Essay Nine: The Politics Of Metaphysics

 

Part Two -- How Petty-Bourgeois Revolutionaries And Their Theory, Dialectical Materialism, Have Damaged Marxism

 

This page might take several seconds to load because of the many videos it has embedded in it. However, for some reason I can't work out, Internet Explorer 11 will no longer play these videos. Certainly not on my computer! As far as I can tell, they play alright in other Browsers.

 

The material presented below should be read in conjunction with Essay Nine Part One -- where conclusions I seem to take for granted are substantiated --, as well as Essay Ten Part One, where this part of the story will be concluded.

 

Preface

 

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.

 

If you are viewing this with Mozilla Firefox, you might not be able to read all the symbols I have used -- Mozilla often replaces some of them with an "°". I do not know if other browsers are similarly affected.

 

Some of the links I have included (which take the reader  to Richard Seymour's blog -- Lenin's Tomb) no longer seem to work. It now appears there has been a slight change to Lenin Tomb's URL. It will take me some time to correct all of them!

 

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For those who might find the length of this Essay somewhat daunting -- it is after all about the same length as a 450 page book! -- I have summarised several of its main points here.

 

Others who might still be puzzled by the length of this Essay should perhaps reflect on the fact that anything shorter would hardly do justice to this important and universally neglected topic.

 

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As is the case with all my work, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a 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. My aim is simply to assist in the scientific development of Marxism by (i) Demolishing a dogma that has in my opinion seriously damaged our movement from its inception: Dialectical Materialism [DM] -- or, in its more political form, 'Materialist Dialectics' [MD] --, (ii) Exposing the class origin and class position of the leading comrades who invented, have accepted or who now promulgate this theory, and (iii) Revealing at least one source of the countless debacles and disasters we have witnessed on the far-left over the last century or so.

 

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

 

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Readers new to my ideas would be wrong conclude from the title of this Essay (or, indeed, this site) that it is all about DM and the effect it has had on Marxism. This Essay and this site are just as focussed on the class origin of the founders of our movement, and of those who control its ideas today, as it is on DM. Hence, it breaks entirely new ground -- as anyone who reads on will soon discover --, providing for the first time [**] an HM explanation why our movement so often fails and why much that we on the Revolutionary Left touch sooner-or-later becomes corrupted, fragmented, and then turns to dust.

 

[**] This particular comment is no longer strictly true; a partial explanation for the malaise that has afflicted the revolutionary left for at least a century has now been posted here. I have reproduced the core of its argument below. While this 'new' explanation echoes Trotsky's analysis of substitutionism (a topic covered more fully in Part One of this Essay), it omits (a) Any mention of the wider class-based and structural problems our movement has faced, and still faces, and (b) It completely ignores the historical and ideological roots of this (possibly lethal) defect. Nor does it consider (c) Why this keeps happening, and will keep happening unless we recognise the problem and its causes. I have addressed these issues in the Essays published at this site, but more specifically in the material presented below.

 

[Another analysis, which I think also beaks new ground, has just been posted here, up-dated here.]

 

While it is encouraging to see comrades attempting to account politically and sociologically for the serial disasters that regularly engulf the far-left , the analyses that have so far appeared, including the above two, still refuse even to consider the issues raised in the previous handful of paragraphs. Indeed, the author of the second of the above articles, who is also the owner of the blog in question, refused to post my contribution to the debate! Below, I also endeavour to explain why such discussion has been deliberately curtailed -- why debate on this issue is still heavily constrained and why certain topics are considered taboo.

 

Update 01/01/2014: I ought to add that my latest contribution, brief though it is, has been published at the above site!

 

These untoward events -- i.e., the many disasters and debacles experienced by the far-left -- are and were predictable given the things you will read below, as are the many more we will witness in the future.

 

Unfortunately, failure, sectarian fragmentation, expulsion and bureaucratic cover-up seem to be the only areas where fellow revolutionaries display genuine expertise!

 

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A section devoted to the on-going crisis in the UK-SWP (that used to form part of this preamble) has now been moved since these opening comments were becoming a little too long. A new section: 'The Last Death Throes Of The UK-SWP?' has just been added to the Appendices as a result of the latest wave of resignations following on the December 2013 Conference. [On this particular crisis also see here and here in the same Appendix.]

 

Update 09/06/2014: We now learn of new accusations of rape, this time in the Swedish Trotskyist, Socialist Justice Party (affiliated with the CWI). More details here (trigger warning: descriptions of sexual violence), alongside allegations that this is a historic problem right across the entire left.

 

Update 13/12/2016: Two years on and this is the only new information I could find on-line about the above allegations.

 

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It is important to underline what I am not doing in this Essay: I am not arguing that DM/MD have helped ruin Marxism and therefore they are false. My argument is in fact as follows: as the Essays published at this site show, DM/MD make not one ounce of sense -- to such an extent that it is impossible to determine whether or not they are true --, hence it is no big surprise that they have not only helped cripple our movement, they have assisted in no small way in its corruption.

 

[Why that is so is also explained below -- for example, here and here.]

 

Nor am I blaming all our woes on DM/MD (note the italicised word "helped" the last but one paragraph). However, that particular topic is one of the main themes of Essay Ten Part One, and readers are directed there for more details. Our 'woes' clearly have many causes, but this Essay highlights two of the main reasons why Dialectical Marxism has now become almost synonymous with failure, corruption and sectarian in-fighting. Namely: (a) The class origin, socialisation, and class position of the founders of our movement, and of those who now lead it or control its ideas, and (b) The philosophical theory with which they have saddled Marxism.

 

[Note also the use of the term "Dialectical Marxism". I am not criticising Marxism as such, nor am I claiming it has failed -- it is just that the non-dialectical version hasn't been road-tested yet!]

 

Of course, there are other reasons why our movement has been such a long-term failure, but comrades in general -- that is, of those who are even prepared to acknowledge our appalling record -- comrades in general are well aware of what these are. Hence, in what follows, I have largely ignored these "other reasons". That doesn't mean they aren't important; I would only be raking over familiar territory if I included them in this Essay, making it even longer!

 

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This particular Essay has suffered more than most for being published before it was finished. As I noted on the opening page of this site:

 

I am only publishing this on the Internet because several comrades whose opinions I respect urged me to do so, even though the work you see before you is less than half complete. Many of my ideas are still in the developmental stage, as it were, and need much work and time devoted to them before they mature.

 

In addition, this Essay has been written from within the Trotskyist tradition, but because I have found that my work is being read by other Marxists, I have had to incorporate an analysis of the negative influence that items (a) and (b) above have had on Communism and Maoism. Since I am far less familiar with these two political currents, many of my comments in this area are even more tentative than elsewhere. I will add more details as my researches continue.

 

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Independently of this, it is worth adding that phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", and "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) -- used at this site in connection with Traditional Philosophy and the concepts that underpin DM/MD (upside down or 'the right way up') -- aren't meant to imply that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented this way 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 relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.

 

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

 

[Exactly how and why the above applies to DM has been explained in 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.]

 

It is worth pointing out, too, that a good 50% of my case against DM/MD (along with much that I have to say about the class origin and class position of leading Marxists) has been relegated to the End Notes. Indeed, in this particular Essay, most of the supporting evidence is to be found there! That has been done to allow the main body of the Essay to flow a little more smoothly. If readers want to appreciate more fully my case against petty-bourgeois Marxism and its theory -- DM/MD -- they will need to read this material, too. In many respects I have greatly qualified and amplified what I have to say in the main body of this Essay. I have also raised objections to my own arguments (some obvious, many not -- and some that will no doubt have occurred to the reader), which I have then proceeded to answer. I explain why I have adopted this tactic in Essay One.

 

If readers skip this material, then my answers to any qualms or objections they might have will be missed, as will my expanded comments, supporting evidence and clarifications.

 

Since I have been debating this theory with comrades for well over 25 years, I have heard all the objections there are! (Links to many of the more recent 'debates' on the Internet can be found here.)

 

Anyone who can't be bothered to plough through all the material I have presented in this Essay can use the Quick Links below, or consult the summaries of key points I have posted here, here and here.

 

A very basic outline of my overall objections to DM/MD can be accessed here; why I embarked on this project is explained here.

 

Anyone puzzled by the unremittingly hostile tone I have adopted toward DM/MD (and, indeed, toward anyone who propagates either or both of these theories) should read this if they want to know my reasons.

 

Some parts of this Essay are, unfortunately, a little repetitive. I am in fact trying to make the same point from several different angles. An "all-round" perspective, as Lenin might have said.

 

Incidentally, I have no illusions that this Essay (or any of the other Essays published at this site) will make a blind bit of difference, or even that it will get a fair hearing from the DM-faithful. Dialectically distracted comrades cling to DM/MD for non-rational reasons (explored fully in what follows). It will take revolutionary workers themselves to rejuvenate our movement and save dialecticians from themselves. This will only happen if or when the proletariat rid the world of the alienating forces that make it attractive for the DM-faithful to look to mystical concepts ('contradictions', 'the negation of the negation', 'unities of opposites', 'determinations', 'mediations', 'moments' -- upside down or 'the right way up') to help explain, and thus influence, social development.

 

What I hope to achieve is prevent younger comrades from catching this Hermetic Virus.

 

Finally, in what follows I am dealing with all forms of Dialectical Marxism, not just with Dialectical Trotskyism (or even with the structure and ideology of the UK-SWP!). Some of the things I have to say therefore apply to all forms of Dialectical Marxism, while all of them apply to some.

 

[On the almost identical use of DM across all forms of Dialectical Marxism, see here and here. Again, on the difference between HM and DM, see here.]

 

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As of April 2017, this Essay is just over 202,500 words long. As noted earlier: a much shorter version of some of its main points can be accessed here, and an even shorter one still, here.

 

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This Essay was becoming rather unwieldy so I have moved the Appendices to a separate area.

 

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

 

[Latest Update: 30/04/17.]

 

Quick Links

 

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

 

Also, if your Firewall/Browser has a 'pop-up' blocker, you might need to press the "Ctrl" key at the same time or the links above and below 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. If the text is still either too big or too small for you, please adjust your browser settings!

 

(1) Introduction

 

(a) The Aims Of This Essay

 

(b) Has The Revolutionary Left Stagnated?

 

(c) Cut To The Chase

 

(2) Alienation And Its Dialectical Discontents

 

(a) Surely You're Not Claiming That Leading Marxists Are Class Traitors

 

(b) Dialectics And Marx's Comments On Religious Alienation

 

(c) The Dialectics Of Consolation: The Irrational Kernel Inside The Mystical Shell

 

(d) Crude Reductionism?

 

(e) The Dialectics Of Defeat

 

(f) The UK-SWP 'Discovers' Dialectical Materialism

 

(g) Crisis Hits The UK-SWP

 

(h) Dialectical Myopia

 

(i) The Dialectical Mantra

 

(j) Reality 'Contradicts Appearances'

 

(3) The Opiate Of The Party

 

(a) Method -- Or Methadone?

 

(b) The Indoctrination And 'Conversion' Of Marxist Dialecticians

 

(i)  'Professional Revolutionaries'

 

(ii)  The Role Of The Individual In History -- Pawns Or Agents?

 

(iii) Revolutionaries Recruited As Individuals

 

(iv) The Alien-Class Origin Of 'Dialectical Thought'

 

(v) 'Born Again'?

 

(vi) Proletarian Discipline? -- No Thanks!

 

(c) Militant Martinets

 

(i)   A Bad Situation Made Worse

 

(ii)  'Dialectical' Bickering

 

(iii) Democratic Deficit And The UK-SWP

 

(4) The Faith Of DM-Converts

 

(a) Marx Equates Philosophy And Religion

 

(b) Trotsky's Quasi-Religious Fervour

 

(c) Stalin Gets His Priorities 'Right'

 

(d) Bukharin's Death-Cell Faith

 

(e) Lack Of Power Corrupts

 

(i)   The Correct 'Line'

 

(ii)  The Road To Dialectical Damascus

 

(iii) Dialectics And Defeat

 

(iv) Disaster Central

 

(v)  The Socialist Soothsayer

 

(vi)  Social Psychology Doesn't Apply To Dialecticians!

 

(vii) Designer Dialectics

 

(viii) It's Official -- Dialectical Marxism Has No 'Cult Of The Saints'

 

(ix)   A Curious Anomaly

 

(5) Dialectics And De-Classé Marxists

 

(a) Divorced From The Class They Are Supposed To Champion

 

(b) High Church Versus Low Church Dialectics

 

(i)  Low Church Dialecticians

 

(ii) High Church Dialecticians

 

(c) In The Lurch

 

(6) Substitutionism 1

 

(a) How Could Revolutionaries Have Imported Boss-Class Ideology Into Marxism?

 

(b) Dialectics And Revolutionary Practice

 

(c) Non-Sense And Praxis

 

(d) Ah! But What About 1917?

 

(7) Substitutionism 2

 

(a) The Dialectics Of Mystification

 

(b) Installing The New Program

 

(8) Three Case Studies

 

(a) This Essay Isn't Making A Series Of Academic Points

 

(b) Dialectics Compromises Communism

 

(c) Dialectics Messes With Maoism

 

(d) Dialectics Traduces Trotskyism

 

(e) Conclusion

 

(f) Spot The Difference!

 

(9) Refuted In Practice

 

(a) Dialectical Marxism: The Rotten Fruit Of A Diseased Tree

 

(b) A Theory That Poisoned Itself

 

(c) It's Official: Dialectical Marxism Has No Cult Of The Saints!

 

(d) Mao's 'Theory' Implodes

 

(10) Notes

 

(11) Appendices

 

(12) 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 This Essay

 

This half of Essay Nine deals with some of the main background reasons for the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism, linking it with the class origin and class position of those who control, or have controlled, its ideas and party structures. It also exposes the reasons why dialecticians cling to DM like terminally insecure limpets -- despite (a) The damage it has done to Marxism, and (b) The fact that it has presided over 150 years of almost total failure.

 

In these respects this Essay is a continuation of the argument developed in Essay Nine Part One, which is further elaborated upon in Essay Ten Part One -- where the usual replies advanced by dialecticians to allegations like the above will be dealt with, and more general theoretical issues (concerning the relation between theory and practice) are analysed.

 

Spoiler alert: In the aforementioned Essay it will be shown that truth can't be tested in practice, and that even if it could, practice has returned a very clear message: Dialectical Marxism has been refuted by history.

 

[Notice the use of the phrase "Dialectical Marxism", here -- and not "Marxism" --, as noted above, non-dialectical Marxism hasn't been tried yet. Some might think that the phrase "non-dialectical Marxism" is an oxymoron; I have dealt with that response here and here.]

 

In which case, dialecticians would be well advised to avoid using practice as a test of the correctness of their theory.

 

In Essay Ten Part One, I will also reveal why the claim that Dialectical Marxism has been a long-term and abject failure is no exaggeration.

 

[To save on needless repetition, from now on, when readers encounter the abbreviation "DM" ("Dialectical Materialism") on its own, they should in general view this as incorporating a reference to MD ("Materialist Dialectics"), as well -- and/or vice versa.]

 

 

Has the Revolutionary Left Stagnated?

 

Even though it had been obvious to many for some time, several comrades have recently voiced concern that the revolutionary left is stagnating, if not experiencing a long slow decline:

 

Here is Richard Seymour:

 

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

 

Of course, as Richard points out, there are two notable exceptions to this generalisation -- the gains made by the electoral left in Greece and France (although, by mid-July 2015 it was clear that the 'advances' made by Syriza weren't worth the paper by which they had been elected -- confirming yet again that not even reformist socialism can be built in one country!), but it is far from clear that the 'Dialectical Left' have benefitted (or will benefit) from this in any way. In addition, the anti-austerity left in Spain, spearheaded by Podemos, have began to make significant electoral gains in 2015. Finally, the UK Labour Party left has experienced a meteoric rise in numbers culminating in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. Despite this, the 'dialectical left' has seen no corresponding growth.

 

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

 

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

 

Chris Bambery also made a similar point:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 Leading ISG member, Alex Snowdon, concurs:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So, indeed, does John Rees:

 

"[T]here have been some notable, in some cases historic, movements of resistance. The global anti-capitalist movement which began with mass demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in 1999 was a signal event. It brought together climate change and environmental activists with trade union demonstrators -- the famous teamster-turtle alliance. It named the enemy in the most general political terms: capitalism. And it self-identified as an 'anti-capitalist' movement. This was new. I remember watching the BBC main news bulletin where the commentator said 'anti-capitalist protestors took over the centre of Seattle today'. I'd rarely heard the BBC use the word 'capitalist', let alone the words 'anti-capitalist' before. This term became the hallmark of many demonstrations to this day. It had a great strength: an immediate identification of the entire system as the problem. But there was also a corresponding weakness: a much lower level of direct workplace struggle than in the 1968-1975 period.

 

"Even so the movement's political strength became greater as the anti-war movement arose, involving many of the same forces, in response to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002-2003. Again, just as the anti-capitalist movement had popularised to millions of ordinary citizens language once the exclusive property of the left, so the rise of the mass anti-war movement made anti-imperialism a mass popular force on a scale that even exceeded that achieved by the anti-Vietnam protests. At the same time, and partly as a consequence, establishment politics became hollowed out to an unprecedented degree. Faced with mainstream parties all of whom embraced neo-liberalism at home and defended imperialism abroad the old system began to crack. Political party membership fell and turnout in elections declined. Opinion polls revealed that public faith in politicians, the police, the media and other pillars of the status quo were at historic lows.

 

"And yet at the same time the organisation of the left was also facing a crisis. The Labour Left has probably never been weaker. The Communist Party left is much reduced after the body blow of the East European revolutions of 1989, far longer and deeper in their effect on the left than many thought at the time. The revolutionary far left has, in all too many cases, retreated into sectarian isolation.

 

"In fact the central paradox of left politics can be formulated in this way: at a time when an unprecedented level of ideological radicalism have seized large sections of the working class the far left has been unable to strengthen itself because it is wedded to 1970s models of industrial militancy which prevents it from understanding the tasks before it." [Preface to the new edition of The ABC of Socialism, quoted from here. Accessed 21/06/2014. Bold emphases added.]

 

Of course, Rees's explanation for the failure of the far-left to make any progress is itself misplaced; even sections of the left that have abandoned "1970's models of industrial militancy" have made little or no progress. We must look elsewhere for the reason why the revolutionary left has failed to connect with this radicalisation, and into areas dialecticians like Rees refuse even to consider, and will even reject out-of-hand.

 

It is quite remarkable that comrades who will in one breath extol the virtues of HM, will, in another, refuse to apply it to the left itself

 

Indeed, the same can be said of Alex Callinicos's recent survey of the decline of the far-left:

 

"The paradox of the present situation is that capital is weak -- but the radical left is much weaker. Alternatively, capital is economically weak, but much stronger politically, less because of mass ideological commitment to the system than because of the weakness of credible anti-capitalist alternatives....

 

"By contrast today, nearly seven years after the financial crash began, the radical left has not been weaker for decades. We have seen the following pattern over the past 15 years. The period between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s can be described as an era of good feelings for the radical left. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in 1989-91 neoliberalism had seemed all-conquering. But the Seattle protests of November 1999 marked the beginning of a wave of new movements of resistance demanding another kind of globalisation that were based not just in the North but in parts of the Global South. The events of 9/11 and the proclamation of a global state of emergency by the administration of George W Bush provoked an extension of resistance from the economic to the political, as the altermondialiste [Anti-Globalisation -- RL] networks that had emerged from Seattle and the July 2001 protests at Genoa launched the anti-war movement responsible for the unprecedented day of global protest against the invasion of Iraq on 15 February 2003....

 

"But May 2005 represented the high-water mark for the radical left in Europe. Afterwards the process went into reverse. Sometimes this took the form of organisational implosion: the splits in the SSP in 2006 and in Respect in 2007 removed the most serious left electoral challenges the Labour Party had faced for decades. Sometimes there were electoral reverses, such as that suffered by the Bloco in 2011. Sometimes it was both: Rifondazione cracked up as a result of both electoral eclipse and a series of splits following its participation in 2006-8 in the centre-left coalition government of Romano Prodi, who continued the neoliberal and pro-war policies of their predecessors.

 

"Disarray set in among the radical left before the onset of the economic crisis: thus George Galloway launched his attack on the role of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) within Respect in August 2007, just as the credit crunch was beginning to develop. But the process of fragmentation has continued against the background of the crisis. Although developments in France have exercised a major influence on the radical left internationally, new political formations came relatively late there: the Parti de Gauche, which split from the Socialist Party in 2008, and the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) launched at the beginning of 2009 by the LCR. But, bested electorally by the Parti de Gauche and its allies (mainly the Communist Party) in the Front de Gauche, the NPA suffered an agonising internal crisis in 2011-12. This ended with the departure in July 2012 of several hundred members, including many of the historic cadre of the LCR, to form Gauche Anticapitaliste as part of the Front de Gauche.

 

"Meanwhile, the other major organisation of the European revolutionary left, the SWP, suffered no less than four splits -- one in the immediate aftermath of the Respect crisis in 2010, one involving a group of mainly young members in Glasgow in 2011, and two associated with the intense crisis in 2012-13 precipitated by allegations of rape against a leading member. This crisis saw about 700 members (including, once again, some of the historic cadre of the SWP) leave and three new far-left groups formed. Of course, this particular drama underlines that the splits had very specific driving forces: setting the SWP's troubles in context in no way dismisses the issues of oppression and women's liberation that for many were the central issue. But the broader pattern seems undeniable, as is indicated by the internal divisions that affected the largest far-left group in the United States, the International Socialist Organization, in 2013-14....

 

"Some 35 years ago, at the dawn of the neoliberal era, Chris Harman wrote a memorable analysis in this journal of the crisis the European revolutionary left was then experiencing. That crisis was much more severe and concentrated than what we are currently experiencing because it represented the collapse, in an astonishingly short period of time, of many of the quite substantial far-left formations that had emerged during the great upturn in workers' struggles of the late 1960s and early 1970s -- formations that had grown very quickly, but that proved to lack the political strength to cope with the downturn in class struggle that developed in the second half of the 1970s. The present crisis is much more diffuse, but in some ways more threatening, because the revolutionary left is much weaker than it was in 1979. This makes the attempts to split and even to destroy organisations such as the NPA and the SWP so irresponsible. These parties represent decades of concentrated efforts by thousands of militants to develop credible revolutionary alternatives. They are not to be thrown away lightly." [Callinicos (2014), pp.111-36. Links and bold emphases added.]

 

In the above article, Callinicos makes no attempt to apply a class analysis to this decline (a long-term decline, too, that has been on-going now for several generations), despite the upturns Callinicos notes, which turned out to be temporary, anyway. For far too many, the far-left is now largely toxic. Callinicos not only fails to note this, he ignores his and the SWP's role in helping to accelerate it. To be sure, Callinicos discusses several other plausible factors that have contributed to the current weakness of the far-left, but he signally fails to account for its propensity to fragment (he just notes that it happens) as well as its tendency to decay into crises of corruption (which, in the case of the UK-SWP, he briefly mentions but soon shrugs off, blaming others for its inevitable consequences).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But, "self-evaluation" and "self-criticism" doesn't apparently stretch as far as applying an HM analysis to this chronic problem.

 

And, here are the comments of the ISO-Renewal Faction:

 

"The international revolutionary Left is in the throes of a serious crisis. This crisis has manifested itself most clearly in organizational terms in the debacle of the Socialist Workers Party in the UK; in the splits in the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in France; and in the attack on the revolutionary Left within SYRIZA. In practical terms, it has manifested in the inability of the Left to steer major events: the stalemate in the struggle against austerity in Greece and the growth of fascism; the twists and turns of the Egyptian revolution; and the reversals suffered by the defeat of the Wisconsin Uprising, the dramatic repression of Occupy, and even the setbacks in spring 2013 after the heroic Chicago Teachers' Union strike testify to this fact. And on the theoretical plane, there remain large questions about the character of neoliberalism and the current crisis; the shape of the international working class at the end of the neoliberal period; and the strategies and methods for the Left to organize a real struggle against a system in crisis. It is a crisis that requires a deep re-examination of all previous assumptions on the part of the entire international Left.

 

"We believe this crisis has impacted the ISO as well, though we think that it is a more significant development than simply 'the demoralization and disorientation experienced by the Left in the wake of Occupy'. While the SWP's crisis is far more serious than ours, we believe both crises (as well as the others mentioned) grow out of the same general political background common to the entire revolutionary Left. In the ISO, the response to this crisis has shifted from a perceived new political openness in the first half of the year (most notably Ahmed Shawki's talk at Socialism 2013 on Perspectives for the Left, which was interpreted as such by people well beyond the ISO); to a debate around the March on Washington and the United Front; to a closing of ranks, a renewed focus on routines and low-level political education, and a retreat from outward-looking events such as the regional fall Marxism conferences. The assertion in the NC report that the ISO was 'under attack' was quite stunning to us. But it has now become clear that the 'attack' is really a bout of self-doubt, in our estimation brought on by the same factors that have precipitated the crisis of the international Left: a misunderstanding of the neoliberal period and its crisis, and a frustration at the ability of the Left to advance." [Quoted from here. Accessed 08/02/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links and bold emphases added.]

 

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

 

[There are now reports of yet another rape cover-up, but this time in the ISO itself!]

 

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

 

"If you read the attempts that have been made so far by comrades (here and elsewhere) to account for this and other crises, you will struggle long and hard and to no avail to find a materialist, class-based analysis why this sort of thing keeps happening. Comrades blame such things on this or that foible or personality defect of that or this comrade, or on this or that party structure. If we only had a different CC, or a new constitution, everything would be hunky dory. If only the climate in the party were more open and democratic...

"Do we argue this with respect to anything else? If only we had a different Prime Minister, different MPs or Union Leaders! Or, maybe a new constitution with proportional representation allowing us to elect left-wing representatives to Parliament..., yada yada.

"But this problem is endemic right across our movement, and has been for many generations, just as it afflicts most sections of bourgeois society. In which case, we need a new, class-based, materialist explanation why it keeps happening, or it will keep on happening." [Re-edited, and quoted, for example, from
here.]
01a


And yet, comrades still refuse to approach the crisis that has recently engulfed the UK-SWP with any such analysis; they still refuse to apply Marxism to Marxism itself! A point brought out recently in another blog (although the author neglected to develop an HM analysis of this crisis, too!):

 

"Someone, probably the late John Sullivan, once pointed out the irony that parties adhering firmly to historical materialism are even firmer in refusing to apply it to their own organisations; instead insisting, like the best idealists, that they be judged on their programme alone." [Quoted from here; accessed 01/01/2014. Link and bold emphasis added.]

 

In its place, comrades prefer to write the sort of superficial analyses they would heavily criticise if they were applied to any other group, or, indeed, any other topic, such as the following:

 

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

 

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

 

Another UK-SWP comrade had this to say in the March 2013 Special Pre-Conference Bulletin:

 

"The question therefore becomes how do we organise ourselves in any given period, and, more particularly, how do we need to organise today?

 

"It ought to be clear to everybody that our present arrangements are not provably fit for purpose. Either that or we [are?] the unluckiest party in the world having suffered a string of crises (Respect, Counterfire, IS Group, Disputes Committee) in rapid succession. In a situation like this there can be a tendency to 'batten down the hatches', seek internal scapegoats and meet internal criticism with impatience, censure or even disciplinary measures....

 

"[The following] are some organisational areas...where I think we currently fall short of what is needed to make us a more successful and effective Leninist party." [Quoted from here, p.68. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Accessed 08/03/2013. Although the criticisms and suggestions this comrade then proceeds to make look eminently reasonable, they clearly fall far short of what is required.]

 

Here is an account from across the Atlantic concerning the collapse of the US-SWP (but the points made are clearly far more general in scope):

 

"This process can be described by the term 'regression to the mean.' In statistics, that term describes the tendency of 'outliers' -- facts or observations that are substantially different from the average -- to shift over time towards the average. In Marxist politics, it means that a small group that achieves excellence in one or another respect will tend to lose these characteristics over time, unless its strong points are reinforced through immersion in broad social struggles.

 

"The 'mean' -- that is, the profile of the average small Marxist group -- includes these features:

 

"A conviction that the small group, and it alone, represents the historic interests of the working class.

 

"A high ideological fence separating members from the ideas and discussions of the broader Marxist movement.

 

"A hostile relationship to other Marxist currents.

 

"A haughty attitude to social movements: the group's interventions, when they occur, focus on self-promotion and recruitment.

 

"An internal discipline aimed not at fending off blows of the class enemy but at restricting discussion and keeping the members in line.

 

"A conservative approach to Marxist doctrine, aptly summarized by Marx in 1868: 'The sect sees the justification for its existence and its "point of honour" not in what it has in common with the class movement but in the particular shibboleth which distinguishes it from it.'" [Taken from here. Accessed 15/01/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

But, still no attempt made to provide a class analysis. Indeed, as far as can be determined, none of the articles posted at the site from which the above was taken (which constitutes a detailed history of the decline of the US-SWP) even so much as attempt to apply Marxism to Marxism itself.

 

Why is this?

 

I will endeavour to answer that question in what follows.

 

Nevertheless, "crises" like these are endemic on the far-left. As if organisational tinkering can affect issues related to the class origin and class position of those who 'lead' our movement and who control its ideas! As if simply immersing the party in wider activity can erase awkward facts about the class origin of our 'leaders' and their core theory, DM!

 

And, there is no sign that comrades in the UK-SWP 'opposition' (or elsewhere, for that matter) are even asking the right questions. Here is one of the latest from this faction:

 

"In just a few weeks, the desire to analyse how we got to this point has resulted in many faction members, both longstanding and new cadre, starting the process of attempting to fill some theoretical gaps. This is fantastically encouraging, and a glimpse at how political pride can be rebuilt and how fruitful honest collective discussion is. The very fact of the conference is a victory, but if we accept that silence must follow, then we have not achieved what we set out to achieve." [Megan T., and Mike G., quoted from here; accessed 09/03/2013. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Other than arguing for an open, democratic party (an excellent aim in itself), filling the above "theoretical gaps" doesn't seem to involve any attempt to develop an HM-analysis of the class origin and class position of the party 'leadership', and their commitment to thought-forms appropriated from the class enemy -- again, DM.

 

Which means, of course, that these 'crises' will keep on happening.

 

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

 

As I pointed out in Part One:

 

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

 

And if you complain? Well you just don't 'understand' dialectics...

 

This Essay and the other two mentioned in the Preface are aimed at approaching catastrophes like these from an entirely new angle, providing for the first time an HM-explanation why our movement is constantly in crisis, constantly fragmenting, constantly screwing-up -- and what can be done about it.

 

 

Cut To The Chase

 

In addition to providing a class analysis of Marxism itself, Part Two of Essay Nine will also aim to show how and why:

 

(1) DM has been, and still is, detrimental to Marxism,

 

(2) DM has assisted in the fragmentation of our movement,

 

(3) DM has contributed in its own way to the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism itself, and,

 

(4) DM helps convince dialectically-distracted comrades that there are in fact no problems that need addressing (in this respect) -- and, even if there were, DM (supposedly Marxism's core theory!) and the class origin of leading Marxists have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it!

 

As intimated above, this Essay will also show that:

 

(5) The class origin of leading members of Dialectical-Marxist parties is one of the main reasons why revolutionary politics is deeply sectarian, profoundly unreasonable, serially abusive, alarmingly fragmentary, studiously arrogant, and notoriously ineffective.

 

DM, of course, only succeeds in making a bad situation worse.

 

[I will also explain how and why it manages to do that, too.]

 

Part One demonstrated that DM not only doesn't, it can't represent a generalisation of working class experience; nor can it express their "world-view", whoever tries to sell it to them.

 

Worse still, it can't even represent a generalisation of the experience of the revolutionary party!

 

Nor has it any positive practical applications, or implications -- only negative.

 

It was also shown in Part One that DM can't be "brought" to workers "from the outside" (as Lenin seemed to suggest -- please note the use of the word "seemed" here!), because it has yet to be brought to a sufficient level of clarity so that its own theorists can even so much as begin to understand it themselves, before they think to proselytise unfortunate workers.

 

In that sense, dialecticians are still waiting for their own theory to be "brought" to them -- from the "inside"!

 

 

Alienation And Its Dialectical Discontents

 

Are Leading Marxists In Effect 'Class Traitors'?

 

It was alleged in Essay Twelve Part One (and in other Essays posted here, here, and here) that DM is a form of Linguistic Idealism (LIE) and, as such, reflects key features of ruling-class ideology.

 

[On my use of the phrase "ruling-class ideas/ideology", see here.]

 

However, what has not been established yet is how it is even conceivable that generations of leading revolutionaries with impeccable socialist credentials could have imported into the workers' movement ideas derived from the class enemy --, or at least from Philosophers who gave theoretical voice to the interests of that class.

 

Surely, this alone shows that the allegations made in these Essays are completely misguided.

 

Or, so it could be argued.

 

Of course, even its own most loyal and avid supporters can't, and don't, deny that dialectics itself had to be introduced into the workers' movement from the outside; neither Hegel, Feuerbach, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin nor Mao were proletarians. Moreover, there is no evidence that workers in the 19th century were avid readers of Hegel's Logic.

 

[The idea that Dietzgen, for example, was an exception to the above generalisation has already been batted out of the park here.]

 

As is well-known, Hegel's system is the most absolute form of Idealism ever invented, and was situated right at the heart of an ancient ruling-class tradition (aspects of which are examined in detail in Essay Twelve and Fourteen (summaries here and here)).

 

Lenin admitted as much -- without perhaps realising the full significance of what he was saying:

 

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

 

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

 

More-or-less the same can be said about Plekhanov:

 

"Marxism is an integral world-outlook. Expressed in a nutshell, it is contemporary materialism, at present the highest stage of the development of that view upon the world whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece by Democritus, and in part by the Ionian thinkers who preceded that philosopher." [Plekhanov (1908), p.11. Italic emphases in the original; links and bold emphasis added. I have covered this topic in much more detail below.]

 

Despite this, the importation of Hegel's ideas into Marxism is often justified by DM-supporters on the basis that he lived at a time when the bourgeoisie were the revolutionary class, and so his ideas weren't as 'ideologically-tainted' -- so to speak -- as those of later thinkers.

 

Now, that excuse might work in relation to theorists like Smith or Ricardo, but it can't work with Hegel. Not only did he live in politically backward Germany, where there was no such revolutionary bourgeois class, his ideas represented both a continuation of ruling-class thought and a throwback to earlier mystical ideas about nature and society. [On this, see Essay Twelve Part Five and Essay Fourteen Part One (links above).]

 

Moreover, by no stretch of the imagination were Hegel's ideas scientific, unlike those of Smith and Ricardo.

 

Nor can it be argued that Marx derived HM from Hegel; in fact (as Lenin himself half admits) both he and Hegel were influenced by the Scottish Historical School (of Ferguson, Millar, Hume, Smith, Steuart, Robertson, and Anderson).01 If anything, Hegel's work helped slow down the formation of Marx's scientific ideas by mystifying them.

 

It could be argued that Marx derived other important concepts from Hegel (such as alienation, or species being), but these ideas (or others very much like them) can be found in Rousseau, Fichte and Schelling (who were far clearer thinkers than Hegel ever was). Moreover, these concepts are easily replaced with materialist analogues -- which explains why Marx subsequently dropped these terms, and adopted others. [On this, see White (1996).]

 

Finally, no dialectician, as far as I know, would argue the same for other figures who were writing at about this time, and who were much closer to the revolutionary class action (as it were). Does anyone think this of Berkeley? And yet he lived in and around what was the leading capitalist country on earth at the time: Great Britain. Or, of Shaftesbury and Mandeville? Slap bang in the middle these two. And, it is little use pointing out that this pair wrote shortly after the reaction to the English Revolution, since Hegel did, too, after the reaction to the French Revolution. Nor is it any use arguing that these two were card-carrying ruling-class hacks, since the same can be said of Hegel. Or, even that one of them was an aristocrat; it may be news to some, but Hegel wasn't a coal miner or a stable hand!

 

Indeed, the only reason Hegel is chosen for special treatment is because of contingent features of Marx's own biography. Had Marx's life taken a different course, or had Hegel died of typhoid forty years before he actually did, does anyone think we would now be bothering with dialectics? It is no surprise, therefore, to find that Marx himself moved away from Hegel and Philosophy all his life.

 

[The first of these controversial allegations was substantiated in Part One of this Essay; the second, here.]

 

In that case, and contrary to what Lenin said, we should exclude Marx himself (at least, in relation to his more mature work) from the above seriously compromised boss-class pedigree.

 

Independently of this, it could be objected that this allegedly class-compromised background isn't sufficient to condemn DM. After all, it could be argued that the advancement of humanity has always been predicated on practices, concepts and theories developed by individuals freed from the need to toil each day to stay alive -- for example, the work and ideas of scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, technologists, inventors and the like. Surely, this doesn't automatically impugn every idea drawn from outside the workers' movement. Neither does it mean that philosophical notions are in general of no use to revolutionaries. Indeed, denouncing certain beliefs just because they are alien to the working-class is not only ultra-left, it is inconsistent with key ideas found in HM itself. In that case, the fact that DM is based on Hegel's system doesn't automatically malign it, especially if the latter has been given a materialist make-over (as Marx himself argued), and has subsequently been tested in practice.

 

Furthermore, the origin of DM goes back many centuries, and is related in complex ways to the development of class society and thus of humanity in general. Admittedly, that implicates this process in the formation of ideas representing the theoretical interests of former and current ruling-classes. But, even granting that, such ideas have also featured in the overall development of human knowledge -- indeed, many of them have been integral to the advancement of science, and thus of industry. Considerations like these do not compromise DM in any way; on the contrary, as Lenin noted, this complex set of connections (linking DM with the very best of human endeavour) constitutes one of its strengths. Dialectical thought is thus not only part of the theoretical maturing process of humanity, it is a vital component in its future development.

 

Or, so it could be argued, once more.1

 

However, DM isn't quite so easily exculpated. That is so for several reasons:

 

(1) DM-theses make no sense. Anyone who thinks otherwise is invited to say clearly (and for the first time ever) what sense they do make. As the Essays posted at this site have shown, anyone who attempts that modern-day 'labour of Sisyphus' will face an impossible task.

 

(2) DM-concepts hinder the development revolutionary theory and practice. We saw that in more detail in Essay Ten Part One -- for example, in connection with Lenin's advice relating to a certain glass tumbler. [Other examples are given below.]

 

(3) DM is locked in a tradition of thought that has an impeccable ruling-class pedigree. No wonder then that it hangs like an albatross around our necks, to say nothing of the negative effect it has had on generations of comrades (these are detailed below, too).

 

(4) Although many claim that science is intimately connected with earlier philosophical and religious or mystical forms-of-thought, this is in fact less than half the truth. Indeed, materialist and technological aspects of science haven't been as heavily dependent on such ruling-class ideas as many believe. [That rather bold claim will be substantiated in Essay Thirteen Part Two (when it is published sometime in 2017).]

 

(5) DM-concepts undermine ordinary language and common understanding; this means that workers have had these alien-class ideas inserted into their heads against the materialist grain, as it were. As such, DM (a) fosters passivity, (b) rationalises substitutionist ideology, and (c) aggravates sectarianism and helps motivate corruption.1a

 

[More on these below, and in Part One. On the phrase "common understanding", see here.]

 

(6) The materialist flip allegedly performed on Hegel's system, so that its 'rational core' might be appropriated by revolutionaries, has been shown not in fact to have been through 180 degrees, as is often claimed, but through the full 360.

 

[On that, see especially Essays Twelve Part One and Thirteen Part One.]

 

(7) It isn't being claimed here that DM is false because of its ruling-class pedigree; it is in fact being maintained that this 'theory' is far too vague and confused to be described as either true or false. Nevertheless, its deleterious effects can in fact be traced to its dependency on ruling-class forms-of-thought.

 

[More on that throughout this Essay, and later in Essay Fourteen Part Two.]

 

(8) Practice has in fact refuted dialectics. Either that, or truth isn't, and hasn't been, tested in practice.

 

(9) Finally, and perhaps more importantly, DM has played its own not inconsiderable part in creating the long-term failure we see before us today -- Dialectical Marxism in all its forms, parties and tendencies. In addition, as noted above, DM has helped aggravate the serious personal, organisational and political corruption that generations of petty-bourgeois party 'leaders' have brought in their train.

 

These are serious allegations; those that haven't already been substantiated (in other Essays) will be expanded upon and defended in what follows.

 

In spite of this, it could be argued that the above counter-response is totally unacceptable since it ignores the fact that some of the best class fighters in history have not only put dialectics into practice, they have woven it into the fabric of each and every classic, and post-classic, Marxist text. Indeed, without dialectics there would be no Marxist theory; in fact, it would be like "a clock without a spring":

 

"While polemicising against opponents who consider themselves -- without sufficient reason -- above all as proponents of 'theory,' the article deliberately did not elevate the problem to a theoretical height. It was absolutely necessary to explain why the American “radical” intellectuals accept Marxism without the dialectic (a clock without a spring)." [Trotsky (1971), p.56. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[Which is rather odd since Essay Seven Part Three has shown that if DM were true, change would be impossible.]

 

How would this be, or have been, possible if the above allegations were correct? And what alternative theory or literature (that has been tested in the 'heat of battle', as it were) can Ms Lichtenstein point to that recommends her ideas as superior to those found in this proven tradition, one stretching back now over 150 years?

 

Much of the above volunteered response (in fact, it is a summary of a handwritten letter sent by John Molyneux to a supporter of this site many years ago) is demonstrably misguided. The link between DM and successful practice was severed in Essay Ten Part One, and will be further undermined in what follows.

 

Furthermore, very few of the classic Marxist texts (that is, outside the DM-cannon -- i.e., AD, DN, MEC, PN, etc.) mention this 'theory' (except in passing). Indeed, despite tradition and as Part One of Essay Nine shows -- here and here --, Das Kapital itself is a DM-free zone. But, even if this weren't the case, the fact that Dialectical Marxism has been such a long-term failure ought raise serious questions about the malign influence this theory has had on HM and on revolutionary practice in general.

 

Indeed, if Newton's theory had been as spectacularly unsuccessful as Dialectical Marxism has been, his ideas would have been still-born as they rolled off the press.

 

In addition, a continuing commitment to dialectics just because it was good enough for the 'founding fathers' of our movement -- and for no other reason -- is itself based on the sort of servile, dogmatic and conservative mind-set that graces most religions.1b

 

There is, indeed, something decidedly unsavoury witnessing erstwhile radicals appealing to tradition alone as their only reason for maintaining their commitment to such class-compromised ideas -- especially since this doctrine (i) hasn't served us too well for over a century, and (ii) remains unexplained to this day.

 

Which brings us to the next main point.

 

 

Dialectics And Marx's On Religious Alienation

 

As it turns out, and as will now be argued, the reason why the majority of revolutionaries not only willingly accept the alien-class ideas encapsulated in DM, but also cling to them like terminally-insecure limpets, is connected with the following four considerations:

 

(1) Marx's analysis of the nature and origin of religious alienation -- coupled with his rejection of Philosophy.

 

(2) Lenin's warning that revolutionaries may sometimes respond to defeat and disappointment by turning to Idealism and Mysticism.

 

(3) The biographies and class origins of leading Marxist dialecticians.

 

(4) The fact that DM not only helps mask the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism itself, it provides its acolytes with a source of consolation for unrealised expectations and continually dashed hopes.

 

These seemingly controversial allegations will now be explained more fully, and then defended in depth.

 

[The other counter-arguments recorded in the previous section will also be tackled as this Essay unfolds.]

 

 

Dialectics And Consolation: The Irrational Kernel inside The Mystical Shell

 

Item One (from above): Concerning religion, Marx famously argued as follows:

 

"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 (1975b), p.244. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

Of course, no one is suggesting that Dialectical Marxism is a religion -- but it certainly functions in a way that makes it analogous to one.

 

Indeed, as Marx also 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 of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975c), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

So, "philosophy is nothing but religion rendered into thought" -- in other words, philosophy is a far more abstract source of consolation.

 

These serious allegations, and their materialist background, will now be explained.

 

Plainly, revolutionaries are human beings with ideas in their heads, and every single one of them had a class origin, or now has a current class position. The overwhelming majority of those who have led our movement or who have influenced its ideas didn't come from the working class. Even workers, if they become full-time or "professional revolutionaries", are thereby rendered de-classé -- or even petty-bourgeois -- as a result. Since the social being of these comrades can be traced back to their class origins and current class position, it is no surprise to discover that they have allowed "ruling ideas" to dominate their thought.

 

The allegation that these comrades have appropriated such ideas -- for the same sorts of reasons that the religious hold onto their beliefs --, and that this is because of their class origin or current class position --, will be regarded by dialecticians as so obviously wrong that it will be rejected out-of-hand as "crude reductionism".

 

Nevertheless, as far as I am aware, no Marxist Dialectician has subjected the origin of DM, or the reasons for its adoption by the vast majority of comrades, to any sort of class, or even materialist, analysis.

 

To be sure, they will often subject the ideas of their opponents or enemies (both Marxist and non-Marxist -- examples are given below) to some form of impromptu class analysis, but not their own acceptance of boss-class thought-forms, nor yet the appropriation of these ideas by most Marxists -- and certainly not to their adoption by every single leading Marxist (except Marx).

 

This suggests that dialecticians see themselves as exempt from, or even above, a Marxist analysis of the origin of their own ideas, and that they somehow think they are immune from the material constraints that affect the rest of humanity.

 

Nevertheless, it will be maintained here that the above comrades do, indeed, hold on to alien-class ideas -- even if they aren't fully aware of their nature --, and that they do this for at least four reasons:

 

First: Because of their petty-bourgeois or non-working class origin -- and as a result of their socialisation and the 'superior' education they have generally received in bourgeois society -- the vast majority of the above comrades have had "ruling ideas", or ruling-class forms-of-thought, forced down their throats almost from day one.

 

[More on this below. See also Essays Two and Three Parts One and Two.]

 

Second: Because Dialectical Marxism has been so spectacularly unsuccessful, revolutionaries have had to convince themselves that (a) This isn't really so, (b) That the opposite is in fact the case, or that (c) This is only a temporary state of affairs. They have to do this otherwise many of them would simply give up. In view of the fact that they also hold that truth is tested in practice, they have been forced to conclude that one or more of (a), (b) and (c) is correct.

 

However, because dialectics teaches that appearances are "contradicted" by underlying "essences", it is able to fulfil a unique and highly specific role in this regard, motivating or rationalising (a), (b) and/or (c). In this way, it provides comrades with much needed consolation in the face of 'apparent' failure, convincing them that everything is fine with the core theory -- or, perhaps, that things will change for the better, one day. This then 'allows' them to ignore the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism, rationalising it as a mere "appearance", and hence either false or illusory.

 

So, faced with 150 years of set-backs, defeats and disasters, revolutionaries, who will also, in all seriousness, inform any who will listen that "truth is tested in practice", will then respond in the very next breath with: "Well, that doesn't prove dialectics is wrong!"

 

Hence, just like the religious -- who seem able to look at all the evil in the world and still see it somehow as an expression of the 'Love of God', and who will make all things well in the end -- dialecticians will survey the last 150 years and still see the 'Logic of History' moving their way, and then infer that all will be well in the end, too. This means that the theory that prevents them from facing reality is the very same theory that also prevents them from examining the role that DM has played in all this, inviting yet another generation of set-backs and disasters by masking these unwelcome facts.

 

Apparently, therefore, the only two things in the entire universe that aren't interconnected are the long term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory!

 

[This theme is developed below, and in Essay Ten Part One (where the usual objections to the above allegations are neutralised).]1c

 

Third: Just like the Bible, which supplies its acolytes with ample reasons to accuse others of not 'understanding the Word of God', DM, with its own 'sacred texts' beloved of the 'orthodox', also provides dialecticians with an obscure theory that 'allows' them to claim that other, rival DM-theorists do not 'understand' dialectics -- or that they ignore/misuse it --, and that only they, the 'bearers of the flame', are capable of grasping its inner meaning. This then 'enables' them to anathematise and castigate these others as anti-Marxist. In short, it puts in the hands of inveterate sectarians (of which Marxism has had more than its fair share) an almost infinitely pliable, ideological weapon that is capable of proving anything at all and its opposite (often this trick is performed by the very same theorist, in the same article or speech), simply because it glories in contradiction.

 

[Again, scores of examples (and that is no exaggeration!) of the above are given below.]

 

Fourth: It provides dialecticians with an exclusivising device that sets them above the 'common herd' -- or, indeed, those who are lost in the banalities of 'commonsense' and the cloying mists of 'formal thinking'; this now 'confirms' them in their self-appointed role and pre-eminent status in the class war. In short, DM is the ideology of substitutionist elements within Marxism.

 

[This was discussed in more detail in Part One.]

 

In addition, the above phenomena have the untoward effect of rendering such comrades studiously arrogant, which further motivates them into treating others in the movement (often those in the same party!) with haughty contempt, condescending indifference, even callous inhumanity. After all, if you are sole bearers of 'the word delivered from off the mountain top', that makes you special, superior to the 'rank-and-file' -- which means that anyone who disagrees with you deserves ostracism and expulsion, at best, imprisonment or death, at worst.

 

[These serious allegations will be substantiated throughout the rest of this Essay.]

 

 

Crude Reductionism?   

 

[The question whether the above analysis is an example of 'crude reductionism' is taken up again in even more detail, below.]

 

Despite this, it might still be wondered how this relates to anything that is even remotely relevant to the ideas entertained by hard-headed revolutionary atheists. Surely, it could be argued, any attempt to trace a commitment to DM to its origin in allegedly alienated thought-forms is both a reductionist and an Idealist error.

 

Fortunately, Lenin himself supplied a materialist answer to this apparent conundrum, and John Rees kindly outlined it for us when he depicted the period of demoralisation following upon the failed 1905 Russian revolution, in the following terms:

 

"[T]he defeat of the 1905 revolution, like all such defeats, carried confusion and demoralisation into the ranks of the revolutionaries…. The forward rush of the revolution had helped unite the leadership…on strategic questions and so…intellectual differences could be left to private disagreement. But when defeat magnifies every tactical disagreement, forcing revolutionaries to derive fresh strategies from a re-examination of the fundamentals of Marxism, theoretical differences were bound to become important. As Tony Cliff explains:

 

'With politics apparently failing to overcome the horrors of the Tsarist regime, escape into the realm of philosophical speculation became the fashion….'

 

"Philosophical fashion took a subjectivist, personal, and sometimes religious turn…. Bogdanov drew inspiration from the theories of physicist Ernst Mach and philosopher Richard Avenarius…. [Mach retreated] from Kant's ambiguous idealism to the pure idealism of Berkeley and Hume….

 

"It was indeed Mach and Bogdanov's 'ignorance of dialectics' that allowed them to 'slip into idealism.' Lenin was right to highlight the link between Bogdanov's adoption of idealism and his failure to react correctly to the downturn in the level of the struggle in Russia." [Rees (1998), pp.173-79, quoting Cliff (1975), p.290. Bold emphases and links added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. (However, I can find no reference to "dialectics" in Cliff's book.)]

 

Cliff continues:

 

"With politics apparently failing to overcome the horrors of the Tsarist regime, escape into the realm of philosophical speculation became the fashion. And in the absence of any contact with a real mass movement, everything had to be proved from scratch -- nothing in the traditions of the movement, none of its fundamentals, was immune from constant questioning.

 

"...In this discussion Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Bazarov and others tried to combine marxism with the neo-Kantian theory of knowledge put forward by Ernst Mach, and Richard Avenarius. Lunacharsky went as far as to speak openly in favour of fideism. Lunacharsky used religious metaphors, speaking about 'God-seeking' and 'God-building'. Gorky was influenced by Bogdanov and Lunacharsky....

 

"Lenin's reaction was very sharp indeed. He wrote to Gorky, 'The Catholic priest corrupting young girls...is much less dangerous precisely to "democracy" than a priest without his robes, a priest without crude religion, an ideologically equipped and democratic priest preaching the creation and invention of a god.'" [Cliff (1975), pp.290-91. Bold emphases and links added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

It is quite clear from this that the experience of defeat (and the lack of a significant materialist input from a mass working-class movement) re-directed the attention of certain revolutionaries toward Idealism and the search to find mystical explanations for the serious set-backs Russian Marxists had witnessed in and around 1905.

 

Plainly, this search provided these comrades with some form of consolation -- just as Marx had alleged of religious belief pure and simple, and as Lenin himself implied.

 

But, there is another outcome that Rees and others have failed to notice: this major set-back turned Lenin toward philosophy and dialectics. These were subjects he had largely ignored up until then.2 While it is true that Bogdanov and the rest turned to Mach, Berkeley, Subjective Idealism, and other assorted irrationalisms, it is equally clear that Lenin, too, looked to Hegel and Hermetic Mysticism.

 

Nevertheless, Lenin's warning shows that revolutionaries themselves aren't immune from the pressures that lead human beings in general to seek consolation in order to counteract disappointment, demoralisation and alienation. As we have seen, Lenin was well aware that alien-class ideas, which 'satisfy' such needs, could enter the revolutionary movement from the "outside" at such times.

 

Much more profound disappointments confronted Lenin a few years later when WW1 broke out. Kevin Anderson takes up the story (without perhaps appreciating its significance):

 

"The outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 shattered European liberals' belief in peaceful evolutionary progress. To Marxists, however, most of whom already believed that capitalism was a violent and warlike system, an equally great shock occurred when, yielding to the pressure of domestic patriotic sentiment, most of the world's socialist parties, including the largest and most important one, the German Social Democracy, came out in support of the war policies of their respective governments.... So great was the shock to Lenin that when he saw a German newspaper report on the German Social Democracy's vote to support the war, he initially thought that it was a forgery by the Prussian military for propaganda purposes....

 

"Once he arrived in Bern, Lenin moved quickly in two seemingly contradictory directions: (1) he spent long weeks in the library engaged in daily study of Hegel's writings, especially the Science of Logic, writing hundreds of pages of notes on Hegel, and (2)...he moved toward revolutionary defeatism...." [Anderson (1995), p.3. Bold emphasis alone added. See also Krupskaya's remarks, here.]2a

 

Just as Christians often turn to the Bible in times of stress or depression, so Lenin turned to the writings of that Christian Mystic, Hegel. Disappointed with the course of events in this capitalist "vale of tears", Lenin turned toward a source of quasi-religious consolation, away from the material world of woes, and toward a hidden world governed by an assortment of invisible beings -- 'abstractions' and, of course, 'Being' itself -- and a set of mysterious forces comprising the DM-trinity: 'contradiction', 'sublation', 'mediation'.

 

Is it possible, then, that revolutionaries of the calibre of Engels, Lenin, Luxembourg, Plekhanov and Trotsky were tempted into seeking metaphysical consolation of the sort depicted not only in this Essay, but attributed to others by Lenin himself? Is it conceivable that they opened themselves up to the alien-class ideas that later found expression in DM, and for such reasons?

 

As we have seen in other Essays posted at this site (especially Essays Three Parts One and Two, Twelve Part One, the rest of Twelve, and Fourteen Part One (summaries here and here)), and as Lenin himself acknowledged, dialectics is shot-through with ideas, concepts and thought-forms imported from Traditional Philosophy (which ideas, concepts and thought-forms were in turn invented by theorists who, undeniably, had material and ideological interests in rationalising the status quo). Indeed, in many places it is hard to tell the difference between DM and open and honest Mysticism (as Essay Fourteen Part One will demonstrate, when it is published -- until then, check this and this out).

 

All this more than merely suggests that the above allegations aren't completely wide-of-the-mark.

 

On the contrary, as we will see, they hit the bull's eye smack in the middle.

 

But, is there anything in the class origin and class background of leading comrades that pre-disposed them toward such an unwitting adoption of this rarefied form of boss-class ideology?

 

Does defeat automatically lead to dialectics?

 

Should DM in fact stand for Demoralised Marxists?

 

 

The Dialectics Of Defeat

 

The first of these questions can be answered relatively easily by focussing on item Four above, and then on the periods in which revolutionaries invented, sought out, or reverted in a big way to using, or appealing to, classical concepts found in DM. Upon examination, a reasonably clear correlation can be seen between periods of downturn in the struggle and subsequent 're-discoveries' of Hegel and DM by aspiring dialecticians -- with the opposite tendency kicking in, in more successful times.3

 

As Rees pointed out:

 

"...[D]efeat magnifies every tactical disagreement, forcing revolutionaries to derive fresh strategies from a re-examination of the fundamentals of Marxism.... Lenin was right to highlight the link between Bogdanov's adoption of idealism and his failure to react correctly to the downturn in the level of the struggle in Russia." [Rees (1998), pp.173-79.]

 

It is no surprise, therefore, to find that most (if not all) of Engels's work on the foundations of DM was written in the post 1860s downturn -- after the massive struggles for the vote in the UK, up to the Reform Act of 1867, following on the demise of the Chartist Movement and after the Paris Commune had been defeated in 1871.4

 

Similarly, Lenin's philosophical/dialectical writings were largely confined to the period after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution, and before the short-lived successes of 1917.

 

Trotsky's dialectical commentaries (including his Notebooks and his wrangles with Burnham) date largely from the 1930s, after the major reverses that took place in the post 1917-1926 period in Europe and internationally in China, then subsequently in Spain, following upon his own isolation and political quarantine later in that decade. He had shown very little interest in such matters before then.5

 

Indeed, Trotsky admitted as much in his 1935 Diary:

 

"It's been about two weeks since I have written much of anything: it's too difficult. I read newspapers. French novels. Wittel's book about Freud (a bad book by an envious pupil), etc. Today I wrote a little about the interrelationship between the physiological determinism of brain processes and the 'autonomy' of thought, which is subject to the laws of logic. My philosophical interests have been growing during the last few years, but alas, my knowledge is too insufficient, and too little time remains for a big and serious work...." [Trotsky (1958), p.109. Bold emphasis added.]

 

As should seem obvious from the above: (i) Trotsky's interest in philosophy coincided with the period of his political quarantine, and (ii) He admits he had paid little attention to it before.

 

Stalin, too, only became obsessed with dialectics after the defeat of the Deborinites post-1929, and after the failure of the Chinese and German revolutions (although he had written about this theory in 1901). Likewise, Mao himself 'discovered' a fondness for this Hermetic creed after the crushing defeats of the mid-1920s.6

 

More recently, the obsessive devotion shown by OTs toward the minutiae of DM follows a similar pattern. Because (a) OTs invariably adopt a catastrophist view of everything that happens (or is ever likely to happen) in capitalist society, and (b) OT parties are constantly splitting, hence they face semi-permanent disappointment and demoralisation. Naturally, relentless disillusion requires regular, massive doses of highly potent DM-opiates. To take just one example: an OT of the stature of Ted Grant (along with Alan Woods) only 're-discovered' hardcore DM after his party had booted him out, which expulsion itself followed upon the catastrophic collapse of the Militant Tendency in the late 1980s, this turn to mystical forms of consolation materialising in the shape of that ill-advised and badly researched book, RIRE.7

 

[OT = Orthodox Trotskyist; NOT = Non-Orthodox Trotskyist; RIRE = Reason In Revolt, i.e., Woods and Grant (1995/2007).]

 

This regressive doctrine doesn't just afflict OTs, NOTs show similar but less chronic signs of dialectical debilitation.

 

For example, the overt use of DM-concepts by leading figures in the UK-SWP (a NOT-style party) only began in earnest after the downturn in the class struggle in the late 1970s, and more specifically following upon the defeat of the National Union of Miners in 1985. In this respect, therefore, TAR itself represents perhaps the high-water mark of this latest retreat into consolation by UK-SWP theorists. [This was written before Rees resigned from the SWP!] The fact that this newfound interest in DM has nothing to do with theoretical innovation (and everything to do with repetition, consolation and reassurance) can be seen from the additional fact that TAR adds nothing new to the debate (about 'dialectics'), it merely repeats significant parts of it, albeit from a different perspective -- for the gazillionth time. So much for re-examining basics!8

 

[I have added much more detail about the UK-SWP's turn to mysticism to Note 8.]

 

Given the overwhelming experience of defeat, debacle, disaster, and retreat that the international labour movement and the revolutionary tradition have together endured over the last 150 years, these correlations are quite striking (even if they aren't the least bit surprising) -- for all that no one seems to have noticed them before!9

 

 

Dialectical Myopia

 

If the movement has known little other than defeat, then it becomes vitally important for revolutionaries to account for, re-interpret and then re-configure their view of this depressing state-of-affairs.

 

[IO = Identity of Opposites; NON = Negation of the Negation; OT = Orthodox Trotskyist; NOT = Non-OT.]

 

Among Maoists, Stalinists and Trotskyists (OTs and NOTs alike) this tactic has often assumed a thoroughly dishonest form, which has frequently sought to re-classify defeats as hidden victories (involving a novel use of the IO-dodge, and a quasi-religious use of the NON-ploy; examples of both of these are given below). Clearly, this has permitted factors other than the theoretical failings of the parties involved to be blamed for the setbacks our side has faced.

 

As should seem obvious, a movement can't learn from its mistakes if none are ever made -- or, rather, Dialectical Marxists never admit to making any! Indeed, it looks like DM-theorists are the only life-form in the known universe that not only does not, but can't learn from recalcitrant reality. As we will see, the NON and the belief that appearances 'contradict' underlying "essences" stands in the way of them emulating the rest of sentient life on the planet, learning from past mistakes.9a

 

Even single-celled Amoebae seem to learn quicker than dialecticians!

 

 

 

Figure One: A Non-Dialectical Fast Learner

 

Despite frequent claims to the contrary, the aforementioned dialectical-dodges mean that significant parts of our movement have engaged in the deliberate rotation of material reality so that their (in)version of Hegelian Idealism can remain on its feet. Instead of flipping Hegel, material reality has been up-ended in order to conform with a set of doctrinaire ideas held about it.

 

Hard-headed revolutionaries have thus spun reality through 180 degrees, stuck their own theoretical feet in the air, inserted their collective head in the sand, and have proclaimed -- despite the fact that virtually every aspect of revolutionary practice has failed for much of the last hundred years, and in the face of the grim realisation that the overwhelming majority of workers ignore DM, and have done so for many generations -- that Dialectical Marxism has been tested successfully in practice and now represents the objective "world view" of the proletariat!10

 

 

The Dialectical Mantra

 

Theoretical inversion like this has unsurprisingly prompted a headlong retreat into fantasy, of the type noted in the last sub-section. Such flights-of-fancy have been reinforced by the profound narcolepsy induced in comrades by the constant repetition of the same tired old formulae, obscure jargon, and hackneyed phrases. A simple but effective Dialectical Mantra, internalised and regurgitated by all serious adepts -- which boasts such hardy perennials as the dogma that Capitalism is riddled with 'contradictions', even though not one of those who intone this shibboleth seems able to say why these are indeed contradictions (on that, see here, and here, in the comments section at the bottom -- unfortunately, the comments sections has now vanished!) has helped insulate them from material reality. In the DM tradition-dominated and Ideally-constructed world annoying facts are simply ignored -- or they are flipped upside down. 'Post-truth' isn't a recent phenomenon; DM-fans have been promoting it for over a century.

 

Anyone who doubts this should try the following experiment: chose any randomly-selected, dialectically-distracted comrade and attempt to persuade them to acknowledge the long-term failure of their own brand of Dialectical Marxism (that is, if it has been around long enough!). Unless you are extremely unlucky, you will soon discover how deep this particular head has been inserted into the nearest sand dune.

 

[On the excuses usually given for the failure of Dialectical Marxism (that is, where failure is even so much as acknowledged!), see Essay Ten Part One.]

 

To that end, boilerplate phrases will be dusted-off and given another airing almost as if they were still in mint condition. Even a cursory glance at the debates that have taken place over the last five revolutionary generations will reveal the sad spectacle of theorists mouthing dialectical slogans at one another as if those on the receiving end hadn't heard them a thousand times already, and those chanting them hadn't intoned them just as often.11

 

This helps explain why we still encounter (in DM-books and articles) the constant rehearsal of the same tired old examples: boiling water, balding heads, John and his alleged manhood, Mendeleyev's Table, wave/particle duality, 'contradictory' motion, "A is equal to A", a character from Molière who has spoken "prose all his life without knowing it", "Yea, Yea" and "Nay Nay", seeds that appear to 'negate' plants -- and vice versa -- living/dying cells, Mamelukes who have a somewhat ambiguous fighting record against the French, etc., etc. -- despite it having been pointed out many times (and not just in these Essays) that none of these specially-selected examples actually work, or, indeed, actually 'illustrate' the 'laws of dialectics'.

 

 

Reality 'Contradicts Appearances'

 

Alongside this there has emerged a correspondingly robust refusal to face up to reality. In my experience, this ostrich-like characteristic is found most glaringly among OTs -- perhaps because Trotskyism is by far and away the most unsuccessful and fragmentary wing of mainstream Dialectical Marxism --, but this malady is also represented to varying degrees throughout the rest of the revolutionary and communist movement, with MISTs perhaps winning a Silver Medal in this event.12

 

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

 

As already noted, a good example of this is the knee-jerk quotation of the phrase "tested in practice" in support of the supposed (but imaginary) universal validity of DM. Even though reality tells a different story, we regularly encounter the following 'whistling in the dark' type of argument:

 

"There is no final, faultless, criterion for truth which hovers, like god, outside the historical process. Neither is there any privileged scientific method which is not shaped by the contours of the society of which it is a part. All that exists are some theories which are less internally contradictory and have a greater explanatory power…. [I]f the truth is the totality, then it is the totality of working class experience, internationally and historically which gives access to the truth…. [A theory's] validity must be proven by its superior explanatory power -- [which means it is] more internally coherent, more widely applicable, capable of greater empirical verification -- in comparison with its competitors. Indeed, this is a condition of it entering the chain of historical forces as an effective power. It is a condition of it being 'proved in practice.' If it is not superior to other theories in this sense, it will not 'seize the masses,' will not become a material force, will not be realized in practice." [Rees (1998), pp.235-37.]

 

[There is more of this sort of material here.]

 

However, Dialectical Marxism -- never mind Dialectical Trotskyism -- has never actually "seized the masses"; except perhaps briefly in Germany, Italy and France, it has never even got close to lightly hugging them (not even in Russia, in 1917!). But this isn't allowed to rain on the parade or interrupt the reverie. So, this inconvenient aspect of reality is simply inverted and the opposite idea is left standing on its feet (as the above passage confirms), or, alternatively, it is simply ignored.

 

Failing that, of course, the happy day when DM finally manages to captivate the masses is projected way off into the future where it becomes a safe 'fact', insulated from easy refutation.

 

Of course, beyond blaming the mass of the population for their own failure to appreciate this wondrous theory -- a rhetorical tactic beloved, for example, of Stalinists and Maoists, who tell us they need a 'Great Teacher' to set them straight --, few DM-fans have ever paused to wonder why the overwhelming majority of workers/human beings stubbornly remain locked in 'un-seized' mode so deep in the sand is this collective, Hegelianised brain now wedged.

 

Since DM is regarded as the very epitome of scientific knowledge (a veritable "Algebra of Revolution", if you will), the fault can't lie with this theory (perish the thought!), so the 'problem' must be located elsewhere. The 'solution' is, apparently, staring us in the face: why, the masses are to blame! They are gripped by "false consciousness", trapped in a world dominated by "formal thinking". "Static" language and "fixed categories" dominate their lives, this sorry state of affairs further compounded by the "banalities of commonsense". Indeed, they have been seduced by "commodity fetishism", or have been bought off by imperialist "super-profits".

 

Material reality is once more inverted so that a comforting idea is allowed to remain on its feet. A vanishingly small fraction of humanity have seen the light; the vast majority of working people are lost in stygian gloom --, this peremptory verdict itself justified by a theory that not one of its acolytes can actually explain!

 

Such is deleterious effect on Dialectical Marxists of a diet rich in Silicates.

 

 

 

Figure Two: The DM-Guide To Clarity-Of-Thought,

A High Silicate Diet

 

Naturally, this means that dialectics must be brought to the masses "from the outside", whether they like it or not. Up to present, however, the signs are that this has been a clear and consistent "Not!"

 

But, the conclusion is never drawn -- it doesn't even make onto the edge of the radar screen -- that workers will never accept a theory that clashes with their materially-, and socially-grounded language, and which is counter to their understanding and experience -- or which, because of this, isn't even a materialist theory!

 

It could be countered that in a revolutionary situation, daily experience and commonsense aren't sure and safe guides to action. Hence, a revolutionary party needs a theory that transcends the immediate, and which has been tested in practice.

 

And yet, HM has provided, and still provides us with just such a theory. Even better: its concepts clash neither with the vernacular nor with common understanding. Quite the contrary, as we saw in Part One of this Essay, HM actually depends on both!

 

On the other hand, with respect to concepts drawn from DM, the proffered rejoinder in the last but one paragraph is as misguided as it can be. As Part One of this Essay has also shown, not one single thesis drawn from DM relates to anything a human being, let alone a worker, or even a Marxist, could experience. In that case, it can't be an expression of the party's practice; nor can it be, or have been, tested in practice (as we will see). Moreover, as Essays Twelve Part One, and subsequent Parts of Essay Twelve (summary here) and Fourteen Part One (summary here) show, DM is based on concepts derived from over two millennia of boss-class ideology.

 

Small wonder then that DM fails to mesh with material reality, and hence that it can't be used to help change it.

 

Nor, it seems, has anyone even considered the effect that DM has had on the standing of revolutionaries in the eyes of ordinary workers, or on their respect for Marxism, whose parties are now widely regarded as little more than a standing joke, comprised of nothing but warring sects dominated by obscure and irrelevant ideas.

 

 

 

Video One: The First Anti-Dialectical Joke in History?

 

Still less thought has gone into the extent to which this 'theory' (with its egregious logic) has only succeeded in undermining the reputation of HM as a science, just as precious little attention has been paid to the fatally-compromised credibility of anyone who accepts DM.

 

Well, would you listen to, or even respect, the opinions of someone who accepts the theoretical equivalent of Astrology?

 

However, as noted in the Introduction, revolutionaries are unlikely to abandon DM in spite of the noxious effect it has had on their own thought, let aloe their own movement --, or even in the face of the steady blows that yours truly rains down upon it.

 

Whether or not DM actually spells the Death of Marxism is obviously of no concern to those held in its thrall, which is why many who might have made it this far will reject much of what this Essay says, and will read no further.

 

This is hardly surprising: it is difficult to see clearly with your head stuck in what is perhaps the metaphorical equivalent of the Gobi Desert.

 

 

The Opiate Of The Party

 

Method -- Or Methadone?

 

It has been maintained here that DM appeals to, and hence satisfies, the contingent psychological needs of certain sections of the revolutionary movement, comrades who, because of their class origin, class position, their socialisation, and response to the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism, cling to DM in a way that makes a drowning man look positively indifferent toward any straws that might randomly drift his way.

 

[Any who doubt this should try 'debating' with comrades who are in thrall to this theory. (On that, see here.)]

 

As noted earlier, that is because dialectics offers consolation analogous to the comfort and reassurance that religious dogma supplies its believers; that is, while DM provides its acolytes with solace in the face of dashed hopes and unrealised expectations, it also supplies them with a psychological defence mechanism against the acid of disillusion by re-configuring each defeat as its opposite.

 

For example, in relation to the recent crisis in the UK-SWP, this is what Mark Steel had to say:

 

"SWP members who have taken a stand on the current issue seem bewildered as to why their leaders behave in this illogical way. But the reason may be that the debate isn't really about the allegations, or attitudes towards feminism, it's about accepting that you do as you're told, that the party is under attack at all times so you defend the leaders no matter what, that if the party's pronouncement doesn't match reality, it must be reality that's wrong. Dissent on an issue and your crime is not to be wrong about the issue, it's that you dissented at all." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

As we will see, DM plays a key role in this regard, since it teaches that reality contradicts the way the world only appears to be.

 

This is worryingly similar to the way that theists manage to persuade themselves that, despite appearances to the contrary, death, disease and suffering are not only beneficial, they actually confirm 'the goodness of God'! Both clearly provide believers with a convenient excuse for refusing to face the facts.13

 

In other words, DM is the "opiate" of the Party, the heart of a seemingly hopeless cause.13a00

 

For those Dialectical Marxists who live in a theoretical world divorced from the day-to-day life and struggles of ordinary workers -- i.e., for professional revolutionaries who aren't employed in the world of work alongside workers --, HM plainly isn't fundamental enough. In fact, these individuals -- who, for whatever reason, are cut-off from the world of collective labour -- clearly require their own distinctive world-view, expressed in and by a theory that has itself been abstracted (cut-off) from the world of 'appearances', and thus from material reality itself.

 

This 'world-view' must incorporate a theory that adequately represents the (now) alienated experience of these erstwhile 'radicals'; it must not only be divorced from ordinary language and common experience, it must be distanced from working class experience and hence from genuinely materialist forms-of-thought. In addition, it must help rationalise, justify, and underline the pre-eminent organisational and theoretical position DM-theorists have arrogated to themselves -- that is, it must ratify their status as 'leaders of the movement and the class'.

 

To that end, it must be a theory that only they are capable of "understanding".

 

Even then, they must be able to employ this theory to 'prove' that members of other Marxist groups either (i) Don't "understand" dialectics or (ii) They misuse or distort it. [On that, see below.]

 

What better theory to fit the bill than one that is based on an incomprehensible set of ideas Hegel concocted in the comfort of his own head (upside down or 'the right way up')?

 

DM is thus beyond workers' experience (indeed, anyone's experience) -- not by accident -- but because it is meant to be this way.13a0

 

Naturally, this not only renders DM immune from refutation, it also transforms it into an ideal intellectual device for getting things the wrong way round (or, indeed, upside down). It is thus an ideal tool for keeping 'reality' Ideal. All the while, this 'theory' helps insulate militant minds from the defeats and setbacks revolutionaries constantly face -- just as it inures them to the dire consequences of the theory itself.

 

DM isn't just the opiate of the party, it expresses the very soul of professional revolutionaries. Abstracted not just from the class, but also from humanity itself, this faction within the labour movement naturally finds abstraction conducive (a) to the way it sees the natural and social world, and (b) to the way it views the working class itself -- that is, as an abstract object of theory, not the subject of history.

 

[This also helps explain why Engels and other DM-theorists regard matter as an "abstraction".]

 

Moreover, it also exposes the motivating factors that underpin the belief that DM is the "world-view" of the proletariat -- plainly, those proletarians aren't real workers, they are members of an abstract class of 'workers' kept at arms length by a set of dogmas only the terminally naive or the psychologically challenged among them would swallow!13a01

 

Of course, this also accounts for DM's long-term lack of impact on workers themselves.

 

 

The Indoctrination And 'Conversion' Of Marxist Dialecticians

 

"Professional Revolutionaries"

 

It is important to point out that the ideas I am about to rehearse in this sub-section:

 

A) Bear no relation to those advanced by the anarchist, Jan Machajski. I am not arguing that 'intellectuals' are at every level automatic and implacable enemies of the working class -- or even that workers are only interested in the economic struggle with their bosses -- just that 'intellectuals' (of themselves) can no more escape the class forces that shaped them than workers can. [On this, see also Note 3, where I attempt to supply some of the theoretical background. On Machajski, see here (second section).]

 

B) Share nothing with the myth invented and propagated by 'Leninologists', summed up by Hal Draper:

 

"According to the myth, endlessly repeated from book to book, Lenin's 'concept of the party':

 

"(1) saw the party as consisting mainly of 'intellectuals,' on the basis of a theory according to which workers cannot themselves develop to socialist consciousness; rather, the socialist idea is always and inevitably imported into the movement by bourgeois intellectuals;

 

"(2) posited that the party is simply a band of 'professional revolutionaries' as distinct from a broad working-class party;

 

"(3) repudiated any element of spontaneity or spontaneous movement, in favour of engineered revolution only;

 

"(4) required that the party be organized not democratically but as a bureaucratic or semi-military hierarchy." [Draper (1999), pp.187-88. Formatting adjusted to agree with the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling modified to agree with UK English.]

 

My case (summarised) is as follows:

 

1) The party should ideally consist of socialist workers and 'intellectuals' (as well as others less easy to categorise separately). However, 'intellectuals' (petty-bourgeois and déclassé) have not only shaped our core ideas, they have led the movement for over a century. In and of itself this isn't a problem. What is problematic is their importation of ruling-class ideas into the movement; non-working class 'intellectuals' have imported into Marxism ideas derived from the very worst forms of Christian and Hermetic Mysticism.

 

Workers themselves can and have formed socialist ideas. However, as we have seen throughout this site, DM has nothing to do with socialist theory, so the admission that workers can form such ideas doesn't imply they can or have formed ideas unique to DM. [This was covered in detail in Part One.]

 

2) There are "professional revolutionaries" in the party -- but, as Draper notes:

 

"It can easily be shown, from Lenin's copious discussions of the professional revolutionary for years after WITBD [i.e., Lenin (1947)], that to Lenin the term meant this: a party activist who devoted most (preferably all) of his spare time to revolutionary work. [Draper (1999), p.193. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

However, it is also clear that a layer in the above class of "professionals" is also composed of "full-timers", "party functionaries", and petty-bourgeois or de-classé 'intellectuals'. Draper was concerned to repudiate the myth that the party was formed only of 'intellectuals', full-timers and functionaries. Of course, these three groups can and do overlap.

 

"The point of defining a professional revolutionary as a full-timer, a functionary, is to fake the conclusion, or 'deduction': only non-workers can make up the party elite, hence only intellectuals (sic). This conclusion is an invention of the Leninologists, based on nothing in Lenin." [Ibid., p.193. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[Point (3) above lies beyond the scope of this Essay; (4) will be discussed throughout this Essay.]

 

 

The Role Of The Individual In History -- Pawns Or Agents?

 

The mind-set mentioned in the previous main section is intimately connected with (i) The way that prominent revolutionaries -- or those who have shaped Marxist theory -- were socialised in, or by, bourgeois society long before they had even heard of Marxism, and (ii) How the latter affects their subsequent theoretical, political, and organisational development. The rest of this Essay will expand on each of these issues.13a1

 

However, this topic introduces difficult questions about the role of the individual in revolutionary activity, and hence by implication, the role of the individual in history. In turn, this raises further questions connected with the age-old conundrum concerning the relation between 'free will' and 'determinism'. [I will say much more about that controversial topic in Essay Three Part Five. Until that Essay is published readers are directed here and here for more details.]

 

Given the constraints imposed on every human being by their class position, Dialectical Marxists have struggled to explain how individuals, as individuals, can have an impact on the class war -- or at least an impact that doesn't imply they are merely automatons totally in thrall to social and economic forces. Plainly, that is because they have largely accepted the parameters of discourse laid down by Traditional Philosophers, an error of judgement seriously compounded by the importation of obscure jargon into Marxism that has only succeeded in further clouding the issue. Small wonder then that they have found it difficult to account for 'free will' in the face of the sort of 'rigid determinism' posited everywhere else by their own theory. As is the case with other 'problems' thrown up by DM, this conundrum was 'solved' by throwing the word "dialectical" at it, as if that term were a magic formula of some sort.

 

Here is a classic example of the genre from Engels himself:

 

"Another opposition in which metaphysics is entangled is that of chance and necessity. What can be more sharply contradictory than these two thought determinations? How is it possible that both are identical, that the accidental is necessary, and the necessary is also accidental? Common sense, and with it the majority of natural scientists, treats necessity and chance as determinations that exclude each other once for all. A thing, a circumstance, a process is either accidental or necessary, but not both. Hence both exist side by side in nature; nature contains all sorts of objects and processes, of which some are accidental, the others necessary, and it is only a matter of not confusing the two sorts with each other.... And then it is declared that the necessary is the sole thing of scientific interest and that the accidental is a matter of indifference to science. That is to say: what can be brought under laws, hence what one knows, is interesting; what cannot be brought under laws, and therefore what one does not know, is a matter of indifference and can be ignored.... That is to say: what can be brought under general laws is regarded as necessary, and what cannot be so brought as accidental. Anyone can see that this is the same sort of science as that which proclaims natural what it can explain, and ascribes what it cannot explain to supernatural causes; whether I term the cause of the inexplicable chance, or whether I term it God, is a matter of complete indifference as far as the thing itself is concerned. Both are only equivalents for: I do not know, and therefore do not belong to science. The latter ceases where the requisite connection is wanting.

 

"In opposition to this view there is determinism, which passed from French materialism into natural science, and which tries to dispose of chance by denying it altogether. According to this conception only simple, direct necessity prevails in nature.... [T]hese are all facts which have been produced by an irrevocable concatenation of cause and effect, by an unshatterable necessity.... With this kind of necessity we likewise do not get away from the theological conception of nature. Whether with Augustine and Calvin we call it the eternal decree of God, or Kismet [Destiny -- RL] as the Turks do, or whether we call it necessity, is all pretty much the same for science. There is no question of tracing the chain of causation in any of these cases; so we are just as wise in one as in another, the so-called necessity remains an empty phrase, and with it -- chance also remains -- what it was before....

 

"Hence chance is not here explained by necessity, but rather necessity is degraded to the production of what is merely accidental. If the fact that a particular pea-pod contains six peas, and not five or seven, is of the same order as the law of motion of the solar system, or the law of the transformation of energy, then as a matter of fact chance is not elevated into necessity, but rather necessity degraded into chance....

 

"In contrast to both conceptions, Hegel came forward with the hitherto quite unheard-of propositions that the accidental has a cause because it is accidental, and just as much also has no cause because it is accidental; that the accidental is necessary, that necessity determines itself as chance, and, on the other hand, this chance is rather absolute necessity. (Logik, II, Book III, 2: Reality.) Natural science has simply ignored these propositions as paradoxical trifling, as self-contradictory nonsense, and, as regards theory, has persisted on the one hand in the barrenness of thought of Wolffian metaphysics, according to which a thing is either accidental or necessary, but not both at once; or, on the other hand, in the hardly less thoughtless mechanical determinism which in words denies chance in general only to recognise it in practice in each particular case....

 

"The previous idea of necessity breaks down. To retain it means dictatorially to impose on nature as a law a human arbitrary determination that is in contradiction to itself and to reality, it means to deny thereby all inner necessity in living nature, it means generally to proclaim the chaotic kingdom of chance to be the sole law of living nature....

 

"The evolution of a concept, or of a conceptual relation (positive and negative, cause and effect, substance and accidency) in the history of thought, is related to its development in the mind of the individual dialectician, just as the evolution of an organism in palaeontology is related to its development in embryology (or rather in history and in the single embryo). That this is so was first discovered for concepts by Hegel. In historical development, chance plays its part, which in dialectical thinking, as in the development of the embryo, is summed up in necessity." [Engels (1954), pp.217-22. Italic emphasis in the original. Bold emphases and links added. Four minor typos corrected. (I have informed the editors over at the Marxist Internet Archive). On this, see also below.]

 

How this settles the issue Engels neglected to tell his readers. Merely reminding us that Hegel said this or that is no solution if what the latter dogmatically asserted is even more obscure than the 'problem' it was meant to solve. So, it was a bit rich of Engels adding this comment:

 

"Anyone can see that this is the same sort of science as that which proclaims natural what it can explain, and ascribes what it cannot explain to supernatural causes; whether I term the cause of the inexplicable chance, or whether I term it God, is a matter of complete indifference as far as the thing itself is concerned." [Ibid.]

 

Translated, this pans out as:

 

What Engels can't actually explain can safely be ascribed to 'dialectical causes'; whether he calls this explanation "supernatural" or "dialectical" is "a matter of complete indifference as far as the thing itself is concerned."

 

Different wording, same implication: both remain a total mystery.

 

Engels added the following thoughts (to AD):

 

"This second definition of freedom [proposed by Dühring -- RL], which quite unceremoniously gives a knock-out blow to the first one, is again nothing but an extreme vulgarisation of the Hegelian conception. Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him, freedom is the insight into necessity

 

'Necessity is blind only in so far as it is not understood.' [Engels is here quoting Hegel (1975), p.209, §147 -- RL.]

 

"Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. This holds good in relation both to the laws of external nature and to those which govern the bodily and mental existence of men themselves -- two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality. Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject. Therefore the freer a man's judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined; while the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that it is controlled by the very object it should itself control. Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development. The first men who separated themselves from the animal kingdom were in all essentials as unfree as the animals themselves, but each step forward in the field of culture was a step towards freedom." [Engels (1976), p.144. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

But, how do dialecticians respond to the counter-argument that human decisions are also 'determined' by events in the CNS? How is it possible to isolate the human will from the 'deterministic' course of nature? As we will see in Essay Thirteen Part Three, dialecticians appeal to Engels's First Law [Q«Q], and, hey presto, freedom just 'emerges' from necessity. Simple really. As we saw in the aforementioned Essay (but more specifically in Essay Seven Part One), this 'law' is far too shaky to support any conclusion much heavier than an amoeba on a crash diet.

 

Simply asserting that 'free' action is such if it is in accord with, or based on, knowledge of the "laws of external nature" is itself of little use if those actions themselves have been 'determined' by other laws about which we might be unaware. Were the aforementioned actions uncaused? If they were, then they would be unrelated to the individual concerned (as Hume pointed out over two hundred years ago -- on that, see here, Section VIII), and hence not an action of that individual -- no more than being pushed out of a tree, for example, would be his/her action, either. On the other hand, if they were caused, then they must have been 'determined' in some way, and so can't be 'free'. Throwing the word "dialectical" at the page (or screen) in no way resolves this conundrum.

 

[I hasten to add that the above comments do not represent my view, but merely underline the theoretical hurdles implied by the traditional theory DM-supporters have bought into, even if they think they have somehow solved it. My dissolution of this conundrum takes an entirely different line and presents a completely novel approach to this age-old pseudo-problem. Again, more details can be found here and here.]

 

Other dialecticians have echoed the above non-solution; here is Lenin:

 

"Engels says:

 

'Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him, freedom is the appreciation of necessity. "Necessity is blind only in so far as it is not understood." Freedom does not consist in the dream of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. This holds good in relation both to the laws of external nature and to those which govern the bodily and mental existence of men themselves -- two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but  not in reality. Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject. Therefore the freer a man's judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined.... Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity'....

 

"Firstly, Engels at the very outset of his argument recognises laws of nature, laws of external nature, the necessity of nature -- i.e., all that Mach, Avenarius, Petzoldt and Co. characterise as 'metaphysics.' If Lunacharsky had really wanted to reflect on Engels' 'wonderful' argument he could not have helped noticing the fundamental difference between the materialist theory of knowledge and agnosticism and idealism, which deny law in nature or declare it to be only 'logical,' etc., etc.

 

"Secondly, Engels does not attempt to contrive 'definitions' of freedom and necessity, the kind of scholastic definition with which the reactionary professors (like Avenarius) and their disciples (like Bogdanov) are most concerned. Engels takes the knowledge and will of man, on the one hand, and the necessity of nature, on the other, and instead of giving definitions, simply says that the necessity of nature is primary, and human will and mind secondary. The latter must necessarily and inevitably adapt themselves to the former. Engels regards this as so obvious that he does not waste words explaining his view. It needs the Russian Machians to complain of Engels' general definition of materialism (that nature is primary and mind secondary; remember Bogdanov's 'perplexity' on this point!), and at the same time to regard one of the particular applications by Engels of this general and fundamental definition as 'wonderful' and 'remarkably apt'!

 

"Thirdly, Engels does not doubt the existence of 'blind necessity.' He admits the existence of a necessity unknown to man. This is quite obvious from the passage just quoted. But how, from the standpoint of the Machians, can man know of the existence of what he does not know? Is it not 'mysticism,' 'metaphysics,' the admission of 'fetishes' and 'idols,' is it not the 'Kantian unknowable thing-in-itself' to say that we know of the existence of an unknown necessity? Had the Machians given the matter any thought they could not have failed to observe the complete identity between Engels' argument on the knowability of the objective nature of things and on the transformation of 'things-in-themselves' into 'things-for-us,' on the one hand, and his argument on a blind, unknown necessity, on the other. The development of consciousness in each human individual and the development of the collective knowledge of humanity at large presents us at every step with examples of the transformation of the unknown 'thing-in-itself' into the known 'thing-for-us,' of the transformation of blind, unknown necessity, 'necessity-in-itself,' into the known 'necessity-for-us.' Epistemologically, there is no difference whatever between these two transformations, for the basic point of view in both cases is the same, viz., materialistic, the recognition of the objective reality of the external world and of the laws of external nature, and of the fact that this world and these laws are fully knowable to man but can never be known to him with finality. We do not know the necessity of nature in the phenomena of the weather, and to that extent we are inevitably slaves of the weather. But while we do not know this necessity, we do know that it exists. Whence this knowledge? From the very source whence comes the knowledge that things exist outside our mind and independently of it, namely, from the development of our knowledge, which provides millions of examples to every individual of knowledge replacing ignorance when an object acts upon our sense-organs, and conversely of ignorance replacing knowledge when the possibility of such action is eliminated.

 

"Fourthly, in the above-mentioned argument Engels plainly employs the salto vitale [energetic somersault -- RL] method in philosophy, that is to say, he makes a leap from theory to practice. Not a single one of the learned (and stupid) professors of philosophy, in whose footsteps our Machians follow, would permit himself to make such a leap, for this would be a disgraceful thing for a devotee of 'pure science' to do. For them the theory of knowledge, which demands the cunning concoction of 'definitions,' is one thing, while practice is another. For Engels all living human practice permeates the theory of knowledge itself and provides an objective criterion of truth. For until we know a law of nature, it, existing and acting independently and outside our mind, makes us slaves of 'blind necessity.' But once we come to know this law, which acts (as Marx pointed out a thousand times (sic)) independently of our will and our mind, we become the masters of nature. The mastery of nature manifested in human practice is a result of an objectively correct reflection within the human head of the phenomena and processes of nature, and is proof of the fact that this reflection (within the limits of what is revealed by practice) is objective, absolute, and eternal truth (sic).

 

"What is the result? Every step in Engels' argument, literally almost every phrase, every proposition, is constructed entirely and exclusively upon the epistemology of dialectical materialism, upon premises which stand out in striking contrast to the Machian nonsense about bodies being complexes of sensations, about 'elements,' 'the coincidence of sense-perceptions with the reality that exists outside us,' etc., etc., etc. Without being the least deterred by this, the Machians abandon materialism and repeat (à la Berman) the vulgar banalities about dialectics, and at the same time welcome with open arms one of the applications of dialectical materialism! They have taken their philosophy from an eclectic pauper's broth and are continuing to offer this hotchpotch to the reader. They take a bit of agnosticism and a morsel of idealism from Mach, add to it slices of dialectical materialism from Marx, and call this hash a development of Marxism. They imagine that if Mach, Avenarius, Petzoldt, and all the authorities of theirs have not the slightest inkling of how Hegel and Marx solved the problem (of freedom and necessity), this is purely accidental: why, it was simply because they overlooked a certain page in a certain book, and not because these 'authorities' were and are utter ignoramuses on the subject of the real progress made by philosophy in the nineteenth century and because they were and are philosophical obscurantists." [Lenin (1972), pp.219-23. Bold emphases and links alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

And yet, just like Engels and Hegel before him, Lenin failed to explain how 'freedom' can emerge from 'necessity' -- except Lenin substitutes invective, bluster and abuse for cogent argument, providing his readers with a classic example of "philosophy practiced with a mallet". Simply asserting that a passage from Hegel or Engels solves this knotty 'problem' might work for the many true-believers Dialectical Marxism attracts to its ranks, but even they will struggle to fill in the gaps in the above 'argument' (which is, of course, why they resort to abuse almost from the get-go).

 

We have already seen (in Essay Thirteen Part One) that Lenin's theory restricts the source of his knowledge to the 'images' in his head:

 

"All knowledge comes from experience, from sensation, from perception. That is true. But the question arises, does objective reality 'belong to perception,' i.e., is it the source of perception? If you answer yes, you are a materialist. If you answer no, you are inconsistent and will inevitably arrive at subjectivism, or agnosticism, irrespective of whether you deny the knowability of the thing-in-itself, or the objectivity of time, space and causality (with Kant), or whether you do not even permit the thought of a thing-in-itself (with Hume). The inconsistency of your empiricism, of your philosophy of experience, will in that case lie in the fact that you deny the objective content of experience, the objective truth of experimental knowledge." [Lenin (1972), p.142. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"For instance, the materialist Frederick Engels -- the not unknown collaborator of Marx and a founder of Marxism -- constantly and without exception speaks in his works of things and their mental pictures or images..., and it is obvious that these mental images arise exclusively from sensations. It would seem that this fundamental standpoint of the 'philosophy of Marxism' ought to be known to everyone who speaks of it, and especially to anyone who comes out in print in the name of this philosophy.... Engels, we repeat, applies this 'only materialistic conception' everywhere and without exception, relentlessly attacking Dühring for the least deviation from materialism to idealism. Anybody who reads Anti-Dühring and Ludwig Feuerbach with the slightest care will find scores of instances when Engels speaks of things and their reflections in the human brain, in our consciousness, thought, etc. Engels does not say that sensations or ideas are 'symbols' of things, for consistent materialism must here use 'image,' picture, or reflection instead of 'symbol,' as we shall show in detail in the proper place." [Ibid., pp.32-33. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"[S]ensation is an image of the external world...." [Ibid., p.56. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Our sensation, our consciousness is only an image of the external world…." [Ibid., p.69. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"The doctrine of introjection is a muddle, it smuggles in idealistic rubbish and is contradictory to natural science, which inflexibly holds that thought is a function of the brain, that sensations, i.e., the images of the external world, exist within us, produced by the action of things on our sense-organs." [Ibid., p.95. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"The sole and unavoidable deduction to be made from this -- a deduction which all of us make in everyday practice and which materialism deliberately places at the foundation of its epistemology -- is that outside us, and independently of us, there exist objects, things, bodies and that our perceptions are images of the external world." [Ibid., p.111. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Thus, the materialist theory, the theory of the reflection of objects by our mind, is here presented with absolute clarity: things exist outside us. Our perceptions and ideas are their images." [Ibid., p.119. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"For the materialist the 'factually given' is the outer world, the image of which is our sensations." [Ibid., p.121. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"[S]ense-perception is not the reality existing outside us, it is only the image of that reality." [Ibid., p.124. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

In which case, Lenin can't possibly claim to know anything at all 'objective' even about Engels (let alone anything else), since all he has available to him are 'images' of Engels's writings with no way of knowing whether or not these 'images' are valid. No use appealing to practice, or even science, since, once again, all Lenin has is an 'image' of practice and an 'image' of science, and no 'image' can guarantee the veracity of another 'image'. Small wonder then that Lenin substituted bluster for proof -- plainly, in order to distract attention from the gaping holes in his argument. Indeed, as we saw in Essay Thirteen Part One, Lenin only succeeded in trapping himself in a solipsistic world of his own making, leaving him in the same predicament as those he was criticising. And that in turn is because they both accepted the parameters laid down by post-renaissance bourgeois philosophers. [On that, see Essay Three Part Two.]

 

Be this as it may, these pseudo-solutions bequeathed to subsequent generations of DM-theorists an unsolved 'problem', which is why they simply uncritically regurgitate the above 'arguments' in the vain hope that repetition constitutes proof -- parroting a chorus of assertions to the effect that what doesn't even remotely look like a solution is in fact a solution to the 'problem' of the relation between the individual and history.

 

'Triumph of the will' with respect to theory, here, one feels.

 

However, questions remain: Do we have 'free will'? Or, are we all slaves to necessity and mere pawns? Are we capable of acting and deciding for ourselves? What exactly is 'revolutionary agency'? Subsequent dialecticians have wrestled with these knotty problems, but they have either (a) Reproduced the above non-solution, or they have (b) Elaborated on it, perhaps drawing on certain aspects of contemporary Philosophy. [Callinicos (2004), for instance, is an excellent example of this genre. I will say more about Callinicos's 'solution' in Essay Three Part Five.]

 

Here is Paul D'Amato, of the US International Socialists, with his version of Option (a):

 

"For the materialist, all of reality is based on matter, including the human brain which is itself a result of the organization of matter in a particular way. In this view, the abstract idea of 'tree' was developed by humans from their experience of actual trees. 'It is not consciousness that determines being,' wrote Marx, putting it another way, 'but social being that determines consciousness.' [D'Amato is here attributing to Marx a bourgeois individualist theory of knowledge/abstraction, little different from that invented by John Locke, not realising that Marx was referring to social being here (even though D'Amato actually quoted the phrase!), not individual experience -- RL.]

 

"Probably the most popular form of idealism is 'free will' -- the idea that individuals can do anything they set their mind too (sic). For example, the view that 'you can beat poverty if you really try hard' implicitly accepts the idea of free will. Poverty, in this view, is not a social phenomenon caused by, for example, a plant closing or a chronic illness in the family. Rather, poverty is some kind of personal choice....

 

"Marx and Engels ridiculed the view that ideas determine reality. 'Once upon a time, a valiant fellow had the idea that men were drowned in water only because they were possessed with the idea of gravity,' they wrote. 'If they were to get this notion out of their heads...they would be sublimely proof against any danger from water.'

 

"But by rejecting 'free will,' Marx didn't embrace 'determinism' -- the idea that human beings are slaves to the blind forces of history. 'The materialist doctrine,' wrote Marx, 'that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances.'

 

"For Marx, people 'make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.'

 

"Human behaviour is first shaped by our physical makeup. We must labour cooperatively in order to eat, drink and find shelter. At any given stage in human development, the level of production -- and the social relations based on that level of production -- shape our limits and possibilities.

 

"'People cannot be liberated,' wrote Marx and Engels, 'as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. "Liberation" is a historical and not a mental act and it is brought about by historical conditions.'

 

"Ideas can and do shape history -- but only if those ideas are embraced by millions and only if the social and material conditions for their realization exist." [Quoted from here; accessed 24/12/2016. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling modified to agree with UK English.]

 

But, and once again, simply asserting that humans can do this or that, when your theory also implies they can't since they are all subject to natural necessity, is no solution.

 

Here is John Molyneux of the UK-SWP, also choosing Box (a):

 

"Before dealing directly with these issues it is worth noting that bourgeois thought has never been able to resolve the problem of determinism. Rather it has swung back and forth between voluntarist idealism, which ignores social conditions and places all the emphasis on 'great' individuals and ideas, and mechanical materialism which stresses the unchangeable nature of people and society. Both these positions reflect aspects of bourgeois society viewed from the top down. On the one hand the bourgeoisie standing at the head of society, freed from productive labour and living off the exploitation of others, is able to flatter itself that its ideas and deeds rule the world. On the other hand looking down on the masses it sees them there as mere objects, passively driven this way and that by the requirements of capital accumulation. Bourgeois ideology thus attacks Marxism both for being too deterministic and for not being deterministic enough....

 

"Debates about determinism have also occurred amongst those claiming allegiance to Marxism. At different points in time both passive determinist and highly voluntarist interpretations of Marxism have flourished. The most important example of the determinist trend was the version of Marxism developed by Karl Kautsky which dominated German Social Democracy and the Second International in the period leading up to the First World War. In Kautsky's view the economic laws of capitalism guaranteed the growth in numbers and consciousness of the working class to the point where power would 'automatically' fall into its hands. All that was required of the socialist movement was that it build up its organisations, strengthen its vote and avoid adventures while patiently waiting for economic development to do its work. It was of this period that Gramsci wrote that 'the deterministic, fatalistic and mechanistic element has been a direct ideological "armour" emanating from the philosophy of praxis [Marxism -- JM] rather like religion or drugs'.

 

"At the opposite pole, the most extreme cases of voluntarism trading under a Marxist label were Maoism and Guevarism. Maoism proclaimed not only the possibility of industrialising China by will power in the disastrous Great Leap Forward but even the direct transition to complete communism in China alone without any regard for objective material circumstances.... Guevarism, basing itself on the special case of Cuba, developed a theory of revolution instigated by a small band of guerrillas in the countryside. 'It is not necessary', wrote Guevara, 'to wait until all the conditions for making revolution exist: the insurrection can create them'....

 

"By absolute determinism I mean the view that every event in the history of the universe from the big bang to the end of time and every human action from the writing of Capital to whether or not I raise my right eyebrow is inevitable and could not be other than it has been, is or will be. The argument in favour of absolute determinism is that every event/action has its cause or causes, and that these causes determine precisely the nature of the said event/action and that these causes are themselves completely determined by prior causes. Thus every particular event or action is part of an infinitely complex but absolutely inevitable chain reaction inherent in the singularity or whatever lay at the origin of the universe.... [Molyneux is here deliberately confusing, or equating, determinism (or 'absolute determinism') with fatalism -- RL.]

 

"However, it also involves the belief that human behaviour is 'ultimately' reducible to the movements of the physical particles of which humans are made up and which are held to obey universal natural laws. Some such view as this, even if not openly proclaimed, seems to have influenced those Marxists who have held an absolute determinist position. Such Marxists, however, have generously held that for the purposes of social analysis it was unnecessary to effect a reduction to the level of physics since human behaviour was governed by social laws which were akin to natural laws in their operation.

 

"Discussing absolute determinism, Ralph Miliband comments, 'This is not a view that can be argued with: it can only be accepted or rejected. I reject it and pass on'. Miliband has a point in that it is impossible to cite empirical evidence which refutes absolute determinism (just as it is impossible to cite facts which 'prove' it). Nevertheless it is a view which can be argued with. Bearing in mind Marx's dictum that:

 

'In practice man must prove the truth, that is, the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a pure scholastic question.' [Molyneux is here quoting the first of Marx's Theses on Feuerbach -- RL.] 

 

"It is possible to assess the advantages and disadvantages of absolute determinism from the standpoint of practice." [Molyneux (1995), pp.39-42. Italic emphases in the original; link added.]

 

I will discuss Molyneux's article in much more detail in Essay Three Part Five, but his 'solution' to this ancient problem in the end plainly revolves around practicalities, the dialectical equivalent of Samuel Johnson's refutation of Bishop Berkeley's Subjective Idealism -- by kicking a stone! Moreover, any response that amounts to little more than "I personally can't believe this theory or its implications" has no place in Marxism, or, indeed, in any scientific theory.

 

Finally, here is Rob Sewell (of the IMT), choosing Box (a), too:

 

"In the past, the role of the individual in history (the 'subjective factor' in Marxist terminology) has been the subject of heated debate. There are many bourgeois historians even today who believe that history is made by 'Great Men and Women'.... Supposedly through their force of character, they have shaped history while the masses play little or no role.... Little attention is played to economic, political or social forces which operate largely behind the scenes.

 

"There are those who argue that individuals determine nothing, but are thrown about by the greater objective forces of history. This school of thought represents fatalism, where individuals act as mere marionettes, their strings pulled by some invisible hand. This idea is derived from a Calvinist doctrine that all human action is divinely predestined, like some lunar eclipse.... The domination of Fate rules out any idea of individual freedom and the independent activity of the masses. We are all reduced to the role of pawns. [Sewell is doing the opposite of Molyneux by deliberately conflating, or identifying, fatalism with determinism -- RL.]

 

"This is however not the case. History is made by people. Marxists, unlike the superficial fatalists, do not deny the role of the individual, his (sic) initiative or audacity (or lack of it), in the social struggle. It is the task of Marxism to uncover the dialectical relationship between the individual (the subjective) and the great forces (objective) that govern the movement of society. Historical materialism does not dismiss the role of the individual, of personality, in history, but sees this role in its historical context. Marxism explains that no person, no matter how talented, capable or farsighted, can determine the main course of historical development, which is shaped by objective forces. However, under critical circumstances, the role played by individuals can be decisive, the last decisive link in the chain of causality. Under certain circumstances, the 'subjective factor' can become the most important fact in history....

 

"In relation to the importance of decisive leadership in the socialist revolution, Lenin's role in 1917 stands out as decisive. Could another Bolshevik leader, even Trotsky, have substituted Lenin's role? Trotsky believed not. Given the concrete conditions, where the Bolshevik Party had to be rearmed in April 1917 for the socialist revolution, only Lenin had the necessary authority in the party. The conservative pressures from the other leaders would have had been too great an influence without Lenin. In other words, the importance of the conscious subjective factor stood out with greater force than ever before. Lenin's role could not have been duplicated. This was due not simply due (sic) to his personal qualities, but his exceptional standing within the Bolshevik Party. While the Bolsheviks led the workers and peasants, Lenin led the Bolshevik Party. He was the leader of the leaders.

 

"One of the fundamental reasons for this critical role of leadership or the subjective factor in our epoch, stems from the fact that all the major objective conditions for the overthrow of capitalism are rotten ripe (the integration of the world economy, the inability of capitalism to take society forward, the chronic instability and impasse of the system, the elements of barbarism emerging, the existence of mass unemployment, etc). The defeat of the numerous revolutions since the October Revolution of 1917 has been due to the failure of leadership of the mass organisations, whether they are social democratic or Stalinist. For the successful socialist revolution, a mass party is needed with a far-sighted revolutionary leadership schooled in the ideas of Marxism ('the memory of the working class'). The Bolsheviks under the Leadership of Lenin and Trotsky was able to provide this. They provided the dialectical unity of the objective and subjective factors." [Rob Sewell. Accessed 24/12/2016. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]

 

Once again, Sewell solves this 'problem' by throwing 'dialectics' at it without even a perfunctory attempt to explain how this advances the argument one nanometre.

 

In the end, like Plekhanov [Plekhanov (2004b)], DM-theorists are forced to conclude that the individual personality, say, of Lenin, or the psychological differences between him and other leading Bolsheviks, was the (final) decisive factor in the 1917 revolution. Of course, this conclusion is heavily qualified by the objective historical circumstances surrounding both Lenin and the 1917 revolution; nevertheless, in the end, 'subjective' factors 'tipped the balance' in this instance, as they also appear to have done in relation to other 'revolutionary actors' and events, and, indeed, with respect to Marxists in general.

 

In what follows, I have no desire to question that particular conclusion -- although I will qualify it greatly in Essay Three Part Five.

 

However, if it is admitted that 'subjective' factors (of the above sort) are important, if not decisive, in revolutionary theory, then it can hardly be denied that the ideas such individuals bring with them into Marxism are insignificant and can therefore be discounted.

 

We will soon see that these individuals openly admit they inherited many of their core ideas from the ruling-class (and/or their ideologues) -- a general point Marx underlined, anyway:

 

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

 

The next sub-section will further develop this point, underlining its all too easily missed significance.

 

 

Revolutionaries Recruited As Individuals

 

This now brings us to a consideration of the factors that define and shape the mind-set, role and status of leading Marxists. Unlike most workers who become revolutionaries, most 'professional revolutionaries' (and all of the leading figures) by-and-large join, or have joined the revolutionary socialist movement as a result of one or more of the following 'subjective' factors: (i) Their own personal or intellectual commitment to the revolution (for whatever reason), (ii) Their 'rebellious' personality (howsoever that phrase is understood), (iii) Their alienation from the system, or (iv) Other contingent psychological or social motives (for example, in Lenin's case, the execution of his brother, Aleksandr) --, but, significantly, (v) Not as a direct result of their (collective) involvement in the class war.

 

As US-SWP honcho, James Cannon, conceded:

 

"We begin to recruit from sources none too healthy…. Freaks always looking for the most extreme expression of radicalism, misfits, windbags, chronic oppositionists, who had been thrown out of half a dozen organizations…. Many people came to us who had revolted against the Communist Party not for its bad sides but for its good sides; that is, the discipline of the party, the subordination of the individual to the decisions of the party in current work. A lot of dillettantish, petty-bourgeois minded people who couldn't stand any kind of discipline, many of the newcomers made a fetish of democracy…. All the people of this type have one common characteristic; they like to discuss things without limit or end…. They can all talk; and not only can but will; and everlastingly, on every question." [James P. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism, pp.92-93, quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[Items (i)-(iv) above might appear to be 'subjective factors', but in view of what was argued in the previous sub-section, and what James Cannon has just admitted, this is no mere appearance: they are subjective. Readers are referred to that sub-section or more details.]

 

Trotsky underlined point (v)) rather succinctly:

 

"A worker comes to socialism as a part of a whole, along with his class, from which he has no prospect of escaping. He is even pleased with the feeling of his moral unity with the mass, which makes him more confident and stronger. The intellectual, however, comes to socialism, breaking his class umbilical cord as an individual, as a personality, and inevitably seeks to exert influence as an individual. But just here he comes up against obstacles -- and as time passes the bigger these obstacles become. At the beginning of the Social-Democratic movement, every intellectual who joined, even though not above the average, won for himself a place in the working-class movement. Today every newcomer finds, in the Western European countries, the colossal structure of working-class democracy already existing." [The Intelligentsia and Socialism, quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]

 

These individuals become revolutionaries through their own efforts, or they do so under the influence of someone else (a parent, partner, sibling, friend, teacher, author, or even another revolutionary), but not (in general) through participation in collective action, in strikes (etc.), at their own place of work -- that is, if they work.

 

Of course, Trotsky was here speaking about 'intellectuals', but his comments apply to most individuals who drift into the movement -- that is, those that aren't workers and who don't join as a result of a direct involvement the class war. In which case, if these individuals aren't, or weren't, members of the working class, they can't come "to socialism as a part of a whole, along with [their] class", whether or not they are 'intellectuals'. Not everyone outwith the working class is an 'intellectual', but both 'groups' (the 'intellectuals' and the 'non-intellectuals') still join the movement under the circumstances Trotsky mentioned -- and that includes Trotsky himself!

 

Lenin (quoting Kautsky) added the following thoughts about these 'intellectuals':

 

"The problem...that again interests us so keenly today is the antagonism between the intelligentsia and the proletariat. My colleagues (Kautsky is himself an intellectual, a writer and editor) will mostly be indignant that I admit this antagonism. But it actually exists, and, as in other cases, it would be the most inexpedient tactics to try to overcome the fact by denying it. This antagonism is a social one, it relates to classes, not to individuals. The individual intellectual, like the individual capitalist, may identify himself with the proletariat in its class struggle. When he does, he changes his character too. It is not this type of intellectual, who is still an exception among his class, that we shall mainly speak of in what follows. Unless otherwise stated, I shall use the word intellectual to mean only the common run of intellectual who takes the stand of bourgeois society, and who is characteristic of the intelligentsia as a class. This class stands in a certain antagonism to the proletariat.

 

"This antagonism differs, however, from the antagonism between labour and capital. The intellectual is not a capitalist. True, his standard of life is bourgeois, and he must maintain it if he is not to become a pauper; but at the same time he is compelled to sell the product of his labour, and often his labour-power, and is himself often enough exploited and humiliated by the capitalist. Hence the intellectual does not stand in any economic antagonism to the proletariat. But his status of life and his conditions of labour are not proletarian, and this gives rise to a certain antagonism in sentiments and ideas.

 

"...Quite different is the case of the intellectual. He does not fight by means of power, but by argument. His weapons are his personal knowledge, his personal ability, his personal convictions. He can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for his individuality seems to him the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that he submits to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. He recognises the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course he counts himself among the latter...." [Kautsky, quoted in Lenin (1976), pp.161-62. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

To be sure, Lenin and Kautsky were describing hostile (anti-Marxist) intellectuals, but much of what they had to say also applies to those who move in the opposite direction, and become professional revolutionaries -- as Kautsky himself admits:

 

"The individual intellectual, like the individual capitalist, may identify himself with the proletariat in its class struggle". [Ibid.]

 

Except, with the above individuals, their 'hostility' toward the proletariat often is latent and lies under the surface (but, from whom we regularly hear words like "workerist", or "economism", and who spare no effort telling us that ordinary workers are prisoners of "banal commonsense", bought off by "super-profits" and in thrall to "formal thinking"). This hostility later assumes an entirely different aspect -- as we will see, this often, but not exclusively, surfaces in a haughty, arrogant, contemptuous, even impatient attitude toward other revolutionaries and, indeed, workers themselves, which later morphs, under specific social and political conditions, into various forms of substitutionism. It is then that this latent hostility surfaces, rationalising and justifying (even ignoring or explaining away) the continued oppression and exploitation of workers -- as we saw, for example, in "already existing socialism". We witnessed this as generations of Marxist 'intellectuals' ('east' and 'west') supported, or advocated a 'revolutionary defence' of, the anti-worker and oppressive regimes in the former Soviet Union [fSU], China, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba. Of course, this wasn't the case with every such Marxist 'intellectual' or professional revolutionary, but their alien-class origin, or current class position, can't fail to have affected their view of, and attitude toward, workers and fellow revolutionaries in general.

 

Indeed, as we will see as this Essay unfolds.

 

This conclusion is forced on us unless we choose to regard such 'individuals' as 'saints', above the pressures that every other human being experiences as a result of living in class society. Any who cavil at this point might be tempted to think that they alone perhaps -- unique in all of humanity over the last 5000 years -- they alone are capable of rising above such mundane forces, and are able to do so against the pull of social gravity.

 

So, Lenin and Kautsky's class analysis also applies to Lenin and Kautsky, as well as other petty-bourgeois, or déclassé, Dialectical Marxists. Again, this must be so otherwise we would have to conclude that Lenin was committed to an Idealist theory, in this case. That is, he would be attempting to account for the theories, ideas and attitudes adopted by these 'intellectuals', petty-bourgeois, or déclassé Dialectical Marxists on the basis of who they "identified" with -- not on their class origin and current class position, but on their psychological orientation toward another class. Except, in the case of their attitude to the bourgeoisie, this would have economic roots; in the case of their orientation toward the working class, it had no such roots -- just a stance based, perhaps, on lifestyle:

 

"Hence the intellectual does not stand in any economic antagonism to the proletariat. But his status of life and his conditions of labour are not proletarian, and this gives rise to a certain antagonism in sentiments and ideas." [Ibid.]

 

But:

 

"The intellectual is not a capitalist. True, his standard of life is bourgeois, and he must maintain it if he is not to become a pauper; but at the same time he is compelled to sell the product of his labour, and often his labour-power." [Ibid.]

 

If the intellectual isn't part of the capitalist class and has to sell 'his' labour-power just like a worker, then the only thing that could possibly swing 'him' behind the bourgeoisie is "his standard of life" or 'his' socialisation. But, it would be interesting to see how many intellectuals enjoy a standard of living on a par with an average member of the capitalist class. Their precarious economic condition would surely make them the Janus Class, as Marx characterised the petty-bourgeoisie, a class fraction that could break either way. [On this, see Draper (1978), pp.288-316.] But, whichever way they finally do break, their socialisation will always predispose them toward the ideas and thought-forms of the ruling-class.   

 

So, Lenin tells us that some 'intellectuals' side with the bourgeoisie, which implies, of course, that others identify with the proletariat -- for example, Marx, Engels and Lenin! But, if Lenin were right, their ideas wouldn't be a function of their class position as such, they would be a sole function of other ideas they held -- contradicting Marx:

 

"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness." [Marx (1968), p.181.]

 

If those who identify with the proletariat and those who don't identify with them originate in, or belong to, the same class faction (the petty-bourgeoisie/déclassé intellectuals), then the only factor that would distinguish them, that would motivate them into choosing one over the other, would be the contingent ideas they had adopted/formed, not their class position as such. But, those in this class fraction, on both sides of the class war, have imbibed ideas they inherited from previous generations of ruling-class thinkers. While it is undeniable that there are significant differences between (a) Marxist intellectuals, and/or "professional revolutionaries" and (b) non-Marxist intellectuals, because they both come from, or now belong to, the same class faction they are still either petty-bourgeois or they are déclassé and they share the same set of ruling-class ideas.

 

Their attitudes and beliefs can't change the class to which they belong, or from which they emerged. So, there are far more basic ideological similarities between those who break either way than there are differences -- especially since both halves of this class fraction have had ruling-class ideas forced down their throats almost from day one and which they subsequently put to use in the class war:

 

"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.... 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 (1968), pp.181-82. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[It could be agued that if the above were correct, then it would imply that workers themselves can use philosophy to help fight their corner in the class war. I have dealt with that riposte in Part One, here.]

 

The above applies no less to Marxist intellectuals; the only factors that distinguish them from those who do not 'side with the revolution' are those that were mentioned earlier, and in the previous sub-section. Although the ideas held by both sets of individuals originated outside the working class, subjective factors finally determine the side with which they subsequently identify -- which is what one would expect of those who are quintessential 'individuals' and who religiously defend their individuality:

 

"A worker comes to socialism as a part of a whole, along with his class, from which he has no prospect of escaping. He is even pleased with the feeling of his moral unity with the mass, which makes him more confident and stronger. The intellectual, however, comes to socialism, breaking his class umbilical cord as an individual, as a personality, and inevitably seeks to exert influence as an individual. But just here he comes up against obstacles -- and as time passes the bigger these obstacles become. At the beginning of the Social-Democratic movement, every intellectual who joined, even though not above the average, won for himself a place in the working-class movement." [Trotsky, op cit; bold emphases added.]

 

"He does not fight by means of power, but by argument. His weapons are his personal knowledge, his personal ability, his personal convictions. He can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for his individuality seems to him the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that he submits to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. He recognises the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course he counts himself among the latter...." [Kautsky, op cit; bold emphasis added.]

 

[More on this later, where I deal with the clichéd rebuttal that this is just 'crude reductionism'.]

 

Such comrades thus enter the movement committed to the revolution as an Idea, as an expression of their own personal and intellectual integrity -- maybe also because of anger directed against the system (for whatever reason), or their idiosyncratic alienation from class society (again, for whatever reason). However, they aren't revolutionaries for proletarian or materialist reasons --, that is, they don't side with the proletariat as a result of their direct experience of collective action, or as a direct consequence of working class response to exploitation --, but for individual, albeit often very noble, reasons.

 

This means that from the beginning (again, by-and-large), because of their class position and non-working class origin and upbringing, they act and think like individuals (indeed, as Trotsky noted, and Lenin implied). This (i) Affects the ideas they are capable of forming, (ii) Colours their attitude toward such ideas, (iii) Skews their activity inside the movement, and (iv) Slants the relationships they form both with other revolutionaries and with workers themselves. It also draws in others who already have boss-class ideas implanted in their brains, ideas that had been shaped by an ancient and well entrenched ruling-class tradition.

 

This isn't to malign such individuals, but to remind us that this is a class issue -- again, as Lenin noted:

 

"...[I]t relates to classes, not to individuals." [Loc cit.]

 

Although this is indeed a class issue, it affects how those caught in the machinery behave as individuals. How else could class influence be expressed?

 

As noted above, these individuals have had their heads filled with "ruling ideas" almost from the day they left the cradle -- which indoctrination was itself a direct result of the 'superior' education and the bourgeois/petty-bourgeois socialisation to which they had been subjected. So, when those who later 'side with the revolution' encounter Hegel's work (or even  DM), it is quite 'natural' for them to latch on to his (and its) dogmatic and a priori theses. "Natural" in the sense that their class origin and current position has already delivered them up as atomised, socially-isolated individuals with no collective identity, as Lenin and Trotsky argued. Hence, before they became revolutionaries or even Marxists they had already received both barrels of boss-class ideology, right in the face -- or, rather, right in the brain.

 

This means that Hegel's doctrines (upside down or 'the right way up') mesh seamlessly with ideas they had already internalised  -- that is, it is the job of 'genuine' philosophers to concoct a priori dogma like this. Marx's famous words, therefore, apply equally to them, too:

 

"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 individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.'" [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65, quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]

 

Notice how Marx argued that:

 

"The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.... Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age...." [Ibid. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, they rule also as "thinkers", and this they do in "its whole range"; moreover, those who have no control over the system -- which includes every single one of the DM-classicists, as well as those who have led the movement and who have shaped its ideas ever since -- are plainly "subject" to its vice-like ideological grip. The "ruling intellectual force" can't fail to have affected such 'intellectuals' (Marxist or otherwise). But, we needn't guess here. They already openly admit to this influence, if not glory in it. [On that, see the next sub-section.]

 

Moreover, for reasons also outlined in Note 13a2, they are happy return the 'favour', gladly assisting in the elaboration and dissemination of these alien-class thought-forms in books ad articles on DM--, which is, of course, how the ruling-class manage to "control at the same time...the means of mental production", and hence Dialectical Marxism itself.

 

Naturally, "the means of mental production" have changed markedly since Ancient Greece dominated 'western' thought, but the last fifteen centuries or so (again, in the 'west') saw this hegemony initially coalesce in and around the Roman Catholic Church -- in the Monasteries and later in the Universities. But, since the Renaissance, intellectual control has become increasingly diffuse, spreading its tentacles out from the Universities to cover itinerant thinkers (including those patronised by the rich and those who had private means); of late, "the means of mental production" have also incorporated free-lance writers, journalists, TV, radio, and Internet pundits, as well as editors and producers. The livelihood and reputation of those caught up in this are largely dependent on factors highlighted by Lenin:

 

"[Their] standard of life is bourgeois, and [they] must maintain it if [they are] not to become...pauper[s]; but at the same time [they are] compelled to sell the product of [their] labour, and often [their] labour-power.... [They do] not fight by means of power, but by argument. [Their] weapons are...personal knowledge,...personal ability,...personal convictions. [They] can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for [their] individuality seems to [them] the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that [they submit] to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. [They recognise] the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course [they count themselves] among the latter...." [Op cit.]

 

Hence, those who later became 'leading revolutionaries' (and who had also been "subject to" the full force of this indoctrination before they became Marxists), have indeed had their thinking shaped by the ideas and thought-forms of the ruling-class. As we have seen -- and are about to see.

 

 

The Alien-Class Origin Of 'Dialectical Thought'

 

Which is, once more, why Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky and Dietzgen (to mention just a few) thought it quite natural to look to previous thinkers as precursors of the concepts we find in DM, and hence for guidance and inspiration:

 

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

 

"Marxism is an integral world-outlook. Expressed in a nutshell, it is contemporary materialism, at present the highest stage of the development of that view upon the world whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece by Democritus, and in part by the Ionian thinkers who preceded that philosopher." [Plekhanov (1908), p.11. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphases and links added.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"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), p.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.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"I should like to make the reader understand what the professors, so far as I know them, have not yet understood, viz., that our intellect is a dialectical instrument, and instrument which reconciles all opposites. The intellect creates unity by means of the variety and comprehends the difference in the equality. Hegel made it clear long ago that there is no either-or, but as well as...." [Dietzgen (1906), p.248. Bold emphasis added.]

 

This idea isn't confined to the DM-classicists:

 

"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: (1) 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." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.157-58. Bold emphases added.]

 

"The integrity, the wholeness, the irrefutable logic and consistency (sic!) of Marxism-Leninism, which are acknowledged even by its opponents (sic!), have been achieved by the application of the unified philosophical dialectical-materialist world outlook and method. Marxism-Leninism cannot properly be understood without its philosophical basis.

 

"The philosophy of Marxism-Leninism is a result and the highest stage of the development of world philosophical thought. It has assimilated al that was best ad most progressive in the centuries of development of philosophy...." [Konstantinov (1974), p.15. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"As the philosophy of the working class, Marxist-Leninist philosophy is the supreme form of materialism, a logical result of the preceding development of philosophical thought  through the ages, and of the whole spiritual culture of mankind." [Kharin (1981), p.12. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"The history of Western philosophy, however, begins not with idealism but with materialism. This asserts...that the material world, known to us and explored by science, is real; that the only real world is the material one; that thoughts, ideas and sensations are the product of matter organised in a certain way (a nervous system and a brain); that thought cannot derive its categories from itself, but only from the objective world which makes itself known to us through our senses.

 

"The earliest Greek philosophers were known as 'hylozoists' (from the Greek, meaning 'those who believe that matter is alive'). Here we have a long line of heroes who pioneered the development of thought.... What was startlingly new about this way of looking at the world was that it was not religious. In complete contrast to the Egyptians and Babylonians, from whom they had learnt a lot, the Greek thinkers did not resort to gods and goddesses to explain natural phenomena. For the first time, men and women sought to explain the workings of nature purely in terms of nature. This was one of the greatest turning-points in the entire history of human thought....

 

"Aristotle, the greatest of the Ancient philosophers, can be considered a materialist, although he was not so consistent as the early hylozoists. He made a series of important scientific discoveries which laid the basis for the great achievements of the Alexandrine period of Greek science....

 

"The predominant philosophical trend of the Renaissance was materialism. In England, this took the form of empiricism, the school of thought that states that all knowledge is derived from the senses. The pioneers of this school were Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704). The materialist school passed from England to France where it acquired a revolutionary content. In the hands of Diderot, Rousseau, Holbach and Helvetius, philosophy became an instrument for criticising all existing society. These great thinkers prepared the way for the revolutionary overthrow of the feudal monarchy in 1789-93....

 

"Under the impact of the French revolution, the German idealist Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) subjected all previous philosophy to a thorough criticism. Kant made important discoveries not only in philosophy and logic but in science.... In the field of philosophy, Kant's masterpiece The Critique of Pure Reason was the first work to analyse the forms of logic which had remained virtually unchanged since they were first developed by Aristotle. Kant showed the contradictions implicit in many of the most fundamental propositions of philosophy....

 

"The greatest breakthrough came in the first decades of the 19th century with George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel was a German idealist, a man of towering intellect, who effectively summed up in his writings the whole history of philosophy.

 

"Hegel showed that the only way to overcome the 'Antinomies' of Kant was to accept that contradictions actually existed, not only in thought, but in the real world. As an objective idealist, Hegel had no time for the subjective idealist argument that the human mind cannot know the real world. The forms of thought must reflect the objective world as closely as possible. The process of knowledge consist of penetrating ever more deeply into this reality, proceeding from the abstract to the concrete, from the known to the unknown, from the particular to the universal.

 

"The dialectical method of thinking had played a great role in Antiquity, particularly in the naïve but brilliant aphorisms of Heraclitus (c.500 B.C.), but also in Aristotle and others. It was abandoned in the Middle Ages, when the Church turned Aristotle's formal logic into a lifeless and rigid dogma, and did not re-appear until Kant returned it to a place of honour. However, in Kant the dialectic did not receive an adequate development. It fell to Hegel to bring the science of dialectical thinking to its highest point of development.

 

"Hegel's greatness is shown by the fact that he alone was prepared to challenge the dominant philosophy of mechanism. The dialectical philosophy of Hegel deals with processes, not isolated events. It deals with things in their life, not their death, in their inter-relations, not isolated, one after the other. This is a startlingly modern and scientific way of looking at the world. Indeed, in many aspects Hegel was far in advance of his time. Yet, despite its many brilliant insights, Hegel's philosophy was ultimately unsatisfactory. Its principal defect was precisely Hegel's idealist standpoint, which prevented him from applying the dialectical method to the real world in a consistently scientific way. Instead of the material world we have the world of the Absolute Idea, where real things, processes and people are replaced by insubstantial shadows. In the words of Frederick Engels, the Hegelian dialectic was the most colossal miscarriage in the whole history of philosophy. Correct ideas are here seen standing on their head. In order to put dialectics on a sound foundation, it was necessary to turn Hegel upside down, to transform idealist dialectics into dialectical materialism. This was the great achievement of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels...." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.40-42; pp.44-46 in the second edition. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. Italics in the original.] 

 

"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)." [Brad Forrest, quoted from here. Accessed 22/12/2016. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[Quotations to the same effect, from across every wing of Dialectical Marxism, can easily be multiplied by a couple of orders of magnitude -- as is easily confirmed by anyone who has as many books and articles on DM as I have.]

 

Notice that according to Lenin DM is "a continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy". A "continuation" isn't a "break from"! Plekhanov also thinks DM represents the "highest stage...whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece"; again, that isn't a "break from". The others do not demur. In fact, I have yet to encounter a single DM-theorist who rejects this connection.

 

As we will see in Essay Twelve Part One, and the rest of Essay Twelve (summary here), there is a clearly identifiable thread running through the many and varied world-views that have been imposed, encouraged, commissioned, or financed by the assorted ruling-classes history has inflicted upon humanity: i.e., that there is a 'hidden world' underlying 'appearances', accessible to thought alone, the nature of which can be derived from the supposed meaning of a handful of words or 'concepts', and nothing more. Concerning the most immediate source of 'dialectical thought', in German Idealism, we read the following:

 

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

 

Because of this, Traditional Philosophers were quite happy to impose their theories on the world in a dogmatic and a priori manner -- plainly because these theories relate, not to the material word, but to this invisible world, a world that is supposedly more real than the physical universe we see around us.

 

Even though the content of these theories has altered with each change in the Mode of Production, their form has remained largely consistent for two-and-a-half millennia: philosophical theses, valid for all of space and time, derived from words or from thought alone, can therefore be imposed on nature and society dogmatically.

 

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 (1975b), 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, indeed, 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 argued 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 (1975c), p.381. Bold emphasis added.]

 

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.

 

In which case, these individuals -- recall, who had been educated to view the world precisely this way long before they had even heard of Marxism --, when they encountered Hegel and DM, readily appropriated these dogmatic ideas. That is because they looked for 'logical' principles in this hidden world that guaranteed change was apart of the fabric of reality. The thought-forms encapsulated in this theory appeared (to them) to be at once both philosophical and self-certifying (i.e., they were based on thought and language alone, and hence were true a priori). Moreover, because dialectical concepts formed part of what seemed (to them) to be a radical philosophical and political tradition, they also struck them as revolutionary ideas.

 

Alas, here, they were quite happy to accept appearances at face value!

 

Manifestly, dialectical concepts could only have arisen from Traditional Philosophy (workers aren't known for dreaming them up), which ideological source had already been coloured by centuries of boss-class dogma, as we have seen.

 

That in turn is because:

 

(i) Traditional Philosophy (i.e., non-socialist ideology) was the only source of developed 'High Theory' available to these individuals at the time, as Lenin himself admitted:

 

"...[B]ourgeois ideology is far older in origin than socialist ideology, that it is more fully developed, and that it has at its disposal immeasurably more means of dissemination. And the younger the socialist movement in any given country, the more vigorously it must struggle against all attempts to entrench non-socialist ideology...." [Lenin (1947), pp.42-43. Bold emphases added.]

 

Of course, it doesn't help if revolutionaries like Lenin bring this alien-class ideology with them into the movement.

 

(ii) These erstwhile radicals were predisposed to look for, or even expect, a 'world-view' that told them change was inevitable, part of the cosmic order, and,

 

(iii) They looked for a set of ideas that was exclusively their own -- because, as they will tell anyone prepared to listen, "Everyone has to have a philosophy!" -- and which ideas, when they had finished shaping them, taught that the present order was ripe for change.

 

John Molyneux and Woods and Grant, I think, speak for all DM-fans:

 

"It is very difficult to sustain much ongoing political work for any length of time without a coherent alternative worldview to the dominant ideology which we encounter every day in the media (at work, at school, at college, etc.). A significant role in an alternative worldview is played by questions of philosophy.

 

"[Added in a footnote: To attempt an exact definition of philosophy at this point would be a difficult and lengthy distraction. But what I mean by it in this book is, roughly, 'general' or 'abstract' thinking about human beings and their relations between society and nature.]" [Molyneux (2012), p.5. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Before we start, you may be tempted to ask, 'Well, what of it?' Is it really necessary for us to bother about complicated questions of science and philosophy? To such a question, two replies are possible. If what is meant is: do we need to know about such things in order to go about our daily life, then the answer is evidently no. But if we wish to gain a rational understanding of the world in which we live, and the fundamental processes at work in nature, society and our own way of thinking, then matters appear in quite a different light.

 

"Strangely enough, everyone has a 'philosophy.' A philosophy is a way of looking at the world. We all believe we know how to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. These are, however, very complicated issues which have occupied the attention of the greatest minds in history. When confronted with the terrible fact of the existence of events like the fratricidal war in the former Yugoslavia, the re-emergence of mass unemployment, the slaughter in Rwanda, many people will confess that they do not comprehend such things, and will frequently resort to vague references to 'human nature.' But what is this mysterious human nature which is seen as the source of all our ills and is alleged to be eternally unchangeable? This is a profoundly philosophical question, to which not many would venture a reply, unless they were of a religious cast of mind, in which case they would say that God, in His wisdom, made us like that. Why anyone should worship a Being that played such tricks on His creations is another matter.

 

"Those who stubbornly maintain that they have no philosophy are mistaken. Nature abhors a vacuum. People who lack a coherently worked-out philosophical standpoint will inevitably reflect the ideas and prejudices of the society and the milieu in which they live. That means, in the given context, that their heads will be full of the ideas they imbibe from the newspapers, television, pulpit and schoolroom, which faithfully reflect the interests and morality of existing society.

 

"Most people usually succeed in muddling through life, until some great upheaval compels them to re-consider the kind of ideas and values they grew up with. The crisis of society forces them to question many things they took for granted. At such times, ideas which seemed remote suddenly become strikingly relevant. Anyone who wishes to understand life, not as a meaningless series of accidents or an unthinking routine, must occupy themselves with philosophy, that is, with thought at a higher level than the immediate problems of everyday existence. Only by this means do we raise ourselves to a height where we begin to fulfil our potential as conscious human beings, willing and able to take control of our own destinies." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.29-30. Italic emphasis in the original; bold added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. (This passage appears on pp.33-34 of the second edition.)]

 

The above sentiments are echoed by a dusty old Stalinist textbook (whose line, oddly enough, agrees with that of the two Trotskyists, above):

 

"A philosophical world outlook is a system of highly generalised theoretical views of the world, of nature, society and man. Philosophy seeks to substantiate a definite orientation in social, political, scientific, moral, aesthetic, and other spheres of life.

 

"Everybody forms his own particular view of the surrounding world, but this view often consists of no more than fragments of various contradictory ideas without any theoretical basis. The philosophical world outlook, on the other hand, is not merely the sum total but a system of ideas, opinions and conceptions of nature, society, man and his place in the world." [Konstantinov (1974), p.16. Bold emphasis added. Which is a bit rich given the fact that DM glories in contradiction! (More-or-less the same comment (almost word-for-word identical) can be found in Krapivin (1985), p.17.)]

 

The everyday musings of your average Jane and John Doe are hardly to be compared with the systematic thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas or Immanuel Kant, but this elision (i.e., between such amateurish musings and the sophisticated theories of Traditional Philosophy) is clearly aimed at justifying the importation of ideas from ruling-class ideology, which are, as Marx pointed out, "to be condemned":

 

"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 (1975c), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Plainly, the attitude displayed by DM-fans toward philosophy (somewhat fittingly) contradicts what Marx himself concluded about this archetypical boss-class discipline.

 

 

'Born Again'?

 

This ancient 'world-view' -- on steroids in Hegel's work -- appealed to these individuals; i.e., the DM-classicists, those who later led the movement, and those who shaped, and still shape, its ideas. It appealed to them since it encapsulated thought-forms to which they were already highly susceptible by the time they hit adulthood. The class background, socialisation and education to which they were, and still are, subject under Capitalism meant that ruling-class ideas had already been installed in their brains long before they became revolutionaries. This thought-form (courtesy of a long line of mystics and boss-class hacks), which promoted dogmatic, a priori 'knowledge', mesmerised these comrades from the get-go.

 

In fact, this new batch of Dialectical and Hermetic nostrums (upside down, or 'the right way up') hardly raised an eyebrow.

 

Indeed, it alighted on ready soil.13a2

 

Initially, very little specialist knowledge is needed to 'comprehend' DM; no expensive equipment or time-consuming experiments are required. And yet, within hours, this superscientific 'world-view' can be internalised with ease by most eager novitiates -- since, once more, it relies on thought alone, and hence appears to be 'self-evident'. Literally, in half an afternoon, or even less, an initiate can familiarise him/herself with a handful of theses that purport to explain all of reality, for all of time.

 

Just try learning Quantum -- or even Newtonian -- Mechanics that quickly!

 

Readers can test this for themselves: check out a random sample of the 'theory' sections of Marxist revolutionary websites. It will soon become apparent how each one confidently claims to be able to reveal nature's deepest secrets (valid for all of space and time) in a paragraph or two, or page or two, of homespun 'logic', obscure jargon, and a few dollops of Mickey Mouse Science --, for instance, here, and here.

 

[I have re-posted much of this Internet material in Appendix A to Essay Two.]

 

Contrast that with the many months, or even years, of hard work and study it takes to grasp the genuine science of Marxist economics, for example. Contrast it, too, with the detailed knowledge required in order to understand, say, the class structure and development of the Ancient World, or even Medieval Society. No 'self-evident', a priori truths, there!

 

Moreover, because DM is connected with wider historic, or even romantic aspirations (outlined below), dialectically-distracted comrades soon become wedded (nay, superglued) to this doctrine. They become converts who act, talk and behave as if they have received revelation from On High.

 

As Alex Callinicos recently let slip (in his obituary of Christopher Hitchens):

 

"It was from him that I first learned, often with the force of revelation, many of the main ideas of the Marxist tradition." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

This echoes George Novack's comment about Trotsky:

 

"He was an orthodox Marxist from his conversion to its doctrines in 1898 to his death in 1940." [Novack (1978), pp.271-72. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[Much more of the same, below.]

 

Novack's use of quasi-religious language is, in the event, revealing.

 

The subjective and often highly emotional response elicited in such individuals after they have passed through the dialectical 'doors of perception' reveals how crucially important this Hermetic World-View is to the revolutionary ego: it helps guarantee that the anger these individuals feel toward the injustices of Capitalism, allied with their alienation from the system and all the hard work they have devoted to The Cause won't be in vain. For the DM-convert there now appears to be some point, not just to history, but to the overall development of reality itself, courtesy of the ramblings of a Christian Mystic. So, this isn't so much as Christianity secularised, as it is materialism re-enchanted

 

Indeed, this theory now ensures that the life of each initiate assumes truly cosmic significance. Dialectics places the militant mind at the very centre of the philosophical universe -- for it offers each of these 'social atoms' a unifying purpose accompanied by a set of eternal 'truths' that underwrite and then confirm their exclusivity, linking their actions directly with the further development of reality itself. Only they understand 'the dialectic' of nature and society -- the very Algebra of the Revolution -- only they have their fingers on the 'pulse of freedom', only they know how to further its development.

 

For the want of a better phrase, we might even call this insidious process the "Ptolemisation Of The Militant Mind", since around this 'theory', and their interpretation of it, all of reality now revolves -- the obverse of Hegel's doctrine of the 'self-development' of 'Mind', which placed the development of 'God's Mind' at the centre and the periphery of this process, put into neat 'logical' order by a handful of trite, but egregious, a priori theses.

 

The heady romance of being both a revolutionary and an active participant in the cosmic drift of the entire universe now takes over. As Alan Wald (veteran US Marxist and editor of Against the Current) noted in connection with the US-SWP:

 

"To join the SWP was to become a person with a mission, to become part of a special group of men and women who, against all odds, wanted to change society for the better; one felt a bit more in control of the universe." [Quoted from here; bold emphasis added.]

 

Much the same can be said about those joining other far-left groups. Indeed, even rank-and-file revolutionaries are often affected in this way. Speaking of his time in the Militant Tendency, this is what Andy Troke had to say:

 

"It's like somebody who has been through a religious period. You look to either Trotsky, Marx, Lenin, Engels or Ted Grant or Peter Taaffe and you have got the rationale for why people are reacting this way or that. And obviously, everyone else is illogical, because you have the right view. I believe there was a great deal of this type of thinking: we were the chosen few. We had the right ideology. People like Tribune, who were at that time Militant's main opponents didn't know where they were going.... We were the right ones." [Quoted in Tourish and Wohlforth (2000), p.181. Bold emphases added.]

 

To be honest, I must admit to similar thoughts and feelings myself when I joined the UK-SWP in 1987, pinned a red, clenched fist badge to my lapel, and started selling the paper. I am sure I wasn't the only one who reacted this way. In fact, I can recall a period in 1988 when a major discussion took place in the UK-SWP following on a talk given by Lindsey German. In that talk, Lindsey advanced the claim that there were in her "no traces of bourgeois ideology". For some time after that it became a hot topic whether or not revolutionaries were free from all such 'indecent thoughts' -- or, simply, "traces", which was the buzz word used at the time. One could almost hear echoes of the phrase "Born again!" and "Cleansed by the blood of the lamb!"

 

For all the world, DM-fans seem to fall in love with this 'theory'. That itself is evident from the irrational, emotional, often extremely abusive, if not violently aggressive way they respond when it is attacked. [On that, see below, as well as here.]

 

[The vitriol, hostility, lies and smears I have had to face now for many years suggests I wouldn't last long if DM-fans were ever to gain power in the UK! Indeed, one prominent Marxist Professor of Economics, Andrew Kliman, in an e-mail exchange expressed the fervent hope I should "Eat sh*t and die!" (either that or quaff some Hemlock), simply because I had the temerity to question the sacred dialectic. This comradely wish was repeated here (in the comments section) in October 2013, but was deleted by the moderators soon after because of the violent and intemperate language the good Professor thought to use! Another UK-SWP comrade (implicitly) accused me of being worse than the Nazis, and for the same reason! Incidentally, this comrade has now left the UK-SWP. I hasten to add that I am not complaining about this abuse; given what you will read at this site, I expect it!]

 

However, the 'dialectical ego' can only ascend to the next 'level' if it becomes a willing vehicle for the tide of history, a veritable slave to the dialectic. DM now expresses in its earthly incarnation cosmic forces that have supposedly governed all of reality from the Big Bang onward, and will continue doing so until the end of time. Its theses are woven into the very fabric of the Universe -- just like the 'Word of God'.

 

A veritable Dialectical Logos, if you will.

 

Or, at least, judged by the way DM-acolytes speak about their theory, and about those who promulgate it from the dialectical pulpit, that is how the DM-Faithful seem to picture it to themselves.

 

[On that, see here.]

 

Indeed, the dialectic governs the nature, and future development, of every last particle in existence, including the thoughts of these, the 'least' of its slaves:

 

"It goes without saying that my recapitulation of mathematics and the natural sciences was undertaken in order to convince myself also in detail -- of what in general I was not in doubt -- that in nature, amid the welter of innumerable changes, the same dialectical laws of motion force their way through as those which in history govern the apparent fortuitousness of events; the same laws which similarly form the thread running through the history of the development of human thought and gradually rise to consciousness in thinking man; the laws which Hegel first developed in all-embracing but mystic form, and which we made it one of our aims to strip of this mystic form and to bring clearly before the mind in their complete simplicity and universality." [Engels (1976), pp.11-12. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought." [Ibid., p.180. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, by becoming a willing vehicle, ready to channel the mysterious 'mediations' that emanate forth from the "Totality" (which, like 'God', can't be defined, but which works no less mysteriously), through revolutionary 'good works' ("activity") and pure thoughts ("non-Revisionist" devotion to "the tradition"), by joining a movement that can't fail to alter fundamentally the course of human history, the petty-bourgeois ego is 'born again' to a higher purpose and with a cosmically-ordained mandate.

 

The dialectical novitiate thus emerges as a professional revolutionary -- sometimes with a shiny new name to prove it. But, certainly with a brand new persona.

 

The scales now drop from its eyes.

 

The Hermetic Virus has found another victim.

 

There is now no way back for this lost soul.

 

As Max Eastman pointed out:13a3

 

"Hegelism is like a mental disease -- you can't know what it is until you get it, and then you can't know because you have got it." [Eastman (1926), p.22.]

 

Given the atrophy of their critical faculties when it comes to DM, compounded by the nausea inducing sycophancy exhibited by many of them (on that, see below), who can doubt it?

 

This now supplies these social atoms with well-known social psychological motivations, inducements and reinforcements. They in turn help convince these Hermetic Victims that:

 

(1) They as individuals can become key figures in the further development of history -- actually helping determine the direction that social evolution will next take.

 

(2) Their personal existence isn't after all meaningless or for nought.

 

(3) Whatever motivated their personal alienation from class society can be rectified, reversed or redeemed (in whole or in part) through the right sort of acts, thoughts, and deeds -- reminiscent of the way that Pelagian forms of 'muscular Christianity' taught that salvation might be had through pure thoughts, good works, and the severe treatment of the body.

 

Dialectics now occupies a role analogous to that which religious belief has always assumed in the lives of the credulous, giving cosmic significance and consolation to these, its very own, petty-bourgeois victims.

 

Same cause, similar palliative drug.

 

However, because they haven't been recruited from the working class, these social atoms need an internally-generated unifying force -- a theory that supplies a set of self-certifying ideas -- to bind them to The Party and The Cause.

 

"...Quite different is the case of the intellectual. He does not fight by means of power, but by argument. His weapons are his personal knowledge, his personal ability, his personal convictions. He can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for his individuality seems to him the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that he submits to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. He recognises the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course he counts himself among the latter...." [Kautsky, quoted in Lenin (1976), p.162. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

As such, they need a Cosmic Whole allied to a Holistic Theory to make sense of their social fragmentation. This is where the mysterious "Totality" (with its 'universal interconnections' and 'mediations' -- analogous to the Omnipresence of 'God' and the 'mediations of Christ') -- comes into its own. But, just like 'God', the DM-"Totality" is so mysterious that beyond a few vague gestures and much hand waving not one of its slaves can tell you of its nature, even though they all gladly bend the knee to its Contradictory Will.

 

Given its origin in Hermetic Mysticism, this is hardly surprising.

 

 

Proletarian Discipline? -- No Thanks!

 

In stark contrast, workers involved in collective labour have unity forced on them by well-known, external, material forces. These compel workers to combine; they don't persuade them to do so as a result of some theory or other. Workers are thus forced to associate with unity externally-imposed upon them. This is a material, not an Ideal force.13a

 

In contrast, once more, while the class war forces workers to unite, it further drives apart these petty-bourgeois individuals, these professional revolutionaries, depositing them in ever smaller, continually fragmenting sects.

 

In that case, a holistic, dialectical theory where everything is interconnected replaces collective struggle as the sole unifying principle in Dialectical Marxism; petty-bourgeois and de-classé Marxists are thus 'united' by a set of universal, a priori and dogmatic theses.

 

As Lenin himself noted:

 

"For the factory, which seems only a bogey to some, represents that highest form of capitalist co-operation which has united and disciplined the proletariat, taught it to organise, and placed it at the head of all the other sections of the toiling and exploited population. And Marxism, the ideology of the proletariat trained by capitalism, has been and is teaching unstable intellectuals to distinguish between the factory as a means of exploitation (discipline based on fear of starvation) and the factory as a means of organisation (discipline based on collective work united by the conditions of a technically highly developed form of production). The discipline and organisation which come so hard to the bourgeois intellectual are very easily acquired by the proletariat just because of this factory 'schooling'. Mortal fear of this school and utter failure to understand its importance as an organising factor are characteristic of the ways of thinking which reflect the petty-bourgeois mode of life and which give rise to the species of anarchism that the German Social-Democrats call Edelanarchismus, that is, the anarchism of the 'noble' gentleman, or aristocratic anarchism, as I would call it. This aristocratic anarchism is particularly characteristic of the Russian nihilist. He thinks of the Party organisation as a monstrous 'factory'; he regards the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the majority as 'serfdom' (see Axelrod's articles); division of labour under the direction of a centre evokes from him a tragi-comical outcry against transforming people into 'cogs and wheels' (to turn editors into contributors being considered a particularly atrocious species of such transformation); mention of the organisational Rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous grimace and the disdainful remark (intended for the 'formalists') that one could very well dispense with Rules altogether." [Lenin (1976), pp.248-49. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. (The on-line translation is slightly different from the published version I have referenced here.)]

 

Unfortunately, Lenin failed to apply these insights to himself, to his own class origin and current class position. He was, however, quite happy to include Marx and Engels among the "bourgeois intelligentsia":

 

"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." [Lenin (1947), p.32. Bold emphases added.]

 

The same was the case with George Novack:

 

"Many of the most important political and intellectual leaders of the Marxist parties have been middle-class intellectuals. This is true of Marx and Engels, the founders of the movement. Bebel and Dietzgen the elder were of proletarian origin, but these two stand out as conspicuous exceptions in a galaxy which includes Lassalle, DeLeon, Plekhanov, Liebknecht, Luxembourg, Lenin and Trotsky. [As we have seen, this isn't true of Dietzgen -- RL.] All of these intellectuals, 'having grasped the historical movement as a whole', broke with the class of their origin, and merged their lives with the fate of the working class. Trotsky informs us that, of the 15 original members of the Council of People's Commissary elected on the day following the October insurrection, eleven were intellectuals and only four workers....

 

"Since Marxism, the science of the proletarian revolution, is itself the supreme creation of middle-class intellectuals, and every Marxist party has had its quota of militants drawn from the radical intelligentsia, a Marxist party can, least of all political organizations, ignore the role that intellectuals may play in the struggle of the working class for emancipation. But the relationship between the radical intellectuals and the revolutionary workers' party must be correctly understood. Although individual intellectuals may take a place in the leadership of the party by their talents, energy and devotion, intellectuals are generally an auxiliary force of the party with their own special talents to contribute to its work. There is a place for intellectuals inside the party, in the mass organizations it supports, and in many party activities. But the main body of the party must be recruited from, and rest squarely upon, the vanguard of the working class. The party and its leadership must have a solidly proletarian core." [Novack (1935). Bold emphases and links added.]

 

The social forces that operate on Marxist dialecticians are thus quintessentially individualistic, manifestly Ideal, and notoriously 'centrifugal' (as, indeed, Lenin noted above and earlier -- and as we will see again below) -- as one participant admitted (in the recent debate over the crisis that engulfed the UK-SWP in January 2013):

 

"I don't know if you have permanent factions within ISO -- my experience of the movement is that they are a disaster. I assume you have a constitution, rules for members to abide by and a disciplinary procedure to deal with those who deliberately flout them. So do we, and surely you respect our right to act accordingly." [Jeffrey Hurford, quoted from here; accessed 07/02/2013.]

 

The party thus needs a set of anti-democratic and bureaucratic rules to ensure its internal cohesion and integrity.

 

Without this 'theory', the rationale underlying the romantic revolutionary idea -- which, once more, situates each DM-fan right at the centre of the dialectical universe -- would lose its impact.

 

Moreover, because dialectics provides such comrades with an apparently coherent, but paradigmatically traditional picture of reality (i.e., DM is an a priori theory, dogmatically imposed on nature, and derived from thought alone), it supplies each of its acolytes with a unique set of motivating factors. Indeed, because this theory is represented individualistically inside each dialectical skull (which fact convinces one and all that they alone truly 'understand' this esoteric theory), it helps divide each 'dialectical disciple', one from the next -- for reasons explored in the next sub-section, and the rest of this Essay.

 

 

Militant Martinets

 

A Bad Situation Made Worse

 

As we have seen, the sectarianism inherent in Dialectical Marxism is a consequence of the class origin and current class position of its leading figures and most important theorists. Dialectics, the theory of universal opposites, soon goes to work on their minds and turns each and every one of these serial sectarians into fanatical faction fiends on steroids.

 

Collective discipline is paramount inside Bolshevik-style parties. But, the strong-willed, petty-bourgeois militant this style of politics attracts isn't used to this form of externally-imposed regimentation (since, as Lenin noted); these social atoms are in fact attracted by internally-processed, self-certifying ideas. Their individualism means that fights soon break out, often over what seem minor, even petty personal gripes.14

 

Ever since childhood, these comrades have been socialised think like social atoms, but in a revolutionary party they have to act like social molecules (which is a psychological trait that lies way above their 'pay grade' -- i.e., beyond the capacities that have been created, or motivated, by their class origin or their current class position). Because of this, as noted above, personal disputes quickly break out and are soon re-configured as political differences. Once again, since these are primarily disputes over ideas they require, and are soon given, theoretical 'justification'; but because it glories in contradiction, DM is ideally suited to that end.

 

Unfortunately, again as Lenin and Trotsky intimated (both are quoted below), these individuals are socially-conditioned egocentrics who, in their own eyes, enjoy direct access to the dialectical motherlode (a hot wire installed in each DM-brain by those self-certifying Hegelian concepts -- upside down or 'the right way up') -- and they can't help exploiting this fact. That is because this 'dynamic', contradictory world-view defines them as revolutionaries.

 

In such an Ideal environment, the DM-classics -- just like the Bible and other assorted Holy Books -- soon come into their own.15

 

Again, Lenin and Trotsky pointed out (repeated below), ruling-class theorists and 'intellectuals' have always endeavoured to make names for themselves by developing 'their own ideas', carving out a corner, or tiny niche, in the market of ideas, which they can only do by criticising the ideas of every other rival theorist. This is, after all, part of being able to establish a reputation and standing among their peers, which is an essential component in furthering their careers -- or, indeed, for defending and promoting a patron, or some other beneficent section of the ruling-class. That was particularly true in earlier centuries.

 

Lenin:

 

"The intellectual...does not fight by means of power, but by argument. His weapons are his personal knowledge, his personal ability, his personal convictions. He can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for his individuality seems to him the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that he submits to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. He recognises the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course he counts himself among the latter...." [Kautsky, quoted in Lenin (1976), pp.161-62. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Trotsky:

 

"The intellectual, however, comes to socialism, breaking his class umbilical cord as an individual, as a personality, and inevitably seeks to exert influence as an individual. But just here he comes up against obstacles -- and as time passes the bigger these obstacles become." [The Intelligentsia and Socialism, quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Just as petty-bourgeois capitalists have to rely on their individual knowledge, drive, effort and skill in order to survive in the face both of Big Capital and the working class, so these unfortunate dialecticians have to ply their trade in the revolutionary movement as individual theorists, armed only with a set of dogmatic ideas, fortified by an entire Thesaurus of obscure jargon, arcane terminology, sub-Aristotelian 'logic' and Mickey Mouse Science. Hence, these hapless comrades find that they, too, have to ply their trade in hostile theoretical waters.

 

[Anyone who doubts this only has to read the writings churned out by these characters to see how little respect they have for the work of the vast majority of other revolutionary theorists (sometimes whose opinions differ from their own only in the minutest of theological details); their work always appears to be a "rant", a "re-hash", a "screed"; it is invariably "boring", "turgid", even "hysterical"; the one writing it has "bloviated" all over the page. In addition, we find a surfeit of scatological epithets. (Monty Python lampooned this mind-set only too well: "The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f*cking Judean People's Front.") It isn't being suggested that every last one of them adopts this stance cynically. Many have very noble intentions -- but, and once again, this is a class issue. I have posted some of this material in Essays One and Ten Part One, as well as in several places below -- for example, here.]

 

So it is that these 'social atoms' have brought with them into the Workers' Movement this divisive, bourgeois trait. And, by all accounts, they have perfected it with all the verve of inveterate religious sectarians.

 

In the market for 'Marxist' ideas, those with the most sharply-honed critical skills soon claw their way to the top.

 

As one-time UK-SWP stalwart, Andy Wilson, pointed out:

 

"Things get interesting when you go a little deeper. If the correct, imputed class-consciousness resides in the revolutionary party, and yet the members of the revolutionary party are in fact pulled in different directions by their day-to-day experience, where in the revolutionary party does it actually reside? Well, of course, if the members at the 'periphery' of the party -- where it makes contact with the world outside, so to say -- are being pulled by the class, then the correct consciousness must lie at the point furthest away from this periphery -- it must reside at the 'centre' of the party. That is why all the groups have their 'centre', and 'centralised' leaderships.

 

"However, in reality the central committees are also torn apart by ideological differences; by outside allegiances, prejudices, whims -- whatever it is that drives these people. Therefore, ultimately possession of the correct consciousness comes down very, very often to one person (though a member of the SWP central committee once confided to me that, in her opinion, only two people in the SWP had the correct revolutionary 'instincts' -- herself and Tony Cliff). The way that Gerry Healy dominated the WRP, the way that Cliff dominated the SWP, and so on, is perhaps not merely down to their talents or the force of their personalities, but has been prepared by the logic of a particular mindset. So, while there is no Führerprinzip involved, in practice these groups are nevertheless generally dominated by powerful individuals, or powerful cliques." [Quoted from here; italic emphasis in the original. Accessed 04/02/2013.]

 

Except, Wilson seems not to have applied any sort of class analysis to this phenomenon, nor does he even so much as mention the theory that lies at its heart.

 

And that isn't surprising, either, since he is a dialectician, too.

 

As Wilson noted, the fact that such individuals have very strong personalities (which they need, otherwise they wouldn't survive long at the top of a revolutionary party, let alone climb the greasy pole) merely compounds the problem. As noted above, in order to make a name for themselves, and advance their 'revolutionary careers', it becomes important, if not necessary, for them to disagree with every other theorist, which they almost invariably proceed to do.

 

In fact, the expectation is that every single comrade should argue his/her corner, and do so with vigour and conviction. And, in some parties, with no little added violence, verbal and physical.

 

Even though sectarianism is caused by petty-bourgeois social 'atoms' such as these dialectics only makes a bad situation worse.

 

How is it able to do this?

 

The answer isn't hard to find: what better theory could there be that is capable of initiating and encouraging endless disputation than one as contradictory and incomprehensible as DM? What other theory informs all who fall under its hypnotic spell that progress (even in ideas) may only be had through "internal contradiction", and thus through splitting?

 

[Or, as a Maoist might say, "One divides into two".]

 

Indeed, as Lenin himself pointed out:

 

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

 

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

 

There it is: "splitting" is an "essential" aspect of this theory, with "struggle" an "absolute". Plainly, that must also involve the relations between comrades.

 

So, an emphasis on intra-party strife and splitting sits right at the heart of DM!

 

In which case, DM-fans needn't wait for the ruling-class to divide them, they are experts already!

 

More importantly, as we will see, DM is almost unique in its capacity to 'justify' anything at all and its opposite, both alternatives often promoted and rationalised by the very same dialectician in the same book, article or even speech! Hence, this theory is unique in its capacity to rationalise any point of view and its opposite.

 

This helps explain all the splits, the corruption and the screw ups we see all too often at the 'top' of our movement.

 

Again, as I pointed out in Part One:

 

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

 

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

 

DM is therefore the theoretical equivalent of throwing petrol on a raging fire.

 

For Dialectical Marxists, the drive to impose one's views on others thus becomes irresistible. Doctrinal control (i.e., the control of all those inner, privatised ideas lodged in every other atomised party skull, which threaten the legitimacy of the ideas of still other dialecticians similarly so beleaguered) now acts as a surrogate for external control by material forces.

 

Indeed, this desire to control the thoughts of all those other 'atoms' in the Party has even been given the grandiloquent name: "democratic centralism" -- a nice 'contradiction-in-terms' for you to ponder.16

 

[Don't get me wrong; I am here referring to the Zinoviev-Stalin aberration, not democratic decisions openly agreed upon and collectively implemented, whatever we finally decide to call it.]

 

As a recent (anonymous) contributor to the internal debate in the UK-SWP over the crisis that engulfed it in early 2013, puts it:

 

"The Bolshevik leadership of 1917 was elected individually. There was no ban on factions. On the eve of the October Revolution, Zinoviev and Kamenev publicly opposed the insurrection in Maxim Gorky's newspaper...and resigned from the Bolshevik Central Committee. They were not expelled from the Party.

 

"The model operated currently by the SWP is not that of the Bolshevik revolution. It is a version of the Zinovievite model adopted during the period of 'Bolshevisation' in the mid-1920s and then honed by ever smaller and more marginal groups." [Quoted from here. Accessed 29/01/2013. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links added. See also Appendix D, and here. (The background details can be found in Cliff (1985), Chapter 19.) For an alternative view, see the UK-SWP Special Pre-Conference Bulletin article 'You Say Kamenev, I Say Bogdanov', written by 'Kevin', pp.69-70.]

 

But, just as genuine religionists soon discovered, mind-control is much easier to secure if an appeal is made to impenetrably mysterious doctrines that no one understands, but which all must accept and all must repeat constantly in order to dull the critical faculties.

 

Hence, because the party can't reproduce the class struggle inside its four walls, and hence force unity on its cadres externally, it can only control political thought internally (in each head) by turning it into a repetitive, mind-numbing mantra, insisting on doctrinal orthodoxy, and then accusing all those who don't conform to such Ideal standards of heresy, or -- worse -- of not "understanding" dialectics!

 

In this milieu, an Authoritarian Personality type soon emerges to endorse, and then enforce, ideological purity (disguised now as part of an endeavour to keep faith with "tradition" -- which is, un-coincidentally, a noxious trait shared by all known religions). "Tradition" now becomes a watch-word to test the doctrinal purity of party cadres -- especially those who might stray too far from the narrow path which alone leads the DM-elect toward revolutionary salvation.17

 

This naturally helps inflame yet more disputes and thus more splits.

 

[History has indeed confirmed that the 'centrifugal forces' of fragmentation that operate between dialectically-distracted comrades far out-weigh their constant calls for unity. (I return to this theme below. See also Appendix F.)]

 

 

The Faith Of Prominent DM-Converts

 

Marx Equates Philosophy And Religion

 

We have already seen Marx nail his colours to the anti-Philosophy mast with these woods:

 

"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 (1975c), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, it is no surprise, therefore, to see DM-fans -- who reject the above, as well as Marx's advice that they should "leave philosophy" -- act and express themselves in a quasi-religious terms.

 

 

Trotsky Gets His Priorities 'Right'

 

In addition to the many examples listed here, the above allegations concerning the quasi-religious, or highly emotional and irrational responses elicited from dialecticians when their theory is criticised, find ready confirmation in the case of at least one leading Marxist. George Novack records the following meeting he and Max Shachtman had with Trotsky in Mexico, in 1937:

 

"[O]ur discussion glided into the subject of philosophy.... We talked about the best ways of studying dialectical materialism, about Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, and about the theoretical backwardness of American radicalism. Trotsky brought forward the name of Max Eastman, who in various works had polemicized against dialectics as a worthless idealist hangover from the Hegelian heritage of Marxism.

 

"He became tense and agitated. 'Upon going back to the States,' he urged, 'you comrades must at once take up the struggle against Eastman's distortion and repudiation of dialectical materialism. There is nothing more important than this. Pragmatism, empiricism, is the greatest curse of American thought. You must inoculate younger comrades against its infection.'

 

"I was somewhat surprised at the vehemence of his argumentation on this matter at such a moment. As the principal defendant in absentia in the Moscow trials, and because of the dramatic circumstances of his voyage in exile, Trotsky then stood in the centre of international attention. He was fighting for his reputation, liberty, and life against the powerful government of Stalin, bent on his defamation and death. After having been imprisoned and gagged for months by the Norwegian authorities, he had been kept incommunicado for weeks aboard their tanker.

 

"Yet on the first day after reunion with his cothinkers, he spent more than an hour explaining how important it was for a Marxist movement to have a correct philosophical method and to defend dialectical materialism against its opponents!...

 

"[Trotsky later wrote:] 'The question of correct philosophical doctrine, that is, a correct method of thought, is of decisive significance to a revolutionary party....'" [Novack (1978), pp.269-71. Italics in the original. Bold emphases and link added. Spelling altered to conform with UK English; quotation marks adapted to agree with conventions adopted at this site.]

 

The accuracy of Novack's memory is confirmed by the following comment recorded by Trotsky:

 

"...It would not be amiss, therefore, to refer to the fact that my first serious conversation with comrades Shachtman and Warde, in the train immediately after my arrival in Mexico in January 1937, was devoted to the necessity of persistently propagating dialectic materialism. After our American section split from the Socialist Party I insisted most strongly on the earliest possible publication of a theoretical organ, having again in mind the need to educate the party, first and foremost its new members, in the spirit of dialectic materialism. In the United States, I wrote at that time, where the bourgeoisie systematically in stills (sic) vulgar empiricism in the workers, more than anywhere else is it necessary to speed the elevation of the movement to a proper theoretical level. On January 20, 1939, I wrote to comrade Shachtman concerning his joint article with comrade Burnham, 'Intellectuals in Retreat':

 

'The section on the dialectic is the greatest blow that you, personally, as the editor of the New International could have delivered to Marxist theory.... Good. We will speak about it publicly.'

 

"Thus a year ago I gave open notice in advance to Shachtman that I intended to wage a public struggle against his eclectic tendencies. At that time there was no talk whatever of the coming opposition; in any case furthest from my mind was the supposition that the philosophic bloc against Marxism prepared the ground for a political bloc against the program of the Fourth International." [Trotsky (1971), p.142. Bold emphases and link added.]18

 

Given the content of this Essay -- and Marx's own words --, Trotsky's semi-religious fervour, his emotional attachment to the dialectic, and his irrational response to Max Eastman and James Burnham, for example, are much easier to understand. Can you imagine anyone getting so worked up over the minutiae underlying the demise of Feudalism? Or, the falling rate of profit?

 

 

Stalin Gets His Priorities 'Right', Too!

 

For all their other major differences, Trotsky and Stalin were both Devoted Dialectical Disciples.

 

Ethan Pollock reports on a revealing incident that took place in the Kremlin just after the end of World War Two:

 

"In late December 1946 Joseph Stalin called a meeting of high-level Communist Party personnel.... The opening salvos of the Cold War had already been launched. Earlier in the year Winston Churchill had warned of an iron curtain dividing Europe. Disputes about the political future of Germany, the presence of Soviet troops in Iran, and proposals to control atomic weapons had all contributed to growing tensions between the United States and the USSR. Inside the Soviet Union the devastating effects of the Second World War were painfully obvious: cities remained bombed out and unreconstructed; famine laid waste to the countryside, with millions dying of starvation and many millions more malnourished. All this makes one of the agenda items for the Kremlin meeting surprising: Stalin wanted to discuss the recent prizewinning book History of Western European Philosophy [by Georgii Aleksandrov -- RL]." [Pollock (2006), p.15. Bold emphasis and links added. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

Pollock explains that the problems Aleksandrov faced arose because of his interpretation of the foreign (i.e., German) roots of DM in an earlier work, and how he had been criticised for not emphasising the "reactionary and bourgeois" nature of the work of German Philosophers like Kant, Fichte and Hegel --, in view of the recent fight against Fascism -- when, of course, during the Hitler-Stalin pact a few years earlier, the opposite line had been peddled by the Kremlin. Pollock also describes the detailed and lengthy discussions the Central Committee devoted to Aleksandrov's previous work years earlier at the height of the war against the Nazis!

 

It is revealing, therefore, to note that Stalin and his henchmen considered DM to be so important that other more pressing matters could be shelved or delayed so that they might devote time to discussing...Philosophy! In this, of course, Stalin was in total agreement with Trotsky and other leading Marxists.

 

Once more, Marx's comments (repeated below) make abundantly clear why that is so.

 

 

Bukharin Makes His Peace With The Dialectical Deity

 

We can see something similar happening in the case of Nikolai Bukharin. Anyone who reads Philosophical Arabesques [Bukharin (2005)] will be struck by the semi-religious fervour with which he defends dialectics. In view of Bukharin's serious predicament this is hardly surprising. But, it is also no less revealing since it confirms much of the above: this theory is responsible for holding the dialectical ego together, even in the face of death.

 

The old saying, "There are no atheists in a foxhole", may be incorrect, but it looks like there might not have been many non-dialecticians in the Lubyanka waiting on Stalin's 'mercy'. Behind those grim walls it seems that even hard-nosed Bolsheviks needed some form of consolation. As Helena Sheehan notes in her Introduction:

 

"Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his text is that it was written at all. Condemned not by an enemy but by his own comrades, seeing what had been so magnificently created being so catastrophically destroyed, undergoing shattering interrogations, how was he not totally debilitated by despair? Where did this author get the strength, the composure, the faith in the future that was necessary to write this treatise of Philosophy, this passionate defense of the intellectual tradition of Marxism and the political project of socialist construction?

 

"Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin was a tragic true believer...." [Sheehan (2005), pp.7-8. Bold emphases added.]

 

Once again, Marx, I think, had the answer:

 

"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.... 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....

 

"...Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions...." [Marx (1975b), p.244. Bold emphases added.]

 

"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 (1975c), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

The fact that this doomed comrade chose to spend his last days and weeks expounding and defending this Hermetic theory -- pleading with Stalin not to destroy his book -- tells us all we need to know.

 

[Several more examples of DM-faith like this have been posted here and here.]

 

 

Lack Of Power Corrupts

 

The Correct 'Line'

 

Lord Acton was mistaken when he said:

 

"Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

 

This gets things completely the wrong way round. As Tony Cliff remarked in a talk, it is lack of power that corrupts absolutely. It corrupts the working class, and that in turn allows the members of the ruling-class to get away with whatever they feel they can get away with, corrupting them in return.

 

Similarly, a passive working class allows revolutionaries -- or, rather, their supposed 'tribunes' -- to get up to all kinds of dialectical mischief. Hence, the latter become corrupted, too.

 

As we have seen, among the many different forms this corruption takes is the general lack of any sort of effective democratic control exercised on Central Committees and Party 'Leaders'.

 

Despite the regular calls to "build the party", it now looks like small is beautiful, if not highly desirable. Clearly, that is because it allows for maximum thought-control. In small parties the 'purity' of the 'revolutionary tradition' is easier to enforce.

 

Factionalism, splits and sectarianism are thus intrinsic, constant and ubiquitous features of the political and organisational practice of these petty-bourgeois revolutionaries. This keeps their parties small and helps distinguish them from all the rest.

 

This is what Hal Draper had to say about the situation in America alone, thirty or forty years ago:

 

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

 

This isn't just an American phenomenon, either, it is international, and, as we will see in Essay Ten Part One, the situation has worsened considerably since the above words were committed to paper. [The fragmentation of the UK-SWP is just the latest example of this trend.]

 

The aforementioned Authoritarian Personality-type -- in the shape of The Leader, The 'Great Helmsman'/'Teacher', the Central Committee [CC] itself, or one or more of their lackeys -- ensures that democratic accountability is at best merely formal. Hence, genuine democratic control soon becomes an early casualty in this backwater of the class war. Democracy is, among other things, an external constraint exercised by the majority on the individual, which helps explain why it is favoured by the majority; but, it is equally feared by the petty-bourgeois minority, and for the same reason. In such dialectically-dominated micro-parties, democracy threatens the internally-enforced mind control this minority prefers. Which is, of course, why so many DM-parties have latched onto the slate system as the preferred method of electing their CCs, and their preferred method for denying their rank-and-file any sort of democratic control.18a

 

This, too, is one of the reasons why Capitalists themselves need the state -- packed to the gunnels with individuals they can trust, those selected by their own version of the slate system -- to impose and then consolidate the rule of the minority over otherwise democratically-inclined workers. And, it is also why they need to call upon various Idealist and reactionary nostrums to convince the recalcitrant majority that this is all 'for their benefit you understand', since "we are all in it together".

 

It is also why Dialectical Marxists need the centralism, but not the democratic part of democratic centralism, and why democracy is ditched so readily and so often.

 

Naturally, political degeneration like this doesn't grow in a vacuum, independent of social forces. As noted here, the malignant side-effects of Dialectical Dementia tend to dominate (i) When the materialist counter-weight provided by the working class is totally absent (i.e., before the proletariat had emerged as an effective social force), (ii) When it is much more attenuated, or (iii) In periods of "downturn", retreat and defeat. This is, of course, also when Dialectical Druggies tend to 're-discover' this 'theory' and when they all attempt to snort along the 'correct' philosophical line.19

 

Small wonder then that these petty-bourgeois victims cling on to DM like drunks to lampposts -- and, alas, just like the 'god'-botherers among us who cling to their own favourite brand of opiates.

 

DM now shapes and dominates the personal-, and party-identity of such comrades. Any attack on this sacred doctrine is an attack not just on the glue that holds each of these social atoms together, but on the cement that holds together the party and the entire Dialectical Marxist "tradition".19a

 

In their own eyes, these professional, petty-bourgeois revolutionaries are special; they live -- no they embody -- the revolution. They have caught the tide of history, they must keep the faith.

 

Commitment to the revolution on these terms now creates a layer of militants who, for all the world, appear to suffer from some sort of dialectical personality disorder -- one aspect of which is The Leader Complex.

 

This helps explain why, among dialecticians, disagreements quickly become so personal, and why factionalism is so rife -- and why strong characters, like Ted Grant, Gerry Healy, Michael Pablo, Tony Cliff, Ernest Mandel, Pierre Lambert, Sean Matgamna, Marlene Dixon, Abimael Guzmán, and host of others, foment splits and divisions almost from the get-go.

 

Again, as noted above, fragmentation lies at the very heart of DM, and is now synonymous with Dialectical Marxism itself -- witness the well-aimed joke in Monty Python's Life of Brian (about the Judean People's Front, etc.). It is memorable because everyone recognises its central core of truth.

 

So, Dialectical Marxists soon transform themselves into Militant Martinets, ostracising and expelling anyone who fails to tow the 'correct' line. As noted above, these Dialectical Despots have very powerful personalities, something they can use to good effect in the small ponds they invariably patrol -- and clearly prefer. Expulsions, splits and bans thus keep their grouplets small, and thus easier to control.

 

The petty-bourgeois revolutionary ego helps keep our movement fragmented, small, insular and thus ineffectual --, clearly in preference to its being democratic, outward-looking and effective. No wonder then that in such circumstances, democracy goes out the window along with reasonableness --, and, of course, along with any significant political impact.

 

In this way, ruling-ideas have come to rule Dialectical Marxism, which has in turn has helped ruin our movement -- by allowing those who divide, rule, and those who rule, divide.

 

Another ironic 'dialectical inversion' for readers to ponder.

 

 

The Road To Dialectical Damascus

 

Each Dialectical Dopehead acts as if he/she alone has direct access to the exact meaning of the dialectic (here is an excellent recent example of this syndrome), mirroring the individualism that underpins Protestantism wherein believers are required to work out their own salvation in 'fear and trembling' by means of a thorough study of the Bible allied to endless disputation. This also helps account for the interminable dialectical debates over vacuous Hegelian concepts (rather like those that exercised the Medieval Schoolmen): for example, whether this or that thesis is "abstract", "positivist", or "one-sided", or whether 'opposites' are 'united' or 'identical' --, or, indeed, whether "motion precedes matter"..., or is it the other way round?20

 

This also helps explain why each DM-supplicant thinks that no one else really "understands" the dialectic.

 

[Since no one does in fact understand it (on that, see Essay Nine Part One), this is a very easy claim to make -- and one no less difficult to refute.]

 

Every opponent is now tarred with the same brush (on this, see below as well as here): all fail to "understand" the dialectic -- that is, all except the blessed soul that made that claim!

 

Rather like the Old Testament Prophets, it is almost as if these individuals have received a personal visit from the Self-Developing Idea Itself.

 

Indeed, The Road to Damascus and The Road to Dialectics have more in common than just a capital "D".

 

All this explains why, to each DM-acolyte, the dialectic is so personal and so intimately their own possession, and why you can sense the personal hurt they feel when it is comprehensively trashed, as it has been at this site. [For two excellent recent examples of this syndrome, check out these two incoherent videos.]

 

Hence, any attack on this 'precious jewel' is an attack on the revolutionary ego itself and will be resisted with all the bile at its command.

 

And that explains, too, all the abuse you, dear reader, will receive if you think to challenge the Dialectical Doctrines of a single one of these Hermetic Head Cases.

 

 

Dialectics And Defeat

 

Again, as noted above, in defeat these individuals reach once more for what is in effect a comfort blanket -- Dialectical Methadone -- in order to insulate their minds both from reality and constant failure. And, by all accounts this ersatz opiate has done excellent job to date. In fact, anyone who attempts to argue with a single one of these Dialectical Dupes would be far better occupied head-butting a Billy-goat for all the good it will do. [That allegation is easily confirmed; the reader should check this out.]

 

However, narcoleptic stupor of such depth and intensity -- coupled with the serial lack of clarity required to maintain it -- only helps engineer more splits, thus more set-backs and defeats, which in turn simply creates the need for another sizeable hit.

 

And so the Dialectical Monster lumbers on into this new millennium.

 

Small wonder then that Dialectical Marxism is to success what religion is peace on earth.

 

 

Disaster Central

 

DM has thus infected our movement at every level, exacerbating sectarianism, factionalism, exclusivism, unreasonableness, dismissive haughtiness (this endearing quality displayed most notably by the High Church Faction), pomposity, corruption, extreme dogmatism (clearly bordering on clinical paranoia in some cases), topped-off with several layers of abuse, all liberally peppered with delightful phrases like "rant", "diatribe", "screed", "sh*t", "cr*p", and worse. Indeed, as noted earlier, a leading Marxist Professor of Economics, (Andrew Kliman, no less), recently urged me (via e-mail) to "Eat sh*t and die!", simply because I had the temerity to ask him to explain what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, which he, like all the rest, had signally failed to do.

 

Dialectical vices like these have introduced into each and every tiny sectlet an open and implacable hatred of practically every other sectlet, and, in some cases, every other comrade -- especially those who dare to question The Sacred Mantra. [On that, see Note 14 and Appendix B.]

 

Unsurprisingly, the result of all this dialectical infighting is that in order to consolidate their power the ruling-class needn't try to divide us; we're quite capable of making a first-rate job of it ourselves, thank you very much.

 

Everyone in the movement is painfully aware of this (some even joke about it -- again, often along Monty Python lines!); others excuse it or explain it away with yet more 'dialectics' -- or even with fruitless calls for unity.21

 

But, no one confronts these fatal defects at their source in (i) The class origin of the petty-bourgeois revolutionary personality and (ii) Its fondness for the divisive doctrines of that latter-day Hermeticist -- Hegel.

 

 

The Socialist Soothsayer

 

Doctrinaire Marxism is the final outcome of this mystical creed, hence it needs a Guru or two to interpret it, rationalise constant failure, and 'justify' regular splits -- and, of course, to initiate yet more of the same.

 

Enter the cult of the personality with its petty, nit-picking, small pond mentality. Enter the "Leader" who knows all, reveals all, expels all (and, in several notorious cases, executes or imprisons all): The Dialectical Magus.

 

As observers of religious cults have noted, even the most mundane and banal statements put out by such leaders are treated with awe, attention and inordinate respect, compounded by a level of deference that would shame a professional sycophant -- almost as if their words had been conveyed to expectant humanity from off the mountain top itself, possessed of profound, esoteric significance and divine authority.

 

Witness the inordinate and quasi-religious reverence in which the dialectical meanderings of Mao and Stalin were held. Here, for example, is Lin Biao on the former, in 1966:

 

"Chairman Mao is a genius, everything the Chairman says is truly great; one of the Chairman's words will override the meaning of ten thousands of ours." [Quoted from here.]

 

This is what Nikita Khrushchev had to say (in his 'secret speech' to the 20th Congress of the CPSU):

 

"After Stalin's death, the Central Committee began to implement a policy of explaining concisely and consistently that it is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics, akin to those of a god. Such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behaviour.

 

"Such a belief about a man, and specifically about Stalin, was cultivated among us for many years. The objective of the present report is not a thorough evaluation of Stalin's life and activity. Concerning Stalin's merits, an entirely sufficient number of books, pamphlets and studies had already been written in his lifetime. Stalin's role in the preparation and execution of the Socialist Revolution, in the Civil War, and in the fight for the construction of socialism in our country, is universally known. Everyone knows it well.

 

"At present, we are concerned with a question which has immense importance for the Party now and for the future -- with how the cult of the person of Stalin has been gradually growing, the cult which became at a certain specific stage the source of a whole series of exceedingly serious and grave perversions of Party principles, of Party democracy, of revolutionary legality.

 

"Because not all as yet realize fully the practical consequences resulting from the cult of the individual, [or] the great harm caused by violation of the principle of collective Party direction and by the accumulation of immense and limitless power in the hands of one person, the Central Committee considers it absolutely necessary to make material pertaining to this matter available to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

 

"Allow me first of all to remind you how severely the classics of Marxism-Leninism denounced every manifestation of the cult of the individual. In a letter to the German political worker Wilhelm Bloss, [Karl] Marx stated: 'From my antipathy to any cult of the individual, I never made public during the existence of the [1st] International the numerous addresses from various countries which recognized my merits and which annoyed me. I did not even reply to them, except sometimes to rebuke their authors. [Friedrich] Engels and I first joined the secret society of Communists on the condition that everything making for superstitious worship of authority would be deleted from its statute. [Ferdinand] Lassalle subsequently did quite the opposite.'" [Nikita Khrushchev, Speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, 24-25/02/1956. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling modified to agree with UK English. Typos corrected. (I have informed the editors over at the Marxist Internet Archive.)]

 

[Of course, this cult-of-Stalin had been growing since the mid-1920s.]

 

Here, Stalin is praised to the rafters, and beyond:

 

"Thank you, Stalin. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. No matter how old I become, I shall never forget how we received Stalin two days ago. Centuries will pass, and the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see Stalin, our inspired leader. Yes, and we regard ourselves as the happiest of mortals because we are the contemporaries of a man who never had an equal in world history.

 

"The men of all ages will call on thy name, which is strong, beautiful, wise and marvellous. Thy name is engraven on every factory, every machine, every place on the earth, and in the hearts of all men.

 

"Every time I have found myself in his presence I have been subjugated by his strength, his charm, his grandeur. I have experienced a great desire to sing, to cry out, to shout with joy and happiness. And now see me -- me! -- on the same platform where the Great Stalin stood a year ago. In what country, in what part of the world could such a thing happen.

 

"I write books. I am an author. All thanks to thee, O great educator, Stalin. I love a young woman with a renewed love and shall perpetuate myself in my children -- all thanks to thee, great educator, Stalin. I shall be eternally happy and joyous, all thanks to thee, great educator, Stalin. Everything belongs to thee, chief of our great country. And when the woman I love presents me with a child the first word it shall utter will be: Stalin.

 

"O great Stalin, O leader of the peoples,
Thou who broughtest man to birth.
Thou who fructifies the earth,
Thou who restorest to centuries,
Thou who makest bloom the spring,
Thou who makest vibrate the musical chords...
Thou, splendour of my spring, O thou,
Sun reflected by millions of hearts."

 

Did even Hitler ever receive such praise and adoration?

 

Few will need reminding of the cult of Kim-II-sung, Kim-Jong-iI (and now Kim Jong Un), or Enver Hoxha. Or, indeed, the thoroughly obsequious praise heaped on Gerry Healy -- Blessed Be His Name -- by prominent members of the now defunct WRP; or even the adulation lavished on Marlene Dixon of the DWP:

 

"Comrade Marlene and the Party are inseparable; her contribution is the Party itself, is the unity all of us join together to build upon. The Party is now the material expression of that unity, of that theoretical world view. That world view is the world view of the Party, its central leadership and all of its members. And there will be no other world view…. This was the unity that founded the Party, this was the unity that safeguarded the Party through purge and two-line struggle, and this is the unity we will protect and defend at all costs. There will be no other unity." [Quoted from here; see also here. This passage in fact appears in Lalich (2004), p.164.]

 

Witness, too, the wholly un-merited hero-worship heaped on that towering mediocrity, Bob Avakian.22

 

[I have posted many more examples of this nauseating sycophancy here and here.]

 

In fact, Healy was well-known for fomenting strife among party members (with added violence, so we are told) in order to heighten the 'contradictions' in his micro-sect --, along 'sound' dialectical lines, of course. In the recent crisis in the UK-SWP, Alex Callinicos even spoke about of "lynch mobs". Of late we have also witnessed the divisive political and 'philosophical' gyrations of Chris Cutrone and the 'Platypus Affiliated Society'.

 

Compare the above hero worship with Marx's own stated attitude (referenced above by Khrushchev):

 

"Neither of us cares a straw for popularity. Let me cite one proof of this: such was my aversion to the personality cult that at the time of the International, when plagued by numerous moves -- originating from various countries -- to accord me public honour, I never allowed one of these to enter the domain of publicity, nor did I ever reply to them, save with an occasional snub. When Engels and I first joined the secret communist society, we did so only on condition that anything conducive to a superstitious belief in authority be eliminated from the Rules. (Lassalle subsequently operated in the reverse direction.)" [MECW, 45, p.288, Marx to Wilhem Blos, 10/11/1877. Link added.]

 

This phenomenon also helps account for much of the personal and organisation corruption revolutionary politics has witnessed over the years (ranging from Mao's abuse of female comrades to the same with respect to Healy (on that, see Appendix A), and down to the scandal that engulfed the UK-SWP -- but there are many more examples of this malaise (this is just the latest instance, concerning a Maoist cult in London), which is partly the result of the noxious effect this doctrine has had on otherwise radical minds (i.e., convincing them that they are somehow 'special' and thus are, Raskolnikov-like, above the 'conventional' morality of the 'herd'):

 

"Last week the 75-year old Aravindan Balakrishnan (aka 'comrade Bala') was sentenced to 23 years in jail for a string of offences, including rape, sexual assault, child cruelty and false imprisonment -- the last two charges relating to his daughter, Katy Morgan-Davies, who is now 33.

 

"The court heard how the leader of the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought -- such as it was -- operated a 'dehumanising and degrading' domestic regime, terrifying his small coterie of female followers (or subjects) into thinking he could read their minds and had 'god-like' powers. These powers involved mastery of 'Jackie' (Jehovah, Allah, Christ, Krishna, Immortal Easwaran), and an 'electronic satellite warfare machine' built by the Communist Party of China/People's Liberation Army, which could strike them dead if they ever stepped out of line. Balakrishnan also claimed that it was a challenge to his leadership that had resulted in the 1986 space shuttle disaster.

 

"All this is perhaps not quite so surprising when we discover that Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein were -- in the words of Morgan-Davies -- his 'his gods and his heroes' that he wished to 'emulate': therefore you 'couldn't criticise them'. Indeed, according to her, her father was using the sect or collective as a 'pilot unit' to learn how to control people before taking over the world -- presumably appointing himself as global revolutionary dictator. But so great were his delusions, revealed Morgan-Davies, that at times he worried that Mao and the others might act as a 'rival to him' -- when instead they should be 'secondary to him', as he wanted to be 'bigger than all of them'. We are also informed that he wished three million had died in the Tiananmen Square massacre.

 

"Balakrishnan raped two women on the basis that he was 'purifying them' of the 'bourgeois culture' in the outside world, the jurors were told. He began sexually abusing his first victim when his wife, Chandra, was in a diabetic-induced coma. She met him at a demonstration when she was 23, saying he 'had the air of an important man with authority' and quickly became entranced by him. The other victim was a Malaysian nurse who initially found Workers' Institute meetings 'welcoming and friendly', but was repeatedly sexually assaulted over a 10-year period....

 

"In 1974 Balakrishnan was expelled from the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) for 'splittist activities' and 'opposition to dialectical materialism'. In return, he scornfully called them the 'Communist Party of Elizabeth (Most-Loyal)' and set-up the rival 'institute' -- also launching his own publication, the South London Workers' Bulletin, which never missed an opportunity to vehemently denounce his former comrades of the CPE(M-L), and just about everybody else, for being 'fascists', 'running dogs', 'agents of imperialism' and so forth....

 

"The 'institute' started to produce spectacular leaflets predicting the overthrow of the 'British fascist state' and the beginnings of the 'world revolution' led by the CPC/PLA [Communist Party of China/People's Liberation Army -- RL]. In fact, we learnt, the PLA would launch a 'revolutionary invasion' of Britain by 1980 -- the bridgehead being the liberated zone of Brixton. This was the 'first stable base area in the imperialist heartlands', where whole families were free from 'fascist rules and regulations' -- a fact, Balakrishnan assured his followers, that has 'driven the British bourgeoisie up the wall'. Developing the theme, a 'perspectives' document from 1977 confidently stated that the British population was moving in a clear 'revolutionary direction' -- primarily thanks to the Workers' Institute 'successfully' conducting 'vigorous programmes to uphold Chairman Mao's revolutionary line amidst the mass upsurge in Britain'. And if you went to certain pubs in Brixton at this time, occasionally someone might get on a table and wave the Little Red Book about.

 

"Much to the mirth of the left, and showing the final descent into complete lunacy, Balakrishnan's group asserted that the 'international dictatorship of the proletariat' had been 'established covertly' in 1977 by 'our party' -- i.e., the CPC. You are actually living under socialism: it's just that you don't know it yet. The fact that a diarist in The Times reprinted some of the group's material that year for the amusement of its readers only proved to Balakrishnan that the 'hired scribes of the bourgeoisie' and 'their masters' are 'well aware of the danger of the rapid growth and development of the Workers’ Institute in the past four years to their class interests'. Maoists are, of course, renowned for their sense of humour....

 

"Then again...mad politics drives you crazy, not the other way round. In certain respects, the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and its devotion to dogma is a representative example of the British left -- albeit in an extreme or concentrated form. Take Gerry Healy's Workers Revolutionary Party -- not as mad as the Workers' Institute, true, but not far off it and arguably more destructive. You can see obvious similarities not only with regards to sexual abuse and rape, but also when it comes to promoting a world view which is patently false. When the WRP first came out with its line that we were living under a Bonapartist dictatorship and on the edge of a military coup -- so sleep with your boots on as the revolution is about to happen -- you might have conceded generously that, whilst the comrades were wrong, it was worth having a discussion about it. But to repeat the same thing 20 or 30 years later is just madness. Healy and the then WRP leadership may not have been clinically insane, but they were definitely socially insane.

 

"Not entirely dissimilarly, there is the Socialist Workers Party and its frighteningly bureaucratic internal regime. It may not have had a Gerry Healy or an Aravindan Balakrishnan, but it certainly had comrade Delta -- and at first the apparatus automatically rallied around him, attempting to protect him from accusations of sexual abuse. Or how about when our SWP comrades told us that the miners' Great Strike of 1984-85 was an 'extreme form of the downturn'? You could hardly make it up. Dogma run amok." ['Devotion to Dogma', Weekly Worker, 04/02/2016; accessed 29/03/2016. Quotation marks altered to conform with conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original. A BBC report can be accessed here. I have corrected this author's mis-spelling of Gerry Healy's name.]

 

Figure Three: Gerry Healy Receives The Sacred Word --,

Er..., Or Is It Bob Avakian/Aravindan Balakrishnan/Marlene Dixon?

 

Megalomania and an inflated view of one's own (surely cosmic) importance, a failure to face reality (courtesy of a theory that teaches that 'appearances' are 'contradicted' by underlying 'essence') descend like a cloud on the brains of such individuals, associated 'prophets-in-the-making', and, of course, their acolytes. How else would it be possible to rationalise so easily the pragmatic contradiction between, say, the widespread abuse of female comrades and a formal commitment to women's liberation except by means of this contradictory theory: DM?23

 

In this way, we have seen Dialectical Marxism replicate much of the abuse -- and most of sectarianism -- found in almost all known religions. [Again, see for example, Appendix A.] And no wonder, both were spawned by similar alienated patterns of ruling-class thought and social atomisation --, compounded, of course, by a cultic mentality, a pathological mind-set further aggravated by a divisive, Hermetic Creed capable of rationalising anything whatsoever and its opposite!

 

As even Marx inadvertently admitted:

 

"It's possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way." [Marx to Engels, 15/08/1857, MECW 40, p.152. Bold emphasis added.]

 

And this is one of the logical consequences of all that dialectical-adulation, exhibited by Gerry Healy of the old WRP, but more recently by the UK-SWP and the 'comrade Delta' debacle:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As things stand, we are bound to witness yet more Gerry Healys and Comrade Deltas on the revolutionary left (accompanied, of course, by the regulation 'it's all a fame-up by the capitalist state/media' defence). [On this, see Note 23.]

 

 

Social Psychology Doesn't Apply To Dialecticians

 

As far as the DM-'faithful' are concerned all this will fail to go even in one ear let alone straight out through the other. That is because they refuse to accept that any of the pressures bearing down on the rest of humanity could possibly have any effect on them, the DM-Elect.

 

Apparently, social psychology doesn't apply to these demi-gods!

 

Indeed, as far as the Elect are concerned, we can totally ignore these famous words:

 

"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." [Marx (1968), pp.181. Bold emphasis added.]

 

In response, it is often argued that tracing the fondness dialecticians have for Philosophy back to their class origin or current class position is just "crude reductionism"! In stark contrast, dialecticians are quite happy to reduce their opponents' theories and beliefs to their class origin or class position, but any attempt to do likewise with respect to their philosophical ideas is rejected out-of-hand.

 

Here, for example, is Lenin:

 

"In a word, Comrade Martov's formula will either remain a dead letter, an empty phrase, or it will be of benefit mainly and almost exclusively to 'intellectuals who are thoroughly imbued with bourgeois individualism' and do not wish to join an organisation. In words, Martov's formulation defends the interests of the broad strata of the proletariat, but in fact it serves the interests of the bourgeois intellectuals, who fight shy of proletarian discipline and organisation. No one will venture to deny that the intelligentsia, as a special stratum of modern capitalist society, is characterised, by and large, precisely by individualism and incapacity for discipline and organisation (cf., for example, Kautsky's well-known articles on the intelligentsia (partially reproduced below -- RL)). This, incidentally, is a feature which unfavourably distinguishes this social stratum from the proletariat; it is one of the reasons for the flabbiness and instability of the intellectual, which the proletariat so often feels; and this trait of the intelligentsia is intimately bound up with its customary mode of life, its mode of earning a livelihood, which in a great many respects approximates to the petty-bourgeois mode of existence (working in isolation or in very small groups, etc.). Nor is it fortuitous, lastly, that the defenders of Comrade Martov's formulation were the ones who had to cite the example of professors and high school students! It was not champions of a broad proletarian struggle who, in the controversy over Paragraph 1, took the field against champions of a radically conspiratorial organisation, as Comrades Martynov and Axelrod thought, but the supporters of bourgeois-intellectual individualism who clashed with the supporters of proletarian organisation and discipline." [Lenin (1976), pp.87-88. Bold emphasis and links added; italic emphases in the original.]

 

Quoting Kautsky on the social psychology of his opponents, Lenin further argued:

 

"One can't help recalling in this connection the brilliant social and psychological characterisation of this latter quality recently given by Karl Kautsky. The Social Democratic parties of different countries suffer not infrequently nowadays from similar maladies, and it would be very, very useful for us to learn from more experienced comrades the correct diagnosis and the correct cure. Karl Kautsky's characterisation of certain intellectuals will therefore be only a seeming digression from our theme.

 

'The problem...that again interests us so keenly today is the antagonism between the intelligentsia and the proletariat. My colleagues (Kautsky is himself an intellectual, a writer and editor) will mostly be indignant that I admit this antagonism. But it actually exists, and, as in other cases, it would be the most inexpedient tactics to try to overcome the fact by denying it. This antagonism is a social one, it relates to classes, not to individuals. The individual intellectual, like the individual capitalist, may identify himself with the proletariat in its class struggle. When he does, he changes his character too. It is not this type of intellectual, who is still an exception among his class, that we shall mainly speak of in what follows. Unless otherwise stated, I shall use the word intellectual to mean only the common run of intellectual who takes the stand of bourgeois society, and who is characteristic of the intelligentsia as a class. This class stands in a certain antagonism to the proletariat.

'This antagonism differs, however, from the antagonism between labour and capital. The intellectual is not a capitalist. True, his standard of life is bourgeois, and he must maintain it if he is not to become a pauper; but at the same time he is compelled to sell the product of his labour, and often his labour-power, and is himself often enough exploited and humiliated by the capitalist. Hence the intellectual does not stand in any economic antagonism to the proletariat. But his status of life and his conditions of labour are not proletarian, and this gives rise to a certain antagonism in sentiments and ideas.

 

'...Quite different is the case of the intellectual. He does not fight by means of power, but by argument. His weapons are his personal knowledge, his personal ability, his personal convictions. He can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for his individuality seems to him the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that he submits to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. He recognises the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course he counts himself among the latter....

 

'...The typical intellectual à la Stockmann regards a "compact majority" as a monster that must be overthrown....'

"Just such feeble whining of intellectuals who happened to find themselves in the minority, and nothing more, was the refusal of Martov and his friends to be named for office merely because the old circle had not been endorsed, as were their complaints of a state of siege and emergency laws 'against particular groups', which Martov cared nothing about when Yuzhny Rabochy and Rabocheye Dyelo were dissolved, but only came to care about when his group was dissolved.

 

"Just such feeble whining of intellectuals who happened to find themselves in the minority was that endless torrent of complaints, reproaches, hints, accusations, slanders, and insinuations regarding the 'compact majority' which was started by Martov and which poured out in such a flood at our Party Congress (and even more so after).

 

"The minority bitterly complained of the 'false accusation of opportunism'. Well, it had to do something to conceal the unpleasant fact that it was opportunists, who in most cases had followed the anti-Iskra-ists -- and partly these anti-Iskra-ists themselves -- that made up the compact minority, seizing with both hands on the championship of the circle spirit in Party institutions, opportunism in arguments, philistinism in Party affairs, and the instability and wishy-washiness of the intellectual." [Ibid., pp.160-64. Bold emphases and links added; italic emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Trotsky was also happy to do likewise (this time applying the following analysis to those in his own party who opposed him, but failing to do so with respect to those who supported him):

 

"[Y]ou [James Burnham -- RL], likewise, seek an ideal party democracy which would secure forever and for everybody the possibility of saying and doing whatever popped into his head, and which would insure the party against bureaucratic degeneration. You overlook a trifle, namely, that the party is not an arena for the assertion of free individuality, but an instrument of the proletarian revolution; that only a victorious revolution is capable of preventing the degeneration not only of the party but of the proletariat itself and of modern civilization as a whole. You do not see that our American section is not sick from too much centralism -- it is laughable even to talk about it -- but from a monstrous abuse and distortion of democracy on the part of petty-bourgeois elements. This is at the root of the present crisis....

 

"Petty-bourgeois, and especially declassed elements, divorced from the proletariat, vegetate in an artificial and shut-in environment. They have ample time to dabble in politics or its substitute. They pick out faults, exchange all sorts of tidbits and gossip concerning happenings among the party 'tops.' They always locate a leader who initiates them into all the 'secrets.' Discussion is their native element. No amount of democracy is ever enough for them. For their war of words they seek the fourth dimension. They become jittery, they revolve in a vicious circle, and they quench their thirst with salt water. Do you want to know the organizational program of the opposition? It consists of a mad hunt for the fourth dimension of party democracy. In practice this means burying politics beneath discussion; and burying centralism beneath the anarchy of the intellectual circles. When a few thousand workers join the party, they will call the petty-bourgeois anarchists severely to order. The sooner, the better." [Trotsky (1971), pp.116-17. Bold emphases and link added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Needless to say, the "few thousand" workers failed to show up. For Burnham's reply to Trotsky, see here.]

 

"If we exclude that stratum of the intelligentsia which directly serves the working masses, as workers' doctors, lawyers, and so on (a stratum which, as a general rule, is composed of the less talented representatives of these professions), then we see that the most important and influential part of the intelligentsia owes its livelihood to payments out of industrial profit, rent from land or the state budget, and thus is directly or indirectly dependent on the capitalist classes or the capitalist state.

 

"Abstractly considered, this material dependence puts out of the question only militant political activity in the anti-capitalist ranks, but not spiritual freedom in relation to the class which provides employment. In actual fact, however, this is not so. Precisely the 'spiritual' nature of the work that the intelligentsia do inevitably forms a spiritual tie between them and the possessing classes." [Trotsky, The Intelligentsia And Socialism. Bold emphases added.]

 

Finally, this is how Trotsky analysed the clique around Stalin:

 

"The entire effort of Stalin, with whom at that time Zinoviev and Kamenev were working hand in hand, was thenceforth directed to freeing the party machine from the control of the rank-and-file members of the party. In this struggle for 'stability' of the Central Committee, Stalin proved the most consistent and reliable among his colleagues. He had no need to tear himself away from international problems; he had never been concerned with them. The petty bourgeois outlook of the new ruling stratum was his own outlook. He profoundly believed that the task of creating socialism was national and administrative in its nature. He looked upon the Communist International as a necessary evil would should be used so far as possible for the purposes of foreign policy. His own party kept a value in his eyes merely as a submissive support for the machine." [Trotsky (1977), p.97. Bold emphasis and links added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Here, too, is George Novack:

 

"Since the theory of historical materialism, which lies at the very heart of Marxism, is the crowning achievement of the bourgeois intellectual, it is no more than an act of historical justice to apply it to the intelligentsia itself.... But the intelligentsia as a highly self-conscious and separate grouping with its own interests and institutions is a peculiar product of bourgeois society and the highly developed division of labour within it....

 

"Intellectuals are usually (though not necessarily) professionals of one kind of another, teachers, writers, scientists, artists, politicians, etc....

 

"But, along with the professionalisation of technical training and the institutionalization of branches of learning which reach their highest development in present-day society, there ensues a further specialization. A deep division of labour springs up between the theorists and practitioners of the arts and sciences. Thus we have theoreticians of aesthetics, who have never produced a work of art, and painters who have never given an abstract thought to their work; practical politicians and professors of politics; field scientists and laboratory scientists; experimental physicists and mathematical physicists. There have even been established 'schools of business administration', like that at Harvard, where the art of exploitation is taught in the grand manner, and the science of capitalist apologetics developed to the same refined degree as the scholastics developed Catholic theology.

 

"Finally, out of the division of labour in the academic domain have emerged entire departments of philosophy and the social sciences, given over to the task of speculating upon the most profound philosophical, historical, and social problems. The professional philosopher is the most consummate expression of the modern intellectual, as the professional theologian was the highest representative of the medieval learned caste.

 

"The native habitat of the professional intellectual in modern as well as in medieval society is the university. The growth of universities furnishes one of the best indices to the evolution of the intelligentsia. It must be noted in this connection that the leading institutions of learning are usually supported and controlled by the ruling classes, as a centre for the dissemination of their ideas. Plato's Academy was for the sons of the Greek aristocracy, just as Plato's philosophy was the reasoned expression of the world view of the Greek aristocrat. The medieval universities were in the hands of the higher estates of the clergy and the nobility. Oxford and Cambridge have been, since their inception, finishing schools for the scions of the masters of England and training schools for their auxiliaries the clergy and governmental bureaucracy. Today in the United States the capitalist plutocracy controls the purse strings and the faculties of the great privately endowed institutions like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago, and Leland Stanford, while the upper strata of the middle classes set the prevailing tone in the state universities.

 

"...Intellectuals are specialists in the production and propagation of ideas. They constitute the sensorium of modern society, the concentration points where ideologies emerge into consciousness; take systematic shape; and are then diffused through the body politic. In various professional capacities, as teachers, writers, politicians, etc., the intelligentsia disseminates not only scientific knowledge but the ideas which classes entertain about themselves and their aims....

 

"Because of their economic insecurity, social rootlessness, and mixed composition, intellectuals constitute one of the most unstable, mobile, and sensitive groups in modern society. The mercurial character of their social and intellectual movements make them excellent barometers of social pressures and revolutionary storms. Impending social changes are often anticipated by restlessness among the intelligentsia. The French Encyclopaedists of the eighteenth century who frequented the salons of the nobility and taunted them with the idea of revolution; the Northern abolitionists and Southern fire-eaters; the Communist and Fascist intellectuals, who are beginning to spring up on all sides in the United States today, fight on an ideological plane the battles to be fought in grim reality between opposing classes on the morrow.

 

"The intelligentsia therefore becomes a microcosm of capitalist society, mirroring in a contracted compass and often in a distorted manner the real conflicts in the world around them. This peculiar character of the intellectuals endows their history with a significance lacking in the development of other professional groups, just as the articulateness (sic) of the intellectuals, and their function as the spokesmen of party and class interests, give their intellectual expressions, and even their political affiliations, an importance disproportionate to their numbers and actual power....

 

"Whereas the members of real ruling classes base their claim to supremacy upon social position or economic power, this intellectual élite claim the right to rule by virtue of an ability to produce or appreciate works of art, science, or philosophy. Arrogating a superior social status to themselves, they further declare that, as creators, scientists, or philosophers, they have been washed clean of the material motives and class interests that stain their baser fellow citizens. They make a religion of 'art', torn up from its social roots and abstracted from its social milieu, like Flaubert, or a religion of 'science' in the abstract, like Renan, in order to exalt themselves above the vulgar herd. The perennial wish-fulfilment dream of the intellectual to be the monarch of mankind is best embodied in Plato's mythical republic, where the philosopher is king -- and the labouring masses are helots....

 

"It is said that radical intellectuals are unstable and unreliable allies of the working class. There is a certain element of truth in this accusation. Since, socially speaking, intellectuals form a parasitic group, even the most radical intellectuals may have stronger social and ideological ties with the existing order than they consciously suspect. Long after the umbilical cord is cut and the youth has declared his independence, the mature man is not free from the subtle subconscious influence of his parents. At crucial moments, deep-seated attachments, reinforced by the exceptionally heavy pressure exerted by alien classes, may generate a mood of vacillation in the intellectual, holding him back from decisive action and a sharp break with the bourgeois world....

 

"The intellectual defenders of reaction usually abandon the attempt to reason out their position in a straightforward logical manner and rely instead upon some substitute for logical and scientific method. Reaction in every sphere of experience, political, artistic and cultural, disparages the intellect as an organ of objective knowledge and leans upon some presumably more fundamental factor such as intuition, blood-sense, tradition, revelation, emotion, etc. This can be seen in all the great reactionary movements in philosophy and politics from the French Revolution to the present lay. Burke's defense of tradition against the implacable logic of bourgeois revolutionists, DeMaistre's brief on behalf of the Catholic Church and the guillotine as the foundation of the state, Carlyle's exaltation of divine inspiration and the strong man, are instances which spring readily to mind. The truth of this observation can best be seen in the Fascist movements of our own time." [Novack (1935). See also Novack (1936). Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. Spelling modified to agree with UK English.]

 

While the above is a much more nuanced analysis, Novack nowhere applies this comment to the DM-classicists or other Marxist intellectuals:

 

"Arrogating a superior social status to themselves, they further declare that, as creators, scientists, or philosophers, they have been washed clean of the material motives and class interests that stain their baser fellow citizens." [Ibid., bold added.]

 

As noted earlier, this can only that mean DM-theorists have indeed been "washed clean of the material motives and class interests...", which affect the rest of humanity.

 

So, Lenin and Trotsky saw nothing wrong with applying their analyses to the behaviour of, and the ideas formed by, fellow Marxists. But, which Leninist or which Trotskyist today is going to accuse either of these two of "crude reductionism"?

 

In which case, while it seems quite legitimate for dialecticians to 'reduce' their enemies and opponents' -- and, indeed, their fellow Marxists' -- ideas, attitude and behaviour to their class position or class origin, it is illegitimate for anyone to do the same to them.

 

On the other hand, Marxists are quite right to point out that when, for example, union militants are drafted into the trade union machine, becoming bureaucrats themselves, their new material conditions have a predictable effect on the attitudes they adopt and the ideas they form. However, the very same Marxists will resist with no little vehemence the same conclusion when it is applied to them, their material circumstances or their class position.

 

Or, as a supporter of this site argued a while back:

 

"Put it this way, the Marxist tradition (the SWP certainly included) has been able to produce a class-based analysis that explains why trade-union bureaucrats tend so strongly towards selling out their members. When a rank-and-file member of a union gains a position in the bureaucracy and begins to ascend through its ranks, s/he discovers that his/her material interests are not the same as those of the rank-and-file members s/he left behind.

 

"It should not be hard for people who have grasped such analyses to realise that if this is the case for union bureaucrats with solid working-class backgrounds, then it can also be the case (and still more so) for the leaders of revolutionary or other far-left political organisations, where petty-bourgeois backgrounds often predominate. And yet it is hard, because the leaderships of such organisations are understandably reluctant to subject their own positions and interests to the same kind of Marxist analysis they're keen to apply to others. Rosa, I think, has made a brave start on this at her site, and I think her work is worth reading for this (even for readers who don't need immunizing against Dialectics).

 

"So ensuring RR [Respect Renewal] will not go down the same road as the pre-split Respect is not as easy as shedding Rees and those who followed his orders. The same tendencies will be present in the leadership, because they arise from material conditions rather than from personal character quirks. To counteract this, it would take a strong framework of democratic checks together -- most importantly -- with a membership that habitually insists on exercising democratic control of the organisation on a daily basis, and not just at conference time. It will not be easy to sustain this in the conditions that prevail in this country: workers need confidence to win and maintain democratic control, and a long period of defeats for the class is not conducive to such confidence.

 

"This is not to say that the open-ended RR project is fatally misconceived. But it is to say that the avoidance of the mistakes made in its predecessor organisation will require constant vigilance on the part of the membership, and in the longer run, revived class struggle in this country to at least the levels France enjoys today." [Quoted from here. Link added.]23a0

 

If this class analysis is rejected for some reason, the only other conclusion possible is that it must be a sheer coincidence that revolutionary parties the world over have replicated, time and again, practically every single fault and foible that afflicts the genuine god-botherers among us -- even down to their reliance on an obscure book about an invisible 'Being' -- in this case, Hegel's Logic.

 

So, while all these faults and foibles have well-known material and social causes when they descend upon the duplicitous, the alienated, the superstitious, and the gullible, they apparently have no cause whatsoever when they similarly grace the sanctified lives of our very own Immaculate Dialectical Saints. In which case, faults and foibles like these can safely be ignored, never spoken about in polite company.

 

Until, that is, they are caught with their dialectical pants down -- and even then these "scurrilous accusations" can be brushed aside as "bourgeois propaganda", or as part of a heinous "witch-hunt".

 

This means that the Dialectical Merry-go-round takes another spin across the Flatlands of Failure, its participants ever more convinced of their semi-divine infallibility and ideological purity.

 

 

Designer Dialectics

 

In order to underline its hypnotic power, DM must be able to explain absolutely everything (which is indeed precisely what the DM-classicists assure it is capable of doing; on this, see Essay Two) -- even if it never actually delivers a single comprehensible explanation of anything, predicts not one novel fact and has no discernible practical implications or applications -- except, perhaps, negative.23a

 

To that end, we are presented with an "insistence" on "Totality" (which remains conveniently undefined), obscure "Infinities", a declaration that "truth is the whole" [Hegel (1977), p.11; Preface, paragraph 20], and various assorted "relatives" and "absolutes" (all of which are left theologically vague).

 

DM must not only be able to weather any and all defeats, it must be capable of 'foreseeing' future victories in each set-back. To that end, we are told there are UOs everywhere -- for a particularly good example of this phenomenon, see below --, all of which operate under the watchful eye of the NON. The NON informs us that everything "inevitably" turns into its opposite; if so, failure (that is, if the latter is even acknowledged) can't help but turn into success -- one day...24

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites; NON = Negation of the Negation; DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist, depending on context.]

 

This theory must, therefore, 'allow' its adepts to re-configure each defeat as a 'victory waiting in the wings'. To that end, we are told that appearances "contradict" underlying "essence", and hence that the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism can be ignored (since its seemingly disastrous record isn't, after all, really real, it just looks that way to those who don't 'understand' dialectics), or it can be blamed on anything but the theory that has delivered this comforting message to the faithful.

 

DM must also transcend the limitations of ordinary, 'formal thinking' -- which is one reason why the attainment of 'absolute truth' has to be projected into the future, to the end of time via an infinite asymptotic meander through epistemological space, insulating DM from easy disconfirmation in the here-and-now. In this 'capitalist vale of tears', 'relative truth' is all we can hope to achieve -- except, of course, for that absolute truth itself! This also helps explain why DM-fans develop selective blindness, ignoring awkward facts that fail to fit the Ideal Picture bequeathed to them by the Dialectical Classicists.

 

[On all of the above, see Essays Two through Eleven Part Two. On the lengths to which dialecticians will go to ignore things they can't explain, have never even thought about, or do not like, see the links indexed here. As readers will soon see, Creationists are rank amateurs in comparison!]

 

In addition, DM must encourage and facilitate a level of theoretical and thus tactical flexibility that places it outside, if not way beyond, the normal canons of reason -- and of reasonableness -- enabling its more skilled adepts to change direction (anti-democratically, opportunistically, and inconsistently) at the drop of a negative particle.

 

To that end, regular appeals are made to the contradictions integral to DM. Since the latter are found throughout the universe, so we are told, they must also appear in 'applied dialectics' if it is to reflect the real world and help change it. In that case, 'applied dialectics' is riddled with contradictions, which, paradoxically, is regarded as one of its strengths not a fatal defect as it would be with any other theory! This heady brew now 'allows' skilled dialecticians to argue for anything they like and its opposite. [On exactly how they manage do this, see below.]

 

Moreover, this theory must lie way beyond all conceivable doubt, so that if anyone attempts to question its apodictic certainties, they can be ignored on the grounds that they just don't 'understand' dialectics --, which is, once more, a pretty safe accusation since no one understands it! [On the accuracy of that allegation, see Part One of this Essay.]

 

If there is no settled view of DM (or if it is expressed in sufficiently vague and equivocal terms, and is left in that condition for generations, frozen in a nineteenth century time warp), anyone who disagrees with the latest dialectical line can be accused of "deviationism" and "revisionism" -- and hence of betraying Marxism. Needless to say, this approach to theory is the non-existent deity's gift to opportunists, sectarians, and control freaks -- of whom Marxism has had more than its fair share.

 

As one left-wing blogger pointed out with respect to the WRP:

 

"To be sure, [the WRP] did acquire a very bad reputation over the years for having a thuggish and violent internal regime, sometimes spilling over into physical attacks on members of other groups; for its habit of slandering anyone who disagreed with it as an agent of the CIA, the KGB, or both; and for an impenetrable 'philosophy' whose main function was to justify whatever Gerry wanted to do at any particular moment." [Quoted from here; accessed 05/02/2013. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

And, of course, Healy wasn't the only one.

 

Even better, this theory must be impossible to refute. This is a convenient implication of the Hegelian dialectic itself -- which we have already had occasion to underline -- whereby every attempt to oppose it, expose its contradictions or challenge it is viewed as further proof of its correctness -- since it is argued that to do so is, ipso facto, to use the dialectic itself -- providing yet more grist to the Hermetic mill. Hence, any attempted 'refutation' merely doubles up and returns as confirmation of a system that glories in just such contradictions! The more heads that are lopped off this Hydra, the more it grows in their place!25

 

[It is worth pointing out that at this site I haven't even attempted to 'refute' Hegel's dialectic (i.e., show that it is false), or even its alleged 'rational core' appropriated by Marxist dialecticians. What I have argued is that both versions are far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to determine whether or not they are true, let alone try to refute.]

 

DM can't disappoint nor can it fail its acolytes since, according to another of its tenets, humanity will never actually possess the complete picture of anything -- apparently not even of an ordinary glass tumbler! -- let alone everything. So, like the will of 'God', the DM-Absolute (the "Totality") mysteriously trundles ever onward, its many twists and turns capable of being fully 'comprehended' only by our "glorious" leaders (who, up to now, have proved totally incapable of explaining this 'theory' to a living soul).

 

Consequently, what might at first sight appear to be an engagingly modest admission (i.e., that no one knows the final truth about anything, or that all theories are only ever "partially true", etc., etc.) soon turns into its opposite. That acknowledgement is then transformed into a stick with which to beat the opposition: if no one knows the final truth, then neither does an erstwhile critic. Only the Party (with its Doctors of Dialectics) can be relied on to interpret this infinitely plastic theory aright -- by appealing, like the Roman Catholic Church, to "tradition" and authority.25a

 

In such a topsy-turvy world of silicate-loving, 'dialectical ostriches', the head buried deepest in the sand is clearly leadership material!26

 

However, the spurious superiority enjoyed by DM over 'ordinary consciousness' is secured by means of several exclusivising tricks: (i) The use of unintelligible jargon that no one understands, or seems able to explain (without employing even more jargon, of equal obscurity); (ii) An appeal to authority (sometimes called the "real Marxist tradition");27 (iii) Regular appeals to the sacred DM-texts, linked to an 'orthodox' interpretative tradition of the latter, now ossified in recycled and highly repetitive commentaries -- the aforementioned Dialectical Mantra.28

 

To that end, DM must harmonise to some extent with other boss-class systems-of-thought, since it has to emphasise the continuity and progress of human knowledge -- "through contradiction" -- of which it proudly forms a part. In that case, there must be an IED between DM and Traditional Philosophy, or there would be no such continuity. This helps explain why erstwhile radicals are slavishly conservative when it comes to Philosophy.

 

[IED = Identity In Difference -- or, facetiously, 'Improvised Explanatory Device'.]

 

However, dialectically-distracted comrades refuse to admit that the demonstrable link that exists between DM and the ideas of previous generations of mystics and ruling-class hacks in any way compromises their theory -- as one would imagine ought to be the case with those who proudly and openly proclaim their materialist or scientific credentials. Ironically, the fact that virtually every DM-thesis finds echo in most mystical systems-of-thought is, paradoxically, regarded as one of its strengths, not one of its fatal defects!29

 

This theory must also insist that in spite of a formal acceptance of the Heraclitean Flux, its core ideas should remain permanently sealed against change. And so they are. In that case, over the last hundred years or so there has been virtually no innovation of note in DM -- just more epicycles. [This allegation will be substantiated in Essay Fourteen Part Two.]

 

Indeed, those with their heads buried in the nearest dune can hardly promote a theory that shifts with the Heraclitean sands.

 

Furthermore, this theory must be the source of boundless optimism, so that despite the way things appear to be (to those lost in the mists of "commonsense" and "formal thinking", of course), the NON guarantees that the underlying tendency at work throughout the universe favours the dialectical cause -- even if things sometimes need hurrying along a little with human intervention.29a

 

The Dialectical Meek will indeed inherit the earth one day -- but only if they believe in The Power of Negativity with all their might.30

 

Dialectics provides all of the faithful with some of the above, and some of the faithful with all of the above. This helps explain (a) Its acceptance by practically every shade of revolutionary socialism, (b) Its longevity, (c) the semi-religious loyalty it engenders in those held in its thrall and (d) Why these True Believers will never abandon it.

 

DM-fans would rather die with their heads buried in these Parmenidean Sands than face material reality in all its complexity with even an ounce of courage -- or, for that matter, honesty.

 

 

A Curious Anomaly

 

However, this also helps explain a rather curious anomaly: as the working-class grows ever larger the influence that Dialectical Marxism has on it continues to dwindle.

 

Parallel to this -- but not unrelated to it -- our movement continues to fragment and flounder, a degeneration plainly not unconnected with its dwindling influence on the class war. Moreover, the fact that workers ignore our movement en masse means that the materialist counter-weight they could have brought with them into Marxism now has zero influence where it might otherwise have counted -- on our ideas.

 

The dearth of active socialist workers thus means that the unifying force of the class struggle by-passes our movement, which, because it is dominated by petty-bourgeois individuals, continues to splinter and disintegrate.

 

So DM-Idealism lumbers on while its theorists think of new ways to make these inconvenient facts disappear.

 

 

DM And De-Classé Marxists

 

Divorced From The Class They Are Supposed To Champion

 

The class origin of the majority of professional revolutionaries (who, for all or most of their lives don't share in the lives and struggles of ordinary workers) analysed in the preceding sections, means that this alien-class theory -- DM -- consolidates and strengthens their sense of exclusivity. Indeed, it is why this theory appeals to petty-bourgeois and de-classé revolutionaries -- most of whom populate the higher echelons of our movement and thus control its ideas.

 

The growing crisis in the UK-SWP is ample testimony to this (especially since such things aren't unique to that Party):

 

"Members of the SWP must understand what is at stake in the crisis rocking our organisation. Not only is there already a steady outflow of members resigning in disgust at this farrago and its handling by the leadership, but now other organizations of the left are becoming hesitant about working with us, and in some cases are openly boycotting and censuring us....

 

"Many of us have argued strongly that catastrophic errors of principle and process on the part of the leadership have taken us to this. But even those who -- I firmly believe wrongly -- disagree about this must recognise the situation we are in. This has rapidly also become a catastrophe for us strategically. Our name is becoming toxic. Our credibility as a collective and as individual activists is being grossly compromised, and is on the verge of being permanently tainted. We all know the allegations that any future potential recruit who takes two minutes to research us online will read. The hoary accusations of the loyalists that those of us expressing concerns are looking 'inward' to 'blogland' and are not in the 'real world' have never looked so pitiful as they do now. This is a real world, acute crisis, of the leaderships making.

 

"As we 'dissidents' have repeatedly stressed, the fact that we are on the verge of permanently losing our credibility is irrespective of the truth or otherwise of the allegations of rape and sexual harassment. (These, of course, deserve sensitive and appropriate examination in their own right.) This fact inheres in the grotesque and sexist nature of the questions posed to the accusers; in the 'wagon-circling' attitude of the leadership and its loyalists; in the failures and evasions of accountability that meant the processes involved could ever have been thought appropriate; and now in the belief-beggaringly inadequate and arrogant response of the CC to the greatest crisis we have ever faced. These are all political failings of astonishing proportions.

 

"We must not only deal with this but be seen publicly to be dealing with it. A 'quiet revolution' will be no revolution at all. There is one chance to save the SWP, and to do so means reclaiming it. We must be the party whose membership saw that there was a catastrophe unfolding, refused to heed our own failed leadership's injunctions to fall into line, and reclaimed the party and the best elements of our IS tradition. If we fail in this, the SWP is finished as a serious force.... [It wasn't 'reclaimed -- RL.]

 

"By far the lion's share of blame for our parlous situation lies squarely with the CC and its loyalists. However, none of us can avoid hard questions. What got us here was not merely the failures of this particular CC, but of our structures. These structures concealed from the members perfectly legitimate debate within the party; pathologised dissent on the CC and among the membership; and at worst legitimated whispering campaigns and bullying against members considered 'troublemakers'. We could have stopped this train wreck at an earlier stage if the membership had been able and ready to call bullshit on the CC's bullshit.

 

"To overthrow these problems requires, among other things, a huge shift in internal culture. This, of course, is not possible in isolation from the structures that we have worked under. These have enabled the CC's top-down and dissent/discussion-phobic style and mistrust of the membership; and among the membership itself have encouraged a damaging culture of deferral to the leadership." [China Mieville, quoted from here, 17/01/2013. Bold emphases and links added. China resigned from the UK-SWP soon after.] 

 

But, why does this sort of thing keep happening? Is the UK-SWP simply unlucky? And, why has this sort of thing been endemic on the left now for many generations?

 

One young comrade hit on part of the answer:

 

"The CC now unfortunately represents a conservative layer now firmly ingrained in the party and focused on preserving its position. Many of its members have worked for the party for a decade or more, they rely on the party as an income (sic) and have become career bureaucrats entrenched in their jobs. Somewhere along the way the leadership stopped being a group of leading revolutionaries and started to be a self-serving political class in their own right. Now more than ever the party needs effective and democratic leadership made up of the best people in the class, not people who haven't set foot in a workplace for decades and who are in my opinion totally divorced from the class." [Quoted from here; 14/01/2013. Bold emphasis added. Minor typo corrected.]

 

A few days after the above appeared on-line, another comrade posted an analysis of this malaise that in fact mirrors several aspects of the analysis found in this Essay:

 

"The SWP has a particular understanding of the role of the bureaucracy within trades unions. We view them as neither workers nor bosses, but rather as a vacillating force between the two. The bureaucrat is insulated from the day-to-day life of the worker -- of having the boss breathing down their neck, and from the collective interest that workers have within workplaces. They depend for their continued existence, this insulation, and the level of prestige they hold, on the continuation of the capitalist system -- if there were no longer any capitalist class to negotiate with, there would no longer be any need for the bureaucrats. Nothing terrifies a bureaucrat more than being chucked back into the same world the rest of us, as workers, inhabit. There is an old story of an RMT NEC member many years ago (before Bob Crow) who wished to support a strike ballot that the General Secretary opposed. The General Secretary advised him that if he did so, he'd be back working on the tracks within days. The NEC member withdrew his support for the ballot.

 

"And it is this recognition that the interests of the bureaucracy are not those of the working class that leads us as revolutionary socialists to believe the only truly effective way to organise inside trades unions is on a rank and file basis. We are with the bureaucrats for as long as they support our demands -- we fight without them when they don't. And we recognise a bureaucratisation that takes place when workers are removed from the shop floor -- which is why, for example, it is officially only in exceptional circumstances that SWP members are allowed to take elected trade union positions on 100% facility time. Because we recognise that you cannot act in the interests of the working class if you exist separately from it. I want to illustrate that a failure to apply this analysis to the SWP itself is at the root of many of the problems we now face.

 

"While very limited steps have been taken in recent years to address this, the Central Committee is made up almost entirely of full-time party workers (and it is notable that of the two CC members removed from the preferred slate 48 hours before conference, one is a respected trade unionist and the other is centrally involved in arguably the broadest united front the party is engaged in). This is a separation from the outside world, and the experiences of the membership. Worse, the slate system as currently constituted is designed to prevent any alternative leadership from emerging -- as we are told to correct any error we must replace the CC wholesale; very difficult if they are also the party workers who run the apparatus. As pretty much the only way to be elected to the CC is to be nominated by the existing CC, this means CC members owe their positions to the other CC members, not to the party membership. And this means that, despite the party's Democracy Commission passing policy in favour of it, disagreements on the CC are not aired in front of the party membership, but rather are usually dealt with privately, with the first most members know of it being when a CC member mysteriously disappears off the slate. I would argue the loyalty to each other this creates amongst CC members leads to many situations, such as those around Comrade Delta and the expulsions of the Facebook Four, being dealt with bureaucratically and behind closed doors and then presented to the party as a fait accompli. Party policies and 'turns' are decided in similar fashion, with a National Committee or Party Council presented with a CC document that is discussed and then invariably approved, usually without any discussion in the wider party, let alone the class.

 

"This also has the effect of encouraging sycophancy, Comrades who wish to develop their standing in the party, be selected for slates in trade union elections, be added to the CC themselves, or be touted as a public speaker, do so by developing a position of ultra-loyalty to the CC (these are the party members who some refer to as 'hacks'). Party workers are all appointed by the CC, not by the membership, and are threatened with the sack if they dare venture their own political ideas that run contrary to those of the CC. All of this has more in common with the organisation of Stalinist Parties than with the libertarian roots of the IS tradition. The party actually starts to become the caricature painted of it by sectarians and red-baiters.

 

"At its most extreme, the sycophancy appears cult-like. A number of CC members are big fans of jazz music. Under their leadership over the past few years, the party has organised a number of (mostly loss-making) jazz gigs as fundraising events. Regardless of their own musical tastes, comrades were told they were disloyal if they didn't purchase tickets. This elevates the cultural tastes of the official leadership to a point of political principle; and clearly is not in any way a healthy state of affairs." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and links added. Minor typo corrected.]

 

The above echo Trotsky's analysis of substitutionism (covered in Part One of this Essay), but they omit (i) Any mention of the wider structural problems our movement faces (i.e., the fact that the situation described by the above comrade has been an integral feature of Marxist parties for well over a hundred years), and they completely ignore (ii) The historical and ideological roots of this malaise -- nor do they consider (iii) Why this keeps happening, and not just to the UK-SWP, but right across the Marxist left.

 

Only if Marxists in general become aware of the serious structural, class, and ideological problems we face is there any hope that the movement can extricate itself from this toxic morass.

 

Unfortunately, as is the case with other forms of drug addiction, clarity of vision is the last thing one can expect of those in the 'leadership' -- those who control the production and dissemination of ideas --, who have a serious dialectical-opiate dependency problem themselves.

 

As these Essays have shown, and as experience confirms, this is indeed what we find.

 

 

High Church vs Low Church

 

There are in fact two main types of dialectician: 'Low Church' and 'High Church'. This distinction roughly corresponds with that between active revolutionaries and Academic Marxists -- of course, there is some overlap at the margins. The members of neither faction are seekers after truth, since, like Hegel, they have already found it. As Glenn Magee points out:

 

"Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom -- he believes he has found it. Hegel writes in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, 'To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title of "love of knowing" and be actual knowledge -- that is what I have set before me' (Miller, 3; PC, 3). By the end of the Phenomenology, Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom.

 

"Hegel's claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom. His claim is, however, fully consistent with the ambitions of the Hermetic tradition, a current of thought that derives its name from the so-called Hermetica (or Corpus Hermeticum), a collection of Greek and Latin treatises and dialogues written in the first or second centuries A.D. and probably containing ideas that are far older. The legendary author of these works is Hermes Trismegistus ('Thrice-Greatest Hermes'). 'Hermeticism' denotes a broad tradition of thought that grew out of the 'writings of Hermes' and was expanded and developed through the infusion of various other traditions. Thus, alchemy, Kabbalism, Lullism, and the mysticism of Eckhart and Cusa -- to name just a few examples -- became intertwined with the Hermetic doctrines. (Indeed, Hermeticism is used by some authors simply to mean alchemy.) Hermeticism is also sometimes called theosophy, or esotericism; less precisely, it is often characterized as mysticism, or occultism." [Magee (2008), p.1. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links and bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Much the same can be said about Marxist Dialecticians who hail from both Denominations (whether they realise it or not).

 

 

Low Church Dialecticians [LCDs]:

 

Comrades of this persuasion cleave to the original, unvarnished truth laid down in the sacred DM-texts (i.e., those written by Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao). Many of these simple souls are highly proficient at quoting, or paraphrasing, endless passages from the Holy Books in answer to everything and anything, just like the faithful who bow to the East or who fill the Gospel Halls around the world. Their unquestioning faith is as impressive as it is un-Marxist.30a

 

[An excellent recent example of this affliction, which was in fact prompted by the current crisis in the UK-SWP, can be found here. In January 2013, I posted a mini-refutation of a DM-article of Trotsky's that had been republished at the latter site; my post was based on some of the points made in Essay Six), but as of February 2017 it is still 'waiting moderation'!]

 

[FL = Formal Logic.]

 

In general, LCDs are sublimely ignorant of FL. Now, on its own this is no hanging matter. However, such self-inflicted, woeful ignorance doesn't stop these individuals pontificating about FL, nor from regaling us with its alleged limitations at every turn -- accusations based on ideas they unwisely lifted from Hegel, surely the George W Bush of Logic.

 

 

 

Figure Four: Advanced Logic Class At Camp Hegel

 

LCDs are, by-and-large, active revolutionaries, committed to 'building the party'. Ironically, however, they have unwisely conspired to do the exact opposite, helping keep their parties small (because of the continual splits and expulsions they skilfully engineer). This is a rather fitting pragmatic contradiction that the 'Dialectical Deity' has visited upon these, the least of its slaves.

 

Of course, LCDs can't see the irony in any of this (even after it has been pointed out to them -- I know, I have lost count of the number of times I have tried!), since they, too, haven't taken the lens caps off.

 

So, despite the fact that every last one of these short-sighted individuals continually strives to "build the party", after 140 years of building few revolutionary groups can boast membership rolls that rise much above the risible. In fact, all we have witnessed since WW2 is yet more fragmentation, but still no mass movement.

 

[Anyone who doubts this should look here, here, here and here -- or, now, here -- and then, perhaps, think again. Here, too, is a diagram of the main branches of, and links between, the leading US Trotskyist parties/tendencies.]

 

Has a single one of these individuals made this connection?

 

Are you kidding!?

 

It seems that the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory (DM) are the only two things in the entire universe that aren't 'interconnected'.

 

 

High Church Dialecticians [HCDs]:

 

HCD Marxists are in general openly contemptuous of the 'sophomoric ideas' found in most of the DM-classics (even though many of them seem to have a fondness for Engels's First 'Law').

 

More often than not, HCDs reject the idea that the dialectic operates throughout nature, sometimes inconsistently using the aforementioned 'Law' to account for the evolutionary 'leap' that underpinned our development from our ape-like ancestors -- which tactic allows them to claim that human history and development are therefore unique --, just as they are equally dismissive of simple LCD souls for their adherence to every last word found in the DM-classics.31

 

[Anyone familiar with High Church Anglicanism will know exactly of what I speak.]

 

HCDs are mercifully above such crudities; they prefer The Mother Lode -- straight from Hegel, Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks, or the writings of assorted latter day Hermeticists: György Lukács, Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Tony Smith, Tom Sekine, Robert Albritton, Chris Arthur, Bertell Ollman, Judith Butler, Frederic Jameson, and, of late, The Wafflemeister Himself, Slavoj Zizek.

 

This heady dialectical brew is often fortified with a several litres of hardcore jargon drawn from that intellectual cocaine-den, otherwise known as French Philosophy -- including the work of such luminaries as: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Paul Sartre, Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, Michael Foucault, Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Bourdieu, and, perhaps, worst of all, the charlatan's charlatan, Jacques Lacan.

 

Or, maybe even infused from that conveyor belt of systematic confusion: the Frankfurt School -- which includes the work of Max Horkheimer, Theodor W Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, and Jürgen Habermas, among others.

 

[I have discussed Marcuse's somewhat dismissive attitude to Wittgenstein and 'Ordinary Language Philosophy', here. In relation to this, also see my Essay, Was Wittgenstein a Leftist?]

 

Or, even worse still, that haven of intellectual heroin: the work of Edmund Husserl, the Nazi, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer.31a

 

[Chomsky's penetrating thoughts on many of the above 'thinkers' can be accessed in Note 31a.]

 

HCDs are generally, but not exclusively, either academics or itinerant 'intellectuals'. In common with many of those listed above, tortured prose is their forte -- and pointless existence is their punishment.

 

Almost any randomly-selected issue of, say, Radical Philosophy, or Historical Materialism, will provide ample confirmation of the baleful influence the ideas and prose style of many of the above have had on left-wing 'intellectuals'. [Here is yet another example to add to the membership list of The Hallowed Society for the Production of Gobbledygook. Also, see my comments, here.]

 

 

Figure Five: Sisyphus College Recruitment Poster --

Aimed At HCDs Seeking A More Useful Existence

 

At least LCDs like to think their ideas are somehow relevant to the class struggle.

 

In contrast, High Church Dialectics is good only for the CV.

 

Plainly, the sanitised version of dialectics that HCDs inflict on their readers (purged of all those Engelsian 'crudities') isn't an "abomination" in the eyes of those sections of the bourgeoisie that administer Colleges and Universities, or, indeed, who publish academic books and journals.

 

~~~~oOo~~~~

 

Nevertheless, the ranks of both factions, HCD and LCD alike, are well-stocked with conservative-minded comrades happy to appropriate the a priori and dogmatic thought-forms of two-and-a-half millennia of boss-class ideology, seldom pausing to give any thought to the implications of such easily won knowledge -- 'knowledge' obtained without the help of a single experiment, and concocted in the comfort of each compromised head. If knowledge of the world is a priori, and based solely on armchair speculation, reality must indeed be Ideal.

 

Some might object that the above is a caricature of 'dialectical thought'; they might even be tempted to argue that dialectics is based on evidence and on the practice and experience of the party/humanity. Alas, that rather naive belief was put to the sword in Essays Two, Seven Part One, Ten Part One, as well as in Part One of this Essay.

 

It is worth adding that there are notable exceptions to these sweeping generalisations; some academic Marxists do actively engage with the class struggle. The point, however, is that the 'High Theory' they churn out is irrelevant in this regard. Indeed, I can't think of an example of the work of a single academic Marxist that has had any impact on the class war -- except perhaps negatively. [Any who disagree with that indictment are invited to e-mail me with the details of any counter-example they think I have missed.]

 

To be sure, one or two comrades have tried to come up with a few examples of the (positive) practical applications of 'the dialectic'. Unfortunately for them, I have shown that all fail -- on that, see here, here, and here.

 

 

In The Lurch

 

This has meant that the baleful influence of Hegelian Hermeticism becomes important at key historical junctures (i.e., those involving defeat or major set-back), since it acts as a materialist-sounding alternative to mainstream, Traditional Thought -- indeed, as we saw was the case with Lenin after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution in Russia, and after the Second International caved in to nationalist warmongering at the beginning of WW1.

 

Dialectics (especially those parts that have been infected with the lethal HCD-strain) thus taps into thought-forms that have dominated intellectual life for over two thousand years -- i.e., those that define the 'legitimate' boundaries of 'genuine' philosophy, and hence those that amount to little more than dogmatic thesis-mongering.

 

So, because of its thoroughly traditional nature, DM is able to appeal to the closet "god-builders" and dialectical mystics that revolutionary politics seems to attract -- and who, in general, appear to congregate at the apex of this ever-growing pile of dialectical disasters.

 

 

Substitutionism 1

 

This continues from the section on Substitutionism, in Part One, and should be read in conjunction with it.

 

 

How Could Revolutionaries Have Imported Boss-Class Theory Into Marxism?

 

However, one question has so far remained unanswered: How is it even remotely possible for the vast majority of revolutionary socialists to have imported supposedly ruling-class ideology into Marxism, as this site alleges? At first sight it seems inconceivable that leading socialists like Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxembourg, and Trotsky -- individuals possessed of impeccable revolutionary credentials -- could have maintained a consistent revolutionary stance if the account of the origin and nature of DM given in these Essays is correct. An ideological compromise of this order of magnitude would surely have had major, if not disastrous, effects on revolutionary practice; indeed, it would have rendered Marxism totally ineffective.

 

In fact, and contrary to the ideas advanced at this site, it could be argued that DM has actually been successfully tested in practice for well over a hundred and forty years.

 

These considerations alone seem to make the abstract allegations advanced at this site impossible to accept.

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

 

DM And Revolutionary Practice

 

In spite of constant claims to the contrary, DM in fact has no practical applications -- that is, other than the negative consequences outlined above, and again below.

 

This doesn't mean that revolutionaries haven't continually toyed with dialectical phraseology in some of their practical deliberations. Certainly, DM-theorists can talk the talk, but, as we will see, it is impossible for them to walk the walk.

 

Undeniably, books and articles outlining revolutionary theory are often packed with words that seem to contradict the above allegations, which purport to show that dialectics has played a central role in Marxist politics since its inception. However, what revolutionaries might want to claim about the relation between theory and practice and what they are capable of putting into practice are two entirely different things.

 

These Essays have shown time and again that DM-theses make no sense at all, just as they have shown that Dialectical Marxism is to success what Donald Trump is to racial harmony. This means that while dialecticians may write, or, indeed, constantly intone DM-phrases, it isn't possible for them to form a single coherent DM-thought, and thus act upon it as a result.

 

Of course, this places dialecticians in no worse a position than other metaphysicians (whose theories are similarly bereft of practical import); no worse perhaps, but certainly no better.32

 

If a sentence purporting to express a thought is itself incoherent, then no one uttering or writing it can mean anything by it (over and above, perhaps, certain contingent or consequential effects; for example they might intend to amuse, impress, confuse, bamboozle, distract, or startle their interlocutors). [More on this in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

The words employed in such sentences can't represent anything that could become the content of a coherent thought, and hence motivate a corresponding set of actions (trivial examples excepted, of course).33

 

To be sure, dialectical phrases can be, and have been wheeled out to 'justify' or 'rationalise' decisions that had already been taken for hard-headed political reasons, which means that such phrases function rather like the empty rituals and incantations that assorted Priests, Bishops and Imams have uttered for many centuries to 'justify' war, royal privilege, exploitation, oppression, and gross inequality -- or, indeed, the 'magical words' stage magicians intone to impress the unwary.

 

Which means, of course, that DM is more the Abracadabra than it is the Algebra of Revolution.

 

 

Figure Six: A More Effective Form Of Magic?

 

Furthermore, as noted in Essay Twelve Part One, because DM-theses are both non-sensical and incoherent, they are totally incapable of 'reflecting' anything in the natural or social world, and, a fortiori, any processes underlying one or both.

 

In that case, they can't possibly help change society.

 

Except, of course, for the worse.

 

[More on that below.]

 

The above allegations might at first sight appear to be rather dogmatic, if not downright impertinent, since it seems plain that if something can be uttered, or perhaps committed to paper, it must be capable of being thought, and hence acted upon.

 

The rest of this section will be devoted to defending the apparently controversial allegations aired a few paragraphs back.

 

We encountered similar problems in Essay Twelve Part One, connected with Lenin's attempt to specify what could or couldn't be thought concerning matter and motion:

 

M1: "[M]otion without matter is unthinkable." [Lenin (1972), p.318. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

It turned out that what Lenin wanted to 'say' vitiated the content (or, rather, the lack of 'content') of what he appeared to mean by saying it. In the end, it emerged that he couldn't actually think what he imagined he could since M1 fell apart in the very act of 'thinking' whatever it was he thought he wanted to say by means of it! So, by asserting that motion without matter is "unthinkable" he had to do what he said could not be done; i.e., he had to think the offending words "motion without matter...", or their content. For M1 to be true, Lenin would have to know what was being ruled out (as forever false) -- i.e., by the sentential use of the phrase "motion without matter" -- as in: "It isn't possible to think the proposition 'Motion without matter is unthinkable.'" But, he had just declared that this was "unthinkable".

 

So, in order to know what was being excluded in the above sense he would have had to be able to declare that the following sentence, for example, could only ever be false, never true:

 

M2: Motion sometimes occurs without matter.

 

But, if such a sentence can only be false, and never true, it turns out that it can't actually be false. That is because if a sentence is false, it is untrue. And yet, if we can't say under what circumstances such a sentence is true, then we certainly can't say in what way it falls short of that so that it could be untrue, and hence false. For Lenin to be able to declare M2 untrue, he would have to know what situations made it true, so that he knew what he was in fact ruling out. But, he was in no position to do this, for the truth of M2 he had already declared "unthinkable".

 

Conversely, if a proposition can only ever be true, the conditions that would make it false are likewise excluded. In that case, if we can't say under what circumstances such a sentence is false then we certainly can't say in what way it falls short of these conditions, either, so that it could be true, and hence not false. In which case, its truth (or non-falsehood) similarly falls by the wayside. Hence, Lenin was in no position to declare M1 true, because he was in no position to declare it false.

 

[A much clearer explanation of this idea can be found here; I deal with several obvious, and a few less obvious, objections to this line-of-argument in Essay Twelve Part One.]

 

So, not even Lenin could say what it was he was trying to rule in or rule out.

 

If we ignore the remote possibility that Lenin either wanted to (i) utter complete nonsense, or (ii) puzzle his readers, the above argument implies that there wasn't in fact anything that Lenin intended to say, nor was there anything in his words that he could have communicated to anyone that was capable of being put into practice -- or, indeed, which could have had any practical implications whatsoever (other than negative, once more). If we are in no position to think the truth or the falsehood of M1, we are certainly in no position to say what the world would have to look like if M1 formed part of revolutionary practice and was to be 'acted upon'.

 

[The problem here, of course, is that it isn't easy to think of a single DM-thesis that could plausibly be used in practice, so if the last sentence above looks rather odd, that is the fault of this theory, not the present author! The only point being made is that if it is logically impossible to decide whether or not a certain thesis is true, then it is also logically impossible to decide if it has ever been implemented correctly -- or at all! So, it is no wonder then that DM-theses aren't actually put into practice by dialecticians! (On that, see here. In over 25 years of searching I have only been able to find two examples where comrades have tried to argue that DM has had some sort of practical application. I have neutralised both of them here and here.)]

 

To see more clearly how this relates in general to the issues raised in this Essay, consider the following sentence schema:

 

S1: NN thought that p.

 

If "p" is taken to be a schematic letter replaceable by an empirical or factual proposition (such as "The Nile is longer than the Thames"), then clearly the sense that this proposition already has will enable it to become the content of a thought that NN could entertain, truly or falsely. However, if the sentence substitutable for p makes no sense, then not only would the words it contains fail to express a proposition (since it would then be unclear what was being proposed or put forward for consideration), it would be impossible for NN to think a thought by means of it. That is because a sentence lacking a sense can't express a true or false thought -- once more, as we saw was the case with Lenin and M1, or, indeed, would be the case with M3:

 

M3: Lenin thought that motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

M3a: I think that motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

M3b: Motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

M3c: It possible to think the truth of the proposition 'Motion without matter is unthinkable.'

 

[Of course, it is certainly possible for anyone to write M3 -- or utter, or run the words it contains 'through one's mind' (or, indeed, its first person equivalent, M3a), indeed, as Lenin himself might have done, but as we have just seen, M3b's supposed content would mean M3 itself would immediately self-destruct. (There is more on this in Note 35a.)]

 

Howsoever M3, M3a, M3b and M3c are repackaged, they are incapable of making any sort of sense.

 

It is worth reminding ourselves that it isn't an 'act of thinking' that gives a sentence its sense. If that were so, then anything could make sense, and the clause "that is an act of thinking" would itself become problematic.34

 

In fact, the opposite of this is the case. The sense a proposition already has is what enables us to think it.

 

[What is meant by the word "sense" is covered here.]

 

The contrary supposition gains credence from the Cartesian idea that an 'act of thought' is a private, internal episode, which takes place in 'the mind' or in 'consciousness', divorced from, or anterior to, social convention or interaction, and which gives both meaning to our words and sense to our indicative sentences.

 

[Again, I have covered this topic in detail in Essays Twelve Part One and Thirteen Part Three, so the reader is directed there for more details.]

 

Consider the following illegitimate substitution instance of p in S1:

 

S1: NN thought that p.

 

S2: NN thought that the speed mice inconsiderable sunset the colour red was twice acidic, but not Tarquin on between three o'clock recidivist it squared less before, if telescope (sic).

 

S2a: The speed mice inconsiderable sunset the colour red was twice acidic, but not Tarquin on between three o'clock recidivist it squared less before, if telescope (sic).

 

S2a makes no sense, and so while NN might attempt to mouth this set of words he wouldn't be able to form them into a coherent thought (assuming, once more, that S2a isn't a coded message of some sort).35

 

The problem with S2a isn't connected with any lack of imagination on either the part of the one who uttered it or his/her audience. It isn't that howsoever hard we try we can form no idea of a primary colour that is connected to a "speed mice inconsiderable sunset", which has a pH value close to seven, twice, but only (Tarquin?) on (?) "between three o'clock…", etc. There is no such coherent thought to form. In turn, this is not because of the facts of chemistry, chromatology, or rodent biology -- or even because of the rules we have for telling the time of day. It is because S2/S2a represent a radical misuse of language, as should seem obvious. Anyone who regularly uttered sentences like S2a would probably be diagnosed as an aphasic, or maybe suffering from some other neurological or psychiatric condition.

 

While S2a is a clear case of extreme incoherence, DM-doctrines require a little more encouragement before they self-destruct (as we saw was the case with M3 and M3b).

 

M3: Lenin thought that motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

M3b: Motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

As I have argued more fully in Essay Twelve Part One, that is because DM-theorists (just like other metaphysicians) misconstrue the rules we have for the use of certain words as if they reflected substantive features of the world. They mistake the medium for the supposed message.

 

Dialecticians compound this error by appropriating ideas found almost exclusively in mystical theology, burying the result under several layers of impenetrable Hegelian jargon (upside down or the 'right way up'), a condition further aggravated by the disdain they show for the language of ordinary life -- certain principles of which are partially expressed in FL.

 

[These allegations have been substantiated in other Essays published at this site, and will be given a more comprehensive analysis in Essay Twelve Parts One to Seven (summary here). It is worth emphasising that the word "non-sense" is being used here in a special way, an explanation for which can be found here.]

 

However, the heavily camouflaged non-sense expressed by typical DM-sentences doesn't affect the present point. Disguised or not, if it isn't possible to explain the sense of a single DM-thesis (as these Essays have shown, and as DM-theorists themselves have (implicitly) confirmed by their failure to do just that over the last 140+ years), it isn't possible to think their content either -- since they have none.

 

In that case -- trivial examples to aside again --, it isn't possible to act upon a single DM-thesis.35a

 

This means that any sentence token substitutable for p in S1 has to make sense independently of the immediate context of utterance if it is to form the content of a legitimate thought (coded messages excepted, once more).

 

S1: NN thought that p.

 

Hence, S2a (or whatever finally replaces p) doesn't acquire a sense just because it is prefixed with the sentential operator: "NN thought that…."36

 

S2a: The speed mice inconsiderable sunset the colour red was twice acidic, but not Tarquin on between three o'clock recidivist it squared less before, if telescope.

 

On the contrary, the use of "NN thought that...." is only legitimate if what follows it makes sense independently of that prefix

 

Consider these examples:

 

S1: NN thought that p.

 

S2: NN thought that the speed mice inconsiderable sunset the colour red was twice acidic, but not Tarquin on between three o'clock recidivist it squared less before, if telescope.

 

S3: NN thought that Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved in Becoming.

 

S3a: Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved in Becoming.

 

S3a doesn't express a coherent thought that NN could form by his/her use of it (or our attribution of it to him/her), hence the phrase "NN thought that..." is illicit here, in S3.

 

So, despite claims to the contrary, metaphysicians and religious mystics can't think the truth -- nor can they even think the falsehood -- of anything they assert in this area, either.

 

[As we will see in Essay Twelve Part One, sentences like S3a can't be made sense of, no matter what is done with, or to, them.]

 

Naturally, this helps account for the total uselessness of doctrines like these, and hence why they appeal to those in power -- or, at least, why they appeal to their ideologues. That is plainly because a 'profound-looking' metaphysical thesis is more likely to convince a wealthy patron -- and/or their assorted toadying/uncritical on-lookers -- that the one who concocted it has hit on something very 'deep', especially if no one appears to understand it.

 

Clearly, this is the philosophical equivalent of the Parable of the Emperor's New Clothes.37

 

This linguistic defect applies equally well to the theses promoted by DM-theorists, which naturally means that if what they say can't be thought (in the sense indicated above), then it can have no practical consequences (other than negative), nor can it form the basis of a sane course of action. That is, no more than it would be the case if someone uttered the following sentences and imagined they meant anything by them (other than, perhaps, an intention to confuse or startle, etc.), or, indeed, expected others to act upon them:

 

S4: Make sure that the speed mice inconsiderable sunset of the colour red is twice acidic, or the scabs will break through the picket line.

 

S5: Don't forget that the speed mice inconsiderable sunset of the colour red is twice acidic, so we have to organise a march next week.

 

S6: The fact that the speed mice inconsiderable sunset of the colour red is twice acidic means that we should widen the dispute.

 

S7: Being is at the same time identical with but different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved by Becoming, so the latest pay offer is unacceptable.

 

S8: Motion without matter is unthinkable, so you'd better print more strike leaflets.

 

S9: Change is the result of internal contradictions, so don't forget to turn up on time for the paper sale.

 

Of course, S4-S6 are obviously malformed and/or ridiculous, but they have only been quoted to make this point abundantly clear. No one supposes that dialectical propositions or instructions are quite so syntactically-challenged as these are -- on that see, for example, here --, but they do fall apart alarmingly quickly for other reasons (as these Essays have shown). [Another excellent example can be found here.]

 

However, as S7-S9 also demonstrate, DM-theses can't form a coherent basis for action.

 

[Sceptical readers can insert their own favoured DM-thesis (not an HM-thesis!) into any of S7-S9; the result, I predict, won't be much different. If anyone thinks otherwise, please e-mail me with your best shot!]37a

 

It could be objected that this completely distorts and misrepresents dialectical thinking. Marxists do not reason along the above lines, nor on anything remotely like it. Perhaps not, but until we are given a clear example of the practical use of a single DM-thesis, they will have to do.37b

 

 

Non-sense And Practice

 

So, when it is claimed that ideas specific to DM have actually formed a basis for revolutionary practice it is reasonable to expect some sort of explanation how that is even possible -- which explanation must advance beyond the usual hand waving, diversionary tactics, prevarication, and bluster --, especially when no one seems to be able to say with any clarity what a single DM-doctrine actually amounts to.

 

Indeed, and because of this, it is equally reasonable to suppose that DM could only ever have succeeded in clouding the issues -- hindering revolutionaries in their attempt to develop clarity --, and further that this could only have helped initiate a series of tactical blunders and pointless time-wasting arguments, just as this theory should be expected to aggravate sectarian in-fighting and petty point-scoring. On top of this, this theory should be expected to help 'excuse' post hoc rationalisations of regressive or opportunistic policies, which would be impossible to justify otherwise (indeed, as we will soon see).38

 

Of course, this isn't the only reason for Dialectical Marxism's spectacular record of failure over the last 140+ years -- a record un-rivalled by any other major political creed in recent history (other than perhaps Fascism). But, it is certainly one of the contributory reasons.

 

Without doubt, this truly appalling record has much more to do with the general nature of capitalist society, the fragmented and uneven state of the working-class -- when that is set against a relatively better organised, and ideologically more coherent ruling-class --, among other things.

 

However, the opposite idea that dialectics (which supposedly constitutes the theoretical core of Marxism) has had nothing whatsoever to do with this long and sorry record is bizarre in the extreme. [More on that in Essay Ten Part One.]

 

In fact, we can only absolve this Hermetic 'theory' of all blame if we concede that it has had no subjective impact whatsoever on previous generations of revolutionaries, and has never been used by them at any time in the entire history of Marxism.39

 

Pull the other one!

 

 

Ah! But, What About 1917?

 

When confronted with such unwelcome facts (like those rehearsed above), DM-fans often respond with a knee-jerk reply: "Well if dialectics is so dire, how come the Bolsheviks were able to win power in 1917?"

 

[Non-Leninist DM-fans, of course, don't even have this to point to as a 'success'!]

 

Oddly enough, as a Leninist myself, I find this 'objection' remarkably easy to answer: the Bolsheviks were successful because they could not, and did not use dialectics (either in its DM-, or in its MD-form) in their interface with the Russian masses -- or in the soviets. To be sure, this is a controversial claim -- but that is only because no one has thought to controvert it before.

 

In fact, the material counterweight provided by working class prevented the Bolsheviks from employing this useless theory. Had they tried to propagandise or organise Russian workers with slogans such as: "Being is identical with but at the same time different from Nothing...", "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts...", or "Matter without motion is unthinkable" (and the like), they would have been regarded as complete lunatics, and rightly so.

 

On the other hand, they could and did use ideas drawn from HM to help organise the revolution.

 

[This topic was covered in detail Part One of this Essay. The difference between HM and DM is explained here.]

 

And it is little use arguing that dialectical concepts were used 'implicitly' --or that they 'informed' the tactics that Lenin and his party adopted, somehow operating 'behind the scenes'. As we will see below, since dialectical concepts can be employed to justify anything at all and its opposite (being inherently and proudly contradictory), had they been employed, they could only have been used subjectively, since there is no objective way to tell these two incompatible applications apart.

 

Anyone who takes exception to the above will need to show precisely how and where Lenin and the Bolsheviks explicitly used dialectical-concepts --, as opposed to their actual employment of HM-concepts (the latter having been based on (i) a concrete class analysis of events as they unfolded in that fateful year, and (ii) decades of experience relating to the working class) -- in 1917. They will thus need to produce documentary evidence of the Bolshevik's actual use of dialectical ideas or theses, and then show how they could possibly have been of any practical benefit or use to workers in revolutionary struggle --, or even how they could have helped the Bolsheviks comprehend what was going on and how to intervene successfully.

 

Some might point to this passage of Lenin's:

 

"The gist of [Bukharin's] theoretical mistake in this case is substitution of eclecticism for the dialectical interplay of politics and economics (which we find in Marxism). His theoretical attitude is: 'on the one hand, and on the other', 'the one and the other'. That is eclecticism. Dialectics requires an all-round consideration of relationships in their concrete development but not a patchwork of bits and pieces. I have shown this to be so on the example of politics and economics....

 

"The reader will see that Bukharin's example was meant to give me a popular explanation of the harm of one-track thinking. I accept it with gratitude, and in the one-good turn-deserves-another spirit offer a popular explanation of the difference between dialectics and eclecticism.

 

"A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties, qualities or facets to it; there are an infinite number of them, an infinite number of 'mediacies' and inter-relationships with the rest of the world. A tumbler is a heavy object which can be used as a missile; it can serve as a paper weight, a receptacle for a captive butterfly, or a valuable object with an artistic engraving or design, and this has nothing at all to do with whether or not it can be used for drinking, is made of glass, is cylindrical or not quite, and so on and so forth.

 

"Moreover, if I needed a tumbler just now for drinking, it would not in the least matter how cylindrical it was, and whether it was actually made of glass; what would matter though would be whether it had any holes in the bottom, or anything that would cut my lips when I drank, etc. But if I did not need a tumbler for drinking but for a purpose that could be served by any glass cylinder, a tumbler with a cracked bottom or without one at all would do just as well, etc.

 

"Formal logic, which is as far as schools go (and should go, with suitable abridgements for the lower forms), deals with formal definitions, draws on what is most common, or glaring, and stops there. When two or more different definitions are taken and combined at random (a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel), the result is an eclectic definition which is indicative of different facets of the object, and nothing more.

 

"Dialectical logic demands that we should go further. Firstly, if we are to have a true knowledge of an object we must look at and examine all its facets, its connections and 'mediacies'. That is something we cannot ever hope to achieve completely, but the rule of comprehensiveness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. Secondly, dialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world. Thirdly, a full 'definition' of an object must include the whole of human experience, both as a criterion of truth and a practical indicator of its connection with human wants. Fourthly, dialectical logic holds that 'truth is always concrete, never abstract', as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel....

 

"I have not, of course, run through the whole notion of dialectical logic, but what I have said will do for the present. I think we can return from the tumbler to the trade unions and Trotsky's platform....

 

"Why is Bukharin's reasoning no more than inert and empty eclecticism? It is because he does not even try to make an independent analysis, from his own standpoint, either of the whole course of the current controversy (as Marxism, that is, dialectical logic, unconditionally demands) or of the whole approach to the question, the whole presentation -- the whole trend of the presentation, if you will -- of the question at the present time and in these concrete circumstances. You do not see Bukharin doing that at all! His approach is one of pure abstraction: he makes no attempt at concrete study, and takes bits and pieces from Zinoviev and Trotsky. That is eclecticism." [Lenin (1921), pp.90-93. Italic emphases in the original. Quotations marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

It could be argued that this is a classic example of dialectical thought in action, and one which not only allowed Lenin to transcend the hasty and narrow conclusions drawn by Bukharin and Trotsky, but also form a clear, concrete political analysis of situations as they arose -- and then decide how to move the revolution forward.

 

However, as we have seen in Essay Ten Part One, it is in fact quite impossible to put Lenin's strategy into practise, just as there is no evidence that he ever did so himself (in 1917, or even in 1921, when the above was written). [The reader is directed to the above Essay for more details.]

 

Now, I have trawled through the available minutes and decrees of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party (from August 1917 to February 1918), and have failed to find a single DM-thesis -- let alone one drawn from an attenuated form of DM -- put to any use, or even alluded to in passing! [Bone (1974).] To be sure, it is always possible I might have missed something, but even if I have, this Hermetic creed hardly forms a prominent part of the day-to-day discussions between active revolutionaries.

 

Added on edit: I have now gone though the available documents line by line twice -- still no sign of this 'crucially important' theory!

 

In fact, it is conspicuous by its absence.

 

Hence, the available evidence confirms the claims made above: active revolutionaries made no use of this 'theory', plainly because it is impossible to put a single DM-thesis into practice.

 

Added later still: I have now checked the Theses, Resolutions And Manifestos Of The First Four Congresses Of The Third International [Holt and Holland (1983)], and the only visible sign of 'dialectics' amounts to a couple of dozen occurrences of the word "contradiction" (employed in relation to the unfolding crises in capitalism (etc.)) in over 400 pages. No other examples of dialectical jargon (or 'thought') appear in the entire volume. Even then, "contradiction" isn't used to explain anything, nor does it seem to do any theoretical or practical work (indeed, as noted elsewhere, this word is used simply because it is part of a well-established DM-tradition, and nothing more). Furthermore, most of the occurrences of this word are by Zinoviev; as far as I can determine, Lenin doesn't use the term anywhere in the book.

 

Moreover, in Trotsky's The Third International After Lenin [Trotsky (1974)], dialectics is mentioned only fourteen times in nearly 300 pages, and then only in passing. This theory does no work there either.

 

Update February 2017: I have just received a copy of Riddell (2015) -- an amazing book that reproduces The Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 -- which I am now going though line-by-line to see how prominently DM features in these proceedings. However, an examination of the Index reveals the unsurprising fact that neither 'dialectics'/DM nor 'philosophy' -- and not even phrases like "contradiction", "unity of opposites", "totality", "mediation", or "negation of the negation" -- merit so much as a single entry. Of course, on its own, that isn't conclusive, but it does show that this theory failed to make a significant (or any?) contribution to these proceedings. When I have finished working my way through its 1200 pages, I will record the results here. Clearly, that will take some time.

 

And it is even less use someone requiring of me to produce proof that Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn't use dialectical ideas, since there is no written evidence that he or they did, as the above indicates. In which case, the contrary conclusion (that DM wasn't actually used) goes by default.

 

That is in addition to the fact that it has been shown (above, and in Essay Nine Part One) that it isn't possible to apply DM-concepts -- they have no practical applications other than negative (as we will see in the next section). After all, even Lenin got into a serious muddle when he tried to play around with such ideas, let alone when he attempted to apply them; his "all round" consideration of the facts ("mediacies"), in the passage quoted above, would have locked him into a permanent state of indecision. So, it is little wonder he avoided using this crazy theory at such an important juncture.

 

As we will soon find out: dialectical concepts can be employed to 'justify' anything you like (no matter how contradictory that "anything you like" might otherwise appear to be; in fact the more contradictory it is, the more 'dialectical' it looks!). Indeed, it can be, and has been used to rationalise any course of action, and its opposite (often that trick is performed by the very same dialectician, in the same article, or even in the same speech!), including policies that are both counter-revolutionary and anti-Marxist.

 

[Some have argued in response to the above claim that other theories can be, and have been, used in this way -- i.e., one individual might use a theory to prove one proposition and then another theorist might use it to prove its opposite. Maybe so, but only DM (or maybe, perhaps, Zen Buddhism) has been used by the very same individual to rationalise one course of action or thesis, and its opposite, sometimes on the same page, or even in the same paragraph, sentence, or speech! Moreover, no other theory is acceptable to revolutionary cadres, and so no other theory is so well placed to 'win' them to anything their 'leaders' consider expedient or opportune.]

 

In fact, shortly after the revolution many younger comrades and scientists began to argue that all of Philosophy (and not just dialectics) is key part of ruling-class ideology -- which is a crude version of my own thesis! It wasn't until the Deborinites won a factional battle in 1925/26 that this trend was defeated and then reversed -- and that was clearly engineered to help pave the way for the further destruction of the gains of October 1917. [More about that later. On this, see Bakhurst (1991), Graham (1971), Joravsky (1961), Kolakowski (1981), Wetter (1958).]

 

Indeed, Lenin's use of 'dialectical logic' (again, in the passage quoted above) was in 1921, when the revolution was beginning to retreat. This is in line with what was alleged earlier: DM is only of real use in times of defeat or set-back. This also conforms with other things that have been asserted in this Essay: that dialectics is an ideal tool for use in faction fights, since its nebulous theses can be marshalled in support of anything at all, and its opposite.

 

So, 1917 can't be chalked-up as a success for this strain of Hermetic Mysticism.

 

However, we will soon see that the disintegration and destruction of the results of 1917 can, indeed, be attributed partly to this 'theory'.

 

 

Substitutionism 2

 

Naturally, the above comments leave out of the account the influence DM has had on substitutionist ideas at work in the revolutionary tradition. This brings us to our next topic.

 

 

DM And Mystification

 

I will be devoting an entire Essay to this issue, but for present purposes we need merely sum up the results so far:

 

In Part One it was shown that ideas exclusive to DM can't be used to educate, propagandise or agitate the working-class. Moreover, dialectics can't even represent a generalisation of the experience of the Revolutionary Party; that is because not one single DM-fan understands this theory -- or if they do, they have kept that fact well hidden for over one hundred and forty years. Worse still, there is no evidence that revolutionaries have used this 'theory' in their practical interface with the working-class. Indeed, because of its incoherence, it can't be so used.

 

On the contrary, the shadowy history of this theory reveals that DM-concepts originated, not from the experience of the party, nor from that of the class, but from a tradition possessed of excellent ruling-class credentials, a tradition that promoted an Ideal view of reality for at least two-and-a-half millennia -- a picture of a hidden world supposedly underlying appearances, accessible to thought alone.

 

In this Part of Essay Nine, it has been argued that ideas unique to DM can have no practical impact other than negative, since they are devoid of sense and are based on divisive concepts imported from the work of boss-class ideologues. Not only does this theory fail to relate to workers' experience, it fails to relate to anyone's experience -- or, indeed, experience anyone could conceivably have. Because of this it has to be imposed on workers 'against the materialist grain', as it were.

 

In stark contrast, HM not only can, it does have practical import. It represents the generalisation and systematisation of workers' (indeed, humanity's) collective experience and understanding -- as well as that of the party.

 

Nevertheless, in the analysis given so far, the connection between DM and substitutionism has been left somewhat vague and unclear.

 

Substitutionist ideas in general (in this context) originate from the belief that workers are incapable of organising themselves (that is, over and above their developing merely a 'trade union form of consciousness', or the like) -- or they are too few or too weak to do this -- and thus that they are incapable of bringing about (successful) revolutionary change.

 

[It is now clear from Lars Lih's work that Lenin himself didn't believe this; but the vast majority of those claiming to be Leninists since, have (Lih (2005, 2010)).]

 

Of course, substitutionism isn't itself an expression of free-floating ideas, nor is it monolithic. It springs from various class ideologies and material interests, but it only becomes problematic at certain historical junctures. It largely gains and maintains its grip (when it does) because of the fragmented and uneven nature of the working-class --, which condition it parasites, extends, and exacerbates. Nevertheless, as is well-known, substitutionist ideas manifest themselves in the general belief that workers in the end need someone, or some other group to lead them both theoretically and practically, and that they are incapable (for whatever reason) of leading their own political struggles and thus of transforming society through their own activity, etc., etc. In that case, they require other forces to bring about socialism for them. [More on this in Essay Nine Part One.]40

 

To be sure, this isn't the whole story, and it is possible to link substitutionist ideas to other reactionary beliefs and theories not just these. That won't be attempted here.

 

 

Installing The New Program

 

Among revolutionaries (at such times), the ideological justification for substitutionism can assume many forms, nurturing perhaps the belief that 'objective' factors prevent workers themselves from creating a classless society, or from prosecuting the struggle to attain it. It also motivates the belief that workers are incapable of comprehending their own interests (now, or at any time in the future), that they have been befuddled by 'commonsense' and 'formal thinking', or that they have been "bought off" by imperialist "super-profits", etc., etc.

 

However, more specifically in connection with the main theme of this Essay, a commitment to DM motivates the idea that workers can't grasp the fundamental 'scientific' and 'philosophical' principles that underlie human history or, indeed, those 'governing' the development of the entire universe. That being the case, they will, of course, need someone else to do this, or to understand that, for them.40a

 

This belief now transforms Marxists who are inclined in the above directions into latter-day prophets, 'teachers of the masses', and hence superior human beings -- which helps explain the personality cults and the elitist comments one often hears from such individuals -- such as "workerism", "economism", "banal commonsense", or even "trade union consciousness".41

 

Nevertheless, this doesn't exhaust the possibilities. As it turns out, these other considerations are connected with the familiar claim appropriated from Traditional Philosophy that there is a fundamental distinction between "appearance" and "reality".

 

It is no accident then that the above distinction has traditionally been associated with a concomitant disdain for ordinary language and common experience (as we will see in Essay Twelve, summary here). Thus, if reality is in fact different from the way it seems -- indeed, its very opposite -- then workers -- who, according to this approach, view nature and society superficially, based on 'commonsense' -- clearly require someone to (i) Unmask nature's secrets for them (ii) Direct and lead their thinking and (iii) Act as their brains. Indeed, if the vernacular is inadequate in this regard -- that is, if it can't be trusted "beyond certain limits", then it needs to be 'augmented', or even replaced, with jargon that can. Or, at the very least, it requires supplementation with Hegelian or 'philosophical' terminology. Since 'commonsense' and ordinary language are inter-linked (on this view), and both are connected with communal life, this 'replacement language' must be based on what are taken to be philosophically-, and scientifically-sound representational principles -- but not on the vernacular, which is governed by 'unreliable' and 'crude' working class, communicational or communitarian , and thus severely limited, principles.42

 

Moreover, and because of this, the impenetrable jargon employed by those who also developed this new 'revolutionary' theory must assist in the initiation of any acolyte it manages to attract into its inner mysteries, which will in the end reveal -- to those not lost in the cloying fog of 'commonsense' -- nature's underlying "essence", uncovering secrets that lie way beyond the reach of 'formal thinking'.

 

 

 

Figure Seven: Dialectician Looking

For 'Underlying Essences'

 

Hence, according to this way of seeing things, workers require teachers -- indeed, 'intellectuals', if not 'Great Teachers' -- who are prepared to substitute into their heads a new set of ideas -- a set of doctrines that inform them of this hidden world underlying 'appearances', accessible to thought alone, which is why such ideas have to be introduced to workers, not practically, but theoretically -- in place of the socially-, and materially-grounded beliefs they already have. Unfortunately, this new set of ideas has been imported from the class enemy, containing concepts drawn from the very worst forms of Mystical Idealism.42a

 

So, in spite of what we read in the official DM-brochure, it isn't Hegelian 'logic' which has been rotated through 180 degrees, but workers themselves. Their thinking has been up-ended, their materialist ideas replaced with incomprehensible Idealist concepts. The erstwhile subjects of history (i.e., revolutionary workers) are thereby transformed into the passive objects of theory. They must be intellectually neutered by being theoretically knocked off their feet.

 

[Much of the background to the above, seemingly dogmatic assertions, can be found in Part One of this Essay.]

 

At this point, it is worth stressing that it is not being maintained here that revolutionaries should adopt a romantic or naïve view either of workers or their ideas --, i.e., that their thoughts aren't fragmentary or inconsistent, that racist or sexist notions don't enter their heads, that they always and infallibly know how best to further their own interests, that they have the requisite organisational structures adequate to that end -- or even that they understand the nature and source of their own oppression and exploitation, and so on.

 

[None of the above regressive conditions are cast in stone, anyway! How workers transform themselves in struggle (with or without the aid of the party) is already well understood by Marxists and needs no elaboration by me. Even so, Essay Twelve Part Seven I aim to show why any successful intervention by revolutionaries will have to be centred on the vernacular -- not on the obscure jargon imported from the works of Hegel and other boss-class theorists --and common understanding. Any who still think ordinary language is inadequate in any way are encouraged to read this and this, and then perhaps think again. Or, failing that, contact the editors of the vast majority of revolutionary papers on the planet and tell them to stop using the vernacular to communicate with workers!]

 

Neither is it part of the argument presented here that workers have no need of a revolutionary party, drawn from their own ranks, which has established deep links with the working class, forged in struggle, and which has also learnt from them.43

 

On the other hand, because HM represents a generalisation of workers' experience, when it is introduced to them it augments what they already know. In that case, it doesn't need to be substituted into their heads in place of their own ideas -- even though it might change many of these for the better. As, noted in Essay Nine Part One, because HM meshes with workers' own experience, and speaks to their exploitation and oppression, it is introduced to them from the 'inside', as it were.

 

Nevertheless, the only issue of immediate concern here is the influence that DM has had on the attitude revolutionaries adopt toward workers. Indeed, this concerns the connection between DM and the petty-bourgeois, substitutionist mentality that is endemic among certain professional revolutionaries (because of their class position and their fondness for elitist, boss-class theories).

 

Hence, in relation to strategy and tactics, and with regard to the theoretical understanding of the relationship between party and class, the question posed in this section is whether ideas drawn from what are demonstrably ruling-class sources, which reflect the priorities of that class (e.g., mystification, esotericism, secrecy, fragmentation, control, arrogance, disdain), when adopted by revolutionaries may have unsuspected, but inevitably substitutionist consequences.

 

In short, it is alleged that dialectical concepts will, among other things, be used in order to rationalise and justify substitutionism.

 

And that is precisely what we find.

 

[Indeed, in Essay Nine Part One it was concluded that DM is in fact the ideology of substitutionist elements in Marxism.]

 

 

Three Case Studies

 

This Essay Isn't Making A Series Of Academic Points

 

It could be argued that the remarks aired in the first half of this Essay are largely theoretical, academic, or abstract. That isn't entirely true, but let us suppose it is. In that case, what now required are concrete examples -- drawn from the history of Dialectical Marxism itself -- of the deleterious effects of 'dialectical concepts' on the aforementioned petty-bourgeois and déclassé revolutionaries.43a

 

Fortunately, because of the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism, these aren't too hard to find -- in fact, it is rather surprising that no one has noticed them before (which in itself confirms the narcoleptic effect Hegelian concepts, compounded by a slavish adherence to tradition, have had on the minds of the vast majority of DM-fans, and, indeed, on those who have studied, or who have written about, the history of our movement).

 

In that case, what follows is, I think, the very first study of its kind.

 

Four preliminary points, however, need to be made:

 

(1) As noted in the Preface to this Essay, the following sections are still in their infancy; they will require far more attention devoting to them before the conclusions I have drawn can be regarded as in any way definitive. I will add more detail and evidence as my researches continue.

 

(2) The search for such evidence has been hampered by the fact that every single Marxist history I have read (concerning the periods I am about to analyse -- indeed, about any period in our history!) fails even to consider whether or not DM is in any way to blame (in whole or in part) for the defeats and disasters our side has suffered since the 1870s.

 

As far as I can determine, the role this theory has played doesn't merit so much as a cursory mention in this respect!

 

Of course, that is in itself quite revealing, given the fact that DM is supposed to be central to everything that revolutionaries are alleged to have said, thought and done -- that is, according to what they themselves tell us.

 

Why this universal, selective blindness? Why this collective amnesia?

 

The answer is pretty clear: as Marx suggested, blaming this theory in any way at all, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, for the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism would fatally compromise the only source of consolation available to dialectically-distracted comrades. Despite what we are constantly told, it is also why this theory has never been tested in practice -- in the sense that practice has been allowed to deliver its unambiguous and negative verdict.

 

(3) Any Stalinists and/or Maoists who disagree with my assessment of their respective traditions below are encouraged to shelve whatever knee-jerk reactions they might have to what they might read until the end of this main section, by which time they should see the point of it all.

 

[As for fellow Trotskyists, they will already have switched off, anyway! Experience has taught me that they are among the most closed-minded of dialecticians, often warning others not to read these Essays for fear that the pristine purity of their minds might be 'tainted' as a result -- indeed, they often react just like Trotsky did to those in the US-SWP back in the 1930s who rejected this theory: i.e., entirely emotively. Literally scores of examples of this rather odd phenomenon can be found at RevLeft and other sites on the internet where I have tried to engage with them in debate.]

 

(4) Once again, it is worth reminding readers that my argument isn't the following: DM has been derived from, and is based on, ruling-class concepts, therefore it is false. On the contrary, my argument is as follows: DM makes no sense whatsoever; in which case it is impossible to decide if it is true or if it is false. Hence, it is no big surprise to see that it has served us so badly for over a century. Furthermore, because (a) DM is non-sensical and incoherent, and (b) DM theory originated in traditional, ruling-class thought, it can't have any positive practical applications -- only negative -- in a movement that is supposed to be aimed at terminating class society.

 

In the material presented below, I have quoted dozens of rather lengthy DM-passages taken from all wings of Dialectical Marxism, aimed at showing how deep Hegelian concepts have seeped into our movement, exposing the pernicious effect they have had on every aspect of revolutionary theory and practice.

 

Apologies must be offered in advance for its rather repetitive nature, as well as its length, but there is no other way that the above objectives can be achieved. Experience has taught me that dialecticians tend to deny allegations they don't like (or which threaten to disturb their "dogmatic slumber") unless they are backed-up extensively by chapter and verse. Even then, with passages from Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, or Mao staring them in the face, many of them remain locked in 'deny-everything-mode'. [Excellent recent examples of this phenomenon can be found here.]

 

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

 

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

 

When large sections of the working class were ready to move, Dialectical Marxists screwed up catastrophically.

 

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

 

 

[1] Stalinism

 

DM was used by the Stalinised Bolshevik Party (after Lenin's death) to 'justify' the imposition of an undemocratic (if not openly anti-democratic and terror-based) political structure on both the Communist Party and the population of former Soviet Union (fSU) -- and later still on the citizens of Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba, and elsewhere.

 

The catastrophic effect of these moves hardly needs underlining.

 

This new and vicious form of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was justified by Stalin on the following basis: Marxist 'dialectics' holds that everything is 'contradictory', hence increasingly centralised control by the party was compatible with greater democratic freedom! The "withering-away of the state" was confirmed by moves in the opposite direction: the ever-growing concentration of power at the centre. So, and paradoxically, less democracy was in fact more democracy! The merging of all national cultures into one was in fact to preserve them!

 

[As we will discover, similar moves have been echoed in practically every Marxist Tendency since -- oddly enough, right down to the current crisis in the UK-SWP.]

 

Indeed, this very 'contradiction' supposedly illustrates the truth of dialectics!

 

As Stalin himself put it:

 

"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), 27/06/1930. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]43a0

 

So, less democracy is more democracy! The separate 'national cultures' in the fSU will flower under 'socialism', but only if they are merged in to one, whether they like it or not!

 

A contradiction?

 

No worries -- a little dialectics will soon sort that out!

 

Greater democracy from less democracy; all eminently contradictory, all quintessentially 'dialectical'.

 

Stalin went on to add this rather ominous note:

 

"Anyone who fails to understand this peculiar feature and 'contradiction' of our transition period, anyone who fails to understand these dialectics of the historical processes, is dead as far as Marxism is concerned.

 

"The misfortune of our deviators is that they do not understand, and do not wish to understand, Marx's dialectics." [Ibid. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

As many leading Bolsheviks and countless thousands from the many nationalities that former the fSU were soon to find out, Stalin wasn't joking when he made those remarks.

 

Indeed, as noted above, this theory formed part of Stalin's 'justification' for the Communist Party's line on the National Question, specifically linking these two issues in the previous quotation:

 

"Lenin sometimes depicted the thesis on national self-determination in the guise of the simple formula: 'disunion for union'. Think of it -- disunion for union. It even sounds like a paradox. And yet, this 'contradictory' formula reflects that living truth of Marx's dialectics which enables the Bolsheviks to capture the most impregnable fortresses in the sphere of the national question." [Ibid. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

This 'allowed' Stalin to claim that the merging of all national cultures (in the fSU) into one was at the same time to show respect for, and thus preserve, their differences! One thing we can be sure about: the Chechens and the Cossacks certainly 'appreciated' Stalin's 'dialectical' solution to the national question.

 

Earlier, Stalin argued against Trotsky's demand for "inner party democracy" as follows:

 

"The essence of Trotskyism is, lastly, denial of the necessity for iron discipline in the Party, recognition of freedom for factional groupings in the Party, recognition of the need to form a Trotskyist party. According to Trotskyism, the CPSU(B) must be not a single, united militant party, but a collection of groups and factions, each with its own centre, its own discipline, its own press, and so forth. What does this mean? It means proclaiming freedom for political factions in the Party. It means that freedom for political groupings in the Party must be followed by freedom for political parties in the country, i.e., bourgeois democracy. Consequently, we have here recognition of freedom for factional groupings in the Party right up to permitting political parties in the land of the dictatorship of the proletariat, disguised by phrases about 'inner-party democracy', about 'improving the regime' in the Party. That freedom for factional squabbling of groups of intellectuals is not inner-party democracy, that the widely-developed self-criticism conducted by the Party and the colossal activity of the mass of the Party membership is real and genuine inner-party democracy -- Trotskyism can't understand." [Ibid. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Why Stalin didn't conclude the same about Trotsky's alleged concept of the party:

 

"denial of the necessity for iron discipline in the Party, recognition of freedom for factional groupings in the Party, recognition of the need to form a Trotskyist party. According to Trotskyism, the CPSU(B) must be not a single, united militant party, but a collection of groups and factions, each with its own centre, its own discipline, its own press, and so forth." [Ibid.]

 

That is, the following:

 

"It may be said that such a presentation of the question is 'contradictory.'... Is this 'contradictory'? Yes, it is 'contradictory.' But this contradiction us bound up with life, and it fully reflects Marx's dialectics....

 

"And yet, this 'contradictory' formula reflects that living truth of Marx's dialectics which enables the Bolsheviks to capture the most impregnable fortresses in the sphere of the [party]" [Edited misquotation of Stalin.]

 

If two contradictions are OK (i.e., concerning (i) the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and (ii) the national question), then why not a third? 

 

[On this, see Appendix F.]

 

All this follows, of course, from the Hegelian idea that conformity to law is the very essence of freedom, as Lenin noted:

 

"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other…." [Lenin (1961), p.359. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphases added.]

 

As Engels also pointed out (quoted earlier):

 

"This second definition of freedom, which quite unceremoniously gives a knock-out blow to the first one, is again nothing but an extreme vulgarisation of the Hegelian conception. Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him, freedom is the insight into necessity (die Einsicht in die Notwendigheit).

 

'Necessity is blind only in so far as it is not understood [begriffen].' [Engels is here quoting Hegel (1975), p.209, §147 -- RL.]

 

"Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. This holds good in relation both to the laws of external nature and to those which govern the bodily and mental existence of men themselves -- two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality. Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject. Therefore the freer a man's judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined; while the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that it is controlled by the very object it should itself control. Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development.

 

"The first men who separated themselves from the animal kingdom were in all essentials as unfree as the animals themselves, but each step forward in the field of culture was a step towards freedom.... [F]or the first time there can be talk of real human freedom, of an existence in harmony with the laws of nature that have become known." [Engels (1976), pp.144-45. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

I will be discussing these rather odd ideas -- which are in fact reminiscent of New Testament and Pauline notions (also to be found in Rousseau) -- in Essay Three Part Five. Suffice it to say here that the 'contradiction' between 'freedom and necessity' was 'solved' by Engels and Lenin in the same basic way that Christians 'solve' scientific problems in the Bible -- they either (a) Invent a miracle or (b) Bury the problem in the 'Divine Mystery'. DM-theorists 'solve' this problem, too, by waving the word "dialectics" at it, thus burying it in the esoteric mysteries of DL. [In short, they Nixon it.]

 

Be this as it may, the first 'contradiction' 'justified' the Stalinised argument that greater freedom was to be found in the imposition of an undemocratic and terror based legal structure on the working class of the fSU (and elsewhere). [Although they most certainly wouldn't put this point quite like that!]

 

Workers were thus "forced to be free" (to paraphrase Rousseau).

 

[The background to this way of looking at 'freedom' can be found in Isaiah Berlin's classic essay Two Concepts of Liberty -- i.e., Berlin (2002), pp.166-217. I hasten to add that I don't agree with everything Berlin says, but this work is still unmatched in the clarity it brought to the topic.]

 

To be sure, Stalin's line was a gross distortion of what Engels and Lenin might have meant, but that's Diabolical Logic for you; it can be (and was here) used to rationalise anything Stalin and his henchmen found expedient, and its opposite.

 

Indeed, the use of this handy, universal solvent (DL) made it possible to 'justify' the idea that socialism could be built in one country, by, among other things, the dubious invention (by Stalin) of "internal" versus "external" contradictions, later supported by the further invention of "principal" and "secondary" contradictions, alongside the highly convenient idea that some contradictions were, while some weren't, "antagonistic".

 

Hence, the obvious class differences that remained, or which soon emerged in the fSU were either "non-existent" or were, despite 'appearances' to the contrary, "harmonious". The real enemies (i.e., the source of all those nasty, "principal" (or perhaps even "antagonistic") contradictions) were the external, imperialist powers.43a00

 

This analysis 'allowed' STDs to argue that socialism could be built in one country because it was now possible to define the intrinsic nature of the fSU by means of its internal relations, not the relations it held with the rest of the capitalist world. We saw this was a consequence of one interpretation of the "unity and interpenetration of opposites" (which was, oddly enough, an interpretation promoted by STDs themselves). Since DM can be used in any which way a particular dialectician pleases, or finds expedient, we also saw that this approach will only work if, in this case, the fSU is isolated from its surroundings and the relations it holds with the rest of the world are treated as merely 'external'. On the other hand, if we look at capitalism from a different, 'dialectical' angle and view the world economy as a system in its own right, the relationship between the fSU and the capitalist world can be re-configured and then re-classified as 'internal' [This is indeed the line that Trotsky and his followers took.]

 

All this is one consequence of the 'dialectical equivocation' (we met in Essays Eight Part One and Eleven Part Two) between 'external' and 'internal' contradictions; between what I have called the 'geometric' or 'spatial interpretation' of the "unity and interpenetration of opposites", and the 'logical' interpretation. What looks 'external' on one view is 'internal' from another, and vice versa.

 

The super-dialectical 'flexibility' built into this mutant STD-theory -- since neither Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov nor Lenin seem to know anything about 'external contradictions' (and on 'dialectical' grounds alone, the term itself appears to be non-viable, anyway) --, again 'allowed' this convenient distinction to be used to defend any idea whatsoever, and its opposite, put to 'good use' here by the Stalinists to defend his revised view of the nature of the fSU and what was possible to build within its now 'dialectically-sealed' borders.

 

[This might even be called the dialectical version of the story about King Canute; the Stalinists, instead of trying to hold back the tides, attempted to keep the international capitalist economy at bay by (i) a sheer act of will and (ii) throwing a few 'dialectical' words at the problem!]

 

Again, this 'permitted' STDs to claim that the actions of the imperialist powers, for example, constituted one set of 'external contradictions' in relation to the fSU itself, and hence to argue that the real nature of the fSU could be defined internally, based on its own internal, but 'non-antagonistic' contradictions. This in turn 'enabled' them to conclude (or, rather, it 'allowed' them to rationalise a conclusion already arrived at for other, hard-headed, political reasons -- on that, see here) that socialism could be built in one country.

 

Clearly, this hyper-plastic theory can be bent into any shape that proves either convenient or expedient.

 

As Stalin himself argued:

 

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

 

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

 

"What is meant by the possibility of the victory of socialism in one country?

 

"It means the possibility of solving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry by means of the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat seizing power and using that power to build a complete socialist society in our country, with the sympathy and the support of the proletarians of other countries, but without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries.

 

"Without, such a possibility, building socialism is building without prospects, building without being sure that socialism will be completely built. It is no use engaging in building socialism without being sure that we can build it completely, without being sure that the technical backwardness of our country is not an insuperable obstacle to the building of a complete socialist society. To deny such a possibility means disbelief in the cause of building socialism, departure from Leninism.

 

"What is meant by the impossibility of the complete, final victory of socialism in one country without the victory of the revolution in other countries?

 

"It means the impossibility of having a full guarantee against intervention, and consequently against the restoration of the bourgeois order, without the victory of the revolution in at least a number of countries. To deny this indisputable thesis means departure from internationalism, departure from Leninism...." [Ibid., pp.212-13. Bold emphases added.]43a1

 

[How 'contradictions' can be "overcome" is, of course, a deep mystery which we will have to pass over in silence for now. I will return to this passage along with others like it and consider them in more detail as this Essay unfolds.]

 

Nevertheless, as Tom Weston has shown in a recent article in Science & Society [Weston (2008)], the distinction between "antagonistic" and "non-antagonistic contradictions" [henceforth, ACs and NACs, respectively] can't be attributed to Lenin, as many have supposed:

 

"Antagonism and contradiction are not at all the same thing. In socialism, the first will disappear, but the latter will remain." [Lenin, quoted in Weston (2008), p.433. This was in fact a marginal note Lenin wrote in his copy of a book by Bukharin!]

 

Weston goes on to say:

 

"This note has often been treated as evidence that Lenin accepted or even invented the NAC concept (e.g., Mitin and Mao), but it surely does not show this. Like Marx, Lenin distinguished contradiction from antagonism, and this raises a philosophical question about the relation between the two. Lenin did not answer this question, however, and he did not claim that antagonism is a special kind of contradiction." [Weston (2008), p.433.]

 

[Incidentally, Weston, who knows his logic (after all, he teaches the subject!), is remarkably accommodating here. For example, he nowhere asks why 'dialectical contradictions' are contradictions to begin with. As we have seen (in Essays Five, Eight Part One, Eight Part Two (here, here and here), Eight Part Three, and Eleven Part One), little sense can be made of the term "dialectical contradiction". Nor does Weston ask how Lenin could possibly have known that "antagonism" and "contradiction" either are or aren't the same, or that one will disappear under socialism while the other won't. (The answer is, naturally, that Lenin couldn't possibly have known this -- unless, of course, he was imposing these ideas on nature and society, contrary to what dialecticians tell us they never do.) It also raises the question -- which Weston doesn't, I think, bother to answer --, "Well, what is the difference between antagonism and contradiction?"]

 

Weston then goes on to point out that the idea that there are NACs and ACs in nature and society began to take shape in the work of Bukharin and Deborin, but the first explicit appearance of either notion was in 1930, in an article that appeared in the Party's theoretical journal Bol'shevik, written by Nicolai Karev (who was later to play a key role in Boris Hessen's demise):

 

"The theme of this article was a critique of Bukharin's and Alexandr Bogdanov's conceptions of contradiction and equilibrium. As part of his argument that antagonism of classes is not analogous to antagonism of physical forces acting in different directions, Karev gave the following definition: 'Antagonism is in general that type of contradiction in which the opposite sides have become completely isolated from one another and externally confront one another'". [Ibid., p.440. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[As noted above, this new line plainly depends on what I have called a geometric or spatial interpretation of the "unity and interpenetration of opposites" (and which can't be made consistent with anything Hegel or Lenin argued -- upside down or the 'right way up') -- an idea that has been peddled by STDs and MISTs ever since.]

 

It is quite clear from what Weston tells us that these two forms of 'contradiction' were introduced in order to rationalise the CPSU's claim that (i) Socialism could be built in one country, (ii) There was no class war in the fSU, (iii) Workers and peasants were neither oppressed nor exploited -- even if they still had conflicting interests -- and also in order to (iv) 'Justify' the murderous collectivisation of land, alongside the many subsequent purges inflicted on the Russian population:

 

"From the 1930s, the most important application of the NAC concept was the soviet policy toward the peasantry...." [Ibid., p.436.]

 

Production by peasants was based on privately owned small-holdings, and there would naturally arise conflict between the peasantry and the urban working class over the prices they charged for their produce. However:

 

"The Bolsheviks...considered the poor and middle peasants and agricultural workers to be allies of the urban working class, forming a 'bond' which was the official basis of the soviet state." [Ibid., p.437.]

 

However, this wasn't so with respect to the "kulaks" and the urban traders (the so-called "NEPmen"), who were regarded as class enemies, whose ACs were soon 'resolved' by the 'Bolsheviks' -- that is, these groups were liquidated. "No man, no problem." [Yes, I know Stalin probably didn't say this!]:

 

"The...official view was that the contradiction of the labouring classes versus the kulaks tend to become more intense, while the contradictions inside the 'bond' tend to die out. Stalin wrote that inside the 'bond', there existed 'a struggle whose importance is out-weighed by...the community of interests, and which should disappear in the future...when they become working people of a classless society'.... Similar claims were made for the contradictions between manual workers and the soviet 'intelligentsia'...." [Ibid., p.437. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]43b

 

Nevertheless, a couple of generations later and we find STDs still pushing the same line. Here is Cornforth (also misusing the Lenin quote!):

 

"In general, social contradictions are antagonistic when they involve conflicts of economic interest. In such cases one group imposes its own interests on another, and one group suppresses another by forcible methods. But when conflicts of economic interest are not involved, there is no antagonism and therefore no need for the forcible suppression of any group by any other. Once class antagonisms are done away with in socialist society, all social questions can be settled by discussion and argument, by criticism and self-criticism, by persuasion, conviction and agreement....

 

"So Lenin remarked that 'antagonism and contradiction are utterly different. Under socialism antagonism disappears, but contradiction remains' (Critical Notes on Bukharin's 'Economics of the Transition Period')." [Cornforth (1976), pp.105-06.]

 

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

 

Any attempt made by workers to rebel (e.g., Hungary 1956) were blamed, naturally, on "external forces", or on agents from outside the working class  (a familiar excuse used by ruling classes the world over to account for, and thus ignore or explain away, the significance of 'social unrest' -- all caused, of course, by the ubiquitous "external agitator"), i.e., in this case, the "imperialist powers", "fascists", or even Tito (but not ordinary workers fighting for and on behalf of their own interests), once more.44

 

We will merely note, alongside Cornforth, the calm way that those NACs in Hungary (in 1956) were resolved by Russian tanks (i.e., using "discussion and argument...persuasion, conviction and agreement").

 

To be sure, and howsoever hard one tries, it is difficult not to be "persuaded" by an armoured column.

 

 

Figure Eight: Hungary 1956 -- How To 'Resolve

Contradictions' The STD Way

 

Cornforth also attempted to defend the idea that socialism could be created in one country -- referring his readers to Trotsky's counter-claim, which was allegedly based on "abstract" and fixed categories:

 

"After the proletarian revolution was successful another scheme was propounded -- this time by Trotsky. 'You can't build socialism in one country. Unless the revolution takes place in the advanced capitalist countries, socialism can't come in Russia.' Lenin and Stalin showed that this scheme, too, was false....

 

"In all these examples it will be seen that the acceptance of some ready-made scheme, some abstract formula, means passivity, support for capitalism, betrayal of the working class and of socialism. But the dialectical approach which understands things in their concrete interconnections and movement shows us how to forge ahead -- how to fight, what allies to draw in. That is the inestimable value of the Marxist dialectical method to the working class movement." [Ibid., pp.79-80. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[Several other attempts made by STDs and MISTs to show that Trotsky ignored or 'misused' the 'dialectic' (or even that he applied a 'wooden', 'abstract' version of it) have been added to Note 44.]

 

Which is odd in view of what Trotsky himself argued:

 

"Shachtman obviously does not take into account the distinction between the abstract and the concrete. Striving toward concreteness, our mind operates with abstractions. Even 'this,' 'given,' 'concrete' dog is an abstraction because it proceeds to change, for example, by dropping its tail the 'moment' we point a finger at it. Concreteness is a relative concept and not an absolute one: what is concrete in one case turns out to be abstract in another: that is, insufficiently defined for a given purpose. In order to obtain a concept 'concrete' enough for a given need it is necessary to correlate several abstractions into one -- just as in reproducing a segment of life upon the screen, which is a picture in movement, it is necessary to combine a number of still photographs.

 

"The concrete is a combination of abstractions -- not an arbitrary or subjective combination but one that corresponds to the laws of the movement of a given phenomenon." [Trotsky (1971), p.147. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

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

 

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

 

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