1897 -- these startling thoughts perhaps motivated in NN by her securing an above inflation pay award in a different strike? Alternatively, on an anti-war march, NN's thoughts could turn to issues connected with the minimum dimensionality of space required for Superstrings to exist. Or, maybe even whether there are any gravitons or tachyons -- that particular query arising perhaps because of that nasty look the foreman just gave her? Or, indeed, whether Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing...?

 

And, it isn't to the point to object that the above examples are ridiculous. That is because such things, and many more, would have to occur to workers if they are to conclude that "truth is the Whole" as a result of their experience of the class war. So, if in W7 the Totality is meant to be the DM-Totality (whatever that mysterious 'object' turns out to be), then one or more of the above thoughts (along with many others) would have to occur to NN as a result of the class struggle alone (if this is what Trotsky meant).

 

Again, this isn't to suppose that workers don't think about such things, but they don't appear to do so as a result of the class war. They don't begin to contemplate universal interconnectedness as a by-product of struggle, nor do they ponder deep metaphysical truths about "Being", "Becoming" and "Nothing" (materially 'inverted', or not), either.

 

Or, if they do, they have remained remarkably quiet about it for quite some time.

 

In addition, if W7 were correct, workers would have to conclude something about the Whole, not just the parts, as a result of struggle, and what they finally conclude must be exclusive to DM (and not be part of HM), if Trotsky is correct, and option [1] represents what he meant.28

 

Even so, I do not propose to examine this option any further here -- that would be for me to do the job of DM-theorists for them. As far as I am aware, not one single DM-apologist has attempted to expand on or develop Trotsky's ideas -- or, indeed, survey workers to see if he was right -- in this area in the intervening years (even though many unthinkingly quote this passage).

 

Given the insurmountable problems they would have faced had they done so (merely outlined above), that was no doubt wise.

 

 

Hindsight Dialectics

 

Perhaps Trotsky believed that DM-concepts might occur to workers (or to "peasant women") in a rudimentary sort of way as a result of their post hoc reflections on general features of the world, or as a result of their response to it? Alternatively, DM-thoughts could have arisen because of their unwitting adherence to certain dialectical laws, as indicated in [3]:

 

[3] Others might gain a vague or rudimentary grasp of DM as a result of their reflection on their own unconscious compliance with certain dialectical laws.

 

Hence, in connection with this, Trotsky might have meant something like the following:

 

W8: Worker/peasant NM realised as a result of his/her life-experiences that a change in quality could only come about through a change in quantity, and vice versa.

 

Naturally, W8 is far too broad a claim to be evaluated with any ease, since it clearly depends on individual life experiences. However, since Hegel was apparently the first human being in history to 'discover' the alleged 'Law' of the transformation of quantity into quality, and he wasn't a worker, the truth of W8 is dubious, to say the least.

 

Nevertheless, the veracity of W8 may only be ascertained after it has been decided what it actually means. As we saw in Essay Seven, this so-called "Law" (i.e., QQ) is not only highly questionable, it is irredeemably vague and confused. Worse still, there is a strong suspicion that Hegel himself might not have intended his 'law' to be as universally applicable as Engels and others believed. [On this, see Note 18.]

 

[QQ: The Law of the Change of Quantity into Quality, and vice versa.]

 

Despite these initial worries, it is worth considering the following everyday scenarios, which illustrate the peculiar nature of W8 -- if, indeed, it is applicable in such circumstances:

 

W9: MN drank five times as much tea this week as last week, but found that its quality hadn't changed.

 

W10: MM watched ten times as much TV this week as last week, but found that the quality of the programmes hadn't altered.

 

W11: The quality of the exercises PP performed improved because she read the keep-fit manual far more carefully this time, even though she spent just as many hours in the gym as she had before.

 

W12: NP cooked three times as much potato soup today as yesterday, but his children said it tasted no different.

 

W13: The quality of MP's French homework improved dramatically this week -- even though she spent the same amount of time on it --, because of the superior pen and paper she used.

 

W14: MR read twice as many books on DM in 2016 as he had in 2015 but found that the quality of the arguments they contained remained depressingly the same.

 

This list can be extended indefinitely to cover situations with which we are all familiar, and the relevant numbers can be made as large as is practicable in each case, but no obvious dialectical conclusions would be drawn from any of them by ordinary workers or their families.

 

It could be objected that these examples have been deliberately chosen to challenge [3], and that because of this they are highly contrived and banal in the extreme, which makes them unsuitable for use in scientific analysis. Anyway, they fail to consider the sort of situations or processes that illustrate QQ.

 

However, with respect to the first charge, it is worth noting that the whole point of this exercise is to see how ordinary people/workers might conceivably grope their way toward even a rudimentary grasp of DM-concepts from their own life-experiences. Technical examples would clearly be of little use or relevance. Anyway, Trotsky himself cited trite instances to make his point. Moreover, other dialecticians also cite (allegedly) everyday examples (such as water boiling, balding heads, and rubber bands snapping).

 

In addition, the accusation advanced here is that ordinary folk -- except when subject to outside influence -- can't develop DM-concepts because the latter are either too vague and confused, or they are non-sensical and incoherent. In their practical activity ordinary folk would find that dialectical concepts actually hindered them; indeed, non-sensical and incoherent ideas couldn't fail to impede day-to-day life. The point, therefore, isn't that the prosaic examples listed above were specifically chosen to embarrass DM -- whether or not they are contrived, or even whether they illustrate this obscure 'Law' -- but whether any day-to-day examples at all can be found to support Trotsky's claims -- if, that is, [3] expresses what he meant.

 

With respect to the last of the above counter-claims, the standard examples usually wheeled-out to illustrate the 'three laws of dialectics' were examined in detail in Essay Seven. There it was shown that not only do they fail to establish what DM-apologists claim for them, there are far more instances where these 'Laws' are broken than there are where they even seem to be 'obeyed'.

 

Finally, examples W9-W14 are more likely to teach workers that the opposite of QQ is the case, which was all that was required of them. Recall that Trotsky needed to show that workers could gain a rudimentary grasp of something vaguely DM-specific as a result of some experience or other. The examples listed above (along with countless others) seem to indicate that if anything, the opposite would be the case.

 

Since QQ is the least implausible DM-'Law', it is even less likely that workers would derive any of the other 'Laws' from reflecting on their own experience. Not only have we seen that these 'Laws' make not the slightest bit of sense, dialecticians have yet to tell us clearly what even they think they mean. Once more, if 'expert' dialecticians can't manage this, it is hardly credible that workers could do much better.

 

Recall, this isn't to put workers down; it is simply to remind the reader that DM-theorists have yet to tell us precisely what workers are supposed to be aiming for.

 

As things stand, dialecticians might just as well suppose that workers could travel through a looking glass.

 

 

Dialectical Stew

 

To be fair, Trotsky does at least try to give a few examples to illustrate his point, but they are decidedly sketchy and far too fanciful to be of much use. Nevertheless, in order to be thorough, they require consideration:

 

"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." [Trotsky (1971), pp.106-07.]

 

However, it isn't easy to take Trotsky's argument here seriously --, even though (amazingly) mega-OTs like Woods and Grant described this passage as "witty"! [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.47-48.]28a

 

My response below is therefore coloured by this fact.

 

[OT = Orthodox Trotskyist.]

 

The above passage was analysed in detail in Essay Seven Part One. Here is part of it:

 

But, what exactly did Trotsky imagine the change of quantity into quality to be, here?

 

Does an increase in the quantity of salt alter the salt's own quality? Presumably not. Does the quantity of soup change? Perhaps only marginally; but even so, the quantity of soup isn't what allegedly changed the quality of the soup -- that development is supposed to have resulted from the quantity of salt added.

 

In fact, the quantity of the original soup hasn't actually changed, merely the quantity of the salt/soup mixture; and neither has the quality of the salt altered (just its alleged quantity).

 

What appears to have happened (in this less than half-formed 'thought experiment') is that the addition of too much salt to the soup is supposed to change the taste of the resulting salt/soup mixture as the latter is perceived by the taster. Hence, at a certain ("nodal") point, a further increase in the quantity of salt alters the quality (i.e., the taste) of the soup, so that its acceptability changes either side of that "leap".

 

But, once more, even here the increased quantity of salt has not passed over into any change in its own quality. What has occurred is that one quality (a palatable taste) has morphed into another quality (an unpalatable taste) as a result of a quantitative change made to one ingredient (salt) added to the salt/soup mixture. So, a certain quality of the soup has changed from being acceptable to being unacceptable as a result of the increased quantity of salt that the mixture contains.

 

However, the relevant quality of the added salt remains the same no matter how much is added. Salt is (largely) Sodium Chloride, and it tastes salty whether it is delivered by the spoon, the bucket or the train-load. In that case, neither the quantity nor the quality of the salt has "passed over" into anything in the salt itself; there doesn't therefore seem to be anything in the initial part of this story for that particular aspect of the salt to "pass over" into.

 

Consequently, the first half of this 'Law' (the 'increase in quantity' part) is either mis-stated or it doesn't apply to the very substance being added, the salt.

 

As far as the second half is concerned (i.e., the alleged alteration in quality either to the salt or the soup), the postulated change relates to the taste of the soup. But manifestly, the soup remains salty no matter how much salt is poured in, as we saw. What we seem to have here is a batch of soup that becomes increasingly salty as more salt is added.

 

What qualitative change then is meant to have taken place? Again, it seems that this change relates to the acceptability of the taste of the soup as perceived by the taster. Hence, at -- or slightly beyond -- the alleged "nodal" point, the taste of the soup will become objectionable. But, this particular change is confined to the one doing the tasting. Manifestly, it isn't the soup that alters in this respect; soups do not taste themselves, or perceive their own taste. On one side of the "nodal" point the soup is objectively salty (i.e., it contains dissolved salt); on the other side it is still objectively salty, but with more salt in it. The difference is that on one side the taster tolerated the taste and continued to like it, but on the other side the taste became intolerable and she ceased to enjoy what she was sampling. This means that the soup itself has not actually changed in this respect, merely the taster's appreciation of it that has.

 

It now seems that a change in the quantity (of salt) doesn't actually affect the soup –- except, perhaps, its volume (very slightly) and its composition as a salt/soup mixture. No matter how much salt is dumped into the soup it remains just that, a salt/soup mixture, only with higher proportions of the former ingredient -– and that remains so even at the limit where the soup perhaps turns into sludge or a semi-solid lump, or whatever. A trillion tons of salt can't change that.28b

 

Consequently, even with respect to the relevant quality (interpreting the latter as this salt/soup mixture, if it can be so described), the concoction doesn't change (or, at least, not in a way that is relevant to Trotsky's purposes). Hence, a change in the quantity of salt hasn't "passed over" into a change in the quality of the soup (as soup), which means that the second part of this 'Law' (the change in 'quality' part) seems to be defective, too.

 

If there is a qualitative change anywhere at all that is relevant to the point Trotsky is trying to make, it seems to occur in the third party, here -– that is, in the taster. We are forced to interpret this 'thought experiment' this way unless, of course, we are to suppose that tastes actually reside 'objectively' in soups, as one of their alleged 'primary' qualities, perhaps. If that were so, qualities like this (that reside in soups, and not solely in tasters) would have to be able to alter 'objectively', even when they aren't being tasted! But, this example cannot mean that; no sane dialectician (one imagines!) believes that tastes reside in the objects we eat. Hence, if this 'Law' is to work in this case, the qualitative change must reside in the soup-taster, not the soup.28c

 

If so, this qualitative change must have been induced by a quantitative change in the taster, if this 'Law' is to apply to her. That is, her 'qualitative' change (if it may so be described) must have been induced by a quantitative change to her. But, what quantitative change could have taken place in this taster that might have prompted a corresponding change in (her) quality, or in her changed perception of a quality? Does she grow new nerve cells, or an extra head? A new tongue or a larger mouth? In fact, there is none at all -- or, none that Trotsky mentioned, and certainly none that is at all obvious.

 

Plainly, it is a quantitative change in the salt/soup mixture that resulted in the new quality as perceived by that taster, but that specific quantitative change had no effect on any quality actually in the soup (as previous comments sought to show -- tastes do not reside in soups!). But, there now seem to be no relevant quantitative changes in the taster which could initiate a corresponding qualitative change in her.

 

In that case, the best that can be made of this half-baked example is that while quantitative change leads to no qualitative change in some things (i.e., soups), it can prompt certain qualitative changes in other things (i.e., tasters), the latter of which weren't caused by any quantitative changes in those things themselves, but by something altogether mysterious.

 

So, the second part of the 'Law' is now doubly defective.

 

Of course, it could be objected that there is indeed a quantitative change in the said taster, namely the quantitative increase in salt particles hitting her tongue. But, this just pushes the problem one stage further back, for unless we are to suppose that tastes reside in salt molecules (or in Sodium and Chlorine ions), the qualitative change we seek will still have occurred in the taster and not in the chemicals in her mouth -- and we are back where we were a few paragraphs back. There seems to be no quantitative change to the taster apparent here; she does not grow another tongue or gain more taste buds. It is undeniable that there will have been an increase in salt molecules hitting her tongue, and that these will have a causal effect on the change in taste as she perceives it, but even given all that, no change in quantity to the taster herself will have taken place.

 

Again, it could be objected that there is a material/energetic change here; matter or energy will have been transferred to the taster (and/or her central nervous system) which causes her to experience a qualitative change in her appreciation of the soup.

 

In fact, what has happened is that the original salt has merged/interacted with the taster's tongue/nervous system upon being ingested. But, it is at precisely that point that the earlier problems associated with the salt/soup mixture now transfer to the salt/nervous system 'mixture'. Since tastes do not exist in nerves any more than they exist in soups, we are no further forward. And, as far as changes to the quantity of the taster is concerned, this will depend on how we draw the boundaries between inorganic salt molecules and living cells. Since this 'difficulty' is considered in more detail below, no more will be said about it here....

 

In any case, it seems rather odd to describe a change in taste (or in the appreciation of taste) as a qualitative change to a taster, whatever it was that caused it. As the term "quality" is understood by dialecticians, this can't in fact be a qualitative change of the sort they require. Qualities, as characterised by dialecticians -- or, rather, by those that bother to say what they mean by this word -- are the properties of bodies/processes that make them what they are, alteration to which will change that body/process into something else:

 

"Each of the three spheres of the logical idea proves to be a systematic whole of thought-terms, and a phase of the Absolute. This is the case with Being, containing the three grades of quality, quantity and measure.

 

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

 

As the Glossary at the Marxist Internet Archive notes:

 

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

 

"Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a 'qualitative change', whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a 'quantitative change'.

 

"In Hegel's Logic, Quality is the first division of Being, when the world is just one thing after another, so to speak, while Quantity is the second division, where perception has progressed to the point of recognising what is stable within the ups and downs of things. The third and final stage, Measure, the unity of quality and quantity, denotes the knowledge of just when quantitative change becomes qualitative change." [Quoted from here. Accessed August 2007.]

 

This is an Aristotelian notion.

 

But, as a solid (ice), liquid, or a gas (steam), water remains H2O; no new "kind of thing" has emerged. Iron is still iron as a solid or a liquid. Oxygen is still oxygen in its liquid or gaseous state. The same can be said of all substances that undergo state of matter changes and which don't breakdown on heating or cooling.

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else..." [Ibid.]

 

Moreover, countless substances exist as solids, liquids, or gases, so this can't be what makes each of them "what it is and not something else". What makes iron, for example, iron is its atomic structure, and that remains the same in all three states of matter.

 

However, Cornforth tries gamely to tell us what a 'dialectical quality' is:

 

"For instance, if a piece of iron is painted black and instead we paint it red, that is merely an external alteration..., but it is not a qualitative change in the sense we are here defining. On the other hand, if the iron is heated to melting point, then this is such a qualitative change. And it comes about precisely as a change in the attraction-repulsion relationship characteristic of the internal molecular state of the metal. The metal passes from the solid to liquid state, its internal character and laws of motion become different in certain ways, it undergoes a qualitative change." [Cornforth (1976), p.99.]

 

And yet, as we have seen, no new substance emerges as a result; liquid iron, gold and aluminium are still gold, iron and aluminium. Worse still: as we have seen, metals melt slowly, not nodally!

 

Of course, it could be argued that liquid and solid states of matter are, as Cornforth seems to think, different kinds of things, as required by the definition. But, to describe something as a liquid isn't to present a kind of thing, since liquids comprise many different kinds of things, as noted above. The same is true of gases and solids. So, a state of matter isn't a "kind of thing", but a state possessed by kinds of things -- so we speak of liquid iron, liquid mercury, gaseous oxygen, gaseous nitrogen; and if that state changes, the "kind of thing" that a particular substance is does not (in general) change. To be sure, some substances do change when heat is added -- for example, solid Ammonium Chloride sublimates into Ammonia gas and Hydrochloric Acid when heated, but this isn't typical. [In fact, DM-theorists would be on firmer ground in this case (no pun intended) than they are with their clichéd water as a liquid, solid or gas example.] Again, liquid mercury is still mercury, just as solid mercury is. Melted sugar is still sugar. The same is true of plastics, and all the metals. Liquid chocolate is still chocolate. The elements aren't situated where they are in the Periodic Table because they are solid, liquid or gas, but because of their Atomic Number. This shows that states of matter aren't "kinds of things"; if they were, solid mercury would no longer be mercury, and cooling liquid mercury would move it around the Periodic Table!

 

But, the volunteered DM-objection at the beginning of the previous paragraph (that different states of matter are different "kinds of things") -- should it ever be advanced by a dialectician -- only goes to show just how vague these 'definitions' of "quality" are. Indeed, it allows DM-fans to count different states of matter as different "kind of things", but they don't regard shape, colour, heat, or motion as different "kinds of things". Hence, for example, an object in motion isn't counted as a different "kind of thing" from the same object at rest (both relative to some inertial frame). Spherical ingots of iron aren't regarded as different "kinds of thing" from cylindrical ingots of iron. A red box isn't a different "kind of thing" from a green box. Sure, gases, liquids and solids have different physical properties, but so do moving and stationary bodies, and so do spherical and cylindrical objects. So do differently coloured objects. It isn't easy to see why green and red objects aren't different "kinds of things" if liquids and solids are allowed to be. And, it is no use pointing to the "objective" nature of states of matter as opposed to the "subjective" nature of colour, since shape and motion are just as "objective".

 

[Anyway, the "subjective" nature of colour will be questioned in Essay Thirteen Part One -- as will the philosophical use of the terms "subjective" and "objective".]

 

But what about this?

 

"And it comes about precisely as a change in the attraction-repulsion relationship characteristic of the internal molecular state of the metal. The metal passes from the solid to liquid state, its internal character and laws of motion become different in certain ways, it undergoes a qualitative change." [Ibid.]

 

Are these "laws of motion" what make iron what it is and not another thing, so that it is "no longer the same kind of thing"? As we have just seen, even if Cornforth is right about these new "laws of motion", that doesn't re-classify iron and place it in a new location in the Periodic Table. This doesn't make iron a "new kind of thing". Furthermore, we have already seen that rapid changes to sub-atomic or inter-molecular forces (of the sort that Cornforth envisages) cannot be recruited to this 'Law', either.

 

Be this as it may, we have just seen in relation to the 'definition' found at the Marxist Internet Archive:

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else..." [Ibid.]

 

As noted earlier, countless substances exist as solids, liquids, or gases, so this cannot be what makes each of them "what it is and not something else". Again, what makes lead, for example, lead is its atomic structure, and that remains the same whether or not that metal is in its solid or its liquid state. As such, it remains "the same kind of thing".

 

Other than Cornforth, Kuusinen is one of the few DM-theorists who seems to make any note of this 'difficulty':

 

"The totality of essential features that make a particular thing or phenomenon what it is and distinguishes it from others, is called its quality.... It is...concept that denotes the inseparable distinguishing features, the inner structure, constituting the definiteness of a phenomenon and without which it cease to be what it is." [Kuusinen (1961), pp.83-84. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

We will have occasion to question whether there are any "essential features" or properties in nature (sometimes associated with a technical term, "natural kind"); readers are re-directed to Essay Thirteen Part Two for more details. [That Essay will be published in 2017. Until then, see Note 8c.]

 

Independently of this, it isn't at all clear that someone's liking or not liking soup defines them as a person -- or as a being of a particular sort. While scientists might decide to classify certain aspects of nature (placing them in whatever categories they see fit), none, as far as I'm aware, has so far identified two different sorts of human beings: "soup-likers for n milligrams of salt per m litres of soup versus soup-dislikers for the same or different n or m". And even if they were to do this, that would merely save this part of DM by means of a re-definition, since it is reasonably clear that these two different sorts of human beings do not actually exist -- , or, at least, they didn't until I just invented them. Once again, that would make this part of DM eminently subjective, too, since it would imply that changes in quality are relative to a choice of descriptive framework. Once again, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is a scientific law. And how would that be any different from "foisting" DM on nature?

 

Moreover, as has also been noted, H2O as ice, water or steam, is still H2O. As a liquid or a gas, Helium is still Helium. If so, these changes can't apply to any of the qualities covered by the DM/Aristotelian/Hegelian principles quoted above. So, it now seems that these hackneyed examples of Q«Q either undermine the meaning of a key DM-concept on which this 'Law' was supposedly based (i.e., "quality"), vitiating its applicability in such instances -- or they weren't examples of this 'Law' to begin with!...

 

Given this new twist, it now seems that quantitative change to material bodies (such as salt/soup mixtures) actually cause changes to sensory systems (of a vague and perhaps non-quantitative -- or even non-qualitative -- kind); these in turn bring about some sort of qualitative change in the sensory modalities of the tasters involved. If so, the original 'Law' (applied in this area) is woefully wide of the mark; it should have read something like the following:

 

E1: Change in quantity merely causes change in quantity to the material bodies involved [no misprint!], but at a certain point this causes qualitative alterations (but these might not be Hegelian, or even Aristotelian, qualities) to the way some human beings perceive the world, even though these individuals have not undergone a quantitative change themselves.

 

Put like this, it isn't at all clear that anyone would conclude this (or anything like it) from their cooking soup, as Trotsky maintained. And we can be pretty sure about that -- since not even Engels got close to this more accurate version of his own 'Law'.

 

Nor did Trotsky!

 

It is scarcely credible that non-dialectical cooks, workers, or anyone else, for that matter, would advance much further -- or even this far -– based only on their own experience.

 

Of course, this can only mean that peasant cooks aren't "unconscious dialecticians", and neither is anyone else outside the DM-fraternity --, and this is probably because they aren't quite so easily conned by mystical Idealists.

 

 

'Foxy Dialectics' -- "Fair And Balanced"?

 

Perhaps the oddest part of Trotsky's argument is the following:

 

"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…. [T]he universe throughout is permeated with 'unconscious' dialectics." [Trotsky (1971), pp.106-07. Bold emphases added.]

 

This appears to mean that there are in nature some animals that actually employ (unconsciously or not) the Hegelian 'Law' that quantity "passes over" into quality, and vice versa, in their 'reasoning'. One wonders, therefore, why it took human beings so long to 'discover' these 'Laws' if simple beasts are such excellent, closet dialecticians.

 

The fox in the quoted passage apparently concludes that the wolf will vanquish it presumably because the wolf is bigger than the fox. The latter, making a qualitative 'judgement' about the relative size of the wolf, runs away -- these conclusions being forced on the fox by its 'intelligent legs'.

 

So much for Trotsky's attempt to out-do the Brothers Grimm.

 

Once again, this 'Law' is misapplied; here, an apparent quantitative change in the wolf -- which is, one presumes, that the wolf is above a certain size as the fox perceives it -- and this supposedly induces a qualitative change in the fox, which becomes scared as a result. However, all the while the wolf remains qualitatively the same (it doesn't change into a sparrow, for example), and the fox doesn't alter quantitatively, either (it neither shrinks nor splits into two).

 

But, there is no quantitative change in the wolf, either. As noted above, the supposed quantitative change in the wolf is only as this is perceived by the fox -- but, it isn't even that, as we are about to see. The wolf's size hasn't altered; no one supposes that wolves grow in size when they confront foxes! Of course, wolves may rear up, or assume a more aggressive posture, but the actual size of the wolf (as opposed to its perceived or even misperceived size) doesn't change.

 

Similarly, even though no quantitative change has taken place in the fox, it seems to have undergone some sort of qualitative change.

 

Hence, howsoever we try to re-phrase it, by no stretch of the imagination can this zoological pantomime be adapted to fit Engels's quirky 'Law':

 

(1) The fox doesn't change quantitatively, but it seems to undergo a qualitative change. Why?

 

(2) The wolf hasn't in fact changed at all, neither quantitatively or qualitatively. In that case, how can this 'Law' apply, here?

 

However, the change in the fox can't have been qualitative, anyway -- if, that is, by "qualitative" we mean "appertaining to those features of an object or process that determine its nature" (as this rather vague term seems to mean in DM). Is there a single Zoologist on the planet who thinks that a defining characteristic of foxes is that they either do or do not run away from wolves of a certain size? Has the fox changed into a "new kind of thing"?

 

But, for the type of change envisioned by Trotsky to apply here, the qualitative change that should have occurred is the following:

 

F1: The fox, when confronted by a wolf (that has just grown in size), changes from being defined as a predator that "does not run from away wolves of a certain size" into a predator "that does run away from wolves if their size increases beyond a certain limit" (this being an 'essential' quality of all foxes, having been encoded perhaps into their DNA).

 

In this fanciful (but more accurate, if not consistent) re-description, we would have a change in quantity in the wolf (it having grown on being confronted by the fox) causing a change in quality in the fox (which mutates from brave to cowardly (perhaps, as a result of its genes(??)), after having been confronted this rapidly growing wolf.

 

However, even here we still don't have a quantitative change which prompts, or is prompted by, a change in quality in the same animal. Even though the wolf might have changed quantitatively in the above fanciful re-write, it hasn't itself changed qualitatively (except as perceived by the fox). The obverse is true of the fox: it has undergone no quantitative change even though it has altered qualitatively!

 

Moreover, no relevant matter or energy has entered the fox, nor has any left the wolf, nor has there been an "interruption in gradualness" required by the DM-classics. Hence, it isn't easy to see how Engels's QQ can gain even so much as a paw-hold here. No matter what is done to this lame theory it still limps badly.

 

[QQ: The Law of the Change of Quantity into Quality, and vice versa.]

 

Furthermore, if we return to the original example, Trotsky failed to say what the fox's 'inference' amounted to; he merely hinted that it had something to do with nutrition and taste.29 Does the fox, therefore, 'conclude' that wolves of a certain size aren't tasty? Or, does it decide that they aren't nutritious? Is this the quantitative change Trotsky was alluding to -- one that results in a qualitative revision to this fox's 'Hegelian beliefs'?

 

"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…. [T]he universe throughout is permeated with 'unconscious' dialectics." [Ibid. Bold emphasis added.]

 

If so, can this 'Law' be generalised? If it can, does this mean, for example, that all large animals aren't nutritious or delicious -- but only if they are perused or pursued by relatively smaller predators, or prey? Or, does it mean that the contrary view might be taken of the same animals by still others that are relatively larger than their prey, which larger animals now regard the very same animals (i.e., the ones that these keisty foxes turned their noses up at) as nutritious or delicious in return?

 

Hence, although a mouse might view a larger rat as tasteless or non-nutritious (on this interpretation), the very same rat might seem to be delicious if confronted by a larger cat. Is relative size the "quantity" that is supposed to be operative here? And, is the "quality" the taste of one animal as perceived by another (which is also dependent on relative size)? If not, what change in quantity or quality did Trotsky have in mind?

 

Or, is it that only certain animals cease to be delicious when they exceed a certain size? Perhaps they become less tasty as they grow larger (as a result perhaps of a DM-UO operating here; in this case, the UO might be: 'both tasty and not tasty' in dialectical tension, causing them to grow)? Maybe animals pass a "nodal" point at a certain body mass or volume (something that has so far (mysteriously) escaped scientific detection)?30

 

But, if so, why do some small animals eat larger ones? For example, why do stoats eat rabbits, which are up to three times their size? Why does a liver fluke eat a sheep? Why do some bacteria consume human flesh? Why, indeed, does a caterpillar eat a leaf?

 

[Are plants allowed to play this game, too? Why, for instance, can't a tree scare off a caterpillar? Or, is the possession/absence of legs the crucial factor here?]

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

 

Looking at this again, we might wonder what the intended quantitative change is in Trotsky's parable of the fox. Are we to suppose that the wolf slowly grows in size so that at a "nodal" point, where there has been a break in "gradualness", the fox ceases to regard the wolf as appetising? Clearly not. But if not, what quantitative change did Trotsky intend? Perhaps, he meant that given an array of animals of increasing size, at an arbitrary point unique to each fox (or is this response species-specific?), the said fox will 'conclude' that those one side of the "node" don't taste all that good (or aren't nutritious), while those the other side do (are) -- or, indeed, that they aren't worth the hassle?

 

If Trotsky was thinking along those lines, he was surely unwise to do so. That is because, even in this case, a quantitative change to some animals (wolves) wouldn't have induced a concomitant qualitative change in that animal (the wolf), as we have seen.31

 

Moreover, if we return to reality, we surely aren't meant to conclude that the taste of wolves is actually linked to their size. As seems reasonably clear, the alleged qualitative change here is the perceived taste of a prey as the latter strikes a prospective predator (in this case, the fox), not in the intended prey (the wolf). Once again, tastes don't reside in objects. But, as noted above, the original predator (the fox) itself has undergone no quantitative change (its size hasn't altered). So, even if it were possible to say which alteration was qualitative and which quantitative, it would still be clear that a change of quantity here hadn't produced a change in quality in the same animal (nor vice versa).

 

Even the tenuous link that connects the supposed change in quantity in the wolf with the change in quality of the fox isn't all it seems, either. Again, no one supposes that as the fox slopes off into the distance -- having been scared away in the manner supposed -- it reassesses the food value of its former prey, so that as the wolf looks smaller when further away, it seems more tasty to the fox. But, if quantitative changes -- of this vulpean sort -- always passed over into qualitative changes, we should expect the wolf to look more appetising the more it recedes into the distance, the smaller it looks to the fox -- presuming, of course, that foxes in general haven't had lessons in perspectival geometry, or are untutored in the philosophy of perception (even though they seem to know a smattering of dialectics and far more Aristotelian logic than most DM-fans seem capable of grasping).

 

Indeed, if this 'law' were valid, one would expect the quantitative increase in the number of metres separating the two animals to pass over into a qualitative change in the nutritional value of wolves-as-perceived-by-foxes. In that case, separation should make the stomach grow fonder.

 

Never mind that; can we generalise Trotsky's 'Law' about legs?

 

"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…." [Trotsky (1971), pp.106-07. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Does size really matter, therefore, when it comes to cowardice? Are all smaller animals practical dialecticians when they encounter larger ones? Do all legs bend the knee to Hegel's 'Law'?

 

But, what about a lion that breaks the 'Law' by killing larger wildebeest?32 And what are we to say of a small snake that attacks a man (even if that reptile has no legs)? And, why do many insects (and some spiders) bite human beings? Are they unconscious metaphysical rebels, railing against Hegel's iron 'Law'?

 

Is it significant here that the leg ratio -- i.e., insect-to-human -- favours the biter over the bitten by a factor of at least three to one (and if we throw in spiders, by a factor of four to one)? Are insect/arachnid legs and/or wings, therefore, law-breakers by sheer force of numbers? If, as a counter-measure, humans grew more legs (or carried, say, five extra limbs about with them as some sort of insect repellent) would that ward off, for instance, midges and mosquitoes? On the other hand, does this mean that double amputees are more tasty? And what does this tell us about rugby scrums or centipedes?

 

 

 

Figure One: Dialectical Insect Repellent?

 

But, why does a horse run away from a small dog (where there seems to be rough parity in the orthopaedic department)? Or, a man swim away from a shark (where, orthopaedically, the man wins feet down, every time -- at least, before the first few bites)?

 

Perhaps these animals/humans don't "understand" dialectics? Might they be 'unconscious' anti-dialecticians?

 

Finally, it is worth asking whether this 'Law' can be reversed (which is what Engels's 'definition' would have us believe, given the vice versa codicil he attached to it). Does, therefore, "quality pass over into quantity" in such cases as these? If it does, we should expect a lack of tastiness to have an affect on size, as this qualitative change turns the tables and induces an associated reversed quantitative difference.

 

Perhaps, then, evolution 'selected' certain animals to be large because they weren't nutritious -- indicating, again, that this particular quality (i.e., food value) has not only "passed over", it has descended with modification by natural selection into quantity (i.e., size). If so, does that mean the dinosaurs tasted awful? But, why then do humans still eat whales? On the other hand, though, this seems to imply that viruses should taste absolutely delicious. Did their taste mean they were 'selected' to be microscopic?

 

If this 'Law' is to work in 'reverse gear', something like the above would have to be the case, it would seem.33

 

However, as whacky as these flights-of-fancy seem to be, not one of them would occur to workers (not because they aren't intelligent, but because they aren't stupid), even if they knew so much about the antics of foxes, wolves and chickens.

 

 

HM And Workers

 

Dialectical Marxism -- A Long-Term Failure

 

As noted above, Trotsky admitted that "in most cases" workers and peasants obey dialectical laws "unconsciously"; because of this it could be argued that workers might become aware of some of these 'Laws' at some point in their lives, by some means -- somehow. Indeed, it could also be maintained that the objectivity of such 'Laws' would allow socialists to alert workers to dialectics -- maybe as a result of a long history of successful interventions in their struggles (etc.). Hence, the argument might go: if it hadn't been the case that dialectics has delivered an increasingly objective picture of the world (i.e., if it were "subjective", "idealist", or "mystical"), revolutionaries wouldn't have been able to intervene successfully in the class war, and their activities would have repeatedly failed. In that case, it could be concluded that this shows that in practice (despite the 'academic', 'nit-picking' points made above), where it has been tested and proven, dialectics has been shown to be objective, and that workers benefit from learning about it.

 

Or, so a response might go.

 

Nevertheless, the question of practicalities will be examined in detail in Essay Ten Part One, and will be discussed again presently (and in Part Two of this Essay), where it will be shown that Dialectical Marxism is just about the most unsuccessful (leading) political or social movement in human history.

 

So much for 'objectivity' then...

 

 

Historical Materialism -- Introduced From The 'Inside'

 

However, the intervention of revolutionaries in workers' struggles will of necessity involve the use of concepts drawn from HM, not DM. The problem with the response volunteered above is that it still leaves it unclear (i) which laws or concepts specific to DM are of any relevance at all in the class struggle, or (ii) are consonant with workers' experience. And it is even more difficult to comprehend (iii) why workers would need DM if concepts drawn from HM actually speak to their experience and show them how to fight back.

 

This is especially so if no sense can be made of DM-theses -- even by its most avid fans.

 

The fact that HM so easily meshes with workers' lives is, of course, why some of them become revolutionaries. HM relates to ordinary human beings in a way that DM can't since it speaks to them in terms with which they can readily connect. In this sense HM captures what they in effect "already know" when they encounter it.34

 

That is because HM is not only consonant with, it is dependent upon concepts that have been developed out of material practices that relate to, and which underlie human language and communication in general. In addition, it also speaks to their oppression and exploitation. The central tenets of HM revolve around, not just an understanding of history, but the self-emancipation of the working class, just as they have depended in return on collective labour, social organisation and working class resistance to exploitation and oppression. Since HM is predicated on the social nature of language it can't help but mesh with that experience of exploitation and oppression, as well as with aspects of life and alienation all of us share as members of the same "form of life". Since ordinary language is the language of the working-class, it can't avoid reflecting a working-class view of life (when that language isn't used in the way that philosophers have always used it -- i.e., when it hasn't been distorted, as Marx pointed out).

 

[This isn't to suggest that there are no distorting forces at work here; this topic will be taken up again in Essay Twelve Part Seven, summary here.]

 

All of these factors find expression in the language that working people across the planet have developed as a result of their interaction with each other and with the natural world over countless centuries. Because of this, HM (when it is expressed in the vernacular, and with technical terms paraphrased clearly) is capable of being used to explain to workers, in their own language, the significance of their experience of class society and how they can fight to win back full control over their lives.

 

This means that HM doesn't have to be brought to ordinary people from the "outside"; its core ideas are already present, expressed in working class  experience.

 

In that case, all that workers need in this respect are reminders.

 

It is in this sense that the (non-dialectical) revolutionary party can be the memory, not just of the class, but of the entire species. The account given at this site partly explains why that is so.

 

[More details will be added in Essay Twelve, summary here.]

 

As the context indicates, HM speaks to workers because of their experience of oppression and exploitation (and consequent alienation) -- and because it provides them with a social and political account of how these can be eradicated through their own activity, their own struggle.

 

This is partly why HM makes immediate sense to most workers (when they are ready to listen), and why it appears so obvious to Marxists -- and to anyone else who has had to work for a living under Capitalism. In fact, it is difficult to believe that anyone with that specific background could read, say, Marx's 1844 Paris Manuscripts and fail to appreciate the profound insight into their condition that Marx expresses there (that is, if they ignore the Hegelian flourishes). [Marx (1975b).]

 

Marx's analysis speaks to workers' collective experience of alienation, their sense of fragmentation from their "species being", aggravated by the division of labour and compounded by class oppression. It also addresses the connection these have with collective and individual self-development, the relationships we have with other human beings and with nature itself, and thus with our consequential de-humanisation. These profound truths do not really need to be taught (as would be the case if these were merely empirical facts); most human beings (who have had to work for a living) only need to be reminded of them -- or, perhaps, apprised merely of their significance.

 

As most revolutionaries know, it isn't difficult to convince workers (when they are on strike, say) about the realities of class division, the nature of the class war, the role of the Police, or of Courts, along with a host of other HM-ideas. In fact, much of this will already be known to some workers, and some of it to most. All that revolutionaries need to bring to this condition (apart from the things mentioned in the next but one paragraph) is political generalisation and a deeper analysis.

 

This means that revolutionaries shouldn't consider themselves as prophets or visionaries, but as organisers and administrators. Anything else would amount to substituting themselves for the class. HM reminds them of this; DM makes them forget it.34a

 

Revolutionary politics actually brings to workers a developed theory (HM) that generalises their experience (relating it to previous generations of the oppressed and the exploited, to other individuals and groups in similar circumstances), providing the tactics, strategy and organisation necessary to further their cause, and, ultimately, eradicate Capitalism by overthrowing it. In fact, this is all that needs to be "brought to workers".

 

No alien-class ideas anywhere in sight.

 

Because HM is based on and addresses their experience and their suppressed awareness of their own de-humanised condition, their struggle, and in their language, it is actually introduced to workers, as it were, from the inside.

 

That is why HM, unlike DM, can't form the ideological basis for substitutionism.

 

At a stroke, that solves Lenin's 'problem'.35

 

 

Ordinary Language -- Hindrance Or Resource?

 

An emphasis on the limitations of ordinary language appears to be an important issue for some Marxists -- including the author of TAR. Clearly, he believes that everyday understanding -- left to itself -- is incapable of developing, or allowing to be developed, a dialectical conception of reality, which, oddly enough, runs contrary to what Trotsky himself appeared to believe. As Rees sees things:

 

"…Hegel is also difficult for reasons that are not the result of character and circumstance. His theories use terms and concepts that are unfamiliar because they go beyond the understanding of which everyday thought is capable. Ordinary language assumes that things and ideas are stable, that they are either 'this' or 'that'. And, within strict limits, these are perfectly reasonable assumptions. Yet the fundamental discovery of Hegel's dialectic was that things and ideas do change…. And they change because they embody conflicts which make them unstable…. It is to this end that Hegel deliberately chooses words that can embody dynamic processes…. It is the search to resolve…contradictions that pushes thought past commonsense definitions which see only separate stable entities." [Rees (1998), pp.45, 50. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Attentive readers will notice that in this passage Rees claims that it was the Hegelian dialectic that allowed humanity to discover change!

 

This is a rather odd thing for a socialist to say. How does Rees think humanity managed to survive for so long if our ancestors failed to spot that things changed? Didn't they notice their relatives ageing and dying, the seasons cycling, night becoming day (and vice versa), hot things cooling down, animals chasing other animals, huts, shoes and clothes wearing out, children coming into the world and growing taller as they were fed, crops ripening, and a whole host of other things?

 

Is Rees seriously telling us that had Hegel not put pen to paper he (Rees) wouldn't have been able to detect, say, the onset of winter?

 

It seems he must if "the fundamental discovery of Hegel's dialectic was that things and ideas do change."

 

Perhaps Rees means that humanity would not be able to understand change had Hegel not written about it. That can't be right, for we have seen that Hegel's system (upside down or the 'right way up') can't itself account for change.

 

[On this see Essays Four through Eight Part Three. On the alleged limitations of ordinary language, see here.]

 

 

Language And Dialectics

 

Despite this, Rees further quotes Hegel:

 

"The battle of reason is the struggle to break up the rigidity to which the understanding has reduced everything…. The double usage of language, which gives to the same word a positive and negative meaning, is not an accident, and gives no ground for reproaching language as a cause of confusion. We should rather recognise in it the speculative spirit of our language rising above the mere Either-or of understanding." [Hegel (1975), The First Attitude Of Thought To Objectivity §32, p.53 and The Doctrine of Being §96, p.142; quoted in Rees (1998), pp.45-46.]

 

From this we can see that Hegel himself didn't openly disparage ordinary language as such, since he saw within it the seeds of his own ideas.36 Contrast this approach with Rees's claim that ordinary language (which he appears to confuse with "everyday thought") "assumes" things are stable.37

 

[Others have also argued along similar lines about Hegel and vernacular German. I have covered this topic here.]

 

However, Hegel in fact blamed an obscure entity he called the "abstract understanding" for the "rigidity" of "ordinary thought" (although the latter phrase isn't Hegel's, so far as I can ascertain). Rees himself certainly believes that ordinary language constrains thought, restricting it to a limited range of 'static forms' -- committing its users to the LEM, for example (which, one presumes, was the significance of the "Either-or" reference in the first of the two passages above).38 Hence, as noted earlier, Rees appears to believe that ordinary language is defective, restrictive or misleading in some way.

 

[LEM = Law of Excluded Middle.]

 

Of course, the vernacular has its limitations, otherwise human beings wouldn't have found it necessary to invent technical, scientific or specialised forms of discourse. But, this doesn't mean that ordinary language is defective, any more than it is a defect of a DVD player that it can't cure the common cold.

 

Nevertheless, it is a mistake to think that the invention of new terminology will solve the philosophical 'problems' that arose solely and exclusively out of what had originally been a misuse of language. The solution is, of course, to understand (or, indeed, to use) the vernacular aright, which most of us manage to do with ease every day -- that is, when we aren't attempting to do a little amateur 'philosophising'.

 

If, on the other hand, we fail to understand, or we misuse ordinary language, we stand no chance of comprehending the tangled verbal and conceptual spaghetti churned out by the likes of Hegel.39

 

An obvious consequence of Rees's belief that (i) ordinary language operates with 'fixed categories' is the idea that it renders workers incapable of understanding DM without "outside" assistance (plainly, since by implication workers too must operate with 'fixed categories', or even 'the banalities of commonsense').

 

Of course, another alternative here involves (ii) having to agree with Trotsky that when workers begin to reflect on their experience they can't fail to adopt DM-concepts at some level, even if "outside" assistance is necessary for them to be able to grasp these ideas 'more fully' --, that is, once workers appreciate that their own language is inadequate in certain respects --, and for this to manifest itself, perhaps, as part of their own move from adhering to a "trade union", to adopting revolutionary, 'consciousness'.

 

Another, but far less popular approach is to reject both options.40

 

Indeed, and to that end, we have already seen that it is the language of dialectics -- not ordinary language -- that is incapable of depicting change, or for that matter, depicting anything at all.

 

By way of contrast, the vernacular contains countless words capable of expressing every conceivable form of change, in the minutest of detail in seemingly limitless ways. Compared to the vernacular, 'Hegel-speak' (upside down, or 'the right way up') employs obscure and wooden terminology, much of it predicated on an inept 'analysis' of the verb "to be".

 

Hence, workers would have to be talked into turning their backs on the inexhaustibly rich resource that is ordinary language, and then they would have to be conned into using unintelligible philosophical jargon that is completely alien to their experience and common understanding. Indeed, they would have to be bamboozled into accepting an impoverished lexicon (which fails to deliver even what had been touted for it) to help them comprehend something which they encounter and cope with each and every day of their lives (i.e., change), and which they have hitherto be able to manage without such lame-brained 'assistance'!41

 

In this way, bringing dialectics to workers "from the outside" would run against the grain of their materialist good sense, and not just their collective experience -- undermining the expressive sophistication inherent in the vernacular, which enables workers to understand change incomparably better than is offered by those who use the jargon found in DM.

 

This, it seems, is the true significance of Hegel's comments, quoted above; his elitist philosophy in effect finds fault, not with the abstractions he disarmingly blames on "the understanding", but with the language that workers use -- a medium which alone allows them (and, indeed, anyone) to understand material reality and comprehend how the world actually changes.

 

In that case, it is no wonder that the vernacular has had to be denigrated by dialecticians before 'dialectical' concepts can be substituted into workers' heads.41a Workers recruited to Dialectical Marxism have to endure what is in effect the equivalent of an intellectual lobotomy in order to have this alien program installed in their skulls. Small wonder then that few of them bother to learn DM and remain monumentally 'un-seized' by Marxism all their lives. Those that DM does "seize" are rendered theoretically passive for their pains, their brains having seized up as a result.42

 

However, there is a sting in the tail; as we have seen, any direct or indirect attempt to undermine ordinary language soon backfires on its would-be detractors. Hence, if the ordinary word "change", for example, is inadequate to depict change, then the meaning of that word itself, when used by DM-theorists, instantly becomes problematic. This then throws into doubt any attempt to specify exactly how far the ordinary word "change" falls short of the now obscured target of any proposed revision. This means that every sentence containing the word "change" (when used by DM-fans) is thereby rendered senseless -- including any sentence in which those nascent suspicions were first aired.

 

On the other hand, if we already know what "change" means then we are in no need of assistance from Hermetic Mystics like Hegel. In either event, any attempt to augment or even criticise the word "change" in this way will prove to be either pointless or vacuous.

 

To the annoyance of metaphysicians, ordinary material language buries its own gravediggers.

 

Perhaps this is the real spectre haunting DM.

 

 

Failure Substituted For Success

 

But, we have yet to consider the flip side of all this: What effect has the importation into Marxism of ruling-class thought had on militant minds? How is this connected with the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism? And, how is this connected with their class origin and current class position?

 

More to the point: How and why have leading revolutionaries fallen for this boss-class con-trick? How was it possible for such first-rate Marxists to have been so easily duped?

 

These, and other questions, will be tackled in Part Two, where it will be revealed (for the first time anywhere) just how DM has seriously damaged Marxism.

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

Appendix A -- Aristotle's Dialectical Method

 

"Our treatise proposes to find a line of inquiry whereby we shall be able to reason from opinions that are generally accepted about every problem propounded to us, and also shall ourselves, when standing up to an argument, avoid saying anything that will obstruct us. First, then, we must say what reasoning is, and what its varieties are, in order to grasp dialectical reasoning: for this is the object of our search in the treatise before us.

"Now reasoning is an argument in which, certain things being laid down, something other than these necessarily comes about through them. (a) It is a 'demonstration', when the premisses from which the reasoning starts are true and primary, or are such that our knowledge of them has originally come through premisses which are primary and true: (b) reasoning, on the other hand, is 'dialectical', if it reasons from opinions that are generally accepted. Things are 'true' and 'primary' which are believed on the strength not of anything else but of themselves: for in regard to the first principles of science it is improper to ask any further for the why and wherefore of them; each of the first principles should command belief in and by itself. On the other hand, those opinions are 'generally accepted' which are accepted by every one or by the majority or by the philosophers -- i.e. by all, or by the majority, or by the most notable and illustrious of them. Again (c), reasoning is 'contentious' if it starts from opinions that seem to be generally accepted, but are not really such, or again if it merely seems to reason from opinions that are or seem to be generally accepted. For not every opinion that seems to be generally accepted actually is generally accepted. For in none of the opinions which we call generally accepted is the illusion entirely on the surface, as happens in the case of the principles of contentious arguments; for the nature of the fallacy in these is obvious immediately, and as a rule even to persons with little power of comprehension. So then, of the contentious reasonings mentioned, the former really deserves to be called 'reasoning' as well, but the other should be called 'contentious reasoning', but not 'reasoning', since it appears to reason, but does not really do so. Further (d), besides all the reasonings we have mentioned there are the mis-reasonings that start from the premisses peculiar to the special sciences, as happens (for example) in the case of geometry and her sister sciences. For this form of reasoning appears to differ from the reasonings mentioned above; the man who draws a false figure reasons from things that are neither true and primary, nor yet generally accepted. For he does not fall within the definition; he does not assume opinions that are received either by every one or by the majority or by philosophers -- that is to say, by all, or by most, or by the most illustrious of them -- but he conducts his reasoning upon assumptions which, though appropriate to the science in question, are not true; for he effects his mis-reasoning either by describing the semicircles wrongly or by drawing certain lines in a way in which they could not be drawn....

 

"First, then, a definition must be given of a 'dialectical proposition' and a 'dialectical problem'. For it is not every proposition nor yet every problem that is to be set down as dialectical: for no one in his senses would make a proposition of what no one holds, nor yet make a problem of what is obvious to everybody or to most people: for the latter admits of no doubt, while to the former no one would assent. Now a dialectical proposition consists in asking something that is held by all men or by most men or by the philosophers, i.e. either by all, or by most, or by the most notable of these, provided it be not contrary to the general opinion; for a man would probably assent to the view of the philosophers, if it be not contrary to the opinions of most men. Dialectical propositions also include views which are like those generally accepted; also propositions which contradict the contraries of opinions that are taken to be generally accepted, and also all opinions that are in accordance with the recognized arts. Thus, supposing it to be a general opinion that the knowledge of contraries is the same, it might probably pass for a general opinion also that the perception of contraries is the same: also, supposing it to be a general opinion that there is but one single science of grammar, it might pass for a general opinion that there is but one science of flute-playing as well, whereas, if it be a general opinion that there is more than one science of grammar, it might pass for a general opinion that there is more than one science of flute-playing as well: for all these seem to be alike and akin. Likewise, also, propositions contradicting the contraries of general opinions will pass as general opinions: for if it be a general opinion that one ought to do good to one's friends, it will also be a general opinion that one ought not to do them harm. Here, that one ought to do harm to one's friends is contrary to the general view, and that one ought not to do them harm is the contradictory of that contrary. Likewise also, if one ought to do good to one's friends, one ought not to do good to one's enemies: this too is the contradictory of the view contrary to the general view; the contrary being that one ought to do good to one's enemies. Likewise, also, in other cases. Also, on comparison, it will look like a general opinion that the contrary predicate belongs to the contrary subject: e.g. if one ought to do good to one's friends, one ought also to do evil to one's enemies. it might appear also as if doing good to one's friends were a contrary to doing evil to one's enemies: but whether this is or is not so in reality as well will be stated in the course of the discussion upon contraries. Clearly also, all opinions that are in accordance with the arts are dialectical propositions; for people are likely to assent to the views held by those who have made a study of these things, e.g. on a question of medicine they will agree with the doctor, and on a question of geometry with the geometrician; and likewise also in other cases.

 

"A dialectical problem is a subject of inquiry that contributes either to choice and avoidance, or to truth and knowledge, and that either by itself, or as a help to the solution of some other such problem. It must, moreover, be something on which either people hold no opinion either way, or the masses hold a contrary opinion to the philosophers, or the philosophers to the masses, or each of them among themselves. For some problems it is useful to know with a view to choice or avoidance, e.g. whether pleasure is to be chosen or not, while some it is useful to know merely with a view to knowledge, e.g. whether the universe is eternal or not: others, again, are not useful in and by themselves for either of these purposes, but yet help us in regard to some such problems; for there are many things which we do not wish to know in and by themselves, but for the sake of other things, in order that through them we may come to know something else. Problems also include questions in regard to which reasonings conflict (the difficulty then being whether so-and so is so or not, there being convincing arguments for both views); others also in regard to which we have no argument because they are so vast, and we find it difficult to give our reasons, e.g. the question whether the universe is eternal or no: for into questions of that kind too it is possible to inquire.

 

"Problems, then, and propositions are to be defined as aforesaid. A 'thesis' is a supposition of some eminent philosopher that conflicts with the general opinion; e.g. the view that contradiction is impossible, as Antisthenes said; or the view of Heraclitus that all things are in motion; or that Being is one, as Melissus says: for to take notice when any ordinary person expresses views contrary to men's usual opinions would be silly. Or it may be a view about which we have a reasoned theory contrary to men's usual opinions, e.g. the view maintained by the sophists that what is need not in every case either have come to be or be eternal: for a musician who is a grammarian 'is' so without ever having 'come to be' so, or being so eternally. For even if a man does not accept this view, he might do so on the ground that it is reasonable.

"Now a 'thesis' also is a problem, though a problem is not always a thesis, inasmuch as some problems are such that we have no opinion about them either way. That a thesis, however, also forms a problem, is clear: for it follows of necessity from what has been said that either the mass of men disagree with the philosophers about the thesis, or that the one or the other class disagree among themselves, seeing that the thesis is a supposition in conflict with general opinion. Practically all dialectical problems indeed are now called 'theses'. But it should make no difference whichever description is used; for our object in thus distinguishing them has not been to create a terminology, but to recognize what differences happen to be found between them." [Aristotle (1984b), pp.167-74. I have used the on-line version here. Links added.]

 

 

Notes

 

01. It could be argued that if the statement that Philosophy is one of the "ideological forms in which men become conscious" of the class war and then "fight it out" is itself true, then Philosophy is surely of use to revolutionaries and workers, and not just ideologues of the ruling-class. [On this, also see here.]

 

As will be argued in Part Two, Philosophy has been used by boss-class ideologues for many centuries, as well as by the ideologues of other, insurgent classes seeking to usurp the power and wealth of a ruling elite, replacing them as the new rulers, in order to 'justify' their newly acquired status.

 

With suitable changes, this is also true of the substitutionist elements in Marxism; that is, it is true of those who shaped Dialectical Marxism's core ideas, importing thought-forms from Traditional Philosophy to that end. DM formed this core theory, cobbled together by this 'Marxist' insurgent class fraction in order to prosecute the class war, 'from the left', just as it was subsequently used in order to rationalise and 'justify' their substitution for the working class, forming a new ruling-class. This happened, for example, in the former Soviet Union after Lenin's death, in Mao's China, and the rest of the old 'Communist Block', where DM was employed as an integral part of a rationalising ideology in the subsequent "class war" between the new elite (the Nomenklatura) and workers themselves -- famously expressed by Stalin:

 

"The flowering of cultures that are national in form and socialist in content under the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country for the purpose of merging them into one common socialist (both in form and content) culture, with one common language, when the proletariat is victorious all over the world and when socialism becomes the way of life -- it is just this that constitutes the dialectics of the Leninist presentation of the question of national culture.

 

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

 

By way of contrast, the working class have never appealed to, or used, Philosophy, and if the argument presented in this Essay is sound, they never will. They don't need it. [Some have claimed Dietzgen is living disproof of this; I have tackled that objection here.]

 

Which is, of course, why Marx advised his readers to abandon Philosophy and align themselves with "ordinary" men and women who have no need of it:

 

"One has to 'leave philosophy aside'..., one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers." [Marx and Engels (1976), p.236. Bold emphases added.]

 

And, to that end, Marx enjoined them to return to using ordinary language, since the obscure jargon concocted by philosophers is "the distorted language of the actual world":

 

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

 

1. Lenin's argument is much more involved than this brief quotation might suggest, and John Molyneux's analysis of it (which isn't being questioned here) is admirably clear.

 

Anyway, certain sections of this Essay might have to be re-written once I have had a chance to study Lih (2005). [Readers should also consult Blackledge (2006), and John Molyneux's own review of Lih's book, here.]

 

Be this as it may, as noted in the main body of this Essay, Lenin's words show that he certainly believed that DM had to be brought to workers from "the outside" because of its roots in Traditional Philosophy, whatever else he might have meant in What Is To Be Done? [Henceforth, WITBD.]

 

"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.]

 

Now, it isn't a matter of opinion or debate where the ideas enshrined in DM actually came from; the historical record is quite clear and acknowledged on all sides. Nor is it plausible to believe that workers of themselves could re-discover the ideas Hegel inflicted on humanity.

 

[Again, on characters like Joseph Dietzgen, see Note 25, below.]

 

On the other hand, it is open to debate what Lenin meant in WITBD. Consequently, whatever Lenin actually intended in that book (when that has finally been sorted out, if ever), it is quite clear that DM itself has had to be introduced to workers from "the outside".

 

Indeed, as we will also see, it has had to be substituted into workers' heads against the materialist grain.

 

As this Essay aims to show, the fact that workers can't attain a dialectical view of reality as a result of their own efforts isn't to question their intellectual capacities. No one (not even Hegel) is capable of attaining such a view.

 

There is no such thing as 'a dialectical view' of anything.

 

What dialecticians have in fact concocted is a set of impenetrably obscure dogmas which they certainly can't explain to anyone (including one another), let alone workers, with any clarity. There is thus no 'dialectical view of reality' any more than there is a Trinitarian view of 'God'. To be sure, there is Trinitarian jargon, and there are those who are skilled at mouthing such phrases at one another as if they made some sort of sense, just as there is dialectical jargon and those who mouth it at one another, too, as if it makes sense. But neither makes any sense, so neither is capable of expressing 'a view' of anything.

 

2. Except for the idea that workers supposedly can't develop a socialist frame-of-mind on their own, I have included these commonplace remarks about the Party here only to indicate my agreement with them and to forestall any suggestion that the comments in the main body of this Essay might suggest otherwise -- which they don't.

 

Where I part company is over the importation of ruling-class ideas from Hegel and other boss-class hacks.

 

Of course, it needs adding that Lenin's concept of the party isn't the same as the Stalinist model would have us believe -- that is, a regimented body of leather-faced 'Bolsheviks', totally controlled by the centre. [On this see Cliff (1975-1979).]

 

2a. This idea is now commonplace in DM-circles; here are just a few examples:

 

"Everywhere we look in nature, we see the dynamic co-existence of opposing tendencies. This creative tension is what gives life and motion. That was already understood by Heraclitus (c. 500 B.C.) two and a half thousand years ago. It is even present in embryo in certain Oriental religions, as in the idea of the ying and yang in China, and in Buddhism. Dialectics appears here in a mystified form, which nonetheless reflects an intuition of the workings of nature. The Hindu religion contains the germ of a dialectical idea, when it poses the three phases of creation (Brahma), maintenance or order (Vishnu) and destruction or disorder (Shiva). In his interesting book on the mathematics of chaos, Ian Stewart points out that the difference between the gods Shiva, "the Untamed," and Vishnu is not the antagonism between good and evil, but that the two principles of harmony and discord together underlie the whole of existence....

 

"In Heraclitus, all this was in the nature of an inspired guess. Now this hypothesis has been confirmed by a huge amount of examples. The unity of opposites lies at the heart of the atom, and the entire universe is made up of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. The matter was very well put by R. P. Feynman: 'All things, even ourselves, are made of fine-grained, enormously strongly interacting plus and minus parts, all neatly balanced out.'" [Woods and Grant (1995), p.64. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"In this chapter we will discuss dialectics proper. Previous chapters have shown that dialectics has a history which embraces many thousands of years and that it has passed through various stages of development. Disregarding the beginnings of dialectics in Indian and Chinese philosophy, the following main stages can be distinguished: (the dialectics of the old Greek philosophers of nature, Heraclitus; (2) the second and higher stage, the dialectics of Plato and Aristotle; (3) Hegelian dialectics; and (4) materialistic dialectics. Dialectics itself has undergone a dialectical development. Heraclitus, representing the first stage, develops the dialectics of one-after-the-other; Plato and Aristotle, representing the second stage, develop the dialectics of one-beside-the-other. The latter is in opposition to the dialectics of the first stage, being its negation. Hegel embraces both preceding stages of development and raises them to a higher stage. He develops the dialectics of the one-after-the-other and the one-beside-the-other, but in an idealistic form; in other words, he develops an historico-idealistic dialectics. The dialectics of antiquity was limited. I pointed out earlier where the basis of this limitation is to be found: namely, in the mode of production and the class relations of ancient Greece, particularly in the slave economy and in the social relations resulting from this slave economy. Not until the advent of materialistic dialectics were these limitations completely overcome. This new dialectics is not restricted; it is universalized. And here too I will briefly point out the relation of this universalized dialectics to the fundamental relations of class and production. Materialistic dialectics is developed by workers who have the working-class point of view, the point of view of the proletarian revolution. This point of view demands the elimination of classes, and consequently the elimination of class society. As a result of the elimination of classes and class society, the last limitation on social development and on the idea of development in general collapses. For Aristotle as well as for Plato and even Hegel, class society itself was something that development could not transcend. For Plato and Aristotle slave economy was the final and absolute limitation; with Hegel it was bourgeois society. In dialectical materialism, however, or from the viewpoint of the working class, class society is not in itself ultimate or final; it is by no means the absolute limit of social development. It is itself subject to dialectical development and is part of the stream of social evolution. The generalized and at the same time materialistic form of dialectics is a natural result of the generalization of this point of view. Incidentally, bourgeois scholars have of late again turned to dialectics. In one form or another Hegel's dialectics has been revived in Germany. In France the philosopher Bergson has developed a peculiar form of dialectics. However, this bourgeois form of dialectics, as it has reappeared in recent years, is idealistic throughout; or, as in the case of Bergson, it is an idealistic dialectics which at the same time reverts to the first stage of dialectics, i.e., to the point of view of Heraclitus." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.157-59. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"In order to move forward from capitalist society the working class needs an ironclad philosophy, one that can be of use in the storm and stress of revolution. Making sense of a turbulent world requires a method of thinking that is flexible, fluid and takes evolutionary transformation into account.

 

"This world outlook of Marxism is called dialectical materialism, a philosophy that is the direct descendent of the great Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century but which revolutionized their thinking by introducing a historical dimension. The achievement was scientific materialism enriched with the theory of evolution propounded by G. W. F Hegel. Materialism states that our ideas are a reflection of the material universe that exists independently of any observer. It's dialectical in that it is always in a state of movement, and change....

 

"One of the early dialectical philosophers was the Greek Heraclitus, 'the obscure' (535-475 BCE). He is famous for saying that 'you never step into the same river twice.' He also noted, 'The way up is the way down,' and that 'Everything is pregnant with its contrary.' This conflict, or continual contradiction, he called strife. Strife, he claimed, is the basis of all movement, and propels everything forward...." [Taken from here; accessed 13/09/2013. Links in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Plainly, the above comrades either failed to read Marx's comment about the ideas of the ruling-class, or they read them, and then and ignored what he had to say. [For other striking similarities between DM and all forms of mysticism, see here.]

 

3. It could be argued that the revolutionary career of Joseph Dietzgen, among others, refutes the assertion that workers can't develop a dialectical view of nature and society for themselves. This widespread belief will be examined and shown up for what it is -- i.e., false -- in Note 25.

 

4. Worse still, this theory manoeuvres Marxist theoreticians into defending the indefensible, including: (i) Hegel's sub-Aristotelian 'logic' (as we saw, for example, in Essay Eight Part Three); (ii) Widespread oppression and exploitation in the former 'socialist states'; (iii) Political domination by an undemocratic elite; and (iv) Substitutionism.

 

The first of these prompts comrades into writing incomprehensible books and articles about empty Idealist/'dialectical' concepts, which not a single worker will ever understand -- or, mercifully, ever read. [Examples will be examined in Essay Twelve. Others will be analysed in Part Two of this Essay; see also here.]

 

5. In order to short-circuit accusations that this commits the so-called 'genetic fallacy' (i.e., that I am claiming that DM is false because it is a ruling-class theory), it is worth pointing out that I am not claiming that the provenance of this mystical theory is sufficient to invalidate it. What has been established so far in these Essays is that DM is far too confused for anyone to be able to say whether it is correct or not, wherever it came from.

 

My purpose in Essays Nine Parts One and Two, Twelve Part One and Fourteen Parts One and Two, is simply to trace DM back to its mystical roots, exposing the role it has helped play, and still plays, assisting in the ruination of Marxism.

 

Hence, it is no surprise that DM had helped turn Dialectical Marxism into a synonym for long-term and abject failure.

 

6. Any who are tempted to disagree with these conclusions are invited to check the Essays at this site, and point out where my detailed criticisms of DM go wrong.

 

But, I have been asking this of dialectically-distracted comrades now for over 25 years. The following picture neatly sums up the vast majority of responses I have received so far (the rest have been shown to fail in this and other Essays published at this site, for example, here, here, and here):

 

 

Figure Two: Cue Tumbleweed, Cue Rustling Leaves, Cue Distant Church Bell...

 

Marx And Dialectical Materialism - 1

 

[This forms part of Note 6.]

 

I do not propose to enter into to any great extent the debate whether or not Marx himself agreed with Engels that there is a dialectic at work in nature (although I will deal with a recent attempt made by Thomas Weston (this links to a PDF) to rehabilitate the traditional view of the relation between these two, as well as his attempt to show that 'dialectical contradictions can be represented by opposing forces; on that see here, here, here, here, here, here, here -- and now, here). It seems obvious to me that he didn't, since that theory was invented by Engels and Plekhanov. But, it seems equally obvious to others that he did.

 

I will, however, endeavour to show (here) that by the time he came to write Das Kapital, he had rejected Hegel root-and-branch (upside down or 'the right way up'). If I can show that, then the idea that he agreed with Engels on everything will, naturally, fall by the wayside. Of course, this is a highly contentious claim and confronts a long-standing and well-entrenched tradition (begun by Engels, not Marx) that takes the contrary view -- in which case, what I have to say on this topic will doubtless meet with instant rejection by the vast majority of fellow revolutionaries -- that is, in the unlikely event that they read this Essay.

 

All I can say to them -- if they make it this far! -- is: examine the material I have presented (especially here), and then, if you still disagree, e-mail me with your arguments showing me where you think I have gone wrong.

 

Now, the few scattered remarks that are usually introduced to suggest that Marx and Engels did indeed agree about everything, including DM, are far from conclusive, especially since most of them occur in prefaces, footnotes, asides and afterthoughts (etc.) -- as Terrell Carver points out:

 

"It is interesting that the major texts by Marx that are cited in conjunction with Engels' claims are often footnotes and tangential remarks. The 1859 preface, for example, contains a 'guiding thread,' which Engels re-voiced as a lapidary doctrine, beginning with his book review of the same year. Marx himself consigned these few sentences of text to a footnote to Capital, volume 1, surely not the place for one of the scientific discoveries of the age. Originally it came from a hastily drafted preface and was intended merely to guide the reader; as a footnote to another text it seems exactly that, a footnote…. There may be a highly ironic authorial strategy in Marx that reverses footnotes to texts in terms of speaking to the reader, but as a way of reading Marx, in my view, this focus on footnotes and odd sentences tends toward the cabalistic.

 

"References to Hegel are similarly cast by Marx himself in a prefatory and comparative vein, typically in the second preface to Capital, volume 1, in which he comments at length on someone else's (a Russian reviewer's) comparison of his (Marx's) method to the one employed by 'that mighty thinker' (Hegel). There are few references indeed to 'dialectic' in Marx, and none to its centrality to explaining anything and everything (Carver 1981, ch.5). Marx merely comments that he 'coquetted' with Hegelian terminology in the opening chapters of Capital, volume 1, and makes a limited number of qualified comparisons elsewhere in the text. My point here with respect to commentators is that these remarks and passages are not so much 'taken out of context' as put into a context supplied by the Engelsian tradition…." [Carver (1999), pp.25-26.]

 

This whole issue has been debated at length many times. The case against the 'received' view can be found in Carver (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984a, 1984b, 1989, 1998a, 1998b, 1999). See also Jordan (1967), Levine (1975, 1984, 2006), and Thomas (2009).

 

The 'orthodox' view (i.e., that Marx and Engels were in total agreement on everything, possibly even their favourite colour!) can be found in Novack (1978), pp.85-115, Rees (1994), pp.48-56, Sheehan (1993), pp.48-64, and Weston (2012) (this links to a PDF). Cf., also Stanley and Zimmerman (1984) and Welty (1983). [I have examined the (few!) passages taken from Marx's published work Weston offers in support of the idea that he (Marx) accepted the doctrine that there is a 'dialectic in nature', here.]  

 

Some of those who defend the traditional view of their relationship point to Engels's claim that he had read AD to Marx, and that Marx even contributed a chapter to that book, proving that Marx endorsed every single word.

 

"I must note in passing that inasmuch as the mode of outlook expounded in this book was founded and developed in far greater measure by Marx, and only to an insignificant degree by myself, it was self-understood between us that this exposition of mine should not be issued without his knowledge. I read the whole manuscript to him before it was printed, and the tenth chapter of the part on economics...was written by Marx but unfortunately had to be shortened somewhat by me for purely external reasons. As a matter of fact, we had always been accustomed to help each other out in special subjects." [Engels (1976), pp.8-9. Bold emphasis added.]

 

But, if Engels did read this to Marx (a claim, it is worth noting, he only made after Marx's death), that would surely have taken at least two days to complete.

 

I have based the above conclusion on the following calculations: I estimate AD is slightly under 130,000 words long. In the version I have, the Peking Edition, there are approximately 300 words per page. If we omit the Prefaces and the Notes, there are just over 430 pages; so 430 x 300 = 129,000.

 

Now, I have timed myself reading one page of that Edition, and, doing this fairly rapidly, it took me 1 minute 50 seconds to complete. Reading non-stop, the entire book would take approximately 13 hours 10 minutes to finish. If we add a ten minute break every hour (for toilet or smoke breaks -- of course, Engels was a smoker, and would have been slowed down by puffing away on several cigars -- or coughing regularly and/or stopping to light another -- but no time for discussion, drinks, food or sleep), then the manuscript would take 15 hours 20 minutes to read. When I slowed down slightly, that added twenty seconds per page -- and thus 2 hours 20 minutes to the total -- bringing the time to 17 hours 40 minutes. If we now allow for an eight-hour day, and a couple of hours for food breaks every eight hours, etc., then that would add at least 4 more hours to the total -- now at just under 22 hours --, or, two-and-half days (for that eight-hour day) -- of Engels banging on, and on...

 

[Incidentally, if we omit the Prefaces and the Notes, there are 293 pages in the MECW edition (Volume 25), with approximately 450 words per page -- 293 x 450 = 131,850 words. One page took me 2 minutes 30 seconds to read (fairly rapidly) and 2 minute 45 seconds (reading slightly slower). The first timing would mean that the book could be read (non-stop) in just over 12 hours 10 minutes; the second in 13 hours 25 minutes. So the two approximations agree reasonably closely.]

 

Can you imagine it! One wonders how often the rapidly ageing Marx must have nodded off, not fully realising the nature of what it was that some would later claim he accepted!

 

But, why read it to Marx? Were his eyes and his brain failing him?

 

Moreover, if Marx contributed a chapter (which he did), why didn't Engels simply ask him to read the proofs? And, it is rather odd that Engels never claimed this of any of his other published work -- that he had read it to Marx.

 

Furthermore, AD contains several sections on mathematics (which few, other than die-hard-DM-fans -- who apparently know little about mathematics --, will now defend). Unlike Marx, Engels was neither competent nor knowledgeable in mathematics (as is relatively easy to show -- on that see here and here). If we insist that Marx agreed with every single line read to him from AD, then we are also forced to conclude that Marx, too, was an incompetent mathematician. Are DM-fans who are competent in this area -- the opinions of those who aren't are surely irrelevant in this respect -- are they prepared to admit this? If not, then the claim that Marx had this book read to him, and that he agreed with every word, can't be sustained.

 

In which case, if that particular idea is abandoned, a major plank in the claim that Marx and Engels saw eye-to-eye about DM, and, indeed everything else, will have to be abandoned. If Marx didn't agree with these 'mathematical' passages, but said nothing about them in his letters to Engels, then Marx's almost total silence about other DM-ideas that Engels was cooking-up in AD (and in several letters) assumes an entirely new light.

 

A thorough survey of the entire subject can be found in Rigby (1992, 1998), with a brief overview in Rigby (1999). In fact, Rigby argues rather forcefully in favour of the 'orthodox' interpretation, but he does this only so that he can then use it as a stick with which to beat HM. Nevertheless, Rigby's arguments are far from conclusive themselves since he manifestly relies on the aforementioned scattered remarks, footnotes, asides and peripheral comments to make his case.

 

However, as far as can be ascertained, Rigby doesn't appeal to Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts [i.e., Marx (1983)] to provide additional support for his case. This is puzzling since they would have greatly strengthened his position. As we saw in Essay Seven, Marx employed some rather dubious reasoning (which he adapted from Hegel) to try to provide a 'dialectical' solution to the vexed question of the nature of the derivative in the Differential Calculus. But, even this aspect of Marx's work isn't as clear-cut as it might seem. That is because mathematics is a human invention, which means, of course, that Marx's analysis might well form part of HM (even if erroneously so); hence these ideas mightn't be applicable to nature. Careful readers of Marx's comments will notice, too, that he speaks exclusively of the movement of variables, not objects in nature -- even if the former are supposed to depict the latter. [More on this, here.] Even so, these manuscripts weren't published, but Marx did publish a summary of "the dialectic method" which contains not one atom of Hegel. [That particular passage has been quoted below.]

 

Admittedly, it would greatly assist the case being presented in this Essay if it could be shown conclusively that Marx didn't accept DM; it would at least absolve him of any connection with what is a manifestly non-sensical and incoherent theory. It is far from easy to accept the idea that a first-rate revolutionary and theorist of genius, like Marx, assented to doctrines that would give the phrase "fourth-rate" a bad name. [However, see also Note 16, below.]

 

Fortunately, the case against DM isn't affected by an answer to the above question. The truth of DM is no less unbelievable even if Marx had accepted it. It is just that Marx's intellectual stature would suffer greatly if that were the case.

 

Correction 20/06/2014: In fact, up until recently, I had only read a handful of chapters of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts, having unwisely taken the word of his commentators that this is a work of 'dialectics' (in the traditional Engels/Lenin sense of that word). I have now carefully checked these manuscripts in detail, line-by-line, and can find only one page and one expression that is unambiguously 'dialectical' (in the above sense): Here it is:


"The whole difficulty in understanding the differential operation (as in the negation of the negation generally) lies precisely in seeing how it differs from such a simple procedure and therefore leads to real results." [Marx (1983), p.3.] [Italic emphasis in the original.]
 

That's it! That is the extent of the 'dialectics' (in the above sense of the word) in these manuscripts. And even then this indirect reference to 'dialectics' (again, in the above sense of that word) is equivocal, at best. Anyway, Marx certainly does nothing with it.

Hegel is mentioned only once in the entire book (that is, if we ignore the many references to him made by the editors and the other commentators in this volume), and then only in passing -- in fact, as many times as Kant and Fichte (p.119).

"Contradiction", as far as I can see, makes only one appearance:


"This leap from ordinary algebra, and besides by means of ordinary algebra, into the algebra of variables is assumed as au fait accompli, it is not proved and is prima facie in contradiction to all the laws of conventional algebra, where y = f(x), y1 = f(x+h) could never have this meaning." [Ibid., p.117. Italic emphases in the original.]
 

I think it is pretty clear that this isn't a 'dialectical' use of this word (with that word understood in the above manner, once more).

Finally, there is this passage:


"And here it may be remarked that the process of the original algebraic derivation is again turned into its opposite." [Ibid., p.56.]


If readers check, they will also see that Marx isn't arguing 'dialectically' here (with that word understood in the above manner, again) -- there is, for example, no 'struggle' going on between 'dialectical opposites', here, as we were told must be the case --, he is simply making a point about the algebraic manipulations he had just completed and is about to complete.

So, this work isn't in fact an example of Marx trying to shoehorn the calculus into dialectical boot it won't fit, as I had alleged in Essay Seven Part One, but it does further confirm my view that Marx had waved 'goodbye' to that confused mystic, Hegel (upside down or the 'right way up').

 

In which case, it isn't at all surprising that Rigby ignored this work!

 

[I have added several more comment about this aspect of Marx's work to Essay Seven Part One.]

 

However, as noted above, Thomas Weston (in Weston (2012) -- this links to a PDF) has recently attempted to defend the traditional view that Marx believed there was a 'dialectic' at work both in human history and in nature.

 

I have added now some remarks concerning Weston's attempt to recruit a throw-away comment in Das Kapital, about elliptical motion, to the idea that Marx accepted a 'dialectic in nature', here. I have also added several comments (connected with Weston's use of what I have called, 'Spinoza's Greedy Principle' (SGP) -- i.e, "Every determination is also a negation") to Essay Eight Part Two. [Readers are directed to the links posted earlier for more details.]

 

7. The so-called 'Three Laws' of DM were examined in Essay Seven Part One.

 

8. This is an all too common a response on the Internet. On this page, I have given links to sites where I have tried to 'debate' this topic with DM-fans. With a few rare exceptions, almost every single dialectician with whom I have 'debated' these issues has (a) Invented things to put in my mouth that I do not believe, nor have said, nor could reasonably have been inferred from what I have said; (b) Misread, deliberately or accidentally, even the simplest of sentences I have written; (c) Demanded of me levels of proof they have strangely failed to require of the DM-classicists they defend; (d) Appealed to the hackneyed, tried-but-not-tested standard examples to support their 'theory' (these have been listed in the main body of this Essay); (e) Pontificated about the alleged 'limitations' of FL when it is obvious they know less about it than the average cat; (f) Ignored whatever they don't like, or couldn't answer; (g) Claimed that my ideas aren't new (when most of them are); or (h) Claimed my work is based on 'bourgeois' theory (when, as we all know, Hegel was a coal miner and die-hard socialist).

 

[FL = Formal Logic.]

 

While the aforementioned comrades have been considerably less polite than Trotsky was to Burnham (but no less arrogant and cock-sure, while vastly more abusive), the reception the former gave the latter has clearly served as a model for DM-adepts to copy: ignore what you don't like, misrepresent wherever you can, pontificate about FL (even after it has been shown you haven't a clue what you are talking about), and under no circumstances address your opponent's arguments -- except, perhaps, to disparage them.

 

Engels, of course, set the tone in Anti-Dühring, as did Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism -- "Philosophy practised with a mallet", as someone once described it. Other DM-theorists (quoted in these Essays) have merely marched lock-step with the DM-classicists in this regard.

 

[Please note: I am not complaining. I expect this level of knuckle-headed ignorance and abuse -- and for reasons spelt out in Part Two.]

 

9. Of course, it is entirely possible that Lenin was merely commenting on contemporaneous Marxists, thus absolving Engels. However, what he actually says fails to support that interpretation:

 

"It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

This looks pretty clear: in the fifty years prior to Lenin, "none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" (emphasis added) --, not (note!) "some of the Marxists", but "the Marxists". In TAR, John Rees suggests that the above comment was aimed at Plekhanov or Second International Marxism. That is entirely possible, but once again, Lenin's use of the word "none" fails to support that narrow interpretation.

 

Nevertheless, as Rees also says:

 

"In these fragmentary notes, Lenin formulates some of the most precise definitions of key concepts in Marxist philosophy available anywhere. The dialectic itself, for instance, has never been better explained…." [Rees (1998), p.185.]

 

High praise like this can only mean that Engels's account (to say nothing of other work, like, for example, Plekhanov's) was deficient in some way.

 

But, in what way would that be?

 

The answer seems rather obvious: Engels's version of DM wasn't aligned closely enough with Hegel's 'Logic'.

 

That can only mean that Engels didn't understand Das Kapital!

 

On the other hand, if the dialectic has never been better explained, and Lenin's book is full of incomprehensible sentences, with little attempt to explain what Hegel meant, what does that say about 'the dialectic'? Can anyone explain it in comprehensible terms? Has anyone?

 

In order to counter such ridiculous implications, two comrades -- i.e., Woods and Grant [in Woods and Grant (1995), p.76] -- argued that Lenin was deliberately exaggerating, here. Again, that is entirely possible, but it is certainly not the way that Lenin has been interpreted by subsequent Marxists. [Indeed, Woods and Grant quote the above passage from Lenin (here) with no qualifications attached to it.]

 

On this, note Andy Blunden's comments (strangely watering down what Lenin actually said):

 

"Hegel is the philosophical predecessor of Marx, and we have Lenin's word for it that Marx cannot be understood without first understanding Hegel." [Empson (2005), p.166.]

 

Naturally, this passage of Lenin's helps account for something that would otherwise be inexplicable: the fascination Hegel's Logic has exercised on prominent revolutionaries -- including STDs, MISTs, and OTs -- but more specifically 'academic dialecticians', ever since. If Lenin were merely exaggerating --, or if that is how he had always been perceived --, this wouldn't have happened.

 

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

 

For example, not only do we find a Trotskyist of the stature of Raya Dunayevskaya writing several books in the futile attempt to show that there are denizens of this planet capable of comprehending Hegel's Logic, we witness her also reiterating this famous claim (albeit also watered-down):

 

"Here, specifically, we see the case of Lenin, who had gone back to Hegel, and had stressed that it was impossible to understand Capital, especially its first chapter, without reading the whole of the Science…." [Dunayevskaya (2002), p.328.]

 

And, this is what Bertell Ollman had to say:

 

"Even from this brief outline, it is apparent that Marx's Hegelian heritage is too complex to allow simple characterization. Hegel never ceased being important for Marx, as Lenin, for example, perceived when he wrote in his notebook in 1914, 'It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapters, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx.'" [Ollman (1976), p.35; a copy of this book can be accessed here.]

 

[There is a list of other prominent Marxists who agree with Lenin -- as well as another list of those who don't -- in Burns (2000), p.99, notes 2 and 4.]

 

Nevertheless, if this is the only way that these remarks of Lenin's can be defused by Woods and Grant (i.e., by claiming that Lenin was indulging in hyperbole), the question naturally arises: Why did they take other -- but even more absurd -- statements of Lenin's in PN either literally or seriously?

 

Furthermore, it is worth adding that Lenin himself admitted that he found certain parts of Hegel's Logic impossibly obscure, unclear, or just plain nonsense. [For instance, Lenin (1961), pp.103, 108, 117, 175, 229.]

 

Hence, if Lenin is to be believed, this would mean that even he didn't understand Das Kapital!

 

"It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

Notice that Lenin didn't refer to just 99.9% of Hegel's Logic, but the "whole" of it, which had to be "thoroughly studied and understood" (emphasis added).

 

Is this yet another internal contradiction that forces us to change our view of Hegel? Surely, it must be if Lenin is correct in insisting that "everything existing" (including the existing passage above) is a UO.

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:]…[I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]… as the sum and unity of opposites…. [E]ach thing (phenomenon, process, etc.)…is connected with every other…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other….

 

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

 

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

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-60. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Or, is this just another "exaggeration"?

 

Finally, there is no evidence that Marx himself made anything even remotely like a similar claim about his own work -- nor is there any evidence that he had ever thoroughly studied and fully understood Hegel's 'Logic'. This either means that the Logic is largely irrelevant to any and all students of Das Kapital, or Marx didn't understand his own book!

 

[However, on this, see Note 16, below.]

 

9a. On this, see Note 10.

 

10. While there are two different works commonly called Hegel's Logic (one of which he was in the process of revising when he died -- on this see Carver (2000)), Lenin's Notes largely, but not exclusively, relate to the Science Of Logic (i.e., Hegel (1999)).

 

Nevertheless, Lenin was unaware of the important changes Hegel had made to the Science Of Logic. So was Marx. Does this mean that one or both (Lenin and Marx) didn't understand Das Kapital? It seems they can't have if Lenin is to be believed. [Again, on this, see Carver (2000).]

 

This doesn't, of course, mean that workers can't understand Das Kapital, but if Lenin were right, it would be remarkable if anyone could!

 

11. I, for one, won't be holding my breath. We have already seen one attempt fail badly (here and here). [More on this in Essay Twelve.]

 

However, the best book I have so far read on this, which attempts to make Hegel comprehensible, is Beiser (2005). Despite this, Beiser finds he has to paper over the serious problems that face anyone attempting to interpret Hegel; even he has to translate the latter's impenetrable prose into ordinary-ish sort of English to complete the job. [On that problem, see here.]

 

Naturally, this just raises the following question: Is Beiser's Hegel Hegel's Hegel, or is it Beiser's Hegel? And that, like all such questions, is unanswerable, especially in relation to Hegel.

 

12. Again, this isn't to suggest that the roots of sectarianism are merely ideological, just that it helps considerably if the faithful have an obscure book (or set of books) on which to base their ideas, and thus manufacture their differences.

 

For example, the existence of such a 'holy book' simply encourages a call for 'orthodoxy', and that in turn fosters the belief that only certain 'leaders' are 'orthodox' enough to guide everyone else, and are thus 'authorised' to impose the 'right interpretation' on the rest of the party/sect.

 

To that end, of course, the more obscure the book, the better. Without doubt, Hegel's Logic wins a Gold Medal in that particular event.

 

[As TV cop Kojak once said (but not about Hegel's work), "It sure beats the hell out of whatever's in second place!"]

 

13. Lest this comment appears to associate the present author with the views of certain well-known anti-Marxists (who seem to say somewhat similar things), it is worth adding that the points made here are specifically aimed at the ideological use of mystification -- whosoever indulges in it, and that includes anti-Marxist critics themselves. [On this, see Essay Twelve again -- summary here.]

 

As will be agued in Part Two of this Essay, if Lenin was guilty of doing this he did so unwittingly; he was clearly unaware of the significance of the ideas that he, Engels and Plekhanov had imported into the movement. The same goes for other great revolutionaries (including Engels himself). My argument isn't therefore with their sincerity -- nor yet with their revolutionary fervour -- but with their philosophical judgement and their psychological susceptibilities.

 

14. Once more, the comments in the main body of this Essay might appear to some to be a re-hash of the hackneyed idea that Marxism is a quasi-religion. However, as will be argued in more detail in Part Two, only in so far as DM seduces revolutionaries into adopting a dogmatic metaphysic is the analogy with Theology apt.

 

[In fact, as we will see in Part Two, the motivation to accept dialectics isn't unlike that which induces commitment to religious belief.]

 

So, while Marxism itself isn't a religion, certain aspects of Dialectical Marxism uncannily resemble religious affectation.

 

As Marx reminded us:

 

"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. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

15. Even if this supposition were incorrect, and it should turn out that most scientists have studied the classics in their field, their practice is certainly not now informed by this fact, and only this fact.

 

Rather fittingly, the opposite is the case with dialecticians.

 

16. Marx And Dialectics - 2

 

[This forms part of Note 16, and is a continuation of remarks I have made here. Since this is relevant to the material presented below, may I draw readers' attention to my earlier comments -- about my use of the word "dialectics"?]

 

In fact, upon learning of the aims of my site, rarely does a dialectically-distracted comrade (and these are mainly drawn from the HCD-tendency) fail to quote the following passage, so influential has it become:

 

"It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

[HCD = High Church Dialectician. That term is explained here.]

 

Nevertheless, Marx himself specified no such preconditions for understanding his own work. In fact, and as we will soon see, if anything, he tended to downplay Hegel's influence.

 

However, this myth has sunk so deep in the collective 'Dialectical Mind' that the above remark will elicit immediate disbelief. Or, and far more likely, it will just be ignored, as will the evidence posted below. But, it is nonetheless true for all that.

 

Here is why:

 

By the late 1850s, Marx himself pointed out (again in a side remark) that the relevance of Hegel's method could be summarised in a handful of sheets:

 

"What was of great use to me as regards method of treatment was Hegel's Logic at which I had taken another look BY MERE ACCIDENT, Freiligrath having found and made me a present of several volumes of Hegel, originally the property of Bakunin. If ever the time comes when such work is again possible, I should very much like to write 2 or 3 sheets making accessible to the common reader the rational aspect of the method which Hegel not only discovered but also mystified." [Marx to Engels, 16/01/1858; MECW, Volume 40, p.249; copy here. Bold emphases alone added; capitals in the original.]

 

Needless to say, Marx never supplied his readers with this précis. From that fact alone we may perhaps conclude that in the end Marx didn't really think Hegel's method was all that significant, or useful. [Indeed, the evidence presented below suggests that this is a serious understatement.] So, despite all the millions of words he committed to paper, Marx didn't consider it important enough to complete these relatively few pages.

 

Meanwhile, and in stark contrast, he spent a whole year of his life banging on about Karl Vogt -- but, he still couldn't be bothered with this 'vitally important' summary.

 

Even had Marx written such a summary, it would still have meant that only a tiny fraction of Hegel's work was relevant to understanding Das Kapital: a few pages!

 

Contrast that with what Lenin said.

 

"It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

Attentive readers will no doubt also have noticed that Marx tells us that he encountered Hegel's Logic by "accident"; this hardly suggests he was a constant and avid reader of that book. Indeed, he didn't even possess his own copy, and had to be given one as a present by Freiligrath!

 

Much has been made of certain references to Hegel in Marx's later work. However, a close examination of them reveals a picture quite different from the standard line retailed by Dialectical Marxists. The scattered remarks concerning Hegelian Philosophy -- which mostly appear in unpublished writings -- are, at best, inconclusive. [Cf., Carver's comments posted above, in Note 6.] I will, however, examine several of them in what follows.

 

[It is worth emphasising at this point that I am not denying Hegel was a major influence on Marx's earlier ideas or work, only that by the time he came to write Das Kapital, he had waved 'goodbye' to that mystical and logical incompetent. We already know he had abandoned Philosophy root-and-branch by the end of the 1840s.]

 

Some might be tempted to point to the following quotation from the Afterword to the Second Edition of Das Kapital in support of the idea that Marx was still being influenced by Hegel's method (but only if put 'the right way up') when he wrote that classic work:

 

"...I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added. I have used the punctuation found in MECW here.]

 

However, Marx's use of the word "coquetted" suggests that, at best, Hegel's Logic only exercised a superficial influence on his ideas, confined merely to certain "modes of expression", and limited to just a few sections of Das Kapital ("here and there").

 

[Again, contrast that with what Lenin said, and with what we are about to discover concerning Marx's own view of "the dialectic method".]

 

Marxist dialecticians often take exception to that interpretation of the Afterword, arguing that Marx's "coquetting" was, on his own admission, confined to the chapter on value, not the rest of the book. That response isn't conclusive.

 

Far from it!

 

First of all, the punctuation in MECW (reproduced above) suggests Marx was using the chapter on value as one example among many where he had "coquetted" with Hegel's ideas, but it wasn't the only one.

 

Second, it would be decidedly odd if Marx had "coquetted" with Hegelian jargon in the most important chapter of the book, but had done so nowhere else. Why pick on only the most important chapter?

 

Third, as far as Marx "openly" avowing himself a pupil of Hegel, he pointedly put that comment in the past tense:

 

"I criticised the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years ago, at a time when is was still the fashion. But just when I was working on the first volume of Capital, the ill-humoured, arrogant and mediocre epigones who now talk large in educated German circles began to take pleasure in treating Hegel in the same way as the good Moses Mendelssohn treated Spinoza in Lessing's time, namely as a 'dead dog'. I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Ibid., pp.102-03. Bold emphases added. Once more, I have used the punctuation found in MECW.]

 

This is hardly a ringing endorsement; indeed, it is equivocal, at best. Marx didn't say he was still a pupil of Hegel, but that he once was. Of course, it might be true that he still counted himself a pupil of Hegel when the above was written, but there is nothing here to suggest that Marx viewed the link between his own and Hegel's work in the way Lenin had, or in the way that subsequent dialecticians have.

 

[Several letters that suggest Marx still counted himself as a 'pupil of Hegel' were in fact written before the Afterword was published, so in this respect, they aren't relevant.]

 

Of course, it is possible to call a theorist a "mighty thinker", and claim to have learnt much from them even while disagreeing with everything they said. For example, I think Plato is a "mighty thinker", but I disagree with 99.99% of what he wrote.

 

John Rees attempted to neutralise the devastating admission that the extent of the influence on Marx of Hegel's Logic was no more than a few jargonised expressions, used only "here and there", and with which Marx merely "coquetted", by arguing as follows:

 

"Remarkably, this last quotation is sometimes cited as evidence that Marx was not serious about his debt to Hegel and that he only or merely 'coquetted' with Hegel's phraseology, and that he really did not make any further use of the dialectic. That this interpretation is false should be obvious from this sentence alone. The meaning is clearly that Marx was so keen to identify with Hegel that he 'even' went so far as to use the same terms as 'that mighty thinker' not that he 'only' used those terms." [Rees (1998), p.100.]

 

Well, if that were so, why did Marx put his praise of Hegel in the past tense, and why did he immediately add the following?

 

"...[E]ven, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, [that he had -- RL] coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added. Once more, I have used the punctuation found in MECW.]

 

This comment is reasonably clear: Marx himself (not Rosa, not Peter Struve, not James Burnham, not Max Eastman...), Marx himself says that he "coquetted" with Hegelian phraseology (hardly a serious use of the Logic!), and only in certain places ("here and there"). So, far from "using" such terms, as Rees suggests, Marx merely "coquetted" with them. Indeed, had his alleged "debt" to Hegel been plain for all to see, he would surely not have expressed himself so equivocally. [These days we would perhaps use 'scare quotes'.]

 

[As will soon become clear, the core HM ideas in Das Kapital owe much more to the 'dialectical method' developed by Aristotle, Kant and The Scottish Historical School (of Ferguson, Millar, Robertson, Smith, Hume, and Steuart) than they do to Hegel. On this, see Meek (1954). On Kant, see Wood (1998, 1999). On Marx and Aristotle, see McCarthy (1992) and Meikle (1995). On Aristotle's conception of 'dialectic', see Reeve (2001). (See also my comments at RevLeft, here and here; some of that material has been reproduced below.) For Aristotle's comments on his 'dialectical method', see Appendix A.]

 

It is now apparent that the ideas of these earlier dialecticians, coupled with the above comments (and the content of the long passage quoted below), represent the "rational kernel" of that mystical theory -- but, still no (serious) input from Hegel.

 

Hence, for Marx, to rotate Hegel and put him 'on his feet' is to reveal how empty his head really is -- the "rational kernel" contains not one atom of Hegel!

 

Some have pointed to Marx's own words -- where he refers to "the dialectic method" -- in order to counter the above allegations. The question is, of course: what did Marx himself, not others, mean by this phrase?

 

Well, we needn't speculate. Marx tells us what he meant by it in the same Afterword to the Second Edition. There, he quotes a reviewer in the following terms:

 

"After a quotation from the preface to my 'Criticism of Political Economy,' Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:

 

'The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence. ... If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of moment is, that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different momenta of an evolution; but most important of all is the rigid analysis of the series of successions, of the sequences and concatenations in which the different stages of such an evolution present themselves. But it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own.... As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws. In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population. ... With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx's book has.'

 

"Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?" [Marx (1976), pp.101-02. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

In the above passage, not one single Hegelian concept is to be found -- no "contradictions", no change of "quantity into quality", no "negation of the negation", no "unity and identity of opposites", no "interconnected Totality", no "universal change" --, and yet Marx still calls this the "dialectic method", and says of it that it is "my method".

 

So, Marx's "method" has had Hegel completely excised --, except for the odd phrase or two, "here and there", with which he merely "coquetted".

 

In that case, and once more, Marx's "dialectic method" more closely resembled that of Aristotle, Kant and the Scottish Historical School.

 

Notice, this isn't a "dialectic method", nor yet part of "the dialectic method", but "the dialectic method". Moreover, this is the only summary of "the dialectic method" Marx published and endorsed in his entire life. In what follows, I begin with this passage, since it tells us what Marx himself, not anyone else, considered his "method" to be -- and interpret everything else in that light.

 

So, others often point to the following passage:

 

"My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of 'the Idea,' he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of 'the Idea.' With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought." [Ibid., p.102. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]

 

But, one can't get more "opposite" to Hegel than to excise his ideas completely from one's own.

 

Again, we needn't speculate about this since the long passage above -- in which not one atom of Hegel is to be found, and which Marx's nevertheless calls "the dialectic method" -- supports just such an interpretation -- again, if we begin with the only summary of "the dialectic method" Marx published and endorsed in his entire life, as opposed to the failed Engels/Plekhanov/Lenin tradition of interpreting Marx as they saw fit.

 

[I pass no comment here on Marx's ideas about "reflection"; I will, however, do just that in Essay Twelve Part Four, when it is published.]

 

Still others point to the following remarks:

 

"The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

 

"In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary." [Ibid., p.102.]

 

Of course, this leaves it open to interpretation what the "rational form" of the dialectic really is. But, and once again, if we rely on what Marx actually published, as opposed to what tradition would have us believe, then the long passage above reveals that the "rational form" contains no Hegel at all -- upside down or the 'right way up'. Indeed, as noted earlier, to turn Hegel "the right side up" is to show how empty his head really is!

 

But, what about this?

 

"The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner." [Ibid.]

 

To be sure, concerning "the dialectic", that doesn't prevent Hegel "from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner." What does prevent him is that Hegel wasn't the first -- Aristotle, Kant and the Scottish Historical School beat him to it. [Indeed, they exercised a major influence on Hegel himself; he simply took their ideas and mystified them.] Moreover, Hegel failed to present his readers with a "comprehensive and conscious" form of "the dialectic", as the long quotation above shows. There, Marx calls that summary (not Hegel's ham-fisted 'dialectic') "the dialectic method", despite the fact that it is a Hegel-free zone.

 

[In fact, it isn't possible to make sense of Hegel's 'method'.]

 

So, according to Marx's own endorsement -- not mine -- "the dialectic method" contains not one atom of Hegel!

 

Naturally, DM-fans are guaranteed to take exception to this, but they should pick a fight with Marx, not me.

 

In fact, they most certainly do not like it. Witness the reception an earlier version of the above argument received at RevLeft (and elsewhere) -- here, here, here, and here. Nothing rattles their chains more than this. It seems that reality is one thing dialectically-distracted comrades aren't used to confronting. (Witness, too, another recent attempt to impose Hegel on Das Kapital, here.) In these 'debates', I have responded to several objections in addition to those noted above, one or two of which might indeed have occurred to the reader. I don't intend to reproduce that material in this Essay, so sceptical readers are referred to the above debates for more details. [The latest attempt to re-mystify Marx can be found here, in the comments section at the bottom. An even more recent example can be accessed here.]

 

So, if we begin with Marx's own summary of "the dialectic method", we arrive at an entirely different interpretation of his words (different to that usually applied to them). If Marx called something that contains no trace of Hegel whatsoever "the dialectic method" (note, not "a dialectical method", or "part of, or one aspect of the dialectic method" nor yet "one man's take on the dialectic method", but "the dialectic method"), and which by implication represents the "rational core" of 'dialectics', then it can't be the case that Hegel was "the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner." Why call a summary -- the only one Marx published and endorsed in his entire life -- "the dialectic method" and "my method" if it contained absolutely no input from Hegel?

 

In that light, if we begin with Marx's own words about his method (and not someone else's subsequent recasting of it), the above interpretation of this passage is plainly correct. Of course, if we don't start from Marx's own description of his method, but from some other view of Marx's method concocted long after he died, then we can hardly claim to have been faithful to his intentions.

 

Woods and Grant, however, note that Lenin argued that Marx did leave behind his own version of Hegel's Logic, namely Das Kapital. [Woods and Grant (1995), p.76.] But, Marx's own words (i.e., where he tells us he merely "coquetted" with Hegelian terminology, and only in a few isolated places, coupled with his characterisation of the summary written by that reviewer -- which he calls "his method" and "the dialectic method", but which contains not one microgram of Hegel) shows that this is much more than a mere "exaggeration" on Lenin's part -- it is a complete fabrication.

 

It is also worth recalling that Lenin repeatedly attributes to Marx philosophical ideas that can't be found in his work -- for example, this:

 

"All these people could not have been ignorant of the fact that Marx and Engels scores of times termed their philosophical views dialectical materialism." [Lenin (1972), p.6.]

 

Lenin surely can't have been ignorant of the fact that Marx referred to his ideas this way not even once.

 

Which means that Lenin isn't a reliable guide when it comes to Marx's 'philosophy'.

 

[I have put the word "philosophy" in 'scare' quotes here since I aim to show in a later Essay that by the mid-, to late-1840s Marx abandoned this bogus and pointless boss-class discipline for good. Added June 2013: This material can now be found, in a greatly expanded form, here.]

 

However, Terrell Carver, a noted critic of the 'orthodox' view (that (i) Engels and Marx saw eye-to-eye on everything, and (ii) Hegel exerted a profound influence on Marx all his life), has back-tracked somewhat, as far as I can see, in Carver (2000). Even so, his reasoning in this case is uncharacteristically obscure. Fortunately, John Rosenthal has neutralised his argument; for more details, cf., Rosenthal (1998).

 

It could be argued that the Grundrisse (i.e., Marx (1973)) is living disproof of many of the above allegations. Well, it would be had Marx seen fit to publish it, but he didn't --, so it isn't.

 

But, he did publish this:

 

"...I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added. Once more, I have used the punctuation found in MECW.]

 

Moreover, Marx added (to Das Kapital) the only summary of "the dialectic method" that he published and endorsed in his entire life, which is, as we have seen, a Hegel-free zone.

 

So, whatever it was that happened to Marx's thinking between the writing of the Grundrisse and his publishing the second edition of Das Kapital, it clearly changed his view of Hegel's Logic -- to such an extent that its phraseology became something with which he merely wished to "coquette" --, or, in fact, almost totally ignore.

 

Some critics of the above point to certain letters Marx sent to Engels and others, which seem to support the view that Marx still looked to Hegel (as some sort of authority) when he wrote Das Kapital. However, these letters aren't conclusive, and the vast majority were written before the Afterword was published. More importantly, no unpublished work can countermand an author's published opinions. Once again, in Marx's case, this includes the only summary of "the dialectic method" he published and endorsed in his entire life (quoted earlier), in which there is no trace of Hegel whatsoever, upside down or 'the right way up'.

 

In several of these letters Marx does indeed speak about "the dialectic method" and "dialectics", but we now know what he meant by these phrases -- as the long quotation above tells us: his "dialectic method" owes absolutely nothing to Hegel, except for a few jargonised expressions with which he merely "coquetted", and only in a few places, "here and there", in Das Kapital.

 

Of course, this doesn't mean that Marx's unpublished works aren't important, only that when it comes to interpreting an author, what he/she has published must take precedence.

 

Hence, if we rely on what Marx actually published about "the dialectic method", and ignore the failed Hegel-Engels-Lenin tradition of interpreting Marx, it is clear that Marx had turned his back on this 'mighty thinker' when he wrote Das Kapital.

 

Others point to the following passage from Das Kapital itself:

 

"A certain stage of capitalist production necessitates that the capitalist be able to devote the whole of the time during which he functions as a capitalist, i.e., as personified capital, to the appropriation and therefore control of the labour of others, and to the selling of the products of this labour. The guilds of the middle ages therefore tried to prevent by force the transformation of the master of a trade into a capitalist, by limiting the number of labourers that could be employed by one master within a very small maximum. The possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist in such cases only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the maximum of the middle ages. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel (in his 'Logic'), that merely quantitative differences beyond a certain point pass into qualitative changes." [Marx (1996), p.313. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Here is what I have written about this passage in Essay Seven Part One:

 

Values (it is assumed that these are "exchange values") don't become Capital by mere quantitative increment. It requires the presence of a Capitalist Mode of Production (and thus a change in the Relations of Production), or a different use of that money, for this to be so. The capitalists concerned have to do something with these exchange values. So, the mere increase of exchange values doesn't automatically "pass over" into a qualitative change and become Capital. These values have to be invested (or put to some other specific productive use), and that too isn't automatic (in certain circumstances, they could be consumed). So, what we have here is a change in quality passing over into another change in quality! Quantity has nothing to do with it. The same quantity of money could be used as Capital or fail to be so used. It requires a change in its quality (its use, or its social context) to effect such a development.

 

As Hillel Ticktin recently pointed out:

 

"[T]he International Monetary Fund has pointed out that there is something like $76 trillion being held by financial firms, such as private equity in different forms, waiting to be invested. There is...something like $28 trillion that is held in the bank of New York Mellon alone. The amount of money that cannot be profitably invested keeps going up.... It is a crazy situation when such enormous sums of money are being held and not being invested -- a situation that has lasted almost a decade.

 

"In other words, there is a very large proportion of surplus value that is not going into investment. And money that is not invested is not capital: it is not being used to generate more surplus value." [Quoted from here; accessed 22/01/2016.]

 

Notice, "money that is not invested is not capital...."

 

Over the last twenty-five years or so, in my wander across the wastelands of the Dialectical Dustbowl, I have yet to encounter a single dialectician who has pointed out that this application of Hegel's 'Law' by Marx contains a serious error! So desperate have DM-fans become (in their endeavour to find support for their failed theory in what Marx wrote), every single one of them seems to have forgotten, or disregarded, basic principles of Historical Materialism [HM]!

 

Hence, £x/$y (or their equivalent) owned by a Medieval Lord in, say, Eleventh Century France, couldn't of its own become Capital no matter how large this pot of money became (but see below), whereas £w/$z in Nineteenth Century Manchester, even though that sum might be less than the £x/$y held by the aforementioned Lord (allowing for inflation, etc.), would be Capital if employed in certain ways. It isn't the quantity that is important here but the Mode of Production and the use to which the money is put, that are.

 

Also worth asking is the following question: How does this money actually "develop"? In what way can it "develop"? Sure, money can be saved or accumulated, but how does a £1/$1 coin "develop" if its owner saves or accumulates more of the same? Even if we redefine "save" and  "accumulate" to mean "develop" (protecting this 'law' by yet another terminological dodge, thus imposing it on the facts), not all money will "develop" in this way. What if the money was stolen or had been expropriated from, or even by, another non-capitalist? What if it had been obtained (all at once) by selling land, slaves, works of art, political or other favours, etc? Where is the "development" in such cases? Notes and coins don't change, or become bigger, if they are accumulated. Money in the bank doesn't "develop" either. Or are we to imagine that in the vaults, of stored on disk somewhere, notes and coins grow and reproduce, or that all those digital 'ones' and 'zeros' on that disk become more 'one'-, and 'zero'-like?

 

But, this money could still operate or serve as Capital, howsoever it had been acquired, or where it had been stored, depending on its use and the Mode of Production in which this takes place.

 

Of course, this isn't to deny that there were Capitalists (or nascent Capitalists) in pre-Capitalist Europe; but whatever money they had, its nature as Capital wasn't determined by its quantity, no matter how large it became, but by the use to which it was put. This is also true of the period of transition between Feudalism and Capitalism (before the Capitalist Mode of Production was apparent or dominant); again, it is the use to which money is put that decides whether or not it is Capital, not its quantity.

 

In which case, this represents an egregious mis-application of Hegel's 'Law' -- by Marx himself! Now, either we believe Marx was a complete imbecile (in that he committed this crass error, and failed even to understand HM!), or we conclude he was still "coquetting" with Hegelian jargon. [Again, these days we would use 'scare quotes' in such circumstances, or we would simply refrain from employing such language altogether.]

 

Compare the above with Marx's more considered thoughts (where there is no hint of "coquetting"):

 

"Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of labour, and means of subsistence of all kinds, which are utilised in order to produce new raw materials, new instruments of labour, and new means of subsistence. All these component parts of capital are creations of labour, products of labour, accumulated labour. Accumulated labour which serves as a means of new production is capital.

 

"So say the economists.

 

"What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The one explanation is worthy of the other.

 

"A Negro is a Negro. He only becomes a slave in certain relations. A cotton-spinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. It becomes capital only in certain relations. Torn from these relationships it is no more capital than gold in itself is money, or sugar the price of sugar....

 

"Capital, also, is also a social relation of production...." [Marx (1968a), pp.79-80. Italic emphases in the original; bold added. The on-line version is slightly different to the published version I have used.]

 

We also have this remark (unpublished by Marx) from Volume Three of Das Kapital:

 

"Capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society...." [Marx (1998), p.801.]

 

In which case, the mere accumulation of money can't be, or become, capital if "certain relations" are absent. Once again, quantity has nothing to do with it.

 

[I have debated this alleged use of Hegel's 'Law' at length over at RevLeft, and elsewhere; that argument can be accessed here (beginning with a challenge from a critic in post #202, and stretching across the next few pages.]

 

Others point to this passage from Volume One of Das Kapital:

 

"John St[uart] Mill, on the contrary, accepts on the one hand Ricardo's theory of profit, and annexes on the other hand Senior's 'remuneration of abstinence.' He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic. It has never occurred to the vulgar economist to make the simple reflexion, that every human action may be viewed, as 'abstinence' from its opposite. Eating is abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &c. These gentlemen would do well, to ponder, once in a while, over Spinoza's: 'Determinatio est Negatio.' ['Every determination is a negation' -- RL.]" [Marx (1996), p.592, footnote 2. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

This also appears to contradict the conclusions reached above.

 

Here is what I have posted at RevLeft on this passage (slightly edited):

 

The first thing to note is that this sentence is ambiguous:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic."

 

You [i.e., the individual with whom I was discussing this at RevLeft] seem to think its meaning is obvious, that Marx is claiming that "Hegelian contradiction is the source of all dialectic", but this isn't plausible, and for several reasons:

1) Marx goes on to appeal to Spinoza's principle to illustrate the source of the dialectic:


"It has never occurred to the vulgar economist to make the simple reflexion, that every human action may be viewed, as 'abstinence' from its opposite. Eating is abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &c. These gentlemen would do well, to ponder, once in a way, over Spinoza's: 'Determinatio est Negatio.'"


Of course, Spinoza's 'principle' predated the invention of Hegel's 'dialectical contradictions'. If so, these 'contradictions' can't be the source of all dialectic (as Marx is clearly indicating by quoting Spinoza). And, indeed, these 'contradictions' most certainly aren't the source, since the dialectic originated in Ancient Greece (as Marx knew full well).

2. The sentence itself gives us a clue as to Marx's intentions:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic."

 

Now, the final phrase could refer back to this passage:


"as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction...."


Or, this:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions...."

 

Or, and what is far more likely, this:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction...."

 

In other words Marx is alluding here to the sort of puzzlement that motivated the early Greeks to engage in dialectic (the pursuit of truth through argument and counter-argument), puzzlement that has now re-surfaced in Mill's mind.

And this interpretation is supported by point 1) above -- Marx appeals to the puzzling features of Spinoza's Principle.

So, far from Marx being guilty of a simple historical error here (i.e., the claim that Hegel's 'contradictions' are the source of all dialectic, which they plainly aren't), he is pointing out something much less controversial: that puzzlement is the source of the dialectic (in fact, this is a remarkably Wittgensteinian claim to make).

 

My attempt to absolve Marx of crass idiocy has gone down rather badly with one comrade over at LibCom -- on that, see here and here. But, if we attend to what Marx actually said, as opposed to what we would like him to have said -- or, indeed, what the failed tradition tells us he 'must' have said or meant -- then the above approach to this question succeeds in absolving him of just such crass idiocy.

 

The choice is therefore quite stark: either Marx was an incompetent ignoramus or the above interpretation is correct.

 

Take your pick...

 

Tom Weston refers his readers to this passage from Das Kapital (I have quoted it as it appears in Weston's article first, and then as it has been rendered in the MECW edition):

 

"We saw that the process of exchange of commodities includes relations that contradict and exclude one another. The development of the commodity does not overcome [aufhebt] these contradictions, but creates a form within which they can move themselves. This is in general the method through which real [wirkliche] contradictions solve [losen] themselves. It is a contradiction, for example, for one body to continuously fall into another, and just as constantly fly away from it. The ellipse is one of the forms of movement in which this contradiction is actualised [verwirklicht] just as much as it is solved [lost]." [Quoted in Weston (2012), pp.5-6. This links to a PDF; italic emphases in the original.]

 

"We saw in a former chapter that the exchange of commodities implies contradictory and mutually exclusive conditions. The differentiation of commodities into commodities and money does not sweep away these inconsistencies, but develops a modus vivendi, a form in which they can exist side by side. This is generally the way in which real contradictions are reconciled. For instance, it is a contradiction to depict one body as constantly falling towards another, and as, at the same time, constantly flying away from it. The ellipse is a form of motion which, while allowing this contradiction to go on, at the same time reconciles it." [Marx (1996), p.113. This links to a PDF; italic emphases in the original.]

 

Weston takes exception to several of translated phrases in the second of the above two passages, such as "it is a contradiction to depict one body as constantly falling towards another", on the grounds that:

 

"[T]he phrase 'it is a contradiction to depict' conveys an idea directly opposite to the assertions of the German text. The contradiction is not only in the depiction of elliptical motion; it is in the motion itself. This is the clear sense of the German text's assertions that the contradictions are 'real [wirklich]', are ‘actualised [verwirklicht]', and that the sides of the contradiction are the two tendencies of motion that are mentioned, not their depictions." [Weston (2012), p.28. Italic emphases in the original. Weston must mean "not merely their depictions" here, since it would seem reasonably clear that if a 'contradiction' is 'real' then its depiction can't fail to be contradictory, too.]

 

Weston must mean "not merely their depictions" here, since it would seem reasonably clear that if a 'contradiction' is 'real' then its depiction can't fail to be contradictory, too.

 

Be this as it may, for this and other reasons, Weston clearly prefers the first translation above to the second. blik

 

As we saw in Essay Eight Part Two (links below), Weston doesn't tell us why this is a 'contradiction' (whether 'real' or merely pictorial), and Marx doesn't either. Both simply help themselves to this word without once trying to justify it. Except, we already know that Marx was merely "coquetting" with Hegelianisms like this in Das Kapital -- since he told us he was, so we have no excuse. But, is this even a 'dialectical contradiction'? Do these two motions 'struggle' with one another, and then turn into each other, as DM-classics tell us they must? Do they imply one another so that one can't exist without the other (as, say, the capitalist class can't exist with the proletariat, and the one supposedly implies the other)? If they, do, Weston kept these details annoyingly to himself.

 

Anyway, I have responded to Weston's attempt to recruit Marx to the failed Engels-Plekhanov-Lenin tradition in Essay Eight Part Two, as follows (slightly edited):

 

Notwithstanding this, Thomas Weston makes a desperate attempt to find a 'second force' (or cause) in such cases -- which he locates in..., 'inertia'!

 

"In the classical mechanics pioneered by Newton, elliptical motion of a body will result if it is attracted to another 'central' body by a force inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them, provided that the body has an initial velocity that is not too large or too small, and not directly toward or directly away from the central body. This situation involves only a single force on the body, which, in the case of a planet orbiting the Sun, is the force of gravity. Gravity is not the only cause of this motion, however.

 

"An elliptical orbit is the result of two causes, which produce two tendencies of motion. One tendency results from the force directed toward the central body, which makes the body turn toward that central body. The second tendency is that of the body to continue in a straight line at a constant speed. This tendency is usually called 'inertia'. Inertia is not a force, since forces cause change in speed or direction, and inertia is the tendency not to change speed or direction. Inertia is a causal principle, as Newton recognised, calling it an 'innate force of matter'. He expressed this principle in his first law of motion, while forces are described in the second law. In elliptical motion, these two causes, gravity and inertia, are united by the physical fact that the mass responsible for inertia is proportional to the mass that gives rise to gravity. This fact is an important element in recognising the dialectical contradiction in elliptical motion." [Weston (2012), pp.6-7. Italic emphasis in the original. Bold added.]

 

One moment Weston tells us that inertia isn't a force, the next he quotes Newton to the effect that it is! However, nowhere does Weston explain how gravity and inertia can "struggle" with each other (whether or not they are, or they cause, opposing "tendencies"), or how they could possibly turn into each other, which the DM-classics tell us they must "inevitably" do -- nor yet how this set-up is even a 'contradiction' to begin with! As is the case with other DM-fans, Weston simply helps himself to this word with no attempt to justify it.

 

Indeed, as Weston admits, Hegel argued that the motion of a planet is governed by the operation of only one force:

 

"We must not therefore speak of forces. If we want to speak of force, then there is but one force, and its moments do not, as two forces, pull in different directions." [Hegel (2004), p.65. Italic emphasis in the original. Bold added.]

 

As noted earlier, it is difficult to see how a 'dialectical contradiction' can be cobbled together from only one force.

 

Another serious difficulty arising from Weston's attempt to shoehorn Marx into this ill-fitting dialectical boot is the inconsistent way he uses the word "tendency". One minute "tendencies" aren't causes, but are caused by something else (as in the first of the above passages, where it seems that an elliptical orbit "produce[s] two tendencies of motion"), next it is a cause:

 

"Tendency A, if strong enough, will cause the opposite tendency B to be less fully realised than if tendency A were absent, and conversely." [Weston (2012), p.17. I examine variations on this theme later on in this Essay.]

 

However, we have already had occasion to note that tendencies aren't, and can't be, causes.

 

Weston mentions the TOR only once (p.7, ftn.17), but even then he fails to note that one of the 'sides' of the alleged 'contradiction' here has been edited out of the picture -- with gravity replaced by motion along a geodesic. So, now we no longer have one force to be getting along with, but no forces at all!

 

[I have said more about this, here. I return to consider Weston's ill-advised article, here, here, here, and here, where I have also shown that Weston's definition (concerning the interplay between 'Tendencies' A and B) fails to work.]

 

[TOR = Theory of Relativity.]

 

Finally, it is far from clear that the two "tendencies" Weston has recruited to his cause are 'dialectical opposites' of one another in the required manner; they don't seem to imply one another in any sense of that word, which they would have to do to qualify as 'internally-connected' opposites. Nor is it the case that one can't exist without the other. So, in what way does a "tendency" to fall into a planet imply a "tendency" to continue to move in the same line of action -- in the way that one class under capitalism (the bourgeoisie) is said to imply the existence of the other (the proletariat), such that one of these 'opposites' can't exist without the other?

 

Weston omits consideration of this core Hegelian principle, and it isn't hard to see why: this omission hides the fact that this isn't by any measure a 'dialectical relation' and hence it can't be a 'dialectical contradiction', either, whatever else it is.

 

Hence, this passage from Das Kapital offers no help to beleaguered dialecticians in their endeavour to re-mystify Marx's work.

 

Other than the above passage, Weston offers his readers only one other quotation from Das Kapital to show Marx accepted the doctrine that there is a 'dialectic in nature', and it is one we have already examined:

 

"John St[uart] Mill, on the contrary, accepts on the one hand Ricardo's theory of profit, and annexes on the other hand Senior's 'remuneration of abstinence.' He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic. It has never occurred to the vulgar economist to make the simple reflexion, that every human action may be viewed, as 'abstinence' from its opposite. Eating is abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &c. These gentlemen would do well, to ponder, once in a while, over Spinoza's: 'Determinatio est Negatio.' ['Every determination is a negation' -- RL.]" [Marx (1996), p.592, footnote 2. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Except, Weston quotes only part of the above, which allows him to draw the wrong conclusion:

 

"Marx himself saw contradiction as the central concept of dialectics. In Capital, Marx wrote that 'Hegelian "contradiction" is the source [Springquelle] of all dialectics.'" [Weston (2012), p.31. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

Readers are therefore referred to the earlier discussion of this passage.

 

However, since the 'elliptical motion' passage is both his most important and his best example, this doesn't augur well for the other passages to which Weston referred. In fact, the other passages Weston quotes, or to which he refers, are either from unpublished writings, or they constitute the sort of scattered remarks and asides we have met already.

 

Once again, the above doesn't constitute cast iron proof that Marx didn't see eye-to-eye with Engels over there being a 'dialectic in nature', but it does throw the traditional interpretation of Das Kapital into considerable doubt. In that case, unless supporters of the traditional view can produce a summary of "the dialectic method" written and published by Marx that is contemporaneous with or subsequent to Das Kapital, the thesis presented here must stand: Marx abandoned Hegel root-and-branch when he came to write his masterpiece. And, if that is the case, if 'the dialectical method' in Das Kapital is a Hegel-free zone (upside down or 'the right way up'), then it is all the more certain that he didn't accept the doctrine that there is a 'dialectic in nature' in his later years, either.

 

In that case, Lenin should have said:

 

"It is possible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, merely by coquetting with the phraseology of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later anyone who is capable of coquetting will understand Marx!!" [Edited misquotation of Lenin (1961), p.180.]

 

[Support for this reading of the relation between Marx, Lenin and Hegel has come from Louis Althusser in his article, 'Lenin Before Hegel' (reprinted in Althusser (2001)). I hasten to add that I don't agree with everything Althusser says in that essay (for example, I don't accept the "epistemological" break Althusser attributes to Marx -- Marx is plainly not interested in 'epistemology', an odd idea that Althusser has foisted on Marx). It is also worth noting that I have pushed this argument much further than Althusser ever would, or could. After all, he still thinks the word "contradiction" has some role to play in Marxist theory! In addition, he totally ignored what Marx had to say about Philosophy itself, and the "distorted" jargon it employs.]

 

Incidentally, here is what I have posted (concerning the influence on Marx of Aristotle, Kant and the Scottish School) in Part Two of this Essay:

 

Marx made plain the influence of the Scottish School in the German Ideology (erroneously calling it "English"):

 

"The French and the English, even if they have conceived the relation of this fact with so-called history only in an extremely one-sided fashion, particularly as long as they remained in the toils of political ideology, have nevertheless made the first attempts to give the writing of history a materialistic basis by being the first to write histories of civil society, of commerce and industry." [MECW 5, p.42. Bold added.]

 

On this see Meek (1967), and Wood (1998, 1999) -- the latter of which underlines how influential Kant's work was in this area.

 

This is what I have posted at RevLeft on this topic (slightly edited):

 

It is not I who called them this (i.e., "The Scottish Historical Materialists"), but others, mainly Marx and Engels.


"Ronald Meek, 'The Scottish Contribution to Marxist Sociology' [1954; collected in his Economics and Ideology and Other Essays, 1967.] Such luminaries as Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith. This influence was actually acknowledged. In The German Ideology, right after announcing their theme that 'men be in a position to live in order to be able to "make history", they say "The French and the English, even if they have conceived the relation of this fact with so-called history only in an extremely one-sided fashion, particularly as long as they remained in the toils of political ideology, have nevertheless made the first attempts to give the writing of history a materialistic basis by being the first to write histories of civil society, of commerce and industry.'" [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


[I ought to point out that the author of the above is in fact hostile to Marx and Engels, but there is little available on the Internet at present on this topic.]

Meek actually calls them the "Scottish Historical School" (p.35), but he attributes this phrase to Roy Pascal (Communist Party member, friend of Wittgenstein and translator of The German Ideology), who used it in his article 'Property and Society: The Scottish Historical School of the Eighteenth Century', Modern Quarterly, March 1938.

The full passage reads as follows:


"Since we are dealing with the Germans, who are devoid of premises, we must begin by stating the first premise of all human existence and, therefore, of all history, the premise, namely, that men must be in a position to live in order to be able to 'make history.' But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. And indeed this is an historical act, a fundamental condition of all history, which today, as thousands of years ago, must daily and hourly be fulfilled merely in order to sustain human life. Even when the sensuous world is reduced to a minimum, to a stick as with Saint Bruno [Bauer], it presupposes the action of producing the stick. Therefore in any interpretation of history one has first of all to observe this fundamental fact in all its significance and all its implications and to accord it its due importance. It is well known that the Germans have never done this, and they have never, therefore, had an earthly basis for history and consequently never an historian. The French and the English, even if they have conceived the relation of this fact with so-called history only in an extremely one-sided fashion, particularly as long as they remained in the toils of political ideology, have nevertheless made the first attempts to give the writing of history a materialistic basis by being the first to write histories of civil society, of commerce and industry." [Quoted from here.]


In the Poverty of Philosophy, Marx also wrote:


"Let us do him this justice: Lemontey wittily exposed the unpleasant consequences of the division of labour as it is constituted today, and M. Proudhon found nothing to add to it. But now that, through the fault of M. Proudhon, we have been drawn into this question of priority, let us say again, in passing, that long before M. Lemontey, and 17 years before Adam Smith, who was a pupil of A. Ferguson, the last-named gave a clear exposition of the subject in a chapter which deals specifically with the division of labour." [MECW Volume 6, p.181. Spelling altered to conform with UK English.]


Marx refers to Ferguson repeatedly in his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (MECW Volume 30, pp.264-306), as he does others of the same 'school' (e.g., Adam Smith and Dugald Stuart) throughout this work.

He does so, too, in Volume One of Das Kapital -- MECW Volume 35: pp.133, 359, 366, 367.

 

[He also refers to other members of that 'school', e.g., Robertson, p.529, Stuart and Smith (however, the references to these two are far too numerous to list -- check out the index!).]

Indeed, throughout Marx's entire works, the references to Smith and Stuart are also too numerous to list.


Kant's influence is outlined in the following (I owe these references to
Philip Gasper):

Wood, A, (1998), 'Kant's Historical Materialism' in Kneller and Axinn, Chapter Five.

--------, (1999), Kant's Ethical Thought (Cambridge University Press).

Kneller, J., and Axinn, S, (1998), Autonomy And Community: Readings In Contemporary Kantian Social Philosophy (State University of New York Press).

 

[See also 'Ferguson and Hegel on the Idea of Civil Society' by Martha King -- as well as Kettler (2005).]

 

Finally, one comrade has directed me to this comment from Volume One of Das Kapital:

 

"The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisition of the capitalist era: i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production." [Marx (1996), p.751.]

 

Fortunately, the clue to the interpretation of this, and the few other scattered remarks in the same book, which appear to be using Hegelian jargon, was supplied by Marx himself:

 

"...and even, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added. Again, I have used the punctuation found in MECW.]

 

Surprising as this might seem to some, I didn't write the above words -- Marx did. And no wonder: he had already summarised "the dialectic method" for us, in which not one atom of Hegel is to be found. It is hardly my fault if comrades choose to ignore what Marx actually published about his own method, and his turn away from Hegel.

 

As noted above, these days we would use 'scare' quotes (or better still, we would stop using such confused language altogether).

 

17. Comrades who are, even now, still impressed with Trotsky's arguments might like to reflect on the fact that he used dialectics to 'prove' that the fSU of his day was a degenerated Workers' State, and that it should therefore be defended by revolutionaries. He even argued (again, on the basis of DL) that only the enemies of Marxism would resist such a conclusion.

 

[DL = Dialectical Logic; OT = Orthodox Trotskyist.]

 

[Knowledgeable OT DM-fans are already aware of these facts, but they either ignore them, explain them away or fail to note their significance.

 

Of course, they openly accept the validity of dialectical 'reasoning' like this (and publicly defended (or still defend) the fSU), but they also fail to ask themselves why Trotskyism is by far and away the most unsuccessful wing of revolutionary Marxism. On that, see Part Two of this Essay, here, and Essay Ten Part One.]

 

DM-fans might also like to re-read the actual arguments Trotsky used to justify the indefensible Stalinist military aggression against Finland (expounded in Trotsky (1971) -- once again, supported by an appeal to 'dialectics', and little else.

 

Oddly enough, in TAR John Rees neglected to mention these salient facts.

 

So much for 'testing theory against reality'!

 

[Also check out Burnham's highly effective reply to Trotsky on this topic.]

 

Although it is no part of the argument advanced here that from contradictions "anything follows" (the so-called Ex Falso Quodlibet argument), the history of DL illustrates that almost anything can and does 'follow' from DL-'contradictions', and that these consequences have been defended by DM-theorists solely because of this.

 

[Again, more details and references substantiating these allegations are given in Part Two of this Essay.]

 

18. It is important to note that Trotsky's universal extrapolation of "Hegel's Law" is somewhat..., shall we say, exaggerated. Hegel certainly didn't think this 'Law' was everywhere applicable, but only in certain prescribed areas, as, indeed, Trotsky himself noted elsewhere:

 

"Hegel himself did not give the law of the transition of quantity into quality the paramount importance it fully deserves." [Trotsky (1986), pp.88-89.]

 

On this, see Levine (1984), pp.111-13.

 

19. The fact that none of Trotsky's epigones appear to have spotted this serious error can only mean that the inability to tell whether or not a counter-example applies to the same law isn't confined to The Master. In this respect, at least, one follower of Trotsky seems to be equally in the dark as any other. Ironically, this further implies that Trotsky's attack on the LOI has inadvertently created countless logically-challenged clones who exhibit exactly the same defects in this respect. Hence, there seem to be countless epigones that are identical in their inability to spot a correct application of the LOI, and, indeed, identical in their ability to misconstrue this 'law' along the same lines. Since Trotsky is responsible for making them this way, then he, at least, succeeded in making more than two followers who are equally confused.

 

Naturally, it could be objected that the above conclusions are farcical since the aforementioned 'followers' aren't identical in all respects, and so Trotsky hasn't created more than two identical copies of allegedly confused comrades.

 

Now this is, of course, where our use of words for identity becomes rather complicated; hence, in order to make the above counter-objection work, a hypothetical objector will have to use words for identity exactly as the rest of us do (and there is no room for approximation there, or this counterclaim would itself fail because its use of language would be different from the way the rest of employ the same words, which would mean that no one would be able to understand him/her!), transferring this objection from the individual or the objects mentioned onto the application of identically the same words to exactly the same examples. In that case, I am quite willing to withdraw the above criticism of Trotsky in exchange for an admission that at least here, with respect to our use of words for identity, we all do exactly the same thing.

 

Either way, the DM-criticism of the LOI takes another body blow.

 

It might be objected that we don't use our words for identity in exactly the same way, even though we might use them in approximately the same way. I have dealt with this objection, and many others, in Essay Six. Readers are directed there for more details.]

 

Independently of this, there is another serious difficulty thrown up by Trotsky's actual 'argument':

 

"Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects. In the elaboration of a bearing-brass into cone bearings, a certain deviation is allowed for the cones which should not, however, go beyond certain limits…. By observing the norms of tolerance, the cones are considered as being equal. ('A' is equal to 'A')…. Every individual is a dialectician to some extent or other, in most cases, unconsciously." [Trotsky (1971), pp.65, 106.]

 

Trotsky failed to notice that the alleged limitation he underlined in the making of two identical items doesn't appear to affect whoever it is that is responsible for applying the "norms of tolerance" he speaks about. According to Trotsky's own description, such workers are at least able to determine what constitutes the same application of these norms to different cone bearings -- otherwise there would be no way of telling whether or not the conclusions they drew about these cone bearings not being identical was the source of these differences or those bearing themselves. This means that such workers would have to use a norm encapsulating the dread LOI in order to apply that norm equally between each case. That is, they would have to know (in practice) what constituted an identical application of that norm over time, since an approximate application of it to two very similar cones might very well pass them off as identical!

 

Hence, in order for a worker to do what Trotsky says, he or she would have to know precisely what constitutes the correct application of the same norm to at least two different cone bearings. Even if these workers reject the LOI (which, even if they knew what it was, is doubtful), they would still have to use a norm that encapsulated that 'Law' in order to be able to agree with Trotsky that it fails to apply to cone bearings!

 

In fact, they could only concur with Trotsky after completing a practical refutation of what he declared they all implicitly knew! [We also saw this repeatedly happen to Trotsky, and those who agree with him, in Essay Six.]

 

20. It is worth adding that in view of the fact that Trotsky misconstrued his own version of the LOI -- even though, at least according to his followers, he is supposed to be a consummate dialectician --, few workers should be expected to draw the suggested 'dialectical conclusion' from their own productive activity.

 

Not even Trotsky got it right!

 

Despite this, what Trotsky actually said is patently incorrect. His comments clearly ruled out the possibility that two different objects could become the same, that a worker could make two distinct objects into one and the same thing, and that workers know this. In fact, ordinary language and common understanding allow for both eventualities (about which workers would be well aware already).

 

Examples of two things becoming one include the following:

 

(1) Two streams can flow into the same river.

 

(2) Two items of cloth can be combined into the same garment.

 

(3) Two cricketers/baseball players can become the same fielder (at the same time in different matches, or at different times in the same match), or two soldiers/union officials could be promoted to the same rank (with similar provisos).

 

(4) Two scabs could become the same target of the one brick; or two bricks could form part of the same defence against a police attack.

 

(5) Two workers could form the same small picket in the same or different strikes.

 

(6) Two copies of The Daily Mail could become the lining of the same pigsty -- but, only after suitable apologies had been offered the pigs, of course.

 

Examples of two items being made into one include the following:

 

(1)  Two rivets can be made into the same seal between two plates of metal.

 

(2) Two buckets of paint can be mixed to form the same colour (i.e., green and red making brown).

 

(3)  Two wooden posts can form the same support in a mine.

 

(4)  Two ropes can form the same towline.

 

(5)  Two plastic pipes can comprise the same outlet.

 

(6)  Two miscounted Widgets can create the same excuse for a strike.

 

(7)  Two sentences can form the same paragraph in the same, or even different, strike leaflets.

 

(8) Two (or more) of the above can constitute the same excuse for dialecticians to ignore them.

 

Of course, if we are no longer restricted to considering only two items then it would be possible to multiply the above examples indefinitely. For instance, one hundred thousand workers could form the same revolutionary column, or two million people could form the same march against the war in Iraq. Or even: two thousand police officers could constitute the same panic-stricken retreat from one or other of the former.

 

It could be objected that these 'counterexamples' beg the question since, if Trotsky were right about the defects of the LOI, none of the above would be genuine identity statements.

 

However, as was argued in Essay Six, our ordinary use of words for identity (i.e., "the same as", "exact", "similar", "identical", "not different", "precisely", etc.) is highly complex. It is far more sophisticated and involved than Trotsky or Hegel imagined in their 'theoretical' deliberations -- although in their everyday speech they couldn't have been unaware of this fact, and they would have used sentences employing terms like the above countless times throughout their lives.

 

The vernacular --, which, it is worth reminding ourselves yet again, is derived from everyday practice -- allows for the expression of countless examples of complex identities and similarities; those given above constitute a tiny fraction of those available to ordinary users. [More were given, here.]

 

Anyone who couldn't recognise these as examples of sameness and identity (etc.) would be deemed not to understand their own language (since they would be incapable of recognising, using and comprehending the same words from that language in the same way as other speakers). Such individuals could become, in some circumstances, a danger to themselves. In which case, they would hardly be in a position to criticise the 'law' that supposedly underlies such words.

 

Indeed, the employment of words like these in such contexts tells us more about their meaning than could be learnt from reading the same comments in Hegel an indefinite number of times (irony intended). Hegel's narrow, metaphysical use of a few of our words for identity and change shares nothing with their ordinary employment. As such, his use of language like this is devoid of sense. [Why that is so is explained in Essay Twelve Part One.]

 

If, on the other hand, these examples fail to tell us what our words for identity (etc.) mean -- if they are defective in some way -- then even those who criticise the use of such terms must fail to grasp what they themselves are criticising (i.e., the ordinary use of words they have failed to grasp!), since they won't be able to put into words what constitutes the same use either of that word (i.e., "same"), or associated terms (like, "very", "almost", "approximately", etc.). [An appeal to 'approximate' identity here would be of no use, again, as we saw in Essay Six.]

 

Furthermore, as we also saw in Essay Six, it is in fact impossible to decide what (if anything) Trotsky actually meant by his attack on the LOI. This tells us that the above examples represent a far more legitimate use of words for identity than the severely limited range found in Hegel, Trotsky or his latter-day clones. Hence, as far as ordinary language is concerned, it is quite easy to speak about making two or more things exactly the same -- which is all that us non-Idealists require o the vernacular.

 

It is certainly all that workers need.

 

Finally, as was noted in Essay Six, too: it isn't to the point to object to the examples given above on the grounds that the objects or processes listed above are all subject to change, for even if that were the case, any such object and processes will change at a rate equal to anything with which it is identical -- in this case, itself.

 

Hence, the LOI is no enemy of change.

 

Once again, I have dealt with this topic in extensive detail in Essay Six (links above), where I have responded every conceivable objection. Since I have been debating this topic with DM-fans for a generation or more, I know every objection there is.

 

21. Here is some material devoted to this topic, copied from another Essay posted at this site:

 

Physicists tell us that every photon, for example, is identical to every other photon. This how Steven French puts things:

 

"It should be emphasised, first of all, that quantal particles are indistinguishable in a much stronger sense than classical particles. It is not just that two or more electrons, say, possess all intrinsic properties in common but that -- on the standard understanding -- no measurement whatsoever could in principle determine which one is which. If the non-intrinsic, state-dependent properties are identified with all the monadic or relational properties which can be expressed in terms of physical magnitudes associated with self-adjoint operators that can be defined for the particles, then it can be shown that two bosons or two fermions in a joint symmetric or anti-symmetric state respectively have the same monadic properties and the same relational properties one to another. [French and Redhead (1988); see also Butterfield (1993).] This has immediate implications for Leibniz's Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles which, expressed crudely, insists that two things which are indiscernible, must be, in fact, identical." [French (2015). Bold emphases and links added. Referencing altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Of course, French offers his own solution to this difficulty, but it isn't one that challenges the identity of quantal particles, just their lack of individuality. And, Nobel Laureate, Paul Dirac, made a similar point this way:

 

"If a system in atomic physics contains a number of particles of the same kind, e.g., a number of electrons, the particles are absolutely indistinguishable. No observable change is made when two of them are interchanged…." [Dirac (1967), p.307.]

 

However, one might wonder how anyone could possibly know two particles had been interchanged if they are indistinguishable. On the other hand, Pure Mathematician that he was, Dirac might merely be making a theoretical point on a par with the following: "If we swap one number in this equation for another (identical) number, no change will be observed: 2 + 3 = 5". We can see this perhaps more clearly with this example: "Two plus Three equals Five" is mathematically indistinguishable from "2 + 3 = 5" even though "2" and "Two", for instance, are plainly different.

 

In that case, every time a worker turns on a light, he or she makes or generates countless trillion identical objects per second -- which must mean that they are "unconscious" anti-dialecticians, if we apply the same sort of reasoning here as Trotsky.

 

Naturally, contentious claims like these can only be neutralised by an a priori stipulation to the effect that every photon in existence (past, present and future) must be non-identical -- despite what scientists tell us and in abeyance of the impossibly large (finite) amount of data that would be needed to support such a cosmically ambitious claim. At this point, perhaps, even hardnosed dialecticians might be able to see in this a blatant attempt to impose DM on reality.

 

Some might want to argue that photons don't occupy the same spatio-temporal co-ordinates, and so can't be absolutely identical, but this certainly isn't how Trotsky (or even Hegel) argued. When confronted with two letters "A"s on the page, Trotsky didn't ague that they occupied different spatio-temporal co-ordinates and hence aren't identical, he appealed to their assumed physical differences. But, photons are physically indistinguishable according to the above physicists.

 

Independently of this, photons refute Trotsky's claim that we can't make two identical objects (which must be located at spatio-temporal co-ordinates), for here we can.

 

Despite this, hardcore DM-fans might still want to argue that the above spatio-temporal objection means that photons aren't identical, but this objection is based on a certain definition of identity forced on nature in defiance of the claim that DM-supporters never do this.

 

[A recent discussion of these issues can be found in Brading and Castellani (2003), and Castellani (1998). An even more recent discussion can be found in Saunders (2006) (this links to a PDF), and particularly French and Krause (2006). See also Hilborn and Yuca (2002), Ladyman and Bigaj (2010), and the Wikipedia entry here.]

 

It could further be objected that Trotsky would surely have been unaware of developments in Physics that took place after he died, but, as the references given show, these facts are largely true of classical particles, too; quantum particles merely present a more extreme form of strict identity. And, Lenin it was who reminded us that science is ever revisable; hence, no dialectician who agrees with Lenin could consistently rule out the possibility that scientists would one day discover identical particles -- as indeed they have.

 

Even so, Trotsky was quite happy to impose this view on nature before all (or most of) the evidence was in, in defiance of what he said elsewhere:

 

"The dialectic does not liberate the investigator from painstaking study of the facts, quite the contrary: it requires it." [Trotsky (1986), p.92. Bold emphasis added]

 

"Dialectics and materialism are the basic elements in the Marxist cognition of the world. But this does not mean at all that they can be applied to any sphere of knowledge, like an ever ready master key. Dialectics cannot be imposed on facts; it has to be deduced from facts, from their nature and development…." [Trotsky (1973b), p.233. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[See also here.]

 

22. Rees isn't alone in so arguing. Compare his comments with Engels's view of ordinary 'commonsense':

 

"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 fixed, rigid, given once for all. He thinks in absolutely irreconcilable antitheses…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 rigid antithesis one to the other.

 

"At first sight this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of 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 wild world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought, justifiable and 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 the end of that existence; of their repose it forgets their motion…. Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically…." [Engels (1892), pp.406-07. Bold emphasis added.]

 

However, if Trotsky is committed to the belief that workers do in fact know about change, and hence that they reject the LOI in practice, are we now to conclude that "sound common sense" isn't "metaphysical" after all?

 

Note that in the above passage Engels all but says that ordinary people can't attain a 'dialectical view' of things on their own, contradicting Trotsky.

 

As far as the alleged "insoluble contradictions" of metaphysics are concerned, one wonders what Engels would have said if metaphysicians decided they were going to copy DM-fans, and simply 'Nixon' them? What if they declared they were just going to "grasp" both halves of these contradictions, DM-style, and they then declared that this 'solved' the problem? What could Engels possibly have said in response? Perhaps, that it was inconsistent or contradictory? If so, he should have praised them for this (DM-) tactic, if he were being (shock! horror!) consistent. And yet, dialecticians adopt the 'Nixon tactic' all the time in relation to the many contradictions that litter their own theory, the universal existence of which DM predicts.

 

In that case, I we have here an excellent example of the dialectical-kettle calling the metaphysical-frying pan, "sooty".

 

"Nixon" refers to the following: In the run-up to the 1968 US Presidential Election, Richard Nixon announced that he had "secret plan" to bring the war in Vietnam to a 'successful' close. When pressed, he refused to go into details for "security" reasons. [Donald Trump came up with the same dodge in relation to fighting ISIS in the 2016 Presidential Election.] Hence, this 'problem' (how to end that war) was solved just by saying it was; it had been "Nixoned". DM-fans do the same when they encounter a contradiction in their own theory, they just "grasp" it, claiming that that 'solves' the problem (but they somehow can't say exactly how it does this, except that only those who 'understand' dialectics will agree), and they then ignore it -- they Nixon it. More on this here.

 

We find Trotsky almost flatly contradicting himself on the same page as the passage quoted earlier (about what workers might or might not think about making two identical objects):

 

"Our scientific thinking is only a part of our general practice including techniques. For concepts there also exists 'tolerance' which is established not by formal logic issuing from the axiom 'A' is equal to 'A,' but by dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing. 'Common sense' is characterized by the fact that it systematically exceeds dialectical 'tolerance.'

 

"Vulgar thought operates with such concepts as capitalism, morals, freedom, workers' state, etc. as fixed abstractions, presuming that capitalism is equal to capitalism, morals are equal to morals, etc. Dialectical thinking analyzes all things and phenomena in their continuous change, while determining in the material conditions of those changes that critical limit beyond which 'A' ceases to be 'A', a workers' state ceases to be a workers' state.

 

"The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of a reality which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretizations, a richness of content and flexibility; I would even say a succulence which to a certain extent brings them close to living phenomena. Not capitalism in general, but a given capitalism at a given stage of development. Not a workers’ state in general, but a given workers’ state in a backward country in an imperialist encirclement, etc.

 

"Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradictions, conflict of content and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc., which are just as important for theoretical thought as is the simple syllogism for more elementary tasks." [Trotsky (1971), pp.65-66. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Trotsky, perhaps even more than Engels, argues that vulgar (i.e., common) thought (the thought of ordinary folk, which must include workers) is stuck in a static view, a non-dialectical view, of reality, and he starkly contrasts the latter with 'dialectical thought' itself.

 

Not to be outdone, our friends comrades Woods and Grant add their own two cents' worth:

 

"The most common method of formal logic is that of deduction, which attempts to establish the truth of its conclusions by meeting two distinct conditions a) the conclusion must really flow from the premises; and b) the premises themselves must be true. If both conditions are met, the argument is said to be valid. This is all very comforting. We are here in the familiar and reassuring realm of common sense. 'True or false?' 'Yes or no?' Our feet are firmly on the ground. We appear to be in possession of 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' There is not a lot more to be said. Or is there?

 

"...Formal logic (which has acquired the force of popular prejudice in the form of 'common sense') equally holds good for a whole series of everyday experiences. However, the laws of formal logic, which set out from an essentially static view of things, inevitably break down when dealing with more complex, changing and contradictory phenomena. To use the language of chaos theory, the 'linear' equations of formal logic cannot cope with the turbulent processes which can be observed throughout nature, society and history. Only the dialectical method will suffice for this purpose." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.90, 94; a copy is available here. Italic emphases in the original; bold added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[These two have clearly confused a sound argument (often called a "proof") with valid one; the latter can proceed from false premisses, the former can't.]

 

Exactly what FL has to do with 'commonsense' these two neglected to say; in fact, anyone who studies even AFL (let alone MFL) will initially be surprised at many of its results, which, of course, they wouldn't be if AFL were identical with 'commonsense'. The mis-match between the two is even more pronounced if 'commonsense' is compared with the more sophisticated results derivable in MFL. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that a single ordinary human being has ever reasoned along AFL-, still less MFL-lines.

 

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

 

But, this is just par for the course for Woods and Grant, whose book is full of errors of fact and logic (as we have seen many times), so much so that it might just as well be called "Reason in Remission".

 

[Concerning the denigration of ordinary language and 'commonsense', see Note 41a. On the difference between 'commonsense' and ordinary language, see Note 23 and Note 24.]

 

23. Nevertheless, it could be objected that workers in general have all manner of confused and superstitious ideas in their heads. Dialectics surely replaces these with scientific concepts.

 

First of all, DM-theses make no sense (as earlier Essays have shown), so even if this objection were valid, it would represent no advance at all to proselytise workers with the Good News from the DM-Gospel.

 

Second, common sense and ordinary language aren't identical; any of the deliverances of the former can be contradicted by means of the latter. [On this, see below, but in more detail, here.]

 

Finally, the propensity ordinary folk have for adopting superstitious beliefs or for forming crude metaphysical theories should no more impress us than their tendency to adopt religious beliefs. Anyway, each and every one of these is challengeable in the vernacular; for every superstitious belief, every ideologically-compromised sentence capable of being uttered by the most backward elements imaginable, its negation can easily be formed in ordinary language. As I pointed out in Essay Four:

 

This is why socialists can say such things as: "Blacks aren't inferior"; "Human beings aren't selfish"; "Wages aren't fair", "Women aren't sex objects", "Belief in the after-life is baseless", "LGBT individuals aren't perverts" -- and still be understood, even by those still in thrall to these ideas but who might hold the opposite view. If ordinary language were identical with 'commonsense' -- and if it were ideological (per se) in the way that some imagine -- you just couldn't say such things. We all know this to be true -- certainly, socialists should know this --, because in our practical discourse we manage to deny such things every day.

 

So, as noted above, while ordinary language may be used to express patent of falsehoods, as well as offensive, reactionary and regressive of ideas -- and, in order to express such ideas, reactionary, racist, sexist or homophobic individuals might depend on ordinary language in order to give voice to their vile or their anti-socialist opinions, the fact that socialist can reject all such ideas, using the very same medium, means that the vernacular as such can't be associated with those ideas.

 

In which case, it is odd that socialists don't advance the opposite claim: that because we can with relative ease explain socialist ideas in the vernacular -- just as we can challenge the regressive ideas mentioned above -- ordinary language is inherently progressive. Now, I'm not promoting that idea myself, merely asking why socialists are quite so quick to malign the language of the working class, and assume that because there are regressive ideas expressible in the vernacular that that automatically condemns it.

 

In this regard, it is as ironic as it is inexcusable that there are revolutionaries who, while they are only too ready to regale us with the alleged limitations of ordinary language -- on the grounds that it reflects "commodity fetishism", "false consciousness" or "static thinking" --, are quite happy to accept (in whole or in part) impenetrably obscure ideas lifted from the work of a card-carrying, ruling-class hack like Hegel. Not only are his theories based on alienated thought-forms (i.e., mystical Christianity and Hermeticism), his AIDS was a direct result of a systematic fetishisation of language -- indeed, as Marx noted:

 

"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 [alienation -- RL] of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphases and link added.]

 

[AIDS = Absolute Idealism.]

 

Experience has taught me that most comrades, especially those who hale from the HCD-tendency, find this point impossible to accept -- i.e., that ordinary language is "alright as it is" (to quote Wittgenstein). Again, I explain why they react this way in Essays Nine Part Two, and Twelve Part Seven (summary here).

 

However, I have disposed of the three main reasons many on the left tend to adopt a negative attitude to ordinary language (and, indeed, Wittgenstein) -- namely, (i) Marcuse's criticisms of OLP (dealt with here); (ii) The belief that Wittgenstein was a conservative mystic who wanted to "leave everything as it is" (dealt with here and here), and (iii) The idea that Wittgenstein's emphasis on ordinary ways of speaking represents a capitulation to bourgeois ideology, the status quo, and the 'banalities' of 'commonsense' (dealt with here).

 

Compare (iii), above, with Marx's own words on the same topic:

 

"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 added.]

 

[OLP = Ordinary Language Philosophy.]  

 

Confronted with the above passage and others like it, the overwhelming majority of those with whom I have debated such matters simply ignore them.

 

24. This isn't to suggest that workers have a 'scientific' grasp of change (whatever that is!), only that whatever we mean by "change" in ordinary life is accessible by any worker who has a grasp on the vernacular. Moreover, scientists themselves wouldn't be able to understand the complex changes in nature without a prior grasp of the vernacular. [More on this in Essay Three Part Two, and here.]

 

Be this as it may, as we have seen, the obscure language and concepts DM-theorists employ actually prevent them from understanding change.

 

It is worth pointing out at this stage that the comments in the main body of this Essay don't mean that workers have no need of revolutionary theory; quite the opposite in fact. [That caveat will be discussed presently.]

 

In addition, this doesn't imply that workers have access to a source of knowledge unavailable to others. Anyone who is able to use the vernacular (and who isn't learning impaired or intellectually-challenged in some way) can access, and thus employ, the countless words it contains for things like change, identity, the material constitution of the world, etc. This is what I have argued in Essay Four:

 

Here is a greatly shortened list of ordinary words (restricted to modern English, but omitting simple and complex tensed participles and auxiliary verbs) that allow speakers to refer to changes of unbounded complexity, extent, and duration:

 

Vary, alter, adjust, adapt, amend, make, produce, revise, rework, advise, administer, allocate, improve, enhance, deteriorate, depreciate, edit, bend, straighten, weave, merge, dig, plough, cultivate, sow, twist, curl, turn, tighten, fasten, loosen, relax, ease, tense up, slacken, fine tune, bind, wrap, pluck, carve, rip, tear, mend, perforate, repair, renovate, restore, damage, impair, scratch, bite, diagnose, mutate, metamorphose, transmute, sharpen, hone, modify, modulate, develop, upgrade, appear, disappear, expand, contract, constrict, constrain, shrivel, widen, lock, unlock, swell, flow, glide, ring, differentiate, integrate, multiply, divide, add, subtract, simplify, complicate, partition, unite, amalgamate, fuse, mingle, connect, link, brake, decelerate, accelerate, fast, slow, swift, rapid, hasty, protracted, lingering, brief, heat up, melt, freeze, harden, cool down, flash, shine, glow, drip, bounce, cascade, drop, pick up, fade, darken, wind, unwind, meander, peel, scrape, graze, file, scour, dislodge, is, was, will be, will have been, had, will have had, went, go, going, gone, return, lost, age, flood, swamp, overflow, precipitate, percolate, seep, tumble, plunge, dive, float, sink, plummet, mix, separate, cut, chop, crush, grind, shred, slice, dice, saw, sew, knit, spread, coalesce, congeal, fall, climb, rise, ascend, descend, slide, slip, roll, spin, revolve, bounce, oscillate, undulate, rotate, wave, splash, conjure, quick, quickly, slowly, instantaneously, suddenly, gradually, rapidly, briskly, hurriedly, lively, hastily, inadvertently, accidentally,  carelessly, really, energetically, lethargically, snap, drink, quaff, eat, bite, consume, swallow, gulp, gobble, chew, gnaw, digest, ingest, excrete, absorb, join, resign, part, sell, buy, acquire, prevent, avert, avoid, forestall, encourage, invite, appropriate, lose, find, search, pursue, hunt, track, explore, follow, cover, uncover, reveal, stretch, distend, depress, compress, lift, put down, fetch, take, bring, carry, win, ripen, germinate, conceive, gestate, abort, die, rot, perish, grow, decay, fold, empty, evacuate, drain, pour, fill, abduct, abandon, leave, abscond, many, more, less, fewer, steady, steadily, jerkily, intermittently, smoothly, awkwardly, expertly, very, extremely, exceedingly, intermittent, discontinuous, continuous, continual, emit, push, pull, drag, slide, jump, sit, stand, run, sprint, chase, amble, walk, hop, skip, slither, crawl, limp, swim, fly, hover, drown, submerge, immerse, break, abrogate dismiss, collapse, shatter, split, interrupt, charge, retreat, assault, squash, adulterate, purify, filter, raze, crumble, erode, corrode, rust, flake, demolish, dismantle, pulverise, atomise, disintegrate, dismember, destroy, annihilate, extirpate, flatten, lengthen, shorten, elongate, crimple, inflate, deflate, terminate, initiate, instigate, replace, undo, redo, analyze, synthesise, articulate, disarticulate, reverse, repeal, abolish, enact, quash, throw, catch, hour, minute, second, instant, moment, momentary, invent, devise, teach, learn, innovate, forget, rescind, boil, freeze, thaw, cook, liquefy, solidify, congeal, neutralise, evaporate, condense, dissolve, process, mollify, pacify, calm down, excite, enrage, inflame, protest, object, challenge, confirm, deny, repudiate, reject, expel, eject, repel, attract, remove, overthrow, expropriate, scatter, distribute, surround, gather, admit, acknowledge, hijack, assemble, attack, counter-attack, charge, repulse, defeat, strike, occupy, picket, barricade, revolt, riot, rally, march, demonstrate, mutiny, rebel, defy, resist, lead, campaign, educate, agitate, organise...

 

[In each case, where there is a noun form of the word listed, its verb form is intended. So, where you see "ring", for example, think of the verb "to ring" and its cognates -- like "ringing", for instance.]

 

Naturally, it wouldn't be difficult to extend this list until it contained literally thousands of words (on that, see here and here), all capable of depicting countless changes in limitless detail (especially if augmented with the language of mathematics, science and HM). It is only a myth put about by Hegel and DM-theorists (unwisely echoed by Rees, and others -- such as W&G) that ordinary language can't adequately depict change. On the contrary, it performs this task far better than the incomprehensible and impenetrably obscure jargon Hegel invented in order to fix something that wasn't broken.

 

That being so, anyone able to use the vernacular is in the same position as ordinary workers, which, of course, means that they, too, are capable of grasping the ideas encapsulated in HM. Hence, this more naturally makes HM the 'world-view' of the proletariat, since (a) It is framed in their language (or it can be, and very easily), (b) It systematises their experience of class society and (c) It is universally accessible.

 

Finally, once more, this isn't to belittle or denigrate the achievements of scientists, but since the word "change" is an ordinary language term already, scientists can no more tell us how to use that word correctly than they can tell us how to use "table", "garage"  or "inadvertently". [On this, see here.]

 

25. It is worth pointing out that issues connected with the "class-consciousness" (or otherwise) of workers aren't under scrutiny here -- and neither is any other topic exclusive to HM. Nor is it assumed that all or most workers have encountered Marxist concepts. The issue here is solely whether workers can attain to a single classical DM-notion on the basis of the class struggle alone, even if only at a rudimentary level.

 

Of course, it is pretty clear that DM-theorists have never even so much as attempted to survey workers to see if there are any "natural dialecticians" among them. Certainly, Trotsky didn't do this; and it is reasonably clear why: few workers would be able comprehend the basics of DM even if they were communicated to them. Once more, this isn't to denigrate workers; DM-'experts' are themselves incapable of explaining DM-theses clearly to one another, let alone to workers.

 

In that case, if dialecticians were to collect data on their own comprehension of DM, they would fail their own survey!

 

[And this isn't just because each and every one of them seems to believe (and many actually claim) that every other Marxist dialectician (especially if they belong to a rival party) doesn't actually 'understand' DM -- or that everyone else applies it in a 'wooden and lifeless' way. I take this theme up again in Part Two, here and here.]

 

For example, standard UK-SWP discussion of workers' views invariably (but not unsurprisingly) concern themselves with concepts drawn exclusively from HM.

 

[I have chosen the UK-SWP since they (and their spin-offs) represent the largest and most influential revolutionary tendency in the UK and Europe, and possibly the world. Other parties and tendencies -- where they show any interest at all in workers' views -- aren't much different in relevant respects, i.e., those related to the aims of this Essay. (This was, of course, written before the UK-SWP's recent implosion!)]

 

[Cf., for example, Callinicos (2004), pp.153-272; Rees (1988), pp.89-104, and Callinicos (1988), pp.162-71. See also Callinicos and Harman (1987), and German (1996).]

 

By default, perhaps, it is assumed that DM-categories either don't matter, or don't register, with the working class -- or even that workers' ideas themselves don't count in this area.

 

To be honest, who really wants to know if a strike has taught workers that two objects can't be identical? Or, whether the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? Or, whether freedom 'emerges' from necessity? Or, for goodness sake(!), whether Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, etc., etc.?

 

Will a single DM-concept help the working class overthrow Capitalism?

 

[The answer to the above question is pretty clear, "No", and that is partly because, if DM were true, change would be impossible.]

 

Notwithstanding this, it could be argued that, as a matter of fact, the idea that workers can't comprehend DM is incorrect: consider the case of Joseph Dietzgen. Dietzgen, it could be maintained, is a clear example of a proletarian who became a philosopher, and, moreover, a theorist who was respected to some extent by Marx, Engels and Lenin. Indeed, Dietzgen independently discovered, or re-invented, DM.

 

Or, so this fable would have us believe.

 

Now, while Dietzgen's working-class credentials are (ahem..., shall we say) highly dubious (but, see below), his revolutionary sincerity isn't open to question. He was clearly a fellow comrade and nothing said here should be interpreted as detracting from that fact. But, that doesn't mean we should appropriate his work uncritically. That would be to turn him into an icon.

 

Unfortunately, Dietzgen's 'proletarian' credentials are far from convincing. According to the account given by his son [E. Dietzgen (1906), pp.7-33], Dietzgen senior was a "master tanner", who, after having worked in his father's shop, turned his hand to various different occupations. These included opening a grocery store, running a bakery and a tannery business. After that he assumed control of the family firm in Germany. This means that Dietzgen's proletarian credentials are only marginally more 'convincing' than those of Engels himself!

 

However, even if it were true that he was a genuine "horny-handed proletarian", this would still fail to refute the claim made earlier that workers can't form a single DM-idea on their own this side of being 'converted' to the faith by one of the dialectical-elect, or, indeed, the work of a ruling-class theorist. This is so for two reasons:

 

(1) Dietzgen's philosophical writings are thoroughly confused, and are vastly inferior even to those of Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. [A few examples of this confusion have been examined here.] Now, the Essays published at this site have shown that the philosophical ideas of DM-classicists make no sense; if so, Dietzgen's inferior work stands no chance. Hence, if Dietzgen was a worker, the claim advanced here (that no worker can comprehend DM) finds ready confirmation; Dietzgen clearly didn't understand it!

 

(2) More importantly: irrespective of whether or not his ideas are comprehensible (or even whether he understood them), Dietzgen didn't actually derive DM-concepts from his own experience. According to his son he learnt them by reading the works of philosophers. [Cf., E. Dietzgen (1906), p.8.] Hence, if anything, this only serves to substantiate the claim advanced in this Essay: DM-theses may only be obtained (directly or indirectly) from ruling-class sources, and they have to be imported into the working-class movement in this manner -- i.e., from the "outside".

 

The same comments, mutatis mutandis, equally apply to the other alleged examples of 'Proletarian Philosophers' -- such as Tommy Jackson and Gerry Healy.

 

Jackson, unlike Dietzgen, was a genuine working-class Marxist, but he 'caught dialectics' from Hegel (and also from Dietzgen -- so, he didn't work DM out for himself, either), and his classic book on the subject [i.e., Jackson (1936)] shows that he, too, didn't understand a word of it -- not because it is too difficult, but because, like the Trinity and the Jabberwocky, it is intrinsically incomprehensible. Where Jackson touches on DM, his account is as clear as mud. [Proof? See the long quotation from his book and my analysis of it in Essay Three Part One.]

 

Healy also came from petty-bourgeois stock; he drifted in and out of the working class only to 'catch dialectics' from reading Lenin's MEC -- a condition that was later seriously compounded by a lethal strain he picked up from a prolonged exposure to PN.

 

[MEC = Materialism And Empirio-Criticism -- i.e., Lenin (1972); PN = Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks -- i.e., Lenin (1961).]

 

Did he understand a word of it? Readers should judge for themselves; open a copy of, say, Healy (1990) at any randomly-selected page; it will then be readily apparent that no sane individual could possibly 'understand' dialectics.

 

[Read more, if you can -- or, rather, if you are a masochist --, here and here.]

 

You want even more proof? Here is a pictorial summary of Healy's 'theory' of knowledge:

 

 

Figure Three: Recently Discovered WRP Suicide Note

 

[For background to this topic, see Easton (1958), Emmett (1928), MacIntyre (1980), Reé (1984) and Werskey (1988). See also Steele and Taylor (2004).]

 

At this point, it could be objected that the dice have been heavily loaded at this site against DM and in favour of the author's own idiosyncratic interpretation of HM. Hence, while it is maintained here that workers can't arrive at an understanding of DM solely as a result of their own experience -- meaning that it has had to be foisted on them "from the outside" -- no such strictures or requirements have been placed on HM. But, if HM can't itself be learned by workers as a result of their own experience, then the alleged contrast between DM and HM is unsustainable. Not only that, the phrase "from their own experience" has been interpreted rather narrowly in this work -- plainly in order to rule out workers learning about DM from books, for example. When this constraint is applied to HM, the same conclusions would surely follow.

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

It is worth recalling that the assertion that workers can't learn about DM from their own experience wasn't an empirical claim on my part -- it was an a priori observation based on the fact that, if DM makes no sense, no one (not Engels, not Lenin, not Trotsky, not Mao, not even Gerry Healy) could arrive at a DM-view of the world by any means whatsoever -- including even 'divine intervention'.

 

That is because there is no such thing as a DM-view of anything (any more than there is off-side in chess or the cube root of your left foot), let alone of 'reality'. DM is far too confused for it to be described even so much as "a view", still less "a theory". The other considerations (mentioned in the above proffered objection) were introduced solely to illustrate this contention. These strictures, of course, also apply to Theology and the fictional works of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear -- but they don't apply to HM.

 

Moreover, reference was made to "workers' experience" simply because this is a phrase in common use among Marxists. However, it isn't to be assumed that the present author endorses its use in philosophical contexts. It has been employed here strictly ad hominem -- that is, this phrase has been used in order to undermine several other ideas accepted by DM-theorists.

 

Of course, the ordinary language use of "experience" isn't in doubt; indeed, it has been used in this Essay several times. Moreover, any who take exception to my use of an ad hominem argument might do well to reflect on the fact that much that is written about this argument form is misguided in the extreme. Indeed, on the Internet it is widely viewed as synonymous with "abuse". Ad hominem has in fact got nothing to do with abuse. Moreover, ad hominem arguments are perfectly acceptable if they expose the inconsistencies in another's position, which is precisely how one such is being used here.

 

In fact, an ad hominem argument is one that infers from some (assumed or actual) idiosyncrasy, failing or foible in an opponent to the conclusion that their argument is invalid because of that. Ad hominem has nothing to do with personalising a criticism as such, but with what can be 'inferred' from that personalisation. It has nothing to do with abuse as such, either; one can infer, ad hominem, from praise just as much as from abuse. It is the inference that is ad hominem, not the personalisation, the abuse, or even the praise.

 

Hence, this would be plain and simple abuse: "NN is an idiot" -- but it isn't ad hominem. This is: "NN is an idiot, therefore what he says is false". So is this: "NM is intelligent, therefore what she says is true." (Where in both cases "what he/she says..." refers back to an argument or assertion put forward by an opponent or interlocutor in a debate, etc.)

 

It is clear, however, that workers' understanding is pre-disposed toward HM. Few workers need to be informed of most of the following: (i) class division, (ii) the great disparity of wealth between classes, (iii) the havoc caused by the relentless pursuit of profit, (iv) the de-humanising effect of work, (v) the poor education, housing and healthcare they and their families have to endure (without having to fight for improvements), (vi) the bias and partiality of the Government, the Police, the Press, and the Judiciary, or (vii) of the need for unions, and so on and so forth. Survey after survey shows this, and anyone who knows workers knows they know it, too.

 

This isn't to suggest that this awareness is evenly distributed, that it doesn't change over time or from generation to generation; but only the most backward sections of the working-class are ignorant of all or most of the above. Nor is it to suggest that workers don't harbour regressive ideas, or hold beliefs and attitudes that socialists shouldn't challenge --, but, the plain fact is that these can all be confronted using ordinary language.

 

[On this, see Callinicos and Harman (1987), Callinicos (1987, 1988), German (1996), and Rees (1988). Note, this has nothing to do with the so-called "Dominant Ideology Thesis". More on that in Essay Three Part Three. See also Callinicos (2004), pp.160-68.]

 

However, in contrast, every single worker would need to be 'informed' that, for example:

 

(a) Change occurs as a result of 'contradictions' -- even then they would fail to comprehend how the mere "gainsaying" of someone could actually have helped a cat move off a mat, let alone how a mere verbal wrangle could possibly have caused the demise of, say, Feudalism;

 

(b) Flowers negate seeds -- in fact, they would probably have a good laugh at that one, recalling, say, several prize stories about UK Prince Charles talking to his plants, or the childish conversation between the Weed and Bill and Ben in the Flower Pot Men;

 

(c) Truth is the Whole/Totality -- they would perhaps view this as some sort of New Age nostrum;

 

(d) Objects and processes are the same and not-the-same, as well as not-not-the-same -- they would surely assume that care in the community had failed whoever invented that gem;

 

(e) "John is a man" is capable of revealing the essential nature of everything in existence, as Lenin himself believed -- this might prompt them into suggesting that whoever came out with that LuLu cut out the hallucinogens from now on;

 

(f) Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved in Becoming -- they would definitely agree with Lenin that whoever "divined" that pearl of wisdom was a genius; in fact, they would probably associate nothing with dialectics from then on...

 

So, while HM needn't be learned from books (but it can be), DM ultimately can't be 'learnt' in any other way -- or, indeed, at all.

 

26. This needs qualifying; vaguely analogous ideas were employed by assorted mystics. On this see Essay Fourteen (summary here). See also here and here.

 

For instance, the sacred text of Hermeticism had this to say:

 

"For everything must be the product of opposition and contrariety, and it cannot be otherwise." [Copenhaver (1995), p.38. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Inwood notes, too, that in the ancient world Heraclitus used somewhat similar concepts, and more recently that the arch-mystic Jakob Böhme employed comparable language -- as, indeed, did Novalis (who was Böhme's populariser in 18th century Germany). [Cf., Inwood (1992), pp.63-64.] In Essay Two, we learnt that mystics right across the planet have always used terms like this.

 

Indeed, Della Volpe records the employment of somewhat similar language in Semën Frank's work -- Frank was a follower of Nicholas of Cusa (whose ideas will be examined in more detail in Essay Fourteen Part One) --, which is uncannily similar to Hegel's own use of it. [Della Volpe (1980), p.72, note 52.] But, since Frank lived from 1877-1950, his work plainly isn't an example of the ancient use of these vague notions; indeed he might have lifted them Hegel himself -- who in turn shared much with Cusa.

 

The truth is, of course, that Hegel had to change the meaning of a perfectly ordinary German word ("Widersprechen" -- "to speak against") to make his point. Ordinary Germans -- that is, those who haven't already been initiated into Böhmean Mysticism, and those not yet corrupted by the Idealism prevalent in German intellectual circles of the day -- wouldn't have been able to understand Hegel's peculiar use of this term.

 

One Hegel scholar has recently tried to defend Hegel's use of language; here is how I have responded to what he had to say in Essay Twelve Part One

 

And we have already seen that Hegel's reference to the implicit speculative nature of the German language is about as genuine as a video showing Rembrandt using a Smartphone to post a link on Facebook to his MP3 and DVD collection.

 

Nevertheless, Houlgate proceeds to argue that in his Logic Hegel was actually using ordinary German words, not a specialised vocabulary, in order to expose its inherently speculative nature, and that although to English readers Hegel's argument looks tortuous and opaque, this isn't so for those who are able to read him in the original:

 

"At this point, those who know Hegel's work only through English translation may be forgiven a distinctly sceptical smile. Hegel uses ordinary vocabulary? Can that be true? Do Germans really go around talking about 'determinateness' (Bestimmtheit) and 'being in and for itself' (Anundfürsichsein)? Well perhaps not precisely in the way Hegel does, but they do use related expressions in everyday speech. Ask a German if he or she thinks national reunification was good thing and you may hear in response 'bestimmt' ('definitely'), or 'an für sich, schon' ('in principle, sure')." [Houlgate (2006), pp.76-77. Italics in the original.]

 

This flies in the face of the fact that many German speakers, like, say, Schopenhauer, found it almost impossible to work out what Hegel was banging on about:

 

"If I were to say that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage, I should be quite right.

 

"Further, if I were to say that this summus philosophus [...] scribbled nonsense quite unlike any mortal before him, so that whoever could read his most eulogized work, the so-called Phenomenology of the Mind, without feeling as if he were in a madhouse, would qualify as an inmate for Bedlam, I should be no less right....

 

"At first Fichte and Schelling shine as the heroes of this epoch; to be followed by the man who is quite unworthy even of them, and greatly their inferior in point of talent -- I mean the stupid and clumsy charlatan Hegel." [Schopenhauer, quoted from here. Links added.]

 

"But the height of audacity in serving up pure nonsense, in stringing together senseless and extravagant mazes of words, such as had previously been known only in madhouses, was finally reached in Hegel, and became the instrument of the most barefaced general mystification that has ever taken place, with a result which will appear fabulous to posterity, and will remain as a monument to German stupidity." [Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Volume 2, p.22.]

 

"Fichte is the father of the sham philosophy, of the disingenuous method which, through ambiguity in the use of words, incomprehensible language, and sophistry, seeks to deceive, and tries, moreover, to make a deep impression by assuming an air of importance in a word, the philosophy which seeks to bamboozle and humbug those who desire to learn. After this method had been applied by Schelling, it reached its height, as everyone knows, in Hegel, in whose hands it developed into pure charlatanism....

 

"In Germany it was possible to proclaim as the greatest philosopher of all ages Hegel, a repulsive, mindless charlatan, an unparalleled scribbler of nonsense....

 

"If indeed I now chose to call to mind the way in which Hegel and his companions have abused such wide and empty abstractions, I should have to fear that both the reader and I myself would be ill; for the most nauseous tediousness hangs over the empty word-juggling of this loathsome philophaster....

 

"It may be said in passing that one can see how important the choice of expressions in philosophy is from the fact that that inept expression condemned above, and the misunderstanding which arose from it, became the foundation of the whole Hegelian pseudo-philosophy, which has occupied the German public for twenty-five years." [Ibid., quoted from here. Link added.]

 

If Schopenhauer, a sophisticated user of German, found that the language of this verbose waffler-meister was full of "senseless and extravagant mazes of words, such as had previously been known only in madhouses" and "empty abstractions", that it was "incomprehensible", "inept", and amounted to "empty word juggling", what price ordinary Germans?

 

This confirms much of what has been alleged here: metaphysicians, like Hegel, take ordinary words and put them to use in decidedly odd ways, nominalising verbs (for example, the verb "to be" was transmogrified into "Being"; "is identical with" was reified into "Identity"; the use of the negative particle into "Difference"), transforming general words into the names of abstract particulars.

 

[On a personal note: I think Schopenhauer was being rather kind, here.]

 

This is, of course, quite apart from Marx's own highly critical comments about Hegel's language and 'method'.

 

Naturally, there is nothing wrong with altering the meaning of a word to suit a particular purpose, but in Hegel's case there were only two reasons for doing this: (i) This new use of "contradiction" followed from a defective analysis of the LOI (on that, see here and here), and (ii) Hegel was situating his ideas in a well-established mystical tradition where this odd way of speaking is de rigeur.

 

[LOI = Law of Identity.]

 

To be sure, one online dictionary lists the following as a definition of the word "contradiction":

 

"contradiction, n 1: opposition between two conflicting forces or ideas...."

 

However, dictionaries are repositories of usage, and are neither normative nor prescriptive (except in the senses mentioned below). In this case, the above dictionary is clearly recording the dialectical use of this word -- by Dialectical Marxists! That doesn't imply that this word means anything when used this way (certainly dialecticians themselves can't tell us what it means).

 

The same dictionary also defines the word "Nirvana" -- but, which materialist wants to admit that that word actually means anything (that is, apart from its emotional import)?

 

Indeed, dictionaries 'define' many things about which dialecticians would have reservations. For example:
 

"God: A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.

 

"The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.


"A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.


"An image of a supernatural being; an idol.

"One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god...."


And:

 

"negation n 1: a negative statement; a statement that is a refusal or denial of some other statement 2: the speech act of negating 3: (logic) a proposition that is true if and only if another proposition is false."

 

No mention here of "sublation" or of the NON, but does that force dialecticians into accepting this 'definition'? Of course not; they pick and choose when it suits them.

 

[NON = Negation of the Negation.]

 

Consider, too, the definition of "wage":

 

"1. Payment for labour or services to a worker, especially remuneration on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis or by the piece.

 

"2. wages Economics The portion of the national product that represents the aggregate paid for all contributing labour and services as distinguished from the portion retained by management or reinvested in capital goods.

 

"3. A fitting return; a recompense." [Quoted from here; spelling altered to conform with UK English.]

 

"An amount of money paid to a worker for a specified quantity of work, usually expressed on an hourly basis." [Quoted from here; spelling altered to conform with UK English.]

 

Are there any Marxists on the planet who are prepared to accept this definition of what wages really are?

 

So, dictionaries record ideology just as much as they register use or meaning.

 

In that case, with respect to "contradiction", the writers of the above dictionary have plainly recorded the animistic use of this word by DM-fans themselves.

 

[This isn't to deny that dictionaries set norms of spelling or grammar. There is a useful analysis of Hegel's use of language in Inwood (1992), pp.5-18, and a more extensive one in Cook (1973). This topic is examined in much more detail in Essays Twelve and Fourteen.]

 

27. DM Not The Same As HM

 

[This forms part of Note 27.]

 

[It is worth pointing out that the argument in this section depends heavily on other Essays at this site, which have demonstrated, time and again, that DM makes not one ounce of sense. and that its theses soon fall apart when examined closely -- and, indeed, that they are far too vague and confused to be assessed for their truth or falsehood. On this, see Essays Three Part One to Eight Part Three. That isn't the case with HM.]

 

It could be objected that the distinction drawn between DM and HM at this site is completely spurious; hence, the claims made in this Essay are hopelessly misguided.

 

However, as will be argued in Essay Fourteen Part Two, HM contains ideas that are non-sensical only when they are translated into DM-jargon. The eminent good sense made by HM -- even as it is understood by workers when they encounter it (often this is in times of struggle) -- testifies to this fact.

 

[HM = Historical Materialism; DM = Dialectical Materialism; LOI = Law of Identity.]

 

The clear distinction that exists between these two theories isn't just a wild idea advanced at this site; it can be seen clearly in the day-to-day practice of revolutionaries themselves: No Marxist of any intelligence would use slogans drawn exclusively from DM to communicate with workers; indeed, few militants would even attempt to agitate strikers, for example, with the conundrums found in DM. On a picket line the alleged contradictory nature of motion or the limitations of the LOI don't often crop up. How frequently does the link between part and whole loom large in the fight against the Nazis? How many times do revolutionary socialists have to explain the distinction, or the link, between 'quantity and quality' in the fight against, say, austerity?   

 

Consider, for example, the following slogans: "The Law of Identity is true only within certain limits and the struggle against the occupation of Afghanistan!" Or "Change in quantity leads to change in quality and the defence of pensions!"

 

[Excellent examples of the utter uselessness of the above 'law' can be found here and here.]

 

Or: "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and the campaign to keep hospital HH open!" Or even, "Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved by Becoming, and the fight against Pegida!"

 

Slogans like these would be employed by militants of uncommon stupidity and legendary ineffectiveness.

 

In contrast, active revolutionaries employ ideas drawn exclusively from HM (as the latter theory applies concretely to the current state of the class war) if they want to communicate with workers. The vast majority of revolutionary papers, for example, use ordinary language coupled with concepts drawn from HM to agitate and propagandise; rarely do they employ DM-phraseology. [A handful examples of the latter were considered here.]

 

As Ian Birchall informs us:

 

"[Red] Saunders thinks that the IS [the forerunner of the UK-SWP -- RL] attracted the best of the 1968 generation through its politics -- 'Neither Washington nor Moscow' -- but also through the accessibility of its publications, it used ordinary language rather than the jargon of other far-left groups." [Birchall (2011), p.422.]

 

Only deeply sectarian rags of exemplary unpopularity and impressive lack of impact use ideas and terminology lifted from DM to try to educate or propagandise the working class. Newsline (the daily paper of the old WRP) was notorious in this regard; but like the Dinosaurs it resembled, it is no more. [The NON, it seems, took appropriate revenge.]

 

[NON = Negation of the Negation.]

 

It could be objected that no one would actually use slogans drawn from certain areas of HM to communicate with or agitate workers. That doesn't mean HM is of no use, so the same must be true of DM. For example, who shouts slogans about "Base and Superstructure", or "Relative Surplus Value" on paper sales? Who tries to propagandise workers with facts about the role of the peasantry in the decline of feudalism? Once more, this means the distinction drawn in this Essay is entirely bogus.

 

While it is true that no one shouts slogans about the relation between "Base and Superstructure" on paper sales, or prints strike leaflets reminding militants of the role of the peasantry in the decline of feudalism, they nevertheless still use slogans (often popularised slogans) drawn exclusively from HM, or which connect with HM as the latter relates concretely to current events in the class war. Nearly every article, leaflet or slogan is informed by ideas drawn from HM.

 

In stark contrast, again, none at all are employed from DM.

 

To be sure, revolutionary papers in general casually employ a handful of jargonised expressions drawn from DM (in the vast majority cases, this is confined to the use of the word "contradiction") in some of their articles, but this forms only a very minor part of their output -- even though few, if any, comrades will use such terms in slogans on street sales, on demonstrations or in discussions on the picket line.

 

Anyway, as will be shown in Part Two of this Essay, the use of DM-terminology like this is merely a nod in the direction of tradition and orthodoxy. Indeed, we are forced to conclude this since no sense can made of such jargon -- as we have seen, for instance, here, here, here and here. Hence, the employment of DM-terminology merely amounts to a declaration, or an admission, of 'orthodoxy' on the part of the individual or group using it -- an 'in-group'/'out-group' marker, as is argued here. DM-jargon does no real work (other than negative) in such circumstances, unlike concepts drawn from HM.

 

[Claims to the contrary are neutralised here, here and here.]

 

So, just like Marx in Das Kapital, revolutionary papers merely "coquette" with Hegelian jargon -- and even then, only "here and there".

 

Hence, at least at the level of practice -- where the party interfaces with the working class and the material world --, DM is totally useless.

 

[Indeed, as we will see here, there is no evidence that DM, or any of its jargon, was used even by the Bolsheviks in October 1917, or, for that matter, for several years after.]

 

Consequently, tested in practice -- or, rather, tested by being left out of practice -- the status of DM is plain for all to see: At best, it is a hindrance; at worst, it would totally isolate revolutionaries and make them look ridiculous.

 

This shows that the distinction drawn at this site between DM and HM isn't spurious in the least -- when they communicate with workers, militants draw it all the time.

 

Nevertheless, it could be argued in response that this attempt to separate HM and DM would fragment and compartmentalise our knowledge of nature and society. Such an approach to knowledge would possess clear, Idealist implications, suggesting that human beings are unique by implying that mind is independent of matter. If mind is dependent on matter (howsoever that link is conceived) there must be laws that span across both of them. And this is partly where DM comes in.

 

Or, so it could be argued.

 

But, this isn't so. As noted above, DM is far too vague and confused for it to function in this way; it can't account for anything, social or natural (as the Essays at this site demonstrate -- indeed, if DM were true, change would be impossible). Hence, even if there were natural laws that governed these two spheres (and I will pass no comment on that possibility here), and an inventory were drawn up of all the viable alternative theories capable of accounting for the above hypothesised connection, DM wouldn't even make the bottom of the reserve list of likely candidates. It is far too vague and confused.

 

[The other allegations (concerning matter and 'mind') were tackled in extensive detail in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

28. Again, this isn't meant to question the fact that workers in struggle often learn to see things more clearly -- for example, that the social, political and economic structures in Capitalism are interconnected (etc.). As noted in Essay Eleven Part One, the interconnected nature of Capitalism isn't being questioned here since it is an idea drawn from HM. In that context, sense can be made of the inter-relatedness of human history and its diverse Modes of Production, etc.

 

Naturally, since we have all descended from the same limited set of ancestors, have lived on the same planet all the while, and have experienced an interlocking series of historical developments and class societies, only a rather benighted (post-modern?), or ideologically-motivated 'scientist' would try to explain human history in a fragmentary way.

 

The immediacy of HM is not only reflected in the fact that it is possible to express its ideas in ordinary language (even if this can be done more succinctly using the specialist vocabulary of HM itself), it is also confirmed by the way that children above a certain age can be taught HM with relative ease. This also explains why HM seems so plausible to workers (when they are ready to listen to it explained to them).

 

28a. Woods and Grant also refer us to another passage of Trotsky's:

 

"The chicken knows that grain is in general useful, necessary and tasty. It recognises a given piece of grain as that grain -- of the wheat -- with which it is acquainted and hence draws a logical conclusion by means of its beak. The syllogism of Aristotle is only an articulated expression of those elementary mental conclusions which we observe at every step among animals." [Trotsky quoted in Woods and Grant (1995), p.89. A copy is available here (near the bottom of the page). In fact this appears in Trotsky (1973a), p.400.]

 

Unfortunately, Trotsky failed to say how he knew so much about the logical acumen of these Avian Aristotles -- or why, if animals have known about these things for so long, it took a genius like Aristotle to 'discover' them about 1 million years after we left the animal kingdom proper, and countless million since 'we' branched off from the common ancestor we have with the birds!

 

And, if chickens are such natural logicians, then perhaps among them there is a Feathered Frege or a Rooster Russell?

 

 

Figure Four: Avian Aristotle, Feathered Frege, And Rooster Russell?

 

28b. It could be objected that in the transition from a liquid to a sludge -- and then to a semi-solid, and then perhaps into a full-blown solid as more salt is dumped into the soup -- we would have a clear example of change of quantity into quality. But, even here, this change will be gradual and non-"nodal".

 

Moreover, solid soups are still soups, it seems; so no change in that "quality" is applicable here, either.

 

 

Figure Five: Trotsky In The Soup?

 

Again, the vague DM-'understanding' of "quality" at work here makes it impossible to decide what is and what isn't a correct application of this 'Law'!

 

28c. Even if tastes were relational aspects of our sensory modalities --, so that it would be the reaction of the taster to the chemicals in the soup which constitutes its taste --, the experienced taste is manifestly registered in the taster, not the soup. And that is where the change in 'quality' takes place, in the taster, not the soup.

 

Dialecticians can't afford to allow relational properties like the above to be counted as 'qualities' -- for while that might seem to save this example from easy refutation, it would sink Engels's First 'Law' elsewhere.

 

Hence, if the relational properties of bodies were to be counted as part of an object's 'qualities', then many things would change qualitatively with no increase or decrease in matter or energy. Several instances have already been listed in Essay Seven Part One, but here are a few more:

 

NN is watching her friend, MM, walk away from her. As MM recedes into the distance she seems, to NN, to grow smaller. At some point MM disappears. [This is also the case if NN walks away from MM, who remains, maybe, sat on a park bench.] Here we have a change in quality prompted by no increase in quantity.

 

It is to no avail appealing to the quantity of metres that separate the two, for Engels was quite specific:

 

"...[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 emphases added.]

 

"Matter or motion" added to a body is the relevant factor here -- not separation distance. And, of course, it is MM who moves in this case; but nothing at all has been added to her, even though her apparent size (perceived by NN) changes in 'quality'.

 

Still less use would it be appealing to Engels's reference to "motion" here, since he was also clear that he meant by this the addition of "energy". To be sure, it could be argued that it takes energy to make MM move. Maybe so, but unless MM moves to a different height to NN, no energy will have been added to MM in the process (as noted earlier). And, motion itself can't change the apparent size of either party to this tableaux; we can see this if MM covers the same distance as she did before, but this time merely circles NN.

 

Even so, no energy has been added to NN -- the stationary viewer -- in whom these changes in 'quality' are perceived, or in whom they take place. No one supposes (it is to be hoped(!)) that even if MM were to walk up a hill, thereby adding potential energy to her body, or if she speeded up (adding kinetic energy) she would actually shrink and not just look smaller to NN as a result! Furthermore, if NN accompanies MM up this hill, they don't both grow smaller, as perceived by either of them.

 

Consider another example: three animals are lined up in a row, a mouse, a pony, and an elephant. In relation to the mouse, the pony is big, but in relation to the elephant it is small. So, here we have change in quality with no matter/energy added or subtracted. There are countless examples of this sort -- with respect to the relations that hold between any object, or set of objects, and the rest of the local (or remote) universe -- here alone.

 

Someone could object that the mouse-pony-elephant example really involves the perception of an observer, and so this isn't a genuine counter-example, after all.

 

This can't be correct for it is surely the case, independently of any and all observers, that a pony is bigger than a mouse while it is also smaller than an elephant. Moreover, we have already seen that Engels informed us that this 'Law' applies to thought, too:

 

"Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought." [Engels (1976), p.180. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Hence, if, as a result of inspecting (or even thinking about) this line-up, someone judges the second larger than the first and the first smaller than the third, that will be covered by Engels's 'Law'.

 

Moreover, even if this objection were valid, the qualitative change in perception of the alleged observer wasn't the result of any change in quantity in her. So, this is a genuine counter-example, after all.

 

[And, of course, Trotsky's example of the fox revolves around the alleged perception of the wolf by the fox.]

 

Still others could object that these animals don't "develop" into one another; maybe so, but that response has already been dealt with, here and here.

 

It is also worth recalling that the above example has only been introduced here as a warning to DM-fans concerning the implications for their theory if they decide to water-down their characterisation of "quality" by introducing the relational properties of bodies -- always assuming, of course, that they ever manage to be clear about this aspect of their 'theory'!

 

29. The way that Trotsky worded his comment suggests that foxes actually understand parts of Hegel's Logic (at least implicitly)!

 

This is decidedly odd since it is considerably more that Lenin attributed to some Marxists!

 

"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…. [T]he universe throughout is permeated with 'unconscious' dialectics." [Trotsky (1971), pp.106-07. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, if Marxists, or even workers, can't teach themselves dialectics, foxes clearly can!

 

Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your inferiority to Vulpes vulpes!

 

30. As we saw in Essay Seven Part One, we are still waiting for a clear definition of a dialectical 'node'/'leap' -- or, indeed, any at all, clear or otherwise!

 

31. But, it isn't even that. In this lampoon of Trotsky's parable, we would have an array of animals of relatively stable but different sizes stood in a metaphorical or imaginary line -- no one supposes that such lines really exist, and that prey actually line up for inspection, smallest to largest, waiting to be selected by their predators as part of some sort of crazy Zoological line up -- do they?

 

 

 

Figure Six: Law Of Identity Parade?

 

32. Again, it could be argued that the example of the lion attacking a larger wildebeest actually illustrates the 'reverse law' that quality can pass over into quantity (in that the superior qualitative nature of the lion is equal to a quantitatively larger but qualitatively inferior prey).

 

But, nothing "passes over" here, and nothing relevant changes. Both animals are quantitatively and qualitatively the same as they were before they met. No matter or motion has been added or subtracted from either of them. There is no "break in gradualness" here, either.

 

Anyway, what new 'quality' is supposed to be at work in this case? The ability to hunt and kill wildebeest? That would make this 'reverse law' tautologious.

 

Incidentally, anyone who still thinks Trotsky is right in what he says about animals should watch these videos, one of which shows an ordinary-sized domestic cat fighting, and then chasing off two large alligators. A second video shows a domestic cat chasing off a larger dog. Is this another catastrophic failure of Engels's 'Law'?

 

[Of course, Trotsky didn't have access to YouTube, but his epigones do. In that case, they will no doubt be interested to see footage of rabbits chasing off larger cats and dogs, and a whole host of other non-dialectical animal antics (such as a domestic cat chasing a larger fox away).]

 

It looks like the animal kingdom is well stocked with very conscious anti-dialecticians!

 

33. As will be appreciated from the facetious tone of many of the comments in this section of the Essay, it isn't easy to take Trotsky's argument here at all seriously.

 

In which case, it might be wondered why the members of his personal and political entourage thought it wise not to bring a little good sense to Trotsky "from the outside" -- from the non-dialectical natural world -- and alert him to the risible nature of his own argument.

 

On the other hand, considering the response Burnham and Eastman received from that great revolutionary, maybe the size of that particular task adversely affected the quality of both their thinking and their intellectual courage -- or, indeed, vice versa.

 

34. This is in fact an allusion to an idea found in Plato, which features in his work as a mystical doctrine in, for example, the Phaedo, the Meno and the Republic. There, Plato argues that all knowledge is in fact recollection.

 

Oddly enough, this notion resurfaces in Wittgenstein's work in an anthropological, non-mystical form as part of the idea that we are capable of accessing knowledge only in so far as we have been socialised into a speech community. Recollection (in this sense), therefore, forms part of the possibilities that socialisation opens up, something that allows all those who have been socialised appropriate the collective knowledge of that community (to a greater or lesser extent, distorted or amplified, of course, by class division, etc.). More importantly, such individuals have access to the full range of distinctions that have been built into that community's historic use of language --, and, even more significantly, most of them will have shared in the collective oppression and exploitation of their class, and they will thus have access to the memory of that class in all its forms.

 

[This isn't to suggest, though, that this is how Wittgenstein saw things! The connections this aspect of Wittgenstein's work has with HM will become a little clearer in other Essays posted at this site. On Wittgenstein's left-wing sympathies and associations, however, see here.]

 

The following passage from Wittgenstein's later work is relevant to this and other themes explored at this site:

 

"Our investigation is therefore a grammatical one. Such an investigation sheds light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away. Misunderstandings concerning the use of words, caused, among other things, by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of language….

 

"[Philosophical problems] are not empirical problems; they are solved, rather, by looking into the workings of our language, and that in such a way as to make us recognise those workings: in despite of an urge to misunderstand them. The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known. Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language….

 

"What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use…. The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language….

 

"Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. -- Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain…. The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose. If one tried to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree with them." [Wittgenstein (1958), pp.43-50. Bold emphases added.]

 

Compare also these two passages:

 

"What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use…. The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language…." [Ibid.]

 

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

 

Of course, these Essays have been aimed (partially) at using and applying these ideas to expose the non-sensical and incoherent nature of DM.

 

[The relevance of all this is explained here. I have also said much more about this topic, here. What Wittgenstein meant by "Grammar", see here.]

 

34a. As I have put this elsewhere (in answer to the question "Why is DM a world-view?" -- slightly edited):

 

The founders of this quasi-religion [DM] weren't workers; they came from a class that educated their children in the classics, the Bible, and Philosophy. This tradition taught that behind appearances there lies a 'hidden world', accessible to thought alone, which is more real than the material universe we see around us.

This way of seeing things was, of course, originally concocted by ideologues of the ruling-class. They invented it because if you belong to, benefit from or help run a society which is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep order in several ways.

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

Another way is to win over the majority (or, at least, a significant proportion of 'opinion formers', bureaucrats, judges, bishops, 'intellectuals', philosophers, administrators, teachers, editors, journalists, etc.) to the view that the present order either: (i) Works for their benefit, (ii) Promotes and defends 'civilised values', (iii) Is ordained of the 'gods', or (iv) Is 'natural' and so can't be fought, reformed or negotiated with.

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

So, the non-worker founders of our movement -- who had been educated from an early age to believe there was just such a 'hidden world' lying behind 'appearances', and which governed everything -- when they became revolutionaries, naturally looked for a set of a priori, 'logical' principles within that abstract world that told them that change was inevitable, since it was part of the 'cosmic order'. Enter dialectics, courtesy of the dogmatic ideas of that ruling-class mystic, Hegel. Hence, the dialectical classicists were happy to impose their theory on the world (upside down or the 'right way up') -- as, indeed, we saw in
Essay Two -- since they had been socialised almost from the get-go into believing 'that genuine philosophy' is practised this way.

 

That 'allowed' the founders of this quasi-religion to think of themselves as special, as prophets of the new order, which 'superior knowledge' workers, alas, couldn't quite grasp because of their defective education, their reliance on ordinary language and, of course, the 'banalities of commonsense'.

Fortunately, history had predisposed these 'prophets' to ascertain the truth about reality on behalf of the rest, which implied these 'special' individuals were the 'naturally-ordained' leaders of the workers' movement. That in turn meant that these 'leaders' were now teachers of the 'ignorant masses', who could thus legitimately substitute themselves for the unwashed majority -- in 'their own interests', you understand -- since the masses were hopelessly blinded by 'commodity fetishism' and 'formal thinking'; they were thus incapable of seeing 'the truth' for themselves.

 

Small wonder then that all too many DM-fans act as if they are prophets, set above the working class as their 'Teachers' (and in one or two well known cases, "Great Teachers" whose words are treated as Holy Writ).

 

Some might object that the above philosophical ideas can't have remained the same for thousands of years, across different modes of production; that supposition runs counter to core HM-concepts.

 

But, we don't argue the same for religious belief. Marx put no time stamp on the following, for example:

 

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

 

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

 

"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo." [Marx (1975c), p.244. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

The above remarks applied back in Babylon and the Egypt of the Pharaohs, just as they did in Ancient China and the rest of Asia, The Americas, Greece, Rome and throughout Europe, Africa, Australasia, as they have done right across the planet ever since.

The same is true of the core thought-forms found throughout Traditional Philosophy -- that there is an invisible world underlying 'appearance', accessible to thought alone --, especially since Marx also believed 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.]

 

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

 

35. How this solves Lenin's 'problem' will be explored further in Part Two of this Essay.

 

It is also worth pointing out here (once more!) that this part of Essay Nine doesn't represent a capitulation to naïve humanism, or to a simple-minded faith in workers. Again, more will be said about this in Essay Twelve.

 

I will address the alleged 'contradictory' nature of workers' 'consciousness' in Part Two of this Essay, and in Essay Three Part Four.

 

36. Hegel And 'Double Meanings'

 

[This forms part of Note 36.]

 

Hegel claimed the following:

 

"...Apropos of this, we should note the double meaning of the German word aufheben (to put by or set aside). We mean by it (1) to clear away, or annul: thus, we say, a law or regulation is set aside; (2) to keep, or preserve: in which sense we use it when we say: something is well put by. This double usage of language, which gives to the same word a positive and negative meaning, is not an accident, and gives no ground for reproaching language as a cause of confusion. We should rather recognise in it the speculative spirit of our language rising above the me 'either-or' of understanding." [Hegel (1975), The Doctrine of Being §96, pp.141-42.]

 

In the above passage Hegel specifically refers to the German word "aufheben", which he says has a "double meaning", but that depends on how we count words and 'meanings'. In that case, the next question is: Do we have two words with different meanings here, or one word with two? [More on this presently.]

 

Moreover, it isn't clear why the uses of these two typographically identical words ("aufheben" as "annul", and "aufheben" as "preserve") are 'opposites'; in fact, they plainly relate to totally different subject matters -- at least, as Hegel explains them. [On this, see below.]

 

And yet, is this example the only instance of "double meanings"? Or, do all words exhibit a similar duality? One would expect they should if the "speculative spirit" of language is a general feature of discourse and not an insignificant, minor or intermittent aspect of it when applied to, or employed by, a tiny fraction of the lexicon. If language (or what it supposedly captures) were quite as 'speculative' Hegel says it is, we should find that thousands of words possessed these 'double/opposite meanings'. In that case, what, for example, is the negative meaning of the following: "table", "chair", "broom", "sitting", "hot", "up", "on", "the", "middle", "opposite", "positive", "neutral", "word", "Hegel"...?

 

Admittedly, some of the above words may be prefixed with a negative particle, but Hegel specifically spoke about "the double usage of language, which gives to the same word a positive and a negative meaning" (emphasis added). He didn't say that additional words would have to be co-opted in order for them to be able to do what he alleged of them.

 

Perhaps Hegel meant that several of the above words could be paired with their antonyms? For example, "up" can be linked with "down", "hot" with "cold", "on" with "off", and so on. It is undeniable that many words have antonyms, but unfortunately this isn't what Hegel said. He didn't suggest that other words (i.e., antonyms) could be paired with any given word so that their alleged "double meanings" might become apparent; he merely indicated that it was "the double usage of language, which gives to the same word a positive and a negative meaning" (emphasis added, again). "Same word", not another word. In that case, it is still unclear what the negative meanings of the above words (and countless others) are.

 

Furthermore, the whole idea (these days, called "enantiosemy") seems to imply that language enjoys something of a life of its own, independent of the agents who use it. If words had 'their own meanings', which they carried about with them like so much baggage, or which accompanied them like a faithful lap-dog, that would imply words were agents of some sort, which dictate to us what their 'correct' meanings should be, transforming speakers into passive vehicles that words use for their own ends. [Compare this to Dawkins's 'Memes' -- criticised effectively in McGrath (2005).] Clearly, this fetishises language.

 

Of course, that might very well suite Hegel's ends, wherein not only words, but also concepts act as quasi-agents of some sort, and which seem capable of driving human thought in certain directions by mysteriously 'developing'. But, it isn't easy to see how any sort of  materialist spin can be put on the idea that words can act on their own behalf, determining what we are to make of them.

 

In that case, regardless of the magnitude of the angle through which Hegel is to be rotated to put him 'the right way up', words can't be viewed as agents by consistent materialists -- nor is it possible for materialists to attribute to words opposite meanings that users haven't collectively given them. Admittedly, we might use certain inscriptions in opposite ways, but when we do that would mean that we are the source of these contrary meanings (should there be any), not words.

 

So, speaker, NN, might employ a given word in several idiosyncratic ways, which suggested each use had an opposite meaning for her when so used, and these might indeed catch on -- rather like the words "bad" and "sick" have attracted two seemingly opposite colloquial connotations of late.

 

In response, it might be argued that Hegel actually said: "The double usage of language, which gives to the same word a positive and a negative meaning…" (emphasis added, once more). Hence, it could be maintained that the allegations above (concerning the fetishisation of language) are misguided, and hence don't apply to Hegel since he explicitly says that it is our usage that gives such words their double meaning.

 

However, Hegel also went on to say: "We should rather recognise in it the speculative spirit of our language rising above the mere Either-or of understanding" (emphasis added, again). If anything, this is worse for it seems to attribute to "language" (i.e., words in general) an intelligence that elevates it above that disembodied entity he hypostatised and called the "understanding". Clearly, language couldn't possess such powers this side of the application of a dose of reasonably powerful magic.

 

Be this as it may, as far as Hegel's actual words are concerned, he conspicuously failed to say what the negative senses of the familiar terms listed earlier are, and how 'our' usage of them supplies positive and negative meanings simultaneously (or is it serially?) to each. Hence, in view of the unfortunate anthropomorphisation of "language" obvious in the latter part of the above passage, it isn't easy to absolve Hegel of fetishising discourse.

 

In a recent book, an old friend of mine, Ben Watson [Watson (1998), pp.292-300], attempted to outline what he thought Hegel might have meant by this odd assertion. Unfortunately, in so doing Ben forgot to say which of the alleged antithetical meanings of words were positive and which were negative -- or why this antithesis was either interesting or relevant to 'dialectics' -- or, indeed, to anything at all (except poetry, perhaps?).

 

In support of his argument, Ben quoted another passage from Hegel:

 

"It is much more important that in a language the categories should appear in the form of substantives and verbs and thus be stamped with the form of objectivity. In this respect German has many advantages over other modern languages; some of its words even possess the further peculiarity of having not only different but opposite meanings so that one cannot fail to recognise a speculative spirit of the language in them: it can delight a thinker to come across such words and to find the union of opposites naively shown in the dictionary as one word with opposite meanings, although this result of speculative thinking is nonsensical to the understanding." [Hegel (1999), pp.31-32, Preface to the Second Edition, §14, quoted in Watson (1998), pp.294-95. Bold emphases added.]

 

Add to this the following:

 

"'To sublate' has a twofold meaning in the language: on the one hand it means to preserve, to maintain, and equally it also means to cause to cease, to put an end to. Even 'to preserve' includes a negative elements, namely, that something is removed from its influences, in order to preserve it. Thus what is sublated is at the same time preserved; it has only lost its immediacy but is not on that account annihilated.

 

"The two definitions of 'to sublate' which we have given can be quoted as two dictionary meanings of this word. But it is certainly remarkable to find that a language has come to use one and the same word for two opposite meanings. It is a delight to speculative thought to find in the language words which have in themselves a speculative meaning; the German language has a number of such. The double meaning of the Latin tollere (which has become famous through the Ciceronian pun: tollendum est Octavium) does not go so far; its affirmative determination signifies only a lifting-up. Something is sublated only in so far as it has entered into unity with its opposite; in this more particular signification as something reflected, it may fittingly be called a moment." [Hegel (1999), p.107, §185-186. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Ben further illustrated what he considered was Hegel's meaning by listing examples borrowed from Freud, Lenin and Trotsky, among others. For example, he quoted Freud as follows:

 

"Man has not been able to acquire even his boldest and simplest conceptions otherwise than in contrast with their opposite; he only gradually learnt to separate the two sides of the antithesis and think of the one without conscious comparison with the other." [Freud, quoted in Watson (1998), p.293.]

 

But, Ben failed to say how Freud could possibly have known all this, or, indeed, how Freud was able to translate this particular fable into modern German.

 

The point of that comment becomes a little clearer when it is recalled that if, say, only twenty words are chosen at random -- and each had just two (opposite) meanings -- then from this rather diminutive set alone at least 220 possible overall meanings can be generated [220 = 1048576] for any twenty-word sentence in which they might feature.

 

Hence, if words in general had only two meanings it would be impossible to interpret any of Freud's writings, since for each group of twenty of his words there would be over a million different possible interpretations ascertainable from it. Clearly, the same point applies to the passages written in Medieval German to which Freud himself referred. In that case, he couldn't know which sub-set of the many 'possible meanings' expressed in any passage, let alone in any book, were the 'correct' ones (if any were).

 

[And, it is no use appealing to context to help discriminate among these possibilities; except in the case of highly clichéd examples, or in a minority of cases, meaning isn't sensitive to context. Why that is so is explained in Essay Thirteen Part Three.

 

Anyway, context is certainly no help here, for the context of the original Medieval German is no longer available to us, to say nothing of the context surrounding Freud and Hegel's work.]

 

Moreover, we would also want to know how Ben is quite so sure he has succeeded in interpreting Freud correctly, and has avoided reading an opposite connotation into Freud's words to that which had been intended (that is, if any were) -- given the fact that if Hegel were right, Freud, Hegel and Ben's words would be susceptible to just such conflicting and indefinite ('opposite') meanings.

 

Perhaps this is unfair; it could be that Hegel (and Ben) meant that only a few words had such an equivocal nature, not every word. But, this is rather odd; if, according to Hegel, everything is contradictory, and a union of opposites, then every word should have its own "other" or 'opposite'.

 

Perhaps The Absolute doesn't "understand" dialectics?

 

There is, however, a substantive point to all this, illustrated by Ben's next quotation from Freud:

 

"To our bös (bad) corresponds a bass (good); in Old Saxon compare bat (good) with English bad; in English to lock with German Lücke, Loch (hole); German kleben (to stick, to cleave to) English to cleave (divide)." [Freud, in ibid., p.293.]

 

Ben then added the following comment:

 

"Freud cites examples of antithetical meanings in Latin (altus means both 'high' and 'deep'; sacer means both 'holy' and 'accursed') and in German (Boden means both 'attic' and 'ground floor')." [Watson (1998), p.293.]

 

Clearly, Ben regarded this as an important insight, with each dual word signalling the presence of a hidden DM-style UO, perhaps. But, why only these words have had some dialectics inflicted on them by the 'speculative spirit' of our ancestors, and not others, Ben forgot to say.

 

[DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist; UO = Unity of Opposites.]

 

Nevertheless, and in support, Ben also quoted Trotsky:

 

"The identity of opposites. Little Paul says 'donne!' both when he wants to take, and when he wants to give." [Trotsky (1986), p.103; quoted in ibid., p.300.]

 

Putting to one side the fact that Freud had to use words drawn from different languages (in some cases) to make his point, the problem with all this is that even in DM-terms none of it makes any sense.

 

Surely Ben isn't suggesting that "attics" and "ground floors" (as 'opposites' -- but, they aren't even that; the opposite of an attic, if it has one, is a cellar) are dialectically united, and that at some point in the future -- because they are locked in logical tension with one another -- one of them will turn into the other (as the DM-classics tell us they must), maybe because of some sort of architectural struggle, with a contradiction, perhaps, between base(ment) and superstructure, here? Or, that the conflict between attics and ground floors will find some sort of resolution ("sublated" -- or is it perhaps "sublet"?) in the shape of the first floor, as middle/mediated term? And, are we seriously meant to conclude that there is some sort of "development" here, arising from a dynamic internal to buildings?

 

Indeed, is the phrase "a flat contradiction" testimony to the fact that language contains a secret dialectical message, indicative of the forces for change operating in apartment blocks behind the backs of tenants and builders alike?

 

[Perhaps, like the Evil One (thanks, at least, to Judas Priest), the dialectic has programmed into language secret messages? But, in that case, shouldn't we be reading Hegel backwards? Could it be that his 'logic' will make more sense that way?]

 

However, is Trotsky's reference to the child ("Little Paul") really meant to be taken seriously? Is it meant to show that "giving" and "taking" are united opposites?  But, surely, one can take without giving, and vice versa. [For example, if I take the A2 to Dover, am I necessarily given something in return? If you give first aid, who or what takes anything? If a robber takes your car while you are in Tesco's, did you subconsciously give it to him/her?]

 

Anyway, what dialectical -- or even materialist -- sense does any of this make even if all giving were taking, and all taking were giving? Does it imply that one of these activities is struggling with the other and will thus change either into that other or into something else -- or will somehow cause other incidental changes, again as the dialectical classics tell us? Or, that there is an ongoing struggle between them in this child's mind?

 

And, is Trotsky really serious, is anyone serious, drawing a scientific conclusion about fundamental aspects of 'Reality' based on a child's defective understanding of language?

 

One wonders what profound truths might have been extracted from domestic scenes like this had the infant called its mother "Daddy", by mistake.

 

More to the point: did Trotsky (does anyone as an adult) ever mean "give" when he (they) say "take"? If Trotsky did, we might well wonder how the Red Army managed to emerge victorious in the Civil War in Russia if it had been led by so confused a leader. Did Trotsky ever say to sections of the Red Army: "Take that town over there from the Whites!", when he really meant "Give that town to the Whites!" [Or, worse, "Dialectically, both take and do not take that town!"?] If not, what exactly is the point of all this? Why emphasise antithetical meanings if they fail to relate to real material change -- or even to the intelligent use of language?

 

As usual in DM-writings (recall that this is Mickey Mouse Superscience!) we are confronted with what are less than half-formed 'thoughts', impossible to make sense of, even in DM-terms!

 

Another important question worth asking (and one that was hinted at earlier): what makes Freud or Ben think that any of the words to which they refer are antithetical uses of the same word? Admittedly, the words they highlighted look similar when paired in the way they have been, even though several are typographically different from their alleged semantic twins (where they have one). But, why should we conclude that any of these constitutes an example of one word with supposedly opposite connotations instead of (and, what is far more likely) several different words with distinct meanings? What is the criterion of identity for the phrase "same word" here?

 

In fact, given Trotsky's strictures on the LOI, and his comments about the word "equal" (to say nothing of Hegel's criticisms of this 'law'), no DM-theorist should agree with Ben that in any of the above examples the same word occurs with at least two different meanings. If Trotsky is correct that no single A ever equals any other A, how could "altus" (meaning "high") equal "altus" (meaning "deep")? If A fails Trotsky's test for identity, how can "altus" possibly pass it unscathed?

 

Surely, and far more plausibly, what we have here isn't one word with two opposite meanings, but a pair of words with two different meanings.

 

[In many cases, this is indeed the case; on that, see below.]

 

[LOI = Law of Identity.]

 

Would Ben conclude the same about, say, the word "bank"? Here, the same four letters in the same order can mean any one of the following: (i) A system of institutionalised credit/theft, (ii) The side of a river, (iii) The way that aeroplanes turn, (iv) An expression of trust (which could in fact be a dead metaphor). Do we have one word with four meanings here or four words with different meanings? Clearly, the word "bank" is comprised of a set of typographically identical letters, but its meaning is connected with the way we use each member of that set. Hence, this set of letters can be employed in several identifiably different four-letter inscriptions, even in cases where they look exactly the same, and are in the same order.

 

However, it could be argued that even though these four words all have the same spelling, they aren't antithetical; hence, the above comments are beside the point.

 

But, why is that decisive? Why is it that we can easily tell the difference between these four typographically identical sets of letters -- "bank", "bank", "bank", and "bank" -- because their different meanings indicate the presence of four words, not one --, when on the other hand we are supposed to believe that there is only one word signified by the occurrence of two typographically identical signs -- "Boden" and "Boden" -- just because they have seemingly opposite meanings? To be consistent, why don't we argue that we have in fact two words, here, not one? Or, failing that, argue that "bank" illustrates the:

 

"The quadruple usage of language, which gives to the same word a host of meanings…. We should…recognise…the speculative spirit of our language rising above the mere Either-or-or-or of understanding." [Deliberate misquotation of Hegel.]

 

No good reason seems apparent, here.

 

We could then set about investigating the 'quadrialectical' link that must exist in reality between a bank (source of finance, etc.), a bank (side of a river), to bank (trust) and to bank (to turn an aircraft) -- or, indeed, stretching the point, the connection which must exist between Banks (the ex-England goalie), Banks (the late UK Labour MP) and Banks (the fashion designer).

 

Transcending in this way the "not-either-or" of Hegelianism (as in "Either there are two words here with one meaning, or one word with two opposite meanings"), we ought now to say that each word can have any number of non-opposite meanings, rising above the 'either-or-or-or' of anyone's understanding/use of English.

 

Or even that (a) the present tense of "read" (as in "Hegel's Logic isn't a book one can read with pleasure") is the same as (b) the past tense of "read" (as in "I read Hegel's Logic yesterday, and threw it across the room!"), and (c) the future tense (as in "Tomorrow I will read that execrable book and then dump it in the trash") hints at the four dimensionality of space and time, as each here-and-now is linked to every where-and-when.

 

Or, that because the word "dresses" can refer to (i) Items of female apparel (as in "A lorry load of dresses went up in smoke"), (ii) The act of putting clothes on (as in "She dresses quickly"), (iii) One's style (as in "He dresses well"), or even to iv) How men 'hang' (as in "He dresses to the right"), this suggests that clothing secretly 'hangs' one way, wears women's clothes, has an expensive wardrobe, and girds itself rapidly.

 

To say nothing of the odd use of several other typographically identical words we have in the English language, illustrated in Figure Seven:

 

 

Figure Seven: Same Or Different Words/Meanings?

 

How much 'dialectics' can we milk out of words such as these?

 

Consider, too, the word "spell":

 

"Etymology: Middle English, to mean, signify, read by spelling out letters, from Anglo-French espeleir, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English spellian to relate, spell talk


Transitive verb:

 

1: to read slowly and with difficulty -- often used with out


2: to find out by study: come to understand -- often used with out <it requires some pains to spell out those decorations -- F. J. Mather>


3a (1): to name the letters of in order; also: to write or print the letters of in order (2): to write or print the letters of in a particular way b: to make up (a word) <what word do these letters spell> c
: Write 1b <catnip is spelled as one word>


4: to add up to
: mean <crop failure was likely to spell stark famine -- Stringfellow Barr>


Intransitive verb: to form words with letters <teach children to spell>; also: to spell words in a certain way <spells the way he speaks>

 

Function: noun


Etymology: Middle English, talk, tale, from Old English; akin to Old High German spel talk, tale


1a: a spoken word or form of words held to have magic power b: a state of enchantment


2: a strong compelling influence or attraction

 

Function: noun


Etymology: probably alteration of Middle English spale substitute, from Old English
spala


1a: archaic: a shift of workers b: one's turn at work


2a: a period spent in a job or occupation b chiefly Australian: a period of rest from work, activity, or use


3a: an indeterminate period of time <waited a spell before advancing>; also : a continuous period of time <did a spell in prison> b: a stretch of a specified type of weather


4: a period of bodily or mental distress or disorder <a spell of coughing> <fainting spells>" [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Odd formatting in the original.]

 

Perhaps we should now conclude -- 'speculatively' -- that because the word "spell" has many different meanings that (a) Periods of time work not only for a living, they (b) Know how to compose words out of letters, and they (c) Can perform startling feats of magic.

 

And, what are we to say of words that are spelt the same in the singular and the plural case, such as "sheep" (as in "She owns a sheep" and "He bought five sheep"), "moose", or, according to some, "chad"? Has speculative thought buried in language a schizoid mentality? Indeed, we could argue that because the word "sheep" is both singular and plural, the 'speculative spirit' of language suggests that parts of nature are suffering from some sort of multiple personality disorder.

 

Even worse, what about the many words we have in English that usually occur in plural form, but normally relate to only one object -- such as "trunks" (i.e., swimwear, not part of an elephant, piece of luggage, or item of furniture), "scissors", "pliers", "secateurs", "trousers"? What message is 'Being' trying to send us with odd words like these?

 

Perhaps none of us 'understands' dialectics!

 

What, too, are we to conclude about words (i.e., the same word, but not the same inscription) that have two different spellings, for example "gaol" and "jail". What should we say about the different spelling of the same word in UK and US English, such as "colour" and "color"; or "labour" and "labor"? Is there some easy, off-the-peg Metaphysics to be mined here on the basis of such quirks of language? If not, why not? After all, 'Being' might be trying to tell us something and we're just not listening.

 

Maybe we just don't 'understand' Being's dialect?

 

[Of course, the belief that there is a hidden code of some sort built into language is an ancient idea (which will be examined in Essay Twelve Part Two) -- so it is no big surprise to see Hegel, the arch mystic himself, naively accepting it. This doctrine underlies, for example, the belief that the Bible also has buried within its language a secret code, which is a guiding principle of Kabbalism -- a belief system that we know fascinated Hegel. On that, see Magee (2008)).]

 

The fact that we don't conclude such crazy things suggests few of us think there is a secret code built into language -- or, that this implies that the 'speculative spirit' seems, mercifully, to afflict only a tiny minority of the denizens of this planet --, which reveals the presence of hidden forces controlling both nature and the social development of 'concepts' (nor any of the other odd things that what seem to be type-identical words suggest to the philosophically gullible).

 

And, as far as several of Ben's examples are concerned, this is what Quine had to say:

 

"A distant kin of [this appeal to alteriety] is occasionally encountered in an owlish allusion to 'identity of opposites.' [With respect to an earlier example of this] we have seen that each [half] is accounted for without appealing to any mystical principle. A case for identity of opposites that is invariably cited is altus, Latin for both 'high' and 'deep'. What we actually have here, however, is a case rather of parochial outlook on our part. What is objective about height and depth is distance from top to bottom. We call it height or depth according to our point of view; Latin simply tells us how it is with no thought of opposites.

 

"Another tempting case for the identity of opposites is cleave: 1. adhere, 2. sever. However, Skeat argues that this is a convergence of two words, independent in origin....

 

"May identity of opposites be manifested not only by sameness of word for opposite senses, but also for sameness of sense for opposite words? Well there is fast...and its opposite loose: there are fast women, I am told, and loose women, and no clear distinction between them. A little and a lot are opposites, but quite a little is quite a lot." [Quine (1990), pp.51-52. On this, see Skeat (1993), p.84. Follow the link to find out what Quine meant by "owlish".]

 

Hence, it is worth asking: Are Quine's last two examples instances of the non-speculative spirit in language which combines opposite words into the same meaning? Or, is this an example of the belated revenge of the LOI, working behind the backs of the producers of non-sense?

 

Furthermore, an on-line etymological dictionary notes these two separate origins of "cleave" (which is somewhat similar to Skeat's listing):

 

"cleave (1): strong verb, past tense cleaf, past participle clofen), from P.Gmc. *kleubanan, from PIE [Proto-Indo-European? -- RL] base *gleubh -- 'to cut, slice.' The old, strong p.t. clave was still alive at the time of the King James Bible; and the p.p. [past participle -- RL] cloven survives, though mostly in compounds. Cleavage in geology is from 1816. The sense of 'cleft between a woman's breasts in low-cut clothing' is first recorded 1946, when it was defined in a 'Time' magazine article as the 'Johnston Office trade term for the shadowed depression dividing an actress' bosom into two distinct sections' [Aug. 5].

 

"cleave (2): 'to adhere,' O.E. [Old English -- RL] clifian, from W.Gmc. [Western Germanic? -- RL]  *klibajanan, from PIE *gloi- 'to stick.' The confusion was less in O.E. when cleave (1) was a class 2 strong verb and cleave (2) a class 1 verb; but it has grown since cleave (1) weakened, which may be why both are largely superseded by stick and split. Cleaver 'butcher's chopper' is from 1483."

 

So, it looks like we have here a case where two different words have merged, not an example of one word with two opposite meanings.

 

[Moreover, Freud's own examples are shown not to work here (the linked page is in German).]

 

And, here is what Professor Larry Horn had to say:

 

"Date: Fri, 24 Mar 95 21:12:19 EST [Eastern Standard Time -- RL] From: Larry Horn. Subject: Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites; Jane Edwards calls our attention to Abel's and Freud's contributions to our topic, citing this passage from Lepschy (1982) on Carl Abel's Gegensinn der Urworte (1884) inter alia:

 

'His [i.e., Abel's] theory on the importance and interest of words with opposite meanings (which were, he suggested, particularly frequent in the early stages of languages) finds its place in a long tradition of studies, from the Stoic's grammar and the etymologies e contrario [...], to the chapter in Arab linguistic tradition devoted to the [...] contraries, or words of opposite meanings [...] to the medieval Jewish grammarians' discussions on parallel phenomena in Hebrew [...] to Christian biblical scholars who at least since the 17th century examine cases of 'enantiosemy' in the Sacred, classical, and modern languages, commenting on words like Hebrew berekh 'he blessed' and 'he cursed', Greek argo's 'swift' and 'slow', Latin altus 'high' and 'deep' [...] Nearer to Abel, in the first part of the 19th century, we find the German romantics meditating on opposite meanings [...] and it is impossible not to remember Hegel's comments on a key term in his logic, aufheben, which means both 'to eliminate' and 'to preserve', illustrating a coexistence in language of opposite meanings which has great speculative import.' Lepschy also writes that Abel's ideas 'were taken seriously by people of the calibre of Pott, Steinthal, and Schuchardt', and that Freud repeatedly quoted Abel's work, viewing it 'as a linguistic confirmation' of his own theory that 'for the unconscious, opposites are equivalent to each other.' (pp.28-29)

 

"I also delve into Abel and Freud in the 'Negation East and West' section of my book, A Natural History of Negation (Chicago, 1989; cf. esp. pp.93-94). [I.e., Horn (1989) -- RL]

 

"I ended up taking a rather sceptical stance toward both Abel's thesis that 'primitive languages' tend to contain a significant number of Urwoerte that simultaneously denote two contraries and Freud's borrowing of Abel's work as evidence for the 'antithetical meaning of primal words' as reflected in the absence of the law of contradiction within dreams ('Hearing the analysis and insist of a dream character 'It's NOT my mother', the analyst immediately translates 'So it IS his mother'.) The nature of the examples marshalled by Abel and Freud, unfortunately, are such as to raise the eyebrows of even the most fervent megacomparativist among us, although some of them (Lat. clamare 'cry' vs. clam 'softly') are indeed cute. Some do involve what another poster just asked about, albeit with the inaccurate label 'palindrome' -- the idea being that the sounds or letters of one word can be reversed to produce an antonym [or in some of the Abel-Freud cases, a synonym] of that word, and many involve cross-linguistic pairs: Ger. Topf 'pot'/Eng. 'pot', Ger. Ruhe 'rest'/Eng. 'hurry', 'care' vs. 'wreck'. (If THIS is what Pott and Schuchardt 'took seriously', I'm disappointed, especially in the former, who had the good taste to discover the phenomenon of negative polarity.) In my book, I also -- like Lepschy -- try to deal with the Hegelian notion of aufhebung, arguing that whatever its importance for the theory of dialectic, this particular antilogy/auto-antonym/enantioseme does not comfortably sit on the Abel-Freudian roster of primal antithetical words. Indeed, the strongest examples of this phenomenon we have (cleave, sanction, etc.) are remarkably non-primal. And some of the others mentioned by Abel/Lipschy/Edwards -- as other posters on this thread have observed -- are simply misdiagnosed (Lat. 'altus', for one). The case of the Hebrew berekh 'he blessed/he cursed' I imagine is just like the use of Fr. 'sacre' 'blessed, cursed' -- whether we want to invoke irony, euphemism, or some other trope to explain this development (cf. the Eumenides, et al.). In none of these cases is the thesis of an unconscious identification of opposites particular economical or explanatory, although it does make a nice story. (The relevant Freud papers are 'The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words' [1910] and 'Negation' [1925], both of course to be found in Strachey's Standard Edition; the passage from Hegel's Logic on Aufhebung is also discussed by Walter Kaufmann in his Hegel (1995, pp.192-93). [This is pp.179-82 in the edition I have used, i.e., Kaufmann (1978) -- RL.] Larry." [Formatting altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some italic emphases have been added.]

 

[For more on this, including background details, see Horn (1989), pp.90-96.]

 

Of course, language is complex and words can acquire all sorts of meanings in use, but if we read too much into this we will on the one hand end up with the sort of absurdities that not even Ben would have included in his book -- or, on the other, with a hopelessly garbled mess that could in no way serve as a means of communication.

 

To illustrate this last point consider an example that Ben himself employed: the alleged double meaning of English word "cleave". We use it to mean either "to join" or "to divide". [Admittedly, in Ben's book, this word was given several other connotations, but, as we have seen, it is in fact a merged word derived from two different sources.] But, ordinarily, when we use a word in one way its other ("opposite") connotation clearly drops out of the picture. Indeed, as already noted, we would all recognise that in such cases there were two typographically identical inscriptions with two different meanings. If this weren't so, confusion would quickly ensue. For example, when someone says of a man or woman that they cleave to their partners, none of us misunderstands this or takes it to mean that one of them has been chopped up by the other. Similarly, when we refer to an axe cleaving wood, no one imagines there to have been a life-long matrimonial bond between a hatchet and its beloved tree trunk.

 

Creative writers and poets may certainly play around with words as much as they like, but in this material world, if you want firewood, you do not usually pledge your troth to a tree; and if you desire a life-long partner, you do not normally search through a forest with an axe.

 

In practice, we typically settle on one meaning in a given context, and totally ignore any other associated meanings (unless we want to create confusion, crack a joke, write poetry, or publish rather odd books with weird titles). Or, even better still, we recognise the presence of two different words -- and, in the case of "spell", maybe three or four.

 

To a professional wordsmith like Ben this is going to sound completely unsatisfactory; and given the (unreal) world he inhabits for part of the day, that reaction is entirely understandable. Creative writers like Ben experiment with words and with meanings all the time. No problem with that -- not that they need my permission or acquiescence! However, Ben may only indulge in this activity for a fraction of the time. In the ordinary world he would soon come to grief, finding himself unable to function for long if he displayed such a cavalier attitude toward word-meaning in his everyday affairs. And the same comment applies to Trotsky, Freud and Hegel when they were alive -- whatever else their theories might have told them.

 

Consider the following scenario: One day, Ben is selecting fruit in a market. A stallholder gives him a rotten apple. When Ben complains that it is bad the stallholder, who has read Ben's book, says that the apple is in fact also good because of the antithetical meaning of the Saxon root word. Is Ben forced to agree and accept the bad/good apple on the basis of this rather dubious 'dialectical' argument? Maybe he would, but few workers would be so easily bamboozled. And, it is reasonably clear that Freud, Hegel and Trotsky wouldn't have been so easily fooled in this way, either.

 

On his way home, Ben walks by a building under repair. A brick falls out of the attic and is heading his way. Upon being warned that a brick has fallen out of the attic, Ben looks towards the ground floor (since he is in the grip of an unhelpful idea, having unfortunately recalled the point he made about attics in his book), and is subsequently flattened by this very material brick.

 

In ordinary life there is no place for such antithetical meanings -- whatever unbalancing effect an obscure theory might have had on a particular individual's theoretical or poetical musings. Ben's everyday practice confirms this. Otherwise he'd be dead.

 

Bertrand Russell once said: "Most people would rather die than think. In fact they do." Ben might end up proving that elitist saying true (in his particular case) if he goes about his daily affairs believing everything he reads in Hegel and Freud -- or even his own book!

 

In the artificial world of syrupy meanings -- where Ben's book is quite rightly situated -- we might find some time to reflect on, and experiment with, the various nuances and connotations that we can place on our words -- perhaps this might even enable the creation of new words or concepts. But in the end, understanding words literally is what generally helps keep us alive. Humans have to live before they can think -- or indeed write meandering and obscure books with quirky titles. And that is why we can say for certain that Hegel and Freud were wrong, and that Ben was unwise to have allowed himself to be so easily duped.

 

Tested in practice -- as opposed to contemplated in 'theory' -- our ordinary use of language as well as our everyday life fail to reflect these 'double meanings'.

 

However, Ben's infatuation with Freud's brand of cocaine-induced, dogmatic and a priori 'psychology' is rather puzzling. Except for the fact that Freud's 'theory' so easily allows (nay, invites) unqualified amateurs to suppose that by entering into an imaginary world, where they can pretend they are qualified to indulge in a little armchair psychology -- on themselves, or on others --, they may safely indulge in unsupervised and untested 'psychoanalysing' without having to worry about the consequences, or, indeed, without bothering to obtain a single relevant qualification...apart from that, there is little to recommend Freud's fantasies.

 

As a matter of fact, Freud's life and work were characterised by complex layers of duplicity, fraud, fabrication, intellectual dishonesty, invention, plagiarism, monomania, cocaine-induced madness, client maltreatment (if not abuse), bluster, dissembling, lying and bullying (all of which, even to this day, are obscured by the intense hero-worship of his disciples, which warrants analysis itself), unmatched in the career of almost any other prominent figure in recent history outside of big business, politics and organised crime.

 

Newton was a rank amateur in comparison!

 

While the above considerations aren't enough to discredit Freud's work, the following are: Cioffi (1999, 2005), Crews (1995, 1998), Dufresne (2003), Ellenberger (1970/1994), Gellner (1993), Grayling (2002), Grünbaum (1985), Macmillan (1997), Sulloway (1992), Thornton (1986), Webster (1995), Welsh (1994) and Wilcocks (1994).

 

[There is an extensive bibliography of anti-Freud books and articles in Crews (1998). Cf., also the review articles, Borch-Jacobsen (2000), Cioffi (1996), and Gardner (2001). In addition, see here and here.]

 

And, of course, the above comments apply equally to the work of anyone influenced by Freud (such as Lacan and Zizek) --, which observation alone takes out about 99% of recent 'French Philosophy', and large chunks of contemporary 'Marxist' theory. [On that, see Essay Thirteen Part Three. Chomsky's comments on 'High Theory' are also relevant.]

 

Finally, Ben may be impressed by Freud's use of language, but that is about all one can say on Freud's behalf: he could write well. Big deal! This eminently superficial aspect of Freud's work should fool no one -- least of all those who claim to be Marxists -- into taking anything Freud said seriously. It is a sad reflection on just how uncritical certain dialecticians have become of a priori speculation and dogmatic thesis-mongering that many of them regard Freud so highly.

 

Incidentally, on a related topic, this is also why we can be sure Voloshinov was wrong:

 

"Such discriminations as those between a word's usual and occasional meanings, between its central and lateral meanings, between is denotation and its connotation, etc., are fundamentally unsatisfactory. The basic tendency underlying all such discriminations -- the tendency to ascribe greater value to the central, usual aspect of meaning, presupposing that that aspect really does exist and is stable -- is completely fallacious." [Voloshinov (1973), p.102. Quoted in Watson (1998), p.323. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

The problem with this passage is that Voloshinov's argument depends on the use of several ordinary words (such as: "usual", "occasional", "meaning", "between", "unsatisfactory", "basic", "all", "such", "presupposing", "does", "and", and "word", etc.), all operating with their usual senses!

 

As we found earlier in connection with Trotsky's assault on the LOI, we may agree with Voloshinov only on condition that we don't, for we may only grasp his point if we ignore his thesis and take the words he used with their usual meanings.

 

Any attempt to undermine, question or limit the "usual" import of words like this will always backfire on those who try. That is because, as we saw here, every aspiring reviser of the vernacular is forced to employ words that possess the very meanings they seek to question (or modify) in order to back-reflect doubt on those very words! Such revisers invariably question everyone else's use of ordinary terms while the meanings of the same words they employ to make that point remain solidly fixed in their usual senses so that their critique not only appears to be 'successful', it remains comprehensible to themselves and to others.

 

This strategy is really a form of linguistic parasitism; it is little more than an attempt to feed off the very thing it aims to kill -- which, in this case, is the primacy of the usual meaning of words. However, as parasites soon discover, this tactic is self-defeating, for if the words an aspiring critic uses don't possess their usual senses, it becomes impossible for them to prosecute their own argument.

 

Even to entertain the bare possibility that words fail to retain their everyday connotations requires the use of the same words in their ordinary senses to make that very point. Hence, if words don't retain their ordinary meanings precisely here, as part of that criticism, the sentences expressing any proposed revision will be devoid of sense (since they would now contain words with dubious, or unknown, meanings), which would in turn mean that that revision itself must fail for lack of content.

 

[On Voloshinov's defective theory of language and meaning, see Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

However, we don't have to appeal to an informal reductio like the above in order to make this point; we only have to consider what would happen if we tried to communicate with, say, workers in a revolutionary situation, or even on strike for goodness sake, after reading Voloshinov -- or, and what is worse, actually taking his advice.

 

Imagine, for example, being asked by the organisers of a picket line to help stop some strike-breakers getting through a gate. Only a complete fool would begin to question "central meanings" at this point, wondering if the phrase "that gate" really had its usual denotation, or maybe referred instead to "that pub over there", and whether "stop them getting through…" really had its normal connotation, or perhaps meant "buy the scabs a drink in…".

 

Fortunately, no one in their left mind would dream of questioning ordinary meanings in such circumstances -- that is, this side of receiving a hefty material boot up the Ideal passage from angry pickets.

 

The plain fact is that anyone who has a weak spot for "materialist/militant esthetix", while they might eschew the normal connotations and denotations of words (and, indeed, who might thus prefer to day-dream about secondary senses, and the like) -- in their creative writing, or when they occupy themselves for part of the day as artists --, when confronted with material reality, they will soon discover that the former take precedence every time, otherwise they will suffer the inevitable consequences.

 

[Another example of the above radical confusion is given below, but this time in relation to Hegel's unwise comments about "either/or" and the LEM.]

 

Despite countless knee-jerk and -- one is almost tempted to say -- disingenuous references to "practice" regularly intoned by DM-aficionados (particularly those belonging to the HCD-tendency), these individuals regularly adopt theories that they would never be able to sell to workers in practice, theories they themselves would find impossible to translate into action this side of a padded cell, and which would spell disaster if anyone even attempted to apply them in the class war. [Not that this comment, or even those untoward prospects, will slow them down by so much as a micro-metre per second.] It is precisely here, in practice, that nostrums like these become all the more obviously crazy -- that is, should anyone be foolish enough to try them out on workers, or test them out in everyday life.

 

[Indeed, as we will see, the above considerations are part of the reason why Dialectical Marxism has been such a long-term failure and its inability to "seize the masses", and thus why it remains impotent, generation after generation, in the face of a far more focussed, and far less-crazy ruling-class.]

 

Naturally, Ben is invited to disprove the above by attempting to agitate the next group of striking pickets he meets with any of his theories -- or, indeed, any other idea exclusive to DM. He might find them a little less sympathetic than I have been here.

 

Some might be tempted to accuse the present author of "anti-intellectualism" because of her approach to 'high theory', but this is no more an example of "anti-intellectualism" than arguing that notoriously confused theological doctrines -- such as Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation -- have no practical consequences (that is, other than negative).

 

It should hardly surprise Marxists (but apparently it does) that non-sensical theories have no practical implications (other than negative). [On that, see here and here.]

 

And, that is why we can be certain that Ben is mistaken, too, about Finnegans Wake:

 

"Max Eastman's inability to think dialectically, to understand the simultaneous advance and regression in capitalism, means that he was deaf to the resounding negation voiced by Modern Art to its bourgeois 'audience'. It meant he ended up serving just those reactionary castes he hated. His patronising concern for a working class who find Modern Art 'unintelligible' reveals a subject-positioning over the heads of the workers; only those who learn from every strike, riot and demonstration can grasp how artistic negations chime with the spirit of revolt. Every head on every pillow babbles a Finnegans Wake." [Watson (1998), p.315.]

 

The only response one could make to this is that Ben must have attended strikes, riots, or demonstrations when high on something (although he looked pretty normal to me when I saw him on that huge anti-war demonstration in London, 15th February 2003).

 

Like it or not, you are about as likely to find workers interested in Finnegans Wake as you are to discover that they are fascinated with the contents of Horse and Hound or Debrett's Peerage. This doesn't, of course, imply that Joyce's book is flawed in any way, or that workers shouldn't try to read it. But, unless Ben has been listening to workers who are about to go insane, few workers mumble sentences like those found in Joyce's work -- that is, this side of eating the pillow.

 

[I examine 'occasionalist' theories of meaning, "inner speech", and Voloshinov's 'theory' of language in general (along with the ideas of several comrades who are -- somewhat inexplicably -- impressed with his work) in extensive detail in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

The Revenge Of The 'Either-Or' Of 'Commonsense' 

 

Returning now to Hegel's reference to the "Either/Or" of understanding (which largely motivates the general disdain for the LEM adopted by DM-fans), we find few crumbs of comfort for the beleaguered dialectician.

 

[LEM = Law of Excluded Middle.]

 

Unfortunately, these terms ("either" and "or") have been lifted from ordinary language, and, as we have seen several times already, it is unwise for anyone (least of all Hegel-groupies) to criticise words drawn from the vernacular, since that tactic invariably backfires on any foolish enough to try. Admittedly, Hegel wasn't attacking the use of "either-or" in that specific area, simply the restrictive dichotomy he claimed these words introduced into thought --, one imagines by that philistine (but nonetheless mysterious), disembodied, inner alter ego, the "abstract understanding" -- very helpfully and 'scientifically' identified for us by Hegel without the use of a laboratory, any evidence whatsoever, or even a consulting couch! Freud would have been most impressed:

 

"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.]

 

Nevertheless, it is difficult to see what Hegel was trying to say here. That is because any attempt to interpret him requires the use of the very terms he claims are misleading. The construal of his work requires decisions be taken about whether he meant either this or that by what he actually wrote. If an author always means both (or maybe even neither) then interpretation is rendered impossible and any attempt to unravel their meaning becomes self-defeating (as we are about to see).

 

So, if Hegel were right, if absolutely "everything is opposite", and there is no "either-or" anywhere in the universe, it would be impossible to disentangle what he meant from what he didn't, since we would be unable to decide whether he believed of, say, any two sentences "P" and "Q" one or more of the following:

 

H1: (i) Both P and Q; (ii) either P or Q; (iii) neither P nor Q; or (iv) either P or Q, but not both.

 

But, if, say, P and Q were inconsistent (that is, if, for instance, Q implies not P, or vice versa -- I give an example, below), and we interpreted his words one way (perhaps that he believed both P and Q, since to do otherwise would involve the use of the dread 'either-or'), then we would have to conclude that he accepted both as part of the "unfolding of truth" (as he might have put it), which would mean by his own lights, of course, that we would be unfolding error instead!

 

Hence, in order to reject one or other of these two options, we would be forced to appeal to the "either-or" -- that is, we would have to conclude that Hegel accepted P or he accepted Q, but not both.

 

However, if we were to remain true to Hegel's dictum -- that "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" --, then we would have to conclude he accepted both.

 

So, any attempt made now to specify exactly what Hegel meant would undermine what he actually said about the use of the "either-or of understanding", for we would have to accept that Hegel asserted one thing (P), or he asserted something else (Q), but not both. Without this assumption it would become impossible either to comprehend or defend him. If Hegel genuinely cast doubt on the "either-or of understanding" (and he wasn't being deliberately enigmatic, disingenuous, mendacious, or merely playful) -- and assuming he was correct to do so  --, then any attempt to interpret him as asserting P or asserting Q would have to conclude that he asserted both. [Again, I give a clear example of this, below.]

 

In that case, any determinate interpretation of Hegel would have to ignore his own advice, and reluctantly accept the deliverances of the "either-or" of ordinary language (or 'commonsense', along with its corollaries), and acknowledge that, concerning either P or Q, he believed only one, not both.

 

Here, truth would advance -- with yet another dialectical inversion -- by forcing us to disregard Hegel!

 

In order to make this more concrete, let us suppose that:

 

"P" is: "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",

 

and,

 

"Q" is: "There is in fact an abstract 'either-or' somewhere in the world of mind or of nature (etc.)."

 

Now, either Hegel accepted P or he accepted Q -- which would, of course, imply that there is at least one 'either-or' "in heaven or in earth (etc.)" -- i.e., here, right in front of us, right here, right now!

 

On the other hand, if he (or we!) took his advice and accepted both P and Q, rejecting this annoying "either-or", then not much sense could be made of what he was trying to say.

 

Incidentally, the above criticism isn't affected by Hegel's own interpretation of these controversial words (nor any technical meaning his epigones might want to attribute to them, since they, too, would have to conclude that he meant this or he meant that, not both), but solely concerns how we are to understand him now, in this world, by our perusal of those very material words (in print, or on a screen), quoted earlier.

 

Hence, it is beside the point whether the rationale for his own (dialectical, then speculative criticism) of the use of such words by the "abstract understanding" is legitimate or not (irony intended). Since Hegel's writings appear before us now as phenomenal objects, given also that they aren't self-interpreting (when we recall that Hegel is no longer with us to explain himself -- but, even then we would have to accept he meant either P or Q, not both), they face the ordinary cannons we employ elsewhere to understand anyone's words. In order to read and perhaps interpret Hegel as believing this or that, but not both, we are forced to ignore his advice and employ the dread "either-or".

 

Naturally, this is just one more reason why ordinary language can't be by-passed, or undermined, no matter which 'genius' cons some of us into thinking otherwise.

 

Once again, it is little use complaining that this is not how Hegel wanted his use of the "either-or" of "understanding" to be interpreted (i.e., ironically, that is, that we view it this way but not that), since he himself holed that complaint well below the water line when he asserted:

 

"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." [Ibid.]

 

Hence, if "everything is opposite", and Hegel's works were written somewhere on this planet, and copies of them still take on physical form in this universe(!), then anything he committed to paper must be its own opposite, too --  or, he was wrong.

 

[Irony intended again.]

 

In either case, it would be foolish to believe Hegel was serious (or, and what is far more likely, that he had thought things through with due care) when he wrote the above words, while also accepting what he said about the LEM -- the dread "either-or".

 

So, and following Hegel's own advice, the above passage should in fact be re-written along the following 'Hegelian' lines:

 

"Instead of both speaking and not speaking by the maxim both of Excluded Middle and not Excluded Middle and (which is and is not the maxim of abstract understanding) we should and we shouldn't rather say: Everything is, and some things are not, opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, and both in heaven and in earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, and both in the world of mind and of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains, but there is, and it is everywhere, too, while it is nowhere as well. Whatever exists is concrete, and it isn't, with difference and opposition, and also without difference or opposition, in itself, and in other things, too. The finitude of things will and will not then lie in the want of correspondence, but also with actual correspondence, between their immediate being, and what they essentially are, or are not, and, indeed, both. Thus, in inorganic nature, and outside of it, the acid is and is not implicitly at the same time, and at other times, the base, but it isn't the base, either: in other words, but also in the same words, its only being, and its many other beings, consist, and do not consist, in its relation, and absence of any relation, to its other, and whatever isn't its other. Hence also the acid is not something, and it is something, that persists quietly, and noisily, in the contrast, or the accord: it is always, and is it is never, in effort to realise what it potentially is, and what it actually is not."

 

Everyday, boring old non-abstract understanding will, I think, readily see what arrant nonsense results from Hegel's 'genius' when we apply his ideas to his own words -- providing we remain in this universe.

 

Any who object to the above re-write can, of course, neutralise its implications by demonstrating that Hegel's work wasn't actually written in this universe, or on real paper, but was written on Ideal paper, neither in heaven nor on earth -- and that they themselves don't exist anywhere, either (or both, or neither), in order to do that (or not).

 

[On the 'acid and base' fiasco, even should we take Hegel seriously, see here.]

 

In a recent book [Stewart (1996)], a number of misinterpretations and misrepresentations of Hegel's work were corrected by a handful of Hegel scholars. However, there would seem to be little point to this exercise if Hegel's ideas about "either-or" are to be believed. If he were right -- that in the entire universe there is no "either-or" -- there would be some truth even in the wildest allegations about him or his work.

 

For instance, these: that (i) Hegel fully accepted without question the unlimited applicability of the LOI in every conceivable circumstance without any qualifications whatsoever (and this includes its use in dialectical and speculative thought as well as in relation to change, conceptual or material), and he did not; that (ii) he flatly denied that reality or thought is contradictory in any sense at all, and he did not; that (iii) he doubted the truth of every single one of his own ideas all the time, and he did not; that (iv) he wrote nothing at all in German in his entire life, and he did not; that (v) everything he wrote was actually written by Schelling -- in fact it was published only yesterday, and it wasn't --; that (vi) he was a Shape-shifting Martian, and he was't...

 

[Anyone attempting to reject one or more of the above alternatives on the grounds that Hegel must have accepted one of them, but not both -- or, indeed, that they must do likewise -- will, alas, have to employ the dread LEM in order to do so, vitiating Hegel's challenge, as well as their own.]

 

It could be objected that this completely misunderstands the nature of DL as Hegel himself conceived it. Unfortunately, even that response is framed in ordinary language -- and, it was foolishly written in this universe! --, so, since a decision has to be taken over whether or not it is valid, a quick reference to DL will indicate it is both.

 

This means that until DL-fans commit themselves to one or other view (but not both), it is impossible even to begin to evaluate anything they say -- and neither can they!

 

Unfortunately, just as soon as DL-fans actually manage to specify what they mean (i.e., that they genuinely intend this but not that), we must cease to take them seriously -- since they would then have employed the dread LEM (in this universe), undermining their own criticisms of it!

 

Either way, such defenders of Hegel may be ignored even before they decide whether they agree with the above criticisms, or not (or both).

 

It could be objected that the above conclusions are ridiculous and do not follow from a consistent application of the dialectical method; hence Hegel can't be saddled with any of them.

 

Once more, these 'ridiculous conclusions' either do or they do not follow from what Hegel wrote. If the above rebuttal is right, and they don't follow, then there is at least one either-or at work here, namely this one (since both options wouldn't be correct in that case -- only one option would be, namely that they don't follow). And, if that is so, then these 'ridiculous conclusions' do indeed follow, after all, since Hegel would in that case be wrong to assert there is no either-or anywhere in existence when one such has just been used to reject one option in favour of the other.

 

Hence, taking each 'ridiculous conclusion', one at a time, if we maintain it doesn't follow, then we will have applied the LEM once more -- in that we would thereby have denied that that particular 'ridiculous conclusion' both does and does not follow, and thus that one of these either-or options must obtain --, and we arrive at the same result.

 

On the other hand, if they do follow, then they do anyway.

 

Either way, they follow.

 

QED

 

The problem with sweeping claims like these (which litter Traditional Philosophy, and not just Hegel's ill-considered work) -- in this case, concerning the supposed limitations of certain principles of FL (and especially those that express patterns of inference mirrored in our use of ordinary language, such as the LOI, the LOC and the LEM) -- is that they invariably collapse into incoherence, as we have just seen.

 

Which is why, once again, we can say with complete confidence that no one (not even Hegel) could possibly understand Hegel!

 

37. TAR puts it this way:

 

"[Hegel's] theories use terms and concepts that are unfamiliar, because they go beyond the understanding of which everyday thought is capable. Ordinary language assumes that things and ideas are stable, that they are either 'this' or 'that'. And, within strict limits, these are perfectly reasonable assumptions. Yet the fundamental discovery of Hegel's dialectic was that things and ideas do change…. And they change because they embody conflicts that make them unstable…. It is to this end that Hegel deliberately chooses words that can embody dynamic processes." [Rees (1998), p.45.]

 

From this, it is reasonably clear that Rees links ordinary language with "everyday thought". Earlier, he summarised Hegel in the following manner:

 

"[E]veryday commonsense thought was a mass of contradictions that could only be resolved by moving to progressively greater abstractions." [Ibid., pp.41-42.]

 

However, as we have seen throughout this site, and in Note 36 above, the truth is that it is in Hegel's work (and derivatively in DM) that "thought" regularly disintegrates.

 

Nevertheless, in passages like this from TAR it is easy to detect an echo of a familiar theme running through Traditional Philosophy: a depreciation of the experience, language and understanding of ordinary human beings in favour of incomprehensible metaphysical jargon invented by non-workers. [On this, see Conner (2005), and Eamon (1994). See also Note 41a, below.]

 

Marxists are supposed to be tribunes of the oppressed; not imitators of the oppressor!

 

More on this in Essay Twelve (summary here).

 

38. In this, Rees at least agrees with Engels. Cf., the quotation included in Note 37, and Note 22, above.

 

Several consequences of the rejection of the LEM were examined earlier. [Cf., Note 36.] However, the genuine limitations of this 'Law' lie elsewhere; cf., Peter Geach's article "The Law of the Excluded Middle", in Geach (1972), pp.74-87.

 

39. This will be discussed at length in Essay Twelve, and in other Essays published at this site. In the meantime, see here.

 

40. That is, apart from the last clause (i.e., the one about the capacity of workers to form a revolutionary 'consciousness')!

 

41. Of course, up to now workers in their hundreds of millions have resisted such attempts to con them in this way, or in this direction, which is, thanks to DM, one of the reasons why Dialectical Marxism has never "seized" the masses. Dialecticians, not noticing what has actually happened in the material world -- and for all their propensity to swallow the obscure musings of mystical Idealists --, still think Dialectical Marxism is a success, or it is about to be one any day soon...

 

Naturally, in La La Land, it is...

 

 

Figure Eight: 'La La Land' -- Where Dialectical Marxism Is A Ringing Success

 

41a. This will be substantiated in Essay Twelve, where the history of the denigration of ordinary language (perpetrated by ruling-class hacks, and now DM-theorists) will be traced to its origin in boss-class thought in Ancient Greece and other class societies.

 

Until that is published, readers are directed to Conner (2005) and Eamon (1994) --, especially Chapters One and Two of the latter, "The Literature Of Secrets In The Middle Ages" and "Knowledge And Power". Eamon's study connects the emphasis on 'secret knowledge' with political and economic power, two areas ruling-class tradition has always inter-linked -- and which, of course, have always been co-opted to further the intellectual, social, and legal suppression of 'the rabble'.

 

In this case, Eamon connects the novel Renaissance view of nature -- which was dressed up (i) as 'empirical knowledge', and (ii) as having been "read from nature" (where have we heard that before?) -- to (iii) the demise of Feudal authority -- in that the 'new philosophy' of the Renaissance and beyond challenged the prerogative of the Church to control and dispense truth --, and to (iv) the rise of bourgeois 'science' itself (although Eamon doesn't put it quite like this!).

 

[On Giambattista Della Porta, an important figure in this area, see here.]

 

42. This is, of course, an hyperbola, but the work of Gerry Healy can serve as Exhibit B for the prosecution, here.

 

[With Joseph Dietzgen next in line on the subs' bench, of course. Or, the work of almost any randomly selected HCD.]

 

 

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