@Nti-Dialectics For Beginners

 

Index

1)   Preliminaries

2)   Logic

3)   Motion

4)   Imposed On Nature?

5)   Traditional Thought

6)   The Three 'Laws'

7)   Internal Contradictions

8)   Totality

9)   Practice

10) Why Dialecticians Cling On To This Theory

11) Ruling-Class Ideology

12) Notes

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

 

Preliminaries

First of all, nothing said here is aimed at undermining Historical Materialism [HM], or revolutionary socialism in general. Indeed, my intention is to assist the scientific development of Marxism by helping to destroy a theory that has in my opinion damaged our movement from its inception: Dialectical Materialism [DM].

Naturally, this is a highly controversial allegation; nevertheless, the justification for making it is outlined below, and in far more detail in my other work.

Some may wonder how I can claim to be a Leninist and a Trotskyist given the highly critical things I say about philosophical ideas that have been part of these two traditions from the beginning. However, to give an analogy, we can surely be highly critical of Newton's mystical ideas while accepting the scientific nature of his other work. The same applies here.

I count myself as a Marxist, a Leninist and a Trotskyist since I fully accept not just HM (once Hegel's influence has been excised), but the political ideas associated with the life and work of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.

Again, some might wonder why so much effort has been devoted to what many consider to be a side issue, something that is not really of central importance to building the workers' movement.

However, it is my contention that dialectics is one of the reasons why Marxist (but particularly Trotskyist) parties tend to be small, divisive and highly sectarian. This theory helps ensure that they stay small, waste time on attacking one another, make serious political mistakes, and thus leave the ruling-class laughing all the way to the next attack on our side.

I also contend that this theory helps insulate the revolutionary mind from the fact that Dialectical Marxism has been a long-term failure, thus preventing the scientific development of Marxism.

This is quite apart from the impression created in the minds of working people the world over that revolutionaries are little more than a political joke, an impression that has gone so deep into ordinary consciousness that it is now quite difficult to dislodge. I believe that dialectics is indirectly implicated in this. All this is, of course, in addition to the familiar stereotyping of revolutionaries found in the capitalist media, some of which is based on these self-inflicted wounds. Naturally, this means that it is difficult for our side to be taken seriously by friend or foe alike.

Once again, these are highly contentious allegations, but in view of the fact that Dialectical Marxism has been such an abject failure, we have no option but to think things afresh like the radicals we claim to be.

This Essay is targeted at that end. May I suggest then of those who find the above charges far too controversial to accept (or who think them patently false) that they shelve their qualms until they have examined the arguments I have constructed (outlined briefly below, but in much more detail in my other Essays).

Even in what follows (in this Introductory Essay), readers will see that I have at least constructed a prima facie case against the philosophical theory early Marxists imported into the workers' movement --, a case that is being advanced, it is worth remembering, with the sole purpose of making our movement more relevant, less sectarian, and far more successful.

[The arguments summarised here are further expanded upon in Essay Sixteen, which is a much longer précis of my ideas. Readers are directed there next, after they have read through the material presented here.]

 

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Please note that this Essay deals with very basic issues, even at the risk of over-simplification.

It has only been ventured upon because a handful of comrades (who were not well-versed in Philosophy) wanted a very simple guide to my principle arguments against DM.

Hence, it is not aimed at experts!

Anyone who objects to the apparently superficial nature of the material below must take these caveats into account or navigate away from this page. It is not intended for them.

Those who want more details should consult Essay Sixteen or the relevant Essays published at the main site.

Anyone who finds this Essay either too long or too difficult can read two short summaries of my ideas (both less than 5000 words long), here and here.

Finally, I have had to assume that readers already possess a rudimentary grasp of DM.

Anyone unfamiliar with this doctrine should read this, or this. A much more comprehensive account can be found here.

 

Main Objections

Logic

Dialecticians do not tell the truth about Formal Logic [FL]; instead, they regularly say things like this:

"Formal logic regards things as fixed and motionless." [Rob Sewell.]

"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition cannot cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]

However, I have yet to see a single quotation from a logic text (ancient or modern) that supports such allegations -- certainly dialecticians have so far failed to produce even one.

And no wonder: it is completely incorrect.

Indeed, Formal Logic uses variables -- that is, it employs letters to stand for named objects, designated processes (some of the linguistic devises used to this end are called "predicates"), and the like -- all of which can and do change.

This handy device was invented by the very first logician we know of (in the 'West'): Aristotle (384-322BC). He experimented with variables approximately 1500 years before the same tactic was extended into mathematics by Muslim Algebraists -- who in turn used them several centuries before René Descartes (1596-1650) began employing them in the 'West'.

However, Engels said the following about that particular innovation:

"The turning point in mathematics was Descartes' variable magnitude. With that came motion and hence dialectics in mathematics, and at once, too, of necessity the differential and integral calculus…." [Engels (1954), p.258.]

No one doubts that modern mathematics can handle change, so why dialecticians deny this of FL when it has always used variables is therefore something of a mystery.

With very little variation between them, dialecticians also like to assert things like the following:

"The basic laws of formal logic are:

1) The law of identity ('A' = 'A').

2) The law of contradiction ('A' does not equal 'not-A').

3) The law of the excluded middle ('A' does not equal 'B')." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.91. Quotation marks have been altered to conform to the conventions adopted here.]

Even a cursory examination of a handful of logic texts will show that not only are the above claims incorrect (in fact they are so wide of the mark, they are in the next star system!), but not even Aristotle's logic was based on these so-called 'laws'!

Sure, dialecticians claim that Aristotle founded his logic on such principles, but they have yet to produce the evidence substantiating that allegation. In fact, Aristotle knew nothing of the 'Law of Identity' [LOI], which was a much later, medieval invention. [More on this here.]

The LOI will be examined presently, but the 'Law of Contradiction' [LOC] merely says that if one proposition is true then its contradictory is false, and vice versa -- or, in some versions found in mathematical logic, it says that no contradiction can be true, but must be false. The LOC says nothing about "equality", or the lack of it, as Woods and Grant (and other dialecticians) assert.

The criticism of FL advanced by most dialecticians is in fact a descendant of ideas put forward by Hegel (1770-1831), who committed a series of logical blunders which dialecticians have, even to this day, failed to notice (these errors are summarised here). But these errors were in fact the only way that Hegel's could make his 'system' seem to work. [Many of his core ideas are destructively analysed here. A far easier summary of this material can be found here.]

In that case, the 'logic' underlying 'Materialist Dialectics' was bogus from the start.

Likewise, the 'Law of Excluded Middle' [LEM] says nothing about objects being identical, or otherwise, merely that any proposition has to be either true or false; there is no third option.

[Some claim that Quantum Mechanics [QM] has, among other things, refuted this 'law', but QM has merely forced us to reconsider what we should count as a scientific proposition. The LEM remains unaffected.]

And, contrary to what we are often told, this and the other two 'laws' do not deny change, nor are they incapable of handling it. Indeed, we are only capable of studying change if we are clear about what is or is not true about whatever is changing.

The LOI is equally badly handled in DM-texts; this is because dialecticians have unwisely copied the above errors from Hegel's Logic. [On this, see here.]

The basic idea behind this misguided criticism of the LOI seems to be this:

"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity. This law can be stated in various ways such as: A thing is always equal to or identical with itself. In algebraic terms: A equals A.

"...If a thing is always and under all conditions equal to or identical with itself, it can never be unequal to or different from itself. This conclusion follows logically and inevitably from the law of identity. If A equals A, it can never equal non-A." [Novack (1971), p.20.]

Fortunately, this is incorrect. The LOI does not preclude change, for if an object changes, then anything identical to it will change equally quickly. Moreover, if something changes, it will no longer be identical with its former self. So, far from denying change, this 'law' allows us to determine if and when it has occurred. [More on this here.]

These criticisms plainly undermine the main motivating point of Dialectical Logic. Hegel's system is therefore based on a series of logical blunders, and hence, so is 'Materialist Dialectics'. Small wonder then that when it has been tested in practice, practice has refuted it.

 

Motion

According to Hegel, motion is 'contradictory'. Unfortunately, dialecticians have bought into this rather odd idea, too.

Almost as if they are singing from the same hymn sheet, they all like to argue alongside Engels as follows:

"...[A]s soon as we consider things in their motion, their change, their life, their reciprocal influence on one another[,] [t]hen we immediately become involved in contradictions. Motion itself is a contradiction: even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body at one and the same moment of time being both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continuous assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is." [Engels (1976), p.152.]

This is an age-old confusion derived from a paradox invented by an Ancient Greek thinker called Zeno (490?-430?BC).

In fact, as should seem obvious, all objects (which are not mathematical points) occupy several places at once. So, for example, while you are sat reading this Essay, your body is not compressed into a tiny point! Unless you have suffered an horrific accident, your head will not be in the exact same location as your feet

Hence, material bodies can be in one place and in another, in the first but not wholly in the second, at the same time, and stationary all the while.

For example, a car could be parked half in, half out of a garage. Here the car is in one and the same place and not in it, and it is in two places at once (in the garage and in the yard), even while it is at rest relative to a suitable frame of reference.

In that case, this alleged 'contradiction' does not distinguish moving from stationary bodies. So, this 'contradiction' has more to do with ambiguity than it has with anything in material reality.

Any attempt to circumvent this objection with the counter-claim that moving objects occupy regions of space equal to their own volumes (hence a moving object will occupy two of these regions at the same time, occupying and not occupying each at once) cannot work either. This is because such a re-description would clearly depict a moving body occupying a region greater than its own volume -- in which case, such objects would, of course, expand!

Worse still, Engels's account depicts objects moving between locations outside of time (that is, they do so with time not having advanced an instant), otherwise the said objects could not be in two places at once. This is impossible to reconcile with a materialist (or even with a comprehensible) view of nature.

Finally, as noted above, this 'contradiction' was created by notorious ambiguities in Zeno's (and thus in Hegel and Engels's) use of certain words (like "moment", "move", and "place"), which means that when these have been resolved, the alleged 'contradiction' simply disappears. [This disambiguation has been carried out here.]

 

DM: Imposed On Nature?

Has dialectics been read from nature, or imposed on it? 

It seems the former must be correct, since we regularly encounter these seemingly modest disclaimers in the writings of dialecticians:

"Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it." [Engels (1976), p.13. However, the on-line translation uses "building...into" in place of "superimposing".]

Why is this important? As dialecticians themselves admit, the reading of certain doctrines into reality is a hallmark of Idealism and dogmatism. If DM is to live up to its materialist credentials, its theorists must take care to avoid doing this.

As, George Novack points out:

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

Here, too, is Communist Party theoretician, Cornforth:

"Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), p.15. Bold emphasis added.]

However, when we examine what dialecticians actually do, as opposed to what they say they do, we find that the exact opposite is the case. For example, Engels himself went on to claim the following of motion:

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transmitted…." [Engels (1976), p.74. Bold emphasis alone added.]

Had this observation been derived from the facts available in Engels's day (a policy to which he had just sworn allegiance), he would have expressed himself perhaps as follows:

"Evidence so far suggests that motion is what we call "the mode of existence of matter". Never anywhere has matter without motion been observed, but it is too early to say if this must always be the case…. Matter without motion is not inconceivable, nor is motion without matter, we just haven't witnessed either yet…." [Re-vamped version of Engels (1976), p.74.]

[It is also worth noting that matter without motion is not inconceivable; that very idea had been a fundamental precept of Aristotelian Physics.]

As is easy to demonstrate, all dialecticians do the same (the evidence for this can be found here). First, they disarm the reader with the modest sorts of claims we saw rehearsed above; then, sometimes on the same page, or even in the very next sentence, they proceed to do the exact opposite, imposing dialectics on nature.

Why they do this (and what significance it has) will be examined below.

 

Traditional Thought

In the 'West', since Ancient Greek times, traditional theorists have been imposing their theories on nature (as Cornforth noted). This practice is so widespread, and has penetrated into thought so deeply, that few notice it, even after it has been pointed out to them. Or, rather, they fail to see its significance. [More on that below, too.]

Now, if you belong to, benefit from or help run a society which is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep order in several ways.

The first and most obvious way is through violence. This will work for a time, but it is not only fraught with danger, it is costly and it stifles innovation (among other things).

Another way is to persuade the majority (or a significant section of "opinion formers" and administrators, at least) that the present order either works for their benefit, is ordained of the 'gods', or that it is 'natural' and cannot be fought. As is well-known, this tactic has been used for millennia; hence we have Theology and other assorted ruling-class ideologies.

All of these were imposed on reality (plainly, since they cannot be read from it).

Indeed, this is how Marx depicted things:

"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. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an 'eternal law.'" [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65, quoted from here.]

However, as Marx also noted, members of the ruling-class often rely on other layers in society to concoct the ideas they use to try to con the rest of us into accepting their system.

In Ancient Greece, with the demise of the rule of Kings and Queens, the old myths and Theogonies were no longer relevant. So, in the newly emerging republics and quasi-democracies of the Sixth Century BC, far more abstract, de-personalised ideas were needed.

Enter Philosophy.

From its inception, Philosophers constructed increasingly baroque abstract systems of thought. These were invariably based on arcane terminology, impossible to translate into the material language of everyday life -- which their inventors then happily imposed on nature.

As Marx also noted:

"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.

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

Philosophers felt they could do this, since, for them, nature was Mind (or, indeed, the product of Mind). In that case, the human mind could safely project its thoughts onto reality --, of which true thoughts were a reflection, anyway. "As above, so below", went the old Hermetic saying. The microcosm of the mind reflected the macrocosm or the universe. The doctrine of Correspondences thus came to dominate all ancient and modern theories of knowledge -- in which case, all true, 'philosophical' knowledge supposedly corresponded with various hidden 'essences' that allegedly underpinned the world of experience. These 'essences' were impossible to detect in any way whatsoever (meaning, of course, that the 'uneducated' could raise no material doubts as to their existence, even if they had heard of them), and were accessible by thought alone.

As Marx noted, these systems were based on the idea that language (but not the vernacular) contained a secret code by means of which each thinker (with the 'right sort of education' and class position, of course) could represent to him/herself the 'Mind of God', or the underlying 'secrets' of nature. Language was thus viewed as a representational device (which was later interpreted individualistically) and not a means of communication (as Marx and Engels had argued). [More on this here.]

Naturally, this view of discourse had profound ideological implications connected with the legitimation of class power. [More on this below.]

This ancient tradition has changed many times throughout history, as different Modes of Production rose and fell, but its main strategy and core rationale remained basically the same: the dogmatic promulgation of abstract theories that were supposed to reveal the underlying rational structure of reality, conveniently hidden away from the disconfirming gaze of working people (which is why they were, and still are inexpressible in ordinary language --, again, as Marx noted). [More on this below, too.]

So, just like Theology, but in this case in a far more abstract and increasingly secularised form, subsequent philosophies came to reflect the 'essential' structure of reality, one that supposedly underpinned and rationalised alienated class society, mystified now by the use of increasingly baroque terminology and technical jargon.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, modern dialectics was invented by a quintessentially Idealist Philosopher (Hegel) working in this tradition, and it was appropriated by Marxist classicists before the working class could provide a materialist counter-weight to it. DM was thus born out of Idealism, and, as we will see, it has never really escaped from its clutches -- despite the materialist flip dialecticians claim to have inflicted upon it.

And that is why dialecticians happily impose their ideas on nature; it is quite traditional to do so. Moreover, since their theories are based on ancient and idealised abstractions, they plainly cannot be derived from the material world, but must be read into it.

But, in doing this  dialecticians are (unwittingly) identifying themselves with a tradition that was not built by working people and which does not serve their interests.

Furthermore, since dialectics is not based on material reality it cannot be used to help change it.

Small wonder then that it has failed our movement for so long.

[Some might think that if the above were so, that would mean that science is equally flawed, but that is not so. Science is dominated by individuals who do not just theorise about nature, they interact with it, and they learn from experience. Science is tested by its relation to reality, traditional Philosophy not only isn't, it cannot be. However, further discussion of this particular topic would take us way beyond the scope of this basic introduction; it will however be dealt with in an Additional Essay published at the main site in 2009/10.]

Hence, for all their claim to be radical, DM-theorists are thoroughly conservative when they try to philosophise.

Indeed, despite the fact that DM-theorists appear to be challenging traditional ideas, their practice reveals they are part of a tradition that is quite happy to derive fundamental truths about nature from thought alone, just as ruling-class theorists have always done.

 

The 'Laws' of Dialectics

This age-old tactic (of imposing theses onto nature) can be seen if we examine, for example, the use made of Engels's so-called 'Three Laws of Dialectics':

"Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connection. Main laws: transformation of quantity into quality -- mutual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes -- development through contradiction or negation of the negation -- spiral form of development." [Engels (1954), p.17.]

All dialecticians (who accept these 'Laws') impose them on nature (the evidence for this can be found here and here). What little data dialecticians supply to substantiate these 'Laws' is not only woefully insufficient, it is highly contentious -- to say the least.

Anyone who has studied and practiced genuine science will know the lengths to which researchers have to go to alter even minor aspects of current theory, let alone justify major changes in the way we view nature.

In stark contrast, and without exception, dialecticians offer a few paragraphs of trite (and over-used) clichés and anecdotes to support their claims. Hence, what we find are hackneyed references to things like boiling water, balding heads, plants that 'negate' seeds, Mamelukes fighting the French, a character from Molière suddenly discovering that he speaks prose, and the like, all constantly retailed, year in year out. From such banalities, dialecticians suddenly derive universal laws, applicable everywhere and at all times.

Even at its best (for example, in Woods and Grant (1995), which is one of the most comprehensive attempts to defend classical, hard-core DM to date, and in Gollobin (1986), which is in many ways an up-market version of Woods and Grant), all we are presented with are a few dozen pages of secondary and tertiary information, extensively padded out with repetition and bluster (much of which is taken apart here). Contrary evidence (of which there is plenty) is simply ignored. This is indeed Mickey Mouse Science.

In many ways, this weak endeavour to substantiate Engels's 'Laws' resembles Creationist attempts to show that the Book of Genesis is scientific! Hence, it is heavily slanted, repetitive, highly selective and deeply contentious.

The First 'Law' -- the alleged change of quantity into quality -- ignores the many cases in nature where change is not "nodal":

"Hegel invented the nodal line of measure relations, in which small quantitative changes at a certain point give rise to a qualitative leap. The example is often given of water, which boils at 100oC at normal atmospheric pressure. As the temperature nears boiling point, the increase in heat does not immediately cause the water molecules to fly apart. Until it reaches boiling point, the water keeps its volume. It remains water, because of the attraction of the molecules for each other. However, the steady change in temperature has the effect of increasing the motion of the molecules. The volume between the atoms is gradually increased, to the point where the force of attraction is insufficient to hold the molecules together. At precisely 100oC, any increase in heat energy will cause the molecules to fly apart, producing steam." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.49.]

But, not everything in nature changes in this way; consider melting glass, metal, rock, butter, toffee, and plastic. No nodal points anywhere in sight, here. Do Woods and Grant (or any other DM-theorists) consider these counter-examples? Are you kidding? [More details here.]

And not every change in quality is produced by quantitative differences (contrary to what Engels said):

"...the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis added.]

There are in fact countless changes in quality that are not determined in this way. For example, there are certain molecules that share exactly the same material content and energy level, but which are qualitatively dissimilar because of the different spatial arrangement of their constituent atoms. These are called 'Stereoisomers'. [More examples here.]

So, here we have a change in quality produced by a change in geometry. This is just as important a material constraint as any that Engels considered.

Other qualitative changes in nature and society can be produced by different timing or by a different ordering of the relevant events -- or even by altering their context. [Again, several examples are given here.]

Moreover, this 'Law' only appears to work because of the vague way that both "quantity" and "quality" have been characterised by DM-theorists. In fact, they seldom if ever bother to define these terms. Indeed, after 25 years of searching, I have be able to find only three DM-texts that attempt to do this: Kuusinen (1961), Yurkovets (1984), and Gollobin (1986)! Even so, what they tell is alarmingly superficial. [Their arguments have been taken apart in Essay Seven.] And not one single DM-text tells us how long a 'node' is supposed to last!

Can you imagine this happening in genuine science?

Now, Hegel defined "quality" in the following way:

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

This is a notion he copied from Aristotle. Similarly, the Marxist Internet Archive defines this word as follows:

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

 

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

 

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

But, given the above 'definition', many of the examples dialecticians use to illustrate this 'law' would not in fact be examples of qualitative change. For instance, water (as ice, liquid or steam) is H2O; quantitative addition or subtraction of energy does not result in a qualitative change of the required sort; nothing substantially new emerges. This substance stays H2O throughout.

Hence, this lack of precision allows DM-theorists to see changes in quality 'caused' by changes in quantity whenever and wherever they please, just as it 'permits' them to ignore the many cases where this does not happen. That at least explains why this 'Law' has been left so vague for so long.

The other 'Laws' fare no better. The Second 'Law', the Interpenetration of Opposites and change though 'internal contradiction', will be examined in the next sub-section, and since the "Negation of the Negation" [NON] is really an extension of Second 'law', its credibility depends on that 'Law'. [More details here.]

 

'Internal Contradictions'

Mechanical materialism holds that all things are set in motion by an external 'push' of some sort. In contrast, dialecticians claim that because of their 'internal contradictions', objects and processes in nature and society are "self-moving".

Lenin expressed this idea as follows:

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

 

"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

 

"The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphasis added.]

There are a number of serious problems with this passage, not the least of which is that it clearly suggests that things are self-moving. In fact, Lenin did more than just suggest this, he insisted upon it:

"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)…." [Lenin (1921), p.90. Bold emphases added.]

Other Marxists talk the same way; here are comrades Woods and Grant (readers will no doubt note that these two happily impose this doctrine on nature):

"Dialectics explains that change and motion involve contradiction and can only take place through contradictions.... Dialectics is the logic of contradiction....

"So fundamental is this idea to dialectics that Marx and Engels considered motion to be the most basic characteristic of matter.... [Referring to a quote from Aristotle] [t]his is not the mechanical conception of motion as something imparted to an inert mass by an external 'force' but an entirely different notion of matter as self-moving....

"The essential point of dialectical thought is not that it is based on the idea of change and motion but that it views motion and change as phenomena based on contradiction.... Contradiction is an essential feature of all being. It lies at the heart of matter itself. It is the source of all motion, change, life and development. The dialectical law which expresses this idea is the unity and interpenetration of opposites....

"The universal phenomena of the unity of opposites is, in reality, the motor-force of all motion and development in nature. It is the reason why it is not necessary to introduce the concept of external impulse to explain movement and change -- the fundamental weakness of all mechanistic theories. Movement, which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter....

"...Matter is self-moving and self-organising." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.43-45, 47, 68, 72. Bold emphases added.]

But, if this were so, nothing in nature would or could have any effect on anything else. Hence, while you might think that it is your kick that moves a ball, according to the above, the ball moves itself.

Now, in order to avoid such absurd consequences, some dialecticians have had to allow for the existence of "external contradictions", which are somehow also involved in such changes. [More details here.]

But, as seems obvious, this makes a mockery of the idea that all change is internally-generated, just as it undermines the contrast drawn above between mechanical and 'dialectical' theories of motion. Indeed, what becomes of Lenin's insistence if everything that changes in fact violates this "demand"?

In addition, DM-theorists appeal to "internal contradictions" in order to undercut theism (there was a flavour of this, too, in the Woods and Grant quotation above); here is Cornforth:

"The second dogmatic assumption of mechanism is the assumption that no change can ever happen except by the action of some external cause.

"Just as no part of a machine moves unless another part acts on it and makes it move, so mechanism sees matter as being inert -- without motion, or rather without self-motion. For mechanism, nothing ever moves unless something else pushes or pulls is, it never changes unless something else interferes with it.

"No wonder that, regarding matter in this way, the mechanists had to believe in a Supreme Being to give the "initial push"....

"No, the world was not created by a Supreme Being. Any particular organisation of matter,  any particular process of matter in motion, has an origin and a beginning.... But matter in motion had no origin, no beginning....

"So in studying the causes of change, we should not merely seek for external causes of change, but should above all seek for the source of change within the process itself, in its own self-movement, in the inner impulses to development contained in things themselves." [Cornforth (1976), pp.40-43. Bold emphasis added.]

But, if external causes are now in fact permitted in order to stop this theory becoming absurd (as we saw above), then that will simply allow 'god' to sneak back in through a side door.

Of course, all this is independent of whether or not it makes sense to say that anything in nature or society can be described as a "contradiction". Dialecticians, following Hegel, certainly believe they can be so depicted, but up until now they have merely been content to assert this for a fact, forgetting the proof. Hegel's authority -- and that of an Idealist, too -- is sufficient apparently. And it is worth recalling that Hegels' use of this term was based on a crass piece of sub-Aristotelian logic.

But, even if all objects and processes in fact possessed "internal contradictions", exactly as DM-theorists suppose, this would still not explain why anything actually moved or changed.

In fact, as is easy to confirm, dialecticians have been hopelessly unclear as to whether objects and processes:

(1) Change because of a "struggle" between their "internal contradictions" and/or "opposites", or

(2) Change into these opposites, or, indeed they,

(3) Create such opposites when they change.

[Numerous quotations supporting these allegations can be found here.]

Of course, if the third option were the case, the alleged opposites could not cause change, since they would be produced by it, not the other way round. Moreover, they could scarcely be "internal opposites" if they were produced by change.

If the second alternative were correct, then we would see things like males naturally turning into females, the working class into the capitalist class, electrons into protons, left hands into right hands, and vice versa, and a host of other oddities. [On this, see here.]

And as far as the first option is concerned, it is worth making the following points:

[A] If objects/processes change because of a struggle with already existing internal opposites, and they change into these opposites, then plainly this  cannot happen since those opposites already exist.

Hence, if object/process A is already composed of a dialectical union of A and not-A, and it 'changes' into not-A, how can this happen if not-A already exists? In fact, all that seems to happen here is that A disappears. [And do not ask where it disappears to!] Hence, given this 'theory', A does not change into not-A, it is just replaced by an already existing not-A.

At the very least, this account of change leaves it entirely mysterious how not-A itself originally came about. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere.

[It cannot have come from A, since A can only change because of a struggle with of not-A, which does not yet exist! Pushing the process into the past will merely reduplicate this problem.]

[B] Exactly how an (internal) opposite is capable of making anything change is somewhat unclear, too. Given the above, not-A does not actually alter A, it merely replaces it!

[This argument is worked out in greater detail here, where several obvious objections are neutralised.]

Now, in order to answer such questions, some dialecticians appeal to forces (of attraction and repulsion) to explain how and why these obscure 'contradictions' are capable of actually moving bits of matter about the place.

Unfortunately, the nature of forces is a mystery even to this day; this is one reason why scientists have abandoned them, preferring to talk about exchange of energy and momentum instead.

Of course, in popular and school physics, people still talk about forces, but since there is no way of giving them any sort of physical sense (other than as part of a vector field, etc.), advanced physics translates forces in the way indicated in the previous paragraph. Indeed, in Relativity Theory, the 'force' of gravity has been replaced by the movement of objects along "geodesics".

Even Woods and Grant concede this point:

"Gravity is not a 'force,' but a relation between real objects. To a man falling off a high building, it seems that the ground is 'rushing towards him.' From the standpoint of relativity, that observation is not wrong. Only if we adopt the mechanistic and one-sided concept of 'force' do we view this process as the earth's gravity pulling the man downwards, instead of seeing that it is precisely the interaction of two bodies upon each other." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.156.]

However, Woods and Grant failed to tell us how such a "relation" can make anything move; still less do they reveal how these items are 'opposites', let alone 'internal opposites'.

As Max Jammer notes:

"[The eliminability of force]...is not confined to the force of gravitation. The question of whether forces of any kind do exist, or do not and are only conventions, ha[s] become the subject of heated debates....

"In quantum chromodynamics, gauge theories, and the so-called Standard Model the notion of 'force' is treated only as an exchange of momentum and therefore replaced by the ontologically less demanding concept of 'interaction' between particles, which manifests itself by the exchange of different particles that mediate this interaction...." [Jammer (1999), p.v.]

This is re-iterated by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wilczek (of MIT):

"The paradox deepens when we consider force from the perspective of modern physics. In fact, the concept of force is conspicuously absent from our most advanced formulations of the basic laws. It doesn't appear in Schrödinger's equation, or in any reasonable formulation of quantum field theory, or in the foundations of general relativity. Astute observers commented on this trend to eliminate force even before the emergence of relativity and quantum mechanics.

"In his 1895 Dynamics, the prominent physicist Peter G. Tait, who was a close friend and collaborator of Lord Kelvin and James Clerk Maxwell, wrote

"'In all methods and systems which involve the idea of force there is a leaven of artificiality...there is no necessity for the introduction of the word 'force' nor of the sense−suggested ideas on which it was originally based.'"

[The above now appears in Wilczek (2006), pp.37-38.]

This is probably why Engels himself said the following:

"When two bodies act on each other…they either attract each other or they repel each other…in short, the old polar opposites of attraction and repulsion…. It is expressly to be noted that attraction and repulsion are not regarded here as so-called 'forces', but as simple forms of motion." [Engels (1954), p.71. Bold emphasis added. A copy of this can be found here.]

But, if there are no classical forces, then there can't be any (dialectical) contradictions in nature --, 'external' or 'internal' (or, at least, none that could make anything happen).

Hence, even if there were such 'contradictions' in nature, they would do no work, and DM, the erstwhile philosophy of change, would not be able to account for it!

Faced with this, some DM-apologists have tried to argue that modern science is either dominated by 'positivism', or is 'reactionary'. In other words, to save their theory, they are prepared to cling on to an animistic view of nature, one that even Engels was ready to abandon.

[However, this is a complex issue; for more details I can only refer the reader to my extensive discussion here and especially here.]

 

Totality

Dialecticians believe that everything is interconnected in a cosmic "Totality":

"Dialectics is the science of universal interconnection." [Engels (1954), p.17.]

"The whole of nature accessible to us forms a system, an interconnected totality of bodies, and by bodies we understand here all material existences extending from stars to atoms, indeed right to ether particles, in so far as one grants the existence of the last named. In the fact that these bodies are interconnected is already included that they react on one another, and it is precisely this mutual reaction that constitutes motion." [Ibid., p.70.]

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

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

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

"The dialectical method demands first, that we should consider things, not each by itself, but always in their interconnections with other things…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.46-48, 72.]

"Here the key is to see all the different aspects of society and nature as interconnected. They are not separate, discrete processes which develop in isolation from each other. Mainstream sociological and scientific thought 'has bequeathed us the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, detached from the general context'. Much of our schooling today still follows this pattern -- the development of the arts is separated from that of the sciences, and 'technical' subjects are separated from languages, history and geography. Our newspapers and TV news programmes divide the world up in the same artificial way -- poverty levels and stock exchange news, wars and company profit figures, strikes and government policy, suicide statistics and the unemployment rate are all reported in their own little compartments as if they are only distantly related, if at all. A dialectical analysis tries to re-establish the real connections between these elements, 'to show internal connections'. It tries, in the jargon of dialectics, to see the world as 'a totality', 'a unity'." [John Rees.]

Readers are invited to check, but we are never told what this "Totality" actually is! [More details here.]

This is, of course, a doctrine that dialecticians share with all known mystical systems of thought (see, for example, here and here). As Glenn Magee notes:

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

"...The universe is an internally related whole pervaded by cosmic energies." [Magee (2001), p.13.]

John Rees (in a continuation of the passage quoted earlier) tries to argue that these ancient systems do not attempt to explain change as a result of 'internal contradictions', which he claims is what distinguishes his brand of dialectical mysticism from these other non-dialectical mysticisms (those are of course my words, not his!).

On the contrary, however, we find that the vast majority of mystical systems account for change by appealing to unities of interpenetrating opposites. Consider these examples:

"The Taoists saw all changes in nature as manifestations of the dynamic interplay between the polar opposites yin and yang, and thus they came to believe that any pair of opposites constitutes a polar relationship where each of the two poles is dynamically linked to the other. For the Western mind, this idea of the implicit unity of all opposites is extremely difficult to accept. It seems most paradoxical to us that experiences and values which we had always believed to be contrary should be, after all, aspects of the same thing. In the East, however, it has always been considered as essential for attaining enlightenment to go 'beyond earthly opposites,' and in China the polar relationship of all opposites lies at the very basis of Taoist thought. Thus Chuang Tzu says:

The 'this' is also 'that.' The 'that' is also 'this.'...
That the 'that' and the 'this' cease to be opposites 
is the very essence of Tao. 
Only this essence, an axis as it were, 
is the centre of the circle
responding to the endless changes."
[
Fritjof Capra.]

"Buddhist enlightenment consists simply in knowing the secret of the unity of opposites -- the unity of the inner and outer worlds....

"The principle is that all dualities and opposites are not disjoined but polar; they do not encounter and confront one another from afar; they exfoliate from a common centre. Ordinary thinking conceals polarity and relativity because it employs terms, the terminals or ends, the poles, neglecting what lies between them. The difference of front and back, to be and not to be, hides their unity and mutuality." [Alan Watts, quoted from here.]

"The three major gods of Hinduism are Brahma (the creator; paradoxically of minor importance in actual practice -- possibly, since his work is completed), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer), each with a wife, to symbolize the androgyny of ultimate reality. By theologians and educated Hindus in general, these gods and their innumerable manifestations are viewed as pointing toward one transcendent reality beyond existence and non-existence, the impersonal world-spirit Brahman, the absolute unity of all opposites....

"Hindus envision the cosmic process as the growth of one mighty organism, the self-actualization of divinity which contains within itself all opposites." [This has been taken from here.]

[More of the same material can be found in Note 1.]1

It would not be difficult to extend this list indefinitely to establish the fact that practically every mystic who has ever walked the earth thinks 'dialectically'.

Once again: the ruling ideas are always those of the ruling-class.

However, the only obvious difference between these overt mystics and the covert Dialectical-Marxist tendency lies in the extent to which the former employ openly religious language. Even so, both are quite happy to use obscure jargon lifted from traditional Philosophy, and then impose the results on nature.

Nevertheless, and on a different tack, exactly how Dialectical Marxists know that everything is interconnected they have kept annoyingly to themselves (save perhaps the excuse that they pinched this idea from Hegel, who likewise copied it from earlier mystics).

And it is no use dialecticians appealing to modern Physics to support this idea; the latter merely hypothesises that everything was once connected (in the alleged 'Big Bang'), not that everything is now interconnected. Indeed, certain theoretical considerations suggest that most things cannot even be connected, let alone be interconnected.

[BBT = Big Bang Theory.]

Moreover, BBT is associated with the 'Block View'  of time (wherein everything is part of a four-dimensional manifold); in such a set-up nothing changes. Or, rather, change is no more than a subjective view of how things seem to alter. So, given this theory, objective reality is in fact changeless. In that case, this aspect of modern Physics is no friend of DM. [More on this here and here.]

[And an appeal to "Quantum Entanglement" cannot help either; at best, experimental evidence shows that certain states of matter are interlinked locally, not across billions of light years, nor indeed with the past. This is quite apart from the fact that there are Scientific Realists who question the validity of this anti-realist aspect of modern Physics.]

But, even if DM-theorists were correct, the thesis of universal interconnection is incompatible with change through 'internal contradiction', for if all change is internally-induced then no object or process could be interconnected. Alternatively, if everything is interlinked, then interconnection can play no causal role in change (or change would not be the result of 'internal contradictions', once more). Naturally, this would lead to the rather odd result that the Sun, for example, does not ripen fruit, it ripens itself!

Or, of course, if the Sun actually does the ripening, then this change at least would not be the result of 'internal contradictions' in fruit.

We have already seen that DM-theorists try to get around this fatal consequence of their theory by appealing to both alternatives (i.e., on the one hand claiming/insisting that everything is a sealed unit --, and is thus "self-moving" --, while on the other, asserting that everything is interconnected, and thus 'full of holes' for external causes to sneak in), which is a rather fitting 'contradiction' in itself.

Nevertheless, dialecticians are fond of pointing to the contradictions that bedevil other, rival and thus allegedly defective systems of thought (the evidence for this allegation can be found in Essay Eleven Part One, here) as a reason for rejecting them, but they conveniently ignore the above contradiction. However, it is of such prodigious proportions that it dwarfs any that have so far been found in rival non-dialectical theories. Indeed, this contradiction is bizarre enough to make the usual pronouncements of "peace, freedom and democracy" --, which so easily slip off the forked tongues of US imperialists just before they invade the next 'Third World' country to steal their wealth and install 'business-friendly' regimes --, look honest, straight-forward and true in comparison.

Think about it: how can everything be maximally-interconnected and causally isolated from everything all at the same time? And, how is it possible for everything to be internally-driven yet externally-defined (or "mediated", to use the jargon) as part of a unified Totality?

[These 'problems', and others, are explored at length in Essay Eight Parts One and Two, and in Essay Eleven, Parts One and Two, along with every conceivable response to the above objections.]

 

Practice

Is Marxism true? How can we tell? Dialecticians have a direct answer: the validity of revolutionary socialism must be tested in practice.

But, what if it turns out that in practice dialecticians themselves reject this criterion?

Indeed, and worse: what if it should turn out that practice has refuted Dialectical Marxism?

Do we abandon the criterion of practice as a test of truth, or bury our heads in the sand and hope no one notices?

Up until now DM-fans have opted for the latter strategy.

But, is this untoward conclusion as hasty as it is unfair?

As we will see, it is neither of these.

In order to substantiate this latest batch of allegations, we need to back-track a little.

Concerning practice, Lenin asserted the following:

"From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, -- such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality." [Lenin (1961), p.171.]

He was, of course, merely underlining ideas that all dialecticians hold in common. Hence, in their view, it is not enough for Marxists to try to develop the right sort of theory to explain the world, their ideas must be tested and refined in practice if revolutionaries are to succeed in changing society. Indeed, no theory could be correct, or objective, without an intimate, long-term and "dialectical" connection with political activity -- or, at the very least, with some form of material practice.

As Rob Sewell argues:

"Marxists have always stressed the unity of theory and practice. 'Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it', as Marx pointed to in his thesis on Feuerbach. 'If the truth is abstract it must be untrue,' states Hegel. All truth is concrete. We have to look at things as they exist, with a view to understanding their underlying contradictory development. This has very important conclusions, especially for those fighting to change society....

"The idealist view of the world grew out of the division of labour between physical and mental labour. This division constituted an enormous advance as it freed a section of society from physical work and allowed them the time to develop science and technology. However, the further removed from physical labour, the more abstract became their ideas. And when thinkers separate their ideas from the real world, they become increasingly consumed by abstract 'pure thought' and end up with all types of fantasies." [Quoted from here.]

Woods and Grant concur:

"The ability to think in abstractions marks a colossal conquest of the human intellect. Not only 'pure' science, but also engineering would be impossible without abstract thought, which lifts us above the immediate, finite reality of the concrete example, and gives thought a universal character. The unthinking rejection of abstract thought and theory indicates the kind of narrow, Philistine mentality, which imagines itself to be 'practical,' but, in reality, is impotent. Ultimately, great advances in theory lead to great advances in practice. Nevertheless, all ideas are derived one way or another from the physical world, and, ultimately, must be applied back to it. The validity of any theory must be demonstrated, sooner or later, in practice." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.84-85.]

Unfortunately, as hinted at earlier, the results of "practice" have not been too kind to Marxists of every stripe. Indeed, they have been even less kind to Trotskyists (like Woods, Grant and Sewell, comrades not known for their 'mass following').

And they are not alone in this; practice has not looked at all favourably on our side as a whole for close on a hundred years. All Four Internationals have failed (or have vanished), and the 1917 revolution has been reversed. Indeed, we are no nearer (and arguably much further away from) a workers' state now than Lenin was in 1918. Practically all of the former 'socialist' societies have collapsed (and not a single worker raised his or her hand in their defence). Even where avowedly Marxist parties can claim some sort of mass following, this support is passive and at best merely electoral --, and those parties themselves have adopted openly reformist policies (despite the contrary-sounding rhetoric).

So, if truth is tested in practice, practice has delivered a rather clear verdict: "materialist dialectics" does not work, so it cannot be true.

However, when they are confronted with such disconcerting facts, dialecticians tend to respond in one or more of the following ways:

1) They flatly deny that Dialectical Marxism has been an abject failure. Or,

2) If they admit to failure, they blame it on "objective factors" --, or on other Marxist parties, and a failure of "leadership". Or,

3) They simply ignore the problem. Or,

4) They say it is too early to tell.

Now, there doesn't seem to be much point in dialecticians claiming that "materialist dialectics" guides all they do, avowing that truth is tested in practice, if when the latter reveals its long-term verdict, that verdict is denied, disregarded or explained away.

In that event, it might well be wondered what sort of practice could possibly constitute a genuine test of dialectics if, whatever the results, dialectics is always either excused or exonerated? What exactly is being tested if the outcome of every test is either ignored or re-configured as a success?

Indeed, what (permanent) successes can we claim in the last 80 years?

Hence, it is not so much that dialectics has never been tested in practice as it is that its supporters are practiced at not testing it.

In that case, why not just declare that Dialectical Marxism is, and always has been a success with or without any need for a practical test?

This would seem to be a more honest and appropriate conclusion based on the sort of practice that continually ignores the results of practice!

However, taking each of the above excuses one at a time:

1) Those who think Dialectical Marxism is a ringing success have so far failed to reveal where and how it enjoys this blessed condition.

[Presumably there is a Workers' State on the outer fringes of the Galaxy?]

Plainly, systematic denial of reality of this order of magnitude requires professional help.

In fact, there is no debating with hardcore Idealism of this sort -- that is, with an attitude that re-interprets the material world to suit a comforting idea (that Dialectical Marxism is a success despite appearances to the contrary), and which then encourages its adepts to bury their heads in their own idea of sand.

Anyone who can look at the international situation and fail to see that our movement is not only deeply divided, it is in long-term decline -- and that the vast majority of workers have never been, and are not now, "seized" by Dialectical Marxism --, is probably a more of danger to him/herself than they are to the ruling-class.

[This should not be taken to mean that I think that things cannot change! Indeed, this site was set up to help reverse this trend!]

2) It is undeniable that objective factors have hindered the revolutionary movement. These include a relatively well-organised, rich, powerful and focussed ruling-class, the effects of imperialism and a growing economy -- all compounded by racism, sexism, nationalism and sectionalism among workers --, and so on.

But, dialecticians are quite clear: the veracity of a theory can only be tested in practice. Now, since that requires the subjective input of active revolutionaries, this aspect of practice has plainly not worked. [Or, if it has worked, then the meaning of the word "success" must have changed.]

So, the only conclusions possible are that, (a) "materialist dialectics" has never actually been employed by revolutionaries, or (b) they have in fact been using another theory all along (which tactic they have kept well hidden), or (c) their core theory is indeed a monumental failure.

Whenever revolutionaries have reluctantly brought themselves to acknowledge the subjective side of failure, they often blame it on a lack of "revolutionary leadership" (but this is then blamed on other parties, never their own!). But, to repeat: if dialectics is as central to Marxism as its supporters believe, then it cannot be unrelated to Dialectical Marxism's long-term lack of success.

Indeed, those who reject any connection at all between "materialist dialectics" and the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism cannot claim in one breath that all things are inter-related, but in the very next deny these clear links.

Unless, of course, we are to suppose that in a world where everything is interconnected, the only two things in the entire universe that are not inter-related are the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory?!

So, whether or not there have been objective factors, practice itself has refuted the subjective side of Marxism: "materialist dialectics".

Moreover, since my Essays at the main site show that DM is not so much false as far too confused even to be assessed for its truth or falsity, the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism is no big surprise. In addition, because this theory arose from the theories of card-carrying ruling-class hacks (like Hegel), this is doubly no surprise.

Indeed, under such circumstances, had Dialectical Marxism been a success, that would have been the surprise!

Independently of all this, and far more significantly: in Essay Nine Part Two I will be presenting evidence to show that the following monumental blunders are attributable in whole or part to this 'theory':

A) Stalinism:

DM was used by the Stalinised Bolshevik Party (after Lenin's death) to justify the imposition of an undemocratic (if not an openly anti-democratic and terror-based) structure on both the Communist Party and the population of the former USSR (and later elsewhere).

This new and vicious form of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was actually justified by Stalin on the grounds that, since Marxist theory sees everything as 'contradictory', intensified central control was compatible with greater freedom. The "withering-away of the state" was in fact confirmed by moves in the opposite direction: ever-growing centralised power. So, paradoxically, less democracy was in fact more democracy!

Indeed, Stalin claimed that that very contradiction illustrated the truth of dialectics!

Moreover, the idea that socialism could be created in one country was justified by, among other things, the dubious invention of 'internal' versus 'external' contradictions, later bolstered by an appeal to 'principal' and 'secondary' contradictions, along with the highly convenient idea that some contradictions were not 'antagonistic'. Hence, the obvious class differences that soon emerged in the former USSR were re-classified as 'harmonious' (or non-existent); the real enemies (i.e., the source of all those nasty 'principal', 'external contradictions') were the imperialist powers.

Hence, under 'socialism' strikes were clearly unnecessary, so they were suppressed --, and with a level of violence rarely seen anywhere outside of openly fascist regimes. Any attempt made by workers to rebel (e.g., Hungary 1956) were blamed on "external forces" (a familiar excuse used by capitalists world-wide to account for, and thus ignore, the significance of strikes and riots -- all caused, of course, by the ubiquitous "external agitator"), i.e., in this case, the "imperialist powers", once more.

Notice the appeal only to 'external contradictions' here? How very convenient. How very 'dialectical'.

For several decades we were treated the absurd spectacle whereby the alleged ruling-class (the proletariat) was in fact oppressed by the 'Bolshevik' Party! A ruling class that never actually seemed to rule! Soviet Russia without genuine Soviets.

All so eminently contradictory.

More practice, more oppressed, exploited and dead workers.

And we can now see for ourselves the effect that all this 'applied dialectics' has had on the former USSR and its satellites in Eastern Europe.

Hence, only those who still have their dialectical blinders on will disagree with the judgment that these failed states were not exactly ringing endorsements of Dialectical Marxism.

And when these states fell between 1989 and 1991, the fact that not a single proletarian hand was raised in their defence merely confirms this assessment. Indeed, many workers assisted in their overthrow.

Furthermore, the dire political consequences of the idea that socialism could be built in one country can be seen in the subsequent use to which dialectics was put to defend and rationalise this counter-revolutionary idea, and to try to limit (or deny) the catastrophic damage it inevitably inflicted on the international workers' movement.

And this is where DM came into its own: lunatic policies, changed overnight, sold to party cadres (world-wide) by the use of dialectics.

Stalinism and Trotskyism (rightly or wrongly) parted company largely because of their differing views on internationalism. Of course, this rift wasn't just about ideas. Hard-headed decisions were taken for political reasons, but in order to rationalise them, and sell them to the international communist movement, they were liberally coated with dialectical jargon. And those who know the history of Bolshevism will also know the incalculable damage this deep rift has inflicted on Marxism world-wide ever since.

Anyone who thinks the above is prejudicial to Stalinism only needs to reflect on the fact that the contrary idea --, that is, that socialism could be built in one country --, has also been refuted by history.

Later, dialectical arguments were used to justify the catastrophic and reckless class-collaborationist tactics imposed on both the Chinese and Spanish revolutions, just as they had earlier been employed to rationalise the ultra-left, "social fascist" post-1929 about-turn. This crippled the fight against the Nazis by suicidally splitting the left in Germany, pitting communist against socialist, while Hitler laughed all the way into power.

This 'theory' then helped 'justify' the rotation of the Communist Party through another 180 degrees in its next class-collaborationist phase, the "Popular Front", and then through another 180 (in order to rationalise the unforgivable Hitler-Stalin pact) -- as part of the newly re-discovered 'revolutionary defeatist' stage --, and through yet another 180 two years later in the shape of 'The Great Patriotic War', following upon Hitler's predictable invasion of the 'Mother Land', 'Holy Russia'.

Post-1945, one more flip saw the invention of "peace-loving/progressive" nations versus the evil US Empire. History was now a struggle between "progressive/peace-loving" nations and reactionary regimes, the class war lost in all the dust kicked up by so much dialectical spinning.

[Indeed, Marx would by now be doing much more than a mere 180 degrees in his grave!]

Every single one of these somersaults had a catastrophic impact on the international workers' movement. Collectively, they cast a long shadow across the entire Communist Movement, reducing it to that sad, reformist excuse that we see among us today.

However, far, far worse, as noted above: these 'contradictory' about-turns helped pave the way for fascist aggression and the Third Reich. In that case, this 'theory' has played its own small and shameful, but indirect part in the deaths of millions of workers and countless millions of Jews, Gypsies, Russians and Slavs -- alongside the many hundreds of thousands of mentally-ill and handicapped victims surrendered to the Nazis.

Because of their continual, dialectically-inspired twists and turns, STDs in effect all but invited the Nazi tiger to rip European humanity to shreds.

And it was only too happy to oblige.

[STD = Stalinist Dialectician.]

The negative effect of all this on the reputation of Marxism among the great mass of workers cannot be over-estimated, howsoever hard one tries. Talk to anyone about Marxism (and not just Communism), and you will be regaled with much of the above. Everyone 'knows' it "does not work". We can only put all this hostility down to "capitalist propaganda" if we want to see yet more of the same.

Of course, not all of this is the sole fault of this mystical 'theory'; but it is undeniable that it was a major factor in helping to rationalise the above political gyrations (for whatever other reasons they might in fact have been taken), and in selling them to party cadres. Over the years, this has had an inevitable and seriously demoralising effect.

Moreover, no other theory could have excused with such ease the adoption of continual, almost overnight, changes in strategy and tactics --, or have rationalised so effectively the pathetic reasons that were given for the criminally unacceptable political about-turns imposed on the Communist Party internationally by post-1925 Stalinism.

Nor, indeed, could any other theory have so effortlessly licensed the grinding to dust of the flower of the old Bolshevik Party in the 1930s, as scores of leading comrades were put on 'trail' on trumped-up charges, and then executed.

Millions dead, Bolshevism in tatters and Marxism a foul stench in the nostrils of workers everywhere.

DM: tested in practice?

A resounding success?

Absolutely!

But, only for the ruling-class.

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

B) Maoism:

Nevertheless, such ill-advised, dialectical devotion meant that the anti-democratic and class collaborationist tactics adopted by the CPSU were copied by the CCP under Mao (even if these were for different reasons). For example, the use of 'principal' and 'secondary' contradictions to justify the suicidal alliances with the Guomindang, the use of UOs to rationalise one-party, autocratic rule, and the reference to 'leaps' to excuse the murderous and lunatic "Great Leap Forward".

Consider the first of these: class-collaboration. DM-arguments favouring both of the latter, as well as the centralisation and "concentration" of power were not confined to CPSU theorists. In the mid-1930s, the abrupt change from out-right opposition to the Guomindang, to the policy of forming a united front with them was justified by, among other things, yet another dose of contradictory DM-concepts.

Consider next the second: the 'contradiction' between centralised state power and greater social accountability. Dialectical dodges, similar to those employed by Stalin, were used by Mao and his acolytes to rationalise this paradox by an appeal to the alleged 'contradictory' nature of democracy.

DM: tested in practice?

Once again: indeed so! And we can see the results today in that model 'socialist state': China.

Of course, at the very least, this means that approximately 20% of the population of the planet cannot now (and might not in the foreseeable future ever) be won to any credible form of Marxism, since the vast majority have been inured to it, having seen the dire consequences of this contradictory theory (which preaches 'proletarian democracy', but won't actually trust them with any, alongside the "mass-line", while practicing mass oppression --, these dialectical 'contradictions' rationalised along sound Stalinist lines).

Chinese workers and peasants need no one to inform them of the results of 'practice'; the vast majority can see for themselves the political and social consequences of this 'theory'.

And now, it is being used to justify the existence of 'socialist' billionaires!

What's that you say? A contradiction in terms?

You clearly do not "understand" dialectics!

C) Trotskyism:

The Trotskyist movement has similarly been cursed by the Dialectical Deity;  its founder succeeded in welding his followers to the crazy dialectical dogma that the 'socialist' regime in the former USSR was contradictory, hence, it made perfectly good dialectical-sense to suppose that the alleged ruling-class (the proletariat) exercised no power at all, and were oppressed for their pains, even while they exercised it!

[This was worryingly close to the conclusion that the Stalinists drew. So much for the difference between Trotskyist dialectics and the allegedly "wooden" Stalinist strain!]

Hence, because "materialist dialectics" demanded it, all good Trotskyists were told to defend the USSR as a workers' state --, albeit deformed/degenerated. As Trotsky argued at length [in Trotsky (1971)], only those who do not "understand" dialectics would disagree.

This crippled the politics of the Fourth International in the run-up to WW2 -- whose cadres, even while they were advocating a principled anti-imperialist stance, were quite happy to defend Stalinist imperialism. Once more, all so contradictory!

And, as if to compound this monumental gaffe, Trotsky used dialectics to defend the murderous Stalinist invasion of Finland!

More dialectical practice --, more dead workers. More ordure heaped on Marxism.

Do you begin to see a pattern here?

After Trotsky was murdered by a Stalinist agent, the application of 'scientific dialectics' to the contradictory nature of the USSR split the Fourth International into countless warring sects, who have continued to fragment to this day.

Indeed, this is the only aspect of practical dialectics that Trotskyists have managed to perfect, as the movement continues to splinter under its own 'internal contradictions'.

Unfortunately, Trotsky's heirs could not quite agree which was the more important principle: loyalty to their founder's 'dialectical method', or to Marx's belief that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself -- and thus not an act of the Red Army/Russian tanks (in Finland/Eastern Europe/Korea), or of 'Third World' guerrillas (in China/Cuba/Nepal/Peru), or indeed of nationalist/'progressive' dictators, or even of radicalised students -- to name just a few of the groups that have been 'dialectically substituted' for the working class by assorted Trotskyists ever since.

Dialectics has been, and is still being used to justify every conceivable form of substitutionism. To take one example, it allowed Ted Grant to invent the contradictory idea of "Proletarian Bonapartism" in order to try to account for the fact that the Stalinist regime in the former USSR, and the Maoist clique in China, could oppress the alleged ruling-class -- i.e., workers -- while those regimes still remained (degenerated) workers' states!

As I argue in Essay Nine Parts One and  Two, dialectics is indeed the ideology of substitutionist elements in our movement.

All this has fatally wounded Trotskyism. It might never recover. Current signs are not good.

Tested in practice? If so, please comrades: no more practice!

These are just three examples of the thoroughly malignant effect this Hermetic theory has had on our movement. There are many more.

Is it any wonder then that since at least the 1920s, Marxism has been to success what George W Bush has been to intellectual achievement?

3) This is probably the safest alternative for dialecticians to adopt: ignore the problem (or explain it away). It is certainly the option that inadvertently helps further the interests of the ruling-class, since it prevents the serious theoretical problems our movement faces from ever being addressed, guaranteeing another century of failure.

Indeed, the bosses could not have designed a better theory to screw around with our heads if they had tried, initiating in our movement a monumental waste of time as our best theorists vainly try to grapple with Hegel's fluent Martian, in order to make some sort of sense of it -- plainly, no success so far in that direction!.

All this is quite apart from the fact that practice cannot distinguish between correct and incorrect theories. The latter often work (and they can do so for many centuries). For example, Ptolemaic Astronomy was highly successful for over a thousand years, and it became increasingly accurate over time.

And, correct theories can sometimes fail. For instance, Copernican Astronomy predicted stellar parallax, which was not observed until the 1838, with the work of Friedrich Bessel, three hundred years after Copernicus's book was published.

[More examples of both of these alternatives are given in Essay Ten Part One.]

And even if this were not so, and success were indeed an unfailing criterion of truth, since there is as yet no socialist society on earth, we will only know if Marxism is correct after the event. So, this criterion cannot tell us whether Marxism is correct now. [That disposes of Excuse Number Four.]

In fact, the following declaration could become true:

"Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes." [Marx and Engels (1848), pp.35-36. Bold emphasis added.]

According to this, the "contending classes" could wipe each other out --, or at least the class war could result in their "common ruin" -- which outcome itself is not at all easy to square with the NON. [Why this is so will be explored in Essay Three, Part Five, when it is published.]

[NON = Negation of the Negation.]

However, judging from the way that dialecticians themselves disregard the deliverances of practice, all this suggests that even they do not accept this criterion, in practice.

For in practice, they ignore it.

Unfortunately, pragmatic theories (like this) are hostages to fortune; those who adhere to them should feign no surprise if history pays little heed to their dialectically-compromised day-dreams, and delivers decade after decade of refutation.

There are other (much better, and more materially-based) ways of confirming the validity of HM -- these will be explored in an Essay to be published at the main site in 2010 or 2011.

All this means that if we want our practice to be more successful, we will have to ditch the theory that has helped drop our movement into this bottomless pit of failure: "materialist dialectics".

[It is important to add that I am not blaming this 'theory' for all our problems, only for some of them; however, no matter how many times I repeat this, I still encounter comrades on internet discussion boards who claim the opposite, that I am blaming dialectics for all our woes. Why they do this will be revealed below.]

 

Why Revolutionaries Cling To DM Like Grim Death

No matter how deep, long-term, devastating or repetitive the refutations history delivers, and despite the cogent arguments ranged against it in my Essays and elsewhere, the DM-faithful remain hopelessly mesmerised by their 'theory'.

Why is this? And why have revolutionaries of the stature of Engels, Lenin and Trotsky sold their radical souls to this demonstrably conservative thought-form? [Marx was an exception to this; on this, see here and here.]

The historical origin of the philosophical system from which DM emerged is not in any doubt (a summary can be found here), and neither are the class origins of DM-classicists (such as Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky). Unfortunately, in that case, dialectics itself has an impressive alien-class pedigree.

It is important to note, however, what is not being alleged here: that the above comrades imported these alien ideas into the workers' movement knowingly or duplicitously.  On the contrary, it is being asserted that they did this honestly but unwittingly.

Honestly, because they genuinely thought that the movement needed a Philosophy of some sort. Unwittingly, because the only theories on offer in their day were those that had already been compromised by ruling-class forms-of-thought (which fact these these comrades clearly failed to appreciate). [More on that below.]

The founders of DM plainly weren't workers; they came from a class that educated their children in the classics and in philosophy. This tradition taught that behind appearances there is a hidden world, accessible to thought alone, which is more real than the material universe we see around us.

As we saw above, this way of seeing things was invented by ideologues of the ruling class, who openly viewed reality this way, and ensured that other were educated to see it this way too.

So, when they became Marxists, these non-worker founders of our movement, who had been indoctrinated when young and impressionable to believe there was this hidden world that governed everything, looked for principles in that invisible world that told them that change was inevitable and part of the cosmic order. Enter dialectics, courtesy of the dogmatic ideas of that ruling-class mystic, Hegel.

This does not of course mean that only workers can be good socialists, but it does mean that we should be alert to the class-compromised origin of the ideas that DM-classicists brought with them into our movement -- before the working class could provide them with an effective materialist counter-weight.

Today, a hundred or more years later, there is no longer any excuse for continuing to import these ideas into Marxism, since that counter-weight now exists.

However, this does help explain a rather curious anomaly: as the working-class daily grows bigger, the influence that Dialectical Marxism has on it dwindles ever faster.

Parallel to this, but not unrelated to it, our movement continues to splinter, and thus has decreasing influence on the class struggle. Moreover, the fact that workers ignore our movement en masse means that their counter-weight has no influence where it counts: on our ideas.

So Marxist Idealism lives on, as its theorists think of new ways to make such awkward facts disappear.

The lack of active socialist workers means that the unifying force of the class struggle by-passes, and thus has no impact upon the revolutionary movement, which, because it is dominated by petty-bourgeois individuals, does little other than fragment (for well-known social-psychological reasons; on this, see here).

Hence, the same social forces that motivate workers to unite, drive professional revolutionaries in the opposite direction, and toward fragmentation.

A rather ironic 'dialectical' inversion in itself!

But, are these accusations enough to condemn DM? Clearly, not on their own.

DM is demonstrably flawed from end to end (as my Essays show); that fact alone is enough to condemn it.

However, the alien class-origin of both "materialist dialectics" and its originators explains why this theory has had such a deleterious effect on militant minds, rendering our movement all but impotent. It also helps account for the disastrous effect it has had on post 1920s Marxism.

But, why is it that hard-headed revolutionaries cling on to this lamentable theory like drunks do to lamp posts?

Marxists are aware that in defeat there is a tendency (even among revolutionaries) to turn to mysticism both as a means of explanation and as a source of consolation. This was indeed one of the main reasons why Lenin wrote Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. However, Lenin failed to note that the defeats suffered in Russia in and after 1905 turned him toward dialectics, a theory about which he had been all but silent before.

Unfortunately, Dialectical Marxism has faced little other than defeat and set-back for most of its history.

However, the theory that has played an important subjective role in helping to engineer this catastrophic state of affairs also 'allows' its adherents to ignore it.

It does this in at least two ways:

1) The NON persuades true believers that any and all retreats are only temporary; the onward march of Dialectical Marxism is assured by the underlying logic of the universe. [We saw this surface in Excuse Four, above.]

2) DM-epistemology teaches that appearances contradict underlying "essences" -- that is, how things appear to be is the opposite of the way they really are. This being so, what might seem to be a series of defeats (i.e., to the dialectically untrained eye), is really part of the long-term success of Marxism --, or, perhaps, part of a run of successes about to begin, any day soon...

Hence, the theory that has helped engineer these set-backs also says that 9!) they have not really taken place, or (2) that they are the opposite of what they seem, or (3) that they do not matter.

Anyone who doubts this should try telling any randomly-selected, dialectically-distracted comrade that Dialectical Marxism is highly unsuccessful. Unless you are extraordinarily unlucky, you can expect to be subjected to some ludicrously tortured logic that will attempt to prove otherwise.

The latter will no doubt include a convoluted explanation as to why, when 99% of the working class ignores Marxism --, and has done so for many generations --, and all four Internationals have gone down the pan, and the vast majority of the former 'socialist' states have gone into reverse, and Marxist parties (especially the Trotskyist variety) everywhere are a by-word for arguments, splits and divisions (indeed they are a standing joke in this regard),2 and even though practically every communist party on the planet has embraced open reformism --, meaning that we are now further away from establishing a Workers' State than the Bolsheviks were in 1921, that none of this matters, or that none of this has actually happened, or is really now happening, or is any part of the particular 'tradition' to which this sad soul belongs.

You see, the other "sects" are to blame; it's a failure of revolutionary "leadership" -- those fools in the Workers' Blah Blah Blah Party, you understand, not ours.

Alternatively, the "objective circumstances" ploy will be dusted-off, and given another spin around the dialectical exercise yard.

Doubtless, you will then probably be informed of the good news that the latest stunt, conference, intervention, split, or expulsion that the party (to which this sad dreamer belongs) has just pulled off (or is about to stage) heralds the long-awaited turning-point for the international proletariat.2a

Without a hint of irony -- still less of embarrassment --, this comrade will pronounce such verities on behalf of at most 0.00001% of the population of this planet (this being the entire membership of his or her tiny grouplet (formed largely of non-workers)), some of whom, anyway, are about to be expelled from the Workers' Yada Yada Party --, probably for failing to 'understand' "materialist dialectics"!

And, as sure as eggs aren't dialectical eggs, this comrade will fail to see the connection between such facts and such failures --, and give you a hard time for even thinking to question the sacred gospel that preaches the opposite.

Or, if you belong to another "sect", you can expect to be called a "Revisionist!", "bourgeois stooge", or worse.

Those familiar with revolutionary papers will already know about their unsinkable optimism (anger is always "growing", movements are always "gaining strength", victory is always "around the corner"), how almost all of them claim to be the only one that is "leading the class", and how Capitalism is once again entering its "final crisis" -- that latter apparently having more lives than a lorry load of cats.

But, all that this will confirm is how unreasonable dialecticians are, and how they are prepared to bend every rule, lie and invent in order to protect their precious dialectic.

So, Dialectical Marxists cling to this 'theory' because without it not only would their entire world-view fall apart, their source of consolation would disappear. Hence, they are super-glued to dialectics for the same sorts of reasons that religious folk cling to their faith. [More on this here.]

That, of course, explains the mind-numbing, mantra-like repetitiveness of DM, the pathological fear of the "R" word ("Revisionism"), the sacred books, the appeal to 'orthodoxy', the heroic pictures of the dialectical saints carried on parades (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, Kim Jong-il, etc., etc.), and the inexplicable adherence to the Stone Age Logic found in a thinly-disguised work of mystical theology that celebrates the goings-on of an invisible 'Being' (i.e., Hegel's 'Logic').

If this wasn't quite so serious, you'd laugh.

 

Ruling-Class Theory

One of the main reasons why I reject not just DM, but all forms of traditional Philosophy, is that, as Marx noted above, both represent a boss-class view of the world.

In earlier times, the vast majority of Philosophers were either members of various ruling-classes, or were patronised by them. These theorists saw the state as an earthly embodiment of the cosmic order. In that case, just as society was ruled by (their) "law", so was reality.

In ancient and medieval class society, rulers used highly specialised language to frame their laws in order to (1) reflect the above connection, (2) secure property and (3) keep the 'great unwashed' in their place. In all of this, they failed to see this social form (language) for what it was: a means of communication. On the contrary, they regarded discourse as a means of representation, a secret code that contained within it clues that revealed the essential nature of 'Being'.

This encouraged them to think that if language was capable of ordering servants about the place, and that if their words, codified into law, actually controlled the state, and secured both power and property, language must likewise control reality (for the state was a reflection of the divine order, too).So, the idea suggested itself to ruling-class hacks that language must not only constitute the fabric of the heavens, it must on its own be capable of making things move. [Hence, this belief is not just found in magic.]

It thus became natural for ruling-class theorists to think of conflict and change in linguistic or conceptual terms.

And that is why mystics all argue and think in the way they do (as we saw above --, and will see again below, this time in the case of Heraclitus (540-475BC)); language is a secret code, hence thought alone can reveal hidden truths (far too profound for the masses to understand).

So, what had once been the product of the relations among human beings (ordinary language) became inverted and fetishised into a secret code that theorists took to be, or to represent, the real relations among things, or indeed those things themselves.

In that case, it also became natural for the ruling-class and their theoretical hangers-on to think that this is how the 'gods' must have constituted the universe. As early creation myths reveal, this is exactly how the ancients saw things: the 'gods' merely had to speak and everything sprang into existence, and all of reality did as it was told, controlled by the 'word of god'. Just as good citizens obey the law, everything in nature 'obeys' the 'divine law'.

According to this world-view, reality was either controlled by language or was constituted by it.

This doctrine I call "Linguistic Idealism" [LIE].

LIE, in one form or another, has underpinned all subsequent philosophical theories, and it is why all traditional philosophers think it quite natural to impose their ideas on reality (since reality is language-based). [More on that here and here.]

Hence, those who conceptualised reality in this way would naturally think that, if the status quo on earth is the product of language (which deliberately or accidentally masked the realities of class power, hidden now behind this superficially 'benign' façade) --, and if reality reflected or was a reflection of the state --, then thought alone could unmask, and then perhaps control, the secrets of nature. Thus was born Philosophy, the most abstract form of ruling-class ideology.

Such theories could now be imposed on nature because 'God' originally constituted the world this way, which meant that reality was simply condensed discourse. Nature was thus Mind, and constituted by the Divine Logos, which, as far as we know, was an idea invented by the very first dialectician, Heraclitus:2b

"Heraclitus, along with Parmenides, is probably the most significant philosopher of ancient Greece until Socrates and Plato; in fact, Heraclitus's philosophy is perhaps even more fundamental in the formation of the European mind than any other thinker in European history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Why? Heraclitus, like Parmenides, postulated a model of nature and the universe which created the foundation for all other speculation on physics and metaphysics. The ideas that the universe is in constant change and that there is an underlying order or reason to this change -- the Logos -- form the essential foundation of the European world view. Every time you walk into a science, economics, or political science course, to some extent everything you do in that class originates with Heraclitus's speculations on change and the Logos....

"In reading these passages, you should be able to piece together the central components of Heraclitus's thought. What, precisely, is the Logos? Can it be comprehended or defined by human beings? What does it mean to claim that the Logos consists of all the paired opposites in the universe? What is the nature of the Logos as the composite of all paired opposites? How does the Logos explain change? Finally, how would you compare Heraclitus's Logos to its later incarnations: in the Divided Line in Plato, in foundational and early Christianity? How would you relate Heraclitus's cryptic statements to those of Lao Tzu?" [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

The short answer to the last question is, obviously: The ruling ideas are always those of the ruling-class!

From then on, for most traditional thinkers, Logic determined the underlying form of reality, its essential structure. This further justified the imposition of the products of thought onto nature (which is something dialecticians are also happy to do --, and we can now see why).

Although recently there have been notable exceptions to the above generalisations, for most philosophers, a priori knowledge was the only reliable form of knowledge and empirical knowledge (that is, knowledge based on material evidence) was unreliable since it reflected the debased experience and life of ordinary folk.

[This is brought out very well in Conner (2005).]

So, from the beginning philosophers denigrated the material language of workers, just as they undervalued their view of the world, turning their own discourse into a complex, jargon-filled code that represented 'divine truth', but only to them.

And, surprise, surprise: dialecticians do the just same. Which is odd, since Marx did the opposite:

"For philosophers, one of the most difficult tasks is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they had to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content....

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

Traditional Philosophers indeed sought to derive, or to invent, a priori theses that revealed the underlying 'essence' of reality -- i.e., fundamental features of existence inaccessible to the senses, and hence irrefutable by any material means.

In every case, but in different forms depending on which Mode of Production was dominant at the time, and because they all now saw the world as in effect, 'condensed language', Philosophers exclusively derived their theses from words (or from 'concepts') -- either from specially-concocted jargon (such as, "Being", "Entelechy", "Substance", or "Nothing"), or from suitably distorted ordinary terms (like "cause", "law", "thought", or "determined"), as Marx noted.

Such theses were imposed on nature, and were not only held to be true everywhere and everywhen, they determined the form of any and all possible worlds.

Moreover, because these doctrines has been derived from language alone, they appeared to be 'self-evident' (that is, no external material evidence was required to establish their truth; they were thus self-certifying). In that case, these super-truths were not only easy to invent (a few moments reflection on the 'hidden meaning' of a few words was all that was required), once concocted, they seemed impossible to disbelieve.

The same is true of the theses dialecticians lifted from Hegel.

Of course, that is just one more reason why practice has never been a test of the truth of Marxism, and never will be, if Dialectical Mystics remain in control. Dialectics is self-certifying. It does not require testing in practice, nor does it need 'revising'. In which case, whatever happens, this theory will always ratify itself.

Small wonder then that in actual practice, practice has been ignored.

This approach to knowledge is well summarised by James White (in this case in relation to German Idealism):

"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.]

It is worth noting here how the word "law" has been lifted from legal theory and projected onto nature -- the use of which term plainly suggests that reality is governed by a cosmic will of some sort. Hence, for traditional theorists, if nature is deemed to have an underlying rational structure, then not only was it easier to 'justify' the status quo (as a reflection of that underlying order), it was equally easy to argue that all those who rebelled against the State could be opposed on 'legitimate' and 'rational' grounds. In fact, oppositional was futile; the cosmic order will always re-assert itself (these days, this task has been hived-off to our genes).

The above is further amplified by the following two authors:

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

 

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

 

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

DM-theorists attempt to do something rather similar: from a few specially-selected jargonised words they suddenly produce a hat full of a priori theses, which they then impose on nature. For example, from what he imagined the word "move" meant, Engels thought he could derive what he thought was true of every instance of motion in the entire universe, for all of time:

"...[A]s soon as we consider things in their motion, their change, their life, their reciprocal influence on one another[,] [t]hen we immediately become involved in contradictions. Motion itself is a contradiction: even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body at one and the same moment of time being both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continuous assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is." [Engels (1976), p.152.]

However, there are many uses of words connected with movement (including "move" itself) that do not imply this. [More details can be found here.]

Anyway, even if Engels were right, this use of language is a 'brute fact', too. After all, why should a 'contradiction' make anything change or move? And, why should quantity change into quality? Why should the whole be more than the sum of the parts The only possible answer is that these are just brute facts about reality.

Hence, just as metaphysics cannot in the end explain anything, neither can 'Materialist Dialectics' -- even if it were true! In that case, not only have Dialectical Marxists bought a pig in a poke, there is in fact no pig and no poke!

Once more, all this is not the least bit surprising since, as we have just seen, these ideas originated in an ancient ruling-class tradition. Moreover, as we have also seen, without exception, every DM-classicist was a non-worker, educated to think this way.3

So, DM is based on, and has aped the thought-forms of a well-entrenched ruling-class.

No wonder then it has presided over little other than defeat, failure, and disaster.4

 

Conclusion

And that is why I am implacably opposed to DM.

In fact, it is difficult for me to understand why most revolutionaries are not.

 

Notes

1. For anyone interested, there is an entire site devoted to the unity/identity of opposites in mystical thought.

Here are few more quotations from assorted mystics that show they too appealed to 'unities of opposites', and the like, to account for change, etc.:

"Sufism is usually associated with Islam. It has developed Bhakti to a high point with erotic imagery symbolising the unity of opposites. The subtle anatomy and microcosm-macrocosm model also found in Tantra and Taoism is used by it, dressed in its own symbols. Certain orders use ecstatic music and/or dance which reminds one of the Tantric celebration of the senses. Sometimes, the union of opposites is seen as a kind of gnosis. This is similar to Jnani Yoga." [Quoted from here.]

"The fact that the Reality of God which is disclosed through the cosmos can be described by opposite and conflicting attributes explains, in the Muslim view, why the cosmos itself can be seen as a vast collection of opposites. The two hands of God are busy shaping all that exists. Hence, mercy and wrath, severity and gentleness, life-giving and slaying, exalting and abasing, and all the contradictory attributes of God are displayed in existence. These opposing pairs of names act together in a manner analogous to yin and yang. One way in which we perceive this constant interaction of the names is through change (haraka) and transmutation (estehala). Here Chuang Tzu could say: 'The existence of things is like a galloping horse. With every motion existence changes, at every second it is transformed' (Chuang Tsu 17. 6). For their part, the Ash'arite theologians said that nothing stands still in creation and no phenomenon remains constant in its place for two successive moments. Everything is in constant need of divine replenishment, since nothing exists on its own. Things can exist only if God gives them existence. If God were to stop giving existence to the universe for an instant, it would disappear. Hence, at each moment God re-creates the cosmos to prevent its annihilation." [Quoted from here.]

"According to Acharya Mahaprajna, opposition is a fundamental rule for existence. 'There is no type of existence in which opposites do not co-exist. In a sense, existence may also be defined as the coming together of opposites. It is the principle of the quest for unity between two apparently different characteristics of a substance. It tries to point out that the characteristics which differences have, also have an identicality. Reconciliation, which is a principle of anekant, comes about only with the recognition of the identity principle.'...

"In the opposite lies the affirmation of an attribute. This seems to be true at all levels. Even within the atom, the electron has an anti-particle called photon (sic). Writes Richard Feynman, 'Photons look exactly the same in all respects when they travel backwards in time... so they are their own anti-particles.'" [Quoted from here.]

"The great Fourth Hermetic Principle-the Principle of Polarity-embodies the truth that all manifested things have 'two sides'; 'two aspects'; 'two poles'; a 'pair of opposites,' with manifold degrees between the two extremes. The old paradoxes, which have ever perplexed the mind of men, are explained by an understanding of this Principle. Man has always recognized something akin to this Principle, and has endeavoured to express it by such sayings, maxims and aphorisms as the following: 'Everything is and isn't, at the same time'; 'all truths are but half-truths'; 'every truth is half-false'; 'there are two sides to everything'; 'there is a reverse side to every shield,' etc., etc. The Hermetic Teachings are to the effect that the difference between things seemingly diametrically opposed to each is merely a matter of degree. It teaches that 'the pairs of opposites may be reconciled,' and that 'thesis and antithesis are identical in nature, but different in degree''; and that the ''universal reconciliation of opposites' is effected by a recognition of this Principle of Polarity. The teachers claim that illustrations of this Principle may be had on every hand, and from an examination into the real nature of anything. They begin by showing that Spirit and Matter are but the two poles of the same thing, the intermediate planes being merely degrees of vibration...." [The Kybalion, reputed by some to be the third most important book of Hermeticism, quoted from here.]

Finally, there is this revealing comment:

"The ancient Egyptians believed that a totality must consist of the union of opposites. A similar premise, that the interaction between yin (the female principle) and yang (the male principle) underlies the workings of the universe, is at the heart of much Chinese thinking. The idea has been central to Taoist philosophy from the fourth century B.C. to the present day and is still embraced by many Chinese who are not Taoists. Nor is the idea confined to the Egyptians and the Chinese. Peoples all over the world, in Eurasia, Africa and the Americas, have come to the conclusion that the cosmos is a combining of opposites and that one of the most important aspects of this dualism is the opposition between male and female." [Maybury-Lewis (1992), p.125.]

Notice how both the arguments and examples used by the above mystics are broadly similar to those found in DM-texts. It seems that open and honest mystics also like to appeal to Mickey Mouse Science to substantiate their 'theories'.

Exactly why both sets of mystics (i.e., the traditional and the dialectical sort) do this is explained in Essay Nine Part Two, and Essays Twelve and Fourteen (summaries here and here).

2. This was made into a famous joke by the Monty Python crew (video available here):

BRIAN: Are you the Judean People's Front?

REG: Fuck off!

BRIAN: What?

REG: Judean People's Front. We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front. Cawk.

FRANCIS: Wankers!

BRIAN: Can I... join your group?

REG: No. Piss off!

BRIAN: I didn't want to sell this stuff. It's only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.

PEOPLE'S FRONT OF JUDEA: Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh!

REG: Schtum!

JUDITH: Are you sure?

BRIAN: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Romans already.

REG: Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans.

BRIAN: I do!

REG: Oh, yeah? How much?

BRIAN: A lot!

REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.

P.F.J.: Yeah...!

JUDITH: Splitters!

P.F.J.: Splitters...!

FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.

P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...!

LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.

P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...!

REG: What?

LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters!

REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!

LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.

REG: People's Front! C-huh.

FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?

REG: He's over there.

P.F.J.: Splitter!

 
Figure One: Tested In Practice?

 

There are literally hundreds of tiny Trotskyist groups on the planet, all with the 'correct line', just as there are nearly as many anarchist, left communist, communist and Maoist parties. Anyone who doubts this should look here, here, here and here.

Indeed, this is what Hal Draper had to say about the situation -- in America alone -- thirty odd 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.]

2a. Here is a recent example of this sort of unsinkable, revolutionary megalomania:

"Thus, we understand that the 10th Congress has been the congress of the triumph of the revolutionary working class cause and of its party of vanguard, too." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

A vanishingly small Maoist sect in Argentina thus speaks for all workers!

And here is another:

"In the first week of August 2004 a meeting of almost 300 Marxists from 26 countries, including Venezuela and Cuba, met in Spain to discuss the world situation and the tasks of the international revolutionary Marxist tendency. This was for many reasons an historic turning point that registered a qualitative advance of the forces of Marxism on a world scale." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

And two years later, more of the same from the same:

"July 30, the 2006 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency opened in Barcelona. This was a truly amazing congress, characterized by terrific energy, enthusiasm, and optimism combined with an extremely high level of political discussion and debate. Above all, there was a firm determination to build the International in the coming period. It was the largest congress ever, with 320 present, cramming the meeting hall almost to capacity....

"This world congress is dedicated to the memory of Ted Grant and we pledge ourselves to continue in his work. I will finish with the words inscribed on the tomb of Wren, the great architect: 'If you want a monument, look around you.'" [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added. No doubt, readers will now be able write the entry for 2007*, and then 2008.**]

If you patrol naught else but the flatlands of failure, then when you stop to "look around you", every molehill will indeed look like a mountain, and 320 comrades seem a big deal. [After ten years of not achieving very much, there comrades are still going strong --, here.]

Anyone familiar with all shades of Marxism will know that constant hyperbole of this sort is almost de rigueur.

The beginnings of an explanation for this phenomenon can be found here. [The latter is Tourish (1998). I must add, however, that I distance myself from most of the negative comments made about democratic centralism in that particular author's work.]

More details can be found in Tourish and Wohlforth (2000).

*2008 update: We can now can see if you were right:

"The International Marxist Tendency held its World School in Barcelona this year from July 29 to August 3. This followed on last year's successful 2006 World Congress. Present were 300 comrades from 26 countries, including El Salvador, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Russia and most European countries....

"The school was in the first place a political event that aimed to raise everybody's political level. This we believe was achieved with the excellent leadoffs and debates throughout the week. The comrades were enthused by the event and given a feeling that they belong to something great, a genuine Marxist International, with comrades on all continents working for the same goal, the emancipation of the working class and a genuine classless society....

"Above all, what this World School showed was the enthusiasm and confidence in the ideas of Marxism and the organisation that is putting these into practice on a world scale. This was reflected in the collection: this year, as in previous years, the record was broken and no less than 37,700 Euros {$55,000 -- RL} were collected! This money will undoubtedly be put to good use and will enable us to pay for more trips to different sections and sympathising groups, the hosting of this website, and other expenses for the promotion of Marxist ideas and the building of a strong organisation on a world scale." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added. Yep, still upbeat about having gone nowhere in the last 12 months!]

See you next year?

**2009 update:

"[The 2008] Congress of the International Marxist Tendency met in Barcelona at the end of July. It is difficult to convey the sense of momentum present in every session of the congress. This was not just another meeting of left activists searching for answers. All of the 350 delegates and visitors could feel that after years of preparation, after decades of defending the ideas of Marxism against the attacks of the bourgeois, the reformists, revisionists and sectarians, these are now being vindicated by events. All other previous gatherings of the IMT felt like preparations for this World Congress, a congress that lays the groundwork for the advance of Marxism internationally." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]

So, still pootling about in Oblivionsville. See you in 2010...

2b. This comment on Heraclitus is of interest:

"Although he does not speak in detail of his political views in the extant fragments, Heraclitus seems to reflect an aristocratic disdain for the masses and favour the rule of a few wise men, for instance when he recommends that his fellow-citizens hang themselves because they have banished their most prominent leader...." [Quoted from here; spelling altered to conform to UK English. Bold emphasis added.]

As is this one by Heraclitus himself:

"81. Men should speak with rational mind and thereby hold strongly to that which is shared in common -- as a city holds onto its law, and even more strongly. For even more strongly all human laws are nourished by the one divine law, which prevails as far as it wishes, suffices for all things, and yet somehow stands above them." [Quoted from here. This link is to a PDF.]

3. Some might think the work of Joseph Dietzgen is an exception to this rule, but that is not so. On this, see here.

4. The dynamics of this process is outlined here and here.

 

References

Baker, G., and Hacker, P. (1988), Wittgenstein. Rules, Grammar And Necessity, Volume Two (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).

Conner, C. (2005), A People's History Of Science. Miners, Midwives And "Low Mechanicks" (Nation Books).

Cornforth, M. (1976), Materialism And The Dialectical Method (Lawrence & Wishart, 5th ed.).

Engels, F. (1954), Dialectics Of Nature (Progress Publishers).

--------, (1976), Anti-Dühring (Foreign Languages Press).

Gollobin, I. (1986), Dialectical Materialism. Its Laws, Categories And Practice (Petras Press).

Jammer, M. (1999), Concepts Of Force (Dover, 2nd ed.).

Kuusinen, O. (1961) (ed.), Fundamentals Of Marxism-Leninism (Lawrence & Wishart).

Lenin, V. (1921), 'Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation And The Mistakes Of Comrades Trotsky And Bukharin', reprinted in Lenin (1980), pp.70-106.

--------, (1961), Philosophical Notebooks, Collected Works Volume 38 (Progress Publishers).

--------, (1980), On The Question Of Dialectics (Progress Publishers).

Magee, G. (2001), Hegel And The Hermetic Tradition (Cornell University Press). [The Introduction to this book can be found here.]

Marx, K. (1843), Critique Of Hegel's Philosophy Of Right, in Marx (1975), pp.243-57.

-------- (1975), Early Writings (Penguin Books).

Marx, K., and Engels, F. (1848), The Communist Manifesto, in Marx and Engels (1968), pp.31-63.

--------, (1968), Selected Works In One Volume (Lawrence & Wishart).

--------, (1970), The German Ideology, Students Edition, edited by Chris Arthur (Lawrence & Wishart).

Maybury-Lewis, D. (1992), Millennium: Tribal Wisdom And The Modern World (Viking Penguin).

Novack, G. Novack, G. (1965), The Origins Of Materialism (Pathfinder Press).

--------, (1971), An Introduction To The Logic Of Marxism (Pathfinder Press, 5th ed.).

Rees, J. (1998), The Algebra Of Revolution (Routledge).

Russell, B., (1937), The Principles Of Mathematics (George Allen & Unwin, 2nd ed.).

Tourish, D. (1998), 'Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism And Cultism: A Case Study From The Political Left', Cultic Studies Journal 15, 2.

[This has been reprinted in a slightly different form in the online Marxist journal What Next? 27, 2003, here. Anyone interested can follow the ensuing debate here.]

Tourish, D., and Wohlforth, T. (2000), On The Edge. Political Cults Right And Left (M E Sharpe).

Trotsky, L. (1971), In Defense Of Marxism (New Park Publications).

White, J. (1996), Karl Marx And The Intellectual Origins Of Dialectical Materialism (Macmillan).

Wilczek, F. (2006), Fantastic Realities. 49 Mind Journeys And A Trip To Stockholm (World Scientific).

Wittgenstein, L. (1976), Wittgenstein's Lectures On The Foundation Of Mathematics: Cambridge 1939, edited by Cora Diamond (Harvester Press).

--------, (1978), Remarks On The Foundations Of Mathematics, translated by Elizabeth Anscombe (Blackwell, 3rd ed.).

-------, (1998), Culture And Value (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).

Woods, A., and Grant, T. (1995), Reason In Revolt. Marxism And Modern Science (Wellred Publications).

Yurkovets, I. (1984), The Philosophy Of Dialectical Materialism (Progress Publishers).

 

Caveats

The above Essay will be updated continuously, and indefinitely.

That endeavour is itself connected with my aim to make my ideas as straightforward and clear as possible. However, several factors mean that this objective will be extraordinarily difficult to achieve:

1) I allege that Dialectical Materialism makes no sense. If so, any criticism made of this theory risks a similar fate. For example, DM-theorists refer to 'internal contradictions' to account for change in nature and society, but they seem totally incapable of explaining what these mysterious beings are (that is, after 150 years of not trying very hard!).

Even the best account of 'dialectical contradictions' (that I have so far encountered), an article by James Lawler, is itself hopelessly confused. [This is demonstrated here.]

Hence, in this case and in others, my objections must be directed at an irredeemably obscure set of 'doctrines'.

In many places, therefore, I have found it impossible to turn this 'dialectical pig's ear' into even a plastic purse.

I doubt anyone can.

So, if after reading this Essay, visitors still haven't a clue what dialecticians are banging on about, that failing is not down to me.

2) My criticisms of DM form part of a wider critique of Philosophy in general. This involves me in having to challenge ideas that have penetrated very deep into Western (and, indeed, human) culture -- I claim they form part of the "ruling ideas" to which Marx referred --, and thus into Dialectics itself.

In turn, this has meant that I have had to challenge forms-of-thought that have dominated intellectual life --, and which few have thought to question --, for nigh on 2500 years, addressing extraordinarily deep problems that have been missed (or have been passed over) by some of the best minds in human history.

This being so, it is virtually impossible to give a 'simple' account of the criticisms I aim to make of such well-entrenched "ruling ideas", especially if they relate to problems that have in fact been missed by such towering intellects.

I hasten to add, that I am only in a position to begin to do this because of the work of Wittgenstein.

[I have tried to defuse a few Marxist-inspired criticisms of him here. Another much longer and detailed Essay on this topic will be posted some time next year. This has now been published, here.]

Incidentally, this is partly why my ideas have faced implacable resistance/hostility from practically every quarter (they break entirely new ground, and run against 2500 years of traditional thought) -- had that not happened, that would have indicated I was on the wrong track!

Of course, these factors will not stop me from trying to make my ideas increasingly clear, since it is fundamental to my project that if I cannot explain myself in ordinary language, then not even I understand what I am attempting to say!

And that is why this Essay will need to be re-written many times.

Anyone who still finds anything I have said here incomprehensible should e-mail me, and I will do my best to put it right.

In fact, one or two comrades have already complained that the above is still far too long and/or complicated. In that case, I have written an "Anti-Dialectics For Dummies" Essay, which attempts to précis the above in simpler language, and in less than 5000 words.

Latest Update: 15/05/09

Word count: 21,370

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