Essay Nine: The Politics Of Metaphysics


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


Technical Preliminaries


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Readers are advised that the material presented in this Essay should be read in conjunction with Essay Nine Part One (where several conclusions I seem to take for granted below were substantiated), as well as Essay Ten Part One (where this part of the story has been concluded).


Some of my critics have claimed that 'dialectics' is harmless, or that it has had no negative impact on revolutionary socialism, so why not just ignore it? This Essay aims to show both of those contentions are seriously mistaken.


Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise what I am not doing in this Essay: I am not arguing that Dialectical Materialism/Materialist Dialectics [DM/MD] have helped ruin Marxism and therefore they are false. My argument is in fact as follows:


The Essays published at this site show that DM/MD make not one ounce of sense -- indeed, to such an extent that it is impossible to determine whether they are true or false. Hence, it is no big surprise to find out they have not only helped cripple our movement, they have assisted in no small way in its degeneration and corruption.


[Why I include degeneration and corruption will also be 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 topic will be the main theme of Essay Ten Part One, so readers are directed there for more details.


Our 'woes' clearly have several diverse causes; nevertheless, this Essay highlights two of the main reasons why Dialectical Marxism has now become almost synonymous with long-term failure, corruption and sectarian in-fighting. Namely (and in order of importance):


(a) The class origin, socialisation, and class position of the founders of our movement, as well as those who now lead it or control its ideas; and,


(b) The philosophical theory with which they have unfortunately saddled Marxism.


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


Of course, there are other contributory reasons why our movement has been such a long-term failure, but the few revolutionaries who are even prepared to acknowledge our appalling record are already well aware of these other factors. Hence, in what follows I have largely ignored the latter causes. That doesn't mean they aren't important, but I would merely be raking over familiar territory if I included them in this Essay, making it even longer than it already is!


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 much focussed on the class origin of the founders of our movement, and of those who currently control its ideas, as they are on DM. As such, they break entirely new ground -- as anyone who reads on will soon discover --, providing for the very first time, anywhere**, a Historical Materialist explanation why our movement so often fails and why much that we on the Revolutionary Left touch sooner-or-later becomes corrupt, fragmentary 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 over 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 that fatal defect; nor does it consider:


(c) Why this keeps happening, and will keep on happening unless we recognise the problem and its causes.


I have addressed those issues 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 (at last!) attempting to account for the serial disasters that regularly engulf the far-left (in political and sociological terms), the analyses that have so far appeared, including the above two, still refuse to consider -- even as a remote possibility -- the issues raised in and by 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, even 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, shall we say, 'sensitive' topics are considered taboo.


In fact, they don't even make it onto the edge of the radar screen.


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


These untoward events -- i.e., the many disasters and debacles experienced by the far-left -- were predictable given the things you will read below, as are the many more we will witness in the years to come if what I have to say is ignored. [Which it will be! That is also explained in what follows.]


Unfortunately, long-term failure, sectarian in-fighting, fragmentation, expulsions and bureaucratic cover-ups appear to be the only areas where fellow revolutionaries display genuine expertise or have won any notable 'success'!




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


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: DM -- or, in its more 'political' form, MD;


(ii) Exposing the class origin and class position of leading comrades who invented, accepted or who now promulgate this theory; and,


(iii) Revealing at least one source of the countless splits, debacles and disasters we have witnessed on the far-left over the last hundred or so years.


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




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


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


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


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


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


Some of the links I have posted below -- which were meant to take the reader to Richard Seymour's blog, Lenin's Tomb -- no longer seem to work, either. It now appears there has been a slight change in that blog's URL. It will take me some time to correct them all!


For those who might find the length of this Essay somewhat daunting -- it is, after all, about the same length as a 500 page book! -- I have summarised some 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 crucially important and universally neglected topic.




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 that particular crisis, see also 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 that stretches 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.


Update 21/03/2020: The US ISO has just wound itself up, partly as a result of their leadership's catastrophic handing of yet more rape allegations! The CWI has also just imploded -- but this time for good old fashioned, time-honoured sectarian reasons.




This particular Essay has suffered more than most for being posted on-line long 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 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 also had on Communism and Maoism. Since I am far less familiar with those two political currents, many of my remarks in that area are even more tentative than they are elsewhere. I will, of course, add more details (and precision) as my researches continue.




Independently of the above, it is worth pointing out 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 theme 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 written with absolute beginners in mind) 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 policy has been adopted in order 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 qualified or greatly 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 neutralise. I explain why I have adopted this tactic in Essay One.


If readers skip this material, then my response 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 30 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/methods) should read this if they want to know why.


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.]




As of May 2024, this Essay is just over 227,500 words long. As noted earlier, a much shorter version of some of its main points can be accessed here; an even shorter one, here.


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


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


[Latest Update: 22/05/24.]


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 Thoughts About 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


(i)   The SWP Was Largely A DM-Free Zone Before 1985


(ii)  A Significant Change In Line


(iii) Crises Hit The UK-SWP


(g) Dialectical Myopia


(h) The Dialectical Mantra


(i) 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?


(α) 'Freedom' Versus 'Determinism'


(β) Revolutionaries -- Recruited As Individuals


(iii) The Ruling-Class Origin Of 'Dialectical Thought'


(iv) 'Born Again'?


(v)  Proletarian Discipline? -- No Thanks!


(c) Militant Martinets


(i)   A Bad Situation Made Worse


(ii)  Splitters!


(ii)  'Dialectical' Bickering


(iii) Democratic Deficit And The UK-SWP


(iv) The ISO Implodes


(v)  The CWI Falls Apart


(vi)  Sexual Violence And Sexism Endemic To The Far Left?


(4) The Faith Of Leading 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) 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 Ruling-Class Ideology Into Marxism?


(b) Dialectics And Revolutionary Practice


(c) Non-Sense And Praxis


(d) Ah! But What About 1917?


(e) Dialectical Materialism Has No Positive Practical Applications


(7) Substitutionism 2


(a) The Dialectics Of Mystification


(b) Installing The 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




The Aims This Essay


This half of Essay Nine deals with several of the important 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 the damage it has done to Marxism and the fact that it has presided over 150 years of almost total failure.


In these respects Part Two of Essay Nine is a continuation of the argument developed in 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 -- alongside several more general, background theoretical issues (concerning the relation between theory and practice).


[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 verdict: 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 road tested 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 stop appealing to practice as proof 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 blindingly obvious to many for some time, several comrades have recently voiced concern that the revolutionary left is stagnating, if not experiencing steady and long-term decline. Here, for example, 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 on which voters had voted for them -- 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, 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 leader. Despite this, the 'dialectical left' has seen no corresponding growth.


[This all ended in 2019 with the election of a Tory government and a collapse in the Labour vote.]


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; some paragraphs merged.]


 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; some paragraphs merged.]


Here, too, is 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 and link added; several paragraphs merged. As we have seen, while the Labour Left did recover dramatically (at least for a few years prior to 2019), the revolutionary left still hasn't.]


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 signally failed to connect with recent waves of radicalisation, and explore areas dialecticians like Rees still refuse to examine. Even worse, they will reject out-of-hand any attempt to do so.


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


Much the same can be said of Alex Callinicos's recent survey of the decline of the far-left (although he was less than honest about the number of members who decamped from the SWP):


"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. Since the above was written, the ISO has imploded, and has now disbanded itself.]


In the above article, Callinicos makes no attempt to apply a class analysis to this decline -- and this decline is long-term, too, one that has been on-going now for several generations despite the upturns Callinicos mentions (which turned out to be temporary, 'false dawns', anyway). For far too many the revolutionary left is now largely toxic. Callinicos not only fails to acknowledge this, he ignores his own and the UK-SWP's role in helping to accelerate this steady decline. To be sure, Callinicos discusses several other plausible factors that have contributed to the current weakness of the far-left, but he signally failed to explain why it has a propensity to fragment (he just notes that it happens) or 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; paragraphs merged. Links 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 and links 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 [National Committee -- RL] 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. There are now reports of yet another rape cover-up, but this time in the ISO itself! As we will see later, the failure to address an autocratic leadership in the ISO (which, for example, attempted to bury this set of rape allegations) ultimately led to its precipitous demise five years after the above was written.]


The above comrades call for "a deep re-examination of all previous assumptions on the part of the entire international Left" but those words fell on deaf ears. Not even those who wrote them were listening!


But, 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-ups before they attend their first paper sale?


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


"If you read the attempts that have been made so far by comrades (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

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 also neglected to develop an HM analysis of this crisis!):


"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 sharply 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?-- RL] individual's opinion on the details of this case, it can no longer be denied that this issue will create severe repercussions for the party. The CC have failed to lead and much of the membership is demanding an explanation. It is also a dead end to argue that this should stay within the party and we should simply draw a line under it. This is in the national press and silence and failure to recognise the problem would be political suicide with the very people we hope to work with, the movement.... We need an entirely new leadership, and we need to comprehensively overhaul all the democratic structures of the party." [Quoted from here; accessed 14/01/2013. Bold emphasis and link added. Minor typo corrected; paragraphs merged.]


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? -- RL] 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. Paragraphs merged.]


Here is another 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.'" [Quoted from here. Accessed 15/01/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. The comrade is quoting from Marx's letter to Schweitzer, 13/10/1868.]


But, still no attempt was 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 presents a detailed history of the decline of the US-SWP) even so much as attempt to apply Marxism to Marxism itself.


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, 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 examples 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 in 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', coupled with their commitment to thought-forms appropriated from the class enemy --, crystallised in 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...


Why is this?


I will endeavour to answer that question in what follows. 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 leading figures in Dialectical Marxism today and in the past, as well as those responsible for its ideas, this Part 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 repeated fragmentation of our movement.


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


And why:


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


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 thrown into the pot, 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 the generalised experience of the revolutionary party!


Nor has it any positive practical applications -- 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 brought with them into the workers' movement ideas derived from the class enemy --, or, at least, from Philosophers who gave theoretical voice to the interests and priorities of that class.


Surely, that alone shows the allegations made in these Essays are completely misguided, at best, mendacious, at worst.


Or, so it could be argued...


Of course, even its own most loyal and avid supporters can't -- indeed, 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 same can be said of workers since.


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


As is well-known, Hegel's system is the most absolute form of Idealism yet invented by the human race, and was itself situated right at the heart of an age-old 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's admission:


"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, which meant 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 and economically backward Germany, where there was no such revolutionary bourgeois class, his ideas represented both a continuation of ruling-class thought and a regression to earlier mystical ideas about nature and society. [On that, see Essay Twelve Part Five and Essay Fourteen Part One (summaries here and here).]


Moreover, by no stretch of the imagination were Hegel's ideas scientific, unlike those of Smith and Ricardo. [That doesn't imply the work of these two can't be criticised, as, indeed, Marx amply demonstrated.]


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 them, adopting others. [On that, 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, Shaftesbury and Mandeville? Slap bang in the middle, those two. And, it is little use pointing out that they 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 might be news to some, but Hegel wasn't a coal miner or a stable hand!


Indeed, the only reason Hegel is chosen for special attention 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 really 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 those 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 ruling-class philosophical lineage.


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 almost every 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, or by non-workers. 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 impugn this theory/method, especially if it has been given a materialist make-over (as Marx himself argued), and has subsequently been tested in practice for well over a century.


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 and technology. Considerations like these don't 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, theoretical and practical) 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 further 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 inside 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 Dialectical Marxists (they are detailed below, too).


(4) Although many claim that science is intimately connected with earlier philosophical and religious or mystical forms-of-thought, that 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 2024).]


(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, (c) aggravates sectarianism and (d) helps motivate corruption.1a [More on each of 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 180º, 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; on the contrary, it is being maintained that this 'theory' is far too vague and confused even to be described as either true or false; it doesn't make it that far. Nevertheless, its deleterious effects can be traced to its dependency on ruling-class forms-of-thought. [More on that throughout this Essay, and in Essay Fourteen Part Two.]


(8) Practice has in fact refuted dialectics. Either that, or the alleged truth of DM has never actually been tested in practice.


(9) Finally, and perhaps more importantly, DM has played its own small, but not inconsiderable, part in helping engineer the long-term failure of 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 with them into the movement.


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 very 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 could this be, or even have been, conceivable if the above allegations are 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 very brief 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 irrevocably 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 an 'orthodox' tradition that says differently -- and as Part One of Essay Nine shows, here and here --, Das Kapital itself is a Hegel-, and DM-free zone. But, even if that weren't the case, the fact that Dialectical Marxism has been such a long-term failure ought to raise serious questions about the deleterious influence 'dialectics' 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 faced peremptory rejection within a few years of his classic work, Principia, rolling 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 permeates most religions.1b


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


Which brings us to the next main point.


Dialectics And Marx's Thoughts About Religious Alienation


As it turns out, and as will now be argued, the reason why the majority of revolutionaries not only willingly accept the ruling-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 -- allied 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 repeatedly dashed hopes.


These seemingly controversial allegations will now be expanded upon, and then defended in depth.


[The other counter-arguments summarised in the previous sub-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 had this to say:


"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; some paragraphs merged.]


Of course, no one is suggesting that Dialectical Marxism is a religion -- but it certainly functions in way that means it is 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. Naturally, that in turn means the same is the case with DM (although I am not arguing that Marx drew that inference -- but if he were consistent, he should have).


These serious allegations along with their basis in HM will now be explained and defended.


Plainly, revolutionaries are human beings with ideas in their heads, and every single one of them (i) Has had a class origin of some sort, (ii) Later assumed a class position (as a result of work or party/revolutionary activity), or (iii) Currently 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 become petty-bourgeois -- as a result. Since the social being of these comrades is a reflection of their class origins and current class position, it is no surprise, therefore, to discover that they have allowed "ruling ideas" to dominate their thought.


Of course, the allegation that the above individuals have appropriated these ideas -- which is because of their class origin or current class position --, will be regarded by dialecticians as so patently false 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 historical materialist, analysis. Apparently, that thought hasn't even occurred to them!


To be sure, they will often subject the ideas of their opponents or their enemies (both Marxist and non-Marxist -- examples of which are given below) to some form of impromptu class analysis, but they never do the same with respect to their own adoption of ruling-class thought-forms, nor yet the acceptance of such ideas by the vast majority of fellow Marxists; certainly not for their approval by every single leading Marxist (except Marx). Apparently, that thought doesn't occur to them, either!


This suggests that dialecticians see themselves as exempt from a class 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.


[We will see this frame-of-mind resurface elsewhere as arrogance, compounded by an almost sociopathic attitude often adopted toward fellow Marxists (and especially female comrades), in what can only be described as a Raskolnikov-like manner.]


Nevertheless, it will be maintained here that these comrades have adopted such ruling-class ideas for at least four reasons:


First: Because of their petty-bourgeois, 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 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) 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 also been forced to conclude that one or more of (a), (b) and (c) must be the case.


However, because dialectics teaches them that appearances are "contradicted" by underlying "essences" (i.e., that what might on the surface appear to be such-and-such is in reality the exact opposite), it is able to fulfil a unique role in this regard, motivating or rationalising (a), (b) and/or (c), above. 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 even 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 in all seriousness tell any who will listen that "truth is tested in practice", will also, in the next breath, respond with something like the following: "Well, these set-backs, defeats and disasters don't prove dialectics is false!"


The results of practice are thus universally ignored, and for the above reasons. At which point, for such individuals, practice ceases to be a test of the truth of DM.


Hence, just like the genuinely and openly religious -- who every day look upon the evil and suffering in the world and see it as its opposite, as an expression of the 'Love of God' who will make all things well in the end -- dialecticians survey the last 150 years and still see the 'Logic of Universal Development' moving their way, and then infer that all will be well in the end, too. Here, for example, is Plekhanov:


"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. Several paragraphs merged. (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!)]


"All that exists can be taken as an example to explain the nature of dialectics. Everything is fluid, everything changes, everything passes away. Hegel compares the power of dialectics with divine omnipotence. Dialectics is that universal irresistible force which nothing can withstand." [Plekhanov (1917), pp.601-02. Bold emphasis added.]


"Philosophy is nothing else than religion rendered into thought." [Marx.]


Reading Plekhanov with his reference to 'divine omnipotence', we can perhaps see why Marx was right.


[Admittedly, not every DM-theorist is as deterministic as Plekhanov, but which of the above statements (for instance, about the universal applicability of the dialectic, or the fact that everything changes into its opposite) are they prepared to abandon?]


This means that the theory that prevents DM-fans from facing reality (since it tells them that 'appearances' are contradicted by 'essence') is the very same theory that prevents them from examining the role it has played in this long-term failure, 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 these allegations have been neutralised).]1c


Third: Just like the Bible, which supplies its acolytes with a surfeit of 'reasons' to accuse others of not 'understanding the Word of God', Dialectical Marxism, 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, don't 'understand' dialectics -- or even that they ignore/misuse it --, and that only they, the 'true bearers of the flame', are capable of grasping its inner meaning. This then 'enables' them to anathematise and castigate the rest as un-Marxist, or even anti-Marxist. In short, it puts in the hands of inveterate sectarians (of which Dialectical Marxism has had more than its fair share) an almost infinitely malleable, ideological tool that is pliable enough to prove anything whatsoever 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 phenomena are given below.]


Fourth: It provides dialecticians with an exclusivising set of dogmas that sets them above the 'common herd' -- or, indeed, above those who are lost in the banalities of 'commonsense' and the cloying mists of 'formal thinking'. This now 'confirms' their self-appointed, pre-eminent status in both the class war and the workers' movement, since they alone understand the fundamental nature of reality and the direction it is taking.


In short, DM is the ideology of substitutionist elements within Marxism.


[That topic was discussed in more detail in Part One.]


In addition, the above phenomena have the effect of making far too many such comrades insufferably arrogant, which further motivates them into treating others in the movement (often those in the same party!) with haughty contempt, condescending indifference, or even callous inhumanity. After all, if you are the sole bearers of 'the word delivered from off the dialectical mountain top', this makes you special, even 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.


[Those serious allegations will also 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 formed, accepted, or even entertained by hard-headed revolutionary atheists. Surely, it could be argued, any attempt to trace a commitment to DM back to its origin in supposedly alienated thought-forms is both a reductionist and an Idealist error.


Fortunately, Lenin himself supplied a materialist answer to this apparent conundrum [i.e., why Marxists turn to mysticism], 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. (This is Volume One of Cliff's political biography of Lenin.) Bold emphases and links added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some paragraphs merged.]


Cliff himself 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 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. Paragraphs merged; minor typo corrected.]


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 leading revolutionaries toward Idealism and the search for mystical explanations for the serious set-backs Russian Marxists had witnessed in and around 1905.


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


But, there is another outcome that Rees and others failed to notice: this major set-back turned Lenin toward philosophy and dialectics. They were subjects he had largely, but not completely, 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 himself looked to Hegel and Hermetic Mysticism, for the same sort of explanation.


Nevertheless, Lenin's warning shows that revolutionaries themselves aren't immune from the pressures that prompt human beings in general to seek consolation in order to counteract disappointment, demoralisation and alienation. As we have seen, Lenin was well aware that ruling-class ideas, which 'satisfy' such needs, could enter the revolutionary movement from the "outside", or which would become much more prominent and influential under such circumstances.


Even more acute and 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; paragraphs merged. See also Krupskaya's remarks, here.]2a


Just as Christians often turn to the Bible in times of stress or when depressed, so Lenin looked to the writings of that Christian Mystic, Hegel. Thoroughly disappointed with the course of events (in this capitalist "vale of tears"), Lenin turned his face toward this (major) source of quasi-religious consolation, and away from the material world of woe, and hence in the direction of a hidden world governed by a gaggle of equally invisible entities -- all those 'abstractions', 'essences', 'concepts', and, of course, the Hegelian Trinity of 'Being', 'Nothing' and 'Becoming' -- fortified by a battery of no less mysterious forces comprising the DM-Trinity, 'contradiction', 'sublation', 'mediation'.


Is it possible, then, that revolutionaries of the calibre of Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Plekhanov and Trotsky (to name just the five most important) were tempted to seek metaphysical consolation of the sort depicted at this site? Is this really the case, even though Lenin accused others of this himself? Is it even conceivable that they opened themselves up to the alien-class ideas that later found expression in DM, and for the above 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 both the status quo and ruling-class hegemony). 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 out).


[I have summarised this external, alien-class influence later in this Essay, too.]


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 (and still pre-disposes) them toward such an unwitting adoption of this rarefied form of ruling-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 major way to using or appealing to classical concepts found in DM. Upon examination, a reasonably clear correlation can be seen to exist between periods of downturn in the struggle and subsequent 're-discoveries' of Hegel and DM by aspiring dialecticians -- with the opposite tendency kicking in during 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 ruminations (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 actual 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: Trotsky's interest in philosophy coincided with the period of his political quarantine, and 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 Horror Show 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: (i) Just like many 'End Times' Christian sects, OTs almost invariably adopt and promote a permanent catastrophist view of everything that happens (or is ever likely to happen) in capitalist society (capitalist crises are always getting worse, anger is always 'growing', etc., etc. -- I have covered this in more detail, here), and (ii) OT parties are constantly splitting and expelling. Hence they face continual disappointment and demoralisation. Naturally, relentless disillusion requires regular, concentrated doses of highly potent DM-opiates. Just to take 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 toward mystical forms of consolation materialised in the shape of that ill-advised, poorly argued and badly researched book, RIRE.7


[OT = Orthodox Trotskyist; NOT = Non-Orthodox Trotskyist; RIRE = Reason In Revolt, i.e., Woods and Grant (1995/2007); TAR = The Algebra of Revolution, i.e., Rees (1998).]


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 on 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. [That sentence was written before John Rees, TAR's author, 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, reassurance and consolation) 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 the basics'!8


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


Given the overwhelming experience of defeat, debacle, disaster, and retreat that the international labour movement and the revolutionary tradition have collectively faced 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 'allowed' factors other than the theoretical failings of the parties involved to be blamed for the setbacks our side has experienced.


As should seem obvious, a movement can't learn from its mistakes if none are ever made -- or, rather, if 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 'essence' 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 ideas held about it.


Hard-headed revolutionaries have spun reality through 180º, 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 to begin with (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 the latter 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 non-dialectical 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 (in DM-books and articles) we still encounter 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 the fact that it has been pointed out many times (and not just in these Essays) that none of these specially-selected examples actually work, or, indeed, in any way '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 the Silver Medal in this event.12


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


As already noted, an excellent 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. Bold emphasis added.]


[More fantastical material like this has been posted here.]


However, Dialectical Marxism -- never mind Dialectical Trotskyism -- has never actually "seized the masses"; except perhaps briefly in Russia, Germany, Italy and France, it has never even got close to lightly hugging them. But this unwelcome fact isn't allowed to "rain on their 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, indeed, the above passage amply 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 the ungrateful masses 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 has this collective, Hegelianised brain now been wedged.


Since DM is regarded as the very epitome of scientific and economic 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 themselves 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. Only a vanishingly small fraction of humanity has ever 'seen the light'; the vast majority of working people are hopelessly lost, staggering around in stygian gloom --, this peremptory verdict itself justified by a theory that not one of its acolytes can actually explain, even to each other!


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



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

A Diet High In Silicates


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 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!


This isn't to put workers down; as Part One demonstrated, this theory is beyond anyone's comprehension, and that includes those who invented it and those who now disseminate it.


At this point it could be countered that in a revolutionary upheaval daily experience and commonsense aren't sure and safe guides to action. Hence, a revolutionary party needs a theory that not only transcends the immediate, but 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, and with respect to concepts drawn from DM, the proffered rejoinder in the last but one paragraph is as misguided as any could 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. So, this isn't to put workers down. Not even those who invented this theory, or those who now disseminate it, understand it. [Again, that was established in Part One.] 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 deeply entrenched, ruling-class ideology.


Given its origin in Mystical Christianity, it is no big surprise that DM fails to mesh with material reality, and hence that it can't be used to help change it. Still less surprising is the fact that it has failed us for so long.


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 itself, 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 viewed 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 anyone who accepts the theoretical equivalent of Astrology or Crystal Gazing?


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 alone 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 has said, and will read no further.


This is once more hardly surprising: indeed, it is difficult to see clearly with your head stuck in what is perhaps the psychological equivalent of the Gobi Desert.


The "Opiate" Of The Party


Method -- Or Methadone?


It has been maintained above 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 or their socialisation, and in 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 past him.


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


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


For example, in relation to the 2013-2014 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 the faithful that reality contradicts the way the world appears to be to those not 'in the know'.


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 world divorced from the day-to-day life and struggles of ordinary workers -- i.e., for professional revolutionaries, academics and itinerant theorists, who aren't employed in the world of work alongside workers --, HM clearly 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, or 'method', 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'/'method' 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 understanding, it must be distanced from working class experience and hence from genuinely materialist forms-of-thought. In addition, it must help rationalise, justify, and promote the pre-eminent organisational and theoretical position that 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'/'method' that only they are capable of "understanding" -- or so they have convinced themselves.


[To save the reader's annoyance, I will henceforth drop the phrase "theory"/"method" and just use "theory" instead. Readers should, however, understand I mean both.]


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 and/or distort it. [On that, see below.]


What better theory is there then that fits 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 that 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. As an added bonus, 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 (some of which have been detailed below).


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 to (a) The way it sees the natural and social world, and (b) The way it views the working class itself -- that is, as an abstract object of theory, not a very real subject of history.


[This also helps explain why Engels and other DM-theorists regard matter as an "abstraction". The centrality of 'abstraction' and its importance for DM-theorists was underlined in Essay Three Parts One and Two.]


Moreover, it also exposes the motivating factors that underpin the belief that DM is the "world-view" of the proletariat -- plainly, such 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, that also helps account for Dialectical Marxism'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 economic struggle -- just that 'intellectuals' 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 to this line-of-thought. 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 (here 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, it is an undeniable fact that 'intellectuals' (petty-bourgeois and/or déclassé) have not only shaped our core ideas, they have led the movement for over a century. In and of itself that isn't a problem. What is problematic is their importation of ruling-class ideas into our movement. These non-working class 'intellectuals' have appropriated concepts and ideas derived from the very worst forms of Christian and Hermetic Mysticism (via Hegel).


Workers themselves can, and have formed socialist ideas. However, as we have seen throughout this site, DM has absolutely nothing to do with socialism, so the admission that workers are capable of developing socialist ideas doesn't imply they have also developed ideas that are 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) -- RL], 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 and aims of this site; the ramifications of (4) will be considered throughout the rest of this Essay.]


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


[This sub-section isn't aimed at solving the knotty problem of the role of the individual in history, merely raise questions about the nature of petty-bourgeois individualism and how it has affected revolutionary socialism.]


'Freedom' Versus 'Determinism'


The mind-set mentioned in the previous main section is intimately connected with the following:


(i) The way that leading revolutionaries -- or those who have shaped Marxist theory -- were socialised in and by bourgeois society long before they had even heard of Marxism, and,


(ii) How this socialisation affected their subsequent theoretical, political, and organisational development.


The rest of this Essay will expand on each of these issues, along with several others.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 issues 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 origin or current 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 in and by Traditional Thought, an error of judgement seriously compounded by the importation of obscure ideas into Marxism that have 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' simply by throwing the word "dialectical" at it, as if that term possessed magical powers all of its own.


Here is a classic example of this 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 that settles this 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 to add 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 also saw in the aforementioned Essay (and in Essay Seven Part One), that 'law' is far too shaky and insubstantial to support any conclusion much heavier than an amoeba on a crash diet.


Simply asserting that a given action is 'free' 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 not yet be aware. Even more to the point is the question whether those actions were themselves uncaused? So, for example, if woman decides to raise her arm and throw a ball, and we now suppose that all such actions are uncaused, then the action of throwing that ball would be unrelated to the woman concerned -- indeed, as Hume pointed out over two hundred years ago (on that, see here, Section VIII). In that case, they wouldn't be the actions of that individual -- no more than being pushed out of a tree, for instance, would be an action of the individual who had been so pushed. On the other hand, if they are caused, they must have been 'determined' in some way, and so can't be 'free'. Throwing the word "dialectical" at the page (or the screen) in no way resolves this conundrum -- any more than calling the Christian Trinity a "mystery beyond our understanding" solves its insurmountable problems.


[I hasten to add that the above does not represent my view; I have only included it in the Essay in order to highlight several of the theoretical hurdles implied by the traditional theory DM-supporters have bought into, even if they think they have 'solved it somehow'. My 'solution' to this age-old 'problem' is to dissolve it. To that end, I have approached this pseudo-problem from an entirely different angle in order to expose the irredeemable confusion that first motivated it in Ancient Greek Thought -- and, indeed, which still motivates it today. Again, more details on this can be found here and here.]


Other dialecticians have echoed the above non-solution advanced by Engels; 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 inserts invective, bluster and abuse in place of 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, when challenged, they resort to abuse almost from the get-go, just like Lenin).


We have already seen (in Essay Thirteen Part One) that Lenin's theory restricts the immediate source of knowledge to 'images in the 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 about 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 or are illusory. It is no use appealing to practice or even science perhaps as two possible ways of validating these 'images' since, once again, all anyone (including Lenin) has is an 'image' of practice and an 'image' of science, if Lenin is to be believed. Plainly, no 'image' can guarantee the veracity of any other 'image'. Small wonder then that Lenin again substituted bluster for proof -- clearly, in order to distract attention from the gaping holes in his argument. Indeed, as we saw in Essay Thirteen Part One, as a result of his ill-advised and confused arguments, Lenin only succeeded in trapping himself in a solipsistic universe of his own making, leaving him in the same predicament as the subjective idealists he was criticising. And that in turn was because he and they both accepted the parameters laid down by post-Renaissance Philosophers -- compounded by an acceptance of a bourgeois individualist theory of knowledge. [On that, see Essay Three Part Two.]


Be this as it may, these Engelsian pseudo-solutions bequeathed to subsequent generations of DM-theorists an unresolved (and irresolvable) 'problem', which is why they uncritically regurgitate the above 'arguments' verbatim in the vain hope that repetition constitutes proof -- imagining that parroting a series of assertions based on what doesn't even remotely look like a solution will become a solution to the 'problem' of the relation between the individual and history if it is repeated often enough.


'Triumph of the will' at least with respect to theory, in this case, one feels.


However, questions remain: Do we actually have 'free will'? Or, are we all slaves to necessity and mere pawns in its hands? Are we capable of acting and deciding for ourselves? What exactly is 'revolutionary agency'? Subsequent dialecticians have wrestled with these knotty problems long and hard, but they have either (a) Reproduced the above non-solution, or they have (b) Elaborated on it rendering it even more prolix and baroque --, 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 Socialist Organisation, with his reprise of Option (a), above:


"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 changed to agree with UK English. Several paragraphs merged.]


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; links 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 attempted 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 self-respecting scientific theory.


Finally, here is Rob Sewell (of the IMT), happily 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 and 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', like the others, by throwing 'dialectics' at it, without even a perfunctory attempt to explain how this advances the argument as much as one nanometre.


In the end, echoing 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 observation is also heavily qualified by the objective historical circumstances surrounding both Lenin and that 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. "Without Lenin no October Revolution" is the clear message conveyed by the above.


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 claimed that the ideas such individuals bring with them into Marxism are insignificant and can therefore be discounted.


We will soon see, however, that these individuals openly admit that they inherited many of their core ideas from ruling-class 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


[Readers should not assume that the argument presented in this section, or even the rest of this Essay, in any way supports, condones or agrees with the caricature of Lenin's views expressed in What Is To Be Done? (On that, see Part One of this Essay.) When I speak about ideas brought into the movement from the "outside", I am, of course, referring to ruling-class doctrines imported into the movement by leading Marxists, which later coalesced to form DM. I am not speaking about 'revolutionary consciousness'!]


This now brings us to a consideration of the factors that define and shape the mind-set, role and status of leading Marxists as well as that of HCDs. Unlike most workers who finally become revolutionaries, the vast majority of 'professional revolutionaries' (and all of the leading revolutionaries, which also includes Marxist 'intellectuals') join, or have be recruited into, 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,


(iv) Other contingent psychological or social motivating factors (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, another revolutionary, or even a novel!),13a1a but not (in general) through participation in collective action, in strikes (etc.), at their own place of work -- that is, if they work.


[Concerning Lenin's radicalisation by his reading of What is to be Done?, a novel written by Nikolai Chernyshevsky, see Note 13a1a (link above) -- and Lenin wasn't the only one influenced this way.]  


Of course, Trotsky was here speaking about 'intellectuals', but his comments also 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, through collective action. 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 outlined -- and that included 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 inept tactics to try to overcome the fact by denying it. This antagonism is a social one, it manifests itself in classes, not in individuals. The individual intellectual, like the individual capitalist, may join wholly in the class struggle of the proletariat. When he does, he changes his character too. It is not of this type of intellectual, who is still an exception among his class, that we shall mainly speak 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, since 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 he himself is often enough subjected to exploitation and social humiliation 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 (1976a), pp.161-62. Bold emphases alone added. Minor typos corrected -- I have informed the editors over at the Marxist Internet Archive. Another version of Kautsky's comments can be found here. I have used the Peking edition in this Essay, which differs slightly from the on-line Russian version ]


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 join wholly in the class struggle of the proletariat." [Ibid.]


Except, concerning the above individuals, their 'hostility' toward the proletariat is often latent and lies under the surface (although, from several such individuals we regularly hear words like "workerist", or "economism", and who also spare no effort telling us that ordinary workers are prisoners of "banal commonsense", bought off by "super-profits", and are in thrall to "formal thinking"). However, this latent 'hostility' later exhibits an entirely different set of characteristics; as we will see, this typically, but not exclusively, surfaces as 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 fully surfaces, rationalising and justifying (even ignoring or explaining away) the continued oppression and exploitation of workers -- as we saw, for example, in those "already existing socialist" states (now defunct), and now maintained in those states that still claim they are socialist/communist. We witnessed this, too, as generations of Marxist 'intellectuals' ('east' and 'west') rationalised, supported, or advocated the "revolutionary defence" of those anti-worker and oppressive regimes. Of course, this wasn't, or isn't the case with every such Marxist 'intellectual' or 'professional revolutionary', but their 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', who exist above, or are far removed from, the pressures to which every other human being is subject while they live in class society. Any who cavil at this point might be tempted to conclude that they alone perhaps -- unique in all of humanity over the last five or ten thousand years -- they alone are capable of rising above such mundane and prosaic 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 the case otherwise we would have to conclude that Lenin and Kautsky were committed to an Idealist theory on this specific issue. That is, they would be trying to account for the theories, ideas and attitudes adopted by 'intellectuals', petty-bourgeois, or even déclassé Dialectical Marxists on the basis of who they "identified" with -- but not on their class origin and current class position --, or even their psychological orientation toward other classes. Except perhaps: in the case of the attitude of intellectuals (etc.) toward the bourgeoisie, that would at least have economic and social roots (underlined by Lenin and Kautsky, as we have just seen). However, with respect to their orientation toward the working class it would have no such implications, just a mind-set based on..., er..., maybe..., lifestyle and latent antagonism:


"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.]




"This antagonism differs however from the antagonism between labour and capital, since 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 workers do, 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/Kautsky tell 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 and Kautsky were correct, their own ideas wouldn't be a function of their class position as such, they would be the 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 (i.e., petty-bourgeois or déclassé intellectuals), then the only factor that would distinguish them, that would motivate them into choosing one over the other (bosses or workers), would be the contingent ideas they had adopted or formed, not their class position as such. But, as has been noted several times, those in this class fraction, on both sides of the class war, have already imbibed ideas inherited from previous generations of ruling-class hacks. While it is undeniable that there are significant differences between Marxist intellectuals and/or "professional revolutionaries", and 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, to repeat, they share the same range of ruling-class ideas.


Plainly, their attitudes and beliefs can't change the class to which they belong, or from which they have emerged. So, there remain far more basic ideological similarities between those who break either way (again, siding with the capitalist class or with the working class) 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 employ 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 emphases added.]


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


So, and once more, such comrades 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, and once more, they aren't revolutionaries for proletarian or materialist reasons; that is, they don't side with the proletariat as a result of a direct or immediate 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 now (i) Affects any new ideas they are capable of forming and the inferences they are capable of making, (ii) Colours their attitude toward such ideas, (iii) Skews their activity inside the movement, and (iv) Slants the relationships they develop with other revolutionaries and with workers themselves.


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


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


Although this is indeed a class issue, it affects how those caught up in revolutionary politics behave as individuals. How else could class influences 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 might later 'side with the revolution' encounter Hegel's work (or even DM), it seems quite 'natural' for them to latch on to his (and its) dogmatic and a priori dogmas -- among the most important of which is the claim that change is part of the cosmic order (when, as we now know, and quite fittingly, that that is the opposite of the truth). "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, just as Lenin and Trotsky argued. Hence, before they became revolutionaries, or even Marxists, they had already been weaned on a diet of ruling-class ideology and boss-class forms-of-thought.


This means that Hegel's doctrines (upside down or 'the right way up') mesh seamlessly with ideas they had already internalised even before they encountered them -- another of which is that it is the job of 'genuine' philosophers to use 'abstraction' in order to concoct a priori theories such as these. Marx's famous words, therefore, apply equally well to them:


"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 itself -- 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 also "subject" to its vice-like ideological grip. The "ruling intellectual force" can't fail to have affected these 'intellectuals' (Marxist or otherwise).


But, we needn't guess here. Dialecticians openly acknowledge 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 to return the 'favour', gladly assisting in the elaboration and dissemination of alien-class though-forms in books and articles on DM, or 'systematic dialectics' in general --, which is, of course, how and why the ruling-class manage to "control at the same time...the means of mental production", and hence control the ideas promoted and promulgated by Dialectical Marxists themselves.


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 Monasteries and later in Universities. But, since the Renaissance intellectual control has become increasingly diffuse, spreading its filaments out from the Universities to include itinerant thinkers (those patronised by the rich as well as those with private means). Of late, "the means of mental production" have also enabled the intellectual labour of freelance and screen writers, journalists, editors, producers, TV, radio, and internet pundits. The livelihood and reputation of those caught up in this are likewise largely dependent on factors highlighted by Lenin and Kautsky:


"[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 had their thinking shaped by the ideas and thought-forms of the ruling-class.


Indeed, as we have seen -- and, are further about to see.


The Ruling-Class Origin Of 'Dialectical Thought'


The above considerations help explain why Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao and Dietzgen (to mention just a few) thought it quite natural and uncontroversial to regard previous (non-working class) thinkers as their precursors, and, indeed, the source of many of the concepts and methods they imported into Dialectical Marxism (for example, the yet-to-be-explained 'process of abstraction'), and hence look to them for inspiration.


Here are just a few examples where this influence is openly admitted:


"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; several paragraphs merged.]


"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. Some paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"[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 (1917a), p.248. Bold emphasis added.]


This approach isn't confined to the DM-classicists; it is universally acknowledged:


"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; paragraphs merged.]


"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 like the above, taken from across the entire spectrum of Dialectical Marxism, would be easy to multiply, something that can be readily confirmed by anyone who has access to as many books and articles on DM as I have, or, indeed, who trawls the Internet.]


Notice that according to Lenin, DM is "a continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy". Plainly, a "continuation of" isn't a "break from"! Plekhanov also thought that DM represented the "highest stage...whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece"; again, that isn't a "break from", either. The others I have quoted pointedly do not demur. In fact, I have yet to encounter a single DM-theorist who rejects this age-old and well-established connection. [If anyone knows of one, please let me know!]


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 or inferred from the supposed meaning of a handful of abstract 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 world but to that invisible world, a world that is supposedly more real than the physical universe we see around us. That is because this 'hidden world' expresses 'essence', not superficiality, which is reflected by 'appearances'.


Even though the content of such theories has altered with each change in the Mode of Production, their form has remained largely the same for two-and-a-half millennia: philosophical ideas derived from words/thought alone, valid for all of space and time, may 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. Some paragraphs merged.]


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. Indeed, Marx even said this:


"[O]ne fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms. The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involved the most radical rupture with traditional ideas." [Marx and Engels (1848), p.52. Bold emphases added.]


The same is true of the core thought-forms found throughout Traditional Philosophy: that there is an invisible world underlying 'appearances', 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, the aforementioned individuals -- who, it is worth recalling, had been educated to view the world precisely this way long before they had ever heard of Marxism --, when they encountered Hegel and DM, readily appropriated these dogmatic ideas. That is because they were looking for 'logical' principles in this hidden world that guaranteed change was an integral part of the 'fabric of reality'. The thought-forms encapsulated in Hegel's Ideas (or in DM) appeared to be at once both philosophical and self-certifying (i.e., they were based on thought and language alone, and hence were held true a priori). Moreover, because dialectical concepts formed part of what seemed to be a radical philosophical and political tradition, they also struck them as revolutionary.


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 ruling-class dogma, as we have seen.


That in turn is because:


(a) Traditional Philosophy was the only source of developed, 'High Theory' available to these individuals at the time -- again, 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 ruling-class ideology with them into the movement.


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




(c) They searched for a set of ideas that could and would become exclusively their own -- because, as they will tell anyone prepared to listen, "Everyone has to have a philosophy!" -- 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 'Trotskyite wreckers', 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; paragraphs merged. 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.)]


However, the everyday musings of an average Jane Doe or John Q Public are hardly to be compared with the systematic thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas or Immanuel Kant, so the above 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 sources, which are, according to Marx, only "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) plainly contradicts what Marx himself concluded about this archetypical ruling-class discipline.


'Born Again'?


This ancient 'world-view' -- on steroids in Hegel's work -- certainly appealed to 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, which has always 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 fertile ground.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 helpings 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 avid converts who act, talk and behave as if they have received a 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 (1960), reprinted in Novack (1978), p.271. Bold emphasis added.]


[There is much more of the same sort of material, below.]


Novack's use of quasi-religious language is, in the event, revealing in itself given what Marx had to say:


"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 subjective and often highly emotional response elicited in such individuals after they have passed through these dialectical 'doors of perception' reveals how crucially important this Hermetic Creed is to the revolutionary ego: it helps guarantee that the anger they feel toward the injustices of Capitalism -- perhaps compounded by their alienation from the system, coupled with all the hard work they have devoted to The Cause --, won't be in vain. For the DM-convert there now appears to be a point, not just to human history, but to the overall development of reality itself, courtesy of the obscure ramblings of a Christian Mystic.


This adoption of DM isn't just an example of the secularisation of Christianity, it also represents the re-enchantment of materialism


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 becoming 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. Links 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 Socialist Worker. 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 dispute broke out in the UK-SWP following a talk given by Lindsey German. Lindsey had advanced the claim that, in her, there were "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, "traces", which was the buzz word used at the time. One could almost hear an echo of the phrases "Born again!" and "Cleansed by the blood of the Lamb!"


Here is what Ian Birchall, longstanding ex-SWP activist, had to say about the origin of the word, "traces" (in his review of John Molyneux's recent book, The Dialectics of Art):


"John [was] particularly concerned with the question of ideology -- the complex of ideas used to legitimate and preserve the existing oppressive order. He [was] well aware of the pervasive power of ideology. Some years ago he wrote an article in Socialist Worker in which he stated that 'as products of a society in which racism and sexism (and many other reactionary ideas) are all pervasive, we all -- black or white, male or female, Jew or gentile -- retain traces of them.' (Socialist Worker 1052, September 1987) The party leadership was outraged at the suggestion that they had not totally liberated themselves from the dominant ideology, and John was reduced to silence." [Quoted from here. Accessed 18/01/2021.]


For all the world, DM-fans appear 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 no less, 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. Another recently compared me to the Coronavirus! [Check out the other emotive and abusive comments in the same discussion thread.]


I hasten to add that I am not complaining about this; given the analysis presented in the Essay and that 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 forward, and will continue so doing 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 clearly 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 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, with a cosmically-ordained mandate to match.


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.


Again, 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.]


In view of the general atrophy of their critical faculties caused by their commitment to DM -- compounded by the nausea inducing sycophancy exhibited by many of them (on that, see below) -- who can doubt it?


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


(i)  As individuals they can become key figures in the further development of history -- helping determine the direction that social evolution will next take.


(ii)  Their personal existence isn't meaningless, after all --, or for nought.


(iii) Whatever it was that motivated their personal alienation from class society can be rectified, reversed or even 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 earned 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 -- alienation. Similar 'cure' -- a palliative drug.


Proletarian Discipline? -- No Thanks!


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. Indeed, as Trotsky, Kautsky and Lenin pointed out:


"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.]


"'...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 (1976a), pp.161-62. Bold emphases alone added. Another version of Kautsky's comments can be found here. I have used the Peking edition in this Essay, which differs slightly from the on-line Russian/English version.]


As such, they require a Cosmic Whole allied to a Holistic Theory to help repair their own social fragmentation. That is where the mysterious "Totality" (with its 'universal interconnections' and 'mediations' -- factors that are 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, none of its devotees can tell you of its nature, even though they all gladly bend the knee to its Contradictory Will.


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


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. Workers are thus compelled 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 drives apart these petty-bourgeois individuals, these professional revolutionaries, depositing them in ever smaller, continually fragmenting sects. [How it does this will be explored in the next few sub-sections.]


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


As Lenin himself noted:


"It is precisely the factory, which seems only a bogey to some, that 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 it is precisely Marxism, the ideology of the proletariat trained by capitalism, that has taught and id 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 production). The discipline and organisation which come so hard to the bourgeois intellectual are especially 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 precisely of the ways of thinking which reflect the petty-bourgeois mode of life and which give rise to that species of anarchism that the German Social-Democrats call Edelanarchismus, i.e., 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 tragicomical outcry against people being transformed 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 (1976a), pp.248-49. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. (The on-line Russian/English version is slightly different from the published (Peking) edition I have used 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 concerning George Novack's 'self-awareness':


"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 in fact 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 pointed out above and earlier, and as we will see again, below); indeed, 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.]


As the late Chris Harman also noted about pre-capitalist working classes:


"Peasant revolts would start with vast numbers of people rising up to divide the land of the local feudal lords, but once the lord was defeated they would fall to squabbling among themselves about how they would divide the land. As Marx put it, peasants were like 'potatoes in a sack'; they could be forced together by some outside power but were not capable of linking permanently to represent their own interests. Capitalism makes workers cooperate in production within the factory, and those cooperative skills can easily be turned against the system, as when workers organise themselves into unions. Because they are massed together in huge concentrations it is much easier for workers to democratically control such bodies than it was for previously oppressed classes." [Quoted from here; bold added. Paragraphs merged.]


DM-theorists and leading members of Dialectical Marxism aren't proletarians, so they, too, are like 'potatoes in a sack', incapable of uniting unless forced to do so by a "power" of some sort. As we will see, this "power" is 'intellectual' as well as bureaucratic, and it has been internalised. In response, each revolutionary party has developed a set of anti-democratic and bureaucratic rules in order to ensure (at least, temporary) internal cohesion, doctrinal 'purity', and revolutionary integrity is maintained.


Without DM -- imported "from the outside", from Mystical Christianity and Traditional Thought --, the rationale underlying the romantic revolutionary idea -- which, once more, situates each DM-acolyte at the centre of the dialectical universe -- would lose both its impact and its appeal.


Furthermore, because 'dialectics' provides each 'dialectical comrade' with an apparently coherent, but paradigmatically traditional, picture of reality, it supplies each of its victims with an internalised set of motivating factors. Indeed, because this theory is represented individualistically inside each dialectical skull (via Lenin's 'theory of knowledge' -- which convinces one and all that they alone truly 'understand' this esoteric theory -- they alone have the right 'images', the right 'abstractions'), it can't help but divide each 'dialectical disciple', one from the next -- for reasons explored in the next sub-section, and throughout the rest of this Essay.


Militant Martinets


A Bad Situation Made Worse


As we have seen (and will see in more detail in this and the next sub-section), 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 (as Lenin noted); as we have seen, these social atoms are in fact attracted by internally-processed, self-certifying ideas. Their socialisation as head strong individuals and their commitment to a theory of knowledge which is based on bourgeois individualism (on that see Essay Three Part Two) 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 feat that lies way above their 'pay grade' (i.e., way beyond capacities that have been created, or motivated, by their class origin or their current class position). Because of this, as noted above, personal disputes soon break out and are immediately re-configured as political differences (that is because, for these individuals, the personal is political). Once again, since these are primarily disputes over ideas they require, and are soon given, theoretical 'justification'. However, because DM glories in contradiction and in splitting (see below), it is ideally suited toward that end.


Unfortunately, again as Lenin and Trotsky intimated, 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-cranium by those self-certifying Hegelian concepts, upside down or 'the right way up') -- and they can't resist 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, as Lenin and Trotsky pointed out, ruling-class theorists and 'intellectuals' endeavour to make names for themselves by developing 'their own ideas', carving out a corner, an exclusive niche, in the market of ideas, But, they can only do that by criticising the ideas of every other rival theorist. This is, after all, an integral part of being able to establish a reputation and standing among their intellectual peers, which is an essential component in furthering their career as a theorist worthy of attention -- or, indeed, an essential component when defending and promoting the interests of a patron, or some other beneficent member of the ruling-class. This was particularly true in earlier centuries.




"'...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 (1976a), pp.161-62. Bold emphases alone added. Another version of Kautsky's comments can be found here. I have used the Peking edition in this Essay, which differs slightly from the on-line Russian version ]




"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 of Big Capital and the working class, so these unfortunate dialecticians find they 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 find their way in far more hostile revolutionary 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 place. 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"). Having said that, it isn't being suggested that every last one of them adopts this stance cynically. Many have very noble intentions -- but, 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 and Appendix B.]


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


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 also a dialectician.


As Wilson noted, the fact that such individuals have very strong personalities (which they clearly require, 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 force, vigour and conviction. And, in some parties, with no little added violence, verbal and/or physical.


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




How is DM able to do this?


The answer isn't hard to find: what better theory could there be than one that is capable of initiating and encouraging endless disputation, 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 controversy and splitting?


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


Indeed, as Lenin himself argued:


"The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory the essence (one of the 'essentials,' one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics.... The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute...." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Paragraphs merged; bold emphasis alone added.]


There it is: "splitting" is an "essential", if not "the principle" aspect of this theory, with "struggle" an "absolute". Plainly, this "essential" feature must also involve the relations between comrades.


This was something Engels also emphasised and he, too, connected it with 'dialectics':


"It would seem that any workers' party in a large country can develop only through internal struggle, as indeed has been generally established in the dialectical laws of development." [Engels to Bernstein, October 20, 1882; MECW Volume 46, p.342. Bold emphasis added.]


So, an emphasis on intra-party strife and splits sits right at the heart of Dialectical Marxism!


In which case, dialecticians needn't wait for the ruling-class to divide the movement, 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 or 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 relevant point of view and its opposite at the same time as it promotes splits!


This helps explain all the factions, the fragmentation, the corruption and the screw ups we see all too often at the 'top' of our movement, and, indeed, right throughout it.


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 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 socially-atomised party skull, which threaten the legitimacy of the ideas of 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 the other 'social atoms' inside 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; paragraphs merged. On this, see also Appendix D and this. (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. Bold emphasis added.]


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


Hence, because the party can't reproduce the class struggle inside its four walls, and thereby force unity on its cadres externally (contrary to what happens with the working class), 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 of heresy, or -- even worse -- of not "understanding" dialectics!


Despite 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 a small party the 'purity' of the 'revolutionary tradition' is easier to enforce and hence control.


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 just as it also 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.]


Inside the Dialectical Matrix, 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, not un-coincidentally, a noxious trait shared by all known religions). "Tradition" now becomes a watch-word to test and maintain doctrinal purity within party cadres -- especially among 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 Leading 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 emphases added.]


So, it is no surprise, therefore, to see DM-fans -- who, incidentally, reject the above remarks and Marx's advice that they should "leave philosophy" -- both act and express themselves in a quasi-religious terms or behave in a manner reminiscent of those who belong to a cult.


Trotsky Gets His Priorities 'Right'


In addition to the numerous 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 behaviour of at least one leading Marxist, Trotsky. George Novack records the following meeting he and Max Shachtman had with him 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 (1960), reprinted in 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. Several paragraphs merged.]


The accuracy of Novack's memory is confirmed by the following remarks written by Trotsky himself:


"...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 words above --, Trotsky's semi-religious fervour, his emotional attachment to the dialectic compounded by his irrational response to Max Eastman and James Burnham are now 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?


Finally, here are some of Trotsky's final words:


"For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.... This faith in man and in his future gives me even now such power of resistance as cannot be given by any religion." [An Appeal to the Toiling, Oppressed and Exhausted Peoples of Europe, pp.130-31, quoted from here. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]


Stronger than religious faith. But, from where did this 'faith' arise? What was its source?


As we can see from the above passages, it clearly arose out his commitment to DM, a super-historical, cosmic theory that guarantees victory to true believers.


Stalin Gets His Priorities 'Right', Too!


Despite their profound political differences, Trotsky and Stalin were both Dedicated Dialectical Devotees. 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 their recent war against the invading fascists -- 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, even during 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 was so, and why these individuals were so.


Bukharin Makes His Peace With The Dialectical Deity


We witness something similar in relation to 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 predicament, that is hardly surprising. But, it is also no less revealing since it confirms much of the above: DM is responsible for holding the fragile dialectical ego together, even in the face of execution.


The old saying, "There are no atheists in foxholes", may or may not be correct, but it looks like there mightn't have been many non-dialecticians in the Lubyanka waiting on Stalin's 'mercy'. Behind those grim, unforgiving walls it seems that even hard-nosed Bolsheviks needed some form of consolation. As Helena Sheehan notes in her Introduction (to Sheehan (2005)):


"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; paragraphs merged.]


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; paragraphs merged.]


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


[Several more examples of the expression 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 and organisational 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'.


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, naturally, helps explain why it is favoured by the majority. By way of contrast, democratic control 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 with individuals they can trust, selected by their very own version of the slate system (which is quite often no more sophisticated than this: which bed you were born in or which bed you climbed into) -- 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 'theories' to convince the recalcitrant majority that this is "All for your benefit, you understand", since "We are all in it together" and "It's in the national interest", yada, yada...


It is also why Dialectical Marxists need the centralist, 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 develop 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 political and social force), (ii) When that counterweight 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 to DM like drunks to lampposts -- and, alas, like the 'god'-botherers among us cling to their own favoured source 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 also 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, the ineluctable drift of the universe; 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 -- again, 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, indeed, 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.


As noted above, once more, 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.). The joke is memorable because everyone recognises its central core of truth.


So, Dialectical Marxists are soon transformed into Militant Martinets, ostracising and expelling anyone who fails to tow the 'correct' line. As we have seen, these Dialectical Despots have very powerful personalities, something they 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 manipulate.


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 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 Disciple now 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), uncannily mirroring the individualism that underpins Protestantism, where believers are required to work out their own salvation in 'fear and trembling' by means of a thorough study of the Bible, allied with 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 idea is "abstract", "positivist", "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 like they do --, or even as well as they do.


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


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 who made that rather bold claim!


Just 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 much more in common than just a capital letter "D".


All this explains why, to each DM-acolyte, the dialectic is so personal, 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 examples of this malady, 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 and venom 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 for what is in effect a comfort blanket -- Dialectical Methadone -- in order to insulate their minds from reality and constant failure. And, by all accounts this ersatz opiate has done an excellent job. In fact, anyone who attempts to argue with a single one of these Dialectical Dupes would be far better and more profitably 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 profundity -- compounded by the constant lack of clarity required to maintain it -- only helps engineer more splits, thus more set-backs and defeats, which in turn 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 truly endearing quality displayed most notably by the High Church Faction), pomposity, corruption, extreme dogmatism (bordering on clinical paranoia in some cases), topped-off with a few generous 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.


[Again, I hasten to add that I am not complaining about this; indeed, I expect it. Indeed, if I received none, I would conclude I had made a mistake or taken a wrong turn somewhere.]


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 question The Sacred Dialectical 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 even 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 and empty calls for unity.21


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


The Socialist Soothsayer


Doctrinaire Marxism is the final result of this mystical creed, hence it needs a Guru or two to interpret it, rationalise constant failure, and 'justify' regular splits -- and, of course, initiate another round 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 uttered by such leaders are treated with undeserved awe, rapt attention and inordinate respect, compounded by a level of sycophancy that would shame a professional boot licker -- 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/are 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. Bold emphases added; some paragraphs merged. Spelling modified to agree with UK English. Typos corrected. (I have informed the editors over at the Marxist Internet Archive.)]


Here, too, 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 surrounding Kim-iI-sung, Kim-Jong-iI, and now Kim Jong Un -- or Enver Hoxha. Indeed, we read the following about the 'miraculous' birth of Kim-Jong-il:


"According to his official biography, Kim Jong Il's birth atop a sacred mountain saw a new star created and winter turn to spring. However, records kept by the country's Soviet allies show he was born in a Siberian village in 1941." [Quoted from here.]


I have just seen a documentary on CNN (aired 14/09/2017 -- the original video is available here, Chapter Six, The Sacred Mountain -- scroll down the latter page to see a short clip from this chapter, although I have posted the full clip below as Video Two), in which the official North Korean guide (employed at the site of Kim-Jong-il's 'miraculous' birthplace) confirms the above tale. She adds that this isn't a legend -- it really did happen. Here is a transcript:


"So it was really cold and the weather was not normal. But, somehow, the day the General was born the strong wind stopped all of a sudden. The sun began shining through. Everything was bright and a quiet calm took over. The flowers bloomed and in the sky was a particularly bright star.... Yes, it actually happened. It's not a legend. Our general is really a person who (sic) heaven sent to us. So, he changed the weather, too. It's a true story.... Nature actually transformed itself to announce the birth of our General to the whole world, blessing it. That's how it happened."



Video Two: The Miraculous Birth Of Kim-Jong-il


Nor, indeed, need we be reminded of the obsequious praise heaped on Gerry Healy -- Blessed Be His Name! -- by prominent members of the now defunct WRP, or even the nauseating 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 nausea-inducing sycophancy here and here. You might need a bucket.]


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 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 himself):


"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 last hundred years or more -- ranging from Mao's abuse of female comrades to the same with respect to Healy (on that, see Appendix A), down to the scandal that engulfed the UK-SWP a few years ago --, but there are many more examples of this malaise. All of these are 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 hence, Raskolnikov-like, are above the 'conventional' morality of the 'herd', or, in some cases, even the laws of nature!


The following is just the latest example of this, which concerns a Maoist cult in London:


"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 about this 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 Kim-Jong-il, Bob Avakian,

Aravindan Balakrishnan Or Marlene Dixon?


Megalomania coupled with 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 --, and, of course, their acolytes. How else would it have been possible for them 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, on this, see 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, proudly exhibited by Gerry Healy's supporters in the old WRP, but more recently by the UK-SWP in connection with 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.]


Update June 2019: As the above was being written, the US International Socialist Organisation (ISO) leadership was busy covering up yet another rape accusation. This latest debacle culminated in the ISO voting to disband in April 2019. [On that see, here.]


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


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. Martov's formulation ostensively 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 inseparably bound up with its customary mode of life, and of earning a livelihood, which in a great many respects approximate the conditions of petty-bourgeois existence (working in isolation or in very small groups, etc.). Lastly, it is not fortuitous that the defenders of Comrade Martov's formulation were the ones who were obliged to cite the example of professors and high-school students! It was not the champions of a broad proletarian struggle who, in the controversy over Paragraph 1, took the field against the 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 (1976a), pp.87-88. Bold emphasis and links added; italic emphases in the original. I have used the Peking edition here, which differs slightly from the on-line Moscow version.]


Quoting Kautsky on the social psychology of his opponents, Lenin further argued (in the previous paragraph having ascribed the words quoted below to the "wishy-washiness of the intellectual"):


"One cannot 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 extremely 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 inept tactics to try to overcome the fact by denying it. This antagonism is a social one, it manifests itself in classes, not in individuals. The individual intellectual, like the individual capitalist, may join wholly in the class struggle of the proletariat. When he does, he changes his character too. It is not of this type of intellectual, who is still an exception among his class, that we shall mainly speak 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, since 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 he himself is often enough subjected to exploitation and social humiliation 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 flabby whining of intellectuals who found themselves in the minority, and nothing more, was the refusal of Martov and his colleagues to take up their posts only because the old circle had not been endorsed, as were their complaints of a state of siege and emergency laws 'against particular groups,' which were not dear to Martov when the Yuzhny Rabochy and the Rabocheye Dyelo were dissolved, but became dear to him when his own group was dissolved.


"Just such flabby whining of intellectuals who found 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 flowed so readily at our Party Congress (and even more so after it)....


"There were bitter complaints of the 'false accusation of opportunism'. Well, they had to do something to conceal the unpleasant fact that it was precisely the opportunists -- who in most cases had followed the anti-Iskra-ists -- and partly these anti-Iskra-ists themselves that formed the compact minority, and convulsively clung to the circle spirit in Party institutions, opportunism in their argumentation, philistinism in Party affairs and the instability and wishy-washiness of the intellectual." [Ibid., pp.160-63. Bold emphases and links added; italic emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. I have corrected several typos in the on-line version -- the editors have been informed of these glitches. Again, I have used the Peking edition here, which differs slightly from the on-line Moscow version.]


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, or, indeed, himself):


"[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.]


Here 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 the following 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 themselves have indeed been "washed clean of the material motives and class interests...", which, alas, affect the rest of humanity.


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


In which case, while it seems quite legitimate for dialecticians to 'reduce' their enemies and opponents' -- and, indeed, some of their fellow Marxists' -- ideas, attitudes and behaviours 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, perhaps even inevitable, effect on the attitudes they adopt and the ideas they are capable of forming. 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 the class analysis promoted at this site 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, The Chosen Ones are caught with their dialectical pants down; even then these "scurrilous accusations" can be brushed aside as "bourgeois propaganda", or part of a heinous "witch-hunt".


This means that the Dialectical Merry-go-round can take 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, has no mathematical structure, and offers no discernible practical applications or implications -- except, perhaps, negative.23a


To that end, we are presented with an "insistence" on "Totality" (which remains conveniently undefined), an array of obscure "Infinities", a declaration that "truth is the whole" [Hegel (1977), p.11; Preface, paragraph 20] -- the reader might like to try and render that abstract declaration consistent with Hegel and Lenin's other claim that "truth is never abstract" --, alongside a host of assorted 'relative this' and 'absolute that' assertions, all of which are left theologically vague.


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


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


This theory must, therefore, enable 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 far distant 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 generations of mystics via the Dialectical Classicists.


[On all of the above, see Essays Two through Eleven Part Two. Concerning 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 come to appreciate, 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, indeed, 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 in order to 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 would be the case with any other theory! This heady brew now 'allows' skilled dialecticians to argue for anything they like and its opposite. [Concerning how they manage to do that, see below.]


Moreover, this theory must lie way beyond any 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 to make 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!" or "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 every stripe -- 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 handy by-product of the Hegelian dialectic itself -- which we have already had occasion to highlight -- 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, DM. In order to refute this body of doctrine, it would have to shown to be false. What I have argued is that both versions are far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to determine whether they are true or whether they are false, they don't make it that far It is not possible to refute incoherent ideas.]


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 whatsoever -- apparently not even the truth about an ordinary glass tumbler! So, rather like the 'will of God', the DM-Absolute (the "Totality") mysteriously trundles ever onward, its many twists and turns alone capable of being fully 'comprehended' 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 full or final truth about anything, or that all theories are only ever "partially true", etc., etc.) soon turns into its opposite. It is 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 correctly -- by appealing, rather like the Roman Catholic Church, to "tradition" and authority.25a


In such a topsy-turvy world of silicate-loving, 'dialectical ostriches', comrades with their heads buried deepest in the sand are promising 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-canon, linked to an 'orthodox' interpretative tradition of the same, now ossified in recycled and highly repetitive commentaries -- the aforementioned Dialectical Mantra.28


To that end, DM must harmonise to some extent with other ruling-class systems-of-thought, since its theorists have to emphasise the continuity and progress of human knowledge -- "through contradiction" -- of which their theory proudly forms the latest and highest phase. In that case, there must be an IED between DM and Traditional Philosophy otherwise 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 and scientific commitments. Ironically, the fact that virtually every DM-thesis finds an echo in most mystical systems-of-thought is, paradoxically, regarded as one of its strengths, not a fatal defect!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 promulgate a theory that shifts with the Heraclitean sands.


Furthermore, this theory must be the source of boundless optimism, so that despite the way things might appear -- to those lost in the mists of "commonsense" and "formal thinking", of course --, the NON guarantees that the underlying tendency at work in every corner of 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 awe and 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 a modicum 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 upon 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 ever 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 almost zero impact 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 Dialectical Marxism 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) confirms, 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, accessed 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 malaise been endemic on the left 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; accessed 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 serious problem, which mirrors several aspects of the analysis presented 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 comments 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 doesn't just afflict the UK-SWP), just as they completely ignore (ii) The historical and ideological roots of this malaise -- nor do they even consider (iii) Why this keeps happening, not just to the UK-SWP, but right across the Marxist left. Finally, they fail to consider (iv) How and why DM makes a bad situation worse.


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 -- a poisonous and lethal version of Groundhog Day.


Unfortunately, as is the case with other forms of drug addiction, clarity of vision is the last thing one can expect of the 'leadership' -- those who control the production and dissemination of ideas --, who have a serious dialectical-opiate dependency problem themselves. More-or-less the same applied to anyone in the movement who has caught a nasty dose of 'dialectics'.


As these Essays have shown, and as experience amply confirms, this is indeed what we find.


High Church vs Low Church


There are in fact two main currents in Dialectical Marxism: 'Low Church' and 'High Church'. This distinction roughly corresponds with that between active revolutionaries and Academic Marxists -- of course, there is some overlap between these two currents at the margin. Some academic Marxists are also activists.


However, the members of neither faction are seekers after truth, since, like Hegel, they have already found it -- as Glenn Magee pointed 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 either of the above two denominations (whether they realise it or not).


Low Church Dialecticians [LCDs]:


Comrades from this persuasion, The 'Evangelical Wing of Dialectical Marxism, cleave to the original, unvarnished truth laid down in the sacred DM-texts (i.e., those written by Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, or 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 March 2020 it is still 'waiting moderation'!]


[FL = Formal Logic.]


In general, LCDs are sublimely ignorant of FL. Now, on its own that is no hanging matter. However, such self-inflicted and woeful ignorance of FL doesn't prevent them from pontificating about it, nor regaling us with its alleged limitations at every turn -- accusations based on ideas they unwisely copied off 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, which suicidal policy has helped keep their parties just a few notches above microscopic 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 fail to 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 myopic individuals continually strives to "build the party", after 140 years of such impressive 'building', few revolutionary groups can boast membership rolls that rise much above the risible. In fact, all we have witnessed since WW2, for example, 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!?


You clearly don't 'understand' dialectics.


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 --, let alone books and articles published by their lowly LCD-brethren (even though many of them seem to have a fondness for Engels's First 'Law') -- except, perhaps, Lenin's PN, since it is largely comprised of quotes from the Über-Guru Himself, Hegel.


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


[An excellent recent example of this elitist attitude can be found in Anderson (2007). Another two, here and here.]


More often than not, HCDs reject the idea that 'the dialectic' applies to nature, sometimes inconsistently using the aforementioned First 'Law' to account for the evolutionary 'leap' that underpinned our development from 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. Apparently, the latter do not contain enough philosophical gobbledygook, sufficient Hegel, or a surfeit of post-Hegelian 'Continental Philosophy' for their liking.31


[Anyone familiar with High Church Anglicanism will know exactly what I mean.]


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, Roy Bhaskar, and, currently, The Wafflemeister Himself, Slavoj Zizek.


This heady 'dialectical brew' is often fortified with several tablespoons of hardcore jargon drawn from that intellectual cocaine-den, otherwise known as French Philosophy -- including the work of such luminaries as: Alexandre Kojève, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Paul Sartre, Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, Michael Foucault, Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Pierre Bourdieu -- and, perhaps, worst of all, the charlatan's charlatan, Jacques Lacan.


Or, maybe obscure ideas derived from that conveyor belt of systematic confusion: the Frankfurt School -- i.e., 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 toward Wittgenstein and 'Ordinary Language Philosophy', here. In relation to this topic, see also my Essay, Was Wittgenstein a Leftist?]


Or, even perhaps worse still, that source of intellectual fog, 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 via Note 31a (link above), along with several other sharp criticisms of this depressing detour into darkness.]


HCDs are generally but not exclusively academics, or they are itinerant 'intellectuals' and 'bloggers'. 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 affect the ideas and prose of many of the above theorists have had on left-wing 'intellectuals'.


[This is yet another example to add to the roll-call 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 only good for the CV/Résumé.


The late Chris Harman expressed the above sentiments rather concisely a few years ago:


"There is a widespread myth that Marxism is difficult. It is a myth propagated by the enemies of socialism -- former Labour leader Harold Wilson boasted that he was never able to get beyond the first page of Marx's Capital. It is a myth also encouraged by a peculiar breed of academics who declare themselves to be 'Marxists': they deliberately cultivate obscure phrases and mystical expressions in order to give the impression that they possess a special knowledge denied to others." [Chris Harman, How Marxism Works, quoted from here. Bold emphasis and link added.]


Lenin concurred:


"The flaunting of high-sounding phrases is characteristic of the declassed petty-bourgeois intellectuals." ["Left-Wing" Childishness. Bold emphasis added. Unfortunately, Lenin didn't apply that valuable insight to what he found in Hegel's work.]


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, those who publish academic books and journals.




Nevertheless, the ranks of both factions, HCD and LCD alike, are well-stocked with conservative-minded comrades happy to appropriate the a priori, dogmatic thought-forms of two-and-a-half millennia of ruling-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, concocted in the comfort of each philosophically-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 as much on evidence as it is on the practice and experience not just of the party, but humanity in general. Alas, that naive belief was put to the sword in Essays Two, Seven Part One, Ten Part One, as well as Part One of this Essay.


It is worth adding that there are notable exceptions to the above sweeping generalisations. Some academic Marxists do actively engage with the class struggle. The point, however, is that the 'High Theory' they crank out is irrelevant in this regard. Indeed, I can't think of a single example of the work of an academic Marxist that has had any impact on the class war, except perhaps negatively. [Any who disagree with that severe indictment are invited to e-mail me with the details of any counter-examples they think I might 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 they 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 again after the Second International caved in to Imperial 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 -- 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 top 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 Ruling-Class Ideology Into Marxism?


One question has so far remained unanswered: How is it even remotely possible for the vast majority of revolutionary socialists to have imported into Marxism what are here alleged to be classic examples of ruling-class ideology? At first sight it seems inconceivable that leading socialists -- like Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxembourg, and Trotsky, individuals possessed of impeccable socialist and anti-ruling-class credentials -- could have maintained a consistent, life-long revolutionary stance if the account of the origin and nature of DM given in these Essays were correct. An ideological compromise of such an 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 fifty years.


These considerations alone seem to make the abstract accusations 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 has no positive -- only negative --, practical applications, outlined earlier and again, below.


This doesn't mean that revolutionaries haven't continually toyed with dialectical phraseology in some of their deliberations connected with practice. Certainly, DM-theorists can talk the talk, but, as we will soon see, it is impossible for them to walk the walk.


Undeniably, books and articles outlining revolutionary theory often contain plenty of words the presence of which seems to contradict the above accusations, and which might appear to confirm the counter-claim 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 truth-telling. This means that while dialecticians may write, or, indeed, constantly intone DM-phraseology, it isn't possible for them to form a single coherent thought based on it. That also has the further implication that it is impossible for them to put any of it into practice, either.


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 side effects; for example they might intend to amuse, impress, confuse, bamboozle, con, distract, or startle their audience). [There is 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


Admittedly, 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 they 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 they work like the 'magical words' stage conjurors intone to impress the unwary.


This means, of course, that DM is the Abracadabra, not the Algebra, of Revolution.



Figure Six: A More Effective Form Of Magic?


Furthermore, as noted in Essay Twelve Part One, because DM-theories 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 either.


In that case, they can't possibly be used to help change society.


Except, of course, for the worse.


[More on that below.]


These 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 above apparently controversial claims, partly by responding to the above pro-DM objection.


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  the above words. 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 presumed 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 that 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, 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 situation made it true, so that he knew what he was in fact ruling out, or in what way M1 fell short of being true. But, he was in no position to do that, 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 those conditions 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 or, indeed, vice versa.


[A much more comprehensive explanation of the above argument can be found here; I have also dealt with several obvious, and a few less obvious, objections to it 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 merely to utter complete nonsense or simply 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 which could form part of a theory that could be put into practice -- or, indeed, which could have had any practical implications whatsoever (other than negative). 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 for M1 to form part of revolutionary practice and hence is capable of being 'acted upon'.


The problem here, of course, is that it isn't easy to think of a single DM-theory that could plausibly be put into practice, so if the last sentence above looks rather odd, that is the fault of that theory, not the present author! The only point being made is that if it is logically impossible to decide whether or not a certain theory or sentence is true, then it is also logically impossible to decide if it has ever been implemented correctly, or could be implemented in any way at all! Hence, it is no great mystery why DM itself hasn't ever actually been put into practice by dialecticians!


[On that, see here. In over 25 years of searching and asking, I have only been able to find two examples where comrades have tried to argue that DM itself 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 that 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, as 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/type M3 (as I have just done!), or even utter it and run its words 'through the mind' (or, indeed, do likewise with its first person equivalent, M3a), as Lenin himself might have done. But as we have just seen, the supposed content of M3b would mean that 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 "This 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 the word "sense" means as it is being used in this way is explained here.]


The contrary supposition only gains credence from the Cartesian idea that an 'act of thought' is a private, internal episodic act that 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 a more comprehensive explanation.]


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 (or read them silently to himself) he wouldn't be able to form from them a coherent thought (assuming, of course, that S2a isn't a coded message of some sort).35


The problem with S2a isn't connected with any lack of imagination on the part of the one who might utter it, or even their 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 both 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-sentences 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 (just like other metaphysicians) DM-theorists misconstrue the rules we have for the use of certain words as if they reflected substantive features of the world. They confuse rules with empirical propositions.


Dialecticians compound this error by importing concepts found almost exclusively in Mystical Theology, burying the result under several layers of impenetrable Hegelian jargon (upside down or the 'right way up'). This they then aggravate further by the open disdain they have for ordinary language -- when they try to 'do a little 'philosophy' -- certain principles of which are partially expressed in and by 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 important to point out that the word "non-sense" used below is being employed in a special way, explanation for which can be accessed here.]


However, the disguised non-sense 'conveyed' 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 one of them (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 aside again -- it isn't possible to put a single DM-sentence into practice.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 and sentences employing indexicals excepted).


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: NM thought that p.


S2: NM 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: NM 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 NM could form by her use of it (or, indeed, our attribution of it to her), hence the phrase "NM thought that..." is illicit 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.


Naturally, this helps account for the total uselessness of doctrines like S3a, and hence why they appeal to those in power -- or, at least, why they appeal to their ideologues. Plainly, that is because a 'profound-looking' metaphysical theory is more likely to convince a wealthy patron -- or their assorted toadying/uncritical audience -- that the one who concocted it has hit on something 'profound', especially if no one appears to understand it.


Clearly, this is the philosophical equivalent of the Parable of the Emperor's New Clothes.37


As one commentator noted:


"Sociologist C. Wright Mills, in critically examining 'grand theorists' in his field who used verbosity to cover for a lack of profundity, pointed out that people respond positively to this kind of writing because they see it as 'a wondrous maze, fascinating precisely because of its often splendid lack of intelligibility.' But, Mills said, such writers are 'so rigidly confined to such high levels of abstraction that the "typologies" they make up -- and the work they do to make them up -- seem more often an arid game of Concepts than an effort to define systematically -- which is to say, in a clear and orderly way, the problems at hand, and to guide our efforts to solve them.'


"Obscurantism is more than a desperate attempt to feign novelty, though. It's also a tactic for badgering readers into deference to the writer's authority. Nobody can be sure they are comprehending the author's meaning, which has the effect of making the reader feel deeply inferior and in awe of the writer's towering knowledge, knowledge that must exist on a level so much higher than that of ordinary mortals that we are incapable of even beginning to appreciate it.... The harder people have to work to figure out what you're saying, the more accomplished they'll feel when they figure it out, and the more sophisticated you will appear. Everybody wins." [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. One link added; paragraphs merged.]


This defect applies equally well to the ideas 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 this dispute.


S7: Being is identical with but at the same time 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.


S10:  A is never equal to A, it is equal to non-A, so we must oppose this hospital closure! 


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-, or semantically-challenged as these are -- on that see, for example, here --, but they all fall apart alarmingly quickly for other reasons (as these Essays have shown). [Another excellent example can be found here.]


However, as S7-S10 also clearly demonstrate, DM-sentences can't form a coherent basis for action.


[Sceptical readers can insert their own favoured DM-thesis (but not HM-thesis!) into any of S7-S10; the result, I predict, won't be much different. If anyone thinks otherwise, please email me your best shot!]37a


It could be objected that this completely distorts and misrepresents dialectical thinking. Marxists most definitely do not reason along the above lines, nor on anything remotely like them.


Or, so it could be objected...


Perhaps not, but until we are given a clear example of the practical use of a single DM-sentence, 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 or refine perspectives, strategies and tactics. In addition, a commitment to this theory/method could only have helped engineer a series of tactical blunders alongside pointless, seemingly endless time-wasting 'theoretical' arguments, just as it should be expected to aggravate sectarian in-fighting and petty inter-party point-scoring. On top of all that, DM should be expected to help 'excuse' post hoc rationalisations of regressive or opportunistic moves, which would be impossible to justify otherwise (indeed, as we will soon discover).38


Of course, these aren't the only reasons 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, they are certainly major contributory factors.


Without doubt, the truly appalling record Dialectical Marxism has registered has much more to do with the general nature of capitalist society, the fragmented and uneven state of the working-class, when the latter is set against a comparatively far better organised, ideologically much more coherent and focused ruling-class, among other considerations.


Having said that, the opposite idea that dialectics -- which supposedly constitutes the theoretical bedrock, if not the very core, of Marxism -- has had absolutely nothing to do with this long and sorry record is bizarre in the extreme. [There is much more on this in Essay Ten Part One.]


In fact, we may only succeed in absolving this Mystical Quasi-Hermetic Creed of all blame in this regard if we concede that it has had no subjective impact whatsoever on the ideas held by all previous generations of revolutionaries, and has never been invoked by them at any time in the entire history of Marxism.39


To any of my readers who do so think: I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you!


Ah! But, What About 1917?


When confronted with unwelcome facts like those aired 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 that to point to as a 'success'!]


Oddly enough, as a Leninist I find this 'objection' remarkably easy to neutralise: the Bolsheviks were successful because they could not, and pointedly did not, use dialectics (either in its DM-, or in its MD-form) in their interface with the Russian masses -- or, indeed, the Soviets -- in 1917. Admittedly, that is a highly controversial claim, but only because no one has thought to advance it before.


In fact, the material counterweight provided by working class prevented the Bolsheviks from employing this useless, Idealist 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...", "A is not equal to A, it is equal to non-A...", or "Matter without motion is unthinkable" (and the like), they would have been viewed as complete lunatics, and rightly so.


On the other hand, they not only could, they actually succeeded in employing ideas and concepts drawn from HM to help organise the revolution.


[This topic was covered in much more detail Part One of this Essay. The difference between HM and DM was explained here.]


And it is little use arguing that dialectical concepts were somehow used 'implicitly', or that they 'informed' the strategy and tactics Lenin and his party adopted, somehow operating 'behind the scenes'. As we will see below, since dialectical concepts can be used to justify anything at all and its 'dialectical' 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 such incompatible applications apart, other than the fact that they contradict one another.


Anyone who takes exception to the above allegations will need to show precisely where and how 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 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, 'on the ground'.


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 peremptory and one-sided conclusions drawn by Bukharin and Trotsky (on the above issue), but also form a clear, concrete political analysis of events 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 the above strategy of Lenin's 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 aforementioned Essay for more details.]


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 or based even upon an attenuated form of DM -- put to any practical use, or even so much as alluded to in passing! [Bone (1974).] Of course, it is always possible I might have missed something, but even if I have, this Quasi-Hermetic Creed hardly forms a prominent part of the day-to-day discussions held between active revolutionaries.


Added on edit: I have now gone though the above source carefully, line by line twice, and there is 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-concept 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, that word is used by dialecticians simply because it is part of a well-established DM-tradition, and for no other discernible reason). Furthermore, most of the occurrences of this word are down to 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. The 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 initial 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 because of the size of the book. [Added in September 2019: I am still checking!]


And it is even less use someone requiring of me to produce proof that Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn't use dialectical ideas at that time, since there is no written evidence that he or they did -- indeed, as the above indicates. In which case, the contrary conclusion (that DM wasn't actually used) stands 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 sub-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 impractical -- nay, crazy -- theory at such an important juncture: i.e., all through 1917!


As we will soon also find out: dialectical concepts can be employed to 'justify' almost 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 given course of action and its opposite (often this rhetorical trick is pulled off by the very same dialectician, in the same article, or even in the same speech!), including those that are 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. Hence, one individual might use a theory to derive one conclusion and then another theorist might use it to derive its opposite. Maybe so, but only DM (or maybe perhaps also, Zen Buddhism) can be and has been used by the very same individual to rationalise one course of action or theory, and its opposite on the same page, or even in the same paragraph, sentence, or speech! But that happens regularly in Dialectical Marxism (as the evidence presented below amply demonstrates). Moreover, no other theory is acceptable to revolutionary cadres, and so no other theory is so well placed to 'win' them to whatever their 'leaders' consider expedient or opportune.]




Update, July 2021: Here is a recent example of the use of 'dialectics' to argue out of both sides of the same mouth at the same time (to add to the more weighty examples of the use of this tactic quoted below):


"Now...the fetishisation of Marx by many on the radical left has meant that the most fundamental law of dialectical logic is forgotten, when it comes to Marxism, which is viewed as a doctrine containing no contradictions. But Marxism, like everything, does contain contradictions -- a positive side and negative side. At the political level, the positive side of Marxism serves the interest of the working class, while the negative side can serve the interest of bureaucracy. This fetishisation means that most leftists focus on the positive, while being unaware of the negative side -- which finds expression in the elevation of the dictatorship of the proletariat into a principle, rather than a tactic, and the abolition of the separation of powers, which Engels called for, which opens the door to political tyranny.


"The point is that socialism, like the trade unions, is part of the working class movement and both can lead to the domination of a bureaucracy to one degree or another. Without democracy, the socialist revolution inevitably leads to the rule of the bureaucracy, just like in the trade unions. In fact, socialism can be described as a general trade union, which has come to power. So why wouldn’t a bureaucracy take control, as they do in the actual trade unions? The main contradiction on the left is between bureaucratic and democratic socialism. Bureaucracy is not the result of backwardness, as the Trotskyist narrative would have us believe.


"[Any] reference to Cromwell in England and the Committee of Public Safety in the French revolution is a red herring, because I am not opposed to dictatorship. I am simply pointing out that it should not be turned into principle. The contradiction between bureaucratic and democratic socialism ensures the defeat of the latter, when dictatorship is made a principle. Lenin's fetishisation of Marx meant he was unable to see where turning dictatorship into a principle would lead to, underpinned by the abolition of the separation of powers. Like most of the left, Lenin saw only the positive side of Marxism, while being unaware of the negative side. Marx must have known that he would become a fetish and once said, 'All I know is that I am no Marxist.'...


"Trotsky failed to think dialectically on socialism in one country, leading him to the mistaken view that world revolution was an immediate absolute necessity for the victory of socialism in individual countries. Casting aside dialectics, like Downing, he demanded the communist movement choose between socialism in one country and world revolution, but it wasn’t an either-or issue." [Tony Clark, letter to the editor of Weekly Worker, 22/07/2021, Number 1357, quoted from here; accessed 30/07/2021. Some paragraphs merged; bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. We will have occasion to meet Tony Clark again, later, making the same ridiculous claims about Trotsky -- that he abandoned 'the dialectic'! If only!! Tony Clark is a 'leftist UFO' advocate and believer in 'extra-terrestrials', a promoter of the 'theory' that human beings were the result of genetic engineering performed by aliens, so we were intended to be their slaves. (Shape-shifting Lizards next, Tony?) In that case, he is a sort of Erich von Däniken of 'the left'. On that, see his letter to the editor of Weekly Worker, 17/06/2021, Issue 1352. Here is just part of it (the entire letter has been re-posted in Appendix B): "Sightings of UFOs happen all over the world and I am far from convinced that those behind the phenomenon are all benign. It goes back thousands of years into prehistory...and was the source of all the main religions, like Christianity -- with its 'god making man in his own image' narrative, and so on -- that plague the human mind, while religious people continue to be unaware of who these 'gods' really were."]


So, it seems that DL-fans can now both support and oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat -- because of the obscure ramblings of a Christian Mystic!




In fact, shortly after the revolution many younger comrades and scientists began to argue that all of Philosophy (and not just dialectics) is a key component of ruling-class ideology -- which is in fact a crude version of my analysis! 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), and Wetter (1958).]


It is also worth noting that Lenin's use of 'dialectical logic' (again, in the passage quoted above) took place in 1921, when the revolution was already beginning to retreat. That is in line with what was claimed earlier: DM is only of real use in times of defeat and set-back. This also conforms with other things that have been asserted in this Essay: that dialectics is an ideal weapon to deploy in a faction fight, since its nebulous concepts can be marshalled in support of practically anything and its opposite.


But what about Lenin's open violation/repudiation of core DM-principles when confronted with a real life choice -- for example, in May 1918, in the middle of the civil war as the country faced a serious famine? [Details below.] Did he appeal to, apply, or take into account the following DM-principles?


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


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

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


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


If DM is quite as useful as we have been led to believe, then when Lenin argued as follows:


"Either the advanced and class-conscious workers triumph and unite the poor peasant masses around themselves, establish rigorous order, a mercilessly severe rule, a genuine dictatorship of the proletariat -- either they compel the kulak to submit, and institute a proper distribution of food and fuel on a national scale; or the bourgeoisie, with the help of the kulaks, and with the indirect support of the spineless and muddle-headed (the anarchists and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries), will overthrow Soviet power and set up a Russo-German or a Russo-Japanese Kornilov, who will present the people with a sixteen-hour working day, an ounce of bread per week, mass shooting of workers and torture in dungeons, as has been the case in Finland and the Ukraine," [Lenin (1918), quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]


we should expect him to have concluded:


"There is a middle way, comrades; according to Marxist dialectics we should do both."


Did he argue that way? Did he take into consideration the fact that, according to Hegel, there exists nowhere in the entire universe an either-or? Did he argue that there are, according to Marxist dialectics, "no hard and fast lines -- there is no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or'"?


Not a bit of it; he concluded:


"Either -- or.


"There is no middle course. The situation of the country is desperate in the extreme. Anyone who reflects upon political life cannot fail to see that the Constitutional-Democrats, the Right Socialist Revolutionaries, and the Mensheviks are coming to an understanding about who would be 'pleasanter', a Russo-German or a Russo-Japanese Kornilov, about who would crush the revolution more effectively and reliably, a crowned or a republican Kornilov.


"It is time all class-conscious and advanced workers came to an understanding. It is time they bestirred themselves and realised that every minute's delay may spell ruin to the country and ruin to the revolution. Half-measures will be of no avail. Complaining will lead us nowhere. Attempts to secure bread or fuel 'in retail fashion', 'each man for himself', i.e., for 'our' factory, 'our' workshop, are only increasing the disorganisation and facilitating for the profiteers their selfish, filthy, and blackguardly work.


"That is why, comrades, workers of Petrograd, I have taken the liberty of addressing this letter to you. Petrograd is not Russia. The Petrograd workers are only a small part of the workers of Russia. But they are one of the best, the advanced, most class-conscious, most revolutionary, most steadfast detachments of the working class and of all the working people of Russia, and one of the least liable to succumb to empty phrases, to spineless despair and to the intimidation of the bourgeoisie. And it has frequently happened at critical moments in the life of nations that even small advanced detachments of advanced classes have carried the rest with them, have fired the masses with revolutionary enthusiasm, and have accomplished tremendous historical feats....


"That is the sort of vanguard of the revolution -- in Petrograd and throughout the country -- that must sound the call, must rise together, must understand that the salvation of the country is in their hands, that from them is demanded a heroism no less than that which they displayed in January and October 1905 and in February paid October 1917, that a great 'crusade' must be organised against the grain profiteers, the kulaks, the parasites, the disorganisers and bribetakers, a great 'crusade' against the violators of strictest state order in the collection, transportation, and distribution of bread for the people and bread for the machines.


"The country and the revolution can be saved only by the mass effort of the advanced workers. We need tens of thousands of advanced and steeled proletarians, class-conscious enough to explain matters to the millions of poor peasants all over the country and to assume the leadership of these millions, resolute enough to ruthlessly cast out of their midst and shoot all who allow themselves to be 'tempted' as indeed happens -- by the temptations of profiteering and turn from fighters for the cause of the people into robbers; we need proletarians steadfast enough and devoted enough to the revolution to bear in an organised way all the hardships of the crusade and take it to every corner of the country for the establishment of order, for the consolidation of the local organs of Soviet power, and for the exercise of control in the localities over every pood of grain and every pood of fuel....


"Such and only such is the state of affairs in Russia today. Single-handed and disunited, we shall not be able to cope with famine and unemployment. We need a mass 'crusade' of advanced workers to every corner of this vast country. We need ten times more iron detachments of the proletariat, class-conscious and boundlessly devoted to communism. Then we shall triumph over famine and unemployment. Then we shall make the revolution the real prelude to socialism, and then, too, we shall be in a position to conduct a victorious war of defense against the imperialist vultures." [Lenin (1918). Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]


So, out of the window went the supposed 'world-view of the proletariat', and especially when Lenin had to address Russian workers. The dogmatic musings of that Christian Mystic, Hegel, as well as Engels's a priori pontifications, were of no use to Lenin when he was faced with the material reality of the Civil War and the choices facing what were left of the advanced sections of the class:


"Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains." [Hegel (1975), op cit. Bold added.]


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


It could be argued that Engels also added this rider: "Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity".


But in 1918 this wasn't an "every day use" of language, it was the application of life-or-death tactics in the face of a brutal Civil War. If DM wasn't applicable there, or then, it wasn't applicable anywhere or anywhen in the revolution or the Civil War. Moreover, Lenin was addressing the vanguard of the class, its advanced sections in Petrograd, who would be the first to accept 'dialectical reasoning' had they been 'schooled' in it, and had they been presented with it (if we accept the usual DM-picture of workers -- that they are all either "conscious" or "unconscious" dialecticians!). His acceptance of dialectics should have prompted Lenin into arguing as follows:


"The advanced and class-conscious workers and the bourgeoisie, with the help of the kulaks, and with the indirect support of the anarchists and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, will win Soviet power." [Edited mis-quotation of Lenin.]


As should now seem plain, such an application of 'dialectics' would have helped kill the revolution stone dead.


So, 1917 -- and what followed over the next few years -- can't be chalked-up as a success for this mutant strain of Quasi-Hermetic Mysticism.


However, as we are about to find out, the disintegration and destruction of the results of 1917-1921 can and will be (partly) attributed to this regressive 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 specific 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-supporter 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 DM 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 an impeccable ruling-class pedigree, a tradition that promoted an Ideal view of 'reality' across at least two-and-a-half millennia, one that related to hidden world supposedly underlying appearances, anterior to experience and 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 ruling-class ideologues. Not only does DM fail to connect with workers' experience, it fails even to relate to anyone's experience -- or, indeed, the experience anyone could conceivably have. Because of that it has had to be imposed on workers 'against the materialist grain', as it were, and hence 'from the outside'.


In stark contrast, not only can HM have practical applications, it does (and countless times). HM represents the generalisation and systematisation of workers' (indeed, humanity's) collective experience and understanding, as well as that of the Party.


[Readers are referred back to Part One (link above) for argument and evidence in support of these controversial, sweeping and seemingly dogmatic claims.]


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) grow from a belief that workers are incapable of organising themselves (i.e., over and above a development of what merely amounts to a 'trade union/economistic form of consciousness'), or they are far too weak and divided, which means they are incapable of bringing about successful revolutionary change solely out of their own efforts.


[It is now clear from Lars Lih's work that Lenin himself didn't accept this view of workers, but the vast majority of those subsequently claiming to be Leninists do (Lih (2005, 2010)). I have also challenged the received view of this aspect of Lenin's ideas in Part One, here.]


Of course, substitutionism isn't itself an expression of 'free-floating ideas' that are divorced from background social or political contexts, nor is it monolithic. It springs from various class ideologies and material interests, but it only becomes problematic at specific 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 parasitises, manipulates and exacerbates.


Nevertheless, as is well-known, substitutionist ideas manifest themselves in the general belief that:


(i) Workers in the end need someone else, or some other group, to lead them theoretically and practically; and that,


(ii) Not only are they incapable of leading their own political struggles, and hence of transforming society through their own activity (etc., etc.), it is in fact 'anti-socialist' to suppose otherwise.


In that case, they require non-working class social forces to bring socialism to them and create if for them. To that end, these other forces will use workers as a battering ram or as election fodder. Certainly workers might very well end up being used that way given this regressive view of the proletariat (indeed, this has happened many times over the last century-and-a-half), while these 'other forces' take the lead and benefit from this. [There is more on this in Essay Nine Part One.]40


Naturally, this far from the whole story; there is far more to Substitutionism than these few words might seem to suggest. It is also possible to link substitutionist ideas to reactionary ideas and concepts. That won't be attempted here.


Having said that, the above comments were included in order to help motivate much of the rest of this Essay. Because of that these remarks didn't need to be any more detailed, complicated or involved than was absolutely necessary.


Installing The New Program