Yet More Dialectical Dogma


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


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




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Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism


Abbreviations Used At This Site


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This is the (slightly edited) text of a letter a supporter of this site sent to the editors of Socialist Review. They chose not to publish it.


Dear Comrades,


Phil Webster's otherwise excellent review of Biology Under The Influence (SR, July/August 2008) by Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins was seriously marred by his failure to evaluate critically the 'dialectical' approach these two authors have adopted toward their subject matter. As is easy to show, this theory enjoys little support either from argument or evidence, so little in fact that had one of their PhD students produced anything quite as amateurish in their scientific studies, Levins and Lewontin would have asked them to leave the course in the first week.


Phil says:


Some Marxists are doubtful about the usefulness of dialectics, especially when applied to the natural sciences. This book ought to convince those doubters. The authors show the necessity of applying a dialectical materialist method in science if we want to gain a full understanding of the world. They argue for "a dialectical emphasis on wholeness, connection and context, change, historicity, contradiction, irregularity, asymmetry, and the multiplicity of levels of phenomena, as a refreshing counterweight to the prevailing reductionism."


Not so; it will convince not a single one of us. That is because this book repeats all the same old errors, but with a few new ones thrown in for good measure (perhaps to keep us sceptics amazed that comrades still believe such stuff). [Many of these have been demolished here.]


Now, Biology might or might not need to appeal to ideas of "wholeness, connection, context, and change", but if it does, then dialectics is such a poor theory it wouldn't make the bottom of the reserve list of likely candidates. In terms of "wholeness and connection", Mereology, for example, beats dialectics into a cocked hat.


Moreover, with respect to "change", ordinary language also wins hands down every time. That is because practically every verb, adverb and adjective attests to the fact that in English alone we have countless thousands of words all capable of describing and thus explaining every conceivable form of change, in almost limitless detail. So, we don't need the obscure language invented by Hegel to fix something that wasn't broken.


Even more revealing is the fact that if truth is tested in practice, then the last 150 years of the almost total failure of Dialectical Marxism has already refuted dialectics -- all four Internationals have gone down the pan, the results of 1917 have been reversed, and Dialectical Marxism is deeply divided into hundreds, if not thousands of warring sects, all with a different but nonetheless 'correct' dialectical line. Not surprisingly the working class in their hundreds of millions totally ignore us.


In that case, it is high time we ditched this theory, which history has already refuted, and allowed Historical Materialism itself -- cleared of all that useless Hegelian jargon -- to be developed scientifically.

More details can be found at the site I help run:


In solidarity,




[Name and address supplied.]


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Nemesis 2010


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